Sunday, September 23, 2012

207. Rope

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

I knew right when I put this movie in that I would love it.  Not only is it directed by Alfred Hitchcock, aka the master of suspense, but the premise itself is fascinating.  Two gay men kill a man and then (naturally) throw a dinner party.  They do this to kind of prove how awesome they are at murder.   They even invite Jimmy Stewart, who they believe will appreciate the "art" of their crime.

All right, there are so many great things about this film that it is hard for me to organize my thoughts enough to make them coherent.  I will try my best.

First of all, Farley Granger and John Dall have some of the best chemistry I have ever seen in a movie.  The mere fact that the three main characters were all gay is kind of astounding in the late forties (it is never said outright but you would have to be blind not to see it).  The acting is just amazing.  Farley Granger is perfect as the slightly weak and twitchy Philip while John Dall counteracts him perfectly with chilling confidence.  Honestly, even though Jimmy Stewart is the big name, I felt like the two other characters blew him away.

Alfred Hitchcock is also incredibly ballsy so he shot this film in color (which meant that the cameras were almost impossible to maneuver and as big as tanks).  The whole movie is shot in practically one room but I never felt antsy or bored.

This movie is absolutely incredible and you have to watch it.  Right now.  I mean it.  Do it!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Loosely based on a real murder committed by University students.

Said to be shot in real time.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: Profile is shown approximately 55 minutes into the film.

Banned in several countries because of the homosexual undertones.

Hitchcock's first color film.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

206. Red River

Red River
Directed by Howard Hawks

The entire genre of westerns is not made for women; in fact, all the women seem to either get killed or are just really stupid in these movies.  Or both (excepting True Grit of course).  While the sexism is a source of annoyance for me, I still really like westerns. And no, not just because Montgomery Clift is smoking hot.

Say what you want about John Wayne as a person; westerns just aren't as fun without him. This story centers on a daring cattle drive.  Clift is Wayne's adoptive son but soon begins to resent Wayne's slightly tyrannical ways.  Will Wayne let him get the better of him without a fight?  Guess!  Go on, guess!

It certainly is a fun story with all the elements of a great Western: gunfights, beautiful scenery, and a compelling story line.  Oh yeah and of course, the whole racism and sexism element…

Still, a pretty fun movie if you can get over the more upsetting elements.  Which is something you have to do for a lot of the 1001 movies.
RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

John Wayne and Montgomery Clift had radically different political views, but filming went smoothly since both agreed not to discuss politics.  They both hated each other anyway.

Said to be a western remake of Mutiny on the Bounty.

John Ireland and Montogomery Clift's conversation about revolvers was said to be a reference to Clift's homosexuality.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

205. Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun

Xiao Cheng Zhi Chun
Spring in a Small Town
Directed by Mu Fei

So embarrassing confession time.  When I popped this movie in, I was texting this guy I have been pretty much in love with for a year now, but has a girlfriend (sad face).  Anyway, long story short, he said I was hot.  Now, this may not seem like a big deal to a normal person but after a year's work, I pretty much could not stop doing victory dances.  Consequently, I was not exactly, um, paying strict attention to the film.

My emotional immaturity aside, I did get the general gist of the film.  This is an odd one.  There is really no conflict and a lot of the problems are very cerebral; I felt like I was reading a Virginia Woolfe novel.  Now, this could have been really boring if it wasn't for the great acting and feeling put into the performances.

All right, so I didn't watch this film as attentively as I should have but I still know that this film was worth seeing.  Unless, of course, you are complimented by the object of your unrequited love in which case, it comes in second.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Often voted as best Chinese film ever made.

204. Force of Evil

Force of Evil
Directed by Abraham Polonsky

All right, so I was waiting forever for this film since it had a long wait on Netflix.  Then I realized the full movie was available on YouTube for free.  I love feeling smart.

Anyway, this movie was a breath of fresh air.  As much as I love film noir, I was getting a bit sick of the formula.  However, as the book states, this movie falls uncomfortably into the genre of film noir.  It is hard to describe the differences between this film and regular film noir; it is so subtle.

