OSCAR Nominations for 2009!!!

Each year I approach the whole Oscar Award season with more than a little bit of trepidation.  Films that truely deserve to win (granted, this is all in my opinion) get overlooked, actors and actresses who deserved to get the award for their best performance in a movie a few years ago get the award this year for something that is generally a little cliched and entirely safe, and most eggregiously, films that are unique or are attempting something new are overshadowed by the size of a competitor’s box office.

This year is a little different.  This year I am more than a little optimistic about the selection of films, actors, and crew up for consideration.  I haven’t seen all of the options in each category (yet), but in most all of the categories I DO have a strong opinion on who I think should win.  Not only do I have very pronounced opinions on this subject, but I imagine that all of you do as well, so I’ve included some surveys in this post to see just what everyone thinks.  So please take a moment and let me know what you think…so without further ado, lets get started…

Best actor in a leading role Oscars 2010 nominees

* Jeff Bridges in “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight)

* George Clooney in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)

* Colin Firth in “A Single Man” (The Weinstein Company)

* Morgan Freeman in “Invictus” (Warner Bros.)

* Jeremy Renner in “The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment)

In the best actor race, I’ve seen two of the performances thus far, George Clooney in Up In the Air, and Jeremy Renner in The Hurt Locker.  Let me preface this by saying that I am generally a fan of everything that George Clooney does.  He is slick, cool under pressure, a nice looking man, and he most certainly can act.  That being said, he deserved it for Michael Clayton, not this.  Up In The Air was a good movie, but it wasn’t what I would call a great one.  Jeremy Renner’s war addicted soldier was a far more interesting character study in my opinion.  Renner played a man who was electric and magnetic, so the audience couldn’t keep their eyes off of him, but at the same time he left room for his co-stars to shine as well.

Not having seen any of the others yet I can’t speak to the quality of any of their performances…in terms of each as actors though, all are more than qualified to be in this race.  I have a feeling that this might be Jeff Bridges’ award to lose, however.  Bridges is a continually strong actor who gives his all to each role, making each movie he has a role in, more than a little bit better for having him.

Best actor in a supporting role Oscars 2010 nominees

* Matt Damon in “Invictus” (Warner Bros.)

* Woody Harrelson in “The Messenger” (Oscilloscope Laboratories)

* Christopher Plummer in “The Last Station” (Sony Pictures Classics)

* Stanley Tucci in “The Lovely Bones” (DreamWorks in association with Film4, Distributed by Paramount)

* Christoph Waltz in “Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company)

Big respect to Mr. Damon, Harrelson, Plummer, and Tucci, but this award should…no, MUST go to the outstanding performance by Christoph Waltz, as Col. Hans Landa, in Ingourious Basterds.  Never have I gone into a movie more apprehensive, and come out more exuberent than I did with Basterds, thanks mostly to Waltz’s performance.  Not only was this character a force of nature, it was a multi-lingual, full frontal assault on the viewer.  The bar has been set, and it’s going to take nothing less than divine intervention to get to the next level.

Luckily, I think my passion for Waltz’s performance is shared by many in the film world, so I predict the Oscar for best actor in a supporting role will find it’s way to him.

Best actress in a leading role Oscars 2010 nominees

* Sandra Bullock in “The Blind Side” (Warner Bros.)

* Helen Mirren in “The Last Station” (Sony Pictures Classics)

* Carey Mulligan in “An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics)

* Gabourey Sidibe in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate)

* Meryl Streep in “Julie & Julia” (Sony Pictures Releasing)

This catagory, this year, is my Kriptonite.  I have seen none of these performances.  I’ve heard Precious is great.  Heart-breaking, but great.  Helen Mirren is always fantastic and deserving of attention, but she won recently for The Queen.  Meryl Streep, who has a permanent seat awaiting her each year in the the front row of the Oscars Ceremony, is receiving rave reviews for her rendition of Julia Child, but she too has gotten a lot of recognition from her peers.  That leaves us with Carey Mulligan from An Education, or Sandra Bullock from The Blind Side.  One plays a young girl navigating her way through the strange and sometimes predatory world of the fifties and sixties.  The other plays a brassy, proud Texas MILF who helps a disadvantaged young man by showing him what family is.  I have great interest in one of these and the other I still roll my eyes at, I’ll let you decide which.

Deep down I hope that Gabourey Sidibe or Carey Mulligan take this one, but I am afraid that Mirren, Streep and Bullock stand a better chance, Bullock in particular.

