Friday, November 30, 2012

Month 35 Status Report

I'm happy November is over. I fell drastically behind this month, taking out only 21 films, far short of my stated goal of 25. Additionally, two of those films were shorts that combined added up to less than an hour. Oh, well. Not every month can be a winner.

I stand at 262 films to go. The goal for December is to finish the rest of the movies still to go between numbers 100 and 199, the three latest additions I haven't seen, and the remaining films longer than three hours. Anything beyond that is gravy.

Overall, I'm still right where I want to be. More importantly, I now have access to all of the remaining films on the list, which is a huge load off my mind. Here's to finishing the year strong!

Thursday, November 29, 2012

Mob Rule

Film: The Ox-Bow Incident
Format: DVD from personal collection on laptop.

I don’t consider myself much of an expert when it comes to Westerns. I like a few and am neutral on a lot of others. I genuinely like The Ox-Bow Incident, though, because it’s a Western that doesn’t need to be one. This is a story that could just as easily play out in a number of other situations with a few minor tweaks and changes. It has some interesting parallels to another Henry Fonda classic, 12 Angry Men, but it takes a much darker turn. For all its horses and cattle and riding on the range, though, The Ox-Bow Incident is a morality play about mob justice and the regular part of the human condition that involves shooting first and aiming later.

As with many films that are a black-and-white morality tale, the story is simple. A small Western town is plagued with cattle rustling, which is naturally a problem for the various ranchers in the area. When one of the locals turns up murdered, though, things get serious. With the sheriff out of town, the deputy forms a posse to track down the killers. The posse contains many members of the town, but is effectively led by the bloodthirsty Farnley (Marc Lawrence) and “Major” Tetley (Frank Conroy). Going along for the ride are our main characters, Gil Carter (Henry Fonda) and Art Croft (Harry Morgan), in part to further quell any suspicion that they might be guilty of the rustling. Also along for the ride are Davies (Harry Davenport), who wants to see real justice done and Sparks (an uncredited Leigh Whipper), the self-taught African-American preacher who is there because he fears the results of unchecked “justice” at the hands of an emotional and unruly mob.

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Misplaced Affections

Film: Die Bitteren Tranen der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on kick-ass portable DVD player.

This is going to be…interesting. I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to say about Fassbinder’s Die Bitteren Traned der Petra von Kant (The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant) aside from the following statement: this is the best boring movie I have seen in a long time. Fassbinder is an interesting director, and he gives us a lot to look at in this one, but there’s not much happening for the bulk of it. We don’t hit Jeanne Dielmann levels of dull, but there’s a lot of static shots of people standing around. At times, it put me in mind of Last Year at Marienbad, and this is never a good thing.

Our title character (Margit Carstensen) is allegedly a very successful fashion designer. She lives in Bremen with a servant/slave named Marlene (Irm Hermann), who never talks. Petra is abusive and cruel to Marlene, and it’s soon evident that this is a pretty co-dependent relationship. She is visited by her cousin Sidonie (Katrin Schaake), and the two talk about their relationships, and in Petra’s case, what went wrong in both of her marriages. Soon, a friend of Sidonie’s named Karin (Hanna Schygulla) arrives, and Petra is immediately smitten. She offers to turn Karin into a model, and Karin accepts.

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Squee! Squee!

Film: Deliverance
Format: DVD from personal collection on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

If there are two things that everyone, even those who haven’t seen it, know about Deliverance, it’s the opening with “Dueling Banjos” and Ned Beatty being forced to squeal like a pig. There’s a lot more to this film, of course, but those two things are by far the most memorable. This is a film that in many ways defined a particular part of the world. Just as Jaws made beaches a lot scarier and Fatal Attraction made the idea of marital infidelity a lot less attractive, Deliverance put the fear of the backwoods and the inbred into the city folk. This is not without good reason.

In many ways, Deliverance is a high concept film: “Four city men paddle down a river and run into significant trouble with the locals.” Getting there, though, puts us through a terribly rough ride. Once things start to go bad, they don’t stop. Deliverance takes its time for the first 40 minutes or so and then accelerates into increasing amounts of real, believable terror for the next hour or so.

