Monday, September 30, 2013

390. Lolita

Directed by Stanley Kubrik

I saw this film awhile ago when I was going through my Maybe-I-Should-Give-Stanley-Kubrik-A-Chance-And-Not-Just-Write-Him-Off-As-The-Most-Boring-Director-Known-To-Man phase.  And while I didn't hate this film, it is certainly not a favorite.

This story is based off of everyone's (especially the Russians) favorite premise: older man falls in love with a really young girl.  One of my all time favorite movies, American Beauty, is also based on this story, although Sam Mendes does it a lot better than Kubrick.  However, that is a story for a different time.

The movie's tagline is "how did they ever make a movie out of Lolita?"  Well, they did it, just not very well.  Now, this isn't necessarily anyone's fault; the censors were so strict that they couldn't even really suggest a sexual relationship between Lolita and Humbert.  But that fact is without those clues, I had a hard time figuring out what was going on.  It seemed to me that Humbert just acted as a father to her, albeit while he repressed his sexual desire for her.  But did he suppress it?  Who knows.

So maybe Kubrick's hands were tied when it came to telling their story.  But there are ways around the censors.  Do we all remember the end of The Thin Man?

Add to the fact that this was supposed to be a dark comedy and I didn't find any of it remotely funny and we have a film that I did not enjoy in the slightest.  I do love me some James Mason, though.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

800 girls auditioned for the role of Lolita.

Sue Lyon was chosen for the role mostly because she had large breasts.

Cary Grant was offered the role of Humbert Humbert first.


389. The Manchurian Candidate

The Manchurian Candidate
Directed by John Frankenheimer

For some reason, I love movies that have freaky moms.  I find scary mothers more frightening than anything in the horror genre.  Probably why I still can't take a shower in a shower that has a curtain.  In any case, this was a great movie: chilling, exciting, and well acted.

This is the story of Raymond Shaw, who is brainwashed into becoming an assassin any time someone asks him to play solitaire.  We also get a great performance out of Sinatra as Captain Marco, Raymond's platoon commander that begins to suspect that something is seriously wrong with him.

I haven't seen a really good movie in awhile and now that I have I am having trouble organizing my thoughts.  Like I said, the acting is just fantastic: Angela Lansbury as Raymond's sociopathic mother is truly frightening.  This isn't meant to be a horror film, but I certainly got freaked out when Mrs. Shaw would come on the screen.  We also get great set design; even looking at the above picture you see that the whole film is kind of surrealist; it gives the impression that you aren't even safe in your own mind.

And, of course, there is a political message here as well as the right winged politicians who wildly accuse random people of communism in order to elevate themselves in politics are shown to be complete psychopaths.

A fantastic movie and I will definitely have to check out the remake.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

The army doctor in this film was the first time a black actor was cast for a role that wasn't specifically written for a black person.

An incestuous relationship between Raymond and his mother is heavily implied.


Wednesday, September 25, 2013

388. To Kill A Mockingbird

To Kill A Mockingbird
Directed by Robert Mulligan

I think everyone in the United States was forced to read this book in high school and some of us were even forced to watch this movie in class.  I enjoyed the book while I was reading it, but it never left too much of an impression on me.  However, this is a great movie and one of the rare cases where I enjoyed a movie more than the book.

This is probably due to Gregory Peck, who gives a great performance as Atticus Finch.  I will say there is a fair amount of cheese in this movie, but that is to be expected in a film that has children as the main characters.

I am not even bothering with a plot summary here, partly because everyone has read this book and partly because I have to leave soon.

One more thing before I go: I always thought the book could have been trimmed down a bit and I think the movie does a great job of keeping the pace interesting.  Definitely a great movie; wish we could see more of Robert Mulligan.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

James Stewart turned down the role of Atticus, thinking the film was too left wing and therefore too controversial.

AFI voted Atticus Finch as the best screen hero of the last 100 years.

Debut of Robert Duvall.

387. Lawrence of Arabia

Lawrence of Arabia
Directed by David Lean

I remember when my sister first saw this movie in a film analysis class she said it was the most boring movie of all time and it was a constant struggle to stay awake.  Naturally, I dreaded it and since my sister are pretty much the same person, I hated it too.

I feel like I have been saying that every movie lately is horribly boring.  This makes me seem like I am not easily entertained.  I assure you that is not the case; a rubber pencil can keep me entertained fora half hour.  However, this is another snorefest but at least that is a popular opinion.

This is the story of T. E. Lawrence's life during World War I.  Blah blah blah.  I don't know if it was the length or the subject matter but I fell asleep twice during viewing.  And if I hadn't been watching the time the entire film, I wouldn't have noticed.

That being said, this is a beautiful movie.  You can just see from the above picture how fantastic the colors look in this film.

There, I gave it some praise so I don't completely fail.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

No women in the film have speaking roles.

