Saturday, November 8, 2008


So I’ve just finished it, ‘Klute’, that is. Directed in 1971 by one Alan J. Pakula, and what an outstanding film. My notes on the film, as a look over them now, don’t even comprise one page as I was completely enthralled the whole time. This is a film that when you’re watching it you think to yourself there is no possible way that this can be duplicated. As this film oozes with eroticism and suspense and just emotes far too unique a feeling to ever expect to hear from it again. It’s rather quite brilliant and just spectacularly put together, visually stunning, utterly suspenseful in the most withholding manner, and I wont even get started on Donald Sutherland.

Despite all this, what I did manage to jot down though, besides the obvious acting commendation was how impeccable the cinematography and music was. And my commentary will focus solely on those two attributes because they're impeccable. Either way to no word of a lie in my notes and quote directly I wrote: “some of the cinematography reminds me of The Parallax View.” I wrote about The Parallax View, a film about a reporter who gets in way over his head while investigating a senator’s assassination, for a film course I took a few years ago that focused on American Cinema from 1970s onwards. Now to my joyous surprise I found out that Pakula does not only direct both these films but also shares the same cinematographer, Gordon Willis, and original music by Michael Small.

The music is the most eerie thing ever in this film. Despite watching the film in mid daylight I was surprisingly really spooked by the it and the music was key in providing that atmosphere. I am going to try and find a snippet of it to express just how well done it is…. It’s the opening credits; sorry I couldn’t help myself they’re just great. The sound recording isn’t too good, but you’ll get the point of what I mean once you’ve heard it. Begin clip at 3:37:

Hopefully you felt it to, cause I get the creeps just thinking about.

On to cinematography, which is stunning in this film. If you can’t already see by the pictures posted. I am going to post one of my personal favorite scenes from the film. The sound is better on this one but the picture is something else. Listen out for the music also in this scene; cause it just shows how versatile Small is and how fitting the music is for this scene in comparison to the eerier sounds in the rest of the film. This is also telling of how well the music is used. Just watch:

Look how well the light is utilized in each frame, illuminating only some parts of the frame and its properties. It displays such a lulled atmosphere and physically focuses our sight to the characters solely. And we wont even get started on how eroticism operates in this film and how well it used in this scene.

Overall the film is rather flawless and I haven’t seen one of such quality in a while so it’s nice, keeps my spirits up. Everything has a place, a purpose and is maxed out in quality. Everything from story to plot, to lighting and composition, to music and sound has a strict place and it used rather precisely and never haphazardly which can happen a lot in films that employ suspense like this one. Both of the two clips I’ve posted demonstrate I think to an extent just how well things are put together in this film and how precisely everything is set up.

In the end the film demonstrates an enormous quality. Just how well the formal attributes of film style and film story can be used to comprise not something over the top but just right shows a precise genius in being withholding. The film is top notch and if your going to rent this one I suggest you rent The Parallax View while your at it, Warren Beatty and killer cinematography makes for a hell of a good time. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 30, 2008

My Halloween Post - Capra's Arsenic and Old Lace

I’ve been meaning to watch this film for a while, not for any specific reason but just been meaning to, just never had a real urge to. But now since I am catching up on some long overdue film viewing I finally got the chance to watch this 1944 Frank Capra film and boy did it pleasantly surprise me. The film stars Cary Grant, Josephine Hull, and Jean Adair and is based on a stage play of the same name by Joseph Kesselring. The film concerns the Brewster family and the insanity that ensues on one glorious Hallows Eve.

As the prologue says this is a “Halloween tale of Brooklyn where anything can happen and it usually does.” So by the point one should guess I was pretty damn excited I needed something fun to write about for my favorite holiday of the year and in Capra and Grant I found exactly what I wanted. A film about two remaining matriarchs of a well to do family and their very bad habit of ending the lives of lonely bachelors by serving them wine spiked with arsenic, strychnine and “just a pinch of cyanide.” One would also expect that the film that follows is hardly normal, it’s hardly anything ordinary at all, and it wouldn’t be quite fitting that such a story be told on any other evening of the year since I don’t think it would be quite as enchanting as this one.

