Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Someone's gotta do it...

Moving your stuff from one computer to another is always a daunting task; however, when you move things from a PC to a Mac things become increasingly difficult...especially when external hard-drives are involved. A couple of summers ago I went out and got myself a nice Terabyte hard-drive to put all of my movies on. For the record that was painstaking enough. However, when I switched computers files and folders were lost along the way, and at some point I deleted my entire Martin Scorsese catalogue.

This may not seem like much of a big deal; however, that is over 20 films, most of which come in over 2 hours, and several come close to 3 hours to rip onto the new computer to place back onto the hard-drive. But then, I discover that the program I use to rip my movies onto my Mac results in a much higher quality digital copy than did the old program. So, now I am currently re-ripping everything, or nearly everything I own. I suppose that's what happens when A) Better Quality B) Cinephilia and C) Lots of time combine to create a perfect storm.

So, after several days off the "Favorite Films" series, I have decided that I do not know enough about 1930s cinema to continue the series as it was being run. So, as for now I don't know what to tell you to expect over the next few weeks, maybe I'll start posting some reviews here again (that's a novel idea). So, maybe we can start getting some quality reviews up again instead of little 150-300 word blurbs that one can find on imdb.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Favorite Films: The 1940's

Casablanca (1942) Michael Curtiz - Let the record show that choosing a "number one" film for the 1940s was the hardest of the decades yet because there were two films that easily could have been chosen. But, when all was said and done, how could I go against Humphrey and Ingrid? Is there really any doubt that this film about two war-torn lovers who meet in Paris and meet again in Casablanca is the most romantic film ever. At least the most romantic ever made about World War II. The film was adapted from a little-known stage play and was originally supposed to be another cheaply made mass produced picture by Warner Bros. Studio and star future president Ronald Reagan. As luck would have it, however, Bogart ended up taking the lead role in the film sharing the headline with Swedish beauty, Ingrid Bergman. The film would go on to win three Academy Awards for Best Picture, Director and Screenplay, and in 2006 the Writers Guild of America named it the greatest screenplay ever written, and the American Film Institute has it currently ranked as the 3rd greatest American film ever made. I have my doubts its because the scenario is truly relatable for a large majority of people, but I also have my suspicions that most people have experienced love-lost or had a "We'll always have Paris"-type moment in their personal story. Humphrey Bogart and Ingrid Bergman would both star in several of the pictures to be listed below, but in 1942, they captured the hearts of thousands when they starred together for the only time in both of their outstanding careers.

The Rest:

Citizen Kane (1941) Orson Welles
Detour (1945) Edgar G. Ulmer
Double Indemnity (1944) Billy Wilder
Its a Wonderful Life (1946) Frank Capra
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943) Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
The Maltese Falcon (1941) John Huston
Notorious (1946) Alfred Hitchcock
Spellbound (1945) Alfred Hitchcock
The Thief of Bagdad (1940) Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger
The Third Man (1949) Carol Reed

Honorable Mentions: The Best Years of Our Lives, The Grapes of Wrath, The Red Shoes, Treasure of Sierra Madre.

Thursday, April 15, 2010

Favorite Films: The 1950's

Rear Window (1954) Alfred Hitchcock - Jimmy Stewart may be the most lovable leading man in the history of Hollywood. Alfred Hitchcock may be the greatest suspense director in the history of cinema. The two teamed up several times and made several great films. But 1954's Rear Window is the mother of them all. The film takes place, almost exclusively, in one room and from one vantage point. This can be maddening, and I have a nagging suspicion that that is the point. Why should we as the audience get any better view than the leading man? After all, it is his story, and it is his camera lens that we're seeing the picture through. Hitchcock once said that it is the director's job to "play the audience like a piano," and there is not a better example of his doing so than in Rear Window. Many say that Vertigo is the master's opus and some may add Psycho, It seems to me, however, that this gem is his most overlooked, with the possible exception of one a little further down the list.

