Saturday, July 27, 2013

368. Splendor in the Grass

Splendor in the Grass
Directed by Elia Kazan

This was definitely a nice surprise.  I had never heard of Splendor in the Grass before and based on the title, I was picturing some artsy European film, and honestly, I wasn't in the mood.  However, this was a very relatable film that reminded me heavily of my own high school experience (although no one was as hot as Warren Beatty and everyone didn't have perfect skin).

Deanie and Bud are going steady but Bud wants to take their physical relationship to, um, move to the next level.  On the one hand, Deanie would be considered a slut if she slept with him.  On the other hand, she would be considered a prude and might lose Bud if she doesn't put out.  Anyway, Deanie starts to lose it a bit, in an over the top, teenage girl fashion. Or maybe not so typical after all.

Well, it was certainly interesting to see a film that addressed real issues with teens that are still relevant today.  I mean, we had Rebel Without a Cause before, but I could never connect to our rebel because, um, he had no cause.  But like I said, this film actually dealt with problems that teenage girls face.  Of course, I never dated in high school so I wasn't exactly turning away the fellows.

And, of course, this film can be relatable for guys as well.  Should they stick with the type of girl they want to marry or have some fun with the type of girl they want to, you know, have fun with (after all my parents read this blog).

And surprisingly, Natalie Wood is fantastic in this film.  I had written her off as a somewhat wooden actor but I am forced to revise my old opinion.  One of the many things Past Amanda was wrong about.

So an interesting film that is relatable and well acted.  Worth a watch.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

First french kiss in a Hollywood film.  *Whistles*

Film debut of Warren Beatty.


Monday, July 15, 2013

367. Spartacus

Directed by Stanley Kubrick

It is currently 11:37 at night and my eyes are beginning to close.  Still, I want to crank the is one out before I go to sleep.  Also, I am watching Scream for probably the tenth time and the body count is not high enough yet to call it a night.

We have had quite a lot of cheesy sandal and sand epics that have been annoyingly pious and about two hours too long.  However, this is quite a nice change from that and we actually get an enjoyable, non preachy film.  Hurray!

Spartacus is a slave who, because of his insolence, is sentenced to be a gladiator. He becomes a leader and a symbol of hope for the other slaves and is just overall a stand up guy.

Obviously, this film isn't just about a slave rebellion in ancient Rome, but applies to any rich vs. poor scenario, with the good guys always being the poor guys.

I have never been a huge Douglas or Kubrick fan (I will never forgive him for making me sit through 2001: A Space Odyssey) but this a great film and far surpasses the epics we have seen before.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Kirk Douglas clashed with both Anthony Mann (the original director) and Stanley Kubrick.

#5 in AFI's top 10 epic films.

One of the main reasons Kirk Douglas did this film was to show up Ben Hur.  Mission accomplished.

No, I'm Spartacus!

366. The Apartment

The Apartment
Directed by Billy Wilder

This is a comedy that is pretty much universally liked by everyone; you would be hard pressed to find a bad review of the film.  Today, I will stick with the public opinion (mostly because I am afraid of nasty comments) and gush about the movie.

I feel kind of weird labeling this film as a comedy.  There are some funny parts but frankly, the movie is kind of depressing.  This is the story of C.C. Baxter who, in an attempt to help his career, lets the executives of the company use his apartment for their extramarital affairs.  He has a change of heart, however, when he realizes that one of the girls his boss takes to his apartment is Fran, the woman he loves.

Like I said, it is hard to call this film a comedy.  I almost feel like the movie is pretending to be a comedy in order to convey its message about the corruption of the rich and powerful in a light hearted manner.  I mean, attempted suicide doesn't exactly have me slapping my knees.  I would consider it more of a drama with some laughs along the way.

Anyway, here comes the previously promised gushing.  What an offbeat and original movie.  Even fifty years later, the movie still seemed fresh and unpredictable.  I have always loved films about characters struggling to overcome the stifling ordinariness of their lives and Jack Lemmon plays the role perfectly.

A great film and you don't have to take my word for it; you can take everyone else's!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

#80 in AFI's top 100.

Inspired American Beauty.

The film's famous last line, "Shut up and deal", was thought of on set at the last minute.


365. Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom
Directed by Michael Powell

I am a huge fan of horror films and they would probably rank #1 in my favorite genre list.  This film is particularly important because it was the first horror film to show murders through the killer's perspective.  This will be important fact to remember, because it is a question Ghostface asks in one of the Scream movies.

A creepy guy longs to capture fear on camera.  Using creepy guy logic, he decides the best way to do this is to kill women and film their dying screams on camera.

This was a weird film.  I forced my friends to watch it with me and they completely hated it.  I have now convinced my friends to watch so many weird films from the list that I am now forbidden to pick movies.

I, however, had a different reaction.  While I can't see watching this film again, I certainly appreciate its value.  It was deeply unsettling to see the watch the murders from the killer's perspective.  And although the concept may have lost its freshness by now, there is no denying what this film did for the horror genre.

