Saturday, February 28, 2015

The Elephant Man (1980)

IMDb plot summary: A Victorian surgeon rescues a heavily disfigured man who is mistreated while scraping a living as a side-show freak. Behind his monstrous facade, there is revealed a person of intelligence and sensitivity.
Directed by David Lynch. Starring Anthony Hopkins, John Hurt, Anne Bancruft, and John Gielgud.

Well, it's certainly the most coherent narrative I've seen David Lynch do. I'm not sure it functions well as a full movie, though. It's most powerful and interesting when seen as a series of moments that don't necessarily progress the story as much as provide snapshots. None of the characters aside from Merrick himself are particularly noteworthy -- Anthony Hopkins apparently found his doctor character a dull one to play, and for good reason. The calm reserve that made Hopkins so good in, for example, Remains of the Day feels just passive here.

The individual moments that are the most interesting rely heavily on Hurt's performance, which is excellent. He is captivating to watch on screen.

I'm not entirely sure how i feel about this yet. I do think it's good, but it's not as impressive overall as I'd hoped it would be.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Elephant Man > Last Action Hero
The Elephant Man < Argo
The Elephant Man < Crazy Heart
The Elephant Man > Black Snake Moan
The Elephant Man > Three Colors: Blue
The Elephant Man > 12 Years a Slave
The Elephant Man > Peggy Sue Got Married
The Elephant Man > Phantom of the Paradise
The Elephant Man < Kiss the Girls
The Elephant Man < Captain America: The First Avenger
The Elephant Man < Knight and Day
The Elephant Man < Dawn of the Dead (1978)
Final spot: #882 out of 2330.

Thursday, February 26, 2015

The Baby-Sitters Club (1995)

IMDb plot summary: Seven junior-high-school girls organize a daycare camp for children while at the same time experiencing classic adolescent growing pains.
Directed by Melanie Mayron. Starring Schuyler Fisk, Bre Blair, Rachael Leigh Cook, Larisa Oleynik, and Tricia Joe.

Admittedly, I watched this entirely out of nostalgia. I read all the books our library had in the series when I was in middle school, and even though I haven't picked up the books in years, I was surprised by how many of the characters and storylines I still remembered. What I had forgotten (or hadn't realized would work) was how likable and relatable these characters are. This is really a very diverse cast of characters, with lots of personalities so that every girl who read these would have something to relate to. That carries over here.

This is clearly a kids' movie -- everything is wrapped up very neatly and there are some very cheesy resolutions -- but the characters at the heart of it are still so likable that it made me go, "Oh, yeah, that's why I read the whole series." There's some excellent casting here, too, especially given that most of the characters are 13 or younger and children actors are tricky. Schuyler Fisk as Kristy particularly stands out.

It's fluffy and light and clearly meant for pre-teen girls... but it wasn't at all an unpleasant visit to my past.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Baby-Sitters Club < Last Action Hero
The Baby-Sitters Club > Short Circuit
The Baby-Sitters Club > No Country for Old Men
The Baby-Sitters Club > Ice Station Zebra
The Baby-Sitters Club < The Big Lebowski
The Baby-Sitters Club > Disturbia
The Baby-Sitters Club < Mystic River
The Baby-Sitters Club < Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby
The Baby-Sitters Club > Life of Pi
The Baby-Sitters Club > Adventures in Babysitting
The Baby-Sitters Club > L.A. Confidential
Final spot: #1265 out of 2329. I really like that it ALMOST ended up right next to Adventures in Babysitting. I guess I like all baby-sitting movies about the same.

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Whiplash (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A promising young drummer enrolls at a cut-throat music conservatory where his dreams of greatness are mentored by an instructor who will stop at nothing to realize a student's potential.
Directed by Damien Chazelle. Starring Miles Teller, J.K. Simmons, Paul Reiser, and Melissa Benoist.

At first, after walking out of the AMC Best Picture Marathon, I thought Birdman was my favorite of the group. But as a few days have gone by since I got around to reviewing them all, Birdman stayed about where it was in my estimation while Whiplash just kept rising and rising. I keep remembering the electrifying final scene, how the stakes and the story and the editing all built to this climax where a college kid's drum solo could be the most riveting thing I'd seen on the screen all night.