The Rest:

12 Angry Men (1957) Sidney Lumet
400 Blows (1959) Fran├žois Truffaut
Beat the Devil (1953) John Huston
Dial M for Murder (1954) Alfred Hitchcock
Rashomon (1950) Akira Kurosawa
Seven Samurai (1954) Akira Kurosawa
Seventh Seal (1957) Ingmar Bergman
Strangers on a Train (1951) Alfred Hitchcock
Sunset Blvd. (1950) Billy Wilder
Wild Strawberries (1957) Ingmar Bergman

Honorable Mention: Bob Le Flambeau, Elevator to the Gallows, I Confess, Ikiru, North by Northwest, On the Waterfront, Rebel Without a Cause, The River, Smiles of a Summer Night, Vertigo

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Favorite Films: The 1960's

Dr. Strangelove, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (1964) Stanley Kubrick - Let it be known that Stanley Kubrick is one of the greatest filmmakers ever. Period. Even those who do not enjoy his pictures can recognize the skill and care of the craft. Kubrick was nothing if he weren't a technical master. That said, this is his masterpiece. Dr. Strangelove, is quite possibly the funniest film ever made. If it is not, I'd be hard pressed to think of any better. But This film is more than hysterical, it is also incredibly smart and nearly perfectly crafted. The film is a satire of the Nuclear threat that was on constant red alert in the United States and in the Soviet Union. At the center of this "hot line suspense comedy" is a triad of performances by the vastly under appreciated, Peter Sellers. His portrayal of the US President was so funny and irreverent that the film was due to come out in November 1963, but after the assassination of John F. Kennedy, Kubrick decided that it wouldn't be appropriate for release and personally held it back until February 1964. Which is the kind of man and filmmaker Kubrick was, as we was quoted as saying, "One man writes a novel. One man composes a symphony. It is necessary for one man to make a film."

The Rest:

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968) Stanley Kubrick
Bonnie and Clyde (1967) Arthur Penn
The Faith Trilogy (1961-63) Ingmar Bergman
The Good, The Bad and The Ugly (1966) Sergio Leone
The Graduate (1967) Mike Nichols
A Hard Days Night (1964) Richard Lesster
Persona (1966) Ingmar Bergman
Psycho (1960) Alfred Hitchcock
The Virgin Spring (1960) Ingmar Bergman
Who's That Knocking At My Door (1968) Martin Scorsese

*Apologies to 8 1/2, Battle of Algiers, Breathless, Jules and Jim, Band of Outsiders, La Dolce Vita and Ivan's Childhood for forgetting you on this list. Probably only 2 of you had a real chance of getting on anyway. Consider this an Honorable Mention for the French New Wave and Italian Neo-Realists.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Favorite Films: The 1970's

The Godfather pts I & II (1972/1974) Francis Ford Coppola - This may seem like, and may be a cop out. But I don't care. The fact of the matter is that these two films are one story, follow one arc, are perfect and belong to the greatest decade in the history of cinema, and as it is the greatest decade in the history of cinema it deserves to have double the pictures (totaling nearly 6 1/2 hours) than the other decades have had. As I have already stated, these two films are completely perfect. There is little that I can say that can add to the endless literature on these two pictures, the arc of a man's life from young idealist that wants nothing to do with the "family business" to running it. Al Pacino delivers two of the great performances of his career, if not of all time as Michael Corleone and Marlon Brando and Robert de Niro both give knock out performances as Michael's father, Vito 'Don' Corleone. The constant tragedy that envelopes this family are incredible, the way that they're able to wade through it and get passed it...or become it. However, despite both of these films being as great as they are, there is one scene that goes beyond the point of perfection at the end of the first film wherein Coppola shows the baptism of a child and the end of a bloody gang war, and the juxtaposition of the scene may be the greatest scene I have ever seen on celluloid.

The Rest:

3 Women (1977) Robert Altman
Cries and Whispers (1973) Ingmar Bergman
Jaws (1975) Steven Spielberg
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971) Robert Altman
Nashville (1975) Robert Altman
Network (1976) Sidney Lumet
One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) Milos Foreman
Scenes From a Marriage (1974) Ingmar Bergman
Stroszek (1978) Werner Herzog
Taxi Driver (1976) Martin Scorsese

And here's where my self-imposed cutoff is killing me. But I will resist naming any other films from the 1970s.

