Tuesday, June 30, 2015

558. The Sting

The Sting
Directed by George Roy Hill

One of the best duos in cinematic history return to deliver another amazing film (Myrna Loy and William Powell might beat them for the top slot).  Now, I won't pretend I completely understood the plot of this movie, but I was happily placated by Robert Redford's and Paul Newman's charisma.

Like I said, this film is pretty confusing, at least to me.  I had an easier time following the plot to The Big Sleep and that's saying something.  Suffice to say, Redford and Newman are once again lovable criminals.

It's almost impossible not to like this film, although I suppose the length might turn some people off.  But hey, I would stare at the handsome leads all day if I could, even there was no plot.  There are some great moments in this movie (invoking the no spoiler rule) and it definitely earns its length.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Redford did not watch this film until 2004.  But it's so good!

Newman and Redford often played pranks on each other onset.  Adorable when they do it, dangerous when Dean Martin and Jerry Lewis do it.

Sunday, June 28, 2015

557. Super Fly

Super Fly
Directed by Gordon Parks

So wait isn't this just Shaft again?  Or well.  At least the soundtrack is better.

The film follows the adventures of Priest, a cocaine dealer in New York City.  There are strong female characters and different races are celebrated.  Just kidding.

So like I said, it's pretty much Shaft again.  I don't exactly think this a positive step in the civil rights movement.  Not that it necessarily has to be, but you would think that with such a crappy plot that would be the redeeming quality.

Skippable and not worthy of its place on The List.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Script was only 45 pages.

556. Pink Flamingos

Pink Flamingos
Directed by John Waters

Roger Ebert says people will be tempted to say that they like this film, in order to prove that they have a tough stomach.  Anyone that knows me knows that I do not have a tough stomach.  In fact, me throwing up is the climax of many of my anecdotes.  Anyway, this is complete trash and everyone knows it.  Some people will defend its place in The Book, but really, I think we should forget about this as quickly as we can.

I am usually very militant about the List.  I decided to give myself a bit of a break here, since I knew how horrifying this film was going to be.  I had my book open (To The Lighthouse by Virginia Woolf) the whole time and allowed myself to mute the movie whenever it got too gross.  Unfortunately, that didn't protect me from much.

A drag queen and her mentally disabled family fight to be named the filthiest human beings alive.  This includes raping women and selling their children.  It also seems to include...you know what, I will spare you and not even go into it.

What's to say about a movie that's only goal is to gross you out as much as possible?  Mission accomplished?  A child could do as much.  I hate, hate, HATE John Waters and I can't believe that I am even giving this guy any attention.

RATING: -----

Interesting Facts:

The actual inventor of the pink flamingos figurines just died.

A lot of the trivia for this film is too disgusting and upsetting to put on here.  Let's just all move on with our lives.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

555. Frenzy

Directed by Alfred Hitchcock

It is nice to see a familiar face in the seventies even though, unfortunately, this is the last Hitchcock film in The Book.  I wish it was a better send off, but this is one of my least favorite Hitchcock movies.

A serial killer is raping and murdering women in London with horrifically ugly neckties.  Suspicion falls on Richard Blaney, but when is the accused ever guilty in a Hitchcock movie?

Frequent readers of my blog know that I can't stand rape in films.  Still, I can't deny that it is is a compelling movie.  A lot of the redeeming qualities of this movie can be found in the last scene, which I can't reveal without major spoilers.  I will say the male leads are incredible.

Parts of this film were needlessly disturbing, like when a woman's fingers are broken after rigor mortis sets in.

Not very Hitchcockian but still worthy of a watch.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Only Hitchcock film to get a R rating.

HITCHCOCK RADAR: In the crowd at the beginning of the film.

554. The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant

The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant
Directed by Rainer Werner Fassbinder

I have complaining a lot lately about how sexist and vile the films in The Book are.  Now we get a film that is nothing but women, which I suppose should be a welcome change, if it weren't for the fact that every female in this movie is insane.  Progress?  Not quite...

Petra von Kant is a fashion designer who has lost two husbands.  She employs an assistant, who she treats like a slave, but the assistant seems to like it?  Maybe?  I am not sure.  Anyway, she meets and falls in love with Karin, who has just left her husband.  After many angry wig changes, it is clear that Petra is more obsessed with controlling Karin rather than loving her.

It seems like these characters should be fun to watch and analyze, but the truth is that this film is dreadfully dull.  It is over two hours of just dialogue and almost nothing happens.  I am all for dialogue-heavy films, but this movie failed to impact me in any way.  I also can't help squirming at the fact that this is the first movie we have seen in awhile that features a lesbian and she is shown as being deeply disturbed.

