Sunday, August 28, 2011

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die: Updated Edition

So a really cool thing happened to me recently and it's all thanks to this blog, so I figured I'd better pop in and tell you all about it.

While doing my daily perusing of my e-mail inbox a couple of weeks ago, I noticed an e-mail from Eric Lowenhar, the Marketing Manager over at Barron's Educational Series. For the unaware, Barron's Educational Series is the publishing company that puts out the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" books and their numerous incarnations. Eric struck up a little e-mail conversation with me, one thing led to another and he was asking me how many followers this here blog had, as he was interested in sending me out a review copy of the latest edition, which hits stores next month.

Well apparently I had enough followers to warrant a review copy, because Eric and the very gracious people at Barron's sent me out a copy and it arrived today. Before I get into the actual book itself, I just want to send out a very appreciative "thank you" to Eric and all of the people at Barron's. It's pretty damn cool that they sent the book out to me, considering I'm just an Average Joe, writing about a subject that I love - film. To think that it wasn't even me who contacted them, but them who contacted me, is even more of a humbling experience and again I say "thank you" to those guys.

Now, let me tell you first and foremost, as appreciative as I am for the free book, I want to make it clear right now - I am not switching editions. I started doing this project with the 5th Edition of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, with Indiana Jones on the cover and I can assure you that I will finish this project working out of that same edition. It is very nice to have a nice, new crisp copy of the book though, as the copy that I've been working out of is starting to show some wear and tear. Flipping it open and closed for two years will do that to a book, and needless to say it's spine has seen better days.

The new book is nice and they left it alone, for the most part. Almost all of the pictures that appear within the first 900 or so pages, have pretty much stayed the same and that goes for the entries as well. I haven't studied the book carefully enough to spot all of the deletions yet, but one that I'm pretty much furious about is the exclusion of "Sideways", a film that long time readers of mine will know that I am VERY fond of and a film that took the top spot in my second TOP 20. It's even more infuriating when you notice that a movie like "Borat..." has still made the cut. Some of the additions, though, are intriguing and while I might not agree with every single one of them, you quickly realize that, to sell more copies, they have to include some of the heavier hitters from recent years. So, of course, you get things like "The King's Speech", "The Hurt Locker", "Inglorious Basterds" and "Black Swan". Here is a quick reference point for the interested, including some brief comments and links to my own reviews, of what has been added and deleted from the new edition:

IN
*Paranormal Activity - Ridiculous inclusion, in my opinion. It's good for what it is, but I certainly would not wrap a "MUST SEE" banner around it.
*Anvil! The Story of Anvil
*The Good, the Bad and the Weird
*The Dark Knight - I didn't go all fanboy on this one like some did, but Heath Ledger's performance alone, nearly makes it a must see.
*Slumdog Millionaire
*Gomorrah
*Let the Right One In - Good stuff and a bit of an off-the-wall choice. No complaints here.
*The Hurt Locker
*Avatar
*District 9 - Loved this one. My most hated genre is sci-fi, but here is one sci-fi movie that is highly recommended from yours truly.
*The Hangover - I understand their need to include a little something for everyone, so if they just had to have a modern comedy, then this was a fine choice. Still it's hard to wrap my head around "The Hangover - IN, Sideways - OUT".
*In the Loop
*The White Ribbon
*Inglorious Basterds - As a big Tarantino fan, I wasn't big on this one. It was good, but it just didn't measure up to some of his earlier efforts. However, I can't complain about it's inclusion.
*Fish Tank
*Monsters
*Of Gods and Men
*Black Swan - Fantastic choice. I'll leave it at that.
*Four Lions
*The Social Network - Not the greatest choice in the world, but again it's hard to argue. I wouldn't go so far as to call it a "MUST SEE", but again, I get their logic.
*Inception - Hated it! I get why it's in, because I know a lot of people when ballistic for this one, but it just didn't tickle my fancy, in the slightest.
*The King's Speech - Again, I get it, but I don't have to agree with it.
*True Grit

OUT
*Happy Together
*There's Something About Mary
*Kill Bill Vol. 1 - Cannot believe they cut this. It's kind of a ballsy move, if you think about it...but also a bad one.
*The Queen - This was expendable and if you're looking for British history, "The King's Speech" is just as good - so you break even.
*Atonement
*Into the Wild
*The Host
*Go, See and Become
*Fahrenheit 9/11 - As long as "Roger & Me" is still intact, we're good. This is good and all, but it's expendable.
*Sideways - *shakes head in disappointment*
*Crash - The review that I linked up to has me giving this an "8/10", but on further thought, I actually don't like "Crash" THAT MUCH AT ALL. It's totally expendable and kudos to them for kicking it to the curb.
*3-Iron
Link*Irreversible - Expendable!
*Rabbit-Proof Fence - Expendable!
*Lantana
*The Royal Tenenbaums - Another tough shot to my personal tastes. I'm a long-time fan of this one and think that cutting it was another bad move.
*Moulin Rouge! - Expendable!
*Amelie - Cutting "Amelie" was completely unnecessary, as well. This is a great movie, harmless, charming, delightful and it just makes you feel good. Why they cut it, when there were plenty of other perfect candidates for the boot, is beyond me.
*Traffic
*Meet the Parents - A really good comedy, but it's also expendable.
*Boogie Nights - WOW! I'm not the biggest fan of "Boogie Nights", but can you believe they axed this one? I sure can't. Again, I think it was an unnecessary cut and there were plenty of other films from 1997/1998 that I'm sure would have been more deserving of the chopping block.
*The Butcher Boy
*Princess Mononoke

Just to reiterate:

I AM NOT SWITCHING EDITIONS! I'm sticking to the Indiana Jones cover until the end, my friends. However, I MAY...MAY, pop in from time to time with actual, formal reviews for some of the newly added films. They won't be official or anything and won't count toward my ultimate goal or be eligible for my TOP 20 lists, but they'll be a little something extra for you to read and help in getting me up to date with some of the more recent head-turners.

Thank you so much to the people at Barron's Educational Series and specifically Eric Lowenhar for sending me out a free copy of the updated edition. I can, without a doubt, say that this is the coolest thing that I've ever been given for free. Also, if you're reading this blog right now and saying, "You know what, I need to follow this guys cue and start watching some of these MUST SEE movies", well you can. Swing by Barron's website and pick-up the new edition. It's full of color photos, well-written movie reviews and will make choosing a movie, for your next movie night, a breeze. If you don't want to get as "INTO IT" as I am, that's fine. Barron's latest edition would be a great edition to your coffee table and probably lead to some pretty hefty film discussion too. Check it out and "NO", I was not told to say that. That's the double truth, Ruth!

Check out Barron's Educational Series and the latest, updated edition of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, by clicking here.

And you should also like them on Facebook, because they're a pretty likable company. You can do that by clicking here.

In the meantime, I'm still on hiatus. I'll more than likely be back on the 11th of next month to pat myself on the back a bit and yap about the two year birthday of this here blog. See 'ya then kiddies!

P.S. If you're living in an area effected by Hurricane Irene, then my thoughts and prayers are with you. As Stan Lee would say, stay safe true believers.

August 28, 2011 12:04am


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Hiatus Time...Again

So I've spent the majority of the summer continuing my journey through the pages of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and as the summer draws to a close, so does my current run. Long time readers of this blog, you know the drill. I'll take a break for an undetermined amount of time (my breaks never usually last more than 2 or 3 months max) and then I'll be back to continue plugging away at my ultimate goal of watching all 1001 movies from the previously mentioned text.

I'd like to take this opportunity to also send out a very gracious thank you to Karen Burroughs Hannsberry. Karen was all set to accompany me on a short, seven movie journey through some of the books most popular and best film noir titles. Unfortunately "Seven Shadows Week" (as we had dubbed it) won't be kicking off on September 5th, as I previously mentioned. I hope that she'll still be as enthusiastic about that particular project, as she has been, when I return and HOPEFULLY we can get that to you guys then. If you're unfamiliar with Karen Burroughs Hannsberry, you can check her out in various places....

She can be found on Twitter @TheDarkPages

Speaking of The Dark Pages, it's a bi-monthly, hard copy newsletter which tackles everything film noir and can be found by clicking here. The Dark Pages can also be found on Facebook, by clicking here.

Finally, Karen also hosts her own blog, which I'd highly recommend for fans of film noir, pre-code films and eloquent writing. Shadows and Satin can be found here.

There's a lot of other bloggers out there that have shown me support over the past two years and the ones that I've found that are really worth checking out can be found on the right side of your screen, in my BlogRoll! There's nothing over there that I don't approve of and all of those blogs come with my most approving of nods.

I'll more than likely be back on September 11 for an anniversary post. Aaaaaand I may be back next week with some exciting news on something that happened to me recently, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime, I've written over 300 movie reviews, so hopefully that will give you all something to feast on in my absence. To the people who leave comments, keep leaving them, as I check my dashboard on a daily basis and read ALL comments. Also, if you run out of things to read and are just dying for something written by yours truly (which I can't imagine happening and if it does, then I'm flattered!), then hop on over to Just ADD('s) DVD Reviews, another blog hosted by me and something that I MAY still tinker with in my absence.

I'll say goodbye, but don't you cry...I'll be back again someday...soon.

August 20, 2011 10:26pm


Saturday, August 20, 2011

467. Cool Hand Luke (1967)

Running Time: 126 minutes
Directed By: Stuart Rosenberg
Written By: Donn Pearce and Frank Pierson, from novel by Donn Pearce
Main Cast: Paul Newman, George Kennedy, J.D. Cannon, Lou Antonio, Robert Drivas

NEWMANIA!: PART IV - THE CONCLUSION

"Sometimes nothin' is a real cool hand"

Once again, like many times before, in order to watch "Cool Hand Luke", all I had to do was take a walk down the hall to the room that contains my DVDs. I saw "Cool Hand Luke" for the first time, about three years ago and it became an immediate purchase. On a second viewing, last night, I don't regret the purchase.

When the film open, Lucas Jackson (Newman) is "cutting the heads off" of parking meters and swilling a beer. When he finally collapses, resting up against one of the beheaded pieces of public property, the cops roll up and arrest him, as the films sweet, soft score leads into the opening credits. Luke is taken to a Florida prison camp, where he must serve two years. He immediately butts heads with the other prisoners, most notably Dragline (Kennedy), the big, gruff bulldog of the pack and their initial despise for each other culminates in a boxing match. Dragline beats Luke to a pulp, but Luke won't stay down, thus earning the respect of Dragline and making a new best friend in the process. At the Florida prison camp, prisoners are forced to be a part of the chain gang, where every morning their tools are loaded off and their carted to a county road to whack weeds or shovel gravel. The boys make a good time of it though and as long as they tell their "boss", the "man with no eyes" who serves as head guard, what they're doing and when they're doing it, they're just fine. Beyond that, the film just plays out like a standard prison flick, with camaraderie between the prisoners running strong and a lot of key scenes and bits of drama and comedy weaved together to make for a memorable affair.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

My biggest weakness, as a fan of film, is a prison movie and my bigger weakness is a great one. "Cool Hand Luke" is kind of like "Jaws", in that I would have a hard time believing that anyone doesn't at least like this movie a little bit. It's a tough one to rip on, because plain and simple, there just isn't much to rip on. "Cool Hand Luke" is all about having a good time with a movie, laughing a little bit, feeling a little bit and in the end, that's what movies are all about. Paul Newman proves here that he was a great actor. I've watched four Newman movies now and in all of them, he's played a different person. That's the mark of a good actor - when they're doing such a fine job, that you literally have to stop and ask yourself, "Is that really the same guy who was just playing an Indian yesterday?" I'll give props to George Kennedy and Strother Martin as well, as they both solidified their spots and are very memorable characters to boot.

After watching "Cool Hand Luke" last night, I've got to wonder how much of it was used as inspiration for "The Shawshank Redemption". I know that film was based on a book, but it seemed to me that "Shawshank" borrowed a lot from the story of "Luke". For instance, you have a new prisoner, who doesn't say much when he enters, but still has kind of a cocky demeanor and has the other prisoners questioning what his deal is. Then you have two prisoners who start off disliking one another and end up being the best of friends, all the way to their eventual release or break-out. You have a beauty shot of Newman, standing in the rain and looking up at the heavens and you have the same thing with Tim Robbins in "Shawshank". There's a lot of similarities there, in my opinion and I know a lot of people who harp on how fantastic "Shawshank" is, have PROBABLY never even seen this.

I really don't have a whole lot else to say. "Cool Hand Luke" is a damn fine film, it's a lot of fun and it provides you with plenty of scenes that will send you through a bevy of emotions. If you're looking to have a good time and kick back with a REALLY good flick, then I'd highly recommend "Cool Hand Luke" That will do it for "NEWMANIA!". Four films later and I realize more than ever what a great actor and a great man we lost when Newman left this Earth.

Rest well Paul

RATING: 8.5/10 Another probable TOP 20 contender and another fantastic Newman film.

MOVIES WATCHED: 328
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 673

August 20, 2011 2:25pm


Friday, August 19, 2011

462. HOMBRE (1967)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Martin Ritt
Written By: Irving Ravetch, Elmore Leonard, Harriet Frank Jr., from the novel by Elmore Leonard
Main Cast: Paul Newman, Fredric March, Richard Boone, Diane Cilento, Peter Lazer

NEWMANIA!: PART III

The third film in the "NEWMANIA!" week festivities, is also the one that I had been dreading the most. However, it actually wound up being the best of the three that I've watched, thus far.

This time around, Paul Newman is John Russell, a white man who was kidnapped by the Apache Indian tribe when he was a child and raised up as one of their own. When his biological father passes away, a messenger is sent to John to tell him that he has inherited a boarding house and that it could be a big opportunity for him to get back into the good graces of the white man. However, John doesn't seek the good graces of the white man and despite putting out the caretaker of his newly inherited property, Jessie (Cilento), he decides to sell the property, in order to buy a herd of horses. Once the decision is made, Russell makes it his first priority to head out of town and along with Jessie and an unhappily married couple, Doris and Billy Lee Blake (Lazer), who live at the boarding house, he does just that. They are joined by highfalutin couple, Dr. Alex Favor (March), agent for the Apache tribe and his wife Audra. The final passenger to board the coach out of town with the eclectic group is Cicero Grimes (Boone), who strong arms his way onto the ride, by taking a ticket from a would be passenger. Now our story is set into motion, as seven passengers and a driver take off on an out of town trip. But, actually this is only the beginning, because the coach is about to get high-jacked by a group of bandits.

The picture that I posted on this blog the other day, of Newman with long hair, wearing a red bandanna and looking very much like a white man dressed as an Indian, just seemed really silly to me. However, there were two elements that made this film for me. The first came when the beginning credits were rolling and the line, "based on the novel by Elmore Leonard" came up. Back in the day when I was just as much a reader, as I was a watcher, I read a lot of Elmore Leonard books and while I never read any of his Westerns, I knew that I was in for a treat. The other element that made this film for me was the inclusion of Richard Boone as Cicero Grimes. In my opinion, he was the star of this picture. Newman did a fine job, in reality, barely saying a word and playing his character very cold and intense, but for my money, Boone was the highlight of the picture. The scene that really grabbed me and turned this film from an average western to a great western is the scene where Grimes first appears and steals the ticket away from the soldier. Boone's dialogue may have been written down on paper for him, but he delivered it spot on, forcing you to love every minute of your hatred for him. Great stuff and even his name is menacing: Cicero Grimes!

Now, back to Newman - I loved the fact that his dialogue was kept to a minimum and how John Russell only spoke when he had something intelligent or important to say. It was a device that made for a really bad-ass character and off-set the obnoxious Grimes really nicely. Add in the other characters, like Dr. Favor played brilliantly by Fredric March and you've got a recipe for greatness. Martin Balsam was even convincing, handing in his jury foreman gear to play a Mexican and playing it well, I might add. I've been waiting for a REALLY GOOD Western to come along and make me take notice of an entire genre and while I'm sure there's better out there, this was a fabulous Western and one that will only do positive things in making me appreciate the entire genre.

