Thursday 4 June 2015

Day 31 - Shindler's List

***** SPOILERS AHEAD *****

This movie was SO GOOD. SO. GOOD. If you haven't seen it, you should. It's amazing. It perfectly captures so many dark and light sides of human nature. It was beautifully tragic and absolutely brilliant.

Visually, it was stunning because the whole movie was done in black and white. It made it feel more real somehow, like it had been filmed during the actual war as opposed to being a modern look-back to it. The only color was in the dress of a little girl when Shindler started to actually see the horror around him and realize what exactly was going on around him.

Basically, the movie followed Shindler, who was in no way sympathetic to the Jews at the beginning. He was a business man that believed that everything had a price. He used the war as a way to provide himself with cheap workers while his assistant (a Jewish man) snuck in people to work who had no experience as metalworkers.

Eventually, you see him begin to change and begin to see the people as people and he begins to feel the loss when he loses or nearly loses workers on several occasions. His full realization of the situation around him comes when he sees that little girl in the red dress again, but this time, she is on a cart filled with the dead.

He befriends a German Captain (or something), a young man who is completely heartless... Almost. After Shindler talks to him about how true power comes when you forgive someone as opposed to shooting them randomly with a sniper rifle from your balcony, you see the young man begin to question his actions and passes forgiveness onto a young Jewish boy who works for him.

The young man then catches his own reflection in the mirror, and you see that he doesn't like what he has become in that moment. He doesn't like the way grace feels. He doesn't like the taste of the kind words that flowed out of his mouth. And so he gets his rifle. As the boy runs, a bullet hits the ground beside him, and then another. And then he falls to the ground.

It is from this young man that Shindler buys over 1,000 Jewish people that he places on a list. These people were intended to go to Auchwitz where they were more than likely going to be killed, but Shindler takes action to save them by bribing the young German officer and getting him to have them all shipped to his factory instead.

The women and young girls somehow end up at Auchwitz anyway, and Shindler rushes to go and rescue them. As they are loaded back onto the trains to return to Shindler's factory, the girls are forcibly removed from their mothers' arms. When Shindler sees this, he rushes over to the men who have them and demand to have them back. You see his fear and rage and them taking them as he shoves the hand of one of the girls in the face of a German officer saying that he needs these hands to polish the inside of the war shells he is making.

At the end, there's a powerful scene at the end of the war, when Shindler has saved all of his Jews, all 1,100 of them. And then as he looks around at all the good he has done, he looks at his car and pulls off a gold pin from his jacket. He begins to lament over these things, saying that he could have bought 10 more with his car, and another with his pin. He begins weeping over this regret that he could have saved more without realizing that he was surrounded by 1,100 people who he DID save.

Many of these people were still alive at the making of this movie, and made an appearance at the end along with the young actors and actresses that portrayed them. It was powerful to see the real people (in color now) who were actually saved by the actions of just one man, returning to his grave to thank him.

Seriously, though. If you haven't seen it, do it.

Here it is on Amazon:

It's also a book!

Random thought after watching this movie: Don't leave this life with regrets. There are two parts to this thought. First of all, it's important to look at your accomplishments and realize that there is a lot that you have done that you can be proud of. The other part is that you should do things to the fullest of your ability so that you don't have to look back and regret. If Shindler had taken time while making that list to think of anything else he could possibly liquidate to add a few people to it, he would not have had that moment of deep regret. While some may say that it was only ten or so more people and how does that compare to 1,100, but at the same time, it would have made a huge difference in the lives of those ten or so. I already have regrets in my own life, and I don't want to look back at the end and have huge regrets. I certainly don't want to look back and say that fear or comfort or money prevented me from saving and/or helping another human being. Human lives are far too important for me to risk because I don't want to be uncomfortable.

Saturday 23 May 2015

Day 30 - Rocky

Well, it's officially been a month since the start of the challenge, and I have officially seen a total of 50 movies on the list ("only" 200 more to go!), 9 of which I've seen since the beginning of the challenge. I do need to get it into gear if I'm going to beat this challenge, but it's hard to be working and it's also hard because I have to find the movies on Netflix for now. This summer should be a bit easier when I'm in the States and have access to movie rental stores.

