Friday, March 29, 2013

Rossellini Week - COMING SOON

324. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)

Running Time: 161 minutes
Directed By: David Lean
Written By: Carl Foreman, Michael Wilson, from the novel Le pont de la riviere Kwai by Pierre Boulle
Main Cast: William Holden, Alec Guinness, Jack Hawkins, Sessue Hayakawa, James Donald
Click here to view the trailer


When I put up that "17 Hours" post the other day, giving a peek at three very long films that I plan to watch soon, I could've just called it "20 hours" and included "The Bridge on the River Kwai" as part of that batch. But what's done is done and more importantly, "The Bridge on the River Kwai" is done!

The film takes place during World War II and our focal point is a Japanese POW camp, where, when we first get into the thick of things, a company of British soldiers are being hauled in. Whistling "The Colonel Bogey March" (see "The Breakfast Club"), they line up and are given their orders. The main orders that they'll receive, via Colonel Saito (Hayakawa) is that they'll be put to work building a bridge over the River Kwai. The bridge will be able to accommodate a set of railroad tracks, opening up Japan's war resources. Lt. Col. Nicholson (Guinness) has no problem with Saito putting the soldiers to work, but refuses to allow him to put the officers to work. Citing the Geneva Convention, he notes that it is illegal for any officers to be forced to do manual labor. For his insubordination, Nicholson is locked up outside, in a hot box, until he has a change of heart. However, the change of heart never comes and when Saito gets desperate enough (he has to have the bridge built by May 12 and it's already March. Failure to complete the bridge and he'd have no other choice but to commit ritual suicide) he lets Nicholson out and agrees not to make him work, but simply supervise. Meanwhile, US Navy Commander Shears (Holden) has escaped the POW camp and found refuge at a nearby village, of which the villagers help him escape via boat. He is then picked up by members of his own forces and is sent to recover at a hospital. During recovery, he is visited by Major Warden (Hawkins), who asks Shears to return to the site of the POW camp, so that he may help them blow up the bridge that is being constructed. Shears, of course, has reservations.


Man, was this movie rough to get through. I'd seen BOTRK once before and remembered liking it mildly, so I wasn't that concerned with giving it another go for the sake of THE BOOK. But man, this time around something went South and in a hurry. The premise of the film isn't bad. You've got a determined Lieutenant Colonel, who is refusing to work and an arrogant, yet likable troublemaker who wants to escape. For a while, however, I wasn't sure who we were supposed to be cheering for and who was supposed to be the heel. I mean, of course, the Japanese were the heels, but what about Nicholson (even in the beginning). Here you had a guy who was refusing to work, even though he had no trouble having his men serve Col. Saito's purposes. So, wanting to be a big cry baby about the whole thing, he gets locked up in a little tin box, outside in the sweltering heat and I can't say he didn't deserve it. So we spend like an hour of screen time (maybe more) with Nicholson - he's in the box, he's pulled out and talked to but he refuses, so he's back in the box and then Saito finally can't take it anymore so he gives in. Really!! That took an hour?? I've got to say this film managed their time incredibly poorly and no wonder the damn thing was nearly three hours, as they took forever to get certain points across. Had they trimmed this down some and gotten it to flow a little smoother, this could've been a lot better. I'm not saying it was ever going to blow me out of the water because, what can I say, I was never going to get that excited about the construction of a bridge. Something about that just doesn't light a fire under me. And, of course, you've got the whole "Look at what war drives a man to" storyline, but that doesn't get developed until the second act and when Nicholson's great lengths are finally cemented, it's nearly time for the end.

Now then, the end? Now that's some exciting movie making. You've got all sorts of incredible things happening onscreen and what do they do? The one time the movie actually gets things moving along too fast!! But really, it is some good stuff. You've got the Nicholson finally coming to his senses, Joyce manning up and killing Saito and of course, the blowing up of the bridge!! Also the whole piece with Nicholson seeing the detonation wires is pretty gripping stuff. But really, that was the whole movie for me, at least the good stuff. I wasn't crazy about Holden here. Come to think of it, I wasn't crazy about Holden in anything I've watched of his via THE BOOK. Now "Stalag 17" - there's a Holden flick. Guinness was pretty spot on here, I'll give them that, but it wasn't enough and ultimately the ending only served to be too little, too late for this film to win me over. Ultimately, this is one bridge I'd rather not cross again.

RATING: 4/10  I'll give it some points and it certainly wasn't the worst thing I've watched this season, but it was a rough one to get through. By the by, I'll be starting "Shoah" as my next movie and since it's nine hours long, you may not see me for a few days. See ya when I see ya.


March 29, 2013  5:54pm

978. The Passion of the Christ (2004)

Running Time: 126 minutes
Directed By: Mel Gibson
Written By: Mel Gibson, Benedict Fitzgerald
Main Cast: Jim Caviezel, Maia Morgenstern, Monica Bellucci, Rosalinda Celentano, Francesco DeVito
Click here to view the trailer


With Good Friday falling today and Easter this Sunday, I figured there was really no better time to get to "The Passion of the Christ" - a Mel Gibson directed film and the highest grossing independent film of all-time.

