February 24, 2011

#39: Dr. Strangelove

Stanley Kubrick's satirical masterpiece Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, loosely based on Peter George's novel Red Alert, as been called "the best satirical film ever made" by Roger Ebert. Whether or not you agree, you can't argue that the film alternates between quietly and raucously hilarious. You wouldn't know it from my roommate's reaction, or mine for that matter, on a murky Sunday evening, but I enjoyed it all the same.

Company: Kecia, roommate and enthusiast for comedy who did doze a little, but she can be forgiven because of this:

Cuisine: beef tips sauteed in pesto, onions, zucchini and cherry tomatoes in whole grain pasta topped with Feta. Wow. Delicious. Has NOTHING to do with a nuclear scare except that I was scared I would cry from how good it was.

Fear of the Soviets is at an all-time high, and for reasons that remain unclear except for a Communist plot to contaminate "everyone's precious bodily fluids," a paranoid army general, Jack D. Ripper (a fantastic Sterling Hayden) initiates a plan that will set in motion a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Captain Lionel Mandrake (Oscar nominee Peter Sellers, in one of his three roles) issues the attack on Ripper's orders, but, later realizing it was not issued as retaliation, vows to recall the planes. Ripper refuses to give him the information necessary to stop the attack and locks the two of them in his office. Peace is our profession, indeed.

The men on the bomber jets on the outer borders of Russia respond at first with disbelief that they've been called into action, since most of their daily existence involves chewing gum and reading Playboy. Once "Plan R" is activated, Major "King" Kong (Slim Pickens) dons a cowboy hat in preparation for "nuclear combat toe-to-toe with the Russkies," which 50+ years after the film's release hearkens contemporary recollection of our last president's cowboy persona and similarly folksy catchphrases. Kubrick portrays these men of the Air Force as rogues, biding their time until the inevitable attack is launched and ready to rough up' dem Russians at a moment's notice.

"War is too important to be left to politicians."

The film imagines an America (not, in Kubrick's view, too far from the true one) in which the military actually outranks the chief executive officer, where high ranking officials in the armed forces are paranoid, arrogant and trigger-happy. In 1964, Lyndon Johnson's expansion of the Vietnam War was keeping America on perpetual edge, with the Cold War ever near, and in a politically volatile time, this film may not have seemed so far from the truth.

"Gentlemen, you can't fight in here! This is the war room!"

As the implementation of Plan R is made known to the Pentagon, the Cabinet convenes in the War Room with President Merkin Muffley (Sellers again) to plot a course of action, but General Buck Turgidson (a brilliantly sharp George C. Scott) has bad news: Ripper has taken advantage of the contingency plan for Soviet attack on Washington D.C. by deploying Plan R without provocation, and unfortunately there's no recall available to them. The strike will happen. Muffley scoffs that no such plan should ever have been considered, but Turgidson reminds him that he supported its original implementation. Blurg.

Well, what now!? Turgidson defends the plan, saying that it's "unfair to condemn a whole program because of a single slip-up" (nuclear holocaust would be quite a slip-up, wouldn't it?) and urges the president to launch a full-scale attack to obliterate the Soviet air force. Now that a provocation is inevitable, you might as well go all out. Muffley gives information to the Soviet ambassador (Peter Bull) which he could use to shoot down the offending planes, but the Soviets alert the ambassador to the presence of a Doomsday Device that will detonate at the first signs of a nuclear attack on the Soviet Union. Whoopsie.

At this point, President Muffley in desperation calls on Dr. Strangelove (Sellers once more!), a weapons expert and former Nazi official whose right hand remains a Nazi and occasionally salutes the F├╝hrer, to help them out of this mess. But Strangelove offers little in the way of help and explains the philosophy behind the Doomsday Device while the planes fly inevitably towards their targets overseas. The planes are finally recalled with the help of Mandrake and some spare change from a Coke machine -- all except one, whose radio was damaged by an anti-aircraft missile.

(I have to mention that I'm a huge Peter Sellers fan, but know him almost exclusively from the Pink Panther series, as my dad had us grow up on those movies and quoted Inspector Clouseau often. One for my pops.)

"We'll keep our fingers crossed."

Soon most if not all hope is lost, and we the audience are exasperated at the futile attempts to recall the final plane and the mismanagement of this "slip-up" that could destroy the planet. But with little choice, the men of the War Room stare at the Big Board and hope and pray.

