Sunday, November 27, 2011

Genre #5 - Fantasy

I am not working at a good rate - I've been doing the thrillers since September. I really need to pick up the pace, and I think I can with fantasy - almost all of the movies are on the Netflix instant queue. I bet I can finish this genre in just a couple of days.

I absolutely had to watch the fantasy movies next - Why, you ask? Because this list has...Christmas movies on it. And I cannot watch Christmas movies in a season that is not Christmas. That's wrong. So I'm watching the fantasy movies - I should be a good list - besides the Christmas movies, it also has a silent movie in it (Ooooo...) and a musical. Sounds exciting, doesn't it?

I can only hope that I get through this genre pretty fast - only about a year left, and nine genres to go.

Thrillers - A Debriefing

The American Film Institute's Top Ten American Thrillers

*My Interpretation*

#10 - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) - I love Indiana Jones - It's iconic, it's got wonderful atmosphere, it's fun and globe trotting and has great fight scenes and the best hat ever. Part of the fun of Indy though is that big chunks of it are very silly - which is fun, but does not a great movie make. It's really great entertainment, but only pretty good movie. B +. I've decided I'm going to start grading the movies in this post, to give it a more definite, determined feel. We'll see how it works out.

#9 - Rosemary's Baby (1968) - Rosemary's Baby is so slow - the whole movie is really just a woman being pregnant, which is boring - and suffers from bizarre 60's special effects like turning the whole screen red and making everything blury. Why did you do that, 60's? It does have some good imagery though - the raw meat, the wardrobe - and the premise is pretty scary. C +

#8 - The French Connection (1971) - This movie is probably more boring than Reds. Reds. I honestly don't think anything happened in this movie. I'm not even sure what it was about. I remembeer the DVD menue, but that's about it. D -

#7 - The Birds (1963) - This was probably the scariest movie of the whole set. Even though the actual bird attacks are pretty outdated and not that scary, the lead-up to them and the suspense is great. I didn't mention it in the post, but I absolutely love the scene when all the crows gather on the playground - it is one of the creepiest I've ever seen in a movie. I watched it four times. And now I always keep my eye on the birds. A -

#6 - Alien (1979)- I watched Alien way back in Science Fiction - good movie, not as scary as I thought it would be, nice special effects. A -

So the grading system doesn't work - They're all good movies, or they wouldn't be on the list, and the grades and up too close together to be interesting. Ah well, I'll think up another ranking method for the next genre.

#5 - The Silence of the Lambs (1991) - This is a great movie. It's disturbing and Amnthiny Hopkins is so, so good in it. He's really the reason it stands out - It's a very good movie on it's own, but Hannibal Lector makes it stand out.

#4 - North By Northwest (1959) - I really liked this movie - Cary Grant is great, the train motif is very nice, the crop duster scene is iconic for a reason - but it's not as mind-bogglingly amazing as the other Hitchcock movies I've seen. It's pretty wonderfully bizarre, though.

#3 - The Exorcist (1973) - Not nearly as scary as I thought it would be, which is sad. The special effects are pretty outdated and not a lot happens in it. It's boring and not scary - Not something that I look for in a movie.

#2 - Jaws (1975) - There are a lot of 70's movies on this list, aren't there? I really liked Jaws, even though the two halves are really different and the shark isn't that good. The suspense and the mood is really kept up the whole time, and the way they use the shark is really great. The "You're going to need a bigger boat" scene is really one of the best movie moments ever.

#1 - Psycho (1960) - This is a great, great movie. The acting's great, the imagery is great, the music is great. It was shocking and violent and scary when it was made, and it still is. This movie was way ahead of it's time, and people still don't make movies like it.

Friday, November 18, 2011

Thriller #1 - Psycho (1960)

So the story about Psycho is that everyone was classifying Alfred Hitchcock's movies as horror movies, but he thought they were mysteries. So Alfred Hitchcock says to the world, he says "World, I'll show you what horror really is!" And he made Psycho. And it is terrifying. It's psychological and suspenseful and a violent, sexual slasher movie. It has strong themes about duality and control and a bird motif that I don't really understand but has something to do with preservation and freedom. It is terrific. I really liked Psycho. I especially like how easy it is to italicize, because it's only one word, but that's irrelevant.

So Psycho is about a woman who decides to steal some money from her boss and run away to start a new life. She stops at a motel, has a conversation with the nice owner who's only a little creepy, and then gets killed. This was ground-breaking at the time: You didn't kill your star halfway through the movie in 1960 - or now, actually.

Psycho was shocking and violent and scary because it's a random murder out of nowhere in the middle of nowhere. It's a terrifying movie - I hate serial killers: They are my least favorite things. I do not like serial killer movies. And in this movie it is not even the scariest part. I accidentally ruined the end of it for myself months ago, and I seriously lost sleep over just the summary. The ending is so disturbing to me. I cannot imagine watching this movie not knowing how it ends - That would be awful.

The shower scene I had seen before, obviously, so that wasn't that bad. The other murder made me jump, though - I just comes out of nowhere - like all of the murders. I heard they had to shoot the shower scene something like 24 times. It looks really good, and it's no wonder it's such an iconic scene. The fact that it takes place in a shower is just weird and common enough to make it memorable and of course the music is great and terrifying. Bernard Herrmann wrote the music for this movie, and it's awesome - You've heard it. whether you've seen the movie or not. Fun fact - Bernard Herrmann also wrote one of the other most recognizable pieces of music in the Western world - The Twilight Zone Theme. Now you know.

So I was expecting Norman Bates to be really creepy, and he's not really. For most of the movie he isn't really creepy at all (Although he does have his moments), and I that just makes the end even worse. Anthony Perkins is really terrific - I've actually seen him in something before - In Evening Primrose, a musical about a tribe of people who live in a department store. I don't know, it was weird. But he was very good in it.

I liked the whole movie - it was creepy and unsettling and impeccably well made and I was entertained by the whole thing. The music was great, and the Alfred Hitchcock cameo was really hard to find - I had to go back and everything. It was definitely the best movie in this set.

Thursday, November 17, 2011

Thriller #2 - Jaws (1975)

Jaws is pretty awesome. It's another Stephen Spielberg movie (One of his firsts, actually) and it's about a shark. The shark is not named Jaws, no matter what anyone tries to tell you. The shark doesn't have a name. Because it's a shark. So this unnamed shark is attacking the beaches of Amity Island, a vacation town, which isn't really that weird, and later is specifically and repeatedly targeting a group of tree people in the middle of the ocean, which apparently is unusual, sharks not really having the brain power for that. Learn something new everyday, don't you. So the town sheriff and a marine biologist and...this one fisherman...go out into the ocean to hunt the shark - they're the aforementioned three people. The biologist is Richard Dreyfuss who is, I'm sure I don't need to tell you, awesome.

Jaws has grown on me since I first saw it. It's a very slow movie and the second act is very different than the first, and that threw me off at first, but looking back on it, I think I really like it. There were a couple of moments that really actually scared me, and the suspense was really good, and the characters are really great. I actually couldn't understand the grizzled old fisherman most of the time, which sort of made the plot a little hard to follow, but I think I did alright. There's this big scene near the end where he has a huge monologue, and I'm not really sure what it was about - something about sharks and trauma and Illinois - I don't know. But it's cool, I think it was only thematically important, not a big plot device.

I mentioned that the first act is way different than the second act, and it is. The first half of the movie is on the beach and a disaster movie with loads of characters and ethical questions, and the second half is three guys in the middle of the ocean with a mysterious force of evil. It's weird. It's like watching two very closely related movies, and I did not like it at first. However, I do think that it works. The more psychological part is much better as the ending, and the beginning established the horror and the threat of the shark. It's a good balance.

Now, I have heard a lot about how horrendously bad the shark is in this movie. A lot. It's really the only thing I knew about the movie before I watched it - The shark sucks. After all of the hype about it, I was expecting like a sock puppet or something, but the shark is not that bad. I mean, it is awful, yes. Bad shark puppet, that is. It really does not lot bad at all underwater in the dark for short periods of time, which is how they usually shoot it. It doesn't ruin the movie and it gives the impression that the shark is huge and terrifying. It does its job.

So to recap: Jaws: Good movie, now that I think about it. Richard Dreyfuss is awesome. Robert Shaw I can't understand. Roy Sheider is also awesome, even thought I didn't mention him earlier. I really enjoy the way he dramatically takes off his glasses. The shark is not as bad as people say it is. Now you know. It's definitely a classic for a reason, unlike The French Connection, which I cannot imagine anyone liking.

Thriller #3 - The Exorcist (1973)

I have to say, I was disappointed by The Exorcist. It was supposed to be scary. It was supposed to be one of the best horror movies ever made. I was terrified of this movie. And it was not scary. It was often very disturbing, it was sometimes kind of creepy, but as a whole it is not scary. I mean look at the poster: "The Scariest Movie of All Time," please. This movie is roughly as scary as Ghostbusters. I'm not really sure why, either. The concept is really scary and disturbing - especially since it was so random - and it's executed well and most of the special effects don't look so bad - The head spinning has really aged, though, and the movie probably would be a lot scarier without all the vomiting. Regan looks really scary, it's psychological and the acting's good and the music is really terrifying, but for some reason it just does not add up into a scary movie. It wasn't a bad movie, but without the scariness, it was just kind of slow. Nothing about this movie was really terrific - It had a good atmosphere, I suppose. Very blue. Priest was good. Good actor, that Jason Miller.

I sort of have a hard time following this movie too, actually. I read online that there's something about the demon getting revenge on the priest and this all has to do with the dig that the movie starts with - the movie starts with an archaeological dig, I don't know why - but I didn't get any of that while I was watching it. Apparently there's some sort of Captain Howdy face too, but I just didn't see that, either. The movie is undoubtedly good, but I just wasn't that impressed by it. The Exorcist was just okay. The Birds, for example, was better.

And you know what - It's called The Exorcist, but that guy is only in the movie for like fifteen minutes, and then he dies. What's up with that, movie?

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thriller #4 - North By Northwest (1959)

North By Northwest is another Hitchcock, this time with Cary Grant and a different icy blonde, Eva Marie Saint. In case you're not in the know, this is the movie where Cary Grant gets chased by a crop duster - I'm sure you've seen that scene before. Watching that part was kind of surreal - Here was this thirty seconds of film that was so familiar to me because I'd just seen it so many times, right in the middle of this movie I'd never seen before. It made me think a lot of how much of an impact movies have on our culture - I'd never seen this movie and yet this one little section of film has been in my life for years and years. And then I sort of lost that train of thought and continued watching the movie, but for a second I was really on the verge of an epiphany about mass culture and the effect of fiction on our lives. It was pretty intense.

North By Northwest confuses me a little bit - I follow the characters and the overall plot, but I'm confused by the storyline. Cary Grant's character whose name I can't remember is suddenly being mistaken for a spy in an unnamed government agency, is blamed for the death of a man, and is forced to go on the lam - Which only rhymed by accident, by the way. I get all that. What I'm confused about is what Cary Grant is trying to do the whole movie, other than avoid being killed. I think he's trying to find the spy he's being mistaken for, but I'm just not quite sure.

I did like North By Northwest - It was a fun movie and it had a really cool, 50's spy atmosphere. Hitchcock, I've noticed, is really great at atmosphere. Cary Grant was good, of course, and Eva Marie Saint was really cool and icy and elegant. I liked the whole movie and I thought it was cool because they announced the Michigan railroad line in the train station. There was a really big train motif in this movie. I liked North By Northwest, but I wasn't quite as wowed by it as I have been by other Hitchcock movies.