Thursday, November 25, 2010

845. Reservoir Dogs (1992)

Running Time: 99 minutes
Directed By: Quentin Tarantino
Written By: Quentin Tarantino
Main Cast: Tim Roth, Harvey Keitel, Michael Madsen, Steve Buscemi, Chris Penn


Remember when I was nearing 201 films watched and I slipped in "Sideways" to see how watching a longtime personal favorite would effect the outcome of my TOP 20 list? Well, in watching "Reservoir Dogs", I'm essentially doing the same thing, just a lot earlier. This has always been a favorite of mine and in fact, Quentin Tarantino has long been a favorite director of mine. As my director interests are beginning to sway in other directions, in my opinion, "Reservoir Dogs" still holds up as a great film.

The film is told in a non-linear fashion, flip-flopping around as Tarantino gives us tidbits of information, as he sees fit. The entire film revolves around a group of criminals who are plotting a diamond heist, from a jewelry wholesaler. The five men who will carry out the job are brought together by two masterminds, the father and son duo of Joe Cabot (Lawrence Tierney) and "Nice Guy" Eddie (Penn). The five have no prior knowledge of any of the others' identity and are given code names to protect this information. There's Mr. Orange (Roth), Mr. White (Keitel), Mr. Pink (Buscemi), Mr. Blonde (Madsen), Mr. Blue (Edward Bunker) and Mr. Brown (Quentin Tarantino). We're treated to very little of the events surrounding the actual robbery and more to the aftermath. The film takes place mostly in an abandoned warehouse, where the men have planned to meet up once the job was done. Mr. White and Mr. Orange are the first two back to the warehouse and Mr. Orange has suffered a critical wound to the belly. As Mr. White consoles Mr. Orange and we're treated to the more human side of these criminals, Mr. Pink arrives. Mr. Pink makes it known that he has no doubts that there is a rat in the group, stating that the cops were waiting there for them, causing everything to go awry. We also learn that during the robbery, Mr. Blue and Mr. Brown were killed and that Mr. Blonde went on a "kill crazy rampage", shooting everyone in sight. As the criminals gather at the warehouse and await further instructions from Joe and Eddie, we're treated to marvelous dialogue and flashbacks to the events that brought the crew together.


The thing that I've always enjoyed about this film is Tarantino's almost flawless execution. Tarantino is a master at writing dialogue and I think he is well aware of this fact. The reason I think he is well aware of this fact, is because he starts of "Reservoir Dogs" with some amazing dialogue, as the crew sit in a coffee shop and discuss menial topics, such as the real meaning of Madonna's "Like A Virgin" and why Mr. Pink doesn't tip. He hooks us with that dialogue and by the time that scene is over and the credits roll, we're buckled up and ready for Tarantino to take us wherever he may. Following that, before we even find out that these men are criminals, we're shown their human side, as Mr. White consoles Mr. Orange and protects him as if it were his own child. White holds Orange's hand, combs his hair for him, tells him it's not as bad as it looks and whispers something in his ear (that we don't hear), making him laugh, despite his critical wound. Then we start to get more pieces to the puzzle, after Mr. Pink arrives and he talks with Mr. White. We start to learn that these men were behind a robbery and that there were diamonds involved. Then we get some flashback, we learn more about these characters and how they came to be stuck together in the middle of a heist.

The key to "Reservoir Dogs" is the fleshed out characters, the dialogue and the fact that Tarantino places several elements into play, the key element being that one of these men is a rat. I don't remember the first time I watched this movie, but I wish I could watch it again not knowing who the rat is. In fact, I wish there would've been someway for Tarantino to hold off revealing the identity of the rat, until closer to the end. I think it really would've been fun to play the guessing game throughout the movie and try to figure out which one of these guys was the undercover cop. But we find out at about the halfway mark which of the colorful characters is the cop and everything still meshes together fine.

One last personal note, before I wrap up here. I'll never forget my brother sitting me down when I was a young teenager and showing me a lot of movie that would eventually turn into personal favorites of mine. This was one of them and it will always hold a special place, for that reason. This is a movie that I can pop in at anytime and watch, and despite knowing the outcome, I can still enjoy it every single time. Although, this time around, it didn't give me that '10' vibe that I had it pegged for, it still is a great movie and one that I would recommend to anyone...well almost anyone.

RATING: 9/10 I can't really put an explanation on why this isn't a '10', other than the fact that I just wasn't feeling a '10' exuding off of this one. Nonetheless, it's still an awesome flick.


November 24, 2010 10:55pm

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

TOP 20: #102 - #201

Before we jump into this TOP 20 list, let me just say that this was a really tough list to make. I don't remember my previous TOP 20 list being this difficult. I had to make the choice to completely cut some really good films and there are some movies that aren't even in the honorable mention section that are REALLY GOOD! However, the twenty films that I chose are, what I think, to be a good representation of the past 100 films that I've watched and I really think, for one reason or another, that they're the twenty best films I watched. I urge you to comment on the list and make your opinions heard. I realize our opinions will differ, as I had to make the decision to completely axe a couple of major film hitters. Without further ado, here is my TOP 20 movies of the past 100 movies I've watched from the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book. Enjoy!


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

20. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) dir. Frank Capra 8/10
If it wasn't for that last scene, when Jefferson Smith is hoarse voiced and questioning Joe Paine about "lost causes", then this film probably wouldn't have made the list. That final scene is so damned powerful, that it has etched itself into my memory and I feel that it will be there forever. This movie lays a lot of groundwork to get to that final Jefferson Smith standoff, but the big payoff at the end is well worth it and luckily by re-watching the films for this project, I've seen the significance of "Mr. Smith Goes to Washington" and am now able to appreciate it, like so many other have appreciated it for a long time.

19. Brokeback Mountain (2005) dir. Ang Lee 8/10
As I write this, I'm less than twenty-four hours removed from writing my initial review for this movie. My opinions haven't changed much in that short amount of time and my initial approval of this film, was enough to get it to this list. Heath Ledger is uncanny as Ennis del Mar and it only hammers home the fact that he is no longer with us and makes us wonder about what kind of a legacy he'll leave behind. In fact, everyone here turns in good performances, but it's the heartfelt love story that really gets to me. What most people write off as a movie about homosexual cowboys, I say it's more of a story about the importance of companionship and how companionship can come in all forms.

18. Bringing Up Baby (1938) dir. Howard Hawks 8/10
It's been a while since I've watched this one, but it's still pretty fresh in my memory and the main thing that sticks out about this one is how hilarious it is. Regular readers of my blog already know that I'm not a big Cary Grant fan, but this is one film where I feel he shines. Maybe because this is one film where his "sure of himself", seemingly pompous attitude is capped and he plays an awkward, clumsy scientest who is bested by the socialite Susan Vance (Hepburn at her best). This one always makes me laugh and try explaining this one to a friend and try daring that friend not to see it once you've explained it. Once you get into describing the plot, surely it will sound so outraegous that it must be a masterpiece...and it is.

17. Strangers on a Train (1951) dir. Alfred Hitchcock 8.5/10
I mentioned once that this one probably deserves a full blown '10', but that I ceased to give it that, stating that it didn't feel like a '10'. I stand by that statement, but why quibble with numbers. It's a great film and whether you give it an '8' or a '10', it's still a great film. The shots are immaculate, as we're treated to shots from the perspective of a murder victims' glass frames, a far away shot of our villain and a beautifully suspenseful final climax, that will have you clutching the edge of your chair...and fearing the dreaded merry-go-round. A true suspense classic from The Master of Suspense.

16. Dangerous Liaisons (1988) dir. Stephen Frears 8.5/10
I went into this one dreading it and came out loving it. "Dangerous Liaisons" is a tour de force of acting chops as everyone seems to show up with their game faces on, especially John Malkovich and Glenn Close. I'm not really big on films set in past centuries, but I'll certainly have to rethink that stance and be a little more open minded. It's not just the acting, but also the story that is appealing to me, as we're treated to an 18th century love quadrangle...I think that's the word I'm looking for.

15. My Left Foot (1989) dir. Jim Sheridan 8.5/10
This one dropped a bit from a '10' to an '8.5', but again we shouldn't quibble over numbers and just take it for what it is...yet another spectacular display of acting ability, this time by Daniel Day-Lewis. Immediately upon watching this, I deemed myself a Day-Lewis fan and marveled when reading some of the trivia tidbits on this one, such as Day-Lewis refusing to break character, even when the cameras weren't rolling. I also seem to remember a matter of broken ribs due to the fact that Day-Lewis refused to leave the wheelchair, that he was confined to as a result of portraying Christy Brown. It's not only the acting, but the miraculous story of Christy Brown that makes this film appealing and for a moment, with the help of Day-Lewis acting, we get a little bit of insight into Brown's life.

14. The Ice Storm (1997) dir. Ang Lee 8.5/10
Another one that is still fresh in my mind, as I only watched it a few days ago, as of press time. I can't for the life of me think of why I disliked this movie, upon my initial viewing of it, some years ago. It's got everything that I usually love: a really basic plot about really real people/families. The characters that are on showcase here aren't just characters, but seem take on the characteristics of real people: never doing anything amazing and basically just living their lives and dealing with the problems that come with that. The acting is good, the score is sublime and the photography takes on a pale element, possibly because of the title, "The Ice Storm".

