Film Rankings By Year 1901-1949

Here’s how it works: A film’s year is simply the year IMDB says it is. Not because IMDB is especially accurate, but just because it happens to be the easiest and most comprehensive resource there is for tracking film dates throughout the world and over the whole history of cinema. Occasionally IMDB will change a year as new information comes to light, when I notice such changes, I’ll change the list here accordingly.

The order isn’t definitive: ranking works of art is not meant to be a hierarchical activity, but rather an organizational one. It’s interesting trivially and comparatively to see what movies came out at the same time, to see the progression of film history. And lists are just plain fun to argue over. They are meant to be conversation starters, not finishers. I don’t have any particular criteria for what ranks above what, it’s just my own subjective opinion, informed by a reasonable knowledge of film and film history, one that is expanding and deepening all the time.

The rankings change over time: when I see a new movie, I add it to the list here. Sometimes I’ll see a movie again and my opinion of it will change, or my feelings about a film will evolve and so I’ll move it up or down the list.  These changes are noted as they occur in “This Week in Rankings” posts, though often a single change to a year will lead to a larger shuffling.  These lists are, and always will be, a work in progress.

This is Part One, 1901-1949.

1901:

1. The Pan-American Exposition By Night
2. Excelsior! The Prince of the Magicians
3. What Happened on Twenty-Third Street
4. The Devil and the Statue

1902:

1. A Trip to the Moon
2. Gulliver’s Travels

1903

1. The Great Train Robbery
2. The Kingdom of Fairies
3. The Infernal Cakewalk
4. Jupiter’s Thunderballs
5. The Life of an American Fireman
6. What Happened in the Tunnel

1904:

1. Metamorphosis of a Butterfly
2. The Cook in Trouble

1905:

1. The Kleptomaniac
2. The Little Train Robbery
3. The Black Imp
4. A Crazy Composer

1906:

1. The Dream of a Rarebit Fiend
2. A Trip Down Market Street Before the Fire
3. Tit for Tat
4. Films of the San Francisco Earthquake
5. Three American Beauties

1907:

1. Kiri-Kis
2. The Rivals
3. The “Teddy” Bears
4. The Eclipse
5. The Haunted Hotel
6. Lightning Sketches

1908:

1. Rescued from an Eagle’s Nest

1909:

1. A Corner in Wheat
2. Those Awful Hats
3. Le papillon fantastique

1910:

1. Ramona
2. The Acrobatic Fly
3. In the Border States

1912:

1. The Musketeers of Pig Alley
2. The Girl and Her Trust
3. For His Son
4. The Sunbeam
5. Conquest of the Pole

1913:

1. Fantômas
2. Ingeborg Holm
3. The Mothering Heart
4. The Artist’s Dreams

1914:

1. Kid Auto Races at Venice
2. Gertie the Dinosaur
3. Cabiria
4. Tillie’s Punctured Romance

1915:

1. Les Vampires
2. Regeneration
3. The Cheat
4. The Birth of a Nation
5. A Fool There Was
6. Down on the Phoney Farm
7. The Lone Game

1916:

1. Intolerance: Love’s Struggle Through the Ages
2. The Rink
3. The Pawnshop
4. The Floorwalker
5. One AM
6. 20,000 Leagues Under the Sea

1917:

1. The Immigrant
2. The Poor Little Rich Girl
3. Straight Shooting
4. The Cure
5. Coney Island
6. Bobby Bumps Starts for School

1918:

1. A Dog’s Life

1919:

1. True Heart Susie
2. The Doll
3. Broken Blossoms
4. Blind Husbands
5. Don’t Change Your Husband
6. When The Clouds Roll By
7. Sunnyside
8. A Day’s Pleasure
9. Firemen Save My Child

1920:

1. The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
2. One Week
3. The Golem: How He Came Into the World
4. Way Down East
5. Just Pals
6. The Scarecrow
7. Why Change Your Wife?
8. Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde
9. The Mark of Zorro
10. Convict 13
11. Neighbors
12. The Bomb Idea

1921:

1. The Play House
2. Orphans of the Storm
3. Leaves from Satan’s Book
4. The Four Horsemen of the Apocalypse
5. The Goat
6. The Kid
7. The Phantom Carriage
8. The ‘High Sign’
9. The Idle Class
10. Camille
11. The Boat
12. The Haunted House
13. The Sheik
14. The Haunted Castle
15. Hard Luck
16. Manhatta

1922:

1. Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror
2. Nanook of the North
3. Cops
4. Häxan
5. The Paleface
6. Douglas Fairbanks in Robin Hood
7. Day Dreams
8. Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler
9. The Blacksmith
10. Phantom
11. The Frozen North
12. The Electric House
13. My Wife’s Relations

1923:

1. Our Hospitality
2. Safety Last
3. The Three Ages
4. The Pilgrim
5. The Balloonatic
6. The Love Nest
7. Springtime

1924:

1. Sherlock, Jr.
2. Die Nibelungen
3. The Last Laugh
4. Greed
5. He Who Gets Slapped
6. The Iron Horse
7. The Thief of Bagdad
8. The Navigator
9. A Trip to Mars
10. The Sea Hawk
11. Symphonie diagonale

1925:

1. The Gold Rush
2. Battleship Potemkin
3. The Big Parade
4. Tartuffe
5. Seven Chances
6. Strike
7. The Freshman
8. The Phantom of the Opera

1926:

1. The General
2. Faust
3. What Price Glory?
4. 3 Bad Men
5. Bardelys the Magnificent
6. The Scarlet Letter
7. The Adventures of Prince Achmed
8. 45 Minutes from Hollywood
9. Scents & Nonsense
10. Thundering Fleas
11. Along Came Auntie

1927:

1. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
2. Underworld
3. Seventh Heaven
4. Metropolis
5. The Lodger: A Story of the London Fog
6. Napoleon
7. Wings
8. The King of Kings
9. Jewish Prudence
10. It
11. Love ‘Em and Weep
12. Fluttering Hearts
13. With Love and Hisses
14. Duck Soup
15. Cave of the Spider Women
16. College
17. Why Girls Love Sailors
18. London After Midnight (Reconstruction)
19. Sailors, Beware!
20. Sugar Daddies
21. Slipping Wives

1928:

1. The Docks of New York
2. Steamboat Bill, Jr.
3. The Passion of Joan of Arc
4. Lonesome
5. The Wind
6. Street Angel
7. Two Tars
8. The Crowd
9. The Last Command
10. The Circus
11. L’Argent
12. The Cameraman
13. Spione
14. October
15. Show People
16. In Old Arizona
17. Speedy
18. Champagne

1929:

1. The Man with a Movie Camera
2. Applause
3. Diary of a Lost Girl
4. Un chien andalou
5. Blackmail
6. Lucky Star
7. Hallelujah!
8. Pandora’s Box
9. Days of Youth
10. Queen Kelly
11. The Manxman
12. The Love Parade
13. The Broadway Melody
14. Spite Marriage
15. The Cocoanuts
16. Only Me

1930:

1. Morocco
2. The Dawn Patrol
3. People on Sunday
4. City Girl
5. Under the Roofs of Paris
6. The Blue Angel
7. Earth
8. All Quiet on the Western Front
9. The Big Trail
10. Animal Crackers
11. À propos de Nice
12. Monte Carlo
13. I Flunked, But. . .
14. Free and Easy
15. Not So Dumb
16. Murder!
17. Ladies of Leisure
18. Doughboys
19. Abraham Lincoln

1931:

1. City Lights
2. Tabu: A Story of the South Seas
3. Frankenstein
4. M
5. Dishonored
6. Street Scene
7. Tokyo Chorus
8. The Public Enemy
9. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
10. Safe in Hell
11. The Front Page
12. À nous la liberté
13. The Criminal Code
14. Waterloo Bridge
15. City Streets
16. Monkey Business
17. Little Caesar
18. Le Million
19. Kameradschaft
20. The Lady and the Beard
21. Night Nurse
22. Flunky, Work Hard
23. Cimarron
24. The Threepenny Opera
25. The Smiling Lieutenant
26. Dracula
27. Platinum Blonde
28. Parlor, Bedroom and Bath
29. Arrowsmith
30. Sidewalks of New York

