Sunday, August 31, 2008

August Movie Watching

August is the bittersweet movie month. We get a slate of blockbusters but also the knowledge that the dreaded September-October not-good-enough-for-Oscar-but-let's-market-them-that-way releases are on the way. I guess Sept-Oct. are really TV months anyway, but still.

I saw five films theatrically this month. First off, I'll comment on the anticipated comedies Pineapple Express and Tropic Thunder. Yes, Pineapple was extremely violent (with no regard for human life) plus the heroes are basically deadbeats— but, I saw it as just a live-action cartoon. I think, taken in the right spirit, Pineapple is palatable and really just a goof. Tropic Thunder was a very funny outing. It seems to have many detractors. I think this has a lot to do with the fact that despite terrific performances, it really isn't a comedy classic, and maybe it ought to have been. But I just rated it on the laugh-meter, so I enjoyed it.

Vicky Cristina Barcelona saves the decade for Woody Allen. It will easily be one of the biggest commercial hits of his career, its getting Oscar buzz, and for the first time in a long time it's a Woody Allen movie with strong word-of-mouth. Now, for me, it is nowhere near Match Point level quality-wise. However, it's easily at the top of the pack of Allen's other releases in the '00s. The Larry David movie that's next up will be an interesting decade-closer for him.

Star Wars: The Clone Wars. Well I was wrong about this one. Which reminds me— my entire summer box office predictions were TOTALLY off! Oh well! But SW:TCW has, basically, bombed and the critics (if unjustly) savaged it. I actually really liked SW:TCW, but even I think enough is enough for the Star Wars sequels.

Lastly, I caught up with the documentary Man on Wire. A fascinating story and I like the approach. Not one you necessarily have to see theatrically, but certainly of interest.

On TCM, I caught Green For Danger, which I've been dying to see. Not quite the **** classic the Maltin guide labels it, but a gem nonetheless. Anything, just about, with Alastair Sims is worth seeing it seems. I also saw a couple of Laurel & Hardy's just cause. Swiss Miss-- very funny and Blockheads-- OK. I think Blockheads is a little more "pure" L&H, but somehow, the ones with odd locals and corny songs and subplots appeal to me more.

On HBO (I've been housesitting), I saw I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry (you get what you pay for) and Disturbia (nifty and contemporary Hitchcock update, with a tongue-and-cheek over-the-top finale: probably played better theatrically though).

And, off topic, I've been tuning in to a bit of the MDA telethon-- the last vestige of vaudeville! Jerry is hanging in there. He seemed frail during the opening but has pepped up since.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

This Month on TCM: "Adam's Rib" (1949)

Tomorrow, as part of their annual "Summer Under the Stars" month, TCM is showing a whole day's worth of Spencer Tracy movies (following today's tribute to Katharine Hepburn). Among them is the classic Tracy-Hepburn vehicle Adam's Rib.

Adam's Rib has the perfect Tracy-Hepburn set-up: they’re married lawyers on opposing sides of a case involving a woman who confronted her husband and his mistress, shooting him in the process. Adam’s Rib is generally considered the best of the Tracy-Hepburn comedy teamings, yet somehow I prefer the funnier films of the ‘50s— Pat and Mike (1952) and Desk Set (1957).

The structure of the screenplay (by Ruth Gordon and Garson Kanin) is at once clever and overly repetitive. We see the fireworks in the courtroom and “later that night” we follow Tracy’s "Adam" and Hepburn’s “Amanda” attempting to be civil to each other at home as if nothing had transpired during the day. In an oft-clipped scene, the two give each other a back rub both times leading to a “playful” slap on the backside— only Adam’s slap to Amanda is quite a wallop. The battle-of-the-sexes aspect is inevitably dated, but at least nothing truly offensive remains.

The whole of Adam and Amanda’s lifestyle is the epitome of sophistication, particularly in comparison to the lives of the accused wife (played by Judy Holliday) and the two-timing husband (played by Tom Ewell). David Wayne, playing a rival for Amanda’s affections, spoils the home scenes— he comes off downright annoying. Although that’s the point of his character, you wonder why Amanda puts up with him and why we— the audience— must endure him as well. One delightful home sequence (despite David Wayne’s interruptions) involves a “home movie” of Amanda and Adam as they celebrate the ownership of their country house.