Anyway, Rocky. It was easy to see why this movie is a classic, and D and I were both SUPER excited to see it in the theater! The movie theater near our house shows a different classic movie every week, and this week was Rocky, so we went today to see it.

***** SPOILERS AHEAD *****

I definitely liked it, even though I knew how it ended. I recently had the revelation that boxing is my favorite sport. I'm not completely sure why, but I really love boxing. I think because it keeps me on the edge of the seat and cringing the whole time.

What I knew about Rocky going into it was that Sylvester Stallone wrote it about an actual boxer that actually did what Rocky does in the movie, so I knew that he lost in the end. I didn't know there was also a romance woven into it, so that was interesting. I think without the romance, it would have been kind of boring because it would have just been a boxer prepping for a fight, which isn't as interesting as an unlikely romance.

I guess there's not much else to say about it. It was easy to connect to the characters and see where they came from, so I guess I'll just quit while I'm ahead.

Anyway, here's the link to the video on Amazon:

And here's the whole series, if you're interested:

Random thought after watching this movie: There are a lot of people out there who have a lot of potential, but they don't want to put in the hard work that it takes to reach that potential, so they convince themselves that where they are in life is fine and that they're happy being there, but deep down they know that they could be so much more. Sometimes, they just need a big break and a chance to step up to the plate and be all that they can be. Other times, they may never get to where they could be because they turn down opportunities. I know there are definitely areas of my life where I have untapped potential, but I make excuses and don't put in the effort to reach that potential. Like with writing. I could be a published author by now if I could stick to one novel, but instead I settle for using my writing talents to write articles for other people to market their websites. But at the same time, writing articles has a definite paycheck whereas if I was able to finish a novel, there's no saying whether or not it's going to get published or make me any money or be read by anyone (other than a few family members and friends who would read it just because it's mine). Maybe someday I'll have the time and energy to devote to my own writing, but I guess for now I'll just keep on going with articles.

Day 24 - Trainspotting

My entire reaction to this movie can be summed up in one word: WHY?

As in: WHY is this considered to be one of the top 250 movies of all time? WHY would anybody want to watch this? WHY would anybody recommend this? WHY was this movie made this way? WHY IS THIS ON THIS LIST?????

But seriously, somebody please explain this to me.


Basically, the whole movie covered some drug (heroine) addicts who were also alcoholics. They went back and forth with trying to get clean (sort of) and had some other random mishaps with dying babies and jail stints and drug deals and real estate schemes.

When a movie could have just as easily been done as a comedy but was meant to be a serious drama... It's just not good. I will say that I do think it gave some real glimpses into the lives of drug addicts which was interesting, especially to a writer like me who's always curious about such things but has no way to learn about such subjects except by performing potentially incriminating Google searches.

It was far from the worst movie I've ever seen, and there were a few scenes that touched me to some degree, but I just don't understand what the criteria are that made someone decide to put it on the list of the top 250 movies of all time.

Anyway, here it is on Amazon:

Also, it was apparently a book first:

Random thought after watching this movie: Addictions are hard. But the thing is, when most people think of addiction, they think of things like drugs and alcohol and sometimes porn. But what most people don't realize is that everybody is addicted to something, but a lot of addictions look really nice so they're just accepted. People are addicted to things like Facebook or Tumblr. People are addicted to sex. People are addicted to being healthy. People are addicted to money. People are addicted to work. People are addicted to the praise and approval of other people. People are addicted to themselves. I have my own addictions. I'm not afraid to admit that there are some things that I am addicted to that I know I shouldn't be, but addictions are strong. In the movie, the main character kept going back for "one more hit" but never stopped at just one. And that's what everyone does. They keep going back for just one last hit, and they think that that one last hit will somehow make getting off easier. But it doesn't. It very rarely is one last thing, because then you just fall right back into addiction. When you decide to walk away, when you see that your addiction is harming you or the people around you, then you have to just walk away. It's simple, but it's most certainly not easy. Rather, it is the hardest thing you will ever do, but it does get better. Over time, you realize that that thing that you were so addicted to wasn't as necessary as you thought. You realize you can live with out it, and that's what you do. You live without it. The real trick is then not replacing it with another addiction.