Major Kong rides the bomb down to earth in an iconic image, but the Doomsday Device doesn't detonate right away. A contingency plan for repopulating Earth is considered by Strangelove and the War Room, but it's too late: the final moments of the film depict nuclear holocaust to the haunting tune of Vera Lynn's "We'll Meet Again."

It's dreary subject matter turned farcical, but what do you expect, babies? This is Stanley Kubrick, fresh off Lolita and beginning to shift from the naturalism of his earlier films to the surrealism of his later work (his next film, 2001: A Space Odyssey, is yet to come on this list).

I realize that a large amount of this entry has been recounting the complex plot, which normally I hate doing, but for this film, the screenplay is everything. There's little in the way of action; the film's effectiveness is almost entirely thanks to its snappy dialogue and biting satire. You can't really fully experience that by reading my dopey blog, so just go rent it and see for yourself.

You know, maybe my next project after this AFI goal will be retrospectives of different directors -- I'd love to work my way through the rest of Kubrick's filmography... maybe even starting at the beginning and working my way to Eyes Wide Shut. Could be interesting!

Next up: three films I know little about, the first of which was a trivia answer the other week at my local watering hole that I miraculously guessed correctly without any knowledge of the film. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre.

February 18, 2011

#40: The Sound of Music

"The hills are alive with the sound of music..."

Mountains, mountains, nature, mountains, quaint towns, trees, mountains, OMG A NUN. This is how we begin... at the very beginning. (C'mon. You can't hardly talk about Robert Wise's 1965 mega-hit musical The Sound of Music without starting with that.) The film begins quietly, almost reverently, flying over the Austrian countryside and asking the audience to consider the natural beauty of the motherland. Isn't it nice? Well, we'll get to that.

Company: Alex, excellent movie-watching companion who has amazingly never done a stage production of The Sound of Music

Cuisine: Alex supplied many treats: Tostitos with southwestern dip (yum), strawberries, cheese & crackers and off-brand Oreos ... and we ordered Domino's for good measure. And drank Diet Coke. This is a long movie and we needed to replenish.

She has confidence in confidence alone.

We all know the story, don't we? Whether you cherish the film as a family tradition or just remember watching it on TV a lot as a kid as I do (which accounts for some shots/scenes being entirely new to me), you surely know that opening shot of Maria's bliss-induced pleasure spin on a mountain. To start, the film's main weapon is the iconic, classic and career-making star turn by Julie Andrews as Maria, a postulate who's maybe not quite cut out to be a nun since she has little to no self-control where nature sprints or singing are concerned. "I can't stop singing anywhere I am," says Maria. Luckily for her, this is a musical. The title number, sung before the credits roll, reminded me of what a pure, simple and yet masterful singing voice the Dame has/had. They don't make them like this anymore, folks. She's also an excellent lip-syncer, a skill that is seriously lost on most performers today.

It is "the last Golden Days of the Thirties" in Salzburg, and through some misguided holy wisdom, the Mother Abbess (Oscar nominee Peggy Wood, who didn't even do her own singing!) punishes Maria's lollygagging by sending her to preside as governess over the seven children of Captain Von Trapp (Christopher Plummer, also didn't do his own singing). The kids are jerks at first, but they grow, as we have all along, to love Maria. Even after she makes them all matching rompers out of shaggedy old curtains.

When the children warm to her, the movie finds focus. They gallop across Salzburg and the surrounding countryside, giggling and carrying picnic baskets. The oldest (Charmian Carr) harbors a crush on a handsome telegram boy, but otherwise puberty is nowhere to be found among any of the Von Trapps. This, along with their intense boredom and newfound freedom, is what leads Maria to teach them all to sing, which they pick up amazingly quickly.

Now I've done two productions of this show, at ages 10 and 12 (no, I was never one of the Von Trapps, thank you, why don't you give me a paper cut and pour lemon juice on it?!), and I guess I had never thought about the overall effectiveness of this show musically. It seems, though, that nearly every number is simply "nice" and never really reaches "greatness." Other Rodgers and Hammerstein classics (Carousel, South Pacific, maybe even Oklahoma, etc.) contain truly masterful songwriting (I think mostly of Carousel here, but I'm biased), but this musical doesn't have songs that come close. The title number, "How Do You Solve a Problem Like Maria?" and "Do Re Mi" have little in the way of action or drive to them, and thus the film would feel like it slowed to a halt during the numbers if it weren't for Andrews and her all-bets-are-off central performance.

