Gandhi (1982)

 

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Watching historical movies is a great exercise in testing how little you know about a given subject, even if it’s, hypothetically speaking, a renowned icon of the twentieth century.  It’s also a great excuse to question why you know pathetically little about one of the most populous countries on the planet.  Fun fact:  up until yesterday, I believed that Indira Gandhi was Mohandas Gandhi’s daughter or granddaughter or something, because how could they not be kin and also how weird is it that both were assassinated?  Color me ignorant.

Recently, I’ve seen new writing about Gandhi: he’s been a subject of some more intense scrutiny.  For example, he supposedly tested his commitment to celibacy by having various little girl relatives sleep in his bed.  Creepy.  An article in National Geographic revisited his Salt March and his legacy today throughout the country, including the long-term impact on the acceptance of Dalits (the Untouchable caste) in modern society.  It could be better – but then, so could our own interpersonal relations in America.

Very little of that criticism makes it into this biopic.  Overall, it’s a pretty glowing jaunt through some of Gandhi’s most significant victories in his struggle for Indian independence, starting with his battle for Indian equality in South Africa (equality for blacks would have to come much later).  Some of it’s vaguely familiar to me, like the aforementioned Salt March (though I somehow had the impression that it happened a decade or two earlier, and also that Gandhi himself died considerably before independence).  There was also a fairly disturbing massacre of Indians who were peacefully demonstrating, killed under orders of some unapologetic British general.  I looked up the name of it, but have forgotten, and it’s kind of sad how easily such things are swept into the annals of history.

Gandhi brings to mind Paul Farmer, he of Partners in Health, the medical organization that renders aid to Haiti and other poor countries in great need.  How could someone be that good, that selfless?  And, just as in reading Tracy Kidder’s Mountains Beyond Mountains, I feel slightly guilty about being bored to tears by a biographical epic about someone who did good things in the world.  Maybe it’s partly because I recognize that I will never be so influential and am not even capable of being remotely as selfless.

But also because there’s nothing really to challenge me intellectually here.  I can appreciate the personal sacrifices he made, perhaps even question within myself whether I could successfully protest injustice in such an effective way (sad truth confession: probably not).  On the other hand, it’s hard to think critically about a historical figure who came out on the right side of history.  When you already know what happened, it’s hard not to see the arc as inevitable, even if the reality was nothing so definite.

On the plus side, Gandhi leaves us with some reassuring words, in a time that threatens the freedom of the world:  “Whenever I despair, I remember that the way of truth and love has always won.  There may be tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they may seem invincible, but in the end, they always fail.  Think of it: always.”

 

Theme:  India

First Time Watching?  Yup

Final Verdict:  The truth is the truth.

 

Out of Africa (1985)

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When you think of Africa, I’m sure your first thought is of the poor white people who struggled to eke out a living on a massive plantation during the colonial era.  If they’re really good white people, they might condescend to allow their African tribal neighbors to work on their land, even if, say, they have an infection on their leg. That’s just the kind of wonderful white people they are.

I now feel confident in my ability to categorize Oscar films into particular genres, and this one falls decidedly in the “white savior does something nice for a non-white person and now they’re a goddamn hero” camp.  It’s the only way minorities tend to feature in films, as objects of white characters’ narrative arcs.  I’ve heard this, and read criticism of it, and maybe even occasionally thought about it myself when watching films in moments of greater cultural consciousness.  But I suppose it’s a more striking lesson when you finally see it yourself.

The movie is based on the writing of Isak Denison, whom I’ve never read and didn’t know anything about prior to watching the film.  Her memoir of the same name described her experience trying to run a coffee farm in Kenya in the era of World War I.  Since reviewing accounts is pretty boring, most of the story actually focuses on her budding romance with the ruggedly handsome big-game hunter Denys Finch Hatton, who sounds like the poshest Brit in Buckingham Palace but is actually the basic equivalent of Crocodile Dundee.  You’ll be surprised to realize that Crocodile Dundee does not make the best of boyfriends, especially when he’d rather spend his time wandering around the wilderness instead of with his ladyfriend.  At least, as long as he can store his crap in her house rent-free.

Like most three-hour films, my attention flagged somewhere in the middle, which turned out to be just the point when something interesting happened with the plot.  The last thing I remember, the lovebirds were flying around in Finch Hatton’s aeroplane, which he picked up somewhere.  Then all of a sudden Isak was moving out because her farm failed.  Oh, and somewhere in the middle she opened up a school for the local tribe’s children – not the worst idea in the world if the curriculum were not based only on what she deemed fitting for the kids to learn.  Crocodile Finch Hatton thought so, anyway.

