Wednesday, December 24, 2008

World's Best Children's Films

Live Action / or Mixed
  • A Christmas Story
  • A Boy Ten Feet Tall
  • The Bad News Bears
  • Babe
  • Black Stallion, The
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (animated/live mix)
  • The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T
  • Mary Poppins (animated/live action mix)
  • My Dog Skip
  • Peter Pan (2002, animated/live action mix)


  • 101 Dalmations (animated)
  • Beauty and the Beast (animated)
  • Cars (computer animated)
  • Finding Nemo (computer animated)
  • Hoppity Goes to Town (animated)
  • Lady and the Tramp (animated)
  • Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (animated)
  • Silly Symphonies (Walt Disney's, animated)
  • Toy Story 1 (computer animated)
  • The Triplets of Belleville (animated)
  • Wall-E (computer animated)*
  • Wallace and Gromit: 3 Amazing Adventures (clay-mation)

Snow White was the first full-length animated feature film in 1938. Wallace and Gromit are Nick Park's Oscar winning short films (Wallace is his dad, Gromit the dog is himself). He's also responsible for Chicken Run, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, and Flushed Away, full-length animation films. He won Oscars for the shorts Creature Comforts, The Wrong Trousers (incredible), A Close Shave and the full-length Were-Rabbit. A Boy Ten Feel Tall features a terrific supporting performance by Edward G. Robinson in his last film. It's hard to believe he never received an Oscar® nomination; this would have been a good chance to right that wrong. The Triplets of Belleville, though animated, is really going to be understood and enjoyed more by adults; it's 'old school' animation, hand-drawn frame by frame, and even parodies old b&w cartoons in the beginning. It won many awards for animated film, and had the bad timing of being released the same year as Oscar®-winner Finding Nemo. Babe, Beauty, Nemo, and Poppins were all nominated for Best Picture. Babe is my favorite children's film and favorite animal film; let's also throw in favorite Australian film!

Sunday, December 21, 2008

Turkish Cinema: 3 Monkeys

Are you on look out for the 2009 Oscar nominees? While the excitement about the competing films builds, I wanted to offer you a sneak peek at Three Monkeys – the official submission to the Best Foreign Film category from Turkey. You can watch the trailer here. As a movie enthusiast, we thought you might be interested in this expressionist drama that takes place in less traveled Istanbul neighborhoods, but has a universal theme. The plot involves a family that chooses not to see, hear or talk about the truth to overcome hardships and to stay together. The camera focuses on four main characters, a couple, their son and the husband's boss as they play deaf, blind and dumb to weighty problems. Three Monkeys' director, Nuri Bilge Ceylan, and his cast have already received international acclaim for their work, winning awards at 2008 Cannes (Best Director), Haifa (Best Film) and Asia Pacific (Best Director) film festivals. Three Monkeys will be released in the US in February 2009. Here are some initial responses from the audiences on You can take a look at photos and behind the scenes shots from the film here. All the best, Asli Atasoy Zeyno FILM on behalf of Zeynep Ozbatur Atakan, producer of Three Monkeys NOTE: I recently saw Three Monkeys and Climates, both from director Ceylan, enjoyed them both.. they were beautifully shot films, with many memorable images.. they move slowly, like Bergman films, yet reveal much about their characters. [Jose]

Saturday, December 13, 2008

World's Best Westerns

  • The Ballad of Gregorio Cortez
  • The Big Country *
  • Broken Trail (mini-series)
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee
  • The Claim
  • Dances With Wolves
  • The Grey Fox
  • Into the West (mini-series)
  • Heartland
  • Hidalgo
  • High Noon
  • Jeremiah Johnson
  • Lonesome Dove (mini-series)
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller
  • Open Range
  • Shane
  • She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
  • Silverado
  • The Three Burials of Malquiades Estrada
  • Tom Horn
  • The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
  • Unforgiven

Runners-Up: Fistful of Dollars, The Good the Bad and the Ugly (wah wah wah...), The High Country*, The Long Riders, The Magnificent Seven, The Man from Snowy River, The Missouri Breaks*, Once Upon a Time in the West*, One-Eyed Jacks*, The Proposition*, Ride the Pink Horse*, The Searchers, The Shooter, Comanche Moon (mini-series) I included the mini-series here because they were classic westerns and should not be missed. Interesting how many were directed by actors: Dances and Range (both by Costner), Three Burials (Tommy Lee Jones), Unforgiven (Eastwood). Was there ever a villain as bad or as great as Jack Palance in Shane? You kinda had to pull for a guy that well-dressed, especially when Alan Ladd looked like an urban cowboy! Hidalgo, though not technically a western, was about men racing horses cross-country, close enough for me!

[update: 9.18.09]

Friday, October 24, 2008

New Family Guy DVD out now...

Hey, there's a new Family Guy DVD out, Vol. 6... if you haven't seen this hilarious animated show from Seth McFarlane, you should - it's the next best thing to the Simpson's on TV... In fact, check out ALL the volumes from the beginning. Here's a blurb about the new set from my buddy John at M80: A pop culture phenomenon the collection features the show’s 100th episode and a total of 12 edgy episodes from Seasons Five and Six. Catch the Griffin clan’s ridiculously hilarious antics such as Stewie’s not-so-successful attempt to kill Lois, Brian’s discovery that he is a father and patriarch Peter’s frequent visits to the Drunken Clam. Family Guy videos & images: YouTube Channel: Highly recommended! ... the Jman

Saturday, September 6, 2008

Venice Film Festival - Best Films

Golden Lion (Best Film) Winners at the Venice Film Festival (1946-2008)*: 1946 Best Film The Southerner Country: U.S. Director: Jean Renoir 1947 Best Film Siréna Country: Czechoslovakia 1948 Best Film Hamlet Country: U.K. Director: Laurence Olivier 1949 Best Film Manon Country: France Director: Henri-Georges Clouzot 1950 Best Film Let Justice Be Done Country: France Director: André Cayatte 1951 Best Film Rashômon Country: Japan Director: Akira Kurosawa 1952 Best Film Forbidden Games Country: France Director: René Clément 1954 Best Film Romeo and Juliet Country: Italy/U.K. Director: Renato Castellani 1955 Best Film Ordet Country: Denmark Director: Carl Theodor Dreyer 1957 Best Film Aparajito Country: India Director: Satyajit Ray 1958 Best Film Rikisha-Man Country: Japan Director: Hiroshi Inagaki 1959 Best Film The Great War Country: Italy Director: Mario Monicelli 1959 Best Film General della Rovere Country: Italy Director: Roberto Rossellini 1960 Best Film The Crossing of the Rhine Country: Italy Director: André Cayatte 1961 Best Film Last Year at Marienbad Country: France Director: Alain Resnais 1962 Best Film My Name Is Ivan Country: U.S.S.R. Director: Andrei Tarkovsky 1962 Best Film Family Diary Country: France/Italy Director: Valerio Zurlini 1963 Best Film Hands Over the City Country: Italy/France Director: Francesco Rosi 1964 Best Film The Red Desert Country: Italy Director: Michelangelo Antonioni 1965 Best Film Sandra of a Thousand Delights Country: Italy Director: Luchino Visconti 1966 Best Film The Battle of Algiers Country: Algeria Director: Gillo Pontecorvo 1967 Best Film Belle de Jour Country: France Director: Luis Buñuel 1968 Best Film Artist in the Circus Dome: Clueless Country: West Germany Director: Alexander Kluge 1980 Best Film Atlantic City Country: U.S. Director: Louis Malle 1980 Best Film Gloria Country: U.S. Director: John Cassavetes 1981 Best Film Marianne and Juliane Country: West Germany Director: Margarethe von Trotta 1982 Best Film The State of Things Country: West Germany Director: Wim Wenders 1983 Best Film First Name: Carmen Country: France Director: Jean-Luc Godard 1984 Best Film A Year of the Quiet Sun Country: Poland Director: Krzysztof Zanussi 1985 Best Film Vagabond Country: France Director: Agnès Varda 1986 Best Film The Green Ray (Summer) Country: France Director: Eric Rohmer 1987 Best Film Au Revoir les Enfants Country: France Director: Louis Malle 1988 Best Film Legend of the Holy Drinker Country: Italy Director: Ermanno Olmi 1989 Best Film City of Sadness Country: Taiwan Director: Hsiao-Hsien Hou 1990 Best Film Rosencrantz Guildenstern Are Dead Country: U.K. Director: Tom Stoppard 1991 Best Film Close to Eden Country: France/U.S.S.R. Director: Nikita Mikhalkov 1992 Best Film The Story of Qiu Ju Country: China Director: Zhang Yimou 1993 Best Film Short Cuts Country: U.S. Director: Robert Altman 1993 Best Film Three Colors: Blue Country: France Director: Krzysztof Kieslowski 1994 Best Film Before the Rain Country: Macedonia Director: Milcho Manchevski 1994 Best Film Vive L'Amour Country: Taiwan Director: Ming-liang Tsai 1995 Best Film Cyclo Country: Vietnam Director: Tran Anh Hung 1996 Best Film Michael Collins Country: U.K. Director: Neil Jordan 1997 Best Film Fireworks Country: Japan Director: Takeshi Kitano 1998 Best Film The Way We Laughed Country: Italy Director: Gianni Amelio 1999 Best Film Not One Less Country: China Director: Yimou Zhang 2000 Best Film The Circle Country: Iran Director: Jafar Panahi 2001 Best Film Monsoon Wedding Country: India Director: Mira Nair 2002 Best Film The Magdalene Sisters Country: U.K. Director: Peter Mullan 2003 Best Film The Return Country: Russia Director: Andrei Zvyagintsev 2004 Best Film Vera Drake Country: U.K. Director: Mike Leigh 2005 Best Film Brokeback Mountain Country: U.S. Director: Ang Lee 2006 Best Film Still Life Country China Director: Jia Zhangke 2007 Best Film Lust, Passion Country Taiwan Director: Ang Lee 2008 Best Film The Wrestler Country U.S. Director: Darren Anorofsky *I think I started with 1946 because they were using the festival and its "Mussolini Award" for propaganda, so I responded to that with my own censorship and began with the post-Mussolini reign.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Wild at Heart: Lynch in Limbo

