- Thin Man, The (1934)
- In The Heat of the Night (1967)
- All In: The Poker Movie, player’s best tricks
- Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956)
- Lone Star (1996)
- Faster, Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (1965)
- Slacker (1991)
- Shame (2011) Or Who the Hell is Steve McQueen?
- Wicker Man, The (1973)
- Buffalo '66 (1998)
- Flaming Creatures (1963) Or Infantile Art-House Orgy
- Enter the Dragon (1973)
- I Walked With a Zombie (1943)
- Out of the Past (1947)
- Princess Bride, The (1987)
- Once (2006)
- All the President's Men (1976)
- Being John Malkovich (1999)
- In the Year of the Pig (1968)
- In The Mood For Love (2000)
- Hole, The (1960)
- Ocean’s Eleven Blu-Ray Review
- Tokyo Story (1953)
- Jurassic Park (1993)
- Gilda (1946)
- Rounders (1998)
- Masque of the Red Death, The (1964)
- Django Unchained (2012)
- Fat City (1972)
- Amélie (2001)
From Art-House Obscurity To Grindhouse Schlock - With A Special Focus On '1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die'
Thursday, December 1st, 2013
Comment away. Pardon the delay, but I actually had to find an expert to bail me out of this mess - Thanks Derek, thanks El Diablo.
As for that aforementioned club, the web-address is super simple:
Visit. Read. Join. Post.
All are welcome.
In the Heat of the Night (1967)
Rosemary's Baby (1968)
Most Recent Reviews and Commentary:
Genre: Mystery Comedy Crime Romance
Starring: William Powell (How to Marry a Millionaire • The Great Ziegfeld), Myrna Loy (Love Crazy • Airport 1975)
Directed By: W.S. Van Dyke (After The Thin Man • Another Thin Man)
Overview: Nick and Nora Charles, a retired private detective and his curious wife, are thrust into a murder mystery involving an inventor, his money-hungry ex-wife and a score of suspects both familial and strange.
Whenever I lean in to sample another early 30s 'Must See' of my self-imposed film studies, I do it with a big fat grain of salt. My two readers will tell you that I am a firm hater of this era. With few exceptions, the early 30s have some major talkies growing pains and it's absolutely no excuse for quality. Chaplin was doing silents well into the talkies era and for that I'm thankful. While I began to watch The Thin Man, a series so successful it produced 5 more films, I realized that by 1934, Hollywood at least, has 'nailed it down', technically. I realized with a sigh of relief that The Thin Man had sold me quite quickly. With the grace and charm of Myrna Loy, the comedic timing and pantomime of William Powell while still having a storyline serious enough to sink your teeth into, the only thing you'd be missing from this Mystery Comedy Drama would be an adorable little terrier who helps advance the plot... and wouldn't you know it, they even thought of that.
The most endearing trait of Nick Charles, our hero, is not his debonair style, it's not his Devil-may-care bravery and approach to crime fighting, it's his drinking. He could give George and Martha's liquor cabinet a go without stumbling. His rich socialite wife is clearly a woman so bored that having guns pointed at her is preferable to yet another dinner party, and the cast of characters are often presented in a very strange and original style. Most notable is Morelli, played by Edward Brophy who, before Nick even considers taking the case, breaks into the Charles' home and, at gunpoint, profusely explains how he couldn't be the killer.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 8 Script: 7 Plot: 8 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 80% (Actually, Quite Meaty)
All told, The Thin Man is certainly a worthy film, and brilliantly acted rich with characters you want to explore. What's more, the ever popular climactic cliché of assembling guests at a dinner party and walking through the details of the case to uncover the murderer? Well The Thin Man may not have started the trend, but I can't think of a film that did it sooner.
Poitier does it again.
Genre: Drama Crime Mystery
Starring: Sidney Poitier (The Defiant Ones • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner), Rod Steiger (On the Waterfront • Doctor Zhivago)
Directed By: Norman Jewison (Fiddler on the Roof • Moonstruck)
Overview: When a man is found dead in the small-town streets of Sparta, Mississippi, a black man is picked up as a suspect. Turns out that black man is a homicide detective up North. When the sheriff asks him to stay and help the investigation, the race relations of the Deep South make things more than a little difficult.
