March 22, 2010

#80: The Apartment

Billy Wilder's 1960 film The Apartment deserves quotations around the word "comedy." As in: this has all the characteristics of a comedy, but a lot of other additional elements that make me wonder. Hmm. I'll try to formulate an argument here.

Company: the Strampe sisters! Marie, college bud and stage manager extraordinaire; Maggie, younger sister, chat-room-based relationship deterrent

Cuisine: I just had my mocha but the girls brought over a smorgasbord: carrots and Holy Land hummus, Almond Nut-Thins and H2Oh. Health!

The story begins with C. C. Baxter (a delightfully daffy Jack Lemmon), a lonely office worker for an oppressively dull insurance mega-corporation in New York City. We discover that he is as ambitious as he is lonely, fighting his way up the corporate ladder by offering his apartment as a safe haven for the uppers of the corporate echelon to bring their mistresses. When we meet C. C. (or "Bud," as he is somewhat affectionately called by these men), his rental service is so booked that he needs to call three different people to accommodate rescheduling needs when he comes down with a cold ...

... a cold he got from waiting outside his apartment on a ridiculously long Bench of Debilitating Loneliness on a cold night ...

... which requires prescribed nasal spray. Luckily for him (and us) ...

... Bud is extremely resilient and driven, despite his complete lack of social life or backbone. All this for the promise of a promotion, which he finally gets (the bowler hat pictured above is "the junior executive model!") but is it enough? We know from the casting of Shirley MacLaine as Fran Kubelik, a sad elevator operator stuck in a hopeless relationship with the adulterous executive Mr. Sheldrake, that it can't be. They meet-cute in her elevator, and we know they're meant to be together ... but naturally she's involved with one of the men for which Bud loans his apartment. When he puts the pieces together ...

... shattered dreams! We're halfway through the film and it seems that nothing will end well, but this is all before Bud discovers Fran in his own bed after her suicide attempt. Heavy. Wasn't this supposed to be a comedy? Considerable time is devoted to Bud's sweet devotion to frowning Fran and her rehabilitation, and it's here that the film slows to the speed of a turtle walking through molasses. It can't be the actors at fault for this; it might be the screenplay. There are gems here and there ("When you're in love with a married man, you shouldn't wear mascara") but we get to such melancholy clunkers as "Why do people have to love people, anyway?" I get the character arc here, I just don't see how the corporate satire blends with the odd romance. It seems like two movies are being presented at once, that what are meant to be parallels end up seeming independent and incongruous. Supposedly the story was inspired by two such stories that had nothing to do with each other, and I think that could be the root of it.

Anyway, we wait two. whole. hours. for Fran to come to her senses.

... and the pay off is that overwhelming but lovely cliche of the "love epiphany" (the lovepiphany!), where she realizes who she should have been in love with all along.

"Shut up and deal."

By the end, I knew these two characters had been destined for each other, but their union seemed forced, as if it might have only been her rehabilitation in his apartment that brought them together and not a real romantic connection. I want my romances sublime and strange, but this just seemed strange. Am I wrong here? I guess I don't have much else to say but that I'm not sure the movie achieves what it set out to do especially well, in a way I haven't seen other films do better.

Hmm. Just not crazy about this one. I love Jack Lemmon in it so much that I wish I could hole up with him in that apartment, but would it take a bunch of sleeping pills for me to do it? Let's hope not.

Next up is 1969's The Wild Bunch, another I know little about. I'll keep it that way: most of the movies on this list come with a set of expectations for me, but I'll stay ignorant about this one until I sit down with it.

March 16, 2010

Cine-Smackdown: #81 - #90

Twenty movies in and it's time for another cine-smackdown!

81. Spartacus
Easy Rider
A Night at the Opera
12 Angry Men
Bringing Up Baby
The Sixth Sense
Swing Time

I had seen four of these previously (Titanic, 12 Angry Men, Bringing Up Baby and The Sixth Sense). More so than the first cine-smackdown, I'm struck by how different all these films are. No matter how you try to categorize them, none of them seem to line up with each other. Three comedies, all from the 30s, still all seem so markedly different in what they're trying to do, in their styles. I guess it just goes to show that trying to compare films against each other in this list is going to be a tricky task. This is part of why I'm making these smackdowns easy on myself by making them a little silly.