Written for LAMB, the Nicholas Cage blog-fest Dir: David Lynch, 1990 (Nicholas Cage, Laura Dern, Willem Dafoe, Crispin Glover, J.E. Freeman, Diane Ladd, Calvin Lockhart, Isabella Rossellini, Harry Dean Stanton, Grace Zabriskie, Sherilyn Fenn, Pruitt Taylor Vince) Ironically, the film starts in Cape Fear, "somewhere on the coast of South Carolina". Mother from hell Diane Ladd (Dern’s real mother) gets her boyfriend to go after Cage with a knife, who beats him to death, picks him up to throw him and the guys legs are still walking. "Hey, let’s do another take, his brains are hanging out already; second that.. it’s lunchtime". Laura Dern (totally hot eye candy here) plays "Lula", Cage "Sailor", but he likes to call Lula "Peanut", as in "rockin good news, Peanut!". Well, it ain’t rockin till Sailor does some time for excessive self-defense. When he gets out, Lula greets him with his snakeskin jacket. "This here jacket represents my individuality and my belief in personal freedom". They take off together, and we get to hear repartee like this: Lula: "One of these days that ole sun is gonna come up and burn a hole clean through the planet like an electrical x-ray." Sailor: "That’ll never happen, not in our lifetime… by then they’ll be driving buicks to the moon." Unfortunately, Cage delivers most of his lines like a stoned Elvis, he seems unusually uninvolved with this part, unlike some others where he seems perhaps too involved (National Treasure).
The mother gets boyfriend Harry Dean Stanton to go after them first, then she hires a hit man as well to go take out Sailor and bring her daughter back. Only this hit man, Santos, hates Stanton as well and figures getting to kill him is icing. Much of the story is told in flashback, which disrupts the continuity, especially since we’re constantly flashing to the same background scene, the manslaughter one. In between those, we get to see languid conversations while they smoke, gratuitous shots of Dern topless, Cage’s Elvis impersonation at a live punk club no less, singing "Please Love Me", complete with fake crowd screaming (why this odd effect I wonder?). Sailor tells Lula, "The way your head works is God’s own private mystery." Lula says, "You remind me of my daddy. Mama told me he liked skinny girls whose breasts stood up and said hello." She also tells him how her dad poured kerosene all over himself and set himself on fire. Yep, typical David Lynch comedy, and typical bedroom bantor.
The film becomes a road film, as the couple heads to New Orleans, but it has more style than pace or story. For a crime film it kinda oozes along, but it’s Dern that does most of the oozing, not Cage, he just kind of acts like he’s just hanging out. Lynch throws in some assorted freaks and "trailer trash", as usual, but he doesn’t seem to really know how to use them. Wild has some "Blue Velvet" touches, but this time instead of Rossellini singing, it’s a huge blues singer in New Orleans in a blue sequined dress with red hair. Then we get more hot love talk: Lula: "Sailor, you got me hotter’n Georgia asphault" Sailor: "Ok, but go easy on me baby, tomorrow we got a lot of driving to do." There’s a mysterious car wreck scene in the desert that Lula and Sailor come across, with several bodies, with Sherilyn Fenn running around with a severe head wound, and dies in front of them. I think at this point I was wondering if this was a comedy, or just David Lynch. Several times this film wavers between the light-hearted (wild punk dancing beside the highway) and supreme darkness, almost as if he couldn’t decide himself how serious this. In this regard, Lynch failed to capture the essense of the Barry Gilford novel, which was definitely lighter than this film. Eventually the road trip ends in hell on earth: Greater Tuna, Texas. There we run into an assortment of trash at a motor court, headed by Willem Dafoe, with the ugliest teeth outside of Austin Powers. We also are introduced to a unibrowed Isabella Rossellini, almost hard to recognize in her blonde wig, but the unibrow gave it away. Several times in the film we are almost introduced to the song "Blue Velvet", which of course Isabella sang in that film, but each time Lynch changes at the last instant and we never get the velvet. The characters, especially Laura Dern, are also referencing Oz quite often, but we never get that either, all we get is Greater Tuna. We are shown a more botched bank robbery than the Coen Bros put into Raising Arizona even, a guard’s hand gets shot off ("they sew it back on, it’ll work almost good as new") and before he can retrieve it a dog is carrying it away (OK, one funny image in the whole film!); Dafoe meets with the wrong end of his shotgun, and Sailor is being held to the ground by law enforcement. Aw, shucks… boys, "treat me right", it’s off to the can again. The epilogue is five years later when Lula, with little Sailor Jr. in tow, picks him up at the railroad "yard". Guess Lynch couldn’t find a real depot. A "real nuclear family unit", from hell or Greater Tuna, or now South Carolina, wherever trash is allowed outside. Lynch got lost somewhere on Route 66, and ended up in limbo, and we ended up there with him. Not a comedy, not a drama either, just a road film with Nicholas Cage sleep-walk.. er, sleep-driving through a nightmarish landscape we are forced to share with him. Unfortunately we don’t also get to share a naked Laura Dern, but at least Lynch got her naked onscreen as much as he could, otherwise this film would be very hard to look at. As Lula said, "This whole world is wild at heart, and weird on top." Wisdom for the ages, you bet…

