So…. 2014, Shame in Review

I watched some movies in 2014. No really, I did. Quite a few actually. My profile on Letterboxd suggests I watched 154 movies, not counting the ones I forgot to tag. Of course there were some rewatches and Bond movies that factored into that total. Some of those 154 were downright SHAMEFUL. For the inaugural year of Cinema Shame, I didn’t hit the dirty dozen exactly, though I did watch The Dirty Dozen for the first time.

Here’s my initial list, posted at the end of January:

January: Ben Hur (1959)

February: BURT! Deliverance (1972) and The Longest Yard (1974)

March: Rashomon (1950)

April: Ride the High Country (1962) (swapped out for The Birds (1963))

May: Godzilla (1954)

June: The Dirty Dozen (1967)

July: City Lights (1931)

August: Barry Lyndon (1975)

September: Deer Hunter (1978)

October: The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974) (swapped out for 30 days of Halloween Shame that somehow didn’t include the Texas Chainsaw Massacre)

November: Cabaret (1972)

…and last and perhaps the most shameful of all…

December: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

Shame: I didn’t watch The Deer Hunter. Penitence: I will watch The Deer Hunter in 2015.

Shame: I didn’t watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. Penitence: I will watch The Texas Chainsaw Massacre in 2015.

Shame: I didn’t write up full blog posts for It’s A Wonderful Life, Cabaret, Barry Lyndon or The Dirty Dozen. Penitence: Now!

So Barry Lyndon is slow… really…. really slow.

barry lyndon candlelight

Holy shit is this movie a slog. Like Molasses in January… in Alaska… if Elsa got f’ing pissed.

Due to my schedule I had to break up this Kubrick classic into four different sittings. Despite the pace, I didn’t dislike Barry Lyndon. I’m intrigued/mortified/confused/bewildered/fascinated by Barry Lyndon. I also have no desire to rewatch Barry Lyndon anytime soon, though I’m also curiously drawn back to it. Watching the film is akin to sitting before a painter’s canvas perpetually in motion. I had to do a quick search to reveal why Lyndon appeared so extraordinary beyond the face value of the sunning composition from cinematographer John Alcott. From Wikipedia:

Most notably, interior scenes were shot with a specially adapted high-speed f/0.7 Zeiss camera lens originally developed for NASA to be used in satellite photography. The lenses allowed many scenes to be lit only with candlelight, creating two-dimensional, diffused-light images reminiscent of 18th-century paintings.[76] Cinematographer Allen Daviau says that it gives the audience a way of seeing the characters and scenes as they would have been seen by people at the time.

But beyond the cinematography and innovative lighting/camerawork how or what makes Lyndon a classic? Aye. This is the real challenge.

It occurs to me that maybe that’s just it — Barry Lyndon is Kubrick’s challenge to viewers that resist weighing form, composition, color, light, music, mood, feel and other intangibles when considering the value of these “moving pictures.” Film is a visual medium, enhanced by music and sound and dialogue. The origin of all cinema is the silent image. What if Barry Lyndon is the talkie that aspires to render talk and complex narrative irrelevant? Kubrick wanted to turn back the clock to a time before the silent The Great Train Robbery perhaps? What do we gain from the dialogue? I can think of nothing important conveyed throughout the entire 3-hour run-time that originated from the lips of any character, Ryan O’Neal or otherwise.

There’s also strikingly little character development, melodrama or emotional engagement. The character of Barry Lyndon is a bit of a cad, but not egregiously so. He’s at worst a foolish stumblebum, making bad decisions and falling into unfortunate circumstances. This suggests, at the very least, a reading that leans on Nietzsche’s philosophy on “Slave and Master Morality” that suggests that the Will to Power is the exploitation of the sentimental weaknesses of equality among people. I’d go boldly down this path if A) I had time to rewatch Barry Lyndon all in one sitting and B) had studied Nietzsche for more than a collegiate millisecond. Since this is a blog of offhand thoughts, I feel this superficial connection is completely justified. I will now move on and you can call shenanigans all you like.

