Damn, I only have time to watch movies on weekends part 20: hope is all around us

Tags: 
  • 1. Repulsion (1965)
  • A tense, totally hypnotic film with a methodical pace that lulls you into complacency so that it can then assault the senses more effectively. Catherine Deneuve's stunning performance is the centerpiece of a horror film that feels far less dated than most similar films of its time (yes, including Psycho). It's just as effective as it always has been.


  • 2. Princess Ida (1982) (TV-movie)
  • I just watched this to get to know this operetta. Solid performance, as I've come to expect from this series.


  • 3. The Wild Bunch (1969) (watched again)
  • On this second viewing, I couldn't help feeling like the idea that a lot of critics think form the premise of the movie - namely, that these outlaws are aging and finding it difficult to adjust to a modernizing world - is a little underdeveloped. When you strip that away, you have a great adventure stocked with well-developed characters, shot in revolutionary ways that I can no longer appreciate. Lauded for changing the way we think about film and violence, today The Wild Bunch has a duller impact on the viewer, because its shockingly new scenes seem tame and commonplace. The shoot-outs are still tensely directed and expertly edited, but on this rewatch I began to find this film just a tiny bit overrated. Don't get me wrong, though, it's still a truly terrific film.


  • 4. The Godfather (1972) (watched again)
  • Another epic I owed a rewatch, this is one I hadn't seen in probably ten years, and the second viewing reminded me of why the film is so highly esteemed. Few films do everything so perfectly that nearly every moment becomes an icon of American film history. Think of how many lines, images, and scenes from The Godfather you've seen referenced in some context, and then realize that every one of these moments is so memorable because the filmmakers took care to infuse the film with so much artistry and depth without ever sacrificing how entertaining the film is. I still think I prefer Part II, but this is definitely going to make my top 100 list; before the rewatch, I wasn't convinced.


  • 5. Andrei Rublev (1966) (watched again)
  • I tried to give this film another chance to totally blow me away, and it certainly connected more than it had before. I don't feel as invested as I could be in Andrei's personal journey, perhaps because he mainly seems to stand around observing things (oftentimes unnoticed by even the camera). It seems strange that we build up so much to Andrei's apprenticeship with Theophanes and then barely see the two working together at all, and the film is too long, which is not to say that I could cut out entire sections, but there's a lot of tightening that could be done. But let's stop whining and say that as a portrait of medieval Russia, it creates one of the most engaging environments in film history and does it through astonishing art direction and brilliant cinematography. The Pagan holiday sequence is masterful, and many images throughout the Raid and the Bell are extremely affecting. So I found it a tiny bit uneven, but overall an excellent film.


  • 6. Cop Out (2010)
  • The first scene, where Tracy Morgan engages in rapid-fire film-referencing in his interrogation of a suspect, explains the joke a little too obviously but still gave me high hopes that this would be a charismatic affair. Unfortunately, the laughs soon taper off, and a fun cast and ample directorial talent can't save the mostly inept screenplay, making for a sporadically fun but mostly lame film. Some people seem willing to always cut Kevin Smith a break and always assume his tongue is in his cheek, but here I think a cliche-ridden script is just a cliche-ridden script. Which would be okay if it were a hell of a lot funnier, but it ain't.


  • 7. My Night at Maud's (1969)
  • My first foray into the work of the recently deceased Eric Rohmer was a great success. Sometimes talky films put me off, but here the conversation just spiraled me into the world of 1960s French Bohemia, and I didn't want to leave. The dialogue crisply develops each character, and I was totally invested in seeing how their relationships played out. I may just have to delve deeper into Mr. Rohmer's canon.


  • 8. Children of Paradise (1945) (watched again)
  • This film has been referred to as the "French Gone with the Wind," but (perhaps unsurprisingly) it beats the American epic by a mile, replacing all the clumsy moments of that film with elegance and grace. It seems ironic for a film about a mime to have such great dialogue, but that is the case: every poetic line shimmers with brilliance. Few epic films have such well-developed characters, and few epics so perfectly capture the tragic and comedic details in every moment of life, from the lively, bustling crowd scenes to the tender moments between lovers. An absolutely stunning film.


  • 9. Manhunter (1986)
  • You may be familiar with the spellbinding psychological masterpiece Silence of the Lambs, but you may not know that it was one of the first film franchise reboots. The franchise kicked off with a false start in Manhunter, which was a commercial flop but an artistic success. I love what the creative team did with Silence, but Michael Mann and Brian Cox certainly ain't no slouches, and Mann certainly comes up with some nail-biting tension as well as some eerie visuals. This might be the most black and white color film I've ever seen, by which I mean some scenes (particularly at the mental hospital) are all-white and some are all-darkness. Manhunter doesn't go as deep as Silence, but it's a gripping, well-made thriller, and there's nothing wrong with that.


  • 10. Before Sunset (2004) (watched again)
  • A few reviews ago, I said that I wasn't always into talky films, but maybe I shouldn't make such a statement given how much I love Before Sunset. This is an 80-minute conversation that fascinates with every single second of dialogue. They talk of the magical events of the first film, and now the innocence of that era of their lives has died, but somehow the magic remains. It all unfolds with the utmost honesty, and in fact, this is probably one of the most realistic, cliche-free films ever made. More importantly, though, the emotions run high and resonate beautifully.


  • 11. Run Lola Run (1998) (watched again)
  • This exuberant thrill ride is my favorite film of 1998, in part because there is literally never a dull moment. It's important to notice, though, that it's not just a roller coaster ride: it also brims with originality, a total directorial calling card, and there are moments of real emotional and intellectual depth to be found as well. My esteem for this film has grown in memory since I saw it, and this rewatch confirmed that that was accurate.


  • 12. Seven Samurai (1954) (watched again)
  • Many will discuss this film's influence on modern action movies, citing individual scenes that have become standard tropes for the genre. I'm not entirely convinced that Kurosawa invented the idea of assembling a ragtag team in an action film to accomplish a common goal, but whether or not this is the first action movie, it is definitely one of the best. Its action scenes excite without explosions, all the more so because it features three-dimensional characters in an intriguing environment. This isn't my favorite Kurosawa film, but it has won over legions of critics and casual moviegoers alike because it is quite an enduring achievement.


  • 13. Shadows (1959)
  • My second foray into the work of Mr. Cassavetes. To me this felt like a more genuine film than A Woman Under the Influence, perhaps because its improvisational nature made it easy to get wrapped up in the jazzy, freewheelin' world that the film creates. The music sets the tone beautifully for the story, and everything works together quite well.


  • 14. Kes (1970)
  • A highly acclaimed British film by the social realist Ken Loach, champion of the working classes. Honestly, I found the school segments rather dull, especially the endless soccer sequence because they felt like very typical teen angst/isolated loner scenes (although to be fair, they might have felt fresher in 1970). The falconry scenes are where the film actually takes off (no pun intended), and the relationship between Billy and Kes is quite touching. Overall, a good film with some very dry moments.


  • 15. The Heiress (1949)
  • William Wyler still holds the record for directing the most Best Picture winners and most nominees, and I can see why he was the king of the Oscars in classic Hollywood: he got excellent performances out of his actors, set them in exquisite art direction, and then pretty much stood aside. This technique works better in some films than others. The Best Years of Our Lives still reigns as my favorite Wyler film, but The Heiress is now a close second. A father clings to memories of his lost love as his shy, graceless daughter is courted by a man who may just be after their money. Is the father right that the man is a gold-digger, or is Daddy just too blind see how lovable his daughter really is? It's a situation wracked with ambiguity, deep subtext, and interesting parallels. In some ways the film is a melodrama, but the overall effect is so darkly haunting that it may be more appropriate to call it a suspense-horror. The gorgeous Olivia de Havilland is somehow utterly convincing as a homely, wide-eyed introvert, and her transformation over the course of the film makes for one of the greatest classic-era performances I've ever seen. She's bolstered by terrific supporting players, including the perfectly ambiguous and totally charming Montgomery Clift. If you couldn't tell, I really loved this film.