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

World's Best Musical and Concert Films

  • A Coal Miner's Daughter
  • A Hard Days Night
  • All that Jazz
  • An American in Paris
  • Amadeus
  • Black Orpheus (France/Portugal)
  • Bride and Prejudice (India)
  • Carmen (Spain, flamenco version)
  • Chicago
  • How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying
  • The King and I
  • The Music Man
  • My Fair Lady
  • Singing in the Rain
  • Strictly Ballroom
  • West Side Story
Concert Films
  • The Cranberries: Live
  • Dead Can Dance: Toward the Within
  • Jimi Hendrix (documentary)
  • The Last Waltz
  • Led Zeppelin (2 dvd, live history)
  • Peter Gabriel: Secret World Live
  • Pat Metheny: Speaking of Now: Live (easily the world's best guitarist!)
  • Police: Synchronicity Concert
  • Stop Making Sense
  • The TAMI Show
  • Woodstock (documentary)
Runners-up: Cabaret, Dames, Damn Yankees, The Gay Divorcee, Golddiggers of 1933, Swing Time, Oliver! [Updated after seeing West Side and Music Man in widescreen! It makes ALL the difference, seeing the director's intended view.. they oughtta outlaw fullscreen in Hollywood] Most musicals are vastly overrated, some are downright unwatchable (anyone get through Tommy or Superstar without brain damage?). In Oklahoma they resorted to spelling out the state's name, now that's a lack of lyrical ingenuity. Sad that Marni Nixon sang in My Fair Lady, The King and I, and West Side Story and got NO billing credit at all! The best classic Broadway style musical for me is My Fair Lady. Incredible lyrics, so good that Rex Harrison didn't even have to be able to sing to win an Oscar and a Tony. Based on George Bernard Shaw's play Pygmalion, it had a solid artistic foundation to begin with. Of course, the ripoff in the movie is that Julie Andrews, who made the stage role what it was, was passed over for Audrey Hepburn (Marnie Nixon had to dub her singing), everyone's box office darling; Andrews won the Oscar that year anyway for Mary Poppins. Listen to the original cast recording on CD to hear the difference with Andrews! Dames (34), not a great film, but is a great example of the insanity of early Busby Berkley; he's responsible for the musical numbers, original choreography, and inventiveness: neon violins played by dancers in the dark, all forming one giant violin; dancers forming a giant eyeball and a singer rising from the iris ("I Only Have Eyes for You"); floor cams sliding throught the spread legs of 100 grinning dancers; naked dancers bathing silhouetted behind shower curtains; the giant Carmen Miranda fruit hat - Busby was tripping 40 yrs before anyone else, and everyone else pales in comparison! Amadeus is of course, the play about the life and music of Mozart, not a classic musical but still full of music (maybe "too many notes", inside joke). Best Picture Oscars went to Amadeus, Chicago, and My Fair Lady. This Carmen, of the 18 or so, is Carlos Suare's flamenco version, where a dance troup is rehearsing for a flamenco performance of Bizet's Carmen and two dancers lives begin to mirror the story. This is easily the best dance film ever made. Bollywood's Bride and Prejudice is a total trip - who else could have thought of a musical comedy of Austen's Pride and Prejudice? The gigantic dance number with the women teasing the men is worth the price of admission alone (but lose the ballads); throw in world-class beauty Aishayra Rai and you're in nirvana! TAMI (for Teenage Awards for Music International) was an early concert film (from 66?) that had James Brown, the Beach Boys, the Rolling Stones, many others, and kind of set the precedent for modern concert films.

Monday, August 25, 2008

World's Best Crime Films

The worlds best crime and mystery films Films in gold won Best Picture Oscars®
  • Atlantic City
  • Chinatown
  • Chungking Express (China)
  • City of God (Brazil)
  • The Conversation
  • The Departed
  • Diva (France)
  • Double Indemnity (bw)
  • Gangs of New York
  • The Godfather
  • The Godfather, Pt. II
  • Goodfellas
  • The Grifters
  • Heavenly Creatures
  • House of Games
  • La Femme Nikita (France)
  • The Lives of Others (Germany)
  • The Maltese Falcon (bw)
  • Memento
  • Night of the Hunter (bw)
  • Once Upon a Time in America (long version)
  • Out of the Past (bw)
  • The Player
  • Pulp Fiction
  • Run, Lola, Run (Germany)
  • The Silence of the Lambs
  • Sleuth
  • Sunset Boulevard (bw)
  • Taxi Driver
  • Traffic
  • The Usual Suspects
  • Witness
Runners-Up: American History X, Body Heat, Fargo, Gorky Park, Klute, The Last Seduction, Little Caesar, Mystic River, The Spanish Prisoner, The Talented Mr. Ripley, Topkapi, The Yakuza Let's see, four entries from Scorsese and three from Coppola, also Sergio Leone - wonder why Italians make great crime movies? Night of the Hunter is the only film directed by actor Charles Laughton, with Robert Mitchum as a villainous preacher so bad that he had both "Love" and "Hate" tattooed on his fingers. The Conversation and The Lives of Others both cover the subject of electronic eavesdropping, and Lives won both a US and a British Academy Award for Foreign Language film. Billy Wilder's Double Indemnity is given credit for inventing film noir in 1944, and was the first of Wilder's b&w masterpieces, which include Lost Weekend, The Apartment, Some Like it Hot, The Fortune Cookie, One Two Three.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Movies about Movies: The Player

This is part of the Goat Dog "Movies about movies blogathon", check it out at: Goat Dog Blogathon The Player is my favorite Robert Altman film, even surpassing the superb western McCabe and Mrs. Miller. Tim Robbins portrays a film producer looking for that "next major project", who, through an anonymous blackmailer, become involved in a mystery, and his character degenerates into one who may actually stop at nothing to protect his ego and his wallet, and perhaps find love as well; with the always delectable Greta Scacchi in his sights, who could blame him? The mystery begins when he gets the first in a series of threatening postcards, presumably from a writer that Robbins shined on rather than listen to him pitch his script. As the postcards continue, the plot becomes a twisty puzzle, involving blackmail, murder, infidelity, paranoia, guilt - all the games that make Hollywood tick, inside and outside of the films themselves. The film within the film is going to be "a different kind of Hollywood blockbuster, one without stars", as the writers proudly proclaim, and eventually includes both Oscar winners and a perfect parody of Hollywood film endings. The Player is not only peppered with movie references, it begins with an extremely long tracking shot where various studio people discuss everything from classic films to potential projects to the longest tracking shots in film history. An important plot element involves mistaken identity, a favorite Hitchcock device. The circular references don't stop there: the guest list of cameo acting appearances includes something on the magnitude of 16 Oscar winners; the dvd actually includes a special feature allowing the viewer to click any celebrity and bring up that person's scene in the film, even if they're just in the background or walking by. The fact that we may not ultimately care about the fate of these characters is a perfect mirror for an industry that doesn't care about the fate of the characters (or the audience) either, just the amount of revenue that the project may eventually attract. The only really sympathetic character drawn by Altman is perhaps Cynthia Stevenson, in probably her best performance, playing Tim Robbins' studio subordinate and girlfriend, who is apparently more attracted by his power than his less-than-winning personality or commitment. The Player is a perfect modern complement to Sunset Boulevard, as each presents the cynical and parasitic side of Hollywood and its shallow, self-centered denizens. This had to be the most fun Altman had making any movie, sticking the satirical dagger into his own industry, and it's certainly a treat for film fans as we are left to solve the mystery along with the main character. We are all made players in this particular game of Altman's. Other classic films about films include Sunset Boulevard, The Bad and the Beautiful, Singin' in the Rain, The French Lieutenant's Woman, The Purple Rose of Cairo, Day for Night (a French pastry), Fellini's "8 1/2" and the best film about a play, best picture winner All About Eve. Special mention must be made of my favorite Italian film: Cinema Paradiso is a wonderful tribute to the effect of movies on ordinary lives.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

Double Indemnity and the Birth of Film Noir

Double Indemnity (1944) was Billy Wilder's first serious film, and is given credit for the birth of film noir, literally "night film", which describes a visual style and mood of a type of dramatic film, usually crime, that's much more gritty and realistic than most films prior to this era.

Film noir was mostly shot at night or in dark interiors; there's lots of use of shadows, dimly lit edges, light from Venetian blinds (which simulates bars across characters), backlit smoke (Indemnity uses both cigars and cigarettes, Out of the Past is a tribute to cigarettes, each star is always smoking onscreen, especially when it gets tense).

Film noir got its origins in 30's detective stories, often called pulp fiction, gritty stories with sex, violence and seedy characters. Even the heros were often common people with street wisdom, often with a tough upbringing. Soldiers returning from World War 2 and a cinematic audience that had survived the Great Depression demanded more adult films in theme, subject, and style.

Wilder was impressed by author John Kain's pulp novella of "Double Indemnity", the same author of The Postman Always Rings Twice, but it was considered unfilmable due the the Hayes Code (of censorship). The script went through years of re-writes and applications before being allowed to be filmed in 1944. The Hayes Code first suppressed sex in films, then violence, later socialism, and was used to pass judgment on over 28,000 works of art! Apparently no freedom of the arts exists, just more minor ones that don't affect as many people, such as the press (who reads?) Wilder then had a difficult time casting the lead parts, two murdering adulterers.

He wanted Barbara Stanwyck all along, but eventually had to challenge her to get her to take the image-shattering role, "are you an actress or a mouse?" After several refusals by actors, including George Raft, who had a knack for turning down breakthrough parts like Sam Spade in The Maltese Falcon, he convinced Fred McMurray to break his screen image of light romantic comedies to attempt something serious. His first scene with Stanwick, when he meets her at her home in a towel, uses his comedic skills along with some terrific dialogue.

Wilder also convinced leading actor Edward G. Robinson to take a non-starring character role, meaty enough for at least two important speeches that Robinson absolutely nailed. Crime novelist Raymond Chandler (The Big Sleep, The Long Goodbye) was brought in for his realistic dialogue, plenty evident here especially the opening scenes between Stanwyck and McMurray, but he, an introvert, and Wilder, an extrovert, didn't get along at all and never worked together again. Ironically,they were nominated for an Oscar together for their screenplay. Wilder later used Chandler as his model for his Oscar-winning Best Picture The Lost Weekend.

