5 films for april

March 31, 2008

week of april 1:

twelve angry men by sidney lumet

i’ve had numerous people tell me i need to see it, and this was one that wasn’t even really on my radar.

week of april 7:

cléo from 5 to 7 by agnés varda

a little classic new wave

week of april 14:

the 400 blows by francois truffaut

continuing the new wave for another week

week of april 21:

the 39 steps by alfred hitchcock

one of those few hitchcock films i’ve left to see

week of april 28:

2001: a space odyssey

i’m not really looking forward to it. it seems like too much to undertake

8 1/2

March 30, 2008

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this was my first exposure to the much revered federico fellini, and though it is widely considered his best work, i am not sure that it was the best place to start. initially, however, i was taken in by a few aspects of the film. firstly, i was awed by how smoothly the camera moved at times allowing me to believe it was actually stationary and everything around it was in motion. i loved the opening dream sequence as well, and i doubt i will ever forget the image of Guido’s foot tied to a string that leads down to the beach as if he was a kite.

that said, i was never fully engaged in the thoughts and fantasies of the filmmaker. i have had much difficulty trying to identify why i couldn’t commit myself to his emotional and intellectual journey, and i still don’t think i have an answer. i have no reason to fault the film for my response. rather, i am disappointed that i just didn’t ‘get it’ the first time around. i plan on revisiting it soon to remedy this travesty, and i sincerely hope that my reaction will be more favorable.

thanks everyone for sticking with the blog while i fill in for john. it has been great fun, and the only challenge was writing these posts with just lowercase letters, per his request.

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editor’s note:

thanks to alex, or basil as most of you have probably come to know him, for spearheading 4films for a month. i had a lot of schoolwork to do this past month so i haven’t had much time to watch movies (except those i’ve had to watch for school).

so thanks again, and if anyone is interested in taking over for a month i’d be more the happy to step aside and hand over control. just email or something.

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2nd editor’s note:

if all uppercase is shouting in type, then all lowercase must be a quite whisper. and i think it’s a nice change of pace than what is normally on the interwebs. all lowercase give creates a welcoming environment.

dog day afternoon

March 19, 2008

just recently, upon finishing sidney lumet’s great book making movies, did i begin to delve into the director’s oeuvre. i started with 12 angry men and followed it up shortly thereafter with network. i absolutely loved both of those films, particularly the former, so i was very anxious to watch dog day afternoon.

the film begins with a brief montage of images of new york city, which proves, by the film’s end, to be almost our only glimpse at the broader setting of the picture. it’s a perfect set-up, and, just moments later, we are sucked right into the robbery. this, along with the other two lumet films i have seen, is enough proof of his refusal to waste time at the beginning of his films. no motivations are yet understood, but it was so refreshing to not be dragged through scene after scene of exposition before finally getting to the heist.

al pacino is very good.

for the first hour, i was completely consumed by the film. however, when we finally learn why sonny is robbing the bank (even though i was familiar with the true story before beginning the film), the whole film lost a ton of momentum for me. the issue that arises is: can i blame the film when it is simply sticking to the true story on which it is based? well, i’m afraid i have to. the main problem is that lumet and screenwriter frank pierson relegate the sexual motivations of sonny to a diversion. only one quarter of the film directly deals with the love triangle of sonny, leon, and angie, and that just wasn’t enough for me to buy such a complex relationship.

still, i’m a sucker for heist films, so i really did enjoy the majority of the picture. lumet just doesn’t quite pull off all the intricacies of the story.

the third man

March 18, 2008

peter bogdanovich, in an introduction to this film, called it one of the greatest non-auteur films ever made. let’s be frank here pete, this is quite simply one of the greatest films of any kind ever made. i was so awed by every aspect of it – the plotting, the beautiful cinematography, the brilliant score, and just about every single performance.

i don’t know much about carol reed, but what he achieves in this film is enough to make me seek out his other works. to start with, every single image is packed with meaning and information. each frame, particularly prior to harry lime’s first appearance, is just a little bit off, either in terms of lighting or balance. this serves as a constant reminder that there is something not quite right about the information that has been provided to us thus far.

this is not to mention the score, which is both alarmingly unique and tonally perfect. i’m not sure i’ll get the music out of my head for the next several days, and i expect that it’ll be the first thing that comes to mind when i think of the film hereafter. just as there is not a single missed frame, i don’t think anton karas’ score misses a single beat.

lastly, the performances are incredibly cohesive, particularly those of joseph cotten (who i loved in hitchcock’s shadow of a doubt) with old friend orson welles (with whom he appeared in citizen kane). then of course, there’s anna schmidt (credited as valli), whose wonderful performance was mimicked to great effect by cate blanchett in soderbergh’s the good german.

this is a film i can’t wait to watch again, likely with one of the many commentaries available. it is also one that is considered to contain among the greatest entrances and endings of all time, two honors with which i would not disagree.

well this is a much easier film to talk about than the ones john chose last month. it’s the sort of movie i see audiences really embracing, a bona-fide hit if 1948 ever had one. it grossed an estimated 3.8 million at the time, which today is the equivalent of about $34,924,774.89. not exactly transformers, but still pretty successful.

there is a lot to love about this movie beyond its entertainment value, though. i was particularly struck by something i also noticed while going through hitchcock’s oeuvre over the past few months – the exposition is as great as the rest of the film. just getting to know these characters, particularly Dobbs in this case, is so enjoyable that i almost wished the entire film consisted of Humphrey Bogart walking around begging for change and spending it on haircuts and lottery tickets. also of note was john huston’s heavy use of foreshadowing, which i found quite endearing if not exactly subtle.

still, once the action picks up and the three men start finding more gold than they could imagine, the film loses little steam. it was at this point that i noticed how smooth and natural the transitions are; each scene leads directly into the one that follows, rhythmically and tonally, a quality seemingly lacking from a lot of modern films.

my only criticism is with the performance of Tim Holt as Curtin, who falls mostly flat in the company of Bogart and Walter Huston, who won an Oscar for the role. he slows a few scenes down, and i wish someone more versatile would have been cast, but the script doesn’t give him much to do anyway.

this was a great way to start a month of four great films!

taxi driver

March 8, 2008

this might be my favorite film i’ve watched for this little blog of an experiment. now i never lived one minute of the 70’s, but this felt as authentic as it gets. not the that 70’s show kind of 70’s, but the real psychotic mohawked murderer kind.

not a single minute of this film fell flat, or felt out of place or pointless. i loved structure, telling in essence to stories with travis at the center, and pacing felt dead on. and you gotta love robert de niro. i seem to be going through a renaissance of sorts for actors i had pretty much written off. jack nicholson in chinatown, martin sheen in apocalypse now (though as an actor he seems to be making the best film choices out of this group), and now de niro in taxi driver.

and now to talk about the ending. i feel like i’ve been harping a lot about bad endings or endings that didn’t completely work for me, but this one hit on all cylinders. i love the that the film turns travis into a hero at the end, when 5 minutes earlier he was ready to assassinate the potential president. travis realized he couldn’t take down the senator, so turned his sights to lower level pimps.

you talkin to me?

(i was afraid that the “you talkin’ to me” scene was going to fall flat because of all the parody i’ve seen, but really worked)

apocalypse now

March 2, 2008

why do i keep picking films that i really cannot quantify a response too? let me say that the first act was phenomenal. loved every minute of it, loved the plot set up, loved the dialogue, loved the action.

i never thought i’d love a marty sheen performance as much as i did, and the performances all around were really good.

but……the film comes to a screeching halt as soon as marlon brando shows up. we’re building up to this great meeting between sheen and brando and whenever brando is on screen, he’s just eating up all the screen time (though the first time they meet i think is actually a fantastic scene. great mood, and brando is creepy as hell). brando not only literally takes up the entire film from that point on, but nothing he says is rather interesting. i would’ve bought the ending a lot more if it had happened quicker.

by no means does the last act ruin the film, and i’m not sure how bad it ultimately is. the first act is probably the best war film i’ve ever seen. really interested to see the redux version to see if it changes my opinion on the end.