Honorable Mentions: Alice Doesn't Live Here Anymore, Agguire: The Wrath of God, Annie Hall, Autumn Sonata, Chinatown, Dog Day Afternoon, Five Easy Pieces, Manhattan, M*A*S*H, Mean Streets

Monday, April 12, 2010

Favorite Films: The 1980's

1. Fanny and Alexander (1982) Ingmar Bergman - Ingmar Bergman is one of my favorite filmmakers to ever take a breathe of air. His films are stark, spiritual, searching, existential, human. From the 1950s through Fanny and Alexander, his last film, until his real last film, Saraband, in 2003, Bergman represented all that was beautiful and difficult in world cinema. It was Bergman in The Seventh Seal that gave us the iconic image of death playing a game of chess for a young knight's life after the crusades, during the plague years in Europe. It is, however, this film, Fanny and Alexander, that is his magnum opus. The film combines the best attributes of his humanist pictures of the 70s and his spiritual/existential pictures of the 50s and 60s. It is a gigantic film that clocks in at either 3 hours or 5 hours, depending on the version of the film you watch; the three hour version plays very fast for a film that length, the five hour version fills in the blanks and takes a little more time (obviously) but if one has the allotted time, it is a beautiful film, and was Bergman's preferred version. Ingmar Bergman died in July, 2006, and left behind him an extensive, prolific, but masterful catalogue of films that have been loved and devoured by cinephiles throughout the world for decades, and will continue to be among the names at the top of the auteurs list forever.

The Rest:

After Hours (1985) Martin Scorsese
Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989) Woody Allen
Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee
Fitzcarraldo (1982) Werner Herzog
Hannah and Her Sisters (1986) Woody Allen
Raging Bull (1980) Martin Scorsese
Raiders of the Lost Ark (1982) Steven Spielberg
Ran (1985) Akira Kurosawa
Secret Honor (1984) Robert Altman
Wings of Desire (1988) Wim Wenders

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Favorite Films: The 1990's

This following group of posts will not be as extensive in categories, or analysis as the Decade in Review post was for 2000-2009; it will however give a breakdown of some of my favorite films of the decade between 1990-1999. Contrary to the previous post, I will limit these posts to 10 films per decade, I will not try to limit it to the five or six I had previously said. I will, however, try to give one favorite film with some analysis followed by nine to ten other films in alphabetical order.

1. Shawshank Redemption (1994) Frank Darabont - In 1994 a young filmmaker took two of the great American actors to an out-of-commision prison in Mansfield, Ohio with a script based off of an uncharacteristic novella by the king of horror, Stephen King. The novella was "Rita Hayworth and the Shawshank Redemption." The story follows a man convicted with the murder of his wife and how he stays positive through the crucible and brings life back to the institutionalized men. The film condenses some of the novella's characters, specifically, the warden, who remains the same man throughout the film and is three men in the novella. The protagonist is played by an inspired Tim Robbins fresh off of two brilliant collaborations with American master, Robert Altman, and a successful political satire of his own, Bob Roberts. Robbins is perfect through the film, but the heart of the film comes from Morgan Freeman, the man Pauline Kael said was the greatest working American actor: after his first picture. The films tells a story of unlikely friendship through trying circumstances and 20 years of rejections, new friends, and old friends dying off. Darabont's film is a beautiful film that captures the best of friendship in the worst of circumstances.

