Saturday, April 10, 2010

#1: The Shawshank Redemption

Before the review, I'd like to touch on a few things. When deciding to take on this project, I had a few questions in mind.

Q: Would I watch the movies in order?
A: Yes, I'm going to do everything in my power to watch the movies in order. I will make arrangements to acquire the movies in advance of their viewing. The purpose of this is to nail down why some of these movies are universally viewed and loved, and why others are viewed more rarely, but those who see them love them almost as equally.

Q: Would I watch them from the bottom up, or the top down?
A: The answer to this was (initially) easy. I've seen so many of the top 50, that I could write my thoughts on them without really having to watch the movie too closely. I can recite so much of the script to Shawshank, it's ridiculous. That turned out to be horribly wrong.

Q: What do I *really* want from this?
A: I'm tossing around the idea of seriously pursuing journalism. I've been told all my life that I'm opinionated and entertaining. I know my writing chops aren't exactly up to snuff, but I feel that combining something I love (film) with something I need to become to be successful, (being objective, giving my opinion in an entertaining manner) would be a recipe for success.

#1: The Shawshank Redemption
Director: Frank Darabont
Writer: Frank Darabont; Based on the Short Story "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" by Stephen King

When I started this project, I assumed that it would be easiest to work from the top down. I had already seen such a higher percentage of the films within the top 50 than any other section of the list. I found only one thing: reviewing a film that you consider to be your very favorite is difficult; being objecti0ve is even tougher.

The film opens, unnarrated, as we witness the fall of Andy Dufresnse. We see the courtroom, the prosecutor, the sentence. The film cuts at various times throughout this sequence only to show us everything we need to see to convict him as well. The opening sequence ends showing us Andy's entrance to Shawshank prison.

However, this isn't a synopsis, this is a review.

The Shawshank Redemption is a powerful film. It covers issues such as police brutality, institutionalization, rape in the prison systems, literacy gaps among social classes, and how absolute power corrupts - absolutely. Thematically, however, is where the film truly shines. Perseverance, friendship, and the unwavering human spirit are what this movie is about.

The character development in this story is exactly what any movie about prison should be. We honestly don't know anything about anyone in the film, except that they're indeed prisoners. Everyone claiming innocence, it's ironic to me that you absolutely love every single one of these cons. Except for the rapists, you never truly feel bad for any of them; they feel quite at home inside the confines of the prison.

Oh, the music. Every song on the soundtrack strikes a particular chord for me; from the Ink Spots "If I didn't care", to Mozart's "The Marriage of Figaro," the soundtrack was brilliant. The original score portrayed sadness and gloom.

Every actor in this film gave the performance of their lives. Red (Morgan Freeman) plays a grizzled black marketeer, who befriends Andy Dufresnse(Tim Robbins) shortly after his arrival at Shawshank. Warden Norton (Bob Gunton) is someone you truly grow to hate.

The Shawshank Redemption holds a special place in my heart not only because of its obvious cinematic integrity. It was filmed almost in its entirety about 30 minutes from where I sit right now. Cinematography outside the Mansfield, Ohio reformatory was absolutely beautiful. Inside the walls, the shots were 'routine', using the same angles over and over; you almost got used to them, making the cinematography itself symbolism towards the theme of institutionalization.

If there was any film that defines the word "perfect" to me, it is The Shawshank Redemption. It's awful hard to find flaws in something that is the reason you love something (in my case, film) so much. The only thing I would change about this film is the development of "Red," Morgan Freeman's character. I wish we knew more about him, but I suppose that's the point. Andy loves him unconditionally, for saving his life on the inside.

This movie has inspired me to move on and do things with my life that I never intended. Truly to "Get busy living, or get busy dying."

Overall Score (Out of 10, unweighted): 10

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