Now accompanying this oddball story is the perfected comedic garnish throughout the film. I haven’t seem many Capra film’s and I am a fan, and this film doesn’t disappoint either it’s just not the sap happy Capra I am used to. The film is sheer screwball perfection and Cary Grant is the master. Honestly as I look over my notes I’ve mentioned how magnificent Grant is every five points or so. I am used to Cary Grant the romantic, the charming, tall, dark and handsome man from North by Northwest and Talk of the Town. And the rest of the supporting cast is just stunning. Josephine Hull and Jean Adair are spectacular and work the biddy old lady bit to its sweet end. You just want them to give you candy and tell you stories. Also Peter Lorre is always a pleasant surprise when you see him and he plays the perfect socio side-kick to Raymond Massey, who plays Grant’s sociopath brother Jonathon, who I must say at points in this film just gives me chills. Everyone just seemed to have worked so well together, and it just looks like they must have had a marvelous time making the film.

I feel like if I had watched this on Halloween night I would have enjoyed it even more. I miss black and white, and it’s utilized so well in this film in terms of lighting and compositions. Sol Polito, the director of photography for the film, used every possible chance he could get in the story to use the darkness to his advantage and not just have this be your everyday screwball comedy. This film is frightening at points and I think the lighting and photography aids us in enjoying it in that way. The film is delightfully frightening, don’t get me wrong, it’s funny. But as Aunt Abby says, “they ought not to be allowed to make such pictures just to frighten people” and as the tagline says “You’ll die laughing.” So I say this Halloween forget about Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Friday the 13th or Nightmare on Elm St. don’t just put some Capra into your Christmas put him into your Halloween this year and you wont be disappointed.

I’ll leave you with a little taste from the movie, both to display how marvelous Grant is and how exactly the film mixes the comedic with the horrific. Happy Halloween Folks! All the best! And may the magic that is immersed in this holiday never be forgotten. Enjoy!

Thursday, October 23, 2008

In Honor of My Brother

In honor of my brother Austin’s upcoming birthday, the 30th of October, I was going to write a review of the movie that inspired his marvelous name, Green Card. Unfortunately after viewing it I came to the conclusion that a review of that film would not do anyone any good or add to their life in any way, and most importantly wouldn’t honor my brother in the way that I hoped it would. Instead, I am going to write about another film that I picked up at the same time I got Green Card from the library. An animated film, that I’ve been meaning to see for a long time since my love affair with Hayao Miyazaki started, called Porco Rosso. Which I think my brother would have enjoyed more and would appreciate more then the 500 words about how painful Andie McDowell is and how much I like how Gérard Depardieu says “parcels.”

So initially I am going to say that this post will include a few more pictures then usual because, quite obviously, this medium is a visual one and just some of this stuff needs to be seen.

Okay, down to business. What gets me the most about flicks like this is I can’t possible even imagine what it would be like to be Hayao Miyazaki for a day. To be in that guys brain would be the most magical thing ever, Disney has nothing on this man, nothing. The imagination on this man is absolutely incredible, absolutely amazing. I can’t help but be in awe when I watch this stuff because I can’t possible source where this his material comes from.

The story is about a cynic, Bogartesque, sea plane pilot, and bounty hunter, who’s a pig, actually a pig. I would have no problem saying that this film is like the Casablanca of anime both in story type and status. I really don’t want to get much into the storyline I think the above should entice you enough to go rent it ASAP. I particularly enjoyed the portion of the film set in Italy, just the depiction of it, is rather fun. Despite that I may have enjoyed this part cause I am a bit home sick right now, its still quite something to see and rather amusing to say the least. Porco is a crass hero, who most importantly has honor, which, and sometimes not to the best of people’s nature, is something important to both the Japanese and the Italians, or at least is held in high regard.

