Friday, January 27, 2012

404. Nattvardsgasterna/Winter Light (1963)

Running Time: 81 minutes
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Written By: Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Gunnar Bjornstrand, Ingrid Thulin, Max von Sydow, Gunnel Lindblom, Allan Edwall
Click here to view the trailer

BERGMAN WEEK: CHAPTER V

The second part of Bergman's "Trilogy of Faith" is presented as the fifth chronological Ingmar Bergman entry in the book and is almost as good as the first part of the trilogy.

The story is told in 80 minutes time and takes place over the course of three hours on a snowy Sunday afternoon. We focus in on a small church and more specifically the pastor of the church, who gives a standard sermon to the six who are in attendance, feeding them the blood and body of Christ and then dismissing them from their weekly worship. The pastor is Tomas (Bjornstrand) and he no longer believes in God. As he enters his chambers, preparing himself for a 3:00pm service at another church and nursing a cold, he accepts several visitors. First up, there's Marta Lundberg (Thulin), Thomas's ex-mistress and someone who loves him very much. Marta has made it her life's mission to take care of Tomas and feels that her true purpose on Earth is to be his companion. Unfortunately for Marta, Tomas doesn't feel the same way. He strings her along well enough, but Tomas is forever bound to his dead wife, whom he pledges eternal love to. In fact, it was his wife's death that lead him to doubt the existence of God. Then, Tomas is visited by a couple, Jonas (von Sydow) and Karin (Lindblom). Jonas is beginning to contemplate suicide, as he developed a deep fear when he learned that the Chinese were experimenting with nuclear weapons. Suffice it to say that it's going to be a trying few hours for the pastor.

At about the halfway mark of "Winter Light" I made the decision that I didn't like it very much. In fact, I was even tinkering with the notion of giving it a score somewhere below a '3'. At that point, I was just so fed up with Bergman harping about the existence of God, or lack thereof. I have no problem with anyone who chooses not to believe in God. I don't force my religion upon other people and likewise, I don't like to have their lack of religion forced upon me. Some Christians claim that when you encounter a non-believer that it is your duty as a believer of Christ to spread His word. However, one of the most wretched things I ever witnessed was when I saw a Christian try to convince an atheist that God existed. Even though I believe in God and Christ, there just seems to be something really slimy about one man trying to force his views on another. I believe that every man has a mind of his own and every man has heard about the Bible and has heard, at least in vague description, the story of Jesus Christ. Therefore, every man can choose whether he/she wants to believe or not, on their own without being forced or convinced otherwise. What I'm trying to say, is that I'm sick of Bergman trying to tell me that we're alone in the universe. If that's what he believes, that's fine and if he feels the need to make a movie about it, that's fine too, but must we keep exploring this same idea?

Then I realized something. This story means more to believers than it should to non-believers. I mean, think about it - You have a pastor who is experiencing a crisis of faith. As a believer in God and Christ, that's a tragic story to me. If I were a non-believer, I might be struck with the notion of "Oh, well thankfully this pastor came to his senses and realized that there's no God". But as a believer I can feel sympathy for a clergyman who can't seem to find strength & comfort in Christ.

"Winter Light" is filled with poignant, meaningful moments. One that I noticed right away was immediately after the scene where Tomas rips into Marta, telling her what he really thinks of her and not holding anything back. One thing you can say for Bergman is that he really knew how to capture heartbreak and he really knew how to write hatred and anger. Anyway, after Tomas basically rips Marta's heart out of her chest, he walks to the door, turns around and invites her to come with him to church. It's a moment that says to me, despite what Tomas wants or believes, he's never going to change things. He'll continue being a pastor, preaching the word of God, even though he doesn't believe what he's preaching. Likewise, he'll string Marta along, accepting her cough syrup and crying on her shoulder, even though he doesn't love her. I mean, in simpler terms, the guy is an ultimate hypocrite and really, even though I say I have sympathy for this clergyman, I really shouldn't, because he's really a terrible person.

Anyway, the ultimate decision was positive for "Winter Light". It's my kind of movie really - small cast, small setting (for the most part the entire film takes place in the chambers of the church), dialogue driven and a movie that takes place wholly over a few hours. It's one that really threw me back and forth emotionally, as I went from resenting the story, to feeling deep sympathy for the main character and then losing all the sympathy, as quick as it came. Sven Nykvist may be my new favorite cinematographer, mostly because I didn't have a former favorite cinematographer. His use of natural light, as opposed to artificial light is intoxicating and really gives these films a more realistic sense. I'll stop rambling now.

RATING: 7/10 I enjoyed "Through a Glass Darkly" more actually, but '6.5' just seemed to low for this one, so I knocked it to a '7'. I really wish they would have included "The Silence" in THE BOOK, because I'm really curious to see the last installment of the trilogy.

MOVIES WATCHED: 409
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 592

NOTE: I realize that I'm smack-dab in the middle of "Bergman Week", but I'm afraid the time has come for a much needed hiatus. It's just that I worked REALLY hard to get to my short-term goal of "401 movies watched", that I really burnt myself out. Had I not been hyping "Bergman Week" for months prior, I would've definitely taken the break as soon as my most recent TOP 20 was made. However, I thought I'd try to, at least, get through "Bergman Week" and then I could take a break. Well, I don't think I'm gonna' make it kids. I want to give my full attention and abilities to every film contained in THE BOOK and I just can't do that right now, because I really just need to step away from the journey for a little bit. I don't want to pass a false judgement of anything, especially movies as important as the upcoming Bergman offerings. So, with all that being said, I am officially announcing my hiatus from the blog. Please be aware that this is only a hiatus and those usually never last more than two or three months. I WILL BE BACK, I PROMISE. I may be back in a month, I may be back in three, but I will definitely be back and when I get back, I'll continue with the "Bergman Week" festivities. In the meantime, I think you have enough reading material to keep you occupied. Don't hesitate to continue leaving comments, as I check the blog dashboard every day and read all comments. Thanks to my followers, you guys rock! I'll see 'ya soon.

January 26, 2012 10:51pm

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

378. Sasom i en spegel/Through a Glass Darkly (1961)

Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By:
Ingmar Bergman
Written By: Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Harriet Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Max von Sydow, Lars Passgard
Click here to view the trailer

BERGMAN WEEK: CHAPTER IV

FINALLY! Finally "Bergman Week" produces something that I get to praise, instead of complain about, as "Through a Glass Darkly" doesn't quite hit a home run, but does hit a nice fly ball into center field.

The film has a cast of four and four only and the main character is Karin (Andersson), whom we learn has just been released from the hospital and later learn that she is being treated for an incurable, mental illness. Her husband is Martin (von Sydow), a doctor himself and a great husband to boot, caring for Karin and wanting nothing but the best for her. Karin's father is David (Bjornstrand), a novelist and a pessimist, who, despite his love for his family, will put his work before their well being. Lastly, there's Minus (Passgard), Karin's brother. The thing Minus wants most of all is attention from his father. We get the sense early on that Minus may be going through some issues of his own, but his troubles are being ignored due to Karin's troubles. In fact, Karin is really the only one who wants the best for Minus, taking an interest in his studies and conversing with him regularly. The film tells of a day in the life of these four family members, as Karin struggles to keep her grip on reality and the rest of the family go through struggles of their own.

SPOILER ALERT!

"Through a Glass Darkly" is the first part of Bergman's "Trilogy of Faith" and having that knowledge prior to viewing this film, I went into it expecting Bergman to beat me over the head with yet another film, where he artistically expressed his inability to find God. While "Through a Glass Darkly" may have themes of a religious nature, there's much more to it than that and I was able to enjoy it strictly from a character study standpoint. The characters that Ingmar Bergman presents to us here are ripe for the picking, meaning you can really pick them apart and make a lot of assumptions about them based on their actions and words in this ninety minute feature. While we never really get the full details of Karin's illness, it is obviously one of a mental nature, as Harriet Andersson puts on an acting showcase portraying the descent of Karin. Speaking of her illness, I'm no doctor or anything, but are there really mental illness's that are fatal? Also, while I'm proposing questions, what happened in the wrecked ship between Karin and Minus? Did they have sex? I mean, that's what I understood to have happened, but am I way off base? And what about David - was he meant to symbolize Christ in someway? I only say this because there are two poignant moments in the film where this thought could be true. The first is when David goes to get his tobacco and breaks down crying, standing in front of a window with his arms outstretched (ie. Christ on the cross). The second comes with the final words of the film, when David finally has a talk with Minus and Minus, astounded that his father has given him some time, says "Father spoke to me". What did those words mean - "Father spoke to me". Bergman may be an atheist, but it seems like he really wants to believe in something.

