Friday, December 21, 2012

263. The Big Heat

The Big Heat
Directed by Fritz Lang

All right, so I have written about five of these today and am getting a bit tired of it.  Forgive me if this a bit short and sweet.

This film is awesome, the ultimate revenge tale.  Glenn Ford's wife is murdered and he vows to find her killer and avenge his wife's death.  Of course, along the way he meets a dame.  There is always a dame.

This movie is really violent; I have no idea how they got away with half the stuff they did.  My favorite was when coffee was thrown in Gloria Grahamme's face, permanently disfiguring her.  Pretty nasty.

Gritty and fantastic.  And now my tired reviewer hands can rest.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

"Put the Blame on Mame" plays when we see Glenn Ford, a reference to Gilda.

262. Gentlemen Prefer Blondes

Gentlemen Prefer Blondes
Directed by Howard Hawks

This is one of my favorite musicals, if not one of my favorite films.  It is pure fun from start to finish.  Even if I believe that sometimes gentlemen can prefer brunettes (full disclosure: I am a brunette).

Marilyn Monroe plays a gold digger who is planning on marrying her man in Paris.  Her fiancĂ©'s dad sends a detective after her to try to prove that she is only marrying him for his money.  Marilyn is traveling to Paris with her best friend Jane Russell, who then has feelings for the detective.

So first off, the musical numbers are fantastic.  Of course, everyone knows about "Diamonds Are A Girl's Best Friend" but I have always preferred "Bye Bye Baby".  All the songs, though, are extremely catchy and well choreographed.  It is also really funny and of course, for lack of a better word, cute!

It is fun and fluffy!  Check it out.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Jane Russell accidentally fell into the pool during "Ain't There Anyone Here For Love" but it was kept in.

Monroe and Russell's only film together, despite getting along exceedingly well.

Jane Russell was the only one who could get Marilyn Monroe out of her trailer in the morning.

261. Pickup on South Street

Pickup on South Street
Directed by Samuel Fuller

I just watched this movie with my dad.  I have found that it is always more fun to watch a dated movie with someone else.  When you watch it alone, you just kind of roll your eyes and get annoyed.  When you are watching it with someone else, it is quite hilarious.

So basically a woman is transporting a microfilm for communists when her bag is pick pocketed (did I just make up that term?).  Skip McCoy, the thief, discovers what he has and attempts to blackmail the communists.  That is, until a special dame enters his life.

Of course, this is a propaganda film.  This might seem like it would be annoying but it is actually more violent than you would expect, probably because the commies are on the receiving end of the punches.

So you have the annoying woman who gets punched in the face, blackmailed, and yelled at by Skip.  Naturally, she falls in love with him.  What is that??  The feminist in me is having a hard time coping with these early fifties women.  Can't wait for Kill Bill…

There is, however, an outstanding performance by Thelma Ritter as Mo, a snitch for the police that everybody likes.

So overall a fun film, one that is laughable and entertaining at the same time.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Marilyn Monroe read for the part of Candy but was thought to be too sexy for the role.

Betty Grable was originally going to play the part of Candy but demanded a dance number in the film.  Since that would be…ahem…somewhat out of place, Fuller refused.

260. The Naked Spur

The Naked Spur
Directed by Anthony Mann

By now on the list, we have seen at least 30 westerns.  So we have the same problem we did with film noir.  I enjoy the genres but they tend to blur together.  To stand out, the film has to be exceptional.  Unfortunately, this one wasn't.

That is not to say it is bad.  I actually enjoyed it quite a bit.  Jimmy Stewart is always a treat.  It was also fun seeing Janet Leigh in a movie other than Psycho.  And, of course, seeing the Rockies in Technicolor is pretty amazing. And I guess Jimmy Stewart's back story is a bit more interesting than usual, although I guess revealing that would count as a spoiler.

Still, you have to have some sort of hook or else it is just like every other western Hollywood makes.  And unfortunately, this film didn't have one.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Nominated for Best Screenplay.  Pretty weird for a western.

Millard Mitchell's last film before he died of lung cancer.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

259. Le Salaire de la Peur

Le Salaire de la Peur
Wages of Fear
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot

This film has definitely made it into my top 10 greatest films of all time list just by one viewing.  I was absolutely blown away (no pun intended).  I can't remember the last time I was so thoroughly engaged in a film.  I had never even heard of it before so once again, applause for The Book.

This movie is about two teams of men who are hired to drive two trucks full of nitroglycerin to an oil explosion (and if you have ever seen Lost, you know that one bump could blow you into bits).  It is about a 300 mile drive through very rocky, poorly made roads.  The truckers agree to this for two thousand dollars each and a chance to get out of a poor town.

First off, let's talk about the premise.  This movie makes Speed look like a relaxing yoga video.  I expected to fall asleep while watching this film last night and finish it this morning, but it is quite impossible to close your eyes while watching this movie.  Like I said before, one of the most engaging and entertaining films of all time.

That part is fun, but for me, the best part of the film was looking at the characters.   I just wrote an in-depth character analysis the deleted it.  I am keeping with my strict no spoiler policy.  However, I can safely say that watching four men in such an extraordinary situation is truly a pleasure.  I am still looking for the "Are you Jo, Luigi, Mario, or Bimba" personality quiz online.  No luck yet.

Anyway, probably the best thriller I have ever seen.  A truly unexpected gem.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

US censors made the filmmakers cut several "unAmerican" scenes.

Jean Gabin refused the role of Jo.  Damn, that is the only thing that could have made this better!

Saturday, December 15, 2012

258. Roman Holiday

Roman Holiday
Directed by William Wyler

I am not a huge Audrey Hepburn fan.  I don't hate her.  She is just so cute and fragile that she sometimes gets on my nerves.  That being said, my best friend growing up and my sister were huge Hepburn fans so I have seen a large portion of her films.  I don't even know how it happened sometimes but I have seen Breakfast at Tiffany's at least six times and Wait Until Dark at least four times.  And I don't even like those films!