Best actress in a supporting role Oscars 2010 nominees

* Penélope Cruz in “Nine” (The Weinstein Company)

* Vera Farmiga in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)

* Maggie Gyllenhaal in “Crazy Heart” (Fox Searchlight)

* Anna Kendrick in “Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios)

* Mo’Nique in “Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate)

I am bummed out that neither Melanie Laurent, or Diane Kruger were nominated for Oscars (Laurent for leading role, and Kruger for supporting).  Both turned in incredible performances in Tarantino’s Inglourious Basterds.  As it stands I’ve only seen Vera Farmiga and Anna Kendrick, both in Up In The Air, which I thought was pretty good, but not really what I’d call Oscar worthy.  From the reviews I’ve heard, it looks like they should only read one name this year, for this catagory.  Mo’Nique.  As the predatory, dangerous, and ultimately believable mother to the main character in Precious, Mo’Nique, like Jeff Bridges in the actor race, has this all but sewn up.

Best animated feature film of the year Oscars 2010 nominees:

*“Coraline” (Focus Features) Henry Selick

*“Fantastic Mr. Fox” (20th Century Fox) Wes Anderson

*“The Princess and the Frog” (Walt Disney) John Musker and Ron Clements

*“The Secret of Kells” (GKIDS) Tomm Moore

*“Up” (Walt Disney) Pete Docter

This is hard.  Usually even if other animated films are good, Pixar comes along and almost arbitrarily wins.  This time around the director of the much ballyhooed and beloved Nightmare Before Christmas gives us Coraline; The ever-popular, auteur director Wes Anderson puts an animated spin into one of his films with The Fantastic Mr. Fox, Disney rediscovered the formula that made them successful in the first place with The Princess and The Frog, and the fifth entry is filled with a film that I’ve never heard of, most likely to maintain a certain indie cred on the part of the Oscars, despite the fact that it will never win.

If I had my druthers, Coraline would take it.  I think, however, that despite the leveled playing field, Up will still float away with the prize.

Best in cinematography Oscars 2010 nominees:

*“Avatar” (20th Century Fox) Mauro Fiore

*“Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince” (Warner Bros.) Bruno Delbonnel

*“The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment) Barry Ackroyd

*“Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Robert Richardson

*“The White Ribbon” (Sony Pictures Classics) Christian Berger

This award will probably easily go to Avatar, thanks mainly to the ground breaking technology that gave birth to the cinematography contained therein.  I would like to see it go, instead, to The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, or The White Ribbon.  Each of these films, Hurt Locker, Basterds, and White Ribbon has stuck with me exponentially more than Avatar, making each location more breathtaking than an ironically named place with glow-in-the-dark plants, floating mountains, and giant blue Native Americans.  The care and precision in the depiction of an eerie, ominous German village from the early 1900s, the stylized and lovingly rendered portrait of France in the grip of the Nazis, and the cruel and harsh desert climate, filled with bad blood and explosives, in my mind, are all more precious than unobtainium.

Avatar will probably win, but Inglourious Basterds, The Hurt Locker, and The White Ribbon deserve to.  Specifically Inglourious Basterds.

Best Director Oscars 2010 Nominees:

*“Avatar” (20th Century Fox) James Cameron

*“The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment) Kathryn Bigelow

*“Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) Quentin Tarantino

*“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) Lee Daniels

*“Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) Jason Reitman

In case you haven’t read any of my thoughts in the other catagories, I am a huge supporter of Inglourious Basterds.  Tarantino has finally manage to return to the kind of breathtaking, engaging, and self assured filmmaking not seen from him since Pulp Fiction.  Despite the misguided popularity of the Kill Bill series (Vol. 1 was all reference and flash, and though Vol. 2 redeemed it slightly, it wasn’t enough to fully salvage the series) , and the strange love for the just plain awful Death Proof, Tarantino has fully returned to form with his epic WWII film.  A close second in this category would have to be for Kathryn Bigelow’s direction of The Hurt Locker.  I’ve been a big fan of Bigelow since back in the days of Point Break, and Near Dark, so I’m glad to see she’s still around making compelling  and entertaining films.  Bigelow has managed, almost single-handedly, to trash the assumption that women directors can only direct romantic comedies.

The one potential upset in this race comes in on the wings of a great neon dragon-like creature, James Cameron.  My choice: Quentin Tarantino.

