Posts Tagged ‘criterion’

h1

Answering Clayton Dillard’s 100 Top Movies of All Time

May 2, 2011

Clayton Dillard is a smart 23-year old grad student in film at San Francisco State.  I first met him at a screening of some retardation at the local Midnight Movies, and found him to be real quiet.  Then I got to know the REAL Clayton.  The one who’s seen as many movies as my Claude.  The one who has more Criterion Collections than Claude. (He secretly hates you for that, CD.)  And the one who now won Criterion’s cool contest AND was mentioned as one of the three favorites from a field of 60 winners (Claude and I were both unfairly shut out and might protest.).

But I digress.  Clayton is 23.  Claude and I, we are much older, much more seasoned, lived through the 70’s, understand things, etc.  Clayton put out his Greatest 100 Movies of All Time, and I just shook my head, cried, laughed, then cried again.  Then laughed again.  Then wrote down a bunch of movies I need to watch.

THIS RIGHT HERE IS NUMBER ONE, CLAYTON.

1.  2001:  A Space Odyssey (Kubrick, 1969)

2.  The Third Man (Reed, 1949) (I love you for that one.  I’m sure Sir Carol appreciates being Number Two.)

After those two, in no particular order come my favorites, the films I could not look away from, the ones that left me feeling like I was punched in the gut, or the movies I could watch repeatedly without getting tired of them.  I’m leaving off the ones on Clayton’s list that I would put on here, like his #1 and #15, and Citizen Kane, and Viridiana, and Apocalypse Now and The Seventh Seal and Bigger than Life, and Piranha 3-D .

Clayton has  given me a good list of stuff to watch.  And fortunately, Claude owns almost all of it.

Please remember, these are in NO PARTICULAR ORDER.  Listing is fine; ranking is nearly impossible.

3.  Clayton, are you including documentaries on your list? “Stevie” (James, 2002)

4.  The White Ribbon, or Das weiße Band – Eine deutsche Kindergeschichte  (Haneke, 2009) – I know you love me for that one, Clayton.  Mwwwah.

5.  While we’re on Haneke, how about Cachet (2005)?

6.  Fiddler on the Roof (Jewison (who was not Jewish), 1971) for personal reasons

7.  Funny Girl (Wyler, 1968) – I know you and Claude just wince at these two.  That’s ok.  I’m older than both of you.  Put together.  Squared.

8.  Barton Fink (Coens, 1991)

9.  Simon of the Desert (Buñuel, 1965)

10.  Dr. Strangelove, or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Kubrick, 1964 [a very good year – Rankin-Bass’ Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer also made its debut, as did the Beatles in America, and yours truly])

11.  The Player (Altman, 1992)

12.  The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (Huston, 1948)

14.  The Lady from Shanghai (Welles, 1947)

15.  Touch of Evil (Welles, 1958)

16.  Crimes and Misdemeanors (Allen, 1989)

17.   The Phantom of Liberty (Bunuel, 1974)

18.  Little Murders (Arkin, 1971)

19.  Carnal Knowledge (Nichols, 1971)

20.  Taking Off  (Forman, 1971)

21.  The Exterminating Angel (Bunuel, 1962)

22.  This is Spinal Tap (Reiner, 1984)

23.  Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice (Mazursky, 1969)