J.K. Simmons is incredible in this. He brings an unbelievable energy to this story, and Miles Teller's quiet nice guy performance is a great foil. The acting chemistry between the two is just perfect. Every other character fades into the background -- I have to actually think hard to remember anyone else in the movie because these two dominate the screen in very different ways.

This was one of those movies that made me cheer every time it won something on the Oscars. It's a simple story that is told just about perfectly. I wouldn't be surprised if it rose to be one of my all-time favorites. I find myself wanting to watch it again only a few days after having seen it, which is incredibly rare for me. But it's just that good.

4.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Whiplash > Last Action Hero
Whiplash > Argo
Whiplash < The Lego Movie
Whiplash > Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Whiplash > Stranger Than Fiction
Whiplash > Magnolia
Whiplash > Smashed
Whiplash > The Holiday
Whiplash < Breaking the Waves
Whiplash < Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Whiplash < Heathers
Whiplash > Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
Final spot: #299 out of 2328.

The Imitation Game (2014)

IMDb plot summary: During World War II, mathematician Alan Turing tries to crack the enigma code with help from fellow mathematicians.
Directed by Morten Tyldum. Starring Benedict Cumberbatch, Keira Knightley, Matthew Goode, and Rory Kinnear.

(Spoilers about the movie's end.)

Benedict Cumberbatch is truly excellent in this movie, portraying Turing in such a way that we truly root for him. We cheer when he gets his project off the ground, and our heart hurts for him in the final despair-filled scenes at the end of his life.

Unfortunately, he's the only really good thing about this movie. I can't quite fathom how this won Adapted Screenplay at the Oscars, because I thought the screenplay was really awful. It took what was an interesting story and wrote it at the level of a made-for-TV movie, with far too many instances of "Oh, remember that thing I said earlier in the movie? Well, here, I'll say it again, but this time it'll be POIGNANT! Oh, but don't worry, that's not the last time. You'll hear it again later, but even POIGNANTER!" It really is to Benedict's credit that he can speak and react to these lines as well as he does.

I typically dislike Keira Knightley as an actress, and while she's not *bad* here, she doesn't really add anything to the movie either. Yet she also managed to get an Oscar nod for this movie.

Clearly I'm missing most of the appeal, but I'm truly baffled that people thought this movie was award-worthy in general. Benedict's work, sure, but he was just making the most of the sloppy mess he was handed.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Imitation Game < Last Action Hero
The Imitation Game > Braveheart
The Imitation Game > Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins
The Imitation Game < Ice Station Zebra
The Imitation Game < Angus, Thongs and Full-Frontal Snogging
The Imitation Game > Marathon Man
The Imitation Game < Live-In Maid
The Imitation Game < Another Thin Man
The Imitation Game > Fun Size
The Imitation Game < Dear Frankie
The Imitation Game < The Lady from Shanghai
Final spot: #1413 out of 2327.

American Sniper (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Navy SEAL sniper Chris Kyle's pinpoint accuracy saves countless lives on the battlefield and turns him into a legend. Back home to his wife and kids after four tours of duty, however, Chris finds that it is the war he can't leave behind.
Directed by Clint Eastwood. Starring Bradley Cooper, Sienna Miller, Kyle Gallner, and Jake McDorman.

(Spoilers ahead, as the ending was what drastically changed my opinion of this movie.)

Let me say right away, I haven't read the book and know next to nothing about Kyle himself. So I can't judge it in comparison, I can only judge it as a movie in and of itself.

As a movie... it comes SO CLOSE to being great. Clint Eastwood has does two fascinating and thoughtful movies about violence (Unforgiven and Mystic River), so I was hoping for something equally thoughtful here, even though the role of a soldier is different from someone out for vigilante justice.