Monday, November 26, 2012

A Bicycle Built for None

Film: Le Gamin au Velo (The Kid with a Bike)
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

Watching a lot of films causes some constant reevaluation. For instance, when I started this blog, I was convinced that Bobby, the kid from the original The Day the Earth Stood Still was easily the stupidest kid I’d ever seen in a film. Well, I’ve now seen Le Gamin au Velo (The Kid with a Bike), and thus the reevaluation. For the opening scenes, Cyril (Thomas Doret) eclipses Bobby in the stupid department, and also manages to be quite the little shit. As the film progresses, he doesn’t get much smarter or less shitty, either. Strap in, because he’s in almost every frame.

Cyril is a troubled child. Some of this comes from the fact that he is absolutely rock stupid. Actually, that may be unfair. It’s entirely possible that the kid is brutally stupid, and just as possible that he’s merely stubborn and unteachable to a psychotic degree. He’s been trying to reconnect with his father for a month, and it’s soon evident that his father has abandoned him at an orphanage. This doesn’t stop Cyril from running away to his dad’s former apartment and trying to break in or repeatedly calling the now-disconnected number over and over. He claims he just wants his bike back. At one point, Cyril searches for sanctuary in a doctor’s office and clutches onto a woman named Samantha (Cecile de France) waiting there. Eventually, he’s shown into the empty apartment, allowing him to discover that his father is gone, as is his bicycle.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

Big River, Smaller Story

Film: Rio Grande
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

Some directors are noted for particular genres, and some become so closely tied to a genre that it becomes impossible to talk about the genre without discussing the director in question. With Westerns, that director is John Ford without question. The man is, was, and ever more shalt be an institution when it comes to the genre. Watch enough of his films, and it’s easy to see why the man is so revered. His films offer, despite being made in a golden time for Hollywood, a certain moral ambiguity a lot of the time. And there’s those great vistas.

Anyway, Rio Grande came in the heart of his career. In addition to being a classic Western of the old school right around the time of the revival of the genre spurred by Winchester ‘73, the film is also a romance and a family genre. There are similarities in tis respect to The Lives of a Bengal Lancer, although fewer than might be expected on the surface. Regardless, Ford manages to keep a lot of plates spinning through this one, even if it doesn’t mesh perfectly at the end.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Word Salad

Film: Mediterranee
Format: Internet video on laptop.

Frequent readers of this blog will note that I almost never refer to The Book when it comes to a review. The goal of each of these reviews is more or less to coalesce my own feelings and observations about a given film as well as I can. In rare instances, though, I’m so completely nonplussed by a film that I have no other option. Mediterranee is exactly that sort of situation. I watched this thing and I have nothing original to say about it, which is difficult, considering I have a review to write.

Sadly, The Book doesn’t have much to say about it, either. Seriously, essentially it says that this is a film that Godard found influential and that he really liked. Great. So evidently, Mediterranee made it here because someone heard that Godard liked it, and thus it makes it on. This is one of the reasons that I sometimes think that The List needs an enema.

Friday, November 23, 2012

Dealt a Bad Hand

Film: Casino
Format: DVD from NetFlix on Sue’s Mother’s Day present.

My most recent memory of Casino before tonight is when my podcasting partner Nick Jobe at Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob watched it some time ago. I remember it distinctly because Nick didn’t exactly hate the film, but he did find it dull. I’d have loved to have been able to help Nick out, but I hadn’t seen the film before tonight. I liked this film quite a bit more than Nick did, although I understand why he felt lost in it.

Casino is the story of how the Midwest mob showed up in Las Vegas, sort of. It’s a lot more about a guy who made really good choices except for the few times that he really didn’t and the consequences that had for him. It opens with a car bomb placed in the vehicle of one of our narrators. Sam “Ace” Rothstein (Robert De Niro) is one of the truly great handicappers, always making a killing on any sporting event. The Midwestern families decide that that makes him the best person to run a new casino in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

Like My Drive to Work Today

Film: Topio Stin Omichli (Landscapes in the Mist)
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on various players.

There isn’t always particular rhyme or reason to the films I pick on a given day or in a given week. If I do a double- or triple-feature, I match films in some way, but otherwise, I tend to watch what I’m in a mood for, or based on tackling something that I know will be difficult when I have the time and inclination. With harder to find films, it’s been more or less on an as-available basis. Thanks to Chip Lary at Tips from Chip, I have access to almost all of the remaining difficult films with one or two exceptions. That, more than anything, caused the viewing of Topio Stin Omichli (Landscapes in the Mist) today. It’s not available on disc, and I have no idea when NetFlix will decide to drop it from the streaming queue. So, just to make sure I didn’t miss it, I watched it today.