24.  All That Jazz (Fosse, 1979)

25.  Deconstructing Harry (Allen, 1997)

26.  I Love You, Alice B. Toklas! (Averback, 1968)

27.  The Odd Couple (Saks, 1968)

While we’re on Matthau, how about

28.  A New Leaf (May, 1971)

29.  The Bad News Bears (Ritchie, 1976)

and

30. Bigger than Life (Ray, 1956 – oh yeah, that was on your list)

31.  In the Loop (Iannucci, 2009)

32.  The French Connection (Friedken, 1971)

33.  Duel (I really don’t want to type his name, 1971 – that seemed to be an exceptionally good year for movies)

35.  The Bridge (documentary, Steel, 2006)

36.  Cruising (Friedken, 1980)

37.  Lost Highway (Lynch, 1997)

38.  Sleeper (Allen, 1973)

39. Salesman (Maysels, Zwerin, 1968) – my Essential Criterion pick

40.  Gimme Shelter (Mayslels, Zwern, 1970)

41.  Midnight Cowboy (Schlesinger, 1969)

42.  The Godfather (Coppola, 1972)

43. The Godfather Part II (Coppola, 1974)

It’s hard to do this list without leaving off some of yours, like Citizen Kane.  I may only get to 50, simply because I  haven’t seen nearly as many films at all as you have.

44. Crumb (Zwigoff, 1994)

45.  Seconds (Frankenheimer, 1966)

46.  Night of the Demon (Tourneur, 1957)

47.  Rosemary’s Baby (Polanski, 1968)

48.  Paths of Glory (Kubrick, 1957)

49.  The Killing (Kubrick, 1956)

50.  Rope (Hitchcock, 1948)

51.  Shadow of a Doubt (Hitchcock, 1943)

52.  Lolita (Kubrick, 1962) – I really believe this is James Mason’s finest performance besides “Bigger than Life”

53. Defending Your Life (Brooks, 1991) – a personal favorite, even though the ending is so much of an upper, it’s really a downer.

54.  Donnie Darko (Kelly, 2001)

55.  Manhattan (Allen, 1979)

56.  The Freshman (Newmeyer and Taylor, 1925)

57. Nosferatu (Murnau, 1922)

58.  American Beauty (Mendes, 1999) (Yes, Claude, I know.)

59.  Best in Show (Guest, 2000) – one of the deleted scenes involving Guest is actually the best scene in the film, and fully improvised.

60.  A Christmas Story (Clark, 1983)

61.  Don’t Be a Menace to South Central While Drinking Your Juice in The Hood (Barclay, 1996)

62.  Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960)

63.  Sweet Smell of Success (Mackendrick, 1957)

64.  Bullitt (Yates, 1968)

65.  A Clockwork Orange (Kubrick, 1971)

66.  Take the Money and Run (Allen, 1969)

67.  A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy (Allen, 1982) – the cinematography, lighting and set design are worth this alone

68.  Hush, Hush, Sweet Charlotte (Aldrich, 1964)

70. Them (Moreau, Palud, 2006)

71.  The Up Series (Apted, 1964-present)

72.  Jackie Brown (Tarantino, 1997)

73.  Repulsion (Polanski, 1965)

74.  The Shout (Skolimowski, 1978)

75.  Five Easy Pieces (Raefelson, 1970)

76.  Husbands and Wives (Allen, 1992)

77.  Beyond the Sea (Spacey, 2004) – no matter what anyone says, Kevin Spacey completely transforms into Bobby Darin.

78.  Burn After Reading (Coens, 2008)

79. The Front (Ritt, 1976)

80.  The Picture of Dorian Gray (Lewin, 1945)

81.  Key Largo (Huston, 1948)

82.  Black Orpheus (Camus, 1959)

83.  The Blair Witch Project (Myrick, Sanchez, 1999)

84.  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (Weine, 1920)

85.  The New Age (Tolken, 1994)

86.  Rocaterrania (Ingram, 2009?)

87.  God’s Country (Malle, 1985)

88.  Happiness (Solondz, 1998)

89.  Life During Wartime (Solondz. 2009)

90.  Dog Day Afternoon (Lumet, 1975)

91.  The Endless Summer (Brown, 1966)

92.  Grizzly Man (Herzog, 2005)

93.  Ghost World (Zwigoff, 2001)

94.  The Shining (Kubrick, 1980)

95.  Glengarry Glen Ross (Mamet, 1992)

96.  Encounters at the End of the World (Herzog, 2007)

98.  Heavy Metal (Potterton, 1981)

99. The Out-0f-Towners (Kellerman, 1970)

100.  Cabaret (Fosse, 1972)

101.  And because I named one of yours, Clayton, I’m gonna have to go with Clambake (Nadel, 1967) for the opening credits and font alone.

