Sunday, January 18, 2009

Another Roundup

It's that time again. Another slew of films that I haven't the time to give proper reviews, but still deserve recognition (or in some cases, warning).

Psycho (dir. Alfred Hitchcock, 1960, USA, #32 TSPDT)

It's good... but not great. I have no reason not to like this film; it's taut, efficiently elliptical, surprising, and best of all, stabby :-) I certainly don't regret watching it, and I'd be lying if I said I didn't enjoy myself. Perhaps my expectations were simply too high. C'est la vie.

La Dolce Vita (dir. Federico Fellini, 1953, Italy, #26 TSPDT)

Far from being a Fellini evangelist, I still find myself forced to highly recommend La Dolce Vita, the film that gave the world the term "paparazzi." It may have been one of the first widely viewed pictures to break from the traditional narrative form. It's essentially a series of unrelated episodes from the main character's life in Rome, which basically chart the struggle between his dreams as a writer and the temptations of "the sweet life." The vignette with the Madonna sighting permanently etched itself into my memory.

The Brother's Grimm (dir. Terry Gilliam, 2005, USA)

It's hard to believe that this was made by the same person that gave us Monty Python and the Holy Grail, Brazil, 12 Monkeys, and Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. Grimm is so scattered and grotesquely edited that it's unwatchable.

The Apartment (dir. Billy Wilder, 1960, USA, #55 TSPDT)

Mildly entertaining, predictably crowd-pleasing, I had a hard time understanding why this inconsequential romance ranked so highly on TSPDT's list. For me, Jack Lemmon's hilarious performance didn't make up for the film's otherwise mediocrity.

Vampyr (dir. Carl Theodore Dreyer, 1931, France/Germany, #183 TSPDT)

Although the plot is nothing to write home about it, the film's amazing special effects and Dreyer's pioneering cinematography (at times, more daring than the spatial invasions of Ordet) made the small time investiture more than worthwhile.

Belle De Jour (dir. Luis Bunuel, 1967, France, #140 TSPDT)

What I found most enticing about this erotica - about a rich young housewife who lives out her sado-masochistic fantasies by taking up an afternoon residency at a local brothel - was how decidedly unerotic it was.

Badlands (dir. Terrence Malick, 1974, USA, #140 TSPDT)

Terrence Mallick's directorial debut is perfectly pitched, from beginning to end, in one of the most bizarre dream-like killing sprees ever committed to film. A young Martin Sheen and a (very) young Sissy Spacek effortlessly match each other's disturbingly likable insanity. We also hear Mallick's signature approach to voice-over narration in its infancy.

The 400 Blows (dir. Francis Truffaut , 1959, France, #44 TSPDT)

As we watch the harsh realities of Truffaut's early life unfold on the screen, it's easy to see why he made a great writer/filmmaker. His childhood alone gave him enough raw material for several lifetimes of creation. I also realized that Woody Allen parodied this film's soundtrack in the childhood flashback's of his first film, Take the Money and Run.

The Thing (dir. John Carpenter, 1982, USA)

When I was young, my grandpa loved to take me to the local video store and let me pick out all of the films that my mother would never allow. We typically browsed the horror titles, and at a very early age, I was exposed to some of the most awesomely idiotic horror films ever made (Motel Hell and Rawhead Rex were some of the more memorable). Interspersed between those films were some occasional gems, and at some point we landed on John Carpenter's The Thing. About a remote Antarctic station's encounter with an alien, it's a rarity in sci-fi: a film that caters both to my love of science fiction and my desire for masterful filmmaking. Upon revisiting it over the winter break, I realized why the film's final shot had stayed with me all of these years. Oh, and Kurt Russell still kicks ass.

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