Heading to the TCM Classic Film Festival 2012

In just about two weeks’ time, the TCM Classic Film Festival will descend on Los Angeles once again, turning downtown Hollywood into a mecca for film fans hungry for the glamour and nostalgia of the days of yore. Waxing poetic aside, this is the third year for the festival, and it seems to be going as strong as ever. Last year, attendance nearly doubled over the first festival, so we’ll see what the crowds are like this year! In any case, with Robert Osborne and the TCM crew bringing in films big and small, essential and rare, along with star appearances and special events galore, it’s sure to be a weekend of fun for anybody who loves classic Hollywood. The theme this year is “Style in the Movies” – with an apparent eye toward costume design and set decoration. There are sidebars for specific designers, specific “looks,” especially style-conscious directors, and even the broader Essentials section has been curated to favor films that feature a unique design aesthetic. Confirmed special guests include Kirk Douglas (who was fantastic last year at a screening of Spartacus), Debbie Reynolds, Liza Minnelli, Shirley Jones, Kim Novak, Robert Wagner, Angie Dickinson, director Norman Jewison, and more.

Along with the festival, TCM sponsors a Road to Hollywood series of screenings in various cities throughout the weeks leading up to the festival, with Robert Osborne and special guests presenting the screening. That series continues with The Last Picture Show March 31st in Toronto, Seven Brides for Seven Brothers April 3rd in Denver, and Marty April 5th in Portland. TCM did this last year as well, bringing a taste of the festival to other cities, so even if you don’t live in LA, keep an eye on where TCM is holding these (free!) screenings. Plus, you may learn insider info before the rest of us – at a recent screening, Robert Osborne let it slip that Mel Brooks will be a special guest. But he caught himself before revealing what film Brooks will be introducing – could even be something not announced yet!

As far as the main event in Hollywood, taking place April 12-15, Festival Passes are still available, and individual tickets will be on sale before each screening. With no further ado, here is the line-up thus far announced. I got the schedule while I was working on this, so some of the entries reflect my knowledge that I won’t be seeing them due to scheduling conflicts. There will be many more that will fall to the vagaries of a very full three-day schedule. (Note: I took most of the synopses below from IMDb, so my apologies if they’re bland.)

Essentials

20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (1954)

Director: Richard Fleischer
Starring: Kirk Douglas, James Mason, Paul Lukas, Peter Lorre
Synopsis: A ship sent to investigate a wave of mysterious sinkings encounters the advanced submarine, the Nautilus, commanded by Captain Nemo.
My take: I’ve not seen this before, but Disney’s first live-action feature film promises practical special effects galore, and I’m a sucker for those. Plus, any chance to see Kirk Douglas live is probably worth taking. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Kirk Douglas

Annie Hall (1977)

Director: Woody Allen
Starring: Woody Allen, Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, Shelley Duvall, Christopher Walken, Colleen Dewhurst
Synopsis: Neurotic New York comedian Alvy Singer falls in love with the ditsy Annie Hall.
My take: I love this film a lot; in fact, it’s a constant battle between this and Manhattan for the title of my favorite Woody Allen film. Still, I think I’ll skip this in favor of things I haven’t seen a dozen times. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide

Auntie Mame (1958)

Director: Morton DaCosta
Starring: Rosalind Russell, Forrest Tucker, Coral Browne
Synopsis: An orphan goes to live with his free-spirited aunt. Conflict ensues when the executor of his father’s estate objects to the aunt’s lifestyle.
My take: I haven’t seen this film, despite liking Rosalind Russell a good bit. That said, it’s not that high on my list and scheduling being what it is, this probably isn’t the time. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Todd Oldham

Black Narcissus (1947)

Director: Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger
Starring: Deborah Kerr, Kathleen Byron, David Farrar, Flora Robson, Jean Simmons
Synopsis: After opening a convent in the Himalayas, five nuns encounter conflict and tension – both with the natives and also within their own group – as they attempt to adapt to their remote, exotic surroundings.
My take: I have seen this, but it’s been so long I don’t remember much of it. I’ve been wanting to rewatch it for quite some time now, and I’d definitely love the opportunity to see Jack Cardiff’s Technicolor cinematography on the big screen. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Thelma Schoonmaker

Cabaret (1972)

Director: Bob Fosse
Starring: Liza Minnelli, Michael York, Helmut Griem, Joel Grey
Synopsis: A female girlie club entertainer in Weimar Republic era Berlin romances two men while the Nazi Party rises to power around them.
My take: I love this movie, but this is the opening night premiere film, which is very difficult to get into. I’ve seen the film a lot of times, so I won’t bother with it here. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Opening night film; World Premiere of 40th anniversary restoration
In attendance: Liza Minnelli and Joel Grey

Casablanca (1942)

Director: Michael Curtiz
Starring: Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman, Paul Henreid, Claude Rains, Pete rLorre, Sydney Greenstreet, Dooley Wilson, Conrad Veidt
Synopsis: Set in unoccupied Africa during the early days of World War II: An American expatriate meets a former lover, with unforeseen complications.
My take: I’ve seen this film more times than I can count, and it seems like they show it every year. So if you’re coming in from out of town and haven’t seen this on the big screen, by all means, do so. But I’ll save my time for other things. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Screening notes: 70th Anniversary digital restoration

Dr. No (1962)

Director: Terence Young
Starring: Sean Connery, Ursula Andress, Bernard Lee, Joseph Wiseman, Jack Lord
Synopsis: James Bond’s investigation of a missing colleague in Jamaica leads him to the island of the mysterious Dr. No and a scheme to end the US space program.
My take: This remains one of the best Bond movies, though I still place it lower than Connery’s next two outings. It’d be fun to rewatch it on the big screen, but other things claim my time more strongly. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Eunice Gayson, Maud Adams

Duck Soup (1933)

Director: Leo McCarey
Starring: The Marx Brothers, Margaret Dumont, Louis Calhern, Leonid Kinskey
Synopsis: Rufus T. Firefly is named president/dictator of bankrupt Freedonia and declares war on neighboring Sylvania over the love of wealthy Mrs. Teasdale.
My take: I usually place A Night at the Opera and A Day at the Races as my favorite Marx Brothers film, but most people like this one the best. Time to re-evaluate? Since it’s a midnight movie with no timeslot competition, I think yes. Planning to see
Festival Guide

Elmer Gantry (1960)

Director: Richard Brooks
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Jean Simmons, Shirley Jones
Synopsis: Smitten with lay preacher Sister Sharon, fast-talking traveling salesman Elmer Gantry uses his swift wit and persuasiveness to join her ministry; but his unsavory past isn’t far behind.
My take: This film won Oscars for both Burt Lancaster and Shirley Jones, which I’ve known forever due to my early obsession with Oscars as well as my enjoyment of Jones’s Rodgers & Hammerstein musicals. Yet I’ve never actually seen it. If scheduling works out, I definitely wouldn’t mind catching up with it now. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Shirley Jones

Grand Illusion (1937)

Director: Jean Renoir
Starring: Jean Gabin, Erich von Stroheim, Pierre Fresnay
Synopsis: During the First World War, two French soldiers are captured and imprisoned in a German POW camp. Several escape attempts follow until they are sent to a seemingly impenetrable fortress which seems impossible to escape from.
My take: This movie blew me away when I first saw it, and I absolutely wouldn’t mind seeing it again. (Anyone who hasn’t seen it needs to NOW.) But I’m not dead set on revisiting it, and will let the schedule dictate this one. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: US Premiere of 75th Anniversary restoration

The Grapes of Wrath (1940)

Director: John Ford
Starring: Henry Fonda, Jane Darwell, John Carradine, Charley Grapewin, John Qualen
Synopsis: A poor Midwest family is forced off of their land. They travel to California, suffering the misfortunes of the homeless in the Great Depression.
My take: I saw this for the first time last year and was more than impressed with it, especially on a visual level (which I hadn’t expected); that would show up even better on the big screen, but I’m not sure I’m quite up fr a rewatch just yet. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide

High Society (1956)

Director: Charles Walters
Starring: Bing Crosby, Grace Kelly, Frank Sinatra, Celeste Holm, John Lund, Louis Calhern, Louis Armstrong
Synopsis: Tracy Lord is getting remarried, but her wedding is about to be crashed by her ex-husband and two reporters hoping for a big society scoop.
My take: As much fun as it sounds like it would be to watch a film poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt, and as innocuously enjoyable as this film is, I’m not a big enough fan of it to make much of an effort. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Screening Notes: Presented poolside at the Hollywood Roosevelt

The Longest Day (1962)

Director: Ken Annakin, Andrew Marton, Bernhard Wicki
Starring: John Wayne, Robert Ryan, Richard Burton, Paul Anka, Arletty, Sal Mineo, Robert Wagner, Richard Beymer, Jean-Louis Barrault, Bourvil, Red Buttons, Sean Connery
Synopsis: The events of D-Day, told on a grand scale from both the Allied and German points of view.
My take: Even though I generally like war films more than the next girl, I haven’t taken the time to see this one yet, despite the all-star cast, and I likely won’t take three hours of time to watch it here. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Wagner

The Pink Panther (1964)