I'll keep this short tonight. For the film goer who likes religion with their movies, you can go into this one and probably pick it apart and find a lot of religious pieces. If you're like me and you don't like mixing the two, then there's still PLENTY of reasons to check this one out. Incredible performances, Sven Nykvist's cinematography (you can really tell that this is Nykvist's first feature with Bergman from THE BOOK, as it looks head & shoulders better than the previous Bergman entries), the gripping dialogue, the intense atmosphere and the characters.

RATING: 7/10 Hey, I hope this is the turning point, because I'd really like to leave "Bergman Week" with a positive opinion of Ingmar. Next up: "Winter Light".

MOVIES WATCHED: 408
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 593

January 25, 2012 6:18pm

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

469. Wavelength (1967)

Running Time: 43 minutes
Directed By: Michael Snow
Written By: Michael Snow
Main Cast: Hollis Frampton, Joyce Wieland, Amy Yadrin, Lyne Grossman, Maoto Nakagawa

Note: More than likely, this will be the last non "Bergman Week" review that I present, until "Bergman Week" is concluded. Once "Bergman Week" is finished up, I'll more than likely be going on hiatus. As always, if I do make the final decision to take a hiatus, I'll put a post up announcing it.

IT CAME FROM YOUTUBE

With some time to kill last night, I took to YouTube to check on the availability of some of the movies that I've been unable to find from THE BOOK. I actually managed to find a few dozen of them and this one looked so intriguing to me that I decided to watch it right away.

"Wavelength" is a short, experimental film, that only runs about forty-five minutes. In it, a camera is affixed in a permanent location and as the film progresses it slowly zooms into a photo on a wall. When the film starts the photo is on the other side of the room, but by the end we're so close that the photo takes up the entire frame. Throughout the forty-five minutes, a few people wander in and out of the frame, including two ladies who turn on the radio, listen to The Beatles' "Strawberry Fields Forever" and then leave. At another point, a man stumbles in and falls on the floor. Approximately ten minutes later, a woman enters, sees the man and calls the police, declaring that the man seems to be dead. Also throughout the film, Michael Snow experiments with the picture and audio, giving us a plethora of different colors and effects on the picture and piercing our ears with the sine wave of the soundtrack, taking it from it's lowest to highest note.

Having my expectations for experimental films at the lowest that they could possibly be and going in not really expecting much out of another one, I really enjoyed this. It's kind of hard to target what it was I actually enjoyed about it, but the entire film gave off a high intrigue factor. Watching "Wavelength" was like looking at a Jackson Pollock painting and seeing a world of possibility. While there really wasn't much substance to it, there was something almost haunting about being in this big room, with no one else around, only the silence and the decibel levels of the soundtrack to keep us company. That piercing whine as the film progressed only served to heighten the intensity, as I slowly started to realize that we were getting closer and closer to this one photograph on the wall.

There's apparently a theory that the photo (which is a picture of waves) is supposed to represent an alternate reality. I don't know about all that and really, whether that's a fact or a theory, wouldn't serve to raise or lower my opinion of this picture. This is an experimental film that I certainly condone and one that, I think, really served it's purpose. There's so much to see and so much to take away from this movie, when you dig deep, however, on the surface it doesn't seem like much. Beware that MANY people complain about the film being boring, as it is really just a camera slowly zooming in on one spot for the majority of the time. However, if you're a "glass half full" kind of person, I think you'll be able to take away a lot from this film. Kudos to Michael Snow for cracking my hesitancy on experimental cinema.

RATING: 7.5/10 On an experimental scale, this would probably be a '10/10', but on an overall scale, considering everything, I think a '7.5' is suitable.

MOVIES WATCHED: 407
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 594

January 24, 2012 5:23pm

Saturday, January 21, 2012

318. Smultronstallet/Wild Strawberries (1957)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Written By:
Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Victor Sjostrom, Ingrid Thulin, Bibi Andersson, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Jullan Kindahl
Click here to view the trailer

BERGMAN WEEK: CHAPTER III

This is probably the most disappointed I've been since I've started this journey. In short, I didn't much care for "Wild Strawberries", but the disappointment really kicks in when I realize Ingmar Bergman is now 0-3...and I had such high hopes for him.

The film centers around Isak Borg (Sjostrom), a 76-year-old, retired physician. The film is also narrated by Isak and as the picture begins he is preparing himself to go to Lund, to accept an honorary award. At last minute, Isak's daughter-in-law Marianne (Thulin) asks if she can accompany him and he accepts. Isak and Marianne then pack into an automobile and begin the long drive to Lund University. At first, their car ride doesn't go to well, as Isak brings up some serious issues and Marianne basically tells Isak that she doesn't like him very much and never has. During the entire time, Isak is entranced in deep reflection about his own past life and the mistakes and missteps he made. On a detour of their route, Isak and Marianne stop off at the home where Isak spent his summer's as a boy. There Isak reflects on his youth and remembers his cousin Sara (Andersson), a girl whom he was in love with. When he snaps back to reality, he meets a present day girl named Sara, who is joined by two boys and needs a ride to Italy. Isak agrees to take them as far as Lund. Later, Isak makes a second detour, at his elderly mother's house and again does some reflecting. Eventually, the group pile back into the car and continue their trip to Lund. During most of the ride, Isak sleeps and dreams bizarre things that give him insight into his own character.

It's not that "Wild Strawberries" was terrible, it's just that in the big picture it wasn't nearly as good as I thought it would be. I REALLY wanted to like this picture. I've heard Woody Allen talk about this film many times, citing it as one of his personal favorites and even upon reading a brief synopsis of the plot, it sounded like something that I could really take to. You know, I think there's just far too much pressure on the wannabe film buff to like certain movies, "Wild Strawberries" being a glaring example. Throughout this entire picture I just kept thinking, in the back of my head - almost subconsciously - that I NEEDED to like this film. In the end, I didn't. But why?

My main problem with "Wild Strawberries" is the execution. On the surface, the film is actually quite a good idea. It's a very simple structure of a man going through a day where he's starting to examine his own character, the way he's lived his life and the key moments that shaped him in his current, 76-year-old, state. My connection to this film was really severed when Bergman started incorporating flashbacks. I was really with it, especially when Isak and Marianne started their car ride and the great back and forth dialogue between the two, the quiet, very real responses from Sjostrom. Then they take the detour and we get a flashback to Isak's childhood, as he reflects on a memory that he wasn't even a part of (so how could he reflect on it?), involving his cousin Sara. Had Bergman, in some way, been able to get across the idea that Isak was going through a period of self examination, without the use of flashbacks, I think I would have taken to the film a lot better. Even the dream sequences weren't terrible, but again, I'd have rather heard, through the narration possibly, of Isak's memories.

Also, the film just wasn't that poignant to me. There's never any great realization from Isak, at least that I saw. We hear about Isak's faults through the narration and flashbacks, but we never see the man that Marianne speaks of, the cold, callous man that she tells him he can be. All we ever really see is an elderly, timid gentlemen and therefore in the end, when Isak has his little talk with Evald, it's really of no importance. I don't know - all I DO KNOW is that I just didn't take to the film and I was really looking forward to it. It's just not a film that served it's purpose on me, as well as it obviously has on others.

RATING: 5.5/10 Like I said, not terrible, but nothing I'd bother writing home about. There are still seven Bergman films remaining, but honestly, I'm starting to lose hope that a truly great one is going to come along. Next up: "Through a Glass Darkly".

MOVIES WATCHED: 406
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 595

January 21, 2012 6:47pm

974. Kill BIll: Volume One (2003)

Running Time: 111 minutes
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino, Uma Thurman
Main Cast: Uma Thurman, Lucy Liu, Sonny Chiba, Vivica A. Fox, Julie Dreyfus
Click here to view the trailer

REVENGE IS A DISH BEST SERVED COLD

Tonight it was a short march to the "DVD room" for my next review, a personal favorite of mine - "Kill Bill". In this case, it's "Kill Bill: Volume One" and I have to wonder why THE BOOK didn't just mash the two volumes of the "Kill Bill" story together into one entry.

Eleven years after Quentin Tarantino introduced us to Mr. White and Mr. Pink, he introduced us to The Bride a.k.a. Black Mamba (Thurman). Though her real name is hidden from us until the second volume, what we do know about The Bride is that on her wedding day, moments before she was to be married, the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad (with their leader Bill) gunned down and murdered nine people that were on hand for the ceremony - they should have made it ten! Though they thought they murdered her and despite the bullet Bill fired into her brain, The Bride didn't cease to be. Instead, she lay comatose in a hospital bed for four years, probably dreaming about the revenge that she'd serve her attackers. When she wakes up, she "takes out" a hospital orderly, steals his truck (the "Pussy Wagon") and gets to work, coldly serving her dish of revenge on the five members of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad. In "Volume One" The Bride takes out Vernita Green a.k.a. Copperhead (Fox) quite easily and the rest of the film is mainly focused on The Bride's travel to Tokyo and preparation for her grand fight with O-Ren Ishii a.k.a. Cottonmouth (Liu).

