Sunday, March 31, 2013

325. Bharat Mata

Bharat Mata
Mother India
1957
Directed by Mehboob Khan












Well, that was an ordeal.  Not only was my version's subtitles so bad that they were almost laughable, but the film was about three hours long.  Good thing I have an enormous amount of candy from today or I would be in quite a temper.

I was so confused by this movie that I am not even qualified to write a summary.  Hell, I do not even know what genre it was.  There were musical numbers that's purpose is unknown to me because there were no subtitles on the songs.  The score a lot of the times seemed like it could be in a screwball romance; there was a lot of "silly trouble brewing" music.  However, after reading the synopsis, this movie really is depressing as hell and not happy in the slightest.  I am so clueless.

Well, even if I could understand what was going on, the film was way too long and the acting was only okay.  We will just chalk this up to a fail and call it a day.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

India's first Oscar nomination.


Saturday, March 30, 2013

324. Bridge on the River Kwai

Bridge on the River Kwai
1957
Directed by David Lean










Wow.  If there was ever a movie made exclusively for men, it is this one.  I enjoy a lot of movies that were made for a male audience, but this film is my breaking point.  I mean, it is a movie about the construction of a bridge.  I get bored just thinking about it.

I think this film is excessively long and incredibly boring, but there is no denying that is beautiful.  Even the picture I have above shows that the color and the cinematography is just gorgeous.

The Japanese want the captured British soldiers to build a bridge.  They don't want to build the bridge. Oh wait, yes they do.  Oh wait again, now they want to destroy the bridge.

All right, so obviously I am simplifying what some consider to be the greatest film of all time.  In fact, readers who are die hard film buffs are probably convulsing in their seats right now.  Still, I just could not get into this movie; it is not for most women and certainly not for me.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

The bridge cost $250,000.

David Lean almost drowned during filming when he was swept into the river but Geoffrey Horne saved is life.

Alec Guinness was initially hesitant to play the role of the Colonel because the character seemed so dull.  You got that right.


323. Gunfight at the OK Corral

Gunfight at the OK Corral
1957
Directed by John Sturges












I must have seen around 15 movies about this gunfight.  I googled movies about Doc Holliday and Wyatt Earp and came across over 100 entries.  Really, Hollywood never gets tired of this story.  Unfortunately, I do.

Now, I am not saying that no film can be good if it is about this subject.  I enjoy the movie Tombstone immensely and I even liked Gunfight.  I am just saying the subject is a bit tired, that's all.

Does anyone really not know the story of this film?  A bunch of men feel tougher with their guns and kill each other.  Why?  Because, as 30 Rock tells us, guns are metal penises.

The acting is great; we have both Burt Lancaster and Kirk Douglas. Still, after seeing Val Kilmer nail the role of Doc Holliday so well, I find it hard to see anyone else playing that part. But that is my own prejudice and shouldn't influence your enjoyment of the film.

I am sure a lot of people never get tired of the concept and would enjoy watching this movie. However, if you have seen one film adaptation of this story you have seen them all.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

The actual gunfight was over in about thirty seconds; on film, it takes about five minutes.


322. Aparajito

Aparajito
The Unvanquished
1957
Directed by Satyajit Ray










This is the second film of the Apu trilogy, the previous one being Pather Pacali.  I wasn't exactly eagerly awaiting the next installment of this series, mostly because the films are depressing as hell while still managing to be slightly dull.  Still, I gave this movie the benefit of the doubt and it wasn't entirely awful.

So first of all, what is the deal with this trilogy being listed as three separate movies while The Lord of the Rings trilogy is listed as one film? Talk about cutting corners…

Anyway, there is no real way to explain the plot of this film, without spoiling the first movie.  Let's just say that Apu's family has now moved but misfortunes still follow them wherever they go.  There is really no beginning or end, which is a common flaw in the second installment of trilogies.

I am trying to be nice about this film, but really, it is painful to sit through.  I don't mind sad movies, but when one tragedy after another happens, it is just tedious.  I suppose it is beautifully shot, but that is really the only thing I have to say about it.  I have high hopes for the next film, however, due to the way this one ended.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Ray was never quite sure if he was going to complete a cohesive trilogy, even after this film.  Maybe that is why The Book listed them as separate movies?

Time Magazine listed this as one of the 100 best films.

Thursday, March 28, 2013

321. The Incredible Shrinking Man

The Incredible Shrinking Man
1957
Directed by Jack Arnold











This is the story of a man who, after going through a mysterious mist on a boat trip, begins inexplicably shrinking until he finally has to live in the doll house.

All right, so that might sound like a ridiculous premise that is dated and stupid.  Or, at least, that is what I thought going into this film.  However, it is actually good, which reminds me yet again that sci fi movies from the 50s are underrated and quite watchable.

A shout out has to go out to the actors in this film.  It would have been easy for them to be extremely over the top but they actually make the characters believable, even though they are dealing with unbelievable experiences.

In high school, I had to do a project in my video class where we had to film ourselves interacting with our miniature selves.  It was very easy to do then but I suspect in the 50s it was no small feat.  So kudos to them.

My only complaint is that they had to shove religion down our throats at the last minute.  If the filmmakers wanted to have a religious theme, they should have introduced the concept a little earlier in the movie.  As is, the ending seems rather corny.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The large water drops effect was made my filling condoms with water.

