Monday, February 27, 2017

Jeff's #99: Three Colors: Red

#99: Three Colors: Red (Krzysztof Kieslowski, 1994)


I toyed with putting all of the THREE COLORS trilogy under one slot, but that felt cheap, so I went with the most well-regarded of the three, which also happens to be my favorite.  It wasn't always my favorite until a couple of years ago when I revisited the trilogy.  For the longest time, I loved BLUE the most.  It was the first of the trilogy that I saw, and I was just drawn more to its tragedy, its score, and hell, its blueness than the other two.  I think I first saw the trilogy when I was 15 or 16.  I rented each on VHS from the international section of the video store.  I remember as DVD's started to take over VHS you could rent 5 VHS' for $5, and I tore through the after dark, international, and classic film sections like a fiend.  What a deal.  The THREE COLORS trilogy was some of my first exposure to foreign film, so it's long held a near and dear place in my heart.  And unlike a lot of the movies I initially fell for as a fledgling movie nerd, it not only holds up under recent scrutiny but gets richer every time I revisit it with older and (hopefully) wiser eyes.

There's no doubt that THREE COLORS, like all of Kieslowski's best work, is a highly dense, intellectually rigorous series.  It's methodical, contemplative, and weighty like reading Dostoevsky.  But it's also an emotionally rewarding and deeply humanistic experience.  RED's probably the best of the three at balancing the emotional fulfillment of the storytelling with the intellectual complexity of its themes.  It's also the most nebulous of the three, which is purposeful because red is such a nebulous color thematically.  It can variously symbolize both love and hate, in addition to the "fraternity" it symbolizes on the French flag.  The nebulous nature of the film is part of what has constantly drawn me back to it over the years.  And it rewards multiple viewings because each shot is so thoughtfully composed and interconnected.  The background informs the foreground and every image recalls a previous one or alludes to one that will be.  It's a beautiful harmony of corresponding motifs - all tied together by the abundance of this bold color that seems to take on new meaning with each shot it suffuses.  This potential for multiple meanings is ultimately what makes RED so rewarding for me, and what makes Kieslowski such an affirmative filmmaker.  There are no judgments, no diatribes, no post-modern smirks to be found in his work.  His films are just like the Judge's house in RED - everything is an open door.  And inside of that door, there is an emotional affirmation that drives us to the next threshold and beyond.

Fun fact: Kubrick revered Kieslowski for his uncanny ability to show without telling. I do too.

Stats:  One of three Kieslowski movies on here.  One of two featuring Irene Jacob, and sadly, the only one featuring Jean-Louis Trintignant.  MY NIGHT AT MAUD'S is a very honorable mention for this list.



Mike ODonnell 99 "Hard Target"

Since the oscars were on last night I figured I'd hit you guys with some real cinema, Jean-Claude Van Dammes 1993 classic "Hard Target"

An absolute shout out to Richard Connells "The Most Dangerous Game" "HARD TARGET" is, in my opinion, a perfect terd. My love for this flick (outside the obvious) is its nostalgic value. Every time I stayed home sick from school I SWEAR Van Damme week was on, on either USA or TNT?? (The network escapes me) Regardless! I spent hours self medicating in various forms of martial arts and soothing cadence of Jean-Claude's accent. The concept was the first thing that nabbed me, and it came well before I'd even read Richard Connells interpretation, Humans hunting Humans? Fuck yeah. A few highlights.

1. the game of chicken where Van Damme surfs on a motorcycle and blows up a Bronco with a Pistol.

2. Fanning the hammer of a pistol (upside down) ending in a perfect roundhouse to send G.I. Buttholes cigar flying

3. The Snake Punch

4. The dude from the mummy

5. Uncle Douvee's single shot bow and arrow explosive chain reaction

Just a few to wet the whistle guys, but if you haven't visited Jean-Claude in a while I suggest you do

Sunday, February 26, 2017

Chris' #99: The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad


Starring: Eric Blore, Pat O'Malley, Colin Campbell, Bing Crosby
Directors: Jack Kinney, Clyde Geronimi, James Algar
Writers: Erdman Penner, Winston Hibler, Joe Rinaldi, Ted Sears, Homer Brightman, Harry Reeves, Kenneth Grahame, Washington Irving
Release Date: October 5th, 1949

First Time
It's almost impossible to pinpoint the exact year when I saw this for the first time. Also, because Disney separated the two movies in 1955, I may have watched separate VHS tapes of both segments. But I watched both a countless number of times as a kid.

