Monday, December 28, 2015

NO COUNTRY FOR OLD MEN (2007)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 20 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


The Coen Brothers usual sense of humor is missing from this  bleak adaptation of Cormac Mccarthy's novel which is one of the reasons that the Academy Awards finally took them seriously. Also, features a interesting trio of main characters who only encounter each other in passing: Sheriff Bell (Tommy Lee Jones), who is still trying to do the right thing, Llweylyn Moss (Josh Brolin) a welder who finds a stash of cash and quickly finds himself in over his head, and Anton Chigurh (Javier Bardem), an assassin who is guaranteed to give you nightmares. 

Friday, December 25, 2015

IDA (2013, POLAND)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 19 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


The story of a nun who turns out to have Jewish roots, is a simple but well done and beautifully photographed story of a young woman attempting to find out her identity. The film's sense of time and place is probably the chief virtue of the piece. An Oscar winner for Best Foreign film.

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL (2014)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 18 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


Wes Anderson likes a lot of quirky characters and wild improbable plots and...I'm just not sure why I don't like his films quite as much as others do. I appreciate his style in a wacky comedic chase like The Grand Budapest Hotel, and he certainly has brought together an all-star cast headed by the surprisingly funny Ralph Fiennes, but I find this particular film more clever than laugh-out-loud funny.

I've got a few more Wes Anderson films to go through, so I haven't given up joining the club yet.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

KILL BILL (2003-2004)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 17 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


I'll say this for the Kill Bill films, director Quentin Tarantino puts everything he has into them. Tarantino is a renowned Asian action movie film buff and he gives us all the action we can handle in almost every conceivable way. An epic tale of revenge that spans the globe and takes two complete films to complete looks even better now than when it first came out.

Wednesday, December 16, 2015

A TOUCH OF SIN (2013, CHINA)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 16 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


Four stories of violence, revenge and mayhem loosely based on real events taken from the headlines of modern China. My favorite is the first story, which features a man who after failing to achieve justice within the law, takes vengeance in his own way.

Sunday, December 13, 2015

UNITED 93 (2006)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 15 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


I really didn't want to watch United 93, the story of the passengers aboard the title plane on 9/11, again. No disputing the quality of the film, but it's such an emotionally charged story about a time most of us remember all too well and we know it isn't going end pleasantly for anyone on that plane. But I did watch it again and it was as emotionally draining the second time.

Should you even recommend a film that many people will understandably not want to watch?

Thursday, December 10, 2015

NOSTALGIA FOR THE LIGHT (2010, CHILE)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 14 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


When I first started watching the documentary Nostalgia for the Light, I thought that since this is a documentary about Astronomy, I really should be watching this on a IMAX screen. But then the movie turns to the political realities of families living under the dictatorships of Pinochet and Allende and the human toll of reality is shown in full force. Part science, part sociology, part philosophy, Nostalgia for the Light's ability to mix these elements is what makes it a moving and meaningful piece.

Monday, December 7, 2015

ONCE (2007, IRELAND)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 13 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


Once is a bit of a hard movie to categorize. It's not a musical, but it has a lot of music in it. I even own a copy of the soundtrack! It's not really a romance between the two leads, though that issue does surface...a little. It doesn't really have a lot of conflict in it, either. The main characters are just trying to get a studio to record some demos! But the guy they are renting the studio from is going to be a problem, right? Well, he is for about a minute until he likes his music and then plays frisbee with the guys and girl. What about the guys dad? He won't understand his son going off and becoming a musician, right? Except he only turns out to be the most understanding dad in the world!

No romance. Not a musical. Not much conflict. Hard to define.

I just know I like this simple story and have seen it three times.  Certainly in my hypothetical 1001 book.

Friday, December 4, 2015

THE PRESTIGE (2006)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 12 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


First of all, I tend to like movies about magic and magicians. Christopher Nolan's The Prestige has so many tricks up its sleeve, I couldn't keep track of them all even though I've seen this movie before!

Speaking  of magic, I'm glad I got to see The Amazing Randi at this year's Dragoncon!

Also worth seeing for further insight into the world of illusion is the documentary about Randi, An Honest Liar.

James Randi is An Honest Liar

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

BLUE IS THE WARMEST COLOR (2013, FRANCE)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 11 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


While I was watching Blue is the Warmest Color, someone called me and ask me what I was doing. I said "I'm watching underage lesbian French porn...and what are you doing?" I know that's unfair, because this is really a pretty good coming of age film, where we do get to know and care about the main character of Adele and her artist friend girl-friend Emma. The NC-17 rating is for the sex scenes that are graphic and much longer in length than I can imagine them ever being presented in an American film.