I can’t possibly rationalize and say these are the best films ever made.  I’m surprised I could even name 100 that I’ve seen, and a good 70% were introduced to me by Claude.  So I’ll just stick with, these would be the 100 films I would recommend.  Clayton, I hope you are proud of me for one thing:  the only chick flick that shows up is Funny Girl.  Congratulations on your Criterion win, dude.

h1

Bigger Than Life by Nicholas Ray and James Mason

March 26, 2010

Ever since I met Claude, I’ve been hearing about Bigger than Life, directed by Nicholas Ray, the same man who directed Rebel Without a Cause.   Strangely enough, Claude, and his friend Steve, always describe this movie as very comedic, when it was intended clearly to be a serious film about a serious matter.  Well, finally, after nearly four years, the good folks at Criterion Collection decided to put Bigger than Life out on DVD with tons of extras.  Claude nearly eja…fainted when he heard the news, and to come off what he terms “double secret probation”, I ordered it and had it delivered on the same day as it was released.  Again, Claude nearly eja…fainted.  So we watched it.  Like the Zapruder film.  And ladies and gentlemen, I’m here to tell you that this is an incredible film.  It has its black comedy in spades, no doubt, but this is clearly a horror movie as well.  Having been around people that turned into Mr. Hyde and I could not reach them, this movie gave me the dual effect of laughter and shivers and sick feelings in my stomach at the same time.  Nicholas Ray is brilliant in his shot selection – we stopped the DVD several times to look, zoom in, and it’s visually gorgeous in its use of lighting and high shots over the staircase.  James Mason, always brilliant, has never been better.  And Mason’s wife in the film, played by Barbara Rush, who was not well-known to me, gave a compelling performance as well.  And get this – (don’t tell Claude I told you) – it has a happy ending.  Which is rare for movies that we watch.

Briefly, the story is of a schoolteacher (Mason) who develops a serious cardiovascular problem and is put on cortisone.  He soon descends from kind schoolteacher, husband and father into strict, maniacal nutjob.  Our favorite scene involves him reading from the Bible to his wife, specifically the story of Abraham and Issac.  This occurs after he is angered by his son for some extremely minor infraction.  Mason also carries some sort of dagger – I wasn’t sure if it was a knife or a letter opener – as he reads.  He stops the story when Abraham puts Issac on the altar and raises the knife.  His wife pleads with him, knowing that he’s contemplating harming his son, that God intervened and Issac was spared.  Mason roars to her, “GOD WAS WRONG!”  Claude is on the floor laughing.  (atheist, you know)  It is a masterful scene and Mason’s face and Rush’s horror are so compelling that you can’t possibly look away.  We had to rewind it (as you can imagine) several hundred times.

It lives up to all the hype that Claude and Steve gave it.  I’d watch it again and again.  Hopefully it will be on Netflix or some rentable source soon, because if you have seen Rebel and liked it, this is a must-see by the same director, and easily one of the great James Mason’s finest performances as both actor and producer.  Most highly recommended, six out of five stars.  Actually, this one goes to eleven.

Oh, yeah, and I love you, Claude.

h1

Criterion Paranormal Intervention

March 19, 2010

Claude and I have noticed that there is a plethora of paranormal shows on (formerly) respected channels such as A&E, Discovery, History, etc.  Paranormal State, Paranormal Cops, Ancient Paranormal, Paranormal Intervention. That’s my favorite one because the title suggests that it would combine paranormal with another favorite of ours, A&E’s Intervention.  But it doesn’t.  I digress again. (I do that a lot.)  Intervention is, of course, about addiction and the intervention process.  They have three interventioners that they round-robin, and they all have the same pat phrases.  Our favorite is “There’s just a heck of a lot of love in this room,” which is the opening line for one particular interventioner.

