Saturday, December 29, 2012

More Django

 
There's a lot to walk away from DJANGO UNCHAINED feeling jazzed about by.  There's enough raucous violence, meaty lines of dialogue, beautiful landscapes, and solid acting to know you are in good hands.  There are plenty of moments that I thought worked wonders.  But it's sloppily assembled and executed and the writing is sub-par by Tarantino's very lofty standards.  This is a guy who I think can write a scene better than just about anyone in the business.  When he's in the zone, he's practically untouchable.  The dinner table scene at Candieland is one of the best in the film in terms of tension and dramatic conflict (and is elevated by Dicaprio's very game performance).  But it doesn't carry the threat or punch it should, mostly due to how quickly it is resolved.  Candie has been insulted and is wielding a hammer like a mad man and all he wants is his 12 thousand, which Dr. King and Django have ready for him in their pockets?  He takes it from them and the tension fizzles.  How is this all he wants, even after being cheated and lied to?  There are more instances like this where conceits near the level of deus ex machina are employed to arbitrarily resolve tension or remove characters from harms way.  The scene where Django is about to be castrated and then saved at the last second is one; Django's ability to convince the Australians not only to release him from captivity but inexplicably hand him a gun is another.  Tarantino too often seemed to be rushing himself out of scenes in the writing process instead of constructing them more methodically (as he did excellently in BASTERDS).

Your review of DJANGO is fantastic, Brandon.  I think I disagree with you on how far it actually is from masterpiece territory, but I couldn't agree more with you about how inflated the ending is.  If the film had ended with Dr. King and Django going out in one final blaze of glory, the film would have been so much tighter and more emphatic.  Instead, it drags itself out and utilizes too many ridiculous scenarios for Django to escape from.  I think by the time Tarantino stepped on screen in his atrocious accent, my eyes began to roll.  Casting himself was a huge misstep that only heightened how long the film had allowed itself to linger and how silly it had gotten.  He's absolutely terrible in the role, and the sight of him pulls you out of the film completely.  This last 20 minute stretch is the worst in the movie, no question.

Also, just a quick note: when I wrote that none of the emotion or the threats seemed real, I was decrying the excessive comedic tone of the piece, which made it hard to take much of anything seriously.  Some of the humor works but just as much of it falls flat or drags itself out too long (e.g. hood scene).  I guess if one were expecting a comedy, this silliness wouldn't feel all that egregious, but I was expecting something a little more operatic and intense à la BASTERDS or KILL BILL.  I think one big problem here is that we have finally been given a proper Tarantino spaghetti western and there is less Leone influence in it than in KILL BILL.  I'm sorry but I can't help but feel a little disappointed by that.

Friday, December 28, 2012

2012 Capsules Part I


Destroy the past.  Make the future.  Much of David Cronenberg's COSMOPOLIS takes place within the resplendent interior of 28-year-old billionaire Eric Packer's opulent stretch limousine.  Characters float in and out of it, pontificating ornately about "the glow of cyber-capital"and monetary speculation, while nestled inside of it remains Packer –an immured pillar of the self-interest and order that capitalism seeks to project upon the world.  What makes the film great is its insistence on ripping Packer away from his own self-command and the seclusion and of his limousine and vomiting him out into a refracted world that simultaneously fascinates and bewilders him.  COSMOPOLIS could essentially be described as a journey from the desired structure of capitalism to the "unstructure" of the world it produces.  In a bizarre and hilarious scene in which Packer discovers that his prostate is asymmetrical we are given a glimpse into the uncertainty that will eat away at Packer and the foundations of capitalism itself.  Packer becomes obsessed with discovering the truth of asymmetry and disunity (reflected in his half-haircut and "single-handed" act of self-destruction) to the point that he drags himself before his own tribunal among the slums.

Though I wish Cronenberg had ending the film on an emphatic rather than ambiguous note, I think the totality of it works because of Cronenberg's commitment to the hyper-reality of it all.  There is no realism per se to be found in the world he presents, but an elevated and highly stylized flux of information, ideas, and bodies.  It's a brilliant piece of filmmaking that seems like quintessential Cronenberg for its surreal, dark humor and threats of violence, but still modern and incisive for its trenchant commentary on the territorializing nature of capitalism.


DJANGO UNCHAINED is a droll and occasionally exhilarating experience, albeit a disappointing one in comparison to some of Tarantino's past work.  I won't deny the pleasure of seeing Waltz and Foxx riding on horseback with distant mountains resting like monoliths against the horizon (it's always welcome to see a modern film that understands the formal beauty and aesthetics of the western). Nor will I deny the many humorous, intense, bloody, and boisterous moments that make it a worthwhile entry in Tarantino's oeuvre.  I will, however, say that it feels hastily assembled, underwritten, and downright sloppy in its execution of genre pastiche when measured against something like INGLORIOUS BASTERDS.  What made BASTERDS so great was Tarantino's fastidious attention to building tension and delivering pay-offs.  It's a film that is so tightly composed (while also seeming gleeful and wild) with a verbal dexterity that seems vital and effortless.  DJANGO isn't nearly half as well written.  It has only a few scenes that seem prominent for their composure and memorability, but none that seem as towering as the handful that anchor BASTERDS. It moves too freely through the silliness of BLAZING SADDLES and retro swagger of SHAFT to make any of its darker moments feel threatening, its emotional moments feel true, or its narrative arch feel cathartic. If anyone wants to call this a masterpiece like BASTERDS, I can get into more specifics on all the reasons it is not.  For now I'll just echo Monsieur Candie and call it "a good bit of fun" but not the great spaghetti western I was looking forward to relishing.


I wasn't expecting much from THE HOBBIT: AN UNEXPECTED JOURNEY so I can at least admit that I was pleasantly surprised by how...well, pleasant, it ended up actually being.  I haven't read the book upon which it is liberally based but I do know the general story it tells.  Jackson should certainly and rightfully be accused of cash-grabbing and indulging in needless excess by dragging what could be a single three hour film into a nine hour trilogy.  Lovers of the book will probably groan at all the padding the story is given and the random characters that are added from various LOTR appendices.  The film is indeed leisurely paced (to the point of tedium early on), but being unbeholden to the source material, I thought the inclusions of Radagast and Azog, though ultimately unnecessary, at least gave this film more climatic weight and action to sustain itself on.

Decidedly, Jackson's THE HOBBIT is never going to have the impact or dramatic weight of the LOTR trilogy.  It's a much more lighthearted tale with less at stake.  But it's still worthwhile for lovers of the trilogy, if only for the chance to hear Howard Shore's score, revisit some of the sets, and catch McKellen's Gandalf and Serkis' Gollum in action again.  Overall, it's an enjoyable family adventure, not much more.


You're right, Brandon.  This was the film I was hoping Haneke had made.  It's a rigorously formal and entirely unsentimental look at what it is to witness dissolution and decay in someone you love.  AMOUR opens with the door being abruptly blasted in on Georges and Anne's apartment, as we find Anne's corpse looking putrefied and sallow.  We then jump backwards to the last few months of her life with Georges, right before half her body becomes paralyzed due to complications from surgery.  The initial breaking of the door becomes symbolic for the deterioration that ravishes Anne, how old age invades each and every body and death finds its way into our home.  When we first flashback, we see that Georges and Anne's door has been picked at by someone trying to break in, and it becomes this melancholic if subtle reminder that something inexorable and painful is trying to invade their lives.  And then it breaks through, and Haneke lets the pain invade and absorb these two people with masterful insight and restraint.  Nothing and no one is spared, yet the anger is not pointed like a knife, directed at a person or institution, but dulled like a cry through the cold, perhaps directed in vain at the idea of moribundity itself.

What keeps AMOUR from being merely a "dreadfully effective piece of arduous art" (as you put it, Brandon) is its adherence to the relationship between Georges and Anne throughout the pain and its ability to live up to its title.  If anyone wants to call this "arduous art" without a point beyond making us squirm then they need to try to convince me that there is hollowness in the way Georges gently picks up his wife's crippled body and slowly moves her from one position to the next.  If you think there is hollowness in it, then I call you a cynic at best, a vindictive prick at worst.  Those are the moments were the film earns its title and where it communicates all of its intimacy and the complexity of its tenderness and sadness.  The way Georges holds Anne is a lover's embrace.  It is almost as if they are about to dance or to share a passionate kiss, but they do not because it is a more practicable though no less loving embrace.  It's a painful embrace too.  They both know it is.  But they hold each other with love and try to move, maybe the way we will all hold someone someday – at the last meeting point between the youthful spring of the mind and the waning winter of the body.

Thursday, December 20, 2012

The Kid With a Bike/Rosetta



I am really happy that you watched and loved THE KID WITH A BIKE, Brandon.  It's fitting because I recently watched another Dardenne masterpiece called ROSETTA (1999) that I think you would also love.  Between these two films and THE SON, I think the Dardennes are near the top of the best directors working today.  They are the torchbearers of Bressonian spirituality and humanism in film.  Their films seem so simple on the surface, but they creep up on you with surreptitious weight and pack a profound wallop.  I can't exactly figure out why this is, but I would guess that it is because they tend to anchor their films with these subtle gestures of moral and ethical enormity.  And at the heart of each of their films they ask a question.  That question is never easily identifiable or answerable, but the significance of that question (our ability to acknowledge it and its implications) has a reverberating effect.  If we care enough, it pierces our heart.

