Thursday, November 24, 2011


One of the best things about the Binghamton Classic Films site that John created is this little doozy of a line, "We exist to educate and edify, spreading the unadulterated joy of a time when the movies were magic." I don't think Scorsese could have come up with a better line to describe his intention with HUGO.

HUGO can't beat the magic of a Melies or Lumiere brothers film, nor the magic of the golden age in early cinema history, but it can let us share in the joy of these films and the wonder they have induced in us for over a century. Ostensibly a story about an orphan trying to find someone connect with (and it is), but really a story about the importance of celebrating film and its innovators, about a silver screen that shares our collective dream space, and the need to cherish and preserve its history. The first half of the film is devoted to establishing the world of Hugo Cabret, and the second half just becomes a celebration of the work of Georges Melies and other early film pioneers. One great sequence has Hugo and Isabelle literally digging through a book on film history and it coming to life before us. Another has Hugo and Isabelle sneaking in to see a brief moment of SAFETY LAST! And another has all the characters sitting around a premier of Melies' A TRIP TO THE MOON–all magical moments.

The recreations of Melies' films are really spectacular, and the bits we get to see of the actual films themselves will give you chills. You just sense how earnest Scorsese's reverence is for his work and film in general; he's like a kid sharing his favorite toy with you. I hope non-cinephiles can appreciate what Scorsese is doing here. Lots of people go to see movies, but do they ever take the time to reflect on how truly magical they can be? My hope is that you get an enormously diverse film audience, cinephiles and philistines alike, all sitting with childlike wonder at the power and magic of movies, celebrating the medium with a filmmaker who idolizes and adores cinema like no other. I recommend that everyone in our little club see it. It will remove all that postmodern irony and cynicism that is wearing you down, at least for a couple of hours. Glenn Kenny is right, this is one of the least cynical movies you could possibly see.

There are some obvious similarities to MIDNIGHT IN PARIS (had to do it, John), but I think this film's references are more genuine. Nothing here really seems self-serving. And it's not about wanting to live in another era but about not forgetting other eras. In a modern culture that seems increasingly less interested in history, this is a welcome and genuine reminder. The great and probably only irony of this film is that it draws you in with the purported magic of the most advanced modern film technology, only to blow you away and warm your heart with the magic of films made over 100 years ago.

I found most of the non-Melies/film history parts endearing as well. It's also a film about the desire to connect with other people and the need to share with them. By the end of the film you see all these connections between characters being made, and you realize that what draws us to the cinema with others (and to start film clubs) is to connect with other people and share our passions and dreams with them. If I'm sounding mawkish here, it's only because this film is so sweet and encourages you to feel the same.

I hope you all get the chance to see HUGO and that you can really appreciate it. It's holiday time; we all deserve a break from cynicism, even me, the guy who called MELANCHOLIA not cynical enough.

Also, I'll just be clear about this. I'm a strong advocate against 3D. I think it's a useless money-grabbing gimmick designed to destroy film (or at least turn it into an amusement park attraction). While I wouldn't say that HUGO justifies the recent trend towards 3D and its absurd price gouging, I would say that it at least represents the format in its highest quality and value. I haven't seen too many 3D films, but this is the best looking one I've seen. AVATAR looked great in 3D (everything else about the film was terrible), but it was a strain on the eyes after a while. Thankfully, the 3D in HUGO is so crisp and focused that my eyes didn't have trouble at all. And it is used effectively, adding depth of field without gimmicky ploys that make you roll your eyes. I still deeply revile 3D and can't wait until it dies, but what Scorsese and his team have done here isn't half bad at all John, nothing justifies the recent 3D price hike, but this is as good as it gets.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

The stuff that dreams are made of

Everything you have heard about HUGO's unabashed love for the cinema is true. It is Scorsese's ode to the magic of motion pictures. It is also about the importance of film restoration (a topic very dear to Marty's heart, as it should be) and about finding others to connect and share with. It is a very charming film, a very beautiful film, and a journey into the world of 3D that is actually worth taking. It is a must for film lovers. Scorsese's infectious joy over the movies, and the dreams that they reflect and engender within us, reaches out to us in more than three dimensions. Get lost in the cinematic warmth.

More soon, but must go to sleep now. Jeff no function with sleep well without. Have a nice thanksgiving y'all!


For next months director, I'm toying with the idea of either Leo McCarey or Preston Struges. McCarey because it would be great to get everyone to see MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW and because TCM is showing several of his films on Christmas day. Not that I expect most of us to watch these on Christmas instead of spending time with family, but I just saw it advertised the other day and it made me think he might be a good choice.

And Sturges might be a good choice because Chris is getting SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS through netflix soon and HAIL THE CONQUERING HERO and THE LADY EVE are available on instant watch. He would be someone we all could potentially see and talk about together.

We could also do screenings of either director at someone's house? Let me know who owns what of either fella. That would be fun.

Thanks, for responding to the list, Brandon. Always fun to hear your thoughts. haha I guess telling would be more economical in that it would take two seconds for an actor to say "I am a tough guy" as opposed to showing a scene where he is beating a couple of guys up. I guess I didn't really mean to throw that in with the economy argument, more to emphasis that it is just a key part of effective storytelling. And certainly one can show economically too. It's not a classic, but DRIVE understands the importance of showing economically, as evinced by those evocative staring contests between Gosling and Mulligan. I know you were just trying to fuck with me, but it was good to bring that up.

CHILDREN OF PARADISE is indeed called the French Gone With the Wind, mostly because of how beloved it is in France. I remember in high school, after watching the film and reading about its reputation in France, I asked a French exchange student at my school about it, and she had never heard of it haha. I remember being so let down because I was so excited to talk to someone about it.

I don't like the old-fashioned argument either. I've seen that as the largest criticism leveled at SPELLBOUND. Of course it's dated! It was made in 1945! I totally agree, entering the old-fashioned world of classics is huge part of their charm. Anyway, I understand that this film isn't so highly regarded, but I'm calling for a reevaluation. And if not, at least I'll still like it.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011


1. Children of Paradise (Carné)
2. Spellbound (Hitchcock)
3. Mildred Pierce (Curtiz)
4. Scarlet Street (Lang)
5. The Southerner (Renoir)
6. Brief Encounter (Lean)
7. Rome, Open City (Rosselini)
8. And Then There Were None (Clair)
9. I Know Where I’m Going! (Powell, Pressburger)
10. The Lost Weekend (Wilder)

HM: Detour (Ulmer)

Really need to see: Leave Her to Heaven and The Fallen Idol.

CHILDREN OF PARADISE - A friend of mine watched this last year and the first thing she said was that she couldn’t believe that it was actually three hours long. It had just gone by so quickly that she hadn’t noticed. I had the same reaction. I remember it being such a delight that I didn’t even care about the running time. Utterly alive, poetic, and brisk storytelling from a truly great director who understood what it meant to completely wrap you up in the majestic landscape of a film. I haven’t seen this in a while now, but it left such an indelible impression on me that I feel confident of its stature. Often considered alongside THE RULES OF THE GAME as the greatest of all French films, CHILDREN OF PARADISE is pure magic and impossible to resist. I’m really glad we agree on the top spot for this year, Brandon. I don’t think it could be any other way. Between this, LE JOUR SE LEVE, and LE QUAI DES BRUMES, Marcel Carné has quickly become one of my favorite filmmakers.

