Thursday, June 28, 2012

164. Shadow of a Doubt

Shadow of a Doubt
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I absolutely adore Alfred Hitchcock and I think anyone who has seen of his movies feels the same way.  That being said, this is probably one of my least favorite Hitchcock's.  There is nothing directly wrong with it, it is just not as strong as his other films.

This movie is about a charismatic serial killer who goes to visit his niece and her family.  But Charlie is on to you Joseph Cotten!  It is really interesting to see a charming killer since this seems to be a popular theme recently (Man Bites Dog, American Psycho, etc.).  I am giving Hitchcock credit for this.

The acting is pretty great (Charlie can be a bit annoying sometimes) and the screenplay is strong.  My one complaint would be that the ending is sort of campy and not as dark as I think the subject matter required.  I think every Hitchcock is indispensable so check it out.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Hitchcock's favorite film.

The name "Charlie" is said about 170 times.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: Playing cards on the train.

163. The Ox-Bow Incident

The Ox-Bow Incident
Directed by William Wellman

Henry Fonda is one handsome man.  So handsome, in fact, that I was distracted in some scenes because of him.  I mean, look at this!
But I, ahem, digress.  This movie left an icky feeling in my stomach.  It is incredibly upsetting, which I suppose is the whole point in the message.  This film is about a lynch mob that accuses three passerbys of killing a man and stealing his cattle.  There is also a random love story that you think is going to be a major plot point but is only really mentioned in two scenes.

This movie does not make you feel good.  However, it carries a deep and lasting message.  I watched this with my family.  My dad and I got in an argument into what the message was about.  I figured it was supposed to be anti Nazi mob rule while my dad thought it had more to do with the lynching of African Americans in the south.  Either way, it makes you think but don't expect to feel great afterward.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Last film to be nominated for Best Picture without being nominated for any other awards.

Woody Allen described his marriage as The Ox-Bow Incident.

Very unusual film for the time since it featured an African American character who was the voice of conscience.

Made in 1941 but the studio was unsure how to market the film.

162. The Seventh Victim

The Seventh Victim
Directed by Mark Robson

We are in a string of pretty crappy but enjoyable RKO horror films.  These aren't quite as good as Universal horrors way back in the early 30s but they are fun.  There are so many artsy movies on the list that I enjoy some good old fashioned popcorn movies (a new version of the list has The Hangover which I think is awesome).

This movie is about a timid girl who goes to the big city to search for her crazy sister (the sister is pictured above in the weirdest hairstyle known to mankind).  Some twists, lesbians, and satanic followers ensue.

Like I said, this movie is simply not well made.  The cuts between shots are too quick, the acting is only okay, and the plot is rather forgettable.  There is, however, this cool scene where the leading lady is taking a shower and a menacing woman comes in with a dire warning and all we see is her silhouette.  I am sure Hitchcock modeled the infamous shower scene from this movie.

Pretty fun, only around an hour long, and utterly forgettable.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The set is from The Magnificent Ambersons.

The actor who played Jason Hoag was killed shortly after this film came out in WWII.

Monday, June 25, 2012

161. I Walked With A Zombie

I Walked With A Zombie
Directed by Jacques Tourneur

I am a huge fan of horror films and I am really excited to get into eras in film when the movies are actually scary.As you can see from the above picture, this movie has mildly creepy moments but it is clearly not Ringu yet.  Still, we are moving in the right direction.

This film is like Jane Eyre with creepy voodoo.  Of course, all the black people in the movie are involved in primitive magic rituals.  Still, at least they were actually characters and talked eloquently which is a step up from A Man in Grey.

This movie is pure fun.  It is not really not quality and it doesn't come with a deep message.  I have been reading and watching so many intellectual books and movies that I just needed something fun.  It is short, light, and exciting.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The mom was younger than one of the sons she played.

Sorry this post is so short; I am really busy.

Saturday, June 23, 2012

160. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp

The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

I have been in the biggest movie slump of my life these past few weeks.  I have watching a bunch of critically acclaimed bores (Last Tango in Paris, Zero for Kelvin) but nothing topped what I subjected my sister and I to the last week.  The first movie on the list alphabetically is the film 1900 so I put it on my Netflix list without checking it out too much and brought it to a movie night with my sister.  What I didn't realize was that it was around five and half hours long, boring, upsetting, and overall just the worse.  Whoops.

Anyway, this was a refreshing change.  This film is follows the life of General Clive Wynne-Candy throughout various wars from the early 1900s to "present day" (1943).  Wynne-Candy is considered one of the most lovable movie characters of all time and it is not hard to see why.  He is the quintessential British man: blustering, mustache-sporting, charming, and polite.  When I saw that the next film on the list was a war film from 1943, I figured it would be mindless propaganda along the lines of Yankee Doodle Dandy.  It wasn't pushing a message; it was just having some fun!

The acting is great, the color doesn't look gaudy, and the film has great pacing.  My one complaint would be that two and half hours long for a comedic movie is too long.  Still, well made and fun.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Winston Churchill reportedly detested the film and wanted it banned.

Churchill got Laurence Olivier to give up the lead role because of the way it portrayed British patriots.

Duel scene:

Monday, June 18, 2012

159. The Man In Grey

The Man In Grey
Directed by Leslie Arliss

First of all, what was the deal with the kid in blackface?  What was the purpose of that guy?  They seriously couldn't find a black child in all of England to play the kid?  Judy Garland looked more convincing...

