Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Films Reviewed in May 2011

These are the 42 films we reviewed in May at our companion site 1000 Dvds to See
(we concentrated on war films for our Memorial Day War-a-thon of 20 more war film reviews)

Departures, Japan

A Town Like Alice (1981) Australia
Alexander Nevsky (1938) Russia, bw
The Apartment (1960) bw
Basic Instinct (1992)
Breaker Morant (1980) War-a-thon
Bury My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007) War-a-thon
The Crying Game (1992)
Departures (2008) Japan *10*
Diabolique (1955) France, bw
Digging to China (1998)
Empire of the Sun (1987) War-a-thon
Enemy at the Gates (2001) War-a-thon
The English Patient (1996) War-a-thon
Gallipoli (1981) War-a-thon
Gettysburg (1993) War-a-thon
Glory (1989) War-a-thon
Inherit the Wind (1960) bw
The Killing Fields (1984) War-a-thon
King of Masks (1997) China-Hong Kong
Kingdom of Heaven (2005) War-a-thon
The Last of the Mohicans (1992) War-a-thon
Lawn Dogs (1997)
Legend of 1900 (1998) Italy
Letters From Iwo Jima (2006) War-a-thon
The Longest Day (1962) bw War-a-thon
M. (1931) Germany, bw
Marwencol (2010)
Napoléon (1927) France, bw-silent
The Night Porter (1974) Italy War-a-thon
Nosferatu (1922) Germany, bw-silent
Off the Map (2003)
One, Two, Three (1961) bw
Quiz Show (1994)
Raise the Red Lantern (1991) China
Restrepo (2010) War-a-thon
Spartacus (1960) War-a-thon
Spring in a Small Town (1948) China, bw
They Were Expendable (1945) bw War-a-thon
The Thin Red Line (1998) bw War-a-thon
Touch of Evil (1958) bw
Troy (2004) War-a-thon
When Trumpets Fade (1998) War-a-thon

Enemy at the Gates

Monday, May 30, 2011

Academy Awards for Foreign Language Film

Oscar® winning Foreign Language Films
updated august, 2011

The Russian War and Peace (1968), directed
by Sergei Bondarchuk was the most expensive
movie made at that point, costing 100 million
and using 250,000 extras for battle scenes

Followed by country and director

1947: Shoeshine (Italy) Vittorio DeSica
1948: Monsieur Vincent (France) Maurice Cloche
1949: The Bicycle Thief (Italy) Vittorio DeSica
1950: The Walls of Malapaga (France/Italy) Rene Clement
1951: Rashomon (Japan) Akira Kurosawa
1952: Forbidden Games (France) Rene Clement
1953: No Award
1954: Gate of Hell (Japan) Teinosuke Kinugasa
1955: Samurai 1:Musashi Miyamoto (Japan) Hiroshi Inagaki
1956: La Strada (Italy) Federico Fellini
1957: Nights of Cabiria (Italy) Federico Fellini
1958: Mon Uncle (France) Jacques Tati
1959: Black Orpheus (France) Marcel Camus
1960: The Virgin Spring (Sweden) Ingmar Bergman
1961: Through a Glass Darkly (Sweden) Ingmar Bergman
1962: Sundays and Cybele (France) Serge Bourguignon
1963: 8 ½ (Italy) Federico Fellini
1964: Yesterday, Today, & Tomorrow (Italy) Vittorio DeSica
1965: The Shop on Main St (Czechoslovakia) Jan Kadar and Elmar Klos
1966: A Man and a Woman (France) Claude Lelouch
1967: Closely Watched Trains (Czechoslovakia) Jiri Menzel
1968: War and Peace (Russia) Sergei Bondarchuk
1969: Z (Algeria) Constantin Costa-Gavras
1970: Investigation of A Citizen Above Suspicion (Italy) Elio Petri
1971: The Garden of the Finzi-Continis (Italy) Vittorio DeSica
1972: The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (France) Luis Buñuel
1973: Day for Night (France) Francois Truffaut
1974: Amarcord (Italy) Federico Fellini
1975: Dersu Uzala (Soviet Union/Japan) Akira Kurosawa
1976: Black and White in Color (Ivory Coast) Jean-Jacques Annaud
1977: Madame Rosa (France) Moshe Mizrahi
1978: Get Out Your Handkerchiefs (France) Bertrand Blier
1979: Tin Drum (West Germany) Volker Schlondorff
1980: Moscow Does Not Believe in Tears (Soviet Union Vladimir Menshov
1981: Mephisto (Hungary) Istvan Szabo
1982: To Begin Again (Spain) Jose Luis Garci
1983: Fanny and Alexander (Sweden) Ingmar Bergman
1984: Dangerous Moves (Switzerland) Richard Dembo
1985: The Official Story (Argentina) Luis Puenzo
1986: The Assault (The Netherlands) Fons Rademakers
1987: Babette’s Feast (Denmark) Gabriel Axel
1988: Pelle the Conquerer (Denmark) Bille August
1989: Cinema Paradiso (Italy) Giuseppe Tornatore
1990: Journey of Hope (Switzerland) Xavier Koller
1991: Mediterraneo (Italy) Gabriele Salvatores
1992: Indochine (France) Regis Wargnier
1993: Belle Epoque (Spain) Fernando Trueba
1994: Burnt by the Sun (Russia) Nikita Mikhalkov
1995: Antonia’s Line (The Netherlands) Marleen Gorris
1996: Kolya (Czech Republic) Jan Sverak
1997: Character (The Netherlands) Mike Van Diem
1998: Life is Beautiful (Italy) Roberto Benigni
1999: All About My Mother (Spain) Pedro Almodovar
2000: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (China/Hong Kong/Taiwan/USA) Ang Lee
2001: No Man’s Land (Belgium) Danis Tanovic
2002: Nowhere in Africa (Germany) Caroline Link
2003: The Barbarian Invasions (Canada/France) Denys Arcand
2004: The Sea Inside (Spain) Alejandro Amenabar
2005: Tsotsi (South Africa) Gavin Hood
2006: The Lives of Others (Germany) Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck
2007: The Counterfeiters (Austria) Stefan Ruzowitzky
2008: Departures (Japan) Yôjirô Takita
2009: The Secret in Their Eyes (Argentina) Juan José Campanella
2010: In a Better World (Denmark) Susanne Bier

Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)

Wins by Country (62 presented, 3 by double countries)
France 13
Italy 13
Japan 5
Germany, Russia, Spain  - all 4 each
Denmark, Czechoslovakia, The Netherlands, Sweden, all 3 each
Switzerland 2

Other Winners: Algeria, Ivory Coast, Canada, China/Hong Kong, Hungary, Belgium, Austria, So. Africa

Top Tens
My top 10 Foreign Language winners (of those I’ve seen, about 2/3)
1. Cinema Paradiso (1989)
2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (2000)
3. Departures (2008)* (new - an amazing film)
4. The Lives of Others (2006)
5. Kolya (1996)
6. Nowhere in Africa (2002)
7. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
8. Mephisto (1981)
9. Black Orpheus (1959)
10. War and Peace (1968)
11. The Shop on Main Street (1965)
12. Garden of the Finzi-Continis (1971)

Note: My favorite foreign film is Zhang Yimou’s Hero, which lost the Oscar in 2002 (to Nowhere in Africa), and is the highest-grossing film in Chinese history.

Where are Herzog's Fitzcarraldo, Peterson's Das Boot, Trojan's Zelary and Meirelles' City of God (Brazil, FIVE Oscar nominations: Foreign Film, Director, Cinematography, Editing, Adapted Screenplay; Time Top-100 Alltime!)? Each is better than most of these winners.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

100 Great War Films for Memorial Day

Our Memorial Day Special - films listed by wars they represent

WAR FILMS for MEMORIAL DAY (111 total)

[Each title links to our review at 1000 Dvds to See]
AA = Academy Award for best picture
* = our pick in each subset

Ancient Wars  - 5
300 (2006)  [photo above]
Alexander Nevsky (1938) USSR, bw
*Gladiator (2000)  AA
Kingdom of Heaven (2005)
Spartacus (1960)
Troy (2004)

Revolutionary War – 1
Last of the Mohicans (1992)

Civil War -3
Gettysburg (1993)
*Glory (1989)
The Red Badge of Courage (1951) bw

Indian Wars -3
Buried My Heart at Wounded Knee (2007)
*Dances With Wolves (1990)  AA
She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)

Bolshevist Revolution -3
*The Battleship Potemkin (1925) USSR, bw  [photo above]
Doctor Zhivago (1965)
Reds (1981)

World War One - 6
A Very Long Engagement (2004) France
All Quiet On the Western Front (1930) bw  AA
Gallipoli (1981)
Grand Illusion (1937) France, bw
*Lawrence of Arabia (1962)   AA  [photo above]
Paths of Glory (1957) bw

World War Two - 35
A Matter of Life and Death (1946)
Ballad of a Soldier (1959) Russia, bw
*Band of Brothers (2001) tv [miniseries, 10 hrs]
Black Book (2006) Netherlands
*The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)  AA
Come and See (1985) Russia
The Counterfeiters (2007) Austria
Das Boot (The Boat) (1981) Germany
Days of Glory (2006) Algeria
Defiance (2008)
Downfall (2004) Germany
El Alamein (2002) Italy
Empire of the Sun (1987)
Enemy at the Gates (2001)
The English Patient (1996)  AA
Fateless (2005) Hungary-France-UK, bw
The Great Escape (1963)
Ivan's Childhood (1962) Russia, bw
Kapó (1959) Italy, bw
Letters From Iwo Jima (2006)
The Longest Day (1962) bw
The Night Porter (1974) Italy
The Pacific (2010)
Patton (1970)  AA
Sahara (1943) bw
Saving Private Ryan (1998)
Schindler's List (1993) bw  AA
Seven Beauties (1975) Italy
Stalag 17 (1953) bw
They Were Expendable (1945) bw
The Thin Red Line (1998)
The Train (1964) bw
Valkyrie (2008)
When Trumpets Fade (1998)

Civilians in Wartime - 16
A Canterbury Tale (1944) bw [photo above]
A Town Like Alice (1981) Australia
Atonement (2007)
Au Hasard Balthazar (1966) France, bw
*The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) bw  AA
Casablanca (1942) bw  AA
The Children of Huang Shi (2007) Australia
*The Conformist (1970) Italy
Devils On the Doorstep (2000), China, bw
Goodnight Mister Tom (1998) tv
Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Japan
Hope and Glory (1987)
Mephisto (1981) Hungary
Mrs. Miniver (1942) bw  AA
The Shop on Main St. (1965) Czechoslavakia, bw
Sunshine (1999) Germ.-Austria-Can.-Hung.

