|my movie geekdom|
Since my freshman year at Cal I've been a movie geek ('film buff' is far too high-minded to apply to me). Starting slow, it eventually went out of control--one summer I averaged a film a day, sometimes seeing three in a row.
My dad has been in Hollywood for some 40+ years. I briefly noodled with the thought of entering The Industry (as it's called in L.A.) only to come to my senses shortly thereafter.
For some reason that I've never quite fathomed, I've become pretty geared up over my feelings about film. I can get truly angry when hordes of people enjoy a film I didn't like--I bemoan encouraging the industry to shovel out more crap.
I'm pretty fired up about the forthcoming San Francisco International Film Festival; now if I can only get my act together and order tickets...
I'm always looking for good flicks... What should I see?
(titles link to IMDB. Films subject to change.)
Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb
How could I have forgotten this one? Kubrick's masterwork is an extremely funny movie about an extremely depressing subject. Originally, Kubrick had meant to craft a drama, but he gave up in the face of the absurdity of the subject matter and developed a black comedy. Probably Peter Sellers' best performance on film.
My Life as a Dog
While not artistically in the league of the other films on this list, no other film brings forth my emotion like this one. Sweet, touching, sad, and utlimately affirming, it's definitely among the truest films I've seen.
Night of the Hunter
One of my most depressing filmgoing experiences was seeing this with a group of friends. Inundated with realist film and TeeVee, they were unable to lose themselves in the fantastical allegory. Don't watch this thinking it's another episode of "NYPD Blue."
Anyway, for my money, the best film ever made in America.
Der Letzte Mann (The Last Laugh)
Watching this film, I get drunk observing the obvious ingenuity and play that was at hand in its production. Made in 1924 at Germany's groundbreaking Ufa Studios, this simple tale of a hotel doorman's fall from grace features amazing cinematic exposition. Cinematographer Karl Freund's "unchained camera" allowed F.W. Murnau to tell the story purely visually with such power that only one intertitle is used throughout this entire silent film (and that to introduce an epilogue).
Shadow of a Doubt
The Master's masterpiece. Watching it on video, I quite enjoyed it. Seeing it in a theater, I was blown out of my chair. The look that Uncle Charlie cuts his niece at the dinner table when he realizes she knows filled me with dread.
Touch of Evil
Orson Welles' genius is rarely debated. Take Citizen Kane.... please. Touch of Evil is a far more engrossing, thrilling, and ultimately cinematic work of art. Not even Charlton Heston's "Mexican" detective mars this film--Welles' brilliance incorporates this incongruity into the ever bizarre world of the film.
Gotta have a Keaton flick in this list. Almost chose Steamboat Bill, Jr., but decided upon this film because of it's brilliantly self-aware use of film-within-a-film. The cleverness and inventiveness of the gags haven't been matched in over 70 years. And don't tell me you're not amazed at the dive-through-the-costume-box gag.
Nobody better understood the workings of film than Hitchcock. Whereas Shadow of a Doubt is my personal favorite, I feel that Notorious is his best film. The object fetishism (follow the key!), the balcony kiss, the brutally twisted plot, my favorite character actor (Claude Rains), the scintilliating photography, all this combines for a theater-going experience nonpareil.
High and Low
While his samurai costume dramas earn deservedly high praise, this modern-day detective tale is my favorite Kurosawa movie. Toshiro Mifune's measured intensity (and looking good in a suit!), a brilliant depiction of precise and piecemeal detective legwork, and the stunning use of extra-widescreen, this proves to be one of his most intricate and enthralling films. Also, dig how Western-ized everything is.
Perhaps the most blissfully anarchic film ever made. This is the final film of their Paramount era, which I consider far superior to the more polished spectacles they went on to produce at MGM. Anyway, this is the film with the Groucho/Harpo mirror gag. 'Nuff said.
Stranger Than Paradise
Don't see this on video. I did, and stopped watching it 30 minutes in. I kept hearing how great it was, and thought I'd give it another chance at the local rep theater. Obviously, I'm glad I did. Excruciatingly paced, it's a marvel of minimalist cinema. Video viewing leads too easily to distractions; when enveloped by the big screen, with every gesture amplified, only then can you understand this masterwork.
Some Recent Flicks I Liked
Fast, Cheap and Out of Control
The only film in recent memory that I'd be willing to see twice. A stunning documentary interweaving interviews and footage of a topiary sculptor, a wild animal tamer, a naked mole rat specialist, and a roboticist. Morris' seemingly errant juxtaposition of footage causes the mind to create relationships that don't necessarily, but the genesis of which actually gets the audience to THINK about what they are seeing. Extra props for some beautiful images.
Kurt and Courtney
The film "Courtney Love doesn't want you to see", and with good reason. Not the 'chararacter assassination' that some critics have called it, it still presents a rather unpleasant portrait of Love's seemingly mercenary rise to the top. Why people think this film advocates the theory that she was directly involved with Cobain's death is beyond me--the filmmaker Nick Broomfield says that he doesn't believe the conspiracies woven by the lunatics he's filmed. While vastly entertaining, it is a pretty pathetic documentary--Broomfield has nothing to say, and so the point of the film seems to be to capture some goofy people on film.
The Sweet Hereafter
Engrossing study of what happens to a small Canadian town after a tragic accident. Disorienting use of mis-chronology keeps you on your toes, and brilliant performances from Ian Holm and Sarah Polley (she's one to watch!) keep you glued to the screen. Actually succeeds in being a fairly non-judgmental film, a difficult feat considering its subject matter.
A Film I Saw Recently And Didn't Like
Planet of the Apes
Why, exactly, this is a cult classic which some folks seem to take seriously I don't know. At best it's camp kitsch, and it doesn't even do that very well. With a plot that could barely have stood the length one of co-screenwriter Rod Serling's half-hour Twilight Zones, this is one movie that drags and drags and drags. My favorite bit was one that was clearly provided to pad the film--when the three astronauts are inexplicably chased by giant boulders tumbling down a mountain. You know, I saw this at a midnight showing, and had an MST3K-kind of good time... That's about all this film is good for.