I'd argue that maybe "Edelweiss", sung in the above shot by the father to his children in a lovely moment, is the classiest number, although it serves in the show as just a pretty song (of course with nationalistic and melancholy undertones). "Sixteen Going on Seventeen" is sweet but saccharine, and "The Lonely Goatherd" is just a silly song without real purpose or place in the story's structure.

Now, am I just a humbug here? The stage musical, originally starring Mary Martin in 1959, was written in a time when the musical theater form had indeed moved past just pretty numbers and had progressed to include songs that advanced the storytelling, as is evidenced in many other R&H collaborations. But this musical just feels slight by comparison. The film adaptations of those other musicals, however, were never nearly as successful as this one was, which still stands as one of the biggest box-office films of all time. Why?

Well, look at what it has going for it: a legendary performance in Julie Andrews. A sweet (if not too sweet) true story. Gorgeous landscapes. Hummable songs. And, if I can be crass about it, a harmless story until about the last quarter when a universal enemy steps in. The wedding chimes have barely stopped ringing for Maria and the Captain and the Vasoline is still on the camera lens left over from "I Must Have Done Something Good" when the Nazis come knocking and threaten to ruin this perfect little family.

The above shot is one of my favorites in the film, as a dark parallel to the one before it, with the Von Trapps in dark shadow. Singing, playclothes and goat puppets can only distract this family from the Anschluss for so long before the Captain is summoned to Germany to take an office in the Third Reich's navy, and the third act commences. This last act is almost an entirely different film in tone, as the Von Trapps plan their escape and sing their last "So Long, Farewell" (during which Alex always gets a little weepy). With the help of some crafty sinning nuns, they make their way over the hills into neutral Switzerland. Everything ends happily... like it should in a musical!

Modern musical theatre, especially in the last twenty years or so, has come to a lot of parody, satire and self-reference, acknowledging that it's insane for people in a story to start singing out of nowhere accompanied by an invisible orchestra. But The Sound of Music represents a time when America was still enamored with the romance and beauty of the art form, before we all started rolling our eyes at it. But how incredible would it be to see a new musical filmed like this one? I don't know that it can be done, but maybe. Lift your eyes to the hills from whence commeth your help and maybe it'll happen.

This is all to say: I enjoy the film because it's nice. I don't think it's life-changing (besides maybe Julie) but it certainly strikes a major C chord with everyone who sees it, mostly because of how it's inoffensive enough to appeal to everyone. That's America for ya, baby.

Next up: talk about great central performances. Now we've got Peter Sellers, Peter Sellers and Peter Sellers.

February 15, 2011

Cine-Smackdown: #41-#50

Am I really 60 movies into this? Only 40 movies away from the end? This goal is taking longer than I expected and I suppose I shouldn't be amazed that I'm still invested in this, but I am a little. Not every movie amazes me, but there's enough promise each time to get re-excited. Onto the smackdown!

41. King Kong
42. Bonnie and Clyde
Midnight Cowboy
44. The Philadelphia Story

46. It Happened One Night

A Streetcar Named Desire
Rear Window
50. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

I had not seen King Kong, Midnight Cowboy, Shane, It Happened One Night or Intolerance previous to the blog. Halfsies.

Of these ten, which would I move further up the list?
If saying A Streetcar Named Desire tops these ten means I have a soft spot for actors, then so be it. But truly, that movie is a quartet for the ages, and has there ever been an ensemble of more emotional grandeur and transcendence than Brando, Leigh, Hunter and Malden? There's a couple of films that tie for second, but today I'd say Streetcar edges them all.

Of these ten, which would I get rid of?
Hands down: Shane. There are enough other westerns on this list to recommend, even if I didn't love them, and Shane just doesn't stand out for me in any way, shape or form.

Who in these movies do I want as my best friend?
This is a no-brainer: Samwise Gamgee (LOTR). Drop everything and accompany me on a months-long journey across Middle Earth? Save me countless times from ringwraiths, Gollum and my own trenchant for ring-power? Forgive me for being a huge douche? Literally carry me the last couple of steps? Checkity check check. I want to name my son Samwise.