Of these ten, which would I move further up the list?
I hadn't given this thought until this moment (probably best), but the one that sticks out to me here is Bringing Up Baby. The fantastic, fantastical performances combined with the breakneck speed and the well-constructed story seem to provide the best fusion of elements of these ten to me. Ask me on another day and it might be different, but somehow that comedy seems to ask for more recognition than it gets.

Of these ten, which would I get rid of?
At this point, it's still relatively easy to dig and find things I didn't like about each film (that will get hardly, presumably, the further up the list I get), but it still feels wrong to take one out. That said, I think it might A Night at the Opera: while it's a classic, long sections of it feel extraneous and counter-intuitive to the Marx Brothers' philosophy of comedy. I don't remember Duck Soup well enough to say if I like it better, but I feel like it might sum up their comedic style better and without the extra crap.

Who in these movies do I want as my best friend?
It's probably unwise to make friends with pretty much anyone in #s 81-84 or #86. I still wouldn't say no to being friends with Kate Winslet in probably anything, though. Anyway. John "Lucky" Garnett from Swing Time is a hoot, adorable and a lot of fun to boot. Plus, he can dance. If that means Penny Carrol has to come along, so be it. It'd be sorta fun to get high with the guys from Easy Rider but if I learned anything from that movie it's that I should probably stay in my hippie commune and not follow them on a motorcycle.

Who in these movies do I want to have my back in a bar fight?
Jack Dawson from Titanic probably wouldn't back down, and his sense of loyalty would come in handy for sure. Juror #3 from 12 Angry Men would probably be a good asset, too. While they might not be packing the biggest punch, any of the brothers in A Night at the Opera or Susan from Bringing Up Baby could probably create a diversion while I slipped out the back. Lynn Sear in The Sixth Sense would pack a punch.

Who in these movies is your worst frienemy?
Sgt. Barnes in Platoon, Batiatus in Spartacus and The Woman from the City in Sunrise would totally betray me, no question. If those chumps showed up at my door, I'd want nothing to do with them.

Who do I take home to Mom?
Varinia in Spartacus is totally fine, with a great baby bucket and a weakness for sensitive guys. Juror #8 (12 Angry Men) and John Garnett (Swing Time) would also probably charm the pants off my mom.

You're going on a date with these movies. Who do you agree to meet for coffee but never call again?
Platoon: this didn't seem like a good idea in the first place, and you kept getting distracted during our date, spilling your coffee nervously and glancing around like someone was after you. Sunrise: you seemed nice but you weren't much of a talker (oops lame joke).

Who do you agree to meet for coffee, and then say you'll call but never do?
A Night at the Opera: we had a lot of fun on our date, but when I went home I couldn't help but think you'd try to deceive me by wearing a false beard the next time we met. Plus, I'm rehearsing a show right now and I have a feeling if we started dating you might show up and ruin it with your hijinks.

Who do you agree to meet for coffee, and then not show up?
Spartacus: I just don't think it's gonna work out.

Who do you meet for a first date, ends up staying the night and makes you breakfast in the morning?
David Huxley in Bringing Up Baby and The Wife in Sunrise would probably both think that was the proper, right thing to do, if they stayed that long. Jack Dawson would probably make an omelette. John Garnett would take me somewhere fancy.

Who do you meet for a first date, ends up staying the night and then leaves in the morning without saying goodbye ... and steals your favorite sweater?
Billy from Easy Rider. I hate to say it, but he seems like that kinda guy. He would also take all my coke... and probably leave me a VD. Thanks a lot!

What other questions would you have asked about these movies? I'd love more ideas! Leave your thoughts, reactions, passionate defenses and harsh critiques in the comments!

#81: Spartacus

Next up is the first of two movies in a row from 1960: Stanley Kubrick's epic Spartacus, starring Kirk Douglas as the leader of the famed slave rebellion. Fun fact: Kirk Douglas felt miffed after not being cast as the title role in William Wyler's Ben-Hur from 1959, and vowed to make another self-starring epic. Several months later, this film appeared. Take that, Wyler! While Spartacus boasts no epic chariot races and has a questionable ending, it's still a worthy epic. Another note: by some accident I ended up watching this on the ides of March. Trippy.

Company: alone this morning. Got up early to watch this as a start to my week. Jorgy sleeps but may stir.

Cuisine: oatmeal with blueberries, a couple cutie oranges, and eventually my skim no-whip two-pump white mocha, courtesy of Jorgy -- this is a long movie and required snacks.

That chin!