Harvey [To Tibbs]: What you doin' wearin' white man's clothes?
In the small Deep South town of Sparta, Mississippi, a policeman (the weird-to-see-as-a-corn-fed-redneck-cop Warren Oates) finds the murdered body of a rich industrialist. When he scours the streets for a suspect, he finds a black man (Sidney Poitier) waiting for a train and arrests him on sight. Police chief Gillespie (the seasoned and impressive Rod Steiger) is quickly embarrassed when he finds out that the black man, Virgil Tibbs, is not only a policeman from Philadelphia, but a homicide specialist. After a quick call to Tibbs’ police chief, it’s suggested that Tibbs stick around and help solve the Mississippi murder. Reluctantly, Mr. Tibbs agrees and the investigation begins. But with the town of Sparta rich with a deep culture of racism, the night won’t be the only thing that’s heated.
Gillespie [after the arrest of Mr. Tibbs]: Whatcha hit him with?
Tibbs: Hit whom?
Gillespie: "Whom"? "Whom"? Well, you a northern boy? What's a northern boy like you doing all the way down here?
As stories go, it’s a pretty standard police whodunit complete with its cadre of suspects and red herrings, but an audience hoping to find a unique mystery in In The Heat of the Night is missing the point. The mystery is nothing more than the vehicle driving the characters to their controversial interactions.
And Rod Steiger's not so bad himself.
The most impressive thing about In The Heat of the Night is how nuanced those interactions between our main characters are. The race-tense scenes between our two policemen speaks to an honest humanity. Gillespie is a cop first and a racist second, and though his sense of justice - his desire to solve a murder – comes first, he can’t always be altruistic. To have someone who’s ‘a homicide specialist’ fall into his lap is pure luck and he’ll use that resource, even if it is a Northern boy Negro. But when emotions ramp up, Gillespie knows how to hurt Tibbs, knows how to be a proper Southern white man, knows how to put a Negro in his place. Using the N-word ain’t no problem when he needs to get his point across. And Tibbs, well he doesn’t turn the other cheek and hold fast to lofty ideals; he reacts accordingly. He reacts like an educated man living in the era of the civil rights movement. He reacts like a man who’s the best hope of solving this crime.
Gillespie [as Tibbs prepares to abandon the town]: I'm tellin' you that you're gonna stay. You'll stay here if I have to have your chief remind you what he told you to do. But I don't think I have to do that, you see? No. Because you're so damned smart. You're smarter than any white man. You're just gonna stay here and show us all. You could never live with yourself unless you could put us all to shame. You wanna know something, Virgil? I don't think that you could let an opportunity like that pass by.
Stirling Silliphant’s brilliant screenplay based on John Ball’s novel and how it’s delivered by Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger is the undeniable strength of In The Heat of the Night.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 7 Script: 9 Plot: 7 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 80% (Hot Enough)
In The Heat of the Night is one of those perfect little bell-curve films from the 1001 book that remind me to ‘get around to this one’. Sometimes it’s not about the study; sometimes it’s just about putting movies like these under your belt and building your solid repertoire of the wonderful things that are out there.
The game of poker is synonymous with money, whiskey and glamour. There was a time when poker was associated with illicit activity, an activity only undertaken by those on the fringe – but boy, has it come a long way since then.
The game on which modern poker is based travelled to America from France. After a period of development, poker as we now know it emerged in Seattle, and the world has never been the same since.
Poker has grown into a multi-million dollar business, and more people play it now than ever before. Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio and George Clooney play regularly, and the online gaming opportunities have helped to make poker a mainstream activity.
Sites such as Bwin do not just allow people to play online poker, but have also developed sophisticated means of teaching the game to newcomers as well. Card games can be daunting for the uninitiated, but https://poker.bwin.fr/pokerschool coaching system presents the rules of the game in a clear format that makes the game easy to understand. There are also video tutorials about how a hand is played for those that have never seen the game played before, as well as hand rankings to allow new players to learn their way around a deck.