SPELLBOUND - It’s probably extremely unfashionable to like this film so much, but I don’t care. It was one of the first Hitchcock films I ever saw. I rented it from the library when I was 16 and I just loved it (I ended up buying that same VHS copy from the library a few years ago). It was seminal in making me interested in classic films. It may not be perfect, but I think it just continues to prove how great Hitchcock was and how superior his films were to just about everything else. I love Bergman and Peck so much in the film. The Dali sequence is awesome. It’s got Hitchcock’s usual stylistic flair, and to me, it really works as a mystery and a thriller. All the psychoanalytical jargon and plot devices can seem old-fashioned and annoying, I’m sure, but I think the film is just great entertainment.

MILDRED PIERCE - Man, what a little brat the daughter is. Just makes you want to reach into the screen and ring her neck. But her awfulness makes the tragedy of the film. Once we’ve reached the end and we realize that everything Mildred has done and fought for has been for the sake of such a little worthless shit, we are in the dumps with her. This is an incredible film-noir though. It’s completely engrossing from the beginning to end. Joan Crawford gives one of her finest performances. Zachary Scott is great as a real sleazebag, and Anne Blyth is great at making you hate her so much. Curtiz rules.

SCARLET STREET - The second film of Fritz Lang’s to team the beautiful Joan Bennett with the talented Edward G. Robinson (and the great at slimeball-portraying Dan Duryea). I love the tragic noirs like this where the unassuming and lonely man gets caught up in an underworld of deceit and disaster. This is one of the bleakest noirs I’ve ever seen too. The final images of Robinson’s character are simply chilling.

THE SOUTHERNER - What a completely different role for Zachary Scott here. This is a very fine film from one of the cinema’s greatest humanists. The poetry and warmth Renoir puts into this film makes it really powerful and emotionally resonant (and very unique). Moving your family and struggling to start a life for yourself can be an unforgiving experience. But the closeness of your family always compels you foreword. This film understands the importance of bonding when times are tough.

BRIEF ENCOUNTER - Ben wrote some nice thoughts on this recently. I agree with him. The purity of the storytelling in classic films is what makes them so effortlessly enjoyable. They had a much stronger connection to theater and literature than most modern day films do because they understood the necessity for strong storytelling and character development. They also largely understood the importance of economy. Less is more, show don’t tell–all that good stuff. This film is a great example of all the things I just said that make classics so enjoyable. Lean was a born storyteller. Be it small scale like this, or enormous like LAWRENCE OF ARABIA, he knew how to tell a good story.

ROME, OPEN CITY - An utterly uncompromising and tragic film. Another one I watched several years back, but still can remember its vivid images (the entire finale is just devastating). An important film, not just for rushing in a new era in Italian cinema, but for trying to depict some of the horror of the still very fresh WWII and its effects on Italy.

AND THEN THERE WERE NONE - I almost can’t believe that Rene Clair directed this. It’s nothing like his extremely light-hearted French musical-comedies of the early 30s. It’s interesting to have two French greats in this list directing foreign films (for them). I vastly prefer the 30s French work of both, but it’s cool to see them still making terrific films, and in another country and language entirely. I love the oft imitated premise here. Mansion house guests getting knocked off one by one (I loved the CLUE movie as a kid, and MURDER BY DEATH is really funny); it’s awesome. There are some truly suspenseful and creepy moments in this, and the ending is just terrific.

I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! - This is a genuinely sweet fairy tale about two people meeting while trapped on a Scottish Island. We know from the beginning that her determined ways will be challenged and waylayed, but Powell and Pressburger make it charming the whole way through. Two very talented filmmakers who had a great and fruitful career together.

THE LOST WEEKEND - I haven’t watched this in a while, but I do remember that it’s remarkably adult for Hollywood film in 1945. Portraying alcholism with a real blunt honesty for the time, the film is really ballsy. Wilder is basically dissecting the illusion of alchohol. And Milland is fantastic. I need to see this again, right after I go grab another beer.

“Oh, Lisa, you and your stories. ‘Bart’s a vampire;’ ‘Beer kills brain cells.’ Now let’s go back to that...building..thingy...where are beds and”
- Homer Simpson


THE FISHER KING is a great pick for Gilliam. Also, one of my favorites of his.

John, stop being so racist and watch PATHS OF GLORY. Everything Brandon says about it is spot-on. I think Brandon likes it the most because the final scene is actually...emotional. Who knew Kubrick had such a tender heart?

For the other directors Chris added,

Howard Hawks: B: The Big Sleep, W: of the ones I have seen, probably Sergeant York I like the least, but I don’t remember it very well.

Christopher Nolan: Same as Chris had.

Cameron Crowe: Same as Chris had.

Jean-Pierre Jeunet: B: The City of Lost Children, W: Probably A Very Long Engagement, which I liked.

Mike Nichols: Same as Chris had.

Same Mendes: B: Revolutionary Road, W: American Beauty

Hal Ashby: OS: Being There and it’s great.

Elia Kazan: B: On the Waterfront, W: of the ones I’ve seen, Gentleman’s Agreement isn’t as good as the others, but I still like it.

Sidney Lumet: B: Serpico, W: Network

Sydney Pollack: B: Tootsie, W: The Interpreter, but I haven’t seen a lot of his films.

I haven't decide who December's director will be yet, but I'll be thinking about it. I have one in mind though.

Sunday, November 20, 2011

"This punishment is not boring and pointless"

I was excited to do the director list when I first saw that Brandon had posted the suggestion. Then, I agree, it become unrewarding once I realized I didn’t have the knowledge to answer it properly. Give me a couple more years, and by then I should have better responses. It’s really hard to pick a director’s low point when you haven’t seen enough for his/her films. Also, watching a lot of directors’ bad films (or low points) isn’t really on my list of priorities yet. I’m still trying to catch up with all the good stuff! I guess I could have picked the worse one of the ones I have seen for each, but I didn’t know that’s what we were shooting for. Oh well. Sorry my list was largely unenlightening. I’m still a work in progress when it comes to film because, truth be told, I’m not a “film buff” by any stretch of the imagination. I’m still just an amateur.

I like PANIC ROOM quite a bit; it’s just the least effective of Fincher’s films (not named ALIEN 3).

I thought the TWIN PEAKS film was largely pointless, but it’s probably not his worst. I haven’t finished his version of DUNE, which a lot of folks think is his low point. ERASERHEAD is not pleasant to watch...but it’s damn effective.

Do you dislike BOOGIE NIGHTS or is it just not as good as the others? I’m a huge fan.