There are hints all throughout that Eastwood is building toward something like that. There are fascinating scenes where Kyle encounters soldiers who have doubts or concerns about the rightness and justness of what they are doing. Kyle doesn't even bother to really listen to those thoughts, instead just doubling down on his own personal philosophy and, in one instance, even saying that a fallen soldier's doubt was what killed him. The movie paints a picture of him as someone who could not afford to even entertain the thought that what he was doing was anything less than the heroic ideal, or everything would fall apart. And yet, Kyle's life is not ideal. He deals with PTSD symptoms every time he comes home, though he insists nothing's wrong. It seems clear that Kyle's dogmatism and sincere belief in the rightness of his work is doing nothing to keep him from being haunted by what he saw and did there.

But the movie fails to follow through on these fascinating leads. In the final fifteen minutes of the movie, a doctor even asks Kyle if perhaps he did or saw things in combat that he regrets. (Hinting that perhaps some of his problems are exacerbated by not allowing himself to process that at all.) Kyle insists that's not it... and this time, the movie abruptly takes him at face value. The remaining 15 minutes are spent reminding us what a hero he was, centering on his work with disabled veterans and never again mentioning this internal conflict (or conspicuous lack of one) that was hinted at all throughout the movie.

I understand the desire to present Kyle as a hero, but in the rush to do so, Eastwood cheats us of the dramatic climax he's been building toward. If he had no intention of following through on that story, either positively or negatively, why bother including any of those scenes? All the most interesting moments in the movie, the ones that tried to dig below the surface of the character, were rendered moot by this sudden aboutface. It all hinted at a completely different (and much more complex) story than the one we got.

Maybe Kyle himself didn't ever wrestle through that issue -- I don't know, I haven't read his book -- and the writers couldn't add a moment like that while still being true to his story. Maybe they felt ending with a negative "this never got resolved for him" ending would have underplayed his hero status. Either way, it's a frustratingly unsatisfying movie that spends the first 9/10 of the movie urging its audience to think critically about war and the last 1/10th demanding we pretend along with the film version of Kyle that those who believe in the rightness of war will never have to deal with the negative consequences of it.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
American Sniper < House of Flying Daggers
American Sniper > Braveheart
American Sniper > Buzz Lightyear of Star Command: The Adventure Begins
American Sniper > Ice Station Zebra
American Sniper < Casino
American Sniper < Happy-Go-Lucky
American Sniper < The Perks of Being a Wallflower
American Sniper < The Ten Commandments
American Sniper > The Double Life of Veronique
American Sniper < The Fall
Final spot: 1303 out of 2326.

Selma (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A chronicle of Martin Luther King's campaign to secure equal voting rights via an epic march from Selma to Montgomery, Alabama in 1965.
Directed by Ava DuVernay. Starring David Oyelowo, Carmen Ejogo, Tom Wilkinson, and André Holland.

I was hoping for this to be... more. It's such a great and powerful story and could make for such a great and powerful movie. The artistic depiction, however, is a little lacking. So much of this movie is dry discussion of tactics shot in uninteresting ways. I found myself sitting impatiently through these sections until we got to the big scenes. The only two scenes, in fact, that I felt really followed through on the emotional impact were the tragic church explosion in the opening segment and the second attempt at the march (with the prayer on the bridge). Everything else is presented in a surprisingly dry, documentary-like fashion. It's an important story, but it loses a lot in the telling.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Selma > Last Action Hero
Selma < Argo
Selma < Crazy Heart
Selma > Black Snake Moan
Selma > The Hangover
Selma < Ramona and Beezus
Selma > Splash
Selma < The Last Unicorn
Selma > Bee Movie
Selma > Who Framed Roger Rabbit
Selma > Choke
Final spot: #918 out of 2325.

Birdman: Or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A washed-up actor, who once played an iconic superhero, battles his ego and attempts to recover his family, his career and himself in the days leading up to the opening of his Broadway play.
Directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu. Starring Michael Keaton, Emma Stone, Edward Norton, and Zach Galifianakis.

(Mild spoilers for this and Black Swan.)

When I saw this, the people around me did NOT like this picture. The woman behind me audibly booed at the screen for about a minute after it ended and spent the next several movie breaks talking about how much she hated it. According to her, it wasn't even that it was pretentious or self-indulgent (which are understandable criticisms) -- it was just that she didn't like the fantasy/reality blend.