All In: The Poker Movie, a poker documentary directed by Douglas Tirola, shows how poker has become more popular in the last few decades. It features some of the most successful and influential poker players currently playing. The film was, unsurprisingly granted an award at the CineVegas Film Festival – who knew? The documentary, which pitches itself as being the “story of the worldwide poker boom” also features Matt Damon – All In: The Poker Movie is Damon’s second poker based production, after Rounders in 1998.
Part of the beauty of the game of poker is that each player can make it his or her own. If you want to go mathematical, and design algorithms to help you win, go ahead. If you want to blaze through the hands like a bull in a china shop, that’s ok too. Some play because they enjoy the social aspect, some big money. Bwin don’t just have an excellent online coaching system, they also feature different types of tournament to suit every different type of player.
This review is written by Marion Brookes
Genre: Sci-Fi Horror
Starring: Kevin McCarthy (Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1979) • UHF), Dana Wynter (Airport • Sink The Bismark)
Directed By: Don Siegel (Dirty Harry • Escape From Alcatraz)
Overview: A doctor discovers that his small town’s inhabitants are being replaced by alien creatures.
Dr. Miles J. Bennell (the still-young Kevin McCarthy) lives in small town America. The only thing that seems to put any weight at all on his mind is the return of an old flame, Becky Driscoll (Dana Wynter). As their romance rekindles, he hears strange rumours. It seems that many of the townsfolk are having the sinking feeling that the people around them aren’t quite right. Some even say they’ve been replaced. When his friend Dr. Danny Kauffman (Larry Gates) finds what looks like a life-size wax figure, they watch it to see what happens. Turns out they’re facing some kind of invasion by alien body snatchers, but the TITLE RUINED THAT FOR YOU ALREADY.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers is fun. It’s light. It’s scary but not too scary. When you see where the monsters come from for the first time, it’s impressive. The special effects are kitschy cool in that Them! way, but overall… Eesh. The characters’ motivations and the plot are so forced to create additional drama that goes beyond forcing suspension of disbelief – it goes straight to weak, bad writing.
With gaping plot holes that confuse, with logic that assumes you only know about medicine, law, and physics what small town American knew in the 50s, and with acting that occasionally raises your eyebrow from its astonishing camp, Invasion of the Body Snatchers can’t possibly escape the land of B-Grade cinema. Unlike King Kong and Shock Corridor, Invasion of the Body Snatchers doesn’t have an intelligent idea that transcends its station – there isn’t a surprisingly genius moment of cinematography that astounds us into taking it seriously; there isn’t one thing that pops and makes us say, “yes, this is important”.
The other sad thing, and I know it’s my own issue, but this is also a bookended story. It begins with a wildman coming in and telling the story of how he survived. For me, those touch upon the spoiler. There’s a large chunk of suspense cut out of a story when you know the people who will survive the ordeals they’re recounting. It’s not a big thing, but it is one more thing that I didn’t like about the ’56 Invasion of the Body Snatchers. I’d much rather recommend Them! to those interested in cautionary metaphorical tales.
Performance: 7 Cinematography: 8 Script: 5 Plot: 6 Mood: 6
Overall Rating: 64% (Not All That Captivating)
As always, I see this 1001-list film in the context of ‘why did it make the list’? Since I never read the tome’s entry until after I see the film, I couldn’t rationalize what made Invasion of the Body Snatchers so special. In fact, it was so plain-old-Wednesday-fare that I plan on watching the 1978 Donald Sutherland version as well as the 1993 Meg Tilley version just to get something out of it… to make it more of a ‘study’. Then I opened the 1001 books and read the reason it was on the list; what sets Invasion of the Body Snatchers apart is that instead of freakish and frightening monsters, the nemeses in the film are the neighbors, the people all around our paranoid characters. Today this isn’t an original concept - The Thing being one of the all-time best terrors with that theme - but thinking back to 1956, I could see this concept as relatively ground-breaking science fiction, not to mention having a strong streak of the political themes of Communism and/or anti-McCarthyism.
