Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Sight and Sound Movie List: HaZmora

As a preliminary point, I have to state that I’m not a huge fan of making “Top Ten” lists. I say this not because I object to the concept of lists or trepidation over numbering Casablanca below The Godfather or anything, but because qualitatively I love certain movies but have no interest in seeing them more than once. Generally, this is because I don’t like seeing extremely depressing movies repeatedly or because really slow movies are sometimes excellent but no less slow upon repeated viewing. Accordingly, my list reflects movies that I love and consider excellent and that I love watching.  This is my metric.

(1)  The Godfathers Part I and II1972 & 1974, dir. Francis Ford Coppola) – These movies are inseparable, two parts of the same whole both in terms of plot and Coppola’s uniform style (understated performances from the likes of Pacino and Duvall, lighting choices, etc.).  I have loved these since I was 14.  I find something new to love and obsess over with every viewing.  I used to find the plot and mob machinations horribly confusing, but to be totally honest they aren’t important. I love it for the setting of scenes and places. How can you deny the charm of this clip.

(because how could I not include this speech from the father of Method actors)

(2) Il Gattopardo - The Leopard (1963, dir. Luchino Visconti) – My father saw this movie on a second-run in Italy with my mom in the mid-1970s around the time he met her grandmother and her family who had been Italian nobility pre-Mussolini.  He says that he imagines my Italian great-grandfather Alberto (who had died 15 years prior) as the gentleman nobleman Don Fabrizio Salina (played by Burt Lancaster) dealing with the twilight of the age he and his family had known for centuries.  “For things to stay the same, everything must change.”  It’s a sustained meditation on a dying world.  All that said, it’s probably an hour too long.

(wow, they really had to hard sell Americans on foreign movies even then)

Also, Claudia Cardinale looks amazing in this movie.

(3)  Boogie Nights (1997, dir. Paul Thomas Anderson) – The best movie of the 1990s (Pulp Fiction, I’m calling you out!).  To say it is influential is an understatement: virtually every “indie-commercial” movie from Blow to Carlos to 24 Hour Party People about accidental revolutionaries/hedonists who happen to catch the wave of something that was coming up only to ride that wave to the rocky shoals, of, well, Alfred Molina’s guns, owes a debt to PT Anderson’s greatest movie.  The family of pornographers structure analogy is a nice one, but the movie hangs on the amazing cast, especially John C. Reilly, who I have loved ever since.  

(They didn't even want a second take for the flubbed line! Or was it flubbed? (p.s. it was flubbed))

(4)  Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, dir. Stephen Spielberg) – An action movie that takes its subject matter dead serious. For my money, it helps that the Nazis and their French collaborator are truly despicable and that they desecrate an explicitly Jewish artifact, right down to Belloq wearing the garb of a Cohen.  The script is also genuinely smart and the staging of scenes remarkably well done.  

(Spoiler Alert: The Federal Government is incompetent.)

(5)   About Schmidt (2002, dir. Alexander Payne) – I know this is controversial, but something about Jack Nicholson’s breakdown in the wake of his wife’s death felt extremely real and for once, made me realize I wasn’t watching Jack Nicholson as himself.  The Midwestern anomie of Omaha really speaks to me as do the location shots, and the family Hope Davis is marrying into.

(The studio has taken down all the funny scenes, but this at least gives you the more sentimental aspects of this movie, which completely changes the tone of it in the last 10 minutes unfortunately)

(6)  Fargo (1996, dir. Joel Coen) – Speaking of Midwestern anomie… I moved to Minnesota in 1993 and a couple of years later, people from outside of the place finally had a stereotype to glom onto thanks to this dark Coen Brothers film “based” on real events that the Coens made up.  Paired with a Serious Man, you have a sense of some of the people who populate this place. You can’t make some of this shit up.  (insert scene with Marge and Mike at the hotel buffet in Minneapolis)

Click here for the Mike Yanagita Scene

(7)  Goodfellas (1990, dir. Martin Scorsese) – Scorsese just thought he was making another failed movie with this one, but he basically invented the ‘90s style of narrative story telling (the tone, constant music cues, and quick jump edits to signal the passing of time – Boogie Nights stole a lot of this of course).  We owe Joe Pesci’s entire career resurgence to this one, for better or worse.

(still gives me the same tingle that I'm sure Lorraine Bracco's character feels. Well, maybe not the same tingle.  Also Soprano spotting!) 

(8) Le Chagrin et La Pitie (1969, dir. Marcel Ophuls) – Apparently, I am Woody Allen in Annie Hall.  Apart from the Eichmann trial, until this there was no film documenting the memories of ordinary French and German people who participated in executing the Final Solution (if you've seen the father at the German wedding scene, you know what I mean). Shoah could have been included but it came later and didn’t result in the generational soul-seeking that Marcel Ophuls documentary, aired in France on TV in chapters, did.

(This is not the scene I mean, but it is perhaps more harrowing in some ways)

(9) Manhattan (1979, dir. Woody Allen) – A love letter to a New York I never saw, but felt I could romanticize in the same way (see also Hollywood and The Critic’s portrayal of NYC as a lovable hell-hole). Also, a weird movie about relationships considering “the one that got away” was not yet 18, but you know what, it was the 1970s and that was still basically OK with the American moviegoing public.
(10)  Fitzcarraldo (1982, dir. Werner Herzog) – I have to admit that some of the love I have for this movie is tied up with the backstory of how it was made and how Werner Herzog actually got a boat lifted over a mountain from one river to another.  That’s the whole movie. And yet, you can’t stop watching.  If you did, Klaus Kinski would kill you

(This is all I could find but just look at Kinski, you get the picture)

Finally, I should note that this list is pretty strongly arbitrary, reflecting what I thought of in the course of an hour.  I’d say that the Godfather, Goodfellas and Boogie Nights are up there no matter what, but I could have easily included the Battle of Algiers, The Great Dictator, A Separation, La Strada, Taxi Driver, Paris Texas, Blue Velvet and the entirety of I Claudius (seriously, where are my eagles?) and many of the movies that Evan and his illustrious colleagues here also added.

Click here for The Hicks's Epic List of the Awesomely Bad
Click here for Der Gronowski's List
Click here for The Hicks's List
Click here for La Kozak's List
Click here for Die Grimes's List
Click here for Richard Nixon's List
Click here for The McBee's List
Click here for Der Koosh's List

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