Category Archives: 51-100

And when it’s time to do the dishes, where’s Ray Bolger? I’ll tell ya, Ray Bolger is looking out for Ray Bolger!

61. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)

The poster is kind of meh. I do appreciate that The Munchkins get a credit though.

Until last week, I hadn’t seen this movie since I was 9 I think, when my best friend convinced me to watch on a sleepover. I don’t remember what my response was, but I don’t think it left much of a mark. Actually most of what I knew about the film was due to it’s iconic nature. So I was familiar with the songs, and the flying monkeys, and the “I’m melting” bit, and the ruby-red slippers, and Toto, and Kansas, and “There’s no place like home“, and the urban legends about the original Tin Man dying due to the make-up, and the munchkin hanging himself, and how Dark Side of the Moon matches up perfectly, even though the film is twice as long. Stupid stoners.

So I felt like I knew the film intrinsically due to it’s pervasiveness in popular culture, yet I didn’t remember if I liked it.

So I remedied that by actually watching the film, and I was pleased. Judy Garland singing the shit out of things, munchkins, bright colors, monkeys, happy songs, Ray fucking Bolger, tornadoes, Frank Morgan at his cracked out best, and people melting. Can’t go wrong with that.

Best performance by a donkey since Eeyore.

60. Au hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1960)

This is a movie about a fucking donkey, and at the end I was balling my eyes out.

On I gave the film 8/10.

Cary Grant. I’d do him.

59. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)

The poster is pretty underwhelming (what’s up with Eva Marie Saint shooting a ray gun at Cary Grant’s bum?), especially for a Hitchcock poster. Thankfully the movie isn’t.

It might be Hitchcock‘s most fun movie from just a pure entertainment standpoint. It starts fast and doesn’t relent. The tone is never serious, and Cary Grant is adept at being both stylish and witty, while James Mason‘s villain is somewhat menacing but also very charming with a lot great lines. In some ways he kind of reminds me of Alan Rickman in Die Hard. He’s that kind of bad guy, a scumbag but somehow you kind of like him.

I think in some ways too it is Hitchcock’s most accessible film too. Again the speed at which everything happens draws the viewer in, and from there the pace is furious, with a lot of twists and turns along the way. I realize the film has its deeper complexities like all Hitchcock’s work, but I think it’s probably the best introduction to Hitchcock save for maybe Rear Window. I mean Psycho is good, but I can see where people would think it sucks(it’s black & white, it’s a bit slow, and the ending might not work for some), and I don’t like Vertigo very much at all. North by Northwest is so effective because it can be enjoyed simply as entertainment without subtext. I also think it feels very modern as well. Oh and Cary Grant is awesome.

I should let it be known that Cary Grant is my favorite male actor, and one of the few that I will watch in anything. Kirk Douglas is another, and perhaps John Cusack. I should note there are probably about a dozen actresses I will watch in anything, I guess it’s cos I watch films with my penis. But Cary Grant is basically the man in my books. He’s gorgeous, sauve, impecably stylish, witty, charismatic, pimp as hell and he can do a mean backflip. I’m not the first person to say this, but I want to be Cary Grant. He’s just so cool. I even bought a pair of the sunglasses he wears in the film(mine are black rimmed though). His allure is so strong to me, that although I am decidedly pro-knowledge, and absolutely fascinated by old school Hollywood gossip, I don’t want to know anything more about the real Cary Grant because it will somehow diminish his awesomeness. I know too much already, so I avoid gossip about him because I want to preserve the illusion. There is no one else I’ve done that for.

On I gave the film 9/10. Not Hitchcock’s very best, but maybe his most enjoyable film.

Manliness is next to Godliness.

58. Rio Bravo (Howard Hawks, 1959)

Now that’s a fucking poster. John Wayne wasting man, woman, and child(well no children exactly) with a rifle, all while Ricky Nelson looks on approvingly. Aside from the clash of the red font for the title, and the blue font for the actors, this poster is sublime. If I saw that poster today, I would think: “John Wayne killing people? Yes please.”

Anyway this film represents a number of firsts for me. It was the first John Wayne film I ever watched, the first Howard Hawks film I knowingly watched (I watched Bringing Up Baby on TCM one time without knowing who Howard Hawks was…yes I was once a very naive and sheltered boy), and I believe it was in the first batch of films I signed out of the library when I started all this list craziness. I think High Noon and The Seventh Seal were in that batch too.

I think it might also be the first classic western I ever watched, save for High Plains Drifter (which though entertaining isn’t especially classic). My brother always tried to get me to watch the Leone westerns, but I just didn’t care. It’s only with my watching Rio Bravo that I discovered how totally bitching the western genre can be. Dudes shooting each other while acting manly is something I find entertaining.

My appreciation of the western is rooted in my appreciation of the gangster film, they both make me feel gangsta. When I watch John Wayne I live vicariously through him. He talks tough, has the occasional witty line, shoots suckers left and right, and comes out on top. That’s a combination that appeals to me.

