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26th Hall of Fame

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@Citizen Rules - I'd never seen your nomination, Sweet Smell of Success, before - and it really blew me away. In fact, it's made the voting for this Hall of Fame that much harder as far as I'm concerned.
That makes my day! If just one person sees a nom of mine for the first time and ends up loving it, then I'm a happy camper...BTW that was one good read of a review! I enjoyed it and not just because it's my nom.



Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough
I rewatched The Wizard of Oz. It might be a few days until I write something up, and it might be a double write-up with Sweet Smell of Success lined up to be rewatched soon too.



Will be returning to this as soon as I'm on vacation. Sorry for slack a lacking.



All the President's Men



I won't have a lot to say about this but that doesn't mean that I didn't enjoy it. Journalism and investigation movies are just my jam. This was headlined by a fantastic screenplay and it was wonderfully casted. Specifically obviously the two leads, Robert Redford and Dustin Hoffman, who both gave great performances and they are proving to strengthen their case with me as very underrated actors. The dialogue is great and I never lost interest, even if I had to watch this in the most segmented way possible due to life getting in the way. A real good one that I'll have to see again.

-



Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough
The Wizard of Oz



I think The Wizard of Oz is probably a five-star movie, yet I don't feel the need to shout it from the rooftops. It's not like I'd be introducing this film to anyone. We've all seen it already. It's a classic, deservingly so. It's the most the creative way to utilize film sets. They all looked good, even though you can clearly tell it's a set. Where most of the time being Hollywood is a bad thing, this is the rare example of being Hollywood not being a bad thing. Hollywood helped create the magic this time around instead killing it.



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
Fully agree, JJ
__________________
What to do if you find yourself stuck with no hope of rescue:
Consider yourself lucky that life has been good to you so far. Alternatively, if life hasn't been good to you so far, which given your present circumstances seems more likely, consider yourself lucky that it won't be troubling you much longer.



Sweet Smell of Success



This was my second watch, and I think I feel about the same as the first watch. It's a very well written film with a real solid script. All of the pieces are in place and the casting was perfect. Tony Curtis was made for this lead role and Burt Lancaster did a good job as well. Pretty decent sleeper role for Susan Harrison too. The ending was very good and it brought the whole film together, easily my favorite scene there. Would have been nice to have even more noirish vibes added to it, my only minor complaint. But it's a real good one.




Festen



A little bit of a 180 degree turn on a rewatch here. This time I liked the tension and surprise of the film a lot. I like how out of the blue Christian's speech is and I love how we have no idea why he at first wasn't invited. The pacing on the film is pretty good too. I still think the characters could have a bit more to them to spice the movie up even more. But the chaos in the movie was more entertaining to see unfold this time around. It was a pretty pleasant surprise this go around if I'm honest. Strange because I really seemed to hate it last time.

+



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
I seem to be on a roll with my secondary watches syncing up to my original feelings on this, my third rewatch in this HoF. My enjoyment and feeling that while Toto IS the technical lead, it truly is, for me, the citizens of the town that take a wondrous precedent. So. . .




Cinema Paradiso

For me, this was a delightful love letter to the joy of the movie theater and all that occurs when we get together as a crowd to enjoy any given movie. As expressed by the citizens of this small town and how enamored they are with the local movie house.
From its beginnings with the local priest censoring films (any time anyone kissed) to the fire and rebuilding to the end of the film and the funeral of its original projectionist, Alfredo. Along with its own demolition. Signifying a sad change of how the collective enjoyment of such things is very much becoming the past.
Even though we follow Toto as a child and teenager and finally as a middle-aged man, it is still the citizens of the town and their involvement in the nightly viewing of so many different movies and all that transpires within, and at times, without the movie house that kept me so very much involved.
And yes, that finale as Salvatore (Toto) watches the film that Alfredo left for him was just all kinds of beautiful.
Another gem found (AND revisited) only through my participation in HoFs. YAY



Sweet Smell of Success (1957) -


Film noirs usually don't dip into favorite territory for me and this film wasn't an exception to that, but I do enjoy it quite a bit and it held up well when I rewatched it.

Interestingly enough though, it barely qualifies as a noir. Noir isn't an easily defined genre and a number of definitions of the term exist, but an integral plot point which remains consistent throughout the genre is that the film in question needs to involve a clear and identifiable crime. While some of the characters in this film have corrupt morals, they operate within the law throughout much of the film and a major crime isn't introduced until about an hour or so in. It's in this way, by refusing to define a major crime till the final act, that Sweet Smell of Success redefines the rules of the genre.

I think noirs are reliant on the quality of their dialogue more than all other genres and Sweet Smell of Success doesn't disappoint on that front. In terms of classic noirs, it doesn't quite have my favorite dialogue (I'd give that designation to Out of the Past), but it still comes with plenty to enjoy. The script is packed with a handful of well-placed and biting remarks which add stakes to the less dramatic moments in the first couple acts, ensuring that you remain engaged all throughout the film. I appreciated the dialogue when I first watched this film and I found more to like about the script with my second viewing.

Tony Curtis does a great job as Sidney Falco, a press agent determined to break apart the romance between Steve and Susan. He's willing to do anything to accomplish the task, including spreading lies about Steve and betraying his friends. Burt Lancaster does a similarly great job as J.J. Hunsecker, a major media kingpin who's unscrupulous, vindictive, and just as bad as Falco, if not worse. Steve and Susan act as contrasts to the two of them as they're both good people, albeit powerless against them. The conflict amongst the four of them resides on a fairly low stakes level of intensity in the first couple acts before spiraling out of control in the final act. By way of the complex characters and the aforementioned dialogue, I think the film attempts to add stakes to the first couple acts, but this choice didn't always work for me. Pretending that the first couple acts had higher stakes than they actually did was (occasionally) disconcerting. This blend eventually came together though in the final act.

Overall, I'm glad I got to rewatch this film as my memory of it from a few years ago was pretty poor. Again, I wouldn't say this film dips into favorite territory for me, but I did enjoy it quite a bit and I can see myself watching it again down the road.

Next Up: Tower





Sedmikrásky (Daisies) - 1966

Directed by Věra Chytilová

Written by Věra Chytilová, Pavel Juráček
& Ester Krumbachová

Starring Ivana Karbanová & Jitka Cerhová

I find it hard to rate, or even fully define, abstract art. It exists almost in a binary world for me, where it either means something or it doesn't. If it didn't exist in this manner, then everything would be abstract art - from the mess a dog makes to the slime left behind after a snail has travelled past. It's either art or it isn't. The rest is just a matter of how personally enjoyable viewing a work of art is - which doesn't necessarily reflect how good it is. It's with this in mind that I approach Věra Chytilová's most well known film : Daisies (Sedmikrásky). This is a film with no narrative or plot in any sense of the word, and is instead a series of vignettes featuring a couple of Czechoslovakian ladies, both of whom are named Marie. These vignettes usually take on two kinds of form - there is one which involves them being seduced in various manners by men of all ages (then rejecting them,) and the other, which involves them playfully creating a mess with various means at their disposal. It is up to us to try and decipher what any of it means.

I feel encouraged and glad that Chytilová had a career that involved her passion : making films - something she loved - and that she was appreciated, no matter how unconventional and outside the mainstream her films were. She had to deal with Soviet oppression and general hostility for much of her time as a filmmaker, but stuck to it, fighting away when government officials would either curtail her funds or ban her films outright. I watched an early Short from her, called Ceiling (or Strop), for some perspective, and it is as challenging as Daisies to watch and decipher. It also tends towards feminist themes, which is the one thing from Daisies we really take away with any certainty. The men trying to seduce our ladies are usually age-inappropriate for them, and they usually act in a transactional manner, expecting them to give themselves away after being bought a meal. They show little regard for the two Maries as far as their personality or feelings are concerned - although deciphering their personality would admittedly be a challenge. Marie 1 and Marie 2 speak in a cryptic manner, and their behaviour is no less bizarre or scrutable.

It was filmed by none other than Jaroslav Kucera, Věra Chytilová's husband and frequent collaborator, and the production design submits us to a wild series of segues, visual techniques, uses of colour and editing which mixes in with what particular phase the film is in. During one segment, where the Maries are cutting up nearly everything that surrounds them, they end up cutting reality itself which tries to reassemble itself into a jigsaw stop-motion animated style of film. In the meantime we switch from black and white to coloured filters to full colour photography depending on what is happening. In lieu of a story, I tended to grab on to any little flourish to admire and appreciate. That's not to mention (and with respect to this being a feminist tract I am so sorry for this) that the girls are quite good looking, and therefore I find it easy to watch them do anything. The sounds they made, and the sounds the film makes in general - including it's musical flourishes, have a great range and seem to have kept the foley artists pretty busy matching action and sound with a keen inventiveness. Altogether it's a bit of a jumble, albeit an interesting one.

So, if I just go from what I watched, what does it all mean? I take a lot away from the film's opening lines, where the girls lament that everything in the world has seemingly been spoiled, and as a result they decide to be spoiled themselves. I'm assuming spoiled means ruined, and this opening verbiage is backed up by the footage shown during the credits of war and destruction. The Maries are not acting in a generally natural way, and their behaviour is a direct way of expressing their displeasure at the state of everything in today's world. Considering that much of the film focuses on the different roles of gender, and seduction, this is part of what the girls find mangled and wrecked in the world. The girls' behaviour is particularly destructive - so it's a vindictive destructiveness due to the roles that are being enforced upon them by society. This is what we can expect, I think, Věra Chytilová is saying. Force society and women into acting this way and the repercussions will be destructive. In the end the girls are forced to reckon with an orgy of destruction that only ends with their own obliteration - so in the end we don't end up with a particularly optimistic view from her at this stage of her life. Growing up and living in Soviet era Czechoslovakia, I can hardly blame her.

Apart from what I hopelessly deduced in my amateurish manner, the characters on screen do philosophize directly with each other, but in a cryptic and nonsensical way. They ponder what death and existence means, but their childish manner alienates some people in the audience I expect. Their rebelliousness can be mistaken for infantile provocation and even outright stupidity. Their attempts to disrupt nightclub acts give rise to the kind of disdain that those in power felt towards the film as a whole, and they vented their displeasure towards the wastage of food in the film in particular - which seems to me to be as silly as what the girls get up to in the film. A real case of art imitating life imitating art. I doubt anyone who watches it will take it as a literal provocation, or a suggestion that people behave exactly like the two girls do. Its almost as if those in charge hesitated to simply state that they didn't like the film because it was silly. They had to invent official reasons to not like it, by stating that food should not be seen to be wasted, and that the film was alleged to "have nothing in common with our Republic, socialism, and the ideals of Communism". The real difficultly for them was that to explain why you don't like the film you have to explain what it's about, and to explain what it's about you have to have figured out what it really means by delving into all it's artistic translations and possibilities. If something can be interpreted in too many ways, it's bound to upset everyone by the time all possible meanings have been accounted for.

So, in the end how much did I enjoy Daisies? I actually went to see some short films created by Yoko Ono once, so I have a definite benchmark on the negative scale. The person who introduced Yoko's films predicted that at least around 90% of the audience will have walked out by the time the second film really got going - and I scoffed, confident that I'd be curious and stay. But indeed, by the time the first film was ending I found myself leaving - provoked by her insistence on boring and maddening me. I love Eraserhead, but although it's somewhat abstract it does have a coherent storyline. Daisies was interesting, but also trying at times. It's probably much more fun to discuss and interpret than sit and watch, and sometimes I get the feeling there's a bit of improvisation going on that doesn't perfectly fit into what's meant to be communicated during it. It reminds me a little of those pretentious film-clips and artistic offerings that play along the walls of nightclubs - ones that you catch while you're drunk and think to yourself that you're really part of the avant-garde now just because you're watching it. My favourite thing about Daisies is that it's introduced me to Věra Chytilová and the Czechoslovakian New Wave.

I don't think I know of a single person I'd recommend this film to, but I'm glad I've seen it and I don't find it too disagreeable. It sits in a category where I don't really have much to compare it to, other than Yoko Ono's travesties and 1996 Czechoslovakian film Conspirators of Pleasure (Spiklenci slasti) which I hate - but which maybe I should look at again in a different frame of mind. Does it really matter? Do I really exist? I'm really happy. But it doesn't matter! This review is dedicated to all those whose sole source of indignation is a trampled-on art-film.

__________________
My movie ratings often go up or down a point or two after more reflection, research and rewatches.

Latest Review : Ad Astra (2019)



Life as a shorty shouldn't be so rough



Sorta spoilery stuff ahead


Sweet Smell of Success

This is the second time I've seen SSoS now, but for some reason, I remembered the ending being different. My terrible memory had me thinking that Susan actually took the dive off the balcony. I remembered that everybody except the two lovers being pretty much evil and in it only for themselves and trying to make the world bend to their whims. I like that part of it a lot, it's a great look at what must be real people somewhere in the real world. I know that the dialogue in this film is generally well received, but this time around I wasn't all that into it. It's a bit hit and miss for me. I think that has more to do with my own tastes changing, or maybe this type of dialogue doesn't work with me now because I just expect people to be vulgar and uncreative with their insults. The dialogue does make this film stand out from other films, I prefer that to boring. The performance were great too, mainly Curtis, Lancaster, and Harrison. Curtis and Lancaster both nail their scuzzy, sleasy, seedy, scummy characters well and do it differently, with Lancaster's Hunsecker having power and Curtis' Falco desiring it. Harrison easily garners sympathy from the viewer. I love the shots of Lancaster with his faced obscured with shadows at the end of the film, pretty spooky looking stuff.



Tower (2016) -


I was looking forward to this film as its premise seemed pretty interesting. While I didn't like it as much as I thought I would, I still enjoyed my time with it and I may watch it again someday.

Interestingly enough, this film doesn't show much of the shooter. Save for a few shots, you only see his gun firing from above. The focus is instead on the victims and the survivors of the shooting. Some of the perspectives include a pregnant woman who was shot and left to bleed out on the pavement throughout the shooting, a newspaper delivery boy who was wounded by the sniper, a man who sent out radio broadcasts about the shooting as it went on, and a few people who attempted to get to the top of the tower to stop the shooter. I enjoyed these stories and, while I found some of them more interesting than others, they all had something to offer. Some of the concluding statements from the survivors at the end, in particular, were quite powerful. Also, in terms of pacing, this documentary is an easy watch as its 82 minute runtime goes by fairly quickly.

While watching this film, I was reminded of Waltz With Bashir, another animated documentary I've seen. I found the animation in that film thematically appropriate as the somewhat distant feel the animation brought to the film was all at the heart of the main protagonist's inability to remember his role in the Lebanon War. The animation in this film, by comparison, didn't feel as necessary to the film as it did in Waltz With Bashir and, as a result, I didn't feel the same connection towards it. Now, don't get me wrong. The animation was still a unique directorial choice, so to a degree, I appreciated the approach. However, inserting a couple live action clips into the first couple acts, showing some animated people or objects moving across a live action background in a few scenes, or slowly relying more and more on live action in the final act left me emotionally cold and unable to determine what the significance of all those transitions were. It might have been better to utilize live action only in the final act as opposed to sporadically throughout the first hour.

In some respects, I was left cold by certain parts of this film, but to another degree, the perspectives of the people involved in the shooting resonated with me quite a bit, so overall, I thought this documentary was good.

Last Up: The Wizard of Oz