I think we all know the story of Jesus by now, but for the folks who have been living under rocks, I'll do a quick synopsis. The film traces the final twelve hours of Jesus' life, beginning in the Garden of Gethsemane. There, Jesus prays to God, asking him "if at all possible, let this cup pass me by. If this cup cannot pass me by, your will be done." From there, Jesus is arrested and brought before Pontius Pilate. Pilate, not wanting to condemn him, sends him to be judged by Herod. However, not finding any crimes that Jesus has committed, Herod sends Jesus away. From there, Christ is taken back to Pilate, who, after much pressure from Caiaphas (Jewish High Priest) and the crowd, condemns Jesus. First, Christ is only scourged - beaten with whips, chains and mocked with a crown of thorns. Later, after much more pleading from the crowd and Caiaphas, Jesus is condemned to be crucified. He is forced to carry his own cross to the mountain of Golgotha, but can barely do so, having just been nearly beaten to death.

Look, I don't want this to turn into a sermon or anything and I certainly don't want to start any religious debates. Yes, I believe in God and Jesus Christ and that Jesus died for our us, but I'm also aware that many do not and I have no problem with that. In fact, if I may share, I really can't stand people ("bible bangers" some call them) who feel that it is their duty to convert non-believers. It is my belief that each man must answer for his own actions. If you don't believe, that's your business, you will have to pay the piper someday, but it is certainly not my duty to try and change your mind, just as I wouldn't appreciate non-believers trying to talk me out of my beliefs.

To the non-believers, however, I ask (as I did in my "Gospel According to St. Matthew" review) can you at least take "The Passion of the Christ" as a good story. Obviously, to you it's only a story, but I ask, is it at least a good one? Even though you're non-believers, is there any part of you that says "Well I guess this is POSSIBLE"? For example, if someone runs from outside and tells me that giant sequoia's are falling from the sky, I wouldn't believe them, but my mind (maybe for a second or two) would imagine the prospect of this actually happening. If your mind can at least flirt with the idea of this being possible, would you feel sympathy for an innocent man being treated like this? If in that same instant of flirting with the idea of this being real, would you be grateful to a man who went through all of this for you? I'm just curious.

Okay, I've certainly said enough about religion and I said I wasn't going to. Let's talk about "The Passion of the Christ" - the movie. Cinematically", I had few problems with this one. If I was forced to nitpick, I'd say that there were far too many slow motion takes and a few scenes that really should've been left on the cutting room floor. For example, (and THE BOOK even notes this one) the scene where Jesus is depicted practicing his carpentry, making a table for a rich man. It wasn't needed in the slightest. This film should have been 100% uncomfortable, sad and heart wrenching, but it was the inclusion of unnecessary scenes like that, that only made it 98% heart wrenching. Everything else I'd say was fine. The music was just perfect and the acting was fine. In other news, what on Earth happened to Jim Caviezel? He sort of fell of the face of the Earth after this movie. Actually, now that I think of it, I think he's on some TV show...but I'm not sure what and don't really care enough to go looking it up.

RATING: 8.5/10  Great stuff here and another strong candidate for the TOP 20 list. I hope all who celebrate have a Happy and safe Easter.


March 29, 2013  2:00am

Thursday, March 28, 2013

12. La Souriante Madame Beudet/The Smiling Madame Beudet (1922)

Running Time: 38 minutes
Directed By: Germaine Dulac
Written By: Denys Amiel, Andre Obey
Main Cast: Germaine Dermoz, Alexandre Arquilliere, Jean d'Yd, Madeleine Guitty


Another much sought after movie, finally viewed by yours truly. I'll go into detail below on how I finally managed to track this one down, but now with "The Smiling Madame Beudet" finished, that officially puts the kibosh on the 1920s. Also, speaking of milestones, I've just noticed that we've recently passed the 800 post mark, so huzzah for me!

Again we run into the trouble of differentiating running times (although thanks to a commenter on my "Korkarlen" post, I learned that runtimes for silent pictures can often differ from source to source), as THE BOOK cites this film as being fifty-four minutes, while most of the versions of YouTube were either thirty-eight minutes or less. I watched one of the thirty-eight minute versions and it seemed to be totally intact and earned me my "tick". The film stars Germaine Dermoz and Madame Beudet, a bored, unhappy wife, who's husband is an arrogant, mean old cuss. Mr. Beudet has this little game he plays where he takes his revolver out of his desk and points it at his head, pulling the trigger. Of course, he's sure to note, that he couldn't possibly do any damage because the revolver is always kept unloaded. In the beginning of the film, Mr. Beudet receives some tickets to a showing of "Faust", but Madame Beudet isn't interested. Mr. Beudet takes a couple friends, and while he's out of the house, Madame Beudet  sleeps, dreaming of a better life, without Mr. Beudet. When she awakes, she takes the opportunity to load Mr. Beudet's revolver and waits for him to return.