Director: Blake Edwards
Starring: David Niven, Peter Sellers, Claudie Cardinale, Capucine, Robert Wagner
Synopsis: Bumbling and conceited French police inspector Clouseau tries to catch The Phantom, a daring jewel thief whose identity and features are unknown – and is acting right under his nose.
My take: I have seen this film and enjoyed it a lot, but it pales in comparison with its sequel, A Shot in the Dark, which I rewatched just a few weeks ago. So as fun as it is, I’ll give this a pass. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Wagner

Rio Bravo (1959)

Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: John Wayne, Dean Martin, Ricky Nelson, Angie Dickinson, Walter Brennan
Synopsis: A small-town sheriff in the American West enlists the help of a cripple, a drunk, and a young gunfighter in his efforts to hold in jail the brother of the local bad guy.
My take: Oh man, it’s incredibly tempting to sit down and relax with this film for the umpteenth time. And if the scheduling works out, I might just do it. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Angie Dickinson

Sabrina (1954)

Director: Billy Wilder
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Humphrey Bogart, William Holden
Synopsis: A playboy becomes interested in the daughter of his family’s chauffeur. But it’s his more serious brother who would be the better man for her.
My take: As a big fan of Billy Wilder, Audrey Hepburn, AND Humphrey Bogart, I’m a little surprised at how underwhelming I tend to find this film, especially since a lot of people like it a whole lot. If I take time to watch it here, it’ll be in full-on Rewatched and Reconsidered mode. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Janie Bryant

The Searchers (1956)

Director: John Ford
Starring: John Wayne, Jeffrey Hunter, Vera Miles, Ward Bond, Natalie Wood, John Qualen
Synopsis: As a Civil War veteran spends years searching for a young niece captured by Indians, his motivation becomes increasingly questionable.
My take: Seeing this film on the big screen (and not just any big screen, but Grauman’s Chinese) would be a treat, for sure. I may pass it up for one of the less ubiquitous films at the fest, but I dunno. It’s really tempting. Might see
Festival Guide

Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Director: Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly
Starring: Gene Kelly, Debbie Reynolds, Donald O’Connor, Jean Hagen
Synopsis: A silent film production company and cast make a difficult transition to sound.
My take: Tempting, very tempting to catch one of my all-time favorite movies on the big screen. But I’ve seen it so many times and it plays the American Cinematheque with some frequency, so I can’t justify it unless the schedule is very, very forgiving. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: World Premiere of 60th Anniversary restoration
In attendance: Debbie Reynolds, Patricia Kelly

Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937)

Director: Ben Sharpsteen, William Cottrell, David Hand, Wilfred Jackson, Larry Morey Perce Pearce
Starring: Adriana Caselotti, Harry Stockwell, Lucille La Verne
Synopsis: Snow White, pursued by a jealous queen, hides with the Dwarfs; the queen feeds her a poison apple, but Prince Charming awakens her with a kiss.
My take: I made time for Fantasia last year, and I might just make time for Disney’s pioneering animated feature this time (I am due for a rewatch on it). Might see
Festival Guide

Sullivan’s Travels (1941)

Director: Preston Sturges
Starring: Joel McCrea, Veronica Lake, Robert Warwick, William Demarest, Franklin Pangborn, Porter Hall, Eric Blore
Synopsis: A director of escapist films goes on the road as a hobo to learn about Life…which gives him a rude awakening.
My take: This and The Lady Eve duke it out constantly as my favorite Preston Sturges film, and I’m more than overdue for a rewatch on this. But the scheduling doesn’t quite work out, unfortunately. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Ron Perlman

The Thomas Crown Affair (1968)

Director: Norman Jewison
Starring: Steve McQueen, Faye Dunaway
Synopsis: A debonair, adventuresome bank executive believes he has pulled off the perfect multi-million dollar heist, only to match wits with a sexy insurance investigator who will do anything to get her man.
My take: Mostly all I remember from this film is the incredibly awesome chess-playing seduction scene, and I’d really love a refresher on the rest of it, even if it is largely a film of cool style over substance. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Norman Jewison

To Catch a Thief (1955)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: Cary Grant, Grace Kelly, Jessie Royce Landis
Synopsis: When a reformed jewel thief is suspected of returning to his former occupation, he must ferret out the real thief in order to prove his innocence.
My take: This has never been among my favorite Hitchcock films, but I have to admit, it’s the one to choose when your theme is “Style in the Movies.” Style this movie has in spades. Still, I rewatched it hoping for a better reevaluation last year, and I’m not up for doing it again just yet. Not seeing
Festival Guide

Vertigo (1958)

Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Starring: James Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes
Synopsis: A San Francisco detective suffering from acrophobia investigates the strange activities of an old friend’s wife, all the while becoming dangerously obsessed with her.
My take: My second-favorite Hitchcock film, always worthy of a big-screen rewatch. But I’m even more gung-ho about it this time since my husband has never seen it. This is the time. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Kim Novak

Wings (1927)

Director: William A. Wellman
Starring: Richard Arlen, Charles “Buddy” Rogers, Clara Bow
Synopsis: Two young men, one rich, one middle class, who are in love with the same woman, become fighter pilots in World War I.
My take: I saw this movie way back when I was intent on watching all the Academy Award winning films (this won the first Best Picture award); so, like, fifteen years ago. Now with my renewed interest in silent cinema, I’d love to look at it again with fresh and better-educated eyes. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: A.C. Lyles, Bill Wellman Jr.

The Women (1939)

Director: George Cukor
Starring: Norma Shearer, Joan Crawford, Rosalind Russell, Joan Fontaine, Paulette Goddard, Mary Boland, Virginia Wiedler
Synopsis: A study of the lives and romantic entanglements of various interconnected women.
My take: I have seen this film a dozen times, and I will take any excuse offered to see it again. It’s that much fun watching all these fabulous ladies duke it out over men who never appear onscreen. And I’m dragging Jonathan to it, too. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Todd Oldham

Young Frankenstein (1974)

Director: Mel Brooks
Starring: Gene Wilder, Peter Boyle, Marty Feldman, Cloris Leachman, Teri Garr, Madeline Kahn, Kenneth Mars
Synopsis: Dr. Frankenstein’s grandson, after years of living down the family reputation, inherits granddad’s castle and repeats the experiments.
My take: When Robert Osborne leaked that Mel Brooks would be a guest, I wondered if he might be introducing this film (especially with the Universal sidebar going on at the Fest), and I was right. I love this film dearly, but the 1000 times I’ve seen it might count against it here. I’m still undecided, though. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Mel Brooks

Discoveries

Bonjour Tristesse (1958)

Director: Otto Preminger
Starring: Deborah Kerr, David Niven, Jean Seberg, Mylène Demongeot, Geoffrey Horne
Synopsis: Cecile is a decadent young girl who lives with her rich playboy father Raymond. When Anne, Raymond’s old love interest, comes to Raymond’s villa, Cecile is afraid for her way of life.
My take: I’ve vaguely heard of this film quite a bit, but I never knew very much about it until looking it up right now. Jean Seberg just before Breathless is certainly a tempting proposition. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Barbara Tfank

Call Her Savage (1932)

Director: John Francis Dillon
Starring: Clara Bow, Gilbert Roland, Thelma Todd
Synopsis: Sexy Texas gal storms her way through life, brawling and boozing until her luck runs out, forcing her to learn the errors of her ways.
My take: Now we’re into ones that I know less about, and that’s all the better. I really enjoyed seeing Clara Bow’s final film Hoop-la at last year’s festival, and I’m more than down to see her in another pre-Code talkie. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: New 35mm preservation print from Museum of Modern Art
Presented by: David Stenn and Katie Trainor, Anne Morra (at different screenings)

Fall Guy (1947)

Director: Reginald Le Borg
Starring: Robert Armstrong, Leo Penn, Teala Loring, Elisha Cook Jr
Synopsis: Penn stars as a hard-drinking veteran who awakens from a drug-induced blackout with vague memories of a murdered blonde. His search for the truth leads him through a demimonde populated by drug dealers, addicts, bar girls and even a stoolie (the screen’s best, Elisha Cook, Jr.).
My take: The festival guide calls in one of the “noirest of all noir.” I pretty much have to see that to find out if it’s more noir than Detour. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Walter Mirisch

Lonesome (1928)

Director: Pál Fejös
Starring: Barbara Kent, Glenn Tryon, Andy Devine
Synopsis: Two lonely people in the big city meet and enjoy the thrills of an amusement park, only to lose each other in the crowd after spending a great day together. Will they ever see each other again?
My take: I have never ever heard of this film, but the descriptions I’m seeing (“a truly American approach to German Expressionism”, etc.) are giving me Sunrise vibes. This kind of thing is absolutely what I come to this festival to see. Planning to see
Festival Guide

The Macomber Affair

Director: Zoltan Korda
Starring: Gregory Peck, Joan Bennett, Robert Preston, Reginald Denny
Synopsis: Robert Wilson leads safaris on the Kenyan savanna, and is taking Mr. and Mrs. Macomber out to hunt buffalo. The obnoxious ways of Margaret Macomber make the three of them get on each others nerves, but sparks are about to fly.
My take: Another I’ve never heard of, apparently a Hemingway safari love triangle adventure story. I’m not against any of those things in any way, but this will come down to scheduling. Hoping to see
Festival Guide

A Night to Remember (1958)