In THE KID WITH A BIKE, we have the central question: why does Samantha take in Cyril?  It's a simple question, but it doesn't have a simple answer, and it drives our understanding of the narrative.  Ostensibly, she takes him in as a maternal act since Cyril has marked her as "mother" as soon as he latches on to her and refuses to let go.  But Cyril is not an facile child to accept responsibility for.  He's routinely been neglected and discarded; he's angry, intractable, and lashes out whenever he feels threatened.  So, why does Samantha stick with him through all the trouble he causes her?  I would argue that Samantha's choice to stick with Cyril is unknowable merely by the fact that it is given irrationaly.  Samantha's choice of Cyril is a selfless act of kindness and grace. It is an immanent grace given mysteriously and freely (even more mysterious since it is not an explicitly "moral" decision).  Our ability to understand the depth of Samantha's choice impacts our reception of the film's quiet yet unfathomable power.  If we can accept it, we feel it immeasurably.

And I think the Dardenne's want us to feel it and try to understand it.  The way they end the film suggests that Samantha's act of kindness has near spiritual proportions.  Before Cyril is attacked, we have seen him slowly and tentatively begin to accept Samantha's love and protection.  We almost feel like he has finally reformed into accepting it.  When he is attacked and nearly killed, we feel heartbroken.  We want him to get home to Samantha because we know how positive a force she is on his life.  I honestly thought the Dardennes would let Cyril die, but I should have known better.  They are much braver than this.  They let Cyril live, and it isn't a cop out or a happy ending tacked on to appease audiences, but a profound statement on redemption and resurrection.  Cyril is brought back to life by Samantha's love and kindness; he is spiritually, emotionally, and physically redeemed by it.  There is an obvious religious connection here, but also a beautiful statement on the ethics of goodness, charity, and forgiveness.  Like I said, if we accept Samantha's act of kindness and its extraordinary power, this film will humble and floor us.  I know it did me.

ROSETTA (SPOILERS ahead!) has a very similar power to it, and it also tells a complementary story.  Rosetta, like Cyril, is a neglected kid forced to fend for herself in a hash and unforgiving world.  Rosetta at least lives with her mother (she's a drunk and a mess), but she has to take care of herself and work low-paying jobs just to afford food to survive on.  And at the heart of ROSETTA is actually a similarly esoteric question to the one in A KID WITH A BIKE.  It too has profound moral and ethical significance and it asks:  why does Riquet choose to forgive Rosetta?  His decision comes right at the end of the film, so we aren't given a lot of time to see the implications of it, but we do see the look on Rosetta's face as he helps her up and it's a telling final image of potential redemption and resurrection, just like seeing Cyril rise, carry his burden, and ride off towards Samantha.  Again, this is a simple gesture: Riquet torments Rosetta until she falls down in tears and then helps her off the ground.  He has a legitimate reason to be angry at Rosetta (she betrayed him and got him fired so that she could get his job - a desperate act of survival), yet he chooses to relent and show her kindness.  It's an enriching moral and ethical lesson, and the Dardennes know just how to make the impact of it hit powerful and true.

THE SON is also intensely profound and moving, but I'll forgo talking about it because I'm still hoping I can convince some of you to watch it (still on NWI, as far as I know).  The shaky cam can be a little disorienting and annoying, but it's used for a purpose (the form matches the content beautifully, even if it is aesthetically not easy on the eyes), and once you get over it, you get captivated by the story and characters before you.  I think all of you would love these three films if you gave them a chance.  The shaky cam isn't really used in THE KID WITH A BIKE, so it's worth watching first if that's what's holding any of you up (that one's also on NWI, so watch it!).

On an unrelated note, I am beyond stoked that this is finally getting a proper release on DVD/Blu-Ray in this country:



March 26th!!

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

John Ford, John Ford, John Ford


As you know, I lost most of what I already wrote about Ford (d'oh!). I'm still too discouraged to rewrite anything, so I'll just try to jot down some new thoughts. Hopefully this is still worthwhile.  Here we go again:

[I apologize if this is all over the place]

So, inspired by Brandon, and in honor of one of the greatest directors to ever step behind a camera, here are my thoughts on John Ford (an all-time favorite of mine).
What is there to say about Ford that hasn’t already been said? Brandon did a wonderful job addressing the man, his legacy, and the important thematic threads that run throughout his work. I know I could gush endlessly about Ford only to have my voice drown in a chorus of likeminded adulation. He’s a legend, a pioneer; the only person in history to hold four Best Director Oscar statuettes (not that that’s any measure of success, but still impressive and a great example of how well-respected he was by his peers). He may be more responsible for the artistic advancement of motion picture making in Hollywood than anyone after D.W. Griffith. He’s that important to the medium and to the history of its development in this country.

It think the best way to talk about Ford is really to just think about what made him an auteur, what personal tropes we can find that pepper throughout his work. I am by no means an expert on Ford, but I do know a bit about his personality and personal history. As some of you may already know, he was born in America to first generation Irish immigrants. He was a (guilt-ridden) Catholic, intensely proud of his Irish heritage, but also immensely patriotic towards his country of birth. He was a liberal democrat for much of his life (there's a great story about him defending Joseph L. Mankiewicz from Cecil B. DeMille and his goons, which you can find here.) He cared very deeply about underdogs, people in suffering, people in need. He was a soft-hearted sentimentalist, but dissembled this part of himself with a cantankerous, often callous veneer. He was an individualist, with a strong sense of community, and also a realist about the aleatory cruelties of the world. He had a tremendous eye for visual poetry, even if he would pretend to be a brute for hire. He had a meticulous attention to detail. He hated pretense, excessive self-importance, and grandiose displays of bombast and egoism. He was humble and fiercely intelligent. He could shoot a motion picture like no other.

Some of these traits I don't know from reading about him, but simply from observing what he put into each of his films. There are a lot of various themes that run throughout his work, but some occur more vividly and consistently than others. Since THE SEARCHERS is my number 1 favorite film of his, I'll use that as a template to start from.

What makes THE SEARCHERS so undeniably Fordian? Well, for one, it opens with one of the most beautiful sequences in film history. Its introductory gliding camera movement across the cabin's threshold is like walking out into cinema itself. It's a breathtaking image, shot in inimitable Technicolor and VistaVision; a visual slice of framed glory that can exist no where else and in no other medium.  From there, we see a sequence of gorgeous, immaculately framed long shots: Ethan dwarfed by the monolithic crags of Monument Valley; Ethan's family sitting like kings perched on high, their home precariously resting beneath a dangerous horizon.  The first thing that strikes you about THE SEARCHERS is how enormous and majestic it looks.  Ford had such a remarkable eye for beautiful images.  He painted glorious canvases.  His shots could be big and impressive or they could be small, yet no less impressive.  His exterior long shots get a lot of deserved attention, but I would also draw awareness to the beauty of his interior shots.  Look at some of the interior static long and medium shots in THE SEARCHERS, where characters are sitting at tables or hunched at desks, and they just so perfectly framed and lit.  Brandon once wrote that Ford was "incapable of botching a shot" and it's absolutely true.  Ford put so much attention into every shot, and could make the perfect decision with each of them.  He was a visual genius who cared immensely about film language, mise-en-scene, and craft.  He pushed these aspects of film forward, and helped make directing the art that it is.

Apart from the magnificence of his craft, there are also certain themes that Ford loved to revisit in his films.  In THE SEARCHERS, we can find several persistent threads.  First, we have the idea of a violent, dangerous environment in which people find themselves surrounded.  This theme is returned to in countless other Ford films (DRUMS ALONG THE MOHAWK, YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, THE HURRICANE, THE INFORMER, etc.).  He seemed to be invariably concerned with the perilous forces that infringe upon our safety and well-being.  I don't think he was paranoid; I think he just understood that the world around us can be harsh and unforgiving, but it is important to be individualized while still forming connections to family and other significant communities.  Ethan in THE SEARCHERS remains inextricably tied to his family even in the face of great improbability.  His problem is that he lets the virulence of his racism consume him to the point that he almost forgets this connection. I think Ford knew the importance of being an individual but not letting your ego consume you to the point where you couldn't reach out to others.  He's someone who cared about forming unions (family, friendship) as meaningful beacons in the threat of danger and darkness.  THE SEARCHERS is a great reminder of this.

Ford was certainly a sentimentalist as well, even if he did try to conceal it with a seemingly hard-nosed facade.  HOW GREEN WAS MY VALLEY is unabashedly sentimental in its depiction of a working-class Irish family. I would argue that it never becomes saccharine, but remains naturally emotional and tender throughout.  You can definitely feel Ford's empathy for common people struggling to get by in it.  Again, he isn't afraid to address the harsh realities of their lives in this film, nor is he embarrassed to emphasize the importance of family as a buttress throughout these tribulations. THE QUIET MAN is much less serious in its depiction of Irish life (it is more of a great paean to an idealized vision of Ireland).  It is a sentimental look at agrarian life and perhaps a dream Ford had for Ireland, one that wasn't as violent or divided but gregarious and whimsical.  The sweetness of THE QUIET MAN (as well as the verdurous wealth of its cinematography) is a very telling indication of Ford's gentle nature (and it's these traits, as well as Maureen O'Hara's beauty, that make the film such a favorite of mine).

