Friday, February 26, 2010

#62 Annie Hall: I was a lot more attractive when the evening began.

1977. dir. Woody Allen, starring Woody Allen, Diane Keaton.

Seen it before? Yes.
Marge Simpson: Did anyone see the new Woodsy Allen movie?
Ned Flanders: You know, I like his films except for that nervous fellow that's always in 'em.
The Simpsons, A Milhouse Divided
Woody Allen plays Alvy Singer, the most neurotic movie character ever. He constantly whines about everything. Seriously, this guy, you just want to punch him in the face. The movie consists of him, at length and from many perspectives, analyzing his failed relationship with the titular Annie Hall (Diane Keaton). The movie uses a lot of creative storytelling devices:
  • Alvy steps into the past to explore his formative experiences. The funniest of these scenes is when he goes back to elementary school.
  • Alvy and Annie have a conversation, with subtitles revealing the subtext of what they're saying.
  • Split screens, where the two halves are ironic counterparts to each other.
  • Alvy is irritated with a loudmouth talkinga bout Marshall MacLuhan, so he shuts him up by having Marshall MacLuhan refute him.
  • Annie is bored during sex, and her spirit gets up and walks away while her body remains.
  • Alvy strikes up conversations with total strangers, who are all weirdly honest with him.
It's a very clever movie, and it's as much about Alvy's relationship with New York and his struggles within himself as it is about his relationship with Annie. It's funny, but there are a lot of references to late 70's pop culture that don't really fly anymore. Also what the hell was up with Diane Keaton's wardrobe in this movie? I read that this caused a fashion sensation back in '77; what were people thinking? She looks like a mental patient.

Position on the list: 132
Hey! It's that guy!: A lot of them... Paul Simon, Sigourney Weaver, Jeff Goldblum, Truman Capote, among others.

Thursday, February 25, 2010

#58 Blood Diamond - and FYI I have NEVER asked Sam for another diamond...even before I saw this movie!

2006. dir. Edward Zwick, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou.

Seen it before? Yes, this one I stayed awake for while Sam slept...

The problem with having a baby face is that it's all you see when watching DiCaprio...except in this movie when all you can pay attention to is his terrible try at a South African accent...whoops!
The movie is dark but in the way it's supposed to be - face it people things like this ARE HAPPENING in other parts of the world! Kids with guns 'trained' (more like BRAINWASHED) into shooting others to bully them into joining the rebels is a sad fact. Slave labor to harvest diamonds is a reality. Families being torn apart...well, it's just awful! You would think this movie would make me depressed - to be perfectly honest it just weighed me down with sadness and a mixture of hope. I know that things worked out pretty well for Djimon Hounsou and his family but like Sam said, his story is rare and all things being considered, Solomon Vandy and his family became displaced from their fishing village and made to endure camps like sardines in a can.
I actually knew a kid who came from Africa as a refugee. His family was helped for the first two months they were in America but after that they had to fend for themselves (a social worker came in to check on them and the ESL/ELL teachers who worked with this kid and his siblings - a whole VILLAGE came as refugees - made sure to spend their extra money teaching them hygiene habits and feeding them breakfast and other snacks). They weren't like the Vandy's who seemed to educate their eldest son so that he could make something of himself. I'm pretty sure they didn't have the money though that's not always the case...sometimes refugee families DO come from money and are like the Vandys, they HAVE to flee their homes. I digress - the kids I met didn't go to school until they came here and therefore were way behind (in English and knowing how to read...of course I was way behind in communicating with them in their native tongue but alas that's the kind of education I received). It tore me up the first time I saw this thinking that the conditions my student and his family fled from might have been exactly like this movie.
That being said, DiCaprio isn't awful. Hounsou is powerful as always (yes, that was him on ER and the first movie I saw him in was Amistad with my friend Rishi and it was AMAZING!), Jennifer Connelly I can't look at the same way after watching Requiem...too bad. And contrary to what Sam wrote she was moderately helpful. Press credentials will get you info apparently.
Lessons learned - Greed is a bad thing. Don't buy diamonds unless they're conflict free. If you don't have other organizations you are devoted to helping send your money to Africa and let's get these kids away from the horrors they are surrounded with.
Would I watch it again? Yes, and I would LOVE to teach with it one day (not for elementary kids of course - too violent)
Would I own it? Well, Sam, you CAN get me this Diamond!

#61 Ran: The failed mind sees the heart's failings

1985. dir. Akira Kurosawa, starring Tatsuya Nakadai, Akira Terao, Jinpachi Nezu. Japanese with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

Kurosawa's last major film was an interpretation of Shakespeare's King Lear. It just got re-released on Blu-Ray, and it is spectacular...

