Tuesday, July 10, 2012

My Quest To See the 1000 Greatest Films: #820 Thru #839

Here is a look at the latest ten films in my Quest to See the 1000 Greatest Films.  These twenty films were seen between June 3rd and June 19th.  A complete look at my quest can be viewed HERE.

#820 - A Man For All Seasons (1966) - (#789 on TSPDT)  Usually I am not a big fan of films that have won the Best Picture Oscar.  More oft than not they are quite mediocre.  Now granted, this isn't Casablanca or The Godfather, but still it is surprisingly good for an Oscar winner.  My personal choice, out of the nominees that year, would have been Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, but hey, it's still better than when things like Kramer vs. Kramer or Ordinary People win.   But to get off the whole Oscar thing, A Man For All Seasons is an enjoyable film to watch, especially for the performances.  Robert Shaw is especially fun as Henry VIII.  I probably would not put it in my own top 1000, but I do not begrudge it being included here.

#821 - Don't Look Now (1973) - (#127 on TSPDT)  A fascinating picture.  Creepy and strangely mesmerizing.  Definitely deserves inclusion here.  Probably my new favourite Donald Sutherland performance as well.  Many of the film's naysayers, Pauline Kael most notably, have called the film a cheap imitation of something Hitchcock would have done much better, and perhaps Hitch could have done it better, or at least differently, but still, predictable or not, this critic was surely enthralled by its Gothic uneasiness.  And as for the ending, I can only assume that David Lynch is a big fan.

#822 - The Roaring Twenties (1939) - (#966 on TSPDT)  Now c'mon, ya gotta love Jimmy Cagney as a gangster - even a repentant gangster.  Directed by Raoul Walsh, this film may not have the rush of excitement some of the pre-code films of the genre have, but Cagney's charm and charisma make it work - even when it tends to get tired at times.  I think my biggest problem with the film though is how Bogie cowers in the face of Cagney and his big gun.  A year or two later and Bogie cowers to no one, big gun or not.  Seriously though, it is a fun movie and may deserve inclusion on the list - even if it is low on that list.

#823 - The Art of Vision (1965) - (#871 on TSPDT)  Have I ever mentioned how much I hate the so-called cinema of Stan Brakhage?  Anyone who knows me has indeed heard such a statement.  And if you think the word hate is a bit strong, then perhaps the words despise or loathe would be better suited.  Yes?  No?  Anyway, I am sure Brakhage was doing what he believed to be art of some sort, and I do not mean to take that away from him (other than in my own rather passive-aggressive way) but I just do not consider it cinema.  Not by my definition anyway.  It is not good cinema.  It is not bad cinema.  It just is not cinema at all.  Anyway, with that said, imagine my thrill as I sat in one of the screening rooms at MoMa's film wing and watched four hours and ten minutes of Stan Brakhage.  Yeah, it is what I would call hell.  Or at least purgatory.  Truth be told though, it wasn't all bad.  The MoMa screening room is a very comfy place to watch a movie.  I would really like to see a movie there some day.  As for The Art of Vision - well I am just proud I did not fall asleep even once.

#824 - Female Trouble (1974) - (#979 on TSPDT)  I am not much of a fan of John Waters earlier, more subversive works, and this one is no exception.  I know he is trying to do comedy through a certain form of uncomfortablity, but that is not really the problem I have with them.  I just find them poorly written and poorly acted.  Waters later, more mainstream stuff is cleaner (and I mean visually so, not necessarily content-wise) and thanks to the quality of acting as compared to his earlier stuff, much more enjoyable.  Granted, even his more recent fare is pretty dumb, but it is still a whole hell of a lot better than much of this early crap.

#825 - The Party (1968) - (#564 on TSPDT) Watching Peter Sellers do that thing he do so well is always worth the so-called price of admission.  Granted, this film never gets to the satiric level of something like Strangelove (but then that is Kubrick after all) but it still is quite fun.  Inclusion on the list however?  Probably not.

#826 - The Age of Earth (1980) - (#903 on TSPDT)  Counter Culture Brazilian maestro Glauber Rocha has four films on this list.  The other three range somewhere between stunning and spectacular.  This one (just added during the last round of updates) lies somewhere in the "why-is-it-even-on-the-list" range.  Experimental in nature (and we all know how much I enjoy that) this tragically long mess of a movie is made even more irritating by the fact that Rocha's other three list films are so goddamn brilliant.

