Wednesday, January 29, 2014

434. The War Game

The War Game
Directed by Peter Watkins

We finally reach the end of this...mixed streak of films that I have seen, which means I can finally get back to work after I finish this post.  I am not going to lie: I might drag this out longer than I have to.  That might be difficult since this film is only forty-five minutes, but hey, I'm determined.

This docudrama follows the chain of events that could conceivably happen if the Soviet Union nuked Great Britain.  It actually seems real and I never felt like the filmmakers took an implausible leap.

So like I said, this film is only forty five minutes but of course, it makes you think for a lot longer than that.  I know most people are against nuclear weapons (in fact the only time I spoke in my high school history class when I was protesting the attack on Japan; I was one of those weird kids that sat in the corner and never said anything).  I think most Americans just think it was what we had to do to end the war and it was a tragedy, but one that could have been avoided if the Japanese had heeded our warnings.  I, on the other hand, still panic every once in awhile that America will get a taste of its own medicine and have been obsessively following what is going on in Iran.

Anyway, it's a great film that really makes you think and one that should be required viewing in high school.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Won an Oscar for Best Documentary even though it is fictional.

433. Dr. Zhivago

Dr. Zhivago
Directed by David Lean

First Vinyl, now this; it is like a one two punch of horrible films.  And we had such a good streak going....

So a sappy affair goes on against the backdrop of the Russian Revolution and World War I while I slowly die inside.  The plot is obviously a lot more complicated than that and fans of the movie are probably turning over in their graves (I say graves because I don't know anyone alive who likes this film).

I am not one to shy away from romance films (although you might be faced with a hissy fit if you tried to make me watch a Nicholas Sparks movie) but this was a little too much for me even at the best of times.  That's not to say this film is without its merits.  The score and the scenery is beautiful.

There, I played nice.  Just a complete snoozefest.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Panned by critics upon its release though it was popular with the general public.  David Lean swore never to make a film again.

8th highest grossing film of all time.

Peter O'Toole was offered a role in the film but declined because of his poor experience with David Lean in Lawrence of Arabia.  This caused a lifelong rift between the two of them.


Tuesday, January 28, 2014

432. Obchod na Korze

Obchod na Korze
The Shop On Main Street
Directed by Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos

I keep mixing this film up with The Shop Around the Corner, which is very bad, considering one is about the Holocaust and the other is a light romantic comedy.  If I say that The Shop On Main Street is hilarious, I might get some unwelcome attention.

Anton Brtko is told that he must take over the shop of an old Jewish woman in an attempt to Aryanize the town (pretty sure I just made that word up).  He convinces the woman that he is her nephew and that he has come to help her.  All hell breaks loose.

There seems to be around a hundred films about the Holocaust in The Book and I think that I have gotten something unique out of each and every one of them.  I loved watching Anton struggle with what to do, particularly because he would go back and forth so much.  That to me is so much more realistic than a character just saying "well, I am going to be a hero now" and never doing any wrong.

I will say that this film had a few stretches where nothing much happened but I guess the chaos at the end made up for it.  Highly recommended.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Shot exclusively in Sabinov.


431. Vinyl

Directed by Andy Warhol

I, like many film buffs, knew about the notorious Andy Warhol film Empire (eight hours of black and white footage of the Empire State Building).  When I started to play Vinyl, I thought "well at least if I have to watch an Andy Warhol film, it was this one"  After about five minutes of this movie I found myself wondering what was so bad about watching a building for that long anyway.  At least that movie wouldn't have such terrible actors.

There is no plot to this movie although I have heard that is a remaining of A Clockwork Orange.  Man, how could this get any worse?

So two to five douches are on the screen at any given time.  The camera never moves and it is so cramped, that you get the impression you too are stuffed into a very tiny space.  The actors don't seem to know any of their lines and the whole film just seemed like a giant "fuck you; artsy people will eat this up!"

Big thumbs down.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Most interesting thing about this movie is that it was included in The Book.

430. Onibaba

The Demon
Directed by Kaneto Shindo

There is nothing quite like a really good Japanese horror film (although the first time I watched Ringu I believed it had ruined my life). So not only is this movie a great horror film but it also has the benefit of being historically significant.

A woman and her daughter in law make money by killing samurai soldiers and selling their armor.  Eventually a neighbor joins in on their hilarious antics and begins having sex with the daughter in law, which makes the older woman extremely jealous.  She plans on scaring her daughter in law with a mask, but well, when you use a mask as terrifying as that one, nothing good can come out of it.  Although the film is set in the 1330's, it is clear that the disfigurement in this film is symbolic of the victims of the atomic bombs.