So here's what I actually had to do to be able to watch this movie. First off, there are MULTIPLE copes of "The Smiling Madame Beudet" on YouTube, however, none of them have English intertitles. So, I went to a subtitle finder site and found an SRT file for English subs, that fit the 38 minute version of this movie. Then, I opened them in a text document, printed them out and voila, I'm holding a pretty decent set of English subtitles in my hand. All I had to do from there was follow along and when intertitles came on, I simply referenced the sheets in front of me. 

Of course this will never happen, but I propose that the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book undergo a name change. It needs to be called something like "The 1001 Most Important Movies in Cinema History". Do you know why "The Smiling Madame Beudet" is included in THE BOOK? Well, in the first line of it's BOOK entry, it is revealed and I quote...

"Germaine Dulac's celebrated film is known as one of the earliest examples of both feminist and experimental cinema."

See you don't really have to even be a "must see" movie to get into this exclusive party. All you really have to do is be a first and you've gained inclusion. Are "A Trip to the Moon" or "The Great Train Robbery" "must see" films when compared to the multiple movies that were left out of THE BOOK? I'm talking about films like Dial M for Murder, Scenes from a Marriage and Life is Beautiful. Absolutely not and neither is "The Smiling Madame Beudet". Look I've sung this song and dance many a times in the past, so there's no use wearing out my fingers mentioning it again.

Was "The Smiling Madame Beudet" really all that bad? Well, no, not really. It wasn't THAT bad at all. In fact, I sort of enjoyed it, for as long as it was. I think there was definitely an idea there and one that maybe fully didn't reach it's potential. I think you could've beefed this up a little bit and it really could've amounted to something. As it is, it's right around average and compared to some of the other shorts I've seen, this is pretty high up there. I'm highly doubtful that this will make a TOP 20 appearance or anything, but it was a perfectly fine way to spend thirty-eight minutes.

RATING: 5.5/10  Quick and dirty because it's 1AM and this blogger is pretty wiped out.


March 28, 2013  1:00am

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

369. L'Annee derniere a Marienbad/Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

Running Time: 94 minutes
Directed By: Alain Resnais
Written By: Alain Robbe-Grillet, from the novel The Invention of Morel by Adolfo Bioy Casares
Main Cast: Delphine Seyrig, Giorgio Albertazzi, Sacha Pitoeff
Click here to view the trailer


Yesterday, in my "Hiroshima mon amour" review, I wrote that I'd continue to roll that film over and over in my head, until I came up with a sound opinion and answers to some of the questions that it left me with. Today, "Hiroshima mon amour" has been bumped from my memory bank to make room for "Last Year at Marienbad", an even more perplexing picture.

I'll start out by stating that the film is quite confusing. You know the type; the movie where there are dozens of different theories and possibilities for what is happening onscreen. However, despite being obscure, the film is easily followable from beginning to end. Sure, you may have a multitude of questions come "FIN", but you'll basically know what you've just seen. The film involves three characters. Most people refer to them as A (Seyrig), X (Albertazzi) and M (Pitoeff), so I will too, although I'm not really sure where people even get these one letter names from, because in the film the characters aren't referred to by ANY names or letters. A and M are a married couple, at a hotel, during a social gathering. The group consists of bourgeois French, some couples, some not. The film starts with chattering; lots of repetition (like in "Hiroshima mon amour") and the after a while, we realize that the characters are watching a play, being put on at the hotel. Later, in the lobby, during some mingling, a man (X) approaches A and asks her if she remembers him. She doesn't, but he insists that they must. He notes that they met last year, at possibly Marienbad, or possibly somewhere else. They kept running into each other last year (at a different social event) and eventually, they had an affair (which may or may not have been rape). Despite his extreme detail, X fails at convincing A they met last year. M, who has invented a card game, that requires mathematical skill, doesn't appear nearly as much as X and A. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?


Let's get the theorizing out of the way now and then I can critique the film, knowing that I've said my peace on what I think is actually happening. I will say that after watching the film last night, I did some interweb perusing and read what a lot of people had to say, both admirers and detractors of the film. I actually really don't know what was going on in the film, but here are some of my favorite theories, some of which I actually came up with myself. Yay me! I also want to note that it is the opinion of this blogger that any theory I propose, I would also propose that some or all of the film being a dream is highly likely. The film is far too abstract and dreamlike, for at least some of it not to be a dream.

Theory #1: This seems to be the most popular theory on the net and it is simply that X is trying to seduce A. Here's a guy who figures if he sprinkles in enough detail, that eventually he'll convince this woman that they really did meet a year ago and she'll go with him. Not the most exciting theory, but I'd say it's possible.