Who in these movies do I want to have my back in a bar fight?
Aragorn (LOTR), Stanley Kowalski (Streetcar) and the titular gorilla (Kong) would form an unstoppable triumverate, wouldn't they? It probably also wouldn't hurt to have Stella (Rear Window) around in a pinch.

Who in these movies is your worst frienemy?
This group of ten is lousy with them! Where to start? Gollum (LOTR) would trade my hide for a lump of mythic metal. That girl who sends the Dear One's husband to his death in Intolerance would do the same to me if I let her get too close, and same with the guy who tries to bribe Peter Warne on the bus in It Happened One Night. Ratso (Midnight Cowboy), both Bonnie and Clyde, and Carl Denham (Kong) are all of such one-track minds that they'd probably get me involved in their nefarious doings (hustling, ineptly robbing banks, and filming blockbusters at the expense of stars' well-being, respectively) only to drop me but quick.

Who do I take home to Mom?
Samwise! That Rosie girl can move to the back. Mike Connor (The Philadelphia Story) would also probably charm her Mom Jeans off.

You're going on a date with these movies. Who do you agree to meet for coffee but never call again?
Midnight Cowboy. You just wanted my money! ... although what I really mean is metaphorically, what movie do I like but not enough to watch again...? That's probably Intolerance. So. long.

Who do you agree to meet for coffee, and then say you'll call but never do?
The Philadelphia Story. You're sweet but I'm just not that interested. I know others like you that are far more fun.

Who do you agree to meet for coffee, and then not show up?
Shane. Although I'm not convinced I would even agree to meet for coffee. I haven't disliked a film on this list so much since The Wild Bunch.

Who do you meet for a first date, ends up staying the night and makes you breakfast in the morning?
Mitch (Streetcar) would, although he might feel like he needs to be extra sweet and hurry things along so we can get married. But all the same, the omelette tastes good.

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?
Who on this list doesn't? Certainly the whole Barrow Gang (Bonnie and Clyde) and Blanche DuBois (Streetcar) would take anything that wasn't nailed down. Harsh.

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!

February 12, 2011

#41: King Kong

And the prophet said: "And lo, the beast looked upon the face of beauty. And it stayed its hand from killing. And from that day, it was as one dead."

An old Arabian proverb foretelling some ambiguous form of monster doom, and then: titles as big as the beast! I had only seen Peter Jackson's remake of Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's 1933 adventure flick King Kong so it was great fun to come back to the source material on a cloudy winter day.

Company: Stephanie, sister and lover of epic filmventures

Cuisine: bacon and tomato mac and cheese (my go-to delicious albeit unhealthy lunch, which somehow seemed right for a pulpy actionfest like this one) and Diet Coke

Let me preface this whole thing by saying that in my research, I found that "jungle films" had been around and gaining popularity for twenty years, and it was only 1933! The world was fascinated with the unknown, and new scientific discoveries were being made every day, so this film must have seemed very of its time.

Down-on-his-luck movie director Carl Denham (Robert Armstrong) is having trouble with his latest film, which he claims will change the movie industry thanks to a secret he's got (bum-BUM!!!), and his producers tell him that with the right leading lady, his film will gross twice as much. Give the audience what they want, they say, and what they want is a beautiful girl in distress. On his search, he stumbles across Ann Darrow (a luminous Fay Wray), a poor girl without a lick of acting experience trying to steal fruit from a storefront and nearly fainting from hunger. Damsel in distress, party of one.

She agrees to be in his new film, which will require her to sail with him to an island only he knows about. If she was any smarter or have anything else to do, she'd probably say no... but she says yes, and we set sail.

Denham enlists a crew and sets sail, only revealing their exact destination once they've all been at sea for several days. Their island getaway isn't exactly inviting: a tribe of angry-looking natives live on a fraction of the island, guarded by a humongous, centuries-old wall from ... well, whatever spirits/monsters/demons lie on the other side. No one's 100% sure what's over there, but Denham has some idea. The "whites knowing everything and assuming natives wouldn't know anything" thing is a little weird and archaic, but the story needs it to progress. The natives need to sacrifice a woman and it might as well be Ann. She's the best screamer.

Q: Why build that huge door if you never want the hugeness over there to cross sides? A: pageantry.

Denham's cool confidence doesn't save Ann from being kidnapped (boatnapped?) and shut in with the monster... and right on cue, he shows up, probably thinking "What's all that noise?"

