Saturday, August 29, 2015

237. The African Queen (1951)

Running Time: 105 minutes
Directed By: John Huston
Written By: James Agee, John Huston, from novel by C.S. Forester
Main Cast: Humphrey Bogart, Katharine Hepburn, Robert Morley, Peter Bull, Theodore Bikel
Click here to view the trailer


This marks my eleventh and last Humphrey Bogart movie from THE BOOK. If you've been paying attention from the beginning, you know that Humph' and I don't really mesh too well. I've been trying since watching Casablanca to find a favorite Bogey film, but when it comes to his movies, I always come up wanting more. Can his collaboration with Hepburn & Huston change my opinion? We'll see...

The plot of The African Queen is not too much unlike the plot of another BOOK movie I recently took in, Fitzcarraldo. While working as a missionary in Africa alongside her brother, Rev. Samuel Sayer (Morley), Rose Sayer (Hepburn) meets alcoholic boat captain of The African Queen, Charlie Allnut (Bogart). When Allnut brings news that war is breaking out in Europe and that the Germans are spreading as far south as their tiny African village, the Sayer's worry and Allnut makes plans to flee. Soon thereafter and as expected, German troops show up and run roughshod over the village where the sibling missionaries are staying. In a scuffle, Samuel gets cracked over the head with a rifle and later dies. Luckily, Allnut returns to check on the Sayer's, only to find out Samuel is dead and that he must take Rose with him. He assists in burying Samuel and the two shove off, in the ruddy, yet resilient African Queen. While reading a map, Rose gets the idea to escape down the Ulanga River, which eventually spills out into a larger lake downriver and freedom. Charlie, however, points out that navigating the Ulanga would be suicide, since not only would raging rapids stand in their way, but also notes that at the crest of the Ulanga River, a German gunboat named the Luise would intercept them, surely executing them for even contemplating escape. Rose rebuts with an idea to use gelatin and oxygen & hydrogen tanks aboard the African Queen to fashion torpedoes, which they'd then attach to the front of the boat and ram the Luise, blowing up both boats, but thus getting to safety. Allnut thinks her a loon for even suggesting it, but ultimately agrees to go along with the plan. Nearly the entire film takes place as the two navigate down the Ulanga, falling in love along the way.

I saw this once, many years ago and remembered liking it well enough to think that this may be the Bogey flick that finally gets my ultimate seal of approval. Sure, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre got a mild thumbs up, but still managed to fail in securing a TOP 20 spot. Well, unfortunately for Mt. Bogart, I didn't like the movie as much this go around. Sure, it was still a fine picture, a perfectly acceptable piece of filmmaking, but it sure didn't blow me away or anything. In a certain respect, the film reminded me of It Happened One Night. A guy and a girl who, at first, hate one another take a road trip (or in this case a boat trip) and ultimately fall in love. It, as I said above, also reminded me of Fitzcarraldo, in the boating aspect of it's story. I enjoyed those two pictures much more than this one. Just sayin'.

I will say though, that I liked Bogart in this more than I liked him in anything else. Here, he was just a regular guy, a tramp if you will. I never could get into the suave, debonair, cigarette smoking, greased back hair Bogey. It always seemed to cliche for me to actually buy into. I'd always seen cooler personas in film and was more of a Robert Mitchum kinda guy. For a while, it seemed like Bogey was typecast as the cool customer and here, he was anything but cool - kicking like a child overcome with a tantrum at his engine, making faces at hippos and becoming disgustingly drunk by a bottle of gin, followed by being one upped by a missionary, as she poured out all of his booze. I loved the back and forth between him and Hepburn ("Mr. Allnut?", "Yes, Miss?"). The two seemed to have a fine chemistry that, to my knowledge, they only shared in one other picture. I guess, I should take a moment to speak on John Huston as well, since this is my last of his movies too. This would be ninth Huston picture and probably the third or fourth best, behind such gems as The Asphalt Jungle, Prizzi's Honor and Fat City - all TOP 20 selections. I certainly would be more gung ho to check out the rest of Huston's filmography, as opposed to Bogart's. Call this an average picture for Huston & Hepburb and a winning picture for Bogart.

1. Angels with Dirty Faces
2. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
3. The African Queen
4. The Maltese Falcon
5. To Have and Have Not
6. The Big Sleep
7. In a Lonely Place
8. The Barefoot Contessa
9. Casablanca
10. High Sierra
11. Beat the Devil

1. The Asphalt Jungle
2. Fat City
3. Prizzi's Honor
4. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
5. The African Queen
6. The Maltese Falcon
7. The Dead
8. Beat the Devil
9. The Battle of San Pietro

RATING: 6.5/10  Not bad at all and certainly worth a look. Bogey has done a lot worse, as you can see. By the way, I drew up those lists based on pure memory alone and by NOT looking back at my reviews at all.


August 29, 2015  10:48pm

292. ORDET (1955)

Running Time: 126 minutes
Directed By: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Written By: Kaj Munk, from his play
Main Cast: Henrik Malberg, Emil Hass Christensen, Birgitte Federspiel, Preben Lerdorff Rye, Cay Kristiansen
Click here to view the trailer


I promise I'll eventually get to Man of Iron and finish of the little Wajda tribute, but for now I'm just fitting in what I can so that I can hit my August goal while I still have time. I still need to squeeze in three more movies between tonight, tomorrow & Monday and we'll be good to go.

Ordet (meaning "The Word") was originally a play, penned by Kay Munk. It begins by introducing us to a family: The Borgen's, who happen to reside on and own Borgen Farm. The patriarch is Morten Borgen (Malberg) and he has three sons, all of whom still live on Borgen Farm. There's the eldest, Mikkel (Christensen), the youngest, Anders (Kristiansen) and the middle child, Johannes (Rye). Johannes also happens to be insane, something that happened to him while studying theology. Now Johannes thinks that he is Jesus Christ and often wanders off. Meanwhile, there is also Inger Borgen (Federspiel), Mikkel's wife - together the two have two little girls and are expecting a third baby. The family is close knit and the family believes in God, although the film brings their brand of faith into question. A subplot revolves around Anders' interest in a neighbor girl, Anne Petersen, to which Anne's parents swiftly object to her involvement with the boy. The Petersen's believe that their faith is superior to the faith of the Borgen's and thus, don't want Anne fraternizing with Anders. On the night that Morten goes to talk to Mr. Petersen about the possibility of becoming in-laws, Inger goes into labor and there are dreaded complications.


