Saturday, January 31, 2015

355. Rocco e i suoi fratelli/Rocco and His Brothers (1960)


Running Time: 175 minutes
Directed By: Luchino Visconti
Written By: Luchino Visconti, Suso Cecchi d'Amico, Vasco Pratolini, Pasquale Festa Campanile, Massimo Franciosa, Enrico Medioli, from novel Il Ponte della Ghisolfa by Giovanni Testori
Main Cast: Alain Delon, Renato Salvatori, Annie Girardot, Katina Paxinou, Spiros Focas
Click here to view the trailer

KEEPING IT IN THE FAMILY

The Godfather: Part III is in the mail, prompting me to make the decision to bring back the monthly recap post. I'm not sure if you guys were a fan of those or not, but this time around the monthly recap will be a little different. I'm tinkering with the format now, but I think I'll mainly be discussing non-BOOK movies, including some stills and maybe adding in a couple of TOP 10 lists from movies I've seen throughout the month. Stay tuned. Now then - Rocco and His Brothers...


"Rocco" was three hours long and didn't waste a minute of it's epic screen time, so I won't dilly dally, but forgive me if I gloss over some stuff. I'll try to hit the bullet points. The Parondi family (four brothers and their mother) travel from the countryside of Sicily to the bustling city of Milan to live with the fifth brother, Vincenzo (Focas), whom they burst in on during his engagement party. An argument ensues between Rosaria (Parondi matriarch) and the mother of Vincenzo's bride. Vincenzo, raised to stick up for his family, takes his mom's side and promptly leaves with her and his four brothers. The six of them end up getting a little shack of an apartment, where they're basically sleeping on top of each other, without two nickels to rub together. A particularly favorite scene of mine shows the five brothers awaking early, so that they can go out and shovel snow to make a few bucks. The movie is split into five parts, with each part focusing on one of the brothers. However, no part deals exclusively with one brother i.e. Simone (Salvatori) is just as much a part of the Vincenzo segment, as Vincenzo is. Anyway, Simone ends up becoming a boxer and is lured to the dark side after experiencing sex, money and fame. He begins shacking up with a hooker, Nadia (Girardot), who later dumps him. Nadia reappears later, running into Rocco (Delon) on the street and the two strike up a chat. One thing leads to another and the two are in love, except Simone knows nothing about it...for now. Meanwhile, Vincenzo patches things up with his former fiance (Claudia Cardinale), Mama Parondi worries about all of her sons, Rocco joins the service and Ciro (brother #4) gets a girlfriend too.

SPOILER ALERT!


I'm home sick from work today, so pardon me if this sucks, as I've been in bed since yesterday morning and am feeling a little woozy just sitting in my computer chair. Anyway, I'll give it the old college try and hope for the best. I went into this not expecting to like it. I think I had good reason for that expectation, as we all remember the tragedy that was The Leopard - probably my least favorite movie of all last season. However, since about twenty five percent of the movies I have left are over two hours (most closer to three) I figured I'd better start knocking out the epics early and so I started with this one. However, I couldn't have been more wrong, as I actually ended up loving this and would probably go so far as to say it's the best thing I've seen all month, right up there with Alien and The Godfather (the original, not that tripe sequel). I know I say this a lot, but seriously, what's not to like? Okay, maybe you don't dig black & white and maybe foreign films aren't your bag, but any good, self respecting film buff is gonna' have a field day with this one, analyzing the characters, mulling over the plot and just basking in the film's greatness.

So what brother are you? I think if could be any of the five brothers, I'd compare myself to Vincenzo. He kind of lays low, keeps laid back, doesn't even have that much of a meltdown when the gorgeous Claudia Cardinale kicks him to the curb, early on. He's a family man, slowly weening his way away from his birth family and starting a new beginning with his wife and kids. However, he hasn't forgotten anyone and when Rocco knocks on the door in the middle of the night, bloodied and beaten, he embraces him, holds him on his feet and helps him. Not that I didn't love Rocco, but wasn't the guy just a little too forgiving? Like forgiving to an unbelievable level? "Hey, I know my brother raped you and I know we're in love, but I think you should go back to him because, darn it, he's just so unhappy without you. Shucks!" It was a bit much to swallow, but you got the sense that this is just how he was raised, to always protect the family and never let an outsider intrude. In fact, the tale of Rocco is probably the tale of that one time he almost let an intruder come between him and his family and even when he let Nadia go, he still pined for her, she was still, even while gone, coming between him and his family, he just didn't know it. The scene where Simone rapes Nadia is probably one of the most uncomfortable, hardest scenes I've ever had to sit through, right up there with Noodles' rape on Deborah in Once Upon a Time in America. Another really tough, "pour your freakin' heart out" scene was when Rocco learns that Simone has killed Nadia. WOW! That's it, just WOW! Delon proves he's in a master class, among the finest actors gracing the pages of THE BOOK. I've rarely seen such heartache committed to celluloid. Perhaps the only time I have seen such heartbreak is that scene in Scenes from a Marriage when Erland Josephson tells Liv Ullmann that he wants a divorce and you can almost literally see her heart tearing in half on camera, but I digress...


If there was ever an actress for Claudia Cardinale to play second fiddle to, it was Annie Girardot. Perhaps one of the sexiest performances in all of cinema. She completely nails it when she sashay's into the Parondi apartment, kicks out her foot and adjusts her stockings. She has them all hooked and this is where Simone starts to go rotten. While I'm on the subject of Simone - we've got Delon as the most heartbreaking, Girardot as the most sexy - how about naming Simone one of the most hated characters I've encountered. Then again, I also feel sorry for him. His fame is gone, his girl is gone, he had a taste of the big life in the big city and he blew it. On the other hand, he leads to the downfall of Rocco, inadvertently forcing Rocco to give up his love, his money and his happiness. Such a lot to mull over. Anyway, the film is great, a big hit with yours truly. I fully expected there to be more symbolism that I got tangled in, but if there was symbolism, it was lost on me and probably for the better. Consider Visconti 1-1, with his next movie being the rubber film in my decision on whether I like his work or not.

RATING: 9/10  Can't go whole hog, just because, but easily the best thing I've seen all month and one that I'd definitely like to revisit someday.

MOVIES WATCHED: 906
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 95

January 31, 2015  11:41am

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

587. The Godfather: Part II (1974)


Running Time: 200 minutes
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, from novel by Mario Puzo
Main Cast: Al Pacino, Robert De Niro, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, John Cazale
Click here to view the trailer

THE CANCER HAS TAKEN OVER

Spent my day off today watching part of The Godfather: Part II, taking a nap and then waking up to finish it off. It was quite the day off, snuggled up in bed with my wife. The night holds more movies for us (probably not BOOK movies) and I'm looking forward to it. Anyway, lets cover the supposed greatest sequel of all-time and a movie I'd never seen.

It should be noted, that while I didn't really care too much for this movie, I LITERALLY got chills during this scene - a scene I've seen stills and clips of for years. Such passion from Pacino and his exclamation that, "you broke my heart Fredo" - so good.

