Sunday, January 31, 2010

#138 An American In Paris (1951)


Director: Vincente Minnelli

Cast: Gene Kelly, Jerry Mulligan, Leslie Caron, Lise Bouvier, Oscar Levant, Adam Cook, Georges Guetary

A remarkable, joyful musical starring Gene Kelly as a broke, but hopeful artist who is the joy of his Parisian neighborhood with the company of a talented concert pianist and suave French singer. He hits luck when a beautiful and rich woman decides to sponsor him and look after his career, but he is thrown off course when he falls in love with another woman... another woman who happens to be engaged to his French singer friend.

The end of the film is capped off with an 18 minute ballet choreographed by Gene Kelly himself-- quite spectacular indeed. Although, I must say-- my favorite moment of the film was when Gene Kelly made a crack comment about 3rd year American college students going to Europe to dabble up some culture. Woops.

At any rate-- love this film-- I hope I see it again in the future. My mind has been wandering lately.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

#137 Trust (1990)


Director: Hal Hartley
Cast: Adrienne Shelly, Martin Donovan, Merritt Nelson, John MacKay, Edie Falco, Gary Sauer, Matt Malloy, Suzanne Costollos

Expecting a pretty standard early 90s romance, I was pretty surprised with the turns that this film took. It starts off with a bratty, neon-clad, bubble gum cracking teenage girl who finds herself pregnant to an asshole football jock. Her parents think she is a slut, and she's kicked out of the house rather unceremoniously after her father dies of a heart attack that is somehow considered her fault. She comes in contact with an equally dysfunctional, somewhat rebellious electronics whiz who hates his job but is too lost to do anything about it, and thus the story begins.

This movie isn't so much a love story, but about two people that have formed a bond over their struggles to cope with their own separate problems. They help each other change and deal, and the interesting contrast comes in their age-- Shelly's character being only 17, while Donovan plays a man in his early 30s. Donovan, however, seems much more childlike as the movie progresses, and where it ends up is somewhat of a surprise and a mystery.

An entertaining film, particularly when it comes to the role of the families. I never would've found this movie if it wasn't for this project, but I'm glad I did. Definitely entertaining, even if it does have some cheesier moments.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

#136 Paris, Texas (1984)


Director: Wim Wenders
Cast: Harry Dean Stanton, Nastassja Kinski, Dean Stockwell, Aurore Clement, Hunter Carson

An absolutely captivating film from beginning to end. It's the story of Travis-- who at the start of the film is seen emerging from the Texan desert, recovered by his brother who he has not seen in over four years. The story slowly unfolds as Travis finally begins to speak, eat, sleep, and we soon find that his brother has been raising his child since his disappearance into the desert. This is the story of Travis coming back to life, coming back to his son, and their journey together to find Travis' long lost wife. The plot is slow, beautifully captured, and it seems like every SECOND of the film was carefully considered to be gentle and dear.

I've been having lots of thoughts about moving to the desert recently- to become a true bohemian soul and wash myself in the sun and heat until I am reborn. This film almost gives me that sensation just through emotional impact. At times it is funny, and at times it so beautiful you wish you had a postcard of it. I highly recommend this movie to all gentle souls.

#135 La Belle Et La Bete [Beauty and the Beast] 1946

*** + .5

Director: Jean Cocteau
Cast: Jean Marias, Josette Day, Mila Parely, Nane Germon, Michael Auclair, Raoul Marco, Marcel Andre

The classic tale of Beauty and the Beast is one that most of us feel familiar with thanks to good ole Walt Disney. Sadly, I admit this is my only knowledge of the story, as I have never read the tale. I was expecting this film to be different from the story I knew and rather cheesy thanks to its subject matter and time of creation; however, I was truly pleasantly surprised. The story is somewhat richer–a mythical beast remains locked in his castle with smoking hands of guilt and awaits love, the only thing capable of turning a beast into man. Belle finds her way to him through the plights of her father, Avenant (the man that loves her), and her selfish sisters, and they unto themselves eventually meet fates suited to their true selves.

