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Angel-A (2005, Besson)

I was intently focused on the film for its entire time...That's high praise, as not many movies capture my imagination and keep me interested for the duration.

Angel-A is the kind of film that I find myself thinking about all the next day...and that too is a rarity for me. And you know what? I knew I'd like this film the second I seen its poster and read the synopsis. I just had a feeling...and I was right!

Gosh I loved this film, but I'm not sure if I can explain why. But I'll try...

I was intrigued by the idea that an angel is not like most of us perceive and isn't like the usual movie angel. If memory serves me angels according to the bible were very tall, very powerful and could be quite passionate, and that's how Angela appears. She towers over Andre the man who rescues her from the river. I mean she really towers over him. Even her head is like twice the size of his. It's impressive!

I liked the idea that in heaven she had no past and seemed to be at beckon call to be sent where she was required, with no will of her own. It added to her plight and made me feel compassion for her. It was telling that she was starved for human vices and smoked like a chimney, drank and was described as a 'six foot tall blonde slut.' I thought that was a cool juxtaposition to what we a movie angel usually is. But I'm sure that the idea of an angel banging guy after guy for money in a dance club's bathroom doesn't sit well with some. But I liked that too about her as it seemed to say something about the perception of sin.

I also loved the usage of black & white film, though it's actually bluish monochrome and that too gave the film an other-worldly look. I certainly warmed up to the two lead actors right away and that's always a plus. And of course I liked the film's message, If you think your shi*, you'll be treating like shi*. Words to live by.



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And Then There Were None (Craig Viveiros, 2015)

I think I've mentioned before in these little write-ups that I really dislike the mystery genre. It's just such a piss-poor fit for film and honestly it probably sucks in books too. Mysteries are only interesting if you're trying to stay one step ahead of it and figure it out and why would I ever do that when the film is just going to tell me in a few minutes anyway and if I put a movie on the movie should be what's entertaining me not my brain making up its own fun. This genre is just so much better for video games, where the riddle isn't just gonna solve itself if I wait long enough. So just by virtue of this being the genre it is, it was always going to be either annoying or laughable no matter what (any film with a twist will always get a laugh/eye roll out of me, this one included) but there's lots of other aspects to a film than the script that it could earn back points with.

It doesn't! Not anywhere! It looks like the made-for-TV film that it is. Everything just looks so drab. It looks like it was shot on a potato, especially in low light situations which is a lot of the film. Pretty much all the design elements are crap. The set design is so so dull other than maybe that one room with the green lattice-like design on the walls and the costuming is flat out terrible and makes everyone look like a massive dork. Nothing interesting ever happens visually and the few times they even try don't turn out well and I just can't stand that shallow field of view thing they do every closeup. The music is like, flat out embarrassing. It has no presence whatsoever and that's one thing that can really help a film of this genre. Having a strong ambience and atmosphere is a must for this kind of thing and the score doesn't try. Even the title card has garbage music and its even visually unappealing too. On top of all this the acting is subpar and not one of the characters is even remotely interesting. This was so mind-numbingly boring throughout and felt at least twice as long as it was. I've strongly disliked a couple of the films I've watched for some of these HoFs but this is the first one that's felt like a joke. This has no redeeming value whatsoever. This isn't art, its content.





All the Presidents Men (1976)


It's important to note the year...1976, the book was released in 1974 I don't know if this is the quickest turnaround for a topic but it might be. I don't know what you can say about a film like this personally I'm not really a huge fan of the film for the year it came out. I don't think it really holds up as an Oscar winner compared to other films from this year.


Now judging the film for it's merits it's basically a docudrama and a slice of life of 70's newspaper work. It's pretty good, the suspense doesn't really kick in until the end of the film and for a paranoia thriller's that were common from this era it was lacking. Redford is fine, Hoffman is good, Robards got an Oscar over Burgess Meredith for Rocky which looks crazy. But the film really is about the work when it comes to uncovering the scandal the director does a solid job doing a thrilling half filled story.



Wizard Of Oz: Iconic for very good reasons. I have always loved it since childhood. There really isn’t much more to say about it. Be surprised if the Wizard doesn’t win.
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Wizard Of Oz: Iconic for very good reasons. I have always loved it since childhood. There really isn’t much more to say about it. Be surprised if the Wizard doesn’t win.
Amazing movie when one considers the technical achievements it made back in 1939. I'd be happy for it to win, but I don't think it's a lock to win.