Now by 2011 standards, these effects are laughable, but take note folks: this was 1933. This kind of green-screen is standard issue nowadays, and we've since explored stop motion in many genres, but at the time this was revolutionary. And even when it looks super hokey, it still looks pretty good. Poor Fay Wray, having to scream and react to NOTHING pretty much the entire film.

Gorilla v. Dino!

There's not many films on this list that are here specifically because they are entertaining. Yes, the technical elements on display here are extraordinary, and yes, there's a message, but at its heart King Kong is a action movie: damsels, beasts, thrills, chills, spills. So many action-thrillers and monster movies of today owe so much to this era of filmmaking that maybe Kong is a placeholder on the list for the American Popular Movie, for the Drive-In Movie. I'd argue it's the most "populist" film on the list, here for few other reasons that it's just fun. I mean, come on. A humongous gorilla and a T-Rex duke it out. It also works because it's not clogged with subplots: gorilla steals girl, guys save girl, girl gets stolen again, etc.

One part of the film that hasn't stood the test of time is of course what it is at its core, which is what some feel is an allegory for male dominance over women. The film was actually banned in Nazi Germany because its subtextual threat to Aryan womanhood. Damn Nazis, they'd find anything a subtextual threat. But seriously, modern lit-crit could probably find a brillion things wrong with the story, find it sexist or racist or what-have-you, but of course, it was all meant to be in good fun in 1933 ... right?

When the giant beast is brought back to America (never mind how something larger than their ship was moved overseas, the film conveniently skips that bit) he's put on display, bringing to mind some larger issue we're all too drunk with excitement to care much about. We know there's only 20 minutes left of this movie and we've got to get from this...

... to this!

In the tragic end, "it was beauty killed the beast." But I'm not real clear on just what that had to do with anything. Don't blame the beast's natural attraction to Ann Darrow for its death. If anything, blame your airplanes for blowing it off the Empire State. Blame the crew of the boat for hoisting it magically onto a boat smaller than it was. You can even blame Ann herself for ... seducing him? But don't blame King Kong. He was framed, you guys. That ending sort of threw me. And of course, we're meant to side with him at the end because of that tender moment where he puts Ann down and knows this is his end.

A thrilling adventure, to be sure, and one whose remake I might need to revisit!

A smackdown is in order (#41-#50!) and then: the hills are alive.

February 3, 2011

#42: Bonnie and Clyde

A few photos that look like they belong in the same album as the photos from Butch Cassidy, a couple quick facts about our heroes up until the opening shot, and we're off into Arthur Penn's 1967 hit Bonnie and Clyde. I had seen this once before in college and marveled at how modern it still feels but I took something very different away on a second viewing.

Company: Kecia, roommate and Warren Beatty's other wife; Alex, also amazed by hotties and their hotness

Cuisine: vodka, orange/pineapple juice and a little Rose's Lime; and Cheddar Blast Pringles. What about it?

This movie begins with one of my favorite opening scenes on this list so far: Bonnie Parker (Oscar nominee Faye Dunaway, so young!) is a lonely waitress in her bedroom, bored senseless. In just a few simple moments, Dunaway expresses the entire character, banging on the bedposts (as Kecia said, "Foreshadowing! Behind bars!") and falling hopelessly onto the bed, longing for something exciting to come into her life. To open a film like this is so risky -- open with a bang, the crowd shouts! -- but the whole point is that Bonnie's existence is a quiet one thus far, and she wants out. And just on cue: who's outside attempting to steal her parents' car but Clyde Barrow (Oscar nominee Warren Beatty, so handsome)!

"This is so hot already." -- Kecia

Intrigued from the get-go, Bonnie rushes outside to meet this handsome stranger, and within a few minutes she's off and running with him, barely able to keep her clothes on, escaping in the newly-stolen car on Clyde's lap, and barely allowing him to drive them to safety. But it's her first step in a new life of taking what she wants, when she wants it. In a second, her entire previous life is erased, and she is soon The Infamous Bonnie Parker (Parker and Barrow were real small-time crooks in the 1930s).

Clyde's been doing stick-ups for a while, but now the duo has strength in numbers. Their first couple of efforts, however, are bungled and not that lucrative. They're not the brightest crayons in the box ... yet. Soon they hook up with a disgruntled gas station attendant, C.W. Moss (Oscar nominee Michael J. Pollard), Clyde's brother Buck (Oscar nominee Gene Hackman) and his wife Blanche (Oscar winner Estelle Parsons -- that's FIVE nominees in one movie!), and things pick up a little bit.

