Sunday, December 31, 2017

Ring Out The Old, Ring In The New

On this final day of the year, let's look back a half century and see what Jesse Walker thinks the top films were.

!967 was a major year in Hollywood history, when the new Hollywood clearly started taking over from the old. Will that be reflected in his list?

1. The President's Analyst
2. The Persecution and Assassination of Jean-Paul Marat as Performed by the Inmates of the Asylum of Charenton Under the Direction of the Marquis de Sade
3. Play Time
4. Bedazzled
5. Le Samouraï
6. The Firemen's Ball
7. Titicut Follies
8. In Cold Blood
9. Bonnie and Clyde
10. Love Affair, or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator

The President's Analyst is fun, though I wouldn't call it a classic.  Haven't seen it in years--think it plays differently now that the phone company's been broken up.

Marat/Sade was a stage event and the film caught it pretty well.  No classic, but a fascinating glimpse at a special time (not the French Revolution, but the 1960s).

Playtime (I'm pretty sure it's one word) is Tati's masterpiece.

Bedazzled has some fun sketches with Cook and Moore (and Bron) but doesn't hold together well and leaves a sour taste.

Le Samourai ranks up there with Melville's best.

I'm not the biggest fan of Forman, but The Fireman's Ball, while a bit bumpy, works pretty well.

Jesse loves Wiseman, so I was pretty certain Titicut Follies would make the cut--even among Wiseman films it's pretty special.

In Cold Blood mostly leaves me cold.

Bonnie And Clyde, revolutionary or not, is a fine film that definitely deserves to make the list.

Never saw Love Affair.

11. Report
12. La Femme 100 Têtes
13. Belle de Jour
14. Point Blank
15. Cool Hand Luke
16. Spider Baby
17. Don't Look Back
18. Quatermass and the Pit
19. The Dirty Dozen
20. La Collectionneuse

I'm a fan of Bruce Conner, but 11, like all his work, is a short.  12 is also a short (which I haven't seen). 13 should be top ten.  14 should be top twenty.  15 is okay, and 16 is creepy and fun--not sure if either should make the list, though.  17 (which feels like '65, but was released in '67) should probably be top ten.  18 (which I know as Five Million Years To Earth) and 19 are fun, but probably shouldn't make the list.  20 is a film I haven't gotten around to seeing yet.

By the way, 1967 was the last year of the decade when Godard was still making his bourgeois films.  I don't see any of his titles here and I agree.

Other Films That Would Make My Top Ten

El Dorado (how Hawks would make Rio Bravo when the heroes aren't good enough)

The Graduate (this is the glaring omission--film of the year, maybe the decade)

The Producers

Other Films I Like:

Barefoot In The Park, Casino Royale (even though it's a mess), Divorce American Style, The Fearless Vampire Killers, How To Succeed In Business Without Really Trying, The Jungle Book, Smashing Time, Wait Until Dark, You Only Live Twice, The Young Girls Of Rochefort

Other Films Of Note:

The Adventures Of Bullwhip Griffin, Beach Red, Berserk!, The Big Mouth, Billion Dollar Brain, The Bobo, The Born Losers, Camelot, Caprice, Carry On Doctor, The Champagne Murders, Charlie Bubbles, La Chinoise, The Comedians, The Cool Ones, A Countess From Hong Kong (a sad farewell from a genius), Deadlier Than The Male, Doctor Dolittle, Doctor You've Got To Be Kidding!, Don't Make Waves, Doubt Trouble, Elvira Madigan, Enter Laughing, Far From The Madding Crowd, The Fastest Guitar Alive, Fitzwilly, The Flim-Flam Man, The Gnome-Mobile, Guess Who's Coming To Dinner, A Guide For The Married Man, Gunn, Half A Sixpence, The Happening, The Happiest Millionaire, Hombre, Hotel,
Hour Of The Gun, How I Won The War, Hurry Sundown, I Am Curious (Yellow), I'll Never Forget What's 'is Name, In Like Flint, In The Heat Of The Night, The Jokers, Luv, Mars Needs Women, The Mind-Benders, Mondo Hollywood, Oh Dad Poor Dad Mamma's Hung You In The Closet And I'm Feelin' So Sad, One-Armed Swordsman, Oscar, The Perils Of Pauline, Poor Cow, Reflections In A Golden Eye, The Reluctant Astronaut, Riot On Sunset Strip, The St. Valentine's Day Massacre, The Taming Of The Shrew, A Taste Of Blood, Thoroughly Modern Millie, The Tiger Makes Out, To Sir With Love, Tony Rome, The Trip, Two For The Road, Two Or Three Things I Know ABout Her, Ulysses, Up The Down Staircase, Valley Of The Dolls, Venus In Furs, The Violent Ones, The Wacky World Of Mother Good, The War Wagon, Way Out, The Way West, Weekend, Who's Minding The Mint?, Young Americans, Zatoichi Challenged, Zatoichi The Outlaw, Zatoichi's Cane Sword.

...And Counting

Okay, start this video and get it to the right moment so you can check in any time of day to see how much time is left.


Saturday, December 30, 2017

Predictions From 2017

Time to check how well I did with my predictions for 2017.

Domestic Politics:

The Republicans will repeal Obamacare, despite ferocious opposition from the Democrats. However, they will use half measures, not really pleasing anyone.

This looked way off for most of the year, but then the GOP passed a tax bill that got rid of the mandate, which cuts to the heart of Obamacare.  So I'll give myself half a point.

Trump's first nominee to the Supreme Court will please conservatives and will be confirmed.  A contingent prediction--if the Dems try to filibuster, the Repubs will use the nuclear option.

Correct, though the nuclear option is so common now it's not worth commenting on.

There will be no hearings for another Supreme Court nominee in 2017.

Correct.  The main question now is will Kennedy leave, but that's for 2018 predictions.

Strong rifts will appear among the Republicans--and both Trumpians and establishment GOP will complain about certain things the Trump administration does.

Maybe I should give myself half a point.  There was plenty of in-fighting, and a lot of trouble with legislation, but the Republicans overall held together reasonable well.

Trump will have trouble getting the entire amount he wants for infrastructure.