Why it's on the List
This was a late add to my list. I can't remember what I removed to make space for it, but I'm glad I have an opportunity to talk about it. Of all of the animated movies that I watched as kid, these two shorts have stuck with me the most. Both provide some great laughs and scares for children. It's funny how kids will often watch and rewatch things that scare them. While The Wind in the Willows isn't necessarily scary, there are moments in that gave me anxiety as a small child. I hated the weasels and I think Toad's escape from prison gave me an uneasy feeling. The moment I love the most from both of these shorts is the heist sequence at Toad Hall. It was one of my favorite things to watch when I was younger. So enjoyable.

The Legend of Sleepy Hollow is also a lot of fun, and Bing Crosby's voice is perfect for the narration - it really gives it that urban legend/folklore feel. The animation for this segment is especially beautiful. I love the animation during the Headless Horseman sequence.

Also pretty cool that RKO released this.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • Technically, this doesn't break the one stupid rule I had for this project (not that I ever cared to enforce it anyway), since Disney released this as a 68 minute movie in theaters. I didn't realize that the two were packaged together until recently.
  • This is one of three animated films on my list.
  • This is the first time that Bing Crosby is mentioned on my list, but it won't be the last.

Mike W #99: Welcome to the Dollhouse (Todd Solondz)

In 1995 I worked at Blockbuster video. At the time i wouldn't describe myself as an "indie" movie fan. Outside the random I-Con bootleg purchases, anime, and one or two movies recommended form friends (John)  i would say my taste in film was pretty on par with the rest of the people in my age group. It was all about Independence Day or whatever big blockbuster action flick was popular at the time.
Anyway,

I decided to watch everything in each genre section. Comedy, Action, etc. Starting with Comedy and in reverse alphabetical order (just because of the way the shelves were setup, the A's were the furthest away).  That said, it didn't take me long to run into this little gem (and other gems that will be populating the first 50 of this list), oddly placed in the comedy section.  I think this was the first "Indie" movie i had "discovered" on my own. The only thing "black comedy" meant to me at the time was whatever new movie Martin Lawrence or Chris Rock was in, but it would become (and some ways already was) my favorite genre in film. I just didn't know it yet. Welcome to the Dollhouse help solidify that.  

I haven't seen in a long time and plan on watching today. Thats a little bonus about this project, it gives me an excuse to watch something I've been meaning to rewatch for years but always dedicated time to other things.

Brandon's #99: Starship Troopers

#99 Starship Troopers (Paul Verhoeven): Lest my picks stay in the 40s and 50s, I chose this one for two reasons. First, I wanted a Verhoeven pick and could have gone with at least three others (Robocop, Total Recall, Black Book) but landed on this because I saw it opening weekend with my brother and three friends; Justin, Steve, and Nate. We were on our way to sneak into Event Horizon when the usher, a friend of our family, couldn't sell us our tickets in good conscience due to some of the reports he had heard about the violence. So he sent us to Starship Troopers instead, not knowing it was not only gorier but also featured some sex and nudity. How could he have known given the ad campaign.

I remember being genuinely nervous watching it, thinking that my dad would beat me had he watched it and discovered that we deceitfully snuck in. See at the time we were frequenting the new slasher movies, or Dawson's Creek horror as my brother would say. Verhoeven has never had an interest in tapping the brakes, god bless his rotten soul. In fact, my first experience with actual gore in a movie was the scene in Robocop where the big robot thing blew that yuppy out the window. Starship Troopers hit the spot so much that we gladly revisited several times once it hit VHS. It joined Desperado as the other movie we rented from Tuckers gas station, each time he would ask "does your father know you are watching this?" and each time we would lie.

Time has been kind to this schlocker, some hailing it a rich satiric masterpiece. I stand more with Jacques Demy in that regard, though I think there is something to be said about the outfits, the WOULD YOU LIKE TO KNOW MORE adds sprinkled throughout, and the campy depictions of military rewiring. It works fine in either vein. But I'm no fanboy, at least I hope not.