Genre: Mystery Drama
Starring: Chris Cooper (American Beauty • Syriana), Kris Kristofferson (Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid • Blade)
Directed By: John Sayles (Matewan • City of Hope)
Overview: When a skull and a tin star are found in the desert, the sheriff investigates what may have been the old corrupt sheriff’s murder 40 years ago.
Lone Star is one of those ‘I-know-little-about-it’ movies that I’ve looked forward to opening like a surprise for a long time. All I knew about it was that it was the image opposite Trainspotting in my 2005 edition of the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. It shows a slightly askew screenshot of Matthew McConaughey looking rather stern and focussed in his big white cowboy hat and tin star. He sits looking up at an equally stern and focussed Kris Kristofferson whose thumb is firmly hooked into his bullet belt. Lone Star’s location in the 1001 tome put it in one of the folds where my book naturally opened to, so I’ve been frequently reminded to get around to Lone Star.
Some metal-detecting treasure hunters are digging around the desert in Rio County, Texas. When they uncover a skull, a masonic ring and a lawman’s badge, sheriff Sam Deeds (the ever-stoic Chris Cooper) begins looking into his town’s past. Sam is the son of the righteous Buddy Deeds (Matthew McConaughey), the sheriff who, 40 years ago, publicly confronted the dirty sheriff Charlie Wade (a beautifully angry Kris Kristofferson) about his dirty dealings. Naturally, Sam suspects the body is of Charlie, who was presumed to have just up and left one night all those years ago.
From here you would expect Lone Star to take a turn for the procedural – a high budget, character background-rich “CSI: Rio County”, but it strays far from the investigative policing that films and TV shows have shown us a hundred times. Rather than partners jumping from hunches to conclusions, this tale is told through the stories of the interconnected lives the old skull is linked to… or rather, it felt like there was this gaping void of ‘interesting’ that I was missing. I’m sure that unique not-so-heavy-on-the-how approach is why Lone Star made it to the 1001 book, but try as I might, I just couldn't get into it.
Full of character-building tangents and distractions, Lone Star is dialogue-dense but somehow it’s just not story-rich. Call it direction, casting, script, whatever, but in more than one scene I was pulled out by dialogue and acting that made me realize these were players on a set. It happened too frequently that chunks felt forced or even clichéd, and that, combined with two hours and nine minutes that somehow still felt rushed, well that doesn’t leave much hope for an ending satisfying enough to make up for the awkward. The ending was great, but the hole was already dug too deep. I just wasn’t liking where I was.
The main reason I was disappointed in Lone Star is because it left this emptiness – nay, this vacuum. I say vacuum because not only was something missing, but there was something there that got sucked out and instead left this tension, an ever-unfulfilled expectation that it would return. Lone Star should have focussed on Matthew McConaughey’s Buddy Deeds, a character introduced early on and then ignored in favour of turning him into a once-upon-a-time part of the modern mystery. His was the character I wanted to follow, his was the most interesting story and his was the element that was so lacking in Lone Star. I think he had all of six lines. Lone Star missed the mark, showing us instead the character of the son who was in Buddy Deeds’s shadow, the man who couldn’t hold a candle to his father, and a character who couldn’t hold a candle to the story I wanted to watch.
Performance: 7 Cinematography: 7 Script: 7 Plot: 6 Mood: 5
Overall Rating: 64% (Doesn't Shine So Brightly)
If nothing else, watching Lone Star is like going back in time and seeing Hollywood actor from the 90s all in one movie – a lot of nostalgia factor there.
Genre: Sexploitation Action
Starring: Tura Satana (The Astro-Zombies), Stuart Lancaster (Supervixens • Godmonster of Indian Flats)
Directed By: Russ Meyer (Cherry • Beyond the Valley of the Dolls)
Overview: Three go-go dancing, speed-demon strippers have an impromptu desert race with a couple they meet. When things get out of control, they kidnap the girl. They soon find out that a crippled old man in a nearby ranch might be sitting on thousands of dollars. With the girl and their greed they head out to the ranch to see if they can get the big score.