13. Kramer vs. Kramer (1979) dir. Robert Benton 8.5/10
"Kramer vs. Kramer" has been a favorite of mine since I first saw it many years ago. That is why it's a surprise, even to me, to see it this low on a TOP 20 list that is made up of films that I saw for the first time, just recently. Still, there was no way that I could deny this film a spot on the TOP 20 and despite lowering the rating from a '10' to an '8.5', it's still a favorite and one that I'll always enjoy re-living. When a film can bring you to tears then you know you're dealing with something special and "Kramer vs. Kramer" has brought me to tears on many occasions.

12. White Heat (1949) dir. Raoul Walsh 9/10
One of my biggest discoveries since starting the "1001" project? The discovery of James Cagney. When I started this project I knew the name and had seen the face in one movie prior. Now, I'm a huge fan, own a handful of his movies on DVD and even own his autobiography, "Cagney by Cagney". "White Heat" is one of his greatest showcases, revealing what a terrific actor Mr. Cagney was. It's not my favorite Cagney movie (we'll get to that), but it's right up there at the top of the list and it comes in at #12 on this one. Oh yeah, the story here kicks ass too, as it's so complex for a crime movie, with different facets being added in and different situations arising.

11. Frenzy (1972) dir. Alfred Hitchcock 9/10
Hitchcock - 2. Probably one of the funniest Hitchcock films, while still managing to squeeze out all the suspense, intrigue and ingenuity that comes along with most Hitchcock movies. I can still see Chief Inspector Oxford trying to choke down his wife's dinner, which looked like a combination of squid and eyeballs, and laughing my head off. Barry Foster and Jon Finch were also great finds in watching "Frenzy" and the introduction of nudity and profanity lends a darker, grimier feel to an otherwise classic Hitchcockian tale.

10. Halloween (1978) dir. John Carpenter 9/10
This movie has always been a favorite of mine, but not until I watched on this past Halloween night, did I realize that it was much more than just a fun, slasher flick. This one acutally possessed some real good movie making qualities that you just don't get with other slasher, horror films. In a genre that is meant to scare and scare only, "Halloween" does frighten, but also puts a really good story on display and the cinematography is excellent, considering Carpenter and his crew were working on a shoestring budget. This is one that can immediately transport you to a small, creepy town on Halloween night.

09. The Wrong Man (1956) dir. Alfred Hitchcock 9.5/10
Hitchcock - 3. Henry Fonda has always been a favorite actor of mine, but without the "1001" project, I may have missed out on some really good movies of his, like this one. Okay, who am I kidding, I would've eventually seen this one on my own. I mean, how could I not have eventually seen's Henry Fonda and Alfred freakin' Hitchcock for God's sake...that's a dream team in my book. It's a dream team and they produce a great film together, giving you a character to really pour your heart out for - Manny Balestrero. I loved every single thing about this film...except...the little plotline of Manny's wife getting admitted to a psychiatric ward. Other than that, the movie is perfect.

08. Toy Story (1995) dir. John Lasseter 10/10
We've reached the '10' spot, where every film from here on out either received a '10' on initial viewing or is receiving one in retrospect. "Toy Story" is getting the retrospect treatment, because I gave it an '8.5' when I first watched it earlier this month. Who am I kidding though? This isn't just for kids, as it provides enough suspense and heart to make it something for adults to really love to...and I'm proof of that fact.

07. The Piano (1993) dir. Jane Campion 10/10
This was another amazing find, that without the "1001" project I probably would have NEVER watched. I really dreaded watching this, as it just didn't sound that appealing to me, but I was given the surprise of a cinematic lifetime and really loved this picture. Holly Hunter was the biggest find, coming out of this one, as I always envisioned her as the silly, quirky, weirdo from movies like "Raising Arizona", but in "The Piano" she proved she had the muscle to turn in a great performance and that she did as the mute, piano playing, Scotswoman Ada McGrath.

06. The Pianist (2002) dir. Roman Polanski 10/10
No I didn't intentionally put "The Piano" and "The Pianist" together, it just came out that way. Roman Polanski, being a holocaust survivor himself, knew how to tell the story of Wladyslaw Szpilman, the piano playing holocaust survivor. Adrien Brody should also get some credit for turning in, what turned out to be, an Oscar winning performance. This movie is really sad and shows you what kind of brutality and horror took place during the holocaust.

05. Rear Window (1954) dir. Alfred Hitchcock 10/10
Hitchcock - 4. This is another longtime favorite that makes it to the TOP 20 list. I think this may have been the first Hitchcock film I saw, many years ago and I've loved it ever since. There's something about the main character this one piecing together a murder mystery, by using binoculars and peeping on his neighbors, that just really appeals to me. I love Jimmy Stewart, that's no secret and add in a dash of gorgeousness (that a word?) in the form of Grace Kelly and you have a recipe for greatness. Just let's not forget the cook himself...Sir Alfred.

04. Juliet of the Spirits (1965) dir. Federico Fellini 10/10
Like a lot of the films on this list, I rushed right to, immediately after watching this and purchased it. Someday I'm going to rewatch it and be treated to all of those gorgeous colors and images once more. I still stand by two facts coming out of this movie: 1) Fellini benefited from the introduction of color films, as he knew how to manipulate the colors in his films and provide a dazzling experience for the viewer. 2) This is Fellini's masterpiece. "8 1/2" was good, "La dolce vita" is overrated and the rest range from mediocre to really good, but it's "Juliet of the Spirits" that is, in my opinion, his masterpiece! This movie left me in AWE and that is NO exaggeration. See it. Love it. Be wowed!

03. Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) dir. Michael Curtiz 10/10
This one was pegged, by me, to be No. 1 for a long time and it's easily one that is #1 material. THIS IS THE MOVIE that made me fall in love with Jimmy Cagney. This IS my favorite Jimmy Cagney film. I love everything about this one, especially Cagney's facials expressions and the last line of the film: "Let's say a prayer for a boy who couldn't run as fast as me". But it's that final scene, with Rocky Sullivan being carted off to the electric chair that is one of the most powerful scenes I've ever seen. Rocky is a criminal, but we feel for the guy and we want him to clean up his act and get it together, something that he is never able to do and in the end, when he has to pay for his's a sad moment.

02. Shadow of a Doubt (1943) dir. Alfred Hitchcock 10/10
Hitchcock - 5. Until a few days ago, this was going to be #1 on the this list. Yes, this time around it's not Buster Keaton with five movies on my TOP 20 list, but rather Alfred Hitchcock. This is my FAVORITE Alfred Hitchcock movie and though I haven't seen his entire body of work, I'm quite certain that there is nothing better than this. Joseph Cotten stole the show for me, and turned me into a big fan of his. The whole story is just so engaging, as it sucks you in and spoon feeds you all that suspense that goes along with it. The story of Uncle Charly, the Merry-Widow Muderer being found out by his neice, Charlie. The fact that they share names shoudln't be misleading, as it is a good vs. evil battle, in the unlikeliest of forms.

01. Sideways (2004) dir. Alexander Payne 10/10
I saw this movie for the first time when it was released on DVD back in March of 2005. I bought the DVD soon after and have enjoyed it every sinlge time I've made the decision to rewatch it. I just couldn't put anything above this, as, for me, this is the best movie I've watched out of the last 100. When you spend time with a movie, as many times as I've spent with this one, then you have a hard time uprooting it and replacing it with new favorites. And honestly, I didn't want to uproot it, as this was genuinely my favorite film of the past 100. I find the characters in "Sideways" easily relatable. They're real people, with real emotion, desires and feelings, especially Miles. Jack is a real-life type character too, just not as deep as Miles. I love that character - Miles Raymond. He will always stand as one of my favorite characters in the history of cinema and that is one of the reasons that I placed this movie in the prestigous top spot of this edition of the TOP 20 list.

HONORABLE MENTION: Stella Dallas (1937), Le jour se leve (1939), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), The Heiress (1949), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Birds (1963), Marnie (1964), Amarcord (1973), The Big Chill (1983), Roger & Me (1989)

Well there you go guys, that about wraps 'er all up. We'll, of course, do this again when we hit 301 movies watched and hopefully you've enjoyed this list. Again, if you're reading this, I invite you to make your comments known, whether you agree or disagree. I look forward to some feedback and I'll be back soon with more reviews as we make our way further through the pages of the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die".

November 22, 2010 9:17pm

Monday, November 22, 2010

679. Fast Times at Ridgemont High (1982)

Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: Amy Heckerling
Written By: Cameron Crowe, from his novel
Main Cast: Jennifer Jason Leigh, Sean Penn, Judge Reinhold, Robert Romanus, Brian Backer

201 DOWN, 800 TO GO

Knowing I wanted to watch something fairly short, so as to have more time this evening to work on my TOP 20 list, I once again ventured to the DVD shelf, but this time pulled a movie that my wife purchased, "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". I had seen it once before and liked it quite a bit this time around.

