28 August 2012

Just saying -- IMDB User Comments on Sight Sound's Greatest Films

Earlier this summer the prestigious Sight and Sound Poll of the 250 greatest films was released. The poll derives some of its gravitas from the fact that it only comes out once every ten years. Their first poll was released in 1952. The voters include film critics from all over the world as well programmers, writers, academics, distributors and other cinephiles (somehow they failed to ask me to participate). Over 1,000 people voted. There is a separate poll based on the votes of noted film directors released at the same time. That list only includes 100 titles. The two lists feature many of the same films.

It is my pleasure to offer you the fourth edition of IMDB user comments, wherein I painstakingly copy and paste the words of mostly anonymous film fans from the indispensable Internet Movie Database website.  In this instance I have selected films from the Sight and Sound's greatest list, including most from the top ten. As always, these comments come sans any annotation from yours truly. I neither endorse nor condemn any of the views or opinions expressed. None are edited, you're getting the pure stuff. All comments come from the IMDb page dedicated to the particular film. Enjoy.

Vertigo (1958)
cheesy, unbelievable and pointless for the 1st hour, and then you understand what is really happening. But really I still think the 1st hour or so is really too slow. I still gave it a 9 out of 10, but how can that movie be better than Citizen Kane, are the critics retarted or just tired of CK being first?

Citizen Kane (1941)
I get the feeling that most of the people that rated this film so highly on imdb went to film school and their professors convinced them it was great. The movie is good but not wonderful in my opinion. Definitely won't be watching it a second time.

Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
I didn't hate it, but I chose not to finish it. Not long after the pig scene I gave up and deleted it from my cable box. It was another L'Atalante: a highly-raved-about film from long ago that left me unmoved. Please don't hate me. After all the raving I thought I was in for another "The Crowd" or "City Lights" but I just didn't care for it. About twenty minutes in I thought to myself "if this movie didn't have the high praise it does, I'd have given up on it already."
The standout flaw of the movie was the plot. I just do not believe that he could go from murderous rage to cry-baby regret so fast, and get forgiven by his wife so fast. I don't believe it coming from these paper-thin characters. Maybe, MAYBE Dostoevsky could have written two characters from which I'd believe such behavior in such a small span of time, but I could not stop thinking "hang on, he almost murdered her a few hours ago and now they're whooping it up on the dance floor?" There aren't enough masterfully-filmed tracking shots in the world to spackle over that hole.

Rules of the Game (1939)
anyone with an open mind would not rate it more than 5unless he wants to pretend he ''knows'' about cinema...its just a plain bad movie...la grane illusion is definetely a better movie.

2001: A Space Odyssey (1968)
...I'd rather watch an old Star Trek episode, any day. It sucks, man, it sucks! Dumb dumb dumb...borrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrring.

The Searchers (1956)
What drives me -nuts- is how many 'serious film critics' go on and on about all the 'layers' in The Searchers. If they just said, 'Yeah, it was a cool popcorn movie for its time.' I wouldn't give it a second thought.
I understand the genre is almost by definition kinda over the top, but characters like 'Mose' are ----so----- ridiculous I just can't see them being worth a doctoral thesis... but people -do- write scholarly papers on this thing.
I can understand -liking- it... in the same way I -like- a lot of Bruce Willis movies that no one can call great art. I watch 'em over and over. But I don't try to find deep -meaning- in every scene.
The scenes are beautiful... the shots are really well composed and almost like that 'Painter Of Light' guy dramatic.
But as I was watching it I kept thinking of Blazing Saddles... a lot of the dialog is so hammy it's tough to take seriously.
Now, I still love Errol Flynn movies. They have a lot of the same stock characters and cliches but for 1956 but again---not great art.
What am I missing?

The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928)
Okay so well, I've been reading around and it appears everyone seems to have been absolutely blown away from this film, personally, I don't quite get the hype.
I found the first half hour incredibly slow and dull, the forty minute mark it started to turn into a film I was beginning to enjoy. If it wasn't for the Voices of Light score, I think I would of fallen asleep, I almost fell asleep about twenty minutes in anyway.

8 1/2 (1963)
Having read many reviews over the years about how great and influential this film is supposed to be, I finally got round to watching it this week. It took me four days as I could only watch about 30 mins at a time before getting so bored I had to get off the couch and do something else. If it wasn't supposed to be such a 'great masterpiece' I wouldn't have stuck with it beyond the first instalment.
Now I don't think I am stupid, ignorant, or insensitive (before you fans start accusing me) - I have an IQ of 143 and enjoy 'real' films, including French, Italian and Japanese cinema, but I just don't get the hype with this one. Yes, its 'surreal' but lets face it, its boring! Apart from a couple of exceptions, the acting is atrocious, the pace is uneven, the dialogue second rate, etc. etc. Does 'surrealism' excuse all this?
You can get enjoyable, interesting and intelligent 'surreal' films - look at the work by Powell and Pressburger for example, or even Bergman or Lars von Trier. Can someone please explain why I should have to make the effort with 8 1/2? It takes more than 'cool sunglasses' to get me excited about a film!

Tokyo Story (1953)
Dont get me wrong, I thought this was a fantastic film, and I really admired its greatness. But I thought it was never going to end, just such a chore to watch. Does anyone agree with me? Or are you all going to say that you were completely involved and fully interested, because I would be sorely lying if I didnt say I was looking at how much time was left every five minutes.

Apocalypse Now (1979)
Don't read unless you have seen the movie. I will be spoiling basically all of it.
Honestly, I haven't been this bored with a movie since I watched Citizen Kane 2 summers ago. Don't get me wrong, I like a good character study movie. I thoroughly enjoyed Lawrence of Arabia & The Godfather Trilogy, but this movie just bored the frick out of me. Thank the Lord I wasn't watching the Redux version; I don't think I could have taken an additional 40 minutes of footage.
One of the reasons I found it boring was the plot was uninteresting. After the airstrike & Robert Duvall saying "I love the smell of Napalm in the morning!" (best line of the movie), the only interesting things that happened only lasted 30 seconds or less. The tiger attack lasted 15 seconds, The Natives shooting arrows lasted 30 seconds & The missile attack lasted 30 seconds. That is a minute 15 seconds of interesting events on an hour long boat ride. Why should I give a flip about some strip show? What is so interesting about a commercial boat where they end up slaughtering the people driving it for no reason? Nothing else was interesting happened until they got to the place where Kurtz was hiding out. That leads me to the next huge issue I had with the movie.

Persona (1966)
I usually give a film around 30 minutes before I decide if I want to continue watching. Kubrick once said that you have around 20 minutes to draw the viewer into a film before they'll lose interest. This is the third Bergman film I've watched. I started with Winter Light, then watched The Seventh Seal and finally this one. Does Bergman at all try to entertain the audience? I really want to like his films, but he puts NO effort into making me care at all. The "golden rule" of film-making (and writing) is "show, don't tell". And all Bergman's films are talking. Talk, talk, talk. And then a shot of a tree or something.
And it's not that I'm easily bored. I can appreciate directors like Tarkovsky. He, at least, makes his films intriguing, even if they are a little "talky". Maybe this is just bad luck on my part and I've watched his three least entertaining films. And don't say his films aren't meant to be entertaining. Film, as a medium, needs to be entertaining in order to convey the message or meaning behind it. Bergman should've just made this film a short story. I didn't feel any emotion at all watching this film, or Winter Light. The Seventh Seal was at least tolerable for a while but I zoned out around the 50 minute mark. If I wanted to hear the philosophical ramblings of people I'd go check out Philosophy forums online. Does Bergman have any idea about how to present ideas effectively? He just has his main character (in the case of the films I've watched, always a projection of himself) ramble on about this and that, usually not even within the context of the scene.
So help me out here. I REALLY want to like Bergman. He was in Kubrick's top 3 favourite directors (along with Fellini and David Lean). I just can't get involved in any of his films. Should I just give up him? This was worse than La Dolce Vita. All in all, Bergman is a boring hack and I've had enough of him. I'm off to watch A Clockwork Orange. A film with meaning AND entertaining value.
Edit: Oh yeah and Wild Strawberries was alright. It at least kept me interested (Forgot that was by Bergman. So I've seen 4 of his films but my point remains)

20 August 2012

Two Great Movies, Two Great Messages, One Post

It's so horrible to see one's own confusion and to understand it.

There is much bitterness in the words we use when confronting the unknowable the unquantifiable and the unlovable. Those awful moments when a mystery is so perplexing that we gasp at our own ignorance. But too, there is lightness in the reflection of our soul's innocence as we ponder and continue the day to day. Rationality is a reward we bequeath a loving nature.

The sorrow and the pity. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) is, 82 years after its release, the definitive film about war. "And our bodies are earth. And our thoughts are clay. And we sleep and eat with death," says the main character Paul Baumer. At the start of the story he and fellow classmates are being inspired to go to war by a teacher. A teacher who will stay comfortably behind and rally other young men to enlist and face death, maiming and lifelong psychological trauma.

Paul and the other soldiers have one powerful ally: one another. So it is with war where men (and now women, luckily for them) find their only comfort is the brotherhood of their unit. They fight and live for each other and their process is to "do a job." Political questions do not engage them, nor does nationalism any more inspire. They contemplate philosophical questions as one does when staring at death.

At home on leave Paul is lost, mentally and emotionally. No one understands "what it is like." Their words are all wrong because they do not allow his experience to breath and be real. They bring a false reality where a "big push" can see their armies take Paris, as if war only took place on a map with saltshakers for armies.

There is a strange comfort for Paul to be back at the front, even where death continues to pay regular visits. In war, death is a way of life, something reliable and strangely knowable. Part of an experience that otherwise lacks parameters and dimension.

All Quiet was directed by Lewis Milestone and is based on the magnificent novel by Erich Maria Remarque. Lew Ayres played Paul. It should be noted that the Nazis hated the book and the film.

Ride the High County (1962) can be summed up in the words of the main character Steve Judd (Joel McCrea): "All I want is to enter my house justified." Those words were remade into the film title Do the Right Thing, 27 years later, whether Spike Lee knew it or not.

Steve Judd wasn't always a lawman. At one time he was young and wild and in need of a good whopping. Whether it was the beatin' that did it, Judd took to the law and earned his pay honestly and in service of civilization in an Old West that needed every bit of it. For a time he rode with one Gil Westrum (Randolph Scott). Many years on he's riding with him again to collect some gold from a frontier mining camp to bring back to a bank. They are joined by Westrum's partner, Heck. What Judd doesn't know, but comes to suspect, is that his old partner means to turn on him and, with the help of Heck, run off with the money.

As if that weren't enough, more complications ensue mostly centered around a beautiful young woman who entangles herself in their journey. Legal disputes, gunfire and seven deaths result. So there is action and drama and plenty of characters, some of the most unsavory kind (hello, Warren Oates). There is also the magnificence of the Sierra Nevadas as a backdrop.

It is a full rich stew which is remarkable given its run time is just under 95 minutes. People do wrong and right as people will. They find ways to rationalize doing the wrong, unless they are so purely corrupted by dark forces that they just do and don't think about it. Judd is purposeful and resolute in doing what he knows is right, this has become as natural as breathing. Some people, I suppose, are like that. But even Judd acknowledges that there are gray areas. The girl asks him: "My father says there's only right and wrong - good and evil. Nothing in between. It isn't that simple, is it?" To which Judd replies:  "No, it isn't. It should be, but it isn't." It isn't but Judd can steer himself as close as possible to what he feels in his bones is right, he knows he can walk into his house, justified. Not a bad lesson for a 50 year old Western.

Sam Peckinpah directed Ride the High Country. Mariette Hartley plays the young woman. It was her screen debut.