Join 3,414 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


$haw$hank
May 23, 2014 4:00 PM   Subscribe

In 1994, The Shawshank Redemption made just $18 million at the box office. It got seven Academy Award nominations, but won zero. And yet, it has become one of the most consistently profitable movies there is, including providing some of its actors with what Bob Gunton (the evil Warden Norton) calls "a very substantial income" in residuals.

The prison movie, adapted by Frank Darabont (who you youngsters may know from a little show called The Walking Dead) from a story by Stephen King (who never cashed the $5,000 check Darabont sent him for the rights), is consistently at or near the top of critics' and movie watchers' lists of the top films of all time. It was the second most-aired movie on basic cable last year and was the most-watched on Oprah's OWN channel (despite practically no female roles) and near the top on four other basic-cable networks. And Warner Bros. loves that they can sell it again and again as part of "packages," where studios sell chunks of their libraries as all-or-nothing deals to cable channels:
"You say [to a cable executive], 'I can give you 'Shawshank' and their eyes light up," a former distribution executive at Warner Bros. said. "You don't market it. You don't spend any money pushing it."
That level of attraction has spread to the Ohio penitentiary where it was filmed that saw 80,000 visitors last year, and it's even led to an ongoing treasure hunt to celebrate the film's 20th anniversary this year.

And just to lighten things up from the tale of murder, embezzlement, revenge, redemption and filthy lucre, here's Morgan "Red" Freeman on helium.
posted by Etrigan (187 comments total) 43 users marked this as a favorite

 
That rarest of things - a great film adaptation of a great novella, and a great film adaptation of a King book.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 4:02 PM on May 23 [13 favorites]


How was it decided that this middlebrow, slightly above average drama was the Best Movie Ever Made?

If IMDb allowed users to rate every kind of food, the highest rated meal in history would be a hotdog with a little bit of mustard on it.
posted by dgaicun at 4:05 PM on May 23 [75 favorites]


It's a fantastic story, the adaptation is incredibly faithful, and the performances are top notch. I was mad when Forrest Gump took all the awards that year, because Shawshank is an incredibly good film and I'm pleased to see that it has the longevity it has.

No good thing ever dies.
posted by nubs at 4:07 PM on May 23 [17 favorites]


Mmmm - mustard. . .
posted by Curious Artificer at 4:08 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]


I'm with dgaicun - it's not a bad movie at all, I'd give it a solid three stars, but the idea of it as one of the great films of all time is totally mystifying to me. I'd say that it was Pulp Fiction that got robbed at the Oscars that year, though I suppose we can at least all agree that Forrest Gump winning looks pretty silly in retrospect.
posted by strangely stunted trees at 4:14 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]


Eh, the Academy usually chooses feel good movies over more interesting, complex, or pessimistic films. It's not surprising Gump beat out Pulp Fiction. And it's also not surprising that Shawshank didn't win, as the first half is really really sad.
posted by FJT at 4:21 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


dgaicun, if that was a nod to Miller's Crossing being perhaps the real best movie ever, I've got your back.
posted by mbatch at 4:21 PM on May 23 [12 favorites]


How was it decided that this middlebrow, slightly above average drama was the Best Movie Ever Made?

Because Morgan Freeman is GOD LOLOLOL.

I blame this entirely on reddit circlejerks and the resulting imdb ballot box stuffing. Nearly every really nerdy guy i've met who goes on that site(i realize this sounds like a small sample size, but it's larger than you'd think) seems to have completely bought, whole cloth, without any critical thought that this just is the best possible movie.

I realize there's no way to say more than "No" without sounding like a pretentious movie snob, but just... No.
posted by emptythought at 4:21 PM on May 23 [10 favorites]


I also think it's worth discussing that the same year brought us Forest Gump, Shawshank, and Pulp Fiction(and i think likely a couple others, too). What was going on that year?
posted by emptythought at 4:23 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


How was it decided that this middlebrow, slightly above average drama was the Best Movie Ever Made?

It's probably no surprise that a movie that features a nerd who uses skill and cunning to defeat bullies, authority figures, and a repressive system is very popular on IMDB. But don't hate on the movie because it's ended up in a mathematically weird place where everybody kind of likes it but it isn't challenging enough for anybody to really dislike it. It's succeeds completely at being the kind of movie it wants to be, and that's enough for it to be worthy of respect.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:23 PM on May 23 [72 favorites]


It could be possible that many many people who vote on IMDB do so on the basis of how much they enjoy a movie rather than on broader considerations related to film criticism and to those things which make movies "good."
posted by MoonOrb at 4:26 PM on May 23 [14 favorites]


Roger Ebert's original review; and another look at the film five years later.
posted by nubs at 4:27 PM on May 23 [18 favorites]


dgaicun, if that was a nod to Miller's Crossing being perhaps the real best movie ever, I've got your back.

I wouldn't even rate that as the best Coen brothers movie ever.
As for Shawshank, well, I like it but I don't love it. It's perfectly watchable but nothing spectacular IMHO.
posted by MikeMc at 4:28 PM on May 23


I blame this entirely on reddit circlejerks and the resulting imdb ballot box stuffing.

Well, it did get helped with all those times it got played on basic cable in the 90s. I think Space Jam also had this sort of effect you mentioned as a sports film. Which makes you think, what if this happened randomly to some other movie? Would we be instead discussing about RDJ's Heart & Souls or even Surf Ninjas?
posted by FJT at 4:30 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


How was it decided that this middlebrow, slightly above average drama was the Best Movie Ever Made?

It's a public vote. That's exactly what gets #1 in a public vote. You are surprised about this because?
posted by aspo at 4:30 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]


Ahh, the pretentious delusions of people who think their taste is objectively superior. Sometimes the simpler things in life are best, like an icy cold Bohemian style beer on a spring morning.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:31 PM on May 23 [65 favorites]


How was it decided that this middlebrow, slightly above average drama was the Best Movie Ever Made?

Nobody decided it per se. It's a negative consequence of fanboys, a perpetual reason Why We Can't Have Nice Things. You see, every time a superhero movie like The Dark Knight has fanboys stuffing 10's into the IMDB, a rival faction of fanboys will stuff 1's into the ballot to bring down its ranking. Then you have The Dark Knight fans stuffing 1's into the balloting for The Godfather and other contenders for the top-ranking film. Somehow, as a result of self-canceling fanboys and IMDB's algorithmic tweaks, you end up with The Shawshank Redemption at the top of heap.
posted by jonp72 at 4:34 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


So.. it's not highbrow. Still, all the elements (acting, script, music, cinematography by the brilliant Roger Deakins, etc.) work perfectly together, IMO. I think it's worth noting how rare that is. Not all movies have to fight gladiator-style against each other.
posted by starman at 4:34 PM on May 23 [17 favorites]


My friends and I were drunk and decided to go to the cheap second run movie theater to catch a show. We though there were two movies playing because of how the marquee was setup. So we asked the girl at the booth which was better Shawshank or Redemption. There was no poster. She looked at us like morons. We thought she was being unhelpful. Finally after drunken discussion we ask for four tickets to "redemption" as that seemed to be starting sooner. A great laugh was had when finally the title of the film came up.
posted by humanfont at 4:34 PM on May 23 [27 favorites]


The Green Mile is its tennis partner.
posted by planetesimal at 4:34 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


No offense emptythought, but if you rtfa you'll see that Shawshank was the top rental of 1995, and was basically pushed by Ted Turner as the modern answer to The Wizard of Oz. It was a classic sleeper hit, later pushed by forces that predated the modern internet. I don't think reddit had anything to do with it.
posted by special agent conrad uno at 4:36 PM on May 23 [34 favorites]


Since we're talking about the movie maybe someone can explain this studio whatsit-ery to me.

Here's the original trailer for The Shawshank Redemption. If you listen closely you'll hear that the music starting at 0:30 is the theme for Miller's Crossing, written by Carter Burwell.

The actual film score for The Shawshank Redemption was written by Thomas Newman. The movie was produced by Castle Rock. Miller's Crossing was produced by Circle Films and Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation.

How in the world (or why in the world) would the trailer have ended up with that music?
posted by komara at 4:39 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Also I'm perplexed why it matters what a movie's IMDB ranking is? Liking movies is a matter of individual preference and if Memento and Inception get scores way higher than some movie that's less popular, who cares?
posted by MoonOrb at 4:39 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


I file this and Green Mile under "dude weepies" (and always get them mixed up in my memory, actually).
posted by emjaybee at 4:40 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


I was also 20 once and convinced I knew something about film.
posted by planetesimal at 4:41 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Viewed from a purely technical perspective, Shawshank is a good movie but falls somewhat short of greatness. The performances are consistently solid, but for the most part are neither theatrical nor transformative. It's well shot, but few of those shots are likely to show up in a film class on composition. In short, it's not a movie that goes out of its way to show off movie-making techniques.

Despite this, it grips a very considerable number of people. I often ask people what their favorite movie is and it is the only answer I receive consistently (with The Godfather being a distant second, and mostly an answer given by people over 50). I've been told it's a person's favorite by both PhDs and people who didn't finish high school. Certainly, the movie being written with a working class vocabulary undoubtedly helps it reach the widest possible audience. But it must go deeper than that.

My guess is that, in a way that is almost unheard of in modern film, the movie offers transcendent hope against methodical despair. Not the emotive, wailing despair of a parent who has just lost a child, or of a witness to the horrors of war (both of which are remarkable to see performed well, but are also remote from the experiences of most people), but instead the insidious and grinding despair of feeling trapped in a routine, of feeling powerless, of not seeing the point in going on. Many people from all walks of life can relate to the idea of becoming "institutionalized," of giving up and watching their own lives continue regardless.

