Saturday, March 20, 2010

#75 Sunrise: A Song Of Two Humans: Of no place and every place

1927. dir. F. W. Murnau, starring George O'Brien, Janet Gaynor, Margaret Livingston.

Seen it before? No.

Here we go with another ridiculous silent movie. This won the Oscar for "Best Picture, Unique and Artistic Production" which is not quite the same as the current "Best Picture" Oscar. Or maybe it is, I'm not sure...

The characters don't have names. The Man (George O'Brien) is married to The Woman (Janet Gaynor) but is having an affair with The Woman From The City (Margaret Livingston). She's bad news! She smokes cigarettes and bobs her hair. She tries to get The Man to kill The Woman, sell his farm, and move to the city. There's really not much here in the way of plot. What is interesting about this movie is the pioneering use of visual effects and set design.

This is worth seeing if you're interested in film history. Unlike some of the other films we've watched from this era (like Metropolis), the picture here looks pretty good. This despite the original negatives having been destroyed in a fire in 1937.

Position on the list: 188
Uh, I don't get it: The pig. Was that a real carnival game from the 1920's? Because it looks awesome.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

#70 Mystic River - The world is a bad, bad place.

2003. dir. Clint Eastwood, starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne.

Seen it before? No.

Jimmy, Dave and Sean are three kids living in Beantown. Dave gets abducted under false pretense - the guy said he was going to take him home to his mother and make him explain why he and his friends were writing in cement - (and sexually abused) but escapes and is never the same afterward, though he does have a wife and kid. Sean becomes a cop with a daughter and a girlfriend who keeps calling but not saying anything. Jimmy becomes a parolee who runs a convenience store and is a family man. They are all tied to Boston. It's like the three couldn't escape the personal hell that became their reality once Dave got abducted. Their friendships are strained - though Dave and Jimmy are related somewhat because their wives are cousins.

The story gets complicated because the writing was made to mislead anything you're thinking. I figured it out though. So did Sam. And I was hoping I was right the whole time. But, like other Clint Eastwood movies, I don't see hope at the end of the movie. I get depressed thinking about how bad things happen to good people and how the bad things are done by people who really exist in the world.

This movie reminded me of the movie Sleepers from 1996 but in hindsight it was probably because of the sexual abuse and Kevin Bacon and not anything else...Hell's Kitchen and parts of Boston are never quite portrayed in film as anything other than Cabrini Green...

Sean Penn didn't irritate me in this movie as much as he usually does (although admittedly he was TERRIFIC in MILK!). I've seen about a dozen Kevin Bacon movies and was glad he played a good guy in this one. Tim Robbins though, wow. Any time I see Tim Robbins I envision Shawshank so seeing him in this was just incredible. I'm not a fan of Marcia Gay Harden though I felt her role was probably the doubt the one person you're supposed to love and trust the most isn't an easy task I imagine...and let me just say I love Laura Linney in anything she does and she was terrific in this movie too.

See it again? Once was enough, really
Own it? I'll pass
How do you know those characters? - Emmy Rossum as Sean Penn's daughter was in Phantom the screen version; Silent Ray - Spencer Treat Clark was in Gladiator but he was much younger.
Final thought - was Laurence Fishburne's character's name supposed to be ironic?

#74 Donnie Darko: 28:06:12:42

2001. dir Richard Kelly, starring Jake Gyllenhaal, Jena Malone, Holmes Osborne, Mary McDonnell, Beth Grant.

Seen it before? Yes.

Jake Gyllenhaal plays the titular Donnie Darko, who gets visited by a guy in a scary rabbit costume who tells him the world will end in 28 days, 6 hours, 12 minutes, and 42 seconds. Then a jet engine mysteriously crashes into his bedroom, and all sorts of strange things start happening. I've seen this movie so many times that it's hard to think of anything to say about it...

OK, so first of all, if you were like me and totally baffled the first time you saw this, read this article. It does a good job explaining everything. Apparently a lot of the time travel stuff in the movie only really makes sense if you read the supplemental material or watch the Director's Cut. Which I refuse to do. I liked it better before I understood it.