Saturday, November 28, 2015

THE DEPARTED (2007)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 10 of 50)

The Departed

Martin Scorsese's ruthless crime film about rats, moles and double crosses is a very tense drama that is full of too many plot twists to name and finally gave Scorsese an overdue Academy Award. But let us not forget that The Departed is a remake of the 2002 Hong Kong film Infernal Affairs.

I watched these films back to back and it is interesting to notice the differences. The Departed is about an hour longer than Infernal Affairs, so it does have more time to flesh out the characters. Infernal Affairs doesn't go into nearly the details of the origin story and practically avoids the romantic sub-plot we see in The Departed all together. But it is interesting to compare the scenes taken from the original and placed in the Scorsese film: two hoods talking about how to spot a cop, a sting that goes wrong because of the mole warning the crime boss ahead of time, confessions to the lady psychiatrist and both the rooftop scenes. There also is no real equivalent of Mark Wahlberg's Dingham character in Infernal Affairs.

I would probably choose The Departed if I had to choose a preference between the two because of the additional character development in the screenplay of Oscar winner William Monahan.

But why choose? Have a party and watch them both!
Infernal Affairs

Wednesday, November 25, 2015

SIDEWAYS (2003)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 9 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


I don't want to sound too cutesy and say Sideways has aged liked fine wine since the last time I saw it, but there you have it. Basically a buddy picture, with Miles (Paul Giamatti) the wine loving writer who is trying to get himself together after a painful break-up and Jack (Thomas Haden Church) the lady loving actor and a player that wants to have a fling before his upcoming marriage. The bottom line is despite their flaws, I really like these guys. That even goes for Jack, who can be more than a bit of a jerk at times. But they seem real. And the female romantic interests played by Sandra Oh and Virginia Madsen are engaging characters as well.

Think I'll go have some Pinot Noir now.

Sunday, November 22, 2015

GOMORRAH (2008, ITALY)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 8 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


Complex and penetrating Italian crime film about feuding criminal clans and those that run or are run over by them. A film whose nuances and story arcs would certainly gain through repeated viewings, it is definitely not for the faint of heart violence wise or linear plot wise.

Thursday, November 19, 2015

THE PIANO TEACHER (2001, AUSTRIA)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 7 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


The major conflict of The Piano Teacher is the duality between a woman named Erika who is classically trained in the arts but has secret sexual desires, many involving sexual masochism and humiliation. I don't know if we are supposed to sympathize with her, as we do  feel bad about parts of her upbringing, but we can't excuse some of the things she does either. But I think that's the point, our feelings toward her are not black and white and the film addresses these points. I did find the look into that duality as being very interesting, if often unpleasant.

Monday, November 16, 2015

THE SON'S ROOM (2001, ITALY)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 6 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


Considering I knew this was a film about how a family copes with the death of the son in the family, I felt myself during the first half hour of the movie just waiting for the inevitable demise of the titular son. But once the son dies, the drama unfolds to be a bit more than the standard movie of the week. The father is a psychologist and I liked the way we are slowly shown how he simply can't deal with his patients anymore. The film has a reminds me in subject matter and tone of Ordinary People (but with subtitles).

Friday, November 13, 2015

INSIDE LLEWYN DAVIS (2013)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 5 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list



Inside Llweyn Davis is the story of a struggling folk singer in a pre-Bob Dylan Greenwich Village. If that brief description sounds appealing (it does to me) and you like Coen Brothers films (like I do) then Inside Llweyn Davis is worth checking out. On the other hand, I don't think it's top of the line Coen Brothers, but it does have a lot of moments to recommend it, many supplied by John Goodman who has developed quite a gallery of characterizations in the Coen's films.

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

GUARDIANS OF THE GALAXY (2014)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 4 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


Rare superhero entry from the 1001 list. Not the most well known entities of the Marvel superhero universe, but that's to the film advantage...It's hard to have preconceptions of characters you know nothing about! The story is interesting, the characters (especially Rocket Raccoon above and Michael Rooker as a refreshingly dense supervillain) are fun, but I'd basically like anything that includes a mix-tape of 70's tunes.