For those of you who don’t know Russ Meyer or his role in cinema’s history, let me be very… firm: his movies are Sexploitation. In fact Russ Meyer is to Sexploitation what Hitchcock is to Suspense, what Kurosawa is to Period Samurai and what David Lynch is to the surreal – he’s the first name in it. In fact his nickname was King Leer and all - every single one of his movies – prominently feature extremely well-endowed women, sometimes with and usually without clothes. Now that you have this basic education, let us begin:
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to violence, the word and the act. While violence cloaks itself in a plethora of disguises, its favorite mantle still remains... sex. Violence devours all it touches, its voracious appetite rarely fulfilled. Yet violence doesn't only destroy, it creates and molds as well. Let's examine closely then this dangerously evil creation, this new breed encased and contained within the supple skin of woman. The softness is there, the unmistakable smell of female, the surface shiny and silken, the body yielding yet wanton. But a word of caution: handle with care and don't drop your guard. This rapacious new breed prowls both alone and in packs, operating at any level, any time, anywhere, and with anybody. Who are they? One might be your secretary, your doctor's receptionist... or a dancer in a go-go club!
So promises the narrator of the awesomely-titled Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!. Then quickly we're immersed into the neer-do-well, speed-hungry lifestyle of three buxom go-go girls. There’s the blond Billie (Lori Williams), a girl who often shakes her stuff and hungers for vice, or, in her own words, “I'm of legal age for whiskey, voting and loving. Now the next election is two years away, and my love life ain't getting much better, so how about some of that one-hundred-percent!”. There’s the black-haired Italian Rosie (Haji). When she’s not cat-fighting with Billie, she tends to play it safe, and when-a she-a speaks, it’s with-a many Italianisms and hand-a gestures. These two are led by Varla (Tura Satana). Varla is one tall glass of water. Pleasantly plump in all the right places, this severely-eyebrowed Japanese-Italian wears all black. And, just as you would expect any black-hatted cowboy to be a bad guy, so is she, and is she ever. While these three women are joyriding and playing chicken with their cars out in the desert, they meet Tommy (Ray Barlow) and his main squeeze Linda (the young and petite Sue Bernard), and race against him. Varla is a pretty sore loser and when things don’t quite go her way she ends up killing Tommy in a wrasslin’ fist fight. They kidnap the girl and flee to make sure she doesn’t squeal. While on the lam out in the desert, a freaky gas station attendant tells them a story about an old man (Stuart Lancaster) that lives at a nearby ranch. The old man earned a big settlement when he was crippled by a train while trying to save a woman’s life. He doesn’t trust banks, so the money’s probably out there on his ranch. Varla naturally opts to find the geezer's bread and the women head out to the ranch and meet him and his two sons, Kirk (Paul Trinka) and the dim-witted yet large-muscled ‘The Vegetable’ (Dennis Busch). Well, for as many tricks as Varla may have up her sleeve, the old man and his kin have a couple as well.
The Old Man: I’m tied to this chair!
Varla: Maybe you should be nailed to it!
Above all things, if I had to describe Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! in one word, it would be ‘awkward’. I don’t mean that in an entirely bad sense, it’s a lot of fun, but there’s some real clunk when it comes to Russ Meyer’s tenth feature. The characters, especially our three anti-heroines, though rather unique, are filled out (pun intended) with so many – and I mean tons of ‘em – one liners that it’s hard to separate them from say, any comic book superhero/supervillain ever. Too often does Varla toss her gang-leader weight around and interrupt the natural flow of conversation with her obviously fragile ego. But on the flip side, the lines are so 1965 and out-there hipster that it’s easy to just ‘have a gas’ with them. The plot is so contrived that it’s funny. It’s like Russ needed a new challenge every act and had to find it RIGHT THIS SECOND before shoot day. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! is clearly an unpolished piece of cinema, but boy is it ever weird and fun and different. Say what you will about female characters so strong and empowered that they engage in fisticuffs with men and win, I say it’s just plain old fashioned fun.