Let me start by saying that I actually really liked this, despite not usually liking to mix religion and film. Let me follow by saying that I don't know how to go about writing this review, as I just don't usually like to get too into discussing religion, for fear of alienating or offending people. I believe in God, it's well documented on this blog, but my belief system, I think, is a little different. I don't go to church, I cuss like a sailor and I'm not above telling a fib or two. I don't really consider myself a Christian, per se. Whenever anyone asks me, I just say "I'm a believer" and leave it at that. For me, that's enough. So pardon me while I try to skirt around this subject with kid gloves.

So what is faith? I've always been partial to that passage in the Bible that says "Faith can move mountains. You can say to a mountain to crumble into the river and if you truly believe it will happen, it will". I'm paraphrasing, but I've thought a lot about that particular passage over the years. Is anyone really capable of doing this? I can go outside right now and tell a nearby mountain to crumble, but in the back of my mind (and probably the front too) I'd have serious doubts of it actually happening. If my wife is running three hours late for dinner and she's never late and when she is, she texts to say she's going to be late - well, I can start praying, but I'm still going to worry myself sick until she walks in the front door. A man with strong faith, would say his prayer and then forget about his wife being in danger, because he'd then KNOW that she was fine, that his faith in God would bring his wife home that night. Very few, if any, people in the world have that sort of faith. This is why Jesus Christ was such a marvel - he wasn't a magician. He turned water into wine and walked on water because he truly believed he could and had no doubts about God's power to assist him in doing these things.

Ordet brings the so called faith of the Borgen clan into question. Those in life who claim to have faith in God rarely do. I could travel into the bible belt of the U.S. and find the most devout, church going Christian there is and I bet they too wouldn't have the type of faith that would raise the dead. That's what Ordet is about. Morten Borgen claims to be a man of higher faith, as does Peter Petersen - who actually thinks he's even more superior to Borgen - yet, when Inger dies, they never give raising her from the dead a thought, it would be preposterous to them to even propose this. It's quite a fascinating little film, that makes you think, perhaps, about your own faith, your own beliefs. The film is not anti-Christian, it simply brings the beliefs and holier than thou attitudes of Christians into question and puts it under a microscope.

RATING: 7.5/10  I could probably write a book about my thoughts on Ordet, it's characters, it's themes, it's messages, etc. but I already feel like I'm mumbling and I think I've hit my key points.


August 29, 2015  5:04pm

Friday, August 28, 2015

503. The Wild Bunch (1969)

Running Time: 145 minutes
Directed By: Sam Peckinpah
Written By: Walon Green, Roy N. Sickner, Sam Peckinpah
Main Cast: William Holden, Ernest Borgnine, Robert Ryan, Edmond O'Brien, Warren Oates
Click here to view the trailer


Recorded The Wild Bunch off of TCM the other night (have I mentioned how much I love Turner Classic Movies?), as I figured it would be one less to have to rely on Netflix for. As it stands right now, I only need twenty-six more discs from them and then my dependency on them becomes nil. Anyway, The Wild Bunch...*meh* on...

The film begins with a gang of outlaws, strolling into town, dressed in full military regalia. It turns out that "the wild bunch" stole the military clothes and are using them in their attempt to rob a railroad office. What they don't know is that a posse of bounty hunters have traced their trail and have basically followed them into town, setting up their battalion on the roof of a nearby building. When the heist is seemingly successfully pulled off, the bunch head out, only to be caught off guard by Deke Thornton (Ryan), who is leading the bounty hunters. He's taking a particular interest in firing off rounds at the leader of the bunch, Pike Bishop (Holden), a former friend, turned sworn enemy. The bunch eventually get out of their jam, head for safer ground, however, when they dig into their sacks of loot, they find bags full of washers, instead of the intended gold. Pike's group - along with his right hand man Dutch (Borgnine) and the Gorch Brothers, Lyle (Oates) and Tector - head for the Mexican border. The men get into a scuffle with Mapache, the general of the local military and to keep the peace, offer to work for him. They are given the assignment to steal sixteen cases of rifles from a train shipment and return them to Mapache - Pike & company agree. I'll close the plot synopsis by reminding you that no movie featuring a train heist can be all bad and that goes for The Wild Bunch too, although beware, it's not all good either.


Mark another tick in the "massive disappointments" column, as The Wild Bunch wasn't even half as good as I was expecting. For six years now I've been flipping back and forth, reading passages from THE BOOK every time I watched one of the movies and for six years I've seen a firmly planted Ernest Borgnine, a mean look on his face, wielding a bull whip above his head, ready to strike. There were no bull whips in The Wild Bunch and upon closer inspection, it was never a bull whip at all. Anyway, for six years I've passed over this picture, trying to save The Wild Bunch for a rainy day, sure it would be the cat's meow. Well, this cat's got the croup because she sure ain't meowing. Oh I suppose it wasn't TERRIBLE or anything. Like I said, a train heist automatically gets it a few brownie points and what a train heist it was. It lasts probably twenty something minutes and after an hour and ten of a dragging western, it was a breath of fresh air in a porta-john. I wonder though - when the boys got the loot off the train, why did they then set the train on a backwards course? Wouldn't have made more sense to ride off and let the train keep rolling down the tracks, making Deke and company think that they were still getting away. When they set the train backwards, all that happened was Deke and his men simply rode off the track and now they knew that Pike had de-trained. I felt like there were some missed opportunities in this scene for some further suspense, now that I think about it. Why not make it a track that can't be easily just ridden off of, forcing Deke and his men to come up with something crafty to avoid being run over by a train? Why not leave the wagon wheel stuck in the broken bridge for just a little longer - send us into nail bitingly close territory. Great scene, but not perfect.

Of course, the other great scene of the movie, the one that will help get the film any points that it earns, would be the finale, when Pike & crew walk back into town, side by side, clearly ready to kick some heavy duty booty. I found it pretty perfect that Pike was murdered by a kid. It showed the chaos of the whole film and how literally ANYONE could just pick up a gun and start creating victims. Also, it drew back to the earlier scene - that some kids will grow up to become evil men - don't forget the kids burning the ants & scorpion. All in all, I'd chalk this one down as a disappointment, but let's just say that I could see arguments for it's greatness, so I'll let it slide in that respect. I wasn't particularly a fan, but I am a fan of so few westerns. I knew The Wild Bunch was never going to be my favorite western (an honor bestowed upon Once Upon a Time in the West - probably forever) but I was hoping it could crack the Top 5. Perhaps one of the upcoming Anthony Mann flicks or maybe even The Searchers can do it; three westerns that are still on deck.