This is one of my favorite movies. The script is oddly nonsensical, but makes sense in a dream-logic sort of way. The conversations Donnie has with Noah Wyle's character are all pure nonsense, but delivered with such conviction. The score and music are great - lots of lost 80's music and creepy theremin music. The movie is set in 1988 and really captures the feel of the era. Loved the cast, especially Beth Grant ("Sometimes, I doubt your commitment to Sparkle Motion!") Also Donnie's father is pretty hilarious.

Position on the list: 124
Hey! It's That Guy!: Seth Rogen plays a bully

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

#73 The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly: Shoot, don't talk.

1966. dir. Sergio Leone, starring Clint Eastwood, Eli Wallach, Lee Van Cleef.

Seen it before? No.

Ahh ee ahh ee ahh - wah wah wah

That was my attempt to transcribe Ennio Morricone's score from this movie, which is arguably the definitive Western movie score (well, this or The Magnificent Seven.) This is the third movie in Sergio Leone's "Man With No Name" trilogy of so-called "Spaghetti" westerns, so named because they were shot in Europe with a mostly Italian cast. I say trilogy, but they are very loosely linked; it's mostly just Clint Eastwood playing the same part in all three. It's a totally stand-alone plot.

So why did we see this one first? Because it's the only one on Blu-ray yet. For A Few Dollars More is supposedly coming soon, and Fistful of Dollars isn't on our list so we'll see if we end up watching it or not.

There's basically only three characters in this movie: The Good ("Blondie", Clint Eastwood), The Bad ("Angel Eyes", Lee Van Cleef) and The Ugly (Tuco, Eli Wallach). These names aren't appropriate. I didn't think Tuco was particularly ugly, and I definitely didn't think Blondie was good. Why not? Well let's see... he shoots a bunch of people, he helps Tuco flee from justice repeatedly (and steals the reward money), he abandons Tuco in the desert, he steals a stretcher from a wounded Union soldier. He's really just as bad as the other two.

The three of them are all in pursuit of a cache of gold coins worth $200,000 abandoned by a dying Confederate soldier. Meanwhile the Civil War is still happening, so that keeps getting in the way. None of the characters seem sympathetic to either the Union or the Confederacy, although somehow Angel Eyes is in charge of a Union prison camp. I didn't understand how that was possible, since he only seems to be there when the plot requires him to be.

This is a very odd movie. I kept getting mood whiplash from the movie turning on a dime from comedy to drama. I mean, the plot is pretty silly, if you think about it, and I constantly was yelling "Just Shoot Him!" at various characters. Clint Eastwood is unbelievably lucky to have survived the whole movie, since on two separate occasions, somebody had him completely trapped, and could have just shot him, but then he got rescued by some improbable deus ex machina. Like the scene where the hotel gets blown up by a cannonball. That was hilarious when it happened in Blues Brothers, but then in this movie we see all this dead-serious stuff with wounded soldiers and it's hard to tell what to think.

Position on the list: 4(!!!!!)
I think that's: Way way way way way too high. I mean, this was a pretty good movie, but fourth best movie ever made? Really? I don't even think this is the fourth best Western ever made.

#69 North By Northwest - Don't just ask questions, go out and get the answers yourself!

1959. dir. Alfred Hitchcock, starring Cary Grant, Eva Marie Saint, James Mason, Leo G. Carroll, Martin Landau.

I've said it once and I will say it again...I LOVE CARY GRANT!!!! There's just something about him that is so suave, so debonair, so, mmmmmmmm-sexy. Watching this movie was like falling in love for the first time. He plays a man mistaken for someone else and to clear his name he sets off to find some answers.

Villains in this movie are bad. Good guys in this movie are shady. You can't help but feel bad for Roger Thornhill (Grant) because he is constantly getting doubted by those who are supposed to be on his side. Even Eva Marie Saint played someone whose side was not quite clear.

I love how there were sexual innuendos in this film (and that apparently they had to redub the lines). I love that Cary Grant is so tan (eat your heart out George Hamilton!) and doesn't look orange! I love that Cary Grant is in this movie in practically every scene (as opposed to His Girl Friday where he wasn't in it nearly enough...and I love that I remembered the key scene because it was done in Sesame Street's Follow That Bird(crop-dusting bi-plane).

The story was really well done. The effects were great considering there was no green magic eh? I remember going to Universal Studios and seeing how they did scenes similar to those atop Mt. Rushmore...It's impressive that technology in the late fifties made the chase scenes on the faces look real (and really dangerous). Of course no one can really film movies ON Mount Rushmore but the recreations were totally life-like!

Own it? Not yet but I'd like to own it.
Watch it again? Heck yes!
FYI 1212 N. Michigan Avenue, Chicago - doesn't exist.
and according to "Eva Marie Saint's line, "I never discuss love on an empty stomach," is dubbed over the line you can see her speaking on film: "I never make love on an empty stomach.""

#68 The Departed - Trust No One

2006. dir. Martin Scorsese, starring Leonardo DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson, Martin Sheen, Vera Farmiga, Mark Walberg.

Seen it before? Several times.

I could write my review about this movie now but I will do it after I have seen it with fresh other words you're going to have to wait til the weather gets crappy or for Daniel to take a nap...oh look, the weather is going to be crappy on Saturday! WOOHOO!

Yes, I know, this was a long time coming! I thought Goodfellas needed to be written before this because I needed more time to process the reviewing of the movie.

Leonardo DiCaprio and Matt Damon are State Police guys in Massachusetts. They both get assigned the Costello (Jack Nicholson) case - one as an insider who is supposed to get close to Costello and find out who the mole is and bring down his operation; one who is supposed to bring down Costello by using his skills as a cop but who actually works for Costello as a mole. Mark Wahlberg's bad hair stars as Dignam a no-nonsense Boston cop who eats new recruits for breakfast. His boss is Martin Sheen who I find to be the only good guy you want to root for. Alec Baldwin is actually pretty great in the movie too.

Vera Farmiga is like the newer model of Julia Ormond. She has sex with Matt Damon and Leonardo DiCaprio in this movie and was George Clooney's love interest in Up in the other words, I'm totally jealous. But like in the latter movie I didn't like her in this movie. She's not your standard gorgeous girl...I'd hate if she was a Bond girl...I don't even know if I like her as an actress. Aha! I figured it me she is like Claire Forlani...I'm not a huge fan of her either.

I don't think Jack Nicholson was as bad as Sam makes him out to be. I did before I re-watched the movie but after seeing it again on Thursday I am going to have to disagree. I found him actually quite hilarious. From the "necessary" roughness to the whole being called "dad" so that the deception can continue. He was great in this movie!

Have I mentioned that I find it hard to see DiCaprio playing these kinds of roles? His face is still so's weird for me. And I hate jerky Matt Damon. I really and truly do.

See it again? Yes
Own it? Yup

#72 The Killing: A great big dollar sign there where most women have a heart

1956. dir. Stanley Kubrick, starring Sterling Hayden, Coleen Gray, Vince Edwards, Marie Windsor.

Seen it before? No.

Movies like this are why I'm doing this project - this is a great movie, and I had never even heard of it until now. Before Stanley Kubrick became Mr. 3-Hour Snooze Fest Serious-Artiste, he worked on low-budget crime movies like this one, which tells the story of a daring robbery at a horse track. Sterling Hayden, best known to modern audiences as Gen. Jack D. Ripper from Dr. Strangelove or Capt. McCluskey from The Godfather, stars as Johnny Clay, who organizes the whole affair. It's a fairly ingenious plan, sort of like a mini-Ocean's Eleven, but he makes two key mistakes. One of them is picking the wrong inside man - he is thoroughly henpecked by his wife (Marie Windsor) and he tells her about the plan. (I won't spoil the other mistake, but it's pretty obvious when it happens.)

This movie is pretty inventive in the way it jumps back and forth in time to show the pieces of the heist moving into position. Kubrick almost seems to be playing with film-noir convention here. Some of the characters and plot devices are so over the top that they almost seem to be parodies. I couldn't really take Sterling Hayden's character seriously, for example. The dialogue is great, particularly Marie Windsor and Elisha Cook as the domineering wife and ineffectual husband.

Definitely see this if you're a fan of Quentin Tarantino (he appears to have gotten a lot of ideas from this) or heist movies in general.

Position on the list: 180
Hey! It's that Guy: Supposedly Rodney Dangerfield appears briefly as an extra, but I couldn't spot him.

Monday, March 15, 2010

#67 The Deer Hunter - My name is Bambi, oh if someone would have put me out of my misery I wouldn't have had to sit through this...

1978. dir. Michael Cimino, starring Robert DeNiro, Christopher Walken, John Savage, Meryl Streep, John Cazale.

Seen it before? No.

One of my very good friends lost her brother to Russian Roulette. To her and to others who have lost loved ones to gun violence I must say, DO NOT WATCH THIS!!!! Three hours is a long amount of time for a movie...especially one that didn't have much going on for huge chunks. It was like ugh...and yet I managed to stay awake for the whole thing. Even the painful scenes where the men are forced to play Russian Roulette.

Meryl Streep is just beautiful...then and now. I couldn't tear my eyes off of her when she was on-screen. Oddly enough I watched the Oscars right after we finished the movie and there she was nominated again (her 16th nomination). She's probably one of my favorite actresses of all time...I've seen a LOT of her films...she's incredibly versatile. And she has a softer beauty that Glenn Close, talented as she is, doesn't have with her sharp features.

I liked DeNiro in this film...He brought the tough as nails but damaged by trauma characters together nicely. I was rooting for him to get together with Meryl Streep...but that was a bit of an odd love triangle with Christopher Walken, Speaking of Christopher Walken, he wasn't nearly as creepy in this early film as he is to me now...though his character was so damaged by Russian Roulette that he started making a living out of it...ARGH. That ruined his not-so-creepy factor for me. As for the third guy, John Savage, I kinda just felt bad for him...he gets married at the beginning, gets completely damaged by the Viet Cong during their shooting game, and then doesn't want to leave the VA hospital to be with his wife and kid...Talk about being put through the ringer...

I thought the guy who owned the bar was probably the sweetest character. He cooked for them, he took care of them (them meaning the crew from the steel plant) even when he himself was feeling sorrow and grief.

I can't put myself through this movie. The scenes with the Russian Roulette (yes, I realize it's part of the main idea of this movie) just were too much for me.
No I wouldn't own it.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

#71 Amadeus: Consigned to flames of woe

1984. dir. Milos Forman, starring F. Murray Abraham, Tom Hulce, Elizabeth Berridge, Jeffrey Jones.

Seen it before? No.

I really hate overstuffed costume drama bullshit like this. It's the tale of two rivals - best friends? lovers? subtext ahoy - Antonio Salieri (F. Murray Abraham) and Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart (Tom Hulce) who are both composers in 1700's Austria. Salieri is simply not as gifted as Mozart, as evidenced by the scene where Salieri has written a welcome march for Mozart, and Mozart can not only play it from memory having heard it only once, but he dramatically improves it.

So the problem with Mozart is that he's a drunk, arrogant, a womanizer, unreliable, and uncouth. Salieri is none of these things, which fills him with rage and jealously, and blah blah blah, this is one of those movies that you don't have to think about very much, because they explain everything to you. Oh and it has one of those "here let me tell you my life story" narration framing devices just like Forrest Gump, which I always find lazy and annoying. At least the music is great.

Position on the list: 82
Annoyance: Mozart's laugh. You'd think it would stop when he (spoiler) dies, but you'd be wrong. HEEHEEHEEHEEHHEE!!!!

#70 Mystic River: He'll shoot you... and then he'll kill you

2003. dir. Clint Eastwood, starring Sean Penn, Tim Robbins, Kevin Bacon, Marcia Gay Harden, Laura Linney, Laurence Fishburne.

Seen it before? No.

Hey, all you right-wing people who gave Sean Penn and Tim Robbins a hard time back in 2003 for criticizing the Iraq war? You've all apologized to them, yes? Because they were completely right?

Anyway, the actual movie. We open in 1970's Boston (a fact the movie announces right away by having two guys discuss Luis Tiant and Carlton Fisk) with three kids playing hockey in the street. They write their names in wet cement, but the third kid gets abducted by Major Rawls and held in a basement for four days.

These are for you, McNulty.

So leap forward to the present - the three kids have grown up to be Sean Penn (Jimmy, a convenience store owner and paroled felon), Kevin Bacon (Sean, a homicide detective) and Tim Robbins (Dave, the one who got abducted, and he's clearly still pretty messed up by the incident).

One night Dave comes home with stab wounds and someone else's blood on his hands, and then the next morning, Sean finds Jimmy's daughter murdered in a park. You can imagine where it goes from there. (He fixes the cable?) You're clearly meant to think things happened one way, so it's a surprise when it's revealed they didn't. Or at least it's supposed to be a surprise; my wife and I figured out who the real killer was pretty early on.

It's a good movie. It probably could have won Best Picture in another year, but 2003 was loaded (also nominated: Lost In Translation, Seabiscuit, Master and Commander, and the eventual winner, Return of the King).

Position on the list: 211
Most annoying part of the movie: Sean's wife. She keeps calling him up and not saying anything. It gets really tiresome.

#66 Gladiator - replace Russell Crowe with Mel Gibson and we have Braveheart all over again

2000. dir. Ridley Scott, starring Russell Crowe, Joaquin Phoenix, Connie Nielsen, Oliver Reed.

Seen it before? Yes.

I saw this on the big screen in 2000 because that was the thing to do...Even then I thought Joaquin Phoenix's character was creepy! I couldn't wait for him to that bad?

The emperor wants to leave his kingdom in the hands of his capable general, Maximus - and he only wants to go home and be with his wife and son...he tells the news to his lazy son Commodus - who is in a creepy incestuous relationship with his sister - and by lazy I mean he rides up to his father AFTER the big opening battle wonder why your father thinks you are weak and doesn't want to leave his empire to you!
ANY how...Emperor dies by his son's hands (okay so Commodus DOES do something...), Maximus and his family are doomed (sorry if you haven't seen this) and he gets taken into slavery and turned into a fighter...FINE I'll say the name of the damn movie GLADIATOR - are you happy now?

Here's where I think Sam is wrong...despite Commodus being 100% evil I don't think Maximus is 100% good - he does an AWFUL lot of killing in the movie; the men who served under Maximus but had to work under Commodus are DEFINITELY part of the gray area that Sam saw was missing. The ending proves that...again, sorry if you haven't seen the's not like I have gone into great detail!

Would I see it again? NO - in fact, I'm saying it right now, this was the last time I will watch this movie!
Own it? No
Last thoughts - so what was the deal with Lucilla? She obviously loved Maximus in a passionate way...she wasn't a man but thought like a man and therefore she couldn't be made emperor...but her relationship with Commodus was almost like Cruel Intentions BLECH!

#65 A Streetcar Named Desire - Stanley may be an A-hole...

1951. dir. Elia Kazan, starring Vivien Leigh, Marlon Brando, Kim Hunter, Karl Malden.

Seen it before? No.

But I kind of understood where he was coming from...he's verbally and physically abusive, and a drunk, and so I hated him...but when he found out about his delusional sister-in-law and reported the news to his wife in hopes of calling Blanche out on her shenanigans, I was totally on his that bad?

Stella is a weak character...she yells back at Stanley, sure, but she stays with him despite how badly she is treated...and why is she kow-towing to Blanche? I mean, I know they're sisters, but she lets herself just get walked all over, all around...YUCK!

Blanche is some sort of crazy...and unfortunately the movie portrays her as doing it to herself...squandering her money, getting fired from her job as a teacher for canoodling with her students...come on! Go to a half-way house and a shrink and get back on track...don't act holier than though and lean on your family whom you haven't spoken to in ages!

Watch it again? Eh...
Own it? Meh
Last I read Sam's addition about the fact that Blanche (in play form) had a gay husband and that Stanley raped her...heavy man...and it adds so much more to why she is the way she is...and gets me totally out of Stan's corner of the ring of whose side to be on!