Formerly "Dave's Blog About Movies and Such"

Sunday, January 31, 2010

Rip Torn continues his steady, hilarious descent into drunken madness

As you've probably heard by now, a drunken Rip Torn was arrested for breaking into a bank while carrying a loaded weapon. This seemed as good a reason as any to post a random scene (out of context) from his undiscovered early 70s gem Payday. Enjoy.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Movies I Saw This Week (Jan 18 - Jan 24)

Springfield Rifle (1952)
dir. Andre De Toth


And so continues my current obsession with 50s Westerns. It's impossible for me to go a week without watching one of these films. For reasons I don't fully understand, I find them very comforting. My attraction to these movies probably stems from a number of factors. 50s Westerns were marked by a turn toward more mature subject matter and an overall ambiguous depiction of good and evil. Yet, there is no denying the artifice of the studio Westerns from this period. These movies are also, as with other studio pictures, marvels of economic storytelling. I will never ceased to be amazed by the amount of story that one of them could pack into 90 minutes. These were efficiently made Hollywood factory products that, nevertheless, were beginning to push the boundaries of this supposed kiddie genre. [Who knows, maybe I just really dig the iconography of the Old West.]

Although the Civil War picture Springfield Rifle is not one of the standouts from this period, it is nevertheless a good piece of movie comfort food. With this film, incidentally, I continue my discovery of the works of Andre De Toth, a semi-forgotten genre film-maker who directed a number of violent, gritty gems in the forties and fifties (Crime Wave, The Indian Fighter, Day of the Outlaw, and his most famous movie House of Wax).

Gary Cooper stars as a disgraced Union officer who gets wrongfully dishonorably discharged and decides to stick around the fort so as to soak up the shame. Or so it seems. Full of twists, Springfield Rifle pits two undercover spies (one, a Southern sympathizer working in the high ranks of the Union Army and the other, a northern agent working undercover among a group of Confederate horse thieves) against each other.

I don't know whether screenwriters Alan Mak and Felix Chong saw Springfield Rifle before writing Infernal Affairs (though Martin Scorsese, who directed the remake The Departed, most certainly did), but modern viewers of De Toth's Western will see more than a passing resemblance to it in Mak and Chong's Hong Kong crime picture as well as in the American remake. [Of course many other movies have used a similar set-up.]


Coogan's Bluff (1968)
dir. Don Siegel


Clint Eastwood beats up hippies. Greatest movie ever made? Perhaps. I certainly wish I had seen this in time to include on my list of my favorite movies of the 1960s. Don Siegel, Eastwood collaborations almost never went wrong. Watch this scene of Clint in a New York hippie disco and try not to watch the rest of the film.


Mirageman (2007)
dir. Ernesto Diaz Espinoza


Ernesto Diaz Espinoza is one savvy film-maker who clearly understands how to turn his limitations into assets. In his superhero movie send-up Mirageman, the titular hero is as delightfully DIY as the film's production. Mirageman is a titty bar bouncer turned crime-fighter who receives pleas for help via email and travels to crime hot-spots using public transportation (he doesn't own a vehicle).

Although Espinoza has fun deflating the superhero mythology, he clearly understands the importance of following through on certain genre expectations. This film fucking moves. Espinoza is aided, of course, by the expert fighting skills of Mirageman's star, Marko Zaror. Who needs CGI when you've got a guy who can do this:



Mirageman is an homage/send-up that is as loving an ode to its genre as Shaun of The Dead and Hot Fuzz were to theirs. This clever superhero film also owes just as much to Taxi Driver and 70s Kung Fu pictures as it does to Marvel and D.C. I hope that it develops the cult following that it deserves.

[The trailer:]

Monday, January 18, 2010

Movies I Saw This Week (Jan 11 - Jan 17) (Twitterized Edition)

I didn't have a chance to write a fully fleshed out piece for today [screw you; I was busy.] so here's my twitterized reviews of the movies I saw this week.

The Far Country (1954)
dir. Anthony Mann


Another Psychological Western winner from Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart.


Black Sabbath (1963)
dir. Mario Bava and Salvatore Billitteri


Crazy visuals and Boris Karloff aplenty in this Mario Bava classic.


Vice Squad (1982)
dir. Gary Sherman


Sleaze, sleaze, and more awesome sleaze.


