So you can imagine the first thing I might do is start to make a preemptive excuse for not finishing my top 100 by the end of the year. My goal still stands, and through some minor miracle I may pull it off, after all the week after Christmas and before New Years ought to be nice and easy. I am tentatively giving up my chance of producing a top ten of 2012 by the year’s end, because despite my half-assed best efforts I am nowhere close to putting together a list like that and have consistently failed at getting to the movie theater. I did however say I wouldn’t make the overall top 100 until I finished all the films on my checklist, so allow that to be my first warning.
Ordinarily I’d post about these films either in separate reviews (fat chance) or during my film journal section. To save time on that post I’ll just write about the few films we watched this month. As of 11/27/12 Kate and I have two films left, Lawrence of Arabia and Greed. Both of these films are ridiculously long so we may or may not finish them by the end of the month. Plenty of films on the list Kate slept through (a lot of them really) so you can make the argument that we should revisit Touch of Evil, Enter the Dragon, Godfather 2, and some others but well close enough.
Winchester ‘73 (1950)
The first of the Anthony Mann-James Stewart westerns that marked a turning point in the maturity of the Western. We have dark psychological themes, anti-heroes, questionable morals, and a lot of casualties. Now I’m personally a bigger fan of The Far Country and Man from Laramie, but I still have to tip my cap to Winchester. The biggest flaw for an audience today is the stereotypical Indian attack that seems unprovoked and not without it’s share of racism. This seems more of a side track and just seems to shoehorn some action in the middle of the film. The sharp shooting near the beginning is ridiculous and is the stuff you’d expect more in a Sergio Leone film. However in terms of plot and character I think it’s still a great film and this set up a growing trend of dark and slightly off balance “heroes” played by James Stewart peaking with cinema’s ultimate obsession Scotty Ferguson in Vertigo.
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
I’ve written about this film before during my breakdown of the last Sight and Sound poll (and by last I mean 2002). Not much more to add considering my fourth (5th?) viewing of the film didn’t exactly reveal new depths. I will say this is the first time I can recall staying awake for the whole film so that’s something to marvel at. I considered doing a whole blog about this, The General Line, Zvenigora, Storm Over Asia, and Earth which when you see my film journal you’ll notice I watched all of these in a short period of time. I consider this the “Soviet” section of my film research. Eisenstein’s film was considered the high water mark of this from the time it premiered in 1925 until really this year when The Man With a Movie Camera rightfully displaced it from Sight and Sound’s top ten. This is a film that survives more on reputation considering like many of Eisenstein’s films it’s far from subtle. He would take his sarcastic intertitles much further in October, and then presumably tone it down for The General Line a film that I believe stylistically is his best. I’ll admit watching it again that I found The General Line relatively free of conflict, something that Potemkin has plenty of. However it’s still far from perfect. I feel like the much obsessed over Odessa steps sequence seems to come out of nowhere and this may make it all the more horrific to some, but it somehow lessens the impact of the massacre because it’s not entirely clear why the hell it’s happening. This still would probably rank as perhaps the greatest propaganda film of all time and will continue to be taught in roughly every editing class from here on out.
Landscape in the Mist (1988)
My first encounter with Theo Angelopoulos was one of my great revelations in cinema. It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of the comically long take, and Greece’s greatest director took his complicated camera movements to absurd heights. Now I understand some first time viewers having a bit of apprehension for the film. For starters it is slow paced, it’s also a depressing European art film, and it also has the second most pretentious title for a film (Story of the Weeping Camel is by far the king in that department). I can’t stress enough how much this film is worth the effort. Emotionally devastating, powerful, and expertly filmed it reveals more to me each viewing. I may think Ulysses Gaze is his best now, but there will always be a spot reserved for the film that introduced me to him.
The Wild Bunch (1969)
I’ve lost count how many times I’ve seen this film, I’m guessing it’s around 5 or 6. Point is I’ve always been a Sam Peckinpah fan and this is his masterpiece by a mile. It’s bloody, dirty, and awesome. The restored director’s cut that surfaced sometime in the mid-90s helped re-establish this as one of the true classics and the last great Western of the 60s. For many the final sequence of this film was viewed as a last great hurrah not just for the aging actors in it, but for the genre in general which would never reach the heights of this or Leone again. A lot more I’d like to say about it, but well this probably isn’t the last time I’ll blog about this film.
LA Confidential (1997)
Speaking of losing track of how many times I’ve seen a film. When I discussed this book in a capstone class at DePaul my teacher scoffed at the inclusion of this film above all others. He didn’t outright say it was a bad film but couldn’t fathom how it was an “essential”. I’ll admit that there are tons of films that could have conceivably taken it’s place but few that would have been better. Curtis Hanson would never come close to making a film this good again, and it’s amazing to look back at how extraordinary the cast is here. It seems everyone is a seriously gifted actor. You can argue whether Kim Bassinger deserved her Oscar here but she is pretty damn good and holds her own against everyone. There is so much information here that I had to applaud the way that Hanson reinforces details and clues. It might seem like he’s talking down to us reminding us of things we might not have been paying attention to, but it helps not only to make the film coherent a first time but stick with you long after. One of those rare films whose characters are forever a part of my film consciousness.
|If you ask Kate what Los Olvidados was about this would be her answer|
Los Olvidados (1950)
Bunuel’s brilliant rebuttal to the sentimentality of Italian neo-realism is still a remarkable film today. Brutal in it’s depiction of the underside of Mexican youth, it’s a film with no heroes only a few victims. It seems everyone is a horrible person and as awful as the shiftless kids are, the parental figures are worse. “Little eyes” is abandoned by his father, then abused regularly by a blind man who gets no sympathy, even after “Jaibo” and company beat him and ruin his bass drum. Pedro’s mother seems to deliberately push her son away and when she makes a half-assed attempt at parenting it’s far too late. There is an idea that not everyone is awful here but Bunuel seems to think the majority of poor people are. The highlight (despite Kate’s fascination with the random dancing dog pictured above) is still Pedro’s dream sequence, which more than anything marks this as a Bunuel film. For me this is his masterpiece and the best film to ever come out of Mexico.