RATING: 4.5/10  I feel like a '5' would be discounting the boredom I felt throughout the picture and that a '4.5' better conveys the ratio of good to bad.


August 28, 2015  10:45pm

Thursday, August 27, 2015

625. Killer of Sheep (1977)

Running Time: 83 minutes
Directed By: Charles Burnett
Written By: Charles Burnett
Main Cast: Henry G. Sanders, Kaycee Moore, Charles Bracy, Angela Burnett, Eugene Cherry
Click here to view the trailer


On Tuesday, I was feeling lucky. Having watched both Chaplin's The Circus and Baumbach's Fraces Ha and rating both highly, I decided to try for a lucky third and thus, popped in Killer of Sheep. Little did I know that my luck had run out by that time and that I was overdue for a stinker. Read on...

The film isn't even worth writing a plot synopsis, as there really isn't a particular plot, per se. It's simply a film that sort of examines the life of a hard working, yet poor African American man and his family and puts the ghetto's of America under a microscope, so that we may peer in and have a taste. Actually, if you want an A+ review of Killer of Sheep, buy THE BOOK and read the film's passage, written by Ernest Hardy - who very much over gushes about the movie - someone who has obviously been moved by the picture. In a way, you want him to tone it down a notch, because it's just piling on after a certain point, but then on the other hand, you realize that you're reading something written by a man who this film truly means something to and it's like me writing about Tarantino or Woody Allen and thus, I excused the gushing.

I, myself, found literally no reasons to gush and many reasons to whine, yet again, about why this is taking up space in THE BOOK, a BOOK where only 1001 spots are available. In my opinion, I found the film to be quite pointless and actually, Ernest Hardy's review even points out that Burnett was being banal on purpose and that the film "takes your breath away by not trying to take your breath away". I can't decide if that's the most ridiculous quote I've read from THE BOOK or perhaps, the most perfect. Personally, my breath wasn't taken away once during the eighty minute running time. What did happen, was that I was bored out of my skull and even at eighty minutes, I was being a major clock watcher. Was Burnett trying to say anything? Or was he simply giving us a visual aid, food for thought? I don't know really and honestly, I wasn't even intrigued enough to care what Burnett's purpose was. I've earned my tick, lets move on.

RATING: 2/10  I don't really know why a '2', as opposed to a '1' or a '3' - just feels like a '2', I guess. I'm still planning to watch five more movies between now and the end of August, so expect rapid fire reviews.


August 27, 2015  4:43pm

Saturday, August 22, 2015

694. EL NORTE (1983)

Running Time: 139 minutes
Directed By: Gregory Nava
Written By: Gregory Nava, Anna Thomas
Main Cast: Zaide Silvia Gutierrez, David Villalpando, Ernesto Gomez Cruz, Lupe Ontiveros, Trinidad Silva
Click here to view the trailer


I went to write my El Norte review tonight and I noticed that the scroll pad seems to have crapped out on me. You'd think I'd be pissed, but actually, that's a good thing! When I used to write reviews away from my computer, using the laptop keyboard, my wrist would always graze across the scroll pad and I'd end up highlighting and deleting everything. I never could figure out how to disable the scroll pad, so it was always up to me to drag myself to my desk to write reviews. Anyway, now I'm in bed, comfortable and ready to present my thoughts on El Norte. Shall we?

The film is split into three, distinct sections, the first section titled "Arturo Xuncax" and set in Guatemala. While attempting to form a labor union among his fellow bean pickers, Arturo Xuncax (Cruz) is murdered when the meeting is raided by government troops. Following his funeral, where his wife and two children - Rosa (Gutierrez) and Enrique (Villalpando) - mourn for their beloved patriarch, Arturo's wife is kidnapped by the same, ruthless Guatemalan government. It is then that Rosa and Enrique decide that if they want to survive, they must head north to the United States (hence the title, spanish for The North). Rosa goes to her godmother, who gives her enough money to make it to America and Enrique arranges for a "coyote" (a guide who will take the siblings into the states) to meet up with the siblings in Tijuana. Part Two is entitled "Coyote" and takes place in Mexico, primarily in Tijuana, as the siblings hitch a ride with a truck driver and eventually land in the impoverished city. At first, they find out that the coyote Enrique's friend arranged has moved and are then conned by a man who at first seems friendly, but then tries to rob them. They manage to find the coyote they'd been looking for and though he's out of the business of transporting immigrants, decides to take them to the border anyway. The final section is called "The North" and takes place in the U.S., as the siblings do their best to make ends meet, with Enrique taking a job at a fancy restaurant and Rosa beginning work cleaning houses. I won't say anything for risk of spoiling anything, but lets just say that the ending is pretty intense and pretty perfect, to boot.


I've got to say, I didn't expect much from this. For one, I'd never heard of it going in and after reading the Netflix sleeve, it didn't particularly sound like something I'd be into anyway. However, mark this down as one of the biggest surprises and best treats to come out of THE BOOK in a while. Normally it's THE BOOK delivering disappointments, as opposed to pleasant surprises, so it was a nice breath of fresh air to sit down on a Saturday morning/afternoon and take in El Norte. Sure, recent favorites of mine like Fitzcarraldo and Scarface were better, but this proved to be a strong candidate heading into the next TOP 20 list and yet another movie to thank THE BOOK for making me watch, that I probably wouldn't have given a second look at otherwise.

I really don't know what to say, in terms of the actual film, as far as praise goes. I liked it and that's pretty much that. I will say though, that ending....oh, that ending! The whole thing with Rosa getting sick and Enrique prepared to take a job in Chicago so that he could get his green card. It literally could've went down a dozen different ways and I think they'd all have been perfectly acceptable. And then it's revealed that Rosa's sickness was caused by the rats in the sewer drain, drawing back to that earlier, terrifying scene. According to Ebert's review, the actress that played Rosa was actually afraid of rats and the rats used were real, clearly. It makes the scene that much more frightening, knowing that this person's fear is very real. It's particularly terrifying to me, considering I have a bit of a phobia toward enclosed spaces AND rats - yuck!