The Old Man: Women! They let 'em vote, smoke and drive - even put 'em in pants! And what happens? A Democrat for president!
Performance: 6 Cinematography: 7 Script: 8 Plot: 6 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 70% (Cuddly, But With Claws)
Having thus far seen Russ Meyer’s decent Beyond the Valley of the Dolls and impressive Supervixens - recently in theater, thanks Mayfair! – I think I’ll put Faster Pussycat! as a middle-of-the-road offering of his oeuvre. Either way, I’d like to see more of ‘King Leer’s works for sure.
Genre: Comedy Drama
Starring: Over 90 different slackers, including Richard Linklater himself
Directed By: Richard Linklater (Before Sunrise • Waking Life)
Overview: Following a moment in the lives of the lazy, unemployed slacker youths in Austin, Texas.
I’ve said before that Martin Scorsese has two directorial sides. There’s the Cape Fear / The Aviator / Hugo Scorsese, then there’s the immortalized side of him, the gritty drama side of him: the Goodfellas / Taxi Driver / Raging Bull side of him. Richard Linklater also has these two completely different sides to the stories he tells. He has his “I’m a mature adult” movies like Me and Orson Welles and the Before Sunrise Romance Drama trilogy. Then there’s the Linklater I know, with younger, more psychedelic movies like Dazed and Confused, Waking Life, A Scanner Darkly, and his second feature, Slacker.
Slacker’s story is mostly a series of barely thematically-related monologues and dialogues. We begin by watching one young man as he arrives in Austin, Texas by bus (Richard Linklater himself) who then speaks at length to a cabbie about a dream he just had. When he gets out of the cab, we follow someone on a nearby street corner. Once that tale is complete, the camera follows the conversation of the people nearby. They walk and talk to a café, then we watch someone else who's there, and so on and on until the credits. Slacker is essentially the plotless story of a sub-culture of the lazy, the unemployed, the unemployable, the off and the downright mad. Some characters are going through break-up rituals or just chatting about their band, others are talking conspiracy theories and anarchy. Then there’s those characters who are just plain crazy, like the rambling madwoman who writes on Post-it notes and repeats the words “You should… You should quit traumatizing women with sexual intercourse... I should know... I'm a medical doctor... I own a mansion and a yacht... You should quit traumatizing women with sexual intercourse...”
The moment I understood how Slacker was going to play out, I thought of the movie Twenty Bucks (1993). In that one we follow the ‘life’ of a particular $20 bill in New York City as it changes hands. Slacker does the same thing but instead of a $20 bill, we’re watching people make a point until someone in proximity becomes the new focus. The vignettes we hear are complete mini-stories; never are we cut off mid-sentence to move on to the next person, in mid-sentence. I praise Linklater for his script, which is the strongest part of the movie, even if sometimes it seemed like everyone was trying to come up with a monologue wackier than the last one. Unlike his incredibly dense script for Waking Life, Slacker’s is light and funny enough to carry us to the end in one sitting.
Video Backpacker: To me, my thing is, a video image is much more powerful and useful than an actual event. Like back when I used to go out, when I was last out, I was walking down the street and this guy, that came barreling out of a bar, fell right in front of me, and he had a knife right in his back, landed right on the ground and... Well, I have no reference to it now. I can't put it on pause. I can't put it on slo-mo and see all the little details. And the blood, it was all wrong. It didn't look like blood. The hue was off. I couldn't adjust the hue. I was seeing it for real, but it just wasn't right. And I didn't even see the knife impact on the body. I missed that part.
Unfortunately there isn’t much else going for Slacker to warrant earning its place in the 1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die book. Aside from the occasionally inspiring long-take and original goings-on, it’s standard Wednesday evening fare. But then... eesh... then there's the acting and delivery. There’s ‘honest’ and there's ‘new-wavey’ and then there’s what Linklater let slide over and over. His actors are partly chosen because they aren’t pretty, that I get – I’d be horrified to suddenly learn that I was fugly because I was cast in Slacker – but Christ, these people can’t pantomime themselves out of a shark tank, to turn a phrase. You forgive the first ten clunky performances, but when some entire scenes are so bad that you’re embarrassed for the people in them, you throw your hands up and submit to realizing that fundamentally Slacker's got some real unrehearsed stink.
