Friday, September 23, 2005

A movie list

It's great to finally be able to post here again. Without anything of substance to write about, I turned to my favorite subject outside of music, letters, and moonshine: movies. In keeping with the tradition of blog lists, here are ten movies Suley loves (and you should love too):

1. “Touch of Evil” (1958). Orson Welles (who also directs) plays a crooked, racist American detective investigating a murder across the Mexican border. Heston, a by-the-book Mexican narcotics officer and Janet Leigh, his wife, get caught in between Welles and a local drug lord. “Touch of Evil” is just a gritty flick. From the opening scene where a car is blown to bits, to when Janet Leigh is assailed by strung-out toughs in a desert motel room (which seems to be where she always shines), “Touch of Evil” is just that – evil. It will make you fear the very real lawlessness of our southern border (which has always been a reality, right up to this day) and adds a whole new creepy element to the 1950s that is absent in other films from the period.

2. “The Wages of Fear” (1953). Henri-Georges Clouzot directs and Yves Montand stars in what is probably the most high-tension movie ever made. A band of jobless losers inhabiting a one-horse town in South America are called upon by the local U.S. oil company to transport crates of nitroglycerine over bumpy mountain roads in large military trucks. Four men, including the scarf-wearing Montand, volunteer for the job that is their ticket out of the mosquito infested backwater. On the mountain roads the machismo that the men have displayed throughout the film rapidly begins to melt away as the vials of nitroglycerine begin to shake. It’s white knuckle all the way, and the ending will shock you.

3. “The Third Man” (1949). Hunted by men...Sought by WOMEN! Set in post-World War II Vienna, “The Third Man” is another dark, brooding Orson Welles film (the last on this list). Welles plays Harry Lime, a mysterious man who invites his friend, Holly Martins, to Vienna for a job. When Lime is supposedly killed in a car accident, Martins discovers from talking to Lime’s friends that the stories are inconsistent, and sets out to determine what really happened. It’s an East vs. West spy story with a great zither soundtrack by Anton Karas. Almost otherworldly at times, “The Third Man” sets the standard for cloak and dagger mystery flicks.

4. “The Treasure of The Sierra Madre” (1948). “Badges? We ain't got no badges. We don't need no badges. I don't have to show you any stinking badges.” A gritty, greedy, sweaty, five o’clock shadow of a film, “The Treasure of Sierra Madre” stars Humphrey Bogart and Tim Holt as down-on-their-luck drifters in search of work in a Mexican town. They team up with Walter Huston (father of director John Huston), a grizzled gold prospector who “knows what gold does to men’s souls.” The trio set out for a mother load of gold deep in the mountains of Mexico. As they dig and the gold begins to accumulate, Bogart’s Dobbs begins to suspect the other two of seeking to do him in and make off with his share. It’s Bogart at his crazy best.

5. “High and Low” (1963). A non-samurai Akira Kurosawa/Toshiro Mifune film. When a kidnapper mistakes Mifune’s chauffeur’s son for Mifune’s and kidnaps him, Mifune is forced to choose between giving away his fortune to set him free or letting the son of his chauffeur die. When the police are brought into the investigation, we are given a rare glimpse into the seedy underbelly of Japanese society during the 1960s – drugs, class division, and racism (careful viewers will note that the bad side of town is inhabited largely by Korean émigrés). The hunt for the kidnapped boy easily outperforms any more recent crime thriller in terms of pacing and urgency. Kurosawa’s artful cinematography, employed brilliantly on bullet trains and night clubs, heightens the fear and desperation. Look for a surprising scene that employs color as well, which is a touch of Kurosawa brilliance.

6. “Love and Death” (1975). Woody Allen’s comedic tale of Napoleon’s invasion of Russia. Allen plays Boris, the son of a Russian landowner who is sent off to fight against the invading French. He and his wife Sonja, who is played by Diane Keaton, set out to assassinate Napoleon and end the war. Much of what makes this film great is the over the top absurdity and the totally inappropriate philosophical discourse between the characters. There are so many great lines here that it would be impossible to list them all. Here is just a sample:

Napoleon: If this pastry is to bear my name, it must be richer. More cream.
Boris: I can't shower with other men.
Sonja: Judgment of any system, or a priori relationship, or phenomenon, exists in an irrational, or metaphysical, or at least epistemological contradiction to an abstract empirical concept such as being, or to be, or to occur in the thing itself, or of the thing itself.
Boris: Yes, I've said that many times.
Sergeant: Imagine your loved ones conquered by Napoleon and forced to live under French rule. Do you want them to eat that rich food and those heavy sauces? Soldiers:
No...! Sergeant: Do you want them to have soufflé every meal and croissant?

It’s a fun movie

7. “Good Morning” (1959). Yasujiro Ozo’s look at suburbanized late 1950s Japan. The story of two children who take a vow of silence until their parents will buy them a television, “Good Morning” (Ohayo) is laced with interesting subplots and endearing characters that leave viewers wishing they could see more. Filmed in color, “Good Morning” is also wonderful in that it presents a true-to-life look at how post-war Japan looked fifty years ago. For those who lived during the late fifties and early sixties, as well as those who enjoy 1950s ephemera, “Good Morning” is a nostalgic treat.