"Fast Times at Ridgemont High" really has no linear plot, as it is basically a grouping of narratives, telling the hi jinks of the students who attend Ridgemont High School and tells the story of their life over the course of one year. Our main character is Stacy Hamilton (Leigh), a 15-year old freshman who works at the pizza place at the mall. Her best friend is Linda (Phoebe Cates) who also works at the pizza place, but is a senior at Ridgemont High. Stacy is reaching that age where she is becoming interested in boys and Linda isn't the greatest of people to depress those desires. Linda does her best to give her a senior "woman's" advice and Stacy has her run-ins with several guys, including a 26-year old man and a classmate in her biology class, Mark Ratner (Backer). Stacy's brother is Brad (Reinhold), who's pride and joy is his "cruise vessel" a.k.a. his car. Brad holds down several jobs throughout the course of the film, including one that garnered him "Employee of the Month" honors - All American Burger. Brad is looking forward to graduating, but can't seem to get a grip on having a good time during his final year at Ridgemont High. There's also Mike Damone (Romanus), an amateur businessman who makes his money scalping concert tickets and betting on sports. Damone is arrogant and conceded, but gets a wake up call when Stacy shows interest in him and Stacy gets pregnant. Last, but not least, there's Jeff Spicoli (Penn), who occupies his own little world and in his own words, only needs "some tasty waves and a cool buzz".


Seeing as how I was only five years old when I escaped the 1980s, I really don't have a handle on what is accurate and inaccurate in portraying the lives of high schoolers in that decade, but I'd say "Fast Times at Ridgemont High" is a pretty accurate depiction. You really get that suburban, high-school feel from the whole film and while the movie starts out reeking of 80s nostalgia, once you settle in, the 80s facet of it kind of fades away and you're left with a pretty good, little flick. This was kind of a star maker of a movie, as Sean Penn would go on to win two Oscars, Jennifer Jason Leigh made a bit of a name for herself, Reinhold went on to star in more 80s blunders and there's a slew of stars in very minor roles, who went on to become semi-famous to famous, including: Eric Stoltz, Anthony Edwards, Forest Whitaker and Nicolas Cage.

I really don't have a whole lot else to say about "Fast Times at Ridgemont High". I'm not sure if it's one of the 1001 movies you must see, but I would recommend it on the basis that it is a really fun movie and I think it's a hard movie to dislike. I think a lot of people, especially teens who grew up in the 1980s will have a lot of fun re-living the days of the 80s and comparing the lives of these characters to their own lives. Everybody who watches this film, can probably find one character that they're the most like, or that they were the most like in high school. For me, I'd have to say I'm the Nicolas Cage character, as I was lingering in the background, barely noticeable.

RATING: 7/10 Good film that would provide a bit of a stepping stone to Cameron Crowe's career. Although the only other Crowe related film in the book is "Say Anything", what's up with that?


November 22, 2010 4:53pm

213. Louisiana Story (1948)

Running Time: 78 minutes
Directed By: Robert J. Flaherty
Written By: Frances H. Flaherty, Robert J. Flaherty
Main Cast: Joseph Boudreaux, Lionel Le Blanc, E. Bienvenu, Frank Hardy


Well I have finally hit the 200 marker and after the viewing of just one more film, I'll be all ready to put together my TOP 20. For #200, I chose "Louisiana Story", because it was on my Netflix streaming queue and it was short. Actually I didn't really expect much out of Flaherty's "Louisiana Story", despite liking his "Nanook of the North", but I got more than I bargained for.

Apparently the story goes that Robert J. Flaherty was contacted by Standard Oil Company to make a film about oil prospecting in the Louisiana bayous. The story is told through the eyes of a young cajun boy (Boudreaux), who along with his pet raccoon, spends his days drifting out on the
Louisiana waterways, playing, fishing and fending off alligators. When returning home one day, his father is talking with an oil man and signing a contract allowing them to drill on his property. Soon after, the oil company comes in, sets up a derrick and begins drilling. The boy takes kindly to the oil men, becoming friendly with them as he shows them some of his tips for catching fish (spitting on the bait is apparently a great tool for fishing). The plot flows along nicely, despite not a lot happening and the big finish comes when the oil crew hits a gas pocket, sending gas and salt water spewing out of the earth, but most of that is dealt with through newspaper headlines that come across the screen. The crisis is quickly taken care of, as the oil men are painted as heroes, who get the gas spill taken care of in the matter of ten days, finish off their work and make their way out of the bayou.

With the BP oil spill still fresh in our minds, it's kind of hard to take this film seriously. The oil men in "Louisiana Story" are painted as capable and smart drillers, who know how to handle a crisis, if/when one arises. Of course, the entire story is told through the eyes of a young boy, so that could account for some of the grandeur that the oil men are painted with and hey, maybe the oil men of those days weren't as incapable as the oil men of today, I don't know.

The film was actually, surprisingly good, for what it was. Flaherty made seemingly meaningless tasks and activities interesting and sometimes suspenseful. I loved the scene where the boy nearly gets his head bitten off by an alligator and the music and sounds that accompany it are quite effective. Later, they boy loses his pet raccoon and can only assume that he was eaten by a gator. He enlists the help of his father and together they trap and kill the alligator, not forgetting to row by the oil derrick and show the oil men their big catch. I would say, in regards to this film, don't go in expecting much and the payoff will be bigger than you'd imagine. I was expecting next to nothing from "Louisiana Story" and actually walked away from a fairly interesting, nicely photographed and well scored film.

RATING: 6/10 Just one more movie to go before the big TOP 20 and trust me, I realize no one is as excited for this milestone as much as I am.


November 22, 2010 1:13pm

Retro Repost: TOP 20: #1 - #101


Well since we've made it to the one tenth marker, I figure this'd be a nice time to make a TOP 20 list and put some serious thought into the 101 films that I've watched thus far. Let's not dwaddle, let's jump right into it.


Also, a quick note: I've revised the ratings for the following 20 films, as some of them needed a bit of tweaking. The ratings that I give out when I review a film are my knee jerk ratings, and often times those change once a few days has gone by. Here we go...

20. Broken Blossoms (1919) dir. D.W. Griffith 7.5/10
This was actually the first movie that I went the full monty on and gave the full ten stars to. With a little thought I've lowered it to a seven and a half, but in my opinion this was the best, by far, D.W. Griffith film I watched and I can still see that closeup of the irate Battling Burrows, one of the great villains of the silent era. Great film, with a real heartfelt tone to it and one of D.W.'s most down to earth productions.

19. M (1931) dir. Fritz Lang 7.5/10
Only had to tweak this one a hair, as far as ratings go. My original review was a pretty accurate portrayl of my feelings on this film. The atmosphere of this one is so bleak and they plop a serial killer right in the middle of it, to give it an even bleaker feeling. There's so much going on in this one and it has plenty to keep a viewer interested and engaged in the picture.

18. The Gold Rush (1925) dir. Charles Chaplin 8/10
My original rating had this one pegged at a seven, but with some hindsight in play, it gets up to an eight. Hilarity ensues when The Little Tramp plays the gold prospector and winds up being reduced to dining on his shoes. I'll also never forget the visual of the cabin teetering on the edge of a mountain, while The Tramp and Big Jim wrestle to find their footing inside.

17. The General (1927) dir. Buster Keaton & Clyde Bruckman 8/10
I lowered this one a smidge, from eight and a half to eight. It's definitely my least favorite Keaton film, but that's not saying much, as it's still really funny and solid and provides a healthy look at the Civil War in the process. Constant suspense and excitement, piled with can't go wrong with this one. But there are better Buster movies...

16. Sherlock Jr. (1924) dir. Buster Keaton 8/10
This one originally was given an nine and a half, but I lowered it to an eight, simply because the others stuck with me more than this one did. The scene where Keaton is cleaning up the movie theatre lobby is something that I'll never forget though, that provided many laughs and Buster just being Buster. I think the length of this one was also something that made me remember some of the other ones better, as this one only sits at around 45 minutes. But still some of the funniest 45 minutes you'll ever spend.

15. GREED (1924) dir. Erich von Stroheim 8.5/10
I remember watching this one and gushing it's praises, but the fact is that it just didn't stick with me the way I thought it would. The fact that I had to watch it on YouTube and watch the re-created version, with all of the production stills and extra material sewn into it, may have played apart in it's drop from a ten to an eight and a half. But we're praising movies today, not bashing them and despite the YouTube viewing and the added stills photos, this is still a top notch film, one that I would DIE to see in complete form, as von Stroheim intended it to be. If I could have seen von Stroheim's original, I'm sure it would be an absolute favorite of mine and a sheer masterpiece.

14. Our Hospitality (1923) dir. Buster Keaton & John G. Blystone 9/10
This one got dropped from a ten to a nine, basically just because I realized it wasn't so good that it deserved the full tenner. However, it was my first Keaton film, and for that it will always hold a special place among the movies I've seen. I'll never forget my first experiences with the great comedy master, laughing and loving every minute of it.