Anyway, all that being said, Roman Holiday is probably my favorite Hepburn movie.  It has been parodied to death but it is still always going to be a fun storyline.  Audrey Hepburn is a princess who is tired of her duties and goes out for a day under the guise of a normal girl.  She comes across Gregory Peck, who is a journalist that attempts to use her for a story.  That is until they….FALL IN LOVE????

I am pleased, once more, that I chose to do this blog in chronological order.  It is easy to forget what a different type of heroine Audrey Hepburn is in this movie.  If you put it in cinematic context, though, she is a revolutionary.  She is not sexy, fast talking, or mysterious but rather adorable and, for lack of a better word, normal.

Audrey and Gregory have fantastic chemistry, which is always essential for a good romcom.  A fun film with an ending that makes you think.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Ranked #4 in AFI's top 10 romantic comedies.

Audrey Hepburn had trouble crying when she said goodbye to Joe. William Wyler yelled at her for it she promptly burst into tears, which were used for the take.

The role was originally offered to Cary Grant but he considered himself too old for Audrey.

257. Tokyo Story

Tokyo Story
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

I originally watched this film because it was mentioned in one of my favorite books of all time, The Elegance of a Hedgehog.  The main character would frequently rave about Japanese cinema.  I had no experience in Japanese films back then but pretty much took her word for it.  Now, of course, I am obsessed.  All thanks go to The Book!

Anyway, this one disappointed me a bit.  So far, I have not been able to find anyone that makes this comparison so I guess I will be the first to say it.  It is exactly like Make Way For Tomorrow.  Oh wait, scratch that.  I just looked at the IMDb page and it said that the scriptwriter was inspired by Make Way for Tomorrow.  Guess I am not as special as I thought I was.  Sad…

Although Tokyo Story usually listed as one of the greatest films of all time, I am not sure they did it that much better than MWFT.  Not to say this is a bad film, just not astounding.  Ozu's camerawork is certainly creative; it seems like the camera just sits on the ground the entire time of filming, making it seem almost like a documentary.

I guess I have been so impressed with Japanese cinema that this one disappointed me a bit.  I am really selling it short, though.  It is a great film and one that should definitely be watched.  Damn my unreasonably high expectations.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The camera technique I described is called the "tatami-shot".

The film largely sides with the parents.  Ozu lived with his mother for most of his life.

256. From Here to Eternity

From Here to Eternity
Directed by Fred Zinnemann

I saw this film quite awhile ago and am going off memory here, mostly because I have no desire to watch it again.  So freaking boring.

It seems like it has the potential to be great.  With names like Frank Sinatra, Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Deborah Kerr, and Donna Reed, you would think it wouldn't matter what was going on with that kind of eye candy.   You also have the very iconic beach scene and a great setting.  Yep, I thought it would be epic.  I was wrong.

And it is not just me who thinks so.  Even The Book seems to be semi apologetic, saying that the task was too big for the director to take on.

Another Best Picture Winner that is a total snore.  Watch it for the sheer iconic value but don't expect much entertainment.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Montgomery Clift could not box so they had to use an obvious stunt double.

Clift was actually drunk for scenes when his character is drinking.

The rumors that the Mafia got Frank Sinatra the part in this film are false.  Ava Gardner actually got him the role by talking to the studio head.

Deborah Kerr's performance enabled her to be cast in sexier roles from 1953 on.

The horizontal surf kiss was Burt Lancaster's idea.

255. Madame de...

Madame de…
Directed by Max Ophuls

Firstly, to clear up any confusion, The Book is the only source I have found that lists this movie as Madame de…. Everywhere else, including Netflix and IMDb, lists it as The Earrings of Madame de… I think that is more fitting of a title because the earrings are much more of a character than the Madame is.

Madame doesn't have a name, mostly because she represents every boring rich woman in high society.  This is a really hard plot to describe.   Basically, Madame sells the earrings her husband gave to her at the beginning of the film to pay off her debts.  The earrings than have a magical adventure changing hands (and learning a little something about themselves along the way).  There is also love and social commentary.

This is a magnificent film; it is extremely difficult to find fault with it.  The acting is superb and natural, the camera work is flawless, and the plot is intriguing.  It is mostly a melodrama but strangely enough, I didn't feel like killing all the characters!  You can't beat that.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Max Ophuls only agreed to do the film because Danielle Darrieux was starring in it.

Boyer and Ophuls were at each others' throats for most of filming.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

254. The Band Wagon

The Band Wagon
Directed by Vincente Minnelli

We finally get a break from slightly ridiculous melodramas with this slightly ridiculous musical.  A ridiculous musical is so much more fun.

This is a very typical Technicolor musical.  Fred Astaire is an aged "song and dance" man who is trying to put on a new show with an upcoming ballerina.  Angry tap numbers ensue.

So the plot isn't very original.  Still, this film is just plain fun; we get great musicals numbers, shameless optimism, and catchy songs.  It actually reminded me of the old Busby Berkley films I used to watch with the whole "the show must go on" mentality.  Of course, the numbers aren't as good as Berkley numbers but that is an absurdly standard.

In addition, there is a really cool surreal film noir scene which, while really weird, is entertaining.  And that's the whole point of this movie, merely to entertain.  And quite frankly, that is a relief after the emotional roller coaster I have been expected to ride with these last couple of films.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The movie reflected real life in that Fred Astaire really did feel washed up and was considering retirement.

Fred Astaire and Cyd Charisse are the exact same height and weight.

Friday, December 7, 2012

253. The Bigamist

The Bigamist
Directed by Ida Lupino

All right, stick with me when I give you the plot of this film; it is actually quite good, despite how it sounds.

A man is married to two different women but it is actually not that bad of a guy.  The women aren't even that upset when they find out!

All right, that sounds really stupid.  It is actually extremely entertaining.  First of all, the acting is fantastic (shout out to my favorite, Joan Fontaine).  The dialogue is also snappy and clever.  I ride the bus everyday and I never have such witty repartee with strangers.

This is a ridiculously short review because I have to go to work now and it will bother me if this isn't finished when I leave.  I fear, dear reader, that you must suffer for my obsessiveness.