  • 16. L'Argent (1983)
  • Whenever I see a Robert Bresson film, I enjoy it and then completely forget about it within a few months. I don't know why this is, but it may have to do with the fact that he's a very subtle director, using few tricks of his trade to make his films deviate into spectacle. The sole exception to this is Pickpocket (his best film, IMHO) and the very last shot of Au Hasard Balthazar which will always remain in my memory. Also, every time I see another Bresson movie, I think, "Huh, I think that was more memorable than the last few I've seen," but I'm always wrong. I guess my point here is that I admire Bresson but he can't really seem to strike a chord with me. And I liked L'Argent and thought it was more memorable than other Bresson films, but I guess only time will tell.


  • 16. Beauty and the Beast (1946)
  • The 1991 version of this story is one of Disney's animated masterpieces. Hey well-respected French surrealist director Jean Cocteau, how does it feel to be bested by Walt freakin' Disney? Yeah, I thought so. No, don't get me wrong, Jeanny, your film is pretty great too. Sure, the scenes where Belle grows to love the Beast could be more believable or more interesting, but I don't mean to nitpick, as your imagery is always a delight for the eyes. But maybe if you had a few musical numbers and a talking candelabra, then we would really be in business.


  • 17. Shutter Island (2010)
  • This might be Scorsese at his most self-indulgent, with nearly every frame bursting with visual tricks and a story peppered with a horrifying dreamscape, yet somehow it totally works. In fact, Scorsese's eerie, stylish blend of psychological thriller and nightmarish 1950s-esque political paranoia combines with Leonardo DiCaprio's riveting performance so well, it's a shame the storyline wasn't a little smarter. In particular, the ending is mostly predictable and completely and utterly implausible. Major spoilers:
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    If you believe that a mental institution would try an experimental procedure where they let their most violent patient have free reign of the facility for two full days to just see what would happen, and then could somehow predict that he would show up at a lighthouse at the exact correct moment that he does, I've got a bridge to sell you.
    Still, this film is both frantically enjoyable and deeply disturbing, and to nail that dichotomy takes quite a craftsman.


  • 18. L'Eclisse (1962)
  • I am not really a fan of Michelangelo Antonioni, and this film didn't change my mind. It starts with a sort of hazy melancholy that felt promising, but whenever the movie shifted focus to the Italian stock exchange, I was bored out of my mind. I love plenty of slow-paced films, but the artistry here offers too little reward for the time investment it requires. It's incredibly pretentious too.


  • 19. The Firemen's Ball (1967)
  • Those wacky Czechs! This is an amusing film with plenty of nice moments, that somehow was seen as incredibly politically controversial. Whatever.


  • 20. Robocop (1987)
  • Robocop is no masterpiece, but as action movies go, it's a pretty good one. The acting is mediocre throughout, but the script milks a great deal of creativity from its premise and frames everything with a certain cheesy fun as well as an unexpected layer of depth in its title character, as he is haunted by memories of his former life. I must say, if you really like seeing people thrown through large panes of glass, this is the film for you. In fact, there's one scene where Robocop throws the same guy through three different panes of glass over the course of maybe two minutes. That's pretty impressive if you ask me.


  • 21. Titanic (1997)
  • I went for a long time without watching this film, partially because I didn't think I would enjoy it. I think I also took a bizarre pride in knowing that although I had seen a plethora of film history's most significant works, I had not seen the highest-grossing film ever made. Now that Avatar has surpassed Titanic, though, it seemed like it was time to experience this film. As it turns out, I actually liked the visuals more than I had expected. This is a film with gorgeous cinematography throughout, and the way the light glistens off the ship or off Kate Winslet's face is so much more richly satisfying to me than Avatar's blueness, I really wonder why Hollywood insists on replacing actors and sets with CGI. On the other hand, Titanic's story itself is bland and predictable, told through weak, cheesy dialogue with the hopes that we'll somehow get invested in the love story of these flat, archetypal characters, who really have little depth beyond their "happily poor" and "unhappily rich" models. I actually think Frances Fisher and Victor Garber were playing more interesting characters, and began to imagine the movie as a love story between them instead. Also, Leonardo DiCaprio has proved lately that he's capable of extraordinary performances, but Titanic appears to have been made before he learned how to act, and the great Kate Winslet honestly isn't much better here. Constructing the action sequences was an enormous undertaking, but even those drag, and the whole movie is just too long and too boring. I did prefer Titanic to Avatar, but both films are a far cry from his terrific work on the Terminator films.
  • On the plus side, though, I have now seen every Best Picture winner from the last 50 years except Out of Africa; I have seen every film on the AFI's updated list of the 100 greatest movies; and I have seen the top 25 of the AFI's 100 most thrilling movies list.


  • 22. The Straight Story (1999)
  • If you're familiar with the pop culture advancement theory created by Jason Hartley and Britt Bergman, which states that an artist is advanced when he/she does something completely unexpected of them but not the complete opposite of what is expected of them, the idea of David Lynch partnering with Disney for a G-rated road trip drama completely free of mindfuckery may seem highly advanced. And it is quite a bizarre career move, which may be the most Lynchian thing of all: rather than making a bizarre movie, he has made a movie that is bizarre because it's not bizarre. Of course, a closer analysis reveals plenty of absurd moments even in such a straight story, and seeing as Lynch's films often showcase the struggles and tribulations of an individual who feels alienated by a corrupt, monolithic institution, it's interesting to see how this theme plays out here. Indeed, Alvin Straight may feel forgotten by society, but unlike other Lynch protagonists, he chugs along with dignity and optimism, appreciating the small victories in his life. Similarly to its title character, the film has a quiet melancholy to it, and it's nice to know that Lynch can direct a well-paced narrative with subtlety and humanity... even if I honestly still prefer his mindfucks.


  • 23. Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang (2005)
  • Robert Downey Jr.'s career has had quite a second wind lately, and here once again, he proves why that is. He's got the charisma and the attitude for every role he takes, and he always hits the right notes. Of course, some of the projects he chooses are better than others; luckily, this one is excellent. A terrific blend of crime thriller and comedy, chock-full of clever lines and hilarious twists on the genre. I feel that most action-comedies let the comedy fall by the wayside in the second half, but that is certainly not true here. A terrific film that is easily among the best contemporary action-comedies ever made.


  • 24. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964)
  • A realistic, effects-free take on the Jesus story that was a real slog to get through for me. Pier Paolo Pasolini was a Marxist, and it seems like he wanted to make this film to remind everyone that Jesus Christ advocated a lot of leftist viewpoints as well. Most of the dialogue consists of Jesus quoting the Bible's most left-leaning passages. This is certainly an important message for the world, but the film feels so self-consciously and self-indulgently Marxist that as a film, it really doesn't work. Sure, there are a few great images here, solid non-professional acting, and an interesting score, but that wasn't enough to hold my attention.


  • 25. Carrie (1976)
  • A supposed pop culture classic I never happened to catch, Carrie features some chilling and daring scenes, mixed in with a few heaps of incredibly silly camp. The opening sequence is the worst offender for me, as Carrie's reaction to getting her period has her acting completely unlike any functional human being (unlike her social skills in the rest of the film), which is unbelievable and hilarious. Carrie's mom is also too over-the-top ridiculous to be particularly scary. Still, the last half-hour or so works quite well; the lurid colored lights that Brian De Palma loves so much bathe a most disturbing prom scene, and the quick cuts up to Carrie's face are more effective than they probably have any right to be. The earlier high school drama is interesting enough as well. So it's a mixed bag, but overall a pretty good horror flick.


  • 26. The Crying Game (1992)
  • I had heard too much about this film's twists, unfortunately, so I figured out fairly early on in the movie how all this was going to play out. Despite the fact that I may have been more captivated if I had gone into it with fresh eyes, I really enjoyed this film's ride, because it's far more than the sum of its twists. The dialogue jumps off the screen like in an old-time noir film, expertly lending layers of depth to each character while also being infinitely quotable. The acting is terrific throughout, and I think if people stopped defining this film by its central twist, they would find an excellent film that dabbles in thriller and romance genres but ultimately is more an exploration of its characters than anything else.


