My friend Sherrie over at Citizenrobot came up with this list idea and I think it's a fun one. Along with our friend Sean over at Cinema-Scope we've all decided to put together our Cinematic Alphabets. Favorite films for each letter. Forget about Dr. Seuss, this is how I plan to teach my little girl her ABCs. We invite other bloggers to join us in putting out their own alphabets and are very curious what others' lists will look like! A is for THE APARTMENT.
I was able to get over to the venerable New Beverly Cinema this past weekend and catch the last screening of Rod Amateau's film DRIVE-IN (I've loved Rod Amateau ever since I first saw his rompy TV-Movie masterpiece HIGH SCHOOL USA). The new print of DRIVE-IN that QT was able to get for this screening was glorious.(I hope this could indicate a possible DVD release on the horizon, but who knows). I've been a fan of the film for a long time and it still charms me each time I've watched it(despite its flaws). It's a fun, clever, quaint little PG-Rated ensemble. I'd say its kind of like if A.I.P. did their version of an Altman's take on AMERICAN GRAFITTI. The film being viewed at titular drive-in is called DISASTER '76 and it's a silly spoofy parody of all the disaster film cliches of the period. I couldn't help but snicker each time they showed scenes from it. It was just so neat to see a story that really revolves around a drive-in, which used to be more of an American social staple. I myself grew up with drive-ins and saw many formative films there in their first run. I still recall seeing BACK TO THE FUTURE in October of 1985 at our local 4 screen drive-in. At the time I remember thinking how cool it was that the film was set in and taking place in the near future(November of that year). Anyway, my family used to love to fill brown paper grocery bags with popcorn & butter, stuff some lawn chairs in the back of our station wagon and head over to our drive-in on Saturday nights. I recall other double featuring the likes of FERRIS BUELLER'S DAY OFF(I distinctly recall driving out of the theater during Rooney's last scene on the bus and missing Ferris's closing, post-credits greeting), CAN'T BUY ME LOVE and Blake Edwards' nearly insufferable A FINE MESS. Such wonderful times. I found myself inspired by the film and Dennis Cozzalio's piece on it to ponder other movies that feature drive-in theaters prominently. The two favorites that came immediately to mind for me are Peter Bogdanovich's TARGETS and Tim Burton's PEE-WEE'S BIG ADVENTURE. Two distinctly different films, but two that I adore and would very very much like to see on blu-ray. Again, DRIVE-IN is another one of those films that's never seen an official DVD release(only ever been on VHS). Hopefully at the very least it might show up through some burn on demand service.
Other movies featuring drive-ins that could use a BD release: EXPLORERS, DEAD-END DRIVE IN, DEADHEAD MILES, THAT DARN CAT(1965).
Drive-ins are far from dead and I highly recommend doing some research to see if there are still operating theaters in your area. The experience of seeing films in that environment is singularly unique and wonderful. Companies like West Wind Drive-Ins and organizations like The Southern California Drive-In Movie Society are truly keeping the dream alive.
----------------------------------------- 2010 was a great year for me film-wise, despite having 2 young children, and working 60+hrs most weeks, I still managed to cram in over 500 films. In doing so, there were a wide variety of films in my viewed list. I firmly believe this adage in everything, but applicable in this case to film viewing, that variety is truly the spice of life. I enjoy Bruno Mattei as much as I enjoy Francois Truffaut; Godfrey Ho as much as Wong Kar Wai(well, maybe not as much, but still..). So without further adieu, here’s the list of the best 30 films I saw for the first time in 2010(in reverse order. OOOOH! THE SUSPENSE!)
30. Tchao Pantin(Berri, 1983) – I’ve been on a real kick lately with late 70’s-early 90’s French films lately, and this was one of the first that spurred me to seek out more. It’s a fantastically shot neo-noir/revenge film starring beloved Gallic comic Colouche in a super serious role. I believe he died shortly after this film. Real shame as he was marvellous.
29. New York Ripper(Fulci, 1982) – One of the last great(and that is subjective when it comes to this film) Gialli that comes super late in the cycle. It’s really a shame Fulci’s gialli don’t get more acclaim as I prefer them over his wet gore-fests every day of the week. Ripper is super sleazy and features some great, brutal kills. The blu from Blue Underground looks incredible from what I’ve heard
28. Tracks(Jaglom,1977)-the first film in watched on January 1, 2010, and one that stuck with me. Great surreal, very European feeling film with top rate performances by Dennis Hopper as a shell-shocked vet heading home from Vietnam with the body of one of his platoon mates and Dean Stockwell as a free thinking hippy type
27. Amarcord(Fellini, 1973)-After watching all of the seminal black and white films from master auteur, Federico Fellini, this was my first film of his I’d seen in color; great film with all of the great Fellini fixations(small town coastal life, nostalgia, plump big breasted women, and emotionally stunted boys, refusing to grow up)
26. The American Friend(Wenders, 1977)-we covered this on the show, and talked about it at length, so I’ll say no more other than to say, I LOVE Bruno Ganz.
25. La Residencia(Serrador, 1969)- Superb, criminally under-appreciated Spanish Gothic gialli that left me stunned with the twists and turns as well as the breathtaking women in it. Highly recommended
24. Peeping Tom(Powell, 1960)-It’s a travesty this film ruined Michael Powell’s career; who knows how many more masterpieces he had in him? In a just world, this film would get the praise that the good, though inferior Psycho gets.
23. Io Ho Paura(Damiani, 1977)-Damiano Damiani is one of my absolute favorite filmmakers(no one makes better cerebral, politically charged Euro-Crime films), Gian Maria Volante was arguably the best Italian actor of his time. Check them out in this first rate superb paranoid police thriller that really ratchets up the mistrust seen in American films of the time when all of the institutions we trust have far less than noble intentions
22. Angst(Kargl, 1983)-I talked about this one in my Halloween list for Roop, so I won’t spend too much time on it, but I will say with all confidence it’s easily one of the best Horror films of the last 30 years and will leave you queasier than a greasy egg sandwich
21. Amelie(Jeunet, 2001)-The only film post 1990 on my list. Jeunet is one of the guiding lights of modern French cinema, and Audrey Tatou and her sweet pixie dust has a secret admirer in William
20. Salo(Passolini, 1975) –I FINALLY had to see what the fuss/hype was all about, and watched Passolini’s Salo. It lives up to it’s reputation, and is an undeniable masterpiece of cinema, transgressive, or otherwise
19. Funeral Parade of Roses(Matsumoto, 1969)-Kubrick cites it as a tremendous influence on Clockwork Orange, need I say more? We covered it on an early episode, so you can hear us chew the fat there.
18. Fat City(Huston, 1972)-First rate, down on their luck boxing film with great turns from THE KEACH, and Mr.Jeff Bridges. Highly recommended
17. Death Rides a Horse(Petroni, 1967) – this is the reason I love doing listener content episodes on our show; I’d meant to see it, but kept putting it off, thankfully, one of our listeners, Demise, picked it during our annual “Ladies’ appreciation Month” and it knocked me on my ass. I’ll maintain that it stands in the upper echelon of Spaghetti Westerns, and has my all-time favorite spag western theme, that Q.T used to great effect at the House of Blue leaves
16. Intrepidos Punks(Guerrero, 1980)-Muchas gracias ‘Loaf! Those of you that listen to the show know that our intrepid North Carolina native, Pickle Loaf, has a real taste for trash films, specifically of the Mexican variety; when he dropped this one on me, I INSTANTLY fell in love. You ever been to a Mexican truck stop at 2am and the waitress wears waaay too much caked on, old makeup and the burrito you’re eating is deep-friend from the day before, but somehow, it all converges to make for a great culinary and life changing experience? This is the cinematic equivalent of that. We covered it on the show as well, so you can hear us pontificate on it with the mighty Rupert, himself.
15. The Killing(Kubrick, 1956)-Despite it not feeling like a Kubrick film(he was still doing films for the studios, hadn’t developed as an auteur yet), this is a really rock solid American Noir. Can’t recommend it enough.
14. Five Easy Pieces(Rafelson, 1970)-People forget how incredible an actor Jack Nicholson is; they need only watch this film and Nicholson’s other 70’s output to reaffirm that. He’s as good as, if not better than Bobby D or “Hoo Wha!” Pacino. Also, J’adore Karen Black
13. The Yakuza(Pollack, 1974)-An instant favorite; too cool for school featuring Mitchum, Takakura in an amazing MACHO bromance. This is one of two Paul Schrader involved films that take place in Japan to make my list. L-O-V-E this film
12. The Dion Brothers(Starrett, 1974)- also reviewed on the show, with special guest host, and all around class act Mike Malloy, the director of the much anticipated upcoming Euro-Crime documentary. We mutually agreed to pick this film as we’d both adored it, and wanted to trumpet it’s praises even more. Clearly an influence on Tarantino with it’s off-kilter crime elements and snappy dialogue, this one may be hard to track down, but is a can’t miss for Keach, Forrest, and company.
11. All that Heaven Allows(Sirk, 1956)-having seen Todd Haynes’ Far from Heaven years earlier, I couldn’t wait to see what many consider to be Sirk’s masterpiece. It absolutely delivered, and is one of the most beautifully shot and colored films I’ve ever had the pleasure to watch. Rock Hudson’s quiet tenderness in this is easily among his best work. Sirk’s technical prowess enables this film to soar far above the melodramatic tedium it could have been rather easily in the wrong hands
10. The Friends of Eddie Coyle(Yates, 1973)-Thank you Ben Affleck! After watching one of the best American crime films of the past 25 years in The Town, I’d heard Affleck mention what a tremendous influence Yate’s Eddie Coyle had been to him, and as I already had meant to see it, immediately tracked it down with the further urging of good friend, and. Needless to say, I was floored and watched it several more times in the following months. It was also covered on an episode of the GGtMC. Go buy the Criterion now!
9. Wild Strawberries(Bergman, 1957)- This year, I made a conscientious effort to erase one of my biggest shames as a cinephile; having not seen a single Ingmar Bergman film. I went into all of his most important works and came away with this being my favorite; it’s got an uncharacteristically, almost Fellini-esque warm sentimentality to it, and tends to abstain from a lot of the more theological questions that Bergman revisited in his films. Great stuff from a Master filmmaker.
8. Throne of Blood(Kurosawa, 1957)-and speaking of Master filmmakers, here comes one now! This was one of the few blindspots I’d had with Kurosawa’s more celebrated films, and Sammy and I covered it in the Sammy Comeback special on the GGtMC. The closest Kurorsawa ever got to horror, it’s really steeped in atmosphere of an almost Shakespearean scale. Also, the scene at the end with Mifune and the arrows is muy excellente!
7. Sherlock Jr(Keaton, 1924) – in a year of cinematic firsts, it was my first silent film, and what a way to start things off! I challenge anyone who dismisses film from this era as trite or boring to watch this film and not be energized by the unbelievable things Keaton does that can be still seen today in the greatest works of heroes like Jackie Chan and Stephen Chow. Simply astounding film.
6. Coming Home(Ashby, 1978)-have 3 leads in one film ever been this good? Jane Fonda, Jon Voight, and Bruce Dern really lay it on the line in this post-Vietnam film that looks at the after-effects, emotionally, and physically of 3 people and how those ripples impact their lives immensely. One of the best dramatic films I’ve ever had the pleasure of watching.
5. Scorpio Rising(Anger, 1964)-Unbelievable subversive short film that unquestionably influenced everyone from John Waters to Billy Friedkin. Waaay ahead of it’s time.
4. Paris, Texas(Wenders, 1984)-The second of 2 Wenders films on my list; It’s incredible how a German filmmakers like Wenders is able to evoke the tragic, spare feel of Americana and a broken American family so well as he does here. Again, performances are uniformly great, no easy answers are given and Ry Cooder’s earthy, spare country tinged score really underlines this film. A must-see.
3. Hellzapoppin’(Potter, 1941)-Anyone who knows me, knows despite loving to laugh, I’m not too enamoured with Comedy as a genre, this film however, is one of the exceptions to the rule, and has become an all time favorite, and just may be my favorite comedy of all time, period. This film is sort of like the energized, very funny American Grandfather of Obayashi’s Hausu. It pulls out all the stops, techniques and the jokes(visually and vocally) fly faster than you can keep track of. It’s amongst a handful or more on my list that sadly, and inexplicably are not available on dvd. Worth every minute you spend tracking it down
2. The Devils(Russell, 1971) – I’ve also discussed this one before, and on an episode of the show, so I won’t say too much, beyond this: One of the greatest films ever made. It’s an absolute travesty that it’s not available on dvd. One of the most daring, visually and thematically audacious films ever put to celluloid.
1. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters(Schrader, 1985) – Thankfully this one is available on dvd and is the second of two Schrader involved Japanese set films on my list. I’m an absolute sucker for an aesthetically pleasing film, and this is in the top 3 most beautiful films I’ve ever laid eyes on. Unconventional in it’s structure, hence the title, it nevertheless works perfectly in celebrating the life of one of the greatest writers Japan has ever produced. Kudos to Schrader for smashing it out of the park as an outsider, and having the reverence to make such a faithful film from a cultural and cinematic standpoint. One of the greatest films ever made in this cinephile’s humble opinion..
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