Wednesday, March 30, 2011

What I've been up to

I'm not abandoning my project, I promise!
For the next few days I'm going to be watching the documentaries that are part of the Up series. It started with 7 Up, which I watched on Monday, and I'm going to watch them all up to 49 Up. If you're not familiar with this series, it follow a group of kids as they grow up, touching base with them every seven years. From what I can gather, a lot of what makes them so famous is their use of film, of chronicling lives this way. The first documentary was made in 1964, long before reality TV, so it was a really new idea to film people this way, and to watch their lives so closely. They have been really interesting so far - I'll post about them when I finish watching all of them!

Other than that, I've mostly been full of surl. Not surly, as that implies that I have actually been able to express my distaste for what's been going on in my life. No, I've just been congested with surl, and from a cold I picked up at work. Lots of stupid things have been going on, but hopefully once it's all over and resolved it will have all worked out for the better. But while it's going on it's quite ugh.

Anyway, if I have time, I'll try to produce some sort of content, but otherwise, I'll let you know what I think about the Up series after about an entire week of watching them. :)

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Un Chien Andalou

Today's movie fit my mood perfectly. My body, apparently sick of running on little to no sleep, decided to just...sleep. I would get up and walk around and become so tired that when I'd sit back down on the couch to read I'd fall asleep again. I didn't really mind - I had really strange and vivid dreams, and I love that, as stupid as that sounds. It was far more entertaining to me than anything else I could have been doing. I apparently share this obsession with one of the directors of today's movie, Luis Bunuel. Ebert quotes him in the beginning of his essay, writing, "Luis Bunuel said that if he were told he had 20 years to live and was asked how he wanted to live them, his reply would be: "Give me two hours a day of activity, and I'll take the other 22 in dreams -- provided I can remember them"' (The Great Movies, 466). I couldn't agree more.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Trouble in Paradise

So tired all day today! I finally was able to go into my doctor and get some medication so hopefully this horrible insomnia will get better. But getting up early and getting blood drawn made me tired and meh all day. I'm really...not good with needles, but only at the doctor. I can sit for piercings all day, but draw blood, and I'm faint just getting the stretchy thing tied around my arm. Ugggh. Of course I'm one of those people who has bad veins that can never be found, so I always come home with huge bruises from the needle being repeatedly poked and jabbed and twisted once it's in my arm. Whine whine whine. Back to what I should be doing, which is blogging, and not pouting about how I want to watch Pit Boss instead.

Tonight I watched Trouble in Paradise, directed by Ernst Lubitsch in 1932. The movie is about Lily, a beautiful pickpocket, who falls in love with Gaston, a suave jewel thief. Over dinner, the tease each other by stealing different things from each other until Lily leaps into his lap and calls him Darling. They decided to rip off a woman who runs a perfume empire, Madame Mariette Colet, but Gaston finds himself torn between his feelings for the two women.

Friday, March 25, 2011

The Third Man

What an interesting little movie! Tonight I watched The Third Man, directed by Carol Reed in 1949. Orson Welles is in it for a few minutes, but I so enjoyed him, it felt like it was much longer. The movie is about Holly Martins, an American author who writes pulp novels. He is invited to Vienna to see his friend Harry Lime, but when he arrives, Lime has just been killed. Holly becomes suspicious after talking with Lime's friends, and he feels like something might be afoot. He tries to find answers, with the vague help of Lime's lover, Anna.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Taxi Driver

I really don't have much time to write about this. I'm so exhausted and I keep putting it off, because after reading Ebert's essay, which has a very interesting analysis of the film, I feel like there isn't anything interesting I can say! I really loved his essay, he compares Martin Scorsese's 1976 film Taxi Driver (which I watched tonight) with The Searchers, which stars John Wayne. Both films, he argues, are about the same sort of man - scarred by war, looking to rescue a woman from a situation where she might not want to be rescued from. I love this thought, and I feel pretty jealous that I didn't come up with it. If that sounds interesting to you at all, I highly suggest you read his essay, it's pretty amazing, and seems like a departure from some of the other ones that I've read so far. Plot spoilers follow, just as a warning.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Swing Time

I've actually never seen a Fred Astaire & Ginger Rogers movie until now, despite how crazy that might sound. I was sort of excited to watch tonight's movie, Swing Time, directed by George Stevens in 1936. In his essay on the film. Ebert asserts that this is the best of their movies, so I'm glad I was able to start with this one. I really liked the movie. It felt a lot less stupid than some Broadway style musicals, and the talent of Astaire and Rogers was incredible. I couldn't believe what great dancers that they were, and how engrossing it was to watch it.

