Tuesday, July 10, 2012

UPDATE - July 2012

First and foremost, I hope everyone who took the time to read it, enjoyed my latest TOP 20 list. It was, of course, the 5th TOP 20 list and I can honestly say, looking over my selections, that I'm pleased with how it turned out. The last 100 was great batch of films and I can only hope the next 100 will be as good. Anyway, think of this as a, sort of, State of the Union Address, as it pertains to the goings on of my small blog. I wanted to swing in and, for the most part, let you guys officially know that I'm taking a hiatus and give you a more inside look at what reviews you'll be seeing when I get back. So....

HIATUS

Yes, I'm definitely taking a hiatus. Since my last hiatus, I've watched a grand total of ninety-two movies and have written ninety-two reviews to go with them, so I'm in dire need of a little break. However, don't expect it to be a long one. At this point in the game, I'm ready to start churning these reviews out and finish THE BOOK in record time. I really enjoy watching these movies, finding new favorites, whether they be favorite movies, favorite directors of favorite actors. Anyway, I'd give it about a month and a half - two months, tops and I'm sure I'll be back, clickity-clacking away at the keyboard.

KUBRICK WEEK

It's no secret that the kickoff to the next 100, the 100 that will end with 601 movies watched, will be "Kubrick Week". I'm not the biggest Stanley Kubrick fan in the world, but if you ask me, he's the most popular director, that I've yet to watch a "1001" movie from. I wanted this milestone (the watching of half the films in THE BOOK) to be marked with something special, so "Kubrick Week" was chosen as the special event to kick start the next season of movie watching. The Kubrick films I'll be watching are as follows:

Paths of Glory (1957)
Spartacus (1960)
Lolita (1962)
Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964)
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
A Clockwork Orange (1971)
Barry Lyndon (1975)
The Shining (1980)
Full Metal Jacket (1987)


THE 80s EXPERIMENT

Many of you will remember my effort to fill the last 100 with films from the 1940s and 2000s. During the next 100, I'll be cramming in a heaping helping of flicks from the 80s. Here are some of the 80s flicks you'll be seeing reviews for next 100: Brazil (1985), Glory (1989), Fatal Attraction (1987), Grave of the Fireflies (1988), Beverly Hills Cop (1984), Chariots of Fire (1981), Top Gun (1986), Ferris Bueller's Day Off (1986), Say Anything (1989), Sherman's March (1986) and The Right Stuff (1983), just to name a few.

Please remember that I WILL NOT be watching EVERY film from the 1980s, just a large chunk of them.

RETURN OF THE HAT TRICK!

It's worth noting that there wasn't a single "hat trick" last 100. For newcomers to the blog, a hat trick here is when I watch three films from the same director, as a small homage to that person's work. Since there weren't any last 100, I've decided to sneak in three this 100. Yes, that's right, it's a hat trick of hat tricks! Who will they be for? Well, I'll keep that under my "hat" for right now.


LEVINSON, STONE, LEE and LECTER

In addition to "Kubrick Week" and the three hat tricks, I'll also be doing tributes to Barry Levinson and Oliver Stone. There are also currently two "double shots" scheduled, including one with Spike Lee ("She's Gotta' Have It" and "Do the Right Thing") and a third double shot, an unusual one, that will pay tribute to the character of Hannibal Lecter, with "Manhunter" and "The Silence of the Lambs".

Well there's your special, in-depth sneak peek at the next 100 films I'll be crossing paths with on my journey. It should also be noted that I've left approximately twenty-three open spots, so that, when I'm feeling restricted, I still have the freedom to slip in something as a spur of the moment choice. I've beefed up the next 100 to celebrate the milestone of crossing over the threshold of the halfway mark and I really have high hopes for the next batch of films. I really see a fantastic TOP 20 in my future. 601, here I come!

Remember, I'm no writer, nor have I ever claimed to be one. I'm just a 27-year-old (28-year-old in a few days), average joe, who really likes watching movies, discovering new favorites, rediscovering old favorites and sharing my opinions. Often times those opinions don't translate well to the written page, but I try my best folks. The few of you who take the time out of your schedule to read these reviews, I will forever be thankful to you. Also remember, that this blog and this journey was never meant to be an attention getter. It was always meant as a, sort of, personal diary for me. However, that's not to say that I don't enjoy the attention, the comments and the following.

I also want to take just a minute to, once again, thank Karen Burroughs Hannsberry, who, during this past 100, worked with me on "Seven Shadows Week". Karen is a talented lady, who really knows her stuff when it comes to film. I want everyone to know that Karen was as nice as could be, during our correspondence, not to mention cooperative, patient and understanding. I'm so glad that we got to present "Seven Shadows" to you guys and I was proud to work with such a talented woman. Thank you Karen.

Well guys, that about wraps 'er all up. Keep an eye out for me, as I'll be back before too long, writing my reviews and watching through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. But, for now, I'll say goodbye, but don't you cry...I'll be back again someday!

July 10, 2012  11:27pm

Monday, July 9, 2012

TOP 20: #402 - #501

The halfway mark has been reached, ladies and gentlemen and I, for one, cannot believe it. September 11, 2009 seems like only yesterday. That day I came, created a blog and began watching my way through the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. On that day, having 501 films watched seemed like a lifetime away. But, in reality, I was able to accomplish this milestone in just under three years. I could sit here and go on and on about how amazing it is to be at the halfway mark and how I can't believe I've made it this far, but why celebrate now. There's still five hundred films to watch before the finish line and I'd say another good three years of watching left before I can close the book, once and for all. So instead, I'll just present my latest TOP 20 list and hope that you enjoy it. Of course, this TOP 20 list will house my twenty favorite films (and ten worth mentioning) that I watched from spots #402 - #501. I put a lot of effort into compiling a list that would accurately display my personal favorite films from these last 100. There were a lot of really good films, that I saw during the last 100, that, unfortunately, did not even get a mention. Anyway, without further ado, my 5th TOP 20 list. Enjoy!

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. Out of the Past (1947) dir. Jacques Tourneur 8/10
I spoke recently about the coolness that Humphrey Bogart exudes in his films, but if ever there was a cool customer, it was Robert Mitchum in "Out of the Past". And if ever there were a man crush to be had, I had one on Robert Mitchum in this movie. I mean, you just didn't get much cooler than Mitchum. That shot of him standing outside the gates of Whit Sterling's mansion, ready to delve back into a past he'd tried so hard to escape, sums up this movie perfectly. And hey, you even had Kirk Douglas in their, holding his own, which kicks up the cool factor even more. This is just a fun movie, a great noir and a picture that you can really get lost in, exploring the underbelly of society, gunning down sleaze and chain smoking cigarettes.

19. Good Bye Lenin! (2003) dir. Wolfgang Becker (2003) 8/10
By watching my way through THE BOOK, I've managed to get a little more acquainted with some historical world events, that I didn't know much about prior. One of those events is the tension that existed between East and West Germany and all the vital information that lead to the tearing down of the Berlin Wall. "Good Bye Lenin!" took a very serious subject and put a humorous spin on it. It wasn't that the film was laugh out loud funny, but it was very clever and just made you smile a whole lot. It also had the ingredients in place to make you cry too, which is why I loved this movie - for it's fantastic mixture of comedy and drama. It's one that was able to grow on me fast and make it's way to this list, as I only watched it two days ago and it already jumped to the 19th best movie I watched in the last 100. Kudos to Germany for flexing their cinematic muscle this 100!

18. A Tale of Winter (1992) dir. Eric Rohmer (1992) 8/10
Two films in the book from Eric Rohmer and two Eric Rohmer directed films appearing on one of my TOP 20 lists. Of course, my last TOP 20 featured one of Rohmer's "six moral tales": "My Night at Maud's" and this time around his "A Tale of Winter" nabs spot #18. This, somewhat, reminded me of a Woody Allen movie, taking real life characters and placing them into situations where their forced to explore and come to terms with their relationships. The film tells of Felicie and her five year quest to track down her long, lost love, of whom she accidentally gave the wrong address, when she moved. Over the course of the five years, she meets other men, notably Loic and Maxence and we learn of her affairs with them. Rohmer uses winter as the backdrop and to set the mood for the entire picture.
From my original review on May 15, 2012:
Anyway, I did enjoy the movie. With each French film I see, I warm up to them more and more. I think that French filmmaker's excel on so many levels, including dialogue, character development, mood and atmosphere. Their plots aren't always as gripping as they could be, but I've learned throughout my journey that there are more important things. "A Tale of Winter" has interesting characters, interesting situations and does a fine job of showing off the French landscapes. It provided this viewer with some gripping dialogue, that, unlike "My Night at Maud's", didn't often go over my head. Rohmer is quickly becoming a favorite of mine and I can't wait to someday check out the rest of his catalog.