Double Indemnity was nominated for these 7 Oscars (but won none):
  • BEST MOTION PICTURE - Paramount (Going My Way won!)
  • DIRECTING - Billy Wilder
  • ACTRESS - Barbara Stanwyck
  • CINEMATOGRAPHY (Black and White) - John Seitz
  • WRITING (Screenplay) - Billy Wilder, Raymond Chandler
  • MUSIC (Music Score of a Drama or Comedy) - Miklos Rozsa
  • SOUND RECORDING - Paramount Studio Sound Dept, Loren L. Ryder, Sound Director

Other classic film noir: Out of the Past, The Night of the Hunter, Panic in the Streets, D.O.A., The Postman Always Rings Twice, The Big Sleep, The Maltese Falcon, The Third Man.

Modern Noir: Wait Until Dark, Diva (France), Chinatown, Shoot the Piano Player (France), House of Games, Taxi Driver, Blood Simple, Body Heat, The Silence of the Lambs. The style is also clearly evident in parts of other classic films such as In the Heat of the Night, The Godfather, Batman, Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf, The Hustler, and The Departed.

Thanks to Beth G for suggesting Double Indemnity

Friday, August 22, 2008

Great Directors: Billy Wilder

Billy Wilder was born in Austria-Hungary, in what is now Malopolski, Poland. As a newswriter, he emigrated from Austria to Berlin writing for their biggest tabloid. By the time Hitler came to power in 1933, he had written some screenplays for the Berlin film industry, starting in 1929. With Jewish ancestry, Wilder had to flee the Nazis, first to Paris (directing Mauvaise Graine there in 1934, starring Danielle Darrieux), then to the U.S. when invasion of France seemed likely.

He went to Hollywood and started as a screen writer for Ernst Lubisch and others, the most famous being Ninotchka (39). He then began directing himself in the U.S. with The Major and the Minor (42) with Ray Milland and Ginger Rogers posing as a 12-yr old. He made his stylistic breakthrough in his third film with the crime classic, Double Indemnity in 1944, which "invented" film noir and garnered 7 Oscar nominations. Wilder then began to direct a plethora of film classics, including:
  • The Apartment (bw, Best Picture winner, 5/10 Oscars)
  • Ace in the Hole (bw, 1 nom)
  • Lost Weekend (bw, Best Picture, 4/7 Oscars)
  • The Spirit of St. Louis (bw, 1 nom)
  • Stalag 17 (bw, 1/3 Oscars, Willam Holden, best actor)
  • Sunset Boulevard (bw, Pic nominee, 3 Oscars, 11 noms)
  • Witness for the Prosecution (bw, BPic nominee, 6 noms) Comedies:
  • The Fortune Cookie (bw, 1/4 Oscars)
  • The Front Page (bw, 3 Oscar noms)
  • Irma la Douce
  • One Two Three (bw)
  • Sabrina
  • The Seven Year Itch
  • Some Like It Hot (bw, 6 Oscar noms)
Wilder was nominated for 21 Oscars, 12 in writing, 8 in directing, and won six. He won for directing Lost Weekend and The Apartment (and got another for Apt for Best Picture), and won for writing Lost Weekend, Sunset Boulevard, and The Apartment. He personally picked up three for The Apartment. It could easily be argued that Billy Wilder is the greatest American film director.

He died in 2005 at the age of 95.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Great Film: Zhang Yimou's Hero

Hero (2002) is a Chinese epic from director Zhang Yimou. Actor Jet Li said the screenplay (by Li Feng, Zhang Yimou, and Wang Bin) was the best he had ever read and left him in tears. They often call this Jet Li's Hero to distinguish it from an earlier U.S. film (also worth watching but nothing great) starring Andy Garcia and Dustin Hoffman. Along with Li, the film also stars the most popular actress in the world, Ziyi Zhang, shown in the still shots above from Hero. The visually stunning style of Hero is the ultimate for an action-adventure film, going even one level higher than Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. It's no wonder that Quentin Tarantino wanted to get his name on this one as "Q.T. Presents....", like he had anything to do with creating this masterpiece! He did the same thing to the terrific crime film in two parts, Chungking Express, which inspired Pulp Fiction. The story is a story within the story, as a warrior relates his tale to the king of Qi'in (which became China), of how he killed three assassins from neighboring kingdoms who were plotting to kill him. Bose found the film so incredible that it used a famous sword master sequence in a tv ad for a new tv surround sound system; they claim to have a hidden camera on a family who is appropriately 'jaw-dropped' by the film and sound. Hero is full of memorable scenes and sequences, I won't describe any, they have to be experienced at least twice. Watch it once with subtitles, then again without any distractions to the visual poetry because this is the cinamatic art at its highest level. Other great visual action films: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China, Ang Lee); Spiderman; The Matrix; House of Flying Daggers (China, Z.Yimou); The Seven Samurai (Japan); The Empire Strikes Back; The Replacement Killers; Diva (France); Aliens; The Road Warrior; Run, Lola, Run (Germany).

Friday, August 8, 2008

Zhang Yimou and the Olympics Opening Ceremony

Did everyone hear that awesome Chinese director Zhang Yimou (see Hero above) is in charge of the opening ceremony at the upcoming Olympics? They're starting at 8:08 pm on 8/8, because 8 is a lucky number in China! Curious, this is the US "delayed broadcast time", so it's not starting at that time over there... They say "expect big fireworks" since China invented fireworks... with Yimou in charge, can we also expect martial arts (Hero), mountain peasants (The Road Home), and Ziyi Zhang (Hero, Road Home, Crouching Tiger), lots of RED (Raise the Red Lantern)? Stay tuned, it should be a blast, lol... UPDATE (after the opening): WELL, THEY BLEW ME AWAY TOTALLY! He did include martial arts, mountain peasants, lots of all colors, mucho fireworks, and the incredible drummers.. not to mention people running all over the globe, the giant LED field screen, the panorama above the stadium featuring waterfalls, waves, birds, clouds, the giant scroll for the torch lighter to float (run) on... UNBELIEVABLE! So much better than anything WE could come up with, or could even afford. ("As if!") Best opening ceremony ever, they can retire the trophy! - Bob Costas [If you missed it, buy the DVD later!]

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Recently Viewed Films, July

A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 1957, bw) 5* (top rating) This is an overlooked masterpiece, simply jaw-dropping. It's about the misuse of television to influence the masses, to buy cheesy products, to vote for cheesy politicians, even to think the way of the charismatic "everyman" star, terrifically played by Andy Griffith in a rare dramatic performance. Patricia Neal turns in perhaps her best performance, and there's a young Walter Matthau (excellent), and a very young Lee Remick (eye-popping candy as a baton twirling teen). This film was way ahead of its time, and Kazan was unfairly shunned by Oscar and critics alike after the HUAC hearings. To Live (Zhang Yimou, China, 1994) 4.5* This is yet another undeniably classic Yimou epic, winner of the Grand Prize at Cannes in 1995, and Best Actor for Ge You (he's awesome). This film spans about 40 years in the life of one family, from before the Maoist revolution up to the 80's. Gong Li is also superb as You's wife (her best performance to me), and all the supporting cast is perfect. This is filled with unforgettable scenes, some with thousands of extras. An American film this good would have won 6-8 Oscars. Goodnight Mister Tom (Jack Gold, Masterpiece Theater, 1999) 5* This television film is John Thaw's (Insp. Morse) finest achievement, a true work of art. One of the biggest hearted films I've seen, you'll shed tears of joy. A truly inspired work, it's a disarmingly simple story of an elderly village resident (a widower) being forced to take charge of a London child evacuee during WW2. One of the highest rated films at Netflix from viewers (4.2, anything above 4 is extremely rare). From the novel by Michelle Magorian, this is truly a film that everyone should see, a rare gift to mankind. Touching the Void (Kevin MacDonald, British, 2003) 3.5* Winner of a British academy award for Best British Film, a re-enacted pseudo-documentary of a mountaineering accident. Gripping and tense, hard to watch, and a nearly unbelievable story. The first half moves better than the last, my only criticism. Gorgeous Peruvian Andes scenery; not for the weak-hearted. Forbidden Games (Rene Clement, France, 1954, BW) 3.5* This anti-war film has an amazing performance by 5-8 yr old Brigitte Fossey (it began with a short film, was later expanded into full-length after Jacques Tati convinced Clement it was worthy). There are some disturbing images in the beginning, then the film settles into a pastoral story about childhood innocence in a rural setting. Not really the masterpiece some claim, but still worth watching. The excellent Criterion dvd includes alternate beginning/endings, as well as interviews with Clement, and two with Brigitte Fossey, one recent, one as a teenager, and she's beautiful at any age.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Oscar Loves Hookers

In 95, Susan Sarandon became the 1st actress to win an Oscar playing a nun (Dead Man Walking). That same year, Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite) became the 8th to win one for playing a prostitute! (By the way, Woody Allen now has 21 Oscar nominations, 3 wins, and is responsible for at least 4 awards for actresses: Diane Keaton and Diane Wiest, with 2, added to Sorvino) The others: Anne Baxter (46), Claire Trevor (48), Donna Reed (53), Jo Van Fleet (55), Dorothy Malone (56), Elizabeth Taylor and Shirley Jones (60), Jane Fonda (71)... hmmm..... guess which more people can identify with (?) - lol...