Sunday 17 May 2015

Day 24 - Shawshank Redemption

I'm actually really upset that I didn't see this movie sooner. It was SO good. I honestly thought it was a bloody guy movie with backstabbing and crazy prison drama, so I had never wanted to see it before. It was not at all what I had expected it to be. Instead, it was AWESOME!

***** SPOILER ALERT *****

I really don't know what to say about this movie. It was just so good, and I loved it. I loved some of the foreshadowing that I didn't get until the end, like the mention of the book Count de Montecristo. I saw that movie a while ago and remembered clearly the men burrowing through the tunnels to escape prison, but didn't realize they were foreshadowing anything until the end, which was cool. I kind of have a thing for foreshadowing.

What it really brought up in my mind was how corrupt the system is. I know it's fictional, but the truth is that a lot of what was happening there really did happen, and still happens to this day, in some form or another. There is a lot of corruption in the prison systems and a lot of the prisoners are mistreated and a lot of prisoners need help but simply don't get it. And, there are rarely opportunities for recently released inmates to get any help readjusting to life outside, which is why they usually go back to their old lives.

I think people tend to forget that people in prison are people too. They struggle with many of the same things as other people. The problem is that they have tried to resolve those struggles in ways that are harmful to others and contrary to the law. Numerous studies have shown that with proper therapy during and after prison stays, inmates are significantly less likely to commit crimes again.

I really think that there needs to be a stronger focus on getting these people the help that they need to avoid them committing more violent crimes. The benefits to allotting time and money to this are substantial. Not only would this limit the number of people in the prisons which would in turn help lower the prison budgets, but it would also help protect the general public by avoiding the release of men and women that are at a high risk of recidivism.

Those are my two cents on prisons and the current prison system....

Anyway, here's the Amazon link for this movie:

Random thought after watching this movie: Numerous studies have shown that solitary confinement is extremely bad for people's psyches, and that many people begin to go crazy after just a few days of being deprived of all human interaction. Honestly, I'm not sure what that says about me because I've been in a sort of solitary state for days at a time more than once and I guess I'm fine. Usually I've had interactions via Facebook or the internet during those times, but once I definitely had 3 days of no internet, no phone, and no other humans to interact with. I felt a little out of it, but not bad, leaving me to think that as long as I have something to entertain myself (which, trust me, doesn't take much), I would be fine to be by myself for long periods of time.

Day 23 - Psycho

***** SPOILER ALERT *****

The only thing I really knew about this movie was the famous scene with the music and the knife with the girl in the shower, and that it was an old movie. I do NOT like scary movies and avoid them whenever possible. This is primarily because I've encountered demons in real life so when I see them portrayed in movies, it's just too real... But I knew this one was older so I went into this one assuming it was going to be ridiculous and not very scary.

I was mostly correct with the not being scary part. There was one time I jumped simply because the killer jumped out unexpectedly but someone expectedly, but that was really it. And I was also generally right about the ridiculous nature of it. As I had anticipated, there were a lot of moments in which I had to say, "Why didn't he/she/they just....?" But that's most horror movies in general. If people did smarter things, the movies would be significantly shorter.

What I had not expected that allowed me to get into it and really enjoy it was the mystery. I spent most of the movie going back and forth and trying to guess at what was going on. Was his mother really still alive? Was she really the killer? If so, was she the real killer and how were these people not able to fend themselves off from a feeble old woman? If she was dead, who was he heard talking to more than once? Who did he carry to the cellar? And who was buried in her grave? How did she die? Who was seen in the window and with gray hair murdering people?

As per usual, I went back and forth as I explored the many options that could be the truth. I had been leaning toward her being dead until it shows him carrying her, but then I still wasn't sure until everything was explained at the end. I don't know a ton about psychology and multi-personality disorder, but I do know that it wasn't completely accurate because the real person can't have conversations with the splits. They don't even know they exist nor do they know anything about them.

Overall, it was a good movie, and I highly recommend it to whoever wants to see a solid mystery.... Even though I already solved the mystery for you.... Sorry, but I can't say I didn't warn you.

