Tuesday, July 5, 2011

# 76 of 101 Great Films -The Spirit of the Beehive

A note before i start,  On April 27, my home town was hit by a F4 tornado killing 43 and causing massive destruction, and for awhile a self- indulgent blog....Now my city is getting better, still has a ways to go but I have no doubt Tuscaloosa will be fine.
So back to my .........

I love movies!- Oh wait I've already said that, you know what

I am saying it again!!!

I LOVE MOVIES- I stated earlier that I've seen a 1,000 films, to check that - I've been collecting a database of films I've seen and ones to see,( I know I'm a dweeb!)

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# 76 of 101 Great Films:
1973's The Spirit of the Beehive

Victor Erice’s 1973 film is set in a small village in Spain, 

Right before the start of World War II and after the Spanish Civil War which put Francisco Franco in power. 
Director Victor Erice made Beehive at the end of Franco’s authoritarian regime.

 Erice does a masterful job of telling a simple story about two girls 
and their closed (in both the literal & metaphorical sense)  village, while setting the story  up as an analogy for authoritarian rule of  Franco’s Spain, which was easier to make since Franco’s power was waning.

The above ground plot deals with 2  girls who go to the movies and watch James Whale’s 1931 Frankenstein.  After the movie, the older of the 2 tells the other that the spirit of the Monster lives in their village, and with that we have another analogy, the importance of cinema on a society.

The girl’s village gets much of its life and certainly its escape from the movies, while having to conform to the strict, oppressive and hypocritical regime of Franco, just to sustain a meager livelihood.

The Spirit of the Beehive maybe  one of Spain’s  best films, it unfolds with a wild and high-flown, playfulness even when it is surrounded by despair. The film could very easily turn into a overblown melodrama but Erice does a great job of holding that balance but letting the magic escape on screen while keeping it grounded.

                                                                                                         A video exhibit for The Spirit of the Beehive

101 Great Films: 

101 One False Move, 1989
100 Friends of Eddie Coyle, 1974
99 Tampopo, 1987
98 The Thing, 1956
97 Nanook of the North, 1922
96 The Battle of Algiers, 1966
95  The Third Man, 1945
94 Au Revoir Les Enfants, 1988
93 Meshes of the Afternoon, 1943
92  Alien, 1979,
91 Young Frankenstein, 1974
90  Bull Durham, 1988   
89  Los Olvidados, 1950
88 Two-Lane Black top, 1971 
87 Ace in the Hole, 1951 
86   Metropolis,1926
85 Killer of sheep, 1977 
84 Bad day at Black rock, 1955
83 My darling Clementine, 1946
82 Le Samourai, 1967 France,
81 Thrones of Blood, 1957, 
80 Broadcast news, 1987 
79  Delicatessen, 1991   
                                                    78 Slacker, 1991                                                          
 77 Steamboat Bill Jr. 1928 
76 The Spirit of the Beehive, 1973

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Steamboat Bill Jr. # 77 of 101 Great Films

A good friend and I
 A note before i start # 77,  On april 27, my home town was hit by a F4 tornado killing 43 and causing massive destruction, and for awhile a self- indulgent blog....
Now my city is getting better, still has a ways to go but I have no doubt Tuscaloosa will be fine.
So back to my .........

Movies are just plain cool!
 Even bad ones are pretty cool-
think about it- 
 Your at home laying around on the couch watching  the 1931 version of Dracula,  something made 80 years ago, everyone that was involved in the making of that film is gone,
but here you are watching it- just like it was made yesterday! that's just cool.

Even cooler is watching Satyajit Ray's  Pather Panchali in the comfort of my Alabama home, knowing I probality will not visit India in my life time, but by watching this wonderful film, in a small way I just did. that's cool!

Barbara and I at Devil's tower
I think I understand films, and I think I know why I like something, but I’m not a critic, or an academic just a movie fan,  So here is my list;  Of course if I did this list next year it might be totally different that’s why its  self- indulgent.

A scene from D.W. Griffith's Birth of a Nation

When I had originally started this list I had at # 77 Birth of a Nation, but  after going back and forth and watching it again, I decided to remove it from this list
because I just can not get over the horrible racism of the movie,  there is no question that Griffith is a master of storytelling, and that Nation, created  dramatic close up, tracking shots, and maybe most importantly crosscutting and other editing techniques, I don't think its trite to say that modern movie own as much to Griffith as any other film maker. 
BUT- explicit racism through the film I can't overlook. 
Some critics use the umbrella of "during those times" we can not place our values on something created almost 100 years ago, so I lets don't, but how about what some were saying in 1915?
The film was protested by the NAACP, at several major city movie houses the film sparked riots, and more importantly  the criticism at the time was so intense that Griffith, felt the need to respond, which basically the plot of his next movie Intolerance.

If you would like to read more about the release and the protest of Birth of a nation check out;
Thomas Cripps' "Slow fade to black, The Negro in American Film, 1900-1942"  

At # 77 is Buster Keaton's 1928 Steamboat Bill Jr. 
Keaton was as much a revolutionary figure in the early days of cinema as Griffith, his camera placement, scene step ups were cutting edge, and his way of screwing around with masculine and its role as a hero is pretty interesting  Plus  it's just damn funny.
Keaton, who will have a few more films on this list, was a master of the slapstick style of comedy and his aerobatic stunts would've make cirque du soleil very proud. 
 He certainly was admired by some of the worlds great filmmakers, Chuck Jones, Luis Buniuel, Federico Garcia Lorca all claim Keaton as an inspiration

Steamboat Bill Jr. made in 1928 for United Artist( a Charles Chaplin creation) studios maybe Keaton's last great film.  Disputes with his new studio MGM, which Joseph Schenck talked him into joining and Chaplin and Harold Lloyd tried to talk him out of signing with MGM. At MGM Keaton had to fight over every little detail, it was a constant  battle  with studio people.  
Keaton later is quoted as saying:
"In 1928, I made the worst mistake of my career. Against my better judgment I let Joe Schenck talk me into giving up my own studio to make pictures at the booming Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer lot in Culver City. "

Keaton's treatment at MGM is right up there with Orson Welles Hollywood treatment, but  before he went to MGM- Keaton made Steamboat Bill Jr. and it is a classic film and totally Keaton.

The film is available via the web and dvd so check it out, and if you've never seen a Buster Keaton Film you might wont to get some Depends cause you just might need them!  
Its just that funny and amazing  
and watch out for falling houses!  

Monday, April 18, 2011

Slacker # 78 of 101 Great Films

Richard Linklater

Slacker is a true Independent film. And one of the first on the 90's indie movement.
Shot on 16mm, then blown up to 35mm for wider release, this gem was the mastermind of a College drop out who just loved movies, just like the great  Jean-Pierre  Melville  & the sometime great Quentin Tarantino.

Linklater  a resident of Austin, Texas, which  he still calls home and  helps run the Film society that he helped create, made this strange, superb, groovy
plotless film.  That's right totally with out plot and it is amazing!

Slacker is basically 24 hours in the life of the city of Austin.
What it does not have in plot it makes up for with a  hysterical script, with  brisk dialog that flies off the screen. Watching the film you would think it was almost all off the cuff but its not,
its all Linklater and it was all worked out in rehearsals, for a film some have called aimless, it has a tight structured form that Linklater never varied from.

The movie moves thru the streets and characters seamlessly, with close to 90 wired, weird beings moving in and out of focus.                                                            

Linklater, like me, is a  post baby boomer,

We get lumped into boomers-  but we ain’t
We are the vanguard of the Gen X,  a group that somewhat unfairly gets called slackers one reason for this tag, maybe  the several movies that were made with similar themes during the 90s; Clerks, Bottle rocket, Office space and the Coen Brother's The Big Lebowski   

But but the thing I love about this movie it may be about slackers, but it took a group of my brothers and sisters  who were anything but slackers to make this thing!

They had to work their ass off most of the time for nothing but the love of the idea and it paid off
And I’m as proud of this film as if I was a part of it,
and if you like real close I just might be!

Video exhibit for Slacker

Saturday, April 9, 2011

Delicatessen # 79 of 101 Great Films


A Film is at its basic, images and movement; it reaches the senses with sight and sound.

 The Director is the author of a film, their composter of the music, and the conductor of its performance; he must pull the artist and craft folks together with them working as one for a result, that flickers to life on  screen.

 Marc Caro & Jean-Pierre Jeunet  are the composter and conductor of this  wonderful film. A film  full of colors, images, and sounds that are mixed together to create a mesmerizing journey.  

Delicatessen  is a one of a kind flim that mixes genres as well as it mixes the senses.
Domininque Pinon as the handyman, has a the perfect face for this film, where his past life as a clown certainly helps here! The rest of the cast is near perfect with the great Jean Claude Dreyfus as the butcher at the top of his game.

Inserting a pet peeve here:

Most reviewers of this film and films  like Delicatessen  call this a post-apocalyptic society-  

Apocalyptic- "pertaining to the imminent end of the world"
so if it’s the imminent end of the world there cannot be a post imminent end of the world!

Anyway,  Delicatessen is set in a strange future world where food is hard to come by, written by Comic book genius Gillies Adrein, he has created  a strange wonderful world that is beautliful  and gross, that is all fun that really will be a feast for your eyes and ears, but maybe not for your stomach!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Broadcast News # 80 of 101 Great Films

Barbara and I watched the 2010 movie “Morning Glory”, last week.
 In a pivotal screen Rachel  McAdams who plays a young producer of a network  morning show, is arguing with Harrison Ford, who plays  the crusty veteran reporter, the two are fighting over  fluff  versus the news, at the end of the scene,  
and this is the key point to Morning Glory
McAdams’ character turns to Ford and says “we’ve had this argument for 20 years and your side lost”

She’s right the “the brainless fluff  won and we all lost.

James L. Brooks

 James L. Brook  one of the producers’ of the great social commentary tv show  The Simpsons produced, wrote and directed  Broadcast news, a wonderful film about the direction Tv news was heading, and his theme was its heading straight towards Morning Glory's of the world.

 The 1985 film has a stellar cast including Holly Hunter, Albert Brooks, and William Hurt.
The whole cast does an amazing job and Brooks handles them with solid direction, letting them all shine without anyone of them outshining the other.
 Brooks, who doesn’t make enough films, has a keen eye when it comes to creating real characrtors, with a touch of  being touched, but not the over doneness of Woody Allen, just enough that makes the charactors interesting and fun.

Sometimes  Brooks slides into a TV slapstick gimmick,  
and that’s ok, maybe Brooks could be tougher on the world of network news,
 god knows they certainly deserve it,

but I’m not sure its in his nature, Brooks cut his teeth on nice,
Mary Tyler Moore, Room 222, Taxi, Rhoda  and the  Andy Griffith show,        

BUT his main story line hits hard with a satirical punch, and sometimes he serves that up spread on top with a little nice-

In one scene, the nincompoop network manager is telling a veteran reporter that he is being laid off,  the old reporter tells the nincompoop in a smooth calm voice, after the manager ask him if there is anything he can do  for him,
“Well, I certainly hope you’ll die soon.”

I’m afraid they didn’t die soon, and they did win. And that’s the way it is

Thursday, March 31, 2011

the fun is in the debate!

My Better half and me

I love movies!- Oh wait I've already said that, you know what
I am saying it again!!!

I LOVE MOVIES- I stated earlier that I've seen a 1,000 films, so I've been collecting a database of films I've seen and ones to see, at the moment I'm at almost 800 that I have seen, and almost as many that I have not seen- and truthfully many of those I will never want to see. :)

I started this blog,  3 months ago and it's been a blast! I'm having the time of my life, revisiting films and reading about some of my favorite films, actors, and directors.  One thing I have noticed is people love to throw out the word film noir, if a new film is a little edgy or has any type of Detective theme it's a film noir,           aaaaa no it ain't! 

and just because a new film is half way decent doesn't make it an instant classic- I don like instant tea, instant grits, instant coffee and I really don't like an instant movie classics. 

A Bit of trivia- Name the movie, the street in the picture to the right,  is a big part of? 
A hint it's in San Francisco  

I think I understand films but I’m not a critic, or an academic. 
So sometimes I'm full of ....
There really isn't any criteria, except, a film has to be at least 10 years old. I need to think about  and revisit a film  away from its  original time frame, other than that there are no other criteria.
If I started this list next year, it might be a different list, but certainly many of the films would be in a different order, the one thing I am sure of is you all will not agree with me! that's cool- 
the fun is in the debate!
It's already started! I've already received some wonderful emails or comments about why was this film on your list? why was that film so low? or this? or that?
The fun is in the debate and I would love to hear from everyone, so please keep those emails & comments coming!

 I thought for this blog
I would mention 25 films that didn't make my list, but could have- 
these are in no particular order:


                                                 Night on earth, 1991, Jim Jarmusch



The Birds, 1963 directed by Alfred Hitchcock


                                                                                                                            Dumbo, 1941

                                                                                                                  It happened one Night, 1934 directed by Frank Capra           

                                            Choose me, 1984 directed by Alan Rudolph


                                              Eurupa, 1951 Directed by Roberto Rossellini

The Baker's Wife (La femme du boulanger)  1938, directed byMarcel Pagnol


                             The Gold Rush, 1925 Directed by Charles Chaplin

                   Au Hasard Balthazar, 1966 Directed by  Robert Bresson