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23Jun/180

TSPDT 45-54: Rio Bravo (1959)

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I'm going through the list of all the films I have not seen on They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is from the top of the pile, Howard Hawks' 1959 western Rio Bravo.

45. In the Mood For Love (Like) - The space, the red, the slow motion - all tantalizing and agonizing at once. This is the only film of Wong Kar-wai's I've seen aside from The Grandmaster, and based on the intense yearning of In the Mood For Love I'm looking forward to it.  It's a romance that never culminates, living entirely in that electric space between partners who feel the mutual attraction on their skin.

46. The Third Man (Like) - Disorienting and playful to a disarming degree.  By the time Orson Welles shows up to deliver the famous cuckoo clock monologue we've watched Americans make a mess of things time and again.  Then, on reflection, the charm masks an argument advocating for continued war.  Such a sweet coating for a bitter pill, and arguably the height of Carol Reed taking the piss out of American do-goodery.

47. Playtime (Like) - At some point in the future, I will purchase the Criterion Collection's assembly of Jacques Tati's finest.  Playtime is my favorite, a grand collage of ultramodernist business practices and architecture where every corner is an opportunity to tell a joke.  Chaos comes in degrees and Tati, still charming in his M. Hulot guise, delights in teasing out the cracks in the sleek façade.

48. Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Stopped Worrying and Learned to Love the Bomb (Like) - Discussed at this link.

49. Chinatown (Like) - Not the best daytime noir (I'd rank Brick, L.A. Confidential, and After Dark, My Sweet ahead of this), but with water being reframed as a luxury instead of necessity it's arguably the most prescient.  Aside from plot shenanigans, Jack Nicholson is the standout playing a man out of time so straight his desperation to get to the truth overwhelms the rest of the film.

50. Ugetsu Monogatari (Like) - I owe Ugetsu a rewatch. I remember a gentler, and just as perceptive, tale of ghosts and tragedy like Kuroneko. Kenji Mizoguchi's Sansho the Bailiff left deep marks in me while Ugetsu is a whisper.  No matter, the whisper is a humanistic lift all the same.

51. Barry Lyndon (Like) - Discussed at this link.

52. The Apartment (Like) - Discussed at this link.

53. M (Like) - The moral implications of M are something I continue to wrestle with.  I do not believe, under any circumstances, that anyone has the authority to decide who lives or dies. Lang's gradual turn into the killer's perspective shows sympathy for uncontrollable bloodlust.  He doesn't make it easy to wish death on the killer, nor extend sympathy to the point of empathy.  What Lang does is regard, distort, and leave it to the audience to decide what's "right".

54. Rio Bravo -

There is not a millimeter of fat on Rio Bravo. This film works at such a steady pace that even the seemingly out-of-place musical interlude works wonders amid the tough guys going through a depressive spell.  Above all, Howard Hawks direction exemplifies just how flexible a genre the American Western is.  About forty minutes or so in I realized Rio Bravo worked just as well as any classic thriller as it does a piece of Americana.

It's weathered Americana, but Americana all the same. The kind of film I'd expect from someone who's been around the block a time or two knowing things don't always work out well.  Hawks was in a bad place when he came out of a somewhat self-imposed retirement to direct Rio Bravo and he doesn't pull out a self-reflective "one last job" kind of story.  Instead he sees these archetypes with pain and clarity, opening on a low only to end on a marginally better high.

And oh my goodness what an opening.  There's a nice wide shot of horses and riders coming in on a dusty trail, typical cowboy stuff.  Soon Hawks is tight on Dude (Dean Martin) looking desperate and pained, pleading with his eyes for some relief, only for career criminal Joe Burdette (Claude Akins) to watch as his lackey tempts Dude with a silver dollar chucked straight into a spittoon.  Sheriff Chance (John Wayne) gets his own solo shot, distant and disgusted, before Dude takes his aggression out on Chance and Joe casually strolls away after murdering a man in cold blood.

22Jun/180

The Boy Who Stole The Sun: Devlog #14

The slugs are secure - but are they safe? It all depends if the new salamander critter can add one or not.  Boss encounters are coming soon and in the meantime enjoy the relaxing sight of the salamander's fireside nap.

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21Jun/180

Changing Reels Season 2 Episode 10 – Columbus (2017)

In this episode we discuss the 2017 film Columbus directed by Kogonada. The drama focuses on Jin (John Cho), a successful Korean-American, who strikes up a tender friendship Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), while stuck in Columbus, Indiana. We also discuss our short film of the week Dol (First Birthday) by Andrew Ahn.

Show notes:

If you like what you hear, or want to offer some constructive criticism, please take a moment to rate our show on iTunes or Google Play! If you have a comment on this episode, or want to suggest a film for us to discuss, feel free to contact us via twitter (@ChangingReelsAC), follow us on Facebook and reach out to us by email (Changing.Reels.AC@gmail.com). You can also hear our show on SoundCloud or Stitcher!