In the Loop (2009)
dir. Armando Lannucci


A brilliantly acerbic British send-up of the sorts of twats who could drag a couple nations into war with a Middle Eastern country.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Remake of The Crazies trailer

dir. Breck Eisner


A lot of horror fans dismiss all remakes out of hand, but I tend to take these on a case-by-case basis. I am a huge George Romero fan, but of his early releases, The Crazies was one movie that I had always thought would be interesting so see remade. Although his other movies from this period are damn near perfect (I have yet to see There's Always Vanilla and Season of the Witch), The Crazies is somewhat flawed. I like the premise, many scenes, and a lot of ideas in the original, but I had always thought that it was too big a movie to be produced effectively with the meager resources present to Romero at the time. It also feels overlong.

As for the director of the remake, Breck Eisner, I don't have much to say. I have yet to see any of his work. He was responsible for the critically panned Sahara, so take that for what its worth. Based on the trailer, though, I gotta admit I'm kind of excited for this. It looks like it could be pretty scary. [Yes, I realize that The Crazies remake trailer has been around for a while but I'm sometimes slow with upcoming releases.]

Plus, Timothy Olyphant playing a cop, reminds me of Deadwood. Anything that is reminiscent of the hella, fucking, balls-to-the-wall awesomeness that is Deadwood has got to be good. Right? Right?

[The trailer:]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Phenomena (1985)

dir. Dario Argento


Although Switzerland is mostly known for its pocket knives, pussified neutrality, and dirty-money-hiding banks; with his crazy horror flick Phenomena, Dario Argento wanted to show that it was also a surreal place full of deformed, murder-happy children, evil Swiss boarding school matrons, and razor-wielding monkeys. It was about time that someone had the balls to expose the real Switzerland.

As with most Argento movies, logic takes a back-seat to crazy visuals and gore aplenty in Phenomena. The daughter of an American movie star, Jennifer Corvino (Jennifer Connelley), has been sent to a boarding school in Switzerland where she is quickly met with derision by her peers. Although she has always loved bugs, it us not until she befriends entomologist John McGregor (Donald Pleasance) that she discovers she has the rare ability to telepathically communicate with and control insects (aka Satan's spawn). McGregor soon nurtures the young girl's talent. The boarding school headmistress, however, reasons that Jennifer is an incarnation of Beelzebub, the Lord of the Flies, and orders her sent to an asylum.

[Side note: I have always loved the complete willingness of Argento characters to take as complete fact the most ludicrous theories presented to them. Whereas in most movies, such bug-communicating nonsense would be met with incredulity by the skeptical side characters, here it is seen as the most logical explanation for mysterious phenomena (hey, that's the name of the movie!). Maybe this is due to the deeply Catholicistic nature of the Italian psyche—a willingness to believe any absurdities. Or maybe Argento is just completely wackadoo.]

Meanwhile, a series of unexplained murders of young girls has been taking place in the surrounding area. Although not all of the bodies have been found, the disappearance of numerous boarding school students has started to raise suspicions. Jennifer soon takes it upon herself to use her bug-communicating powers to uncover the mystery. Landing in the killer's lair in the film's climax, Jennifer attempts to defend herself in a classic over-the-top Argento finale.

How the fuck had I missed Phenomena over my many years of movie watching. It combines many of my favorite things: absurdity; Dario Argento; Motorhead; Jennifer Connelley communicating with insects; Iron Maiden; bat-shit craziness; monkeys; and completely inexplicable, totally absurd, off-the-wall, super duper insanity. Phenomena had been on my list of must-see movies for quite a while, but for some reason I kept putting it off. My loss.

[The trailer:]


Dave's Rating:

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Movie Theme Song Wednesday: What's New Pussycat (1965)

dir. Clive Donner and Richard Talmadge


"What's New Pussycat" - Tom Jones (music by Burt Bacharach and lyrics by Hal David)

[I don't generally write comments about the theme songs that I post, but I wanted to point out that, right from the beginning, Tom Jones had the ability to get an entire room of women wet.]

Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Hiroshima: The Ride!

For those who haven't heard the news, James Cameron bought the film rights to the non-fiction novel The Last train to Hiroshima: The Survivors Look Back, presumably with plans of directing the film adaptation. All those who have been longing to experience the atrocity that was the nuking of Hiroshima in IMAX 3D will now have their chance.

