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Sunday, September 12, 2010

Seven! --What's in the box?!?

7. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Directed by Michel Gondry. Written by Charlie Kauffman.
Starring Jim Carey, Kate Winslet, Kirsten Dunst, Mark Ruffalo, Tom Wilkinson, Elijah Wood.
  I can't remember another film that broke my heart as much as this one, yet I had the biggest smile on my face when I left the theater. This is one of the films I break out whenever someone starts saying that they don't make them like they used to, as if it were automatically a bad thing. I don't know if you could have made 'Eternal Sunshine...' in 1955, say, without audiences having infarctions right there in their seats.
  Or I could be full of crap. I think today's average moviegoer is more sophisticated in the sense that we've seen more filmmakers' tricks than our ancestors. Today's filmgoers, however, are probably not better at critical thinking. No worse, maybe, but certainly not better. The question is, apparently, would a film that demands and rewards our attention as 'Eternal Sunshine...' does have been commercially viable 40, 50, 60 years ago? Or am I shortchanging both yesterday's film fans and filmmakers?
  Another thing.... I don't cry at movies because it's not, well, real. I'm sorry, but even the most skillful make-believe just doesn't do it for me. This film, however, is on the short list of ones that might do the trick if I weren't, you know, dead inside.
  Trivia moment: Elijah Wood is one of only two actors to star in two of my top ten films. You've met the other guy and I'll reveal who it is when the time comes.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Eight is not Enough

Sorry, you two. I've been moving and been without intertubes access for a week. I'll try to make up for it with a second post later this week.

8. Vertigo (1958)
Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Written by Alec Coppel and Samuel A. Taylor.
Starring Jimmy Stewart, Kim Novak, Barbara Bel Geddes, Tom Helmore.
  Warning! This post contains spoilers for Vertigo. If neither of you has seen Vertigo, watch it before reading this. Everybody deserves to see Vertigo unspoiled.
  Kim Novak's performance as Madeline/Judy might be the best I've ever seen. For a long time I lamented that Hitchcock couldn't use Grace Kelly, my favorite actress, in the role because she was off princessing (yeah, I just verbed it). But then I realized that while Kelly could play Madeline Elster in her sleep (Regal, icy, self-possessed. Check, check, and check.) I'm less sure about her ability to play Judy Barton (earthy, small-town, easily swayed). And after another, more recent viewing I concluded that Kim Novak was perfect. In the scene at the mission just before Madeline's death, she tells Scottie "it's too late" as she's pulling away from him. We think that Madeline means that the spirit of Carlotta Veldes is compelling her and that it's too late to stop her. As we find out later, that's actually Judy speaking, telling Scottie that despite her burgeoning feelings for him it's too late for her to back out of Gavin Elster's plot. And if you go back and look, you can see Judy peeking out from behind her Madeline mask as she struggles in Scottie's embrace.
  Vertigo is one of many films to receive mixed reviews at the time of release--such as 'The Night of the Hunter' or 'Duck Soup' or 'Bonnie and Clyde'--but has grown into a classic. Why is that? Are some films just so far ahead of their time that they cannot be appreciated fully in their own? Or is something else going on? I wonder if any underappreciated films of the last ten years will be regarded as classics. I think that will be the subject of an upcoming post.