Monday, April 16, 2012

The Cabin in the Woods

Caveat: this post will be riddled with spoilers. If you haven't seen THE CABIN IN THE WOODS and would like to, just stop reading now. It's best to go in fresh.

I'll admit upfront that I haven't seen most of the horror films from the last decade. I like the horror genre quite a bit, but I don't consider myself a connoisseur or even that particularly well-versed in its recent arcs or tropes. I've seen some and have really liked some (28 DAYS LATER, CABIN FEVER, THE OTHERS, etc.) but mostly I've limited my horror intake to older films because, well, I like older films. This isn't to say that recent horror is all garbage, but that I haven't been that particularly interested in it enough to seek it out on a consistent basis. So, with that being said, I can't really call THE CABIN IN THE WOODS a "game changer" because I haven't been following the game that closely to begin with. I will say that THE CABIN IN THE WOODS is one of the few horror films since 28 DAYS LATER to actually get me excited enough to go see it in a theater. I give it points within the recent horror pantheon right there just for kindling my usual incombustible interest.

I was looking forward to writing a legit review about the film the way Brandon does, but I'm feeling a bit tired and scatter-brained today so I don't think I'll be able to do that. Instead, I'm gonna make this real easy and break the film up into what I liked and didn't like.

Here's what I liked:

-The self-awareness about conforming to horror archetypes. I like that Dana isn't really a virgin, that Jules isn't really a blonde or a sexpot, that Curt is actually intelligent, that Holden becomes more nerdy and sensitive as we go along, and that Marty is overplaying the stoner-role so much so that his introduction to us consists of him getting baked with a massive thurmo-bong while driving. These kids are being processed into their roles and it's fun to see how it happens and how they are able to recognize it or not. The little manipulations by the Company to get them to do things like want to split up or have sex are fun and clever. Definitely commenting on how horror films can become rote or over-processed to the point of being pure formula. I don't know if the Company is selling this footage as underground snuff films or who the "audience" is supposed to be, but the footage is definitely being watched by someone (besides us) who likes formula.

-The obvious mystery to the Company performing the ritual. I loved the introduction of the Japanese footage (with the RINGU-esque ghost terrorizing the school girls). It just added an even stronger air of menace to the Company and really piqued my interest in their purpose, power, and scope. At that point, my mind was racing through all the possible explanations, which is great because I want to be intrigued by what I'm seeing. If I actually care about the mystery, that is a promising sign.

- The choices of monsters. How cool would it have been if were able to shoot several versions of film with different monsters chosen in each? Super ambitious and probably unrealistic, but a wild idea that would have made for a great dvd.

-The multiple screen shot where we see all the various monsters torturing the employees of the company. It's like a Where's Waldo of horror homages, and some of them are pretty damn funny (There's one with monsters holding a guy down and vomiting in his mouth that made me chuckle to myself–not sure if it is referencing anything).

-Merman blow-hole blood spout. Also made me chuckle.

-The genuine love the film has for the horror genre. While it often criticizes and deconstructs recent trends in the genre, there's no denying the film's reverence for horror films as a whole and excitement over getting to include so many of their elements.

What I didn't Like:

-The bad CGI when the monsters are released from the elevators and the hand (Ryan Gosling's hand we established) emerges to destroy humanity. I don't like bad CGI. It takes me out of the fun and the thrill, and this did it. Give me a million of the characters who looked tremendous in their make-up over the CG snake any day.

-I'm on the fence about this next issue, but I'm siding more towards dislike. For a film that does a nice job upsetting so many genre conventions, it can't avoid falling into the retributive third act that is a staple of horror films. I'm pretty sure they were just going for audience approval with it, but having a button that says "purge" where all the monsters are released to turn the tables on the Company just seemed like a lazy way to fall into that vengeful final act. While it's certainly cool to see the monsters released and to see our heroic characters survive long enough to decide their own fate, I wondered if there were a better way to end the film without reverting to an obvious structural denouement. With that being said, I don't think the details of the ending are tired or clichéd. It's a pretty wild, go-for-broke, bat-shit-crazy finale. But underneath those details I sense too much reliance on convention. Oh well. Kind of a minor complaint really.

What I didn't really mind:

-That it wasn't scary. It doesn't live or die by its scares, but by its cleverness and ability to entertain. Not being scary didn't hurt the film too much, in my opinion. I also wasn't expecting it to be.