This is one of a handful of Best Pictures that holds a “rotten” rating on Rotten Tomatoes, and the most recent film with that honor.  It makes sense.  Though I would certainly rate quite a few highly-regarded movies on the list as rotten, Out of Africa is fairly egregious in the same traits that other movies pull off better.  The scale is epic, but its story doesn’t support the length.  It’s sort of a romance, but you don’t need three hours to tell a love story.  Though the lead actors (Meryl Streep and Robert Redford, who even I recognize as among the best) are skilled, their characters don’t have much of a spark.

Bottom line:  it’s not the worst thing in the world to get out of Africa.

 

 

Theme:  Rotten

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Not owners, just passing through.

The Last Emperor (1987)

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In college, I took a class on modern Japanese history, focusing particularly on the twentieth century and the era of Emperor Hirohito.  The professor had just won a Pulitzer for his book about Hirohito, and while I enjoyed his writing, I found him to be a terrible instructor.  I mention this not because I have confused Japan with China, or to excuse my ignorance of this era and region of history, but because I have to start somewhere.

The truth is, I only know bits and pieces of Asian history, either in the World War II era or throughout the entire twentieth century, and I’m a little ashamed of it.  Even things I ought to have learned from that class (which was essentially an elective for me, considering I wasn’t a history major) have now faded into memory.  I recognize names like Chiang Kai-Shek and Mao Zedong, but would be hard-pressed to associate them with a specific year.  The fact that an emperor still held power of any kind in this same general time period surprised me.

Pu Yi becomes emperor in 1908, just shy of his third birthday, and lives isolated in the Forbidden City, surrounded by his imperial eunuchs.  As he grows up, he gradually learns of what transpires outside, summed up as political upheaval (I sum it thusly because I don’t have a sophisticated enough understanding of the situation to be more detailed).  Pu Yi is Mongolian, from a territory that has recently been overtaken by the Japanese, and so when he is exiled, he decides to ally himself with Japan and its emperor, who is roughly his age (see? There was totally a connection).

I spent an early chunk of the film marveling at the fact that this was a movie made for a Western audience and featured an entirely non-white cast.  Then, thank God, they threw in a mostly unnecessary white guy just so we white folk didn’t get lost.  Much of the movie was based on Pu Yi’s autobiography, as well as a book written by Reginald Johnston, a Brit who had been employed as a tutor to the young emperor.  I wonder how the story might have been affected by its audience – for example, might the Expository Empress seen in the beginning have wasted a little less time explaining how the transfer of power would work to Chinese viewers who probably knew more about it?  The camera lingers on other objects and people, exoticizing them as they show them, daring us to goggle at an emperor having a threesome with his empress and second consort.

 

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Oh, did I mention Pu Yi’s John Lennon phase?  Because this happened.

Somehow, I’ve made it this long in my post without even mentioning the most important part:  the framing device.  As I’ve said before, I’m a big fan of framing devices, and apparently so was the eighties.  There was the confessional frame of Amadeus, and we see essentially the same thing here, meeting Pu Yi at the first moment of his incarceration in a post-war prison camp, where he’s been accused of colluding with the Japanese.  The problem with frames that involve jumping back and forth in time is that eventually you catch up to the present, leaving you to wonder why one particular “present” was more significant than another.

What is it like to be a figure treated as a near-divine and all-power being almost from birth, and then to come back down to earth to live among the rest of us?  At some point, all royalty has had to make that transition, if they’re lucky enough to have been spared the guillotine or the firing squad.  I didn’t know Pu Yi existed before, but now I wonder.

 

Theme:  Time of Transition

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  And now there are tourists in the Forbidden City

Chariots of Fire (1981)

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The problem with sports movies is that there’s really only two ways the story can go – either they win or lose, and if it ends in a loss, there’d better be a damn good reason for me to be watching a movie about a bunch of losers.

If you don’t care much for running, you might wonder how someone could stretch out a two-hour movie leading up to a ten-second long race and somehow keep it interesting.  If you learn the answer to this question, please let me know, because I feel like I would have happily watched the ten seconds and been done with it.