I can remember working at a video store when this film was released on DVD. At the time, I considered Quentin Tarantino my favorite director, however, like now, I rarely got to the theater, even to check out the movies that I most anticipated. I can remember waiting patiently, like a child wait's for Christmas morning, for "Kill Bill" to be released on DVD and I remember the day when it finally was. When I finally got to watch it, it was worth the wait and then some. In fact, I liked it so much that I actually made it to the theater for "Volume Two". However, through the years as I re-watched the film on multiple occasions, I realized that each time it would get less and less appealing. Well, tonight I watched the film for the umpteenth time and I can say that the appeal has returned. My tastes have changed drastically since the days when I worked at the video store and waited patiently for "Kill Bill". Now, I wait patiently for the new Woody Allen film each year and while I did make it to the theater for "Inglorious Basterds", I didn't much care for it and have yet to see it again, or even purchase it. In the words of Bob Dylan, "The times they are a-changin".

Anyway, enough rambling. Why do I like "Kill Bill" and more specifically, why do I like "Kill Bill: Volume One"? Well what's not to like, really? For all intents and purposes this film is flawless. It gets it's point across, uses it's time perfectly and never, NEVER drags. You know, you can gather your most keen-eyed film snobs and they'll fill a college ruled notebook with all the references, samplings and "ripoffs" that Tarantino uses in this movie and then they'll chastise him for it. I've never been one for caring about someone sampling someone else's work, as long as it's not blatant and as long as it serves their story too and they use it respectfully. Tarantino borrowed from and paid homage to several different genres here, including wuxia films, spaghetti westerns and blaxploitation films and he meshes it all together in grand fashion. He samples the scores of Ennio Morricone and Bernard Herrmann, while mixing in pieces of country tunes, Gheorghe Zamfir virtuoso's and music by "The 5, 6, 7, 8's". In fact, the music is so perfect here that even a blind man would have to acknowledge the greatness of this picture.

Tarantino is no longer my favorite director, through no fault of his own, but it's hard to deny him. He's one of the few director's still making movies that allows me to have continued faith in the future of American cinema. You can say what you want about the guy, but he makes his brand of picture. Is he a self-indulgent filmmaker? YES! He throws conventional rules out the window, paying no mind to certain details, such as telling a film in linear fashion. In "Kill Bill", Tarantino tells the story in all different parts and it only adds to our laundry list of questions, but makes it that much more enjoyable when we finally start piecing things together. Let's also take for instance the back story of O-Ren Ishii, which Tarantino tells using a Japanese anime sequence - a perfect fit in this unconventional film. The bottom line is that when you look at "Kill Bill" it's hard to believe it came out of 21st Century Hollywood, because it looks so damn good and certainly sticks out like a sore thumb - a good sore thumb.

On the poster for "Slacker" there was a quote that read something like, "this film is a twelve course meal composed entirely of desserts". I don't know if that pertains to "Slacker" or not, but it fits "Kill Bill" perfectly. Every other frame is a visual smorgasbord for the eyes. There are a lot of EXCELLENT films in history, that still make us sludge through a lot of dull to get to the payoff. In "Kill Bill" we work toward a payoff, but Tarantino makes it a hell of a lot of fun just getting there. Tarantino makes us savor every frame of his picture, never allowing us to think ahead to the inevitable ultimate clash.

RATING: 10/10 Well did you expect anything less? I reviewed "Reservoir Dogs" approximately 200 movies ago. Do you think I can wait another 200 before I do "Pulp Fiction"? We'll see.

MOVIES WATCHED: 405
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 596

January 21, 2012 3:49am

Friday, January 20, 2012

316. Det sjunde inseglet/The Seventh Seal (1957)

Running Time: 96 minutes
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Written By: Ingmar Bergman, from the play Tramalning by Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Max von Sydow, Bengt Ekerot, Gunnar Bjornstrand, Nils Poppe, Bibi Andersson
Click here to view the trailer

BERGMAN WEEK: CHAPTER II

As I mentioned in the "Smiles of a Summer Night" review, I had seen "The Seventh Seal" once before and I wasn't crazy about it. Well, I'm here to announce that when it comes to "The Seventh Seal", I'm still sane.

The plot of "The Seventh Seal" can be summed up in a sentence: A knight (von Sydow) searches for the meaning of life & death and the existence of God, all the while playing a game of chess with Death himself. There's more to it than that, but really that's the main idea behind this film. The knight is Antonius Block, who has just spent ten years fighting in the Crusades and is returning home, through a plague ridden land, sometime in the 13th Century. He is accompanied by his squire Jons (Bjornstrand), a man who is certain that there is no God and that man is all alone in the universe. Antonius isn't sure about all that - he wants to believe in something, he wants to have faith in God, but simply can't bring himself to believe. Meanwhile, there's also a troupe of traveling actors, which include Jof (Poppe), his wife Mia (Andersson) and their infant son. Jof is a carefree type, happy to be alive and thankful for his family. Jof is also prone to visions - visions that Mia discredits almost as soon as he announces them. The visions are usually of a religious nature, as when Jof sees the virgin Mary. Eventually Antonius and Jons meet up with Jof and his family and together the group travel together through this land, where the future seems uncertain.

My dislike for "The Seventh Seal", I'm sure, can be chalked up to a conflict of personal taste. There's absolutely nothing about it that appeals to me. Take, for starters, the setting and basic layout of the picture. You have a knight and his squire traveling together in the 13th Century. I almost always hate films that are set this far back. Sure, it's just me being close-minded and stubborn, but I can never get into films that deal with knights and the such. So you'll say, "Well that's just the basic blueprint of the story, there's MUCH more to it than that!" - and you'd be right. Beyond that we take a closer look at the meaning of life, death, whether or not God exists and similar themes. Again, these are ideas that I have no interest in. Bergman cites in the introduction to this movie (on the Criterion Collection DVD) that he was always afraid of dying and that fact was one of the driving forces behind this picture. I don't think about death that much, myself. I'm not afraid to die, nor do I really care to know the meaning of life - I'm not that deep of a thinker.

I'll give Bergman a little credit for this picture, in the form of two notes: 1) He kept it short. Before I even saw this movie, years ago, and I had simply heard about it's premise, I would have bet money that it would have been an epic three plus hour event. That's not the case. The film is just slightly over ninety minutes and that's a credit to Bergman. Honestly, I think he knew that any longer and he'd be really getting into a more boring territory, so kudos to him for wrapping it up quickly. 2) Despite the basic ideas of the film and the setting that I griped about above, Bergman actually does give us a fairly mediocre story (I mean that as a compliment). It's not a movie where I played the part of the clock watcher, but one where I could watch the story unfold and then form my sour opinion at the conclusion. Actually, the film uses it's time nicely, never really dragging or boring the audience, but rather, presents us with characters that are interesting enough and a story that isn't terrible.

However, when it's all said and done, this just isn't my movie. I just DO NOT (and probably never will) understand the appeal of it. I see the artistic element, the photography is sublime and the ideas are well thought out. Unfortunately, they're not ideas that I share or ones that I am as interested in pondering, as Bergman apparently was. The film doesn't bore me, it's simply one that I do not GET and if I don't GET IT, I can't condone it.

RATING: 4/10 Well, I tried to be as fair as I could, but that's about as good as it gets for "The Seventh Seal". Bergman has eight pictures left, but as of now I'd say he's 0-2. Next up: "Wild Strawberries".

MOVIES WATCHED: 404
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 597

January 20, 2012 8:01pm

Thursday, January 19, 2012

839. SLACKER (1991)

Running Time: 100 minutes
Directed By: Richard Linklater
Written By: Richard Linklater
Main Cast: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Marc James, Stella Weir, John Slate

Note: I wanted to make a few notes, before I begin my actual post. 1) I forgot to mention it yesterday, but "Smiles of a Summer Night" was my 500th post on this blog - yet another cool milestone to bask in. 2) I've mentioned it a few other times before, but wanted to give anyone who may be reading this book or anyone who may be interested in buying a copy of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, a head's up. The running times are almost always wrong! They're usually only off by a few minutes, but still, 90% of the time they're not accurate. 3) I've downgraded my Netflix back to "2 movies out at a time" and so "Bergman Week" will probably be interrupted quite frequently by movies that are currently streaming or movies that I own. And now, on with the show.

