Posts Tagged ‘film review’

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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.

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Documentaries – The Film Snob Wife’s Genre Choice – Part 1: Pageant

June 7, 2010

I spent the weekend watching documentaries, and a couple of fiction films I’ll review in another post.  It started with several episodes of TLC’s new series, “Disappeared”, which is quite interesting.  Then Claude and I saw where Sundance on Demand had 2 documentaries:  Pageant (available now on Sundance on Demand) was sheer entertainment.  Highlighting the Miss Gay America pageant (at the time in its 34th year…34th!), it follows about 5 gay men as they prepare for the pageant, including one from Raleigh, NC.  This hometown man (at 42 years old) did an impression of Reba McEntire that left me speechless and had hair standing up on my arms.  He was so good that Reba McEntire hired him to play Reba in Reba’s own show.  I’ve never seen anything like it.  The men had to interview as men, in suits, which all of them are, simply gay men who can impersonate women, but don’t live their lives as women or want to be women.  The absence of the typical gay-subject matter movie catfighting was refreshing, as was the profile of these men, their real lives, and what drives them to be interested in the artistry that is involved in female impersonation.  Pageant was about the artistry – not the gayness or sexual relationships or transvestite or transgender issues.  It was really incredible entertainment, and showcased how these men put more work into their costuming, (none can have hormone shots or implants of any kind), the quality of their talent performances, (although most lip-sync) and their personalities and intelligence, much of which is absent from the actual Miss America pageant.  Pageant shows the artistic abilities of these people, and this really is art – body art and performance art.  I was fascinated and completely entertained.  I also feel this movie is viewable by most any person 12 and up, so I’d probably rate it a PG-13.  There is minor mention of sex and sexual relationships in the movie, and the introduction of the families and friends of these contestants and  the love and support they show is very family- and love-affirming.

Part 2 will be about Prodigal Sons.

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Star Wars: The Death of Cinema

May 4, 2010

Ok, so, during the course of our budding relationship, Claude, who I must admit is a few years shy of a decade younger than me, tells me that Star Wars was, in effect, the “death of cinema.”  Claude:  “It theoretically and ephemerally signaled the death knell for the great cinematic experiences we had all (meaning him and his 2 friends) come to know and cherish up until that very moment.”

“Wait,” I protested as I spit out my glass of wine.  “Star Wars?”  I remember so clearly being 12 when that movie came out, the first summer I was really interested in boys, and could go to the mall and hang out for hours with friends unsupervised by scrutinizing eyes of parents.  “Star Wars was the first movie I ever attended where I held hands with a boy!” I decried.  “Well, I loved it too, THEN, and I held hands TOO…”  (and then he mumbled…) “.but I was five and it was with my mother.”  (volume increase) “ Then I got older, and saw it for what it was REALLY worth – a huge masturbatory opportunity for one George Lucas who is still in love with himself – hell, I bet he’s in the closet with R. Kelly right now.”

“Wait,” I protested again, and made some argument about how if George Lucas were in love with HIMSELF, he probably wouldn’t be in the closet with R. Kelly.

Claude:  “Just think about it for a minute.  All the great movies with their non-computerized special effects, GREAT films…”

Me:  “Like Mouchette?”  She’s in the damn river, boy…”

Claude glared at me.  I took another sip of wine and batted my eyelashes.  “NOOO,” he protested.  “Like the whole 70’s oeuvre, you know, Bonnie and Clyde, all the Altman stuff, Shampoo, Don’t Look Now, the Peckinpah neo-westerns…”

I agreed that a lot of those were, in fact, good movies, but Star Wars was an EVENT for my generations, which I have recently learned is NOT the tail-end of the Baby Boomers, but rather “Generation Jones”, because we wanted to keep up with the Joneses.  Well, my maiden name is Jones, so I guess people were keeping up with us.  I’m not sure why.  We had ugly green shag carpet and brown appliances and my mother found some crazy seamstress to make all our clothes and we often looked mildly retarded.

Star Wars was, for Generation Jones, what the arrival of the Beatles was for the Baby Boomers.  It signaled something.  It was likely your first date movie.  The visuals were stunning, and fast-paced.  There was a love triangle.  And a big furry thing, who, if you were lucky, you could imitate to the delight of your friends.  Everyone I knew had the soundtrack on vinyl (the cover was black, it had a gatefold, I’ll never forget it).  And, crazily enough, I believe the movie holds up well even today.  It’s not 2001: A Space Odyssey, which I know is a stretch for many, many people to watch,.  But 2001 was truly groundbreaking in its use of special effects (hence the Oscar)  but very hard to understand in the plot department.