Director: Roy Ward Baker
Starring: Kenneth More, Ronald Allen, Robert Ayres, Honor Blackman
Synopsis: The Titanic disaster is depicted in straightforward fashion without the addition of fictional subplots.
My take: I wasn’t too much interested in this one (I’ve already seen a couple of versions of the Titanic story – the boat goes down in them all), but the description of it as a non-fictionalized almost-documentary is kind of intriguing. We’ll see. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Newly restored print
Presented by: Don Lynch

Phase IV (1974)

Director: Saul Bass
Starring: Nigel Davenport, Michael Murphy, Lynne Frederick, Alan Gifford
Synopsis: Desert ants suddenly form a collective intelligence and begin to wage war on the desert inhabitants. It is up to two scientists and a stray girl they rescue from the ants to destroy them. But the ants have other ideas.
My take: Okay, hold up. Saul Bass directed a movie? And it sounds like a combination of “Leiningen vs.the Ants” and Them!? Oh yeah, I’m there. Thanks, TCM, for programming some midnight stuff. :) Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Michael Murphy

Seconds (1966)

Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Rock Hudson, Frank Campanella, John Randolph
Synopsis: Want out of your life? Just pay the fee and we’ll fake your death, change your face, and set up a new identity for you…but you may or may not be pleased with the results.
My take: Now, this is one I definitely SHOULD rewatch. When I first saw it ages ago, I was rather underwhelmed, but it routinely makes “hidden gem” lists, so I definitely need to check it out again. But the scheduling may do me in once again. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Richard Anderson

Who Done It? (1942)

Director: Erle C. Kenton
Starring: Bud Abbott, Lou Costello, Patric Knowles, William Gargan, Louise Allbritton
Synopsis: Two dumb soda jerks dream of writing radio mysteries. When they try to pitch an idea at a radio station, they end up in the middle of a real murder when the station owner is killed during a broadcast.
My take: I have a soft spot for Abbott & Costello, but even though I went through a bunch of their films as a teenager, I don’t think ever saw this one. I definitely would, though, as comedy-mysteries are always fun. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Will be screened with the 1949 Three Stooges short Who Done It?
In attendance: Michael Schlesinger

Built by Design: Architecture in Film

Bringing Up Baby (1938)

Director: Howard Hawks
Starring: Cary Grant, Katharine Hepburn, May Robson, Charles Ruggles, Barry Fitzgerald, Virginia Walker
Synopsis: While trying to secure a $1 million donation for his museum, a befuddled paleontologist is pursued by a flighty and often irritating heiress and her pet leopard “Baby.”
My take: I actually rewatched Bringing Up Baby a few months ago, and even though I love it, it’s a bit too manic for me to want to watch it again so soon. Maybe next time. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Presented by: Matt Tyrnauer

The Fountainhead (1949)

Director: King Vidor
Starring: Gary Cooper, Patricia Neal, Raymond Massey, Kent Smith, Robert Douglas, Henry Hull
Synopsis: An uncompromising, visionary architect struggles to maintain his integrity and individualism despite personal, professional and economic pressures to conform to popular standards.
My take: Not a film I’ve ever been particularly interested in seeing; a film fraught with Ayn Rand’s philosophy just sounds too heavy to be any fun. On the other hand, the screencap above is pretty gorgeous. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Eric Lloyd Wright, Matt Tyrnauer

Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948)

Director: H.C. Potter
Starring: Cary Grant, Myrna Loy, Melvyn Douglas, Reginald Denny, Louise Beavers
Synopsis: A man and his wife decide they can afford to have a house in the country built to their specifications. It’s a lot more trouble than they think.
My take: Despite being a big Cary Grant fan and this being one of Grant’s more popular movies among his fans, I have never caught up with it. This may or may not be the time. Might see
Festival Guide

My Architect: A Son’s Journey (2003)

Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Synopsis: Director Nathaniel Kahn searches to understand his father, noted architect Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone in 1974.
My take: I’m not that much of a documentary person, and with only the tenuous “architecture in film” tying this into the festival, I’ll skip it. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Matt Tyrnauer, Nathaniel Kahn

Deco Design

Counsellor-at-Law (1933)

Director: William Wyler
Starring: John Barrymore, Bebe Daniels, Doris Kenyon, Isabel Jewell, Melvyn Douglas, Thelma Todd
Synopsis: Successful attorney has his Jewish heritage and poverty-stricken background brought home to him when he learns his wife has been unfaithful.
My take: I’ve totally never heard of this film, but it’s definitely got an intriguing cast and director, plus the tagline on the Kino DVD case is “William Wyler’s hard-boiled comedy.” Still, I’m not sure that can over come potential scheduling difficulties. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Illeana Douglas

Our Dancing Daughters (1928)

Director: Harry Beaumont
Starring: Joan Crawford, Johnny Mack Brown, Anita Page
Synopsis: Diana is outwardly the hit of the party but inwardly virtuous and idealistic. Her friend Ann is thoroughly selfish and amoral. Both are attracted to Ben Black, soon-to-be millionaire.
My take: I’ve actually been dying to see some of Joan Crawford’s silent stuff, but haven’t had a good opportunity. This is one of the best opportunities, so I’m pretty much not going to miss it. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Linda Snyder-Sterne

Swing Time (1936)

Director: George Stevens
Starring: Fred Astaire, Ginger Rogers, Helen Broderick, Victor Moore, Erik Rhodes, Eric Blore
Synopsis: A performer and gambler travels to New York City to raise the $25,000 he needs to marry his fiancée, only to become entangled with a beautiful aspiring dancer.
My take: This is one of my comfort movies; I can put it on any time and it cheers me up immediately. That said, I’ve seen it a hundred times, so I’ll likely skip it. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide

Trouble in Paradise (1932)

Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Starring: Herbert Marshall, Miriam Hopkins, Kay Francis, Charles Ruggles, Edward Everett Horton, C. Aubrey Smith
Synopsis: A gentleman thief and a lady pickpocket join forces to con a beautiful perfume company owner. Romantic entanglements and jealousies confuse the scheme.
My take: Last year TCM Fest played Design for Living, and I was really disappointed I had to miss it. Hopefully that won’t happen this time, because I’ve been dying to rewatch both these early ’30 Lubitsch films for quite a while. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Matt Tyrnaver, Deborah Nadoolman Landis (at different screenings)

The Noir Style

Criss Cross (1949)

Director: Robert Siodmak
Starring: Burt Lancaster, Yvonne DeCarlo, Dan Duryea, Stephen McNally
Synopsis: An armored truck driver and his lovely ex-wife conspire with a gang to have his own truck robbed on the route.
My take: This film noir has been on my list for a LONG time and I’ve never gotten around to it. It looks like this may finally be the time, and I’m really looking forward to it. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Eddie Muller

Cry Danger (1951)

Director: Robert Parrish
Starring: Dick Powell, Rhonda Fleming, William Conrad, Regis Toomey
Synopsis: Ex-con Rocky Mulloy seeks the real culprit in the crime he was framed for, in a night world of deceptive dames and double crosses.
My take: Noir film I haven’t heard of AND it stars Dick Powell? Sign me up. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Preservation funded by The Film Noir Foundation
In attendance: Rhonda Fleming, Eddie Muller

Gun Crazy (1950)

Director: Joseph H. Lewis
Starring: Peggy Cummins, John Dall
Synopsis: A well meaning crack shot husband is pressured by his beautiful marksman wife to go on an interstate robbery spree, where he finds out just how depraved and deadly she really is.
My take: This is a noir I always recommend to people; despite getting a lot of love from noir fans, it remains surprisingly underseen, and it’s loads of fun. If I can get to it, I’m due a rewatch. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Peggy Cummins, Eddie Muller

Night and the City (1950)

Director: Jules Dassin
Starring: Richard Widmark, Gene Tierney, Googie Withers, Hugh Marlowe, Herbert Lom
Synopsis: A small-time grifter and nightclub tout takes advantage of some fortuitous circumstances and tries to become a big-time player as a wrestling promoter.
My take: It’s been a while since I saw this one, but I enjoyed it quite a bit – really great use of on-location London filming with a noir style. Not one I’m necessarily jumping to see again, especially with so many noirs I haven’t seen playing. Not seeing
Festival Guide
Presented by: Eddie Muller

Raw Deal (1948)

Director: Anthony Mann
Starring: Dennis O’Keefe, Raymond Burr, Claire Trevor, Marsha Hunt
Synopsis: After taking a prison rap for a friend, Joe mounts an escapes despite his friend’s double-cross.
My take: Another noir I’ve never heard of, AND it stars Claire Trevor, AND it’s directed by Anthony Mann? Sign me up twice. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Marsha Hunt, Eddie Muller

Legendary Costumes of Travis Banton

Cleopatra (1934)

Director: Cecil B. DeMille
Starring: Claudette Colbert, Warren William, Henry Wilcoxon, Joseph Schildkraut
Synopsis: The man-hungry Queen of Egypt leads Julius Caesar and Marc Antony astray, amid scenes of DeMillean splendor.
My take: I’ve got to admit, I’m morbidly curious to see this; it doesn’t have the best reputation among DeMille’s canon, but sometimes a little over-the-top excess isn’t such a bad thing. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Deborah Nadoolman Landis, Bob Mackie

Cover Girl (1944)