I guess this is right.  He got very little.

Trump will start building The Wall, but construction will go slowly.

Some would claim there have been token attempts on starting the Wall, but saying construction has been slow is too kind.

The Keystone Pipeline construction will continue apace.

Correct.

Trump will attempt to cut off money to sanctuary cities.

I guess he attempted in a vague way, but does that mean anything?

Former President Obama will speak regularly in public about the direction of the country.

He has spoken out more than once, but regularly? No. Unless you count his people speaking on his behalf.

There will be a fair amount of civil unrest in the U.S.

Definitely.


International Politics:

Cuba will remain solidly communist.

Some might claim they see change, but I guess this is true.

The U.S. will seriously consider pulling out of the UN.

Trump has been a lot more hostile to the UN than Obama was, but isn't planning on pulling out, though he is pulling out some U.S. money.  Maybe a quarter point.

Trump will have trouble renegotiating trade treaties.

Too early to tell, but I don't think this is correct.

There will be more than one major terrorist attack.

Yes, though it depends, I suppose, on what's major.

The EU will be on the verge of falling apart.

I think this is true, though, once again, a judgment call.


The Economy:

By the end of the year, the Dow will be above 20000.

Do I even deserve a point for underestimating its climb?

By the end of the year, unemployment will be over 5%.

Wrong.  The economy was solid.

Gas prices will not be significantly higher than they are now (which is a bit over 2 bucks a gallon).

It went up (though it seems to be going down in the past few months).


Sports:

The BCS Bowl will be a repeat, with Alabama defeating Clemson.

It was a good game, but Clemson won.

The Patriots will win a hard-fought Super Bowl.  (My team, the Lions, will not get past the first playoff round.)

New England won in an amazing game.  I don't even remember the Lions, so I assume they lost in the first round.

The Wolverines will take the Big Ten Conference.

It started well, and ended poorly.


Popular Culture:

Movies:  The Great Wall will disappoint. The Fate Of The Furious will not be as big as Furious 7Wonder Woman won't come close to Batman V. Superman numbers.  Dunkirk will be a fiscal disappointment, as will Blade RunnerStar Wars: Episode VIII will be the highest-grossing picture of the year (including its 2018 receipts), but it won't surpass The Force Awakens.

I was right about The Great Wall.  Right about Furious.  Way off about Wonder Woman (if we're talking domestic).  Wrong about Dunkirk.  Right about Blade Runner.  Right about The Last Jedi.

TV: Game Of Thrones:  Season seven (with only seven episodes) will have Arya reunite with at least one sibling.  Jon Snow will not find out his real parents.  The Hound will either fight his brother or meet Arya (or both).  Dorne will support Dany.  Dany will meet Davos, or Brienne, or both.  Ser Jorah will see Khaleesi again. Samwell will become a maester. White Walkers will broach the Wall.  Littlefinger will not die.  Tyrion will not meet Cersei.  We haven't heard the last of the Iron Bank of Braavos.

Right about Arya.  Right about Jon Snow (we know, but he doesn't).  Wrong about the Hound.  Right about Dorne (a lot of good it did her).  Right about who Dany will meet.  Right about Jorah.  Right about Samwell, in a way (which means I'm wrong in a way).  Right about the walkers.  Wrong about Littlefinger (he only had to hold on for one more episode).  Wrong about Tyrion.  Right about the Iron Bank.  There'll be no Game Of Thrones in 2018, so no need for new predictions.

The Walking Dead:  In the rest of season seven, Negan will die, Rick, Carl, Daryl, Carol, Morgan and Michonne will not.

Way off about Negan--season 8 is half over and he's still around.  Maybe it was wishful thinking.  Right, as far as season 7 goes, as to the rest not dying.

Better Call Saul:  Jimmy will finally become Saul.  Mike will start working for Gus.

Jimmy is at least halfway to Saul, and Mike has started working for Gus.

Oscars: Some tricky choices here.  Best Picture will come down to La La Land and Manchester By The Sea, with the former winning.  Best Director: Damien Chazelle.  Best Actor: Casey Affleck (though his personal scandals might bring him down).  Best Actress:  Very cloudy here--especially with the Adams/Huppert/Portman/Stone quartet.  I'll go with Portman, though I may change my mind later.  Best Supporting Actor:  Mahershala Ali (though it won't be fair if Dev Patel is nominated, since he's the lead in the second half of the film).  Supporting Actress:  Michelle Williams or Viola Davis.  It's Davis's turn, but Williams had the more memorable crying scene. "City Of Stars" will take Best Song.

La La Land was announced the winner.  But it was a mistake, and Oscar-bait Moonlight won.  Got Best Director right.  Got Best Actor right.  Emma Stone won Best Actress.  Got Best Supporting Actor right.  Viola Davis won Best Supporting Actress--did I call that one? Got Best Song right.

Friday, December 29, 2017

The Turning Point

The Turning Point was a well-respected film of 1977 nominated for 11 Oscars, winning zero.  But 1977 was a turning point for film, maybe the biggest since 1927 and The Jazz Singer, for the year saw the release of three of my favorite films ever, including the one that changed everything, Star Wars.

Let's see what my friend Jesse Walker thinks of 1977.

1. Annie Hall
2. Equus
3. Martin
4. The Last Wave
5. 3 Women
6. That Obscure Object of Desire
7. Slap Shot
8. God Told Me To
9. The Sand Castle
10. Citizens Band

I can't argue with Annie Hall in the top slot.  Most can agree it's Woody's masterpiece (though not all would agree with me it's his last great film).

I'm not even sure if Equus holds up as a play, but I'm shocked to see anyone defend it as a movie. (I do remember Richard Burton getting his seventh and last nomination for the Best Actor Oscar.  He'd never won, and they opened the envelope and announced "Richard...Dreyfuss." I've always wondered how he felt.)

Considering the kind of films I see, it's shocking I've never caught Martin.

The Last Wave I like, though probably not enough for the top ten.

3 Women is Altman in a dreamy mood.  Good, but not great.

That Obscure Object Desire would make my list, though I don't think it's necessarily top tier Bunuel.

Slap Shot is a lot of fun and would make my top ten.