Check it out and be surprised at how you feel about polygamy by the end.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Stars' actual homes were used in the tour.

Ida Lupino's last feature film for twelve years.

252. La Carrosse d'Or

La Carrosse d'Or
The Golden Coach
Directed by Jean Renoir

I was super excited to watch this film; it has been awhile since we had a good Jean Renoir film (the last one being in 1939).  He actually won the Oscar on this blog for best director in the 30s.  This is probably the most coveted honor that a filmmaker can achieve.

This movie centers on a rather unpleasant actress.  Three different men fall in love with her (I hate it when that happens).  Hilarity ensues.

So first of all, elephant in the room: why do they all like her so much?  She is not particularly pretty, she is loud, and she is obnoxious.  It doesn't make sense.  In addition, the acting was pretty bad.  This is not entirely the actors' fault since it must be hard to speak in a foreign language and act at the same time.  Still, that doesn't make it any less painful to watch.

Overall, I was extremely disappointed.  Jean Renoir should not try to direct musical comedies.  It is like if Quentin Taratino tried to direct a children's movie.  Disturbing and unnatural.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Shot in Rome in French, English, and Italian.  Jean Renoir was said to prefer the English version.

Wednesday, December 5, 2012

251. Umberto D.

Umberto D.
Directed by Vittorio de Sica

The above video clip sums up my views on this film perfectly.  I mean, this was one of the sappiest, most nauseating, and over the top films I have ever seen.

Let me give you a quick glimpse of the plot.  An old man is kicked out of his apartment with his dog.  He wants to kill himself but wants to find a home for his dog first.  As if that sentimentality of that summary doesn't sicken you enough, he loses his dog and must find him before he gets put into a pound.  Oh, brother.

Let me clarify.  I am not one of those young people that is screaming for the gore and action in every film.  Hell, I will watch Shakespeare in Love and The English Patient and shed a few tears.  But this was just absurd.  I felt as though the director was showing me a slide show of sad things.  Look at dying puppies!  Look at lonely old men!  Look at someone crying!  Give me break.

And my hatred for the Italian films on this list continue.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Nope, I couldn't find anything.

250. High Noon

High Noon
Directed by Fred Zinnemann

All right, this post has to be super quick because I have to be ready to go in a half hour and I am still in my Dr. Seuss boxers.  I just could not resist doing this one because we have reached…
We are a quarter of the way there, people.  Well, actually, I am a lot farther then that in the book but for the purpose of this blog, hooray!

Anyway, speeding through.  Gary Cooper plays the role Gary Cooper always plays.  An outlaw that he put away is returning to the town at (gasp!) noon.  He tries to get people to help him but people are cowards.  Kind of like Odd Man Out.  Oh yeah and Grace Kelly makes an appearance as a beautiful quaker.

This film is pretty awesome.  First, it was shot in real time; I felt like I was watching an episode of 24.  In addition, my sister can do a great impression of Katy Jurado.  If you are ever at a party with her, ask for it.  She will no doubt be scared that you know that and run away from you.  You should still give it a try.

This is a great movie, one that makes you think about bravery and friendship.  I would go on more but my lateness has now become a serious problem.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

An allegory for people in Hollywood refusing to stand up to the House of UnAmerican Activities Committee.

Bill Clinton's favorite film of all time.

#27 in AFI's top 100.

Grace Kelly and Gary Cooper had an affair during filming.

249. The Big Sky

The Big Sky
Directed by Howard Hawks

I have about forty five minutes before I have to leave for the day and I am still in my pajamas.  Instead of getting ready now and not feeling rushed, I am choosing to write this review and then run around in a rage because I will be late.  Maybe I will take it out on fellow drivers.  Who knows?

Anyway, I have mentioned this before but for some reason, early fifties films have been really hard to find.  I could only find this one on xfinity on demand.  I chose to watch this with my parents.  Shut up; I know I do this a lot.

The Big Sky opens with this really weird narration about the events.  I am still not sure who it was.  Anyway, the film centers on Kirk Douglas and Dewey Martin as they travel a river with a bunch of misfits.  Of course, a dame gets in the way of their camaraderie.  Women suck.

I hated this film.  It was extremely long and boring.  I think we were supposed to grow really attached to the characters but I found myself wishing they would all drown.  Sick, right?

Then, of course, the question is why a sucky western is listed in the top 1001 movies of all time.  For one thing, the girl is Native American and is actually shown in a somewhat positive light, which is refreshing.  Half the cast speaks French and the story is about a river trip, which I suppose is unusual for westerns.  Still, totally not worth the $2.99 that my parents paid for it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

John Wayne was originally supposed to do the finger scene in one of his earlier films.

The part of Boone was originally supposed to go to Montgomery Clift but he turned it down.  Instead, we were stuck with Dewey Martin.  Ugh.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

248. The Bad and The Beautiful

The Bad and The Beautiful
Directed by Vincente Minnelli

I watched this is in the fall with my sister; I have had a grudge against it since a question from it lost me a game of TCM Scene It?.  I always have tons of fun watching films with my sister and I remember the experience a lot more because of it.  I really have to stop watching so many movies alone…

Anyway, this is a fantastic movie.  It centers on Kirk Douglas, who is a studio head who has someone manage to ruin three people's lives in creative ways.  They are asked to do a movie with him again and the story is shown in flashback from three different points of view (Rashomon anyone?).

Of course, Kirk Douglas is fabulous, he always is. Lana Turner, on the other hand, is little more than eye candy.  All I can think of when I see her is how her daughter killed her lover.  That is kind of distracting.

I always like movies that are about Hollywood, especially ones that show us what happens beneath the glitz and glamour.  An awesome film that is still relevant today.

RATING: ****- (points off for Turner)

Interesting Facts:

The fictional low budget horror film was based off of Cat People.  Saw it!

Sex is mentioned six times.  Six!

Holds the record for most amount of Academy Awards without being nominated for Best Picture.

Kathleen Freeman's character was based off of Alfred Hitchcock's wife.

