Tuesday, April 9, 2013

Gigi vs. On the Waterfront (Popcorn Bowl, Game 3)

In January I challenged myself to watch the 64 award-winning movies that The Oregonian newspaper selected for readers to vote on for a tournament. My bracket is here.

On the Waterfront (1954): This is one of the few of the classic films in the Popcorn Bowl that I've actually watched before. During a film unit in high school English, we watched On the Waterfront, along with Rebel Without a Cause, East of Eden, Dr. Strangelove, and Singing in the Rain. It's been a couple/thirty years since then, though, so I thought I ought to watch it again before comparing it to another film.

Good idea, because it turns out most of this film went over my head when I was 16.

My memory of the film before rewatching:

Aw, Charlie! I coulda been a contender!
Yeah, I was still pretty boy crazy at that point.

The whole Mob Corruption thread was totally lost on me at 16. This time around I caught on to that part, which made it a much better movie. (Though I may have enjoyed the film more at 16 when I had a greater appreciation for overly dramatic scenes and young Marlon Brando). Both times I appreciated  the mood that was set by the on-location filming, and Brando's performance (he really draws the viewer in to Terry Malloy's plight, even if you're young and don't quite understand what the plight actually is).

Gigi (1958): My favorite thing about this movie was the opening number. It's filmed on location in a Paris park, and to me it was like watching a turn-of-the-century French painting come to life. Also, I never knew where the song "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" came from, so that was fun.

By the time we got to the second musical number, though, I'd seen enough. There was really nothing of substance in the movie at all. It was a sweet romance, with songs that didn't get any better than "Thank Heaven for Little Girls" and didn't add much to the story.

But, we stuck with it all the way to the end, figuring that there might be some twist in the story line that would make this an Oscar-winning caliber film.

There wasn't.

At the end of the movie, Chris said he felt sorry for the movie-goers back in 1958, if this was the best movie of the whole year.

Needless to say, our winner in this bracket is On The Waterfront, easily.

Next up: Marty (1955) vs. Dances With Wolves (1990)


  1. I've come to realize even the Oscars are more about politics than quality. I've never seen either of those movies.

  2. "Chris said he felt sorry for the movie-goers back in 1958, if this was the best movie of the whole year."<---That totally cracked me up! :D

    I haven't seen either one of these, but I have a feeling when we do actually get started on "popcorning" neither of these will be among my faves. But then I really shouldn't prejudge, should I?

  3. What a great idea! I'm going to have to check out your bracket. My son is a very serious student of film (sometimes too serious); On the Waterfront is his all-time favorite film; we watched it together a couple of weeks ago. He's taught me a lot about the director Kazan - who was criticized for being a stool-pigeon and testifying at HUAC - and who, my son tells me, made this film as a response to his critics. Pretty heavy stuff which never would have occurred to me.
    And Gigi! I loved that movie when I saw it as a teenager on TV - I think I had a wee crush on Louis Jordan. But you're right, it's just superficial froth, (which my 16 year old self would have loved) especially up against On The Waterfront.

  4. Interesting challenge! My husband is an avid fan of Roger Ebert and has his "Great Movie" books. One summer we'll have to square off movies recommended in those books.

    Hmm, this type of challenge could also make reading lists more fun. I could square off books on those lists and report findings on my blog. Thanks for the idea!

  5. Fun idea to watch two movies and choose your favorite---also like the idea of watching something you have not seen in 15 years and see it from a new perspective. My daughter took two film study classes over the past year at her university. I love talking to her about the movies and hearing what she is learning about regarding production, camera angles, lighting, directing, set design, acting methods, etc. It seemed that with older movies (and certain directors) what you did NOT see was just as important as what the audience did see- more was left for the imagination, which I like for a variety of reasons! I watched East of Eden and was struck by the emotion and brilliance that James Dean put into one scene in particular. I learned from my daughter that it was all his idea to handle the scene that way, despite R. Masseys' objection. Happy weekend :)

  6. I have to say I've never seen Gigi, but just by the title alone, I didn't see how it could stand up against On The Waterfront. Oh, this tournament is so tempting...so do you have to watch all the movies? Or can you just vote?

    1. Bryan, You could probably just vote. I hadn't seen most of the movies, and I don't tend to have a good memory for films so I'll be rewatching most of the ones that I've seen. If you've seen a lot of the movies on the list, you could probably make your picks without having to watch any (or just a few).

  7. I love On the Waterfront although it's been years since I saw it. Looks like I can skip Gigi :)