Overall, I thought the film was fun, reasonably clever fluff. It didn't send me over-the-moon or make me reconsider everything I thought I knew about modern horror, but it didn't disappoint me in terms of entertainment and surprise, which was all I was really looking for. It's not really that deep, humanizing, or insightful, but I doesn't have to be nor do I think it aspires to be. It just wants to entertain, and I think it does that well and there's nothing wrong with that. If John wants to bash the film, I probably won't be able to argue against him, and if Jason wants to laud it unconditionally, I probably won't be able to knock him down a peg. To each his own. You either had fun or you didn't. I had fun.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012


1947 was a diverse year in cinema. One the one hand, it was a huge year for film noir and darker themed films (seven noir films in my top ten, as well as a pitch-black comedy and a convent horror film). Two films were also released that dealt with the ugliness of prejudice, particularly post-war anti-semitism. Yet on the other hand, it was also a big year for Christmas themed films. I tended to go more for the darker films this year, but there's a soft spot in my heart for all the lighter fare as well. Anyway, here's my favorites from the year:

1. Odd Man Out (Reed)
2. Quai Des Orfèvres (Clouzot)
3. Pursued (Walsh)
4. Monsieur Verdoux (Chaplin)
5. Out of the Past (Tourneur)
6. The Lady From Shanghai (Welles)
7. Black Narcissus (Powell, Pressburger)
8. The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (McLeod)
9. Dark Passage (Daves)
10. Kiss of Death (Hathaway)

HM: Crossfire (Dmytryk), The Ghost and Mrs. Muir (Mankiewicz), Gentleman's Agreement (Kazan), Miracle on 34th Street (Seaton), It Happened on Fifth Avenue (Del Ruth), Where There's Life (Lanfield), The Bishop's Wife (Koster)

As I said, it was a big year for film noir and there's plenty more I need and want to see like: Nightmare Alley, Daisy Kenyon, T-Men, Body and Soul, Brute Force, and Dead Reckoning. However, this list will have to do for now.

As much as I love the humanism and compassion Clouzot has for his characters in QUAI DES ORFEVRES (and trust me, I do), I wanted to go with something more personal at the top slot this year. Clouzot's film is tremendous, but my heart cries out for Carol Reed's Italian neorealist-esque thriller ODD MAN OUT. I just love its chiaroscuro lighting and brooding atmosphere. I love what it has to say about the symbolism we attribute to the human body, and the moral issues of dealing with a dying man who is also a fugitive. I also love its unrelenting movement towards its grim and uncompromising ending; it's like one long snow-covered promenade to the gallows; one that exposes the equal debasement and beauty in us. It's my favorite from the year, but I still love ORFEVRES endlessly, so feel free to tell me I'm dead wrong for disagreeing with you Brandon.

I've mentioned how much I love Walsh's noir-western PURSUED before. It's a great film about the complexity of vengeance and difficulty of forgiveness. It also has Robert Mitchum (one of my favorites), who had three films released this year and he is terrific in all of them.

MONSIEUR VERDOUX is about as caustic as comedies get from the era. Perhaps this is why it was so misunderstood at the time. That final diatribe given by Verdoux before his execution is one giant finger-pointing at all that is beastly in mankind. Chaplin had something strong and provocative to say with this film, and I think the ideas come across loud and clear without seeming pedantic and with the ability to still entertain us.

Robert Mitchum. Kirk Douglas. Dialogue so quick and clever it makes you smile in amazement. An inability to escape your past, even as you are trying to go clear. OUT OF THE PAST is a quintessential noir, and would be a ideal starting point for anyone trying to get into the genre. I really want to watch it again.

THE LADY FROM SHANGHAI would also be a solid place to start for film noir. It's highly convoluted (in a good way), has lots of backstabbing and plot twists, a beautiful femme fatale in Rita Hayworth, and Orson Welle's typically intrepid visual style. Also notable for Welles' kind of hilarious and awesome Irish accent (second-bested perhaps only by James Mason's in ODD MAN OUT). It rules.

I alluded to BLACK NARCISSUS as a convent horror film above. That's a bit of an exaggeration. It's not much of a horror film though it veers that way towards the ending. However, for a film that is so aesthetically beautiful and wildly colorful (as well as seeming so chaste initially) it does deal pretty frankly with nastiness, jealousy, and madness. Kathleen Byron is terrifying in the film. The later half of the film is stark and surprising, and the whole thing is a visual feast.

