Friday, May 24, 2013

356. La Dolce Vita

La Dolce Vita
The Sweet Life
Directed by Federico Fellini

I have a history of not liking Fellini films so when I popped this one in awhile ago, I expected the same old routine: be both confused and irritated by the film and then struggle to write a review longer than those two words.  However, this is probably my favorite Fellini film.  Of course, I have low expectations but I still think this is worth a watch.

It would be too hard to try to explain this movie; it is mostly composed of vignettes.  Each character is living what seems like a "sweet life" but in reality, is dirty and dull. I have always loved movies or books that explore the dark side of rich people's lives.  I find it interesting to see how far boredom will take people.  That is probably the main reason I liked this film, so if that doesn't interest you, you might want to skip it.

Then again, there are so many iconic scenes in this film (hot girl in fountain, Jesus statue, etc.) that it is pretty essential viewing for any movie buff.

Like I said, the story was mostly good (I think the film could have been trimmed a bit) and the acting was decent.  Not great but I least I don't actively hate this one.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The term "paparazzi" comes from this film.  The photographer in the movie is named Paparazzo.

Roger Ebert's favorite movie.

Fountain scene:

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

355. Rocco e i suoi fratelli

Rocco e i suoi fratelli
Rocco and His Brothers
Directed by Luchino Visconti

I am back from a month long hiatus, which came conveniently right after the 1950s Oscars, so we all got a nice break before we dive into the sixties.  I was in Maui, where I went in a helicopter, rode a horse, and sustained a serious sunburn that everyone and their mother had to comment on whenever they saw me.  It was a fun vacation but I missed these blogs and am glad to be back.

I look at the sixties like a fresh start for me and Italian films. We are finally saying goodbye to neorealism and honestly, I could not be happier.  However, this film failed to impress me and once again, I lose another chance at finding an Italian movie I like.

This film clocks in at around three hours and I was terribly bored the entire time.  I am in a weird mood today and would have liked to have watched a film that cheered me up or, at the very least, kept me entertained.  Unfortunately, this movie just followed the same despicable characters for three hours.

It would take me too long to write a summary, but here are a few "highlights".  Rocco and Simone fall in love with the same prostitute and Simone ends up raping her.  I guess that means he won, because Rocco then gives her up.  Lovely.  The film makes up for though by having terrible actors.

So boring and disturbing.  I had to double check to see if I was watching Fellini film.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

One of Francis Ford Coppola's favorite films.

Footage was cut for US release since it was deemed too violent.

Monday, May 6, 2013

1950s Oscars

Hey everybody!
It is time of year again, ladies and gentlemen.  I am officially done with the 1950s. Now that we are saying goodbye to the Golden Age of Hollywood and the production code, I am sure there are plenty more treats in store.  I feel like I found the most obscure gems in this decade and while I am sad to see it go, I am excited for the sixties.  So, as always, use the comment section to debate, add your own categories, or call me a cottonheadedniggymuggins.

Wages of Fear
The Searchers
Some Like It Hot
Anatomy of a Murder
High Society
Rear Window
Seven Samurai
Sunset Boulevard
Night of the Hunter
12 Angry Men
Guys and Dolls
The African Queen

BEST DIRECTOR: Akira Kurosawa
Jacques Becker
Alfred Hitchcock
Billy Wilder
Otto Preminger
Charles Laughton
John Huston

BEST ACTRESS: Katharine Hepburn
Sally Jane Bruce
Debbie Reynolds
Eva Marie Saint
Kim Novak
Jean Simmons
Grace Kelly

BEST ACTOR: Marlon Brando
James Stewart
Cary Grant
Marc Michel
Jack Lemmon
Robert Mitchum

Lola Montes
M. Hulot's Holiday

BEST LINE: "I am big! It's the pictures that got small!"
"I have always depended on the kindness of strangers"
"You're a cookie full of arsenic!"
"You've got more twists than a barrel of pretzels!"


354. Ukigusa

Floating Weeds
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

I rented this movie as soon as I finished The Elegance of a Hedgehog.  The main character was so enthralled by the beauty of the film that it made her cry.  I, on the other hand, was rather bored and unimpressed.  Either I am not as sensitive as she is or I am not as easily impressed as she is.  I think it is the former.

Basically, this is the story of Komajuro, who has a son with a former mistress. The son, Kiyoshi, does not know that Komajuro is his father.  Komajuro's current mistress becomes jealous and Shakespearean-esque schemes ensue.