The courtroom scenes are the highlight of the film (enough to recommended the entire movie) and supporting players Holliday and Ewell are a significant contribution to their coming off so well. One of the funniest bits, a running joke that’s carried into the courtroom, involves a hat that Adam has bought for Amanda as a peace offering.

Adam’s Rib (1949): Perfect Tracy-Hepburn premise has spark and sophistication, but also a repetitive structure and an intrusive performance by supporting player David Wayne.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Summer Movies 2009— A Preview

According to the dates currently listed on, here's what we have to look forward to for next summer. Looks like a decent mix of blockbusters. My #1 "can't wait for"? Terminator Salvation.


May 2009

May 1
Hannah Montana: The Movie
X-Men Origins: Wolverine

May 8
My Life in Ruins
Star Trek

May 15
Angels & Demons

May 22
Night at the Museum: Battle of the Smithsonian (conventional theaters and IMAX)
Terminator Salvation

May 29
Drag Me to Hell
The Lonely Maiden (limited)
Up (Disney Digital 3-D)

June 2009

June 5
Fast & Furious

June 12
The A-Team

June 19
The Proposal
The Tooth Fairy
The Year One

June 26
Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen (conventional theaters and IMAX)

July 2009

July 1
Ice Age: Dawn of the Dinosaurs
Public Enemies

July 10

July 17
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (conventional theaters and IMAX)
Land of the Lost

July 24
Piranha 3-D

July 31
Funny People
The Taking of Pelham 1 2 3

August 2009

August 7
G.I. Joe: Rise of Cobra

August 14
District 9
Final Destination 4

August 28
Rob Zombie's Tyrannosaurus Rex

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Brilliant Woody Allen "Diary" of "Vicky Cristina Barcelona"

Woody Allen has a big hit on his hands with Vicky Cristina Barcelona. Now he's written one of his funniest things in print in years, capitalizing on his cast's star power. The humor is still a little old fashioned, like his other recent writing, but it works (even if there is a tinge of old man creepiness here and there).

Link to New York Times Vicky Cristina Barcelona "Diary."

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

"It's Always Sunny" Blog Goes Up

Have questions for Dirty Frank? Want to know if Rob is working out? Like to read the first chapter of Dennis' Memoirs with a Geisha? Welcome bitches, to the Paddy's Pub blog.

The cast is making videos of e-mailed fan questions. Bring on season four!

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Cinema Masterstroke #1: Night photography sequence in “Louisiana Story” (1948)

This blog entry will be my first in a series of ongoing irregularly posted entries highlighting “Cinema Masterstrokes.” There are countless lists of top movies, performances, and individual achievements, but what of the individual flashes of brilliance in movies? Whether it’s a line reading, a camera movement, an edit, the staging of a scene, a sound effect: these are the “moments” that contribute to making films classics.

Naturally, each masterstroke discussed, is, by it’s very nature, a SPOILER. So you might only want to read entries about the movies you’ve seen.

Robert Flaherty is the father of the documentary film. Flaherty’s Nanook of the North (1922) established the feature film documentary. It holds up too. Flaherty had a late career milestone with Louisiana Story. As noted in the film’s opening titles, the film is “…an account of certain adventures of a Cajun (Acadian) boy who lives in the marshlands of Petit Anse Bayou in Louisiana.”

My first masterstroke entry is about an inspired decision during the filming of Louisiana Story, unplanned by Flaherty, in shooting the oil rig sequence.

Louisiana Story contrasts the natural beauty of the Louisiana bayou with the intrusion of industry in the form of an oil rig. We see the young Cajun boy, who is our “star,” encounter the rig while in his boat going about his day, and as he looks up at the rig, the point is clear. This unnatural sight has disrupted the pristine environment we’ve come to see from the first 25 minutes of the film.

However, the decision to shoot the oil rig at night in the subsequent sequence, is a cinematic masterstroke. The oil rig becomes an iron beast. Shot against the black sky, the rig is seen against a backdrop of oil. The shots of man and machinery are completely foreign to, not only the bayou, but even the daytime scenes of the oil rig. This is the bare truth: night and day the rig churns. The disconcerting metallic sound of it erases any of the night sounds you’d expect to hear on the bayou.

In The World of Robert Flaherty by Richard Griffith (1953, p. 151), Flaherty is quoted: “We worked day after day, shooting reams of stuff. But somehow we never could seem to make that pesky derrick come alive. We could not recapture that exhilaration we had felt when we first saw it slowly moving up the bayou. Then we hit on it. At night! That’s when it was alive! At night, with the derrick lights dancing and flickering on the dark surface of the water, the excitement that is the very essence of drilling oil became visual. So we threw our daytime footage into the ashcan and started in all over again to shoot our drilling scenes against a night background.”

