25th Hall of Fame

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BlacKkKlansman (Spike Lee, 2018)

This was the film I was initially dreading the most to watch. Not because I thought it was a bad movie the first time I saw it or anything (I thought it was perfectly fine) but just because it was so recent and it felt like a movie I didn't really need to ever see again and I was afraid that would negatively affect my viewing experience. Thankfully that wasn't the case. Nope, it was pretty much exactly how I remembered it. Just mired in that blandly likeable vibe that a lot of BP nominations. Take the serious thing and make it cute and upbeat, throw in some silly quips. Modern screenwriting 101 on display for sure. Generally speaking, that lands a film around a 5 or 6/10 for me (and I initially did have this at a 6) but there's a definitely a little more upside here than just that. I wouldn't say the film has an abundance of style per se but there's enough pizzazz sprinkled throughout to create a few really memorable shots and the editing has a lot of punch to it, probably the films strongest aspect imo. I guess the news footage at the end has been a point of contention but I think its pretty necessary. I don't think it would be morally sound to make this cute, fun romp focusing on white supremacy and not ground it in reality and show the real world effects of it some way shape or form. It is a bit cornball to end a film like that but if you make the rest of the film more serious it hurts its marketability, so I get it. The only other point I have is that its probably a bit too long? Yeah, above average normal movie.

All done Time to squeeze in a bunch of real actual good films before the next hall starts lmao.



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Black KKKlansman (2018)

This is the second time I’ve seen this film and my impression hasn’t meaningfully changed. This is a fun, entertaining film that occasionally gets extremely serious, is overly didactic, and consequently, is a bit of a tonal mess.

The film, set in the early 1970s, involves an undercover investigation into the local chapter of the KKK by Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), Colorado Springs’ first African American detective. Ron poses as a racist white man via phone. When the time comes for physical meetings, his white, Jewish partner Flip Zimmerman (Adam Driver), pretends to be Ron while Ron continues to work behind the scenes and via phone, even, in one of the films true stand out subplots, forming a friendship with KKK Grand Wizard David Duke (Topher Grace in the film’s best performance) who is absolutely convinced Ron is a white man. Previously, Stallworth attended a local Black Price rally headlined by Kwame Ture (formerly Stokley Carmichael) to determine whether the rally could trigger racial violence. There, Ron meets and falls for Patrice Dumas (Laura Harrier), president of the Black Student Union at Colorado College. This budding romance, formed deceitfully since Ron pretends he is not a police officer, on Stallworth’s failure to admit he is a police officer, sets up several conflicts in the film. The most notable of these is the opposition between Stallworth’s desire to “change things from the inside” and strong identity as a member of law enforcement and Dumas’ passionate stand against systematic racism, which she insists is endemic to policing. Lee’s recognition of the complexity of policing and race is layered and thoughtful throughout.

All of this is very strong, especially the direction and most of the performances, and were this the entire meat of the film (and were it about 30 mins shorter), I would probably rate it higher. The problems come in two forms.

First, Lee gets heavy handed about the parallels between the film and today’s politics. Lee’s audience isn’t stupid – the connections, and the reason for telling this story in 2018 – are obvious. It’s difficult to imagine anyone choosing to see this film in 2018 with no awareness of its connection to the then-present. Yet Lee can’t resist an awkward reference to Trump tied to Duke’s political ambitions. Mentioning his ambitions makes the connection clear enough without the wink-wink discussion of whether someone like Duke could eventually become President. Further, Lee’s insistence on including graphic footage of the Charlottesville march and subsequent violence felt like Lee screaming DON’T YOU GET IT?? THIS IS HAPPENING TODAY!! As important as this message is, Lee more than adequately flags his themes for the audience to draw this conclusion on its own. Consequently, Lee succeeds only in undercutting the actual story. Additionally, the final wrap-up of a racist cop subplot is far too pat and easy – failing to even address how Ron overcomes Patrice’s utter refusals to cooperate with police. The implication is that Ron saving Patrice changed her mind, but Patrice’s subsequent dumping of Ron because he is a policeman belies this idea.