Best motion picture of the year Oscars 2010 Nominees:

*“Avatar” (20th Century Fox) A Lightstorm Entertainment Production James Cameron and Jon Landau, Producers

*“The Blind Side” (Warner Bros.) An Alcon Entertainment Production Nominees to be determined

*“District 9″ (Sony Pictures Releasing) A Block/Hanson Production Peter Jackson and Carolynne Cunningham, Producers

*“An Education” (Sony Pictures Classics) A Finola Dwyer/Wildgaze Films Production Finola Dwyer and Amanda Posey, Producers

*“The Hurt Locker” (Summit Entertainment) A Voltage Pictures Production Nominees to be determined

*“Inglourious Basterds” (The Weinstein Company) A Weinstein Company/Universal Pictures/A Band Apart/Zehnte Babelsberg Production Lawrence Bender, Producer

*“Precious: Based on the Novel ‘Push’ by Sapphire” (Lionsgate) A Lee Daniels Entertainment/Smokewood Entertainment Production Lee Daniels, Sarah Siegel-Magness and Gary Magness, Producers

*“A Serious Man” (Focus Features) A Working Title Films Production Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, Producers

*“Up” (Walt Disney)A Pixar Production Jonas Rivera, Producer

*“Up in the Air” (Paramount in association with Cold Spring Pictures and DW Studios) A Montecito Picture Company Production Daniel Dubiecki, Ivan Reitman and Jason Reitman, Producer

Now we come to the big daddy.  Who will win the big enchilada?  The Oscar for best motion picture of the year?  This year, as  a means of driving up interest in viewers, the standard set-up of choosing from 5 nominees has been doubled to 10.  I’ve seen six of the ten films, and my overall tone isn’t changing.  Inglourious Basterds is still my first choice.  The inclusion of more options, however, does change my second choice.  Despite the fact that it will be hugely overshadowed by “the other” effects heavy, science fiction film, District 9 has excelled at doing a lot with a little.  Made for barely a fraction of the cost of Avatar (30 million as compared to upwards of 300 million), District 9 remains a fully realized world that seems more realistic than Avatar ever was.  Avatar and The Hurt Locker definitely stand a good chance of winning, but neither affected me quite as much as Basterds or District 9 did this year.

There are quite a few other awards to be debated and pined over, but I feel that these are the ones I’m most interested in.  If you should like to see a complete list of the nominations, check it out here… http://oscar.go.com/media/2010/html/print10.html.

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More From the Vault

Every so often I’ve updated the list of films that I have already seen with brief reviews.  Call it the complete-ist in me, but when I’m done with reviewing each of the films in the book, I’d like to have reviewed every single film in the book.

Anyhow, here’s another batch for you to read.

Enjoy!

Shichinin No Samurai AKA Seven Samurai (1954)

The Seven Samurai is the first movie that I had the pleasure of seeing from the master director Akira Kurosawa, and it is also one of his most praised works. Without a wasted frame, the story takes place over the course of almost 3 hours. Kurosawa, as he does in each of his movies, explores more than just the action and injustice featured in the plot. He is a humanist first and foremost, training his lens on the interpersonal relationships of the characters, tracking growth across this epic. As good as this film is, I would have to say that Kurosawa has numerous films that are even better, check out Stray Dog, Rashomon, Yojimbo, Sanjuro, and my personal favorite High and Low.

“Fuck yes!” – Ashley

The Ladykillers (1955)

Existing as a special combination of dark humor, and slapstick farce, The Ladykillers is exceptionally funny and unsettling. Alec Guinness stars as the leader of a group of criminals staying at the home of a hardy, vivacious older lady under the guise of being musicians. The plan is simple, rob a bank, and utilizing the trusting nature of the kindly old lady, and the remoteness of her home to their advantage, get away with it. Easily my favorite of Alec Guinness’ films (thanks in part to the Star Wars prequels that is), The Ladykillers features a solid cast of great actors, including a very young Peter Sellers.

Bob Le Flambeur AKA Bob the Gambler (1955)

My introduction to the fantastic Jean-Pierre Melville, I was captivated immediately by the cool as ice gangster come gambler Bob. This film is filled with signature Melville-isms. Glorious post war street scenes in Paris. Trench-coats. Honor among thieves. And who could forget the caper. To talk too much about this film is to give too much away, and to do that is to ruin it for those who haven’t seen it. Other classics by Melville: Le Cercle Rouge, Le Samourai, and the recently released in the U.S. Army of Shadows. All are fantastic, and deserve to be in this book! Incidentally, Bob le Flambeur was recently re-made into The Good Thief starring Nick Nolte and directed by Neil Jordan, and while I’m not generally a fan of re-makes, I really, really liked this film. Not quite as good as the original, but it was one of my favorite films of 2002.

Kiss Me Deadly (1955)

The ultimate in hardboiled private eye crime stories, Kiss Me Deadly is a full on assault on decency. Kiss Me Deadly proudly presents itself as a grimy PI story, littered with bodies and intrigue. If you even have a passing interest in film noir, this should be your first stop. Violent, misogynist, brutish, and glorious, Kiss Me Deadly begs to be watched and dares you to look away. I myself, loved it!

The Ten Commandments (1956)

Apparently based on a book, The Ten Commandments is an epic in every sense of the word. Colored in bright explosive candy hues, and featuring huge sets, as well as a cast that number in the thousands, The Ten Commandments is more spectacle than great movie. Certainly not a waste of time, but not my first choice when choosing something light to throw in.

