Andy Hart from FandangoGroovers sent us an e-mail asking us what our best movie years are and instead just blurting out what years I chose, I opted for introducing my reasoning behind the chosen years.
Because I’m suicidal.
There have been other posts like this obviously, citing the year that saw the height noir as a style in 1941. It’s easy to assume that the year before, 1940, might be a weaker year but I don’t think so (what were you thinking, Paolo?). I already said that 1941 was the year of the noir and it was the beginning of stylistic achievements that will be influential for the next forty years. But no one wants to peak young Those arguments, I admit, are me trying to put both years under investigation before I declare them as banner years).
What 1940 has is diversity. What other year could boast an animated movie that has different yet complementary aesthetics and another movie that successfully convinces us that the all-American Jimmy Stewart is European and/or a man of class? What year will we find such comedy greats like Charlie Chaplin, Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell? It was also a great actressing year that followed 1939. Joan Fontaine being the light anchor in only Alfred Hitchcock movie that won an Oscar for Best Picture. Katharine Hepburn returns and makes the studios realize that her sense of comic timing can crowd the movie theatres. And Vivien Leigh simply haunts us. The movies: Fantasia, The Shop Around the Corner, Rebecca, The Philadelphia Story, Waterloo Bridge.
Because it was the year of (forgotten) classics.
1955 saw three movies so breathtaking that it almost makes me want to say ‘Revisionist Western,’ although it would be too anachronistic to use that phrase. But those movies subverts North American ideas of villainy, race and It was also the year of the blond.
Doing away with her Academy Award-winning de-glam, Grace Kelly has a career-best performance in another Hitchcock movie as a smart golden-locked woman. Shelley Winters plays victim to Robert Mitchum, too charming to be good, but she might not necessarily be dumb. Marilyn Monroe almost steals Evelyn Keyes’ husband and makes us think differently about the hot air on street vents. Julie Harris, a honey blond, steers the lost James Dean, in his best performance, into sanity and domesticity. But the brunettes represented too, James Dean also finding love in a hopeful teenager Natalie Wood. Jean Simmons making Marlon Brando fly her to Cuba and she still won’t give him the love that he doesn’t deserve yet. And Martine Carol, overshadowed by younger French actresses, gives us a 19th cnetury circus act that we should never forget. The movies: The Night of the Hunter, East of Eden, Bad Day at Black Rock, To Catch a Thief, Lola Montes.
Because I might be suicidal after all.
1974 saw most movies come back to the streets. Walter Matthau deals with a subway train gets high jacked in Manhattan, New York City by good for nothing British terrorists. Los Angeles saw its share of impersonators, near impossible water shortages and crazy ladies chasing for their children riding in school buses. In San Francisco, Gene Hackman and John Cazale do their job as many lovely yet suspicious conversations under wiretap. And the past catches up with the present as Michael Corleone does his best to escape chaos and brotherly betrayal in Havana, Cuba. But that doesn’t mean that the rural areas didn’t get some love, as a singer travels to find a job and a college student finds a crazy family.
When it comes to the Oscars, Martin Scorsese directs a melodrama (he needs to do another one and if you say Hugo I swear I’ll…). Francis Ford Coppola created a kinetic magnum opus and lost Best Picture against himself. A frazzled married woman played by Gena Rowlands and a tough woman with a tougher lawyer in Faye Dunaway lose to determined single mother brought to life by Ellen Burstyn. The movies: The Conversation, The Godfather Part II, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, A Woman Under the Influence.
Because I’m a hopeless romantic.
2010 was the year I started blogging, the year culminating the plurality that independent cinema has worked for in the past forty years. Indie masters like David Fincher, Darren Aronofsky and Edgar Wright made movies with actors who will become Hollywood’s future and made hundreds of millions of dollars with them. I’m going to try to stop overusing the word ‘indie’ no, although I used it one last time to a movie so good that it doesn’t even need to be finished.
But in 2010, I surprisingly found sympathy within mopey characters aimlessly wandering the streets of Los Angeles. Or it could be London, where a reluctant king impersonates an Emperor penguin for the young daughters who themselves will make history. Boston also has its share of competitive brothers, both brothers and their entertainingly abrasive mother, sisters and wives. A brother and sister explore what we assume is Lebanon and learn a heart wrenching through, out of all things, mathematics. The fashionable Milan has a shy, Russian housewife learning what love is in its primal states, throwing her life away from him. And I learned how to love an overrated director since he created characters who can make the Parisian streets of their dreams shake and bend. The movies: Greenberg, I am Love, Meek’s Cutoff, Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World, The Fighter.