More to my point, it’s hard for me to understand how people don’t enjoy animated features or just dismiss them as child’s play. Especially when stuff like Porco Rosso and even more so Grave of the Fireflies (Isao Takahata, 1988) exists. I think that people should appreciated it all a little more and more importantly expose more adults to it also. It’s not to say that this stuff isn’t appropriate for kids because it is, I just think that the general adult public should have a little more appreciation for it. I remember when Howl’s Moving Castle, another film by Miyazaki, came out and how excited I was that is was playing at my local theatre. I went with a friend on the first day it played and unfortunately there was not a single person there beside me and my friend, no one, not a soul. It was disheartening.

In the end people need to just let go and enjoy this stuff a bit more and by a bit more I mean a whole lot more. In the spirit of hope that everyone who reads this goes out and rents Porco Rosso and any of the other films I’ve mentioned I am going to mention another one. Coming out as of this October 31st, if I am not mistaken, called Fear(s) of the Dark which is a compilation of animated shorts done by some of the greatest graphic artists of our time. Go give it a look and give it some love. Fin.

Sunday, October 19, 2008

What Do You Really Want? Good Dick and Issues of Authenticity

I would like, firstly, to say that I commend this film for showing a couple we don’t usually see in films; the two actors comprising it were both equally fascinating. But I would like to say that I do think that this type of couple is just as much an "ideal"* as any other couple we see in the usual romantic comedies that star Colin Firth or Sandra Bullock.

On the film's website the director, writer and one of the main protagonist’s of the film, Marianna Palka, explains why she made the film and what she wanted to achieve. She says: “I wanted to reintroduce…the romance of a film about real people whose sexiness abounds because of their authenticity.” Now as glorious as that sounds just because they’re unconventional characters doesn’t make them "authentic". I think their emotions and sentiments are genuine and that is what makes the film so lovely and human. But I don’t want to call them authentic because I think that the characters, specifically, Jason Ritter’s character, is still a form of ideal and still unrealistic.

Now despite all this I did really enjoy the film. I enjoy the idealistic quality of the relationship we see, I am sucker for stuff like that. But as I said, I think the characters have genuine emotions and sentiments and it makes for a marvelous human quality to the film, but it's still a form of ideal and not as authentic as the author might have wanted. And I do agree with the artist when she says that: “definitions of masculinity often tend to be deformed in our culture.” It was nice to see a different projection of masculinity in this film, as Jason Ritter is a revelation in that department. The female, Palka’s character, is lovely and the first moment you see her you know she is just screaming from the inside without saying very much.

It’s hard to describe, but these characters brought something out in each other that allows them to be much more human on their own, but it was when they were together that I had a hard time keeping hold of this authenticity issue. Maybe it was the thought of them as a couple? They were fascinating, yes, and it was nice to see the risk that was taken in how the two shared their relationship, but I found it hard to believe. I don’t want to say that it shouldn’t have had a happy ending and then maybe it would have had more resonance, because I am not sure if that would be true. But it does bring up a good question about whether or not the characters would be more “authentic” if the film didn’t have a “happy” ending.

Maybe I am a bit of a cynic, but I suggest you take a look at the movie and make up your own mind. Like I said the emotions and sentiments that allow for a lovely human quality to this film abound. And it was refreshing to see this set of unique characters dealing with the questions of love and happiness. But I think the there is still a sense of ideal in the film despite its unique and unconventional qualities.

*insofar as what is unrealistic.

Thursday, October 16, 2008

Roger Ebert and Why He Just Made My Day and Reminded Me About Why I Love the Cinema

Here’s the quote first from an article Ebert wrote about the question "What's your favorite movie?":

“Movies do not change, but their viewers do. When I saw "La Dolce Vita" in 1962, I was an adolescent for whom "the sweet life" represented everything I dreamed of: Exotic European glamour, sin, the weary romance of the cynical newspaperman. When I saw it again, around 1970, I was living in a version of Marcello's world. Chicago's North Avenue was not the Via Veneto, but at 3 a.m. the denizens were just as colorful, and I was about Marcello's age. When I saw the movie around 1980, Marcello was the same age, but I was 10 years older, had stopped drinking, and saw him not as a role model but as a victim, condemned to an endless search for happiness that could never be found, not that way. By 1991, Marcello seemed younger still, and while I had once admired and then criticized him, now I pitied and loved him. And when I saw the movie right after Mastroianni died, I thought that Fellini and Marcello had taken a moment of discovery and made it immortal. There may be no such thing as the sweet life. But it is necessary to find that out for yourself.”

