Wednesday, January 30, 2013

274. Rear Window

Rear Window
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

This is a great film and definitely one of my favorites.  I don't think I have ever met someone who has seen this movie and not liked it; it is just that good.

All right, so if you haven't seen this movie yet I don't know what you have been doing with your life.  Actually, you were probably having a life instead of just sitting in the dark watching films like I do.  In any case, I will still give a brief summary.  James Stewart plays a journalist who is stuck in his apartment after he breaks his leg.  To entertain himself, he watches the neighbors across the street.  He enjoys his creeping until he sees something suspicious in one of the apartment buildings.  DAH DAH DAH!

The acting is, of course, fabulous.  Even I am into Grace Kelly and I am straight.  The mystery is just part of the fun; watching the other neighbors is just as interesting.  Everyone enjoys people watching (though maybe we normally don't take it as far as sitting in front of our neighbors' window with binoculars) and Hitchcock developed a kind of ecosystem of humans in the apartment complex.  A fascinating, exciting film.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

I visited where the movie was shot at Paramount Studios!

#48 in AFI's top 100.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: Winding clock in apartment, around 30 minutes in.

Inspired by the real life murder case of Patrick Mahon.

273. Animal Farm

Animal Farm
Directed by Joy Batchelor and John Halas

It is more than likely that you have read this novel; most high schools require it and it is so short that you can finish it in one sitting.  I haven't read it since tenth grade but I remember getting chills at the end and thoroughly enjoying it.  But this isn't a review of the book but a review of the rather unsettling animated adaptation.

This is is the story of how animals took over the farm from corrupt farmers.  Of course, it is really the story of the Russian revolution.  I vaguely recall having to make a chart in high school that equating each figure in this movie to a figure in the Revolution.  Anyway, it is a pretty obvious and effective comparison.

WIth an animated feature, I sort of expected cuddly animals and fairytale-esque scenery.  However, this movie is strictly for adults (apparently many people brought their kids to the theater and were horrified that they had).  The animation is actually quite good, though, proving once again that animated films can be enjoyed by adults as well.

I really liked this movie, mostly because I enjoyed the book and this is a pretty faithful adaptation.  The ending is a bit more dark in the novel and I would have liked if they had gone all out with the original ending.  Still, a good film and one that should be seen by fellow Orwell lovers.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Maurice Denhan did the voices of all the animals.

Much of the film's budget was provided by the CIA.

Monday, January 28, 2013

272. Les Diaboliques

Les Diaboliques
Directed by Henri-Georges Clouzot

Clouzot is one of the best discoveries I have had on the list by far.  He is the master of tension; apparently Alfred Hitchcock made Psycho in order to get his title back as the King of Suspense, which he felt like Clouzot took from him.

Anyway, from the man who brought us Wages of Fear, we get this next gem.  This is the story of two women who are horribly treated by Michel, who is both emotionally and physically ambusive.  In true horror film fashion, they decide to kill him and dump his body in the pool.  There is a special disclaimer at the end of the movie that asks you not to spoil the film for anyone.  I am not quite sure how far into the plot I can go without spoiling it so I will just stop there.

Like I said, this Clouzot is an expert at building up suspense; last time he did it with explosive trucks, this time it is with the character of Michel scaring the bejesus out of us.  I guarantee edge of the seat viewing.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Alfred Hitchcock also attempted to buy the rights to this story; it is said that Clouzot beat him by only a few hours.

Sunday, January 27, 2013

271. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers

Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Directed by Stanley Donen

Oh my.  Is there really that much I can say about this movie?

Men kidnap women and force them to be their wives.  No, this is not a horror film but a kitsch musical.

On the one hand, you can look at this movie as something to be laughed at for being so ridiculous.  Maybe if we lived in a society where there was no violence towards women and human trafficking didn't exist I would be able to just look at this film like a farce.  But the idea that someone looked at these themes of violence and thought it would make a good musical is really disturbing to me.

Just ugh.  Sick, sick, sick.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

The original title was "The Sobbin' Women".  OH MY GOD!