Haven't seen 8 or 9.

Citizens Band is pretty good, probably top twenty.

11. Eraserhead

12. Suspiria
13. The Finishing Line
14. Dog's Dialogue
15. House
16. Take the 5:10 to Dreamland
17. Perfumed Nightmare
18. La Soufrière
19. Bead Game
20. The Mallet

I don't think Lynch has ever topped 11.  It would be one of the three films battling for my top spot, so I'm sorry to see it missed the top ten.  Don't think that much of 12, but generally like 15.  I like 16, but it's a short.  To my surprise, I haven't seen any of the others.  As for 18, there's another film by Herzog this year that I expected to see.

Other films that would make my top ten:

The Goodbye Girl

The Kentucky Fried Movie

Smokey And The Bandit (the smart set prefer Handle With Care, but this is the real thing)

Star Wars (I refuse to add the episode title)

Other films I liked:

Desperate Living

The Devil Probably (great ending)

Pumping Iron

Soldier Of Orange

Stroszek (great ending)

Other films of note:

Airport '77, The American Friend, Andy Warhol's Bad, Audrey Rose, The Bad News Bears In Breaking Training, Billy Jack Goes To Washington, Black Sunday, Bobby Deerfield, Breaker! Breaker! (the year of CB radio), A Bridge Too Far, Can I Do It...'Til I Need Glasses?, Capricorn One, The Car, The Chicken Chronicles, The Choirboys, Close Encounters Of The Third Kind, Damnation Alley, The Deep, Demon Seed, Doberman Cop, Exorcist II: The Heretic, Fire Sale, Fist Of Fury II, Foul Play, Fun With Dick And Jane, Grand Theft Auto, Greased Lightning, The Greatest, The Happy Hooker Goes To Washington (where she meets Billy Jack?), Hardcore, Herbie Goes To Monte Carlo, Heroes, High Anxiety, The Hills Have Eyes,
The Hobbit, Hollywood High, I Never Promised You A Rose Garden, In Search Of Noah's Ark, The Island Of Dr. Moreau, Islands In The Stream, Jabberwocky, Julia, The Last Remake Of Beau Geste, The Late Show, A Little Night Music, Looking For Mr. Goodbar, MacArthur, Nasty Habits, New York New York, oh god!, One On One, On Sings The Other Doesn't, Opening Night, Orca, The Other Side Of Midnight (theatres were forced to book Star Wars so they could get this), Padre Padrone, Pete's Dragon, A Piece Of The Action, The Private Files Of J. Edgar Hoover, Race For You Life Charlie Brown, The Rescuers, Rollercoaster (the disaster film is getting tired), Rolling Thunder, Roseland, Saturday Night Fever, Semi-Tough, The Sentinel, September 30 1955, The Serpent's Egg, Short Eyes, Sorcerer, The Spy Who Loved Me, Thieves, The Turning Point, Twilight's Last Gleaming, Valentino, The Van, Walking Tall: Final Chapter, Which Way Is Up?, The White Buffalo, The World's Greatest Lover, You Light Up My Life.

Thursday, December 28, 2017

What'd I Say?

I've been singing carols for the past few weeks, and certain things have come up.

First, of course, is the story of Rudolph.  (By the way, sing the verse to Rudolph and then go into "Frosty The Snowman"--it's fun.)  I'm not the first to note it teaches an awful lesson.

You've got this creature everyone makes fun of because of how he looks.  And his solution is not to tell them looks don't matter, or give them a piece of his mind and find other reindeer with other games.

No, the happy ending comes from finding out his friends can exploit him, so they decide to accept him.  Even love him.  This is actually a good life lesson, but still pretty nasty.

Then there's one of the scariest songs ever written, "Santa Claus Is Coming To Town." It's a warning that Santa is always watching. Screw up and you miss out.  Are 364 days of good behavior worth it to get to the one day of presents?  Compare this to Halloween, where you can be creepy and you still get candy. In fact, if they don't give you candy, you can egg their house.

Then there "It's The Most Wonderful Time Of The Year." What makes it so wonderful?  "Everyone telling you be of good cheer."  Now being of good cheer is wonderful.  Creating a atmosphere where you'll be of good cheer is wonderful.  But being told "be of good cheer" is no fun at all, especially when everyone does it.

Later in the song, it's noted one of the thing that happens is people telling "scary ghosts stories." Have they confused Christmas with Halloween?

Wednesday, December 27, 2017

The Gone-Gone Years

Jesse Walker has returned to the 1980s. Remember what a great decade that was?  Okay, I'm stretching.

Here's his top ten list.

1. Full Metal Jacket
2. Superstar: The Karen Carpenter Story
3. Raising Arizona
4. House of Games
5. Law of Desire
6. Yeelen
7. Hope and Glory
8. Tin Men
9. Housekeeping
10. Robocop

Some good films here.  The first third of Full Metal Jacket might make my top ten, but not the rest. Superstar, Raising Arizona, Hope And Glory, Housekeeping and Robocop would make my list.

(And speaking of critics, I remember Stanley Kauffmann's review of Raising Arizona.  I'd already seen it and laughed quite a bit.  Kauffmann went out of his way to note the audience didn't laugh.  I wanted to write him saying "Stanley, I barely care what you think of the film--I don't care at all what you say others think.")

As opposed to what Jesse says, I find the characters in House Of Games unbelievable (which is the problem with almost every Mamet film). Law Of Desire is okay, though not Almodovar's best. Never seen Yeelen.  And I'm sorry to disagree with Jesse again, but while I like Tin Men, it's no Diner.

Here are his honorable mentions.

11. Barfly
12. Red Sorghum
13. Withnail & I
14. Roxanne
15. Alice
16. Walker
17. Au Revoir Les Enfants
18. Siesta
19. The Dead
20. Moonstruck

Some more good stuff here. 11, 12, 17 and 20 would make my top ten or twenty.  But three of these films, which are well-regarded, do nothing for me--13 (which I just saw again last week), 14 and 19.  15 I like, but is it 1987?  16 isn't much (whatever happened to Alex Cox?).  Never saw 18.

