The Mark of Zorro – 1940 Mamoulian

Tyrone power very strong as both the arrogant cad and the sword-fighting heroHe’s not on Fairbanks level as an acrobat but it’s a different film, silent vs. talkie—the strengths here are mainly the climactic duel with Basil Rathbone (who is, as always, excellent here as the villainous Captain Esteban)Known as one of the best sword-fights that has ever been on cinema Nomination for Alfred Newman’s scoreFluffy—this isn’t serious stuff- I love that Gale Sondergaard’s character prays for a handsome man to take her away- haha Definitely borrows more form 1938’s The Adventures of Robin Hood from Curtiz  than the

The Mark of Zorro – 1940 Mamoulian2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

Vice – 2018 McKay

It's flawed, and didactic (something I use as description more than a criticism) but it’s definitely of the same unique and ambitious style of the big short -- a film I greatly admire. Vice is in the archives for me.   McKay has gone from the funny, well-written but heavily improvisational comedies (Step brothers, Anchorman) to a director who’s art is crafted through editing and montage with this and his breakthrough, The Big ShortLike The Big Short this has great celebrity cameos (Naomi Watts as an anchorwoman for a second- forgettable frankly—Alfred Molina’s waiter scene lands much nicer), breaking the fourth wall talking to the

Vice – 2018 McKay2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

The Trial – 1962 Welles

One of the major revelations- and best films- I’ve seen in 2018. I have seen it before, twice I think, but always on really inferior copies (this is not much better), over a decade ago, without the eye I have now for visuals and this is something to behold. I’ll get to it more below but this film requires patience with that first 25 minutes The 7th ranked Welles film on TSPDT The former wunderkind, boy genius not auteur martyr takes a Kafka adaptation, blows it up with unbelievable visuals and set pieces—but there’s a dual meaning there with

The Trial – 1962 Welles2021-01-28T19:55:19+00:00

Il Grido – 1957 Antonioni

Bare trees, constant fog, barren industrial set pieces (that finale—astonishing)- it’s another glorious triumph for Antonioni Antonioni’s only film subject set in the blue-collar working class (which in a way touches neo-realism as close as he would)The set pieces and landscapes are both formally sound and indicators on character- it’s perpetually winter through the changing seasons (4 women)—life’s sadness and struggleprison bars in natural life Immaculately desolate photography in the gray color ranges Bookends with deaths- another formal achievementWelles' influence- deep background daughter in several shots Adultery- there’s certainly soap opera tendency in Antonioni’s oeuvre Powerful scene Steve Cochran’s

Il Grido – 1957 Antonioni2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

The Lady Without Camelias – 1953 Antonioni

An impressive achievement from AntonioniA long take opening lingering on Lucia Bosé through the credits along the streetRemarkable early scene that has the trademarks of Antonioni’s trademark mise-en-scene—a kiss on a bed, camera glides in and the image becomes a muralNot just the opening- long takes throughout Mise-en-scene detail- nothing is mistaken or accidental, flowers, Christ figures, some may balk at it being too on the nose but I love it (and he doesn’t dwell on it) but there’s an actual spider above the bed in a web- wow Antonioni mostly, just decides not to cut, shows five people

The Lady Without Camelias – 1953 Antonioni2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

Paddington 2 – 2017 Paul King

An enjoyable abundance of visual treats and I don’t go on this long for unarchiveable filmsI love the pop-up book sequence- very imaginative- it’s like a montage in one simulated long-take The main auteur influence is Wes Anderson and I’ll get to that in a second- but there’s a fair amount of  Jean-Pierre Jeunet- particularly Amelie which has some roots in early Truffaut—we have the crusty Colonel with a crush much like AmelieI’ll have to check it out again to set if it was set up formally but the wide editing introduced 45 minutes in seems like a small

Paddington 2 – 2017 Paul King2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

Roma – 2018 Cuarón

It’s almost daunting to know where to begin with Cuaron’s latest- a masterpiece. Here he serves as his own DP (debunking any possible theory that it’s Emmanuel Lubezki (Chivo) who is the actual genius at work), shooting is gorgeously crisp digital 65mm  black and white with large (often filled with incredible set-pieces) tableaus mise-en-scene Cuaron takes advantage of the frame like few have in the art form's history—there’s the Christmas party tableau, the shooting range sequence, the wildfire, the Corpus Christi demonstration/riot/massacre, the military training sequence, the cannonball, the beach climax—the beach climax is the greatest shot of the

Roma – 2018 Cuarón2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

Holiday Inn – 1942 Sandrich

14 songs in just over 100 minutes- similar daunting gauntlet to Berlin’s Easter ParadeFamously for the first used here- the luminous song “White Christmas”- for decades the #1 music single of all time The narrative is trite- it’s really a vehicle for the stunning performers- Crosby and Astaire- perhaps the greatest voice and dancer of the centuryAstaire’ well-known 38-take fireworks sequences is dazzling Big breakout for Crosby and along with another 1942 film- The Road to Morocco- his first archiveable films Sandrich directed a few 1930’s Astaire vehicles- The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Shall We DanceStandouts aside from the

Holiday Inn – 1942 Sandrich2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

Gravity – 2013 Cuarón

A transcendent display of cinematography (The Bordwell definition- not the Academy definition which is closer to photography)- camera movement that perfectly matches the place and story90 minutes- tight- Cuaron is just a perfectionist—last film was 2006’s Children of Men and then we get a 90 minute filmWin for that pulsating musical score- one of 7 Oscar wins (including the first of three wins back to back for Emmanuel Lubezki  The jaw-dropper is the 12 ½ minute opening takeThere are some unfortunate platitudes in the script like Clooney (who is great here) as the Texas-based veteran of outer space who

Gravity – 2013 Cuarón2020-07-03T10:29:52+00:00

Unlawful Entry – 1992 Kaplan

There are artistic ambitions right from the get-go her with a helicopter shot going from a crime scene across town over to the house of Madeleine Stowe and Kurt Russell like Hitchcock would often as a voyeur. Here there is some voyeurism at work- but I think it says more about this type of crime at your doorstep and the horror of thatThe James Horner score is strong but clearly lifts and riffs from Carpenter’s Halloween scoreStowe coming down the stair in her robe foreshadowing Ray Liotta’s fascination with her nods to Double Indemnity and that same scene with Barbara

Unlawful Entry – 1992 Kaplan2020-07-03T10:29:54+00:00

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – 1989 Chechik

Some hits (the entire squirrel slapstick sequence, getting stuck in the attic, any scene with Randy Quaid) and misses (the sledding scene should’ve been cut) but enough redeeming qualities to archive- especially as a “writer as auteur” stud of John Hughes Family, holidays and suburbia Clearly Chevy Case is a singular comedic talent Lifting the pool scene from Fast Times at Ridgemont High There are some formal elements at work here with the reoccurring countdown of the advent calendar Hughes- wrote this (or at least released) the year before Home Alone- a rich period for writing- family, Chicago, holidays

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – 1989 Chechik2020-07-03T10:29:54+00:00

The Mark of Zorro – 1920 Niblo

Largely in the archives for some nice action sequences involving Douglas Fairbanks’ acrobatics Fairbanks was really trying to break into a new mode- get away from romance films- quite a move here becoming the 20’s version of Errol Flynn Detail in the “Z” and sword designed title cards Strong myth-making in the narrative- the Spanish Robin Hood set in California Duel identities- secret entrance to mansion- the story’s influence on Batman Fairbanks is comedic- agile The word “oppressors” is like “bondage” in The 10 Commandments- it’s oppressive to the viewer—would make for a fun drinking game Blue day-for-night tinting,

The Mark of Zorro – 1920 Niblo2020-07-03T10:29:54+00:00
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