The Conversation (1974)

What a STUPID Conversation.

The Conversation (1974)I thought that I would’ve been able to get far more reviews out of my Film Criticism class than I did.  It was a class where I watch movies and write about them, for God’s sake!  How could I not just take my assignments and add a few more penis jokes and release them to my readers?  I’ll tell you how: because most of the movies we watched were boring and pretentious.  I didn’t even want to talk about the boring, black and white movies that we had to watch from week to week.  How would you all want to read about them?  The movies that I did choose from this class to review for you guys were the least pretentious.  And also they were in color.  Perhaps that’s how I judge pretention: strictly based on the color palate.  Well let’s see if I liked it as I review The Conversation, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Gene Hackman, Robert Duvall, Harrison Ford, Cindy Williams, Frederic Forrest, John Cazale, Allen Garfield, and Teri Garr.

A surveillance expert named Harry Caul (Gene Hackman) has been tasked by The Director (Robert Duvall) to record a boring conversation between two people (Cindy Williams and Frederic Forrest) about Christmas shopping or some shit.  He edits the tapes with his colleague Stan (John Cazale) and goes to turn it in to The Director, only to find that he’s out and he would have to leave it with his assistant Martin Stett (Harrison Ford), which was not part of their agreement.  So he keeps the tapes until he can meet with The Director as agreed, and he decides to go to a convention for surveillance gear.

Does it sound like nothing happens in this movie?  That’s because it doesn’t.  At least it doesn’t until the very end when some big reveals are dropped, but without spoiling the big reveals of this movie I can only really talk about what sounds like a really boring movie.  The movie was not what I expected it to be.  When it opened I thought it was going to be about snipers because they were watching people through a scope.  It turns out to be about surveillance.  And more specifically, the surveillance of two people having a boring conversation.  I assume this is to be a metaphor for the audience, who will spend ¾ of this movie watching people have boring conversations and wondering what the point is.  If I wasn’t watching this movie for a class, I would’ve checked out at about the halfway point … and it would’ve been my loss.  It ends really strong and exciting.  I didn’t see the first reveal (the reason that the two people were being recorded) coming, and I didn’t see the second reveal (the actual subject of the conversation) coming.  And the way they handled it was very exciting and suspenseful.  It finally made the movie feel like it was worth watching, but it takes so long to get there I don’t know that I’d actually recommend it.  You have to sit through a lot of boring to get to a reason to like the movie.

The performances were all great, so at least the people that are into that sort of thing will have something to watch for most of this movie.  Gene Hackman was great, but the movie never really required him to stretch his acting chops until maybe the end.  I did think it was a little weird that he was a surveillance expert at a conference for surveillance gear but thought nothing of it when that douche bag guy slipped a pen into his jacket.  They make microphones around that size, don’t they?  Oh well, probably not worth thinking about.  Also, Robert Shields played a mime in this movie and I got to wondering: Is a mime’s sole purpose in the world to be annoying?  It seemed to be the mission of this mime in the beginning of the movie.  I’ve never heard of anyone that likes mimes so how is it ever a job anyone takes?  And speaking of annoying: what was the deal with the guy waiting outside the phone booth that started tapping on the door the second he arrived at it?  The world doesn’t move at your schedule, asshole!  This is how lines work!

The Conversation is a good movie that I don’t feel confident in recommending because, to people like me, it requires far too much patience to reach the point where it’s worth the wait.  Nothing seems to happen in the movie until the last 15 minutes of the movie, when the movie reveals itself to the audience and finally becomes worth the 100 minutes you’ve already trudged through, but you must still sit through those 100 minutes to get it.  If that sounds like something you’re able to do, or if you just want to see Gene Hackman being pretty great, then I would recommend this movie.  Otherwise you can skip it.  The Conversation gets “I’m not afraid of death, but I am afraid of murder” out of “This conversation is over.”

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Twixt (2012)

The Clocks are Set Incorrectly … BECAUSE OF EVIL!

