Tag Archives: 1001 movies

XL Popcorn – The Exiles

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 898/1009Title: The Exiles
Director: Kent Mackenzie
Year: 1961
Country: USA

Well, after Vinyl I thought I would have a bit of respite before I got the next film on this list that would leave me utterly cold. Sadly not. Cards on the table, I only watched this about 8 hours before sitting down to start writing this blog post and… it’s like my brain has completely scrubbed most of the knowledge of watching this. Honestly, it is like I didn’t even watch a film this afternoon.

So what is The Exiles? This is a pseudo-documentary that follows a day in the life of a group of Native Americans who now live in Los Angeles having left the reservation lands. The sheer bulk of this film is watching a group of men as they go on a night out, which then ends up in a drumming party on a hill outside the city. I wish it had focused more on the life of Native American women who had transplanted themselves into the big city – but this is 1961. If this had been made 15-20 years later, I think the depictions would have been more equal. Well at least I hope so.

That’s pretty much all I have. I think it’s interesting how quickly the people in this film forget they are on camera and just go about things – like very naturally. Other than that, this film made next to no impression on me and that’s a bit sad… so I am very glad that this wasn’t my 900th film. That was a close one.

XL Popcorn – Amarcord

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 897/1009Title: Amarcord
Director: Federico Fellini
Year: 1973
Country: Italy

The penultimate Fellini before I finish off the list… in about two years. I decided to keep Juliet of the Spirits as I wanted to save the final Giulietta Masina film to the end, which leaves me with this autobiographical comedy-drama that netted Fellini his fourth and final win for Best Foreign Language Film at the Oscars. Not that he got the trophies as they technically belong to the country of origin… which has always struck me as a bit odd.

Amarcord is one of those films that doesn’t really have a story as such, instead it is a year in the life of an Italian town in the 1930s. We start as spring chases away the winter chill with a stream of puffy seeds and we end in the same way. In the intervening year we see marriage, death, sex, confession and a man climbing a tree demanding that someone fetches him a woman.

The lack of a definitive storyline is the strength and the weakness of Amarcord. Being that this is a Fellini film, there is no argument as to how brilliant this film looks. He sets up some wonderful scenes, like the cinema scene and the snowy roadways, and there are some great laughs to be had – the scene with the tobacconist screams into my mind there.

On the flip side, the lack of a set direction turns this into a two hour stream of vignettes that don’t always work for me. It had me completely for the first hour as we had dream sequences, unreliable narrators and stones being thrown at relatives. Then it began to lose me as the pace and the tone changed. Like, I was never able to emotionally invest too much in Titta as a main character so the final part of his maturation arc didn’t hit me as hard as it should… given that he is the Fellini analogue.

XL Popcorn – Angels With Dirty Faces

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 896/1009Title: Angels with Dirty Faces
Director: Michael Curtiz
Year: 1938
Country: USA

It is over three years since I saw James Cagney in Public Enemy and I still find it difficult to look at him in a gangster film without the back of my brain singing to me about how he is a ‘Yankee Doodle Dandy’. Please someone tell me that they also can’t look at him and think of him as a song and dance man – like I get this is a minority opinion, but also wow I hate my brain sometimes.

Anyway, Angels with Dirty Faces is one of the quintessential 1930s gangster films that I have been looking forward to seeing for a long time. This is the same director as Casablanca, features Humphrey Bogart in a major role and was Cagney’s first nomination for an Oscar. It was also an astoundingly weird vehicle for what may be some of the worst supporting cast group that I have seen in a ‘worthy’ movie.

As plot goes, Angels with Dirty Faces is one of those (sadly) timeless stories about how two people with exactly the same upbringing bar a major event can have drastically different lives. In this instance, one became a priest and the other a gangster – the event being one escaped police capture as a boy, the other did not. This is one of those things that you see in an extended and slightly more realistic Up documentary series.

This is a good film with a brilliant final prison sequence that could have been a great one if not for The Dead End Kids – six young actors who were apparently a devil to work with and were just plain awful. I don’t know if I will ever understand the strange fascination 1930s Hollywood had with these sorts of young performers, but I sure am glad that we’ve grown out of it.