How marvelous a sentiment as the one above, this is why I love the cinema. Movies provide us with a rich language for discussing and describing the world around us as I’ve said before. But what most tend to forget is that it allows this in regard to ourselves also and it’s nice to see that this type of experience continues today. I grew up with the cinema in my life; I don’t remember a time without it, when I couldn’t reference it, what I liked at what time or watching at whatever time. Cinema has become a part of who I am, my religion of sorts. I considered myself to be a part of an artistic community who both relish the works of others and hopes for a cinema that balances great substance for the mind and sustenance for the eyes.

I am searching for a job right now, and with not much luck this paragraph here has made me completely happy and reminded me about why I love the cinema. Something that I completely rethink over and over again when it comes to why I do love the cinema was said most perfectly in a great movie called The History Boys. It is that some of the best moments are when you come across something, it could be a thought, a feeling, a way of looking at things, that you’d thought special, particular to you. And there it is in front of you said by someone else, a person you’ve never met, maybe even someone long dead. And it’s as if a hand has come out, and taken yours. Just writing that now makes me so emotional because I know this is how the cinema affects me and why I find it so special and I hope that more and more people are affected in such a manner. I think that a cinema of great personal nature or that comes from a very human place, or authentic place gets this type of affect and I think this is what we’re lacking in the cinema today, something profoundly genuine. Like Ebert says: “it’s necessary to find that out for yourself.” I just hope more people do and take the time to be affected by it and inspire by it.

*the man in the picture above is the one and only Federico Fellini. Side note: I feel that about any of the directors that one might have ever said that about Fellini is the one I can say that and it actually be true.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

“It’s a man’s right to ask and a women’s duty to refuse”: Pietro Germi and a Brand of Comedy We Don’t see Anymore.

So as I began to watch Pietro Germi’s Seduced and Abandoned I quickly became deterred to write anything about the film because I figured it’s significance was too specific to time and place. But as I continued the film I began to realize that it wasn’t and that Germi’s film still has some resonance today. Firstly I’ll give a bit of a background about what the film gives its commentary to, because I do believe any discussion of the film needs it. And eventually get to how it’s unfortunate that this type of film seems so scarce in the filmmaking of today.

So let’s begin. Simply the film speaks of forced marriages. Basically there was law in Sicily, that was later repealed, that stated that a rapist could go free if the victim married him. It’s said that Germi never did comedy for comedy sake and that behind the irony and the laughter there had to be something of substance, a balance between that which is wildly entertaining and powerfully grotesque.

The film deals with as I stated above, a law that allowed a rapist to go free if his victim married him. The plot: A 16-year old girl is seduced by her sister’s fiancé. She becomes pregnant and when her family finds out they confront the man with marriage. He refuses to marry her because he says he wants a virgin for a wife. One of the best lines in the film is when the culprit’s father responds to this by saying: “It’s a man’s right to ask [for sex before marriage] and a women’s duty to refuse.”

What this film ultimately shows is how society is based on an unstated principle that everyone shares: that there’s a huge difference between private and public and that the latter should never fully know about the former. But in those instances when the private is publicized those involved and subsequently their families feel that it’s necessary to make sure that their "names" are never shamed or dishonored. Now I am sure we all know that one can talk all day about why, at the root of the problem, this is to be considered shameful or dishonorable. And despite how much I am tempted to discuss this I want to speak more importantly about why films like Germi’s are ever so sparingly made today.

Now I don’t mean films that just criticize social mores, because we’ve got lots of those and they’re garish. What I mean is what happened to a film that critically observes society, with bitterness, and skepticism, and desperation? Films that take a “scalpel to society and samples its utterly senseless, absurd and grotesque aspects.”* Furthermore, I would like to add that I think that comedy and it’s counterparts in irony, satire, and parody are part of the highest forms of art because of the commentary they can achieve and subsequently deliver towards the general public. I would hope that somehow people begin to appreciate what these types of films are doing and hopefully be inspired. I really just would like to begin to see, at least, people taking chances in today’s cinematic endeavors to achieve such possibilities. This type of smart cinema is a bit lost today and I hope that it somehow finds it's way back, cause I really miss it.

