Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Jeff's #86: Rio Grande

#86: Rio Grande (John Ford, 1950)

For some reason, I couldn't get the movie poster to paste on here.  Oh well.  I love John Ford.  Along with Hitchcock, he may appear on my list more times than any other filmmaker.  Some days, I truly feel like he is my favorite.

I wish I had watched this again, so that I could say more about it.  But, I do think it is underrated and one of Ford's best films.  Every shot is essentially perfect- the work of an absolute expert.  I love the central conflict between duty and family and the way it depicts the initial hesitancy of reunion as the characters slowly learn to embrace reconciliation.  It also features the first pairing between Wayne and O'Hara, one of cinema's finest couples.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Brandon's #84: Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)

Jeff brought it to my attention that there are a sect of people who think this movie is too upbeat. I've never been shy about questioning the motivations behind pack verdicts. I think the stigma surrounding both the director and the best pic win play a larger roll. Some of us prefer the underdogs. But assuming some truly penalize this for being too existentially soft, I submit the scene when the women, recently purchased and thus saved from Auschwitz, are separated from their children. Schindler swoops in and offers some bogus excuse regarding the size of their hands and cleaning artillery shells. They are saved. They board the train and it departs, but Spielberg lingers on the people entering the death camp, people that Schindler was given the chance to save instead. It's a Bunuelian moment, one poor creature saved whilst one is led cruelly to its doom.

It's not that I give a shit if the populist iconoclast interjects enough pessimism and gloom to the proceedings (though he does). He's crafted an exquisite document of the best and worst of humanity.

I know its problems, like all of the director's films there is an impulse to skew facts, lighten the overall load, rectify the ugliness. I don't ask for perfection. I accept his optimism. The greatness outweighs the slag.

At the end of the day, this is a film about survival, the moral burden of survival. It's about the wounds that probably won't heal. I find it very moving and that's enough.

Jeff's #87: Hail the Conquering Hero

#87: Hail the Conquering Hero (Preston Sturges, 1944)

Sorry for disappearing on here for the past few weeks.  Unfortunately, I've been going through some rough personal stuff and have spent the last couple weeks reeling and recovering, but happy to say that I'm in much better spot now.  I'm a little too far behind to do lengthy write-ups for each catch-up pick, so I'll just post my belated picks with a sentence or two for now.  Once I'm caught back up, I'll do my best to resume normal writing.  Glad to be back.

Didn't get a chance to rewatch this, but I've long considered it my favorite Sturges film.  Not sure if it's his best, but it wins out in my book for the incredibly sweet nature and compassion it boasts underneath all of the zaniness.  Plus, Ella Raines.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

Chris' #83: Road to Utopia (Hal Walker, 1946)

Starring: Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, Dorothy Lamour, Robert Benchley
Director: Hal Walker
Writers: Norman Panama, Melvin Frank
Release Date: February 27, 1946

Quick Synopsis: At the turn of the century, Duke and Chester, two vaudeville performers, go to Alaska to make their fortune.

First Time
I didn't see any mention of this film on my old CR5FC blog, but I have to imagine it was sometime in 2012. Jeff has that On the Road with Bing Crosby and Bob Hope Collection on DVD, so I watched his copy.

Why it's on the List
I'll be honest; I took a stab in the dark here by listing Road to Utopia ahead of The Paleface. When I made my list, I hadn't seen either in years and based the order off of memory alone. I also assumed that Bing and Bob would outrank Bob and Jane Russell, and I have to admit now that this was the wrong call (for me). After rewatching both this weekend, I enjoyed The Paleface more.

Don't get me wrong, Road to Utopia is also a lot of fun and I do enjoy it. It's not as if I'll move this down my list; rather, I'll probably move The Paleface, Gremlins 2, and Big Trouble in Little China up.

A big reason why The Paleface works so well is due to the audience's investment in both Bob Hope and Jane Russell. When Bob isn't in a scene, Jane carries the film (and vice versa). For most of Road to Utopia, Bob and Bing share the screen. In the moments when only one is on screen, it obviously still works. But when neither are featured, I tended to get distracted during my rewatch this morning.

I also don't mean to offend Dorothy Lamour in this way; I do like her quite a bit. She's great in the other Road pictures and My Favorite Brunette as well. Her talent as an actor and a singer are unquestioned. And there's no reason to compare Lamour and Jane Russell, but after pulling off this double-feature, it feels difficult to avoid. Jane Russell is so much more dynamic, though Lamour does have that double-threat quality.

This is an unorthodox write-up; I shouldn't spend too much time talking about how I like other movies more, especially since there is a lot to appreciate about Road to Utopia. This is the only Road representative on my list, and of the ones I've seen, it is my favorite (though I'd be nice to truly confirm that with a marathon). If memory serves, this is definitely the zaniest and most meta of the franchise. I love in the inclusion of Robert Benchley as the narrator. That kind of call seems way ahead of its time.

As I wrote yesterday, Hope plays off of other actors so well, and the partnership of Bing and Bob is one of the best on-screen pairings of all-time. The banter is top-notch, and I love that they frequently take shots at each other's characters and real-life personas. Bing and Bob movies ooze competition, and because they both have very different qualities to offer, it's always captivating.

Bing Crosby's voice is so soothing and melodic. Last year, my grandfather was diagnosed with stage four lung cancer. Thankfully he's still with us, but whenever I see or hear Bing Crosby, I'll think of my grandfather for the rest of my life. Bing is his favorite singer. These old movies are a great way to bridge the gap between generations. When I told my grandfather that I liked the Road movies a few months back, his face lit up. My dad's side of the family is of Irish descent, so of course they have more love for Bing than Dean Martin or Frank Sinatra. (I don't have the heart to tell them that Dean is my favorite of the three, ha.)

And speaking of Sinatra, I love the joke about him in this (at the expense of Bing Crosby). I also how big they go with this script - talking animals, references to the studio, etc. Unless I'm missing something, there were three more Road movies after this one (none of which I've actually seen, I'm pretty sure), but Road to Utopia has that kitchen sink vibe to it. The film is jam-packed, and it feels like a fitting culmination of the franchise.

Additional Notes/Stats

  • I'd like to add more Bob Hope to the next iteration of my top 100. Brandon brought up The Princess and the Pirate in the comments section of my Paleface write-up; I want to rewatch that and many others, in addition to seeing more in general.
  • This is it for Bing Crosby. Holiday Inn stands out in my mind as another one of best. But feel free to send me other deep-cut recommendations.

Jeff's #88: Grave of the Fireflies

Jeff's #88: Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988)

This came out the year I was born, but I only saw it for the first time a few years ago.  I first watched the Japanese version with English subtitles (the superior viewing experience), but there is a free English-dubbed version available to download on Archive.org, so thankfully I was able to download and rewatch.  Here's the link to the download if anyone's interested.  If you've seen it, you're fully aware that it lives up to its reputation as one of the saddest movies ever made.  If you haven't seen it, be prepared - it's achingly tragic.

You probably only ever need to see GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES once, but I'm glad I rewatched it. This time around I was mostly struck by its use of silence and stillness and the gleeful moments of childish play.  It's partially an anti-war film, but I think it's even more general than that.  It's a cry for compassion and goodwill towards our fellow human beings on earth, especially all of the children around us who are so vulnerable.  The lives of the two children in GOTF are as fragile and fleeting as fireflies.  They burn at dusk with a momentary radiance and then extinguish in the morning light.  No one in their isolating, war-ridden community seems to notice or care.  How precious their lives are.  How tragic they have been made so expendable.

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Chris' #84: The Paleface (Norman McLeod, 1948)

Starring: Bob Hope, Jane Russell, Robert Armstrong, Iris Adrian
Director: Norman Z. McLeod
Writers: Jack Rose, Melville Shavelson
Release Date: December 24, 1948

Quick Synopsis: Calamity Jane is dispatched to find out who's smuggling rifles to Native Americans, and winds up married to a hapless correspondence school dentist as part of her cover.