  • 27. Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974)
  • Rainer Werner Fassbinder remakes Douglas Sirk's All That Heaven Allows and transposes the original from upper-class America to lower-class Germany, showing us that prejudice can exist amongst all cultures and socioeconomic stati. The cinematography and the performances are more raw here than the refined Sirk film, and I think the film is all the more powerful for it. In fact, I think this film is an improvement on the original, in part because Emmi is such a terrific, well-developed character. World-wearied yet strong, she lends depth to the "forbidden love" story archetypes because it feels like she's taking a stand by seeing Ali mostly because she has nothing to lose. Unfortunately, the subtitles hit all the wrong notes. They have made a conscious choice to include grammatical errors in Ali's speech because he doesn't have a full grasp of German, but the subtitles come across less as "foreigner speaking broken English" and more as "caveman" or maybe "Cookie Monster." I found it unsettling, although it may work better in German.
  • In any case, I think the real moral of this film is clear: couscous is delicious no matter where you come from. If only all cultures could accept couscous into their lives!


  • 28. The Man Who Laughs (1928)
  • As far as pulpy, semi-horror semi-romance silent films go, I'd still have to prefer the 1925 Phantom of the Opera, but this is good too.


  • 29. Goodfellas (1990) (watched again)
  • Some cinematic criminals are drawn to a life of crime out of upbringing or necessity, but the Goodfellas are drawn to crime simply because it's crime. This film is the ultimate exploration of the appeal of the gangster lifestyle, defining the day-to-day, the ethos, and the respect it imparts. It's a world where crooks live like glamorous debutantes, partially because of the untold riches, but partially because the film portrays crime as inherently sexy, even given the lifestyle's undercurrent of paranoia that comes with the realization that any of these men could be murdered easily at any time. The interplay between the glamor and this undercurrent is key, I think, and Martin Scorsese showcases both the highs and lows with such superlative skill that he proves himself once again to be one of the greatest living directors. His direction doesn't indict nor overly sensationalize: it's just top-notch storytelling, and a perfect backdrop for some performances by legends like De Niro and Pesci - but of course, it's best that we see everything through Ray Liotta's eyes. Scorsese transposed this same basic story to Vegas with Casino, and while that was a very good film as well, ultimately there is only one Goodfellas.


  • 30. How Green Was My Valley (1941)
  • Often shunned as the film that beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture at the Oscars, How Green Was My Valley gets a bad rap, but I had heard it was actually great, so I think I went into it with an open mind. The beginning hooked me right away, but unfortunately the rest of the film couldn't live up to my hopes. It's an episodic memory film, and some episodes are much better than others. Sometimes the subplots start with promise but have unsatisfyingly frivolous endings. The forbidden love subplot has some good scenes and bad, as does Huw's recovery and the strike - although it's funny that the notoriously conservative John Ford mocks the silly characters who say, "Union? Boy howdy, that sounds like socialism ta me!" since that's exactly what actual conservatives are seriously saying these days. Anyway, this isn't a bad film, but it is an uneven one. As far as Ford's British excursions go, I much prefer The Quiet Man.


  • 31. The Conformist (1970) (watched again)
  • Bernardo Bertolucci's direction of this drama with underscores of politics and eroticism is not the least bit subtle, but its colossal beauty has endured in my mind as one of the most stunning films of all-time. The monolithic art direction, colorful and textured cinematography, brilliant use of streaming light, and skewed camera angles create a sumptuously visual cinematic world that is as enigmatic as it is beautiful: this is a stark paradise that its main character Marcello cannot fully inhabit. It's the ultimate counterpoint to the character study of Marcello's troubled fascist, a man who has forsaken morality in favor of normalcy, but who lacks the ability to escape his troubled past and truly understand how to become normal. Jean-Louis Trintignant's performance is a complex tour de force; he nails the psychosexual subconscious of the character with an understated tone that complements the rich visuals perfectly. The other performances are terrific too, but ultimately this is mainly a film for the eyes, and as such, it's a flat-out masterpiece.


  • 32. Kagemusha (1980)
  • Kagemusha's cinematography is great, but not as great as the editor thinks it is, and the film's tendency to linger too long on every scene and shot really dulls the impact that it could have had. It's a bloated film where the interesting character tensions and terrific visuals are adrift in a sea of self-indulgence. I thought it was three hours long, but I realized the version I was watching was only 2:40; however, it could easily have been at least 40 minutes shorter. Ah well. The worst Akira Kurosawa film I've seen yet is still okay.


  • 33. Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
  • I've never really been a fan of Rob Corddry, and when he starts off this film by cranking the annoying levels up to 11, I thought I was going to hate it. Luckily he tones it down at some point and the film becomes an enjoyable enough yarn that tasks our boys with doing exactly what they did twenty-some years ago. The plot that takes them back to the present feels more or less like an afterthought, though, and the film's humor and antics are surprisingly character-driven. It even has some genuinely touching moments with Corddry and John Cusack. Anyway, I don't mean to give the film too much credit, because some of the subplots are pretty predictable and lame, and a lot of the "jokes" are real groaners. The film seems to think it's funny when some sort of fluid (bodily or otherwise) spills all over someone or something, because that happens like every two minutes. The Cold War paranoia is a hilarious overtone throughout, but honestly the film just doesn't have enough fun with the fact that it is set in the 80s, despite the fact that spoofing that ridiculous decade is so damn easy. And Chevy Chase's character is just irritating. In any case, Hot Tub Time Machine is probably better than any movie called "Hot Tub Time Machine" ought to be, but it's only barely a good film.


  • 34. Army of Shadows (1969)
  • Another excellent film about European fascism (see #31), Army of Shadows of course shows us the opposite side. Viva la Resistance! Many critics are quick to point out that this film eschews action scenes in favor of subtle character development, but that makes Army of Shadows sound like a snoozefest, and it's not at all. It's poignant, sure, but it's also gripping, with many scenes of high suspense and great tension. Its muted autumnal colors showcase the troubled world in which these freedom fighters live, where every decision is more difficult than the previous one. If I have room for a quibble or two: the mechanisms of the plot are occasionally contrived, and I kinda wished the film had focused on more Resistance operations that didn't just involve helping Resistance members who had been captured by Germans. Still, it seems silly to complain about what the film is not, when the film is so good as it is.


  • 35. The Last Waltz (1978)
  • A concert film that is both timeless and the ultimate product of the 1970s drawing to a close, The Last Waltz is a great documentary expertly shot by Martin Scorsese, whose proves in his direction that he clearly understands the rhythms of rock and roll. The interviews are hit-or-miss, but while some of the song performances are better than others, they're pretty much unassailable.


  • I'm in pretty dire need of catch-up here, so bear with some shortened reviews...
  • 36. 2046 (2004) (watched again)
  • A truly exceptional movie with some of the best cinematography of the past decade. The film beautifully blends fantasy with reality, past with present, love with lust - then swirls it all and ends up with a grand romantic drama. Some of the camera tricks started to bother me in this second viewing, and honestly some of the ending is more unsettling than totally satisfying, but those are very minor nitpicks, as this is an astonishing film.


  • 37. F for Fake (1973)
  • At times Orson Welles reaches for utter brilliance, but here he's just messing with you. Somehow he managed to be influential in the realm of editing anyway. Anyway, this is still an interesting film, although it doesn't really aim high enough to achieve the masterwork Welles is capable of.


  • 38. Love Me Tonight (1932)
  • Terrific old-timey musical. One of the best of its kind that doesn't involve Fred Astaire.


  • 39. Greenberg (2010)
  • A very good indie comedy/drama which treads familiar ground in the way that it introduces a closed-off man to a quirky girl and has her teach him how to open up, but Greenberg is notable in the way that it is unafraid to make the man a self-centered asshole and the girl a naive masochist. (Normally these characters are more along the lines of "shy and nerdy" and "wise and perceptive" respectively.) It works, especially for Stiller and Gerwig who hit the right notes. I'm really sick of characters who have given up on their dreams of being in a rock band, though.


