Friday, December 31, 2010

The Battleship Potemkin

Sergei Eisenstien's film The Battleship Potemkin (1925) is pretty infamous. It's the film class standard - if you took a film class and managed to not see this movie, I'm shocked! It's one of those films that is so important to film history that it's inescapable. Many people have seen parodies of the most famous and unforgettable scene, the massacre on the Odessa Steps (probably without even knowing what it's a parody of, myself included). It's been in The Simpsons and, as my boyfriend informed me as I tried to explain the silent film to him, in The Untouchables. I'm sure there are more.

Thursday, December 30, 2010

The Apu Trilogy

Over the last three days, while repainting my bedroom and stocking up on Blu-rays for my new Christmas gift (I have the best parents, have I mentioned that ever?), I've been watching all three films of the Apu Trilogy. These three films (Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu)) are directed by Satyajit Ray and were made between 1955 and 1959. They follow the life of a young Brahmin boy, Apu, as he grows up, goes to college, and marries. I learned that these films are part of a film movement in India known as "Parallel Cinema", which is sort of like French New Wave. They deal with realism, serious topics, and naturalism, and are the alternative to mainstream Bollywood films. This is really new for me - the only Indian cinema I am familiar with is Bollywood, so it was very interesting to see this totally different style.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Just a note.

Over the next three days, I'm going to be watching the Apu Trilogy. These three films (Pather Panchali (Song of the Little Road), Aparajito (The Unvanquished) and Apur Sansar (The World of Apu)) are directed by Satyajit Ray and were made between 1955 and 1959. Ebert, and other critics, write about these three films as a whole, so I probably won't make a post about the any of these films until I have finished watching all three of them. Just wanted to let you know why my blog might be a bit for inactive for a few days. :)

Monday, December 27, 2010

Apocalypse Now

I haven't sat down and watched all of Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now (1979) for a long time. I feel like saw the whole thing a while ago, and then continually saw bits of it on TV and whatnot. I'm glad that I was able to watch this again now, after college. Majoring in English, I studied T.S. Eliot a lot, so when Kurtz reads from "The Hollow Men" and when Dennis Hopper's character, the photojournalist, references "The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock", I got so much more out of this film. I finally understood what they were referencing, since I studied those poems so in depth during college. Here is the most embarrassing thing I will ever say an as English major - I know that this movie is based on Heart of Darkness by Joesph Conrad. It is hard, I know, to avoid reading this novella. I have never read it. I'm currently reading it on my nook/iPhone, but I'm working through it. Yikes! Some of the nuances of this film are still probably lost on me, being still in the middle of Conrad's story.

Sunday, December 26, 2010

The Apartment

After football watching and more eating, I watched this in front of a roaring fire with my mom and boyfriend. My mom remembered this movie as being funny, although she did admit she might have been thinking of something else. We were all surprised by how dramatic the film was! The original poster seems to bill it as a comedy as well - maybe to diffuse some of the more controversial elements?

Saturday, December 25, 2010

All About Eve

It was harder than I thought to find time to sit down and watch this movie! I was busy burning my fingers peeling chestnuts fresh from the stove, and trying to figure out how to defrost my strange veggie Wellington I was going to make. So, now, with blistered fingers, I can compose some sort of thoughts for you. Today I watched All About Eve ( by Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1950).

It seems like a lot of my family had heard about this film, or watched it already, where me, a child of the 80's, was ignorant. I've been watching a huge streak of foreign, captioned movies for this project, so I actually felt out of sorts watching something in English. I was confused..."Wait, I have to turn the sound up? I have to listen? Ugh!" And, in light of the fact that it is currently Christmas day, I hope you understand if I keep this short!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Ali: Fear Eats the Soul

After much rushing about and last minute shopping, I found some time to check out Rainer Werner Fassbinder's film Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974). This is the first film out of The Great Movies that I have never heard of in any way before - I have never heard of this director, or really of anything about this film. It wasn't, perhaps, a perfect film to watch before Christmas, as it was very emotional, but I really found myself lost in the plot and enjoying the story.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Aguirre, the Wrath of God

Finally back from grocery shopping at Whole Foods and spending some time with my cousin before he went to work. It's hard to focus on watching a long movie when family is over. After he left, I ate dinner and got settled into the basement with a cozy fire (made with some gimmicky fake log that makes the flames change colors) to watch Werner Herzog's famous film Aguirre, the Wrath of God (1972).

I'm a big Herzong fan, but I've honestly only watched a lot of his newer films, so I was excited to finally see this. I cannot believe I missed this film.

Happy Holidays!

It's quite busy around my house right now, with everyone getting ready for Christmas. I tried to get all of my gift shopping and wrapping done early, before the first day of movie watching, but I'm still finding myself with so much to do. It's harder to find the time to sit and watch films and write when I have errands to run, gifts to wrap, and the house to clean! I'm not taking a break from the project, so on Christmas Eve, when my family exchanges gifts, I'll have to make time to watch Ali: Fear Eats the Soul and on Christmas day, when my extended family comes over for more face-stuffing, eggnog drinking, and gifts, I'll have to find time to watch All About Eve. I'm sure it will be a bit of a challenge to keep writing and watching during this busy time, but hopefully I can wrangle some of my family to check out these movies with me. :)
I hope everyone has a warm, merry Christmas, with lots of food, drink, and special moments with family and friends!
All my presents are wrapped...even Nikita.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

8 1/2

This is the first film from The Great Movies that I haven't ever seen. I know of Federico Fellini, but I've never actually watched any of his films, which is sort of embarrassing to admit. So, the first Fellini film I have ever seen, officially, is 8 1/2 (1963). Unfortunately, I had a less than ideal viewing experience - I was trying to watch this film on Netflix, where it was streaming. Strangely, the captions at the bottom were cut off on my TV, and you could barely make out the tops of the letters. I ended up having to watch it, windowed, on my computer, which was much more frustrating and uncomfortable, obviously. I still really enjoyed this movie, though. Being so unfamiliar with Fellini, I feel like I might not understand it very well yet. The more films you see by one director, the more you are comfortable with the types of characters they use, the visuals they tend to rely on, things of that matter - but I don't know anything that Fellini does normally. In Ebert's review, he writes a lot about 8 1/2 as compared to Fellini's other films, so I am lacking some appreciation for it. Maybe as I go on and watch more of his works, I will be able to come back and watch this again when this project is over, and maybe I can better understand what Ebert was writing about.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

The 400 Blows

The film I watched today was Fran├žois Truffaut's The 400 Blows (1959). I've seen it before in just about every film class that I have ever taken. I wasn't a huge fan of it the first time I saw it in some history of film class. I found it sort of plodding and tedious, and I was too busy trying to look at why it was important to film history to focus on the characters or the plot. The more I see this film, the more I grow to love it. I feel such a tenderness for the characters, and watching it again comfortable in my own house, no pressures of essays or debates, I was able to really enjoy the film again. There were so many moments I was so happy to see again - the charming scene where some P.E. teacher is out forcing the kids to jog and they all escape while his back is turned. It makes me smile, and it makes me sort of nostalgic, as well (maybe because I have many fond memories of causing ruckus in PE in high school).  I was able to feel more personal emotions about this film, watching it outside of the classroom.

Monday, December 20, 2010

2001: A Space Odyssey

I'm still working out what I want my format to be for these blogs, so please bear with me for the first few days as I straggle about trying to make sense of what I am doing. I know this much - I'll watch the film myself, and then I'll read Ebert's essay on it, to deepen my thoughts about what I saw, not influence them. I will probably write about these films with spoilers, since it's hard to talk about them without bringing some up. So, with that in mind, the first film I watched was Stanley Kubrick's 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968).

I've seen this movie before, but a while ago. I have been, for the last four years, confronted by images of it, stills of every scene in the film in all of my film textbooks. I love it, and after watching it again, I still love it. Kubrick shows such beautiful restraint, and even after over 40 years, HAL is still just as creepy and sinister. I love how effortlessly he shows his power over everyone, killing the entire crew with no melodrama or spectacle. All things I have loved about this film since the first time I saw it.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

What is this project?

An undertaking as long and involved as this needs a bit of an explanation, I would imagine.

What is this project?
I'm planning on watching every movie out of Roger Ebert's Great Movie books. I am hopefully going to be able to watch one every day until I am finished. Some of the films are very hard to find, but I am working on tracking all of them down. There might be times when the mail messes up and I don't get a DVD delivered, or times when there are complications, but I will cut myself some slack for things like that. I'll do everything in my power to get and watch the movie, but I do accept that I might have to make some allowances for things out of my control. I'm going to be using books I-III, and watching the films in order, from the first film listed in The Great Movies  to the last in Great Movies III.

Why are you doing this?
For fun! I really respect and admire Roger Ebert and his eloquent writings on film. I hope that I can gain new insights by reading his essays along with the films. There are more than a few of these films that I have watched before, but I'm interested in thinking about them again and re-visiting them in a new light. I'm doing this because I love to watch movies, write (and write about) movies, and learn about movies. There are tons of movies on this list that I have shamefully never seen, and many more that I have intended to. Of course, they get lost in the Netflix queue I make, or start to serve as decorations on my coffee table. "Hmm...to watch The White Ribbon or another No Reservations?" usually ends in Bourdain snarking at me from the television. I want to watch all of these films anyway - I might as well do it during all of my unemployed free time and have a bit of a challenge as well.

I'm not doing this because I think that Ebert's books are some sort of definitive "top movies" list. They are movies that he likes and provoke strong emotional reactions in him, but it is not a list of the best movies of all time. I'm not doing this because I want to parrot what Ebert thinks or says. Some of these films I have seen already and did not like, and I'll tell you about that. Hopefully I can learn to appreciate some of them, but I'm not afraid to share my stupid opinions. I'm not doing this because I am an expert on film of any sort! I'm just a passionate girl who has a screenwriting minor and likes to think too much about what she watches. It doesn't make my opinion right or wrong - I'm doing this to just keep a log of my thoughts of all of these films, and my experience of watching a film every single day, and finding them! I'm not really doing this to "review" classic films, just to have a place to write down my thoughts about this wide selection of movies. The second movie I am going to watch is The 400 Blows, which I have seen for a class every year for the last three years - I'm curious what I will think of it now that I'm watching it for a different reason, in a different way, and having a blog is a great way for me to work out my thoughts quickly and have a record of this goofy project. :)

When are you doing this?
I'm going to start on Monday, December 20th, if everything goes as planned. Today I'm going to finally watch the Netflix films that I have that are taking up space, and send them back, so hopefully I can amass the first few films I have to watch before the weekend. The only break in the calender for me is the fourth week of August, when I am taking a road trip to Colorado. I'll be staying in a cabin that was built in the 1800's at about 10,000 feet above sea level, where there is no TV, internet, or cell phone signals, and I really, as much as I would like to, can't be posting blogs and watching movies in those conditions.

Who are you, by the way?
A good question. I'm Amanda, but please call me Mandy. I get uncomfortable around too many syllables. I graduated from DePaul University last June with a major in English and a minor in screenwriting. My film classes, be them in production and lighting or writing, were my favorite classes to take and I always looked forward to them, even the ones late at night. I spend most of my time playing video games, watching movies, reading, or writing. I love going to the movies in the winter when everything good comes out, which I will still be doing while working on this project. Other than that, I love hiking and camping, road trips, and working on my skills in amateur photography. I do watch TeeVee, also. Some shows I've adored lately are True Blood, Boardwalk Empire, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, Dexter, Conan, The Walking Dead, and of course my favorites, Hoarders and Intervention.
Other fun facts: All of the movies that first started my obsession with film are not in any of these three books, so right there you can tell I'm no expert. :)
I like 80's music, and current pop music, and...metal.
The first full-length screenplay I ever wrote was a Western. I hate Westerns.
I have a tiny toy poodle who demands much of my attention every day, her name is Nikita.
Nothing makes me happier than a glass of scotch and a movie with James Spader.
I guess that's me! It's harder than I thought to explain yourself to the internet.