Det Sjunde Inseglet AKA The Seventh Seal (1957)

A classic, and well-loved film by Swedish auteur Ingmar Bergman, The Seventh Seal stars an extremely young Max von Sydow as a knight who faces Death at a game of chess to decide his fate. This film is filled with themes that find their way into each of Bergman’s works, ranging from courage in the face of death, religion, and humanity. The Seventh Seal still holds up to this day, with luminous black and white photography that, thanks to Criterion’s Blu-ray edition, has never looked better.

Note: Don’t be fooled by the similarly themed, but much worse, “Bill and Ted’s Bogus Journey”

Kumonosu Jo AKA Throne of Blood (1957)

Kurosawa’s retelling of Macbeth set in feudal Japan. Shakespeare has never looked better as it does in the stark black and white, twisting shadows and swirling mists as seen through Kurosawa’s camera. Toshiro Mifune doesn’t disappoint in the lead role, but the real stand out is Isuzu Yamada in the as Mifune’s opportunistic, poisonous wife. The plotting and scheming starts right from the get go, all the way up till the frenzied end of the film.

“The Scottish play set in Japan.” – Ashley

Touch of Evil (1958)

One of the many trouble spots on Orson Welles’ resume due to studio interference, and financing issues, still Touch of Evil remains as possibly the best B-Movie ever made. Iconic (and sometimes hilarious) performances by Janet Leigh, Charlton Heston (as a Mexican) and Welles himself as the crooked cop willing to do almost anything to ensure justice prevails (just so long as it’s his justice). The movie is almost as famous for its long tracking shot opening as it is for any of the performances, featuring a nearly 4 minute shot done in one take which travels around cars, actors, and buildings. The film The Player, payed homage to it by mentioning it a few times during a similarly complex shot in that film.

Vertigo (1958)

Flopping on its initial release, Vertigo didn’t gain the acclaim it deserved until much later after it was released on video. Vertigo visits themes present in each of Hitchcock’s other works, including the obsession with blondes, innocence tainted with corruption, and the schlub who gets in over his head. Jimmy Stewart plays the schlub, Kim Novak plays the blonde, and gloriously technicolored San Francisco plays the innocence and the corruption. Vertigo has a twisty convoluted story with elements of surrealism, an interesting watch.

“Hey. Don’t I know you from somewhere?” – Ashley

Mon Oncle AKA My Uncle (1958)

My favorite of Jacques Tati’s Monsieur Hulot films, Mon Oncle was also the first of them that I had seen. Tati, playing Hulot, is a master of visual comedy, and not in the same way as the Three Stooges, or even Buster Keaton. Tati is an artist whose work is appreciated the longer you watch. The plot of the movie is not so much important to the film as it is simply a guide to get our characters into interesting situations so we can watch them get out. If you liked this film, check out other films featuring the bumbling Mr. Hulot, including Trafic, Playtime, and Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot.

Les Quatre Cents Coups AKA The 400 Blows (1959)

My personal favorite of the French new wave movement was this small-scale film, personal piece from Francois Truffaut. Featuring the director’s alter ego, Antoine Doinel, The 400 Blows is the first in a series of movies, each about a different stage of life and the challenges that go along with them. The period from childhood to young adult is covered heart-breakingly here, following Antoine through the rough waters of his home life and his interaction with the outside world. Later chapters deal with finding love, getting married, having children, and growing old, but Les Quatres Cent Coups remains the directors most personal and his best.

North by Northwest (1959)

One of Hitchcock’s best, North by Northwest features Cary Grant, suave as ever, being mistaken for a government agent by a group of foreign spies. Just like in Hitchcock’s most famous works (of which this is one), the witty one-liners, suspense, and drama are heaped on generously. I can’t help but feel sad that a similarly themed, but better film featuring Cary Grant was left off this 1001 list. Charade, also featuring Audrey Hepburn, James Coburn, and Walter Matthau, is one of my favorite movies ever! Check out both Charade AND North by Northwest as a double feature! You won’t be sorry.

Some Like it Hot (1959)

Now this is an example of a classic, well-loved film, with actors that I really love (Jack Lemmon I’m looking at you), a premise that is more than suitable, yet the finished product never really caught me. It’s sort of like Hitchcock’s To Catch a Thief. I never really saw what all the hype was about. That being said, I didn’t hate it either. It never made fun of me when I had braces, or turned me down for a date, my affections and this film have just always been mutually exclusive. Perhaps it deserves another watch…then again maybe I should just watch The Last Boyscout again.

