#242 In A Lonely Place (1950)

In a Lonely Place is easily one of Humphrey Bogart’s best roles, effortlessly performing a very personal role in the midst of a noir piece that is unlike any other in his career. When screenwriter Dix Steele is accused of murdering a woman he barely knows for no reason whatsoever, besides a penchant for snapping in short-fused violence, he has to convince his intimate circle that he is innocent of a terrible crime… that he may or may not have committed for no reason besides the thrill of the act. This “(unique) romantic and doom-haunted noir drama” was a fantastic flick (Newman).

We watched In A Lonely Place on Criterion, #810.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/In_a_Lonely_Place

Jennifer

This movie was definitely not what I was expecting.  We have watched a few noir films from this time,  and this one is by far the bleakest.  Humphrey Bogart gives a performance with such a huge range – he’s charming and witty in one scene, and threatening and violent in the next.  His character changes with little or no warning and with great ferocity.  The story keeps the viewer on the edge of their seat, as you race to figure out who committed the murder set up at the beginning.  Is Gloria Graeme in danger with Bogart?  Is Bogart being set up?  You will change you mind back and forth as this movie makes you doubt what you know, what you think you know, and what you hope is (or is not!) true.

The theme and style is a great blend of the very best of the late 1940’s  and early 1950’s thriller/film noir vibe.  I loved the set and the look of Bogart’s apartment.  I liked this movie particularly because many of the characters are flawed.  There is no happy ending or easy resolution to this movie.  The actors were not hesitant to make themselves prickly or unlikable.

Garrett

I really enjoyed this film, and that is unusual for me because in many instances I have thought that Bogart was an actor with a relatively limited range. Up until this point, I have seen a man who has kept his reputation as a performer perhaps only as far as nostalgia has been able to take him. But in this piece, I was impressed at the range and talent in his characterization of Steele. In one of the Criterion special features we watched, it was apparent that this might have been because it was a character that really helped him process and perform in a manner that was somewhat close to who he was as a person – and it makes sense how this would diverge from the character he usually seems to have ready to go in his back pocket.

I enjoyed this movie. The writing and direction were on point. Some of my favorite elements had to do with some of the exterior shots and the design of the sets that managed to heighten the setting frozen in time a little more intentionally than many of the films from the era. The set itself was based on and duplicated real places where the piece was set, and that certainly helped with this feeling of genuine celluloid reality.

For this film, I did not read Dorothy B. Hughes’ novel, but I was interested to read in Schneider that the ending differs from the original text in one key way. Also, the process and mental mise en scene of the career, art, and anxieties of writing is perfectly captured in this film more than any other than I have seen to this point – except perhaps in Jonze/Kaufman’s Adaptation.

#673 Alien (1979)

Alien’s visceral, distinctive design are at the forefront of Ridley Scott’s serious sendoff to the monster shockers of the 1950s. It’s a gritty, bloody addition to both the science fiction and horror genres. Awash in a decade of great (and terrible) science fiction, Alien stands out as an exception to the glut of mediocre Star Wars clones (no pun intended).

We…. Actually, only one of us watched the one hour, fifty-seven minute extended director’s cut on BluRay.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alien_(film)

Jennifer

Nope. Nope, nope, nope, noooooooope. Nope.

Garrett

So, this is the first of several that I know are on the list that Jenn will simply refuse to watch. She offered an exchange: she’ll watch some of the less enthralling kids’ movies on the list alone…but my thought was that she should just watch SOME of the films of this caliber to the extent that I choose what parts were innocuous enough that she wouldn’t have bad dreams for a month.

I lost this battle when it came to Ridley Scott’s Alien. As you can see in the pictures, I simply recounted the entire story to my wife in an oral retelling of costumed PG-detail, and let her draw her own visibly distraught conclusions about what she missed. Obviously, she concluded it was the right decision to sit this one out.

I am probably one of the few Americans to consider themselves a film connoisseur who has never seen this film. I have seen Prometheus, one of the sequels, before this one as a matter of fact. Even though Prometheus was widely panned, I enjoyed the story but knew I was missing something. After looking up some interpretations online, it was clear that it made sense why I was a little lost. After watching Scott’s film, it was also clear that there were many aspects of popular culture (the ending of Spaceballs, a facehugger plush at a friend’s house, and a variety of other things) that I was clearly uninformed about considering I had never seen this piece. I’m glad that I now know what that was all about.

