Sunday, September 30, 2007

Recent Screenings - A Year in Cinema

I don't think you should feel about a film.
You should feel about a woman, not a movie.
You can't kiss a movie.

Jean-Luc Godard

Interesting how our perceptions of films can change over time. Sometimes a film I didn't like on first viewing seems much stronger the second time around. On other occasions, the second viewing makes me wonder why I liked the thing so much in the first place. The jokes don't seem as funny, or the plot drags, or the brilliant observations now seem pretentious.

And then there are the films I don't seen again that somehow resonate strongly in my memory. These works leave an almost physical warmth in the stomach or chest. I see a reference to them somewhere and think, "Oh, what a great film," even though I haven't seen the damn thing in 20 years.

And, of course, there are many movies that vanish completely from my mind. Most of the time, these are mediocre efforts, and it's just as well. But there are also good films that somehow just get forgotten. I recently watched Foreign Correspondent, by Hitchcock, because I didn't think I'd ever seen it. Lo and behold, five minutes into the story, I realized I had seen it before, and not even that long ago. (One advantage of getting older and more forgetful, I suppose, is that you get to enjoy films you've already watched.) It was a fine film. But for me, I guess, it wasn't one of Hitchcock's most "memorable" works.

After realizing I had completed my first year of blogging, I decided to look back through the films I had reviewed over the last 12 months. What had my year of cinema been like? Were there any trends I could discern? Had there been pleasant new discoveries of directors or actors? Which films stood out over time? I can't think of a better recommendation for a film than the fact that I want to see it again.

The first thing that surprised me was how many films I wrote about: 76 in total. I did 56 of these reviews for Recent Screenings, and 20 for other posts. I was also surprised at some of the films I really enjoyed in the last year that I didn't write about. Why do I spend time and energy discussing movies I dislike (40-Year Old Virgin) while ignoring ones I thoroughly enjoyed (Death Takes a Holiday)? In part, I think it's easier to write about films that one hates. Maybe that's why so many reviews in the media are negative. At times, I feel a bit overwhelmed trying to take on a truly great film. I don't know where to start. Sunset Blvd. took an incredible effort on my part, even though I love the film and love talking about it. But give me a real dog of a movie, and I can't wait to spew my invectives against the offenders. Not sure that's a great personality trait.

In any case, here's a review of a year of reviews. . . .

I looked over the 56 films I wrote about in Recent Screenings, and, after the passage of time, here are the ten that most resonate with me for one reason or another. With links to my original posts:

Bas-fonds, Les [The Lower Depths] (1936) - Everyone needs to see a film starring Jean Gabin. This isn't Grande Illusion or Pepe Le Moko, but it was directed by Jean Renoir and has a great atmosphere.

Through a Glass Darkly (1961) - Bergman and Sven Nykvist, the cinematographer, create a beautiful and haunting film.

I Married a Witch (1942) – Fredric March and Veronica Lake. Funny how films that you know aren't the greatest ever made linger so pleasantly in your memory.

Le Mépris [Contempt] (1963) - Godard directs Bardot in his one big Hollywood-ish production. With Michel Piccoli and Jack Palance.

De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté [The Beat That My Heart Skipped] (2005) - One of my discoveries during the year was French director Jacques Audiard.

Quai des Orfèvres (1947) – Henri-George Clouzot. I see this DVD at the local public library all the time, and every time I want to check it out again. Damn it, I'm going to. This week!

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - William Wyler directs Fredric March, Myrna Loy, Dana Andrews and Teresa Wright. Just one of the best films ever made.

The Croupier (1998) – Clive Owen. A failed writer, gambling, a big heist. Not sure why this one lingers more than others I saw last year, but it does.

Children of Men (2006) - More Clive Owen (scary.) I still think this was the best film of 2006.

Sunset Blvd. (1950) - Just posted on this. One of the other best films ever made.

I saw two films again, because La Reina was watching them to use in her English as a Second Language-American Culture Through Film class. I liked Little Miss Sunshine more the second time, but there's still something about it that I find annoying. The ensemble acting is great, however. Inside Man held up surprisingly well. In fact, I think I liked it even more the second time, because I could see Spike Lee's craftsmanship more clearly.

I've seen a lot of films that I never reviewed. For some reason, I never wrote about Galaxy Quest, even though I wound up watching it three times during the last year, because I liked it so much. That will change soon, as I saw it again on my trip to Texas and will include it my next Recent Screenings.

I've been watching a lot of French films and older American films. I guess that's not really a surprise. I haven't been watching many Asian films. No Kurosawa in the last year? That's hard to believe.

Fredric March and Clive Owen showed up a lot. La Reina may have something to do with the latter.

I'm not sure at this point I would list The Illusionist as HIGHLY RECOMMENDED. That may have been the excitement of a first viewing. I need to see it again.

In fact, it's somewhat ridiculous for me to offer up "reviews" of films, when I've only seen some of them once. What can you really tell about a film after one viewing, beyond an overall like or dislike? What if I was in a bad mood when I saw something? What if I had a headache and the neighbors were blasting music, and I had wanted to see a comedy instead of a drama? What about films that I see after they've been hyped so much? I would like to see more films a second time before writing about them. But that probably won't happen.

I am, however, going to try and re-watch a few of the films from last year. Mostly ones that I enjoyed, to see how well they hold up. But I'd also like to view Pan's Labyrinth a second time. I was pretty hard on it, but others I respect have said it was great. My curiosity is piqued.