320. Kumonosu-jo

Kumonosu-jo
Throne of Blood
1957
Directed by Akira Kurosawa










All right, if you haven't read Macbeth already, get off this blog immediately and go read it.  It is available everyone online, along with easy translations for people who have trouble with Shakespeare.  Go to it.

I am assuming that if you have reached this paragraph, you have followed my instructions so we can move on.  This is considered the best screen adaptation of Shakespeare play and while I don't think I am ready to make such a bold statement, I can definitely see the merit of that claim.

The beauty of Shakespeare is that only our his plays culturally universal, but they are also relevant during any time period. This is the story of Macbeth (which is probably fresh in your mind seeing as how you just read it) set in feudal Japan.

I worship Kurosawa and the ground he walks on.  Not only are all his films beautiful but they are suspenseful and entertaining.  Combine Shakespeare and Kurosawa and you have true art.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Real arrows were used in the famous arrow scene.

Set was built on Mount Fuji.

319. Le Notti di Cabiria

Le Notti di Cabiria
Nights of Cabiria
1957
Directed by Federico Fellini









Since Mr. Fellini and I have a long way to go until we can part from each other because of this list, I decided to push aside my prejudices (most of which derived from the disaster that is Satyricon) and give this movie a chance.  And surprisingly, it was not, um, awful.

This is the story of Cabiria who is a prostitute, supposedly with a heart of gold, who continues to get tricked and robbed by men because she is so desperate for love.  I say supposedly because she is actually quite bitchy to her neighbor, who is only trying to help her.

I have never seen people gesture so violently with their words as the actors did in this movie.  It was almost like a caricature of Italian people.  It also just seemed like bad acting.  Additionally, the main character is super annoying and stupid.  Um, I mean heart warming.

Okay, so I am really trying hear to make this sound good.  Honestly, it was entertaining and, although the kind prostitute concept has now been done to death, rather original.

Still not my cup of tea but hey, I am trying here.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Giulietta Masina is married to Federico Fellini.


Tuesday, March 26, 2013

318. Smultronstallet

Smultronstallet
Wild Strawberries
1957
Directed by Ingmar Bergman









So we finally reach the end of this blogging marathon, which I vowed to finish today.  It is 11:13 PM right now, so I am in good shape.  But wow, this was exhausting, especially since I have to end on such a sour note.

As stated in previous posts, Bergman and I don't mix.  Like oil and water.  Or like a pseudo intellectual windbag and a resentful viewer.

This is the story of Professor Isak Borg who is on his way to a university to receive an honorary degree.  Along the way he finds himself.  Sappy, sappy, sappy.

As you can see, my ability to articulate what I am feeling as deteriorated; I am all movie reviewed out.  Some might say "just wait until you are ready to write to post again."  I say, there will never be a time or a place that I want to talk about Bergman.  And also shut up.

We have seen better pictures about old age from the list, with Make Way for Tomorrow coming to mind off the top of my head.  Just too sentimental for me.

Hope you enjoyed my blogging marathon; that should give you some reading material for awhile.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

The dummy in the movie is made from a balloon and a stocking.


317. An Affair To Remember

An Affair To Remember
1957
Directed by Leo McCarey









I was so frustrated when I first watched this film that I declared I hated it.  The entire plot centers on a misunderstanding which is so annoying to watch as a viewer that it ruined the whole experience for me.  I feel the same way about Broadcast News, but that is a long way down the road.

For now, we have this romance, which admittedly, has a great start and lots of chemistry.  In fact, this movie made me want to try pink champagne, though I still haven't done that yet.  Two people fall in love on a boat and make a pact: if they still feel the same way in six months, they will meet atop the Empire State building and make out in a weird way that looks as if Cary Grant is trying to swallow her whole.  I wouldn't complain though.

Of course, there are obstacles.  Obstacles that have easy solutions but of course, for the sake of the story, everyone has to fuck everything up.  Maybe this is a sign I get too into movies; I get upset just thinking of this.  Overall, just a frustrating movie, all for a lukewarm romance.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Remake: Sleepless in Seattle.

Has many improvised scenes.


316. Det Sjunde Inseglet

Det Sjunde Inseglet
The Seventh Seal
1957
Directed by Ingmar Bergman



Groan, Ingmar Bergman.  He is to elitists what Carrot Top is to douchebags.  Oddly enough, though, I had already seen this movie, despite my disliking for him.

A man plays chess with Death in order to get his life back.  This is a concept that has been done to death since; hell, even the Sims has made this a feature to save yourself from the Grim Reaper.  Not that I play Sims, I am way to old for that.  Ahem.  Moving on.

Other stuff happens, of course, but this is the iconic image that has allowed the film to endure so long.  I am boring myself by saying this about another Bergman film but really, these movies are painful to sit through.  Nothing ever really happens, which I could forgive if the dialogue was half good; unfortunately, it isn't.  I know a lot of film buffs will disagree with me, but some films I am just not going to like.  Unfortunately for me, and I guess the reader, there are around fifteen Bergman films on the list.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Bergman said he was inspired by Kursosawa.  NO!  You do not get to say that!

One of Bergman's favorite films.