Anyway, here's the Amazon link for it:

Random thought after watching this movie: First of all, if you're carrying around $40,000 you should really not just have it casually tucked in your purse. And if you're super nervous about being caught after having stolen said cash, you should probably try relaxing a little and not act so suspicious. Also, if you've just murdered someone and there's proof that she stayed in your hotel, you should probably just be upfront and tell the truth up until the part where you murdered her. Just change that part of the story to "she left early in the morning." Seriously, though, some people are just really bad at bad. As a friend of mine always says "If you're going to be bad, at least be good at it."

Tuesday 12 May 2015

Days 13 - 14 - Life is Beautiful

I can't honestly say if this was my first foreign film or not, primarily because I have seen the X-Men anime series and I don't know if that counts or not. And also because I might have seen another one at some point but just don't remember it. But it was definitely the first foreign film that I've seen because of the challenge.

I decided after watching this movie to just give up on trying to fully comment on this movie without giving anything away about the movie, so I'll start with a vague review and plot summary and then give all my thoughts and such.

This movie followed a Jewish waiter in Italy during World War II. He was quite the character for sure. He was funny and outgoing and the most outrageous character ever. The first half of the film is him pursuing a beautiful young woman whom he eventually woos and marries. The second half of the film is him with his son in a concentration camp. In order to shield his son from the horrors that they are facing, he creates an elaborate ruse that they are in some big game and must earn points in order to win the game.

It was beautifully done and somehow managed to perfectly blend tragedy with comedy, which is really how life should be. It reminded you of some of the horrible things that happened during World War II without sugar coating it but at the same time displayed how great a father's love is for his children and at what length a father will go to in order to protect his son. I highly recommend this movie to anyone, especially people who like World War II era films.


But first (to save you from the spoilers if you fear them), the Amazon link to the video:

There was a moment near the end of the film that was very poignant to me that I keep going back to in my mind, even a week after having watched it. At the beginning, Guido (the waiter) is waiting on a German doctor and they go back and forth exchanging riddles. The doctor is obsessed with riddles and says that one in particular kept him up for days. Then, near the end of the movie, the doctor makes a reappearance and recognizes Guido after he gives the answer to the last riddle the doctor had given him.

The doctor gets special permission for Guido to come and wait on him and the officers he's dining with, and there's a ray of hope that Guido and his son are going to get out of the camp, especially when the doctor sneaks a message to Guido that he wants to talk to him in private. He is urgent and insistent, and eventually the two get a chance to talk privately at the party.

Guido waits with anticipation that he and his wife and son will all make it out thanks to his previous relationship with the doctor, but then the doctor presents him with a riddle: "It's yellow and says quack, quack, quack." But the answer is not a duck, but the doctor is sure that it must be a duck. It's a riddle that has kept him up for weeks now and he begs Guido to help him solve as Guido's face falls into a state of utter hopelessness, confusion, and pain.

It was so powerful to me that here was a man (the doctor) who had formed a friendship with another man, and yet was so caught up on himself and his own pursuits that he completely missed the fact that his friend and his friend's entire family were all in danger of death. Literally. Their lives were literally in danger and the doctor was more worried about solving a riddle.

After some research, I discovered that as the riddle had been presented by a Nazi, the answer was a Jew.

I think the reason this so powerfully affected me is that this is the world we live in today. There are so many people who are alive today that have so much and yet are so worried about getting more that they completely miss the fact that there are people out there that are suffering and dying. People are more worried about their internet being too slow than the AIDs epidemic in Africa. People are more worried about the cost of gas than the hate crimes being committed against Christians around the world. People are more worried about dressing their dog up in the latest fashions than the people that are literally starving to death.

There is a whole world out there, and it is bigger than you and your riddle.

Friday 1 May 2015

Day 8 - Avengers 2 Pissed Me Off

It's not on the list we're working from, but word on the street (from BD) is that the Avengers 2 had already been added to the original list on before it even came out in the United States, and it is a movie, so here's the super short version of my review: I have never been this angry over such a good movie.


If you have not seen this movie yet and are planning on it, please stop reading right now. I may give some things away that you don't want to know, but admittedly most of what I'm angry about has nothing to do with the actual plot line.... This is your last chance to turn back....