*Sesti, Mario. "Commedia Al'Italiana: Germi Style." Interview with Criterion Collection. Commedia Al'Italiana: Germi Style.

Wednesday, October 8, 2008

Le Notti Bianchi and How Luchino Visconti Ripped My Heart Out and Made Me Love It

Holy cow. I can’t believe what I just watched. Luchino Visconti bases Le Notti Bianchi, a 1957 film, on a story written by Fyodor Dostoyevsky called “White Nights.” The story only last four nights, but by the end of this short tale I unknowingly had my heart shattered. At the beginning of the film, I was astonished by how stunningly the movie is filmed. Criterion labels the film as a black-and-white dream, and rightly so. You travel each corner and crevice of this small-unnamed town until you seem to know each one just as well as those who inhabit it. I have read that Visconti exchanged sadness for sentimentality from the original text and I think this it what it most becoming about it the film.

Mario (Marcello Mastroianni) and Natalia (Maria Schell) are two lonely and restless souls who happen to meet each other at the right place but the wrong time. The right place is a small bridge connecting the older parts of town to the neon lit streets of the main corso. It’s pretty that is why it’s right, no other reason. Natalia is on the bridge weeping, as we find out later, because she is waiting for a lover who promised to come back to her after a year had passed. Mario is there because, as we find out later, he enjoys walking alone with his thoughts. It’s quite sappy, yes. Yet the two cross paths and so ensues the gentle shattering of my heart. As each night goes by I was sure Natalia's lover would come. I waited for him to appear way in the back of the frame, but Natalia’s lover never shows. Three nights go by and with ninety minutes passed in a 101-minute film I am now assured that nope the dude is not going to show. Furthermore Mario and Natalia have become close and one would think love is blossoming.

Honestly I am sitting there literally five minutes left in the movie and Visconti rips my heart from my chest. I was getting a bit annoyed at that point because I wanted something more from the movie. I didn’t know what it was about and I didn’t know anything of the nature of the film before I watched it. I was getting to the point that I was going to chalk it up to just something just stunning and I was fine with that. And then reality sets back in and just slaps me right out, I didn't realize how invested I was in the story until I just began sobbing at the last moment. Its amazing what a grip I was in without even knowing it. But Visconti slapped me in the face, ripped my heart out and made me love it. The movie is just brilliant.

P.S. Despite all this, even if you're not into the whole carpet being ripped from underneath you stuff the movie is utterly stunning and has a most fantastic dance scene and should be watched solely on that bases also.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Freud Slips: And Interview with Dario Argento Supplies me with Further Support for why I Dislike the Influence of Freud on Film Theory

So I was reading Movie Maker magazine and I began the article The Horror Within: An Interview with Dario Argento by Bryan Reesman*. Three-quarters of the way through the article something happened, I read “Over the years people have questioned whether Argento dislikes women.”(Film Comment p.72) Remembering when I studied Argento’s Suspiria I shudder at memories of tutorials with students blabbing for half the time of “mommy issues,” and Freud. It was unfortunate to me that besides talking about the film's cinematography or music, we spent more of the class talking about the objectification of women, and the abject and blah, blah, blah. Just because a film is labeled a horror and has women either as protagonist or supporting characters doesn’t mean ones mind should automatically turn to repression and neurosis, or the favorite the Oedipal complex. Now I don’t want to critique the article or anything but I do want to mention a simple comment made by Argento and what, more importantly, one of his female protagonists said about her role in his latest film. And how it is notions like this that should give this generic autopilot to Freud in film theory less slack and maybe allow new modes of thinking about women in horror a lift.