Ozu has a very traditional style of story telling that I cannot get into.  He is absolutely fascinated with the relationship of different generations.  I, however, am not that interested in that theme.  In fact, I get along fine with older generations, though I do have to help them with computers a lot.

Additionally, this film is basically just like Tokyo Story, though I enjoyed that a lot more than this film. There was nothing new here, though we did get some pretty shots.

Overall, I wasn't too thrilled and I have seen Ozu do better.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:


One of Roger Ebert's favorite films.  Now I feel ashamed that I did not like it.

353. Le Trou

Le Trou
The Hole
Directed by Jacques Becker

The prison films on the list have been absolutely incredible and this one is no exception.  In fact, I think I have found a new favorite (sorry Shawshank).

Four prison inmates who are at best facing life in prison plan to escape.  However, the a new prisoner joins their barracks.  They must now decide whether they can trust them or trust each other.

This movie is so amazing that there is absolutely no way I will be able to do it justice in a short blog post.  Therefore, I will simply gush incoherently for a little bit and hope people will be persuaded to watching this movie.

First of all, because it's a prison film, each character has an interesting back story.  But it is Becker's use of dialogue and plot development that really make the characters come to life.  He achieves the perfect balance; we are never given too much information at once or frustrated by how little character history we are given.

Add to that an absolutely thrilling plot; I was literally on the edge of my seat the entire time.  Part of my love comes from the satisfying ending but, like I always say, there are no spoilers here.

There are really not enough good things I can say about this movie so I will just end here.  A must see.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Based on a true story and one of the actors was actually involved in the 1947 prison escape attempt.

Jacques Becker's last film.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

352. Rio Bravo

Rio Bravo
Directed by Howard Hawks

The one remarkable thing about this movie is that we get a great song by Dean Martin.  Other than that, this movie kind of represents a dying breed of film.  John Wayne beats the baddies (usually Native Americans) and every thing works out for the good guy.  Of course, in the fifties there have been notable exceptions in the western genre.  Still, I feel like this was a bit of a swan song.

Like I said, John Wayne is fighting the bad guys once more in Rio Bravo.  This time, however, we get some great characters who are a lot more interesting than your average western guy.  It is quite obvious throughout the film that this is a Hawks movie, so the focus is on great dialogue and character development rather than scenery and shoot outs.

So overall not a great western but hearing Dean Martin and Ricky Nelson sing is always a treat.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Only two close ups in the entire movie.

Gary Cooper apparently hated the film.

Friday, May 3, 2013

351. Hiroshima Mon Amour

Hiroshima Mon Amour
Directed by Alain Resnais

This is a film I watched awhile ago after being thoroughly impressed by Resnais' Night and Fog.  This time, Resnais does another World War II film, but I am afraid he might have peaked too early.

I knew after watching this movie that I was not a fan, but I had a little trouble figuring out why.  I guess I had a problem with the script.  The words people were saying just weren't believable.  Perhaps it was the translation, but no one talks like that.  I could put an example in this post, but you really have to experience the whole film to know what I mean.  It is like reading out loud a book, rather than two people having a conversation.

And, of course, if I had a problem with the script, I would have a problem with the whole movie since it is basically just one long conversation between a man and a woman.  If the dialogue had seemed natural and flowed, this could be a great movie.  However, I just wasn't buying it.

This is a film that I will give another try.  Unfortunately, it didn't impress me this time around.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

First use of very short flashbacks to represent haunting memories.

Originally was going to be a documentary but Resnais decided to include fictional aspects so he wouldn't repeat himself.

350. Pickpocket

Directed by Robert Bresson

I hope everyone enjoys the new feature I added to the blog's sidebar.  I have labeled each post by director so instead of scrolling through the archives by year, you can now easily find a film you are looking for.  It has also helped me realize how many films I have seen by each director.  I did not know I had spent that much time with Howard Hawks.

Anyway, here we have Pickpocket, which is one of those movies that I like in theory but the execution was not great.  This is the story of Michel who compulsively steals but isn't especially good at it. He tries to quit many times but never can resist for long, even when a hot dame is involved.

Kleptomania is definitely an interesting topic.  I know a lot of people that want to learn how to pickpocket (though they claim they would give someone their wallet back immediately).  It seems to be the ultimate rush, which is why I thought it would be exciting to see it on film.  I was somewhat disappointed.