I certainly don’t write off Griffith. The man practically invented the feature length film and made it an art form. I would like to watch BIRTH OF A NATION and INTOLERANCE at some point, I just don’t have the impetus to do so because I’m not making any 1910s lists yet haha. I know you are joking, but you certainly aren’t a racist for liking BIRTH OF A NATION. Or if you are, I am too for liking so many films in the 30s and 40s where black people were relegated to the thankless roles of ignorant servants and whatnot. Film history is ripe with racist portrayals. I doesn’t mean we should excuse these films, but it doesn’t mean we should disavow them all either. We should just recognize racism in film when we see it and always keep in mind that the golden age of film for us wasn’t the golden age for people who weren’t white.

I’ve seen all of the full-length Chaplin films but two (A COUNTESS FROM HONG KONG and A WOMAN IN PARIS), and a number of his short films, so don’t completely thrown me in with Chris on that count haha. However, with that being said, I’m sure both of your daughters know their Chaplin better than me, for which I’m equally impressed by them and ashamed of myself.

I’d love to see JULIEN DONKEY-BOY to know what all the fuss is about. Make that happen!

Yes, I should see Miyazaki something...

I’d love to see TAKE SHELTER whenever and wherever you go. Let me know.

Also, I’m jealous that you have seen THE MILL AND THE CROSS. I first heard of it through Ebert a month or so ago. Looks great, and your esteem of it only makes we want to see it more. Thanks for inviting the rest of us! Jeesh....

Host a screening of Scorsese’s PERSONAL JOURNEY. That would be the tops.

your thoughts on MEEK’S CUTOFF are great. Makes me want to see it again because I probably couldn’t interact well with your fresh viewing experience. But the WAITING FOR GODOT comparison is really apt. And one of the best things I’d say about the film is its ambiguity. It’s ripe for multiple readings.

THE THREE COLORS trilogy and THE DECALOGUE are works of modern genius. Just had to reiterate.

To everyone with access to PBS, don't forget the Woody Allen doc tonight!

Thursday, November 17, 2011

I know nothing...

Playing along with Brandon. The first title I give I consider the best and the one after it I consider the worst. I really need to fill in my missing gaps here. I haven't seen enough of most to give them a worst film. Oh well.

(NOTE: I did this before reading Brandon's list, which I'm just seeing).

Lars von Trier - Europa. Manderlay (need to see Breaking the Waves, which many consider his masterpiece, but it is not available on dvd).

Alfred Hitchcock - Vertigo is probably his masterpiece, though my favorite is Shadow of a Doubt. Haven’t come across his low point yet (i.e. he probably didn’t make a bad film).

Martin Campbell - I’ve only seen GoldenEye. I liked the film a lot as a kid, mostly because of the corresponding video game for Nintendo 64.

Curtis Hanson - Only seen L.A. Confidential, which I barely remember.

Woody Allen - His masterpiece and my favorite is Hannah and Her Sisters. His low point is probably Melinda and Melinda or Anything Else. Though many of you will probably say his low point has been the last twenty years. Jerks.

Martin Scorsese - Taxi Driver. Haven’t seen a film by him that I didn’t like, but I haven’t seen them all.

Neil Jordan - The Crying Game. Don’t know.

Fritz Lang - M. for his German films and The Big Heat for his American ones. Haven’t seen a bad film by him.

George Stevens - A Place in the Sun. Don’t Know.

Max Ophuls - Have only seen The Earrings of Madame de... but I’m working on him. Come back to me in a couple of months.

Clint Eastwood - Unforgiven. Hereafter (somebody go see J. Edgar and tell me how it is by the way).

Stanley Donen - Singin’ in the Rain. Don’t Know.

Frank Capra - It’s a Wonderful Life, of course. I’ve liked every film I’ve seen by him.

Carol Reed - The Third Man. Don’t Know.

Robert Altman - McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Popeye? haha Haven’t seen it.
Francis Ford Coppola - The Godfather. Probably Jack with Robin Williams. Shocking I know.

Werner Herzog - Unoriginal but Aguirre, The Wrath of God. Haven’t seen one I didn’t like. Am dying to see Heart of Glass.

John Ford - The Searchers (Stagecoach and Liberty Valance are masterpieces too). Haven’t seen one I didn’t like.

Joe Dante - I haven’t seen The ‘ Don’t know.

Wes Craven - Music of the Heart. haha Haven’t seen that. Probably the first Elm St. or the first Scream. Take your pick of his many low points.

John Carpenter - Halloween. Haven’t seen enough of his films (Sorry horror fans!)

David Cronenberg - I really haven’t seen much Cronenberg (Sorry horror and film fans in general!). Don’t remember Videodrome, Naked Lunch, or Crash. Liked the last two films he made. That’s all I’ve seen.

George Romero - I guess Night of the Living Dead because I can’t remember Dawn of the Dead.
Haven’t seen any others. Let’s get out of this horror section and fast.

Bob Clark - Have only seen A Christmas Story, which, like many of you I’m sure, are sick to death of.

Stanley Kubrick - Here we go. From Paths of Glory onward, the man made nothing but masterpieces and he certainly never made a bad film. However, if you twisted my arm, his masterpiece is 2001, but my favorite is Barry Lyndon.

The Coen Brothers - No Country for Old Men. Haven’t seen one I disliked.

Wes Anderson - It’s probably still Rushmore, but my fav is The Life Aquatic. Haven’t seen one I disliked.

Tim Burton - Ed Wood (Edward Scissorhands is real close). Alice in Wonderland was garbage, but he’s got quite a few low points to choose from.

Preston Sturges - It’s gotta be Sullivan’s Travels, though I just watched Hail the Conquering Hero and I’m with John–it might be my favorite of his. Didn’t make a bad film.

Ernst Lubitsch - Tough call, but I’ll agree with Brandon here. To Be or Not to Be. Didn’t make a bad film (it’s that Lubitsch touch!)

Michael Haneke - haha the original Funny Games. It might not be that bad, but I couldn’t stand watching The Piano Teacher.

Sergio Leone - The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (though they are all pretty amazing). Didn’t make a bad film.

Pedro Almodovar - I haven’t seen enough of his early work, so I’ll have to go with Talk to Her. Haven’t seen one I didn’t like.

Robert Aldrich - Kiss Me Deadly (maybe The Dirty Dozen). Haven’t seen one I disliked, but need to see more.

Michelangelo Antonioni - Blow-up for sure. I don’t really know what his low point is. I couldn’t dig on L’avventura, but that doesn’t make it a low point. I’ve liked his other films, that I’ve seen. He’s really not THAT boring!

Ingmar Bergman - A tie between The Seventh Seal and Wild Strawberries, but they are all incredible. Never made a bad film. MASTER.

Jean-Luc Godard - Band of Outsiders. Haven’t seen his latest stuff, which is probably his low point.

Francois Truffaut - Shoot the Piano Player. Haven’t seen a bad one.

Henri Georges Clouzot - Tough call. I’m going to go with The Wages of Fear, but I’d certainly entertain the idea of Quai des Orfevres. Didn’t make a bad film.

Olivier Assayas - Need to see one of his films. I’m bad.

Mario Brava - Ditto.

Frank Borzage - Ditto.