The plot of the movie is about as hokey as you would imagine for a musical, romantic comedy. John "Lucky" misses his own wedding, and promises his bride, Margaret, and her father, that he'll come with a token of $25,000 for them. He leaves for New York to gamble, where he meets Penny Carol, a beautiful dancer who he is taken with at first sight. He pretends to be a horrible dancer so she will teach him, and his antics get her fired. He quickly launches into an astounding dance number to win her job back. They become dance partners and perform, and of course, a romance blossoms. But what of the weird orchestra leader who lusts after Penny? And what about Lucky's fiance? Drama! Comedy!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Sweet Smell of Success

So tired - lots of bad insomnia lately. I'm a little out of it, so this post will probably be pretty short, since I need to get to bed and try to relax. It's so hard for me think straight after a few nights with only an hour or two of sleep. :/

Tonight I watched the movie Sweet Smell of Success, directed by Alexander Mackendrick in 1957. The movie is about J.J., a Broadway columnist for a newspaper, and Sidney Falco, a struggling press agent. J.J. convinces him to break up an affair that he disapproves of, one between J.J.'s sister and a musician. The strange relationships that build this film are really fascinating to watch, be it the odd one between J.J. and Falco, or J.J. and his sister.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Sunset Boulevard

I never had any idea that Sunset Boulevard would be such a creepy, wonderful film. I imagined it had something to do with Hollywood, but that was all I really knew. The film was amazing, directed by the always-talented Billy Wilder in 1950. It's eerie and haunting, but still relatable and almost comedic. I personally really bought into the script - I was pretty spooked by the character of Norma, and the relationship that she had with Joe. The other characters seemed to believe in it, and I found that I did as well. The idea of someone being mentally destroyed in Hollywood is pretty believable as well. I mean, we see lesser examples of this happen every day, so it was easy to accept how insane Norma becomes.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Star Wars (IV-VI)

It's been a long time since I sat down and watched all of the Star Wars movies. I loved them so much when I was younger, and it was really fun to watch them again. When I was a kid, I watched old VHS tapes of them, without the vaguely edited effects, but my mind was blown. Since the effects were so well done, they never look too dated. I mean, they do, but not in a way that bothers me at all. I am not a big fan of sci-fi anymore, but I still find myself excited by Star Wars. They have the perfect combination of effects, action, humor and story. There isn't a complicated or deep plot, but the characters are very well written and memorable, which makes the films so engrossing. The pacing is great, and everything about them just feel so fun and interesting. I always remember the characters fondly, and watching them again felt really comfortable and it was a really fun way to spend the weekend.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some Like It Hot

I never saw this film before, although the title is so familiar. Billy Wilder directed Some Like It Hot in 1959. I actually bought the film at Target over Christmas when I noticed that Netflix no longer rented the film for no apparent reason. It sounded like something I would like, since it involved both the mob and cross-dressing. Could I go wrong? No, I learned today. It's such a funny movie. It's sort of long for a comedy, but it works really well in this film. I liked that it, as Ebert said perfectly, is not really about crime and greed but it pretends to be. It's really just about sex, of course. It was pretty blatant in so many parts, but it was perfect. Everything that is fun about raunchy comedy without ever veering into gross-out territory. It had scenes that were pretty risque and scenes that were actually heartwarming and cute. It was so much fun, and Tony Curtis and Jack Lemmon were pretty hilarious to watch. They were so awkward but I totally bought into their story and relationship. Ebert spends most of his essay writing about Marilyn Monroe. She's pure sex, for sure, but please excuse me if I don't spend my blog post describing the slope of her breasts in great detail. He's right that it's hard to focus on anything but her when she is on screen, but uh, I don't need to really re-create in text how sexy her dresses are on her. Watch it yourself. :)