"I told you I wasn't no lover boy."

Things don't quite according to plan, however -- at least not Bonnie's plan. Her sexual advances on Clyde are not reciprocated and she grows frustrated. I would too -- I give up everything to follow you and you won't give me anything back? -- but at the same time, he never asked her to take up with his gang. And the audience wonders: what's the hold-up, Barrow? She's cute, she's throwing herself at you, and she helps you make sackloads -- give it up! But I get the sense that Clyde's been down this path before: how many other Bonnies have there been before Ms. Parker? How many other girls has he fallen for, just to have them desert him and his life on the lam? That might not be the reason, but it's the one I could come up with.

Five Oscar nominees in one shot! I don't know if this has ever happened before or since.

The first half of the film functions somewhat as a comedy, a wacky crime caper with stock(-ish) characters and zany antics, but slowly the tension escalates as Bonnie grows tiresome of Blanche, whose response to chaos is often running around screaming with a spatula in her hand. Things were easier with just two, but with five the getaway car's a little more crowded, and Penn does a great job of keeping all five of them in the shot while in the car, letting his audience register all five performances simultaneously and see this web of independent people depending so intensely on each other.

One of the most memorable scenes is one in which the Barrow Gang is nearly caught by Captain Frank Hammer, but avoids capture and turns the tables on the poor guy, posing for photographs with him to send to journalists. Hammer makes what could be a fatal mistake by bravely spitting in Bonnie's face, and though the boys could kill him, they hilariously trap him bound in a canoe and shove him into a lake. Ever so slowly, the world is closing in on these characters -- they can't keep eluding authorities forever, but the way they galavant cross-country, kicking ass and taking names, it looks like they think they can, and will.

A major turning point comes when Bonnie's homesickness takes over and she demands to see her mama. She attempts to make a break for it, but Clyde chases her down and they cling to each other (each for different reasons) in a corn field. The shot above is lovely -- it's the autumn of their relationship.

All the performances in the film deserve mention but one great cameo comes from Mabel Cavitt who plays Bonnie's mother as an old crone, nearly blinded and foretelling doom. "You best keep runnin', Clyde Barrow," she breathes, as Bonnie acts like her mortality and the longevity of her gang's career had never occurred to her. This is the moment the movie shifts for me, and suddenly it becomes a dark meditation, not on consequence, but on the loss of innocence. You can run from death, from capture, from life, but you cannot hide. Even more powerful, America was sending more and more troops to Vietnam each day when this film was released. No one yet knew how long, how hopeless the war would be, and how disillusioned the youth at whom this film is aimed would become, but like Mrs. Parker, the film foretells doom. Art becoming life, lambies. Art becoming life.

Now it's all right for Bonnie to have this revelation: she asked for it, and she's got it coming. But C.W., Buck and Blanche didn't really ask to get swept up in this, and each of them have very different and distinct fates awaiting them. The scene above is harrowing -- Blanche, recently blinded in a shoot-out that leaves Buck dead and her abandoned by the other three remaining gang members, is grilled, quietly and maliciously, by local law enforcement and tricked into revealing C.W.'s identity, thus far unknown by the media, and thus setting the stage for the final showdown. But her desperation to understand what's happened and despair at losing Buck and losing her own life is heartbreaking. She's been a silly character until now, and I guarantee you this is the scene that clinched that golden man for her. Well done, Miss Parsons.

Abandoned once again, Bonnie and Clyde recognize their own mortality and finally take that final step, making love in a corn field. While this would normally be a cause for celebration, it's so somber and sobering for both of them, finally owning up to their mistakes and recognizing that they have very little time left. I think that must be what that pear's about in their final drive -- simple pleasures, sweetly savored. Neither one knows exactly how it will end, but they both see now, finally, that it must. And it does, violently and horribly, but not before one last glance, one last meaningful look, interpreted however you want -- but for me, I saw in their eyes: "This is it, but I wouldn't change it for anything." That's the romance, and that's the brilliance of the movie. It's not a perfect film, but each time I see it it gets (and I think it will get) better. Bravo!


Next up: Fay Wray and that one monkey.