Theory #2: X is death and A was supposed to die a year ago, but convinced Death (X) to let her live for one more year. Now, he's back and wants to claim her soul, but needs (for some reason) her to remember their initial meeting before he can rightfully take her. This isn't my theory, someone else's...but I liked it.

Theory #3: This one I actually did think up on my own, but after doing a little more research today, have found this theory has actually been batted around by several other on the net. X raped A a year ago. Basically everything happened as he describes it, but when she basically brushed him off all day, he later goes to her room and forces himself on her. A repressed the memory, because it was an obviously horrible, painful one and this year, she has repressed it so much that she can no longer even recall it happening.

Theory #4: Have not seen this one anywhere, but it occurred to me while watching it. Perhaps A, X and M are all in this together and it's like this little game they play. Perhaps it's a sex thing, where M gets off on the idea of his wife being with another man - cuckoldry, I guess you'd call it. But, it can't just be a simple "Here, sleep with my wife" kind of deal, there has to be great detail before he is turned on by it. This would account for him not being a bigger part of the story, as he'd sort of just loom in the shadows and watch this little, sick roleplay unfold. In this scenario, I imagine M being in every scene, just not on camera - watching from a distance. Maybe even A doesn't know about this and it's just a little deal between X and M, where M has hired X to seduce his wife and maybe even rape her. I mean, it's unlikely, but people have some pretty out there fetishes and sexual turn-on's, so it's certainly a possibility.

Theory #5: The film is all about how different people perceive different things. Also my theory, but I don't know how reliable it is. Of course X remembers last year at Marienbad, because the meeting meant a lot to him. Maybe he's not a ladies man, so when this knockout gave him the time of day, he was floored by it. On the other hand, the meeting meant nothing to A, because...she's a knockout and men drool over her everyday. She doesn't remember X, just as there are probably countless other, prospective suitors that she can't recall. Full of holes, I know.

There's countless other theories, but I think five is plenty. I think ultimately this is one of those cop out situations, pulled on us by Resnais, where "there is no real answer, the answer is different for every viewer" and I've always really hated that explanation, as given by countless director's, of countless confusing, abstract, obscure pictures. But, I guess once in a while it's okay. The film seems to be exploring several different themes/ideas, including hypnosis, mental illness and of course, memory. Or maybe it's not exploring any of these at all, as hypnosis and mental illness could be theories all their own. The film is intentionally pieced out of order. There are certain scenes where we're hearing dialogue that should be accompanying a different scene. For example, there's one scene where A is running, holding her shoe in her hand and walking limp, barefoot over a gravel path. The dialogue that accompanies this scene has nothing to do with what we're seeing, however, later we do here the dialogue that should've accompanied this scene and learn that A broke her heel and had to walk back to the hotel, barefoot, on gravel. I usually don't like film that are intentionally confusing, but I kind of got sucked into this one's pull. It would be like hating jigsaw puzzles, but not being able to resist when all of the pieces were spread out over the kitchen table. These sort of things have a way of sucking you in, whether you like it or not.

There are so many things in the film that can be interpreted. What was the significance of the statues? the significance of the drawer full of snapshots? (this one, I have a feeling, is VERY significant, but I just can't seem to place this piece of the puzzle) and dozens of other scenes, shots and brief mentions that the film wants us to think about. Simply thrown in to throw us off? Maybe. Maybe not. I do not know.

"Last Year at Marienbad" is one of those French films that you see satirized a lot. Full of glamour and beauty, obscure shots, obscure characters, perplexing situations, some nonsense maybe. The film is very very French and very very out of left field. I have to say that I was a little intimidated to even watch it. It's one of those films like "Citizen Kane" or "Casablanca" that comes with an enormous reputation. It's a film that DEFINITELY requires a second viewing and someday, I'll certainly do that. As it is, each film in THE BOOK gets only one chance to impress me and "Marienbad" had it's one chance. I'd say that, while I didn't go totally gaga over it, it is without a doubt a must see picture. It sets itself apart from every other film in THE BOOK and certainly unique enough to turn heads.

RATING: 7/10  Whew! Well, there you have it. Like "Hiroshima mon amour", I'm not sure how it'll fair on the TOP 20 list, but we'll see. Once it's had time to simmer and stew in my mind, opinions could brighten or worsen. Time will tell...


March 27, 2013  6:11pm

Tuesday, March 26, 2013

351. Hiroshima mon amour (1959)

Running Time: 91 minutes
Directed By: Alain Resnais
Written By: Marguerite Duras
Main Cast: Emmanuelle Riva, Eiji Okada
Click here to view the trailer


Having never seen an Alain Resnais movie, prior to "Night and Fog" a couple of days ago (which barely counted, since it was only thirty minutes and a docuementary), I wasn't sure what to expect from "Hiroshima mon amour". I went into kind of blind and was surprised at what I found.