247. Europa 51

Europa 51
The Greatest Love
Directed by Roberto Rosellini

The version I watched played out like a bad (but hilarious) game of telephone.  I have no idea why early fifties movies are so hard to find but for some reason I having to watch most of them on YouTube.  Anyway, the version I got was, of course, in Italian with Spanish subtitles.  I got Google to translate the subtitles to English.  After going through three different languages, the words got a little, shall we say, jumbled.  "World cheerful curve cuban one hour before" has to be one of the greatest lines in cinematic history.

All right, so here's what I think happened.  Ingrid Bergman's son dies and then other shit happens.  I think she becomes somewhat of a martyr or something?  No one understands her?  Some sort of allegory to Christ?

All right, so I really didn't get it.  I gathered it was like Ikiru but worst.  Bergman, though, is a great actress; I don't care what she is doing I just want to watch her do it.  I just want to know what the title means.  It sounds like a space shuttle.  I am very confused.


Interesting Facts:

No trivia on IMDb.  Maybe no one understand it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

246. Ikiru

To Live
Directed by Akira Kurosawa

Japanese movies have completely blown me away.  Each one I watch is incredibly beautiful, emotional, and entertaining.  Granted, this one was a bit too sappy for me but it is still awesome!

This film is about a boring government worker who discovers that he has stomach cancer.  He then wants to make a difference in the world before he dies but realizes that it is actually almost impossible to change the world by yourself.

This is truly one of the most depressing movies I have ever seen.  It didn't make me cry or want to slash my wrists, but it certainly stayed with me for a couple weeks.  Hard to describe but really beautiful; Kurosawa is definitely one of the best directors of all time.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Kanji Wantanabe was originally supposed to be a gangster and not a government bureaucrat.

245. Singin' In The Rain

Singin' In The Rain
Directed by Stanley Donen and Gene Kelly

You are no longer allowed to read this blog if you have not seen this movie.  Actually, I have so few readers that I really need to hang on to the ones I have.  All right, you are allowed to keep reading if you haven't seen it.  But just know that I am silently resenting your presence.  Go watch it!

This is probably one of the most cheerful movies ever made (even if A Clockwork Orange ruined the title song a bit for me).  If you can listen to "Good Morning" and "Singin' in the Rain" without smiling you are a very cold person.  Wow, I am making a lot of judgements with this post.  I am extremely cranky with a hole in my heart that only ice cream can fill.

This film has been parodied many, many times.  Off the top of my head:

Of course, parodies are never as good as the original.  Watch this film is truly an unforgivable experience whether it be from watching Kelly's dances or watching O'Connor defy gravity.

Another layer of enjoyment is added if you actually know what they are talking about.  The film's main focus is on the shift from silent to sound movies.  There are some references that only someone is has studied the era can get.  The film isn't esoteric, but it is fun to understand the inside jokes.

Go watch it and if it is your first time, don't let anyone know it or jerks will judge you (see above).

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Fred Astaire helped Debbie Reynolds with her dancing after he found her crying one day because of Gene Kelly's insults.

The "Make 'Em Laugh" routine was so exhausting that O'Connor was hospitalized after filming it.

#5 in AFI's top 100.

244. Angel Face

Angel Face
Directed by Otto Preminger

Today was just a great day.  I had to go into work on a Saturday.  I also came to the realization that I am officially the only one of my friends that is single.  And worst of all, THERE IS NO ICE CREAM IN MY HOUSE!

It is 4:23 and I have taken to my bed where I will spend my Saturday night watching so many movies that by the end, I will no longer know what reality is anymore.

Let's start with Angel Face (which is currently available in full on YouTube).  This is a pretty standard film noir.  Woman is evil but sexy.  Man falls in love with evil woman.  Evil woman gets stupid man to commit crime.  Dire consequences.  Dah dah dah!!!!

It seems weird that these movies are still coming out; I thought we said goodbye to them when we said goodbye to the fifties.  This is not to say these films are bad, they are all just extremely similar.  However, I really liked this movie even though I know it will fade quickly from my memory.  Robert Mitchum and Jean Simmons were both incredible leads.  I guess the other thing that distinguishes this film is the boldness of it.  For one thing, there are a couple of sexual innuendoes that I feel like no one would have gotten away with in the 40s.  In addition, we have one of the most violent scenes shown in cinema so far, which I will not talk about because it is a spoiler.

Not super original but still a lot of fun.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Mitchum slapped Preminger across the face because he was so sick of retakes.  Preminger begged Howard Hughes to fire Mitchum but he refused.

Simmons wore a wig throughout the film.  That explains the bangs.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

243. Jeux Interdits

Jeux Interdits
Forbidden Games
Directed by Rene Clement

All right, once I get this one done I can finally get start my actual work and holy shit, is it really already 2:05?

Anyway, I watched this film awhile ago when I was just browsing the streaming in Netflix.  I didn't really realize it was anything special until I started to read other people's reviews on it.

This movie is about a girl whose parents are shot down in front of her.  She finds a family that will take her in and forms a friendship with a little boy named Michelle.  They make a creepy pet cemetery so they won't feel alone.  One thing leads to another and most people find themselves reaching for the tissue box.

I was not one of those people.  The whole thing seemed dreadfully corny to me.  There was just way too much sappiness, almost to the point of nausea for me.   I am not one of those annoying people who laugh at sad movies; I just really did not feel anything.  Maybe that makes me some sort of sociopath.  Oh well.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Bridgette Fossey's first film.

242. The Quiet Man

The Quiet Man
Directed by John Ford

A classic John Wayne movie in…..IRELAND????

You read that right, folks!  In this film, John Wayne stars as Sean Thornton who falls in love with Mary Kate, a fiery red head.  Every one said that her character had a temper to match his but she seemed like a pretty weak woman to me.  Anyway, her brother does not want her to get married.  Does that stop John Wayne from marrying her?  No sir!  Does that stop John Wayne from hitting her and throwing her sometimes?  No sir!

So obviously, this film is a bit outdated.  First of all, if my brother told me not to marry someone, I would simply say fuck you, and carry on with my business.   There are also some notable cringe worthy moments, particularly in the way that John Wayne treats Maureen O'Hara.

