April 2017 Recap

April has been a crazy month. On the one hand, it felt like it went by so quickly, but on the other, when I look at the films I watched at the beginning of the month, they seem like they're from a lifetime ago. I guess over-exhaustion does that to a person. On the plus side, it has been an amazing month for movies; I saw so many fantastic films and discovered so many new favorites. A particularly great discovery from April was not a specific film, but rather a newfound love for a whole decade: the 1950s has consistently been my least favorite among the decades of golden age Hollywood, but this month I delved into some of the best films it has to offer and now I'm hooked. After the cut is the list of films I watched, as well as a selection of my favorite viewings.

First-Time Viewings: 46
Re-Watches: 0
  1. Loving (2016)
  2. Midnight Run (1988)
  3. L.A. Confidential (1997)
  4. The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
  5. The Meddler (2016)
  6. Certain Women (2016)
  7. Five Came Back (1939)
  8. Dracula (1958)
  9. Out of the Past (1947)
  10. The Night of the Hunter (1955)
  11. The Frisco Kid (1979)
  12. Hacksaw Ridge (2016)
  13. The 400 Blows (1959)
  14. Two Thousand Maniacs! (1964)
  15. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)
  16. The Blue Gardenia (1953)
  17. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
  18. 20th Century Women (2016)
  19. Magnificent Obsession (1954)
  20. All That Heaven Allows (1955)
  21. From Here to Eternity (1953)
  22. Five Easy Pieces (1970)
  23. Manchester by the Sea (2016)
  24. Scarlet Street (1945)
  25. Mark of the Vampire (1935)
  26. The Wrong Man (1956)
  27. The Band Wagon (1953)
  28. The Gorgon (1964)
  29. At Midnight I'll Take Your Soul (1964)
  30. With Six You Get Eggroll (1968)
  31. The Bride Came C.O.D. (1941)
  32. Jackie (2016)
  33. George Washington Slept Here (1942)
  34. 3 Godfathers (1948)
  35. Blood and Black Lace (1964)
  36. An Affair to Remember (1957)
  37. Kes (1969)
  38. The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
  39. A Farewell to Arms (1932)
  40. Tension (1949)
  41. The Window (1949)
  42. Bigger Than Life (1956)
  43. The Mayor of Hell (1933)
  44. Leap Year (1921)
  45. Lion (2016)
  46. Night of the Lepus (1972)
By Decade:
  • 20s: 1
  • 30s: 4
  • 40s: 7
  • 50s: 12
  • 60s: 7
  • 70s: 3
  • 80s: 1
  • 90s: 1
  • 2000s: 0
  • 2010s: 10
The Edge of Seventeen (2016)
There's nothing else quite like a really great coming-of-age film. The Edge of Seventeen is so brutal and honest, and I found myself connecting to Nadine so deeply despite her experiences being completely different from my own. I can really see this going down in teen film history along the likes of The Breakfast Club--I feel like it "gets" the teenage girls of my generation in the same way that that film "got" the cliques of high schools in the 1980s. It makes me sad that the primary criticism of the film is that Nadine is too unlikable--I thought she was very sympathetic and also realistic, as a girl who impulsively lashes out and then doesn't know how to take it back afterwards. This is one of my favorite films from 2016, and I can't wait to see it again.

The Night of the Hunter (1955)
The Night of the Hunter is a film I've been desperate to see for years, but I just couldn't find a place to watch it. Finally, good old TCM came through for me, and luckily it lived up to the hype. This film is a true waking nightmare, a Gothic horror story that's frightening in a way I didn't realize a classic Hollywood film could be. When the scene pictured above played on the screen, it was one of the most frightening image and sound combinations I had ever seen in a film--I can't even imagine the impact it must have had on audiences in the theater back in 1955. Robert Mitchum's performance here still haunts me--especially that singing voice of his--as does the fear and determination of the little boy he so viciously pursues. I'm still just amazed by Laughton's confidence in crafting such a dark and twisted film, and so saddened that audiences weren't ready for it and prevented him from ever making another.

The Blue Gardenia (1953)
Every cinephile has heard of Fritz Lang, a name indistinguishable from such big, important films as Metropolis and M. So imagine my surprise when I dig into a seemingly mid-grade noir and suddenly realize I've walked straight into my first viewing of a Fritz Lang film! While The Blue Gardenia is apparently considered one of his lesser works, I just loved it and was so happy to have it as my introduction to this legendary filmmaker. It's a female-centric noir, where our hero is not a private detective trying to avoid getting beat up by the mob or back-stabbed by a lovely femme fatale, but rather a lonely call center operator who goes out with a shady character in a moment of desperation and seemingly murders him in self-defense after he tries to take advantage of her. Her "femme fatale" is a male reporter who wants her first-hand account of what happened, and she has to decide if she can trust him. Aside from the reporter, the main characters are all women--a trio of them who share an apartment, pictured above--and the film passes the Bechdel test with flying colors. It's a real oddity in the noir genre, but a really great one, still full of all of the darkness and suspense that the genre is loved for. I'm hoping that this film gets rediscovered in the coming years, because I think it's a really misunderstood little gem that a lot of modern film fans would love.