13. Blackmail (1929) dir. Alfred Hitchcock 9/10
The only Hitchcock film to make the cut, and it still boggles my mind that this one is one of Hitchcock's forgotten masterpieces. You NEVER hear tell of this one and it's really a shame, as most people probably walk by the Wal-Mart $5 bin, and pass up the Alfred Hitchcock sets that usually include Blackmail, not even realizing what they're missing out on. Great film, and easily one of my favorite Hitch movies.

12. Captains Courageous (1937) dir. Victor Fleming 9/10
Went into this one thinking the worst and came out of it with the best...well #12 anyway. Spencer Tracy delivers in a big way and with his performance he brands this film into my head. I loved his character of Manuel, a character with traits that everyone loves: kindness, hard-working, gentle, intelligent, witty. Way to go Spence, because without you, this film wouldn't be here. Great movie, that ANYONE can enjoy and everyone should check out.

11. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (1932) dir. Mervyn LeRoy 9/10
Paul Muni burst into the book with his portrayl of an innocent man, framed for a robbery. When you're as much of a sucker for prison movies, as I am and then you throw in the great acting talents of Paul Muni, along with the whole innocent man/fugitive angle, then this was a given for the Top 20.

10. The Crowd (1928) dir. King Vidor 9/10
This proves how fast my ratings change, as only two days ago I short changed The Crowd with an eight and a half and now it's been boosted to a ten. The thing that really appealed to me here, was the everyman concept of the film and how our character deals with the tragedies that all of us face day to day: job loss, child loss, relationship trouble, in-law trouble...It's just a tale that is about average day to day circumstances and it's put together quite brilliantly by Vidor.

09. Le Million (1931) dir. Rene Clair 10/10
Since watching this I've actually bought it on DVD and am glad to give it a home on my DVD shelf. One of the zaniest, yet brilliant films I saw and it all revolves around a missing lottery ticket. The plot is simple and something that has been copied by every successful sitcom since, but it works great and I had a blast watching it.

08. Make Way for Tomorrow (1937) dir. Leo McCarey 10/10
"It would make a stone cry", that's what Orson Welles said of Make Way for Tomorrow and I believe the man had a valid point. The only film of the 101 thus far to bring a lot of tears to my eyes and I'm not ashamed to admit it. The principles do a wonderful job of reeling us in, and then once they have us hooked, we can't help but bawl. Love this movie and am so glad it's getting a DVD release this Tuesday.

07. The Unknown (1927) dir. Tod Browning 10/10
Probably ONE OF my biggest director finds from the book thus far, has been Tod Browning, as he totally delivered the goods on three seperate occasions and delivered ten fold on The Unknown. Lon Chaney delivers too, in a deliciously mad performance as Alonzo the Armless and the script is so good that I believe literally ANYONE could find enjoyment out of this one. This would be the movie that I'd recommend to non-silent people, to get them into silent flicks.

06. It Happened One Night (1934) dir. Frank Capra 10/10
My 'ol pal Peter Warne was the main character here and what a main character he was. Clark Gable showed his true acting chops with this one and THIS is the picture that he should be remembered for, not Gone with the Wind (Although, we're not there yet, so I'll hold off my discussions of that film). This took home the Best Picture Oscar, along with four others, for a reason and EVERYONE owes it to themselves to see this picture. Great, great stuff!

05. Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928) dir. Buster Keaton & Charles Reisner 10/10
The second best Keaton film that I had the pleasure of seeing, Steamboat Bill Jr. provides us with the unforgettable hurricane scene, that I personally will NEVER forget. Keaton had a knack for all things comedy, whether it be physical comedy, or subtle comedy, such as when he whistles the tune in the jail and tries to get his father to realize that he's brought him a loaf of bread with a knife in it.

04. Seven Chances (1925) dir. Buster Keaton 10/10
The BEST Buster Keaton movie that I saw. Seven Chances has the most memorable plot, in my opinion and to me, it stands out above all the others. You take The General and Sherlock Jr., I'll be just fine with Seven Chances, which made me laugh my ass off and the prospect of Keaton being forced to find a wife by 7pm, I mean c'mon, that just sounds hilarious. This would be the first movie that I'd recommend to someone who has never seen a Keaton picture.

03. Modern Times (1936) dir. Charles Chaplin 10/10
The more I think about this one, the more I love it and we're into the point now, where I'm talking about movies that make me so glad I set out on this journey through cinema. Modern Times is such a sweet, funny, pitch perfect film and honestly my absolute favorite Chaplin flick, of the three I've seen, and I highly doubt that any of the rest can match up to this one, although I'm certainly not above letting them try.

02. My Man Godfrey (1936) dir. Gregory La Cava 10/10
The top two here flip flopped in my head, back and forth, for quite a while, before I finally decided on their precise order. This one came oh so close though and this is the film that makes me want to see every other William Powell film. If I had to pick a favorite actor, based solely on the films that I've seen from the '1001' book, so far, then I'd pick William Powell, no question. He delivers here big time and this is probably the greatest screwball comedy I've EVER seen. There's nothing bad going on here and every aspect of this film is great.

01. La Roue (1923) dir. Abel Gance 10/10
Regular followers of my blog (if there are any) probably were taken by surprise by my #1 pick. La Roue was a film that I originally rated an eight and a half out of ten and one that I really don't remember going on and on about that much. I can still see the railroad engineer Sisif, climbing the big mountain, bearing a cross on his shoulders. I can see Norma going down to celebrate with the people of the village, as they all sing and dance in a big circle and the mountain takes hold of the screen. This is a silent film that was better for being silent, as only words could've screwed this up. This movie is so beautiful and so touching, that there were no words that would've been right in the mouths of the actors, it was just something that had to play out for itself and speak for itself and it did that. I still see this film in my head and think about it all the time and this was, without question, the BEST movie I've watched from the book, thus far and even one of the best things I've ever seen, book or no book.

EDIT: HONORABLE MENTIONS: I've decided to include 10 Honorable Mention films from that original 101 films and they are: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919), Sunrise (1927), The Blue Angel (1930), Public Enemy (1931), Duck Soup (1933), King Kong (1933), It's a Gift (1934), Judge Priest (1934), Captain Blood (1935) and Top Hat (1935)

Well there you go. I hope you've enjoyed the list and maybe you'll even take a little of my advice and go out and see some of the ones listed here that you haven't. When I hit 201 movies watched, we'll do this again, except we'll up the number to a Top 40. I think that's all that needs to be said and I'll go ahead and let my list speak for itself.

February 20, 2010 10:38pm
EDIT/REPOST: November 22, 2010 10:54am

985. Brokeback Mountain (2005)

Running Time: 135 minutes
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: Larry McMurtry, Diana Ossana, from the short story Brokeback Mountain by E. Annie Proulx
Main Cast: Heath Ledger, Jake Gyllenhaal, Michelle Williams, Anne Hathaway, Randy Quaid


Reaching closer and closer to that golden number 201 and finishing off "Ang Lee Week" in the process, "Brokeback Mountain" was the next film I tackled. I'd seen it a couple of times before and always thought it was a pretty solid film. I think I may have liked it just a little bit more this go around.

When Ennis del Mar (Ledger) and Jack Twist (Gyllenhaal) go looking for work from Joe Aguirre (Quaid), they are assigned to work on Brokeback Mountain, keeping an eye on the sheep and protecting the from coyotes for an entire summer. Into the mountains they head, going in strangers, but coming out much more than that. While working together in the mountains, Jack and Ennis strike up a love relationship (which some people will argue gets started a little too fast and without much reasoning). When the summer comes to an end, Jack and Ennis go their separate ways, Jack back to riding bulls in the rodeo and Ennis to marry Alma and start a family. Four years go by and Jack and Ennis see nothing of each other. Jack ends up marrying a little, rich country girl by the name of Lureen and Ennis and Alma go to work popping out two babies and trying to make ends meet. One day Ennis receives a postcard from Jack, requesting a meeting and Ennis is more than anxious to oblige, replying with a simple "You bet". They are caught right away by Alma, who doesn't say anything and instead swallows the pain and realization that her husband is cheating on her and with another man. The two go away for a weekend and then are forced to get back to their regular lives. This keeps up for the better part of twenty years, with Jack continuously urging Ennis to move to Texas with him and start something together and Ennis always adamantly refusing for fear of what society will think of them and do to them.


To me, this film is less about the fact that two cowboys are having a homosexual love affair and more about companionship between two men who just happen to be sexually attracted to each other. There are two key points to this film, in my opinion, one much less obvious that the other. Right around the twenty minute mark of the movie, there is a scene where a naked Ennis del Mar takes a shower, while Jack Twist sits in the foreground and peels a potato, while sucking on a cigarette. To me, this is a key scene, because Jack doesn't turn to look at Ennis and his naked body. I think this is a clear indicator that their relationship isn't purely animal attraction and lust, but more about friendship with the added sexual element. The other key element to "Brokeback Mountain" is the fact that Ennis represents the quiet man and Jack represents the flamboyant man. Jack is ready to flaunt his love for Ennis and doesn't really seem to care, just so he and Ennis are happy. He constantly hounds Ennis to come and live with him, so that their secret "hunting/fishing" trips can come to an end and they can be with one another all the time. Ennis doesn't want this, as he seems much more content with the secret trips and doesn't want a soul to know about his relationship with Jack. This is evident immediately following the first sexual encounter between Ennis and Jack, as Ennis stands outside the tent, not saying a word and riding off to tend to his work, almost in shame.