Ok, back to Star Wars.  I digress.  Especially about 2001, which I reviewed in another post.  How could this film be the “death of cinema”, as Claude suggested?  What about all the other movies that came out after it that were good and not sci-fi and not directed by George Lucas (or Stephen Spielberg who is also on his shit list)?  What about  All That Jazz or A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy or Valley Girl or Apocalypse Now or The Shining or ICE CASTLES???…I mean, I just couldn’t imagine that Star Wars had made it so that we should have shuttered the theatres and burned all the celluloid a la Fahrenheit 451.

Finally, Claude, after several more glasses of merlot, came around and admitted that there were other good movies after Star Wars, but, by God, that didn’t mean that Lucas didn’t deserve the same punishment as Jim Caveziel in The Passion of the Christ for his misdeeds.  And for the same 2 hour time-span.

Postscript:  The above was written about two years ago.  Over the weekend, I was going through some stuff and found a vintage 1977 official Star Wars C3P0 necklace.  It wasn’t mine.  Proof, as Claude said, that he loved Star Wars as a kid too.  But  he was five when the film came out, so it’s understandable.  And after learning more about Lucas through an unnamed source, I’m going to have to break down and agree with Claude’s sentence of punishment for Lucas.   What a wookie.

Postscript Postscript:  Claude says, “George Lucas is a turd.  So there.”  ‘Nuff said.

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Norwand or North Face

April 18, 2010

I saw this film yesterday.  I was going to write a review of it, but then I found this review which sums up everything I would say about the film.  I will say this about the audience – there was a woman sitting behind me who clearly was more the rom-com type who remarked “See how they treated women THEN?” when the lead female character (a junior journalist, something of a secretary) is introduced, and then proceeds to make coffee.  “SHE has to make the coffee,” exclaimed my fellow movie-goer, who also could not grasp that there was snow in the Swiss Alps in July.  Oookay.  And the guy behind me who had to say “Whoosh” every time there was a shot of the mountain, and there were a lot.   Kudos to this blogger for writing a top-notch review.  Hope you will read it.

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Fitfully Amusing, Says Claude about “The Men Who Stare At Goats”

April 17, 2010

Claude and I watched The Men Who Stare At Goats last night.  Just learned from Claude that the source material for this film was written by the guy who did the BBC series “Secret Rulers of the World” which included such topics as the Bilderberg Group, Bohemian Grove and David Icke.  That was a fascinating series, and I had no idea of this fact until Claude just, from his vast photographic memory, pulled that little tidbit out of his a–  brain.

The Men Who Stare At Goats, directed by freshman director Grant Heslov (Oscar nominated for writing and producing Good Night and Good Luck), is a very entertaining film.  This movie seemed to be critically panned by a lot of movie critics, save Onion A.V. Club, who said it was underrated.  I could  not agree more.  Very strong performances by George Clooney (who looks his absolute hottest when they have him made up as a 19- or 20-year old fresh in the Army), Jeff Bridges, who nearly reprises his Big Lebowski “Dude” role, and my favorite, Kevin Spacey, who plays the smarmy guy so well.  Kevin Spacey has incredible range in my opinion – really wish I could get people to watch Beyond the Sea and Midnight in the Garden of Good and Evil and this film to see his incredible range. And who can forget Ewan MacGregor, who has completely conquered his heavy Scottish accent in this and The Ghost Writer – he has magnificent range (see Trainspotting, Shallow Grave, Brassed Off and playing a Jedi master in the Star Wars prequels, which is a BIG component of the plot of The Men Who Stare at Goats) and is going to win an Oscar at some point, I’m sure of it.

Readers know I’m all about cinematography and shot selection, and this definitely has it.  The film is largely set on the base of Fort Bragg, North Carolina, a place I know a little something about since I grew up in Fayetteville, NC and worked on the base.  I could tell immediately that these shots, supposedly images from the early 70’s, were not filmed on the base, but they worked anyway.  The Men Who Stare At Goats was filmed in New Mexico, Puerto Rico and California.  The desert scenes are stunning, and the shots and angles make this a very visually interesting film.

The humor in The Men Who Stare At Goats is intelligent, very unexpected at moments, and really does make you laugh out loud.  If Claude’s laughing out loud, it’s funny, and he did.  I thought it was extremely funny with smart humor that didn’t dumb itself down for laughs.