A SLICE OF 90s AMERICAN LIFE

This leaves the streaming portion of Netflix in a few days, so I figured why not give it a look and avert adding it to my "At Home" queue. I watched it last night and avoided writing the review immediately because A) I was dead tired and B) I needed some time to think about it.

I say this a lot nowadays, but to relay the plot of this movie to you would be next to impossible, so I'll try to sum up the entire movie in a short paragraph. The film is Richard Linklater's first and is set in Austin, TX. The film follows dozens of twenty-somethings through a twenty-four hour day, as they talk about a wide range of topics, including JFK assassination conspiracies, alternate realities and Madonna's pap smear. The film begins with Linklater himself getting into the back of a taxicab and relaying a dream he had to the driver. He rambles on and on for a solid seven minutes about dreams, alternate realities and how every path on the yellow brick road in "The Wizard of Oz" is it's own movie. Some time later, he exits the cab, crosses the paths of another character and then we follow that particular character for five minutes or so, never to see Linklater again.

The most notable thing I took away with this movie is how well it captured 90s America. I was born in 1984, so I'm not quite part of Generation X. However, I am right on the outskirts of it and saw how teens and twenty-somethings acted in the early 90s. I'm not sure of the statistics, but you get the sense that the 90s is when a lot of things that used to be unheard of, started to become normal. Kids began dropping out of college at a higher rate, we started sleeping until noon and 1pm and we really lost a lot of our ambition. This film really captured that and really shows what it was like to be a college age person, living in America, in the early 1990s. Long haired men, donning jeans and logo t-shirts, of which about 50% were a part of a garage band. You had this influx of thinkers, who really had nowhere to take their thoughts, and would sit around in coffee houses and spout ideas. Such as people who thought they had all the answers on the JFK assassination and how much of a conspiracy was going on in Dallas, despite the fact that they weren't living then.

I could understand anyone saying they didn't like this film, because it's not an easy movie to like. In fact, I wasn't even sure if I liked it at first. But as I spent the day whirling it around and around my head, I realized that it must have left some kind of impression on me, because I couldn't stop thinking about it. The dialogue, while sometimes nonsensical, is actually really good and it's shouldn't be a surprise that this was Kevin Smith's inspiration for making "Clerks". There were moments during this film where I couldn't help but think, "This is so stupid", but then five minutes later I'd be mentally praising it for being so clever. It's an odd one to get a read on, even from my own perspective, but I think it's one that will work for the right audience.

RATING: 7/10 For the record, I do think that that Linklater's later efforts, "Before Sunrise" and "Before Sunset" would have been more suitable candidates for this "must see" text. However, as it is, this is Linklater's only film in THE BOOK.

MOVIES WATCHED: 403
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 598

January 19, 2012 5:43pm

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

298. Sommarnattens leende/Smiles of a Summer Night (1955)

Running Time: 108 minutes
Directed By: Ingmar Bergman
Written By: Ingmar Bergman
Main Cast: Gunnar Bjornstrand, Eva Dahlbeck, Ulla Jacobsson, Jarl Kulle, Margit Carlqvist

BERGMAN WEEK: CHAPTER I

Once again, before I begin this review, I just want to thank everyone who took a minute to read my TOP 20. I've reached a milestone that I'm very proud of and I'm excited to begin "The Road to 500". I look forward to twenty more movies worthy of the next list and this is where it all begins. However, I don't think "Smiles of a Summer Night" will be one of them.

The film presents us with a love hexagon, of sorts, as a group of different characters look to figure out their current relationship status. First up there's Fredrik Egerman (Bjornstrand), an aging attorney, who is married to 19-year-old Anne (Jacobsson). Fredrik is very aware of the age gap between he and his young bride and is the jealous type. In fact, he's even wary of his own son, Henrik (from a previous marriage), who lives with him and is around Anne's age. In the past, Fredrik had a mistress, actress Desiree Armfeldt (Dahlbeck) and when the Egerman's go to see her new play, Anne insists that they leave midway through, uncomfortable about something. Fredrik doesn't think Anne knew about his affair with Desiree, but when he meets up with Desiree later, he realizes that she might know something. Then there's Count Carl Magnus Malcolm (Kulle), Desiree's current lover and he's also married. Oh and let's not forget about Fredrik's maid, Petra, who gets her kicks teasing Henrik (who is a priest), flashing her cleavage at him and being generally frisky. After her meeting with Fredrik, Desiree realizes that she wants him back and devises a scheme to get everyone into their own, content relationships, so that she and Fredrik can be together. It all is to take place at the country home of the elder Mrs. Armfeldt, where all the couples are invited for a weekend, including Henrik and Petra.

WHEW! If that didn't confuse you, I don't know what will. Actually the plot isn't as confusing as it sounds and the writing is good enough to keep everything sorted out, without the plot tripping over itself and becoming jumbled. In fact, each relationship/situation is given time to be told and by the time we actually get to the country house, Bergman has spent an hour establishing everyone's circumstances. Actually, I think the film could have benefited greatly if Berman could have told the story of the six primary characters in half the time and got us to the country house with time to spare. That way, the film really could have flourished as all these couples interacted during a weekend getaway and I think it would have been a much more enjoyable film. However, as it was, I just didn't take to it as much as I had hoped to. The dialogue was really great, which surprised me for some reason, probably because I knew it was a comedy and I don't think of great dialogue when I hear the word "comedy".

In fact, I'm not entirely sure why I didn't take to this film more than I did. I think ultimately I just didn't care enough about the characters or their situations. The acting was fine, the story was, for the most part, intricate and well organized and, as I mentioned, the dialogue was a breath of fresh air. In the end, however, it just didn't do a lot for me and I really wanted to get "Bergman Week" kicked off with more of a bang than this.

Also, before I wrap this review I just want to make a quick note about my familiarity with Ingmar Bergman. I have seen exactly four Bergman films, prior to my viewing of "Smiles of a Summer Night". The very first Bergman film I ever saw was "Scenes from a Marriage", which I immediately fell in love with and have subsequently purchased and rewatched. I think it's ONE OF the greatest films I've ever seen, with two of the BEST performances I've ever seen and I've often cited that Liv Ullmann's performance in "Scenes" was one of the best performances I've ever witnessed from an actress. So, just to set the record straight, I'm not immune to Ingmar Bergman and he has at least one film that I'd put high on my personal list of favorites.

RATING: 6/10 Not terrible, by any means, but still not what I was looking for. Oh well, Bergman gets nine more chances to impress, so I won't worry just yet. Next up: "The Seventh Seal" (FYI - I've seen "The Seventh Seal" before and I wasn't impressed).

MOVIES WATCHED: 402
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
599

January 18, 2012 5:28pm

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

UPDATE - January 2012

Well I hope everyone who took the time to read it, enjoyed the latest TOP 20 that was posted last night. I put a lot of effort and thought into the selections that appeared on the list and I think what was produced was a very good showcase of the last 100 films. But what I'm really here to talk about is the next 100 films....and a few other things too.

BERGMAN WEEK

Obviously those of you who are regular visitors to this blog have seen the posters that I've been posting for the past month or so. As we did with the last 100, this 100 films will be kicked off by a particular director - a director who has an abundance of pictures in THE BOOK - and that director is Ingmar Bergman, with a total of ten films in the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. I'll be watching them chronologically and "Smiles of a Summer Night" will kick it all off, more than likely tomorrow night.

THE 60s EXPERIMENT

Regular readers may also remember my effort to cram in as many films from the 1960s into my last set of 100 films. This was done in an effort to find more personal favorites from a decade where I didn't have many. Well, the experiment worked, as 15 of the films that made an appearance on the TOP 20 list (including the "Ten Worth Mentioning") were from the 60s. This brings me to my next point of discussion...

40s and 2000s

With the 100 that will kick off with "Bergman Week" and end with 501 films watched, I'll be thickening it up with another decade - in fact, two decades. During the next 100 films, expect to see many films from the 1940s, as well as an equal number of films from the first seven years of the 21st Century. I've also sprinkled in approximately twenty "open spots", which will be used to allow me to wander around a little bit, when/if I feel restricted to a schedule. This plan worked really well for #302 - #401, so I have no doubt that this will be a good way to continue on.

I want to reiterate that I WILL NOT be watching EVERY film from the 40s and 2000s, simply a large number of each, in an effort to find more personal favorites from those two decades.

HAWKS, WELLES, ANDERSON, LORD OF THE RINGS

In addition to "Bergman Week", also during this 100, expect tributes to Howard Hawks, Orson Welles, "A Double Shot of (Wes) Anderson" and the completion of one of the two major trilogies from THE BOOK, "The Lord of the Rings", which IS included as ONE ENTRY.