This is a sad story, not just because of what happens to the characters, but because of what the characters are forced to do, because society says it is what they should do. If you think about it, the lives that Jack and Ennis lead, really don't mean a whole lot to them. They both get married to fill the lonely time between their secret trips, they both have families and in the case of Ennis, he's forced to work dead end jobs just to make ends meet. These lives mean nothing to these characters and because of the imaginary restrictions that society puts on the homosexual community, condemning them for falling in love with a member of, what is deemed as, the wrong sex, they are forced to lead dead end lives, never being able to just go and do what makes them happy. Instead, their love is condemned, only to flourish on Brokeback Mountain, for several lone weeks out of the year.

As far as the technicalities go, Ledger is the standout star of the picture and it really makes you miss seeing the guy on the big screen. He was a great actor and I'm sure, like River Phoenix and James Dean, he'll be talked about for years, as people wonder how much greater he could've gotten. Gyllenhaal was fine too and really there wasn't a bad cast member in the bunch. Ang lee bangs out another good movie and hammers home the fact that he is indeed a fairly versatile director, making westerns, martial arts films, dramas about real families and light hearted comedies. The cinematography here is also gorgeous, really capturing the nature that is essential to any western. The score was also great, and kind of put a modern spin on the classic guitar of the old western movie.

RATING: 8.5/10 Well that wraps up another director and once I watch two more movies, I'll be all set to make my TOP 20: #102 - #201.


November 22, 2010 2:03am

370. La jetee/The Pier (1961)

Running Time: 28 minutes
Directed By: Chris Marker
Written By: Chris Marker
Main Cast: Jean Negroni, Helene Chatelain, Davos Hanich, Jacques Ledoux


This movie has been floundering on my Netflix streaming queue for a good while now, so I figured I'd go ahead and give twenty-eight minutes and get it watched. It wasn't really that bad, but then again, it was a short film and there really wasn't a lot of time for error.

If you've ever seen the film "12 Monkeys" then you already know the premise of "La jetee". "La jetee" is told entirely by using still photographs and is about a post-apocalyptic world, following World War III. In the future, some scientists want to gather some human guinea pigs together to send into the future, citing that they need to "call past and future to the rescue the present". After some trouble finding humans who can withstand the shock of time travel they call forth a prisoner, based on the fact that he is obsessed with a childhood memory about a woman he saw and a murder he saw. He goes into the past and finds the woman, spending some time with her and forming a relationship with her. After being sent to the past, he is then sent to the future, where he encounters a group of people, who provide him with the power to regenerate his own, present society. After returning to present day, he learns that he is to be executed, but is then contacted by the future people, who offer to help him. He requests to be transfered to the past permanently, so that he can live with the girl in pre-war times. They oblige him and he is sent to the past where he plans to meet the girl on the same pier where he witnessed a murder as a small boy. When running to meet the girl on the pier, he is shot and realizes that the murder he witnessed as a child was his own.

I guess I just have a problem regarding short films as anything other than "good" or "not good". I have a harder time handing them the status of masterpiece. It just seems so ridiculous to me to deem a movie that is less than half an hour a masterpiece. Sure, "La jetee" is a good little movie and the photography is very nice. The ending is probably the most harrowing part of the film and the narrator's voice (dubbed in English in my version) was a powerful, good storytelling voice. Actually I've always been a big fan of "12 Monkeys" and seeing it first, I'd have to say I prefer it much more than this one. I'll have to say that Terry Gilliam did a pretty good job stretching twenty-eight minutes of story into two hours and the final product was really good, though much more complex than this. This was a simple, little sci-fi tale that served its purpose and got it's story across, so I'd say it's a success, but's simply too short to really amount to anything more than a mild recommendation.

RATING: 5.5/10 That's a rating that rates "La jetee" on a short film scale and the "1001" scale. Good for a short film, but not significant enough to make it into this book.


November 21, 2010 10:00pm

Sunday, November 21, 2010

805. Roger & Me (1989)

Running Time: 90 minutes
Directed By: Michael Moore
Written By: Michael Moore
Main Cast: Michael Moore, Roger Smith


After watching "Fahrenheit 9/11" earlier this week, I figured I'd might as well wrap up the Michael Moore films contained in the "1001" book and watch "Roger & Me" tonight, as I make my way a little bit closer to 201 films watched.

The 'Roger' in question is Roger Smith, CEO of General Motors. The film is set in Flint, Michigan and chronicles the hardships of the town following the closing of several auto plants, the towns primary source of employment for over 30,000 Flint citizens. The plants were closed, despite record profits being recorded by General Motors and plants were reopened in Mexico, where labor costs were cheaper. Michael Moore's main objective in "Roger & Me" is to get into contact with Roger Smith and ask him to accompany him back to Flint, Michigan, so that he can see some of the damage he has caused. Over the course of the documentary, Moore tries over and over to get some sit down time with Roger, but over and over he fails. When not trying to track down Smith, Moore interviews several citizens of Flint, including Sheriff Fred Ross, who has the unenviable task of evicting many Flint natives from their homes, due to inability to pay the rent. Moore continues to interview people from Flint, further driving home the realization of the hardships that befell the city and interviews some celebrities who grew up in Flint, like Bob Eubanks. Moore also interviews Miss Michigan, who when asked what she would like to say to the people of Flint, uses the time to remind the to keep their fingers crossed as she chased the Miss America crown.

I'm gonna' TRY to keep this review short & sweet as well, because I know there are a great number of Moore detractors out there and I wouldn't want to turn any of them off. To me, this film is incredibly sad. There is one portion of the film that shows Sheriff Fred Ross evicting a family on Christmas Eve. Another scene shows an evicted family set to be put out on the street, with several small children. I can't imagine what life in Flint must have been like during this terrible time, because even if you weren't directly affected by the layoffs, the film makes note of the rising crime rate in the city and that must have been hell too. I guess if I were someone who believes what Moore says (I won't say whether I am or I am not), then I would probably be comparing Roger Smith to a part of the human anatomy that is primarily used for sitting.

Now, of course, you can make the argument that these Flint residents should've managed their money a little better and prepared for a rainy day and then maybe when the GM plants closed down they would've been a little bit more prepared and not have had to resort to beating rabbits over the head for sustenance. But doesn't a proper company give a little something to it's laid off employees, especially when they're recording record profits? Doesn't a proper company offer retraining programs? Doesn't a proper company give back to the employees who slaved for years and years, working on the assembly lines? I don't know, I'm just asking.

I guess, in the end, this movie really just makes me appreciate the fact that I have a stable job. So I better wrap up this review, because I'm due in at 8am.

RATING: 10/10 Probably right up there with "Bowling for Columbine" as far as best Moore movie I've seen. And hey, why isn't "BFC" in the book? My TOP 20 making job just got harder.


November 21, 2010 12:11am

Saturday, November 20, 2010

955. Wo hu cang long/Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: Hui-Ling Wang, James Schamus, Kuo Jung Tsai, from book by Du Lu Wang
Main Cast: Chow Yun-fat, Zhang Ziyi, Michelle Yeoh, Cheng Pei-pei, Sihung Lung


The third installment of "Ang Lee Week" comes in with "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon", a movie that I've failed to see until now and that's not a decision I'm regretting too much at the moment.

Chow Yun-fat is Li Mu Bai, an accomplished Wudan swordsman. Li Mu Bai is good friends with Yu Shu Lien (Yeoh) and the two make plans to visit another friend, Sir Te (Lung) and deliver to him as a gift, the Green Destiny, a very powerful sword in the possession of Li Mu Bai. Once the sword is delivered to Sir Te by Yu Shu Lien, it is soon stolen and the main suspect is Jade Fox (Pei-pei), a warrior who killed the master of Li Mu Bai. When Li Mu Bai arrives at the palace of Sir Te, he and Yu Shu Lien begin to put together clues on where the sword may be. It is believed that the sword may lie in the palace of Governor Yu, possibly a potential setup to frame him. Governor Yu's daughter, Jen (Zhang) becomes infatuated with Yu Shu Lien and seems to envy her warrior lifestyle. Soon after it is revealed that the masked warrior who broke into Sir Te's palace and stole the sword was actually Jen and that her master is actually Jade Fox. Then they story jumps back in time a little bit to tell us about the relationship between Jen and Lo, who met when Lo stole Jen's comb during a desert raid. Jen chases Lo, trying to regain her property and ends up being held captive by Lo, until the two fall in love. Lo returns, in present day, and asks for Jen to return to him and be his lover. She tells him to leave. The Green Destiny is returned, but later recaptured by Jen and Jade Fox.


