Thursday, May 31, 2012

I’m Back

(But I’m guessing you already figured that out for yourself.)

I spent a week in Acadia National Park.  The weather was great the first couple of days, but was only so-so after that.  I didn’t get as much hiking in as I had been hoping to do.  It was good to get out of the usual routine, though, and it’s still a beautiful place to be.

One of the bad weather days I did go see The Avengers again – the first time since 1994 I’ve gone to a movie twice.  It was a theater that specialized in serving you pizza during the film, so that was an interesting twist.

I’ve actually been back for a few days.  Rather than jump right into writing recommendations again, I decided to get serious about tracking down my unseen movies from the 1,001 Movies list that are not available via Netflix.  There are a total of 128 films.  Over the last three days I’ve managed to track down 125 of them.  Alas, three managed to defeat my google-fu.  Those movies are 1969’s Lucia, 1981’s Too Early, Too Late (aka Trop tot, trop tard aka Zu fruh, zu spat), and 1995’s Deseret.  Oh, I found links for them, but they were all invalid.  I did find possible working links for the latter two, but they required a premium Filepost account to get to them.

If anyone can point me to working copies of any of these three movies, I would be most appreciative.  (No torrents, please).  I’m not morally opposed to torrents, but I am opposed to opening up my computer’s security in order to use them.  In return, if you are having trouble finding a 1,001 Movies film other than these three, it might be one of the 125 I just tracked down for myself.  I could point you in the right direction.

I mentioned when I went away that I had not liked Dark Shadows enough to recommend to others, so I had not written a review post, but had put some comments in my main 2012 Big Summer Movies post.  I had figured I would return with a review of Battleship and/or Men in Black 3, but having seen both, I cannot recommend them either.  Like Dark Shadows, they are not horrible movies, but they are also not that great. 

Perhaps I am in a more critical mood this spring compared to last year, or perhaps this year’s movies have not been quite as good.  Maybe they are all just suffering in comparison to The Avengers.  I was on the fence with Men in Black 3 for a bit.  I was considering whether a nice reveal at the end could redeem the rest of the movie.  If you are curious about my thoughts on either film, you can read them here.

I’m not sure if I will be able to make my way through the backlog of posts I missed at all of your sites while I was away, but I will try.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

There Will Be No New Posts for a Little While

I’m going to be away from my computer for a little while, so there will be no new posts for a week to ten days.

For those wondering where my Dark Shadows post is, I did not like the film enough to recommend it to others.  I wrote some short comments in the main 2012 Big Summer movies post.

In the meantime, some of you have been reading my recommendations for quite some time, while others have found this site only recently.  To tide you over until I get back here are the categories I did in 2011.  You may find something among them to interest you.

Movie Categories:

Won all five major Oscars
Great child performances
Narrated by dead people
Musical numbers for no apparent reason
Gwyneth Paltrow is British
Serious badasses
Everyday heroes
My top 10 of 2010
Before Star Wars
The Millenium Trilogy
Zack Snyder movies
Simon Pegg and Nick Frost movies
Commentaries done in character
All things Joss Whedon - this is the man who just wrote and directed The Avengers
2011 Big Summer Movies
Sexy moments that are not sex scenes
After Star Wars
Pretending to play themselves
Women with big guns
Movies by the numbers
Five best non-traditional Christmas movies
Harry Potter books and movies

I’ve also done some non-movie categories:

Castle TV show and books
Uncommon teen musicians

Friday, May 18, 2012

Movie – Singin’ in the Rain (1952)

Singin’ in the Rain is the quintessential Hollywood musical and I am far from the first person to consider it the best traditional musical ever made.  It may surprise you to learn that it started out as nothing more than a recycling of songs and props that had been around for years.  Even the iconic title song had been used in several movies prior to this one.  Screenwriters Adolph Green and Betty Comden had the task of taking various songs and filling in a story around them.  The result was a look back the beginnings of the sound era in Hollywood – something recently revisited in The Artist.