Ford was sentimental but he could be also be a great realist about the nature of lies, destruction, and evil in our world (THE MAN WHO SHOT LIBERTY VALANCE, THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, CHEYENNE AUTUMN).  He definitely didn't shy away from these facts in his films.  Nothing was ever rose-colored for Ford.  But always tried to overcome harshness even if it meant printing the legend instead of the truth.


Ford also had great sense of humor and a mischievous, rowdy spirit.  THE WINGS OF EAGLES, his comedies, and even films like SHE WORE A YELLOW RIBBON are wonderful examples of his propensity for joyous frenzy.  THE WINGS OF EAGLES (since it is fresh in my mind) is particularly fun in this regard.  Seeing John Wayne get hit in the face with a pie and an all-out brawl ensue is about as memorable an image as Ford ever produced.  Brandon and I both love this aspect of Ford's work.  Sometimes a well-choreographed fistfight is just what you need to cure the blues.

All told, I think the best way I would describe "the Ford touch" (his auteurist stamp) is a consistent emphasis on fastidious craftsmanship; themes of external cruelty and danger being fought through personal connections with others and truth to the self; a concern with and a tenderness for the plight of those who struggle; and a rambunctiousness that could extend into all-out violence or merely playfulness.  However you want to describe Ford's personal touch within cinema, you'd have to admit he's one of the best the medium ever had.


Here are some of the films I watched recently of his:

WAGON MASTER: Terrific starring showcase for some of Ford's greatest and most frequent supporting character actors (Ben Johnson, Ward Bond, Harry Carey Jr., Hank Worden). Quintessential Ford.

THE LONG VOYAGE HOME: Rambling narrative makes the story hard to connect to, but you
can’t argue with those gorgeous, deep focus images by the great Gregg Toland.

THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND: As Brandon wisely put it, an American nightmare. A film depicting Ford's empathy for the wrongfully accused and those who suffer needlessly. Obviously, told with great care, economy, and power.  Twas ideal seeing this right around the same time as LINCOLN.

THE WINGS OF EAGLES: A tenderhearted tribute to one of Ford's deceased friends. An underrated film within his cannon. The jaunty playfulness of it stands out (as I mentioned, lots of rousing fistfights - a Ford staple), as does Ford's wonderful ability to poke fun at himself.  The good things is that it largely avoids being maudlin, even as it deals with some serious subjects like divorce and alcoholism. An adult picture with some childlike buoyancy to it.

THE SEARCHERS: The more I see it, the more indelible it becomes.

Still need to see:  Too many to count, but most interested in seeing WHEN WILLIE COMES MARCHING HOME, 7 WOMEN, STEAMBOAT 'ROUND THE BEND, THE FUGITIVE, and ARROWSMITH.

Up Next:  Ernst Lubitsch

Saturday, December 15, 2012

Top 10 John Ford Films

Also, I just thought I should post my top 10 John Ford list.  I was hoping to post it with my Ford thoughts yesterday, but that didn't work out too well.  I'm still going to write more about Ford this upcoming week, but for now, here's the belated list:


1. The Searchers


2. The Quiet Man


3. Stagecoach


4. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance


5. Young Mr. Lincoln


6. How Green Was My Valley


7. The Informer


8. Drums Along the Mohawk


9. Rio Grande


10. 3 Godfathers

Honorable Mention (i.e. just missed the list): My Darling Clementine, The Whole Town's Talking, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, The Grapes of Wrath, The Wings of Eagles, The Prisoner of Shark Island, The Horse Soldiers.

Mini-Milestone

This isn't really a big deal, but I thought it worth mentioning that I finally reached my goal of seeing at least 20 films for every year from 1930-1959 (top 10 plus 10 honorable mentions) .  My next goal is to have 10 honorable mentions for each year that I love and can stand on equal footing together.  Right now, there are some in there that aren't nearly on par with some of the others.   But for now, I'm just glad I was able to do this.  It's been incredible.

Here are my lists as they look now:

1930

1. The Big Trail (Raoul Walsh)
2. L’Age d’Or (Luis Buñuel)
3. Earth (Alexander Dovzhenko)
4. Monte Carlo (Ernst Lubitsch)
5. Animal Crackers (Victor Heerman)
6. The Blood of a Poet (Jean Cocteau)
7. Under the Roofs of Paris (René Clair)
8. All Quiet on the Western Front (Lewis Milestone)
9. The Tale of the Fox (Ladislas Starewicz)
10. Hell’s Angels (Howard Hughes)

Honorable Mention: The Blue Angel (Josef von Sternberg), Westfront 1918 (G.W. Pabst), Murder! (Alfred Hitchcock), The Flirting Widow (William A. Seiter), Anna Christie (Clarence Brown), Morocco (Josef von Sternberg), À propos de Nice (Jean Vigo), Hog Wild (James Parrott), Silly Symphonies (lots of people), Outward Bound (Robert Milton)


1931

1. City Lights (Charles Chaplin)
2. M. (Fritz Lang)
3. Le Million (René Clair)
4. The Public Enemy (William A. Wellman)
5. The Smiling Lieutenant (Ernst Lubitsch)
6. Frankenstein (James Whale)
7. Monkey Business (Norman Z. McLeod)
8. À Nous la Liberté (René Clair)
9. Little Caesar (Mervyn LeRoy)
10. Smart Money (Alfred E. Green)

Honorable Mention: Street Scene (King Vidor), The Champ (King Vidor), Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Rouben Mamoulian), The Maltese Falcon (Roy Del Ruth), Tokyo Chorus (Yasujiro Ozu), The ThreePenny Opera (G.W. Pabst), Dracula (Tod Browning), Taris (Jean Vigo), The Front Page (Lewis Milestone), The Easiest Way (Jack Conway)


1932

1. I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Mervyn Leroy)
2. Horse Feathers (Norman Z. McLeod)
3. Me and My Gal (Raoul Walsh)
4. Scarface (Howard Hawks, Richard Rosson)
5. Vampyr (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
6. I Was Born, But... (Yasujiro Ozu)
7. Boudu Saved From Drowning (Jean Renoir)
8. Trouble in Paradise (Ernst Lubitsch)
9. Freaks (Tod Browning)
10. Love Me Tonight (Rouben Mamoulian)

Honorable Mention: Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding), A Farewell to Arms (Frank Borzage), The Crowd Roars (Howard Hawks), The Old Dark House (James Whale), The Music Box (James Parrott), Shanghai Express (Josef von Sternberg), Island of Lost Souls (Erle C. Kenton), Red Dust (Victor Fleming), The Most Dangerous Game (Irving Pichel, Ernest B. Schoedsack), Number 17 (Alfred Hitchcock)


1933

1. Duck Soup (Leo McCarey)
2. Footlight Parade (Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley)
3. King Kong (Merian C. Cooper, Ernest B. Schoedsack)
4. Design For Living (Ernst Lubitsch)
5. The Invisible Man (James Whale)
6. Man's Castle (Frank Borzage)
7. 42nd Street (Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley)
8. Lady for a Day (Frank Capra)
9. Hallelujah, I’m a Bum (Lewis Milestone)
10. Little Women (George Cukor)

Honorable Mention: Zero de conduit (Jean Vigo), Lady Killer (Roy Del Ruth), Sons of the Desert (William A. Seiter), Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, Busby Berkeley), The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang), Dinner at Eight (George Cukor), The Private Life of Henry VIII (Alexander Korda), She Done Him Wrong (Lowell Sherman), Queen Christina (Rouben Mamoulian), The Bitter Tea of General Yen (Frank Capra)

1934

1. The Thin Man (W.S. van Dyke)
2. L’Atalante (Jean Vigo)
3. The Scarlet Empress (Josef von Sternberg)
4. It Happened One Night (Frank Capra)
5. A Story of Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu) 
6. Twentieth Century (Howard Hawks)
7. The Black Cat (Edgar G. Ulmer)
8. The Gay Divorcee (Mark Sandrich)
9. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock)
10. Dames (Ray Enright, Busby Berkeley)

Honorable Mention: The Merry Widow (Ernst Lubitsch), It’s a Gift (Norman Z. McLeod), Man of Aran (Roberty J. Flaherty), Evelyn Prentice (William K. Howard),  The Count of Monte Cristo (Rowland V. Lee), Of Human Bondage (John Cromwell), Manhattan Melodrama (W.S. van Dyke), Babes in Toyland (Gus Meins, Charley Rogers), Judge Priest (John Ford), The Little Minister (Richard Wallace)


1935

1. The 39 Steps (Alfred Hitchcock)
2. The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale)
3. Ruggles of Red Gap (Leo McCarey)
4. Top Hat (Mark Sandrich)
5. The Informer (John Ford)
6. A Night at the Opera (Sam Wood)
7. “G” Men (William Keighley)
8. The Whole Town's Talking (John Ford)
9. David Copperfield (George Cukor)
10. Sylvia Scarlett (George Cukor)

Honorable Mention: Captain Blood (Michael Curtiz), Alice Adams (George Stevens), Gold Diggers of 1935 (Busby Berkeley), Mutiny on the Bounty (Frank Lloyd), Anna Karenina (Clarence Brown), China Seas (Tay Garnett), A Midsummer Night's Dream (William Dieterle, Max Reinhardt), The Ghost Goes West (René Clair), Triumph of the Will (Leni Riefenstahl), Hands Across the Table (Mitchell Leiser)


