Friday, August 31, 2012

August 2012 Recap

August 2012

8 Features
The Lady Vanishes (1938) *****
Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm (1938) ***
The Paleface (1948) ****
Captain America: The First Avenger (2011) ***
House of Bamboo (1955) ***
Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958) ***
Diary of a Country Priest (1951) *****
Lawless (2012) **

Breaking Bad Season 5 eps 4,5,6,7
Breaking Bad Season 2
A Game of Thrones Season 1
The X-Files S1E1

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Bride of Frankenjohn

"To have and to hold, from this day forward, for better, for worse, for richer, for poorer, in the cinema or at home, to love and to cherish 'till warring film lists do us part."

Yesterday, I asked my lovely wife to make a list for me. She hadn't yet seen my list nor had we talked about it beforehand.

She sent me a good list off the top of her head right away. Then, she agonized over the idea for half the morning, finally deciding to just go with those first films that hopped into her mind. There are certainly many more films that she's forgotten and that she'd slap herself on the forehead for forgetting if she was the type of person to slap herself on the forehead for forgetting.

I thought about including some of the funny correspondence of her trying to remember the names of these films, but I'll leave the list without further ado.

Abigail's Top Ten (if you asked her on the morning of August 24th, Anno Domini 2012)

Julien Donkey-Boy (Korine, 1999)
Encounters at the End of the World (Herzog, 2007)
There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
Tree of Life (Malick, 2011)
Ivan's Childhood (Tarkovsky, 1962)
The Mill and the Cross (Majewski, 2011)
Mr. and Mrs. Smith (Hitchcock, 1941)
Nausicaa of the Valley of the Wind (Miyazaki, 1984)
Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936)
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (Hughes, 1968)
La France (Bozon, 2007)

Honorable mentions:
Every Hitchcock film she's ever seen.
Any film starring Carey Grant.
30s romantic comedies.
I Love You Again.
Blast of Silence. Shoot the Piano Player. The 400 Blows. Days of Heaven. The Apostle. On the Waterfront. James and the Giant Peach. Trapped in Paradise. Woman on the Moon.

If you know how to count, you'll probably notice that I let her get away with 11 picks besides the honorables. That's partially because I was so pleased that she put La France as the 11th movie. It's a great, great film that the rest of you have ignored for far too long, even though I've been praising it for five years.

Also, how about that JDB pick, eh? I showed JDB to her on our wedding night and I told her that she had to love it unconditionally just as she loves me and she said, "I do." Just kidding. I didn't even own a DVD copy until maybe five years ago, which is probably about when she watched it. She saw the good in it that Brandon refuses to see. Which is just one of the many, many reasons why I am married to this beautiful, intelligent woman and not to my Film Club compadre.

Brandon, you'll be happy to hear that Abby was trying to get the title of another film out of me when I arrived home yesterday evening.

Night of the Hunter.

It got a strong last minute honorable mention. I wasn't expecting it.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Sir Nod

Brandon, thanks for hosting a fun evening.

Your couch is comfortable, your burritos were excellent.

I enjoyed the first twenty and last ten minutes of Last Days of Disco. Thanks to Andy for bringing it.

Chris proved that Howards pay their debts.

I've got Jeff's back in any Turin Horse argument. My only concern about the movie is that it may not be long enough.

Good night.

Monday, August 20, 2012

Vanity of vanities, saith the Preacher, vanity of vanities; all is vanity

The Sight and Sound poll is stupid. All lists are stupid. Remind me again why we love lists so much.

I can't find some magic objectivity inside me that would allow me to distinguish the "greatest" movies from my personal favorites. More than that, any attempt to show some sort of comprehensive knowledge is doomed to failure. Even if I had watched every film ever made (or even the "important" ones that form something of a critical consensus), how could I choose ten and only ten? The task would only become that much more impossible. Is Keaton's The General really greater than Chaplin's City Lights? Is one more important than the other? Do we want to give up either one? Is Lang's M. really greater than his Metropolis? Can one pick a single John Ford film or do they all cancel each other out because they're all so consistently good? And so on.

What follows is a list of the ten greatest movies of all time, excepting the fifty others, just as great, that I've left off the list and the thousand others that I haven't seen.

Top Ten

1) Stalker (Tarkovsky, 1979)
2) There Will Be Blood (Anderson, 2007)
3) Rubin & Ed (Harris, 1991)
4) Terror in a Texas Town (Lewis, 1958)
5) The New World (Malick, 2005)
6) A Woman Under the Influence (Cassavetes, 1974)
7) The Flowers of St. Francis (Rossellini, 1950)
8) Modern Times (Chaplin, 1936)
9) The Adventures of Robin Hood (Curtiz, 1938)
10) The Seventh Seal (Bergman, 1957)

I'm going to leave out the commentary for now even though I know that's the most fun part.

At this moment in time, those films above are my desert island picks. THE GREATEST FILMS. THE MOST IMPORTANT FILMS OF ALL TIME. THE MOST BEAUTIFUL FILMS. YES, INDEED, MY FAVORITES. There you are, Sight and Sound. Mr. Musa, I hope you're happy now.

