Entries in the Category "robert altman"
I am reading all these bloggers who’ve pledged to see all the Best Picture nominees, or all the films with a non-technical nomination (that’s Sarah Bunting, and she almost did it). Some of them spent two Saturdays in a row parked in a movie theater seat watching five wannabe Best Pictures back-to-back. My major regret going into Oscar night is that I haven’t seen enough of the nominated movies. Living virtually across the street from a limited-release haven like the Cedar Lee, just about every one of these movies has crossed my path (not something I could say back when I was living in Lansing, Michigan--sorry Lansing). I went to an Oscar party in which the crowd was generally well-versed in movies—not just the big ones, but independents, foreigns, documentaries—and I wished I could have given more opinions instead of continually saying, “That looked really good. I heard that was good. I was going to see that. Everything I’ve read online says that was overrated, actually.”
The real problem is this whole being-in-grad-school thing, which will be over soon enough. I’ll be a cultural civilian again by May, and then it’s seeing movies all the time, reading books all the time, just because I damn well want to. And maybe next February I’ll plan my own Oscar film binge.
This year, I had to content myself watching the Oscars having seen only Inglourious Basterds, Up in the Air, Julie and Julia, and one-third of The Hurt Locker. I'm catching up on the other movies at my usual snail’s-pace rate. (Oscar-nominated or Oscar-winning movies I have seen in the past few months: Valmont, Mrs. Brown, Frozen River, They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?, Gangs of New York.)
Anyway, here are my totally uneducated thoughts on the proceedings.
The AFI's 100 Greatest Movies (Pts. 1 and 2) Summed Up
Here's how I felt about the AFI lists:
Most enjoyed: 12 Angry Men, City Lights, Doctor Zhivago, Giant, High Noon, King Kong, Midnight Cowboy, Modern Times, Spartacus, Sullivan’s Travels, The Bridge on the River Kwai, The Deer Hunter, The Godfather
Pre-list favorites: All About Eve, American Graffiti, Casablanca, Dr. Strangelove, Fargo, Jaws, North by Northwest, Rear Window, Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, The Graduate, The Maltese Falcon, The Manchurian Candidate, The Philadelphia Story
Other than the movies themselves, which of course were all new to me, I saw some interesting actors for the first time, notably Van Heflin, John Cazale, Omar Sharif, and Fay Wray. This was also my first exposure to directors David Lynch, George Stevens, D.W. Griffith and Sam Peckinpah. The Summer Movie Watch necessitated my first (and last) two Marx brothers movie viewings.
It’s harder for me to name all the movies I think should have been on the AFI list and that weren’t than it is for me to say what should have been on the EW list. This is simply because I have seen fewer films from the 30s, 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s than from the 80s, the 90s and the 00s. I can’t help when I was born, after all. But I have seen enough that I put together this short list of notable omissions: Roman Holiday, The Palm Beach Story, Notorious, His Girl Friday, Charade, Born Yesterday, It Should Happen to You, Advise and Consent, Brief Encounter, Gilda, The Shop Around the Corner, In a Lonely Place, and Reds. As far as I know, all of these films were eligible for inclusion with the possible exception of Brief Encounter, which is officially a British film (but then so is Lawrence of Arabia, River Kwai, and several others that the AFI didn’t mind taking credit for, so…).
Other list factoids: The AFI list presented me with the three shortest and the two longest movies I viewed: Lawrence of Arabia at 216 minutes and Ben-Hur at 212 minutes were the longest (the next longest was a tie, with Giant and EW’s Lord of the Rings: Return of the King at 201 minutes each, and no, that’s not even the extended edition of LOTR). The shortest movie I watched was Duck Soup at just 68 minutes (68 long minutes, because Marx brothers sheesh), then Frankenstein at 70 minutes and The General at 75. The dates on those movies—1933, 1931, and 1926 respectively—are telling. Movies were shorter back then both because of the technology (innovations in film production made filmmaking basics easier and quicker, for example) and because movies were frequently shown in double and triple features. People spent a lot more time at the movies before they had TVs in their homes.