BLOG MAINTENANCE

I was toying with the idea of moving to WordPress or possibly even simply changing the template for THIS blog, but I struck both ideas from the record. I'm happy where I am now and Blogger provides me with everything I need to write about movies. I am, however, going to be going back through all the old posts and doing some slight corrections (spacing issues on certain posts, fixing minor errors, etc.) and adding in pictures to the reviews that don't already have one. I didn't start doing the pictures thing until "Midnight Cowboy", so I have quite a few films that need a visual aid.

Also note that the "TOP 20" page (linked above) has been updated to include the latest batch of TOP 20 recipients (including "Ten Worth Mentioning"). Also, pictures have been added to that page as well, depicting scenes from the four movies that have nabbed the top spot of my four TOP 20 lists.

TEMPORARY HIATUS.....NOT YET

I'M NOT GOING ON HIATUS YET, but expect one soon. I've been churning out these reviews nice and steady since October and I think it's nearly time to take a break. Don't worry though, I'd like to be at least fifteen or so movies into the next 100 before I do that.

Well that's about all I have for you tonight. Again, I hope those of you who are taking the time to read my reviews are enjoying them. Remember, I'm no writer, nor have I ever claimed to be. I'm simply a man who likes movies and enjoys writing his thoughts. To the new followers I've attained in the past couple of weeks, I thank you and welcome you. And to the older followers, I thank you too. Anyone and everyone who has left comments, you also get a big thanks from yours truly. Hey, don't forget that I can be found on the popular social networking sites - my information is as followed:

Twitter: @adduvall84
Facebook by clicking here

P.S. On my Facebook you won't find a lot of updates from me, besides links to the reviews that I write, when I write them, however, you will find a butt-load of pictures of actresses, actors and directors I've either discovered or rediscovered by watching the films from THE BOOK.

January 16, 2012 9:55pm

Monday, January 16, 2012

TOP 20: #302 - #401

Well folks, here I am again, ready to present to you another TOP 20 list. As I've been saying a lot recently, it's hard to believe that I'm already 401 movies into tLinkhe "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. I can vividly remember the day I decided to start this blog and it's a venture that I think is really paying off. I can say definitively that this wasn't too hard of a list to make. The great films that were contained in this 100 films separated themselves from the bad ones and when it came down to list making time, it was easy to distinguish which films deserved a spot and which didn't. I saw some fantastic movies over the past six months and I'm pleased to present to you the cream of the crop from #302 - #401. I hope you'll all enjoy it and while I usually don't, I urge you to comment on this post. Whether it be complaints, "sins of omission" or praise, please let me know what you think. Without further ado, my 4th TOP 20.

CLICK HERE TO SEE A COMPLETE LIST OF THE LAST 100 FILMS I'VE WATCHED FOR THE "1001 MOVIES YOU MUST SEE BEFORE YOU DIE" BOOK, INCLUDING MY INITIAL RATINGS OF THOSE FILMS

Note: I've revised some of the ratings for the following 20 films, as some of them needed a bit of tweaking.

20. Deliverance (1972) dir. John Boorman 8/10
You'll see a lot of people classifying "Deliverance" as a horror film and while I don't think that's an incorrect label, to me, it's much more than that. What you have in this film is three separate stories: Man vs. Man, Man vs. Nature and Man vs. Self. When you intertwine those three ideas, what you get is a great motion picture, with a great cast to boot. "Deliverance" is a film that I enjoyed the first time I saw it, many years ago and when I re-watched it for THE BOOK, back in November, I had a strong feeling I'd be able to find it a home on this list.

19. Schindler's List (1993) dir. Steven Spielberg 8/10
Some of you may be surprised to see "Schindler's List" so low on this list, but I knew when I watched it that I didn't quite like it as much as most do. Don't get me wrong, it's #19, so obviously I think it's great and I don't want to speak negatively about a film on my own list. I just think a lot of times people take "Schindler's List" and automatically herald it, simply because it's a Steven Spielberg picture, it's a Best Picture winner and it's a Holocaust movie. Those three things don't automatically warrant a "must see" label, but they do make for a damn fine movie and that's what you get here. You can scorn Spielberg as much as you want and you can even accuse him of deliberately making a sentimental, artistic movie to sort of balance out all the big budget stuff, but what you get with "Schindler" is a really memorable film and something that I knew right away would deserve a spot here.

18. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962) dir. Robert Aldrich 8/10
I just watched this one last week and raved about it then, so to come back and do more raving makes me feel like a broken record. "Baby Jane" is one that I had a got a feeling of greatness from before I even watched it. I just had that feeling that a Davis/Crawford film with a plot-line along the lines of "Misery" would appeal to me, and what can I say - I know my own tastes. The acting her is superb, but do I even have to mention it. I wonder if the acting would have been this great, had Crawford and Davis liked one another. I mean, you really get the feeling that they're pouring their hearts out in an effort to upstage the other one.

17. Saving Private Ryan (1998) dir. Steven Spielberg 8.5/10
It's funny how some movies get a full '10' rating when I first review them, but then when I examine them in the company of all the great things I've watched in the last six months, they fall a little bit. When I first watched "Saving Private Ryan" for THE BOOK, back in August, I had it pegged for a TOP 10 spot on this list. However, with the passing of time and with the inclusion of other masterpieces it slides to #17. But hey, that's still not too shabby for a war film, a genre for which I usually hold a lot of dislike. For me, this is more than a war film though and more a road movie, set during World War II. It really only uses the setting of war as a backdrop and then goes on to tell it's own tale of a platoon in search of a soldier who needs to get home before his mother is left with four dead sons.

16. My Night at Maud's (1969) dir. Eric Rohmer 8.5/10
Now here is one that I really had a hard time cracking when I first watched it back in November. By "cracking", I mean I really didn't know what to make of it. On the surface, I viewed it as a film that consisted of a few key characters throwing dialogue back and forth and making me feel like an ignorant school child, due to the degree of intellect in their conversations. However, my uncomfort didn't last long and when I dug deeper I found a film with a lot of meaning to it. This is one that came with a long review and a lot of though from yours truly. From my original review on November 17, 2011:
And let's talk about that bond between Jean-Louis and Maud for a moment, shall we. I think we all have people in our lives that we've happened upon, spent a very short amount of time with and then parted ways with, never to see them again. It's so sad really. In the film, when Maud and Jean-Louis are in her apartment and they part and promise to phone one another, it was, to me, a very sad scene, because you kind of knew that they were just going to forget about one another. For me this really hit home, because I've had so many friendships in my life that have blown away like dust in the wind. It's truly heartbreaking if you stop and think about it. You meet someone and for the time that you know them, they're special people to you, but then they go away, for one reason or another and soon they're nothing to you. To go from something to nothing is just heartbreaking. It was also very interesting how Francoise, at first, was completely uninterested in Jean-Louis, yet he was enamored with her. Maud, on the other hand, all but threw herself at Jean-Louis, yet he had already made up his mind that Francoise was the girl for him. It's something that I can't fully understand, yet am fascinated by and can understand on some levels.

15. Belle de Jour (1967) dir. Luis Bunuel 8.5/10
The hook here is amazing! That very first scene, with a horse drawn carriage being pulled through a vast foray of breathtaking foliage. Zooming in and happening upon a young couple, newlyweds perhaps, basking in one another's presence. All of a sudden, an argument breaks out, a mere tiff and from there the entire scene takes a complete 360. That's a scene that I'd put up there with some of my favorite scenes in film history, no joke. It's a scene that hooked me from the word "go" and didn't let go. The rest of the movie tells the story of Severine a.k.a. Belle de Jour, who spends her days living out her fantasies as a prostitute and night's fending off the husband that she can't bring herself to see in a sexual light. From my original review on December 20, 2011:
However, Bunuel isn't blatant when it comes to the sexual part of the movie. There is no nudity, sex is never shown and even the perversions that I mention above are never said outright, but only hinted at (sometimes more heavily hinted that others, but still). And, hey, don't get me wrong, this film isn't a piece of pornography (although in the 60s, I'm sure it was considered as such) and deals with much more than just sexual desires and urges. Bunuel also provides us with characters, most notably Severine, a woman who is conflicted inside because she has urges that she can't succumb to. Perhaps Severine's desires are so extreme that she knows that Pierre will never be able to satisfy her and so that she won't shame him, she just decides to tell him that she's not ready. Perhaps in her mind, the idea of a conventional sex life between a man and wife just isn't taboo enough, but to fit in with society she decided to marry a doctor and live a good life, in a nice home, where she'll shop and welcome guests. Perhaps all the shopping, welcoming guests and day to day life of a doctor's wife has made her feel like she's living a watered down lifestyle and perhaps Severine needs to have a secret, hole in the wall place where she goes to do unspeakable deeds.