1936

1. My Man Godfrey (Gregory La Cava)
2. Dodsworth (William Wyler)
3. Modern Times (Charles Chaplin)
4. After the Thin Man (W.S. van Dyke)
5. The Petrified Forest (Archie Mayo)
6. Libeled Lady (Jack Conway)
7. The Lower Depths (Jean Renoir)
8. Fury (Fritz Lang)
9. The Only Son (Yasujiro Ozu)
10. Partie de Campagne (Jean Renoir)

Honorable Mention: The Prisoner of Shark Island (John Ford), Osaka Elegy (Kenji Mizoguchi), Sabotage (Alfred Hitchcock), Swing Time (George Stevens), Bullets or Ballots (William Keighley), San Francisco (W.S. van Dyke), Camille (George Cukor), Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (Frank Capra), Gold Diggers of 1937 (Lloyd Bacon, Busby Berkeley), Show Boat (James Whale)


1937

1. Grand Illusion (Jean Renoir)
2. Make Way for Tomorrow (Leo McCarey)
3. Stage Door (Gregory La Cava)
4. Young and Innocent (Alfred Hitchcock)
5. Pépé le Moko (Julien Duvivier)
6. Mannequin (Frank Borzage)
7. Way Out West (James W. Horne)
8. Stella Dallas (King Vidor)
9. The Awful Truth (Leo McCarey)
10. You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang)

Honorable Mention: Nothing Sacred (William A. Wellman), Dead End (William Wyler), Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (lots of people), The Prisoner of Zenda (John Cromwell), The Hurricane (John Ford), Shall We Dance (Mark Sandrich), Topper (Norman Z. Mcleod), The Life of Emile Zola (William Dieterle), A Day at the Races (Sam Wood), Captains Courageous (Victor Fleming), A Star is Born (William A. Wellman)


1938

1. Port of Shadows (Marcel Carné)
2. The Lady Vanishes (Alfred Hitchcock)
3. The Adventures of Robin Hood (Michael Curtiz)
4. La Bête humaine (Jean Renoir)
5. Holiday (George Cukor)
6. Angels With Dirty Faces (Michael Curtiz)
7. Hotel Du Nord (Marcel Carné)
8. You Can’t Take it With You (Frank Capra)
9. Vivacious Lady (George Stevens)
10. Three Comrades (Frank Borzage)

Honorable Mention: Bringing Up Baby (Howard Hawks), Alexander Nevsky (Sergei Eisenstein), Jezebel (William Wyler), Pygmalion (Anthony Asquaith, Leslie Howard), A Slight Case of Murder (Lloyd Bacon), Carefree (Mark Sandrich), The Amazing Dr. Clitterhouse (Anatole Litvak), Boy Meets Girl (Lloyd Bacon), Room Service (William A. Seiter), A Christmas Carol (Edwin L. Marin)


1939

1. Ninotchka (Ernst Lubitsch)
2. The Rules of the Game (Jean Renoir)
3. Stagecoach (John Ford)
4. The Roaring Twenties (Raoul Walsh)
5. Le Jour se leve (Marcel Carné)
6. Only Angels Have Wings (Howard Hawks)
7. Young Mr. Lincoln (John Ford)
8. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming)
9. Destry Rides Again (George Marshall)
10. Drums Along The Mohawk (John Ford)

Honorable Mention: The Women (George Cukor), Gone with the Wind (Victor Fleming), Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra), Each Dawn I Die (William Keighley), Another Thin Man (W.S. van Dyke), The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle), In Name Only (John Cromwell), Jamaica Inn (Alfred Hitchcock), Son of Frankenstein (Rowland V. Lee)), It's a Wonderful World (W.S. van Dyke)


1940

1. The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch)
2. Rebecca (Alfred Hitchcock)
3. Christmas in July (Preston Sturges)
4. I Love You Again (W.S. van Dyke)
5. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks)
6. The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin)
7. Foreign Correspondent (Alfred Hitchcock)
8. My Favorite Wife (Garson Kanin)
9. They Drive By Night (Raoul Walsh)
10. Primrose Path (Gregory La Cava)

Honorable Mention: The Philadelphia Story (George Cukor), The Mortal Storm (Frank Borzage), The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford), Night Train to Munich (Carol Reed), Pinocchio (lots of people), City for Conquest (Anatole Litvak), The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges), The Bank Dick (Edward F. Cline), The Sea Hawk (Michael Curtiz), The Letter (William Wyler)


1941

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

Honorable Mention: Manpower (Raoul Walsh), Buck Privates (Arthur Lubin), The Strawberry Blonde (Raoul Walsh), Shadow of the Thin Man (W.S. van Dyke), Love Crazy (Jack Conway), The Wolf Man (George Waggner), Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Alfred Hitchcock), That Uncertain Feeling (Ernst Lubitsch), The Sea Hawk (Michael Curtiz), Ziegfeld Girl (Robert Z. Leonard)


1942

1. To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch)
2. The Magnificent Ambersons (Orson Welles)
2. Cat People (Jacques Tourneur)
4. There Was a Father (Yasujiro Ozu)
5. I Married a Witch (René Clair)
6. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz)
7. The Palm Beach Story (Preston Sturges)
8. Les Visiteurs du Soir (Marcel Carné)
9. Saboteur (Alfred Hitchcock)
10. Random Harvest (Mervyn LeRoy)

Honorable Mention: Bambi (lots of people), The Talk of the Town (George Stevens), This Gun For Hire (Frank Tuttle), Road to Morocco (David Butler), Rio Rita (S. Sylvan Simon), Holiday Inn (Mark Sandrich), Yankee Doodle Dandy (Michael Curtiz), The Black Swan (Henry King), The Glass Key (Stuart Heisler), You Were Never Lovelier (William A. Seiter)


1943

1. Shadow of a Doubt (Alfred Hitchcock)
2. Heaven Can Wait (Ernst Lubitsch)
3. Hangmen Also Die! (Fritz Lang)
4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
5. The Ox-Bow Incident (William A. Wellman)
6. Ossessione (Luchino Visconti)
7. The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur)
8. The More the Merrier (George Stevens)
9. I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur)
10. Day of Wrath (Carl Theodor Dreyer)

Honorable Mention: Five Graves to Cairo (Billy Wilder), The Ghost Ship (Mark Robson), Northern Pursuit (Raoul Walsh), Sahara (Zoltán Korda), Le Corbeau (Henri-Georges Clouzot), The Seventh Victim (Mark Robson), Cabin in the Sky (Vincente Minnelli), The Outlaw (Howard Hughes), Girl Crazy (Norman Taurog), Watch on the Rhine (Herman Shumlin)


1944

1. Meet Me in St. Louis (Vincente Minnelli)
2. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder)
3. Hail the Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges)
4. The Curse of the Cat People (Gunther von Fritsch, Robert Wise)
5. The Children are Watching Us (Vittorio De Sica)
6. To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks)
7. The Woman in the Window (Fritz Lang)
8. Laura (Otto Preminger)
9. The Princess and the Pirate (David Butler)
10. The Miracle of Morgan's Creek (Preston Sturges)

Honorable Mention: Ministry of Fear (Fritz Lang), Lifeboat (Alfred Hitchcock), Arsenic and Old Lace (Frank Capra), Tall in the Saddle (Edwin L. Marin), The Uninvited (Lewis Allen), Murder, My Sweet (Edward Dmytryk), Dark Waters (Andre De Toth), Gaslight (George Cukor), The Thin Man Goes Home (Richard Thorpe), Going My Way (Leo McCarey)


1945

1. Children of Paradise (Marcel Carné)
2. Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang)
3. Spellbound (Alfred Hitchcock)
4. Mildred Pierce (Michael Curtiz)
5. Leave Her To Heaven (John M. Stahl) 
6. The Southerner (Jean Renoir)
7. Brief Encounter (David Lean)
8. Rome, Open City (Roberto Rossellini)
9. Les Dames du Bois de Boulogne (Robert Bresson)
10. A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (Elia Kazan)

Honorable Mention: Dead of Night (lots of people), And Then There Were None (René Clair), Fallen Angel (Otto Preminger), Christmas in Connecticut (Peter Godfrey), I Know Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger), The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder), Isle of the Dead (Mark Robson), The Body Snatcher (Robert Wise), Detour (Edgar G. Ulmer), Blithe Spirit (David Lean)


1946

1. The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks)
2. It’s a Wonderful Life (Frank Capra)
3. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock)
4. Shoeshine (Vittorio De Sica)
5. The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak)
6. Canyon Passage (Jacques Tourneur)
7. Monsieur Beaucaire (George Marshall) & Road to Utopia (Hal Walker)
8. A Matter of Life and Death (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
9. Great Expectations (David Lean)
10. My Darling Clementine (John Ford)

Honorable Mention: The Best Years of Our Lives (William Wyler), Paisan (Roberto Rossellini), Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau), The Stranger (Orson Welles), Gilda (Charles Vidor), Bedlam (Mark Robson), The Killers (Robert Siodmak), A Night in Casablanca (Archie Mayo), The Postman Always Rings Twice (Tay Garnett), The Blue Dahlia (George Marshall