Okay, I’ll admit it – it’s difficult to sustain interest when the stakes are only as high as whether someone wins a particular arbitrary race.  Nobody’s life is at stake.  Any of the runners could have just as easily won an Olympic gold medal, and they could have made a movie about that person.  That’s why they always do those clips on reality TV shows or competition shows that show somebody’s life story and all the travails they’d encountered before they reached this Extremely Important Point in their life where they could put everything on the line.  And then they faceplant into a pool of dirty water – or have I just been watching too much American Ninja Warrior?

All I knew about this movie was the majestic theme song, which they totally wasted in the first few seconds of the film.  Build up a little anticipation, why don’t you?  What I didn’t realize is that Vangelis also composed plenty of other classical-electronica for the rest of the film, including a crazy synthesizer-heavy training montage (another absolute necessity in any sports movie – not just the training montage, but the 80s synth music).  In other Oscar-winning movie tropes, I can’t help but notice the “old people, possibly at a funeral, looking back on the era of past glory, exchanging some apparently significant-if-innocuous words about said glory which are repeated later in case you missed the Theme).

It’s not worth dragging this out – Chariots of Fire falls into that style of 80s movie that is a little too ponderous, about a topic that should be exciting but doesn’t quite pull it off.  I’ve seen them before in this quest, and I still have enough 80s movies to watch that I know I’ll encounter it again.  Such is the burden I bear.

 

Theme:  Chariot

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Run for your life!

Ordinary People (1980)

I’ve been trying to figure out what the title is supposed to mean.  Rich people:  they’re just like us!  Or is it Depressed people:  they’re just like us!  Somebody here is ordinary, and it sure as hell isn’t me.

If they mean the latter, though, they’re right.  One of the most basic factoids I’ve learned in my time working in the mental health field is that 1 in 4 people will experience mental illness at some point in their lives.  That’s one person in the average family, or at least one person among a group of friends.  I doubt this is a statistic that has changed significantly throughout modern history, so what it means is that for a long time people have pretended that a pretty significant condition in human society didn’t exist.  Honestly?  Based on my social circle, as limited and homogenous as it is, I would put that number a lot higher.

Depression is ordinary, in the sense that it is not unusual at all.

If we’re doing a historical study of mental health throughout history, this might be a turning point.  Whereas just a few years earlier, we saw the Institution – the mental patient who is not even permitted to interact with regular society for their (or society’s) safety – now we see the other side of mental illness.  The kid from a respectable family who tries to kill himself.

We come into the story a year after the older brother of a teenage boy has died, and find a family unable to communicate.  They’ve grown apart, disjointed now that the glue that once kept them close has vanished.  Conrad, the brother left behind, just spent four months as an inpatient after a suicide attempt, and is now pretending he’s all better, despite a complete lack of follow-up care (probably all-too-common even today, but a bit unnerving to my mind).  Clearly, he’s still not quite back to normal, despite trying to resume his regular school activities, like swim team.  He can’t even stand in the same room with his mom.  If you’ve ever wondered how awkward a conversation with your mom could be, just compare any of yours to a few choice scenes in this film.

I really liked the psychiatrist in this film.  Rather than seeming to be a patient’s nemesis, whose only goal is set unbreakable rules for the powerless patient to follow, this shrink is an ally.  It feels more like the sort of psychiatrist that I’m familiar with, one who challenges the patient’s perspective and guides her toward new insight and progress.  Though I’ve never witnessed my boss properly in session with a patient, I could see something of him in this portrayal.  The psychiatrist here is almost like the Truth Teller or a Shakespearean holy fool or something like that, the one person who can speak honest, hard truths.

Now that I’ve made my way through a good chunk of movies from each decade, I’m starting to get a feel for the trends in different time periods.  The eighties (and late seventies, too) were definitely a time of ponderous films, kind of slow-paced and serious.  About Real Issues.  Gone were the attempts to simply replicate the bombastic stage shows with dancing ladies in days of yore.  I think in a way we’re still in this era of film-making – that, along with the blockbuster comic book movies, which takes over for the Westerns of the past.  What will come next?

 

Theme:  Mental health

Diagnosis:  Suicide attempt

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Shrinks: they’re just like us!

Terms of Endearment (1983)

Oh, hey, did you know Jack Nicholson is in this movie?  No?  Well, here he is.

 

This is a film about female friendships, and Jack Nicholson.  I liked the former, but could have done with a little less of the latter.

