Wednesday, May 1, 2013

April Movie Status

I saw 68 movies in the month of April, plus 3 movie re-watches.  I mentioned last month that my goal for April in regards to the 1,001 Movies list was to get my remaining blocks of 100 (101-800) all under 20 unwatched in order to balance things out better.  I was able to achieve that.  I also discovered that I was not done with entries that were more than 2 ½ hours long like I had said last month; in April I found two more 3 hour long movies I had not seen and promptly watched them.

I’m not sure if I’m going to try to knock off more short term goals in May.  I should pass 1,000 entries seen at some point during the month.  (I’m at 986 as I post this.)  I might just continue to try to balance out the remaining blocks of 100 or I might decide to finish off the 1930s (6 entries) and 1940s (12 entries) during the month.  I haven’t decided.  It might come down to whether or not Netflix ever sends me Angels with Dirty Faces (1938) that has been sitting at #1 in my queue in “Very Long Wait” status for close to 8 weeks now.  Without it I cannot complete the 1930s.

As for the Oscar Best Picture nominees, I continued to plug away at them in April.  I stalled out on a nearly 3 hour long tearjerker made for the women who were at home during World War II – Since You Went Away (1944).  It sat there for over a week before I watched it.  I did finally bite the bullet and watch the more than 4 hour long Cleopatra (1963), though.

For May I might try to complete the 1960s (4 nominees left) and the 1950s (5 nominees left).  Two more movies after that would make me complete from 1945 – up.  Prior to 1945 they had 10 nominees per year, so I have more gaps from that point and earlier.

Here are the 68 new movies I saw in April.  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 (49): Jules and Jim (1962), Badlands (1973), A Hard Day’s Night (1964), In the Realm of the Senses (1976), Kes (1969), The Man from Laramie (1955), The Paleface (1948), Johnny Guitar (1954), Silver Lode (1954), Spring in a Small Town (1948), The Music Room (1958), Shaft (1971), The Tree of Wooden Clogs (1978), Ride Lonesome (1959), Ariel (1988), Satyricon (1969), Faces (1968), The Saragossa Manuscript (1965), The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant (1972), Fox and His Friends (1975), Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (1974), Wanda (1971), Klute (1971), Red Desert (1964), The Killers (1946), Targets (1968), Bigger Than Life (1956), The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957), The Ladies Man (1961), Le Boucher (1970), The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), Gimme Shelter (1970), Story of Women (1988), Written on the Wind (1956), Eyes Without a Face (1960), The Wrong Man (1956), Contempt (1963), Barren Lives (1963), Gertrud (1964), Smiles of a Summer Night (1955), Ashes and Diamonds (1958), The Conformist (1970), La Notte (1961), L’Avventura (1960), L’Eclisse (1961), Pierrot le Fou (1965), The Bigamist (1953), Shadows (1959), Forbidden Games (1952)

Oscar Nominees (7): Anchors Aweigh (1945), Johnny Belinda (1948), The Yearling (1946), Cleopatra (1963), Since You Went Away (1944), In Which We Serve (1942), Watch on the Rhine (1943)

Other Movies (12): We Bought a Zoo (2011), Get Low (2009), The Secret World of Arietty (2010), Summer Lover (2008), Bachelorette (2012), Too Big to Fail (2011), Shallow Grave (1994), New Year’s Eve (2011), Valentine’s Day (2010), Topkapi (1964), Gog (1954), Castaway (1986)

Re-watches (3): Night of the Comet (1984), The Lost Boys (1987), The Insatiable (2007)

TV Series (0):

I had one five star film in April and that was Gimme Shelter (1970).  When I decided to see all the films in the 1,001 Movies list I had already seen almost half on my own.  As I watched more and more of the remaining ones I gave up hope of ever finding another great entry from the list.  Sure, I’ve seen a number of four star movies since beginning, but I figured I must have already seen all of the very best films already.  Then after having watched around 450 more films from the list I finally encountered one I would rate at five stars.  Gimme Shelter has great music in it, and not just The Rolling Stones, but also Ike and Tina Turner and others.  The thing is, this is far more than just a concert film.  It is nothing less than a recording of the death of the hippy ideal of peace, love, and understanding.  You are there as it happens.  Seeing the events that occurred at Altamont at the very end of the 1960s was sobering, but what added an extra level to it all was seeing the reactions of the Stones as they were watching tape of the concert footage at a later date.

My four star films in April were Johnny Belinda (1948), Shaft (1971), The Secret World of Arietty (2010), Too Big to Fail (2011), and Smiles of a Summer Night (1955).    

Johnny Belinda is a movie about a deaf/mute woman in a small fishing village.  She is befriended and taught sign language by a doctor.  Jane Wyman won an Oscar for her performance.  Her character has bad things that happen to her and her family, though.  I should note that I was surprised that a 1948 film took on one of the topics in this movie.  I won’t spoil what it is.

Shaft is the original black action hero.  (I’m talking about the Richard Roundtree version, not the remake with Samuel L. Jackson.  If you’ve seen it, try to scrub it from your brain.)  Shaft was probably the most mainstream entry I had left on the list and it delivered for me.

The Secret World of Arietty is another winner from Studio Ghibli.  Miyazaki didn’t direct this, but he did write the screenplay, adapting it from the classic children’s book The Borrowers.

Too Big to Fail is a re-telling of the near economic collapse that occurred at the end of George W. Bush’s second term as President, and his subsequent bailout of the banks.  There are quite a few high-powered actors and actresses in the movie.  It was done by HBO and in many ways it reminded me of their 1993 film And the Band Played On about the unchecked rise of AIDS in the U.S. in the 1980s while Ronald Reagan did nothing.

Smiles of a Summer Night presented me with two things I thought I would never see: 1. A Bergman film that wasn’t about death and despair; and 2. A Bergman film that is not only humorous, but that also has some naughty fun while it is at it.  It reminded me in some ways of Max Ophuls’ early 1950s films La Ronde and Le Plaisir.  This is easily my favorite from among the 10-12 films of Bergman’s I have seen.

The 1,001 Movies list is reliable for providing me with at least one 1 star movie every month.  In April I had two.  They were Satyricon (1969) and Wanda (1971).  I probably would have watched Satyricon (aka Fellini’s Satyricon) at some point from sheer curiosity regardless of whether it was on the list or not.  I found out it was just terrible.  And no, I was not offended by it.  It was simply pointless, other than “Hey!  Look what we can get away with now that movie censors are going away!” 

I had never even heard of Wanda before seeing it.  It follows the aimless wanderings (get the pun in the title?) of an aimless woman.  She doesn’t even have hippy ideals of “dropping out” of life.  She is just the single most apathetic person – man or woman – I have ever seen in a movie.  Does this sound like the makings of an interesting movie, especially when she is in nearly every shot?  Yes, it is supposed to be a feminist movie, but other than the fact that a woman wrote, directed, and stars in it, it is hardly feminist.  It is far from a positive portrayal of women or their struggles.  In fact, if a man had made it I’m sure there would be cries of misogyny.  Any way you slice it, I felt it was a bad movie.


  1. I recently watched Shaft (1971), it was decent enough ,with a solid performance from Roundtree, but I think the influence it had, opening the door for a series of "blaxploitation" films in the 70s, is more significant than the actual movie- which didn't really impress me. I guess the soundtrack was pretty good, and its not a bad movie considering the low budget.

    Gimme Shelter (1970), not heard of that documentary, need to give that a look.

    1. I had low expectations for Shaft, mostly because of the remake, which was nothing more than a litany of racism against whites. The original was a lot more balanced, and threw in an actual storyline, to boot. Had my expectations been high for it, I might not have been as impressed by it.

  2. Have you ever seen the musical "A Little Night Music"? It's Sondheim's take on "Smiles of a Summer's Night," exact same plot and characters. I highly recommend seeing it live if you get a chance (avoid the Elizabeth Taylor movie, it's garbage and has zero magic in it). I actually performed in the pit for that show when I was in college, and it's a great show, very fun and funny, and it's the musical that "Send in the Clowns" comes from.

    Satyricon is RUBBISH. As is Wanda. Definitely agreed on those one star ratings there!!!

    1. I've heard of A Little Night Music, but knew nothing about it. I'd heard Send in the Clowns, but I figured it was just a radio hit from when I was little. Smiles of a Summer Night is really a version of Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream, something Bergman-fan Woody Allen brought full circle with his movie A Midsummer Night's Sex Comedy.

      I was wondering if you were going to be defending Wanda on feminist grounds or not. I'm glad to see it's not "just a man" who doesn't like it.

  3. I loved Shaft. The fact that it started the blaxploitation trend is important, but it's really a pretty balanced film. The cops are smart enough to realize that it's not racism per se at work, but the perception of it that makes the situation such a problem. That's smart filmmaking.

    Wanda? Sucked. I've got nothing else. And I agree on Satyricon, too. That's the film that made me decide that I really don't like Fellini in general.

    We're exactly tied in films from the 1001 list seen. I've got 972 reviews done and 14 films to rewatch, so I guess this means you'll pass me earlier today.

    1. Good point about Shaft. I liked the whole fact that they knew that race riots could be a result of how things were perceived.

      "We're exactly tied in films from the 1001 list seen. I've got 972 reviews done and 14 films to rewatch, so I guess this means you'll pass me earlier today."

      Well, I did watch The Shop on Main Street, A Woman Under the Influence, and The Spirit of the Beehive yesterday, so maybe I did. Your list shows you having watched 17 unreviewed movies, not 14, though. That would mean you were still ahead of me...until I watched the three yesterday and tied you then.