Amazing movie when one considers the technical achievements it made back in 1939. I'd be happy for it to win, but I don't think it's a lock to win.
Maybe Passion?



Yeah, that one is a top contender. I haven't seen them all yet, but I'm thinking there are 3 really strong movies vying for 1st place.
I imagine you are thinking President’s Men. I think that Sweet Smell will be battling for third. Marienbad could possibly join that group, fingers crossed.



I imagine you are thinking President’s Men. I think that Sweet Smell will be battling for third. Marienbad could possibly join that group, fingers crossed.
Nah, I wasn't thinking of either of those two.



Cinema Paradiso (1988) -


My reaction to this film when I watched it a few years ago was that its first hour was great, but the second hour made a couple poor choices which reduced it to a good film. I had a feeling my opinion would grow this time around, but unfortunately, it remained the same and, if anything, this rewatch solidified my opinion of it even more.

In spite of my issues with this film though, I don't consider it to be a bad film by any means, The aforementioned first hour, in fact, is about as entertaining and moving as any film has the right to be. Tornatore crafts such a humorous and vividly detailed film which is packed with a few different types of greatness. For example, some of the humor involving Alfredo and Toto resonated with me quite well, like the touches of humor thrown into some of their tense encounters in the first act or Toto helping Alfredo cheat on a test. These bits made their building friendship a blast to watch. I also enjoyed the emphasis given to multiple side characters who either attended the theater or were frequently seen outside it. There's a priest who orders Alfredo to cut all the inappropriate scenes from the films (kissing scenes, typically), a tramp who believes he owns the town square outside the theater, a man who spits on people from the upper balcony of the theater, a man who frequently gets pranked for falling asleep during the movies, and the general rowdiness of the crowd that attends the theater. It's clear that the theater is the centerpiece of the town and the main (well, the only) pastime for many of the town's citizens. Finally, I liked how the film saved most of its sentimentality for the ending. Complimented with Morricone's terrific score, it's almost impossible not to be moved during the final montage.

While the film's first hour is strong, the second hour makes some odd narrative choices which fail to capitalize on that potential. Since Alfredo's and Toto's friendship is established for most of the first hour, I found it strange how the second half shifted so much focus away from Alfredo. Instead, we get a romance sub-plot between Toto and Elena. Though I've yet to watch the extended cuts of this film, I've read a decent bit about them and my understanding is that they provide a better thematic significance for that sub-plot, so I may enjoy this film more if I watch those versions. Who knows. With the international cut though, that sub-plot took time away from what I liked the most about the film. To top it off, I also found certain elements of that sub-plot creepy, like Toto waiting outside Elena's house for (I think) 100 days in an attempt to get her to like him. After the focus finally gets back to Alfredo, he only stays onscreen for about five more more minutes and, while I found their conversations during those five minutes powerful, they ultimately left me asking for more. Granted, the final act is kind of effective and the aforementioned ending is terrific, but the middle act was a huge misstep and left me very cold. And it's a real shame, because the film had a lot going for it with the first hour. The second hour failed to follow up on that potential though.

In spite of my issues though, I'd still recommend the film. The strengths of the first hour and the ending were more than enough to save the day, so I did enjoy the film. Just like my first viewing though, I wasn't so crazy on the second hour. I'll likely check out the longer cuts in the future though to see if this film finally clicks with me.

Next Up: Daisies





The Wizard of Oz - (1939)

Directed by Victor Fleming

Written by Noel Langley, Florence Ryerson & Edgar Allen Woolf

Starring Judy Garland, Frank Morgan, Ray Bolger
Bert Lahr, Jack Haley, Billie Burke
& Margaret Hamilton

MGM's The Wizard of Oz is beautiful in sight, sound and sentiment. My affection for it has grown over the years. Ironically, when I was a child I was rather indifferent to it. The film had to compete with a bevy of interests all begging for my attention, and it wasn't until I became almost obsessed in everything cinematic that I realized how much it belongs amongst the very greatest films ever made - something that everyone wasted no time trying to relate to me during all these years anyway. It's only now that I watch the film with admiration and absolute enjoyment - and that enjoyment doesn't wear thin no matter how many times the film is repeated. I sometimes wonder if this isn't the same for many movie fans - presenting the film to their children, but all the while enjoying it much more than even they do. Just soaking in the colour, song and playful frolicking that dazzles the eyes and ears. The actors and filmmakers make everything look effortless - which is all the more laudable when one considers just how hard and painful it was to bring to fruition.