Korea -1
MASH (1970)

Cold War -3
*Dr. Strangelove (1964) bw
The Russians are Coming (1966)
Seven Days in May (1964) bw

Vietnam -6
*Apocalypse Now! (1979) [photo above]
Coming Home (1978)
The Deer Hunter (1978)  AA
Full Metal Jacket (1987)
The Killing Fields (1984)
Platoon (1986)  AA

Modern Wars -13
*Battle of Algiers (1965) France, bw
Black Hawk Down (2001)  [photo above]
Ché (2008)
Green Zone (2010)
The Hurt Locker (2009)  AA
Lebanon (2009) Israel
Lord of War (2005)
No Man’s Land (2001) Bosnia
Prisoner of the Mountains (1996) Russia
Restrepo (2010)
*Turtles Can Fly (2004) Iran-Iraq
War Photographer (2001) Switzerland
Warriors (Guerreros, 2007) Spain

Terrorism -4
A Wednesday (2008) India
The Kingdom (2007)
Rendition (2007)
*United 93 (2006)

Asian Wars - 6
*Hero (2002) China
Farewell My Concubine (1993) China
The Last Emperor (1987)  AA
Mongol (2007) Russia
Red Cliff (2008) China
*The Seven Samurai (1957) Japan, bw [photo above]

Other Wars -3
Breaker Morant (1980) 2nd Boer War
*War and Peace (1968) Russia Napoleonic  [photo above]
The Wind That Shakes the Barley (2006) Irish Revolution

Future Wars -4
Aliens (1986) [photo above]
Avatar (2009)
*Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2003) New Zealand  AA
Star Wars Trilogy (1983)

The only films considered were those making my top 1000 at the blog 1000 Dvds to See - I could have thrown in another 100 mediocre war films, but that's not as important as keeping only quality films on my review site.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Best 10 Films of China and Hong Kong

© William L. Sinclair
These rankings are from our compendium of all internet film polls, posted here..

Top ranked films on the net from China (7), Hong Kong (8), and Taiwan (8).

1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [Lee, Ang; 2000] #152 - China-Taiwan-US [photo above]
2. Spring in a Small Town [Fei Mu; 1948] #674 - China
3. House of Flying Daggers [Zhang Yimou; 2004] #710 - China
4. Yellow Earth [Chen Kaige; 1984] #854 - China
5. Red Sorghum [Zhang Yimou; 1987] #918 - China
6. Flight of the Red Balloon, The [Hsiao-hsien Hou; 2007] #943 - China
7. King of the Children [Chen Kaige; 1987] #1179 - China

Hong Kong
1. In the Mood for Love [Wong Kar-Wai; 2001] #272 - Hong Kong-France [photo rt]
2. Raise the Red Lantern [Zhang Yimou; 1991] #303 - Hong Kong
3. Farewell, My Concubine [Chen Kaige; 1993] #456 - Hong Kong-China
4. Chungking Express [Wong Kar-Wai; 1994] #534 - Hong Kong
5. Killer, The [Woo, John; 1989] #709 - Hong Kong
6. Happy Together [Wong Kar-Wai; 1997] #1085 - Hong Kong
7. Days of Being Wild [Wong Kar-Wai; 1990] #1118 - Hong Kong
8. Fallen Angels [Wong Kar-Wai; 1995] #1147 - Hong Kong

1. Yi yi [Yang, Edward; 2000] #223 - Taiwan-Japan
2. Time to Live and the Time to Die, The [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1985] #501 - Taiwan
3. City of Sadness, A [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1989] #509 - Taiwan
4. Touch of Zen, A [Hu, King; 1969] #660 - Taiwan
5. Brighter Summer Day, A [Yang, Edward; 1991] #721 - Taiwan
6. Puppetmaster, The [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1993] #817 - Taiwan
7. Flowers of Shanghai [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1998] #898 - Taiwan
8. Vive L'Amour [Tsai Ming-Liang; 1994] #1062 - Taiwan
[Unfortunately, the films of Hou Hsaio-Hsien are hard to find; the only films on this list I've seen are Flowers of Shanghai, reviewed, and  Yi Yi, not reviewed]

These are all worth seeing, Zhang Yimou and Wong Kar-Wai are among my favorite all-time directors, and Ang Lee never made a bad film in the east or west. [Of the Taiwan films, I've only seen Yi Yi] Two of Kar-Wai's best films were meant as one long film: Chungking Express, followed by Fallen Angels - together they inspired Tarantino's Pulp Fiction. Yimou's films got him the job of planning the ceremonies at the Beijing summer Olympics, which were mind-boggling.

Zhang Yimou's Hero, top-grossing film in Chinese history, exciting action and a terrific screenplay with a winding plot about assassins after the King of Q'in.

Zhang Yimou's To Live, grand prize winner at Cannes, a beautiful romantic epic about a Chinese family, covers about four decades in their lives.

Zhang Yimou's The Road Home, audience winner at Sundance, introduced Ziyi Zhang to the west; a story of a lifetime marriage from its beginnings, and the long road home at the end.

Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman, from Taiwan; a delicious film about a master chef and his unmarried daughters.

Chien Kaige's The Emperor and the Assassin, a beautiful historical costume epic with a twisty plot.

Wong Kar-Wai's Ashes of Time Redux - a re-edited version of his samurai film about a wine that makes one forget

Combining all the above as just China, we get this list:
1. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon [Lee, Ang; 2000] #152 - China-Taiwan-US
2. Yi yi [Yang, Edward; 2000] #223 - Taiwan-Japan
3. In the Mood for Love [Wong Kar-Wai; 2001] #272 - Hong Kong-France
4. Raise the Red Lantern [Zhang Yimou; 1991] #303 - Hong Kong
5. Farewell, My Concubine [Chen Kaige; 1993] #456 - Hong Kong-China
6. Time to Live and the Time to Die, The [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1985] #501 - Taiwan
7. City of Sadness, A [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1989] #509 - Taiwan
8. Chungking Express [Wong Kar-Wai; 1994] #534 - Hong Kong
9. Touch of Zen, A [Hu, King; 1969] #660 - Taiwan
10. Spring in a Small Town [Fei Mu; 1948] #674 - China
11. Killer, The [Woo, John; 1989] #709 - Hong Kong
12. House of Flying Daggers [Zhang Yimou; 2004] #710 - China
13. Brighter Summer Day, A [Yang, Edward; 1991] #721 - Taiwan
14. Puppetmaster, The [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1993] #817 - Taiwan
15. Yellow Earth [Chen Kaige; 1984] #854 - China
16. Flowers of Shanghai [Hou Hsiao-Hsien; 1998] #898 - Taiwan
17. Red Sorghum [Zhang Yimou; 1987] #918 - China
18. Flight of the Red Balloon, The [Hsiao-hsien Hou; 2007] #943 - China
19. Vive L'Amour [Tsai Ming-Liang; 1994] #1062 - Taiwan
20. Happy Together [Wong Kar-Wai; 1997] #1085 - Hong Kong
21. Days of Being Wild [Wong Kar-Wai; 1990] #1118 - Hong Kong
22. Fallen Angels [Wong Kar-Wai; 1995] #1147 - Hong Kong
23. King of the Children [Chen Kaige; 1987] #1179 - China

Ziyi Zhang, star of Hero, The Road Home,
Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, House
of Flying Daggers, and Memoirs of a Geisha

My favorites from all the nations above
  1. Hero (Zhang Yimou, 2002)
  2. Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Ang Lee, 2000) China
  3. To Live (Zhang Yimou, 1994)
  4. Together (Chien Kaige, 2002)
  5. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994) Hong Kong
  6. Fallen Angels (Wong Kar-Wai, 1995) Hong Kong
  7. The Road Home (Zhang Yimou, 1999)
  8. In the Mood for Love (Wong Kar-Wai, 2001) Hong Kong
  9. Eat Drink Man Woman (Ang Lee, 1994) Taiwan
  10. Raise the Red Lantern (Zhang Yimou, 1988) Hong Kong
  11. Devils On the Doorstep (Wen Jiang, 2000), bw
  12. Spring in a Small Town (Fei Mu, 1948)
  13. King of Masks (Bian Lian, 1997) China-Hong Kong
  14. Farewell My Concubine (Chen Kaige, 1993)
  15. House of Flying Daggers (Zhang Yimou, 2004)
  16. The Kite Runner (Marc Forster, 2007) US-China
  17. Zhou Yu's Train (Zhou Sun, 2004) China
  18. Not One Less (Zhang Yimou, 1999) China
  19. Yi yi (Yang, Edward; 2000) #223 - Taiwan-Japan - not reviewed
  20. Red Cliff (John Woo, 2008)

Special Mention
Himalaya (Eric Valli, 1999) Nepal [Listed as France-Switz.-UK-Nepal]

Others worth seeing
The Emperor and the Assassin (1998) China
Lust, Caution (2007) China
Ashes of Time Redux (Wong Kar-Wai, 1994) China
The Promise (Chien Kaige, 2005) China
The Killer (John Woo, 1989) Hong Kong (not reviewed)

Korea [unfortunately I haven't seen many, these are the best two]
Oldboy (2003) Korea
Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.. and Spring (2003) Korea

Wong Kar-Wai's Fallen Angels (1995)

Monday, May 23, 2011

Worlds Best Films at Facebook

Please check out our new Facebook page for this blog, and click "like", and invite your friends!

I'm getting over 500 visitors a day on my two film blogs, so getting to 1000 'likes' (or even 100,000) shouldn't take much time with your help. thanks - let's go VIRAL, film fans!

Worlds Best Films page at Facebook

check out the post links there and the album of film stills..

Is Jane Fonda me? lol.. "hubba hubba"

Friday, May 20, 2011

The World Film Awards - Silent Films

"The Silent Era"

Images courtesy of Fanpix.net
© William L. Sinclair

I've decided to create some film awards of my own that will give a retrospective look at cinema's greatest achievements without the limitations of most current awards, such as only one film winner per year, only films released last year, or only films from a particular country or region. Even the Academy Awards® seem to only be open to English language films, as no foreign language film has ever won best picture, hence the need for both the U.S. and Britain to create a special foreign language category.