My Friend Interviews Tommy Wiseau

As you all know, I love The Room, one of the most entertaining bad movies I have ever seen. I have seen it in the theater a couple times, and I plan to see it many more. My friend Sarah Shanok (her site Sarah's Soccer Hotties is linked on my blog) recently managed to get an interview with the auteur responsible for this film, Tommy Wiseau. You can read her piece for Encore here.

Monday, January 11, 2010

No Name on the Bullet (1959)

dir. Jack Arnold


Jack Arnold, like Howard Hawks, was a jack-of-all-trades director. During the 50s, Arnold excelled in such genres as Sci-Fi (It Came from Outer Space), Horror (Creature from the Black Lagoon), the Teenage Problem Picture (High School Confidential), and the Western (No Name on the Bullet). Unfortunately, the rest of his career, although intermittently interrupted by features, was filled TV directorial work (26 goddamn episodes of "Gilligan's Island" [Side note: How Arnold avoided suicide is a mystery.])

Although he is mostly known for his Horror and Sci-Fi work, Arnold's most accomplished picture is undoubtedly the spare psychological Western No Name on the Bullet. Audie Murphy stars as John Gant, a gun for hire who arrives in the town of Lordsburg and upsets the locals. They know of his reputation and assume that he has come to off a member of the local citizenry. Each of the town members contemplates past wrongs and reasons that he is the person that Gant was hired to kill. Throughout life everyone is bound to make enemies. No one is without sin.

The casting choice of Murphy as the villain was an interesting one. Credited with destroying six tanks and killing over 240 Nazis, Murphy was the most decorated combat soldier of WWII and a true American hero. It would be disingenuous, of course, to refer to Murphy's character as an out-and-out villain. As with most 50s psychological Westerns (see the works of Anthony Mann and Budd Boetticher), things aren't so black and white. Indeed, Gant soon becomes chummy with the film's hero, the Doc (Charles Drake). A somewhat mutually appreciative bond develops between the two men.

Doc is the only towns-person without fear, the only one with nothing to hide. As Gant mentions numerous times, he and the Doc are the only two honest men in town. Doc does not see things this way, however. He recognizes the disturbance that Gant has brought to the townspeople. Gant reasons, however, that if their consciences and recognition of past wrongs have riled them up that much, it's on them. If Gant was hired to kill somebody, that person must have done some pretty awful shit. Of course, it is not revealed until the film's finale, after the town has been brought to a near riotous stage, which town-member Gant has come for.

If No Name on the Bullet can be faulted with anything, it's its over-the-top metaphoricalness. Gant isn't so much a character as a force of nature. His reaction to Doc's actions in the finale, in particular, although working on a message level, rings hollow as far as character motivations are concerned. Nevertheless, this is one tight little Western. Running at under 80 minutes, this movie makes one pine for the days when a film-maker could tell a story with letting his masturbation get in the way.

Dave's Rating:

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Way to go, my friends

I'm really looking forward to the new Michael Cera vehicle Youth in Revolt. It has a lot of actors I like and the trailer looks funny. Speaking of which, my friends' band Black Taxi (I've had a link on my blog to their site for quite some time) has a song in the trailer. I don't have much else to say other than that I'm really fucking psyched for them. Way to go.

Incidentally, here are some of their up-coming gigs:

Jan 15 2010 10:00P
Southpaw *The Rumble Party* Brooklyn, New York
Jan 28 2010 9:00P
Bowery Ballroom NY, New York
Jan 30 2010 8:00P
Copperfield’s Boston, Massachusetts
Feb 13 2010 10:00P
The Studio at Webster Hall w/ The Frontier Bros. New York, New York

Anyone who lives in the Boston or New York area won't wanna miss them. They always put on a ridiculously entertaining show.

Hey guys, when you start playing MSG, you'll totally have to comp me some tickets for all this free publicity I've given you.

[The trailer (Black Taxi's song starts at the 28 second mark):]

Thursday, January 7, 2010

Monday, January 4, 2010

My Favorite Movies of the 1950s

"You're tearing me apart!"
-Jim Stark (Rebel Without a Cause)

Television. Film in the 1950s was inextricably bound with this new medium. Feeling cornered, cinema existed mostly in reaction to the boob tube. For only the second time since film's inception, movie-going decreased. Although theater attendance dipped momentarily at the onset of the Great Depression, it quickly rebounded by that decade's end. The brief early thirties decline, of course, was nothing compared to the plummet in movie going that occurred at the tail end of the forties—a decline that would continue all the way through the seventies, never to rebound.

