Sunday, February 28, 2010

#190: Se7en

Directed by: DAVID FINCHER
1995, TSPDT Rank #914

Well I just finished watching Se7en, and I just have to say that had to have been a terrible first week at work. This is a truly dark, sick, and twisted film, but it mirrors those grim aspects of our world today. It's not even just the murders, although some of the afterviews of the victims can be quite disturbing - but it's the moral and social implications of the film that make it all the more troubling. With the serial killer movie formula seemingly in place, and starring Morgan Freeman and Brad Pitt, one could be deceived into thinking this a token detective film. It is no more that than "John Doe" was a run-of-the-mill serial killer. If you find yourself able to watch this film through to the end, you will find that you have just watched a compelling, thought-provoking, disgusting, totally masterful, yet thoroughly disturbing film. It's meant to be this way, and if you think about it, you might find yourself questioning who we are as humans, what our world is moving towards, and whether or not it is "still worth fighting for."

(Rating: 9/10)

Thursday, February 18, 2010

#189: The Adventures of Robin Hood

1938, TSPDT Rank #488

Not exactly sure on what the story is about the two directors on this one, but I do know that Curtiz is known as the master of the swashbuckler (although he worked in basically every film genre) and that he should probably be given the most credit for directing this film. That being said, Robin Hood is the quintessential swashbuckler film. Unfortunately, the swashbuckler is a dead genre, and with today's political climate, and the invasion of CGI technology, we will never truly see one again (although the makers of films like Pirates of the Caribbean have tried). The film involves a former knight (Errol Flynn as Robin Hood, one of the classic cinematic heroes), who selflessly protects the good Anglo-Saxon peasants from the tyrannical Norman government in Medieval England. Today viewers sometimes demand a gray area in their characters to make them more realistic. Thankfully this old film doesn't take itself so seriously, presenting a clear battle between a clearly defined good and evil, with a lot of humor, romance, action, and color. A thoroughly enjoyable film, and not soon to be forgotten, I hope.

(Rating: 8/10)

Monday, February 15, 2010

#188: Donnie Darko

Directed by: RICHARD KELLY
2001, TSPDT Rank #709

Donnie Darko was one of the cult hits of the decade, declared as a bizarre and original trip. Well it is pretty trippy in parts, but it's not all it's cracked up to be. This is basically a rip-off of a bunch of stuff David Lynch has already done. I mean, come on - Twin Peaks, Blue Velvet - these were darkly comic visions of small-town life with secrets hiding under the calm facade. Kelly borrows (steals) a lot from these, with a little of the 'intertwining fate' dramas we've become used to seeing in recent years. When it was over, I couldn't help feeling that although some of it was interesting and it was fairly entertaining, it doesn't amount to much.

(Rating: 6/10)

Thursday, February 11, 2010

#187: Memento

2000, TSPDT Rank #790

This has been called one of the best and most confusing movies of the 2000s. It is neither, but it is pretty enjoyable, and very well-made. I knew it would be told in reverse, but I wasn't sure exactly how that would work out. We start at the end (with fragments of black and white footage from an unspecified time separating the scenes as they progress backwards), slowly working our way back to what we think is the beginning, only to find out that the story's been going on for probably quite some time (this shouldn't be a spoiler). The film is somewhat of a puzzle, however, and will lose much of its enjoyment factor is spoiled, so I will just say this: even during the "final revelation," pay attention to what is being said, what transpired before, and the truth should be there. Although some think there are many interpretations possible, I think that the pieces do fall together if you keep track of them while watching, and the plot of the film is pretty straightforward when it's over. Enjoy this film for what it is, a very good puzzle of a thriller - if you want a bona-fide head trip of a movie, head straight to David Lynch's Mulholland Dr., definitely one of the best of the decade.

(Rating: 7/10)

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

#186: Man of Aran

1934, TSPDT Rank #345

I watched this one impulsively, not really knowing what to expect (I'd seen most of Nanook of the North before, but not enough to include it in my running count). It contains a lot of very beautiful and alluring images - infused with an inventive sense of editing and often brilliant camerawork. Unfortunately the other aspects of the film are quite thin. We are often shown the same shots or images over and over, or at least similar ones, so at times the film can feel quite repetitive. And it's very unclear as to what Flaherty was attempting to accomplish with the film. It's clearly not a documentary, as much of it is fictionalized. Apparently it is supposed to have a sense of realism, but the titular Man was not even from Aran, and had to be trained in a number of tasks for the film - including the hunting of the basking shark. That task itself had not been performed by the inhabitants of the island for generations when the film was made. So maybe it is supposed to represent the spirit of the inhabitants in general - old and new. Or a sort of tribute to them if you will. In any case, although the visuals are amazing, I don't think there's really a whole lot else here of great worth. It's definitely better than watching Avatar, that's for sure.

(Rating: 6/10)

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

#185: The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring

Directed by: PETER JACKSON
2001, TSPDT Rank #780

The Lord of the Rings films were some of the most popular and acclaimed films of the past decade, and based on this film, I think those feelings are justified. It's a movie of great scale and vision; Jackson has painstakingly created a vivid world and the people who live in it are portrayed just as vividly. This is one of those fantastic movies where the CGI is used to actively enhance the material on screen - it's not just for show, it's a part of the tale, and with all the various creatures, battles, and landscapes, it's much needed. The film is not without it's flaws and some overly sentimental drawn-out sequences, but all in all it's a solid film and also a very creative one - both visually and narrative-wise. It was good for a starter, and I'm ready for the others.

(Rating: 8/10)

Sunday, February 7, 2010

#184: The Blues Brothers

Directed by: JOHN LANDIS
1980, TSPDT Rank #795

Originally an act on Saturday Night Live (during the early days), The Blues Brothers completely transcends these beginnings and becomes one of the greatest comedies of all time. And not only is it a comedy, but it contains great rhythm and blues music, a radiating sense of coolness, a whole palate of cameos - and also one of the best car chases of all time. Yes, out of my least favorite decade in film history comes one of the most awesome and perfectly executed comedies of all time. There are so many hilarious scenes and a lot of interesting cinematic touches too; really it's impossible to go wrong. I'm not making a case that it's perfect, only that it's pretty damn good and (along with Animal House, also directed by Landis and one of my favorites) definitely is right where it belongs within the 1,000 Greatest Films. I hope it stays here.

(Rating: 9/10)

Saturday, February 6, 2010

#183: Casablanca

1942, TSPDT Rank #17

A definite masterpiece, it is very hard to pin down why exactly Casablanca is so perfect. Certainly all of the parts just seem to fall in to place; and it ends up being a transcendent film that defines classic film. All of the actors are superb - Ingrid Bergman was one of the most beautiful actresses ever to grace the screen, and the versatile Claude Rains gives one of his best performances in this film. Not to even mention Bogart. The script is incomparable, and Casablanca has probably become so iconic as to defy criticism. It doesn't deserve any, so I will leave it at that.

(Rating: 10/10)

Thursday, February 4, 2010

#181: The Killing of a Chinese Bookie

1976, TSPDT Rank #359

(The following text is excerpted from a post I wrote for the Internet Film Club, an international online group that I am a part of. The content is only changed slightly for coherence in the blog. If you would like to join the film club or find out more about it, you can visit either of these websites: or Thanks for reading.)

I watched The Killing of a Chinese Bookie last week and thought it was amazing. (By the way, I watched the 108 minute cut, and I really loved the flow, I don't understand how the 136 minute cut could be better - Cassavetes didn't think so anyway.) Everything is very well done - the camerawork astounding, performance by Gazzara is top-notch and quite deep, and it's narrative is very unique. It's made to look like a gangster film from the outside, but internally, it's very much a Cassavetes film. One specific thing I noticed is that when Cosmo fires his first shot at the Chinese man, we remain in close-up on his face as he fires the shot, with the bullet hitting the body off-screen. This is quite a unique move, I know I was shaken, I was all primed for the cut but we stayed focused on the face. It makes sense though, because we as an audience have no call to care what happens to the man - we know he is going to die (at least once Cosmo enters the apartment). It seems that when Cosmo fires the shot, by looking at his face, we know that besides just killing the Chinese man, he is killing a part of himself. For better or worse, the person he had made himself up to be, the person he imagined had a lot of class, and carried himself perfectly with a strict code of conduct was being taken over by the fact that that same code had been breached, he had lowered himself to killing to erase a debt, and he begins to question who he is. The film has perfect pacing, it's compelling and fascinating all the way through, and I believe it also says something about Cassavetes' perception of the life of a film director, and all the forces they go up against. I consider the film to be the best example of Cassavetes' work and his style that I've seen so far, runner-up is A Woman Under the Influence.

(Rating: 9/10)