Lord Hidetora (Tatsuya Nakadai) is an aging warlord in Tokugawa-era Japan. He announces that he plans to retire, and leave his kingdom to his three helpfully color-coded sons. Taro (Akira Terao, yellow) gets the largest castle, Jiro (Jinpachi Nezu, red) gets the second-largest, and Saburo (Daisuke Ryû, blue) gets the third-largest. Hidetora challenges all three to break an arrow, and they all do it easily; then he challenges them to break a bundle of three, and they can't. Saburo complains that Hidetora's plan makes no sense, and punctuates his point by breaking three arrows over his knee. And he's right.

What follows is a brutal and epic war between the three brothers, the father, and some outsiders. The battle scenes are amazing. The color coding comes in handy because otherwise you wouldn't know what was happening. Hidetora descends into madness, and is followed everywhere by a jester who gets really annoying really fast.

It's long (2h40m), bloody, and has subtitles, but you should see this movie.

Position on the list: 144
My favorite Samurai Shodown character: Genjuro Kibagami. Ukyo Tachibana was pretty awesome too.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

#60 It Happened One Night: I'll stop a car, and I won't use my thumb

1934. dir. Frank Capra, starring Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert.

Seen it before? No.

Claudette Colbert plays Ellie, a wealthy socialite who escapes her domineering father and takes a bus from Miami to New York to meet her husband. Along the way she meets Peter, a recently fired reporter. Peter agrees not to report her to her father in exchange for her story, which is the scoop he needs to get back into the newspaper game. The two of them encounter several mishaps along the way, and become close to each other, and, well, you can guess what happens.

The reason you can guess what happens is because this is the mother of all romantic comedies. (well, it came out 75 years ago, so it's more like the grandmother of all romantic comedies.) Many of the elements of this movie are now time-worn cliches: They "meet cute", she's a spoiled princess, they hate each other at first, grow to like each other, big misunderstanding-driven plot device to keep them apart, big wedding finale to decoy guy at the end. Yes, Runaway Bride, congratulations, you ripped off a movie made while FDR was president. Real creative.

Clark Gable's character is a real jerk. He's constantly insulting poor Ellie, pointing out all of her flaws, telling her to shut up, etc. He slaps her at one point. Unfortunately a lot of newer rom-coms use this trope of the man expressing his affection by belittling her...

This was a pretty funny movie. I liked the part where Clark Gable was crunching on the carrot ala Bugs Bunny. Also the part where Claudette Colbert lifted her skirt to get the car to stop. How many times have we seen somebody do that!

Position on the list: 145
The sweep: Best Picture, Director, Screenplay, Actor, and Actress. Two other movies pulled off this feat: One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest and Silence of the Lambs. We'll get to those later...

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

#57 All About Eve - the precursor stalker movie to SWF

1950. dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm.

Seen it before? No.

First of all this was another movie where all I could hear was the song, "Bette Davis Eyes" by Kim Carnes. Secondly, Bette Davis scares me. Her look is intimidating and her presence commanding. She apparently was the nicer of the two (Joan Crawford being the other of the two). And she is my hero for never saying anything bad about her nemesis...for example [commenting on the death of long-time nemesis Joan Crawford] You should never say bad things about the dead, you should only say good . . . Joan Crawford is dead. Good. (

I KNEW that Eve was up to no good! Who just drops everything to follow an actress, I don't care how good the actress is! And can I just say that Bill (Gary Merrill) is my favorite leading man! You have to watch the movie to see why but he just made me very happy! Marilyn Monroe is just beautiful and this was her eleventh film so she was not quite the sex siren she would later be known for, although DAMN did she have stage presence...even though it was a little part. I worried about the character Karen but she ended up being the good friend Margo needed. The movie ended up being the 'how many people can stab each other in the back' movie for me.

Would I see it again? Yes, and with pleasure
Character I loathed? EVE
Would I own it? if it was a gift.

Monday, February 22, 2010

#59 Wild Strawberries: I lost my way among empty streets

1957. dir. Ingmar Bergman, starring Victor Sjöström, Bibi Andersson, Ingrid Thulin. Swedish with subtitles.

Seen it before? No.

Victor Sjöström plays Professor Isak Borg, who is a 75 years old. He is alone with his maid, and it seems like nobody likes him. He is traveling to receive an honorary degree, and he brings his daughter-in-law with him. Along the way:
  • He stops by his boyhood summer home, and confronts old memories of his cousin (?) whom I guess he was in love with (!?)
  • Picks up some teenage hitchhikers: A girl, and her two boyfriends. heh.
  • Almost gets into an accident with a bickering couple, whom the daughter-in-law kicks out of the car.
  • They have lunch... drink some wine...
  • Borg visits his mother, who is 95. Full of piss and vinegar. She has a box of his old things.
  • Borg falls asleep and has weird dreams about loneliness and failure.
It's a meditation on loneliness and aging. This was Victor Sjöström's last movie so that adds a layer of... something, I don't know. Bergman's use of imagery and flashback gives the whole movie this dream-like quality. It's deep and thought-provoking. Great movie.