Sunday, August 3, 2008

2008 Emmy Nominations

Here's all the nominations for the 60th Emmy Awards (for Television), coming to ABC on Saturday, Sept 13th at 8 p.m.: I'll have to admit that some of my favorites got nominations, though not in all the categories they deserved: Pushing Daisies, Flight of the Conchords, Weeds, Dexter, Damages (a surprising number, all earned). Also James Spader yet again for Boston Legal. Currently my favorite drama is Dexter, favorite comedy is either Weeds or Pushing Daisies. Not sure how Damages can top the first season, perhaps it should've been a mini-series with a conclusion. I'm not sure what Boston Legal is... it's such a self-parody, I'd guess comedy. I was also very excited that Kristen Chenoweth got a supporting actress comedy nod for Pushing Daisies (she plays the dimunitive Olive Snook, former jockey, now in love with lead actor nominee Lee Pace). She's terrific and also a great musical actress, performing a song at the Oscars last year - truly a star in the making! Flight of the Conchords is a brilliant parody of the music video business, and actually got TWO song nominations. I was also surprised by the total number of nominations for Tin Man on the SF Channel, a good miniseries, derived from Wizard of Oz, but not really so awesome as to get its 8-10 nominations. Damages deserved all of its acclaim, but Weeds and Pushing Daisies should have been in the Best Comedy category, also Flight of the Conchords (truly hilarious and original stuff). That's just my opinion, I could be wrong! Aren't our opinions all we really have? Watch and enjoy, but as always: No Wagering! -- the Jman

Saturday, August 2, 2008

World's Best Drama Films

Films in gold won Best Picture
  • 12 Angry Men (bw)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (bw)
  • All About Eve (bw)
  • Amadeus
  • The Apartment
  • Broadcast News
  • Citizen Kane (bw)
  • Dominick and Eugene (drama)
  • Elmer Gantry (drama, bw)
  • Empire Falls (mini-series)
  • Fearless (Peter Weir's)
  • Good Will Hunting
  • Housekeeping
  • Hud (bw)
  • The Hustler (bw)
  • The Last Picture Show (bw)
  • Little Foxes (bw)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (bw)
  • Midnight Cowboy
  • Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (bw)
  • Munich
  • Network
  • Nicholas Nickleby (8 hr)
  • One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest
  • On the Waterfront
  • Seven Days in May
  • The Shawshank Redemption
  • Stars Fell on Henrietta
  • The Sweet Hereafter
  • The Sweet Smell of Success (bw)
  • Terms of Endearment
  • To Kill a Mockingbird (bw)
  • Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (bw)
Foreign Language Drama
  • Babel (Mexico)
  • The Conformist (Italy)
  • El Norte (Mexico)
  • The Gospel According to St. Matthew (Italy, bw)
  • The Grand Illusion (France, bw)
  • Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring (France)
  • Kolya (Czech)
  • L'America (Italy)
  • La Dolce Vita (Italy)
  • The Motorcycle Diaries (US, in Spanish)
  • The Return of Martin Guerre (France)
  • To Live (China)
Docu-dramas, based on true stories
  • A Beautiful Mind
  • Alexander Nevsky (Russia)
  • All the President's Men
  • Citizen X
  • Dead Man Walking
  • Downfall (Germany)
  • Drugstore Cowboy
  • Elizabeth
  • Finding Neverland
  • Gandhi
  • Hope and Glory
  • In Cold Blood
  • The Last Emperor
  • The Madness of King George
  • Mongol (Russia)
  • The Motorcycle Diaries
  • The Name of the Rose
  • Norma Rae
  • October Sky
  • Reds
  • Reilly, Ace of Spies (mini-series)
  • Searching for Bobby Fisher
  • Songcatcher
  • Sybil
  • Tucker: A Man and His Dream
  • The World's Fastest Indian
Jean de Florette and Manon of the Spring are two halves of the same novel, released simultaneously; theater goers could see the movie back-to-back as a double feature, or come back another day for the second part. This is an all-time classic, not to be missed. Nicholas Nickleby (played by Roger Rees) was a film version of the 8-hr London play; it was performed four nights a week in 2-hr segments; on Saturday it was performed in 2-four hour segments with a one hour lunch break. This is easily the best Dickens novel on film. I believe it was only 60 actors who played 250 roles. Milos Foreman directed both Amadeus and One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Bernardo Bertolucci directed both The Conformist and The Last Emperor.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

AFI Ten Top 10's Results

[Of course they were gonna miss some things, but no Dances with Wolves in either epic or western (which somehow included the lame Cat Ballou)? A double western stiff for Costner, with Open Range not in there either. No Aliens or Poltergeist or Spielberg's Close Encounters, Minority Report or War of the Worlds in science fiction, with slots wasted on Invasion of the Body Snatchers and Day the Earth Stood Still? Another best picture that was snubbed was Million Dollar Baby in sports (and Chariots of Fire), which had National Velvet in above Seabiscuit, Black Stallion, Hidalgo and Phar Lap, all much better horse racing films. Somehow they missed Double Indemnity in Mystery Suspense…. But that’s just my opinion, I could be wrong…. The Jman] Worst Best Picture Snubs (among many): Silence of the Lambs, The Departed, Dances With Wolves, Million Dollar Baby, Chariots of Fire, The Last Emperor, Patton, The Bridge On the River Kwai, Out of Africa, My Fair Lady (romantic comedy!) Animation (pretty good choices but Nemo belongs in the top 5, and where is Hoppity Goes to Town, and Cars?) 1. Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs 2. Pinocchio 3. Bambi 4. The Lion King 5. Fantasia 6. Toy Story 7. Beauty and the Beast 8. Shrek 9. Cinderella 10. Finding Nemo Fantasy (good 10 but move Oz down to about 8 and Kong to 10, and Harvey is a one joke movie, give me Babe instead and in the top 5, and maybe Batman or Spiderman here, each better than Kong or Thief) 1. Wizard of Oz 2. Lord of the Rings 3. It’s a Wonderful Life 4. King Kong 5. Miracle on 34th St. 6. Field of Dreams 7. Harvey 8. Groundhog Day 9. Thief of Baghdad 10. Big Science Fiction (where’s Aliens and Close Encounters? Minority Report? Dr. Strangelove?) 1. 2001-A Space Odyssey 2. Star Wars IV-A New Hope (Empire Strikes Back is far better) 3. E.T. (the only Spielberg here?) 4. A Clockwork Orange (read the book!) 5. The Day the Earth Stood Still 6. Blade Runner 7. Alien 8. Terminator 2-Judgment Day 9. Invasion of the Body Snatchers 10. Back to the Future Sports (missing Million Dollar Baby is a travesty; should also have Hoop Dreams, a three hour documentary that was 5 yrs in the making. Rocky is way overrated (maybe the most ever), even Golden Boy was better, and especially Cinderella Man, a true story and film by Ron Howard) 1. Raging Bull 2. Rocky 3. Pride of the Yankees (great choice, coulda been #1) 4. Hoosiers 5. Bull Durham 6. The Hustler 7. Caddyshack 8. Breaking Away (!) 9. National Velvet (ouch; I prefer Seabiscuit, Black Stallion, Hidalgo) 10. Jerry McGuire (yuck) Westerns (I always liked She Wore a Yellow Ribbon better than the Searchers or any other Ford western, 5 and 9 are boring, and Open Range is a new top 5 of mine, but where the heck is Dances with Wolves? Ballou is a farce...on both levels, so is Butch Cassidy) 1. The Searchers 2. High Noon 3. Shane 4. Unforgiven 5. Red River 6. The Wild Bunch 7. Butch Cassidy & the Sundance Kid 8. McCabe and Mrs. Miller 9. Stagecoach 10. Cat Ballou Mystery-Suspense (pretty good choices, but Out of the Past is an all-time top 3 missing here; Blue Velvet is a stretch over Double Indemnity, unbelievably snubbed; also missing is best picture winner Silence of the Lambs) 1. Vertigo 2. Chinatown 3. Rear Window 4. Laura 5. The Third Man 6. The Maltese Falcon 7. North by Northwest 8. Blue Velvet 9. Dial M for Murder 10. The Usual Suspects Romantic Comedy (are you kidding with Chaplin? Hannah and Her Sisters is as good as Annie Hall, and Woody's Alice and Manhattan were as good as half of these, and where is The Graduate, or Parenthood? Harry Met Sally and Adam’s Rib were good surprises, each better than 1, 3, or 4. 8-10 are just average) 1. City Lights 2. Annie Hall 3. It Happened One Night 4. Roman Holiday 5. The Philadelphia Story 6. When Harry Met Sally 7. Adam’s Rib 8. Moonstruck 9. Harold and Maude 10. Sleepless in Seattle (avg, I prefer You've Got Mail) Gangster (pretty good but missing Once Upon a Time in America, as good as the top 3 here; best pic The Departed was snubbed) 1. Godfather 2. Goodfellas 3. Godfather II 4. White Heat 5. Bonnie & Clyde 6. Scarface, The Shame of a Nation (31) 7. Pulp Fiction 8. Public Enemy 9. Little Caesar 10. Scarface (remake, boring...) Courtroom Drama (ok but gimme Caine Mutiny over Few Good Men, and get rid of Kramer altogether for Runaway Jury; and In Cold Blood doesn’t belong here, not a courtroom movie any more than is Goodfellas) 1. To Kill a Mockingbird 2. 12 Angry Men 3. Kramer vs Kramer 4. The Verdict 5. A Few Good Men 6. Witness for the Prosecution 7. Anatomy of a Murder 8. In Cold Blood 9. A Cry in the Dark 10. Judgment at Nuremberg Epic (great #1, and kudos for Reds, but missing Bridge On the River Kwai and Patton; take off 6, 7 and 10, and drop Ben-Hur to about 9-10; add in Dances with Wolves here also or even Doctor Zhivago or the Russian War and Peace by Sergei Bondarchuk, or The Last Emperor) 1. Lawrence of Arabia 2. Ben-Hur 3. Schindler’s List 4. Gone with the Wind 5. Spartacus 6. Titanic 7. All Quiet on the Western Front 8. Saving Private Ryan 9. Reds 10. The Ten Commandments PS - Of all the great Billy Wilder films only Witness for the Prosecution got a mention; Sunset Boulevard should have been in mystery-suspense. Voters are always idiots, you normally get the "lowest common denominator" - that's what makes the picks of 2001, Mockingbird, and Lawrence so surprising.

Saturday, May 24, 2008

My Ten top 10's for the AFI special...

I can’t really predict what the AFI will choose for their 10 top 10’s, but these are the choices I would make, alphabetical by genre. Animation – 101 Dalmatians, Beauty and the Beast, Cars, The Curse of the Were-Rabbit, Fantasia, Finding Nemo, Hoppity Goes to Town, The Mask, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Toy Story (Too bad Nick Park’s short films collected as The Amazing Adventures of Wallace and Gromit aren’t eligible, they all deservedly won Oscars. Jason and the Argonauts, belongs here too but was a mix of live-action and animation; Ray Harryhausen was a true artist. Mary Poppins should be here also another live-animation mix.) Courtroom Drama – 12 Angry Men, Adam’s Rib, Anatomy of a Murder, Breaker Morant, The Caine Mutiny, Inherit the Wind, Judgment at Nuremberg, Runaway Jury, To Kill a Mockingbird, Witness for the Prosecution (Is Agatha Christie's Witness going to be considered a mystery instead? if so, put The Rainmaker here. Definitely not Kramer vs Kramer or A Few Good Men, they'll probably include both due to popularity, and Adam's Rib was really a comedy anyway, but you gotta put it somewhere.) Epic – The Bridge On the River Kwai, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Gandhi, The Gangs of New York, Gladiator, Hero (the Chinese one with Jet Li), The Last Emperor, Lawrence of Arabia, Patton, The Seven Samurai (If Seven Samurai is elibigle, that would replace Ben-Hur, which was pretty boring other than the ship battle and the chariot race. Sergi Bondarchuk's 7-hr Russian "War and Peace" should be here too, but was also, like the book, way too long and had a Hollywood ending; but it did have 250,000 Red Army extras and cost 100 million in the early 70's; that's like a trillion now, right? Which was really a better film: Doctor Zhivago or Reds?) I've got SIX best pictures listed... Fantasy – 5000 Fingers of Doctor T, Babe, Batman, Dr. Strangelove, Field of Dreams, Ghostbusters, It’s a Wonderful Life, Lord of the Rings Trilogy, Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy, Raiders of the Lost Ark (Will they consider a trilogy as one or three separate films? To me, if it’s one story then it’s one long film. With Pirates, I liked Dead Man’s Chest the most, and Return of the King from the Rings trilogy) Gangster – The Big Sleep, Bonnie and Clyde, The Departed, The Godfather, The Godfather II, Goodfellas, Once Upon a Time in America, Pulp Fiction, The Replacement Killers, Witness (didn't know where to put this; if not eligible, then The Yakuza. Little Caesar belong here as well: "You can still dish it out but you just can't take it anymore!") Mystery – The Conversation, Double Indemnity, The Maltese Falcon, Memento, The Name of the Rose, Out of the Past, Psycho, Silence of the Lambs, The Sixth Sense, Sleuth (Is Maltese Falcon really a gangster film, and is Silence a mystery, or suspense, where you know the criminal beforehand?) Romantic Comedy – A Room With a View, Annie Hall, The Graduate, Groundhog Day, Hannah and Her Sisters, My Fair Lady, Parenthood, Raising Arizona, Shakespeare in Love, When Harry Met Sally (Are both A Room with a View and Much Ado About Nothing ineligible since they’re both British? They definitely belong here. If Room or Shakespeare are ineligible, I would add Beautiful Girls to this genre, maybe even Singin' in the Rain: "I ain't people, I am a shining star in the firmament".) Science Fiction – 2001: A Space Odyssey, Aliens, Back to the Future, Close Encounters of the Third Kind, Contact, The Empire Strikes Back, E.T., The Matrix, Star Wars Trilogy, Terminator 2 (The Road Warrior belongs here but is it really science fiction, or action/adventure? A better film than half of these! If they break up the Star Wars trilogy, I liked The Empire Strikes Back the best) Sports – Breaking Away, Cinderella Man, Friday Night Lights, Glory Road, Hoop Dreams, Million Dollar Baby, The Natural, Pride of the Yankees, Raging Bull, Seabiscuit remake. (They’ll have Rocky here but I hated its contrived and predictable story, I kept pulling for him to get pummeled right out of boxing; even the original Bad News Bears was a better sports film. Also, Requiem for a Heavyweight belongs here but wasn’t that a TV movie? Even Golden Boy, bw w William Holden, was a better boxing film) Western – Dances with Wolves, The Grey Fox, High Noon, Hud, McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Open Range, Shane, She Wore a Yellow Ribbon, Treasure of the Sierra Madre, Unforgiven (Hud is a modern western, doesn’t that count? The Searchers is overrated and racist, I prefer “Yellow Ribbon” of all the John Ford westerns. Lonesome Dove was a tv "mini-series", as was The Broken Trail, but both belong here, and both starred Robert Duvall, as did Open Range; as he put it "my western trilogy".) Author’s Notes: I’m not certain that their list is limited to American films, and if not I would definitely place Jean de Florette/Manon of the Spring (French, one novel in two parts) in epic, City of God (Brazil) in gangster, and Diva (French) in mystery. I’m also not sure if they will consider Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon a U.S. or Chinese film, nor if they would consider Dr. Strangelove a fantasy, but this is such a great film that it belongs somewhere; technically it’s a comedy, but not “romantic”, same with Airplane! and M*A*S*H. Is Field of Dreams a Fantasy or a Sports film? I’ve often had this argument with people, it’s a parable about the spiritual realm, and uses baseball for a metaphor, but is not about a sport. I’m also certain that the AFI will include some films I think are highly overrated like Gone With the Wind and Rocky