The Rest:

Being John Malkavich (1999) Spike Jonze
Bringing Out the Dead (1999) Martin Scorsese
Fargo (1996) Joel Coen
Goodfellas (1990) Martin Scorsese
L. A. Confidential (1997) Curtis Hanson
Magnolia (1999) Paul Thomas Anderson
The Player (1992) Robert Altman
Pulp Fiction (1994) Quentin Tarantino
Saving Private Ryan (1998) Steven Spielberg
Three Colors Trilogy (1993-94) Krzysztof Kieslowski

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Decade in Review

I did make a Best of the Decade list which I will post here. I will also be unveiling a new style list that I was just introduced to where I will give a favorite film of each decade, and then I will give a few (up to five) honorable mentions (in alphabetical order) for that decade. This is in order to forego a traditional top whatever movie list which forces me to say "this is my 3rd favorite movie of all time." That will be posted within the next few days, but here are the Top 10 of 2000-2009 in a semi-organized fashion.

10. Up in the Air (2009) by Jason Reitman - Reitman made three films in the latter half of the last decade that were all great films in one way or another, Thank You for Smoking made a contemptible man into a lovable protagonist, Juno showed the hardships of being a 16 year, especially one who becomes unexpectedly pregnant, but his latest film was the one that was completely relevant, and pulled out the tough stops to say something important. Up in the Air is a romantic comedy that refuses to play by any preset standards, shows the American dream at its worst, is driven by a great screenplay with powerhouse performances by its three principles, including the best performance of George Clooney's already stellar resume.

9. There Will be Blood (2007) Paul Thomas Anderson - Along with Reitman, Anderson is a young auteur that will be making powerful and relevant films for years to come. His fifth feature breaks down the standard dichotomy that has faced America since its inception: Faith versus Greed. How much is too much? How far is too far? Daniel Day-Lewis plays Daniel Plainview in this throw back to a 1970s style Western and is the supernatural force behind this powerhouse film that toes the fine line between melodrama and hysteria, but toes it with dignity and class and never misses a step.

8. The Departed (2006) Martin Scorsese - The last decade was a good one for my favorite director. While he didn't have an all-time great, such as Goodfellas, Raging Bull or Taxi Driver he had three films that were very good, and capped it in 2006 with this great film that, perhaps, just missed the pantheon, but did finally win him his long overdue Oscar. The film's plot is Shakespearean and takes its viewers on a twisting turning ride through Boston's Irish underworld. With a great ensemble cast, Scorsese makes his return to the streets a big one in this Crime Thriller that is bound to be a classic.

7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) Andrew Dominik - 2007 brought back the Western in a big way. A genre that I thought was officially dead when Clint Eastwood made the beautiful Unforgiven 15 years earlier in 1992. But not everything is officially dead after their soliloquy is written, and if one doesn't count a film I have further up the list as a Western, The Assassination of Jesse James is the best Western made since '92. Photographed by the oft-underappreciated Roger Deakins, the film is beautiful to look at from start to finish, and as some critics pointed out the title allows us to not worry about the ending of the film and just see how it all unfolds. Maybe this soliloquy is the true swan song, but something tells me the Western will never actually die in American cinema, its too important to our nation's mythos.

6. Adaptation (2002) Spike Jonze - In 1999 the world was introduced to a young screenwriter and a young director and the world of cinema would never be the same. The film, Being John Malkavich, the screenwriter: Charlie Kaufman, the director: Spike Jonze. In 2002 the two men joined forces once again to create another gem, Adaptation. The film follows Charlie and his fictional twin Donald as they try to adapt The Orchid Thief into a screenplay. The twins are played by Nicolas Cage, in his best performance since Leaving Los Vegas in an implosive performance that rivals Day-Lewis in There Will be Blood and Sean Penn in Mystic River.

5. Munich (2005) Steven Spielberg - Some films are important because of artistry, some because of message, some just are, and some have all three. In 1972 the Israeli Olympic team suffered a terrorist attack by a group of Palestinian nationalists called Black September, Mossad retaliated by sending a secret team of intelligence experts out to dispatch of these men. Spielberg's 2005 masterpiece follows the retaliation in a thriller for the ages, but when he leaves us with the last shot of the picture, we get it. This is one of those films that is important for its artistry, its message and for various inexplicable but noticeable reasons.