I know it is a lame sentiment, but I really felt as if this film transported me to a different time and place.  It felt way more like a play than a movie (I don't know if there are any Japanese theater fans out there but it is a pretty fascinating medium).

Of course, if you like your horror films to terrify you, I am not really sure this one will get your heart rate up.  Still, an entertaining movie with a lasting message.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The mask inspired the make up of the demon in The Exorcist.

Originally given an X rating.


429. Deus E O Diabo Na Terra Do Sol

Deus E Diabo Na Terra Do Sol
Black God, White Devil
Directed by Glauber Rocha

Well, it has been a tough week and I have had a nonstop stream of work that I have to do.  But hey, at least it doesn't interest me in the slightest.  So I apologize for not posting.  Rest assured, there will be a ton of movies coming your way soon!

This is another brilliant discovery that I never would have made without the list (it is a good thing too that I liked this movie; I have been so stressed this week I might have chucked the computer out of the window if it had displeased me).  I was immediately hooked; this film has one of the most beautiful, haunting soundtracks I have ever heard.  We also get gorgeous shots of Brazil's landscapes.  In fact, the movie is so pretty that I would probably be able to forgive it if the plot was terrible.  Fortunately, that was not the case.

Manuel is sick of his boss cheating him out of money and whipping him so he decides to kill him (although it is clear that the actor never makes contact with the boss when he is beating him so I suspect he possesses telekinetic powers).  Manuel then goes on the run with his wife Rosa, who also kills a couple of people in order to survive.  Oh and there is also an extremely creepy priest.

A couple going on a killing spree is now a rather common plot line (why I have no idea) but this film still managed to interest me.

So this movie is more than just a pretty face and is highly recommended.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Del Rey insisted on actually carrying a rock that weighed over twenty kilos up the mountain and couldn't show up to work for two days.

Saturday, January 18, 2014

428. The Gospel According To St. Matthew

The Gospel According to St. Matthew
Directed by Pier Paolo Pasolini

I actually had an interesting discussion about this film over at Andrew's blog, although maybe I should not mention that (it is kind of like when small bookstores recommend Amazon when they can't find something).  I meant stay here!  It doesn't get more interesting than right here!

Immediately, I knew this film wasn't for me.  First of all, this director is also responsible for 120 Days of Sodom which I don't even want to discuss until I have to.  Secondly, it is a religious movie and I am an atheist, so it is not exactly like this film is going to do wonders for my faith.  I watched it on YouTube and all of the comments seemed to express how pleased people were that one of their favorite gospels was turned into a movie.  In fact, I highly suspect that watching it was a project for a certain Sunday school class.  I can, of course, watch films that don't expound my own opinions but religious films tend to be over the top and quite dull.

This is the story of Jesus Christ and if you don't know that already, I applaud you because that kind of ignorance would take effort.  Anyway, it is the same story that we have seen thousands of time, with no real interesting twist to keep you interested.  Again, I am sure if you are Christian you really don't need/want a twist on the story and the plot alone is enough to keep you interested.  Alas, that wasn't the case for me.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Incorporated Italian neorealism techniques.

Available on YouTube:

Thursday, January 9, 2014

427. Gertrud

Directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer

Seeing Dreyer in The Book again was like running into someone from your old high school.  For a moment I was like "oh you still, exist!  I mean, it is great to see you!"  It was nice to see Dreyer again since it provided us with what I think is the greatest silent film of all time: The Passion of Joan of Arc.  Still, the reunion was a little...awkward.

Gertrud begins the film by telling her husband that their marriage is over and she is in love with someone else in an excruciatingly long take.  It turns out her lover is kind of a jerk, but that's okay because every man in this movie seems to be in love with her.  Next!

Like I said, the takes are painfully long and almost have an Ozu-esque feel to them.  This worked extremely well for the scenes in this film.  This is particularly true for the scene when Gertrud tells her husband it is over; we feel a bit of the pain and horror that her husband is feeling at that moment.

Still, this film is not without its flaws.  For one thing, we are never given to understand why everyone is so obsessed with Gertrud.  I get that she is pretty but she is such a bitch!  I suppose that is more of a flaw of the male gender than the film, though.

I feel like I am always saying this but some parts definitely could have been cut out.  I swear I am not that impatient but a two hour film about the same silly woman is tiring.

Overall, worth a watch but there is a lot of dead time.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Only 90 shots and one exterior shot.