The moments these young actors weren’t on the screen made for a really great cautionary tale of what happens to a young man when he enters the prison system. In the end though, that removes enough of the film that it would become well less than an hour long… and would mean that we didn’t have the story of Cagney getting so angry with one of them that he punched them in the face.

XL Popcorn – Vinyl

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 895/1009Title: Vinyl
Director: Andy Warhol
Year: 1965
Country: USA

There are films in the list that I have been avoiding like the plague. Given how late into this project I am, my hand is being forced and I am having to watch them like so many Godards. At little over an hour long, Vinyl is the sole entry by artist Andy Warhol to appear on the 1001 list – although if going by critical acclaim I am surprised that they opted for this hot mess rather than Chelsea Girls. Maybe the extreme length of Chelsea Girls turned them off? Either way, today I watched Vinyl.

The whole thing feels like you are watching a live cam of a New York improv troupe rehearsing a set based on A Clockwork Orange. That would go a long way to explain the extras in the background who aren’t aware they’re being filmed and how you have an hour of Edie Sedgewick sitting in the best lit position and contributing some arm movements and a mistakenly spilled drink.

Other than some close-ups at the end, the camera remains stationary – the film made of two long takes where they shot until the film ran out. A clue that you are approaching the end of the reel is that suddenly the fourth-wall is broken as someone reads out a credits list for what you are seeing.

All of what is put on screen is so wooden and done in the name of ‘experimental film’ – which makes this easily one of my least favourite films that I have been made to watch for the list. Like, I understand the feeling to get something here that is Andy Warhol which isn’t 3.5 hours long or is a single shot of a man where the implication is that he is receiving a blow job. But also, wow this felt like an incredibly pointless hour and a bit.

XL Popcorn – Wild Reeds

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 894/1009Title: Les Roseaux sauvages (Wild Reeds)
Director: André Téchiné
Year: 1994
Country: France

In the early 1990s, the French TV channel Arte commissioned a series of short made for tv movies for a collection of films centred around adolescence. Wild Reeds was initially produced as a part of this, with the originally televised 55 minutes later becoming part of this longer film. The series of films itself, called Tous les garçons et les filles de leur âge, is on the 1001 TV shows list – but very few of them have been released with English subtitles. So this is going to be the first of a select group I will be watching in order to cross that off.

Set in 1962 at the end of the Algerian War of Independence, Wild Reeds takes a look at the maturation of four teens who are at school to pass their baccalaureate. What forms is a convoluted love connection as one boy discovers his homosexuality whilst experimenting with another, who sees it as nothing more than that. Then there is his best girlfriend who is wanted by two boys, one of whom is her political opposite that is angry at the loss of his home in former French Algeria.

I am not the biggest fan of coming-of-age movies, but Wild Reeds does it in a way that feels profoundly honest and never threatens to deviate into either the explicit or the overly saccharin. Yes, this is a film about sexual awakenings the and the first steps into adulthood, but the whole thing is done with the urgency of a sleepy summer’s day and yet it still makes everything feel like it matters deeply. These may not be relationships, or even friendships, that last beyond the scope of the film – but you see their growth and how the four have profoundly changed each other.

What I find ultra-impressive is in the casting of four young actors who, in a rarity for coming of age films, are broadly playing their own age – the youngest being 16 at the time. It’s little wonder that three of the four ended up being nominated as promising young actors, although the win would eventually go to Mathieu Kassovitz… so I can see how that happened.

XL Popcorn – Drugstore Cowboy

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 893/1009Title: Drugstore Cowboy
Director: Gus Van Sant
Year: 1989
Country: USA

When I was watching Drugstore Cowboy there was one inevitable comparison that my brain kept reaching for – what if an American made Trainspotting. I mean, this is a film about a group of drug addicts where one of them – after a shocking incident where a member of their group dies of an overdose – decides to go clean and has to deal with becoming isolated from his former life.

Being that this is Gus Van Sant rather than Danny Boyle, Drugstore Cowboy doesn’t quite have the grit that Trainspotting does and instead has more a feel of an all-American road movie gone somewhat awry. I mean, we start with the group robbing a pharmacy before being forced to move on due to a mix of being observed by police and one of the group crying foul of the many superstitions held by the group leader.