First of all, I'm a huge fan of X-Men. I have seen almost everything there is to see and own a good portion of said movies/TV shows. I never read the comics, but have read a lot of information about the comics so I do know a lot about them..... I also went as far as writing a fanfic involving the X-Men which I'm now reworking into an original story that I hope to someday get published. Such is my love for the X-Men.

So, when I heard that they were going to be including two characters from the X-Men in the new Avengers movie, I was super excited. Wanda and Pietro aren't my favorite characters, but they're ones that I do know and are fairly well-known. This is particularly true of Pietro (aka Quicksilver) who recently appeared in the latest X-Men movie.

The first time I cringed was when they were introduced as twins. They are not twins. Pietro is the older brother.... They might even be half-siblings, for that matter, come to think of it.... The second cringe came when their back-story included the fact that they were orphans. They are not orphans. Their father is Magneto. Then my cringing and barely-accepting of facts turned to full-blown anger when they were fully revealed to be some type of "human genetic experiments" that were done in Germany.


Just no.

They are not human experiments. They are mutants. They were born with those powers and abilities. They did not volunteer for some type of experiment and then gain powers as a result as of the experimentation process.

Basically, they stripped these two characters completely of their back-stories but kept their names and abilities to force them to fit into their story line. You just can't do that! I'm almost certain that there are plenty of characters between Thor, Black Widow, Captain America, Iron Man, Hulk, and Hawkeye that they could have pulled to be the bad-guys-turned-good-guys. So why did they even need to grab a couple characters from the X-Men world if they were just going to remake them?

Some may argue that the had to do that because the universes don't fit together or whatever, but they do. Both Wolverine and the Beast have spent time on the Avengers team. And the X-Men have worked for (and sometimes against) S.H.I.E.L.D. So it would not be a stretch to include actual mutants in the Avengers. The whole mutant issue wouldn't have to be a major plot point. It would even have to be mentioned other than "there's this new thing that's starting to happen where people are mutated." That's it. That's all I was asking for. But, no! They had to strip the characters of nearly everything that made them them to make them fit into a story that they're not in.

Anyway.... There's no Amazon link because it just came out in theaters, so here's a picture of the "Maximoff Twins."

And here's them in their original form.....

Random thought after watching this movie: Honestly, I was too angry about this whole Maximoff twin thing to fully get into the rest of the movie. And I already did all my ranting above, so I've got nothing else to put here.


After doing some further research and talking with cousins who have more knowledge than I do about these characters, I discovered that I had erred in my thinking, so I am now making corrections.

Pietro and Wanda are, in fact, twins. I honestly did not know that, and am not sure why I was so sure that Pietro was older. So, I was just completely wrong in that area.

My second problem was that they were presented as orphans. I also did not know, but that is how they were first presented in the comics. It was only later that it was revealed that Magneto was their father, and I guess that story was also retracted later, so they may or may not actually be orphans. So, I was again just completely wrong in that area.

My biggest issue was the fact that they called them genetic experiments. I still have a slight issue with that, but there are copyright issues at play here. Fox owns the rights to the X-Men series, which includes the term "mutant" when it refers to the race of people. So, they were not able to use that term, and they had to stay away from using their mutant names, which is why they were primarily referred to by their first names only. The only reason they were able to be shown on the Avengers at all is that they were both a part of the Avengers team which means the rights to those characters went with them and did not exclusively belong to Fox.

I still have some issues with that, because there were a bunch of the X-Men that were on the Avengers at some point, including Wolverine, Beast, Firestar, Storm, Havok, Cannonball, Sunspot, Rogue, Sabretooth, and X-23.... So do all of them also have duel-citizenship as far as rights are concerned? And what about all the other comic book crossovers? Wolverine first appeared in an issue of The Incredible Hulk, so can he appear in the Hulk movies?

I also feel like Fox missed a HUGE opportunity to promote their X-Men franchise. I mean, Avengers 2 is one of THE biggest blockbusters of the year (and probably ever, let's be honest), so they would have had free advertising with two mutants running around alongside the Avengers....

Anyway, I was wrong about a few things, and I'm sort of glad since now that I know my frustrations were unfounded. So now I feel like I need to go see it again when I'm not going to be angry about their backgrounds getting changed too much so I can enjoy it more.... But I'll probably wait until after the challenge because I have a lot of other movies to watch this year.