Kong: Skull Island

This is easily the best remake of King Kong so far. That isn’t saying much. But it’s still very good. The current US resurgence of interest in kaiju hasn’t produced any turds so far.

A good year for Dunkirk

There used to be this cultural trope where 2 films on the same subject came out and usually 1 was poop and 1 was good or people picked sides. Deep Impact/Armageddon. Both poop but Armageddon was at least funny. Volcano/Dante’s Peak. Yet again neither was great Dante’s Peak was kind of exciting. Saving Private Ryan/Thin Red Line. Both great by legendary directors but one was arthouse. 

The best example is Tombstone/Wyatt Earp. Tombstone is the final word on the Cinematic Earp saga and Wyatt Earp might be the worst western ever made.

In any case this does still happen from time to time. This year there were two great films about the Dunkirk evacuation. Their Finest and Dunkirk.

And if I’m being honest they’re both pretty much perfect films for what they are. They are both remarkably unique films. There really isn’t anything like either one. But one of them is crazy oscar bait and the other is a bitter sweet minor classic.

And here’s the thing. Dunkirk is probably the best film as a film that Nolan has made. It is perfect. It does things with perspective and time, it is deeply moving, impactful and most amazingly breezes past. For a war film with essentially 0 action this film feels like 30 minutes have gone by.

And it’s probably the only Nolan film I will never buy. He is my favorite director. I think he will be the greatest film maker to ever live when all is said and done. He entertains and thrills like Hitchcock but supersedes Kubrick in visual perfection and intellectual sophistication. He innovates like Welles and controls his vision like Ford. He makes money like Spielberg and with the intense tragedy of Kurosawa.

Unless he dies soon, decides to retire or gets lazy, I don’t see how anyone else will ever be all that he has become. David Fincher and Aronofsky are the only others even trailing in his wake presently. 

But I have no desire to see Dunkirk ever again. I think it is one of the most perfect films I’ve ever had the privilege to watch. But it’s hollow…? 

No that’s not right. I was thinking maybe it’s like Citizen Kane, a hollow masterpiece. But no it’s deeply moving and rousing. Which is strange because there are really no true characters in the film. England is the character. The little hobbit inside every Briton who loves the simple pleasures of life but when destiny calls they always answer.

But it strikes at the soul like a propaganda film with none of the slime left on your skin. And maybe that is why I do not see myself watching it again. Because the only kind of propaganda that isn’t gross is true propaganda. And Dunkirk feels so real that I almost feel as if I have left it behind just as the English and French left it behind. As if it is now truly in the past. 

Whereas Their Finest is fun and light. There is darkness and reality there as well, but that film was delightful. Despite its awkward attempts to be feminist it told a human story. With romance and comedy. I will probably own and watch Their Finest for the rest of my life. 

But Dunkirk is one of those rare event art films. 

The difference beteeen these films is the difference between The Revenant and Birdman. Both excellent films by the same director. Both won best picture. I only own one of those films. Birdman is the sort of film you can watch over and over. The Revenant is the sort of film you only watch once.

I don’t often write about films that I think are bad. So most of the reviews I give are 8-10/10. And I give both these a 10/10. I’m just puzzled by how such an amazing film does not scream at me to be rewatched. 

Ten “Obscure” Films for Summer Boredom

If you’re a cinephile this list is not for you. These are films that actually are relatively well known amongst people who watch films as a hobby or a snobbish activity (like me). These are films that I consistently find the people I work with or bump into have simple never even heard of. These are all excellent films. If you’ve never heard of a film on this list you should watch it.

10. Warrior

This is my favorite film of all time. I never watch it with anyone because I cry through the whole bloody beautiful affair. It came and went with little fanfare and almost everyone I mention it to has not heard of it. If you haven’t seen this spectacular film watch it tonight.

9. The Big Heat

This is a Noir by one of the great Noir directors: Fritz Lang. It doesn’t feel noirish and it’s very entertaining with some shocking and memorable moments. Of all the film Noirs this maybe the most entertaining for a mainstream audience.

8. Tusk 

This movie is so weird and wonderful. Kevin Smith always makes personal movies but I think this film is more about his soul than any other. It’s almost like watching his personality just play out on screen. But more importantly this film is solid entertainment. And I don’t mean that in a Fast & Furious way I mean you want to keep watching till the end. It’s good.

7. The Naked Spur

Jimmy Stewart in one of his best films and maybe Anthony Mann’s best film period. It’s entertaining and exciting, everything a western should be.

6. Hard Eight

This is PT Anderson’s best film. It is tight, fast, and entertaining. Everything he’s done since then has been very self indulgent. Here he shows why he was able to get more creative control but this is still his finest moment.

5. The Gunfighter

This is often put forward as a psychological western, the kissing cousin to Film Noir. Whatever it is it’s a solid flick. If you like Gregory Peck watch this. It’s a small western in many ways but after High Noon and My Darling Clementine it might be the best b/w western.