17. The Lives of Others (2006) dir. Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck 8.5/10
Another film that perfectly captured the unrest that existed during the separation of Germany into an East and a West nation. This film just nailed everything so well. It provided a gripping situation, of a Stasi Officer who taps the apartment of a well-known German playwright, so that he may learn some untold facts about the man. The Stasi Officer (played perfectly by the late Ulrich Muhe) ends up developing a bond with his subjects and...well, I won't spoil anything here. The film just sounds good on paper and that paper perfect idea translates very well to the screen. The ending is heartbreaking and trust me, you owe it to yourself to check this one out. You'll be provided with a fantastic film, as well as provided with an education of German affairs in the 80s. If you're not into politics or world history, don't worry, the film provides a gripping enough story to where the politics don't come into play all that much.

16. Winter Light (1963) dir. Ingmar Bergman 8.5/10
Ingmar Bergman's first and only appearance on one of my TOP 20 lists. Had THE BOOK been smart enough to include "Scenes from a Marriage", I can say, with confidence, that it would've been the top spot on this list, today. However, it wasn't included and I've beat that horse more than enough. Anyway, "Winter Light" is pretty damn good too. It's the one Bergman film that really stuck with me throughout this 100. If you'll remember, "Bergman Week" was the kickoff to this 100 and ultimately, it was a disappointment, but "Winter Light" made up for a lot of the disappointment that I was dealt with during "Bergman Week". The film tells of a preacher who has lost his faith and that's pretty much your basic plot. It's enough though, as Bergman explores one of his favorite subjects: religion. I wasn't a fan of Bergman's exploration of religion, but this film just struck a chord with me, for some reason. Gunnar Bjornstrand, despite my ultimate disapproval for Bergman's films, came out of the 100 being one of my favorite actors of the season and he nailed his role here. A particular scene jumps out as my favorite, wherein Tomas (Bjornstrand) screams at his semi-girlfriend, Marta.
From my original review on January 27, 2012:
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.

15. The Ox-Bow Incident (1943) dir. William A. Wellman 9/10
With the inclusion of "The Ox-Bow Incident", it makes the fourth TOP 20 list in a row where a Henry Fonda film has made an appearance. What can I say, I love the guy. I'd be bold enough to call him my favorite actor of all-time and not think twice about it. This movie is, yet another, fantastic example of Henry Fonda's skills. It tells a poignant story and manages to confine it into about 85 minutes. No time is wasted getting to the meat of the story and when the meat is served, it's a hearty helping! Three innocent men are wrongfully accused of murder and, once again, Fonda has to stand up for what's right and try to bring justice to the old west.
From my original review on June 28, 2012:
I saw someone mention on another site, that it reminded them of a Western version of "12 Angry Men", just with a different outcome and that's exactly what I was thinking as I watched it today. I saw another man mention that "The Ox-Bow Incident" should be required viewing for everyone and I wholeheartedly agree. The biggest revelation that I took from "Ox-Bow" is the absolute senselessness of the killings and how you can probably flip open the daily newspaper everyday and read about killings that are just as senseless. It was as if the characters in this film were so bored (because the only things to do in their town were drink, eat, fight, play poker or sleep) that they found an excuse to go out and lynch three innocents. They had bloodshed on their mind from the beginning and no matter what the three innocents said, they were going to end the night with a rope necktie. The characters (the ones who are FOR the lynching, anyway) are enough to make you sick and you could collectively call them one of the baddest villains in the history of cinema.

14. Monsieur Verdoux (1947) dir. Charles Chaplin 9/10
Of the four Charles Chaplin films that appear in the book, this makes the third one that has appeared on one of my TOP 20 lists. There was something about "City Lights" that just didn't do it for me, but nevertheless, with the watching of THE BOOK, Chaplin has certainly become a favorite director of mine. In "Monsieur Verdoux", he switches it up a little bit, having retired his Tramp outfit and comes out swinging with a "comedy of murders" - a murder mystery, like only Chaplin could deliver.
From my original review on April 5, 2012:
Perhaps I misspoke above and perhaps this isn't quite AS good as "The Gold Rush" and "Modern Times", but it is damn good and thank God Orson Welles sold the rights to the story to Chaplin (for a generous $5000, a hefty sum at the time) so that this film could be made by Charlie, into the black comedy that he envisioned. Sure, a two hour Chaplin film doesn't sound all that intoxicating, especially since I was used to ninety minutes or less when it came to Charlie's films, but this film uses it's time to perfection and everything makes sense. It's not just another comedy, but also provides a nice dose of suspense, some messages about current world affairs and is just a flat out, really good story.

13. Mildred Pierce (1945) dir. Michael Curtiz 9/10
I watched "Mildred Pierce" for the first and only time, when I watched it for THE BOOK, back on April 1, 2012. It was April Fool's Day and the biggest fool of them all was me, for having gone twenty-seven years without laying eyes on this near masterpiece. I loved nearly everything about Mildred Pierce. The black and white glow of the camera, producing a perfect noir setting, while telling a story that wasn't your average film-noir. There weren't any detectives in trench coats and fedoras, no late night drives in the rain and there weren't any bad ass, cool customers (like Mitchum) chain smoking ciggy's. Instead, Joan Crawford proves that women can be successful in the dark world of film-noir too, as she portrays Mildred Pierce, a once loving housewife, turned entrepreneur, turned murderer? This makes Crawford's third appearance on a TOP 20 list of mine, following "The Unknown" and "Whatever Happened to Baby Jane?".

12. Sex, Lies, and Videotape (1989) dir. Steven Soderbergh 9/10
This has been a long time favorite of mine, so it wasn't a surprise when it ended up this close to the TOP 10. There's just something raw and powerful about this movie, starring James Spader and Andie MacDowell. My review does it justice, I think.
From my original review on May 2, 2012:
Later, we learn that Graham is impotent and even later than that, we learn that he gets off on videotaping women, asking them questions of a sexual nature (their first sexual experience, their fantasies, what they've done, what they'd like to do) and later, re-watching the tapes and pleasuring himself. To Graham, this is his way of making love to these women. Since he can't get an erection in the physical presence of them, he, instead, gets an erection in the videotaped presence of them. During the scenes where we're actually seeing the videotapes on the screen, the soundtrack that plays is an eerie, intense music, almost something out of a horror flick. It feels as though we shouldn't be seeing what we're seeing and Soderbergh does a great job of making us feel uncomfortable. It's a good kind of uncomfortable though, an uncomfortable that is meant to be, that makes you realize how powerful those certain scenes are.

11. Requiem for a Dream (2000) dir. Darren Aronofsky 9/10
No one is more surprised than me to see "Requiem for a Dream", sitting comfortably at the #11 spot. I never thought that this film would make it here and in fact, if you had asked me prior to starting this 100, how "Requiem" would fair, I'd have told you that it'd be one of the first ones eliminated from contention. However, it blew me away this time around. Aronofsky burst onto the scene in 1998 with "Pi" (one that I, unfortunately, couldn't make room for here) and two years later cemented his status with "Requiem". The jumpy, quick, erratic editing is the signature to this film, accompanied by interesting characters, powerful, thought provoking situations and "Lux Aeterna" blaring in the background. I still haven't been able to erase that one second shot of Jennifer Connelly, performing sexual acts with another female, while money is stuffed into her mouth and horror, shame and embarrassment color her face. In closing, I take back every ill word I ever said about this near masterpiece.

