Monday, September 30, 2013

September Movie Status

I saw 41 new movies in the month of September, plus 2 TV show seasons, plus 2 shorts, plus 2 re-watches.  The majority of those were for the 1,001 Movies list, which just got 49 more films added to it this month.  I had seen 21, so that left 28 to watch to once again complete the list.  I did that.  I also ranked all 49 additions in this post.

I only saw one Oscar Best Picture nominee.  That was Hold Back the Dawn (1941).  I had never been able to locate it, but Adolytsi of Adol’s CinematoBlogoWebboScreed tracked down a copy for me.  Big thanks to him for this.

Here are the 44 new movies, shorts, and TV show seasons I saw in September.  Highlighted movies are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.  I will single out the four and five star films, as well as the worst films, in the paragraphs below the lists.

1,001 Movies (28): Diva (1981), The Eagle (1925), The Devils (1971), Limite (1931), The Goddess (1934), Christ Stopped at Eboli (1979), Some Came Running (1958), The Consequences of Love (2004), The Exterminating Angel (1962), The Exiles (1961), The Great White Silence (1924), Distant Voices, Still Lives (1988), The Draughtsman’s Contract (1982), The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926), Peter Ibbetson (1935), Fireworks (1997), F for Fake (1973), Aileen: Life and Death of a Serial Killer (2003), Cave of Forgotten Dreams (2010), The Hired Hand (1971), A Throw of Dice (1929), Moolaade (2004), Elephant (2003), Osama (2003), Sleeping Dogs (1977), The Man with the Golden Arm (1955), Wake in Fright (1971), Summer with Monika (1953)

Oscar Nominees (1): Hold Back the Dawn (1941)

Other Movies (14): Now You See Me (2013), Oblivion (2013), The Wolverine (2013), Elysium (2013), The World’s End (2013), Sound of My Voice (2011), Delicacy (2011), An Awfully Big Adventure (1995), Lotte Reineger: Homage to the Inventor of the Silhouette Film (2001), The Secret of the Marquise (1922) - short, Design for Living (1933), Full Circle (2008) – short, Castaway on the Moon (2009), Chasing Ice (2012)

Re-watches (2): The Man from Earth (2007), Iron Man 3 (2013)

TV Series (2)The Big Bang Theory Season 6, The Big Bang Theory Season 1 (re-watch)

I had no five star movies in September.  Here are the four star films I saw:

The Great White Silence (1924) – Quite possible the single clearest and cleanest silent film I have ever seen.  And to think that the footage was shot in 1911 and 1912 in Antarctica.  This was a very good addition to the list.

The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926) – Another great addition to the list as this is the oldest surviving animated film.  It’s not just a curiosity, though, but a movie that gives a sense of adventure, peril, and triumph.

F for Fake (1973) – Another “why wasn’t this on the list in the first place” addition to the 1,001 Movies.  I really liked the whole question of how much, if anything, we are seeing is real.  It was meta before anyone had coined the term.

Now You See Me (2013) – This is a heist film and I like that genre.  It also has several good questions on just who is working with whom.  I was able to figure out who was behind it all, but that didn’t detract from my enjoyment.  This was a fun movie.

Delicacy (2011) – Audrey Tautou shines as a woman whose perfect husband dies, so she throws herself into her work for three years.  Suddenly she inexplicably starts to romance not only a subordinate, but a man who is at best only average looking.  All the people around her wonder what is going on with her.  The man is featured almost as much and he imbues his character with a full three dimensions, too.

Castaway on the Moon (2009)A little bit Castaway with Tom Hanks, a little bit Amelie, and quite charming throughout, this is the kind of film that will put a smile on your face (unless you are dead inside and don't like it when a movie makes you feel good.)  It’s not science fiction; it’s a light contemporary drama from South Korea.  While it has several funny moments in it I would not call it a comedy/drama.

And it wouldn’t be a real month of watching entries from the 1,001 Movies list without a one star film.  That is Limite (1931).  It’s both pretentious and boring.  It’s what Un Chien Andalou would be if it were two hours long instead of 30 minutes.  It’s the only film the director ever made.  After seeing this, I am NOT surprised.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Change of Plans for Today, and Change for This Website Going Forward

I was planning to do my first of several movie reviews of the 2013 additions to the 1,001 Movies list today.  Instead, I got blindsided by Amazon late last night.  Here is the key paragraph from an email I received from them:

“We're writing from the Amazon Associates Program to notify you that your Associates account will be closed and your Amazon Services LLC Associates Program Operating Agreement will be terminated effective October 6, 2013. This is a direct result of the unconstitutional Maine state tax collection legislation passed by the state legislature and signed by Governor LePage on June 5, 2013, with an effective date of October 9, 2013. As a result, we will no longer pay any advertising fees for customers referred to an Amazon Site after October 6, nor will we accept new applications for the Associates Program from Maine residents.”

What Amazon is referring to is that Maine (the state I live in) passed a law requiring online retailers to collect sales tax if purchases are made by Maine residents.  (That’s much simplified, but it gets to the gist of it.)  Many years ago a federal law was passed that online retailers had to collect sales tax for those states where they had a physical presence, even if it was only a distribution center or a support center.  Amazon has no such presence in Maine.

Of course, they do not get to decide what is and is not constitutional.  That’s the job of the U.S. Supreme Court.  I’m sure that since this state law is related to interstate commerce, and since the Constitution says that interstate commerce is under the control of the federal government, not the states, that that is what Amazon will argue.  In the meantime, though, Amazon has apparently decided to exact retribution on the people who live in my state for the actions of the government – 99% of whom I didn’t vote into office.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

I Completed the Entire 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die List…Again

Hopefully you read that title in your head with Bill Murray’s delivery of “It’s Groundhog Day…again”.  If not, go back and try it now.  I’ll wait.

(dum dum de dum do dum do DUMMM do du-)

Oh hey, you’re back.  It’s better with that delivery, isn’t it?

Anyway, I’ve now seen the 49 films that the 2013 edition added to the 1,001 Movies list.  I had already seen 21 of them, which meant I had 28 to track down.  And since I had completed the entire list in July of this year, I just had to knock off these 28 new additions and I would once more be done with it.

Don’t worry; I’m not going to rehash everything I wrote back in July.  If you missed that post, though, you can read it here.

Instead, I am going to rank the 49 films that got added, and then over the coming days and weeks I’m going to review many of the ones I would recommend.  Some I have already reviewed since I either included them in other movie categories, or they were Oscar-nominated films.  Every year I do as many of the Oscar nominees as I would recommend between the time the nominations are announced and the time the awards are handed out. 

Monday, September 23, 2013

Hike – Skyline Trail, Benjies Lake Trail, and Bog Trail in Cape Breton Highlands National Park in Nova Scotia

View of Skyline Ridge from the Cabot Trail
The Cabot Trail on Cape Breton Island in Nova Scotia is a 185 mile driving loop that is famous for its views, especially the northern third that traverses Canada’s Cape Breton Highlands National Park.  For those people who are familiar with the Kancamagus Highway in the White Mountains of New Hampshire and the Park Loop Road in Acadia National Park in Maine, the Cabot Trail is a combination of the two – many curves, scenic turnouts, and fantastic views of both mountains and ocean.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Book – William Shakespeare’s Star Wars

In Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991) a Klingon Chancellor said, “You have not experienced Shakespeare until you have read him in the original Klingon.”  I’m going to paraphrase/parallel that and say that you have not experienced Star Wars until you have read the original Shakespearean version.  What’s that?  You didn’t realize Star Wars was originally written by Shakespeare?  Well, neither did I until I recently picked up this book – thoughtfully presented by Ian Doescher.  It has everything you would expect from Shakespeare and even some things, like Banthas and Jawas, that you might not.

Wednesday, September 18, 2013

Movie – Once Upon a Time in the West (1968)

Once Upon a Time in the West is one of the best westerns ever made.  And to think that director Sergio Leone didn’t even want to make it because he was tired of doing westerns.  He couldn’t find any interest in a film he wanted to make titled Once Upon a Time in America, so he resorted to doing what he was best known for in the U.S.  It wouldn’t be until the 1980s before he would finally get to make that other film.  Despite the fact that this wasn’t his first choice he put together a great cast and story.  It includes not two antagonists, but four or even five – all with their own agendas that cause them to sometimes join with one another and sometimes to oppose one another.  That complexity is rare in westerns, whose stock in trade is easily identifiable good guys and bad guys.  Perhaps this complexity came from the fact that the film was co-written by Leone, Bernardo Bertolucci, and Dario Argento.  The latter two would go on to become successful directors in their own right.

Monday, September 16, 2013

Kickstarter Campaign for a Sequel to the Fantastic 2007 Film The Man from Earth

Back in 2007 Netflix recommended a movie to me that I had never heard of.  It was titled The Man from Earth (aka Jerome Bixby’s The Man from Earth).  As you can probably tell from the title and author it is a science fiction film. On thing I should be clear on: it is NOT “sci-fi”.  There are no space battles, ray guns, aliens, or any other clichés of the sci-fi genre.  Instead it presented a terrific story – the kind that keeps you thinking about it long after the film is over.  If you have not seen it you can find out about it by reading my spoiler-free, very positive review of the film here.  If you want to see the film, you can watch it streaming from both Netflix Instant and Hulu Plus.  Netflix also has it available on DVD.

I enjoyed the film immensely, even going so far as to watch it again just a couple hours after I finished watching it for the first time.  One thing I never really thought about was a sequel, though.  This is not because I wouldn’t want to see more of the main character, but simply because it didn’t occur to me.

Well today I found out that the original filmmakers have just initiated a Kickstarter campaign to fund a second film.  They say that over the years they have been approached many times by people wanting the rights to make more movies, a TV show, or other properties from the idea.  They had resisted all of them because they felt they weren’t right – much like Jerome Bixby’s son Emerson fought for years to get The Man from Earth, his father’s final, and perhaps greatest, story made into a worthwhile movie.

Their goal is only $175,000 by October 10, 2013.  The first film was made on a shoestring, so this may be a comparable budget.  It ended up being pirated from a screener before it was even released, and they did not make back their money until they opened a Paypal account and asked for voluntary donations from those who had seen it for free.  (The director of the film, Richard Schenkman, wrote an article about how piracy actually helped spread the word on how good this film was.  You can read that here.)

As it turns out, millions of people saw it, loved it, and drove a ton of interest in it.  For over a year it was the most searched for science fiction film on IMDB.  It is those people who have also been driving interest in a sequel.  With the successful experience of gathering funds over the internet, this time the filmmakers have gone the Kickstarter route for funding, rather than going to studios.

I wanted to embed their video discussing this effort into this post, but I couldn’t find it on Youtube yet.  It is on the project’s Kickstarter page, as are a description of what they want to accomplish, and a list of the various perks and benefits you get for the various levels of donations.  If you’ve got the dough you can even get a walk on role in the film.

If you have never heard of Kickstarter, it was founded in 2009 to help fund creative projects.  There is no risk to contributors because if the project does not reach its funding goals in the time specified then the project is off and all funds are returned.  Either you get what you contributed to (in this case a movie), or no money leaves your wallet.

I’m putting my money where my mouth, well keyboard, is and I’ve made a contribution.  Even if the second film is only half as good as the first one it will still be well worth seeing.  You know what?  I’m going to go pop in my DVD of the first film and watch it again right after I finish this post.

Here is the Kickstarter page for this film if you want to find out more and/or make a donation.

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Definitive List of Additions, Re-additions, Removals, and Changes Made to the 1,001 Movies List By the 2013 Edition, Plus Where You Can Find Them

This would have been up hours ago, but I’ve been besieged by powerful thunderstorms all day.  Now and then my UPS/Surge Protector takes a hit and shuts things down to protect my computer.  After the third or fourth time it gets really annoying.  I’ve basically been typing between the lightning strikes.


I have now gone through the entire 2012 and 2013 Editions side by side and put together the list of all changes the latest edition made to the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list.  I will list those below, along with where you can see them, as well as some thoughts and analysis on what got added and removed.  Overall, 47 films got added, 3 got re-added, 50 got removed, and one entry got changed.  The latter resulted in two more films being added, but without adding extra entries.  I will explain below.  The total list now contains 1,152 entries.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The 2013 Edition of the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die Is Now Available

This morning I received a comment on a post saying that Skyfall was mentioned on the Amazon U.K. site as one of the films to be added.  Out of curiosity I checked the U.S. Amazon site to see if it said the same and found something else: they are now shipping the 2013 hardcover edition of the book.  This is despite the fact that they still say it is not being published until October 1, 2013.  I put in an order for it and I should get it tomorrow.  At the bottom of this post I’ve included a direct link to this Amazon page for anyone else who is interested in getting it.  I don't know if bookstores would have it yet.

And by coincidence, later this morning I received an email from Colby Mann, a person working his way through the list.  He said he had received notice from Amazon that his order of the book was going to ship.  He was letting me know.  He also pointed out that parts of the Table of Contents were visible on Amazon. 

By comparing those parts to the 2012 edition’s Table of Contents I was able to put together a partial list of the movies being added and removed.

Here are those films:

Monday, September 9, 2013

Movie – Blue Crush (2002)

Why might you want to watch Blue Crush?  Well, it’s not for the freshness of the story, which has been done many times.  But how many movies can honestly claim they have original plots in them anyway?  It’s not for the Academy Awards, because it received none.  This is more an Mtv Awards kind of movie.  So why bother with it?  Because it has stunning cinematography and sound for the ocean, wave, and surfing scenes, of which there are plenty.  When I used to demonstrate my widescreen TV and surround sound system to people in the early 2000s (neither was common yet) I used to play the lobby and rooftop scene from The Matrix (1999) and the surfing practice scene from the middle of Blue Crush.  Many people would exclaim over the way the ocean really stood out.  In addition, since this is a movie about surfing there are plenty of great looking women and men that often appear in swimwear.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Movie – Young Frankenstein (1974)

How about the year Mel Brooks had in 1974?  He directed what are now known as two genre spoof comedy classics – Blazing Saddles and Young Frankenstein.  While the sendups of western clichés and the “meta-ness” of Blazing Saddles are fun, I prefer Young Frankenstein’s take on the monster movie genre in general and the Frankenstein’s monster movies in particular.  Brooks and the film’s star, Gene Wilder, co-wrote the film and you could tell they had a blast making it.  They received an Oscar nomination for Best Adapted Screenplay, but lost to The Godfather Part II.  “Adapted” is a bit of a reach.  There’s not a lot of connection between this film and Mary Shelley’s 1818 novel, other than the concepts.  Young Frankenstein actually is closer to the Frankenstein movies that it is making fun of.  Regardless of what it is based on, it is a very funny movie.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Movie – The World Unseen (2007)

The World Unseen is a drama set in Cape Town, South Africa in the 1950s.  While the ban on interracial relationships certainly plays a part in this film, that’s not the primary focus.  Instead it is the story of two women, one an unconventional one who runs her own restaurant and another who is a traditional housewife with a husband and three kids.  Neither woman is white or black, though; both belong to the Indian minority that settled in Africa following the troubles in their home region before, during, and after WWII.  Writer/director Shamim Sharif based the film on her own 2001 novel of the same name.  Even though she was born in England, she is of Indian and South African heritage.  While I know little of what South Africa was like in the 1950s this movie felt very authentic to me.  South Africans must have agreed because this film won 11 of the 15 SAFTAs (South African Film and Television Awards) in 2008, including Best Director and Best Ensemble Cast.

Sunday, September 1, 2013

August Movie Status

I saw 5 new movies in the month of August, plus 2 TV show seasons.  For those people who remember seeing me post a couple of months with 100+ new movies seen, that “5” is not a typo.  After completing the 1,001 Movies list in early July I’ve been taking a break from movies.  In fact, I’ve seen only 11 movies in the last eight weeks, and one was a re-watch.  The only Oscar Best Picture nominee I saw in August was watched mostly because it was expiring from Netflix Instant viewing.  I watched Late Spring on the last day of the month just so I had seen at least one film from a couple of other lists; in this case, it was the only film in the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They Top 100 that I had not seen.  It was also on the Sight and Sound 2012 Critics Top 250 list.

Here are the 5 new movies I saw in August.  Highlighted movies are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.  

Oscar Nominees (1): A Farewell to Arms (1932)

Other Movies (4): Run Silent, Run Deep (1958), Kick-Ass 2 (2013), Olympus Has Fallen (2013), Late Spring (1949)

Re-watches (0):

TV Series (2)Castle: Season 5 (re-watch), Covert Affairs: Season 3

I had no four or five star movies in August.  Since I saw so few, I will comment on each.

A Farewell to Arms (1932) – This is based on the classic Hemingway novel.  Gary Cooper and Helen Hayes play the star-crossed lovers.  The film was surprisingly frank about sexual matters for its time, even with the fact that the Production Code was not yet being enforced.  I don’t know how faithful it is to the novel, but I did read that after some debate the studio kept the ending from the book.

Run Silent, Run Deep (1958) – Submarine drama with Clark Gable and Burt Lancaster.  You can read my review of it here.

Kick-Ass 2 (2013) – Sequel to the very entertaining Kick-Ass.  It’s a step down, but still has its moments.  You can read my review of it here.

Olympus Has Fallen (2013) - Decent action scenes, but like all action movies it has some really big plot holes that you have to ignore.  Unfortunately, I couldn't ignore the fact that the entire concept is based on the idea that the threat of killing the President would be enough to force the hand of the U.S. government.  The President is neither royal nor religiously divine.  He's not a King or a Pope.  He's just a man hired to do a job. There was one before him and there will be one after him.  If he's killed then in a very short time the next person in line will be sworn in.  It's the Presidency that is important, not the President.  And for a movie that consciously echoes Die Hard and Under Siege, there's a funny bit where a macho helicopter mission is launched.  Apparently none of the characters in the film has seen Die Hard.

Late Spring (1949) - This is basically the exact same story as Ozu's later film An Autumn Afternoon (1962), which I had already seen.  It even has the same actor playing the same role - the widower who is trying to get his daughter to marry.  I have no idea why the 1,001 Movies editors picked An Autumn Afternoon over the more celebrated Late Spring for inclusion in their book, especially if the former is a remake of the latter.
I like the films of Ozu's that I have seen, and I respect him as a filmmaker, but I don't love his films.  Perhaps its cultural, perhaps his style just doesn't mesh well with me.  If it's the latter, he wouldn't be the first acclaimed director I've had that reaction to.

In September I may be taking some time to do some hiking, so I don’t know if my total of movies seen will be higher or around the same as August.