RATING: 8/10 I should really go into every film dreading it, because it's always the ones I dread that turn out being the best. Next up for Newman: "Cool Hand Luke".

MOVIES WATCHED: 327
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 674

August 19, 2011 2:28pm


Wednesday, August 17, 2011

403. HUD (1963)

Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Martin Ritt
Written By: Harriet Frank Jr., Irving Ravetch, from the novel Horseman Pass By by Larry McMurtry
Main Cast: Paul Newman, Melvyn Douglas, Patricia Neal, Brandon de Wilde, John Ashley

NEWMANIA!: PART II

Moving right along with "NEWMANIA!", we jump two years into the future, to 1963 and "Hud" - a Western set in it's own time and one that I definitely enjoyed.

Paul Newman is the titular character Hud Bannon, the beer drinking, woman chasing, son of ranch owner Homer Bannon (Douglas). Upon the films opening, Hud's nephew Lon (de Wilde) is trying to track him down, as it seems there is trouble on the ranch. When Hud is finally located and brought to the ranch, two things are made evident immediately - 1) Hud and his father don't get along and 2) the cattle at the Bannon ranch are sick. The veterinarian is called in on the subject of the cattle and foot and mouth disease is expected. On the subject of Hud and his father, it seems it all stems from a particular night, many years ago when Hud and his brother were involved in a car accident, leading to the death of Homer's eldest son (and Lon's Dad) - Hud was driving. Despite Homer and Hud's weakened relationship and Lon's loyalty to his grandfather, Lon still looks up to Hud and has a tendency to follow him around wherever he goes. Also, the maid at the Bannon household, Alma (Neal) is the object of both Hud and Lon's desire and she's a pretty good flirt, at that.

I really don't have a whole lot to say regarding "Hud", so maybe I can keep this short & sweet. I thought "Hud" was a fine film. I wouldn't go so far as to call it exceptional or outstanding, but when factoring in the breathtaking cinematography, the fantastic acting from everybody involved and the generally smooth flow of the entire picture, it's not hard to understand why it was included in a book of "MUST SEE" movies. Paul Newman will always be a favorite of mine and watching his films are so easy for me. Even when I don't like a particular film of his, it's still easy for me to just sit back and watch him perform and soak it all in...and think about how sad it is that he's passed away.

What was going on with Patricia Neal in this movie though? It seemed like whenever her character appeared on screen, sexual innuendos were being thrown around like baseball's. Did anyone else find it a little odd that the character of Alma seemed to be flirting with Lon? While going into his room to wake him up, she continues to tickle him and she coddles him when he doesn't feel well, sitting next to him loyally and holding a cold glass of lemonade on his head. For 1963, you didn't see a whole lot of sexual innuendo, but "Hud is packed with it. Check out this exchange between Hud and Alma:

Hud Bannon: Man like that sounds no better than a heel. Alma Brown: Aren't you all? Hud Bannon: Honey don't go shooting all the dogs 'cause one of 'em's got fleas. Alma Brown: I was married to Ed for six years. Only thing he was ever good for was to scratch my back where I couldn't reach it. Hud Bannon: You still got that itch? Alma Brown: Off and on. Hud Bannon: Well let me know when it gets to bothering you.

In fact, beyond that, this film is actually filled with great little pieces of dialogue. I especially enjoyed this line that Newman delivered: "It happens to everybody, kid. Nobody gets out of life alive". Great stuff.

RATING: 7/10 Nothing terrible on display here and with some time, that rating could rise, but for now I'll play it safe and stick to my gut - '7'. Next up for Newman: "Hombre".

MOVIES WATCHED: 326
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 675

August 17, 2011 6:01pm


380. The Hustler (1961)

Running Time: 134 minutes
Directed By: Robert Rossen
Written By: Sidney Carroll, Robert Rossen, from novel by Walter Tevis
Main Cast: Paul Newman, George C. Scott, Jackie Gleason, Piper Laurie, Myron McCormick

NEWMANIA!: PART I

I know I promised this review yesterday, but I didn't get around to watching "The Hustler" until last night and at the late hour, I decided to just hold off on writing this review until this morning. My initial and succinct thoughts on "The Hustler" were big time disappointment.

Fast Eddie Felson (Newman) is a pool shark. Almost immediately upon the films opening, Eddie is making his way into town and into Ames Pool Hall, the pool hall that the legendary (and unbeatable) Minnesota Fats (Gleason) calls his home hall. Eddie practices all day and come 8 o'clock in the evening, Fats arrives and is met with a challenge from Eddie. Fats, never backing down from a "young punk" who things they can shoot stick better than him, accepts and the game is underway. Prior to Fats' arrival, Eddie had made a declaration that he'd walk out of Ames that night $10,000 richer. After some vigorous play, Eddie finds himself up $18,000, but states that the game isn't over until Fats says it's over. Fats steps into the john, cleans himself up and makes his way back to the table and to make a long story short, wins back everything out of Eddie's pocket, save $200. From there, Eddie spirit seems to be broken and while dining in a bus station coffee shop, he meets Sarah (Laurie), another seemingly broken spirit, who washes her sorrows away in a bottle. The two hole up together in Sarah's little, crummy apartment, but Eddie makes it clear that he's not in love - Sarah makes it clear that she is. To round out the plot summary, enter Bert Gordon (Scott), a mysterious fellow who we first see at the legendary pool match between Fats and Eddie and who later runs into Eddie and offers to be somewhat of a coach to him, helping him build character to go along with his incredible talent and maybe one day, beat the "Fat Man".

SPOILER ALERT!

So why disappointment? I was all ready to hand a '10' on this movie and shower it with praise. I was almost convinced that this was a film that couldn't miss. You had a movie about pool hustlers (sounds interesting and original) and you had a marvelous cast, where could they go wrong? I'll tell you. But let me preface all of this by saying that "The Hustler" will probably still get a decent enough rating, I'm just going to focus on more of the bad, than the good.

In my opinion, this film blows it's wad early. They give us the best scene first and it nearly ruins the rest of the film. Eddie is supposed to be this master pool player right, so his ultimate goal, as a pool hustler is to play and beat the legendary Minnesota Fats. We get about a five minute little opening scene of Eddie hustling pool from some townspeople, in some out of the way town and with that we're supposed to be ready for the match-up to end all match-ups between Eddie and Fats? I could've used a little more prepping myself. Show me some more of Eddie and Charlie out on the road, hustling all the hustlers and raking in the dough. No, instead at about the five or ten minute mark, we're already ready for the big showdown between Fats and Eddie. It's a fantastic scene, don't get me wrong. But Eddie gets beat and then guess what? We're, for the most part, done playing pool for a while.

Instead, the movie switches gears and is presented as a love story, between Eddie and Sarah. And that's just your basic two drifters with nowhere to go, pairing up and making a go at it together. Piper Laurie is great and I guess the love story angle isn't bad, but the whole time I'm thinking, "When are we gonna' shoot some more stick?" We see him hustle a couple of games here and there, but we only usually get a quick version and we never see another complete and great scene like that opening scene, of Eddie playing pool. Then George C. Scott comes in and he was fantastic, such an intimidating actor for me to watch. When I see Scott, I think "OH shit, business just picked up!" I love him (but hate "Patton", imagine that), but who in the hell was he supposed to be and did we really need his character. I mean, the guy was fantastic as Bert Gordon, but I really don't think we needed him. He just kind of seemed to be there and he had lines and they made a nice little sub-plot with him and Eddie, but a lot of it was nonsensical to me. Again, I just wanted to get back to watching Eddie play pool and seeing the rematch between him and Fats, because there had to be a rematch right? And it had to be bigger, better and badder than the original right?