Well, *I* liked it a lot. It reminded me of Black Swan, a previous Best Picture nominee that also featured performers going a little mad and slowly turning into the characters they played in scenes that didn't explicitly say whether it was all real or not. Birdman's cinematography is especially fascinating and delightful, in long unbroken shots that showcase the frantic chaos of the theater and, later, the beautiful freedom of letting go. (The flight scene is one of the most gorgeous moments I've seen on screen in a long time.)

I'm not going to dissect the story or dialogue or themes much right now, as I feel like I'll need another viewing before I can really pull together coherent thoughts on it. But I will say this was a fantastic cinematic experience, and I'm delighted that it won Best Picture.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Birdman > Last Action Hero
Birdman > Argo
Birdman < The Lego Movie
Birdman > Perfume: The Story of a Murderer
Birdman < The Many Adventures of Winnie the Pooh
Birdman < Sense and Sensibility
Birdman > Edge of Tomorrow
Birdman > Grave of the Fireflies
Birdman > Easy A
Birdman > Take Shelter
Birdman > Rise of the Guardians

Final spot: #399 out of 2324.

Monday, February 23, 2015

The Theory of Everything (2014)

IMDb plot summary: The relationship between the famous physicist Stephen Hawking and his wife.
Directed by James Marsh. Starring Eddie Redmayne, Felicity Jones, David Thewlis, and Charlie Cox.

This is a charming little film with a really excellent performance from Eddie Redmayne. It's a good thing it's focused more on the relationship than the science, because when it does tackle the science, it doesn't do it particularly well. But the story of their relationship is really beautifully handled, and while it isn't a particularly groundbreaking story, it's done well.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Theory of Everything > Galaxy Quest
The Theory of Everything < Argo
The Theory of Everything > Munich
The Theory of Everything > Summer Wars
The Theory of Everything < The Ladykillers (2004)
The Theory of Everything > Evil Dead II
The Theory of Everything > M
The Theory of Everything < Anne of Green Gables
The Theory of Everything < Throne of Blood
The Theory of Everything > Marnie
The Theory of Everything > White Heat
Final spot: #667 out of 2323.

Boyhood (2014)

IMDb plot summary: The life of a young man, Mason, from age 5 to age 18.
Directed by Richard Linklater. Starring Ellar Coltrane, Patricia Arquette, Ethan Hawke, and Lorelei Linklater.

First of all, this is most definitely an incredible film achievement. Filming the same actors over 12 years was a fascinating and bold decision, and it totally works here to show the passing of time. Fortunately, though, the film doesn't entirely depend on its gimmick to hold it up, because that would be lazy. The gimmick strengthens the story instead of being the other way around.

This story is a subtle, likable exploration of growth, change, and figuring out the point of life. Each episode expands on this point a little more. It's hard to really pinpoint what exactly works about this movie except that it treats it much like we experience actual life -- there's no clearly-defined sense of "This is what this is all about," just a series of quiet moments that all add up to something bigger.

This movie definitely works for me. It didn't blow me away, but I feel like that would almost be too grandiose a response to this movie. It's quiet and gradual, and I feel like my response will be as well. This film is not done with me yet.

4 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Boyhood > Galaxy Quest
Boyhood > American Outlaws
Boyhood < Jean de Florette
Boyhood < Iron Man
Boyhood < The Sessions
Boyhood > Key Largo
Boyhood > Cats and Dogs
Boyhood > Leap of Faith
Boyhood < Waking Ned Devine
Boyhood > Bicentennial Man
Final spot: #513 out of 2322.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

The Return of the Living Dead (1985)

IMDb plot summary: When two bumbling employees at a medical supply warehouse accidentally release a deadly gas into the air, the vapors cause the dead to rise again as zombies.
Directed by Dan O'Bannon. Starring Clu Gulager, James Karen, Don Calfa, and Thom Mathews.


