This is a continuation of thoughts on films I’ve watched this year. Part 1. Part 2.
My goal is to watch ten movies from every decade (with the silent era until 1929 counting as one decade) recording various details. After over a month of watching new movies almost exclusively, I ended up rewatching some old favorites.
Movie #45/ 1930s Movie #5/ Science Fiction Film #9: King Kong
One thing that’s striking rewatching the film is how well they set things up. King Kong’s arrival in Manhattan is the last act, and he doesn’t make his appearance until about forty minutes into the film. Before that we’re introduced to the characters, as they find their way to a strange island, and encounter a weird tribe. The effects still hold up (including all the non-Kong monsters) and the set designs are incredible. Much of what works so well about the film is how they keep things interesting and intense moment to moment. The only other movie on that level is Raiders of the Lost Ark.
Movie #46/ New Movie #43/ 1990s Movie #3/ Fantasy Film #2: Ashes of Time Redux
While the director’s cut was edited in the 2000s, I’ll count this as a 90s film. It’s Wong Kar Wai, so it’s beautiful. It seems to require a knowledge of the source material to follow the elliptical narrative by providing a greater context to the characters. Otherwise, it’s interesting, but a mess to follow.
Movie #47/ 1950s Movie #3: Roman Holiday
This is a fantastic romantic comedy. Audrey Hepburn establishes herself as one of the biggest movie stars on the planet, depicting a princess who just wants to have fun. The secrets Gregory Peck keeps from her are a bit shady (especially in a modern context where he’s a middle aged guy trying to take advantage of a young woman’s naivety in order to expose her secrets to the world) but it works. Trumbo’s screenplay is witty and hilarious, but he has some interesting twists in a reverse Cinderella story about a princess who just wants to be normal.
Movie #48/ 1980s Movie #5/ Fantasy Film #3: The Princess Bride
Mandy Patinkin and Andre the Giant probably should have been nominated for Best Supporting Actor for their parts as two memorable henchmen who end up becoming allies of the main characters. The rest of the cast is great, and the script is witty and oh so memorable. Just a fun movie.
Movie #49/ 2000s Movie #4/ Movie about Politics #8/ Science Fiction Film #10: Idiocracy
I’m not sure I buy Luke Wilson as a man with average intelligence in a modern context since he seems a bit smarter than that. This is a very funny movie about a generally well-realized world in which evolution has made people dumber. President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho is probably the standout of the idiots, as the best character in the film and the best man among them.
Movie #50/ 1940s Movie #3: Rebecca
This is an excellent gothic romance. The slow burn is slightly unconventional for Hitchcock, but he’s able to create a tremendous sense of mood in the mansion at Manderlay. The secret of Laurence Olivier’s widower is an excellent twist, allowing for a rewarding second viewing. Judith Anderson’s housekeeper is one of the great film villains, manipulating the lead while also being more batshit crazy than one would expect.
Movie #51/ New Movie #44/ 2000s Movie #5/ French Movie #2: Amelie
It’s a clever stylized film about a quirky young woman who decides to change the lives of some of the eccentrics around her, while coming to terms with how to find happiness for herself. Seeing it for the first time, I’m a bit surprised on its influence on film and television. There have been so many ripoffs.
Movie #52/ 1930s Movie #6/ New Movie #45: Hot Saturday
I guess I’ve been on a bit of a Pre-Code kick (the films are interesting and short, which are bonuses when I’m trying to watch as many movies as possible.) Pacing-wise, this is rather top heavy with major advertised moments occurring in the last ten or so minutes. The Netflix envelope details a fight in the last ten minutes involving a character who doesn’t show up until 45 minutes into the film. The poster (seen above) is basically the last five minutes. It’s a witty enough script with a young woman going to a party and dealing with subsequent gossip. In relatively obvious news, Cary Grant has great chemistry with her, and steals the show in his bookended parts as a notorious rake.
