THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE (1961)

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Christopher

I saw this movie once in high school and it really stayed with me because I have always placed it in one of the best western movies I have seen. I had been trying to get Elizabeth to watch this for some time, because it’s on Netflix, but she never seemed interested but once we saw that the Drafthouse was playing it we had to go. (A quick note on seeing this at The Ritz: The ticket was listed for $10 each. I bought two with two Groupons I had, so I got a $20 value for $10. BUT this screening also came with a flight of whiskey and the tickets were supposed to be listed for $25. But since the Drafthouse messed up on the price we got a $50 value for $10 and a shit ton of whiskey!)

I love this film because of all the characters and how they interact with each other. You have John Wayne, who’s a local cowboy/hero of sorts, you have Jimmy Stewart who is a lawyer and not one to carry a gun, and you have Lee Marvin, who is a murderer. This movie is great and if you have never seen it please check it out!

Elizabeth

Okay, I really need to talk about something for a second before I really get into The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, which I loved. This might not seem that important, but it is.

So. Lee Van Cleef. Now, he was not someone that really showed up on my radar pre-Chris, because I hadn’t really seen him in much before. But now I have seen him. And after The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance, I can now conclude (with full support from Chris), that Lee Van Cleef WAS TOTALLY FUCKING SEXY. Now, this slipped past me a little bit, because if I’m totally honest, Lee Van Cleef also sort of looks like a rat. So how do I find this slightly rat-like, often-a-bad-guy sexy? I don’t know. I do not know. He is just so masculine. Oh my god. It really hit me in The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance because in the first scene in which Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) and his gang (which includes Lee Van Cleef) are seen without masks, it’s in a crowded restaurant and everyone stands up. And even though Lee Van Cleef barely had any lines and wasn’t a main character, my eyes went straight to him. He just totally commands the room without doing a goddamn thing. That’s a fairly rare quality, I think.

Anyway, now that that’s out of the way I can talk about how I think The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is awesome, and particularly awesome for a Western. I’ve usually stayed away from Westerns because they can get pretty redundant and are usually about two-dimensional male characters, which just gets old. But even though this movie is directed by John Ford and stars John Wayne, it somehow is not the stereotypical Western. And because of that, this was by far the best thing I’ve seen John Wayne in. Even though he saunters around and seriously says “Pilgrim” like a hundred times, he doesn’t seem to take himself too seriously and acts as a perfect foil to Ransom Stoddard (James Stewart), who is at times comically serious.

I think it’s really the triangle between Tom Doniphon (Wayne), Stoddard, and Liberty Valance (Lee Marvin) that makes this movie so strong. Like I said, Tom Doniphon is this old Western-y character, but is also sort of goofy and pretty respectful of everyone around him (unless you’re a murderer). Stoddard is a lawyer who believes in the law so firmly that he clearly doesn’t understand just how lawless the west is. And then there’s Valance, who is SCARY. So many times I find Western villains not to be scary, because we mostly hear about how bad they are, like in High Noon. But the first time we see Valance and his gang, he nearly beats Stoddard to death . . . WITH A WHIP. Uhhhh so that’s scary. We see a newspaper article on how Valance and his gang beat to death a father and son, while the wife/mother “watched helplessly” (aka was raped, I’m sure). They shoot down innocent people, on camera, for no reason. They beat (almost to death) multiple characters, for no reason. It reallyyyy drove home this idea that law doesn’t matter there, and helps support the subplot of Stoddard’s blossoming political career, which eventually brings law and order to the town.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is great. Watch it if you don’t like Westerns (like me). Watch it if you don’t like John Wayne (like me). IT’S SO WORTH IT.

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WILLY WONKA & THE CHOCOLATE FACTORY (1971)

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Elizabeth

I hadn’t seen Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in a really long time, and I didn’t have much of a desire to watch it again for a long time. I just thought of the movie as being very stressful. But it’s one of Chris’ favorites, and he insisted that it’s much funnier when you watch it as an adult. And it’s so true!

I guess it’s weird to compare Willy Wonka to A Clockwork Orange, but that was another movie that’s really funny that took a few viewings for any of the humor to come out for me (albeit for much, much, much different reasons). Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory is so funny because Willy Wonka (Gene Wilder) is so funny. Wonka is a weird character, because it’s like he loves and hates children. This was a feeling I personally very much identified with. And this movie really does a good job of creating its own world, so it doesn’t feel weird that this candy shop owner is singing to a bunch of kids, or the whole world is going ape shit over this contest, or that Grandpa Joe (Jack Albertson) can suddenly walk and dance after being bedridden for years. You just kind of go with it. It’s sort of refreshing.

But yeah, it’s still stressful, and I definitely understand my kid-self feeling overwhelmed by it. The scene that comes to mind the most is near the end, when Charlie (Peter Ostrum) and Grandpa confront Wonka about what happens at the end of their tour and Wonka freaks out at them for drinking the Fizzy Lifting Drink. As a kid, being yelled at was one of my greatest fears (and probably the greatest fears in the category of Things That Can and Probably Will Happen At Some Point), and being yelled at by someone I care about, like my mom or a teacher I liked, was THE WORST. Flash forward to 26 year old me now, aaaaand it’s pretty much the same thing. I’m not really at risk of being yelled at by my mom anymore, thanks to adulthood, but the thought of someone I care about yelling at me still really freaks me out. So, from a film point of few, I like how powerful that scene is. It hurts when Wonka yells at Charlie. But, personally, it’s still one of my least favorite movie scenes to watch.

If you haven’t revisited Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory in a while, I highly recommend it.

Christopher

I’ve said before that I believe The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly is my favorite movie but this is a very close second. I have so many childhood memories of watching this film. I remember multiple Halloweens as a kid where I dressed up as Charlie Bucket, I remember watching this movie everyday for a week in high school, just because I wanted to remember more lines, and I remember buying this soundtrack at Borders Books just because I wanted to listen to the music while I drove around Vienna, VA. This movie is great!

What I love the most about this film is how I actually like it more and more as I get older. I think this movie is so funny with its dark humor. I love how it makes kids look awful and reminds me that I never want my own. I also love, and this might be a negative Elizabeth talks about, when he yells at Charlie and Grandpa Joe at the end of the film. Whenever Gene Wilder yells, it’s beautiful. Like in the boat scene, when he is singing the poem, his voice keeps getting higher and higher until he’s basically just screaming.

Now, the worst part of this movie is probably the scene where the mom sings to Charlie, but I also love singing that song to people when they complain because I think it’s funny. I know people in general don’t like the movie before he goes into the factory but I think some of my favorite moments are in this section. Once, when I was a kid, I tried watching this with a bunch of people and they wanted to skip to the factory; I don’t remember if we did or not but I remember being pissed off that everyone didn’t understand this movie like I did haha. But speaking of great moments before they go into the factory; Charlie Bucket’s teacher is one of the funniest characters in the film, I love the weird poem the knife guys recites to Charlie, and I always thought that the cabbage soup they eat at Charlie’s house looked good, I never really understood why they didn’t want that as a kid.

Inside the factory I always wanted a snozberry, I always wanted that buttercup drink that Wonka drinks then eats, and I always wanted to know what Hair Cream was exactly. This movie has so much in it; basically every line is funny and when it’s not I just find it very interesting. I love this movie and even though I can’t imagine how many times I have seen it, I hope I quadruple that by the time I die.