The Mission is dangerous and wrongheaded. I have undertaken to watch all the movies on the Twofifty list, the IMDb top 250 list, and some other lists that must remain secret for now. The prophets say that if I fail my mission, the rivers will run red with the blood of innocent people. We shall see. Thus far, I've watched more movies than you'll ever see but there's still one on two I've missed.
This week: 14 films, plus 20 episodes of a TV series.
Harold and Maude (1971) [IMDb list]
Amusing tale of death-obsessed outsider kid who meets weird old lady. Romance ensues. Influence on Wes Anderson, I believe.
Stalag 17 (1953) (repeat)
Reviewed back in Part VIII, and it's still good. In fact it's getting ever better.
Seppuku / Harakiri (1962) [formerly IMDb list]
Guy shows up at the local feudal lord's to commit "hara-kiri" (yeah, that's the English title of the film). Or maybe he won't. Maybe he'll bring down that goddamn House of Iyi! Those fuckers!! RONIN POWER. Yeah, am I drunk? Yeah, a little. [Note: I'm not drunk now.]
Rear Window (1954) [Twofifty list]
Ingenious. One of Hitch the Bitch's very best, definitely top five. Grace Kelly is one of the best Hitchcock Icy Blondes, or whatever, and Jimbo Stewart is one of the best protagonists, even though he's just a creepy peeping tom. But if he'd only had a television set, maybe this movie wouldn't have happened. And that would have been sad, but not as sad as a drowned kitten.
Per qualche dollaro in più / For a Few Dollars More (1965) [Twofifty list]
Stylish spaghetti western. Unlike Leone's later films, it's even of a reasonable length (a little over two hours). But it still feels a bit overlong, mainly because it loses a lot of steam in the last third. And the dubbing is annoying in places.
Hot Fuzz (2007) [Twofifty list]
Fun cop spoof/homage from the makers of Spaced and Shawn of the Dead. I prefer the first half, that's goofy but grounded in recognizable reality. The second half dives head-first into absurdity. By the way, in one scene a character is reading Iain Banks' Complicity which is a good book that I've been looking for the film adaptation of for awhile. Was that a sentence? Yes it was.
The Virgin Suicides (1999) (repeat)
Sofia Coppola's directing debut. I remember watching this in '99 or 2000 and waiting for some kind of explanation, a "solution" to the big mystery. I was a different person then. Anyway. It's pretty good, but there's little here to anticipate the near-masterpiece that was to follow.
Ikiru (1952) [formerly IMDb list]
Guy who's worked like a mummy for 30 years finds out he's got stomach cancer and six months to live. It's a Kurosawa Klassik, the title means "to live". Not very interesting at first, but really picks up once he meets an insanely charming young girl. And then it stays fine all the way through his death and beyond.
The Lost City (2005)
Andy Garcia directs and stars in something about the Cuban revolution. The film's clearly a labor of love, and it's refreshing that it portrays both Batista and Che Guevara as murderous assholes. But generally it's a pretty bad movie, and an hour too long. You know something is terribly wrong when even Bill Murray's character ("The Writer") is criminally dull. And he doesn't belong in the movie anyway. Dustin Hoffman, who gets second billing, is in exactly two scenes.
Alfred Hitchcock Presents Series 1 (1955) (20 episodes)
I liked these when I was a kid but now I realize they kinda suck. They're all too short to really go anywhere, and for the most part they rely heavily on a plot twist that's fairly obvious. In fact, I think I'll grade each episode according to this index:
The SUPERBLOG!! Alfred Hitchcock Presents Predictability Index
1 = unpredictable
2 = slightly predictable
3 = pretty predictable
4 = very predictable
5 = super-predictable
X = not applicable
1: Woman attacked at home, husband promises revenge. P: 4
2: Guy returns home, everybody gets upset. P: 3
3: Lukewarm Western. P: 3
4: Insurance fraud. May be the stupidest story I've ever heard or seen in my entire life. P: 5
5: The Lady Vanishes revisited. With a twist. P: 1
6: Stupid chick gets a guy killed. Brother gets mad. P: 5
7: Joseph Cotten is paralyzed in car crash and taken for dead. This one relies more on a fantastical premise than a twist ending, and as such is better than most. Unbelievable and frustrating, but at least it's different. P: 2
8: Cooking with arsenic. P: 4
9: Road-trip story, idiotic confession. P: 4
10: Guy fears he's losing his mind or else has an exact double walking around. Mystery with disappointing ending. P: X
11: Shit! This one, about a couple who hear the neighbours fighting, outsmarted me. Wasn't very good, though. P: 2
12: Ex-con is Santa. P: 3
13: Charming badman wants a vase. Mega-stupid ending. P: X (or 2, the "twist" is not very predictable but it doesn't matter)
14: Overworked guy shoots Baldwin. But Baldwin returns! P: 3
15. Chicago gangster wants to kill his ex-girl without getting caught. P: 2
16: John Cassavetes as an escaped convict. The plot twist is clever - but the reason it's only slightly predictable is because they cheat in several scenes! P: 2
17. Turns out Lizzie Borden actually had a heart of gold. Stupid. P: 4
18: Irritating, bitter woman is visited by two angels or whatever. Pointless Ray Bradbury story. No real twist here so P: X.
19: Guy kills guy who made him rich, bum sees it, moves in. No major twist (I've already forgotten it), so P: X
20: Claude Rains is a ventriloquist in another pointless Ray Bradbury story. P: X
Hellboy (2004) (repeat)
Director's cut. Fun adaptation of Mike Mignola's signature comic. The dialog is pretty shitty, but there's a few nice one-liners. Very best line: "What's wrong with you?!" Close second: "It's for you!" It's all in the context.
A note on the DVD edition I watched: The original 3-disc set has been edited down to 2 discs, which means Selma Blair's intro to Disc 2 doesn't match the contents. Most of the original categories have been excised ("Egg Chamber" and "Kroenen's Lair" remain) and/or split up into conventional categories ("Trailers", etc). There are several hours of extras with only Finnish subtitles, which is okay for the English-language stuff, but gets very annoying for the parts that are in Spanish. The man responsible for this travesty, Rasmus Ramstad, is my new nemesis. (Mr Ramstad's incompetence was mentioned in Part VIII as well.)
The Toxic Avenger Part II (1989)
Violent, campy slapstick. Slightly fun to look at for five minutes or so, but it gets too repetitive too fast. I like it when the black guy beats on the homeless with fresh-baked french bread, but that only lasts a few seconds.
His Girl Friday (1940) [IMDb list]
Fast-talking and -yelling Howard Hawks screwball comedy with Cary Grant. Very good.
Shadow of a Doubt (1943) [Twofifty list]
Old, good Hitchcock. It's a film noir. Joseph Cotten is serial killer Charlie, Teresa Wright his unsuspecting, then suspecting, niece Charlie.
Grindhouse (2007) [Twofifty list]
I found it enjoyable enough, but it's insane that it cost over 50 million dollars. Rodriguez' segment, "Planet Terror", is just a stupid zombie film, albeit cooler than most. Which is fine. "Death Proof" is a talky story about a stuntman with a car who meets some chicks. Tarantino's dialogue is really hit-and-miss, but it's still probably the best thing he's done in a decade.
or maybe , I don't know.
Twofifty update: 248 of 250.