First Time
March 2012. It was a Netflix DVD rental and I may have watched this one with Jeff? I can't remember. Between late 2011 and early 2012, I was on big Bob Hope kick and saw many of his movies for the first time.

Why it's on the List
I love Bob Hope. How could you not? I love his cowardly movie persona and it'll never feel stale to me. His physical appearance, his voice, his delivery--they're all wrapped up in a great comedic package. He's one of my favorite performers of all-time, and if I'm ever in a bad mood, all I have to do is put on a Bob Hope movie to get out of it.

Another great thing about Bob is that he plays off of other actors so well; The Paleface is a prime example of this. Pairing Bob's cowardice with the true grit of Jane Russell is a match made in heaven. I haven't seen Russell in much, but every time I have, she's been amazing. To be pervy for a second (I'm adopting that from Brandon since it's accurate here), she's obviously very sexy in this. But more than that, I like her whole vibe; she's a badass who's perfect for the role of Calamity Jane.

Hope gets top billing in this, but I like that he and Russell both have their own storylines and character arcs. The romance between the two isn't overdone; Russell's feelings for Hope play out in a very natural way. There isn't a scene where Calamity Jane confides in someone that she's developing a fondness for "Painless" Potter. The script doesn't patronize the audience in that way.

My favorite moments occur when our two characters arrive in Buffalo Flats. Hope then gets to play the role of an intrepid cowboy, and it's very well done and hilarious. I regret not writing down my favorite jokes when I rewatched it this morning, but that entire sequence had me laughing a ton.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • This is one of two Bob Hope movies on my list. I'll be writing about the another one tomorrow. I could have easily added more, but ultimately I decided to go with my top two for this list.
  • Gentlemen Prefer Blondes is another great Jane Russell movie, but it didn't make my list. This is it for her, and really, I need to see more of her work. His Kind of Woman and Double Dynamite look interesting.
  • I haven't seen the sequel, Son of Paleface, nor the 1922 Paleface with Buster Keaton.

JRO's #84: Jason and the Argonauts (Don Chaffey, 1963)

I'm not sure why I picked this one. I think it was just a dumb mistake. 7th Voyage of Sinbad was actually the more influential and more watched film of my childhood. I think I meant to put that one on the list, but somehow wrote Jason and the Argonauts instead. Sinbad should be here. Or maybe it's a tie. The thing about both Jason and Sinbad is that they're both not so great as movies. The scripts are bad to okay. The acting is bad to okay. But none of that matters. Because the reason this film is on the list is the obvious reason that this film makes it on any list: Ray Harryhausen's magic effects. Another honorable mention is Valley of Gwangi.

JRO's #85: Strangers on a Train (Alfred Hitchcock, 1951)


'nuff said.

JRO's #86: Decision at Sundown (Budd Boetticher, 1957)

It's a happy coincidence that Brandon and I chose a Boetticher film for #86. My list has been set in stone since I first made it so I'm not simply responding to his pick.

This is the only Boetticher on my list, but I maybe would have made room for all of them if I had re-watched them. I've only seen them all once (and by "all," I mean the five in the boxed set I have).

I did re-watch this one.

But I'm behind on posting here and just need to put up my picks instead of stressing about writing about them.

Decision is a revenge picture. I like it as much as I do because of how things shake out at the end. Frustrated and frustrating, the ending is satisfying.

'nuff said.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Chris' #85: Big Trouble in Little China (John Carpenter, 1986)

Starring: Kurt Russell, Kim Cattrall, Dennis Dun, James Hong, Victor Wong, Suzee Pai
Director: John Carpenter
Writer: Gary Goldman, David Z. Weinstein, Adaptation: W.D. Richter
Release Date: July 1, 1986

Quick Plot Synopsis: Uhhh....

First Time
Last year, around the same time as my first viewing of Pretty in Pink. Again, I was trying to catch up on 80s movies that I had missed. But I did see various scenes of Big Trouble in Little China before then. I remember catching some of it at Brandon's old place a few years back.

Why it's on the List
Big Trouble in Little China is a film that is very confident with its identity. It's intentionally trashy, action-packed, and hilarious--with the perfect balance of each. I'm not a big fan of action movies, but because BTiLC approaches the genre with a consistent level of humor and self-awareness, I find it very palatable.

I never truly appreciated Kurt Russell until I saw this from beginning to end. He's perfect, and I can't imagine that he gives a better performance in anything else (but feel free to let me know if you disagree). As Jack Burton, Russell pulls off one of the greatest John Wayne impressions ever, albeit a parody version.

Jack Burton is also the perfect embodiment of the United States. He's confident, even though he doesn't understand much of what is going on, and when the fighting starts, he's either unconscious or too busy trying to push a dead body off of himself. I love the fact that even though Jack Burton talks and acts like an action hero, he really isn't one.

Not only does Russell get to play a John Wayne-type in this, but he also gets to act like a square, in the form of Henry Swanson.

This scene is a lot of fun and it'll amuse me every time.

But Russell isn't the only one who shines in this; Dennis Dun also does a tremendous job. The two actors make a great team, but Dun's charisma and likability allow him to easily hold his own. And while I've never been much a Kim Cattrall fan (not that I've really seen her in anything anyway), I love her in this. Sure she's attractive, but she's also very cool in this. She's perfect for the role of Gracie Law. I love her tough and assured demeanor. 

The dialogue in this rules, with such great lines as, "You people sit tight, hold the fort and keep the home fires burning. And if we're not back by dawn...call the president," and "May the wings of liberty never lose a feather." Moments of exposition are equally entertaining; for example, when Lo Pan is discussed for the first time: "You mean the Lo Pan that's chairman of the National Orient Bank and owns the Wing Kong Trading Company, but who's so reclusive that no one has laid eyes on him in years?" Exposition is best when it's this detailed and over the top.

I also shouldn't fail to mention the special effects, the set design, and the costumes in this. Great work all around, especially the effects, which is obviously Carpenter's specialty. There's a lot to highlight, but when old Lo Pan's head glows a bright red, it looks amazing.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • This is the only John Carpenter movie on my list. Halloween is great, but it's on my 200-101list for now. I am trying to catch up on more of Carpenter's work. I'm a newfound horror fan.
  • Kurt Russell won't be making another appearance on my list, I'm sorry to say. I really want to rewatch Death Proof.
  • Dennis Dun should be getting more work. I see that he was on the short-lived HBO series Luck, but I've never seen an episode of it.
  • Every time I watch this movie, I enjoy it a little bit more...so this will probably move up my list.
  • There are talks of a Dwayne Johnson remake of this movie...ugh.

Sunday, April 16, 2017

Brandon's #85: Underworld U.S.A. (Sam Fuller, 1961)

"Sam Fuller made a film as good as he talked it." That was Martin Scorsese talking about his hero on the DVD for UNDERWORLD U.S.A., the movie that I think finds him comfy in that perfect balance between nutty and in complete control. I debated using THE STEEL HELMET or MERRILL'S MARAUDERS, even PICKUP ON SOUTH STREET, FORTY GUNS, WHITE DOG, THE BIG RED ONE, THE NAKED KISS, and RUN OF THE ARROW would suffice. Fuller had many famous peers worshipping him; Godard, Truffaut, Eastwood, Wenders, Rohmer, Spielberg, and Tarantino, who dedicated JACKIE BROWN to him in 1997, the year of his death. He was one of the best, not just celebrated for his unhinged approach to everything. There is a true balance to the chaos.

Fuller was a crime reporter at 17, ten years later he was fighting in the second Great War, where he earned a Bronze Star, Silver Star, and Purple Heart. He wrote pulp novels and screenplays before directing. His movies were alive and busy. The violence was always a little horrific and even scary. The characters were damaged goods, almost always doomed. He saw it all and spared us none of it, the ugliest of us especially.

