The Howling – 1981 Dante

Joe Dante’s The Howling is his follow up to 1978’s Piranha and it happened to arrive in 1981 – the same year as John Landis’ An American Werewolf in London. Dante’s work is more self-aware. He has John Carradine and Slim Pickens in support and at this point in their distinguished careers they had both been in spoofs (Pickens in Blazing Saddles in 1974 and Carradine in Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask in 1972). In one scene in The Howling, Christopher Stone’s character, after getting bit by a werewolf, is

The Howling – 1981 Dante2021-10-31T12:25:19+00:00

Raw – 2016 Ducournau

Julia Ducournau’s debut film Raw is rich in subtext. Ducournau wrote the screenplay as well tracing Justine’s (Garance Marillier) entrance into veterinary school and horrifying transformation/awakening. Justine is hazed, pressured into getting eating meat, getting a painful Brazilian. The opening frame (above) long take string of trees composition is perhaps the strongest in the film- and a sublime one. One must applaud Ducournau for having a fresh take on the vampire genre in the 21st This is part Near Dark (1987) and part Cronenberg body horror. Ella Rumpf plays Justine’s sister Alexia and Rumpf is superb. Based solely on

Raw – 2016 Ducournau2021-10-03T15:15:09+00:00

2000

best film:  In the Mood for Love from WKW The film’s form is as good or better than any film in cinema history—it may be my go to example now when discussing film form—along with Dreyer’s Passion of Joan of Arc, Ozu and Toyko Story, and the combined oeuvre of Jim Jarmusch. In the Mood for Love is like a combination of Greenaway’s stylistic maximums and Jarmusch’s repetition (or theme and variation). A meditation on nostalgia- a love story of unrequited love (the best kind of cinematic love stories) like that of Casablanca. The violins in the score by as Mike

20002021-10-31T12:14:57+00:00

Run Silent Run Deep – 1958 Wise

Two-hander tales of potential power struggles and mutiny at sea have been around since at least Mutiny on the Bounty in 1935. That film starred Charles Laughton and Clark Gable. Here, Gable switches roles and plays the sort of Captain Bligh ruthless, hardnosed ship Captain. This is an aged, worn down Gable. He can still act, but he has visible tremors in many of the scenes. Whether this was alcoholism or the beginnings of Parkinson’s, I’ll leave to the biographers. Either way, sadly, Gable would pass away in 1960 just a few years later. This is from Burt Lancaster’s

Run Silent Run Deep – 1958 Wise2021-10-28T14:56:59+00:00

Mo’ Better Blues – 1990 Spike Lee

Mo’ Better Blues is Spike Lee’s fourth feature, and first after 1989’s Do the Right Thing. The opening credits are breathtaking. It does seem like the best, from Scorsese to Hitchcock to Spike, take the opening credits seriously Spike's credit sequence in 1989 for Do the Right Thing make it two straight films with this kind of artistry right up front to start   It opens in 1969 Brooklyn to tell the story of the young Bleek Gilliam (adult version played by Denzel- the first of four collaborations between Denzel and Spike). Unfortunately,

Mo’ Better Blues – 1990 Spike Lee2021-10-27T13:12:18+00:00

Rio Lobo – 1970 Hawks

The final film of Howard Hawks (at the age of 74) is certainly one of his lesser works, and the least of the five John Wayne collaborations (four of them westerns including Red River, Rio Bravo, El Dorado). It brings back screenwriter Leigh Brackett, and there is talent here in the music as well (Jerry Goldsmith). Instead of getting Robert Mitchum to return from El Dorado, they cast his son. Jonathan Rosenbaum was one to point out that one of the most inspired sequences in the film (the opening train action set piece- the clever little hornet heist) was

Rio Lobo – 1970 Hawks2021-10-02T13:29:45+00:00

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage – 1970 Argento

  The Bird with the Crystal Plumage is the auspicious debut for first time director Dario Argento. It marks quite the meeting of talented Italians with Argeno (thirty at the time) working with cinematographer Vittorio Storaro (also thirty, his first color film, and this was the same year he worked with Bertolucci on The Conformist) and Ennio Morricone (an unnerving score using some vocalizations). It is an important film in the Giallo subgenre (there was a sort of post-Spaghetti Western boom about to happen). Yet, this is also clearly tied to the successful Italian import Blow-Up from Antonioni in

The Bird with the Crystal Plumage – 1970 Argento2021-10-02T12:52:09+00:00

Somebody Up There Likes Me – 1956 Wise

Somebody Up There Likes Me is a biopic of the dramatic life of boxing great Rocky Graziano. It even bears Rocky’s signature before the opening credits (which has the great Perry Como crooning over them with the title song). Parts of it were shot in New York and that is a key choice from Robert Wise. When Paul Newman’s Rocky is walking down the street (there is a longer take early with Sal MIneo) it is clear that this is no studio lot. The film is best known now as the coming out role (or rather part of his

Somebody Up There Likes Me – 1956 Wise2021-12-09T11:49:17+00:00

The Hidden Room – 1949 Dmytryk

The Hidden Room is a delightful England-set (Dmytryk abroad for the HUAC fall out- he was part of The Hollywood Ten) noir with an ingeniously little sinister premise and an early score from Nino Rota. Robert Newton plays Dr. Clive Riordan who catches his wife Storm (an amazing name for a British woman in 1949) (played by Sally Gray) stepping out with Bill Kronin (Phil Brown). Riordan is plotting his revenge as the film opens and there is this small talk going on in the background at his gentleman’s club (the uppity kind country club kind of gentleman’s club—not

The Hidden Room – 1949 Dmytryk2021-10-01T21:41:44+00:00

School Daze – 1988 Spike Lee

School Daze does feel like a half step back from She’s Gotta Have It (Spike Lee’s debut in 1986). Lee’s second film has no shortage of ideas though, it is an ambitious work, and undoubtedly auteur cinema. It is set on a HBCU (Historically Black College) campus. Lee, who often starts or ends his films with documentary footage (Malcolm X, BlacKkKlansman) starts with a montage of black heroes immortalized in black and white photographs. It opens on Friday- the story of the homecoming weekend at the college. Lee’s film takes more swings than it lands. It is full of

School Daze – 1988 Spike Lee2021-10-22T13:07:39+00:00

Executive Suite – 1954 Wise

1954 is post-Lady in the Lake (1946) and Dark Passage (1947) but the first-person point of view sequence to open Executive Suite is still stirring. The hand of Avery Bullard (never shown on screen) reaches out from behind the camera to shake hands. He pushes the button on the elevator in one smooth take after gliding across the room. Wise hides a cut (editor of Citizen Kane) going in the elevator as the camera pushes through the door reaching for his wallet at the telegraph office. On the street (still in this same cinematic sequence) he yells for a

Executive Suite – 1954 Wise2021-10-21T14:23:53+00:00

1999

best film:  Magnolia from Paul Thomas Anderson Magnolia leads the pack for 1999- which is a superb and incredibly deep year in cinema history.  Magnolia proved Boogie Nights was no fluke. It also showed that PT is as beholden to Altman as he is to Scorsese, and that he is perhaps the greatest director of his generation.  It is sheer filmmaking confidence and ambition with an ensemble to rival Nashville (which Altman made at the age of 50).  It is a very big film. Ebert called it “operatic ecstasy” https://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-magnolia-1999 and PT Anderson said (at the time)  that it

19992021-10-20T13:32:58+00:00
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