Movie #53/ 1930s Movie #7/ New Movie #46: Torch Singer
This pre-code film is much more mixed. There’s much to like (including a sweet scene with Claudette Colbert and a little black girl her daughter’s age), and some wtf moments in some really unprofessional and selfish decisions that come with very little pushback, despite all the people affected.
Movie #54/ New Movie #47/ Silent Era Movie #4: The Strong Man
I was intrigued by what I read about Harry Langdon from Frank Capra’s biography and from a James Agee spotlight on film comedians, with the suggestion that he was on a level with Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd. This was also the directiorial debut of Frank Capra. The result is quite funny, and has some excellent set pieces.
Movie #55/ New Movie #48/ 1980s Movie #6: The Pope of Greenwich Village
Weird buddy crime film with Mickey Rourke, Eric Roberts and Daryl Hannah. The highlight is a brief scene with Geraldine Page (an actress with a record number of Oscar nominations I’m not very familiar with) who dominates completely even though she doesn’t share scenes with any major characters, and has a minimal effect on the narrative.
Movie #56/ New Movie #49/ 1960s Movie #7/ French Movie #3/ Musical #2: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Excellent cinematography, set design and score in a musical that doesn’t tell the typical story of young lovers, and explores the effects of fate and miscommunication. Hell of a star turn for Catherine Deneuve.
Movie #57/ New Movie #50/ 1950s Movie #4/ Musical #3/ Theatrical Adaptation #4/ Fantasy Film #4: Brigadoon
It’s a decent, not great, Hollywood musical with an interesting concept (American tourists stumble upon a hidden Scottish village that only appears once a century.) There’s plenty of good, including a coda in an unusual place that provides a contrast to the main action, but some flaws (some of the dance sequences are competent but not extraordinary; the society doesn’t really seem like a place that has had this magic thing happen to them very- from their perspective- recently.)
Movie #58/ New Movie #51/ 1950s Movie #5/ Criterion Edition #13: Requiem for a Heavyweight
This is an example of something that doesn’t exist anymore: a televised play that was filmed live. It’s over an hour long, and tells a one-off story, so I’m counting as a TV movie. It’s one I’ve been interesting in seeing since I heard years ago that Rod Serling considered it his best work. It’s an excellent tale about a heavyweight played by Jack Palanche realizing that he’ll retire without ever being a champion, and trying to figure out what to do with his life. It handles his difficulties seriously, but not overwhelmingly. I got this on the Criterion Collection’s Golden Age of Television DVD, and the quality is surprisingly poor, so that can be off-putting.
Movie #59/ New Movie #52/ 2010s Movie #10/ Science Fiction Movie #11/ Comic Book Movie #4: Guardians of the Galaxy Volume 2
This is a pretty satisfying sequel that ends up being about something (family.) It takes a while for the big villain to emerge. Before that can happen, we get the character interactions, beautiful visuals (we’re probably spoiled when it comes to modern special effects, but this is a nice looking film) and some fights against some of the minor bad guys from the earlier film, both of whom have an expanded role that ties into the theme.
Movie #60/ New Movie #53/ 1950s Movie #6/ Criterion Edition #14: The White Sheik
Fellini’s directorial debut tells a funny story of separated newlyweds. The husband tries to save face in front of his family, while the wife’s love of fumetti results in an attempted seduction by the star of the photonovels.
Movie #61/ 1980s Movie #7 Science Fiction Movie #12/ Comic Book Adaptation #5: Akira
It’s an iconic vision of the future on the level of Blade Runner and , possibly ignored by people unwilling to check out a 1980s anime. Their loss as the animation is lavish and beautiful, the score is exceptional, and the story crams a lot of conflict from a 2000 page manga into a two hour film (the lead is a member of a biker gang who fights other biker gangs, the police/ military, and his former best friend) without the story getting overwhelming.
The 2010s becomes the first decade where I’ve seen ten films, mainly because of stuff that came out in the last year. The 90s and 40s are two decades I’ve gotta catch up on.