THE SECRET LIFE OF WALTER MITTY is a sweet and highly inventive comedy film that seems to relish the ability to represent so many film genres and locales. It's also a great showcase for the multi-talented Danny Kaye. A visual feast as well.

The first third or so of DARK PASSAGE is shot entirely in the first person, which is pretty astonishing, impressive, and unique. Its a really tense noir featuring the inimitable Bogie and Bacall. It's pretty awesome.

KISS OF DEATH is the right kind of crazy, in my opinion. I mentioned it how much I like recently. Worth checking out.

CROSSFIRE deals with anti-semitism pretty frankly and it's also a very good mystery (Bob Mitchum!). GENTLEMAN'S AGREEMENT is also about anti-semitism and won the Oscar this year for Best Picture. I haven't seen it in a long time, but I have a copy of it from this Fox Best Picture winning classics set, so I'll give it a re-watch some time. WHERE THERE'S LIFE is a silly Bob Hope comedy, but I'm a sucker for those, so I really like it. The Christmas themed MIRACLE ON 34th STREET, IT HAPPENED ON FIFTH AVENUE, and THE BISHOP'S WIFE are all enjoyable and sweet, but I'm also a sucker for all Christmas movies.

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Won't Someone Please Think of the Children!?

Akira Kurosawa's HIGH AND LOW (1963) and Bryan Forbes' SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON (1964) make a pretty peerless kidnapping double feature. I basically stumbled into watching them back-to-back, and what a treat it ended up being.

HIGH AND LOW (or more accurately translated HEAVEN AND HELL) is one of Kurosawa's best and most complex films. It follows the downfall of Kingo Gondo, a wealthy shoe tycoon who lives in an opulent condo overlooking a sweltering city below. At the onset of the film, Gondo reveals that he has just managed to save and borrow over 50 million yen to complete a takeover of the shoe company he is a shareholder of. Just as this is revealed, Gondo receives an anonymous phone call telling him his son has been kidnapped and he will need to pay nearly all the money he has to get him back. But shortly after getting off the phone, Gondo's son walks into the condo unharmed. It seems that by strange mix-up, the kidnapper has accidentally taken Gondo's chauffeur's son instead. The kidnapper calls back realizing the mistake, but still demands the ransom anyway and threatens to kill the boy if not paid. This sets up the central moral dilemma that dominates the first act of the film. Indeed, the opening 60 minutes of the film take place entirely within Gondo's enormously spacious condo, as he communicates with the kidnapper and contemplates paying the ransom (thereby destroying his social status and economic standing) or letting the boy die. I won't give anything else away. All I'll say is that the first act is riveting and is rich and profound like great theater. The moral crisis is real, and it's impossible to take your eyes off of Toshiro Mifune as Gondo. Plus, the widescreen just makes the condo look massive and Kurosawa's use of blocking within the extended frame is masterful.

I actually thought the entire film would take place in the condo, until it shifted gears and became this wonderfully meticulous police procedural and tense thriller. The film is basically a play in four acts, and each act is as interesting, exciting, and thought-provoking as the next. It's an impressive and ingenious bit of filmmaking from the first second to the last. If you love procedure, detective stories, bold socio-economic and philosophical themes, and the richness of great literature then you will be floored by the film. I know I was. If anyone else has seen it or does see it and wants to talk about it, it'd be fun to write more about. I was quite impressed.

SEANCE ON A WET AFTERNOON impressed the hell out of me as well. I watched it anticipating a horror film, and instead got a really taut thriller about an emotionally abusive relationship.

SEANCE reverses HIGH AND LOW and takes the perspective of the kidnappers. Mary is an emotionally scared medium looking for a shot at fame, recognition, and wealth for her and her excessively servile husband Billy. Claiming to communicate with the couple's stillborn child, Mary urges Billy to kidnap a wealthy couple's child so that she can help the couple find the child using her psychic abilities, making her famous in the process. Billy, who is powerless to resist Mary anything, agrees to go along with the scheme and perform all the heavy lifting.