Sorry if that plot synopsis was a bit shaky, I just didn't have the energy to put very much more thought into the happenings of this movie. I really didn't like this one at all and outside of the fighting scenes, it was a total loss, from a personal standpoint. Even the fighting scenes were unrealistic, with people flying through the air and waving swords at each other while standing on treetops and skipping across water. But the fight scenes at least provided a little bit of entertainment in an otherwise un-entertaining film. The entire plot hinges on the location of the sword and at times it's stolen and then it's back in the possession of its owners. Then we take a sidetrack and delve into this long story between Lo and Jen, which all starts because Lo steals Jen's comb and it all just gets very boring and very uninteresting as we make our way to the anticlimactic ending.

Ang Lee should've stuck to dealing with real people in real, everyday situations instead of delving into the mystical world of imaginary, treetop sword fighting. Although, when it boils down to it, I think this one just fell into the unfortunate category of, "not for me". The cinematography was nice, although that really only takes you so far and the score, despite it's Oscar win, wasn't anything to write home about either. And while we're on the subject of "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" at the Oscars, I'm really not sure how this film managed to wrestle away even a Best Picture nomination from films like "Cast Away", "Almost Famous" and "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" which are all far superior to this. In fact, I'm not sure why "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon" is even in the book, over any of those films. But I digress and I'll stop picking on this movie, which clearly just wasn't for me.

RATING: 3/10 Too bad, as Ang Lee was on a roll with me and this really put that roll to a halt. Next up: "Brokeback Mountain".


November 20, 2010 6:39pm

766. Broadcast News (1987)

Running Time: 127 minutes
Directed By: James L. Brooks
Written By: James L. Brooks
Main Cast: William Hurt, Albert Brooks, Holly Hunter, Robert Prosky, Joan Cusack


With "Broadcast News" leaving the streaming portion of Netflix tomorrow, I decided I'd go ahead and watch it, so that I could avoid adding it to my regular queue. I was kind of anticipating it, seeing as how I've been a William Hurt fan for quite sometime and recently discovering the talents of Holly Hunter.

Our three main leads are Jane (Hunter), Aaron (Brooks) and Tom (Hurt). Jane and Aaron work at the Washington bureau of a TV network and scramble to perfect their news pieces to get them on the air. Aaron is a reporter and Jane a producer, for the network. They're best friends and have a tendency to call each other up for even the most menial of reasons. When Tom Grunick arrives in town, he comes off as a not so smart, yet handsome man, who Jane asks to dinner following his appreciation for her speech at a news conference. They go to her room after dinner and he confesses his lack of talents, as he is a sportscaster who, on a fluke, got thrust behind the news desk and became an anchor. She disapproves of his tactics and later he tells her that he has been hired by her station. From that point on, realizing Jane is someone who will tell him like it is and not just what he wants to hear, Tom is head over heels for Jane, chasing her throughout the film and trying to win her affections. Aaron also begins to feel love for Jane and trying to win her heart, fails, as Jane, possibly not wanting to taint the friendship, will not return Aaron's love. The whole thing is a big one-sided love triangle mess, all set inside the confines of a broadcast newsroom.


My biggest problem with "Broadcast News" was the characters. Jane wasn't a problem, as I thought Holly Hunter did great and I've actually known of a few girls like Jane, who are perfectionists and race around in frantic mode trying to meet deadlines and get things done. I thought Jane's daily cries were hilarious and provided a deeper insight into who Jane was, a character who could only take a minute out of her day to have for herself...and she chose to spend her minute crying. My character problems instead lied with the two main male leads, Let's take Aaron first. Was I supposed to sympathize with Aaron? We have this smart guy, who is nearly perfect at his job and is portrayed as an "I'm smarter than you" kinda' guy as a kid. He's funny yes, and for the most part he was the character that I wanted to get behind as the winner of Jane's heart. Then you have Tom, who is portrayed as kind of a dummy who gets thrust into the biggest news position that there is. Am I supposed to like a guy like that? I don't want to get behind the character who gets all of the things that he doesn't deserve. I guess they kind of lighten that up by having him admit the fact that he doesn't deserve it, but later he develops a bit of a cocky attitude, an "I'm better than you attitude" and yet he still seems to be the guy that the movie wants us to get behind.

Hell, maybe we're just supposed to like a little bit of everybody and get upset when things don't turn out perfectly for all of them, I don't know. Honestly, I was pretty much rooting for Aaron the whole time, as he was the funny guy who you kind of felt sorry for, despite the fact that he was a smart ass. Tom was just way too charming and snake-like for me to root for and like I said, I liked the character of Jane. The rest of the film was fine, really nothing good or bad, but leaning more toward the good side. The romance set inside a newsroom angle kind of worked for me, but not entirely and in the end I wasn't all that impressed. I did like the music, and on a side note, music has been something that I've really been picking up on in films lately, especially if it's really good or really bad.

RATING: 6/10 Nothing to really write home about here. The actors do a fine job, it's the characters who are hit and miss with me.


November 20, 2010 1:10pm

COMING SOON: Countdown to the TOP 20 Edition

With only seven movies to go before I hit 201 movies watched for the "1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die" book, I figured I'd pop in and put up a quick "Coming Soon" post and let you guys know the goings on and plans for the blog in the upcoming days.

First of all, I see no reason why I shouldn't be ready to make my TOP 20 list (Yes, Top 20...more on that in a minute) by Monday night. I had today off and am off tomorrow too and am also off on Monday, so that should give me ample time to watch seven movies. The seven movies will be:

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000 - Ang Lee)
2. Brokeback Mountain (2005 - Ang Lee)
3. Roger & Me (1989 - Michael Moore)
4. Broadcast News (1987 - James L. Brooks)
5. unknown
6. unknown
7. unknown

While those three movies are unknown, I can tell you that they'll more than likely come from movies that are currently streaming on Netflix. I'd like to squeeze in some older movies, as I've been mainly lingering in the 1980s and beyond recently, but we'll see what happens.

Before I get into the subject of the TOP 20 list, I want to quickly mention that I am no longer being adamant about updating my Facebook status, so for those of you who are friends of mine on there, enjoy the pictures, as that is probably all that I'll be using it for. For those of you who yearn for my rambling updates, feel free to follow me on Twitter @adduvall84, where I ALWAYS tweet when I watch a list movie or any movie for that matter. If you're still interested in joining me on Facebook, feel free to send out a friend request. You can find me with the e-mail address of: As mentioned above, I will only be using the Facebook page to chronicle pictures of actors, actresses and directors that I discover or rediscover from watching "1001" movies.

Now then...the TOP 20...

For those of you who are long time followers of me, you may remember my original plan of making lists. Let me refresh your memory and enlighten the people who may not know about my original plan.

The original plan was to make a TOP 20 list once I watched 101 movies from the book, which I did (and will repost prior to my new TOP 20). Following the first TOP 20, I intended to make a TOP 40 following my watching of 201 movies, a TOP 60 following my watching of 301 movies and subsequently adding 20 films to the TOP list for every 100 films. I got to thinking about that plan and realized that eventually might tend to forget those early films I watched and thus the newly watched films would dominate my memory and the TOP lists. The new plan is to continue to make a TOP list after every 100 films, but instead of adding 20 films every time, to keep it at just a TOP 20 and rate & rank only the previous 100 films that I've watched. Confused yet? Hope not. So basically, with the TOP 20 that is coming up, I'll only be ranking the 100 films I've watched since my original TOP 20. Got it? Good.

I'll make sure to post a list of the 100 films that I've watched since that original TOP 20, so that you guys can get a refresher on the films that I will be choosing from when making my TOP 20. What are the top candidates so far for the new TOP 20? Glad you asked...Here is a list of films that leap out at me as top candidates for the upcoming TOP 20. This was a quickly made list and I didn't obsess over this too much. Trust me though, I will obsess over the TOP 20 list, so that I can make sure to bring you an accurate list of my TOP 20 favorite movies from #102 - #201. Here's the list...

The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938), Olympia (1938), Stella Dallas (1937), Bringing Up Baby (1938), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939), Le jour se leve (1939), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), The Grapes of Wrath (1940), Citizen Kane (1940), Kramer vs. Kramer (1979), The Pianist (2002), The Heiress (1949), My Left Foot (1989), Brief Encounter (1946), Dangerous Liaisons (1988), Glengarry Glen Ross (1992), 8 1/2 (1963), Juliet of the Spirits (1965), Raising Arizona (1987), Shadow of a Doubt (1943), The Big Chill (1983), Strangers on a Train (1951), Rear Window (1954), Edward Scissorhands (1990), The Man Who Knew Too Much (1956), The Wrong Man (1956), Being There (1979), The Piano (1993), Halloween (1978), Toy Story (1995), White Heat (1949), The Birds (1963), Frenzy (1972), Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004), The Wedding Banquet (1993), Sideways (2004), The Ice Storm (1997)

There are still seven movies to go though, so lets not get ahead of ourselves.

November 19, 2010 10:46pm

918. The Ice Storm (1997)

Running Time: 114 minutes
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: James Schamus, from novel by Rick Moody
Main Cast: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Christina Ricci, Tobey Maguire


Ang Lee Week continues on with "The Ice Storm", a film that I saw once, several years ago and totally forgot that a portion of it was set during Thanksgiving, which is less than a week away. I didn't remember the film as being anything particularly special and once again my memory did me a great disservice.

