22nd Hall of Fame

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Mildred Pierce (1945)


A "noir" that's not really a noir, Mildred Pierce is at heart a tale of two women. A mother-daughter relationship that's about as toxic as one can get. Good thing I didn't decide to watch this with my mom on mother's day!

The noir feel to Mildred Pierce has more to do with the structure. It opens with a murder, and as Mildred is investigated, she tells the story of how it happened. Much like the plot of many, many, noirs, notably 1944's Double Indemnity. It came out only a year before this, so the comparison was likely.

But while I think Double Indemnity is the better film, Mildred Pierce is also the more emotional. It works better as a drama, a story of what we go through to please our loved ones, even if they don't love as back. Or how both love and greed blind us in different ways. At the heart is Joan Crawford's performance. She gives it her all, and to me she is ten times better in this than Johnny Guitar. And both performances are fantastic.

Another reason this is an "on-the-fence" noir is because, for much of it, it's a plain drama. It's actually pretty easy to predict the "twist" (although I won't spoil it here), but Mildred opening the restaurant, finding love, and fighting with her children is all more along the lines of a typical family/slice of life drama. If anything, Mildred Pierce is a "mashup" film.

But I suppose the fact that a particular genre can't be placed for Mildred Pierce makes it all the better. It certainly stands out as an early film where women hold the foreground. It shows both the discreet sexism in 1940s American society, as well as the system that causes even mother and daughter to go up against each other. Remember that Veda has been told by society that to be accepted as a woman, she likely must dress up all prim and proper and act like a lady. While I certainly don't sympathize with her and the way she treats her mother, it's also regrettable that the reason she's this way is because of what much of society has told her.

This subtextual commentaries make Mildred Pierce stand out as a true classic. The script is tight and focused, and certain scenes - the death of Kay - and the ending, still hit incredibly hard.

What with this, Casablanca, and Robin Hood, Michael Curtiz is becoming a director who's movies I highly respect. I'm not sure how I like him as a director, since people have pointed out to me that many of his projects were actually studio films that he more or less gave a helping hand to. But nevertheless, his efforts haven't left me disappointed once, and I'm excited to explore more.



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It also has my biggest pet peeve in films this movie has a half dozen evil white men and a half dozen sympathetic minorities.
Which ones are those?

Let me see, there's the lady on the bus who tells him to leave her kid alone, the neighbor lady who barely knows he exists, the therapist at the beginning who doesn't listen to him, the records guy just doing his job, and the therapist at the asylum that we meet once for all of a couple of seconds. Did I miss anyone? I suppose you could maybe count the last two but I'd say that's a stretch. The only character I would call sympathetic is Gary and he's white.



Which ones are those?

Let me see, there's the lady on the bus who tells him to leave her kid alone, the neighbor lady who barely knows he exists, the therapist at the beginning who doesn't listen to him, the records guy just doing his job, and the therapist at the asylum that we meet once for all of a couple of seconds. Did I miss anyone? I suppose you could maybe count the last two but I'd say that's a stretch. The only character I would call sympathetic is Gary and he's white.

I would say the mothers in the story operate as a contrast to Joker's mom, and the film is constantly hitting you over the head with it's white male rage narrative. Hell they even made a song about it...





I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
I just wanted to say thanks everyone for your posts and post comments with sympathy about my mum.

I watched Inglourious Basterds yesterday so will attempt to combine my thoughts about it into some kind of coherent post.



I would say the mothers in the story operate as a contrast to Joker's mom, and the film is constantly hitting you over the head with it's white male rage narrative.
So normal mothers who aren't horrible to their children "operate as a contrast to Joker's mom"? What? That doesn't even make sense.



I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Inglourious Basterds

"You're no more German than that scotch."

Just thinking about this movie makes Inglorious by The Wildhearts play in my head, despite it not being one of the anachronistic songs chosen for the soundtrack...




I had mixed feelings about this the first time I watched it, and they remain fairly mixed!

The first thing I noticed this time around (I blame the Westerns Countdown) is that IB is a Western. Or it wants to be a Western. From the title to the titles, to the opening scene of the enemy approaching from the distance while the young woman is at the pump to the scalping ‘Apache’ Basterds to the Western-influenced sounds and music to the Mexican standoffs – I’m sure someone more well-versed in Westerns could find dozens more examples, but even a Western novice like myself could see it was stamped all over it.

Now that opening scene – the highlight of the film, for sure, which sadly means it’s all downhill from there, but what tension! Brilliant. Christoph Waltz was excellent in this – he speaks four different languages and manages the same smiling menace in all of them.

Then the tone shifts from tension to odd dark comedy, with forays back into long tension filled scenes every so often – the dinner discussing the movie with Landa ordering Shoshanna a milk was another good bit. The funny thing is, I found it jarring at first, but by the end, the comedy was more effective than the drama. I enjoyed the Basterds’ failure to pass themselves off as Italians, but there was certainly an uneven tone overall.

I didn’t like the Basterds themselves, either time I watched this. Somewhere in here, possibly, is a sharp 90- minute film about Shoshanna’s cinematic revenge that doesn’t include them at all. Brad Pitt gives off this smug vibe every time he’s on screen, Eli Roth is awful, and I felt uncomfortable being expected to root for these bastards, who are little better than the people they are killing, when it comes down to it, and their whole 'eye for an eye' philosophy. And the scalping was horrible. Perhaps there was a point being made there about the cycle of violence etc. etc. but this isn’t Blue Ruin, it’s Tarantino so I doubt it. We’re probably supposed to revel in it.

This is a good-looking film, the lighting was great and I liked the look of the cinema. The image of Shoshanna standing by the round window in her red dress with anachronistic Bowie music playing particularly. The idea that cinema itself was the murder weapon and the instrument of revenge - just brilliant! – shame QT couldn’t quite stick to that vision and had to throw in some machine guns. I didn't quite find the fantasy ending satisfying and would have stopped it with the realisation that the flames are real and left it there, that was the mic-drop moment realy. I liked the little clip of Hitchcock’s Sabotage illustrating the explosive nature of film. But was it necessary to name-drop Pabst in every other scene?

The little sections where people’s names appeared and there was a little potted history of them or arrows drawn on to point out particular characters were a good idea in theory but there really should have been more of that sort of thing, doing it so infrequently was just odd. I could have done without the usual Tarantino foot fetish nonsense as well. And the line about respecting directors. And it still irks me that they went to the trouble of getting Michael Fassbender to talk in a slightly off German accent for a plot point, and then cast Mike Myers as a British officer. Why try so hard some of the time? It just added to the general messy unevenness of it all.



I never could get the hang of Thursdays.
Just looked up my previous review for Inglourious Basterds, and yeah, pretty much agree with myself




Shine (1996)
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And, Rach 3 being one of my favorite pieces, it was delightful to hear. The soundtrack incorporated original score with classical tunes that I recognize and love. Some of them were irksome (Chopin wrote far more than one Polonaise) but I can't fault the movie and it doesn't detract much.
...
For those who may not know what "Rach 3" is, it's the Piano Concerto No. 3 (1909) written by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which has been traditionally considered one of the more difficult piano pieces in the repertoire.

Ahwell, I have the piece on CD played by Rachmaninoff with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Do you have that one? It's actually available cheaply on Amazon-- probably because it's in mono sound. Wonderful to hear the master play his own piece though!



For those who may not know what "Rach 3" is, it's the Piano Concerto No. 3 (1909) written by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which has been traditionally considered one of the more difficult piano pieces in the repertoire.

Ahwell, I have the piece on CD played by Rachmaninoff with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Do you have that one? It's actually available cheaply on Amazon-- probably because it's in mono sound. Wonderful to hear the master play his own piece though!
There’s a meme I once saw from a pianist acquaintance of mine about having to have your fingers be crooked and twisted to play his pieces.



For those who may not know what "Rach 3" is, it's the Piano Concerto No. 3 (1909) written by Sergei Rachmaninoff, which has been traditionally considered one of the more difficult piano pieces in the repertoire.

Ahwell, I have the piece on CD played by Rachmaninoff with Ormandy and the Philadelphia Orchestra. Do you have that one? It's actually available cheaply on Amazon-- probably because it's in mono sound. Wonderful to hear the master play his own piece though!
I do not have that one but I may have heard it if it's on Youtube, since I obsessively went through a bunch of the recordings on there. Especially when following along with the sheet music it's really ****ing impressive how so many pianists pull it off

but yeah composers playing/conducting their own music is so amazing to hear, Stravinsky and Copland conducting is also super interesting, although they didn't actually champion their own music imo



There’s a meme I once saw from a pianist acquaintance of mine about having to have your fingers be crooked and twisted to play his pieces.


^^your friend is correct lol. that's a performance of his 2nd piano concerto, which isn't even that difficult by his standards.



Inglorious Basterds

Basterds sets the tone for what to expect from this film. Many moments of suspenseful exchanges punctuated by quick and sudden violence. And bloody. But this film doesn’t have much action, as it’s a very dialogue driven film. At least not until the last act anyways.
Take for example:
The beginning scene where Hans Landa (played with equal parts charm and menace by Chris Waltz) breaking La Padite with a casual conversation laced with certain terror.
The scene where Landa questions Emmanuelle/Shosanna about her cinema and how she acquired it while ordering strudel.
The secret meeting between The Basterds and their spy, Hammersmark (played with a certain glam by Diane Kruger) which results in a tense stand-off with SS officer Dieter Hellstrom.
The introduction of The Basterds lead by Brad Pitt as Lt Aldo Raine.
Sprinkle in several great performances (Highlighted by The aforementioned Waltz as Landa), and you have, in my mind, QT’s second best film after Jackie Brown.
If there are issues with it it is Hitlers cartoonish performance, as well as some of the scenes taking longer then they should. Sometimes QT tends to overwrite a scene and thus lingers too long on them. But those are quibbles.
It’s a great film, And one I have seen many times since my first time in the theatre.





The Matrix (1999)


You know after 20 years of watching bad CGI it's nice to go back and watch a film like The Matrix and appreciate telling a story around the effects you can create vs telling a story and trying to make effects fit the story. The film does have flaws...it feels like the majority of the dialogue is an information dump and college freshman philosophy. Yet the film still works for me because it's also sort of a prototype of Marvel film origin story without actually being based on a superhero. Though you do have to admire the structure and the build.


Laurence Fishburne is very good in this...nobody else is but he carries the film and gives this whole world a sense of gravitas and empathy that sells the film. I also forgot the humor in the film less based on quips and more based on images something you don't see much of today. I also enjoy many of the setpieces, the 2199 world is well realized and it's scenes are for me the most powerful and where I wish the other films would have gone more into.






Inglourious Basterds(2009)


Tarantino originally conceived of Basterds to be a Band of Brothers esque TV mini-series where I suspect he would got into each of the storys one by one. Well that didn't happen so what we ended up getting was a chapter based huge story that just covered the best bits. This is one of those films where I think it gets better everytime you watch it.



Each chapter is pretty much perfect, Tarantino starts off with the most suspenseful scene in the film and then proceeds to lull you into his Tarantino world for the rest of the film only to jolt you out of it in several parts. Brad Pitt is really good in the supporting role a hillbilly who is both smarter than he appears but also flawed a John Wayne esque character for the modern day.


Tarantino's best job in this film is clearly his casting picking up a troupe of European actors like Melanie Laurent and Daniel Bruhl who manage to give us a very dark twisted tragic romance. Diane Kruger's Bridget Von Hammersmark manages to give the film some old Hollywood glamour...though Fassbender's Erroll Flynn impersonation doesn't necessarily work for me.



But the star of the film is Christoph Waltz who won an Oscar...justifiably for his Hans Landa a Nazi of charm, intelligence and menace. But what I love of Waltz's performance is those moments that he breaks and gives Landa human reactions. I think my favorite moment is when his poker face breaks when he first hears the Basterds speak Italian.







Mildred Pierce (1945)


I wonder if this is the feminine version of Citizen Kane. This is the story of a mother who divorces her philandering husband and attempts to build up a restaurant empire while dealing with heartbreak and a truly evil daughter. The entire story is also wrapped around a murder mystery which though obvious is still engaging.


It's kinda crazy that Ann Blyth who received an Oscar nomination didn't get a top billing spot on the poster because Scott and Carson are really periphery characters in the great scheme of things. I wonder if we can blame Crawford for that. Joan is good as the titular hero a woman who both drives hard and is also manipulated by the people around her. I like a character with faults like that it adds a different dimension to the film.


I'm not sure what genre I would classify this as...but I suppose we could go with noir...though perhaps more a neo-gothic romance. Curtiz does a great job shooting the film, many scenes are just beautifully rendered and realistic this feels like 50's Los Angeles.



I think I'm in the mood to watch Joker tonight, but I don't like moving onto the next nomination before I've finished my review of the previous one, so I'd like to write something about I, Daniel Blake first (since I rewatched that yesterday). I do have a couple of sentences, but nothing cohesive. I think I'm getting progressively worse at writing, so it's probably good that I'm almost finished the HoF haha.





I, Daniel Blake (2016)
Directed by: Ken Loach
Starring: Dave Johns, Hayley Squires, Kema Sikazwe


Though I, Daniel Blake was one of my favourite films of 2016, before it was nominated I had no intention of ever watching it again. I wasn't sure if it would have the same emotional impact the second time around, and I was worried that the more dramatic elements would feel like a chore. Luckily the film's runtime didn't drag during this viewing, and the scenes that had previously made me tear up still managed to deliver a gut-wrenching punch to my heart. Twice now I've had to pause that scene in the food bank.

The film somehow succeeds at being both a touching story of two people who bond over their shared struggles, as well as a deeply cynical and depressing critique of the welfare system. Those emotional highs and lows make it an exhausting watch, but for all the right reasons. Dave Johns is fantastic as the titular character. His performance appears very genuine, which makes it easy to feel compassion for his plight and to want desperately for him to succeed despite the odds.

Everything from the script to the film's cinematography gives
I, Daniel Blake an air of authenticity. Although there's an obvious leaning towards the grim and dreary, the visuals are very much grounded in realism. Not only does it help enhance the atmosphere, but it's a great reflection of the situation Daniel finds himself in. The political commentary is not exactly subtle, but it's quite effective, and highlights how the most vulnerable populations are often given the least amount of consideration. Though I have no desire to watch this for a third time, I'm definitely glad I saw it again.

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Joker (Todd Phillips, 2019)
Imdb

Date Watched: 05/30/2020
Cinema or Home: Home
Reason For Watching: 22nd MoFo Hall of Fame
Rewatch: Yes



When I chose to nominate Joker for the Hall of Fame, I knew it would come with some backlash. It has generally been a divisive film and I knew too that some people would feel that it's too soon. I knew people would unfavorably compare it to Taxi Driver and The King of Comedy. I knew people would complain that it dares to call itself Joker at all.

I was not, however, expecting someone to call it a "mistake" to nominate the film and the person who said that can shove those words right up his.... Anyway, there's no mistake about Joker. I knew what I was doing when I nominated it and while that person may think that the impact of the film is lost on rewatch, I have found the opposite to be true. And let me tell you, I have rewatched this film. Tonight was at least my fifth or sixth time seeing it and I love it more now than I did the first time. Perhaps even more than the last time I watched it.

I love that it strives for true darkness and realism and not that safe, sort-of realistic PG-13 darkness of Nolan's Batman films. I love that it's gritty. I love that it looks and feels dirty and that all that grime is rendered somehow beautiful by the colors, lighting, camerawork, and score. I love how immersed I feel in it. I love that things are not black and white. I love that there's no hero here. I love how each scene challenges me to decide whether to laugh or to cry. And I love that Oscar-winning (finally!!!) central performance.

People are always quick to point out Phoenix's physical transformation but, while there's no denying the impressive dedication that takes, weight loss alone does not make for a great performance. What makes it great is the range of emotions he makes me feel. I feel sympathy for him. I feel terrified of him. I feel a strange sense of triumph when he finally sheds the last of his former self and fully emerges as Joker (and then I question WTF is wrong with me for feeling that way...). But mainly, I am fascinated. I am mesmerized by the presence he brings to the screen and by how fully realized the character becomes in his capable hands. This is the thing that makes for a great performance. And a great performance like this is what makes for a great character study.

So no, nominating this was no mistake. The Hall of Fame is for films that we believe to be great. And that is exactly how I feel about Joker. Everyone else who signed up is free to disagree. I don't care and I have no regrets.







Joker (2019)
Directed by: Todd Phillips
Starring: Joaquin Phoenix, Frances Conroy, Robert De Niro

Joker is a film that I previously had no desire to watch. Even if I hadn't been left wholly unimpressed by its theatrical trailers, the ridiculous outrage from people who hadn't even seen the film was enough to make me distance myself from it entirely. One side claimed it would glorify white male rage and inspire the mentally ill to commit mass shootings, while another group hailed it as being part of some anti-SJW crusade. Not only were they both way off the mark, but the film's only real social impact was on the amount of videos and pictures people uploaded of themselves dancing on outdoor staircases.

I might've been convinced to check the film out sooner had it not been for its director. Todd Phillips felt compelled to trash his critics and dismissively refer to them as “the far left”, while whining about not being able to write comedies any more because of “woke culture”. I decided to boycott his films, and thus had no intention of ever watching
Joker. Obviously I wasn't exactly happy to see it nominated for this Hall of Fame, though it gave me an opportunity to try and separate the art from the artist, so to speak. If I can still enjoy Mel Gibson's films despite him being a despicable human being, I can give a chance to one Todd Phillips film. In retrospect, I'm glad that it was nominated, as it turned out to be a very pleasant surprise.

All the negatively surrounding its release, and my previously dismissive attitude towards it perfectly set the film up to shatter my expectations. It doesn't say anything new or exciting with its political commentary, but it's still a relevant message. It showcases the dangers of underfunding social services, and shines a light on the lack of support for the lower class in America. Tension caused by the growing disparity between the rich and poor were ultimately the biggest danger to Gotham, and it wreaks more havoc than the Joker as a villain ever could on his own. It's distancing from the larger DC Extended Universe was definitely a smart move, especially since it's connection to the source material is tenuous at best. It honestly didn't need those elements at all, but of course it probably wouldn't have been as successful in the box office otherwise.



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