Other years under further investigation: 1927 – the year when the Academy started getting it wrong (Sunrise, Metropolis), 1939 – the height of the studios (The Wizard of Oz, Gone with the Wind), 1966 – the year when we said terrible things to each other a lot (Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf, Persona), 1988 – when he loved and hated the Germans (Der Himmel Uber Berlin, Die Hard), 1991 – genre versus genre (Silence of the Lambs, Terminator 2: Judgment Day) and 2001 – weirdest sexiest year ever (Mulholland Drive, Y Tu Mama Tambien).
I would like to begin this post by saying that today is my birthday! And thanks to Dan Stephens, not only do I get one wish but ten, being a part of this blogathon that asks its…members?… about the fictional movie worlds I would like to enter for specific reasons. This blogathon is inspired by his post on The Last Action Hero. I’ve only seen the trailer for this movie, even if there’s a local cinema that plays this move once in a while. Anyway, let’s begin!
What character would you most like to be sat next to on a plane?
That woman who is one of James Cole’s (Bruce Willis) boss from Twelve Monkeys. Or better yet, any character from Twelve Monkeys.
What character would you most want to enjoy a passionate romance with?
Dotorre Clerici (Jean-Louis Trintingnant) from The Conformist, although it wouldn’t end well.
If you were a cop who would you want as your partner?
In who could also be my answer for the passionate romance question, Billy Costigan (Leonardo di Caprio) from The Departed. Digression, but Leo should have been nominated for here Oscar here instead of Blood Diamond.
What animated feature would you love to walk around in?
Fantasia, like are you kidding me? The first sequence is Abstract Expressionism avant la lettre! I’ve also drunkenly danced to the ballet dancing hippos, so I guess I have used my ticket for this already.
What adventure based on earth would you most like to go on / OR / What adventure based in an otherworldly, fantasy-based location would you most like to go on? I.e. Would you like to join the Goonies on their treasure-finding mission, or Luke Skywalker in his search for his family’s murderer?
For the earthly one, I’d choose whatever happens in Ang Lee’s Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. I know that I probably won’t survive but swordplay is an adventure.
When it comes to the fantasy-based place, I’d pick Joel Barrish (Jim Carrey) trying not to erase Clementine Kruczynski (Kate Winslet) froom his memory in Michel Gondry’s Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind. Because what could be more otherworldly than someone else’s changing brain?
What movie gadget would you love to try out (or steal)?
The Delorean in the Back to the Future films. Are we even allowed to talk about this magic transportation movie in a post about another magical way of transportation? Or can we talk about the art house version of those gadgets, specifically the movie screen in The Purple Rose of Cairo?
What film’s plot would you alter and how would you do it?
Atom Egoyan’s Chloë. I don’t know how and I don’t know if my presence and power would cure the plot from being ridiculous.
What one film would you most want to be transported into, simply to be a part of that world?
The 1860’s in The Leopard. I know it’s unsanitary and heteronormative and that period has religious hypocrisy, but it’s also like Gone with the Wind but in Italian. And the balls and the chance to dance with either Principe Felipe de Salina (Burt Lancaster) or his son’s fiancée (Claudia Cardinale)? Get me my Magic Houdini ticket now.
I understand the career woman who wants to get married – I’ve actually seen that happen. But Rosalind Russell’s character manipulates a jail-bird into a sound bite that gets him in the chair and that’s supposed to be funny? Or maybe I had misled genre expectations.
Again, I’m probably breaking a lot of laws now, but as part of an academic seminar two weeks ago, Uoft Professor Rob King did it freestyle and talked about “A Brief Moment for Sincerity, or, What Do Jon Stewart and Charlie Chaplin Have in Common?” Obviously the most enticing title of the bunch.
One of these things is not like the others:
Prof. King says that with some exception, comedians making their way into political speech lose their comedy. I’m one of those people obtuse enough to think that everything is political, I even see the Three Stooges short with a sociopolitical interpretation. The food fight represents the deconstruction of the bourgeoisie. Chaplin and Stewart must be sincere, talking in a hallowed language because of a sense of urgency to bring their country men back into sanity. I still think, however, that they’re just as political when they’re being funny – we can see this when Fox News attacks Stewart’s lack of integrity which is funny because Stewart never needed integrity in his show. I know that that’s a passive aggressive way of saying that they should keep their day jobs, but it’s not like they want Obama to show up on Open Mic Wednesdays. Both men are just more effectively political in their usual methods. I don’t know if that answers Prof. King’s question or not, though.