1932:
1932 Awards

1. Trouble in Paradise
2. Vampyr
3. Shanghai Express
4. Scarface
5. One Way Passage
6. The Music Box
7. Me and My Gal
8. The Sign of the Cross
9. Where Now are the Dreams of Youth?
10. The Island of Lost Souls
11. Freaks
12. I was Born but . . .
13. The Most Dangerous Game
14. ¡Que viva México!
15. Blonde Venus
16. Red Dust
17. A Farewell to Arms
18. Boudu Saved from Drowning
19. No Blood Relation
20. I Am a Fugitive from a Chain Gang
21. Murders in the Rue Morgue
22. What Price Hollywood?
23. Love Me Tonight
24. Three on a Match
25. American Madness
26. Tarzan, the Ape Man
27. Red-Headed Woman
28. Horse Feathers
29. The Mask of Fu Manchu
30. Bird of Paradise
31. The Mummy
32. The Strange Love of Molly Louvain
33. The Old Dark House
34. Number Seventeen
35. Frisco Jenny

36. Jewel Robbery

37. One Hour with You
38. Rain

39. The Purchase Price
40. The Crowd Roars
41. Payment Deferred
42. Thirteen Women

44. Bill of Divorcement
45. White Zombie
46. Grand Hotel
47. Forbidden
48. The Passionate Plumber

1933:
1933 Awards

1. Duck Soup
2. Japanese Girls at the Harbor
3. Hallelujah, I’m a Bum
4. Design for Living
5. Golddiggers of 1933
6. King Kong
7. Wild Boys of the Road
8. Man’s Castle
9. Baby Face
10. Sons of the Desert
11. The Testament of Dr. Mabuse
12. Pilgrimage
13. 42nd Street
14. Passing Fancy
15. Zéro de conduite
16. Footlight Parade
17. Apart From You
18. Ecstasy
19. The Invisible Man
20. Lady for a Day
21. State Fair
22. Dragnet Girl
23. The Bitter Tea of General Yen
24. Every-Night Dreams
25. Mystery of the Wax Museum
26. Midnight Mary
27. The Private Life of Henry VIII
28. Queen Christina
29. Gabriel Over the White House
30. Bombshell
31. Heroes for Sale
32. Little Women
33. The Power and the Glory
34. I’m No Angel
35. Girl Missing
36. Flying Down to Rio
37. Cavalcade
38. Penthouse
39. Topaze
40. What! No Beer?
41. She Done Him Wrong

42. Havana Widows
43. Going Hollywood

44. Stingaree
45. The Vampire Bat

1934:

1. L’Atalante
2. Twentieth Century
3. Man of Aran
4. No Greater Glory
5. The Scarlet Empress
6. Little Man, What Now?

7. The Thin Man

8. Judge Priest
9. The Black Cat
10. Our Daily Bread
11. The Gay Divorcee
12. It’s a Gift
13. It Happened One Night

14. A Story of Floating Weeds

15. The Man Who Knew Too Much
16. Street Without End
17. The Merry Widow
18. The Lost Patrol
19. Lilliom
20. Heat Lightning
21. Cleopatra
22. Les misérables
23. A Lost Lady
24. Manhattan Melodrama
25. Death Takes a Holiday
26. House of Mystery
27. The Merry Wives of Reno
28. Dames

1935:

1. Ruggles of Red Gap
2. The Devil is a Woman
3. Wife! Be Like a Rose!
4. Top Hat
5. The 39 Steps
6. Carnival in Flanders
7. Steamboat ‘Round the Bend
8. Balloon Land
9. A Midsummer Night’s Dream
10. Sylvia Scarlett
11. The Good Fairy
12. The Informer
13. Barbary Coast
14. The Broadway Melody of 1936
15. Captain Blood
16. Bride of Frankenstein
17. Mutiny on the Bounty
18. Crime & Punishment
19. China Seas
20. A Night at the Opera
21. Annie Oakley
22. Mark of the Vampire
23. The Hands of Orlac (Mad Love)
24. Roberta
25. If You Could Only Cook
26. Anna Karenina
27. She
28. Gold Diggers of 1935
29. Shipmates Forever

1936:

1. Swing Time
2. Modern Times
3. Dodsworth
4. Story of a Cheat
5. Sisters of the Gion
6. Fury
7. A Day in the Country
8. The Only Son
9. Come and Get It
10. Mr. Thank You
11. Theodora Goes Wild
12. My Man Godfrey
13. The Road to Glory
14. Show Boat
15. Things to Come
16. Follow the Fleet
17. Last of the Mohicans
18. The Great Ziegfeld
19. Camille
20. The Garden of Allah
21. Sabotage
22. Libeled Lady
23. The Prisoner of Shark Island
24. Born to Dance
25. The Charge of the Light Brigade
26. After the Thin Man
27. The Plough and the Stars
28. Mr. Deeds Goes to Town
29. Mary of Scotland
30. The Petrified Forest
31. The King Steps Out
32. Romeo and Juliet

1937:

1. Make Way for Tomorrow
2. The Awful Truth
3. The Grand Illusion
4. Shall We Dance
5. Wee Willie Winkie
6. Humanity and Paper Balloons
7. History is Made at Night
8. Stella Dallas
9. Stage Door
10. Easy Living
11. You Only Live Once
12. Pepe le Moko
13. The Spanish Earth
14. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs
15. Dark Journey

16. Nothing Sacred
17. Swing High, Swing Low
18. A Damsel in Distress
19. A Star is Born

20. The Hurricane

21. A Day at the Races
22. Storm in a Teacup
23. The Broadway Melody of 1938

24. Hollywood Hotel
25. The Great Garrick
26. Dead End
27. Lost Horizon
28. Topper

29. Smart Blonde
30. The Life of Emile Zola
31. Rosalie

32. A Family Affair
33. King Solomon’s Mines

1938:

1. Bringing Up Baby
2. The Adventures of Robin Hood
3. The Lady Vanishes
4. Alexander Nevsky
5. Holiday
6. Three Comrades
7. Jezebel
8. The Shopworn Angel
9. St. Martin’s Lane
10. The Masseurs and a Woman
11. Merrily We Live
12. The Great Waltz
13. Pygmalion
14. Angels with Dirty Faces
15. Bluebeard’s Eighth Wife
16. The Shining Hour
17. You Can’t Take it with You
18. Carefree
19. Vivacious Lady
20. Blond Cheat
21. Man-Proof
22. Maid’s Night Out

1939:

1. The Rules of the Game
2. Only Angels Have Wings
3. Stagecoach
4. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington
5. Young Mr. Lincoln
6. The Story of the Last Chrysanthemums
7. Gone with the Wind
8. The Wizard of Oz
9. Gunga Din
10. Ninotchka
11. The Roaring Twenties
12. Midnight
13. Babes in Arms
14. Le jour se lève
15. Destry Rides Again
16. Love Affair
17. Drums Along the Mohawk
18. The Hunchback of Notre-Dame
19. Beau Geste
20. Goodbye Mr. Chips
21. It’s a Wonderful World
22. The Old Maid
23. The Four Feathers
24. The Women
25. The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex
26. Intermezzo: A Love Story
27. Wuthering Heights
28. Dark Victory
29. Empress Wu Zetien
30. The Hound of the Baskervilles
31. Jamaica Inn
32. Second Fiddle
33. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes
34. Man in the Iron Mask

1940:

1. The Shop Around the Corner
2. The Philadelphia Story
3. Fantasia
4. Christmas in July
5. His Girl Friday
6. Waterloo Bridge
7. Rebecca
8. The Grapes of Wrath
9. The Letter
10. They Drive By Night
11. The Long Voyage Home
12. The Mortal Storm
13. Remember the Night
14. Pinocchio
15. The Bank Dick
16. Northwest Passage
17. The Broadway Melody of 1940
18. The Thief of Baghdad
19. The Mark of Zorro
20. The Great McGinty
21. Comrade X
22. The Sea Hawk
23. Foreign Correspondent
24. The Great Dictator
25. Night Train to Munich
26. Dark Command
27. My Little Chickadee
28. My Favorite Wife
29. Virginia City
30. One Million BC
31. Santa Fe Trail

1941:

