Sunday, November 27, 2011

#420: The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King

Directed by: PETER JACKSON
2003, TSPDT Rank #940

I finally forced myself to watch the conclusion to the Lord of the Rings trilogy, and "force" is none too strong a word either. I liked The Return of the King even less than The Two Towers - it is even longer, the cinematography is merely serviceable, and even the battle scenes are flawed and less visceral. They have all these mutated elephant creatures and what not running amok to distract from the details of what's going on during the battle. The acting is bad, the script is terrible - I just couldn't stand this film. It's almost as bad as how I felt about Ben-Hur - both big Oscar winners, both including Best Picture. However, I almost gave the film the same rating as the Two Towers (4/10) because of the truly spectacular "ending" sequence at Mordor, but what should have been the ending came 45 minutes before the actual end of the film. After sitting through all of the treacly falling action bullshit, I decided to give it a lower rating. I've gone into further detail about my problems with The Two Towers, and if you read that again, the thoughts expressed in my review of that film largely express how I felt about Return of the King as well. So I know a lot of people found the Lord of the Rings films to be "cinematic masterpieces" but I have to wholeheartedly disagree. Aside from the first film, which I still think is a great, promising epic, I think these second and third films are terrible and pointless, at least for someone who hasn't read Tolkien's trilogy of novels.

(Rating: 3/10)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

#419: The Lady from Shanghai

Directed by: ORSON WELLES
1948, TSPDT Rank #403

This post contains material written for the Internet Film Club.

If The Stranger was Welles' "conventional" take on film noir, then The Lady from Shanghai is his decidedly "unconventional" take on it. And the results are stunning. The plot doesn't make much sense, and those attempting to get a "good story" here will be confused and disappointed. What it is is a fractured near-masterpiece, a raving fever dream. It's strikingly filmed, with a sweaty, imposing, and somehow strangely beautiful feel to it. Rita Hayworth is ravishing here - she lights up the screen like a cigarette and lets it smolder slowly. The ending climactic hall of mirrors sequence completely outranks even the great final scene of The Stranger as a sheer explosion of furiously edited violence. It is a fitting conclusion to all that comes before. I think I heard that Lady from Shanghai was originally quite a bit longer, and was ordered to be cut down by the studio. This would make quite a bit of sense, because the film never really comes together as a whole, just as a series of somewhat related sequences, filled with crackling dialogue. It could have worked as a longer film, but it works well this way too. And I haven't seen Mr. Arkadin yet, but I think The Lady from Shanghai may be our purest glance at a "Wellesian film noir".

(Rating: 9/10)

Thursday, October 20, 2011

#418: Gun Crazy

Directed by: JOSEPH H. LEWIS
1950, TSPDT Rank #443

Some noir films are great, but don't deter from the stereotypical film noir outline (such as Double Indemnity). Their predictability and familiarity is ironically what often makes them so enjoyable and satisfying; because they meet our expectations right where we expect them to. Then there are noir films like Gun Crazy, which are also great in their own right - but break all the plot "rules" of a film noir, and leave the viewer continually not expecting where they are going. It's a story reminiscent of Bonnie and Clyde, wherein it concerns a criminal couple, in love and on the lam. Only here it's a little more complicated than that. Both the man and the woman have been gun-obsessed from childhood - only the man is pacifist who gets sick at the thought of killing even a small animal, and the woman seems all too ready to kill anyone who is remotely a threat at will, and has in the past. They only become serious criminals because the woman threatens to leave the man if he gets a regular job instead of performing hold-ups. Yet, the woman still does not fit the role of femme fatale; for we have every reason to believe she really loves this man. This is an exciting and interesting movie, and although it's not a masterpiece, it does contain great scenes and twists at every turn. Definitely influential in some ways, although I've never seen anything quite like it.

(Rating: 8/10)

#417: The Misfits

Directed by: JOHN HUSTON
1961, TSPDT Rank #712

I watched The Misfits a few nights ago, in commemoration of Montgomery Clift's birthday. It's a great film, and it's going sorely unnoticed because people find it "uneventful." How this film is considered less "eventful" than The Two Towers, I will never fully grasp. The performances of all the actors are searing and spectacular. Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe (both giving their last performances) are basically the two central actors of the film, but the performances of Eli Wallach and Monty Clift are no less impressive. For anyone who has experienced the feelings of not looking at the world like everyone else does, or had a hard time coping with the world in general will especially like this film. If you don't have any vulnerable spots, and have no interest in reading into the feelings the actors transmit, a film like The Two Towers might be considered great viewing instead. But I personally would highly recommend the exotic blend of quiet, moody desperation and burning exhilaration that The Misfits presents. Also, happy belated birthday, Monty.

(Rating: 9/10)

Sunday, October 16, 2011

#416: The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers

Directed by: PETER JACKSON
2002, TSPDT Rank #951

The Two Towers is, in essence, another in a very long line of overblown, bloated epics that Hollywood has been cranking out quite consistently in the past 100 years. These films piss me off, because the production values are so grand, and the premise so ambitious that these films never cease to win loads of awards and top every best of list the modern film geek can come up with, even though they aren't that interesting. The Lord of the Rings films are so beloved and sacred in pop culture because .... I actually have no idea why. I thought Fellowship of the Ring was quite good when I reviewed it probably about a year ago, but I found The Two Towers to be dull, empty, and frankly, quite a waste of three hours of film (or more if you watch the extended version, which I happily did not). There were some very beautiful shots scattered throughout the film, and those I really liked. And giving credit where credit is due, the battle scenes are quite visceral and well-done. But the film consists basically of either battle scenes, discussion of impending battles, or scenes involving some fantastic creatures (during which the talents of the CGI department are well displayed, as usual). I know this is meant to be entertainment, but whoever this entertainment is geared toward, I am not that person. As far I'm concerned, despite a climactic battle in which the stakes are supposedly the fate of mankind, the film ends up not in that different of a place than it was at the beginning. Maybe it's tough being the middle film in a trilogy about an epic journey, but either way, I did not enjoy this film. Which reminds me - coming soon is The Return of the King. I have that to look forward to.

(Rating: 4/10)

Friday, October 7, 2011

#415: The Magnificent Ambersons

Directed by: ORSON WELLES
1942, TSPDT Rank #51

While watching this film, prepare to be immersed in another time - another world. Even in the tragic, butchered state this movie is in, it is still the period piece to end all others. If this film had been released the way Welles intended it (a full hour longer, and without the terrible ending that was made in a rush and tacked on completely by the studio), it might well have taken Citizen Kane's place at the top of a list such as this one. The state the remaining film elements are in is terrible for a film of this quality, and the completely misguided cutting of the film is definitely one of the biggest cinematic injustices of all time. But with all that aside, The Magnificent Ambersons is a great film nevertheless. The cinematography is graceful and sumptuous - some of the best visual work done on black and white celluloid. The long takes glide across the screen majestically and the sets create a vivid and uniquely nostalgic atmosphere that permeates throughout the whole film. The acting is fantastic - done mostly by Mercury Theatre players, including Joseph Cotten and Agnes Moorehead. This is one of the few films that Welles directed that he did not also act in - and I don't feel that his presence would have added to this particular movie at all. Unfortunately, the flow of the movie is disrupted by the copious amounts of cut material (all completely destroyed right after being cut) - especially during the last third of the film. It's still moving as it is, but we cover too much dramatic territory in much too little time, and by the time the film arrives at its sudden and vapid "happy ending", I had a feeling of somewhat sullen detachment. I'm still glad this film gets attention and is as high as it is on this list, because it deserves it - being as it was probably the most ambitious film Orson ever worked on. And any way you look at it, partial Ambersons is definitely better than no Ambersons at all. So even if the butchering keeps this great film from being a true masterpiece (which is why I won't rate it as such), it retains the ability to place the viewer into a specific era and way of thinking like no other film, and the fragments still often show the genius of Welles in full display, ambition, and enthusiasm.

(Rating: 9/10)

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

#414: In a Lonely Place

Directed by: NICHOLAS RAY
1950, TSPDT Rank #292

This is one of the most perfect movies I have ever seen. Nicholas Ray created a film noir tour-de-force with this film. The pairing of Bogart and Gloria Grahame is sublime and perfect, on a completely different level than the famous Bogart and Bacall pairing. Nicholas Ray was clearly a much better director for Bogart than Howard Hawks, and yes, I am saying that this is much better than both To Have and Have Not and The Big Sleep, great films though they are. The visual sense here is incredible, and this is hands down Bogart's best performance of all time, and certainly even one of the best by any actor. He is violent, bitter, sensitive, romantic, cynical, clever, creative, and horribly insecure all at once. There is not a single area where I could fault the movie. I might even fault it for the pit of despair it eventually throws you in - but for any lover of film noir, such as myself, that aspect is oddly as delicious as it is totally shattering. And with In a Lonely Place being a film noir, a dark, grim ending should not normally be a fault. The vivid rendering of these characters, the intensity of the script, and the visual closeness felt watching the film does not prepare you for the gut-wrenching emotional effect of the film. There are no stock characters here, and Ray does not manipulate you into siding with any one of them in particular. In a Lonely Place is a masterpiece. To me, it seems immune to criticism. It was Jean-Luc Godard who said, "The cinema is Nicholas Ray," and this film has fully proved the truth of that statement to me.

(Rating: 10/10)

#413: The Navigator

1924, TSPDT Rank #375

Today is Buster Keaton's birthday, and everybody who knows anything about film knows that Buster was one of the greatest comedic men in the history of cinema. The Navigator is a great film made while Buster was in the prime of his career. It's not quite the masterpiece that films like The General or Our Hospitality are - but it is still more hilarious than anything most comedic actors could ever hope to pull off. Buster's co-star Kathryn McGuire should also be mentioned - as she more than pulls her weight in the proceedings. The plot involves rich, pampered Buster and McGuire getting stuck accidentally on a boat together in the middle of Atlantic Ocean and having to learn how to live on the ship. The genius of Buster Keaton speaks for itself, but I would also mention that as in most Keaton silent features, the finale is made to be a definite highlight. The ending fight against the "cannibals" is a whirlwind of laughter and tense suspense. Happy birthday to the Great Stone Face. You will live on as long as there is still laughter and a small bit of (in)sanity left in this quickly unraveling world.

(Rating: 9/10)

Sunday, October 2, 2011

#412: F for Fake

This post contains content written for the Internet Film Club.

Directed by: ORSON WELLES
1973, TSPDT Rank #332

F for Fake is Orson Welles' final masterpiece, and considered by some to also be basically his final film. This film is overwhelming in its brilliance - it is a feat of incredible editing and unmatched originality. Welles had trouble getting much of a release for this film - as was the case with much of his work. And, like so many of his other projects, it unfortunately was way ahead of the people it was released to, and the film that Welles thought would be a success, because of the recent scandals discussed in much of the film, failed to make any kind of significant impact. It is a very personal film, as well as a humorous and adventurous one. Welles is paving a singular road here that was unlike any road ever traveled before, in a way that is very similar to what he did over 30 years prior with a little film called Citizen Kane. I think the two films are actually very similar in the paths that they pursue, the paths of core identity and truth, and both relevant to the periods of Orson Welles' life that they were attached to. When watching this movie, you can tell that Orson was filled with revived enthusiasm for his work with this film. Almost like he is just getting started again. That this would be the last proper film he would make and complete in his life is unfortunately telling of what his whole life and career was like. Small bursts of genius often turned out under oppressive, unagreeable conditions. Thankfully though, F for Fake is one of the clearest views of Welles' genius that we have - along with Citizen Kane, his one "carte blanche" film. The dense, multilayered editing and the complex trickery within the film call for multiple viewings more than most movies. There will be so much to discover on subsequent viewings, because it is just impossible to take it all in in one viewing. Relish this Welles triumph with pleasure, all those who appreciate film and one of its greatest visionaries.

(Rating: 10/10)

Saturday, October 1, 2011

#411: The Night Porter

1973, TSPDT Rank #905

Now, this film I feel is very much underrated. I'm glad to see it on this list, even though it's not a masterpiece, and it will most likely be off the list within the next year or two, given its ranking and the inevitability of other films replacing it. To me, The Night Porter seemed like an intriguing blend of Bertolucci's The Conformist and Last Tango in Paris - with some moody Fassbinder style thrown into the mix. It conveys a wide and highly complex spectrum of emotion, while seeming much more shocking and explicit than it actually is. It is however, a flawed film in many respects - inexperienced director, pretty drab visually, and with a tendency to move along rather languidly at times. But the film plays with the whole Stockholm Syndrome idea quite ambiguously - suggesting a number of things but never really stating anything outright about the submission-based relationship between the Holocaust victim and Nazi officer. It is definitely worth watching for those who can read between the lines and enjoy looking upon twisted, disturbing relationships presented in a candid manner. The opera scene is probably the highlight of the movie - it's the scene where the film's consistently used but haphazard flashback device works the best, to highly chilling and profound effect.

(Rating: 7/10)

#410: Spirited Away

I'm back... again. And I'm now up to 410. So 90 left to halfway.

2001, TSPDT Rank #439

I wonder why, out of the good modern films that there are, this one gets such a spectacular amount of attention. The animated visuals are very impressive, to be sure, but beyond that, I don't think Spirited Away is very substantial or enjoyable. It's definitely too long, for one thing. What it reminds me of, truthfully, is a Japanese version of Alice in Wonderland, without the humor. It is pretty surreal, but even with all the unusual imagery, I never thought it was engaging - and felt quite bored a fair amount of the time. I think that as an example of creative, vivid modern animation - and aspiring animation artists - might look at this with a lot of interest, but I don't really have much to say about it. It's overlong, overrated, but generally okay.

(Rating: 6/10)

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

#361: A Star is Born

Directed by: GEORGE CUKOR
1954, TSPDT Rank #245

I consider this remake of a '30s film that I have not seen to actually be two films in one: an intense, compelling drama; and a piss-poor, annoying musical. Let's stop and not go any further right now until I point out that anyone who is a fan of the needlessly extended and overblown Judy Garland musical numbers in this film (really the reason why it has a reputation, ironically) is not the target audience for this review. That being said, the songs are terrible. I hate them. They work against the other, better part of the film - which stars James Mason in a typically virtuoso performance as an alcoholic, washed-up Hollywood actor and husband of rising star (Garland) - by padding the length and ruining the tone of the film. In a film where the subject material is increasingly dark and gritty, why muddy the proceedings with useless, unrelated musical numbers which also disconnect the viewer from the actual story of the film? Bear in mind, I'm reviewing the newer, "restored" version of the film, in which the main point is to RESTORE these abrasive musical numbers! If you find a shorter version of the film with minimal musical numbers, I recommend that version because based on the rest of the film and Mason's performance, that would probably be a good film that I could recommend. But this version, that most people (like myself) will see anyway because it's the most "complete", I find impossible to give such a recommendation. A middle of the road rating is given to pay tribute to the portions of the film worth-watching.

P.S. Early in the film, there is a scene where Garland sings "The Man That Got Away" in an empty nightclub with her band. This performance is the only good song in the film.

(Rating: 5/10)

#360: The Shop Around the Corner

1940, TSPDT Rank #196

That legendary, tantalizing, elusive "Lubitsch touch" is definitely on display here. The Shop Around the Corner is not necessarily a perfect film, as the ending is at once both satisfying plot-wise, but disappointingly sloppy and rushed. But all of the actors are great, there's light comedy, fantastic dialogue, wonderful characters, and a steadily building, slow-burning romance that Lubitsch waves around teasingly in front of your face. It's hard to say how this film works so well, but it's supremely compelling and enjoyable, an all-around great film, and highly recommended.

(Rating: 9/10)

#359: Monsieur Verdoux

1947, TSPDT Rank #193

Watching this movie was in some ways a sad experience for me - not because of its dark plot machinations (the film is actually delicious and satisfying in that respect) or the insinuations of a tragic end to the antihero's family, but because this movie could have been a full-blown masterpiece. And that potential is sitting right in front of your face for the entire duration of the film. See, in the opening credits of the film, you see the film was based on "an idea from Orson Welles". This is actually understating it a little bit. Orson Welles had pioneered the idea of the film, and had hoped to work on it with Chaplin. They had worked on an early version of the screenplay and were set to work on it together, when Chaplin dropped Welles from the project in order to have full control over the making of the film. Chaplin's point was that he didn't want to act in a film directed by someone else, and he wanted to have the creative control over his character and the other creative aspects. But for me, during the whole film, the maniacal, fanatical, film-buff voice in my head was screaming, "What if this was a darkly humorous story about a murderous family man, with a social agenda, starring Charlie Chaplin, and directed by Orson Welles?!?!" So of course the film's great even as it is - it's Chaplin! Even so, that sublimely perfect collaboration is now forever lost, seeing that both of its would-be participants are dead, leaving it as a tortuous dream for hard-core film buffs like myself.

(Rating: 8/10)

Thursday, July 21, 2011

#358: To Have and Have Not

Directed by: HOWARD HAWKS
1944, TSPDT Rank #258

Essentially a remake of Casablanca, Hawk's version (with the screenplay written by William Faulkner from a Hemingway novel) is just as good or even better. It follows the basic criteria set forth by Jean-Luc Godard ("All you need for a movie is a girl and a gun") duly, and in great style. The girl is Lauren Bacall at the tender age of 19 - but her character is anything but what her ages suggests. She's commanding, fiery, and her chemistry with Bogart is smoldering - in fact so hot that it at times that she could bend and melt him to her will, all with a mere whistle. Of all the female co-stars Bogart has had, Bacall goes with him the best of any of them. If To Have and Have Not succeeds more, it's probably mainly for the fact that Bogart's relationship with Bacall fills a void that is present in his romance with Ingrid Bergman in Casablanca. This film also provides a perfect role for Walter Brennan that gives it the touch of brevity it needs to sail smoothly. And sail smoothly it does. A near masterpiece.

(Rating: 9/10)

#357: Tootsie

1982, TSPDT Rank #365

Tootsie is not a film I expected to enjoy. But I once again underestimated the talents of Dustin Hoffman, and enjoyed it immensely. It's a throwback to classic screwball comedies, especially Some Like It Hot, which it both updates and pays homage to. Dustin Hoffman plays a talented actor, who can't get any work because of his reputation for being a control freak and taking his work too seriously under all circumstances. He gets a job acting on a soap opera after disguising himself as a woman. He just takes the job for the money and to show that he can still get a job if his name isn't involved. The comedy comes from him having to hide his job from his girlfriend (who tried out for the same role and didn't get it), deal with his sexist director, come-ons from various older men (very reminiscent of elements of the billionaire in Some Like It Hot), the embarrassment of his roommate (Bill Murray), and his strong feelings for his (actually) female co-star on the film (Jessica Lange). As expected, Hoffman's masquerade spirals out of control as he becomes an icon in the female community for the strong-willed and vicious character he creates for himself (deviating from the script), and the best (platonic) friend and inspiration for Lange. The humorous avenues this film goes down are many and come in abundance - confirming this as one of the funniest and best comedies of the '80s, in a decade where comedies (and most films in general) were made with an increasing stupidity and overall weakness. Sure, Tootsie has a few of the unfortunate earmarks of '80s films, but these are few and far between, and surpassed by the overall quality of the film. Highly recommended.

(Rating: 8/10)

#356: Notorious

1946, TSPDT Rank #80

Notorious is the quintessential '40s Hitchcock film, and is probably the best of his work in that decade. The plot is espionage-related, but the plot is only a vehicle to serve up an intoxicating and slightly dangerous mix of suspense and romance. And this isn't a normal romance - it's fiery and passionate at first (note Grant and Bergman's impressive extended kissing screen that miraculously passed the censors in trademark Hitchcock fashion), then cold and dismissive soon after. Bergman gives herself up in aid of the espionage unit she's working for, but it seems to really be to evoke jealousy in Grant's character. The two have conflicting, confused feelings for each other but are at the same time working for the same team - working together but apart. In this fashion Hitchcock dissects romance and feelings, while gradually ratcheting up the suspense and intrigue simultaneously. It's not quite the masterpiece Hitchcock sometimes made, but it is an extremely impressive film anyway, for a variety of reasons.

(Rating: 9/10)

Saturday, July 16, 2011

#355: The African Queen

Directed by: JOHN HUSTON
1951, TSPDT Rank #296

Two very good reasons to watch The African Queen: Humphrey Bogart's amazing performance, and the astounding on-location color cinematography. Otherwise, a quite mediocre film. Katharine Hepburn's character is annoying and grating, the plot is threadbare - probably on the hopes that the main character's antics and the cinematography will help the film stay afloat, so to speak. The ending is contrived and abrupt, not to mention unsatisfying. But in the end, the two reasons I mentioned are good enough reasons to stick with this film for the whole ride. And unpleasant as it may seem at times, it's neither that good or that bad - just rather middle of the road. However, it's a much-lauded film in cinematic history, so although the '50s was a decade that produced much better films than this one, it won't hurt to give it a chance if you're interested in said history.

(Rating: 6/10)

#354: The Bridges of Madison County

1995, TSPDT Rank #858

I'm not exactly sure why Eastwood's grand romantic statement of the '90s is even on the 1,000 Greatest Films, I'll give you my two cents on it nonetheless. It's hard to consider this film's quality without the looming presence of the unbearable and insufferable framing scenes featuring the adult children learning about and coming to terms with their mother's romance with the dashing National Geographic photographer played by Clint Eastwood. To put it politely, the film suffers greatly because of these scenes, but unfortunately these scenes are placed so that they are like the cinematic equivalent to the rotten foundation of an otherwise quite fine and respectable house. As far as the meat of the plot goes, I'll try to explain it in a way that is in keeping with the spirit of the film: the tangible affair lasted five days, the love lasted a lifetime. Meryl Streep's Academy Award-nominated performance as the bored and unfulfilled Italian housewife Francesca constantly skirted the line between hard to tolerate and very good for me, but when all is said and done, and the ashes scattered over the bridge, the film serves as a welcome and fairly well-done portrait of middle-aged romance. If it were not for those terrible framing scenes, I'd have liked to put in a better word for it.

(Rating: 5/10)

#353: Cleo from 5 to 7

Directed by: AGNES VARDA
1961, TSPDT Rank #531

I do not waver in calling this film an under-appreciated French New Wave masterpiece. It caught me off-guard, and it is endlessly inventive and entertaining, featuring cameos by Jean-Luc Godard and Anna Karina, and offering a fresh, intriguing female perspective not felt even in Godard films where the focus is all on Karina. This is of course because it's directed by a woman, and I think that if Agnes Vardas were not a woman, she would definitely be considered one of the seminal cinematic masters. I say this solely on the merits of this film, however, as I have not seen any of her other films, but if this one is any indication, those other films should be high in merits as well. With Cleo from 5 to 7, Vardas finds a great reservoir of power in the simplicity of her film, and uses it and the eponymous main character, played by Corinne Marchand, to fantastic effect. I give this film my highest recommendation, it is a masterpiece and it should not be missed - just as one should not miss Breathless.

(Rating: 10/10)

#352: Saving Private Ryan

1998, TSPDT Rank #803

Here's a film that's most likely so cherished and awarded because it's easy to cheer for, and in that regard probably seems like a worthy tribute to those who served in the second World War. And it might very well be, at that - indeed many of those veterans appreciated it and did find it a worthy tribute. My issue with it is that it seems to present two different films: initially, one of incredibly intense and brutal combat which is definitely the best representation of the hell of war ever filmed; and later, an overly simplistic and cliched adventure story which seems to want to serve us contrived heroism on a silver platter. Both sections are extremely well-filmed, but as far as overall quality goes, I'd say the first section is masterpiece-quality, and the rest is only mediocre. To average these two incongruous parts out, I'll it's an overall good, but quite flawed film which remains the most popular and definitive modern rendering of World War II. Required viewing in any case.

(Rating: 7/10)

#351: Now, Voyager

Directed by: IRVING RAPPER
1942, TSPDT Rank #619

One of Bette Davis' better performances in my opinion, outside of All About Eve. Her being a "fat, ugly duckling" is a little hard to believe, but out of all the Hollywood stars at the time, she was the most able to play a role like that I suppose - and the transformation from ugly duckling to beautiful swan is breathtaking nonetheless. The romance with Paul Henreid is in the foreground early on, but then takes a backseat until the end, to Davis' volatile and traumatic relationship with her mother. Domineering and psychologically consuming mothers practically made the psychoanalytic profession, and this is one of many notable movies to feature them (although I'd rather take Psycho anyday). A bit melodramatic of course, but interesting and enjoyable anyway. Now, Voyager has aged considerably well, and other than Davis, features another great character role for Claude Rains, who can be seen in so many wide-ranging supporting roles around this period. An above-average romantic classic.

(Rating: 7/10)

#350: American Graffiti

Directed by: GEORGE LUCAS
1973, TSPDT Rank #460

Obviously the template for many a beginning-of-summer teen film to come, this film is better than the first Star Wars in my opinion. It features a lot of great '50s and early '60s music, and uses a formless plot as a showcase for a bunch of actors which later became big names, including Richard Dreyfuss and Harrison Ford. There's a lot of humor, reflection, and nostalgia, which make up for the film's lack of form or real substance, and provide an enjoyable watch. A worthwhile and timeless '70s film, worth seeing especially for all of the similar films that have followed and still remain in style today. The birth of a subgenre.

(Rating: 7/10)

#349: The Philadelphia Story

Directed by: GEORGE CUKOR
1940, TSPDT Rank #156

With a cast featuring Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, and James Stewart, there's not really a way this romantic screwball comedy could fail. Grant plays a role that he specialized in around this time period, of a man technically out of a relationship but continually hanging around and sticking his foot back in the metaphorical door. He's hilarious, and this movie provides one of Hepburn's great film roles, as an irresistible society heiress engaged to be married to an upright citizen (played by John Howard) who she doesn't love but who is the exact opposite of Grant's Dexter Haven, her former husband. Stewart adds another facet to the plot as a newspaper reporter, who pursues Hepburn romantically while covering her for a society column feature, despite her upcoming marriage, and the fact that he is inevitably paired with his standby photographer (played by Ruth Hussey). Besides all of this, the film supplies one of the few funny, enjoyable, and actually NOT annoying (!) child actors, with Virginia Weidler portraying Hepburn's witty younger sister. Although its not the funniest of the classic screwball comedies, it's one of the more directly romantic, and it relies on its two main assets, the wonderful cast, and the nearly dizzying romantic plot, to make up for a lower level of all-out comedy. Definitely not worth missing.

(Rating: 8/10)

#348: Ninotchka

1939, TSPDT Rank #265

This comedy starring, in my opinion, the best and most beautiful of all the movie stars of the 1930s, could have been a disappointment for fans of Greta Garbo's alluring mystique and flair for romantic tragedies, but in the hands of the great Ernst Lubitsch it actually adds another side to Garbo's legacy and remains a great example of light but satisfying romantic comedy. Garbo is luminous and entertaining in her first comedic film role, and forms the core of a great cast that features Melvyn Douglas as her eventual lover, and some Lubitsch regulars fleshing out the story. Many of the comedies as old as this have aged considerably, but the famed "Lubitsch touch" makes this another timeless film, as enjoyable and enchanting as ever. A great Greta Garbo film, and another classic from the golden year of 1939.

(Rating: 9/10)

#347: All That Jazz

Directed by: BOB FOSSE
1979, TSPDT Rank #399

All That Jazz is a very personal and honest portrait of life in show-business. Rob Scheider gives a great and intense performance as a thinly veiled version of Bob Fosse - as a director simultaneously staging and casting a high-profile Broadway show, and working on finishing a film about a stand-up comedian. As authentic and emotional as it feels, however, it has been criticized as being overtly negative by a lot of critics, which might be a valid critique, but I think portraying it any other way would have been dishonest from Fosse's point of view, who undoubtedly used the film as a canvas on which to unload his negative energies. It also won the Palme d'Or at Cannes that year. Although it's a very well-crafted, energetic, compelling, and personal film - it certainly can't be called that original, as it borrows heavily from the structure and format of Fellini's 8 1/2, and suffers from feeling too much like a rehash of that film. But despite it's flaws and imperfections, this is worthwhile view - one of the rawest and most intimate purgings of personal demons ever filmed.

(Rating: 7/10)

#346: Gone With the Wind

1939, TSPDT Rank #64

This epic Civil War-era film is, along with another Fleming film, The Wizard of Oz, probably the most popular and enduring classic of the big Hollywood year of 1939. It is one of the most adored romantic films of all time, still enormously popular today despite its age and length. However, I find it interesting how beloved this movie is even today, despite its plentiful similarities in plot and attitude to The Birth of a Nation (which today is a film severely scorned unless being studied purely for its technical cinematic importance). It opens with a bold title card which describes the era of master and slave being a forgotten dream of the past, and portrays the relationship between the two groups as being harmonious and mutual. Now, it doesn't necessarily go as far as portraying the Ku Klux Klan as glorious knights riding into town to save the good ol' white folks as Birth of a Nation does, but it basically hints at the same concept with its portrayal of the despicable black "carpetbaggers" and the pitiful, helpless, abused-looking survivors returning home from battle. That being said, the film is a visual masterpiece, which is allowed to look its best yet thanks to the Blu-ray format, and despite its lies and blatant racism, the structure of the plot is absorbing and nearly impeccable. Add Clark Gable and Vivian Leigh (the two best possible actors for their roles) and this film remains a near-masterpiece. Its almost as important to cinematic history as Birth of a Nation, but its luscious cinematography and nostalgic memories have probably allowed it to get more respect, although on the inside, its ideals and attitudes toward slavery and racism are really not much different at all. A great film, nonetheless, and still worth watching.

(Rating: 9/10)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

#345: Red Desert

1964, TSPDT Rank #284

Antonioni, as a director, is one of the great transmitters of emotions. Often the themes he deals in are alienation and neurosis, but his films are always very subtle and nuanced in the way they portray these themes. This was Antonioni's first color film, and he wastes no available resources in creating a stifling but harshly beautiful industrial wasteland. Red Desert is a perfect example of what I think people find difficult about Antonioni's films: there's never a lot going on on the surface - it's all about the atmosphere and feeling you get from the whole thing. In this movie, by observing the colors, the landscape, the sounds (and letting your senses do the work); you come to understand the plight of the main character (Monica Vitti, Antonioni's cinematic muse in the early to mid '60s) indirectly. The plot, on a basic level, is one of alienation, infidelity, and a struggle to connect with one's surroundings - which, in typical Antonioni, says a lot about human nature and relationships in general underneath the surface. Red Desert is classic Antonioni, not his best film, but a great example of what his statement to the world was with his work, and an ideal extension or introduction to his style.

(Rating: 8/10)

#344: Faust

Directed by: F.W. MURNAU
1926, TSPDT Rank #438

As F.W. Murnau's last German film, and his film preceding the masterpiece Sunrise, Faust comes as a significantly disappointing experience. The visuals in this film are fantastic, and are why it is watchable enough for two hours. However the other elements of this film are both heavyhanded and too minimal. It feels as if Murnau is grasping for something grand and spectacular, and giving it to us with the visuals, but backing it up with thin drama and bad pacing. I personally think that the story of Faust in the way that it was approached was too much for Murnau, and he actually reached much higher heights with the smaller scale story of Sunrise in Hollywood (of all places) the following year. Basically, the difference between the quality of those two films is that Sunrise is a lasting and masterful work of art, and Faust relies too much on grand visuals and ambitions that may have been enough to carry the film in the 1926, but today it feels overbearing and unsatisfying. Not a bad film by any means, but it was disappointing based on my expectations.

(Rating: 6/10)

Thursday, June 23, 2011

#343: Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles

1975, TSPDT Rank #157

Jeanne Dielman has to be one of the greatest films I've ever seen. Period. It's been a few weeks since I first watched it. I watched it basically in one sitting, and when it was over I felt mystified and stunned. Weeks later I still feel that way. This is a film that will get under your skin and into your mind. It's pretty long, yet very minimalist. You can't watch this film unless you're in the right mood for it, and for most people, it will be either hard or impossible to get into that mood. It takes patience, concentration, and deep thought to enjoy the movie. I don't even want to say much about it so that I don't ruin it for others. Suffice it to say this: you see an isolated housewife (and part-time prostitute) perform her daily chores for three days, in exacting detail. That's basically the plot. If you can handle that, and handle the length, then watch it, and read between the lines. I did. It blew me away. Difficult, but a sure masterpiece.

(Rating: 10/10)

#342: The Best Years of Our Lives

Directed by: WILLIAM WYLER
1946, TSPDT Rank #130

To think that a director who would some years later make the eternal blunder that is Ben-Hur could make a film as moving, emotional, and engrossing as this one is the real marvel. But this is really one of the great films of the '40s, a profound and dead-on appropriation of what life on the homefront was like once our gallant soldiers returned home from World War II. Some films around this length (ahem, Ben-Hur) can tend to be strained or reliant on sensational scenes. This film is nothing of the sort, and is the rare bird that is a three-hour movie that keeps your attention and emotions focused for the whole duration. It feels like a film half its length, and I think this is due to the absolutely fantastic dialogue. It comes out flowing smooth and realistically - you buy every minute of this movie, every word the characters speak. It's effect was potent back when it was first released, and it has proved to be quite durable through the years. A movie very worthy of acclaim.

(Rating: 9/10)

Friday, June 17, 2011

#341: Ivan the Terrible, Part One

1944, TSDPT Rank #174

If you were to watch Battleship Potemkin and Ivan the Terrible (both Eisenstein films) back to back, you would be in for quite a surprise. The two films are shot and edited in near completely opposite styles, almost as if Eisenstein was rejecting his old montage theories that made his name for him and made Potemkin one of the greatest masterpieces in film history. This historical epic is nonetheless visually astounding - the entire feel of the proceedings is otherworldly. It reminded me of Fritz Lang's silent epic Die Nibelungen (also released as two films) for its ability to replicate transportation to another time and place - another world. Even if you were not able to follow what is going on in the plot (and it's a little difficult at times), I'd still say it's a film worth watching for the visual splendor. Despite his name of Ivan the Terrible, Ivan is portrayed in this first film as somewhat of a tragic figure. Nearly everyone hates him and is out to kill/destroy him or the few that are close to him. The first film leaves off in preparation for the second, so my review of Ivan the Terrible is incomplete as of now, since I have not yet seen Part Two (also on the 1,000 Greatest Films, of course). That review soon to come.

(Rating: 8/10)

#340: Amelie

2001, TSPDT Rank #964

Amelie is a very good film. But does it belong in the 1,000 Greatest Films [of all time]? That's the big question to ask for the 21st century films on the list. You can debate over its quality all you want, but it's pretty low on the list, and as a representation of 21st century film (for there need to be some), it fits well. I think it's one of the most original romantic films to be made in the last decade. Not to say there haven't been weirder or more boundary-pushing films that could be lumped into the "romantic" genre, but I'm talking about the actual sweet, charming, witty, genuinely romantic films. Great characters, the plot works really well, Audrey Tautou is especially fantastic, and the romantic aspect is very satisfying. It's strange of course; not unsuitably weird, but refreshingly strange. There's not a whole lot else for me to say about it other than that it is a very good and enjoyable modern film, it's worth seeing, and there are definitely reasons why it's one of the most popular and well-liked foreign movies today. I'd strongly recommend it to those who are looking for a way to get into foreign films, and I think many others would enjoy it as well.

(Rating: 7/10)

Sunday, June 12, 2011

#339: Ben-Hur

Directed by: WILLIAM WYLER
1959, TSDPT Rank #359

This tepid, stilted blunder of a film is probably in my bottom five for those of the 1,000 Greatest Films that I've seen so far. It's highly overrated, pointless, stupid, and a poor excuse for epic drama. Furthermore, I'm of the opinion that its revered position in film history comes from the famous chariot race scene. Yes, this scene is very good, the best in the film. But the film is 3 1/2 hours long; what comes before the chariot race is bad, and what follows it is even worse. Besides having terrible acting and pacing, the plot is inexcusably ridiculous. It masquerades as "A Tale of the Christ", and tries to be, but is definitely no such thing. After a misplaced and unnecessary filler of a nativity prologue, Jesus appears two or three times in the film, is clumsily referred to a few times, and his death is presented as a horrible anticlimax, after which all of the characters are inexplicably and suddenly redeemed. The film doesn't have any idea what it is, or should be, instead unsatisfactorily detailing the exploits of a wronged Jewish prince (Charlton Heston), whose character is never anything other than a thundering but unconvincing soggy cardboard cutout (that Heston won an award for his acting is an outrage). This awful film has some big cinematography and one good scene, which has earned it its awards and reputation, but save your time - don't believe the hype.

(Rating: 2/10)

#338: Kiss Me Deadly

1955, TSDPT Rank #302

Out of all the film noirs I've seen, this is the only one that has felt truly dangerous. It's violent, lurid, cryptic, intense, dark, and extremely rough around the edges. Not to mention apocalyptic. This is a film that truly needs to be seen to be believed, however, I will say one thing about it. It's not perfect, I won't give it a perfect rating (yet), and I think to claim it to be perfect might even diminish its raw, gritty power somewhat. But knowing that this jolting and crazy "whatsit" crawled out from the underbelly of the 1950s Hollywood system sends a pitch black bolt of joy rollicking straight into my soul.

(Rating: 9/10)

#337: Mr. Smith Goes to Washington

Directed by: FRANK CAPRA
1939, TSPDT Rank #387

This genuinely inspiring film by the great Frank Capra seems at first glance that it would be way too sentimental to bear - but it's not. It's about the idealistic leader of a nationwide group called the Boy Rangers (played by James Stewart) who is brought into Washington, expected to play by the rules of the corrupt government officials, but instead stands up for what he believes in. It is actually just as sentimental as it sounds, but the subtle trick of the script (which imitators of the film have usually failed to use in their efforts) in the underlying tone of cynicism and sarcasm which counters the sentimentality and gives the film a much-needed balance of tone. The other element that makes this film work all these years later is James Stewart, whose performance is one of the most sincere and impassioned of all time. It's hard to imagine this movie still being held in such high esteem if Gary Cooper, the first choice to play the title role, had been cast. But as it is, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington is a true classic that still feels fresh and watchable, despite its faults (i.e. the annoying kids), as well as a perfect summation of all of Capra's main cinematic trademarks up to this point in his career.

(Rating: 8/10)

Monday, May 30, 2011

#336: The Man Who Fell to Earth

Directed by: NICOLAS ROEG
1976, TSPDT Rank #509

Another Roeg film. I said that Don't Look Now was a very unconventional horror film, and in keeping with Nicolas Roeg's trademark unconventionality, The Man Who Fell to Earth is a very unconventional sci-fi film. In fact, it's even very unique for a cult classic (which it most definitely is) because it's not an exploitation film at all. Despite the sexuality/nudity quite heavily present throughout, this is a subdued, reflective film. It doesn't play out the way you expect it do, and doesn't end the way we are trained to think it should. Actually, a lot of people who watch this movie have a hard time comprehending it, because the despair and emptiness that seem to jump in at the end don't seem acceptable to us. In a very matter-of-fact way, we are shown how the excesses and "luxuries" of human life on Earth will also be our downfall, as they are for the unfortunate and ultimately defenseless alien (played wonderfully by David Bowie) who comes to our planet to reap some of its benefits for his dying home country. Terrifying but perhaps necessary question: Might our country also be a dying one, in more or less apparent ways? This film has many of the trademarks of Don't Look Now - similar editing, similar effect, even a very similar sex scene. I might even go so far as to say that The Man Who Fell to Earth is the "sci-fi Don't Look Now". Which is obviously a perverse generalization, but you get the point. It's just as good, in any case.

(Rating: 8/10)

#335: Duel

1971, TSPDT Rank #876

Some people find this movie to be great, but personally, I don't find it great - I find it rather silly. Frankly, I don't think it belongs on this list. But that's obviously not under my control. The film is significant for reducing the action mainly to a man in his car, and sustaining the action for a full 90-minute TV movie. Now I'm not saying it's terrible, but it doesn't show Spielberg as being great then or afterwards. It's not that Spielberg is terrible either, but the way he is hyped up is just wrong. The word 'Spielberg' is practically synonymous with 'great director/producer/etc.' these days. I think that if people think that, they haven't explored enough. Enough said. Now about the film, the buildup (of which almost all of the film is) is okay/fair, the ending is extremely anticlimactic. And that makes everything that came before it worse.

(Rating: 4/10)

Sunday, May 29, 2011

#334: Don't Look Now

Directed by: NICOLAS ROEG
1973, TSDPT Rank #147

Nicolas Roeg is a director of pseudo-art films with a strange and pretty inaccessible style. Don't Look Now is probably the most popular of all his films because ... well, let's be honest: It's for the graphic and extended sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie. This scene is justifiably famous because it is in keeping with Roeg's reputation for expanding the boundaries of film sexuality (which it definitely did) and created a great controversy at the time. I know this must be the reason this film is as popular as it is, because as a horror film, as good as it, it is very unconventional and deceptive with its tactics. A lot of conventional shock tactics are used, but usually nothing shocking is shown, it is the subtle, growing sense of fear and paranoia that is brought out with Roeg's signature choppy, asymmetrical, and cyclical editing that make the film gripping and viable when there is not really all that much going on. The ending of the film is much talked about, and people usually try to find some significance in that scene itself - but I say it means nothing and is not meant to. That, in itself, might be disturbing, but the film really does come together if you think afterward about how much is actually tied up with the loose ends presented to the viewer in the ending. Trust me, this is a film with much more to it than meets the eye, and the key to that something more is in your mind. One of a kind film that is a gem to a horror lover like myself, although I still ponder the bizarre karmic logic of moving to Venice after your child drowns....

(Rating: 8/10)

#333: All the President's Men

Directed by: ALAN J. PAKULA
1976, TSPDT Rank #529

This film has the brilliantly unique quality of being based on important historical events, made while those events were still greatly in the public consciousness, and with top-notch actors and filmmakers. This film is truly great - thrilling, exciting, fresh, and spell-binding. Shows a number of actors (Robert Redford, Dustin Hoffman, Jason Robards) in their prime, giving performances that are some of the best of their respective careers. I am ashamed to say that I never realized how good of an actor Hoffman was until recently. He really did a lot of great work. This isn't a perfect film, and it ends too abruptly, but it's an excellent film of its time, and I highly recommend it.

(Rating: 9/10)

#332: Rocco and His Brothers

1960, TSDPT Rank #160

This film is widely considered a masterpiece by many fans of Visconti and European film in general. It has been cited as a perfect film by Francis Ford Coppola, and as his primary inspiration in the making of The Godfather. It's a 3-hour operatic family epic, with intense, tragic characters - but it's a clumsy and plodding film. There are a number of very good scenes in this films, and some great actors and actresses, but they are lost amid the thick underbrush of bad pacing and lost momentum. There is enough potential in this film for it to be a masterpiece, and I think that's why it gets the acclaim it does even today. But if you compare this film with Visconti's glorious, mesmerizing film The Leopard, from a few years later and with about the same length - the flaws inherent in Rocco and His Brothers are brought right out. I think the issue was that Visconti wasn't quite equipped to handle a film of this magnitude yet. He had already proved his skill and talents with the operatic melodramatic Senso, from 1954. I think also that the mere fact that Senso and The Leopard work as well as they do point to the fact that Visconti's strong points are brought out better in color than in black and white - as in this film, where the visuals are quite muted and unspectacular. If you watch this film, you will definitely draw the comparisons to Coppola's masterpiece, The Godfather, but I would warn you that despite its strong points and emotional peaks, Rocco and His Brothers is quite stilted and flawed - and a bit of a chore to get through. Not Visconti's best work by a long shot.

(Rating: 5/10)

Monday, May 2, 2011

#331: Rose Hobart

1936, TSPDT Rank #953

This short film is a great idea in every way, and has immortalized its star and namesake more than her average films like East of Borneo would have on their own. Which brings us to the concept: the film is basically shots from the film East of Borneo (starring Rose Hobart and made a few years earlier in the decade) edited down to mainly erotic gazes and atmospheric shots. We don't know who the characters are, don't hear them speak, but we intercept their strong feelings and emotions (don't confuse with melodrama). I can tell, even without seeing the film, however, that this film works much better and presents the beautiful star much better than the source material did. How do I know this? Because if East of Borneo on its own emitted this type of energy and effect, then it would be a lot better known than it is today - and better known than Cornell's Rose Hobart because it would have been able to do what was potentially possible with the footage that it didn't do. Goes to show how powerful the art of editing and shot juxtaposition can be. It's not a surprise Salvador Dali kicked over the projector when he saw this because he had had the same concept in mind shortly before watching this film. A landmark of experimental film.

(Rating: 8/10)

Friday, April 29, 2011

#330: It's a Gift

Directed by: NORMAN Z. MCLEOD
1934, TSPDT Rank #442

W.C. Fields is at the top of his game in It's a Gift, combining sharp wit, excellent comedic skill, and visual creativity into one man comparable to all the Marx Brothers put together. It helps that the film is short, fast-paced, quick-witted, wise-cracking, and incurably funny for the duration. So while it may be thin on plot, Fields' winning blend of visual and verbal jokes carries the film right through to the end. Where there is quite a gift of a twist in store. That's all I'll say. The film can speak for itself. I recommend it highly, it's a joy. Not to mention an overall gift. The title doesn't lie, my friends.

(Rating: 9/10)

#329: Letter from an Unknown Woman

Directed by: MAX OPHULS
1948, TSPDT Rank #91

This is one of those rare romantic films that has a real mysterious allure and hidden substance to it. Its a story very unusual to film, but ultimately quite unexpectedly moving and resonating. The idea of loving someone your whole life, devoting your life to them, with them barely aware of your existence until after you've passed on is a very unique concept and one that deserves a lot of pondering. The actors fit the story like a glove; Joan Fontaine is obviously luminous. I've thought for some time that Fontaine was one of the most under-appreciated actresses of her time - she is simply ravishing. As a commentator elsewhere on the internet, said "you can't help but fall in love with her while watching this movie," and her character definitely deserved more than she got over the course of her lifetime (which the film portrays basically from beginning to end), for all of her beauty and undying devotion. Max Ophuls is also an almost forgotten director today; I guess film buffs like me (and you) need to continue seeking out his films and recommending them to others. Kubrick often cited Ophuls as his favorite director, and a great influence on his work - which isn't surprising, given the fluid, atmospheric cinematography and a neatly camouflaged and unconventional sense of rhythm and pacing. This is a very solid film, another case where I find it quite a shame that it is not readily available at all to those of the US. I recommend it, and hope to bring some more reports on Ophul's work in the not so distant future.

(Rating: 8/10)

#328: Safety Last

1923, TSPDT Rank #937

One of the new additions to the list, Safety Last has a welcome (and hopefully permanent) spot here, which is great, because before this film entered the list, Harold Lloyd (the least known of the so-called three kings of silent comedians - the title he shares with Chaplin and Keaton) was not represented at all on the list! Personally, I think this should be blamed on the fact that Lloyd's films just don't have much circulation at all these days. The DVD box sets of Lloyd's work have been out of print for years, and many of his famous films are not accessible to watch online either (again, unlike those of Chaplin and Keaton). In fact, I've been waiting to see this film ever since I started watching silent films - and just happened to catch it recently as it made a rare television appearance on TCM.

Looking online, I realized that, for how well known Safety Last seems to be, not many seem to have actually seen it. The image of Lloyd hanging on the arm of the clock is so iconic, that many who don't know Harold by name, or may never have even seen a silent film, recognize this image and at times even think they have seen it themselves. True, the plot isn't spectacular in itself compared to other silent comedies, but the way Lloyd arranges the entire film and plays out the various jokes and action sequences is nothing short of genius. But the whole first section of the movie all leads up to the final 30 minutes - which consists basically of Harold climbing a building. This is one of the most suspenseful and consistently thrilling sequences I've ever seen, in any genre. After watching the entire film, capped off by the grand finale sequence, anyone left unconvinced of Harold Lloyd's incredible, unique talent and feel for his material (and his work's ability to complete stand up to that of his more famous peers, if not better) is not likely to be convinced by anything, ever. Please get yourself a sense of humor and joy if you are that sorry shell of a human being. If you are not, watch this movie whenever possible. A great example of prime silent comedy from one of the underrated masters!

(Rating: 9/10)

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

#327: The Hustler

Directed by: ROBERT ROSSEN
1961, TSPDT Rank #324

Much, much better than you or anybody else thought a pool movie could be. I guarantee it - even if you fancy yourself a pool hustler as well. This movie is riveting, spurred on by brilliant performances (especially that of Paul Newman as "Fast Eddy"), and perhaps the most crucial aspect: not much of it contains actual pool playing after the first half-hour. It is bookended by two high-tension, marathon matches against Jackie Gleason's powerful player, "Minnesota Fats". The first of these matches is fueled by Eddy's confidence and earnest will to win, and the second is fueled by a grim and vengeful desire to prove himself the best - and take the winning money. Figuring strongly in this transformation are George C. Scott's ruthless and dangerous gambler, and Piper Laurie as Eddy's girl. This movie proves a theory I have: that a movie about even the most mundane of subjects can be riveting and amazing, while many films, no matter how spectacular their premise, will crash and burn (a little pun there - it's a lot of action and/or disaster films of which I speak) terribly. For The Hustler is a great film, and far greater than a great number of films on far greater and/or exciting subjects. Highly recommended.

(Rating: 9/10)

Monday, April 18, 2011

#326: Salesman

1968, TSPDT Rank #578

From the masters and pioneers of cinema verite, the Maysles (and Zwerin), this is a depressing and funny documentary about men who sell bibles door-to-door. It's a profession that's faded, which is all the best, because what a pathetic life to lead. People talk about the women in Grey Gardens (another famous Maysles documentary) being mentally ill, but personally I think they are much healthier and better off than these men. They spend their lives going around and trying to beg people to buy books with clever sales tricks and at times use pity as a weapon. This film is hard to describe, but it's effect is one that really seeps through and gets under your skin as the film moves on. Which, in itself, is pretty remarkable - considering there's not a whole lot of variety in the events on hand, the Maysles just present the material in such a way that it really works. I'd recommend it, not quite as good as Gimme Shelter or Grey Gardens, but a standout in its own right.

(Rating: 7/10)

Sunday, April 17, 2011

#325: Berlin Alexanderplatz

1980, TSPDT Rank #240

Speaking of difficult films, this 15 1/2 hour mammoth work by RW Fassbinder is a bit of an undertaking. Watching in its entirety within a month or thereabouts and allowing it to sink in slowly is one of the most unique, valuable, and powerful experiences that one could have watching movies. This is a fairly normal crime story if looked at on a smaller scale, but blown up to this enormous scale, reaches dramatic highs and lows usually never witnessed. Some of the episodes might seem inconsequential individually, but I am convinced none of them are. It takes the usual plot layout we're used to seeing and stretches it out, making us less conscious of the method in which the plot is unfolding than we usually would be. It really wasn't until episode 5 (my favorite along with the cruel, wicked brilliance of the last few) that I was smacked in the face with the sublimity of Fassbinder's craft here. I have a feeling if I ever took the time to watch the entire epic tome again (a fair possibility) it would be near if not at the top of my all-time favorite films. About 8 times the normal length of a film, requires about 8 times the patience and 8 times the incubation time afterwards - and will greatly reward every ounce of it you give. If this film alone doesn't present Fassbinder as a cinematic master of rare talents, I don't know what possibly could.

(Rating: 10/10)

#324: Veronika Voss

1982, TSPDT Rank #923

Filmed last but sequenced second in RW Fassbinder's BRD trilogy, this very unique and brilliant film is my favorite normal-length Fassbinder film, from the ones I've seen. It's filmed in luminous black and white, and tells a somewhat fractured story of love, addiction, and lost stardom, which plays as a mix of Persona, Sunset Boulevard, and film noir mysteries. For any fan of film, that should be more than enough to say. In this time shortly before his death, it seems that Fassbinder was entering an artistic peak, and its too bad that this great source of talent was snuffed out by drug use, not unlike the untimely fate of burned out star Veronika Voss. Experimental, difficult, but quite highly recommended - best of the trilogy.

(Rating: 9/10)

#323: Moonfleet

Directed by: FRITZ LANG
1955, TSPDT Rank #760

A rare Fritz Lang film, which I suppose nobody ever formally released on DVD because those who want to see it enough (like myself) will find it, and it would probably be seen by most people as a throwaway effort compared to other Lang films. But it is very enjoyable, and very well made; with great cinematography, pacing, and writing. The thing about Moonfleet is that it completely makes a case for the theory the French Cinema du Cahiers critics had around this time: if genre films with more or less recycled stories are made by master craftsman with the right amount of precision, they might turn into both a work of some artistic quality, and a great piece of entertainment. Many films of the past have been remembered because they fit that theory so well, but Moonfleet has slipped through the cracks, but not very surprisingly - since Fritz Lang is best known as the director of revolutionary crime films and grand fantasy spectacles, which Moonfleet has nothing in common with. But's it good to know that, by being on this list, Moonfleet still receives some recognition and admirers. Worth a watch if you get the chance.

(Rating: 7/10)

Friday, April 8, 2011

#322: The Marriage of Maria Braun

1978, TSPDT Rank #543

The first in R.W. Fassbinder's BRD Trilogy, The Marriage of Maria Braun contains stylistic elements and amazing cinematography that hadn't been quite as present in Fassbinder's work from about five years prior. For me, the later films by Fassbinder are great to watch because they are more developed, original, and intricate - compared to his arguably more primitive earlier films. With Maria Braun, Fassbinder and gorgeous leading actress Hanna Schygulla created an amazing character with a unique approach to life. Maria is shown as very in control of her life, using her talents to rise her above almost everyone in her environment (which is partly the interesting setting of the German homefront during WWII) to become the best. It's all for her unfortunate husband, who is ultimately unsatisfied with her efforts - it seems he always feels she does too much or too little for him. So despite Maria's triumphs and failures, Fassbinder takes it and turns it to tragedy, which gives the film a unique twist and more layers of complexity. Overrated in comparison to Veronika Voss (BRD #2), but still generally a great film.

(Rating: 8/10)

#321: The Seventh Seal

1957, TSPDT Rank #53

This movie is frequently named one of the greatest ever made and that way of thinking is most definitely accurate. The Seventh Seal is an essential milestone in cinema history, completely changing how films were made and how people saw them. However, this film should be neither underestimated or feared. It is very accessible and enjoyable, surprisingly so, considering: 1) It takes place in medieval Sweden while the Black Death is sweeping the country, 2) Death is a major character in the story, 3) It is directed by Ingmar Bergman, known for solemn, austere films. And while The Seventh Seal has its solemn, austere moments, Bergman does an incredible job of keeping the balance between the horrific state of the world at the time, reflection on life, death, and the meaning of it all, along with earthy humor and vivid, real characters. Also, the cinematography brings us some of the most beautiful, haunting images seen to man. Quite simply stated, this is a very complex film underneath the surface, but even for casual viewers, it remains a supreme work of entertainment and art.

(Rating: 10/10)

#320: On the Waterfront

Directed by: ELIA KAZAN
1954, TSPDT Rank #90

Elia Kazan is primarily remembered as a director of actors, and many of his films, especially this one, helped to establish film acting as a serious art. Don't get me wrong, this is a very cinematic film, never theatrical feeling, and on many levels - cinematography, staging, editing, story - it is top-notch. But it's the brilliant acting (by the likes of Marlon Brando, Karl Malden, Eva Marie Saint, and Rod Steiger) that raises this movie up in the ranks of film history and makes it so compelling and worth watching today. Feels very fresh - never dated.

Now I go for the quite necessary and clever closing line: This film undoubtedly was, and is, a contender.

(Rating: 9/10)

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

#319: The Producers

Directed by: MEL BROOKS

1968, TSPDT Rank #485

CAUTION: This film is insanely hilarious and may at times cause you to laugh uncontrollably, with hazard to breathing. If you do not laugh or can't tolerate it, you have an unhealthy sense of humor and need to get it checked.

Believe me, this is coming from someone who's not really a fan of Mel Brooks in general (as a friend pointed out to me so helpfully as I told him of my love for this film). If you've read my review of Young Frankenstein, you'll see that my reaction to that film was lukewarm, as was my reaction to Blazing Saddles. But this is most definitely Brooks' masterpiece, with his humor in peak form, before sinking into the overly silly and uneven (although usually fairly entertaining) genre parodies that were the trademark of most of his career. But The Producers at least is pure comedy - one of the true milestones of the genre. And it goes by so much faster than it has any right to - especially for a comedy of this time period! Almost makes up for the shocking number of horrible, tepid, plodding comedic attempts made around this time period.

Simply, a delight.

(Rating: 10/10)

Sunday, March 20, 2011

#318: High and Low

1963, TSPDT Rank #325

Parts of this film are so brilliant, so suspenseful, and so obviously trail-blazing and influential that's it's a shame that as a whole it doesn't exactly achieve what it should. For today's jaded audiences, with many similarly done kidnapping/ransom movies behind us, we need to put the release date into context to realize what an original kind of film this was. The first half is excellent, an unbeatable ransom dilemma - complete with the most intense shower I have ever seen, courtesy of Toshiro Mifune, and an expertly shot and edited dropoff scene from a train. However, roughly the next hour really loses momentum for the film, as Mifune's explosive (or implosive?) presence is out of the picture for far too long, and the action switches to straight technically adept but dramatically hollow police procedural, that is rather clumsily handled by Kurosawa. But he picks it up for a dynamite ending reel that rattles your bones and abruptly comes to a stop. Worth watching and taking 143 minutes for, but not perfect, no matter how much you might wish it were.

(Rating: 8/10)

#317: La Strada

1954, TSDPT Rank #52

Fellini has two distinct periods in his filmography - the early neorealist films, and the later autobiographical and/or dreamlike films. La Strada is very much a bridge between these two periods, as well as prime Fellini. There's a sense of magic that hangs over this film, and it's really the ultimate tragicomedy. Fellini's wife, Giuletta Masina, plays an amazing role as the Italian girl who gets sold to a brutish traveling strongman, who uses her for his act, abuses her and disregards her until it's too late. Really, the "partnership" cycle they continually go through probably would have continued indefinitely if it had not been for the appearance of The Fool, the strongman's longtime rival, whose less serious approach to life will undoubtedly prove fatal. What makes Masina's performance so fascinating and central to the movie though, are her great childlike facial expressions, indelible pathos, and the way she always leaves the audience wondering how much her character understands about her feelings or the way other people act. On a side note, if you watch Martin Scorsese's introduction from the Criterion Collection DVD, you'll get some insight into what a huge influence this film in particular was on his work, and much the characters in all of his movies are drawn in some way from the three central characters here. Definitely recommended, a must-watch on a variety of levels.

(Rating: 9/10)

Sunday, March 13, 2011

#316: Dead Poets Society

Directed by: PETER WEIR
1989, TSPDT Rank #741

Peter Weir is a director of whom I have been largely unaware of up to this point. However, this will not be the case after seeing Dead Poets Society. It's basically a top-tier artistic film with mainstream sensibilities and fairly widespread appeal. As much as I (usually) like Robin Williams, most of his roles fail to break out of his comedian persona and become something more. This film definitely proves an exception, and this performance, along with his strong performance in Good Will Hunting, will cement his place in film history. I think the film itself earns its place as one of the great youth-centered films. It is inspirational in its message against the disease, still plaguing today's youth culture, that is conformity - at times heavy-handed and sentimental in its approach, but not as much as you would expect. The cinematography is brilliant, and draws on the film's poetic, serene, nostalgic, and haunting aspects. I could say a lot more on this film, and although it's not perfect, it's definitely worth checking out.

(Rating: 9/10)

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

#315: The Maltese Falcon

Directed by: JOHN HUSTON
1941, TSPDT Rank #162

This is one of the first true film noirs, dark crime films that began appearing in the 1940s. It focuses on hard-boiled detective Sam Spade, which in my opinion is one of Humphrey Bogart's greatest film roles, and his search for something, usually a precious figurine of a falcon once owned by the king of Spain, but possibly "the stuff dreams are made of" in general. The fact that the mystery going on is pretty unclear for a lot of the film is a common occurrence in the film noir of this period, but it is not a detraction to the film at all. In fact, this elusiveness of plot adds to the mystique and feel of the movie. With plot of little importance, the movie focuses on its characters, the feelings surrounding the mystery that truly make it a mystery, and the appealing style in which the film is made. The second half is better than the first, and I personally feel has some of the most brilliant film-making of this era. And Bogart's performance is incendiary. (As a side note, it also might be of interest that this was John Huston's debut film.)

(Rating: 9/10)

Sunday, February 20, 2011

#314: A Fish Called Wanda

1988, TSPDT Rank #778

This film is usually made out to be a pure British comedy, but that notion is not actually so. It's a very good blend of British and American comedy, which takes a little while to get off the ground, but once it does, it never slows down. The most hilarious scenes in the movie are the ones involving the strange "love triangle" between Jamie Lee Curtis, "brother" Kevin Kline, and John Cleese of Monty Python, who plays a barrister defending the member of a heist group (which Curtis and Kline were part of) whom Jamie Lee was also playing for money. It should be apparent already that Ms. Jamie Lee gets her fair share of action in the movie (wink wink, nudge nudge). Michael Palin is also here as an animal lover and failing hit man with a stutter. It almost feels like a partial Python reunion, er.... plus Jamie Lee Curtis and Kevin Kline. There's nothing else I really can say, and I may have said to much. It's a funny movie that speaks for itself.

(Rating: 7/10)

Saturday, February 19, 2011

#313: Dumbo

1940, TSPDT Rank #448

Of the early, classic era Disney films, Dumbo seems to be possibly the most forgotten. It's definitely the shortest, strangest, and most surreal. But I think its filled with a unique sort of Disney magic, and it packs quite an emotional punch. It has so many classic and vivid elements: the stork opening, the capture of the mother, the friendship with Timothy Mouse, the clown show, Pink Elephants on Parade, etc. Not to mention the 'Jim Crows', gloriously un-PC black caricatures in the form of crows that will make you seriously wonder why Song of the South is banned and this isn't (I know I do!). There's also this question: Why a film about a flying elephant? Well, why not?! Dumbo's discovery of flight gives him the sense of pride and self-worth that he deserves, and seems to solve all of the horrible problems the poor little elephant has had dropped on his young shoulders. Dumbo is an emotional, wondrous flight of fancy of a film that deserves to be seen and appreciated more. Plus, I'm with Timothy, those ears are beautiful!

(Rating: 9/10)

#312: The Red Balloon

1956, TSPDT Rank #471

This 34 minute French children's film won a Palme D'Or at Cannes. You can't resist its charms. The simple tale of a friendship of a boy and an almost human, bright red balloon is still just as potent today as it ever was. The film needs only a very few words, and so does this review. But watch it. Show it to children. It is accessible for all ages, and always will be. The ending will "lift" your spirits and fill you with wonder.

(Rating: 8/10)

#311: It Happened One Night

Directed by: FRANK CAPRA
1934, TSPDT Rank #197

Before Frank Capra was making heavy-handed "issue" films like Meet John Doe and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town, he made a fantastic screwball comedy that was one of only three so far to win all five major Academy Awards (Picture, Actor, Actress, Director, Screenplay - the other two that have won are One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest and The Silence of the Lambs). And as much contempt as I frankly do have for the Oscars, they sure knew what they were doing with these three films. Clark Gable and Claudette Colbert are incredible in their parts, with glorious chemistry, and so much great dialogue. The supporting roles only enrich the movie's appeal, and I would say in general this is the most enjoyable screwball film I've seen to date. But I did find the plot element of Colbert "running away from home" at 21, and having the nation working to hunt her down to be pretty ridiculous and weak. Overall though, great film.

"The wall of Jericho is tumbling!"

(Rating: 9/10)

#310: Bringing Up Baby

Directed by: HOWARD HAWKS
1938, TSPDT Rank #94

Bringing Up Baby is widely seen as one of the funniest films ever made. However, not unlike Kind Hearts and Coronets recently, I feel it's a somewhat funny movie, but very overrated in general. This one rates a little higher than Kind Hearts for me because the screenplay is consistently good and doesn't rely on narration at all. The plot is similar to a lot of classic screwball comedies, involving a romance 'accidentally' blossoming while a zany and fast-paced chaos occurs around the characters, who don't realize they are falling in love. The screwball formula had been pretty well established by a number of films by this point in the late 1930s and would be perfected and given a jolt of energy by Preston Sturges in the following decade. But I think this film is so well loved because it is basically a quintessential screwball comedy, played well by popular stars Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn (although with not too much chemistry going on), and is very accessible for beginners to classic films. If you haven't seen it yet, I would recommend seeing it before you've seen a lot of other screwball films for maximum effect.

However, for a greater and more hilarious example of the screwball genre, check out my next post, I have just the thing...

(Rating: 7/10)

Friday, February 18, 2011

#309: Grey Gardens

1975, Rank #669

From what I've gathered online, this is a very misunderstood movie. It's a brief, 95 minute look at Big and Little Edie Beale (aunt and cousin, respectively, of Jackie Kennedy) and their eccentric life in a big, deteriorating mess of a house called Grey Gardens. It is a very intimate and candid film, giving you a very fly-on-the-wall perspective. The problem is, people have jumped to such conclusions such as defining the women as mentally ill, assigning them roles of aggressor and victim, and trying generally to sum up their lives in one clever usage of words. These women clearly lived very interesting and complex lives, and their relationship with each other is obviously not perfect, it is still clearly that this mother and daughter love each other very much, despite the flaws. The film is definitely worth watching, a great look at two fascinating and unique people, but I think the viewer needs to not judge them and just accept them for who they are/were.

For my further ruminations on this film and its treatment, look at the review section for this film on Hulu:

(Rating: 8/10)

#308: My Darling Clementine

Directed by: JOHN FORD
1946, TSPDT Rank #95

John Ford is widely known as one of the greatest film directors of all-time, possibly America's greatest. Ford has more films on the 1,000 Greatest Films list than any other director, at 17 (!). If you are wondering just why he was such a master, look no further than My Darling Clementine. The western genre is a defining American genre, and this is a film that defines the western genre. It's filled with sincere romanticism, relating the story of Wyatt Earp (played by Henry Fonda), and the shootout at the OK corral against the degenerate Clanton clan (headed by Walter Brennan, in incredible and perfectly menacing form). It succeeds at being both a hard-hitting western and a love story. Both of these story elements feel very natural and realistic, the character's motives all seem completely authentic in the story. John Ford was one of the great composers of film shots, and it shows here. Each frame is perfectly painted with rugged beauty, and the film progresses with conviction and grace. The shootout itself is one of the most sublimely orchestrated scenes in film history.

My Darling Clementine may be John Ford's ultimate masterpiece. In any case, I'd say it's a nearly perfect film, one that will stand testament to the power of film as long as film is around. An absolute must-see.

(Rating: 10/10)

#307: Ivan's Childhood

1962, TSPDT Rank #597

This post contains content written for the Internet Film Club.

I watched the first of Tarkovsky's features last night, and I thought it was a very good film. The visuals here are nothing short of fantastic - the stark settings and beautifully composed shots are so rampant and well executed that at times it feels your aesthetic receptors might be blown to pieces. The story line is less impressive, although it truly looks at war realistically and bluntly, and interesting perspective as seen through a child's eyes, I felt it was not as effective as it might have been - more like a bunch of great pieces thrown together to form a piece slightly less than the sum of its parts, instead of one truly solid whole. But as a debut film - WHOA. I feel Tarkovsky's films must only get better from here...

(Rating: 8/10)

Saturday, February 12, 2011

#306: Kind Hearts and Coronets

Directed by: ROBERT HAMER
1949, TSPDT Rank #225

This film is known as one of the pinnacles of British black comedy. In other words, it totally sounded like a movie I'd love. Actually though, I didn't think it was all that great - definitely watchable, pretty entertaining, and with some parts that were pretty humorous, but it still didn't live up to my expectations. Alec Guinness plays eight roles in the movie, which are basically the funniest part (his parson being the greatest, and apparently the one he liked playing the most). But what bothered me is how much the movie relied on Dennis Price's constant narration to deliver most of the dark humor. Some of the quips are funny, but a lot of the time I felt the narration was supposed to make up for the humor that wasn't on the screen. But don't take my word for it, if this still sounds like something you might like, I'd encourage you to give it a try and see what you think. At the least, you'll probably get some morbid chuckles and enjoyment out of it, if you go for that sort of thing that is.

(Rating: 6/10)

#305: The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Directed by: JOHN FORD
1962, TSPDT Rank #72

One of the films from the late period of Ford's career, this was arguably the first film to start forming the revisionist western genre that would come to power over the old-style westerns in the next decade or so. It takes an elegiac and mournful look at the Old West, which had began to fade right in front of these characters' eyes. This being said, it's a really captivating film, it's never depressing or boring. Starring two film giants, John Wayne and James Stewart, the film looks at traditional genre character stereotypes in more modern, realistic terms: the tough hero (Wayne), the bookish tenderfoot (Stewart), the beautiful woman both long for (Vera Miles), and the bad man (Lee Marvin), who here is very bad indeed. The plot doesn't really need to be explained for anyone who's seen a western film, although there are some surprising twists contained, and it's told from just a little bit different perspective. The long shots flow beautifully across, while the short ones jump on and off the screen with perfect rhythm and grace. Ford clearly knew what he was doing, and knew how to tell a story. This one is no exception, and the more modern style and great acting has made it a cherished classic. Indubitably worth checking out.

(Rating: 8/10)

Sunday, January 30, 2011

#304: Tabu

Directed by: F.W. MURNAU
1931, TSPDT Rank #227

Tabu won an Oscar for Best Cinematography in 1931, and credit should definitely be given in this area because the cinematography is very good. The movie itself is somewhat a retread of Murnau's earlier film Sunrise, only set in the South Sea Islands, all the parts played by actual islanders and a much less compelling plot. I think the collaboration with Flaherty was what caused this film to misfire. These are two people with almost nothing in common as filmmakers except that they were both somewhat disillusioned with the world of Hollywood. Murnau is the sole director of the film (the two co-wrote the film), but a lot of Flaherty's influence seeps in. Actually, the film is probably at its best at the beginning when Flaherty's type of documentary-like view of the islanders and their lives and the great cinematography blend together before Murnau's heavy-handed romantic tragedy begin. I definitely wouldn't recommend the film, but for fans of Murnau or Flaherty, or those wishing to see beautiful images of the South Seas, it might be worth a look.

(Rating: 4/10)

Sunday, January 23, 2011

#303: Black Narcissus

1946, TSPDT Rank #154

Black Narcissus is a lurid, emotional, intense, and visually gorgeous movie about nuns bringing an extension of their order to an isolated location in the Himalayan mountains. As such a movie, it is as hard to describe as one would expect. It has some of the most beautiful cinematography of all time, and I would say it is the British Technicolor film of the '40s to match The Third Man, the British black and white film of the '40s. Some of the images in this film are extremely haunting, especially those from the final descent into madness at the end of the film, and will imprint themselves in your mind. The film is pretty thin as far as story goes, but the visuals and emotional intensity still very much carry the film. The film is considered a classic, and while its flaws stop it from reaching masterpiece status, it has an allure about it that will cause it to be remembered for as long as there is interest in film itself.

(Rating: 8/10)

#302: The Palm Beach Story

1942, TSPDT Rank #180

A major hit-making director in the 1940s, Preston Sturges turned out a bunch of comedies around this time period that have had a lot of influence on the genre ever since. The Palm Beach Story is definitely one of those films. I was thrown off-guard from the beginning with the lightning-quick, bizarre, and confusing opening sequence played over the credits. This sequence isn't referred to until the end, and after the credits we get right into the main story, about a very attractive woman (Claudette Colbert, very suited to this role) who is not satisfied with her financially unsuccessful inventor husband and decides to get a divorce in Palm Beach and attract some rich men while she's young. The husband (Joel McCrea, hilarious as well) doesn't like this, and chases her all over the place trying to stop her from leaving him. If you've ever seen Sturge's The Miracle of Morgan's Creek, you'll know that he liked to push the envelope with fast-paced and edgy dialogue, and this film is definitely no exception. A bit uneven in parts, to be sure, and not always funny - but it's hilarious when it is.

(Rating: 7/10)

January 2011 Update

The 1,000 Greatest Films has been updated to the new version! This month I've been on low production so far in anticipation to adjust to the new update. Turns out according to, this has been the quietest update year so far, with the least number of new additions and omissions of all the lists yet, but it's still a new update. The order is different, and the changes put me at a different number than before.

I've now seen 301 films from the new list (which is 8 more than I had before the update). My next post will start at #302.

Visit the site at, they have some great material up there related to the list, included a detailed look at (now) the top 500. Highly recommended!

Here's looking forward to a new year of movies!

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

#293: All About My Mother

1999, TSPDT Rank #678

This post contains content written for the Internet Film Club.

I didn't feel this film was quite as good as Talk to Her. I felt that it was lacking in emotional depth. That being said, it is still a very good film, and I feel that as far as the screenplay goes, the overall content is better than in Talk to Her. Talk to Her is much more emotion centered, and All About My Mother is much more plot and character oriented. If there would have been more emotional depth to back up the melodrama (especially toward the end) this would really have been a knockout film. But at this point as far as saying which of the two I liked better, I would say that's pretty much an apples and oranges question, because I have different reasons for liking the different films. I think they're both about the same general quality, so I'll give the same rating to both.

(Rating: 8/10)

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

#292: Talk to Her

2002, TSPDT Rank #753

This post contains content originally written for the Internet Film Club.

Talk to Her is a very moving film for some reason; very well-made and goes down smooth. Not perfect, but not rough around the edges like Dark Habits, and deserves to be taken more seriously. The way I saw it, it handled very serious and normally heavy themes in a melodramatic, almost campy way. For all of the potentially upsetting things in the movie, it seems a fairly light, if also sad, film about two people who lose their way in life, and need help in various ways. The bizarre "silent film" scene was great, almost delightful in a weird way.
In other words, its a hard movie to describe. ...although I didn't think it was a masterpiece, I really liked it a lot and am looking forward to other Almodovar movies.

(Rating: 8/10)