Monday, July 30, 2012

180. Detour

Directed by Edgar G. Ulmer

Another fun film noir.  I really love this genre but I cannot understand why the list makers included this in the list. It is Double Indemnity without any polish.

The plot in this one is slightly implausible. A man hitchhikes and is picked up by an old man who dies.  In order to not be framed for the killing, he, of course, assumes the man's identity.  He is blackmailed by a evil broad (are women ever good in noir?) and some double crossing ensues.

First off, this movie is only about an hour which I am all for; I am so sick of three hour war dramas.  Like I said, I don't really get why this movie deserves a place on a list of the best films of all time.  Still, it is really fun, entertaining, and a nice break.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Ann Savage was almost picked up by a shady looking truck during the hitchhiking scene.

Filmed in only 28 days.

179. The Lost Weekend

The Lost Weekend
Directed by Billy Wilder

As the book states, this is a monumental film for the United States.  In the thirties, drunk people were mainly used as comic relief.  People were so busy protesting Prohibition that directors rarely tackled the issue of alcoholism.

The most notable thing about this movie is certainly the acting; I have rarely seen a Best Actor Oscar better deserved.  Ray Milland captures the persona of an alcoholic so perfectly that I can't imagine he didn't struggle with drink himself.  This movie is about an alcoholic writer (why is it always the writer?) who spends a miserable weekend trying to resist the drink.

I enjoyed this movie although it was certainly cringe worthy during his more desperate phases.  Fresh and well made.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The liquor industry offered five million dollars to Paramount to stop the film's release.

Voted one of the most dangerous movies by Premiere magazine.

Prohibition groups also protested the release of the film, stating that it would encourage drinking.  Talk about missing the point.

178. Roma, Citta Aperta

Roma, Citta Aperta
Rome, Open City
Directed by Roberto Rossellini

You should probably know if you want to follow this blog that I really hate Italian films.  I don't know why but I don't think I have encountered a single one I enjoyed.  Whether it is pretentious Fellini crap or neorealism, I just hate it.  Unfortunately, this movie is no exception.

This movie is about the Italian Resistance which you would imagine would be fascinating.  However, I found myself just plain bored with the whole film.  I found my attention wandering to far more exciting pursuits (including eating cake, throwing a ball up in the air, taking Hogwarts personality quizzes, and staring at my feet).

Of course, my immaturity doesn't stretch so far that I can't see the merit of a film like this. If you want nitty gritty during this time period, look toward Europe; we are in the midst of the Hays Code.  Watching women getting gunned down in front of children isn't exactly fun but that's neorealism people.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Rossellini used real Nazi POWs as extras.

177. Les Enfants Du Paradis

Les Enfants Du Paradis
Children of Paradise
Directed by Marcel Carne

Yesterday was my birthday and when my sister asked what I wanted to do, I suggested popping in this obscure little film.  I was banking on it being a delightfully entertaining movie to enjoy on my special day.  I was pretty wrong about that one.

This movie centers on a fifty year old woman pretending she is twenty and an incredibly annoying mime.  They are in love, but alas!  She is cursed with great charm so that every man who sees her falls in love with her.  I am afraid I suffer from the same ordeal.  In any case, this is a love pentagon.  Did I mention the annoying mime?

I will start with what I liked.  First of all, the history of this movie is fascinating.  Several actors were Nazis, some crew members were Jews in hiding, and a few cast members worked for the French Resistance.  Talk about drama.  The acting is superb, even if the roles are a bit miscast.  However, the film is overly long despite what the book says.  Also, charming as Arnetty is, I found her character rather flat.  Veela simply don't exist in real life.

Film critics love it; personally I thought it was rather dull.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

France's answer to Gone With The Wind.  Was anyone waiting for an answer?

Italians left the project when Italy fell to the Nazis.

Most of the men in the film as based off of real people.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

176. Mildred Pierce

Mildred Pierce
Directed by Michael Curtiz

This was a fun one.  I have never watched a soap opera but I imagine it would be something like this.  There is a love triangle, murder, self sacrificing heroine, and a brat.  It is all good fun; maybe you won't be intellectually enhanced by the end but you will enjoy a juicy two hours.  Best to be watched with a box of chocolates.

The film centers on Joan Crawford, who I normally hate but I have to admit, was spectacular in this movie.  She has an absolutely horrible, selfish daughter who makes Teresa Giudice's kids look like sweet, obedient children.  It is in film noir style but it certainly isn't your typical noir; in fact, it is really like nothing I have ever seen before.

Michael Curtiz certainly brings us some weird ones that are either horrifically awful or surprisingly good.  Luckily, this one falls in the latter category.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Joan Crawford was secretly having her costumes altered to be more flattering.  Yeah, I was right; she was a bitch.

Joan Crawford faked an illness so she wouldn't have to attend the Academy Awards because she was convinced she wouldn't win.  When she heard she did, she immediately jumped out of bed and began to put on make up to meet the press.  God, she was just the worst.

175. Spellbound

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

All right so this is a strange one.  On the one hand, it is Hitchcock so it is very entertaining and has excellent pacing.  On the other hand, it is probably one of the most offensive and weird Hitchcock ever made.

We have a great cast here at least.  Ingrid Bergman plays the typical female doctor seen in the 40s.  In other words, even though she is a successful doctor she is not happy until she falls in love, at which point she loses her smarts and starts acting like melodramatic teenager.  Opposite Ingrid is Gregory Peck and I must admit, I completely fell in love with him from this movie in high school and subsequently had a bunch of pictures of him in my locker.  Ah, young love.  We also have a stereotypical German.

This movie is fun, though; the plot will keep you guessing.  I would love to laugh about the silliness of some of the twists but I don't want to spoil it for you so I will refrain.  When Peck became terrified of the table cloth, though, I almost spit out my drink.

Most people will say that the film is amazing for its dream sequence, one which only goes on for about two minutes.  I think every Hitchcock is indispensable, though, so watch it!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

One of the first Hollywood films that dealt with psychoanalysis.

Dream sequence created by Salvador Dali.  Ew, I knew he would creep up again.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: Forty minutes in, coming out of the elevator.

Alfred Hitchcock referred to the film as "just another manhunt wrapped up in pseudo-psychoanalysis". 

174. The Battle of San Pietro

The Battle of San Pietro
Directed by John Huston

I knew going into this that this wouldn't be the most enjoyable experience.  War documentaries aren't really my thing; I seem to prefer movies where I learn as little as possible.  The positive side was that this movie is only around thirty minutes long.

I set this film up in my sister's bedroom.  She seemed to take this as an excellent time to not study the film, but to teach me how to walk in heels since apparently I am the disgrace of the family when I wear them.  A decision is still pending on whether or not I am allowed to wear my black heels Saturday night.  I imagine you will eagerly await the verdict with me.

Anyway, I didn't pay to much attention as soon as the narrator started droning on about the soldiers.  It is a load of propaganda fluff anyway so I didn't miss too much wisdom.  Skip it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

US army considered it too damaging to a soldier's morale to be shown.

Cut to a 32 minute version since it was considered to anti war.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

173. Murder, My Sweet

Murder, My Sweet
Farewell My Lovely
Directed by Edward Dymtryk

I had a bit of an adventure with this one, owing to the fact that I couldn't find it anywhere.  But don't fret, readers, this fearless blogger didn't let you down!  I instead went to the University of Michigan film library with my sister.  I don't even go to U of M so you can see how much I sacrifice for my followers.  

Anyway, the college film library is one of the coolest places I have ever been to.  Immediately when you walk in you can see that the walls are lined with scripts about any movie you can imagine.  While my mouth was watering looking at the glam shots that decorated the walls, my sister went up to the librarian (?) and asked if they had Murder, My Sweet or Farewell My Lovely (same film, different titles).  The man looked frankly insulted that we would even imagine that he did not possess the movie.  Then, as if he was tucking us into bed, he sat us down in a comfortable viewing room (which had shelves upon shelves of books about movies, my favorite being The RKO Gals) and put on the film.  Once my sister and I had stopped running around like overstimulated toddlers, we finally paid attention to the movie.

I have a feeling I would have enjoyed myself even if an infomercial was played on a loop.  Still, this film was entertaining on its own merits.  It is simply the picture perfect film noir movie, which includes:

  • Dames who have been around the block
  • Someone threatening someone else with a swift punch in the nose
  • Fast talking private detective
  • Based on a Raymond Chandler novel
  • Men being sexist but somehow still getting the girl
  • Flashbacks
  • A stupid thug
  • So many plot twists that I could not possibly recount them all here
  • A not so unpredictable ending
  • People getting knocked out by punches that wouldn't knock someone out in a million years
  • Insults that really make no sense at all
I could go on for hours but I would rather just let you experience the fun for yourself.  Good luck finding it, though.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

RKO was on the verge of bankruptcy when they signed Dick Powell on.  Aren't they always on the verge of bankruptcy?