1. Citizen Kane
2. The Lady Eve
3. How Green Was My Valley
4. Hellzapoppin’
5. The Strawberry Blonde
6. The Maltese Falcon
7. The Shanghai Gesture
8. Suspicion
9. Ornamental Hairpin
10. High Sierra
11. Sullivan’s Travels
12. Never Give a Sucker an Even Break
13. Man Hunt
14. 49th Parallel
15. Ball of Fire

16. The Devil and Daniel Webster

17. The Loyal 47 Ronin
18. They Died with Their Boots On
19. Dumbo
20. That Hamilton Woman

21. HM Pulham, Esq

22. Sergeant York
23. The Little Foxes
24. The Devil and Miss Jones
25. Sundown
26. That Uncertain Feeling
27. The Gay Falcon
28. Meet John Doe
29. Dr. Jekyll & Mr. Hyde
30. Rage in Heaven
31. Two-Faced Woman
32. Tom, Dick and Harry
33. Smilin’ Through
34. Belle Starr: The Bandit Queen

1942:

1. Casablanca
2. Cat People
3. The Magnificent Ambersons
4. Bambi
5. The Palm Beach Story
6. Once Upon a Honeymoon
7. Now, Voyager
8. To Be or Not To Be
9. There Was a Father
10. This Gun for Hire
11. I Married a Witch
12. Wake Island
13. The Glass Key
14. China Girl
15. Mrs. Miniver
16. The Black Swan
17. Yankee Doodle Dandy
18. Talk of the Town
19. You Were Never Lovelier
20. For Me and My Gal
21. Son of Fury
22. Woman of the Year
23. Saboteur
24. The Major and the Minor
25. Across the Pacific
26. In this Our Life
27. Pride of the Yankees
28. Keeper of the Flame
29. The Lady is Willing

1943:

1. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp
2. Day of Wrath
3. The Gang’s All Here
4. Meshes of the Afternoon
5. The Leopard Man

6. Shadow of a Doubt
7. I Walked with a Zombie

8. Heaven Can Wait
9. The 7th Victim
10. Air Force
11. Cabin in the Sky
12. Hangmen Also Die!
13. Sanshiro Sugata
14. The More the Merrier
15. The Constant Nymph
16. The Ox-Bow Incident
17. This Land is Mine
18. Northern Pursuit
19. Dream of the Red Chamber
20. I Dood It
21. Mission to Moscow
22. Jane Eyre
23. Thousands Cheer
24. Watch on the Rhine
25. Phantom of the Opera
26. Passport to Suez

1944:

1. Meet Me in St. Louis
2. A Canterbury Tale
3. To Have and Have Not
4. Ivan the Terrible Part 1
5. Double Indemnity
6. Laura
7. Curse of the Cat People
8. Hail the Conquering Hero
9. Going My Way
10. The Woman in the Window
11. Jammin’ the Blues
12. The Miracle of Morgan’s Creek
13. Passage to Marseille
14. Ministry of Fear
15. Lifeboat
16. Phantom Lady
17. Henry V
18. The Lodger
19. Cover Girl
20. The Three Caballeros
21. Mademoiselle Fifi
22. Arsenic & Old Lace

23. Gaslight
24. Christmas Holiday
25. Cobra Woman

26. The Canterville Ghost
27. Murder, My Sweet
28. The Mask of Dimitrios
29. Bluebeard
30. One Mysterious Night

1945:

1. Children of Paradise
2. They Were Expendable
3. Rome, Open City
4. Scarlet Street
5. The Bells of St. Mary’s
6. The Men Who Tread on the Tiger’s Tail
7. I Know Where I’m Going!
8. Brief Encounter
9. The Clock
10. Detour
11. Leave Her to Heaven
12. Objective: Burma!
13. Mildred Pierce
14. A Walk in the Sun
15. The Southerner
16. The Story of GI Joe
17. Fallen Angel
18. Our Vines Have Tender Grapes
19. The Spanish Main
20. The Strange Affair of Uncle Harry
21. My Name is Julia Ross
22. The House on 92nd Street
23. The Picture of Dorian Gray
24. Yolanda and the Thief
25. The Body Snatcher
26. A Song to Remember
27. The Lost Weekend
28. Anchors Aweigh
29. The Spiral Staircase
30. Ziegfeld Follies
31. Spellbound
32. Back to Bataan
33. Caesar and Cleopatra

1946:

1. The Big Sleep
2. It’s a Wonderful Life
3. A Matter of Life and Death
4. Notorious
5. No Regrets for Our Youth
6. Paisan
7. The Best Years of Our Lives
8. My Darling Clementine
9. Gilda
10. The Killers
11. Beauty and the Beast
12. Diary of a Chambermaid
13. The Postman Always Rings Twice
14. Deception
15. The Stranger
16. The Blue Dahlia
17. Dragonwyck
18. Duel in the Sun
19. Green for Danger
20. Undercurrent
21. The Strange Love of Martha Ivers
22. A Scandal in Paris
23. Etoile sans lumière
24. Bedlam
25. The Harvey Girls
26. Tomorrow is Forever
27. Song of the South
28. A Night in Casablanca

1947:

1. Black Narcissus
2. Out of the Past
3. The Lady from Shanghai
4. Monsieur Verdoux
5. The Ghost & Mrs. Muir
6. Odd Man Out
7. T-Men
8. The Secret Beyond the Door
9. The Man I Love
10. The Spring River Flows East
11. The Woman on the Beach
12. Crossfire
13. Kiss of Death
14. Ramrod
15. Lured
16. Cheyenne
17. The Unsuspected
18. The Late George Apley
19. Born To Kill
20. Dark Passage
21. Sinbad the Sailor
22. Railroaded!
23. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
24. The Egg and I
25. Gentlemen’s Agreement

1948:

1. The Red Shoes
2. Fort Apache
3. The Pirate
4. Red River
5. Unfaithfully Yours
6. Letter from an Unknown Woman
7. Louisiana Story
8. Spring in a Small Town

9. They Live by Night
10. Force of Evil
11. The Naked City
12. Macbeth
13. Moonrise

14. Portrait of Jennie
15. Easter Parade
16. Rope
17. He Walked by Night
18. The Big Clock
19. Drunken Angel
20. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre
21. Hamlet
22. Bicycle Thieves
23. 3 Godfathers
24. Words and Music
25. Key Largo
26. Blood on the Moon
27. Berlin Express
28. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
29. A Foreign Affair
30. The Three Musketeers

1949:

1. Late Spring
2. The Third Man
3. Under Capricorn
4. She Wore a Yellow Ribbon
5. The Black Book

6. The Set-Up
7. Jour de fête

8. Thieves’ Highway
9. On the Town
10. Stray Dog
11. Kind Hearts and Coronets
12. The Small Back Room
13. I Was a Male War Bride
14. Whirlpool
15. A Letter to Three Wives
16. Caught
17. The Fountainhead
18. Battleground
19. Colorado Territory
20. Shockproof
21. Madame Bovary
22. White Heat
23. Adam’s Rib
24. The True Story of Wong Fei-hung: Whiplash Snuffs the Candle Flame
25. Holiday Affair
26. Sands of Iwo Jima
27. I Shot Jesse James
28. The Adventures of Ichabod and Mr. Toad
29. Follow Me Quietly
30. Samson and Delilah
31. Take Me Out to the Ballgame
32. All the King’s Men
33. In the Good Old Summertime

34. The Big Steal
35. A Woman’s Secret

36. The Barkleys of Broadway
37. Knock on Any Door
38. Black Magic

Movies Of The Year: 1961

Look here for up to the minute lists for 1962-2006, now featuring explanations, disclaimers, methodologies and an ever expanding number of nifty pictures.

11. 101 Dalmations – Someone recently told me this was one of the best Disney movies. I don’t believe they were sober. I guess you could say the animation is stylized, if ‘ugly’ is a style. It does have camp icon Joan Rivers for a villain, so that’s something. Rod Taylor, the large piece of wood that played the male lead in The Birds, is one of the voices. Along with Tim Conway, known to my generation as comical pseudo-dwarf Dorf but who was apparently funny once.

10. The Absent-Minded Professor – Fred McMurray, a long way away from Double Indemnity, plays a scientist who invents a very bouncy rubber-like substance. He uses it to make his car fly and help the local high school basketball team win the big game. It’s alright as live-action Disney family films from the 60s go, but that isn’t very far.