The premise of the film is this: During the Vietnam era, the military became interested in psychic warfare because the Soviets were supposedly interested in psychic warfare (there’s a great scene of two officers going back and forth – “they know, we know, they know we know, we  know they know we know, they know we know they know we known they know…”) and allowed a group to develop to study this, led by Jeff Bridges’ character.  Clooney’s character becomes his top protege and Spacey comes in and wants to compete with Clooney.  Hilarity really ensues as we see these characters go further into the fringes of “new age” thought into what really saves some lives in the end.  The story is largely told in flashback, as we open with current times and Ewan MacGregor as a reporter who wants to “embed” himself in Iraq to win the respect of his wife, who is leaving him.  MacGregor meets up with someone who tips him off to Clooney, and then begs to write the story of this psychic warfare development from its beginnings to the present day.  I don’t want to give away too much, so hopefully I’ve piqued your curiosity enough.

I’m sorry The Men Who Stare At Goats didn’t fare well at the box office.  I encourage readers to rent it – it’s definitely entertaining, thought-provoking and enjoyable.  I especially encourage my readers who grew up with me in the Ft. Bragg area and went into the military to watch it.  You’ll get a real kick out of it.

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The Ghost Writer by Roman Polanski

April 2, 2010

I am an unashamed Roman Polanski fan.  The films directed by him that I’ve seen are among the finest films I’ve ever seen.  Polanski knows how to make smart, intriguing thrillers, and he can act as well (see The Tenant.)  So when we learned that our local theatre would be showing his new film, The Ghost Writer, we were there on opening night, and pleased to see a moderately-packed house.

The Ghost Writer has an interesting cast:  Ewan McGregor, Pierce Brosnan, Kim Cattrall, Olivia Williams, Tom Wilkinson, Timothy Hutton, and Eli Wallach.  The plot involves a ghost writer (McGregor) replacing a dead ghost writer who was working on the memoirs of the retired British Prime Minister (Brosnan).  As McGregor’s character gets deeper and deeper into the project, he begins to discover unsettling facts about the PM, including CIA involvement and secret authorization of torture on airplanes.  Naturally, this disturbs McGregor’s character, and he tries to get out of this project.

The standout scene for me was the scene on the ferry.  I’m not giving any details away because the movie is still in theatres, and I hope those who like taut thrillers will go and see it.  Polanski plays up to his audience, never dumbing down anything, and delivers great cinematography and impressive performances from his cast.  I was particularly impressed by Kim Cattrall’s very controlled performance as Brosnan’s assistant and mistress – a real change from her Sex and the City character – I didn’t even know the character was Kim Cattrall for a good part of the movie.  The always beautiful Olivia Williams also gives a great performance as Brosnan’s bitter, acerbic wife.

I want to see this movie again in the theatre.  Whatever your feelings about Polanski and his personal life and problems, he remains one of the greatest directors of modern times.  See it.

PS – we’re seeing it again tonight so I may have more to say after a second showing.  I do encourage lovers of good, intelligent thrillers to see it.

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In The Loop by Armando Iannucci

March 29, 2010

I can’t believe I forgot to review this film.  Claude and I were lucky enough to see it at the local theatre that shows artier films and we loved it, but I had trouble understanding the thick Scottish and English accents and slang.  Watching it again with the subtitles on was the trick, and this is one of the funniest movies I have seen in a very long time.

Peter Capaldi plays the acerbic (to put it VERY mildly) PR person for the Prime Minister of England who has to deal with a minor cabinet department who has started to run amok and talk about war, when their job is to oversee agriculture or some such banal governmental business.  Little do they know that the British and American governments are doing their darndest to start a war in the middle east.  Capaldi is joined by a fantastic supporting cast including James Gandolfini, my darling Steve Coogan, Anna Chlumsky, Mimi Kennedy and David Rasche.

This movie is not for the squeamish where language is concerned, and this movie really requires multiple viewings.  Shot in mockumentary style with jerky camera movements and unclear cuts, this is not a cinematography feast, as other movies I’ve reviewed lately are.  This is a great character study, especially of Capaldi’s character (and Gandolfini), and one with some of the most biting black comedy I’ve ever seen –  my favorite kind.  The great peek into the ins and outs of Washington and London governmental life (and nightlife) is dizzying, harrowing and extremely funny.  This is a movie where you really need to pay attention to the dialogue and get all the characters in place – hence recommended multiple viewings  It’s recent (2009) and it’s a must-see in my book.  I laughed so hard my stomach hurt