Paul's Movies on DVD 2004

Your only official source for information on Paul's Movies on DVD 2004.

 

Movies in 2000

Movies in 2001

Movies in 2002

Movies in 2003 (I)

Movies in 2003 (II)

Movies in 2004

Movies in 2005

Movies in 2006, 2007, and 2008

 

2004 was a big year for movies. We (mostly me) averaged 3 movies a week the entire year. This sounds like a lot, perhaps it is a lot, but since I don't really watch any other TV besides movies we are still way under the national average for television viewing. Anyway, there were a lot of really good movies this year, such that is hard to say which was best. Maybe a better metric is best directors. Ozu alone would be enough to defend all my effort. I grew to appreciate Robert Bresson, Jean Renoir, and Samuel Fuller more than I did at the beginning of the year. Three more disparate approaches might be hard to find. Robert Aldrich was uneven but great for a couple of his movies. John Ford made a big impression at the beginning of the year, especially for the domesticity and little touches in what were ostensibly simple Cowboys and Indian movies. I did watch a fair number of TV series on disk this year, primarily Family Guy and Futurama. Other animation came in the form of anime and a lot of old Disney cartoons. Hayao Miyazaki makes the most exquisite movies, movies that can stand up to numerous viewings by adults as well as the children. Moving into next year I see lots of Bergman on the horizon as well as hopefully having the chance to dig more deeply into the catalogs of directors and stars I've thus far only seen in their more well-known movies.

We Watched 156 movies in 2004. The movie number refers to the number of movies watched since we bought our first DVD player in April 2000.

 
     

 


Friday, December 31, 2004
 
Un Chien Andalou
 
Hard to follow, although awfully interesting. I'll bet it is more interesting the more one knows about the history of the movie and the Surrealists in general. Again, it features many of the same themes Bunuel stuck with his whole career: insects, death, and breasts, and buttocks. The eye-cutting scene has lost much of its power due to overuse, but I hadn't known that it was actually Bunuel playing the part of the cutter, and thus commenting on the power of his film to attack the eye.
Made in: 1929
Director: Luis Bunuel
Owned: Yes
Category: Short, Fantasy
Movie #731, 156
Stars: 4
 

Friday, December 31, 2004
 
The Naked Kiss
 
Truly stunning opening scene that sets up a pace which the middle hour can't quite match. It's frank, raw, with little apparent subtlety. Then, all of a sudden it takes a quick detour into an even more twisted reality that completely undid my expectations for where it was going. Amazingly it then finishes on a bittersweet note of actual support for a small town's power to forgive. This sort of appreciation for rural decency and open-mindedness, especially in a story so dark, was completely unexpected. I can't imagine a movie now hitting the same kind of notes, much less one made 40-plus years ago.
Made in: 1964
Director: Samuel Fuller
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #730, 155
Stars: 5
 

Tuesday, December 28, 2004
 
L'Age d'or
 
Some parts of this movie are still pretty shocking, for example the woman sucking on the toes of the statue and the man killing a boy for misbehaving. Apart from that, and whatever "message" this movie had at the time it was made, is the clear identity of this movie as a Bunuel movie. The various comic touches like the cow in the woman's bed and the anti-Church scenes, not to mention the whole feel of the thing are unmistakably the product of the same mind that made The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie and his others. Whether it is the steady eye-level shots, or the quiet calm in the face of calamity, like the waitress running out of the burning kitchen, one quickly knows this is a Bunuel film. The movie also lays out many of the themes Bunuel returned to over and over, such as his anti-Catholic views, his foot fetishism, and satire of society. This movie also reminds me again of how few of Bunuel's movies are out on DVD.
Made in: 1930
Director: Luis BuÒuel
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, Romance, Comedy, Fantasy
Movie #729, 154
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, December 23, 2004
 
The Incredibles
 
On watching this movie again, it is striking how thematically dense this movie is. In fact, there is so much thematic development going on that it occasionally bogs the movie down, especially in the middle. But the themes of family, achievement, cooperation, and trust are all dealt with seriously and summed up at the end. The only way it is able to do so is bacuse of the richness of the script, which makes the slow going bits worthwhile. As a bonus, the movie looks phenomenally good in terms of set and color design. Even apart from the great movement animation, the movie is an delight to look at.
Made in: 2004
Director: Brad Bird
Owned: Yes
Category: Animation, Family, Adventure, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Movie #728, 153
Stars: 4
 

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 
Smiles of a Summer Night
 
Incredibly this movie predates The Seventh Seal. It is a bit theatrical but really, really funny. It has a sense not only of human fallibility, but of love as well which shines throughout the movie. Itís giddy fun without being unreal or false to its charactersí genuine feelings.
Made in: 1955
Director: Ingmar Bergman
Owned: Yes
Category: Comedy, Romance
Movie #727, 152
Stars: 5
 

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 
The Three Faces of Eve
 
A case history more than a real dramatic story. That said, it works pretty well. The supporting actors, especially Lee J. Cobb, give Joanne Woodward excellent support. Woodward is on her own though to sell the story and she does a great job. As a movie itís okay, but as a display of acting talent itís first-rate. The commentary points out a really interesting feature about Eveís costume. It was specially designed to be both demure and clingy in order to work to the advantage of both Eves.
Made in: 1957
Director: Nunnally Johnson
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #726, 151
Stars: 4
 

Wednesday, December 22, 2004
 
Port of Shadows
 
Perhaps itís the style or even the subtitles, but it is hard to accept Jean Gabin as a mean guy. Heís so suave and there always seems to be a charming, disarming, smile behind everything he does. Since this dulls the apparently intended sense of menace in the movie, the movie itself suffers a bit. However, as the story moves along (including the same amazing set of coincidences that marks Children of Paradise) the power of the love story grows. When Gabin asks Nelly to kiss him quickly because there isnít much time before he dies, the effect is pretty powerful. At that point, one is ready to forgive the theatricality of the whole production, the sense that after each dayís shooting was over, everyone sat down for a nice meal and pleasant laughs over good wine.
Made in: 1938
Director: Marcel CarnÈ
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #725, 150
Stars: 4
 

Tuesday, December 21, 2004
 
The Sopranos, Season 4, Disk One
 
The burdens and complications of leadership seem to be the big theme here at the start of this season. Even as Tony wants to centralize control within his family, his family increasingly rebels against his decisions. Thus far, the season is not as well done as the third season, but the stories are definitely moving along and there is a lot to work with as we move into later shows. The language doesnít seem as natural or as fluid as in previous seasons, but perhaps that is just the writers, including the actor who plays Christopher, getting used to their jobs.
Made in: 1999
Director: David Chase
Owned: Yes
Category: Crime, Drama
Movie #724, 149
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, December 19, 2004
 
Mean Streets
 
I really enjoyed this movie, much more than I thought I would. I find it much more interesting than Taxi Driver. Scorsese does a great job of examining many of the themes you see again in later movies: male friendship and society, the role of honor among friends, duty to friends, and male pride and stupidity. You also see the felicity Scorsese has with a camera; the beginnings of the beautiful tracking shots later seen in Casino and others. One element which is particularly good is the use of sound throughout the movie; an aspect I donít often focus on. The music, the sound cues really work to add to the sense of time, place and tragedy of the film.
Made in: 1973
Director: Martin Scorsese
Owned: Yes
Category: Crime, Drama
Movie #723, 148
Stars: 5
 

Friday, December 17, 2004
 
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
 
It starts out about as gripping and interesting as anything made today. This effect wanes a bit as the movie runs on, but it remains powerful throughout. There are all sorts of elements now common to thrillers and police procedurals, but they have a freshness that reveals this movieís originality.
Made in: 1933
Director: Fritz Lang
Owned: Yes
Category: Crime, Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Movie #722, 147
Stars: 4
 

Wednesday, December 15, 2004
 
When Worlds Collide
 
First-rate B-movie sci-fi fun. There isnít much to the plot, and the characters are paper thin, but once things get going it is pretty gripping. The effects are thin, but colorful and enjoyable in the way only real cheese can be. This is no Forbidden Planet, but it is not a bad ride at all.
Made in: 1951
Director: Rudolph MatÈ
Owned: Yes
Category: Sci-Fi, Horror, Thriller
Movie #721, 146
Stars: 3
 

Monday, December 13, 2004
 
Sudden Fear
 
Strikingly weak film-noir stuff here, enlivened only by Gloria Grahame and a few neat camera angles. The biggest problem is that one basically agrees with Jack Palance and wants Joan Crawford killed off. Sheís pretty insufferable as the poor little rich girl who canít help herself from being so successful. None of the other supporting actors are really distinguished in any way. Itís also far too long.
Made in: 1952
Director: David Miller
Owned: No
Category: Film-Noir, Thriller, Horror
Movie #720, 145
Stars: 2
 

Monday, December 13, 2004
 
In a Lonely Place
 
I kept hoping this was going to end well, but the sense of despair never eases. Especially disturbing, and effective is that even the audience isnít quite sure of Dixís innocence. Gloria Grahame really carries the movie because it is much more her story than Bogartís. She is more than up to the task. But itís pretty limiting to think about the story on the level of just a love story or the effect of suspicion on a relationship; itís also a broader examination of the messiness of the creative process, our fascination with the mechanics of murder, and a bit of an indictment of how tough Hollywood can be for those who arenít at the very top. Itís a very uneasy, depressing movie, but incredibly effective. Because Bogart is so much an anti-hero, itís hard to warm to this movie, but it richly deserves its five stars because of how complex and realistic it is.
Made in: 1950
Director: Nicholas Ray
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Film-Noir, Mystery, Romance
Movie #719, 144
Stars: 5
 

Monday, December 13, 2004
 
Cube
 
A very cool dark sci-fi movie about people trapped in a very complex maze. Itís set up as a grim nihilistic view of the world with the final message being that people shouldnít have tried to escape at all. Apart from that though it is a really good description of people under stress and how they react to that stress. I really liked the idea of each person being chosen because they each had a special ability that would help them escape. The acting is good and they do a great job of building tension over the course of the movie. They also do a good job of reflecting the changes that people experience as they fade due to a lack of food and water. Apparently all the names relate to prisons, even the cracked glasses is like Dustin Hoffman in Papillon. The traps in different rooms are also really clever. Itís all very inventive and neat.
Made in: 1997
Director: Vincenzo Natali
Owned: No
Category: Thriller, Sci-Fi, Horror, Mystery
Movie #718, 143
Stars: 4
 

Friday, December 10, 2004
 
Elf
 
Pretty innocuous stuff. There are a couple of good gags, and nothing offensive, which is a plus. Mary Steenburgen and Zooey Deschanel are good, and the best things here.
Made in: 2003
Director: Jon Favreau
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Family, Fantasy
Movie #717, 142
Stars: 2
 

Friday, December 03, 2004
 
Zulu
 
The billing leads one to believe it was a mammoth action and a huge part of a war, but it's really only a small battle over the course of a few days. That said, the movie is masterful at keeping up the tension throughout. It also does a great job in showing the different stategies of the Zulus and the Brits. The scenery is spectacular. A really enjoyable movie.
Made in:
Director: Cy Endfield
Owned: No
Category: War, Drama
Movie #716, 141
Stars: 4
 