The film is set in New Canaan, Connecticut, in the 1970s and follows two families throughout, primarily the Hood Family. The Hood Family is headed up by the father, Benjamin (Kline), a very dissatisfied father, both with his marriage and his career, who turns to suburban seductress Janey (Weaver) to have an affair with. Ben and his wife Elena (Allen) have given up on couples therapy, despite the fact that the roses have not returned to their relationship. While Elena suspects Ben of infidelity, she can never coax a confession out of him, despite her bad moods and short temper with him. The Hood's have two children, 14-year old Wendy and 16-year old Paul. Wendy is a curious young teenager who is interested in sex and Watergate, possibly trying to act more adult and Paul is the most level-headed character of the film, lusting after schoolmate Libbets Casey (Katie Holmes) and reading Fantastic Four comics. The other central family in "The Ice Storm" is the Carver Family, headed up by father Jim (Jamey Sheridan), his wife Janey Carver (Weaver) and their two sons, Mikey (Elijah Wood) and Sandy (Adam Hann-Byrd). As the two families tail-spin out of control and deeper and deeper into loneliness and infidelity, it all comes to a head on the night of the big ice storm.

The film is a depressing one, unlike my previous "1001" Lee experience, "The Wedding Banquet", which ended with the theme of happiness. This film goes for the depressing effect and the pale color of the film, with the backdrop of a winter ice storm, hammers home that mood. An amazing cast was assembled to bring author Rick Moody's tale to life, with great performances from Kevin Kline, Joan Allen and Christina Ricci. No one on the cast does a bad job and all the actors play a vital, yet sometimes small, role in the story. The music is phenomenal too and I am realizing the greatness that is Mychael Danna, the film's composer.

While the entire mood of the movie is dark and dreary, it's still a mood that appeals to me, as I'm always interested in the downfall of humans. This film is about that downfall and while I haven't yet figured out the relevance of the actual ice storm, I'm sure it somehow correlates to the behavior of the characters. There are some key scenes here that I feel compelled to mention, which include a scene where Ben catches Wendy experimenting sexually with Mikey Carver. When they walk home, he tells her that he's really not that mad and that he just wants her to make the right choices. He asks her if her toes are cold and when she nods in agreement to his question, he offers to carry her the rest of the way home. A very sweet scene, that felt a bit rushed and had me really feeling for these poor, pitiful characters. The ending is, of course, a great scene and I'll hesitate from ruining it for people who have yet to see it, but it is a very powerful ending. I don't know what else to say about "The Ice Storm". It's a really good film, that uses mood, atmosphere and interesting, yet sometimes unlikable characters, to give it that greatness and make it a definite for the "1001" book.

RATING: 8/10 Ang Lee is two films in, with two films remaining and with a '10' and an '8' rating, he's off to a great start. Next up: "Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon".


November 19, 2010 9:55pm

Friday, November 19, 2010

981. Sideways (2004)

Running Time: 116 minutes
Directed By: Alexander Payne
Written By: Alexander Payne, Jim Taylor, from the novel Sideways by Rex Pickett
Main Cast: Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Virginia Madsen, Sandra Oh


With only nine movies to go before another "Top 20" was in order, I decided to throw a little monkey wrench into the list and watch an old favorite of mine, "Sideways". I thought it'd be interesting to see how an old favorite fit in with all of the new discoveries and where it placed on the list.

Miles (Giamatti) is an 8th grade English teacher and failed writer living in San Diego. His best friend and old college roommate is Jack (Haden Church), who is going to be married in one weeks time. As a wedding present Miles is taking Jack on a trip into Northern California and through wine country, a place that Miles knows a thing or two about, being an amateur wine connoisseur. The film is broken up by a series of title cards showing us the days of the week, as we take the trip with Miles and Jack. On the first night of the trip, Miles and Jack dine at The Hitching Post and Jack eyeballs a pretty waitress named Maya (Madsen), whom Miles already knows from previous visits. Jack promises to get Miles into the sack with a woman before the week is over and is determined to cheat on his fiance, as a way of cutting loose on one last wild weekend before the big marriage. Jack eventually meets Stephanie (Oh) and the two hit it off, as Jack tries desperately to help Miles advance things with Maya. Miles, only wanting to play it cool for the weekend with some golf and some wine tasting, gives off an almost jealous vibe as the women invade his time with his buddy Jack. But soon Miles warms up to the idea of having Maya around and the depressed, mid-life crisis ridden Miles begins to show signs of life.


No wonder this is a personal favorite of mine, it is such a great film and right up my alley. I love life movies where we just get to follow some real life characters around and watch how they interact in their personal and public relationships. The character of Miles will always be a favorite film character of mine, as I'm so fascinated with the guy and really want the best for him. Paul Giamatti does an excellent job of turning Miles into a real life man, with real emotions, desires and flaws. The rest of the main cast is really great too, even Thomas Haden Church, who turned "Sideways" into a breakout performance for himself. Madsen and Oh are great too, but especially Madsen who delivers her dialogue with such passion that she almost puts me to tears.

In fact there is one scene in particular that always brings me extremely close to crying and I'm always surprised by it myself. The scene is with Miles and Maya, as they chit chat on the back porch. Maya asks Miles why he is so into Pinot and he responds:

Uh, I don't know, I don't know. Um, it's a hard grape to grow, as you know. Right? It's uh, it's thin-skinned, temperamental, ripens early. It's, you know, it's not a survivor like Cabernet, which can just grow anywhere and uh, thrive even when it's neglected. No, Pinot needs constant care and attention. You know? And in fact it can only grow in these really specific, little, tucked away corners of the world. And, and only the most patient and nurturing of growers can do it, really. Only somebody who really takes the time to understand Pinot's potential can then coax it into its fullest expression. Then, I mean, oh its flavors, they're just the most haunting and brilliant and thrilling and subtle and... ancient on the planet.

Perhaps this description of Miles love for Pinot wine is a description on how he wishes his life was. Perhaps he's eluding to the fact that he wishes he could find a "grower" (lover) who had the patience and nurturing to put up with him and still love him. Perhaps he's trying to tell Maya that he's not an easy man to put up with, but, in his opinion, the payoff could be big. Miles then asks Maya why she's so into wine and she responds:

How it's a living thing. I like to think about what was going on the year the grapes were growing; how the sun was shining; if it rained. I like to think about all the people who tended and picked the grapes. And if it's an old wine, how many of them must be dead by now. I like how wine continues to evolve, like if I opened a bottle of wine today it would taste different than if I'd opened it on any other day, because a bottle of wine is actually alive. And it's constantly evolving and gaining complexity. That is, until it peaks, like your '61. And then it begins its steady, inevitable decline.

This speech always gets to me. This is near perfect writing right here from Payne and Taylor. It's also perfect acting. If you watch Miles' face in this scene, as Maya tells him why she likes wine, it's the subtle expressions on his face and his barely there smile that help move the scene further. And if you watch his face, I believe it's one of the few scenes ever where the character becomes as real as possible and we can actually witness a movie character falling in love. His face says it all and combined with her words and the music, it's a perfect scene and while I don't cry when watching it, I come very close...every single time.

I guess I've spent the majority of this review focusing in on one scene, instead of the film as a whole. The character development is off the charts and it's that scene that really makes you smile along with Miles as he listens to Maya. Everything about this film is perfect...for me anyway. Maybe it's just one of those personal favorites that I can find great things in where others can't, although the film is quite heralded as being great. For me, everything clicks and there's no parts of it that I could do without. I love this movie and actually got excited when I put it into my DVD player today and saw the characters for the first time again. I got excited that I was going to get to spend yet another two hours re-living this wild trip through wine country with Miles and Jack. That's the sign of a great film: a movie that literally gets you excited when re-watching it.

RATING: 10/10 Did you really expect any other rating after all that gushing? It's going to make the "Top 20" even more difficult to make.


November 19, 2010 3:06pm

Thursday, November 18, 2010

864. Hsi yen/The Wedding Banquet (1993)

Running Time: 106 minutes
Directed By: Ang Lee
Written By: Ang Lee, Neil Peng, James Schamus
Main Cast: Winston Chao, Mitchell Lichtenstein, May Chin, Sihung Lung, Ah-Leh Gua


Popped in "The Wedding Banquet" tonight in an effort to get things rolling on "Ang Lee Week" and was pleasantly surprised by a very simple, yet very good film. Let's dive right in.