To see the protagonist quietly endure, doggedly persist, and ultimately triumph over a span of decades is a story arc that Hollywood's fast-moving scripts rarely contend with. To dismiss the movie as "slightly above average" is not merely incurious: It's demonstrably incorrect by any stretch of what the word "average" means. Something about it is remarkable and enduring. Both moviegoers and moviemakers would do well to think intently about what that might be.
posted by belarius at 4:42 PM on May 23 [188 favorites]


How in the world (or why in the world) would the trailer have ended up with that music?

I think it's actually pretty common for trailers to use music from other films, since they're being cut and released well before the film is finished, and the score is one of the last pieces of a film to be completed.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:43 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


Shawshank is the platonic male-friendship movie and that is why so many guys love it.

There is a guy-guy friendship that is not remotely sexual; indeed, one of the guys gets raped by other dudes, which is used as contrast to the manly friendship(s) formed by the protagonists and their small circle.

Many dudes don't have any friends. It's sort of societally accepted that men grow out of "friendship" as they age. So the movie is very popular.
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 4:44 PM on May 23 [12 favorites]


I blame this entirely on reddit circlejerks and the resulting imdb ballot box stuffing.

The movie has been hovering around the top of the IMDB Top 250 way longer than Reddit's been around.
posted by zsazsa at 4:49 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]


Also, this reminds me of a conversation I had last night.

I just watched Big Trouble in Little China with an Uruguayan. She couldn't get into it because it wasn't artsy enough, it was too fast paced, it was too efficient. And I realized... this is what the classic storyline is: totally efficient. Every scene, every image, every line of dialog is a world unto itself, which could exist in a vacuum. And not just American film, but all great stories: take any single paragraph from 2666, and it's a story unto itself. Things are always made better with context, but American cinema excels at storytelling efficiency, and I feel like Shawshank has always been a model of that in a prison drama.

Every line, every scene is perfectly efficient in moving the story forwards through it's dramatic arc to it's conclusion.

Although, as my Uruguayan friend said, "where's the art in efficiency?"
posted by special agent conrad uno at 4:50 PM on May 23 [10 favorites]


I think it's actually pretty common for trailers to use music from other films, since they're being cut and released well before the film is finished, and the score is one of the last pieces of a film to be completed.

I actually have semi-regular work recording short pieces of music ("cues" in the lingo) that are composed on spec and purchased by studios for this very purpose. It's not high art, but it's fun and it pays well, and occasionally I'll be in the theater and hear one of my bits, which is always amusing. One of them ended up in a TV spot for the Lone Ranger, which was kind of simultaneously exciting and a little disappointing -- a friend of mine said "Hey look Kathryn it's you on the TV with Johnny Depp! Too bad you got the racist and not the hot gay pirate tho."
posted by KathrynT at 4:57 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]


When people give stars in votes on IMDB, they are not talking about craft. They are talking about love. Your favorite meal of your life might be something the way it was made in your family, whether or not the technique was of the highest quality. There's certainly a difference between what is great and what is loved, but to look contemptuously down on people for loving pieces of art that are not the greatest pieces of art ever made from a critical perspective is to fundamentally misunderstand how art intersects with the vast majority of people who will ever see it.

Most of the people who believe this is a great movie are not idiots who don't understand structure and filmmaking; they are people who do not process film on those terms and don't care to. They know what they respond to and that has value to them. Is that the same as greatness and craft? No, it is not. Is it real? Yes, it is. Are they dumber than you are? No, they are not.
posted by Linda_Holmes at 5:05 PM on May 23 [128 favorites]


It could be possible that many many people who vote on IMDB do so on the basis of how much they enjoy a movie rather than on broader considerations related to film criticism and to those things which make movies "good."

Begone, heretic!
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 5:35 PM on May 23


I guess what I'm saying in addition to what Linda_Holmes articulated so much better is also that I find it deeply weird that anyone who cares the least bit about the art or craft of film would be even the least bit concerned about what IMDB voters think. It is not like IMDB is some purported bastion of meaningful film criticism and discussion. So part of what I feel is that sneering at a movie's supposedly undeservedly high rank on IMDB comes a little bit maybe from a place of "those jerks don't know as much about film as I do," which in my mind is kinda stupid because, dude, right. It's not a place where you'd expect most people to.
posted by MoonOrb at 5:42 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


I grew up in Mansfield. The 'old prison' (as I remember everybody calling it) sits on a hill overlooking the now-defunct steel mill that closed before I was old enough to process how terrible it was for the town. I distinctly remember driving past when they were having a strike and asking my dad what the fuss was about. "They just want more money." Oh, I thought, greedy.

That was the bad part of town. I only saw it because the freeway that takes you to Ontario (where the Good Mall is) goes over the bad part of town and past the steel mill. If you take the exit to the steel mill, you can go a little further down the road and find the new state penitentiary, a hulking juggernaut of brick and...well, despair.

I was probably fifteen or sixteen the first time I toured the old prison. I went with my older brother, who was excited to try out his fancy new digital camera (1999 everybody!). We did the tour and the guide excitedly explained which rooms had been used for which scenes and everybody 'ooo'ed and 'aaa'ed while I felt like an idiot for not having seen the movie (that being the main appeal of the tour[though, my spirits were bouyed when we passed the wall in front of which a scene from Air Force One {which I had seen} had been filmed]).

The part I really remember is the 'poop chute' the sewage drain Andy crawls out of when he makes his big escape. The guide said they used to let guests crawl through but then somebody got stuck and so they had to the kibosh on that little bit of tomfoolery.

Seeing the poop chute was surreal. The prison made me feel I was in a movie anyway, being so foreign from any other space I'd ever visited. But the poop chute - it was clearly a prop, and clearly something someone had spent a long time on and the first time I ever had a sense of what 'movie magic' might actually mean. And because I had never seen the movie before, I invented this whole story for this scatological prop, about where it was used in the movie, that it was a centerpiece somehow, that maybe people were leaving the film and saying 'wow, remember that scene in the poop chute? That was something else!' This artifact of Hollywood left in my hometown! Lucky us!

I finally got around to watching the movie in college and I was a bit disappointed that the poop chute did not receive the proper recognition I felt it deserved. Of course I felt my stomach knot as Andy traversed the awful pit on his way to freedom, but it was the shot where he stands in the rain with hands raised in exultation everyone remembers, not the lovingly crafted crap-encrusted tube he crammed himself into to get there. "Hey, I've been there and seen that!" I told my friends. "Cool."

Sometimes I feel a tremendous amount of guilt when I reflect on the lovingly crafted, oft forgotten tunnel from which I escaped into a dark and stormy world.

Mansfield: The Poop Chute.
posted by Tevin at 5:45 PM on May 23 [13 favorites]


Freakin' OWN watching, time travelling Redditors.
posted by ODiV at 5:45 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]


The performances are consistently solid, but for the most part are neither theatrical nor transformative.
I have no idea what this means, but calling a film performance "theatrical" is usually an insult.

It's well shot, but few of those shots are likely to show up in a film class on composition.
So?

In short, it's not a movie that goes out of its way to show off movie-making techniques.
Good. Movies that do that are bad movies. The job of a movie is to tell a story.

I get the urge, but I think you're all barking up the wrong tree here. It's a very very high quality film that also happens to be accessible to a lot of people, and that a lot of people saw. It's a success in any measurable way. While I wouldn't call it one of the "greatest films of all time" (and I don't know that anyone has; IMDB votes are clearly for people's favorite, and I doubt those people claim to have watched every film in the world), it is very very good.

It's also a great example of a time when Hollywood was making great movies within the studio system. Certainly there's a trend of overrating utter trash into critical darlings (IRON MAN, Abrams' STAR TREK - in fact just about every fan-service piece of superhero junk is now adored as a matter of course by slavish critics in a way that would have been unthinkable 20 years ago, either because they're bought and paid for or because they've genuinely become convinced a bunch of cheesy winks and shitty CG explosions constitutes a film), but in the 1990s Hollywood studios very often made good, borderline-great movies. To say otherwise is to ignore reality.
posted by drjimmy11 at 5:47 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


You probably should have kept reading that comment.
posted by Drinky Die at 5:51 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


Let me say this about IMDB ranking. It has enhanced my viewing pleasure. If there is a fairly good TV series that I don't need to see in order but I don't want to commit myself to, I go to the quick links, explore more, then down to the rated episodes. For example, the 2005 series of Dr. Who.

Blink 9.8 (out of 10)
The Day of the Doctor 9.4
Forest of the Dead 9.3
The Girl in the Fireplace 9.2
Doomsday 9.2
The Name of the Doctor 9.2
The Night of the Doctor 9.2
Silence in the Library 9.2
Vincent and the Doctor 9.1

Maybe this isn't the best example, because it skews so much to Stephen Moffat, but these are generally very good episodes. In the case of Dr. Who, the fan base is large enough and smart enough to average out the most compelling episodes. I included Vincent and the Doctor (and stopped there) because I really didn't like the episode. Also near the top is The Empty Child/The Doctor Dances (also Moffat, also 9.1). Since I don't need to watch these in order, I enjoy the cream from the top.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 5:56 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I read the WSJ article on this today, and the thing that stuck out was it was the second most played movie on cable. Mrs. Doubtfire was the first.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 6:02 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


Roger Deakins was the cinematographer? Holy shit. I had no idea. I look forward to seeing it yet again.
posted by sutt at 6:03 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


How was it decided that this middlebrow, slightly above average drama was the Best Movie Ever Made?

