The Top Ten
After removing the layers and layers of bottom feeding comic book fantasies, bowel retching sequels, mindless comedies and overblown blockbuster trash catering to the mindless masses, 2016 still managed to turn out to be a decent year in film with thoughtful films that actually say something, inform and yet still managed to entertain. Manchester by the Sea is my top film of the year. It’s a strong painful and tragic tale of deep emotional guilt that somehow manages to still include some nice bits of humor. Casey Affleck’s performance is a knock out punch that, like Denzel Washington’s and Viola Davis’ performances in Fences, reveals multiple layers of emotions staying with you long after you leave the theater. For me, a masterpiece. Continue reading
What is Film Noir? Well just take look at Double Indemnity or Criss Cross and you will get the idea. Filled with treacherous woman and dumb men, along with odd camera angles and stark contrast like black and white photography, film noir’s peak period arguably ranges from 1941 to 1958. The term was coined by the French. After the war, an influx of American films began to flood the European cinemas. The French critics noticed a much darker, pessimistic, fatalistic tone in many the films and coined the phase film noir or dark cinema. Continue reading
I happen to be taking a look at Aaron West’s Criterion Blues blog and noticed his recent posting of his Adolescence and Childhood film list that he submitted for the upcoming Countdown over at Wonders in the Dark. I have been participating in WitD’s annual Countdown series for a few years, actually since it first began and thought wow, why haven’t I done this before. So I am borrowing Aaron’s idea (it’s possible some other participant(s) has done this in the past, if so, I am unaware) and posting my own submission.
As mentioned, this year’s countdown is on favorite films about Childhood. Now these are not children or young adult films pumped out by Disney or whomever. They are films that are about childhood or have a significant role by a young person. This, as usual brought up a lot of discussion between participants (emails were flying!) on just what constitutes a film about childhood, and where does childhood end and adulthood begin. In others words, just because there is a child in the film, it does not qualify as a film about childhood. My own thoughts, and what I used as a guideline were childhood ends with the end of one’s high school years, generally seventeen. My second guideline was there had to be a significant role by a young individual that was important to the storyline. Subsequently, you will find a film like Shane, a western whose plot is more about the Van Heflin, Alan Ladd and Jack Palance interplay than the young boy. But the young boy’s role is an important part in the film. We see much of what happens through his eyes. You will also note that I included Mildred Pierce which I don’t believe anyone else submitted. Mildred Pierce, a film about childhood? Well, Veda, played by a thirteen year old Ann Blyth, is significant to the story, and we all know about how young vile, uncaring, self-centered teens who believe the world revolves around them can be and Veda is a poster girl for vile.
Anyway, whether one agrees with my choices or not, below is my submission which will be tabulated with all the other entries. A final list will be compiled with a review by one participant posted each weekday until the complete list of 60 films are revealed. The Countdown will started sometime in June. Continue reading
The final chapter brings eleven films and it’s packed with some good stuff, including James Cagney in one of the greatest screen performances ever. There’s also John Wayne, who after years in small B westerns got his big breakout role. More Hitchcock, Scorsese along with Orson Welles and a few other gems. As this series went on, I realized how many films I left all the list that could have easily have been included. I easily could have made this a list of 250 films. We shall see…My thanks to all who have followed this series!
With this 1939 film, John Ford moved the western from B grade filler status to the A list. He changed his career and that of a young actor named John Wayne. Stagecoach is a riveting ensemble piece that became the prototype of every western that would follow. I have read on-line reviews claiming the characters are all clichés, that maybe in 1939 it was original, but today, it was all so predictable. I think it’s obvious to say these individuals lack any kind of historical prospective and appreciation. They clog up websites and blogs with uninformed opinions. Made in 1939 or today, Stagecoach is a thoughtful, visually stunning film with an excellent script by Dudley Nichols. The characters, though now archetypes of the genre, are complex. The interplay between them, though seemingly simple, is drawn with a colorful depth. A western masterpiece! Continue reading
Westerns, gangsters and the devil are just few of the treats in Part 9 of this series. With only one part left, I am realizing how many films I left off the list due to a lack of space. There just wasn’t enough room! In this installment Howard Hawks with two films making the list. Also Polanski. Wilder, Lang and Buster Keaton.
Howard Hawks best western and one of the finest western’s of all time. A perfect blend of wit and action that smoothly flows like a fine glass of wine. Wayne, Martin and Brennan are in full control. Angie Dickinson brings a sassy, sexy allure to her role. If there is a weak spot in the casting, it’s Ricky Nelson, who was brought in to lure teen audiences into the theaters. Continue reading
Three Hitchcock films, Roman Polanski and more Woody Allen, Bob Hope, film noir and a truly classic gangster film highlight Part 8. These ten films are a good representation of where my cinematic desires are deepest. If I were to numerically list the films in this series many of them would land in the top twenty-five.
Who ever said Alfred Hitchcock was not a romantic? After all, what could be more romantic than the final scenes in Notorious where we see Cary Grant coming to Ingrid Bergman’s rescue just in time to take her away from the murdering Nazi, Claude Rains. True, for the past two hours Grant forced Ingrid to whore herself by playing a 20th Century Mata Hari, seducing and sleeping with Rains in order to obtain secret information. He then resents her for agreeing to do this and hates himself for forcing her do it. Yep, no one knew how to treat a woman like Mr. Hitchcock, just ask Janet Leigh in Psycho or Grace Kelly in Dial M for Murder. Notorious is a dark perverted love story. It is also a story of espionage, spies, murder and sex with Grant and Bergman as two of the most glamorous spies this side of James Bond, There’s the 180 degree POV spinning shot of Bergman’s Alicia simulating her hangover after an alcoholic binge the night before. There is a superb crane shot during the reception scene at Sebastian’s home where Hitchcock’s camera begins at the top of the stairs and slowly zooms in and down to first floor continuing to an extreme close up of Alicia’s hand and a key (to the cellar) she is holding. Then of course, there is the famous kissing scene where Hitchcock out foxed the censors with their rule of “no kisses lasting longer than three seconds” which he managed to make more erotic than the most blatantly steamy scenes we see in today’s films. Continue reading
Two Woody Allen films, Hitchcock, Scorsese, Altman, Ford, along with Bob Hope, The Marx Brothers and my favorite holiday film highlight Part 7 in this series.
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance
“This is the west sir, when the legend becomes fact, print the legend.”
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance is a classic western that stands up against the best in John Ford’s filmography. It’s a work of an elder statement taking a darker, morose look at a period in America he had glorified in earlier times. The film represents a turning point in the history of the American west, Statehood was on the horizon; the law and civilization were coming. John Wayne’s Tom Doniphon knew his days were over and that James Stewart’s Rance Stoddard and his breed represented the future. A masterwork! Continue reading