Monday, January 31, 2011

Gone With The Wind

There are a lot of things that I understand about Gone With the Wind, directed by Victor Flemming in 1939. I know that it shows a romantic version of the south. I know that it is an American epic. I know that Scarlett is supposed to be a strong woman. I understand all of the ideas behind the sexual politics of the film. But I really don't like it. I do like the first half - the characters feel rich and interesting, and I like the arc of the story. The second half, to me, feels like a soap opera that goes on for too long. I'm happy when it ends, because I feel like it drags. This is because I don't like any of the characters, and I don't feel anything when bad things happen to them. I get tired.

Sunday, January 30, 2011


This is what I do in my free time - watch movies, and blog about them on my netbook. With Nikita. Life is good.

The Godfather

This post, for the record, is only about the first movie in The Godfather trilogy - I have to watch Part II in a few months, but never Part III, which everyone hates. The Godfather is the father of all good mafia movies, directed in 1972 by Francis Ford Coppola. It basically created the style of mafia movies that most of us are so familiar with - where we see the mafia from an insider's perspective, and we feel a lot of sympathy for the characters. Pretty much all mob movies that do this are indebted to Coppola's film. The characters are evil people, but we care for them, somehow. I'm going to assume, perhaps wrongly, that most people have seen this film and know the basis of the plot. If not, head over here to read it.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The General

Remember that migraine that I had on Thursday? I still have it. I spent a while today trying to decide if I was ready to brave the ER to relieve this pain, but the thought of sitting for what would basically amount to 3 more days with the migraine just waiting in the ER, I decided to stay home and turn the volume way down on my TV and the lights off and do what I was supposed to do - Watch The General, a 1926 silent comedy, starring and co-directed by Buster Keaton.

It was almost soothing to my headache. More so than just sitting around lolling about in pain. It was funny and charming and adorable and at least it was a really pleasant distraction. Buster Keaton got really poplar for a while in more recent times, because his silent comedy translates very well. He doesn't over-act or pull stupid faces for the camera. He is funny, but he really doesn't show too much emotion or facial expression. It works really well, and I think a lot of modern viewers really like this. It's easier to relate to it because it looks more like comedies we watch today.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Gates of Heaven

I first saw Gates of Heaven in a class about directors and their first feature films. We would watch their first film, and then a famous film, and compare their style. I had never heard of Errol Morris before, nor his 1978 movie about a pet cemetary. Over three days, I watched Gates of Heaven, The Thin Blue Line, and Standard Operating Procedure. I fell in love. I really like documentaries. I always dreamed of making them, even though I'm not a director. Nothing is more interesting or more strange than real life. Errol Morris knows this. He is fascinated by his subjects. His shots are long and they linger on as the people continue to speak. It's wonderful.

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Floating Weeds

I wish I had the energy to write about this movie. I had to leave work today because I had such a bad migraine, and I still have it. I can't focus, and it's really hard for me to process this movie. Today's movie is Floating Weeds, directed by Yasujiro Ozu in 1959. It's a beautiful movie, and I know I'm going to watch it again if I can soon, when I can see it with a clearer mind.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011


Like any girl who goes to a university, I took a class on women's literature. It's wasn't really a real women's lit class. We studied fairy tales and the roles women played in them, and read weird revisions of them. It was interesting, and it dealt a lot with women in the media. We were asked one day to talk about what women we admired in movies. My first thought was Clarice from The Silence of the Lambs, but someone said it before me, since she is always the first character to come to mind when you are asked these questions. No one took the one I thought of next - Marge Gunderson, from Fargo. "Why?" they implored. When most people think of The Coen Brother's 1996 small-town-murder-movie, they think of Minnesota accents and Steve Buscemi. "Marge was...the cop, right?" Right. I swear, my love of Marge has nothing to do with my unnatural feelings for the Coen Brothers. I even named two of my angelfish Joel and Ethan (only one is surviving today, and they were identical, so I just call him JoelEthan). There is something so great and new about her character. I love it. I love all parts of this movie, from the bumbling criminals and the weird tonal shifts from comedy to violence, sometimes coexisting in the same scene.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Exterminating Angel

Luis Bunel is a fantastic surrealist director. He directed, if you recall, Belle du Jour. The first movie I ever saw by him was one of his first movies, Un Chein Andalou, which he directed with Salvador Dali. Just mentioning that he worked with Dali should explain something to you. As Ebert says, "Those seeking reason or explanations are in the wrong theater" (The Great Movies, web, below). Bunel directed The Exterminating Angel in 1962. It's a bizarre movie. If the mention Dali, surrealism, and lack of meaning or explanations are off putting to you, you will hate this movie. I like all of these things, so of course I found myself enjoying it.