  • 40. The Ghost Writer (2010)
  • Roman Polanski may not be so good at not making mockeries of the justice system, but damn can that guy direct. This film's political commentary may be a little blunt, but its twists and suspense are directed with the utmost skill of a master craftsman. Gripping all the way through, with many impressive images and terrific acting as well. And I love the subtle way that the film avoids mentioning its protagonist's name throughout: I didn't even realize that was the case until the end.


  • 41. Blow Out (1981)
  • A solid film by Brian De Palma. He sure does love those lurid colored lights. Treads similar ground as The Conversation but lends a more straightforward thriller narrative to the whole shebang, which actually works quite well. Both films are interesting comments about sound.


  • 42-44. La Chienne (1931) / Partie de Campagne (1936) / Boudu Saved From Drowning (1932)
  • I saw these films as part of a Jean Renoir retrospective. They were all great and really made me gain a deeper appreciation for Mr. Renoir and his uproariously timed sense of anarchy. The funniest is easily Boudu Saved From Drowning, which basically consists of Michel Simon playing a tramp who does crude, obnoxious things and makes absurd facial expressions, to hilarious effect. Imagine a much more irreverent version of the Little Tramp and you're probably not far off. La Chienne has more of a melodrama storyline, but Renoir adds some ironic twists to the usual drama, both in the visuals and the narrative, and the film is all the more interesting for it. Partie de Campagne is the least interesting and most sexist, but it's still pretty good. I now want to revisit Rules of the Game, which I didn't really love the first time I saw it, but I think I might enjoy more now that I better understand Renoir's m.o.


  • 45. The Secret of Kells (2009)
  • Creative animation is the highlight of this fun film, and its quirky visuals are what made this sail to its Best Animated Feature nominee at the last year's Oscars. It's enjoyable, but not my favorite animated film of last year.


  • 46. Metropia (2009)
  • This is the first film I've seen that, I think, uses the Uncanny Valley hypothesis as a device: its characters look almost real, and that's rather unsettling, which actually works well for a film about feeling eerily isolated in its futuristic dystopia. The story is mostly uninspired, however, and ultimately the film doesn't have the impact that it ought to.


  • 47. Date Night (2010)
  • I tend to like films that play around with conventional genres, and Date Night is no exception, inserting this boring suburban couple into a conspiratorial thriller. The cast of thousands (which, in addition to its NBC Thursday night leads, includes Mark Wahlberg, Ray Liotta, Kristen Wiig, Mark Ruffalo, James Franco, Mila Kunis, that girl who likes geeks, Will.I.Am, Common, the girl from Leighton Meester's sex tape, Liam McPoyle from Always Sunny, Benjamin Button's mother, the Gotham City bank manager, and Leon from Curb Your Enthusiasm) has a ton of fun with the script - though implausible and predictable, it does have some clever moments where we see how useful suburban parents' skills can be in an action flick, and its dialogue is often surprisingly touching as well. The humor dies in some moments, such as the strip clubs scenes which are just awkward and embarrassing, but I did enjoy this quite a bit.


  • 48. Crank (2006)
  • I was really hoping to enjoy this film, as I do love the adrenaline rush of Run Lola Run, but Crank's style is less intelligent than that masterpiece, taking on a stylistic philosophy of "throw our ADD at the wall and see what sticks - oh, everything sticks? Great!" The epitome of this philosophy's idiocy is probably when Jason Statham says, "Do I look like I have the word 'cunt' written on my forehead?" And lo and behold, the word "cunt" is digitally written on his forehead. Thanks for that, guys. Anyway, the film plays out as a testosterone-infused male fantasy: Amy Smart's incredibly annoying character exists only to play out every shallow stereotype of the shrewish girlfriend who really just needs to be fucked hard. Worse, the ending tries to convince us that this relationship actually has meaning. It doesn't, and neither does this film. It's mildly entertaining though, and I'd be lying if I said I was bored.


  • 49. Freeheld (2007)
  • A well-made if predictable documentary about a cancer-stricken lesbian who petitions to leave her pension behind to her lover. A touching, important film.


  • 50. Henry V (1944)
  • As this film starts as basically a filmed version of the stage play, I was almost ready to give up on it when it switched to a more realistic film setting, and then the film takes us on a journey through different levels of stylization. It's actually a cool concept to render Shakespeare in vivid technicolor through varying levels of realism, although it's still a bit stuffed-shirt, which Shakespeare really does not need to be.


  • 51. Nobody Knows (2004)
  • This film's neglectful mother offers no early signs of instability aside from her childlike vibrance, and this film's style functions in much the same way, directing with guileless sweetness throughout. I think the point is that often the most horrible things are masked in a veneer that attempts to make them palatable or even joyous. It's an interesting journey, although since there's very little plot to speak of, there's really no reason that this movie needs to be almost two and a half hours long.


  • 52. Exit Through the Gift Shop (2010)
  • A very enjoyable film that is as irreverently creative as the street art that inspires it. Speculations that the whole documentary is a hoax just pour extra layers of irony on a film that already has its tongue firmly planted in its cheek much of the time. I won't say more about this hilarious film except that it is highly recommended.


  • 53. Harold and Maude (1971) (watched again)
  • Any incarnations of the indie formula where a shy, repressed guy learns to appreciate life in funny, quirky ways thanks to a vibrant woman who brings him out of his shell must ultimately bow before this film, one of the earliest examples of this particular motif of alternative filmmaking. It's also certainly the best, an incredibly charming manifesto for anyone who walks at odds with the mainstream. Harold and Maude has a ton of heart but also has no qualms with raising eyebrows or just plain being weird, and the film is all the more brilliant for it. It's just like the lady says: "Everyone has the right to make an ass out of themselves. You can't let the world judge you too much." Right on, Maude.


  • 54. Five Graves to Cairo (1943)
  • When Billy Wilder wasn't making flat-out masterpieces like Sunset Boulevard, he dabbled in showing other filmmakers how good conventional genre films could possibly be. Sometimes he achieved this brilliantly, and other times we get Five Graves to Cairo, an enjoyable film that has nothing wrong with it but was never destined to be an amazing film. It's still impressive how good this cranked-out film is, of course, as even Billy Wilder's lower-tier works have a lot of skill behind them.


  • 55. Kick-Ass (2010)
  • This film ostensibly parodies superhero movies, and as such it sort of misfires, but it does some other things well in its own right. It's supposed to ponder why people never tried to be superheroes in the "real world" and then goes on to introduce a crime-fighting superhero duo who don't inhabit any "real world" I've ever heard of - they have abilities that go far beyond realistic human beings. Then they proceed to unleash some of the most gruesomely violent action scenes since Sin City and cease to inhabit either a real world or a superhero world, but rather some sort of Kill Bill world, more in line with those revenge-driven spaghetti Westerns than anything that Batman or Bruce Wayne ever partook in. Now granted, that still all makes for an entertaining film, with Matthew Vaughn directing the crap out of his action scenes to enthralling and often hilarious effect. Sure, it features some lame cliches, including one of the worst examples of the old climax scene where the hero skillfully and death-defyingly makes short work of dozens of henchmen but then can't seem to land a single punch with the final villain, but overall this is a fun and fairly unique blend of its influences.


  • 56. The Fugitive (1993)
  • Seeing this movie for the first time, it struck me how little plot, character development, and even dialogue there is in such a much-heralded film, as if these scenes were shot but some executives said, "No time! This film is called 'The Fugitive' as in Latin for 'fleeing.' So less talk, more fleeing." And then those scenes were promptly excised. The exception is Tommy Lee Jones who does get a few words in edgewise. A fun film with some solid action scenes, but it seems bizarre that this was actually nominated for awards. They must have been distracted by the shiny A-list actors. Don't blink or you might miss the fourth-billed Julianne Moore.