4. Synecdoche, New York (2008) Charlie Kaufman - Here's that name again. Charlie Kaufman made the list for his directorial debut by being the king of a fairly weak year. As I stated in a post just a few days ago, this may be the most profound film that I have ever seen, as a screenplay its perfect, the Magnum Opus of Hollywood's best writer. As an acting piece it is top notch, from a spiritual and philosophical level it is near the peak. Philip Seymour Hoffman is pathetic as Caden and we cannot help but see ourselves at our worst in him. He just wants to be remembered. Well, he will be, and so will this film.

3. Mystic River (2003) Clint Eastwood - If someone were to tell Dirty Harry that he was going to have a second career even better than his first, but it wouldn't be for being rough and tumbled but a true artist, they should be found and put on a mantle. By 2003, Clint Eastwood had already won two Oscars for Unforgiven, but then it turned out, it was no fluke and 2003's Mystic River marked the beginning of what has to be an unparalleled string of pearls for a director in his 70s making seven films in seven years all of which have been lauded in most film circles. Sean Penn gives one of the best performances of the decade and is flanked by one of the best ensembles of the decade.

2. No Country for Old Men (2007) Joel and Ethan Coen - These brothers have made a career of making films that eat at their audience from start to finish. This is their masterpiece. This is the best film of the best year of the decade. A cat-and-mouse thriller that pits an everyman against a man that could be the Grim Reaper himself, though I doubt it. Maybe Death's first general though. Playing the best villain since Hannibal Lector, Javier Bardem steals the show as Anton Chigurh a sadistic and mysterious man that seems to have no stakes in his business other than the love of seeing other people loose his game.

1. Pan's Labyrinth (2006) Guillermo del Toro - Once ever 15 - 20 years an explosion of talent enters Hollywood from a foreign language market. In the 50s and 60s it was a massive European explosion with the French New Wave, the Italian Neo-realists and Ingmar Bergman from Sweden. This is probably the longest stretch of American love for foreign cinema ever as it stretched into the 70s and early 80s as Bergman pumped out masterpiece after masterpiece. In the early parts of the last decades there was some smoke coming out of Mexico, but in 2006 the fires erupted as the top three directors from Mexico (lovingly dubbed the Three Amigos as they are friends and business partners) as del Toro, Cuaron and Inarritu all pumped out critically acclaimed films. Pan's Labyrinth was the best of them, also the only one made strictly in Spanish. The story has been called a Fairy Tale for adults and must be seen to be appreciated, as a plot description would not suffice.

Honorable Mentions - Lost in Translation (2003) Sofia Coppla, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) Michel Gondry, Juno (2007) Jason Reitman, Million Dollar Baby (2004) Clint Eastwood, Lord of the Rings (2001-03) Peter Jackson, Iwo Jima Saga (2006) Clint Eastwood

Best Year - 2007
Screenwriter of the Decade - Charlie Kaufman
Director of the Decade - Clint Eastwood
New Artist - Jason Reitman
Actor (not performance) - Sean Penn
Actress - Kate Winslet
Lead Male Performance - Daniel Day-Lewis (There Will be Blood) Sean Penn (Mystic River) tie
Lead Female Performance - Kate Winslet (Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind)
Supporting Performances - Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men) Naomi Watts (21 Grams)
Original Screenplay - Synecdoche, New York - Charlie Kaufman; Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind - Charlie Kaufman; Pan's Labyrinth - Guillermo del Toro
Adapted Screenplay - No Country for Old Men - Joel and Ethan Coen; Adaptation - Charlie Kaufman; Up in the Air - Jason Reitman and Sheldon Turner

Thursday, April 1, 2010

Mulholland Drive (2001) by David Lynch

David Lynch's dark, experimental film noir, Mulholland Drive, is a mind screw of the highest quality. The film has several explanations, the question, however, is whether trying to explain this film is even necessary. I, for one, don't believe it is.

Mulholland Drive is a dark, sexy and thrilling film that keeps you wondering what the mystery is from start to finish and leaves you wondering if there is even an explanation to be had once it is over. Watch it.