Anyway, going back to that ending, what a heartbreaker, right? Enrique realizing that conditions are bad everywhere, that luck doesn't exist and that even though he was poor in Guatemala, moving to the U.S. didn't make him any richer. In the end, the journey cost him all he had left - the love of his sister. Really, a great movie that I urge you to check out soon, whether you're a BOOK hound or not. I think most will be pleasantly surprised by the abilities and talents of all the unknowns, including the director and the stars. They were unknown to me anyway.

RATING: 7.5/10  Sorry for the shoddy review, but I'm kind of half watching something and half writing, so I was a little distracted. They can't all be winners, son.


August 22, 2015  10:51pm

Friday, August 21, 2015

623. Czlowiek z marmuru/Man of Marble (1977)

Running Time: 165 minutes
Directed By: Andrzej Wajda
Written By: Aleksander Scibor-Rylski
Main Cast: Jerzy Radziwilowicz, Krystyna Janda, Tadeusz Lomnicki, Jacek Lomnicki, Michal Tarkowski
Click here to view the trailer

Note: Someone asked me the other day what I planned to end with and asked if I was "just going to let it happen", to which I replied, "yeah, pretty much". Anyway, it got me to thinking - perhaps I'll end with the Monty Python movies? I figure with what I have left it's just a good a pair of movies to end with as any and instead of ending on a serious note, I'd be ending on the most unserious note possible. Nothing's set in stone, but as of now, this is what I'm thinking of ending with.

However, as far as upcoming movies go - according to my count there are currently ten movies left that are over two hours. So here's the plan: I'll review those ten movies, then do Cassavetes Week and then start picking off whatever's left until we get to the end. Now then...


Technically, I should've done these other two Wajda flicks back when I did Ashes and Diamonds and did a Wajda Hat Trick, but apparently I wasn't thinking about it at the time and now it's too late. However, Man of Marble and Man of Iron go together, so this also works. Also, a Wajda Hat Trick could've been really difficult to get through, judging on my opinions of Ashes and Diamonds and now, of this.

If you want the plot of Man of Marble, think Citizen Kane and we'll go from there. Krystyna Janda (looking great here) plays young filmmaker Agnieszka, who wants to make a movie on the life of Mateusz Birkut (Radziwilowicz), a bricklayer turned anti-communist. The whole thing is set up, sort of, like half documentary, half fictitious film. We get faked newsreel footage, showing us Birkut setting the world, team bricklaying record and even bits & pieces of earlier "films" that were made about the life of Birkut. However, Agnieszka wants to dig deeper, so she begins interviewing people who were close to him, trying to find out answers to her queries. She first interviews the man who directed the earlier films on Birkut's life and is then bounced around from person to person, getting more and more information each time. Even the most rudimentary film watcher will be able to spot the similarities to Kane, as we meet someone and then get a piece of the history, where we see them as a younger person. All signs point to Birkut either being in deep hiding or dead. By film's end, Agnieszka is just as gung ho to find Birkut's only son, Maciej. She finally finds him at film's end, which I guess leads into Man of Iron.

I mean, I guess it was okay. I know I'll sound like a broken record, but I try to treat every review as if someone is reading it for the first time and doesn't know my personal taste profile or preferred viewing habits. Let's just say it kept me interested enough, even though it was about pieces of history that I'm entirely oblivious to. Communits, anti-communist, Polish workers movement, etc. - when words and phrases like that play such a pivotal role in the plot synopsis of a given title, you can pretty much bet I'm not going to like it. However, I will give kudos to Wajda for AT LEAST trying to make it interesting and even giving film fans something to cheer about by tying in heavy references to Citizen Kane (not that I'm the biggest Kane fan either). The movie is two and a half hours and to be honest, at no point did my attention span wane or did I get overly bored. I won't say I didn't get bored at all, just that I didn't get OVERLY bored. For the most part, I liked the technique that was used, treating Birkut as if he were a 100% real character, to the point that when the movie ended, I actually cared enough to look to see if he was real or fictional. He's fictional for the curious, but I'd be willing to bet he's heavily based on someone real. The film is significant for me though, for introducing me to Krystyna Janda, who was really great here and probably 95% of the reason my attention never wanted to wander elsewhere. She was pretty and a terrific actress to boot. I promptly added a movie called Interrogation to my watch list and in a very small way, look forward to Man of Iron. Otherwise, not much to get excited about here.

RATING: 4/10  I feel like Man of Iron and the two films of Ritwik Ghatak are going to be big hurdles to get over and then it'll be smooth sailing for a little while. I'll happily be proved wrong, however.


August 21, 2015  5:15pm

Wednesday, August 19, 2015

561. American Graffiti (1973)

Running Time: 110 minutes
Directed By: George Lucas
Written By: George Lucas, Gloria Katz, Willard Huyck
Main Cast: Richard Dreyfuss, Ron Howard, Paul Le Mat, Charles Martin Smith, Cindy Williams
Click here to view the trailer


I've gotten off track a little bit, as it pertains to finishing this whole thing up by Halloween. I'm not saying it won't be done, but the short term goal was to only have forty movies left at the end of August and I'd have to watch eight more in ten 12 days to make that happen. Not impossible, but a challenge for sure.

I had NEVER seen American Graffiti prior to last night. I know I'm supposed to be knocking out the long ones, but I convinced my wife to take in a movie with me and nothing that was long interested her, so we went with this. As the opening credits rolled, I had my phone in my hand, looking to see if Happy Days was a spin off of this movie - the appearance of Ron Howard and the drive-in known as Mel's got me to thinking it might be. I then realized that "Mel's Diner" was actually from Alice, not Happy Days. Anyway, if you're looking for the plot of American Graffiti, think Dazed and Confused, just set a decade earlier. The whole film is like one, really long music video, as there is 60s era music blasting throughout, almost the entire movie. The whole thing takes place the night before two recent high school graduates are about to depart for college. Curt Henderson (Dreyfuss) isn't sure if he even wants to go to college. He thinks that sticking around his native, California home and perhaps, getting a job, would be his best bet. On the other hand, Steve Bolander (Howard), is more than gung ho to head east and even discusses with his girlfriend, Laurie (Williams), the possibility of dating other people while they're separated. You've also got their other two pals, John Milner (Le Mat), a bad boy, racer and Terry "the Toad" (Smith), your classic nerd. The film takes place from dusk till dawn and is your classic coming of age comedy.