Tuesday, November 30, 2004
 
The Hunchback of Notre Dame
 
The plot is extremely complicated and this movie tries to pack it all in, including lots of spectacle scenes. This leads to much of the action being reduced to mere schematics with lots of detail rushing by. It remains coherent, but only barely, and there is lots of unnecessary stuff. Marueen O'Hara is lovely but she's hardly a dusky Gypsy beauty and is really miscast in the role. Other roles are quite good though, especially Laughton. He plays the character as child-like, only slowlyl becoming aware of the duplicity of the adults around him. He's great, and his line readings are a delight, but there's too little of him to really sink one's teeth into.
Made in: 1939
Director: William Dieterle
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #715, 140
Stars: 3
 

Friday, November 26, 2004
 
Hellboy
 
A fun movie, that balances its loony Nazi, metaphysical setup with humor and good acting. Ron Perlman is a delight as he plays a (very) overgrown kid. John Hurt is always fun to listen to. The rest of the cast is fine and the effects aren't bad at all. A fun diversion although I have to say I really bought the disks for the two Gerald McBoing-Boing cartoons.
Made in: 2004
Director: Guillermo del ToroGuillermo del Toro
Owned: Yes
Category: Adventure, Horror, Sci-Fi, Action
Movie #714, 139
Stars: 3
 

Tuesday, November 23, 2004
 
Il Bidone
 
A really well-done movie that seems to have Fellini warming up for the strong impact of La Strada, except it came a year after that greater film. This one does a nice job of balancing several characters in different stages of their lives. It makes the tragedy of the older man all the more poignant. The performances are as wonderful as always, especially by Broderick Crawford, and the direction is silky smooth. It doesn't quite have the spectacle of other movies, although the New Year's Eve party comes close. It's extremely solid, but just not quite as special as some of Fellini's better-known work.
Made in: 1955
Director: Federico Fellini
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #713, 138
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, November 21, 2004
 
It
 
Clara Bow really is amazing, the essence of star quality. This is a pretty formulaic romantic comedy, with some extra pre-Code sass thrown in. Lots of fun, but the only real reason to see it is to understand why Bow was such a star.
Made in: 1927
Director: Clarence G. Badger
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Romance
Movie #712, 137
Stars: 3
 

Saturday, November 20, 2004
 
One Million Years B.C.
 
Wow, another ghastly one. At least this one has Harryhausen's monsters. It is great to see the dinos wander around and occasionally eat someone. Other than that, there is precious little interesting stuff except possibly the historical oddity of Raquel Welch's original nose.
Made in: 1966
Director: Don Chaffey
Owned: No
Category: Adventure, Sci-Fi, Fantasy
Movie #711, 136
Stars: 1
 

Thursday, November 18, 2004
 
Myra Breckinridge
 
Not just unfilmable, unwatchable! It's bad in so many ways that one stares dumbfounded--for a few minutes at least until you desperately want to turn it off. I watched the whole thing though, hoping there would be something there. There isn't.
Made in: 1970
Director: Michael Sarne
Owned: No
Category: Comedy
Movie #710, 135
Stars: 1
 

Sunday, November 14, 2004
 
Home on the Range
 
There's a lot to like here, especially the amazing color work and interesting backgrounds. Unfortunately, that's not quite enough. While the story is not bad, the artwork for the main characters is just a bit too simple to really make an impression. The songs are also not as catchy as in many Disney works. The voice talent is in fine form, but there is not a lot to work with, especially at only 76 minutes long. Still, it is great to look at.
Made in: 2004
Director: Will Finn, John Sanford
Owned: Yes
Category: Animation, Musical, Family, Western, Comedy
Movie #709, 134
Stars: 3
 

Thursday, November 11, 2004
 
Onibaba
 
Some great stylized pictures here of the marshes and faces in huts. The lighting is interesting and very well done. It'a also really slow. It's a better art project than actual narrative-driven movie. Once the demon mask shows up it gets a bit better, but this one does give a sense that there are Japanese legends and stories about which we know nothing, but which are pretty neccessary to understand the movie.
Made in: 1964
Director: Kaneto ShindÙ
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Horror
Movie #708, 133
Stars: 3
 

Thursday, November 04, 2004
 
The Chase
 
So much talent and the result is so bad. The first problem is miscasting in almost every role. Marlon Brando is not a good sheriff, Robert Redford is definitely not a dangerous bad boy, and E.G. Marshall is just confused. The only ones who come off well are Jane Fonda and perhaps Robert Duvall, but barely. The script is a bit unfocused. Horton Foote (with Lillian hellman!) was nowhere near the top of his game on this one. At the end of it, this wierd mess of a movie has to be the fault of Arthur Penn.
Made in: 1966
Director: Arthur Penn
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #707, 132
Stars: 1
 

Tuesday, November 02, 2004
 
The Day After Tomorrow
 
I guess the most amazing thing about this apalling mess of stupidity is that it actually holds together as a story and that it (sort of) holds one's attention throughout. That doesn't excuse the logical gaps, the lack of acting, the silly events, and goofy effects, but it does raise the question of how Roland Emmerich manages to do all this time after time. He actually makes Jerry Bruckheimer, perhaps his closest competitor in terms of action flicks, look cultured and sophisticated.
Made in: 2004
Director: Roland EmmerichRoland EmmerichRoland Emmerich
Owned: No
Category: Action, Drama, Sci-Fi, Thriller, Adventure
Movie #706, 131
Stars: 1
 

Monday, November 01, 2004
 
The Set-Up
 
Real time, real fun. This isn't the greatest movie ever but it is a lot more interesting and enjoyable than many, many others. Oodles of great bit characters and quality cutaways. Robert Ryan looks like a Sterling Hayden clone here, but does a great job.
Made in: 1949
Director: Robert Wise
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, Film-Noir, Romance
Movie #705, 130
Stars: 5
 

Sunday, October 31, 2004
 
Gone in Sixty Seconds
 
I guess I hadn't realized that high-end car thieves were actually incredibly moral upright people who are only concerned about family and nice cars, that is when they aren't dodging bullets from rival gangs or being misunderstood by the police. If that strikes you as plausible then this movie is probably more a documentary than anything else. Unfortunately, even in its own silly universe, the movie isn't all that exciting. It's just stupid people doing stupid things. Given the three Academy Award winners in the cast and fine action pedigree, this is a pretty spectacular disappointment. Even the car chases aren't that interesting. Pretty fatal for a car chase movie.
Made in: 2000
Director: Dominic Sena
Owned: No
Category: Action, Crime, Thriller
Movie #704, 129
Stars: 2
 

Saturday, October 30, 2004
 
Les Diaboliques
 
Now this is more like it. Clouzot is firing on all cylinders here. The brliliant character touches and excellent writing combined with a really good plot make for a quality show. It's still a bit slow by current standards, but the depth of character is really quite something. Even the throwaway parts are better written than the leads in many other things.
Made in: 1955
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Owned: No
Category: Mystery, Thriller, Horror
Movie #703, 128
Stars: 4
 

Friday, October 29, 2004
 
Swimming Pool
 
A lot of this movie is tone and mood, and it's very good at that. Charlotte Rampling does an amazing job at portraing the anxious introversion of her character. Yet, despite this, the payoff at the end isn't quite what one might hope for. After it's all over, the slow, slow buildup (did I mention it was slow) isn't all that worth it.
Made in: 2003
Director: FranÁois Ozon
Owned: No
Category: Mystery, Drama
Movie #702, 127
Stars: 3
 

Thursday, October 28, 2004
 
The Work of Director Spike Jonze
 
Several of these videos are pure whimsical delight with the two highlights being the Fatboy Slim pieces with Christopher Walken and the street dancers. The others are not quite as giddy, but come close with some awfully interesting visuals. The best of all is the documentary on the B side called "Amarillo By Morning". It is a pretty frightening picture of youth in Houston.
Made in: 2003
Director: Spike Jonze, Lance Bangs
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, Short
Movie #701, 126
Stars: 4
 

Wednesday, October 27, 2004
 
Quai des OrfËvres
 
Another in a long line of movies set in the "artist" world of Paris and focussing on the particulars of a crime. Once the police inspector shows up it gets pretty interesting. He's almost a Colombo-like figure in his amiable hard-headedness. Unfortunately setting up his entry is overly long and far too tedious. The two main lovers in the story are more annoying and stupid than anything else. What saves it, however, is the fine direction which conveys lots of humor while also focussing on critical, and very human, details. There are some truly lovely shots, especially near the beginning.
Made in: 1947
Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot
Owned: No
Category: Crime, Drama
Movie #700, 125
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, October 23, 2004
 
Auto Focus
 
More a description than any kind of real explanation of Bob Crane's pathology, but perhaps that is all that could be done. In any case, the movie is extremely effective at portraying the seediness and creepiness of Crane's life, while also showing how clueless Crane was about the effect his activities were having on other people. Greg Kinnear is remarkably good at invoking the relaxed amiableness of Crane as well as his essential hollowness. The color and direction in this movie are great, espeically the bright bubblegum look of the early sixties stuff. What's hardest about the movie is there is almost no redeeming element in it. It's all a long slow slide down, and even Crane's desire to change at the end isn't enough to turn it around. Perhaps because we can't imagine that Crane really knows what normalcy might be. Schrader's commentary on the movie is just fantastic. He really gets into why the character interested him as well as many of the technical details of how the movie was made. He also makes a really interesting comment of how the movie is also a history of video technology as well as of Crane, and notes the attraction the new gadgets have for Crane and most of the men in the movie. Very good stuff.
Made in: 2002
Director: Paul Schrader
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #699, 124
Stars: 4
 

Friday, October 22, 2004
 
The Shock
 
Now this is more like it. After the dull Nomads of the North, Lon Chaney sinks his teeth into a role with moral and physical deformities. It's a fun movie with lots of action, including an amazing earthquake scene as well as a dynamite explosion. There's even an evil temptress thrown in for good measure.
Made in: 1923
Director: Lambert Hillyer
Owned: No
Category: Crime, Drama, Silent
Movie #698, 123
Stars: 3
 

Wednesday, October 20, 2004
 
Nomads of the North
 
A silent melodrama that provides plenty of reason to make fun of the whole genre. Just about every classic element is here from the evil landlord to the damsel in distress, to a narrow escape and the noble hero. Unfortunately it's just not all that interesting. Lon Chaney is good, but this is nothing special. Interesting more as an historical relic of what most silent movies were like than anything else.
Made in: 1920
Director: David Hartford
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Silent
Movie #697, 122
Stars: 2
 

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
 
Flesh for Frankenstein
 
Big, campy fun, that saves itself by being remarkably coherent. It's got a lot of twisted themes running through it, but what it really is is dark, dark satire. Even the artwork and the color direction belies its budget origins.
Made in: 1973
Director: Paul Morrissey, Antonio Margheriti
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Horror, Sci-Fi
Movie #696, 121
Stars: 4
 

Tuesday, October 19, 2004
 
Aladdin
 
Right smack in the middle of Disney's second golden age, this one does the mouse proud. The story is typically condensed, but it is saved by three quality ingredients: good songs, a good villian (including the Sleeping Beauty-like transformation at the end), and great color. The artwork is really, really nice.
Made in: 1992
Director: Ron Clements, John Musker
Owned: Yes
Category: Animation, Family, Musical, Fantasy, Comedy
Movie #695, 120
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, October 16, 2004
 
King Rat
 
A big-time casting bonanza trying to be a great war movie. Probably not a big hit for a number of reasons, mostly because the cast is mostly character actors rather than big stars. In addition the movie is inexplicably shot in black-and-white. For 1965, that won't quite cut it. Finally, it's a pretty dark movie. George Segal still hasn't shown me he can really act, although this is about as good as I've seen him. The English cast is absolutely first-rate. Tom Courtenay, especially, is a pleasure to watch in an unpleasant role. Not a bad movie by any means, and it definitely has its moments. The direction is pretty workmanlike, though, and there isn't a lot to to really set it apart from lots of other films.
Made in: 1965
Director: Bryan Forbes
Owned: No
Category: War, Drama
Movie #694, 119
Stars: 3
 