 Other films that would make my top ten (or twenty):

Babette's Feast (one of the first and best of the food porn films)

Broadcast News

A Chinese Ghost Story

Hail! Hail! Rock 'n' Roll (with Chuck gone, this document is even more valuable)

The Hidden

Near Dark

Project A II (perhaps Jackie Chan's greatest, which is saying a lot)

Stakeout

Three O'Clock High

Throw Momma From The Train

Other films I like:

Adventures In Babysitting, Amazon Women On The Moon (parts), Back To The Beach, Bagdad Café, La Bamba, City On Fire, Ishtar (parts, mostly Charles Grodin), No Way Out,  The Last Emperor, Outrageous Fortune, Overboard (though it starts bad), Predator, Prick Up Your Ears, Radio Days, The Running Man, The Secret Of My Success, The Stepfather, Swimming To Cambodia, Wings Of Desire

Other films of note:

84 Charing Cross Road, Angel, Angel Heart, Baby Boom, Batteries Not Included, The Bedroom Window, Berserker, Best Seller, A Better Tomorrow II, Beverly Hills Cop II, Beyond Therapy, The Big Bang, The Big Easy, Big Shots, Big Town, Black Widow, Blind Date, Born In East L.A., Burglar, Can't Buy Me Love, Captive Hearts, The Care Bears: Adventure In Wonderland, Cherry 2000, Coast To Coast, Creepshow 2, Critical Condition, Cry Freedom, Dear America, Letter Home From Vietnam, Death Before Dishonor, Death Wish 4: The Crackdown, Dirty Dancing, Disorderlies,
Dragnet, Dudes, Eastern Condors, Eat The Rich, Eddie Murphy Raw, Empire Of The Sun, Empire State, Ernest Goes To Camp, Evil Dead II, Extreme Prejudice, Eye Of The Eagle, Farewell Moscow, Fatal Attraction, From The Hip, Gaby: A True Story, The Garbage Pail Kids Movie, Gardens Of Stone, The Glass Menagerie, Going Bananas, Good Morning Babylon, Good Morning Vietnam, Hamburger Hill, The Hanoi Hilton, Happy New Year, Harry And The Hendersons, Heartburn, Hello Again, Hellraiser, Hollywood Shuffle, House II: The Second Story, The House Of Bernarda Alba, In The Mood, Intervista, Ironweed, King Lear, Last Man Standing, Leonard Part 6, Less Than Zero, Lethal Weapon, Light Of Day, Like Father Like Son, Little Dorrit, The Living Daylights, Lupo The Butcher,
Making Mr. Right, Malone, Mannequin, Masters Of The Universe, Matewan, Maurice, Morgan Stewart's Coming Home, The Music Teacher, Nadine, Nice Girls Don't Explode, Orphans, Over The Top, Pelle The Conqueror, The Pick-Up Artist, Planes Trains And Automobiles, Police Academy 4: Citizens On Patrol, The Princess Bride, The Quick And The Dead, Rent-a-Cop, Revenge Of The Nerds II: Nerds In Paradise, Sammy And Rosie Get Laid, Scared Stiff, The Secret Garden, Shy People, The Sicilian, Sign O' The Times, Silent Night Deadly Night Part 2, Slam Dance, Some Kind Of Wonderful, Someone To Watch Over Me, Spaceballs, Steel Dawn, Straight To Hell, Summer School, Superman IV: The Quest For Peace, Surf Nazis Must Die, Suspect, A Tax Woman, Teen Wolf Too, Terminus, They Still Call Me Bruce, Three Men And A Baby, Timestalkers, Tough Guys Don't Dance, The Untouchables, Waiting For The Moon, Walk Like A Man, Wall Street, The Whales Of August, White Mischief, Who Killed Vincent Chin?, Who's That Girl, The Wind In The Willows, The Witches Of Eastwick

Tuesday, December 26, 2017

Back To The 90s

Jesse Walker has now taken us back to 1997.  It was the year of Titanic, a ship that foundered yet crushed everything in its path.

So here are his top ten films from a generation ago:

1. Oz
2. The Apostle
3. The Sweet Hereafter
4. fast, cheap & out of control
5. Deconstructing Harry
6. Jackie Brown
7. The Ice Storm
8. Henry Fool
9. Sunday
10. Face/Off

Oz is a TV series, and thus shouldn't be on this list. (It's also a show I don't like nearly as much as Jesse.)

The Apostle is a thoughtful film, but not much more (though I only saw it once on TV, and was distracted at the time).

The Sweet Hereafter, a film about grief, might make my top ten.

Fast, Cheap & Out Of Control is a fun documentary by Errol Morris.  (I don't think he's so much fun any more.)

Jesse calls Deconstructing Harry the last great Woody Allen film.  Let's just say it's one of his few good films in the last 20 years.

I didn't love Jackie Brown when it came out, but it's aged better than any other Tarantino film.

I like the Ice Storm if just for the design alone.

Henry Fool was something different from Hal Hartley, and it's by far his best film. (He's since made a couple sequels which don't really compare.)

I've never seen Sunday.

I like John Woo, but I'm not part of his cult.  Face/Off is one of his most enjoyable films.

11. Grosse Pointe Blank
12. Ulee's Gold
13. Gattaca
14. L.A. Confidential
15. Public Housing
16. The Rainbow Man/John 3:16
17. The Spanish Prisoner
18. The Eel
19. Gummo
20. Absolute Power

I consider 11 an incoherent mess with a nice soundtrack.  12 is a fine film, with Peter Fonda's best performance.  13 is a good idea poorly executed.  14 is a film the critics went wild for but left me cold.  Haven't seen 15 (though I've seen enough Wiseman to have a good idea what it's like).  Haven't seen 16.  17 is a good example of why Mamet should stick to theatre.  Haven't seen 18.  19 might make my top ten list.  20 is a not very special action film.

Other films that would have made my top ten or twenty list (some of which I'm surprised to see Jesse didn't mention):

As Good As It Gets

Boogie Nights (and I believe Hard Eight got its release in 1997, making it two for two)

Lost Highway

The Man Who Knew Too Little (a critically-despised flop for Bill Murray, but I think it's one of his best comedies)

Men In Black

Mr. Nice Guy

Princess Mononoke

Waiting For Guffman (is this '96 or '97?)