Most people who think it's the Best Movie Ever Made are middle brow and slightly above average in terms of their taste.

Seriously, it's known for being that movie every white dude has seen a thousand times. That's why the cable networks want it so much. It's that movie the average boring person flipping the channels will always stop on. It's a money-maker, not a great cinematic experience.

Though I mean don't get me wrong it's a fine movie and all. But the reason the actors are still getting fat royalty checks is because it's vanilla, not because it's The Best Movie Ever Made.
posted by Sara C. at 6:06 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


Wow, people here are bizarrely critical. Why don't y'all post your favorite movies so we can all shit on them?

Also, anecdotally, pretty much none of my mid-twenties friends have seen Shawshank, so I don't think it's in the top rankings "by default".
posted by archagon at 6:15 PM on May 23 [12 favorites]


Achagon, Singin In The Rain is objectively the finest film ever made, so sure, shit away.
posted by Sara C. at 6:20 PM on May 23 [12 favorites]


Not all movies have to fight gladiator-style against each other.

Two useful concepts: perfect and favorite

The folks at Friends in Your Head introduced my to the concept of a perfect movie. A perfect movie is exactly what it is trying to be. A movie is perfect when it's almost impossible to see how changes could improve it. It doesn't make sense to ask whether one perfect movie is better than another. Die Hard is neither better nor worse than Dr. Strangelove; both are irreplaceable for completely different reasons. Shawshank is a perfect movie.

In contrast, a favorite movie doesn't even have to be good. It might just be that it was the movie you needed to see at a certain moment in your life. I'm not surprised that many people call Shawshank their favorite movie. Lots of people have had a time in their life when they were in a river of shit and needed to believe it would be possible to come out clean.

Anybody who talks about the "best movie ever made" is trying to compare Robocop and Rashomon. That person has stopped making sense.
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 6:20 PM on May 23 [50 favorites]


I would like to see a Rashomon take on Robocop though

That would rock
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 6:23 PM on May 23 [9 favorites]


So, I'm not a white dude, but when I first saw Shawshank in the mid '90s I was blown away. It really moved me, and I've watched it many times since. I am an unapologetic fan of Stephen King, and Different Seasons is one of my favorite books ever. I thought SR was an incredible adaptation of the original novella. Maybe it's not the best movie ever made, but I'd say it's one of the best films of the '90s.

I think, in its way, Shawshank is a perfect movie. It's well written, well cast, and it tells its story excellently.

And can I say that both Singin' in the Rain and Shawshank Redemption are very good movies in their own rights? It's kind of ridiculous to compare the two.
posted by suburbanbeatnik at 6:27 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


Did anyone else have to watch this in school and discuss the hope of Jesus' sacrifice in light of the world's despair? I just wonder if it's the best movie most people have ever seen because it's the only one they've seen that they can feel comfortable talking about in this context. Sort of how people read Pride & Prejudice in school and it's forever their best book ever because saying their actual favorite is too shallow, or juvenile, or something, and this is a finer choice.

Then again, could be overthinking that...it could just be that it's a favorite of the average because it's not bad and there are more people in the middle than anywhere else.
posted by blnkfrnk at 6:29 PM on May 23


How was it decided that this middlebrow, slightly above average drama was the Best Movie Ever Made?

Because (nearly) everyone likes hot dogs?
posted by octobersurprise at 6:41 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Is this the greatest movie ever? Oh hell no. But I can watch the from the point where Red goes along that stone wall to find the message from Andy to the very end on the Mexican beach again and again and again.
posted by Ber at 6:42 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


Most of the people who believe this is a great movie are not idiots who don't understand structure and filmmaking; they are people who do not process film on those terms and don't care to.

And some of us do process film on those terms and still think it's great, art being subjective and all. I have lost count of the number of times I've watched it, and I can catch it on TV at any point in the story and instantly become engrossed. I could watch all the main characters all day; Robbins and Freeman were excellent, obviously, but Clancy Brown as Hadley was terrifyingly commanding. I could listen to Morgan Freeman's narration on an endless loop. The lighting is perfect, the score is perfect. There are moments of genuine visceral reaction - the first time with the Sisters or when Andy's protege meets with the Warden in the yard... - plus scenes of real joy, especially when he is on his knees in the rain or when he plays Madame Butterfly... And it's more than the sum of all these parts. I find it totally satisfying in a way I don't often find with films, even "good" ones. I really do hate snobbery when it comes to any art, though. It's ok to not like things, but don't be a dick about it.
posted by billiebee at 6:42 PM on May 23 [18 favorites]


It's a fantastic story, the adaptation is incredibly faithful,

Why do I remember it that one of them was a twist ending and one of them you knew all along he was digging his way out?
posted by Hoopo at 6:52 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Achagon, Singin In The Rain is objectively the finest film ever made, so sure, shit away

That Cyd Charisse modern dance number is goddamn interminable.

Search your heart. You know it to be true.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:54 PM on May 23 [17 favorites]


Count me in the Shawshank haters column. But then I hate Star Wars and plenty of other movies people love.

There are lots of movies I can't stand that others love which I understand their love for. Shawshank's appeal is absolutely baffling to me. I even watched it twice to see if maybe I was just in a bad mood the first time.
posted by dobbs at 6:57 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


You know that hamburger that's so popular they've sold multi-billions of them and now have franchises all over the world? So popular it became the textbook example of a standardized good that's available in every country and is used in post doctorate economic analysis? Guess what: it's not the best tasting burger ever. But, having wide appeal more than makes up for that and puts it overwhelmingly ahead of the competition in sales.

Profitability for movies works the same way. Cult hits are failures. Generic, mass market appeal is where the big money is. "Middlebrow, slightly above average" is the winning formula in this competition; you wouldn't expect anything else to sell more tickets than that. The fact that more refined tastes are also able find things to like about it just puts it even further ahead.

I'm like the fiftieth person presenting this argument, aren't I
posted by ceribus peribus at 6:58 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


I watched it a few years ago and thought it was quite a fine movie and enjoyable but the ending was absolutely awful. Walking to each other on the beach? Ughhhhhh. I feel like it took away from what the entire film had built on and tied it up all neatly to be more palatable to the audience.
posted by liquorice at 6:59 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I feel like it took away from what the entire film had built on and tied it up all neatly to be more palatable to the audience.

Most stories are better (by which I mean more emotionally challenging) if you pretend the epilogue doesn't exist. Try it.
posted by GrumpyDan at 7:04 PM on May 23


The Tommy Williams part always put a damper on the movie for me. I think it's a better story if you don't know if Andy really killed his wife or not. I wish they'd left the door open on whether or not Tommy was just trying to make friends/repay Andy for helping him with his GED.
posted by The Hamms Bear at 7:05 PM on May 23


Walking to each other on the beach? Ughhhhhh. I feel like it took away from what the entire film had built on and tied it up all neatly to be more palatable to the audience.

Feel free to imagine it didn't happen. Maybe it didn't happen. I hope...
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 7:07 PM on May 23


Clancy Brown is fantastic in almost everything, but his character makes the movie. Also I can't watch the scene with Brooks on the outside without getting a little choked up.
posted by Existential Dread at 7:09 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


Shawshank's appeal is absolutely baffling to me

Really? You can't figure out why lots of people like a visually appealling movie where the righteous underdogs get their reward and the cruel bullies get their punishment? I'd never assert that SSR is the best movie ever, but the why of its popularity seems pretty obvious.
posted by octobersurprise at 7:14 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


I just wonder if it's the best movie most people have ever seen because it's the only one they've seen that they can feel comfortable talking about in this context.

I have never talked about it in that context; I guess there's a religious allegory there for some, for me it's always been about people and choices. And Andy chooses not to be a martyr or a sacrifice, so the religious angle feels kinda weird to me.

Why do I remember it that one of them was a twist ending and one of them you knew all along he was digging his way out?

Been a long time since I read it, but IIRC it's the same in both - you have no clue until the poster comes down that Andy has been digging a tunnel. The reveal is probably more dramatic in the movie because it's one of those moments you can do a lot with visually - the hollowed out bible, the replays of all the moments and things he did that have a new context.

The one bit I'm pretty sure isn't in the book - the schmaltzy beach reunion. Again, IIRC, the story ends with Red on the bus, hoping to cross the border and find his friend.
posted by nubs at 7:16 PM on May 23


I read somewhere, and I can't find it now, that the director was dead seat against the final "they meet on the beach" scene, but the studio wanted a feel-good ending. The director wanted it to be ambiguous whether they actually met up or not.

So the long, aerial shot at the end was the director's response to the studio pressure, rather than the close-up, cloying shot the studio wanted.
posted by madajb at 7:17 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Oh Brooks' story! Always gets me -- "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry."

Love "Shawshank Redemption" the movie and happen to be reading the short story, "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption" from Different Seasons at the moment; it's great fun to see where the script made changes, tightened up dialogue or lifted it complete, and cut/combined characters for the movie adaptation.

But the movie is an incredible experience for me, every single time I watch it. You peeps are a tough, tough crowd.

I mean really. How can you be so obtuse?
posted by joseph conrad is fully awesome at 7:18 PM on May 23 [21 favorites]


> and what is a Shawshank?

Twenty dollars same as in oh fuck it.
posted by planetesimal at 7:22 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


And this discussion reminds me of one of the rules of the internet I have in my head: When it comes to our mass media of movies, TV, music, books, etc; People like what they like, and arguing about is usually counter-productive.