Monday, October 11, 2004
 
Lot in Sodom
 
One really weird movie. It's a silent with lots of strange editing and in-camera special effects. More of a mood piece than an actual narrative, it's interesting but nothing all that great.
Made in: 1933
Director: James Sibley Watson, Melville Webber
Owned: No
Category: Short
Movie #693, 118
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, October 10, 2004
 
Salome
 
This is the American silent version put together by Nazimova. It's more of an art project than a real film, as it doesn't quite work dramatically. But it is an amazing example of wondrous and bizarre set design and costumes. There's actually a group of midgets playing what look's like an early version of Oompa-Loompas. There is some really great Art Deco stuff going on. Even the font for the intertitles is cool and classy.
Made in: 1923
Director: Charles Bryant
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Short
Movie #692, 117
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, October 10, 2004
 
This Gun for Hire
 
Very complicated plot that really works. The problem is that it doesn't really have much life to it. The acting, except for Laird Cregar as "Peppermint Man" is pretty weak. Veronica Lake and Robert Preston are embarrasingly bad.
Made in: 1942
Director: Frank Tuttle
Owned: Yes
Category: Film-Noir, Thriller, Crime
Movie #691, 116
Stars: 3
 

Friday, October 08, 2004
 
The Flight of the Phoenix
 
It's starts off a little slow, mostly because of the need to introduce everybody. However from about the one hour mark on it gets better and better. It's a bit dated, but the dynamic of how the people relate and the stresses they are under is pretty well done. Aldrich does another great job.
Made in: 1965
Director: Robert Aldrich
Owned: No
Category: Action, Adventure, Drama
Movie #690, 115
Stars: 4
 

Wednesday, October 06, 2004
 
Lost in Translation
 
A light, delicate movie which takes it time not to lay everything out. It grabs you from the first bit, which is amazing since it's a very simple story with little or no plot. Everything in it is nicely done, especially the weird mood of dislocation and anomie that one gets overseas.
Made in: 2003
Director: Sophia Coppola
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Comedy
Movie #689, 114
Stars: 5
 

Monday, October 04, 2004
 
Attack!
 
About as good a war movie as I've ever seen. It's a brutal, manly movie about manly men doing manly things in the face of a cowardly leader. The dialogue is great; the acting is great; and the direction is near flawless. This movie could have been made today except for the 30 seconds at the end. It's just fantastic. Lee Marvin as a cold, calculating, selfish colonel is amazing, as is Jack Palance.
Made in: 1956
Director: Robert Aldrich
Owned: No
Category: Drama, War, Action
Movie #688, 113
Stars: 5
 

Friday, October 01, 2004
 
Underworld Beauty
 
Some nice bits, and the shot selection is always good. But it doesn't quite have as much punch as some of Suzuki's other movies. Lots of style points though.
Made in: 1958
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Owned: No
Category: Crime
Movie #687, 112
Stars: 3
 

Tuesday, September 28, 2004
 
Intolerable Cruelty
 
A quick, delightfully light screenplay delivered by actors at the top of their game. This is big sloppy fun. Even all the little bits are funny. Clooney and Zeta-Jones show what chemistry really means.
Made in: 2003
Director: Joel Coen
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Romance
Movie #686, 111
Stars: 4
 

Monday, September 27, 2004
 
The Bride With White Hair
 
Amazing movie. It's got everything: cool sets, weird magic kung-fu, twisted evil siamese twins, dommed love, and all sorts of other goodies. The story is typically complex, but decipherable, and quite good. I really had a good time watching this one. I can see why it has been such an influence on folks like Quentin Tarantino.
Made in: 1993
Director: Ronny Yu
Owned: No
Category: Fantasy, Adventure, Action, Romance
Movie #685, 110
Stars: 5
 

Thursday, September 23, 2004
 
The Big Clock
 
A really offbeat, quirky, film-noir undone by a weak central performance by Ray Milland. Milland just doesn't have the star quality needed to really sell this thing. Supporting characters are great, especially Charles Laughton and Elsa Lanchester. The script is absolutely first-rate, and about as bullet-proof as any caper film I've seen. Milland just sucks the life out though, and it's a little hard getting started.
Made in: 1948
Director: John Farrow
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
Movie #684, 109
Stars: 3
 

Monday, September 20, 2004
 
Atlantic City
 
It's a small movie, but the characters are wonderful and brilliantly drawn. Malle does a great job of showing them with all their flaws and naivete. Lancaster is at his best, but also Susan Sarandon does a spectacular job of inhabiting a rather stupid girl, who is trying to make a better life for herself. It's a story of redemption in a host of ways. In fact, the more one thinks about it the better it gets.
Made in: 1980
Director: Louis Malle
Owned: No
Category: Crime, Drama, Romance
Movie #683, 108
Stars: 5
 

Sunday, September 19, 2004
 
Key Largo
 
Much more consistent than some of the other John Huston movies I've seen recently. My guess is that it's a result of the concise play on which it was based. Of course much of the credit must go to the stars Bogart, Bacall, Edward G. Robinson and the rest. Even the backup guys are all good. Robinson is all fleshy, snarling evil and he's fantastic. Claire Trevor is fun too. It's not a great movie, as there are some logical flaws especially with Bogart's character, but it has an easy watchability and high enjoyment factor due to the excellent dialogue and charisma of the actors.
Made in: 1948
Director: John Huston
Owned: No
Category: Crime, Drama, Film-Noir, Thriller
Movie #682, 107
Stars: 3
 

Saturday, September 18, 2004
 
Bay of Angels
 
A study of descent into vice. It's not really all that interesting, although Jeanne Moreau tries her best to give it some life. She looks much older than her 36 years in this movie. The characters seem to spend weeks and months in the same clothes. The only real interest this had for me was thinking about the phenomenal stink they must have given off.
Made in: 1963
Director: Jacques Demy
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #681, 106
Stars: 2
 

Friday, September 17, 2004
 
Tattooed Life
 
It's a little slow in the middle, but when the finale starts it's great. Lots of weird color and shot selections, and the big fight at the end is just like the end of Kill Bill, Vol. 1. Very cool.
Made in: 1965
Director: Seijun Suzuki
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Film-Noir
Movie #680, 105
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, September 02, 2004
 
They Drew Fire
 
Pretty interesting interviews with six or so military artists who covered World War II. The experiences were all different but it was clear that each was allowed to draw whatever they saw during their time on the front. there are some really good paintings from almost every front of the war. Nicely done, but doesn't really move beyond a simple retelling of the artists' stories.
Made in: 2000
Director: Brian Lanker
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #679, 104
Stars: 3
 

Tuesday, August 31, 2004
 
The Wings of the Dove
 
It's not a Merchant-Ivory film, but it might as well be. It's beautifully shot, especially the scenes in Venice. The acting is okay, but there is something a little too studied about it. It's just not that interesting or engaging. Everyone seems so intent on the message that the real life of the movie is gone. Except for Alison Elliot, everyone, especially Helena Bonham Carter, appears to be sleepwalking. Disappointingly dull.
Made in: 1997
Director: Iain Softley
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Romance
Movie #678, 103
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, August 29, 2004
 
Spellbound
 
One couldn't make up the story of the Texas girl whose father can't speak English, or, even better, the incredibly well-prepared Indian immigrant who has never heard the word Darjeeling. There are eight riveting stories of kids here and the result is thrilling and fascinating. The filmmakers did a great job of presenting the stories in a way which gave each speller maximum dignity while also illuminating each one's personality and approach to the contest, as well as the impact of the contest on their families.
Made in: 2002
Director: Jeffrey Blitz
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #677, 102
Stars: 5
 

Saturday, August 28, 2004
 
The Grapes of Wrath
 
Appalling horror as the Joads lose their home and much much more as they travel on to California. The picture of the Okies' existence is bleak and essentially unrelieved. It's pretty painful to watch. Henry Fonda gives his best performance I've yet seen, and is matched by almost everyone else in the cast. The photography is also stunning--essentially documentary-like with strong echoes of Dorothea Lange.
Made in: 1940
Director: John Ford
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #676, 101
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, August 28, 2004
 
Eloise at the Plaza
 
An occasionally interesting story about an insufferable brat who manages to get things right despite being a horrid nuisance. This wasn't a movie I picked, but the kids just love it. It's saved a bit by some good acting by Julie Andrews, Jeffrey Tambor and others, but it's little more than noxious fluff.
Made in: 2003
Director: Kevin Lima
Owned: No
Category: Family, Comdey
Movie #675, 100
Stars: 2
 

Wednesday, August 25, 2004
 
The Lower Depths
 
This is the Jean Renoir version. He has a wonderful sense of humanity and the potential for comraderie between people. While it has sad elements, there is more joy here than expected. Jean Gabin is just great, and his repartee with the Baron is really funny.
Made in: 1936
Director: Jean Renoir
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #674, 99
Stars: 5
 

Tuesday, August 17, 2004
 
Capturing the Friedmans
 
An amazing study of the fallibility of memory and of people, and the difficulty of arriving at any real understanding of what has happened in the past. Some great scenes of all sides totally misremembering very basic events. It's difficult because horrible things happen to a pretty dysfunctional family. You're left with a feeling of hopelessness at the horrible things that can happen to people, yet there is little in the way of escape because the people themselves are not good people either. And yet, there's the hug at the end that gives some solace, especially after the incredible moment when mother slams the door twice on her son on his return from prison, only to then let him in. Ambivalence has rarely been done so well.
Made in: 2003
Director: Andrew Jarecki
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, Crime
Movie #673, 98
Stars: 4
 

Monday, August 16, 2004
 
Hud
 
I'd been wanting to see this one for a long time, and am glad I did. I hadn't realized it was a Larry McMurtry novel first, but it definitely has the feel of a Southern drama along the lines of Horton Foote or, possibly, Tennesee Williams (without the shrews and as much drinking). This one has an elegiac feel for the passing glory of the big ranches and the slow coming of oil and a much cruder way of life. It's a big subject, but it keeps the focus small and intimate; this is no Giant-like sprawling mess. I liked that Hud was unredeemed at the end; hope may return in the form of Honcho but not anytime soon. The acting is great all around, but it is Patricia Neal who steals the show. She is wonderfully deserving of her Oscar. As good as everyone else is in the movie, it is her character which has the most depth. Hud is a little too evil, and the grandfather a little too good to be truly more than schematics. That's not to say Paul Newman doesn't do his best to make us understand how, for all his obvious failings, the women (and Honcho) still want to be with him as much as they can. But that's Paul Newman; a lesser actor would have been much more difficult to bear.
Made in: 1963
Director: Martin Ritt
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Western, Action
Movie #672, 97
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, August 15, 2004
 
