Casabloga: The Ring

This is a list of films I consider to be the greatest ever made. And thus far the two movies I have written about (City Lights and Rear Window) everyone has agreed with me on. But when I told my friends I was going to include this one… Well, it raised a few eyebrows. When The Ring came out in 2002, everyone I knew who saw it agreed it was the scariest movie they had seen in a long time. It was instantly a huge part of our culture, with Samara being the new Bloody Mary. Everyone knew what it meant when you said the phone rang after you watched a movie.
But over the past decade, immediately following the release of The Ring, which was a remake of a Japanese horror film from 1998 called Ringu, a long string of American remakes of Japanese horror films became the new trend. Now those same people who told me The Ring was the scariest movie they’d seen say that The Ring is a terrible, stupid movie that sucks.
To really understand why The Ring is so great, you need to understand the history of the story, and why much of what came afterward soured the film’s reputation.
Rimgu, which The Ring was a remake of, was based on a Japanese novel by the same name, which in turn was inspired by a Japanese ghost story called 番町皿屋敷 (The Dish Mansion at Banchō), written in 1742.
When Ringu/The Ring came out in their respective countries, audiences hadn’t ever seen anything like that. The film was very well thought out and put together perfectly. But with the instant success of the film, the studios pulled a Disney and thought that this must the next thing, remaking Japanese horror movies. So they cranked out The Grudge (a remake of Ju-on), One Missed Call (a remake of One Missed Call, which did so well that it got two hit sequels and a hit tv series), and several others. These post-Ring remakes were so terrible because the filmmakers were sure that this is what audiences wanted to see. They made the mistake Disney made. They adapted their ride Pirates of the Caribbean in the a movie, and when it became a smash hit they assumed people wanted amusement park film adaptations. This was a mistake.
Audiences didn’t like The Ring because it was a Japanese movie first. Audiences liked The Ring because it was a smart horror movie that didn’t have to resort to cheap scares, and that actually saved its biggest scare for the final scene instead of forcing it on us right away, or halfway through. The most famous scene is when Samara crawled out of the tv screen. This wasn’t just a terrifying scene because a dead girl was crawling out of a tv. It was so terrifying because we believed the curse was over, that everyone was safe, and that the credits should have been rolling by now. And any other movie would have done that. They find her corpse in the well, the curse is broken, everyone is happy, roll credits.
Had that happened, The Ring would have still been a scary movie, but it would have been an alright scary movie. But because it had that ending, that scene which gave plenty of us nightmares and changed horror films forever, it was elevated from an ordinary movie to truly great on.
The scene is what I like to call a “Cinematic Moment”. Probably not the most creative name, but it’s a moment in a movie that is very important or very shocking. Like the end of The Graduate, the flying scene from E. T., and the scene with Jim and Nadia on webcam from American Pie. Samara crawling out of the tv a Cinematic Moment. Anyone who has seen it will never forget it. Even if you’ve never seen The Ring, you know the scene.
In 2005, they made The Ring Two.  Though it’s nowhere near as scary as the first one, it tells a very interesting story. We find out more about Samara’s history in it, and they do it in a way that keeps your attention while at the same time entertaining you. I’m not adding it to my list of greatest movies, but I am pointing out that even the sequel to this movie, while it came out in the midst of terrible sequels and remakes, was a very well done sequel.
 So whether you loved the movie when it came out and now hate it, or always hated the movie, you simply cannot deny the fact that The Ring was a culturally significant film. The final scene still makes people do this:

Casabloga: Rear Window

In 1954, Alfred Hitchcock made one of his best movies, Rear Window. The film is about L.B. “Jeff” Jefferies (played by Jimmy Stewart), a professional photographer who took a huge risk to get a great picture and ended up breaking his leg.

The film tells you this in a very unique way. Instead of showing us the accident, the camera pans passed Jimmy’s leg in a cast to a broken camera, and then to a picture of a race car mid-wreck, clearly heading towards the camera (thus the broken leg). The camera then pans to the left showing us that he is a professional photographer with many awards and featured in magazines. We learn all this without a single word having been spoken yet, and all in the first shot.

Due to his injury, Jeff is forced to stay in his apartment and look out over the apartment courtyard, observing his neighbours. I am a huge fan of character development, and this film does an amazing job at that with characters that we don’t even know the names of. The neighbours each have distinct personalities, habits, and lives. And most of them never speak or have any real importance to the story except for being in it. You watch these people and really believe it, because Hitchcock had a way of making everything seem like it was really happening. What adds to it is that Hitchcock used real sounds of people living. So there will be long stretches of time where you will be watching a neighbour doing something, and instead of music, you will hear kids playing, traffic in the distance, birds and other city animals. If there was music it was coming from one of the other neighbours.