Jacques Tourneur - Cat People, but I really dig Out of the Past. Haven’t seen a bad one.

Jim Jarmusch - Down By Law. Haven’t seen one I disliked.

Robert Bresson - Diary of a Country Priest is the only one I’ve seen that I remember. I’ll go with that. I need to re-submerge myself in his work at some point.

Luis Bunuel - The Phantom of Liberty. Didn’t make a bad one.

Claude Chabrol - Need to see one.
Charlie Chaplin - The Gold Rush and City Lights. Didn’t make a bad film (short or feature length).

Jean Cocteau - The Blood of a Poet. Don’t know.

George Cukor - Need to see The Women, which I assume is his best. Probably go with David Copperfield for now. I’ve liked the few films I’ve seen of his.

Brian De Palma - Blow Up. Scarface (haven’t seen his 2000s films).

Claire Denis - Haven’t seen one.

Carl Theodor Dreyer - Vampyr. Don’t know.

Federico Fellini - La Dolce Vita and 8 1/2. Amarcord.

David Fincher - Zodiac. Panic Room (haven’t seen Alien 3, which is probably his worst).

Terry Gilliam - Monty Python and the Holy Grail, but solo I’d go with 12 Monkeys. The Brother’s Grimm.

DW Griffith - Well, Intolerance is certainly his finest work but...haha I haven’t seen any of ‘em. For shame.

Jia Zhangke - Who?

Buster Keaton - Have only seen The General.

Abbas Kiarostami - Certified Copy is pretty great. Have only seen Taste of Cherry besides this. Also pretty great, if you have the patience.

Brad Bird - Ratatouille. Hasn’t made a bad one.

Harmony Korine - Haven’t seen one.

Akira Kurosawa - Ikiru, Seven Samurai, and Yojimbo. Haven’t seen a bad one.

Kenji Mizoguchi - Sansho the Bailiff. Haven’t seen enough.

David Lean - The Bridge on the River Kwai. I’ve liked ‘em all. I like Doctor Zhivago more than anyone probably ever should. It’s incredible.

Ang Lee - Brokeback Mountain. Hulk by a landslide.

Jerry Lewis - Haven’t seen any of ‘em. Nice lady!

Joseph H. Lewis - ditto

Henry Hathaway - yikes, need to see one of his as well. All this list is doing is exposing me.

Richard Linklater - The “Before” films. Bad News Bears? I don’t know, haven’t seen enough.

Joseph Losey - Haven’t seen any.

David Lynch - Mulholland Drive. Probably Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me.

Terrence Malick - All of ‘em are masterpieces. Days of Heaven though.

Joseph L. Mankiewicz - All About Eve. Don’t know.

Anthony Mann - Winchester ’73. Don’t know.

Michael Mann - Heat. The Public Enemy haha. Fuck that camera.

Leo McCarey - Duck Soup...but Make Way for Tomorrow is his best non-Marx Bros. film. I’ve liked ‘em all.

James Cameron - Terminator 2. Avatar (too easy).

Jean-Pierre Melville - Bob le Flambeur or Le Circle Rouge. Have liked all that I’ve seen.

Paul Thomas Anderson - There Will Be Blood. Hasn’t made a bad film.

Quentin Tarantino - Inglourious Basterds. Death Proof (sorry Brandon).

Danny Boyle - 28 Days Later. The Beach or Slumdog Millionaire.

Vincent Minnelli - Meet Me in St. Louis. Haven’t seen enough, but have liked all that I’ve seen.

Sam Peckinpah - The Wild Bunch or Pat Garret and Billy the Kidd. Need to see more.

Arthur Penn - Little Big Man. Don’t know.

James Whale - The Bride of Frankenstein. Don’t know.

Todd Browning - Freaks. Don’t know.

Edgar G. Ulmer - The Black Cat. don’t know.

Robert Zemeckis - Back to the Future. All of his CGI shit.

Powell and Pressburger - A Matter of Life and Death. Have liked ‘em all.

Yasujiro Ozu - Have only seen Tokyo Story, but will be seeing more soon.

Otto Preminger - Laura. don’t know.

Nicholas Ray - In a Lonely Place. Have Liked all that I’ve seen.

Jean Renoir - The Grand Illuison. Never made a bad one.

Nicolas Roeg - Don’t Look Now. Don’t know.

Eric Rohmer. Have only seen My Night at Maud’s, but I’ll get back to you soon.

Roberto Rossellini - Rome, Open City. Don’t know.

Douglas Sirk - All that Heaven Allows. Have only seen don’t know.

Steven Soderbergh - Traffic. The last two Ocean films.

Steven Spielberg - Minority Report or Raiders or Schindler’s List. The 2nd Jurrassic Park.

Andrei Tarkovsky - Solaris. All good.

Jacques Tati - Mon Oncle. Don’t know.

Paul Verhoven - Haven’t seen one.

Jean Vigo - L’Atalante. Didn’t make enough to make a bad one.

Raoul Walsh - The Roaring Twenties. Have liked all I’ve seen.

John Waters - Sorry...have only seen Cry Baby and don’t remember it.

Peter Weir - Haven’t seen enough of his films, and barely remember the ones I have seen.
Orson Welles - Citizen Kane. Have only seen the good ones.

Wim Winders - Wings of Desire. Haven’t seen enough.

Billy Wilder - Stalag 17. Have liked all I’ve seen.

William Wellman - The Ox-Bow Incident. Don’t know.

William Wyler - Dodsworth. Don’t know.

Wong Kar-wai - In the Mood for Love. Have only seen that.

Zhang Yimou - House of Flying Daggers. Don’t know.

Victor Fleming - The Wizard of Oz. Don’t know.

Mark Robson - Have only seen The Seventh Victim and it’s great.

Robert Wise - The Curse of the Cat People. Don’t know.

Josef von Sternberg - The Scarlet Empress. Have liked the ones I’ve seen.

Sam Fuller - Have only seen Pickup on South Street. Dying to see The Steel Helmet.

Roman Polanski - Chinatown or Rosemary’s Baby. The Ninth Gate.

John Cassavetes - Have only seen Faces and A Woman Under the Influence. Liked them both. Need to see Shadows.

John Boorman - Point Blank. Don’t know.

Tobe Hooper - Poltergeist. Don’t know.

Robert Rodriguez - Sin City. Haven’t seen enough of his shitty movies, but there are probably plenty.

William Friedkin - The Excorcist. Don’t know.

John Huston - The Treasure of the Sierra Madre. Have liked all I’ve seen.

Mike Leigh - Another Year. Have liked all I’ve seen.

Kathryn Bigelow - Have only seen The Hurt Locker. Didn’t like it much.
Oliver Stone - Don’t care.

Spike Lee - Do the Right Thing. Haven’t seen enough of his bad ones because I knew they’d be bad.

Gus van Sant - My Own Private Idaho. Don’t know.

Hayao Miyazaki - sorry nerds, haven’t seen one.

George Miller - I haven’t seen Babe in a long time. Can’t recall any others.