Other films I enjoyed:

Air Force One, Austin Powers: International Man Of Mystery, Chasing Amy, Clockwatchers, The Daytrippers, Donnie Brasco, The Full Monty, The Game, In The Company Of Men (despite its disastrous ending), Life Is Beautiful (which in some ways is obscene but still works), Microcosmos, My Best Friend’s Wedding, The Postman (first half), Private Parts, Starship Troopers (despite was Verhoeven thought he was doing), SubUrbia, Trekkies, Wild Man Blues

 Other films of note:

4 Little Girls, 8 Heads In A Duffel Bag, Addicted To Love, Affliction, Albino Alligator, Alien Resurrection, An American Werewolf In Paris, Amistad, Anaconda, Anna Karenina, Bad Manners, Bad Movie, B*A*P*S, Batman & Robin, Bean, The Beautician And The Beast, Behind Enemy Lines, Beneath The Surface, Beverly Hills Ninja, Beyond Words, The Big One, Booty Call, The Borrowers, The Boxer, Breakdown, Breaking Up, Buddy, The Butcher Boy, Cat's Eye, City Of Industry, Comedian Harmonists, Con Air, Conspiracy Theory, Contact, Cop Land, The Cremaster Cycle, Critical Care, Cube, Dante's Peak, Dead Letter Office, Def Jam's How To Be A PLlyer, The Designated Mourner, The Devil's Advocate, Different For Girls, The Dog Of Flanders, Dogtown, Don King: Only In America, The Edge, The Education Of Little Tree, Eight Days A Week, Eve's Bayou, Event Horizon, Fair Tale: A True Story, Fathers' Day, Fierce Creatures, The Fifth Element, Fire Down Below,
Flubber, Fools Rush In, For Richer Or Poorer, Funny Games, G.I. Jane, Gang Related, George Of The Jungle, god of Gambler 3: The Early Stage, Gone Fishin', Good Burger, Good Will Hunting, Gridlock'd, Hands On A Hard Body: The Documentary, Happy Together, Heads Or Tails, hero, Hitman, Hoodlum, How I Spent My Summer Vacation, Hurricane Streets, I Know What You Did Last Summer, I Married A Strange Person!, In & Out, Insomnia, Intruder, The Invader, Inventing The Abbotts, Jack Frost, The Jackal, Jane Eyre, Jungle 2 Jungle, Kickboxing Academy, Kiss Me, Guido, Kiss The Girls, Kundun, Leave It To Beaver, Leprechaun 4: In Space, Liar Liar, Licensed To Kill, A Life Apart, A Life Less Ordinary, Lifeline, Lolita, The Long Way Home, The Lost World: Jurassic Park, Love! Valour! Compassion!, Mad City, Masterminds, The Mayor, McHale's Navy, Meet Wally Sparks, Men With Guns, Metro, Midnight In The Garden Of Good And Evil, Mimic, Mother And Son, Mr. Magoo, Mrs. Dalloway, Murder at 1600, Night Falls On Manhattan, Nil By Mouth, Once Upon A Time In China And America, One Night Stand, Oscar And Lucinda, Out To Sea,  Of Order, The Peacemaker, Picture Perfect, Pippi Longstocking, Prefontaine, The Rainmaker, The Relic, Rosewood, The Saint, Seven Years In Tibet, Smilla's Sense Of Snow, Soul Food, Spawn, Speed 2: Cruise Control, Spice World, Star Kid, Star Maps, Strategic Command, Suicide Kings, Sweethearts, The Tango Lesson, That Darn Cat, That Old Feeling, A Thousand Acres, Titanic, Trial And Error, Trojan War, Tromeo And Juliet, U Turn, Vanishing Point, Vegas Vacation, Volcano, Waco: The Rules Of Engagement, Wag The Dog, Washington Square, Weapons Of Mass Distraction, Welcome To Sarajevo, Welcome To Woop Woop, Wilde, The Wings Of The Dove, Year Of The Horse, Zeus And Roxanne

Monday, December 25, 2017

X Marks The Spot

Let's have a little more Christmas music.







Sunday, December 24, 2017

Let Them Roll It

Hope you have a rockin' Christmas Eve.








Saturday, December 23, 2017

Has It Been A Decade Already?

Every year, my friend Jesse Walker lists his top ten films...for previous decades ending in the same number as the current one.

He's just put up his top ten for the year 2007.  Here tis:

1. No Country for Old Men
2. My Winnipeg
3. Imaginationland
4. The Savages
5. I'm Not There
6. The Simpsons Movie
7. A Girl Cut in Two
8. Eastern Promises
9. Michael Clayton
10. Vogue/300

No Country For Old Men is a rare case of Jesse agreeing with the Oscars.  It'd make my list, though the film has serious third-act problems.

My Winnipeg would also make my top ten.  I still don't know how much of it is true.

Imaginationland is from South Park, and as such shouldn't be on this list. (It's okay, by the way, but not great.)

The Savages has decent performances, but not a great story.

I'm Not There is an offbeat, kaleidoscopic, fictionalized look at Dylan.  Some parts work better than others.  I don't know anyone who didn't love the Cate Blanchett stuff.

The Simpsons Movie is a lot of fun. The show was getting tired at this point (and they're still doing it today), but they put it together for this movie.  (I do know some of the people who worked on this film, but that didn't effect my judgment.)

A Girl Cut In Two (I thought it was called The Girl Cut In Two) is Chabrol doing Hitchcock, which is generally a good thing.

Eastern Promises I liked, though not sure if it would make my top ten.

Michael Clayton didn't it for me. A decent premise, but I found it false and flat.

"Vogue/300" is a video commenting on certain aspects of 300.  Jesse knows I don't think shorts should go on these lists.  And if you want to list shorts, two of the most important of the century were released in 2007--"Charlie Bit My Finger" and "2 Girls 1 Cup."