Monday, August 25, 2008

Casablanca Ultimate Collector's Edition

I know these re-releases are selling you something you already own, but the Casablanca Ultimate Edition is an irresistible purchase. Again, "extra junk" you don't need are included, but they seem so cool. From the Casablanca Ultimate Edition page on "Included in this very special edition of Hollywood's most unforgettable classic is a bonus disc of the featurette "Jack Warner: The Last Mogul" - a rare glimpse into the public and private life of one of the most respected names in the entertainment industry. This giftset also includes the following beautiful bonus collectibles: 48-Page Photo Book, 10 One-Sheet Reproduction Cards, Archival Correspondence, and Exclusive Passport Holder and Luggage Tag." And the box is classy. Good going Warner Home Video. There will be a lot of happy classic movie lovers this Christmas.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

2008 Summer Olympics Closing Ceremony/ Olympics Notebook

The 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics has come to an end, with the U.S. garnering the most medals and China the most golds. It has been an exciting run-- but sometimes overwhelming to take it all in. This year I DVR'd the NBC coverage (just the main network) as a "series" and somehow managed-- doing a lot of fast-forwarding-- to keep ahead of being 100% full on my DVR's memory.

The Closing Ceremony had the same pagentry and epic scale as the Opening. The Closing did have me wondering, however, if Zhang Yimou had recently watched Tron. The London presentation was a bit odd: the double decker bus sequence seemed a little "high school" and the musical teaming of 23-year-old Leona Lewis and 64-year-old Jimmy Page was not inspired. I liked NBC's "Performances of the Games" recaps during commercial breaks— only wish they had done more.

The NBC commentators offered an interesting fact about the mingling of the Olympians from different nations in the Closing Ceremony, which I'll cite from Wikipedia's entry of the 1956 Melbourne Olympics: "Inspired by Australian teenager John Wing, an Olympic tradition began when athletes of different nations are allowed to parade together at the closing ceremony, instead of with their national teams, as a symbol of world unity. [Wing wrote a letter to organizers, which said in part:] "During the Games there will be only one nation. War, politics and nationalities will be forgotten. What more could anybody want if the world could be made one nation."

A summary of the 2008 Beijing Summer Olympics:

The highlights: Li Ning's run, suspended by wires, along the length of the Bird's Nest across a moving electronic scroll to light the Olympic cauldron in the Opening Ceremony; Michael Phelps [nicknamed by the Chinese "Flying Fish"] wins eight gold medals (three wins are particularly spectacular: the 4 x 100 m freestyle relay in which teammate Jason Lezak was able to outrun the French by .08 seconds for the win, Phelps winning the 200 m butterfly despite the fact that his goggles filled with water, and his .01 margin win of the men's 100 m butterfly [with stills and slo-mos of the win shown ad nauseam]; Jason Lezak gets an individual medal— a bronze (in a tie) in the 100 m freestyle; the U.S.'s Natalie Coughlin becomes the first athlete to defend gold in the women's 100 m backstroke; U.S. gymnasts Nastia Liukin and Shawn Johnson [nicknamed by the Chinese "Minnie Mouse"] get one gold each and a bunch of other medals; the Chinese dominate the diving competitions (although they just miss a clean sweep); Misty May-Treanor and Kerri Walsh win gold in beach volleyball and extend their international run of not losing a single set to 108 straight sets (watched all their games!); Phil Dalhausser and Todd Rogers win men's beach volleyball gold; women's 4 x 400 m relay's last leg when Sanya Richards came from behind to outdistance the Russians; U.S.A.'s Redeem team "redeems" in basketball but Spain gives them a run for the Olympic gold in a tight 118-107 victory; Jamaica's Usain Bolt's amazing world-recording breaking golds in track; Russian pole vaulter and media favorite Yelena Isinbayeva wins gold and breaks the world record again; Bryan Clay win's gold in the men's decathlon for the U.S.; Mary Lou Retton-inspired (!) discus gold medalist Stephanie Brown Trafton takes home first gold for the U.S. in her field since 1932; 38 year-old Constantina Dita-Tomescu's women's marathon gold-- she was out in front all by herself as she crossed the finish line; Andrei Aramnau of Belarus breaks three heavyweight records; Romanian Sandra Izbasa upsets in gymnastics winning the gold for floor exercise; introduction of BMX bike riding; retiring of softball and the placement of the U.S. team's shoes on the field; Australian Matthew Mitcham prevents China's clean sweep in diving (and garners the highest score for an individual dive in Olympic history); the Chinese take every possible medal in table tennis; in the last event shown on NBC before the Closing Ceremony, the U.S. defeats Brazil in the men's volleyball competition winning gold.