The second reason I chose it is shallow and stupid but I think relevant. About six years ago after a late night of heavy drinking and mischief, my friends Cheddar, Shotwell, and Craver sought to accomplish the perfect Sunday of relaxing, eating questionable food, smoking weed, drinking lightly to ease ourselves off the wear and tear of the previous night, and watching trashy entertaining movies.

So we went to Wal Mart (where we saw a person we had gotten into a fight with the Friday before). We got Genny and the cheapest chimichangas imaginable and went back to my house. Needless to say we came up with the term Chimichanga movie in honor of how perfectly Starship Troopers hit the spot. I'll look upon that movie-watching experience with nothing but love, knowing damn well that it's now a thing of the past. But Starship Troopers remains one of the best trashy entertainments that I've ever come across and that's good enough for me.

Mike ODonnell's #100: L.A. Confidential

Mike ODonnell
100 - L.A. Confidential (Curtis Hanson)

Off the cuff here but L.A. Confidential. Remains one of my favorite scripts STILL! catchy 1 liners, great characters and set. Perfect attention to detail of the times, a wonderful homage to the glitz, glam, and gutters of police culture and stardom In 1950's Hollywood. Certainly a movie I can return to over and over for an entertaining watch

JRO's #99: Willow (Ron Howard)

"And at the story level, “Willow” is turgid and relentlessly predictable. Not much really happens, and when it does, its pace is slowed by special effects set pieces that run on too long and seem to be recycled out of earlier movies." -Roger Ebert reviewing my 99th favorite movie of all time

Willow was the closing film at the 1988 Cannes Film Festival.

Mike Clark wrote in USA Today, “..any 6-13-year-old who sees this may be bitten by the “movie bug” for life.” Oh, so true.

I have read a lot of negative reviews of Willow. Ebert’s is my favorite because he gripes about all the baby reaction shots (which I love). I think that I get the negative. I do. But then I watch Willow again and I do not care what anyone else says. The movie is magic.

Ebert asks in his review if children will like the film. I did. I DO.

The whole film is satisfying to me from start to finish, but I've always especially loved the beginning that introduces us to the halfling village. I’ve seen the film countless times. I’ve fallen asleep to this beginning section countless more times.

I re-watched Willow last night. Watching it again convinced me that I’m an idiot for putting it this low on my list (can’t wait for next year’s revised list!). It is a perfect action adventure film for young boys (at heart). It is perhaps one of the greatest films about what it means to be a MAN.

Willow (Warwick Davis gives an amazing performance) himself is a good man and this is key. He is a good friend. He is a good husband. He is a good father. When called upon to be even better than he is, he stands his ground and does the right thing every time at great personal cost to himself. There are strong men all around Willow, but very few good ones. Contrary to many narratives about masculinity, Willow shows that integrity and humility are more important virtues than raw power.

Madmartigan (Val Kilmer at his best) is the lovable rogue. There is real pleasure in seeing his character arc as he is humbled and learns to be a good man. Also, the romantic subplot, while unbelievable and sure to enrage some, is one of my favorite parts of the film. Watching a hardened warrior woman melt at poetic love-spouting is a joy. Joanne Whalley plays Sorsha perfectly. It comes as no surprise that Kilmer and Whalley were married not long after this film (and sadly not much of a surprise that they divorced later as each continued their separate acting careers apart from one another).

It may be unrealistic, but it’s inspiring to a young boy to believe that maybe with a little luck, a little love potion, and a little poetry, he can win the beautiful woman. That pretty much explains how I caught and settled down with my lovely bride. Not so unrealistic after all!

I didn’t look up the baby’s name, but the baby is perfect. Ebert is wrong.

The Brownies? Eh, I think they're goofy fun. 

Finally, the score is so great. James Horner managed to craft a sound that stirred emotions without being sentimental or stupid. I really think that it’s up there in any list of great film scores.

So, two films in and I’ve featured two films in which George Lucas had a heavy hand? Is Lucas the auteur that shaped my childhood? Am I due for a re-evaluation of Phantom Menace? Is The Force Awakens #1 on this list of 100 films? Stay tuned to find out!


