TSPDT1K Update #2

tspdk1k-posterMy project to watch all the films on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They? Top 1000 list continues apace. Here are the films that I saw during the back half of 2013:

25. MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA, THE (Dziga Vertov / 1929 / USSR / 80m / BW)
84. JULES ET JIM (François Truffaut / 1961 / France / 104m / BW)
126. STAR WARS (George Lucas / 1977 / USA / 121m / Col)
131. DAYS OF HEAVEN (Terrence Malick / 1978 / USA / 95m / Col)
191. BELLE DE JOUR (Luis Buñuel / 1967 / France, Italy / 100m / Col)
243. WINGS OF DESIRE (Wim Wenders / 1987 / France, West Germany / 130m / Col-BW)
346. THERE WILL BE BLOOD (Paul Thomas Anderson / 2007 / USA / 158m / Col)
394. DAISIES (Vera Chytilová / 1966 / Czechoslovakia / 76m / Col-BW)
571. CITY OF GOD (Fernando Meirelles / 2002 / Brazil, Germany, France / 129m / Col)
671. WHITE RIBBON, THE (Michael Haneke / 2009 / Germany, Austria, France, Italy / 144m / BW)
705. GUMMO (Harmony Korine / 1997 / USA / 88m / Col)
770. INLAND EMPIRE (David Lynch / 2006 / USA, France, Poland / 180m / Col)
832. SEPARATION, A (Asghar Farhadi / 2011 / Iran / 123m / Col)

A few random thoughts:

Star Wars: Knowing of it only through reputation, I was expecting something more outlandish, silly, ridiculous. Really, the only truly bad part of the film was Carrie Fisher’s… well, I don’t want to call it an accent because that would be an insult to accents, but whatever she was doing with her voice was very silly. Anyway, turns out Star Wars is a real movie! With Peter Cushing and a plot and everything! I was glad to have seen the theatrical release and if I ever have to watch the revamped versions I will probably cut a bitch, no joke.

Days of Heaven: One of the many films on the list that I am pretty sure I have seen, but I failed to remember enough of it to convince myself to cross it off the list before watching it again to be sure. It was nice to revisit and be reminded, after Lace, that Brooke Adams can act if she’s given proper motivation.

There Will Be Blood: Couple this with PTA’s The Master, and you have some impressively intimidating philosophy on religion, capitalism, and the myth of the American dream. These two films have been occupying my thoughts for months.

The White Ribbon: At the risk of looking like a dink, my main thoughts on this are not about the film itself, which was quite good, but about the film stock. Someone on Twitter seemed a touch put out when I said I hated color film that had been modified to look black and white. There’s a greenish tint that results from the change, and I admit that this weird color bothers me; I have no idea how the process is done in any format, let alone digital, so I can only speak to the results. Whoever it was on Twitter — and I’m sorry, I’ve forgotten who — suggested The White Ribbon as an example of how lovely color film that has been changed to black and white can look. It was next on my Netflix queue anyway, so I had this Twitter conversation in mind the whole time, and it’s true, much of the film is gorgeous, but there were still some scenes with that tell-tale greenish tinting to them, and it just puts me off. It’s not as though I’ll rail against this film as being unworthy because of it, it’s just a personal preference.

Inland Empire: Turns out, David Lynch can make a movie I don’t like. It’s nice as a skewed, half satirical retrospective, and the filmmaking is impeccable, but I personally could not engage with the film.

If I want to watch all of the TSPDT films before I die, I’ll need to put more game into my game, which I think I said earlier this year, but I’ll repeat it because it’s still true. About two dozen of the films on the list are sitting around in some form in my house — The Leopard was recorded off TCM but is missing the first few seconds, THANKS OBAMA — and another 20 or so I just need to confirm I have seen, so I have no excuse to not make a bigger dent in this project, other than I seem to get swamped with writing assignments quite a bit nowadays.

More comprehensive end-of-year jibber-jabber coming in the next few weeks! Hold your breath!