14. Cool Hand Luke (1967) dir. Stuart Rosenberg 8.5/10
"Cool Hand Luke" is a film that I've loved from the first time I saw it. I can remember lying on the floor of mine and my wife's second apartment and watching this. The wife and I were trying our best, at the time, to finish off a different list and it was at a time before I learned to appreciate a lot of classics. In fact, back then, when I'd watch a classic film (or a film prior to 1970), I'd always assume that I just wasn't going to take to it, even before I began watching it. Watching "Cool Hand Luke" and liking it then, was a big deal for me. I took an immediate liking to Paul Newman and with the inclusion of "Cool Hand Luke" that makes three of Newman's movies on my collected TOP 20 lists ("The Sting" and "Butch Cassidy" being the other two). This is a hard film to dislike, at least I think it is. It's a prison film (which I love), has memorable, likeable characters and dozens of memorable scenes to keep you reminiscing. My personal favorite moment: Paul singing "Plastic Jesus" on his bunk, after getting the news of his mother's death.

13. Le Samourai (1967) dir. Jean-Pierre Melville 9/10
A French, film-noir and a fine one. "Le Samourai" casts Alain Delon perfectly as Jef Costello, a hitman and criminal, who steals cars with his giant ring of keys and kills men when the price is right. Alain Delon is excellent and as is this film, which comes with a really gritty atmosphere and mood. From my original review on August 12, 2011:
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.

12. Cabaret (1972) dir. Bob Fosse 9/10
There are some musicals out there, where if you were to cut away the musical part, you'd be left with a short-film. Take "West Side Story" for instance, a film in which every advantage is taken to incorporate music into the plot. As my good commentor Ray pointed out, this is a film that takes the music and delicately weaves it around the story, so that both can exist in and of themselves. The music accompanies the story and vice versa. I mentioned in my review that I'm really fascinated with old clubs and the trashy, crass women that headline on the marquee, dressed in sleazy attire, singing their flirtatious songs and toying with the men. Liza Minnelli was just as trashy, but they built a story around her and told us that she had a persona onstage, that wasn't necessarily the same as her offstage personality. Also, Joel Grey was nearly worth the price of admission alone and he looked like he was having a damn fine time up there. That's important, because I like to know that the people who are entertaining me are also having an entertaining time themselves.

11. The Blair Witch Project (1999) Daniel Myrick, Eduardo Sanchez 10/10
Holy crap! 11 '10/10' pictures? YEP! This is the most '10/10' that have appeared on a single TOP 20 list. This one may be my most questionable, but one that I'll fight for! I really think I said it best in my original review, so I'll let that piece speak for itself. From my original review on October 21, 2011:
The second key factor to success when it comes to "The Blair Witch Project" is that these same amateur filmmaker's didn't underestimate their audience. They realized that people DID have a brain and if you gave them a black screen, with people screaming that they could use their imaginations and conjure up things much more frightening than anything they could commit to celluloid. I commend them for sticking with that attitude and never giving us too much. There's never anything on the screen that is physically (to the eye) scary. All of the fright and scare that comes out of "The Blair Witch Project" came from your own mind. When you went to bed that night, after watching the movie, YOU were the one to blame for sleeping with the television on, because these filmmaker's technically didn't SHOW you anything worth being afraid of. It was all on you! Take for instance "Paranormal Activity", which gets a little silly at the end with the main character (the female) being dragged across the room by an imaginary ghost and then coming back to life, with evil in her eyes and attacking the camera. I mean, that's just going too far - that's underestimating your audience, in my opinion.

10. The Breakfast Club (1985) dir. John Hughes 10/10
This is simply a personal favorite of mine, that will probably never stop being a personal favorite. It's one of the earlier films that my brother showed me, when I was a pre-teen and if I were to make a list of the fifty most important films to me, this would almost have to be included. It's one that probably played a big factor in my eventual, overwhelming appreciation for film. It introduced me to the concept of putting a group of characters into a small space and letting them verbally duke it out. Also during this particular viewing of "The Breakfast Club", I noticed a little personal growth on my part, as a film watcher. From my original review on October 10, 2011:
When I was younger, my favorite part of "The Breakfast Club" was always the first half. That's the more jovial half, the half that is packed with the most comedy and the half, that as a young person, you can have more fun with. When I was younger, I remember always dreading the second half, because while it was still good, it got more serious and was more dialogue driven and as a youngster, that wasn't my cup of tea. However, last night, when re-watching, I enjoyed the second half much more than the first half and that's the part that now really hammers this film home as a true classic. As John Bender, my favorite member of "the club", sits on the floor with his four cohorts and the five sound off, arguing and sympathizing with one another and realizing that they have much more in common than they initially thought.

09. Sleuth (1972) dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz 10/10
Another thing I learned this go around was how much I adore films that are adapted from plays. Here is a prime example of that, as Michael Caine and Laurence Olivier put on an acting showcase and prove that they're two of the all-time greats. Actually, I've yet to fully appreciate Olivier (considering this is one of the very few films I've seen him in), but have always really appreciated Caine. If you've never seen this, get your butt over to YouTube and check it out, before they delete it, because it's something that every true fan of film will appreciate, I think. Not only is it LOADED with fantastic dialogue and acting, but it also gives us something to sink our teeth into, in the form of twists and turns. A true gem!

08. The Shop on Main Street (1965) dir. Jan Kadar, Elmar Klos 10/10
Again, another subject that I've taken an enormous interest in since my journey is the holocaust. It's almost a given that if a film is going to tell me a story set during the holocaust, that I'm almost always going to like it (see "Schindler's List" and "The Pianist"). However, I think this might just be my favorite, thus far. It tells the story of a carpenter living in Czechoslovakia during the time of the Nazi occupation. He's a supposed Nazi sympathizer, but really he has no political affiliation. When he's put in charge of Lautmann's sewing shop, he doesn't mind it when elderly Mrs. Lautmann hangs around and he takes joy in going to her shop everyday, fixing it up and spending time with his new companion. I think the reason that I like this is because the main character has no political affiliation. He's just a guy, who wants to make a living and support his wife and therefore, I'm really able to connect with him. The final scenes are both tense and heart wrenching and yes, "must see".

07. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (1966) dir. Sergio Leone 10/10
Another find this 100 - Sergio Leone. If I were forced to define this 100, I'd simply have to include the name of Leone and with that would come mention of "The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". It's just a fun film that you can really indulge on! Remember that quote that I put up from Godard some weeks ago: "When Lumiere first invented cinema, the last thing he had in mind was a spectacle". Well the first thing Sergio Leone had in mind WAS a spectacle and the word grandeur also comes to mind. From my original review on November 6, 2011:
Prior to even popping the DVD into my player, I was very excited to finally be watching this iconic film and finally being able to say that, "Yes, I've seen The Good, the Bad and the Ugly". I knew, from the opening shot (a close-up of an extreme outlaw's face and a coyote walking across his/our field of view) that this was going to be something special. It only took me about ten minutes to see where Quentin Tarantino got a lot of influence out of Sergio Leone. I'm a big Tarantino fan, so that went a long way in helping me to feel more comfortable with a spaghetti western, a genre that I'm almost completely unfamiliar with. The score was legendary and it's no wonder that it became so memorable and so often imitated/stolen. The camera shots were also quite unforgettable and did a huge part in branding this film into my mind and I doubt that I'll soon forget this one.

06. Once Upon a Time in America (1984) dir. Sergio Leone 10/10
Let me start out by saying that Ennio Morricone's scores were a big part of this 100 and he single-handedly made me appreciate music in film 100x more. "Once Upon a Time in America" is no exception. When I reminisce about it, I don't even think about Robert De Niro or Sergio Leone, for that matter, but rather Morricone and his music. Of course, don't let that fool 'ya - De Niro was great here, as usual and Leone was at the helm. The three together pulled out a film that became an INSTANT favorite of mine. Most notable scene: Noodles and Deborah in the back of the limo - what an agonizing scene to watch. For those who have seen it, you know what I'm talking about. At a length of 227 minutes, it's one that you have to let yourself get lost in and consumed by.

05. Jaws (1975) dir. Steven Spielberg 10/10
From my original review on July 19, 2011: And the bar for the next TOP 20 just got set really high. 99 films have a chance to dethrone it, but as of now, this is the #1 film for the 4th TOP 20.