So It’s A Wonderful Life is truly wonderful, but castrated by popular culture

its-a-wonderful-life-sequel

Of all the films I watched for this Cinema Shame project, I proclaimed It’s A Wonderful Life to be the most egregious oversight. True. But I hadn’t watched it to date despite my affection for Jimmy Stewart because I felt that it was impossible to approach the film fairly. Our culture has mindlessly regurgitated the morals and mantras of IAWL through satire, earnest homage and gross sentimentality. What’s left for the first time viewer to discover? I’m happy to finally have enjoyed a firsthand viewing of Frank Capra’s Christmas staple, but I’ll need at least another viewing to fully dissipate preconception. My cockles were duly warmed, however. Maybe I’ll reserve a spot for it among The Ref, The Shop Around the Corner and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation in my 2015 Christmas viewing rituals.

So Cabaret features a lot of Germans

cabaret liza

It’s the Liza! and Joel Gray show! Starring Liza! and Joel Gray! CABARET was far more than just “Fosse.” CABARET was a heap of extraordinary character and music and garters and m’f’ing Nazis. The best Nazi-musical since Springtime for Hitler. If I’m being completely honest, I had no idea that Cabaret had anything to do with World War II. Funny, right? Anyway, I loved Cabaret and hope to revisit the film soon.

So The Dirty Dozen is like Ocean’s Eleven + 1 with bigger guns

the dirty dozen

…or more precisely: Ocean’s Eleven + 1 x Lee Marvin – happy-time ending.

Born in the “Golden Fleece” tradition of the 60’s and 70’s, The Dirty Dozen falls under the specific category of “Epic” Fleece along with, say, Seven Samurai and even Star Wars. Succinctly the “Golden Fleece” sub-genre requires a team gathered to acquire or fight for a common goal/item. Enter a dozen condemned misfits under the command of a misfit commander (Marvin) heading into German territory on a suicide assassination mission.

The rote assortment of cliched/immobile archetypes feature some very familiar faces — Charles Bronson, Jim Brown, John Cassavetes, Telly Savalas, Donald Sutherland and Clint Walker. Though little attention is given to each individual, Savalas and Cassavetes garner the most juicy screentime as the respective lunatic and red herring. The most entertaining scene belongs to Donald Sutherland, who manages a bit of good-spirited lunacy.

The knock on many of these “Golden Fleece” films is that the characters rarely have the space to develop or change. Obviously, the audience doesn’t require a dozen meaningful character arcs, but they do require some change, some obstacle. And while the obstacle always looms somewhere off in the distance — we know that they will eventually come to meet the damn Germans — the film lacked a precise presence of villainy. At first it’s the damn bureaucrats (Ernest Borgnine)… and then it’s each other… and then it’s some other damn bureaucrats (Rex Ryan)… and then it’s the Germans… and then based on the pattern, presumably some more damn bureaucrats.

I believe that the shifting focus could have been overlooked had Character with a capital “C” been honored in order to pay  greater dividends upon the film’s finale. I enjoyed The Dirty Dozen greatly, but the enjoyment remained superficial. I just expected something else, something to pay it all off before the credits rolled… something more akin to The Wild Bunch.

A few random notes:

1. Was anymore more badass than Charles Bronson? He lays out John Cassavetes with little more than a steely gaze and a flick of his will. Lee Marvin’s the star here, clearly, but Charles Bronson owns every scene in which he appears.

2. I had no idea of the breadth of Robert Aldrich’s filmography. He’s a director that seems obscured the films he directed. The Longest Yard. The Dirty Dozen. Kiss Me Deadly. What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? Hush Hush Sweet Charlotte. Hell, he even directed The Frisco Kid and 4 For Texas. Of all of those titles I only ever associated him with Kiss Me Deadly. 

3. On to 2015, Shamers.

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Christmas in July – Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Its-A-Wonderful-Life

A white boy named Clarence? Drexl from True Romance would have words to say about that.

Saying “Merry Christmas!” to buildings? A state-appointed psychiatrist would have words to say about that.

Ah, humbug!

 

Just kidding. I loved It’s a Wonderful Life.