I first saw a Fuller film when I was ten, THE BIG RED ONE, where I remembered two things: Mark Hamill and some guy getting his dick blown off. I've now seen most of his work, though I'd love to give SHOCK CORRIDOR, THE NAKED KISS, and HOUSE OF BAMBOO another glance. I chose UNDERWORLD U.S.A. for now. That's the beauty of this wing-it method.

It's a revenge-driven plot, of the chilliest order. The kind where our hero befriends and betrays, gets up real close and then turns the knife. If the mob wasn't so much worse we might actually object, but these are the kind of gangsters that wipe out women and children so it's easy to relish the carnage. In the midst of such evil, you kinda need a nut like Tolly to bring balance and order back. I think I probably prefer THE STEEL HELMET so maybe we will revisit our beloved Uncle Sam.

Chris' #86: Gremlins 2: The New Batch (Joe Dante, 1990)

Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, John Glover, Robert J. Prosky, Robert Picardo, Christopher Lee
Director: Joe Dante
Writer: Charles S. Haas
Release Date: June 15, 1990

First Time
I don't remember the exact year, but it was sometime in the early 90s. There's a good chance that this was the only Gremlins movie I saw when I was younger. I watched both movies last year and pretty much all of the first one felt very new to me.

Why it's on the List
In my ET write-up, I mentioned that there was another instance on my list of a creature being dressed up as woman that creeped me out back in the day. This is that movie.

In this case, kid me was weirded out by the sexualization of this^ nasty ass creature. I vividly remember feeling uncomfortable during these moments in the film and not liking them.

Rewatching this as an adult is a lot of fun, especially after seeing the first film as well. It is truly insane and I mean that in the best possible way. The New Batch is the perfect sequel because it's not just a recreation of the first one; it builds off of Gremlins in a very ambitious way. The first one wasn't much of a horror film (if at all), so it doesn't feel like a betrayal to the franchise for the second movie to go off in such a ridiculously cartoonish direction. Dante and crew were willing to take the sequel off the edge of a cliff, only to land safely and carve out its own place in the world.

I love how the film progresses. Eventually smaller scenes are inserted for the sole purpose of executing a joke; for example, the parody of an iconic scene from The Phantom of the Opera. I love the commitment to the comedy, and many of the best moments are in the details. When Grandpa Fred (Prosky) sits down for an interview with Brain Gremlin, a little gremlin hand comes into frame to apply some last minute makeup to Grandpa Fred's face. It makes me laugh every time.

Being too meta can be problematic for a lot of projects, but that's not the case here. Leonard Maltin reviewing the first Gremlins movie is a nice touch, as is Hulk Hogan intimidating a couple of gremlins in the projection booth to put the film back on.

Most of the performances are fairly broad, but there's also some decent depth to most of the characters. Robert Picardo (who I just saw in an episode of Justify) plays a heartless prick very well, but the female gremlin's obsession with him kinda humanizes the character a bit. John Glover is amazing in this - most of the time his character is too busy stuck up his own ass, but his child-like wonder and enthusiasm is infectious.

As an adult now, Billy (Zach Galligan) really grows into the role of the likable everyman. His relationship with Kate (Phoebe Cates) is very strong and withstands the test of Marla, allowing it to feel more authentic than most movie relationships. I also appreciate the fact that the film avoids that tired cycle of a couple being tested, fighting, and then reconciling. But I will say that while Kate is very supportive of her fiance, it's not as if she is given a lot to do in the movie. But Cates makes the most of every scene. Her shining moment comes in the form of monologue about Lincoln that is eventually interrupted.

I would watch a spin-off movie with Murray Futterman (played by Dick Miller) going to different vacation spots with his wife (played by Jackie Joseph), only to find that all his holidays are ruined by gremlin outbreaks.

Gizmo acting like Rambo will always bring me a lot of joy.

The movies ages very well, I would say. There are some cool effects - the paper shredder death, for example. But also, the animation with the flying gremlin still looks great.

There is a bit of a nostalgia factor here, but I feel it fully withstands all of that and truly belongs on this list.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • This is the third of nine sequels on my list.
  • The only Joe Dante movies I've seen are the two Gremlins movies and Small Soldiers. I'm not too familiar with his other work. I'm sure Brandon will educate me during the course of this project.
  • This is the only Phoebe Cates movie on my list. I've never seen Fast Times at Ridgemont High from beginning to end, and haven't seen any of her other movies.
  • Speaking of Cates (and her family), shout out to Hunter Davidsohn for his great work on Frankie Cosmos' album Next Thing. I listened to it again today on the way home from Philly.
  • This is the second Christopher Lee movie on my list (LOTRThe Two Towers being the first, obviously). This is it for him; I'm not too familiar with the horror movies that made him a legend.
  • Tuco from Breaking Bad is in Gremlins 2. He plays a delivery guy and has a couple of lines. I thought that was pretty neat and noteworthy. Gotta get caught up on Better Call Saul.

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Brandon's #86: Seven Men From Now (Budd Boetticher, 1956)

John's mention of Randolph Scott got me thinking about his six collusions with Budd Boetticher. I dare it was one of the best director/actor partnerships in the movies, known as the Ranown Cycle. The movies mostly found Scott riding lonesome and stumbling across some hapless group, unfit in the Darwinian sense for frontier life. His character occupies a space between the essentially good and mostly evil, evil meaning selfish and prone to violence. He reluctantly becomes their protector, often fulfilling acts of vengeance foretold in backstory.

And yet these acts of retribution often feel fruitless and empty, I think by design. I hesitate to call it "moral complexity," both because it's a worn out term and because the beauty of these films are, in fact, their simplicity. SEVEN MEN FROM NOW also has Lee Marvin bestriding that moral divide. I hated seeing him lured to the wrong side, knowing this ultimately sealed his fate. Boetticher's use of the Alabama Hills and Lone Pine landscape is crucial, like Mann and Ford's more celebrated work. It's also lean and mean, no fuss no muss one hour and eighteen spare beautiful minutes. Thus you cowards have no excuse to miss out on this.

On a side note, Lou left us and I miss him a lot.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Mike O's #91: Three Ninjas

I don't have much to say to you if you hate this movie, but if you did I may ask "wered you ever a kid?" I can understand why some girls may have no connection to this movie, maybe they grew up
With only sisters? But if your a man and were once a boy and can't back this flick than fuck you. What little boy doesn't want to be a Ninja and take down an evil ninja syndicate with the help of there badass Ninjutsu grandpa?? Classic

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

JRO's #87: My Favorite Wife (Garson Kanin, 1940)

It's hard to write about comedy.

I did re-watch this one a few weeks ago. I had only seen it once before.

It'll probably be higher on my list next time.

This is probably my favorite Randolph Scott performance.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Chris' #87: E.T. The Extra Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)

Starring: Dee Wallace, Henry Thomas, Peter Coyote, Robert MacNaughton, Drew Barrymore
Director: Steven Spielberg
Writer: Melissa Mathison
Release Date: June 11, 1982 (U.S.)

Streaming on Netflix

First Time
I don't remember the first time I saw this, but my earliest memory of it occurred sometime in the early 90s. During the summers around that time, my dad, mom, brothers and I would camp in Westport, NY with our friends, the Nelson family. The Nelsons owned one of those GMC camper vans that had a built-in television and VHS player. It looked something like this (if my memory serves me right), but it was gray and purple:

I remember being really impressed that we could watch movies in a vehicle; it was my first bit of exposure to that concept. We probably watched many movies in that van over the years, but the only one I can actually remember is E.T. 