I couldn’t hold out on this series any longer. I should have done this at July 14, but I don’t think Kieszlowski released his Trilogy movies at that date neither. I chose the screen caps for the colours, but I hope national allegory and emancipation are captured in these images as well.
Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
Age of Consent (Michael Powell, 1969)
The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1975)
Hausu (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977)
The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)
The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)
Ballast (Lance Hammer, 2008)
The first shot reminds me of the first shot in Mulholland Drive, which is funny since there’s sexuality, fear, mortality, cynicism and a bit of humour in that movie and here in Fantasia. My friends first saw this when they were four and I saw this last week. I can only imagine a few kids getting confused with what they see here. Well, I am more susceptible to trauma and have a dirtier mind now than I did when I was a kid.
I thought that the faeries dancing to “The Nutcracker Suite” were the most famous images in this movie, but apparently it’s the warlock horror narrative in “The Sorcerer’s Apprentice” – I swear I’ve never seen that one before and it’s a nail-biter. Henry Allen writes about how Fantasia in 1940 preceded and is the polar opposite to the weary American attitude towards science and high culture. I do think that “Apprentice” shows how innovation can go too far and have the destructive result that its inventor didn’t want. There is also a more popular segment with dancing hippos that I didn’t care so much about.
I also encountered the music here in other sources – Beethoven’s Pastoral in some compilation CD. Stravinsky’s “Le Sacre du Printemps” in high school and Schubert’s “Ave Maria” when I was going through a soprano phase when I was in high school. Just so we’re clear, Alex North and everyone else after him owes Stravinsky a royalty cheque. Watching “Printemps” with dinosaurs was a weird concept to me, especially since I’m more familiar with that ballet’s later movements. To me, that final music’s always been about violence surrounded by beauty, and Walt Disney and his interns made it look like apocalypse. Well, what do I know? Other choreographers like Nijinsky/Dominique Brun and Pina Bausch have more violent interpretations of the music. And again, the fear that what happened to the dinosaurs will happen to us. And the wind instruments in the later movements do remind me of arid landscapes. And I’ve always heard “Ave Maria” sung by either a boy/woman in German, not English. I also imagined it to me like a little voice trying to climb into a space above, preferably a church, which I guess mostly matches Disney’s visuals. But I couldn’t say that what I saw didn’t dazzle me. The animators went all out and an extra mile, animating images they’ll never show elsewhere. And I kinda wanna know what they would have done if they did “Swan Lake.”
Vivien Leigh may be the great beauty of 1939, but in “Waterloo Bridge” she turns herself into just one of the girls. As Myra Lester she’s meek and chummy and a little bit fragile. We first see her behind other girls passing by the bridge, we only see her because we’re looking for her. She’s not the lead of her ballet company playing in a vaudeville theatre, nor the first lady to get the job or the soldier. What makes her stand out in the crowd and to Captain Roy Cronin (Robert Taylor) are her ideals. The rainy day after their first date will put her in a whirlwind engagement and a series of events that will slowly but surely transform her, and Leigh transforms with her character every step of the way.
Roy, however, keeps the innocence that Myra’s lost, a difficult thing to pull off for a grown man who’s fought in the Great War. He’s also the soldier who doesn’t take no for an answer which makes us feel a little uncomfortable but fortunately finds Myra who’s in love with him despite a few apprehensions. His speech and body language are good, especially in the scene when he has to go through the bodyguards in his barracks. Yes, Taylor only uses the British accent one word per sentence, but we let that go.
Although made by MGM and stars Nebraska-born Taylor, the film is very much British. It kinda reminds me of “Brief Encounter” in a way that there’s a certain noir aspect to the film. Instead of guns and grifters, there are menacing shadows inside night clubs and train stations and ancestral homes and flats, fogs on bridges, headlights on women’s faces. Instead of a suburban American home, romance is set in London grit. It’s like love isn’t meant to last in the city, or that the city has too many roadblocks and temptations that take two perfectly matched lovers away from each other.