As an aside, when I was a kid, PBS used to show an Adventures of Ozzie & Harriet marathon each Christmas, and for whatever reason I would watch it. The show wasn’t especially funny, and obviously being a 1950’s family sitcom it was sappy as hell, but I still dug it. If I have to name a reason why I watched and enjoyed it, I suppose it would be that Ricky Nelson was cool (and a hunk too!). I mean he was handsome, charming, and he played rock n’ roll, he’s like James Dean without the undercurrent of rebellion and sexual frustration.

Anyway since then I have kind of admired Ricky Nelson, I used to take his CDs out of the library, and his cocaine addiction, and death in a plane crash satisfy my interests in the seedy and the macabre. My admiration for him is such that I’ve even forgiven him for this. It’s kind of a shame he became a victim of excess, because he is damn good in the film.

Exhibit A:

John Wayne and Ricky Nelson are enough to make the movie, but then add in Dean Martin as a cowardly drunk and Walter Brennan as Walter Brennan, and you have awesomeness coming out of every pore. Such gloriously fun stuff.

I should mention that I adore Walter Brennan. I mean sure his politics made John Wayne look like a commie, and sure he cackled with delight when Martin Luther King got shot (alledgedly), but dammit he is just so much fun to watch. He is one of those actors like Edward Everett Horton, Charles Ruggles or even Guy Kibbee where you see there name in the credits and you know the film will be decent at the very least, simply because of their presence. They might have a couple lines or maybe a couple of scenes, but you know they are always going to be quality.

Awesomeness of the highest quality.

On I gave the film 10/10.

The 30’s were violent too.

56. The Wild Bunch (Sam Peckinpah, 1969)

I am a sucker for movies where everyone dies. I’m not a huge fan of violence or anything, but I like when the hero dies, and everyone else does too. I like the macabre, and I like sad endings so when the hero, plus everyone else dies, I tend to take notice, and usually it ends up as a positive for the film.

I have read that the ending for this film was heavily influenced by the long forgotten 1932 gangster film The Beast of the City. Now I am a huge fan of the film, having watched it recently and being enamored by it, especially the ending. Tragically the film has never been released on either VHS or DVD, and I happened to stumble onto it through my regular search for pre-code films on eMule.

Anyway, I uploaded the ending on youtube from the version I had, so here it is:

To me that’s a fantastic ending, I watched it for the first time without any knowledge or expectations, and was completely shocked to see something so violent, and so macabre take place in a 1932 film. Hell even today films don’t often end like that.

What I love about that ending is how sudden, brief, and completely destructive it is.

Now contrast that to The Wild Bunch.

This film has everyone die, and die violently, excessively and in slow-motion.  Basically the final 15 minutes of the film features our heroes getting wasting in slow motion by a gatling gun. On one hand the absolute slaughter is kind of cool and unexpected. When I watched it, I remember thinking: “I can’t believe how violent this is”.

But in 2008, something seems passe about filming everything in slow-motion. I think slow-mo has gone the way of the Dodo in terms of being a relevant and effective technique. I mean it was done to death over the past 20 or so years, and now it just seems like a joke. Maybe in 1969 it was fresh, but I can’t view it as anything but passe.

It’s the opposite of The Beast of the City in the sense that where Beast contains a sudden jolt of violence designed to shock the viewer, The Wild Bunch revels in the violence, and draws it out as long as possible, in a sense it is a precursor to the Tarantino films which glorify and sensationalize violence.

I can’t deny the influence of The Wild Bunch, because clearly action/crime/western film etc.  that has come since has been in some way influenced by the spectacular violence of The Wild Bunch, but I am not sure that’s a good thing.

On I gave the film an 8/10. It’s a solid western, that is most noteworthy for the ending. The fact that I disagree with how the ending was shot, doesn’t really diminish my appreciation of the story or the characters.


55. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)

I took a class one summer called “Film and the Bible”. It was a pretty interesting course even if we watched a lot of garbage. I mean “S1mone“, really? Come on. It was mainly cool because the prof took the approach that the Bible was more a construct of men’s desires and values rather than being divinely inspired. This notion that the Bible was authored, constructed, and compiled by men and not God opens up a lot of room for discussion.

One of the concepts that particularly struck was the idea of primacy, as in the way we perceive the books and chapters of the Bible strongly influenced by where they were placed. As an example take the book of Genesis which is the first book of the Bible, and depicts the creation story among many other things. If that book were placed elsewhere in the Bible rather than the beginning, its renown would be considerably less. Fewer people would know what was in it, or bother reading it. In essence primacy in this context is the idea that we place heightened value on that which comes first.

Now to tie the idea of primacy to “Blade Runner“. My older brother is very fond of this film. He’s a big Rutger Hauer fan, and he’s a devotee of Philip K. Dick, upon whose story this film is based. So naturally he tried to get me to watch this film. But there was a catch: he wanted me to see the theatrical version with the voiceover. This was problematic because that version wasn’t easily available after Ridley Scott came out with his so called Director’s Cut, which removed the voiceover. This version supplanted the original release, and made it difficult to find for rent. I don’t remember how my brother came across the theatrical version on VHS, I think he found it the previously viewed bin at Roger’s Video.

I don’t really remember why my brother liked the voiceover version so much, I just know he insisted it was better, so I went along with him. I would later learn that my brother is the only person in the world who prefers the voiceovers.