What’s particularly strong in this movie is the way the mother-daughter relationship is portrayed, both in its bond and in the inevitable conflict between the two.  Aurora is so often critical, even casually cruel to her daughter Emma (on the eve of her wedding to a man Aurora disapproves of, Mom tells her, “You are not special enough to overcome a bad marriage.”).  And yet, they have an unusually fierce attachment, talking on the phone each morning, even when one or the other has company in bed.  It’s the complexity of that connection that epitomizes the family relationship – loyalty and antipathy all rolled up in one.

But Emma also maintains a lifelong friendship with Patsy, even throughout moves across the country, changes in fortune, childbirth.  As teenagers, they share dreams about their future, and there’s something so touchingly familiar in Emma’s certainty that their bond will last.  How many friends have you shared that same conversation with – and how many are still there for you?

Considering how much this film was touted as a story about women, I was a little surprised at the amount of screen time devoted to Jack Nicholson’s former-astronaut-turned-drunken-playboy.  And the inevitable, disappointing attraction that the prudish Aurora develops for him.  His storyline felt a little cliché for the sake of a movie like this, and I didn’t find whatever change of heart he may have had to be worthy of all the effort.  But then, I’m not really a Jack Nicholson fan, so maybe I’m in the minority on this one.  (In fairness, I’m pretty sure I’ve never seen a Jack Nicholson movie, and I feel strangely compelled to constantly write out Jack Nicholson’s full name every time I refer to him.  To Jack Nicholson, that is.)

Despite Jack Nicholson, the film earned a decent grade on the Bechdel Test.  We even managed to check off a passing grade in the first few minutes, as child-Emma consoles her anxious mother.  Sometimes later in life, the men get in the way of a proper Bechdel-approved conversation, but that’s probably true enough of most mother-daughter conversations after a certain point.

My only complaint about this film is that it dragged quite a bit in the second half.  The surprising twist it takes isn’t really that surprising – after all, these family dramas need to get their tension from something, and it might as well be somebody’s death.  In the process, the twist somehow manages both to spring out of nowhere and to prolong things at a snail’s pace, just to make sure every single character has a chance to talk to every single other character about what’s happening.  It’s like the multiple goodbyes of the end of The Lord of the Rings, which, unfortunately, is not being paired with this film.  Just you wait.

 

Theme:  Ladies on Film

Bechdel Test:  Passed!

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Grown women are prepared for life’s little emergencies.

Rain Man (1988)

 

Long before the vaccine controversy, I remember learning about autism in a high school biology class.  At some point, after reading about the symptoms a person with autism might exhibit, my friend announced, half-joking, half-panicked, “I think I’m autistic!”  What she actually was could probably be better described as sensitive, socially awkward, and occasionally flaky, not so much autistic.  Or maybe I just misheard her, and she said she was artistic, which was certainly true.

In a way, the autistic character is nothing more than a foil for Tom Cruise, an obstacle for him to overcome in his quest to ascend beyond his own dickishness.  Literally the first note I wrote while watching this movie, within five minutes of the opening, was “the redemption of the asshole.”  It’s a common enough trope (seemingly popular in the 80s, because I would categorize Driving Miss Daisy the same), and I was convinced that I would hate the film as a result.  Charlie Babbitt explains his great rift with his father as originating in teenage antics where he stole his dad’s fancy classic car for a joyride to celebrate getting “almost all A’s.”  He deserved the car!  Then how dare his father call the police to punish him!  And they say millennials are entitled.

But I think Dustin Hoffman’s endearing Raymond Babbitt saves it.  He has this ability to stand out even as he plays a character with so passive a role as the uncommunicative, institutionalized older brother.  When they show up at a casino, lights flashing, bells clanging, I felt overwhelmed.

I loved how it was totally no problem for Charlie to run off with his brother and essentially hold him ransom with literally no consequences.  Even if he was acting out in his grief (or bitchiness at losing out on his estranged old man’s fortune), Raymond must have had someone in charge of his guardianship and thus, someone to press kidnapping charges.  My irritation at this plot point is made stranger by my further complaint that everything seems to be resolved smoothly at the very end, with Raymond hopping on a train to go back to Ohio (apparently he hadn’t learned the statistics for train safety).  I read that the ending was a change from the original script – and while it’s a more reasonable solution than Raymond spending the rest of his life hanging out in his brother’s LA apartment, it also left me feeling that their fraternal road trip was a little pointless.

I would also like to point out how weird the scene was with the girlfriend kissing Raymond in the elevator.  What was up with that?  Okay, sure, you can debate whether Ray was himself interested in pursuing a date with the sparkly woman in the hotel, but then why in God’s name would anyone take that as a sign to make out with her boyfriend’s brother in an elevator?  Yeesh.