Available on YouTube:

426. Prima Della Rivoluzione

Prima Della Rivoluzione
Before the Revolution
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

We once again must rely on my horrible French since those are the only subtitles I could find for this Italian film.  Merde.  Unfortunately, I was able to understand this film, which means I couldn't just make up my story as boring images filled the screen.  Personally, I would have chosen to not make the romance between a guy and his mentally disturbed aunt but whatever.

It seems like I have a thing against foreign films.  Some of my favorite films are foreign!  Okay, that sounded bad.  I think it can be harder to pay attention to movies if they are in a different language.  But I do enjoy a lot of foreign films and hopefully, we will get to some of those.  For now, though, we are stuck with obscure bores.

I absolutely hate Bertolucci, I thought he was an indulgent director with 1900 and twisted with Last Tango in Paris.  After reading about how he behaved with the cast for Last Tango, he may very well be monster.  But more on that when we get to that film.

Usually a dull story can be saved with brilliant cinematography but I was disappointed with that aspect as well. Just skip it.  Of course, you probably have never heard of this movie so this should really have no bearing on what you do.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Bertolucci was 22 when he made this.  Well, we all do stupid things when we are young.

Monday, January 6, 2014

425. The Masque of The Red Death

The Masque of The Red Death
Directed by Roger Corman

When I first got The Book, I pretty much devoured all the horror films on The List (and unfortunately for my friends, I made them watch them.  Some of those people aren't my friends anymore.  Connection?  Perhaps).  I am also a big Edgar Allen Poe fan, so I knocked this one out right away.  I am not sure the movie really captured what Poe's vision was, but it is still a fun watch.

The plot is somewhat complicated but basically, Francesca, her brother, and father are captured by Satanist Prospero.  This is after Prospero orders a village to burned down because a lady has the plague.  There are also dancing dwarves and psychedelic dream sequences.  Do not watch under the influence of drugs unless you never want to sleep again.

I don't think anyone watches Vincent Price movies for quality or insight into the human condition.  Mostly, you watch them because they are incredibly cheesy and fun to make fun of with your significant other and/or body pillow.  Stylistically, this was an interesting film as the colors really pop on the screen.

A fun film to watch, although one that isn't that scary (though there are a few frightening images; see above).

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Esmeralda's character was played by a child and her dialogue was dubbed by an adult.


424. Tini Zabutykh Predkiv

Tini Zabutykh Predkiv
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors
Directed by Sergei Parajanov

Okay, can I start by giving a handy tip?  If you are putting subtitles on a movie, don't make the font white when the background is predominantly white.  Just don't do it!

When I started this film, I had the distinct feeling that I had seen it before.  The style seemed familiar and the somewhat nonsensical plot brought with it well remembered feelings of frustration and confusion.  Then I realized that The Book has made me watch the same type of movie over and over again and it can be...exhausting.

Anyway, this particular film is about Ivan, who falls in love with the daughter of the man who killed his father.  I know, this sounds like a great premise to a detective show.  Actually, it is way less interesting than that.  Ivan goes kind of insane, there is religious symbolism, blah blah blah.

Wow, these reviews are getting kind of lazy. Soon there might just be an emoticon that symbolizes how I feel.  2014 is the year of efficiency.

As frequent readers probably know, I am not a religious person so stories that have anything to do with that subject rarely hold my attention.  This film was trying to be artsy, clearly, but also tried to have a coherent plot.  This is a lethal combination.

So overall: :(

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Nothing terribly interesting about this one.  Surprise!

Available on YouTube:

Saturday, January 4, 2014

423. Il Deserto Rosso

Il Deserto Rosso
The Red Desert
Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni

This is a film that I really thought I would be able to connect to since I have suffered from depression and I understand what it feels like.  However, this film was dull, absolutely nothing happens, and the dialogue seemed forced and bordered on corny.

Monica Vitti (who bears a remarkable resemblance to Jennifer Lawrence) plays Giulania, a woman who has not been quite right since she was in a car accident. Dumbledore Richard Harris' character, Corrado, falls in love with her, even though (or maybe because) she buys half eaten sandwiches from strangers.  When a beautiful woman is depressed, she is mysterious and intriguing.  When an average looking woman is depressed, she is crazy and frightening.  But whatever, in this case she is hot so it doesn't matter.

This is my fourth Antonioni experience and I have to say that it is getting kind of exhausting.  I feel like he is very indulgent and self absorbed.  It's like he doesn't care if the viewer understands or connects to his film, because he connects to it.  Well, that is just rude and incredibly boring, Michelangelo.

