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Monday, June 25, 2007

Lawrence of Arabia: Great movie

A lot of people will not believe that this movie is made on a real life person. But it is true, Lawrence of Arabia, made in 1962, was based on a true Lieutenant-Colonel T.E.Lawrence, who served in the British Army during the period of the First World War (from 1914-1918) and was in the Military Intelligence division. During this service, he did some extra-ordinary things to further the interests of the British in the War. He eventually died in 1935 in a motor-cycling accident.
The film is very famous, and regularly finds a place in the Top 100 films of all time. It was directed by David Lean and starred Peter O'Toole in the lead role. The film was also acclaimed for the musical score by Maurice Jarre and the cinematography by Freddie Young. It won the Oscar for Best Picture in 1962. The film and also Lawrence's own writings about the World War, Seven Pillars of WisdomLawrence of Arabia, have been called into doubt by historian repeatedly, especially the accuracy about all that Lawrence is supposed to have achieved during the War.
The mission of the British in the Middle East during the First World War was to defeat the Turks, and the aim was to see if the Arab desert tribes could be united to fight against the Turks. There did not seem to be any other alternative other than the desert tribes, but it would take a lot of effort for them to defeat the entrenched Turks.
The movie is a treat to watch, especially on a large screen. It has great scenes of the desert, depicting the vastness and in many cases, the desolate nature of the desert. It can be a brutal place. The action sequences and the battle scenes are great, and very engrossing. The most important aspect of the movie is about how Lawrence is able to get the tribes to take on the Turks and defeat them, and how this entire quest changes his personality in an incredible way. The movie conveys a sense of history for the region, something that most people outside the region would have no idea about.
In the start of his quest, Lawrence manages to get to meet Prince Feisal (who is attempting a revolt against the Turks, who are allies of the Germans), and get him interested. In the first victory, Lawrence uses an army of Bedouin to capture a vital port city after a desert push that was though impossible. After this, he launches a guerrilla war, trying to bleed the Turks in many places and putting pressure on their supplies. After getting caught while scouting a Turkish held-city, he is severely beaten. This has a change in his feelings and he is now more open to massacres of enemy soldiers (something that the Arabs supported as a retaliation for similar action by the Turkish). Eventually his army of Arabs take Damascus, at which stage he retires from the effort. There will be many sections of the movie that can be disputed for its accuracy, but the movie by itself is a great movie.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Citizen Kane: An all-time great movie

This is a movie that has been rated as the best English movie of all time, and if you watch it with a critical eye, one can see why. In this age of fast paced action oriented movies, it may seen as an anachronism, but the movie itself is spectacular. The creation of the movie itself was an event by itself. The movie is by accounts based on the life of the newspaper magnate, William Randolph Hearst. The picture painted in the movie of the lead character, Charles Foster Kane, was not a very flattering one, and Hearst did all he could to kill the movie. The movie did not find any mention in any of Hearst's newspapers, the premiere of the movie was blocked, and in the end, the movie itself lost $150,000. And to make matters worse, it was the first movie by a young director, Orson Welles, at the tender age of 26.
The movie starts with the death of the newspaper magnate, Charles Foster Kane (Orson Welles). While dying, he utters the word 'Rosebud' and this is caught on a newsreel. The producer of the newsreel views this, and curiosity unleashed, hires a reporter Thompson (Willian Alland) to dig into Kane's private life and to discover the meaning behind the word. The movie is essentially about the discoveries that Thompson makes, and how Kane's life is revealed through these flashbacks. He meets numerous people to get to the bottom of the mystery, with some people cooperating and some not.
The story of Kane's life was not an easy one. He was born into poverty, and inherited wealth, at which point his mother sent him away to live with their banker. This incident was the turning point of his life, it made him what he was. In the end, he dies a massively wealthy and yet supremely arrogant newspaperman. He had broken relationships. In his quest for power, his ambition causes him broken relationships and the bitter feeling that eventually he is left all alone. And this was not necessary, he started out as an idealistic journalist trying to help the common man, and then set his mind to start on a political career, that self-destructed due to the opening of his affair to the public.
Eventually his attempts to attain the American dream of power, wealth, influence, and success crashed, and he died a loner of his own choosing, in a representation of his life's emptiness. The journalist, Thompson who is investigating however is unable to find out the meaning of Rosebud, and gives up. However, viewers of the movie get to know what it is; as workers are burning many of Kane's possessions, they burn his sled. The sled has the name 'Rosebud', and it was the sled that he was riding on the day his mother sent his away. And the movie pans onto on a gate with a 'No Trespassing' sign.
The movie is acclaimed for several thing, its nature of flashback narration, the effort taken to ensure that Orson Welles is able to look the age of the part, the acting style, his usage of focus, shadows. The movie was acclaimed at its release, but then forgotten, until the 1950's, at which time it started catching the attention of critics. The movie was nominated for 9 Oscars, but the pressure from Hearst must have been considerable, it only won 1.