Well, I’ve been thinking lately about calling Intervention.  Claude has a little bit of a “problem”.  He is addicted to Criterion Collection DVDs.  For those that don’t know, Criterion is a company dedicated to taking the finest in film and DVD extras and putting out extraordinary DVDs of the finest movies ever made.  Unfortunately, they are also now trying to skew to a younger crowd and have started putting out titles such as “The Aquatic Life of Steve Zizzou” and “Dazed and Confused” and “The Rock” and “Armageddon.”  Yeah.  Thanks, Criterion.  Anyway, Claude’s goal is to own every Criterion ever released.  The current count in the catalog is well over 500, and we have about 100.

Every weekend, we have to make a trek to the local used book/movie store to “hunt down Criterions” like some wildebeest.  I usually sit in the car, sometimes for an hour or more, while the hunter seeks the hunted.  Claude has this unusual behavioral change when he is around books or DVDs in a store – he becomes very excitable, sometimes his forehead shows beads of sweat, and he runs from aisle to aisle like a silver ball in a pinball machine.  I often worry.

So how does one break this Criterion addiction, especially since Claude, who is a graduate student, is secretly competing with a very bright young undergrad who has about 350 Criterions.  He’s even taken to buying these off his friend, like a dime bag, surreptitiously, after class, and sneaking the Criterions into the house in his bookbag.  Funny, his eyes are usually red, too, when he does that.

I can see the scene playing out in my mind from Claude’s Criterion intervention:  We’ve all gathered at some non-descript hotel – myself, Claude’s parents who have never watched a movie more high-brow than what you find on the Sci-Fi (or Sy-Fy) channel; his smug undergrad friend who, of course, doesn’t want to be bested, and our favorite local band, just for support and possibly a tune or two.  His parents are crying.  “Claude, why can’t you just be content to watch Mansquito? Or even Black Hole?  You know Judd Nelson plays an ASTROPHYSICIST (now there’s a bit of casting) and he SAVES Minneapolis!” wails his mother, clutching a handkerchief and her rosary beads.  “Yeah, don’t you remember 2012?  All those EXPLOSIONS!  It was so GREAT! And all you want to watch is this black-and-white crap that no one can understand!” booms his father.

Interventionist:  “There’s a heck of a lot of Criterions in this room….”

Letter reading begins.

Dear Claude,

Your Criterion addiction has affected me negatively in the following ways.  First of all, I never have any money anymore.  You watch every Criterion you get like the Zapruder film, and all the extras and all the commentary tracks, which leaves like zero time for me, personal hygiene, help with a chore or two, or reading my Facebook posts, and most importantly of all, it keeps you from looking at my ICanHazCheezburger cat pictures which I hold so dear.  You need to know if you do not accept this gift of help today, there will be consequences.  I will stick objects such as silverware and half-chewed gum in the DVD player.  I will erase all the stuff you’ve had taped for 2 years on the DVR.  I will no longer accept your emails that say things like “Watched Empire of Passion, an Oshima film that forms an informal diptych w/ In the Realm of the Senses, which you bought for me here awhile back. Very different in execution but equally fascinating.”  Mainly because I can’t understand what you’re saying, so I’m just sayin’.  What is a diptych anyway?  (Claude’s mother wails in agony).

At this juncture, Claude runs out of the hotel room and away from the intervention in angry protest.  He has to smoke a cigarette (he doesn’t smoke).  He’s not getting on that plane to whatever rehab center Intervention has in mind.  90 days, no Criterion, no way.  Claude runs outside the hotel and begins rolling around in the grassy area, wailing.  I try desperately to console him by pulling out a copy of Criterion’s Lola Montes and rubbing it on his face, soothingly.  It doesn’t work.  “It HAS to be a BUNUEL!” he shouts at me, angrily.  I stop to think what films of Bunuel’s might be on Criterion…honestly, I don’t know.  I would think Discreet Charm would be on Criterion…just not sure.  I struggle with how to placate Claude sans Bunuel.  People are stopping in the parking lot to stare at this spectacle.  “Will Bergman do?” I ask in my sweetest, meekest voice.  “BERGMAN??? NO!!!  Wait…YES!!”  His choking sobs start to subside as I give him Smiles of a Summer Night. The interventionist approaches.  “I think you’re on the wrong A&E show,” he says.  We look at him, puzzled.  “Have you ever heard of a little show called ‘Hoarders’?  It comes on right after I do, on Monday nights.  Ten o’clock.”

We nod our heads as if we’ve just received the key to Enlightenment by the Buddha himself, just to get the interventionist off our backs and keep us off A&E, which used to be “arts” and “entertainment”.  We won’t be watching Hoarders.  We’ll be watching Criterion.

h1

Mouchette – You In The Damn River, Girl!

February 21, 2009

Mouchette by Robert Bresson…or You In the Damn River, Girl!

My husband, Claude, can be quite the dichotomous film snob.  On the one hand, he adores foreign, nearly impossible to understand films.  On the other hand, he adores people who imitate rednecks or backwoods people.  Like John Bean, who created the character Leroy Mercer and made a bunch of prank phone calls.  And some other character named Jessico White, whose wife says of him, “Now, Jessico, he got a bit of the dai-vel in him”.  I’ve heard an audio clip of some something with Jessico where he and some other guy get their car stuck in a river.  The other passenger, who was confused, says something like “Where are we?” to which Jessico replies, “You in the damn river, boy, where you THANK you ayut?”  To which Claude just prostrates himself in hilarious laughter, complete with hacking cough and slobber.

I digress.

Mouchette by Robert Bresson, with the possible exception of “Last House on the Left” or “200 Motels“, is truly the worst movie I’ve ever seen.  I agreed to watch this “masterpiece” with Claude, who gazed intently at the 42” television to catch every flicker of every frame, as if to turn away would make the film turn into a “Mr. Ed” rerun.  Actually, for me, that would have been a vast improvement.  All during the movie, I can see and hear his reaction – sighs of rapture, squinting of his kino-eye, him gesturing as if to say, “did you see THAT??”; the clickety-clack of his brain thinking “wow, this is some kinda movie, I sure am glad I’m a-watchin it.”

This film, if one can call it that, is about the horrible life of a little girl and all the terrible things she must put up with – an alcoholic father, a bed-ridden mother, poachers, rapists, people trying to pick her up on bumper cars, and, gosh, I don’t want to give away the climactic ending, but let’s just say, you in the damn river, girl.  Mouchette, get out of that river!

When I was interrogated (practically using the Gitmo method) by Claude after having wasted two hours of my life watching this waste of celluloid as to my impressions of the “film”, we nearly came to fisticuffs over my saying, “I hated that.”  I had to hear all kinds of rebuttals:  “You just don’t UNDERSTAND Bresson!”  “How can you say such a thing about one of the greatest films of ALL TIME?”  “Didn’t you see all the REFERENCES in it?”  My father would have said, “I wouldn’t hit a hog in the ass with the Criterion Collector’s Edition of this film.”  Claude also got one of his film snob buddies to tell me that Bresson is an “acquired taste”.  So is being a dog food taster.  I’d go with the latter, myself, if the choice were presented between watching Mouchette and being a dog food taster.

Bresson, in all his “wisdom”, didn’t even use actors for the movie – he just got ordinary people off the street …(”and what PEFORMANCES he got out of them!” proclaims Claude).  To say this movie is a downer is the understatement of the past several centuries.  It makes the Spanish Inquisition look like It’s A Small World after being Disneyfied.  Now, I’m not against films that are downers, per se.  But here you have a story of a little girl whose life is just pure hell, and then, well, she’s in the damn river, and….the end. Or, as Bresson would say, “Fin.”   I just can’t see where cinematic history was made, but apparently it was.  Yeah.  Luckily for me, a favorite director/actor of mine, Orson Welles hated Bresson too, but Claude holds that against Welles to this day.  Decades after Welles’ death.  He reminds me of that fact to make me “feel better” that I’m in “good company” with fellow Bresson-haters.  I really tried to like this.  I kept telling myself, “It’s arty.  Claude likes it.  There must be SOME redeeming quality to it.”  There is none.  Zip.  Zilch.  Nada.   I even agreed to re-watch it to see if I could discover any redeeming qualities.  After Claude sent me the film synopsis today so I could write this review, I have reconsidered this agreement.

Being the wife of a film snob gives you all kinds of opportunties to impress your friends and neighbors by saying, “Oh, have you seen blah-blah-blah?” and being able to tell them how wonderful it is and how they should discover it, and their lives will be all the richer for it.  Mouchette is not one of those films.  This is one of those arty films that I would tell viewers to run far, far away from…as far as planes, trains or automobiles can carry you.  Your life will not be enriched by Mouchette.  You won’t be smarter or artier or anything that you can boast or brag about to your friends.  You’ll just be depressed.  And then, you might be in the damn river, boy.  Don’t take that chance.

I’m replacing the word “sucks” with the word “mouchettes” in my vocab.  So, Mouchette mouchettes.  I heard a great mouchetting sound.  Less than one star.  If I could give negative stars, I would.

h1

How I became the wife of a film snob

February 21, 2009

I really have to blame Yahoo Messenger for this one.
Ok, ok, I was on the Internet. Which, that night, amounted to closing pop-up windows from names I couldn’t pronounce saying “Hey, wanna see my pics?” and a link.
Then Claude appeared with a simple “Hello.” Very Dave-like, if you know what I mean. “Hello, Claude,” I’m sure I replied. A minute or two passed. Claude was parsing words. “How are you tonight?” “I’m fine, Claude, and you?”

“I see you like Welles.”

And there’s where it started.

Yes, I like Welles, I like what I have seen of Welles very much, and was proud of the fact that my profile listed such an obscure film as “The Third Man” (which wasn’t even directed by Welles, as Claude has pointed out numerous times) as one of my favorites, along with a couple of Kubrick films.

Apparently, that’s what deemed me worthy of eventually ending up at Claude’s apartment with a bottle of rum. The first night, well, we didn’t watch any movies, but after a few visits to Claude’s “lair”, I began to notice the shelves and shelves and shelves of videos, many unmarked, and DVD’s. Soon our conversations became an endless series of “Have you seen (fill in the blank)” and “but have you seen_____???”

I learned that my self-image of someone who was educated about film, hip to film, knowledgeable about film, and maybe even knew a little something about film was completely wrong. Having 2001: A Space Odyssey as your favorite movie does not put you in the Claude crowd.

Soon, conversations were going like this: Claude: “Oh, sure, you LOVE Kubrick – you’ve only seen four of his films! FOUR! And not even his best ones! And what about Bresson? And Kurosawa and Truffaut and BERGMAN, for crissakes, BERGMAN???”

So I agreed to be a pupil in Claude’s version of Film School 101. Whiteboards appeared, and I had to listen to long, wine-fueled (which I was providing the fuel, like an idiot) diatribes about the transcendental yet ethereal oeuvre Bresson and his use of non-actors as actors.

Yeah.

I tied the knot with Claude, for better or for worse, which in the case of film, in the beginning, I often thought meant for worse, but it has actually turned out better.  However, now Claude has taken to “sic-ing” his friends on me about film – particularly Steve, who teaches film on the west coast.  Steve comes for a visit in 2 weeks, and he has suggested a steady diet of Bresson for me, which I’m hoping, for my sake, he’s kidding about.  I’ve procured one of Steve’s all-time favorites (on Criterion, of course) in hopes of steering him away from that tsunami of depression and suicidal endings.

So, Claude, I may make fun of your Bresson and Ikiru, but I love so many other films and directors you’ve intro’d me to.  And I’ll stay in 101 until probably the day I die.