T-Shirt Terrorist: Remember, terrorism is the surgical strike capability of the oppressed. Keep on keepin' on!
Still Slacker has a captivating madness to it. There's conspiracy theories - maybe too many, frankly - and crazy people, not to mention a scene with Madonna’s pap smear; these are the things that keep the one gimmick that is Slacker entertaining to the end.
Performance: 3 Cinematography: 7 Script: 8 Plot: 7 Mood: 6
Overall Rating: 62% (They Sure Didn't Do Their Drama Homework)
The reason it’s in the book, sayeth the grand 1001 tome, is partly due to “Combining a certain formal logic with an illogical drive toward spinning out gratuitous fantasies and digressions”. I can translate that to ‘it has a theme and there’s some wackety-shmacketiness going on’. I call just a little bit of bullsh on that. Rather than taking Linklater’s best films like A Scanner Darkly, or Waking Life, our well-meaning Stephen J. Schneider just chose Slacker to help buffer the 1991 film annum for the tome. I hope the new 10th anniversary edition coming in September will correct the obvious Per Year Quota. In fact, more 1927, I say!
P.S. I was trying to really define for myself how bad the acting was for my Performance score. This is what I came up with:
6 is better than bad
5 is worse than good
4 is annoying
3 is distracting
2 is offensive
1 is Pinochet-grade reprehensible.
Starring: Michael Fassbender (Prometheus • Fish Tank), Carey Mulligan (Drive • An Education)
Directed By: Steve McQueen (Hunger • 12 Years a Slave)
Overview: The character study of a sexual addict living in New York and his relationship with his sister.
This paragraph is strictly for those who’ve seen the film, who never plan on seeing the film, or who don’t mind every hook, line and twister being ruined before they see it (you people are weird)...
Click here to skip the spoiler bit.
Shame opens with a red-haired woman on a subway, enticed by Brandon’s gaze. When she leaves, she flees, her ring finger prominently displaying the reason for her flight. Brandon chases, knowing she won’t be able to resist his temptation, but loses her. Over the next 100 minutes, we learn of Brandon’s ordeals and issues and, in the final scene, he again runs into that same red-haired woman. This time she is inviting, but Brandon is in a far different state of mind. His sister has barely survived a suicide and he knows his sexual addition - his shame - is partly responsible for her attempt. He looks up at the redhead and the film fades to credits, forever leaving us with the question of whether or not he’s grown and will refuse her, or if he will continue to be the sexual addict that we’ve learned of all this time.
To me it’s an incredibly satisfying ending, not because it asks a question we don’t quite know the answer to - a moral cliff-hanger, if you will – but because I can answer the question with absolute certainty: of course he goes to her. Naturally a man who has been brought to the brink of a chasm of anguish will take comfort in the thing he loves and understands most. Certainly a man in the throes of depression will chose instead to be in the throes of passion. Knowing that he could have this woman without a chase is not the satisfaction he seeks. Brandon does not derive pleasure from winning, he gets it from fucking, and it's unfinished business. It’s possible that this woman will provide the sex that will give Brandon his moment of clarity, will give him enough center and catharsis to work towards overcoming his addiction, but not banging a married woman in his depression is not hitting bottom; going through with it is. But all that comes after the sex with this woman is just guessing. What’s knowing is that that subway train redhead is a Godsend, the pure symbol of relief, of release and of rebirth that Brandon needs right now. Resisting that? No Sir, not Brandon - not in a million years.
Sometimes it’s hard to write a compelling Overview of a character study film, mostly because they don’t tend to have plots. As a matter of fact, I commented to my guest how much Shame felt like a tightly-plotted film because the events of the life we followed built our character so well. Those of you who are leery of potentially boring character studies need not worry with Shame, because - simply put - it’s a masterpiece.
