Bonnie and Clyde (1967)

BonnieClyde

Directed by: Arthur Penn

Written by: David Newman and Robert Benton

Starring: Warren Beatty, Faye Dunaway, Michael J. Pollard

“Some day, they’ll go down together / They’ll bury them side by side / To a few, it’ll be grief / To the law, a relief / But it’s death for Bonnie and Clyde.” — Faye Dunaway as Bonnie Parker, reading her poem

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There are plenty of ways to analyze Bonnie and Clyde. We could talk about its lasting effect on cinema, and how the true crime drama made violence and sex more prevalent in Hollywood films. I could dig deep into the final sequence, which to that point was one of the bloodiest scenes in movie history. If I was interested, I might even discuss its impact on fashion in the late 1960s.

But there’s only one thing I want to talk about, and that’s how this movie won one of the least-deserved Academy Awards of all time.

Bonnie and Clyde is full of solid — but by no means legendary — acting performances. Warren Beatty shines as the devastatingly handsome Clyde, and Faye Dunaway expresses a remarkable inner conflict in her portrayal of Bonnie. Gene Hackman is solid if not necessarily memorable, and a surprising Gene Wilder appearance (his first film!) is absolutely delightful.

But there’s one character that doesn’t fit. One character that makes the scenes she’s in particularly unbearable. One character I would do anything to travel back in time and ask David Newman and Robert Benton to rewrite: Blanche.

Blanche is played by Estelle Parsons,  who somehow walked away with an Oscar for best supporting actress for this role. Parsons is an actress who went on to have a long and successful film, TV and Broadway career following this 1967 film. And I by no means want to rag on her for the rest of this blog — it’s not her fault that she was cast as one of the worst characters I’ve ever seen in film.

Blanche screams. That’s it. That’s what she does. Really, she shrieks, in an ear-shattering tone that over the course of nearly two hours can easily cause a migraine.

Storywise, Blanche is married to Gene Hackman’s Buck Barrow, the brother of Clyde. She gets pulled into the Barrow gang against her will, and is along for the ride as they go on their violent crime spree. And that could very well be an interesting character, but it seems the writers didn’t know how to craft a dissenting gang member without making her yell at the top of her lungs every single time a gun is fired (which in this movie, is quite often).

In real life, Blanche was one of the few members of the Barrow gang to survive. And the real Blanche wasn’t too happy with her portrayal in the film, saying: “That movie made me look like a screaming horse’s ass.”

It’s true. That’s exactly what Bonnie and Clyde does.

When I found out that Parsons won the Oscar, I couldn’t believe what I was reading. It’s not necessarily that Parsons is a bad actress, but there’s just not a lot of difficult acting being done with Blanche. Scream, run and cry. Scream, run and cry. That’s all there is to it. If that’s what it took to win an Academy Award in 1967, well, I’m sure glad the standards have changed since then.

That being said, anyone interested in the transformation of cinema in the second half of the 20th century should sit down and watch Bonnie and Clyde. Just have the volume control at the ready, or shrieking Blanche will blow out your eardrums.

It (2017)

Pennywisedark

Directed by: Andy Muschietti

Written by: Chase Palmer, Cary Fukunaga and Gary Dauberman (screenplay); Stephen King (based on the novel by)

Starring: Bill Skarsgård, Jaeden Lieberher, Finn Wolfhard

“You’ll float too.” — Jackson Robert Scott as Georgie

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It obviously isn’t a movie that I should have seen by now, seeing as it hit theaters just a few hours ago. And even if we were talking about the 1990 TV miniseries, well that’s just not something I would label as “must-see programming.”

Seriously, it’s over-the-top garbage that I tried to watch a couple months ago. Take my advice: Don’t put yourself through that.

But I really felt the need to write about the new edition, as it was the trailer of this movie that finally got me to pick the 1,000+ page Stephen King book off my shelf and devour the horror classic.

I was all in on the hype.

And after investing so much of my time into this psychopathic clown’s lore, I’m happy to say that I did not walk away disappointed. In fact, I’m pretty damn pleased.

It excels because it’s funhouse horror. Director Andy Muschietti (2013’s Mama) isn’t trying to give you the biggest frights of your life or gross you out with Saw-like gore. Instead he enters the ring with two weapons: Humor and warmth.

Pennywise the Clown is scary, no doubt, but Bill Skarsgård gives a physically jolting performance (which is CGI-assisted at times) that has the added bonus of genuine frivolity. Every time Pennywise appears, the scene instantly becomes more memorable. But it’s usually not through sheer terror. Sure, there are the occasional jump scares, but it’s mostly fascinating to see what this monster can morph into, or how he will react to the children’s ability to fight back. Each scene with Skarsgård has some kind of surprise element, making you want the monster to come back again and again.

Pennywise goes toe-to-toe with The Losers’ Club, a group of seven kids who are just entering their teens. After they all begin encountering Pennywise while they’re on their own, they decide to fight the clown together. But the real magic from the Losers comes from Muschietti’s ability to build these on-screen friendships in a believable and funny way. While there is definitely some sloppy exposition (and probably one too many dick jokes, even for teenage boys), each of the child actors delivers a solid and endearing performance that is not easy to find in modern horror.

There’s one scene in It that I can’t stop thinking about. It occurs when the Losers are looking at projector slides on a wall in the garage. The way that Pennywise appears is absolutely terrifying, but in the best possible way. I have to see this movie again just to rewatch that scene.

I had a smile on my face as I watched this film. And it’s not because It was cheesy or overly silly. It’s because each of the scares was just downright fun. This film probably won’t give you nightmares, but it will get you talking about your favorite movie monsters of all time — and Skarsgård’s Pennywise deserves to be in the conversation.