1947

1. Odd Man Out (Carol Reed)
2. Quai Des Orfèvres (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
3. Pursued (Raoul Walsh)
4. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger)
5. Monsieur Verdoux (Charles Chaplin)
6. Daisy Kenyon (Otto Preminger)
7. Out of the Past (Jacques Tourneur)
8. The Lady From Shanghai (Orson Welles)
9. Dark Passage (Delmer Daves)
10. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Norman Z. McLeod)

Honorable Mention: Kiss of Death (Henry Hathaway), Crossfire (Edward Dmytryk), Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), Brute Force (Jules Dassin), Gentleman's Agreement (Elia Kazan), Miracle on 34th Street (George Seaton), It Happened on Fifth Avenue (Roy Del Ruth), Where There's Life (Sidney Lanfield), Song of the Thin Man (Edward Buzzell)


1948

1. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston)
2. Letter From an Unknown Woman (Max Ophüls)
3. Red River (Howard Hawks)
4. Rope (Alfred Hitchcock)
5. Unfaithfully Yours (Preston Sturges)
6. Portrait of Jennie (William Dieterle)
7. Germany Year Zero (Roberto Rossellini)
8. Moonrise (Frank Borzage)
9. Four Faces West (Alfred E. Green)
10. Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (Charles Barton)

Honorable Mention: The Red Shoes (William Powell, Emeric Pressburger), La Terra Trema (Luchino Visconti), Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica), Key Largo (John Huston), 3 Godfathers (John Ford),  The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed), Force of Evil (Abraham Polonsky), Oliver Twist (David Lean), The Paleface (Norman Z. McLeod), Call Northside 777 (Henry Hathaway)

1949

1. Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu)
2. The Third Man (Carol Reed)
3. White Heat (Raoul Walsh)
4. Colorado Territory (Raoul Walsh)
5. They Live By Night (Nicholas Ray)
6. Stray Dog (Akira Kurosawa)
7. A Letter to Three Wives (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
8. The Set-Up (Robert Wise)
9. Whirlpool (Otto Preminger)
10. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (John Ford)

Honorable Mention: Criss Cross (Robert Siodmak), Passport to Pimlico (Henry Cornelius), On the Town (Gene Kelly, Stanley Donen), Reign of Terror (Anthony Mann), Orpheus (Jean Cocteau), Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer), Adam's Rib (George Cukor), Under Capricorn (Alfred Hitchcock), The Reckless Moment (Max Ophüls), Caught (Max Ophüls)


1950

1. All About Eve (Joseph L. Mankiewicz)
2. In a Lonely Place (Nicholas Ray)
3. La Ronde (Max Ophüls)
4. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder)
5. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa)
6. Gun Crazy (Joseph H. Lewis)
7. Stromboli (Roberto Rossellini)
8. Rio Grande (John Ford)
9. Winchester '73 (Anthony Mann)
10. Harvey (Henry Koster)

Honorable Mention: House by the River (Fritz Lang), Los Olvidados (Luis Buñuel), The Furies (Anthony Mann), The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston), Born Yesterday (George Cukor), Stage Fright (Alfred Hitchcock), Side Street (Anthony Mann), The Flowers of Saint Francis (Roberto Rossellini), D.O.A. (Rudolph Maté), Cinderella (lots of people)


1951

1. Diary of a Country Priest (Robert Bresson)
2. Early Summer (Yasujiro Ozu)
3. Ace in the Hole (Billy Wilder)
4. Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock)
5. The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby)
6. The African Queen (John Huston)
7. The Steel Helmet (Samuel Fuller)
8. The River (Jean Renoir)
9. Summer Interlude (Ingmar Bergman)
10. The Prowler (Joseph Losey)

Honorable Mention: A Streetcar Named Desire (Elia Kazan), The Tales of Hoffmann (Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger), Europa '51 (Roberto Rossellini), Alice in Wonderland (lots of people), A Place in the Sun (George Stevens), An American in Paris (Vincente Minnelli), People Will Talk (Joseph L. Mankiewicz), My Favorite Spy (Norman Z. McLeod), The Day the Earth Stood Still (Robert Wise), The Lavender Hill Mob (Charles Crichton)


1952

1. Umberto D. (Vittorio De Sica)
2. Le Plaisir (Max Ophüls)
3. Singin' in the Rain (Stanley Donen)
4. The Quiet Man (John Ford)
5. Ikiru (Akira Kurosawa)
6. Angel Face (Otto Preminger)
7. The Bad and the Beautiful (Vincente Minnelli)
8. Bend of the River (Anthony Mann)
9. The Narrow Margin (Richard Fleischer)
10. The Big Sky (Howard Hawks)

Honorable Mention: Forbidden Games (René Clement), The Life of Oharu (Kenji Mizoguchi), On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray), Limelight (Charles Chaplin), The Lusty Men (Nicholas Ray), Clash by Night (Fritz Lang), Pat and Mike (George Cukor), Kansas City Confidential (Phil Karlson), Monkey Business (Howard Hawks), The Marrying Kind (George Cukor)


1953

1. The Earrings of Madame de...(Max Ophüls)
2. Stalag 17 (Billy Wilder)
3. Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi)
4. The Wages of Fear (Henri-Georges Clouzot)
5. The Big Heat (Fritz Lang)
6. Tokyo Story (Yasujiro Ozu)
7. Summer With Monika (Ingmar Bergman)
8. I Vitelloni (Federico Fellini)
9. The Naked Spur (Anthony Mann)
10. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller)

Honorable Mention: I Confess (Alfred Hitchcock), Roman Holiday (William Wyler), Gentlemen Prefer Blondes (Howard Hawks), The Band Wagon (Vincente Minnelli), Sawdust and Tinsel (Ingmar Bergman), Peter Pan (lots of people), The Hitch-Hiker (Ida Lupino), Shane (George Stevens), The Wild One (László Benedek), From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinneman)


1954

1. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock)
2. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa)
3. Sansho the Bailiff (Kenji Mizoguchi)
4. La Strada (Federico Fellini)
5. On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan)
6. Johnny Guitar (Nicholas Ray)
7. Dial M For Murder (Alfred Hitchcock)
8. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers (Stanley Donen)
9. The Far Country (Anthony Mann)
10. Crime Wave (Andre De Toth)

Honorable Mention: Track of the Cat (William A. Wellman), French Cancan (Jean Renoir), Hobson's Choice (David Lean), River of No Return (Otto Preminger), Senso (Luchino Visconti), Vera Cruz (Robert Aldrich), Late Chrysanthemums (Mikio Naruse), The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (Luis Buñuel), The Caine Mutiny (Edward Dmytryk), Sabrina (Billy Wilder)

1955

1. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton)
2. Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman)
3. The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (Luis Buñuel)
4. Ordet (Carl Theodor Dreyer)
5. Kiss Me Deadly (Robert Aldrich)
6. Lola Montès (Max Ophüls)
7. All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk)
8. Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray)
9. The Big Combo (Joseph H. Lewis)
10. Les Diaboliques (Henri-Georges Clouzot)

Honorable Mention: The Trouble With Harry (Alfred Hitchcock), Bad Day at Black Rock (John Sturges), East of Eden (Elia Kazan), The Man From Laramie (Anthony Mann), Summertime (David Lean), To Catch a Thief (Alfred Hitchcock), Night and Fog (Alain Resnais), Lady and the Tramp (lots of people), The Ladykillers (Alexander Mackendrick), Abbott and Costello Meet the Mummy (Charles Lamont)


1956

1. The Searchers (John Ford)
2. A Man Escaped (Robert Bresson)
3. While the City Sleeps (Fritz Lang)
4. Seven Men From Now (Budd Boetticher)
5. Bigger Than Life (Nicholas Ray)
6. The Killing (Stanley Kubrick)
7. The Wrong Man (Alfred Hitchcock)
8. Early Spring (Yasujiro Ozu)
9. Bob Le Flambeur (Jean-Pierre Melville)
10. The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock)

Honorable Mention: Autumn Leaves (Robert Aldrich), The Burmese Harp (Kon Ichikawa), Attack! (Robert Aldrich), Written on the Wind (Douglas Sirk), Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel), Street of Shame (Kenji Mizoguchi), The Red Balloon (Albert Lamorisse), Beyond a Reasonable Doubt (Fritz Lang), Forbidden Planet (Fred M. Wilcox), Giant (George Stevens)


1957

1. Wild Strawberries & The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman)
2. Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick)
3. The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean)
4. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini)
5. Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa)
6. The Tall T (Budd Boetticher)
7. 3:10 to Yuma (Delmer Daves)
8. Curse of the Demon (Jacques Tourneur)
9. A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan)
10. Witness for the Prosecution (Billy Wilder)

Honorable Mention: Le Notti Bianche (Luchino Visconti), Will Success Spoil Rock Hunter? (Frank Tashlin), Nightfall (Jacques Tourneur), Gunfight at the O.K. Corral (John Sturges), A King in New York (Charles Chaplin), Decision at Sundown (Budd Boetticher), Sweet Smell of Success (Alexander Mackendrick), 12 Angry Men (Sidney Lumet), The Curse of Frankenstein (Terrence Fisher), Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (John Huston)