315. 12 Angry Men

12 Angry Men
1957
Directed by Sidney Lumet














What a great movie.  This is a classic that everyone should see or has already seen.  I was talking to some coworkers recently who didn't know I had seen it yet.  They warned me that I might not like it because it is in black and white and I am so young.  They obviously do not know me very well.

This film takes place almost entirely inside the jury room as Henry Fonda tries to convince the jury that the man on trial is innocent.  While this may seem like it could get dull after awhile, it is actually entertaining and wonderful until the very end.

I have never actually been on jury duty but like the book suggests, now I am going to imagine myself as Henry Fonda when I am finally a jury member.  The idea that a group of strangers could come together like that and then walk away and carry on with their lives is poignant and I enjoy watching movies with that theme.

There are twelve jury members that the camera is on for pretty much the entire ninety minutes and not one of them is anything less than magnificent.  Just a great film; if you have seen it yet, for shame!

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

None of the twelve jury members are still alive.

Shot in 21 days.

Lost all of its Oscars to The Bridge On The River Kwai.  Oh come on!

314. The Ten Commandments


The Ten Commandments
1956
Directed by Cecil B. Demille











All right, first I have to get some bragging out of the way.  I recently visited the site on the Paramount lot where the famous parting of the sea scene was shot.  Now it is a parking lot most of time, except when they need a big water scene for a film.  Now that that is out of the way, let's get to ripping this film apart.

First of all, it is 220 minutes which is just ridiculous for any movie, let alone a film as stupid as this.  I guess I could start with all the historical flaws.  Now, I am pretty forgiving with flaws in movies but these errors are so glaring that if you have any historical knowledge, they will piss you off.  For starters, they picked Ramses II to be the pharaoh?  Why not just make one up?  Instead, they picked a pharaoh that we actually know a lot about historically and they don't even get his wife's name right.

Also, we have Charlton Heston here who is just a terrible actor in general.  The book seems to recognize that this movie is a piece of shit but I guess because it has pretty colors and some special effects, they are very forgiving.

It is also disgustedly racist; Moses only seems to care about the Hebrews and is perfectly content to watch other races suffer.  I am just getting angry thinking about this movie, so I will wrap it up now.

So stupid but maybe you will be distracted by colors. 

RATING: *----(okay maybe one star for special effects)

Interesting Facts:

DeMille had a foot fetish, which is evident in the original cut of the film.

Orgy scene took three days to film.

DeMille had a heart attack while filming the movie.

313. High Society

High Society
1956
Directed by Charles Walters















High Society is a great movie.  I remember I first watched this one at a musical movie night with my sister.  We also watched Moulin Rouge!.  Both these films would go on to become my favorites.  Man, that was a good night.

High Society is a remake of The Philadelphia Story.  I may be slightly biased because I saw this film first, but I have always preferred this version.  It is hard to compete with the original cast but bringing in such great songs was exactly what the story.  Also, I have a girl crush on Grace Kelly.

Grace Kelly is about to marry a boring rich guy when her ex husband shows up.  Additionally, Frank Sinatra comes to report on the wedding and (naturally) falls for Grace himself.  Well, actually, her character's name is Tracy, but he was probably into Grace too.

If you still need to be sold, watch these music videos and observe the great vocal chemistry between the actors:

Still not convinced?  Well, then you are soulless and beyond help.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Last feature film of Grace Kelly.

The game show "Who Wants To Be a Millionaire" adapted its title from the song in the movie.


312. Bigger Than Life

Bigger Than Life
1956
Directed by Nicholas Ray










This is one of the movies that starts normally and gets out of control very quickly.  First we have a normal schoolteacher who has to get a second job as a cab driver too make extra cash.  Suddenly, we have a man that is addicted to drugs who wants to kill his wife and mother, The Shining style.

Yet another film that takes a crack at suburban life.  I am not complaining, but we have had quite a bout of these movies lately; I guess the idea of suburbia has lost its charm.

Let's start with my complaints.  First of all, I am used to tacked on endings because of the production code.  Still, this film really needed a different ending.  I will not go on further because of my spoiler policy.

As for the rest of the movie, James Mason is a great actor and the middle part (the ending was stupid) was genuinely exciting.  The film also has a great line: God was wrong.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Marilyn Monroe had a brief cameo but it was ultimately cut from the movie.


311. The Wrong Man

The Wrong Man
1956
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock












Alfred Hitchcock often makes films that are our nightmares, whether it be birds attacking the human race or being attacked by a serial killer.  However, a lot of people's worst nightmare is the idea of wrongly being accused of a crime and Hitchcock fully explores that idea in this film.

This movie is based on the true story of a jazz musician wrongly identified as a man who held up an insurance office. This leads to his entire family falling apart.

This is a chilling film, if not outright scary, at least one that will resonate with you.  This movie is shot in semi documentary style.  The camera stays on Henry Fonda as he fingerprinted and booked.  Most movies would cut away but Hitchcock forces us to watch the entire process which made me extremely uncomfortable.

Like the book said, this is one of the bleakest Hitchcock movies yet. Actually, I think it is safe to say THE bleakest movie.  Still, it is an entertaining movie; Fonda is always great.  We are really on a great streak of movies.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

HITCHCOCK RADAR: He narrates the prologue.

One of the prisoner's shouts "What'd they get ya for, Henry" when Fonda walks by the cells.