Be happy for people who have something they like, even if you don't share their happiness in that thing. Telling them why they shouldn't like it is unlikely to change anyone's mind; I have several things across all media that I like a great deal even though I know they aren't perfect examples of craft, or that there are serious problems with aspects of the work. Such is life.
posted by nubs at 7:27 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


WHAT TASTE FORBIDS

appetite
excuses


-Tom Disch.
posted by herrdoktor at 7:29 PM on May 23 [7 favorites]


My first dozen or so viewings of Shawshank were all "family friendly" censored cuts distributed via suburban video rental chains and basic cable.

It wasn't until years later that I happened across an uncut version and was shocked to hear swearing in what I had considered to be essentially a Disney prison movie.
posted by ceribus peribus at 7:36 PM on May 23


Whenever I criticize a friend for their taste in movies they remind me how much I like Tron: Legacy
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 7:58 PM on May 23 [4 favorites]


when he plays Madame Butterfly

It's been more than 10 years since I last saw the movie, but if you're referring to this scene, the music is from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro. The song is Sull'aria...che soave zeffiretto.

From wikipedia: "In the film The Shawshank Redemption, prisoner Andy Dufresne (Tim Robbins) defies Warden Sam Norton (Bob Gunton) by playing the duettino over the prison's loudspeakers. Ellis Boyd "Red" Redding (Morgan Freeman) remarks in his voice-over narration: "I have no idea to this day what those two Italian ladies were singing about. [...] I'd like to think they were singing about something so beautiful it can't be expressed in words, and it makes your heart ache because of it."[1] This is ironic as the opera characters are singing about a duplicitous love letter to expose infidelity, and Dufresne's wife's affair is the event which indirectly leads to his imprisonment."


PS: The best re-use of Madame Butterfly (un bel di vedremo) is from Barney Gumble's movie Pukahontas (Don't cry for me, I'm already dead).
posted by obscure simpsons reference at 8:01 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


Sometimes the simpler things in life are best, like an icy cold Bohemian style beer on a spring morning.

Marry me.
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 8:05 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


I just spent two years of my life teaching college freshmen why Singin' In The Rain may NOT be the best movie ever, despite the golden wisdom of their professor. When you have to sit and watch it and teach it for that long, while disliking it, you distill my critique of it down to a crystal. I bet you can't wait to hear this.

First, part of my rejection of it is my taste: of the two historical trends in movie musicals, I much perfer the one in which the songs spring organically from the narrative, to the more revue-influenced. SitR is in what I feel is awkward middle ground, which typical of the era, but never works for me. I'd rather have one or the other extreme. There is no musical number that propels the plot forward. They are all interruptive. And the Broadway Rhythm interlude is just NUTS on that account. Ironically, it's my favorite part because I enjoy the Berkeley pastiche. I think narrative connectivity is one of the native affordances of cinema, and I prefer musicals that step away from vaudeville and create a more fantastical and immersive musical reality to ones that lean on "putting on a show" to justify musical performance.

Second, in recuperation, I appreciate that it collapses Hollywood cinema history so problematically in that kind of work, that it is viewed as delightfully original by audiences now, though audiences then would have been very familiar with the reused or imitative status of all the songs, not as a modern classic, but as a simple diversion, and a "best of the Freed unit" film. I find that troubling, but I appreciate it. It's kind of pomo, intriguing, an ouroborous.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:19 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


Profitability for movies works the same way. Cult hits are failures. Generic, mass market appeal is where the big money is. "Middlebrow, slightly above average" is the winning formula in this competition

But this is the wrong argument to make about Shawshank. It didn't do big money in theaters - it only broke even after it got seven oscar nominations.

It's actually closer to a cult hit than big money.
posted by murphy slaw at 8:25 PM on May 23 [6 favorites]


Lots of pretty good but not great movies get Oscar nominations. In 2012 (to give us a little distance) that would include Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy, Moneyball, Albert Nobbs, and Warhorse. In another 20 years, who knows, one of those could be considered one of the best films of the 2010s. Whatever is the new arbiter of Movies Everyone Ends Up Seeing A Million Times could have one of those on constant rotation. Teenagers could see it and go to college and pass it around as "What do you mean, you've never seen Albert Nobbs????"

This, in my memory, is how Shawshank became a Great Film -- it was just completely ubiquitous, with a few hardcore fans who claimed it as a particular favorite. But everyone had seen it and liked it, and the hardcore ones were loud and vaguely agreeable.
posted by Sara C. at 8:36 PM on May 23


It didn't do well in theaters, agreed. I should have specified that I was arguing in the context of residual aftermarket income. Rentals, cable TV, long tail, etc. Opening day box office numbers are scores from an entirely different game.
posted by ceribus peribus at 8:39 PM on May 23


Note: I wasn't implying that the nominations were a measure of inherent worth, merely that the exposure provided by the Oscars was the only thing that prevented the movie from being a net loss.
posted by murphy slaw at 8:39 PM on May 23


Oh man, I would love to take that class, Ambrosia. Musicals are such odd creations and especially the ones we consider classics, and I've watched so many of the damn things.
posted by emjaybee at 8:52 PM on May 23


I also think it's worth discussing that the same year brought us Forest Gump, Shawshank, and Pulp Fiction (and I think likely a couple others, too). What was going on that year?

1977 was also a notable, or memorable, year in movies for many.
posted by Wordshore at 9:29 PM on May 23


3:10 to Yuma, the recent one with the Kiwi or Aussie or whatever he is, that's objectively the best movie ever.

Maybe LA Confidential.

Master and Commander?

Gladiator, possibly.

I need to think about this.

Anyway, Tim Robbins was better in both The Player and Hudsucker. High brow, innit.
posted by notyou at 9:35 PM on May 23


And after having IMDBed, Hudsucker was also 1994?

Obviously people imagine they are voting for THAT Robbins vehicle when they vote for Shawshank.
posted by notyou at 9:41 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I read somewhere, and I can't find it now, that the director was dead seat against the final "they meet on the beach" scene, but the studio wanted a feel-good ending. The director wanted it to be ambiguous whether they actually met up or not.

Watch it again. The voice-over monologue delivered by Tim Robbins is during his trip down to find Morgan Freeman. He's saying blah blah blah 'I hope I can find Red, I hope the ocean is as blue as it is in my dreams, blah blah, I hope,' which is the last line of the film: I hope. While what you're seeing on-screen is him finding Red, seeing the ocean super crazy blue, etc. The visual is a depiction of his hope, with hope being the operative thematic gist of the film. The ending isn't Tim Robbins meets Morgan Freeman on a beach-- the ending is Tim Robbins gets on a bus to the Mexican border because it's important always to hope.

That Darabont managed to keep the ending he wanted while making the producers think he gave them the ending they wanted is a stroke of genius.
posted by shakespeherian at 9:43 PM on May 23 [13 favorites]


Everybody's happy. The middlebrow get their happy ending, so long as they don't delve too deep, and the artiste auteurs get their ambiguity, provided they do.

No wonder it's a winner.
posted by notyou at 9:50 PM on May 23


I think I'd just started my reading of Stephen King books when the guide for the London Film Festival for that year came out; I don't know why else I would have picked to see The Shawshank Redemption as one of my films to see. I hadn't read the short story, so went in fresh.

I found it to be an immensely satisfying film. Extremely satisfying, even, the sort that methodically builds to a conclusion that means you leave the theatre feeling good about not just yourself, but the world, while not feeling saccharine. I don't like ranking things, so I have no idea about Best Film Ever status, but I think it's a film with few flaws, tells a strong story well, and like some of the other most iconic movies in history (Psycho, Casablanca, Citizen Kane), includes a bit of a twist ending that actually works perfectly for the film, rather than being a cheat or there for shock only or doesn't make any sense.

It meant at the next year's Oscars, being too young to have seen Pulp Fiction, I had the pleasure of rooting for a film that many people hadn't heard of but I knew and loved, and another powerful attraction for the film was that people felt they had discovered this hidden gem, which means people often treasured it and felt they could tell people about this awesome film they discovered that most people hadn't heard of.

It has few strong detractors and a number of people who remember it very fondly, and that latter number has expanded much more than the former.

I've been wanting a place to discuss TV and movies online, because these are things I care about and some of my usual hangouts for such things have disappeared or changed tenor so as to be not helpful. But one thing that seems inescapable, as evidenced by any artistic thread on MetaFilter and why I haven't gone into FanFare, is there is always a number of people who want you to know that not only do they not feel how you feel about something, but that their opinion is FACT and to disagree isn't to be different, but to be WRONG. It's obnoxious and off-putting, and dismissing The Shawshank Redemption as/for being middlebrow and popular just because the wrong people like it is part and parcel of that.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:00 PM on May 23 [22 favorites]


Seriously, it's known for being that movie every white dude has seen a thousand times. [...] It's that movie the average boring person flipping the channels will always stop on.

Either you didn't read anyone else's comments before you typed this, or you did and just wanted to get a dig in, to show that you consider the other commenters to be average and boring. Not cool either way.

(Why the "white" qualifier? I know plenty of POC who love Shawshank. What the hell does the viewer's race have to do with anything?)
posted by Toothless Willy at 10:05 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


I actively avoided seeing The Shawshank redemption for years, despite the protestations from my friends that it was a great movie and that I had to see it because I thought, from the previews I'd seen, that it was this dark, depressing prison movie and I just wasn't wanting to endure such a thing. Finally, I saw the thing. It was great. I think that going in with the expectation that it was this dark, depressing, horrible prison movie significantly enhanced the experience.

