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Missing from the list are "Circus" (1956) and "Life Lessons" (1989), which don't have their own pages on IMDb.
I have started an interactive blog through which I attempt to list the most meaningful movies of all time, from the very beginning of motion picture history. Check it out and feel free to get involved at: www.themoviecanon.blogspot.com
Great actors in a tragic mess
I began watching this for the epic Evan Rachel Wood. I found a good performance, another good performance by the male lead, and I found an epic miscommunication between script and direction. It couldn't make its mind up whether to be a heartwarming story, a humorous romp, or an intense psychological drama/romance. It did not juggle all of these facets, but rather dropped each and every one. I kept hoping it would get off the ground, get untangled, but it didn't up to the 2/3rds mark when I stopped watching. So bad I even began wondering if Evan Rachel Wood is as talented as I thought or if she has a bogus agent or if someone dropped out of the project last minute and Wood was stuck and stayed out of a sense of obligation. Yikes! Not what I'd want my audience to be thinking about during my movie.
12 Years a Slave (2013)
A Masterpiece of Human Horror Tragically Edited as a Horror Flick
Had the potential for eternal glory in cinema history, but the soundtrack, and the editing were off that badly. Luckily, if you're a person who can appreciate a stellar screenplay, directing, acting, and cinematography without paying attention to the afore-mentioned fumbled aspects, then you will love this movie.
Yes, it's horrific how the character's life changes and how if we put ourselves into the character's shoes, we realize this just may be the worst possible fear for anyone in his or her right mind. Unfortunately, just as I started to feel that, I got rattled by the strangely cutting in and out of the soundtrack and random objects flashing large against the screen. The lasting impact is that the mood was fumbled: Instead of taking horrific to mean the horror of realizing that we, as a species, hold that kind of sadistic torture in our souls, the direction shifts manically between the direction of a campy slasher movie, an experimental Bruce Connor kind of movie, and a pretty good cover of "The Passion of the Christ". Come to think of it, there may have been this kind of mix of editing styles in "Shame", but for some reason, it fit more smoothly there, possibly because the latter movie was more psychologically-rooted, whereas this movie is more situationally- and historically- rooted. So, the flashiness only takes us out of the feel. It's as if in the editing room, there was an argument about whether to try to capitalize on the hidden little art crowd or the larger shock- and-thrill audience, and they tried to capture both rather than trying to stay true to the movie's potentially independent spirit. Sad, but here's hoping for a new edit!!!!
Party Girl (1995)
I disagree. I think it's great fun AND a quality piece of cinema!
Strange, avant-garde, campy, AND feel-good. This movie walks a delicate line. Parker Posey is phenomenal, but so is the writing and directing which crams every moment and every character with witty humor. It's a cool, sly type of humor, for example: a librarian yells out "I've already got you on the list for the new Danielle Steele." Then we see that she's talking to a young black man who gives a confused look. Young black males are not Danielle Steele's targeted demographic, so is this a unique man who is embarrassed by being outed as a Steele fan or has the librarian confused him with someone else. That moment causes us to question our stereotypes and gives us a laugh at the same time. But that is one miniscule joke in a movie that has thousands of such bits. It's thoughtful, intelligent and a bit emotional when it comes to the main character's search for herself and her full potential. Bravo!
Hadaka no shima (1960)
Stellar status most of the way through, fumbled and lost because of plot
Pure. Thick and heavy. It's like going through a gallery of paintings where every piece is a timeless treasure. It's as pure a movie as can be found. It's got its own style, it makes its own rules. There is no dialogue, no sound of human voice other than when the family goes to town. And just when you feel like you can't take anymore of this life, the movie slaps you in your face and you simply understand: this isn't make-believe, it's real life, and if you are busy being bored, you're simply wasting precious time when there's work to be done. The work for us is to enjoy all the beautiful angles, the daring framing which somehow often cuts off part of the image but by virtue of that cutting-off keeps the realness perfectly intact. The editing alone is a masterpiece, cutting just as the characters and setting reach a sublime visual harmony, and returning with a new set up full of many little details fluttering and seeking balance all over again. This movie defines what visual story-telling is and forever should be, because it almost never gets bogged down in drama, it ebbs and flows in synch with the nature around it. Plus, the talent of the actors is beyond belief, most definitely owing much to the direction.
The problem comes in the last quarter of the movie's duration. After teaching us not to be sentimental, the movie then takes us through what would be a tragedy for us in most other movies, but here we don't exactly know how to feel. The movie up to this point taught us to detach from emotion, so we kind of just want to get back to work and we don't see the sense in wallowing in misery. And so when one of the characters displays a desire to wallow in misery, we don't have any connection. That is the downside to not getting to know any of the characters' individuality. We have never heard their voices, never understood their dreams or frustrations. Because of this, the movie's miraculous shots, though technically good, become devoid of cinematic beauty because their context is muddled. The audience slips out of the spell that for more than hour seemed impossible to break. A+ for Ambition though.
Desire Me (1947)
Gorgeous photography, slick editing and a gripping look at relationships and moving on
Its structure is intense. The way it's edited kept me always on the tip of my toes. I was biting my nails through half of it, and feeling a nervous guilt in the pit of my stomach through the other half. This movie has it all, from one of the best escape scenes ever, to a whole spectrum of emotional truths. I found myself switching my opinions many times about the characters and what actions they should take. All the way through the ending, I was proud for the people who lent their efforts to make this movie. The acting and cinematography are unbeatable. I repeat, unbeatable! It might not be air-tight in plot details, but it gets a certain sense of cinematic perfection across that can also be found in other 1947 movies like "Out of the Past" and "Black Narcissus". I love those movies just as much as this one, if not more, so it's a little baffling how hard people are ragging on it.
It seems like the making of the movie was beset by hardship, and left a bad taste in the mouth of a lot of the cast and crew, but I see no reason that it should leave a bad taste in our mouths. It's just too gorgeous a movie to forget about. And any hardship and injury that came of it only makes the cinematic achievement that much more astounding. But ultimately, this movie's greatest achievement is that it surprisingly exudes a maturity that is more common in movies made closer to the present, for example, Mike Leigh's morality-play movies "Vera Drake" (2004) and "Another Year" (2010). It's time "Desire Me" had a re-evaluation, if you ask me.
Like a music video on LSD
This is a movie by the same guy who gave us the analog computer credits to Hitchcock's Vertigo.
But this time, he makes a whole movie around Indian drummer Balachander's amazing seven minute solo. The images move and sparkle in ways that never get boring. There may be a few points where contemporary viewers will wonder whether this is as pointless as watching a screensaver. What kept me watching was the early date (predates screensavers), the killer soundtrack, and the fact that it was all human-generated (in other words, Whitney decidedly orchestrated the images). Seems to go well with the early abstract movies like Ruttmann's "Opus" as well as the credit sequence of Gaspar Noe's "Enter the Void". Must be seen on as big a screen as possible, in as dark a room as possible, and with the sound cranked high. Goes well with the "Pink Elephants" sequence in "Dumbo".
At Land (1944)
I'm so happy to live in a world with this movie!
Maya Deren certainly does capture her dreams. Even through a silent soundtrack, she creates a gripping linear story line out of symbols, scattered situations, and moods. Through it all, she displays a sensuous love for cinematography by eliminating all but one dischordant splice. It flows together as an answer to all the movie-lovers who wished movies would cut between shots with a little more flow. Not to mention, that she's a fricking lovely actress! To me, it's even more accomplished than her "Meshes of the Afternoon" from the year before, since it's less frenzied, and takes its time to build a mood that draws the viewer in and ends up accelerating with unexpected twists.
Plot-less, camera fun by the mistress of cinema
The movie is a feast for the eyes, we stroll through a French town from the perspective of a pregnant woman. It would be interesting to know whether Agnes Varda, the director, was herself pregnant during the shooting or editing of this movie. The images flow in groups of different types, for example, there are set of images organized by the shape of the images, there are sets organized by similar movement, there are sets organized by meaning. It is all very hypnotic. There is also a surprising amount of nudity for the year of its production. As far as my experience goes, it has more nudity than any movie before it and any movie after it until 1966's "I am Curious-Yellow". This movie reminds me of the experiments made during the early days of the movie camera and also the early avant-garde movies of France and Russia. It's well done, but it doesn't offer much beyond what those earlier movies achieved.
Also the original soundtrack is a unique and interesting counterpoint.
Artists had a bleak cycle of hatred/idolatry/disregard to face in 1950s USA
The coolest thing about "Pollock" is that it doesn't glorify him. After it was over, I felt as if I had actually gotten a grasp of the person, as opposed to the way I feel after most movies, that I've been watching a movie made by fans, or by enemies, or by fans that are trying very hard to put their idolatry on hold. But with the tantrums, the sober, unflinching tone, the cold hollow stare Ed Harris gives, the devotion of the Lee Krasner character, and the ending drunken crash, I got the feeling that the cast and crew weren't out to make the case that Pollock was a better more graceful human being, but rather to show the almost impossible personal and professional challenges involved in the life of an artist, the demands for an artist to be completely exposed to the world, personally and professionally, and, all simply for a fleeting bit of fame. Pollock was far from being a graceful, mature human being, but he had the temperament and situation to embody the role of one of the best painters in the world, and thus by looking at his life, we can see what artists in the United States during the 1950s had to look forward to, and it was not a very rewarding lifestyle. The problem seems to be three-fold: the level of fame of a few select artists, the lack of support for artists who struggle, and the stranglehold that privatization has over those few artists that happen to break through. It ends up being a document to compare with our present situation, and because of the lack of progress, and perhaps even worsening of conditions, the movie serves as an impassioned plea to society to re-evaluate its treatment of artists.
Man on Wire (2008)
This movie, though imperfect, ruined me for "Jackass"!
This movie ruined me for "Jackass"! Of course the subject is the reason this movie is so gripping. The directing/editing team does an admirable job splicing together archival footage, interviews and re-enactments, but ultimately it is a lop-sided movie, because as much care that went into explaining the events in the first three quarters, the resolution is all lost as a result of there being not much explanation at all at the end. Yes, we get to see the set up from before the towers are even built, we hear multiple perspectives on every step, but when it comes to the aftermath of the attempt, we are given what feels like a rushed, impressionistic style and little to no information. Also, the emotional impact of scenes seems to connect in spite of and not because of the zig-zagging narrative, which makes me feel that it could have been more gripping if it were presented in chronological order. In short, I'm happy I saw it, because it elevated pranks and stunts to an art-form for me. It was only the movie's film-making style that I felt was not completely at the same level as its content. Ambitious project, at any rate.