Monday, December 30, 2013

Big Update on My Hard to Find Films

After my November month-end status where I updated my list of hard to find movies to remove the half dozen that had been located, I was contacted by a very generous Santa Claus who wishes to remain anonymous.  This person literally helped me locate every single one of the films I had remaining that I had been unable to find – all 13 of them – as well as passed along the English subtitles for Amor de Perdicao that were on a website I was unable to access.  I can’t thank this person enough for what they did, but I will pay forward their generosity to others, and maybe, just maybe, you can help me help this person.

There is one film that this person has been unable to locate.  It is The Art of Vision by Stan Brakhage.  This four hour, ten minute long 1965 “film” is the same footage from the various pieces of Brakhage’s Dog Star Man, but joined in different combinations and sequences.  It is on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  Since it was impossible for me to find, and since it was the same footage I had already seen in Dog Star Man just presented differently, I checked it off as being done.  Technically, though, I did not see it and this Good Samaritan who helped me is not comfortable cutting the same corner I did for this entry.  If you know of any place to either see or obtain a copy of The Art of Vision I would be able to pay this person back at least in part for all their generosity to me, and by extension to all of you.

Monday, December 23, 2013

What’s Happening the Next Three Weeks

No movie review today.  I’m taking a short break for Christmas.  I will then have a set of three special posts the week after.  I will talk about the movies I had been looking for (all of which I now have), then I will do my December status, then I will do a 2013 in review post.  Last year I combined the December and Year End posts in one and it was too unwieldy.

The first week of 2014 I will finish my current set of posts on Gloria Grahame films I would recommend.  After that I may have some news.  We’ll see.

I’ll leave you with this clip from the most recent Saturday Night Live.  The audio isn’t very good because this is a user-uploaded clip, not an official video from SNL.  They uploaded pretty much ever other skit from that show, but not the only one that was worth watching.

And if you would like to see a little bit of Christmas humor, then you can click here and here.  And if you would like to see my Top Five Non-Traditional Christmas Movies then you can click here.

Friday, December 20, 2013

Movie – The Bad and the Beautiful (1952)

It didn’t take me much time into watching The Bad and the Beautiful to figure out why this film got greenlit.  It’s a tale of a once successful movie producer who was a towering presence both in the industry and in the lives of the four people who open this film.  Hollywood loves stories about itself and they’ve been making them ever since there was a Hollywood.  And I’m sure contemporary audiences had fun trying to figure out which real Hollywood figures were being fictionalized in the movie.  This film holds the record for winning the most Oscars – five – without being nominated for Best Picture.  Among those is Gloria Grahame’s win for Best Supporting Actress.

Wednesday, December 18, 2013

Movie – The Greatest Show on Earth (1952)

If you ask people to list the ten least deserving Best Picture winners chances are pretty good that The Greatest Show on Earth will be among them.  Sometimes a film suffers in comparison to another nominee from the same year (i.e. Ordinary People vs. Raging Bull in 1981), or sometimes the film just isn’t Best Picture caliber (i.e. A Beautiful Mind in 2002).  In the case of The Greatest Show on Earth, both of these apply.  Two of the other films nominated that year were High Noon (1952) and The Quiet Man (1952).  Not even receiving a Best Picture nomination was Singin’ in the Rain (1952).  And the overall tone of The Greatest Show on Earth doesn’t scream “Best Picture!”  The mistake that some people make, though, is equating “shouldn’t have won” with “bad movie.”  In the other examples I gave both Ordinary People and A Beautiful Mind are films worth seeing; they just weren’t “Best Pictures”.  The Greatest Show on Earth is the same.  It’s “big with a capital B” entertainment from the undisputed king of big entertainment in the early days of Hollywood: Cecil B. DeMille.

Monday, December 16, 2013

Movie – In a Lonely Place (1950)

Of all the films on the 1,001 Movies You Must See Before You Die list In a Lonely Place was one of the most pleasant surprises.  Even though it starred Humphrey Bogart during his biggest days of fame I literally had never even heard of it before.  I sat down to watch the film knowing nothing about it and not expecting much, and when it was through I felt that this was the second best performance of Bogart’s career. (The Treasure of the Sierra Madre being the best.)  It also cemented in my mind the leading lady status of Gloria Grahame, who co-stars with Bogie.  Each of them reaches beyond their expected screen personas – he usually played the gruff but good man and she usually played the sexy temptress.  And in an era of filmmaking where only one of two endings was possible for a movie like this I was very pleasantly surprised to see this film take a third path.