So the basic plot of this movie is that an rather crooked lawyer and his hot brother get involved in a racket. First of all, the love story is much more modern and realistic than something like "sometimes murder smells like honeysuckle".  The dialogue also feels a lot more realistic; there is no threats of "swift punches in the nose."

Overall, it was fun.  Some interesting questions about what ethics really are were raised.  Worth a place in this list.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Leo was probably just jealous because Joe got all the looks.  That's a shame.

One of Martin Scorsese's favorite films.

Friday, September 14, 2012

203. Secret Beyond the Door

Secret Beyond the Door
Directed by Fritz Lang

I have really been eager to watch more Fritz Lang movies after the spectacular M (which, by the way, my sister is planning on watching soon because I won't "shut up about it").  I didn't know whether to expect a political movie like Metropolis or just as a thriller like M.  It definitely falls in the latter category.

Now, that is a weird one.  In fact, it kind of felt like a mess.  Fritz Lang always seemed like he was meticulous but this movie is kind of, for lack of a better word, a clusterfuck.  For instance, he kept changing who was doing the voiceovers. While this might not seem that weird, it felt very messy, particularly when you are used to the format of a film noir.  The characters also seemed to contradict their personalities.  Likewise, the story was a bit confusing and I had no idea where it was going half the time (not as confusing as Body Heat though, which I watched yesterday and I had to have my mom explain it to me).

Anyway, I guess my expectations were too high.  I just don't really understand why this warrants a place in the book, let alone in Lang's best works.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Fritz Lang was constantly at odds with Joan Bennett.

Joan Bennett called the film "an unqualified disaster".

Not available on Netflix or YouTube; you will have to buy it.  It was kind of a waste of money.

Monday, September 10, 2012

202. Letter From an Unknown Woman

Letter From an Unknown Woman
Directed by Max Ophuls

Wow, just wrote ten of these in a row.  I should stop being so awesome and watching so many movies.  Actually, seriously, I should because I have spent like two hours on this blog today and I have other work to do.

Anyway, this is my last one for the day so let's churn this out.  I absolutely love stories of unrequited love.  There are frankly, not enough.  As someone who has to deal with this all the time (including this very minute) I find it incredibly relatable and sweet.  This is probably one of the best films I have ever seen depicting this feeling.

At the very beginning, we are introduced to Joan Fontaine (who always looks adorable; how can you not love her?) writing a letter to a man who barely remembers her.  She tells him she is dying and begins to tell her story.  She has really loved him all her life but when he finally noticed, he just used her and discarded her.  Very sad.

A relatively unknown movie but it was excellent and just what I needed after the ordeal I recently went through (I like a guy who has a girlfriend, fill in the rest of the story for yourselves with various Taylor Swift songs).

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Joan Fontaine's favorite movie.

Not available on Netflix or YouTube.  You will have to go to...ahem...other sources.

201. Ladri de Biciclete

Ladri de Biciclete
The Bicycle Thieves
Directed by Vittorio de Sica

Oh my god, give me a break.

I have mentioned before that Italian films bore me to tears.  This one is no exception.  A guy loses his bicycle, goes to look for it, and doesn't find it.  Of course, it is the birth of Italian neorealism and a comment on society and blah, blah, blah.  So, so boring.

I will be kind in saying that the acting is pretty good, considering the fact that these guys weren't professionals.  That is as nice as I will be, however, because I am sick of sitting through hours of pretentious Italian shit.  Here's looking at you, Fellini.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

The director claimed he picked the actors because of their walks.

200. Odd Man Out

Odd Man Out
Directed by Carol Reed

200, ladies and germs!  This is a historic moment.  I cannot believe I have reviewed two hundred films!!  I don't usually have anything special with this milestones; I prefer to wait until the end of a decade.  But really, I feel like I am making tons of progress.  I am extremely pleased and have had a blast.  I think this calls for cupcakes!

Anyway,  I watched this movie many moons ago but I still remember it.  It pretty much consists of a guy dying for about an hour and half.  Surprisingly, it actually isn't boring.  It is also quite amazing that this is a film with a sympatheticIrish rebel, considering the fact that it is in 1947. Certainly never would have been done in America.

