Friday, December 21, 2012

263. The Big Heat

The Big Heat
1953
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
1953
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
1953
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
1953
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
1953
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
1953
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
1953
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
1953
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…
1953
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
1953
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
1953
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
1952
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.
1952
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
1952
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…
250!
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
1952
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
1952
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
1952
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.

RATING:**---

Interesting Facts:

No trivia on IMDb.  Maybe no one understand it.

Saturday, December 1, 2012

246. Ikiru

Ikiru
To Live
1952
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
1952
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
1952
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.