Why it's on the List
As Brandon admitted in his write-up, the film is scary the first time or two. I'm trying to recall what scared me the most, and it was probably the night scene when Elliott discovers E.T. for the first time. There are other moments that might be too intense for children, but as an adult, it's funny to think back on this as something that got me to hide under a blanket. Granted, it's not as if the movie scares many kids beyond the ages of eight or nine.

But there is something creepy about Carlo Rambaldi's design of the eponymous character. When Gertie dresses E.T. up like a girl, it kinda disturbed me when I was younger. There is another instance on my list of an ugly creature being dressed up as a woman, causing my younger self some discomfort, and that movie is coming up soon. Now I can think back on all of that and smile. E.T. is actually a funny and lovable little guy. His voice, his Ewok-like grunts, his little waddle. It's easy to feel a connection with him.

Elliott's need for E.T. provides the film with a nice emotional punch. We never see Elliott interact with his own friends, and he's clearly the kid who's the most impacted by his father's absence - Mike is too old, Gertie too young. Henry Thomas is great in this; when he begs E.T. to stay at different points in the second and third acts, his sincerity and despondence are palpable.

As is the case with The Goonies, the film also harkens back to a time when preadolescents were independent and oft-unsupervised. I like the moment when Mike and Elliott order and pay for pizza without their mother knowing it, even with her in the house. And even though I didn't spend much of my childhood riding around town on a bike, this movie certainly makes the act of riding a bike very cinematic and cool. (The E.T. ride at Universal Studios was also a lot of fun, I recall.)

Another annoying nostalgia moment I'll cover is when Elliott uses the lamp in his room to heat up the thermometer, allowing him to trick his mom into letting him stay home from school. I never used a lamp when I would do that; instead I would hold my breath as long as I could to get my temperature up. Maybe the human body doesn't necessarily work that way, but I can remember a time when that actually worked and I successfully tricked my parents into letting me stay home sick.

I like the use of Peter Coyote in the film. The character referred to as "Keys" is not shown until the last half hour of the film. The score, combined with the jingling of his keys on his belt clip, make him out to be the villain for most of the movie. But when Keys is finally revealed, he's actually very kind and understanding. I appreciate the moment when he tells Elliott that he's waited his entire life to encounter an extra-terrestrial being; it adds some nice depth to the character and when Coyote delivers the line, I believe him.

Dee Wallace is very maternal and familiar. If she doesn't remind me of my own mom at times, she definitely reminds of the mom of one of my childhood friends. The kids are all great in this, minus Mike's hammy friends. Henry Thomas was asked to do a lot, and he handles it all very well. Drew Barrymore is very cute and funny. And really, hats off to Robert MacNaughton as Mike. He plays the big brother role so well - he's a jerk at times, but he also loves Elliott and is willing to risk a lot to help him.

As Brandon also notes, John Williams' score deserves a lot of credit for the emotional impact. It really epitomizes the feel of a childhood adventure. At times it also reminds me of something that might be used in a Hitchcock thriller.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • Only one Spielberg movie left. I'm interested to see if it really is my favorite of the three on this list.
  • This is it for all of the main cast members, but Dee Wallace and Henry Thomas are in some contemporary horror movies that I enjoy: The House of the Devil (Wallace) and Ouija: Origin of Evil (Thomas). Drew Barrymore is in another movie that I really like, one that I also feel is a bit underrated, but it's on my 200-101 list. I'll save it for next year when we go through those lists ;)
  • Unless I am forgetting something, this is our first repeat. I'm interested to see what other movies will appear on multiple lists. Jeff has already covered a few movies that are much higher on my list.

Brandon's #87: The Mignificent Ambersons (Orson Welles, 1942)

Big and sad realities make the toiling for money or stature seem a trifle. Ain't it true? So many books, songs, and movies speak of the futility of customs and clout. I think it's because we know in our deepest of being that none of that shit matters. It's just pride. Someday most of us will be deep in thought at the edge of the unknown, where we will likely cease to exist. We won't give a tinker's damn about money, looks, or class.

Wherever it is we are headed, our names won't mean a thing. Not a thing. We tend to mock truths because we feel above them, so let me annoy you all with another kernel. All we have in this life consists of ones we love, specifically the time we spend present and alert with one another.

If you can reduce Orson Welles' masterpiece to one theme, I'd say this is it. Adapted from Booth Tarkington's novel, it follows spoiled Georgie's long and painful journey to that truth. It was his comeuppance, three times filled and running over. I'm still not sure that I am limiting my list to just one Welles' but if I do, I am perfectly content to leave it here. I think it's his best (F FOR FAKING nipping at its heels). It's as good a display of acting, writing, directing, etc as anything ever made. I'm not sure why it's not higher. I also love how affectionately it pays tribute to the Mercury Radio Theater troupe and aesthetic. Such a solid crew. I doubt we will ever see its like again.

I can also see how the young auteur was so often prone to failure. He was too smart. Too uncompromising. His existence goads the gatekeepers of conventional wisdom and taste. Time will always have Orson's back, and I dare say that anyone worth their artistic weight in gold will absorb a piece of his creative strength each time they set their eyes and ears on this, a movie I have underestimated for so long.

Saturday, April 8, 2017

Chris' #88: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)

Starring: Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Liv Tyler, Viggo Mortensen, Sean Astin, Cate Blanchett
Director: Peter Jackson
Writers: Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens, Stephen Sinclair, Peter Jackson
Release Date: December 18, 2002 (nationwide)

First Time
Finally, a theater experience I can actually remember! I saw this with my dad and brothers during opening weekend at the Regal on Front Street. The four of us watched two of the three LOTR movies together, and the trilogy will always represent some nice family moments for me, especially since my brothers and I have a bit of a strained relationship with our dad.

Why it's on the List
For those of us who actually care about these movies (have fun rewatching this, John), The Two Towers seems to be the least popular. It's actually my favorite of three, and this is only LOTR movie in my top 100.

I rewatched the theatrical version this past week. When I bought the trilogy on blu-ray, I opted for the theatrical releases because I couldn't see myself sitting through any of extended versions again. When the extended DVDs were first released, I watched them numerous times with friends and family. My older brother used to pop the extended DVDs in at night and fall asleep to them. I used to do that with Simpsons episodes; to each his own.

Maybe I attempted to read The Fellowship of the Ring in the early 2000s, but I've never actually finished any of J. R. R. Tolkien's work. I didn't grow reading The Hobbit like so many did and do. I am a movie poser and my interest in Middle Earth is limited to this trilogy and maybe the first Hobbit movie. Having said that, I definitely commiserate with the book readers. Many of the changes made in the film adaptations probably feel egregious and baffling. I can relate to this thanks to the Harry Potter film franchise; I've read the books a handful of times and I don't really enjoy any of the movies (The Prisoner of Azkaban and the final two are okay, but still...meh).

Even though I haven't seen The Two Towers in years, I still found myself saying the lines of different characters just before they were delivered. TT has many of my favorite lines, including many of the less notable ones. If I say, "We piled the carcasses and burned them" to Jeff, we'll laugh and go through our usual riff on Karl Urban's innocuous line.

Speaking of Urban, I really enjoy his performance in this, along with the other supporting actors: Brad Dourif, Bernard Hill, and Miranda Otto. Otto's performance is one that grew on me over time; it was tough to root for her initially because she was sniffing around Aragorn (which is a stupid reason). Dourif is great in everything I've seen him in: One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, The X-Files, Deadwood.

I also love this one the most because it's the first to feature a lot of screen time for Gollum. Andy Serkis' performance as Gollum is one of the most iconic in film history. The CGI doesn't always look great, but the motion capture and facial expressions of Gollum really breathe life into the character.

The last thing I'll say is that when I did rewatch this, I found myself easily distracted. The movie doesn't hold my attention like it used to. Because I've seen it too many times, it's mostly just something to have on in the background while I'm doing something else. Certain scenes still bring me joy, though.

