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Challenge Week 20: Sneakers

I hadn’t heard of this movie at all until it came up on a podcast I randomly listened to a few months ago, and I was intrigued because I love spy-type and hacker-type movies, so I was glad to have a push to see it. I didn’t know much what to expect from tone, though I figured it’d be light, and it was.

Robert Redford plays Marty Bishop, formerly a juvenile delinquent hacker now working to test security systems with a team of folks whose backgrounds aren’t exactly upstanding either. He’s approached by the NSA to get ahold of a box that supposedly can decrypt anything – but is it really the NSA? WHO KNOWS. There’s some double-dealing, but it’s more straight-forward than you might expect, with a lot of it coming down to Marty and his childhood partner who got nabbed back in the day while Marty got away.

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Challenge Week 20: The Abyss

Truth be told, this is one of the films I’ve been looking forward to the most in the challenge, if only because my friend and Flickchart developer Nathan pretty much never shuts up about it. But Nathan didn’t give it to me for the challenge – he hasn’t chosen yet, so we’ll see what he comes up with now that one of his favorite casual recs for me is gone.

I’m sort of hot and cold on James Cameron – I think he can be pretty visionary in terms of technology, but he also often risks letting the tech in his film take over the story and characters, Avatar being the chief example of both stunning tech and lackluster/derivative story. Other times, the spectacle wins for me, as in Titanic, and both work together perfectly in Terminator 2. I was very curious to see where The Abyss would fall on the spectrum.

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Challenge Week 19: Before Midnight

In a way, this is kind of a gimme recommendation – Before Sunrise, the first movie in this trilogy, is my #156 and in the 96th percentile of my Flickchart, and while I don’t like Before Sunset as much as many people, it’s still solidly in my Top 1000 at 80%. It’s probably a given that I would like Before Midnight, and really, I’m surprised I hadn’t gotten around to it already. Good news for Ryan, though, as he gets to rack up a definite win with me.

The third part of the Richard Linklater-Ethan Hawke-Julie Delpy Before trilogy resolves the ambiguity of the end of Before Sunset – Jesse and Celine DO get back together after nine years of being apart, and now they’ve been together for nine years, have twin daughters, and are living in Paris but currently finishing up a summer in Greece. That helpfully gives the movie a beautiful location to add to the Paris of the Part 2 and Vienna of Part 1. But like the others, Before Midnight is really a series of extended conversations between Jesse and Celine, and sometimes a few other people.

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Challenge Week 19: Being There

I’ve only seen a couple of Hal Ashby films – Harold and Maude and now this one – and though both are highly acclaimed, they both left me feeling pretty uncomfortable. I’m sure that’s the point, but it’s not an uncomfortable I appreciate.

In this one, simple-minded Chance (Peter Sellers) has been gardener to a rich man all his life. He’s never left the house, never really talked with anyone, never learned to read, never even gets his own meals – he just tends the garden and watches TV. When the old guy dies, lawyers come and tell him he’s got to leave, just like that, and after roaming the streets of Washington D.C., he finally ends up being hit by Shirley MacLaine’s car and she takes him home to get checked out by her ailing husband’s live-in medical team (mainly thinking to hush up the accident). His simple way of thinking is refreshing to the upper-crust Washington political elite, and he ends up an accidental and unconscious celebrity, with everyone taking his simplicity as wisdom.

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Challenge Week 18: Fail-Safe

If Ken’s other film Mortal Kombat had me a bit apprehensive going into it, I was pretty excited about this one – a political thriller based on the same book as Dr. Strangelove (and released the same year), but with a totally straight rather than satirical take on it. It’s been years since I’ve seen Strangelove, and that’s probably good, as it gave this one a chance to stand on its own with little comparison.

At the height of the Cold War, a bomber squadron in Alaska mistakenly gets the message to drop nuclear bombs on Moscow, and thanks to all the fail-safe systems built into their protocols, there’s basically nothing the government, even the president, can do to stop them. It’s a nightmare of automated military orders gone wrong, of paranoia-driven conspiracy theories run amok, and the dangers of an overly efficient war machine.

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