A bore and I prefer the tears of General Yen.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Shot in ten days and the screenplay was written on a twelve hour flight.  That's dedication.

553. The Discreet Charm of Bourgeoisie

Le charme discret la bourgeoisie
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie
Directed by Luis Bunuel

We have had a string of terrible movies lately, which are every once in awhile interrupted by absolute masterpieces.  I guess that is the major theme of the seventies.  This is one of the gems, but don't worry.  Pink Flamingos is coming up which I am sure will restore order to the universe of horrible films.

A group of bourgeoisie friends try to get together several times for a meal.  However, bizarre circumstances, interrupted by many dream sequences, keep preventing them from doing so.

Why do I like this film so much?  I hated previous Bunuel work.  I still get freaked out thinking about what that man does with animals.  However, this movie is absolutely beautiful.  I have always loved stories that take place in dining rooms or plots that happen during any perfectly ordinary event, proving that someone doesn't have to be shooting at you or sleeping with you for life to happen.  Here we get to watch this group of people try to be ordinary in a world that is anything but.

The ending was a bit unsatisfying but I wouldn't expect anything else from Luis.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

John Landis' favorite film.

552. Fat City

Fat City
Directed by John Huston

All right, let's get this over with.  I don't think I have ever liked a sports movie and certainly not a boxing movie.  This is probably due to the fact that I have never seen a sport that I liked either.  Well, maybe rugby, but that has nothing to do with the game.

Stacy Keach plays a boxer past his prime with an alcohol problem.  What a treat for everyone.  He meets young newcomer Ernie Munger, who is dealing with personal problems of his own.  He also encounters one of the most annoying female characters in all of cinema.  She is pictured above and even her picture is obnoxious.  She also has a drinking problem and yells at people a lot.  Two treats!

What a dull, dull, dull film full of unsympathetic characters.  I suppose we are supposed to like the coach, who genuinely seems to care for his fighters.  I see nothing elegant or admirable in boxing so I had a hard time finding anything meaningful in these people's lives.

Skip it.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Marlon Brando was considered for a role in this film.  Is he just in every seventies film?

Monday, June 15, 2015

551. Cries and Whispers

Cries and Whispers
Directed by Ingmar Bergman

Ingmar Bergman delivers another exercise in tediousness. Honestly, he creates some moments of beauty but I have devoted way too much time for such little reward.

Two sisters and the maid tend to their third dying sister.  Everyone is pretty much terrible, there is the standard search for faith, blah blah blah, typical Bergman film.

Bergman said that he felt as though this film had brought him as far as he could go and touched on wordless secrets that only cinema could discover.  Well, at least he is modest.  I could certainly see finding this film interesting, but for me it is just too much.  Do we have to watch every film in the Bergman canon?  And does everyone of them have to be so depressing?

Yell at me in the comments if you must, but I found this film exhausting.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Bergman stated that the walls were painted red because this film is an exploration of the soul, which he always imagined as red.

550. The Godfather

The Godfather
Directed by Francis Ford Coppola

I am hesitant to write this review since this film is obviously a masterpiece.  Everything that could be said about it probably has been and I am sure scores of film buffs have written essays on it.  I will be as brief as usual and will do my best to not ruin your favorite movie, as many of you have accused me of doing.

Is it necessary to provide a plot description?  The story focuses on the transformation of Michael Corleone who goes from being kind of a dick who doesn't approve of the family business to dick who runs the family business.  I actually read the novel and the movie is a pretty faithful adaption.  Although I suppose the book spends a lot more time talking about Sonny's gigantic penis.

Like I said, what else can you say about the most critically acclaimed film of all time?  It's rare that a movie that has been hyped up so much doesn't disappoint.  Every actor is perfect for their role, every scene moves the story forward, and nearly every line is quotable.  I just wished we had discussed Lucy Mancini's wideset vagina more.

RATING: *****

Interesting Facts:

In the scene when Vito Corleone is carried upstairs, Marlon Brando put weights on his body as a prank.    This doesn't seem so funny now we know he gains somewhere around a thousand pounds in the coming years.

Body count of 18.


549. Solyaris

Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

Has anyone ever thought "hmm, 2001:  A Space Odyssey was good, but I wish it was longer"?  I hope to god I never meet anyone like that.  Anyway, here we go with the longer version of 2001.

A psychologist named Kelvin is sent to a space station orbiting the planet Solaris.  The crew that he finds there are all in various states of psychosis.   It seems like the planet produces "visitors" based on the astronauts' dreams.  This actually has the potential to be quite a frightening movie if it wasn't so tedious.

