Thursday, August 2, 2012


'Twas great to see your '32 list, John. I can't really argue with any of your picks because I don't feel all that confident about my own '32 list. Nothing really stands out to me as a definitive #1, and there aren't too many films from the year that I feel all that passionate about. I'm a much bigger fan of '31 and '33, as any film from the top five of either of those lists would easily crack the top slot of my '32 list.

I agree with you about what makes A FAREWELL TO ARMS a very well made humanistic picture. It's Borzage so its going to be beautifully shot, poetic, romantic, and deeply personal. The only reason I can't get behind it enough to put it on my list is because I'm such a huge fan of the novel (probably my fav. Hemingway). Like with Wyler's WUTHERING HEIGHTS, I recognize the quality of the filmmaking but cannot give the film a fair shake in comparison to the novel. All I want to do is read the book instead.

I haven't seen a majority of the rest of the films from your list and my own in over a year. I'd love to re-watch them because I'm having a tough time remembering things like SCARFACE, BOUDOU SAVED FROM DROWNING, and even VAMPYR. It's interesting that you can't remember I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAIN GANG because it is one of the few I can actually remember quite well. That's probably why it's currently at the top of my list. My memory is a fickle thing, and it usually dictates 90% of how I make a list. Anyway, here's how my 1932 list stands for now. I'm still waiting on that lambent picture that will shine brighter than all the others (perhaps ONE HOUR WITH YOU), but for now:

1. I am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang (Leroy)
2. Horse Feathers (McLeod)
3. Vampyr (Dreyer)
4. I Was Born, But... (Ozu)
5. Boudu Saved From Drowning (Renoir)
6. Scarface (Hawks, Rossen)
7. Trouble in Paradise (Lubitsch)
8. Freaks (Browning)
9. Grand Hotel (Goulding)
10. Love Me Tonight (Mamoulian)

HM: A Farewell to Arms (Borzage), The Old Dark House (Whale), The Music Box (Parrott), Shanghai Express (von Sternberg), Island of Lost Souls (Kenton), Rain (Milestone), The Most Dangerous Game (Cooper, Schoedsack), Number 17 (Hitchcock)

I've seen 18 films from 1932, and I'm trying to see at least 20 for each year from '30'-'59. I've seen over 20 for several years, so I'm getting close. I've also decided, like Ed Gonzalez, to limit my honorable mentions for each year to 10 films. I like the idea of differing tiers of honorableness, but I'm hoping that eventually I just have one group of honorable mentions that I feel really strongly about for each year. We'll see.

I recall 1934 a little better than '32, Brandon. I also think it's a better year. THE THIN MAN, L'ATALANTE, A STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS, IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT, and THE SCARLET EMPRESS are some of the best films of the 30s and could top any list. I honestly feel strongly about all five, so much so that I could do a five-way tie for first on my list. The ranking I have concocted is basically arbitrary and pointless, as I don't think that any one is particularly better than the other. They are all tremendous to me.

L'ATALANTE is considered one of the greatest films of all time and it's hard to argue that point.
Vigo had an awfully short but nearly flawless career.

I'm glad you responded so strongly to THE SCARLET EMPRESS, as I was very impressed by it as well. It's a masterpiece of set design, mise-en-scène, and visual splendor. It's my favorite von Sternberg and probably his best.

We've already established that I need to see IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT again. It's been years.

You clearly aren't as big an Ozu guy as I am. I guess neither is John. I respond to the warmth, humor, and humanism in his films, but above all I worship his style. A STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS and I WAS BORN, BUT... are immaculately framed just like all of his pictures. Reading the language of his films is probably one of my most blissful cinematic experiences. I just feel like he and I are on the exact same wavelength in terms of composition. I don't know if you dislike A STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS or if it's just not your thing, but I think it's gorgeous and couldn't get enough of it.