I won't give anything away from here because watching the film unfold is just too fucking good. It's extremely tense and fascinating, and there are some truly nerve-wracking scenes that just took my breath away. But, honestly, a lot of the film's impact comes from the outstanding performances of Kim Stanley as Mary and Richard Attenborough as Billy. Their interactions together are painful, complex, and moving. Kim Stanley in particular is just devastating as Mary; she completely inhabits the role. As great as the film is as a thriller, it may be even better as a character study focusing on the afflictions of this strained (but surprisingly loving) relationship. There is a lot of nuance to that relationship, and it makes for some very raw and truthful moments. It's a pretty awesome movie that should be seen more. I'll be curious to see if both of these movies make your'63 and '64 lists, Brandon. I hope so.


I liked your list very much, Adrienne, even if I haven't seen a lot of the films on it. I liked what you wrote about what makes a good romantic comedy film. I mean, this is great: "A good romantic comedy is a confection built around emotional truth. It may have some things to say about how to navigate romantic relationships, but the primary focus should be the wonder of falling in love, something that reminds the viewer of how amazing it is to have this dear friend you also get to sleep with. In the dailiness and difficulties of life, sometimes that reminder can be a hope and comfort. Nothing wrong with that." That pretty much nails it.

I think a romantic comedy film that captures the wonder, weirdness, trepidation, and/or joviality of falling in love or pursuing love is one that I find endearing. If its got good jokes than that helps too. Love is anything but uniform or rote. It's as strange and capricious as life itself. A film that reaches for that is moving in the right direction.

I thought about doing a list of rom-coms, but I don't know if I could do it in any insightful way. It would only be classics, many of which are canonical, obvious, or clichéd. I've decide to just give lists of favorites from certain eras. A majority of my favorites are from the Golden Age, but there are a few beyond this that are worth mentioning and embarrassing myself over.

My favorite romantic comedies of all time, and easily among the best, are obvious but they would have to be CITY LIGHTS (Chaplin, 1931), NINOTCHKA (Lubitsch, 1939), and THE SHOP AROUND THE CORNER (Lubitsch, 1940). Nothing beats them for charm, wit, beauty, tenderness, and emotion, in my opinion.

Some of my other favorites from the Golden Age are:

- THE MORE THE MERRIER (Stevens, 1943)
- I LOVE YOU AGAIN (van Dyke, 1940)
- MADE FOR EACH OTHER (Cromwell, 1939)
- THE LADY EVE (Sturges, 1941)
- THE PALM BEACH STORY (Sturges, 1942)
- BALL OF FIRE (Hawks, 1941)
- SOME LIKE IT HOT (Wilder, 1959)

I left off lots of potentially big ones like MY MAN GODFREY, HIS GIRL FRIDAY, THE MIRACLE OF MORGAN'S CREEK, TWENTIETH CENTURY, and others just because they tend to fall more under the screw-ball category than the romantic one. I also left off a few of the Astaire and Rogers musicals that I love like TOP HAT and THE GAY DIVORCEE because they fall under the musical genre. I tried to stick to Brandon's stipulations, though my criterion is rather obliquely defined. I tried to adhere to what actually felt like an unfolding romance, not just a comedy with romantic elements or a film mixing another genre. I don't know how well I did. Sorry.

I LOVE YOU AGAIN has to make the list even if I just watched it on Sunday. I watched it solely based on how high John had it on his 1940 list, as it wasn't even on my radar before that (anything Powell and Loy should be on my radar, not just THE THIN MAN series, I admit). It's a really terrific film, and an underrated one at that. It's funny, charming, sweet, clever–all that good stuff. Thank you for making me aware of it, John.

As for the next era, which I'm deeming the 60s-80s new wave to no wave era, there's only a few that I really like or like at all.

Obviously, I love the Woody Allen romantic comedies. ANNIE HALL, HANNAH AND HER SISTERS, and BROADWAY DANNY ROSE would probably all crack my top 10 rom-coms of all time. That goes without saying I'm sure.

I'm a big fan of THE APARTMENT (Wilder, 1960). I also watched BAREFOOT IN THE PARK (Saks, 1967) when I was 13 or so and am still fond of it. I watched it randomly while home sick one day from school and was downright charmed.

I must have seen more foreign rom-coms from this era, but the only two I can think of that really stand out are STOLEN KISSES (Truffaut, 1968) and A WOMAN IS A WOMAN (Godard, 1961). They might be considered genre crosses though, I'm not sure. I'm probably forgetting lots of others, but those two make me incredible happy and are worth being on any list of the greatest rom-coms of all time.