“Monroe, and drag queens, together at last!” – Ashley

A Bout De Souffle AKA Breathless (1959)

Jean-Luc Godard is nothing if not a sacred cow of French cinema, and while I have loved some of his other films (Le Mepris, Bande A Part, and Masculin Femenine), Breathless or A Bout De Souffle never really did it for me. I can still rationalize why it was so revolutionary (use of jump cuts, editing, non-actors, and subscription to the aesthetic of the French new wave style), and see it’s importance, but I prefer other examples of New Wave cinema. If you are interested in seeing a Godard film, try Masculin Feminine, it is just as revolutionary and a bit more accessible.

Psycho (1960)

A prime example of Hitchcock in his prime. Psycho was so good, and so affecting that some of its actors were type cast just on the strength of this one film (Anthony Perkins, and Janet Leigh), so much so that without a little research it’s hard to think of what other films either of them has been in. Psycho may not be as visually shocking and gory as horror films of today, but it still manages to hold up over time and be just as unsettling as it was back in its day. Hitchcock has always excelled at making the comfortable un-comfortable (motels, birds, tea, dreams, the list goes on…), and the subtle touches in this film work perfectly. Consider for a moment that Perkin’s Bates is an amateur taxidermist of birds, and then that Janet Leigh’s name is Marion Crane a type of bird, or the fact before the crime Marion is wearing a white bra and a white purse, while after it she is wearing a black bra and purse. His attention to detail, and knack for foreshadowing is demonstrated in full force in Psycho and remains one of his best films. Despite all the uproar over the Gus Van Sant remake, I thought it actually did some justice to the original film and if nothing else brought it a little more deserved attention.

Note: This film also has the distinction of being the first American film to ever show a toilet flushing on-screen.

“Someone’s a mama’s boy!” – Ashley

Peeping Tom (1960)

Released the same year as Psycho, and dealing with similar subject matter, Peeping Tom wasn’t received with the same acclaim and attention that the former was. On the contrary, Peeping Tom was seen as subversive, perverted, and generally too shocking. The story revolves more around the killer than the victim in this one, whereas Psycho is presented more from the victim’s point of view. Either way, Peeping Tom is a fine film, one worth watching, however it is so similar to Psycho that I’m not sure it needs to be on the list of 1001 films.

The Apartment (1960)

As far as light-hearted, touching movies about someone recovering from a bout of depression, this one is my favorite. Billy Wilder directs Shirley MacLaine and Jack Lemmon in a sweet touching comedy without losing any of his trademark cynicism or the pointedness of his dialogue. The Apartment is another chance for me to champion the somewhat maligned talents of Mr. Fred MacMurray as Lemmon’s boss. MacMurray plays a fantastic creep who really defines the term “heel”.

“MacLaine, proving she’s a better actor than her brother.” – Ashley

Spartacus (1960)

Containing almost none of the trademark elements that make up a Stanley Kubrick movie as we know it (Kubrick apparently dis-owned the film before it’s release), Spartacus remains an interesting movie that isn’t great. It is, however, another example of a film that enabled an up and coming filmmaker to gain his voice, and define himself later on in his career. If only for that reason, Spartacus is a great film, but luckily for the studio, it has some other things going for it. Kirk Douglas plays the title role of Spartacus, and despite all the lavish set production, and concentration on spectacle, brings some heart to the slave who defied Rome.

Jules Et Jim AKA Jules and Jim (1962)

One of director, Francois Truffaut’s most well thought of films, Jules and Jim may be the Lost In Translation, or Juno of its time. Viewed from a certain angle, the plot is a completely moving and emotional story that you believe, so much so, that you can see yourself and those around you in the roles that these characters embody. Viewed from another perspective, it can seem a little precious or purposefully manipulative. Depending on what is happening in your life (I’m mostly thinking about whether or not you are in a relationship, and if you are happy), this movie can preach the glory of love and the pain of rejection. On the flipside, if you have shaken free the angsty, teenager-esque feelings everyone has had in their youth, you may feel like you’re being talked down to.

“I remember it being really boring.” – Ashley

Cleo De 5 A 7 AKA Cleo from 5 to 7

Taking place, as the title suggests, from 5 to 7, we get a slice of the life of Cleo played out before us. Sometimes we, along with Cleo herself, are a voyeurs into the lives of people around her, and other times we are focused on her as she roams around Paris. By and large Cleo lives a carefree, spoiled life, yet we still sympathize with her when times are hard, and cheer for her when they are good. This is a small film in a lot of ways, but that doesn’t mean that it isn’t impacting and beautiful.

Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

I have to admit.  I didn’t like Lawrence of Arabia that much.  Perhaps I was too young to appreciate the aesthetic beauty of Lean’s desert panorama camerawork, or just maybe it was the epic length that decided it for me.  One way or another, I didn’t appreciate it as much as everyone else seems to think I should.