My awards will go to great films no matter the country, language, or year created, and at times I may give more than one for particular year, such as 1927 (see below), when I thought three classic films worthy of mention, in the last year before the advent of sound pictures. If I don't limit the number, I can come back later and add titles as so many films are made worldwide that it may be years later before one is even made available to the public as new titles are added to digital media annually from years past.

I will likely keep documentaries separate and only award those for special films, not necessarily annually. Same with tv miniseries, as they are basically one long film, usually based on one book, such as Band of Brothers, the Masterpiece Theatre versions of classic novels, and historical stories like John Adams and Longitude, about the inventor of the method of calculating longitude at sea, saving many shipwrecks.

They say "rules are made to be broken" - in my case, I don't have any rules for myself.. ("Freedom, baby.. yeah!" - Austin Powers)

The top 1000 ranking is from our compilation of all film polls I could find, representing over 1500 in all, literally millions of voters, since popular polls such at Internet Movie Database are included in my tabulations. The complete list can be seen in this post

These first 15 for silent films were divided up as follows: Germany (5), U.S. (6), France (2), Russia (2)

[Year].. Film (rank in the top 1000) - Director

[1915] The Birth of a Nation (#68) - D.W. Griffith
Probably the birth of the movie epic, a little hard to take today because it's a story of the Ku Klux Klan and shows racial violence. I know it's just U.S. history, but it doesn't make it easier to bear. Still, excellent filmmaking considering the date. This film introduced Lilian Gish to the world who would act in films for the next seven decades. Perhaps her most memorable: Charles Laughton's Night of the Hunter, as she protects two children from a menacing ex-convict played by Robert Mitchum, after money their father stole.

[1916] Intolerance (#64) - D.W. Griffith
Griffith attempted to show, in various stories, how intolerance shaped important eras in the history of mankind. This had some massive sets and effects like many Griffith films.

[1919] The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (#322) - Robert Wiene - Germany
An eerie suspense film, precursor to modern horror films, known for its fantasy elements and surrealistic settings; one man is controlled by a hypnotist into committing murder.

[1921] The Kid (#228) - Charles Chaplin
Chaplin's first feature film, successful blend of humor and pathos that made him a worldwide star, and also one of costar Jackie Coogan.

[1922] Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (#48) - F.W. Murnau - Germany
One of the first freaky vampire films from one of the first great directors of the school known as German Expressionism, this character is truly horrifying.

[1923] Safety Last (#748) – Fred Newmeyer and Sam Taylor
A Harold Lloyd film, the one in which he caused much gasping while climbing a skyscraper and hanging off the hands of a clock, among other incredibly funny stunts. He later revealed he used a hidden scaffold just underneath so he wouldn't fall far if he slipped. Lloyd added his trademark clear glasses and straw hat to create a nerdy 'everyman' who would always get into unimaginable predicaments.

[1924] Greed (#79) - Erich von Stroheim - Germany
Originally a nine-hour film (what was von Stroheim thinking? what audience could sit through that?), the studio cut it down to a reasonable two-hour length, which has now been restored using some stills found back to around four hours. A precursor to the modern mini-series.

[1925] The Battleship Potemkin - Sergei Eisenstein - Russia
Eisenstein was a master at re-creating historical events in Russia, sometimes killing more people during filming than the original events. He wanted to show the root causes of the Bolshevist Revolution in this film and October. Our review at 1000 Dvds to See

[1926] Faust (#585) - F.W. Murnau - Germany
The classic tale told by the master of German Expressionism.

[1926] Metropolis (#23) - Fritz Lang - Germany
Some unforgettable science fiction images show man trapped in a heartless, mechanized world of daily drudgery with no relief, while some underground rebels are working toward a worker's revolt. Above is a production still with an actress inside the famous robot suit, which was an artificial humanoid that would replace workers. From a novel by Thea von Harbou, and fairly prescient as she saw dehumanization resulting from a mechanized industrial world . Our review at 1000 Dvds to See

[1927] General, The (#28) - Buster Keaton and Clyde Bruckman
For my money, Keaton was much funnier and more inventive and lively than Chaplin, and was the king of silent comedies. Actors Diane and Michael Keaton are descendents of Buster's family. In his later days, he was sadly relegated to some embarassing roles, such as running around constantly in A Funny Thing Happened On the Way to the Forum, while less worthy comedians got the choice parts.

[1927] Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (#38) -  F.W. Murnau
This beautiful tale of a romantic triangle won three Oscars® the first year they were presented, most of any film, including the only one ever given for "artistic film", another for its cinematography, and the 3rd for Janet Gaynor as actress (though they listed all her roles that year). Apparently the film was shot to resemble 18th century paintings, because that's how it looks. This was Murnau's first film in the U.S. Our review at 1000 Dvds to See

[1927] Napoléon (#230) - Abel Gance - France
Gance's massive six-hour film was the first part of an intended six part film on the life of the emperor, but he never got the financing to complete the project. This innovative film features a triptych sequence with three projections side-by-side that pre-date extreme widescreen films. If the 36-hr work had been completed, that would have been longer than any modern mini-series, and the epic of all epics. Our Review at 1000 dvds to see

[1928] The Passion of Joan of Arc #51 - Carl Theodor Dreyer  - France
Maria Falconetti's performance as the teenaged warrior who said "God told
me to kill British soldiers" is the most intense of the silent era. It is said that she never recovered emotionally, and made no other films. It's written that after battles, Joan would be drenched up to her shoulders in blood after beheading as many as 15 soldiers with a sword. Burned as a heretic, she was later sainted by the church.