It's not that I disliked the music of the era, it's just that I wished they'd have given me a break from it during the course of the movie. I suppose most will argue that the music is something that sets American Graffiti apart from other movies and really gives it the feel of 1962, but I personally didn't care for this tactic. As it pertains to everything else, I just don't think I ever really felt a connection with these characters. It's as if they were from a different world, a different country. I realize this is a slice of Americana, but it's not a slice that I'm familiar with and perhaps my dad could get nostalgic watching something like this, but I felt like a stranger in a strange land. The characters seemed perfectly well developed, it's just that I never really found myself caring what happened to them one way or another. Would Curt find his girl? *meh* Would Laurie and Steve end on a happy note? *meh* Would John get arrested for soliciting a minor? *meh* It was a perfectly fine movie and I could see where all the hype was coming from, it just wasn't entirely for me.

On the other hand, it does take place over the course of one night and I think it's well documented that I'm a sucker for that. And while I did feel a certain strangeness in this era, it did make me wish I was a little more active in my own high school life. I was definitely as anti-social as they come and when it came to school dances, football games, after school gatherings, etc., I was nowhere to be found. It made me realize that I missed out on a real right of passage, as far as being an American teen goes and that's staying out all night, hanging with your buds, listening to music, savoring your youth before going off to participate in the real world. Clearly this was a big influence on Richard Linklater and his film Dazed and Confused and I'd call it an equally good predecessor.

RATING: 6/10  Not terrible or anything, but I really thought I'd like it more. Perhaps on more viewings, because I certainly wouldn't object to trying this one again someday.


August 19, 2015  5:05pm

Tuesday, August 18, 2015

688. FITZCARRALDO (1982)

Running Time: 158 minutes
Directed By: Werner Herzog
Written By: Werner Herzog
Main Cast: Klaus Kinski, Claudia Cardinale, Jose Lewgoy, Miguel Angel Fuentes, Paul Hittscher
Click here to view the trailer


Thank you to the few people who took the time to comment on the FINAL 50 post. Glad to see there's some interest in my finishing this project. There's definitely some interesting stuff still left to get through and I actually have high hopes for a lot of them. Let's start ticking them off, shall we?

This would be the big finale in Herzog Week - a week that started out rough for me with Aguirre: The Wrath of God and ended up being not bad with the fantastic Stroszek and the pretty good Nosferatu. In Fitzcarraldo, Klaus Kinski returns to work for Werner Herzog as Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald a.k.a. Fitzcarraldo. Fitz' lives in a small Peruvian town called Iquitos and has big dreams of building an opera house there and inviting famous opera singer Enrico Caruso to sing on opening night. However, this dream requires money and lots of it. Fitz' tries his hand at the railroad industry but fails. His second attempt is in the ice industry, which also fails. Finally, Fitzcarraldo becomes interested in the rubber business and has a conversation with local rubber baron, Don Aquilino (Lewgoy) he discovers that there is an unclaimed piece of land along the Ucayali River that is home to thousands of rubber trees. The only problem is that Fitz' lives on the Amazon river and to navigate down the Ucayali from the Amazon is impossible, due to raging rapids. However, Fitzcarraldo notices a third river, which also pours out of the Amazon, called the Pachitea River and that, at one point, the Pachitea and the Ucayali almost touch. Therefore, Fitz' gets an idea (which we don't entirely find out right away), buys a boat, with help from his prostitute girlfriend, Molly (Cardinale) and sets sail down the Pachitea. However, he is warned beforehand that Indians live along the Pachitea and are quite hostile to outsiders.


Man, Werner Herzog must have LOVED watching Klaus Kinski perform to hire him back after all the trouble he had with him. I won't go into retelling all the stories, but do a search on Aguirre: The Wrath of God or even Fitzcarraldo, and you're sure to see highlights of the knock down, drag outs the two had on set. Not only did he hire Kinski for the three collaborations that I've reviewed, but also two more movies, which I feel compelled to watch now, just so I can see how they turned out. I'd be hard pressed not to call Kinski one of my favorite actors throughout THE BOOK. I mean, he was really outstanding here, completely transformed himself in Nosferatu and was good enough, I guess, as Aguirre. Perhaps the reason he got into so many fights is because he clearly took his work seriously and was a passionate man, on and off screen. Again, the fact that Herzog hired him five times, after all the trouble they had on the set of Aguirre shows how great he really was (Herzog actually had to pull a gun on Kinski on the Aguirre set!).

RANDOM THOUGHT: How come when I type the word HERZOG, my fingers very badly want to type the word HERZONG?

What a movie! This is one of those films that brings to mind the word grandeur and when I watched it, I couldn't help but think, "this is what movies are supposed to be" - adventurous, exciting, heartbreaking, inspiring, beautiful and creative. The phrase "epitome of a great movie" kept flashing in my head, as I sat awe struck, watching character Fitzcarraldo pull that boat over a mountain. But it was more than just the whole boat scene. It was the big dreams of a small man, the dangerous trek down the Pachitea, the wild Indians, the raging river rapids - it was really the quintessential adventure picture and I was surprised at how much I liked it, since I'm usually a more minimalist sort of film lover. In fact, this week I was forced to change my whole taste profile, as I watched My Dinner with Andre and didn't like it and then the next day watched something that I'd normally dislike (Fitzcarraldo) and loved it. It just goes to show that no film lover should confine themselves to one genre - be a versatile viewer, watch everything you can get your hands on and be open minded when it comes to movies from genres you wouldn't normally go for, as well as time periods and countries you wouldn't normally go for. If there's one thing I can thank the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book for, it's for keeping me open when it comes to what I love and what I detest. I think by now I can consider myself a world traveled film watcher - having watched movies from 1902 - 2015, from all around the world, from all sorts of different directors and from all sorts of different genres. I've liked a little bit of everything and I'm proud of that fact.

