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.

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