4. Batman: Mask of the Phantasm

This is probably the most pure Batman film ever made. I think Nolan’s trilogy is the bar for Batman on film (and really it is the definitive Batman story because it actually tells Batman’s whole story, something that doesn’t exist anywhere else and he gives him a happy ending) but this movie is truly amazing. I think in terms of artistic achievement this is as good as anything Disney or Pixar have ever done. It is fun and mysterious but also heartbreaking and very very Batman. It has everything. If you’ve never seen it you need to watch it.

3. Sahara

This is one of the best Bogie films that no one ever talks about. It’s a fun exciting B/W war film with a bit of a Seven Samurai last stand vibe. If you want to see a pure story (everything that happens is a response to the situation) with Bogie as an un ambiguous hero check this film out. This film is not famous anywhere to my knowledge. I only know of it because my Target had it in their bargain area for years. The cover looked stupid. Finally I bought it and loved it. 

2. Scarlet Street

Double Indemnity, Laura, Sunset Boulevard…Scarlet Street is better than them all. Until I saw the number 1 film on this list this was my all time favorite Film Noir. It is one of the best most perfect films ever made. The second Fritz Lang Film on this list. If you wonder why Edward G Robinson is so famous…it’s becsue he was a great actor. This film is basically all him and it’s amazing. The Lady in the Window (also Lang and Robinson) is also very good but far inferior to this film.

1. In a Lonely Place

Bogart’s best performance hands down. Also the best Film Noir and one of the best films about Hollywood. It’s simply fantastic. It also showcases what a fantastic actress Gloria Grahame was. This film fires on all cyclinders. It is perfect. Up there with Casablanca, Citizen Kane, It’s a Wonder Life, etc. It should always be in the top ten films ever made but nobody watches it anymore. Go watch it.
Here’s some Hitchcock films you should watch if you haven’t:

Notorious 

Spellbound 

Strangers on a Train

But most importantly: Shadow of a Doubt, probably the best Film Hitch ever made

Also:

The Lady from Shanghai and A touch of evil by Orson Welles

Red River, Rio Bravo and El Dorado by Howard Hawks 

Almost anything by Anthony Mann

& finally 

The Night of the Hunter (almost anything featuring Robert Mitchum)

The Greatest American Films Part 8: Notoriously Overlooked

(I did not realize that I still had 2 blogs active on the old Blogger format, this is a post from about 7 years ago that I found on there, I’m going to rip a few of those old posts and place them here then deactivate my old blog, I can’t say I still stand by this post in particular but maybe I will finally finish my series analyzing each of these films)

For the Seventh entry in my list of the Ten Greatest American Films I have chosen Notorious.

In recent months I really feel as if the quality of my posts has gone down. Not that they were ever of a remarkably high quality but they used to be better than they are now. Some of my passion has left me because of stress and my life becoming more focused on family matters, work etc. Blogging doesn’t seem very important right now and neither does film. But I still really enjoy both so I press on.

On this particular film I feel even less passionate. At least to write about it. I feel very strongly about the quality of this film. It is one of my all time favorites. But that’s part of the problem. To me this film speaks for itself, to watch it is to see how brilliant it truly is. And because this is a very under watched film now a days I don’t want to spoil any surprises so I will keep this post short.

This is Hitchcock’s greatest film. Vertigo is a very close second (Shadow of a Doubt is maybe third) but I think this film wins out because ultimately Notorious expresses everything that is great about Hitchcock more succinctly, less pretentiously, and the film is more entertaining as well. Of course ranking Hitchcock is difficult in any case because he made so many masterpieces that are highly influential and very enjoyable to this day. But my gut has always told me to go with this one.

On that note this also happens to be one of Cary Grant’s finest performances. I’m not sure if I’ve ever seen him deal with such a challenging performance. He doesn’t have a great deal to actually do in the film but whenever he does something it works perfectly. The same goes for Ingrid Bergman. This is probably her greatest performance. Her character is much more complicated than in Casablanca, though possibly not more so than Gaslight, but what is required of her is more intense and ultimately more moving than either of those films.

In many ways this is a film about one thing: sex. Honestly, at the height of Code Era Hollywood this film is very unapologetically about sex. The title itself refers to Ingrid Bergman’s character. She is Notorious for her promiscuous lifestyle and that is ultimately what causes the main movement of the plot. Everything else is pretty much dressing. This movie is a complicated and realistic love story which is set within a very dramatic Hollywood genre: the spy film. Love, sex, redemption, and spies. It has pretty much everything you could ever want from a movie which is why I also happen to think that this is the greatest film ever made. I put it above Casablanca, Citizen Kane, et al. I mean not high above anything else, just above by a small degree.

But I don’t want to give away anything else. This film is too overlooked nowadays and everyone should see it and love it. I hope you do and do too.