The basic plot of the film is disturbingly simple. Two Greek children are under the impression that their father is in Germany and wish to see him. They run away by train, traveling through Greece and Europe in an effort to discover if he is there. Along the way, both good and bad things happen to them. That’s pretty much it for slightly more than two hours.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

My Expectations were Somewhat Less

Film: Great Expectations
Format: Streaming video from NetFlix on rockin’ flatscreen.

I should be up front when writing about Great Expectations. I’m not a fan of the writings of Charles Dickens. My mother is. This is a point of contention between us now and again. She touts Dickens, who I tend to think of as over-emotional and overwritten. I much prefer the work of Joseph Conrad, who my mother thinks is nothing but description, description, description. We’ll get to Conrad when I get around to Apocalypse Now; for today, it’s Dickens and all that that entails.

This is the story of Philip Pirrip (Anthony Wager as a boy, and John Mills as an adult), a name only Dickens could invent. Pip, as he is called, is an orphan living with his disagreeable sister (Freda Jackson) and her blacksmith husband Joe Gargery (Bernard Miles). As a lad, he encounters an escaped criminal named Abel Magwich (Finlay Currie). Pip helps him, but Magwich is recaptured. Not too long after that, Pip is summoned to the house of Miss Havisham (Martita Hunt).

Monday, November 19, 2012

Off Script: Them!

Film: Them!
Format: DVD from Northern Illinois University Founders Memorial Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

The giant creature version of a familiar animal is a trope that’s been around at least since King Kong and possibly earlier. Kong popularized it at the very least. In the 1950s, giant monsters became de rigeur for Saturday matinees, and the creatures themselves were both more terrifying and less terrifying. They were less scary because the monsters themselves started to be based on more mundane creatures than gorillas. They were scarier, though, because we had entered the Atomic Age, which meant that the monsters often became radioactive or mutated in some way.

There’s a host of these films. Any Mystery Science Theater 3000 fan worth his or her salt can spit out names like The Deadly Mantis or The Killer Shrews without hesitation. Most of these movies were dull and silly, offering a few (very) cheap thrills and stock footage of everyday animals that suddenly became a serious threat to humanity. Of these, it’s hard to argue against Them! being the cream of a stunted and bitter harvest. This isn’t Shakespeare, of course, but it’s intelligent and doesn’t play hob with odd science effects and terms. More importantly, it gives us characters that, while in a crazy situation, feel real.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Try it with Peyote

Film: El Topo
Format: DVD from NetFlix on big ol’ television.

I try not to complain too much about the films I watch, but sometimes I just can’t help myself. El Topo is going to be one of those times. Let me put it this way: El Topo broke my DVD player. It was fine a couple of days ago, and now, suddenly, the remote has stopped working (it’s not the battery; I checked) and the play button on the machine itself no longer takes the film off pause. I may use this opportunity to upgrade to a Blu-ray player, as I am apparently the only person in the world without one. And Christmas is coming anyway, so that might top my list. But for now, it means that this will be the last DVD on the big ol’ television for some time.

How in the holy fuckballs do I explain El Topo, though? I have no idea how to piece this damn thing together. It feels like the natural child of a film like Un Chien Andalou, but that one actually made more sense and didn’t have the discourtesy to run for just over two hours. El Topo has the sort of violence that’s expected in a Western, but makes about as much sense as marimba-playing swordfish. For the life of me, I have no idea what the hell I just watched.

Saturday, November 17, 2012

Misery Set to Music

Film: Bharat Mata (Mother India)
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

Oh, boy. If there’s a style of film that I really have trouble enjoying, melodrama is it. Sure, there are some good ones, but boy, when they are strident and obvious, there’s nothing else in the world quite like them. Bharat Mata (Mother India) is that sort of film. I was not precisely aware that “misery bonanza” was an actual genre of film, but having seen this, I’m sure that it’s a real thing. A number of reviews ago, I called Precious “a parfait of social and familial evils,” and let me tell you, that film has nothing on Bharat Mata.

In fact, it gets so that you’re wondering exactly what else can be thrown at this poor woman even before the film comes to the middle. This is a misery sundae topped with poverty sprinkles, a morass of bad luck and bad decisions, accidents, death, and pain that, I guess, is supposed to offer some sort of catharsis at the end, or at least teach us the meaning of perseverance. Seriously, Radha (Nargis) goes through things that would make Job shake his head in pity.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Off Script: Event Horizon

Film: Event Horizon
Format: DVD from personal collection on kick-ass portable DVD player.

