Monday, May 24, 2010

Movies I should like... but don't, part 2

While I'm on WWII movies, there's another famous, very popular, award-winning modern WWII movie that I just don't like either. That would be Saving Private Ryan.

I saw this one originally in the theater when it was released, and I didn't like it then. Gave it another chance last year on DVD, and nope, didn't like it any better. I have several issues with this movie, but the main ones boil down to:

No likable characters. It's a bunch of faceless guys I couldn't even put a name to after the movie ended, let alone relating or caring about. The only guy I liked was Vin Diesel's character, and he got killed early on. I also liked Matt Damon's titular Private Ryan, but he doesn't arrive until nearly the end. Considering how sprawling the movie is, not liking the characters is not a good thing.

More than that, I know every film is colored by the era it was made it, but there is such a modern sensibility to this movie that I just can't buy it. It bugs the crud out of me. It's hard to explain, but this movie has a sticky modern sentimentality to it that doesn't feel right to me. I like the story concept, but the way it's written and executed... it just rubs me the wrong way even thinking about it. And that weird feeling of modernness puts this layer of distance between me and the movie that prevents me from connecting.

The movie has some powerful recreations of D-Day and combat in Normandy, and those are well-done, but that's not enough to make me like this film.

And while we're on very popular modern films, I'll throw one other out there that I should like, but don't. Tombstone. This is another one I saw in the theater, and I admit, I haven't had any desire to see it since, so I haven't. This one should be right up my alley. If there's one thing I like more than WWII movies, it's Westerns. I love the actors in other films, I love the story of Wyatt Earp... and I did not like this version. I'd much rather watch Kevin Costner's Wyatt Earp, or the good ol' Gunfight at the OK corral. I just failed to connect with Tombstone, honestly not sure why. I didn't even like the score while viewing the film, and I love Bruce Broughton's music. However, without the visual images getting in the way, it ended up as one of my favorite Bruce Broughton scores to listen to. I still listen to it all the time. But the movie? No, thanks. I'll take Silverado instead. Now that's an entertaining, satisfying modern Western.


  1. I agree with you on both Private Ryan. Other than the harrowing first twenty minutes of "Ryan", there's nothing that distinguishes it from any other war movie. Plus, it started that whole murky, goopy blue cinematography that's blighted movies over the last dozen years.

    And Tombstone is just plain annoying. I much preferred Wyatt Earp, but then I'm the last Kevin Costner fan on earth...good James Newton Howard score, too.

    BTW, good idea for a topic, I might have to steal it. :)

  2. Ooh, C.K., don't even get me going on that murky lack-of-color cinematography. "Blight" is a good word for that. Blech.

    And I'm the second-to-last Kevin Costner fan. :-D I really enjoyed his Wyatt Earp. Everything about it was better than Tombstone. And that is a great score. Took me awhile to track down a copy, but it gets played a lot around here.

  3. I find that cloying modern sentimentality in pretty much every recent historical movie I've seen. Blech.

    Do you have any recs for movies that manage to avoid dressing up contemporary issues and modern thought in corsets and pantaloons?

  4. Hi Rabia - That's a good question (for the recs), and that's exactly my objection. I'll have to think about that, see if I have any on my list.

  5. I agree with you on this one. It's odd -- it's so emotional, yet I fail to connect with it emotionally. And I like Tom Hanks. Despite the presence ofhim, Matt Damon, and Nathan Fillion, I just don't dig it.

    (But I lurve Tombstone. Mmmm. Silverado is better, though. As for Kevin Costner, I'm indifferent.)

  6. Sigh. I've spent the last couple of hours reading your excellent reviews and cheering your opinions. At last we have one on which I must disagree. Not Saving Private Ryan. Great battle sequences ruined by the Shaky Cam and characters that left me thinking "meh." And I'm a huge WWII buff, love battle scenes and am a Hanks fan. It says something that the two characters I think of first when this film is mentioned were played by Nathan Fillion and Ted Dansen.

    Tombstone, though... That is a GREAT film. At last, color in period accurate clothing. Attention to small details. The best pre gunfight walk in the history of film. Sam Elliot. Great score. Wyatt Earp was good (I, too, am a Costner fan), but this one nailed the Earps perfectly. And I'm something of a nut about the OK Corral fight; read literally dozens of books and hundreds of articles about it as well as walked the ground.

    1. I don't quite know why Tombstone doesn't work for me. It certainly seems like it should. It's got all the elements, and some actors I really love (like Michael Biehn.) I just need to watch it again and see if I can figure that out.