While this is a moderately interesting little horror movie, it doesn't really work for me as a comedy. The jokes are often so subtle, I wouldn't have guessed this was a comedy if I hadn't known that going in. It would just feel like a clumsy drama. But what really is the nail in the coffin is how really tragic the zombies are. I felt genuinely bad for them once it's revealed that they're not just mindlessly reanimated -- they're all in agonizing pain from dying and they eat brains because for some reason that relieves the pain. Toss in our main characters dealing with this as they are turned into zombies and an extremely bleak (and really not at all absurd) ending, and this thing takes a seriously dark turn. It's such a weird tone, and the laughs are so few and far between, that it's difficult for me to call it a comedy at all. So... I think it kind of fails at its mission to be funny, but I liked the movie if I ignored its claimed genre.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Return of the Living Dead > The Fortune Cookie
The Return of the Living Dead < American Outlaws
The Return of the Living Dead < Munich
The Return of the Living Dead < Shall We Dance? (2004)
The Return of the Living Dead > Chasing Amy
The Return of the Living Dead > The Wrestler
The Return of the Living Dead < Is It College Yet?
The Return of the Living Dead > The Illusionist
The Return of the Living Dead > Ran
The Return of the Living Dead > Bonnie and Clyde
The Return of the Living Dead < Wonder Boys
Final spot: #1035 out of 2321.

Near Dark (1987)

IMDb plot summary: A small-town farmer's son reluctantly joins a traveling group of vampires after he is turned by a beautiful drifter.
Directed by Kathryn Bigelow. Starring Adrian Pasdar, Jenny Wright, Lance Henriksen, and Bill Paxton.

This started off really interesting. A western vampire romance is definitely an interesting way of going about telling the story, especially before vampire romances were around every corner. However, it never really achieved what I was hoping. The plot in acts two and three feels aimless after such an interesting set up, without a clear sense of where the story is headed -- even after it was over. Not nearly as good as I thought it was going to be.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Near Dark < Galaxy Quest
Near Dark > Whisper of the Heart
Near Dark > Davy Crockett and the River Pirates
Near Dark > Neverwas
Near Dark < Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory
Near Dark < The Princess Diaries
Near Dark > The Apostle
Near Dark < Tin Man
Near Dark > Zero Dark Thirty
Near Dark < The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
Near Dark < Django Unchained
Final spot: #1281 out of 2320.

Cold Blood (2012)

IMDb plot summary: Following Craig's release from prison, ex business partner Mike, and his girlfriend Julia, throw him a welcome home freedom party at his new farmhouse, where he is reunited with his old flame Anna. As the night falls, things dramatically take a turn for the worse as underlying resentment and tension explodes. Craig and Anna are suddenly faced with a nightmare situation whereby they must make a life changing decision.
Directed by Mumtaz Yildrimlar. Starring James Tweedy, Judson Vaughan, Alina-Jane Lovell, and Lily Brown.

While sometimes working as a video captioner is cool, other times it means you have to watch a movie multiple times where someone yells, "You cut up [my girlfriend]'s body like she was a piece of meat! How do you think that makes me feel?"

This movie is quite bad. Sloppy dialogue, a derivative plot executed badly, a weird score, and awkward acting make this a pretty unpleasant experience to watch once, let alone three or four times.

This movie is not on Flickchart yet, but I'm adding it to the database and will updated this review once it's available for ranking.

1 star.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Last Five Years (2014)

IMDb plot summary: Based on the musical, a struggling actress and her novelist lover each illustrate the struggle and deconstruction of their love affair.
Directed by Richard LaGravenese. Starring Anna Kendrick and Jeremy Jordan.

Well, I have been waiting for this for quite some time, and I'm delighted to say that it met all my expectations.

Did I love everything in the movie? No. But neither would most theatrical productions of this show -- or any show. What the movie does right is deliver solidly acted and sung performances from its leads. The music is intact, with very little changed and nothing cut entirely (the show's short enough as is, cutting anything would be ridiculous).

I've written a long piece over at Flickchart about how the movie does in comparison to the original stage show and how the shift to film changes the story's structure. You can check out my full thoughts on it there, but the TL;DR version is something like "it's less focused but showcases interactions better, so I don't think it's bad, just different."