Self-indulgent is the first term that comes to mind.  I am very accepting of lengthy movies if the content warrants it.  But this was ridiculous.  For example, we are forced to watch a car drive through a city for a few minutes for no reason at all.  It's like when people monopolize the conversation when they have absolutely to contribute by saying "Anyway..." loudly.  Have any of these Eastern European directors heard the expression "brevity is the soul of wit"?

Of course, there were moments of this film that were beautiful, but it was still a bit of a chore to sit through.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Tarkovsky's least favorite film that he has directed.

Tarkovsky dislike the comparison to 2001 and called Kubrick's film "sterile."

Remade in 2002 with George Clooney.  Anyone see the remake?

Saturday, June 6, 2015

548. Deliverance

Directed by John Boorman

Ugh.  Let's get this over with.

Four businessmen decide to canoe down the a Georgian river for the weekend.  They are attacked by hillbillies.  Do I have to go on?  Sexual violence and just plain old regular violence ensues.

Honestly, is this what movies are supposed to be?  Being like Ed, strapped to a tree and forced to watch unspeakable acts of violence?  No.  At least Roger Ebert agrees with me on this one.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Over thirty people drowned trying to recreate the characters' adventures after the film's release.  What.


547. Sleuth

Directed by Joseph Mankiewicz

This is a fantastic film.  It is hard to feel completely saved from the slew of bad movies we have been dealing with lately, since after this we are back in the same nightmare with Deliverance.  This great movie merely feels like a mirage.

Andrew Wyke invites Milo Tindler, his wife's lover, over to his manor to "sort things out."  For some reason, Milo agrees to come (it's probably a British thing).  Andrew proposes that Milo takes his wife and some jewelry, because apparently he is very giving.  Andrew explains that he will report the jewelry stolen and collect the insurance money.  Could it just be an elaborate hoax?  Are they both underestimating each other?  Am I really this many questions in a plot summary?

What an entertaining movie and a fun break from the violence monotony.  It's just a bonus that two of the greatest actors of all time are the stars.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Remade with Michael Caine and Jude Law.  Anyone have any thoughts on the remake?

Apparently, Michael Caine fangirled extremely hard when he met Laurence Olivier.

Thursday, June 4, 2015

546. High Plains Drifter

High Plains Drifter
Directed by Clint Eastwood

Is it too much to ask to have a movie that doesn't involve some sort of horrific rape scene?  Apparently so in the seventies.

A stranger rides into town, kills some people, and rapes a woman.  Evidently impressed, the townsfolk ask the stranger to protect them against gunmen that they believe are going to attack the town for revenge.  The stranger agrees, as long as he can have access to all the goods and services the town has to offer for free and can make absurd decorating choices for absolutely no reason whatsoever (see above picture).

I have absolutely no idea what the point of this film was.  On the one hand, we are obviously supposed to think he is heroic.  He saves a town and gives to Native American children.  On the other hand, he is a goddamn rapist.  I think the only reason the rape was put in the film was to show that he was flawed.  I am sorry, but that is completely absurd.

Seriously, wake me up when the seventies end.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Eastwood wrote to John Wayne, asking him to make a western together.  Wayne wrote back an angry reply, denouncing this film for its violence.  Do I actually agree with John Wayne on something?

545. Ultimo tango a Parigi

Ultimo tango a Parigi
Last Tango in Paris
Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci

I am convinced this string of terrible movies will never end.  What do we have to look forward to after this?  Deliverance?  Kill me now.

Two strangers begin an anonymous sexual relationship.  Of course, when one person wants to become more involved, everybody loses their minds.  Isn't that always the case?  Even if you haven't seen this film, you have probably heard about the infamous butter scene.

There are plenty of sex scenes in this film that the average moviegoer might find a bit disturbing.  However, after reading about the background of this movie and learning about Bertolucci's treatment of the main actress, Maria Schneider, I was forced to conclude that this wasn't just make believe.  Maria Schneider was treated horrifically and she is even quoted as saying, "I felt raped by Brando."

This was not a fun movie to watch, with or without the background knowledge.  Someone save me from the seventies.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

The butter scene was not scripted and was improvised by Bertolucci and Brando.  Maria Schneider was horrified and her tears in the scene were genuine.

Based on Bertolucci's own fantasies of sleeping with a complete stranger.  What an original man.