Overall, an entertaining and significant film; good way to kick off the 200s.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

James Mason thought it was the best performance of his career.

First British film to win the BAFTA award.

199. The Ghost and Mrs. Muir

The Ghost and Mrs. Muir
Directed by Joseph L. Mankiewicz

Oooo, now here is one I really like.  It is a beautiful mix of Ghost and well...something else.  Sorry, I have been doing this for over an hour.  My analogies are suffering.

Well, in any case, it is great.  The story centers on a widow who goes to live in a haunted house.  It is haunted by a sexy sailor (what luck; I would probably get some creepy twins) who wants her to write his story.  They fall in love, of course, and the romance is one of the best I have seen.

The acting, pacing, and plot are all great.  Pull out the tissues though; or if was my sister, you might just want to situate a bucket in front of yourself and just let it out.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Muir means the sea in gaelic.

Gene Tierney originally played the role playfully but then decided to add more depth to the character by redoing her scenes.

198. Out of The Past

Out of The Past
Directed by Jacques Tourneur

Wow, this is getting tiring.  First of all, I have had to write about ten of these things in a row because I have seen so many.  Also, I am getting a bit tired of the formula.  I always feel like you really have to be in the mood for a good film noir, since they are all the same.  This time, I guess I wasn't in the mood.

Plot: every noir ever.  Fast talking, pretty femme fatales, threats, etc.  You are probably just as bored reading about them as I am writing about them.

Nothing new and certainly not the best we have seen.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Humphrey Bogart lobbied to play Jeff.

197. Monsieur Verdoux

Monsieur Verdoux
Directed by Charlie Chaplin

Oh my god, Charlie, get out of here.  I keep thinking I see the last of him and he keeps creeping back up.  I mean, I enjoyed your early work but you have totally overstayed your welcome.

So surprisingly, this film isn't silent.  His voice comes across as a bit silly having never heard it before this.  I don't really like Chaplin on principle because he was a pedophile creep.  Now, I think this was supposed to be a dark comedy but there is really nothing funny about it.  It is actually pretty good but the humor part just wasn't achieved.

Monsieur Verdoux is sacked from his job and cannot make any money.  So, of course, to support his family he has to start killing widows and stealing their fortunes. Really, Charlie?  That is the only solution you could think of?

Well, there is a lot of political commentary in this movie which didn't exactly help his whole "I am not a communist" cause.  A rather interesting film, but I am so over CC at this point.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Chaplin bought the film from Orson Welles.

Based on the life of Henri Desire Landru.

Favorite of Chaplin's films.

196. Gilda

Directed by Charles Vidor

All right, now that is not even fair.  No woman's armpit looks like that ever.  She is like one of those fembot Stepford Wives.  Please tell me your secret, dead Rita Hayworth.

Johnny Farrell is a former cheat that begins to work for a crooked casino owner, who just happens to be married to Johnny's ex lover.  Extreme sexual tension ensues.  We get some great iconic scenes like the performance of the song "Put the Blame on Mame" and the sexy hair flip.  I have tried to pull this off and said "I'm always decent."  I don't think it had the same effect.

This was a fun film for me to watch.  Rita Hayworth is absolutely gorgeous, which is reason enough to watch it.  I mean, I was drooling and I am straight.  Still, even without that, this was a solid romance and definitely worth its place on The List.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Rita broke two of Glenn Ford's teeth when she slapped him.

Rita would later say that "men would go to bed with Gilda and wake up with me."  That's incredibly sad!

Not her real singing voice.

195. It's A Wonderful Life

It's A Wonderful Life
Directed by Frank Capra

This may be one of the corniest movies ever made.  I have always hated stories like The Christmas Carol and cheesy holiday specials about the "true meaning of Christmas".  It is just so annoyingly wholesome.  Which is probably why I chose to watch Inglourious Basterds last Christmas instead of Charlie Brown.

George Bailey is taking his life for granted so he goes and sees what it would be like if he wasn't around.  For some reason, this would mean his wife would have had to wear glasses if she never met him.  What?