Well, I'm right on the first point, there was a rematch, but it was short and rushed and wasn't nearly as exciting as the opening scene. Eddie beats Fats in record time and collects a big pile of dollars and heads out the door. THAT'S IT!!!??? That's all you're giving me?! How did Eddie beat this "legendary" pool shark, we barely saw the guy play pool. Was he really that good? Well I guess I'll have to take the film's word for it, I mean they said he was good, so I guess he's good, right? Dammit, don't just TELL me that this guy's a good pool player, SHOW ME!!!

"The Hustler" is good. It has good acting, it has an outstanding opening scene, but beware: That opening scene killed the movie for me. It was so good, that I expected more greatness, but failed to realize that the GREATNESS was really over and all that was left was goodness. I can't believe that the film never gave a payoff to that first match. We SHOULD have gotten a bigger and better match, or Eddie should have gotten beat fast in the beginning and we should have worked our way to that 25 hour, grueling fantastic pool match - that fantastic opening scene should have been scooted to the end, with a different outcome. I'm done.

RATING: 6.5/10 Maybe I'm being too hard, but I was expecting something different from this movie. I'll keep thinking about it and we'll talk about it come RECAP time. Next up for Newman: Hud.

MOVIES WATCHED: 325
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 676

August 17, 2011 11:39am


Tuesday, August 16, 2011

505. Le Boucher/The Butcher (1969)

Running Time: 93 minutes
Directed By: Claude Chabrol
Written By: Claude Chabrol
Main Cast: Stephane Audran, Jean Yanne, Antonio Passalia, Pascal Ferone, Mario Beccara

A LOVE STORY...WITH A SERIAL KILLER

Before we get the "Newmania!" festivities underway, I figured I'd pop in the film I received from Netflix today, so that I could get it back in the mailbox. "Le Boucher" is a film that I've been wanting to watch for a long time, but just never got around to it and a film that didn't disappoint, nor overly impress.

Helene (Audran) is the headmistress of a French school and Popaul (Yanne) is a man returning to the same French town, after serving fifteen years in the Army. Popaul is a butcher by trade and has a shop in town. While attending a wedding for mutual friends, Helene and Popaul meet and hit it off. He walks her home that afternoon and finds that she lives in a small apartment, above the school that she instructs at. As the film rolls on, the two ignite more and more of a bond with one another, but nothing ever goes beyond being just good friends. All the while, however, there still seems to be a sexual tension looming in the air, as both characters give off the aroma of sexual desire for one another. When Popaul finally questions Helene about why she doesn't have a lover, she recounts a "broken heart" story and the subject is closed. Meanwhile, there is a serial killer on the loose. This is a dominant theme throughout the picture, but it's something we hear about in the background as we watch the characters of Helene and Popaul dance around the subject of love. While on an outing with her students, however, the serial killer factory hits close to home when Helene discovers the body of a dead girl. More importantly, though, is that she finds Popaul's cigarette lighter at the scene of the crime.

SPOILER ALERT!

I'm really not entirely sure what to make of "La Boucher". I will say that I was definitely intrigued by it and while there wasn't a lot of action, I was still very connected to the film. The dialogue was a bit rusty, for my taste, and that may have lead to the little dislike that I had for the film. You just can't have a film that is mainly driven by the interactions of two characters, and have a lack of gripping dialogue. I wouldn't even go so far as to call it bad dialogue or anything, I just think that for this particular film, the dialogue could've been a little better. I thought that Stephane Audran and Jean Yanne were brilliant together though and had amazing chemistry. Audran especially held my interest, as she was such a beautiful woman, who spewed her words softly and had such a charming and elegant character to work with.
I can't say, though, that I completely understood the ending of the movie. After Popaul stabs himself, he is rushed to the hospital by Helene and eventually dies. Helene goes and parks her car on a riverbank and stares off into the distance, as the film comes to a close. I understand why Popaul kills himself - he is embarrassed that he has been found out by someone that he had such a rapport with and that he actually really loved. There's a beautiful line as Helene is driving Popaul to the hospital, as he tells her that he would have "liked to love her". I think another reason Popaul plunges the knife into his own belly, is because he's afraid that his desire to kill, will overpower his desire for Helene and that he may stab her. In an effort to ensure that he doesn't do that, he just kills himself, because he'd rather harm himself, than harm her. What I'm not fully understanding is Helene's motivations at the end of the film. I don't think her feelings are made very clear. I think she maybe feels like she let her guard down and was almost ready to take the plunge with Popaul and he ended up being a maniac and ultimately dying. I think she had even began to love him back, if even a little bit and when he spoke to her on the way to the hospital, maybe she knew that there was a mutual love there. Perhaps, she was ready to help Popaul hide his secret and build a life with him, if only he hadn't died in the hospital.

This is all pure speculation on my part, but a little personal speculation on a movie is never a bad thing, and it's always good to establish your personal take on any picture that is left open ended. The characters are very likable - we never get to that point where our desire to see Popaul caught overwhelms our desire to see Popaul and Helene further their relationship. I found myself really rooting for these characters to overcome their emotional hurdles and make something together. Chabrol takes about ten minutes at the beginning of the picture and all of a sudden we're in tune with the characters of Helene and Paul. The rest flows along very nicely and any hesitation on my part to give this film a shining nod of approval, is because it may just be a tad too slow and maybe even because I didn't like the direction they went with everything. Otherwise, the film is worth checking out, if even purely to feast your eyes upon the gorgeous Stephane Audran.

RATING: 7/10 I have a feeling this is going to be one of those movies that just eats away at me, until I'm forced to admit how amazing it was and ultimately buy it and watch it again.

MOVIES WATCHED: 324
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 677

August 16, 2011 7:59pm


NEWMANIA!

Starting tomorrow, I'll be kicking off a four film salute to Paul Newman, which I'm dubbing "NEWMANIA!". This will be the second of six major "events" during this 100. Paul Newman has a total of six films in the "1001" book and last 100 two of them were watched and those two ("Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid" and "The Sting") made the TOP 20. Suffice it to say that I have high hopes for these four movies and four Newman movies should be just what the doctor ordered to cleanse my pallet after recent stinkers like "The Color of Pomegranates" and "Mondo cane". Check back tomorrow for my review of "The Hustler" and the rest of the week to catch reviews for "Hud", "Hombre" and the grand finale - "Cool Hand Luke".





August 16, 2011 12:50am


Monday, August 15, 2011

382. Mondo cane/A Dog's Life (1962)

Running Time: 105 minutes
Directed By: Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti, Franco E. Prosperi
Written By: Paolo Cavara, Gualtiero Jacopetti
Main Cast: Rossano Brazzi, Stefano Sibaldi

SHOCKUMENTARY TIME!

Since it leaves the streaming portion of Netflix tomorrow, I decided I might as well check out "Mondo cane", which has been staring me in the face for a long time now, as I continually pushed it to the side. It just didn't look very appealing to me. Turns out that sometimes...just sometimes, you CAN judge a book by it's cover.

The film is a compilation of possibly/probably fake material that is passed off as real. Upon the films opening, we are told by a narrator that "all the scenes we will see are true and taken only from life". That statement is quickly followed by a clip of an Italian adonis being mauled by a group of dozens of women, as he waits in a department store to get fitted for a new suit - an obviously staged scene. The book cites that certain bits and pieces may be actually real, but that the production is more than likely, wholly faked. The film prides itself on being a trend setter in the world of shockumentary film making, but then boasts scenes that are just plain boring and stupid. I wouldn't classify a group of widowed, senior citizens working out at a gym or a group of elderly Japanese men spending a day at a spa as shocking - but that's just me. Other scenes of note, include tribal ceremonies certain remote islands, a running of the bulls type ceremony, a self flagellation ritual carried out in an Italy during Good Friday and a group of senior citizens trying to learn the hula while on a Hawaiian vacation.

