Sunday, March 6, 2011

My Monthly Dose: A Daily Prescription of Films. March 2011

My Monthly Dose: A Daily Prescription of Films. March 2011

This month I wanted to focus and completely dedicate to the Criterion Collection, a company that has done a remarkable job archiving/preserving/heralding a bevvy of films that are usually...amazing.
Good news for those who have Hulu-Plus because the Criterion Collection have made a deal with them to showcase a bulk of their films. (Netflix does have a good handful of Criterion films, FYI).
This month also gives a glance at mockumentaries, Jim Jarmusch and Wes Anderson.

  1. The Great Dictator (1938) Charlie Chaplin. - Chaplin takes on Hitler and Mussolini in a very funny film that also warned us of World War II, a year before it even happened. It deals with a barber who is mistaken for a very evil ruler.
  2. Something Wild (1986) Jonathan Demme. - If you’ve ever wondered why Melanie Griffith was ever worth talking about...then watch this film. Her, Jeff Daniels and Ray Liotta literally light up the screen in this wonderfully twisted film that begins as a comedy and ends as a thriller. Plus it shows us Manhattan in the the mid-80’s and has some David Byrne vox and John Waters for good measure.
  3. Silence of the Lambs (1991) Jonathan Demme. - Demme tackled “Lamb” with a lot of gusto and some ideal casting. This is an amazing film where all I feel I need to say it now.
  4. Bande à part. Band of Outsiders (1964) Jean-Luc Godard. - Quirky, funny, violent and per usual Godard gives us a film that explodes with energy...and one that breaks the film conventions of it’s time in order to pave ground for “new storytelling”.
  5. Do the Right Thing (1989) Spike Lee. - Lee hits his mark with a film that sparkles with humor and anger, intensified by the validity of it’s vision and the wonderfully apt cast. Plus, John Turturro is always great to watch...even when he’s playing a racist fuck.
  6. Spoorloos. “The Vanishing” (1988) George Sluizer. - A dark and desperate film that gives us a view of what conscious “evil” is. I felt creeped out when the film ended and it’s bleakness left me hollow inside...But it’s a fascinating view of ethos and mores and how we interpret those views.
  7. This Is Spinal Tap (1984) Rob Reiner. - 11 anyone? This film doesn’t age...those bands still exist, they just have different distortion pedals or haircuts. Probably one of the greatest mockumentaries ever made.
  8. Videodrome (1983) David Cronenberg. - When you add James Woods and Cronenberg into a filmic mix the result is appropriately “uber” creepy.
  9. Stranger than Paradise (1984) Jim Jarmusch. - A charming and slowly paced black & white film that follows the lives of three lonely young adults who search, longingly, for “something more”. This was Jarmusch’s first feature and it set up the standard for the new independent film-making movement that was finding it’s way in the mid-80’s.
  10. The Harder They Come (1972) Perry Henzell. - Jimmy Cliff stars in this violent ‘realist’ film based on a real-life Jamaican criminal from the 1940’s. The story of a man who wants to make music his life but has to turn to selling drugs in order to get by (sound familiar?).
  11. Robocop (1987) Paul Verhoeven. - Verhoeven is one of the film worlds great satirist...he bites accordingly using future technology/sci-fi as a means of commenting on society’s brainwashing by the world’s not-so-invisible oligarchy. [The one time he tried to apply his wit using the “real world” in Showgirls (1995), most people missed the ironic commentary he so lovingly applies to his work.] I suppose his knives cut better in the Galaxy X42 than they do in Las Vegas, NV.
  12. 喋血雙雄. “The Killer” (1989) John Woo. - bang bang bang...then add some of the worst white jazz possible...andsomehow Woo still had a decent film. Probably because of Chow-Yun Fat, the coolest of all Hong Kong heroes, plays the role of a hit-man who accidentally blinds a pretty singer while doing a hit. The good guy that he is wants to make up for the accident...and that of course requires ONE MORE HIT to get the money for the eye surgery...
  13. C'est arrivé près de chez vous. “Man Bites Dog” (1992) Rémy Belvaux. André Bonzel. Benoit Poelvoorde. - This Belgian mockumentary is both funny and vicious. For those of you who can read French, the film’s English title is not a direct translation (It Happened in Your Neighborhood) but is an apt title for this film. The opening scene felt so real that it took me a while to shake off that this was only a movie...
  14. Night On Earth (1991) Jim Jarmusch. - Jarmusch tells the tale of 5 taxi’s around the world and what happens in those cabs. LA, NYC, Paris, Rome and Helsinki are the cities where the stories take place. My favorite is Roberto Benigni’s performance as the taxi driver in Rome who pretty much says all the wrong things you can say to a priest.
  15. Short Cuts (1993) Robert Altman. - America’s greatest short-story writer was Raymond Carver, a man who late in his life found success by honing his craft with razor precision...Altman, who also found success later in life with M.A.S.H. must have identified with Carver...not just as a late-bloomer but also as an artist who’s focus was on basic human desires and weaknesses. 