Monday, January 24, 2011

E.T. - The Extra-Terrestrial

After watching this movie and reading Ebert's essay, I feel like a bad movie...person. He writes about how his grandchildren are such good movie critics because they liked the Stephen Spielberg's 1982 movie E.T. and understood it. I didnt't really like this movie and when I saw it, I guess I was too stupid to understand it. It made me really sad, like watching The Lion King where I'd turn around and not look at the screen when Mufasa died and Simba curled up under his dead body. I remember a disastrous time when a 3rd grade teacher I had thought to show her whole class The Lion King, and then had sobbing, upset children on her hands for the rest of day. This is how I remember children reacting to sad movies. When I saw E.T., I was too upset by it to really like it. Why was he sick and dying? Who were those bad men? I wasn't really able to get it.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

Duck Soup

Duck Soup is a Marx Brothers film from 1933. I guess I don't really understand the Marx Brothers. I don't really like comedy with puns, and physical comedy makes me sort of tired. I don't really like The Three Stooges either, there's just something about this sort of style that makes me exhausted. I think it's just personal taste that this fell sort of flat for me. I mean, it sort of grew on me, and I found a few moments funny, but otherwise I was sort of "meh". I'm sure this is movie blasphemy, but I wasn't in love, or even really in like with this film.

Saturday, January 22, 2011

Dr. Strangelove

When my parents brought  home a 62" inch DLP TV, and got a DVR for the first time, I had mixed emotions. It was so large. My friend stood back and saluted the TV, saying, "Welcome to our lives, you big behemoth." Later, I sat down and looked through the free on demand movies. I found Stanley Kubrick's 1964 film Dr. Strangelove, and it was the first thing I ever watched on the giant screen. To be honest, I don't remember if I had ever seen it before then. I just remember being in awe - this shockingly funny and beautiful black and white movie taking up half of my basement, while I sat huddled up and small in the corner of the couch. I think it was a perfect way to watch a movie like this. Not because you need a big TV, but a sense of wonder. I was pretty astonished at how funny it was and how great the acting was. I remember laughing at General Turgidson chewing endless amounts of gum, the antics of Dr. Strangelove's gloved hand. I was skeptical of the TV at first. "Why would anyone need something so large?" For movies like Dr. Stranglelove. For masterpieces. Now, watching a Blu-ray of the movie, I'm happy to have access to the TV, to be able to watch this and all the other films of Ebert's books in full high definition.

Friday, January 21, 2011


It's hard to talk about a movie like Tod Browning's 1931 Dracula. I keep starting this entry and deleting everything that I am writing! Am I sick of both the book and the movie? Has the 1931 film lost a lot of the shock that it had, now that modern audiences are more seasoned and used to horror? I love Bela Lugosi, but I don't feel afraid of him. To be honest, I mostly watch this movie for Renfield, the character who goes mad and becomes Dracula's servant. I love this movie, and I feel creeped out by it, but not nearly as unsettled as when I read Let The Right One In. What does this mean? I'm not quite sure, apparently. I think it's a great movie and I think Bela Lugosi is incredible. I'm not quite sure, I guess, how it holds up in our vampire-saturated culture.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Double Indemnity

Double Indemnity, written and directed in 1944 by Billy Wilder, is an early and classic noir film. Like all noir films, I saw it first in a class. Our class was an hour and a half long - the movie is almost two. My professor fast-forwarded through the parts he thought we ok to cull, explaining them to us as he did it. We also had to read the book, so I feel like I didn't ever really miss that much. Somehow, this is true. Watching it again, I felt like I had seen it really recently. I really like this movie, though, so I was happy to watch it again.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Do The Right Thing

Embarrassing confession - I really don't know Spike Lee. I often heard professors mention his production company, but to be honest I can't think of anything I've seen by him. I'm really glad that I watched this. I don't know if I ever would have picked it out on my own without this project, although if it wasn't for this project, I'd just be watching "My Strange Addiction", so...

Do The Right Thing was written and directed by Spike Lee in 1989, and the plot is a bit too elaborate to summarize. I'm not sure I can, without just going on and on. It is, I guess, in a sentence, the story of a one city block in Brooklyn, and the racial tensions and conflicts that go on there.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I first watched Detour in a film noir class that I took. I doubted that it could be any good when the professor popped in a ratty VHS tape and told us it was about an hour long. How good could a movie that is 68 minutes long be? Pretty good, actually. Later, on vacation in Buena Vista, Colorado, I saw this in a box set at Alco. Alco is some sort of horrible discount store, like a really crappy K-Mart. Everything inside is dusty and off-brand, shelves half-collapsed everywhere. It was the only general store we could find in the town, and we needed some blank DVDs and hangers, which they had. We browsed the strange selection of movies, and there it was - Detour, boxed with three other noir films I never heard of. It was about $4 for the set, so I begged Anthony to buy it for me because I promised him that Detour was beyond worth it. Like me, he was doubtful. Only $4? Finally, months later, I was able to sit down with him and watch it. I think he agrees with me now :)

Monday, January 17, 2011

The Decalogue

It is rare to see long-form story done so well. We're used to seeing it on TV. Most of those aren't that well done, though. There is an art to being able to tell a long story and wrap it up at some point. To end it. We don't often see things like that anymore, in a world where to be a "good television writer" means to shoot for syndication so you don't have to work anymore. Over the last three days, I watched The Decalogue, a ten-part, made for TV series directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski in 1988. In my mind, 'made for TV' is a dirty phrase. Only the worst things are made for TV, like that horrible remake of The Shining I watched when I was a kid. That defines 'made for TV'. Television is where you can go to commit that sort of blasphemy. This series is nothing like that. I had so many bad feelings going into this, but I came away really surprised.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Next Three Days...

For January 15, 16, and 17, I'm going to be watching The Decalogue, a series of ten, one-hour Polish films (er, TV shows, really) from 1988 directed by Krzysztof Kieślowski. The films are based off of the Catholic Ten Commandments. I'll do a post about all of them when I am done watching, but after the first three today, I am already really surprised by how much I am loving these.
Hope everyone is having a nice, relaxing weekend!

Friday, January 14, 2011

Days of Heaven

It's difficult to describe a movie that is mostly image, like a living, breathing painting. Terrence Malick's 1978 film Days of Heaven is like this. I've always heard that Malick isn't a filmmaker - he is an artist, a poet, a philosopher. I read this story about him online, from the set of The Thin Red Line (which I saw a long time ago, when I was not mature enough to understand it). Someone described that they were about to set off a huge explosion for a big scene, and there were airplanes taking off, trucks everywhere, and they were ready to go. Suddenly, Malick saw a hawk in the sky. Everything stopped. "Oh, look it's a red tail hawk. Look, John, John, get the camera, there it is." They sat around, holding off the big scene, so they could film the hawk. He didn't care about the script as much as he did the images of the movie. I thought of that story while I was watching Days of Heaven. The plot is held at a distance from the viewer, and we are left with mostly images. It was truly a beautiful work of art. Had I had any money left from buying Blu-rays earlier today, the Criterion edition of this would be on its way to me already.

Late Night.

I'm just getting home and sitting down to eat dinner - a Blockbuster near my house is closing, and I had to go and purchase many Blu-rays.
Due to this distraction, I haven't watched Days of Heaven yet. But I'm going to! I'm just going to eat dinner, which is ready, and then start it. I just thought that my post might be a littler later tonight than usual.
I'm sort of a purist about things, so I just wanted to make it clear that even if my post is late, I will have watched the movie today (before midnight). Hahaha, this seems stupid now that I've said it. It's how I am. The Blu-rays I bought all came in DVD I feel like I need to buy some "real" cases for them so they "match" my other Blu-rays. So you can rest assured that I am actually this weird about everything.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

City Lights

City Lights (1931), written, directed, acted in, and produced by Charlie Chaplin, is the best sort of silent film. It transcends time and genre - it's a romantic comedy, but it doesn't feel outdated in any way. Even without speaking, the characters are easy to understand and emphasize with. It's easy to follow and fun to watch. I always feel sort of like silent movies have some sort of stigma, like they're just something that smarmy hipsters watch to be pretentious. Silent films are for sure outdated as a media, but they're still really fun to watch. I think comedies like this are the most accessible, since they hold up so well still.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Citizen Kane

It's hard to write about a film as famous as Orson Welles' 1941 Citizen Kane. It's hard to join the discussion when so much has already been said about it. I had a professor who told us, when we were writing thesis papers, we had to read everything about our topic before we could even start join in on "the discussion". Unfortunately, I don't have the luxury of being able to read everything about Citizen Kane, and  I don't want to waste time summarizing it or explaining what everyone knows. Orson Welles! Deep focus! Ceilings! The breakfast table scene! It's been said. Why repeat it? We've all heard it, yes? I want to keep this more about my feelings about it, and more about my experiences with other people and the film.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011


I want to just preface this post with a brief...something. I strongly dislike Roman Polanski as a person. However, I can and do separate him from his body of work. The fact that he is a horrible person does not render his entire body of work invalid. I do not want to really talk any more about Polanski as a person, though. If you have thoughts about Chinatown or his other movies, I'm happy to hear them and talk about them with you, but I don't really to want discuss Polanski. I know that Polanski's actions are a touchy subject for some people, so I just wanted to make it clear that I'm focusing on his work, not him as a person, and I hope that others can do the same.

With that out of the way, today's movie is Polanski's 1974 film Chinatown. It's an incredible movie, and I always love watching it. It feels so timeless, it never seems to age or feel outdated to me. The acting is incredible, the writing is outstanding, and it's an all around great movie.


Lots of snow today - a constant flurry of huge clumps of it drifting down from the sky. I love it when it snows like this, I'm always in such a good mood the whole day because it's so beautiful. :)
Nikita is displeased.
 It's a nice cozy day for staying in, curling up under a blanket with Nikita to watch a movie. She is upset because she had to go out in the snow - which is pretty deep, mind you. Being lazy, I didn't shovel a path for her, so her ittle feets got cold, daaaawwwww. One last adorable picture, and then I have to focus and watch Chinatown, lucky for me. :)
Nikita, an intrepid snow poodle.

Monday, January 10, 2011


Ah, winter. It's such a wonderful time - it makes my ruined left shoulder ache, and it makes everyone ill, it seems. I'm still struggling to fight off a cold, so I'm not sure how much I can write tonight. Sick or not, it was really great to curl up tonight and watch Casablanca, directed by Michael Curtiz in 1942. I love this movie. I've seen it in and studied it in a lot of different ways - for film history, for cinematography, for lighting. Even having watched it a bunch of times and scrutinized it in various ways, it never gets old. It always seems emotional and real whenever I watch it. It seems like a lot of people I know haven't seen this film. It's sort of surprising, since it seems so accessible, even for an "old movie".

Sunday, January 9, 2011

Broken Blossoms

D.W. Griffith's 1919 film Broken Blossoms was the first silent movie that I ever saw. I had seen bits and pieces of silent films before, but I never sat down to watch one all the way though. I think I rented it and watched it for a film history class, the first one that I ever took. My boyfriend was over today and he sat down to watch this with me, admitting that he had never seen a whole silent movie before until now.

Saturday, January 8, 2011

Bride of Frankenstein

Today I watched James Whale's 1935 film Bride of Frankenstein. I have never seen it before, but in his essay, Ebert mentions that it's the best of all of the Universal Frankenstein movies. I really liked it - it was funny, witty, and an enjoyable little movie. The plot, I think, is self-explanatory - Henry Frankenstein, coerced by both the Monster and Dr. Praetorious, tries to make a mate for his Monster.

Friday, January 7, 2011

Bonnie and Clyde

I'm not feeling so well today, I feel like I'm fighting off a cold, which is a possibility. My boyfriend is sickly, so I blame him. Or maybe I just had a bit too much fun last night - my friend and I watched Furry Vengeance followed by The Human Centipede, which explains what sort of mood we were in. Either way, with a hot mug of throat coat tea (surprisingly delicious) next me to me, I want to keep this a little short and easy, so I can get back to relaxing.

Today I watched Bonnie and Clyde, directed by Arthur Penn in 1967. It was, if I remember anything from college, the first film from the "New Hollywood" movement. This was an American film movement that includes movies like The Graduate, Easy Rider, Taxi Driver, Chinatown, and Midnight Cowboy. These movies were unlike anything that had existed in Hollywood previously. Audiences were growing bored of historical epics and musicals, and younger people were watching more foreign movies to quench their thirsts. It was shocking when Bonnie and Clyde came out - it got a lot of negative critical reviews. But younger audiences loved it. It spoke to them - they liked the shocking violence and disaffected characters that they could relate to.

Thursday, January 6, 2011

Body Heat

Today's movie is Lawrence Kasdan's 1981 film  Body Heat. It's a neo-noir, which I feel like I have to say since I took so many classes on noir where I had it implanted in my brain that noir is a historical genre, that only exists between the 1940s and 1950s. Which isn't really important, of course.

The movie is about Ned Racine, a sort of dopey, greedy lawyer who meets this incredibly beautiful woman, Matty Walker. She says she is married, but of course they start having an affair. She lets it slip that she isn't happy with her husband, but she signed a prenuptial, so she wouldn't get any money if they divorced. Ned realizes the only solution is to kill her husband, obviously, so she can have all the money, and they can carry on together. It's a classic, pulpy sort of plot, and it's pretty predictable and trashy. That's what I love about noir films, though. They're a lot of fun, and you generally know what to expect going into them.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Do you ever have days were you just feel like you are at a loss for words? That is so my day today. I don't know if it was too cold out for my brain to function, or what, but I really am struggling to think and articulate myself in any way. It doesn't help that the movie I watched today only muddled my thoughts even more. It was like, "The plot was pointless, the characters were boring and unlikeable, but for some reason I liked this film, and now I have to explain that? Ugh!"

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

The Big Sleep

The Big Sleep, directed by Howard Hawks in 1946, is known for being confusing and frustrating to watch. The plot, adapted from a novel by Raymond Chandler, is hard to follow and heavily censored due to the Hays Code. I've seen the beginning of this movie many times in classes I have taken (I took two classes on film noir and hard-boiled fiction in college), but never the whole thing. I've read Raymond Chandler, but never The Big Sleep, not that it matters. The Big Sleep, as Ebert says, " about the process of a criminal investigation, not its results" (The Great Movies, 70). The plot takes a back seat to the romance between Bogart and Bacall, and their chemistry is more engrossing than anything else happening on screen.

Monday, January 3, 2011

The Bicycle Thief

I have to admit, I was really dreading watching this. I have bad memories of Italian neorealism from film history classes. When I studied this genre, we had to watch Rome, Open City by Roberto Rossellini, which I didn't really love. We also were screened The Bicycle Thief, directed by Vittorio de Sica (1946). The classroom was slightly cold, where to get warm you had to curl up in your comfy, plush theater seat to generate body heat. As I watched the students around me one by one fall asleep, so did I.
Remembering this, I was not excited for trying to watch it again. My boyfriend knows all about my history of sleeping during any Italian neorealist films, so before he left last night, he put a Red Bull he had bought for himself into the fridge. "This is if you have an emergency during the movie," he told me seriously. I nodded solemnly. I tried to psyche myself up during the day. "If you go downstairs to watch this movie, you can eat the veggie sushi you bought and have a diet Mountain Dew!" I told myself. Not out loud. I promise. So, equipped with some treats, I tried to not get too comfortable to attempt to watch this film once and for all.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Belle du Jour

I spent the whole day shopping for picture frames and Blu-rays, which is about as exciting as it sounds. It was nice to come home and watch a surprisingly good movie - although I could see it's "good-ness" being very debatable. Luis Buñuel's film Belle du Jour (1967) is the story of a 23-year-old woman (named Severine, but who goes by Belle du Jour when she works) who grows bored of her husband and works at a brothel during the day. She is a masochist, and often has fantasies relating to this. It's billed as a very infamous erotic film, and although it doesn't feel dated, I was surprised at how...not graphic it was. Not that it would bother me if it was, I was just surprised to find how much of the film ended up taking place in my own imagination. I think that's what makes this film so sensual, in a way - you are left to create your own scenarios and ideas, since most of it takes place behind closed doors.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Beauty and the Beast

This is not the Disney version of Beauty and the Beast, but a film by Jean Cocteau made in 1946 in France. It's black and white, with stunning practical effects and costumes, and was pretty incredible. I loved the atmosphere of this film - it was eerie and haunting, It seemed so magical and enchanting, and it felt like I was looking into a new world. It seemed to be more convincing as a fantasy, for some reason, than the animated version I saw as a kid. I think there was something about the huge, rich sets and the costumes that made it seem more fantastical and mystical.