UPDATE: I forgot to mention one of the best things about the entire trilogy - Howard Shore's beautiful score. Even if I'm not in the mood to watch the movies, I don't think I could ever get sick of the music. It packs a lot of emotion and power, and it's among my favorite movie scores ever.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • This is the only Peter Jackson film on my list.
  • Elijah Wood and Cate Blanchett will each make one more appearance.
  • Love Ian McKellen and Viggo Mortensen but this is the last time they'll appear on my list.
  • The Goonies is on my 200-101 list, so this is it for Sean Astin in my top 100.

JRO's #88: Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 1936)

I guess this is my favorite Chaplin because it's the only one on my list. I guess it's also my favorite silent film because it's the only one on my list.

I think it's just my mood, but I don't even care about this film at this moment and am wondering why it's on my list.

Bleh. Forced blogging. But at least I posted. Happy #88.

Brandon's #88: Jackie Brown (Quentin Tarantino, 1997)

I've seen this four times. The last time was with my brother and four of my friends. My parents were out of town so we decided to have an outdoor matinee. I grabbed the extension cord and disconnected their flat screen and DVD player. We watched it under the stars. This was one of my favorite communal movie experiences and this is my favorite Tarantino picture.

Lately I've found myself disillusioned by him. I don't know what has changed in me. The same style of jibber jabber that once had me so dazzled now feels dulled and lacking the same urgency. It might be my own familiarity with his dialogue, or perhaps his prose doesn't work as well in the Western genre. I'm sure that his recent fixation on racial friction hasn't always worked, but I love his inability to walk away from it. HATEFUL EIGHT hits a lot of redundant notes to no avail, even so I think it's got more going on than most movies these days. I just hope he can get it done in less time. I guess my point in pointing out his recent failings is to note that JACKIE BROWN is damn near flawless.

It's also lovely. You can feel the love for the cast, love for Elmore Leonard, love for cinema and specifically the process of making a movie. There isn't a moment that feels wasted or superfluous. You love watching this woman double cross both sets of self-serving men. Tarantino is often better when writing for women. I never mind spending the two plus hours with the eponymous character as portrayed by Pam Grier (among the most attractive performances ever, if I may be so creepy). The same can be said for the rest of the cast. This is one of the best ensembles ever.

I'll limit this to just one Tarantino, though KILL BILL VOL. 2 and DEATH PROOF are among my personal favorites. I get why he polarizes so many, though I'm always wary of groupthink. JACKIE BROWN seems to stand apart for even the most weathered dissidents. I'm admittedly far from that crowd, but this movie is something worth agreeing about.

Monday, April 3, 2017

Brandon's #89: The Mirror (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1975)

I dreaded trying to talk about this because I don't understand much of what draws me to it. So forgive me for not really addressing the film itself, as I've done so many times.

The thing is, I'm aware that this isn't necessarily the most popular choice when it comes to the Tarkovsky cannon. I also know that there might be a perfectly valid reason for this, not necessarily because THE MIRROR isn't great (it most certainly is). 

My theory is simple. By the time I saw my first Tarkovsky in 2008, my art cinema experience was fairly limited (some Bergman, Godard, two Malick's, Fellini, Herzog, Lynch). I first saw RUBLEV, then SOLARIS, then IVAN'S CHILDHOOD, and finally STALKER. Each of these is undoubtedly great, probably greater than my pick. But each of these films taught me how to comprehend his cinema. The great sculptor of time requires more patience and a rewiring of the brain that becomes so attached to traditional storytelling techniques. This much is obvious.

John, our resident Tarkovsky expert, will undoubtedly articulate his appeal and his truth. I can't. Partly because none of these films are fresh in my mind. I saw THE MIRROR in 2013, right after a miserable experience at a book fair, where I consequently saw John, my infant son dangling impatiently from my chest. I can't recall much, frankly. But I do remember immediately thinking, "this is one of the best movies I've ever seen." Good enough for me.

PS, I'm eager to check out STALKER (completed after two very sleepy attempts), ANDREI RUBLEV (pissed me off bc of a very disturbing real horse killing), and SOLARIS (watched at work with John, aka very distracting). THE MIRROR and IVAN'S CHILDHOOD were watched undeterred.

Jeff's #89: The Master

#89:  The Master (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2012)

So I'm going to be lazy and link this post to a review I wrote of the film a few days after seeing it with the CR5FC group in Ithaca back in September 2012.  Here's some of what I wrote:

"Purling white waves lapping over an impossibly bright blue sea.  So begins THE MASTER, Paul Thomas Anderson’s hypnotizing and physically imposing masterpiece about yearning love and the struggle between carnality and spirituality that thwarts it.  No other film this year or the next will feel as singular and strange; few other films in recent memory have felt so commanding and confounding, beautiful and ferocious.  This is easily the film of the year, and to echo Glenn Kenny, quite possibly the film of the still nascent decade.  Not since Anderson’s last film THERE WILL BE BLOOD have I felt such an equal mixture of astonishment and befuddlement; befuddlement not at the obscurity of the vision, but befuddlement at the mastery and richness of its telling.  Paul Thomas Anderson is the most arresting and fascinating filmmaker working today.  He has come in command so thoroughly of his own uniquely strange and symbolic voice that the only artistic landscapes I can compare his to extend outside of cinema to the theater of Edward Albee or the fiction of Flannery O’Connor.  Certainly, Anderson still wears his Altman badge proudly, but his cinema has become so chiefly his that there is nothing that looks or feels like it.  He is incontrovertibly in a class of his own.  This is a complete master-class in directing, cinematography, acting, and brilliant writing."

Here is a link to the rest of the review:  Jeff's Master Review.

I still stand by everything I wrote in that initial review (although there is another film from this decade that is higher on my list). I also am damn proud of having written such an extensive piece of writing on a film.  That review is definitely the closest I ever got to mimicking a "professional" review.  I don't know if I'll ever have the time or patience to write something like that again.

STATS:  One more PTA film coming up.  BOOGIE NIGHTS almost made it on here.

Jeff's #90: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

#90: The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1943)

Eh, really wasn't feeling it this weekend.  Or today either.  Just had a bunch of long, stressful nights at work and have been waking up each day feeling unfocused and groggy.

COLONEL BLIMP's my next pick. I don't remember precisely when I first saw it, but I got the Blu-ray for Christmas and re-watched half of it this past week.  Like most of Powell and Pressburger's work, it's completely stunning in HD.  It just glows with motley saturation.  Some have called this the greatest British film ever made.  And the greatest film about "Britishness" ever made. While it's certainly up there in the pantheon of British film, I don't even think it's the best film that the Archers made (another of theirs is much higher on my list).  Still, I really love this.  Through the intimate details of one man's life, it charts an entire history of British militarism and German-British relations from the start of the 20th century through WWII.  Like GRAND ILLUSION, through the reality of modern warfare, it deftly critiques the early 20th century fantasy of chivalry between nations based on entrenched codes of honor and class hierarchies.  And like Ishiguro's THE REMAINS OF THE DAY, it subtly juxtaposes the idea of "stiff upper lip" British restraint with romantic failure - suggesting that Candy's triumph of honor through restraint may not be a triumph at all.  Instead, it leaves him aged and isolated, left to fill the void of lost love with endless simulacra.

STATS:  One more from the Archers coming up.

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Chris' #89: Before Sunrise (Richard Linklater, 1995)

Starring: Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy
Director: Richard Linklater
Writers: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Julie Delpy, Ethan Hawke
Release Date: January 27, 1995

Quick Synopsis: A young man and woman meet on a train in Europe, and wind up spending one evening together in Vienna. Unfortunately, both know that this will probably be their only night together.

First Time
The spring of 2011 is the best I can do; I don't remember where I saw it or any of the other little details.

UPDATE: Jeff reminded me that he introduced this series to me. We did a Before Sunrise/Before Sunset double-feature that day in 2011.

Why it's on the List
From the moment that Celine and Jesse start conversing on the train, it's easy to get sucked in - even with subsequent viewings. This was something that surprised me when I rewatched this yesterday. I know the characters; I know the story...and yet, the opening scene still works like a tractor beam.

The IMDB trivia section for Before Sunrise states that Linklater had a tough time with the casting process. As much as I appreciate the dialogical dominance of the script, I can't imagine Jesse and Celine being played by different actors. I love the idiosyncrasies that Delpy and Hawke bring to film. Reaction shots often have more to say than the actual words of the characters.

Despite the pungent whiffs of romanticism throughout, I also like that the film is willing to ruin its sweeter moments. One of these sweet moments occurs when the street poet reads his milkshake poem to Jesse and Celine. It's clear that Celine is moved by it and that Jesse isn't too impressed. As they walk off, Jesse only wants to focus on the trick behind the magic, asserting that most of it was pre-written. Jesse is jealous of the poet in that moment - a rare one in which Celine's attention turns away from him.

The overanalysis of thoughts and feelings is another aspect of this film that speaks to me. I am an extremely self-conscious person, and both Celine and Jesse are very self-aware. In fact, the pair stop examining certain subjects because they've been discussed ad nauseam by others. This is the case with their conservation on the differences between men and women. Celine quickly becomes grossed out by her own words and thoughts, and it's a nice, familiar moment. The script is honest, which helps to offset any creeping hints of pretension.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • This is the only Linklater film on my list. I'll easily find spots for some of his other work in my 200-101 list.
  • This is it for Ethan Hawke but Julie Delpy is in one more movie on my list.
  • I was considering this and Before Midnight for my #89, but I didn't make time to rewatch the latter. Before Sunrise might be more consistent, but I do enjoy a good, uncomfortable fight. Before Midnight was also the only one that I saw in the theater, and that always helps/adds to the experience.

JRO's #89: Pandora and the Flying Dutchman (Albert Lewin, 1951)

Again, I did not re-watch.

This is another one of the few on the list that I've only seen once. It was while I was still ushering at Cornell Cinema. In the theater were myself and about half a dozen elderly ladies. I remember being swept up in the technicolor dream, wrecked by the romance. I hesitated to turn on the house lights after the film finished, for fear of revealing my puffy, red eyes (allergies, surely). I had no reason to be concerned. It turned out that all of the other old ladies there besides myself had the same allergic condition. We spent a few minutes being old ladies together, swapping tissues, lamenting together that they don't make movies anymore like they used to when we were little girls.

It's on the list for that experience, one of the best theater-going experiences of my life. I like to think that the film will hold up just as well on DVD at 40" as it does on 35mm on a full-sized screen. But I know that that's not quite true.

Alex's #95: The Golden Child

The above tagline is perfect for Eddie Murphy...in the '80s. This movie was directed by Michael Ritchie and starred Eddie Murphy, Charles Dance, Victor Wong, and Randall Cobb! If there's an ultimate '80s movie mix, this will definitely be in there. Eddie Murphy was the hero of the '80s, without him it would've been a very not so funny decade.

In this movie you have Eddie Murphy who is deemed the chosen one. He is tasked in trying to find and rescue a young child who is called "The Golden Child." This young child also possesses these mystical powers. The child gets kidnapped by this evil sorcerer played by Charles Dance, whose main purpose is to kill the child and have the world overruled by pure evil. Typical.

What I loved about this movie and stood out to me was the comedic performance from Eddie Murphy. I don't think it was one of his best performances, but it's definitely up there. I honestly can't think of anyone else who could make you laugh and enjoy this flick as much as Eddie did.

I feel the story flows without you getting bored or wondering when it's going to be over with. It's an interesting story with some good scenes of comedy and action combined. It has the fantasy feel and throws in a little bit of romance. If you like short movies, this one is a little over an hour and a half.

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Brandon's #90: Late Spring (Yasujiro Ozu, 1949)

I'm currently reeling from a rough night of hard-drinking. I consider myself a wiser and less headless man in my 33rd year. I've been watching close friends continue down the same path; prolonged adolescence. I'm not knocking it, to each their own, but I certainly enjoy the health perks and not having to send out apologies via text. I have to credit my kids for my newfound sobriety (meaning not getting blackout drunk). Being drunk is hard work. Ozu knew this.

LATE SPRING is a shomingeki family drama following a widower and his daughter in post-war Japan. Their lives are disrupted when meddling Aunt Masa suggests that Norika (the superlative and heartbreaking Setsuko Hara) needs to marry. This sets the simple story in motion, pressure from society to trace lines.

I hate to toss around the word conformity, but it's all over this and Ozu's subsequent films. It's also the story of a fleeting chapter in a father and daughter's lives. It's sad. It's poignant. Ozu knew a thing or two about that pressure, but I'll let Jeff --- our resident Ozu expert --- teach us when he gets around to it. He's a far more eloquent writer anyway.

For me now, I think about my daughter and how hard it'll be to let her go. I guess cherish the time you have with your loved ones. Don't black out on the floor of an apartment and miss half of the day with them. I'm a damn fool.

Ps, the great Claire Denis' 35 SHOTS OF RUM is heavily influenced by LATE SPRING, and it's a masterpiece as well. AND, it was a toss up between this and Ozu's final film, which I love very much.

JRO's #90: Wise Blood (John Huston, 1979)

I've been out of town all week and didn't re-watch this one either. So, no commentary.

Briefly, I love this film because John Huston makes it his own. It is my favorite late Huston (and there is a bunch of good late Huston).

I don't have my list in front of me so I'm not sure what the final count is, but I'll give a major list "spoiler" right now. John Huston shows up here more often than any other director. As far as this list goes, I'm not quite an auteurist. I followed my heart (my gut, my bowels) and only listed films that were personally important to me. It turns out that I have no single favorite director. The Top 20 or so are all by different directors. That wasn't me being intentionally diverse. It's just the reality of it. It turns out that individual films matter to me much more often than a director's entire output does. I think that this is probably true for most people and that it would be more rare for someone to have ten films by the same director in their Top 20.

The exception for me is John Huston. I didn't know it until I made this list and realized that I put quite a few of his films on here without even thinking twice about it. It was a little bit of a surprise to me and then I realized that it was just obvious. Of course John Huston is my favorite director.

I don't think that Huston shows up in the final Top 20. But I think he's on the rest 5 or 6 times. He's the one director whose sensibilities match up with mine the most. His work is thoroughly literary (to a fault, say some of his detractors) and I know of no one else who has a better record of excellent novel adaptations. He was drinking buddies with Bogart. He hired Ray Bradbury to work on Moby Dick for him. Ray Bradbury. Moby Dick. This is a man who understands American Literature and America.

And John Huston's Wise Blood is a reflection of that America, an America that I recognize. It's not quite Flannery O'Connor's Wise Blood. Or rather, it is, but with a Huston twist. Huston draws out and emphasizes the humor in the story (yes, it's already there), but he doesn't neglect the other painful human dimensions of the story. From what I know of O'Connor and John Huston, I like to think that they would have gotten along together quite well.

Alex's #96: The Poseidon Adventure (1972)

For my next movie, I decided to go with The Poseidon Adventure. It was directed by Ronald Neame and starred Gene Hackman, Ernest Borgnine, and many others. The first time I saw this movie was on tv when I was pretty young.

I always thought this was movie pretty neat. The boat being flipped over by a massive wave and the survivors dodging explosions and fire, escaping flooding in certain areas they're in. I remember loving Gene Hackman's character in the movie, he was a stud. He had me convinced that if something like this ever happened to me, I'd follow him.

 This is an awesome disaster movie, especially back in 1972. The set pieces are believable and the characters are lovable, tolerable, debatable. It also gives you that sense of reality, that something like this can happen and its terrifying.

On a side note,this movies estimated budget was $5,000,000 and it pulled in $93,300,000!

Chris' #90: Pretty in Pink (Howard Deutch, 1986)

Starring: Molly Ringwald, Harry Dean Stanton, Jon Cryer, Annie Potts, James Spader, Andrew McCarthy
Director: Howard Deutch
Writer: John Hughes
Release Date: February 28, 1986

Quick synopsis: A poor girl must choose between the affections of her doting childhood sweetheart and a rich but sensitive playboy.

First Time
About a year ago on some streaming service. This is one of two movies on my list that I saw for the first time within the past couple years. I was on an 80s kick and wanted to catch up on the movies from that decade that I had missed.

Why it's on the List
Mainly because of the cast and characters. The running time is an hour and thirty six minutes, but even in that short amount of time, the world that these characters inhabit feels familiar and lived-in.

I pulled that quick synopsis from IMDB and am posting it even though I take issue with it. It's not as if Andie (Ringwald) must choose between Duckie (Cryer) and Blane (McCarthy); in reality, there's not much of a choice at all. Andie and Blane are attracted to each other, despite their class differences, while Duckie is forced to deal with his friend zone angst.

Xander Harris, of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, is a similar character to Duckie. I have little patience for both. I haven't seen every episode of the show, but I have to imagine that Xander eventually overcomes his feelings for Buffy. It's nice to see Duckie's growth over the course of PiP; by the end of the film, I actually admire him. Up until that point, he's pretty unbearable, but Jon Cryer does give a great performance throughout.

Andie is a strong female character. Not only does Ringwald bring a unique attitude to the role, but she's written in a very real and positive way. Andie doesn't have all of the answers and often turns to Iona (Potts) for advice, but she's true to herself and isn't afraid to call the men in her life out on their shit. She's very direct with Blane, Duckie, her father, and James Spader, especially when they don't make life particularly easy for her.

Speaking of Spader, he was 26 or so when this was filmed, and he definitely looks it. If a dude like this:

is hanging in or outside of a high school, please call the cops immediately. I take great amusement from Spader's character in this, and I love the moment when Andrew McCarthy finally tells him off. 

The first time that I saw McCarthy in this, I had the thought that he was only "80s handsome." As I saw more of him, I changed my mind; the dude's handsome and charming enough for any decade. Blane is a yuppie who recognizes how repulsive other yuppies can be. I like that the film doesn't shy away from that reality. 

It annoys me a little bit that Harry Dean Stanton's character is portrayed as a lazy, unemployed dad. The movie delves into why that is, but I suppose it still doesn't work for me nor does it ultimately undo the damage done by that stereotype. Just a thought - it clearly doesn't ruin the movie for me. Stanton also comes off as very sweet and loving. And to round out the notable cast members, I love Annie Potts in this. Iona is unique, wise, and feels a bit like a linchpin.

Another big part of this film is the soundtrack, but I have to admit that it doesn't do a lot for me. It works within the movie, but other than Otis Redding and The Smiths, it's not something I would really listen to. No offense to any of the other artists, but for me, the 80s had better songs to offer.

Additional Notes/Stats

  • This is the only John Hughes movie on my list. I kinda want to rewatch Ferris Bueller's Day Off and The Breakfast Club, since they aren't too fresh in my mind. I also saw Sixteen Candles for the first time when I watched Pretty in Pink, and there's some crazy shit with racism and rape in it.
  • My mom was one month pregnant with me when this was released. There are at least two more 1986 films on my list. I still need to see The Color of Money. I didn't know that The Great Mouse Detective was released in '86; I enjoyed watching that as a kid.

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Mike ODonnell 92 "Night On Earth"

Since a Dicillo flick was my last choice I figured I'd go with his classmate and counter part Jim Jarmusch. Night On Earth won't be my only Jarmusch but I'll start with it. It's obvious that Jarmusch is the king of cool, it permiates of every single film he makes. That being said I'll get into the movie

The movie is connected by 2 things, one night and a taxi. At its core it's incredibly bare bones, one of the reasons I love it so much, it's simplicity. 5 separate short films about 5 different taxi drivers make Night On Earth one single feature. Acting like world time zone clocks the film starts in LA at a certain time and ends in Helsinki as the night is turning into day. We even see each film start at the physical clock to its corresponding city before fading into incredible B roll, setting the stage and bringing life to each city outside the taxi cab itself. Each story is wonderful, with great dialogue that holds your attention thee entire time. From funny to sad and intrespoctive we travel with each guest and the driver themselves until the movie comes to a close. Great flick

Monday, March 27, 2017

Mike ODonnells 93 "Johnny Suede"

Directed by Tom Dicillo and honestly thee only movie I've seen from him "Johnny Suede" is good. Although it's probably not good to everyone, as a matter of fact I'm sure it's gotten shit on multiple times especially with a 36% on Rotten Tomatos. A rating like that generally would disuade me from seeing a movie it did not, probably cause I didn't look at Rotten before a viewing. It was one of those very many moments I have where I binge watch a certain actors movies I've never seen. This time (obviously) it was Brad Pitt.

Falling somewhere into artistic obscurity and hanging in limbo between Jarnusch and Lynch "Suede"
Flip flops around a young man obsessed with Ricky Nelson and thee idea of fame. That idea reveals itself to Suede through a pair of shoes that fall out of the sky right ontop of him. Now armed with the sickest shoes Suede walks through life with a chip on his shoulder, expecting and imagining the best while living in a dump. The setting is a bleak one, and a seemingly empty one at times. Desheveled high-rises linger in the back drop, chain linked fences cage in empty lots full of nothing but overgrowth. Pitt however plays the character with dimless wit and a childish charm, paired with some equally hilarious dialogue at times. With appearances from Nick Cave and Katherine Keener, even some interesting sing alongs, Johnny Suede is certainly a movie to spark up a joint too and be the judge of it for yourself.

Jeff's #91: The Son

#91: The Son (Dardenne Brothers, 2002)

This little gem from the Dardenne's knocked me flat when I saw it.  It's funny -  I was just telling my girlfriend about needing to put up this post, and even describing the movie to her gave me chills.  I'm convinced that you only need to see it once, and then you will never forget it.  It's truly a stunning and emotionally profound experience unlike any other.  And it tests you.  It tests your capacity for empathy and the depth of your forgiveness.  Like the rest of the Dardenne's remarkable oeuvre of moral tales, it confronts you with discomfort and proposes a dilemma to you.  The dilemma is often one that is seemingly very simple plot-wise, but that has moral and spiritual ramifications that, once overcome, will forever change the course of its characters' lives - maybe even their souls.  The dilemma of THE SON is perhaps the most discomfiting that the Dardenne's have ever concocted.  And without given anything away for those who haven't seen it, how this dilemma is resolved provides their most astounding resolution.  THE SON tests greatly, but it also rewards infinitely.  The finale is as profound a lesson in grace as any I can recall in movies.

Stats:  Only Dardenne Bros movie on here, but a few of their others would likely crack my theoretical 200-101 list.  They might be my favorite working filmmakers.

Sunday, March 26, 2017

Brandon's #91: Ulzana's Raid (Robert Aldrich, 1972)

I'm trying to avoid rattling off the obvious ones. I know John said he probably didn't have it in him to go from 101 to 200, but part of me thinks that would be a more interesting list. I'm not a subscriber to Sturgeon's Law, though the flooding of content in recent years has me second guessing. Brandon's Law states that there have been plenty of movies made between cinema's inception and today that I would consider great. Not just good or passable or fine, great. This is not to suggest that these "great" movies are perfect, few if any are, but I think in some cases that their flaws only strengthen them in the end. 

I'm not sure if Aldrich will appear again on this or any other list but here is what I wrote moments after watching for the first time, four plus years ago...

The disillusionment of all things religious, patriotic, or morally absolute. If I were to go along with Manny Farber's feelings toward Robert Aldrich, I'd call this an anti-ideology film goaded by our futile involvement in Vietnam. U.S. abuses lead to Ulzana's (Joaquin Martinez) escape, which leads to more abuse as violence and betrayal begets violence and betrayal, and on and on it goes. It's also fascinated by insurmountable odds and unconquerable nature. It follows the naive Lt. Garnett DeBuin (Bruce Davison), who is sent to stop Ulzana with the aid of a world weary scout named McIntosh (Burt Lancaster), with Ulzana's wife's sister's husband also serving as a tracker. 

DeBuin's Christianity is viewed as a tactically hazardous handicap in the midst of such reprehensible reality. Aldrich portrays the actions of the title marauder as horrific and unconscionable, though most of us know that the actions were perpetrated on both ends of the divide, most of all the scouts. 

Ulzana is treated with a fearful reverence, with a constant regret in his eyes. The violence is as horrendous as the heat and dust, the terrain as unforgiving and coldblooded as conditions in which these soldiers battle. It's interesting to watch this film only a week after De Palma's CASUALTIES OF WAR, a similar film of disenchantment also dealing with callous wartime brutality committed in front of a morally terrified military neophyte. One film wants us to share said rookie's maddened headspace while the other seems content to observe atrocity with a battered but wise assessment of the nature of combat. Both acknowledge the tragedy while Aldrich seems spellbound by the honor amongst fiends in the midst of battle.

Jeff's #92: Moonrise

#92: Moonrise (Frank Borzage, 1948)

I wish I had been able to watch this again, but alas, it seems to be completely unavailable.  For a while, Netflix was streaming a low quality version of it, but like nearly all their classic films, it has since disappeared.  This would be a prime candidate for a shiny new Criterion release some time down the line.  As would much of Borzage's filmography, which sadly is not only unavailable to stream anywhere but barely available on DVD.  Even though I didn't get to rewatch MOONRISE, I still really wanted to get it on my list, if only because I relish any opportunity to champion Borzage's work.  I've only seen MOONRISE twice, but I have a feeling that if I could've seen it for a third time, it would likely have been in my top 30.  As it stands, I'm just glad I could get it on here.

I first saw MOONRISE for my golden age lists project as part of my excursion into 1948, one of the best years in cinema history.  I recall trying to rank 1948 as being nearly impossible.  Half of the top 10 could have been #1 for most other years.  I think I ranked MOONRISE somewhere around 5 or 6.  Though I struggled with the ranking, 1948 was also one of the best times I've had writing up a year in review for our old film blog.  I noticed while watching many of the films from that year that "redemption" was a pervading theme throughout most of them.  I ended up doing a write-up where I tried (and mostly failed) to explore the theme of redemption in each of my top 10 picks from the year.  It was fun.  Here's what I wrote about MOONRISE at the time:

"MOONRISE, a gorgeous, poetic, sensitive, and emotional noir is really what started this whole redemption theme in the first place. I apologize for having it so low on the list, but I’ll need to see it more or reflect on it more before I let it rise the way it probably will. The Self-Styled Siren has a nice little write-up for this film about how jarring it’s opening images are and how unusually humanistic it is for a noir (two things that stood out to me as well). It’s basically the opposite of something like CRISS CROSS or ANGEL FACE. It is actually actively seeking redemption and healing for itself. The final moments of the film are so beautiful that I couldnt help but tear up. A broken piece of flesh is literally learning to become a human being again. He greets his fate, accepts his punishment, but takes both with a newfound dignity that has eluded him his whole life. His embrace of the dog he previously kicked pulled at my heart. His final promenade with the woman who has always believed in him made the tears grow. If the sort of redemption in JEZEBEL is rare nowadays, then the sort of redemption in this film is just nonexistent. Beautiful, beautiful movie."

Thankfully a few years ago I got to see the film again and it did rise even further in my estimation.  But I do stand by everything I originally wrote here.  In fact, I probably agree with it more now having seen more of Borzage's films since.  There is a nonpareil sincerity to Borzage's work that utterly defies cynicism.  They affirm nothing post-modern and do not contain a shred of irony.  They believe unabashedly in the power of love to restore and to heal.  MOONRISE is one of his finest examples of this earnest belief in love as a form of immanent grace.

STATS: Unfortunately, the only Borzage film on here.  I'd love to make room for the likes of  MANNEQUIN or MAN'S CASTLE, but haven't been able to see them in a long time.

Also, while I'm on the topic of love and healing, I want to seriously send all my love and prayers for healing to Brandon's dog, Lou, who is one of the best dogs to ever bless this earth.

Mike ODonnells 94 "Hud"

Since I'm on this Newman kick I'll make 94 Hud. I dare say I love Hud even more than The Hustler, from start to finish. From landscape to the dialogue Hud shines, the score from the opening credits when Brandon De Wilde first arrived in town, to the silence that follows as he wanders the streets looking for his Uncle Hud. We get an immediate introduction to who Hud is from a bar owner sweeping up broken glass from Huds previous nights activities.

We finally stumble on Hud leaving a married woman's house to his Pink Cadillac, greeted by his nephew Brandon De Wilde. The husband comes home and they make there getaway. As the movie progresses we meet Huds father, Homer played by Melvyn Douglas to perfection. Homer is the owner of a cattle ranch, a stubborn old man who labors away day and night with nothing but love for his land, until his whole herd come down with foot and mouth.

As the ranch looks under the prognoses we begin to dive into the depths of Huds arrogance and egotism and his fathers resentment and distain for his sons character. Character is the keyword, this film is all about men and there character, what makes them and what drives them. Not to mention one of my favorite scenes of all time is in it, I've posted the link below!


Chris' #91: It Happened One Night (Frank Capra, 1934)

Starring: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Jameson Thomas
Director: Frank Capra
Writers: Robert Riskin (story by Samuel Hopkins Adams)
Release Date: February 22, 1934

Quick Synopsis: A spoiled heiress running away from her family is helped by a man who is actually a reporter in need of a story.

First Time
I searched through my old CR5FC blog for mentions of this film, and I didn't see anything about my first viewing. I suppose it was sometime between 2007 and 2010 - another Netflix DVD rental.

Why it's on the List
When I did watch It Happened One Night for the first time, admittedly, I was a little disappointed. It was a case of my expectations not matching up with what I saw the on the screen. In time I've grown to appreciate it more, and when I purchased/watched it recently, it cemented its place among my favorites. There are a few films on this list that I've wrestled with over the years, and it's interesting to track changes in perception.

I've always been drawn to Claudette Colbert, and it's difficult not to be; she was a great actress and had an unforgettable face. For whatever reason, Clark Gable did not seem like the right fit for Peter Warne when I watched this for the first time. This might be the biggest reason why my feelings have changed over the years, because now I couldn't disagree with that opinion more. Gable has the perfect levels of charm and snark, and combined with Colbert's grit and inexperience, they make the perfect pair.

The shining example of this chemistry is on display during hitchhiking scene. It's a refreshing break in the film, which mostly moves at a quick pace. Here Peter and Ellie really start to fall for each other, and it's easy to get lost in it and forget that you're watching a movie. Seeing Clark Gable fail to get cars to stop for him as he uses his three different hitchhiking techniques is one of my all-time favorite moments.

Additional Notes/Stats

  • This is the last time I'll get to talk about Frank Capra. It's a Wonderful Life, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and Arsenic and Old Lace are all great and probably belong somewhere on my list. I'd like to see Meet John Doe, since I love Barbara Stanwyck.
  • Same for Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert. The only other Gable movie I've seen is Gone With the Wind, so that should probably change. I also love Colbert in The Palm Beach Story, Midnight, and Torch Singer.
  • It Happened One Night will probably the first instance of a movie moving up my list.