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Showing posts from 2018

August 2018 Recap

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Last August, I was preparing to begin my first semester of my freshman year in university, and I went all out, watching as many movies as I could squeeze into my days. It was Summer Under the Stars on TCM, and I exclusively watched movies playing on the channel during that month, making a point to watch at least one film from each featured star. I considered trying that again this year, but I just wasn't as enthused by the selection of stars and films this year as I was in 2017--and more than that, I was feeling kind of burnt out this month and did not want to commit myself to any specific movie-watching challenges. The closest I came to that was getting a few 2017 releases out of the library and watching through them; this turned out to be a great decision, as most of my selections were excellent and I discovered some new favorites among those films I missed out on seeing last year. My classic film watching was less successful, and I watched a disproportionate number of disappoi…

The Sense of Discomfort in “Una”

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There is no question that most moviegoers watch movies to be entertained. Film has always been a medium of entertainment, and even critics are not immune to the pleasures of a day of escapism at the cinema; even the prestigious Sight and Sound lists, mainly comprised of challenging arthouse classics such as Au Hasard Balthazar and The Passion of Joan of Arc, makes room for such audience-pleasing works as Singin' in the Rain and Some Like It Hot. However, despite their challenging nature, Balthazar and Passion can also be considered pleasurable in their own ways, offering deeper insights into society and human nature through the tragedies they present. But what happens when both "entertaining" and "pleasurable" are replaced by “uncomfortable”? Can the quality of a film be diminished by the discomfort it evokes in the viewer? These are important questions in assessing the critical response to Una, a film that explores topics which have made many view…

That Familiar Scorsese Touch in "Who's That Knocking at My Door?"

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Martin Scorsese’s Who’s That Knocking at My Door? is a film made by someone who loves films. This is no news to anyone today, but it is impossible to believe that anyone watching this directorial debut even back in 1968 could have mistaken this for anything else but the product of a man born and bred on film stock. The film itself is a minor effort in the grand scheme of Scorsese’s filmography, eclipsed by many later films that are more distinctly “Scorsese” and less broadly influenced by other filmmakers. However, it evidences the great confidence inherent in the works of this first generation of filmmakers who grew up going to the cinema, and it also begins to explore thematic material that would later become iconic in Scorsese’s distinct breed of filmmaking.
Shot in black-and-white at the time when color photography was widely being adopted, the film offers an appealing sense of nostalgia; it is a love letter to a style of filmmaking that was quickly disappearing in 1968, and would …

July 2018 Recap

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Despite my continued lack of posting, I've actually been doing more writing in the past few weeks than I have all summer; somehow, I just cannot bring myself to actually go back and edit everything I have been writing and post it. Instead, I write these massive essays in a creative furor, sometimes staying up half of the night getting them done, and then abandon them to move onto something else. Hopefully in the future I actually work up the motivation--and the nerve--to get these pieces out there, but in the meantime, I'm at least keeping up with these recaps. July saw a whole bunch of first time viewings, as usual, but also a number of re-watches. Often I feel so overwhelmed by the number of films out there that I've yet to see that I neglect returning to old favorites, but when I finally do I remember that it's in re-watching that you really learn about a film and come to appreciate it; a single viewing is never enough. In particular, re-watching Sex, Lies, and Vid…

June 2018 Recap

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Midway through the summer, and my quest to purge my DVR of old recordings is still going strong. As always, I am impressed by the quality of the films that I have been allowing to sit un-watched for months on end; it makes for a potent reminder not to let them build up like that again. Over the course of the month I caught up on my Anthony Perkins films from when he was Star of the Month on TCM; I watched some really excellent films from 2017, including Game Night and Last Flag Flying, and the Pride Month triple feature of Thelma, Beach Rats, and God's Own Country; I had a fantastic Noir double feature, Kiss of Death and Inferno, with Blu-rays that I blind-bought from Twilight Time; I saw Hereditary and Incredibles 2 in theaters, both great experiences in entirely different ways; and I discovered the films of Albert Brooks, a filmmaker who has immediately become one of my favorite directors. Read on to see the full list of films I watched, and a more detailed list of my favorite …

May 2018 Recap

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May was the kind of month where I look back and think, hey, maybe I really do watch too many movies. I watched so much and to be honest, some of these films could have used more time for reflection than I gave them as I just kept moving on to the next thing. With that being said, this was also a month where I often went out of my comfort zone and really learned a lot a variety of filmmakers and styles of filmmaking that I was previously ignorant of. In particular, I watched a lot of documentaries this month, my supposed least favorite genre--and discovered that I just have not been watching the right documentaries, as is usually the case when I make broad statements about film genres or movements. I watched Monterey Pop, Gimme Shelter, and Dont Look Back, all incredible and engaging looks into the 60s rock scene; the adorable and informative Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story;Icarus Film's 8-film DVD retrospective of Jean Rouch's work; and I did a double feature of Fi…

The Troubled Youth of “La Haine”