The film is short, poetic, and well-acted, and I gave it 3.5 stars for being such a delightful surprise. I truly loved the scene when Belle returns to the castle, yelling for her suffering beast-- "Mi bete! Mi bete!" Oh heartbreak. This film is definitely not for everybody, but I certainly did enjoy it.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

#134 La Vie En Rose (2007)


Director: Olivier Dahan
Cast: Marion Cotillard, Sylvie Testud, Pascal Greggory, Emmanuelle Seigner, Jean-Paul Rouve, Gerard Depardieu

La Vie En Rose is the story of French singer Edith Piaf, who lived from 1915 to 1963 and died due to complications from liver cancer. For starters, I love a great character. Even further, I love great, timeless music. This film is dark, funny, and in-your-face.

It gives a kaleidoscope view of Piaf's life-- jumping through time and making striking juxtapositions between the turmoils of her childhood, her success, and her downfall. Born on the streets, raised by her grandmother in a brothel in Normandy, suffering from blindness for five years during her childhood, working in the circus with her father, being tortured by her boyfriend pimp, dealing with a husband's murder, and her sufferings with cancer-- the life of Piaf is nothing short of extraordinary. It is incredible to see glimpses of her in both her high and low moments, and I found myself both laughing and wanting to cry countless times throughout the film. The best and most emotional scene comes when she is forced to reckon with the death of the love of her life-- the details of which I'll restrain myself from giving away. The actress chosen to play her was nothing short of brilliant and was truly able to capture the fascinating unrestrained awkwardness of Piaf.

Not only a brilliant and moving film unto itself, but for a music lover-- this is a must see. It was particularly timely as I await the release of Martha Wainwright's cover album of Piaf's final show at the Olympia. Brilliant.

Monday, January 25, 2010

#133 Sanma No Aji [An Autumn Afternoon] (1962)


Director: Yasujiro Yamanouchi
Cast: Chishu Ryu, Shima Iwashita, Shinichiro Mikami, Keiji Sada, Mariko Okada, Nobuo Nakamura

Whew. That was painful. Okay, so this is a 1960s Japanese film about a widower who is reluctant to marry off his daughter because he fears being alone. After an hour or so of watching him pour sake over various tables with friends, he is able to be convinced that unless he marries her off, she will be miserable. Due to the fact that he has waited so long, the man that his daughter loves has already become engaged to someone else, and she is forced to marry another man, arranged by her father's friends.

At the beginning, I was uber-intrigued by watching a 1960s Japanese household operate, but soon I become bored stiff of how ridiculously bad the acting was in this film. Seriously, seriously terrible. Also, every action in this film took about 10 years to play out. I think I watched drunk men pour 1,000 cups of sake, and every time the group laughed-- it came about after a pause of silence with all characters looking into the camera, as if they were waiting for the director to turn on the blinking red APPLAUSE sign. Terrible. With 10 minutes left in the film, I was literally yelling at my laptop, "COME ON, ALREADY."

Also, I realize it's 1960s and Japan, but the ridiculous way women were treated in this film was driving me to absolute ruin. Watching these women tottle around and answer the rude calls of the piggish men was actually really hard to take. I realize it's another culture, but it really was the presentation of it in this film. Perhaps if the purpose of the film had been to make a commentary on this behavior it would have been acceptable; however, the focus of the film was on the poor father grieving about having to be alone and take care of himself. (To which he says, "Sons are better. It's not even worth having daughters.")


Looking forward to seeing some better Japanese film-making. This was a huge let down and my first 1-star movie.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

#132 All That Heaven Allows (1956)


Director: Douglas Sirk
Cast: Jane Wyman, Rock Hudson, Agnes Moorehead, Conrad Nagel, Virginia Grey, Gloria Talbott

It's the story of a 1950's uppercrust widow, who is left estranged from both her children and the local country club-- lonely and slowly become more and more shut off from reality. Suddenly, she finds herself in love with a much younger, hunky gardener, living outside of town and rather unconventionally at that. Vowing to marry him, she sets off down a bumpy road of dealing with the extreme gossip of the clubhouse and harsh disapproval of her children (whose idea of occupying mom's time is with a shiny new television set). Broken by the cruelty of others, she breaks off the engagement and falls back into her old life, somewhat miserably. It is only after a terrible accident that she realizes what she has really given up.

My feelings on this film are relatively complex. My initial reaction was pretty unfavorable, as I found myself bored stiff at the characterless characters-- Rock Hudson beaming on the screen just like a giant, chiseled 1950s bo-hunk in flannel and Jane Wyman with her half-emoted feelings, decorated in velvet and diamonds. It was the darker side of the film that I actually found much more interesting-- the way Carrie's son corners her in the dark living room and heartlessly threatens her. The arrival of the television set, gleaming in the living room as a final "take that" to her broken love. The somewhat comical clambering of the clubhouse women in their jewels, anxious to get the first sight of the new couple approaching the cocktail party, ready with arrows pointed. In the end, I saw how pointed and critical the film truly was of 1950s culture-- the irony 6 inches deep as it was shot in the most flabbergasting technicolor... in the 1950s.

Three stars equals three nods for what the film really stood for and for having that true-to-Hollywood classic romance plot (complete with life-threatening accident that allows love to conquer all). Two missing stars for the fact that the film still lacked some sort of quality that makes it timeless. I don't think I'll ever get over Ned mixing martinis. Absolutely hilarious.

Sunday, January 17, 2010

#131 Top Hat (1935)


Director: Mark Sandrich
Cast: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Edward Everett Horton, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore, Helen Broderick

Here in a classic Astaire-Rogers musical, the two find themselves in an unfortunate misunderstanding: Astaire has immediately fallen for the luscious Rogers, but she has mistaken him for his married friend. Thus, the entire film centers around this misunderstanding-- Astaire pursues Rogers with romantic intentions, and Rogers tries to hold back in fear she is being seduced by a married man. In the end, however, as you could imagine-- the film comes to a delightful close.

It features Cheek to Cheek, as well as a few other splendid classics, and this is the film John Coffey watches right before his execution in the film The Green Mile. I must say, it'd probably be a top contender for the last film I ever see as well.
Loved it.

Saturday, January 16, 2010

#130 All That Jazz (1979)


Director: Bob Fosse
Cast: Roy Scheider, Jessica Lange, Ann Reinking, Leland Palmer, Cliff Gorman, Irene Kane

Hm. This was interesting. Being a dancer for most of my life, I had a great number of expectations before watching this film. I was hunkering down for a 2 hour long musical full of really amazing choreography-- all centered around dance itself. A self-reflective, self-appreciative movie about the art of theatre and dance. Boy, was I wrong. Instead, it was very much a narcissistic autobiography of Bob Fosse-- not that this is all bad either-- just not what I sat down to watch.

I've heard these songs a million times at dance competitions, and I've seen all the dance moves mimicked about a million and a half times-- brought back some good memories. I enjoyed the first half of the film immensely. Note: why is it so fun to watch other people live recklessly? The second half of the film, however, was far too self-indulgent and far too disco. The final death scene with the 70s strobes put Josh and I over the edge, and we were practically begging for it to end.

As you can see by my extremely scatter-brained review of this film, I have no idea what to make of it. I'm torn between being dramatically disappointed and feeling like I've finally put the puzzle together on all the songs/choreography that is in my past. I gave it three stars because I feel like this film is a must-see for any dancer. I also think that if I were to see this film again, I would appreciate it more than I did the first time, and so on, so forth.

Thursday, January 14, 2010

#129 Slacker (1991)


Director: Richard Linklater
Cast: Richard Linklater, Kim Krizan, Marc James, Stella Weir, John Slate

A very 90s film, full of short vignettes of the lives of disgruntled slackers residing in Austin, Texas-- spewing about their own philosophies, their own lives, etc. Much like coffee and cigarettes, I felt this movie certainly calls to a certain audience that are interested in a certain genre of culture/film-making.

It came at a good time though, and it got me to thinking a lot about my own life and the times I've been inspired/free vs. the bullshit I catch myself giving in to. But that's another blog for another day. Excellent movie.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

#128 Good Bye Lenin! (2003)


Director: Wolfgang Becker
Cast: Daniel Bruhl, Katrin SaB, Chuplan Khamatova, Maria Simon, Florian Lukas

Shot entirely in German, this is the story of a young man who is reaching adulthood in the late 1980s East Germany, just as the Berlin Wall crumbles. His mother, an extraordinarily devoted Socialist, finds her son at a protest rally, has a heart attack, and falls into an eight month coma. During her sleep, her family changes and so does her country: the wall comes down, her estranged husband crosses the border, her daughter has a baby, her son falls in love, and commercialism enters and takes over Germany. When she awakens, doctors make it clear that she cannot handle any shock due to a weak heart--thus begins her son's mission to create the illusion that East Germany still exists.

The majority of the movie is based around her son tackling the extreme lengths he must go to to keep his mother unaware of the new Germany. While entertaining at times, the film seriously dragged. By the end of the film, the son is supposedly coming to rest with many of his own uncertainties about his new life in a united Germany, but the great uplift never seems to come. I didn't think the film was particularly well-made in terms of emotion, though the historical aspects of it were pretty interesting to me. I have to wonder if this is typical of German film-making. It has always seemed to me that Germans tackle emotion in a very different way from what I am familiar with, and I often find it to be harsh.

All of the film is set to the music of Yann Tiersen-- very beautiful songs.
I wish the French had made this film. I feel like it lacked the beauty and emotion this subject matter is capable of evoking.

#127 The Elephant Man (1980)


Director: David Lynch
Cast: Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancroft, John Giegland, Wendy Hiller, Freddie Jones

This film attempts to bring back to life the story of Englishman John Merrick, a man who suffered from tumors covering 90% of his body causing severe deformation-- due to which, he became known as The Elephant Man. I can say that this film did a respectful and sensitive view on the story, and although I'm sure some (if not most) of this version of the story is based in fiction, it was an interesting film of extremes: the ugliness of a deformed human vs. the inner-ugliness of people who are cruel to those they don't understand.

Although this film was made in 1980, it is shot in black and white and in a style that is very reminiscent of early 1930s film-making. I found this very odd actually-- even the acting was over-dramatized in some parts to mimic classic hollywood style. It does help set the scene and manages to make some parts of the film more eerie and uncomfortable-- I guess that was the point.

Still, something about this film didn't grab me. I was entertained, disturbed, but at times-- bored. I came into the film expecting to witness disturbing human cruelty, and that is exactly what I was dished. Something about this genre of story turns me off-- while important and fascinating, it's just not my first choice in terms of content. I respect what Lynch did for the story of this man's life, but I don't think I'd need to see this film ever again to feel that I've seen it enough.

Monday, January 4, 2010

#126 It Happened One Night (1934)


Director: Frank Capra
Cast: Clark Gable, Claudette Colbert, Walter Connolly, Roscoe Karns, Jameson Thomas

Oh my god! How could I have gone 22 years of my life without seeing this film?! I have always loved me some Clark Gable, and this film just sky-rocketed the senseless infatuation to the moon! The movie was charming, witty, romantic... everything a classic movie should be. I even caught myself literally laughing out loud during the scene when Peter hauls Ellie across the creek as they bicker over what it means to have a piggy-back ride.

The story centers around a recently fired journalist named Peter (Clark Gable) who happens to land on the same bus as a millionaire's daughter who is fleeing to meet her husband despite her father's disapproval of their marriage (Claudette Colbert). Along the way, the lady finds herself in endless trouble, and Peter finds himself consistently in a position to rescue. By the end of the film, the two have twisted together so tightly that separation becomes unfathomable. What is so utterly amazing is that the romantic aspect of this film is built so gradually that it truly feels real, not forced into movie-time like most romance flicks. By the time the two realize each other's importance, you feel a connection between them as well-- which becomes a relief after so many ups and downs during their trial-filled journey.

Absolutely adorable. In every sense of the word. Five stars, undoubtedly. Love love love love!
I can already tell I'll be seeing this one again and again.

#125 Delicatessen (1991)

**** + .5

Director: Marc Caro, Jean-Pierre Jeunet
Cast: Pascal Benezech, Dominique Pinon, Marie-Laure Dougnac, Jean-Claude Dreyfus, Karin Viard

Love this film.

From the very opening shot to even the character/actor credits at the end-- this film was a gorgeously filmed movie. Brought to us, in part, by the same man who directed Amelie and A Very Long Engagement-- I wouldn't expect anything less. The plot was entirely twisted, yes: based around a Delicatessen in a desolate France that houses a butcher and tenants who all share a common (and necessary) appetite for human flesh. Dominique Pinon comes in as a retired circus clown, escaping the death of his former partner (and monkey), Dr. Livingstone, by taking the job of handy man at the Delicatessen. Little does he know that this is exactly how these butchers gain "customers," as they call them.