The whole thing is done with a coolness and a style, which never really vilifies the addictions that they are all chasing. It’s all played off with a matter-of-factness, with us seeing how they prepare drug caches in advance to make sure that they are never more than 8 hours away from a fix lest the withdrawal kick in and start to incapacitate them.

This is one of those films, however, that was a bit too detached for me. Like with My Own Private Idaho it drifts a bit too much for me and it relies heavily on Matt Dillon’s charisma as an actor, which he himself has but not as much can be said of a lot of the supporting cast). In the end, it was fine and probably one of those films that I might enjoy more if I wasn’t in my own post-covid recovery – but considering I watched more complex films and got more out of those despite the fatigue, this may just not be majorly for me.

XL Popcorn – Don’t Look Now

So, over Christmas 2020 the COVID-19 entered my household. These posts are those that had to be written up later because being at the computer for more than 15 minutes made me feel beyond tired. I can cook, but I can’t type – it’s very strange. Still, these posts were done well after the fact so apologies in advance.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 892/1009Title: Don’t Look Now
Director: Nicolas Roeg
Year: 1973
Country: UK/Italy

Seeing that Don’t Look Now was directed by the man that gave me Performance did not fill me with a lot of confidence. At least he went on to direct The Man Who Fell To Earth and, to be fair, my main issue with Performance was more the poor acting by Mick Jagger than the direction… but I still tempered by expectations.

Most of the things I saw about this film cast it as a horror or a thriller, which is really not what this is all about. I guess there are some horror elements in it because we have psychics and premonitions of death – but the term psychological or psychic drama would probably be a more apt description. This doesn’t take into the long and passionate sex scene between Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie which, even by modern mainstream standards, is fairly racey.

The central conceit of this film is that we have a couple that have recently lost their daughter to a tragic accident. We join them in Venice where the husband is restoring a church and the wife comes across a blind psychic who claims she sees their deceased daughter and that she warns them about her father being in danger.

So much of this film is wrapped up in the grief of the couple. She wants to believe the psychics, he wants to move on as he still feels guilt for not getting to his daughter in time. He also appears to have his own repressed visions – with him occasionally seeing a figure running through the streets of Venice wearing the same type of coat his daughter wore when she drowned.

It’s one of those films where I think I have been spoiled by later films that take this sort of story and really run with the supernatural elements. There was a whole section where Sutherland’s character ends up going a bit nuts thinking that his wife hasn’t returned home and bothers the local police. It goes on for just that bit too long that the tension stops and it gets tedious. There was enough of these little niggles, including the weird ending, that ended up making this a good film rather than a great one.

XL Popcorn – Some Came Running

So, over Christmas 2020 the COVID-19 entered my household. These posts are those that had to be written up later because being at the computer for more than 15 minutes made me feel beyond tired. I can cook, but I can’t type – it’s very strange. Still, these posts were done well after the fact so apologies in advance.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 891/1009Title: Some Came Running
Director: Vincente Minnelli
Year: 1958
Country: USA

You know that person that lights up the screen no matter what film they are in? That’s Shirley MacLaine. That person who, in many films, is just not used enough? That’s Shirley MacLaine. The person that can break your heart at a moment’s notice? Right, that’s Shirley MacLaine – the actress who is the beating heart of Some Came Running and I still feel teary about when writing this post some time after seeing the film.

Some Came Running, as a film, has some issues. Mostly those with misogyny. This is something that was likely in the source material which, at 1200+ pages long, was pared down significantly (and the ending changed for the better) so that it could be brought to the big screen. This means that, with the exception of MacClaine’s character, a lot of the women are simply characterised and the actresses try their best to fill roles that are mostly stereotypes of female roles in a film.

Then there is Shirley MacClaine, in a supporting role to Frank Sinatra as a prodigal son who returns to an icy welcome from a family who shipped him off to a boarding house at the age of 12. He has drinking problems and, wouldn’t you know, is also an incredibly gifted and misunderstood writer – it’s a loose autobiography if you couldn’t get that from the character description.

Makes it all the important that you have her there to be the emotional centre of the film… even if that probably wasn’t the point of her role in the first place. Still though, it got her the first of many Oscar nominations – so I know I am not the only person who fell in love with her completely. The speech her character gives about not being able to understand Sinatra or the stories he writes, but still is in love with him – my God your heart breaks for her.