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20Jun/180

TSPDT 996-998: L’humanite (1999)

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I'm going through the list of all the films I have not seen on They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is from the bottom of the list, Bruno Dumont's 1999 drama L'humanité.

996. Dead Poets Society (Indifference) - As there are only two films in this slot that I have seen and I'm indifferent to both there is no "favorite" pick.  Though, if I had to choose, I would take the uberschmaltz of Dead Poets Society over "Woody Allen does a thing".  Robin Williams and director Peter Weir have both done much better films, and neither is well suited to the sentimental heart of John Seale's screenplay.  There's no zest, just aimless emotion forced into a plot that the film feels too lackadaisical to address.

997. Husbands and Wives (Indifference) - Woody Allen made Annie Hall, a great film I now have an extremely complicated relationship with.  Allen then went on to remake Annie Hall several times, sometimes in black and white and other times a humorless slog, until present day. This is the documentary-ish one, better done in When Harry Met Sally... and best left in the dustbin today.

998. L'humanité -

Bruno Dumont's L'humanité opens on a series of long shots.  A small figure travels quickly over the horizon, then into view but jogs away from the camera, and it's only when the figure collapses that the camera is able to catch up.  So I watch, in the first of many unbroken shots of Pharaon's gaze, Emmanuel Schotté communicating something with his eyes that's not quite distant but struggling to be free of this moment.

L'humanité isn't about the crime, but the void it leaves within Pharaon that slowly begins to infect those around him.  The wide shots and sterile framing go hand-in-hand with Pharaon's post-traumatic state.  It starts overwhelming, then unnerving, to a final act where I felt like I needed to be anxious on L'humanité's because Dumont pushes Pharaon's traumatized state far beyond what most directors are capable of.

18Jun/180

TSPDT 23 – 44: Modern Times (1936)

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I'm going through the list of all the films I have not seen on They Shoot Pictures Don't They.  It is arguably the most comprehensive and varied "best ever" list assembled.  If I have seen a film on the list previously, I will write short thoughts followed by a full review of the unseen film alternating between the top and bottom of the list.  Today's film is from the top of the pile, Charlie Chaplin's 1936 comedy Modern Times.

23. Raging Bull (Like) - Scorsese's created some of the most pathetic examples of masculinity in fiction.  Jake LaMotta may be the worst of these.  Talent and success aren't enough, everyone in and observing his life needs to be convinced of his strength while nurturing his paranoia.  Spectacularly composed images, like Jake clinging to his dying television, meet with DeNiro at his most self-effacing and boxing at its wettest. Any one of those factors is enough to give Raging Bull a watch, that they're combined into one makes this Scorsese's second-best.

24. City Lights (Indifference) - She can't see him, he works to restore sight to her. The fantasy of each collapses into reality in a beautifully ambiguous ending.  Everything else?  Well, it's the stuff of nary a many psychoanalytic reading, but it's not of much interest otherwise.

25. The 400 Blows (Like) - The most understanding portrait of the confusion and frustrations in male adolescence.  Truffaut doesn't provide a warm blanket, focusing instead on the little misunderstandings and accidents that are central to the struggle to be understood.  That last shot, with Antoine Doinel frozen at the sight of the ocean, encompasses the sudden and massive realization that things aren't going to really get better - the scope will just expand.

26. Psycho (Like) - Still disorienting and unnerving.  Hitchcock's playful sense of macabre feels less macabre and more directly sinister with the sudden shocks of violence and Anthony Perkins' exponentially shady performance. The psychology, which may have seen ahead of its time, is suspect - as is Hitchcock's queer coding of Norman Bates.  But it remains a gripping watch that spawned three sequels - two of which are good films.

27. Andrei Rublev (Like) - Discussed at this link.

28. Some Like It Hot (Like) - Discussed at this link.

29. The Mirror (Like) - Discussed at this link.

30. Touch of Evil (Indifference) - Outside Scorsese and, now, Cuaron - Touch of Evil has one hell of an iconic tracking shot to start.  Then it just plays on with multiple reminders that Heston was never much of an actor.  Welles is fun, but that's about it.

31. La Dolce Vita (Indifference) - This, along with Last Year at Marienbad, taught me I don't have to love classic films.  Heck, I don't even need to like them and it's okay to be bored by them.  I felt nothing but boredom watching La Dolce Vita. It was the first of many films about the ennui of the rich and, "Boy doesn't life just pass by" that floats right on by me.

32. Casablanca (Like) - Every bit as good as its reputation with the added surprise at how damn funny it is.  Based on the quoted bits you'd think that there's an air of resignation or melancholy surrounding Casablanca.  That's true, but there's also an optimism that's infectious.  These are mostly good people, trying to do the right thing, in a story that does not sandwich them to their duties.  It's an excellent watch.

33. Lawrence of Arabia (Like) - I have never seen this film "properly" in that I've never gotten a chance to see it in a 70mm print or even in a theater.  But I remember the bold romanticism of it, a willingness to be patient and take in the texture of Lawrence's adventure.  I'm long overdue for a rewatch.34. Ordet (Like) - Speaking of patience, Carl Theodor Dreyer's Ordet less commands you to pay attention and more asks you to sit in reverie with it.  Most of the conflicts are internal and Dreyer patiently glides between one set of theological dilemmas to the next.  Dreyer's not as bold as he was with The Passion of Joan of Arc, Vampyr, or Day of Wrath - but with each conversation we come one step closer to an ending that is either unbelievable or, my perspective, miraculously plausible.

35. Au Hasard Balthazar (Like) - Spiritual ode to how all of god's creatures deserve respect, or a cruelly plotted representation of all that's terrible with humanity?  I lean more toward the former than the latter, though I haven't had the heart to revisit Au Hasard Balthazar because I want to leave that last image of Balthazar finally getting to rest quietly among creatures that accept him.

36. Sunset Blvd. (Like) - Discussed at this link.

37. L'Aventura (Dislike) - Long, dull, steady shots of boring rich folks infected with that peculiar form of ennui that only the high class has.  La Dolce Vita at least has charm to it at times. L'Aventura can barely muster up enough energy for apathy.

38. The General (Like) - A bit of history about me, my grandpa used to call me Buster because I looked like Buster Keaton when I frowned.  I didn't find that out until after I bought two Keaton films in one of those bargain bin Wal-Mart crates.  Even with its questionable print quality, the dogged determination of Keaton melds with his still spectacular physical comedy and sequences that are so dangerous it likely won't be replicated.  That's alright by me, because even though the hero gets his way in the end he's still bogged down by duty. Melancholy, sweet, and funny.  That's Keaton for ya.

39. Blade Runner (Like) - Real talk - I don't really enjoy Blade Runner very much, but when it's on - like the interrogation scene or "tears in rain" - it's menacing and beautiful in equal measure.  This is a case where I like Blade Runner for its parts more than the whole.

40. Contempt (Indifference) - My mind tries to pull up Contempt from my memory banks and the only thing I remember is a lot of red, that I wished I was watching a Truffaut film instead, and that any one of the girls from Beyond the Valley of the Dolls could have done more with the career Brigitte Bardot had.

41. Rear Window (Like) - Paranoia, fantasy, painkillers, and boredom.  There's a lot to admire in Rear Window on craft, but as a writer who's spent some terrible nights post-op running a fever and feeling insane from medication I feel a particular pain watching Rear Window.  It's phenomenally dense in the background storytelling and could be used as a primer on how the whole screen is a playground to move figures around.  Stewart was a great performer, but his obsessive edge here brings me serious doubt whether anything that happens once the heat wave hits is real or his justification for voyeurism.

42. La Grande Illusion (Like) - Renoir's humanism shined between the meaningless struggle of the first world war and the rise of fascism leading to the second.  The tortured, proud, and conflicted von Rauffenstein is one of my favorite characters in all cinema.  He's come to represent a path we might have taken after the first world war, one that recognized the brutality of all our actions and worked together to find a new place in society.  Instead the divisions remain, the illusion of nobility barely preserved, and history went on to more devastation.

43. The Night of the Hunter (Like) - Shapes a child learns to recognize contain malevolent forces birthed from Americana, capitalism, and a nightmarish perversion of Christianity.  A woman so pure in her desire to protect the innocent even the dark can't hide her frame.  Children with the barest understanding of adult problems forced to imagine the worst for their mother.  The Night of the Hunter is one of America's only miraculous feats in cinema and a damn shame Laughton only got to make this one film.

44. Modern Times -The most famous sequence in Modern Times is hilarious, though not my favorite, and is disappointingly optimistic in retrospect.  When an inventor arrives to showcase a feeding machine for employees, factory worker (Charlie Chaplin) straps in for a stretch of humiliation and forced feeding.  The first assumption that doesn't pan out with today's corporate heads is that they'd want their employees fed and the second that they'd personally take interest in machines designed to increase productivity through nutrition.

Difference between then and now is similar to the difference between RoboCop (1987) and RoboCop (2014).  In RoboCop '87 the big joke is the idea that there are good corporations, while in RoboCop '14 that we can live without corporate overlords.  Much like Chaplin's plea for humanity in The Great Dictator, the then-dehumanizing idea of strapping employees in for food is more optimistic than our current reality.  We've come a long way and managed to make things worse.