Here are his honorable mentions

11. Off the Grid
12. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford
13. Encounters at the End of the World
14. One Night in One City
15. The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
16. Confessions of a Superhero
17. 3:10 to Yuma
18. In My Language
19. What Will Come
20. The Bourne Ultimatum

Didn't see 11 and 14 and haven't even heard of 18 and 19.  12 is a film I truly hate--arty and pretentious in the worst way, not to mention horribly slow. I don't understand its cult.  13 is a Herzog documentary, which are better these days than his fictional stuff.  15 would probably make my top ten.  16 I caught part of on TV and found pretty interesting.  As for 17, I'm not a big fan of the 1957 version (will that make Jesse's list?) but the 2007 version I like even less.  20 turned Matt Damon into an action star but I didn't go for it.

Other films that would probably make my top ten:

4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days (one of the most excruciating films I've ever seen)

Enchanted

Juno

The King Of Kong: A Fistful Of Quarters

Persepolis

Ratatouille

Superbad (comedy of the century so far?)

Other films I liked:

Across The Universe (the first half), Anita O'Day: The Life Of A Jazz Singer,  The Darjeeling Limited (didn't think much of it at first, but it's dated well), Grindhouse (half), Helvetica, I Am Legend, Into The Wild (though no classic), Knocked Up (even if implausible), The Lookout, The Mist, Next (the first act), Starter For 10, Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber Of Fleet Street (though not as good as the stage version), Waitress

Other films of interest:

Alpha Dog, Miss Potter, Stomp The Yard, The Hitcher, The Painted Veil, Epic Movie, Smokin’ Aces, Because I Said So, Hannibal Rising, Music And Lyrics, Breach, Bridge To Terabithia, The Astronaut Farmer, The Number 23, Black Snake Moan, Wild Hogs, Zodiac, I Think I Love My Wife, Premonition, The Last Mimzy, The Hills Have Eyes 2, Reign Over Me, Shooter, TMNT, Blades Of Glory, Meet The Robinsons, Are We Done Yet?, Firehouse Dog, The Reaping, The Hoax, Disturbia, Perfect Stranger, Redline, Vacancy, Kickin’ It Old Skool, Lucky You, Spider-Man 3, 28 Weeks Later, Georgia Rule, The Ex, Shrek The Third, Big, Pirates Of The Carribean: At World’s End, Mr. Brooks, Ocean’s Thirteen, Fantastic Four: Rise Of The Silver Surfer, Nancy Drew, 1408, Evan Almighty, A Mighty Heart, Live Free Or Die Hard, Sicko, License To Wed, Tranformers, Rescue Dawn, Joshua, Harry Potter And The Order Of The Phoenix, Interview, Talk To Me, Hairspray, I Now Pronounce You Chuch & Larry, Sunshine, I Know Who Killed Me, No Reservations, Becoming Jane, Bratz, Hot Rod, Daddy Day Camps, Rush Hour 3, Stardust, The Invasion, Mr. Bean’s Holiday, The Nanny Diaries, Resurrecting The Champ, War, Balls Of Fury, Halloween,
The Brothers Solomon, Shoot ‘Em Up, The Brave One, In The Valley Of Elah, Mr. Woodcock, Good Luck Chuck, Resident Evil: Extinction, The Jane Austen Book Club, The Kingdom, The Heartbreak Kid, Elizabeth: The Golden Age, Why Did I Get Married?, We Own The Night, Lars And The Real Girl, 30 Days Of Night, The Comebacks, Gone Baby Gone, Rendition, The Ten Commandments, Dan In Real Life, Saw IV, American Gangster, Bee Movie, Martian Child, Fred Claus, Lions For Lambs, Beowulf, Love In The Time Of Cholera, Mr. Magorium’s Wonder Emporium, August Rush, Hitman, Awake, Atonement, The Golden Compass, Alvin And The Chipmunks, Charlie Wilson’s War, National Treasure: Book Of Secrets, PS I Love You, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Alien vs. Predator: Requiem, The Water Horse, The Bucket List, There Will Be Blood, Once, The 11th Hour, 88 Minutes, Albert Fish, American The Beautiful, Before The Devil Knows You’re Dead, Blue State, The Cake Eaters, Death At A Funeral, Ghost Rider, Grace Is Gone, Happily N’Ever After, Hot Fuzz, Margot At The Wedding, My Kid Could Paint That, Rocket Science, Run Fatboy Run, Sleuth, Towelhead, Underdog, Who’s Your Caddy?, Year Of The Dog, Youth Without Youth, Zoo

Friday, December 22, 2017

Error Level

I often notice mistakes when reading non-fiction books.  The problem, of course, is not just the mistake, but the question it raises: how many others am I not catching?

But not all errors are the same.  Some or worse than others.  Let me give an example.

I just read a biography of Gene Kelly, He's Got Rhythm, written by Cynthia and Sara Brideson.  (They're twin sisters. Sadly, Sara died earlier this year, only 26 years old.) I found more than one mistake in the book.

Early on, they mention a young Gene Kelly read H. G. Wells' Outline Of History.  Except they spell it "Welles"--twice on page 23 and once more in the index.

This is a pretty bad mistake, but I can almost forgive it because their subject is a movie star, and the writers are probably more aware of Orson Welles than H. G. Wells.

But later, on page 360, in discussing the Kelly-directed film version of Hello, Dolly! (1969), we get this: "As the two clerks at the store were fledgling dancers Michael Crawford and Tommy Tune..."

I wouldn't call Tommy Tune a fledgling dancer at this point, but that's not the problem.  Much worse is that the two clerks are played by Crawford and Danny Lockin (who, by the way, was murdered in 1977, only 34).  Tune is in the movie--in a major role, in fact--but is not one of the clerks.

This error is far worse than the other I mentioned, because it means either the authors didn't view all the films they discuss in the book, or they watched Hello, Dolly! but weren't paying close attention.

I can understand getting the name of a writer who isn't central to Kelly's career wrong, but not a basic fact about his films.  This is the kind of thing that makes you wonder about everything else in the book.

Thursday, December 21, 2017

Mrs. M

We just had December 7th, so let me announce I finally watched Mrs. Miniver (1942) all the way through. The film was planned before Pearl Harbor, of course, and ended up bringing the war home to America and Britain like few other films.  I've seen it in bits and pieces over the years, but never all at once.