10. The Stranger (1946) dir. Orson Welles 9/10
I was really glad that I was able to find a home for an Orson Welles movie on this TOP 20, considering I watched the rest of his catalog, that THE BOOK had to offer. I wasn't entirely impressed with Welles' films, but I was impressed with Welles, the actor. "The Stranger" is the best of both worlds, an incredible film and an incredible film starring the man himself, alongside Edward G. Robinson. Once you see it, who could ever forget that climax, with Welles and cast scurrying at the top of a clock tower and an end that can only spell death for someone.
From my original review on May 24, 2012:
It sure doesn't sound like a picture that would appeal to me, but I'll be damned if it wasn't a fantastic one. If the rest of "Welles Week" is a complete failure upon my personal tastes, at least now I'll be able to proclaim that I DO have a favorite Orson Welles picture and it's not the popular one, which kind of makes it a little cooler, if you ask me. Where do I even begin when it comes to praising "The Stranger"? How about I start with Welles' direction and the way he moved his camera, captured his images and told his story. The picture is a great example of film noir and would've fit perfectly into "Seven Shadows Week". In fact, there are shadows galore, as Welles uses shadows to build tension and suspense and keep us gripped by this story about a Nazi criminal. Certain shots are unforgettable, like the one of Edward G. Robinson standing in front of a projector that is showing footage of concentration camps, his shadow cast on two different surfaces. Or the one of Mr. Meinike face, shown in close-up through the lens of a camera, while he holds a conversation with another man.

09. Rushmore (1998) dir. Wes Anderson 9/10
Yet another film that I hated the first time I saw it, many years ago and yet another movie that proves how much THIS BOOK works on your personal tastes, refining and sculpting them into something that more resembles a real movie snob. I realized, while watching the two Wes Anderson films from THE BOOK, that Anderson is really one of my favorite directors. He provides comedies that aren't as straightforward as others and I'd much prefer an Anderson offering to that of Apatow or any of the other schmucks they scrape off the Hollywood back lots and put into a directors chair.
From my original review on June 3, 2012:
Well, here is another perfect example of giving things a second chance, because this time around I absolutely loved it. The oddball characters are what make this movie original and unique, because these people aren't acting in a particularly normal way. In fact, the entire atmosphere of the film has a different aura about it and that's why it doesn't blend into the crowd, but rather, stands out. Max Fischer is a fantastic character - one that you kind of love to hate in the beginning, but one who ultimately learns his lesson and becomes likeable.

08. Amores perros (2000) dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu 9.5/10
This movie was right up my alley. One thing I'm a big whore for is movies that tell multiple stories, using multiple characters, that somehow intersect at some point...except "Crash". It's one of the things that I liked about movies, when I first started taking an interest, many years ago. At this point, I've written so much that I'm ready to let my original reviews do most of the talking.
From my original review on July 4, 2012:
In my experiences with these types of movies, the filmmaker's have to be very careful telling three separate stories and tying them together, especially as loose as the stories in "Amores perros" are tied together. They run the risk of getting the audience attached to the first set of characters and turning them off when they depart that storyline for an entirely new storyline, with an entirely new set of characters. However, this film does an excellent job of making all three stories enticing to the viewer. Honestly, if I were forced to choose a favorite story, I'd be hard pressed to. Each segment had it's strengths and each one stood apart from the others. The first story was a fine opening act and sucked the viewer in. It provided enough information about the subsequent stories to peek our interest and prepare us for what lie ahead. It provided a really great, everyday type story about an everyman pursuing his love interest, which happened to be his sister-in-law. The second story acted as a good halftime show, providing more comedy than the other stories, but still packing in enough poignant moments. That shot of Valeria staring out the window at her billboard, only to discover that it wasn't there anymore, was quite sad. The final story is a perfect cap to the whole tale, giving us the El Chivo character, one that I never expected to be nearly crying for. The scene where he phones his daughter had my eyes welling up.

07. Memento (2000) dir. Christopher Nolan 10/10
Ooooh, we're getting into the cream of the crop now, with the seven movies that I rated perfect '10/10' from the last 100.  It's no surprise to me to see "Memento" in a TOP 10 spot, as it's been a favorite of mine since the first time I saw it, many years ago. In fact, I remember walking around Blockbuster, with my older brother, as he searched frantically for a videotape copy of this movie, citing that it was the best thing he'd seen in a LONG time. Well, I just had to see it, so, one day when he was at work, I popped it in and watched it, hoping to impress him when he got home. I don't remember how impressed he was, but I remember how impressed I was, with the film.
From my original review on April 3, 2012:
Perhaps that's why the character of Leonard is so relateable and likeable, because in the time frame that this film occurs in, we know nothing more or less than Leonard. When he's confused, so are we. When he's trying to sort out a problem, so are we. Add to that the use of narration by Guy Pearce that allows us to hear Leonard's thoughts throughout the film and we've got a guy that we can completely sympathize with and understand. 

06. 3-Iron (2004) dir. Ki-duk Kim 10/10
The biggest discovery of the 100? Not quite. But a hell of a discovery, no less. Korea really stepped up to the plate during this 100 and proved to me that some of the greatest director's of this generation, call that country home. The film uses silence to it's advantage, but speaks volumes to it's viewers, providing a story that was easy for me to fall into.
From my original review on May 1, 2012:
"3-Iron" is not a straightforward film. In fact, I'd even go so far to say that "3-Iron" isn't going to be for everyone's tastes. However, I thought it was brilliant, in a word. It's funny, because there were elements of this picture that I really could have torn apart and nitpicked over, but when it came down to it, I couldn't stop basking at the sheer beauty and poetry that was conveyed here.
In "3-Iron" our main character, Tae-suk has absolutely no dialogue and our other main character, Sun-hwa, speaks only three words throughout the entire picture. It's a movie where questions arise and things don't always make sense, but one where the questions seem to play second fiddle to just sitting back and experiencing the film.

05. Head-On (2004) dir. Fatih Akin 10/10
This, my friends, was the biggest discovery of the 100 and by discovery, I mean the best film that I hadn't previously seen.
From my original review on May 19, 2012:
You know, we've seen this plot line a thousand times before, especially being churned out of the Hollywood machine. Two strangers meet, one usually wants nothing to do with the other one initially, they're somehow bound to one another and before the credits roll, they're in love. I could probably rattle of ten titles right off the top of my head that have followed this same, basic, cookie cutter formula, to a tee, for ages. Hell, Hollywood has been doing it for decades ("It Happened One Night" springs to mind). In "Head-On", however, Fatih Akin takes this same formula, adds some more coarse elements (nudity, coarse language, drug use, suicide attempts, rape, murder, a few bloody fight scenes, however short they may be), a little more structure and even kicks in some more elements to the plot. It's as if he went to the store and bought the romantic comedy outline and added some more, inventive things to it.

04. Kill Bill: Volume 1 (2003) dir. Quentin Tarantino 10/10
The rest of these were pretty much pegged from the time I saw them, so it wasn't a surprise to me to see this as the TOP 4 pictures. 
From my original review on January 21, 2012:
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.

03. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) dir. Wes Anderson 10/10
I'm going to let my past review do the talking for this one, because I'm tired and it's my blog...so there!
From my original review on June 4, 2012:
Where do I even start with "The Royal Tenenbaums", a film I saw for the first time, probably close to ten years ago and one that I loved from the get go. It's always fascinated me how this film manages to juggle both comedy and drama so evenly and so flawlessly. Speaking of flawlessness, lets talk about the script, one that doesn't come with flaws, at least not any that I can see. I love how the film is based on a non-existent book and tells the story as if it were reading from it's pages, complete with narrator Alec Baldwin. We see some trademark Wes Anderson, as he uses the writing of words on the screen to establish key points and introduces the cast of characters in the beginning of the film, as if they were about to put on a play. The film holds together many different characters, including all the Tenenbaums mentioned above, as well as Raleigh St. Clair (Bill Murray), Margot's husband, Eli Cash (Owen Wilson), Richie's best friend and Margot's lover and Henry Sherman (Danny Glover), Etheline's suitor. The entire cast turns in fantastic performances, most notably Gene Hackman, who shows up ready to be a Wes Anderson character. It's funny how actors in Anderson's film can't just show up and phone in their performances. You actually have to go through a transformation, deliver your dialogue different and be unique to fit into Anderson's world.