Anyway I watched it with him, and while it wasn’t revelatory, I did enjoy it. It’s a good looking film, with an interesting story, and fine performances. Plus Daryl Hannah was pretty ballin’ back in the day. That eye makeup is tight.

I have since seen the director’s cut, I am pretty sure it was in the fabled intro to film class of 2002. It was perfectly ok, but somehow it wasn’t as good as the voiceover version. I don’t know if I could really explain why it wasn’t as good, and even now having seen the film again, I am still certain I like the voiceover version better.

My theory is that the reason I like that version is because it was the one I saw first. It’s that simple. I suppose it could be a bit of a nostalgia thing in that I used to watch a lot of movies with my brother, and because he now lives in a different city, I can’t do that with him. But I think the ultimate reason I like the voiceover version best is a matter of primacy. It was the version I saw first, and thus it is the version I value most.

On I gave the film 8/10. I would like the revisit this film, with my discovery of how awesome film-noir is in the past year.

Two morons, a goon, and a pizza place.

54. La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)

I have a love/hate relationship with Fellini‘s work. I love La Dolce Vita, and I hate this film.

The premise for this film is that some idiot girl, played annoying by Fellini’s wife Giulietta Masina, is sold off by her poor family to circus strongman Anthony Quinn. She becomes his partner in his act. Quinn is a total prick who basically abuses her, and she shuts up takes it. That’s your movie.

Masina mugs for the camera the whole movie, making these stupid faces that you want to punch, and she takes so much shit from Quinn, that you wonder why she stays. There was one point where she could have left and went off with an equally annoying performer called “The Fool”. All that guy does is run around like a spaz. His laugh is this completely and utterly irritating high-pitched giggle, and he does it constantly. He is equally punchable.

There’s like 6 scenes of her dancing and playing with children, which get old very quickly.  I guess she’s supposed to be gentle, childlike soul or something. I just thought she was retarded.

It’s always a bad sign when the characters that you are supposed to sympathize with annoy the shit out of you. This movie has that in spades. This is in conjunction with the fact that Anthony Quinn’s character is so unsympathetic that you can’t even find solace in him.

This movie is highly punchable.

The poster isn’t bad though.

On I gave this film 5/10. I don’t know why it’s even a 5.

I’m cold and there are wolves after me.

53. Wild Strawberries (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)

I’ve been trying to think of something funny, relevant, acerbic, or insightful to write about this film, and so far I am shooting blanks.

The plot is as follows: an old man, played by Victor Sjöström(who was a bitchin’ silent film director), travels with his daughter-in-law and some hitchhikers to the city to collect an honorary doctorate degree. Along the way he daydreams and is forced to confront how fucked his life is.

I guess that’s a function of being old: you dwell and reflect on the past, and the mistakes and what-went-wrongs especially.

This was the second Bergman film I watched after The Seventh Seal, and it’s a bit more uplifting, but that is as much a product of it not being set in the time of plague. It does probably have the most hopeful resolution of any Bergman film I’ve seen, in that the old man kind of comes to terms with his life, and regains a bit of what he had lost. But it’s still pretty much a bummer.

The poster’s a bummer too.

On I gave the film 7/10. Maybe I’ll start digging Bergman in my 60’s when I am filled with painful regret.

Cocaine is a hell of a drug.

52. Modern Times (Charlie Chaplin, 1936)

The poster’s pretty average, nothing particularly remarkable, but inoffensive too.

All you need to know about the film is that it has a scene where Chaplin gets high on cocaine and foils a jailbreak.

On I gave the film 8/10. Good solid fun, but a little disjointed.

Leave it to Nazis to screw things up.

51. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)

This poster is simply glorious, perfectly worthy of this glorious film. Those Germans know their shit.

I have a fascination with the Weimar Republic. Basically post-WWI Berlin was a wonderfully decadent, cultured, sex-crazed, artistic mecca. Then the Nazis had to come in and fuck it up. Jerks. I find the brazen sexuality of that era to be fascinating, simply because very few cultures in history have ever been so open and tolerant of sexuality(of pretty much every kind). Fucking interests me OK.

Anyway this film isn’t really about that, but it is a product of that place and era, so it seemed relevant, and the poster is very reflective of that time.

This film is wonderful. It’s the earliest film I know of that I would consider  film-noir. It’s dark, suspenseful, powerful, and compelling. Within 10 minutes I was crying. Peter Lorre gives an incredible all-world performance as a tormented child-molester/killer, I mean by the end I almost felt sorry for him. It’s absolutely fascinating.

Lorre gives this incredible speech at the end where he pleads directly into the camera for mercy. There’s an absolutely insane Nazi propaganda film from 1940 called “The Eternal Jew“, which among other things calls Albert Einstein a pseudo-scientist, Charlie Chaplin a Jew, and compares the migration pattern of rats to those of Jews. They also show this scene as proof that Jews are child molesters. The fact that Lorre is not Jewish, and that the scene is from a fictional movie, doesn’t seem to matter when there is propaganda to be made.

On I gave the film a 10/10. It drags a little bit in the middle, but it’s a small complaint.