#827 - It's A Gift (1934) - (#466 on TSPDT)  When I watched The Bank Dick (the other W.C. Fields film on the list) my knowledge on the great rhubarb-nosed comic has been pretty lacking all these years, and the aforementioned Bank Dick was my first real taste (other than a few clips now and again) of the man.   I was not coloured impressed.  So going into this film, made six years earlier, my hopes were not what one would exactly call high.  Well guess what?  Colour me impressed boyos!  A laugh-out-loud riot of a movie that came close to rivaling even the Marx Brothers.  The scene on the porch is one of the funniest and wittiest and well done sight gag, comedy routine ever put on film.  Perhaps I should go back and rewatch The Bank Dick now.  Maybe I was just in a bad mood that day.

#828 - October (1928) - (#361 on TSPDT)  Let's see. Scraggily beards? Check. Crowds of angry peasants? Check. Lots of fist pumping? Check. Pitchforks and tractors? Check. Proletarian indignation via typical-of-the-day montage practices? Checkaroonie!  Looks like we have ourselves another fine piece of Soviet cinema.  Blah blah blah.  Seriously, I may sound more jaded than I actually am, but it does seem like all these Soviet silents and early sound pieces are the same damn film over and over and over again.  We complain when Hollywood does this same thing, but no one is bitching about the cookie-cutter mentality of Bolshevik era Soviet cinema.  Hey, at least these films are rousing.

#829 - The Taking of Power by Louis XIV (1966) - (#768 on TSPDT) I was already a big fan of Rossellini's earlier neorealist and post-neo work.  This would be my first taste at the auteur's later, more historically-minded French TV work.   It will never match the admiration I have for films like Stromboli or Paisan or Viaggio in Italia, but I was quite surprised at how French it seemed while still regaining that Rossellini touch.   What it lacks in typical Italian passion it makes up for with that wonderful French arrogance.  And yes, I mean all this in the most complimentary manner.

#830 - Local Hero (1983) - (#448 on TSPDT)  This is a really fun film.  Sweet and captivating, and I mean that sincerely.  Scottish born Bill Forsyth has a unique way of combining whimsical charm with a sense of melancholy that make his films both tragic and tender.  Both this film and his other list inclusion, Gregory's Girl, are indeed worthy of being right where they are.

#831 - The Private Life of Sherlock Holmes (1970)(#698 on TSPDT)  Now this is a Billy Wilder film, so of course it has a pretty spectacular screenplay.  Actually the banter between Holmes and Watson throughout this film remind me of Downey and Law in the newer versions of the films.  I am guessing this film was a bigger influence on Ritchie's films than the older Basil Rathbone films.  And did I mention this is Billy Wilder? Yeah.

#832 - Histoire(s) du Cinema (1988)(#675 on TSPDT)  Jean Luc Godard's output in the 1960's is beyond reproach.  The French auteur just changed what cinema was.  That's all.  But, by the time we reach the 1980's output of JLG, I begin to lose interest.  Becoming much more self-indulgent and turning to nonsensical politicizing rhetoric, Godard turned from purveyor of the new wave to tired old kook with nothing new to sell us.  Granted, there is something behind the McLuhan-inspired, pop culture-cum-cinephiliac monstrosity that is this made-for-TV experimental doc, but here the tedium is the message.  Ha!  I just wanted to throw in a Marshall McLuhan pun, but seriously, latter-day Godard is not anywhere near what it should be cracked up to be.

#833 - Wanda (1970) - (#864 on TSPDT)  The only film ever directed by Barbara Loden, method actor and one time wife of Elia Kazan.  From beginning to end this film mesmerized me.  Loden's wayward lost woman mesmerized me.  The visuals, the dialogue, the cadence of the film.  All quite mesmerizing.  Not only a film that should indeed be on this list, but a new addition to my top ten of 1970.  A harrowing look at the desperation of the lost members of the American dream that puts bigger name films such as Midnight Cowboy to shame. 