270. On the Waterfront

On the Waterfront
Directed by Elia Kazan

Another classic on the list that should be viewed by everyone.  This movie has all the elements of a great film: quotable lines, phenomenal acting, and lasting relevance.  Of course, probably only about ten percent of people my age have actually seen it.

The waterfront is run by corrupt bad guys and one of their workers start to realize that he needs to stop them, even if it means doing it alone.  In another words, McCarthyism=bad.  Or at least, that is what Kazan was trying for.

Marlon Brando is a brilliant actor, the film wouldn't be nearly as interesting without him in the lead.  The plot sometimes feels like it is moving a bit slowly but that is only to make the ending that much more powerful so all is forgiven.

Overall, a great film and a classic that everyone should see.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The film was based on the expose series on the New York waterfront written by Malcolm Johnson for the New York Sun.

This movie is thought to be an apology by Kazan for listing names to the HUAC during the McCarthy era.  Also thought to be a response to Arthur Miller's The Crucible.

Marlon Brando originally did not want to take the part because he hated Kazan for what he did.

269. Johnny Guitar

Johnny Guitar
Directed by Nicholas Ray

There has been a bit of a hiatus between this and the last post since I had not been successful in tracking down this movie until yesterday.  Rest assured, I have been watching just as many flicks as always and will be catching up with my posts soon.

This movie is very interesting if you are interested in the western genre; otherwise, it might seem slightly ridiculous.  Vienna (Joan Crawford) owns a saloon somewhere in the west.  The locals, led by an insane woman, believe she is associated with a gang of outlaws and attempt to kill her.  Wackiness ensues.

In a lot of ways, this western is pretty standard.  Bad guys wear black and good guys wear bright colors (see above revolting blouse).  The only difference here I suppose is the fact that the protagonist and antagonist are both women.  Of course, in a lot of ways it is still pretty sexist.  The fight is mostly over a man and men still end up having to save the day.

It also is a bold criticism of the McCarthy era with the policemen being little more than bloodthirsty wackjobs.

This is a pretty fascinating film; it's a pity that it is not more available.  I am not a big Joan Crawford fan, but I still enjoyed this movie a lot.  It is refreshing to see a western starring women.  However, I cannot get too excited over feminism in films because Seven Brides for Seven Brothers is up soon.  Yikes.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Intended for 3D viewing.

Crawford and McCambridge fought constantly off camera.  On night, Joan Crawford took all of McCambridge's clothes and scattered them along the highway.  The cast and crew had to pick them up.

At another point in filming, Crawford was so jealous of the attention McCambridge got for a scene that she broke into her dressing room and slashed all of McCambridge's clothes.  Psychopath.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

268. Beat the Devil

Beat the Devil
Directed by John Huston

This is another movie I did not really understand but this time it wasn't due to my stupidity.  Apparently, no one is supposed to really understand the plot since it is a spoof of quest films, which by 1953 we are all extremely familiar with.

All right, so like I said, the plot is extremely fuzzy.  Still, it is funny and well-acted.  Of course, it was only really fun because I have seen so many adventure films from the list.  So unless you have seen a lot of forties quest films, you will not enjoy it as much.

A unique film that has Humphrey Bogart?  Check it out!

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Humphrey Bogart was in a serious car accident during production and had to be dubbed in some scenes by Peter Sellers.

The novel Set This House on Fire is based on this production.

267. Shane

Directed by George Stevens

This is possibly one of the cheesiest films I have probably ever seen.  That is probably why it is so iconic.  And that is really the only reason you would watch this, to say you have and then move on.

So the acting is quite awful and the kid is so annoying.  I hate him even more than the Home Alone guy.  That is saying quite a lot.

And, of course, it is aimed more at children than adults, hence the cheesiness factor.  Overall, I can see why it has a place on the list but it still sucks.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Last film of Jean Arthur.

"Shane.  Shane!  Come back, Shane," is #47 in AFI's top 100 movie lines.

#45 in AFI's top 100 movies.  Come on.