310. Invasion of the Body Snatchers

Invasion of the Body Snatchers
1956
Directed by Don Siegel










Moving right along, we have another movie about the danger of conformity; it is easy to say that this film is an allegory for McCarthyism.  The filmmakers claim that no political message was intended.  However, the movie seems so deep that you can pretty much apply any political issue to this film.

But before we get into that, let's get to walk the film is on the surface.  This is the story of Dr. Miles Bennell who soon discovers that some of neighbors are in fact impostors that are being grown by some unknown alien force.

Like I said, I am inclined to believe that this is an anti-McCarhyism movie, mostly because I have seen about fifteen films so far in the fifties that have that message.  Still, I think the film has an ageless quality that makes me think it is more about the power of individualism and less about current events.

Like all good horror films, this movie relies more on psychological horror than blood and gore, which I suppose is why the movie is so timeless.  Also, surprisingly good acting for a B movie. A great movie.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

#9 in AFI's top 10 sci fi films.

You're next!



309. All That Heaven Allows

All That Heaven Allows
1956 (This is how it is listed in the book; I think it is actually 1955)
Directed by Douglas Sirk












A wealthy woman is in love with her gardener.  Society won't like it! Will love prevail?

Admittedly, these two aren't as sexy as say, other gardener/rich woman pairs:
But still, they are great actors.  The performances would be better if the script had been better.  As is, this being a melodrama, the love scenes are hammy and a bit hard to swallow.

However, it was still interesting to see a movie that showed suburbia as not some idyllic place but rather an environment filled with unhappy and bored people.  Of course, this is a theme that will be done to death later but it wasn't exactly common back then.

So like I said, this is a soapy melodrama, which can be fun sometimes and ridiculous other times.  This one was probably on the ridiculous side but still fun.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Jane Wyman is only eight years older than Rock Hudson.


308. Giant

Giant
1956
Directed by George Stevens














All right, I know I said earlier that James Dean was not that great of actor but was a pretty face who died too soon.  I still stick by that, but in this film, he definitely showed some great potentially.  If it wasn't for his untimely demise, he might have become a great actor.  I still haven't seen East of Eden (which isn't on the list) so I suppose I will make my final decision on him then.

Still, there is no question that Elizabeth Taylor and Rock Hudson are both great actors and I think they give their best performances here.  There, that is everything I liked about the film.  As for what I didn't like…

Man, that was boring (no oil pun intended).  I cannot even give a good plot summary since the film was over THREE HOURS LONG!  They are not fooling around with that title (okay, there a pun was intended).

Now, I can stand really long movies as long as the action keeps on coming and the plot keeps me entertained.  However, the film is pretty dull.

So great performances but that didn't stop me from being out of mind bored.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Usually, epics like this movie would take older actors and put make up on them to make them look younger.  However, this film did the opposite, which would become the standard practice later on.

James Dean died during the making of the film.

Dean's nickname for George Stevens was "fatso".

307. The Man Who Knew Too Much

The Man Who Knew Too Much
1956
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock












Oh wow, Doris Day.  Growing up, my mom, my sister, and I would watch Doris Day movies whenever my dad was out of town.  They were always so absurd that they were fun to make fun of.  I mean, the plots of her movies are laughable.  Doris Day fakes a secret admirer to make her husband jealous but then the fictitious lover becomes real.  Doris Day's husband believe he is dying so he tries to find a new husband for Doris before he dies.  However, I do have an ounce of respect for Doris after watching this movie.

Do you even need a review?  You probably know by now that I love Alfred Hitchcock (seriously who doesn't?) so you know this is going to be a rave.  This man can do no wrong.  Well, I should specify he can do no wrong in films. The whole being a creepy stalker is a definite character flaw.

Anyway, Doris Day and Jimmy Stewart witness an assassination. While they are at the police station, their child is kidnapped.  In true Hollywood style, it is up to the couple to find their child…before it is TOO LATE! DAH DAH DAH.

So, of course, the directing is flawless, the dialogue is great, and it is a really tense film.  However, I do have to complain about Doris Day singing "Que Sera, Sera".  I mean, I get that she has to sing in pretty much every film she does but by god, was that out of place.  It was inserted into the story as best as it could be but it was quite unnecessary.

Missing out on a five star rating just because of the awkwardness of her solo.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Hitchcock's remake on his own film.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: Watching the acrobats in the Moroccan marketplace.

The problem:

306. Written on the Wind

Written on the Wind
1956
Directed by Douglas Sirk











I have reached a point where I have seen about fifteen movies in a row (the downside of going chronologically) so you will be getting a lot of posts soon.  Usually, I like to get them all done at once but even an experienced blogger like myself may not be able to write that much in one stretch.  Still, I will do my best.

All right, this was considered a "woman's weepie" film upon its first release.  I know that term is derogatory towards women but it is really fun to say.  Anyway, now it is critically acclaimed and recognized as a masterpiece so it made the list.

This movie is like a soap opera; or rather, what I would imagine a soap opera would be, since I have never actually watched one.  Suffice to say, it is extremely melodramatic and has so many improbable plot lines that it would be really hard to explain.  Let's just say there is a love triangle between Rock Hudson, Lauren Bacall, and Robert Stack.

First of all, what a great cast.  I am used to seeing Rock Hudson with Doris Day and Lauren Bacall with Humphrey Bogart so I was a little unsure about seeing them without their better halves. However, the two fared well together and had enough chemistry to make it believable.