Darren Aronofsky - The Fountain. The Wrestler (not for Mickey Rourke though–one of his best).

Spike Jonze - Adaptation. Where the Wild Things Are.


Sunday, November 13, 2011

Way Out Jeff

Thank you MELANCHOLIA for getting me posting more regularly.

I've been thinking that it is easy to write arguments for or against modern films. Arguing either side on MELANCHOLIA wouldn't be a stretch for any of us on here. But writing about classics is difficult because they don't conform well to words (at least not for me). WAY OUT WEST is really funny and enjoyable, but those generic adjectives don't really do it justice. You had to have been in the theater with that beautiful print playing to really feel the impact of it. It was just a blast. And Chaplin's THE PAWNSHOP before hand was an unbelievable treat. A blissful evening. That's what classics do for me. It's the experience of them as well as the content that makes them among the very highlights of existence.

Anyway, WAY OUT WEST has some really great sight gags. It's brisk, awfully funny, and filled with visual lunacy. It's no Marx Bros. absurdist circus, but it is a damn good time.

This must have been classic comedy weekend for me because I also caught THE BANK DICK this morning. I started it on TCM many years ago but fell asleep. I'm glad I got to finish it now because it's a comedic gem. Fields's persona was so ridiculous, but of course hilarious. Egbert Sousé is one of the great names in all of film (accent aigu though not grave–does anyone who has seen this know if that is an intentional mistake?). There's so many great gags in this that I wouldn't know where to begin.

Also, been thinking more about CITY FOR CONQUEST. Cagney character's tragedy in the film hits home hard (no boxing pun intended) because he is being carried towards his doom on the dreams of another. His dream is to live simply and be happy. His goil's dream is to transcend the City, and she encourages him to do the same. It's the sadness of the scene I mentioned in the last post that really holds the whole film together. We see the two intertwined characters going off in separate directions at this point and nothing will be the same. As I've gotten older I've really started to come around to the dream Cagney expresses here. When I was younger it was all about ambition and reaching the top (the top of what? Who knows). Now I'm like Cagney in that I just want to carve out a little niche for myself somewhere where I can be happy and enjoy my time. Movies and film club are helping with that.


haha I need to learn how to accept change. I suspect that my next viewing of MELANCHOLIA will be more than favorable. Whereas you guys were looking for transcendence, I was looking for some aggressive discord to stir me from my sleepiness. I was tired, sitting in an uncomfortable position, and looking for a middle finger in a film that decided to keep its hands to itself. Also, we didn't mention this, but from where Chris and I were sitting, the sheet/screen had a huge fold in the middle that made the film look like a house of mirrors. Did this warp our perception of it?

Just to clarify: I don't want to argue that all depictions of depression are inherently flawed. It certainly does depend upon on the character who is depressed. Depression can take many forms; it depends on how well you can empathize with the portrayal. Justine's depression is unsympathetic in the first act, but as Chris was explaining to me (and I agree), it does become something more in the second. More sympathetic? No, it's not as if she is sympathetic, more that she is...admirable. Perhaps that isn't the right word still, but she does take on a sense of quiet resignation (and even a midnight summons that does suggest everything you all have said, a sexual connection, a spiritual calling, and a naked mirroring–I see you Melancholia, now you see me!) that I find worthy of respect. There is indeed a vindication of her depression at the film's conclusion. And even a sense of gravitational unification between the planet Melancholia and the planet Justine. I can't recall if we ever saw her struggling for breath as Melancholia came near. It is instead the meeting of two caliginous sets of lips. One indifferent mass joining another. There is beauty in their union and mutual dissolution.

I'm slowly starting to come around to this picture, even as I write this post, and I suspect that its crusaders are on the winning side. Dare I say that I actually am starting to like it now the more it registers with me? I do dare. I'm starting to more or less agree with all its supporters here. Call it pussin' out if you will, but I am being compelled by more than just your encomiums. In my mind I'm laying naked before this film and I believe we are on a collision course.

My definition of punk does not mean adolescence in the way you probably assumed I meant it. I should have put the word"juvenile" in quotations to suggest that I am not accepting the term as given. I consider punk to be a negation that takes on its own affirmation (to use philosophical jargon). I think punk is in many ways against ideas of adulthood that suggest the acquiescence to authority and the status quo. I think punk says that if adulthood means conforming to certain rules or ideas of behavior, then long live adolescence. It's a juvenile mentality that is not pejorative but has been reappropriated to mean a state of mind against blind acceptance. It's "I don't want to grow up if growing up means selling the fuck out–and selling yourself out." Does that make sense? Punk can be many things, but I think one of it's strongest positions is to stir you from your comfortable ideological languor. There is a knowledge to it because it negates acceptable forms of knowledge to create its own. It's spitting at something not just for the sake of spitting but because you don't like what you see. It relates a lot to one of my other favorite movements in the 20th century–Dadaism.

Does DOGVILLE take itself too seriously? Not in my opinion. In a great conversation between vT and Paul Thomas Anderson, PTA tells Lars how much humor he found in DOGVILLE and Lars seems quite pleased. This is right after Lars was discussing how much humor he finds in Kubrick. I think there's humor in DOGVILLE, it just depends on what you find humorous. The citizens of Dogville are insular pieces of shit, and they get wiped out at the end. Then we hear Bowie's Young Americans over pictures of American poverty. Do you really think that is taking itself too seriously? It's a carnival ending (they shoot the baby for christsakes). I guess it depends on how you are looking at it (doesn't everything), but I was looking with a big ole grin, the same way I looked at FUNNY GAMES and the same way I look now as I just beat that dead horse.

There may be more humor to MELANCHOLIA than I even suspect. There may also be less irony then I was anticipating. Brandon, I think the reason you love Lars' last two films is because there is a creeping suspicion (or full-blown awareness now) in you that the irony has been replaced by something genuine. In an age of irony, I guess I can't blame you for being relieved.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Buck Conquest

Everything you wrote about CITY FOR CONQUEST was great and spot-on, John. I completely agree, so I don’t really have much more to add. Cagney owns this thing every which way. And he does scream authentic common man. He lets it bellow out from his bones. The scene with his goil where he explains his desire not to be a fighter but just to live simply in the city and be happy is one of his finest moments. As is the seemingly schmaltzy moment where he is listening to his brother’s concert on the radio. It should be just over-the-top sentimentality, but it ends up totally endearing. Cagney doesn’t have to sell it to you; you buy it because it’s the real thing. I love everything Cagney, and this film is no exception. It is a great ode to the City.

Kazan’s little part is great too. He gets that really fine moment in the car, and it’s just fun to see him act. So damn young here.

I also caught BUCK PRIVATES on TCM this morning. Hilarious. I love the craps game gag. Especially for Lou’s line “They wouldn’t let me I was too young...starting Tuesday I’m going out with girls.” I burst out laughing. I’m excited to watch more A&C from the 40s.


Okay, I've had another night to think over MELANCHOLIA, and I've come to the absolute conclusion that I need to see it again. I liked the Emerson review, especially for leading me to the film's website where vT (or just T if you are an Emersonian) is asking viewers to look underneath the "nice" and the "polish." I'm now determined to do so.

