Friday, October 28, 2011

#244 Night of the Living Dead (1968)


Director: George A. Romero

Cast: Duane Jones, Judith O'Dea, Karl Hardman, Marilyn Eastman, Keith Wayne, Judith Ridley, Kyra Schon, Charles Craig

Despite its initial impression of being a comedically, low-budget horror flick, the original Night of the Living Dead packs a decent punch, even without its "horror classic" appeal. A sister and brother mourn the death of their mother at a cemetery-- when the brother goes missing after trying to scare his sister, things escalate. Before long, Barbara finds herself trapped in an old farm house with a group of strangers, all trying to survive against a mob of the risen dead. It seems these zombies have a taste for human flesh, and according to the radio, the entire nation seems to be under attack.

Although delightfully tacky, this film does still have its moments of gruesome horror and suspense. For its time, this film was one of the crudest ever produced... with animal organs used as the zombie's edible props. Even though I am not a fan of the horror genre, I do have a love for this film. It is engrained in me after all of the cultural allusions that have developed as a result. In addition, I happen to know it was also filmed in an old cemetery very close to my high school in my hometown. Brownie points.

Saturday, June 25, 2011

#243 Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)


Director: Woody Allen

Cast: Woody Allen, Claire Bloom, Stephanie Roth, Mia Farrow, Jerry Orbach, Bill Bernstein, Martin Landau, Greg Edelman, Alan Alda, Anjelica Huston, Jenny Nichols, Joanna Gleason

Another example of Woody Allen's best work, Crimes and Misdemeanors is witty, adult, dark, philosophical, stark, and sumptuous. It follows two leads down two very different struggles, both happening simultaneously in Manhattan (where else?). Martain Landau plays an inspiring (and Oscar-nominated) role as Judah Rosenthal, a successful, married, and highly respected eye surgeon who is fed up with living a double life. When his mistress of two years, Dolores (Huston), threatens to expose their relationship to his wife (as well as reveal some shady embezzling Judah has done), Judah realizes he must take a drastic move to end his extra-curricular affair once and for all. Lost on what to do or where to turn, he goes to his brother Jack (Orbach), who convinces Judah to take Dolores out. "My people will take care of it. You won't be a part of it."

Meanwhile, somewhere else on the island, Woody Allen is living as Cliff Stern, a documentary film-maker with a not-so-successful track record in his career and a crumbling marriage. Forced to take a job to be his ridiculous brother-in-law's (Alda) biographer, he meets Halley (Farrow). The two grow as friends until Cliff finds himself madly in love with her, to a point that his paranoia over his brother-in-law's lame advances on Halley almost drive him mad.

The film celebrates Allen's familiar existentialist tone... and convinces us that only New Yorker's really know how to fuck up relationships properly. Alan Alda shines as a pretentious dope, and Woody's neurosis wiggles and trills off the screen until you feel like you yourself may walk away from this movie bumbling and wringing your hands together. In a Dovstoyevskian conclusion, the film examines the nature of the human conscience, the theme of religious guilt brought on by tradition, and the hopelessness of having hope.

Another Woody Allen classic that I'd happily recommend onto a friend.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

#242 The Producers (1968)


Director: Mel Brooks

Cast: Zero Mostel, Gene Wilder, Dick Shawn, Kenneth Mars, Lee Meredith, Christopher Hewett, Andréas Voutsinas, Estelle Winwood, Renée Taylor, David Patch

When a Broadway producer, Max Bialystock (Mostel), sinks so low as to sexually entertain over-the-hill ladies for checks to fund his projects, he finds himself ripe and ready for a new scheme. Enter Leo Bloom (Wilder), a timid, anxious, OCD accountant who in the process of examining Bialystock's books accidently blurts out that with a little clever book-keeping, it is possible to make more money with a flop than a success.

After some clever convincing, Bialystock convinces Bloom to give up his stuffy, lonely life and go in 50/50 with him on producing the biggest Broadway flop in history: Springtime for Hitler. The two seem to do everything perfectly: hire the worst writer with the worst script, the worst director, and even the worst cast. They find, however, sometimes a bunch of wrongs do make a right...

This film was actually hysterically funny on all accounts-- with no shortage of lude and slapstick humor. Gene Wilder's character's neurosis was a star-player in getting laughs, and each actor's commitment to the ridiculousness of their role was refreshing. I love this film, and I have high doubts that its 2005 remake can even hold a candle.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

#241 City Lights (1931)


Director:Charles Chaplin

Cast: Charles Chaplin, Virginia Cherrill, Florence Lee

Sunday, February 27, 2011

#240 Dr. Strangelove (1964)


Director: Stanley Kubrick

Cast: Peter Sellers, George C. Scott, Sterling Hayden, Slim Pickens, James Earl Jones, Keenan Wynn, Peter Bull, Shane Rimmer, Tracy Reed

Saturday, February 12, 2011

#239 The Double Life of Veronique (1991)


Director: Krysztof Kieslowski

Cast: Iréne Jacob, Halina Gryglaszewska, Kalina Jedrusik, Aleksander Bardini, Wladyslaw Kowalski, Jerzy Gudjeko, Janusz Sterninski, Philippe Volter

The Doube Life of Veronique is the tale of two women, both played by Iréne Jacob, although two separate people, in two separate parts of Europe, living two separate lives. One woman is Weronika, a Polish singer, and the other is Veronique, a French music teacher. When Weronika has an unfortunate, unexpected death, Veronique feels an unexplainable and irreconcilable grief, as the two women--whom we know have never met, share an inexplicable strong emotional bond.

The film then follows the life of Veronique as she is courted by a unique stranger, a puppeteer living near her home. The dreamlike, elusive character of Alexandre serves as a jumping point for a series of quiet meditations on many of the things about life we cannot explain nor express. Dreams, hallucination, imagination, superstition, intuition... all realms of the personal which each human experiences entirely alone in their lifetime.

The film's feel reminded a lot of Amélie without the cheeky humor (and yes, I realize this one came first). The unusual romance is whimsical and fantasy, and the movie as a whole is a clever expression on some of the hardest things to capture about human nature. Very beautiful. Slow. Contemplative. This is what I consider to be a worthy-of-your-time romance. I wish more people were still making movies like this.

Saturday, February 5, 2011

#238 The Awful Truth (1937)


Director: Leo McCarey

Cast: Cary Grant, Irene Dunne, Ralph Bellamy, Alexander D'Arcy, Cecil Cunningham, Molly Lamont, Esther Dale

A silly little comedic romance– again, wholly carried by the dynamic Cary Grant and his opposing leading lady's (whomever she may be at the time) charisma and likability as a couple. In the story, two sweethearts' jealousy and suspicions lead to a quickly-arrived-upon divorce. The real drama, however, is involved in the time leading up to the finalization of their arrangement: as the two begin dating others, bumping into one another at inopportune moments, and parade through a variety of uncomfortable, chuckle-worthy situations. The inevitable, however, does arrive... and on the night that their divorce is going to become official to boot. The two find themselves under very expected circumstances alone at a secluded cabin. Dot dot dot...

The charm of this film, again, is purely the dynamism that exists between the two lead actors. The script carries legend of being extremely improvised, and it shows. The laughs are in the subtleties, the timing, the facial expressions... some of the brilliant things about films (and real life) that can never be translated into writing. The role of dancing, songs, games, drinks, and even simple introductions all play a key role in bringing these two bickering lovebirds away from one another and simultaneously right back into each others' arms.

Although I often wonder how so many Cary Grant movies made the 1001 list since they are all so simplistic, silly, and sweet, but then I find myself enjoying each one as much as the last.