It was clear to studio heads that the supremacy of the cinema was quickly becoming a thing of the past. TV was now becoming king. People had discovered that there existed only one thing better than sitting down and watching something: not having to travel somewhere to sit down and watch something.

Adding to Hollywood's woes was the landmark Hollywood anti-trust case of 1948, a decision breaking up Hollywood's vertically integrated monopoly of production, distribution, and exhibition. Studios could no longer churn out umpteen films a year, assured that they could dump these in theaters that had no other choice than to exhibit them; and instead relied more and more on individual spectacle pictures. This coincided with, and was the genesis for, exciting new film technologies (3d, widescreen), and the continuing supremacy of previously introduced technologies (color).

Because of the trust-busting supreme court decision, independent studios and films would now have a slightly better chance of finding an audience. Arriving alongside the new suburban/automobile culture, drive-ins would prove an important venue for many of these new low budget independent features, such as those produced by American International Pictures. The independents, unable to compete with the budgets of the majors, tackled increasingly more taboo subjects.

Foreign films were also starting to gain traction in American art-houses. Unbound by Hollywood's production code, these films ventured into territory that major American releases would rarely tread. As Hollywood attempted to compete with the more risque foreign and independent American pictures, the Production code slowly eroded away.

Although the history of film has always been one of flux, the change experienced in the fifties rivaled few other decades (except perhaps for the transition from silent to sound film at the end of the twenties).

1950

Gun Crazy (1950)
dir. Joseph H. Lewis


Read my review here.


In a Lonely Place (1950)
dir. Nicholas Ray


Screenwriters sure are a drunken, self-hating breed. In Nicholas Ray's masterpiece In a Lonely Place, Bogart plays a cynical, temperamental, down-and-out screenwriter wrongly accused of murder—not that his piece of shit character is sympathetic. This is a movie without heroes. Generally, I bristle at movies centered on screenwriters (or books about authors). [Writers are supposed to be creative. Can't they think of other occupations for their main characters than their own?] In a Lonely Place, however, rises above its self-involved process-of-film-making peers.


Rashomon (1950)
dir. Akira Kurosawa


Akira Kurosawa's international breakthrough. A crime is recounted from four differing perspectives. Whose version is right? It is never certain. In the end, everyone is looking out for himself. Rashomon uses the device of the unreliable narrator to staggeringly well thought-out effect.


Sunset Boulevard (1950)
dir. Billy Wilder


1950 sure was a year for misanthropic screenwriters. There's not a goddamn thing wrong with this movie. Side note: Gloria Swanson is the ultimate cougar.


Winchester '73 (1950)
dir. Anthony Mann


After Jimmy Stewart wins a rare Winchester rifle, it is quickly stolen. The rifle then changes many hands as Stewart pursues it across the country. Winchester '73 is the first and arguably best of Anthony Mann and Jimmy Stewart's western collaborations. In these films, Anthony Mann succeeded in his attempts to show that old Harvey-loving Elwood P. Dowd could be just as much of a bad-ass as any hard-boiled tough guy actor you could name. Eat your heart out, Lawrence Tierney.


1951

Ace in the Hole (1951)
dir. Billy Wilder


Unrelentingly bleak and cynical, Ace in the Hole would later be denounced by Billy Wilder as being too dark. More likely than not, though, Wilder's denunciation resulted from the film's failure at the box office. This successful writer-director was usually able to straddle the precarious line between misanthropy and audience pleasing fare. With Ace in the Hole, however, Wilder succumbed fully to the dark side. Kirk Douglas stars as a reporter, eager to build a name for himself, who exploits a man stuck in a cave, delaying the rescue attempts, in order to get recognition for himself. The ensuing media circus profits all those unscrupulous enough to take advantage of the situation. Although heavy-handed at times, this film still resonates today. Wilder did not forgive himself for making a film with such disregard for the audience, but I thank him for it.


The Steel Helmet (1951)
dir. Sam Fuller


Containing the raw energy of a new film-maker, The Steel Helmet was Sam Fuller's third outing as a director. Although nominally about the conflict in Korea, Fuller drew on his experiences as a soldier in World War II (later to be more fully covered in the amazing The Big Red One) to give this film a realistic edge. The Steel Helmet showed that the overriding emotion and urge in war was one of survival. This film is completely stripped of the kind of cloying sentimentality that marred some of the otherwise good war pictures that came before it.