I don't really know what else to say about Fitzcarraldo. The phrase "what's not to like" comes to mind. It was an epic that I was able to tolerate for every last second and actually could have even taken another hour, had Herzog had the material. Normally, I'm against long movies, I've noticed. But this was an exception to the rule and one that I could've watched for hours and hours. How heartbreaking was that ending though? I mean, after all that struggle to get the boat over the mountain and then BY GOD, he actually does it!! - only to have the Indians untie the boat in the middle of the night, sending it drifting into the rapids. Hell, I was still sad even at the very end, when Fitzcarraldo hires an orchestra and opera troupe to come onto his steam ship and play a mini concert, while the boat sails down the river. Despite Kinski's big cheese eating grin (priceless), I still felt sorry for the character. He here is having to force a smile onto his face, even though you know deep down he's got to be gut wrenched at the thought of having to give up his dream. Not only will he lose the steam ship and the millions he thought he'd earn as a rubber baron, but more importantly, the dream of building an opera house is gone. However, maybe we can interpret that grin a different way? Perhaps that grin is so big, because as he's rolling down the river, aboard his steam ship, listening to his music, he's also scheming up his next, big, money making venture? Perhaps this time he's surely got it - a can't miss opportunity. I just can't see this character giving up. Despite his foolhardy ideas, you can't doubt the character's determination and passion. Yeah, I'm sure that's why he's smiling.

RATING: 8.5/10  I feel like my mind is telling me not to give out another '10' or even a '9' since I just went big on Scarface. With time and repeated viewings, Fitzcarraldo is favorite material.


August 18, 2015  11:12am

Saturday, August 15, 2015


We've gotten down to the nittiest of gritties here and I figured I'd throw you guys a quick post and let you know what's left, for those of you not playing along at home and who may have lost track of the 951 that I have watched and the fifty I haven't. So nothing special here, just a simple list of the fifty that remain. The plan is still to have EVERYTHING finished up by October 31st a.k.a. THE MARCH TO HALLOWEEN.

Like I've been saying for several weeks now, the plan is also to watch these movies in order from longest to shortest so that I'm not left with a big group of two plus hour movies when we get to the end. By my count, I only have fifteen movies left that are over two hours and then it should be all downhill, as the rest would all be below two hours.'s the list, in chronological order:

1. The African Queen (1951 - John Huston)
2. Umberto D. (1952 - Vittorio De Sica)
3. The Golden Coach (1953 - Jean Renoir)
4. Madame de... (1953 - Max Ophuls)
5. The Naked Spur (1953 - Anthony Mann)
6. Tales of Ugetsu (1953 - Kenji Mizoguchi)
7. Senso (1954 - Luchino Visconti)
8. Sansho the Bailiff (1954 - Kenji Mizoguchi)
9. Ordet (1955 - Carl Theodor Dreyer)
10. The Burmese Harp (1956 - Kon Ichikawa)
11. The Searchers (1956 - John Ford)
12. Throne of Blood (1957 - Akira Kurosawa)
13. Man of the West (1958 - Anthony Mann)
14. Shadows (1959 - John Cassavetes)
15. The Young One (1960 - Luis Bunuel)
16. The Cloud-Capped Star (1960 - Ritwik Ghatak)
17. Viridiana (1961 - Luis Bunuel)
18. An Actor's Revenge (1963 - Kon Ichikawa)
19. Before the Revolution (1964 - Bernardo Bertolucci)
20. Onibaba (1964 - Kaneto Shindo)
21. Subarnarekha (1965 - Ritwik Ghatak)
22. Viy (1967 - Ershov, Kropachyov)
23. Faces (1968 - John Cassavetes)
24. The Wild Bunch (1969 - Sam Peckinpah)
25. Tristana (1970 - Luis Bunuel)
26. The Spider's Stratagem (1970 - Bernardo Bertolucci)
27. Walkabout (1971 - Nicholas Roeg)
28. The Last Picture Show (1971 - Peter Bogdanovich)
29. Straw Dogs (1971 - Sam Peckinpah)
30. Super Fly (1972 - Gordon Parks Jr.)
31. American Graffiti (1973 - George Lucas)
32. Fantastic Planet (1973 - Rene Laloux)
33. Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973 - Sam Peckinpah)
34. Dersu Uzala (1974 - Akira Kurosawa)
35. A Woman Under the Influence (1974 - John Cassavetes)
36. Young Frankenstein (1974 - Mel Brooks)
37. Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975 - Gilliam, Jones)
38. Manila in the Claws of Brightness (1975 - Lino Brocka)
39. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976 - John Cassavetes)
40. The Last Wave (1977 - Peter Weir)
41. Last Chants for a Slow Dance (1977 - Jon Jost)
42. Man of Marble (1977 - Andrzej Wajda)
43. Killer of Sheep (1977 - Charles Burnett)
44. Five Deadly Venoms (1978 - Chah Chang)
45. Life of Brian (1979 - Terry Jones)
46. Man of Iron (1981 - Andrzej Wajda)
47. Yol (1982 - Goren, Guney)
48. Fitzcarraldo (1982 - Werner Herzog)
49. El Norte (1983 - Gregory Nava)
50. Peking Opera Blues (1986 - Hark Tsui)


The big event in this final fifty will be CASSAVETES WEEK, a man who's work I've NEVER seen and someone who's work I've always wanted to see, but just never got around to it. It also looks like a PECKINPAH HAT TRICK, a MIZOGUCHI HAT TRICK and a BUNUEL HAT TRICK could be in order, as well as DOUBLE SHOTS for the Monty Python gang and Anthony Mann. So even though we're down to the bare bones here, we still have some heavy hitters and quite a few with promise, as well as my final shot at a good BOGART film in The African Queen. We've also got two more from KUROSAWA and films from the likes of JOHN FORD, JEAN RENOIR, VITTORIO DE SICA, GEORGE LUCAS, BERNARDO BERTOLUCCI, MEL BROOKS and of course, one more from WERNER HERZOG. It's going to be an exciting couple of month as I take in some more classics and set my sights on the finish line. Join me, won't you?

472. Marketa Lazarova (1967)

Running Time: 162 minutes
Directed By: Frantisek Vlacil
Written By: Frantisek Pavlicek, Frantisek Vlacil, from novel by Vladislav Vancura
Main Cast: Magda Vasaryova, Josef Kemr, Nad'a Hejna, Zdenek Kryzanek, Jaroslav Moucka


Just fifty movies left. Let's not harp on it, shall we? We still have miles to go before we sleep...