Second, despite the film’s length, Lee spends far too little time on character development. It’s not entirely clear why Ron is so insistent on being a policeman. His points are trite – he can help people, police do some good, etc. He never really answers Patrice’s reasonable interrogation of his position. Meanwhile, Flip’s character development occurs entirely through Ron’s observations of Flip and Flip’s responses, an unconvincing “tell not show” that doesn’t show on Driver’s essentially single expression and attitude throughout the film.

Regardless, this is an engaging, well-told film with a trenchant message about race. A compelling montage at the end starring Harry Belafonte and intercutting Klan character action is especially powerful, albeit drastically different in tone from much of the rest of the story.

Flawed but fun. 7.5/10.



Just as an FYI I'm done except I haven't written anything about Long Goodbye, which will probably be a super lame write up because it's literally been over 3 weeks since I've seen it.



Just as an FYI I'm done except I haven't written anything about Long Goodbye, which will probably be a super lame write up because it's literally been over 3 weeks since I've seen it.
Yeah that's a long time bro, but I know how you feel I have 3 write ups for the PRIV and it's going to be hard for me to remember much.



Just as an FYI I'm done except I haven't written anything about Long Goodbye, which will probably be a super lame write up because it's literally been over 3 weeks since I've seen it.
Since you still have enough time left, maybe you could rewatch the film to refresh your memory of it if you're up for it.



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
That's the same with me and American Movie that I watched a week ago.
__________________
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.



Think you used enough dynamite there, Butch?
speaking of:





American Movie (1999)

It was strange seeing this again, just over twenty years later. Perhaps it was due to what a buddy of mine was attempting to do at the same exact time when we both watched this. These guys finished, we got locked out, and with dead end after dead end, things didn't come to fruition. It happens, but I did find some old anger brewing up and perhaps a little resentment - not necessarily at Mark and Mike, but they were getting the brunt of it as I watched.

It shouldn't, but it did and thereby hampered what should have been an enjoyable revisit to a couple of average partiers who, against all odds, finish what they set out to do when it comes to a creative project. Something I should have been cheering and congratulating them as I watched instead of scowling and only by the end and with a bit of reluctance, if I was honest. Feeling like a selfish sh#t for doing so.

This IS a good documentary that does keep one's attention and gives you what it claims: An American Movie. The Slacker and his Buddy follow through on a Dream that, while family and friends support, have every doubt any of it will come to pass. And, holy sh#t it actually DOES. Not some Hollywood extravaganza ending, but a simple and genuine success story. The film Coven is completed and shown at the local theater. Nicely done, guys! Nicely done.
So excuse the grumpy old fart who wallowed in the past instead of celebrating your achievement all over again.



The Long Goodbye



I liked it the first time. This time, I liked it, probably just a tad less but still good. I really like Gould in the lead role. I love the beginning when he is trying to please the cat with the cat food, really well done. The supporting pieces in the movie may be looked upon as a weak point for me, there's really no other performances that stand out. I think it's a really well directed movie though, I'd say still my second favorite Altman film. The film just seems to ooze coolness I would say. Wish I had more to say but it's been about a month since I saw it so sorry.

+



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Vertigo (1958)

I saved the best for last.

A few preliminary thoughts before getting into it.

I concede that I have a deep personal tie to this film. I first saw it in a library in college back around 1998. At that time, I had never seen a Hitchcock film. I had also never been to San Francisco, where the film is set, or even west of the Mississippi. My only real exposure to Jimmy Stewart was in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington and It’s a Wonderful Life.

The film stunned me. From the very first strains of the iconic score, the best one ever put together for the film and the accompanying delirious dreamlike title sequence, I was mesmerized. This was a story of obsession, passion, and mystery, unlike anything I’d ever seen or imagined, and it had a profound effect.

Over the years, I’ve seen the film about 10 times, and I am still finding new details – including a large one this last viewing that I’ll discuss below. I also ended up living in the San Francisco Bay Area – twice – 5 years one time and 1 year a second time. I now live in the Monterey area, close to San Juan Batista, where the film’s two most critical sequences were filmed over 50 years ago. I’ve been there twice, including the annual “Vertigo Day,” which included a tour tied to film locations and a screening on the very lawn Kim Novak, as Madeline, runs across halfway through the film. It was surreal seeing her run across the same lawn we were on!

