Wednesday, August 29, 2012

190. The Killers

The Killers
Directed by Robert Siodmak

I knew I was in for a treat as soon as the film started and someone asked "what's the idea?"  There is nothing quite as comforting to me as film noir lingo, whether someone is being threatened with a punch in the nose or people are referring to each other as "big boy".

Now, because I love film noir so much I really enjoyed this movie.  However, there is nothing really innovative about film noir; once you have seen one, you have seen them all.  It is interesting to see different cast pairings; for instance, this movie has Ava Gardner and Burt Lancaster as the leads.  Still, the plot is pretty standard and the outcome is unoriginal.

So have fun watching a classic example of film noir and the sexual chemistry between Burt and Ava.  Just don't expect innovation.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Burt Lancaster was the third choice to play Swede.

Ernest Hemingway loved the movie.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

189. The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep
Directed by Howard Hawks

So I saw this maybe eight months ago and was utterly confused.  I have no idea what happened.  I even contemplated watching it again with a notepad to try to keep track of all the plot twists but then I would have to pause it every ten seconds and it really wasn't worth it.  Now that time has elapsed since I saw it, I am even more confused.

All right, so I can't give you a plot summary here.  But does plot really even matter in a Bogie and Bacall film?  No, all that matters is the sexual chemistry and sexy innuendoes.  I am getting a bit sick of it to be honest.  Okay, so they make a sexy couple.  Yes, it can be interesting to watch, but really, a movie needs more than that.  Like a plot.  Hell, Raymond Chandler famously declared he didn't even understand the twists and he wrote the book!

So collectively I have watched about eight hours of Bogie and Bacall together.  Impressive? Absolutely.  Tiresome?  Absolutely.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Humphrey Bogart had an affair with Lauren Bacall during filming and they were married three months later.  Because of his marital problems, however, he would often drink heavily and was unable to film.

Saved Bacall's career after her performance in the movie Confidential Agent was panned.

Bulk of the film was shot during war time.

188. La Belle et La Bete

La Belle et La Bete
Beauty and The Beast
Directed by Jean Cocteau

No, unfortunately we are not talking about the Disney film, which is what I thought when I checked it off when I first got the book.  When I realized it was talking about the 1946 version of the film, I realized that I would have to live a lie with my false checkmark.  But today, the truth will be realized!

I tried my best to watch this without wishing that they would all break out into "Belle" during the opening scene.  Fortunately, I was rewarded because this is an amazing film in itself.

For those martians who do not know the story, I will give a brief summary.  Belle's father is kidnapped by beast so Belle sacrifices herself as a prisoner in his stead.  Belle then proceeds to suffer from both Stockholm syndrome and bestiality.

First off, you have to get over how hokey the Beast looks and focus more on the incredible acting.  I am surprised he is able to move in that costume let alone play a lovable beast.  The sets are absolutely beautiful but because this is a fairy tale movie, it suffers from flat characters and slight cheesiness.  Still, it is fun and sweet.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

After the Beast transformed into a human, Greta Garbo famously said "Give me back my Beast" because of Jean Marais phenomenal acting.

The stream the Beast tries to drink out of was actually a sewage runoff.  Ew.

Used reverse motion to achieve candle effect.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

187. The Stranger

The Stranger
Directed by Orson Welles

Here we have another Orson Welles movie which means another movie that you are expected to worship or else you will be sent to film hell with the remakes of Psycho and Sabrina.  It is a very scary place to be.

Although I didn't enjoy this film as much as The Magnificent Ambersons, this is actually entertaining.  For one thing, it is a thriller and has a pretty interesting storyline.  A Nazi war criminal is in hiding and it is up to Edward Robinson to crack the case before it is too late...DAH DAH DAH!

Orson Welles is a great actor, a talent that is often overlooked in favor of his amazing directing skills.  Roger Ebert has stated that one of his favorite scenes in cinema is when Welles is standing in the doorway. All right, that may be going a bit overboard in my opinion, but it is still a great scene.

It always surprises me how versatile Orson Welles is whether he is doing a thriller, a comedy, or a biodrama, his directing and acting is always done artfully.  Check it out; way more surprising than modern thrillers.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Orson Welles stated this is the least favorite of his films.

One of the first movies to show images of concentration camps.

186. My Darling Clementine

My Darling Clementine
Directed by John Ford

I really had to switch gears here with this movie; I have been watching mostly crappy romantic comedies.  It is actually quite cleansing to watch a bout of horrible films.   But we are back on track here with a good old fashioned Fordian western.

This is another Henry Fonda and honestly, he gets handsomer each time I see him.  The film centers on the Earp brothers as they seek vengeance on the killer of their brother and cows.  Along the way, they meet Clementine and Chihuahua (they are, incidentally, not dogs but women who are complete opposites).

No one does vengeance tales quite as well as Ford (perhaps Dumas could give him a run for his money).  Still, this is probably one of my least favorite Fordian westerns.  After you watch The Searchers, everything else pales in comparison.  It is kind of hard to figure out what the secondary characters motives are throughout the movie.  The characters are unsympathetic and not very interesting but the story is still timeless and fun.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Fonda's first movie after returning from World War II.