I know it isn't terribly hip in auteurist or cinephile circles to have THE THIN MAN ahead of some of those other films I just mentioned, but I'm not too worried about it. It's certainly not as well directed as A STORY OF FLOATING WEEDS, L'ATALANTE, or THE SCARLET EMPRESS, but it's probably my favorite of all those films (slight favorite-as I said, I love them all). It just gives me the most pleasure. It's the best film from perhaps my favorite film series of all time.

THE BLACK CAT is an insane movie. Easily the most shocking and weird horror film of the decade.

I like THE MERRY WIDOW, but I don't think it's as good as THE SMILING LIEUTENANT or MONTE CARLO. The only unfortunate thing about the early Lubitsch musicals is how similar they are to each other. They can kind of blur together when you see them all in a short period of time. I think THE MERRY WIDOW might have taken a small hit in my estimation because of this. I recall the other two more distinctly.

I have to admit that I'm not much a fan of JUDGE PRIEST. I honestly couldn't get over some of the film's more cringe-worthy racism. I'm sure there's a better film in it than I can recollect, but all I can remember is wanting to bury my head in sand as soon as Jeff Poindexter opened his mouth. The "lynching" line uttered by Rogers was just the icing on a very unpleasant cake.

I'm really glad you dig DAMES as much as I do. It's just a fun and hilarious film. I think you're going to be really impressed with the other Berkeley musicals because they are all incredibly witty, entertaining, and visually spectacular. FOOTLIGHT PARADE is the best of the bunch and one of my favorite movies.

Anyway, here's my brand-new '34 list:

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

HM: The Merry Widow (Lubitsch), It’s a Gift (McLeod), Man of Aran (Flaherty), Evelyn Prentice (Howard), The Count of Monte Cristo (Lee), Of Human Bondage (Cromwell), Manhattan Melodrama (van Dyke), Babes in Toyland (Meins, Rogers), Judge Priest (Ford), The Little Minister (Wallace)

Sorry I didn't have much to write back to either of your lists, but I haven't been in a writing mood as of late. Hopefully I snap out of it soon.


I don't have much else to add to THE DARK KNIGHT RISES posts of Adrienne, Chris, and Brandon. The scene with the cops marching down the street triumphantly and exclaiming, "there's only one police in this town," did give me some pause. I understand that it's a provocative image in the context of Occupy. I stand with Chris though and maintain that the film isn't any more conservative than say something like THE AVENGERS. Nolan convolutes the political landscape of the film, but the main goal is keeping order and preventing destruction. Bane is ultimately no different than Loki and Batman ultimately no different than The Avengers in terms of desired outcomes.


I'm very glad to hear that you are a PTA fan, Adrienne. It's nice to see your ranking of his films, and I would encourage you to see HARD EIGHT. It's awesome. It's also very heavily inspired by Jean-Pierre Melville's BOB LE FLAMBEUR (1956), so it might be cool to see both and compare them. I love MAGNOLIA too, and I have to say, it's about time someone in this film club other than me gave BOOGIE NIGHTS its due. It's one of my favorite modern movies. It's just so fucking hilarious. The only thing I'd disagree with you is over THERE WILL BE BLOOD. To me, it's PTA's masterpiece and one of the very best films of the past 40 years–at least. I think John and I are completely on the same page here.

Though I find it hard ranking PTA's films (I unconditionally love all of them), my list would look like this:

1. There Will Be Blood
2. Boogie Nights
3. Magnolia
4. Punch-Drunk Love
5. Hard Eight

I'm pretty much guaranteed to worship THE MASTER, but I'll be curious to see where it fits in with the rest of his films. Thankfully, it got moved up a whole month and is now scheduled for release on Sep. 14th, a day after my birthday. It probably won't open anywhere around here for a few weeks after that, but I'm still hoping I can see it before October. Nothing for the rest of the year has me more excited.

(Speaking of PTA, the fellas over at Cigarettes and Red Vines are the greatest source for all things PTA on the web. I've checked that thing religiously over the years).

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