Unfiltered: Best of the Beasts

Derek Armstrong

Derek is a film critic, currently writing for the Australian film website ReelGood as well as his personal blog, The Audient.

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13 Responses

  1. ChadHoolihan says:

    I haven’t ranked many of the three-hour plus films that I’ve seen because I’ve been meaning to rewatch them.  Probably the most epic movie I’ve endured was Berlin Alexanderplatz, which ran over 12 hours (though it’s technically a TV mini-series).  That had me up until the last chapter, which was really a chore to sit through.

    I liked Cleopatra, from what I recall.  I do agree that The Thin Red Line is not everyone’s cup of tea.  Like mine, for instance.  I’ve seen Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line by Malick.  Badlands I liked.  Days of Heaven was pretty, but I hated the narration.  The Thin Red Line was pretty, too, but I REALLY hated the narration in that.  I couldn’t bring myself to care about a single character in that movie.  It just rambled on and on.

    I watched David Lean’s Ryan’s Daughter, which runs over three hours, a couple of years ago.  That movie is pretty and moderately entertaining, aside from the village idiot character who completely ruins the movie.  For some reason, I’ve never watched Lawrence of Arabia.  I’ll have to put that on my “to do” list.

    • Derek Armstrong says:


      It’s always interesting to decide what we consider to qualify as a movie, despite its origins elsewhere. Somewhat arbitrarily, I rank two Stephen King miniseries, The Stand and It, in Flickchart, despite the fact that I know they are not really “movies” in the way I like to define them (“feature-length productions that debuted either in theaters or on video” is my personal definition, which rules out movies on HBO). The one you mention sounds like a winner … until the end, anyway.

      Yeah, that was my problem with The Thin Red Line as well. Too abstract, too much voiceover, not enough people to care about (despite having one of the larger casts of recognizable faces ever assembled). Malick was smart to focus on fewer characters in his next two films, while keeping his other trademark elements, which are often done well.

      Thanks for the comment!

    • I’ve seen Ryan’s Daughter thrice, I believe.  I found the dynamics of the relationships of the characters intriguing, but visually it’s a rather bleak movie.  The colors are pretty muted, and that becomes fatiguing after a while.  I’ve always felt that it’s an intellectual story rather than an emotional one, though; I never really felt invested in Rosy.  It’s hard to really sell a story based around emotional experiences that doesn’t engage one emotionally.  That’s particularly surprising given how well Lean put romantic stories on the screen in earlier films like Brief Encounter and Summertime.

      Still, I do like Ryan’s Daughter though it’s certainly not in the same league as Lean’s big three:  The Bridge on the River Kwai, Lawrence of Arabia or Doctor Zhivago.

  2. nathanchase says:

    For what it’s worth, The Two Towers Extended Edition is 223 minutes, Fellowship’s is 208 minutes, and Return of the King’s is 250 minutes. Any of those would certainly apply, if they were the versions you’ve seen…

    I have yet to see any of the extended films, but Rings fans seem to dig ’em.

    • Derek Armstrong says:

      Nathan, I actually did watch the extended Two Towers, so I guess that’s a good excuse to have included it despite its theatrical running time of 179 minutes (and maybe that was in my head subconsciously). I haven’t watched the extended versions of any others. Is it really worth it, or did they make the right editing choices the first time around?

  3. Nigel Druitt says:

    My favorite movie is nearly 12 hours long: The full, extended Lord of the Rings. The theatrical versions are, of course, great, too. After Fellowship in the theater, I couldn’t believe nearly 3 hours had already passed; I was ravenous for more. Saw it a dozen more times at home before Two Towers hit theaters a year later. (This was obviously before I had kids…)

    And there’s no reason to apologize for Titanic. While not an all-time favorite of mine, it is a good movie. Haters be damned.

    • Derek Armstrong says:

      Interesting interpretation of a “movie.” Does that mean I can run all the James Bond movies together and consider it one 45-hour movie? ;-)

      Thanks for the defense of Titanic. All those who loved it then but hate it now need to look at themselves in the mirror. It’s the same movie — don’t hate it just because you think it eats into your credibility as a film fan.

      Thanks for the comment! 

    • The argument is that Tolkien did not see his story as a trilogy, but rather a singular story presented in three volumes.  Similarly, Peter Jackson shot all three films together so there’s a cohesion to the production that’s rather unique.

      Conversely, Ian Fleming’s Bond novels were always a series of individual stories.  Even the “Blofeld Trilogy” of Thunderball, On Her Majesty’s Secret Service and You Only Live Twice are distinctly individual stories.

      Personally, I think LOTR fans make a mistake by arguing it’s one movie when they really ought to instead simply argue it’s one *story*.  It’s a much cleaner argument to make, and one that doesn’t make one sound like a rabid fanboy, like those Star Wars fans who refer to the original movies as “The Holy Trilogy.”

  4. Ryan Stuckey says:

    The Three Lord of the Rings movies and Lawrence of Arabia are the only 3+ hour movies I’ve seen that I enjoyed enough to ever want to see again.

    I’ve heard Amadeus is great, even though I’ve never seen it (director’s cut is exactly 3 hours).

    The only other one I think I’ve seen that hasn’t been mentioned would be Apocalypse Now: Redux which I really really didn’t like.

  5. Lawrence of Arabia is one of my all-time favorites; it’s held the #1 spot on my Flickchart longer than any other, I believe.  It’s currently #2 after running into The Wizard of Oz.  I’ve never seen it on a big screen, so color me jealous of your experience!

    Also, I’m thrilled to see someone else share my appreciation for The Two Towers.  I will never understand why so many mistakenly believe that The Fellowship of the Ring is the best of the three; it’s just the first act, people!  Return of the King is triumphant, but that meandering series of endings really detracted from the movie for me.  The Two Towers, however, was both full of great content *and* focused.

    Titanic is a movie I was excited to see when I first heard about it, the actual shipwreck being something of a pet topic of mine in my youth.  Then I got the impression it was about the love story and my interest waned.  The night it opened, I and my friends went instead to see Tomorrow Never Dies.  Later, I did see Titanic and while I’m still not terribly in love with the first half about Jack and Rose, the second half featuring the actual sinking is absolutely amazing.

    I was surprised to discover that Braveheart falls three minutes shy of the three-hour mark.  I would argue we ought to round it up to “beast” status if only so we can go ahead and admit that it appears to be the last truly great American-made epic.  There have been other “beasts” since, but they’ve relied on CGI to create their scale and they feel artificial to me.

    The other “beast” on my list not on yours is Doctor Zhivago.  I’ll never forget the first time I saw it was in middle school.  For reasons never made clear to me, we spent an entire day with every class watching it.  They paused it when each class ended, we went to our next class, then they resumed it.  This went on throughout the whole day until we finally finished it.

    Naturally, most of my classmates were indifferent and used the time with the lights out to pass notes, chat quietly and whatnot.  I, on the other hand, was captivated by it.  Komarovsky says to Lara, “You, my dear, are a slut,” then he throws her on the bed.  Moments later, he coldly says, “Don’t kid yourself.  This was rape.”  I was stunned.  I couldn’t believe I was the only one paying attention.  How did that ever get into our chaste classroom?  As the film unfolded, I was caught up in Yuri’s and Lara’s story.  The absolute power of the revolution; the heartbreak of separation and Siberia; the beauty of the ice palace…and, of course, Maurice Jarre’s iconic score.  I’ve seen it half a dozen times over the years, and each time I find myself taken in just as thoroughly as I did watching it in 50 minute intervals on a small TV across a classroom.