Saturday, November 1, 2014

October Movie Status

After watching only 8 movies last month I got back into the swing of things and watched 34 new movies in October, along with a re-watch of the sixth season of the TV show Castle. 

With various goals that I knew were achievable I made good progress on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  I’ve now seen all of the 600 highest ranked films on the list.  I finally managed to get almost all of the Netflix Very Long Wait entries, either from them or from other sources.  This meant I was able to complete all entries that are more than three hours long, with the exception of the very longest – Heimat.  I still can’t get the first disk of it from Netflix.  Without it there’s no point in getting the other five disks which are all readily available.  Counting Heimat, I have only 5 entries longer than 2.5 hours left, but I have to rely on Netflix for all of them.

I also worked on completing directors with at least four entries on the list.  In October I finished off the last of: 10 Fellini, 4 Forman, 7 Kiarostami, 10 Kurosawa, 7 Lubitsch, 7 Lynch, 8 Visconti, 4 von Stroheim, 4 Varda, 4 Tourneur, 4 Rohmer, 4 Roeg, 12 Renoir, and 7 Nicholas Ray.

As of this writing I am at 897 of the 1,000 seen, and if all goes according to plan I will reach 900 this weekend.

Here are the 34 new movies I saw in October.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

TSPDT (30): The Fountainhead (1949), Abraham’s Valley (1993), Fellini’s Roma (1972), Loves of a Blonde (1965), Ten (2002), Life, And Nothing More aka And Life Goes On (1992), Red Beard (1965), Angel (1937), Lancelot of the Lake (1974), War and Peace (1966), Inland Empire (2006), The Wedding March (1928), The Phantom of Liberty (1974), The Lusty Men (1952), Possession (1981), Fort Apache (1948), She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949), The Damned (1969), The Lovers on the Bridge (1991), Salesman (1968), Queen Kelly (1929), Le Bonheur (1965), Night of the Demon (1957), La Collectionneuse (1967), Hyenas (1992), Bad Timing (1980), The Last Temptation of Christ (1988), Toni (1935), La nuit du carrefour (1932), Party Girl (1958)

Other Movies (4): Divergent (2014), Edge of Tomorrow (2014), X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014), Godzilla (2014)

Rewatches (0):

TV (1): Castle Season 6

The Fountainhead (1949) – Gary Cooper is outstanding in his role as a man who won't compromise his principles and his genius for anything or anybody - not even to put food on his table, not even for the love of his life. He had great chemistry with Patricia Neal.  The only real negative is that Cooper, at 48, is too old to be playing the character, especially in the earlier parts of the movie.  4.5 stars

Divergent (2014) – Yet another movie based on yet another female author's novel about yet another teenage girl in yet another dystopian future.  This isn't a horrible movie, but it's also far from being a good one. It's strictly for the kids.  2.5 stars

Abraham’s Valley (1993) – Some pretty shots, but that’s about it.  2 stars

Fellini’s Roma (1972) – The usual late Fellini bizarreness.  Some scenes work (the priest and nun fashion show was a highlight) and other scenes do not.  2.5 stars

Loves of a Blonde (1965) – This reminded me some of The Fireman’s Ball.  In this case the small town get together has a young woman sleeping with a musician and making the mistake of thinking it was more than just sex.  3.5 stars

Ten (2002) – Shot entirely in a car, it features ten separate sequences, some longer, some shorter.  A woman in Iran is driving the car and sometimes it seems like it is a taxi for hire and sometimes it feels more like she’s just driving around aimlessly picking people up.  3 stars

Life, And Nothing More (1992) aka And Life Goes On – Kiarostami usually improvises dialog and uses non-actors.  In this case after the devastating earthquake in Iran in 1991 he hopped in a car with a man essentially playing him and went in search of some of the people he had filmed in his prior movies.  The aimless nature of it weakens the impact of the tragedy.  2.5 stars

Red Beard (1965) – The last collaboration between Kurosawa and Mifune.  They had a falling out while making this.  Mifune is a dedicated doctor in feudal Japan and he takes in a young, ambitious doctor who thinks caring for the poor is for suckers and the real place to be is in the courts of the feudal lords.  3.5 stars

Angel (1937) – Seems to be missing the “Lubitsch touch” of his better films.  Yes, there’s some naughtiness – in this case a married Marlene Dietrich falling for another man – but nothing ever seems to gel.  2.5 stars

Lancelot of the Lake (1974) – Low budget (and it shows) attempt to do a King Arthur story.  In this case we are treated to lots of scenes of men talking about most of the plot occurring off screen.  And for some reason we get lots and lots of shots of the backs of the actors’ legs in armor.  2 stars

War and Peace (1966) – This multi-part film has very impressive battle scenes and a section on the sacking and burning of Moscow that would put Gone with the Wind's burning of Atlanta to shame. On the other hand, it also spends hours on soap opera events surrounding a young woman and the many men who fall in love with her.  By far the main reason to see this is the spare-no-expense battle scenes. There had to be 10,000 extras in some of them, all in period uniforms and carrying period weapons. And sometimes there were aerial shots that showed just how extensive the scenes were.  The film's length, and the tremendous amount of filler that contribute to it, are what keep this from having a higher rating. It's available in different versions. I saw the almost seven hour one.  3 stars

Inland Empire (2006) – David Lynch at his most Lynchian - throwing a bunch of stuff at a wall and seeing what sticks. At least this time around he admits that he had no story in mind when he was filming the scenes; instead he and the actors just filmed whatever came to mind and he then "connected" the scenes for this movie.  At almost three hours long, this film is only for those people who thought the part Lynch tacked onto the end of the Mulholland Dr. TV pilot to turn it into a feature movie was way too short.  1 star

The Wedding March (1928) – A penniless Prince is supposed to marry money, but falls in love with an equally penniless subject he accidentally injures.  Things don’t go smoothly.   3 stars

The Phantom of Liberty (1974) – a bunch of unconnected scenes Bunuel strings together to make a feature.  The most famous is the one where everyone sits down to a dining table on toilets and makes conversation while doing their business, then one person retreats to a small room to eat food in private.  2 stars

The Lusty Men (1952) – The title is pretty much the most salacious aspect of the film.  It’s about an aging rodeo rider who takes a younger, married man under his wing.  2.5 stars

Possession (1981) – This movie is two hours of people bugging their eyes out and yelling, mostly at each other.  “Over acting” doesn’t even begin to describe it.  1 star

Fort Apache (1948) – Fonda is great as an arrogant, by the book, new commander of a fort in Indian territory.  His actions cause more trouble than they solve.  3 stars

She Wore a Yellow Ribbon (1949) – Suffered in comparison to Fort Apache, since I watched them back to back.  This isn’t a bad movie at all, but I couldn’t help but feel how Fonda could have elevated this one, too.  2.5 stars

Edge of Tomorrow (2014) – The director set out to make a war movie not an alien invasion move – Saving Private Ryan, not Independence Day – and for the most part he succeeded.  Cruise has to progress from a rookie grunt to a highly skilled combat soldier, and Blunt is a good pairing with him.  Honestly, the worst thing about the movie is the title.  It makes it sound like a soap opera.  3.5 stars

X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014) – Bringing back most of the characters from the first three X-Men movies, a select few from the X-Men: First Class semi-reboot, and none from the two Wolverine movies (other than the title character), this film still doesn't really resolve the inconsistencies among the various films (and even creates a new one with Stryker's age), but that is really the only negative I have to say about it.  At first I was worried that the latter day X-Men would only have a glorified cameo after I saw the opening of the film, but they continued to work them in from time to time, so I was glad. They also introduced some new characters among the future X-Men.  There is also a new character introduced in 1973 - Quicksilver - and he has the single coolest scene in the movie.  4 stars

The Damned (1969) – As usual with Visconti's later films this involves inter-family soap opera and power struggles. In this case the family is a powerful steel making empire in pre-war Nazi Germany who gets what’s coming to it.  The biggest negative is the lack of knowledge of sexual proclivities at the time. Back when this film was made it was felt "in for a penny, in for a pound" - in other words, if someone had one perversion then they had them all. One of the main characters is: a cross dresser, a homosexual, a pedophile, a satyrist, a rapist, and incestuous. He also is a fine, upstanding Nazi, so the director is being heavy-handed with the commentary.  3.5 stars

The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) – He’s got mental/emotional issues and she’s an artist who’s going blind.  They are homeless, living on a condemned bridge in Paris.  Even after this film was over I wasn’t quite sure exactly how to rate it.  On the one hand it had some great scenes (i.e. waterskiing on the Seine), but on the other hand it felt like some editing would have tightened things up more.  I’ll go with recommending it.  3 stars

Salesman (1968) – Documentary on door to door bible salesmen.  Kind of slow, and when it’s not it’s because there’s a hard sell going on, which was sometimes irritating.  2.5 stars

Queen Kelly (1929) – An unfinished film that basically ended von Stroheim’s career.  The producers, who included star Gloria Swanson, shut down production after he had gone way over budget and still had tons more to shoot.  Of course, many years later the two would reunite in Sunset Blvd. with a past onscreen relationship that essentially mirrored the events around Queen Kelly.  2 stars

Le Bonheur (1965) – I’m surprised that a female director, especially one that a lot of women respect, would make a film that essentially tells us that women are completely interchangeable.  When you’re tired with one, just find another to take her place.  2.5 stars

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) – Even though his last two films have angered some Anderson purists, I’ve liked them the best of what he has done.  I’d say Moonrise Kingdom is a little better than this one, but not by much.  Watch for lots of cameos from Anderson veterans.   4 stars

Night of the Demon (1957) – Pretty straightforward, quick, horror film.  The lead character is kind of unlikable and you may want to see the demon get him.   2.5 stars

La Collectionneuse (1967) – Two young men and a young woman share a house.  The two condemn the woman for “collecting” men – bringing back new ones each night just to see if she can.  She is unfazed by their reaction.  They vow not to be collected by her.  Good luck with that.   2.5 stars

Godzilla (2014) – For some reason the makers of this film thought they were making an uber-serious movie about a sailor and his family.  They also apparently saw Pacific Rim and decided that they had to be cool, too, and copied it by making all the shots of the monsters take place at night so you couldn't see a damn thing. There were several of these, each increasingly frustrating. Finally they showed Godzilla and another monster reach each other, in the daytime, start to fight for a couple seconds...and then shut a door on the image so we STILL couldn't see anything. That was when I actively started to hate this movie.  It takes itself WAY too seriously, and is pretty much unwatchable unless what you would be watching it for are reaction shots from the humans staring at the monsters that we can't see on the screen.  1 star

Hyenas (1992) – A very rich woman comes back to the tiny, destitute African village she originally came from.  All the villagers see her as a pocketbook to get money from.  Then she tells them she’ll give them vast riches…if they kill the most popular man in town for her.  He spurned her when they were teenagers and she got pregnant, causing her to leave the village.  The people refuse, saying they are not savages.  She says, “I’ll wait.”  3.5 stars

Bad Timing (1980) – Bad movie starring, for some inexplicable reason, Art Garfunkel, who shows that as an actor he’s an excellent singer.  Unless you are a smoking fetishist, skip this one.  2 stars

The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) – The last 30 minutes are interesting, and are what caused so much controversy.  The 2+ hours prior to that, though, are a little boring as we watch one man’s slow decline into suicidal madness.  You know the drill: sermon on the mount, baptism, water into wine, Lazarus, last supper, crucifixion.  Other than Judas not being such a bad guy it’s all been done many times before.  2 stars

Toni (1935) – Small town husband gets involved with the woman in town who flirts with all the men.  Bad things happen to him.  2.5 stars

La nuit du carrefour (1932) – Early Renoir film of an Inspector Maigret story.  It’s not bad, but he’s done far better.  Apparently it’s also missing a reel, which might explain why some things felt rushed.  2.5 stars

Party Girl (1958) – Cyd Charisse dances her way into the life and affections of an attorney for the mob.  More crime film than musical.  3 stars


  1. The Lovers on the Bridge (1991) impressed me how the story worked with hardly any dialogue, it's almost a silent film. I prefer it to Carax' recent Holy Motors, I had more of an emotional connection to the characters in his 91 film.
    You're the first person I've noticed who disliked Possession (1981), my only problem with it was the audio quality which sometimes made it tough to hear what was said.
    Glad you enjoyed The Grand Budapest Hotel, it's one of my fav of 2014

    1. I couldn't figure out where I had seen the man from Lovers on the Bridge until I looked up what else he's been in and realized he was the main guy in Holy Motors more than 20 years later. To me Holy Motors was an interesting curiosity, nothing more. The Lovers on the Bridge is definitely intended to get you to invest in the characters.

      Sorry, but I couldn't take the two people in Possession seriously. It was laughably bad how much they were overacting. And yes, I realize Adjani won an acting award at the Cesars for her performance. That was the same year they named Quest for Fire Best Film, and nominated Bolero for the same award. And any surprise about her lover was eliminated because even the shortest description of the film includes it - even the Tagline for the film spoils it.

      It's too soon to know how many of the Oscar-bait films will be in my Top 10 for the year, potentially pushing this one off, but right now The Grand Budapest Hotel is also one of my favorites of 2014.

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