“Really long.” – Ashley

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Overly reliant on gimmicks and quick editing techniques, The Manchurian Candidate doesn’t flesh out the story nearly…wait, no that was the terrible re-make that came out in 2004.  The original 1962 version, is just as taught, and well executed today as it was at its release.  While the story between the two versions remained virtually the same, the consistent building of tension and anxiety, combined with the pitch perfect acting of Lawrence Harvey, Frank Sinatra (yes…Frank Sinatra), and the devilish turn of Angela Lansbury as the Queen of Hearts, makes for a fantastic film.

Lolita (1962)

It took me forever to finally see Lolita.  I have known the basic story (older man, younger girl) but had just never gotten around to seeing it.  And while I’ve been told that the book is much better, I thought the film was pretty good.  Not great, mind you, but definitely solid.  The shocking and controversial nature of the relationship was toned down a bit for the screen, and maybe as a result doesn’t seem all that shocking in today’s day and age.  Memorable turns by Peter Sellers, and Shelley Winters, not to mention it’s an early film of Stanley Kubrick.

The Birds (1963)

Despite being one of Hitchcock’s most popular, I actually think that The Birds is one of his most over-rated.  I think I owe it to myself to give this one another look someday, but right now I feel that it was too heavily based on the gimmick that had to rely on special effects.  Though it is not necessarily the fault of the movie, but the special effects seemed particularly dated and old fashioned.  Worth a watch, but not my favorite by a long shot.

8 1/2 (1963)

Federico Fellini is, by most accounts, a master of cinema.  One, that I have always had a little trouble getting fired up over.  It’s not that I don’t like his films once I’ve seen them, the problem comes in when it comes to motivating myself to see them.  I couldn’t tell you why, but his films consistently get pushed off when they come up on my Netflix Queue or when I see the one or two I have on my shelf.  I shouldn’t feel this way, considering I really loved the moving poetry, and soul baring passion in 8 1/2, yet it still happens.  One very definite reason to watch this film is the man-crushable Marcello Mastroianni, swaggering through as the alter-ego of Fellini himself.  Dealing with all the reservations with women, making movies, childhood, and the future that the director very famously dealt with himself, Mastroianni embodies a certain cool, yet believable character that begs to be watched.  Combined with imagery that leaves the audience wanting more, 8 1/2 is a fantastic film.

Well, that’s it for this time.  Thanks for reading!

A Little Love…

Hey everyone!  I just got a little love from a fellow movie fan/reviewer in the form of inclusion on their blog roll!  I wanted to take the opportunity to say thank you, and to give their blog some much deserved attention.  So, please, check it out…

http://reeltoreel.wordpress.com/

Lots of great insight, trailers, and love for my favorite medium…FILM!

Check it, but please don’t wreck it!

This Just In…

1000 Movies You Must See Before You Die!

I thought of how much fun the idea of seeing all of these movies was to me, and equally of how much fun it would be to write about them all too.  It was at this point that a few things dawned on me.  I realized just how large this undertaking was, and how equally large the time commitment will be too.

I was daunted by the sheer volume of my endeavor.  I immediately started to formulate a way to lighten the load.  I’ve already seen a lot of movies, I thought, why shouldn’t I just write about the ones that I’ve already seen?  Yes!  That’s it!  I’d write about the movies in this book that I had already seen.  That way, I’d save a lot of time, and I wouldn’t be tempted to dwell on my own in-activity, and unsocial behavior.

This got me thinking yet again.  As I said before, I was looking forward to seeing all those movies…That’s IT!  I would go ahead with my initial plan of watching each of the movies that I haven’t seen and writing about each one individually, AND I would write about the ones I have seen (although these will be done in groupings so as not to accelerate my already rather sedentary behavior tendancies too much.)

Here is the first installment of the movies that I have seen.  They are not quite as in depth as the reviews that I have done and plan to continue doing for the new material, but they provide a good summary of what I liked and/or what I didn’t like.

I hope you enjoy this bunch.  It covers the first movie in the book that I had seen, up through the end of WWII.  So…get reading already

Metropolis (1927)

I was lucky enough to catch this projected from a remastered 70mm print with lost footage re-integrated into the story.  It featured a live piano accompaniment, and featured written descriptions of scenes that were still “lost”.  At the same time, I was unlucky enough to see it while I was super, super tired.  There are some slow moments, and I was drooping at times.  Still, it was probably the best possible way to see Metropolis for the first time.

“Fuckin’ love it!” – Ashley

M (1931)

The Criterion Collection has introduced me to a wide variety of movies, including quite a few of the selections on this list.  M introduced me to foreign film in general, not to mention the fantastic Peter Lorre.