The film starts out kind of like "Night and Fog 2", only this time Resnais focuses on the Japanese of Hiroshima and life (or lack thereof) after the bomb was dropped. We get some some documentary footage of the citizens of Hiroshima, spliced with some footage shot at the Hiroshima museum. While we're seeing this, we can hear a man and a woman talking. A woman who talks about what she remembers from Hiroshima and a man trying to convince her that she remembers nothing. After this (which lasts about 15-20 minutes), we meet the man and woman. She (Riva) is a married French actress, in Hiroshima to shoot a movie, He (Okada) is a married Japanese architect and together, they are having an affair. After that initial 15-20 minutes, the movie is pretty straightforward. They talk in the hotel; about nothing in particular. Soon she has to leave, to be on the set and he pleads with her to meet him again. She says she can't, that today is the last day of her shoot and then she is returning to Paris. She leaves, but he follows her to the set and tries to convince her some more and eventually she agrees to see him again. That night, they go to dinner and she recalls being twenty-years-old and living in Nevers. She tells a (very long) story about having a German lover, who got killed, which sent her into a complete and total nervous breakdown. She is also shamed (because she was having an affair with a German soldier), has her head shaved and is kept locked in a cellar most days. That takes us as far as I'll go and I'll let you find out the rest for yourself.


Whew, where do I start with this one?

Did I like "Hiroshima mon amour" or did I dislike it? That is the question. Well, I really couldn't say definitively. How about we address the negative first and then, maybe, I'll find a nice segue into the positive. For starters, the film is WAY too poetic. The dialogue is entirely too scripted and despite the film dealing with seemingly true to life characters, having an affair (a true to life situation), the dialogue wasn't real in the slightest. Add to that the fact that it repeats, over and over. Little pieces of dialogue, being recited again and again, after a while, gets to be a little on the annoying side. Perhaps the repetition was part of the story, as the film DOES deal heavily with memory, but nevertheless, it got a little old. I guess the only other negative thing I could say about "Hiroshima mon amour" is that, I guess, I didn't entirely understand it. Now, I'll talk about this in a bit, but honestly, when the film ended, I was a little confused. I'm not talking about what I saw because everything that I saw, I understood. What I'm talking about is that I just that I think there was something there that I wasn't getting. The score seemed to elude to something more meaningful happening, at certain points and I just wasn't picking up on it. This, ultimately, is probably my own fault for not being able to form a proper connection to the film.

Despite not forming that full connection, I was highly intrigued by this film. It left me deep in thought, a thought process that churned on throughout my entire day today (I watched this last night). I wanted to love it and I'm able to admit that there were definite flashes of genius movie making at work here. There were moments when I thought, maybe, Okada's character didn't really exist, that he was a figment of Riva's imagination. We already know that she had a forbidden affair with a German soldier (while living in France, at the end of World War II) and that perhaps, she longed for another affair. There are multiple instances in the film where She refers to Him as the German lover and sometimes he even refers to himself as the German lover...what was that all about? Of course, there's also the end, which also left me a little perplexed, the moment when the two refer to each other as "Hiroshima" and "Nevers". Perhaps it was a device for remember one another. He'll always remember her by the story she told him about living in Nevers and she'll remember him because he lives in Hiroshima, a city that obviously had/has an impact on her life, based on the tragedy that happened there. The film DOES have that running theme of people who pass in and out of lives and explores it. I've always found that particular exploration to be one that I am interested in.

Ultimately, I was HIGHLY intrigued and sometimes that's my favorite of all feelings that a movie can leave me with. Even if I'm not picking everything up that a movie is laying down, I'm content to simply be intrigued, perplexed and put into deep thought (something I presume "Last Year at Marienbad" will do to me, as well). I'm going to keep rolling this one over and over in my head and who knows what the final result will be come TOP 20 time, but for now I have no problem with THE BOOK referring to this one as a "must see".

RATING: 7/10  I may regret that rating later, but that's what the recaps are for, so if need be, we'll adjust it when the time comes. Next up for Resnais: "Last Year at Marienbad".


March 26, 2013  6:14pm

Monday, March 25, 2013

291. MARTY (1955)

Running Time: 89 minutes
Directed By: Delbert Mann
Written By: Paddy Chayefsky
Main Cast: Ernest Borgnine, Betsy Blair, Esther Minciotti, Joe Mantell, Jerry Paris
Click here to view the trailer


I saw "Marty" only one other time, prior to last night and I remember adoring it. This time around my feelings lessened a little bit, but I still think it's a really good picture and world's better than Paddy Chayefsky's other BOOK offering, "Network".