One of the staples of the horror genre is the basic haunted house. The premise is simple: you put a bunch of people into a cursed location and let them get attacked by whatever is there in the cursed location. The basic problem with the haunted house is that it’s a house, and all someone needs to do is get out. Heck, jumping out a window gets you outside. I realize that getting out is often easier said than done, but it’s there as a possibility. The next step in the evolution of the haunted house is to put it somewhere in which escape is impossible. The most obvious choice is outer space. The unknown reaches of outer space are a natural place for horror, which is why Hellraiser and Friday the 13th went there eventually. It’s what makes the Alien franchise good for at least two films. It’s also the central conceit behind Event Horizon.

Seven years before the start of the film, an experimental spacecraft called the Event Horizon was launched. Unknown to the public, the ship was created to essentially travel through self-created wormholes to travel across eons of trackless space in an instant, opening up the entire galaxy for human exploration. However, the ship vanished, presumed destroyed. In the present of the film, the ship has returned and is in a decaying orbit around Neptune. Naturally curious, a rescue team is sent to recover what it can. Accompanying the team is scientist Dr. William Weir (Sam Neill), who built the drive that creates the gateways. The crew is led by Captain Miller (Laurence Fishburne), seconded by Lieutenant Starck (Joely Richardson), an staffed by a team of rescue technicians, medics, emergency repair people, and a pilot.

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Tale as Old as Time

Film: La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast)
Format: DVD from NetFlix on Sue’s Mother’s Day gift.

Say “Beauty and the Beast” to someone, and you’ll almost certainly get a response that reflects the Disney film of that name. that’s only natural, since that’s the most relevant thing of that name in most people’s heads, and has been for the last 20 years or so (yes, 20 years). What I didn’t know until tonight was that a great deal of the look and feel of the Disney film comes from the earlier incarnation, Jean Cocteau’s La Belle et la Bete (Beauty and the Beast), a black-and-white fantasy that probably sticks a little closer to the original fairy tale and doesn’t involve a singing teapot.

In this version, Belle (Josette Day) does her best Cinderella impression as the maid and servant for her two sisters, Felicie (Mila Parely) and Adelaide (Nane Germon). She also has a brother named Ludovic (Michel Auclair) and a father (Marcel Andre). The family is going through difficult times because the father lost a shipment of goods on the high seas. Belle is forced to work for her sisters, who are hoping to land a rich husband. But good news comes in—another shipment has arrived safely, and the family is saved. He promises lavish gifts to the two mean daughters while Belle asks for a simple rose. Meanwhile, the wastrel Ludovic promises to pay off his debts to a moneylender (Raoul Marco), promising that worthy that if he doesn’t pay, he can take all of his father’s possessions.

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

November 22, 1963

Film: Report
Format: Internet video on laptop.

I have been avoiding the shortest films on the list for some time. There’s no particular reason for this other than the idea that watching the longest films means I feel like I’m taking care of the largest effort parts of the list first. Still, there’s a time and a place for knocking out the shorties, and with only a small handful of films left under an hour, today seemed like a good day to do it. Also, since a couple of those ultra-short films are difficult to locate, getting them done sooner rather than later seemed like a good idea.

And so we have Report, a film by Bruce Conner about the assassination of John F. Kennedy. At a mere 13 minutes, this is hardly a comprehensive look at the events of November 22, 1963 and it’s not intended to be. In fact, I’m not really sure what it’s supposed to be. I’ve seen that there’s some analysis online (searching for rare films brings one to some interesting places), but rather than look there, it’s more interesting to try to parse this out for myself.

Monday, November 12, 2012

In the Middle of Nowhere

Film: Bad Ma Ra Khahad Bord (The Wind Will Carry Us)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

When I review an Iranian film, especially one by Abbas Kiarostami, I can guarantee only that eventually James Blake Ewing of Cinema Sights will show up here eventually and comment on it. This is both a blessing and a curse. It’s a blessing because James knows what he’s talking about in general and with Kiarostami in particular. It’s a curse because he knows a crapload more than I do, so it’s also mildly embarrassing when he does. I’m kidding, but only a little—James does know his stuff and he knows Kiarostami far more than I do.