Performance: 9 Cinematography: 9 Script: 8 Plot: 9 Mood: 10
Overall Rating: 90% (No Shame In Sharing This Masterpiece)
Steven Rodney "Steve" McQueen is the name of someone destined to have a life in Cinema. The London-born, Ansterdam-living director of Grenadian descent, his 2008 Hunger won the prize for Best First Feature film at Cannes, The Caméra d'Or. Shame has not only reminded me why I do this toiling through cinema thing yet time and again, but it’s reminded me that my study guide that is the 1001 List is good and great, especially since this would have otherwise gone under my radar. Shame has also inspired me to explore Steve McQueen’s other works, Hunger and 12 Years a Slave. I'm sure I'll not be disappointed.
Genre: Horror Mystery Thriller (UK)
Starring: Edward Woodward (“The Equalizer” • “Callan”), Christopher Lee (The Man With The Golden Gun • Star Wars: Episode II - Attack of the Clones)
Directed By: Robin Hardy
Overview: When a policeman goes to a remote Scottish isle to look for a missing girl, he finds a pagan community with secrets in spades.
When police sergeant Howie (Edward Woodward) arrives by seaplane to the remote island of Summerisle in northern Scotland, he calls out to the natives to send him a dingy. They reply quite plainly, “I'm afraid it can't be done, sir! This is private property! You can't land here without written permission!” Howie’s work of finding a missing girl is certainly cut out for him. The residents of Summerisle are not only xenophobic, they’re also pagan and worship in the old way, complete with maypoles and ritual sky-clad dancing. As Howie investigates the missing girl, he finds the residents are far too secretive and suspicious a lot.
The Wicker Man’s plot is pretty straight-forward, but what sets it apart - what has made it one to earn its place on The List - is the mystery of the island itself. The strangeness of the people who live on Summerisle, whether it’s the nigh-creepy children, the outrageously uncouth pub patrons, or their almost irresponsibly carefree Lord Summerisle (the flagrantly foppish Christopher Lee), that place exudes a feeling of mystery, of something being ‘off’. There’s also a wonderfully unique culture being shown to us throughout Howie’s investigation. Whether it’s finding out why umbilical cords are hanging off trees planted in graves, or elaborate May Day celebration rituals, the things Howie sees while he searches is not your usual cinema. Another other thing that makes The Wicker Man memorable is that climax, which takes a full, compelling half hour to bring us to the credits, and a wonderfully satisfying ending it is.
Lord Summerisle: We're a deeply religious people.
Sergeant Howie: Religious? With ruined churches, no ministers, no priests... and children dancing naked!
Lord Summerisle: They do love their divinity lessons.
Sergeant Howie: [outraged] But they a-are... NAKED!
Lord Summerisle: Naturally! It's much too dangerous to jump through fire with their clothes on!
There are indeed some caveats to note. The Wicker Man is dated, and contains elements that we as a modern audience need to remember in order to fully appreciate. The music, folksy and bright, sometimes crass, sometimes haunting, is noticeably ‘from a time before’. Sergeant Howie may seem fanatical in his Christianity, but The Wicker Man is a film from 1973. Thinking back to that time, it’s a lot easier to imagine him as far more ‘everyman’ than ‘zealot’. But again, the further we are from the world director Robin Hardy created - including the 1973 where it began – the closer we get to a strange and surreal place. Add frequent disrobed frolicking and, well, there’s not much to complain about when it comes to The Wicker Man… except maybe what Nicolas Cage did to it in 2006.
Performance: 8 Cinematography: 7 Script: 8 Plot: 8 Mood: 8
Overall Rating: 78% (Sit A Spell On Summerisle)
The venue for this one was a friend’s house with a group that seldom gets together to watch an assortment of films. The Wicker Man was chosen as the ‘good’ and ‘important’ film of the evening, but we were still happy enough to see one another that the occasional wisecrack passed our lips, given that most of us had seen this before. Then, with 30 minutes left, the climax began, and we all just naturally got sucked up into the unfolding tale. We sat there silent and watched The Wicker Man come to an end, engrossed.
Do yourself a favour though – if your version includes a trailer, do NOT watch its spoiler-filled images until AFTER your screening.