The film takes place over the course of a weekend and begins on Saturday, as we meet Marty (Borgnine), a 34-year-old butcher, living in The Bronx, with his mother. Marty is an Italian-American and is unmarried. I'm not sure what bothers Marty more, being unmarried or being hounded by everyone around him to GET married. When Marty leaves work on that Saturday, he meets up with his best friend Angie (Mantell) and the two drink cokes at a local hangout and try and decide how they'll spend their Saturday night. Angie wants Marty to call up a couple of girls that they met a while back, but he'd just as soon go back home (his mother's home) and watch the Hit Parade. Marty finally breaks down, after some coaxing by his mother, and goes to a local singles bar. At the bar, a man, whom Marty doesn't know, approaches him and asks him if he'll take a blind date ("a real dog" as he puts it) off his hands, so that he can go and meet another girl. Marty is disgusted by the stranger's offer and refuses. Later, however, Marty meets the girl that the guy wanted to get off his hands and the two hit it off. The girl is Clara (Blair), a very shy, homely Chemistry teacher, living in Brooklyn. The two have a wonderful night together, probably Marty's greatest night ever with another woman and at two in the morning, they finally part ways with Marty promising to call her on Sunday.

Let's get real, shall we? Do you know why I dig "Marty" so much? Because before I met my wife, I was Marty. Hey, I'll admit it I'm an overweight guy and I didn't have girls knocking down my door for dates. Now, don't get me wrong, I'm no dog or anything, but had fate not brought my wife and I together, I'd have been the guy that everyone wondered about. Whether I'd get married, whether I'd ever meet girl, etc. So when I watch "Marty", there are certain scenes that really hit me, most notably a few scenes early on. The scene where he calls the girl and tries to get a date, particularly and then the scene where he's eating and he argues with his mother ("you get kicked around long enough and you become a professor of pain"). But hey, you don't have to be the ugly duckling or the lonely heart to get the appeal of "Marty". Borgnine is fantastic in the title role and I think this is a movie that is going to appeal to a lot of tastes.

I'll never forget seeing this for the first time. My wife and I were living in our very first apartment and she'd gone off to work and I stayed home with a cold. I can remember lying on the couch, coffee table scattered with cough drops and tissues and for some reason or another, I popped in "Marty". It was at a time when I was trying to expand my cinematic knowledge, so I was watching pretty much anything I could get my hands on. Still though, I hadn't seen very many films pre-1975, so it was a big deal for me to be watching something this old and when I liked it as much as I did, it only opened the door a little wider for me to enjoy older movies more often.

There's really not much else to say. "Marty" is a great movie. For me, there's a personal connection that I can make with it, which is always good, it's simple and it's brilliantly acted. I've never seen Borgnine do a better job and hey, Jerry Paris is in there too - from "The Dick Van Dyke Show" fame, an all-time favorite TV show of mine.

RATING: 7.5/10  When I saw it initially, years ago, I gave it a '10'. Today a '7.5' seems more suitable and there's always room for reflection and for that rating to rise.


March 25, 2013  4:45pm

Sunday, March 24, 2013

10. Korkarlen/The Phantom Carriage (1921)

Running Time: 106 minutes
Directed By: Victor Sjostrom
Written By: Victor Sjostrom, from novel by Selma Lagerlof
Main Cast: Victor Sjostrom, Hilda Borgstrom, Tore Svennberg, Astrid Holm, Concordia Selander


Technically, this movie should've been watched about three and a half years ago, but back then I could find it nowhere. Now, thanks to the folks at Criterion, and one of my commenters, I've been able to track down the incredibly hard to find tenth entry in THE BOOK - "The Phantom Carriage".

It is New Year's Eve and Sister Edit (Holm) of the Salvation Army is dying. As she lie on her death bed, a few friends surround her and she requests the presence of David Holm (Sjostrom), for reasons we don't yet know. It turns out that David Holm is the town drunk (one of them anyway) and as he sits on a curb drinking, just minutes before midnight and the new year, he recalls a tale that an old friend of his, Georges (Svennberg) told him. It seems that there is a legend, that the last person to die on New Year's Eve is taxed with the responsibility of driving the death cart for one year. The death cart is a horse drawn carriage that goes around picking up the dead - pretty self explanatory operation. David recalls his friend Georges being petrified of this legend, even going so far as to be extra cautious on New Year's Eve, so as not to be the one deemed responsible for driving the death cart. David tells his friends that the kicker of the whole story is the fact that last year, on New Year's Eve, Georges actually did die. It's at about this time that David is summoned to the bedside of Edit, but he refuses to go and in a tussle, something happens to him and he dies. Well, guess who shows up? None other than Georges, riding in his death cart. It seems that it wasn't just a legend, that Georges myth was the real deal and now he's looking for David to relieve him of his duties. Is time up for David or does he still have time to repent for a life filled with shame and meanness?

I should take a moment to note that THE BOOK lists "The Phantom Carriage" as 93 minutes, yet the version I watched was 106 minutes. I do know that I watched The Criterion Collection version of the film, so I can only assume that the good folks at Criterion restored some missing scenes. One thing I'm positive they did was update the soundtrack, something I wasn't particularly keen on, while watching. I would've liked to hear the original soundtrack and if there wasn't one, then I think I'd have been more content with silence. The soundtrack that I heard (a very modern sounding, overly eerie piece) just didn't quite fit and failed, in my summation, to properly accompany the images. It wasn't a bad soundtrack, it was just like oil and water - didn't quite mix.