Is BEING THERE (Ashby, 1979) a rom-com? If so, it's a great one. Might just be a straight comedy though. Don't know of many other 70s rom-coms.

I like TOOTSIE (Pollack, 1982) a lot because I used to watch it with my mom. I also just love Dustin Hoffman and a scene-stealing Bill Murray.

I have seen WHEN HARRY MET SALLY... and MOONSTRUCK, which are pretty acclaimed rom-coms from the 80s, but have forgotten them almost entirely.

Feel free to make fun of me, but I really like PRETTY IN PINK (Deutch, 1986). Apart from just liking it for its 80s kitsch value and James Spader playing a 35-year-old high schooler, I think the three leads have great chemistry together and it captures the ebb and flow of teenage love better than most films. A guilty pleasure, but honestly one of the better rom-coms of the 80s.

As for more modern rom-coms from the 90s and 00s, I've liked very few. The good ones are difficult to find. I've sat through several atrocious ones at the behest of past girlfriends and my mom. A few years back, I remember watching 27 DRESSES with my mom and an old girlfriend. It was so offensive to women that I couldn't understand how they are any other woman who could possibly like it. The values and themes it reinforced to women were patronizing at best and downright scornful at worst. Sadly, these kinds of cynical films have become the standard for the genre; a new one opens just about every week. A while back, Brandon mentioned THE HOLIDAY and said that we all should demand better from the film industry for the shit they try pass off as romantic or comedic or entertaining. I couldn't agree more, but I don't see things changing any time soon.

I think the best romantic comedy film of the last 15 years is WALL-E, but it's also a sci-fi movie so it would be disqualified. Still, it's robot love is more human than just about any other live action romantic comedy in recent memory. It seriously might even reach CITY LIGHTS level sweetness. A true gem of a film.

I worship GROUNDHOG DAY (Ramis, 1993), but wouldn't be able to include it if I followed Brandon's rules. Without those rules, it would be the only non-classic or non-Woody Allen film to challenge my top 10.

I also like CHASING AMY, Adrienne. It's far and away Smith's best work. I haven't watched it in years, but watched the stolen dvd copy we had of it many times as a teen (I want to give a shout out to my friend and former neighbor Willie for stealing that dvd from Kmart for me and my brothers; thank you dude).

The two straight rom-coms I probably like most from the 90s aren't that good at all, I just have residual interest in them from liking them so much as a kid. Like any 90s child, I couldn't get enough Adam Sandler, so THE WEDDING SINGER (Coraci, 1998) is still something I can quote endlessly. And surprisingly or not, I really liked 10 THINGS I HATE ABOUT YOU (Junger, 1999) and would watch my VHS copy of it plenty. Hey, it had young Heath Ledger and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in it! That makes it cool, right? Right? Guys?

As for the 2000s, ETERNAL SUNSHINE OF THE SPOTLESS MIND (GONDRY, 2004) is a great rom-com, but it's an obvious choice and is also a fantasy film, so it doesn't count. Is AMELIE (Jeunet, 2001) a rom-com? I'm kind of a sucker for it regardless.

Probably my two favorite straight rom-coms of the 2000s are: KNOCKED UP (Apatow, 2007) and PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE (Anderson, 2002).

I love KNOCKED UP just for being so goddamn hilarious. I also like THE 40-YEAR-OLD VIRGIN, but find KNOCKED UP to be funnier. I've never laughed harder in a movie theater.

PUNCH-DRUNK LOVE is easily the best live-action rom-com of the last decade. It evokes the absolute strangeness and wonderful happenstance of love to perfection. Love is a punch-drunk feeling, and it makes you want to chew someone's face off. :) PTA knows what's up.

"I have a love in my life. It makes me stronger than anything you can imagine." Amen.


Sorry I didn't make a list, but this seemed more interesting than a numerical ordering of classics and a few Woody Allen movies.

Friday, April 6, 2012


I love Hitchcock. The more I've seen by the master the more I've been astonished by the absolute quality of his output and his consistency as a filmmaker. Choosing favorites among his many great films is difficult, as each time I watch or re-watch a Hitchcock film, I'm convinced its my favorite. I'm irrevocably certain that there is value in all of his films, even in the lesser ones or those deemed "minor." Hitchcock was not a minor director by any stretch of the imagination and I don't think any of his films can be considered "minor." He was a monolithic filmmaker and all of his films are touched by his grandeur in some way. He's just thatimportant and colossal of a director.