Scarface : The Shame of a Nation (1932)

I saw this with a couple of other fantastic American noir and crime films in a little theater on the left bank in Paris, the Action Christine for those who are in the know.  It was part of a week long mini-film-festival concerned with classic and overlooked American noir films.  I was able to catch a number of other great flicks including, Kiss Me Deadly, Key Largo, the version of The Killers from the sixties (with Ronald Regan, Lee Marvin, and John Cassavetes), and the topper, Charade.  I was surprised how much of this story of Scarface is recognizable later on in the Brian De Palma version.

It Happened One Night (1934)

I was introduced to this movie through a friend who was absolutely in love with it.  I was, at first a little skeptical, but came to appreciate it quite a bit.  I’m not sure why everyone makes a big deal about Clarke Gable in Gone With the Wind, but not in this one (I suppose I’ll find out later, when I watch it).

(**Warning Spoilers**)

“If a man nicks names you brat, it’s because he loves you.”  –  Ashley

The Thin Man (1934)

As this was a recommendation from numerous trusted sources, I may have gone into this one with elevated expectations, which as you may or may not know can be death on first impressions.  While I didn’t love it as unilaterally as I was led to believe that I would, I didn’t dislike it at all.  It was solid, but not discernible from a lot of other movies that I have seen from this period.

“Alcoholism is hilarious!” – Ashley

The 39 Steps (1935)

One of two of Hitchcock’s British movies that I’d seen after I’d tooled through almost all of his American stuff, (The Lady Vanishes being the other…), and while I liked The Lady Vanishes better, this was not without it’s charms.  By and large this seems like a stepping stone through which you can get to Hitchcock’s great works, although it is not great in and of itself.

“Genius begins…” – Ashley

La Grande Illusion  AKA  Grand Illusion (1937)

This is another of these movies that I was introduced to through the Criterion Collection.  When I saw this movie, it was the first time that I had either heard of or seen Eric von Stroheim, Jean Gabin, or Jean Renoir.  Von Stroheim in particular interested me, and I have since been looking for his epic, studio bankrupting movie, Greed.

Snow White and the Seven Dwarves (1937)

Snow White was the second movie that I ever saw in a movie theater (E.T. being the first), and since then, thanks in part to having a good number of girl cousins, friends, and going to a daycare where a good amount of the kids were girls, I was quickly overdosed on this movie (along with The Little Mermaid, Cinderella, The Sound of Music and Mary Poppins).  That being said, upon my first viewing, I was enraptured.  I wanted to be the 8th dwarf, and I was terrified of the old witch with the apple.  Fucking scary!  This is how childrens stories can be.  They don’t have to be these antiseptic, polished, glittering trash-heaps that they came to be, straight to video sequels with crappy 3D animation.  Snow White set the standard, even IF I don’t really wanna watch it anymore.

“Teaching all pale, black-haired girls around the world that they are the most beautiful.” – Ashley

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

I partially wrote this longer post of movies that I had already seen because of this movie.  I didn’t want anyone to think that just because I had seen it, to think that this might mean that I liked it.  I saw this in film school, as an example of the studio system of the 30’s and 40’s, and more specifically because it was THE classic screwball comedy.  I liked movies from this period, and more importantly I was a pretty big fan of Cary Grant, so it seemed like a natural fit.  Then along came Katherine Hepburn and ruined everything.  She plays the most annoying, murder-inducing, terrible fucking annoyance EVER!  I could not wait until it was over.  From 5 minutes in or so I was checking my watch, sending text messages to friends, trying vein to sleep, anything to avoid that shrill voice, and that irksome demeanor.  What made it worse was, that Cary Grant, put up with it to the point where his character started to exhibit affection for Hepburn’s.  This bastion of charm, class, and smooth masculinity was was so utterly ineffectual, that not only could he not save me from hearing this woman speak, but he stole two hours from me in the process.

“Holy shit, there’s a leopard in it!” – Ashley

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

Who doesn’t like the Wizard of Oz?  It’s a little heavy on the songs, and musical routines which I don’t really go in for (making a lot of movies musicals in this book a little daunting), but the story and the fabulous imagery were far more than enough to outweigh them.

“Technicolor orgasm!” – Ashley

Rebecca (1940)

I liked Rebecca (come to think of it, I’m not sure that I didn’t like any Hitchcock movies), but I liked Notorious better.

Fantasia (1940)

This, like with a lot of different musicals, was pretty lost on me.  I’ve fallen asleep or gotten board and wandered off each time I’ve tried to watch this (3 separate times now).  The animation was great, but not quite enough I guess.

“Elephants in tutus.” – Ashley

Pinocchio (1940)

I enjoyed Pinocchio back when I saw it initially, but it was never quite as good, in my opinion, as The Jungle Book, The Sword in the Stone, or Robin Hood.  Maybe it was just the time period that I grew up in, maybe it was the animation style.