The film begins in Corleone, Sicily, hometown of young Vito Andolini, who's father is killed by a local Mafia leader, Don Ciccio. Vito's mother visits Ciccio after her other son is also killed by the Ciccio clan, begging that he spare the lives of her and Vito. When an argument ensues, Vito's mother is murdered and Vito runs away, eventually being put on a boat where he arrives at Ellis Island in New York. Off the boat, he is accidentally registered as Vito Corleone and the rest is history. Later in life, Vito (De Niro) values family above all else, holing up in a meager apartment with his beloved wife and baby son, Santino. When Vito gets a taste of the power that a Mafia Don can hold via Don Fanucci, he likes it, killing off Fanucci and taking over his territory. The rest, as they say, is history. Meanwhile, Michael (Pacino) is stronger than ever, having business dealing from Lake Tahoe, Nevada clear to Cuba. Early in the film, an attempt is made to assassinate Michael, as he is shot at while standing in his bedroom, the curtains opened wide. Michael comes out unscathed and with vengeance in his heart. Michael meets with a business associate in Miami, Hyman Roth whom he thinks may be behind the assassination attempt. He tells Roth that another associate, one in New York named Pentangeli was behind the attack on his life, making sure he keeps things smooth. He then tells Pentangeli that it was Roth who tried to kill him and later finds out that in actuality, his brother Fredo was also in on the hit on his own brother's life. Michael swears never to speak to Fredo again, while informing his men that no harm come to him while their mother is still alive. We bounce back and forth between the two stories throughout the picture.


Like a child who's been fed broccoli, I wish to spit this film out and proclaim, "I don't like it!". Okay, maybe it wasn't THAT bad, but I was definitely disappointed, as I'd heard time and again how this was the greatest sequel ever made and perhaps even better than the original Godfather. I laugh at those claims, as this is nowhere close to even being in the same league as the original picture. I will say, I loved the portions that told Vito's back story and in fact, I could've watched an entire film made up of just that stuff. I wonder if Puzo's novel goes into more detail about the history and rise to power of Vito Corleone and if so, I may have to give it a read someday.

It's just that so much is happening in the original. You've got the attempted murder on Vito, the transition to the dark side of Michael Corleone, the animosity between Sonny and Carlo, the war igniting between the five families, Michael's excursion in Italy and the deaths of several members of the family, including Sonny and Vito. What's happening in The Godfather: Part II? In the main story (the Michael story) there's really only one main storyline and that's the war between Michael and Pentangeli, Hyman and Fredo, all stemming from that one assassination attempt on Michael. It's also my stance that this movie has far less human element than the first one. I was able to go on and of for a few paragraphs, dissecting the characters of Vito and Michael and about the only character I could really dissect here would be Fredo, as Fredo becomes a much bigger player in Part II. Here, Michael is emotionless. Actually, no, he's not emotionless. He has one moment of emotion and it's all contained in that final scene, when he reflects on simpler times, him and his siblings sitting around the table, planning their father's birthday, Michael revealing that he's dropped out of college to join the marines. Other than that, the character of Michael here couldn't stand alone and without that first movie to back him up and provide his motivations, I wouldn't have given a hoot about this stereotypical gangster guy, out for blood, even if it means killing his own family and alienating his wife & children. I didn't care for this Michael, a Michael fully ravaged now by a spreading cancer that is being a criminal.


Nope, I'll stick with the original and join the camp that disregards the second as a meaningless sequel. Seriously, did we need this movie? It's my opinion that the final moments of the original Godfather tell us that Michael will be a bad man, a ruthless man and really, the whole of Godfather: Part II is just confirming this fact. Like I said, I dug the Vito stuff here and COULD have watched an entire movie about it, but I also realize you couldn't release a Part II, without progressing the story and giving us more of what's going on now, so I get why new material had to be added, i.e. the Hyman/Pentangeli stuff. If my research was correct, that stuff wasn't included in Puzo's original novel, but in a later novel published in 2004, called The Godfather Returns. I must say I think I'm just a detester (not a word) of sequels and could've easily done without this. I pushed The Godfather: Part III to the top of my queue and while my hopes aren't high, maybe it can win me over a little more than this.

RATING: 6.5/10  I liked it, but not enough and actually it made me appreciate the original even more. Also, all in all, I appreciate Coppola much more than I used to, but consider The Conversation to be superior to both Godfather films.

MOVIES WATCHED: 905
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 96

January 27, 2015  9:00pm

Monday, January 26, 2015

550. THE GODFATHER (1972)


Running Time: 175 minutes
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: Francis Ford Coppola, Mario Puzo, from novel by Mario Puzo
Main Cast: Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, James Caan, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton
Click here to view the trailer

"MAKE HIM AN OFFER HE CAN'T REFUSE"

It was a long journey getting to watch this. First of all, the original disc arrived from Netflix cracked, meaning I had to send it back and get a replacement. And then the replacement took something like three days to get here, as Netflix informs me that as of January 1, 2015, delivery times of DVDs could slow down substantially due to something with the post office. It's not like I can show my dissatisfaction my unsubscribing from my DVD plan, as there's nowhere else to get some of these movies. So I've upped my plan to '5 DVDs out at a time' and am hoping the issue is resolved ASAP. Now then...the greatest movie of all-time awaits. Read on...


Don Vito Corleone (Brando) is the head of the infamous Corleone crime family and it just happens to be the day of his daughter's wedding. On this day, the Don can't refuse any favor that is asked of him, but remember - if the Don does a favor for you, you may be asked to someday pay him back. Vito has four sons: the hot head Sonny (Caan), the adopted son and Vito's consigliere Tom Hagen (Duvall), the simple minded Fredo (John Cazale) and Michael (Pacino) a war hero who isn't involved in the family business. When Vito is gunned down in the street by a rival crime boss, an all out Mafia war is sparked and Michael reads all about in the papers, returning home to sit by his father's side, in his hour of need. While recuperating, Sonny and Tom take the reigns of the family business, declaring vengeance for the attempted murder on their father's life. However, it is Michael who offers to carry out the physical act, agreeing to meet narcotics dealer and an associate of a rival boss, Virgil Sollozzo. Accompanying Sollozzo is paid off police captain McCluskey (Sterling Hayden). At the meeting, the plan is for Michael to meet with the two, be frisked and then sneak off to the bathroom where a gun will be planted, which Michael will use to murder the two and send the message that the Corleone's are still a force to be reckoned with. The plan goes off without a hitch and Michael is sent away to Italy, to hide out while things blow over and Sonny manages the family business. While in Italy, Michael marries, forgetting the fiance he once courted in America.

SPOILER ALERT!


I'm feeling a little under the weather tonight, with a wicked earache and an uneasy stomach after a dinner that didn't agree with me, so bear with me if I don't do this movie justice with a shoddy review - but I'll try my best here.