Like I said, the dialogue feels unnatural and the characters' actions (particularly Giulania's son's) are completely baffling.  Thumbs down.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Allegedly, Harris was kicked off the set after punching Antonioni in the face.  The rest of his scenes were done with a different actor.

Antonioni's first color film.

Thursday, January 2, 2014

422. A Hard Day's Night

A Hard Day's Night
Directed by Richard Lester

This is such a strange movie and I can't see anything like this being made today.  The film stars The Beatles as themselves, though it is scripted, and follows a "typical" day in the lives of the singers, which apparently for Ringo includes getting arrested with Paul's grandfather.

Okay, seriously, who doesn't like the Beatles?  I feel like if someone told me they didn't like their music, it would take a lot of convincing on their side to make me believe they weren't simply trying to be contrarian.  And, although this is more of a topic for my music blog, A Hard Day's Night was one of their best albums and with this film we get to experience all of our favorite songs.  On a side note: Rubber Soul will always be my favorite Beatles album.

Surprisingly, this isn't just random clips of our favorite superstars with a Beatles album playing in the background.  It actually works great as a comedy and I was laughing out loud at several points in the film.   The experience was a bit bittersweet since the happy camaraderie between the four of them clearly didn't last.

I have never seen one of the concert movies on current singers which are quite popular now but I can pretty much guarantee that they are nothing like this, which is a damn shame.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

The people chasing The Beatles at the beginning are actual fans.

Ringo was heavily hungover during the canal scene.


421. Dr. Strangelove

Dr. Strangelove
Directed by Stanley Kubrick

That was...odd to say the least.  A comedy about the US Air Force killing everyone in the world.  And Peter Sellers plays multiple roles for some reason?  Okay...

So I will start by saying this film really is not my cup of tea.  For some strange reason I find all Kubrick films incredibly dull.  I think it is because the first one I saw, A Clockwork Orange, had a rape scene in it and I kind of shut down and hated the rest of the movie.  The next one I saw, 2001: A Space Odyssey, was so boring that I am pretty sure I listened to music during the film.  After all that, I just can't seem to find any of his movie entertaining.  I also don't really like war movies in general.  So when I say I didn't like this film, that does not mean that you shouldn't see it (because I know everyone takes my words to heart and blindly follows them).  It just means it is not for everybody and it is certainly not for me.

General Ripper, who for some reason seems to be losing his mind, orders the US to attack the Soviet Union with B-52 bombers for no reason in particular.  Ripper is the only one that knows the recall codes.  Hilarity ensues.

This was an interesting satire about Cold War paranoia but I felt Kubrick inserted a lot of stupid, mindless jokes in the mix (Strangelove's hand for instance) to appeal to wider audiences.  So it misses the mark of being a smart comedy by a bit.

Overall, I am never going to be a Kubrick lover so if you are you might just want to skip these reviews.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Sellers improvised most of his lines.

Gene Siskel's favorite movie


420. Suna no onna

Suna no onna
The Woman in the Dunes
Directed by Hiroshi Teshigahara

Well my sister/best friend just moved to England for six months which means this day is going to be devoted to movies and other distractions that I can think of to do without taking off my pajamas.  My misery is your reading material, ladies and gentlemen.

Japanese films rarely disappoint and this is no exception.  This is the story of Junpei, who gets tricked into entering a sand quarry with no escape.  A young widow is the only inhabitant and they are forced everyday to try to prevent the house (and themselves) from being buried by sand.  Romance ensues which leads to sand sex which must be...uncomfortable to say the least.

One of the saddest moments comes when Junpei is explaining to the widow how he will be rescued.  He says that once he fails to go come to work, his colleagues will come to his apartment looking for him.  They will see that he has a book open about his location and will be able to tell where he has gone.  The reality is, we always seem to overestimate our own importance in the world.

I have been researching this film on the internet and a lot of people seem to think the woman symbolizes how men become trapped in a relationship and eventually settle down to their fate though they still craze their freedom.  While this is an extremely unflattering portrait of women, I can definitely see where they are coming from.  I looked at it in a more positive way.  Anything can become bearable, even being trapped in a sandy hole in the ground, if you have someone you love with you.  Oh, that and we are all entirely insignificant and no one would miss us if we were gone.

This is definitely a must see movie and I look forward to hearing other theories about the film in the comments sections.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Junpei captures an antlion at one point in the film.  An antlion digs a hole in the sand and waits for insects to drop in so they can eat them.  Ooooo symbolism.

Available on YouTube: