Thursday, January 02, 2014

Something's Coming

Jesse Walker continues his top ten film lists.  Now it's for the year 1963.  A big year historically, with JFK's assassination, but culturally, America was in a waiting mode.  It was about to be hit by the Beatles next year. In the world of film, change had swept over France and England, but America was mostly stuck in old ways--ways that would have to change as the studios were dying.

Lets see what Jesse picks for his top ten.  My guess is there won't be much from Hollywood:

1. The Birds
2. Ikarie XB-1
3. The Silence
4. The Leopard
5. This Sporting Life
6. The Great Escape
7. The Haunting
8. Méditerranée
9. Judex
10. Muriel

Perhaps it's a sign of how weak the year was that much of it is from directors who've done considerably better work.  For instance, I enjoy The Birds, but it's a big letdown after North By Northwest and Psycho.  Never seen Ikarie, though I'd like to.  The Silence would make my list--Bergman is one of the few directors this year working at the top of his game.

The Leopard gets points for its grand design, but I don't think it's a classic.  This Sporting Life isn't bad, but the Angry Young Man is getting tired.  The Great Escape is a decent film with a reputation higher than its actual quality.  The Haunting isn't bad but, once again, no classic.

Haven't seen Mediterranee, haven't seen Judex. I'd especially like to see the latter (though a Franju fan told me it's no Eyes Without A Face).  Muriel is okay but once again, far from the best the director has to offer.

Here are the honorable mentions:

11. Winter Light
12. The Servant
13. Hud
14. An Actor's Revenge
15. High and Low
16. Moth Light
17. 8 1/2
18. Renaissance
19. To Parsifal
20. Charade

Jesse also mention the Zapruder film, which is certainly the most memorable footage shot that year.  Also, he's not that impressed by the Oscar-winning Tom Jones.

11 would make my top ten list.  12 is one of those "classics" that may have stood out in its day but is mostly an incomprehensible mess. I'd say 13 hasn't aged that well except that I'm not sure it was that great to begin with.  Haven't seen 14.  15 would be in my top ten.  16 is a short.  17 is maybe the most overrated film in the history of movies.  Haven't seen 18 or 19.  20 is fun--no great shakes, but probably the best ersatz Hitchcock, and a ton of such films were soon to follow.

Here are some other films from 1963 I like:

Beach Party, Billy Liar, Bye Bye Birdie, From Russia With Love, Jason And The Argonauts, The Nutty Professor, The Pink Panther, Shock Corridor.

Other films of note:

4 For Texas, 55 Days At Peking,  Act One, America America, Call Me Bwana, Captain Newman M.D., The Carbineers, The Cardinal, The Caretaker, Clash By Night, Cleopatra, Come Blow Your Horn, Come Fly With Me, Contempt, The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father, Critic’s Choice, The Damned,  The Day The Earth Caught Fire, Dementia 13, Donovan’s Reef, Flipper, Fun In Acapulco, Irma La Douce, It Happened At The World’s Far, It’s A Mad Mad Mad Mad World, The King Of Kings, Lilies Of The Field, The List Of Adrian Messenger, Lord Of The Flies, Love With A Proper Stranger, The Man From Diner’s Club, Mary Mary, McLintock!, The Mouse On The Moon, A New Kind Of Love, Papa’s Delicate Condition, PT 109, The Raven, The Sadist, Soldier In The Rain, Son Of Flubber, Summer Holiday, Sunday In New York, The Sword In The Stone, Take Her She’s Mine, The Terror, The Three Stooges Go Around The World In A Daze, The Thrill Of It All, Toys In The Attic, The Ugly American, Under The Yum Yum Tree, The V.I.P.s, The Wheeler Dealers, Who’s Minding The Store?


Blogger Jesse said...

Though I like the film, I agree about 8 1/2 being overrated. I guess that's why it's floating around the bottom of the honorable mentions list instead of closing in on #1. Still, the thing Fellini's best at is firing off striking images, and he certainly does that here.