Saturday, November 7, 2015

CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (2010)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 3 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


I see two dramas going on in this Werner Herzog documentary about the 30,000 year old paintings neatly preserved in the Chauvet Cave if France. One drama is the journey through the cave itself as a sightseer to the past and seeing these people from so many years ago through their artistry and skill and thinking about how the human apple really has really not fallen that far away from the tree. The other drama is the limited access that the film crew is given to the caves which makes one feel how fragile and temporary both art and life is.

Recommended viewing, as is Herzog's other outdoorsy documentary, Grizzly Man.

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

THE THEORY OF EVERYTHING (2014)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 2 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


My perception of Steven Hawking as the celebrity/genius astrophysicist whose body has been crippled my MLS is so strong that I had to do a double take when I saw there was going to be a movie about Stephen that seemed more of A Beautiful Mind type romance than an episode of Cosmos. But we really do learn more about what Hawking's early life than many of us knew before. Eddie Redmayne's depiction of Hawking first as the young budding genius and then as the older famous man ravaged by physical deterioration was truly Oscar worthy.

Sunday, November 1, 2015

BIRDMAN (2014)

FILMS FROM THE 21st CENTURY
(Post 1 of 50)

Some quick takes on the most relatively recent listings from the
1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list


Birdman is the story of an actor who made a name for himself playing a superhero, but has long wanted to shed that image and take on more serious acting roles. Or work he perceives as serious, like directing and starring in a Raymond Carver play. I found the whole thing fascinating and well done, but it's uncommericial nature made it a surprise best picture winner to me.

And it made me want to pick up some Raymond Carver.

Saturday, October 31, 2015

THE OMEN (1976), VIDEODROME (1983)

The Omen
A Couple of Horror movies I just never got around to seeing before...

I heard a lot about The Omen when it came out in 1976. I even got the book (a novelization technically). The book had pictures of the highlights of the movie, like the nanny hanging herself or the priest getting speared or the young devil child Damien looking menacingly into the camera. I also saw clips of most of these scenes on television. But I never got around to seeing the actual movie! I even saw the sequel Damien: Omen II! So The Omen is one of those movies I feel like I've seen even though I've never seen it.

So it was an interesting experience finally watching it, because of my perceived familiarity with it.

 The plot: A well-to-do couple (An ambassador and his wife) lose a baby. The father replaces the baby with an adopted baby without the mother knowing. The problem is is that the replacement child turns out to be the devil incarnate! (What parent hasn't called their unruly child Damien at some point since this movie came out?). It is interesting that the movie is set exclusively in Europe with an American couple...Anyway, weird things start happening. Damien's nanny hangs herself. Damien gets a new nanny who turns out to be in league with Damien. (Doesn't anyone check references anymore?)

Damien does all sorts of satanic things like making mommy fall off a balcony. She survives for the time being only to fall to her death out of the window of her hospital room later. The photographer played by David Warner who supplies exposition and helps dad Gregory Peck discover the truth about Damien is one plot point I didn't know about. The photographer meets with a graphic death (If Damien had the power to kill the photographer when he wasn't even in the same country, why didn't Damien just kill dad to get him out of the way and be done with the whole deal?). But dad does come back and takes Damien to sacrifice him in the local church. The police arrive and kill dad to prevent him from killing Damien. The funeral arrives for mom and dad and Damien stares blankly into the camera.

The Omen is worth seeing for horror fans. I'm not sure it would quite make my 1001 movie book, but if I was listing 100 horror movies you must see before you die, The Omen would be in there somewhere.

Videodrome
I heard about this weird movie called Videodrome when it came out in 1983 and went out with the intention of seeing it. It was playing at Phiipps Plaza in Atlanta, I believe. But I had trouble finding a parking space! So I ended up getting there late and decided not to go see it. Thirty years later I still hadn't seen it...until now.

It's the story of Max (James Woods), who runs a UHF station that shows a lot of strange shit on his channel. He gets hold of a weird pirated program called Videodrome that he plans to show on his channel. He gets involved with a psychiatrist/talk show host played by Debbie Harry that likes sex and likes to play it rough! It turns out Videodrome (the show), is even weirder than Max first thought. It is apparently shot out of Pittsburgh! And is part of a political  movement!

The movie keeps getting weirder and weirder. All that view Videodrome (the show) begin to have strange hallucinations, especially Max whose stomach turns into a VCR presumably to watch more episodes of Videodrome! The movie goes on from there to uncover a big conspiracy that finds that Videodrome is trying to ruthlessly control the hearts and minds of the viewing public...which doesn't sound so sinister when you phrase it that way.