1952

On Dangerous Ground (1952)
dir. Nicholas Ray


Robert Ryan plays the kind of sadistic play-by-his-own-rules cop that would make Harry Callahan cringe. Sent to upstate New York after beating one too many suspects, he must solve a murder case while falling in love with Ida Lupino, a blind woman whose brother is a chief suspect. Ryan is soon forced to come to grips with his own nature. Although the studio forced a tacky ending on Ray's picture, there is no denying what an effective film it is.


The Narrow Margin (1952)
dir. Richard Fleischer


Inarguably, the 1940s represented the height of film-noir. The studios churned out these cheaply made pictures like nobody's business. Although these films continued to get made, they were definitely fewer in numbers by the time the 1950s rolled around—many folks claiming 1955 as the last year of the traditional noir (some extending it to 1958 to include Touch of Evil). A few minor masterpieces still snuck through, however. Case in point: The Narrow Margin. A cop must guard a stool-pigeon mob widow on a train trip across country so that she can testify against the criminal organization. This fast paced picture from sometimes amazing/sometimes dreadful director Richard Fleischer represents the kind of taut bare-bones story telling that films-noir excelled at more than any other kind of film.


Park Row (1952)
dir. Sam Fuller


Set a quarter century before the birth of its director, Park Row is oddly one of director Sam Fuller's most personal films (and certainly one of his most enjoyable). This is Fuller's love letter to journalism, the industry that was his first employer. Of course, being a Fuller film, this newspaper story is hardly some sissied-up picture about reporters researching stories but rather a two-fisted, quick paced action film. Hell, this film contains a type-setting scene that is one of the most entertaining things I have seen.


1953

Glen or Glenda (1953)
dir. Ed Wood


By far, my favorite Wood picture. It is a personal, avant-garde experiment in inept film-making. It is what you would get if you asked a five year old to direct a pretentious film student's art script about sexuality in America.


The Hitch-Hiker (1953)
dir. Ida Lupino


Read my review here.


The Naked Spur (1953)
dir. Anthony Mann


Jimmy Stewart as a bad-ass bounty hunter? Fuck yeah.


Pickup on South Street (1953)
dir. Sam Fuller


My favorite Fuller picture, Pickup on South Street is one of the leanest pictures that this director made. Richard Widmark is a small-time pick-pocket who inadvertently steals government secrets from a woman (Jean Peters) who is unknowingly transporting them to Red agents. Widmark must then contend with the police, the commies, and Peters, who in turn is playing her own games with the commies, trying to figure out just what is going on. This is the best example of an accidental espionage movie that I have seen. A story that would take a modern masturbatory director two and a half hours to tell, Fuller accomplishes in 75 goddamn minutes. Any person who says that older movies are too slow, clearly has not seen any older movies.


Stalag 17 (1953)
dir. Billy Wilder


Goddamn, I love Billy Wilder.


The Wages of Fear (1953)
dir. Henri-Georges Clouzot


Wages of Fear proves that Henri-Georges Clouzot was more than just the French Hitchcock.


1954

Crime Wave (aka The City is Dark) (1954)
dir. Andre De Toth


Read my review here.


La Strada (1954)
dir. Federico Fellini


Although he would later become known for more surrealist, fantastical pictures Fellini began his film career in the neo-realist camp. With La Strada, a tale of two traveling circus performers, he began to dip his toes into some of the more fantastical elements (via his use of circus performances) that he would later take to the nth degree. It is also a deeply moving story.


On the Waterfront (1954)
dir. Elia Kazan


What is it about becoming a rat that can turn a journeyman director into a true artist? Based on the quality of Kazan's work before and after naming names, more fifties filmmakers should have followed his coward route and turned in their friends. Yes, On the Waterfront is a heavy handed attempt by Kazan to justify his actions before HUAC, but damn this is one helluva picture. Oh yeah, the performances ain't bad either.


Rear Window (1954)
dir. Alfred Hitchcock


A less generous person could call Hitchcock the king of the gimmicks, a sophisticated William Castle. With Rope, Hitchcock attempted somewhat successfully to make a movie using one continuous camera take (using some cheats, of course), and set in one apartment. With Rear Window, he made a suspense movie that took place in one room. Unlike the stagey Rope, however, Rear Window transcends its limitations. After getting so caught up in the story and the tension, one will soon forget the gimmick. More than anything, Rear Window is a comment on the voyeuristic quality of movie watching. Jimmy Stewart's peeping tom is a stand-in for the viewer.