Also, the movie gets points for being only 90 minutes; any longer and I would have been exhausted.  Still, the film does border on ridiculous at times.  In fact, if I fell in love with this film, I would consider it a guilty pleasure, not a must see film.  As is, it was entertaining but not essential viewing.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Based on the life of Zachary Smith Reynolds.

Bogart disliked the film and urged Bacall to not make another film like it.

It is implied that Kyle is gay.  This went completely over my head.

305. Un condamné à mort s'est échappé

Un condamné à mort s'est échappé 
A Man Escaped
1956
Directed by Robert Bresson



























I love a good prison story, especially if it is a French prison story; those are always the best.

We are getting a rush of Nazi films here; I guess around this time the atrocities were finally out in the open and uncensored.  The film opens with a really solemn message that commemorates the 7,000 men who died at the hands of the Nazis at Montluc prison.  Just disgusting.


Anyway, this movie, which is based on fact, is about a French Resistance fighter who is imprisoned by the Nazis.  He decides to escape with a trusty spoon (they really should not give those out at prisons anymore).
This is a really tense film; I think when a lot of people think of French films, they think of realist or surrealist films.  However, the French come out with some great thrillers, including this one.  It is also beautifully filmed; like The Hole, after awhile you feel so claustrophobic that you too want to escape the prison.


A must see film.


RATING: ****-


Interesting Facts:


A completely unprofessional cast.


Bresson himself was a prisoner of war.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

304. The Searchers

The Searchers
1956
Directed by John Ford











This is one of my favorite films of all time.  I even wrote a paper on it in my first year of college.  We were supposed to pick a film dealing with race or class relations.  While most people picked Grease or West Side Story (some ballsy kid even picked Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets) I chose this classic.  Of course, no one in my class had ever heard of this movie and kept referring to it as The Seekers.  Sigh.

But this movie should be watched by everyone at least once.  This is by far the best western I have ever seen.

John Wayne plays Ethan, who is a Confederate soldier home from the war.  He visits his brother's home, and it is quite clear early on that he is in love with his sister in law, Martha.  Ethan then goes out to help a neighbor find his cattle and when he returns, he finds that the Comanche tribe has killed his brother's family and kidnapped his two daughters.  Ethan begins a quest that lasts for years to find his nieces, though his intentions may not be as noble as they appear.

Wow, where to begin.  I almost prefer writing reviews on movies I hate; it seems easier than trying to explain all the wonderful things about this film is a paragraph.

First, we have John Ford, so, of course, the scenery shots are beautiful and iconic.  As far as acting goes, I am not a huge fan of Natalie Wood and I know a lot of people think John Wayne is wooden.  However, I think John Wayne is great in this film.  Maybe it is because he plays a racist, cold, and emotionally detached hero and that is really just how he is in real life.

All westerns are pretty racist against Native Americans; that is just an unfortunate guarantee.  However, this film at least starts to move in the right direction.  For starters, one of the main heroes in this film, Martin is part Cherokee.  For another thing….I am totally moving into spoiler territory.  You will be able to figure it out yourself.

Damn, have I really written that much already?  I should wrap it up.  The questions posed in this film are great; I guarantee this is a movie that you will be thinking about for a long time afterwards.  An absolute must see.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Voted the Greatest Western of all time by Entertainment Weekly.

John Wayne named his son Ethan in tribute to this film.

Ward Bond would walk around his motel room naked with the windows open in hopes of attracting Vera Miles.  He should really watch the Seinfeld episode about Good Naked vs. Bad Naked.

AFI's #12 greatest movie of all time.

Inspiration for Buddy Holly's song "That'll Be The Day".

Inspired by real events.


303. Biruma No Tategoto

Biruma No Tategoto
Burmese Harp
1956
Directed by Kon Ichikawa










As you probably know by now, I am a huge fan of Japanese cinema.  I really love how it can be so emotional without being too sentimental.  Unfortunately, this film totally crossed the line to sappiness.

So first of all, if you know anything about what happened in Burma, you know that what they show in this film is complete bullshit.  No, they did not lose the war because they spent too much time singing.  Just had to clear that up.

This is the story of a Japanese battalion that is defeated by the British.  After they are captured, they send their harpist to convince the other Japanese battalion to surrender.  That fails so the harpist decides to spend his time burying Japanese soldiers.  Cue the violins.  Although, I suppose in this case, it would be more accurate to say cue the harps.

I suppose the more sensitive people among us would be weeping at this film.  I, however, thought it was ridiculous.  Making a war musical is a bold move and it really did not pay off here.

Way too sentimental and I am deeply disappointed.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

One of the first Japanese films to deal with pacifist themes in WWII.


Wednesday, March 20, 2013

302. Forbidden Planet

Forbidden Planet
1956
Directed by Fred Wilcox











No genre of film dates more easily than science fiction.  My brother cannot even watch sci fi from ten years ago because the outdated graphics annoy him so much.  He could possibly just be saying that to annoy me, however.  In any case, Robby the Robot is not exactly a timeless character.

Outdated graphics have never been a problem with me.  I think most people will be able to enjoy this movie if you can look past the cheese.

This movie is based on William Shakespeare's "The Tempest".  I am pretty sure we have seen an adaptation of nearly every Shakespeare play on the list.  Anyway, I have written enough Shakespeare papers for a lifetime so I am not going to spend a lot of time talking about the plot.