Videodrome (the movie) is something to see if you're looking for something off the beaten path. The real star of Videodrome, (still the movie) has to be Rick Baker, whose pre-CGI special effects are scary, gross, creative and effective. Obviously, the 1001 editors thought so since it is in the 1001 book...

Like The Omen, Videodrome took me awhile to get to, but there you have it, but I don't think it's gotten any easier to find a parking space at Phipps Plaza.

ONIBABA (1964, JAPAN), HOUSE (1977, JAPAN)


Onibaba

One of the reasons I started this blog is because I saw so many videos on our library shelf that were critically acclaimed movies put out by the Criterion Collection, and I wanted a systematic way to watch them and decided to go through the 1001 list. (Didn't realize it would take me years to do it, but that's another story)

First up is the story of Onibaba (The Demon), which is set in the back county of war torn 14th century Japan. A woman and her daughter-in-law are forced through necessity of killing soldiers and selling their body plates or anything else of value on them for scrap. When a local war veteran returns and has eyes for the young woman a conflict arises between the women. 

I tried to recount the plot above of Onibaba and no description feels quite right. It is an odd film, but a beautiful one at the same time. It is also an ugly film when it shows the brutal side of human nature. The plot point with the mask is based on old Buddhist legends and gives the film a slight supernatural twist on top of everything else.

The extras: The most worthwhile extra on the Criterion Disc is the interview with Director Kaneto Shindo who (at age 91) details the use of sex in his film, setting, music, fable, war and black and white photography. It is about 20 minutes and brings a great deal to understanding what he was trying to say with this film. It's also heartening how much he appreciates the DVD medium and bringing his film to a new audience.



When I saw the the new releases for the Criterion Collection one month and a strange Japanese movie titled House was on the list, I decided to order it for the library. That was a couple of years ago and I just now got around to watching it.

It is the story of a group of teenage girls named Gorgeous, Melody, Prof, Sweet, Kung Fu and Mac. (I think I got the names right.) Gorgeous's father is remarrying which has her upset. Then all the girls go on a retreat to a house that they soon discover is haunted. It's told in a very nontraditional manner. Some of the early scenes have elements of wackiness that made me wonder if this was a slapstick comedy or not. The music was interesting, but at times seemed remarkably upbeat for something that was supposed to be creating a scary mood. Once we get to the house, we do find a creepy old lady and her cat and all sorts of weird things start happening accompanied by some (intentionally) cheesy special effects. 

In some ways it's a traditional haunted house story, but in many ways it isn't. I'm not sure who the target audience for this was!

House
The extras:  Forty-five minute interview with director Nobuhiko Obayashi answers a lot of questions I had about the movie and I found it as interesting as the movie itself. Obaysahi talks about his apprenticeship in commercials, difficulty in getting the movie made despite a go-ahead from the studio, his appreciation and rejection of Japanese cinema, who the movie appeals too (Answer: pre-teens), and the how the studio actually being disappointed that the movie was a hit! Best of all is the story of a crew member that searched all day for a screw that was part of the set that the director was looking for. The reason the crew member worked so hard to find that screw, was because Obayashi was the first director ever to call him by his name despite being in the business for many years.

I've called on the Criterion Collection often during my journey through these films, and I by necessity will need to return.



Wednesday, October 28, 2015

LA NOTTE (1961, ITALY), L'ECLISSE (1962, ITALY), RED DESERT (1964, ITALY)

La Notte
The Michelangelo Antonio starter kit...Before I give my opinions on these films, I'm going to get some bullet points from Gerald Mast, author of my old textbook A Short History of Movies.

1. Antonioni's roots were in neorealism, but he soon deserted this style for a highly polished and stylized drama of personal sensations.

2. Antonioni blurred objective reality and buried the action within the subjective perceptions of the central character.

3. His method involves concentrating as much on the scenic environment as the people in it.

4. His use of modern architecture are metaphors for the  hollowness a character feels at a particular dramatic moment.

5. His characters feel an affinity for white walls which his they go to emphasizing that they are trapped or wall-bound.

6. He trusts visuals over words. Words can be misleading and in Antonioni's world, the characters mostly learn through encounters with the physical world.