There’s a line from a book that’s stuck with me – though I can’t remember exactly how it goes, and I thought it was from The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime but can’t find it, so maybe it hasn’t stuck with me as much as I thought.  It had to do with overstimulation, and what it’s like to have so much sensory input all at once.  Maybe it went something like:  People always question how I can stare at the same things all the time without getting bored, but there’s so much to see right around us that nobody notices.  Who needs to watch 88 movies when you can just watch one over and over again?

 

Theme:  Dustin Hoffman

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Definitely a movie.

Platoon (1986)

 

Oh, Charlie Sheen, where did you go wrong?  You could have been a well-respected Oscar-worthy actor, but instead you went a little loco with all that tiger blood running through your veins.  Musta been the war.

When I was younger, I read a lot of books about the Vietnam conflict.  Mostly they were soldiers’ memoirs – the story of a sniper, the experiences of a tunnel rat.  The war was something that seemed so all-encompassing, as much a conflict at home as it was abroad.  Though I’m sure there were other disagreements of this sort in politics and society before Vietnam, this seems to be the foundation of the conservative-liberal debate today.  Where the differences in each group’s values and priorities grew apparent.

It was probably television that sparked my interest.  Storylines on my beloved Quantum Leap.  Then I discovered Tour of Duty in syndication somewhere.  Maybe even more than World War II, popular culture has figured into fictional and realistic portrayals of American troops in Vietnam.  It fascinates us in a different way than other wars, perhaps because its non-military effects have lasted so much longer.  We seek to explain their experiences, understand their horror, because of the way the war’s aftermath has lingered with its participants.

But the thing that I didn’t read much about – and probably didn’t think much about, even – were the lives of the Vietnamese, the people who survived (and didn’t survive) their homes destroyed, their communities shattered, their land covered in unexploded ordnance and poisonous chemicals.  Now we go out for pho without thinking too hard about what brought the restaurant owner here, what they were seeking and what they may have left behind.  I suspect there’s not much on American television or film that addresses that hole in the experience.  However, I know there are Vietnamese writers out there who are exploring this legacy, but I’m ashamed to say that I couldn’t name one, nor have I read any of them.  It’s a slow process, but I’d like to think I’m getting closer to remedying the gap, for myself, anyway.

But that’s why the most affecting scene for me in Platoon was the one in which the soldiers ransack a village.  The troops shoot pigs, burn down thatch huts, hold a gun to a child’s head – all as a show of power, a warning against resistance.  We often try to see the actions of our own country at war as justified, if not in the individual forays than at least as a whole.

Platoon sets up this conflict as a dichotomy within Charlie Sheen’s soul – he holds parts of his two commanding officers’ attitudes, the bloodthirsty one and the guy resigned to his fate, trying to get through the day.  War exposes something carnal inside us, the instinct to survive battling against our more sophisticated desires.  Where does he end up falling?

I wanted to like this a little better, but I had some trouble seeing characters as individuals with unique perspectives, rather than as archetypes, representative of whichever side they fell in the big They/Us separation.  You learn early on who the Bad Guys are, and there’s not as much room for complexity.  Charlie Sheen’s character volunteers for the war because he wants to learn something – about himself, presumably – but all he learns is that war wasn’t what he expected it to be at all.

 

Theme:  War

Which War?  Vietnam War

First Time Watching?  Yes

Final Verdict:  Winning?

 

Driving Miss Daisy (1989)

 

As a kid, I didn’t realize just how much my favorite TV show, Quantum Leap, ripped off plots from famous movies. There’s the episode about a boxer who has to decide whether to throw a fight for the mob and let a church go bankrupt. Then there’s the episode where Sam leaps into a guy who looks like Humphrey Bogart and has to stop a murderer (and, incidentally, runs into a young Woody Allen along the way, there’s a two-fer). And, of course, there’s the episode where Sam leaps into an older black man who chauffeurs an elderly white woman around in a small Southern town in an atmosphere of racism. It’s practically the same damn story, even down to the incidental music (which, granted, was an intentional homage, like the story itself).

And I’m going to say something daring here: I like the Quantum Leap episode better. If nothing else, at least the old lady in that one brings her chauffeur to eat in the whites-only café with her by the end. Miss Daisy leaves Hoke in the car while she goes to hear Martin Luther King, Jr. speak at an event. That’s quite a burn.