Stray Dog
 
It's probably good that I watched this after seeing a number of American noir movies. It put me in the right frame of mind to really appreciate the darker side of this police procedural. This was Kurosawa's eighth movie and while it has him still learning his craft a bit, it does a great job of building suspense, especially during the final chase. It might be a little longer than necessary, but the direction is so good that you never lose place of exactly what is happening or what's going on with each of the characters. Complex plots like this often make following them difficult, but not here: everything is crystal clear. There are a few of Kurosawa's famous tracking shots, but he doesn't appear super comfortable with them yet. He does indulge in some neat nature shots, and the rain at the ends is especially effective. What also comes through is Kurosawa's strong connection with every character, a real care for their feelings and situation, no matter how bad the person might be. The howling of the criminal makes it hard to condemn even him completely. In addition to being Japan's first suspense movie, I wonder if it's also one of the first anywhere that does such a good job of evoking a hot summer to mirror the rising tension of the hunt. There are lots of layers and elements here. It is a really good piece of work.
Made in: 1949
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, Thriller, Film-Noir
Movie #671, 96
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, August 12, 2004
 
Giants and Toys
 
Extremely well done satire of corporate life in Japan. Almost like an anti-corporate movie of the seventies, but about 15-20 years ahead of its time. In addition the direction is just great, with constantly surprising and interesting movement and camera angles. It's not really weird, just very, very dark about the cost of competition and the corruption of success in the modern world. A really good, thoughtful movie.
Made in: 1958
Director: Yasuzo Masumura
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Drama
Movie #670, 95
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, August 05, 2004
 
Angels and Insects
 
It feels like it wants to be a Peter Greenaway movie, but just can't do it. The mood isn't strange enough and it just ends up being kind of dull. Mark Rylance has the best line delivery I've seen in a while. It's probably the most interesting thing about the film, and one of the few reasons to watch it.
Made in: 1995
Director: Philip Haas
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Romance
Movie #669, 94
Stars: 3
 

Tuesday, August 03, 2004
 
Gerry
 
What if you took out the plot, specificity, and almost all action from a movie and left only the metaphors and ambiguity? Let's say you start with two guys named Vladmir and Estragon or, more easily, call both of them Gerry, and cut them adrift in the desert. The photography is beautiful and, despite the lack of any discernible point, the movie really is interesting to watch. Watch is probably not the best word; "think about" is really what this movie causes you to do. Almost imperceptibly the tension builds and fades and builds again. One becomes more and more interested in how it is going to turn out. There's no good end to it, but it's an interesting trip.
Made in: 2002
Director: Gus Van Sant
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Adventure
Movie #668, 93
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, August 01, 2004
 
The Asphalt Jungle
 
For a famous "landmark" film, this movie is awfully scattered. Much like The Treasure of the Sierra Madre the movie is brilliant in its parts, but doesn't hold together all that well in its entirety. There are a lot of great characters--the acting is uniformly excellent--but there is very little tension or emotion to carry it along. By the time Sterling Hayden finally drops dead in the field we're just happy to see him go. In thinking about the movie, it is individual scenes that stick out, while I have to really concentrate to remember what the overall story arc was. For a caper film, that's not a good sign
Made in: 1950
Director: John Huston
Owned: Yes
Category: Crime, Film-Noir, Drama
Movie #667, 92
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, August 01, 2004
 
Return to Neverland
 
Straight-to-video quality for a disappointng theatrical release. There are some nice touches here, like the bit about wartime London at the beginning, but overall it is very thin. Most distressing is that even the animation doesn't look that good. In the original, Peter actually floated on air; in this one he looks like he's standing on something. The background color and art is okay, but we've seen better in many other movies. The kids liked the slapstick scenes, but the characters are too vague and the story too light to make a real emotional connection.
Made in: 2002
Director: Robin Budd, Donovan Cook
Owned: No
Category: Animation, Family, Musical, Adventure
Movie #666, 91
Stars: 2
 

Friday, July 30, 2004
 
Out of the Past
 
So many films-noir fall apart at some point under the weight of improbabilities or a simple failure of logic. Not this one. It doesn't even rely on a string of bizarre coincidences to drive the plot. Rather, everything holds together beautifully as the traps slowly close in on our hero. Yes, the language is overripe, but that's part of the fun. Robert Mitchum is just great in this movie. He's got a weariness which plays very well.
Made in: 1947
Director: Jacques Tourneur
Owned: Yes
Category: Film-Noir, Thriller, Drama
Movie #665, 90
Stars: 5
 

Tuesday, July 27, 2004
 
Cinema Paradiso: The New Version
 
Essentially an Amarcord with more nostalgia and regret. While it lacks the earlier movie's sarcasm, it is no slouch in terms of detail and interesting characters. This longer version spends more time with the lost girlfriend, while the original apparently was more focussed on the impact the old movies had on the protagonists development. I think I would have liked to see the original version first. While this one seems more well-rounded, the final scene loses some of its impact due to dilution. No restraint on emotional impact here. While Fellini might have been looking for some social message, this one is designed almost purely for emotional pathos. It's good, and the acting is quite good, especially by the boy and the old man, but it's not Fellini, not even close.
Made in: 1989
Director: Giuseppe Tornatore
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #664, 89
Stars: 3
 

Saturday, July 24, 2004
 
Murder, My Sweet
 
It's good, and easy to watch, but it's no timeless classic. Dick Powell is fun and he's got some great moments, like lighting a cigarette on the rear end of a cherub statue, but he doesn't ooze desperation and fatigue in the same way that the other Marlowe's do. Some nice casting in the supporting roles, but the other leads are a bit weak as well. Nice diversion though, when you don't need to think too much and you're just up for some good intrigue and solid filmwork.
Made in: 1944
Director: Edward Dmytryk
Owned: Yes
Category: Crime, Film-Noir, Thriller, Drama
Movie #663, 88
Stars: 3
 

Friday, July 23, 2004
 
Cinemania
 
This isn't the greatest movie ever, but the characters in it are staggeringly bizarre. There are five folks who have departed almost all normalcy for a life of truly obsessive movie watching. There's a guy who collects movie soundtracks, but doesn't own record player. Another guy knocked someone down who was standing in his way in a theater and despite realizing that he was about to be arrested continued to watch the movie because to do anything else would be to betray his "vocation". Riveting to watch and scary to think about.
Made in: 2002
Director: Angela Christlieb, Stephen Kijak
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #662, 87
Stars: 5
 

Friday, July 23, 2004
 
Frank and Ollie
 
Delightful and interesting story of life-long friends who were two of the most important animators at Disney for decades. These guys were so close after they met in college that they roomed together and even bought houses next to each other. They finish each other's sentences and clearly delight in each other's company. No dark sordid ironic twist at the end, just two guys really enjoying, studying, learning, and doing what they do best.
Made in: 1995
Director: Theodore Thomas
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #661, 86
Stars: 5
 

Tuesday, July 20, 2004
 
Millennium Actress
 
Delightful and interesting story of life-long friends who were two of the most important animators at Disney for decades. These guys were so close after they met in college that they roomed together and even bought houses next to each other. They finish each other's sentences and clearly delight in each other's company. No dark sordid ironic twist at the end, just two guys really enjoying, studying, learning, and doing what they do best.
Made in: 2001
Director: Satoshi Kon
Owned: No
Category: Animation, Drama, Romance, Fantasy
Movie #660, 85
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, July 18, 2004
 
Lord Love a Duck
 
Way beyond bad. Stupendously, awfully bad. It has the feel of being based on something else moderately funny, but missing the mark completely (see Candy or Serial). It's that bad. Tuesday Weld is okay, and Ruth Gordon is always a pleasure--she can make a soup label interesting. But what were people thinking here? One scene which beggars belief has Tuesday Weld try on sweaters as her father laughs (and leers) maniacally. It not only makes no sense, but leaves one queasy to boot.
Made in: 1966
Director: George Axelrod
Owned: No
Category: Comedy
Movie #659, 84
Stars: 1
 

Sunday, July 04, 2004
 
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World
 
It's very good and the detail is incredible. But there is something missing from the movie: a sense of elation and joy when the battle is won, or perhaps a better sense of the comraderie aboard the ship. The movie just seems a little detached and leaves one with mostly pleasure at not being in the British navy.
Made in: 2003
Director: Peter Weir
Owned: No
Category: Action, Drama, Adventure, War
Movie #658, 83
Stars: 3
 

Thursday, July 01, 2004
 
The Leopard (the American Version)
 
It's a little slow until about midway when the Leopard gives a speech about how he views Sicily. This speech transforms the movie and makes it clear how much self-awareness the Leopard has. There's a lot going on here and this was only the truncated version. Lush and gorgeous set and clothing design add to the spectacle.
Made in: 1963
Director: Luchino Visconti
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, War
Movie #657, 82
Stars: 4
 

Tuesday, June 29, 2004
 
The Ox-Bow Incident
 
This movie has the best performance I've seen thus far by Henry Fonda. It seems richer and more realistic than his other parts. Unfrotunately it is in the service of an incredibly earnest, obvious, and plodding movie. It is short enough, but even over 75 minutes there are moments that drag. It's a bit of a surprise when the innocent are killed, but there is little else suspenseful about the movie. Wellman's direction is about as basic as it gets. My guess is any character depth comes from the novel, not the script or the director.
Made in: 1943
Director: William A. Wellman
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, Western
Movie #656, 81
Stars: 3
 

Monday, June 28, 2004
 
My Darling Clementine
 
Another John Ford classic of the taming of the West. It's a pretty sedate movie for one featuring a classic shootout at the end, but the shootout isn't really the point. Henry Fonda is good, but I wonder if he wouldn't have been better in the Doc Holliday role. Victor Mature, as Doc, is definitely the weakest part of the cast. Walter Brennan exudes evil in a role very much different from To Have and Have Not. If anything I wish there were more of him in the movie.
Made in: 1946
Director: John Ford
Owned: Yes
Category: Western
Movie #655, 80
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, June 27, 2004
 
Pickup on South Street
 
There's a stark brutality to this concise thriller. There's a lot of talk, but it's quick and to the point. Thelma Ritter is wonderful, and the rest of the cast, especially Jean Peters is almost as good. The shooting style is very direct with hard close-ups to underline the significant bits. And the bonus is that for a very complicated plot it all holds together beautifully. The happy ending is a little false, but easily forgiven.
Made in: 1953
Director: Samuel Fuller
Owned: Yes
Category: Film-Noir
Movie #654, 79
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, June 24, 2004
 
Futurama: Volume 3, Disc 3
 
More good stuff, but not quite like disc one. Bender as Pharaoh was easily the best of the bunch.
Made in: 1999
Director: Matt Groening
Owned: Yes
Category: Animation, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Movie #653, 78
Stars: 3
 

Wednesday, June 23, 2004
 
The Hired Hand
 
Warren Oates is amazing as usual. What he can do with the simplest wrinkle of his brow is riveting. This is a wonderful film which reminds me a lot of Ulee's Gold. The acting is good and it has a sophisticated, quietly-told powerful story. The camerawork by Vilmos Zsigmond is beautiful and looks great on this disk. The commentary by Peter Fonda is a treat with exactly what I wanted to hear in terms of what he was thinking and how he approached each scene. In one very neat scene, Fonda walks exactly like his father; the pace and posture are exactly alike. Even at his relatively young age, Fonda manages to project weariness and hard-won knowledge.
Made in: 1971
Director: Peter Fonda
Owned: No
Category: Western
Movie #652, 77
Stars: 4
 

Monday, June 21, 2004
 
Futurama: Volume 3, Disc 2
 
It's tough to keep things going strong and this disk is no exception. There is a little letdown from the best of the the first disk. However, there are still some very funny moments. The comfort the characters have with each other continues to grow. Even when it is not the funniest stuff, the interaction between everybody is wonderful to watch and listen to.
Made in: 1999
Director: Matt Groening
Owned: Yes
Category: Animation, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Movie #651, 76
Stars: 3
 