As much as it pains me to imagine a "grown up" Lars (thanks for the Nazi comments at least to stop that argument), I'm curious to see how he is adapting his humor and nihilism to new forms. Maturity is a hard word to swallow. It's like our friend Todd settling down. But if Lars has found a new way to channel his cynicism or to mask it behind things then I want to dig down with him.

I'm already starting to like the film the more I think about as a whole. I agree with you John that it's better in retrospect than it was watching it. Part of me still wants to dislike it for being too likable. Part of me wants that infantile rejection of maturity and tastefulness. But the other part of me realizes that there are other ways to make art, and that an artist, like everything else, is in constant flux.

I feel a little like when an underground band you love puts out a more mainstream album and people start getting on board. Your first instinct is to recoil. But this is all focused on externals. I need to sit down with the film again and watch it for what it is and let Brandon's approval be damned haha.

Still, if indeed my punk juvenile has "grown up" as John suggests then I'm going to need a moment of silence followed by some Tom Waits to help me through it:

Friday, November 11, 2011

MELANCHOLIA is not cynical enough

Am I the only one in the world making this argument?

Love the posts so far.

I think the lack of any vituperation coming from John and Brandon completely proves my point that this is one of the safest von Trier films yet. You know, something really is different with this one. It does seem less cynical, which surprised me.

And it’s just not that risky by his standards. Not that it had to be completely risky, but for an apocalyptic comedy-disaster movie about depression, I would have expected a bit more from him. It’s not as depressing as it could have been haha. That sounds ridiculous, but that is my most legitimate criticism of the film. It’s just not mean enough.

I told this to Chris already, but I really wanted there to be one final shot after Melancholia hits earth. I wanted to see a nice cold, empty shot of space. That’s it. Perhaps very faintly in the distance one could make out the collision of the two planets like the tiny flicker of an ember. But mostly focused on the empty and yet completely vast space of the universe. A universe that feels this destruction no more than a statue would feel a particle of dust landing on it. If the film had cut to this, I probably would have stood up and clapped. Because that subtle change would have been such a beautiful little nihilistic joke. I would have laughed, I would have clapped, I would have been happy. Maybe I’m just a weirdo, but I like jokes like that. And I feel like Lars does too.

I only say all this because I was waiting the whole time for these nihilistic jokes to come out in the film. I wanted those subtle digs that pack such a mean visceral punch, like a lot of his other films. I was quite pleased to find Kiefer Sutherland’s character dead and Melancholia coming back towards Earth just after he had promised it would all be okay and had shown Clair how it was shrinking in the distance. I agree with the assessment on how terrific a suspense device that wire thingy is. And it sets up a great joke–perhaps the best in the movie. Once the planet started coming closer to Earth, I was getting excited. I liked a majority of the ending, but I was waiting for more jokes! Maybe I missed some subtle ones, but mostly I felt like there was room for more provocation and black humor.

Here’s a telling point: Before I saw the film I read something saying that Lars called this ending the first time one of his films had actually ended negatively. Based on that, I was expecting big things from this ending. I thought we’d get something insanely provocative, nihilistic, and harshly comedic. By the end I knew we weren’t getting something so provocative, so I just wanted something subtly funny like the shot of space. Anything to give it that little cynical twist.

I don’t need all my films to be cynical (wait til you hear my love for the Dardenne’s THE SON–zero cynicism there and it’s blissful), and I don’t even want most films to be cynical. But I’ve come to expect a cetain aggressively nihilistic punk rock attitude from Lars. I just find it funny and oddly pleasing, especially in a world that takes itself too seriously. His films always feel like a great ego check to me. But with MELANCHOLIA, I feel like my man toned it down too much for a film I was expecting to be a nihilistic masterpiece. Most of y’all probably disagree, but I need my nihilism in art from time to time. It’s an outlet. Lars is one of my sanctuaries.

As I said earlier, I can’t wait for THE NYMPHOMANIC to come out and be awful and gross, and for everyone to hate it. Then I will be smiling.

Quick note: I want to see this movie again, by myself. I’ll admit that I have trouble emotionally connecting to movies when I watch them with other people (and when I’m really sleepy, as was doubly the case last night). Movies are always less intimate for me around others. Like I wrote before about THE TREE OF LIFE, I usually need just myself and a tv for real film love to occur. I need the film to speak right at me and no one else. Anyway, I owe it to Lars to try and reconnect on my own. I'm not willing to write this off as a total disappointment yet.

The planet is called Melancholia...

...and it's a symbol for melancholia.

I’m going to have to come out and admit upfront that I was disappointed by it. I was expecting more from Lars von Trier. This one plays it almost too safe, which is why I think that so many critics who previously have trashed LVT have got on board. It’s beautiful and meditative, the worst that happens is what has been guaranteed by the beginning, there’s no clit snipping, no controversial moral claims, nothing too crazy, nothing too explicitly anti-American. It’s about depression, and it’s a disaster movie. Simple enough for most critics. But not what I'd come to expect from LVT. It's just too tepid throughout most of it.

(Question: Can a depression movie ever be well done without making you hate the character(s) who are depressed?)

The prologue is genuinely terrific. Beautiful, cryptic, and haunting. Anytime there was a scene recalling the prologue or recreating parts of it (the music with dramatic shots of the sky or the planet in the distance) I was interested. But I suspect mostly because it recalled 2001 and THE TREE OF LIFE. There is much style to this picture. A style that LVT seems to be harnessing from the similarly beautiful ANTICHRIST. But there isn’t too much else beyond this.

I have no problem with the film’s bleakness. Anyone who knows me should know that I’m a sucker for anything nihilistic and...hmmm...what’s the word....oh yes, melancholic. I didn’t really find the film all that depressing or bleak. Sure, nothing good happens, ever. But I was expecting a more intense experience. If I’m gonna be swimming in bleakness, then dunk me in the deep end. Shock and surprise me a little bit. Get my blood pumping. SYNECDOCHE, NEW YORK is a film that sinks you down deep into the mire so much so that it takes on an incredible beauty of its own. This is just riding the surface.

I guess one major problem is that I wasn’t really engaged. I didn’t care about any of the characters–at all (are we supposed to care?). The opening act with Justine’s wedding actually bored me a bit. It reminded me too much of RACHEL GETTING MARRIED. The second act is much better because at least with it we are able to anticipate the disaster coming instead of just wallowing in Justine’s depression. There’s a great moment in act two where Justine is laying naked (yep that’s great in itself but there’s more!) with the image of Melancholia floating above her. That’s the LVT I love. Making her fascination with this impending disaster sexually stimulating. I can almost see her laying there yelling “Let Melancholia fuck you! Let Melancholia fuck you!” It’s an interesting moment, but it is all too short. That hint of something more interesting going on is often there in MELANCHOLIA, but it rarely comes to fruition.