You actually have to endure quite a few black slurs during this film that are so cringe worthy that I almost advise not to see it.  However, it also possesses quite an interesting story line.  The film centers on Clarissa, who is married to the man in grey.  She brings her "friend" (aka enormous bitch) into her house who promptly begins an affair with her husband.   There is actually a love square in this one and a fair amount of crazy involved which always make for an interesting movie.

The Book, however, apologizes for the lackluster plot line and advises that you focus on the setting and costume design (which was quite impressive).  So I guess you are not supposed to enjoy the story.  However, I think it was a fun way to spend afternoon (albeit not enormously stimulating).

RATING: ***-- (when is awkward blackface going to stop??!?)

Interesting Facts:

A success commercially, but not critically (hey, what do you want from me?  Wikipedia is just not delivering).

158. Fires Were Started

Fires Were Started (Or I Was A Fireman)
Directed by Humphrey Jennings

That was actually pretty hilarious.  My sister and I just watched this and we legitimately could not understand a word they said.  They were speaking English but subtitles were not available.  Everything they said sounded vaguely like "mhdhdd...the fire...mdhdousoudh...river."  Actually, the best way I can describe it is they sounded exactly like Shy Ronnie:
I think it was just the sound quality but from what I gather from other websites, people seem to always run into this problem.  Anyway, from what I understand, fires were started and some firemen put them out.  So...yeah...

This movie was shot in a documentary-esque style and the "actors" were actually real firemen playing actors playing firemen??  I don't know if I am making sense; this movie left me very confused.

Anyway, skip it.  Better sound quality does not exist and I believe, sound or no sound, the story isn't worth it.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

The fires were reconstructions.

Praised for its realism.

Thursday, June 14, 2012

157. Meshes of the Afternoon

Meshes of the Afternoon
Directed by Mara Deren and Alexander Hammid

I think I have mentioned this an annoying amount of times but I went to London in April.  While I was there, I visited the Tate Modern Art Gallery.  It was modern art at its most pretentious.  Here are a few pictures from the museum:

Anyway, it was hilarious to see these different objects be interpreted as deep messages on today's society.  I watched this experimental film with my sister and it was just as funny.  This movie consists of a woman in a dream doing...I have no idea what.  The point of it, apparently, was that it is the every day life that traps a woman the most.  I can agree with that but there are other ways of getting across that message.

Modern art sculptures and experimental films are not for me.  The last movie on the list was Yankee Doodle Dandy, which was evidently for the unthinking masses and now there is this film which is for smug intellectuals.  Can't we find a nice medium?

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:


Selected for the National Film Registry.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

156. Yankee Doodle Dandy

Yankee Doodle Dandy
Directed by Michael Curtiz

Well, the US had officially entered World War II at this time so you can expect that there is going to be a bunch of propaganda films like this.  I did not expect, however, for the book to include movies like this.  I guess it is historically significant?

James Cagney sings and dances.  Yep, you read that correctly.  The man that starred in all those gangsters films is performing cheesy musical numbers.  I had a similar reaction when I saw Hugh Jackman perform.  I mean, there is nothing wrong with pursuing your musical dreams if you are so inclined but it is just vaguely unsettling after they have been acting like such bad asses.  Anyway, this is the story of George Cohan and it is over two hours long.

I believe that it takes a special kind of director to direct musicals and I am not sure Michael Curtiz had the experience or expertise to pull it off. It just comes across as a middle school production of Yankee Doodle Dandy for veterans' day or something.  Not impressed.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Fred Astaire turned down the role of George.

Not a very accurate portrayal of George Cohan's life.

Ranked #98 in AFI's top 100 movies.  Oh come on.

James Cagney's performance was ranked #6 in Greatest Performances of all time by Premiere magazine.

155. The Magnificent Ambersons

The Magnificent Ambersons
Directed by Orson Welles

I am sitting at my desk in my pajamas with a hot chocolate at 7:45 am.  I don't have to be out the door until around 9:55 so life is good right now.  Last night, I watched this movie with my dad and sister and for once, I didn't bring a movie to a social event that made everyone cringe (here's looking at you Blazing Saddles).

This is officially my favorite Orson Welles movie of all time; I have seen around four of them and had been kind of bored by the whole experience.  This film is...for lack of a better word, magnificent.  This movie is mostly about George and his mom, Isabel Minafer.  Isabel is in love with Eugene Morgan and George is in love with his daughter.  George is a character that is exactly like the little boy in Captains Courageous (and for some reason in one scene he is wearing a wig; no explanation).  Eventually, their pride is their downfall (insert typical message about the American dream from Orson Welles).  Everyone bitches about the ending because it was tacked on by the studio and comes off at a bit cheesy.  Still, the movie is worth it.

I loved this film because there are genuinely funny and touching parts.  You could tell that Orson Welles was continuing to try out different techniques and it is fun to watch because of it.  It is a real shame that Citizen Kane overshadows this movie so much; I think it is ten times more entertaining.  It is also a shame that this movie is kind of hard to find; you will have to buy it off Amazon.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

RKO removed fifty minutes of the original ending and added a happy ending while Welles was out of the country.

RKO made a happy ending because this film was released shortly after Pearl Harbor and no one wanted to see a sad movie.

Welles suspected that the author of The Magnificent Ambersons had based the character of George on himself.  Ouch.

All the credits were narrated by Orson Welles at the end.  It was kind of weird.