The story begins in Libya 2000 years before the birth of Christ, during the time of "the human disease of slavery." Spartacus (Douglas) is a Thracian slave who is purchased by Batiatus (Peter Ustinov, in an Oscar-winning role) to be trained as a gladiator. Gladiators at this time were trained in intense combat and then sold to arenas where they would fight to the death as public entertainment. At the camp he meets the beautiful slave girl Varinia (Jean Simmons, who passed away only about two months ago) and she is surprised to find that when they are alone together, he doesn't rape her or take advantage of her like the other slaves might. He is gentle and kind to her. Is it because he's admittedly never been with a woman before, or because he genuinely respects and cares for women? We learn quickly it's a little of column A and a little of column B.

I can't help but wonder if the shots of these camps weren't meant to be a historical allusion to the Holocaust. This may not have been in Kubrick's mind but in 1960 I imagine the pain of WWII was still fresh in many minds. Just saying.

All right, that fight to the death is over. You guys! Your turn!

The camp and its training are portrayed as harsh, dirty and relentless, but one can't help but think you're getting paid to work out. Not bad. Then one remembers you're only working out so you can battle to the death with some chump. Now that's harsh. Well, it should come as no surprise to the people running this camp that if you treat these combative men like animals, they will eventually fight back and kick your collective Roman ass -- and so they do. Spartacus leads the slaves out of the camp and to the countryside where they plot revenge and amass an army of slaves to fight for their freedom.

Path of destruction!

After this, the film becomes a familiar fable: lowly slave turns master general of an underdog army and leads his cause into battle against the establishment of Rome. While the film is beautifully shot (in "Super-Technirama 70," as the credits fabulously mention) and well acted overall, what stood out to me was the discussion of morals and the underlying sexual politics at work. The famous "snails and oysters" scene between the Roman general Crassus (Laurence Olivier) and his body servant, Antoninus (Tony Curtis), is as dirty and deviant as anything was allowed to be fifty years ago, since it's all in the metaphors. (This scene is probably the major selling point for Christian in Clueless, who brings this movie over to Cher's house to watch on their date.) This could be discussed at length, but suffice it to say that one could quite successfully discuss masculinity and femininity in Spartacus at length.

Um... okay, this is just a beautiful shot of Spartacus riding into the sunset. Yeah.

"Death is the only freedom a slave knows. That's why he's not afraid of it. That's why we'll win."

On the eve of battle, both generals address their battalions, in starkly different arenas: Spartacus on a mount (curiously without amplification) ...

... and Crassus on the steps of the Roman senate, where he confides that he must not only kill Spartacus, but also "the legend of Spartacus." This admission struck me as particularly relevant to today's worldwide conflict against terror: it seems we are less concerned with convicting and sentencing individuals than with banishing the idea or legend of terror, which, while noble and cinematic, seems much less tangible and attainable. But Crassus is concerned about his political standing and legacy, and just killing Spartacus straight away wouldn't be enough, not when we've waited three hours to get to the end of this story.

The battle commences (complete with rolling logs of fire! Nice, slaves!) and the Romans overtake the slaves after an intense and prolonged battle resulting in the death of thousands. You can't even see the grass as bodies cover the plain (perhaps another reflection of the Holocaust?), and the survivors of the slave rebellion are left with a choice: identify and hand over their leader or face crucifixion. In one of the film's most famous moments, each slave stands and screams "I AM SPARTACUS!" as if to spit in the eye of the Romans.

Although they chose to rebel and chose death over the sacrifice of their leader, I doubt those slaves really thought that 6,000 of them would be crucified without Spartacus speaking up and handing himself over so a few of them could be saved. This is one of the plot points that I kind of couldn't get over. What kind of a general are you? Am I wrong here? I won't give away the ending but for me the last half-hour was a suitably rich emotional payoff for the rest of the film.

"We've started something that has no ending."

It seems that Kubrick is making subtle points about the vulnerability of men all along the way in this film. The fact that the scene pictured above on the eve of battle between Spartacus and Varinia takes place with him below her, placing himself at her feet, is just one instance. After confiding his fears in her, she remarks that "you're strong enough to be weak." Is she advocating admitting defeat? Is she equating strength and weakness, or requiring both in a man? Can you have one without the other? We never think of our generals, our soldiers, our men and women overseas, as collectively weak, but we must recognize weakness in everyone. Maybe Spartacus makes tactical or moral mistakes, but is he forgiven for his moments of weakness because of his impact, his strife on behalf of the greater good? Kubrick has never been one to make anything less than bold cinema, so it should come as no surprise to me that these major questions are asked in an epic context. Apparently he was a troublesome director on this project and wanted to put his own readings on the story. I'll be glad to revisit A Clockwork Orange and maybe discover more about him as a director and moralist.