Salt of the Earth (1954)
dir. Herbert J. Biberman


To be honest, Salt of the Earth is rather run of the mill. It plays like a generic Soviet propaganda picture. I include it here for one reason: admiration for the girth of the balls of those involved in the making of the movie. After being blacklisted, a group of film-makers decided to make the leftie movie to end all leftie movies. They were saying to Holywood and HUAC, "You think we were trying to indoctrinate the masses with red propaganda before? We'll show you some real red propaganda." Set in the New Mexico desert, this film details a Hispanic miner's strike. This film covers all the bases: racism, labor rights and feminism.


1955

Crashout (1955)
dir. Lewis R. Foster


Another great late period noir. William Bendix has never been more terrifying than as the leader of a group of escaped prisoners in Crashout.


The Desperate Hours (1955)
dir. William Wyler


Jesus Christ, Bogart is terrifyingly good in this picture.


Kiss Me Deadly (1955)
dir. Robert Aldrich


The Mike Hammer of Aldrich's Kiss Me Deadly is a demented fascist. Aldrich took the right-wing tough guy P.I. of Mickey Spillane's novels and cranked up the shenanigans to such a degree that the resulting work became a critique of Spillane's fascinations. Also, there's a fucking nuke in a suitcase in this movie (in the novel, the suitcase contained heroin).


Diabolique (1955)
Henri-Georges Clouzot


French Hitchcock sure knew how to make tense thrillers.


The Night of the Hunter (1955)
dir. Charles Laughton


If you can watch this movie (my favorite of the decade) and not absolutely love it, then not only do you not like movies, but you are a terrible human being.


The Trouble with Harry (1955)
dir. Alfred Hitchcock


Although most of Hitchcock's films up to this point had a taste of dark humor, The Trouble with Harry was the director's first and only out-and-out comedy.


1956

Attack! (1956)
dir. Robert Aldrich


Aldrich is my favorite lesser known director. He excelled at every genre he attempted. Aldrich is also one of the best examples of a director whose work is far more well known than his name. With Attack!, he made one of the best anti-war pictures of the fifties.


Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
dir. Don Siegel


Although this film was aptly remade by Philip Kaufman in 1978 (and again by Abel Ferrara 1993), Siegel's version is still the leanest.


The Killing (1956)
dir. Stanley Kubrick


Kubrick previously made a couple of interesting if amateurish features, but it was with his non-chronological heist picture The Killing that he made his mark on the film world.


The Searchers (1956)
dir. John Ford


What more can be said about this picture?


Seven Men from Now (1956)
dir. Budd Boetticher


The first of director Budd Boetticher and actor/Cary Grant-fuck-partner Randolph Scott's western collaborations. The two made a series of films that, like Leone's "man with no name" trilogy, are each satisfying individual pictures, but seen together become a magnificent epic whole.


The Wrong Man (1956)
dir. Alfred Hitchcock


Because so many of Hitchcock's works dealt with cases of mistaken identity, it was only inevitable that the director would make a movie titled, simply, The Wrong Man. This picture, based on a true story, was also the closest that the stylish director would come to making a docu-realist movie.


1957

A Face in the Crowd (1957)
dir. Elia Kazan


In A Face in the Crowd, Elia Kazan's masterpiece, Andy Griffith plays Lonesome Rhodes, a hayseed turned TV mega-star who uses his fame to manipulate the masses toward his brand of hateful right-wing populism. As the story progresses, all Rhodes' hangers-on soon come to realize that this supposed every-man is a fraud who despises the very hoopleheads whom he claims as equals. Glenn Beck is apparently such a fan of this movie that he has based his entire life on Andy Griffith's character. Now that's what I call meta!


The Cranes are Flying (1957)
dir. Mikhail Kalatozov


If you wanna watch photography that'll make you cum, look no further than this Soviet masterpiece.


Forty Guns (1957)
dir. Sam Fuller


Is it obvious yet that I've got a hard-on for the work of Sam Fuller? [Side note: this movie has more phallic symbolism than you can shake a stick at.]


Paths of Glory (1957)
dir. Stanley Kubrick


One of the most bitter indictments of military brass ever put to screen.