02. Se7en (1995) dir. David Fincher 10/10
This one flip flopped with the #1 choice for a long time, before I finally decided to stick it in the #2 spot and let the #1 choice reign supreme. This is the second TOP 20 in a row, where a long time, personal favorite of mine got demoted to a #2 position.
From my original review on May 13, 2012:
This is another one of those personal films that would be filed under the heading of "movies my older brother introduced me to". I can still remember sitting in the bedroom that we shared, me on my bed and my brother on his, as I gripped the edge of my mattress, wondering if/when Mills and Somerset would be victorious. I was younger then and not as film savvy as I am today; the days when a clever plot could entice me as well as a Beggin' Strip would entice a hungry dog. I remember being absolutely and utterly blown away by this movie, buying it soon after and re-watching it dozens of times since that night. If I were to compile a list of ten films that made me want to be a film buff, "Se7en" would almost have to be on it. For me, it doesn't get much better than this. Even tonight, as I watched it for the umpteenth time, my heart still sped up when Mills and Somerset escorted John Doe to the scene of his final act. Goosebumps popped up across the surface of my skin as Somerset sliced open a box and said those tingling lines:

"California, tell your people to stay away. Stay away now, don't - don't come in here. Whatever you hear, stay away! John Doe has the upper hand!"


01. The Lord of the Rings (2001, 2002, 2003 - Peter Jackson) 10/10
With the exception of "Se7en", no other film came close to edging this one from it's top slot. It's a film that grows on me every time I see it. It amazes me, the number of people who don't like or don't really get the appeal of these movies. To me, they're flawless. "The Lord of the Rings" builds up a world, tears it down and rebuilds it, over the course of it's nine hour running time.
From my original review on April 14, 2012:
To those of you who think that "The Lord of the Rings" is merely nine hours of a hobbit walking and culminating with a ring toss into a fire pit, I feel sorry for you. I feel sorry that you will never be able to experience this nine hours like I did - with wide eyed amazement, feeling like a child again and getting pumped up during such scenes as Gandalf leading the Riders of Rohan down the mountainside, at the end of "The Two Towers". It's not only a road movie about a ring, but it's a movie about the total collapse of Middle Earth, a very intricate created world, complete with city names, made up races and detailed characters. Apparently Tolkien wrote the books during the years of World War II, so perhaps his vision of a world on the brink of destruction was what he thought was happening to this world. In "The Lord of the Rings" destruction is on the doorstep. There are many scenes where the characters give up hope and prepare themselves for death.

TEN WORTH MENTIONING:  Gun Crazy (1949), The Asphalt Jungle (1950), The Mother and the Whore (1973), Yi Yi (2000), Spirited Away (2001), City of God (2002), Oldboy (2003), The Host (2006, Once (2006), Into the Wild (2007)

Whew! I love putting these TOP 20 lists together, but honestly, they're a BITCH to type out! Anyway, that's my TOP 20. As always, this is the time of year where I encourage comments, for people to come and voice their opinions about this list, where I went wrong and what I got right. Of course, I'll put together another TOP 20 list when I hit 601 movies watched. I'm officially announcing my hiatus from the blog at this point too. I need some time to recharge my batteries, but I'm sure I'll be back before too long. In fact, I'll be back later in the week to give you guys an update and explain, in more detail, what you can expect to see reviews for in the next 100. Until then, be well.

July 9, 2012  7:10pm

Sunday, July 8, 2012

152. Casablanca (1942)


Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Michael Curtiz
Written By: Murray Burnett, Joan Alison
Main Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Conrad Veidt
Click here to view the trailer

AS TIME GOES BY

Technically, with the watching of "Casablanca" I've officially crossed the halfway mark and have already started into the second half, as 501 movies watched means that more than half of THE BOOK is complete. "Casablanca" was one of the heavy hitters that I arranged to squeeze in during this 100 and I intentionally saved it until the end, so that I could go out with a bang. Unfortunately, the bang kind of fizzled out.


The film takes place in unoccupied Africa, specifically Casablanca, during World War II, sometime after the occupation of France by the Nazi's. Rick Blaine (Bogart) owns a gin joint in Casablanca, an American expatriate, who commands a certain respect from his clientele. In fact, the main story really doesn't have anything to do with Rick, but rather Victor Laszlo (Henreid), a resistance leader who has escaped from a concentration camp and is a wanted man...very wanted. As the film begins, we learn that many people are trying to make their way to Lisbon and from there, catching a plane to America and the freedoms it offers. In order to get to Lisbon, you either have to have a valid visa or a letter of transit. Early on, we also learn that a stack of letters of transit have recently been stolen from a group of German officers and somehow find their way into the hands of Rick. The other story, the more memorable one, is the story of Ilsa (Bergman), Victor's wife and Rick's former lover, whom Rick was abandoned by in Paris. Rick's still a little bitter about the whole situation and buries his sorrows in the bottom of a glass, while his pal Sam plays "As Time Goes By" on the piano, reminding him of Paris and his days with Ilsa. Now, Victor plans to make for Lisbon with Ilsa in tow, but what will Rick have to say about their departure.


I remember watching this film a long time ago. It was about the time that I really started to take an interest in movies and since I had heard so much about the reputation of this film, I decided to give it a go. Well, the experience ended up turning me off of classic movies for a while. I remember watching and not being able to grasp what was so fantastic about this film. A great love story? Sure, but those were a dime a dozen. Were people finding appeal in this film because it mixed this great love story with a World War II backdrop? I don't know, but it wasn't doing anything for me. I remember I also watched "Citizen Kane" around the same time and I couldn't grasp that one either. As time has gone by, I've learned to appreciate "Citizen Kane" a little more, but, even after today's viewing and all of my changes in taste, I still can't find appeal in "Casablanca".


As I mentioned in earlier posts, for films like "To Have and Have Not" and "The Big Sleep", I just don't get Humphrey Bogart. I realized today that the guy really never shows any emotion. I mean, here you have this guy, Rick; he's had his heart stomped on by this woman, Ilsa, yet Bogart chooses to play it cool throughout, barely losing his temper and letting his cigarette dangle calmly from his lips. Rick should be furious, Bogart should be putting in some serious emotion, screaming at Ilsa, begging her to explain why she broke his heart, destroyed his hope for love. I just can't get into the guy or his performances. I'll be the first to admit, he's one cool customer. In fact, he may be the coolest damn customer to ever grace the big screen, but what's cool? Maybe being cool was enough to get you by in the 1940s, but cool just doesn't work for me, unless there's a little more to it. There are still many Bogart films remaining in THE BOOK ("The Treasure of the Sierra Madre", High Sierra", "The Barefoot Contessa", "Beat the Devil", "The African Queen" and maybe more) and I'm determined to find one that appeals to me, one that will change my mind about Bogart and make me want to see even more of his films, non-BOOK films. I'll be on the lookout for a good Bogart performance, I promise. And, honestly, it's not that he's bad, it's just that he doesn't work for me and here, that's what counts.

RATING: 4/10  The story was good enough and flowed well enough to get at least a '4', but I can't go any higher. That's gonna' wrap things up for this 100 folks. I'll be back with you either later tonight or tomorrow to present my 5th TOP 20 list and I hope you're as excited for it as I am.

MOVIES WATCHED: 501
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 500

July 8, 2012  11:42am

500. Easy Rider (1969)


Running Time: 95 minutes
Directed By: Dennis Hopper
Written By: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Terry Southern
Main Cast: Peter Fonda, Dennis Hopper, Jack Nicholson, Luke Askew, Phil Spector
Click here to view the trailer

500!

Had I gone through THE BOOK chronologically, without skipping a single film, this is still exactly where I'd be at this point in my journey. As I reach the 500 movies watched mark, I figured I'd commemorate the occasion by watching the actual 500th entry in THE BOOK - "Easy Rider".


The plot of "Easy Rider" is an incredibly simple one - a couple of hippies, Wyatt (Fonda) and Billy (Hopper), come upon a large sum of money when they score big on a drug deal south of the border. Feeling adventurous and wanting to tout their freedom, the two hop a couple of motorcycles and take off from Los Angeles, California to New Orleans, LA, destination: Mardi Gras. That's basically the whole meat and potatoes of the script. Along the way they meet a few crazy characters, including an even hippier hippie (Askew) and, when they land themselves in the slammer for parading without a permit, George Hanson (Nicholson), a lawyer's son who can't kick his booze habit and who helps the boys get out of jail free. The film is also used as a vehicle to provide a soundtrack for the sixties, including such tunes as: "The Weight", "Born to Be Wild", "Don't Bogart Me", you know, all the hippiest songs that you can possibly squeeze into ninety minutes.