It’s also worth noting just how well directed parts of this are. There is a long at a fairground for the finale, which brought to mind a similar scene from Strangers on a Trainwhich is a beautiful mix of colour, claustrophobia and tension – all whilst in a place that should be incredibly upbeat. This is a film worth seeing despite the flaws.

XL Popcorn – L’Atalante

So, over Christmas 2020 the COVID-19 entered my household. These posts are those that had to be written up later because being at the computer for more than 15 minutes made me feel beyond tired. I can cook, but I can’t type – it’s very strange. Still, these posts were done well after the fact so apologies in advance.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 890/1009Title: L’Atalante
Director: Jean Vigo
Year: 1934
Country: France

Hands up. The fatigue got the best of me with this film so I ended up having to re-watch the ending twice in order to make sure I actually got it properly. That isn’t a slight on the film, it’s just the position I was in when watching it. I mean, it isn’t a complete slight on it.

I think I noted that with Boudu Saved From Drowning that I may have some issues with French sensibilities of the time – and this was an ending that rubbed me the wrong way. Am I too cut and dry when it comes to what ends a relationship? Because if I was married to a barge manager who left me high and dry in Paris because of groundless jealously – to the point where I have no money and have to find employment and board for a long time before I have the money to leave and find him again… well I think I would just say screw it and make a life in Paris.

Hey maybe that’s just me, but this is a relationship strewn with red flags. Maybe if he hadn’t been the possessive jerk and this had been an accidental leaving behind and she was able to have good relationships with the other crew members, I would have enjoyed the latter parts of the film more. For the first half, I was very much on board with the setting and Vigo’s style of direction. Liking his direction continued to the end – with the scene where both the protagonists in separate beds and thinking of each other being particularly brilliant to see.

It is a real pity that Vigo died after making this film at such a young age. As much as I didn’t get on with the relationship in the film, it is really really well made and I can see how this became such an inspiration for other directors of the time.

XL Popcorn – A Room With A View

So, over Christmas 2020 the COVID-19 entered my household. These posts are those that had to be written up later because being at the computer for more than 15 minutes made me feel beyond tired. I can cook, but I can’t type – it’s very strange. Still, these posts were done well after the fact so apologies in advance.

List Item: Watch all of the “1001 Movies You Must See Before You Die”
Progress: 889/1009Title: A Room With A View
Director: James Ivory
Year: 1985
Country: UK

So I am currently in the state where, after doing the dishes, I am so tired that I need to lay down. In some ways, it feels like my recovery is starting to go backwards. Still wanting to feel somewhat useful, I wanted to get along with some 1001 movies despite having many of them being a bit too intense to watch now. Like, if I watched The Killing Fields I think I would just completely collapse. Good thing, therefore, that I had this period romance from Merchant-Ivory still to see.

There is something very specific in the repressed period pieces by E. M. Forster. Between this, A Passage to India and Maurice I have a decent grip on he writes about class and the inability of people within certain classes to make proper connections due to propriety. It was also in this work, as well as in Maurice, that you see how Forster’s own homosexuality appears. Considering the naked male bathing scene and Daniel Day-Lewis playing Cecil as a repressed gay man, the gayness really is in full force here.

On paper, A Room With A View is one of those films that I know I am going to enjoy. A period romance that pokes at the foibles of the moneyed class and has a bundle of great supporting performances. Truly, to see Maggie Smith and Judi Dench sparring in 1985 as Edwardian tourists in Florence was wonderful. Similarly, Daniel Day-Lewis and Simon Callow are great in their roles as men who, depending on your interpretations, are battling with their repressed homosexuality.

The directing and cinematography are beautiful, the titular view is spectacular and the scenes in Florence made me so ache for a time where we can travel again and I can show my husbands the wonders of this city. My only issue was, surprisingly, with the lack of chemistry between the romantic leads. This is weird for me to say as I do love Helena Bonham-Carter, but it felt like there was more sexual tension between her and the actor playing her brother than the man playing her romantic interest.

In the end though, the actual romantic story in A Room With A View doesn’t feel as important as just taking in the world around the Honeychurch family. This is pretty much the critical peak of Merchant-Ivory and I think I will be more than happy to see more of their work – especially Howard’s End – but that’ll have to wait for me to finish off the list.