Catching Up: “Giant”

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At long last I have seen, what’s hopefully the last really long classic movie made, “Giant”!

I’ve been aiming to see it so many times, but due to the films almost three and a half hour run time, yes, you read that right, and when it would come on T.V., this would be difficult.

Fortunately, Turner Classic Movie (TCM), which is where I saw it, among many other classic films, was showing it at a time that wouldn’t keep me up till the wee hours of the morning.

“Giant” is the epic 1956 story, based on an equally lengthy novel of the same name by Edna Ferber, which, according to Ben Makiewicz, while introducing the film, the writers(Fred Guiol and Ivan Moffat) didn’t see fit to trim down and make shorter.

The film was directed by George Stevens (“The Diary of Anne Frank”, “A Place in the Sun”) and starred, a big cast of actors including, Rock Hudson (“McMillan & Wife”, “A farewell to Arms”), Elizabeth Taylor (“Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolfe?”, “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof”), James Dean (“Rebel Without a Cause”, “East of Eden”) Carroll Baker (“Paranoia”, “Baby Doll”), Mercedes McCambridge (“Angel Baby”, “All the Kings Men”), a very young Dennis Hopper (“Speed”, “Hoosiers”), Sal Mineo (“Exodus”, “Rebel Without a Cause”) and Rod Taylor (“Inglorious Bastards”, “The Birds”).

I was excited to see it, and surprised that I was really awake for it, as opposed to the films, “Gone with the Wind”, “Spartacus”, “Cleopatra”, “Lawrence of Arabia”, “The Godfather”, “The Godfather Part II”, and the somewhat shorter, “2001: A Space Odyssey”, which each saw me falling asleep through, more or less, the whole movie.

That, however, didn’t stem my boredom, which arrived about halfway through the film. I’m thinking that this is due, in part, because it was simply too drawn out. Some films, even the most recent of films, can do this. Feature films, not so much. Sure people seem to like them, but if you want todays audience to like them, let alone watch, don’t lead with the length. This might’ve been okay as a mini-series, but the writing needs or should’ve been different.

That could be part of it. The script itself. I’m not sure how,and as seeing a copy of one, if it did exist, is never going to happen, this will just remain a guess. But, I look at the dialogue and those delivering it. Bland. Stiff. Boring. Yes, I kept myself glued to what was happening, but when people started talking and interacting, I cringed a little. How this film got any nominations for awards is beyond me.

The acting, like so many films, I keep discovering, from that long ago, had bad acting. Some have chalked it up to the “overwrought” style of the day, but I call it bad. That’s why the dialogue suffered. The characters were stiff and uninteresting. Most of the time I didn’t care. And I thought watching a Marilyn Monroe movie was bad. Too many pretty faces and no talent.

The score didn’t help either. It wasn’t terrible the entire film, but for the most part, it was whiney. That’s on account the instruments used, and the quality of the sound when watching the film today. I believe so. I’m thinking, give me the fingernails on a chalkboard. But, as with the acting, that seems to be the way people like their scores in films. Bad. It’s definitely one of those things that is hard to explain, but if you’re expecting something that matches the epic scale of the film, to tell a sweeping saga, like “Gone with the Wind”, you’ll be let down.

The biggest thing, out of all of this, that annoyed me the most were the shots created by cinematographer, William C. Mellor. Too many, what I’m calling, extreme wide shots. Apparently, he was so impressed by the set decoration, that he felt it necessary to always show it. I guess he was afraid audiences would forget that these people lived pretty good lives and had expensive taste. I didn’t. It got annoying. And it didn’t help that, because of this, a lot of times, you couldn’t even see the actor expressions. Yes, you knew they were upset, but seeing the pain, or anything else, was not really possible. You might as well have been look at them through binoculars. I’m not saying super up close shots should’ve been used instead, but the wide shot was overused.

Overall, I come back to this one question, who thought that making three hour plus films was a good idea? The films listed at the start of this, for me, bring this on. I don’t find any of them worth that long a run time. I also wonder, how did people sit for this long, even with a short intermission? I hope we never get these big type of slow moving films again.

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