Still, it is a decent romance complete with brawls and drinking.  So an Irish romance. Just kidding!  Oh wait, it is.

Decent but not really 1001 worthy.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The movie Rio Grande was done so that Wayne, O'Hara, and Ford would have permission to do this film.

O'Hara broke her hand slapping Wayne but couldn't wear a cast because of filming.

Wayne and Ford put manure on the hill that O'Hara got dragged through.  EWWWWWWWW!

241. The Day The Earth Stood Still

The Day The Earth Stood Still
Directed by Robert Wise

I brought this to a movie night with a few friends awhile ago and they all laughed at me for my horrible taste in films.  They put in Thor instead.  But this is truly a classic, even if people have not heard a lot about it.  It is actually considered to be one of the first Sci Fi films.  So Thor might not even have existed if it wasn't for this movie.  So there.

It is very easy to laugh at the special effects of earlier movies.  However, the influence of this movie is pretty much prevalent in all the major sic fi films.  In fact, the landing of the aliens is so similar to Close Encounters of the Third Kind that I declare that I declare Spielberg a copycat!

An alien comes to Earth to deliver a message of peace to the humans.  Naturally, everyone completely freaks out and does not listen right away.  Damn humans.

This is actually a pretty good film, unless you are one of those jerks that will only focus on how bad the special effects look compared to today's.  My brother was doing that when I had Buffy The Vampire Slayer on during Thanksgiving and I nearly kicked him in the face.  But I digress.  Check it out!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Patricia Neal had a hard time keeping a straight face during filming because she figured this would just be another stupid B movie.

As a homage, George Lucas named three of his bounty hunters Klaatu, Nikto, and Barada.

Lock Martin was 7'7''.  Holy crap.

240. A Place in the Sun

A Place in the Sun
Directed by George Stevens

I didn't realize there were so many classics in the early fifties but this is another film that would win you a game of David Lodge's Humiliation if you have not seen it.  Thankfully, it is constantly playing on TCM so you can make up for your error quickly.

This is a weird movie; it seems to be divided into three different films (which is why it is so goddamn long).  The first film seems to be a romance between hotties of different classes.  The second part is like  a murder/suspense movie.  Finally, it concludes with a trial film.  Although it may seem like it wouldn't flow well, it is actually really entertaining and coherent from start to finish.

This film stars Elizabeth Taylor and Montgomery Clift (*mouth waters*).  Clift falls in love with Taylor but his stupid girlfriend gets in the way with her stupid pregnancy, which is obviously her fault.  He then plans on killing her to get rid of her.  All hell breaks loose.

This is a really great film; the chemistry, acting, and directing are all great.  Just fantastic.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Mentioned in Lily Allen's song "Who'd Have Known". Well, that is interesting to me at least.

Shelley Winters felt inferior to Elizabeth Taylor for years after making this film.

Based on the true story of Chester Gillette.

239. An American in Paris

An American in Paris
Directed by Vincente Minnelli

This is an old favorite; there is nothing like a Gene Kelly musical and I would count this as one of the best.  Every once in awhile I will look up the "I've Got Rhythm" number on YouTube when I am having a rough day.  How could this not make you feel better?
Of course, I don't have rhythm or a man but that is inconsequential.

The plot of a Gene Kelly musical is never too important but I will give a brief summary anyway.  Gene Kelly is a painter in Paris who falls in love with a woman.  He can never get someone like that!  Oh wait, he can.

The dance sequences are truly incredible and the color is beautiful.  It will leave you will a bubbly, albeit shallow feeling, inside.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Name one of the most overrated films of all time by Premiere.

Gene Kelley would often take over directing duties when Minnelli was busy dealing with his divorce from Judy Garland.

238. Journal d'un Cure de Campagne

Journal d'un Cure de Campagne
Diary of a Country Priest
Directed by Robert Bresson

I have discovered another block of films that I have seen in The Book, which means another flooding of posts.  I have no idea why I have seen so many early fifties films.  Obviously, catching up on this blog is much more important than the other work I have to do, so here we go.

I don't know the movies have been hard to find lately, but I was forced to go to another less than reputable site to find this one.  This book makes me do bad things!

This film is about a country priest who struggles with his faith.  He is pretty much one of those annoying people who will not leave you alone about your religious beliefs.

Obviously my description doesn't sound too exciting.  I actually found the movie to be quite boring and the main character to be obnoxious.  I was so puzzled as to what to say about this film that I googled it and found a fantastic review by Roger Ebert.  I say fantastic because he is a great writer, not because I agree with his views on the film.  Apparently, this is one of the greatest Catholic movies of all time.  I wrote a paper my junior year of high school about why the Catholic Church is evil.  Maybe that is why this film didn't click with me.

Ebert also commends the fact that the main character rarely smiles and is dead serious the entire time.  All right, I guess.  Is that really a reason to watch a movie?  Nobody smiles?

Overall, I feel like I missed something when watching this movie that other people seem to get.  This could be owing to my stupidity but I think it has more to do with the fact that the film is a major snore.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The main character is supposedly an inspiration for Travis Bickle's character in Taxi Driver.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

237. The African Queen

The African Queen
Directed by John Huston

Yay!  This is one of those joyous occasions where I get to review one of my favorite films of all time.  Actually, come to think of it, this is pretty hard because I don't know if I can convey through my writing how good it is.  Oh no! The pressure!

First of all, the mere fact that this is a movie starring Humphrey Bogart and Katharine Hepburn should be enough to convince you to watch it.  I get more excited about that pairing than when modern romantic comedies have fifty stars in their casts.

Humphrey Bogart plays Charlie Allnut who is gin drinking, rough river boat captain.  Katharine Hepburn plays a straitlaced spinster who convinces Charlie to use his boat to attack the Germans.  Both roles are so unlike their usual characters that it is truly a thrill to watch them; it's like discovering the actors for the first time.