I like to think of "Easy Rider" as a fond farewell to the sixties and a welcoming in of the seventies, as only the "flower children" would have it. However, the film is really, actually an awful mess that, for some reason, gets showered with accolades for being a trend setter and ushering in a new dawn in Hollywood. Maybe it did have a part in ushering in a new Hollywood age, but the film is just absolutely brutal to have to sit through, with the only good thing coming out of it being Jack Nicholson's portrayal of George Hanson. In the beginning, we see lots of glory shots of Hopper and Fonda on their motorcycles. Then the duo stop and you think the film is finally going to start to go somewhere, but then they hop back on their bikes and we get more glory shots of them riding the roads. It's back and forth like that for the first thirty - forty minutes and it's an obvious stalling tactic, just to fit in the songs that fill out the soundtrack and give the film a more hippie vibe. And hey, I have no problem with hippies, man. I mean, I'm all for pacifism, tye-dye shirts and kicking around a hacky sack, but if you're going to give these guys free range to make a movie, lets at least make sure they have something more to say than a ninety minute monologue on asserting your freedom.


I mean no disrespect toward Dennis Hopper either and luckily, we'll get to a much better Hopper film and performance at some point down the line when I watch "Blue Velvet". But, come on man, was this really meant to be called a "must see"? Maybe if I'd been born in the sixties and I was all hopped up on grass and pills, then maybe I could have that "Whoah man, this is groovy" attitude toward this picture, but I wasn't and I don't. I can just imagine Hopper and Fonda, on the set, drugged out of their mind, saying something to the effect of, "Yeah man, you'll throw your watch on the ground man and like, it'll mean we don't even care about the time man. We're just out there, living and loving and being so free man. Far out!" Gimme' a break! Nothing much happens and if it comes on the television and you're too busy to concentrate on it, leave it on in the background because it DOES provide a great soundtrack, but as far as providing any semblance of a story...nada.

RATING: 3/10  I give it '3' for the Nicholson performance, which I liked and for the music. I can't resist a movie that slips in "The Weight".


MOVIES WATCHED: 500
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 501

July 8, 2012  1:49am

Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Second Half Begins This Fall!

It's become a tradition of mine (and one that I enjoy doing) to put together little sneak peek videos for you guys and give you a glance at some of the film I'll be watching during my next run of 100 films (#502 - #601). It's hard to believe that I've nearly watched my way through one half of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book and to commemorate the occasion, I've tried to schedule some heavy hitters. Of course, you already know about "Kubrick Week", but there are other big titles planned for my next 100. I've taken the time to layout a blueprint of what the next 100 films is going to look like and I have it about 75% mapped out. I'll be back after the TOP 20 is posted to explain some of my choices and give you a little more in-depth information of the next 100, but for now, enjoy the sneak peek!

975. Good Bye Lenin! (2003)


Running Time: 121 minutes
Directed By: Wolfgang Becker
Written By: Wolfgang Becker, Bernd Lichtenberg
Main Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Katrin Sass, Chulpan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Florian Lukas
Click here to view the trailer

THE WALL COMES CRUMBLING DOWN...OR DOES IT?

In a 100 that was filled to the brim with films from the 21st Century, this will be my last movie of the season that is from the "Oughts". In fact, out of all the films from 21st Century that are in THE BOOK, I only have seven left to watch, in total.


"Good Bye Lenin!" is primarily set around the time that the Berlin Wall came down and East Germany and West Germany became one, united nation. The film begins, with narration by our main character, Alex Kerner (Bruhl), by telling us the history of his own life. He grew up in a happy home, living in East Germany. When Alex was a child, his father escaped East Germany and fled to the West, with his mistress, leaving his wife and kids behind, never to speak to them again. This event devastated Alex's mother, Christiane (Sass), but she used her free time and energy to fuel the socialist movement, even receiving awards for her outstanding socialist attitude and dedication. Many years later, once are characters are older and our main character is all grown up, Christiane suffers a devastating heart attack, that sends her into an eight month coma. During her time unconscious at the hospital, the Berlin Wall is torn down and East and West Germany, simply become Germany. Eight months later, Christiane wakes up and the doctors inform Alex that she isn't out of the woods yet. They go on to inform him that any major shocks could send her heart spiraling into another attack. Alex realizes that the collapse of the Wall could be the shock that kills his mother, so he schemes to make sure she doesn't find out about any of it. He sets her room up just the way she had it when she went into the hospital, wipes out all recognition that Germany is united and even sets up fake newscasts, with help from co-workers, so that she can watch television without threat of finding out. Other characters include: Alex's sister, Ariane (Simon) and his girlfriend, Lara (Khamatova).


At the suggestion of Ray, my old, frequent commenter (Ray if you're reading this, I hope all is well and hope to see you back on the blog soon), I should've watched this in conjunction with "The Lives of Others", because they would've made great companion pieces to one another. Anyway, I at least got them into the same 100 together and I'm glad I did, because now I come out of this 100 with a greater knowledge of the whole East Germany/West Germany situation and the falling of the wall. Each film is quite different in presentation and tone, as "The Lives of Others" was a solemn, suspense-filled drama, while "Good Bye Lenin!" is a comedy, with a lot of heart and a very serious side. The film gives us a major event in our world's history and takes a humorous look at it, while never diminishing the seriousness of the entire affair. In fact, the primary story itself is one that could be told through many situations, it just so happens that this story is told by using the divide of a country as it's focal point. The basic story is simply about a man going to extremes to prevent his mother from finding out vital information that could kill her. It's astounding that this is a really basic comedic outline and yet, it's presented in such a serious, sentimental way that it barely resembles a comedy.


I had a blast with this one, no question. I'm surprised that with such a strong 100, there are still films filing in at the last minute, that are carrying some major contention with them and great possibility for a shot at the TOP 20 list or, at the very least, a "Ten Worth Mentioning" nod. This was a fun movie, it provided likeable characters, a great score, a visual feast, a comedic plot and a serious background and left me feeling very good about the characters and how they ended up.

RATING: 7.5/10  I've said it before, I'll say it again: This list is going to be a real son of a bitch to put together. So many great films and only thirty spots to fill.


MOVIES WATCHED: 499
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 502

July 7, 2012  9:23pm

217. Adam's Rib (1949)


Running Time: 101 minutes
Directed By: George Cukor
Written By: Ruth Gordon, Garson Kanin
Main Cast: Spencer Tracy, Katharine Hepburn, Judy Holliday, Tom Ewell, David Wayne
Click here to view the trailer

MAN vs. WOMAN, TRACY vs. HEPBURN

Believe it or not, this is the first Spencer Tracy film that I've watched for THE BOOK (unless I'm forgetting something) and wouldn't you know that it's alongside the lady he made a total of nine films with, Katharine Hepburn. Here, the two play dueling lawyers, in a comedy about the battle of the sexes.


The film opens with Doris Attinger (Holliday) tailing her husband Warren Francis Attinger (Ewell) through the subway, to the apartment of his mistress. When she arrives there, behind him, she pulls a gun from her handbag and fires, albeit with horrible aim, at her husband, striking him in the shoulder and sending his mistress screaming out of the room. We then cut to the bedroom of Mr. Adam Bonner (Tracy) and his wife, Amanda Bonner (Hepburn), as the two wake up to breakfast in bed, served by their housekeeper and a morning paper. As the couple sip their coffee and juice, they read about the attempted murder of Warren Francis Attinger via his wife Doris Attinger and the two split sides, Amanda siding with Doris and Adam siding with Warren. It also turns out that Mr. and Mrs. Attinger are both lawyers and when Adam arrives at work that morning, he finds out that he's been assigned Warren Attinger as his newest client. When he calls his wife to tell her the news, she breaks her neck to represent Mrs. Attinger and the movie is off and running. We then head into the courtroom, as the Bonner's wage war on the floors of justice and head home at night to try and keep their home life more civil than their professional battle.

SPOILER ALERT! 


There wasn't anything particularly wrong with "Adam's Rib", in fact, they got a whole lot of things right. I don't even have to tell you that the pairing of Hepburn and Tracy was a match made in heaven, as the two got along swimmingly and made you believe, for the duration of the film, that they were really a married couple. The chemistry that the two had was uncanny and I couldn't help but smile at the lifelike marriage that the two portrayed. According to THE BOOK, this film is actually based on real events. Apparently, in the real life story, the married couple actually went through with their divorce and ended up marrying their respective clients. After reading that tidbit, I was shocked that they didn't go with that ending. I guess when the filmmaker's thought about the idea of actually splitting up the loveable marriage of Hepburn and Tracy, they knew the audience wouldn't go for it. I bet someone like Preston Sturges could've gotten away with having it end with the couple marrying their clients and I'm sure we would've all been okay with it in the end too.