John Ford knew Wyatt Earp in his childhood and tried to recreate the gun scene as Wyatt had described it.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

185. The Postman Always Rings Twice

The Postman Always Rings Twice
Directed by Tay Gurnett

Another adaptation of this novel.  Personally, I don't think it deserves to spawn so many movie versions.  The story is pretty standard as far as film noir goes.  Guy meets girl, girl is sexy, and their love can only be realized with murder.  Certainly nothing innovative or original.

I suppose if you want to plot you can go to the Ossessione page on my blog.  I would put up a link but I am just way too lazy.

I personally liked this version better.  People say that it isn't as gritty as the Italian version but I really don't know why; this isn't exactly a sunny fairy tale.  There is certainly the standard Hollywood polish on this movie; the people are more attractive, the dialogue is snappier, and the editing is cleaner.  This is also worth a watch just for Lana Turner's performance.  A fun film noir.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Since there was french kissing in the film, it caused quite the stir among audiences.

Lana Turner's favorite role.

Lana Turner wears white throughout the film even though she is an evil character.

184. Paisa

Directed by Roberto Rossellini

Still not sure how to paste pictures with the new computer.  Damn kids with their newfangled contraptions...

Unfortunately, this is another Italian film.  I don't think I have ever watched an Italian movie I like.  I might be stuck in some sort of vicious movie cycle where I don't like Italian movies and then I just don't like the movie because it is Italian.  They are just all so pretentious.  I may use the word "temerity" more often than I should but even I put my foot down at a certain point.

All right, so this movie is divided into six vignettes.  The book apologizes for the boredom and bad acting but insists the movie is still worth it because me go check.  Oh right, it is bleak and stark in its depiction of the horrors of war.  The problem with this is how easily it becomes dated.  We are so jaded now with war images, books, and movies that this is simply nothing new.

Now I am personally challenged.  Will there ever be an Italian movie I like?  Stay tuned if you can stand the suspense.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The monks in this movie are actual monks.  Yes, I know that is not remotely intriguing.  Really do not have a lot to go on here.

Friday, August 3, 2012

183. Brief Encounter

Brief Encounter
Directed by David Lean
I recently saw the Noel Coward play, Private Lives, superbly performed at a charming little theater in the city.  The knowledge that this screenplay was written by Coward made me more eager to revisit this movie, having seen it several years ago.

This film is about a bored middle aged housewife who falls in love with a man that she knows she can never have.  There are theories that this was autobiographical, since homosexuality was not accepted when Noel Coward lived.  It must of been so hard to not be with the person he loved, and that pain I think is reflected in this movie.

For some reason I always enjoy movies where the character is unhappy with their current boring existence.  I have no idea why; perhaps it is because I can empathize.  I also like that the characters in this movie are not particularly glamorous or beautiful; they are just completely ordinary and relatable.  A really interesting film that deserves repeated viewings.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The film was banned in Ireland for showing an adulterer in a positive light.

The scene when Alec tries to use his friend's apartment inspired Billy Wilder to write The Apartment.

Scenes had to be filmed at Canforth station to avoid air raids.

Thursday, August 2, 2012

182. The Best Years of Our Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives
Directed by William Wyler

All right, here is one of those movies that everyone is supposed to like.  However, when you look at what the film is about (war veterans returning home) you can see this is one of those movies that is rather dull outside it's rather dull, at least for me.

Like I said, this is film is all about the plight of war veterans returning home and not being able to adjust.  It also happens to be three hours long.  This is unacceptable for any film outside of The Lord of the Rings.  The acting, however, is phenomenal; some of my favorite actors are in this movie.

I would have more to say about it but I am afraid my battery is dying and I want to get these finished.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

#37 in AFI's top 100 movies.

Myrna Loy received top billing.

All the of the cast were real World War II veterans.

181. I Know Where I'm Going!

I Know Where I'm Going!
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

I was thoroughly confused throughout most of this movie.  Firstly, I had no idea what genre this film was.  At one point I thought it was a musical, owing to an odd soprano song randomly inserted in the middle and creepy chanting by poor people which I guess was supposed to be charming.  Then I assumed it was Gothic horror because of everyone fearing a castle for some unknown reason.  Eventually, I was forced to conclude they had aimed for romance since there was a pretty sappy ending.

This film centers on a 35 year old playing a 25 year old who is knows where she is going!  Where is going happens to be to a man who is she is marrying purely for his money.  What an admirable figure of feminism.  Anyway, because of the gale she cannot travel to the isolated island that for some reason her potential victim is located.

So the romance kind of sucks and the acting is just okay.  However, this film is remarkable for its sets and location; it is truly beautiful just to look at the screen.  Still, not enough reason for this movie to be on the list.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Paramount uses the script for this movie as an example of a perfect screenplay when scriptwriters are stuck.