1958

1. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock)
2. The Magician (Ingmar Bergman)
3. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles)
4. The Hidden Fortress (Akira Kurosawa)
5. Some Came Running (Vincente Minnelli)
6. Terror in a Texas Town (Joseph H. Lewis)
7. Bonjour Tristesse (Otto Preminger)
8. Horror of Dracula (Terrence Fisher)
9. Man of the West (Anthony Mann)
10. Equinox Flower (Yasujiro Ozu)

Honorable Mention: Party Girl (Nicholas Ray), The Defiant Ones (Stanley Kramer), Le Beau Serge (Claude Chabrol), Ashes and Diamonds (Andrzej Wajda), Mon Oncle (Jacques Tati), Elevator to the Gallows (Louis Malle), A Night to Remember (Roy Ward Baker), Gigi (Vincente Minnelli), Cat on a Hot Tin Roof (Richard Brooks), The Fly (Kurt Neumann)


1959

1. Good Morning (Yasujiro Ozu)
2. Anatomy of a Murder (Otto Preminger)
3. The 400 Blows (Francois Truffaut)
4. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks)
5. Floating Weeds (Yasujiro Ozu)
6. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson)
7. Shadows (John Cassavetes)
8. North By Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock)
9. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder)
10. Ballad of a Soldier (Grigori Chukhrai)

Honorable Mention: Ride Lonesome (Budd Boetticher), Les Cousins (Claude Chabrol), The Horse Soldiers (John Ford), Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk), The Mummy (Terence Fisher), Fires on the Plain (Kon Ichikawa), Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus), Odds Against Tomorrow (Robert Wise), Hiroshima Mon Amour (Alain Resnais), Sleeping Beauty (lots of people)

Friday, December 14, 2012

I hate blogger

Have any of you ever had blogger just not save something you've written?

I wrote two pretty lengthy paragraphs on John Ford this morning, hit save, then went to lunch.  When I returned none of it was there.  Normally I wouldn't even need to hit save because it auto-saves, right?  Well I hit save just to be safe and apparently it did absolutely jack shit.  Well Fuck this.  Fuck blogger.

November Recap

This recap is a little belated, but I thought I should still post it for continuity's sake.  Starting today and continuing through all next week, I am subbing for someone where all I have to do is sit at a computer and occasionally answer the phone.  Needless to say, I will have a lot of free time today and next week to get back into blogging as much as possible.  To start with (after this post), I'm going to try to get my Ford thoughts up by the end of the day.  I really owe Brandon those, and I apologize to him for taking so long with them.  I don't know what I'll try to do after those, but I'm thinking a Fritz Lang top 10 list is in order, as well as maybe a general round-up of what I've seen lately and some Christmas movie thoughts.  We'll see how much I actually achieve, but I will seriously have nothing else to do, so I might as well post.

Anyway, here's a November film and TV rundown:

In Name Only (1939) *** 1/2
Ziegfeld Girl (1941) ***
The Maltese Falcon (1931) ***
Brute Force (1947) ***
Double Wedding (1937) ** 1/2
Green For Danger (1946) *** 1/2
The Crowd Roars (1932) ***
The Prisoner of Shark Island (1936) ****
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939) ****
The Long Voyage Home (1940) ***
Mrs. Miniver (1942) ***
Macao (1952) ***
Daisy Kenyon (1947) ****
Lincoln (2012) ****

Re-watched:

Citizen Kane (1941) ****
The Searchers (1956) ****
WALL-E (2008) ****
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) ****

TV:

Dexter Season 7
Homeland Season 1

The best classic films I watched last month were certainly THE HUNCHBACK OF NOTRE DAME, DAISY KENYON, and THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND.  NOTRE DAME is just exquisitely made and Charles Laughton gives a tremendous, heartbreaking performance.  It's a pretty fantastic adaptation.  DAISY KENYON has been getting a lot attention in auteurist circles due to Preminger's rising stock and for its weighty depictions of adult themes.  I think it deserves its blossoming reputation.  It's a strong, emotional melodrama shot in beautiful film noir swaths of shadow and light.  Preminger usually delivers the goods in these regards.  I'll write about THE PRISON OF SHARK ISLAND in my Ford post, but obviously, it's a great one.

Watching CITIZEN KANE again reminds why it deserves every accolade it has ever received.

DEXTER Season 7 is the worst yet, and there have been some stinkers over the past few seasons.  It has completely gone off the rails.  It's repetitive, sloppy, and narratively incoherent.  What a mess.

Technically, I only watched one episode of HOMELAND on Nov. 30th, but since then I have finished the first season and am four episodes into the second.  It's a very good suspense thriller, I have to admit.  Taut, economical, absorbing - it hooks you instantly and remains addicting throughout.  Never short of surprises, and at least smart about the way it handles its problematic subject matter.  At its most complex, it's not just reactionary fodder, but a thoughtful representation of U.S. foreign policy and "The War on Terror."  It's quite good.


Monday, November 26, 2012

Lincoln

I have to agree with Brandon, and there’s no point in prevaricating - LINCOLN is a wonderful film.  Loquacious, literate, and adeptly crafted, it flourishes as both engrossing political procedural and gregarious yarn.  I was engaged for the entire two and a half hours it was on screen, often with a winsome smile on my face.  It’s the most flat-out entertaining film Steven Spielberg has made since CATCH ME IF YOU CAN and MINORITY REPORT.  Ample credit deserves to be passed around to almost all involved here: Spielberg, certainly, for his cinematic wisdom and assured caretaking, Tony Kushner for his eloquence and ferocious intelligence, Jannusz Kaminski for his unadorned by resonant images, Daniel Day-Lewis for his superhuman ability to transfigure himself entirely into every role, and the rest of the cast for being so spirited and plucky (a robust Tommy Lee Jones and hilarious James Spader jump out most to mind here).  As Brandon has delineated, LINCOLN is by no means a perfect film, but it is a damn good bit of moviemaking.  To me, that simple fact alone trumps any of its problematic representations or political themes.  I am a film lover, so the art of moviemaking is, after all, what I’m most concerned with.  LINCOLN has this essential artistry in spades.

The best thing I can say about it (apart from how well acted it is) is how greatly it understands that words are weapons.  This is where Kushner’s skill as a playwright comes most assuredly to the forefront and where the picture thrives.  Words are brandished by characters throughout to challenge one another, to provoke one another, to gain the upper hand over one another.  The way that words are wielded in the film is so effusive and cutting, they soothe and lash in equal degree, and always with an aim and purpose in mind. I was reminded of good theater, but also classical Hollywood filmmaking.  Sometimes we forget just how absorbing it can be to merely watch people in a room talking to each other.

Another great thing about LINCOLN is that it understands that the best way to celebrate the man it depicts without resorting to excessive rhapsody is to have a strong sense of humor about itself and gentility about his character.  The humor is where the film most surprised me, and I believe also helped to give it more gravity.  It’s the lighter comedic moments that give the dramatic ones their weight.  And it's Lincoln's tenderness as a father, listener, and orator that gives him his allure and grandeur.  He's a shrewd political tactician and a not-as-altruistic-as-he-seems leader on human rights, but he's also a man who genuinely seems to enjoy interacting with others (even if he is harboring deep pain and regret).

I didn’t read those Lincoln articles that were linked, but I don’t think the film values moderates over radicals. I think it values the painstaking process by which synthesis is achieved.  It depicts in vivid and often amusing detail the sort of effort that went into (and still goes into) producing a desired result in the American political landscape.  Politics in America have always been more of a game than the earnest representations of its democracy.  But games can be fun to watch, even when we know how they will end.  LINCOLN itself is an elegant game played by experts that we know the outcome of.  The joy in watching is not in re-discovering who wins or loses, but in admiring the dexterity of the strokes involved.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

A Single Brandon

EDIT: I've taken out the "political talk" paragraph.  I must have made a misstep without realizing it.  I apologize.

Gentile’s piece on ETERNAL SUNSHINE is lovely and great; I don’t think I could have said it better myself.  This sentence is a gem amongst many other gems: “It's realistic in the fact that the romance is based around singular memories and doesn't put forth the claim of so many love stories that there is a blanketing divine value to the romantic relationship, or a romantic partner as a whole.”  Absolutely spot-on.

The aughts lists were definitely nice to see.  And the master list we ended up with is actually quite solid.  That’s a pretty formidable top 10 we were able to muster.  I haven’t seen MOULIN ROUGE or APPALOOSA so I can’t complain about their inclusion.  The only film in the list that gives me pause is LITTLE MISS SUNSHINE, but it isn’t that irksome.  I’m surprised to see Brandon single out A SINGLE MAN (nailed that wordplay) and doubt its “cinematic impact” when he hasn’t even seen the film (homophobe ;)).  As a great admirer of Tom Ford’s film, I can unabashedly attest to the film’s emotional wallop.  It’s a gorgeous and lacerating amalgamation of sound and image, very much in the vein of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.  If your eyes and heart are open, it cuts deep and it cuts true.  To me, it’s impact cinema of the purest sort because it effortlessly makes us feel.

Anyway, Brandon, thanks for writing back.  I was hoping you would.  These back-and-forths are always a pleasure.

Malick’s film just got confirmed for next year (rats!).  No word on Kiarostami’s, but I’m assuming it’s in the same boat.