The most represented director on both versions of the AFI list is Steven Spielberg with 5 films. The second list swaps out Close Encounters for Saving Private Ryan (which was made the same year as the first list was released). I had already seen 4 of the first 5 and 3 of the second 5, so I actually only watched 2 Spielberg movies throughout the movie watch.
The next two most represented directors are Alfred Hitchcock and Billy Wilder, each with the same four films appearing on both lists. These are two of my absolute favorite directors, and I had seen all four of both sets of films. In fact, I believe I once watched three of Wilder’s (Sunset Boulevard, The Apartment, and Some Like it Hot) all in a row one rainy Sunday afternoon. I had also seen all three of the Frank Capra movies on the lists, and all three of the John Huston films.
The most represented director on my movie watch was George Stevens, who had four movies on the two lists, none of which I had seen, and then Robert Altman and David Lean, each with three movies I hadn't seen.
One thing I noticed is that only one director (James Cameron) had 3 or more films on the EW list, compared to the several who had 3 and 4 on the AFI lists—and, of course, Senor Spielbergo with 5. I can draw the conclusion that the EW list is more deliberately diverse than the AFI lists, or just reflect that the film industry has grown exponentially in every direction in the last twenty-five years and there was just more for EW to choose from. Probably both are somewhat true.
The EW list skewed my decade stats; I saw the most movies from the 80s and 90s simply because the EW list added an extra hundred of them to the total. For the AFI list, I watched films mostly from the 1970s, the 1960s and the 1930s. I needed to watch only two movies from the 1940s, considered by many to be the Golden Age of Hollywood, and well-represented on the list, because I had seen the majority of them already (Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonderful Life, Casablanca: already familiar).
Popular genres on the AFI lists are war movies and musicals, with a handful of westerns and mob movies. A lot of my favorites are the more unclassifiable ones: The Apartment. Fargo. All About Eve. The Philadelphia Story. Are these dramas? Comedies? I classify my absolute favorite genre of film as “the poignant comedy.” I wish it occurred more often in nature.
Movie Reviews: Hollywood Satires
I loved this movie, in no small part because of Johnny Depp’s performance. I don’t know who first decided that Ed’s main character trait would be unflappable optimism--whether it was the screenwriter, whether it was director Tim Burton, or whether Depp brought that to the performance himself (I wouldn’t be surprised, honestly)--but damn if it didn’t elevate a pretty standard biopic to something unusual and sparkling. Depp did the same in his Oscar-nominated (remember?) performance in the first of the truly silly Pirates of the Caribbean movies. He said, “Pirate? Only if I can play it drunk and gay.”
Just a note on Johnny Depp: this guy is such a fascinating creature, honestly. You just don’t often find a character actor with a face as perfect as his. He is quite beautiful. Jeremy and I saw Public Enemies a few weeks ago and I couldn’t get over it then, either.
Martin Landau was terrific, too, of course, as Bela Lugosi—he won an Oscar, and for a comedy, which almost never happens. His one-sided rivalry with Boris Karloff made me feel somewhat uncomfortable watching Frankenstein the next day (like I maybe should have thrown Lugosi’s Dracula into the mix, too, just to be fair). Incidentally, Lugosi has the most insanely entertaining IMDB page ever. Just read the titles of some of the movies he graced with his presence! (Ghosts on the Loose, The Ape Man, Night Monster, The Corpse Vanishes, Black Dragons, The Wolf Man, Spooks Run Wild, The Black Cat, Invisible Ghost, The Devil Bat, Black Friday, The Dark Eyes of London, The Phantom Creeps ETC.)
Anyway, the movie has plenty to recommend it besides Depp and Landau. It shines a light on the motley crew of actors and producers and Baptist financiers who helped Wood to realize his cracked visions and shape them for the big screen; it does it in that special Burtonian way where viewers feel the need to align ourselves with the outsiders, cheer them on. It’s shot gorgeously in black and white and it even piqued my interest in seeing some of Wood’s notorious flops; so much so that, in a few weeks, when a theater in the area plays a Rifftrax version of Plan 9 From Outer Space, I’ll be there.
More satires from Preston Sturges and Robert Altman after the jump.