Monday, June 21, 2004
 
Shoah: Disk 4
 
Watching this movie over the course of one day must be brutal. But to spread it over more than a week has compounded the depair over that time. This is one tough movie to watch. It is also so powerful that it tends to make all other movies seem superfluous. Schindler's List is a sideshow, almost offensively trivial, compared to this thing. As deeply troubling a portrait of human action as it is, it also demands attention. There is so much in the whole story that I can understand why Lanzmann refuses to explain anything, preferring to simply let it stand as it is.
Made in: 1985
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, War
Movie #650, 75
Stars: 5
 

Thursday, June 17, 2004
 
Shoah: Disk 3
 
A lot of focus on the trains and how people were moved through. One interesting interview talked about how important the physical records of the train schedules were. The physical paper was important as proof of what happened because the people were no longer there. Even more chilling was the testimony of one of the support staff, whose life depended on having enough new people come in so that he himself wasn't selected for the crematoria.
Made in: 1985
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, War
Movie #649, 74
Stars: 5
 

Saturday, June 12, 2004
 
Futurama: Volume 3, Disc One
 
Something happened to the writers in this first part of the season. They left reality far behind and started channeling some magical weirdness. The brilliant parasites in Parasites Lost are inspired, but the real heights of absurdity aren't reached until A Tale of Two Santas. Not a dull episode on the disc.
Made in: 2002
Director: Matt Groening
Owned: Yes
Category: Animation, Sci-Fi, Comedy
Movie #648, 73
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, June 12, 2004
 
Vampyr
 
After making one of the finest movies ever in The Passion of Joan of Arc, Dreyer made this weird genre piece. It's barely coherent, but it does have some very interesting images and some great camerawork. The final scene in the mill is really good in the way the shots of the machinery are intercut with the man being smothered by flour and the couple escaping. Overall, it is really odd.

The disk also contains a short animated piece from 1934 by Starewicz called The Mascot. It is a spectacular littel thing that is weirder than most movies coming out today. It could easily be the direct inspiration for Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas. Really funny and interesting stop-motion work. Five stars for the short.

Made in: 1932
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer, Wlayslaw Starewicz
Owned: No
Category: Horror
Movie #647, 72
Stars: 3
 

Monday, June 07, 2004
 
Shoah: Disk 2
 
Lanzmann slowly accretes the detail, until the picture devastates. He has a real gift for the delicate interview. Particularly moving were his questions about the carvings in the formerly Jewish-owned house. The matter of fact responses are chilling. Banal indeed.
Made in: 1985
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, War
Movie #646, 71
Stars: 5
 

Sunday, June 06, 2004
 
Floating Weeds
 
As good as the original was, this one is actually slightly better. The reason is that it is a little more subtle with a greater appreciation of the variety of life. Where there is a bit less of the character of the son in this one, it is made up for by the comedic chorus of three lesser actors. There is not as much overt humor as in the first, but there is plenty there and it helps flesh out all of the characters. The mother of the son is particularly good in her acceptance of the limitations of life.
Made in: 1959
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #645, 70
Stars: 5
 

Tuesday, June 01, 2004
 
Shoah: Disk 1
 
In this first quarter of the movie, there are all sorts of questions being asked. First, the basics:what really happened? what were the mechanics of how it all worked? what were the reactions of the victims, those standing by, and the participants? These specifics lead to a deeper layer of questions: how could people do this? is there an explanation, any explanation, that can suffice? The sheer preponderance of data, the accumulation of detail, the various cross-confirmations, and the simple telling specifics--for example how the local population would wave a finger across their necks--deliver a devastating picture of what happened. But deeper answers are still elusive.

Even after 2 and a half hours, we're still in the opening stages of the movie. Along with the questions raised, there is an apparently artless approach to the eyewitnesses, just listening to their stories, that forces the viewer to dwell on the horror of what happened and wonder how people were able to deal with it as it was happening.

Made in: 1985
Director: Claude Lanzmann
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, War
Movie #644, 69
Stars: 4
 

Monday, May 31, 2004
 
A Story of Floating Weeds
 
Funny, sad, and deceptively simple this movie has such a slight story that you don't really notice when you are totally captivated. Even though many of the actions are only hinted at, there is something incredible in the way it draws you in and lets you know exactly what the characters are feeling and why they are acting so badly. As hard as tried I could not find a flaw in this apparent trifle; every scene is carefully placed and every move carries the story along. It certainly deserves a top rating.
Made in: 1934
Director: Yasujiro Ozu
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #643, 68
Stars: 5
 

Sunday, May 30, 2004
 
The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King
 
This is the theatrical release and it definitely delivers the goods even though it oddly seems both too long in length and too brief in many of the details. The first one still seems the tightest and most effective of the three, because this one just has so much it has to get through without the wonder of the exploring a brand new world. Sean Astin is the real star in this one; without his stout heart, the Frodo story would have been tedious. The battle scenes are justifiably praised, but there are so many of them that the last one outside Mordor is a bit of an anticlimax. It's a really good movie, perhaps a great one, but the overwhelming impression by the end is more awe at the achievement of completing it coherently than the actual movie itself.
Made in: 2003
Director: Peter Jackson
Owned: Yes
Category: Fantasy, Adventure, Action
Movie #642, 67
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, May 30, 2004
 
Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
 
A second viewing, a little more than a full yaer after the first. The too literal approach to plot elements of the book remains a problem. The whole subplot with the giant spider doesn't really need to be in the movie; it slows things down too much. Once the real action with the chamber starts, though, things really pick up. If it weren't for the great acting (everyone except Draco Malfoy) these movies wouldn't be much to talk about.
Made in: 2002
Director: Chris Columbus
Owned: Yes
Category: Fantasy, Mystery, Adventure, Family
Movie #641, 66
Stars: 3
 

Friday, May 28, 2004
 
One-Eyed Jacks
 
On this second viewing, what really hits home is how good Brando is. And the rest of the characters simply build on to that. It's really too long, but at a half-hour shorter it would have been absolutely fantastic. Brando's line readings are about as interesting as anything I've seen recently. Although he is a bit over the top in giving himself good scenes, he is always riveting on screen.
Made in: 1961
Director: Marlon Brando
Owned: Yes
Category: Western
Movie #640, 65
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, May 27, 2004
 
The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
 
Hard to add much to QuentinTarantino's description as the best "directed" movie ever, except to say that what flaws there are are definitely there. The elegant pacing isn't quite as perfect as in Once Upon a Time in the West, and the continuity errors do tend to pile up. These are minor issues though compared to the most fabulous melding of music and plot imaginable and one of the best, if not the best, shootouts ever filmed. The messages of the movie are far more complex than they first seem. What also really hits home is that the real star of the thing is not Clint Eastwood, but the shiftless, venal Eli Wallach. As many pairs of eyes as there are shown in beautiful wide-screen, it is Wallach's whose are the most interesting, the most expressive, and the funniest. An added bonus: this movie just looks fantastic on DVD.
Made in: 1966
Director: Sergio Leone
Owned: Yes
Category: Action, Western, Drama
Movie #639, 64
Stars: 5
 

Wednesday, May 26, 2004
 
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul
 
There is little subtle about this movie. The acting, the stereotypical characters, even the colors are bold and in your face. But somehow the story rings incredibly true and very, very sad. While simple, the characters are undeniably real, and their basic humanity carries this movie through the pain. Amazingly, although I expected it to all end badly, the strength of both the main stars holds up. Even as they continue to face horrible circumstances, they manage to come together. There is also a tiny bit of hope in the fact that some of the neighbors begin to treat both of them a little more kindly. Not everyone learns the lessons they should, even the heroine misses the point with another guest worker, but there is progress forward. What starts out bold and loud, becomes a deeply moving delicate love story. The directon is nearly flawless, as well, helping to underline the isolation and loneliness when needed.
Made in: 1974
Director: Rainer Werner Fassbinder
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Romance
Movie #638, 63
Stars: 5
 

Monday, May 24, 2004
 
Roman Polanski: The Short Films
 
There's some twisted stuff here. Weird violence and also lots of strange humor. All of this is shot in a very beautiful and classic way. The overall effect can be pretty disconcerting. It also sets the tone that Polanski seems to hit in almost all of his later films: the groundrules are always changing and the viewer never gets comfortable.
Made in: 1958
Director: Roman Polanski
Owned: No
Category: Fantasy, Short, Comedy
Movie #637, 62
Stars: 4
 

Friday, May 21, 2004
 
Timeline
 
A not un-fun diversion when you want to put your brain on hold for a while. Michael Crighton's magic holds together what is a pretty ludicrous plot. It actually looks as though the story had a bunch of good things in it, but the moviemakers couldn't spend the time to explain it all, so they just mentioned plot elements in passing and hoped they made sense. Amazingly, everyone in the Middle Ages speaks the same brand of English as we do now. Apart from these silly idiosyncracies, there is really bad acting, and an evil scientist that gets beheaded at the end. Best watched with a group to enjoy the bad moments.
Made in: 2003
Director: Richard Donner
Owned: No
Category: Adventure, Fantasy, Sci-Fi
Movie #636, 61
Stars: 2
 

Tuesday, May 18, 2004
 
Kinfe in the Water
 
Two men trying to impress themselves and a woman out on a boat, alone. It's not a thrill ride, but it is quite tense, and you see Polanski really trying out elements of his craft. Apparently he left much of the lighting and camerawork to his cameraman, except for the framing---that he kept for himself. And it shows; the shots are really precise and dramatic, perhaps a little too dramatic for the picture. The story is subtle and not at all overdone. It also shows, especially near the end, some of the dark humor that Polanski is so fond of. Really interesting movie.
Made in: 1962
Director: Roman Polanski
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #635, 60
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, May 16, 2004
 
The Chess Player
 
A huge production, especially for a French silent movie. The art deco-esque set design and large scale of the battle scenes are pretty impressive. Less so is the convoluted and not completely explained plot. Other than the big scenes, there isn't much notable in this movie. The direction and acting are fairly basic.
Made in: 1927
Director: Raymond Bernard
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #634, 59
Stars: 3
 

Friday, May 14, 2004
 
Murderous Maids
 
An awfully well done movie, anchored by an incredible performance by Sylvie Testud as the older sister. It's a creepy, creepy story that moves along smoothly with the help of the excellent editing. More than anything else, it is the editing which makes this movie work as well as it does. A scary story, and a pretty wretched portrait of the lives of maids in France.
Made in: 2000
Director: Jean-Pierre Denis
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #633, 58
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, May 13, 2004
 
Salon Kitty
 
An appalling mess. There's some skill here in terms of the lighting, but that's about it. Tinto Brass, the director of such fine films as Caligula, seems to be trying to stake a claim for worst taste ever. He comes close.
Made in: 1976
Director: Tinto Brass
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #632, 57
Stars: 1
 

Monday, May 10, 2004
 
Russian Ark
 
One 99 minute shot moving through 36 or so rooms, with three separate orchestras, 15 trucks of props, 2000-plus actors, an experimental high-definition camera recording onto hard drives, and lots and lots of preparation. The overall effect is somewhat mind-numbing. The opulence and incredible artwork of the Hermitage Museum, plus the variety and richness of the costumes and action of the movie tend to overwhelm the viewer. It's a pretty daring work that covers a huge amount of Russian history. At the same time, it's hardly a fast moving picture, relying more on the evocation of moods and emotions than a real plot. The camerwork is also amazing in the way it manages to be fluid enough to avoid total collapse under the demands of a long, long shot. I really liked it, but it's not a movie that can be taken in quickly. It requires a bit of effort from the viewer. There is so much there, however, that it's well worth it.
Made in: 2002
Director: Aleksandr Sokurov
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Fantasy, War
Movie #631, 56
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, May 09, 2004
 
High Noon
 
Hard to say much about a movie this well known. What's surprising after a gap of many years is how strong the supporting cast is: Lloyd Bridges, Lee Van Cleef (young, but already very squinty), Lon Chaney, Jr., the fantastic Thomas Mitchell, and even Jack Elam! There's really not much to the plot, but the director does a good job of building tension--there seem to be clocks everywhere in that town! Gary Cooper's sheriff is so iconically good, he's really beyond critique at all. If anything, that's probably where the movie fails, everybody and everything are so stereotypical that it's hard to really get much sense of real life in the movie. What saves it though is Cooper's wearied stoicism, and Katy Jurado as Rosa, who is possibly the best thing in the movie.
Made in: 1952
Director: Fred Zinneman
Owned: No
Category: Thriller, Western
Movie #630, 55
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, May 08, 2004
 
Ordet
 
Like many exquisite movies, this one sets a specific tone and mood which strengthen the message. In this case, there is both a specificity to the daily work of the characters, whether it be cutting reeds or smoking a pipe, and a universality, brought home by the solemn pace of the thing. This dual nature helps one accept the utter weirdness and transcendence of what eventually happens in the movie.

