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
Part 6 of this continuing series contains about seven films that, if I ranked this series numerically, would land in the top twenty easily. These films have influenced me, taught me and have remained over the years pure orgasmic celluloid pleasures.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers
An allegory on the infiltration of communism in America? A metaphor for people turning a blind eye to the McCarthyism hysteria that was sweeping the country in the early 1950’s? An attack on the potential dangers of conformity and the stamping out of individuality? Don Siegel’s 1956 gem of a film, Invasion of the Body Snatchers, has been said to “really be about” any and all of these themes since its debut now more than fifty years ago. Siegel, who should know, never mentions any of this kind of subtext in his autobiography, A Siegel Film, so one can assume, all the reading into this classic SF film is just that, critics and filmgoers reading their own thoughts and ideas into a work of pop art. After all, isn’t personal interpretation one of the elements and joys of enjoying art? Continue reading
With part 5, we have reached the halfway mark in this series. I’m still one film over my 101 limit, but have yet to remove it since, as I have mentioned before, titles could be added or subtracted. We shall see, Anyway, here is the next installment…
The Godfather Part II
You wouldn’t think it was possible, but Francis Ford Coppola managed make an even better film with The Godfather 2. The filmmaker just didn’t take Paramount’s money and dish out a piece second rate movie making. It’s breathtaking in its scope with its dual storyline and in dep.th characters. Being a third generation Italian-American, I found the Ellis Island scenes fascinating. My grandparents came through Ellis Island and I always imagine them going thru a similar process as young Vito. And I know people whose last name was changed because the Ellis Island ‘reception committee’ could not understand these “foreigners.” There were Italian immigrants who, believe it or not, ended up with German sounding last names or something else as strange for their background. I found most fascinating to watch the contrast between De Niro’s young meditative young Vito and the more power hungry, unsympathic Michael. A study in power gone corrupt. Continue reading
It’s mid-February, the Oscars are less than a week away, and here I am finally coming out with my best list. The main reason why is due the theatrical patterns here where I live. For example, Still Alice, with Julianne Moore’s superb performance, only opened up here on February 13th. A Most Violent Year opened just one week earlier. If I keep waiting to see every film that should be considered, among them, The Babadook, Inherent Vice, it would be October. That said, here are my top 10, as well as, some honorable mentions.
10. LIFE ITSELF
8. THE GRAND BUDAPEST HOTEL
6. THE IMMIGRANT
1. THE IMITATION GAME
(in alphabetical order)
A Most Violent Year
A Walk Among the Tombstones
Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
Finding Vivian Maier
The Normal Heart
The Skeleton Twins
The Theory of Everything
Venus in Fur
The fourth installment brings up the question what to do when there are films I forgot to include in my list and which film would I take remove? I have been tweaking along the way, but it continues to become more difficult. Getting into the D’s, I realized Dr. Strangelove was missing! I settled on a film to remove though I felt bad. It’s certainly not a better film that Strangelove, but that does not make it any easier. One thing I was sure of, Kubrick’s cold war satire had to be on the list. It’s brilliant filmmaking and one of the darkest and intelligently funniest films ever made. Right now, I am at 102 films. Like many of those loser reality shows, someone has to go. We shall see. Film noir dominates this installment with three films.We also have some Coppola, Keaton and much more. Continue reading
Here is Part Three in my ten part series of 101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again. More Woody Allen, along with Chaplin, Bogie, Abbott and Costello and Paul Newman. Below are links to the earlier entries in this series.
Broadway Danny Rose
Woody Allen creates a nostalgic world filled with the lower levels of New York’s show business community he knew so well from his early days as a writer and standup comedian. There is a colorful Damon Runyon like quality to most of the characters. Allen himself plays his classic Woody character, a more modern version of one of his childhood heroes, Bob Hope. Having seen the waif like Farrow in many films prior to this, her performance here as Tina Vitale, a hard-edged, tough Italian broad is delightfully unexpected. Despite Danny’s “bad luck” with his third-rate clients, he always remains upbeat. Even after being stabbed, figuratively speaking, by Tina, he is still there for his clients come the following Thanksgiving Day. He gathers his odd clientele in his rundown apartment for a holiday meal of frozen turkey dinners. Though the scene plays out as humorous, it is also very touching. Danny cares for and take care of these loveable losers. The film’s ending reconciliation between Danny and Tina is tender, sweet and well after spending an hour and a half with him, you know it’s so Danny Rose…and Woody Allen. Continue reading
This is part two in my ten part series on 101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again. Here you will find more Billy Wilder along with John Huston, Cary Grant, Jane Fonda, John Garfield and more. At the bottom of this post you will find a link to part one in the series if you missed it or are so inclined to revisit.
A funny, cynical tale by the master of cynicism, Billy Wilder. There is not one likeable character in the film. Jack Lemmon’s C.C. Baxter is the original lonely guy. He’s a smuck willing to freely lend out his apartment for the sexual shenanigans of his superiors at work in hopes of climbing up the corporate ladder of success…and getting the key to the officers restroom. Fran Kublick (Shirley MacLaine) is an elevator operator at the office building of the Insurance company C.C. works for. He has a crush on her because she looks so sweet. But little does he know, she’s shacking up with the big boss, Mr. Sheldrake, an evil Fred MacMurray. Fran is being strung along by Sheldrake who keeps telling her he is going to divorce his wife when the time is right. Sure he is.
This is the 1950’s/1960’s. A pre-feminist, women’s lib world. Office politics and the corporate culture had no place for women. Well they did, but it’s at the bottom of the food chain. Men are in all the important positions. Women are there to type, take dictation, flirt and party with. They are then sent home as the men head back to their wives. The film is like looking thru a time capsule. For example, in the office party scene, booze flows freely, drunken behavior is acceptable. Women are pinched on the backside as they walk by, and their are couples making out in the hall. Welcome to Corporate America. Madmen gone Wilder.
And while the characters are unlikeable, they are played to perfection be a great cast, and not just the leads. Supporting players like Ray Walston, Hope Holiday, Edie Adams, Jack Kruschen, Joyce Jameson and Joan Shawlee all have their moments. Continue reading