Movement mostly goes from left to right.

Steven Spielberg's favorite film.

386. L'eclisse

The Eclipse
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

When I sat down with this movie last night alone with a bowl of Easy Mac and Pringles, I thought it was going to be a great evening.  Hm, maybe I will cut out that first sentence since it is beyond pathetic.  So, big shocker, Antonioni produces another major snore and once again, I am wishing that I had never seen any of his movies.

The story starts with Vittoria breaking up with Riccardo, saying that she doesn't love him anymore.
I could have done this scene in maybe like three minutes but with all the awkward pauses, it lasted a lot longer than that.  Also, none of these actors have any chemistry.  At one point, one of the guys says "I am going to kiss you now" in the same tone you would say "I have to go get a root canal".  But I digress.  Anyway, she falls in love (I think) with Piero.  Oh yeah and there is a really racist scene which I think is a tiny bit self aware, but I am not sure.

I really wish we would just be finished with this director because I am getting sick of the feeble "I was really bored"  defense.  However, in this film I can point to the acting as well.  I felt like they were zombies moving on the screen.  Now, I understand Vittoria's depression and as that is something I have struggled with, I realized that the actress isn't exactly going to be dancing around during the film.  However, her portrayal was not at all interesting and just because you make no facial expressions doesn't mean you are a good actress.

I would have to say the most fascinating part of this movie is when Vittoria picks up a pen with a woman on it.  Depending on how you hold it, the girl changes outfits.  I would have rather watched that pen for two hours.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

According to Martin Scorsese, this is the boldest movie in the trilogy.  Oh come on.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

385. Sanma no aji

Sanma no aji
An Autumn Afternoon
Directed by Yasujiro Ozu

Today we are finishing the Ozu movies, which for me is a relief since I find most of his movies quite dull.  I apologize for not writing sooner but since I no longer have DVDs sent to me through Netflix, getting some of these films has been a bit of a challenge.

I really wish I was the kind of person who enjoyed this movies.  In The Elegance of the Hedgehog, the main character drinks tea as she watches Floating Weeds.  I guess I am 0 for 2 because I hate tea.  My version would be drinking Diet Coke while watching Taratino movies.  That is a lot less poetic.

Anyway, this is the story of Shuhei and his children.  Shuhei has a drinking problem and ends up relying heavily on his daughter for support, even though everyone encourages him to marry her off.  Shuhei also has a son who is a total leech, but that is more of a subplot.

The main reason I disliked this movie would count as a spoiler and since I don't have spoilers on this site, I have to refrain from mentioning it.  This, of course, makes for a somewhat crappy review.  I guess I can add that the movie relies heavily on dialogue and there is very little plot here.  While I find that acceptable when the dialogue blows me away, I just was not that impressed.

So we say farewell to Ozu, who was never really my cup of Diet Coke.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The camera remains completely static throughout the movie.


Tuesday, September 10, 2013

384. Dog Star Man

Dog Star Man
Directed by Stan Brakhage

This is kind of a weird landmark for me.  This is the last movie that one of my favorite 1001 bloggers, Francisco Silva, reviewed before he stopped blogging.  Ah, the eternal question.  What happens to a blogger when there are no more posts?  Anyway, he was the only other 1001 blogger that I have seen who reviewed these movies chronologically.  If anyone knows of any other 1001 film blog that goes in order, could you please drop me a comment?  Actually, I am open to reading any 1001 blog but it would be interesting to find a kindred spirit.  Moving on!

Now, I only watched Part 1 of this disaster because that is all The Book required of me and probably all that I could have stood.  This is a completely silent movie (although a lot of YouTubers added music which I silenced to get the full effect).  It has no plot and is pretty much a smorgasbord of images that would stay on the screen for two seconds.  It is a good thing I am not prone to seizures.

I do not like experimental films and probably never will so there is not too much to say about this one.  I imagine the result might have been different if I had been on drugs, but I didn't have any weed on me (not that I ever have drugs on me…ahem…ahem).

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Footage was included in the film The Art of Vision, which dissects and explains the movie.

Monday, September 9, 2013

383. Cleo de 5 a 7

Cleo de 5 a 7
Cleo From 5 To 7
Directed by Agnes Varda

This is one of those films where the premise is a lot more interesting than the actual movie.  The idea of a woman wandering Paris while she waits to see if she has cancer actually sounds pretty intriguing.  However, I must confess I was bored for 70% of the film.

I will say that the main actress, Corinne Marchand, is absolutely stunning in this movie and gives a great performance that might have won her an Oscar today.

I don't know what it is about these French New Wave directors, but they seem to be incapable of keeping my attention.  I suppose that means I will not be allowed to enter a stuffy intellectual club any time soon.  Still, I have never been good at faking enthusiasm and most of these movies are dull, dull, dull.  There are notable exceptions of course.