No, Instead let's just jump right into this, so that I can get it wrapped up, so that I can get on with my life. Marketa Lazarova is one of those movies that if I'd watched it within the first fifty, instead of within ear shot of the final fifty, I'd have probably thrown in the towel and said "screw it". In checking this movie off the various sites I use (IMDB, icheck, etc.), I noticed a few comments that exclaimed that, while they loved it, a lot of people "just didn't get it". I will say, that the movie is confusing and if the people that actually liked it didn't understand what the hell was going on, then you know someone who didn't like it, didn't have a clue - that's where I come in.

Boy, this was just plain tough to get through. As Ray would say, this is definitely "one to get through", instead of one to enjoy. You know what though, I'll take the blame on this, because I had washed my hands of Marketa Lazarova within the first ten minutes and really just spent the next two and a half hours "earning my tick" (another Ray-ism).

So instead of writing a proper review, with a plot synopsis and detailed thoughts, let's just do this: I can't give you plot details, cause frankly, I haven't a clue what the hell I just got through watching. Because I was so confused as to the plot, I'd have a hard time going over in depth analysis and opinions, so let's just say it wasn't for me, I hated it, I was just earning my 951st notch, etc. - pick one. No, instead, let me TRY my best to tell you what I DID like. We'll call this a personal challenge.

*The cinematography was pretty brilliant. It's hard to make  the decision to give up on a movie, five minutes after a stunning opening, that featured a pack of wild dogs running across a flat, snow covered ground. Such a gorgeous shot and with that shot, I hoped I'd be in for a treat. I wasn't. It made me realize just how gorgeous black & white can be and it also made me realize I love snow covered settings, as they almost always turn out beautiful. There was definitely a skilled cinematographer on board here, it's just a shame the rest of the film wasn't on his level.

And really, I can't think of any other positives....I tried.

RATING: 1/10  Yeah, despite good cinematography, I just can't get this past the low point. So we go from a '10' to a '1' in one move. Is that a first in blog history?


August 15, 2015  5:09pm

Friday, August 14, 2015

708. SCARFACE (1983)

Running Time: 170 minutes
Directed By: Brian De Palma
Written By: Oliver Stone, from the novel Armitage Trail and 1932 screenplay Scarface by Howard Hawks
Main Cast: Al Pacino, Steven Bauer, Michelle Pfeiffer, Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, Robert Loggia
Click here to view the trailer


Been a few days - I bet you thought I forgot about the MARCH TO HALLOWEEN, which will see me hopefully wrapping up my journey through the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die and putting to rest six years worth of work. Nope, I didn't forget and I'm still on track to make my goal. However, as June Carter said, time's a wastin'...

This is another one where I almost feel silly telling you what it's about, because anybody who's anybody, especially if you're a movie fan (which you must be or you wouldn't be here), knows the plot to Scarface. However, just to stick with format, I'll go over it for you. We kick it off a brief history lesson: In 1980, boat loads of Cubans arrive from their homeland to Miami. The initial purpose of the boat loads was to reunite Cubans with their families that had previously fled to the U.S. However, the Cuban government also took the opportunity to unload some of their criminals, sending over thousands of men who were occupying their prisons. One of the criminals - Antonio "Tony" Montana (Pacino), a career criminal, who ends up living in a tent underneath the freeway, with hundreds of his fellow countrymen. When an opportunity arises for Tony and his friend Manny (Bauer) to retrieve green cards, they snatch it up. All they have to do is kill someone. Tony barely bats an eye when he shoots the man to death in the streets. From there, Tony goes on to wash dishes at a burger joint, but realizes quick that he's a career criminal. When another opportunity arises to get his hands dirty, Tony takes it, assassinating a band of chainsaw wielding, Colombian drug dealers. With this kill, Tony manages to get in good with Frank Lopez (Loggia), the big dog in the world of drugs, in Miami. Tony watches, learns, stays loyal and even manages to undertake a few side projects, building up his wealth and ultimately rising in the criminal underworld, transforming before our eyes into a maniacal drug kingpin.


If I had to guess, I'd say I saw Scarface for the first and only time (before tonight) when I was about fourteen or fifteen. When I was that age - even younger - my parents were more concerned with sex & nudity, than they were with drugs & violence, when it came to what their children watched, so therefore watching Al Pacino do a nose dive (literally) into a mountain of cocaine and spout of the word "fuck" hundreds of times probably wouldn't have bothered them too much. Be that as it may, I have a feeling I still watched this one in my bedroom, keeping the mute button nearby, just in case I caught mom & dad in a particularly grumpy mood. Anyway, my first impressions, way back then, were not good toward Scarface. After watching it tonight and being able to find very few flaws (if any), I think I have to chalk up my initial dislike for Scarface as simply, young & dumb. I mean I don't think I was so far off that I thought Pacino was taking hits of Splenda, but I'd say it was probably too long to hold my attention and pertained to certain things I simply wasn't familiar with, since I lead a particularly sheltered life. It's also possible, that at this point, I had yet to see Heat, Dog Day Afternoon, Carlito's Way, Scent of a Woman, Sea of Love & Frankie and Johnny, among others, solidifying Al Pacino as one of my all time favorites. Because I think if I'd been a little older, a little smarter and a little more of a Pacino fanatic, I don't think there's anyway I couldn't have loved this spectacular movie.

Can I just talk about Pacino for a minute? I mean, how fantastic is this guy. In Scarface, he puts in a performance that goes perhaps the furthest I've seen from an actor simply reading lines off a page, memorizing mannerisms, getting "into character". Here, Pacino creates an entire personality, an entire aura of a man. He doesn't just go through the motions, but rather he puts in the effort to create as close to a real man as can possibly come off of a movie screen. Tony Montana had a heart, had passion, had a lust for power, perhaps stemming from a poor, fatherless childhood. Perhaps Tony's desire to "own the world" surely came from living in a communist country, where one owned nothing and was always told how to live, what to do. Here you have a guy who literally goes from rags to riches and the journey from those rags to those mountains of drugs & riches, is a tale for the ages. This one very easily stands the test of time, not aging a bit and holding up as much in 2015, as I'm sure it did in 1983. I was literally scared of Antonio Montana, this character that threatened to leap right out of the celluloid and rip my heart out of my chest if I made the wrong move. I had a hard time telling if Tony was truly a bad guy or if somewhere under that thick, Cuban accent, $800 suits and pocketfuls of drug money, if maybe there was a man who yearned to be a little boy again, tugging at his mother's apron strings, craving a better childhood, more attention, an upbringing that wouldn't lead to the life he ended up leading. However, as Tony puts it in his speech at dinner, when he kisses goodbye to Elvira for the final time, he is "the bad guy" and that's that. Look, of course Tony had a heart. Look at the kids he refused to blow up or even the children of his own he wanted from Elvira. That scene in the car when Tony shoots Alberto - it's kind of like "the bad guy" fist fighting with "the good guy" and on this one occasion, the good guy finally won a round.