Anyway, I'm rambling. The film is funny and provides some unusual situations that I can't believe haven't been ripped off more than they have been. With the exception of the Hepburn/Tracy chemistry, there wasn't anything blatantly exceptional about the film. I found myself smiling many times throughout the picture, yet it wasn't anything that blew me away or anything. The situations do get a little bit corny and I couldn't help but think that if they had beefed up the courtroom drama aspect of the whole thing and played it as a half comedy/half drama, it would've worked out a lot better. They could've had strict drama in the courtroom and strict comedy when the couple returned home at night. Anyway, it was what it was and it wasn't bad. I think this is a film where the story matters less than just witnessing Hepburn and Tracy onscreen, together.

RATING: 6.5/10  At this point, I've seen so much good that these final few movies are going to have a really tough time winning me over.

MOVIES WATCHED: 498
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 503

July 7, 2012  5:30pm

Friday, July 6, 2012

Kubrick Week - Coming This Fall


"Kubrick Week" will be the kickoff to my next 100 films, the kickoff to the second half of THE BOOK and will begin this fall!

996. Le scaphandre et le papillon/The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (2007)


Running Time: 112 minutes
Directed By: Julian Schnabel
Written By: Ronald Harwood
Main Cast: Mathieu Amalric, Emmanuelle Seigner, Anne Consigny, Marie-Josee Croze, Olatz Lopez Garmendia
Click here to view the trailer

LOCKED IN

Four to go until I reach the halfway mark of my journey and wouldn't you know, another TOP 20 contender rears it's head. I had high hopes for "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" and I love it when high hopes pay off.


The film tells the tragic, true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby (Amalric), the French editor of Elle magazine, who, while driving in his new convertible, with his son, suffered a stroke which left him entirely paralyzed, save for his left eyelid. The film opens with Bauby waking up from a three week coma, following his stroke and realizing that the doctor's can't hear him. Later, a specialist enters the room and tells him that his condition is very rare and is referred to as locked in syndrome. It refers to the fact that Bauby is able to understand everything that's going on around him, but unable to respond in the traditional way. A speech therapist, Henriette (Croze), establishes a way of communicating with Bauby, by reading him the letters of the alphabet in the frequency in which they're used. When he comes to the letter he wants, he blinks once for "yes" and when he gets the word he wants he blinks twice. In fact, Bauby's spirits would eventually lift and he'd spark an interest in writing a book, by using the blinking method. A patient dictation expert, Claude (Consigny), would be hired to read the alphabet to Bauby and write his words. The film is told through the use of erratic editing, taking us inside the mind of a man who is locked inside his own body. The film flashes back between Bauby now, paralyzed, wheel-chair bound and living in a hospital and Bauby then, the cocky, French fashion magazine editor, who left his wife and the mother of his children and took a mistress.


It's not surprising that "The Diving Bell and the Butterfly" will make you appreciate your own mobility a little bit more. This film ran the gamut of emotions and feelings, for me anyway. Throughout the film, I witnessed sheer beauty, heartbreak, despair, tragedy, hopelessness and even triumph. The story of Jean-Dominique Bauby was meant to be portrayed on the big screen and it is my opinion that Julian Schnabel crafted it perfectly. The editing techniques that he used to tell the story of this man, who could only communicate through the use of his left eyelid, who made a lifetime worth of mistakes in half his life and who learned to appreciate and rely on his own imagination, fit this story to a tee and made for a dazzling sequence of images for the viewer's eye.


If I had my way, some things would've been done differently. I kind of wish they could've told the story without ever showing Bauby's face. I think it would've made for a more scary film, trapping the viewer inside Bauby's world and forcing them to see through his eyes for a couple of hours. Of course, that really wasn't possible and I completely understand why it couldn't be done, but still... When you're working with autobiographical material, it gets kind of tricky, because the filmmaker's have a certain allegiance to the source material. Otherwise, there were certain parts that I felt could've been dropped. The whole scene where Bauby remembers going to Lourdes with a former lover, her buying a statue sculpted by the cardinal and then the couple breaking up later that night, was almost pointless and was only used to show Bauby's one brush with religion, an otherwise non-religious person. The phone call from the mistress was kind of pointless too and put in at a position in the film, that made it feel like a mini climax, when really it was quite unnecessary. The relationship between Bauby and his father (played wonderfully by Max von Sydow) was much more important to me and could've been extended to replace the former scene. But all that is just a bit of griping on my part and none of it really weighs on my opinion of this beautiful, yet horrific film.

RATING: 8/10  Whether or not that rating will hold up in time for the TOP 20 remains to be seen. I've seen ninety-six movies now for this 100 and as I draw closer to list time, my opinions are fluctuating rapidly inside my own head.

MOVIES WATCHED: 497
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 504

July 6, 2012  4:59pm

June 2012 Recap

Before I get into this month's recap, I just wanted to let everyone know that I intend to make the 5th TOP 20 this weekend. I'm going to be putting in a little extra overtime between today and tomorrow, so that I'll be on tap to present the TOP 20 on Sunday afternoon or possibly Monday. I also wanted to apologize in advance for any sloppy writing or shortened reviews. I'm kind of running on fumes at this point and am just ready to wrap up the 100 and take a little hiatus. More on that later.

1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in June 2012
1) Into the Wild (2007 - Sean Penn) 8/10 - I underrated this one a little bit when I watched it early last month, but it's grown on me with time and has a good shot at, at least, making a "Ten Worth Mentioning" spot.
2) Paradise Now (2005 - Hany Abu-Assad) 3/10
3) Rushmore (1998 - Wes Anderson) 8.5/10 - Another top contender for a TOP 20 slot.
4) The Royal Tenenbaums (2001 - Wes Anderson) 10/10 - Forget TOP 20, this is a TOP 10 contender.
5) Hold Me While I'm Naked (1966 - George Kuchar) -- - Still no rating on this one, just because affixing a rating on this would be generic, in my view.
6) Gaslight (1944 - George Cukor) 7.5/10 - Another one that COULD receive a "Ten Worth Mentioning" nod.
7) The Best of Youth (2003 - Marco Tullio Giordana) 7.5/10 - I'm struggling with this one. I was, ultimately, disappointed with this one. But on the surface, it was a success. Have no idea yet if it will impact the TOP 20 or not.
8) The Mortal Storm (1940 - Frank Borzage) 4.5/10
9) Deep End (1970 - Jerzy Skolimowski) 7/10 - If there's room, I wouldn't mind seeing this pop up on the "Ten Worth Mentioning" section.
10) Seconds (1966 - John Frankenheimer) 7/10 - Another one that just really disappointed me. I don't know what it's chances of making the list are, but we'll find out shortly.
11) Pan's Labyrinth (2006 - Guillermo del Toro) 5/10
12) The Seventh Victim (1943 - Mark Robson) 6.5/10 - Good, but is it good enough to make the list? Doubtful.
13) Sergeant York (1941 - Howard Hawks) 7/10 - I went a little bit overboard on this one originally, but it was still really good.
14) To Have and Have Not (1944 - Howard Hawks) 4/10
15) The Big Sleep (1946 - Howard Hawks) 5/10
16) Red River (1948 - Howard Hawks) 2/10
17) The Big Sky (1952 - Howard Hawks) 2/10
18) Meshes of the Afternoon (1943 - Deren, Hammid) 1/10
19) Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (1953 - Howard Hawks) 5/10 - Needless to say, "Hawks Week" was a major disappointment!
20)  Rio Bravo (1959 - Howard Hawks) 6/10 - I went overboard on this one too.
21) Kandahar (2001 - Mohsen Makhmalbaf) 5.5/10
22) The Ox-Bow Incident (1943 - William A. Wellman) 9/10 - '10/10' was a little too high, but make no mistake, this is a hell of a film.