The disappointments/tragedies: Majorly Youtube'd accident occurs when Hungary's Janos Baranyai's arm is bend backward [his elbow was dislocated] in the weightlifting competition (apparently he will [eventually] recover fully, with no bones broken); the U.S. falters in track, particularly the men's and women's relay— both drop the baton in the semifinals and miss competing for medals; BMX rider Kyle Bennett dislocates his shoulder in a quarter final crash and eventually doesn't get the opportunity to compete for a medal; 41 year-old Dara Torres misses Olympic gold in the women's 50 m freestyle by .01 of a second; attractive Paraguayan javelin thrower Leryn Franco (spotted at the Opening Ceremony) doesn't make the cut for the medal competition; the U.S. loses to Japan for the softball competition gold; injured and hurting defending champion Liu Xiang of China makes an attempt to compete in the men 110 m hurdles, but is unable to continue (after a brief try following a false start); most tragically, it was revealed that top classical Chinese dancer Liu Yan was paralyzed from the waist down in an accident while rehearsing for the opening ceremonies.

The controversies: Chinese gymnasts are alleged to be younger than the 16 year-old minimum age; the timing of Russia's conflict into Georgia during the games; bad air quality in Beijing; the "buck tooth" young Chinese girl singer is replaced by a more pleasing looking girl in the opening ceremony; some fireworks in the Opening Ceremony were digitally added; Sweden's Ara Abrahamian leaves his bronze medal for wrestling on the mat after a dispute with officials; in another to-be-seen on You Tube video, Cuba's Ángel Matos kicks a ref in the face after being disqualified in the taekwondo event [a career-ender]; a photo of the Spanish men's basketball team shows the team making an offensive slit-eye gesture; President Bush pats Misty-May Treanor; sadly, American visitor Todd Bachman is killed in an assault at a tourist site.

The coverage: Despite TV Squad's complaint regarding NBC's "live" coverage, you can't knock the number of hours covered and ratings achieved by the 2008 summer Olympics; Bob Costas did two interesting interviews with ISO president Jaques Rogge and U.S. President George W. Bush; Bela Karolyi's enthusiastic commentary about the U.S. gymnastics team was great fun even when you didn't understand it all; Costas' et al.'s interviews with Olympic champions well done.

Next up: The 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver, Canada.

Saturday, August 23, 2008

William Friedkin Interview with Fritz Lang

Someone has recently posted on YouTube a filmed interview that William Friedkin did with Fritz Lang. The interview was done in 1974 according to Imdb, and 1975 according to the poster. Either way, Lang died in 1976, so this was done shortly before his death. There are five ten minute segments posted, below is the first.

Friday, August 22, 2008

Six Surviving Cast Members Remain From "Gone With the Wind"

With the passing of Fred Crane at the age of 90, a total of six cast members with speaking parts are left from the all-time classic Hollywood epic Gone With the Wind (according to all available sources online). As "Stuart Tarleton," one of Scarlett's suitors, Crane appears in the movie's very first scene. Following his work on Gone With the Wind and his service during WWII, Crane picked up his career in radio and later television; and then for several decades was a Program Director at Los Angeles classical radio station KFAC. L.A. Times obit. Interview with Fred Crane at

The surviving actors are as follows:

Alicia Rhett (b. 2/1/15) as "India Wilkes." She is the young daughter from the Twelve Oaks Plantation. She can be seen at 18 minutes into the film (using the 4-disc Collector's Edition DVD version of the movie as a guide).

Olivia de Havilland (b. 7/1/16) as "Melanie Hamilton." De Havilland was fourth billed and received an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress for Gone With the Wind. She's first seen at 19 minutes into the film.

Mary Anderson (b. 4/30/20) as "Maybelle Merriwether." She is the first girl "auctioned" at the Atlanta bazaar (where Scarlett dances with Rhett). She can be seen at 43 minutes into the film. P.S. This link certainly raises an eyebrow.

Ann Rutherford (b. 11/2/20) as "Carreen O'Hara." She is the youngest sister of Scarlett. She is first seen at 14 minutes into the film.

Mickey Kuhn (b. 9/21/32) as "Beau Wilkes." Playing Ashley and Melanie's son, he appears toward the very end of the film (216 minutes into the approximately 223 minute film [1 hour 48 min into DVD 2])

Cammie King (b. 8/5/34) as "Bonnie Blue Butler." She plays Scarlett and Rhett's daughter. She first appears at 187 minutes into the film [1 hour 19 min into DVD 2]

UPDATE: September 1, 2010 blog entry: passing of Cammie King

Thursday, August 21, 2008

Olga Korbut— 1972 Munich Olympics

Not to take anything away from the current gymnastics Olympians, but viewing Olga Korbut's routine is a major "wow"— the way all Olympic routines should be. As noted in her Wikipedia entry: "The media whirl which surrounded her 1972 Olympic debut caused a surge of young girls to join their local gymnastic clubs, and a sport which had seldom been noticed previously now made headlines." Her official website.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Alfred Hitchcock's Silent Features: "Downhill"

Continuing my irregularly scheduled capsule reviews of Alfred Hitchcock's eight extant silent features, I present Downhill. Downhill has never been released on DVD or video in the U.S. but can be purchased online (see recommendation below), but is recommended only to the Hitchcock completest.

Hitchcock's silents were his training ground; and his later films are that much more visual as a result of his having started in the silent era. His silents are unfortunately either unreleased on VHS/DVD or in unrestored state on poorly presented DVDs. For the best quality/most reliable seller out there, if you are looking for Hitchcock's unreleased DVD titles (such as Downhill, among others) I recommend this seller.

Downhill (1927)
A college undergraduate, protecting a friend, is expelled for getting a girl pregnant and is shunned by his wealthy family, suffering a number of ups-and-downs as he attempts to make it on his own.

Very few title cards are used to tell this simple story, but the freedom for interesting visuals is only somewhat taken up. There are some great uses of the wide-angle lens in the earlier part of the movie (football game, dining hall). One interesting (if static) shot shows star Ivor Novello going down an escalator, growing smaller and smaller as he heads into the abyss; the idea is repeated twice later, when after his break-up with his wife, he descends in an elevator and, after he becomes a vagrant, he is brought into the bowels of a boat. Another bold shot shows Novello upside down, seen by the point-of-view of an actress as she cranes her neck and sees him with her head tilted back. The final minutes, showing Novello’s point-of-view as he staggers through the city in a delirium is the best sequence in the entire movie (which plays like a sequence from Man With a Movie Camera). Little distinguishes the rest of the film— and it amounts to no more than a sleep-inducing simple melodrama of the period.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Roger Moore's Autobiography Set for Nov. 4 Release

Just in time for Daniel Craig's second Bond outing, Roger Moore's memoirs will be published. The story used for press releases, about a stunt gone wrong on Live and Let Die, is a bit lame, so hopefully there are juicer nuggets. There is also a vintage paperback called Roger Moore's James Bond Diary (that originally came out in 1973) that's around— a day-by-day account of the filming of Moore's first film as 007.

Link to mi6 fansite article.

Monday, August 18, 2008

"The Dark Knight" Knocks Out "Star Wars"

As the seventh Star Wars feature was released, The Dark Knight bested the 1977 original in the domestic top 100. Had to acknowledge this-- it's been 11 years since it happened last. Losing out to Tropic Thunder for the weekend, there is still doubt as to how far it will go-- but it's been a pretty amazing performance so far.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Fall Movie Preview 2008

Warner Bros. studio really looks idiotic, not making their decision to push the new Harry Potter to July '09 before Entertainment Weekly ran a cover story on their Fall Movie Preview. Plus, when I saw Star Wars: The Clone Wars this weekend, there was a trailer for Half-Blood Prince announcing it as a November release. Additionally, having the studio tell us that the movie was not behind schedule and that they were only moving it because of what— greed?— does not exactly bode well either. OK: rant over. And poor EW, following their Summer Movie Issue with Indy on the cover (rather than future box office champ Dark Knight) with this blunder. But, no matter, EW's movie previews are still my favorite issues.

Fall films that I'm most anticipating:
1. Quantum of Solace (November 7)— Daniel Craig returns as 007
2. Synecdoche, New York (October 24)— Charlie Kaufman directs
3. Burn After Reading (September 12)— The Coens are back
4. Religulous (October 3)— Bill Maher/Larry Charles and that taboo subject
5. W. (October 17)— Irresistible
6. Revolutionary Road (December 26)— Leo & Kate together again
7. Changeling (October 24)— Jolie Oscar #2?
8. Doubt (December 12)— Oscar bait
9. Eagle Eye (September 26)— Autumn popcorn
10. Igor (September 19)— What hump?

Saturday, August 16, 2008

"Vicky Cristina Barcelona" Poised to be Woody Allen Hit

Vicky Cristina Barcelona has grossed over $1 million in its first day of release. What makes this all the more remarkable is that Woody Allen's last movie Cassandra's Dream grossed a total of $973,018, or, less in its entire run, that Vicky Cristina Barcelona did in one day. Oh what a kiss between Scarlett Johansson and Penelope Cruz will do for your box office!

I'll be following the numbers on this Woody Allen release to see where it ends up, but it certainly will make his top ten of all-time.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Criterion Launches "Bottle Rocket"

Criterion's new slate has been announced and they have finally picked up Wes Anderson's first film Bottle Rocket. The Darjeeling Limited, Anderson's latest film— and one of his best— has only gotten a standard DVD release to-date.

Also, I was happy to see Criterion's first Martin Ritt title— The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965). This may be a good sign that Ritt's other masterpieces, such as Hud (1963) and The Front (1976) might be in consideration.

Additionally, Criterion has now officially announced the first titles they are releasing in Blu-Ray: Bottle Rocket, Chunking Express, The Third Man, The Man Who Fell to Earth, and The Last Emperor.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

First Modern Olympics— 1896— Wasn't Filmed

I was surprised to learn that the first Olympics wasn't filmed (neither was the second). This is such a shame since film came in just in time for it to be possible, and especially since, sporting events were typical of early film subjects.

Here is Bioscope's very detailed comments about the various filmed records of Olympic Games.

Here is a link to the site with stills from the 1896 games.

Below is a You Tube compilation showing stills from the 1896 game:

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Movie Poster "Letters" Game on Empire Magazine Site


Here's a cool thing I ran across. Empire magazine has posted individual letters from movie posters and you have to guess the movie. The best part is you can keep guessing and it'll tell you if you're right or wrong (you can give up on individual letters too, and be shown the answer). I got 30-odd right (mostly missed the older titles).

Here's the: Link.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Empire Magazine Movie Poll 2008

Every other year Empire magazine has polled their readers on the greatest movies of all-time. The 2004 and 2006 polls appeared in the March issue of these years and in my May 10 blog entry I commented on the delay of the 2008 poll, promising to keep an eye out— and I have. At long last, the 2008 poll is under way— this time the magazine is choosing the 500 Greatest Movies of All-Time.

Voting closes on September 5 (and apparently you can change your picks if you relog back in). There is a separate login for this poll so you don't have to have a regular Empire magazine user name.

Link to the poll.

I won't reveal my choices, but I will say I skewed contemporary, because in my opinion, a movie poll that's done specifically every-other-year should lean "last decade"— so I went five pre-1998, five 1998-and-onward (with these five ranked at the top).

1. Pulp Fiction (1994)
2. Star Wars (1977)
3. Reservoir Dogs (1992)
4. Raging Bull (1980)
5. Schindler's List (1993)
6. The Godfather (1972)
7. Aliens (1986)
8. North By Northwest (1959)
9. Jaws (1975)
10. Casablanca (1942)

1. The Shawshank Redemption (1994)
2. The Empire Strikes Back (1980)
3. LOTR: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001)
4. Star Wars (1977)
5. The Godfather (1972)
6. Pulp Fiction (1994)
7. LOTR: The Return of the King (2003)
8. Fight Club (1999)
9. Goodfellas (1990)
10. The Matrix (1999)

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Leonard Maltin Guide's Worst-Rated Best Picture Nominees

I was thinking over the Maltin Guide's ** rating of 2007 Best Picture nominee Atonement and wondering if there was a worse-rated nominee. It turns out that one Best Picture nominee got a * 1/2 rating from the Maltin Guide— 1967's Doctor Dolittle: making it the sole worst-rated Best Picture nominee in the history of the Oscars in the Guide. The ** rating is also quite rare for Best Picture nominees (see below). Only 4 Best Picture nominees do not appear in the Guide— lost films The Way of All Flesh (1927) and The Patriot (1928), plus obscure titles East Lynne (1931) and Bad Girl (1932).

Lowest-Rated Best Picture Nominees in Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide:
Alibi (1929) **
The Hollywood Revue of 1929 (1929) **
In Old Arizona (1929) **
Cleopatra (1963) **
Doctor Dolittle (1967) * 1/2
A Touch of Class (1973) **
Taxi Driver (1976) **
Chocolat (2000) **
Moulin Rouge! (2001) **
Atonement (2007) **

None of the above films actually won Best Picture. The lowest rating for a Best Picture winner in the Maltin Guide is ** 1/2, bestowed to: Wings (1927), The Broadway Melody (1929), Cimarron (1931), Amadeus (1984), and Forrest Gump (1994). NOTE: Unforgiven (1992) was initially given a ** 1/2 rating but was later upgraded to ***.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

New 60th Anniversary Version of Clue!

My favorite board game of all-time is back in a new edition! I remember the 50th anniversary Clue came out the Christmas before the actual 50th anniversary of 1999 (i.e. Christmas 1998), so I expected that this Christmas would reveal a 60th anniversary Clue (1949-2009) — and sure enough here it is (although it's not designated as an anniversary edition-- just an update)

Although I love the classic Clue, I actually think it was smart to update it a bit and add the modern mansion rooms. And nine weapons instead of six-- including a celebrity award (nice idea)!

See NPR link for full details.

Read the whole history of the game on this wikipedia link— the original UK game is called Cluedo.

Link to Hasbro site.

Saturday, August 9, 2008

Orson Welles in "Transformers" (1986)

I ran across this on YouTube (although it's been up for quite some time), in which the makers of the animated Transformers movie from 1986 talk about working with Orson Welles. I've never seen the movie, but clips are shown of it with Welles' narration-- interesting to see: kind of want to see the whole movie now (despite Leonard Maltin's "BOMB" rating).

Friday, August 8, 2008

2008 Summer Olympics Opening Ceremony

The opening ceremonies to the Olympics lived up to the hype. I generally don't buy "bigger is better" in any artistic achievement-- but the epic scale achieved by filmmaker Zhang Yimou was impressive. Among my favorite parts of the ceremonies was the "movable type" sequence, with the ebb and flow created by the performers underneath the pieces. I always enjoy the Parade of Nations— and hearing some facts about far off lands. And the entrance of the U.S. team does fill you with some pride-- particularly this year when, despite everything, there was a rousing cheer. The most spectacular performance of the night by far was that of nearly 45-year-old Li Ning, the most decorated Chinese Olympian, when he ran horizontally, suspended by wires, along the length of the stadium across a moving electronic scroll to light the Olympic cauldron.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

"The Salvation Hunters" To Be Preserved By MOMA

The Association of Moving Image Archivists (AMIA) newsletter notes that Josef von Sternberg's first film, The Salvation Hunters, has received a grant from the National Film Preservation Foundation to be preserved by the Museum of Modern Art (i.e. costs cover a preservation master and two viewing copies). Film historian Tag Gallagher is quoted in AMIA as saying: "It is good news indeed that a restoration of this groundbreaking feature is in the works."— so perhaps the film is actually getting a full restoration as well. In addition to being von Sternberg's debut, The Salvation Hunters is also noteworthy as a forerunner in American independent filmmaking. This film has a checkered past in terms of its evaluation. As noted by Gallagher in the AMIA mention, the film was "hissed at its premiere and later hailed a masterpiece." Currently there is an imdb review that rates it 2 out of 10! Hopefully a DVD release is on the way so we can all evaluate it....

Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Alfred Hitchcock's Silent Features: "The Lodger"

Continuing my irregularly scheduled capsule reviews of Alfred Hitchcock's eight extant silent features, I present The Lodger. Easily, his most well-known silent, The Lodger is a capable, if minor work. The Lodger follows next after The Pleasure Garden, which I reviewed in my previous blog entry. The Mountain Eagle (which is lost) was made before, but released to the general public slightly after The LodgerThe Lodger got a February 1927 general release; The Mountain Eagle got a May 1927 release.

Hitchcock's silents were his training ground; and his later films are that much more visual as a result of his having started in the silent era. His silents are unfortunately either unreleased on VHS/DVD or in unrestored state on poorly presented DVDs. For the best quality/most reliable seller out there, if you are looking for Hitchcock's unreleased DVD titles (such as The Pleasure Garden and Downhill, among others) I recommend this seller.

The Lodger (1926)
A young, blond model falls for the man renting the room upstairs despite the fact that he may be the notorious “Avenger” who is terrorizing London by murdering a fair-haired girl every Tuesday night.

The master of suspense’s first and only suspense film among his nine silent films makes this essential viewing, if only a minor achievement in itself. The narrative is primitive, the titles are flat (“I’m sick and tired of your interference, I never want to see you again.” and “Tell that to the judge.” are examples), and the acting is frequently overly dramatic. Also ineffective are the (scant) comedy moments, usually a highlight in Hitchcock films. The movie does have a few stylish moments however, including the opening close-up of the ‘silent’ scream, the lodger’s pacing in his room seen from below as if looking through a transparent floor, and the handcuffed lodger dangling on a wrought-iron fence onto which he is trapped. Also noteworthy is Hitchcock’s approach to filming Ivor Novello in his first scene, which effectively convinces the viewer that he is the Avenger with no need for titles— particularly when he scans the paintings of the fair-haired girls when he sees his room for the first time. Additionally, nearly every scene is set after dark, which gives the movie a particularly eerie feel. Worthwhile, if limited, to the Hitchcock student/scholar.

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Top Ten 1960s Films To See

The 1960s in film. It was the decade-in-flux internationally; in America, the decade when the Hollywood studio system crumbled and "new Hollywood" entered the fray. The old masters were still hard at work though, as movies reinvented themselves. Here's a list of ten classic 1960s films that have managed so far to elude me, but I've got them on my radar:

Sons and Lovers— 1960

Yojimbo— 1961

David and Lisa— 1962

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance— 1962

Yesterday, Today, and Tomorrow— 1963

The Night of the Iguana— 1964

Repulsion— 1965

A Man and A Woman— 1966

In Cold Blood— 1967

Playtime— 1967

Monday, August 4, 2008

"Indy" Out of the Running for the Silver

This weekend was a big weekend for ticket sales. Admidst the big box office, Iron Man found itself quietly added to 133 more theaters and Indy found itself at 145 less. I wonder, if, since the same studio put them both out (Paramount) that they made this happen, wanting the bigger boost to the Iron Man franchise. I know this sounds farfetched but it just seems so odd, but either way, it looks like Indy will never catch up to Iron Man now (as I speculated about in my blog entry of June 28), despite the fact that it reduced Iron Man's lead from $8 million to just over $1 million last month.

Sunday, August 3, 2008

"Twilight Zone" Movie?

As I noted in an earlier blog entry, the Twilight Zone episode "Death Ship" is currently being developed as a feature film. But it also looks like, according to the Hollywood Reporter, another Twilight Zone film is in the works.

In the article, the trade magazine reports that Warner Bros. owns the right to the Serling-penned episodes (the bulk of the series) and that Leonardo DiCaprio's production company wants to develop a few of them as a single-plotted movie. The Twilight Zone is apparently DiCaprio's favorite series. Would love it if this comes to pass!

Saturday, August 2, 2008

"The Dark Knight" to Beat "Titanic"?

On many a film fan's lips is this very query. To the devoted it's a fait accompli. But some aren't quite so sure. I admire the bold prediction by Entertainment Weekly's Mark Harris, who in this week's issue said, in a nutshell, "hell no." (p. 20 of issue 1005).

My thinking is, if The Dark Knight should fall short of grossing $50 million on it's third weekend (i.e. this weekend), I agree with Mark Harris— that it'll become the second biggest moneymaker of all-time— over Star Wars, but under Titanic. However if it should gross over $50 million this weekend, I think they'll be no stopping it from toppling Titanic. Eager to see this weekend's numbers....

UPDATE 8/4: The Dark Knight grossed $42.7. Hmmmm.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Title for New Woody Allen Movie Revealed— "Whatever Works"

According to this blog, the new Woody Allen film, starring Evan Rachel Wood and Larry David (photo, left) is called Whatever Works— the last likely Allen effort for this decade. The blog has a funny interview with Woody too. Link to imdb, that still lists Untitled Woody Allen Project (2009).

Vicky Cristina Barcelona, one of Woody's only films of late that has garnered Oscar-buzz, opens this month— can't wait!