Overall, really solid. There are a few songs that got to me in a way that they never had before (specifically "The Schmuel Song," "A Part of That," and "If I Didn't Believe In You"). I'm glad this finally exists and that I finally got to see it.

5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Last Five Years > My Best Friend's Wedding
The Last Five Years > Children of Men
The Last Five Years > Another Woman
The Last Five Years > Jerry Maguire
The Last Five Years > Billy Elliot
The Last Five Years < American Beauty
The Last Five Years > Lost in Translation
The Last Five Years > Rent
The Last Five Years < 12 Angry Men
The Last Five Years > Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl
Final spot: #42 out of 2319.

Thursday, February 12, 2015

Magic in the Moonlight (2014)

IMDb plot summary: A romantic comedy about an Englishman brought in to help unmask a possible swindle. Personal and professional complications ensue.
Directed by Woody Allen. Starring Colin Firth, Emma Stone, Simon McBurney and Eileen Atkins.

This is definitely not a very *good* movie. But like most of Woody Allen's less impressive comedies, I still find it likable and charming. Anyone other than Colin Firth could not have pulled off this main character -- it would have more like the unpleasantly acerbic Whatever Works. But Firth has a warmth and a dignity about him that makes him likable even when he's playing awful characters. The guy has played Mr. Darcy twice, after all, and here he delivers a proposal that's every bit as horribly narcissistic and condescending as Darcy's famous proclamation of love.

The other actors make up an interesting cast. Eileen Atkins is excellent as the wise-and-a-little-sneaky Aunt Vanessa, and Hamish Linklater is sweet as the enamored Brice, but Emma Stone is utterly forgettable as the girl at the center of the story. Firth clearly carries the show here, and she serves as more of an afterthought.

It's awkward and abrupt, and I suspect many people will find the lead too unlikable to want him to win, but I found it pleasant enough for one viewing.

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Magic in the Moonlight < The Fortune Cookie
Magic in the Moonlight > The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
Magic in the Moonlight > The Hidden Fortress
Magic in the Moonlight > The Paperboy
Magic in the Moonlight > Wedding Crashers
Magic in the Moonlight > Wild Hogs
Magic in the Moonlight < Stepmom
Magic in the Moonlight < My Big Fat Greek Wedding
Magic in the Moonlight > A Dangerous Method
Magic in the Moonlight > So I Married an Axe Murderer
Magic in the Moonlight > The Hurt Locker
Final spot: #1187 out of 2318.

Sunday, February 8, 2015

L'Atalante (1934)

IMDb plot summary: Newly married couple Juliette and a ship captain Jean struggle through marriage as they travel on the L'atalante along with the captain's first mate Le père Jules and a cabin boy.
Directed by Jean Vigo. Starring Michel Simon, Dita Parlo, Jean Dasté, and Gilles Margaritis.


While I definitely didn't fall in love with this movie -- I found the leads a little too unlikable -- I liked what it was trying to do. It's a simple little story of a new marriage and all the trials and tribulations that came along with it. It vaguely reminded me of Sunrise, one of my 28 Days of Romance movies two years ago, in its simplicity, although I was much more taken by that story of redemption. Here everything is wrapped up a little too quickly, and though I was happy to see the lovers reunite, I still found myself uneasily thinking, "They better not get too comfortable. Their problems are far from over."

2.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
L'atalante > The Madness of King George
L'atalante < Sleeping Beauty
L'atalante < The Silver Chair
L'atalante < Runaway Jury
L'atalante > Sex Tape
L'atalante < Mrs. Doubtfire
L'atalante < Kung Fu Panda
L'atalante < Father of the Bride Part II
L'atalante < Judgment at Nuremberg
L'atalante > Chasing Amy
L'atalante < Inside Llewyn Davis

Final spot: #1083 out of 2317.

Saturday, February 7, 2015

Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)

IMDb plot summary: A French actress filming an anti-war film in Hiroshima has an affair with a married Japanese architect as they share their differing perspectives on war.
Directed by Alain Resnais. Starring Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada.