One of the very few flaws I found in the whole picture was the appearance of Michelle Pfeiffer's character. In my view, I really think you could have cut out the character entirely and still had pretty much the exact same film. I didn't feel like Elvira offered anything to the development and dimension of Pacino's Montana and really, their scenes together were just fodder until we got to the next juicy bit. However, I will say. that without question, Michelle Pfeiffer has NEVER looked better. It's as if De Palma took extreme caution to always film her just right, making moves as precise as a painter's hand when it came to things like wardrobe, makeup and the like. She was simply stunning and worthy of Pacino's kingpin character - a dame fit for a king.

In closing, I was extremely thrilled with this movie. It managed to keep fully coherent and awake on a night when I'd worked the same day (not an easy task) and makes me realize that when film's put me to sleep, they put me to sleep for a reason - and it's not necessarily because I'm tired. I was completely "INTO" this movie, wanted to know more, wanted to get more of the story, felt compelled to go search out the DVD and make sure there weren't any deleted scenes left off the final product. The film had everything that I, personally, look for in a movie: a fantastic cast (everyone from Pacino to Mastrantonio to Pfeiffer were great), great directing (De Palma proved to be skilled here), great writing (I have a new respect for Oliver Stone, whose movies I've never been really able to get into), the plot, the cinematography, the characters and the character development. Everything seemed to be spot on and I can boldly say that this is the best thing I've seen in quite sometime.

RATING: 10/10  Screw it, I'm going all the way, baby! It's worth noting that this is the first '10' I've given to a BOOK movie since Turkish Delight, which I believe I watched sometime last November. This is also only the second movie that I've given a '10' to this whole calendar year, BOOK or NON-BOOK (the other being Dogville). Yep, it's that good.


August 14, 2015  11:28pm

Tuesday, August 11, 2015

576. The Harder They Come (1973)

Running Time: 120 minutes
Directed By: Perry Henzell
Written By: Perry Henzell, Trevor D. Rhone
Main Cast: Jimmy Cliff, Janet Bartley, Carl Bradshaw, Ras Daniel Hartman, Basil Keane
Click here to view the trailer


This is one that I needed to seek out and watch soon, because it unavailable via Netflix at home DVD delivery and thus, if I didn't find it soon, it was going to become a problem child down the road. I scoured over the internet and managed to find a decent copy, so here we are...

The Harder They Come stars Jimmy Cliff (Jamaican reggae musician) as Ivanhoe Martin (what a name, right?), who goes from living in the states to moving back to his Jamaican homeland, following the death of his grandmother. He first visits his mother, who cries when he breaks the news of the grandmother's death and then goes on to tell Ivanhoe that he can't stay with her. He lies, stating he already has a place to live, but actually he doesn't, so he lives homeless for a few days. He eventually manages to get a job at a mechanic shop and works hard to rebuild a bicycle, so that he'll have some sort of transportation. Ivanhoe dreams of cutting a record and thinks he has a hit on his hands. The main man when it comes to music in Jamaica is a man named Hilton, owner of Hilton Records and the guy who decides who becomes a star and what songs get played on the radio. Ivanhoe eventually manages to get an appointment with Hilton and cuts a record, which Hilton likes. He offers Ivanhoe twenty bucks for the rights to the record, to which Ivan first declines, but eventually accepts, since he's hard up for cash. However, Hilton instructs the local DJs to not overplay the record and Ivan's dreams of becoming a music superstar go unrealized. Still poor, Ivan turns to his friend Jose and the two go into business dealing marijuana. When caught, Ivanhoe ends up killing a police officer and goes on the lam as a fugitive. It becomes obvious that Ivan was going to get on the radio one way or another - either as a musician or a top news story.


What to say about this one? Well, if you want to write a review of The Harder They Come, the first thing you must talk about is the music - since it's easily the best part of the whole movie. Whenever anyone ever mentions Jamaican music, I always think about, of course, Bob Marley. When I think about Bob Marley, I think of a man whose music I don't care for. I tend to say it all sounds the same to me, even though I've probably never heard a Bob Marley song from beginning to end. I just don't like the way it sounds and if ever one of his tunes comes across the radio or crosses my path in any way, I change the channel or turn down the volume. I judge him unfairly, I'm aware. However, after hearing the tunes in The Harder They Come, I'd be more willing to leave the channel put, keep the volume turned up. Jimmy Cliff made me realize that it all doesn't sound the same and actually the songs are quite soulful, fun, boogy inducing numbers. Songs like "Sweet and Dandy", "You Can Get It If You Really Want" and yes, "The Harder They Come" are all fantastic tunes that made this otherwise mediocre film cruise along a little faster.

Otherwise, the film, like I just said, is kinda *meh*. It's not bad, it's just pretty basic as far as plots go. There's nothing world changing going on as far as the characters are concerned. It's one man's quest for his promised fifteen minutes of fame and how he'll do anything to get it. Notice the smile on Ivanhoe Martin's face when he tells his girl to keep the radio on, they'll be talking about him soon, when referring to his killing of three cops. Hell, notice how proud he is when he corrects his girl when she mistakenly thinks he only killed one cop. In that respect, the Ivanhoe Martin character is interesting. It's the polar opposite of films where criminals can't escape their past - this one tells of a criminal who wants to remain a criminal. But really, the only reason to see this film or even to label it as a must see, is the songs and to get introduced to Jimmy Cliff, if you don't already know him. He really did a fine job, especially considering his first trade is music.

RATING: 6/10  Seriously, check out those songs or hell, just check out the movie, as it might be *meh*, but it's still worth a couple hours of your time.


August 11, 2015  9:15pm

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...