I still haven't ever seen Schindler's List by a similar line of reasoning.
posted by smcameron at 10:07 PM on May 23 [3 favorites]


So it's not a dark depressing prison movie you say?
posted by bleep at 10:09 PM on May 23


Cable channels don't care whether you are an interesting person. They just want people to watch the stuff they air and not change the channel when the commercials come on. They're aiming for the maximum number of people, period. So they choose things that appeal to a mass audience. That's the reason Shawshank has made so much money -- it appeals to a mainstream audience. Not a niche audience, not a particular demographic. It's universally appealing. And because it's universally appealing in an "Oh, I love this movie!" kind of way, that makes it especially attractive. People LOVE Shawshank.

I used the term "white" because when I was at a liberal artsy film school full of white boys in the late 90s, every single goddamn one of them loved Shawshank and ranked it among their favorite movies. It kind of is a "white dude" movie. And there's nothing wrong with it. But "Do The Right Thing" it ain't. To name a movie that, while arguably great, is associated with a particular demographic that makes it less attractive to cable networks.

Shawshank is a movie we can all agree on, in a way that most other great films of that era really aren't.

If you think that's insulting, that says more about your particular hangups than it does about The Shawshank Redemption.
posted by Sara C. at 10:14 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


But "Do The Right Thing" it ain't. To name a movie that, while arguably great, is associated with a particular demographic that makes it less attractive to cable networks.

Film students?
posted by shakespeherian at 10:35 PM on May 23 [10 favorites]


That Cyd Charisse modern dance number is goddamn interminable.

Does the movie continue after that? I always end up shutting it off.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 10:41 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I think the thing about Shawshank is that it is overall inoffensive, was clearly cheap for syndication based on the number of venues that carried it, and ultimately is 'good enough' such that few people are viscerally motivated to turn it off when it comes on. This was the tortoise from the tortoise and the hair.
posted by Nanukthedog at 10:56 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


To see the protagonist quietly endure, doggedly persist, and ultimately triumph over a span of decades is a story arc that Hollywood's fast-moving scripts rarely contend with.

I guess it's poetic justice that a movie with this kind of story arc became a sleeper hit itself.
posted by WalkingAround at 11:14 PM on May 23 [5 favorites]


Watch it again. The voice-over monologue delivered by Tim Robbins is during his trip down to find Morgan Freeman. He's saying blah blah blah 'I hope I can find Red, I hope the ocean is as blue as it is in my dreams, blah blah, I hope,' which is the last line of the film: I hope.

Um: you've totally got Robbins and Freeman swapped there. Watch it again :)

(And joseph conrad said everything for me above already. Awfully sniffy in here today. This thread was doomed the moment that second threadshitty comment landed.)
posted by We had a deal, Kyle at 11:16 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


Sara C.: "I used the term "white" because when I was at a liberal artsy film school full of white boys in the late 90s, every single goddamn one of them loved Shawshank and ranked it among their favorite movies."

World's most unpretentious artsy film school. Or maybe it was a simpler time back in the 90s.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:28 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


Tell Me No Lies: "That Cyd Charisse modern dance number is goddamn interminable.

Does the movie continue after that? I always end up shutting it off
"

The part with Cyd Charisse lasts what, two minutes? And I don't care what you think about modern dance, it's still Gene Kelly in motion, which should be good enough for anyone.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 11:31 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


As far as a mainstream film that succeeds technically and with broad appeal, Back to the Future is a better candidate IMO. I think Shawshank's success despite poor box office returns is an early and notable example how the business of making a profit on a movie investment has changed in the last couple decades. It's very successful in doing what it sets out to do as a film on an emotional level, but I agree that it's not exactly the pinnacle of filmmaking. I also don't think it tries to work on a higher level and is mostly appealing for its heroic arc. And honestly Stephen King is a great storyteller at his best, but works within a best seller model and isn't trying to be too sublime. Then again, what Kubrick did with The Shining reached that level, but that wasn't going to happen without someone like Kubrick.
posted by krinklyfig at 11:32 PM on May 23


1977 was also a notable, or memorable, year in movies . . .

The Many Adventures of Winnie the Poo, The Rescuers, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, Airport '77, Rollercoaster, For the Love of Benji, and Looking for Mr Goodbar.

It's pretty damn hard to beat a lineup like that . . .
posted by flug at 11:33 PM on May 23 [2 favorites]


> "That Cyd Charisse modern dance number is goddamn interminable.

I think the interminable modern dance part to which we refer, is the Broadway Rhythm ballet which is a fucking nested dream within a dream/pitch (for a movie within a movie), all just scrambling for the same money An American in Paris made, but whatever. The Green Lady dance number nobody don't like. The Broadway Rhythm (original film) sequence (recall, please, that this is Don Lockwood's "pitch" for the musicalization of the Cav pic.... yikes, clunk...) must be over 10 minutes...

Anyway, Shawshank is actually just awesome, solid, timeless and beautiful. I can't go on and on picking THAT apart, so by all means, let's keep rippin' on SitR. :P
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 11:47 PM on May 23 [1 favorite]


I'm having a hard time imagining a "high brow" movie watching existence. It seems similar to that stoned and nauseous hour of purgatory post root canal.
posted by Brocktoon at 11:57 PM on May 23 [8 favorites]


"Wow, people here are bizarrely critical. Why don't y'all post your favorite movies so we can all shit on them?"
posted by archagon

See my username and go for it. I would probably put Solyaris at No.2, so trash that too, if you want.
posted by marienbad at 12:32 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


So much what Brocktoon just said.
posted by holybagel at 12:41 AM on May 24


The hotdog with mustard in Miller's Crossing is a nod to the coffee with cream in Out of the Past.

Shawshank is a gem; both the novella and the film adaptation.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:09 AM on May 24


Fuck highbrow. It's a goddam satisfying movie. When the warden opens up the shoebox and there's the prisoner boots there instead of his spit-shined wingtips? Oh hell yeah!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 1:23 AM on May 24 [11 favorites]


So it's not a dark depressing prison movie you say?

Nah, that would be this film. Or this film.

The novella reminds me of Conrad's Secret Sharer, which no film maker, to my knowledge, has made a decent adaptation.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:25 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Also props to Runaway Train.
posted by Pudhoho at 1:28 AM on May 24


Oh Brooks' story! Always gets me -- "The world went and got itself in a big damn hurry."

The theme that accompanies that part is simple and just devastating. You might also know it as "the song Thomas Newman pretty much reused for American Beauty" or "the sad piano music that House ripped off".
posted by dephlogisticated at 1:40 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Well, it is yet another movie that presents homosexuality as a deviancy or simply something deviants take part in.

Although, I don't think that makes it the worst movie ever because there is a big difference between simply pointing out failings and actually trying to engage with it.
posted by P.o.B. at 1:50 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


What kills me is the original version of SSR fucking ENDED with Red on the bus, "I hope to see my friend Andy when I get there."

ROLL CREDITS

THAT would have been a transcendent ending. That would have been poetry. That was the original ending.

But no, some weepy, namby-pamby producer wanted to actually have Andy sanding a fucking boat on the beach as Red walks up, and they have that bromantic eye-contact moment.

What a fucking cop-out. What a wussy little "I need emotional closure" bit of muscle to flex, producer.

We could have had the unbowed hero striding off into the sunset in search if an unknown future of his own choice.

But no, we had to get served the fucking kumbaya catharsis. The behind the scenes on the DVD makes the culprit explicit.

But what an insipid choice of ending.

Any time a movie goes to shit in act 3, I always assume it's some fucking producer w/ enough juice to force their stamp on a movie, but not enough sense to decline to.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 2:02 AM on May 24 [4 favorites]


I'm presuming the cable friendly cut of the film doesn't contain the grotesque (but no more grotesque than these things ever are) prison rape cliche subplot. Which, like P.o.B., I find pointless and unedifying.
posted by ambrosen at 3:10 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I've never seen a cut that didn't have it, though I haven't stopped to watch it on cable as often as I have Rocky.
posted by Drinky Die at 4:26 AM on May 24


Pulp Fiction is quite possibly my favorite movie, and I think Shawshank is one of the most entertaining movie evah. That is all.
posted by sfts2 at 4:27 AM on May 24


if you're referring to this scene , the music is from Mozart's Marriage of Figaro

Oops. I shouldn't have been too lazy to fact-check that. I know diddly about opera.

you could say I don't know my arias from my elbow
posted by billiebee at 4:33 AM on May 24 [5 favorites]


I own both Shawshank and Dersu Uzala on DVD and thoroughly enjoy them both. I think I'm going to go put them together on my shelf when I get home so I can listen for the distant sound of heads popping.
posted by 1adam12 at 5:03 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Thanks for disrupting my weekend movie line-up.
posted by Pudhoho at 5:17 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


The thing about imdb ratings is that no one is required to go to the imdb page of a film and rate it. People tend to rate a film when they feel strongly about it. Take a look at the distribution of the ratings. 57% of those who gave it a rating gave it ten stars. The median rating is A TEN. Scroll down a bit and you see that the average rating given by the top thousand raters, who are presumably voters whose votes are more evenly distributed along the spectrum of their likes and dislikes, is 8.3. How many of you who have expressed here that you don't think the film is all that great have actually bothered to go to imdb and express your opinion? Few, I'd assume, because why would you? It's an ok film but I don't think it's a ten by a long shot, and I haven't bothered to rate it.