I don't know how well-remembered it is today, but it was a big deal back then.  I guess it was considered a significant production, coming from MGM and highly-honored director William Wyler.  But it ended up being the biggest hit of the year, and was nominated for 12 Academy Awards, winning six, including Best Picture.

It's still a rather small film, about the life of a middle class British family. In fact, the character of Mrs. Miniver was created before the war started.  But the film took on added significance since it was made in the early days of World War II and came out just after America had entered.  The film turned out to be excellent propaganda (as recognized by Roosevelt and Churchill), showing Americans--who had been neutral when the film was in the planning stages--what the British were going through.

The film establishes Mrs. Miniver, played by Oscar-winning Greer Garson, as a charming woman who spends a little more than she can afford for a nice hat.  And her husband, an architect, played by Walter Pidgeon, spends a little more than he can afford on a new car.

I might add though we're told they're middle class, they've got a lovely house in the country with plenty of room and nice furnishings, not to mention servants. (MGM would settle for nothing less.) Anyway, before you know it, there's a war and the carefree days of naughty extravagance are over.

There's a subplot about the war-time romance of the Miniver's son with the granddaughter of the upper class Lady who lives nearby.  But most of it is about the privations of war (though, once again, coming from MGM and Wyler, they're still pretty glossy privations).

The main thing about the film is it stays on the home front.  The boy goes off to war, but we don't see him fight.  Mr. Miniver takes his boat out to Dunkirk, but he's absent from the plot until his return several days later.  This allows Mrs. Miniver, in the film's most famous scene, to face a Nazi whose plane was shot down.

Perhaps the best scene, in that it has enough of a Wyler touch not to overdo it, is the Minivers putting their little children to bed, being stiff-upper-lipped and all that, while their shelter is rattled and their house is bombed.

The big speech at the end by the vicar, played by Henry Wilcoxon, was no doubt stirring at the time, but today plays as rather generic, even propagandistic.

The film established Garson as a major star, and made a regular team of Garson and Pidgeon.  (It's never explained why he has an American accent.  I assume it's because, unlike fellow American actor Teresa Wright, he didn't think he could pull off sounding British.  Maybe that's why Wright won an Oscar while Pidgeon was only nominated.  On the other hand, Dame May Whitty as the snobby Lady Beldon is probably the best thing in the film and she didn't win either.)

I can't say the film is great, and it's hard to understand why it won so many awards.  But obviously it struck a chord at the time, and has to be understood that way.  The idea of a war that came to everyone's home was new, and Mrs. Miniver was, to the audience at large, a peek into a world that Americans barely knew (but were beginning to feel) and that the British knew all too well.

It became THE film about how the war affected the home.  Wyler would pull off a similar trick in a few years and create THE film about the American home when the war ended, The Best Years Of Our Lives (1946).  It was an even bigger hit and won more Oscars than Mrs. Miniver. It's also a better film.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

Chess Mess

I'm a fan of chess. I can't play it well, but I love to watch the grandmasters doing it at the highest level.  But now there's something else to look at.

The World Chess Championship has just released its 2018 logo. Usually, this is not a big deal. But, as many have pointed out, it looks like, well...it looks like a sexual position.

Did they not notice?  This is a game where people take an hour before making a move.  You'd think they would have caught it at some point.

Or is it an attempt to get more people interested in chess?  Sure, there are millions of fans around the world, but maybe they want the young, hip crowd.

Yeah, that must be it.

Tuesday, December 19, 2017

It's Hard

The last Beatle album I ranked was Help!, so let's go with the movie they starred in the year before, A Hard Day's Night.

As usual, I'll be using the British version, which contains 13 songs, all original Lennon/McCartney compositions--their first album with no covers.  The American version has eight Beatles recordings and four instrumentals of Beatle tunes done by George Martin.

This album turned out to be the hardest to rank so far--I consider most of these songs classics.

1.   Can't Buy Me Love
2.   I'll Be Back
3.   Any Time At All
4.   A Hard Day's Night
5.   If I Fell
6.   You Can't Do That
7.   And I Love Her
8.   Things We Said Today
9.   I'm Happy Just To Dance With You
10. Tell Me Why
11. When I Get Home
12. I Should Have Known Better
13. I'll Cry Instead

Monday, December 18, 2017

KS

Keely Smith has died.  She was married to Louis Prima, but more important, sang with (and without) him.





Sunday, December 17, 2017

Cashier Contretemps

I've had some odd interactions with cashier's lately.

I was buying some groceries when the cashier starting talking about how everyone's going Christmas shopping thanks to Trump's tax cuts.  In fact, he said, it's a good time to start a small business.

I honestly don't know what he was on about.  (Let's leave aside the fact that he had no reason to talk about any of this.) I don't know if he was supporting Trump or mocking him.

Since I live in a state that voted 2-1 for Hillary, let's assume it was the latter.  I still don't get it.  Was he making fun of Trump for there not being a tax cut that was promised?  That wouldn't have happened anyway. Or is he making fun of Trump for a tax cut, presumably to fat cats, which, in any case, hasn't happened yet.

And why mention all this in a grocery store?  I think he expected there'd be a moment of solidarity between us, but, if he was reading me right, what he got was confusion.

Then I was buying a birthday card at a place I won't mention.  The cashier actually picked up my card and read it.  He approved.

This is highly impertinent.  It's none of his business what sort of card I buy.  It's almost as if he were reading a private letter.  I almost felt like reporting him, but I worried if he were fired he might start working in the food industry, where he'd be a lot more dangerous if he sampled the wares.

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Dead To Me

The Walking Dead just took its mid-season break.  The ratings are down, but the show is still a phenomenon.  Though how much longer?

I kinda sorta watch the show.  Sometimes I have it on in the background, and if I miss it, no big deal.  I didn't watch it for the first two seasons.  I disliked the whole concept.  I like zombie movies, because they're great monsters--for a couple of hours.  They're relentless and you can't afford to take it easy for a second. But then the movie ends, and either you've defeated the zombies or they've defeated you.  The idea of zombies chasing after people week in week out seemed exhausting, not entertaining.