The film is actually quite random in it's presentation. One minute we're watching a woman suckle a piglet, because her own human child has died and the next minute we're watching people eat snakes. Even if the footage was 100%, confirmed real, it still just wasn't always that interesting. There were certain bits and pieces that were just downright stupid and unwanted. I will say, on a positive note, that the film really didn't drag all that much. I didn't find myself watching the clock or being bored. For the most part I just found myself scratching my head and wondering why in God's Earth was this included in a book of "Must See" films. Was it really all that imperative that I watch "Mondo cane" prior to me eventual demise? I don't think so, Tim. Let's call that a review and suffice it to say that maybe you'll find the footage interesting, but I found it to be, for the most part, pointless. Knowing that the majority of the footage is more than likely staged, makes "Mondo cane" even more of a waste of my time and it comes without a recommendation from yours truly.

RATING: 3/10 Man, a '1/10' and a '3/10' in the same week. What's the title of this book again?

MOVIES WATCHED: 323
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 678

August 15, 2011 4:15pm


Sunday, August 14, 2011

258. Roman Holiday (1953)

Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: William Wyler
Written By: Ian McLellan Hunter, John Dighton
Main Cast: Gregory Peck, Audrey Hepburn, Eddie Albert, Hartley Power, Harcourt Williams

WHEN IN ROME...

On an Audrey Hepburn high from "Breakfast at Tiffany's", I immediately jumped to my Netflix queue and moved "Roman Holiday" to the top, so that I could experience her charm one more time.

This time around Hepburn plays Princess Ann, the crown princess of a country that is never revealed. During a European publicity tour, the princess hits all the big cities: Paris, London and she ultimately lands in Rome. It is in Rome, that the princess has an outburst and expresses her discontent with being the princess of a nation. She wants to do as she pleases, where pajamas to bed instead of expensive silk nightgowns and she's tired of all the "pleases" and "thank you's". On the night of her outburst, the doctor gives her a shot of something to make her "happy" and leaves her to her boudoir. In the night, however, Princess Ann sneaks out and makes a getaway. Meanwhile, Joe Bradley (Peck) is an American, working in Rome for the newspaper, the Daily American. One night, while leaving a poker game, he comes across a woman, half asleep and seemingly drunk on a park bench. He tends to her, pulling her into a cab with him and eventually having no choice but to bring her to his hotel room, to sleep off the booze. In reality, the girl is Princess Ann and she's hopped up on the Doc's happy medicine. When Joe awakes the next morning, he quickly finds out who he has in his hotel room and quickly schemes up a plan to break the biggest story of his career and return home to his native New York. With help from his photographer friend Irving (Albert), the duo spend a day with the Princess taking in the Rome sights and snapping candid shots of her highness.

SPOILER ALERT!

We'll get to my thoughts momentarily, but first, a story. When me and my wife were first married, in June of 2007, we moved into an apartment and it was my first taste of living away from home. One of our favorite things to do back then (and even today) was watch movies and after a failed attempt at watching every Eddie Murphy movie, we decided upon watching the IMDB Top 250 list, in it's entirety. That particular project never panned out, but I remember "Roman Holiday" as being #250 on the list. So on a hot August night, in 2007, after tracking the film down at our local library, we cuddled up together and watched it on the couch of our first apartment. This was back when I was still rating films on a 1-5 scale and I can still remember giving it the full five points. Today, it didn't hold up as well, as maybe my film palate has been so refined that I'm not so easily impressed nowadays.

For starters, I couldn't help but to be reminded of "It Happened One Night", as I watched this movie. Sure the plots are different, but you have a couple of newspapermen who act very similar, in my view. You have a man and woman who are thrown together unintentionally and ultimately you have these two characters falling in love. When thinking about all that, I also couldn't help but realize how, even for 1953, this was still a formula that had been done quite often. Man meets woman, they DON'T hit it off, but they're forced to spend time with one another and ultimately they're lovebirds. It was done in "It Happened One Night", "His Girl Friday" and "Bringing Up Baby" - all very different films, but all utilizing a very similar plot structure.

However, this time around you have Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck in the lead roles and those two aren't anything to sneeze at. Peck had such a commanding presence when he was on the screen. His voice seemed to boom when he talked and by the looks of him, he wasn't a small man - height wise. He oozed class and sophistication and it's hard to dismiss anything he does as not up to snuff. The same pretty much goes for Audrey Hepburn, except she oozed charm and beauty and it was hard not to take notice when she was on the screen. However, the two together didn't have as much chemistry as you'd think they would. Sure, there was a hint of something there and when Princess Ann falls apart, right before leaving Joe to go back to her kingdom, there was a slight tug at the 'ol heartstrings. But what you had here, seemed to be a case of too much vigor on one set. You had these two larger than life personalities and I think in this case, two positives, made more of a negative than another positive.

The film isn't terrible, by any means, but would this plot still hold up today. While watching "Roman Holiday", I kept thinking how lenient we used to be as far as accepting a film. I love old movies as much as the next guy, but will admit that there was a lot of sub par stuff being given a very generous nod of approval, back in the day. Would a film about a Princess and a newspaperman - well it's the 21st century, let's call him a web designer - get as many "thumbs up" as "Roman Holiday" did back in 1953? I don't think so.

RATING: 6/10 It's not BAD, but I wouldn't have even as gone so far as to include it in a "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book.

MOVIES WATCHED: 322
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
679

August 14, 2011 7:50pm


Friday, August 12, 2011

466. Le Samourai/The Godson (1967)

Running Time: 105 minutes
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Melville
Written By: Jean-Pierre Melville, Georges Pellegrin, from the novel The Ronin by Joan McLeod
Main Cast: Alain Delon, Nathalie Delon, Caty Rosier, Francois Perier, Jean-Pierre Posier

A DOUBLE SHOT OF MELVILLE: 2 of 2

I mentioned in my "Bob the Gambler" post that I had previously seen "Le Samourai" and gave it a score of '10/10' and I can confirm that not much changed during my second go around.

Jef Costello (A. Delon) is a killer for hire. As the film opens we watch as Jef lays on the bed, in his grungy, grey apartment, puffing on a cigarette and probably thinking about his next caper. When the credits stop rolling, Jef applies his trademark trench coat and fedora and heads out. Carrying a massive ring of keys, Jef hops into a car that doesn't belong to him and tries his keys, one by one, until one of them finally starts the engine and he takes off to an out of the way garage, where a man changes the license plates and provides him with the appropriate paper work. Later that night, Jef goes to his apparent girlfriend Jane's (N. Delon) apartment and tells her that if anyone asks he was there from 7:15 to 1:45 - he then leaves. Jef then goes to Martey's nightclub, where he surveys the scene, applies a pair of white gloves and makes his way to the back office, where he shoots and kills Martey. Jef is seen by the pianist (Rosier), but slips away. He is later picked up by police because he fits the description of the man, that approximately six people (including the pianist), recounted to police. However, with Jane's alibi, Jef is released. We then find out that Jef's homicide on Martey was a contracted job and when he goes to pickup his payoff he is nearly killed by the go-between. The people that hired Jef to do the job, now want to take him out because he's been fingered and the police superintendent isn't buying Jef's alibi, citing that it's too airtight.

SPOILER ALERT!

For my money, everything about "Le Samourai" is perfect. The tone of the film is set right away, when we're given an opening scene with no dialogue and we're simply forced to sit and view the actions of Jef. As he leaves his apartment, the soles of his shoes clicking and clacking against the floor are enough to make you relax and simply enjoy the ride from the word go. I like how Jef is given a very limited amount of dialogue throughout the film, as he's meant to be a cold blooded, calculated person, who is really never given any human emotion. Despite that fact, the film doesn't work unless we're on Jef's side and you can't help but route for the guy, especially when everyone and their brother are seemingly out to get him. The score, at times, is almost that of a horror movie score, as it skulks in the background, reminding us that trouble could present itself at the turn of any corner. The film is sexy, stylish and flows along at an incredibly smooth pace. Some might call the movie boring, because many times we're left to simply observe the situations and there's not an overwhelming amount of action.