I remember reading an article some years back which brought up this point about how online ratings are skewed. The author looked at an online rating of an album by... Jason Mraz? Not sure who the artist was but anyway the average score was nine-something and the written reviews were gushing. The author then asked a random sampling of university undergraduates to listen to the music and rate it, and predictably the average rating was much lower. A high rating at imdb just means that the people that bothered to rate the film tended to be people who liked the film.
posted by tractorfeed at 5:34 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Well, it is yet another movie that presents homosexuality as a deviancy or simply something deviants take part in.
I completely feel where you're coming from, P.o.B., but I do appreciate the line of dialogue which explicitly repositions them not as homosexuals but as indiscriminate rapists.

Is it a 'get out of problematic free' card? No, but it's not exactly a cover-your-ass piece of business that would have been mandated in 1994.
posted by whittaker at 6:08 AM on May 24 [7 favorites]


Movie sucked. It had no speeding car crash scenes. No zombies and no vampires.
posted by notreally at 6:33 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


Shawshank was okay, but certainly not one of my favorites and not a film I ever wanted to see more than one time. When it came out, I was still all hopped up on "The Player" and "The Hudsucker Proxy" and had bit of a crush on Tim Robbins. What I mostly remember about "The Shawshank Redemption" was that it was about halfway through that movie that I realized I didn't have a crush on Tim Robbins anymore. Sad, but true.
posted by thivaia at 6:35 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


That is a good point, whittaker.

As far as having a favorite movie, I don't quite understand how people figure that out. My number one spot often changes, and currently it's Antonioni's Blow Up.
posted by P.o.B. at 6:35 AM on May 24


To continue on the Singin' in the Rain derail, the movie is deliciously ironic in that Debbie Reynolds's singing voice is, in fact, dubbed by an uncredited singer named Betty Noyes.
posted by archagon at 7:07 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I was a film student working in a movie theater when The Shawshank Redemption came out. Even before cable syndication, I watched this film a lot; I think I watched it 4 or 5 times from start to finish, and also "usher style", where you go into each theater periodically to make sure people weren't being disruptive/smoking/whatever, so you wind up watching randomly distributed snippets. As I recall it had a pretty good initial run, and then came back after Oscar nominations, so I saw quite a lot of this film on the big screen over an extended period. It still sucks me in when I come across it on TV.

It is just a solid, very well-crafted film; it's well-written, well-acted, well-directed, well-scored, beautifully designed; it's a period piece but not in a Merchant Ivory kind of way, beautifully shot, and beautifully scored. It's not flashy or game-changing filmmaking, but it's good filmmaking. I've always liked the use of Red's parole hearings as a bracketing device for the major episodes of the story, quietly reinforcing that sense of drab prison routine over the course of decades. There were other uses of repetition that function similarly and play on your expectations. There was another film student working at the theater and it's kind of silly, but once we noticed it one of our favorite little touches is in an early aerial shot that flies sideways across the prison yard. A flagpole sweeps across the foreground, and they added in the sound of the flags flapping in the wind in a stereo pan from one side to the other. Just a nice bit of sound design that works particularly well on the big screen.

Unrelated to the film: My theater was in a suburb of Rochester, NY, and it was always weird when patrons would come in asking for tickets to The Shawcross Redemption.
posted by usonian at 7:08 AM on May 24 [9 favorites]


Well, it did get helped with all those times it got played on basic cable in the 90s.

The 90's? I have news for you...It's still on at least once practically every week somewhere on the cable dial. Hell, TNT and AMC seem to be locked in a death struggle to see who can air it the most.

As for the movie itself...There has always been one problem I have that no one has ever satisfactorily answered for me...How the hell does Andy manage to get himself so impeccably cleaned up and no longer smelling of having crawled through a sewage pipe? We see him escape, and the next we see of him, he's strolling into the bank, dressed in the suit and looking fresh and clean. Even the suit is without creases (from having been folded into the little plastic bag). Are we to simply assume he happened across an abandoned house somewhere with hot water and soap and a steam iron? And how'd he get to town, this guy in a nice suit? Hitchhike?

Does the King story go into where he must have hidden and cleaned up? It's such an implausible, unexplained hole in an otherwise well-crafted little film.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:17 AM on May 24


But this is the wrong argument to make about Shawshank. It didn't do big money in theaters - it only broke even after it got seven oscar nominations.

It also stands as a good refutation to the obsession the entertainment press has with box office figures. These days if something opens at #2 in the weekend box office, it is written off as a failure by the following Wednesday and careers are ended. Shawshank opened at 13th in the box office and barely edged into the top 10 at any point. The big box office successes in that stretch: Terminal Velocity, Timecop, The River Wild, The Specialist, Only You, Jason's Lyric... I am sure all of these would have been just as beloved if they were on cable all the time.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:31 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


How the hell does Andy manage to get himself so impeccably cleaned up and no longer smelling of having crawled through a sewage pipe?

The picture on the poster is not of Andy raising his hands up unto Heaven to thank the Lord for delivering him from bondage, it's of Andy taking a shower in the rain. He brought soap with him. And if you pack a suit well into a plastic bag, it will emerge close enough to wrinkle-free that a little shaking-out will render it sufficient for visiting a few banks.
posted by Etrigan at 7:35 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


I am sure all of these would have been just as beloved if they were on cable all the time.

You're putting the cart before the horse, I think. No one at Warner Bros. or at TNT or anywhere else has ever had some kind of agenda to push this movie as opposed to any other. It's on cable all the damn time because people will watch it, not the other way around. Last year it aired (slightly) less than Mrs. Doubtfire, and no one is lining up to tour the country club where Robin Williams threw fruit at Pierce Brosnan.
posted by Etrigan at 7:38 AM on May 24 [6 favorites]


Come to think of it, I felt the same way many of you did about Shawshank when I first saw Casablanca. Aside from the witty quotes that everyone knows, it came off as a fun, well-crafted, well-filmed, but kind of ordinary drama/romance. Point being, a film doesn't have to be some sort of weird auteur piece to truly be great.
posted by archagon at 7:41 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


So I guess that I am going to have to finally watch this movie. I've avoided it for years just out of pure contrariness due to the IMDB rating. If nothing else, it's on Ebert's Great Movie list and I've committed to watching all of them within the next few years (I'm at 42% right now)

I actually just re-watched Singin' in the Rain recently and wasn't really blown away by it this time. I love Kelly and his style of dancing but a lot of the story was so nasty and kind of misogynistic toward the Jean Hagen character that most of the comedy was lost on me.
posted by octothorpe at 7:58 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Well, it is yet another movie that presents homosexuality as a deviancy or simply something deviants take part in.

"I don't suppose there's any point in telling them I'm not a homosexual."

"Neither are they. You have to be human first."
posted by mightygodking at 8:43 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


It's not really a point we need to belabor over. But a character does use the term "bull queers" as a way to intimidate the new inmates when Andy first enters the prison. Apparently that wasn't a reference to The Sisters. Then again we are talking about a movie that uses repeated rapings of man who allegedly killed his wife over an affair as a major plot point. It really isn't a movie that presents sexuality in a positive light, but that's Hollywood for you.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:36 AM on May 24


My guess is that, in a way that is almost unheard of in modern film, the movie offers transcendent hope against methodical despair

I went to bed after I wrote my last comment, but I almost observed that, along with everything else that it is, Shawshank is a death and rebirth story. Pretty much play by play Andy follows Campbell's journey of the Hero/Dying God right down to receiving the power "to grant a boon" at the end. It's archetypal; no wonder people love it.
posted by octobersurprise at 9:40 AM on May 24 [3 favorites]


Then again we are talking about a movie that uses repeated rapings of man who allegedly killed his wife over an affair as a major plot point. It really isn't a movie that presents sexuality in a positive light, but that's Hollywood for you.

And so completely unlike what happens in prisons ordinarily.

I mean you're not wrong about Hollywood and sex, but this is a derail about situational homosexuality and rape as power in prisons being mistaken for some kind of homophobic commentary, a point of view explicitly rebutted in the film itself. So maybe dropping it would be good.
posted by gadge emeritus at 10:05 AM on May 24 [8 favorites]


Although you've clearly missed what I've said, let's all agree to drop it and get back to discussing Singing in the Rain, shall we?
posted by P.o.B. at 10:12 AM on May 24


It also stands as a good refutation to the obsession the entertainment press has with box office figures.

The entertainment press is obsessed with box office figures because the entertainment industry runs on money just like any other industry. Most of the important entertainment industry publications (Variety, The Hollywood Reporter, Deadline) are written with entertainment business exec types in mind. And thus the absolute most important question on Monday morning is box office. Because that's the whole point, for those guys.

You get to decide whether a movie is good. They get to decide whether a movie was worth making. They're two entirely different questions, in Hollywood at least.
posted by Sara C. at 10:18 AM on May 24 [1 favorite]


belarius: "It's well shot, but few of those shots are likely to show up in a film class on composition."

I do have a book that mentions it for an example of symbolic use of colour.


The description on the Shawshank Trail refers to it as a "blockbuster movie."
posted by RobotHero at 11:03 AM on May 24


I have nothing bad to say about Singing in the Rain, but it would be improved if at least a couple of characters were eaten by talking vegetables.

,..watch em drop!
Little shop of horrors!
No! Oh Oh No...
posted by justsomebodythatyouusedtoknow at 11:57 AM on May 24


Last year it aired (slightly) less than Mrs. Doubtfire, and no one is lining up to tour the country club where Robin Williams threw fruit at Pierce Brosnan.