  • 57. The Major and the Minor (1942)
  • They were treading on thin ice here to establish a romance between a respectable army man and a woman pretending to be a 12-year-old girl. How do you develop the romance while the heroine is keeping up this charade? The answer is, awkwardly. This film does feature some hilarious moments but the love story element never feels quite right. My guess is they did as well as they could have with the awkward premise.


  • 58. The Double Life of Veronique (1991)
  • Gorgeous visuals are the main highlight of this methodical, introspective film that explores many of the same issues of identity, connectedness, and fate as the Three Colors trilogy, albeit not quite as successfully. There is little plot, but no matter: the cinematography really is stunning, and Irene Jacob is gorgeous. A poetic film, if one that could go a bit deeper.


  • 59. Angels in America (2003)
  • A triumphant achievement for everyone involved, this magnificent miniseries is religiously provocative, emotionally satisfying, occasionally hilarious, and superbly grand even in the setting of the 1980s AIDS epidemic. Al and Meryl are great here, of course, but the series is a terrific showcase for some lesser-known actors, especially the great Justin Kirk. Sure, some scenes are a bit trite and hammy, especially the fourth-wall-breaking at the end, but it's still highly recommended.


  • 60. No Country For Old Men (2007) (watched again)
  • I wanted to watch this again to confirm my initial reaction, and yeah, I still think this is a good but seriously overrated movie. The performances are top-notch, and the dialogue - sparse, but remarkable when it is there - is more effectively atmospheric than most Best-Picture-winners of late (the scene with the gas station attendant is the best scene in the film, IMHO), but I can't shake the feeling that in some ways the film is more manipulative than sensible. All the characters hide out or hang around when they should just be running away, which I suppose is a choice used to convey the doom represented by Anton Chigurh, but it just doesn't make any sense. Add on some "times-ain't-like-they-used-ta-be" rambling and a jarring fade to black that also seems unearned, and you have a good but unsatisfying movie that quite frankly pales in comparison to There Will Be Blood.


  • 61. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973)
  • A quiet movie full of heart about a child who feels isolated from her self-involved parents, so she turns to the realm of film and fantasy instead. I feel that this might be more meaningful to someone who had personally experienced post-civil-war-era Spain, but I still greatly enjoyed the film and its many memorable scenes and images.


  • 62. Syriana (2005)
  • An intricate thriller that often gets bogged down in the convolutedness of its own insider politics conspiracy theories, Syriana is a very intelligent film that, alas, will be unappreciated by many who don't have the patience for it. I did for the most part, but some plotlines are certainly more interesting than others.


  • 63. Paths of Glory (1957) (watched again)
  • Stanley Kubrick before he was STANLEY KUBRICK. This film is probably the most tightly-plotted film that Kubrick ever made; there is no fat to trim here, and yet the stark drama and precisely clever camera angles brand this film as distinctively Kubrickian. It helps that the story is brilliant, so Kubrick achieves an extraordinary marriage of style and substance here, which each one complementing the other perfectly. Moreover, it is an achievement not just of artistic relevance but also of political relevance, for few films are as bold in their denouncement of war and war-mongers as Paths of Glory. There is no beating around the bush here: this is a sublime anti-war film, as well as a flat-out masterpiece.


  • 64. Toy Story 3 (2010)
  • I laughed my ass off, I cried my eyes out, and I experienced other emotions that left my body parts firmly intact. I grew up with a generation who loved Toy Story as kids, and now that we're around college-age and seeing the world has become a much bleaker, harsher place than it was back in the mid-90s, here comes this perfectly-timed film with a human character who has aged just as we have, and with the same beloved toys just trying to find their place in the world, even when times are tough. This bittersweetness underlines their entire adventure, fast-paced and hilarious as it is. Barbie is a great addition to the cast of toys, and the other new characters are very strong, a joy to behold just as our beloved Buzz and Woody are. Some say this is the best Toy Story film yet, but I'd be hard pressed to choose; what I do know is that Pixar has created the most consistent trilogy ever made. Every one of these films is brilliant.


  • 65. Hamlet (1948)
  • Yup, that's Hamlet all right.


  • 66. Lost in Translation (2003) (watched again)
  • Even better on a second viewing, Lost in Translation is one of the greatest character-driven films of the past decade. There is much we don't know about its main characters, and much we don't understand about the strange relationship they build that toes the line between friendship and romance, yet the movie is all the stronger for its ambiguous implicitness. It's tender and subtle, and the dialogue we do get is charming, but realistically charming rather than movie-charming. It doesn't rely on cheap laughs or punchlines. It just wants to build its characters, and it does that through the very end, all set in the magnificently evocative backdrop of urban Japan.


  • 67. Pickpocket (1959) (watched again)
  • Listened with Criterion commentary this time, which provided an interesting reading into the film, including its homoerotic undertones. The commentary tried to argue against the widely-held belief that this is Robert Bresson's most accessible film, saying that it's actually very complex and intricate, but I guess that's why it's so acclaimed: it is accessible to beginners but also reveals added layers of depth for those willing to unravel it. The pickpocketing choreography scenes are still the most appealing ones Bresson ever put on celluloid.


  • 68. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949)
  • Times ain't like they used to be. Kids should have respect for their elders and keep off their lawns. Never apologize, it's a sign of weakness. Grumble grumble grumble. Seriously, I thought this was supposed to be one of John Ford's greats, but I found it bland and unmemorable (albeit quite colorful). I'll stick to Liberty Valance or My Darling Clementine any day.


  • 69. The Player (1992) (watched again)
  • This is the most scathing look at Hollywood this side of Sunset Boulevard. It's a bizarrely nightmarish satire that skewers both the ethos and aesthetics of Hollywood, yet like many of Robert Altman's films, it seems discontent to settle for any one genre, so it bends all conventions and dabbles in murder mystery thriller, dark comedy, and romantic drama, deftly combining all these tropes into one impressive film. This would be a confused film in the hands of a lesser filmmaker, but Altman handles all of these scenes with ease. Many call Nashville Altman's greatest film, and I do owe that film a rewatch, but until then this one will remain my personal favorite.


  • 70. Mad Max (1979)
  • Notable as the film that launched Mel Gibson's career as well as one of the most profitable films ever made, Max Max has a lot of things going for it culturally and stylistically which distract from the fact that the plot structure is so conventional and predictable, not to mention the mostly-awful dialogue. Not to worry - this is campy, cheesy fun, so it's easy to ignore that and get lost in the ridiculousness of it all. That doesn't make for a great movie, but it does make for an entertaining one.


  • 71. A.I.: Artificial Intelligence (2001)
  • Now here is a film that was met with an underwhelmed response on its initial release, netting Spielberg a domestic gross of about 3/4 its budget and nailing a good-not-great 73% on Rotten Tomatoes, but which managed to land on quite a few best-of-the-decade lists, perhaps indicating that its status had grown in the mind of the critics. Was it a film ahead of its time? Not so much, in my opinion. I think that for a decade where most of the greatest films were unassuming indie movies, and most of the blockbusters were crapfests lacking in true vision, some critics wanted to honor the unique, ambitious imagination displayed by this film's style. It's certainly a boldly surreal film, a film that explores both dystopian suburban life and barbaric flesh fairs, where the main character's two companions consist of an animate teddy bear and a male prostitute. It's got visual creativity out the wazoo, and it's very well-shot, with Steven Spielberg doing a surprisingly good impression of Stanley Kubrick's camera work. However, as adept as Haley Joel Osment is at playing the robotic boy, his character just seems like a manipulative ball of saccharinity. "I just want Mommy to love me," he says, "and I'm going to go on this quest based on my own misunderstanding of the nature of fairy tales until she does. Look how cute I am!" Some movies tug at the heartstrings, but this movie wallops them with an ax. It even goes to such lengths as to create this unbearably contrived ending, all in pursuit of wetting every Goddamn dry eye.


