So, I’ll admit that the title to this segment has become a bit of a misnomer seeing as it’s been taking me far more than one week to get them out lately. Luckily, this time I have finals to blame and with those out of the way, I should be back on track to legitimate “Weekly Wrap-Ups” in no time. This week marks the first set of Movies I Should Have Seen By Now chosen by you, my readers, in last segment’s polls. If you recall, I had you all select movies from a list of AFI Top 100 films, IMDb Top 250 films, and other culturally significant pieces of cinematic history in order to decide which classic movies I would expose myself to next. The following films received the highest number of votes in their respective categories.
So the following sentence may seem a bit strange coming from a movie lover of any shape or size; I really like Alfred Hitchcock, but I don’t Love Alfred Hitchcock. Admittedly, I have only seen a small fraction of his huge repertoire, but those films so far have all elicited a pretty similar response while I’m watching them. I appreciate the performances and am impressed by the cinematic artistry (i.e. Rear Window being filmed exclusively from the point of view of one apartment) but I just never feel that sort of “edge-of-your-seat” effect that I would expect from someone known as the Master of Suspense. Vertigo is no different. I loved the performances and was fully drawn in by the mystery of the story, but I just never felt that apprehensive or excited while it was all going on. I have no doubt that if I were seeing the movie in 1960 I would be singing a different tune, but as long as we’re in the present I’ll probably just keep re-watching All About Eve.
In all fairness, I later found out that what I ended up watching was the Extended Edition of The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly. That particular version of the film clocked in at just over three hours, a factor which is the main reason why my score is so “low”. I recognize I can’t quite comment on the original version of the film (which clocks in at just over 160 minutes) but I’m just going to go ahead and do so anyway. Despite its length and subsequent pacing issues, I now completely understand why many consider the film to be the best Western of all time. The reason for this isn’t the catchy title, the iconic soundtrack or the Spaghetti Western shooting style though. That honor belongs to Clint Eastwood, whose picture isn’t just next to the definition of the word “Badass” in the dictionary; it IS the definition. Eastwood’s trademark squinty-eyed stare sets the standard for not-to-be-f*cked-with, and it has never been more on point than in this movie. Add in a great villain for him to use that stare on and you wind up with a truly genre-defining film.
While not all of the visual effects of Sci-Fi and Suspense classics are able to stand the test of time, there is one thing that will never lose its punch when it comes to filmmaking; great dialogue. The biggest thing I have always enjoyed about older movies is that the level of intelligence and wit in that era of screenwriting puts most of today’s material to shame. As a result, all of my favorite classic films share a level of exquisite writing that I will never tire of. 12 Angry Men now has joined this club, and to anyone who has seen the movie this shouldn’t be any surprise. The premise of the movie is so simple and the focus is so narrow that it’s a wonder there’s any drama at all. After all, there’s no violence, no back-stabbing, no twist ending, none of the usual tricks that movies usually use to keep your attention. It is simply a debate between twelve random strangers over the fate of a young man accused of the murder of his father, yet in that debate director Sidney Lumet manages to weave in a number of incendiary subjects without coming across as preachy or judgmental. This is a movie about people, and by maintaining his focus on those people rather than plot gimmicks or exotic locales Lumet is able to examine what it is that makes those people human better than nearly any other film I’ve ever seen.
I know of a certain Blogger who was very enthusiastic about this making it into this week’s roundup so I was very happy to see it make the cut when the final tallies came in. I’m usually not the biggest fan of “Style-over-Substance” directors, but I’d previously seen and enjoyed Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes movies so I figured some of his older work might hold a similar level of entertainment value. Turns out, I was dead wrong; there’s nothing similar at all about the entertainment values of Snatch and Sherlock Holmes, the former kicks the latter’s ass from here to the other side of the pond. Sure, Snatch is still the sort of Style-Over-Substance film making that Ritchie has always been known for, but oh that style! I’ve always loved a good stupid-criminal flick and to see that sub-genre done so sharply in Snatch was an absolute blast. The only downside is that the movie made me think of The Italian Job remake and the fact that Jason Statham was SO much more fun before he did those stupid Transporter movies and became our generation’s generic action hero.
I’ll be honest, I was taken pretty off-guard when this one came in the #1 position in the “Culturally Significant” category. That’s not to say that it isn’t culturally significant, I guess I just thought that people weren’t too crazy about the film from a critical standpoint. Having now seen it for myself, I understand both why it wasn’t a major critical hit and why it still came in as #1 in the voting. For better or worse, The Blair Witch Project ushered in an era of cheap “found-footage” film making that is still alive and kicking to this very day. What’s even more amusing to me, coming from a generation which has essentially grown up with the format, is the thought that so many people thought that it was real when it first came out. Real or fake, it doesn’t matter; I’m still not going camping any time in the near future without at least four or five other people that I could reasonably outrun if push came to shove. The Blair Witch Project is to horror what a movie like Anchorman is to Comedy; it might not be solid gold by most movie metrics, but it does exactly what you go into the movie expecting it to do. Anchorman keeps you laughing for the dozenth time you’ve seen it, whereas The Blair Witch Project will make you unable to sleep with the light off
And so I have made another small increase to my cinematic XP level. Now it’s time once again for all of you to pick the next five films which I will experience for the first time. Please take the time to vote below for your favorite (or least favorite) movies in each category!