I’ve also seen about 2/3rds of Hitchcock’s output. I assumed, back in 1998, that this film was like other Hitchcock films, and was excited to devour them. Hitch’s films are indeed, terrific (my other faves include Rear Window, North By Northwest, Shadow of a Doubt, and Notorious, in some order) but they are not like Vertigo. They are fundamentally different. Hitch’s films are driven by narrative suspense and mystery. They are rarely psychological in any meaningful way, much less personal. Actors in these films, as Hitch would say, were cattle, acting out his storyboards with little differentiation and scarcely any portrayed subjectivity.

Vertigo is a different beast entirely. The film is fundamentally psychological. It deals with obsession, passion, delusion, fantasy, and objectification. Although it is famous for being a mystery, we know the main details of that mystery barely more than halfway into the film – while Stewart does not – a kind of narrative/character suspense quite distinct from Hitchcock’s normal plot suspense (e.g., the ticking bomb under the table we know about but the characters do not…) That suspense drives the fascinating final third of the film.

This is why I say that Vertigo is not a Hitchcock film, but rather, the best film Hitchcock ever made. Vertigo stands apart from the rest of the Hitchcock catalogue – which is excellent, but in my opinion, not up to this level.

Now onto the film. Vertigo, a word only spoken once on screen, is the condition that main character police detective John "Scottie" Ferguson (James Stewart) acquires during a rooftop chase in which he ends up clinging from said rooftop while a fellow officer tumbles to his doom. Unwilling to work desk duty, Scottie decides to retire, when he receives an unexpected call from Gavin Elster (Tom Helmore), an acquaintance from college. Elster is afraid his wife Madeline (Kim Novak) may be psychologically ill, believing herself to be the reincarnation of her great grandmother, Carlotta Valdes, the mistress of a wealthy married man. Carlotta is a bit of a local legend. She went mad and committed suicide after the married man turned her out and kept the child to raise as his own.

Elster asks Scottie to follow Madeline and see where she goes during the day. Scottie does so, following Madeline to a florist where she buys a bouquet that she later places on Valdes’ grave and to the Legion of Honor art museum where she gazes intently at a portrait of Carlotta Valdes. Scottie eventually loses the trail when Madeline enters a hotel but mysteriously vanishes without a trace before Scottie can get to her room. The next day, Scottie continues his pursuit to Fort Point on the San Francisco Bay. Madeline suddenly dives into the Bay and Scottie rescues her.

The next day Scottie runs into Madeline delivering a thank you note at his front door. The two spend the day together, driving all over the Bay Area, including Muir Woods and 17-Mile Drive (right here in sunny Monterey!) They end up in each other’s arms. The next day Madeline describes a nightmare set in an old Spanish Mission in the 19th Century. Scottie realizes Madeline is describing Mission San Juan Batista, Carlotta Valdes’ childhood home, which has been preserved as it was hundreds of years ago. Determined to exorcise Madeline’s demons and show her that her dream was not an indication of mental illness, the two drive down to the Mission. There, after expressing their love for each other, Madeline suddenly runs into the Church and up to the bell tower. Scottie tries to follow, but his vertigo stops him from getting high enough and he soon sees (through a window) Madeline plunge to her death.

The death is ruled a suicide. Scottie becomes clinically depressed and is sent to a sanatorium, practically catatonic, where he stays for about a year. On his return, Scottie imagines he sees Madeline everywhere, but is constantly disappointed, until he runs into a brunette on the street that reminds him of her, Judy Barton (Kim Novak, in a dual role). Scottie follows her to her apartment where he eventually persuades her to have dinner with him. When Scottie leaves to allow Judy time to prepare for their date, there is a huge shift in perspective. Judy plans to flee, writing Scottie a farewell letter explaining that she*was*in fact Madeline, and that she was impersonating Elster’s wife in a complex murder scheme.

Elster realized he could take advantage of Scottie’s vertigo to support a story that his murder was actually a suicide. Scottie is the perfect witness - he has seen much of Madeline’s behavior first hand. Also, Scottie’s vertigo means he will not be able to make it to the top of the bell tower! This allows Elster to substitute his wife’s freshly killed body for Barton’s, throwing the wife out instead of Judy. But Judy realizes she still loves Scottie and tears up the letter.

From here on in, the film, previously heavily told from Scottie’s perspective, is essentially told from Judy’s point-of-view. Judy is an average, albeit beautiful, girl from Kansas that got in over her head with Elster, and worse, fell in love with Scottie. All she wants is Scottie to love her back for herself, not because she reminds him of Madeline. Consequently, she puts up (albeit grudgingly) with his efforts to essentially transform her into Madeline. Judy’s patience eventually leads to Scottie saying that he loves her, though it seems clear he is still thinking of Madeline. Regardless, it seems to be working until Judy makes a critical mistake: unthinkingly wearing one of Madeline’s necklaces leading Scottie suddenly connects the dots.

Furious, Scottie cajoles Judy to come back with him to Mission San Juan Batista, ostensibly to purge the past. Once there, Scottie forces Judy to climb to the top of the bell tower – the scene of the crime – overcoming his vertigo. Scottie harangues Judy, who explains her role in the plot and convinces him he loves her. The two reconcile and happiness appears in prospect, until a shadowy figure (revealed as a nun) arrives. Scared, Judy stumbles back and falls out the window [or does she?], closing the loop. The film ends with Scotty, having lost everything – including his vertigo – staring out the open window at Judy’s lifeless body.

Now the new thing: for years I thought Judy had been afraid and fallen. Now I believe it was suicide. If you watch the film closely Judy takes several steps before she reaches the window. She jumped. It tracks. Judy realizes Scottie will always love Madeline, not her. Also, she is enormously guilty for her part in deceiving Scottie. It makes a ton of sense. I love that Hitchcock left this ambiguous, however.

More highlights and odds and ends:

The best score and title sequence in film history. Immediately sets the mood like nothing else.

Hitch’s casting Jimmy Stewart against type (as he first did so memorably in Rear Window) makes Stewart’s descent into obsession and madness far more powerful than it would have been with virtually any other actor.

Relatedly, Hitch later said he regretted casting Kim Novak. I think he’s nuts. She is tremendous in the dual role, fully inhabiting both characters. She also has terrific chemistry with Stewart.

Poor Midge.

Alleged plot holes: some complain that the film does not resolve how Scottie gets off the rooftop and that this is somehow a problem. Nonsense. Who cares? It’s just not interesting. What matters is how the event affected Scottie – and given the highly subjective point of view of the film, it makes sense to not show it – possibly Scottie simply doesn’t remember it. Madeline disappearing from the hotel is a different story. I’m not sure how to rationalize that one.

The nightmare sequence is one of the great pieces of art in cinema history. I will never forget Stewart’s face with flashing colors, a swirling whirlpool behind him, and hair flapping in the wind. Iconic and indelible.

On the subject of artistry, the technicolor and general look of the film simply leap off the screen. They aren’t hurt by the film’s best supporting character, San Francisco. Even though Hitch changed the location from Paris, it’s still hard to imagine the story happening anywhere else in the world.

Top to bottom, this is the greatest achievement in cinema history. Nothing else comes close. Simply the best.



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Deadline is approaching, August 1st...

@edarsenal 11/13
@rbrayer 12/13
@rauldc14 13/13 (needs to send list)

Let me know if I missed any of your guys' write-ups.
I just posted the last one. It took awhile to write. Ballot incoming.



Hell of a review rbrayer!

Also, this has to be the smoothest going HOF in sometime. Only that slacker Ed has films left




Also, this has to be the smoothest going HOF in sometime. Only that slacker Ed has films left
Ed's a slacker...but he's rock solid!

I just got rbrayer's list and we're looking good to finish ontime!



26th will be cool. I think we will have a nice crew for it again



26th will be cool. I think we will have a nice crew for it again
I got my nom picked for it, I'm going with a classic, heavy hitter. Some have seen it but it's not real well watched.



I got my nom picked for it, I'm going with a classic, heavy hitter. Some have seen it but it's not real well watched.
I got mine picked out too. Not super popular but some will have seen it for sure.