Sweet Smell of Success (1957)
dir. Alexander Mackendrick


Burt Lancaster plays red-baiting gossip columnist J. J. Hunsecker, a thinly veiled Walter Winchell type. Tony Curtis plays his toadie Sidney Falco. To put it succinctly, every character in this film is piece of shit. Every line drips with venom. [Side note: Has my liberal, east coast, elitism become obvious yet?]


The Tall T (1957)
dir. Budd Boetticher


Boetticher was the master of creating sympathetic villains and flawed heroes. With his pictures, the lines separating good and evil all but disappeared. The black and white, bad guy/good guy morality tales, present in most westerns, disappeared into a muddled gray with Boetticher's work. After Scott and rich lady Maureen O'Sullivan get kidnapped by Richard Boone, Scott and Boone soon develop a mutual respect, Boone even insinuating that the two should join forces. As with Boetticher's other work, this film is also a wonderfully sparse, minimal masterpiece. Boetticher excelled at boiling down the western genre to only its most essential elements, leaving his stories and visuals uncluttered.


3:10 to Yuma (1957)
dir. Delmer Daves


Although the 3:10 to Yuma remake was an enjoyable actioner, I did have one major problem with it: Russell Crowe's eventual siding with Christian Bale came out of left-field. In the superior original film, the majority of the picture is spent inside a hotel room with the two men on opposite sides of the law engaging in a verbal battle. These two supposed nemeses soon develop a weird sort of mutual admiration. They develop a bond that Crowe and Bale never do. [Side note: I have nothing against remakes. Many, in fact, are better than the originals. The remake of this picture just doesn't happen to be one of those instances.]


The Tin Star (1957)
dir. Anthony Mann


Playing against type (well, at least his later type-casting after Psycho) Anthony Perkins plays a sweet, inept sheriff intent on doing right by his town. He is aided in this by the unwilling partner of lawman turned bounty hunter Henry Fonda. This is my favorite Anthony Mann western not starring Jimmy Stewart.


12 Angry Men (1957)
dir. Sidney Lumet


These twelve men sure are angry.


Wild Strawberries (1957)
dir. Ingmar Bergman


My favorite Bergman movie.


1958

Elevator to the Gallows (1958)
dir. Louis Malle


French noir with a beautiful Miles Davis score.


The Hidden Fortress (1958)
dir. Akira Kurosawa


An action movie told from the point of view of two nothing peasants.


I Want to Live! (1958)
dir. Robert Wise


Read my review here.


The Last Hurrah (1958)
dir. John Ford


In this moving picture, directed by the aging John Ford, Spencer Tracy plays an aging congressman running for re-election.


Touch of Evil (1958)
dir. Orson Welles


Touch of Evil is so much better than a film in which Charlton Heston plays a Mexican has any right to be.


Vertigo (1958)
dir. Alfred Hitchcock


Jimmy Stewart is the shit.


1959

Anatomy of a Murder (1959)
dir. Otto Preminger


Otto Preminger's courtroom drama examines the fallibility of the legal system—namely, that the humans conducting it are fully flawed. This was also one in a long string of films that, because of its content, challenged the production code. Preminger would continue to push buttons, again famously with 1962's Advise and Consent.


A Bucket of Blood (1959)
dir. Roger Corman


A man with aspirations of becoming a darling of the beatnik set soon develops works of art (sculptures made from the corpses of people he's killed) that make him famous. This is a wicked black comedy that is both an examination of the artistic process and a lampooning of the art crowd. By far, my favorite Roger Corman picture.


Day of the Outlaw (1959)
dir. Andre de Toth


Read my review here.


House on Haunted Hill (1959)
dir. William Castle


William Castle plus Vincent Price is never not ridiculously fucking awesome.


North by Northwest (1959)
dir. Alfred Hitchcock


My favorite Hitchcock film as a child, North by Northwest is still a fuckload of a lot of fun.


Ride Lonesome (1959)
dir. Budd Boetticher


Another Budd Boetticher, Randolph Scott winner.


Rio Bravo (1959)
dir. Howard Hawks


Rio Bravo is Howard Hawks' response to the high-minded cowardice-in-the-face-of-McCarthyism metaphor picture High Noon. Rather than acting as a metaphor, however, Hawks' picture is a more accurate depiction of the way the folks in High Noon would have reacted when faced with the dilemma at the core of that movie. Rio Bravo is one in a long series of movies that proved to me that my own political views and the movies that I love are frequently opposing.