Friday, May 16, 2008

The American Film Institute Top 10 Special, June 17th

Don't miss the upcoming special from the non-profit American Film Institute, its Emmy-award winning "AFI's 100 Years..." television series. This year they've altered the format; instead of 100 films related to a single genre, this time they will feature AFI'S 10 TOP 10 – the top ten films in ten different genres: animation, fantasy, science fiction, gangster, western, sports, romantic comedy, courtroom drama, mystery and epic films. (What: no musicals? no war films? regular comedy that isn't "romantic"? Romances that aren't comedies?) The show will air Tuesday, June 17 (8:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS. Each of the 10 film genres will feature a different host (we’ll give you a heads up in the next couple of weeks of who they are) and the films in each list will be the definitive best as selected by over 1,500 leaders in the film community. You are unable to vote, however you can still check out the AFI lists, download the ballot for this year’s show on the AFI website (registration required, FYI): AFI 100 Years List and predict who you think the winners will be.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

No Country for Atonement of Michael Clayton in the Wild

I finally got to see all the major films nominated for Oscars and other awards this year. It was actually quite an impressive batch of films. These were my favorite:
  1. No Country for Old Men - always loved the Coen Brothers, this was probably their most eloquent and poetic film, yet remaining enigmatic and unique throughout. I still enjoyed Raising Arizona most of theirs, but No Country is a more classic artistic success, both giving tribute to film noir without just copying the style and taking it to perhaps a new level in expression, much the same as Pulp Fiction did to the dime novel style of crime fiction.
  2. Atonement - this had the best epic feel of classic movies, bringing to mind David Lean and classic Victorian novels and perhaps even Brideshead Revisited, the epic TV series. This was also the best story of any of the award films. Vanessa Redgrave gave an Oscar worthy performance in five minutes. The long tracking scene of the main character arriving at Dunkirk, that follows him along the beach and past a bandstand, carousel, finally to the deck of a cantina overlooking the entire scene, is one of the most memorable in recent films. It calls to mind scenes from Lawrence of Arabia, Bridge Over the River Kwai, The Longest Day and other epic war films. The green dress designed for Kiera Knightly is simply the most seductive dress in all of film history.
  3. In the Wild - this true story of a non-conformist Georgia youth searching for himself and wisdom in the solitude of nature is a terrific near-mythic parable of individuality in primal nature. Director Sean Penn raises it to an almost religious exerience. Not to be missed.
  4. Michael Clayton - I liked this story a lot, and the Oscar-winning performance of Tilda Swinton. I can't say much without giving away something, but an excellent legal drama with good plot twists.
  5. The Bourne Ultimatum - Enjoyed all the Bourne films, this one is perhaps the most exciting, won a couple of Oscars for sound. Make sure you've seen the first two however, as the story of Matt Damon's title character is a progressive one (connected to memory loss) including those of all the peripheral characters as well.
  6. Pirates 3: At World's End - I've enjoyed all three Pirates of the Caribbean films (Dead Man's Chest the most), I can see how they appeal to both children and adults, with specials effects that dwarf Indiana Jones, and totally preposterous events, such as the swordfight inside the rolling water wheel in Dead Man's Chest. Everything about these is actually quite perfect, and are the first pirate movies to ever make a profit, believe it or not. Not sure about the Best Acting nomination for Depp in the first however, not among his best performances of Finding Neverland, The Libertine, and Sweeney Todd.
  7. Elizabeth: The Golden Age - simply ethereal costumes, which deservedly won an Oscar. This story was not as lyrical or mythical as the first, however, not as interesting, just didn't grab and hold you like the first.
Just a word about other recent films: Thank You for Smoking, from last year, was also nearly flawless, a very underrated film, and a comedy that made an important statement, or several. The Departed, though very good, wasn't Scorcese's best recent movie: Gangs of New York was a major achievement, as epic a movie about U.S. history as you'll ever see, and Daniel-Day Lewis' performance of Bill the Butcher is one of the all-time great movie villains, totally unforgettable, who won every award that year except the Oscar (go figure).

Friday, May 9, 2008

World's Best Action and Adventure

Action and / or adventure films Films in gold won Best Picture Oscars®
  • The Adventures of Robin Hood
  • Around the World in 80 Days (original)
  • Batman
  • Ben-Hur (10 Oscars)
  • Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China)
  • El Mariachi (Mexico)
  • The French Connection
  • The Game
  • Gladiator
  • Hero (Jet Li's, China)
  • La Femme Nikita (France)
  • The Man Who Would Be King
  • Pirates of the Caribbean Trilogy
  • The Raiders of the Lost Ark
  • The Replacement Killers
  • The Right Stuff
  • The Road Warrior
  • Run, Lola, Run (German)
  • The Seven Samurai (Japan, bw)
  • Spiderman
  • The Stunt Man
  • Terminator 2: Judgment Day
  • V For Vendetta
We now have to include "Jet Li's" with the Chinese film Hero due to a U.S. one with the same name. This one involved two directors and had an incredible sequence used by BOSE for a tv surround sound system ad. Jet said it was the greatest script he had ever read. The Seven Samurai was the basis for the Western The Magnificent Seven, and for the space film Battle Beyond the Stars. People laughed at me when I saw Gladiator at the theater and told them it would get at least five Oscar nominations if people saw it. V For Vendetta is by the Washowski Brothers, who gave us the Matrix Trilogy. This revolutionary tome is even better, see if you recognize the voice behind the mask!

World's Best Science Fiction & Fantasy

The worlds best fantasy and science fiction films
Runners-Up: 2010, A Boy and His Dog, The Abyss, Outland, Silent Running, Star Wars, Return of the Jedi, The Wrath of Khan, Vanilla Sky, 2046 (Japan), Gulliver's Travels (mini-series)

The Prisoner was actor Patrick McGoohan's tv sequel to his first show, Secret Agent Man, and still has a large cult following due to its originality and statements about brainwashing, freedom, individuality, non-conformity, and government repression. It was planned as a 16-part complete series with an ending, first time ever on television, and British of course.

A Clockwork Orange was good, and the first and maybe only film rated X for violence (tame by today's standards), but the book was phenomenol, one of the best ever, Burgess wrote it to exorcise demons from a real life home invasion by a gang. The entire book was in Alex's vernacular, and later editions had a necessary glossary of the invented slang. "Hey, Billy Boy, come and get one in the yarbles, if you have any yarbles that is, ya eunuch jelly thou."

Big Fish is my favorite Tim Burton film, a beautiful fantasy of tall tales.

Where to you put Poltergeist, is it horror or science fiction? Same with Aliens.

Saturday, May 3, 2008

World's Best Sports Films

Films in gold won Best Picture Oscars®
  • Breaking Away
  • Bull Durham
  • Chariots of Fire
  • Field of Dreams
  • Friday Night Lights
  • Glory Road
  • Golden Boy
  • The Great White Hope
  • Hoop Dreams (doc.)
  • Hoosiers
  • Million Dollar Baby
  • The Natural
  • Phar Lap
  • Pride of the Yankees
  • Raging Bull
  • Requiem for a Heavyweight
  • Seabiscuit (remake)
I guess I stretched a bit to make a sports list, as Bull Durham and Breaking Away belong in comedy, and Field of Dreams in fantasy & science fiction. Five boxing films and no Rocky... well, there are much better boxing films above. Raging Bull should have been Scorsese's first directing Oscar, and Goodfellas or Gangs of New York should have been his second, then his Oscar for The Departed could have gone to Alejandro Inarritu for Babel, which was filmed on three continents and in four languages. Friday Night Lights is probably the first great football film.

Friday, May 2, 2008

World's Best Horror Films

  • Aliens
  • American Werewolf in London
  • The Changeling
  • Jurassic Park
  • King Kong (bw)
  • The Lady in White
  • Nightmare on Elm St.
  • Poltergeist
  • The Ring
  • The Sixth Sense
Also: Thought not traditional horror, Requiem for a Dream from the brilliant David Aronofsky (only his 2nd film, Pi was the other) is the scariest film of the decade, and fans of hiding in the closet or even some gore won't be disappointed (warning though: NOT for the squeamish or under-18, and I'm not kidding) Five of these are monster movies, five are ghost stories. Some of these can easily double as Fantasy-Science Fiction films, like Aliens and Poltergeist, so they are on both lists. King Kong makes it as the original monster movie, and still the best. The Changeling is a classic-style horror story with George C. Scott. The Exorcist could be here if it wasn't so laughable and boring; same with Jaws (one thrill every 15 minutes on cue, sending all the kids at my theater screaming up the aisles!).