Director: Charles Vidor
Starring: Rita Hayworth, Gene Kelly, Lee Bowman, Phil Silvers, Leslie Brooks, Eve Arden, Otto Kruger
Synopsis: Rusty Parker wins a contest and becomes a celebrated cover girl; this endangers her romance with dancing mentor Danny.
My take: Frankly, this movie is fairly forgettable, aside from the dancing-with-himself number Gene Kelly did, prefiguring his later iconic ballet numbers. It’s worth watching once, but that’s it. Not seeing
Festival Guide

I’m No Angel (1933)

Director: Wesley Ruggles
Starring: Mae West, Cary Grant, Gregory Ratoff, Edward Arnold
Synopsis: Working as a lion-tamer and flirting with rich men to get presents on the side, Tira seeks the man a fortune-teller promised is the love of her life.
My take: I saw the other West-Grant film She Done Him Wrong aaaages ago and wasn’t too impressed; but that was aaaages ago and I’m actually really interested to check this out. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Deborah Nadoolman Landis

Letter from an Unknown Woman (1948)

Director: Max Ophüls
Starring: Joan Fontaine, Louis Jourdan
Synopsis: A pianist about to flee from a duel receives a letter from a woman he cannot remember whom may hold the key to his downfall.
My take: I’ve seen this before, quite a while ago, and I remember being pretty bored and frustrated by it. But I’ve heard a lot of good things about it and I’m kind of curious to see if I was wrong. But I don’t know if I’m all THAT curious. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Preservation funded by The Film Foundation

Nothing Sacred (1937)

Director: William A. Wellman
Starring: Carole Lombard, Fredric March, Charles Winninger, Walter Connolly, Sig Ruman
Synopsis: When a diagnosis of a terminal illness turns out to be incorrect, Hazel Flagg decides to milk it anyway, becoming the toast of New York thanks to a reporter hungry for a heartwarming story.
My take: This is one of Carole Lombard’s most iconic roles, solidifying her madcap comedienne persona; I remember it being a tad on the shrill side, but it’s been a while since the last time I saw it. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Deborah Nadoolman Landis

The Scarlet Empress (1934)

Director: Josef von Sternberg
Starring: Marlene Dietrich, John Lodge, Sam Jaffe, Louise Dresser, C. Aubrey Smith
Synopsis: Young Princess Sophia of Germany is taken to Russia to marry the half-wit Grand Duke Peter, but prefers Russian soldiers instead; eventually engineering a coup d’etat, she becomes Catherine the Great.
My take: I’ve spent weeks excited about this because I thought it was Shanghai Express. Now that I’ve learned better, I’m less excited. I’ve actually seen half of this movie and it looks nice, for sure, but beyond that it was kind of bland. Still, I guess I should finish it, just for completeness’ sake. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Deborah Nadoolman Landis

The Films of Stanley Donen

Charade (1963)

Director: Stanley Donen
Starring: Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Walter Matthau, George Kennedy, James Coburn
Synopsis: Romance and suspense in Paris, as a woman is pursued by several men who want a fortune her murdered husband had stolen. Who can she trust?
My take: This is one of my all-time favorite movies, and one I recommend to everybody I know (and I’ve never had anyone disappointed yet). I’m sure I’d be right there for it again if I hadn’t JUST watched it like three times over the past couple of months. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Stanley Donen

Funny Face (1957)

Director: Stanley Donen
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Fred Astaire, Kay Thompson
Synopsis: A photographer, fashion editor, and bookish model head to Paris for a fashion shoot, punctuated by music and romance.
My take: I’ve never been as into this film as a lot of Audrey Hepburn fans; it’s the height of stylishness, that’s for sure, and has some solid Gershwin songs, but I doubt I’ll go far out of my way for a rewatch. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Stanley Donen

Two for the Road (1967)

Director: Stanley Donen
Starring: Audrey Hepburn, Albert Finney, Eleanor Bron, William Daniels
Synopsis: A couple in the south of France non-sequentially spin down the highways of infidelity in their troubled ten-year marriage.
My take: This film nigh unto blew me away when I saw it several years ago – one of the most grown-up films I’ve ever seen, with great performances and a fascinating non-linear structure to boot. Definitely love a rewatch, as it’s been a while. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: World Premiere of 45th Anniversary restoration
In attendance: Stanley Donen

The Paramount Renaissance

Black Sunday (1977)

Director: John Frankenheimer
Starring: Robert Shaw, Fritz Weaver, Bruce Dern
Synopsis: An Israeli anti-terrorist agent must stop a disgruntled Vietnam vet cooperating in a plot to commit a terrorist plot at the Super Bowl.
My take: I don’t know much about this film (I spent a few misused minutes trying to figure out how a Mario Bava film could be in a Paramount sidebar), but Frankenheimer is always solid, and it sounds interesting. We’ll leave this one up to scheduling. Might see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Chinatown (1974)

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Faye Dunaway, John Huston
Synopsis: A private detective investigating an adultery case stumbles on to a scheme of murder that has something to do with water.
My take: This is another one I’m definitely hoping to see with Jonathan; for me, it’s probably the quintessential neo-noir crossed with a peculiarly ’70s sense of alienation that hits on all cylinders. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Towne

Love Story (1970)

Director: Arthur Hiller
Starring: Ryan O’Neal, Ali MacGraw
Synopsis: A pair of class-crossed lovers defy their parents’ distaste for their union, but can’t stop the inevitable as Jenny faces a terminal illness.
My take: I’ve never seen this, but I don’t have much desire to, either, except as pure academic curiosity. Which doesn’t take me very far in a very crowded festival. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Marathon Man (1976)

Director: John Schlesinger
Starring: Dustin Hoffman, Roy Scheider, Laurence Olivier
Synopsis: A graduate history student is unwittingly caught in the middle of an international conspiracy involving stolen diamonds, an exiled Nazi war criminal, and a rogue government agent.
My take: Another one I only know about in bits and snatches, but that synopsis sounds AWESOME (much better than my mental picture of Dustin Hoffman running a marathon for two hours). If I can make time for this, I probably will. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Rosemary’s Baby

Director: Roman Polanski
Starring: Mia Farrow, John Cassavettes, Ruth Gordon, Sidney Blackmer, Maurice Evans, Ralph Bellamy, Elisha Cook Jr.
Synopsis: A young couple move into a new apartment, only to be surrounded by peculiar neighbors and occurrences. When the wife becomes mysteriously pregnant, paranoia over the safety of her unborn child begins controlling her life.
My take: TWO Roman Polanski films at the fest, how about that? I watched this a couple of years ago and wasn’t as impressed as I wanted to be, though there are certainly some good moments. I should re-evaluate at some point, but this probably isn’t the time. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Robert Evans

Universal’s Legacy of Horror

The Black Cat (1934)

Director: Edgar G. Ulmer
Starring: Boris Karloff, Bela Lugosi
Synopsis: American honeymooners in Hungary are trapped in the home of a Satan-worshiping priest when the bride is taken there for medical help following a road accident.
My take: I feel like I’ve seen this before, but maybe not – I definitely don’t recall Karloff and Lugosi playing chess. And I think I need to see that. Planning to see
Festival Guide
In attendance: Sara Karloff, Bela G. Lugosi

Dracula (1931)

Director: Tod Browning
Starring: Bela Lugosi
Synopsis: The ancient vampire Count Dracula arrives in England and begins to prey upon the virtuous young Mina.
My take: Neither my favorite version of Dracula nor my favorite Universal horror film; you definitely ought to see it once, but it creaks far more than even I like. Not seeing
Festival Guide
In attendance: Carla Laemmle

Frankenstein (1931)

Director: James Whale
Starring: Boris Karloff, Colin Clive, Mae Clarke, John Boles
Synopsis: Horror classic in which an obsessed scientist assembles a living being from parts of exhumed corpses.
My take: This one is my favorite of the Universal horror cycle, and since Jonathan hasn’t seen it yet, I’m hoping to save a place for it on my schedule. But I have seen it a lot of times and I’m not going to be disappointed if I miss it. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: New restoration, with restored cuts made in post-1931 reissues to comply with the Production Code
In attendance: John Carpenter

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

Director: Rowland V. Lee
Starring: Basil Rathbone, Bela Lugosi, Boris Karloff
Synopsis: One of the sons of Frankenstein finds his father’s monster in a comma and revives him, only to find out he is controlled by Ygor who is bent on revenge.
My take: I initially blew this off looking at the schedule (sequels to sequels to sequels of horror films, nah), but the more I think about it, the more I’m curious to check it out. Maybe it’s just Lugosi and Karloff together again, but yeah. Might see
Festival Guide
Presented by: John Landis

The Wolf Man (1941)

Director: George Waggner
Starring: Lon Chaney Jr., Bela Lugosi, Claude Rains, Maria Ouspenskaya
Synopsis: A practical man returns to his homeland, is attacked by a creature of folklore, and infected with a horrific disease his disciplined mind tells him can not possibly exist.
My take: This is one of the few major Universal horrors I haven’t, and it’s one of the stories that interests me the most. I’ve had it on my list forever, and this is a great time to cross it off. Hoping to see
Festival Guide\
In attendance: Rick Baker