“So many sexual euphemisms, so little time…” – Ashley

The Bank Dick (1940)

W.C. Fields is a smarter, more adult, and more aware version of The Three Stooges.  He pokes fun at himself rather than poking fun at others or having them poke fun at him.  Don’t get me wrong, I love The Three Stooges, but every now and again it’s nice to see you don’t have to hit something with a hammer in order for it to be funny.

Citizen Kane (1941)

The enigma that is Citizen Kane…it is both vastly over and under-rated.  The idea that you can pick one movie in the scope of all that has come out to date and claim that it is the greatest movie ever made is a ridiculous one.  Equally ridiculous is the idea that that same movie is of no or little value simply because every other movie since then has co-opted the same bag of tricks.  Citizen Kane and Orson Welles set the standard, and now people get mad that in a sea of copy-cats, it no longer stands out to them.

“Oh, yeah.  It is real good.” – Ashley

The Maltese Falcon (1941)

Fantastic, fantastic movie.  For one reason or another, before I had ever seen a Humphrey Bogart movie, I was under the impression that I didn’t like him as an actor.  This movie, The Big Sleep and Casablanca proved me wrong three times in a row.  Each was fantastic in it’s own way, but the addition of Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre make this a contender for my favorite of the bunch.

Dumbo (1941)

This is my least favorite of the early Disney movies.  I didn’t quite know what to make of the bizarre pink elephant sequence, and I took the shame and teasing that were inflicted upon the titular character to heart.  I haven’t seen this one for a long time, but I’m not sure that I want to.

“Go hug your mom.” – Ashley

Casablanca (1942)

Check out my review of  The Maltese Falcon two entries above this one, and you’ll know how I feel about this one.  With a rousing story, Ingrid Bergman, and Claude Rains you can’t help but love this movie.

(***Warning Spoilers***)

“Don’t get on the fucking plane!” – Ashley

Shadow of a Doubt (1943)

I like Shadow of a Doubt, but just before seeing it, I had seen The Third Man, and I was completely prepared to fall in love with it.  Joseph Cotton was the key.  He and the movie didn’t really stand out to me…correction, they weren’t able to blow me away the same way The Third Man had.  Despite this, I still enjoy watching it when I want to throw something on while I doing something else.

Gaslight (1944)

It was on my Grandpa’s insistence that I sat down and watched this one with him.  A well made movie, with the beautiful Ingrid Bergman, but I have to say, this spot could have easily gone to at least 2 dozen other movies (Charade, Miller’s Crossing, American History X, Leon The Professional, Bottle Rocket, El Mariachi, True Romance, Shallow Grave, Hard Boiled, Hearts and Minds, Le Cercle Rouge, and Ghost Dog to name just a few.)

Double Indemnity (1944)

I fell in love with Double Indemnity when I first laid eyes on it.  I seemed to ooze a certain coldness, and efficiency that I had never seen up until that point in movies.  I’ve heard other reviews of this movie citing Fred MacMurray as being the weak link in the chain, to not committing to the role enough (the reviewer was saying that he did this in most all of his roles), I disagree whole heartedly!  He may not have achieved the short lived notoriety of someone like James Dean or Clarke Gable (note: my definition of short lived may not match yours), but he was the right man for the job in each of the movies that I’ve seen him in.

“How not to commit a murder.” – Ashley

Murder, My Sweet  AKA  Farewell My Lovely (1944)

Murder, My Sweet was a good movie, but this is another slot given to a lesser contender.

Spellbound (1945)

When traveling in London I visited the Salvador Dali museum, expecting to see a host of what I thought were the artists more well known works.  Instead, I saw a bunch of his work that I had never seen before, including a number of artifacts from the movie Spellbound!  Ultimately, I think fairly well of my visit to the Dali museum, but that is mostly because of the items from the movie.  Spellbound, like the museum, has left a generally favorable impression on my mind, but it doesn’t go much farther than that.

“I wish I dreamed in Dali” – Ashley

Les Enfants Du Paradis  AKA  The Children of Paradise (1945)

This is a fabulous movie that you should go see.  Now.  Go ahead, I’ll wait….Wasn’t that awesome.  Well dig this…This whole movie was filmed during the Nazi occupation of France.  Film stock, supplies and artisans were in short supply, cast and crew were being routinely investigated by the puppet Vichy (read Nazi) government, and still they managed to pull off a staggeringly beautiful movie with beautifully thought out and constructed sets, top notch acting, and a story packed with anti-fascist allegory.  On top of this, the majority of the actors and crew were utilizing the “cover” of the movie in order to stay hidden, as many were French Resistance underground fighters.  Now go watch it again!

That is all for this first chapter…go watch all of these movies and write back to tell me what you think.