I think the special effects in this film are quite fascinating. Now, I am a bit of a science fiction nerd so I may be biased, but seeing what the filmmakers could do with such limited technology is truly amazing. Maybe in seventy years people will be saying that about 2013 movies.

Definitely recommended.  I have been saying we need more Shakespeare in Space productions for years.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Many of the sets and props were used in later Twilight Zone episodes.

The movie poster was ranked #5 in Premiere's 25 greatest film posters.


301. Lola Montes

Lola Montes
1955
Directed by Max Ophuls












You would think that a film about a prostitute recounting her life as a circus attraction would be quite an interesting movie.  You would be wrong.

Some parts of the movie are quite beautiful.  There is a great use of Technicolor here, almost too the point of being gaudy but hey, it's the circus.  To make you feel like part of the action, the director put objects in front of the camera so you feel as if you are watching the circus.  However, if I was at the circus watching this performance, I would have gotten up and walked away because it was so freaking boring.

This is a really short review, but really my feelings can be summed up this: sets good, story bad.  After all, brevity is the soul of wit.  So says Polonius anyway.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Max Ophuls final film.



300. The Night of the Hunter

The Night of the Hunter
1955
Directed by Charles Laughton











Wow, 300. Almost there!  Kind of.

Anyway, what a great way to kick off the 300s.  A lot of these films are pretty dated; you won't find a 2013 dealing with the a tribe of murderous Apache Injuns or a Sam Spade mystery.  However, this film is a great thriller that has really stood the test of time.

This is the story of a religious man turned serial killer (hmmmm who has imitated that concept?).

But I digress.  Creepy McCreepystein woos a widow whose husband hid a large sum of money away.  He then attempts to find and take the money away from her and her two kids.

So first of all, we have a great villain here with Robert Mitchum playing the role of his lifetime.  It is hard to get creeped out by a fifties film but Mitchum certainly provides chills.  In addition, the movie's real heroes are two children.  Children are often annoying in lead roles but these kids were charming and strong.  Lillian Gish also stars in this film, which brings me back to the early days of this blog.

I really have no complaints. The plot is fast paced and exciting and the style is beautiful and unique.  A must see film.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

Charles Laughton's only film.

Harry Powers, a Dutch serial killer, was the inspiration for the preacher in this film.

Laughton hated the actress who played Pearl while Mitchum hated Shelly Winters.


299. Nuit et Brouillard

Nuit et Brouillard
Night and Fog
1955
Directed by Alain Resnais









This is the least disturbing picture I could find of the film; if you are a genuinely queasy person, I did not want to freak you out.

This is one of the shorter films (only a half hour) but it is probably one of the most intense films on the list.  This is a documentary of the concentration camps.  The film flips between photos from the Holocaust and pictures from ten years later.  Needless to say, it is extremely disturbing.

All of us are familiar with the Holocaust. Most of us have learned about it since as early as middle school.  I really thought I knew the most disturbing facts and that I knew all about the concentration camps.  I mean, we all have seen at least a dozen movies on the topic and probably have read a large number of books about it.  I even visited Anne Frank's house in Holland.

However, as I found out from this film, there are plenty of things I did not know (or want to know) about the genocide.  The theme of the movie is the idea that history will always repeat itself and the Holocaust could happen again and again (and, of course, since this film has come out, it has).  I am always amazed that it has been less than a hundred years since the Holocaust happened; I can't even imagine what it would be like watching this a mere ten years later.

If you are going to watch this film, be prepared to have it stick with you for the rest of your life.

RATING: ***** (I feel kind of weird rating this but it is a very emotional movie that will stick with me)

Interesting Facts:

Francis Truffaut considers this the greatest movie ever made.

Jean Cayrol, a Holocaust survivor, worked on the script.

One of the first films to deal with the Holocaust.

298. Sommarnattens Leende

Sommarnattens Leende
Smiles of a Summer Night
1955
Directed by Ingmar Bergman









And so, we begin our Bergman journey with this film, Smiles of a Summer Night.  In my opinion, Bergman is one of the most pretentious filmmakers that has ever existed.  There are a ridiculous amount of Bergman films on the list, however, so I have plenty of opportunities to change my mind.

Unfortunately, this movie did not change my mind in the slightest.  When you think of Bergman, you think of chess and Death.  Not exactly fun or light topics.  However, this was a Bergman comedy which is about as surprising as a Spielberg romcom or Taratino musical.

This film is loosely based off of A Midsummer Night's Dream.  In the duration of one night, couples change partners and fun is supposedly had.

Would it be immature to say that I simply didn't like the movie because it wasn't funny?  I feel like I should go deeper than that.  However, call me crazy, but if I film is labelled a comedy, I expect to laugh and not be bored out of mind.

No one claims that Bergman's strength is in comedies, so I suppose he can be forgiven for this one.  Still, as dull as dull can be.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Bergman was going through such a rough time during filming of this movie that he claimed that if he hadn't made this film, he would have committed suicide.  Oh, dear.  Well then, I guess I am glad that he made it.

One Time Magazine's list of top 100 films of all time.  Oh, come on.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

297. Phenix City Story

The Phenix City Story
1955
Directed by Phil Karlson










Wow.  How they got away with this movie is beyond me.  Not only is this the most violent movie yet on the list, but it also depicts the corruption and racism that took place in the south during this time.  I suppose this film was not censored because it is such a B movie.