With a story so twisted, I thought I was destined to crawl in my skin and suffer the whole movie through, but it was actually very humorous, very beautiful, and very artistic! There were a few cringe-worthy, bloody moments, and I did feel the underground rescue team detracted from the story-- which is why I'm only giving it 4.5 stars.

What a gorgeous moving picture. Amelie fans must must must see!

Sunday, January 3, 2010

#124 She Done Him Wrong (1933)


Director: Lowell Sherman
Cast: Mae West, Cary Grant, Owen Moore, Gilbert Roland, Noah Beery, David Landau

"Come up and see me sometime."

Finally I know where this classic line comes from! I have to admit, Mae West was anything but boring in this film-- though her jewl-clad presence and stage songs were totally bizarro. Cary Grant was graceful and beautiful and fantastic as ever, but it is hard to believe that Mae West attracts attention of every man in the town with her butch humor and excessive accessories. Hats off to old Hollywood-- a great classic.

#123 All The President's Men (1976)


Director: Alan J. Pakula
Cast: Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jack Warden, Martin Balsam, Hal Holbrook, Jane Alexander

A political drama following two journalists from the Washington Post (Redford and Hoffman) who slowly uncover the Watergate scandal. I was excited about this movie for two reasons:
1. I love Dustin Hoffman
2. I don't really know anything about Watergate other than it involved money laundering and lead to Nixon's resignation.

I wanted this movie to teach me more about what really happened with Watergate, and I wanted the excitement of Hollywood to mask the history lesson. Maybe I was asking too much. I enjoyed the film, but I truly had no idea (most of the time) what was going on. Names of people were flying, people were meeting in parking garages with information, and although I shared the excitement with the characters every time a new lead was uncovered, I rarely had any idea what sort of information was gained.

I think the movie focused far too much on the obstacles of the journalists. Though I realize the film comes from their perspective, it became very redundant watching them make phone calls, only to be hung up on over and over again for two hours. It would have been more exciting to see what unraveled as a result of their nosing about.

Also, the end of the film came extremely abruptly. The "epilogue" of the film was forced to make an enormous jump from the two journalists uncovering the name Haldeman... to Nixon's resignation-- and none of that was part of the actual film.
Overall, I truly did enjoy the movie, which is why it is getting 3 stars, but it certainly did nothing for me in terms of being any sort of history lesson.

Saturday, January 2, 2010

#122 Hannah And Her Sisters (1986)


Director: Woody Allen
Cast: Barbara Hershey, Carrie Fischer, Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Diane Wiest, Woody Allen

Classic Woody Allen film! A bunch of mid-level, semi-successful adults with waning beauty/youth go through difficulties with married life. Relationships are challenged by inter-family infidelities, and Woody Allen proves yet again that he can play the role of the charming, yet completely neurotic hypochondriac without overdoing it.

I absolutely love Woody Allen, partly because his movies always read as realistic to me. The characters are never over-simplified or too beautiful, and his stories are always about humans fucking up their lives. I can relate. Annie Hall has been one of my favorite movies since the first time I saw it, and I found this film was no disappointment (only slightly less spectacular). But come on, how could anyone out-do the young Diane Keaton? I am looking forward to seeing Manhattan, which is still on my list!

#121 An Affair To Remember (1957)


Director: Leo McCarey
Cast: Cary Grant, Deborah Kerr, Richard Denning, Neva Patterson, Cathleen Nesbitt

The classic romance-- Cary Grant looks dapper and Deborah Kerr is sharp as a tack. The two meet on an ocean-liner and begin their love affair to remember, vowing to meet again at the top of the empire state building 6 months later-- a sentiment only ruined by the ever-so-cheesy Sleepless in Seattle.

I found this to be a fantastic love story, which says a lot considering how much I do hate romance flicks. I loved the witty comebacks, the glamour of the 50s Hollywood cast, and the scenery which set such a fantastic backdrop for it all-- the hills of France to the bustle of NYC. The only reason I didn't give it 5 stars was because of the wicked plot twist involving Deborah Kerr keeping her injuries a secret (doesn't make any sense!) as well as for the 2 or 3 children choir songs-- how unnecessary and annoying! All of those freckled ugly children with their crooked teeth grinning at the camera in close-up... in the middle of one of Hollywood's most classic romances... for shame!