Sunday, September 25, 2011

Thriller #9 - Rosemary's Baby (1969)

Rosemary's Baby was, once again, disappointingly un-scary. It started off pretty promising - In the beginning, they're considering a new apartment, and at the end of a little hallway, there's a big old heavy dresser. And there's a closet behind it. And the apartment is empty last person who lived there died. But they still buy the apartment! So that was really creepy. There were a couple of other moments like that, but largely it was very un-terrifying. I guess I'll have to wait for The Exorcist.

So Rosemary's Baby is about a woman who's pregnant with the Antichrist. You know that. I know that. Everyone knows that. This makes the end kind of anticlimactic. You already know how it's going to end, so it seems very unexciting. The whole movie is kind of slow. I did like it, but it didn't do anything for me, really. I did like the introduction of the creepy enthusiastic neighbors. They were old-timey and friendly in a really unsettling way.

Good image there. I also liked the part when she was craving the rare meat - that was done well, subtle, but made its point. And hey, fun fact - the apartment building where they shot the movie is the same building where John Lennon was shot. So, not fun really, I guess.

On the whole, I really liked the way the movie looked, I thought it was a good movie overall, the pacing is a little slow, and it's really too...60's weird. Really, really, surreal.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

An Interlude

So, to keep you all posted, there are 457 days until December 21, 2021. That comes out to about 65 weeks. I still have to watch 86 movies. That means that I have to watch two movies a week for 21 weeks, which is about five months. I am behind. I am also concerned. But hey, I still have one more summer. What I really have to do is buckle down and blog and watch and absorb this art and culture, darn it, because I have a deadline to meet. If I don't finish this project than I will never see these movies, because the world will have ended. And I can't die without seeing Citizen Cane. That would be terrible. So bear with me, Internet: I will succeed.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Thrillers #10 - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

Raiders of the Lost Ark is, of course, the first Indiana Jones movie. The whole Indiana Jones trilogy is based on the adventure serials from the 30s and 40s, which is why the Nazis are the villains, and they have a really cool retro, adventure-y feel. They have a very good mood - There's a very specific feeling and aesthetic I get when I think of Indiana Jones - It's very brown, and trumpet-y. The main theme is, in fact, fantastic and basically all trumpets (I think - they're definitely brass instruments), and that really fits the whole feel of the movies. The first one is really the only one that can be considered anything near a good movie, Sean Connery notwithstanding, but it's very good. I enjoy it immensely, and I had actually sort of forgotten about it - I haven't seen Raiders of the Lost Ark in years - and I'm glad I rediscovered it.

What I think is probably the coolest part of Raiders of the Lost Ark, beyond just the fact that it's pure awesome, is how iconic it is. It has the whip, and the snakes, and the big rolling ball, and the music (You know: Da-Da-Da-DA, Da-Da-Daaaaa, etc.) and the fedora. The fedora is actually genius, when you think about it: Not only does it create a distinction between Dr. Jones and Indiana, it also makes the character really recognizable. From a distance, in crowds, in silhouette - It doesn't matter. You look at that:

And you know immediately that it's Indiana Jones. Everyone does, which is awesome. This is a really a common trait in the movies that end up on these lists. Chances are, if it sticks in the so many people's minds like that, it's probably worth being iconic. Or, alternatively, it's really spectacularly bad - But this is not the case here.

The second thing that I like about Indiana Jones isn't that significant, but I really like the way he wears glasses. I was thinking that he only wears them when he's teaching, sort of like Clark Kent, but watching the movie, I noticed that he put them on all the time, whenever he has to read things. For some reason that was really cool to me.

I really like Indiana Jones - It's so adventurous and I really like that 30s-40s aesthetic it has, and I like Harrison Ford, and I like the action. Usually I don't like action in movies - It's pretty boring to me - but I was really entertained by the fights in this movie. They're very well-choreographed, for one thing, and with the guns and the whips and the swords they come off as varied and interesting. I actually think they're really cool - It's a big difference from Terminator 2.

So, to me, Indiana Jones and Star Wars really go hand in hand. It must be the people: George Lucas, Harrison Ford, John Williams, Ben Burtt, all them. They also both have a ride in Disney World. But they're also very similar movies to me: They're both just fun and adventurous, and they awake the adventurous, globe-trotting child in us all. Raiders of the Lost Ark has great fights, an awesome protagonist, fantastic settings, and is, in fact, very thrilling. And I know that I'm not the only one out there was wants to be Indiana Jones.

NOTE: No matter how hard I looked, I could not find out whether I should italicise the names of series, like Indiana Jones. I eventually decided that I should, because it is a sort of title. I apologise if I have erred.

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Genre #4 - Thrillers

Because the Thrillers list is in a different format that the other genres, the American Film Institute doesn't actually have a definition for what they consider "thrillers." So I went to, and they definite it as "A suspenseful, sensational story or film," which makes sense. There are quite a few new Alfred Hitchcock movies in this list, a couple of movies I haven't seen before, and a few that I've seen many times over. It should be pretty entertaining.

I will admit, though: I'm kind of afraid of some of these movie. Well, one: The Exorcist. I am terrified of this movie. But I'm going to struggle through it, my friends. Because this is culture. And that's important to me, and the whole point of the project, really. I'm trying to watch movies that I wouldn't normally watch. That's why I'm making myself suffer through the Sports Movies. So I'll watch it in the middle of the day, then.

The only problem is that I'll have "Thriller" stuck in my head for the next couple of weeks.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Mystery - A Debriefing

*The American Film Institute’s Top Ten American Mysteries*

My Interpretation

#10 - The Usual Suspects: The Usual Suspects is good for most of the movie, but the last fifteen minutes or so are what makes it great. That ending fills my heart with joy and triumph.

#9 - Dial M For Murder: I definitely liked how everything in this movie was introduced early on - the movie never once ad to explain itself - but Dial M For Murder pales in comparison to the other Hitchcock movies. It just doesn't quite have the same spark.

#8 - Blue Velvet: Blue Velvet was, to me, occasionally needlessly violent, and not really all the interesting to me, but was pretty good, I guess. I just wasn't captured by this movie: I don't think I even really want to watch it again.

#7 - North By Northwest: I watch North By Northwest in Thrillers.

#6 - The Maltese Falcon: I really liked The Maltese Falcon. It has a really great cast, what with Humphry Bogart and Peter Lorre, it's classic film noir, and it's really fun to me. Awesome movie, I liked it a lot.

#5 - The Third Man: A lot like The Usual Suspects, most of The Third Man isn't that impressive - except for the ten minutes that Orson Welles is in. Those ten minutes are some of the best ten minutes of the entire list. I cannot wait until I see Orson Welles in something else.

#4 - Laura: You know, I had totally forgotten about Laura. It was a nice movie, definitely, but it hasn't stuck with me, obviously. It had a good twist, though, and Vincent Price before he started taking roles in horror "movie," and without a mustache.

#3 - Rear Window: Rear Window was my favorite movie of the set. The mystery is fantastic and the characters are great, and you really get to know the secondary characters. The ending is very happy and peaceful and the movie is very self-contained. It's terrific.

#2 - Chinatown: Chinatown definitely stood out for me as a good movie, but it wasn't really a movie I liked. I didn't dislike it either, though. I thought that Jack Nicholson was great and I liked the way it used old film noir tropes, and I thought it had really good imagery, with the desert, and the nose-bandage. It definitely feels a lot grittier and darker than a lot of the older movies, even the Hitchcocks.

#1 - Vertigo: Vertigo is absolutely the best movie of the set. It's unsettling and disturbing, it has a twist that comes out of nowhere, but still fits with the rest of plot, and everyone in it is fantastic. One of the reasons people actually like this movie so much is that it's supposed to be really personal for Alfred Hitchcock - Apparently he was very controlling in his relationships. I thought it was fantastic, and it's really stuck with me.

Mystery #1 - Vertigo (1958)

Vertigo is a lot different than I expected it to be. It's an Alfred Hitchcock movie, with Jimmy Stewart's and Kim Novak. Jimmy Stewart plays the retired detective John Ferguson, whose nickname is Scottie, for some reason. He's retired because he suffers from severe acrophobia and vertigo. One of Scottie's old buddies comes to him and hires him to trail his wife, Kim Novak, named Madeline (Or is she?), whom he thinks is possessed. So Scottie does. And Madeline wonders around the city, and it appears that she's possessed by one of her relatives who committed suicide. And then Madeline committed suicide. And then it gets weird. That there is only half the movie.

Vertigo is really fantastic. It's one of those movie that you sort of have to watch twice, and I wish I had, but I already sealed the Netflix envelope. Alas. The mood of Vertigo is really strong. It's a very creepy and very disturbing movie. I look back on this movie and the main impression I have of it is very unsettling and disquieting. I look back on it, and I just feel sort of gross. The whole movie just adds up to exactly what it should be. I just love it. I think I'm really a fan of Alfred Hitchcock movies.

Vertigo is famous for two things: The dream sequence, and the camera effect. The dream sequence is really terrific. It's stylized enough that it doesn't look that dated yet, and it's really creepy, and it really feels like a nightmare. The camera effect is an effect designed to convey the sensation of vertigo. It's this very unsettling effect where they move the camera toward the view, but zoom out. The frame stays the same, but the perspective changes. It works really well. Even though that's not what vertigo looks like, it's definitely exactly what it feels like, which is awesome.

Vertigo is definitely the best mystery, which is awesome. I liked it a lot and I want to watch it again. I'm definitely looking forward to when I get to watch another Alfred Hitchcock movie.

Mystery #2 - Chinatown (1974)

Chinatown is very dark movie. It is film noir at its noir-est. It’s actually neo-noir, because it’s from the seventies, but it’s a lot darker even then The Third Man. It’s a Jack Nicholson movie – He’s a detective, and he’s investigating the disappearance of water in California. There's a theme running through the whole movie that Chinatown, which is where everyone used to work, is a place of lawlessness and brutalness and no rules. It's a bad place. The whole point of the movie is that everywhere is Chinatown. The world is Chinatown. "Forget it, audience," says the movie. "It's Chinatown." It is very dark.

Chinatown is undoubtedly a good movie. It takes common old film noir elements, and it subverts them, and plays on the audience's expectations, and use them to create a movie that is even more twisted and depressing than film noir usually is. I mean, this movie leaves The Third Man in the dust on the darkness scale, even without Orson Welles. Chinatown does have Jack Nicholson, though, and I've said that before, and I will say it again: There is no one scarier than Jack Nicholson. And he's terrific in this movie - this is before he started doing that sneer-y thing, so he looks totally different than usual.

I was definitely entertained while watching the movie, but it hasn't really stuck with me. When I think back at it, I like the mood, but I almost never think about it. I think of a lot of the other movies I've watched almost constantly. Chinatown just hasn't made an impression on me. Good imagery, though - The nose-bandage will really stick with me.