This film is about an all out war on the racism, protestation, and organized crime that takes place in Phenix City.  Along the way, we get some truly gruesome deaths including that of a little black girl.  That case is dismissed immediately, though, because, well, this is Alabama in the 50s.

Like I said, this is a B movie so the acting could be better.  The screenplay could have been better as well; most of the lines sounded a bit hokey.

This is not a movie that is particularly enjoyable to watch.  The violence and racism made me feel slightly sick and I was very glad when the movie ended.  Though I do not want to spoil anything, I was very disappointed with the ending.

So overall, a gruesome film that I never want to see again.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

One of Scorsese's favorite movies.

John Patterson is depicted as being supportive toward African American families.  In reality, he was extremely racist.

296. Rebel Without A Cause

Rebel Without A Cause
1955
Directed by Nicholas Ray












For some odd reason, it has become some sort of trend for women my age to be really into James Dean.  Most have only seen this film, of course, but a lot of women I know have various James Dean paraphernalia.  I say it is odd, because these women have no interest in any other films from this time and it just seems really random.  It probably has something to do with Dean's early tragic death and that fact that he is insanely handsome.  Still, it is kind of weird because I have always thought that though Dean's career was too short, he was a merely okay actor.

I guess that is one of a million things that I don't understand about my fellow humanoids.  Anyway, let's move on with the actual film.

This is a story of teenage angst and the feeling of being a complete ass without any real reason to be one (hence the "without a cause" part).  Within the film, Dean gets the girl, defies his parents and bullies, makes friends with the underdog, and is the indirect cause of some gruesome deaths.

I have quite a few problems with this movie.  First, like I said, I think Dean was an okay actor, but not terrific.  I also think that Natalie Wood was an okay actor, on the verge of being hammy.

Now, onto what I like.  I like seeing this side of American youth. When you think of 50s kids, you think poodle skirts, Grease, and malt shops.  This is certainly a more accurate and gritty depiction.  I suppose this film is also suppose to remind you of your own feelings when you were a teenager.  Now, I was a complete loser-nerd in high school who never left my house, so I really could not relate.  However, I am sure most people can.

Overall, I will give it four stars.  Warning: even if you like this movie, you will walk away feeling slightly disturbed and possibly sick.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Nicholas Ray rode around with Los Angeles gangs for research.

Real switchblades were used in the fight scenes and the actors were protected by chain mail.

T-shirts sales soared after the release of this film.

All three young actors in this film had early unnatural deaths.

Plato was intended to be gay.  Although they could not say it outright because of the production code, there were heavy hints throughout the movie.




295. The Man From Laramie

The Man From Laramie
1955
Directed by Anthony Mann










I did not take a whole lot away from this movie so it is hard for me to write a decent review of it.  This is the third Mann-Stewart film that we have had on the list and I am afraid that we peaked a bit too early with The Naked Spur.  There was nothing particularly wrong with the movie, but it brought absolutely nothing new to the table.

This story is pretty typical for a Western.  James Stewart wants to avenge his brother's death.  His brother was killed by Apaches (naturally) so he tries to figure out who is selling supplies to the Apache.  Along the way, he locks horns with some of the locals.

Off the top of my head, I could name about ten westerns that are all slight variations on this theme.  Now, there is nothing inherently wrong with this story, besides the blatant racism.  My favorite western is The Searchers, which also deals with revenge and those damn Injuns.  However, many westerns have done this kind of story better.  As is, this movie is slightly dull and very predictable.

Still, Jimmy Stewart is a great actor so the movie automatically gets points for that.  But this is an entirely dispensable western and I would recommend skipping it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

As of last weekend, I have seen all of the Best Picture winners.  WOOHOO!  A lot of those movies were really dull, particularly the older ones, so if you are going to follow a list, I would recommend the 1001 list.  You know, if you are willing to watch around 920 more movies than you originally planned.

Considered to be the western version of King Lear.

Last of the Mann-Stewart westerns.

Trailer:

Tuesday, March 12, 2013

294. Kiss Me Deadly

Kiss Me Deadly
1955
Directed by Robert Aldrich








EWWWWWWW!!!

I thought I should be honest about my initial reaction to film, which starts out with a rather gruesome torture scene that I hope I forget soon.  This is, of course, after the credits roll backwards.  I knew I was in for a rather strange experience.

Mike Hammer, a tough private eye (is there any other kind?), gives a ride to a mysterious young woman.  All the mystery and intrigue around this movie revolves around a shiny briefcase.  Shiny briefcases are always causing trouble in movies.

This is probably one of the most disturbing film noirs I have seen.  Most are fun, satisfying, and not that thought provoking.  This, on the other hand, seemed like a Darren Aronofsky movie.  It blows my mind that this film was made in 1955.

This movie is like a fun roller coaster that makes you sick but in the end you are still glad you went on it.  But be prepared for some major grossness.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Cloris Leachman's first movie role.

The Kefauver Commission named this as the number one threat to America's youth in 1955.

293. Bob Le Flambeur

Bob Le Flambeur
Bob The Gambler
1955
Directed by Jean-Pierre Melville










I would consider myself a film buff but I know very little about the French New Wave.  This movie apparently set the tone for the entire New Wave so I was excited to watch it and start learning about the movement.  And, yes, I do realize that I sound like a huge nerd.

