101 Films to Watch to Over and Over Again – Part 10

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!

Stagecoach

Hollywood's Greatest Year: The Best Picture Nominees of 1939

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

Short Takes: Catching Up With Louis Malle

louie-malle-essentialsTCM’s recent one night festival of five Louis Malle films gave me the opportunity to revisit two favorites and catch up with a few that I somehow missed in the past. Malle was a director who never liked to repeat himself. Once he explored a subject, he moved on. His work covered drama, suspense, comedy, documentaries and just about every other potential category. One of the original French New Wave, you never knew what he would do next. Malle never shied away from controversial subjects: French collaboration with the Nazi’s during World War II (Lacombe Lucien), child prostitution (Pretty Baby) and Incest (Murmur of the Heart) were all subject matter. What they all had in common was Malle’s artistry for handling these delicate subjects with taste and sensitivity. Continue reading

101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again – Part 9

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.

Rio Bravo

Rio-Bravo-inside

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

101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again – Part 8

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.

Notorious

notorious-1 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

101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again – Part 7

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

libertyvalance2“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

Spring Breakers (2013) Harmony Korine

spring_breakers1It’s spring break time and thousands of college age kids have or will be making their way down to Florida’s beaches to have a swinging party in the sun. The Sunbaked State depends on tourism. They love to see young folks partying all night long, spending lots of dough, helping to boost the local economy. So a few years ago when it was announced that a new film, called Spring Breakers, would be shooting in the Tampa Bay area, city officials and others were elated. The film sounded like a fun in the sun Florida sunshine treat. The kind both the tourism industry and politicians like, showing off the Sunshine State at its exuberant beachy best. They soon would find out Spring Breakers was not going to exactly be the second coming of Elvis in Girl Happy. Continue reading

101 Films to Watch Over and Over Again – Part 6

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

invasion-of-the-body-snatchers-1956An 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