To me, a lot of my feelings toward this film really hinge on two crucial moments, which one could over analyze to death and probably squeeze a A+ worthy thesis out of for their college film class. Consider the character of Michael, whom we first meet at the wedding of his sister, where he brings a woman he's been seeing as his date. The woman is curious, she asks questions - she doesn't realize that Michael's family's business is the business of crime. In a moment, Michael takes a deep breath when his date, Kay asks about why Johnny Fontaine owes Vito a favor and tells Kay the story of the time Vito and his muscle Luca Brasi put a gun to the head of a band leader who was holding Fontaine to a signed contract and "made him an offer he couldn't refuse". Pacino delivers this line with all the shame he can muster and thus begins the slow, but probably unavoidable transformation of Michael Corleone, from clean cut, good guy war hero to evil Mafia patriarch, which he will someday become. Actually, no, the transformation doesn't begin there. I think, the transformation begins when Michael reads about the near fatal shooting of his father in a newspaper, where just moments before he walked down a busy city street with Kay on his arm. In this moment, maybe Michael realizes he's out of the loop and he's jealous. Why can't he be the Sonny or the Tom, at his father's side (whom he respects and loves), but also fully knows that to be in that position, that his entire demeanor would have to change completely. Michael sits in his father's office, his father seemingly lying on his death bed in a downtown hospital and he drums his fingers together and a cancer begins to grow in his belly, in his brain, in his chest. He stares a hole through the wall and the cancer, which is called vengeance, grows. He offers to his brothers his amateur services - that he will wield a gun and shoot, between the eyes, two of the men behind the attempted murder of his father. They laugh at him, he insists - the cancer grows.

Then there's the Vito character and his love for his son Michael, a son that he never wanted to see get into the family business - the business of being a criminal. Watch Vito when they tell him that Michael has been sent away into hiding, as he was the one who shot Sollozzo and McClusky. He gives a swift nod of disapproval and waves his hand for Sonny to leave his room, in tears. His heart physically breaks on camera and as the cancer, the cancer named vengeance, grows inside of Michael's belly, Vito slowly dies. He doesn't die physically (at first), he dies emotionally, he dies spiritually - he loses his grit. Perhaps it's the evil spirit of Vito that slowly creeps into Michael, feeding his evil tendencies, creating a monster. At least Vito has a happy ending, as he dies quietly, in the garden, doing what he's only ever really wanted to do, loving and enjoying his family, be it only one member (Michael's son, Anthony). Perhaps moments before his death, he recollected chasing Michael the same way he's chasing Anthony, remembering the innocent Michael, the pure Michael, the Michael that he'd never allow to become a career criminal. He sees Michael in Anthony and his heart weeps so loudly and so uncontrollably, that he keels over dead from the pain.


This to me is the greatness of the movie. The weeping heart of a father that one day weeped to hard, the cancerous growth that develops inside a once good hearted son and both of these - the weeping heart and the cancerous growth - cause by the other: Vito weeps because Michael is being corrupted, Michael grows cold because his father was nearly killed. Or perhaps I'm way off base and I've missed the point entirely...but these are the most interesting parts of The Godfather for me, the human aspects. Not necessarily the shoot 'em up, bang bang stuff - albeit that stuff was great too. Who will ever forget Sonny writhing, being held up only by the incoming, machine gun fire, pieces of his flesh exploding all over him, blood pouring out. The suspense when Michael reaches for a gun behind the a public toilet, a split second when we think it may not be there and think Michael doomed. That moment when we realize that the car Apollonia is preparing to drive will explode when she starts it, a quick scream from Michael which is then drowned out by a big bang, sizzling fire, metal incinerating around the already charred corpse of his bride - the business strikes again, the cancer spreads. All great moments and all things that support anyone's claim that this is the greatest movie ever made. I, for one, don't particularly share that opinion, but certainly wouldn't talk anyone out of having it and can see why many do. I found the film to be a breath of fresh air, a classic worthy of your time and certainly a must see, even one I'd consider a personal favorite, but going so far as to call it the greatest is something I just can't do. I'll end there...

RATING: 8.5/10  I really can't wait to see Part II, with the introduction of De Niro to the cast and the back story of Vito. Also, probably the most popular, lauded film I've never ever seen, not once.

MOVIES WATCHED: 904
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 97

January 26, 2015  11:27pm

Friday, January 23, 2015

524. W.R.: Misterije organizma/W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism (1971)


Running Time: 84 minutes
Directed By: Dusan Makavejev
Written By: Dusan Makavejev
Main Cast: Milena Dravic, Ivica Vidovic, Jagoda Kaloper, Tuli Kupferberg, Zoran Radmilovic

0 FOR 2

I'm gonna' try and save some of the bigger name movies for the big finale (I'm talking The Deer Hunter, Lawrence of Arabia, American Graffiti, Blade Runner, etc.) so I figured I'd better start plowing through the ones where my expectations are really low. W.R.: Mysteries of the Organism falls under the extremely low expectations category and actually, I still set my sights too high.


How do you even sum this one up in a paragraph? I think THE BOOK puts it best: "W.R.: may be the only avant-garde slapstick cimmunist documentary sex romp ever made and that alone makes it a must see". The whole thing starts out as a somewhat interesting documentary about Wilhelm Reich, an Austrian psycho analyst who studied human sexuality. This takes about thirty or so minutes of screen time, before a fictional story is then introduced, which deals with two sexually heightened females, one of whom falls in love with and seduces a Soviet ice skater. There's also clips peppered in between of a heavily bearded, weirdo in an orange jumpsuit and Army helmet, running through city streets, pretending to masturbate his gun. Speaking of masturbation, there's lots of talk about that, as we hear from an artist who invited subjects to her apartment, so that they could masturbate and she could paint them in the act and a woman who makes a mold of a man's penis, presumably to make a more accurate sex toy. There's also some interspersed scenes of patients in a hospital getting electro shock therapy and shots of a transgender male as he discusses the first time having sex with a man. It's a mixed bag of WTF and if you intend to complete watching of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, I'm sorry to say, you have to watch it.


Let's not delay the inevitable here, folks, I was never going to like this. I began work on watching the 1001 movies contained in this text so that I could broaden my horizons and become a more versatile, more patient and more accepting movie goer. However, my horizons aren't that broad, I'm not that versatile an audience member and no matter how many films I watch, I'll never be that patient when it comes to a hunk of tripe like this. Scratch that, scratch that...I won't call it tripe. I'll agree that it's unique and maybe there's something there that can appeal to someone, but even if you're this film's biggest supporter, I think you'll have to agree that "W.R." isn't for everyone and that, I think, most are going to detest it. I'll give it a notch or two for what I called a somewhat interesting documentary portion at the beginning and for a few of the interspersed scenes that held my interest, even if only for a minute (I have to admit, a painter sketching pictures of people in the act of masturbation is somewhat fascinating and I kind of wonder if that's all that went down. Was it a quick "go ahead and do it" and then get out or did the sexual tensions get the best of both or even one of the parties. Who knows). Not much else to say here, kids. I didn't care for this and if you did, more power to you. Although, again I'm thinking that any audience for this one must not be very dense.


RATING: 2/10  Well we're off to a rocky start, but if all goes as planned The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II will be the next two I watch and I have high hopes for both of them. Save me Coppola, Pacino!