[1929] The Man With a Movie Camera (#78) - Dziga Vertov - Russia
Probably the most innovative silent film you will see. It has multiple exposures, superimposed images, thousands of rapid edits, innocent nudity, and a galloping horse sequence even better than those in 59's Ben-Hur. Also called "Living Russia", it attempts to document a day in the life of urban Russia, using the Black Sea resort city of Odessa. Based on its date and creative techniques, perhaps the greatest documentary ever.
Along with Sunrise, this is my favorite silent film. Our review at 1000 Dvds to See

Lloyd's humor wasn't always visual
Note the sign to the right, an
early use of the double entendre

Note: I suppose, after looking at my award logo, I could call it the Silver Camera

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Foreign Films in the IMDB 250

These are all the foreign films that made the IMDB top 250 list
(Link to the complete IMDB 250)

1. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa, Japan, 1954) No. 13
2. City of God (Meirelles, Brazil, 2002) No. 19
3. Amelie (Jeunet, France, 2001) No. 46
4. M (Lang, Germany, 1931) No. 55
5. The Lives of Others (von Donnersmarck, Germany, 2006) No. 57
6. Das Boot (Peterson, Germany, 1981) No. 63
7. Life is Beautiful (Benigni, Italy, 1997) No. 69
8. Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore, Italy, 1988) No. 74
9. Pan's Labyrinth (del Toro, Spain, 2006) No. 76
10. Rashomon (Kurosawa, Japan, 1950) No. 81
11. Bicycle Thief (De Sica, Italy, 1948) No. 87
12. Metropolis (Land, Germany, 1927) No. 94
13. Downfall (Hirschbiegel, Germany, 2004) No. 95
14. Oldboy (Park, Korea, 2003) No. 97
15. Princess Mononoke (Miyayaki, Japan, 1997) No. 109
16. The Seventh Seal (Bergman, Sweden, 1957) No. 113
17. Yojimbo (Kurosawa, Japan, 1961) No. 123
18. Grave of the Fireflies (Takahata, Japan, 1988) No. 125
19. Ran (Kurosawa, Japan, 1985) No. 126
20. Wild Strawberries (Bergman, Sweden, 1957) No. 131
21. Amores Perros (Inarritu, Mexico, 2000) No. 159
22. The Wages of Fear (Clouzot, France, 1953) No. 166
23. Ikiru (Kurosawa, Japan, 1952) No. 167
24. Diabolique (Clouzot, France, 1955) No. 182
25. Federico Fellini's 8 1/2 (Fellini, Italy, 1963) No. 187
26. The Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo, Italy, 1966) No. 194
27. The 400 Blows (Truffaut, France, 1959) No. 195
28. La Strada (Fellini, Italy, 1954) No. 197
29. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly (Schnabel, France, 2007) No. 201
30. Persona (Bergman, Sweden, 1966) No. 202
31. The Passion of Joan of Arc (Dreyer, France, 1928) No. 210
32. Let the Right One In (Alfredson, Sweden, 2008) No. 214
33. Fanny and Alexander (Bergman, Sweden, 1982) No. 215
34. Nights of Cabiria (Fellini, Italy, 1957) No. 225
35. The Celebration (Vinterberg, Denmark-Sweden, 1998) No. 226
36. Infernal Affairs (Lau and Mak, Hong Kong, 2002) No. 227
37. A Separation (Farhadi, Iran, 2011) No. 228
38. Howl's Moving Castle (Miyazaki, Japan, 2004) No. 229
39. Three Colors: Red (Kieslowski, Fr-Switz-Poland, 1994) No. 245
40. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.. and Spring (Kim, Korea, 2003) No. 247

Note: one film I left off is Clint Eastwood's Letters From Iwo Jima, which is a U.S. film but is mostly in Japanese, as it's based on letters sent home by Japanese soldiers there, and tells that side of the battle for Iwo Jima.

Some of these at the top are cinema masterpieces, notably Seven Samurai, City of God, The Lives of Others, and Cinema Paradiso. Many think Kurosawa's Seven Samurai is the best film ever made.

I'm not sure why Amelie gets ranked so high, personally I like two other Jean-Pierre Jeunet films more: A Very Long Engagement and Micmacs - check them out, they are both excellent. Also, where the heck are John Salles' two excellent films from Brazil, Central Station and The Motorcycle Diaries - that's totally baffling. Also missing is Twilight Samurai, which not only won numerous awards (37) but won 12 Japanese academy awards out of 14 nominations.

The films here that I reviewed I think are excellent. Some that I didn't review are worthy films, I just haven't gotten around to reviewing them yet, such as M, Passion of Joan of Arc, Diabolique, Bicycle Thief, Rashomon, Yojimbo, Wild Strawberries, and Fanny and Alexander.

Others I didn't review because I didn't think they were worthy - among these are Nights of Cabiria, Pan's Labyrinth, Ran, Life Is Beautiful, Persona, and Infernal Affairs. These are all good films, just not great, imo. Amores Perros is a good film, but is very tough to watch, especially some scenes involving dogs, watch that one at your own risk if you love animals.