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Oscars 2008: No Country for Old Men

... but a good country for Coens... see my previous post for my predictions, I only hit the big ones and the Bourne ones. No Country for Old Men won the big prize for Best Picture, and the Coens won for that as co-producers, they won as directors, and for the screenplay - and Javier Bardem won supporting actor so it got four awards overall. Bourne Ultimatum actually won three: sound editing, sound mixing, film editing - that's about all it was up for! Daniel-Day Lewis won actor as expected for There Will Be Blood, which also won for cinematography by Robert Elswit. Big surprise was Marion Cotillard for Best Actress - she was speechless and basically just cried; La Vie En Rose also won for makeup for making her look like Edith Piaf (the transformation was almost surreal). I think Julie Christie was the easy favorite, and was terrific in Away from Her. Tilda Swinton was a surprise for supporting actress (I thought Ruby Dee or Cate Blanchett) - it was the only award Michael Clayton got. More solo awards: Atonement won for music, Juno for orig. screenplay, Sweeny Todd got art direction, Ratatouille won Animated Feature, and Golden Compass won Special Effects - figured they'd get a bone tossed to each - now they can all be on TBS' "Academy Award Movies" show. Documentary was Taxi to the Dark Side, which looked like a harrowing look inside Iraq. Best Song was interesting - a couple of musicians in Ireland made a movie in 17 days, put their "Falling Slowly" song in it and won the Best Song Oscar! Composers were were Glen Hansford and Marketa Irglova, said they made their film for one-hundred thousand. (Dollars? Euros? Pounds?) Still a lot of spare change in the guitar case. Best Foreign Language Film was the first win ever for Austria, a film about Nazis called The Counterfeiters - the director said Billy Wilder and Otto Preminger came here from Austria to escape the Nazis, so it was fitting that their first Oscar would be a film about Nazis. Daniel-Day Lewis got his Oscar from Helen Mirren and he knelt before her and she pretended to knight him with the Oscar... that British humor!

Friday, February 22, 2008

Oscar Predictions for 2008

Best Picture: No Country for Old Men - because I like the Coen Brothers (Raising Arizona, Fargo) Director: Joel and Ethan Coen (No Country for Old Men)- because they can give one award and they both get Oscars Actor: Daniel-Day Lewis (There Will Be Blood) -because he's one of the five best living actors (De Niro, Freeman, Hackman, Nicholson) and shoulda won #2 for Gangs of New York Actress: Julie Christie (Away From Her)- because she's still a babe and this may be her last chance for #2 and who the hell is this Cotillard babe anyway and did she do her own singing? Christie won half a century ago, just before Beatlemania. Supporting Actor: Javier Bardem (No Country for Old Men)- because he's Penelope Cruz' boyfriend and has won 378 awards already Supporting Actress: Ruby Dee (American Gangster)- because she's old and this may be her last chance and she's been a pro forever Writing - Adapted Screenplay: Atonement - because it won't win any big awards, they can toss it this bone and one Coen won a writing Oscar already for Fargo Writing - Original Screenplay: Michael Clayton - because it won't win any big awards, they can toss it this bone... blah blah You want writing? "Doubt that the stars are fire, doubt that the sun doth move, Doubt that the truth's a liar, but never doubt my love" -- Hamlet Cinematography: I dunno, I didn't see enough of 'em... ok: No Country again Film Editing: I dunno, I didn't see enough of 'em... ok: Bourne Ultimatum, good action flick! Music: now Sweeney Todd is a musical, but its ineligible cuz the music was written before this year, for the play? now that makes sense... Song: what, no Randy Newman song this year? then I don't care... Foreign Language Films: who watches films with subtitles? Sound Mixing, Sound Editing: what's the freakin difference, was the sound incredible or not? Bourne had good sound... Documentary and Short Subject: whatever's the most politically correct topic this year (Iraq, the Holocaust, AIDS, subprime loan failures, Chinese lead-coated toys) Who needs writers for this dribble? The best two Oscar presenters ever were Sasheen Littlefeather reading for Brando and David Niven responding to a streaker with ad libs and style. They like to spread the Oscars around nowdays so more films are eligible for the "Academy Award Film Festivals" they have on TBS.

Friday, February 8, 2008

Additions and Under Consideration

New additions:
  • A Boy Ten Feet Tall (childrens)
  • A Coal Miner's Daughter (musical/concert)
  • A Tree Grows in Brooklyn (bw, drama)
  • The Apartment (bw)
  • Baby Boom (comedy)
  • Bad Timing, a Sexual Obsession (romance)
  • Black Orpheus (musical/concert)
  • Bride and Prejudice (India, musical)
  • Broadcast News (drama)
  • Broken Trail (western, mini-series)
  • Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (western)
  • Dead Can Dance: Toward the Within (musical/concert)
  • Dead Man Walking (drama)
  • Dominick and Eugene (drama)
  • Double Indemnity (bw, crime-7 Oscar noms)
  • Elmer Gantry (bw, drama)
  • The Emigrants (foreign lang, Sweden)
  • Empire Falls (drama, mini-series)
  • Fellini's Amarcord (foreign lang, Italy)
  • Five Easy Pieces (romance)
  • Frequency (Fantasy & SF)
  • The Grand Illusion (bw, foreign lang, France)
  • Gung Ho! (comedy)
  • Hud (bw, drama)
  • The Hustler (bw, drama)
  • The Last Picture Show (bw, drama)
  • Led Zeppelin (2 dvd, concert)
  • Little Foxes (bw, drama)
  • The Magnificent Ambersons (bw, drama)
  • McCabe and Mrs. Miller (western)
  • My Dog Skip (childrens)
  • My Life as a Dog (foreign lang, Sweden)
  • Peggy Sue Got Married (romantic comedy)
  • Peter Gabriel: Secret World Live (musical/concert)
  • The Player (crime & mystery)
  • The Producers (comedy, orig. vrsn)
  • Pulp Fiction (crime)
  • The Seventh Seal (foreign lang, Sweden)
  • Snow White & the Seven Dwarfs (childrens)
  • Stars Fell on Henrietta
  • The Sweet Hereafter (drama)
  • The Thin Man (series, comedy)
  • The Truth About Cats and Dogs (romantic comedy)
  • The Wings of the Dove (romance)
We have a number of films under consideration, both suggestions from the blog (thanks to Beth G, master fan of BW movies) and a personal list I need to rewatch:
  • The 39 Steps (bw)
  • D.O.A. (bw, original)
  • Dolores Claiborne
  • The Discreet Charm of the Bourgoisie (France)
  • Jules and Jim (bw, France)
  • The Lady Vanishes (bw)
  • The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (Narnia 1)
  • Magic Town (bw)
  • Orlando
  • Panic in the Streets (bw)
  • Proof
  • Runaway Jury
  • Separate Tables (bw)
  • Shadow of a Doubt (bw)
  • Shoot the Piano Player (France, bw)
  • Walk the Line

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

The World's Best Films Introduction

We will list and review the greatest films in history, wherever and whenever they were produced. We will also pan those often considered classics by those with either limited exposure or undeveloped powers of artistic discrimination. Great films: The Best Years of Our Lives, Lawrence of Arabia, City of God, Memento, The Seven Samurai, Hero (Jet Li's), Babe, Finding Neverland, Parenthood, Hannah & Her Sisters Bad films: Cleopatra, Rocky, Saturday Night Fever, Oklahoma, South Pacific, Rambo, Footloose, Blazing Saddles, Top Gun, Beverly Hills Cop (could a crime film be any slower paced?) Stuck in the middle with you: Wizard of Oz, Gone With the Wind, Star Wars, West Side Story, The Sound of Music, Kramer vs Kramer, Titanic (good special effects, bad plot) NOTE: I just found this Time magazine "re-review" of Titanic: "Titanic? I caused a bit of a ruckus by reviewing the film a few weeks before it opened and declaring it, at least artistically, "dead in the water." (Matt Drudge later claimed that I was put up to my pan by Time Warner boss Gerald Levin. Not true! I disliked the movie all on my own.) After rewatching it this week, I feel a bit warmer about the Winslet-DiCaprio love story, especially since serioso heterosexual romance has just about disappeared from movie screens in the intervening decade. But I still find the shipboard storyline clunky and unpersuasive, and I still can't wait for the damned iceberg to show up. Sue me for not having a heart." Enjoy and feel free to leave comments!

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

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