  16. My Own Private Idaho (1991) Gus Van Sant. - I didn’t realize this when i first saw this film but Van Sant adapted a novel called City of Night and Shakespeare’s Henry IV Part 1,2 and Henry the V into a contemporary tale of death, fellatio, loss and narcolepsy. River Phoenix and Keaunu Reeves play the hustling leads in a gorgeously photographed film.
  17. Nóż w wodzie. “Knife in the Water” (1962) Roman Polanski. - Polanksi had three actors and a boat...and he was able to delight and entertain me with this twisted tale of desire and societal standing. Mysterious and haunting visuals flow well with the minimal sounds and music.
  18. The Ice Storm (1997) Ang Lee. - I had read the book before I had seen the film...but I must say that this is a great adaptation and it is superb on every level including the casting, the cinematography, the directing and the production (the film, if you can believe it, was shot in summer...not look at how amazing the production was...)
  19. Lord of the Flies (1963) Peter Brook. - I saw this film for the first time in High School...Brutal, primal and haunting this film tackles the novel of the same name and (almost) does it justice.
  20. Time Bandits (1981) Terry Gilliam. - This film is fun. This film is funny. This film is great to look at. This is Terry Gilliam’s first feature and you can see all the years he did animation for Monty Python blossomed into a fertile world of cinematic wonderment. P.S the trailer is pretty funny.
  21. Schizopolis (1996) Steven Soderbergh. - A strange wacky wild and at times frustrating film...The story of the films inception, which I got first hand, is that Soderbergh wanted to break out of the rut he felt he was in and to let loose...Which he did. There are some absolutely golden moments in this film while there are some areas where you may want to fast forward...but be patient and let it play.
  22. The Royal Tenenbaums (2001) Wes Anderson. - I enjoy Wes Anderson and his brother’s inventive cinema. This particular film is the synergistic result of everything they must have learned about film making and story telling in their previous films (Rushmore, Bottle Rocket). The color palette the characters the costumes the story all fit in what I consider a too perfect film. Plus who can ignore a film in which Alec Baldwin narrates?
  23. Rushmore (1998) Wes Anderson. - This film was an amazing vehicle for Bill Murray and Jason Schwartzmann. It also showcases Anderson's ability to provide the dark angle of human desire into a comedic story of a child who wants to be a man and a man who wants to be a child. My main critique on this film is that I felt it should have ended when the remote control planes were flying...
  24. Bottle Rocket (1996) Wes Anderson. - I love the idea of robbing a book store. What can I say?
  25. The Darjeeling Limited (2007) Wes Anderson. - I love looking at this film. I’m happy to turn the volume off and look at the setting and the colors...oh, the colors! And yeah, the actors do a good job too.
  26. Burden of Dreams (1982) Les Blank. - Werner Herzog is a hero of mine and this documentary captures him when he was making Fitzcarraldo...a movie about a crazy guy who wanted to bring opera to South sneaking a boat over a hill...which Herzog literally did. Watch it to see a true artist at work and the life threatening danger his art puts himself and everyone around him at.
  27. Ace in the Hole (1951) Billy Wilder. - Kirk Douglas plays bad (bad meaning asshole, not bad bad) along with Billy Wilder’s film that deals with what the media will do to have a story of their own. In regards to it's subject matter on truth in media and the twisted hunger our society has for disasters this film is just as important now as it was then.
  28. F For Fake (1973) Orson Welles. - Orson Welles takes us on a semi-documentary ride by questioning everything and everyone for every reason you’d think. And this is what Welles wants, for us to think about the information that we are given and to think about how we embrace or deny that information. Welles should know, he broke into the American consciousness by faking a news report about Martians attacking Earth.
  29. Harlan County, USA (1976) Barbara Kopple. - A documentary film that covers the story of how members of a coal mining group try to unionize in the South and how they were trounced upon by their companies violent reactions against them. Shocking to see the goon squads that openly threatened and attacked the union members...goes to show you how savvy they were not about cameras back then.
  30. Fishing With John (1991/1998) John Lurie. - There are some great episodes where the musician/actor John Lurie takes some of his friends fishing (Jim Jarmusch, Dennis Hopper, Tom Waits, Matt Dillon, Willem Dafoe). My favorite episodes are with Jarmusch and Hopper.
  31. Mystery Train (1989) Jim Jarmusch. - Jarmusch weaves tales in the Atlanta, Georgia. Several stories weaved together with an ensemble cast around a hotel, (whose night clerk is the one and only Screamin’ Jay Hawkins) this film has some great moments that lead up to an explosive finale featuring Joe Strummer (yes, from The Clash) and Steve Buscemi.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Banksy in LA.