With Bad Ma Ra Khahad Bord (The Wind Will Carry Us), we get a continuation of what I have seen in Kiarostami’s work thus far. There are plenty of long takes and a story that unfolds without much regard to an actual plot. It’s simply a story, a life that unfolds on the screen in front of us. This one is less self-referential than many of his other films, or at least those that I’ve seen. There is much less commentary about the intersection of film and life here. But there is very much the sense that there is more going on here than we see on the screen.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Watching Oscar: Pinky

Film: Pinky
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on big ol’ television.

Everyone knows that Hollywood loves a good cause, and Pinky is the sort of film that embodies a cause that makes Hollywood get all wiggly. It also contains some of the most egregious whitewashing in movie history, a case of putting a white actor in a non-white role that actually defies belief. And it was even an Oscar nominated performance, which actually makes a disturbing sort of sense. If all of this sounds like I didn’t like Pinky, well, that’s unfortunate. I did like it well enough; I just see it has some real issues.

Patricia “Pinky” Johnson (snowy-white Jeanne Crain) returns home after spending time in Boston training as a nurse. She returns as a fully trained nurse who, thanks to her lily-white complexion, has passed as white in the north. Her grandmother, Aunt Dicey (Ethel Waters), is a washerwoman with no doubts as to her racial heritage. Immediately upon returning home, Pinky remembers one of the main reasons she left. Those who remember her treat her as a black woman as only a black woman was treated in the South in the 1940s. Those who don’t treat her well until they find out the truth. What Pinky doesn’t tell anyone is that Dr. Tom Adams (William Lundigan) has asked her to marry him, which is what prompted to return home.

Saturday, November 10, 2012

...Never a Bride

Film: Bridesmaids
Format: DVD from Rockford Public Library on big ol’ television.

There are times when I suspect I’m humor-impaired. I mean, I think I have a pretty good sense of humor in general. I laugh at all sorts of things. I make a lot of jokes. If you listen to The Demented Podcast, I laugh all the time on it. There are tons and tons of things I find incredibly funny in the world. However, a lot of movie comedies just fall flat with me. I don’t think they’re funny, I don’t like the characters, and I barely crack a smile. I had hopes for Bridesmaids going in, but only slight hopes. Mainstream comedies have the same, basic stock characters in general and don’t tend to veer too much from the formula. With Bridesmaids, I don’t know if I’m seeing it that way because I expected to or because that’s how it is. Regardless, that’s how it is.

Bridesmaids was billed in a lot of respects as a female version of The Hangover. It’s not, although it plays on the same clichés. Men, in comedies, are motivated by pleasure, sex mainly, but pleasure in general. Men are little more than boys who can’t resist an impulse in Hollywood comedies. Women, on the other hand, are motivated by jealousy and more specifically, by jealousy of each other. So guess what the motivating factor of our main character Annie (Kristen Wiig) and her rival Helen (Rose Byrne) is. Did you guess “jealousy”? Wow, you’re good at this.

Friday, November 9, 2012

What's in Your Drink?

Film: Hong Gao Liang (Red Sorghum)
Format: Internet video on laptop.

So, the first question I had to answer for myself when embarking on Hong Gao Liang (Red Sorghum) is what the bloody hell sorghum is. Evidently, it’s a grain. I sort of knew that, and also sort of knew that it is used to make something like molasses. I’m pretty sure I’ve had sorghum, although that doesn’t mean I know what it is. Anyway, it’s frequently used in the production of liquor, and that’s going to be important for today’s film. Sorghum alcohol is going to, in fact, be central to the narrative.

With that out of the way, it’s time to address the film itself, and let me tell you, it’s a strange one. The entire film is told as a story of the past, narrated by the grandson of Jiu’er (Li Gong), a woman forced into marriage with the leprous (literally) owner of a distillery. She is walked to her wedding day in a sedan chair, and the carriers and musicians are set upon by a bandit. The bandit is stopped, and Jiu’er shares a few sidelong, meaningful glances with one of the sedan chair carriers (Wen Jiang). The marriage happens, and three days later, as per tradition, Jiu’er returns to her parents for a visit. Along the way, she encounters a man dressed like the bandit. It turns out to be the chair porter again, and the two have sex, a fact that leads directly to the birth of the narrator’s father.

Thursday, November 8, 2012

Family Matters

Film: Shadow of a Doubt
Format: DVD from NetFlix on laptop.