I think Shock Corridor may be even more overrated than 8 1/2, by the way. Though it still might make my top 30. It's that kind of year. (On the other hand: I think The Birds is one of Hitchcock's best, and I would rank it higher than Psycho.)

6:54 AM, January 02, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

The Courtship Of Eddie’s Father was a movie!?!

My top ten would definitely include From Russia with Love - the 2nd best Connery Bond, with the best villain henchmen of all the films (imho).

I'd also find room for It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World - it's so fun to see these legends comic legends come together, even if the film obviously has some flaws.

Bye Bye Birdie was as good a musical as there had been since the first Golden Age of Musicals in the 40s and 50s, and would make the list in a year that seems to have had just the one musical.

8:41 AM, January 02, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

8 1/2 does have some striking images, but that's about it. I consider it a turning point in Fellini's career, when he took a turn for the worse, and started concentrating too much on the bizarre and grotesque. Maybe it would be easier to ignore the film if it didn't keep turning up on top ten lists of all time.

Denver Guy, you should check out The Courtship Of Eddie's Father. It's not bad, especially for a Glenn Ford comedy.

Many Bond fans find FRWL to be the best Bond of all, maybe because it's the last that's somewhat realistic.

It's A Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World: almost three hours with a whole bunch of funny people and barely a laugh. Thank you, Stanley Kramer.

Bye Bye Birdie doesn't rank as a great musical, even among musical adaptations of hit Broadway shows, and almost all the "improvements" made to the stage show weaken it (except for Ann-Margret). But for 1963, it'll do.

By the way, the "first Golden Age" of musicals was the 40s and 50s? I'd say the first golden age was the 30s, and the best of Astaire and Rogers, not to mention Busby Berkeley, has never been topped. The great musicals of the 40 and 50s may have been the second golden age, if you like, but that's it--there's barely been a silver age since.

10:04 AM, January 02, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The highlight of the entire cinematic year is Toshiro Mifune screaming about cheap shoes.

10:18 AM, January 02, 2014  
Anonymous Denver Guy said...

I figured the Golden Age of musicals were the great Rodgers, Hart, Hammerstein, Kern, etc. musicals - the ones with entertaining, emotional plots to go along with the great scores and lyrics. I may not know much about the 30s musicals, but they seem to be large dance numbers strung together with light dialogue. Would you rank the extravaganzas of the 30s ahead of Oklahoma, South Pacific, Guys & Dolls,King & I, etc.?

9:00 AM, January 03, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

I thought you were referring to movie musicals. It's true the golden age of the integrated musical on Broadway was the 40s and 50s and perhaps a bit of the 60s. On the other hand, the 20s and 30s was the best time for entries into the great American songbook.

11:32 AM, January 03, 2014  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I had forgotten about the cheap shoe tirade in High and Low. There is much to said for your observation, Anonymous.

The Great Escape has a reputation? Back when I read film criticism, I thought the film intelligentsia hated Sturges. I saw Great Escape last week on the big screen, and I think I can bridge the difference here. The first 100 minutes (up to Archie Ives death, Cooler King gets with the program) is just ok, the last 75 minutes (final prep for the escape to the end) is definitely top 10. I suppose you could argue that Sturges was doing an elaborate and meticulous set up for the point where the movie takes off. (I just looked it up: Sturges wanted to put an intermission right after Ives' death, so he understood that he was building.)

Many fine performances, but Donald Pleasance is outstanding.

My 16 year old loved it; he had a lot of interesting observations, but the thing that really struck him (negatively) was the bright, flat lighting in every scene. I told him in '63, audiences would not have put up with the kind of lighting this film would get today.

9:24 AM, January 04, 2014  
Blogger LAGuy said...

The lighting of movies from that era does stand out today, but I kind of like it. It makes me feel optimistic for some reason.

11:23 AM, January 04, 2014  

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