Thursday, May 17, 2012

Movie – Cabaret (1972)

Question:  Which film was the most honored at the 1973 Oscars – The Godfather or Cabaret?  Answer: It’s not even close.  While The Godfather had eleven nominations to Cabaret’s ten, The Godfather won only three (Picture, Actor, and Adapted Screenplay).  Cabaret won eight (Director, Actress, Supporting Actor, Cinematography, Editing, Music and Score, Art Direction, and Sound.)  In the seven categories where they went head to head, Cabaret won five of them.  In fact, its loss to The Godfather for Best Picture has made it the film that has won the most Oscars without winning the biggest one.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Movie – Chess: In Concert (2009)

One day I happened to see Chess: In Concert offered from Netflix.  At the time I knew nothing about it other than it was about chess (duh) and that it had the late 1980s hit song “One Night in Bangkok” in it.  I was curious enough, so I got it.  I figured I would probably skip from song to song, listening to the ones I liked.  I ended up watching it from beginning to end, then the next day watching most of it again.  It turned out to be far more than just a collection of songs.  It was nothing less than chess as a metaphor both for the Cold War, and for the heart of a woman and a man.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Movie – Stop Making Sense (1984)

Over the years, the concert film I most often saw named by professional critics as the best of all time was 1978’s The Last Waltz.  This is because the music in it is what they listened to when they were younger and because Martin Scorcese directed it.  While I liked the music in the film a lot, the jarring transitions between songs, and the cuts back to a couple studio sessions, keep The Last Waltz from flowing as well as it should. 

I freely admit that my choice of Stop Making Sense is also impacted by the music that I was listening to in college.  I consider the music of The Talking Heads to be great songs that still hold up today.  In addition to this, I consider this movie to be the absolute best at making you feel like you are part of the audience, which to me is the most important thing.

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Best Movies with Music

“If music be the food of love, play on;
Give me excess of it, that, surfeiting,
The appetite may sicken, and so die.– Duke Orsino, Twelfth Night

Notice that the title of this category is not “Best Musicals”.  When I see people comparing films such as 1965’s The Sound of Music to 1970’s Woodstock I have a little trouble understanding why they are getting lumped together.  The former is a traditional movie musical.  The latter is a combination concert film and documentary with no plot to it.  The only thing uniting them is the superficial. 

It’s not just movies where this happens, though.  True story – many years ago I was in a mail order music club.  For about six months their catalog had a ridiculous “Black Music” section with listings for Michael Jackson, Public Enemy, Robert Johnson, and Miles Davis all grouped together.  I used to wonder just how out of touch this (major music) company was to not even realize that those were four very different kinds of music that had little in common other than the skin color of the performers.  For some reason they never added a “White Music” section with The Beatles, Metallica, Garth Brooks, and Glenn Miller all lumped together.

To me, movies with music in them break down into four distinct categories: the traditional movie musical; movies that happen to be musicals (the performances are secondary to the plot); concert films; and operas (i.e. 1996’s Evita or 1964’s The Umbrellas of Cherbourg where all of the dialog is sung).  For a time in the 1980s people used to talk about “music video movies” such as Flashdance, but those have kind of faded away.

I will be reviewing my choices for the best movie in each of these four categories.  As I post the reviews, I will come back and post the links to them here:

Best Concert Film:  Stop Making Sense
Best Opera:  Chess in Concert
Best Movie That Happens to Be a Musical:  Cabaret
Best Musical:  Singin' in the Rain

Along with this you may want to check out my earlier category Movies with Musical Numbers for No Apparent Reason.  You can find it here.

On to the reviews…

Friday, May 11, 2012

Announcing: Lists from Chip

I wanted to let everyone know about a new service I will be offering.  I have created a separate blog named Lists from Chip.  The goal of it is to provide tracking lists of movies for people to refer to or to use for themselves.  Many people are using one list or another for recommendations on movies to see.  They will be able to find most of them here.

You may be wondering, “What’s the big deal?  I’ve been able to create lists on IMDB and Amazon for years and I can track them on the new Letterboxd site I am beta testing.”  This thing is, on all of those sites you have to go to the trouble of creating the list.  Sure, someone else may have already made the list you want, but you have to find it among the millions of other lists on those sites.  They also require internet access, which may be constant if you live in a big city, but which is less reliable the further out in the country that you get.

If you find a list on Lists from Chip that is interesting to you, you can easily save it to your computer and have it with you at all times.  This also means you can customize it for your unique use.

Why am I doing this?  I just started actively working from the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book.  I bought a copy way back in 2003 and I had checked off in it which movies I had seen.  I recently joined an organization of bloggers who review movies from the book.  (You can find much more about it, as well as the blog club that has been formed, by reading my post on it here.)

I needed a better way to track what I had seen, had reviewed, that the club had reviewed, etc., so I built my own tracking sheet.  I also researched what movies I had yet to see that were available via Netflix.  At some point a light bulb went on over my head and I realized there were probably others that would like to have a tracking sheet like this, but didn’t have the time to build it.  I was going to post it on this site, but then I stopped to think about other lists I had used over the years.  Why not share those, too?  I kept going with these ideas and the result is the new Lists from Chip site.

You will find the tracking sheets grouped into 10 categories:

1.      1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die (and Related Genre Lists)
2.      They Shoot Pictures Don’t They
3.      14 Year Weighted and Consolidated IMDB Top 250 List (1998 – 2011)
4.      American and British Film Institute (AFI and BFI) Lists
5.      Oscars and Golden Globes
6.      Film Awards from Countries Outside the United States
7.      Film Festivals
8.      Publishing Company Lists
9.      Miscellaneous Film Lists
10.  Critics’ Lists – I have none now since these are part of the larger They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list, but I wanted to have a placeholder post in case I decided to do some in the future.

When you get a chance, please check out this new service and leave comments on the various posts for any mistakes you may find, or ideas on how to improve the service.

I have added a permanent link to this new site just below the Home link in the column to the right.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Movie – The Avengers (2012)

First things first, I realize this is probably the umpteenth review of the Avengers you’ve come across.  I want to say thanks in advance for taking the time to read it and comment.

Anyone who has read enough of my reviews and comments knows that my expectations for a movie usually end up affecting how I feel about it.  If those expectations are low I can find myself pleasantly surprised by an okay movie; if they are high, I can find myself disappointed by an above average one.  My expectations going into The Avengers, a film written and directed by Joss Whedon, were very high.  I am here to tell you that not only was I not disappointed by this movie, it even exceeded my expectations.  It had everything I could have ever hoped for from a Joss Whedon Avengers movie.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

2012 Big Summer Movies Schedule and Reviews

“Summer lovin’, had me a blast.” – Danny Zuko, Grease

The purpose of this post is to give you a quick reference for the big films that are coming out this summer movie season.  I will be writing separate reviews of the movies I see that are good enough to recommend, and I will put the links to those here.  If the movie is not good enough to recommend I will add a short review to this post.  Either way you may want to save this post for future reference.

[By the way, you can see my 2011 Big Summer Movies post here.]

Note – so many movies come out every summer, and so many of the smaller ones get moved around or even postponed, that I am going to concentrate on the “big” movies.  These are the ones that are heavily advertised, expensive to make, have big names in them, and/or have had their opening dates scheduled for a long time.

First, the list, then a little more about each movie:

Monday, May 7, 2012

Movie – High Noon (1952)

The movie High Noon may be best known to general audiences today from dialogue in Die Hard where Hans and McClane are verbally sparring with each other over westerns.  (“That was Gary Cooper asshole.”)  If this is the case, then that is too bad.  High Noon is a very good movie that is a true classic in the genre and it deserves to be seen.  I would place it among the Top 5 westerns ever made.  Some in the media tried to derisively say George W. Bush saw himself as the Sheriff Will Kane character from this film, but ironically it was his predecessor, Bill Clinton, who named this his favorite movie of all time.  This may be fitting since politics played a big part in the creation of this film.  I will explain.

Sunday, May 6, 2012

Movie – Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939)

When Mr. Smith Goes to Washington was first released it generated a lot of hate from politicians because of the way some federal Senators and state government officials in the film were portrayed as corrupt.  At the same time, the Press also despised the film because some in their profession were shown to be opportunistic and in cahoots with the politicians – just making up stories for the sake of selling newspapers.  Hell, more than seven decades later the Press still tries to tar director Frank Capra as nothing more than a maker of cheesy, lightweight movies (despite his three Oscars for Best Director).  I say any film that simultaneously pisses off both politicians and the Press is one that is well worth seeing.

Friday, May 4, 2012

Movie – Amelie (2001)

I have saved the year ending IMDB Top 250 lists since 1998 (more on that in a week or two).  I have used them over the years to get suggestions on films I might want to see.  Back in 2001 a film named Amelie showed up on the list.  It sounded interesting, so I rented it.  I absolutely loved it.  To this day this film still remains one of the very best finds I have ever had from a list of recommended movies.

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Movie – To Sir, with Love (1967)

First things first: all together now – “To Sir,ir,ir with lo-o-o-o-ove”.  Okay, now that I’ve got that out of my system, I can start.  How do you write a review about someone who has taken people from crayons to perfume?  It isn’t easy, but I’ll try.  Okay, maybe it wasn’t completely out of my system.  (I’ll be serious now.)

I was home from college one weekend and flipped the TV on.  I heard the opening lines from the song To Sir, with Love.  It triggered a memory with me.  The song was played on the radio when I was very little.  I remember thinking from the lyrics it was about a child who gets cared for by an older person, maybe even adopted.  I decided to watch the movie.  It turned out to be quite a bit different from what I expected.  I also really enjoyed it. 

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Movie – To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

You would think that a Pulitzer Prize-winning novel that was also beloved by millions would easily be made into a movie.  Not so with To Kill a Mockingbird.  Studio execs asked, “Where’s the action?  Where’s the love story?”  When a decision was finally made to do a movie both Rock Hudson and Jimmy Stewart were considered for the lead role of Atticus Finch and both turned it down.  When Gregory Peck found out about the role he sat down and read the book in a single evening and then called the next day to say he would do it.  What Peck, and movie audiences, would understand is that this is one of the finest examples of a story that speaks to everyone.  And at its lead is the character of Atticus Finch.  If I ever was forced give a single example of what it means to be “a good man” then I would offer up Atticus Finch as my choice.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012

Movies with Great Human Beings in Them

“You make me want to be a better man.” – Melvin Udall, As Good As It Gets

There has been any number of movies about great leaders, heroes, and inspirational people.  Because of the sheer number, I am going to restrict this category to fictional characters.  I will not be doing any biopics like Schindler’s List or Gandhi this time around.  I will save them for another day.  Unfortunately, this eliminates many of the movies I’ve seen with great women in them, but I will be including one fictional female character. 

And yes, I realize the first two films I am going to write about are based on books that are themselves partially based on real people, but I consider them to be far enough removed from the real person to not be a biography.

I am going to do something a little different this time.  I am going to list the characters below before any reviews are posted.  All of you will recognize some of the names; some of you will recognize all of them.  As I post a review, I will change the character’s name into a link to the movie’s review.  One of these – Juror #8 – is for a previously posted movie.

Note: Because I like positive movies more than pretty much any other kind, you will see higher ratings than usual across this category.  (Some people have commented that I am a little stingy when it comes to giving 5 star ratings, or even 4 star ratings.)

As I post the new reviews, I will come back and post the links to them here:

On to the reviews…