Jimmy Stewart is my favourite actor, and it’s performances like this that is the reason. Lisa Fremont (Grace Kelly) wants to marry Jeff, but he feels she deserves a better life than he could ever provide. His lifestyle requires that he always be on the move, and he doesn’t think she would be able to keep up with that and wouldn’t be suited for it. She keeps trying to prove that she is up for it, even going as far as to buy a small suitcase.

But while Jeff is watching his neighbours one night, he begins to suspect that one of them may have murdered their wife. At first Lisa and his nurse, Stella (Thelma Ritter) think he’s lost his mind, but they eventually see enough for themselves and realize he is onto something. Jeff constantly watches from that point on, using his camera lens to spy on who he suspects for murder.

When the neighbour, Lars Thorwald (Raymond Burr, and the only neighbour with a name) realizes what Jeff is doing, he confronts him in his apartment leading to bit of a frightening encounter.

The film ends with a panning of the courtyard, showing that all of the characters had an ending to their story. Even though you never knew their names, and they weren’t technically essential to the story, they had a full character arch. The film is that detailed.

Update on 28 September 2017: In 1998, there was a remake starring the recently paralysed Christopher Reeve. This could have been a great remake, seeing as he was really wheelchair bound. However, the things that made the original great, such as subtlety and character development, are missing from here. Instead of being a photographer who gets into gets hit by a crashing racecar, Reeve’s character is an architect who is in a car accident. You actually see the accident, and then the next five minutes of the film is him in the hospital, in a coma, coming out of the coma, and generally suffering in the hospital. In the original, it’s only implied that the neighbour killed his wife and you don’t actually know if he did. Jeff simply pieces the clues together on his own. In the remake, Reeves actually sees him beat her to death. It’s on Netflix, which is how I saw it. It’s definitely not worth watching, unless you just feel like watching it. The only part that was even remotely suspenseful was when the neighbour cuts off Reeve’s oxygen supply, because you know he’s really in that position, so it a little scary seeing. I’m sure he didn’t really lose oxygen, but still…

Casabloga: City Lights

After the mainstream success of Talkies in 1927 with The Jazz Singer, Silent Films quickly went out of style. In fact, several movies that were in production as silent films were re-shot with sound. There were some, however, who believed that sound in films was just a passing phase and preferred sticking with the old way of making films. One such person was the legendary Charlie Chaplin. Chaplin refused to make his movies Talkies. So when his 1933 movie, City Lights, was released, it was one of the very few Silent Films still being made. While the films features some sound, such as a slide whistle a scene mocking Talkies, the film is very much a Silent Film.

This film is slightly different from most of Chaplin’s previous films. While a vast majority of his earlier work was straight comedy, City Lights  is a romantic comedy. The Tramp character meets a blind girl (played by Virginia Cherrill)  who sells flowers and is immediately taken with her. She mistakes him as a rich person due to one walking past her and into a car and driving away. She calls out to him to hand him his change, unaware that he is standing right there. The Tramp (I’ll just call him Charlie for the rest of this) slowly walks away so that she can keep the change.

Charlie’s goodness has always been evident in his films, but City Lights is a good example of him going out of his way to help someone who is in need. He gets a job just so he can help her out. He even does a boxing match just to help her pay her late rent. He befriends a drunk millionaire after saving his life from suicide. In the end, he pays to have her have an operation that lets her see again. The final scene is one of the best sad-yet-sweet endings ever.

Casabloga: Introduction

There is a list I have been wanting to make for a long time, but I didn’t know how to do it. It’s a list of the greatest movies of all time (in my opinion). I always felt a mere list wouldn’t be be enough. So it occurred to me the other day to not just make a list, but to explain why I felt each title deserved to be on the list. It was going to be a Facebook status, but when I decided to expand it, it was going to be a Facebook Note. But then I decided that each title should have it’s own entry… I felt this was too big for a mere Note.

Then I remembered this blog. I haven’t posted since October, as I hadn’t had luck finding things to post about. I didn’t want to post the movie posts because up to this point I had only written facts, not opinions. But then I remembered that my very first post in this blog was a review of the Psycho sequels.

Not to mention the subtitle of this blog is, “The Blog About Whatever”. Limiting what I can post about isn’t posting about “whatever”, it’s posting about a specific topic. So now I shall use this blog more now that I’ve freed my mind of that trap. The next posts will be a series I’ll call Casabloga, because I like cheesy jokes.

The first review will be Charlie Chaplin’s City Lights.