Jimmy Stewart is amazing, of course.  It just seemed to me, though, to be like that special Christmas episode of your favorite sitcom that ends up sucking.  Oh yeah and there is a major socialist agenda here but it is Frank Capra so what do you expect?

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Voted most inspirational film of all time.

Favorite of James Stewart's movies.

Flopped upon its release.

194. Black Narcissus

Black Narcissus
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger

So I practically begged my sister to watch this one with me (I mean, any film with a creepy nun is good, right?).  She ended up hating it, though.  Oops.  Not the first time I have made a movie choice faux pas.

Well, in any case, I am very neutral about this movie.  On the one hand, it is a very beautiful movie; it is no wonder that it won an Oscar for best cinematogrophy.  Maybe it is because I have been watching so many black and white movies lately but everything just pops.  I can only imagine what it was like for the audience back then.

To put it very basically, the film deals with nuns and their sexual frustration, which tends to make them go a little crazy (see scary photo above).  Quite an interesting topic to cover but I found myself not quite...convinced.  Maybe it was because the director's probably know nothing about the subject themselves.  They just didn't seem to capture it well; I just didn't feel the emotions that the characters were supposed to be feeling.  Maybe I am just too picky.

Overall, pretty but not much below the surface.  Much like the guys I have liked in the past.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Lighting and color palette was inspired by Vermeer.

Scenery was all created by the studio.  Kind of a let down but still cool.

193. Notorious

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

All right so I have to write about twelve of these in a row due to my poor planning.  So, of course, I dedicate myself to this blog for an hour while my real work lays neglected.  As it should be.

At first, I didn't care what the movie was about.  The names Hitchcock, Grant, and Bergman are enough to make me pretty much watch anything.  But then I realized that this is a magnificent film in its own right, regardless of the big names.  Everyone is playing a role that is not natural to them: Ingrid as a loose woman and Grant as a Bogart type.  It all comes together beautifully though.

I don't want to reveal a lot about the plot but suffice to say there is a steamy romance and an absolutely insane mother.  Those are always fun.

Hitchcock continues to knock it out of the park with movies that are both entertaining and quality.  Keep it up, Hitch!

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Hitchcock claimed that he was followed by the government after this film premiered because it dealt with uranium.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: About an hour in, Hitchcock gets a glass of champagne from a waiter.

Famous kissing scene was designed to skirt the Hays Code.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

192. Great Expectations

Great Expectations
Directed by David Lean

I cannot even tell you how many times I have started this book and never finished it.  I almost know the beginning by heart, having started it over so many times.  I hate Charles Dickens but I own his complete works.  Why?  No idea.

Well, anyway, I didn't have high hopes for this film.  However, instead of focusing on the dull parts that Dickens focused on, David Lean instead highlighted the more gothic elements of the book.  Also, this movie has Obi Wan Kenobi.  Can it get any better than that?

All right, so there is still a slight trademark boring element that is essential for any Dickens adaptation (except perhaps Oliver and Company).  It wasn't as bad as it could have been, though.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Good story for unrequited love.

Alec Guiness' first speaking role in films.

191. A Matter of Life and Death

A Matter of Life and Death
Directed by Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger (coolest name ever)

All right so I really screwed up here and now my Netflix queue is an absolute mess.  I accidentally skipped the next few movies but now I am getting a bunch of movies a little ahead of where I am.  This means that I will probably have to write about ten reviews in a row soon.  Ugh.

Well, anyway, at first glance this movie seems a bit silly.  A soldier escaped death and now some sort of heaven ambassador has been sent to retrieve him.  But he does not want to go because he has fallen in love with a girl for no other reason than her looks and his desperation!  Don't make him go until he gets into her pants!

Actually, though, it is a pretty beautiful film.  Earth is always in color and the "beyond" is in black and white.  This stark contrast is pretty effective and poetic.  Also, the pacing is excellent.  Immediately, you are thrown into the action and it doesn't really stop until the end.

So P and P narrowly avoid being lame and hokey.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Kim Hunter was recommended by Alfred Hitchcock.

The cinematographer breathed on the camera lens to provide a foggy effect.