  • David is also an inconsistent character; he starts off super-awkward, and you'd think that if they can invent a robot who can love, he could also be capable of not being so freaking creepy. Of course, he quickly becomes less creepy, for no particular reason, other than we might sympathize with him less about how much he wants his mommy to love him. Start thinking about this, and about how the movie's logic relies quite a bit on puns ("Dr. Know," "MAN-hattan"), and the whole affair will start to seem more than a little bit silly. So perhaps this is one of the more visually inventive films of the past decade, but it's far from one of the best. Hell, I can think of three Spielberg films that were better (Munich, Catch Me If You Can, and Minority Report), and one of those (Minority Report) is about as visually impressive as A.I., in my eyes.


  • 72. Witness (1985)
  • This was the second film in my attempt to catch up on Harrison Ford thrillers, and my reaction was quite similar to my reaction to The Fugitive. It's a solid film that's surprisingly silent, choosing instead to focus on wordless looks at Amish culture and forbidden Amish romance. Actually, I think the romance subplot does suffer quite a bit from the sparse dialogue. The whole forbidden nature of it feels very underdeveloped, never progressing beyond a baseline "you're Amish, and he's not, and things don't work like that" level. The thriller elements work better, and the film does a nice job of building suspense. Notable as the only film for which Harrison Ford was nominated for an Oscar, I honestly can't really see how this is any better or worse than his other performances, but it is by a director with more of an art film pedigree than, say, George Lucas, so maybe that explains it.


  • 73. That Obscure Object of Desire (1977)
  • Bunuel's last film is also one of his easiest to understand and relate to, in my eyes. I think we've all encountered women who are teases, who are able to manipulate men simply by hinting at possibilities rather than sealing the deal, and this film is about that frustration and the other dynamics of such a relationship. Bunuel famously cast two different actresses in the same role with no explanation whatsoever, which has sparked critical debate, but at the most basic level, it makes perfect sense: the woman is two-faced. Anyway, this is a fascinating film, a great way to end a long and prolific career.


  • 74. Grizzly Man (2005)
  • Werner Herzog has always been fascinated with these stories of nature conquering man, but in this case the man against nature element seems like a mere backdrop to a study of one of those legendary cinematic characters. Of course in this case, the character is a real person. Timothy Treadwell is a train wreck of a human being, a man who never once seems the least bit sane, but who believes he is the only one sane enough to realize the truth about grizzlies. He's part surfer dude, part kindergarten teacher, part Che Guevara. He seems manic if not bipolar, and he cavorts about with wild animals which he treats like adorable puppies, but he saves plenty of mental energy for the unfettered rage that he unleashes against government institutions. He's an irritating manchild who seems caught in an innocent fantasy world, until he starts spewing profanity at the parks department or what have you. He's an idiot who probably got what he deserved, but beneath all the insanity, you can see a man whose heart is in the right place, and you can't help but take pity on him given the ironic fate he suffers. He's a freak we can gape at, but at the same time a lost soul we feel compassion for. Either way, we can't look away. Everything else Herzog does in this film takes a backseat to this complex portrait. We're very lucky to have this man on film.


  • 75. Sunday in the Park with George (1986) (TV-movie)
  • Every criticism ever launched against Stephen Sondheim is on full display in this show, a dark, cerebral musical with abstract interplays of musical notes but with few catchy melodies. The detractors are wrong, of course, for what better way to explore the life of an unique artistic innovator than with such a unique, artistic, innovative musical? The music breaks free of typical "song, then scene, then song" musical theater structure, creating a lyrical portrait that veers from music to drama and back again before you realize what's going on. And in the end, Sondheim can still create melodies that get stuck in your head; I'd be lying if I didn't find myself humming the title song, "Finishing the Hat," or "Sunday" after I watched this show. It's a terrific musical, definitely one of Sondheim's best, and that's saying a lot.


  • As for this specific performance, I loved the scenic design (except for the Chromolume, which was cheesy, but maybe the point is it's so far ahead of its time that I'm not supposed to understand it) and the videography was actually extremely well done. I wasn't expecting to think much of the filming at all, but it captures everything quite well and then actually uses a few camera tricks to great effect. I honestly wasn't in love with the two leads; Bernadette is a legend but doesn't have the best voice in the world, and Mandy Patinkin has some pretty odd facial expressions at times. No matter, they were still good, and overall the performance is very impressive.


  • 76. The Secret in Their Eyes (2009)
  • The first Argentine film I've ever seen made is a masterful mystery with much going on beneath the surface. The actors nail the right balance of comedy and pathos as they go through the first chunk of the film, and then about halfway through we get to a point where a lesser film would have either ended or hit the wall. It should've become boring, but instead it somehow becomes more fascinating, and I was hooked in every step of the way, all the more curious to figure out where the story would go next. That is quite a feat, if you ask me, and a great testament to the talent involved in making this movie. I want to especially bring up the chase scene, which I think might be one of the best chase scenes I've ever seen. It has the frantic intensity that its shaky camera lends, but at the same time, the audience can tell exactly what's happening in every instant. So few films perfect that balance, but this one does. Easily one of the best films of last year.


  • 77. Gimme Shelter (1970)
  • A documentary about the infamous Altamont concert where the Hell's Angels were working security for the Rolling Stones. There's a ton of great footage captured here: you can see the way that the arrangements for the concert foreshadowed a fate that no one was prepared for and the way that the Stones could only sadly and feebly react to the tragedy. And let's not forget about the truly fantastic concert footage, which gives the film a raucous energy that many documentaries lack. The Maysleses as always step back and let their footage do the talking, which is a wise move for this terrific documentary.


  • 78. Double Indemnity (1944) (watched again)
  • Billy Wilder helped create the film-noir tropes here in this ultra-stylish take on one of the greatest screenplays of classic Hollywood. The pulpy scenic design is the ultimate complement to the seedy world these people inhabit, showing that it isn't just private eyes and gangsters, but even average folks, who can be tempted by the shadowy underbelly of society. The characters ooze sexuality in every sultry look and suggestive one-liner, and the film is rife with both of them. The story and characters are simple and straightforward, but that means the focus is on the details that make the film tick, and that's where the brilliance lies.


  • 79. Inception (2010)
  • This hotly anticipated action-thriller was disappointing only in that it didn't blow me away. It's quite a good film, but it's so much more explosive and convoluted than Christopher Nolan's other work, that it just feels like too much sound and fury with not enough depth. These words are coming from a huge Nolan fan; I've seen every feature-length film he's made and feel that every one of them is at least very good, while one (Memento) is the greatest film of the last decade IMHO. Inception, on the other hand, is two and a half hours long but still feels underdeveloped. Much of the setup is rushed, and I found it bizarre that the movie never shows us a successful extraction by the self-proclaimed world's greatest extractor. We don't really get to know most of the characters too well, and I have many questions about the team's confusing methodology, but nevermind that. My point, though, is that here Nolan is sacrificing story for effects, which is something I've never seen him do before, and it's disappointing because that feels more like a conventional Hollywood mistake. At times the effects are quite creative, as in the first dreamscape Ellen Page creates or the anti-gravity scenes, but other times we just get car chases and people blowing shit up. I just hope that this isn't the trend Nolan is moving towards. Anyway, this is still a better film than most of the summer blockbusters out there; its universe is engaging, its actors are excellent, and some of its characters are well-formed and three-dimensional. It's a smart film, but I can think of five Christopher Nolan films that I found more satisfying, and he's only made seven.


  • 80. Cyrus (2010)
  • I haven't seen the Duplass brothers' earlier work, but I know they m.o. is to take ultra-low budgets and turn them into interesting character-driven dramedies. Here they prove they can work with larger budgets as well. More effectively than plenty of flashier films, the content hooked me in, and all it took was realistic dialogue and layers of subtext as it studies a series of unconventional relationships. Jonah Hill gives an unexpectedly deep performance as the ultimate mama's boy, and it should be no surprise that John C. Reilly, Marisa Tomei, and Catherine Keener are all excellent as well. The documentary-style filming gives the camera a mind of its own, and it almost feels as if it's a silent observer hanging out with these people, as much an elephant in the room as Cyrus himself. The quick zoom-ins almost feel like the camera is tilting its head to give these people quizzical looks. Anyway, if the film has a flaw, it's that despite being about unconventional people, the film is extremely predictable (although perhaps that's partially the trailer's fault), but no matter, I really enjoyed going along for the ride.