9. The Parent Trap – Speaking of, here’s another one, this time starring the great Hayley Mills in a dual-role as twin sisters who try to reunite their divorced parents, played by Brian Keith and Maureen O’Hara, Hayley Mills is at her most adorable here. She, of course, would go on to star in the first season of Saved By the Bell. The remake of this film, from a few years ago, has the distinction of having launched Lindsey Lohan’s film career.

8. West Side Story – I’m not a fan of this kind of musical in general, I like the dance musicals of Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly over the big Broadway adaptations and Rodgers and Hammerstein films. This is about as good as it gets in the genre for me, and that’s largely just because of Leonard Bernstein’s score (the song lyrics are generally pretty bad), Rita Moreno’s supporting performance and Robert Wise’s very colorful and abstract directing (certainly better than the dull Sound Of Music). Jerome Robbins’s choreography is too often unintentionally comical and Richard Beymer’s a pretty lame leading man. I generally don’t like musicals where the actors don’t do their own singing, and while Natalie Wood’s nice to look at, that ain’t her singing.

7. The Guns Of Navaronne – All-star WW2 action movie that I really need to see again since the last time I watched it was probably over a decade ago. A select group of Allied commandos (David Niven, Anthony Quinn, Gregory Peck, Richard Harris, Stanley Baker and Irene Papas) have to sneak onto an island and blow up a massive Axis gun battery. Director J. Lee Thompson also directed the original Cape Fear, Taras Bulba, Conquest Of and Battle For The Planet Of the Apes, Death Wish 4, the Richard Chamberlin/Sharon Stone remake of King Solomon’s Mines and the Lou Gosset Jr/Chuck Norris classic Firewalker.

6. King Of Kings – I reviewed it in a fairly decent amount of detail here after watching this last Easter. We used to always watch The Ten Commandments every Easter, which is kind of weird. Yeah, The Ten Commandments is a good Passover film, and Passover ends right around Easter, but wouldn’t you think Ben-Hur or King Of Kings is more appropriate for Easter night? Of course, when digital cinema has established itself and I can program my own films, every Easter we’ll show a double feature of The Last Temptation Of Christ and The Life Of Brian. Maybe we’ll play this one as the matinée. The Ten Commandments can play Friday night.

5. Judgement At Nuremburg – I said two things in the last day that this film is an exception to. First, it’s a social problem picture that I like. Might even be my favorite of the genre (and directed by master of the genre Stanley Kramer). Second, it’s got another Burt Lancaster performance that I like. He’s on trial here, along with a group of other Nazis for war crimes. The tribunals are winding down and the Allies are left prosecuting things like judges who sentence people to be sterilized (Lancaster). The film’s subject matter is, of course, unindictable (as you’d expect in this genre) and it doesn’t really tell us anything we don’t already know. But what the film does feature is a series of universally outstanding acting performances: from Spencer Tracy, Richard Widmark, Marlene Dietrich, and especially Judy Garland, Mongomery Clift and Maximillian Schell. Hell, even William Shatner’s good in this movie.

4. The Hustler – This film is much different from its late sequel, Martin Scorsese’s The Color Of Money. This film, directed by Robert Rossen, is dark and moody with another classic anti-hero performance by Paul Newman. Newman plays Fast Eddie Felson, a young pool player hoping to unseat Minnesota Fats. The two play as the film opens, Felson loses and he spirals down from there. He ends up with his thumbs broken, an alcoholic, crippled girlfriend and a Mephistophelian manager, wherefrom he begins to work his way back for another shot at Fats. It’s an atmospheric (read: slow) film highlighted by some great performances: Jackie Gleason as Minnesota Fats, Piper Laurie (the scary-evil mom from Carrie) as the girlfriend and George C. Scott as the manager. None other than Jake LaMotta himself plays a bartender in the film, very appropriately.

3. Breakfast At Tiffany’s – This film, a loose adaptation of Truman Capote’s novella is so close to being a perfect romantic comedy that it’s just tragic that the mood has to be ruined by one of the most obviously racist caricatures you’ll ever see in an extremely popular (still) mainstream film. If ever anything called for a director’s cut to excise scenes, it’s this film, wherein every instant of Mickey Rooney’s idiotically cartoonish landlord begs to be eliminated and forgotten about. Other than that truly terrible blemish, however, the film is fantastic. Audrey Hepburn stars as flighty call-girl Holly Golightly, who becomes the object of infatuation for her neighbor, a writer played by George Peppard (from The A-Team). Peppard is a bit of a slut himself, being the kept man for a rich chick played by Patricia Neal. Hepburn’s performance is brilliant, probably her at her most iconic. The score by Henry Mancini (featuring the song Moon River, which I understand was written specifically for Hepburn’s limited singing range) is terrific and Blake Edwards’s direction is solid and unobtrusive.

2. Yojimbo – Akiria Kurosawa is often accused of making samurai movies that feel more like Westerns than Japanese films (as if that’s some kind of a crime), but with this biting satire of a samurai film he adapts Dashiell Hammet’s very dark hard-boiled gangster novel Red Harvest into an apocalyptic Tokugawa-era setting. Toshiro Mifune plays a nameless ronin who wanders into a small village. The first thing he sees is a dog walking around with a severed hand in its mouth. It seems the town is torn in two by the warring gangs of the local saké merchant and brothel owner. Seeing that each gang is about equally deserving of contempt, Mifune plays the two against each other until pretty much everyone ends up dead. Tatsuya Nakadai stars as a creepy bad guy who carries a revolver. Sergio Leone ripped the film off to make his first Clint Eastwood film, A Fistful Of Dollars (#7, 1964) (and eventually had to pay Kurosawa some kind of settlement). While Leone’s film borrows the plot of Yojimbo, it wasn’t until Eastwood’s own High Plains Drifter (#8, 1973) that a western managed to capture both the humor and the truly evil world at the heart of Kurosawa’s film.

1. A Woman Is A Woman – I wrote about this terrific Jean-Luc Godard “neo-realist musical” here. The incomparable Anna Karina stars as a part-time stripper who decides she wants to have a baby. Her boyfriend (Jean-Claude Brialy) says he doesn’t want to and suggests she enlist the help of their mutual friend (Jean-Paul Belmondo), which she does, maybe. The film is full of fun Godardian allusions to other films and filmmakers (two of Truffaut’s films get a mention, along with his own Breathless and director Ernst Lubitsch and singer/actor Charles Aznavour). There’s not really any singing in the film, but the score, by the great Michel Legrand (The Jacques Demy musicals, many other Godard films), repeatedly punctuates the dialouge as if it were a musical (or a cartoon). The soundtrack appears to all be in Karina’s head, it seems to come and go on a whim and reflect everything she happens to be thinking or feeling. As an ode to the charming unpredictability of women, it’s thoroughly entertaining, with great performances, beautiful, hip and fun directing by Godard and a very clever script full of terrible puns (which, I warn you, are funnier and make more sense in French than in the subtitle translation). I’ve seen it three or four times in the last few months, and it only gets more charming. Finally got the wife to watch it last night. I don’t think she liked it though. She said it was “very French.” Chicks. . . sigh.

Some very fine Unseen movies this year, including an Alain Resnais film I’ve wanted to see for years but isn’t readily available on this continent, a Buñuel Criterion released a couple months ago, along with films by Bergman, Antonioni, Fuller, Ozu, Demy, Wilder, Huston and Brando.

Last Year At Marienbad
The Misfits
Viridiana
Through A Glass Darkly
One-Eyed Jacks
La Notte
The Commancheros
Cleo From 5 To 7
Blue Hawaii
Divorce, Italian Style
Lola
One, Two, Three
Early Autumn
Underworld USA

Movie Roundup: Criterion Catch-Up Edition

Between Netflix and TCM, I’ve seen a bunch more Criterion films recently. Waiting for further trade deadline news and with The New World on the DVD player.