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16 Comments

  1. It honestly would never have occurred to me that until very recently you had never seen Star Wars. That’s kind of surprising, considering your fondness for stuff like It, the Terror (etc. etc.).

    Yep. It’s a real movie, alright. It’s hard to convey just how thoroughly it blew me away, seeing it on the big screen when it debuted in ’77. We’ve become so blasé about realistic-looking sci-fi sfx nowadays that we don’t remember what a novelty it was back then. Especially with those production values, and level of acting talent. Even if the story is just warmed-over Flash Gordon, Lucas managed to give it an epic feel that at the time was completely new to the genre.

    Still doesn’t mean I’m going to forgive him for the Ewoks. Or Jar-Jar Binks.

    • I kind of fell in between generations with Star Wars, which was part of the problem. I was only 5 when it came out and not yet going to movies, and by the time it ended up on TV in 1984 I was 12 and the moment seemed to have passed. It must have been incredible seeing it when it first came out, and just the idea of something like Star Wars in 1977 is boggling. Though I’m completely immersed in cinema nowadays, I was a late bloomer, so to speak, so my big HOLY CRAP DID YOU SEE THIS THING film was Pulp Fiction, which was a looooooooong time after Star Wars!

      • “Bring out the gimp!”

        Now that’s an interesting flick to spark a HCDYSTT moment. All I can say is, if you’re a late bloomer, you seem to have done one heck of a job making up for lost time.

        It’s probably a good thing you didn’t see Star Wars, until TV screens got bigger and the picture and sound much, much better.

        The thing is, what Lucas was doing with sfx in 1977 wasn’t really all that far advanced from what had already been done in 1968, for Kubrick’s 2001 (which was my first big HCDYSTT). For quality and realism of the sfx and set design, in all the years between the two the only comparable movie was Douglas Trumbull’s Silent Running, in 1972.

        The big difference, of course, is that 2001 and SR were both straightforward adult sf set in the near future while Star Wars was heroic fantasy with some sf trappings. Lucas’ genius lay in resurrecting the mindless fun of the Flash Gordon serials of the 30s but with the state-of-the-art sfx and high production values of those two earlier movies. And whatever the flaws in the individual films in the series, one thing no one can deny about the Star Wars universe is that a lot of talented imagination has gone into depicting it. It feels lived in, and plausible.

        As for the theatrical vs. the “special” editions, I can’t say I’m that much of a purist about such things. A lot depends on how it’s done, of course. IMO, most of the enhancements to the (chronologically) first three SW films were justifiable, and actually did add some nice detail or just plain look better than the original.

        However, it’s a definite shame someone didn’t take George aside at some point and politely but firmly done whatever it would have taken to dissuade him from including the formerly deleted scene which has Han Solo meeting with Jabba the Hutt, in SW IV: A New Hope. It didn’t add anything to the plot or character development, plus the workaround they came up with for a problem arising from the fact that the sequence was originally shot with a human playing Jabba is rather ugly.

      • Star Wars came out when I was 16. Did not like it then or now. There are categories of film I have never liked and Star Wars fall on the periphery of these two:

        Superhero/comic book movies (I hated comic books as a kid).

        Sword and sorcery movies (“magick”, dragons, whatever–get me away). (Hated LOTR and all that stuff as a youth.)

        Star Wars is really nothing more than the latter (with some elements of the former) set in space.

        For me, a big pass, then and now.

  2. I am going to cherry-pick. severely, your unseen TSPDK1K, mixing some absolute essentials with other films I think you might enjoy:

    22. ANDREI RUBLEV (Andrei Tarkovsky / 1966 / USSR / 185m / Col-BW)–essential epic
    33. AU HASARD BALTHAZAR (Robert Bresson / 1966 / France / 95m / BW)–essential life of a donkey (yes, you will care)
    39. GRANDE ILLUSION, LA (Jean Renoir / 1937 / France / 117m / BW)–essential humanist cry against the coming disaster
    51. PATHER PANCHALI (Satyajit Ray / 1955 / India / 112m / BW)–essential, the first great Indain film known to the West
    76. CONFORMIST, THE (Bernardo Bertolucci / 1970 / Italy, France, West Germany / 107m / Col)–one of the most visually stunning films ever
    127. ROME, OPEN CITY (Roberto Rossellini / 1945 / Italy / 105m / BW)–essential, the first of the postwar Italian neo-realist films
    143. COME AND SEE (Elem Klimov / 1985 / USSR / 136m / Col)–searing
    173. RAN (Akira Kurosawa / 1985 / France, Japan / 161m / Col)–one of the most visually stunning films ever
    186. UMBERTO D. (Vittorio De Sica / 1952 / Italy / 89m / BW)–essential, one of my very most favorite films
    194. RED RIVER (Howard Hawks / 1948 / USA / 133m / BW)–an American classic (it was “the last picture show”)
    294. I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING! (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger / 1945 / UK / 91m / BW)–charming
    402. TWO-LANE BLACKTOP (Monte Hellman / 1971 / USA / 101m / Col)–from the greatest year ever in American films
    461. WITHNAIL & I (Bruce Robinson / 1987 / UK / 105m / Col)–uproarious
    462. DEVILS, THE (Ken Russell / 1971 / UK / 109m / Col)–get the UK DVD (but even that is still censored)
    535. HEAVEN’S GATE (Michael Cimino / 1980 / USA / 219m / Col)–in 20 years it will be 200-300 places higher (20 years ago it would not have been on this list at all)
    544. AU REVOIR LES ENFANTS (Louis Malle / 1987 / France / 103m / Col)–that it is autobiographical makes it all the more heartbreaking
    564. PORT OF SHADOWS (Marcel Carné / 1938 / France / 91m / BW)–beautiful, doomed lovers
    566. LOCAL HERO (Bill Forsyth / 1983 / UK / 111m / Col)–Burt Lancaster is always worth watching, but the rest are pretty good, too.
    810. ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13 (John Carpenter / 1976 / USA / 90m / Col)–the trashiest film I have included
    892. DUEL (Steven Spielberg / 1971 / USA / 90m / Col)–the M4TV classic
    918. LAST DETAIL, THE (Hal Ashby / 1973 / USA / 105m / Col)–Jack at the height of his powers (the same goes for Ashby)

    Out of all of these I am most surprised you haven’t seen the last two. Duel has been on TV a billion times, and The Last Detail–this is when Jack was on his incredible run of performances. This is among his very best.

    Withnail & I is one of the funniest films ever made.

    Out of all of these, my favorite is Umberto D. I would place it much, much higher. I like it much more than Bicycle Thieves (which is a very fine film), which De Sica also directed.

    Finally, the best film I saw this year which I had never seen before is Wake In Fright (Australia 1971). I assume it is not on this list since it was nearly lost until a couple of years ago. All I could say after watching it was “Holy crap.”

    http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/culture/2012/10/prepare-to-be-disturbed-mate.html

    • Hey KG, good to see you again!

      You picked several I’m pretty sure I’ve seen but couldn’t remember for sure: THE LAST DETAIL, DUEL, ASSAULT ON PRECINCT 13, RED RIVER, I KNOW WHERE I’M GOING and GRANDE ILLUSION. My criterion is that I must be able to describe one scene to myself in some detail, otherwise, it’s listed as unseen. All I could describe of LAST DETAIL was that awful poster.

      I bought the Criterion HEAVEN’S GATE but am waiting to get a better TV before I watch it. I have THE DEVILS (fan restored version) and RAN waiting to be watched. WITHNAIL AND I, seriously, I have no idea why I haven’t seen that yet. It looks fantastic.

    • Wake in Fright is definitely one hell of a stunner. It edged out Murnau’s Faust for my “best film I saw this year that I’d never seen before”.

      What got me was how weirdly familiar that “outback Gothic” seemed at times, to this Southern boy. I guess rednecks are rednecks, the world over, whether they’re jacklighting deer or a herd of ‘roos.

      • Yeah, there are some similarities to the vibe in Deliverance or Southern Comfort. The director, Ted Kotchiff, is Canadian and I read somewhere where he talked about some of the same characters being in the vast hinterlands of Canada. So, yes, rednecks are rednecks!

      • I’ve been meaning to see WAKE IN FRIGHT since researching RAZORBACK for an article on Spectrum a few months ago. I didn’t get a copy of it before the deadline but I have a feeling RAZORBACK was spoofing WIF, along with everything else it could manage to spoof.

  3. I’d think you remember most of the ones you listed. You could confuse Red River for another western, I suppose, but the young Monty Clift and the Duke, together, would be hard to forget. Same goes for Jean Gabin and Dalio in Grand Illusion–they are just wonderful, It is Renoir’s best film for my money (yeah, I know, it’s supposed to be The Rules of the Game). I Know Where I Am Going–OK, but I love Wendy Hiller! Too bad she had to miss out on The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (not that Deborah Kerr is a slacker!)

    You need to wait for that better TV for Ran as well. Some of the visuals–no CGI–are crazy great. It is a bit overlong, but it is Shakespeare so that happens.

    That fan restored version of The Devils I think adds back “the rape of Christ” scene but not the Vanessa Redgrave masturbation sequence. A full version (of all known existing scenes) of the film has been shown but WB refuses to let it go to disc anywhere in the world. Mark Kermode has a great documentary about the film which you can watch on You Tube. It was filmed before Russell died.

    I avoided pounding you with the Bunuel and Antonioni films, since I hate when people pound me with Godard, for example (he leaves me cold). But here are two more “alternates” to make up for any that I previously listed that you saw.

    134. BADLANDS (Terrence Malick / 1973 / USA / 95m / Col)–a prairie girl has to see this!

    165. BLACK NARCISSUS (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger / 1946 / UK / 99m / Col)–ridiculous Technicolor, Deborah Kerr as the world’s most beautiful nun, and lust-driven nuns going mad. What is not to like?

    • I’ve seen BLACK NARCISSUS, must have overlooked that.

      The copy of THE DEVILS that I got is allegedly complete, all the scenes from a UK uncut showing on TV added back in. There’s also a BFI release, not entirely complete, but the quality looks good and if I end up liking the fan restored version I’ll probably get the DVD.

    • Even at the risk of sounding like a provincial putz, let me add a big “Ditto!” to KG’s recommendation of Badlands. You will never see a more haunting and brilliantly poetic depiction of young spree killers. (The story is loosely based on the infamous Starkweather-Fugate Great Plains murder rampage in the winter of 1957-58.)

      Even the music selections are superb. (“Love is stray-yange, love is strange …”)

      • Oh wait, BADLANDS is the one with Sissy Spacek and Martin Sheen. Dangit, I’ve seen that, and not that long ago. It was on TCM a little over a year ago (and since then, probably, but I haven’t had cable for a while).

  4. If you plan on getting a new TV I definitely recommend re-watching “The White Ribbon.” I saw it in the theater and again at home but it was starkly white in both settings. I’m sensitive to the greenish cast too.

    I remain unimpressed with “Star Wars.” It has an overwhelmingly teenage boy POV. I was young when it came out – I remember the anticipation I felt watching the trailer more than seeing the actual film. There are only two women, the mother figure and the princess, which is too limiting for me to enjoy.

    Here’s another push for “The Conformist.” Please keep posting as you move down the list!

    • Hi Shahn!

      It never occurred to me that it might be the television. I get the greenish cast on the TV, but also both computer monitors I’ve had, so much that I often greyscale a screencap before posting it. Maybe it’s the settings I use. Thanks for the tip, I’ll definitely try that.

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