Of course, the goal of their journey doesn't matter.  What matters is the fact that they are stuck on board together and forced to interact.  I always love movies where two people who otherwise would never have a conversation are put together by circumstances.  Great dialogue always comes out of this scenario.

There are some great adventure sequences, but like I said, at its heart, this film is a romance.  And what a great romance this is.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Bogart won his only Oscar for this film.

Huston hired locals to help with the movie but many would not show for fear that the filmmakers were cannibals.

#65 in AFI's top 100.

Bogart and Huston were the only ones that avoided getting sick during filming, mostly because they drank so much alcohol.

236. Pandora and The Flying Dutchman

Pandora and The Flying Dutchman
Directed by Albert Lewin

I was visiting my sister recently for Thanksgiving and while we were walking home after dinner, I started to lament about not being able to find this movie anyway.  As Rachel often does, she took my problem into her own hands and we took a detour to the film library.  Within two minutes we had picked up a movie that I had been looking for for several months.

I will admit, we did not pay close attention to the movie.  I got distracted by Rachel's 1001 book.  She is horrible at checking things off and she made me (aka I did it without her permission) proofread her list.  Then I got excited because she had candy.  Then we played a drinking game.  Then I finally settled down to pay attention and…the film was over.

So here is what I gathered.  Ava Gardner is a horrible bitch who manipulates men because she is so fucking gorgeous.  She even convinces a man to push his car off a cliff for her.  If I suggested that, I am pretty sure I would be the one flying off the cliff.  But I digress.

I guess she met her match with this sailor guy?  And then she destroyed one of his paintings?  Maybe other stuff happened?

Obviously, I might have dropped the ball on this review a little.  I did notice that the cinematography was absolutely beautiful.  I don't feel too guilty.  I watch so many movies alone.  It makes me forget that sometimes movies are more about your experience than the one the filmmaker attended.  Cue the music that plays in sitcoms when someone learns a lesson.

RATING: ***-- (maybe?)

Interesting Facts:

First color film of Ava Gardner's.

Considered one of the most beautiful films ever made.

235. The Lavender Hill Mob

The Lavender Hill Mob
Directed by Charles Crichton

I have been looking forever for this film (okay, maybe a year) and couldn't find it.  For whom it may concern, this movie is available to rent on iTunes.  Although I really would not bother.

Another Ealing studios British comedy.  Oh dear.   Did not laugh once.  You are a disgrace to the force, Alec Guiness!

So this time Obi Wan Kenobi stars as a boring man who supervises the transfer of gold bullion to different banks.  He decides that he wants to steal the gold so executes a plan in which the gold is transformed into Eiffel Tower replicas.  There is a nasty scene where two men run down the Eiffel Tower and the camera twirls around in a nauseating fashion.  I say it was nasty because I watched it in the car on the way to Thanksgiving festivities and I already have a tendency of getting motion sickness.  Damn limeys.

Anyway, the most remarkable thing about this movie is that Audrey Hepburn is in the film for about ten seconds.  It is always cool to see famous people in movies before they make it big.

This movie is in no way offensive or awful but it isn't funny.  Call me crazy but I think a comedy should have a few laughs.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Considered to be Hepburn's first appearance in a major film.

To avoid missing the American market, the studio followed the Hayes code.

A special committee was formed comprised of employees of the Bank of England to devise a way that people could steal gold.  The committee came up with the idea of disguising the gold into towers.

234. Strangers on a Train

Strangers on a Train
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

This is another movie that everyone has seen or at least heard about.  Nothing like another homoerotic Hitchcock!

This film centers on two men who meet on a train (spoiler!).  They talk about how perfect it would be if  a stranger killed another stranger's enemies and vice versa, because the crimes would be really hard to trace.  When I first heard about this film, I thought the two characters would then follow through on this plan.  However, it is a bit darker than that.  Robert Walker is a psycho and wants to implement this plan while Farley Granger laughs it off.  However, when Walker, ahem, plays his part, he wants Granger to play his.  Oh and they may be lovers.  Who knows?

If there is one thing Hitchcock is good at, it is playing out our worst nightmares.  Whether it be being accused of a crime we didn't commit or having a total stranger stalk you, he nails it (or if your worst nightmare is all of the birds turning against us, he has a movie for that too).

This is a great movie; just fantastic and interesting from start to finish.  A truly original storyline in the most capable of hands.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

HITCHCOCK RADAR: Early in the film, getting on the train.

Raymond Chandler was absurdly rude to Hitchcock during filming.

Last feature film of Robert Walker.

233. A Streetcar Named Desire

A Streetcar Named Desire
Directed by Elia Kazan

If you haven't seen this film, I have no idea what planet you have lived on for the past fifty years.  Actually, I hesitate to say that because I am sure that people my age probably have never even heard of it.  Damn kids.

In any case, you have probably heard countless references to the movie.  Off the top of my head:
All right, so for tradition's sake, I will give a brief summary of the film.  This movie is about….god, what is this film about?  I guess Blanche (Vivien Leigh) goes to live with her sister and her husband (Marlon Brando) and um, shit goes down.

Okay, it is a little hard to explain.  I think what has immortalized this film is mostly due to the great performances by the actors.  Leigh plays the emotionally damaged woman perfectly and Brando is a wonderful sexy asshole.  That actually is probably not too far off from real life…

I should also mention the unforgettable lines, not only "STELLA!" but also "I have always depended on the kindness of strangers."  Just watch so you can join the human race.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Vivien Leigh had bipolar disorder in real life and trouble separating her life from Blanche's.  Called it.

#47 in AFI's top 100.

One of two films to win three Academy Awards for acting.

232. The Big Carnival

The Big Carnival
Also called Ace In the Hole which is what it is under Netflix
Directed by Billy Wilder

Happy Belated Thanksgiving!  Hope everyone at a great time or at least, um, survived.

I popped this movie to watch while I unpacked from my trip.  I opened The Book and realized I had seen the next five films on the list.  This is going to be one of those times that I write for hours to catch up, partly due to my obsessiveness and party due to the fact that I have no life.