However, this is the kind of pacing that I like in my movies. I love movies that don't trip over themselves getting into a rush. This film just lets everything unfold and is very methodical in it's direction. Unlike "Bob the Gambler" this film is given distinct characteristics and to me, it's a one of a kind picture. From behind my eyes, there aren't a whole lot of movies where everything...and I mean everything, just clicks. From the acting to the music to the atmosphere to the pacing to the plot, everything is handled with care and the combination of all those things make "Le Samourai" a perfect movie. If I HAD to pick SOMETHING to gripe about, I'd wish that the police superintendent was a little more likeable. To me the film doesn't work if we're not on Jef's side. So naturally, if we're on Jef's side then the ending is a bit of a downer. Had the superintendent been a little more likable and we were just left to kind of hold our allegiances in the middle, then the ending wouldn't have been such of a downer and at least you could call it a good day for the police. The guy was such an unlikeable jerk, that when the ending comes and he gets the upper hand, it's a bit of a letdown.

But that's just me making up things to pick about and honestly, I think you'll have a hard time finding problems with "Le Samourai". Alain Delon and Jean-Pierre Melville just shot to the top of my favorite actor and favorite director list respectively, with the viewing of this classic!

RATING: 10/10 I wish there were more Melville flicks in the book, because I'm really jonesing to watch "Le cercle rouge" now.

MOVIES WATCHED: 321
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
680

COMING SOON:
Roman Holiday (1953 - William Wyler)
Mondo cane (1962 - Gualtiero Jacopetti)
The Hustler (1961 - Robert Rossen)

August 12, 2011 2:47am

Thursday, August 11, 2011

506. Sayat Nova/The Color of Pomegranates (1969)

Running Time: 78 minutes
Directed By: Sergei Parajanov, Sergei Yutkevich
Written By: Sergei Parajanov, from the poetry of Sayat Nova
Main Cast: Sofiko Chiaureli, Melkon Aleksanyan, Vilen Galstyan, Giorgi Gegechkori, Spartak Bagashvili

TORTURE

My water is of a very special kind./
Not everyone can drink it./

My writing is of a very special kind./

Not everyone can read it./


Wanting to knock out another film from the 60s as I await my two Netflix movies, I again turned to the streaming portion of Netflix tonight and to "The Color of Pomegranates". For my eyes, it was pure torture and probably the longest eighty minutes I've ever spent watching a movie.

I won't even bother attempting to tell you what the film is about, because it lacks a formal narrative. The film is simply image after image, with no dialogue and apparently somewhere in there we're supposed to be getting a telling of the life of Armenian poet Sayat Nova. I'll be completely honest with you folks I gave up even trying to find redeemable qualities in this one after about thirty minutes. Beyond that I was just going through the motions, watching the pictures come up, trying my best to make something beautiful out of them, failing and repeating. Prior to watching "The Color of Pomegranates" I was told of the breathtaking cinematography that I would behold upon watching this "masterpiece". To me, the imagery wasn't breathtaking by any positive sense of the word and I simply found myself praying to God that the time would go faster and this film would simply end, so that I could put it behind me.

As a lover of film, when watching a movie I pattern myself after a fish and all that a movie need do, when trying to appeal to me, is throw me some bait. This film cast it's hook, but not a morsel was to be found. If you call "The Color of Pomegranates" art, then I simply couldn't see it - if you call it poetry, then I simply couldn't hear it. I never apologize for forming my own opinions and I don't plan to start now. "The Color of Pomegranates", from behind my eyes, was nothing more than eighty of the dullest minutes of my life and if not for this grand project, I'd consider it eighty minutes 100% and completely wasted. If you were able to find something artistic, poetic or enlightening about this picture, then I say good for you. You were able to find a gem, where I found only overrated garbage. I never ridicule someone for having an opinion that is more positive than mine, I simply am happy for them that they found something where I couldn't.

In fact, if any fans of this movie are reading this right now, I invite you to firstly cool your head after reading my harsh thoughts and then pop open the "comments" tab at the bottom of this page and try your best to explain to me what it was about this film that touched you. I know many of the fans of this film will consider it art and art isn't often easy to explain, but I do invite you to try....for my sake, if you will.

RATING: 1/10 I immediately hiked "Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors" to the top of my Netflix queue, as I figure if I'm gonna' do it, I might as well jump in with both feet.

MOVIES WATCHED: 320
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 681

August 11, 2011 1:56am


Wednesday, August 10, 2011

293. Bob le flambeur/Bob the Gambler (1955)

Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Jean-Pierre Melville
Written By: Auguste Le Breton, Jean-Pierre Melville
Main Cast: Roger Duchesne, Isabelle Corey, Daniel Cauchy, Guy Decomble, Andre Garet

A DOUBLE SHOT OF MELVILLE: 1 of 2

Noticing that "Le Samourai" was nearing the top of my Netflix queue as one of my next 60s films to watch, I decided to turn to the streaming portion of Netflix and knock out Melville with a one, two punch, watching "Bob the Gambler" last night.

Bob (Duchesne) is an aging, ex-convict who just happens to be a compulsive gambler. In fact, among his circles in Paris, Bob is knows as "Bob the Gambler", as he spends all hours of the night trying to double his money, playing cards or betting on race horses. Bob is also a very generous man. This is shown when he gives young Anne (Corey) money for a hotel and later offers her his place to stay and a bed to sleep in. Bob wins some money gambling and loses some money gambling, but for the most part, he finds himself counting his losses. When a race horse that Bob bets big on comes in, Bob's first instinct is to go to the Deauville Casino and ride his wave of luck. While at the casino, Bob loses everything, but a pal of his strikes up a conversation with one of the croupiers, who tells him that on the morning of the Grand Prix, the casino safe will house about 800 million francs. With losing still fresh in his mind, Bob can't help but revert to his old ways of thinking and it doesn't take him long to hatch a scheme to burgle the casino and make off with the loot. Bob puts together a team, including Paolo (Cauchy), his partner in crime, pays off the croupier for floor plans to the casino, gathers safe cracking equipment and goes to work!

SPOILER ALERT!

I was watching the director's commentary on "Hard Eight" (P.T. Anderson's first feature) about three years ago and heard Anderson cite "Bob the Gambler" as an influence on that film. I've wanted to see it since then, but just got around to it last night. I know - procrastination at it's finest! Anyway, my advice on that topic is never wait to see a picture that you can see today. The longer you wait, the more you're going to build it up in your head and the bigger chance there will be for disappointment. I really liked "Bob the Gambler", but there was still a smidgen of disappointment because I was expecting a surefire '10/10', no questions asked. While I wouldn't go so far as to call it a perfect movie, it was still damn good. The film had melancholy tones and didn't force itself upon you. It just allowed itself to be and slowly brought to the surface the relevant points, as we needed them. It captured the city of Paris in beautiful black and white and flowed like a jazz music, showing off qualities that were crisp, sexy and smooth.

The whole cast did a fine job in the pre-French New Wave, film noir. Roger Duchesne and Isabelle Corey fit right into the mildly dark, but often melancholy atmosphere. The film speaks on several different points, including loneliness and fate. Bob seemed to be insecure about his future and felt a need to surround himself with people and money, so that he could age comfortably and with companionship. I wondered if Bob gambled so that he'd have the money to give to lonely drifters on the street, or so that he could buy a bigger house and offer it to young girls like Anne. When the film boils down to the last thirty minutes or so, so many combustible elements have been put into play that the film becomes unpredictable. Will Bob and his crew pull of a successful heist? Will they get caught? Will Bob get gunned down in the heat of crime? I thought for sure Bob was going to die at the end. The whole film just had such a somber tone, that I couldn't imagine it ending with Bob still breathing. But it ended and Bob didn't die and it ended with my seal of approval.

Give "Bob the Gambler" a chance and you may just be surprised. My word of advice, however, would be to stick with it. It starts out just a tad slow, but definitely picks up and I think that by the time Bob is being ushered into the back of a police car, you'll be pleased.

RATING: 8/10 By the way, the last time I watched "Le Samourai" (which was several years ago), I gave it a '10/10'. We'll see what it gets this go around...in a few days.