Position on the list: 152
Seriously? Cousins? Sara ends up marrying one of Isak's brothers. Did they really mean "cousin", or did they just screw up the translation?

#58 Blood Diamond: T.I.A.

2006. dir. Edward Zwick, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Jennifer Connelly, Djimon Hounsou.

Seen it before? I tried once, but I fell asleep about 30 minutes in.

So you remember those anti-drug PSA's from a few years ago, where they link the money spent on drugs to terrorism? We all laughed at it, but it's sort of true. The Taliban does get a lot of profit from the heroin trade. Of course, by the logic of the PSA, there are lots of other things that you shouldn't buy - oil, gold, sugar, coffee, and as this movie bears out, diamonds.

It's 1999, and there is a civil war in Sierra Leone. Djimon Hounsou plays a fisherman. One day the rebels show up, burn his village down, and force him to work in the diamond fields. Oh yeah and they force his son to become a child soldier. So he finds a 100-carat diamond, which he hides. Leonardo DiCaprio plays a smuggler who helps him sell the diamond and reunite with his family. (of course he's mostly just trying to exploit him.) Also Jennifer Connelly plays a journalist who's sort of judgmental and useless.

I should point out that this is a rare movie where DiCaprio isn't very good. I blame his half-assed attempt at a South African accent - it makes his Southie accent in The Departed sound convincing, that's how bad it is.

This is a good movie, but not an enjoyable one. Lots of terrible things happen like people getting shot and their hands getting chopped off. The film looks terrific; they show these beautiful shots of Africa, with the mountains and the wildlife, and you think, "Oh, I'd like to visit there!" But then a truckload of guys with AK-47's drive by and you think, "Uh, never mind." Even the ending, while happy for Djimon Hounsou, is kind of a downer, because you realize he only got out because he was incredibly lucky, and that everybody else is still totally screwed over, and there's still a refugee camp with a million people living in tents. T.I.A., I guess.

Position on the list: Not there anymore - bumped by The Truman Show
Sorry honey: This is why I don't buy you diamonds for your birthday. I'll get you some nice clothes made in Sri Lankan sweatshops instead.

Sunday, February 21, 2010

#56 The Apartment - should be known as The Shack of Sin

1960. dir. Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray.

Seen it before? Parts of it...on RETRO Encore

According to this movie men are cheaters...and this movie exploited that and Jack Lemmon's character, C.C. Baxter...but I couldn't decide who the bad guys first I thought, well, they all are! I mean, the 'higher ups' who were cheating on their wives were scumbags, that's for sure, but I couldn't decide if Baxter was the ultimate dirt bag for letting them use his apartment (knowing what they were doing) to kick start his career track or if he was a loser who thought helping the execs would get him the status - regardless how often they displaced him from his apartment (read - stepped on him).
I get the feeling that the latter is more the explanation. He didn't seem to have any friends in the movie, and no the execs using him didn't count. After all he did have his own heart to follow - taking an interest in Shirley MacLaine's character, Fran. She was cute, likable and friendly. And when he found out about what was going on with her and her boyfriend he backed off, sort of. And he even took care of her when she was heartsick. So he couldn't be all that bad right? But he knew what was going on. And he stocked up the fridge with fruit, spirits and champagne to keep the men and their girlfriends entertained, and he took the rap for them saying he was the Lothario of the building.
So what do you call a guy who does right sometimes but allows others to do wrong all other times?
Watch it again? I liked the resolution enough to watch it again in the future.
Own it? Sure
Couldn't help but see - Dennis Quaid's face every time MacMurray was on screen...and while we're at it, I couldn't think of anyone else to cast in a modern day remake as C.C. Baxter except Topher Grace...which is hilarious since the two of them played in a movie together already...Sam's vote for Fran's role is Zooey Deschanel.

#55 Raging Bull - another F'ing boxing movie

1980. dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Robert DeNiro, Joe Pesci, Cathy Moriarty, Frank Vincent.

Seen it before? No.

Ha ha, yes, I did mistake this movie for Kevin Kostner's Bull Durham and so I was shocked to see a black and white boxing match as the menu appeared on screen.

You know it's pretty bad that we've seen the more recent Scorsese films and are working our way back through his earlier films. I've seen Goodfellas and the more recent The Departed. And I hear there are a few more on the list that I haven't seen (get your gasps out now because I was [gladly] sheltered from Scorsese growing up) Once Upon a Time in America, Taxi Driver and Casino. I must say that if the films are going to be the same damn story set in different times and settings I'm going to be continuously disappointed. See, DeNiro and Pesce are brothers in this movie but their tempers are the same as in Goodfellas and it's really damn annoying. I hate how women are treated badly in Scorsese movies. I hate that they beat the crap out of each other instead of talking stuff out.