All right, this movie centers on Kirk Douglas, a very unethical journalist, who takes advantage of a man trapped in a mine shaft for the media coverage.  Laughs ensue.  Just kidding, it is really quite serious.

So the message of the movie is timeless.  The media is cruel in its exploitation of tragedy and we are just as bad for eating it up.  The extreme examples are, of course, things like Princess Di's death but it works on a much smaller, local level as well.  Like the main character says, good news is no news.

Of course, nowadays the message isn't as fresh as it might have been in 1951.  Still, it is extremely relevant.  It is interesting to watch the public in this film and cringe, but then realize that you might have the exact same reaction.

We get a great performance by Kirk Douglas, who I always seem to underestimate, with reasonably good performances from the supporting cast.  Overall a great and underrated film.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Huge box office flop upon its release.

Wilder was sued for copyright infringement and the case went all the way to the California Supreme Court where he lost.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

231. In a Lonely Place

In a Lonely Place
Directed by Nicolas Ray

This is an incredible film that I have had never heard about until today.  There are some pretty big names associated with it so this could be due more to my ignorance than the obscurity of the film.  Still, this is movie is now possibly my favorite Bogie film (although it is a tough call between this and African Queen).

This story is about Dixon Steele, a screenwriter with a nasty temper.  He is a suspect in a murder involving a young woman but is saved from being arrested by Laurel Gray, a neighbor who gave the police a statement about where he was during the murder.  They, of course, fall in love as attractive people in movies do.  Soon, however, she becomes more and more scared of him and his temper.

Where to begin?  This is one of the best movies I have seen in a long time.  The acting is incredible, of course; Bogie plays perhaps the darkest character of his career so well that I even I was afraid of him.  Gloria Grahame, a rather underrated actress, is also amazing.  By the end of the film, she had managed to make me really emphasize with her character.  Though I was never in such an extreme situation, I too have been genuinely frightened of a man but at the same time I wanted to spare his feelings.  Scary situation.

The dialogue is also incredibly; my favorite line being something that Bogey's character writes: "I was born when she kissed me.  I died when she left me.  I lived a few weeks while she loved me." Truly an amazing film that is both dark and exciting.

Interesting Facts:

Gloria Grahame was separated from her husband, the director, during filming.  She later ended up marrying her stepson (?).

In the book, Steele was a serial killer and a rapist.

People who knew Bogie thought that this role was closest to how he was in real life.  Yikes.

Friday, November 16, 2012

230. Los Olvidados

Los Olvidados
The Young and the Damned
Directed by Luis Bunuel

Full disclosure: I could not find this movie with subtitles.  It seems relatively well known but I could only find it from a less that reputable site that kept asking if I was into Asian women.  No, I am not.

Anyway, in the movies whenever two characters are watching a film with no subtitles, the couple usually adds their own hilarious dialogue and it is generally a pretty adorable scene.  Since I watch movies alone since I have been single for like…ever, it was not fun at all.  I had like four different windows open trying to follow the plot since I don't speak a word of Spanish.  It was not cute or hilarious, it was just irritating.

So from what I gathered, this movie was about a bunch of street toughs doing things.  It was actually pretty brutal.  Several birds were killed on screen and kids were beaten to a pulp.  I think there was also an attempted rape? Maybe?  I don't know.

This was evidently a pretty accurate portrayal of life for kids on Mexican streets.  However, there were fantasy elements in it that made it even harder to understand for me.  I really have no opinion on this.   If you can find a version with subtitles, let me know.  Honestly, it probably wasn't for me with or without subtitles.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

365 shots in the whole movie.

Its theatrical release only lasted for three days due to its response from both the press and the government.

229. Sunset Boulevard

Sunset Boulevard
Directed by Billy Wilder

This is probably one of my favorite films, certainly my favorite film noir.  Everything about this movie is flawless: the directing, the acting, and the dialogue.  Add to that, this movie can be genuinely frightening, although I am sure many jaded viewers would disagree.

Gloria Swanson plays an aging silent film actress star who is determined to remain young (think What Ever Happened to Baby Jane?).  William Holden is a Johnny Everyman is a nobody who unfortunately gets wrapped up in her crazy.  The movie starts with Holden shot in the back in a swimming pool and in true film noir style, goes back and fills in the blanks with voiceovers.

When I said the movie was scary, I was not just talking about Swanson's chilling performance (although that picture above is pretty creepy).  The directing is extremely well done, making Norma Desmond's mansion look like a house of horrors complete with a creepy butler.

There is also a certain sentimental aspect that came with watching this movie for me.  Having see so many silent films in my journey, I also felt a pang that that era was over (although I did not lose my sanity over it).

Just a fantastic movie; film noir does not get better than this.  Are we done with film noir with this movie.  Here come the tears!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

#16 in AFI's top 100.

Cecil De Mille demanded $20,000 to appear for a cameo.

Buster Keaton did a cameo.

"All right, Mr. DeMille.  I am ready for my close up," is listed as #7 in AFI's top 100 movie lines.

228. All About Eve

All About Eve
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Surprisingly enough, Bette Davis does not play the title character.  Eve is actually played by Anne Baxter but when you are talking about this film Eve is quite inconsequential.

This movie is about…well, it is kind of hard to pin down this movie's plot summary in a couple sentences.  I will do my best.  A young ingenue becomes part of a group of showbiz friends.  Lies, betrayal, ruthless ambition, etc.

This is an extremely quotable film (most notably, of course, the bumpy night line) and the acting is flawless.  Shout out to Marilyn Monroe, though she is only in it for a few minutes, is extremely radiant and talented.

This is one of those movies that is so famous and critically acclaimed that it is hard for me to do a good review of mostly because so many people that are more talented than me have already written in depth analyses that my review couldn't touch.  I have never even taken a film class!

It is a dark film but a brilliant one.  Go to Roger Ebert's blog if you want depth!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Bette Davis' croaky voice was due to the fact that she burst a blood vessel yelling at her soon to be ex husband.  Yikes.

14 Academy Award nominations.

#28 in AFI's top 100.

Davis fell in love with costar Gary Merrill during filming.