Well it didn't quite hang on through all 99 pictures, but DAMN!! It only fell four spots and it was the first movie watched for this 100, so I'd say that's pretty damn good! "Jaws" is one of the few films that I dare you not to love...or at least like. It's a hard one to dislike, as a matter of fact. It has everything normal movie-goers look for: suspense, thrills, adventure, action, good characters. It also has pretty much everything that the snobs look for: great acting, a great story, gripping music, good effects. Also, it has Robert Shaw and he just fucking rocks! From my original review on July 19, 2011:
Bottom line is this - "Jaws" is one of the few films that if you don't like it, then you almost have to give some sort of explanation. With this one there's no pussy footing around, chalking it up to boredom or anything of the sort. The words "boredom" and this film DO NOT go hand in hand. They don't make blockbusters like this anymore. It seems that back then, blockbusters had to be both big budget and good to boot, and now they just have to be flashy. "Jaws" is the real deal and it's a damn good film...a true "must see"!

04. Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) dir. Mike Nichols 10/10
Again, a film that allows characters to verbally duke it out (that's putting it mildly) in the confines of one room (for the most part) and it's based on a play. That's the ingredients for a film that I'm almost sure to love and here we are at #4 and what do ya' know. Taylor proves that she was more than just a pretty face, but that when it came to acting, she could hang with ANYONE. Burton flexes his acting muscle too and they join George Segal and Sandy Dennis in bringing this uncomfortable picture to life. From my original review on December 17, 2011:
This film is very close to being perfect. From the dialogue, to the characters, to the setting, to the ways it makes you feel, it doesn't let up. I loved the little piece of music too, that started and ended the film and how when it played at the end, it kind of warmed me and wound me down a bit. I'm becoming more and more of a fan of films that are based on stage plays, because they almost always seem to appeal to me. Maybe I should actually start going to see plays.

03. Contempt (1963) dir. Jean-Luc Godard 10/10
Hey, I have a favorite Godard film, what do ya' know! In fact, this was far and above THE BEST Godard film of the seven that I watched this month and it's partly due to the visual feast that it allows you to enjoy. I spoke earlier today on "Landscape in the Mist" and how it was also visually breathtaking, but my money goes to "Contempt" and the imagery that it produced. Add to that the film's dialogue, uncomfortable relationships, themes and ideas and you have the recipe for greatness! From my original review on January 3, 2012:
In a word, I thought "Contempt" was marvelous. In several words, it was also beautiful and heartbreaking. This is a film that I really wanted to like and usually when I want to like something, I don't. This time I more than liked what I wanted to like, but rather, I loved it! Let's cover the basics and then we'll get into some of the more symbolic elements and some of my interpretations. The camerawork is breathtaking and I haven't seen anything this gorgeous since "Fellini Week", as far as film's from THE BOOK go. The acting is fine, with Palance being a surprisingly good fit and a really great pair of finds in Michel Piccoli and Brigitte Bardot. They had great chemistry together, even though their characters, for the most part, lacked chemistry. And what about that music? It was almost tear inducing. There were times throughout the picture when it would strike up and I'd wonder if I was supposed to be feeling something at that moment. It was such a powerful score and it was played throughout A LOT of the movie. Played too much, perhaps? Well, it was just so good, that I can't bring myself to say that, but it's possible I guess.

02. The Shawshank Redemption (1994) dir. Frank Darabont 10/10
What can I say about "Shawshank" - it's always going to be in that upper echelon of films for me. It's hard for me to really put into words what the movies that I hold closest mean to me, but I've always tried. "Shawshank" is, yet another film, that was shown to me by my brother. It's one that always makes me cry, for happy reasons. You know what, just take a look at this excerpt, from my original review on November 20, 2011 - it pretty much covers it:
Also, like an old friend, I've learned to overlook the flaws, as few of them as there are. The good always outshines the bad when it comes to me and "The Shawshank Redemption". Maybe I only love this film because it's been a part of my curriculum for so long. It's been a film that for years and years has been brought up anytime I get into a conversation about films with a "commoner". In fact, "Shawshank" is the one film that I think EVERYONE loves. It's the one film that can be the favorite of a film snob or a film imbecile, which may be why it currently sits atop the IMDB TOP 250 Movies of All-Time list. I always have the hardest time writing about personal favorite films of mine. Sometimes, it just comes to the point for me, when I forget why I fell in love with a movie and I just know I love it. Why do I like "The Shawshank Redemption"? I just do! It portrays a beautiful friendship, taking shape in the most unlikeliest of places. It has fantastic acting and a Morgan Freeman narration (which is always good for at least a few brownie points). It made careers, in my opinion, for both Tim Robbins and Morgan Freeman and honestly, I don't think we'd still be talking about either of those actors today (especially Robbins) if it wasn't for this film. "Shawshank" has a commanding, powerful score that knows when to lay low and knows when to come up blazing. It provides a plethora of memorable scenes and even has a few key, intelligent twists and turns. Darabont proved here, with one film, that he is a master storyteller. He understood the source material to such a degree that he was able to sculpt a perfect film to immortalize that story and to keep the audience captivated.

01. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) dir. Sergio Leone 10/10
If you had told me before I started this 100, that "The Shawshank Redemption" would play second fiddle to a film that I'd be seeing for the first time, I'd have called you crazy. "Once Upon a Time in the West" is the film equivalency of the word EPIC. It has everything you look for in a picture. It has commanding music, composed by Ennio Morricone - music that tells you how to feel, when to take notice and when to get goosebumps. It has a marvelous cast, including Henry Fonda, Claudia Cardinale, Jason Robards and Charles Bronson. It became apparent, about a week after I watched it that it was the clear cut choice for the #1 spot here and since, nothing has even come close to dethroning it (except maybe "Shawshank"). If you were to go back and read my original review of this movie, you'd see that I must have been in a bad mood or something because I did a lot of complaining. I was crazy! This film is perfect, trust me. Perfection in film is rare. I love A LOT of movies and I hand out a lot of '10' ratings, but a '10' doesn't always mean perfection. "Once Upon a Time in the West" is perfection!

TEN WORTH MENTIONING: The Manchurian Candidate (1962), My Life to Live (1963), Goldfinger (1964), The Graduate (1967), Rosemary's Baby (1968), Le Boucher (1969), Get Carter (1971), Pretty Woman (1990), Philadelphia (1993), The Celebration (1998)

WHEW!! That's like four reviews worth of typing right there. We'll of course do this again when we hit 501 movies watched. My goodness, "The ROAD to 500" had arrived and at the end of this road is a big sign marked "HALFWAY POINT". I can't wait to delve into this next 100 and come out with another twenty favorites (thirty if you count the honorable mentions). I'll look forward to any and all feedback and I'll be back sometime tomorrow with a big update on what you can expect in the coming months here at the blog, "1001 Movies I (Apparently) Must See Before I Die".

January 15, 2012 11:08pm

Sunday, January 15, 2012

502. In the Year of the Pig (1969)

Running Time: 103 minutes
Directed By: Emile de Antonio
Main Cast: Ho Chi Minh, Harry S. Ashmore, Lyndon B. Johnson, David Halberstam, Joseph McCarthy

401 DOWN, 600 TO GO!

Well this is it folks, the 401st film watched and when my fingers stop clacking at the end of this review, I'll be ready to present, yet another, TOP 20 list. "In the Year of the Pig" is a documentary film about the Vietnam War and more specifically the involvement of the United States.

I have a difficult time trying to write plot summaries for documentaries, so lets try keeping this short and sweet, shall we. Really, I might as well have been watching "Landscape in the Mist" with the subtitles off, because most of the subject matter that the interviewees talked about was Greek to me. It starts by detailing the origins of the Vietnam conflict, the differences of opinion, politics and policy between North and South Vietnam and the Battle of Dien Bien Phu in 1954, in which the French occupation of Vietnam came to an end. Then the film chronicles the political and social escalations that lead to the Vietnam War and the American involvement. From there, it's basically a film that attacks the United States' involvement in Vietnam.

I'm not one for airing my personal opinions about this or any other nation on this blog. I avoided it when reviewing "Fahrenheit 9/11" and I plan to avoid it now. In fact, my opinions on this film and it's subject matter are nearly nil, as I have absolutely no or very little knowledge of communism, war, politics or any other piece of material covered in the confines of this picture. Therefore, my opinions aren't many. In my opinion, it is the goal of any documentary filmmaker to present to an audience a subject that we may know little about, fill us in on the details and then make a statement about the subject. Michael Moore has been doing it for years. Despite the fact that I had little knowledge of the subject matter in both "Roger & Me" and "Fahrenheit 9/11", Moore did his job in informing me of what I needed to know and then subsequently making his points. In my opinion, this film failed there, because they get right into the meat & potatoes of the film, without filling us in on the necessary details. Of course, you could argue that this is a documentary for people who are aware of the conflict in Vietnam and have an interest in it, and that's just not me.