Name changed so that people wouldn't think it was a sappy romance.

Sunday, July 8, 2012

172. Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity
Directed by Billy Wilder

How could I have known that murder could sometimes smell like honeysuckle?

There are some films that epitomize their genre like no other.  Titanic is romance.  Star Wars is science fiction.  Double Indemnity is film noir.  The perfect evidence for this is the quote I have above.  Even if you haven't seen this movie, I am sure you can picture some fast talking, serious man saying this in a shadowy room.  I love this film, mostly because it is the perfect food for a dreary Monday.

For those of you who don't know, this movie is about an insurance investigator who gets involved with a slipper dame.  She plans on murdering her husband for money and wants the all-American Fred MacMurrey to get involved.  Naturally, things go sour.  Ooo, talking like this makes me feel like Newman at 0:54.
Anyway, this is an astounding film in all aspects, whether it be acting, plot, or script.  Check it out with some hot chocolate and a cloudy day. RATING: ***** Interesting Facts:  Billy Wilder and Raymond Chandler did not get along during filming.  Chandler claimed Wilder flaunting his womanizing to make him feel bad. #29 in AFI's top 100 movies.  Remake with Robert Redford never got off the ground.  Thank the lord.  No one realized how stupid Barbara Stanwyck's wig looked until after filming a large portion of the scenes.

171. Ivan Groznyy

Ivan Groznyy
Ivan the Terrible Part I and II
Directed by Sergei Eisenstein

Don't worry, I will not make an obvious "this movie is terrible" joke. See?  I am growing.

This movie is available on YouTube without any subtitles.  I had recently read an article about how watching movies without subtitles enhances the experience, so I decided to go for it and watch it with my sister.  This actually worked out well for this movie since it is visually stunning more than anything.  Every once in awhile I would read out loud part of the synopsis from IMDb and then we would go on chattering away.  It was actually pretty fun except at the end when my sister clearly wanted me to leave so she could go to bed but I wouldn't budge until the movie was done.  I do it for you, readers.

This was certainly a blast from the past since we haven't seen Eisenstein since the days of old (aka silent movies).  I have to admit, it was sort of like walking into an ex: please go away; I have moved on!  No one can argue that this movie isn't striking visually but the acting is a bit overdone.  I am not really an expert on the plot (I was convinced it was a musical for a large portion of the film) but from what I gathered, it wasn't anything amazing.  Also, what was the deal with the random color scenes?  I felt like I was watching Phantom of the Opera again.  Eisenstein clearly is stuck in the silent age with Chaplin.

Roger Ebert wrote a great line about this movie: "liking it has become more of a duty than a pleasure."  Spot on, Rog.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

One of the films included in "50 Worst Films of All Time."

Took over three years to make.

Color scenes made with bi-color which is why it looked like shit.

Stalin withheld the second part because of its depiction of the madness of Ivan.  Released after Stalin's death.

Try your hand at Russian!  Fun for the whole family!

Monday, July 2, 2012

170. Henry V

Henry V
Directed by Laurence Olivier

I am as much of Billy Shakes fan as the next guy, though I have never been one for his historical plays.  However, I think I watched this awhile ago when something unfortunate happened with a fellow and I was super depressed.  Instead of being a normal person and watching Bridget Jones, I put this in.  A 135 minute epic was not exactly medicine for a broken heart.

I do, however, like Laurence and the film adaptations of Shakespeare's plays; the timing was just off for me.  The speeches in this movie are incredible and the color, far from looking gaudy, looks really modern.  There is a certain self-indulgence to be detected in this movie. Also, since this a British film, it has to be annoyingly patriotic.  Still, check it out (just not if you are in a wallowing mood).

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Had to stop filming while a real battle went on and then continued to shoot the scene.

Winston Churchill made cuts to the script.

169. Gaslight

Directed by George Cukor

Two short posts before I hit the proverbial sack.