That's twenty movies down! I'm a fifth of the way through! ... Oof. Still feels daunting, but slow and steady, slow and steady. Next up is a lighter subject from the same year: The Apartment, a film I remember thinking was just okay. I'll be happy to find new reasons to give it another chance.

March 9, 2010

#82: Sunrise

This song of the Man and Wife is of no place and every place; you might hear it anywhere, at anytime.

Ominous titles begin F.W. Murnau's Sunrise, the silent expressionist classic from 1927 that won Oscar's first and only Best Picture (Unique and Artistic Production). Silent film had reached its pinnacle around the mid- to late-1920s when The Jazz Singer hit the scene as the first talkie, only a month before Sunrise (subtitled A Song of Two Humans) had its US release.

Company: Katie, girl-on-the-go with a fancy new eco-partment

Cuisine: chocolate covered raisins leftover from Sunday's Oscars

I certainly haven't seen that many silent films, and this is not the only one on the AFI's list, but it stands out for its unorthodox and modern film techniques. It's hard to believe at times that these beautiful frames were shot before sound technology had progressed far enough to include it.

"Life is ... sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet."

It's hard to believe at times that these beautiful frames were shot before sound technology had progressed far enough to include it. The first is a split focus, showing us "summertime, vacationtime." I love that even though we're seeing frivolous fun on the beach we still get from that image an overwhelming sense of impending doom somehow when it's spliced with the ship, as though these swimmers are coming face to face with something much bigger than them. The second is of the Man and the Woman From The City, lying in a field, fantasizing about him leaving his wife to come with her to experience city life. These lyrical images are doing double-duty: without sound, we rely solely on the image (and the score) to tell the emotional story. I do pay attention much differently to a frame's composition, to all the elements that I might normally take for granted when verbal cues are abundant. Without them, we need more.

She haunts him still.

Stuck in a loveless marriage, the Man does not respond well when his mistress from the city suggests taking his wife on a boat ride and drowning her, making it seem like an accident, so that they can be together. His initial reaction is violence, but soon his mistress's charms overtake him and he's haunted by the idea until he finally succumbs and takes his wife out to the lake. We know from the two-note theme reminscent of Jaws that this watery tale isn't going to go well for anyone. She senses something is wrong (even a dog on shore breaks free of its chains and paddles to the boat, trying to stop what's coming) but goes along for the ride. He nearly does it but ... isn't man enough? Can't bring himself to actually kill someone?

Sorry I tried to kill you in a boat. Here's some flowers...?

We're not sure, but once they're back on shore, she mopes for a good long while (wouldn't you?) and finally he breaks down weeping and repents, and they're back together, this time joyfully and playfully. Huh? Has this botched murder attempt reinvigorated their marriage, or was his desperate attempt to change his life the straw that broke the camel's back? Does it work like this? Does any marriage rebound that fast? Maybe not, but we only have 94 minutes, so get over it.

They're back in the boat after a beautiful day spent together, and suddenly God opens the clouds and sends down storm-smite in a very real way, capsizing the boat in a flurry of wind and rain. The Man swims to shore and can't find his beloved, and the whole town gets involved in the search.

Karma's such a bitch.

Will he find his love? Will he regret it forever? Will he go to the city with that aptly-named Woman From The City? After this beautiful day, can he ever go back? It's these simultaneously complex and simple questions that color this ending. The film is so full of this lyrical ebb and flow of emotion that it's no wonder it's called A Song of Two Humans. Not Two People, mind you: humans. It's very specifically titled, I think, in that perhaps we are seeing the plight of the human race: we take the things we have for granted, and we don't realize how precious they are to us until they're ripped away suddenly. How can we delight in those glorious, sunny days at the fair if we don't know their opposite?

The sun rises (!) over the house in the final frame, suggesting that it's just another day, that the story is cyclical, that it's your story, too. This could be any house anywhere and the outcome might have been the same. After all, "life is ... sometimes bitter, sometimes sweet."

You know, I'm finding that nineteen films in and I'm really starting to piece together a timeline of American cinema. One film leads to, bleeds into, informs the next. Blog fusion. Awesome.