All That Heaven Allows (1955)
If you had told me a month ago that one of the greatest films ever made was a technicolor melodrama starring Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson, I would have laughed. The idea seemed preposterous; even the poster just screamed that it was the brand of sappy, sentimental 50s romance that I just can't get into. But I watched Magnificent Obsession and it was actually pretty good, so on a sunny, Easter weekend morning when I couldn't sleep, I decided to give this film a chance . . . I can't fully explain what happened next, except that this is truly one of the most beautiful, romantic, heartbreaking films ever committed to celluloid. I could feel the love between Wyman and Hudson so deeply, and their pain at being separated even more-so. And the colors! Every shot of this film is a painting worthy of being hung on the wall. This is the kind of film that I love cinema for, the kind of film that I live for, and I'm only sorry I didn't discover it sooner.

From Here to Eternity (1953)
 From Here to Eternity was my follow-up viewing to All That Heaven Allows, and while it couldn't quite reach the same heights--really, what could?--it's still a really great film in its own right. I was amazed by what this film was able to accomplish despite being released under the Production Code; the scene pictured above, for example. It's such a sensual film, with the thick, intoxicating heat of the Honolulu setting permeating every character interaction--it doesn't matter that the central romances aren't well-developed in the traditional sense, because the chemistry between the actors explains everything. Not only was this a great film, but the strength of the lead performances has also really sold me on both Burt Lancaster and Montgomery Clift--expect to see a lot more of these guys' filmographies around here in the coming months.

 The Band Wagon (1953)
I've discovered I really have a thing for somber and nostalgic 50s musicals: It's Always Fair Weather, Love Me or Leave Me, and now The Band Wagon. I just love Fred Astaire, and his self-awareness here--and the self-awareness of the film itself--of the gradual decline of the Hollywood musical is both beautiful and heartbreaking. To be honest, I wasn't a huge fan of the plot of this film: I thought it strangely skipped over a lot of its best material, like never showing us any musical numbers from the disastrous Faust adaptation. However, the songs, production numbers, and cast are so good that I loved it anyway. Cyd Charisse and Fred Astaire make a great couple, and my favorite moment of the whole film is a brief one where the two sit on a staircase outside of the rehearsal room, both totally worn out, and they just sit and eventually Astaire starts to massage Charisse's shoulders. There's no dialogue, there's really no point in showing us this intimate moment--it just is. In the world of musicals, where everything is glamor and artifice and suspension of disbelief, I loved seeing this picture of reality: of what this world becomes when the cameras are turned off. It's lots of unique little scenes like this that make The Band Wagon so special.

Jackie (2016)
I love Natalie Portman. It seems she's a pretty divisive actress, but I always love her no matter what role she plays. However, the key is what role she plays--I never forget I'm watching Natalie Portman. So imagine my surprise watching Jackie when I had to keep reminding myself that this isn't an old film, that it came out last year and stars Portman. Granted, I know virtually nothing about the real Jackie Kennedy and I was also quite tired while watching this, but even still, this is the very first time I've ever mistaken a modern film for a classic one. Everything about it just perfectly evokes this time period in such a unique and powerful way; its intoxicating in how it draws you in and wraps you up in Jackie's personal nightmare. I left the DVD menu playing for hours after the film ended, mesmerized by that haunting score and all of the pain wrapped up in it. Like All That Heaven Allows, this is a difficult film to discuss: it's one you experience emotionally, not intellectually. In any case, this is definitely one of the greatest films of 2016, and possibly one of the very best biopics of all time--I certainly can't think of another recent one that feels as authentic and personal as Jackie.

The Young Girls of Rochefort (1967)
The Young Girls of Rochefort is the cinematic equivalent of ice cream. Creamy and soft, it has no real depth or backbone to it, but it doesn't need it: it's carefully designed to put a big smile on your face, and in this, it absolutely succeeds. From the silly yet ridiculously catchy musical numbers, to the rainbow of colors occupying every shot, to the beautiful and charming cast, this is a magical world of dreams and happiness and even at an extended 2+ hour runtime, I wasn't ready to leave when the credits rolled. Sometimes I make the mistake of thinking films need to be deep and dark to be worthwhile, but this film reminded me that pure, fun, escapist entertainment is sometimes the perfect--and necessary--medicine for an ailing cinephile's heart.

So that was April! A great month of so many great movies--so many more than I could discuss here. And May is already shaping up to be another memorable month, with highlights including Clark Gable as the Star of the Month on TCM--I'm hoping to catch as many of his pre-code films as I can--and DVD copies of some of my most anticipated films from 2016 like Moonlight, Nocturnal Animals, and Toni Erdmann from the library. I hope you had a great April, and that you have an even better May--and check back later this week for the second Classic Film of the Week!


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