Let me start by saying that the pickpocketing scenes were very exciting.  In fact, when the film opens with Marcel stealing cash at a horse race, I thought I had found a new favorite.  However, the plot quickly moved to things that I really didn't care about, like Marcel's mom or the romance between Jacques and Jeanne.  Additionally, none of the actors really sell their roles; I got rather bored watching them since they generally only had one expression.

So points for the pickpocketing scenes but a thumbs down overall.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

An early example of parametric narration (the style is shown to be as important as the plot).  A one way ticket to dull films if you ask me.

Roger Ebert compared this film to Crime and Punishment.  God, I hated Crime and Punishment.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

349. Ben-Hur

Directed by William Wyler

I was absolutely convinced I would hate this film.  Heston is a pretty awful actor, there are heavy religious undertones, and the movie is almost four hours long.  However, I was pleasantly surprised and this film is definitely worthy of its hype.

This is the story of Ben-Hur, a Jewish prince, who is betrayed and sent into slavery by his closest friend.  Now, he's on a mission for REVENGE.  Dah dah dah!

I love a good revenge story and this is certainly a great one.  Of course, the most famous scene from this film is the chariot race.  However, there were many scenes that I found way more memorable, such as the first time Ben-Hur sees his mother and sister again.  I also enjoyed any scene between Heston and Stephen Boyd.  I haven't seen that much sexual chemistry between two men since Top Gun.

Of course, I do have a couple grievances.  The religious stuff in this film is completely unnecessary and felt tacked on.  And, like I said, Heston is one of the hammiest actors of all time.

Still, a great, exciting movie that is well worth the length.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The cameras were too big to fit on the boat, so the crew had to cut the boat in half and use it as a soundstage.

Won 11 Academy Awards.

First movie remake to win Best Picture.

Chariot race scene:

348. A bout de souffle

A bout de souffle
Directed by Jean-Luc Godard

We have been on a streak of films lately that I have not been particularly excited about.  Unfortunately, that streak did not end here because Breathless failed to entertain me in the slightest.

Let me start by saying I tried really hard to like this film.  I had heard so many good things about it that I almost felt as if it was my obligation to enjoy the movie, sort like how I felt when I saw The Godfather for the first time.  Ultimately, however, I failed in liking this film and once again, I cannot be the cultural snob that I aspire to be.

First of all, the main characters are super annoying.  The man is petty criminal turned murderer who is basically obsessed with money and sex (insert joke about how that applies to all men).  The woman is a slightly crazy hypocrite who enjoys feeling misunderstood.  Together, they make quite a pair!

This film has been lauded for its dialogue, but frankly, I wasn't too impressed.  Actually, I was a bit creeped out by some of the things that the man said, like that he would strangle her if she didn't smile.  I have been told I don't smile enough but I have never received any death threats about it.  And for that, I am thankful.

This movie is also acclaimed for its innovative use of jump cuts.  So…I guess thanks for that, Godard?

Overall, just a film that I could not enjoy and I can only hope I won't receive comments about how ignorant I am.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Godard could not afford a dolly so he pushed his cinematographer around in a wheelchair.

Godard had to shorten the film but was reluctant to cut out any scenes.  Instead, he trimmed scenes here and there, the result being the jump cuts we see.  So, it was a lucky accident?  I take back my thank you.

347. Apur Sansar

Apur Sansar
The World of Apu
Directed by Satyajit Ray

So we are finally done with the Apu trilogy.  In hindsight, I probably should have watched all of them in one sitting.  Regardless, I am done and while it will be hard to limit my review to this one installment, I will do my best.

Apu is all grown up now and he is attempting to be a successful writer.  He gets married as a good deed after the initial groom is proven to have a mental disorder.  Good on Apu for continuing to enslave his cousin.  Anyway, they have a kid and because the film is part of this trilogy, death and despair are inevitable.

I am going to sound like a broken record here but I have the exact same things to say about this installment as I did the other ones.  The scenery is beautiful, the acting is average to quite good, and the cinematography is excellent.  However, I still thought the movie dragged sometimes and because it is so relentlessly depressing, it will never be a favorite.

The Book notes that the romance between Apu and Aparna is very sweet.  I, on the other hand, felt that their courtship was more creepy than beautiful.  I just felt sorry for Aparna that she was involuntarily married off to her poor cousin.

So I am glad to put this trilogy behind me and I will probably never watch it again. Still, it is recommended, along with tissues and ice cream.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Sharmila Tagore was only fourteen when she made this film.

In 2005, Time listed this as one of the greatest films of all time.

A fan made trailer: