Monthly Archives: March 2008

Seymour, do you want me to tell you when it’s 7:30?

30. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Probably along with “Citizen Kane” the film that’s referenced the most on “The Simpsons“.

Here is the proof (thanks to the Alfred Hitchcock Wiki, which did all the work for me):

From The Black Widower

From Brother From The Same Planet

From Cape Feare

From Itchy and Scratchy and Marge

From Marge in Chains

From Treehouse of Horror IV

Plus you have Seymour Skinner being modeled after Norman Bates.

There are two things I love about trying to finish “The List“:

1. Watching films I never would have watched in a million years and enjoying them.

2. Getting all the Simpsons references.

On I gave the film an 8/10. It’s quite good, but I don’t like it as much as some other Hitchcock movies, of which the highest is a 9/10, so I gave this an 8 to make a distinction. And the poster is disappointing compared to other Hitchcock films.

Richard Gere (insert gerbil reference here).

29. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1959)

Ranking Godard:

  1. Breathless
  2. Pierrot le fou
  3. Vivre sa vie
  4. Contempt
  5. Bande à part
  6. Week-End
  7. Une femme est un femme
  8. Two or Three Things I Know About Her

I like Godard‘s more conventional work. I think it’s primarily because I compare everything I’ve seen from him with Breathless, which was his first film, and also the first Godard film I watched.

Breathless is awesome. You have a cool-ass dude, a ballin’ girl, car chases, gun fights, people dying, tons of movie references, and it’s all set in Paris. Now that’s how you make a movie. Plus it looks fantastic. It’s a straightforward story, that’s totally accessible, and Godard never made another movie quite so engaging. So basically every Godard film I watch ends up alienating me more and more because they are not Breathless. That’s not to say I don’t like some of his other films. I really dug Pierrot le fou, Vivre sa vie and Contempt. But these movies aren’t Breathless, and alas they are somehow disappointing.

On I gave the film a 9/10, I think a rewatching might bring it up to 10. It’s great, and should be seen by all.

When I grow up I want to die mysteriously.

28. Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)

I have long had a fascination with the macabre. The first thing I remember loving was hockey, and particularly old hockey players. I remember becoming obsessed with Terry Sawchuk when I was about 6. For those who don’t know Sawchuk was the best goalie in NHL history, setting numerous records during his 20 year career(1950-1970). I admit it is unusual for a 6 year old to idolize someone who died 10 years before he was born, but I will elaborate. The thing I wanted to be most at the time was an NHL goalie which despite the handicap of not knowing how to skate was a dream that lingered until I discovered baseball at age 10. Sawchuk was the best, so I decided I wanted to be Terry Sawchuk. Moreso than his greatness though, the things I found compelling about him was his death at a young age, and the mysteriousness of it. Basically he died in 1970 while still active as an NHL player, after having an argument and fight with a teammate over back rent. Sawchuk fell into a BBQ pit and died of internal injuries. But when I was 6 I didn’t know the whole story. The story I read was that he got in a fight and died in hospital. It didn’t say what happened, so my imagination wandered, and I always wanted to know how he died. Even now with the full story his death still seems pretty bizarre.

When I was about 7 or so, I found out Ritchie Valens died in a plane crash. This knowledge lead me even further into my fascination with famous people dying. There were only so many hockey players who died young, so discovering whole other industries with numerous famous people dying young was a boon to me. This combined with my new first love of baseball provided me with new and increasing bizarre stories to learn. So my interest in how people died was in full bloom by about the age of 10.

One other event occurred around this time that crystallized my fascination with dead famous people(and eventually a fascination with scandal of all kinds): I witness a landmark in television history, the debut of “Hollywood Babylon“. The show was a compilation of seedy Hollywood history shown in epic reenactments featuring the worst acting this side of my grade 10 drama class. It was also hosted by what I presume was a down on his luck Tony Curtis (who happens to be the star of this film). The show was usually made up of 3 ten minute segments each chronicling some shady event in Hollywood’s history. I used to stay up late on the weekends to watch it, I think I even used to tape it.

The show covered famous incidents like James Dean‘s car accident and Marilyn Monroe (she’s in this movie too) and her drug overdose. But it also had lesser-known stuff like Clara Bow ho-ing it up with the entire USC football team. Sadly I can make no reference to the film’s other star Jack Lemmon as he was remarkably scandal free and suffered no career slumps that forced him to host poorly made cable TV shows about celebrity dirt.

The content was fascinating but what really made the show was the horrible re-enactments. I remember some greaser dude going all S&M on a James Dean with a cigarette. There was Sylvester Stallone beating Brigitte Nielsen all while explaining to her why she should take a part in “Beverly Hill Cop part 2“. You had Frances Farmer getting a lobotomy or shock treatment. Bing Crosby beating his kids. Lana Turner‘s daughter shooting her mother’s lover. It was all suicide, murder, sex, and drugs. It was all so sketchy and terrible that it was glorious. And life-changing. Here is clip about former Superman George Reeves ‘suicide'(sadly the only clip of the show I could find):

Smell the class.

So even today I am interested in the shadiest things. Marty Bergen (a 19th century catcher who axed his wife and kids to death before slicing his own throat) and Johnny Ace (a popular R&B singer who offed himself backstage in a game of Russian roulette) still fascinate me. Ditto Sam Cooke (another popular singer who was shot to death while lurking outside a motel window) and Wallace Reid (a popular silent film actor who died of a drug overdose at the height of his fame). People who have been dead for almost 100 years still compel me.

On I gave the film a 9/10. Billy Wilder is amazing as both a writer and director. The film is legitimately hilarious, well-scripted, great performances, and a great showcase for Marilyn Monroe. She is really good in this film, and displays all the qualities that make her an icon even today.

Jackie Chan is really a white man who died in 1966.

Ranking Keaton:

  1. The General
  2. Steamboat Bill Jr.
  3. Sherlock Jr.
  4. Seven Chances
  5. The Cameraman
  6. Our Hospitality
  7. The Navigator

The General” is Keaton‘s best all-around film, but the final sequence in “Steamboat Bill Jr.” is possibly the greatest 20 minutes in film history. Everything else that I have seen other than “The Navigator” is tremendous and interchangeable.

Jackie Chan wouldn’t exist without Buster Keaton’s craziness. Keaton’s films always have these crazy final sequences that are really elaborate and far-fetched. Keaton takes crazy bumps, and as far as I know was doing his own stunts. It’s pretty incredible to watch. The ingenuity and inventiveness of Keaton is still jaw-dropping today. Film provides a space for a character to interact with their environment in a way that is impossible elsewhere. I think Keaton really pushed the envelope in terms of what you can put on screen. Other than the fighting choreography, Chan is really just doing Buster Keaton.

“The General” was at the time the most expensive movie ever filmed(thanks mainly to a scene in which a bridge is blown up and a locomotive falls into a river), and it bombed horribly. I don’t get why. Kind of like “Bringing Up Baby“, I guess it’s a comedy that was ahead of it’s time. But seriously Buster Keaton falling over stuff, and things getting destroyed, that’s a formula for success. I don’t know what was so different in 1927, that that wouldn’t work. Buster Keaton was really popular, and yet the film that is regarded as his best, failed to make a dent at the time it was released. Stupid old people. Probably busy watching “Date Movie“.

On I gave this film a 9/10. It’s just great all the way through, definitely his most consistent effort. I recommend the shit out of this film.

Everything I know in life, I learned from Colonel Klink.

26. La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)

Ranking Renoir:

  1. La Grande Illusion
  2. Partie de campagne
  3. La Regle du jeu
  4. Boudu Saved from Drowning
  5. The River
  6. The Crime of Monsieur Lange
  7. La Nuit de carrefour* (I watched this without subs, because the film is impossble to find in English, and by all accounts it doesn’t make sense anyway)

This is the only Renoir film I really get. But my appreciation of this film is more due to it being a World War One film than a Renoir film. For whatever reason I have always found WW1 very interesting. I think it’s that I am compelled by trench warfare. IT’s just so ridiculous in concept and execution. This style of fighting combined with it being the first war to be heavily documented by photographs and films, just gives it all a certain mystique. It’s the same reason why I am obsessed with old baseball players from that time. You can look at these still photos of people long since dead, and somehow you feel a connection to them, like you can solve the mystery of their life by looking in their eyes.

I remember when I worked at the library in high school, I always used to sign out these books on the war, primarily to look at the pictures. I remember one of a dead soldier with his face blotted out and the caption read: “his face has been obliterated by the censor”. That phrase has stuck with me ever since. I wish I could find the photo now.

As for the film, it’s another one I watched in the intro film class of 2002. It’s interesting because it’s a war film without any war in it. It’s set entirely in a prison camp. Kind of like Hogan’s Heroes. The film even has bumbling Germans in it. There’s less slapstick, and no though, and I think the film could definitely have benefited from Colonel Klink‘s brand of buffoonery. But I think that about every film.

On, I gave the film an 8/10. World War One films hold a special place in y heart, and it’s genuinely quite good. I even wrote a paper on it that got a A. I have no idea what it was about.

Oh, it’s a joke. I get jokes.

25. Les Enfants Du Paradis (Marcel Carné, 1945)

I will start by saying that I don’t remember the scene depicted in the poster. I can’t say for sure it didn’t happen, but having seen the movie fairly recently, I can honestly say I don’t remember seeing any guys wearing turbans pushing women with strong muscular legs(look at that definition) out of windows. Because if I did, I would probably have liked this movie a lot more. Evil men with turbans as a general rule hold my attention, alot better than 3 hour movies about mimes.

Yes this is a 3 hour movie about a mime. Well there’s a thief, and actor, and a count too. I am pretty sure there is a joke about that: ie. So a mime, a thief, an actor, and a count walk into a bar. The thief, says to mime, “why don’t you talk”? And the mime says, “because I’m a mime”. Rimshot. Folks, I just flew in from Cleveland and boy are my legs tired. Thank you, thank you, I’ll be here all week.

That brings me to something I would like to do some day. There used to be an awesome page on wikipedia(it may still be there, but I can’t find it) about the conventions of stand-up comedy. It had stuff like: “have you ever noticed how men and women are different in many ways? When men watch TV they like to flip through the channels, but when women watch TV they like to stop and watch”. There was a whole page of good stuff like that. From “Take my wife—please!” to “What’s the deal with airplane peanuts?”. Anyway my plan is someday take that list and read it verbatim as a stand-up act. The goal would be to bomb, but bomb ironically, like be purposely bad. I would also like to pull the “what’s the deal with cancer?” bit, which is possibly the second greatest joke ever. The greatest joke is when a leper says “pull my finger”.

The plot of the story is as follows: a woman named Garance who is banging four different guys at approximately the same time. Problems ensue, no one ends up happy, the end. That’s it really. The mime is all tortured and anguished, for Garance is his true love. The actor likes her too, but he is a dick. The thief is a thief, but I forget what his deal was, I think she was banging him first. Then there is the count who is rich, and who Garance doesn’t love, but ends up with.

The film is a 3 hour melodrama, that I don’t really understand. It’s decent to watch, but I don’t get what the hype is about. The only thing that was really cool was the final scene in which the mime tries to convince Garance that they should be together,  she doesn’t think so, and they are separated by a mob of people during a parade, and the film closes with the mime being pulled further and further from Garance, and desperately calling her name. It’s actually pretty moving, and seeing as I like films where everybody dies, or at least where no one ends up happy, this ending was right up my alley.

That being said, it’s really long, and I just didn’t get it.

On, I gave the film a 6/10, which is my standard rating for movies that are critically lauded, don’t offend my sensibilities, but I just don’t get. I would like to revisit this film, likely through the 2-disc Criterion special edition, but that will have to wait.

All Tomorrow’s Parties

24. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960

I have a fondness for posters that depict ‘dry-humping’. Really there just isn’t enough of that.

This film was my introduction to Fellini, and to a fine piece of man-candy in Marcello Mastroianni. Think of Mastroianni and Fellini, as De Niro and Scorsese. This is a 3 hour film where nothing really happens. It’s the standard Fellini film, nicely shot, meanders an awful lot, and in the end you are not sure what to do with it.

In this case I found reading about it helped me gain an understanding that I didn’t have. The whole point of the film is that it is about a guy who wants to change, but doesn’t do anything about it. And so the fact that the movie doesn’t really build to anything is the whole point. Each sequence in the film is an isolated incident, we don’t learn anything about the Marcello, and he doesn’t learn anything about himself.

It’s all set against a backdrop ofame and indulgence. Mastroianni plays Marcello a tabloid writer who wants to do something worthwhile, but is to busy living the sweet life(la dolce vita) to really do anything about it. He is surrounded by glamour, excitement, and action. He basically travels from party to party, getting drunk and fucking around. Everyone else is doing the same thing. His world is hollow but oh so seductive.

The film is really interesting in the fact that it doesn’t resolve itself. Marcello isn’t changed at the end, but he isn’t worse off or anything. Just a little bit older that’s all. The things I feud Fellini about are sometimes the same things I really like about him. Fellini makes these slow moving, meandering pictures with plenty of boring parts in them, but in the end it’s that very fact that makes the movie memorable. I read someone’s quote on imdb, that basically suggested it was the waiting for something to happen scenes in Fellini’s films that set up the good parts and ultimately make the picture.

You typically want to see the character change, or achieve some resolution, but in this and in 8 1/2, nothing really is different at the end of the movie. So on one hand it can be seen as a waste of time, but on the other hand that’s the whole point. Sometimes people don’t change. But it’s not often that movies are made about that.

On I gave this film an 8/10, it’s wonderful to look at, and it’s both simple in design and complex in meaning. Plus it has Nico in it. It’s not for everyone, though.

I don’t want to grow up, I’m a Toys R Us kid.

23. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)

Up until like 2 days ago, I thought Carol Reed was a girl. He is not.

My dad told me that people used to tell him he looked like Joseph Cotten. So now that’s all I can think of when I see Joseph Cotten.

I like when I my dad tells me that kind of thing. It reminds that he was once young like me.  It’s a nice reminder that who he is now is not necessarily what he once was. He used to be young and idealistic and adventurous, traveling the world by ship, and marching in union rallies, and working for various left wing organizations. Hell he was even deported for protesting a nuclear site.

And it’s not that I am lamenting his loss of idealism, he didn’t go from being a commie to a fascist or anything. He still votes NDP, and believes health care is a right and not a privilege. It’s simply that he is old and cynical now, and I am quite simply afraid that I will one day be those things to.

On I rated the film a 9/10. Great setting in post-war Europe, great atmosphere, Joe Cotten being awesome, Orson Welles being non-fat, and tremendous final scene. Just good stuff all-around.

Soylent Green is Tacos!

22. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)

My favorite Welles film.

The film is probably most famous for it’s opening scene, which is just one long unedited take that lasts about 15 minutes. I am not sure if Welles was the first to really try and do a long unedited take with elaborate camera movements, but he does it really well, and deserves credit. It’s also the inspiration for one of my favorite music videos Xzibit‘s “What U See Is What You Get“.

Chuck Heston plays a Mexican cop(really?) who looks like Johnny Drama, like I am talking a dead ringer. It’s pretty trippy actually. Orson Welles plays a fat guy, now that’s what I call acting.

I think Welles is pretty amazing as a corrupt and powerful cop. He is just so evil, like so evil you would want to throw a shoe at him. Major-league heel if I ever seen one. That combined with his grotesque appearance just makes the film for me. Heston is ok as the good guy, and he is pretty restrained here which is nice to see. I am pretty indifferent to Chuck, but generally I find he takes away from the films he is in just through his hammishness. Think of it in wrestling terms where you have a an incredible heel making a mediocre babyface look like a million bucks. Welles is just so hateable that you end up liking Heston despite his weak accent. The best example I can think of is the Chris Jericho vs Dean Malenko feud, in which Jericho’s over-the-top crybaby routine got so over that Dean Malenko(a talented but uncharismatic wrestler) got over huge as face without having to do anything really.

Welles is just so slimy as he arranges for Heston’s wife to be kidnapped, raped, and drugged all to protect himself from being exposed as horribly corrupt. Normally I cheer for heels, but in this case Welles is just so evil you really want to see him done in.

On I gave the film a 9/10, simply because it’s awesome in pretty much every way. Watch this film.

We’re going streaking!

21. City Lights (Charlie Chaplin, 1931)

Ranking Chaplin:

  1. The Kid
  2. The Circus
  3. City Lights
  4. Monsieur Verdoux
  5. The Pilgrim
  6. Modern Times
  7. The Gold Rush
  8. The Great Dictator

Those rankings are a bit deceiving because I like all of the Chaplin stuff I have seen (I think I have them all at 8 or higher), it’s just that “The Gold Rush” and “The Great Dictator” were underwhelming in comparison to the raves I had heard about them.

Chaplin mixes anarchy with pathos probably better than anyone ever has or ever will. The belief that you can mix craziness, character development, and a love story into a seamless blend really started with Chaplin. Many have tried since, but most of it fails horribly(I am looking at you Jack Black). Occasionally you get characters in films that almost succeed(namely Will Ferrell‘s character in “Old School“, and Jim Carrey in “Dumb and Dumber“) at bringing both the crazy and the sympathy, but no one has ever done it so masterfully and so regularly as Chaplin.

City Lights” is most notable for the iconic closing scene, which is probably Chaplin’s most well known non-comedic scene:

But the film also contains my favorite Chaplin sequence:

Just the sheer ridiculousness of it all and the choreography blows my mind.

On I rated the film an 8/10, and I think I am sticking with that. I think the poster is pretty tight too.