I'll be glad to have dialogue back for the next film: #81 is Stanley Kubrick's 1960 epic Spartacus, which I'm sure I'll end up comparing to Ben-Hur somewhere along the line. Is that premature? Maybe they're completely different and I'm just saying that because both involve tunics. Stop with the broad generalizations. Seriously.

March 6, 2010

#83: Titanic

The basic question I think we all need to ask is: is Titanic as good as we remember it being when we all saw it in the theater in middle school? It's so completely 100% a part of our modern movie sensibility AND it's been parodied, mocked and ridiculed to death, so it's hard I think to see it from the outside and judge it based solely on cinematic merit. But I'm sure as hell gonna try, Rose.

Company: Tonight was most excellent. My good friend Jen and I were dating in eighth grade when she took me to see this film in the theater for the first time (not the first time for her ... I think she'd seen it four or five times by then) so she came down to participate in the diablogue. We dined, we took pictures, we dressed up like we were going down with the ship. Also along for the ride: Katie, moped owner, leaver of cute notes; Sheena, busy attractress; and later on, Kecia, foodie do-goodie.

Cuisine: extra dry Cooks champagne and vanilla Pirouettes (we're fancy!) and Leinenkugel's (from Chippewa Falls, Iowa, Jack Dawson's hometown)

When you think about it, framing the story of the Titanic in a modern context (in this case, connecting a surviving passenger and her possible possession of a priceless artifact with cool scientists looking for said artifact) is kind of genius. It gives the story an extra reason to be told (as if it needed one), justifying our trip to the past to see this:

Meet an unhappily bethrothed socialite in an amazing hat who naughtily quotes Freud to the ship's architect. Minutes later, meet a charming artist chancing his future on a poker game who wins his third-class ticket. Obviously they're star-crossed, and clearly they'll end up together. Herein lies the primary magic of this movie: we all know how it will end. We may not know who lives and who dies, but we all know the ship sinks, and yet every time I see it I still think, dammit, the ship's gotta stay afloat this time! There are clues throughout, no doubt, that the lovers are doomed, but we still believe in them.

Cupid's got his arrow squarely aimed... maybe even too squarely.

This is in no small part due to our leading performances. Leonardo DiCaprio doesn't really get enough credit for this movie, it's true, but what I saw this time more than ever before was that this was Kate Winslet's movie from the first moment. In order for the film to work, we have to love Leo, but we have to love, trust and maybe even believe we are Kate. Jack Dawson is impossibly charming and irresistible as a character, loosening both the physical and emotional corset on Rose Dewitt Bukater (and the audience). This seems to me an infinitely easier task than portraying the entire emotional journey of the bohemian-posing-as-uppercrust princess in a film where everyone knows she survives. Plus: she has to share many scenes with a completely one-note Billy Zane (as her odious fiance) and escape unscathed. And all this responsibility was heaped on the shoulders of a 21-year-old with only five film credits to her name (two or three of which anyone in this country had ever even seen). Well done, Ms. Winslet.

I could go on about Kate Winslet for a whole blog. But I'll try to move on.

Shortly after the doomed souls aboard Titanic bid farewell to dry land for the last time, the captain claims "the press knows the size of Titanic; now they must marvel at her speed." This ends up being his fatal mistake, of course, since without that extra speed the Titanic might have missed the iceberg, but it also seems to be a metaphor for the film. By the time Titanic was finally released in December of 1997, the film's extraordinary record-setting budget was older news than the stories about its post-production snafus and delays. Audiences expected big, and they got what they expected in every respect. If it weren't for the occasionally pitiful dialogue ("You unimaginable bastard.") it would be a near-perfect movie.

A big part of that is pace. We know it's doomed, we know it's doomed ... but then Leo and Kate get together and they're so great together and everything's happening and that dorky shot of them spinning during that dance in third-class and then he draws her and then they're making nasty in a car ... and oh wait! We've actually as good as forgotten the ship's fate!

Do. not. stop. running. you guys.

That scene where Rose looks for someone to help her free Jack from his shackles is so disorienting and horrifying, and in a way it seems like her defining scene. (Oops, said I would stray from Kate. Sorry.) It's the scene when everything changes. She has to man up. And she does. From that moment on, Jack and Rose are no longer distinguished by class, but equals in their fight for survival. They're intimately involved in the politics of who gets on a lifeboat and who doesn't, and just in time: once we're involved with their struggle, we care by extension for everyone on the boat, regardless of class. Thus, the genius of it all: just when the class barriers between Jack and Rose (and everyone else) are broken down, we are faced with thousands of people of all classes fighting for their survival, and we care.

