I've had to take a little step back in my thinking about some of the classic movies I've watched or books that I have read. A few of them have come across as rather ordinary. What was so particularly special? I have experienced that plot many times before. That character archetype has been seen time and time again. There is nothing new with that particular narrative style. And then I realize that that particular movie or book may have been the very first of a particular genre which started whole new trends. We've seen it dozens of times before because it completely broke the mold and took creativity in whole new directions. THAT'S why a particular work is now considered a classic.
So over the long weekend we added a few more titles to our list.
"Vertigo" - #61 on the AFI list - Overall it was a pretty good Hitchcock flick, but not one of his best, IMHO. I loved the slow buildup which is characteristic of his films, but to me the plot got overly involved. I don't like mysteries that set themselves up where the plot points have to all align perfectly to make everything fit. Very rarely can this be pulled off well. Most movies rely on an "A-ha!" moment that seems very plausible at the time, but if you really start to think about it, it just doesn't make much sense or seems totally impossible. Rather than a man just killing his wife discreetly, he builds this complex plot to make it seem like an accident/suicide. I prefer more straightforward plots like "Psycho" or "Rear Window."
"The Philadelphia Story" - #51 on the AFI list - More Jimmy Stewart! Except he actually won Best Actor for his role. Put him up against Katherine Hepburn and Cary Grant and you get a great character-driven movie with not much of a plot. A spoiled rich girl wants to get married for the 2nd time but ends up going back to her first husband. The screenplay is great and the actors only add to it. Just great Hollywood for its time.
"Birth of a Nation" - #44 on the AFI list - Kitty had to watch this in high school for her history class. It's a hundred-year old silent film epic about the Civil War and Reconstruction. It clocks in at just over 3 hours which was amazing for the day (and even now!). The film is commended for all of the techniques that were used which became Hollywood standards. The film is derided, however, for its blatant racism. Not only are many of the actors white in blackface, but the black actors are all mammy and Uncle Tom types who shuck and jive and eat watermelon and chicken. They gets mighty uppity after the war, so the South is saved by the heroic KKK that rides in to save the day. It's a piece of movie history that was groundbreaking for its time. Now it's just an anachronism.