Alfred Hitchcock got his reputation for a reason. If you asked me to point to one of his early films that really cemented that reputation, I wouldn’t go with Strangers on a Train or The 39 Steps or Rebecca, but with Shadow of a Doubt. While there’s no question that he was making thrillers before 1943, Shadow of a Doubt is one of his best early films, and the biggest reason for this is the acting skills of one Joseph Cotten.

With Shadow of a Doubt, Hitchcock delves into the world of small-town family life, making this film sort of a Blue Velvet for the black-and-white, World War II set. A fairly typical family receives word that the brother of the mom is coming in town for a visit. Seems harmless, right? But this is Hitchcock, so we’re going to go somewhere dark and dangerous very quickly.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012


Film: Utu
Format: Video from The Magic Flashdrive on laptop.

I promised at the start of the month that I’d be hitting some rarities this month, and so there’s no time like the present. This is the first test of what I’m calling “The Magic Flashdrive,” a collection of films sent to me on a surprisingly inexpensive and beefy drive from Chip Lary over at Tips from Chip. The man has connections, and more importantly to my personal quest, he has access to a crapload of films that are really hard to find.

I took as my initial test of these films Utu, a New Zealand film that is sort of a fictionalized version of a native uprising. There’s a disclaimer at the start of the film that says that it’s not supposed to bear any relationship to people living or dead…but a couple of minutes of research will show that that’s a pretty disingenuous statement. The film is based on Te Kooti’s War, a conflict between European settlers in New Zealand and the native Maori.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

That's Amore

Film: Moonstruck
Format: DVD from DeKalb Public Library on kick-ass portable DVD player.

I have trouble buying Cher as a vocalist and I have issues with her fashion sense (or lack thereof), but I’ve never had an issue with her has an actor. Say what you will about her or give me as much grief as you like, but she’s got the chops. With Nicolas Cage, the response is a little different. Cage is certainly capable of throwing together a good performance and seems to do so every now and then. Sadly, he spends most of his time acting in garbage, though. Both Cher and Nicolas Cage have their share of camp value. So what do you get when you throw them together? Well, you get Moonstruck.

Now that I’ve seen Moonstruck, I wonder exactly why I had to see it before shuffling off this mortal coil. It’s certainly a well-made movie; I’m predisposed to like Norman Jewison. It’s beautifully cast throughout—I’m also predisposed to like Olympia Dukakis, John Mahoney, and Danny Aiello. While I can’t say that there’s anything really wrong or bad, I also can’t find anything that makes this film particularly special in any way.

Monday, November 5, 2012

Listen Up!

So I should talk for a moment about my podcasting activities.

First and foremost, there will be two more episodes of The Demented Podcast coming up, and then a long hiatus. Nick over at Random Ramblings of a Demented Doorknob is heading off to teach in South Korea, so there are some interesting time things that we need to work out and some logistical fun. This means a break for some time, probably four or five months. So we've got a clip show coming and a final Battle Royale (which we still need to record, and for which I still need to complete the questions).

In the meantime, if for some reason you just can't get enough of my dulcet tones, I offer you a couple of new places to hear them. First, about a week ago I guested on The Lair of the Unwanted with hosts Jason Soto of Invasion of the B Movies and Nolahn of The Bargain Bin Review. Also on the show are James Blake Ewing of Cinema Sights and Matt-suzaka of the wonderfully named Chuck Norris Ate My Baby. We talk about our favorite movies to watch on Halloween. Get this--with no planning before hand, we all managed to come up with lists that have no crossover. That's some NSFW listening pleasure for you. Check it out here.

I was also the most recent guest on Ryan McNeil's Matineecast at The Matinee. If you are a film blogger, you know Ryan's site and already go there, and if you listen to film podcasts, you almost certainly already listen to The Matineecast. If not, give it a shot as we talk about Cloud Atlas, sick day movies, why we disagree on War Horse and what Aronofsky movie goes well with a side of Tykwer. Listen in here.

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Plastic Jesus

Film: Cool Hand Luke
Format: VHS from personal collection on big ol’ television.

My brother-in-law Mike’s favorite film is Cool Hand Luke. At least it used to be. I’m honestly not sure if it still is, but it wouldn’t surprise me if he still claimed it as his favorite. Mike’s favorite thing to say about Cool Hand Luke is that the average temperature per scene is hotter than any other film ever made. Every scene is 100+ degrees. Sadly for Mike, Sunshine, which takes place in large part in close proximity to the sun probably eclipses that record just on the virtue of having a couple of scenes with temperatures in the millions. Still, I think his point might well stand. This movie involves a lot of sweating.