Friday, December 13, 2013

Movie – Crossfire (1947)

Crossfire was a nominee for Best Picture in 1948 and had four other nominations, including Director, Screenplay, and Best Supporting Actor and Actress.  Nowadays, though, if it gets remembered at all it is for being “that other anti-Semitism movie”.  You see, Gentlemen’s Agreement (1947) won the Best Picture that year and its central premise was WASP Gregory Peck pretending to be Jewish and finding out the subtle and not so subtle ways that people held that Jewishness against him.  Crossfire doesn’t focus on the character receiving the abuse; it actually uses that character as the driving force for a whodunit because it opens with him having been murdered.  This film is worth seeking out, though, because of some good performances in it.

Wednesday, December 11, 2013

Movie – It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The story of how It’s a Wonderful Life went from box office failure to Christmas classic is well known.  When I was younger, though, I didn’t know why it seemed to show up almost every day on one TV station or another during the month of December.  It wasn’t until years later that I learned about things like the public domain and film rights.  Since the studio had not renewed the rights on this film anyone with a TV transmitter could show it as often as they liked and not have to pay anything.  It was this constant presence in front of a large number of people that finally made it popular.  I actually never saw it until I was an adult, despite how prevalent it was.  When I did I was amused by the fact that it’s not really a Christmas movie at all; it’s just that the climax happens on Christmas Eve.  It was still a heartwarming film from the king of heartwarming films – Frank Capra.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Gloria Grahame Movies

“It wasn’t the way I looked at a man; it was the thought behind it.” – Gloria Grahame

If you do not watch many older films your first reaction is probably “Who’s Gloria Grahame?”  Well, she was sort of the Angelina Jolie of her day – the Angelina Jolie before she became a U.N. Goodwill Ambassador and started a mini-U.N. of her own.  For about ten years Jolie had this sexy, bad girl, don’t know what she’s going to do next, tongues always wagging about her, image.  That was Gloria Grahame from the mid 1940s to the mid 1950s.

Like Jolie, Grahame was known for her sex appeal onscreen, especially the way that she looked at men (hence the quote above.)  Despite some people wanting to disregard her because of her sexiness she got more challenging roles, culminating in a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for The Bad and the Beautiful (1952).  Jolie had a very similar arc, winning her Best Supporting Actress Oscar for Girl, Interrupted (1999).

And after Jolie, in her joy at winning the Oscar, kissed her brother quickly on the lips and then in her acceptance speech said she loved her brother, the gossip mill started with all kinds of stories about “incestuous love affairs.”  Jolie was able to put those behind her. Unfortunately, Grahame was not able to put her scandal behind her.

Her second marriage was to director Nicholas Ray – a man 12 years older than her.  That ended in divorce, then after a third marriage also ended in divorce, Grahame married Anthony Ray – Nicholas Ray’s son and her former stepson.  He was 14 years younger than her.  This started rumors that her marriage to Nicholas Ray had ended because he had caught her in bed with his then 14 year old son Anthony.  Grahame also had children with each of these husbands.  Those must have been some fun family reunions.

(In case you’re wondering, Grahame’s son with Nicholas Ray would have been both a half-brother to Grahame’s two sons with Anthony Ray, and simultaneously an uncle to them, too.  That son by Nicholas Ray would also have been both a half-brother to Anthony Ray and simultaneously his stepson.  Got all that?)

Despite any rumors about her offscreen life, her career onscreen had an impressive ten year arc, from a brief, but memorable, appearance in 1946’s It’s a Wonderful Life that got her noticed, through the big budget 1955 musical Oklahoma.  Her personal awards included an Oscar nomination for Crossfire (1947) and her win for The Bad and the Beautiful.  In my opinion she probably deserved nominations for her work in both In a Lonely Place (1950) and The Big Heat (1953).

Finally, I did a very popular post on celebrity look-alikes back in 2011.  It’s had more than four times the number of hits of any other post I have done.  If you’ve never seen it, you can find it here.  Anyway, while I was watching the 2006 film The Fall there were times that I would have sworn that actress Justine Waddell was a clone of Gloria Grahame.  Here are pictures of the two of them.

Gloria Grahame
Justine Waddell in The Fall

As I review the films I will come back and add the links for them here.

On to the reviews…

Friday, December 6, 2013

Movie – Spy Kids (2001)

After making a string of popular, but violent films writer/director Robert Rodriguez decided he wanted to make a movie that his children would be able to watch.  The result was the intelligent, entertaining family film Spy Kids.  And I’m using the term ”family” in the best sense, not just as “only for kids”.  Adults, especially ones with kids of their own, can certainly identify with the parent characters in the movie.  The film is intelligent, too.  It doesn’t talk down to the adults or the kids; there’s no scatological humor to be found.  The result was that Rodriguez’s fans just killed this film on IMDB.  “Where’s the blood and guts?  Where’s the naked chicks?  Where’s the guns?  How dare my favorite director make a, a, a family film?!!!”  (The last sentence should be read in the high pitched tones of a child not getting their own way.)  Luckily there’s a far larger audience out there than just fans of Robert Rodriguez.  The movie was both a winner with critics (93% Fresh at Rotten Tomatoes) and with the general public, who made it a box office hit.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Movie – Iron Sky (2012)

Iron Sky is a very tongue in cheek kind of movie.  So much so, in fact, that a sizable number of people took it way too seriously and got offended by it.  When you’ve got a partially fan funded Finnish film, starring Germans and Americans, shot in English, and filmed mostly in Australia, you know right there it’s going to be at least a little different from the norm.  And if that isn’t enough of a clue, then the basic premise should have screamed “we’re having fun here”.  It’s about Moon Nazis who attack Earth.  I was in the right mood when I saw this.  I had a grin on my face for much of the film.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

November Movie Status – And Update on Hard to Locate Films


I saw 48 new movies in the month of November, plus 2 TV show seasons, plus a re-watch of a Web series season.  Last month I mentioned I had found myself working on several different movie lists and as a consequence had some films that I simply could not locate.  I asked for help in finding them and was the beneficiary of the generosity of multiple people.  After being pointed towards a free trial of Hulu Plus last month I also examined a few other lists I have in order to see both what was hard to locate and what was available via Hulu Plus.

Where I stand right now is that I am actively working on the following lists: Oscar Best Picture Nominees, the six 101 [Genre] Films YouMust See Before You Die lists, They Shoot Pictures Don’t They, Empire’s lists of the Top 100 World Films and Top 500 Films, Roger Ebert’s Great Movies, and three different lists of the Top 100 British films of all time, which yield a total of 178 different entries.  Many of these overlap, but I am showing films under only one list’s count in the details below.

If you have a good memory you know that I was working on the Sight and Sound Critics’ Top 250 Films list last month, but have not mentioned it yet.  That is because I am in a state of limbo.  I have now watched every film on it, except one – Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks – which is one of the films that I cannot locate anywhere.  So I have not completed the SSC list, but I have gone as far as I can with it.  I will have to consider this list dormant until such time that that film ever becomes available.

All of these different lists can be seen by clicking on the names of them.  They link to my Lists from Chip posts on them.


Last month I listed 19 films that I was unable to locate.  With the help of people who responded to that post, plus some extreme internet searches on my part, I was able to locate and see 7 of those.  There are two others that someone has said they will get to me when they have a chance.  I did have to add two new films from other lists, though, so the net total of movies that I am hoping someone can help me find is now 14.

Here are the films that I simply cannot track down, but need to in order to complete various lists.  Note – the only pay services I have looked at so far are Netflix and Hulu Plus.  I suppose if enough show up on another pay service it might be worthwhile to join to see them.  I’m hoping to keep costs as low as possible, though.  If you have a good source for them, but do not want to tell the world by leaving a comment here, then please email me at with your suggestions.

Here are the films I was able to see, along with where you can get them, too.

The Red Badge of Courage (1951) – I finally found it.

Out 1, noli me tangere (1971) – thanks to james1511 of The Cameraman’ Revenge

Out 1, Spectre (1974) – After further research on my part it turns out that this is not a follow-on to the 1971 TV minieries.  It is actually an attempt to release the 13 hour original as a four and a half hour theatrical movie.  Considering that I saw the entire thing, combined with the lack of availability of the theatrical cut, I am going to consider this entry as being completed, too.  Yes, there were a few comments I found that said the theatrical cut used different takes in some scenes, but honestly, after 13 hours of watching people do acting exercises like rolling around in a pile muttering gibberish, I don’t think a different take of it will be any more enlightening.

Kings of the Road aka Im Lauf der Zeit (1976) – I finally found it.

Flowers of Shanghai aka Hai shang hua (1998) – A post for it appeared about a week after I did last month’s status.  By the way, if you are looking for foreign films, especially Asian ones, and most especially South Korean ones, then this site may be a godsend for you.

Alice in the Cities aka Alice in den Stadten (1974) – thanks to thevoid99 of Surrender to the Void and Steve Honeywell of 1001plus.  The first pointed out that it was going to be shown on TCM, an American cable channel dedicated to classic films.  I actually learned from this that the TCM website has a bug in it when you are looking to see if a film is in the upcoming schedule.  Instead of checking TCM’s site directly, choose the “TCMdb” option, then in the resulting list click on the film’s name, then on this page it will show you if it is coming up.  The second pointed me to Hulu Plus for another film and I discovered this one was also there.  If you have never signed up for this service you get a one week free trial.  I discovered how to make it a two week free trial by going as far as putting in my contact information, but not my credit card, then canceling out.  They then sent me an email offering to double the time of the free trial.  I accepted it.

Carnival in Flanders aka La kermesse heroique (1935) – thanks to Steve Honeywell of 1001plus.  He pointed out that this was available via Hulu Plus.  If you have never signed up for this service you get a one week free trial.  I discovered how to make it a two week free trial by going as far as putting in my contact information, but not my credit card, then canceling out.  They then sent me an email offering to double the time of the free trial.  I accepted it.

The ones I am searching for:

101 Genre Films:

City Streets (1931) – a gangster film with Gary Cooper, directed by Rouben Mamoulian

The 1,000 Eyes of Dr. Mabuse (1960) – a gangster film directed by Fritz Lang.  I have had someone say they will make this available when they get a chance.

Sight & Sound Critics Top 250: (This is the only film I have left to complete the list.)

Tie Xi Qu: West of the Tracks (2003) – a nine hour documentary on the falling industry in a region of China from director Bing Wang.

They Shoot Pictures Don’t They:

Empire (1964) – Andy Warhol’s experiment to see if he could do anything and still get film critics to fawn over him.  It worked.  This is an 8 hour static shot of the Empire State Building from dusk to 3:00 AM.  I suppose I could just stare at a picture of the Empire State Building for 8 hours and call it good.  J

Anatahan aka Ana-ta-han (1953) – a Japanese film from Josef von Sternberg

Minamata aka Minamata: The Victims and Their World aka Minamata: Kanja-san to sono sekai (1971) – a Japanese documentary on industrial chemical poisoning.  I swear that this exists only on the TSPDT list and on IMDB and nowhere else on the internet.  Even IMDB has little information on it.

Liebelei (1933) – an early Max Ophuls film

Doomed Love aka Ill-Fated Love aka Amor de perdicao (1979) – a six episode Portuguese TV mini-series from Manoel de Oliveira retelling Romeo and Juliet.  Believe it or not, I tracked down the video.  Unfortunately it has Portuguese audio and hardcoded Italian subtitles only.  I’ve searched and English subtitles do not exist, but I found one comment that said that someone had done a rough translation of the Italian ones embedded in the video and had posted them at  Unfortunately, that site appears to require that you be invited by someone else to even view the forums.  I don’t need an invite, but if you have access to it, could you please save the English subtitles to someplace where they are available?  Or you could email them to me since the files should be small.  Thanks to an anonymous responder last month I now know that there is also a theatrical version that runs about 30 minutes less than this.  I would take either version and be very happy.

Dust in the Wind aka Lian lian feng chen (1987) – a period film from director Hsiao-hsien Hou. 

Under the Bridges aka Unter den Brucken (1946) – a film from Helmut Kautner

Variety aka Variete aka Jealousy (1925) – a film from E.A. Dupont

The Italian Straw Hat aka The Horse Ate the Hat aka Un chapeau de paille d’Italie (1928) – a film from Rene Clair.  I have had someone say they will make this available when they get a chance.

Now, the two new ones:

Roger Ebert’s Great Films:

A Woman’s Tale (1991) – a film from Paul Cox

Top British Films:

Gallivant (1997) – a sort-of documentary/travelogue where director Andrew Kotting drives around England with his 90 year old grandmother and 9 year old daughter.

Any help you can provide in tracking these down will be most appreciated.


Here are the 48 new movies and TV show seasons I saw in November.  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.

Oscar Nominees (5): David Copperfield (1935), The Informer (1935), Les Miserables (1935), One Hour With You (1932), Crossfire (1947)

101 Genre (12): The Innocents (1961), Grey Gardens (1975), Lacombe, Lucien (1974), High Tension (2003), Sonatine (1993), The Dinner Game (1998), The Red Badge of Courage (1951), Phantasm (1979), Reefer Madness (1936), Foxy Brown (1974), The Musketeers of Pig Alley (1912), When Worlds Collide (1951)

SSC (6): Kings of the Road (1976), A Canterbury Tale (1944), Melancholia (2011), Flowers of Shanghai (1998), Colossal Youth (2006), Out 1: noli me tangere (1971)

TSPDT (12): Alice in the Cities (1974), Carnival in Flanders (1935), Princess Yang Kwei-fei (1955), The Tenant (1976), Spies (1928), Sauve Qui Peut (la vie) (1980), Purple Noon (1960), Il Grido (1957), Il Posto (1961), Out 1: Spectre (1974), In a Year with 13 Moons (1978), Alexander Nevsky (1938)

Ebert (2): The Fall of the House of Usher (1928), Souls for Sale (1923)

Other Movies (11): Thor: The Dark World (2013), Micmacs (2009), Terribly Happy (2008), The Croods (2013), White House Down (2013), The Way Way Back (2013), The To Do List (2013), The Internship (2013), Red 2 (2013), R.I.P.D. (2013), People Will Talk (1951)

Re-watches (0):

TV Series (2)How I Met Your Mother Season 8, Eureka Season 5, Web series The Guild Season 6 (re-watch)

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

Les Miserables (1935) is superior to the recent musical version in two main ways.  First, Charles Laughton is fantastic as Inspector Javert.  He brings some humanity to what often becomes a two dimensional role.  Second, the ridiculous innkeepers that were so out of place in the musical barely appear in this version.

One Hour with You (1932) is a lot of pre-Code naughty fun from director Ernst Lubitsch and stars Maurice Chevalier and Jeanette MacDonald.  The two play a happily married couple who are tempted by others.  I loved the very suggestive song Three Times a Day that was sung by Chevalier and Genevieve Tobin, whose character is trying to seduce him away from his wife.

Souls for Sale (1923) might be the earliest parody of Hollywood that I have seen.  A newly married woman thinks twice about her husband and leaves him.  (Good instincts since he’s going to kill her for her money.)  She ends up in the desert and comes upon a sheik on a camel.  It turns out he’s just an actor, who is also a great seducer of women. (The resemblance to Rudolph Valentino is completely intended.)  She ends up becoming a film star.  There are numerous cameos from big names, like Charlie Chaplin, actually making films of their own.

Micmacs (2009) is another piece of strange, happy weirdness from director Jean-Pierre Jeunet.  A man whose father was killed by a land mine, and who has himself been the victim of a drive by shooting, seeks revenge against the two arms merchants who made the weapons.  He gets helps from a bunch of people living on the fringes of society.  By the way, the title does not refer to the Indian tribe from Maine and Atlantic Canada.  Apparently “micmac” is a slang term for a prankster in French.

I recently reviewed Thor: The Dark World (2013).  It is a big step up from the first film and a worthy successor to The Avengers (2012).  You can read that review here.

I had two one star films in November.  Reefer Madness (1936) is a “cult classic” that I finally got around to seeing.  I’m guessing that the people who are entertained by it are probably smoking reefer while they are watching it.  It’s not a “so bad it’s good” kind of film; it’s just plain bad.  Colossal Youth (2006) is an extremely slow and boring movie where all the characters talk AT each other in an artificial manner instead of talking TO each other.  Pretty much everyone in the film is a non-actor, too.  Want to watch a 15 minute long, unbroken shot of a woman complaining about the birth of her child, all while the other person in the scene looks very bored, then screws up his line towards the end, calling the character by the wrong name?  Then this is the movie for you.