Picnic At Hanging Rock – The first big international success for Australian film is this Peter Weir film about 4 girls at the turn of the century who disappear during a school field trip to a geological oddity. There’s no trace of the girls and 3 of them are never found. One does turn up, but has no memory of what happened. Many explanations have been given for what happened to the girls, but Weir wisely leaves the question unanswered, maybe. Possible solutions I’ve come across include: they were buried by a rockslide, they turned into animals, they spontaneously combusted because of Victorian sexual repression, the rocks ate them, and finally that they simply ceased being. I like that last one, since a person’s biggest fear is that they will simply cease to exist, what could be scarier than a world in which people can simply blink out of existence? A beautiful, creepy, fascinating mystery. Weir’s had an odd career since then, he directed: Gallipoli, Green Card, Dead Poets Scoiety, Witness, The Truman Show and Master And Commander.

Good Morning – Yasujiro Ozu’s remake of his silent film I Was Born But. . . which I haven’t seen. Like all Ozu films,
this is about the modern family and the way different generations interact. The story centers on two brothers who want their parents to buy the a TV set so the can watch Sumo matches. When their parents say no, the kids decide to stop speaking. The parents complain that TV is just meaningless babble, the kids have the same complaint about adults, with all their “Good mornings” and other small talk that conveys no real information. The film can be interpreted as an indictment of television, but I think Ozu’s argument is instead that TV is just a new form of the activities humans develop to better get along and relate to one another. Like the meaningless chitchat that so annoys the kids, TV both brings people together and isolates them. It’s a good first Ozu film to watch, it’s a little faster paced than his better films, plus it’s chock-full of fart jokes, which are always nice.

Tokyo Drifter – Highly stylized Japanese gangster movie by director Seijun Suzuki, whose Princess Raccoon (a fantasy musical starring Zhang ZiYi I bought last week but haven’t watched yet). The plot seems more confusing than it really is: a top hit man tries to help his boss go legit, but a rival gang won’t let them. The rivals foil the bosses plans and tries to instigate a new gang war by targeting the hit man. To protect his boss, the hit man leaves town and drifts from city to city with the bad guys on his trail. The film’s opening sequence, with blinding white overexposed black and white scenes of the hitman being beat up and refusing to fight, appears to have been an influence on parts of Kill Bill. the rest of the film is in color, often with very sparse, geometrically interesting sets and strong color contrasts. For example, the final shootout is on an all-white stage with each of the gunmen dressed in black, running around after each other. The #5 film of 1966, just ahead of Woody Allen’s What’s Up, Tiger Lilly, which is very appropriate.

The Killers – The Criterion set has three different versions of films based on this Ernest Hemingway story, but I only watched the first one, a film noir directed by Robert Siodomak (the other two, a short by Andrei Tarkovsky and a feature by Don Siegel are on the other disc). The film stars Burt Lancaster as, The Swede (think Miller’s Crossing) a former prizefighter who gets rubbed out by the eponymous hitmen. Edmund O’Brien is an insurance investigator who tries to figure out who killed The Swede and why. His investigation takes him through a series of Kane-esque flashbacks where we learn the story of he Swede’s last few years, including his association with archetypal femme fatale Kitty Collins, played very well by Ava Gardner. It works terrifically as a noir, especially in the opening scene in a diner at night, with beautiful chiaroscuro photography, terrific menacing dialogue and a real sense of tension and menace. The film features one of the two Lancaster performances I actually like (the other being Field Of Dreams, naturally), and I liked O’Brien here a lot more than I did in DOA.

Ivan The Terrible Part 1 – The first half of Sergei Eisenstein’s planned trilogy about the Tsar who unified Russia in the 16th Century. Eisenstein, you’ll recall, was one of the foremost practitioners of dialectical montage, an editing technique whereby meaning is conveyed through the juxtaposition of different, often unrelated images, thesis + antithesis = synthesis, so to speak. His classic Battleship Potemkin is the textbook example of this technique (literally). But that film was in 1925 and this one was about 20 years later. By this time, Eisenstein had largely abandoned funky editing techniques in favor of more attention to composition and the interplay of light and shadow in the frame. Ivan The Terrible has much longer takes, much less editing than Potemkin, and even Alexander Nevsky, another of his great historical epics made just before World War 2 (Nevsky looks to be a middle ground between Potemkin and Ivan, more composed than one, but with a brilliant edited battle sequence as the film’s high point). The film takes place almost entirely indoors, as Ivan is crowned Tsar but faces the distrust and hatred of the gentry that rules way too much of Russia. He’s also surrounded by foreign enemies: Tartars in the east and south, Germans, Latvians and Livonians (a combination of Estonian and Lithuanian? or a whole separate people? I don’t know) in the west and north. Plot is entirely secondary to the film though, it’s basically just Ivan trying and largely failing to convince people to follow him by staring at them really hard. The acting is highly stylized silent movie acting, with big gestures and broad facial expressions that are very alienating for a modern audience and likely would have been to Russians in the 40s as well. But still, the film is about the compositions, and that alone is enough to make it a masterpiece. It’s a non-stop barrage of fascinating, complex, creepy and even terrifying images. I’m very much looking forward to watching part 2.

The Witch Is Dead!

Carl Everett has been designated for assignment and Chris Snelling has been called up to take his roster spot.

I’ve only two things to say about this:

1. WOO! HOO!

2. What the hell took so long?

UPDATE: The Mariners have traded Shin-Soo Choo to the Indians for DH/1B Ben Broussard. This likely means that Snelling goes back down to Tacoma (bad) unless it means they’ve got a trade in the works for Richie Sexson (good) or they decide to play Ichiro! in Centerfield (good) or put Snelling in Center (bad).

All this activity is so exciting that USSMariner has crashed on a Wednesday afternoon. We’re currently getting text-editor updates only from the site (hilarious).

Movies Of The Year: 1962

On to the 1962 list, the year of Algerian and Rwandan independence, The Cuban Missile Crisis, Marilyn Monroe’s death, Paula Abdul’s birth, The Man In The High Castle by Phillip K. Dick, and Bob Dylan’s first album. As always, disclaimers, methodologies and previous years’ lists can be found at The Big List.

17. Dr. No – The first James Bond film is also one of my least favorite. They hadn’t quite got the formula down by this point, and it really shows. There’s a weird slow dullness about the film that you don’t find in any of the later Bonds. Sean Connery is great, of course, and Ursula Andress is prototypical as the first Bond girl, with the fascinating name “Honey Ryder”.

16. Days Of Wine And Roses – Blake Edwards directed this TV movie (play?) about a pair of married alcoholics, played by Jack Lemmon and Lee Remick. Both actors are terrific, and there performance is the best part of the film. It’s one of those depressing social commentary films about how alcoholism destroys people’s lives. True enough, but not especially entertaining or enlightening.

15. Hatari! – Like John Ford with Mogambo, Howard Hawks went to Africa and made a mediocre movie meant to be more entertaining than it really is. John Wayne and Red Buttons capture animals for a living in a totally desexualized safari world that’s shattered when a cute reporter (Elsa Martinelli) shows up (along with a Frenchman) and destablilizes everything. Wayne reluctantly falls for Martinelli, and Buttons suddenly realizes that their boss (Michèle Girardon) is hot and falls in love with her. The Frenchman and a German start a rivalry and some fights over one of the girls (yeah right) and the whole thing goes on while they’re all trying to capture monkeys, giraffes (scary), rhinos and take care of baby elephants (Henry Mancini did the score, and had a big hit with “baby Elephant Walk”). It’s better than Mogambo, but not as good as the African Queen or White Hunter Black Heart.

14. Ride The High Country – Early Sam Peckinpaugh film which I capsuled here. A user at imdb claims this is the best western they’ve ever seen. I suppose that’s possible, like if it’s the only western they’ve ever seen or something. It’s a fine movie though.

13. Mutiny On The Bounty – I just wrote about this and the 1935 version here. The film co-stars Richard Harris, but I didn’t recognize any English Bob or Dumbledore in the film. Age is a terrible thing. Maybe if I had been looking for him. . . .

12. To Kill A Mockingbird – The guys at Filmspotting (né Cinecast) really love this movie and I have no idea why. It’s a classic example of Mississippi Burning Syndrome, wherein the tragic and heroic struggles of minorities against racism, etc are epitomized by the experiences of lovable, non-threatening white people. Gregory Peck gives an iconic yet dull performance as Atticus Finch, the small-town lawyer who tries to defend a black man accused of raping a white girl while teaching his kids that racism is bad. I’m not a big fan of social problem pictures in general; I’d rather films not tell me things that I already know an treat it as if they’ve accomplished some tremendous social good in doing so. This should be Tom Robinson’s tragic story, instead, he’s an abstraction, a tool of social instruction from Atticus to Scout.