8. “M” (1931). Director Fritz Lang tells the story of a man (played here by the super creepy Peter Lorre) who is a child murderer. When the police investigation gets intense and no leads turn up, the criminals of the city join forces to hunt the child killer down and bring him to justice. Like many of Lang’s films, “M” feels ahead of its time in terms of cinematography, dialogue, and pacing. Some have argued that this film points out the growing specter of Nazism, two years before Hitler was able to seize power. “M” is a powerful film filled with suspense, humor, and horror. A masterpiece of world cinema.

9. “Ran” (1985). Akira Kurosawa’s overlooked epic masterpiece. “Ran” is a samurai adaptation of Shakespeare’s “King Lear.” It is the story of three sons vying for control of their ailing father’s kingdom. The descent of Lear into insanity, here known as Hidetora (played by the capable Tetsuya Nakadai), is portrayed so wonderfully that the sorrow and loss are just palpable. Kurosawa gives the viewer a vision of hell on earth. Blood flows like a river as revenge, greed, and old hatreds play themselves out in a sort of Noh Theater. For this film, Kurosawa spent ten years painting the storyboards, collected 1400 specially-made suits of armor over two years, brought in 200 horses, built a full-size fortress on the slopes of Mt. Fuji (only to burn it completely to the ground), and hired a cast of thousands of extras. During production, Kurosawa’s vision failed and his wife of 39 years, Yoko Yaguchi, died. He stopped filming for just one day to mourn. And that sadness is highly evident throughout the film, which ends on a dark note. Kurosawa makes Shakespeare’s tragedy more than just tragic – it’s a story of complete despair and loss like no other I have ever seen. And it’s probably my favorite film of all time. This film easily makes Akira Kurosawa the greatest director of them all.

10. “Strangers on a Train” (1951). “My theory is that everyone is a potential murderer.” When psychopath Bruno Anthony and tennis star Guy Haines meet on a train, Bruno proposes that they exchange murders. Bruno suggests that Guy should kill his hated father, while he will kill Guy’s estranged wife (whom is seeking a divorce). Since the only connection between them is this anonymous meeting, no one would suspect them. Guy thinks it’s a joke until his estranged wife is found dead, strangled in a park. Bruno is serious and expects Guy to now carry out his half of the bargain: kill Bruno’s father. Hitchcockian suspense ensues. The ending scene will forever make you terrified of carousels.

That’s my list. If anyone has the inclination, I would love to see a list of ten movies you enjoy and why. They don’t have to necessarily be your favorites, just movies you have seen and love.

Peace out.


At September 23, 2005 3:23 PM, Blogger Indigo said...

Welcome back!!! (sigh) I haven't seen a single one of your movies. I can't believe it. And I'm like the queen of movies!!!! I saw, "Napoleon" and I thought HA! I saw that one, and then I realized you didn't mean Napoleon Dynamite. LOL!

At September 23, 2005 6:50 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm not gunna type much, but I really enjoyed Amelie, for it's playful surreality. well, not surreality, more fairy tale. L.A. story was a great romantic comedy, but I will always remember it as an atmospheric, slightly surreal, and overall wimsic view of life. Ghost World was really bleak, and really caught the listlessness that happens to people. I thought Bollywood/Hollywood was a hilarious twist on the bollywood "genre", as it were. yeah


At September 23, 2005 10:00 PM, Blogger Jenelle said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

At September 23, 2005 11:39 PM, Blogger Raehan said...

Glad you are back!!!

What is wrong with me. I've seen none of those movies. I will get busy and let you know what I think.

At September 24, 2005 12:20 AM, Blogger suleyman said...

Y'all have no idea how tickled I am to know no one in blog land has seen these movies.

I guess I'm just a weirdo.


At September 24, 2005 11:14 AM, Blogger cmhl said...

oh man, am I out of the loop, or are you? haha! I haven't seen a single one of your movies...!

At September 24, 2005 12:07 PM, Blogger Greg said...

Great selection of films! And, I've actually seen quite a few of them!!!

At September 24, 2005 12:36 PM, Blogger BG said...

What happened with Pirates of the Caribbean?! that's one great movie.

At September 24, 2005 3:20 PM, Blogger Sorted Lives said...

Welcome Home! Hope you enjoyed your trip. Good choices -- one of my favs -- Lifeboat with Talullah Bankhead

At September 24, 2005 3:27 PM, Blogger Wilde said...

"To Kill a Mockingbird" is at the top of my list, then Merchant/Ivory's "Maurice", "All About Eve", "Annie Hall", "The Trip to Bountiful","His Girl Friday", "The Lion in Winter","A Star is Born (Garland","Remains of the Day."

At September 25, 2005 2:07 AM, Blogger d.K. said...

I've seen six of them. None of those was "terrible" but the only one I've intentionally seen more than once was "Stangers on a Train."

At September 26, 2005 12:44 AM, Anonymous Fitèna said...

J, welcome back!

Suley, me never seen any of the ovies you mentinned, do I have a problem?! Cause you're definitely no weirdo!
But maybe just maybe, I might have seen the french version of at least one of them.... but now thant I think of it, I don't think so: none of them sound familiar....



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