The film was important for historical reasons - it reinvented what a musical could be, and the person most responsible for this was producer Arthur Freed, who would have an impact on Hollywood musicals that would last for decades. Freed believed musical numbers should advance a story - and not exist independently. He wanted characters to be inspired into their musical interludes by natural exuberance - almost as if they simply couldn't help it. This smooth transition is evident throughout The Wizard of Oz, which Freed kept tight control over. Songs which didn't advance the story, such as 'The Jitterbug', were the first to be cut from the film - and 'Somewhere Over the Rainbow' very nearly met the same fate. The concept Freed advanced gave life to the brilliant songs by Harold Arlen with lyrics provided by E.Y. Harburg. These songs are still well known throughout the entire world. When Australian soldiers marched into battle during the Second World War they sung, "We're off to see the Wizard." It became something of a battle cry. The film was especially popular there on it's initial release.

The story and characters come from L. Frank Baum's children's book 'The Wonderful Wizard of Oz' which reflects the enticing magical world that reaches beyond most children's grasp, but also the warmth, safety and loving serenity of home. It was published in 1900, and was a part of a wider series of books all based around the mythical, magical place of Oz. Louis B. Mayer's MGM bought the rights, and nearly ended up borrowing Shirley Temple from a rival studio to play the lead role of Dorothy. It's impossible for anyone now to think of anyone other than Judy Garland in the role. In the role of the Tin Man, Ray Bolger was initially signed on - but he preferred (and was more suited to) the role of the Scarecrow. The part then went to Buddy Ebsen, who fell ill after breathing in the powdered aluminium which was part of his make-up. Jack Haley eventually won the part - but it was a difficult one. In the Tin Man's costume, it was impossible for Haley to sit down, and he'd often be leaned into positions of semi-comfort when not filming. Worse conditions fell upon the Cowardly Lion's Bert Lahr - who roasted inside of a massive costume made out of real Lion fur. Under the many lights inside the studio temperatures could soar. Margaret Hamilton, as the Wicked Witch of the West, received second-degree burns from a special effect, and complications from the copper-based make-up she had to wear. The munchkins were prone to drunkenness, and Judy Garland never became comfortable with the fame and demands of the stardom that this film would bestow on her. It's incredible that the end result of all of this reflects so much effortless joy and innocence.

The sets and matte paintings for this film are gorgeous - and the product of scores of dedicated artisans and artists. The effects were groundbreaking for their day, especially in regards to the realistic depiction of the tornado which lifts Dorothy's home and transports it to the magical land of Oz. With it's switch from sepia-toned black and white to technicolor as Dorothy arrives, this is one of the most stunningly beautiful films I've ever seen - and it stubbornly remains one of the most incredibly pretty films ever made despite the passage of so many decades. All of the costumes are bright and imaginative - especially those made for every individual munchkin - and the makeup is equally as effective (even if it was, in several cases, harmful to the actors who were suffering from under it.) The combination of the spectacular visuals with the lively songs and musical score evokes a time when many individuals gave everything they had to produce something timeless and without equal. There have been attempts to recapture the magic of Oz (1985 effort Return to Oz and Oz the Great and Powerful in 2013 come to mind) but nothing ever comes close.

This was a film of many scriptwriters, directors and roles for Frank Morgan - he plays the Wizard, Professor Marvel, the Gatekeeper, Buggy-driver and guard. Herman J. Mankiewicz, Noel Langley, Ogden Nash, Florence Ryerson, Irving Brecher, and Edgar Allan Woolf among others all had a hand in writing it's script - as did two of the film's directors. These directors were many. At first, Norman Taurog was signed on to direct, but he didn't last until the main production began - only directing a few tests in technicolor. Richard Thorpe then took over, but lasted only 9 days with virtually none of his shot footage making it into the film. Producer Mervyn LeRoy felt he was rushing things, and as such replaced him with George Cukor temporarily, with LeRoy's guidance on set. When Cukor left to direct Gone With the Wind Victor Fleming took over, and it is Fleming who stayed on for most of the shooting - he is the one who is credited as director for the film, even though he was eventually replaced (Fleming was needed to assist Cukor on Gone With the Wind) by King Vidor who finished the film. Such near-chaos and hardship would ordinarily lead to a muddled, unsuccessful production - but with The Wizard of Oz these many hands produced a classic.

The Wizard of Oz has had a slow ride up into immortality - it's initial cinematic release wasn't a flop, but it didn't quite make the money that had been put into it. It had subsequent releases, and was first broadcast on black and white television 1956. It's television showings increased it's popularity, and when colour was introduced the love people had for it grew and grew. With today's technology we can watch the film whenever we want, in sparkling clear colour and even surround sound. Several documentaries have been made about it's production and popularity, such as Memories of Oz in 2001, The Wonderful Wizard of Oz: The Making of a Movie Classic in 1990, The Art of Imagination: A Tribute to Oz in 2005 and Because of the Wonderful Things It Does: The Legacy of Oz also in 2005. There is indeed something magical about this film - something almost intangible that makes it even more than the sum of it's parts. Perhaps that something was provided at the very start of it all, way back in 1900 when L. Frank Baum's book was first published. Perhaps there is no explaining why it's so enchanting. It's just here for us to enjoy - and we should all not focus too much on the guys behind the screen pulling all the levers and pressing the buttons.

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




I've really enjoyed catching up with The Wizard of Oz, The Passion of Joan of Arc, Not Quite Hollywood and Festen. All great and unique. I've learned a lot from having a close look at them all.



I'll take links for Angel A, And Then there were None, Not Quite Hollywood, and Last Year at Marienbad. Don't feeling like hunting around.



Here’s looking at you, kid.
The Passion of Joan of Arc

I wasn’t all that enthused about watching this film, I have watched a few silent films but this one was intimidating, because it’s a foreign silent film, so I was treading uncharted waters (I seem to be doing that a lot in this tournament)

That having said, I thoroughly enjoyed the film. Joan of Arc was able to invoke such emotion and even though subtitles didn’t come up as often as I would have thought, the film was very easy to follow.

Accompanied by a beautiful orchestra that complemented the films ups and down and emotions, you can partially glimpse through her eyes to see the hardships she endured.

I loved this film and I am looking forward to rewatching it again.



Here’s looking at you, kid.
Daisies

Czechoslovakia had an interesting decade in the 60s. This film was made in 66, two years before the invasion of the Soviet Union and 6 years after it became under communist rule, so having high tensions in day to day life is an understatement.

Daisies took a feminist approach normal rambunctious teen movies, that most of the world, especially Czechoslovakia had not seen. The film was very artistic in the sense of the cinematography and their dialogue, which portrayed Marie I and Marie II as very free spirited.

Throughout the film, you never saw a responsible adult in their company, so during the movie, they went on constant escapades, doing whatever desire came to mind, that a girl might have with no structure or responsible adult to guide them, all while having the mental capacity of a 10 year old girl.

I found the film very interesting, growing up I always saw films where boys got into all sorts of debauchery, like “Stand by Me”, so it was interesting to see an uncut, unfiltered version of a little girls perspective of mischievousness.



Once again I kind of agree with a review of Daisies but what you are saying is what makes it unsuccessful for me. To say this is a feminist movie is fine, even though I would say it’s just trying to be. Then to say it was fun watching them act like 10 year old girls totally undercuts that. The juvenile nature is exactly what keeps it from having any thematic resonance.



Last Year at Marienbad



This is one of those films where I felt like I needed to go back about every ten min nutes to decipher what was actually going on. And I did do that a few times, but after awhile I couldn't do it anymore. Movies like this are puzzling and frustrating, I want to get the full comprehension out of it but fail to. I really did like the concept and themes of the movie. And the movie was gorgeous. I could probably see this three or four more times and still not understand it. It was like a light David Lynch film meeting 8 1/2.