Here's the full list of Recent Screenings films from the past year:

September 1, 2006
Bas-fonds, Les [The Lower Depths] (1936) – RECOMMENDED
Through a glass darkly (1961) - RECOMMENDED
Jane Eyre (1944)
Stalker (1979)
Enigma (2001)
The 40 year old virgin (2005)

September 20, 2006
Winter Light (1962) – RECOMMENDED (But Not for Everyone)
I Married a Witch (1942) – RECOMMENDED
Syriana (2005) – RECOMMENDED
The Farmer's Daughter (1947) – RECOMMENDED
Portrait of Jennie (1948)
Gaslight (1944) – RECOMMENDED
The White Countess (2005)

October 19, 2006
The Illusionist (2006) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Le Mépris (Contempt) (1963) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
'I Know Where I'm Going!' (1945) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Before Sunset (2004) – RECOMMENDED
Pal Joey (1957) – RECOMMENDED
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang (1968) – RECOMMENDED

February 4, 2007
Laberinto del Fauno, El [Pan's Labyrinth] (2006)
De battre mon coeur s'est arrêté [The Beat That My Heart Skipped] (2005) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Quai des Orfèvres (1947) – RECOMMENDED
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
Thank You for Smoking (2005)
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)

The Best Years of Our Lives (1946). Hoagy Carmichael watches as Harold Russell plays the piano with hooks in place of the hands he lost during World War II. Fredric March, playing another veteran just home, looks on. The film won seven Academy Awards, including Best Picture and two acting awards for Harold Russell.

February 25, 2007
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Sur mes lèvres [Read My Lips] (2001) – RECOMMENDED
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (2003) – RECOMMENDED
Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) - RECOMMENDED - but only if you've seen Laura first!
Angel (1937)
V for Vendetta (2005)

March 11, 2007
The Croupier (1998) – RECOMMENDED
The Conversation (1974) – RECOMMENDED

April 14, 2007
The Prestige (2006)
Intrus, L' [The Intruder] (2004)
The Reckoning (2003)
Blow Dry (2001)
Calendar Girls (2003)
The Contender (2001)

June 16, 2007
Children of Men (2006) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Babel (2006) – RECOMMENDED
The Departed (2006) - RECOMMENDED, unless you're un-American and don't like seeing people get SHOT IN THE FACE.
The Queen (2006) – RECOMMENDED
The Good Shepherd (2006) – RECOMMENDED
The Good German (2006) – FAILED EXPERIMENT
Casino Royale (2006) – RECOMMENDED
Inside Man (2006) – RECOMMENDED
Pirates of the Carribean: Dead Man's Chest (2006) - END OF CIVILIZATION

August 18, 2007
Sunset Blvd. (1950) - HIGHLY RECOMMENDED

September 18, 2007

The Science of Sleep (2006) – RECOMMENDED
Blood Diamond (2006) – RECOMMENDED
Hot Fuzz (2007)
Alvarez Kelly (1966)
One Touch of Venus (1948)
Lemming (2005)

And here are the other 20 films:

Barbara Stanwyck as Sugarpuss O'Shea, with Gary Cooper as Professor Bertram Potts, and the other scholars putting together an encyclopedia, in the Billy Wilder-scripted, Howard Hawks-directed Ball of Fire (1941).

Barbara Stanwyck Films
The Lady Eve (1941) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Double Indemnity (1944) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Ball of Fire (1941) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Meet John Doe (1941) – RECOMMENDED
The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) – RECOMMENDED
To Please a Lady (1950) – RECOMMENDED
Executive Suite (1954) – RECOMMENDED

5 + 5 Movie Meme
Ran [Chaos] (1985) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
To Have and Have Not (1944) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
La dolce vita (1960) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Swing Time (1936) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975) – HIGHLY RECOMMENDED
Et Dieu... créa la femme [And God. . . Created Woman] (1956) – RECOMMENDED
French Kiss (1995) – RECOMMENDED
Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azakaban (2004) – RECOMMENDED
Quick Change (1990) – RECOMMENDED

Christmas Meme (Movies)
The Bishop's Wife – RECOMMENDED
Christmas in Connecticut – RECOMMENDED


Liam said...

You know, the ability to look back on a years' film viewing is a great advantage to blogging.

Galaxy Quest rocks.

Will get back to you today with the tux info.

cowboyangel said...

Yeah, but I wish I had a complete record of the films I watched. not sure how to accomplish that on the blog yet. I simply can't write about everything I see. But maybe at the bottom of my reviews, I'll start listing the other films I've seen.

Galaxy Quest does rock. Thank you for that one. We watched that on your recommendation.

Which almost makes up for 40-Year Old Virgin!

crystal said...

Galaxy Quest ... Gilligan's Island, those poor people :-)

crystal said...

Hey Will, I deleted my post about politics/religion and Tom Reese. What you said but deleted made me think twice about it and I realized I didn't really know exactly what it was I wanted to say in the post after all. Thanks for your comments, though - I appreciated them.

cowboyangel said...


I thought your post was fine! I think my comments showed that I didn't know exactly what I wanted to say.

Except the part about Hillary - I think she has been open about her religion, so I don't know why people would say otherwise.

But it was a good topic to post on.

cowboyangel said...

Gilligan's Island . . . There were a lot of great lines in the film.

"Did you guys ver WATCH the show?"

Jeff said...

Great show, but I liked Bob Denver better as the beatnik Maynard G. Krebs in 'Dobie Gillis'.

As for Gilligan's Island I call my boys "little buddy" all the time. think I picked it up from the Skipper.

Mary Ann over Ginger, most definitely. I think most guys agree.