NON-1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die - As seen in June 2012
1) The Descendants (2011 - Alexander Payne) 6.5/10 - If there was one movie that I would have made it out to the theater to see last year, it would have been “Midnight in Paris”. However, if there were two movies, then I would’ve added “The Descendants” to that short list. So, you can imagine how disappointed I was when I realized that there was nothing unique or classic about Alexander Payne’s newest offering and that it was really just a fluffy, overly sentimental, piece of Hollywood Oscar bait. I’ve been a big fan of Alexander Payne, ever since I saw “About Schmidt”. Later, “Sideways” became one of my all-time favorite films and I would even call “Election” a must see movie. I’m getting so sick of these cliché stories, that are designed to pull tears from our faces and make us all weepy. In “The Descendants”, George Clooney plays a man, living in Hawaii, who tries to reconnect with his two daughters, after his wife slips into a coma after a boating accident. It’s almost as sappy a storyline as the “two parents try to cope with life after the death of their child” storyline (one that I personally can’t stand). I think it was a pretty cheap movie, the laughs were cheap, the tearjerking moments were cheap and the acting, while not cheap, just wasn’t that good. I’d still give it a ‘6.5’ because it was, at least, okay, but it was a huge disappointment. 

July 6, 2012  1:03pm

983. Va, Vis et Deviens/Go, See, and Become (2005)


Running Time: 140 minutes
Directed By: Radu Mihaileanu
Written By: Alain-Michel Blanc, Radu Mihaileanu
Main Cast: Moshe Agazai, Moshe Abebe, Sirak M. Sabahat, Yael Abecassis, Roschdy Zem
Click here to view the trailer

THE STORY OF SCHLOMO

I'm really reaching the end of my rope in coming up with clever subtitles for these posts, aren't I? Oh well. Anyway, with the watching of "Go, See, and Become" (also called "Live and Become") I reach the number ninety-five mark in this current 100. Five to go till 501!


The film tells of a nine-year old, Ethiopian boy who is placed, by his Christian mother, into the care of a Jewish woman, who is about to take part in Operation Moses, an operation that will airlift Ethiopian Jews and return them to Israel. The title line comes early when his birth mother instructs him to "go, see and become", hoping that we will be able to make a life for himself in Israel. The only problem is that Schlomo isn't Jewish and must conceal this secret, in order to make it in Israel. Once in Israel, Schlomo has trouble adapting to public school and has to be taught how to do everything, since luxuries weren't available in Ethiopia. Even the television fascinates him and he's more amused at watching the back of the TV set, hoping he'll catch a glimpse of the little people coming in and out. Schlomo refuses to eat at school and when he's adopted by new parents, refuses to eat for them either. His new parents are loving people, Yael (Abecassis) and Yoram (Zem), who have two other children and only want the best for Schlomo. Eventually Schlomo adapts to his surroundings, but must cope with the secrets he hides; not being Jewish and leaving his birth mother.


I wasn't too thrilled with "Go, See, and Become", to tell you the truth. It started out as something that I really wouldn't be interested; Israeli politics and the migration of Ethiopian Jews. In it's defense, I will say that I was able to settle into it fairly comfortably, once it took off and I enjoyed watching this young boy try to cope with life and settle into a new land. Certain scenes were poignant and struck me as powerful, like the scene where Schlomo's adoptive mother licks his face in the middle of the schoolyard, to prove that he's a healthy child, while other scenes just didn't strike me as strong as they were intended to. The actors did a fine job and what started out as something that I dreaded watching, actually turned into something that ended up being about average.


You know it's interesting that I've yet to watch a middle-eastern film that has appealed to me. In fact, this 100 has seen a lot of films set in countries like Israel ("Go, See, and Become", "Paradise Now", "Kippur") and Iran ("Kandahar") and none of them have appealed to me. It seems that in the 21st century, these middle-eastern countries have started to contribute to the world of cinema, yet none of the films have really blown me away. Perhaps I'll make it a side mission of mine to find one or two middle-eastern films that appeal to my tastes.


RATING: 5/10  I kept it super short and to the point today, because this was just one that wasn't for me and that was that.

MOVIES WATCHED: 496
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 505

July 6, 2012  12:33pm

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Kubrick Week - COMING SOON


952. Amores perros (2000)


Running Time: 153 minutes
Directed By: Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu
Written By: Guillermo Arriaga
Main Cast: Gael Garcia Bernal, Emilio Echevarria, Goya Toledo, Vanessa Bauche, Alvaro Guerrero
Click here to view the trailer


LOVE'S A BITCH

After seeing "21 Grams", approximately eight years ago, I liked it so much that, when I came across "Amores perros" while shopping for DVD's, I decided to give it a blind buy. I never got around to watching it and when the wife and I cleaned up our DVD collection, many years ago, we decided to sell it. Tonight, I finally got the chance to check it out and I can tell you that selling this gem was a huge mistake.


The film is in the same vein as films like "Pulp Fiction" and "Crash", films that tell multiple stories, repeat scenes from different points of view and connect characters at certain points in the film's narrative. The film is split up into three parts. In the first segment, Octavio (Bernal) as a twenty-something who is in love with his sister-in-law, Susana (Bauche). Octavio can't stand the mistreatment that she receives at the hands of her husband, his brother and often presents the idea of running away with her. She always adamantly refuses, but he continues to try. To earn cash and save up for the day that she accepts his offer, Octavio brings his dog Cofi to the dog fights and learns that he is the owner of one bad-ass pup. In the second story, Daniel (Guerrero) is a married man with two daughters, who is having an affair with a model, Valeria (Toledo). He separates from his wife and buys an apartment for him and his new lover. During their first day together, Valeria goes out to buy some wine, to christen the new abode and gets into a car wreck, breaking her leg in multiple places and being confined to a wheelchair for months. In the third story, El Chivo (Echevarria) is a former guerrilla, practicing hitman, estranged father and homeless, garbage picker. One day, he is approached by a man, who offers him $150,000 to kill his business partner. El Chivo accepts an advance on the job and in the meantime, takes in an abandoned dog - Cofi.


SPOILER ALERT!

In my experiences with these types of movies, the filmmaker's have to be very careful telling three separate stories and tying them together, especially as loose as the stories in "Amores perros" are tied together. They run the risk of getting the audience attached to the first set of characters and turning them off when they depart that storyline for an entirely new storyline, with an entirely new set of characters. However, this film does an excellent job of making all three stories enticing to the viewer. Honestly, if I were forced to choose a favorite story, I'd be hard pressed to. Each segment had it's strengths and each one stood apart from the others. The first story was a fine opening act and sucked the viewer in. It provided enough information about the subsequent stories to peek our interest and prepare us for what lie ahead. It provided a really great, everyday type story about an everyman pursuing his love interest, which happened to be his sister-in-law. The second story acted as a good halftime show, providing more comedy than the other stories, but still packing in enough poignant moments. That shot of Valeria staring out the window at her billboard, only to discover that it wasn't there anymore, was quite sad. The final story is a perfect cap to the whole tale, giving us the El Chivo character, one that I never expected to be nearly crying for. The scene where he phones his daughter had my eyes welling up.


The whole thing gets wrapped together and the final product is a home run debut for Inarritu. This type of picture is right up my alley. I grew up with "Pulp Fiction" and if ever there were a film to cite for peeking my interest in movies, it's "Pulp". I've always enjoyed stories that were told in that same vein. I like movies that intertwine their characters' lives, show us multiple angles of the same scene and give us those moments of realization when questions start getting answered and we start to piece the puzzle together. As much as I liked this though, if I were forced to pick an Inarritu movie to include in THE BOOK, I would've chosen "21 Grams", a slightly superior picture, in my opinion.

RATING: 9/10  Ladies and gentlemen, we have a new candidate for the TOP 20 and the list making process just got a little bit harder. Sorry for the shortness of this review, but it's late and I have to work in the morning. Goodnight all!

MOVIES WATCHED: 495
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 506

July 4, 2012  1:57am

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

220. The Reckless Moment (1949)


Running Time: 85 minutes
Directed By: Max Ophuls
Written By: Mel Dinelli, Henry Garson
Main Cast: Joan Bennett, James Mason, Geraldine Page, Henry O'Neill, Shepperd Strudwick

BLACKMAIL!

Moving right along, we come back to the 1940s and my first offering from classic director Max Ophuls and his 1949 Hollywood film, "The Reckless Moment".