11. Lolita – I think if you combine this film and Adrian Lyne’s (the #65 film of 1997) you’d have a pretty decent film of Vladimir Nabokov’s ode to pedophilia. This one is Stanley Kubrick version, starring James Mason (one of the all-time great underrated actors) as Humbert Humbert, Shelly Winters as the annoying woman he marries to get close to his dream-girl and Peter Sellers as Claire Quilty, the man who knows Humbert’s secret and torments him for it. This is much funnier than Lyne’s version, but the early 60s censorship necessarily mutes the sexuality which seems to lessen the impact of the film as a whole (though Kubrick is to be admired for what he did manage to put across despite the restrictions, which, admittedly, weren’t what they used to be and this film helped degrade a little more). Lyne’s film is much more sexually explicit, but is totally lacking in humor. All things considered, this film is better than that film, but I don’t think there’s yet been a great film of Lolita, which would require more balance between perversion and satire than either film has achieved.

10. An Occurance At Owl Creek Bridge – This short film of an Ambrose Bierce story, one of my favorite things I ever had to read and or watch in high school was edited to be the last episode ever of The Twilight Zone. It was directed by Robert Enrico as part of a three-part anthology of Bierce stories. I don’t recognize any of the actors, or any of Enrico’s other films, so I have no idea if he did anything else this interesting. A Civil War soldier is about to be hanged from a bridge when the rope snaps. He plunges into the river and makes his escape, or not. The film is a fine example of the expressionist black and white cinematography to be found in the best Twilight Zone episodes. If I remember correctly, the forest scenes are reminiscent of Kurosawa’s Rashomon. Which itself would have made a fine Twilight Zone.

9. Hell Is For Heroes – Don Siegel World War 2 action film starring Steve McQueen and lots of other famous people, including an out of place Bob Newhart, which I capsuled here. An interesting comparison could be made between this and Cy Endfield’s Zulu (#4, 1964). Both involve small groups of soldiers out numbered and surrounded by an enemy they must hold back for a day. But whereas Endfield (a victim of McCarthyism) has a collective hero, the Siegel clearly positions McQueen as the savior of his squad, despite (or rather because of) his independent, idiosyncratic and even anti-social behavior. Considering Siegel went on to create the fascist classic Dirty Harry, I think it’s safe to guess that his politics were the opposite of Endfield’s.

8. Harakiri – Another recently seen film, capsuled here. Tatsuya Nakadai stars as a ronin who indicts a clan, and by extension the entire samurai system for the poverty and tragedy of his son-in-law’s life and eventually forced suicide. A beautifully shot black and white film by Masaki Kobayashi. I’m presently halfway through his ghost story anthology Kwaidan, which is even more beautiful. I don’t know that either film is as good as his Samurai Rebellion (#11, 1967) which has the same anti-samurai message as Harakiri, isn’t quite as intense, but isn’t nearly as slow either.

7. The Longest Day – Multi-director Hollywood epic telling of the Normandy Invasion featuring a massive cast of just about every star you can think of from the era: John Wayne, Richard Burton, Red Buttons, Sean Connery, Henry Fonda, Mel ferrar, Jeffrey Hunter, Curt Jürgens, Peter Lawford, Roddy McDowell, Robert Mitchum, Sal Mineo, Edmund O’Brien, George Segal, Rod Steiger, Arletty, and Robert Ryan. It starts off pretty slow, but once the invasion gets going it ranks with the best of conventional war films. Highlights include Red Buttons’s scene as a paratrooper who gets caught on a church steeple and can only watch the action below, some sweeping camera movements as the Allies attack a large building overlooking a bridge (I can’t remember the name of the town) and a much better version of the blowing up of a bunker on the Normandy beach than the one in Saving Private Ryan. In SPR, it’s pretty much Tom Hanks alone who saves the day, in this film, it’s a whole lot of soldiers working together and getting themselves killed in the hope of saving other people. Just another reason to hate Saving Private Ryan.

6. My Life To Live – Anna Karina once again stars in a Jean-Luc Godard film, giving perhaps her best performance. I have some comments about it here where I rank it my least favorite of all the Godard movie’s I’ve seen. But that doesn’t mean it’s not still great. Less a story about a prostitute, it’s a series of variations on the theme of a film about a prostitute. It’d make a great double feature with Fellini’s Nights Of Cabiria, which tells a similar picaresque story of a gold-hearted whore. You can find a lot of the differences in the two directors in the different ways in which they tell their hooker story: Godard as the intellectual trying not to be romantic, Fellini as the romantic trying not to be intellectual. There’s a real Dmitry and Ivan thing going on there, I think.

5. Jules And Jim – Speaking of opposing sides of coins, here’s Godard’s friend-turned-nemesis François Truffaut’s film about three friends in turn of the century Europe. Jules (German, played by Oskar Werner) meets Jim (French, played by Henri Serre) in Paris. They become friends and both fall in love with Catherine (Jeanne Moreau). Catherine marries Jules, time passes. After World War I, they meet again in Germany, where Catherine decides she’d rather be with Jim, or not. Basically, it’s about three people, all in love and hate with each other for 25 years or so. It’s a very fine film, strengthened by great performances from Werner and Moreau and the director’s obvious love for the characters. I haven’t seen it in years and really should again. As is, I think it’s overrated relative to Truffaut’s first two films (The 400 Blows and Shoot The Piano Player) which I love and have seen multiple times each.

4. Sanjuro – Akira Kurosawa’s sort-of sequel to his classic Yojimbo is lighter and funnier than that apocalyptic horror movie adaptation of Dashiel Hammet’s Red Harvest, and also funnier than Kihachi Okamoto’s film Kill! which uses the same source novel as Sanjuro, Shugoro Yamamoto’s novel Peaceful Days. Kurosawa’s film, like Yojimbo before it, plays as a satire of samurai films, but whereas Yojimbo’s satire was biting and nihilistic, Sanjuro’s is playful and parodic. Toshiro Mifune is back playing the nameless ronin. This time he finds himself involved with a group of neophyte samurai trying to stamp out the corrupt element of their clan and rescue an old couple and a girl. Tatsuya Nakadai and Takashi Shimura co-star, as they usually do. The final scene is hilarious, shocking and very prescient.

3. The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance – One of the most successful of the John Ford-John Wayne Westerns, and probably the one where Ford makes his theory and ideology of the West most apparent, even if nobody got it. The story is a flashback told by Jimmy Stewart’s character, an aged senator famous for having killed the eponymous notorious outlaw (Lee Marvin). Turns out maybe he didn’t kill him after all. Stewart came to town as a lawyer representing the forces of civilization and order and progress. When he proves unable to defeat the interestingly named outlaw, he requires the assistance of John Wayne, a gunfighter of questionable legality who calls Stewart “pilgrim”. Westerns, especially Ford’s Westerns, are about the creation of civilization out of chaos. This Western is perhaps the best at examining what exactly it takes to create that civilization and the ways in which we lie to ourselves (in our myths and history books, which are often the same thing) about how order is created.

2. Lawrence Of Arabia – On the opposite end of the historical spectrum is David Lean’s epic story of TE Lawrence’s adventures in the Middle East during World War I. I don’t know how historically accurate it is, but I don’t expect it really matters. Peter O’Toole’s Lawrence is simply one of the most fascinating characters in film: a slight, bookish, more or less obviously homosexual aesthete who somehow managed to unite various Arab tribes and launch a successful guerilla war against the Turkish Empire. Lawrence is in love with the desert, becomes convinced of his own genius, proves to be the bravest and strongest man in the film and ultimately accomplishes nothing more than the reapportionment of the Middle East between britain and France, the consequences of which you can see on the evening news every day. Visually the film is wall-to-wall beautiful desert landscapes filmed under remarkably difficult conditions. The uniformly great supporting cast includes Omar Sharif, Alec Guinness, Anthony Quinn and Claude Rains.