I found this movie enormously frustrating.  Don't get me wrong; it is a great flick.  The film centers on Ingrid Bergman as she struggles to hold onto her sanity despite her husband's efforts to make her go postal.  Since the viewer knows what is going on and Bergman is kind of wimp, the entire film is just one long "NOO!".  This doesn't necessarily make it a bad movie, just an infuriating one.  This is actually a credit to the filmmakers because they get you so involved with the characters.

The costumes are particularly beautiful since the film is set in 1885, and I usually don't even notice these things. Ingrid Bergman rocks this picture as does evil Charles Boyer and Joseph "Johnny Everyman" Cotten. Although the plot is not surprising in the least, it is an engaging movie and one that should be watched.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The studio tried to get all prints of the 1940 version of this film destroyed.

Bergman spent time in a mental institution to research for the role.

168. Laura

Directed by Otto Preminger and Rouben Mamoulian

I really should watch this again; it has been quite a few years.  So many movies, so little time...

This movie is about a tough as nails detective (Dana Andrews; previously in The Ox Bow Incident) as he tries to figure out what happened to Laura.  There are lots of interesting secondary characters in this film as well.  One man who is particularly fascinated with Laura is said to have been the first example of a man who wishes he was a woman in cinema.

Laura is one of those Nana-esque characters that all men automatically love the minute they see her.  In fact, I see a lot of myself in Laura (jk).  This is a fun whodunnit (though I would opt for The Thin Man series anytime) that perfectly encompasses the 40s era.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Ranked #4 in AFI's top 10 mystery movies.

Laura's Theme was actually titled "Judy" in honor of Judy Garland.

167. To Have And Have Not

To Have And Have Not (Casablanca 2: This Time It's Personal)
Directed by Howard Hawks

Don't get me wrong, I love a good Bogie movie.  However, when we continually watch unique, innovative movies and then see the same Bogie picture over and over again (The Big Sleep, Casablanca, Maltese Falcon, etc.) it gets a bit old.

What is truly amazing about this film is the chemistry that Bogie and Bacall have.  You know immediately that it goes beyond what they do in front of the cameras.  I actually like this movie more than Casablanca; although it is basically the same plot, the dialogue definitely heats up with this one (you do know how to whistle, Steve?).

A forgettable film but it works well in the genre and can satisfy a certain kind of mood.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Bacall and Bogie fell in love during this film.  It was afterward said that Bogie fell in love with her character, one that she had to keep playing for the rest of her life.  It is also said that Hawks was jealous that fell for Bogie and not him.

Bacall was only 19.

Bacall put a whistle in Bogart's coffin when he died.

166. Meet Me In St. Louis

Meet Me In St. Louis
Directed by Vincente Minnelli

I saw this film awhile ago and I distinctly remember being vaguely creeped out.  Lo and behold, the book took the same dark stance I did.

This film is about a family who is being forced to move away to New York which means moving away from parties, boys, and other things girls are interested in.  This is a funny little film.  It, of course, has the bouncy musical numbers like "Trolley Song" but it also has some chilling scenes like during Halloween or when Tootie goes absolutely nuts.  Also, if you own The Book, look up the picture they have of this movie.  It is beyond creepy.

Judy Garland is always fun to watch, even in her worst films.  I personally like this movie despite its quirkiness.  Any film where the characters say they are "ginger peachy" is a movie for me.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Minelli and Garland married after this film.  Thus Liza Minelli was born and could go on to make horrible movies.

A lighting man tried to kill Margaret O'Brien by dropping a spotlight on her head.  He was later admitted to a mental institution.  Okay...

165. Ossessione

Directed by Luchino Viscounti

This is one of those films that I feel is entirely unnecessary to put on the list.  The screenplay of this movies was completely stolen from The Postman Always Rings Twice.  Not only is this film a blatant piece of plagiarism, but The Postman Always Rings Twice is on the list in the near future.  Why do we need both?

For those of you don't know, this movie centers on a tramp who comes to live with a beautiful woman and her entirely unsympathetic husband.  She falls in love with him (it is hard to tell if he falls in love with her since this actor is completely devoid of emotion) and, as in all film noir movies, their love cannot be without murder.

The pacing is slow and the actors don't carry the intensity that Lana Turner and John Garfield.  Overall just a worse version of a future film; I have no idea why this would be considered essential viewing.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Kept off American screens until 1976 due to copyright issues.

Films negatives were destroyed by fascists.