I mean, I wouldn't go out of my way to visit that pool, but if I was in the neighborhood.....who can resist a run-by fruiting reenactment? It would kill on tumblr and instagram.
posted by dogwalker at 12:03 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


By the way (he says with a mischievous grin) was the titular redemption Andy's or Red's?
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 12:39 PM on May 24


I guess we can toss The Shawshank Redemption into the pile of topics that turns most of Metafilter into the worst kind of pretentious culture-bullies on the internet, along with such faux pas as shorts on adult men, fedora hats on anyone, and the merits of Billy Joel as an artist.

Until now I didn't realize that my genuine and heartfelt love of Shawshank said something both about my decidedly low-brow and uncultured sensibilities and my whiteness!

From now on I will definitely protect my cultural capital within my social circle by hedging any mention of Shawshank with overtures to its averageness before comparing it to any number of arthouse films that are better because so few people like them.

Seriously though...it is quite objectively a very good movie.
posted by jnnla at 12:46 PM on May 24 [9 favorites]


By the way (he says with a mischievous grin) was the titular redemption Andy's or Red's?

It was Shawshank's. Redeemed from Warden Norton's tyranny.
posted by Etrigan at 12:48 PM on May 24


I thought it was Shawshank's; not because the Warden went, but because Andy gave the inmates hope.
posted by billiebee at 1:10 PM on May 24


Six of one... Andy freed them from the Warden not just by getting rid of him (and the particularly sadistic and murderous guard) but by giving them hope. Even if he hadn't toppled the corrupt power structure (which, let's face it, probably got replaced by someone just as bad), he had played the music and built the library and much more.
posted by Etrigan at 1:58 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


I have to say Hudsucker was great. I like it more than Shawshank, and I HEART Shawshank.
You know...for kids!
posted by QueerAngel28 at 2:07 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


It probably doesn't address sexuality very well, but the movie wants to completely destroy Andy before building him back up, and it insists that rape is almost guaranteed to do that. If anything, it stomps all over the casual "don't drop the soap hur dur" mentality of prison rape.
posted by Brocktoon at 2:19 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


Something that has always bugged me about Shawshank is at the end when omniscient Morgan Freeman voiceover says "How often do you look at a mans shoes?" as though it is supposed to reference something that happened earlier in the movie or otherwise be a clever play on something someone else said. I mean, it makes sense that if Andy was trying to put himself out there as a man who is closing out bank accounts with a shitpile of money to not be wearing worn out prison shoes. But that is never actually directly addressed in the movie. Is it just something where the movie expects the audience to make that connection themselves, or is there something I always manage to miss that references shoes?
posted by mediocre at 2:51 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


It's a reference to when Andy swaps his shoes out for Norton's the night of his escape. He needs nice shoes to match his suit, so he steals the warden's. Had someone noticed him walking back to his cell wearing Norton's shoes, he might not have pulled it off.

But, yeah, if the gimmick is sort of "no one notices the shoes you're wearing because they assume if you're wearing a suit/wearing prison garb you'll be wearing the shoes that match," then he could have just as brazenly pulled off the prison shoes with his suit after his escape rather than risking his escape by stealing Norton's shoes.

So, that's what the reference is to, but I didn't find that line about shoes all that satisfying either, really.
posted by MoonOrb at 2:59 PM on May 24


Why don't y'all post your favorite movies so we can all shit on them?

Well, it's either Y Tu Mamá También or The Room so I guess I'll say Southland Tales?
posted by davidjmcgee at 3:20 PM on May 24


I guess we can toss The Shawshank Redemption into the pile of topics that turns most of Metafilter into the worst kind of pretentious culture-bullies on the internet, along with such faux pas as shorts on adult men, fedora hats on anyone, and the merits of Billy Joel as an artist.

I wouldn't let it worry you. There's nothing as middlebrow as a fear of seeming middlebrow. I like Shawshank. It's not above criticism, but I still like it. (My favorite part is the scene on the roof when the guard says "Someone's about to have hisself an accident!" and the way that line is spoken again towards the end by another inmate retelling the story, suggesting that Andy's legend will only grow.) And my favorite movie is probably The Wizard Of Oz.

OTOH, I remain skeptical of fedoras; I think a man of a certain age should try to avoid shorts; and my opinion of Mr. Joel is here.
posted by octobersurprise at 3:30 PM on May 24 [5 favorites]


Now I'm compelled, for some reason, to speculate on what Freudian criticism of this film would look like. The masochistic fantasy of wrongful punishment, the rapists as manifestations of repressed homoxesual desire. The long crawl to rebirth, through a cloacal tunnel, reached by a shaft which is protected and concealed by an erotic picture of a woman. Maybe have to pull in some Jung for the Magical Negro parts.
posted by thelonius at 7:26 PM on May 24 [2 favorites]


From time to time I enjoy hearing from the people who explain why they think something popular isn't really that good, if they are making some solid points. But I really love hearing from the people who make the case that something "middlebrow" is really better and more interesting than many people realize. They might be equally snobbish, but the "Ugh. Really?" snobs eventually grate on me, while the "Hey, check this moment out!" snobs always get me excited about new ways of seeing things.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 9:39 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


"Why don't y'all post your favorite movies so we can all shit on them?"

The President's Analyst.

I like Shawshank. I think it is an extremely well-crafted movie that deserves
popularity. That it is *so* popular is somewhat puzzling to me, but that might be
just me.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

I think Billy Joel weeps uncontrollably when he considers my opinion of him as being
a Broadway show-tune writer and performer, and not in any way shape or form rock and
roll. I picture him barely able to lethargically stir himself from his couch and carry his bags and bags of money to the bank.

I wish we all lived in a world where fedora-wearing or not-wearing were personal
choices, and the idea that these choices could be perceived as cultural-markers
would be interpreted as ludicrous, and possibly demented.

I don't read Plato in the original Greek, Russian writers in Russian, or 50 Shades
in the original (I assume) Klingon. My brow aspires to high, but lives in the middle.
posted by Chitownfats at 11:36 PM on May 24 [1 favorite]


marienbad: " I would probably put Solyaris at No.2, so trash that too, if you want."

Nah, I like George Clooney just fine.
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 1:50 AM on May 25 [4 favorites]


shorts on adult men

I feel sad for you if you live somewhere where this is not simply a practical choice for half the year.

fedora hats on anyone

OK if you are J. Robert Oppenheimer, a hard one to pull off otherwise.

the merits of Billy Joel as an artist

No opinion there.

Also Dr Strangelove for general purposes, or The Belly Of An Architect if we are on a date.
posted by Dr Dracator at 5:54 AM on May 25


Shawshank Redemption is one of my favorite movies. I am a woman and do not fit the middle of the road stereotype others are positing. I do have some middlebrow tastes that I am no longer afraid to admit (the notebook makes me cry like a baby even on multiple viewings).

However, I was probably aggressively edgy in my tastes when I first saw the movie and STILL it was just so incredibly satisfying and entertaining in the best possible feel-good way, so I couldn't help but love it even then.

I do HATE Forrest Gump with a passion and was actually mad when it got an oscar.
posted by rainydayfilms at 6:18 AM on May 25


I a good friend who always wears a fedora but he's in his mid-fifties and 6'3" and close to 300 lbs so it works.
posted by octothorpe at 7:23 AM on May 25


I do HATE Forrest Gump with a passion and was actually mad when it got an oscar.

The worst thing about Forrest Gump was how virtually every *counterculture* figure from the movie, in its portrayal of the 1960s, was a despicable jerk or a shallow caricature. That is, the anti-war protestor who stole Gump's girl (and of course beat her), the Black Panther party members… only Forrest Gump was *good*, and he had played by the rules, gone to 'Nam, etc.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 7:27 AM on May 25


To be fair, the authority figures (e.g., the principal Mama Gump fucks to get Forrest into school, Lt. Dan) aren't presented too much better, as I recall. It's really just Forrest, Bubba and Mama who aren't despicable.
posted by Etrigan at 7:39 AM on May 25


Everything is subjective.
posted by Wordshore at 8:16 AM on May 25 [1 favorite]


I do HATE Forrest Gump with a passion

I've never read the book, but the movie fails for me because Gump's too much of a symbol, a gimmick. It's a clever idea, but it never becomes anything more than a clever idea. The movie wants us to take Forrest seriously while at the same time insisting that he's just some kind of historical clown. So it's easy to gape at Forrest but hard to care about him. Shawshank, otoh, does a harder thing: it makes Andy both a metaphor and (imo) a believably real person.
posted by octobersurprise at 8:54 AM on May 25


I've never read the book [Forrest Gump]...

You're better off. It's all from Forrest's POV, which can get pretty annoying.
posted by Etrigan at 9:57 AM on May 25


I was 17 when TSSR came out and couldn't wait to go see it. I dragged my boyfriend at the time and couldn't believe more people didn't go see it. I love watching it even now, but it was great seeing it on the big screen.

(And I did not remember that the original ending was different, Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, but I blame that on my terrible memory and having seen it about 200 times on cable since then)
posted by getawaysticks at 10:59 AM on May 25


It's really just Forrest, Bubba and Mama who aren't despicable.

Yeah, it's kind of a Law & Order logic universe, where ONLY our specific protagonists are good, and literally every other person is wrong/evil/not to be trusted.
posted by Sara C. at 11:03 AM on May 25


(And I did not remember that the original ending was different, Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey, but I blame that on my terrible memory and having seen it about 200 times on cable since then)

The original ending as-filmed ended on the bus.

But it was the whiney, "I want an explicit kumbaya happy-smiley ending" producer that forced the whole crew to load up and go to Mexico for the as-released ending.

What a sack-of-shit, tone-deaf move to make. No wonder she deals with the money. She's obviously got zero creativity or aesthetic/dramatic sense.