So, I've at least liked all of the Hitchcock films that I've seen, with the exception of MARNIE (not a bad film at all, just was annoyed to death by Tippi Hedron in the role). I haven't seen MR. AND MRS. SMITH so I can't get in on the debate over its merits. I can imagine that I'd really like it due to the presence of Ms. Lombard, but who knows. I'd like to see it at some point anyhow. I also haven't seen anything post-MARNIE, but the only two films I haven't seen from 1941-1959 are THE PARADINE CASE and UNDER CAPRICORN. So, I've seen a decent amount for now, and there's always room for more.

Chris, I find your lack of faith in SHADOW OF A DOUBT disturbing. :)

1. Shadow of a Doubt

I'd have to go with this little number from 1943 as my favorite of his films (Hitch's favorite as well), and not just because of the great Joseph Cotton. I love the characters, the dialogue, the small town setting, and just the unraveling of Uncle Charlie's true persona as young Charlie's perceptions about the world and what she knows are unraveled in the process. It's a film filled with the highest amount of tension and a sort of creeping melancholy over the disruption of youthful fantasy and desires. I just love it.

2. Rear Window

All right, I can't keep up writing paragraphs for each pick as I'm too lazy, but I'll at least write a sentence for each of the top ten.

I had almost forgotten how great this film is until I watched it again a month or so ago. It's just so damn entertaining and effortlessly watchable. I love the ineffable feel of it.

3. Rope

I love the Nietzsche talk.

4. Vertigo

I love the dreaminess.

5. The Lady Vanishes

I love the detached, dry humor.

6. Spellbound

I love how much it plays with memory and dreams and for being one of the first films to make me truly love classic cinema.

7. Psycho

I love its little details in building dread and atmosphere and for its shocking stairway kill (it seriously beats out the shower scene as one of the best kills in all of cinema).

8. The 39 Steps

I love how much of a picaresque adventure it is through the different landscapes and social spheres of England.

9. Notorious

I love how much we fear for the safety of its characters and Cary Grant's "movie star" reveal.

10. Rebecca

I love its Brontë-ishness.

11. Strangers on a Train
12. North by Northwest
13. Dial M for Murder
14. Young and Innocent
15. The Wrong Man
16. Foreign Correspondent
17. The Trouble With Harry
18. Saboteur
19. I Confess
20. Suspicion

HM: Lifeboat, The Man Who Knew Too Much (both versions), Stage Fright, The Birds, Sabotage, To Catch a Thief, Murder!

Thursday, April 5, 2012


It's great to have you back, Brandon. We need you around here, if you couldn't already tell.

I think you're right about TO BE OR NOT TO BE my man. I wouldn't argue against it not being the best of '42, as I believe my ranking of the top three was basically arbitrary. I've watched AMBERSONS twice in the past year so it's perhaps fresher in my mind when it came to solidifying the order. I'll have to re-watch Lubitsch's masterpiece again soon and see if I have a change of heart. I have no problem reneging.

You would know better than I whether or not Lewton can be credited with revolutionizing the horror genre. I was using the general historical impression of CAT PEOPLE just for something to say, but you are wise to question the notion. THE BLACK CAT, which came out some eight years previous, is a great example to use. It has the same mix or artistry and shock like CAT PEOPLE, while also being as "B" a picture can get. I'm not much of a historian to know how innovative Lewton was being, so maybe he doesn't deserve that much credit historically, but I know you'd agree that he deserves a hell of a lot of credit personally. He was able to overcome studio, budgetary, and audience restraints to deliver a vision of horror that was uniquely his own. THE BAD AND THE BEAUTIFUL, which I believe was a deliberate homage to Lewton, captures this producer-as-auteur concept perfectly. Anyway, I know you love Lewton, but you raise an interesting point against him that I'm not qualified to argue with haha.

I think you said it about why we had CASABLANCA so low on our lists: "Like many I seem to enjoy exalting the underdog or going with the more esoteric choice but in many cases I find that the love is earned." I think we both try to be as honest as possible with our choices. I think on one hand we shouldn't be afraid to put I MARRIED A WITCH ahead of CASABLANCA if we really love it more (as I do), and on the other hand, we shouldn't be afraid to go with the exalted pick if we truly find it to be the best film that year (e.g. CITIZEN KANE). Honesty is the best way to go here. I think it's something that AFI needs to learn, something that IMDB raters need to learn, and something I constantly have to remind myself: go with what you love.

