#469 Come Drink With Me (Dà Zuì Xiá / 大醉俠) (1966)

How about a little Shaw Brothers and a little Shaw Scope for your eyes? Can’t handle it? Go find some of your fake kung fu, because we’re buckling in for a ride on the King Hu train, losers. Tonight we watched Come Drink With Me (Dà Zuì Xiá / 大醉俠), and what an absolute blast this film was. King Hu “revolutionize(d) the martial arts costume drama…(showcasing a) mastery of all aspects of the medium, especially his inimitable approach to editing” (Peña). His portrayal of the merciless Golden Swallow waltzing into town to deliver some much-needed justice is a thrill ride from beginning to end, and the touching, slow scenes with Drunken Cat are just as wonderful as the action-packed, bloody, quick, precise action sequences.

This film was a lot of fun, and the production quality truly accentuated a genre thirsty for work like this to pave the way for directors like Ang Lee’s work decades later.

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

Jennifer

This movie was very entertaining!  Lots of great choreography, bloody battles, settings, and costumes. A classic 1960’s martial arts film. The heroine in this movie fights some bad guys to rescue her kidnapped brother.  She inadvertently falls in love with a martial arts master. They go on to kick major bad guy butt together. This movie is visually stunning and leaves little room for boredom.

Garrett

I really enjoyed this film. From its opening sequence, it was clear that the director was going to take us on a ride through a valley of danger, double-crossing, and intense, bloody swordplay. Knowing nothing about this film ahead of time, I had few expectations, but it was a beautiful joyride through the narrative. The costumes, excellent performances, and obsessive attention to detail transported us to a world of martial arts high adventure. Come Drink With Me is truly a fun hour and a half diversion that fully encapsulates the audience in a striking, magical, dangerous land.

#404 Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

Lawrence of Arabia is a true epic Hollywood film that brings audiences to another time and place while also managing to be in-your-face with its production value balancing a subtle art and metaphor in a super-long, super-technicolor manner that you don’t seem to mind even though several hours have passed. Lawrence “epitomizes all that motion pictures can be…from Maurice Jarre’s sweeping score to Robert Bolt’s literary script to Freddie Young’s Gorgeous desert cinematography to the literal cast of thousands,” Lean’s beautiful film presents “the follies of colonialism and the hypocrisies of war” as a “true epic with the scope and scale of great literature” (Klein).

We watched the film over several nights, and we were surprised how often we found ourselves gasping out loud, pointing out something huge and amazing to one another, and finding ourselves swept up in the scale and brilliance of a film that deserves every single accolade that has been heaped on it. We promised that when the opportunity to see the film in 4k or 70mm arises that we will drop everything and make the trip. This film is simply definitively moviemaking – tell an original story with a message in a unique way that only cinema can capture. Lean’s film is unparalleled, human, global, and timeless. O’Toole’s performance of the enigmatic and troubled Lawrence is stunning, with his bright blue eyes cutting through the screen the entire film. Just as remarkable was Omar Sharif as Sherif Ali. Lawrence of Arabia is a masterpiece.

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

Garrett

I was absolutely floored that I had never seen this film. I knew little about it going into it, and frankly, I was ignorant to what O’Toole was doing in the costume and perhaps that wasn’t dust but unfortunate makeup and a hundred other unfortunate casting decisions right down the line as early Hollywood was wont to do. That said, I was incredibly surprised at what Lean and O’Toole delivered – and I went on to do some research about T.E.Lawrence and learned some really interesting political, social, and personal details about a man whose life was cut way too short.

This film was spectacular. I loved every moment that I spent watching it with Jenn. It is moving, it is huge, it is spectacular, it is exciting, and it is perfect in so many ways. I love that Lean spared no expense, and the fact that it was cast so well with thousands of real actors, it was shot on location at real locations, and there were hundreds of tiny deliberate decisions to make the most perfect film, one can really appreciate that this was a real film without any CGI to pad any aspect of what we were watching in 2017. Everything felt true, from the scorching sun to the horses to the costume and palatial sets, and nothing replaces that.

A magnificent film I wouldn’t mind watching again and again – like a book, it feels like I could toss this DVD in and pick it up wherever I please and watch for twenty minutes or the full three and a half hours, and find the same awe and wonder as the first time I saw it. Looking forward to catching it when it hits theaters again, as it inevitably will.

Jennifer

This movie is majestic in every possible way. I have never (and probably never will again) see a movie like this. Every part of this movie revolves around the desert. It’s the main character, it’s the major problem, and the solution in the narrative.The ability to view the desert of Arabia and so many authentic actors at this time in history is fascinating. I wish I could have really seen this movie in the theater.

Lean brilliantly casts Peter O’Toole, who delivers an impressive performance. The way his character evolves from the beginning to the end of the movie was captivating. Omar Sharif delivers an equally captivating performance.

Omar Sharif perfectly sums up this movie:

“If you are the man with the money and somebody comes to you and says he wants to make a film that’s four hours long, with no stars, and no women, and no love story, and not much action either, and he wants to spend a huge amount of money to go film it in the desert–what would you say?”

In our time, this area of the world is again in the spotlight so there was an added level of relevance to this movie. I really knew nothing about this region at this time in history, and I did a bunch of research on the real Lawrence after watching the film. His story is fascinating on its own. Combined with the authentic setting and perfect casting, the four hours of this film felt like mere moments.

#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.

 

Check out this great article from The Library of America’s The Moviegoer, In A Lonely Place: Film Noir as an Opera of Male Fury by Carrie Rickey (linked above)

#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)