Saturday, February 25, 2017

Mike W: #100 Romy and Michele's High School Reunion (David Mirkin)

When i was in my late teens we started receiving bags of movies from the neighbors down the street who owned a video store. At first glance at the box art for this movie i was convinced this was something i did not want to watch. I did not like Lisa Kudrow (was not a fan of friends) and I only knew of Mira Sorvino because she was attractive (i had no opinion other than that). On a rainy weekend afternoon I had exhausted all other options in the bag and decided to put Romy and Michele on while i was fiddling around with my 4-track. Possibly messing with the "Murgolian Scallions" album. Maybe 15 minutes in i was hooked. I can't pinpoint why. I dont WANT to know why. Something about the humor made me laugh. I wound up watching it twice that day and rewound the dance number multiple times each watch. Over the years I've watched many more times and I am always delighted. I still dislike Lisa Kudrow and I still dont really care about Mira Sorvino. But i love this movie.

Jeff's #100: They Drive By Night

#100: They Drive by Night (Raoul Walsh, 1940)



I probably saw it for the first time five years or so ago on TCM and have seen it twice since.  It's that type of film that grows higher in my esteem every time I see it.  It's got an amazing cast (Bogie, George Raft, Ida Lupino, Ann Sheridan, and the indispensable Alan Hale), but the real star here is Raoul Walsh.  Easily in my top 5 greatest Hollywood directors of all time.  The dude lived and breathed cinema, having been involved in its development since the days of D.W. Griffith.  He had this amazingly lean, economical style: nothing ostentatious as shots aren't wasted, the dialogue is sharp, actors are charming, and the entertainment flows easily.  TDBN is one of his best representations of that style.  And along with two of his other masterpieces in HIGH SIERRA and THE ROARING TWENTIES, TDBN is one of the essential "bridge" films between the Warner Bros' social realism of the 1930s and the hard-boiled film noir of the 1940s.  It has elements of both eras, which makes it a remarkable historical document.  It forebodes of doom and emerges scarred from Depression-era tragedy, but it ultimately rejects the fatalism of post-war noir in favor of a newfound hope for rebirth.  Its sense of optimism in the face of calamity is one of its most appealing historical and emotional characteristics.  If it were made in 1947 no one would make it out alive.

Stats: First of two Walsh films on here (hard to exclude many of them) and first of several Humphrey Bogart appearances on this list.

JRO's #100: Labyrinth (Jim Henson)

I guess that spot 100 is reserved for a childhood favorite that probably doesn't hold up under careful scrutiny. If I hadn't seen this when I was 8 or so, I don't know that it would matter to me.

Spoilers: that may describe many of my 90s picks.

My NUMBER ONE HUNDRED FAVORITE FILM OF ALL TIME is Labyrinth.

Like so many U.S. 80s kids, my third parent was the television. As an adult, I've concluded that this was largely a negative influence in my life. But it's hard not to love someone (some thing) that raised you even if they hurt you often.

One mostly positive influence that came through the television, one that I cannot regret, was the worldview of Jim Henson. Muppets. Fraggles. Children. Monsters. Magic.

Henson's world was alive with magic, wonder, and most of all bright humor. In Henson's world, it is a joy to be alive. We are surrounded by a creation that breathes and talks and moves alongside us. The world is begging to be explored and enjoyed.

Labyrinth is Henson's greatest film to not feature Kermit the Frog (yes, we'll definitely be seeing Kermit later in the list). The Dark Crystal preceded it. I do like The Dark Crystal, but it's tone is oppressively heavy. Labyrinth lets the light in.

Bowie has never been better in any other film he was in. His unmistakable maleness bulging out of a fey androgyny brings a sexual menace that is quite serious, grounding the film.

Jennifer Connolly, so young in this, plays a perfectly conflicted teenage girl, testing the limits of her independence balanced against her responsibility. All of life is a fairy tale and she must find her role.

Despite some muddling in the middle (almost all enjoyable muddling), I find the final resolution still very powerful after all these years. "You have no power over me." It is an important step of maturity to be able to see through even the most deceptively beautiful enchantments and recognize the good and the true for oneself.

So, yeah, even quickly writing these brief thoughts this morning has convinced me that Labyrinth is a masterpiece and should be higher up the list. Maybe it should be. But each time I watch it as an adult, I find stretches of it simplistic and boring. It's uneven in its execution, which maybe makes it even more of a wonder. No matter what, it deserves a place on My List.