  • 81. Primal Fear (1996)
  • An engaging, intelligent legal thriller featuring layered performances throughout, with Edward Norton being the obvious standout. The fiery Laura Linney is always fun to watch, Alfre Woodard makes a fine constantly-boozing judge, and Richard Gere does a great job of holding all the elements together. Keep your eye out for a young, mustachioed Terry O'Quinn (a.k.a. John Locke). As for the mystery...
    Spoiler: Highlight to view
    I really like that the film develops an undercurrent of potential financial malfeasance but resists the temptation to make the murder solution a big conspiracy. I'm getting kind of sick of how all thrillers unwind the same way, turning every petty theft into some massive conspiracy that leads to some high-ranking government official.


  • 82. The Kids Are All Right (2010)
  • This is a film about a lesbian couple whose kids form a relationship with their sperm-donation father, but the lesbian marriage/sperm donor angle is really just the MacGuffin to force these characters to interact with each other. The film isn't about homosexuality, it's about humanity, and ironically, that's exactly why some people will interpret it as having a political agenda. It's a film that depicts gay couples dealing with the same issues as straight couples, a moral that will be incendiary to some. The lack of message is the message. So you can think about that paradox if you like or you can just enjoy a very good character drama that is utterly hilarious in some parts and tragically melancholy in others, bolstered by an excellent cast.


  • 83. The Blue Angel (1930)
  • This film takes some pretty familiar melodrama tropes and carries them out adeptly, in a talkie no less, which would've been pretty new at the time. It still feels a bit humdrum at times, with many shots and scenes dragging on far too long, as if they hadn't figured out how to properly edit sound film yet, but it gets better as it goes on, with the last section being brilliantly unnerving.


  • 84. Children of Men (2006) (watched again)
  • It's always great to see a brilliant film get even better, and that was how I felt about this rewatch. It's really a film to watch twice, because so much attention was lavished on its carefully constructed yet eye-poppingly exhilarating camera work, that you need a second viewing to drink it all in. I think what I found a bit off-putting in the first viewing was just a problem of my personal expectations, and now that I knew what to expect from the story, I could really focus on the cinematic details that make this film such a masterpiece. Ruthlessly realistic, blisteringly intelligent, and emotionally engaging, Alfonso Cuaron's masterpiece is easily one of the greatest films of the last decade.


  • 85. Get Him to the Greek (2010)
  • A hit or miss film that is at its best when it skewers the pitfalls of the celebrity-obsessed American culture that simultaneously loves its idols yet wants to see them failing miserably, and the pop icons who are ever so eager to fulfill all of America's expectations. I thought that the opening montage and everything relating to "African Child" were hilarious satires of that dynamic, whereas there was too much random silliness, particularly in the "Jeffrey" scene and in both of Jonah Hill's sexual encounter scenes, for this to really connect all the time. Russell Brand and Hill do have good chemistry, and it was nice to see Elisabeth Moss work up some good banter with Hill in a contemporary role, but P. Diddy is mainly just distracting. It's a good comedy, but just barely.


  • 86. Winter's Bone (2010)
  • A very good thriller that owes a lot to Frozen River. It could probably have had more character development, but nevermind, it was quite an interesting film.


  • 87. The River (1951)
  • I missed Jean Renoir's trademark irreverent humor in this moderately interesting melodrama, that explores India somewhat superficially and mainly uses it as a backdrop for some pretty familiar plot arcs. The film is visually stunning, though, so it's got that going for it.


  • 88. The 400 Blows (1959) (watched again)
  • Of the two leading figures of the French New Wave (Godard and Truffaut), Truffaut was the one who always seemed more interested in continuing to suspend his audience's disbelief in the service of a real human narrative, and this story is all the better for it. The story of neglected troublemaker Antoine Doinel is certainly a sympathetic tale that benefits from Truffaut's even-handed but affectionate filmmaking. It should make you think about the way that we treat disorderly children even in society today: how best to reform them? Too often, we resort to feeble punitive measures and wishing that the problems go away. A terrific, thought-provoking film.


  • 89. 2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1967)
  • Take Godard's filmography, put it into a blender, and then put it in a strainer so that some of the big themes remain but all the subtlety trickles out. You'd probably have a film about disillusioned prostitutes that contained pretentious, poetic narration; anti-American sentiments; and no plot whatsoever. Voila!


  • 90. Hoop Dreams (1994)
  • I think the biggest compliment I can pay this documentary is to speak to how quickly the three hours fly by. Seriously. Sometimes that happens with an exciting action movie, but this film isn't exactly fast-paced; its only real action happens occasionally on the basketball court, and I don't even like basketball. But I feel like I was able to just ease into it because it was just like watching life go by. After three hours, I still wanted to know more - what didn't the film cover? I wish the footage had been made into a TV series instead of a movie, so I could track every success and pitfall of these fascinating lives. I guess that's a sign of a truly outstanding documentary.


  • 91. The Other Guys (2010)
  • Will Ferrell can pull off about three film characters: the party animal (Old School, Wedding Crashers), the self-obsessed bozo (Anchorman, Blades of Glory, Talladega Nights, Semi-Pro), and the naive nerd (Elf, Stranger Than Fiction, The Other Guys). I think, with the surprising amount of critical approval for Adam McKay's latest nearly matching that of Elf's and Stranger Than Fiction's, the critics are standing up and saying they prefer the last category by a decent margin. I did like him in The Other Guys, in fact; I think these types of comedies tend to be funnier when not one of their main characters is some totally off-the-wall nutcase, so I have to give The Other Guys props for that. It's an effective send-up of a genre that didn't really need yet another send-up, but hey, I'm not one to turn down some good laughs.


  • 92. Despicable Me (2010)
  • Cute, funny animated film, about which I really have nothing interesting to say.


  • 93. Band of Outsiders (1964)
  • Called Jean-Luc Godard's most accessible film, Band of Outsiders is a slick movie that, like much of his work, continues to deconstruct the American crime genre. It's easy to see the influence on Quentin Tarantino's work and also easy to see why Tarantino would enjoy it, because it's ostensibly a film with an unconventional crime plot, but also one where the crime itself takes a backseat to many more interesting stylish scenes, some that are quite iconic. Also, the criminals are far too inept for the viewer to take the crime seriously, so what you get is a film that bends genres for a take that is all Godard's. I recently found 2 or 3 Things deeply disappointing, but if you want to see a Godard film that is unique, subtle, stylish, cool, and incredibly enjoyable, Band of Outsiders is the way to go.


  • 94. Flowers of Shanghai (1998)
  • I wanted to tell you that this film is majestically wonderful and that my first experience with Hou Hsiao-Hsien was an eye-opening experience, but I can't, because this film is gorgeous but dull dull dull dull dull. I certainly haven't given up on the guy, but the films of his I really wanna see are the ones that are out of print. Sad times.


  • 95. In the Name of the Father (1993)
  • This film depicts a false imprisonment situation that would seem like a twisted nightmare were it not a true story. This isn't a subtle film, but its broad strokes are the best way to paint the passion, anger, and real fervor of the situation. The story saddened and angered me; the characters' small victories elevated me, but in a muted way, because I knew that they were still victims of a gross injustice. I might be making this sound a bit preachy, but the truth is the film's main focus is on the human drama of its father and son. Daniel Day-Lewis's brilliant performance grounds the film's emotional core, and Pete Postlethwaite is also terrific in his role. Emma Thompson's character is a little underwritten, but no matter: this bold, gripping film is still, I think, among the best films of the 1990s.