MOVIES WATCHED: 319
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 682

Coming Soon:
Roman Holiday (1953 - William Wyler)
Le Samourai (1967 - Jean-Pierre Melville)

August 10, 2011 1:12pm


Tuesday, August 9, 2011

373. Breakfast at Tiffany's (1961)

Running Time: 115 minutes
Directed By: Blake Edwards
Written By: George Axelrod, from novel by Truman Capote
Main Cast: Audrey Hepburn, George Peppard, Patricia Neal, Buddy Ebsen, Martin Balsam

ON MY JOURNEY I MET A GIRL NAMED AUDREY

Actually, I met Audrey in an earlier film I watched for the book, "The Lavender Hill Mob", when she made a cameo appearance, but who's counting. Believe it or not, I had never seen "Breakfast at Tiffany's" prior to last night and once again the book serves me up an absolutely fantastic film.

Audrey Hepburn is Holly Golightly, a socialite girl who lives in New York and lives off the gifts of generous men, who can't help but be enamored by her. When the film opens, Holly steps out of a cab, nibbling on a pastry and sipping a cup of coffee, early in the morning and strolls along in front of Tiffany's, perusing the merchandise. Returning home, she is chased down by a gentleman caller, that she apparently entertained the night before, who wants nothing more than a little more of her company. Holly slams the door in his face and goes to sleep. When she awakes, she is awakened by the new gentleman living in her building, Paul Varjak (Peppard), who politely asks to use her phone. She allows it and they immediately strike up a conversation. Holly tells Paul that she'll be going today to visit Sally Tomato in Sing Sing, an ex-crime boss who pays Holly to come once a week and visit him in prison. As the film progresses, Holly and Paul become closer and closer and it's apparent that Paul isn't much different from Holly, a drifter - someone who belongs to no one and has no one. Holly's ultimate goal is to find a rich man, so she can live comfortably for the rest of her life and Paul's ultimate goal quickly turns from getting his writing published, to securing Holly as his own.

SPOILER ALERT!

I think I've just realized something - the best movies are the ones that are tougher for me to write about. There's something about the really good ones that makes me freeze up when my fingers start clacking away at the keyboard. Anyway, in a word, "Breakfast at Tiffany's" is fantastic. I wasn't really sure what to expect going into this, as the only things I really knew about it were the facts that Truman Capote wrote the novella and that Audrey Hepburn wore a black dress that would ultimately make her a symbol of elegance for years to come. Even today, if you stroll past the home and living section of Wal-Mart, you can find cheap wall art of Audrey in her black dress and holding her entirely too long cigarette holder.

Anyway, I'm not really tackling my thoughts now, am I? From the opening scene of the city of New York stripped of it's people and one single girl (Holly) stepping out of that cab and strolling around on the barren streets, I knew this movie was going to be something special. The soft score being slowly poured over the images, only helped to make the moment more magical, as I gazed at the beautiful Audrey Hepburn. Once the film got started, at first, I was a little confused. Nothing really seemed to mesh together. We had characters whom I really didn't understand entirely. Were Holly and Paul, female and male prostitutes respectively? As the film rolled on it became clear that Holly wasn't a prostitute per se, but rather a social girl who didn't mind accepting a handout. I think, however, you can still view the film as if she is a call girl. I think it makes it better actually. Having to think up certain, specific words to define Holly, when she's clearly a call girl, just gets in the way and it's easier to imagine this writer falling in love with a call girl and being unable to secure her.

In the film, Holly represents that uncatchable fish that Paul just can't seem to reel in (until the end). She likes him and he loves her, but she's too bogged down with "responsibilities" to take his love seriously. I think as a man, I can speak for all men and say that I think we've all met a girl like Holly in our lifetime, at some point. A girl that we had feelings for, but that there was no way in hell we were ever going to tie down with marriage or even a committed relationship. That's who Holly was in this film. A girl who flew by the seat of her pants and didn't intend on getting tied down, who accepted any favor she could garner from any man who would offer it and lived off of them. It was just a really fun film, beautifully shot and wonderfully acted film, that I already want to go and re-live again.

RATING: 8.5/10 I'm probably undercutting it a little, but for now I'll play it safe and go with an '8.5'. Don't be surprised to see my come back here sometime in the next week with reviews for "My Fair Lady" and "Roman Holiday".

MOVIES WATCHED: 318
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
683

August 9, 2011 1:28pm


Monday, August 8, 2011

485. The Producers (1968)

Running Time: 88 minutes
Directed By: Mel Brooks
Written By: Mel Brooks
Main Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, Kenneth Mars, Lee Meredith

SPRINGTIME FOR HITLER

Needing to watch something short last night, due to the fact that I was so tired, I skimmed the 60s movies that were streaming on Netflix and decided on Mel Brooks' first feature, "The Producers".

Has been, Broadway producer Max Bialystock (Mostel) hasn't had a hit in years. Nowadays he's resorted to being a boy toy for aging widows to get enough money to survive. When Leo Bloom (Wilder), an accountant, arrives at Bialystock's office to do the books, he makes an interesting discovery. He finds that a producer could theoretically make more money with a flop, than with a hit. The producer would simply raise more money than he needed to produce the play and when it flopped on opening night, the backers would never come to collect on a play that presumably lost money. Bialystock, the schemer that he is, persuades Bloom to help him get the con off the ground and goes around to every old, rich widow that he knows asking for checks. Bialystock and Bloom ultimately raise a million bucks and go to work finding the worst play they can possibly find. Bialystock lands on a play titled, "Springtime for Hitler", written by lunatic ex-Nazi Franz Liebkind (Mars). They hire the worst director in town, Roger De Bris and cast the worst actor imaginable to play Hitler, Lorenzo St. DuBois (Shawn)...or L.S.D. to his friends. With a surefire flop under their belt, all that Bialystock and Bloom have left to do is set back, watch their play go down and then hop a place to Rio, where they plan to live high on the hog.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

This one started out bad, as for some reason the opening credits just really irked the crap out of me. Scenes of Bialystock "playing" with one of his merry widows, that kept stopping and were spliced with the opening titles. Beyond that though, the film is a romp! The plot is so ridiculous that it's actually very funny and I found myself doing something that I rarely do with comedies and that's laughing out loud (or LOL'ing to you youngsters). I very rarely laugh out loud when it comes to comedies and that's not to say that they're not funny, it's just that it takes a lot to get me to really laugh at something, but "The Producers" got me and mostly it was thanks to Gene Wilder (who's always great) and Dick Shawn, who I couldn't help but chuckle at. Zero Mostel was hilarious too and the entire time I was watching the film, I found myself asking whatever happened to this guy, because he's really funny. Turns out that Mostel was blacklisted for many years, unable to get movie roles, with certain directors like Elia Kazan and Mel Brooks petitioning to get Mostel into their movies. The whole cast here really did a fine job and added to the zaniness of the entire production.

Sure the movie was incredibly predictable, as it didn't take 20/20 vision to see that the film was obviously going to be a success and then the duo of Bialystock and Bloom would have to get out of the hole that they dug for themselves. But it's still a ton of fun and I'd recommend to anyone looking for a good comedy or just a good laugh. I think that about says it all for "The Producers".

I'll leave you with an interesting fact that I found while looking up tidbits for "The Producers". It turns out that in Sweden the title of this film actually translates to "Springtime for Hitler". In addition to that tidbit, apparently all of Brooks' films in Sweden are affixed with the word "Springtime", with Springtime for The Sheriff (Blazing Saddles), Springtime for Frankenstein (Young Frankenstein), Springtime for Space (Spaceballs), Springtime for the Slum (Life Stinks), Springtime for World History (History of the World, Part 1), Springtime for Stepmother (The Twelve Chairs), Springtime for the Silent Movies (Silent Movie), Springtime for The Lunatics (High Anxiety).

RATING: 7.5/10 Brooks is 1-1 with me and someday I'll watch his third and final film in the book, "Young Frankenstein".