544. Cabaret

Directed by Bob Fosse

I love musicals and I think I praise just about every musical on The List.  However, I HATE this film.  Every character was insufferable, every musical number was irritating, and every plot point was absurd.  I remember seeing this movie and thinking "this may be my least favorite film of all time!"  Of course, The List has now exposed to me to plenty more atrocities since then.  Still, this movie will always fill a special place in my hateful heart.

Sally Bowles performs at a night club in 1931 Berlin.  She meets a young professor who is confused about his sexuality.  She manages to seduce him, but things seem to fall apart again when they both become infatuated with a rich playboy.

Have you ever heard a more annoying song than "Money, Money"?  Have you ever seen a more irritating actress than Liza Minnelli?  The only song that I can stand is "Maybe This Time" but I never really enjoyed Minnelli's cover of it.

Is there any movie that can get us out of this slump?

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

"Maybe This Time" was not in the original play.  Liza Minnelli had recorded it for her first album and persuaded the filmmakers to use it in the movie.

The only decent song:

543. Aguirre, The Wrath of God

Aguirre, The Wrath of God
Directed by Werner Herzog

This is one of those films where the premise actually sounds quite exciting but the movie turns out to be one of the dullest you have ever seen.  The whole thing is such a clunky mess that I am amazed some people consider this to be a masterpiece.

A group of conquistadores, led by Lope de Aguirre, search for the legendary City of Gold in South America.  Lope is completely out of his mind and the director loves showing close ups of his face, as though an actor acting crazy is a thing of beauty in itself.

Everything about this film is frenzied: the story, the actors, and even the colors.  It is very clear that Herzog believed he was making his magnum opus.  I just couldn't get into this level of insanity.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Werner Herzog threatened to kill Klaus Kinski and himself when Kinski threatened to leave the production.  Good lord.

Herzog wrote the screenplay in two and a half days, mostly when he was drunk.  That's a real surprise.

542. The Heartbreak Kid

The Heartbreak Kid
Directed by Elaine May

I love seeing a female director on The List.  Of course, I hated this movie but still, a nice change.

Lenny Canthrow marries Lila, who starts to get on his nerves as soon as they say "I do."  On their honeymoon, Lenny meets Kelly, who is bitchy and unattainable enough to get his attention.  Apparently, Lila deserves to be cheated on, because, hey, she is annoying.

Damn, did I find this movie depressing.  Perhaps I am just bitter and single, but I spent the whole time feeling sorry for the spurned bride.  Yes, she was obnoxious but we all have habits other people would find annoying.  After she was married, she believed that she could put her walls down and be herself, but her husband had already moved on to his "shiksa."  I know the main characters weren't supposed to be particularly sympathetic, but the level of loathing they invoked in me was such that I couldn't even laugh at their ridiculous escapades. 

This was too dark to be a comedy but too absurd to be anything else.  Poor Lila just wanted to know if she was any good at sex.

RATING: **---

Interesting Facts:

Anybody have thoughts on the Ben Stiller remake?

The screenplay was written by Neil Simon.

541. Two-Lane Blacktop

Two-Lane Blacktop
Directed by Monte Hellman

This is one of those exceptionally dull movies that I tend to forget about as soon as I am finished.  Let's try to get this over with as quickly as possible, before the memory slips away completely.

Two guys drive on Route 66 and challenge another guy to a race to Washington DC.  Whoever wins gets "pinks".  The only thing remotely interesting about this film is that the two main characters are played by James Taylor and Dennis Wilson.  What is it with musicians making movies in the 1970s?  I found that it rarely results in a good movie, but that is a rant I will save for Moonstruck.

Of course, there is supposed to be a lot more to this movie that two people driving.  Still, I found the metaphors to be too heavy-handed to be effective.  Dull, dull, dull.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

James Taylor never watched this film.  When the actor won't even watch the movie, you know it's boring.

One of only three movies that actress Laurie Bird was in before she killed herself.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

540. Straw Dogs

Straw Dogs
Directed by Sam Peckinpah

I am a huge fan of horror films.  It is by far my favorite genre; I stream a few crappy Netflix movies a week.  There are many sub genres that I love (found footage, slasher, supernatural, etc) and only a few that I can't stand.  The home invasion genre is one of them.  The other is exorcism films, but that's a whole other post.

David and Amy are a young couple that have just moved to Amy's hometown.  This seems to upset the "townspeople".  Graphic rape ensues and David is forced to unleash his violent side.

Frequent readers of the blog know that I don't cope well with films that have rape in them.  There seems to be some rather shocking messages in this movie as well that definitely have issues with.  In one scene, Amy takes off her top in front of a window, in full view of the workmen.  What was the point of this scene?  Was it supposed to show that in some ways, Amy was "asking" for it?  And then there is the rape scene itself, where Amy seems to be enjoying herself, at least for part of the time.  Yikes.  That seems damaging.