Firstly Argento’s speaks directly to the notion of this supposed, “dislike of women.” He says: “I like women…My daughter has been in four of my films now—of course I like women. For me, it’s a bit embarrassing when I’m [working] with men. It’s difficult for me, but with women I’m very comfortable. My mother was a famous still photographer in the 1950s and 1960s, and she photographed and specialized in women—Sophia Loren, Gina Lollobrigida and Maria Montes—the most famous actresses of the time. I watched her work year and years. I watched how she put light on the face and the body to make them look better. For me, this became an instinct to have good, wonderful women in front of the camera.”(Film Comment p.72) I mention this merely because I have a particular trust in an artist, insofar as know I will never be an expert on their motives. I am first and foremost when it comes to someone’s work an observer, this doesn’t put me in any priority in saying what I think he was trying to say, I am merely saying how it makes me feel. So for those that want to speak all scholarly saying things like “obviously his has some mother issues.” I am going to take Argento’s word for it and tell everyone to try again next time.

Secondly one of the most refreshing things I’ve heard in a while about film is what one Coralina Cataldi-Tassoni said about her role in Argento’s newest film. She states: “I could not be more spectacularly loved. As Dario kills me, I am given rebirth. As an actress, as a woman, I am granted eternal life—immortalized on film. It is a moment of love. As a woman, I have the power; without me there is no death. And for this he is grateful.” When I read this a grin stretched from one cheek to the other, now I am no feminist but what else could be more empowering then the sentiment above?

I don’t see why so many people feel the need to stake their claim by bashing someone else’s. Why do we continually time after time bounce into Freudian mode? How can you not feel like your going backwards? Freud’s theories are the most debated because they stand on very shaky ground so why continue to base your opinions upon them? Why not stake your claim and plunge right into the heart of something that is palpable and connected to style? I am saying this because, simply, it would be nice to hear something different, it would be nice to hear a bit more about the mechanics and techniques of filmmaking instead of this constant prattle about Freud and the same old how the shot of a women’s ass is objectifying her. It’s not that I am against thinking and discussing about an artists motives and meanings. But for a change I would like to hear a bit more about how these meanings are grounded into in an artists form and allow the latter to govern the former for a bit and maybe if we throw away the Freud for a while we might notice something else. I think this would allow for a more diverse commentary on an artist’s body of work or a singular opus, call to further build the richness of film theory, and encourage, inside and outside of theory, fresher thinking when it comes to the cinema.

P.S. I would like to add that to my great surprise Argento's new film, Giallo, stars Adrien Brody as an Italian detective, an extra bonus for why I can't wait to see this movie.

* I can't find this article just yet online but when I do I will put up the link.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

A Call to Arms: One Cinephile’s Distaste at the General Public’s Issues with Film Lengths.

I walked into Barnes & Nobel and was immediately drawn to the magazine section, a section that I usually don’t frequent. Nonetheless, as I got closer a photo caught my eye, a photo that I mistook for Cuban revolutionary Ernesto ‘Che’ Guevara until I noticed the title of the magazine as the famous Film Comment. The front cover is filled 95% with a photo of Benicio Del Toro in his Guevara getup. Pockets filled with ballpoint pens, and scraggly beard abound* the headline reads “Against all Odds Steven Soderbergh and Benicio Del Toro’s Long March to Victory with Che”. The article by Amy Taubin speaks about the strategy and tactics in the filmmaking of Che. Now despite all this fun stuff, this is not going to be a critique or anything of that nature about the article or the film itself, since I haven’t seen it. But what I do want to talk about it something that struck me in the article. Particularly with an issue I have when it comes to a majority of the public’s annoyance with the length of movies.

The article reads “The more serious worry was that in the U.S., the full four-hour-plus version would prove as elusive as Vertigo after Hitchcock withdrew it from distribution” (September-October 2008, Film Comment, p.25) It’s unfortunate that apart from being seen, with a brief intermission in between, at recently past film festivals, Toronto and New York alongside Cannes, Che wont ever be seen in the full four-hour-length feature it was original cut as. I was recently talking to someone who was complaining about the length of Kurosawa’s Seven Samurai. Forget it’s canonical status it’s the Seven Samurai for Christ’s sake, one should only be so happy to be able to sit down and enjoy something that great for that long. I don’t see what problem people have when they hear a movie is three hours long let only two and half hours. It’s been too many a time that I hear people say “Oh, but I heard its two and half hours” and then they choose not to go see the movie. I get excited when I hear a movie is really long because that means I get to spend more time in the cinema. It’s really saddening to hear that a film like Che might not be release as originally intended, why, because the general public just can’t stand to sit down for three hours plus. I heard more about the movie’s length before I even heard anything about the film itself and this is just something that irks me. It’s not like theatres are making you pay more for movies that are longer, it’s not like if you really don’t dig the movie you can’t just get up and leave. So much work is put into a film like this I don’t see, even on that criteria alone, why someone would be swayed by a mere time limit. And I know people say that they wont because they don’t have time to spend on a three-hour plus movie but most people have no problem sitting in front of the television for four hours straight without a hitch.

Overall I am really excited to see this movie when and where it comes out and do hope that somewhere there is a theatre that will be courageous enough to show Che’s two parts back to back, even if it is with a slight intermission. Finally I wish that for once a movie’s shelf life is measured on its quality and not on its time limit.

* And I will try to get this cover for you to see because based on that photo alone I would want to see the movie.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Empire Magazine's 500 Greatest Movies of all Time: Ridiculous and Predictable

As brought to my attention, by my glorious cousin Jenna, Empire Magazine’s top 500 Movies is utterly ridiculous, for two big reasons that both have predictability at the root of the issue.

Reason No. 1: I, and this is no word of a lie, just by seeing the first 10 movies, (500-490), on the list could predict exactly what the number one movie pick was. This bothers me firstly because it would be nice for once to see a list that I would not be able to predict the number one pick and had, and this brings me to Reason No. 2, a variety of films.

Reason No. 2: One would say that this list does have a variety of films but not as one might think. Just because you throw in a few Fellini and Kurosawa films doesn’t make this a variety of films. Just because you have some Antonioni movies and some movies staring John Paul Belmondo doesn’t make this any form of variety. Again I come to the word predictable, because this so called “variety” was as predictable as a first year cinema course. Intro to Film anyone?

Now it is not that I have something against films that belong to the vast film cannon that a first year cinema course would choose from. What I do have a problem with is the fact that a list this long includes movies like Spider-Man II and X-Men II and not ones like Roma Open City, Rocky Horror Picture Show or Sweet Sweetback's Baadasssss Song or something fun like that and those are ones that should be regulars on a list like this. There is only one Chaplin film on the list, which is a very disappointing, but two of the three Pirates of the Caribbean films? I don’t even think there was Pather Panchali on there, or anything by one of the greatest filmmakers of all time, Satyajit Ray. And just because they include Un chien andalou doesn’t mean that they have covered the vast list of films that belong to what one would call avant-garde cinema. And since when did The Shawshank Redemption become better then 2001? Overall this list is a complete bust, enough of this asking the general public what they think. Next time leave it to people who at least have some background in cinema studies and are considered experts in their fields, they are considered experts for a reason.

These lists should allow the general public to be exposed to films that they might not be able to get at their local Blockbuster and might need to go to an out of the way specialized video store for, and, shall I dare say, might need to buy a VHS copy on EBay to see. There are only 141 films made before 1970 on this list, like are we serious? A list like this should inspire people to expand their cinematic horizons and to experience something outside their national cinemas and before the decade they were born.

To quote one of my dear cinema professors, Nicholas Sammond, “More than simply a medium, film was one of the central social forces of the 20th century, and may be for this one as well. Film…gives us a rich language for discussing and describing the world.” These are the things we need to remember when compiling a list like this. We should be advocating this sentiment when thinking about what to include in these lists and in doing so choose to exclude despite how many votes it gets things like Spider-Man II or Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest.

I must note that it was nice to see films on the list like:
I am Cuba
Le Samourai
Mr. Moulot’s Holiday
Rocco and his Brothers
Le Belle et La Bete
A Man Escaped
The Battle of Algiers

Despite this I am saddened by a list like this actually being published.

Monday, September 29, 2008