  • 96. Zero for Conduct (1933)
  • An infamously anarchic film that captures the rebellious spirit of youth, I enjoyed the movie but was kind of hoping for something better. Is it missing the point to yearn for some shred of character development or some kind of method to the madness, instead of just seeing kids running around, screaming and destroying things? Ah well, perhaps the sloppiness is the whole idea.


  • 97. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) (watched again)
  • I loved this film when I first saw it, but unfortunately it didn't hold up as well for me on this second viewing. I still think the film takes an inspired premise and imbues it with rich visual and narrative ingenuity, and that it is quite a lot of fun to watch. But the film's midsection hems and haws, delaying the ultimate trial for no good reason other than that the film needed to be longer, and then once we finally get to the trial, it is bizarrely bogged down with this nationalist bickering for far too long when the focus should be on the characters. I still think it is a very good film, but not the brilliant work I remembered.


  • 98. The Rules of the Game (1939) (watched again)
  • Much more so than on my first viewing, I fell in love with the acerbic cleverness of this film, certainly a biting satire of French culture just as much as it is a humanistic piece that manages to find compassion for all its characters, for Renoir is really just as empathetic as Octave (the character he plays in the movie). I am not really sure how Renoir took the structure of an age-old French bedroom farce and infused enough depth to evolve it into a richly layered commentary on French society that still has relevance today, but that is what happened. Lest that seem too cerebral, I should add that Christine's yen for a unique person in a sea of bourgeois homogeneity is quite emotionally affecting, as are the effects on the characters of the expectation that one must always stifle one's true feelings. I still doubt that this film is one of the top ten films ever made (as the Sight and Sound polls would have me believe), but it is a masterpiece.


  • 99. Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (2010)
  • KABOOM! Scott Pilgrim explodes onto the screen, leaving behind a pile of pop culture dust as it zigzags from one scene to the next at supersonic speed. ZOOM! Edgar Wright acts as an alchemist here, turning a mishmash of Millennial ennui and video game, TV, and comic book references into pure gold. But obvious as its influences are, it still feels like a dazzlingly original film, with Wright providing method to the madness in eye-poppingly crisp ways. My generation doesn't really have an iconic film to sum us up (a la The Graduate), and if Scott Pilgrim ain't it, it's at least the most unique take on it. It has grossed less than half its budget, which is why you need to see this film. See it now. We need to make such one-of-a-kind films profitable before we see a Transformers: Part 17.


  • 100. The Cranes Are Flying (1957)
  • A war interrupts the lives of families and lovers and causes heartbreak and disillusionment. Sure, we've seen that before, but this film distinguishes itself from the pack by being astonishingly well-shot. The Cranes Are Flying is a veritable visual triumph, with camera angles and avant-garde touches reminiscent of Hiroshima Mon Amour if that film had been set during WWII instead of after, and that is extremely high praise coming from me. The film is so excellently constructed that its familiar motifs feel totally fresh, so I became quite invested in it, and its story struck a chord with my heart as well as my eyes. An undersung tour de force.


  • 101. Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai (1999)
  • Some old Italian stereotypes find their lives thrown into chaos when they tangle with an African-American vigilante who lives by the code of the samurai. Think about that too much and it starts to sound kinda silly, but the movie is told with enough street cred and tongue-in-cheek humor that it works for all two hours of its running time. I used to think Jim Jarmusch was better off making movies about meandering rather than narratives, but this oddball film is the most cohesive film of his I've seen and it's also one of the best. So maybe he just needs something bizarre to inspire him, and this blend of Japanese history, hip-hop culture, and Italian gangster cinema is just what he needed.


  • 102. It Happened One Night (1934) (watched again)
  • Feel free to disagree, but this will always be my favorite film by Frank Capra even if it's the least Capra-esque. Unsentimental, with no talk of patriotism, this classic is just exactly what a romantic comedy should be: actually romantic, and actually funny. No, it's not an earth-shattering film, but as one of the first best romantic comedies, it's certainly influential, and you can see a handful of romantic comedy tropes that were popularized right here and are still being used in much lesser films today. Clark Gable's rough-edged charm perfectly complements Claudette Colbert's spoiled-exterior-masking-kindhearted-vulnerability, and the result is one of the most deserving Best Picture winners in film history.
Author Comments: 

Because I am so overjoyed for making it to the 20th entry, I decided to go for an inspirational subtitle. I trust it will warm your heart.

Comments are always welcome, always have been, and always will be.

I think your reaction to Shutter Island is very similar to my own...

As always, it is a delight to read your reviews, even the ones that damn some of my favorite films with faint praise... :)

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Ha! Sorry. I still do really like Andrei though. And hey, I lavished Children of Paradise with praise - that's among your favorites, right? :-)

I think Shutter Island was very close to a truly terrific film. Too bad.

Spoiler: Highlight to view
I guessed that Leo's character was insane the whole time, but the concept of doctors saying "What the fuck, let's let him run wild and see if this works" was just too preposterous for my imagination. I think they could've probably reworked it so that Leo was still delusional but the narrative wasn't a flawlessly-orchestrated con job, and it would've felt more satisfying.

Completely understandable. Not too many people like Rublev as much as I do, and yes, Children of Paradise is a favorite of mine...

Yes, it seems we do have the same reservations about Island. Fun, but frustrating that it still isn't as good as it could have been...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I'm glad you saw past the (well-done) twist to appreciate the very good film that is The Crying Game.

It is also very interesting on a symbolic level. To some degree, you can see the relationship of England-Ireland in the central human relationship...

As always, I'm loving your reviews!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Thanks, lbangs! Are you planning on reviewing your recent viewings too? I'd be especially interested to read a Ghost Writer review (which, spoiler alert, I really liked as well) or an Alice in Wonderland review (considering you're bucking the critical trend, by enjoying it).

I've been a very busy boy as of late, but I'll see if I can cook up a review or two...

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang, loved that movie! Glad you did too. I think I'm going to have to give it a rewatch soon.

Oh cool! Yeah, I was very impressed with how hilarious it was. If only all action-comedies were that clever!

wtf where's the updates at.

c'mon bra

Less talk, more fleeing. haha

I agree on Ghost Writer, not an ideologically subtle film. But you're right - it's so good as a thriller! Nonetheless, I thought it was pretty bold and damning in it's accusations.

Excellent!

I had a sneaking suspicion that you would like Inception, but that you wouldn't quite love it. I know how that goes, and I've found myself trying to convince many people in my office to try Memento.

I appreciated your review for Sunday in the Park with George. I do suspect the Chromolume was intentionally cheesy, but I could be wrong...

Wasn't that chase scene in Secret amazing? I admit I wasn't expecting to love that film nearly as much as I did; it was the nicest surprise I've had in the theater this year!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I was hoping Nolan would kick off the decade with another film as great as Memento and I would have my pick for the top film of the decade in the first eight months, once again. That would be quite a feat though. I do hope he pulls out another flat-out masterpiece before this decade's over.

Maybe I just don't get the whole Chromolume thing. The producers couldn't possibly have thought that a piece of art that incorporates corny lights and a fog machine was a serious work, right? But isn't second-act George supposed to be a great artist too? Is the whole thing just a satire of the superficial bullshit of modern art? That theme doesn't exactly seem like it fits in with the rest of the show.

And yes, great chase scene, great film. Thank you again for recommending it!

I also had higher hopes for Nolan, but at least I still liked the film.

I think the idea in George is that he is a great artist in a rut. I took it that we were meant to think that perhaps the first Chromolumes were fascinating works of art, but now he was just cranking out silly variations on the original theme. There are several references to, "another Chromolume?" and I think that's the context I drew that interpretation from. I certainly think we're meant to laugh at this "art" work.

And I'm so glad you dug Eyes. I can't force anybody around me to see it!

Shalom, y'all!

L. Bangs

I think I interpreted George's audience reaction to mean that he was just supposed to be a misunderstood artist, perhaps subconsciously figuring that Sondheim would be more likely to side with the artist than the casual viewer. I was probably projecting too much based on what I know about Sondheim, but you're right, he's certainly too smart to try to pass off that silly Chromolume as something with hidden brilliance to it.