On to the film.

So I have a few thoughts about what I saw. First, aside from the fact that I am not living in the 1970s, this film was relatively tame and boring for me. Once I figured out that it was a “boo!” movie, I recognized exactly where the boo moments were ahead of time and (even though I was watching it by myself) saying aloud, “and of course here is where it pops out.” It did, every time. Now, that is not to say that I can’t get into a film like that…as a matter of fact, I can brush aside disbelief in a second – I’m a geek – but in this case, I felt there was very little holding the story together. I didn’t care about the characters at all, and they were practically sculpted from an outline of Conrad’s archetypes – that is, two-dimensional and without personality. The only one I could get behind was Bilbo Baggins – the scientist crew member had a directive and everything, and there’s a twist about that, and then another, but when he ends up only making it halfway through the film and I am left with characters I don’t care about… Well, at one point I was just running down the clock.

My favorite part of the whole film was the ending for a variety of reasons. Even though I knew what was going to happen, I was unsure (at the escape point) about how the resolution would play out once Weaver was on her own. What happened was pretty cool, and it felt genuinely satisfying when she did it…. As for the cat, well…

So back to my original sentiment. Is this considered so great because it was made in the year it was made, and audiences had different expectations? I have a feeling that is likely. Ultimately, I was bored. The tension, while dialed up, wasn’t that exciting for me. This was likely because the characters had nothing for me to care about aside from “will they get out?”  but it appears that is the main point.

The design of the film was incredible, however. The scenes where we were only allowed glimpses of the horror through the darkness, blending in, and the extensive use of strobe lights were terrifying, and H.R.Geiger’s creature and environment were truly intoxicatingly terrible… But if these are to take a backseat to good writing, that is where I feel cheated. I am glad I watched it, but I am more interested in hearing more about why people love it so much. I am not convinced it is simply the phallic monster stalking the beautiful, waifish woman, but if it is, the sexual imagery is absolutely ridiculous and overpowering. If it is the writing, well, I will have a hard time being convinced that it is actually effective – I’m sure Robert McKee would roll his eyes at the suggestion. I totally get the piece in the context of the year it came out, collecting legions of people enthralled with the production value and execution for the time. But, if it isn’t that…What IS it, then?

I am interested in the sequel, that I have already noticed is on the list. Let’s hope I care more about that one. After giving this two hours, I am sure I will care a little more – and also, that must be the one where Weaver comes face to face with it, right?

#1176 Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy is James Gunn’s exciting, dramatic, hilarious, and engaging interpretation of the more recent incantation of the Marvel comic book team. Focusing on a small team of outlaws whose goals, motivations, and reactions could not be any more disparate, their mission is to save the galaxy by reclaiming a device that would end everything in the wrong hands. Of course, it is often in the wrong hands – the guardians included. But this film is difficult to categorize into any one genre or style of film, making it accessible and enjoyable for just about all audiences (we watched it for the second time with our eight-year-old after deeming it was appropriate for him – and he loved it just as much as our parents in their sixties did). A brilliant, exciting, enjoyable, and most importantly, different addition to the superhero epoch we’re currently in. Even if all the rest of them disappeared tomorrow, there is no question that Guardians will remain as an excellent piece of cinema.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Guardians_of_the_Galaxy_(film)

 

Jennifer

This is everything you could ask for in a movie – smart, snappy dialogue, great character development, impressive but not relentless special effects and a very unlikely (but likable!) hero.

Guardians of the Galaxy is ridiculously fun film experience.  The movie zips along with a fantastic soundtrack.  I am not a huge fan of the typical superhero movie, but this movie has no typical superheroes.  Each scene is laced with just the right amount of humor and sarcasm, without going for an easy laugh or being too into itself.

We are very much looking forward to the sequel next month (the eight-year-old included!).

Garrett

First, this is probably my favorite of our images I have thrown together so far.

Second, James Gunn. I have been a fan of Gunn’s for a long time – completely separate from anything that he has made in the more mainstream film industry. Gunn is central to most of the independent Troma Team products of the past twenty years, and it is no surprise that Lloyd Kaufman has a blatant and beautiful momentary cameo in the GOTG prison sequence. Given his sense of humor, the budget of Guardians, the genre and subject matter of the film, and the final product, Guardians of the Galaxy would not have been the same with the vision of any other director. Gunn was simply perfect.

Finally, I absolutely love this film. It isn’t entirely what one might consider one of the 1001 movies to see before you die, but I completely agree with its place on the list. When we first watched it a few years ago, I remember being upset that we missed it in the movie theater. The film has humor, soul, action, adventure, and characters you can’t help but love. Ultimately, the beauty of this film stands on a solid foundation of having great writing, great characters, great direction, and great actors who all work together to gestate a little exciting comic masterpiece of action, adventure, and heart. I will surely return to this film again and again, and I am really looking forward to Volume 2.

 

#383 Splendor in the Grass (1961)

Splendor in the Grass is a classic Hollywood melodrama featuring Natalie Wood and Warren Beatty (in his first film). The tone of this piece begins with a sweetness that is too hard to ignore in terms of a silver screen romance – something difficult to believe until a third of the way through the movie when French New Wave techniques are mashed up with method acting and an incredible screenplay that sends the characters hurtling dangerously toward a reality of the consequences of repression that “twists people in monstrous, dysfunctional directions” (Martin). This ultimately makes the audience perceive motion picture cliches that never arrive – as we kept guessing the next beat in more and more ridiculous soap opera tropes, Inge’s screenplay begged us to ignore them with each new, more believable, more realistic twist. Ultimately, we ended up with what was simply an unexpectedly great film for the ages, and the performances kept up with it as it neared its tragic and acceptable conclusions.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Splendor_in_the_Grass

Jennifer

This was a movie where the narrative you think is unfolding takes a very unexpected turn.  It begins as a typical teenage love story, a Romeo and Juliet from different sides of the tracks (rich vs. poor).  From the beginning of the film, Warren Beatty and Natalie Wood’s performances are captivating.  Their characters are endearing and innocent.  Wood’s transformation from the beginning of the film to the end is captivating.  My heart broke for her. I found the treatment of teenage sex and mental illness throughout this movie to be very interesting, with multiple plot points occurring with both the main characters and the minor characters (Bud’s sister)

The film’s title is taken from a stanza from ‘Ode: Intimations of Immortality‘ by English Romantic poet William Wordsworth.

What though the radiance which was once so bright

Be now for ever taken from my sight,

Though nothing can bring back the hour

Of splendour in the grass, of glory in the flower;

We will grieve not, rather find

Strength in what remains behind…

This poem is featured toward both the middle and the very ending of the film, emphasizing that we “find strength in what remains behind.”

 

Garrett

I really enjoyed this, and I was quite surprised as the film progressed. Where at the beginning I expected the same things to happen that I have seen countless other times in film, it became clear as the horrors of the character’s choices unfolded that this was going in a direction that stripped it of the Hollywood tropes and led us down a road that delivered the audience to a conclusion structured in deep realism. This striking compromise seems revolutionary for the era, and to witness its American gestation in this film was splendid.

In many ways, with the exception of the middle of the film, this movie was a lot like The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – a favorite of mine that is also on the list. I was surprised to find that Cherbourg was made after Splendor; after watching this it felt like I had wished it was made first since the themes and structure are so similar. Regardless, it was a pleasure to see how Inge unfolded these realistic elements to balance the audience’s expectations with reality. A well written, well-performed script that can easily be considered an American classic.

Movie Posters By Me #17: The Fall of the House of Usher

Movie Posters By Me

Episode Seventeen: The Fall of the House of Usher
http://www.beforewediefilms.com

An eight-year-old is given the title of a film he has never seen, and is asked to “illustrate a poster for this movie and explain what the movie is about.”

This week’s film is Roger Corman’s 1960 film, The Fall of the House of Usher

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/House_of_Usher_(film)

#61 Frankenstein (1931)

Coined in Schneider as “the single most important horror film ever made,” Frankenstein showcases a classic Boris Karloff in iconic makeup to portray a brutal, animalistic, touching, crazed, and horrifying creation. This first “Universal Monsters” film tells the story of the creation and fallout of one man’s conquest of dominance over nature, but features mainly stage hands, rudimentary makeup that was conceived on a shoestring budget, and a storyline that…sorta defined a genre by cutting up some source material to make a new story on screen. Definitely innovative, this piece takes a lot of interesting origin stories and combines them to create a work of art that seems like it would not have come together with what we have now, a film that is a “chilly and invigorating cornerstone of its entire genre” (Newman).

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frankenstein_(1931_film)

Garrett

I’ll start with this one… Whoa boy. So, I am really interested in what people see in this film. I am convinced it is simply some sort of drive-in cruisin’ baby boomer late night double feature nostalgia or something. I literally cannot figure out what is so great about this film, except that it appears to be the first horror film like it (it isn’t the first horror film at all, though) with a shoestring production and budget that all seemed to come together in this miraculous way. It is interesting that a lot of the characters were stage hands (including Karloff), but the script and the performances are mediocre, camp, and cliche – maybe they were terrifying for early audiences, but I found myself ‘meh’ for most of the film. I did find myself fascinated by the makeup (but not who wore it), and the sets. The sets were incredible, and interestingly just some simple stage theater tricks with perspective and lighting easily turned small flat walls into gigantic, sprawling hallways and creepy windows. The main question, however, is: does that make this good?

I think my major gripe is that this literally couldn’t be any further from the book. The characters have different names, people don’t really die, the monster is scary and Victor isn’t made to deal with his choices (wait…he isn’t Victor), there is a weird campy dad, there are really no stakes or motivations for any of the characters, and what is with the ending? Scary, but literally couldn’t be further from Shelley’s work. Is my main gripe that it is nothing like the book? No… It’s that it isn’t anything like the book in every way, from tone to execution to theme to violence to science… heck, it spends practically half of the film covering material that is literally directly told to the audience that it is not in the book on purpose (probably because it would be as boring as it is in the movie). This probably colored the entirety of my feelings about the film…well, that and it is marketed as one of the greatest film achievements of all time by the Universal marketing department.

Will this be an unpopular opinion? Maybe. Frankly, aside from it being innovative, I was simply not only not scared, but I was disappointed, bored, and don’t understand what the motivation was to tie it to the book. If they had called it “the scientist” and used new names, I think I would be slightly less disappointed. To me, it just wasn’t as great as people and Universal markets as so very sacred. Meh.

Jennifer

So, I have never read the book, Frankenstein.  Prior to watching this film, Garrett treated me to an in-depth, scene by scene recounting of the original story – one of his favorite books of all time.  Watching the movie after this, I was utterly confused.  Pretty much the only thing that was the same was the name Frankenstein? Also, they changed Victor’s name to Henry in the movie because they thought the name Victor sounded too “unfriendly.”

A few interesting facts about the making of the movie, since I really don’t have too much to say about the actual film.  Each of the monster’s shoes weighed thirteen pounds each, and his costume weighed forty-nine pounds.  The filming was of course done primarily in the summer.  Currently, the monster’s makeup is under trademark by Universal Studios until the year 2026.

Many of the sets seemed impressive and well dressed.  None of the acting or the actors interested me, and I can’t say I was rooting for any of the characters.  When researching the movie I found that the movie was apparently based on a stage adaptation of the novel, rather than the novel itself.  Also, with more than a century between the novel’s debut and the movie along with various different stage productions and adaptations occurred – including parodies.  While this makes sense when thinking about the vast difference between the novel and the movie, it didn’t make the film any more appealing to me.

Movie Posters By Me #16: Children of the Corn

Movie Posters By Me

Episode Sixteen: Children of the Corn
http://www.beforewediefilms.com

An eight-year-old is given the title of a film he has never seen, and is asked to “illustrate a poster for this movie and explain what the movie is about.”

This week’s film is Fritz Kiersch’s 1984 film, Children of the Corn
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Children_of_the_Corn_(1984_film)