I know people love movies from the seventies, but a lot of the seventies seems to be about ultra violence, which I just don't enjoy.  Anybody have thoughts on the remake?

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Dustin Hoffman said that he only took this role for the money.

One-third of the audience walked out of this film during a preview.


539. The Last Picture Show

The Last Picture Show
Directed by Peter Bogdanovich

This is another film that wasn't really made for me.  It seems like something that people who had a hard time saying goodbye to the fifties would enjoy.  I wasn't born during the fifties, I wasn't even close.  And well this doesn't seem to have an impact on me for other movies, it definitely felt like it was a problem this time.  Consequently, I was incredibly bored.

Two high school seniors live in a small town.  One is having an affair with his football coach's wife and the other is dating the most attractive girl in school.  Not a lot seems to happen during this film and I think that is why the characters suffer so much.  Nothing happens in their town; the only interesting thing to do is have sex.

Unfortunately, I was just as bored as the residents of this town.  There is no doubt that it is a beautiful film; it was extremely well acted and looked great.  But still kind of a snooze.

RATING: ***--

Interesting Facts:

Cybill Shepherd's first film.  And last...right?

Orson Welles encouraged Bogdanovich to shoot in black and white.

538. Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song

Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song
Directed by Melvin Van Peebles

I thought I had seen every type of movie because of this List.  But no.  Until today, The List hadn't shown me one genre: pornography.  I don't know if everyone will agree with me that that is what this is.  What's that quote about pornography? I cannot define pornography but I know it when I see it?  I have a much simpler philosophy: a pornographic movie contains unsimulated sex.  The fact that the director contracted gonorrhea during filming pretty much sums it up.

Our hero is a prostitute who started working from an extremely young age.  We are shown this is a very disturbing scene that makes me wish Child Protective Services would come and save this poor actor.  Anyway, Sweetback (who acquired his nickname based on his large penis, because of course) is on the run from the police after saving a young black man from being brutally beaten.  Unfortunately, that is the most realistic part of this entire film.

That's my biggest problem with this movie.  It is so absurd that it is hard to see the real truth in it.  Certainly police brutality is a very real problem.  Instead, we get a hero who is forced to have sex with a woman in exchange for her removing his handcuffs.  I also don't want to get too graphic here, but those sex scenes were idealistic at best.  And how annoying were those voiceovers when Sweetback was running through the desert?  I wanted to watch the film on mute but I was already covering my eyes.

I read that this film was important for the black community because it gave them a cool, masculine hero instead of the Uncle Tom type.  This movie isn't for me and I have no idea what it is like to be African American and face that level of oppression.  But this is my blog and I have to be honest.  HATED, HATED, HATED it.

RATING: *----

Interesting Facts:

Partially funded by Bill Cosby.  Oh good, another reason to hate Cosby.

Apparently, this film preceded Shaft.  However, The Book has Shaft first.  Since I must commit the same sins of my fathers, I will go with the order The List has.

Earth, Wind, and Fire were never paid for their contribution to this film.

Monday, June 1, 2015

537. Le souffle au couer

Le souffle au couer
Murmur of the Heart
Directed by Louis Malle

I am pretty sure my sister thinks I am a bit of a pervert for saying this (and maybe for a myriad of other reasons) but I am going to go ahead and say it anyway: I loved this film.  The fact that the director took a subject like incest, which almost everyone believes is disturbing or disgusting, and made it into something actually beautiful was amazing to me.  What also amazed me was what an astonishingly bad kisser the main character was.  But we shall get there.

Laurent is a fifteen year old school boy, who is a pretty typical French kid.  He gets sexually harassed by a priest, compares his penis size with his brothers', visits a brothel, and believes that any woman who isn't interested in him is a lesbian.  Once he develops a heart murmur, his relationships begin to change.  However, he is still consistently kind of a dick.

What did I like this movie so much?  It seems like the sort of thing I wouldn't like.  Maybe I had such low expectations for it that it was impossible not to be impressed.  I was picturing something gloomy and depressing because, let's face it, any film with European schoolchildren is generally pretty dark.  But I loved watching these characters; I loved how they viewed everything with laughter without ever crossing over into being glib.

Overall, I adored this film.  It reminded me that The List can still surprise me with treasures like this.

RATING: ****-

Interesting Facts:

Louis Malle based much of the film on his own experience.  Which, presumably, did not include incest.