MOVIES WATCHED: 903
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 98

January 23, 2014  10:47pm

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

653. Apocalypse Now (1979)


Running Time: 153 minutes
Directed By: Francis Ford Coppola
Written By: John Milius, Francis Ford Coppola, from the novel Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad
Main Cast: Martin Sheen, Marlon Brando, Robert Duvall, Frederic Forrest, Sam Bottoms
Click here to view the trailer

DOUBLE DIGITS

I know, I know, I said I was going to start this season by watching the first two Godfather movies, but when The Godfather, Part I arrived from Netflix today, it was cracked in half and thus, unwatchable. My wife and I scoured through what we had available to us (which isn't much) and happened upon Apocalypse Now, which is currently streaming on Netflix. I figured we could tie it all up into a little Coppola tribute and voila, we're all set. Before I get into the review, I just want to say I hope you all enjoyed the TOP 20 list. I know I'm a sucker for a good list and I had a good time making AND I'm pleased with the finished product. I was worried there for a minute, back in the midst of the season, that it wasn't going to turn out well, but I can honestly say that those twenty movies (plus the Ten Worth Mentioning) were all outstanding films, worthy of their spot on the list. Anyway...NAM!


The film kicks off with Captain Benjamin L. Willard (Sheen) holed up in a hotel room in Saigon, the Vietnam War raging on around him, slowly losing his mind. After the opening montage, accompanied by The Doors' "The End", Willard's solitude is interrupted by two serviceman knocking on his door, carrying him to a cold shower and escorting him to a meeting, where he'll learn of his next mission. Colonel G. Lucas (Harrison Ford) and Lieutenant General Corman (two nods to famous filmmaker's - George Lucas and Roger Corman) brief Willard on Colonel Walter E. Kurtz (Brando) who HAS lost his mind and is being charged with the murder of two men who he suspected were double agents, working for the Viet-Cong. He now commands his own troop of rogue locals, who follow him like a God and has stationed himself up the river and into Cambodia. It is Willard's mission to go up river, with a Navy PBR command and terminate Colonel Kurtz. Willard accepts the mission, is given a dossier on Colonel Kurtz, which he reads sporadically on his way up river and through the use of narration, we hear the details on Colonel Kurtz, a father who wants his son to be proud of him, a decorated officer, a member of the Green Beret's and someone who was being positioned to be a General or even a Chief of Staff.The entire middle portion of the film, a good ninety plus minutes, is simply Willard's journey up river, traveling through war torn Vietnam, Coppola spoon feeding us what life was like, in what could only be referred to as the Heart of Darkness.


Man, I have a lot of thoughts running through my head regarding this one, so forgive me if my ideas seem strewn about like the clothes of a college girl home from a party and ready for bed. I'll do my best to keep my thoughts in as much of an order as I can get them in. This will be one of the very few movies that I rate, not based on personal enjoyment, but more based on the rating it really deserves. I didn't care for this movie, I don't mind saying. You know, a lot of times you see a classic movie and you want so bad to like it. I can compare this to my experiences with Citizen Kane. I want to be a Kane fan...so bad! I want to intelligently discuss Welles' ideas and themes and talk about how important the film was. But, I can't because I don't really care for it. I always want to like the classics, really. I want to see what others see when they harp about Casablanca or go on and on about what a masterpiece 8 1/2 is. The same could be said for Apocalypse Now, except I'm not sorry that I don't like it, because while I didn't like it, I got it. I understood it and could probably even hold my own if an all out, intellectual discussion got sparked on it. I sat in awe of my television screen during the last forty minutes and if I were just rating that portion, I think I'd break my own ten point scale and give it an 11. It's one of the few times that an American film has really looked flawless and it was flawless! And I don't want to be misunderstood, because there are literally hundreds, maybe thousands of American films that I love, most more than this, it's just that usually American films look like movies and foreign films look like films. I'm an average Joe, so calling my favorite movies, MOVIES is okay and occasionally I'll even like a film, but this is an American film that really brings the goods and looks spectacular. Like I said, I sat in awe of those final forty minutes, because few times in my cinematic life have I seen such perfection, such power, such raw emotion, all pouring out simultaneously through the screen and washing over me. This is what FILMS are supposed to be like, this was bigger than grand.

Let's talk about Brando and his Kurtz character. How perfect was it that he didn't show up until the last thirty minutes of the movie? And how even more perfect that we never saw his face completely unobstructed, be it by a shadow or by face paint. The story where this character existed, where he lived and breathed, still couldn't fully unveil him. A character so powerful and so enigmatic that the one story on the face of the Earth where he lives, still didn't have the ability to fully let us inside his head. And I can think of no other actor worthy of portraying him. In fact, while I was watching, the only other actor I could possible picture playing Kurtz would've been Orson Welles, someone who was aging and overweight himself by then, but since we barely even see Kurtz, that could've worked too. Here's my question: Were we supposed to get more of Brando or was the fact that he showed up to set overweight and unprepared the reason why we never even get a good look at his face? If so, maybe he overate and under prepared on purpose - knowing that this was a character who need not see the cylindrical eye of a movie camera. By the time Sheen and crew roll up to, what can only be described as the gates of hell and the magnificent set piece that is Kurtz' hideout, the tension was so thick within me that I could barely sit still.


However, getting to those gates of hell is one massive chore. I can't lie, I was very bored. I'm not a war movie guy and even though I could tell that this film was as genuine as a war movie can get, I just couldn't settle in. Willard's journey up river takes up, like I said, a good hour and a half of screen time and you feel every second of it. But then again, would that final forty minutes be as POWERFUL, if we hadn't just sat through a ninety minute, up river journey? Maybe boredom was the intended reaction, so that when Dennis Hopper started yelling, we knew shit was on. We knew, NOW this is what I've been waiting for, NOW this film pays off and pay off it did. I don't know. I would say, "had they only shortened that middle portion a little, it would've been a lot better", but then you cut away some of the waiting and it's so worth the wait. I really don't know...

My final thoughts are this: I don't know if I ever need to see this movie again. I've experienced (that's a better word - EXPERIENCE) it once and I could make cases for why it should be rated low and why it should be rated high. I could understand someone going '1/10' and understand someone going '10/10'. I tell you this though, whether you love it or hate it, I think we all have to admit that it is a MUST SEE. You wanna' be a film buff? You wanna' see the classics? Start with this, because it barely gets more classic that Apocalypse Now. I wasn't born during 'Nam, I know nothing about 'Nam and I know nothing about war, but I knew it (and THE BOOK confirmed it) that this was what it was like. Experiencing Apocalypse Now was as close to the font lines as I'll ever get and it was enough of a taste to make me count my lucky stars that I never signed up for active duty. It was indeed Hell on Earth and what must it have been like to actually be there? To actually feel the heat of battle on your face, to choke on the smoke and the charred bodies and to hear the screams? To feel the blood splatter across your forehead while you watched your new best friend's knee cap blow off and wonder how long it would be before you were lying beside him? To feel that fear in your heart and then to feel it wash away and to realize you're becoming desensitized....Man...what must it have been like? Apocalypse Now is just a little taste...

RATING: 7/10  Whew! Got a little carried away there. I can't go higher than that, because actually I didn't like the film personally. But anything less than a '7' wouldn't be fair at all.

MOVIES WATCHED: 902
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 99

January 21, 2015  8:00pm

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

TOP 20: #802 - #901

I don't really know what to write here. It's the same old song & dance. I've watched one hundred more movies and now I take a moment to pick out the best, pick out the next batch of movies that I'll add to my personal 1,000 greatest list. As it pertains to the original project, the project of watching every film in the 5th edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book, I should be done by the end of 2015. When I watch one more movie, I'll be into double digits and I suspect it'll be all downhill from there. It's been a rough hundred, a hundred where I actually flirted with the idea of just throwing in the towel. But I persevered and I'm glad. It's been fun, I've seen some great movies, some movies I'd probably have never seen without the urging of THE BOOK and now I sit aside some time to talk about the best of this past one hundred movies. For the newcomers, here's the deal: One hundred more movies have been watched. Now, I make a TOP 20 list, ranking the twenty greatest movies of the last hundred. In addition to those twenty, there will also be ten honorable mention films, which I call the TEN WORTH MENTIONING. When all is said and done, I add all thirty movies to my personal 1,000 greatest list, which will now stand at 280 movies. Just so we're clear, I've definitely put some time into this. I haven't just thrown this list together, but rather took the time to make sure it was just right, made the proper adjustments and settled on this twenty, in this order. Also, for the ones playing along at home, I'll be doing the usual method of copying and pasting chunks from the original reviews, but also, for most reviews, I'll be adding in extra comments which will appear in italics. I think I've said all that needs to be said, let's get down to business!


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

20. Ran (1985) dir. Akira Kurosawa  8/10
I don't say this often, in fact the only other time I can remember stating it is during my Jaws review, but I'll say it here, again: I can't imagine anyone not liking this. And I mean flat out disliking it. Sure, even I wasn't totally blown away (as my rating will suggest), but I definitely LIKED IT and quite a lot. There's absolutely no reason to dislike this movie. It has something for everyone. If you're someone who is only concerned with a strong plot, check. This film has a fantastic plot and hey, it's based on King Lear, which means ignorant guys like me who wouldn't know King Lear from King Friday can now somewhat have a point of reference when any snob brings up the classic Shakespeare play. The whole movie is a complete chaos & anarchy and literally nothing good happens to these characters. The whole thing is one big downer, complete with death, destruction, backstabbing, revenge and one wicked decapitation. Everything goes to hell, pretty much everyone dies and our final image is of a blind man, wandering on a mountaintop, wondering what has become of his sister, who has also been decapitated (make that two decapitations!).

I just couldn't, in good conscience, keep this off the TOP 20 list. At one point, during the construction of this list, I had it placed as a TEN WORTH MENTIONING, but that just didn't seem right. I'm proud to welcome a Kurosawa film into my fold and now finally be able to have an answer ready if ever asked the question: What's your favorite Kurosawa film?


19. High School (1968) dir. Frederick Wiseman  8/10
I really did like this doc though. It was easy to watch and made seventy five minutes feel like ten. If anything, this BOOK has really helped me to come to appreciate documentary filmmaking, going back as far as Nanook of the North, one of the first movies I saw from THE BOOK and one of the first ones I gave a '10/10' to. There was something about these characters that you just couldn't create; it was reality on display and it makes you realize why there was such a reality TV movement so many years ago that still carries on today. Of course, the reality TV that we watch is all semi to fully scripted, but you know what I'm saying. There's something fascinating about watching real life unfold and especially if there's a story and a message behind it. This movie was really easy to watch and each time the segment changed, you wondered what sort of conflict the camera was going to zoom in on next. It was all so intriguing, fascinating and I thought this was top notch documentary filmmaking.

Easily the best documentary I watched all season and not just because I only watched two (Woodstock being the other). I loved this and will forever reference that buzz cutted, gruff teacher with the black frame glasses anytime I read a novel that requires the visualization of a high school teacher. This movie was like a time capsule and earned it's #19 spot with ease. 


18. The Quiet Earth (1985) dir. Geoff Murphy  8/10
Anyway, this one held my attention pretty well though outside of those nitpicky things and even that thirty or so dull minutes, which was more than a minor nitpick really. I will say that the concept is completely original to me, despite a few minor plot holes (or maybe there weren't plot holes, it's a lot of information to process and at times it just feels a little too unbelievable). The whole last man on Earth, post apocalypse, trying to survive thing is always a synopsis that interests me and while I think I'd would've have preferred something a little less intricate and with one or two less characters, this was always entertaining, interesting and intriguing. It's also a breath of fresh air in a season of movies that have mostly been hard to sit through. I'll definitely be remembering this one come TOP 20 time and thanking THE BOOK for a discovery that I'd have never made on my own.

I honestly didn't think this was going to get into the TOP 20 when I first saw it and had it more pegged for a TEN WORTH MENTIONING nod. However, after careful consideration, this one had the cinematography, the direction and the plot to edge it past spots #20 and #19, to get it well seeded into the main list. Definitely a find for me and one that I still thank THE BOOK for guiding me to.


17. Don't Look Now (1973) dir. Nicholas Roeg  8/10
this is a fine film and one that I'd easily recommend. I'm not sure I'd go so far as to consider it a horror film, but it definitely has horror undertones and the city of Venice works perfectly to give it that extra cryptic feel. I loved the chemistry between Sutherland and Christie, which may have been cemented by that particularly graphic, yet sensationally edited sex scene between the two - one that got considerable attention and deemed one of the raunchiest of the time. I, for one, thought the two actors did fine jobs and has really opened my eyes to what a great actress Christie really is (coupled with the performance she gave in "McCabe and Mrs. Miller"). I've always been a Sutherland fan and I'm seriously considering hoisting "Klute" to the top of the list and watching it soon. Anyway, check this one out and make your own conclusions & theories and ask your own questions. I assure you this is one that will stick with you, at least for a little bit and one that you're probably gonna' want to watch again right after you finish it.

I kinda forgot the Nicholas Roeg directed this which makes Performance and The Man Who Fell to Earth (two films that I gave no mind to when considering this list) possible misfires on his part and maybe there's hope for him yet. This was just great with Christie and Sutherland turning in fine performances and the whole film walking a fine line between straight up horror and just an eerie mystery/thriller. Watch out for little red riding hood!


16. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (1972) dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder  8/10
The film is really good, but beware that many cite it as very boring too. It's dialogue HEAVY (in fact, it's basically nothing but dialogue) so be prepared to listen to people just talk for a couple of hours. I will say this too, any points I deduct will likely be for the first two sections, which are filled with really less than perfect dialogue. Honestly, Petra and Sidonie's initial interaction could've either been cut way down or spiced way up, as they go on and on for probably nearly thirty minutes and honestly don't say much. It's crucial stuff though, as this is where we learn about Frank, so it's hard to say just take it out. The stuff between Karin and Petra, during their date is also pretty stale, as they spend minutes at a time talking about their school days and how Petra liked Algebra, but Karin just didn't get it and on and on and on. However, things get a lot better after that, as the big argument scene, as well as the birthday stuff are all GREAT, with Margit Carstensen pouring her freakin' heart out all over the screen.

Wow, that paragraph doesn't sound reminiscent of a #16 film on one of my TOP 20 lists, does it? Screw it, this was great filmmaking and the first of three amazing Fassbinder films I saw this season (would've been four, but The Marriage of Maria Braun wasn't that great). I don't even remember those droning dialogue scenes I'm referring to above being THAT BAD and actually I kind of want to watch this again right now, just so I can prove my past self wrong. Great acting, by a group of very talented actresses. 


15. Fat City (1972) dir. John Huston  8/10 
Man, look at Stacy Keach in this one showing us that you didn't have to be good looking in the 70s to be a movie star. Trust me, if he or even someone like Jack Nicholson were coming up through the ranks today, they wouldn't have a hope in hell of getting work in Hollywood. That's a shame, because when you look at Keach in this film, you're really watching a master at work and it's also a shame that before last night, I barely knew the name Stacy Keach. But man, what a performance he laid out for us, am I wrong? Not just him either, but Susan Tyrrell (who was nominated for an Oscar for this) also did an outstanding job and it makes me wonder why this picture is so inaccessible. You've also got Jeff Bridges in there and if I've never mentioned it before, let me tell you that I am a HUGE Jeff Bridges fan. In fact, there was a time when I tried my best to own all of Bridges' films on DVD. Furthermore, I actually owned this one at one time, but sold it when I decided that buying all of these films blind was a bad idea and realizing that a lot of them weren't THAT good. Too bad I never watched this one before though, or else I wouldn't have sold it - now it's out of print and would probably cost me a mint to get back. Anyway, yeah, I love me some Jeff Bridges and it makes me wish they'd thrown "The Fabulous Baker Boys" or even "The Big Lebowski" into THE BOOK too.

This was an silent runner in the race to TOP 20, as I watched it, loved it and then kind of forgot about it until I was putting the list together last night. I loved this and mostly because of a trio of great performances by Keach, Tyrrell and Bridges. Oh and don't forget about that Kris Kristofferson song, which is used to full effect and really outlines the plight of these characters, especially Keach's Tully.


14. Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991) dir. James Cameron  8.5/10
All in all though, I dug this movie a lot. Like I said yesterday during the review of the original, both of these movies were big parts of my childhood, seeing them multiple times as a kid. Plot holes, overblown action sequences and sappy Arnie aside, I have a hard time giving this movie a hard time. It's easy to watch, fun to watch and it's pretty much nonstop action. I need to go back and check out that alternate ending though, because I've just realized I forgot to earlier. Apparently an alternate ending shows what happens to John and Sarah now that the end of the world has been averted.

So yesterday I run down James Cameron for ruining Aliens for me and today I give him a #14 spot on my coveted TOP 20 list. Oh well, I'll happily run down James Cameron on a daily basis, if need be, but I'll always excuse the Terminator films when giving him the business. These are great and have been favorites of mine for a long time, they were both basically shoo ins for this list.


13. Alien (1979) dir. Ridley Scott  8.5/10
Ridley Scott made this almost look like a found footage film, at times. The music is less pronounced than other Hollywood blockbusters and sometimes it's the silence that scores the really tense scenes, keeping us on edge, just knowing that something's gonna' pop out. And when it ends up being the fucking cat, I'm not even calling cheap thrill, because it works and it's cool and with an alien aboard the ship, you know the next thrill will be far from cheap. The plot is simple and very effective and I found this to be a film that would be hard to dislike. Sure, you could say, I just don't like horror or alien films, but really it's not THAT scary and falls more under the category of sci fi, I think. It's more of an Agatha Christie style murder mystery, where we already know who the killer is and we're just waiting to see who the survivor's gonna' be. Let's face it, Weaver wasn't a star by this point, so it could've just as easily been Veronica Cartwright running around at the end of the film in HER skimpy panties or God forbid, Yaphet Kotto (shudder). Granted, I'm not a sci fi fan, so I didn't go quite as fanboy for it as others probably did, but I'm just saying despite being very sci fi, it's much more than that. It's also probably the classiest, most well put together horror movie I've ever seen. This movie's shots and scenes look like they belong in a coffee table book about classic scenes in cinema, proving that Scott and crew were out for more than just a monster movie.

I told you I'd be ready to jack up the rating by TOP 20 time! You know what did it, I think? The fact that Aliens made me realize how much Cameron screwed up. The original Alien was just so good and with Aliens being in THE BOOK and with me really liking the Terminator flicks, I expected it to be just as good, if not better. I was totally wrong. Scott and crew deserve praise for all the reasons I mentioned above, as this film was just a classic and one that I'm glad to bring into the fold of my personal list. I asked the question at the end of my Alien review, "where do we go from here?" and the answer was nowhere good.


12. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974) dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder  9/10
It's kind of hard to crack on this movie at all, as so many elements are executed to perfection. I mean, what about that camera work?! I loved how Fassbinder stayed back during many of his shots, keeping a distance, eyeballing his subjects from afar. It made for some mesmerizing visuals, the types of images that you just don't get in your run of the mill motion picture. The acting was fine, as was the plot. The characters were fleshed out and developed and the whole film had an heir of greatness about it - you just felt as if you were watching something that was going to be great. Fassbinder is shaping up to be one of my favorite director's from THE BOOK and it just goes to show that sometimes you just KNOW what you're going to like. I was worried that perhaps I'd waited to long, that perhaps my interest in Fassbinder built up too much that disappointment was inevitable. But, so far, he's living up to everything I expected - maybe even a bit more.

Mark down two for Fassbinder and I stand behind my statement that he was and is quickly becoming one of my favorites. I can't wait to completely wrap THE BOOK so that I can focus on some other movies, movies that I actually seek out and find myself and I think I'll start with polishing off the rest of Fassbinder's filmography, as extensive as it is. Big thumbs up for this one though.


11. Badlands (1973) dir. Terrence Malick  9/10
And then, of course, there's that camera work, which provided me with a multitude of shots to choose from for this very post, but ultimately I had to decide on three. It's funny because the characters don't really deserve this good of a movie. When you think of this heathen Kit Carruthers, poetic lines and visual artistry don't spring to mind and maybe that's why this film stands out as such a great one - because it creates a mash-up of such beauty and such ugliness.

Really boosted my rating for this one, from the original '7.5' to the '9' that I'm upping it to today. But this was just great and even reading my review, I can tell I probably even underrated it at the time. I really gushed about this one back in July and why I only went with a respectable, but ultimately measly '7.5' is beyond me. Good to have a favorite Malick film now too.


10. Five Easy Pieces (1970) dir. Bob Rafelson  9/10
This is a real slice of life picture and has aged really well. It's just about a man trying to find his way, a very simple picture that I think is really easy to enjoy. I had seen this film once before and remembered liking it very well. I was coming off of a pretty vicious headache today and needed something that wasn't going to require a lot of thought and this was just what the doctor ordered, although in the end, I did find myself pondering this character quite a bit, so perhaps my plan backfired. Oh well. It was a fine day at the movies, one that both my wife and I enjoyed and this comes with an easy recommendation.

Another one that just sort of lingered in the background, waiting to wave it's hands to get my attention come last night and the construction of this list. I wasn't really thinking about this one in the weeks leading up to the list, but when I noticed it last night, I knew it needed placed and placed high. I really liked it and this is one I could watch again and again. I'm becoming quite the Nicholson fan, I might add.


09. A Man Escaped (1956) dir. Robert Bresson  9/10
It probably didn't hurt that my wife and I are still truckin' away on Oz, therefore I've been all hopped up on prison fiction anyway. However I'm such a sucker for prison stuff that it never takes much anyway to win me over. Add to that the fact that I'm an even bigger sucker for escape flicks and this one was a sure fire winner right out of the gate. I have to admit though, that after watching those first two Bresson films, I was a little skeptical. Sure Pickpocket was just fine, but Diary of a Country Priest was downright dull and there was always the chance that Bresson could go extra dull for this one. I'm for minimalist filmmaking however and this was almost as minimal as it gets: unprofessional actors, more narration than actual character to character dialogue and long shots of simply the main character trying to spoon his way out of a solid concrete Nazi prison camp. Sure, it's no Le Trou, which gets even more intricate when it comes to elaborate escape plans, but it was a damn good movie and one that I'd be willing to watch over and over again.

You saw this coming right? I mean, it's a prison escape movie which was a shoo in to be in the TOP 10. Add Bresson to the list of directors that I can now speak intelligently about, as well as have a favorite movie of his loaded, if ever asked the question.


08. The Terminator (1984) dir. James Cameron  9/10
I mean you've got action, you've got a thriller, you've got a horror movie and you basically have a non-stop chase scene from beginning to end, with a bunch of really cool, "holy shit" moments thrown in there for good measure. The plastic bombs being thrown at the Terminator while he pursues Sarah & Reese on a motorcycle, the T-800 rising from the wreckage when one of the bombs is thrown into the flammable semi that he's driving, now completely shed of his skin and of course, the raid the T-800 does on the police station. I'll admit, I pretty much hated the all of the scenes that flashed forward to the war, but what can you do.

I needed to convey that this was easily better than Terminator 2 and upping it a point and a half was a good start. I had originally gone '7.5' along with the sequel, but '9' is much more suitable.


07. Fox and His Friends (1975) dir. Rainer Werner Fassbinder  9.5/10
As I watched and got deeper and deeper into the film, I kept wondering how it'd all end. I have to say the ending was pretty perfect: Fox having given EVERYTHING to Eugen, except a few spare marks, spends his last night sleeping in his car, before overdosing on valium and dying in the subway, only to have his pockets picked by two youths. I have to ask though, what were Max and Klaus doing together? Was there something there that went straight over my head, a relationship that was eluded to earlier that I missed, perhaps? I was kind of confused by that. I also really loved Fassbinder in this too. What is it about director's in their own movies that always somehow seems to turn out good? Perhaps it's because they know exactly the performance they want and how to deliver it - yeah, that must be it. I was totally taken by him in this and those littler mannerisms he'd deliver when Eugen scolded him, bowing his head a bit and somehow perfectly portraying a temporarily broken hearted man. It only served to side me more with him and oppose me more to Eugen, which is, I'm sure, the intended reaction. Oh and how about that apartment the two had? The spiral staircase, the balcony with the grand view and that marvelous bed with a cherub printed on the foot board - hell, it even had orange carpet, something that for some reason I always think of when I think of old style apartments. Anyway, it was awesome and I kind of wanted to live there, but no with these characters.

Again, I say past me is one picky son of a bitch! I only gave this an '8' originally and it's so much better than that. Still, I can't go full monty or anything, but I'll go as close as I can and a '9.5' is very fair for this classic - easily the best Fassbinder I saw this season.


06. Turkish Delight (1973) dir. Paul Verhoeven  10/10
In conclusion, this was great and I'm left realizing that the name Rutger Hauer, someone who only two days ago I knew only as an actor with a funny name, will now mean something to me. It makes me wonder of all the other celebrities names I've heard only and how many of those I'll someday be able to connect to a personal experience. Now when I hear that name, it won't be just a funny sounding one, but will also come with the memory of this fantastic piece of cinema, a movie that I won't soon forget. It's hard to find, but I promise it's worth the hunt and please, do your best to not give up on it after the first thirty minutes...

Now we enter hallowed ground, ladies & gents. We're talking the movies that from here on out are flawless and are the six movies that will define my past year of movie watching. If I was the president of an academy, these would be my best picture nominees and we kick it off with Verhoeven's masterpiece, Turks fruit. I LOVED this movie and need to find a DVD copy, so I can add it to my collection.


05. The Elephant Man (1980) dir. David Lynch  10/10
I can't really think of anything else to say, so I guess I'll wrap it up. The Elephant Man is currently streaming on Netflix and I 100% agree that it is a must see. Not only is it sure to give you a new appreciation for black & white cinema (the cinematography is spot on!), but also an appreciation for life, for kindness and for your fellow man. And if it gets to that ending and tears aren't at least making their presence in your eyes, then perhaps you are made of stone....

...though, I'll still regard Blue Velvet as my personal favorite David Lynch film! But this was great and slowly, Lynch is getting back into my good graces, after years of writing him off as nothing to get excited about.


04. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) dir. Milos Forman  10/10
Anyway, yeah, I love this movie. Who doesn't, really? I don't knock anyone's tastes but is there anyone who doesn't like this movie? I mean, what's not to like? Remember when you're a teen and you start to really get into films? I remember when I did. I was a big movie fan all my life, but when I was really young (I'm talking 10 - 12 years old) I was way into comedies. I'd go the store and rent things like "Wayne's World" and Eddie Murphy movies. I'd see the classics - The Godfathers and the Scorsese's and the Spielberg's - but I'd never rent them. Then one day, you decide to take the plunge, to see The Godfather maybe and you realize everything you've heard was crap because this movie was crap. No I'm not calling The Godfather crap, my twelve - fourteen year old self is. Anyway, my point is, Cuckoo's Nest is different. It's a classic that is also really easy to love and really hard to dislike. It's the one time I think the whole world can agree that the Academy actually picked the right movie to give their awards to, as I don't know many who can't find SOMETHING to love about Cuckoo's Nest.

I really expected this to be #1 when I watched it, but after watching it and letting it soak in, I knew that there were three better movies this season...


03. The Night of the Hunter (1955) dir. Charles Laughton  10/10
Ummm...in case you missed it in all that - I loved this! I could probably go another few paragraphs, but I won't just because. If you're one of the ones who aren't convinced that they were making great movies in the 50s, then here's your proof. I promise, it's nothing like any old movie you've ever seen and it kind of breaks a lot of the unwritten rules of the times, does it not? I mean, I was pretty freaking shocked when they actually killed off Shelley Winters (a notable star at the time, I think) at the HALFWAY MARK! I couldn't believe it. By the way, while I LOVE most old movie posters, this one is pretty crappy. If I was going to see this movie based solely on this purpose, I'd be expecting a film about marital unbliss and that's all. It should have been a much darker poster, with a sole shot of Mitchum and his love/hate hands, with the tag line, "Would you like me to tell you the little story of right hand/left hand?" Man, I just love it when a movie effects me so much that I start playing armchair filmmaker!


02. The Conversation (1974) dir. Francis Ford Coppola  10/10
I may rate it a few notches below a '10' today, but I think when I think back on this movie it's really going to dawn on me just how perfect it was. And what about that score - brilliance! It was just perfect and honestly, the combination of that music coupled with this film, makes it the best composition I've heard in quite sometime. It portrays the eeriness of being watched, coupled with the paranoia and guilt of our main character and it just suits the film so well. Have a listen. I think whenever I hear that piece, all of the details of this film are going to come flooding back: Hackman's master class performance, the beauty of the camerawork, the near flawlessness of Coppola's writing & direction and the way the plot perfectly appealed to me.


01. The French Connection (1971) dir. William Friedkin  10/10
Seriously people, what's not to like? Seriously!? Because I couldn't find anything that I didn't like and all in all, I had an amazing time watching this last night. In fact, after getting up at 6:30am yesterday morning and not popping this in the DVD player until somewhere around 10pm, I didn't even begin to doze off and even when I laid down (which was past midnight), I just laid there for about ten minutes, thinking about what I just watched. What a great movie and I know I've said it before, but dammit, they just don't make them anymore, like they did in the 70s. Imagine a picture like this even getting nominated for a Best Picture Oscar nowadays, let alone winning! It would never happen. The 70s had a certain grit, a certain independence and filmmakers who knew what they wanted and would do anything to get it, like William Friedkin sitting in the backseat of the car, during the chase scene, to film it himself. Great, great stuff here people and this should've been at the top of your Netflix queue yesterday, so that you could have spent your Valentine's Day today with Popeye!

Here's my theory: You want to know why I shit on so many movies this season and why this may have been....no, no, it definitely was the worst season of movies I've had since starting THE BOOK? Because during the very first week of me watching movies for this season, I saw The French Connection, The Conversation and The Night of the Hunter! Three flawless movies (and yes, past me, you are still a silly bitch who needs slapped with the long white glove of an elderly bourgeoisie woman!) that really made an impact on every future film I'll watch. When I see a film noir, I'll always reference The Night of the Hunter. Whenever I see a drug busting, crime film, I'll think of The French Connection and whenever I ever hear a great score, I'll always think: It's not nearly as great as the score from The Conversation. There it is, kids!


TEN WORTH MENTIONING: Lola (1961), Shock Corridor (1963), Wanda (1970), Two-Lane Blacktop (1971), The American Friend (1977), Saturday Night Fever (1977), The Tin Drum (1979), The Fourth Man (1983), The Right Stuff (1983) and Tampopo (1985)

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Well kids, that's a wrap. The next season will kick off with The Godfather and The Godfather, Part II and from there, I've got some treats lined up, some things I've been saving just so I could bust out for the final season. I'm talking about tribute weeks to Andrei Tarkovsky (I've NEVER seen one of his films), Werner Herzog (ditto), John Cassavetes (ditto) and Francois Truffaut. I'm talking about classics like Blade Runner, Apocalypse Now, The Deer Hunter, The Matrix, Braveheart, Ben-Hur, Lawrence of Arabia, Doctor Zhivago, The African Queen, Singin in the Rain, The Searchers, The Wild Bunch, Scarface and Seven Samurai, just to name a few. And who knows, maybe my next, my final #1 movie lingers somewhere else, somewhere outside of those select few I just named. We shall see. It's going to be a fun season, one that will end in the completion of my self inflicted film school. I'm ready...let's do it!

January 20, 2015  3:45pm

Monday, January 19, 2015

267. SHANE (1953)


Running Time: 118 minutes
Directed By: George Stevens
Written By: A.B. Guthrie Jr., from story by Jack Schaefer
Main Cast: Alan Ladd, Jean Arthur, Van Heflin, Brandon deWilde, Jack Palance
Click here to view the trailer

...100 TO GO

Let's not let the fact that I only have 100 movies left to watch before I call it a wrap on the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book stand in my way of the business at hand, which is Shane - a shoddy western from George Stevens starring the good looking Alan Ladd and the nefarious Jack Palance.


The film opens with Shane (Ladd) mounted on horse, traipsing across a picturesque countryside, complete with a deer drinking out of a stream and a towering, purple cast mountains looming overhead. He's approaching the homestead of Joe Starrett (Heflin), his wife Marian (Arthur) and their young son Joey (deWilde). Starrett plays nice at first, but later doesn't make any bones about telling Shane where to go. As Shane exits, a cattle baron, Rufus Ryker rides up, complete with a posse, and has some harsh words for Starrett. Basically Ryker wants Starrett and his friend to exit their land, so that he can seize it and of course, they don't want to. Shane shows himself from behind Starrett (he never left) and the two manage to scare off Ryker and company, for now. Starrett thanks Shane for the backup and offers him a hot supper and a place to stay. The two bond by tearing out a stump that Starrett had been working on for years and become fast friends. The rest of the film basically shows Ryker's men bullyng Starrett, Shane and company, burning down one of the men's homes, roughing them up more than once and calling in ace gunslinger Wilson (Palance) as one last ditch effort to move the homesteaders out. What they don't know is that Shane is a reformed gunslinger, who doesn't want to strap up his holster anymore, but won't rule it out if the going gets tough.

SPOILER ALERT!


This is your basic, run of the mill western. It's the kind of thing I'd see my grandparents watching on Saturday afternoon, the fire undoubtedly running, as they seemed to always be cold. It had the music of a western, the feel of a western, the look of a western - it was a western through and through. I don't mind westerns totally, but I prefer a little uniqueness with my westerns and in fact, I think I'm more of a modern western type man. I dug McCabe and Mrs. Miller and Once Upon a Time in the West, westerns that really made an impact on me and showed me what the genre was capable of. Westerns like Shane, Johnny Guitar and most of the John Wayne vehicles, usually leave me wanting more and leave me wanting out by film's end. I won't say I hated Shane, but it wasn't even an average western and honestly, I had the whole thing played out in my head before the thing even ended. Shane would eventually buckle up his holster and head into town for one, final showdown with Wilson, who he'd shoot and kill, maybe taking a bullet in the shoulder for his trouble, maybe not. It was a paint by numbers movie and it dragged along at a snails pace, at times. If you're a lover of westerns I'm sure you can find many reasons to consider this among the best in it's genre, but for someone like me, who just isn't into the whole horses and spurs era, it's a tough watch. And damn, was that little kid annoying or what? Also, were we to believe that Shane and Marian had an affair? I think so. I think they just couldn't outright say that and of course, they couldn't show it, so they just used heavy innuendo to make us assume that that's what happened. That aspect of the story was sort of interesting, I guess. Maybe fans of the film can enlighten me more on the exact intended nature of the relationship between the married woman and the gunslinger...

RATING: 4/10  And that's a wrap folks. It's hard to say when I'll be back for the TOP 20 write up, but more than likely it'll be tomorrow.

MOVIES WATCHED: 901
MOVIES LEFT TO WATCH: 100

January 19, 2015  7:22pm