1. The Manchurian Candidate – An in an upset we’ve got perhaps the most perverse Cold War satire ever, John Frankenheimer’s story of a GI brainwashed by the Chinese to assassinate a Presidential candidate. Laurence Harvey plays the GI, Angela Lansbury his arch-conservative mother (or is she?), and James Gregory her Joseph McCarthy-esque husband. Frank Sinatra plays the film’s ostensible hero, one of the soldiers captured along with Harvey who suspects something may be wrong when he has terrible dreams about ladies at a garden party. he meets Janet leigh on a train in of the greatest scenes in all of film history:

Rosie: Maryland’s a beautiful state.
Marco: (Looking away) This is Delaware.
Rosie: I know. I was one of the original Chinese workmen who laid the track on this stretch. But nonetheless, Maryland is a beautiful state. So is Ohio, for that matter. (She lights her own cigarette.)
Marco: I guess so. Columbus is a tremendous football town. You in the railroad business?
Rosie: Not anymore. However, if you will permit me to point out, when you ask that question you really should say, ‘Are you in the railroad line?’ Where’s your home?
Marco: I’m in the Army. I’m a major. I’ve been in the Army most of my life. We move a good deal. I was born in New Hampshire.
Rosie: I went to a girls’ camp once on Lake Francis.
Marco: That’s pretty far north.
Rosie: Yeah.
Marco: What’s your name?
Rosie: Eugenie.
Marco: (He finally looks at her) Pardon?
Rosie: No kidding, I really mean it. Crazy French pronunciation and all.
Marco: (He looks away) It’s pretty.
Rosie: Well, thank you.
Marco: I guess your friends call you Jenny.
Rosie: Not yet they haven’t, for which I am deeply grateful. But you may call me Jenny.
Marco: What do your friends call you?
Rosie: Rosie.
Marco: (He looks at her) Why?
Rosie: My full name is Eugenie Rose. (He looks away) Of the two names, I’ve always favored Rosie because it smells of brown soap and beer. Eugenie is somehow more fragile.
Marco: Still, when I asked you what your name was, you said it was Eugenie.
Rosie: It’s quite possible I was feeling more or less fragile at that instant.
Marco: I could never figure out what that phrase meant: more or less. (He looks at her) You Arabic?
Rosie: No.
Marco: (He reaches to shake her hand) My name is Ben, really Bennett. Named after Arnold Bennett.
Rosie: The writer?
Marco: No, a lieutenant colonel who was my father’s commanding officer at the time.
Rosie: What’s your last name?
Marco: Marco.
Rosie: Major Marco. Are you Arabic?
Marco: No, no.
Rosie: Let me put it another way. Are you married?

A lot of good Unseen movies this year. I’ve had Le Procès de Jeanne D’Arc waiting on the tivo for many months now and have yet to get around to watching it. I want to see La Jetée quite a bit, but I really think there should be a deluxe DVD set that includes it along with 12 Monkeys. Aside from that there’s an Ozu, a Tarkovsky, a Polanski, an Antonioni, a Fellini and a Buñuel (also currently on the tivo) all needing to be seen:

What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?
Cape Fear
La Jetée
An Autumn Afternoon
Chushnigura
Merrill’s Marauders
Le Procès De Jeanne D’Arc
Carnival Of Souls
Knife In The Water
The Exterminating Angel
My Name Is Ivan
L’Eclisse
The Lonliness Of The Long Distance Runner
Long Day’s Journey Into Night
Mama Roma
Taras Bulba
Requiem For A Heavyweight
The Miracle Worker
The Birdman Of Alcatraz
Advise & Consent

Movie Roundup: Chinatown Death Cloud Peril Edition

I’m just about finished with The Chinatown Death Cloud Peril, a novel by Paul Malmont recommended by the guys who do the Out Of The Past film noir podcast (see their link on the sidebar). It’s a lot of fun, set in the late 30s world of pulp novelists and featuring wall-to-wall name-dropping (including a spot-on version of Orson Welles and his ideas about film). It’s the book you’d hoped The Amazing Adventures Of Kavalier & Clay would turn out to be but wasn’t. Great title too.
In the spirit of investigating where the real ends and the pulp begins, here’s some comments on some recently seen non-fiction films:

Billy Wilder Speaks
Woody Allen: A Life In Film – A pair of documentaries about to of the all-time great directors of comedies that aired recently on TCM and were rather underwhelming. Both directors are articulate and interesting about their work. The Wilder film, directed for German TV by Volker Schlöndorff, has some fun anecdotes about life directing films in the studio era but nothing I hadn’t heard before. There’s also the zillionth version of the Marilyn Monroe “Where’s the bourbon?” story, which was interesting the first, and only the first time.
The Allen film, written and directed by film critic Richard Schickel is only slightly better. Apparently a promotional bit for the Permanently Unseen Hollywood Ending, the film attempts a weak justification for Allen’s equally weak late career comedies. More interesting is Allen’s comments on his earlier work, mainly focusing on his 70s films. His take on Stardust Memories is interesting in his insistence that the character he plays isn’t the least bit autobiographical and that the bulk of the film is meant to be seen as a dream sequence (yeah, right on both counts). Allen claims to be misunderstood: he’s not an intellectual, he just looks like one, neither a particularly believable claim. The most interesting part is his explanation of where his talent lies: he says that just as some people are good at math, and some good at music, he’s good at telling jokes. He doesn’t know why or where it comes from, it’s just the thing he’s always been good at. Those who have seen Hollywood Ending, Small-Time Crooks, The Curse Of the Jade Scorpion, or Anything Else may disagree. The #23 film of 2002

Be Here To Love Me: A Film About Townes Van Zandt – Another documentary, this one about the country singer-songwriter that Steve Earle used to repeatedly claim on his radio show was a better writer than Bob Dylan. I don’t know about that (I have a good guess though), but Van Zandt certainly appears to have been a very good artist. The film has a lot of loving anecdotes about him, and a lot of stories about him being a crazy drunken idiot, but there’s not a whole lot about the music. The few bits here and there that we get to hear and are discussed are very interesting indeed. But for some reason iTunes has removed almost all his music (presumably some family rights issue). With only two songs from him in my collection, both of which are truly outstanding (that’d be Mr. Mudd & Mr. Gold and Pancho & Lefty), it’s too early for me to form a coherent opinion on him as an artist. And this film didn’t really help matters, what with only providing bits and pieces of songs I really need to listen to in their entirety. An artist worthy of further investigation, but this documentary doesn’t help all that much. The #29 film of 2004.

My Dad Is 100 Years Old – Isabella Rosellini wrote and stars in this short film about he father, the director Roberto Rosselini. It’s directed by Guy Maddin in what I understand is his style (it is, as of now, the only one of his films I’ve seen, though there’s a 2 feature/1 short set that’s been at the top of my Netflix queue for months). Isabella plays all of the film’s characters (except her father), who are engaged in an argument about Roberto’s importance and aesthetic as a filmmaker. Roberto himself is portrayed as a gigantic belly, and Isabella plays herself, her mother (Ingrid Bergman), Alfred Hitchcock, Federico Fellini and David O. Selznick. A loving and inventive tribute to her father that’s also an interesting and insightful debate about film theory, it’s a wonderful film and one of the better shorts I’ve ever seen. The #10 film of 2005.

Blogger ain’t letting me post pictures, so I’ll get them up in the morning. I’ve a book to finish.

Movie Roundup: It’s Freakin’ Hot Edition

Almost 30 to be capsuled films have I got here, and I’m gonna try to get as many done as I can. Fueled by a refreshing vodka martini and with Orson Welles’s Othello (green-eyed monster indeed) playing on the tivo.