If you asked me to name my favorite French films, I'd cheerful rattle off Amelie and The City of Lost Children, Amour... and then get stuck. There's just something common to a lot of French films that doesn't sit well with me, and Hiroshima mon amour has it in spades.

While I've never been able to describe it exactly, let me try here. This film is clearly trying to do something big and meaningful. It uses powerful images and themes, plays around with time through flashbacks, hints at layers that are never revealed, gives its lead character long poetic monologues. But none of it works for me in the end because there's an emotional distance, a huge chasm of analytical coldness I can't get over. Maybe it's because of the long poetic monologues, maybe it's because of the barely-hinted-at plotline, maybe it's because of a potentially unreliable narrator, but whatever it may be, I found myself disconnected, admiring but not caring.

1.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Hiroshima mon amour < My Best Friend's Wedding
Hiroshima mon amour > The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
Hiroshima mon amour < The Hidden Fortress
Hiroshima mon amour < Camp
Hiroshima mon amour > Almost Famous
Hiroshima mon amour > About Last Night...
Hiroshima mon amour < Around the World in 80 Days (1956)
Hiroshima mon amour > Sweet and Lowdown
Hiroshima mon amour < Mud
Hiroshima mon amour > Send Me No Flowers
Final spot: #1616 out of 2316, below Mud and above Send Me No Flowers.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Gilda (1946)

IMDb plot summary: Johnny Farrell is a gambling cheat who turns straight to work for an unsettling casino owner Ballin Mundson. But things take a turn for Johnny as his alluring ex-lover appears as Mundson's wife, and Mundson's machinations begin to unravel.
Directed by Charles Vidor. Starring Rita Hayworth, Glenn Ford, George Macready, and Joseph Calleia.


There's not a lot of serious film response in this, because my main thought coming away from this movie continues to resonate around one very specific thought: If ever there was a movie about the worst of humanity that deserved a fatalistic noir ending, this is it. And yet... it doesn't have one. The leads somehow get together, and it's implied that they just might live happily ever after. This is the ending I get after an hour and 45 minutes of people being genuinely horrible to each other because of a vague reason that's never actually given to us? THIS is what I was waiting for? I clearly missed something here, because this is one of the most disappointing endings I've seen in awhile. Gilda herself is the most interesting thing about this whole movie, and I was intrigued with her desperate attempts to free herself, although that too all fell apart for me in the ending.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Gilda < My Best Friend's Wedding
Gilda < The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
Gilda > The Little Drummer Boy
Gilda > Breach
Gilda > Waiting...
Gilda > X-Men: The Last Stand
Gilda < Monkey Business
Gilda < The Music Man (2003)
Gilda > 10 Items or Less
Gilda > How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days
Gilda < The First Wives Club
Final spot: #1766 out of 2315.

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936)

IMDb plot summary: Longfellow Deeds, a simple-hearted Vermont tuba player, inherits a fortune and has to contend with opportunist city slickers.
Directed by Frank Capra. Starring Gary Cooper, Jean Arthur, George Bancroft, and Lionel Sander.

Sometimes there's just something really... refreshing about Frank Capra. After a string of darker movies, about people being awful and facing horrible things, it's really nice to just sit back and watch good people being good and being rewarded for it.

In terms of satisfying plot and end game, this isn't as good as its narrative cousin Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. Its idealism comes mostly all in a rush at the end rather than serving as a central theme like it does in Mr. Smith, making it feel a little unbalanced and the climax a little undeserved. However, it's still delightful to watch. A light, pleasant film that serves its purpose well.

3.5 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town > The Madness of King George
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town < A Clockwork Orange
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town > Kiss the Girls
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town > Jesus Christ Superstar (2000)
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town < Peeping Tom
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town < Evil Dead II
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town < The Intouchables
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town < Dave and the Giant Pickle
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town > The Mummy (1932)
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town > The Great Gatsby (1974)
Mr. Deeds Goes to Town < Seven Brides for Seven Brothers
Final spot: #715 out of 2314.

