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TM2YC's 1001 Movies (Chronological up to page 48/post 480)
(09-09-2020, 04:45 PM)mnkykungfu Wrote: ^"The idea that a whole US platoon from the Korean war could be brainwashed almost perfectly sounds a bit fanciful and the reasons for doing so don't make any sense whatsoever at the end."  Yeah, I couldn't get past that when I watched this for the first time this year.  Every since I graduated with a degree in Psychology, a pet peeve of mine has been movies using "psychology" as a magical explanation for whatever fantastical premise they want to create.  This movie was ridiculous sci-fi to me, and depressing that so many people watch it today and still praise it as if it's remotely credible.

It's definitely not a credible concept but I can picture it coming out at the height of pre-'Cuban missile crisis' cold war paranoia and scaring people sh*tless. In that atmosphere, the kind of "out there" wacky schemes that spies (on both sides of the iron curtain e.g. MKUltra) were experimenting with and what they actually could do in reality would've been unknowns. I can see the movie in that heightened context.

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Akira (1988)
Director: Katsuhiro Otomo
Country: Japan
Length: 124 minutes
Type: Sci-Fi, Horror

When I re-watch 'Akira' it's usually with the subtitled Japanese audio but this time I wanted to view it with the 1989 'Streamline Pictures' English theatrical dub. So I synced up the dub from the Criterion Laserdisc with my UK Manga Entertainment blu-ray. It was was nice to watch the film the way I probably first saw it in the 90s, late night on Channel 4 (but now in widescreen HD). This time I noticed the 'A Clockwork Orange' elements in the way the gang culture is portrayed, their pill pub hangout, is very 'Korova Milkbar'. Having recently watched SKY/HBO's 'Chernobyl' recently, I also saw parallels with the Akira containment efforts and those of the Chernobyl clean up team (the Chernobyl disaster happened during production of 'Akira'). The levels of visual imagination and attention to the detail in every object, building, piece of clothing and vehicle in the world of the movie is rivalled only by films like 'Blade Runner'. Kaneda's blood-red bike is the standout, one of the most iconic and desirable vehicles in sci-fi cinema and that biker gang chase is always a thrill. There are other animated films that could claim to be superior overall to 'Akira' but it's probably the greatest ever hand-drawn feature on a technical and artistic level and likely always will be because studios don't really make them like this any more.

There has been talk of it coming back to cinemas (including IMAX) in 4K this year but we'll see. There's a teaser for the release at least:

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The Saragossa Manuscript (1965)
Director: Wojciech Jerzy Has
Country: Poland
Length: 182 minutes
Type: Drama, Historical, Fantasy

A sort of Polish Terry Gilliam-esque collision of 'Alice in Wonderland', 'Barry Lyndon', 'Gulliver's Travels' and 'Inception' set during the Spanish Inquisition. The nominal central character Alfonse is played by Zbigniew Cybulski (star of 'Ashes and Diamonds') but his story is continually interrupted by other characters who he meets on his journeys and they tell their stories and their stories get interrupted by other stories (by the way, Alfonse himself is a character in the titular manuscript read by two other men in the opening framing scene!). I think I counted stories going 5 or 6 layers deep and back out again (hence the reference to 'Inception'). There are tales of Gypsies, Knights, Princesses, love affairs and death. Wojciech Jerzy Has' film is 3-hours long but keeps the attention through the energy and variety of it's story telling. Krzysztof Penderecki's "ahead of it's time" avant-garde score really contributes to the feeling of disquiet.

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if.... (1968)
Director: Lindsay Anderson
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 111 minutes
Type: Drama

In his first screen role, star Malcolm McDowell dominates the screen, radiating the same gleeful insolence as schoolboy Travis, that he would soon bring to Alex in Stanley Kubrick's 'A Clockwork Orange'. Lindsay Anderson's film is a savage satire of Britain's upper class and ancient public boarding schools (like Eton 1440 and Harrow 1572), so if you're not familiar with that world, I imagine it wouldn't land as well. All the references to "Whips", "The Sweat Room", "Bumf" tutors, first years being officially addressed as "A scum", and the school rule to "Run in the corridor!" sound so ridiculously believable. The editing is playfully anarchic, freely switching between colour and black and white. I first saw 'if....' at a cinema in Manchester about 15 or so years ago. The final scene where Travis and his friends begin shooting their classmates and teachers has a different, more shocking feel now, than it did to me back when such incidents weren't so regularly in the news (Although it's clearly an OTT fantasy sequence). The official 'BFI Top 100 British films' list has 'if....' at number 12, which I'm not sure about but it's certainly very good.

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Daisies (1966)
Director: Vera Chytilova
Country: Czechoslovakia
Length: 76 minutes
Type: Experimental,Comedy

'Daisies' ('Sedmikrasky') is a Czech experimental, psychedelic, comedy from Director Vera Chytilova. Two 60s mini-skirt wearing girls rampage through various scenes causing chaos and delight wherever they go. They have a titanic food fight, wear newspapers, dance like flapper girls, wrap each other up like presents, chop each other up with scissors and giggle constantly. Chytilova rapidly switches between film, still photos, black and white, tinted scenes and vibrant colour. It ends with titles saying "This film is dedicated to all those whose sole source of indignation is a trampled-on trifle" and why not!

(05-14-2018, 02:54 PM)TM2YC Wrote: 78 years ago...

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 I find some of the production stories more entertaining than the film. Like co-star Clark Gable threatening to walk from the picture unless the backstage facilities were desegregated. He was successful in that case but his threat to boycott the Atlanta Premiere when he learned the black cast members were not invited, was sadly ignored. Hattie McDaniel did win the first Oscar for a person of colour as the plantation matron "Mammy".

The racial dimensions of the film itself are still controversial. It's far from the hateful propaganda of something like 'Birth of a Nation' but it is still highly questionable. It paints slavery in the Deep-South plantations as a wonderful idyllic period of happiness for all. The only time we see anybody in chains or being maltreated is later in the picture, when it's a row of white convicts. It's the only time in the whole 4-hours when anybody even questions the morality of slavery but the film concludes it was fine because they were treated well. The very few "Yankee" characters are all shown as uncaring thieves, murderers and (probable) rapists. I can never understand why early Hollywood seemed hell-bent on fermenting another Civil War, mere decades after the last one.

This has recently come back in the news in the US, and it's been pulled from a lot of viewing services.  I caught it on a theatrical re-release shortly after high-school, and I was surprised at how impressive it seemed to me.  I don't love many old films, but this one won over both me and my date.  You're right, the production value was insane, it was gorgeous, and the performances had a lot of power to them.  I'm sure I have a much more nuanced view of the issues now, but at the time I was fine just accepting it as "We're in the South, this is how the characters thought.  It's a portrayal, not an endorsement."  Giving black characters much screen time or significant roles at all was pretty progressive for the time.  I'd be hard-pressed to find another film from the decade that does better.  I think we appreciate now it would've been better to portray the viewpoints of the enslaved people as well, but I remember there being many levels within the film of how comfortable the characters were with the whole system.  It seemed enough to me to make the film simply disappointing in that area, not outright vile as some people are calling it.
(05-14-2018, 02:54 PM)TM2YC Wrote: This is an oldskool 4-hour Epic, so it's got an Overture, Entr'acte, Exit-Music and an Intermission, which neatly breaks the story in half. Just before the fall of the Confederacy and just after. Main character Scarlett O'Hara (Vivien Leigh) is introduced to us as a selfish, spiteful and petulant Southern debutante who wants anything as long as she can't have it. The lead being so unlikable is one of the factors that makes 'Gone With the Wind' hard to fully enjoy. After the Intermission Scarlett has lost everything and the grit and determination she shows clawing it all back at least gives us a spark of admiration for her, even if we still think she is a horrid person. One could almost see this as a feminist tale, out of the ashes of the fall, it's the women who rebuild the families. The men (with the exception of Rhett) have all become senile, depressed, war-wounded, or generally ineffectual. That said, there is a troubling part where it's implied Rhett intends to rape Scarlett and we cross-fade to her in bed the next morning beaming with satisfied joy.
The part I really had trouble with was the rape scene. Scarlett is flat out forcibly taken to the bedroom while objecting and fighting to escape.  Applying the same metric of judging how progressive this was for the time, I wouldn't expect men to show much respect or equality to women.  But that next morning scene is as ringing an endorsement of rape as you're going to get for the time.  As if to say, 'All a stuck-up women needs is a good screw'.  And yet I know so many women (usually older than I) who think the whole scene is terribly sexy and romantic... Perhaps a rewatch would change their minds nowadays?

I'm normally super sensitive to having to follow unlikable characters, so your criticisms of Scarlett pricked my ears.  I think why it didn't trouble me here was that there are lots of other characters constantly telling her how much of a pain she is.  And (spoilers?) she gets her comeuppance.  She does eventually have to grow and become a better, wiser, stronger person.  I think films that just make you follow a jerk and just identify with that protagonist instead of having other main characters call them out (off the top of my head: Ghost World, many Baumbach characters, most Safdie characters) are tough for me to follow.  I've already tuned out by halfway through the film, because I don't care if the character gets what they want.  I may even actively be rooting against them.  Somehow, GWTW had enough nuance in the first half to keep me on the hook and see Scarlett through.

I'd agree with you that everyone should watch this at least once.  It's a shame there's so much pressure to "Cancel" it.
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(09-16-2020, 04:25 PM)mnkykungfu Wrote: I'm normally super sensitive to having to follow unlikable characters, so your criticisms of Scarlett pricked my ears.

I think films that just make you follow a jerk and just identify with that protagonist instead of having other main characters call them out (... most Safdie characters) are tough for me to follow.

I've discussed the Safdie films before but the difference for me between them and Scarlet is that the Safdie characters are typically deeply flawed people making mistakes because of their flaws and their lack of self-realization about those flaws. Which at least elicits pity for me, where as Scarlet is a bitch (for lack of a more nuanced word) to everybody and she knows it and enjoys it, yet we're assumed to be on her side for some reason.

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Kes (1969)
Director: Ken Loach
Country: United Kingdom
Length: 112 minutes
Type: Drama

'Kes' is 7th in the BFI's 'Top 100 British films' list.  Ken Loach's 2nd theatrical film cemented his reputation internationally, although some of the thick Barnsley accents and local dialect of the cast had to be re-dubbed for the US market.  The book 'A Kestrel for a Knave' and the film are about Billy Casper, a delightfully cheeky but sad little 15-year old growing up in a bleak mining town, dealing with an abusive older brother, an indifferent mother and teachers who have written him off. He finds respite in rearing and training a kestrel and pouring over a book on falconry. It's heart-warming and heart-breaking. John Cameron's soaring, magical folk/string score stands in contrast to the grim and harrowing world Billy is escaping from. Loach was working with locals and non-actors for the background parts which gives the whole thing a documentary realism. David/Dai Bradley is sensational as Billy Casper, one of the all-time great child actors.

This was the first time I'd watched 'Kes' since seeing Comedian Greg Davies' thoughtful BBC documentary 'Looking for Kes' about the book and film. As a former English teacher he talked about the piece from that perspective and I can now appreciate how strongly teachers feature in the story. Brian Glover as the hilariously pompous PE teacher Mr Sugden, Bob Bowes as the authoritarian, ignorant and cruel Mr Gryce and Colin Welland as the lovely Mr Farthing, who genuinely cares about Billy and devotes time to encouraging him. Plus the typical career's advisor who is just ticking the kids off a list and not actually interested in their futures. It shows how fiercely political the film is, raging at education systems that ignore obvious potential in troubled kids like Billy.

(09-17-2020, 01:54 PM)TM2YC Wrote: I've discussed the Safdie films before but the difference for me between them and Scarlet is that the Safdie characters are typically deeply flawed people making mistakes because of their flaws and their lack of self-realization about those flaws. Which at least elicits pity for me, where as Scarlet is a bitch (for lack of a more nuanced word) to everybody and she knows it and enjoys it, yet we're assumed to be on her side for some reason.

For me your two descriptions are interchangeable here.  I could easily argue that Pattinson's character knows he's being a dick in Good Time for example, or that Scarlett is a deeply flawed person who can't help herself.  But regardless, I won't accuse somebody of disliking a character they should bear with... I've complained about it often enough in critically-regarded dramas.  There must be a fine line that's a bit different for each viewer in each case.
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The Muppet Movie (1979)
Director: James Frawley
Country: United Kingdom / United States
Length: 97 minutes
Type: Comedy

I've mostly just watched (and re-watched) the two classic 90s Muppets literary adaptations ('The Muppet Christmas Carol' and 'Muppet Treasure Island'), so this was my first time seeing the 1970 debut. I found the humour to be very Marx Brothers (the puns and 4th wall breaking in particular) and if those two other movies are their narratively focused 'Night at the Opera' and 'Day at the Races', then 'The Muppet Movie' is their anarchic 'Duck Soup'. The plot is a loose deconstruction of a "road movie", an imagined origin story in which Kermit leaves his quiet swamp to pursue a career in show business, meeting the other Muppets along the way.  The highlight is definitely Steve Martin's turn as a flagrantly sarcastic waiter, one of a large number of mostly fun cameos.  I think this is the kind of comedy movie that rewards repeat viewings, so I'm maybe not getting the best of it on my first watch. I look forward to next time.

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Rocco and His Brothers (1960)
Director: Luchino Visconti
Country: Italy
Length: 177 minutes
Type: Drama

Rightly or wrongly, I associate Luchino Visconti with epic-length, lavish, colourful, period, upper-class costume-dramas and while 'Rocco and His Brothers' ('Rocco e i suoi fratelli') is 3-hours long, it's a gritty, grimy, street-level black & white film about the working class.  Alain Delon is brilliantly moody as the titular Rocco, the sensitive middle brother of five rural southerners who we meet all arriving in the big northern city of Milan in search of work, along with their feisty traditional mother.  Although she plays the quintessential Italian "mamma" to comedic perfection, actress Katina Paxinou was actually Greek and of course Delon was French.  The main focus of the story is a love/hate triangle between Rocco, his older chaotic brother Simone (Renato Salvatori) and Nadia (Annie Girardot), a prostitute who they both become obsessed with. The two brothers get drawn into Milan's boxing scene, which becomes symbolic of their fight with each other and against themselves.  The tone and content reminded me of the long-running UK soap 'Eastenders' but certainly at a much higher artistic level... it's got cinematographer Giuseppe Rotunno capturing the images and Nino Rota composing the score. Every performance is incredibly powerful and the material gets progressively bleaker and more depressing as it goes on.  Martin Scorsese's Film Foundation partly funded the beautiful 4K restoration on the blu-ray, which put me in mind of his own boxing movie 'Raging Bull'.

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La Dolce Vita (1960)
Director: Federico Fellini
Country: Italy
Length: 180 minutes
Type: Drama

Federico Fellini directs Marcello Mastroianni as 'Marcello' a gossip writer, looking every inch an introspective Italian James Bond (this was 2-years before 'Dr. No'), wearing sharp suits and stylish shades, driving a sexy Triumph TR3 sports car. The episodic structure plays like seven days and nights from his playboy life in Rome, although they aren't necessarily concurrent. I found the episodes when he's hanging with a series of pretentious socialites to be a tad tiresome but some episodes are very memorable. Particularly the evening spent with the voluptuous Anita Ekberg, a little black dress struggling to contain her as she frolics in a fountain. I also loved the episode he spends with a visiting father, who he clearly loves despite some distance.

Marcello romances so many brunettes in black cocktail dresses that I got a bit confused as to which one was which at times. In some parts you really like him and in some parts you think he's a real a***hole, which is what makes the film interesting. However, with no real overarching plot, just a mosaic of events that make up Marcello's personality, did it really need every minute of it's 3-hours? I suspect it might grow in my estimation with repeat viewings. By the way, Nico (of 'The Velvet Underground &...' fame) has a cameo as herself and the term "Paparazzi" is named after a character in the film (an unscrupulous celebrity photographer).

(09-18-2020, 04:19 PM)TM2YC Wrote: [Image: 50357386687_7e340f6b39.jpg]

Wait, did Empire Strikes Back copy the poster of Muppet Movie?  Big Grin

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