Oops the berg.

Say what you will: Titanic still floats. Forget the effects that in the Na'vi shadow of Avatar look at times positively plastic, or that preposterous Italian accent on that guy (is "bastardo" a real Italian word?), or the sappiest song of all time that still manages to be catchy despite Celine Dion's throaty bleating. The film remains and will remain a rare cinematic and cultural phenomenon.

Whew. If you'll excuse me, I need to go dip my head in a cold bucket of Atlantic-in-April water to get over it all. Next up is 1927's Sunrise, another movie that pushes past three hours -- this time, without sound! Get ready.

March 3, 2010

#84: Easy Rider

There are four films made in 1969 on the AFI's Top 100. Good year! (1976 and 1982 also share this honor.) It's certainly no accident that Hollywood, taking cues from the French New Wave, was in a new age at the end of a decade like the 60s. Dennis Hopper's Easy Rider is a meditation of America's simultaneous fascination with and distaste for hippie counterculture, playing like a slideshow of late-60s Americana through the lens of two drug dealers, Billy (Hopper) and Wyatt, or "Captain America" (Peter Fonda).

Company: I started it by myself but Kecia and Katie came home about halfway through, right when Jack Nicholson first appears.

Cuisine: a handful of almonds (beach body!) and fried eggs on toast for dinner

After a successful drug deal, Wyatt and Billy use the profits to road-trip to New Orleans in time for Mardi Gras. What follows is a road movie, with the pair making stops and encountering characters throughout. As they set out and "Born to Be Wild" is played over the credits, we know exactly what kind of movie we're in for. Or do we?

Finding the psychedelic in nature's color palette.
(All these landscapes make me crave summer!)

These pit stops and encounters serve not only as plot points but also symbols of tension in American culture at the end of the decade. The actors were allegedly smoking real marijuana during shooting, and while drugs and drug use are commonplace in contemporary cinema, the topic had barely been explored onscreen by 1969. The friends pick up a hitchhiker who gets a ride to his commune, where the residents offer a communal prayer for a good harvest, despite the harsh conditions and poor soil. They also give thanks for what one member calls "a place to take a stand," presumably standing against a society that has shunned their way of life or deemed it inappropriate or perhaps in some way un-American. In this way the film serves as a historical snapshot of a divided era in which the country was growing less and less sure of itself, less and less tolerant of those who are different.

After spending a night in jail for riding their motorcycles through a parade without a permit, the duo meets George (Jack Nicholson in his first of many many Oscar nominations), the town drunk who is eager to ditch his small town and accompany them for the next leg of their journey. Maybe George is meant to represent us: a regular guy (not a "hippie" like Wyatt and Billy), who through exposure to drugs and alternative lifestyles meets sorry circumstances. He's a guy who doesn't know these new-age terms like "dude" and "groovy," but soon and without much cajoling he's one of the guys. When the guys walk into a small-town cafe they are ogled by local teenaged girls and eyed with overt suspicion by local police, who don't feel the need to whisper or censor in any way their racist, homophobic and in all other ways hateful comments. George may not have received this welcome alone, but with Captain America and Billy ("the Kid?"), he's become a hippie by association.

By the time the guys reach New Orleans, they've gotten high and talked about everything, including what seems to be the film's central theme: freedom. At one point George says "They're not scared of you, they're scared of what you represent: freedom... talkin' about it and being it are two different things." Ultimately the duo is looking for spiritual guidance and freedom, and I think the point the film is making is that though they don't find it through drugs, it's not drugs that kept them from finding it.

A dead goat in the street!?

Their Mardi Gras experience is, to put it bluntly, trippy. They meet two prostitutes and together whack themselves out on LSD, prompting a fascinating and strikingly modern sequence in a cemetery. It was that point that I thought, "Wow. This is so ahead of its time."

Did they find what they were searching for? Did we, as we journeyed with them? Wyatt doesn't think so. "We blew it," he says near the end of the film. He believes their spiritual quest to be a failure, not knowing what fate lies ahead for the pair. Without spoiling it, let's say the film leaves this central thematic question without an answer. I'm finding that a film that ends without all the questions answered invites more conversation, like I certainly had with my two friends who, although they hadn't seen the whole film, had strong opinions about the ending. What are we to take from this ending? What do you take from it?

I have a feeling this one will stick with me for a while. The soundtrack certainly will, including the efficiently titled "Don't Bogart That Joint."

Next up: #83. Some movie no one's ever heard of.