Monday, February 2, 2015

The Lady from Shanghai (1947)

IMDb plot summary: Fascinated by gorgeous Mrs. Bannister, seaman Michael O'Hara joins a bizarre yachting cruise, and ends up mired in a complex murder plot.
Directed by Orson Welles. Starring Rita Hayworth, Orson Welles, Everett Sloane, and Glenn Anders.

The things that make noir work for me center around the character interactions. I'm fascinated by characters who seem to have dozens of layers to be revealed. That's why The Lady from Shanghai falls so flat for me. The mystery is fun, and the story moves along quickly enough that it's never boring, but Welles' main character doesn't seem to have any depth at all. For someone who narrates the entire movie, you'd think there would be a single personality trait I could think of to describe him, but there isn't. Nothing. He just seems to be a stand-in for anyone else, and as a result, there's a lot lacking in the film. The mystery's worth enjoying, and the final scene really looks great, but I don't think it's a great film.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
The Lady from Shanghai < The Madness of King George
The Lady from Shanghai > The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (1947)
The Lady from Shanghai > The Hidden Fortress
The Lady from Shanghai < Talk to Her
The Lady from Shanghai < Bride & Prejudice
The Lady from Shanghai > Deja Vu
The Lady from Shanghai < Syrup
The Lady from Shanghai > The Great Escape
The Lady from Shanghai < Dear Frankie
The Lady from Shanghai > Fun Size
Final spot: #1397 out of 2313.

Sunday, February 1, 2015

Three Colors: Blue (1993)

IMDb plot summary: A woman struggles to find a way to live her life after the death of her husband and child.
Directed by Krzysztof Kieslowski. Starring Juliette Binoche, Benoît Régent, Florence Pernel, and Charlotte Véry.

I like what this film is trying to do, but it doesn't work for me all the way through. The music is really amazing, and I was very drawn into the first half of the film -- it does a great job of showing the grief and the sadness of our main character -- but I wasn't entirely convinced of the resolution. I found myself more and more disconnected from her until I lost touch with her completely. Not only was I uncertain of the facts of the film's ending, but I also was not emotionally satisfied. Like Red, I admired it and wanted to like it but it never quite gelled with me.

3 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
Blue > The Madness of King George
Blue < Children of Men
Blue < Kiss the Girls
Blue > Runaway Jury
Blue > Badlands
Blue < Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
Blue < All That Jazz
Blue < Downfall
Blue > The Hangover
Final spot: #934 out of 2312.

MASH (1970)

IMDb plot summary: The staff of a Korean War field hospital use humor and hijinks to keep their sanity in the face of the horror of war.
Directed by Robert Altman. Starring Donald Sutherland, Elliott Gould, Tom Skerritt, and Sally Kellerman.

I've seen MAYBE two episodes of the TV show, years ago, so I was coming to this fairly new. And I struggled with this movie. It's so unpleasant to watch, a dark comedy not only because of the circumstance but because it's centered around some of the most awful, unlikable characters ever. A little digging, however, indicates, this might be the point. The top-ranked IMDb review says: "Here we don't see courage or valor or heroism or honor; we see cowardice and nastiness and vice and stupidity, even from the 'good' characters. The movie subtly suggests that war makes ordinary people into silly, stupid, and vicious ones, and Hawkeye and Trapper are no more exempt from this law than Frank Burns; in fact, if anything they are more angry and mean than he is."

So... that does make sense. It doesn't make me *like* the movie any better, but it helps me understand it and admire it in a way I absolutely could not before. I'm just not sure I'd classify it a comedy at all. I'm not entirely sure how to rank it, as I found it a pretty unpleasant experience, and not in an interesting way, but I admire what it was trying to do.

2 stars.

How it entered my Flickchart:
MASH < The Madness of King George
MASH > Hangman's Curse
MASH > Top Hat
MASH < Talk to Her
MASH < Bride & Prejudice
MASH < Deja Vu
MASH < Rebecca
MASH > No Country for Old Men
MASH > The Unsinkable Molly Brown
MASH < I Remember Mama
MASH < The Invention of Lying
Final spot: #1431 out of 2311.