This movie is about Bob, who after a streak of bad luck, decides to rob someone.  Oh and, of course, there is a dame.

So, for starters, we have a likable criminal.  While we have seen this before (Pepe Le Moko, anyone?), it is still a rather original concept for the time that has now been turned into a cliche.

Other than that, there were not a whole lot of things about this film that I liked.  Although the plot sounds like it would be super exciting, the movie is surprisingly dull.  The action does pick up towards the middle but by then, I had already lost interest.

I would still recommend checking it out but this isn't exactly the best of the crime  genre.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Said to be the height of French films inspired by American film noir.

Stanley Kubrick said that he never wanted to do a crime film because Melville had already done the best with this picture.


Monday, March 11, 2013

292. Ordet

Ordet
1955
Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer








What a throwback.  Many moons ago, I watched The Passion of Joan of Arc, directed by Dreyer as well, which I listed as the best movie of the 1920s.  I was quite happy to see another Dreyer film.  However, it was a little bit like seeing the star quarterback ten years after high school ends.  This director is really past his prime and his mere presence is an embarrassment.  Not that I exaggerate.

This film centers on three sons.  One is an atheist, one believes that he is Jesus Christ, and one is in love with a woman from another denomination.  Religion is then shoved down the viewers' throats.  I don't know if Dreyer was always this preachy and just was unable to reach his true level of obnoxiousness because of the restrictions of silent film or if this was a later development.  Either way it was annoying.

This film was also just incredibly dull.  You would think that a character believing he was Jesus Christ would be interesting but no such luck.  Skip it.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Even the trivia from this movie is boring.

291. Marty

Marty
1955
Directed by Delbert Mann












A few weeks ago, I realized that thanks to this list, I have seen most of the Best Picture winners.  I recently decided to just finish up that list as well and coincidentally, Marty was one of the few that I have not seen (the others being Tom Jones and Dances With Wolves).  So far, I have been really disappointed by the early winners and it does not surprise me that most of them were not in the book (Cimarron, The Greatest Show on Earth, Around the World in 80 Days, The Great Ziegfeld, and Wings to name a few).  I was a little nervous that I would be similarly disappointed with Marty.  Not only was it not as dull as previous winners (probably because it wasn't four hours long), but it was a lot more original and interesting.

This is the story of Marty, who is pressured by everyone around him to get married even though he has given up on love.  He meets the girl of his dreams but the people in his life think he can do better.  Damn society!

This is quite an interesting story.  There are very few movies about unattractive people finding love.  I actually found it quite comforting that we don't all have to be supermodels to fall in love, which seems to be the message of most films.  I also enjoyed the acting; everything seemed to be really natural. Overall, it was a great watch and it is a shame how forgotten it is.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Clara's date had to be one of the most embarrassing scenes in cinema.

A remake of a tv movie.

Shortest Best Picture winner.

Along with The Lost Weekend, this film holds the unique distinction of having won both Best Picture and The Palme d'Or.


Sunday, March 10, 2013

290. Ladykillers

Ladykillers
1955
Directed by Alexander Mackendrick












Previously, I have complained about not fully "getting" British comedy.  It is not that I don't think their jokes are funny, it is that I can't understand when they are making jokes.  I actually don't have this probably with British literature, which I have found quite funny in the past.  Anyway, this is another movie that I didn't find amusing in the slightest.

A lonely old woman lives by herself and has no one in her life so fills her time by making ridiculous accusations about her neighbors to the police. See, it's funny because of how pathetic she is!  Anyway, a gang of criminals rent one of her rooms and convince her that they are actually a string quintet. They plan on pulling off a heist but the old lady gets too wise so they decide to kill her.  See, it's even funnier because if they did, no one would care!

I do not think there is anything wrong with the concept of the film.  It could actually be quite an interesting thriller.  However, to call it a comedy is like calling Reservoir Dogs a comedy.  I like the concept of the film; I wish it had been executed differently.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

A younger actress was cast before Katie Johnson but died before filming began.

Peter Sellers did the voices of the parrots.  Groan.  Peter Sellers.

289. Hill 24 Doesn't Answer

Hill 24 Doesn't Answer
1955
Directed by Thorold Dickinson












This is another film that is very difficult to find which is why I haven't posted in awhile (don't be fooled into thinking that it is because I got a life).  However, I finally found it in a college film library.  It is possible to buy a copy but not without paying a ridiculously high price.

I always wish that one of these hard to find films will become my favorite so that it is worth the quest.  However, so far they have all been merely so-so and this movie is no exception.  This is the story  of several soldiers who decide to try to hold Hill 24 for Israel.  Along the way, we learn how each soldier came to defend the hill.

This film is major propaganda, pro-Israel and very, very anti-Arab.  As an American, I am used to this kind of propaganda.  Still, I was disappointed that this movie was so biased; The Book led me to believe it would be more like a documentary.  I will give the movie credit for not being overly sentimental and the soldiers' stories were quite interesting.

This is a tricky one.  While I found the film entertaining, it was really quite flawed, with weird jump cuts and the obvious bias.  You are likely to never see this movie in your life, but I still think it is worth a watch.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

First feature film produced in Israel.