Anyway, I am in one of my complaining moods so I will sign off now.  Great performance, boring film.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Godard makes a cameo appearance in this film.

382. Mondo Cane

Mondo Cane
A Dog's World
Directed by Paolo Cavara

Well that was weird as hell.  And that pretty much is the only point of this film, to gross you out and to possibly disturb you.  Um, okay.  I could achieve the same thing simply by looking up how starfish eat their prey (look it up; it is pretty disgusting) and it wouldn't take an hour and fifty minutes.

There is really no plot to speak of, just a series of odd sequences.  For instance, fishermen get revenge on man-eating sharks by shoving sea urchins in their mouths.  In another part of the film, a woman breast feeds a pig.  Ewwwwwwwwwwww….

At the beginning of the film, the narrator claims that none of these sequences are faked, which is actually complete bull and the whole is very staged.

This is one of the first "shockumentaries"which I suppose is why the title is even including in the 1--1 list (either that or somebody slept with an editor).  Just not my cup of tea and I definitely could have died without seeing this.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Nominated for an Oscar.

Available on YouTube:

Sunday, September 8, 2013

381. West Side Story

West Side Story
Directed by Robert Wise and Jerome Robbins

This is one of my favorite films and I have seen it an embarrassing amount of times.  Rarely have I seen a musical where I adore every single song, where the actors have this much charisma, and the story moves along so nicely.  I even forced my guy friend to watch it, but he couldn't get over how all the straight men were dancing so gaily.  Ironically, he turned out to be gay.  Huh.

This movie is pretty much Romeo and Juliet: Romeo and Juliet Take New York.  If you don't know the story of Romeo and Juliet or West Side Story, we have nothing more to say to each other.

A lot of people complain about the performances of Natalie Wood and Richard Beymer.  Granted, Wood isn't exactly a convincing Puerto Rican.  However, I enjoyed their musical numbers were some of my favorites in the film.  Judge for yourself:

Of course, Rita Moreno and George Chakiris steal the show, but that doesn't mean that the lead performances were terrible.

I really don't have a single negative thing to say about it.  Besides being a wonderful musical, it is also an enlightening comment on immigrant life in New York.  Definitely a must see.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Marni Nixon dubbed Natalie Wood's singing.

The rival gangs were encouraged to play pranks on each other behind the scenes in order to keep the rivalry real.

Won 10 Academy Awards.

My favorite sequence:

380. The Hustler

The Hustler
Directed by Robert Rossen

This is a film that my family has loved for a long time.  We actually had posters of this film right next to our pool table in the house that I grew up in.  I suppose we believed that that would make us as cool as Paul Newman when we played pool.  It didn't.

Paul Newman plays Fast Eddie Felson, a pool hustler who is determined to beat Minnesota Fats (god I love these names).  Along the way, he meets Sarah, a girl who has some, um, issues.

This is a fantastic gritty film that will make anyone who watches want to go out and buy a pool stick.  This could have easily been an extremely dull movie; I mean 134 minutes of pool playing could have gotten old fast.  Paul Newman manages to keep his character real and interesting throughout the duration of the film.  I don't know if it is his innate awesomeness or the great chemistry he had with the others actors but the result was fantastic.

As for Sarah, I can't talk too much about her without giving too much away.  Suffice to say, you don't see a lot of characters like her.

My favorite Paul Newman movie by far.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

All of the pool shots except for one were shot by the actors.

One of the few early Hollywood movies to have a pre credits sequence.

379. Chronique d'un été

Chronique d'un été
Chronicle of Summer
Directed by Edgar Morin and Jean Rouch

I am sorry that it took so long for me to put up this post.  This was a really hard movie to find and I was only able to get a copy on Amazon, which I hate doing because then I accumulate a collection of movies that I don't necessarily like.  And unfortunately, this film falls into that category.

At the beginning of the film, we are introduced to a cast of real life people.  Throughout the movie, they discuss the French way of life at that time.  At the end of the movie, the cast watches the footage and evaluates if they were real in front of the camera or not.

Why am I having such a hard time with the sixties?  Honestly, I feel like every review I have written lately has been a rant.  There are some good ones coming up so I suppose we just have to weather this storm.  Here comes some more rain…

I really expected to love this movie and I was surprised when I found myself bored out of my mind.  I suppose part of the reason I didn't care for this film was that it was merely an experiment by Rouch and Morin to see if people could be real on camera.  It wasn't really meant to be entertaining and believe me, it wasn't.

I think I expected to love it because I enjoy watching conversations on film, even if they have nothing to do with the storyline (i.e. Diner or any Quentin Taratino movie).  I guess I have to remember that as realistic as those conversations seem, they are coming from a script and normal people simply aren't that interesting: a lesson that dating has taught me time and again.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

The term cinema verite was coined by Rouch after filming this movie.