Maybe after going through all my 100 picks, I'll settle on a better order. Good thing we're re-doing these lists next year! :-)



Chris' #100: The Sting


Starring: Paul Newman, Robert Redford, Robert Shaw
Director: George Roy Hill
Writer: David S. Ward
Release Date: December 25, 1973

First Time
I don't remember the exact year, but it must've been between 2005 and 2007. Netflix start streaming in the U.S. in '07, and I don't believe I had the option of streaming anything when I got The Sting in the mail.

Why it's on the List
Newman and Redford had great chemistry. I also enjoy stories about grifting and confidence men. The use of Scott Joplin's music really makes this an iconic film. Whenever I hear "The Entertainer," I immediately think of Newman and Redford scamming someone. Overall, it's just a fun time.

Additional Notes/Stats
  • I've only seen this movie once. I'm trying to put most of my "one-timers" near the bottom of my list, unless I really love them. I'd like to re-watch The Sting sometime soon. 100 is a good spot for it because I would probably move it up or remove it entirely, if I saw it again.
  • Unless my list changes, this is the only time that Paul Newman and Robert will make an appearance on my list. I've seen Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, but I enjoyed The Sting more. Cool Hand Luke, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, and All the President's Men are great, but they don't make my list.
  • I need to see more Paul Newman movies. I still haven't seen some of his more notable ones - The Hustler, for example.

Brandon's #100: Rio Rita

Text message:

#100 Rio Rita (S. Sylvan Simon): From 1942, a little known/seldom celebrated Abbott and Costello film that my brother and I would frequently watch on a worn VHS tape along with A&C Go to Hollywood (it was an AMC birthday tribute to Lou). The plot involves the friends, poor and destitute, working as ranch hands when they discover and dismantle a Nazi ring. The gags, both physical and verbal, stuck with me. We would watch and rewind the car gag, the mirage gag, etc. This was one of three MGM films made during their reign at Universal, as if the 90s Clippers borrowed Jordan n Horace Grant for three games. It's treatment of war anxieties, specifically the Boche amongst us, works just fine. It's a favorite, sorry not sorry.  

Friday, February 24, 2017

Preamble

As John notes in the "Why 100?" section of this blog's homepage, the podcast Craig's List (https://soundcloud.com/craig-cackowski) inspired me to start this project. Every episode, comedian/improver Craig Cackowski counts down his top 100 films with his wife, Carla. It's been one of my favorite podcasts to listen to recently. Not only are Craig and Carla both funny and insightful, but the podcast also gives me a chance to either rewatch movies I haven't seen in awhile, or check out classics for the first time. If you do listen to podcasts regularly, I recommend it.

What I was reminded of today, actually, is that one of Craig's list qualifications is that he needs to have seen the film at least three times. Obviously we do not have any rules like that (in fact, I think the only rule I had was that the movies had to be feature length), so no need to alter your lists. 

Looking at my own list, there are several movies on there that I've only seen once. Maybe that's a crazy revelation, given that this is a 100 favorites list, but as I've aged, I've found myself rewatching movies less and less. But given my terrible memory, now might be a good time to revisit some of the films that I haven't seen since I was a teenager.

As I countdown my own Top 100 list, I will borrow some ideas from the podcast. Craig usually talks about the first time he saw the movies on his list. Again, my memory is piss poor, but I will try to recall those moments. I will also keep track of stats. For example, "this is the only time John Actor/Jane Actress/Joe Director/etc. appears on this list," and "this is one of two animated films on my list."

I also think it will be interesting to keep track of the movies that we all have in common, which decade/actor/actress/director is featured the most on all of our lists, and more. I'm happy to see that John and Brandon are excited about this, so much so that they reached out to everyone involved. This year-long project should be a lot of fun, and I hope we can all stick to it...unless we are all wiped out by Trump first.

Sorry...where was I? Ah, right...our top 100 films. Tomorrow we will all post movie 100 and on Sunday we'll reveal movie 99. 98 next Saturday, 97 next Sunday, and so on....for the next fifty weeks!

I told John that I liked the idea of us all sharing this site, so that we can easily discuss each other's lists in the comment's section of each post, without having to sift through multiple sites. Thanks again, John, for setting this up.

One last thing - I mentioned to some of you that we wouldn't post movie 99 until everyone has posted 100. Now that we've moved to this blog, there is no need for that. If you aren't able to post on Saturday and/or Sunday, you can use the impending week to catch up.

But anyway, let the Top 100 Films Project begin...