Otherwise, I have to say that had I been able to watch this when I should've watched it (back in September 2009, sandwiched in between "Way Down East" and "Orphans of the Storm"), I think I would've appreciated it a LOT better and who knows, I think it may have been a force to be reckoned with come time for that initial TOP 20 list. It was actually quite good and I was really impressed with the advanced caliber of the script. A lot of times, although the silent cinema was fantastic, it was the simplicity of the scripts that really made movies like "Broken Blossoms" and the Buster Keaton films shine. With "The Phantom Carriage", you have a really intricate movie, filled with multiple flashback scenes and sometimes even flashbacks inside of flashbacks. Can I just stop and mention how much I LOVE flashback within a flashback scenes. It's like being inside a Russian nesting doll, especially when you start to come out of everything.

Stanley Kubrick would later go on to reference this scene in one of his own films.
Anyway...the script is pretty intricate and quite good. I don't think I liked it quite as much today, as I would have back then, but that still doesn't stop me from lightly praising it and saying there wasn't too much I didn't like about it. It wasn't blow-away stellar or anything and I think a lot of that had to do with the fact that I simply wasn't in the mood for a silent horror movie today and that's my fault. I'm still able to recognize the good stuff that was on display here and big kudos to Victor Sjostrom, who really put on a fine silent performance.

RATING: 6.5/10  This one could probably use another look someday, perhaps around Halloween or sometime when I'm ready for silent horror. As it is, it was a fine movie to spend the day with and a mild thumbs up.


March 24, 2013  5:32pm

17 Hours


Saturday, March 23, 2013

299. Nuit et brouillard/Night and Fog (1955)

Running Time: 31 minutes
Directed By: Alain Resnais
Written By: Jean Cayrol
Main Cast: Michel Bouquet, Reinhard Heydrich, Heinrich Himmler, Adolf Hitler, Julius Steicher


So we go from dealing with the number ten, in the form of "Ten Commandments", to dealing with the number three, as it pertains to the three Alain Resnais movies from THE BOOK. In a related note, if you add up the three running times from the three Resnais movies, it still doesn't equal the total running time of "The Ten Commandments" alone.

Man, where do you start with this one? Well, for the unaware, "Night and Fog" is a documentary film directed by Alain Resnais (which I'm given to understand is pronounced like Renee) in 1955. The film uses both archival, black & white footage and color footage, shot by Resnais himself and illustrates the atrocities committed by the Nazis upon the Jews, during World War II. Throughout the film, Michel Bouquet provides a haunting narration, reminding us that the horrors of war can rear their ugly head at any moment. Most likely, if you've read anything about this film at all, then you've heard of the scene which depicts a mountain of human hair, which the Nazi's shaved from the heads of (mostly) female prisoners and later used to make cloths. Other images that will haunt you for the rest of your life include another mountain, this time of human bones (which the Nazi's attempted to use as fertilizer), dead bodies being bulldozed into a pit and fingernail markings on the roof of a gas chamber...

That's the moment where this film really got real for me and really started to hit me the way I'm sure Resnais intended. Imagine being so frightened that you try to use your fingernails to scratch through a cement roof. It would be the point where all reason left your body and you were literally willing to try anything to breathe one more breath. Even writing about it now and recalling the movie is making my heart race just a bit faster. Another image from the film that impacted me pretty hard, were the pictures that were taken just moments before a mass killing. To see these people and to know that they were about to die, even when they themselves probably didn't even know it, is just sad.

It's really terrifying to think that these horrible people once existed. That they were capable of doing these things to their fellow human beings. How evil do you have to be to torture another person? At one point in the film it is noted that some prisoners taken into the concentration camp hospital were so hungry that they would begin to eat the dressings from their bandaged wounds.

Look, it's an absolutely horrific film (not quality wise), the stuff of nightmares really and the worst part is that no nightmare could ever compare to this and to think this stuff really happened. In the end, I don't know how well it will fair on a TOP 20 list. I don't know that I'd ever want to see it fact, once was probably one time too many. Although, on the other hand an argument could be made that it's required viewing and I'd agree with that too. It did, at times, feel a bit rushed and I probably could've gone for another hour of documentary footage, with a little more care to be taken with each scene, a little more silence for the viewer to be able to soak in and comprehend the evil that is on display. Also the score was pretty awful. I'm not really sure about you, but I could've done with a much more dread filled music.

RATING: No rating for this one. What's the point of even trying to affix a number. I don't know if it was good or if it was bad, from a quality standpoint, but what it displayed was some pretty haunting stuff.