Cars – I’ve only managed to see three Pixar films (this, Toy Story and The Incredibles), and only one (Toy Story) on the Big Screen, so I was taken aback at how cool the film looked in the theatre. Very high definition, great detail on the cars and such, but my favorite visuals were the backgrounds: clouds in car shapes, Monument Valley-style mesas in the shape of hood ornaments. They just exist there in the background, never being forced into view as you’d expect to find in a kids film. This is an animated film with an actual visual style, which is rare indeed in the genre of Disney animation (save Sleeping Beauty and maybe a couple others). I am a little bothered by the potential conservatism of the film’s message: that progress is bad, that the image we have of a 1950s on Route 66 is a paradise and what we should be striving to remake. On the other hand, the film can be interpreted as an Eastern call for renunciation of modern concerns with speed and wealth creation in favor of simplicity, community and personal peace and enlightenment. So, if anything, it highlights the conservative tendency in hippie politics, I guess. I walked out of the film asking myself why there weren’t any African-American cars. then it was pointed out to me that there was (Flo, the “wife” of the Hispanic tattoo-artist car). So I wonder if that says something about the film’s depiction of racial stereotypes or my own (in)ability to recognize such stereotypes when I see them.

Devil In A Blue Dress – Denzel Washington is great in this film noir set in post-WW2 Los Angeles, specifically that city’s black communities. He’s a war veteran with a mortgage and no job who gets suckered into working as a detective for rich, politically connected white people, one of whom has lost his girlfriend, a woman who likes to hang out in the, shall we say, darker areas of town. Movement back and forth between white and black, socially, geographically and racially is a recurring motiff of the film, but I’m not entirely sure the film has anything coherent to say about the subject. It works entertainingly enough as a noir, mainly due to terrific performances by the always great Washington and Don Cheadle.

Mogambo – Forgettable misfire by John Ford. The three great popular American directors of the 40s and 50s, Ford, Howard Hawks and John Huston all managed to get the money to send them off to Africa to make films, but only one of them managed to make something really interesting (Huston’s The African Queen), and even that spawned a very fine Clint Eastwood film about its making (White Hunter, Black Heart, #11, 1990). Mogambo stars Clark Gable, who I’ve never been a big fan of, outside of It Happened One Night, and this film certainly didn’t convert me. He runs safaris in Africa and has to deal with two women who love him, for some reason. There’s the slutty Ava Gardner and the prim Grace Kelly. I imagine there was a time when this plot was fresh and interesting, but I’m certain that by the time sound was introduced to film, it’s was a dull cliché.

Palm Beach Story – I had a weird experience watching this on the old tivo a few weeks ago. I’d always counted it among the Preston Sturges films I hadn’t seen, yet while watching it, I remembered everything about it. Either a case of filmic deja vu, or I’d seen it before. The thing is, I have no idea when or where or how I would have watched it. Anyway, it’s a Sturges screwball comedy about the dissolution of a marriage. Greedy Claudette Colbert runs away to get a divorce from low-wage earning dreamer Joel McRea. He follows her to Florida where them become involved with a pair of wealthy siblings, Mary Astor and Rudy Vallee. Much complex hilarity ensues.

Back To Bataan – John Wayne and Anthony Quinn fight the Japanese in the Phillipines during World War 2. Maybe I wasn’t paying close enough attention, but there wasn’t anything memorable about this film for me. The director, Edward Dmytryk has a good reputation, though I wasn’t a big fan of his previous film, Murder, My Sweet. Standard Hollywood WW2 fare, not bad, but not especially interesting either.

Cinema Paradiso – Talk about a disappointment. After hearing and reading so many raves about this film, about how every movie geek on Earth loves or will love it, imagine my surprise when I discover that it’s nothing but a sentimental coming of age story of the most generic kind. The only interesting thing about it is it’s setting (a movie theatre, naturally). But even that managed to annoy me, what with the film’s not so much implication as blatant assertion that a film projectionist’s job could quite easily be done by a 10 year old boy. Ouch. There are some nice moments here, but I don’t know that it’s worth sitting through all the schmaltz.

The Naked Spur – Anthony Mann-James Stewart Western, with Stewart as a bounty hunter who captures Robert Ryan (and his sort-of girlfriend, a surprisingly unattractive Janet Leigh) and takes him on a long trek to Kansas and his reward. Stewart plays another dark, unheroic character, as he did a lot of in the 50s, and the battle of wills between him and Ryan is tense and entertaining. Mann once again plays with conventions by making the Ryan character the far more attractive character: he’s funny, and charismatic, Stewart is dull, mean and not all that bright. Ralph meeker and Millard Mitchell give fine supporting performances, but Ryan’s the real find. For an actor I couldn’t tell you a thing about a year ago, he sure has had a lot of great performances in a lot of great films: Flying Leathernecks, The Set-Up, King Of Kings, The Longest Day, etc.

The Private Life Of Sherlock Holmes – The sad diminution of age afflicted the great Billy Wilder as well in this mediocre, not especially funny Holmes film that plays with the possibility that Holmes may have been gay for no apparent reason other than that the idea of a famous character being gay is a bit amusing. That whole theme though is dropped after the first 20 minutes or so as Holmes and Watson get tangled up in a rather uninteresting mystery involving german spies and the Loch Ness Monster, during which Holmes carries on a quite heterosexual relationship with their client, played by Geneviève Page.

Mutiny On The Bounty – In the last couple weeks I’ve watched both the 1935 and 1962 versions of this story, to go along with The Bounty, the 1984 film (#14 that year) starring Anthony Hopkins and Mel Gibson that I’ve seen a couple of times. The ’35 version (directed by Frank Lloyd, the number two directing Frank of the 30s, after Capra) features Clark gable as mutineer Fletcher Christian and Charles Laughton as Captain Bligh. Laughton, who I think may simultaneously be the greatest and ugliest actor in film history, plays Bligh as a sadist, he takes a physical pleasure in the beatings he inflicts on his crew. he’s a perverse authoritarian, and contrasted with Gable’s Christian, he’s an unmistakable synonym for the sadistic authoritarians in vogue in the mid-30s (Hitler, Mussolini, Stalin and Franco). Gable, in contrast to this, is essentially George Washington and Thomas Jefferson and Winston Churchill (I know it’s an anachronism) rolled into one. His mutiny is not an act of self-interest, greed, lust or cowardice, but an assertion of the rights of man and the necessity for democracy. The society he eventually creates on Pitcairn Island is America in miniature.
The ’62 film (directed by Lewis Milestone (All Quiet On The Western Front, Ocean’s Eleven) after Carol Reed was fired), on the other hand, has Marlon Brando playing Christian as a wealthy fop of questionable heterosexuality (at least until he hooks up with a hot Tahitian chick). Brando, being the brilliant actor he is, is hilarious in his sarcastic sneer and the titled nonchalance with which he goes about his first mate duties on-board ship. It’s only when Trevor Howard’s Bligh actually kicks him that Brando fights back. That Bligh’s somewhere in-between Laugton’s sick freak and Hopkins’s neurotic coward. He’s a bureaucrat more than anything else. I like Howard, he’s great in films like The Third Man and Brief Encounter, but these three films feature perhaps my three all-time favorite actors (Laughton, Brando and Hopkins) and he really can’t compete in that class. Regardless, this film sees Christian not as a hero but as a rich man who ultimately acts only in his own self-interest (he only decides to mutiny after he’s struck Bligh in a moment of blind rage/self-defense and his own fate is already sealed (the penalty for striking a superior officer being death). In an odd coda to the film, on Pitcairn, Brando’s Christian decides they need to sail the ship back to England so they can all take their punishment honorably. His crew then sets fire to the ship, and Brando is fatally burned in the blaze. Either the film’s trying to assert that Christian really was an honorable man, or it’s making his selfishness absolutely clear.
Anyway, neither film is as good as The Bounty (directed by Roger Donaldson (No Way Out, Cocktail, Dante’s Peak, White Sands, Cadillac Man, Thirteen Days, The Getaway and The World’s Fastest Indian, but with a screenplay by the great Robert Bolt (Lawrence Of Arabia, A Man For All Seasons, Dr. Zhivago and The Mission)) the the ’35 is probably better, if only because in all the 3 1/2 hours of the 1962 version they still managed to gloss over the one truly remarkable fact about the whole incident: that Bligh managed to sail a little longboat across thousands of miles of ocean with very little food and nothing more than a tiny sail and a decent compass. A fact Patrick O’Brian has much praise for in Desolation Island, in which Captain Jack Aubrey and Dr. Stephen Maturin are sent to Australia to rescue Bligh, who’s managed to have an entire prison colony mutiny against him. I’d take Master And Commander over the whole lot of them. Maybe even Pirates Of the Caribbean 2, for that matter. Must have a weakness for Captain Jacks, or something.