266. Ugetsu Monogatari

Ugetsu Monogatari
Tales of Ugetsu
Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi

I think if you have been reading this blog regularly, you can gather that I am a fan of Japanese cinema, mostly because I cannot shut up about it sometimes.  Okay, all the time.

That being said, this one fell a little short of my expectations.  That is not necessarily the film's fault, since my expectations are ridiculously high at this point.

This movie is about…what is this movie about?  I had a really hard time following it, to be honest.  I guess it is about two men and their wives; one of the men wants to be a samurai (who doesn't?) and the other wants to be a potter.  Or he already is a potter and just wants to be a better one?  The wives and men get separated.  While the wives are met with horrible fates, one of the men marries a ghost.

I just confused myself even more writing that paragraph.  So obviously, I find the plot a bit confounding.  Still, this film is very interesting.  First, the movie uses the supernatural like I have never seen it before.  Nowadays, if there is a movie about ghosts or phantoms, it is most likely a low budget horror film.  However, this movie used the supernatural as something entrancing and sad.

This is also one of the major films that brought attention to Japanese cinema.  So check it out, though you may require flowcharts.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Also translates to Tales of the Moon and Rain.

Referenced in 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her and Gossip Girl.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

265. Viaggio in Italia

Viaggio in Italia
Voyage in Italy
Journey to Italy
Directed by Roberto Rossellini

Before I get started with this review, I wanted to talk a little bit about a recent trip I took to Los Angeles.  I have been a movie buff since middle school so this has always been a huge bucket list item for me.  Also, if you are reading this blog, I would imagine you are quite the cinephile as well (or you just have really good taste in blogs).  The trip certainly wasn't cheap but it was absolutely incredible.  I was lucky enough to tour two studios (Paramount and CBS).  I got to see the alleyway where The Godfather: Part II was made, the bench from Forrest Gump, the motel from Sunset Boulevard, and a set from Bridesmaids.  In addition to that, I saw several sets from Seinfeld, alleyways from Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and, most importantly the entire set from Parks and Recreation.  Well part of this is just me bragging, the other part is a recommendation.  I have been obsessively watching movies for as long as I can remember and being there where everything is created is just unbelievable.  It is totally worth the investment.  Here are some pictures:
Outside Grauman's Chinese Theater

Paramount Studios
The only studio left that films entirely out of Hollywood

Amy Poehler's Dressing Room
Yes, I am a total creeper
Even if you cannot afford the studio tours, it is a beautiful, warm city and plenty of things to do.

So that is my movie-related digression for today.  Now onto this stupid film.

This movie centers on a couple as they make their way to Italy to dispose of a property they just inherited. Their relationship is very strained and you can tell that they are heading for a divorce.

I have many issues with this film but since I have rambled on for so long, I will keep it short.  First off, the ending is not realistic in the slightest and made me upset, though I won't reveal why since this is a spoiler free environment.  The acting is merely okay; I find that Ingrid Bergman can be either fantastic to watch (Gaslight) or just kind of boring (here).  Just a very dull film; I have no idea why Rossellini gets all the praise he does.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

#41 in BFI's top 100 movies of all time.

Bombed at the box office.

One of Martin Scorsese's favorite films.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

264. Les Vacances de M. Hulot

Les Vacances de M. Hulot
M. Hulot's Holiday
Directed by Jacques Tati

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year everyone.  One of my New Year's resolutions this year was to finish this blog.  This seemed perfectly reasonable in January.  One of the year's many failures…

But let's move forward with one of the worst movies I have seen. I have absolutely no idea what Jacques Tati was going for with this movie.  A large part of it was shot as if it was a silent movie, therefore utilizing silent film humor.  However, there are large speaking parts as well, which makes the silent parts just look stupid.  And to add insult to injury, they are all horrible actors.

The film has absolutely no plot.  That is not just me bitching, The Book even admits nothing happens.  However, The Book lists that as if it is an attribute of the movie.  The Book also has the audacity to compare the comedy to that of Buster Keaton!!!!!

Just awful and out of place.  Skip it.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

Christopher Lee dubs the English version.