Year By Year Of My Favorite Flix
And in the beginning of the twenties, that creativity came nicely boxed in the form of a cabinet (or, to keep in tune more with this story, an insane asylum. Cabinet, insane asylum, in the realm of artistic expression, they're all the same).
One of the first movies to start using film to the level of potential that the medium allows.
Surreal, distorted, disturbing, and in my opinion, particularly for it's time, it's was pretty cool as hell.
So to the best of my memory, this is the first silent film that I can recall watching. Now, in the house that I was raised in, I was exposed to alot the Three Stooges episodes. And because of this, when I saw the black & white images of Chaplin's character with his square mustache, trampy clothes & worn curled shoes, engaging in either a cane twirling penguin waddle or in some of his patented crazy cartoon-like stunts, I probably expected this movie to be as empty of any real emotional progress as were the zany tales of the Stooges. But as the movie went on, I was quite surprised not only of the emotional relationship that was developing as the center of this story, but also that the "silence" of the film allowed my young mind to actually understand & appreciate what was going on the screen.
Therefore, this was probably the first time that I got to experience a film that was, as one of the opening titles claims, a "picture with a smile, and perhaps a tear...".
there was this guy.
The first vampire ever to be captured on screen and still is, by far, the creepiest looking bloodsucker of all time.
Oh alright, I know I know...the vampire's name is not Nosferatu, it's Olak. Count Olak, to be exact.
But it"s just that I think that Nosferatu is such a cool demonic sounding name. Like Belathauzer or Astaroth. It makes him sound more like the personage of darkness that he resembles. Olak sounds more like an alien name that you would find on Star Trek. The 60s TV show, not any of the movies
And yes, I also understand that Nosfer....uhmn, I mean Olak was really supposed to be Dracula. The producers couldn't get the rights to Dracula so they changed the capillary count's name to Olak. So that to say this Count came before that Count might be a bit of a slight.
I know all this.
But still, after all the different renditions that have been done of the King of All Vampires, none of 'em have come close to resembling anything like the Nosf, and even more important, none of ' em have come close to looking as blood curdling. Add to that the misty quality and the rusty, monochromatic atmosphere that comes from being such an early piece of cinema, and there can be no doubt that Nosferatu is a life draining, nightmarish force of nocturnal nature all it's own.
But way before that 1996 cartoon adaptation, outside of the literary circle, ol' Quasimodo's claim to fame back in the early days of cinema was primarily due to the thespian efforts of silent film megastar Lon Chaney. Back then, it was the make-up master's portrayal of the lopsided bell ringer that brung Quasi to life for the first time ever on the silver screen,
& thus, the Hunchback became more of a household name.
That is, of course, if the household had like a bell tower or somethin'.
When it comes to the 20's, Buster Keaton is without a doubt one the first names to come up.
After viewing the combination of fantasy dream sequences with the elaborate stunts of physical comedy in Sherlock, Jr., is becomes clear why these theatric traits will always be cemented as the stylistic signature of Buster Keaton.
It's also easy to see why this film is regarded by many as the best the of the year 1924.
IMO, the only thing that could be scarier than seeing the face of the Phantom in real life, would be being forced to actually attend an opera.
One of the first movies that helps to start the lonnng trend in Hollywood of portraying the U.S. Civil War with the Confederates as heroes and the Union as villains.
Which begs the question:
Just what the hell exactly is it that all those flaky movie makers from La-La Land have against those damn Yankees, anyways?
this is the aptly titled one that started it all.
I know that this really isn't a movie,
it's a short. And an animated one, ta boot.
But it's still a significant step in the evolution of moving pictures.
And it provides me an entry into this year of the list (at least until I find another movie from 1928 that I will enjoy enough to fill this spot).
Plus, it is Micky Mouse's first appearance and the beginnings of what would eventually lead to the world dominating power of entertainment that is the all-powerful Disney.
Here's another film that I included on this list simply because it's the only one that I watched for the year of 1929.
And the main reason I decided to view this sucker was b'cuz I was curious about Louise Brooks and what was it that made her not only the biggest female star of the silent era, but also, the fact that her appearance, alonside that of Clara Bow's, was the defining look of the flapper (the female freedom movement of the roaring twenties).
So, as a huge fan of the Marx Brothers, whenever I watch this film, you can be sure that I'll not be munching on the namesake of so-called snacks. I much prefer a big tub of popcorn that has been heavily sprinkled with an entire boxful of Sno-Caps.