But, of course, I already regret the above list. It is missing many, many of my favorite films. Why Stalker and not Andrei Rublev? Why not include them both? How do I dare include Rubin & Ed? Where are the Rohmer films? Isn't On the Waterfont pretty much perfect? Well, where is it? Why are there no animated films on this list? Isn't Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein more entertaining than every film on the list? Where are the rest of the foreign films? Where are the rest of the Hollywood studio films? And on and on.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Easter Eggs for Hitler

I'm going to try hard to stay current.

Captain America: The First Avenger is plenty of fun.

It's nowhere near as fun as the Hulk film I'm imagining. Written and directed by and starring Mark Ruffalo.


Catching up.

I've decided that I can't write about Safety Not Guaranteed without spoiling it. I love the ending. Whatever reservations I still have about the film are mostly due to the film's sense of humor, which I felt too often devolved into a That 70s Show level of not-that-funny.

I also watched a forgettable Western at the end of July. War Arrow. Maureen O'Hara is the best thing about it.

Now, it's August. My viewing has slowed down a lot.

I've watched a few things with the girls, including The Lady Vanishes.

The Paleface might become essential. I enjoy it more every time I watch it.

Rebecca of Sunnybrook Farm is surprisingly enjoyable. Directed by one of cinema history's greatest action director. Starring one of cinema history's greatest cowboy actors. And Shirley Temple. Huh? It works.

I don't have much more to say about it.

Here's Graham Greene on Shirley Temple:

"Watch the way she measures a man with agile studio eyes, with dimpled depravity. Adult emotions of love and grief glissade across the mask of childhood, a childhood that is only skin-deep. It is clever, but it cannot last. Her admirers—middle-aged men and clergymen—respond to her dubious coquetry, to the sight of her well-shaped and desirable little body, packed with enormous vitality, only because the safety curtain of story and dialogue drops between their intelligence and their desire."


I'm getting rid of a giant collection of Greene's film writing. Anyone interested in it?

Other than those movies, I've continued to keep up with Breaking Bad. "Fifty-one" is one of the greatest episodes in the series' astoundingly great run. Most episodes are good. Many are great. A few are better than just about anything else on screen, big or small, now or up against anything in the past. Of course, these episodes are built on the cumulative strength of previous episodes so it's hard to consider them in isolation.

Rian Johnson's Looper has become my most anticipated film of the year.

Finally, a train heist? A train heist?! A train heist!!!

Don't bother me. I'm busy composing The Ballad of Jesse Pinkman.

Friday, August 10, 2012

My Essentials: The Lady Vanishes

The Lady Vanishes has it all. Like most Hitchcock films (especially the 30s ones), Lady finds the right balance between holiday hijinx, screwball romance, international espionage, and all-out action.

Lady starts at an inn, in a small and forgettable town in the middle of Europe. The inn is overcrowded due to a train being delayed there by inclement weather. One could be forgiven for assuming that this is a charming comedy as our cast of characters is introduced.

All is fun and games until we're shown a single startlingly shocking shot of a singer being strangled.

Nevertheless, the dominant pleasant tone more of less continues as the long-awaited train arrives in the morning. By this point we've identified our protagonist, the young and privileged Iris, who is returning home from one of a string of vacations. Her intent in returning home is to settle down in marriage with a young man as rich and spoiled and loveless as herself. We've also been introduced to the elderly Miss Froy, a kindly Governess on her way back to England after working abroad as a Governess for several years.

As everyone prepares to board the train, it's easy to forget about that brief image of murder that we've seen. That is, until a flower pot shoved out a window, intended for Froy(!), hits Iris on the head and nearly knocks her out.

Froy takes care of Iris on the train. After having tea together, the two return to their train car and Iris sleeps off the effects of her near-concussion. When she wakes up, Miss Froy is gone. Worse, the passengers in her car deny ever having seen her. Not a single passenger on the train will confirm that there was ever anyone matching Miss Froy's description on the train. Iris's panic and frustration is palpable now.

These feelings of disorientation and despair as the world is turned upside down are preoccupations of Hitchcock. Hitchcock is so excellent at detailing this modern anxiety, both visually and thematically. He does so without resorting to mopey introspection, but uses the tropes of the suspense genre to externalize emotion and display it relentlessly moving forward just as the train in Lady chugs along, in which stopping does not necessarily mean rest. Stopping the train (the momentum of the plot) is a means of highlighting decisive moments. As in the best Westerns, indeed as in the best movies, ACTIONS reveal character.

Lady Vanishes is never preachy, but it is indubitably morally instructive. Heroism and sacrifice are quietly lauded in a reserved and peculiarly English sort of way.

And the ending? I suppose it's a bit of a spoiler to mention it. The ending is delightful. There is something so satisfyingly right about it that my heart wells up with syrupy sweetness, knowing down deep that everything is and shall be good and right in the world.