227. Rio Grande

Rio Grande
Directed by John Ford

I just finished watching this movie with my parents as they are avid Wayne fans.  Yep, it is a Friday night and I was watching a movie with my parents.  Shut up!

Anyway, when you look at this film objectively, it is just awful.  We all know that John Wayne makes a better icon than an actor.  There are also really random musical numbers sprinkled throughout this film.  It also is extremely racist, with the Apaches being depicted more like demons than humans.

However, people tend to never look at westerns objectively. Westerns often remind us of parents or grandparents.  This sentimentality we associate with westerns make us excuse all its faults and just have a good time with it.  I am not saying this is a bad thing.  On the contrary, I had a lot of fun watching this with my parents despite all its flaws.

I should mention that the stunts done with the horses are mind-blowing (I actually gasped a couple times) and the scenery is, of course, beautiful at times.  Curl up with some relatives and enjoy the film.  It actually would make a good Thanksgiving film; goes with the theme of mass genocide!

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Two stuntmen died during the river scene.

John Wayne considered this a parable for the Korean War.

First of five movies starring Maureen O'Hara and John Wayne.

One of three films from Ford's cavalry collection.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

226. Winchester 73

Winchester 73
Directed by Anthony Mann

On the surface, this looks a really cliche western.  You got James Stewart as a reluctant hero, the flat bad guys, and the blond dame that is tougher than she looks.  However, this is actually a deeper movie that I thought it was going to be.  Which is good news for me because that means a longer blog post and more procrastination!

So this movie is basically about a gun.  The film follows the gun as it changes hands many times.  Kind of like the Ring of Power.  Everybody wants it, but only Frodo will be able to handle its power and bring it to Mount Doom.  Ahem.  I meant James Stewart.

It goes without saying that the acting is excellent.  The directing is pretty inspired too; of course, Ford will always be the champion Western director, but Anthony Mann does a good job too.  Wow, that sounded way more condescending than I wanted it to be.  He's good, all right?  Let's just move on.

Anyway, like I said at the beginning, there are plenty of cliches in this film.  However, cliches in westerns are part of the charm of the genre.  There are really great characters in this film.  This review sucks but watch it anyway.  What can I say?  I'm tired!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Jimmy Stewart took a percentage of the profits from the film instead of the regular acting fee.  He was one of the first actors to do this and started a trend that would ultimately end the studio-actor relationship.

Saved Jimmy Stewart's career as he was worried he was being typecast as a wimp.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

225. Rashomon

Directed by Akira Kurosawa

I read the trivia for this movie before I watched it and I immediately knew I was in for a treat (scroll down to see why).  Japanese cinema is always a treat.  Recently at a family dinner I said that my favorite action movie was Seven Samurai and I was practically booed out of the room.  But haters gonna hate and these movies are awesome.

A samurai is murdered in the forest.  A priest, his wife, and a woodcutter are all witnesses to the murder.  We hear and watch each of their stories, with the plot being slightly different each time depending on the person's agenda.  This kind of unreliable narrative has been done many times since (I was about to give some examples but I don't want to ruin any movies for you).  Actually, it was done before in Citizen Kane but Kurosawa swears he  saw Citizen Kane for the first time two years after he was done with this film.  Either way, it is extremely well done here; each time you watch the story unfold, your perspective changes until you mind is blown and you can't do anything productive for the rest of the day.  At least, that is what I am telling myself.

So the story is intriguing and entertaining until the last minute.  The actors are all excellent as well though her eyebrows are really weird; check it out:

But I digress.  Finally, the directing and cinematography are truly inspired; the film is beautiful 100% of the time.  A must watch movie.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Slugs kept raining down from the trees so the cast and crew had to slather themselves with salt to keep them away.

The word "Rashomon" was recently added to the Oxford English Dictionary with the definition "of or relating to the film Rashomon.

First time someone pointed the camera directly at the sun.

To make the rain show up against the backdrop, the crew put black ink in the rain.  This is clearly visible on the cast's faces in some scenes.

Often cited as the reason the Academy added The Best Foreign Film category.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

224. Asphalt Jungle

Asphalt Jungle
Directed by John Huston

I did seven of these today, not counting the 1940s Oscars.  I am becoming more prolific than Nora Roberts, although hopefully I don't suck quite as much.

The thing about early crime movies is you always know how it is going to end.  Because of the production code, you know the criminals can't not get away with it.  So you are kind of just waiting for some horrible fate to befall them.  It can still be interesting but there is really no intrigue or suspense.

If this film had been made post 1968 it could have been really awesome.  As it is, however, it is merely so-so.  This is a heist film but because people are greedy and unreliable, everything goes to hell.  Huston really had a thing about greed, I guess.  Anyway, as you can see from the above picture Marilyn Monroe has a part, though she is by no means the star.  I always love seeing young actors before they were famous.

The movie has absolutely no balls, which is really not its fault but it stills suffers because of it.  Still worth a watch.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Body count is only 4.  Come on.  I can't wait for Reservoir Dogs…

Total scoring is around five minutes.

223. Orphee

1950 (!)
Directed by Jean Cocteau

I was all proud of myself for going through so many movies and blog posts today.  You can do a lot of writing and watching if you ignore all your important work.  I recommend this method.  In any case, my drive is starting to lose fuel so I will pump out this review and Asphalt Jungle and call it a day.

I told my mom today that I was starting the 50s and she said "maybe now I will have heard of some of these movies." Well, sorry Mom, because we are kicking off the 50s with a movie no one has ever heard of. Such is the way of the list.

Anyway, you most likely have heard of the story of Eurydice and Orpheus. This is like that except he really does love Eurydice; he is in love with Lady Death.  Poor Eurydice.

I have a deep respect for French films; the acting is nearly always phenomenal, at least from the movies I have seen.  This film is no exception.  The movie is also filmed in a very dreamlike way that I got really into.  However, it is not the most exciting film; I'd say I was bored for about one third of it.

It had its merits but ultimately is not worth it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Jean Cocteau and Jean Marais were lovers.

Cocteau drew the opening titles.