And yeah, I know I'm increasing my chances for a coronary,
but if I gotta go early,
then let it be while I'm laughing hard & munching sweetly.
Way back in 1910, Thomas Edison's Edison Studios produced the first film version of Victor Frankenstein's (or in this movie version, his first name is Henry) monster. Sixteen minutes longs, and it featured a monster that appeared more like a long-haired electro-shocked mad-asylum escapee.
Fast forward twenty-one years later, and we have the 1931 classic that features the flat-topped heavy-browed stitchhead which has come to define the creatures appearance more so that what Mary Shelley described in her novel.
And even tho it has become sort of a comical look for modern audiences, back at the time of it's release, Boris Koloff's heavy made-up visage of The Monster was enough to scare the hell out of even hardcore horror aficionados.
Controversial for it's time (and some say, even for today) for it's use of actors with extreme abnormalities, Freaks is just one of a myriad of horror films released during the thirties that has since become a legend and a staple in any true fright flick aficionado's collection.
I will say though, that my favorite scene is when the freaks are menacingly converging upon their victim with the intent of revenge, one member of their brood, the "caterpillar" guy, is crawling towards the victim with a knife in his mouth. How the f#ck he's gonna wield his chosen weapon once he reaches his intended target is never indicated, but it really does get the mind going.
A true classic in the realm of comedy classics, with the Marx Brothers carrying on with their timeless mayhem antics and spouting out timeless lines like "I could dance with you till the cows come home. On second thought, I'd rather dance with the cows till you came home."
For any of you who haven't yet seen this, in my opinion, it is the best of all the Marx movies and I highly recommend that you give it a looksee. And if any of you who do decide to give it a view and it is a first time, then I must say that I envy your position. It will truly be a "gala day" for you. And if you're anything like Groucho, the Marx's head hermano, a gal a day is more than enough for you. You probably couldn't handle any more.
A Cinderella tale told in reverse fashion,
a buddy film,
a road trip movie
and a screwball love story before the genre of romantic comedies got put under the constricting label of "chick flick".
And it all happened one night.
(Actually, this story spans more that over several nights,
so why the producers of this film decided to call it "It Happened One Night", I really don't know...)
Now while he and the Bride give a new meaning to the term "made for each other", for any few of you who've never seen this movie,
I won't spoil it for you by revealing whether or not she accepts his proposal or not.
Lest to say that the fact that the name the follow-up film to this follow-up film is Son Of Frankenstein bears no reflection to the outcome of this movie.
Before there were special effects, CGI graphics and matrix-style action sequences in film, there was human physical talent.
And in the early 1900's, the height of this talent was displayed to movie viewing audiences through the almost impossible stunt routines of Charlie Chaplin.
back then, watching his ability to choreograph and incorporate his crazy stunts into the props and background sets (particularly in this film, with the complicated set designs of the factory) must've been the equivalent of watching a summer blockbuster of today.
To be honest, while I'm not that big of a fan of the Disney formula, I still do enjoying watching Uncle Walt's earliest efforts at creating movie-length animated features.
The manner in which he was able to instill the application of color, the smooth sense of movement and the attention to detail in Snow White, the very first big screen "cartoon flick", exemplifies why he was such a pioneer in the field of animation.
Many of the movies from this period and the '40's are films that are on my lists are movies that I first watched as a kid, and therefore, I tend to like more 'em more for sentimental reasons than because any relevance of their place in the hierarchy of movie history.
The Adventures Of Robin Hood is a good f'rinstance.
Whenever I watch this movie, it always reminds me of those times when I was at that age in which I still believed heroes where chivalrous, suave, gave to the poor, and were so cool, that even if they were always sporting around in a pair of light green tights, they were still able to score with a really hot maiden.
What does Dorothy do when she finds out that she and Toto are not in Kansas anymore?
Following the yellow brick road, she goes off to see the wizard in a pair of ruby slippers, along with three of the most famous McGuffins in film history.
The moral of this story:
no matter where you find yourself, even if it's got a Lollypop Guild, an emerald city, or an army made up of flying monkeys,
there's still no place like home.
And while there have been many werewolves depicted on the silver screen over the years, this Wolf Man, made famous by the son of a thousand faces, will always be, in my eyes, the true face of the wolf that walks like a man.
Because of all the gin joints in all the towns in all the world, she walks into mine.
So, play it again Sam,
cuz here's looking at you, kid.
What else can I say other than, when it comes to famous movies quotes, particularly of the romantic genre, this is the classic of all classics (and in case you haven't noticed yet, the 1940's is a decade filled with seminal classics).
And if you agree with me,
this could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
But, as far as I'm concerned,
Hell can wait even longer.
Then there was The Bride Of Frankenstein.
Which naturally led to The Son Of Frankenstein.
Followed by this flick, the House Of Frankenstein.
Based on the titles of these movies, looks like ol' Frankie did a good job of following the formula that would constitute the American Dream.
Not too bad for a guy made outta spare parts.
Actually, truthfully speaking, while I'm a big fan of Universal's Frankenstein franchise, this is the first of the sequels where the decline in quality begins. A big sign of Hollywood's slacking off on the series can be seen on the make-up job of the monster's head and face. The attention to detail of stitches and scarring is barely evident and comes off much less gruesome, not to mention, not as fearsome as the movies that precede this one.
Therefore, if I get around to watching other films from this year, it's pretty likely that this entry will change.
combined with a Dali-esque dream sequence by the painter who mastered that particular genre in the world of art.
Yet, the characters' personalities and their dialogue towards each other as they try to embitterly mask the feelings of love and longing that they must fight thru in order to complete their respective missions, reveals that this is an atypical film (for it's time, at least) with a feeling of cold cinematic bite that can only be the signature of Alfred Hitchcock. Add to the fact, that Cary Grant, usually a more of a comedic lead with skills of perfect timing, is able to pull through this serious, and uncharacteristically, bitter role with a result that leads the viewer to sincerely sympathize with his character just because we know that deep down inside, there is some good within him.
When it comes to racism in Hollywood, it seems that the best course of action to hide it with a gentlemen's agreement.
Which, for those of you who haven't seen this classic flick, pretty much explains the title here.
And being that racism was even an more delicate issue for the cinema of the 40's as it is now. Therefore, the theme of bigotry in this particular agreement was centered more on the aspect anti-semitism than on a more generally spread racism like that is based more tightly on skin-color or language.
Either way, G.A. was a pivotal early step on addressing the whole idea discrimination towards anyone outside of the W.A.S.P.'s nest.
And yet, it is still one of those classics that is so widely considered as a recommendable mustsee for young filmmakers looking to leave a distinct mark. Which makes it a prime example of why ol' Hitchy is the name that you will notice tends to dominate the 40's era of personal cinema faves.
If you notice that there's a lack of old skool westerns on this list, there's a reason for that.
It's not because I have anything against any of the early B&W gunslingers or any of the John Wayne classics. It's just that it's been such a long time since I watched any of them, that I can barely remember which ones, let alone how any of 'em would rank on my list.
One of the few that I have watched recently is Yellow Ribbon, and that's why it's one of the few cowboy flix that managed to make a mark on this list.
As time goes on, and I familiarize myself with those early shoot-em-ups, hopefully, I'll be able to update this list by including more of the western classics.
Even though there were films that came before this one that touched on the not-so-glitzy side to stardom, SB features a story that fearlessly dives headfirst into the subject matter. It glaringly shows how anyone who deeply immerses themselves into the lifestyle of the "Eat-'em-up/spit-'em-out" attitude of the movie world can eventually find their mental state on a road that leads into distorted version of "La-La Land". Thus concluding that, even on a swanky street like Sunset Boulevard, can be found the face of a far flung faded star whose disillusionary dreams will never truly make them ready for their close-up.
However, after confronting a series of obstacles during their quest, they begin the process of developing a relationship, which soon, allows the old romance adage of opposites attracting, to start to take affect. Eventually, the two people from two different worlds end up coming together, first for a common cause, and then for each other.
A simple tale of suspense building tension, as a newly wed marshal must make a decision between a new life by flying the Coop, or staying and standing as a "lone star" until the strike of twelve, in a town that has turned its back against him.
Personally, for me, High Noon is one of those films that falls under the category of being based more on sentimental value than anything else As a kid, I was never really much of a fan of western shoot 'em ups, especially those that were made before I was born. But the way the story in this one kept me glued to the screen, to see how it would all pan out, made Noon probably the first black and white cowboy flick that I really enjoyed.
Therefore, as a result, I find that, even with it's well-written script, direction, supporting cast and chemistry,
at least 80% of the success of this movie's depiction of romance still belongs to Hepburn's presence alone.
It's a story of the Old East, which coincidentally enough, runs themes which will eventually become staples in movies dealing with the Old West.
Here, the heroes are truly heroes, but each is shown as a distinctive individual, with human traits and flaws that allow for the empty space to be felt whenever a warrior falls. Particularly, when a warrior falls in a battle that, in the end, can never truly be won.
When one takes into account how this little movie with it's simple premise ended up becoming such a big movie, then it only makes sense that it's story, both written and historical, came out right smack dab in the middle of what is generally considered the "Decade of Prosperiety". It was a time when anyone, no matter what their situation or circumstance in life, could believe that they had a spot in the American Dream. Just like Marty Piletti, an average joe working at a butcher shop, who meets an average jane, a school teacher, and after the two bond after an "average" date, realize that that they too have a chance of living the Dream.
And rarely does the black and white look of the time capture this cultural sub-genre fear of the unknown and magnify it so that even today, Invasion makes the viewer feel the sparseness of trust that was running amok during this era of red scares and McCarthyisms.
At the time, this movie made you look at your neighbor with a questioning look of " Are you my friend, a Pinko or a pod?"
12 Angry Men is such a good courtroom drama, that for me, it simply blows the majority of every other film in this genre out of the water (okay, technically this isn't really a "courtroom" drama because the entire film happens in the jury-room. But let's face it, the plot's purpose is one that leads into the most important part of the courtroom process, the verdict).
The combination of a tight script with a solid ensemble cast (oh, and lets not forget a big screen directorial debut for Sidney Lumet) make for a tense, compelling movie that even though it keeps 99% it's entire length within one room, a viewer can't help but to be spellbound.
After that, our class was assigned to watch Cat On A Hot Tin Roof. Since this was yet another film that was based on yet another classic stage play, I was prepared for yet another torturous viewing of over-dramatic "thespian theatrics".
Yet, once the young and illustrious Liz Taylor walked onto the screen, I was mesmerized. Until CoaHTR, I had almost forgotten what a ravishing beauty she was back when she was in her prime.
It was enough to make me revisit the film later, and eventually, enjoy the overall quality of the movie, despite the fact that much of the play's original themes have been revised to the point that would make the back-hair of most Tennessee Williams purists defensively stand on end.
Being a movie from the late 50's, with it's screwball comedy centering on the now-over-used theme of cross dressing men, you'd think that Some Like It Hot would've gone cold by now.
And yet, in large part due to Billy Wilder's sharp-edged yet still slapstick script, it hasn't.
And let's not forget that adding fuel to fire, as always, is Marilyn Monroe. Even through modern eyes, the way she seems to always melt perfectly into her dress throughout the entire film is still an important contribution to the movie's enduring high heat factor.
A story of how the propietor of a once prospering small business was now struggling against the new roads of change of commercial developement and that the foundation of his family life had deteoriated a long time ago in the basement of his home seems like the perfect analogical fit of what was about to transpire in American society. Scary stuff that would be accentuated by an ending shot of Norman Bates looking at the viewer with one of the creepiest smiles ever caught on film. A haunting image that required no heavt make-up effects or a mask, and was reflective of a trait that the character inherently got from his mother.
Heck, just thinkin' about 'em now has reminded me that McDonald's has started serving their breakfast menu all day long. Which is sorta pushin' me in the direction of cutting the decription of this entry short, jump in my car, and take a quick trip over to their drive-thru window.....
There are only two words that can properly describe this film.
Even if you have never seen this movie, the reputation that proceeds it is so sweeping, that, as soon as anyone hears the words "Lawrence of Arabia", they instantly know that this is probably the one movie that exists in all of filmdom that can completely epitomize the definition of that term.
In basic terms, it is the sweeping epic of all sweeping epics.
And when one takes into account the amount of sand featured in this epic,
that's a lot of sweeping.
The Great Escape is well known for being a fictionalized version of an event that actually occurred when a group of British prisoners of war attempted to escape from a German "stalag luft" during te second World War.
When you look at many of the war films of this decade it seems like having an all star cast of the most popular actors of the day was the formula that was most commonly used to sell this kind of cinema.
As a big fan of the prison escapes genre, and I gotta say, this is one easily of my faves.
Topping the ensemble cast, Steve McQueen, James Garner and Richard Attenborough would have been enough charisma to fuel this "epic war suspense adventure film" on their own. But when you add in the likes of Charles Bronson, James Colburn, Donald Pleasance, and Gordon Jackson, and combine them with a plot full of ingenuity and unbreakable spirits behind barb wire fenced barriers, it's no wonder that, despite being a war movie, the escape is not only fun to watch and the resourcefulness of the plan a thrill to unravel, but in the end, it's just simply great.
I first watched it when I was very young, so it was no surprise that's it's intention was completely lost on me. However, as I grew older, and began to appreciate things such as Peter Sellers multi-talented, comedic style of acting (particularlly when it comes to black satire), and Stanley Kubrick's layered, distinct sense of direction and production, it occurred to me one day that, as an adult, when it comes to politically satired black comedies....
.... I truly loves me some Bomb.
This follow-up to the first Dollars movie is has become yet another staple to the genre, and is an excellent example of demonstrating that, when it comes to starring in Westerns, Clint Eastwood has begun to develop a taste for cowboy chronicles with a more Oriental flavor, but piled high with spaghetti and meatballs.
Although he had already starred in other films centered on the Ol' West, this is the series that made Eastwood a name synonymous in the genre.
From here on end, even tho not all of Clint's westerns were great, IMO, none of 'em were bad. The roughly cut visage of his face in a Stetson hat and a poncho was one of those iconic images that for me, personally, will always be a fundamental part of the spaghetti western, moreso than other contemporaries such as Bronson or Van Cleef.
At the outset of the first western movies, the cowboy characters had been categorized between two basic types: Those who wore the white hats, and those who wore the black ones.
As time passed though, the hat colors began to blur between who was good, who was bad, and then to eventually who was just plain ugly.
This is the final film in the "Man With No Name" trilogy, and IMO, its the best and most definitive one of the three.
Although several iconic figures have emerged from the dust and grit of the spaghetti westerns that emerged in the 60's, the truth is, it's almost impossible to envision the entire genre, let alone this particular series and not see the image of the iconic trio of Clint Eastwood, Lee Van Cleef and Eli Wallach.
As anyone who knows me can tell you, I'm a big fan of the Italian slant to the cowboy culture. Which becomes evident by the fact that there are a couple listed in this lists by by year. And even tho the spaghetti western isn't as a prominent presence in movie theaters today as they were during the 60's and early 70's, their influence can still be felt in the many works of cinema today, even beyond the boundaries of the Ol' West.
Having the story set in the early 50's, the Cool Hand in question is a war hero of the then recent WW2, struggling to exist during a time that was supposed to be the Golden Age of wealth and growth for the America and it's citizens. After being sentenced for a minor crime, his treatment behind the rusty, aged and sweat soaked bars of a southern prison in which any act against the rigidly enforced rules, even by someone who fought for the American Way, will not be tolerated in the slightest. Analogically layered, one on top of the other, it adds up into some of the most anti-establishment metaphors you could expect from an anti-establishment movie.
And if anyone out there doesn't agree with my assessment of CHL or can't see the underlying themes that I mentioned are in this incarcerated classic, well then, as over-obvious as it may be to point this out, it could be that what we have here is a failure to communicate.
While this movie can be used to exemplify just how far Hollywood has come in terms of the science fiction genre, starting with the very first film, A Trip To The Moon, which was made at the offset of the 20th Century, up until the making of 2001, it is also is an excellent example of the just much the attentions of the movie going audience has spanned since then. While a phenomenom back during it's initial release, this Kubrick Klassic can prove to be quite the challenge for any so-called cinephile of today.
One of the very first incredibly realistic portrayals of a science fiction story, during a time when the focus was more on the fiction than on the science. Practically equipped with great futuristic yet believable visuals back when this stuff was incredibly difficult to create (especially since it was done without the help of computers), this odyssey through space also carries a suspense thriller plot-line that is masterfully navigated through scenes full of methodically and sometimes, almost quietly delivered vastness and spacial time. Spectacle backdrops, which, when personally allowed to be absorbed, will take a disciplined viewer on a quite the trip.
Plus, if you're not on high whilst watching this film, by the time you get to the ending, believe me, you will you feel as though you are.
The direction, screenplay, music and just over-all tone was really different for the period that this movie initially came out in, and for me, makes it a really unique western that is both lotsa of fun and tragic at the same time.
When it comes to the "modern" westerns, not only is Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid one of my favorites ever, but as a kid who really wasn't into the whole cowboy genre, it was the one that first showed me that there were a few westerns out there that went beyond what was usually expected from the same ol' boring standard shoot 'em ups.