There’s a stigma around holiday films, and as traditions build and the years go on, it’s easy to rag on usually the most saccharin of them all: the Christmas Movie. I admit, I’ve never been a fan. Unless you consider Die Hard a Christmas movie; I do, and it’s become almost overexposed how many people throw that around these days. (I was here before The Office‘s Michael Scott referenced it! I was saying it before Die Hard for the National Film Registry‘s twitter! I’m so cool.) It’s funny, one of my favorite movies of all time has become a holiday film also – Steven Spielberg’s Jaws – a mainstay of any Independence Day celebration for me. So, not all holiday films are bad, just because they evoke a time of year. It’s just Christmas movies, often with their message of family values and helping the poor and all the humane things we should strive for as denizens of this planet…that just makes people sick to their goddamn stomaches.

I admit, this is why I’ve avoided It’s a Wonderful Life for 31 years. The most I’ve ever seen was Jimmy Stewart running through snowy streets, yelling “Merry Christmas!” at buildings, and maybe winking up at his ceiling, holding his family close. Seemed like some old-time, kumbaya shit to me. Sometime when I was a teen, I heard the movie was actually about suicide. What a crock. Was that a way to get teenagers to watch it? To get them to turn off the Sabbath records for 2 hours and give it a try? What Christian town did I grow up in?

It’s a Wonderful Life was on television all the time, when I was a kid; certainly around Christmas, but at least 4 or 5 other times during the year too. It’s always been that experience I knew I should have but always ran away from. It’s my sister’s favorite movie; that could’ve helped scare me away too. What I’m driving at is, I was a stupid, stupid, anti-establishment punk, poser kid.

itsPartly because it’s July and partly because the film doesn’t tip its hand too far about Christmas in the first 2 acts, I didn’t watch It’s a Wonderful Life as a Christmas movie. And, I think that was an excellent mindset going in. It didn’t have baggage and aesthetic cues I was searching for. It wasn’t until the day the money went missing, in fact, and seeing the snow on the streets and the Christmas tree in George Bailey’s house that the holiday time period registered. Watching it as a film alone, a lot hit home for me. A boy trying to do good by his neighbors, boss and community. A man trying to strike out on his own, away from the family business, and do what makes him happy. The desire to continue the family name in hard times. Making sacrifices to keep a community and his family strong. These are all the ideas that swamped me as a young man: fierce independence, wanting to travel, wanting to not be locked down by career or family. Even as an adult, I admire George Bailey as an early 20-something, an open future completely sprawled ahead of him.

The film’s message of sacrifice and hope aren’t lost on me. It’s a romantic, pleasant film with great performances from Stewart, Reed and all supporting players. It fits perfectly as a Christmas movie too. Help the community and the community will help you. It has a lot of good things to say about small town folk, and quite a few bad things to say about the rich moneymen. (Maybe another Eastern bank allegory like The Wizard of Oz?) It’s so apparent how many films take an anti-capitalist stance in the wake of the Great Depression; it’s partly to thank for how I was educated on the topic growing up. The Christmas Carol sequence with Clarence, the soon-to-be angel, showing Bailey what life could be like without him was the only aspect I really knew about the film before I saw it. In the end, as fiercely independent as Bailey is, regretting the course his life has taken, his nightmare “sobers” him to another reality: conformity. The message works fine for the time, 1946, and great for the holiday, Christmas, but it has a mixed result on me decades later.

Rather, I like to see It’s a Wonderful Life as a historical item; the result of depression and war, and a glimpse at the beckoning baby-boomers and materialism of the 1950s. The film is All-American, about fitting in, down to its core. There’s a lot to love, but The Parallax View is nowhere to be seen here.

Also, this is the one and only Frank Capra film I’ve ever seen. Might have to consider that for Auteur Cinema Shame next year…

1. Some Like It Hot (1959)
2. Persona (1966)
3. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943)
4. Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
5. The Searchers (1956)
6. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
7. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
8. Breathless (1960)
9. Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) / Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
10. It Happened One Night (1934) / His Girl Friday (1940)
11. Sabrina (1954)
12. Hell in the Pacific (1968)

 

Alright Already, I’ll Watch It – A CinemaShame list by @TRWilcox

Believe me, I’ve always wanted to see these movies (except The Shawshank Redemption).  It’s just the time, or the opportunity, never presented itself. (Except for the The Shawshank Redemption, which has been on TNT every g-ddamn day since it came out, right?)

1. Blood Simple

The only Coen brothers movie I haven’t seen. (With the exception of The Ladykillers remake, which I feel no shame over, and will get to eventually.) Being a noir fan in addition to a Coens fan = 2X the Shame for this one.

2.  Scarface (1983)

One of those ones that’s entered the cultural lexicon, but I never got around to. But I know there’s Pacino! And chainsaws! And cocaine!

3.  The Apartment

Double Indemnity is one of my favorite movies of all time. And weirdly, I’ve seen more obscure Wilder films like A Foreign Affair. But not this most famous of his, at least, not all the way through from start to finish.

4. All About Eve

I’m actually not surprised I haven’t seen this.  Bette Davis is a big meanie.

5.  Blue Velvet

I’ve experienced the twisted (does that word even do him justice?)  mind of David Lynch through Eraserhead and other later films, but this very notable one has escaped me.

6. The Philadelphia Story

See Jimmy Stewart comments on #12.

7. Stagecoach
Ford and Wayne. The grandaddy of all westerns, a genre I’m reasonably familiar with. Some of my favorite movies ever (Good the Bad and the Ugly, Rio Bravo) are westerns. OR SO I CLAIM. Shame.

8. The Rules of the Game

The entire nation of France has arrogantly insisted I watch.  I surrender.

9.  ??

This is either going to be Silence of the Lambs or The Goonies. Maybe they’d make a good double feature?

10. Dracula
I already know the original Dracula is creaky as hell but I still feel like I should have seen it, if only for Lugosi. Especially after all the times I’ve watched Tim Burton’s Ed Wood.

11. The Shawshank Redemption

I’m not sure why I’ve had an irrational bias against this movie for so many years, but I do. I blame Ted Turner. For years it seemed like every time I turned on my TV, Tim Robbins was raising his hands to the rain…ugh.

12. It’s a Wonderful Life

I grew up watching Jimmy Stewart movies. My entire family loves him. I’ve seen A LOT of Jimmy Stewart movies. I’ve even seen Dear Brigitte, for God’s sake. Who else could pull off both Harvey and Vertigo? Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, and The Naked Spur? But I’ve never seen two of his most famous films, and for that I must atone.

Shhh… Don’t tell anyone about @Andrew_Cybulska’s List of Shame

“Oh yeah… yeah that movie was great.”

LIAR. I am a BIG. FAT. LIAR. I don’t know that the movie is great, because I’ve never seen it. But how could I admit that to you? How could I possibly admit that to myself? Well enough lies. Enough with the ambiguous talking points based on what I’ve read from other critics. It’s time to make myself more knowledgable on the films that define modern and classic cinema, and it’s time to step out from the darkness into the light.

This is my list of shame…

January – Dr. Strangelove

February – Sabrina

March – Enter the Dragon (to celebrate The Raid 2 coming out)

April – The Godfather

May – The Godfather II

June – The Godfather III

July – Anchorman

August – Taxi Driver

September – Arsenic and Old Lace

October – Psycho

November – Miller’s Crossing

December – It’s a Wonderful Life

It begins this weekend with Dr. Strangelove.

My Dirty Dozen by @gregmccambley

I am a movie junkie. I will watch just about any kind of film at the drop of a hat.  And yet, there are some movies that I have not seen, for various reasons. It’s hard to describe exactly why I’ve not seen them, though. Some are because of perceived personal taste, while others are because of lack of enthusiasm. So, thanks to Cinema Shame, I now have a chance to see if my reasons were valid.  So, over the next 12 months, the movies I want to watch are:

January – Pan’s Labyrinth (2006)

February – Raging Bull (1980)

March – Taxi Driver (1976)

April – Singin’ In The Rain (1952)

May – Mary Poppins (1964)

June – The Nutty Professor (1963)

July – Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)

August – The Wizard of Oz (1939)

September – Fight Club (1999)

October – Se7en (1995)

November – Mean Streets (1973)

December – It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

This list is, I hope, just the start. I want to make it my movie watching mission this year to start watching movies starring people other than the usual suspects.   I want to thank my online network of movie watching buddies for really engaging my love of film.

If I have more titles (and I’m sure I will), I will definitely add to this list.

It’s gonna be a fun year.

Addendum: I might add to this list as the year goes on, so I figured why not go ahead and start now? Given that I’m gonna explore early Scorsese this year, I came across After Hours (1985) for cheap, so I’m adding it to the total. I don’t know when I’ll watch it, but I will.

My List by @campbelldropout

First of all, I want to thank @007hertzrumble for putting this site together and his excitement for this project/adventure and for paying attention to my twitter posts (finally someone pays attention to me). Second, I want to thank @QuelleLove and @LaurasMiscMovie for creating and discussing a list of classic films they will watch in 2014 which gave me the idea of creating a list of classic films that I need to see for the year.

Now the films I have chosen to watch over the next year are consider the classics, either classic in the sense of all film history or classic to a specific genre or both. I believe most of these films will fall under both. There are various reasons I have not seen these films but I have narrowed it down to three.

  1. Time – Out of the 12 films I have picked only two are under 100 minutes long. It’s tough to find time to watch a 100 minute film let alone a 150 minute film.
  2. Netflix – Instead of sitting down watching Citizen Kane (run time 119 minutes), I end up watching Stolen (run time 96 minutes) with Nicolas Cage. I never seem to learn my lesson and always fall for this trap.
  3. Critical reception – These are some of the greatest films ever made but what if I dislike them or worse cannot understand what is going on. Well, this is really no longer an issue, but I believe it is one reason why I didn’t watch these films when I was younger. If I watched The Godfather and hated it, did that mean I could never be a film lover?

Below is my list of films for the year, I have switched three films around in order to complete a film for this month. The first film was originally going to be Blade Runner but I have pushed that to February because I wanted to watch the theatrical version of the film and not the director’s cut. For this month I will be watching On the Waterfront and hope to have a post up by next Thursday discussing the film.

January – On the Waterfront (January 30, 2014)

February – Blade Runner (February 27, 2014)

March – The Wild Bunch (March 27, 2014)

April – Infernal Affairs (April 24, 2014)

May – Seven Samurai (May 29, 2014)

June – Citizen Kane (June 26, 2014)

July – The Godfather (July 31, 2014)

August – The Godfather: Part II (August 28, 2014)

September – Taxi Driver (September 25, 2014)

October – Halloween (October 30, 2014)

November – Seventh Seal (November 27, 2014)

December – It’s a Wonderful Life (December 26, 2014)

Forgive me, Internet. I have Shamed. by @TheActualKeith

Watching movies has always been like a job for me. I love movies. I watch as many as I can, but somehow there have been many that still elude me. I try my best to keep up and catch up, but it’s hard when I’m the only one keeping myself accountable.

Now, thanks to the Internet (Thanks, Mr. Gore!), @campbelldropout, and @007hertzrumble I have other people that will keep me accountable for at least 12 films I really should have seen now. Although, seeing the lists of others, I don’t feel as bad. This site is like a great little support group.

“Hi, my name is Keith, and I’ve never seen…”

My list:

January: Glengarry Glen Ross (1992)* and Caddyshack (1980)

February: Sound of Music (1965)

March: Citizen Kane (1941)**

April: Braveheart (1995)

May: North By Northwest (1959)** and Vertigo (1958)**

June: The Graduate (1967)

July: The Good, The Bad & The Ugly (1966)**

August: Lawrence of Arabia (1962)

September: Blade Runner (1982)

October: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977)

November: One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

December: It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

* I watched Glengarry Glen Ross a couple days before this idea was born. I thought about counting it for January since I had never seen it before, but that felt like cheating. That’s why I’m adding Caddyshack.

** I feel like I’ve seen these movies before, but it was so long ago, I can’t remember if I did. I couldn’t tell you anything outside of the standard synopsis, or the pop culture references. Maybe I saw them as a kid, or I only saw clips in a film class. Either way, I need to dedicate time to these.