We are introduced to Luke (Paul Newman) when he is completely drunk and cutting the heads off parking meters. This gets him a two-year sentence on chain gang, where we’ll be spending most of the rest of our time. It is here that we meet the rest of the players. The other prisoners include Babalugats (Dennis Hopper), Tramp (Harry Dean Stanton), Koko (Lou Antonio), and Dragline (George Kennedy), who is very much the prisoner in charge of the gang. The key bosses here are Boss Godfrey (Morgan Woodward), better known as the Man With No Eyes and the Captain (Strother Martin). Luke learns quickly that he’s got no power in the chain gang but can’t stop his mouth from running.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

Watching Oscar: The House of Rothschild

Film: The House of Rothschild
Format: Internet video on laptop.

As this blog testifies, I watch a shit-ton of movies. I don’t review everything I watch, but I do review many of them. I average somewhere between six and ten films per week most weeks, and if I am not between those numbers, I’m usually on the high side. In the hundreds of films I watch every year, I see a lot of everything. I see the traditional stuff, I see monster films, I see experimental works that are as opaque to their meaning as a lead shield is to light. But it’s been some time since I’ve seen a film that so purely flummoxed me as to its intent as The House of Rothschild.

Seriously, I don’t know what the takeaway from this film is supposed to be. It plays, at least after the opening sequence, like a propaganda film for one of the wealthiest families in the world. But it also plays like a history of the Napoleonic times and the state of the Jewish people in Europe. But there’s also a romance shoehorned in here (of course), so there are aspects of that as well. And there’s some war going on throughout the film. And racism. With all of that, I don’t know what I’m supposed to be thinking by the end except that the Rothschild family took some risks that paid off, which has led to them being absolutely rolling in coin.

Friday, November 2, 2012

Photo Realism

Film: Salvador
Format: DVD from NetFlix on kick-ass portable DVD player.

It’s almost a cliché to make a movie about a journalist in a war-torn area of the world. It’s a pretty easy story to dream up, really in part because it’s almost a meme, in part because it’s the sort of exciting job that people like to think about, and in part because there are plenty of true stories to use, so there doesn’t need to be a lot of imagination in coming up with a story. That’s certainly the case with Oliver Stone’s Salvador. There’s tons of bloodshed and human horror and exactly the kind of high-level conspiracy that Oliver Stone seems to thrive on.

Richard Boyle (James Woods) is a photojournalist who has produced a good amount of great work in hotspots around the world in the past. Unfortunately for him, he’s also burned through any good will he might have every earned by being a grade-A shit. He’s a drunk, a drug addict, and has pissed off so many people that no one will hire him or lone him any money. He and his wife are about to be evicted from their crappy little apartment. But he has an idea—El Salvador is turning into a complete hellhole, and if he can get there, he might be able to get some pictures and get back on top of his game.

Thursday, November 1, 2012

Month 34 Status Report

October turned out to be a pretty big month. My standing goal every month is 25 off the list, and last month I hit 28, which sounds like a rousing success to me. Most of those 28 were films I had never seen before, making it even more successful.

Actually, quite a bit happened in October. The 9th edition of The List came out, adding 14 films to the total, which now clocks in at 1103 total films. I stand right now with 820 watched and reviewed (including nine from the latest additions). More critically, I have gained access to a great number of the rarities--most, in fact. This access comes thanks to Chip Lary over at Tips From Chip, a site you should spend more time reading. Yes, you (unless you happen to be Chip. Then you probably read it enough).

So what's next? Rarities. Don't expect that November will be all obscurities all the time, but do expect to see some oddities popping up once or twice a week as we move forward. Short term goals for the next two months include finishing off the first 200 films on the list (11 to go), knocking out the remaining new additions (5 left), and completing everything of three-hour plus length (4 remaining). My goal of getting down to 225 films left by the end of the year is probably just out of reach, but 230 is probable and 235 is almost a certainty.

As a point of interest, I was at 516 films watched at the end of last October. That means I've put up 304 reviews of films off the list in the last 366 days--not a bad average. At the current pace, I should finish the current list just in time for the 2013 edition's release.