Speaking of things I love, Brandon and Adrienne's thoughts on DANNY ROSE are the tops. I completely agree with you both. I'm glad you had such a strong emotional response to the film, Adrienne. If I weren't such an anhydrous husk of a person, I would have teared up myself. I'm also glad that it's your favorite of his films, Brandon. It's definitely up there on my list.

I'm down for the Hitchcock and romcom lists. I'll get on them asap. Another one I came up with last night is a top 10 cinematography list. This could be the most beautiful films you've ever seen visually or the most virtuosic. Maybe save that one for the future if anyone is interested. No surprises here, my list could entirely be composed of Malick, Kubrick, and Ophüls.

All right, so as you could have seen from my March recap, I've watched a steady slew of films recently that I loved but will probably never get to mentioning. However, I should at least single out two especially great ones for praise: THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE (1946) and SEVEN MEN FROM NOW (1956). They are both masterpieces of their respective genres. THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE is a legitimately terrifying horror film, and SEVEN MEN FROM NOW is an essentially perfect western (or as close to perfect as one could get).

I'm glad THE SPIRAL STAIRCASE delivered the gothic creepiness I was hoping for. It's plot synopsis is incredibly intriguing on the horror front–a serial killer who preys upon disabled women–and thankfully it didn't disappoint. I was in love from the opening overhead shot of our titular staircase. Beautiful, creepy, and reminiscent of the overhead stairway shot in PSYCHO (though that obviously came much later). It sets the mood ideally. Now, I'd love to say that the film could work as a silent picture due to our heroine's inability to speak (there is a great amount of visual fright in the film), but there's no denying that this film is a masterpiece of sound. The eerie music and gusts of wind and rain bask this thing in gothic atmosphere. It's what gets under your skin and makes you feel unsafe. The sound owns this picture, but I also love its overall feeling of utter isolation and imprisonment. It's a wicked nightmare.

SEVEN MEN FROM NOW, albeit entirely disparate in substance from STAIRCASE, is another film that ensconces you in its environment and makes you feel its ether in your bones. The film's use of rain, landscape, terrain, wind all make you feel close to the characters, which enhances the emotions of the film. Boetticher seems to get a lot of rightful praise for the emotional depth of his westerns, and this film is probably the most emotional of those that I've seen. There are a plethora of great scenes, but the one that immediately springs to mind is the one in the rain where Stride sleeps underneath the wagon with Annie just above him. That's exceptional visual work that I would say reaches the heights of pure poetry. It's a lovely scene in a totally absorbing film.

March Recap

I'm glad John posted his recap because I had completely forgotten about my own. I saw plenty of films last month, and as you can see, my standards are decidedly lower than John's; I still tend to really like-to-love everything old:

Angel Face (1952) *****
The Trial of Joan of Arc (1962) *****
Kansas City Confidential (1952) ***
The Narrow Margin (1952) *****
On Dangerous Ground (1952) ****
Summer With Monika (1953) *****
The Secret World of Arrietty (2010) *****
Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) ****
The Bitter Tea of General Yen (1933) ***
The Little Minister (1934) **
The Whole Town’s Talking (1935) *****
Dead End (1937) ****
Young and Innocent (1937) *****
The Women (1939) ****
They Drive By Night *****
Road to Zanzibar (1941) ****
This Gun for Hire (1942) ****
Now, Voyager (1942) ***
The Tall T (1957) *****
Seven Men From Now (1956) *****
Kiss of Death (1947) ****
The Curse of Frankenstein (1957) ***
Horror of Dracula (1958) ****
The More the Merrier (1943) *****
The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek (1944) *****
The Horse Soldiers (1959) ****
A Story of Floating Weeds (1934) *****
Vera Cruz (1954) ****
Blast of Silence (1961) *****
Ride the High Country (1962) *****
Four Faces West (1948) *****
Going My Way (1944) ***
The Spiral Staircase (1946) *****
Caught (1949) ***
Night and the City (1950) ***
Bad Day at Black Rock (1955) *****
The Fly (1958) ***
Tristana (1970) ***
The Paleface (1922) *****


Broadway Danny Rose (1984) *****
Children of Paradise (1945) *****
Umberto D. (1952) *****
Cape Fear (1962) ****
City Lights (1931) *****