I don’t know; I found this movie dull. It feels like a play, which is fine, sure, but if you’re going to turn a play into a movie, why not do a little more with it? Like, maybe there can be more than three characters, or Hoke could talk to somebody other than Miss Daisy, or even give us some sense that he doesn’t just walk out of Daisy’s house and cease to exist until he walks back on stage again. And surprisingly, in comparison to the earlier film In the Heat of the Night, this feels much more quaint in its attitude toward prejudice. All of our race problems can be solved if only we can share a slice of nursing home pie. And by share, I mean, allow our driver to feed us pie after years of just barely tolerating his existence.

Tolerance. That buzz word that sounded so good to my generation as kids. Yes, we’re all about tolerance! We’re willing to tolerate all sorts of different people – not just the standard litany of skin colors, black, brown, red, but also the ones that don’t actually exist, like green. We’re just that tolerant!

In Morgan Freeman’s character Hoke, I see a stereotype that seems just as dangerous as the lazy slave or the matronly house servant: the irrepressibly cheerful black man. In the face of all prejudice, he simply smiles and carries on, willing to wait it out until the world comes around to his side. This is how you fight racism, apparently: wait it out. Until what? Well, either until the racists are won over by your charms, or maybe until they die off (assuming new racists don’t take their place).

I really wanted to see more moments where Hoke speaks with other black characters, and for longer stretches of time than a line or two in between the white person entering the room. Or maybe we could have seen him outside his official duties, with family or friends. But instead, we only see him in the context of Miss Daisy, forced to be always infallible and unemotional.

I don’t mean to be such a critic of racial portrayals in these posts. In real life, I’m certainly not so vocal about political or social issues, in part because I don’t feel it’s my place to decide on behalf of black people what’s offensive. I’m white, and what I’ve learned is that people who are not white have generally heard plenty of white opinions about everything. But then, here in my little corner of the internet, I can parse through all the perspectives I’ve had an opportunity to hear and work out my own thoughts on the matter. If you’re willing to listen, you don’t need to apologize for saying your piece.

Bottom line: I don’t dislike this movie because I’m disappointed in its race relations or anything like that. I dislike it because it’s boring.

 

Theme: Race Relations

First Time Watching? Yes, unless you count Quantum Leap

Final Verdict: Didn’t drive me wild

Amadeus (1984)

 

 

Even though I realized it wasn’t true, a part of me wanted to believe that Falco’s “Rock Me Amadeus” was in the movie Amadeus. Why else would two things called Amadeus exist at essentially the same time? In the eighties and nineties, I learned practically everything about music and culture from MTV, which my mom kept onscreen constantly. Music eased its way into my pores via their accompanying videos; the visuals were the only way I could pay attention long enough to care.

And here I am, twenty-odd years later, watching three-hour biopics when all I needed was a synth-heavy remix to learn about Mozart. Amadeus is definitely one of those films that flies under the radar.  I, for one, haven’t even heard of most of the actors in it. It’s recent enough to expect that people may have watched it and yet I’m not aware of anyone who has ever seen it – let alone likes it. Which is kind of a shame, because it’s not a bad movie. A bit long and plodding in parts, suggesting plot threads that don’t do much but fray, but a decent enough movie. At least you can listen to music (though none of it is 80s-friendly). And I kind of love the idea that Mozart’s big rival, Salieri, basically spends the whole film hate-watching every one of Mozart’s concerts.

But all I really want to talk about is songs that should have been on the soundtrack to Best Picture films. Supposedly, Falco wrote “Rock Me Amadeus” after watching the movie. What other movies and songs could be connected (but obviously aren’t)?

  • Might The Hurt Locker have prompted REM’s “Everybody Hurts”?
  • Or perhaps Dave Matthews’ Band wrote “Crash into Me” for Crash.
  • 1963’s Tom Jones obviously inspired…. Well, a lot of songs. It’s not unusual.
  •  Little known fact: the theme song for Mad Men is titled “A Beautiful Mine,” presumably because it was originally rejected for A Beautiful Mind.
  •  And of course, Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” name-checks half the movies on the list. (Okay, only one. Remember which? It’s not British Beatlemania.)

Yeah, I don’t have much interesting commentary to offer for this one. I’d like to think that I’m living up to Salieri’s cry for mediocrity. We can’t all be geniuses.

 

Amadeus enters his New Wave phase.

Theme: Artistic Friendship

First Time Watching? Yes to the movie, no to Falco.

Final Verdict: It rocked me.