1923

best film:  Our Hospitality from Buster Keaton (his second feature). Our Hospitality isn’t Keaton’s best work but in a down year coming off of 1922—it is the best film of the year. A brilliant premise- a play on the Hatfield and McCoy feud—here we have the Canfield and McKay family. The comedy unfolds (after a really good dramatic thunderstorm-aided opening of the two elder namesakes in a deadly gunfight) naturally- progressively unfolds.  About feuds and bizarre code of honor ethics. A breakthrough for Keaton- his sophomore effort after Three Ages The train again—leading to The General– part of the humor here is

19232020-08-31T16:49:53+00:00

Kagemusha – 1980 Kurosawa

Kurosawa’s first film in five years since 1975’s Dersu Uzala – a three hour war epic Kurosawa audaciously paints the sky red Set in 16th century feudal Japan—this is not from Shakespeare (though if you aren’t familiar with his work it could probably fool you)—sort of Alexandre Dumas The Man in the Iron Mask in some ways, too Set in 16th century feudal Japan—this is not from Shakespeare (though if you aren’t familiar with his work it could probably fool you)—sort of Alexandre Dumas The Man in the Iron Mask in some ways, too A

Kagemusha – 1980 Kurosawa2020-08-31T13:07:45+00:00

Richard Jewell – 2019 Eastwood

It is a far cry from Eastwood’s magnificent run in the early to mid-2000’s (he hasn’t had a Highly Recommend top-10 of the year level film or better since 2006) but it is an engaging narrative with a terrific lead performance from Paul Walter Hauser who came on the scene in I, Tonya and BlackKklansman in recent years a terrific lead performance from Paul Walter Hauser who came on the scene in I, Tonya and BlackKklansman in recent years Eastwood's use of muted greens, blues in the decor--- paired with the shadows and darkness is there-- again---

Richard Jewell – 2019 Eastwood2020-08-30T15:50:41+00:00

Serpico – 1973 Lumet

Sidney Lumet’s Serpico is a superb crime procedural and a rich character study—the achievement here may be even greater for Pacino than it is for Lumet Pacino is just in the middle of one of the great five year stretches for an actor. Panic in Needle Park in 1971, The Godfather in 1972, this and Scarecrow in 1973, The Godfather Part II and Dog Day Afternoon in 1975… wow Pacino carries the film- he’s in nearly every frame of the 130 minutes—there are a dozen scenes where he gets to erupt and flesh out this rich character. But

Serpico – 1973 Lumet2020-08-28T20:39:49+00:00

1922

best film:  Nosferatu from Murnau. Nosferatu is an essential masterpiece- a landmark in horror cinema, German expressionism, and Murnau’s wonderful body of work as an auteur. It is an unauthorized adaptation (much like Ossessione from Visconti in 1943)—this is Bram Stoker’s 1897 work Dracula. Murnau designs the lighting, the silhouettes and dramatically stylized sets—and Max Schreck is simply horrifying in the lead. Nosferatu is an essential masterpiece- a landmark in horror cinema, German expressionism, and Murnau’s wonderful body of work as an auteur most underrated:   Foolish Wives from von Stroheim is underrated at #697 on the TSPDT consensus list.

19222020-08-29T02:56:11+00:00

1921

best film:  Destiny from Lang Fritz Lang’s Destiny takes narrative elements from Griffith’s Intolerance (three clear and distinct narrative strands- Mideast story line, Spanish, and Chinese) and mise-en-scene elements from Caligari (see décor detail) to make a brilliant early film for the German master Not his debut (8th film according to IMDB) but my first in the archives for Lang Quite an epic with the story in 3 parts clearly influenced by Griffith’s Intolerance (Mideast story line, Spanish story line and Chinese story line) Post great war pessimism “a ravaged town” Early Lang really loves his chapter breaks like the Mabuse films- works here really well with the 3 part

19212020-09-28T18:56:04+00:00

Dersu Uzala – 1975 Kurosawa

Kurosawa worked in the USSR (shot on location in Taiga) for Dersu Uzala- his first film in five years, his second in color, first on the larger Sovoscope 70mm canvas Shot almost entirely in exteriors – the Siberian taiga – Kurosawa catching the colors of the seasons (certainly his use of weather, all over the place here, a trait throughout his work) Shot almost entirely in exteriors – the Siberian taiga – Kurosawa catching the colors and changes of the seasons (certainly his use of the elements, all over the place here, a trait throughout his work)

Dersu Uzala – 1975 Kurosawa2020-08-26T20:17:02+00:00

Across the Pacific – 1942 Huston

Across the Pacific gets the gang back together from 1941’s The Maltese Falcon- Warners, John Huston, Bogart, Mary Aster, Sydney Greenstreet—this is actually Huston’s third film (a film between debut Falcon and this is a Bette Davis vehicle In This Our Life which I have not yet scene) Huston left for the war before finishing—saying to the guy taking over (about the plot) essentially “you figure it out”- haha Don Siegel does some of the montage work (also for Casablanca and a few others during this stretch) Bogart’s character is named Rick— he’d make another Warners classic in 1942

Across the Pacific – 1942 Huston2020-08-26T19:33:38+00:00

Ossessione – 1943 Visconti

An important film in the history of film noir, Italian neorealism (even if it doesn’t fit most of the characteristics of the movement), and Italian cinema in general The beginning of Luchino Visconti’s distinguished career as auteur- and despite fitting into (or starting) these genres and movements, it is his fully his film—a Visconti film—and has much in common with Senso and Death in Venice for example. Visconti seems to have arrived as a fully formed mature voice as an artist- this is an accomplished work and one of cinema’s great debut films. Visconti did work as an apprentice

Ossessione – 1943 Visconti2020-08-24T19:44:25+00:00

1920

best film:  The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from Wiene is by far the best film from 1920. It’s the birth of German expressionism, and, largely, mise-en-scene (or at least set design) in feature film (though of course Georges Méliès was working in shorts before with an expressionism to match the Lumiere brothers realism).   The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari from Wiene is by far the best film from 1920 most underrated:   The TSPDT consensus list is underrating Caligari. I have it at #56 and they have it outside of the top 200. Way Down East is the only other

19202020-08-24T19:28:26+00:00

Intermezzo – 1936 Molander

You’ll leave impressed by the young Ingrid Bergman (age 21 here) as you probably expect to be given the film’s reputation as her start—but the big takeaway from the film is Gustaf Molander’s dedication to the artistry of the frame. Specifically, there are a dozen or more frames loaded with floral arrangements. And not just sitting on a table in the background either (and that does happen)- but in frame in the foreground with the main action going on just beyond it You’ll leave impressed by the young Ingrid Bergman (age 21 here) as you probably expect to

Intermezzo – 1936 Molander2020-08-23T12:34:32+00:00

1914-1919

best film: Intolerance from Griffith – It’s easily the greatest example of cinema as art to date in 1916 and wouldn’t be topped throughout the rest of the decade. It is one of cinemas historically great achievements of editing as well.  The crane shot of the Babylon sequence is stunning (you can’t overstate it—one of the finest 20 seconds in cinema history) and the narrative structure and parallel editing was so sophisticated it’s still being used today by the likes of Christopher Nolan and others. Its size (sets, story, narrative complexity, extras, and camera choices) is just so breathtaking. It’s big,

1914-19192020-08-24T12:39:52+00:00
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