Stick to finance, ma'am. Stick to the filthy lucre and leave the actual movie-making to people better suited to the task.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 11:34 AM on May 25


It's not like that was the first time that a movie executive mandated a happy ending. There's a long history of that in Hollywood going back to the silent era.
posted by octothorpe at 11:52 AM on May 25


Also, there's a strong chance that it tested better that way, or that the studio had a long history of movies with clearcut happy endings doing better than movies with ambiguous endings.
posted by Sara C. at 11:56 AM on May 25


You know, I like a bleak realistic ending as much as the next person. I have a low twee-threshold and I don't like it when everything is wrapped up in a neat little package at the end of a film. But for this one, fuck it. I don't care if the ending isn't "real" and it's just Red's hopeful imaginings. I don't care if some producer had "zero creativity" and forced a happy ending. I love these characters, like really love them (due to two stellar performances) and dammit I want them to meet on the beach and live happily ever after. Fuck creativity. Sometimes I want to breathe a sigh of relief at the end and not have to care if it scores cool points in film class.
posted by billiebee at 11:57 AM on May 25 [7 favorites]


it's kind of a Law & Order logic universe, where ONLY our specific protagonists are good, and literally every other person is wrong/evil/not to be trusted.

Gump is a weird kind of reverse Candide where every catastrophe and every moral outrage the naïf encounters only serves to prove that all really is for the best in this the best of all possible worlds.
posted by octobersurprise at 12:01 PM on May 25 [4 favorites]


I couldn't stand this movie and I still don't really know why. It's an entertaining little romp but somehow just annoyed the shit out of me. I love Adam Sandler and Robert Bresson so I am not sure what brow I am.

But damn it was just so satisfied with itself. Like I find something so pernicious about that longsuffering hero finally gets his sweet revenge! type storyline. I just hate revenge stories, I really do. They feel so morally twisted to me. That's the true Freudian angle, I think.
posted by stoneandstar at 6:33 PM on May 25 [1 favorite]


You're better off. It's all from Forrest's POV, which can get pretty annoying.

I disagree, not because it is a good book (it's not, but it's short so you don't have to put up with it for very long), but because it was aboslutely fascinating to me how they got THAT movie from that book. SPOILERS For goodness sake, they dropped the talking monkey and that was like half the book, along with other just insane stuff.
posted by LizBoBiz at 10:41 AM on May 26


But damn it was just so satisfied with itself.

I think this has something to do with why I categorize it as a "white boy" movie. It seems to encourage the audience to be satisfied with itself, in a sort of entitled "born on second base think you hit a triple" kind of way. YAY WE DID IT!!! When all we really just did is lie on the couch and stare at basic cable all afternoon.
posted by Sara C. at 12:42 PM on May 26 [1 favorite]


But again I think it's a completely fine film, and there's nothing wrong with enjoying it. I have seen it and enjoyed it on many occasions, and I even like the shmaltzy ending. This movie gets me every time, and I always feel better after watching it.
posted by Sara C. at 12:43 PM on May 26


SPOILERS For goodness sake, they dropped the talking monkey

Wait what
posted by Ray Walston, Luck Dragon at 8:52 PM on May 26 [2 favorites]


Plus, Forrest really likes to go to pound town.
posted by planetesimal at 9:37 PM on May 26


Is that a euphemism for masturbation?
posted by glasseyes at 10:12 AM on May 27


How many of you who have expressed here that you don't think the film is all that great have actually bothered to go to imdb and express your opinion?

Pretty sure I gave it a one.

And people crying because others crap on their favorite movie need to get thicker skins. Why on earth anyone gives a shit that others have different taste than they do is beyond me. Seriously, who cares?!
posted by dobbs at 10:50 AM on May 27


On the other hand, why do you care so much about whether other people like it?
posted by Etrigan at 11:02 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Yes, but crapping all over anyone's favorite anything is rather widely regarded as asshole behavior. One solution is for people to get thicker skins; my preferred alternative is for people not to go out of their way to act like assholes.
posted by MoonOrb at 11:30 AM on May 27 [5 favorites]


Only one is under your control.
posted by ChurchHatesTucker at 11:47 AM on May 27 [1 favorite]


"born on second base think you hit a triple"

K I am super confused about baseball now.
posted by shakespeherian at 12:04 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


True! And if I exercise that control to avoid acting like an asshole, fewer people need to worry about getting thicker skin. It's a pretty high leverage choice to make, since there are many times that one person's choice to act like an asshole can affect a disproportionate number of people. Whereas, each person individually needs to worry about getting a thicker skin. So while I can only control my reaction to other people and not their behavior, I hope I can also impress upon them the collective benefit that can be had by choosing not to act like an asshole. Of course, it could be wasted effort on my part; assholism is by definition a choice to elevate your own interests unreasonably above those of other people, so I understand that my message probably will fall on deaf ears for those who are really committed to assholism.
posted by MoonOrb at 12:05 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


This thread has really given me a chance to reconsider the movie. Yeah, I think the "Hallmark Greeting Cards Movie-of-the-Week" ending cheapened and blunted what was otherwise a pretty great movie about hope & redemption. Still... Triumph of the abused, persistent underdog.

OTOH, Andy Dufresne got drunk and murdered his wife & her lover in cold blood.Yeah, he claims he's innocent. Everybody behind bars claims they're innocent. But the State of Maine did indeed find two dead bodies before they dragged Andy before the Court.

Now, personally I don't believe in the "Lock em up & lose the key" attitude. I don't support the Prison-Industrial Complex we live with. I espouse the idea of reform & redemption, if only because most prisoners, even the violent, raging, broken psychos spending years in solitary, will some day be released onto the streets where we live. I would prefer more programs & fewer holes for those we lock up, and maybe not locking up ppl for non-violent drug offenses.

And yeah, statistics show that most men (and ya, it's mostly men) who commit murders like this don't go on to commit others, so we're not dealing with some hardened gang assassin. "Crime of passion" is not a get out of jail free card, but it is context.

And yet... Andy Dufresne went down for two murders because his wife cuckolded him, possibly publicly. Who knows what the neighbors were talking about in small-town Maine.

In the wake of Isla Vista, I find myself in an... Interesting headspace when considering the redemption of Andy Dufresne and why he killed.

Because if he did kill those two people (& I believe he did), sexual humiliation was high on his list of motives.

But he did look so happy sanding that boat on the beach at Zijuatanejo.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:06 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


Did you miss that whole bit where the new young inmate told the warden that his ex-cellmate confessed to the murders?
posted by billiebee at 12:28 PM on May 27 [4 favorites]


Apparently I did. Ok, back to "real good until llthe Kumbaya"
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 12:30 PM on May 27


... Really? You forgot that part? I figured you just were choosing not to believe the fairly improbable scenario painted by the kid.
posted by Etrigan at 12:43 PM on May 27


Improbable? How dare you! He's innocent. Innocent I say!
posted by billiebee at 1:03 PM on May 27


I'm with Etrigan. I found it to be a pretty obvious alternate reading that I'd never considered until now. I mean inmates always tell the truth, right?
posted by ODiV at 1:08 PM on May 27


Yep. Honest to Elvis, the whole kid episode dropped out of my mind like it wasn't there.

Still…

Apparently the novella is much more ambiguous re: what one prisoner heard another prisoner claim.

But even if we take the movie as a stand-alone, all we have is jailhouse rumor. Even if the rumor is as reported, was the other con telling the truth, or buffing his in-house reputation w an easy but of fluff?

I still see a cuckolded husband & two dead lovers, his wife among them.

If he is innocent, that's another stone on the "movie of the week" pile"

Guilty, and we have a morally complex tale of redemption and American notions of justice & retribution, ruined at the end by cheap sentiment and an unwillingness to exist in the state of hope the movie has been espousing all along.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 1:09 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


I think this has something to do with why I categorize it as a "white boy" movie. It seems to encourage the audience to be satisfied with itself, in a sort of entitled "born on second base think you hit a triple" kind of way. YAY WE DID IT!!! When all we really just did is lie on the couch and stare at basic cable all afternoon.

That describes pretty much every underdog movie ever made.

The difference here I think is the quality of the acting and direction. I find it hard (or would if I even tried) to remain separate from Andy and Red, and their success is my success. It's good friends getting their heart's desire, and me getting all teary over it.
posted by Tell Me No Lies at 9:55 PM on May 27 [1 favorite]


That describes pretty much every underdog movie ever made.

Moreover, it describes comedy—in the classic sense, but probably in the dick-joke sense as well—as a genre. As Frye remarks of comedy in Anatomy Of Criticism, " ... the final society reached by comedy is the one that the audience has recognized all along to be the proper and desirable state of affairs ..." and "Comedy usually moves toward a happy ending and the normal response of the audience to a happy ending is 'this should be' ..." It's the nature of traditional comedies, as opposed to satires or black comedies like, say, Brazil, to try to leave the audience satisfied with the outcome. That's why they are popular.

It's also why I don't think Shawshank's ending mars the movie as badly as some do. Today we're all suspicious of happy endings and we tend to regard ambiguity as more "adult," but Shawshank's resolution isn't inconsistent with it being a particular kind of comedy.

(I can imagine a different Shawshank, in darker tones, where Andy's guilt or innocence is never clear and his only victory after years of hard time and escape is his freedom and a hope that he might make it to Mexico. A more noir-ish movie. I don't think that one would be better or worse than the one we have, necessarily, any more than one musical key is superior to another.)
posted by octobersurprise at 6:50 AM on May 29 [1 favorite]


« Older This month, the US Public Health Service released ...  |  Eudora Welty at 23... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments