Thursday, February 17, 2011

Film Fan #376-400

#376. Young Guns II (1990)
This is one of those unfortunate little movies that probably becomes very easy to overlook after a while, a sequel to what at the time must have seemed like a very nice gimmick movie, a young cast in a Western, at the end of the period where that sort of thing was really relevant. But Young Guns II is surprisingly awesome, and covers a lot of Billy the Kidd territory, playing almost like a trick on those who might have been expecting far more throwaway material.

#377. The Wizard of Oz (1939)
By most accounts an all-time classic, and seen that way, it surely has to be. But it’s this low on the list because without those filters, it really does begin to fall apart a little. The best things about it, the real timeless elements, are the songs and Dorothy’s companions, the Scarecrow, Tinman, and Cowardly Lion, plus Toto!

#378. Reflections in a Golden Eye (1967)
Working my way through the Marlon Brando catalog (something I’m still working on, because as his reputation decreased, it apparently became acceptable to let most of it basically get lost) helped me discover this unusual and compelling character study, which also has the virtue of standout cinematography.

#379. The Agony and the Ecstasy (1965)
Charlton Heston is probably one of the greatest Hollywood stars to have been almost completely forgotten after a brief period of brilliant work. Here he’s Michelangelo painting the Sistine Chapel, which, as the title suggests, was no simple task.

#380. Cape Fear (1961)
Nothing against the Scorsese remake, but Robert Mitchum and more stellar cinematography help keep this one timeless.

#381. The Terminator (1984)
James Cameron couldn’t have made this as timeless without Schwarzenegger, but there’s already so much of what would make this franchise a movie classic that you can overlook how much it aged in a short period of time.

#382. Tora! Tora! Tora! (1970)
This is a movie I watched in school. See? School is good for something. This is a pretty well nuanced look at the Pacific theatre of WWII, giving a lot of time to the Japanese side, well before the extraordinary Letters from Iwo Jima, which isn’t on this list, but probably will have to be at some point.

#383. The Fountainhead (1940)
I came to determine, after increased exposure to the career of Gary Cooper, that outside of High Noon, I may not be a very big Gary Cooper fan, but this is a definite standout, thanks to the big ideas of Ayn Rand.

#384. Rear Window (1954)
This is one of those classics that I watched during my childhood, and I haven’t watched it since, so clearly it’s a classic that has staying power, thanks to Jimmy Stewart, no doubt.

#385. Serpico (1973)
Al Pacino is almost another Charlton Heston. Sure, he’s still very much active and still regarded as one of the finest actors alive, but he really doesn’t get a lot of respect, and really hasn’t since about the first decade of his career. He’s one of those actors who the more he sticks around, the more familiar audiences become, and the more they assume they’ve seen everything already. That’s a shitty way to approach talent, because he consistently brings it. Anyway, ah, here’s an early classic.

#386. Vertigo (1958)
See: Rear Window. I think some dude named Hitchcock may also be involved.

#387. Mean Streets (1973)
Early Scorsese, and Robert De Niro’s first standout performance. He’s so radically different here than in anything else I’ve seen him in, it’s incredible. His career happens to be subject to the same rules as the ones I was explaining about Pacino, which doubly sucks. But there you go.

#388. Psycho (1960)
At the end of the movie, when they’re psychoanalyzing Anthony Perkins, I think that’s the really interesting part. What other movie has done that?

#389. The Thing Called Love (1993)
River Phoenix is one of those actors who famously died at a young age, but he had a leg up on the likes of James Dean, since he started acting far sooner. This is one of his final roles, as a hopeful country singer (Sandra Bullock plays another, and she’s predictably charming). He seems to have been born with an authenticity. The songs are all good, too.

#390. Talk Radio (1988)
Oliver Stone is the directing equivalent of the Pacino/De Niro Law, in that everyone seemed to love him early on, and then started going stone silent on his later work. Here’s actually one of his earlier movies, one of several that was completely overlooked. It’s probably one of his purest studies, too, just a shock radio host who talks himself into disaster. I’m guessing there’s a lot of Stone to analyze here.

#391. Primal Fear (1996)
Richard Gere bears keeping in mind with that pattern I’ve been talking about, but he may be an infamous member of another Hollywood blacklist, for personal matters that really ought to never have affected his career, but I guess that can’t really be helped. The real kicker is that this movie gets completely stolen from him by Edward Norton’s breakthrough performance, the one that set a recurring pattern of a whole different kind, of Norton trying to pull fast ones, either on the audience or the characters around him, sort of like the Shyamalan of actors.

#392. Scream (1996)
I’m not a big fan of the horror genre, finding most of it to be excessively repetitive, so an exceptional spoof, one that plays so well you don’t even need to view it as a spoof, is going to be right up my alley. The cast is so good that this year a fourth movie is going to be released, so that whole story can continue one more time. Neve Campbell, Courtney Cox, Liev Schreiber, those are the standouts for me, but there are plenty of others.

#393. Wild Bill (1995)
There were so many attempts during this particular period at reviving the Western it was almost a joke, so there was bound to be an overlooked gem or two. Here’s one of them, Jeff Bridges’ first attempt (he’s also in that True Grit ditty, in case you haven’t heard), in an incredibly focused study of the title character, which almost plays like a reverse of all the decisions made with The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford about a decade later.

#394. Noises Off (1992)
You can take your pick with this one: enjoy the terrific cast, made up of a bunch of established names that span a number of eras; the raucous story, which follows actors staging a play while engaging in personal wars; or remember your experience enjoying it live. You really can’t lose.

#395. Superman IV: The Quest for Peace (1987)
By the time audiences watched this in theaters, all the magic seemed to have drained from the series. Watching it back with a little perspective from the passage of time, you can see a lot more to like about it now, not the least being that it plays almost as a more direct sequel to the original film than even Superman II (which shot virtually simultaneously and was obviously intended in every way to; you can watch Richard Donner’s version to it do so more literally, which I highly recommend) or Superman Returns, Bryan Singer’s highly reverent latterday revision. Anyway, don’t take my word for it. This is one of those movies that it benefits to forget everything you think you know, and just give it another shot.

#396. Monty Python’s The Meaning of Life (1983)
After two incredibly focused classics that funneled the group’s energies into more or less traditional films, Monty Python came back with a big screen version of its TV show. I thought it was pretty good, anyway.

#397. Support Your Local Gunfighter (1971)
James Garner returns for another round of his irreverent take on Westerns. This one is totally stolen by the spectre of Swifty Morgan, the villain who Garner prepares for all movie long, like a riff on High Noon.

#398. The Good, the Bad, and the Ugly (1966)
The Man With No Name trilogy concludes with a truly epic showdown that finally does away with all those punks getting the jump on Clint Eastwood, and just lets the shooting begin.

#399. The Sword in the Stone (1963)
The Disney factory was cooling off when this was released, but decades later, I still got to enjoy it, perhaps igniting my passion for King Arthur.

#400. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957)
Here’s another classic that I don’t easily ken to, but permeates enough of cinema lore that I can’t entirely ignore it, mostly because it’s easily Alec Guinness’ most famous movie outside of Star Wars. Gotta represent.

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