There was nothing that really shocked or excited me in any real way. This is likely a result of feeling emotionally distant from the characters. Certainly, MELANCHOLIA is beautiful, well-made, and better than most fare you will find around (If you want to see a modern disaster picture, this is easily a better bet than the latest Roland Emmerich apoco-porn). And it’s depressing–but who cares? I’ve been more depressed and more intrigued by LVT’s other films because they at least challenged or excitied me into caring. This just didn’t engage me.

However, I remain a believer in Lars von Trier. I’m a big fan. I think he’s at his best when he’s being a mixture of super creative, provocative, and urgent. MELANCHOLIA isn’t really any of those three for the most part of it. But I have faith in him for next time. He’s worked through his depression movie, got it out of his system, now he can move on to the tactfully titled THE NYMPHOMANIC. Hopefully that fucks MELANCHOLIA to death.

Monday, November 7, 2011

colorado territory

I remember that this was one of the first films John talked about when I joined film club, and it reminded me that I had a lot of catching up to do in my classic film viewing. Especially classic film that wasn't AFI-certified. I think one of the best things I am learning about going back and watching films according to their years is that there are so many great films around that no one ever hears about. COLORADO TERRITORY is one of 'em.

What an inspired idea to take this noir-ish story of love and doom and turn it into a western. It works just as well in this setting (maybe some would say better even) as it does in HIGH SIERRA. And what a great story it is too. Even though I knew I was watching the same basic story as HS, it still always seemed fresh and exciting. It helps when you have really fine performers like McCrea and Mayo to breathe new life into their characters. It also helps when you've got someone like Walsh who knows how to make the film distinctive enough to its own setting that it actually stands on its own.

And you are right Brandon, this ending is an improvement on HS, if only because it focuses more on the two leads together as opposed to singling out just one. Mayo's character is more rugged than Lupino's, so it makes sense that she would go down shooting. But they are both just as loyal to their lovable outlaws, so having them both go down with their men, as the doomed lovers they are, makes sense as well. CT seems to understand this connection between the two characters better. But HS's ending is still great–it's just more tragic.

Also, I watched JOHNNY GUITAR and it is equally awesome. You are hooked right from the intense opening moments when Vienna literally has her back to the wall, surrounded by an angry mob and one of the most odious female villains in all of film. From there it is just terrific entertainment, a pervading sense of uneasiness, and the wonderful eye of Ray. Another great one.

Sunday, November 6, 2011


[Edit: I just see that John posted. Yes sir, FOUR FACES WEST has been added to my instant queue. It'll help with my 48 list, so I'll get to it soon.]

Ben, so glad that you watched THAT OBSCURE OBJECT OF DESIRE and that you loved it. I do too. I think strange and funny would aptly describe Bunuel's entire oeuvre. You are not alone on the actress confusion either. I think this film and MULHOLLAND DRIVE are among the only two times (that I can recall) where I literally did a double take and thought, "wait...what??" Bunuel was a mad scientist, genius, and vaudeville comedian all rolled into one.

Brandon, I totally understand the issue of wanting to like something that you really don't. We did those lists on movies you don't like but feel like you should, and they basically captured the sense of struggle between cultural opinion and personal opinion. I think in a vacuum one could watch BLOW UP and have no issue admitting boredom. But once the cultural weight it has is thrown on your shoulders, the struggle begins. I still say that if you are seriously interested in excavating something like BLOW UP, then you should get over your boredom and try to find something you can actually criticize or analyze about it. If you are not interested then let it be.
Boredom isn't an argument to have against something. It always belies something else, be it a fault in the movie or a fault in yourself. If you seriously care or want to care about what you are watching, then you at least owe it to yourself to find out where the fault lies.

Thanks for responding to the '41 list. You know, writing these lists is like playing tennis–I need someone to actually hit the ball back or else I'm just swatting awkwardly at the wind. Plus, I'm really lousy at starting a discussion on movies I really like. I never know what to say beyond, "This is great" or "I love this." I think it's because, through my schooling, I'm only used to writing arguments for or against something. I've never really had practice at writing a review of something or gushing about my thoughts on why I like it. On writing, it's always been, "who cares if you like something or not, find something to argue for or against in it." Anyway, I'm trying to get better at it, and I benefit from reading everyone else's responses to movies. Case in point:

CITIZEN KANE - with KANE, I think you can have the opposite affect to watching something like BLOW UP. You could strip away all of it's cultural value and importance and still love it completely on its own merits. I remember watching it for the first time. I knew it was important and popular, but I had no clue how revolutionary it was in terms of composition or storytelling. I remember just loving the story, the acting, and the imagery. It was a beautiful package. Now I watch it and still love it for all the reasons I ever did, but can also appreciate how technically masterful it is. Yeah, this one's difficult to refute, to say the least.

HIGH SIERRA - Absolutely, having the gangsters tied to one last job before turning a new leaf always tests our desire for their redemption in the face of the overwhelming certainty of their demise. I completely agree, throw a girl AND a dog into it (and it doesn't hurt that your gangster is one of the most, if not the most, appealing actors of all time) and you are begging for him to get away, just this once. I had that reaction watching it. And I think that is why I loved it so much. Walsh and that ineluctable executioner the Hays Code make this a tragedy that is more than just seen but deeply felt.

SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS - You won't find me disagreeing that Struges was one of the best writers to ever work in film.. Every time I see one of his films I'm reminded of his genius. He had such a gift for comedy and dialogue, and he was always moving the story forward through his wit and skill (you can see why guys like the Coens and Tarantino are such fans). This one makes me laugh every time–an almost Chaplin-esque laughter.

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY - I agree, Ford does seem to have been a born director like Hitchcock. It's funny to hear him talk about directing because he couldn't be more dismissive of it. Seemingly always willing to berate someone for calling him an artist, he never strayed from the opinion that directing was just a way to make a living. But, of course, the talent and care he put into his pictures seems to belie that offhand exterior. The same with his his sympathy for the downtrodden, as you mentioned. I really like THE GRAPES OF WRATH, so maybe that's why I like this one so much as well. Ford is just one of those guys I'm so in awe of as a director that his films always benefit.

THE MALTESE FALCON - I prefer THE BIG SLEEP as well (one of my absolute favorite films, period), but I think the real crown jewel (and I think you'd agree) of the Huston/Bogie connection is SIERRA MADRE. That one certainly rivals the great Hawks/Bogie films. But anyway, TMF really is the stuff that dreams are made of.

BALL OF FIRE - I should have mentioned Brackett and Wilder. The combo of their talents with the myriad talents of Hawks makes this such a blast. I think I've run out of superlatives for Hawks as it stands. I love his movies.

I agree and don't really have anything to add on MAN HUNT and THE LADY EVE. MH is a great thriller from a master of the genre and TLE is another reason to fall in love with the already supremely lovable Stanwyck and Struges.

SUSPICION - I guess the ending feels cheap because we know where Hitch wanted to take it, but was thwarted. Still, I can appreciate the fact that the ending surprised me. I wouldn't have guessed that Grant's character was innocent. I guess the message the censors wanted was don't suspect your husband even when he has given you copious reasons to suspect him haha. But anyway, agreed that even lesser Hitch is better than most other stuff.