Special Presentations

A Fine Mess: Laurel and Hardy

Program of shorts includes: Helpmates (1932), County Hospital (1932), Busy Bodies (1933)
Starring: Stan Laurel & Oliver Hardy
Synopsis: A collection of three sound Laurel & Hardy shorts made for the Hal Roach studios, but after Leo McCarey left. Laurel supervised these films, though uncredited.
My take: I’ve liked the few Laurel and Hardy films I’ve seen (I’ve mostly seen silents, because they show them before silent features at Cinefamily sometimes), and I wouldn’t say no to these. But other things are likely to eclipse it on the schedule. Might see
Festival Guide

“A Trip to the Moon” and Other Trips Through Time, Color and Space

Program of early cinema shorts includes: A Trip to the Moon (1902, Georges Méliès), Apr&eagrave;s le bal (1897, Georges Méliès), A Trip Down Market Street (1906, Miles Brothers), Caruso sings “La Donna 7egrave; Mobile” (1908, Alfred Duskes), The Acrobatic Fly (1910, F. Percy Smith), Balloon Land (1935, Ub Iwerks), and more
Synopsis: A curated collection of early films focusing on technical experiments and flights of fancy.
My take: I would LOVE to see the newly restored version of A Trip to the Moon, that’s for sure, and the other things listed on the program also intrigue me a lot, with my current fascination with early cinema. I’ll definitely make an effort to get to this program. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: 2011 restoration of A Trip to the Moon, with original hand-coloring and new score by AIR
Presented by: Director, producer, and historian Serge Bromberg

Baby Peggy: The Elephant in the Room

Director: Vera Iwerebor
Starring: “Baby Peggy” Diana Serra Cary
Synopsis: A documentary about “Baby Peggy,” one of cinema’s first child stars, doing pretty much all of her work by the age of 11, and all in the silent era.
My take: Cinefamily has shown Baby Peggy-related things before; in fact, I think they’ve shown one of her few surviving films (Captain January) with her in attendance. I’d frankly rather see that than a documentary about her, so as wonderful as it is that she’s still with us and willing to do appearances like this, I might have to skip this. EDIT: They are now also showing a program of her shorts. Probably won’t see
Festival Guide
In attendance: “Baby Peggy” Diana Serra Cary, Vera Iwerebor

Girl Shy (1924)

Director: Fred C. Newmeyer, Sam Taylor
Starring: Harold Lloyd
Synopsis: A shy, young man, who is completely incapable of talking to women, decides to write a book that details to other bachelors how to find a girlfriend.
My take: I’ve only seen a couple of Harold Lloyd films, and I enjoyed them both – this one is supposed to be one of his best, just shy of Safety Last, so if I can get to this, I will. Planning to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: New score composed and conducted by Robert Israel

How the West Was Won (1962)

Director: John Ford, Henry Hathaway, George Marshall
Starring: Debbie Reynolds, John Wayne, Henry Fonda, James Stewart, Gregory Peck, Thelma Ritter, Lee Van Cleef, Harry Dean Stanton
Synopsis: A family saga covering several decades of Westward expansion in the nineteenth century–including the Gold Rush, the Civil War, and the building of the railroads.
My take: I’m not a huge fan of this star-studded, bloating attempt to encapsulate the entire history of the Old West in less than three hours, but I am being swayed mightily by the opportunity to see one of the only Cinerama films ever made in one of the last remaining Cinerama domes. That alone is tempting. Might see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Sponsored by ArcLight Cinemas and presented at ArcLight’s Cinerama Dome

Retour de Flamme: Rare and Restored Films in 3-D

Program of shorts includes: L’Arivée d’un Train en Gare de la Ciotat (1935 3D version, Lumière Brothers), Musical Memories (1935, Max Fleischer), Melody (1953, Disney), Motor Rhythm (1939), Falling in Love Again (2003, Munro Ferguson), Murder in 3-D (1941, Pete Smith)
Synopsis: A curated collection of 3D films and experiments from the 1930s through 1950s (and a few outliers).
My take: I don’t like 3D in general, but the opportunity to see films made with older and experimental 3D processes is kind of intriguing. And given several of these are animated, I’m not sure I can resist. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Presented by: Director, producer, and historian Serge Bromberg

The Thief of Bagdad (1924)

Director: Raoul Walsh
Starring: Douglas Fairbanks, Julane Johnston, Anna May Wong, Snitz Edwards, Charles Belcher, Sojin
Synopsis: A recalcitrant thief vies with a duplicitous Mongol ruler for the hand of a beautiful princess.
My take: Cinefamily played this last year along with their Fairbanks retrospective, and I missed both screenings. I’d love to rectify that here. Hoping to see
Festival Guide
Screening notes: Accompanied by the Mont Alto Motion Picture Orchestra

Club TCM

Also vying for time are panels, lectures, displays, and events held at the passholder-only Club TCM in the Roosevelt Hotel. I usually try to hit one of these just for variety’s sake, but which one is dictated mostly by scheduling.

Meet TCM: The People Behind the Network
Thursday, April 12 1pm-2pm

The Maltese Touch of Evil: New Perspectives on Film Noir
TCM brand manager Shannon Clute and film scholar Richard Edwards – cohosts of podcast Out of the Past: Investigating Film Noir
Thursday, April 12 3pm-4pm

The History of Oscars’ Red Carpet
Friday, April 13 12:30pm-1:30pm

The Ultimate Film Noir
Film noir expert Eddie Muller and actress Rose McGowan
Friday, April 13 2:30pm-4pm

So You Think You Know Movies
New York Film Forum’s Bruce Goldstein hosts movie trivia
Friday, April 13 5:30pm-6:30pm

The Good, The Bad, and the Beautiful
Costume designer and author Deborah Nadoolman Landis
Saturday, April 14 12:30pm-2pm

African Americans On-Screen: 1903 to the Present
Film historian Donald Bogle
Saturday, April 14 3:30pm-4:30pm

Hollywood Home Movies: Treasures from the Academy Film Archive Collection
Presented by AMPAS representatives Randy Haberkamp and Lynne Kirste, with special guests Margaret O’Brien, and members of the MacMurray, McQueen, and Koster families
Saturday, April 14 6pm-7pm

Classic Movie Memorabilia Appraisals by Bonhams
Sunday, April 15 10am-2pm

Imagemakers: The Truth Behind Hollywood’s PR Machine from the Golden Age to Now
Moderator: Pete Hammond. Panelists: Henri Bollinger, Dick Guttman, Arnold Robinson
Sunday, April 15 12:30pm-1:30pm

Designing Iconic Movie Imagery
Moderator: Randy Haberkamp. Panelists: Jim Bissell, Terence March, Jim Pascale
Sunday, April 15 2:30pm-3:30pm

The Brown Derby: A Hollywood Legend
Mark Willems
Sunday, April 15 4:30pm-5:30pm

Scorecard: February 2012

[At the end of every month I post a rundown of the movies I saw that month, tallying them according to how much I did or didn’t like them. You can always see my recent watches here and my ongoing list of bests for the whole year here.]

Well, my moviewatching seems to be getting steadily worse as the 2012 progresses (I better pick up the pace the last week of March, that’s all I’m saying). Only seven movies total in February, but on the good side, I did knock off one of my Blind Spots. So that was good, even if it did delay this post a bunch while I got around to writing a long-ass review of The Virgin Spring. Hoping to get to a couple more of those Blind Spots before the end of March. I mostly blame Skyrim for the low movie count in February (as I will blame Mass Effect 3 in March) – not only was I playing it a ton in February, so was Jonathan, and I’m still working on balancing gaming time and movie time when two people are involved. :)

What I Loved

The Virgin Spring

I’m a reluctant Bergman fan at best, often finding his austerity a bit hard to relate to, but there was no problem here. The tale of a sunny, somewhat spoiled girl being raped and killed by three woodland wanderers is certainly ugly, and Bergman doesn’t sugarcoat anything – if anything, I was aghast at how explicit the film is for 1960. Yet depravity is balanced by the foibled humanity that Bergman infuses into nearly every frame – and the framing and cinematography is never ugly, even when what it’s capturing is. In fact, I haven’t seen a film as downright beautiful as this for a long time. It’s a juxtaposition that only adds to the film’s great power, ensuring it will stick with me for a very long time. Read my Blind Spots review.

1960 Sweden. Director: Ingmar Bergman. Starring: Max von Sydow, Birgitta Pettersson, Birgitta Valberg, Gunnel Lindblom.
Seen February 23 on iPad via Hulu Plus.
Flickchart ranking: 187 out of 2879

What I Liked

Chronicle

What initially intrigued me about this film, in an era oversaturated with both superhero movies and found footage movies, was the intimation in the trailer that these guys were actually going to act like teens suddenly endowed with superpowers would really act – in other words, they wouldn’t go out and try to save the world (ala Kick-Ass, if Kick-Ass had superpowers), they’d likely spend their time playing practical jokes on people, trying to become popular at school, and maybe flying around in the stratosphere, but essentially, they’d still be self-centered teenage boys. And that’s pretty much exactly what happens, and that’s what Chronicle gets so right. When one of the boys starts to misuse his power, it’s largely believable, and turns the tables neatly on the stereotypes you’ve already formed of the boys. I even enjoyed the use of found footage, which tied in with the power of telekinesis, allows for some more unusual camera angles than the genre usually gets; plus I appreciated that when the story called for it, the filmmakers just brought in whatever cameras would’ve caught the events. Some have suggested that’s a cop-out, but I’d say it’s playing to the strengths of the genre without giving in to its weaknesses. Overall, a refreshing film to find in February, a promising debut for Josh Trank, and a reminder that with a good story and solid writing, you don’t need gazillions of dollars even to do a superhero movie. They make the budget they have count when it needs to.