Great distinction between taking your art seriously versus taking yourself (your image, persona, etc.) seriously.  I completely agree.  I have tremendous respect for artists who let their work speak for itself and demur to the sidelines (John Ford was notorious for doing this, almost to an absurd degree).  Haneke is definitely an artist guilty of excessive self-satisfaction and an apparent lack of introspection.  But I would certainly admit to being taken by his formalism, craft, and techique.  And I would disagree about the nature of his last two films (excluding FUNNY GAMES, since it wasn’t a “new” film when it came out).  I see less finger wagging and audience intimidating going on in CACHE and THE WHITE RIBBON than in anything else previous in his cannon.  I think with these two films he’s moved away more from trying to beat answers over his audience’s head towards opening up more questions for them to contemplate and discover.  In short, he’s being a smarter director and it’s showing.  I know you aren’t quite taken with the man’s work yet, but it sounds like AMOUR might be the “unobstructed masterpiece” you’re looking for.  If not, then maybe he’s incapable of one.

I think you and I could both agree that INLAND EMPIRE is pure Lynch, for better or worse (depending on which of us you ask).  That may mean nothing to someone already skeptical of or disillusioned from his style, but to the initiated it means the comfort and embrace of a well-known companion.  IE looks and sounds like everything Lynch that came before it, but it’s even looser and more ephmeral than any of his previous films, giving it both a sense of welcome familiarity and uneasy wonder.  In some ways, it plays like the lesser but more freakish little brother of MULHOLLAND DRIVE (and it is), but it’s also more a document of Lynch’s conscious and subconscious than anything he’s done since ERASERHEAD.

IE is in no way a perfect film (and I emphasis the word “film”).  But it is a diabolical and inspired experiment from one of cinema’s great experimentors.  It is purposefully sloppy and disjointed, and I don’t use that as an excuse for any flaws it has, but as a testament to its unwillingness to unify.  I don’t tangle with surrealist or avant garde cinema all that much, but when I do I can sometimes find it has a strong, unforced connection to a lot of the postmodern philosophy I enjoy reading and thinking about (I apologize for using the word “postmodern” in a defense on David Lynch – someone please kick me in my hipster balls the next time you see me).  Thinking more about IE, it feels remarkably Deleuzean, which only makes it seem richer in my estimation.  I know I’ve mentioned it before, but Deleuze is my favorite philosopher.  He’s also incredibly difficult to comprehend.  Anytime I can make connections to his work, it helps me understand it better, and helps me appreciate what I’m connecting it to more.  Basically, I see a lot in IE that connects to Deleuze, and I think that's cool.  That's about the best defense I can conjure without just resorting to the "personal preference" argument.

But I do accept your hesitation towards IE and won't try to dissuade you from it.  One criticism I will definitely entertain about IE is its look.  Lynch does some neat tricks with his digtital camera, but it still produces an ugly, unconscionable image to these eyes.  I wish it had been shot on film.  And for the record, yes, I find most Lynch mobbers unbearable, even as I spiritually must stand beside them.  A lot of his most fervant fans know nothing about film, and only care about how loving his work makes them appear.  This is annoying.

Anyway...this is a roundabout way of saying that HOLY MOTORS is something I’m interested in seeing, as well. haha.

I think we can forgive YOUNG MR. LINCOLN, THE PRISONER OF SHARK ISLAND, and ABE LINCOLN OF ILLINOIS for neglecting to represent “alternative readings of history.”  I don’t think the idea of “alternative readings of history” even meant much of anything before 1960.  Of these, I’ve only seen YOUNG MR. LINCOLN and, yes, that one is an undeniable masterpiece.  I’m sure PRISONER is one too.  It’s Ford, after all.

I do love Spielberg and I have high hopes for LINCOLN.  I certainly don’t knock the man’s sentimental flourishes.  There’s something pure and classical about them (I love Capra, ya know).  I loved the brazen schmaltz of WAR HORSE and drank it up with relish.  I won’t mind too much if there’s some in LINCOLN, but I’m hoping we're getting the brawnier and more incisive Spielberg for it.  I just think the material might call for it.  We shall see.  Hopefully soon.

I would absolutely like to see POINT BREAK and NEAR DARK.  Gotta fill those cinema gaps.

Speaking of gaps, I would also like to see CASINO ROYALE and eventually SKYFALL.  I just haven’t had the opportunity to see the former yet and probably won’t rush to the theater to see the latter.  Still, I’m hoping too see them at some point.

All right, good talk.  Can’t wait for the Ford lists.  Wonderful seeing ya last night too.  We need to have another movie night soon.  Has been too long.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

top 30 aughts

Here ya go:

1. There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
2. Synecdoche, New York (Kaufman, 2008)
3. Mulholland Drive (Lynch, 2001)
4. The New World (Malick, 2005)
5. No Country for Old Men (Coen Brothers, 2007)
6. Zodiac (Fincher, 2007)
7. In the Mood for Love (Wong, 2001)
8. Inglourious Basterds (Tarantino, 2009)
9. WALL-E (Stanton, 2008)
10. You Can Count on Me (Lonergan, 2000)
11. A Single Man (Ford, 2009)
12. Werkmeister Harmonies (Tarr, 2000)
13. Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson, 2002)
14. Adaptation (Jonze, 2002)
15. Inland Empire (Lynch, 2006)
16. The Son (Dardenne Brothers, 2002)
17. The Fountain (Aronofsky, 2006)
18. Tell No One (Canet, 2006)
19. Dogville (von Trier, 2005)
20. The Dark Knight (Nolan, 2008)
21. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Gondry, 2004)
22. Before Sunset (Linklater, 2004)
23. 28 Days Later (Boyle, 2003)
24. The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001)
25. A.I. Artificial Intelligence (Spielberg, 2001)
26. Ratatouille (Bird, 2007)
26. In the Bedroom (Field, 2001)
27. Spirited Away (Miyazaki, 2001)
28. Dancer in the Dark (von Trier, 2000)
30. The White Ribbon (Haneke, 2009)

Friday, November 9, 2012

The rest of the year

Hey gang.  I don't discourage political or religious talk on the blogs.  We should all feel free to write what we want, when we want.  There's no rigid standard to follow when it comes to posting, at least  not in my mind.  Personally, I don't really want to get into the political or religious talk anymore if I can help it, but don't mind y'all want to.  I think it's safe to assume that you all know my political and religious views by now, and if you are still curious about my take on some issue, just ask me in person.  I'm always happy to clarify when we can actually converse face-to-face.  I just don't want to get into anything heated and tangential online because I just don't care enough and hate all the misunderstandings that arise.  I'd much rather be talking film - something that makes me happy.

So, I'm gonna talk film.

Brando, there's plenty of films waiting in the wings this year that I'm still excited for too.  You pretty much named them all.  The only ones I would add are ones that I'm not sure are even opening this year (at least not in the US).  Everything else, you covered well.

COSMOPOLIS - I was disappointed that this had to come out around here right about the same time as THE MASTER.  I was always eager to see it, but it was never beating THE MASTER in terms of what I'd drive to Ithaca for.  Still, I'm hoping it comes out on DVD relatively soon.  I'm a Cronenberg dilettante.  I have seen most of his recent work, post-A HISTORY OF VIOLENCE. Unfortunately, I think the only two films of his I've seen before this are VIDEODROME, NAKED LUNCH, and M. BUTTERFLY.  I can't remember VIDEODROME, I didn't like NAKED LUNCH (prefer the novel), and I like M. BUTTERFLY (but again prefer the play).  He's a really intelligent and talented director - there's no denying this.  I just wish I were more fluent in his work.  COSMOPOLIS looks and sounds great from what I've heard.  I haven't read the DeLilo story, but I like the idea of it being this nightmarish critique of capitalism.  Right up my alley.


AMOUR - I don't fault anyone for taking their artwork seriously.  I think it's important for one to
have an internal level of respect and deliberation over the work one is doing, especially if it is expressive and meaningful to he or she.  However, I will agree with Brandon that I am annoyed by folks who express this self-seriousness in a very public and sanctimonious way.  There's a newer band out today called Lower Dens that a lot of people seem to love.  If you look them up on Last.fm you can see that they self-describe their first record thusly: "The record as a whole begs for an assessment of all the flaws inherent in our existence, and to imagine a better, more suitable, logical way for humanity to live." I haven't heard the record, and I can't say that I find the idea behind that statement to be untrue, but the fact that they needed to express it in such a smug way is so vexing to me.  When did their music become a philosophical thesis?  Let it be what it is without the intellectual posturing bullshit.  I believe in the importance of intellectual thought and rigor, but I would never use it to pigeonhole something I had created artistically.  Let the art speak for itself. (RANT OVER).


There's no doubt Haneke takes himself and his artwork seriously.  He intellectualizes his art unabashedly even as he succumbs to moments of violent and sexual spectacle (typically seen as unrefined representations).  I haven't really seen or read an interview with him, so I haven't gotten the chance to be as annoyed by him as Brandon.  All I can say is that he's toned down the finger-wagging and holier-than-thou attitude in his most recent films.  CACHE and THE WHITE RIBBON both exist in a sort of ambiguous nebulous unlike some of his other films that are more explicit.  AMOUR appears to be his furthest step away from any previous self-righteousness.  Many have called it his most emotional and humane work to date.  I already think he's a brilliant director and an assured formalist so I'm excited to see what he does when working on a more intimate and emotive scale.  Should be as great as everyone seems to say it is.


