Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Marathon of the Lost: Week 3

For three weeks now, I’ve been doing a tribute to the film inspiring people who passed away in 2013.  Some of them are actors, some are writers, some were technological innovators, and others were people that the movies were about.  They all meant things to movies and helped make some of the classics that will be remembered for generations to come, as well as the generations since they were made.  These people have been important to the landscape of film, and for that, I spent the entirety of January celebrating some of their work.  This third week was no different.  Four more films were watched, and I’m about to write about the four films.  Get ready because here we go.

Out of Sight

If you’re a fan of film or television, you’ve probably stumbled upon something based on the writing of Elmore Leonard.  He’s a big part of the film landscape.  He’s the man behind 3:10 to Yuma, Get Shorty, Jackie Brown, The Big Bounce, Justified, and Out of Sight.  That’s not even nearly all of the projects that he helped to create.  I would even dare to claim that he’s one of the top filmed authors.  I mean that as he has had much of his writing filmed, not himself.

Elmore Leonard passed away on August 20th of 2013 at the age of 87.  He had a stroke a month prior, and complications from that stroke led to his death.  He left behind a large family and a large legacy that many other authors cannot match.

As for Out of Sight, it’s a delightful film.  The cast and their performances are great and help give a fun feeling to the proceedings.  Leonard’s sense of humor shines like it does in some of his other film work and it helps to make the movie much more enjoyable.  The world feels lived in, as though it comes from personal experience.  Soderbergh probably helped in that aspect.  The combination of director and source helped to make one of the best adaptations of a Leonard work to date.

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls

You’ve all been waiting for this one.  I know you have.  It’s a movie written by Roger Ebert, a man that many film writers idolized, respected, and loved.  It had to be included within the tribute marathon.  To be completely honest with you, I barely ever read anything he wrote and I never watched his television shows.  I know the guy, but I never had the same attachment that so many of you had with Ebert.  I understand your feelings.  I understand what he meant to you.  He inspired so many of you to do what you do.  I get it.  I really do.  I just never had the same experience with his work that so many of you did.  I know his place and the big things he did for film criticism though, and I can respect that to the highest degree.  He was a pioneer for the art form, and his loss is a big loss.

Roger Ebert died on the 4th of April in 2013.  He was 70 years old.  If you knew about him, you knew some of the complications he had been going through in his later years.  In 2002, he was diagnosed with thyroid cancer, and underwent many different surgeries throughout the decade in order to help him.  He eventually lost his voice and his chin, using a computerized voice and a prosthetic chin for the remainder of his life.  His final review in the Chicago Sun-Times was for To the Wonder, the Terrence Malick film.

He didn’t only write reviews.  As I said at the beginning of the first paragraph for Beyond the Valley of the Dolls, he wrote this movie as well.  I’m not even sure where to start.  This is a strange movie.  It’s very much in the exploitation genre.  It has lots of boobs.  Lots and lots of boobs.  And by the end of the movie, it very much seems like I’m on some sort of bad drug trip.  This movie is insane.  I don’t know what to say about the writing of it because I don’t even know where to start.  Watching this was an experience I had never had before and I feel like a changed person after having seen it.

Friday Night Lights

There are a bunch of notable people littered throughout this movie that you might recognize from other movies and stuff.  One of these actors went by the name of Lee Thompson Young, probably best known for his work on the television show The Famous Jett Jackson.  Friday Night Lights was his first and most popular film.

Lee Thompson Young was found dead in his Los Angeles apartment on August 19th, 2013.  He had bipolar disorder and depression, and had apparently taken his own life with a gun.  Yeah, he died of suicide and I’m watching something in tribute of him.  I had a moral debate with myself over whether or not to include him in this marathon because of the way he died.  I included him because regardless of how he died, he still died.  If you find that wrong, I don’t care.  He was still part of a good movie.

Friday Night Lights is an interesting movie about football.  I wouldn’t quite call it a football movie.  A football movie, I think, is more about how football can do things for people.  In Remember the Titans, football brings racial equality.  In Varsity Blues, football teaches the teenagers to realize their potential.  In Friday Night Lights, the football games aren’t helping anything.  It’s not even really about football, though football is part a big part of the movie.  It’s about how football can affect people and relationships, both good and bad.  It’s not a “Ra! Ra! Football!” movie.  It’s a drama about how lives can be built and destroyed by small-town obsession.  In this case, the obsession is football.  I love this twist on the subject matter and it gives more meaning to the events that unfold.  Having disliked Friday Night Lights when I first saw it, I think it is now near the top of my list of movies involving football.

Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone

Did you know that the guy who played Vernon Dursley passed away in 2013?  He did.  That’s why this movie is in the marathon.  Now you’re probably saying “Why would you choose the first Harry Potter movie when it’s the weakest film of the bunch?”  That’s because I feel like it’s the one with the most Uncle Vernon out of all of the movies.  Therefore, it would feature Richard Griffiths the most.  That’s why I chose this one.

Richard Griffiths passed away on March 28th of 2013.  I can’t find too much information about his death aside from it being due to complications following heart surgery.  Well, that’s not a great way to go out.  He was 65 when he died.

When I think of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone, I’m always brought back to thinking about how Christopher Columbus built a great world that was able to grow into something even better through the future movies.  I also think about how well cast the movie was.  All of the children seem like the right children for their roles.  Most of the professors seem perfectly fitting for their roles.  The other supporting characters aren’t too shabby either.  Richard Griffiths plays Uncle Vernon Dursley exceptionally well, giving enough depth to a rather shallow character that you enjoy every scene he’s in.  He makes the most of his small amount of screentime.

That’s the third week down.  Only four movies this week.  Only four scheduled for the final “week” of the marathon.  It’s been a good month so far, and the final four movies look like a pretty good collection of films.  I’m excited for the final week, and I’m excited to look back at the work of four more greats.  Come back next week to see what I have to say about the last four movies.

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