My personal 10 favorites that made their list:
1. Seven Samurai (Kurosawa)
2. Cinema Paradiso (Tornatore)
3. City of God (Meirelles and Lund)
4. The Lives of Others (von Donnersmarck)
5. Battle of Algiers (Pontecorvo)
6. The 400 Blows (Truffaut)
7. Das Boot (Peterson)
8. Oldboy (Park)
9. Spring, Summer, Fall, Winter.. and Spring (Kim Ki-Duk)

10. The Seventh Seal (Bergman)

Your results may vary; no wagering; void where prohibited; do not take while pregnant; may cause dizziness, blindness, heart attack, stroke, sudden death

Friday, May 13, 2011

Best 10 Films of Japan

Masahiro Motoki stars in Departures

[AA] Academy Award®, Best Foreign Language Film (only 5 Japanese films have won)

1. The Seven Samurai (1957) Japan, bw (Kurosawa) No. 13 on the IMDB 250 - 4 awards
One of the best action films ever made, inspired many remakes and influenced all actions films that followed. The inferior Japanese film The Burma Harp got a foreign language film Oscar nomination over SS, and the award went to Fellini's La Strada

2. Departures (2008) Japan [AA] (Takita) 33 awards (39 noms) - Elegant, graceful, beautiful film, a 15 yr project for director Takita after he heard the idea from actor Masahiro Motoki [photo top] (This simply needs more total ratings at IMDB to be in their all-time top 250 - go vote! it's score would place it around 140th)

3. Shall We Dance? (1995) Japan  (Suo52 awards (out of 55 nominations), won 14 out of 15 Japanese academy awards - A beautiful ballroom dance romance (This also needs more total ratings at IMDB to be in their all-time top 250)

4. The Twilight Samurai (2002) Japan ( Yamada) 37 awards (44 noms) - An anti-action film about a retired and widowed samurai now relegated to doing inventory of a wealthy landlord's food supplies and taking care of his children (This also needs more total ratings at IMDB to be in the top 250)

5. Ugetsu (1953) Japan, bw  (Mizoguchi) 3 awards (5 noms) A haunting love story about a ceramicist trying to avoid medieval war

6. Stray Dog (1949) Japan, bw (Kurosawa) 4 awards - Early Kurosawa police procedural crime film, which caused an explosion of this genre in Japan

7. Rashomon (1954) Japan, bw [AA]  (KurosawaNo. 80 on the IMDB 250 7 awards (10 noms)  - The classic about a crime seen from four viewpoints

8. Crazed Fruit (1956) Japan, bw (Kajitsu) A love triangle of two brothers and one girl

9. Grave of the Fireflies (1988) Japan (Takahata) No. 124 on the IMDB 250 3 awards  - Animated, but a touching war story about children during WW2, not a kid's film

10. Samurai 1: Musashi Miyamoto (1954) Japan [AA] (Inagaki) The first of a classic samurai trilogy (The Oscar® was its only award)

11. Dersu Uzala (1975, Russia-Japan) [AA] (Kurosawa)  8 awards - classic about a Siberian guide surviving both in the wilderness and in civilization; Kurosawa's best color film to me, and his 2nd Oscar®

12. Yojimbo (1961, bw) (Kurosawa) No. 123 on the IMDB 250 - 4 awards (6 noms) - Another bw classic from the master, inspired by John Ford westerns, then remade in the west as A Fistful of Dollars by Italian Sergio Leone, the first of his spaghetti westerns with Clint Eastwood

13. Tokyo Story (1953) Japan, bw  (Ozu) 2 awards - Slow but rewarding classic from another master director; for me, Ozu is an acquired taste as his films move very slowly

More worth seeing
Throne of Blood (57) (Kurosawa) - 3 awards
Floating Weeds (59) (Ozu) - no awards
Harakiri (62) aka Seppuku (Kobiyashi) - no awards
Burmese Harp (56) (Ichikawa) - 2 awards (5 noms)
Fires on the Plain (59) (Ichikawa) - 6 awards

Some of these films are rooted in the Japanese tradition of Zen Buddhism, so they are therefore culturally different than western films; they are slower, ritualistic, and more about attitudes and spirituality of life than about action. This is especially true of Departures, Tokyo Story, and The Burmese Harp, but this cultural difference permeates many other films as well.

Other fans love all Kurosawa films, but I only like the black and white ones, I find his color epics, like Ran and Kurosawa, to be long and painful to sit through, which is interesting since Seven Samurai is nearly four hours long, but it seems shorter and is riveting. It has two distinct parts: the setup and character development first half, then the action based, lengthy battle of the second half, all filmed in a driving rainstorm.

Many of these have been remade in the west. Seven Samurai was remade as the western The Magnificent Seven, and the science fiction film  Battle Beyond the Stars. The British tv series The Avengers also parodied it as "The Superlative Seven" (an episode guest starring Donald Sutherland and Charlotte Rampling). Shall We Dance? was remade with Richard Gere and Jennifer Lopez, stick with the original, it's much more artistic.

Rashomon has been often copied - it's the story of a crime later recounted by the victim, the criminal, an eyewitness, and an angel (or ghost) that was watching; of course, each story is different, biased by the perspective of the each witness.