I found out from the Wooster Collective that Banksy hit Hollywood!!!



Wednesday, February 9, 2011

My Monthly Dose: A Daily Prescription of Films - February 2011

Days of Film – February 2011
This month, the shortest month of the year, will include a few days of...shorts (short films). I am also going to spend 9 days in the Seventies, one of my favorite decade for films.
I will not have a focus on a director this month but I do have my guest reviewer, TJ Marbois.
TJ has worked on and off in the world of film pre and post-production for 14 years. Check out his company, Ojingo Labs, and see how he is going to make the world literally look cooler. Check out his selections and thoughts from the 11th to the 13th.

So, enjoy these selects from this month and stay tuned for next month.

  1. City Lights (1931) Charlie Chaplin. – A moving and always funny Chaplin film where he falls in love with a blind flower girl and does everything he can to raise money for surgery that can give her sight. If the final scene doesn’t bring a tear to your eyes, then you must be blind.
  2. Groundhog Day (1993) Harold Ramis. - I actually didn’t like this film for a while. I have to blame the casting of Andie “Get Outta My Face” MacDowell. It didn’t hit me, until repeated viewings, how dark this film is. Ramis’ direction probably lightened it up enough for that to slip by, but now I am truly impressed by this film (not that I wouldn’t have done a few things differently myself).
  3. Trees Lounge (1996) Steve Buscemi. – Steve Buscemi’s directorial debut featuring Chloe Sevigny. Buscemi stated that he had started writing the film and had to stop because he had lost all vision of where he wanted the story to go. Then, in desperation, he rented all of John Cassavettes films...and so Trees Lounge was written. A good film overall...with a great song by Hayden.
  4. Meet the Feebles (1989) Peter Jackson. – This film is disgusting and absolutely strange...but I’ve watched it 5 times...and I’m not sure why...except it has it’s boyish charm of gross kitsch. Yeah, that’s the ticket.
  5. The Apartment (1963) Billy Wilder. – A gem gem golden fucking crown jewel of Billy Wilder’s films...this film, starring a dazzling Shirley Maclaine and Jack Lemmon, is a masterpiece. It’s everything a “romcom” should be...a dark look into relationships and social hierarchy instigated by the need to climb up social ladders by whoring yourself...for love or for money.
  6. La Cité des Enfants Perdus. “City of Lost Children” (1995) Jean-Pierre Jeunet & Marc Caro. – This film took 10 years of writingdesigning and massive set production planning before it got completed. An absolutely gorgeous piece of cinema with a wildly eccentric cast who help capture a world of vaudevillian fancy.
  7. Heaven Can Wait (1978) Warren Beatty & Buck Henry. – This film is charming (even the link that I found has that word as a description). Okay, get it. It’s funny and cute and playful and dreamy and weighty. Plus it’s got Jack Warden...and Julie Christie...Buck Henry...Dyan Cannon...Charles Grodin...James Mason and god damn they’re all good.
  8. Wordplay (2006) Patrick Creadon. – I have been addicted to playing the NY Times crosswords for the last 3 months...but that said, I really suck. This documentary follows, in parallel fashion, Will Shortz (the man responsible for editing the NYT crosswords)and four people who are the top contenders for the American Crossword Puzzle Tournament that Shortz started in 1978. The film talks briefly with avid crossword fans like Jon Stewart, Bill Clinton, Ken Burns and former Senator Bob Dole alongside the history of crosswords and how they are created for us on a daily basis.
  9. The King of Kong (2007) Seth Gordon. – In the world of video games it appears that Donkey Kong is one of the most difficult. Now then, meet the people who spend their whole f’ing lives playing the god damn game (and other games) in competition. This film showcases an interesting group of heroes & villains all tied into a hippy-dippy world of arcade gaming.
  10. Breaking the Waves (1996) Lars von Trier. – A powerful, passionate film that is imbued with the cold calculation of death...via the sacrifice thru love. Shot in 16mm, this film has the debut of one of my favorite actress Emily Watson...alongside a great supporting cast that includes Stellan Skarsgard and a cold as ice Katrin Cartlidge (RIP).
  11. Le grand bleu - “The Big Blue” (1988) Luc Besson. - A deep blue dream of love and love lost by Luc Besson.  Strangely comedic and simplistic glimpse of a world that only Besson can really explain...but be sure you watch the original European cut if you want the full effect.  One of Jean Reno's earlier roles that solidified his darkly unique character traits into a very successful acting career.  Besson has a fascinating filmic style in my opinion - over the top, larger than life characters and sequencing that occasionally lock together with visual and musical style that you forget you are watching a film - you feel more like you are reading your favorite comic just takes a bit of letting go to really like Besson.
  12. Le locataire The Tenant” (1976) Roman Polanski. - Polanski in top form.  The perfect midnight lunch.  Polanski is like an abstract noir painter with film,  slowly guiding you into the same Hitchcockian ( yes its a word? ) story he loves to tell over and over again.  The first time I saw this film I had no idea who the main actor was... turns out Polanski can write, direct... and yes....even act. Recommended for anyone that likes Paris and staying up till 4am watching quietly disturbing things take place.
  13. Plein soleil Purple Noon” (1960) René Clement. - Alain Delon is one of my favorite French actors.  To me Delon is the definitive the cool, calm, criminal...he's what I imagine myself to be if i were to take up the dirty deed of murder.  He makes everything seem so easy and even classy. You may recognize the plot in this film - thats because they remade it years later and put Matt Damon into the role that Delon once filled.   Damon? Delon? comparison....Delon is a guy I would give my last cigarette to.  Damon? sorry not a chance...and I don't even smoke.
  14. Jean Luc Godard - short films
  1. Meeting Woody Allen (1986). Jean-Luc Godard
  2. Les sept péchés capitaux. “The Seven Deadly Sins”. Various directors. Only on VHS.  
  3. Paris vu par...”6 In Paris”(1965) Var Dir.   
I love Godard. But I can’t watch a lot of his films. He is a challenging man at best. But here are a few shorts you can take a bite at. The first is an interview he did with Woody Allen in 1986 and the other two are short films within films (think Paris, Je T’aime if you have to, it being Valentine’s Day and all).
  1. Werner Herzog - documentary shorts
  1. Große Ekstase des Bildschnitzers Steiner - The Great Ecstasy of the Sculptor Steiner(1974)
  2. On the Ecstasy of Ski-Flying: Werner Herzog in Conversation with Karen Beckman.(link below)
  3. La Soufriere :Warten Auf Eine Unausweichliche Katastrophe. (1977)
  4. Beobachtungen Zu Einer Neuen Sprache - “How Much Wood Would a Woodchuck Chuck” (1976)
Herzog is known for his violent “nature destroys all” films but he is not as well known for the many documentaries he has put together throughout his lifetime (his best known is Grizzly Man). I’ve picked three of his earlier documentaries, shot in the mid 70’s. Download the audio interview for On the Ecstasy of Ski-Flying by clicking here.
  1. La jetée + Sans Soliel (1963) Chris Marker - You can find this combination as a DVD, La Jetée being the short film and Sans Soliel the feature (you can also watch La Jetée on Netflix stream). La Jetée is a miraculously understated masterpiece at 28 minutes in length. The film itself is comprised of purely photographs...and a voice-over. Yet it tells the tale of time-travel and science fiction without the slightest special FX. Brilliant even for today, La Jetée will always beat Terry Gilliam’s remake of it, Twelve Monkeys.
  2. New York Stories (1989) Martin Scorcese + Francis Ford Coppola + Woody Allen. - Honestly, the only one of the three short films of New York Stories that I really care for is Woody Allen’s film, Oedipus Wrecks. Coppola got really 80’s and daddyish when he let Sofia “co-write” the script with him...thanks dad. But, Scorcese’s film has a violently engaging Nick Nolte and a seductive Rosanna Arquette. A bit of trivia, keep an eye out for Larry David and Kirsten Dunst in Oedipus Wrecks.
  3. Mike Judge - shorts
  1. Frog Baseball (1992) -found in B&B Vol.3
  2. Beavis & Butthead episodes:
  3. Peace Love and Understanding (1992).
  1. Catch 22 (1970) Mike Nichols. – From the haunting Joseph Heller book of the same name, Nichols is able to capture every horrific thing about war and turn it into an absurd nightmare...which is...funny. A surreal, vivid and drunken experience about madness which features a hilarious Alan Arkin, a daft Orson Welles, a creepy Charles Grodin, asleazy sleek Jon Voight and a quietly comic Anthony Perkins.
  2. The French Connection (1971) William Friedkin. – Friedkin literally shot this film on the run...without permits and with Gene Hackman’s stunt guy driving like a mad man on city streets. But screw it, he made a great film with no real casualties. Oddly, in my eyes, this film was the first Rated R movie to win an Academy Award for Best Picture.
  3. Aguirre, Der Zorn Gottes. “Aguirre, The Wrath of God” (1972) Werner Herzog.  – Man collides with nature...and it is death death and...yes, some more death. Klaus Kinski is cast as the lunatic commander (as per usual) in this intensely quiet and disquieting film. Watch Herzog’s documentary, My Best Fiend, if you want a glimpse as to how this film was put together...shot on location in the wilds of South America. This film also began the relationship between Herzog and Popol Vuh’s (a German Krautrock band) creator Florian Fricke, who did Herzog’s soundtracks for many many years until his untimely death in 2001.
  4. Badlands (1973) Terrence Malick. - Malick’s first film is based on a real life event where two young lovers kill the girl’s father and go on a killing per usual. Malick is known for his insistence on shooting during the “magic hour”, creating a beautiful portrait of it’s Midwestern landscape. Martin Sheen and Sissy Spacek work magic on the screen as the two young lovers who must run from the law as the corpses pile up.
  5. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) Tobe Hooper. – This film is awesome. If I remember correctly, Ridley Scott was so impressed by this film that he wanted to do a horror film like Chainsaw in his lifetime...and transferred it into: Alien. There is a strange humor that rolls along the horror of this film (like An American Werewolf in London, the humor make the horror oh so effective)...and it taps into fear...or should i say THE FEAR of man’s primal nature turned pure negative.
  6. Dog Day Afternoon (1975) Sidney Lumet. – Only Sidney Lumet can make riveting films, both thrilling and funny, where the protagonists are locked into a space usually no bigger than 100 yards from one another. Inspired by a newspaper article on a real-life event, Al Pacino and John Cazale play foiled bank-robbers who take the bank staff hostage and have to endure the cops, the press, the people of Brooklyn and the main character’s transexual lover...whom he is robbing the bank for.
  7. The Killing of a Chinese Bookie (1976) John Cassavetes. – A gritty tale of double-cross and revenge, this film showcases Ben Gazzara’s weight as an actor. As per Cassavetes, this film jumps into the lives of everyday people and their internal life but unlike other Cassavetes this film has external influences that really push the plot forward.
  8. Annie Hall (1977) Woody Allen. – What’s there to say about Annie Hall? Hmm. The “Prince of Darkness” cinematographer Gordon Willis lit this film which was penned by Allen and Marshall Brickman. This film was indeed Woody Allen’s turning point as a film-maker; the slapstick life was transformed into the slapped with a big stick allowing Allen to break into genuine human depth and darkness yet keep it funny and life itself.
  9. Up in Smoke (1978) Lou Adler, Tommy Chong. - Stoner comedy, besides some earlier George Carlin, was truly built by the misanthropic adventures of Cheech and Chong. One of my first cassette tapes as a kid was Cheech and Chong’s Greatest Hits...which I listened to “Sister Mary Elephant” and “Dave’s Not Here” endlessly. Up in Smoke was their first feature film, comprising new material, bits of their most famous sketches and characters including the infamous, Sgt.Stedenko.

  1. 28.Alien (1979) Ridley Scott. - A tight, brilliant horror film in space. There is nothing like Alien and I fear there will never be anything like Alien again. It is the unlikely melding of studio desire (they wanted another Star Wars), director (Ridley Scott had only done one feature film prior...a costume drama),a top rate cast with a new face on film (Sigourney Weaver & Co), writing (from the creator of the space-comedy Dark Star) and ultimately the greatest monster creator ever, H.R. Giger. Alien became the biggest thing since sliced bread because it was able to tap into all our fears, all our nightmares and display it in a terrifyingly gorgeous and logical way.

Tuesday, January 4, 2011

My Monthly Dose: A Daily Prescription of Films - January 2011

My monthly…
I am doing a little film history research and as a list-maker I decided to make a list of films that I would recommend to most everyone.  These are all films that I admire or even love.  This is not a “best” list, just movies you should see before you're 6 feet under (or if you're like Keith Richard's dad, before you get snorted).
The basics of my film month is…
TITLE of film, YEAR second, then DIRECTOR and any possible notes.
1. Every month I start it with a Charlie Chaplin.
2. Every month has a week dedicated to either a DECADE or a “WAVE” (sub-genres) or even a specific YEAR.
3. Every month will include an outside guest to pick a weekend of films (which may or may not include up to 8 films…for those of you who want to make your weekend a full movie watching one).

This month of January you have your Charlie Chaplin, then a week of Akira Kurosawa, a week of mostly Westerns featuring Clint Eastwood and some Sergio Leone and I will dedicate a weeks worth to the YEAR 1959.
So let’s watch ‘em together if you don’t mind.  I try to pick films that you can get…but some of them you may have to Bit Torrent.  Otherwise your local DVD store or Netflix etc should provide what you need from me.
AND... my guest reviewer this month is a long time film buff; former San Francisco State Film student turned computer programmer and former Union motion-picture projectionist: Jeff Cowan.  He tackled the last weekend of January by focusing on rogue cop films...and all the varieties therein.

Turn off your connection to the outside, put on the movie and maybe something will happen to you...inside. 

Thanks...and hopefully you will tune in next month for a new director, a new theme and a new guest reviewer.

2011 January 01-31. 31 Days of Films:
  1. Modern Times. (1936) Charlie Chaplin. -  Little I need to say about Chaplin because all you need to do is sit down, relax and see real magic happen.
  2. Miller’s Crossing. (1990) Joel Coen. – One of my favorite and I think most underrated Coen Brothers film.  The cast is amazing, the cinematography gorgeous and the dialogue tight like a Mrs. Grundy.
  3. The Fearless Freaks. (2005) Bradley Beesley. – It’s a fun and interesting documentary whether you like the Flaming Lips or not.
  4. Freaks. (1932) Tod Browning.  – There are a lot of stories that swirl around this film, like the one about F. Scott Fitzgerald hanging with the cast while writing his own screenplay or how they found the bulk of the cast…but what you will find, as you watch this film, is HOW THE FUCK DID THEY MAKE THIS?  Man, the end scene gave me nightmares for weeks.  I think David Lynch saw this film A LOT.
  5. Norman McLarenThe Master’s Edition. (2006) Norman McLaren. – This man is probably one of the greatest experimental film-makers ever.  Born and schooled in Scotland he moved to Canada and his work for the National Film Board of Canada eventually earned him an Oscar for the category; Best Documentary, Short Subjects forNeighbours(1953).
  6. Yojimbo. (1961) Akira Kurosawa. -  The first lone wolf of Kurosawa’s samurai tales starring Toshiro Mifune, possibly my favorite gruff actor of all time.  This film idea was stolen by Sergio Leone to become A Fistful Of Dollars.
  7. Sanjuro. (1962) Akira Kurosawa. – The second and final lone wolf samurai story.  This film is a well-knit package that you can enjoy both the story and it’s execution.  Like watching a great chess match.
  8. Ran. (1985) Akira Kurosawa. - A beautiful and enormous color film that combines King Lear with a Japanese legend.  It really is a monumental film, Kurosawa spent 10 years storyboarding every shot in this film; it’s like watching a series of “motion” paintings that depict a historical event.
  9. Dreams. (1990) Akira Kurosawa. – There are parts of this film I love and parts of it where I am wondering if I put enough ice in my whiskey glass.
  10. Rashomon. (1950) Akira Kurosawa. – The film that put Kurosawa on the map by winning him a Golden Lion and an Oscar. A singular event, the rape of a woman and the death of her husband, told in flashbacks to a Japanese court by four witnesses (including the ghost of the dead man).
  11. High & Low. (1963) Akira Kurosawa. – A departure from swinging swords.  Toshiro Mifune is a successful businessman finds himself the target of a kidnapper’s hate and envy.  A riveting well-written detective’ish film.
  12. Seven Samurai. (1954) Akira Kurosawa. -  What can I say that hasn’t been said about this hugely influential film…An epic 3-hour film about how some poor village farmers, who live during the Warring States period in Japan (1588), end up hiring 7 samurai to protect their village from being decimated from bandits who plan on taking all their food (and some of their women) when the harvest ends in a few weeks time.
  13. A Fistful of Dollars. (1964) Sergio Leone.  – Leone borrowed Yojimbo from Kurosawa and made this fine film that began his “Man with No Name” series and also the sub-genre: Spaghetti Westerns.
  14. High Plains Drifter. (1973) Clint Eastwood. – Eastwood’s directorial debut takes you into a very dark but at times humorous world of a small town with a few hell sworn secrets.
  15. Once Upon a Time in the West. (1968) Sergio Leone. – The opening scene is pure cine-awesome.  Henry Fonda, a very young Charles Bronson and Jason Robarbs rock the casting alongside Ms. Claudia Cardinale, who is to die for.
  16. Dirty Harry. (1971) Don Siegel. -  What can I say?  Eastwood went from toting a gun in the desert to a gun in San Francisco.  Either way it created a path for a lot of other films/film characters to follow.
  17. Cocksucker Blues. (1972) Robert Frank.  – Robert Frank is far and away one of my favorite photographers.  Swiss born Frank spent the late 1950’s photographing all around the United States culminating his work in a book called, The Americans (which was banned in the US for years because the government was outraged by his honest portrayal of it’s citizens). This book and his other work convinced the Stones to hire him during their 1972 documentary tour.  Like The Americans this film was banned by THE ROLLING STONES because they were afraid of how it depicted them.
  18. Hedwig & the Angry Inch. (2001). John Cameron Mitchell. – This film made me cry.  I loved it, the script the casting the production design the editing and I gotta say the MUSIC was fucking dead right on.  Plus it’s hilarious.
  19. Twilight ZoneVolume 2. (1959) Rod Serling.  - Some of my favorite episodes: "Time Enough at Last" (Ep. 8, November 20, 1959) - "The Monsters are Due on Maple Street" (Ep. 22, March 4, 1960) - "Nightmare at 20,000 Feet" (Ep. 123, October 11, 1963) - "The Odyssey of Flight 33" (Ep. 54, February 24, 1961).
  20. Les Quatre Cent Coups aka 400 Blows. (1959) François Truffaut.  - No, it’s not a porno…This is Truffaut’s first film (previously he was working as a film critic for film magazine Cahiers du cinéma) based on his childhood.  An interesting fact is that the 13 year old kid who starred in this film (Jean Pierre Leaud) as Antoine Doinel would continue to play this character for 20 years "The Antoine Doinel Cycle".  Get the DVD that comes with Truffaut’s short film Antoine & Colette.
  21. North by Northwest (1959) Alfred Hitchcock. – Cary Grant running across the dusty acres of farmland from an airplane that wants to moe him down.  What else do you need to know?  If that’s not enough you got Bernard Herrmann’s score, Saul Bass’ intro titles, Eve Marie Saint as the heroine and James Mason as the heavy.  
  22. Some Like It Hot (1959) Billy Wilder. – Tony Curtis, Jack Lemmon and Marilyn Monroe are thrilling in this slightly deviant comic film about two guys who are on the run from the mob (they witness the 1929’s St. Valentine’s Day Massacre) and disguise themselves by cross-dressing and joining an all-girls band.  The comic timing from Curtis and Lemmon and Wilder/Diamond’s script is what keeps this film fresh and sassy for even today’s world.
  23. Shadows (1959) John Cassavetes. – Primarily known as an actor, John Cassavetes is by general agreement the “Grandfather” of American independent cinema.  Spurred on by the French “New Wave” films of Godard, Truffaut, et Bresson plus being in love with the Jazz gods of the times, Cassavetes dove into making an “improvisation”…a film that was like a jazz score…hot, dynamic, raw yet technically proficient but improvised to create the atmosphere of the space it was in.
  24. A Bout De Souffle. (Breathless) (1959) Jean-Luc Godard. – Like Truffaut (the script was actually written by Truffaut) Godard was a film critic for Cahiers and like Truffaut Godard wanted to tear down Hollywood by creating films as the auteurs (the directors) wanted…versus as the studio suits wanted.  The film is lovely satire and engagement, with crafty performances by the two Jeans…Jean-Paul Belmondo and Jean Seberg (a lovely actress who’s life and career were cut short for reasons I will never understand). It is truly a modern love story…for any decade.
  25. Anatomy of a Murder (1959) Otto Preminger. – Saul Bass is pretty much an unknown to most people.  But for most film fans he is the mad-awesome creator of film posters and film titles.  Which leads to this film and it’s Saul Bass into along with the score written by Duke Ellington and the absolutely lovely lovely Lee Remick.   And let me not forget to mention Ben Gazzara and Jimmy Stewart’s performances in what is an amazing courtroom trial film (and so much more too).
  26. Pickpocket (1959) Robert Bresson. –Bresson’s goal with actors (whom he termed as “models”) was to get non-actors to perform theatre…but in front of a movie camera.  Unsettling and metaphoric, Bresson’s work may take a gourmand to appreciate it’s strange subtleties but I think will satisfy nonetheless.  
  27. Ghostbusters (1984) Ivan Reitman. –  Nothing much needs to be said about this film except I asked my mom to get me the soundtrack…Thus, as my life knows it, it was the first cassette tape I ever owned. (yes…cassette…a magnetic tape with several recording qualities from Type1 to F’ing Metal!!!)
  28. Jeff COWAN’s NOTE: In some ways, I’m willing to include both the Lone Wolf Good and Bad Cops. Both are rogues, but their underlying motivations can be very different. Dirty Harry vs. Bad Lieutenant for example. Note also there’s an incredible amount of garbage in this category... almost every Chuck Norris movie ever made.... Each of these films take a different spin on the subject. Is it man vs. man, man vs. department, man vs. society. The character’s personal motivations also come into play. WHY is each motivated to act the way they do.
  1. The Running Man (1987) - Paul Michael Glaser. - Schwartzenegger again in this cop-wrongly-accused film. In this case, he uses the vehicle of a bizarre game to win his freedom and seek justice and revenge.
  2. Bullitt (1968) - Peter Yates. - Steve McQueen is charged with being the rogue cop by both the department and the political powers that be, but when he senses not all is right, he has to take matters into his own hands.
  3. Hard Boiled (1992)- John Woo. - The Jon Woo / Chow Yun-Fat classic. Hard Boiled detective has to go outside the system to bring down the triad. Pure Hong Kong style action, farcical but visceral. First saw this at Hong Kong night at the UC Berkeley theatre.
  4. Total Recall (1990)- Paul Verhoeven. - Similar to Robocop in that one’s memory is being recalled. In this case, it’s more a matter of being fucked with. Can the hero trust who he is and what is real? And how does that affect his transformation?
  5. The Departed  (2006)- Martin Scorcese. - Two “cops”, one real and one a mobster, living double lives and going underground against each other. Again, mano-a-mano with the obsession of living the life of double agents.
  6. Bad Lieutenant (1992)- Abel Ferrara. -  A bad cop attempts to mend his ways. A reverse of the standard model, Keitel’s performance is gripping.
  7. L.A. Confidential (1997) Curtis Hanson. - This is a different take on the genre. Corrupt department, three cops each with their own motivations. How will they pursue justice without succumbing to corruption, or will they?
  8. Robocop (1987) Paul Verhoeven. - Techno-cop flick. A cop transformed into a robot, he rediscovers himself, “transforms” again and seeks justice in a new form.
  1. Jeff (cont.): Interesting to note that Dirty Harry is not specifically IN this category but several films are listed on the main page. No question that Eastwood helped define the style. There are man parallels with Chow Yun-Fat. The escalation of violence is a common theme. This resonates with the audience, seeking to resolve their sense of moral outrage. Satisfaction. Are the wheel of justice not fast enough???
  2. Happy Birthday Miriam!
  3. Cool Hand Luke (1967) Stuart Rosenberg. – Paul Newman is all quiet and steel here... with young Dennis Hopper and Harry Dean Stanton who along with George Kennedy fill the film with unforgettable scenes and a song sung by Blue Eyes Newman, Plastic Jesus.