I kept on wondering where I saw Cathy Moriarty before. She was the chick in Casper (Bill Pullman and Christina Ricci). She's good but her character puts up with way too much of DeNiro's characters' crap! LaMotta is essentially a huge loser with a capital L. His brother was wise to not forgive him after he got the crap kicked out of him in front of his wife and kids.

Last thoughts - god I hope the rest of the Scorsese movies I haven't seen aren't this disappointing.
Watch it again? NO
Own it? HELL No

#54 The Big Lebowski - I have some homework still to do

1998. dir. Joel Coen, starring Jeff Bridges, John Goodman, Julianne Moore, Steve Buscemi, David Huddleston, Peter Stormare.

Seen it before? Yes, well, kind of

I shall be coming back to this one because I have to re-watch it still...

It is now March 14, 2010 and on Friday the 12th I finally made it through the entire movie...As I told Sam, I remembered the beginning 30 minutes. I remembered the last 10 minutes and had a very vague recollection of the middle - I remembered John Goodman going ape on the red sports car...Maude for instance and the crazy nihilists wielding comically large scissors to cut of his "johnson" - those parts I totally forgot...

Tara Reid is creepy...but so is the girlfriend who lets her toe get chopped off in hopes of getting $1 million...Julianne Moore is just so freaking crazy sexy...I'm glad she's good with her body being naked so often in these films...and what a body it is...yes, yes, "The Dude: Yeah, well, you know, that's just, like, your opinion, man." well it should be EVERYONE'S opinion because Moore is HOT!!!

I haven't seen Jeff Bridges movies because he rubs me the wrong way...not like Christopher Walken or anything, but because I think he played the title role in this movie SO well that I can't imagine he'd be different in real life or in his other films...Whoops...

John Goodman is BRILLIANT! I love that everything is tied to Vietnam (even if it isn't) and that he is a dutiful ex-husband to an ex-wife who is clearly taking advantage of him and whose religion he totally kept so that he could get away with not doing things on the Jewish sabbath...

Would I see it again? Yes, but catch me when I'm not exhausted so I will stay awake through all of it in one sitting
Own it? We already do
Favorite line? There are too truly is a VERY quotable movie!

#57 All About Eve: Fasten your seatbelts...

1950. dir. Joseph L. Mankiewicz, starring Bette Davis, Anne Baxter, George Sanders, Celeste Holm.

Seen it before? No.

Bette Davis plays this over-the-hill actress Margo Channing. One night after a performance she meets a young fan of hers, Eve (Anne Baxter), whom she hires as an assistant. Eve is manipulative and ambitious, and tries to take over parts written for Margo. Margo has been concerned that her playwright friend (Hugh Marlowe) is writing parts for younger actresses. And, uh, yeah, she's right, because apparently Eve is really talented.

Eh. Pretty good I guess. A little too much inside-baseball backstage theater stuff for me to really appreciate it fully. Bette Davis basically carries it; I thought Anne Baxter was sort of stiff. The movie was nominated for 14 Oscars, which is the most ever. Four of them were actress nominations, but none for the astonishingly hot 24-year-old Marilyn Monroe who has a small part.

Position on the list: 90
Also received 14 Oscar nominations: Titanic, which is not on the list. Hooray!

#56 The Apartment: Decency-wise and otherwise-wise.

1960. dir. Billy Wilder, starring Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine, Fred MacMurray.

Seen it before? No.

It's the pre-Clarence Thomas New York of 1959, at a huge insurance company where all the bosses are nailing their secretaries and assorted other young female employees. And that's where C.C. Baxter (Jack Lemmon) comes in: he allows the higher-ups to use his apartment for their various illicit hook-ups, in exchange for being put on the fast track for promotions. Baxter is a weak-willed pushover, and kind of an annoying dick also. You spent most of the movie wanting to slap him. Anyway, the head of personnel, Mr. Sheldrake (Fred MacMurray), becomes aware of Baxter's operation, and wants in. His mistress is the cute elevator operator, played by Shirley MacLaine, that Baxter had been flirting with. (This is her only movie on the list, and that's good, because she is a pain in the ass.)

Apparently back in the day a comedy could win Best Picture, although this one gets serious in some spots. It's definitely a product of its time. Nowadays the third act would consist of Sheldrake's secretary's slam-dunk sexual harassment lawsuit. I liked the set design here, particularly the insurance office which looks endless. I don't understand why Baxter's apartment is considered such a chick magnet. It looks like a rathole. But anyway, great movie.

Position on the list: 98
Hey! It's that guy!: Ray Walston. Aloha, Mr. Hand!