Our main character is Wai-Tung Gao (Chao), a gay man living in Manhattan with his physical therapist boyfriend Simon (Lichtenstein). Wai-Tung regularly corresponds with his "Ma" and "Pa" who still live in Taiwan and is constantly hounded (mostly from Ma) about settling down and getting married. You see, Wai-Tung has yet to tell his parents that he is a gay man and is shacking up with a white boyfriend and doesn't plan to. Wai-Tung owns an apartment building, where he tries to collect rent from one of his few tenants, Wei Wei (Chin). When Wei Wei is in need of a green card, Simon convinces Wai-Tung to marry her, so that they can get his parents off his back, help Wei Wei out and get a little tax break. Wai-Tung gives in, announces the news to his parents, who fly to the United States and moves Wei Wei into house, where she begins to study Wai-Tung's behavior for her immigration exam. When Wai-Tung and Wei Wei announce that they plan to marry at city hall, this upsets his parents, who hoped for a big wedding banquet. Wai-Tung, wanting to please his parents, especially his ill father, gives into the plans for a wedding banquet and the Gao family goes all out to celebrate the union of Wai-Tung and Wei Wei. When Wei Wei becomes pregnant on the night of the wedding banquet, complications occur and the pot is stirred up even more vigorously, adding to the madcap nature of this really fun comedy.


I wasn't looking forward, not not looking forward to my first Ang Lee film, "The Wedding Banquet", but that proves my theory: When one doesn't look forward to a movie, the possibilities are endless. I loved this movie! It was nice to get a little break from the serious, artsy films, some of which resemble doing homework and have a little fun with a very light hearted little comedy. I thought it was great how they threw in so many different little elements and just let everything play out. First off we have a gay couple living in New York, then you add in a woman/friend of theirs who needs a green card. Then you add in the fact that Wai-Tung's parents are traditionalists and want him to have a formal wedding and settle down with a nice girl. You throw those things together and that's really enough to get you through an entire film. But then you also get some bonus story lines, ie. the pregnancy of Wei Wei, the possible lust that Wai-Tung holds for Wei Wei and the ever growing combustible nature of the Wai-Tung/Simon relationship.

I also liked the ending, how no one really knew what was really going on, but happiness still prevailed and the aging parents of Wai-Tung got to experience one last journey in their long lives and get some joy out of it. I think the ultimate message of the film (or at least one of them) is that life has a way of throwing you a curve ball and while things may not work out the way you planned them, they'll always work out. I think the film also says that plans are never concrete and no matter how you plan for a situation, things can go astray. With a good script, good acting and a few brief images of great cinematography, it's easy to see that we're not just dealing with any other film maker and that Ang Lee was headed for great things.

RATING: 10/10 Maybe I'm being too generous or maybe the film just put me in a really good mood, but I'm going the distance on this one and leaving it at that. Next up: "The Ice Storm".


November 18, 2010 1:07am

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

982. Fahrenheit 9/11 (2004)

Running Time: 122 minutes
Directed By: Michael Moore
Written By: Michael Moore
Main Cast: Michael Moore, George W. Bush, Donald Rumsfeld, Osama bin Laden, Geroge H.W. Bush

NOTE: For those of you who missed the "Coming Soon" post this past Sunday, I apologize. I had Sunday off and planned to squeeze in more than one movie, but that afternoon I came down with a pretty wicked little bug, resembling the flu, and couldn't muster the strength to even get to the computer to put the "Coming Soon" post up. I'm feeling better now though and prepare for some Ang Lee films in the days to come.


I'm going to try to keep my personal opinions on this one to a minimum, because while I do realize that there isn't a mass of people reading this blog, I'd still like to avoid angering anyone who does read it. "Fahreneheit 9/11" was the 2004 film from the controversial filmmaker Michael Moore, where he had some very unkind things to say about the Bush administration.

The film starts out by giving some short detail on the 2000 election and the circus that erupted in Florida following that controversial election. George Walker Bush is eventually deemed the winner of the election and named the 43rd President of the United States. Moore suggests that the voting controversy in Florida was basically fraud and uses sarcasm to tear apart President Bush for the many months of vacation he took following his inauguration. We then get to September 11, 2001 and we all know what happened on that day, so don't allow me to remind you of the gory details. Moore focuses mainly on the aftermath of the attacks and examines the relationship between the Bush family and the bin Laden family. Moore alleges that 24 members of the bin Laden family were evacuated out of the United States just days following the attacks, when all other air traffic was stopped. Moore then discusses the Patriot Act and finds out that most members of Congress don't actually read the bills that they vote on, prompting Moore to rent an Ice Cream truck, drive through Washington D.C. and read it to them. Moore also talks with alleged victims of the Patriot Act. We then delve into the Iraq War as the film closes out and examine the life of the Iraqi people before and after the war. Moore suggests that because the war was based on a lie, atrocities will occur, prompting him to discuss possible abuse to Iraqi prisoners via U.S. soldiers. Moore also follows two Marine recruiters and talks with a fellow Flint, Michigan native, Lila Lipscomb, about her feelings on the war before and after the loss of her U.S. soldier son. The film concludes with George W. Bush stumbling to get a grip on the "Fool me once..." quote.

My political views are basically nonexistent, as I am not a registered voter, rarely watch the news and do not do any following of any politics. Do I agree with Michael Moore and his documentary? Well, I kind of hesitate to say whether I agree or disagree with him, but I will admit that he made a powerful documentary in "Fahrenheit 9/11". He proposes some interesting opinions and facts and you almost hope they're not true, because if they are, it's a scary thought. I don't think Michael Moore seems like the type of guy to make a documentary based on false facts and totally slander the Bush administration. Moore SEEMS like a guy who loves his country and wants the best for it and becomes angry when someone swerves it off the path of being as great as it can be. This is just the way things SEEM to me and assuming those thoughts are correct, then I guess I tend to agree with me an un-patriotic S.O.B., if you will, these are simply my opinions. Going back to the film itself, I think it's a well made documentary, that has a powerful message and I think EVERYONE, even the most conservative of Republican, will want to see this movie, either to hail it or point out its inaccuracies. Let's just leave it at that, shall we?

RATING: 8/10 Maybe we'll try to squeeze in "Roger & Me" before the end of the week, which is also in the "1001" book and on my DVD shelf.


November 16, 2010 8:56pm

Sunday, November 14, 2010

758. Der Himmel uber Berlin/Wings of Desire (1987)

Running Time: 127 minutes
Directed By: Wim Wenders
Written By: Peter Handke, Wim Wenders
Main Cast: Bruno Ganz, Solveig Dommartin, Otto Sander, Peter Falk, Curt Bois


"Wings of Desire" proves my theory: When you have high hopes for a movie and look forward to a film with great excitement, you're likely to be disappointed. I have wanted to see "Wings of Desire" for literally years, but have just never gotten around to it...until today. I didn't hate it, but I was certainly a bit disappointed in the end.

Damiel (Ganz) is an angel, hovering above the city of Berlin with his angel pals, notably Cassiel (Sander). The film's dialogue is so elegant and so innocent, as the movie asks the questions usually reserved for a child, like "Why am I me and not you?" and "Why am I here and not there?" The angels can't interject themselves into the lives of humans and can only lend a glimmer of hope when things look dark. Therefore they are forced to sit idly by, crying as people take their own lives and fatal accidents happen. Damiel falls in love with trapeze artist Marion (Dommartin), who herself, resembles an angel as she flies underneath the big top on her trapeze, dazzling the eyes of the watchers below. Especially the eyes of Damiel, who longs to hold her in his arms and feel the nape of her neck and her ears. Not only does he want to experience that, but also to experience the taste of an apple and a cup of coffee and experience what it feels like to be cold and rub your hands together vigorously to warm them. When Damiel encounters actor Peter Falk (playing himself), he is spotted...or sensed rather by Falk, who states: "I can't see you, but I know you're here." Falk continues to tell Damiel about the joys of human life and raise Damiel's desires to the point of no return.

This is probably one of (if not THE) most beautiful movies I have ever seen, in every sense of the word. The dialogue is even beautiful, as everyone seems to talk in poems and has deep thoughts about almost everything that they encounter. The cinematography is also quite breathtaking and if ever there was a movie to make you appreciate black and white photography, then this is the one. I recall a scene where we're peering at the skyline of Berlin, in glorious black & white. It was breathtaking. I noticed that the clouds looked so defined, as if they weren't even real clouds, but just smudges of black pencil markings...but they were real all right. It was then that the color snapped on and neon lights and natural color ruined the beauty of the shot. This is probably one of the most beautifully shot films I've seen, since Fellini week, back in September. The acting was fine too, and I especially enjoyed Peter Falk playing himself, a possible nod from Wenders, as he tells us that everything we're seeing is real, even the characters.

I mentioned above that the dialogue was like a poem and in fact, the entire movie was like one long poem put to action. That was one of the things I didn't like about "Wings of Desire", as it seemed way too poetic and deep. As we heard the characters thoughts, they almost all seemed to be thinking about very deep and meaningful things. It just didn't seem real. How often does one think so deeply and so poetic, as the characters in this film? There were so many scenes that dragged on and on, as the characters and their thoughts seemed to be talking what amounted to nothing at all, in what seemed like forever.

RATING: 5.5/10 Not a terrible rating, but not the rating that I've had pegged for it, for so long.


November 14, 2010 6:52pm

Sins of Omission - Entry #94: ZODIAC (2007)

Running Time: 157 minutes Directed By: David Fincher  Written By: James Vanderbilt, based on the book by Robert Graysmith Main Cast : Jake...