In addition, the incredible attention to detail in the lighting and camerawork gives the movie a painterly depth and glow which underscore the message of faith in the movie. This is an amazing achievement, not least for the fact that when a actual resurrection occurs at the end, it is simultaneously a shock and a seemingly natural and normal event.
Made in: 1955
Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #629, 54
Stars: 5
 

Saturday, May 08, 2004
 
Singin' in the Rain
 
On this, a second viewing, what really jumped out at me was the explosion of color that's in almost every scene. There isn't a specific palette here at all. Rather, technicolor is used in all its glory to show off every saturated color imaginable. Especially in some of the bigger crowd scenes, the only thing that's lacking in terms of color is restraint. It not only fits the exuberance of the story; it's a joy to watch.
Made in: 1952
Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Owned: Yes
Category: Musical, Comedy, Romance
Movie #628, 53
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, May 06, 2004
 
Restoration
 
Fun in a lot of ways, but ultimately more of a trifle than anything. Certainly the sets are nice, but the story is too anachronistic to be really convincing. Robert Downey, Jr. is good, but this movie has him more learning his craft than excelling at it. David Thewlis was a wonderful surprise, as was Ian McDiarmid, seen here before he became Emperor Palpatine.
Made in: 1995
Director: Michael Hoffman
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #627, 52
Stars: 3
 

Wednesday, May 05, 2004
 
Richard III
 
There is so much history and activity packed into this movie that it really is hard to follow, especially on a first viewing. This is one movie where it probably makes sense to watch the (excellent) commentary before watching the film itself. That said, the movie really is thrilling to watch. Even as much of the detail runs by unnoticed, the plotting, bloodshed, and evil is so much in evidence that one is swept up in the spectacle of it all.
Made in: 1955
Director: Laurence Olivier
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, War
Movie #626, 51
Stars: 4
 

Monday, May 03, 2004
 
The Cable Guy
 
If it weren't for the last twenty minutes of this movie, it would be unwatchable. I barely made it myself. As it is, it is a painful Chinese water torture of embarassing moments and sequences pushed too far. The last act raises it a bit by broadening the satire to society as a whole, but generally the humor is far too thin for a full movie. Cut down to an hour or so the over the top performance of Jim Carrey might have had a real impact. As it stands, every point is pushed too far and way too long. Barely interesting as a curiosity. Not worth the time.
Made in: 1996
Director: Ben Stiller
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Movie #625, 50
Stars: 1
 

Sunday, May 02, 2004
 
Fantasia
 
Seeing the second one again recently showed me how good that one was. However, watching this one again shows what real cutting edge stuff can do. It makes the second one look like amateur hour. Every aspect of this movie works beautifully together, especially the fantastically fluid character animation. It's witty, clever, and wonderful.
Made in: 1940
Director: Algar, Armstrong, Beebe, Ferguson, Hee, Jackson
Owned: Yes
Category: Family, Animation, Music, Fantasy
Movie #624, 49
Stars: 5
 

Sunday, May 02, 2004
 
Alexander Nevsky
 
An awfully powerful bit of filmaking. Many of the scenes seem simplistic, but the beauty of their arrangement makes them interesting. The battle on the ice is a high point, but probably the most interesting is the way in which the Germans are portrayed as completely evil, with their dehumanizing helmets, grotesque faces and evil tactics. This must have been very strong stuff as World War II was just getting underway.
Made in: 1938
Director: Sergei Eisentein, Dmitri Vasilyev
Owned: No
Category: War, Action, Drama
Movie #623, 48
Stars: 4
 

Thursday, April 29, 2004
 
Hiroshima Mon Amour
 
It must have been extraordinarily thrilling to watch this film when it first came out. Even now it seems so fresh and new in its juxtaposition of mass disaster and personal tragedy. There are strong themes of the difficulty of memory and the urge for life among death. The main star is attractive but also somewhat strange looking and she looks different from every angle. This is Serious French Art Film stuff from the start. It's fantastic stuff though, and quite moving.
Made in: 1959
Director: Alan Resnais
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Romance, War
Movie #622, 47
Stars: 5
 

Monday, April 26, 2004
 
Spider
 
A strange and weird movie that succeeds primarily in the way its sets a mood of oppressive decay. The cast is fantastic; it was especially good to see John Neville for the first time since Munchausen. Another surprise is Lynn Redgrave who just oozes narrow-minded cruelty. The one off-note is Gabriel Byrne as Spider's father. He doesn't have the gruff barbarity the role seems to want. It was obviously made for only a little money as the sets have a soap opera feel to them. I liked it, and there are lots of great touches to it, but, once again, it's mostly good as an example of how meticulous direction can set a specific tone.
Made in: 2002
Director: David Cronenberg
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #621, 46
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, April 25, 2004
 
Fantasia 2000
 
Before this, my second viewing, I'd remembered the beautiful colors, but I hadn't remembered exactly how vivid they were and how well they showed up on our TV. I was also impressed again with the wonderful movement of the figures, especially in the final Firebird Suite section. Another big plus was how they left the texture of the drawing in many of the sequences. So often the texture of the actual drawing is lost in the process of applying computerized color. Not here. A small downside is that since so much has developed in the last few years in terms of computer animation, the stuff done here really shows some of the shortcomings of the technology at the time (only six or so years ago!), especially in the way the computer stuff mixes in with hand-drawn scenes.
Made in: 1999
Director: Hahn, Algar, Brizzi, Butoy, Glebas, Goldberg, Hunt
Owned: Yes
Category: Family, Animation, Music
Movie #620, 45
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, April 24, 2004
 
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart
 
This movie certainly wouldn't exist without D.A. Pennebaker's work on Don't Look Back. The styles are extremely similar, even to the point of both being in black-and-white. However, while the Dylan movie hums with the changes in society and music that were happening in the mid-60s, Wilco's story is essentially about trying to find some sort of voice while dealing with a big corporation. It's a smaller stage, smaller theme, and a smaller movie. It's still very good, and, like the other, the fantastic editing manages to pull a coherent story out of what must have been miles and miles of film.
Made in: 2002
Director: Sam Jones
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #619, 44
Stars: 3
 

Saturday, April 24, 2004
 
Don't Look Back
 
Dylan's last acoustic tour, and it's really interesting to see the way things have changed since 1965 in terms of how music tours are set up. Dylan looks awfully young (he was 23 or 24 at the time) and there is a lot of youthful cockiness on show. The movie itself is wonderfully open in terms of how it presents the people in it. It's not clear how you are supposed to judge Dylan or anyone else around. This space gives a feeling of real informality to the thing, despite the fact they must have spent a lot of time setting shots up for lighting and sound. Also, despite a near total lack of storyline or narrative structure, the subject and the songs are so good and interesting that it never flags.
Made in: 1967
Director: D. A. Pennebaker
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, Music
Movie #618, 43
Stars: 5
 

Tuesday, April 20, 2004
 
Dogtown and Z-Boys
 
What a tremendous movie! Just fascinating how these kids managed to put together an entirely new art form. The characters could scarcely be invented, from the brilliant artist who spun off into drug use to those driven to escape their poor surroundings. It's also really interesting how well so many of these people have done since their time spent as what seems to be as close to delinquency as one can get without actual prison time.

The editing of this thing is really good. It does a fantastic job of taking what little footage they had and making a real story out of it. Essentially a master class in how to cut action together without losing the flow and making it tedious.
Made in: 2001
Director: Stacy Peralta
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #617, 42
Stars: 4
 

Sunday, April 18, 2004
 
The Wicker Man
 
Sort of a druidish update of Shirley Jackson's story "The Lottery". It is amazingly goofy. There are apparently people who think this is some kind of fantastic movie, and it does do a good job of setting up mood and all that, but it's just incredibly silly. The fertility dances, the dead rabbit, the laughably ridiculous songs, the super-earnest Ed Woodward, and, most of all, a seriously wind-blown Christopher Lee are all way over the top. Good as a curiosity, but little more.

The movie seems very dated. Interestingly, I had the same reaction to one of Anthony Shaffer's other movie scripts, Sleuth. There is something a little arch and stilted about the language, which perhaps comes from Shaffer's initial training in theater, rather than film.
Made in: 1973
Director: Robin Hardy
Owned: No
Category: Horror, Mystery, Thriller
Movie #616, 41
Stars: 1
 

Saturday, April 17, 2004
 
Safe
 
An exquisite movie by Todd Haynes, matching and in some cases exceeding his incredible Far From Heaven. Like that movie, every frame in this one exudes care and attention. The meticulousness is fantastic. This attention to detail, especially in the truly frightening sound editing, makes the build up of tension almost unbearable. I really liked the pace; Haynes is unafraid of taking the time necessary to build his mood. He is also a master of using his frame. Julianne Moore spends much of the movie at the very edges of things, often separated by walls or other barriers. The film weakens a bit at the end. The message seems to be what a horrible state we're in if we have to rely on the goofballs who run "Wrenwood Center" to make us feel comfortable and safe. Very challenging filmaking though, and apparently made for less than a million dollars, which is astonishing.
Made in: 1995
Director: Todd Haynes
Owned: No
Category: Thriller, Drama
Movie #615, 40
Stars: 5
 

Saturday, April 10, 2004
 
Lost in La Mancha
 
Watching the equipment get carried away by a flash flood was one of the more dramatic examples of how chaotic a movie set can be. The number of things that go wrong for Terry Gilliam are just amazing. It's also an itneresting view into how delicate and difficult it can be to coax all the necessary players into cooperating together to makes something like a movie. At the end of it though, it mostly comes down to money. It's the insurance company that really calls it all off, although not everyone apparently realizes it as it's happening. This is a really well done movie, with no filler at all to hide the growing desperation as the project comes apart.
Made in: 2002
Director: Keith Fulton; Pepe, Louis
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #614, 39
Stars: 4
 

Tuesday, April 06, 2004
 
Chuck Jones: Extremes and In-Betweens, a Life in Animation
 
Ostensibly about the life of Chuck Jones, but what it really is about is how his cartoons were put together and how much input he had on them. As director he was responsbile for drawing almost every main action frame and designing all the sequences. It also shows how the different elements of music, timing, voice all combine into a powerful cartoon. It's not great, buit it is an awfully good primer on animation.
Made in: 2000
Director: Margaret Selby
Owned: No
Category: Documentary
Movie #613, 38
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, April 04, 2004
 
Bride of Frankenstein
 
Wonderfully expressive lighting and camerawork here. Very much like the German expressionists, with sharp shadows and dark backgrounds. The acting is lots of fun, especially in characters like Dr. Pretorius, played by Ernest Thesiger. He's just great. It's a short movie, but feels like a full one. Lots of fun, but I would not say it's super suspenseful.
Made in: 1935
Director: James Whale
Owned: No
Category: Horror, Sci-Fi, Drama
Movie #612, 37
Stars: 3
 

Wednesday, March 31, 2004
 
Days of Heaven
 
I think this is a film likely more admired than watched. The cinemtography is renowned, but also the music, editing (and accompanying pace) combine to create an amazing sense of foreboding and tragedy. A good case can be made that the muted, almost archetypal feel of the movie is due to the fact the story is really told by the young girl of the story. The story is about her loss, and growth in her understanding of the world. The adults are remembered more schematically than in full detail. This spareness, in this case, only incrases the power of the story. Interestingly, this is the fourth movie in a very short time that was filmed by Nestor Almendrosóall a coincidence.
Made in: 1978
Director: Terrence Malick
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #611, 36
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, March 27, 2004
 
High Lonesome: The Story of Bluegrass Music
 
I enjoyed much of the movie, but it certainly didn't go far enough. Too much emphasis especially on recent developments and not enough (for my taste) on the history of the music. Why, for example, did Lester Flatt and Earl Scruggs leave the Bluegrass Boys? Bill Monroe comes across as a serious reserved man, who goes manic and beyond when playing the mandolin.
Made in: 1994
Director: Rachel Liebling
Owned: No
Category: Documentary, Music
Movie #610, 35
Stars: 3
 

Thursday, March 25, 2004
 
La Vallee
 
It starts off pretty sedately and doesn't get much faster. What looks to be far too slow and obvious, though, reveals itself to be carefully paced and controlled to the very depressing ending. It's a little obvious, but the overall effect is quite good. Perhaps I'm a bit affected by seeing the familiar signs of Papua New Guinea, but I definitely enjoyed it.
Made in: 1972
Director: Barbet Schroeder
Owned: No
Category: Action, Drama
Movie #609, 34
Stars: 4
 

Monday, March 22, 2004
 
Roger Dodger
 
A little too clever for its own good. Roger's arch cynicism is obviously part of the point, but very quickly the obviousness fades into boredom. Parts are very good and witty, but one has the feeling that it's all been seen before. The biggest surprise is Elizabeth Berkley and Jennifer Beals giving really good performances. Some good potential overall, and especially for a first-time director, but there's still a long way to go before it's anything special.
Made in: 2002
Director: Dylan Kidd
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Drama
Movie #608, 33
Stars: 3
 

Thursday, March 18, 2004
 
Sweet and Lowdown
 

In the final scene it becomes clear what this really is: a remake of La Strada. This time around it's played a bit more for laughs and the despair is replaced by beautiful music. The failure of self-recognition is the same though.

Overall, the movie is okay. Sean Penn left me a bit cold; it was Samantha Morton who was most impressive. Her facial expressions are amazing. Uma Thurman, unfortunately, overplays a role that's more parody than substance.

Made in: 1999
Director: Woody Allen
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Drama, Music
Movie #607, 32
Stars: 4
 

Tuesday, March 16, 2004
 
Lovely and Amazing
 
Almost a complete and perfect chick-flick (what was I thinking renting this movie?), except it has enough enjoyable bitterness and anger to carry it through its more sensitive moments. It's true enough to its angry comedic center to eschew a teary ending in favor of an arrest for statutory rape and a McDonald's eating binge. At the end though, the humor isn't quite biting enough; the ending is more of a muddle than anything signficant. The writing is sharp in a sitcom kind of way, but what really saves it is the excellent acting by Catherine Keener, Brenda Blethyn, Emily Mortimer and a superb group of supporting folks. A lesser cast would have left this a complete waste of time.
Made in: 2001
Director: Nicole Holofcener
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Drama
Movie #606, 31
Stars: 3
 

Thursday, March 11, 2004
 
The Lady Vanishes
 
An intricate little set piece that starts slowly and comedically, but builds to a fairly exciting series of fights and a shootout. Perhaps better as a model for mystery comedies, set on a train no less, than really interesting in itself. It's just not that good. The actors are actually a bit better than the script they have. What it really seems to display is how artificial and staged so many mysteries are. The movie only works because of a whole series of chance coincidences and events. It's intricate and fascinating (at times) but under any serious examination it all falls apart. At the end, it's stretched so thin that there isn't enough credulity left to sustain the pace. You know from the start that Lockwood and Redgrave are going to end up together, and it's so painfully obvious that, by the end, you care very little about them or their relationship.
Made in: 1938
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Owned: No
Category: Action, Comedy, Mystery, Romance, Thriller
Movie #605, 30
Stars: 2
 

Tuesday, March 09, 2004
 
The Marquise of O
 
This is one incredible, beautiful film. Just fantastic. I feel like I did right after watching Croupier, another wonderful film that caught me totally unawares and unprepared for how good it was. Slow, sedate, and riveting. Great movie. The mood of strangeness is as if David Lynch were transplanted into the 18th century. And, fittingly, this is apparently one of Peter Greenaway's favorite films. By the way, what are the chances I would randomly pick two movies in a row filmed by Nestor Almendros? Both shot in warm, soft, embracing light.

In addition to the great lighting, the framing of the movie really helps to set the mood of unease. The effect seems to be managed by leaving a lot out of each frame. Often the main speaker is slightly off-camera or shown only partially. The space in the frame is much like that in The Man Who Fell to Earth in that there is lots of empty space. Wonderful stuff.
Made in: 1976
Director: Eric Rohmer
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Period
Movie #604, 29
Stars: 5
 

Monday, March 08, 2004
 
The Last Metro
 
A strange movie, not strange in the weird freaky sense, but strange in the sense that it is odd. I wasn't quite sure where the thing was going. What is there is Truffaut's respect and warmth for every character, even if it isn't as complete and moving as his better movies. Catherine Deneuve can be the most withering ice queen imaginable. There a harsh and casual cruelty in her; the detachment in her eyes frightens you away from her beauty. There is also Truffaut's wondrous dexterity with his camera. It seems to move all around the most claustrophobic spaces with no problem at all. There also seems to be an element of Truffaut poking fun at himself in that the movie, which is about a theater company, is itself staged on an obviously artificial set with only a limited cast.
Made in: 1980
Director: Francois Truffaut
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Romance
Movie #603, 28
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, March 07, 2004
 
La Strada
 
This movie brings out a lot of conflicting thoughts. On the one hand, it's a basic retelling of the "holy idiot" story. As such it is okay, but hardly significantly new, at least to me now. The Nights of Cabiria was a similar story but from a slightly different approach, and has, what I think, is a richer cast and deeper view of the world. This story is more personal and more focussed on the individual. As is appropriate, the center of attention isn't the idiot, wonderfully played by Massina, but by the evil strongman, Anthony Quinn. Massina has the flash and showy bits, but this is Quinn's picture. He revels in his strength and size and thinks it is enough, until he realizes what he has lost. Apart from this, this movie is Fellini really stepping away from the neo-realists, and his step is definitely more confident and more capable than in The White Sheik. The flights of fancy that show up later in Fellini are hinted at here in the way the Fool eats his meal suspended high above the crowd. If anything, this movie is probably more about promise and potential than what it actually is, but what is there is awfully good.
Made in: 1954
Director: Federico Fellini
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama
Movie #602, 27
Stars: 5
 

Wednesday, March 03, 2004
 
Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf
 
Back when Mike Nichols tooks his movies seriously and made good ones, his first effort was this gem. Elizabeth Taylor is incredibly good here. In the service of her meaty part (an older, tireder, edition of Maggie in Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), she's not afraid to let herself look bad and unkempt. Despite that, her glamorous star quality shines through. The chemistry with Richard Burton is undeniable and it only makes the movie's sadness all the more effective.

Made in: 1966
Director: Mike Nichols
Owned: No
Category: Thriller, Drama
Movie #601, 26
Stars: 5
 

Friday, February 27, 2004
 
All Quiet on the Western Front
 
An amazing movie. The details it manages to focus on really bring home the anti-war point. If anything the preachy stuff near the end actually detracts from the message, which is driven home so effectively by the awful battle scenes in the first half.
Made in: 1930
Director: Lewis Milestone
Owned: No
Category: War, Drama
Movie #600, 25
Stars: 5
 

Thursday, February 26, 2004
 
Red River
 
Awfully solid filmmaking with an oustanding cast. Of course Wayne and Montgomery Clift are excellent, but Walter Brennan leads an unbelievably good supporting group. It's a little long, the ending a bit forced, and a few thematic strands are dropped in occasional places, with few pretensions to anything grander than a good story. But a grand story it is, and lots of fun.
Made in: 1948
Director: Howard Hawks
Owned: No
Category: Western, Action, Adventure
Movie #599, 24
Stars: 4
 

Monday, February 23, 2004
 
The Diary of a Country Priest
 
At first glance this couild be the epitome of the long, boring French art movie. But something keeps holding on to you, and, finally, when it's over, you notice there wasn't a wrong step in the entire thing. The shot selection and the economy of dialogue are nearly perfect (check out all those glances through windows, doors, and fences). Also of note is the the sound editing which allows for all sorts of offscreen noises that emphasize all the various level sof discomfort in the movie. The acting, especially by the Priest himself is incredible. The looks of anguish and despair are almost as effective as in The Passion of Joan of Arc. Thematically it's hardly new or goundbreaking (at least not now), but that's almost beside the point. It's really interesting film-making. Not to mention the fact that the hero's hair is almost exactly like the father's in Eraserhead!

Another interesting bit is how easy this movie makes it to separate the themes from the method. It's such a severe style, with scenes cut to their absolute minimum, and extremely economical editing that it is easy to focus on that almost to the exclusion of the theme.

I've now watched the movie again with its commentary track. I have to admit I don't think I understand this film at all. The priest is tempted to reject his faith due to the struggles he faces, but his dying of cancer seems to revive him somehow and strengthen his faith. Very mysterious.

Made in: 1951
Director: Robert Bresson
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, French, Foreign
Movie #598, 23
Stars: 5
 

Saturday, February 21, 2004
 
The Bridge on the River Kwai
 
David Lean makes a spectacle like this look easy. The ending is justifiably renowned for the way the tension builds effortlessly. At the same time, it's a drama with few sharp edges. Almost everything about it is perfect, even the performances have a certain frozen perfection to them. A more quirky movie might have had more critics but also been a bit more interesting. One thing that I noticed was this movie has a strong similarity to La Grande Illusion in its idea that officers of any army are able understand and respect each other, regardless of nationality. In this movie, of course, the notion leads to disaster.
Made in: 1957
Director: David Lean
Owned: No
Category: Adventure, Drama, War
Movie #597, 22
Stars: 3
 

Saturday, February 21, 2004
 
The Phantom of the Opera
 
Two amazing things in this movie: the sets and Lon Chaney's makeup. All of this goodness is unfortunately marred by a plotline which is only barely explained by the narrative. The direction is really bad. Apparently there were also numerous editors who had a hand in getting this thing put together. Strong marks for effort; much less for execution.
Made in: 1925
Director: Lon Chaney; Rupert Julian
Owned: Yes
Category: Drama, Horror
Movie #596, 21
Stars: 3
 

Wednesday, February 18, 2004
 
Matewan
 
John Sayles really is a bit of a mystery. These movies are awfully good. But there's something missing. It's all so earnest: the good folks are so purely good and the bad folks are wonderfully evil. But there it lies. There's precious little variation. The acting is great here, I really liked David Straithairn and Mary McDonnell is always good. That said, the unrelieved earnestness is really too much to take.
Made in: 1987
Director: John Sayles
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #595, 20
Stars: 3
 

Monday, February 16, 2004
 
State and Main
 
As with several of the Mamet movies I've seen, it's not quite the sum of its parts. The writing is meaty enough to get some great actors in the movie, but somehow it's all a bit too cerebral and doesn't grab one as much as it would seem to deserve. It's all a bit pat and while real engagement rears its head for a few moments, it doesn't really bite. Too intellectual and detached; essentially too staged and theatrical to grab me. So many good actors, and yet the one I enjoyed watching most was Alec Baldwin. He just thrives on this incredibly sleazy role.
Made in: 2000
Director: David Mamet
Owned: No
Category: Comedy
Movie #594, 19
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, February 15, 2004
 
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
 
Much better and more interesting than Rio Grande. There's more action , and the landscape is more interesting (probably also the result of the fantastic color). Ben Johnson as Tyree is nice to see again, but the real star is still John Wayne, who does a fantastic job. He has some amazing acting chops and they are on full display here. It's not a super-exciting thrill ride kind of movie, but it has lots of classic "manly men doing manly things" kinds of scenes. at the same time it also has lots of small delicate touches that speak to how life must really have been for soldiers far out on station. those touches add an immeasurable resalism to the movie that makes the men's bravery all that much more believable.
Made in: 1949
Director: John Ford
Owned: No
Category: Western, Romance
Movie #593, 18
Stars: 4
 

Friday, February 13, 2004
 
Basquiat
 
Not quite the same impact as Before Night Falls, but awfully interesting. The music selection is great and David Bowie as Andy Warhol is way, way out there. The acting overall is really good. The downside is that it seems a bit sketchy. I really wanted to know more about the guy. One very interesting element is that it sure looks as though the Milo character, played by Gary Oldman, was based on the director Julian Schnabel himself. If this is the case the movie definitely shows his envy of Basquiat's talent as well as his contempt for much of what passes for the New York art scene. That perspective makes the movie much more interesting than it would otherwise be.
Made in: 1996
Director: Julian Schnabel
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #592, 17
Stars: 3
 

Friday, February 13, 2004
 
The General
 
A second viewing and it's as good as before. What impressed me this time was how amazing the technical achievements in the movie are. The big battle scenes are great as are the train chases. The best special effect is still Keaton himself.
Made in: 1927
Director: Buster Keaton; Clyde Bruckman
Owned: Yes
Category: Comedy, Romance, War, Silent
Movie #591, 16
Stars: 5
 

Tuesday, February 10, 2004
 
Rio Grande
 
Another Ford Western, but this one is no Stagecoach. Yes, the nice setups are there and some humorous touches, but this is an old film that hasn't aged well. It's slow, ponderous and far too obvious to be interesting. About the best thing is the chemistry between John Wayne and Maureen O'Hara, which works really well.
Made in: 1950
Director: John Ford
Owned: No
Category: Western, Romance
Movie #590, 15
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, February 08, 2004
 
Stagecoach
 
I'm almost embarassed I hadn't seen this one before. Great characters and almost modern editing. The setups are reminiscent of silent movies in some of the little bits, but it all works really well. The result isn't quite as modern as some of its contemporaries like Gone with the Wind, (incredibly The Wizard of Oz was also the same year) but it's getting there. Lots of great themes here, although it still is very much in the mode of all Americans are great and we have to band together to fight the evil savage West. Ambiguity comes later. Great, great stuff. Usually one good character actor per movie makes for a good show, but this one has four or five, plus John Wayne. And the writing is definitely strong enough to support them. Amazing.
Made in: 1939
Director: John Ford
Owned: No
Category: Western, Action, Drama, Romance
Movie #589, 14
Stars: 4
 

Wednesday, February 04, 2004
 
Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
 
Now this movie has a lot going for it, especially the astonishingly good acting by almost everyone involved. Johnny Depp gets the nomination, but Geoffrey Rush is pretty much his equal. Clever script, delivered well, and no one taking it at all seriously. Lots of fun.
Made in: 2003
Director: Gore Verbinski
Owned: Yes
Category: Adventure, Comedy, Fantasy, Action
Movie #588, 13
Stars: 3
 

Monday, February 02, 2004
 
Mister Roberts
 
I was impressed by James Cagney's willingness to play a completely unlikeable character. The other interesting bit is Bill Powell in his last role. The tone is a bit strange here and I think the play has aged none too well. In the ending for example, one moment Roberts has died and the next Pulver is playing his own sudden bravery for laughs. It's an uncomfortable and awkward transition. Frankly, this is the kind of not-all-that-amusing movie that I have little patience for. It's not even bad in an interesting way. As much of a waste of time as any of the movies I've spent an evening with.
Made in: 1955
Director: John Ford; Mervyn LeRoy
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Drama, War
Movie #587, 12
Stars: 2
 

Saturday, January 31, 2004
 
The Tailor of Panama
 
John Boorman provides an incredibly assured hand in the direction of this movie. There's nary a wasted shot or incorrect placement. It's extremely well done. The acting is a real pleasure as well and it lifts the movie well into high quality territory.
Made in: 2001
Director: John Boorman
Owned: No
Category: Comedy, Drama, Thriller
Movie #586, 11
Stars: 4
 

Saturday, January 31, 2004
 
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Extended Edition)
 
Now its the third time I've watched this. Once again the sheer length of the thing becomes a bit of a burden. However, the quality off the editing really shone through for me this time. Of course, Gollum is good, but the acting that really jumps out at you is Sean Astin. Very nice work, esepcially seeing how he was able to develop the character over the three movies.
Made in: 2002
Director: Peter Jackson
Owned: Yes
Category: Fantasy, Adventure, Action
Movie #585, 10
Stars: 4
 

Wednesday, January 28, 2004
 
The Rules of the Game
 
Plotwise, it is notable for the evenhandedness and grace that Renoir uses to handle every character. No out-and-out baddies here, just people caught in their own habits, lies, and deceit. Cinematically the camerawork and editing are amazing. The thing moves faster than many movies made today. Also the deep focus and complicated pans are a wonder to watch. Jean Renoir himself is an incredible actor with lots of lively energy. But this isn't just me talking: this is one of the greatest movies every made.
Made in: 1939
Director: Jean Renoir
Owned: Yes
Category: Comedy, Drama
Movie #584, 9
Stars: 5
 

Monday, January 26, 2004
 
Steamboat Bill, Jr.
 
It's not as exquisitely funny in every frame as The General, but it is still awfully good and the effects are drop-dead amazing. Even the legendary house falling scene is just one of many incredible sights as houses fly by and boats and buildings sink and twist around. Yet the funniest moment is when Buster Keaton is trying to convince his father that there is a file in a loaf of bread. This quiet moment is as good as the rest of the movie with all its action.
Made in: 1928
Director: Buster Keaton; Charles Reisner
Owned: Yes
Category: Comedy, Silent, Romance
Movie #583, 8
Stars: 5
 

Sunday, January 18, 2004
 
He Walked By Night
 
A pretty good little police procedural that was supposedly the model for Dragnet and other police television shows. It’s not the most exciting thing ever, but what is has is amazing camerawork by John Alton, a master of noirish shadow. Many of the shots feature lots and lots of dark space all around the frame, with only an outline or so to mark out the actors. It also has a final chase in a sewer that isn’t nearly as good as in The Third Man (which came a year later, so the credit for the invention has to go to this one), but is a real flashy bit of lighting and camerawork.
Made in: 1948
Director: Alfred L. Werker; Anthony Mann
Owned: Yes
Category: Film-Noir, Crime, Drama, Thriller
Movie #582, 7
Stars: 2
 

Sunday, January 18, 2004
 
X2
 
Following X-Men, it has a really good story that moves along with precision and pace. It’s more than two hours but doesn’t feel it at all. Brian Cox turns in another great performance, as does pretty much everyone else. Easily one of the best comic movies done for a while (including the first
Made in: 2003
Director: Bryan Singer
Owned: Yes
Category: Action, Sci-Fi, Thriller
Movie #581, 6
Stars: 3
 

Sunday, January 18, 2004
 
The Man Who Fell to Earth
 
Truly weird and obstruse. Not even clear on who the bad guys are. The acting, except for Rip Torn and Buck Henry, is a bit sub-par, but David Bowie looks so strange it doesnít really matter. The real magic here is in the direction. Itís amazing how almost every shot seems to reflect isolation and anomie. I think it has something to do with the space in each frame. Usually the people, or person, are at the edge of the frame with lots of space and distance around them. The music also helps an enormous amount. Some really good choices here. The overall effect is certainly much better than the plot or story alone would warrant.
Made in: 1976
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Owned: Yes
Category: Sci-Fi
Movie #580, 5
Stars: 5
 

Wednesday, January 14, 2004
 
Woodstock
 
Truly one of the great documentaries. Fantastic editing by Thelma Schoonmaker. The split-screen technique is really groundbreaking and foresees a style that is absolutely cutting edge even 35 years later.
Made in: 1970
Director: Michael Wadleigh
Owned: Yes
Category: Documentary, Music
Movie #579, 4
Stars: 5
 

Saturday, January 10, 2004
 
Midnight Cowboy
 
The movie is quite a bit dated, especially the direction. The party in particular really reminded me of the horrible grape-squashing scene in Seconds, also directed by Schlesinger. However, the incredible thing is the creation of these two characters and their friendship. Voightís character is barely believable, but saved by exquisite acting. Thatís exceeded by Dustin Hoffman, who manages to produce a stunningly real a(and desperate) figure. Apart from that, this movie is not nearly as impressive on repeat viewings.
Made in: 1969
Director: John Schlesinger
Owned: No
Category: drama
Movie #578, 3
Stars: 3
 

Saturday, January 10, 2004
 
Network
 
Well done in every detail, but most especially for the amazingly literate script. there really is no writing like this around to be found. Itís also astonishingly prescient about television, although thatís probably cliche. However now that we ahve reality television series and shows like The Real Life it brings it all home again. Perhaps every generation has to rediscover the simple pleasure of total audience abasement for itself.
Made in: 1976
Director: Sidney Lumet
Owned: No
Category: Drama, Satire
Movie #577, 2
Stars: 5
 

Saturday, January 10, 2004
 
Ran
 
Kind of a greatest hits of Akira Kurosawa here: the treacherous woman, the fantastic battle scenes, stupid men, tests of loyalty, and, of course, amazing cinematography. As usual, each one of the characters has a distinct peronality and is very much alive. Yet there is something a bit lacking. There isnít the same energy as in some of Kurosawaís earlier films that keeps one riveted to the screen in the same way. Some of the scenes have the same old power, but it isnít consistent. That said, itís still an awfully good movie, based on King Lear, one of my favorite plays
Made in: 1985
Director: Akira Kurosawa
Owned: No
Category: Drama
Movie #576, 1
Stars: 4