One thing this film did make me realize though, is how intricate wars can be. How many years they take to escalate, sometimes and how, in reality, there could be a potential war brewing as I type this. It also makes you realize how much hatred exists in the world and how much emphasis certain people put on the importance of race.

I can't really recommend the documentary, as I can't say I had a good time watching it. I do enjoy listening to people simply speak to a camera, but I have no interest or knowledge of what they were talking about and therefore I often times found my mind wandering. However, if you're a Vietnam War buff or have an interest in being one, then this is the film for you.

RATING: 4/10 I appreciated the attempt that this film made to educate me, but ultimately I just wasn't interested. That about wraps 'er all up for this 100 folks. I'll be back either later tonight, or sometime tomorrow with the 4th TOP 20 list.

MOVIES WATCHED: 401
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
600

January 15, 2012 5:47pm

788. Topio stin omichli/Landscape in the Mist (1988)

Running Time: 123 minutes
Directed By:
Theo Angelopoulos
Written By: Theo Angelopoulos, Eric Heumann, Stephane Sorlat
Main Cast: Michalis Zeke, Tania Palaiologou, Stratos Tzortzoglou, Vassilis Kolovos, Ilias Logothetis
Click here to view the trailer

400!

It's surreal to me to realize that this is the 400th movie review I've written and more importantly, the 400th film I've watched on my 1001 film long journey. However, I won't harp on that accomplishment (yet), but rather, we'll focus on the business at hand and Theo Angelopoulos' "Landscape in the Mist".

Pre-teen Voula (Palaiologou) and the even younger Alexandre (Zeke) are brother and sister. When the film opens, the two children approach a train station and we hear an announcement letting us know that the train is headed for Germany. They approach the doors, but don't enter the train. The next night, they do the same thing, but this time board the train. However, they're kicked off when they're found without tickets. We find out that they're in search of their father, whom their mother told them lived in Germany. They're informed by their uncle, that the father is simply some random man and that his residence in Germany was made up by their mother. They refuse to believe this and since they can't seem to stay onboard the train, they decide to hitchhike to Germany, to meet the father whom they miss intensely, despite never meeting him. On the way, they are befriended by Orestis (Tzortzoglou), a theater actor who drives a motorcycle and despite thinking the children are weird, loves them. However, their time with Orestis doesn't last and later, they hitch a ride with a truck driver, which proves to be a bad idea. Trekking through the rain, snow and fog, the children won't rest until they're united with their father, who may or may not exist.

Call me stupid, but I've always found it very difficult to get into movies where children are the main characters. I mean, I really have absolutely no reasoning for it, it's just one of those things I can't explain. This movie kind of gave off a really wholesome feeling and aside from the camerawork, the music and a few choice scenes, this really came off as the Greek equivalent to a Lifetime movie - two kids searching for their father, hitchhiking along the roads and meeting different characters along the way.

However, despite my inexplicable hesitancy's along the way, there's really no denying that this picture had traces of brilliance. Yorgos Arvinitis' camerawork was, by far, the best part of the film. There are so many visual feasts as you watch "Landscape in the Mist", that most of the time the plot doesn't really matter. There's also a slow, melancholy score that accompanies the children as they trek across Greece, and at times, you're forced to feel, even when you're not feeling the entire picture. I'll keep it short today, but give this one a shot. It's not perfect (at least from my perspective), but the visual imagery alone is worth your time.

RATING: 7/10 Maybe I'm being a tad generous, but it's the day I hit 400, so I have reason to be a little generous. And then there was 1!

MOVIES WATCHED: 400
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
601

January 15, 2012 2:32pm

The Road to 500 Begins Soon...

Since I had such a good time putting together the last preview video, I figured why not slap another one together and give you guys a quick peek at what's in store for the NEXT 100 films (#402 - #501). I've taken the time to carefully plot and plan out about 80% of the next 100 titles I'll be watching. Of course, as always, everything is tentative but I don't think I'll have too much of a problem sticking to my agenda. I put this together using Windows Movie Maker. I'll be back on Monday night to give some further explanation behind these choices, but for now, enjoy!




January 15, 2012 4:38am

389. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Running Time: 126 minutes
Directed By: John Frankenheimer
Written By: George Axelrod, from novel by Richard Condon
Main Cast: Frank Sinatra, Laurence Harvey, Angela Lansbury, Janet Leigh, James Gregory
Click here to view the trailer

"OL BLUE EYES" GETS BRAINWASHED

It seems that each and every time I'm nearly ready to make a TOP 20 list, I come across one last gem that makes making the list even more difficult. Last time around it was "Body Heat", the time before that, "Brokeback Mountain" and this time, "The Manchurian Candidate".

The film starts out during the Korean War, where a platoon of American soldiers, including Raymond Shaw (Harvey) and Major Bennett Marco (Sinatra), are captured and taken to Manchuria. We find out later that the reason for their capture was to brainwash the men, most notably Raymond, who would later serve as a killing machine for his "American operator". When the men return home, Raymond is decorated with the Medal of Honor and his fellow soldiers have nothing but niceties to shower him with, even though when they really think about it, they remember heavily disliking Raymond. As the film progresses, we find out that Raymond and his new washed brain can be triggered by the phrase, "why don't you pass the time with a game of solitaire" and he is put under further hypnosis when he sees the Queen of Diamonds. All the while, Major Bennett continues to have dreams about being in a room with a group of elderly ladies who transform into Korean agents. He soon realizes that there is more to the dreams and that he is actually remembering the day that he and Raymond were initially hypnotized and brainwashed. Later, he is put on assignment to get closer to Raymond, so that the Army can find out exactly what happened to him.

SPOILER ALERT!

Actually, I had SOME problems with "The Manchurian Candidate", so lets tackle the bad before we get to the good. First and foremost, what in God's name was Janet Leigh doing in there? When she enters the picture it's under seemingly mysterious circumstances, rattling off her phone number as if she's trying to slip a hidden code to the Sinatra character. Beyond that she only pops up a couple more times and it's for nothing scenes, that have absolutely no ties to the main plot. Why hire a big name like Leigh, only to give her a pointless character like the one she had. I wonder if her character was more integral in the novel and in the film, they simply demoted the character to barely a supporting status. Or perhaps, she was simply placed in the film to keep the audience on their toes. Two years prior Leigh appeared in "Psycho" and surely everyone at the time knew she was a big star. You place a big star into a film about paranoia and brainwashing and you keep the audience constantly trying to predict what happens and guess her purpose. Of course, the letdown is that she has no purpose. I can't say I was all that thrilled with Sinatra either. I've seen two of his films now and I can honestly say I enjoy him better as a supporting player, instead of the main man. He's not a terrible actor, I just don't think he's good enough to be placed into a starring role.

On the other hand, who knew Angela Lansbury was that good?! She was absolutely fantastic here and what a heel she played! I quite enjoyed Laurence Harvey too, as I don't think I had ever seen one of his pictures for or even heard of him for that matter. I really thought the film was great, as is, but I can't help but thinking how much better it could have been if they had only capitalized on more opportunities for suspense. In fact, I can't help but think what Hitchcock would have done with this material and how much louder we'd be singing his praises had he gotten a hold of it. For instance, we, the audience, shouldn't find out who Raymond's American operator is until the exact moment that Sinatra's character does. Instead, we find out first and it's meant to still, somehow be a big reveal when Bennett hears Raymond talking to his mother on the phone, putting two and two together. Also, there were too many detours getting from Point A to Point B, with the inclusion of the Jocelyn and Senator Jordan characters. Were they really of vital necessity? Too many pieces were put into place, when the film was more than capable of standing on it's own merits and had a good enough plot to be left untouched and not tinkered with. I can't help but wonder the differences between the film and the novel.

But, really, I'm just nitpicking (because it's what I do best) and this is actually a superb picture. There are a truckload of memorable scenes and shots and the intrigue and suspense is quite gripping. The scene of the "dream" sequence is outstanding and THE BOOK recalls it's reminiscence to the French New Wave. Also, THE BOOK seems to think that there was some subtle hints toward an incestuous relationship between Raymond and his mother, which I too kind of picked up on. Lots to unravel with this one and it's one that I think will suit a lot of tastes.

RATING: 7.5/10 That's a knee-jerker, but I'll sleep on it and come TOP 20 time (which will hopefully be tomorrow), maybe it will rise a notch or two and get a spot.

MOVIES WATCHED: 399
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH:
602

January 15, 2012 4:18am

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #65: Les nuits de la pleine lune/Full Moon in Paris (1984)

Running Time: 100 minutes Directed By: Eric Rohmer Written By: Eric Rohmer Main Cast: Pascale Ogier, Tcheky Karyo, Fabrice Luchini,...