The style of Stray Dog is basically like most modern tv police shows. A rookie cop has his gun stolen on a crowded bus, which is then sold on the black market then used in violent crimes as the policeman doggedly searches for it, using clue after clue to narrow down his suspects and find the weapon.

Departures and Grave of the Fireflies are totally unique, however - each deals with death in different manners. Departures is very ritualistic, graceful, and respectful, very rooted in Zen ceremonies. Grave is a fable-like animated film about two children during WW2. I doubt neither subject will be approached in western films, because they wouldn't make the millions necessary to get them filmed. It's actually very surprising (and gratifying) that Departures won the Oscar® in 2008.

The fifth Japanese film to win an Oscar® for foreign film, Gates of Hell, is not available on dvd, so I haven't seen that one yet.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Best 10 Films of Germany

In The Lives of Others, the E. German state
police tap a dissident playright's home
  1. The Lives of Others (2007) [AA] No. 57 on the IMDB 250 62 awards overall (out of just 83 nominations) one of just 5 films to win an AA and BAFTA for foreign film, a thought-provoking film with much depth
  2. Run Lola Run (1998) this relentless film moves from the get go and never lets up 26 awards overall
  3. Good Bye, Lenin! (2003) terrific comedy, the most loving son in all of cinema 31 awards overall
  4. Fitzcarraldo (1982)  one man's obsession, bring opera to the Amazon jungle 4 awards overall
  5. Das Boot (The Boat) (1981) No. 63 on the IMDB 250 a harrowing journey inside a German U-boat 9 awards overall (6 Oscar nominations)
  6. Nowhere in Africa (2002) [AA] a Jewish mother takes her daugher to Kenya to escape the Nazis 18 awards overall (in just 25 nominations)
  7. Triumph of the Will (1935) bw, documentary chronicles the rise of the Nazis
  8. Olympia (1938) bw, documentary a journal of the 1936 Berlin Olympic Games 2 awards (the Mussolini Cup!)
  9. Downfall (2004) No. 95 on the IMDB 250 documents the last days in Hitler's bunker, based on his secretary's memoirs 15 awards overall
  10. Beyond Silence (1996) a daughter of deaf-mutes wants to be a musician like her aunt 10 awards overall
  11. Aguirre: The Wrath of God (1972) a Spanish explorer is obsessed with gold 3 awards overall
  12. The Story of the Weeping Camel (2003) documentary a camel rejects her newborn so its owners seek a healing musician 9 awards overall
  13. Metropolis (1927) Germany, bw-silent No. 94 on the IMDB 250 Fritz Lang's visionary masterpiece is a bit dated now
  14. Perfume: The Story of a Murderer (2006) Germany they said Patrick Suskind's novel couldn't be filmed, but it made a good serial killer film 12 awards overall

Spanish explorer Aguirre becomes obsessed 
with the "Lost City of Gold" in So. America 

Leni Reifenstahl later apologized for her two films that glorified Nazi Germany, but since they are such great art, she shouldn't.. she forever changed the look of documentaries and propaganda. Triumph of the Will was so successful that Hitler was awarded "Man of the Year" by Time Magazine in 1935, largely due to this film.

Others Worth Seeing..

The White Ribbon (2009) Palm d'Or at Cannes
The Harmonists (1997)
The Tunnel (2001)
Touch the Sound (2004)
Cobra Verde (1987)
Gloomy Sunday (1999)

[AA] = Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film

Monday, May 9, 2011

Best 10 Films of Russia

  1. Man With the Movie Camera (1928) USSR, bw/silent [photo top]
  2. The Cuckoo (2002) Russia
  3. Mongol (2007) Russia
  4. Come and See (1985) Russia
  5. The Battleship Potemkin (1925, Eisenstein) USSR, bw
  6. Ballad of a Soldier (1959) Russia, bw
  7. War and Peace (1968) Russia
  8. Andrei Rublev (1966, Tarkovsky)
  9. Prisoner of the Mountains (1996)
  10. Alexander Nevsky (1938, Eisenstein)
  11. I Am Cuba (1964) Cuba-Russia, bw
  12. Ivan's Childhood (1962) Russia, bw
  13. The Cranes Are Flying (1957) Russia
  14. The Italian (2005) Russia [photo below]
  15. Siberiade (1979) Russia

Photo from Sergei Bondarchuk's War and Peace, which used
over 250,000 extras and ran 7 hrs in length
It was first seen in the west on 4 nights on PBS

Dziga Vertov's Man With the Movie Camera, even though silent, still looks modern today, using superimposed images, rapid edits, moving cameras.. the theme and subtitle was "A day in the life of the USSR" - now that hasn't been copied much through the decades!

All Sergei Eisenstein films are brilliant, I just happen to like Battleship Potemkin and Alexander Nevsky the most..

I need to rewatch Ivan the Terrible, it's been decades.. that's why it's not on here..

Come and See is a terrific holocaust film; the German invasion of Byelorussia and the scorched earth policy..

The War and Peace directed by Sergei Bondarchuk was the most expensive film (100 m. estimated in 1968) of it's era, and they used 250,000 members of the Red Army free of charge.. costumes must have been a real nightmare!

Andrei Tarkovsky is really a Jekyll and Hyde.. The Mirror is another good one, along with Andrei Rublev, but the others are painful to bear.. I would skip The Sacrifice, Solaris, and Stalker, unless you're a masochist