March 23, 2013  11:06pm

314. The Ten Commandments (1956)

Running Time: 220 minutes
Directed By: Cecil B. DeMille
Written By: Aeneas MacKenzie, Jesse Lasky Jr., Jack Gariss, Fredric M. Frank, from the novels Pillar of Fire by J.H. Ingraham, On Eagle's Wing by A.E. Southon, Prince of Egypt by Dorothy Clarke Wilson
Main Cast: Charlton Heston, Yul Brynner, Anne Baxter, Edward G. Robinson, Yvonne De Carlo
Click here to view the trailer


One of the biggest hurtles of the season completed in three tries. That's right, it took me three sit-downs to knock out the film where Charlton Heston portrays Moses (Friday night, Saturday morning, Saturday afternoon) and just in time for Easter.

Do I really even need to outline the premise here? I mean, don't we ALL know the story of Moses and how he came to carry those two stone tablets down Mt. Sinai? Well, I'm a perfectionist/completist, so I must outline it a little bit anyway. So we pick up with Moses as a baby, in Egypt, where the Pharaoh passes down an edict that all first born Hebrew males are to be killed. Moses' mother, Yoshebel, not wanting him to be slaughtered, places him in a wicker basket and sets him off down the Nile - guess I should mention that Moses is Hebrew. He is found by Bithiah, an Egyptian princess and sister to the reigning Pharaoh. Moses is raised as a prince and does Pharaoh Seti so proud that the Pharaoh even flirts with the idea of making Moses his successor, instead of his own son, Rameses (Brynner). Moses does things that Rameses cannot, including building a city in Seti's honor. At this time, talk begins to form about a deliverer, a person who will come and deliver the Hebrew people from their life as slaves. Rameses is given the task of finding out who the deliverer is and puts his sidekick Dathan (Robinson) on the assignment of finding out the deliverer's name. Skip ahead a bit and Moses FINALLY finds out, after all these years, that he was indeed born a Hebrew and instead of sticking to the good life - the Egyptian life of wearing jewels, head to toe and being, perhaps, the next Pharaoh - he decided to return to his roots. Moses is exiled out of Egypt and goes to Midian, where he meets a shepherd and his seven daughters, one of whom, Sephora (De Carlo), he marries. After this God begins speaking to Moses and we find out that Moses is, in fact, the deliverer. God tells Moses to return to Egypt and free his people from slavery. Moses carries out God's will, had verbal and physical battles with Rameses, where threats of death and pestilence are exchanged. That outta' do ya.

Some of you (particularly those living outside the United States) may be wondering why I mentioned Easter above. Well, for as long as I can remember, on Easter Sunday, one of our major affiliate stations always shows "The Ten Commandments". I'm not really sure why, since Moses has nothing to do with Easter, but they do and always have and in the States at least, it's always been sort of a tradition to be played. I, on the other hand, had never seen the movie from beginning to end, so, in a way, I looked forward to finally checking it off my never ending "bucket list" of "movies to see". I wasn't completely bored with it, although it is the opinion of this blogger that some of the scenes could've been shaved a bit and by the time Moses saw fit to walk those God written ten commandments down the side of Sinai, I was definitely ready for the FIN. However, throughout the picture I was neither blown away, nor was I bored with it. I simply sat there watching as "The Ten Commandments" sort of lulled in mediocrity. It was grand, there's no doubt about that and the special effects, though they look like child's play compared to today's standards, must've had audiences sitting with bulging eyes in 1956. The cast was quite superb, probably realizing that they were in the midst of a film that was about to make a lot of money and wanting to strut their stuff. I've never been a fan of Heston (especially after the way he was portrayed in "Bowling for Columbine"), but Yul Brynner was marvelous (kind of makes me want to see "The King and I" now) and I really enjoyed Anne Baxter too. Now, Edward G. Robinson on the other hand, was a different story, as I just couldn't wrap my head around Eddie G. portraying a biblical era character. Eddie G. was made to be the criminal on the streets, the guy in the noir, lurking in the shadows, not wearing white robes and jewels and eating berries from vines, held by Debra Paget in silk linens.

I'd say my final opinion on "The Ten Commandments" was that it was just okay. It certainly wasn't the worst thing THE BOOK has put me through, nor was it the best. I'm glad I can finally say I've seen it from beginning to end, but I'm glad I'm done with it and I can say with almost complete certainty that I'll never watch it again from, at least intentionally and from cover to cover. The film was a bit dated and I think the audience for this picture existed in the 50s, which probably accounts for a lot of the dough it raked in. I believe that we are a different generation and most likely, the folks who will be sitting down to watch this one this Saturday night, are going to be of a certain demographic and there probably won't be a lot of youngsters amongst them. I think that's all I have to say about that...although those Ten Commandments, be you a believer or not, now there's another list worth checking out, if you haven't already.

RATING: 6/10  Lulling in the mediocrity. It is said that Cecil B. DeMille was a gigantic foot fetishist. I don't know about all that, but he certainly knew how to pick his actresses. Va-va-va voom (sorry honey ;)


March 23, 2013  8:24pm

SINS OF OMISSION - Entry #69: Re-Animator (1985)

Running Time: 105 minutes Directed By: Stuart Gordon Written By: Dennis Paoli, William Norris, Stuart Gordon, based on the story Her...