DUMBO is all about motherly love and nostalgia. Agreed.

Great comment on all the directors here. It does find them doing what they do best. I'd love to do director months. It would be really fun and would help fill in some of my many film gaps. I'd be game whenever. I'd just need to watch a bunch with you or do lots of borrowing.

I'll do an ATTACK THE BLOCK post soon.

a 1945 list is on its way, so be ready.

AND a 2003 list is coming soon too, so everyone be be let down.

Friday, November 4, 2011


Another great year for film! Wow, my list is not too far off from yours Brandon. I haven't seen BUCK PRIVATES (need to borrow all your Abbott and Costello) though. Also haven't seen Walsh's MANPOWER or Hitch's MR. AND MRS. SMITH off your list John. I'd like to see both. I was going to watch MR. AND MRS. SMITH on the TCM day devoted to Carole Lombard, but the power was out that day and I missed it. It sucked. Also, I'm hoping to see THE STRAWBERRY BLONDE at some point.

1. Citizen Kane (Welles)
2. High Sierra (Walsh)
3. Sullivan’s Travels (Sturges)
4. How Green Was My Valley (Ford)
5. Ball of Fire (Hawks)
6. The Maltese Falcon (Huston)
7. Man Hunt (Lang)
8. The Lady Eve (Sturges)
9. Suspicion (Hitchcock)
10. Dumbo (Lots of people)

HM: The Wolf Man (Waggner), Sergeant York (Hawks)

I can't say anything against CITIZEN KANE nor can I deny its near mythical power. It's as stunning as everyone says it is. I also really can't say anything for it that hasn't already been said (and said better). I just really love it...I mean really love it.

HIGH SIERRA humanizes the gangster in a similar way to THE ROARING TWENTIES. How sad that his downfall is tied to a desire for some sense of child-like purity. Not just a simple case of "gangster with a heart of gold" but gangster with conflicting desires, hopes, and regrets. Anyway, it's completely terrific. Just recorded COLORADO TERRITORY. Can't wait to watch it.

SULLIVAN'S TRAVELS is one of the funniest and sharpest satires ever made. I'll jump on the Joel McCrea band wagon with you John and Brandon. And, of course, I could never deny the consistently brilliant Sturges.

HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY should at least remind you that no one in Hollywood could shoot a better picture than John Ford. The film itself is remarkably endearing without straying too far into sentimentality (Ford was a master at capturing humanity through a beautiful frame). There is one scene where young, bedridden Huw uses a broom to communicate with his equally bedridden mother in the room above him. One of my favorite scenes of all time.

BALL OF FIRE, Like Hawk's other great screwball comedies (TWENTIETH CENTURY, BRINGING UP BABY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY) typifies how well the man could make a sharp, brisk picture and wrestle wonderful comedic performances from his actors. He was a machine. And between this and THE LADY EVE, what a year for Barbara Stanwyck–one of my favorite actresses to ever grace the screen.

THE MALTESE FALCON was the beginning of a beautiful motion picture friendship between Bogey and the great John Huston. It's also one of the first classic films I ever saw. 'Twas love at first sight.

I just saw MAN HUNT and I'm really glad I did. I happened to be scrolling through the channels when I saw it on Fox Movie Classics (they usually got nothin'). Anyway, I'm loving watching these Fritz Lang Hollywood films. I wasn't really familiar with any of them until film club, but the ones I've seen now are really terrific. I love Pidgeon in this (another person with a great year). And Joan Bennett's Eliza Doolittle impersonation is somehow so charming. Watching them work together is the tops. Also, there are some fantastic chase scenes in this (e.g. through the London Underground) and an awesome scene in an underground hideout. Great picture.

THE LADY EVE. Sturges and Stanwyck (and an ever-endearing Henry Fonda). This is an amazing combo. Stanwyck plays sexy and hilarious so well. She was at the top of her game this year.

SUSPICION really ends very cheaply, but before that, building Cary Grant into such a slime ball is something else. Of course, the highest credit to the master himself for making you believe anything. Brandon, you're right, Hitchcock never made a bad film (that I've seen). Can't wait to post my 1945 list so you can see how much I love SPELLBOUND (and I know Chris is going to back me up on that film very soon).

I watched DUMBO on youtube the other night (in really good quality actually). First time I've seen it since I was a little boy. That was some beautiful nostalgia. Delightful experience.

I really like THE WOLF MAN, just not as much as these other 10 (sorry John). And I haven't seen SERGEANT YORK in forever, but I remember liking it, so it's at least worth an honorable mention.


On a side note, Brandon or John, do either of you have a copy of THE MAGNIFICENT AMBERSONS?

It's currently unavailable on dvd unless you buy the 70 dollar KANE blu-ray package (no thank you). I watched it once, a long time ago, and I can't really remember it. In order to do my '42 list properly I really need to see it again. So, it's either borrow it from one of you or wait for TCM to help me out.

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

vegetables are delicious

I wasn't claiming that WAR OF THE WORLDS is a bad film. I was just wondering what it was doing on a horror list. I wouldn't consider it a horror film (would you?), but I guess that doesn't really matter. Labels, labels, labels.

I agree that there is something annoying about Kois' piece because he is a professional film critic. He is paid to watch and write about film. Isn't it his job to pick through the murk of a film and find its deeper significance and theme(s)? Even if a film is bad and there isn't much below the surface, there is still something there to uncover, interpret, and ultimately criticize. I guess I feel less forgiving towards this man who is complaining about a job that many others with better attention spans and possibly greater insights will never get a chance to attain. I do feel more sympathy for people like us (aww shucks) who must consume films on the side in addition to our jobs/school work/families. If someone here honestly admits to being bored to tears by some film then I can understand that. We are not paid to watch anything (unless John "Boss" Owen wants to change that...), so our film intake is primarily based on enjoyment and interest.

Jason, you made the comment on facebook to Ben's SALO post about feeling vindicated for not wanting to watch 30s movies. I hear you. I'd say you should absolutely only watch 30s movies if WANT to. If they would be a chore then fuck 'em. There is better shit to do. But if you want to watch them then do it. I only watch 30s films because I enjoy watching them. They are a great treat like film club itself. I'm just glad I finally have some folks to talk to about older movies (and movies in general). I think we are all here because we love watching movies and not because we feel like we have to.

But, of course, taking an interest in film and wanting to be aware of films can certainly be a chore at times. If you want to know all about the film history of the 60s, then at some point you're going to have to face L'AVVENTURA. I know I watched it with a sense of curiosity and don't mind admitting that I was bored by it. I don't think it's a bad film, and there is probably a lot more to it than I remember seeing–I just couldn't dig on it (NOTE TO SELF: re-watch it at some point). I enjoy some of Antonioni's films quite a bit. BLOWUP is one of my favorites. But he can be a real fucking bore at times so I can sympathize with any non-professional film viewer
who doesn't want to sit through one of his films.

Anyway, my stance is and shall remain–only watch films if you want to watch them. That's about all the insight I've got for ya.