#834 - Burnt By the Sun (1994) - (#806 on TSPDT)  I was not expecting to like this film very much but was pleasantly surprised.  I still don't think it belongs on the list though.  Quite intriguing and all that jazz, with a lot of poetic realism blended with a more magically-inclined visual sweep, but still.  Perhaps if we did a top 2000, or even maybe a top 1500 or so.

#835 - Dr. Mabuse The Gambler (1922) - (#653 on TSPDT) Though there is some nice imagery in this early Lang work (visual audacity was often the balliwick of the oeuvre of Fritz Lang), it never sucked me in the way other Lang silents, especially something like Metropolis, have.  Therefore I have decided to vote it off this 1000-titled island.

#836 - Withnail and I (1987) - (#503 on TSPDT) I really had no idea what I was in for going into this film.  British cinema of the 1980's was pretty hit and miss - mostly miss.  What I got was one of the most fascinating cinematic works of the decade.  Often throughout this old quest of mine, one's mind tends to wander off of the screen and into other realms.  With Withnail and I, nothing could pry my eyes or mind away from the screen.  Richard E. Grant, making his film debut, gives a performance that is both hilarious and heartbreaking.  In fact that is the best way to describe the film as a whole - hilarious and heartbreaking.  Easily one of the twenty best films of the 1980's.

#837 - Rocky (1976) - (#419 on TSPDT)  For years now I have blasted this film for taking the Oscar away from Taxi Driver (as well as All the President's Men and Network).  Not that it was Rocky's fault for the voter's obviously idiotic voting choice, but still I hated him/it for such an Oscar travesty (one of the worst travesties amongst a slew of Oscar travesties).  Now, after all these years (it had been the most recent Best Picture winner yet unseen by yours truly - an honour now held by 1970's Patton), I have finally watched the damn thing.  My reaction?  It ain't half bad ya know.  Seriously, it is a well acted, well written motion picture.  With a very typical 1970's feel (and that is a good thing) this first Rocky (and I had seen all the sequels before ever seeing the original) is a pretty good movie.  There.  I said it.  Now it still had no right beating out Taxi Driver (nor All the President's Men and Network) but at least my hatred is gone.  Sort of. 

#838 - Shane (1953) - (#266 on TSPDT)  Definitely a much lesser western than I was expecting, especially considering its rather high location on the list.  Sure, it had all the fun tricks and tropes of a good western, but there was still something missing.  I think that missing something feeling stems from the miscasting of Alan Ladd. Nothing against the actor, for he is good in other roles, but here he is just the wrong person to play Shane.  The film could have also used a lot more Jack Palance.  But then what film couldn't use such a thing?

#839 - The Haunting (1963)  - (#831 on TSPDT)  Based on the Shirley Jackson novel The Haunting of Hill House, this old-fashioned haunted house film was a visual deeeelight.  With its twisted hallways and twining staircases, the film does a lot to creep you out visually.   Of course getting past the inherent annoyance spewed forth by Julie Harris (in pretty much any performance) takes a bit more stamina.  If one can do such a thing, the film is quite intriguing. 


Dave Enkosky said...

Sweet, a lot of my favorites are in this section--Don't Look Now, The Haunting, Rocky, Withnail and I, and Female Trouble. By the way, all the things you don't like about Female Trouble are the very things I love about it.

Kevyn Knox said...

Oh I know a lot of people who love Waters for those same reasons. I just don't get it.

100 Years of Movies said...

I really have to revisit A Man for All Seasons. Going to Catholic school meant a couple of forced viewings which was probably not the best environment to appreciate it.

I didn't see October, but I did see Arsenal and... yeah, you're describing the same film.

I liked Dr. Mabuse the Gambler a lot. It's no Metropolis and doesn't have the insanity of Lang's Spiders films, but I did get sucked in to Mabuse's shadowy world.

Chip Lary said...

I liked A Man for All Seasons. I also liked It's a Gift better than The Bank Dick, so you may not have been in a bad mood. Local Hero is a nice little movie. I liked Rocky a lot. I guess the lesson here is to not hate a movie before you've seen it. With Shane it was actually the little kid that I could have most done without. I found him annoying. It amuses me how Drive (2011) is essentially a remake of Shane, but almost no one makes the connection. Horror does little for me, whereas suspense is very effective. I consider The Haunting one of the most suspenseful movies I've seen.

Tomasz Rogalski said...

Where may i watch "Art of Vision"?