But the show was such a big hit I decided to check it out to see what the big deal was.  What I discovered was a poorly-written, poorly plotted show, though it did have nice, gruesome violence and a few characters who were worth rooting for.

Since then, the show has only gotten worse.  Or maybe it's just stayed the same, which isn't good enough.  It's based on a comic which I don't read, but even if I did, I'd have to judge the show on its own merits.  For the last couple of seasons, the main villain has been Negan, and there's a huge war going on among a number of post-apocalyptic human communities.

However, the action is ungainly, the logistics are impossible, most characters are just annoying and their motivations make no sense.  I realize it's tough to pull off this sort of massive project, though other shows have done a far better job of maneuvering around a giant cast (such as Game Of Thrones or Lost, though those shows also have or had serious flaws).

The big news for the mid-season finale was a major character is getting killed off.  Fine with me.  I would have liked to see this character die a long time ago. Of course, that's how I feel about most of the characters.

So perhaps the real question is why do I watch this show at all?

Friday, December 15, 2017

Star Wars Math

Since Lucas sold the franchise, we're getting a new Star Wars film every year.  But they're still pretty special.  And today The Last Jedi officially opens.

I'll be there this weekend, assuming it's not sold out. (Actually, big films open so wide you can always get a ticket somewhere--wasn't that way a few decades ago.)

A new SW film leads to the question, how to deal with the first two trilogies.  And here's a good piece from a couple years ago, when The Force Awakens opened, that discussed the proper order in which to watch them.

The most popular seems to be the order in which they were released--4, 5, 6, 1, 2, 3.  But there's a sizable group--including George Lucas, of course--who insist on 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6.  (As Sheldon Cooper put it, "I prefer to let George Lucas disappoint me in the order he intended.")

Then there are variations, including starting with 4 and 5, then switching to 1, 2 and 3 to see the background, before ending with 6.  Some, of course, say 4, 5, 6 and forget the rest.

There are two problems. The first is quality.  The original trilogy is so superior to the prequel trilogy that you probably don't want to start with those weaker six hours.  But then, if you've got to get to them eventually, why wait?

The bigger problem is the dramatic shape.  Sure, chronologically in that galaxy far, far away, things happened from 1 to 6.  But dramatically, there are all sorts of surprises, especially in 4 and 5, that will be ruined if you watch the prequels first. And 4 and 5 were designed to be watched with no preparation.  So not only are 1 through 3 weaker films, they weaken 4 through 6.

Since the article was published, we got 7, which should come last, I suppose.  But, actually, since it's as if the events in 6 never happened, maybe it could be shoved somewhere between 5 and 6.  We've also got Rogue One, which explains--in a well done but unnecessary way--how we got to the events of 4.  I still suggest 4 and 5 must go first, since you simply don't want to take anything away from them.

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Does It Register?

The National Film Registry, from the Library of Congress, just announced this year's list of 25 new American films.  Are they worthy, or is the NFR starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel?

Here's the list with my comments.

Ace In The Hole (1951)

Billy Wilder already has a number of films on the list, but I think there's room for one more if it's got dialogue as good as this film. (Which flopped originally, as it was too bitter.)

Boulevard Nights (1979)

By chance I saw this film last month in a theatre with the cast attending. It's far from a classic, though perhaps deserves to be here because it shows the Los Angeles Latino culture of the time.

Die Hard (1988)

Why not?  One off the greatest action films in the last 30 years and one of the most influential. It also saved Bruce Willis's career and turned him into a star.

Dumbo (1941)

I'm a bit surprised it didn't make it yet.  Okay, it's not Snow White or Pinocchio, but it's still pretty special. "Pink Elephants On Parade" still astounds.

Field Of Dreams (1989)

A beautiful film with a powerful final act that deserves to be remembered.

4 Little Girls (1997)

Spike Lee's documentary about the Birmingham church bombing.  Haven't seen it in years.  I don't remember it as a great documentary, but it does get the job done.

Fuentes Family Home Movies Collections (1920s and 1930s)

Never seen them, though I assume they're of historical interest.

Gentleman's Agreement (1947)

An Oscar winner, but not much of a movie.  It took some courage, I suppose, to deal with anti-Semitism in America in the late 40s, though perhaps that's why it was overrated in its day.

The Goonies (1985)

A lot of people love this movie, but not me.

Guess Who's Coming To Dinner (1967)

A big hit back then, but not too good.  Some fine actors, and intriguingly dated generation gap stuff, but the racial angle, which perhaps was powerful then, hasn't dated well.

He Who Gets Slapped (1924)

A pretty good Lon Chaney movie directed by Victor Seastrom (the Americanized spelling of his name).

Interior New York Subway, 14th Street To 42nd Street (1905)

I love old documentary footage like this.

La Bamba (1987)

A slight, if enjoyable, film.  Should it be on the list?

Lives Of Performers (1972)

Never seen it.  Sounds very arty.

Memento (2000)

Back when Christopher Nolan didn't have a lot of money, he could still keep things going with an intricate plot.  And clever to put the audience in the place of the protagonist.  Worth seeing at least twice.

Only Angels Have Wings (1939)

One of Howard Hawks' best, and maybe the best film of 1939.  Surprised it didn't make the list yet, though I suppose that was because they have to have so many other Hawks' films first.

The Sinking Of The Lusitania (1918)

A century later, Winsor McCay's animation is still amazing.

Spartacus (1960)

Okay, but hardly a classic.  Like so many epics, sags in the second half.  The story of how it got made is probably more interesting.

Superman (1978)

A schizoid film (part origin story, part sci-fi, part romantic comedy, part farce, part action), but it plays.  Still the best Superman film (along with its sequel).

Thelonious Monk: Straight, No Chaser (1988)

A fine portrait of a great (and quirky) jazz artist.

Time And Dreams (1976)

Never seen it.

Titanic (1997)

An impressive technical achievement, but I've never really been a fan.

To Sleep With Anger (1990)

I love Killer Of Sheep, but I've never seen To Sleep With Anger all the way through.
Wanda (1971)

Never seen it, though Barbara Loden's very short career fascinates me.

With The Abraham Lincoln Brigade In Spain (1937)

Never seen it.

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