Twixt (2012)I saw a movie on the shelf of the local DVD store that caught my attention.  It was in the Horror section, so I made a mental note of it as a potential for the October Horrorthon.  I also found myself interested in it because it included three things that I have liked in the past.  The writer/director of this movie is a highly acclaimed man, and two of the stars of the movie have both been in some great movies.  But why had I heard nothing of this movie?  It seems like the writer/director alone should have made this movie blip on my radar.  Well maybe I’ll figure out why as I review Twixt, written and directed by Francis Ford Coppola, and starring Val Kilmer, Elle Fanning, Bruce Dern, Ben Chaplin, Alden Ehrenreich, Don Novello, David Paymer, and Joanne Whalley.

Writer Hall Baltimore (Val Kilmer) goes to a small town on a book signing, but finds that he can’t even talk people into being interested in his presence.  Local Sheriff Bobby LaGrange (Bruce Dern) eventually comes to the signing to attempt to enlist Baltimore to read his own horror novels.  When Baltimore shows his disinterest, LaGrange has Baltimore follow him to the morgue to show him a dead body, getting Baltimore involved in the murder investigation of a young girl.  Hall gets drunk and has a dream about a young girl named Virginia (Elle Fanning), who may or may not have some connection to the murder.  Also, she may have been the murdered person.

According to Wikipedia, Coppola said that the idea for this movie grew out of a dream he had.  That makes sense because the movie doesn’t.  I barely have any idea what was going on here.  It seems like it’s very dangerous to make a movie involving Edgar Allan Poe, because both this and The Raven sucked pretty hard.  I kind of had an idea that I was in for something that didn’t make sense when the Nick Nolte-sounding narration was describing the town’s clock tower and said that there was something evil afoot because the seven clocks that lined the tower were all set to different times.  …Yup!  No other possible explanation for that.  And that fact terrifies me because it means that most of the clocks in my house are evil.  After that, the story is about Baltimore taking a lot of head trauma and taking drugs so that he can fall asleep and go into the dream world where he keeps finding new information about the mystery.  That is not a joke.  And by that I mean that I did not intend it as a joke, and if they did it was so devoid of comedy that it cannot be considered a joke.  It’s hard to tell with this movie because there were a lot of things that seemed like they thought it was funny.  I actually managed to stay hopeful in this movie because their constant talk about thinking of a bulletproof ending for Baltimore’s book made me think they were hinting that there was a bulletproof ending to the movie.  This was not so much the case.  It was some bullshit about a vampire with braces that fired off of her teeth when her fangs came out and some “reveal” about Baltimore’s daughter.  I wasn’t even sure that I was supposed to be surprised by that.  Lemme ask you something: if you see a guy with a drinking problem and a failing marriage looking at pictures of a daughter you never see in the movie, what are you going to think about her current status?  If you checked “Alive,” then you also checked “idiot.”

Here’s the part where I say one good thing about the movie: it mostly looked good.  The things that were supposed to look spooky achieved that.  Sometimes almost too much.  The scene when Baltimore was walking through the forest was so spooky I would describe it as what a child would draw if you told him to draw a picture of “spooky.”  Now, this is not to say that it was effective.  It was so textbook spooky that I feel like it flipped on itself and wound up being more pretty.

I don’t know if I can blame anything on the cast of the movie.  None of them seemed to take the movie seriously, and I couldn’t blame them for that.  The sheriff character struck me as pretty stupid, and not just for his stupid bird house business.  They love doing wacky hobbies in movies to make their characters seem more interesting.  I’m talking about the fact that he’s the sheriff of a town and meets a random writer and decides this dude needs to check out this dead body in the morgue.  You are a terrible public official!  I was also fascinated by the fact that Father Guido Sarducci (Don Novello) was in this movie.  And you can all be fascinated by who the hell that is as I’m probably one of the few people that remember who that is.

Twixt was not a good movie.  Or maybe it was… I have no idea what was going on.  Whatever it was wasn’t entertaining, so I’m going to assume it sucked.  The story was goofy and made no sense, and since it calls itself a horror movie they probably don’t want to be.  I feel fairly confident that everyone that participated in this movie can do much better.  There’s no reason to watch this movie, and probably no reason for me to even say that because most people don’t know it exists.  I’ll probably do one last horror movie for the October Horrorthon since I can barely count this one.  Twixt gets “Whuh?” out of “Huh?”

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