L'Eclisse
And there's so much more that has been written on Antonioni! But the bottom line for me is how is the experience of watching them? What do you feel afterwards? They aren't necessarily about something in particular that is easy to grasp and are as good of examples as any of what people think of as European art films. La Notte is probably my favorite of the three films listed on this post. The English title of La Notte (The Night) is appropriate of a film I think of as dark and perhaps shows the dark side of the marriage of the two main characters of the film. Maybe I'm off base, who knows? There is a lot here to think about-the husband's (Marcello Mastroianni) bizarre encounter with an attractive mental patient and how he tells his wife about it..though not  quite telling the whole truth. The contrast of the couple's life with their terminally ill friend and then the party for the pretentious rich and the husband's encounter there with a young lady (Monica Vitti, who is in all of these films) that takes his fancy. But there is resolution and coming to grips with the problems in the film and ends on a more upbeat note than one might think.

L'Eclisse is even less accessible than the others. A woman (Monica Vitti) has one relationship end and quickly gets involved with a player on the stock market (Alain Delon). The wildness, unpredictability and mass of people yelling during of the stock market scenes is nicely contrasted with the scenes with the two potential lovers on the street, where they seem like the only people in the world. My first thought was that why didn't Antonioni hire more extras, but I think he might be making a point about isolation and loneliness here. L'Eclisse is as bright as La Notte is dark, but does anything get resolved? And what about that ending? I can't say I loved sitting through L'Eclisse, but the more I think about it, I may want to watch it again someday...just not today.

Red Desert
Red Desert is the only one of these films to be shot in color and Antonioni uses many vivid colorful images (the yellow poisonous smoke coming from the factory is an obvious example). Most of film uses as backdrop a huge impersonal factory and mighty ships whose strength and size is in contrast to frailness and vulnerability of the human characters, mostly in the woman Guiliani (Monica Vitti, of course) whose past bouts with mental illness aren't nearly as far in the past as she would like people to believe. I like the ending of the story which neatly brings the story full circle...

...And I've come full circle with the all the Antonioni films on the 1001 list. I do like going through some of these director's work watching several pf them back to back. I've still got enough on the list to do this a few more times with other directors, and maybe add some additional films from their respective works.

Sunday, October 25, 2015

THE DEAD (1987), ROBOCOP (1987)


1987
Robocop
Robocop-One of the big movie events of 1987 for me was Paul Verhooven's Robocop, the story of a Detroit police officer who is killed (almost) and is revived as a super cyborg cop who cleans up the city. The Wikipedia article on this film points out some of the themes, "media influence, gentrification, corruption, authoritarianism, greed, privitation, capitalism, identity, dystopia and human nature." That's all true, but I would add to this list "really cool scenes where things blow up!" I still like Robocop for many of the reasons stated above after seeing it again, though I can't say the same for Robocop II. But I did like the newer Robocop from 2014. It had the basics elements of the first film, but made enough changes to make it distinctive in its own right. But I'll still go with the original if you're making me choose.

John Huston's The Dead
The Dead-A movie from 1987 where nothing blows up (except for emotions) is John Huston's The Dead, based on a James Joyce story (Robocop is not based on a James Joyce story). You've really got to use the non-Robocop side of your brain to watch The Dead. It has the ring of those Merchant-Ivory films and is a pretty good emotional drama, if you're in the mood for it. If you aren't, just watch Robocop again.

It's not quite like any other John Huston I can remember. But is there a typical John Huston film? From a career that went The Maltese Falcon to The Treasure of the Sierra Madre to The Asphalt Jungle to The Man Who Would Be King to Wise Blood, The Dead represents the last act from one of the most significant directors of the 20th century. 

+++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++++
Robocop and The Dead both made the list of 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die, but most movies from that year didn't make the cut. Here are twenty from 1987 that I've seen that didn't quite make have the stuff to make the list.

1. Ishtar
Let's update the old Hope and Crosby road picture film with Dustin Hoffman and Warren Beatty and even get Elaine May to direct! It's a sure hit right? Wrong. You can't remember 1987 movies without thinking of Ishtar, whose very title brings about memories of a Hollywood mega-bomb. But to tell you the truth, I didn't think Ishtar was all that bad. It's amusing, Hoffman is good and the Paul Williams songs are funny. Maybe time for a re-evalutation? Some people seem to like Heaven's Gate now, after all!
C'mon! Give Ishtar another chance!
2. Amazon Women on the Moon, Three Men and a Baby, 
Police Academy 4, The Bedroom Window
In 1987, we just couldn't get enough of Steve Guttenberg, could we?

3. Barfly
I had a friend who really liked to watch this movie in a state of inebriation. And I have to agree, this Charles Bukowski semi-autobiography is a great drunk movie!

4. Beverly Hills Cop II
How to do a sequel essentially making the same movie as the first one all over again, just not as well.

5.Black Widow
Theresa Russell in Black Widow is on the short list of sexiest female leads in film history. She's to die for, which may have even been the tagline of the film. If not, it should have been.

Theresa Russell is The Black Widow
6. Cry Freedom
Little surprised that this Richard Attenborough film about apartheid in South Africa isn't on the 1001 list.

7. Dirty Dancing
Not necessarily a personal favorite, but I might include this on the 1001 list just for it's enduring popularity.

8. Dragnet
Feature film version of the classic television series is notable mostly for Dan Akyroyd's spot on Jack Webb impression throughout the movie. And who among us hasn't referred to an innocent young woman as "the virgin, Connie Swayle" at one time or another?" Or maybe that's just me.
   
9. Ernest Goes to Camp
I'm having second thoughts on whether or not I actually saw Ernest Goes to Camp. I know I saw a couple of the Ernest movies...I'll have to give this some more thought whether or not this was one of them.

10. The Stepfather
Long before he played John Locke on Lost, Terry O'Quinn played in this low budget horror/thriller about a stepfather who resolves disputes within his family by knocking them off and starting a new one! Everyone has there own definition of family values, I guess.

Terry O' Quinn contemplating the pros and cons of
family counseling in The Stepfather
11.  House of Games
Lots of plot twists and turns in this David Mamet film. I admit this was one time I did see the final plot twist coming.

12. Planes, Trains  and Automobiles, Roxanne
A good year for Steve Martin.

13. A Nightmare on Elm Street 3: Dream Warriors
I thought this was a pretty good entry in the series, but by the same token what is the point in having a bad guy that you can't kill no matter what you do him?

14. Overboard
I have never seen this Goldie Hawn/Kurt Russell from beginning to end. However, TBS has shown this so much over the years, I think I've pretty much seen it all in parts. Overboard was on so much over the years, it got to be a running joke in my house.

15. Harry and the Hendersons
Who the heck knew Bigfoot was just so darned cute? Thanks for creating those sad eyes, Rick Baker.


That cuddly Bigfoot in
Harry and the Hendersons
16. The Principal
Jim Belushi is the ass kickin' baseball bat wielding motorcycle ridin' head of the school!

17. Predator
The original Predator is pretty good from what I remember as this invisible and unstoppable force that battles future governors Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura.
18. September
Thinking about some of the Woody Allen movies from this period...I kind of get this one mixed up with Another Woman...and what was Alice about again?

19. Assassination/Death Wish 4 The Crackdown
Speaking of September...the films of Charlie Bronson at this point were showing a little wear (And I'm being kind here) as he was reaching the September of his years. But we'll always have Once Upon a Time in the West.

20. The Witches of Eastwick
I remember going to see this movie at the Lefont Plaza theater in Atlanta when it came out. But the thing I remember most about it is the guy sitting in front of me. Every time Cher would appear in a scene, he would gasp as if he had seen the most amazing sight he had ever witnessed! And during the scene where Cher is dressed up for a night on the town, the guy gasped and applauded at the same time as I was sure pretty sure he almost fell out of his seat! At this point, I thought the poor guy might pass out in the sheer ecstasy and have a Chergasm! This was pre-Moonstruck, but I really should have slapped him and said, "Snap out of it!"


The woman who needs no introduction in
The Witches of Eastwick

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

FAST TIMES AT RIDGEMONT HIGHT (1982), BLADE RUNNER (1982)

1982
"Am I hallucinating here?" Sean Penn and Ray Walston in
Fast Times at Ridgemont High

I was in the last stages of being a teenager when Fast Times at Ridgemont High came out. Maybe that's why I have such an affection for it. This comedy about some urban teenagers trying to live and get through high school is still fun to watch. Most of the characters have their flaws, but are pretty likable for the most part. And we also have characters that we recognize from high school: The unobtainable pretty girl (Linda), the schemer (Damone), and of course, Sean Penn as Spicoli, the stoner. The scenes between Penn and Ray Walston as Mr. Hand are my probably my favorite ones in the film. Character I see relate to the most? Why, the nerdy and socially challenged Mark Ratner, of course!

Stu Nahan appreciation society: Stu Nahan is probably best know to moviegoers as the play-by-play announcer in the Rocky movies. But he is also the guy who interviews Spicoli on the beach in Fast Times

Stu, Sean and friends..."Hey, bud let's party!"

And those nude scenes: Yes, any male who watched this movie back in the day certainly remembers when Stacy (Jennifer Jason Leigh) takes of her clothes and seduces Damone (Robert Romanus). Not to mention the fantasy scene of Brad (Judge Reinhold), where Linda (Phoebe Cates) emerges from the pool and takes off her top (Hello...Brad!). But on sober reflection, the first scene ends up with Damone ejaculating immediately, getting Stacy pregnant and going out of his way to avoid paying for her abortion. The second scene ends up with Linda catching Brad in the bathroom masturbating while thinking of  her...Ah, nothing like a little male humiliation upon sober reflection.

Hello, Brad!...Phoebe Cates in Fast Times at Ridgemont High


Blade Runner

Blade Runner
Blade Runner is based on the sci-fi novel by Phillip K. Dick about a Blade Runner named Deckard that is reluctantly hired to hunt down some refugee replicants that are almost indistinguishable from humans. The entire plot synopsis is put forth in the opening crawl, but the plot isn't the main reason to watch Blade Runner. The main reason to watch it is for the stunning visuals. The sets, the design, the make-up, the costumes, the lighting...all these elements took me to another place like few films have. Absolutely in my book.

The original book asks Do Androids Dream of Electric Sheep?, a query that is irrelevant to the film Blade Runner as the electric animals of the book play pretty much no part here. But at least they changed they di change the title for the film.
Blade Runner

Fast Times at Ridgemont High and Blade Runner made the 1001 list, but here are some other films released in 1982 that didn't make the 1001 cut.

1. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan
Still the gold standard of Star Trek movies for me, not to mention having one of the all-time great movie villains.


The Wrath of Khan
For hate's sake I spit my last breath at thee!
2. Airplane II
The precise type of humor that the Zuckers and Abrams brought to Airplane! mostly fall flat in this sequel without them.

3. The Verdict
Tailor-made role for Paul Newman as an aging, over-the-hill, alcoholic lawyer who finally gets a shot at a big case.

4. Author Author
I mostly remember this comedy with Al Pacino as being a little on the bland side. Might be worthy of a revisit, though.

5. Liquid Sky
When I first got a VCR, I wanted to check out some off-beat things that you couldn't see easily elsewhere. This movie about space aliens, lesbians and heroin addiction certainly fit the bill and should definitely be at the top of any 80's cult movie list.
Liquid Sky
Sex, Drugs, Rock 'n Roll and aliens. What better way
to break in your new VCR?
6. Cat People
Remake of the 40's classic does have a sexy Natassia Kinski, a plot that can be much more adult than the original and the David Bowie theme song which is really the first thing I think of when I think of Cat People.
"Puttin' out fire...with GAS-O-LEENE!"

7. Creepshow
You don't see too many horror feature films anymore that are just a section of vignettes. If I ever did watch this one again, it would mostly be for the section that we get to see Stephen King act!

8. Dead Men Don’t Wear Plaid
Black and White film noir comedy with Steve Martin I'm sure is still fun to watch, though I'll bet the then groundbreaking special effects of putting 40's movie stars in the scenes with Steve are officially no longer state of the art. Damn CGI!

9. Deathtrap
Remake of Sleuth, but with Christopher Reeve sort of in the Michael Caine role and Michael Caine in the Laurence Olivier role. Or something like that.

10. The World According to Garp
One of my favorite parts of John Irving's book is T. S. Garp's stories within the main story. You can't really show that in a movie adaptation, but I always have liked what George Roy Hill did with the movie version anyway. I honestly think this is Robin Williams's signature role, though I may be in the minority on that one.

Mr. and Mrs. Garp
11. Lookin’ to Get Out
Before my first trip to Las Vegas, I wanted to watch some movies set in Las Vegas. So I picked this Hal Ashby comedy with Jon Voight and Ann-Margaret...which was universally panned, but not as bad as all that if I remember correctly. Or maybe I was just excited about my Vegas trip and want to go easy on it?

12. My Favorite Year
I liked the depiction in this film of the early years of television and how could you not love Peter O'Toole as an egocentric slumming movie star?