2012 USA. Director: Josh Trank. Starring: Dane DeHaan, Alex Russell, Michael B. Jordan.
Seen February 6 at Fargo Century Cinema.
Flickchart ranking: 1054 out of 2879

Three Amigos

I gotta admit, I was not totally convinced at first when Jonathan said he wanted to put this on his list for me to watch. Let’s just say ’80s comedies and I don’t always mix that well. But then he told me it was about a trio of silent film stars who accidentally get caught up in a real conflict because a Mexican villager mistakes them for real cowboys. Does this guy know what I like or what? This is basically A Bug’s Life (I know, I know, this came first, whatever), with our trio of funnymen caught out of their league when a Mexican girl asks them for help against a bandit gang terrorizing her village. They think it’s a publicity thing that pays money, and get in over their heads in a heartbeat, but it somehow all turns out all right. There are a lot of great little bits (like the invisible swordsman, or Martin’s secret bird calls), but I expected a lot more gags throughout. I sort of appreciated that the film was willing to actually BE a western for a while and not feel the need to try to make you laugh every single second.

1986 USA. Director: John Landis. Starring: Steve Martin, Chevy Chase, Martin Short.
Seen February 7 on iPad.
Flickchart ranking: 1368 out of 2879

Crocodile Dundee

A fun romp through the wildernesses of the Australian Outback and of New York City. Fairly inconsequential, but cute and enjoyable. I did like some of the ways the film inverted my expectations – setting Dundee up first as a teller of tall tales who actually turns out to be supremely competent, and then leading me to expect him to be a buffoon in NYC, but having him turn out pretty well there, too. Made for less real conflict, but in a film like this, that’s okay.

1986 USA. Director: Peter Faiman. Starring: Paul Hogan, Linda Kozlowski, John Meillon.
Seen February 23 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 1811 out of 2879

What I Thought Was Okay

What Happened to Jones?

It’s probably not a great sign that I already don’t really remember what happened to Jones. Time to turn to the IMDb: “On the night before his wedding, a young man plays poker with friends. When the game is raided by the police, he escapes into a Turkish bath on ladies night, ending up disguised in drag and with difficult explanations to make.” OH YES, I remember now. This film definitely falls into the “curiosity” category of Silent Treatment offerings rather than the “really amazing film” category. Which is fine; their mission is to screen rare films that won’t be found anywhere else, and it’s not unusual for them to be mostly of academic interest. This one was fun to watch – the antics as Jones and his poker companion try to make their way out of the ladies’ spa without being caught definitely prefigure stuff like Some Like It Hot, but beyond that scene, it’s fairly unmemorable.

1926 USA. Director: William A. Seiter. Starring: Reginald Denny, Marian Nixon, Melbourne MacDowell.
Seen February 1 at Cinefamily.
Flickchart ranking: 2311 out of 2879

Rewatches – Loved

Once

Is it weird that I wanted to watch this for Valentine’s Day? I mean, (SPOILERS) it’s not exactly a happy-ending romantic movie. Still, the bittersweetness of this film’s romance touches me far more than traditional romances where everything works out. This is realistic, not only in the DIY aesthetic, but in the character interactions and dialogue. It takes a while to get going, and if you don’t like the music, you’ll be out of it from the start, but even for non-musical fans, the songs here are so integrated into the story and into these characters’ very existence that it’s unthinkable without them. I love this film to bits.

2007 Ireland. Director: John Carney. Starring: Glen Hansard, Marketa Irglova.
Seen February 17 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 67 out of 2879

Rewatches – Liked

Mystery Men

This is a favorite film of Jonathan’s, and one I remembered liking more than most people did, as well. But I couldn’t remember most of it very well, and Jon kept making references and jokes from it, so I finally had him haul out his DVD and watch it with me. This is definitely a cult gem – I don’t like it quite as much as Jon does, but its send-up of the superhero genre is well before its time, with self-made heroes like The Shoveler (“God gave me a gift. I shovel well. I shovel very well.”) and Mr. Furious and Invisible Boy (who’s only metaphorically invisible, but gets to join the crew anyway) taking on Casanova Frankenstein. The actors in here are awesome, and they’re all having a great time. With everybody doing the fake superhero thing now (Kick-Ass, Super, etc.), Mystery Men oughta be ready for a comeback.

1999 USA. Director: Kinka Usher. Starring: Ben Stiller, Janeane Garofalo, William H. Macy, Hank Azaria, Kel Mitchell, Paul Reubens, Wes Studi, Greg Kinnear, Geoffrey Rush.
Seen February 24 on DVD.
Flickchart ranking: 965 out of 2879

Blind Spots 2012: The Virgin Spring

[This post is part of a series to identify and catch up with various blind spots in my cinematic knowledge, choosing twelve films to watch in 2012. See the series intro for the rest of my picks]

A couple of years ago, I was watching The Virgin Spring at one of LA’s best repertory cinemas, the New Beverly, and left almost exactly halfway through. Now, don’t get the wrong idea. I almost never walk out of films anyway, and it was INCREDIBLY hard to leave this one, especially since it was almost exactly at the climactic scene. I had come to see the first film of the double feature they were showing (Revanche), but knew I’d have to leave the program early in order to get to Cinefamily (the OTHER great LA repertory cinema) for their Czech New Wave series, showing films rarely screened on 35mm in the US. I stayed as long as I could watching , yet despite how drawn into it I was, I somehow never got around to sitting down with the rest of the film at home. So when I put together my list of films for the Blind Spot series, I knew The Virgin Spring had to be on it, even though there are a plethora of other Bergman films I could’ve picked as well.

I should never have waited so long, and yet, it is entirely worth the wait. The film enjoys a healthy reputation (hence it feeling like a major blind spot), and I was a bit afraid that between that and my own self-hyping of it based on my experience with the first half, I’d be disappointed by the film in the end. Such was vehemently not the case. Bergman films are often something of a tough sell with me – there are a few I love unequivocally (Persona, Smiles of a Summer Night), but the ones that seem more quintessentially “Bergman” to me, rather than the anomalous light comedy or experimental film, are much more of a struggle for me. With its story of rape and revenge, I expected The Virgin Spring to be in the same vein – somber and bleak, with an edge of existential angst. What I got was something far more terrible and sublime than I expected.

Though The Virgin Spring is not a part of Bergman’s unofficial “faith” trilogy (kicked off the following year with Through a Glass Darkly), it is still very concerned with faith – a concern laid out from the very beginning as the film sets up a contrast between wild-eyed, unkempt servant girl Ingeri who is praying to Odin and the lord of the manor who, along with his wife, kneel before a crucifix. Ingeri is pregnant and unwed, and she is quickly contrasted with the lord’s daughter Karin, a sunny and virginal blonde who’s preparing to trek through the woods taking candles to the church. I don’t really get the whole purpose of this, being unfamiliar with Swedish medieval tradition, but it doesn’t really matter – it’s basically a Macguffin. When Ingeri temporarily leaves her along on the way, Karin falls in with some seemingly nice shepherds who, well, turn out to have ulterior motives.

It’s not much of a spoiler at this point to reveal that they rape Karin – that’s basically the logline of the film, and it happens only about half-way through. Still, even when you know it’s coming, it’s kind of a shock to the system, simply because Bergman is so forthright and frank about it. He doesn’t shy away from the rape, instead holding his camera unwaveringly, not letting us look away. It’s still 1960, so it’s not what I’d call physically explicit, but there’s absolutely no question about what’s happening, and the beauty and, dare I say it, tastefulness of the shot almost makes the content of the shot even more of a punch to the gut. This is actually the point where I had to leave the New Beverly screening of the film. I did rewatch the whole thing before writing this, though, and the scene was just as horrific and just as gut-wrenching as before.

There’s a lot more in store, though, and the next little section almost plays like a suspense thriller as the three shepherds (the youngest is just a boy and didn’t participate in the rape) wind up at Karin’s manor, apparently not realizing where they are. Despite being worried about Karin’s long absence, the lord and his lady offer the three food and shelter, like any magnanimous landowner should – but we know who they are and what they’ve done, so the intensity doesn’t let up for us. There’s a simply chilling scene when one of the men offers Karin’s cloak to her mother as a gift. But what the film comes down to is whether vengeance is worth it, or if forgiveness is possible – either of rapists or those who take revenge on them. Perhaps the reason The Virgin Spring isn’t part of the Faith Trilogy (aside from its more poetic, less chamber-drama style) is that it shows hope at the end, hope of forgiveness and community, while the Faith Trilogy is about crises of faith in the face of divine silence.

There is way too much in this film in terms of symbolism, character comparisons and contrasts, and religious themes to unpack in one blog post, or even after one viewing of the film. This is definitely one I’ll be coming back to again and again. There are obvious contrasts, like the ones I mentioned between Odin and Christ, or between Ingeri and Karin, or between crime and revenge, etc. But they’re not black and white, despite the dark/light distinction suggested by Ingeri and Karin’s respective hair colors. Karin is the innocent here, but she’s far from perfect – she’s kind of a spoiled brat, whining to her mother to let her sleep later and wear fancy clothes. She’s a flirt, leading on the same man (probably) who got Ingeri pregnant. She manipulates her father into letting her do whatever she wants, basically, and blames everyone else for her own faults rather than take responsibility. But through it all, her very innocence and sheltered existence in her perhaps overly-loving family is what gets her in trouble. Meanwhile, Ingeri is world-wise and wary, but superstitious – she prays to the Norse gods and stops off at a witchdoctor type guy, which also contributes to Karin’s predicament due to Ingeri’s absence.

The question of blame comes up again and again. Though it’s easy to blame the two men who actually commit the rape, and certainly they’re not exempt from the father’s wrath, seemingly everybody blames themselves for what happened. The mother blames herself for sheltering Karin too much, the father blames God for letting it happen but then takes responsibility for his own retaliatory actions, Ingeri blames herself for praying to Odin for Karin’s downfall. In fact, it’s quite the contrast to Karin’s own blithe attempts to blame everyone ELSE for everything. But Bergman ends with a cleansing spring, a mark of forgiveness and new birth coming out of this horror.

Ugly things happen in Bergman films, and this is one of the ugliest, but he is never an ugly filmmaker. As I hinted above, even the rape scene is shot with tremendously beautiful framing and cinematography, and that’s true throughout the film. Every shot is composed carefully, with every element in the frame there for a specific visual or symbolic purpose. A friend writing about this film pointed out that Max von Sydow “looks absolutely monumental, like he was hollowed out and carved from wood, a living breathing relic of medieval art,” and that’s such a perfect description that I had to steal it. Bergman is known for the sometimes slow pacing of his films, and here his willingness to simply let Sydow and others BE in the frame, their power coming simply from their imaged existence, is wonderous and utterly moving. Often I find Bergman austere, and there’s definitely that here, but this may be the first time that I understand Bergman’s essential humanity. He may be unflinching in what he shows, and he may use music and other manipulative techniques sparingly, but he cares deeply, achingly for these people. And he made me feel the same way, despite their flaws…or perhaps because of them.

Rep Cinemagoing: Modern Times

The thing that makes me happiest in the world is seeing audiences respond to classic films with joy and wonder, and that’s exactly what I saw Wednesday night when Cinefamily screened Modern Times to a nearly full audience. First off, it’s awesome that 150 people will choose a Chaplin silent film over the hoards of other entertainment options in this city, but it’s proven to me again and again that Chaplin (or Keaton) will still pack them in at Cinefamily, as they run these films every year or so to new and delighted audiences. Last time they ran Modern Times, though, I think I wasn’t able to go. This time it coincided with my volunteering night, so once I finished taking tickets, seating people, and clearing up a minor popcorn vs gravity issue, I settled in just as the credits finished to watch my favorite Chaplin film with a wonderfully receptive audience.

I’ve seen Modern Times probably five or six times, but never before with an audience, and it added an awful lot to the experience. The film itself is incredible, and falls squarely within my top twenty of all time. Chaplin’s tramp starts off as a cog in the machine (literally, at one point) of a steel factory, spending his days tightening bolts on an endless stream of conveyor-belt carried steel plates. Slowing down piles him into the workers further down the assembly line, and stopping (for lunch) puts him into spasms as his muscles try to continue the tightening motions. After being put into an automatic lunch machine to test it – with hilarious results – he ends up having a nervous breakdown, losing his job, getting arrested by accident, meeting up with an orphan waif from the docks, trying to find a job to support her and protect her from the child services authorities, etc.

Every time I watch this film, I’m amazed again at just how much goes on in it – I forget that the roller-skating scene in the department store is here, for example, or the Tramp stopping the jailbreak. Part of that is because to some degree, a lot of the gags could be interchanged with any gags in his shorts; part of it is that there are so many moments indelibly associated with Modern Times and etched forever in my brain that it’s understandable that I would miss a few. But for a good chunk of the audience, this was their first experience with any of it. There’s no doubt some of the people had seen it before – you don’t get 150 people at Cinefamily to watch a silent film and them all be first-time viewers. But others were going with their guts, laughing as they realized the gag that was being set up (like the woman walking down the street with bolt-like buttons on the bust of her dress), crying out “no way!” when the Tramp maneuvered his way through hundreds of would-be factory works to get the last job, gasping when Chaplin pulled off a particularly flashy stunt, like rollerskating blindfolded three inches from a precipitous drop.

All these story elements still work, and some of them work even better now, because we know that if someone did the roller-skating scene today, they’d be in no danger. The drop would be green-screened in, or Chaplin would be on wires that would later be digitally removed, or there would be a trained stuntman taking his place. But we know instinctively watching this scene that Chaplin really did this stunt, that he really was skating that close to the edge, and that he really could’ve fallen. There’s a wonder to that knowledge that lasts throughout the ages.

But Modern Times is far more than treacherous stunts – in fact, it depends on them far less than some of Chaplin’s earlier films, or Keaton’s films, or the virtuoso third act of Lloyd’s Safety Last. All the other gags continue to work as well, even the ones that have lost some amount of context over the years. We may not know about the labor disputes of the 1930s or the communist rallies, but it’s pretty clear what’s going on in all those parts, and Chaplin’s unwitting involvement in them is imminently understandable. Even the kids scattered throughout the audience were totally on board – one near me was jabbering nonstop about the nonsense song as his family left the theatre after the show. He was fascinated and trying to figure out what language it was in.

Speaking of the nonsense song, I’m so used to thinking of Modern Times as “the last silent movie” (at least, that last one that actually has some valid claim on the term outside of homage or imitation) that I forget how much synchronized sound it really has. Besides the song – which is the first time Chaplin was ever heard on screen – there are sound effects scattered throughout, especially in the factory sequences, and the factory boss speaks audibly through his intercom several times to tell the foreman to speed up production. Of course, Chaplin’s making a statement with this: as he clings to silence seven years longer than everyone else, he associates sound within his film with the mechanized “progress” of technology. Factory owners use sound; the Tramp and the waif and other ordinary, working-class people do not. When the Tramp does express himself audibly, he sings nonsense – words that make no sense in any language (to answer the kid’s question, it’s mostly based on French, but seems to have some Italian-sounding stuff in there, too). It’s hilarious, and a success for the Tramp’s hopeful singing waiter-wannabe, but the subtext is clear: audible language is either mechanized and oppressive, or gibberish. Neither holds a candle to what Chaplin does with silence. (Of course, with The Great Dictator four years later, he proved he could speechify with the best of them.)

Though it should be noted that like any other silent film, Modern Times is never silent, even when it is, because it has a nearly omnipresent and absolutely perfect score, written by Chaplin himself. Chaplin often wrote his own scores for his films, or at least themes meant to be provided to the theatre’s musician, going way back into the 1920s. He was actually in the vanguard of providing specific music to be used along with his films, though the practice was fairly common by the late 1920s. In fact, Modern Times uses music much more fully and expressively than most sound films did in 1936, using the love theme judiciously to build pathos at just the right places. The words to the theme are never used in the film, but it became a popular song of the time:

Smile
Tho’ your heart is aching
Smile
Even tho’ it’s breaking

When there are clouds in the sky
You’ll get by
If you
Smile through your fear and sorrow
Smile and maybe tomorrow
You’ll see the sun come shining thru for you.

Light up your face with gladness
Hide ev’ry trace of sadness
Altho’ a tear maybe ever so near
That’s the time you must keep on trying

Smile
What’s the use of crying
You’ll find that life is still worthwhile
If you’ll just smile.

These days, Chaplin is often scoffed at for his sentimentality, and it’s easy to see why modern audiences often gravitate towards the stoic Buster Keaton instead. Even I do most of the time. But here, Chaplin’s pathos is so perfectly pitched, and balanced so well with the humor and with the Metropolis-lite satire on a mechanistic society, that it works splendidly. I can’t watch Chaplin and Paulette Goddard walk off into the sunset without getting a well-earned tear in my eye. Speaking of Goddard just briefly, with all the praise of the actors in The Artist for imitating silent acting styles so well (and I think they do), it’s even more refreshing to watch Goddard, who started in movies right at the turn from silent to sound, simply inhabit her anachronistic character, darting furtive glances around with her whole being, acting with every part of her body to get that dynamic movement that sound films lost almost immediately.

Everyone in the theatre had smiles radiating from their faces as they walked out of the theatre, everyone from the people who come to Cinefamily’s silent film presentations every week to the families with children who might’ve been seeing their first silent film, to college-age students and jaded film bloggers like me. I almost didn’t stay to watch the film. After all, I thought, I’ve seen this half a dozen times. Mightn’t my time waiting until it’s time to take tickets for the next screening be better spent studying up on golden era exhibition for a post I’m planning, or working on my Blind Spot review of The Virgin Spring, or catching up on everyone’s blogs? But no. I made the right decision, because sharing a movie you love with a large group of appreciative viewers in a big-screen setting is always the right thing to do.

A few more clips to leave you with (click the link to open in a lightbox):

Working at the factory assembly line
Being mauled by the eating machine
The gorgeous finale

On Row Three: Oscars Rank ‘Em

Much of my free time over the past week has been taken up with a mondo Rank ‘Em post on Row Three, ranking all the Academy Award Best Picture winners according to my personal preferences (of the ones I’ve seen – 72 out of 84). It was definitely a fun process, but also a rather exasperating one, since it’s a really hard group of films to rank. Flickchart helped me a lot, but I didn’t quite stick to it totally, because in some cases, frankly, it’s wrong. Gotta work on that at some point. Anyway. The whole post, with all 72 Best Picture winners I’ve seen, is here on Row Three. Here’s just a sampling of films culled from throughout the list.

#72: Crash (2005)

If you know me at all, you’ll know the abiding hatred I have for Crash. In fact, a lengthy thread about this movie is even to blame for my presence at Row Three. What was initially just disappointment and dislike moved to hatred after the film gathered critical acclaim and eventually an Oscar win – in my opinion, the most egregiously misplaced Oscar win in the history of the Oscars, and not even because I was passionate about another film in the race. I’m not a particular Brokeback Mountain fan, either, as were most people who thought Crash should’ve lost. No, I just dislike this film that much. It’s well-made enough, I guess, but it’s so manipulative and heavy-handed in getting across a message that we all know, whether or not we necessarily put it into practice. Racism is still a problem, I realize this. Telling me racism is still a problem in the didactic and condescending way that this movie adopts is not effective. There, now that this one is out of the way, pretty much all the rest of the low-ranking films aren’t films I dislike, just ones that are unmemorable or unremarkable.

Did it deserve to win? No
Other nominees: Brokeback Mountain, Capote, Good Night and Good Luck, Munich
My favorite film that year: Brick

#60: The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

This film is often cited when people talk about the least deserving Academy Award winners ever, and yeah, it’s a weaker entry in the collection – especially when you note some of the films it was up against. It’s not even the best of Cecil B. DeMille’s spectacles, focusing on the trials, tribulations and love lives of a bunch of a circus troupe rather than, say, the parting of the Red Sea. Still, I can’t quite hate on this movie, because taken apart from its status as “Academy Award Best Picture Winner,” it’s a pretty fun film, with some great supporting turns from Gloria Grahame and Dorothy Lamour, an unrecognizable but moving James Stewart as the clown with a past, and a really impressive climactic train crash. Eat your heart out, Super 8. If I were judging this strictly on whether they deserved to win Best Picture, this might be lower, but just based on how much I enjoy the films, this one’s not too bad.

Did it deserve to win? No
Other nominees: High Noon, Ivanhoe, Moulin Rouge, The Quiet Man
My favorite film that year: Singin’ in the Rain

#56: The King’s Speech (2010)

This film is pretty much the epitome of Oscar bait, and it did its job perfectly – it’s impeccably-made, well-acted, looks good, ticks all the “Oscar favorite” checkboxes. But it’s so unbearably safe and predictable that it just kind of sits there like a bump on a log. I actually watched this the day of the Oscar ceremony last year, just because I knew it was going to win, and it was exactly what I expected it to be. Films like this are why the Oscars are becoming exasperating to some degree – it’s not that they’re picking terrible films. They’re picking well-done, highly calculated films that have no stakes, take no risks, and thus have no ability to surprise and overwhelm the way great films always should. And there were at least three or four other films nominated in 2010 that did just that.

Did it deserve to win? Not really
Other nominees: Black Swan, The Fighter, Inception, The Kids are All Right, 127 Hours, The Social Network, Toy Story 3, True Grit, Winter’s Bone
My favorite film that year: The Social Network

#53: Wings (1927-1928)

This picture and the most recent winner have something very major in common – they’re both silent, the only two silent films to ever win Best Picture. This may be the only year that’s true. Coming right at the cusp of the sound era, Wings may not stand as one of the greatest silent films ever made, and indeed, is largely forgotten except by Academy Award completists and Clara Bow aficionados, but in 1927 it was the pinnacle of big budget silent cinema. The love triangle is a bit hokey now, but the WWI battle scenes remain impressive, as does the touching if somewhat overwrought friendship between the two boys who go off to war.

Did it deserve to win? Maybe
Other nominees: The Racket, Seventh Heaven
My favorite film that year: Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans

#41: My Fair Lady (1964)

I sometimes give My Fair Lady a hard time because it’s an example of the overblown, over-produced musicals that studios made a TON of in the 1960s (and that I don’t tend to like as much as musicals from earlier eras), but I should lay off. Aside from the fact that they should’ve let Julie Andrews reprise her role in the Broadway play (not that Audrey Hepburn is bad or anything; just saying), this is a pretty solid film. A little overlong, perhaps, but Rex Harrison is great in his signature role as caustic language professor Henry Higgins, and the Lerner & Loewe songs are classics.

Did it deserve to win? Maybe
Other nominees: Becket, Dr. Strangelove or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb, Mary Poppins, Zorba the Greek
My favorite film that year: Band of Outsiders

#37: You Can’t Take It With You (1938)

Frank Capra’s second Best Picture win was for this film, sandwiched in between Mr. Deeds Goes to Town and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and not quite as good as either of those films, if you ask me. Still, it’s a solid family comedy, with lovers James Stewart and Jean Arthur dealing with the inevitable culture clash between his straight-laced family of businessmen and bankers and her free-spirited, nearly bohemian clan. It’s a piece of socioeconomic fluff that fit perfectly with the just-out-of-the-depression time period, but does seem a little on the corny side now, despite my resistance to devaluing Capra’s very fine work as Capracorn. Still, any chance to watch this set of actors (not only Stewart and Arthur, but also Lionel Barrymore, Edward Arnold, Spring Byington, Eddie “Rochester” Anderson, and a very young Ann Miller) do their thing is all right with me.

Did it deserve to win? Maybe
Other nominees: The Adventures of Robin Hood, Alexander’s Ragtime Band, Boys Town, The Citadel, Four Daughters, Grand Illusion, Jezebel, Pygmalion, Test Pilot
My favorite film that year: The Adventures of Robin Hood

#30: Amadeus (1984)

The film may be called “Amadeus,” but it’s really the story of Antonio Salieri, the court musician to the Hapsburgs in Vienna when the upstart Mozart sprang on the scene and took the world by storm, despite his youth and vulgarity. Salieri’s jealousy grows as Mozart’s popularity threatens his position, but he also recognizes Mozart’s brilliance – this combination of jealousy, respect, and frustration at such a gift being given to such an (apparently) undeserving youth makes Salieri’s character a fascinating one (and a role that won an Oscar for F. Murray Abraham as well). The film is highly fictionalized, but to excellent dramatic effect, and had the side bonus of resurrecting the actual Salieri’s music, which had largely been forgotten.

Did it deserve to win? Sure
Other nominees: The Killing Fields, A Passage to India, Places in the Heart, A Soldier’s Story
My favorite film that year: This is Spinal Tap

#25: Rebecca (1940)

I’ve been known to rag on this film for two reasons – one, it’s quite far down my list of favorite Hitchcock films, simply because most of his films are so incredibly amazing, and two, it changes the ending from the book in a way that I think is something of a cop out. But I’ve got to give the film its due – taken on its own and disregarding both Hitchcock’s other output (most of which hadn’t happened yet when this film was made) and the source novel, this is one solid, creepy, and well-done little Gothic drama. Joan Fontaine is suitably mousy as the unnamed narrator, unable to come to terms with the reminders of her husband’s former wife everywhere she looks, and Judith Anderson is downright menacing as the housekeeper who will never let her believe she’s as good as Rebecca was. Not quite a ghost story, but Rebecca’s absence is almost as palpable as if she were haunting the place.

Did it deserve to win? Maybe
Other nominees: All This and Heaven Too, Foreign Correspondent, The Grapes of Wrath, The Great Dictator, Kitty Foyle, The Letter, The Long Voyage Home, Our Town, The Philadelphia Story
My favorite film that year: His Girl Friday

#15: Shakespeare in Love (1998)

I’m sure to take flack for having this film so high, but I don’t care. I saw it three times in the theatres, and have watched it many more on DVD, and I love it every time. Tom Stoppard’s sly script is impeccable, and the tongue-in-cheek view of Elizabeth Theatre put a new spin on Shakespeare for me – I already liked Shakespeare in general, but I’m pretty sure my love for his work actually solidified with this film. I’m not even going to waffle and say that it probably didn’t deserve to win Best Picture, because to me, it did, Saving Private Ryan notwithstanding. That’s an unpopular opinion, but I will stand by it.

Did it deserve to win? Yes
Other nominees: Elizabeth, Life is Beautiful, Saving Private Ryan, The Thin Red Line
My favorite film that year: Shakespeare in Love

#11: The Godfather Part II (1974)

I may not like either of the Oscar-winning Godfather movies as much as I’m supposed to (I haven’t seen The Godfather III yet, and I’m not anxious to), but I do like Part II significantly more than Part I. That being said, most of what I like more about Part II are the flashbacks to Vito’s childhood and how he became a mob boss. I liked the parallels being made to the modern-day story involving Michael and his attempts to retain control while losing even more of his humanity, but I often found myself bored with Michael’s story (except the incredibly powerful scene where Diane Keaton gives him what for), so I still don’t count myself a complete fan of this film either.

Did it deserve to win? Sure
Other nominees: Chinatown, The Conversation, Lenny, The Towering Inferno
My favorite film that year: Chinatown