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Singin' in the Rain

I am an avid loather of musical theater. There are one or two strange ones that I like, but they tend to be unpopular, depressing, or basically are just English opera. I really don't feel Broadway-style musicals or American musical movies. They just strike the wrong note with me (hurr hurr). I've taken voice lessons since I was in middle school. I started out with a teacher who let me pick whatever I wanted to sing, which I liked. In high school, I had a teacher who forced us to sing musical theater. She generally just picked all our music for us, which I hated, but having musical theater picked for you when you are 16 and dress in all black is pretty terrible. I wanted to sing Fiddler on the Roof, she wanted me to sing South Pacific. Maybe my history with musical theater music has left me surled. I grew up watching today's movie - Singin' in the Rain, directed by Gene Kelly and Stanley Donen in 1952.  I spent a lot of time with my grandparents as a kid, and my grandpa loved musicals. He loved this one, and I remember him often singing at the top of his lungs along with, or just breaking out randomly into "Singin' in the Rain". I recently had to watch a few parts of it in a film history class, and I was surprised at the plot. It was set in the 1920's? It was about filmmaking? What? I only remember all the songs, which I'm not so wild about now. I really was shocked by how funny and clever the movie was when I watched it again, and watching it all the way through tonight, I really rediscovered this movie. I never thought I would say I enjoyed a musical like this, but I really did. It's so much fun! For me, the plot and non-music scenes are the best and the most enjoyable, but I already explained myself. I'm such a sucker for movies about movies, and this one is no exception. I just loved how lighthearted it was. I came home in an awful mood and I was convinced that nothing could make me smile - but this proved me wrong.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

The Silence of the Lambs

Is it possible that anyone has not seen this movie? I know it's not uncommon for people to not watch popular drama films, since those can be so dull. But everyone loves thrillers. The Silence of the Lambs is one of the greatest, directed in 1991 by Jonathan Demme. No matter how many times I see this movie, it still makes me tense and edgy. It also doesn't feel dated. I mean, the clothing does, but for a thriller, this film has had an incredibly long life.  Horror and thriller movies can be a hard genre, because it's so easy to make them vaguely effective and at the same time, disposable. The movie is unforgettable, and it feels like one of those films that you want to share with someone, because you know they will love it and it will be just as scary today as it was in 1991.  It's strength lies in it's strong and fascinating characters. Characters are supposed to be the most important elements of plot, but often, and more recently, they are overlooked. Instead of characters, there is only plot. When you think back to your favorite movie, you don't think about a plot point - you remember the characters. Horror movies and thrillers can be made with no good, well-thought out characters - they just need gore and sight gags and scary music. To see a thriller that has such strong characters is so exciting, and I'm sure that this has a lot to do with the legacy of this film.

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Shawshank Redemption

Every time I think of this movie, I think about how hard I worked to avoid seeing it. I heard about this movie for what seemed like years. Everyone always named it as their "most favortist" movie, which always makes me doubtful. Directed in 1994 by Frank Darabont, who seems on only directed Stephen King adaptions (and most recently and strangely he produced The Walking Dead TV Show). I always feel like I'll just be disappointed when I see movie that people talk about in such glowing terms. I don't doubt their taste, I just tend to become more critical and surly. I'm not alone in this feeling. I worked on a short film for DePaul my senior year, working on production design and creating a set for a drug addict to live in. During shooting in the apartment, I became tired of the sheer cattiness of production design and resigned myself to just PA. I sulked in the cockroach-infested hallway with my friend Rick. Between our bouts of whining and confirming into the walkie-talkie that we had "this shit locked down", we complained about movies. Specifically, ones we had never seen. We both immediately named The Shawshank Redemption. It was so talked about that we both felt it couldn't possibly be that good when we watched it. I'm not going to say I wasn't right, because this is by no means my favorite movie. But it was for sure a great movie, and an exceptional movie. The story was sort of contrite, but it felt really good to watch it. It did a lot of cool things with pacing and tone and cinematography. There were some parts that felt meh to be, but overall, I was really impressed with the movie, and I understand (to some extent) why everyone loves it so much. I can see why people name it as a favorite. My favorite movies that I tend to actually declare "my favoritst" are the ones that sort of opened my mind to something new. A movie that I saw something different in, or I have a really strong, good, memory about. I often name my favorite movie as being the first movie I saw where I "got" film analysis, and I was like, "Oh, movies can mean things!" Anyway, on to the actual film at hand.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The Seventh Seal

It's hard to form coherent, well-thought out sentences when you just want to go to bed early for once. Ingmar Bergman is a little confusing, and it takes me a while to process movies like the one I watched earlier tonight, his 1957 film The Seventh Seal. I feel like I need a few days to think about it, to try to learn about and understand some of the references and allusions I didn't get. Because I need longer to think about this movie, coupled with my need for sleep, this blog will probably stay short. Not because I didn't like the movie, but I don't know what to say about it yet!

Seven Samurai

So many films and directors owe so much to Akira Kurosawa. His 1954 film Seven Samurai has been described as possible the most influential film ever mad. Not only was there a direct remake, but many of his samurai films were made into western films, or inspired films like Star Wars. Ebert speculates that it might have started the practice of introducing the main hero of the movie by showing him undertaking a mission unrelated to the plot. Others say it is the first film to use the now-common plot device of recruiting a bunch of different characters into a team to accomplish a common goal. These sound like big, vague statements, but that is because there are so many films that use these different things that it's difficult to point to just one or two as examples! I started this movie pretty late under the incorrect notion that it was only like, two and half hours long (which IMDB mobile showed). When I booted up my Blu-ray and started Netflix, I was told it was three and a half. Yikes. So it's late, and daylight savings whatever, so it's even later, and I'm just starting my post about about 3:00am. Forgive any shortness, wrongness, or vagueness, please. :)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Schindler's List

Confession - I have never seen Steven Spielberg's famous 1993 film Schindler's List. I was a little kid when it came out, so I never heard anything about it, since I was too busy being a five-year-old to care about movies at all. The first time I heard of it was on Seinfeld, the infamous episode where Jerry makes out with a date during the movie. And that was it. I didn't know anyone who watched it. It's long, and it seems like it would be depressing. We don't rent Shoah because it's a nine hour long depressing documentary - could a movie over three hours long about the Holocaust be anything less? It's not a movie I had any interest in renting in high school, and even now. I just didn't really know enough about it to think about it. I didn't think I would like a fiction movie about this subject. I was really surprised after watching the film. It is for sure not a happy movie, but it is not sad or depressing either. The ending is uplifting, and the message, that one person can make a very big difference, is positive and feel-good. I normally reject this sort of ending, but it worked for this. I felt moved by it, and touched by all the people portrayed in the film. The movie is not without it's problems, but they are easy to overlook, for me.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Red River

Well, no use in putting this post off any longer or trying to find a "nice way" to write it. I didn't like any part of Red River, directed by Howard Hawks in 1948. Anthony loves westerns, and he agrees that there was somehow not a single part of this movie that was enjoyable. To be fair, his love of westerns seems, like mine, to be exclusive to spaghetti westerns with the exception of The Searchers, so I guess we have some sort of bias, here. I also really don't like John Wayne, for a large number of reasons. Wait. There was one good part - where John Wayne got his ass kicked by Matt. I don't get any part of this movie. The women are shrill and annoying, and if they're not being objectified, they're yelling and nagging. The movie would be better if they just weren't even in it. There is weird racism and animal abuse. Everyone mumbles and I kept having to turn up the volume on my TV only to be assaulted by the stereotypical soundtrack of choirs and violins with some "western" noises mixed in.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Raging Bull

Another movie this week that I am at a loss for words from. It is so famous that it feels like there isn't anything left to say. It's the movie that probably saved Martin Scorsese's life. Although it didn't win the Oscar that year, it clearly is the better movie and has withstood the test of time. Directed in 1980 and shot in striking black and white to show a ton of blood and sweat, I think everyone has heard of this film, if not seen it. I feel like I've seen this movie so many times, but I never get bored of it. It's constantly on in film classes, constantly referenced in film literature, from studious textbooks to gossip rags like the infamous Easy Riders and Raging Bulls. I wish I had some more obscure films this week - everything I've watched is so hard to write anything original about, and it's going to stay that way for a little while. Oh well, I can survive, although I wish I could write something that didn't sound like I was just trolling through Wikipedia.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Pulp Fiction

There was a long period of time where I felt nothing but irritation towards Quentin Tarantino and all of his films, including Pulp Fiction, which he directed in 1994. This was during high school, where it seemed like watching Tarantino was a rite of passage. Afterward, no one was sure why they liked the movies they saw other than the fact that everyone else saw them, and now they could quote them and reference them together. It was similar to how people seem to only remember the funny, quotable parts of Apocalypse Now. I didn't hate Tarantino, but I hated what his movies became when stupid kids watched them, when they had no plot or characters, just single lines of dialogue. It wasn't so much that they were "popular" as it was that they just became so devoid of what it was that I liked about them.

After a long enough stretch of time, and my mind open enough to re-visit them, I finally sort of fell in love with these movies again. Pulp Fiction is an incredible movie - for so many reasons. It helped that I watched it again when I had seen more films, and I knew the genres that Tarantino was referencing; when I was mature enough to think about the meaning of the plot and characters instead of just "heh, foot massage!" Of course, like all other very famous and loved movies, there is so much analysis on this now that it's tiring to me. So I'll skip over that, if you want to find it, the internet is here for you.

Monday, March 7, 2011


This post will probably stay short - not because this isn't an incredible movie, but because I am pretty sure that everything possible to say about it has already been said. You can't even look it up on Wikipedia without finding long-winded analysis. I don't want to just re-tread everything, poorly - if you want to read analysis and history about the movie, it's all out there for you.

I think Alfred Hitchock's most famous film (in my small social circle) is Psycho, which he directed in 1960. Oddly enough, there is a point where it's sort of like Citizen Kane - a lot of people haven't actually watched it. I think it has had that strange effect where people feel like they have seen the whole movie already, even if they haven't. Cultural consciousness. People have seen the shower scene, either parodied or in pieces, and its like, "Why else do I watch this movie? I know the main plot." I always feel sort of bad when I see this happen to movies, but it's so hard to avoid it when a film become famous or notorious in any way. I wish I had an explanation for why I know so many people who have never seen this movie, but I don't. Maybe modern horror has de-sensitized and spoiled people. Maybe people actually do feel like they have seen this film already, like I was pondering. Maybe black and white is off-putting. I have no idea, but it is a little more interesting to think about than the normal "the Bates house represented the ego, id, and the superego!"

Sunday, March 6, 2011


I don't really know what to write about this movie. I'm not even really tired or surly or anything else that usually makes me unable to think. I just don't know what to say! I don't remember how I felt about this as a kid, although I'm sure I was scared of it, as I was all things. As an adult, I just feel apathy towards the story. Who knows.

I understand that part of the reason this movie is on the list is the animation - which I get, it's beautiful looking. I rented the Blu-ray that had just been restored and it was really shocking, how great it looked. I loved that I could see all of the little brush strokes on all of the drawings. I don't ever remember the film looking so tedious and hand-crafted, and it was really cool to see that. It looked great, and if I was one of those people who had patience for children, I could see sharing it with them, the sort of excitement that you might feel in that. I get it, I guess, I just don't really relate to it or anything.

Saturday, March 5, 2011


Often, I'll admit, I get sort of tired of sitting around for 3 hours every day watching some random film. In the end, I'm usually pleased I did it, but some nights I just want to curl up and read, or go to sleep early, or actually catch up on TV shows before they are a week old. Ah well. Today's movie was short and sweet, so it fit my ADD mood perfectly. Pickpocket was directed by Robert Bresson in 1959. Only an hour and sixteen minutes, all of them a joy to sit through. My whole day was like, "Sleep in! Nah, I'll read. Nope, back to sleep! Get my nails done! Nah, schlep around the house. Ok, really getting my nails done. Now buy some beer! Now buy some blu-rays! I wish I went shopping for things I actually needed! What's for dinner? Durrr." So I could stand for a film short enough to put up with my limited attention span and focus. Right now I'd rather look at nail polish swatches online than write this, of course.

Friday, March 4, 2011


I felt like I had such a long week this week. Today I missed work for some doctor appointments. About a year ago I had major shoulder surgery, and my job and it's repetitive actions (I rarely take breaks) has inflamed it again. A few cortisone shots deep into my joint later, and I'm feeling better, if not really grossed out. My surgeon was making fun of me for having so many piercings and feeling sick at the thought of shots. "I have selective needle fear," I told him seriously. I came home and started to watch today's movie - Persona, directed by Ingmar Bergman in 1966, which furthered my weird mood. 

I don't want to admit this, but I must. I have heard a lot about Bergman. I know what films were inspired by his work and why. I know he is important and to be ooohed and awwwwed over. But I have never watched one of his films. They always sound good, if not upsetting, and I just never find myself in the mood for one. It's always like, "Shall I watch another documentary on climbing Everest, or a Bergman? Eeeeeeh, documentary it is." Weirder movies tend to deeply affect my mood. I don't have an explanation, I just seem to feel the emotions from them for longer, so I tend to put them off, since I know I'll be affected. I mean, after I watched Antichrist, I saw for almost an hour just staring at the black TV screen, thinking, wondering. I subjected Anthony to Eraserhead once, and we both felt sick to our stomachs afterwards for a few hours. We're weird. So Bergman, despite my knowledge that I need to watch his films, always settled at the bottom of my list. Sorry, Film Professors. Sorry, Ingmar Bergman.

Thursday, March 3, 2011

Peeping Tom

Peeping Tom, directed in 1960 by Michael Powell, is a film I have never heard anything about. Powell is a director I had never heard anything about, either, but when Ebert lists the films he made before this one, I was shocked, since they are so famous and highly regarded. I watched the movie and I fell in love, and I was like, "Ah, of course, this is why he is so successful." Then I read Ebert's essay, where he stated that this movie was so controversial and hated that it ended his career, and only was revived and liked much later. Wow. I had no idea, and I never would have suspected, since I liked the movie so much.

The film is about Mark Lewis, a guy who works on a camera crew pulling focus during the day but murders women and films their murders at night. Like all serial killers in movies, he is obsessed with his parents - his father, a psychologist, used Mark as a guinea pig in experiments about fear. I found the movie to be really creepy and fascinating. Mark is so smooth and cool but such a freak. He kills people with a knife that is concealed in his camera tripod, which is such a strange idea but it works so very well.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

The Passion of Joan of Arc

I heard about this movie before I watched it. The Passion of Joan of Arc, a boring title for an incredible movie, directed by Carl Theodor Dreyer in 1928. The first time I saw it was in a class, and our professor told us some stories about it first, so we would care about the film. For some reason, I always found the stories she told disturbing - and thinking about them and watching the film is haunting. The first thing she told us about was about Renée Jeanne Falconetti. The actress suffered so greatly during the filming of the movie, both physically and emotionally. She only watched the film once, and afterward, she was so traumatized by her own suffering that she never acted again. Her own image upset her that deeply, we were told. Then, we heard about the prints of the film being destroyed. It was thought lost for years, never assembled as the director intended - until it was found in closet in a mental institution, and the version we watch today is from this print.

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Pandora's Box

I saw Pandora's Box when I was in high school. I was obsessed with Louise Brooks and was spending a lot of time researching her for a stupid reason. I was running a Call of Cthulhu role playing game, set in the 1920's. The only players were my guy friends, so I rolled up a female NPC to make things less of a sausage festival. I picked Louise Brooks to be the character, and I had enough pictures of her and personality that soon my friends were as obsessed with her as I was. I remember Tyler (who played the resident "archelologist" as he called it) was pretty much dating her in the game, and he came over one night all cracked out after watching Pandora's Box in film class. Such nerdy, happy memories.

So I'm always happy when I see Louise Brooks, since she reminds me of all of the fun, long nights with my friends. The movie was directed in 1929 by Georg Wilhelm Pabst. It's a German silent film, and although I really like to watch it, I understand that it's meh and off-putting to most people. It's also pretty long - 2 hours and 11 minutes was the version I watched tonight, so it takes a commitment to focus during it.