13. Missing
I'm a little surprised this critically acclaimed Costa-Gavras political thriller isn't in the 1001 movie book.

14. A Midsummer Night’s Sex Comedy
Woody Allen denied that this film was based on Bergman's Smiles of a Summer Night, but I can't watch Woody's film without thinking about the Bergman film.

15. Pink Floyd-The Wall
The music of Pink Floyd + Alan Parker + Imagination run wild=One of my favorite midnight movie experiences of that year.
Bob Geldorf does some rearranging
Pink Floyd-The Wall

16. The Man from Snowy River
One day in 1982 I just decided to go see a movie at the theater and picked The Man from Snowy River for no reason in particular. Australian Western with Kirk Douglas was enjoyable enough from what I remember. Or maybe I just felt a need to balance out my midnight movie excursion with The Wall with a more family film.

17. An Officer and a Gentleman
I liked this movie when I saw it. Then I took a college film class the next year and realized how An Officer and a Gentleman had so sneakily manipulated my emotions! I still don't know what to think about it, though the final scene will always remind me of the similar scene of Homer and Marge in one of the early episodes of The Simpsons.

18. Night Shift
Lighthearted, but not a bad start to Ron Howard's post Happy Days feature film directing career. He also directed a high school TV movie in the 70's called Cotton Candy. I wonder if anyone else remembers that one?

19. Porky’s
This may have been the breaking point where I was getting less enthused about slob sex comedies. It did have some funny moments, but wasn't inspired enough to see Porky's II when it came out.

20. Swamp Thing
Is this the one with Adrienne Barbeau or Heather Locklear? I'm trying to get them straight in my mind.

That's Adrienne Barbeau with
Swamp Thing.

21. Rocky III
Probably the III'rd best Rocky film.

22. The Seduction
Morgan Farichild was never going to be a big movie star. But her poster shall remain on my wall (hypothetically) forever!

23. Personal Best
I went to see this movie for the great reviews it got, not all the buzz about nude scenes and Mariel Hemingway Playboy spreads and such. Well...maybe a little of all of the above. I do remember during the steambath scene, the guy sitting in the seat ahead of me leaned over to his date and whispered, "subtle breasts" when speaking of Ms. Hemingway.

A more "subtle" scene from Personal Best

24. The Atomic Café
Why my dating life wasn't so hot in 1982...

Me: Hey, would you like to go see a movie?

Potential date: Oh, how about Officer and a Gentleman? Or maybe you would prefer to see First Blood?

Me: I was thinking about this movie called The Atomic Cafe. It has all this archival footage from the 50's about military manuevers and how to duck and cover all put together in a narrative whole for a new generation to look back in a historical context at our post nuclear-age paranoia!

Potential date: I think I'm busy tonight (I went to see it by anyway...alone)

And finally...

One Movie I Must See Before I Die Because My Wife Told Me I Needed To:

25. First Blood

I may have seen An Officer and a Gentleman and The Atomic Cafe, but I never got around to seeing First Blood. I never saw any subsequent Rambo movie either (Son of Rambow doesn't count). I"m not much of a fan of Sylvester Stallone action movies in general, but I guess this is one I should see once and I'll try to go into it with an open mind.

The movie starts off promisingly with a Vietnam veteran named John Rambo (Stallone) finding out the last man in his unit has died before drifting aimlessly into a town where he is treated with hostility by local law enforcement. They take him in for no real reason, treat him badly before he escapes and the film quickly turns into a action movie that seems to forget about the roots of Rambo's psychological issues and basically just falls into him just blowing stuff up and causing mayhem as he is being chased into the woods by Brian Dennehy and the rest of the "Jerkwater, USA town" sheriff's department. He's a one man wrecking machine, or so says his former Vietnam Commander (Richard Crenna) who comes along to see if he can save the authorities from Rambo (and not the other way around, as he puts it). At this point, some local reserves presumably kill Rambo, but of course he isn't really dead and decides to make sure everyone knows this by stealing a truck and blowing lots more stuff up! Rambo finally has some dialogue at the end of the movie when he tells us about how he was never able to fit in since returning from the 'Nam (I liked Stallone in this scene, got to give him credit). He is then talked into turning himself in by his old commander and the end credits roll.

The movie does have overtones of Billy Jack., which also had a soft spoken Vietnam Vet who had a tendency to be provoked into violence.

Well I'm glad to have finished that short movie list of one.
October, 2015-finally saw a Rambo movie.