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The 1995 French film La Haine fits comfortably in the longstanding tradition of realist filmmaking in Europe, but it uses these traditional conventions to tell an entirely modern story, highlighting painful realities regarding the link between racism and violence in the late 20th-century. While La Haine's visual style evokes the stark, gritty black-and-white iconography made famous by the Italian neorealism movement in the 1940s and 50s, this stylistic decision is not merely an homage to European film history: it is a choice made for the express purpose of contrasting the characters with their environment, furthering the themes of the narrative through visual storytelling. The sparse black-and-white images initially appear to bring order and to assure an adherence to a "safe", classical style of filmmaking, but this sense of order is quickly dismissed as unattainable as the film's violent world is revealed. One visually notable scene sees a shot of Herbert smoking i…

April 2018 Recap

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April has essentially followed the same pattern as December: I finish my courses, do my final exams, and prepare for a nice, relaxing break, only for a big movie to come out and suddenly I have 8-hour shifts every day and I can barely stay awake from sheer exhaustion when I finally do get some free time at home. While all of this business is excellent for my theater, I am looking forward to things quieting down so I can finally get that much-needed break. In the meantime, I have been watching a lot of movies; I mentioned, also back in December, that I was making my way through old recordings on my DVR, and that process is still ongoing. Much of the backlog was recordings from TCM Imports, so I have been watching a lot of subtitled, black-and-white films from the 1950s and 60s, which has been a lot more fun and enlightening than one might expect. Again, it was very difficult to narrow down my highlights list to five, and I had to skip some truly excellent films, including the very sma…

March 2018 Recap

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I am pretty sure that I have never been so busy in my life as I have been in the first three months of this year; certainly, the time has never seemed to pass by so quickly. Despite all of my schoolwork and work at the theater, my movie-watching actually went up this month, and I saw a lot of really fantastic films—so many that it was much more difficult than usual to narrow the list down to 5 favorites to talk about. I saw some really excellent films in my foreign film class, including the Canadian films Atanarjuat: The Long Runner and Water; I saw the adorable  Love, Simon and the brutal Red Sparrow at the theater; I saw the great Vincent Price movies House of Wax and The Tingler, and re-watched my inexplicable new favorite film The Monster Club, which was just as good the second time; I watched some fantastic pre-Codes with the underrated The Maltese Falcon, Waterloo Bridge, and The Old Dark House; and, most significantly, I finished the Audrey Hepburn marathon I began all th…

February 2018 Recap

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Despite having a number of assignments and exams to do in February, and my spring break getting eaten up by too many shifts at work, I somehow managed to watch more movies this month than last without dropping the ball on anything else. Even better, the quality of the movies I saw increased greatly; while January seemed like a good month for movies looking back at it, February is definitely even better. I had a best picture double feature at my theater with The Shape of Water and Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (my first ever double feature at a movie theater, actually); I re-watched the incredible In the Mood for Love in my foreign film class and wrote my exam essay on it, two events that re-affirmed my love for this incredible film; I got my Vincent Price fix with While the City Sleeps and The Monster Club; and I went to see Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle, which actually turned out to be a really fun time at the movies. Read on to see a breakdown of my month and my five f…

January 2018 Recap

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I thought January was going to be a return to normal, or at least as normal as you could call the past few months, but yet again I was in for a surprise. I started taking my first university-level English classes this semester, one focused on literature and the other on academic writing, and they have proven to be much more work than any of the classes I took in the fall. I am definitely learning a lot, but the clear drawback is yet another reduction in my free time. I watched a lot less movies than is typical for me, less than 1 a day, and I often found myself missing my routine of winding down to a movie at the end of each day. Despite the reduction, I did still find the time to watch some great stuff: I continued to work my way through those DVR recordings from 2016, which resulted in watching 3 films each from two of my favorite classic actors, Norma Shearer and Charles Laughton; I watched the silent film Where Are My Children? from 1916, which now stands as the oldest feature-le…

Top 10 Under-Seen Clark Gable Films

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One of the exciting things about classic film stars is just how many films they all made. While it was undeniably hard on them to be producing films non-stop, and no doubt the industry is better off now that actors have the option of cool-down periods between films, it does mean that many of these golden age stars have incredible filmographies that very few modern actors can match. Clark Gable is just such an actor, with 66 films under his belt--and a jaw-dropping 25 of those having been released between 1931 and 1934, the first 4 years of his career.

As amazing as these filmographies are, however, the inevitable result is a lot of films flying under the radar. Today, Clark Gable is known for only a handful of his most popular films, leaving the majority of his work forgotten and unappreciated. For Love Letters to Old Hollywood's wonderful Clark Gable blogathon, I will be counting down my top 10 under-seen Clark Gable films.


Before I move on to the list, I want to make a quick bu…

December 2017 Recap

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I am going to give up on writing out my hopes for this blog, because I always fail to live up to my expectations for myself. I will simply write when I can and hopefully that turns out to be more frequent than not, but if the first two weeks of this semester are any indication, I think the summer holidays are going to be the best bet for a more rigorous posting schedule. We shall see. As far as December goes, it was not a banner month for me. I had several exams and they all went well, but right as I was prepared to give myself a much-needed break and spend my free time writing and watching lots of movies, I got very sick. I initially woke up sick on Christmas Day, and proceeded to miss most of my shifts at the movie theater for the remainder of the week. Rather than spend that free time enjoying the holidays, I had to stay in bed and sleep—and when I was not asleep, I was too miserable to do anything fun or productive with my time. Then when I woke up on New Year’s Eve, the coughing …