Additionally, the acting was great; Karlheinz Bohm was creepy as hell and Moira Shearer is always a treat.  An essential watch for any horror fan.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Destroyed the career of Michael Powell because of the scandal the movie aroused.

One of Premiere's 25 Most Dangerous Movies.

Opening scene:

Sunday, July 14, 2013

364. La Maschera Del Demonio

La Maschera Del Demonio
Black Sunday
Directed by Mario Bava

This is one of those cheesy horror films that I kind of thought we were done with when we finished the fifties.  Although it was a fun watch, I really don't think this movie deserves a place in The Book.

In 1630, Asa Vajda and her lover are put to death for sorcery. A mask with nails on the inside is hammered into her face while she is simultaneously set on fire.  Naturally, when she becomes a creepy zombie girl, she decides to seek revenge.

You can tell by the above paragraph that the level of gore in this film is quite surprising for 1960.  Of course, in movies like this the acting is always rather awful.  Still, it is a fun movie complete with blood spurts and flying body parts.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Tim Burton's favorite horror film.


363. Psycho


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

This is by far the scariest film I have ever seen in my life.  I am judging this not by how I feel about it now (though I am still wary of shower curtains) but how I felt the first time I had seen it. I remember watching it for the first time with my sister and consequently sleeping in her room during the night.  I woke up screaming that night and the following morning I insisted on a buddy system being implemented in our house.

Now considering the fact that most people who watch this film aren't fifteen year old girls who have never seen a scary movie before like I was, you might not have such a visceral reaction.  However, I think the score, the performances, and the creepy way the killer prowls are enough to make anyone lock their bathroom door before taking a shower.

Marion Crane takes off with her boss's money with plans to run away with her boyfriend.  She decides to stop at the Bates Motel due to the heavy rain.  One thing leads to another and long story short, my brother is playing the Psycho theme outside the bathroom while I am taking a shower and I am crying.

All right, so obviously I found this movie terrifying.  However, it is also one of my favorite movies.  The fact that Alfred Hitchcock was able to scare people with a mere silhouette is extremely impressive. The twist is shocking and surprisingly still original.  One of the greatest horror films of all time.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Hitchcock bought as many copies of the novel as he could in an attempt to keep the ending secret.

Before Marion steals the money her purse and bra are white.  However, after she takes the cash, her purse and underwear are black.  This was an attempt by Alfred Hitchcock to show Marion's transition from good to evil.

First movie in America to show a toilet flush.

#14 in AFI's top 100.

Janet Leigh took baths for the rest of her life after watching the shower scene.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: Four minutes in outside Marion's office.


Thursday, July 11, 2013

362. Hanyeo

The Housemaid
Directed by Kim Ki-Young

Okay, I don't know if it is the mood I have been in (I have been a bit apathetic since my surgery) or we are just in a streak of crappy films, but I have really been hating these movies lately.  Consequently, I have not wanted to write reviews as much, seeing as how I am pretty much trashing every film I see.  However, we are going to brave this slump, and hopefully, it will end soon.

The Housemaid, like many crazy bitch movies, begins with a mutual attraction between a straitlaced piano player and his creepy maid.  Eventually, she completely loses her mind and makes his life a living hell.

When I was watching this film, though, I felt as if everyone had gone crazy.  Not a single person was having a normal reaction to what was going on.  In one scene, the wife and husband are sitting in the room with their new baby.  The maid comes in and starts moving toward the infant, saying that their baby should die.  Neither parent makes an effort to shield the baby.  Now, I am not a mom, but I have met quite a few and I am pretty sure that woman would have been tackled before she got to the crib.  Additionally, no effort is made to get rid of the crazy girl.  Everyone seems to think that although she is trying to kill their family, there is no reason why they should try to make her leave the house.  I am sorry, what?

And then there is the ending, when the husband speaks directly into the camera.  It not only seemed hokey but unnecessary and jarring.

The premise of this movie suggests a fun horror film but unfortunately this movie was just plain stupid.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Remade in 2010.

Monday, July 1, 2013

361. Meghe Dhaka Tara

Meghe Dhanka Tara
The Cloud Capped Star
Directed by Ritwik Ghatak

Yikes, if things don't turn around soon I am going to get a reputation as a film basher and intellectuals everywhere will be charging down my door.  However, I can't pretend to like a film that I did not, merely to please my commentators and this film was boring as hell.

To be fair, I am not a huge fan of Indian cinema.  I find that films from India tend to be a little too melodramatic for my taste.  Additionally, the music that is inserted tends to annoy me and I feel like it really has no place in the film.  But let's get to the movie at hand.

This is the story of Neeta, a good, self sacrificing person who is constantly exploited by people around her, including her own family.  Well, they certainly miss the water once the well dries up.

Like I said, these kind of films are so over the top, that even the best actors seem a bit silly when they say their lines.  For instance, at one point in the film Neeta's father says "I accuse…", pauses dramatically, and then says "no one".  Really?  I just did not find the dialogue or the behavior of the characters relatable in any way.

Still, there are some pretty shots and I don't regret watching the film.  Certainly not a favorite, though.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

This seems to be quite an unknown film, so there is very little trivia on the web.