MOVIES WATCHED: 317
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 684

August 8, 2011 4:39pm


427. GERTRUD (1964)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Written By: Carl Theodor Dreyer, from play by Hjalmar Soderberg
Main Cast: Nina Pens Rode, Bendt Rothe, Ebbe Rode, Baard Owe, Axel Strobye

AMOR OMNIA

Longtime fans of my blog will know that Carl Th. Dreyer and myself go together just about as well as oil and water. However, as I continue my trek through the 1960s, I stayed positive (as I usually try my best to do) and went in with an open mind.

The film tells the story of Gertrud (Pens Rode), a middle aged woman who, upon the films opening, abruptly tells her husband Gustav (Rothe), that their marriage has ran it's course and she has found another lover. Her husband pleads with her, but Gertrud stands strong, barely showing any emotion and sticking to her guns. In the following scene, we see Gertrud with the previously mentioned lover, Erland Jansson (Owe). It's immediately obvious that her Erland is simply using Gertrud, possibly treating her as a wild oat or proud of the fact that he's been able to lure a woman away from her husband. However, Gertrud is head over heels with him and it's in this scene that she finally seems to show some emotion, that being happiness. They make love and the next day Gertrud accompanies her husband to a ceremony honoring poet Gabriel Lidman (Rode), a former lover of Gertud's and someone who wants her back in the worst way. During the ceremony, Gertrud finds out from Gabriel that Erland was at a party the night before telling everyone who would listen about his affair with Gertrud - a party that Gertrud asked Erland not to attend. While Gertrud's mind is on Erland and his unseemly ways, Gabriel pours his heart out to Gertrud, making it known that he wants her back. However, Gertrud seems to have her mind set on locking the door to her heart and throwing away the key.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

Even the "1001" book speaks a little ill of "Gertrud" when it calls it an "old man's film" and states that, like it's heroine it should "approached on it's own terms". The film actually had me hooked from the word "go", as we're treated to an approximately ten minute opening scene of Gertrud telling Gustav that their marriage has pretty much run it's course and that they've grown so cold toward one another, that it's time to call it Splitsville. As stated above, Gertrud (played well enough by Nina Pens Rode) stays pretty straight faced through the entire debacle, as Gustav begs and pleads for answers and understanding, which he doesn't get enough of. I was hooked and assumed I was in for a dialogue driven movie. The dialogue, in the opening shot, between Pens Rode and Bendt Rothe was every day dialogue, very real and heartfelt. Following that opening scene, someone must have injected the actors with a shot of Shakespeare's blood, because everyone seemed to transform into a poet, via their dialogue. Seriously, does anyone really talk like the characters in the film were talking? I mean, sure, it all sounded very pretty and eloquent, but it just wasn't real and sounded so fake and well written, that it was almost impossible to just let yourself fall into the films embraces, because you were constantly being reminded that this WAS a film. In my opinion, dialogue this good is bad, because it's too perfect to be real.

Also, at times I enjoyed Gertrud's lack of emotion, but then it got to be a little annoying, to the point that I just wanted to yell at the screen for these actors, especially her, to show me SOMETHING! You have these people pouring their hearts out to one another, expressing love, despair and lust and yet their faces stay solemn almost the entire time. COME ON! In short, once you get past the opening scene, the thing drops off pretty fast. I like the fact that they stuck to a dialogue driven script, as I usually enjoy those, but here the dialogue was too hokey to really mean anything and the actors were to emotionless to grip me. Besides those two MAJOR things, I guess it's an average affair, but nothing that I'd EVER want to watch again. It drags like a MoFo and by the end I was having trouble keeping my lids open and was forced to even rewind a few times to catch some text that got by my weak eyes. There seemed to be some sort of message buried in there and it seemed to be "Don't fall in love, or you're going to get shanked right in the heart!" Not a message that I'm an advocate of, but apparently Dreyer was. I did find it interesting that Gertrud turned down her husband (who wanted her badly, but had bigger priorities), Erland (who she loved and lusted over, but who wasn't faithful and who paraded their love like a trophy) and Gabriel (who wanted her very badly, but who had hurt her in the past), yet, even in her old age, she still remained friends with Axel and that they were friends and friends only. I kind of liked that and while I don't completely understand it, I still found it appealing in a way.

RATING: 4.5/10 Maybe....maybe....maybe I'll watch it again someday and maybe I'll find some things that I overlooked this time around. But for now call it a misfire.

MOVIES WATCHED: 316
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
685

August 7, 2011 10:19pm

Sunday, August 7, 2011

208. The Snake Pit (1948)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Anatole Litvak
Written By: Millen Brand, Frank Partos, from novel by Mary Jane Ward
Main Cast: Olivia de Havilland, Mark Stevens, Leo Genn, Celeste Holm, Helen Craig

ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST - THE ALL FEMALE VERSION

My wife has been urging me for months now to watch "The Snake Pit", as she liked it so much that she recently bought it. It arrived the other day, so last night I finally succumbed to her pleas and spent a Saturday night with her and Olivia de Havilland.

When the film opens, we're right in the thick of things and we are immediately introduced to Virginia Cunningham (de Havilland). From the get go, we are witnessing Virginia as she struggles with trying to understand and figure out why she's in a mental institution. At first, Virginia has no recollection of being committed or even what month it is. She doesn't remember her husband, Robert Cunningham (Stevens) and in fact, she doesn't remember very much at all. She simply believes that she isn't sick and that she doesn't belong in Ward 5 of Juniper Hill State Hospital. She works with her doctor, Dr. Kik (Genn) and in flashbacks we see that she met her husband in a whirlwind romance in Chicago. All of a sudden, Virginia seems to lose it and abruptly skips town and moves to New York. Robert never forgets her and when he, himself moves to New York, he meets up with her again. There they're married, but on May 12th Virginia has a major nervous breakdown and lands in Juniper Hills. Through the use of electro-shock therapy and hypnosis, Dr. Kik begins to make some real progress with Virginia, but the hospital intends to release her, citing that they're already overpopulated. As the film begins we slowly start to see the origins of Virginia's illness through the use of flashbacks.

POSSIBLE SPOILER ALERT!

I liked "The Snake Pit" and will most likely give it a decent enough rating, but I'm going to gripe, so beware. In my opinion, I never really was able to make an emotional connection to the character of Virginia. When the film opens, the first shot shows her already in a state of mental disarray and therefore, to me, she was never more than just another patient at the state hospital. Had the film maker's, instead, shown us Virginia in her normal life, prior to her nervous breakdown, I think it would have given us (or "me" rather) a chance to make a connection with her and she would have taken on more personal qualities, giving me the opportunity to feel for her that much more when she was being shocked into realizing her illness. I was ultimately able to find a little emotional attachment to her, but not as much as I could have if the film had been presented differently.

Olivia de Havilland pours her heart out in "The Snake Pit" and if you're a fan of hers, then this is essential viewing. She really wraps herself up in the role of Virginia Cunningham and shows what a dynamite actress she could be. In fact, kudos to the whole cast who did a fine job, including Leo Genn. I kept thinking that Virginia and the good doctor were going to strike up a love affair, but then again, that may have been a little too slimy for my liking...or anyone's for that matter. I think another thing that will keep this film from appealing to me as a favorite, is the fact that the patients don't interact as much as I'd like to. I'm a big fan of "One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest" so any film set in a mental institution always gets compared to that, in my head. There just weren't enough colorful characters floating around. Really, the entire flick is intended to tackle why Virginia's sick and helping her, which is fine, but I would've enjoyed MORE interaction between her and the other patients.

Yeah I griped a lot, but when a film's not a '10', then I feel the need to nitpick. Doesn't mean "The Snake Pit" wasn't a fine film, I just find myself focusing more on the negatives sometimes, rather than the positives. This is a good picture and like I said, Olivia de Havilland puts on a hell of a show with her portrayal of Virginia Cunningham.

RATING: 7/10 It was able to get into that "really good" tier (by a hair), but I couldn't, in good conscience, kick it into greatness territory.

MOVIES WATCHED: 315
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 686

August 7, 2011 12:08pm