The film begins by introducing Lucia Harper (Bennett) and retelling a story that happened about a week before Christmas, when, one morning, without telling her family, she drives the car into Los Angeles to meet with a man. The man is Ted Darby (Strudwick) and he's been seeing Mrs. Harper's daughter, Bea (Page). The trouble is that Lucia doesn't want him seeing her daughter any longer, because she isn't even eighteen yet and he's much older. Mr. Darby says that if Lucia makes it worth his while, monetarily, he'll leave Bea alone. Lucia doesn't pay him, citing that his statement alone would be enough to turn off Bea. Lucia returns home and shares the information with Bea, who doesn't believe her. Later that night, Bea sneaks out of the house to meet with Ted and ask him if he really asked for money in exchange for never seeing her again. He admits that he did and in a fit of rage, Bea knocks him in the head with a flashlight, spilling him over a railing, accidentally murdering him. Bea doesn't realize that he fell or that he died, as she runs back into the house, broken-hearted. The next morning, Lucia discovers the body of Ted and confronts Bea about it, who knows nothing. Lucia sinks the body into the river, with an anchor tied to his foot and hopes that it will be the end of her nightmare. The following day the paper's are reporting that a murder has taken place and that night, Lucia finds a man in her home, requesting $5000 in exchange for love letters that Bea wrote to Ted.

SPOILER ALERT!


Since I really spilled my guts about the Darren Aronofsky films, I think we'll keep this one short & sweet. "The Reckless Moment" was a fine film-noir. It wasn't the best film-noir I've seen this 100, but it wasn't the worst either. The plot is very simply and isn't stretched far, seeing as how the running time is kept under ninety minutes. The cast was good enough, with Joan Bennett and James Mason handing in satisfactory performances. I really like Mason and really wish I could find a knockout film starring him; perhaps "Lolita" will be that film. Anyway, my main problems with this film were the odd twists that the plot took. After Mason's character shows up, requesting money in exchange for the love letters, his character seems to go a little loopy, acting far too nice for the villain in a film-noir. He continues sending niceties toward Lucia, until he eventually falls in love with her. However, she's happily married, with a home in the L.A. suburbs and two kids. Nothing is ever made of his budding love interest in her and by the end, I was left scratching my head, wondering what the motivations of this character were supposed to be. Also, the film has a problem heightening the suspense. This film could've been chock full of suspense, but everything is kept contained and nothing ever gets far too out of hand for these characters. After the set-up in the beginning, Lucia is left to deal with Mason's character and then a man named Nagel, whom we never really find out much about and he's left to be this mystery bad-ass. It's good, but it's not so good that it needed to be included in THE BOOK. 'Nuff said.

RATING: 6.5/10  I'm pretty sure Max Ophuls has three more films in THE BOOK, so here's hoping the scripts get a little better and the characters are more fleshed out.

MOVIES WATCHED: 494
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 507

July 3, 2012  6:10pm

Monday, July 2, 2012

951. Requiem for a Dream (2000)


Running Time: 102 minutes
Directed By: Darren Aronofsky
Written By: Hubert Selby Jr., Darren Aronofsky, from novel by Hubert Selby Jr.
Main Cast: Ellen Burstyn, Jared Leto, Jennifer Connelly, Marlon Wayans, Christopher McDonald
Click here to view the trailer

A DOUBLE SHOT OF ARONOFSKY: 2 of 2

"Requiem for a Dream" is set in Brooklyn, New York, in the shadows of Coney Island and follows the lives of it's four main characters: Harry Goldfarb (Leto), his mother, Sara (Burstyn), his girlfriend, Marion (Connelly) and his best friend, Ty (Wayans). When the film begins, Harry is visiting his mother, but not for any nice reason, but rather, to steal her television so that he can pawn it for money, so that he can fuel his heroine addiction. In fact, he, Ty and Marion are all addicted to drugs and their drugs of choice range from heroine to marijuana to cocaine. Ty has dreams of becoming a big time drug dealer and along with Harry's assistance, the two make it happen, racking up a shoe box full of cash and making enough money to buy their piece of the American dream. Harry plans to help Marion open up a clothing store and Ty knows that if his mother were alive, she'd be proud of the businessman he's become...at least he thinks so.  Meanwhile, Sara Goldfarb receives a phone call telling her that she is going to be chosen to appear on television. Sara, gullible as can be, uses this reason to go on a diet, so that she can fit into the red dress that she wore to Harry's graduation. Sara tries hard, but she can't seem to stick to a diet of no sugar and no butter, so she goes to a doctor and is prescribed diet pills, which she becomes addicted to.


SPOILER ALERT!

On my initial post for this blog, way back on September 11, 2009 at 2:44 in the morning, I wrote the following:

"I am of the opinion that "Requiem for A Dream" is a very overated mess. But I have the balls to tell those movies that to their faces. I don't stand quivering and say "Yes, Requiem was good, I enjoyed it!", just to get a pat on the head and fit in with the rest of the crowd."

Prior to last night, I had seen "Requiem for a Dream" approximately five times, the first one being at the insistence of my older brother, a reliable source in the field of movie recommendations, up to that point. I remember watching it for the first time and wondering what in the world my brother saw in this pathetic mess of a film. The editing was insane, the subject matter wasn't appealing and the whole thing was a gloomy mess. Other than those few feeble reasons, I didn't have any others. All I knew was that I didn't like it and that was that. I rated it a '1/10' on IMDB and continued on my merry way.

There's a particular episode of "Seinfeld" where George Costanza states that he keeps going to restaurants and ordering pesto because he feels like he's supposed to like it. But every time he orders it, he's unsatisfied and left still hungry. That was like me with "Requiem", I was always unsatisfied with my own opinion, I wanted to like this picture. I kept trying and every time, I hated it! I kept thinking that this should be something that was right up my alley. I always hated films that spun their entire plot around just to provide the audience with a happy ending and "Requiem" doesn't do that. Darren Aronofsky was being mentioned in the same conversation with guys like Christopher Nolan and David Fincher, a new crop of director's dropped on Hollywood and making films that film aficionados could enjoy. I enjoyed the work of Nolan, Fincher and the other remarkable director's that emerged around the same time as Aronofsky, but I detested Aronofsky and his recent offering about drug addiction.


HOWEVER.....

I've stated before, and it's never been a more relevant statement than it is today, that this book and watching all of the films contained within, will change your tastes. It will give you perspective, it will help you separate the remarkable from the unremarkable, the good from the bad, the unique from the bland. It will completely cleanse your entire film palate and push the "reset" button on what you like and what you don't. I guess I'll just come out with it....I loved "Requiem for a Dream" this time around. In fact, I'd go so far as to say that it was near perfection. The editing, the same editing that I used to call insane and too off putting, was what really made the film standout. It made the film ultra unique and provided moments that were intense, erratic (like the mind of a drug addled person) and down right frightening. The final sequence, in which we see bits and pieces from everyone's current situations, was ultra bizarre and sometimes scary. There's a particular shot, in which we see Marion, being forced to participate in a sex show in exchange for drugs, tandem masturbating with another woman. We see her face, a contorted picture of agony, shame and embarrassment, money hanging from from her mouth, shoved in by a male onlooker. It only shows up on the screen for a split second, but it's a split second that says so much and an image that has been burned into my head.


When I used to watch "Requiem", I was always able to, at least, feel sympathy for the character of Sara. She was goaded into believing she'd be on television and prescribed addicting diet pills by a doctor. She wasn't intentionally being a drug abuser, but rather she really didn't realize what she was doing. However, this time around the entire cast of characters caused my heart to break, especially Marion, robbed of the American dream, minus her boyfriend, forced to sell her body in exchange for money or drugs. Perhaps Aronofsky saw these characters existing in real life and instead of ignoring them, chose to explore what their story was. It's a safe bet that we've all encountered people, within society, that we've labeled as "crazy", yet how many of us have stopped to wonder how they got that way. We've all seen women who carelessly sell their bodies for drugs or drug money and labeled them as "crack whores", but have we ever stopped to really wonder about their situation.

It may take some time to warm up to, but at this point in my life I can easily, highly recommend "Requiem for a Dream". It's a movie that nears perfection, with it's bizarre style, it's erratic editing, it's powerful performances and it's unusual direction from a director who wasn't afraid to tell his story and tell it in his own way. With the revelations that "Pi" and "Requiem for a Dream" are both remarkable films, Aronofsky jumps to near the front of the line on my all-time favorite director's list and honestly, I wouldn't have minded if THE BOOK had included his entire catalog, as there are things to love about all of his movies.

RATING: 8.5/10  *Pssss* It's actually probably a '10/10', but I'm not brave enough to make the leap from 1 to 10 that fast, so we'll leave it where it stands.

MOVIES WATCHED: 493
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 508

July 2, 2012  7:17pm

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,...