Saturday, June 9, 2007

Rambo: Not just a violent movie

The first version of the Rambo series, called First Blood (Rambo) was released in 1982, and is now considered a good hit. It is a pretty violent movie, with one killing, gun shots, other ways of hurting people, and so on, and is fairly raw in the way that emotions are presented, but the movie overall is pretty impressive. It was also a big hit, costing around $14 million to make, and earning more than $125 million. The movie spawned 2 sequels, and made Stallone into a big star.
First Blood was based on a novel written by David Morrell in 1972 about a Vietnam veteran who has the war imprinted into his psyche, and has developed a number of skills not suitable for living in society. A war veteran of a war that was not liked by a significant section of society would face a lot of hatred, and coupled with the pain and emotional distress suffered during the war, could easily turn back into a killer even in a normal society.
The story of the movie has certain twists and warts, for example, the mistreatment of a detainee in a police station is not all that common. However, this is a fairly simple story. John Rambo is a Green Beret, a special soldier dedicated to special operations, and also part of a team with a low survival ratio because of their nature of missions. They are trained to be elite soldiers, being able to survive in the wild, kill using different ways, and so on.
John is now back in the US, searching for a friend in Washington state. He finds out that this friend, the last surviving member of his unit, died of cancer. He enters a town of Hope, but the sheriff, Will Teasle (Brian Dennehy) is not impressed by his looks and wants to run him out of the town, saying that they do not like drifters. He drops him out of the city limits. John returns to the town, and is immediately arrested by Teasle for vagrancy and for carrying a concealed weapon.
In the jail, John has a bad time. He is traumatised by one of the sheriff's deputies, and they they want to clean him up for the judge. The overall treatment reminds John of his treatment at the hands of the North Vietnamese, and the sight of a razor pushes him over the edge. He manages to make his way out of the jail after beating up a lot of the officers, and is then chased by Teasle. This chase extends the full length of the movie. He first steals a motor cycle, and is pursued by Teasle in a car. Eventually, they get inside the jungle, and he is being chased by dogs.
Trying to elude them, he is spotted on a cliff drop, and is being threatened by the deputy with rifle on a helicopter. He drops of the cliff, into trees, but eventually manages to throw a rock at the copter, causing the deputy to fall down to his death. The sheriff is mad, and takes his team into the woods to chase Rambo, but this is where Rambo is able to exhibit his special skills, as he disables them one by one. The sheriff calls in the National Guard, and this also brings in Rambo's former colonel, who advises the sheriff to let it be, they will be able to catch Rambo later much more easily; good advice, not accepted
The National Guard find Rambo in a case face, and they fire at him with a rocket launcher. He is assumed to be dead, but is not. He is now going to take the fight back to the sheriff. Stealing a army truck from the National Guard, he re-enters the town, and proceeds to blow up a number of things. He finally corners the sheriff, but is stopped from killing him by his colonel (Richard Crenna). After a dialog where there is an outpouring of emotions from Rambo at his unit's death, the condemnation of the soldiers by society, and so on, he surrenders.