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.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

#237 The Birth of a Nation (1915)


Director: D.W. Griffith

Cast: Lillian Gish, Mae Marsh, Henry B. Walthall, Miriam Cooper, Mary Alden, Ralph Lewis, George Siegmann, Walter Long, Robert Harron, Wallace Reid

Appropriately described as one of the most revered and reviled films of all time, The Birth of a Nation is a film we simply wish to discard despite its groundbreaking stylistic and technical elements. Based on a rather racist play by Thomas Dixon entitled "The Clansman: An Historical Romance of the Ku Klux Klan," the film spans from a pre-Civil War era, through Lincoln's assassination, to a post-war age where racial rivalry is at its peak. Showing African Americans in the worst light with the most blaring racial stereotypes, the film dually functions as a piece of racist propaganda, suggesting that their rise to liberty was the downfall of Aryian civilization. Showing Klan members parading in on stallions to a song of victory, murdering "crazed" blacks all along the way, certainly makes the film's standpoint clear, and sickeningly so.

Despite the horrors that this film projects, it simultaneously offers some of the greatest leaps and advancements made by any film. It is often said that this is the pioneer motion picture to define modern cinema, being the first to include key shots such as match-on-action, shot-reverse-shot, and even camera techniques such as tracking.

The three hour long drama is widely-debated and of course rightfully controversial, and I by no means would suggest the film is any form of pleasant viewing. The sick feeling it will leave in your stomach is probably not worth its historical significance to the artistry of film. But nevertheless, if you are persistent on seeing where it all started (or are just pursuing a crazy goal of watching all 1001 like me), try to prepare yourself for what is sure to be, however relevant, a difficult viewing experience.