LIKE SOMEONE IN LOVE - Kiarostami is one the greatest directors working today.  He's still on top form even after all these years in the business.  CERTIFIED COPY was a genius ripple in his career and perhaps a sign of even more fascinating and singular work to come. This film probably won't come out in the US this year, but whenever it does, it'll be near the top of my must-see list.


HOLY MOTORS - Sadly, I know nothing of Leos Carax's work either.  This one has be interested, but I concur with Brandon's trepidation over it.  Could be an unsettling piece of surrealism or could be a big mess.  I found INLAND EMPIRE to be the former though, so I guess you really can't trust me when it comes to avant garde art ;)


DAMSELS IN DISTRESS - See this one, Brandon.  You won't regret it.  It's a soul cleanser.  See METROPOLITAN while you're at it too.


DEEP BLUE SEA - I want to be more acquainted with Terence Davies too.  His most acclaimed films (DISTANT VOICES, STILL LIVES and THE LONG DAY CLOSES) are both unavailable on DVD in this country, so that's stymied any courtship.  I see that this one is on NWI, so I should really give it a chance.  Also reminds me of IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE.  I've heard Davies described as a real poet from some, so I'm really interested in sinking my teeth into his work.  Vampire Jeff needs the blood of film poets to live forever.


LINCOLN - I had high hopes for this one the second it was announced that Daniel Day-Lewis and Spielberg would be teaming for it (who the hell didn't?). The first trailer looked awful and seemed to confirm any of the worst fears we could possibly have about it:  it's gonna be too sentimental; it's gonna be too patriotic; it's gonna be too exalting while glossing over alternative readings of history, etc.  It may still be all of those things, but at least the second trailer seemed to hint more at what I hoped it would be: a chatty procedural (I can't get enough, you know).  The early reviews seem to also confirm this.  I still won't mind any Spielberg flourishes, but I'm hoping here he's just nurturing things along like the elder statesman he is.  We'll find out soon enough.


KILLING THEM SOFTLY - Gritty crime film that uses the 2008 election and financial collapse as its backdrop to comment on the effects of capitalism, greed, and poverty?  You bet I want to see it.  Add in Brad Pitt and it's a lock. Would likely make a solid double feature with COSMOPOLIS.  Hope it isn't another LAWLESS either, but I have higher hopes for it.


ZERO DARK THIRTY - The trailer looks consciously dramatic and intense.  I hope that is the case and it isn't just the standard trailer affectation.  I don't know enough about Bigelow to be a fan.  I've only seen THE HURT LOCKER and found it to be well-made but disappointing (letting all that hype get to me again).  I probably won't see this one until it hits DVD, unless someone can convince me otherwise.


SKYFALL - I haven't seen any of Daniel Craig Bond films.  I agree with your thoughts on action and making us care though, Brandon, which makes we want to see CASINO ROYALE and this film at some point too.  Not high on my to-see list, but I'm intrigued.


DJANGO UNCHAINED - Obviously my most anticipated film for the rest of the year.  There's no way it'll disappoint.  All we gotta find out is where it ranks alongside THE MASTER.  Finally we get a Tarantino and Anderson film in the same year, pitting two American titans at the peak of their powers.  No matter who wins, we win.  Can't wait.


TO THE WONDER - Last one. I don't know when this is coming out, but it's Malick so I'm excited for it.  I'm guilty of loving the man unconditionally, so I'll probably love this one blindly too. Sorry in advance.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

October Recap

Didn't get to see as many horror films as I had originally planned, namely BLACK SUNDAY, but KILL, BABY...KILL! proved an ample Bava substitute.  Also, I re-watched several old favorites, as well as re-evaluated E.T. which is obviously a whole lot better than I've ever given it credit for.  The big winners of the month for me are ME AND MY GAL, MANNEQUIN, and CANYON PASSAGE.  Three great flicks (from Walsh, Borzage, and Tourneur, respectively) that deserve more attention.

Deep Red (1975) ***
Me and My Gal (1932) ****
A Man’s Castle (1933) ****
Mystery of the Wax Museum (1933) ***
Canyon Passage (1946) ****
Mannequin (1937) ****
Curse of the Demon (1957) ****
Creature From the Black Lagoon (1954) ***
Audition (1999) ***
Martyrs (2008) ***
Looper (2012) *** 1/2
The Uninvited (1944) ***
Dead of Night (1945) *** 1/2
Five Graves to Cairo (1943) ***
Carson City (1952) ***
The Mummy (1959) ***
Santa Fe Trail (1940) **
Bringing Out the Dead (1999) ****
Kill, Baby...Kill! (1965) ****
Frankenweenie (2012) ***
Virginia City (1940) ***
Red Dust (1932) ***
My Favorite Spy (1951) ***
Bedlam (1946) *** 1/2
House of Wax (1953) ***

Re-watched:

Dawn of the Dead (1978) ****
E.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) ****
Sleepy Hollow (1999) ****
Key Largo (1948) ****
Cat People (1942 ****
The Master (2012) ****
The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (1948) ****
The Shining (1980) ****
North By Northwest (1959) ****


Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Top 10 Horror Films

Well, as a Halloween treat, here it is:  my favorite horror films list, in order of preference.  I don't really have time to write about each individually right now, but I'll try to write another post doing just that at some point.  A lot of great films that I love just missed out on the list, but I feel confident and content with the ten on here.  Enjoy:


10. The Thing From Another World (Christian Nyby & Howard Hawks, 1951)


9. Don't Look Now (Nicholas Roeg, 1973)


8. The Exorcist (William Friedkin, 1973)



7. The Bride of Frankenstein (James Whale, 1935)


6. Suspiria (Dario Argento, 1977)


5. The Spiral Staircase (Robert Siodmak, 1945)


4. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)


3. Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)


2. Cat People (Jacques Tourneur, 1942)


1. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)


Really hard to leave off the list:  Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975), Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960), Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965), The Changeling (Peter Medak, 1980), Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978), Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978), The Haunting (Robert Wise, 1963), Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960), Sleepy Hollow (Tim Burton, 1999), Horror of Dracula (Terence Fisher, 1958), The Leopard Man (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)

Slumpin'

Hey guys.  I've been in a bit of a writing slump as of late.  It seems this might be a little contagious.  I'm glad to see a recent mini-flurry of posts however. It's rejuvenating.  I'll try to respond to as much stuff as I can.

Brandon and Chris, I can't add anything too substantive to the objectivity discussion.  We all bring a multiplicity of ideas, sensations, judgments (and prejudgments) to any films we encounter.  The nature and extent of all these multiplicities is unique to each of us, and probably unique to each film.  Honest reaction is a good precept to follow, but sometimes it's just too hard to weed out all of the information we've acquired.  I readily admit to being influenced by factors outside of the films themselves at times.  It's part of the curse of being interested in criticism and film culture.  I like knowing who makes films and what others are saying about them.  I try to be as honest as possible in addressing a film, but a lot of times I'm just biased for a variety of reasons, and y'all can feel free to call me out on it anytime.  I'll try my best to either defend or dissemble. :)

Tim Burton is one of the most instantly recognizable pop entertainment auteurs of the last few decades.  There's no denying it whether you care for him or not.  And I remain a big fan of his.  When he's on and true to his aesthetic, there's nothing quite like him.  Like both of you, I find ALICE IN WONDERLAND to be intensely problematic and ultimately hollow (Sorry John, but it's a overly-CG stinker).  I found FRANKENWEENIE enjoyable (it's often a fun game of spot-the-reference) albeit stretched a little too thin.  I'm still curious to see DARK SHADOWS.  It didn't appear to be THAT bad, and it has some important people backing it, so I'll try to see it.

John, I have to say, I agree entirely with you on DARK CITY.  I liked it a lot back in the day, and even bought a copy of it, but I watched it a few years ago, and it didn't really hold up that well.  There's fascinating stuff in it, but all told it just feels cold and clunky now. You're right - Sutherland's performance is exquisitely ham-fisted, and certainly one of the most repellant things about it.  I'm with you on this one.

I haven't seen any of Argento's recent work.  From what I've heard though, he hasn't made anything of note or quality in some time.  So, while I would love to remind you not to judge him solely on his current output, I have sneaking suspicion that you wouldn't care for his older films either.  Just a hunch. :)

Your points on the horror genre are well taken.  I don't know if I have the energy to respond to it all in great detail.  I'll just say that I share your concerns over who is watching these films, and what impact it is having on them, but only insomuch as I am concerned with all types of media and the cretins that consume them.  On issues of craft, certainly I'm rarely scared by horror films anymore, as I too am overly-sensitive to the director's and editor's hand holding sway over everything.  But I must agree with Brandon that there are a plethora of genius craftsmen at the helm of many films in the genre.  His listing of some of those names is really the only argument one needs to give the genre some credit.  Still, I understand your reservations when it comes to horror.  I doubt I'll be the one to convince you otherwise.


Speaking of horror, I'm working at school now, but I'm gonna post my horror top 10 list when I get home sometime.  It won't be that enlightening, and you can already imagine what'll be on it, but it'll be nice get something extra posted today.

Happy Halloween CR5FC!