sovay wished me to discuss Shaun of the Dead, so I shall do so. A fan of the movie, and also relatively unfamiliar with zombie movies in general, she said, "I'm sure there were clichés being tweaked I didn't even see." On this subject, I can't be a big help, at least not compared to some people I know (robyn_ma). I've seen the original Night of the Living Dead, the original Dawn of the Dead, the Evil Dead movies, Peter Jackson's Braindead, I Walked with a Zombie, 28 Days Later, and many zombie movie episodes of Mystery Science Theatre 3000. From this limited experience, the only clichés I can really see being messed with is the general reactions ordinary people have to the slow, lumbering, flesh-eating dead. Shaun of the Dead imagines--rightly, I think--that many people wouldn't be as panicked by the presence of these easily avoidable creatures as many movies have led us to believe.
Going from this premise, the movie is almost a domestic comedy, where the existence of zombies becomes a device for probing Shaun's relationships with his friends, girlfriend, and mother. A well used device--the zombies reveal things about character other threats wouldn't have--it's a crisis, but not like an invading foreign army as it allows more time for discussion. Not like natural disasters, because zombie movements are more predictable and controllable. So we can have a plausible scene of awkward cordiality as Shaun's group runs into another group led by a casual acquaintance of Shaun's. And we can meanwhile have scenes exploring the nature of Shaun's relationship with his step father, as well as scenes exploring the nature of Shaun's symbiotic laziness with his friend Ed. This is creeping, vaguely silly crises--a catastrophe with room for conversations. It's a very fun movie.
stsisyphus asked that I also discuss The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly. A good movie, I thought, but not nearly as good as Once Upon a Time in the West. Both movies had beautiful visuals, but Once Upon a Time in the West was more about the visuals. Plus, it had a female character. Unless it's an Akira Kurosawa movie, I tend to have a reflexive dislike for movies without at least one prominent female character. My mind starts to wander a little easier.
The absence of a woman is especially felt in The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly, I think. The centrepiece of the film is really the relationship between Blondie (Clint Eastwood) and Tuco (Eli Wallach), which at times reminded me of prison sex between otherwise heterosexual men. I can't be the first person to comment on the sort of homoeroticism of the film. Blondie and Tuco begin the movie as partners in an underhanded scheme, but when one betrays the other, Tuco becomes Blondie's bitter rival, tracking the quiet man down and lovingly smoking the used cigars he finds in his wake;
When Tuco does catch Blondie, he sadistically pushes him hatless through the desert, playing games with guns and water. Eastwood's so pretty in the movie, I kept getting a weird feeling I was seeing a woman being sexually abused.
I must say, young Eastwood's prettiness was one of the film's unexpected virtues. Just look at him;
A scarf? In the desert? This is indeed a doll for Tuco, the titular Ugly.
Anyway, character-wise, Tuco was the only one who had any development. As Roger Ebert notes in his review, Eli Wallach has a lot more lines than anyone else, and one of the film's most interesting scenes is Tuco's confrontation with his estranged, priest brother. Aside from this, the movie has a few great action sequences, a nice greed-adventure story about buried treasure, and extremely boring digression about a bridge blowing up.
But the climactic shoot-out is wonderful, staged in a massive graveyard. This is a movie that must be seen in widescreen. For all those who still don't understand the concept (and believe it or not, I know a few such people), let's compare;
And cropped for approximately average television ratio: