Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - 2021 Edition

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A system of cells interlinked
Is the intro music new? I don't recall hearing it open the other episodes I have checked out so far...
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Is the intro music new? I don't recall hearing it open the other episodes I have checked out so far...
It's new, that's one of the "firsts" of the year
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GRAND HOTEL
(1932, Goulding)
The first Best Picture winner I haven't seen



"Grand Hotel... always the same. People come, people go. Nothing ever happens."

The above quote is how Dr. Otternschlag (Lewis Stone) describes life at the titular hotel in Berlin, Germany. Nothing ever happens. But after almost two hours of runtime, we do realize that things *do* happen at the Grand Hotel; a great deal, actually. This Best Picture winner follows the comings and goings of a handful of guests at the hotel, most of which intertwine in interesting and unexpected ways.

Most notable among the guests are Otto Kringelein (Lionel Barrymore), an ill bookkeeper who has decided to spend his last days in luxury; General Director Preysing (Wallace Beery), a businessman, and Kringelein's boss, who's trying to close an important deal at all costs; Miss Flaemmchen (Joan Crawford), a progressive stenographer hired by Preysing; Russian ballerina Grusinskaya (Greta Garbo), whose career is in the decline pushing her into depression; and Baron Von Geigern (John Barrymore), a gambler and jewel thief who's trying to come up with money to pay a former colleague.

Writer and playwright Tom Stoppard once wrote about hotel rooms that they "inhabit a separate moral universe", and perhaps that's why all these guests coincide in this place where they aim to do things that they won't necessarily do otherwise or just that aren't necessarily legal. From Kringelein's "last days" ventures into dancing and gambling or the Baron's attempt to steal some jewels, to Preysing's attempt to lure his potential partners, while also toying with adultery and even murder.

Although one would certainly want a bit more development from some characters, Grand Hotel does manage to balance its ensemble cast fairly well. Still, the pace seems a bit scattered at times and, although the film maintains a mostly light tone, there's a shift towards the bleak that seemed a bit abrupt to me. However, most of the performances are pretty good, with John Barrymore and Joan Crawford being the highlights for me. Finally, the set design was quite impressive, highlighted by some neat camerawork, especially in the lobby scenes.

In the closing shots, all of the above guests abandon the hotel one way or another, only to make space for new guests that arrive. People come, people go... new stories, new conflicts, new dramas of who knows what. "Nothing ever happens".

Grade:



GRAVE OF THE FIREFLIES
(1988, Takahata)
An animated film



"Why do fireflies have to die so soon?"

Fireflies have an approximate lifespan of a couple of weeks once they break from the pupa. By human standards, this is a short time to "live", which is why little Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi) asks the above question. How is it possible that these creatures that are so beautiful and bring so much joy and light to her life "have to die so soon"? This film transposes that question to the human condition in the midst of World War II.

Grave of the Fireflies, which is the second film from acclaimed Studio Ghibli, follows teenage boy Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi) and her little sister Setsuko as they struggle to survive during the final months of the war. Orphaned, rejected, abandoned, and starved, both siblings have to rely and care for each other to overcome conditions that no human should live through.

I know it might sound naive, but I'm firmly against any war of any kind. Particularly if those affected are innocent civilians, and not necessarily the ones that are ultimately responsible for the conflict. Which is why the bleakness of this film hit me so hard. We see the two young children fall victims not necessarily to "enemy fire", but rather to the conditions in the aftermath of various fierce bombings. Houses are destroyed, hospitals and schools are inoperable, food is being rationed, how can they survive? But that is what war does. It smothers you till you can't breathe anymore.

Despite the subject matter, the film shies away from any overt political stance, which I think was a good choice. We get no glimpse of the "enemy", other than the sight of planes flying in the sky, and we get no glimpse of the local government or superiors; we hardly see any soldier, actually. What we see is people, old and young, live and dead, men and women, all at the mercy of forces they can't control.

The overall animation is pretty much flawless, but the real beauty and tragedy of the film lies in the relationship between these two siblings, which is one of undeniable love, support, and care. A snapshot of the millions of children from all "sides" that died during World War II. Beautiful creatures that brought joy and light to each other, for however long or short their lives were. Why did they have to die so soon?

Grade:



Ok, so this was my final tally for JANUARY 2021:

A film with the number 1 (One, First, etc.) in its title: One Child Nation
The first film from any director you like: Citizen Kane, Rudderless
The first Best Picture winner you haven't seen (starting with Wings): Grand Hotel
A film with a title that starts with the letters A or B: Aniara, Attack the Block
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #1 (i.e. 10, 21, 31): Shame (#961)
A film from before 1920: Broken Blossoms
An action or adventure film: The Man from Nowhere
An animated film: Grave of the Fireflies
A film with Nicolas Cage (born January 7): Vampire's Kiss
A film from Cuba (Cuban Revolution, January 1): Memories of Underdevelopment






Overall, a solid month. My favorite first-time watches were probably Shame and Grave of the Fireflies.

As for a least favorite, that would probably be between One Child Nation and Broken Blossoms.



Aaaand here's the loot for FEBRUARY 2021:

A film with the number 2 (Two, Second, etc.) in its title:
A film with a title that starts with the letters C or D:
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #2 (i.e. 12, 82, 912):
A film from the 1920s:
A sequel:
A comedy film:
A film featuring the name of a couple in its title:
A film with an African-American cast (Black History Month):
A film from Robert Altman (born January 20):
A film from Serbia (Statehood Day, February 15):


As usual, recommendations are more than welcome!



A system of cells interlinked
A film with an African-American cast (Black History Month): Clockers (Lee,1995)

A film from Robert Altman (born January 20): Short Cuts (1993), If you have seen that, try Cookie's Fortune (1999)



A film with an African-American cast (Black History Month): Clockers (Lee,1995)

A film from Robert Altman (born January 20): Short Cuts (1993), If you have seen that, try Cookie's Fortune (1999)
Haven't seen those. None of those are available streaming, though, but I'll keep an eye on them. Thanks.



A comedy film: (Netflix)
A film featuring the name of a couple in its title: Bonnie and Clyde (Netflix); Julie & Julia (Netflix); Celine and Julie Go Boating (Criterion); Fanny and Alexander (Criterion)
A film with an African-American cast (Black History Month): Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Netflix); Sorry to Bother You (Hulu)



A comedy film: (Netflix)
A film featuring the name of a couple in its title: Bonnie and Clyde (Netflix); Julie & Julia (Netflix); Celine and Julie Go Boating (Criterion); Fanny and Alexander (Criterion)
A film with an African-American cast (Black History Month): Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Netflix); Sorry to Bother You (Hulu)
If Bonnie and Clyde is on Netflix, then I think that's a sure shot. I've been meaning to watch that one for a long, long time. Fanny and Alexander will also be a good option. I've seen Julie & Julia.

I've seen Sorry to Bother You (crazy film), but I'm not that drawn to Ma Rainey's Black Bottom. I'll read a bit more about it and I'll consider it, though.

?? You got it!!

Thanks!



Saw my first film of February last night, Monty Python's Life of Brian, and oh boy, that was funny as hell



The second episode of the year of Thief's Monthly Movie Loot is out! In this episode, I talk about the films I saw in January; pretty much what I've been posting here, but check it out, if anything so you can hear me trying to hold my laughter while trying to talk about a scene from Vampire's Kiss...

Thief's Monthly Movie Loot 30 - The January Loot

Just published it a while ago, so Spotify link isn't ready yet, but if you follow the podcast there, you'll see it soon.

Also, I just finished recording my third episode of the year which will feature a great guest, so keep your eyes and ears open.



MONTY PYTHON'S LIFE OF BRIAN
(1979, Jones)
A comedy film



"Look, you've got it all wrong! You don't NEED to follow ME, You don't NEED to follow ANYBODY! You've got to think for your selves! You're ALL individuals!"

Christianity — and religion overall — have always been a touchy subject to discuss in regular conversations, to the point that some locals, bars, and restaurants put up signs that read "No religion and no politics" to avoid scuffles and fights, while most people will advise you to avoid the topic on, say, a family or business diner, or even a first date. Touchy subject to discuss, let alone, mock and parody in a feature film; unless you're the Monty Python comedy troupe, of course.

Set in 33 AD, Life of Brian follows the, well, life of Brian (Graham Chapman), a young, regular Jewish guy that is somehow mistaken for the Messiah. Despite his reluctance, he ends up being followed both by people who want to praise him as well as soldiers that want to silence and imprison him.

In typical Monty Python fashion, the film features its ensemble cast playing numerous roles, while taking jabs at organized religion and institutions, among many other things. The group manages a great mix of silly and clever jokes, with doses of absurdity all through. To that effect, I was really surprised at how many of the jokes really land. The peak for me was the whole sequence when the crowd harasses and pursues Brian to the mountain, resulting in some great exchanges that highlight the somewhat contradictory nature of religion.

Brian: I'm not the Messiah! Will you please listen? I am not the Messiah, do you understand? Honestly!
Woman: Only the true Messiah denies His divinity.
Brian: What? Well, what sort of chance does that give me? All right! I am the Messiah!
Followers: He is! He is the Messiah!
As was expected, the film was condemned, censored, and banned by some religious groups and countries, while also becoming a critically acclaimed box-office hit that's often considered one of the best comedies made. So I suppose you can always look at the bright side of life.

Grade:



It's good that your categories give you a nice cross-section of cinema during the month

I rated Grand Hotel a little higher than you but wouldn't disagree with any of your remarks about it. Grave Of The Fireflies is a very effective watch, I did find the score intruded a little at times and my viewing quite possibly suffered a little from watching a dubbed version rather than subtitled, but no matter how one watched it someone would have to have a heart of stone not to find it quite emotional I think. Life Of Brian is a riot at times, a very close second to their Holy Grail for me.
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It's good that your categories give you a nice cross-section of cinema during the month
Yeah, that's one of the goals, more or less. It gives me some flexibility to move around categories depending on my mood, while also exploring things I might not otherwise.



For the Altman experts, these are the only ones available streaming...
  • The Delinquents (1957) - His debut, is on VUDU
  • Images (1972) - Prime, Roku Channel, Criterion Channel, Tubi
  • California Split (1974) - Prime Tubi
  • Streamers (1983) - Prime, Tubi
  • Secret Honor (1984) - Criterion Channel
  • Fool for Love (1985) - Tubi
  • Vincent & Theo (1990) - Roku Channel
  • Dr. T & the Women (2000) - Tubi

Any recommendation out of those? I've already seen The Player, Gosford Park, and The Gingerbread Man.



For the Altman experts, these are the only ones available streaming...
  • The Delinquents (1957) - His debut, is on VUDU
  • Images (1972) - Prime, Roku Channel, Criterion Channel, Tubi
  • California Split (1974) - Prime Tubi
  • Streamers (1983) - Prime, Tubi
  • Secret Honor (1984) - Criterion Channel
  • Fool for Love (1985) - Tubi
  • Vincent & Theo (1990) - Roku Channel
  • Dr. T & the Women (2000) - Tubi

Any recommendation out of those? I've already seen The Player, Gosford Park, and The Gingerbread Man.

I've only seen California Split (1974) and Dr. T & the Women (2000) from that list. California Split is very good, and is worth watching. Dr. T & the Women is better than it's (low) IMDB rating, but it's not great, so I wouldn't recommend wasting your time on it.
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For the Altman experts, these are the only ones available streaming...
  • The Delinquents (1957) - His debut, is on VUDU
  • Images (1972) - Prime, Roku Channel, Criterion Channel, Tubi
  • California Split (1974) - Prime Tubi
  • Streamers (1983) - Prime, Tubi
  • Secret Honor (1984) - Criterion Channel
  • Fool for Love (1985) - Tubi
  • Vincent & Theo (1990) - Roku Channel
  • Dr. T & the Women (2000) - Tubi

Any recommendation out of those? I've already seen The Player, Gosford Park, and The Gingerbread Man.
I enjoyed Streamers, but it’s a slow crawl. Images was disappointing, but interesting. See them both.



For the Altman experts, these are the only ones available streaming...
  • The Delinquents (1957) - His debut, is on VUDU
  • Images (1972) - Prime, Roku Channel, Criterion Channel, Tubi
  • California Split (1974) - Prime Tubi
  • Streamers (1983) - Prime, Tubi
  • Secret Honor (1984) - Criterion Channel
  • Fool for Love (1985) - Tubi
  • Vincent & Theo (1990) - Roku Channel
  • Dr. T & the Women (2000) - Tubi

Any recommendation out of those? I've already seen The Player, Gosford Park, and The Gingerbread Man.
I think that Images is legit a great movie. Highly recommended.