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Top Ten Movies To See Before You Die


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Posted on Jun 7, 2012 2:04:47 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 7, 2012 2:05:18 PM PDT
Fascinus says:
TAS: And as to censorship, it was variable throughout the history of Hollywood. The skillful skirting of the censors by canny artists is the history of art viz. 20th c. Eastern Europe, Elizabethan England, etc., etc., and so forth (pretty much everywhere always).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:08:48 PM PDT
Fascinus says:
TAS:>I should add that I have long suspected, certainly since the advent of Andrew Sarris anc company, that this elevating of Hollywood hacks to major talent status has a great deal more to do with political and social concerns than it does artistic ones." Please clarify. What political and social concerns? Sarris promoted Hawks and DeMille - reactionaries, and Losey and Welles-leftists.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:26:49 PM PDT
balok: "Do you think that the relationship between Sal Mineo and James Dean is supposed to be another one of those unsettling sexual subtexts that Ray liked to put in his films, or do you think that I'm reading too much into it?"

Yes, it is the subtext and no I don't think you read too much into it. If I am not mistaken the screenwriter Stewart Stern was gay and often added subtexts like that. In fact, the orginal script actually had more of them but was considered a bit too daring for 1955.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:28:31 PM PDT
balok: "Actually, I thought that Steve Martin's performance was the only thing in _The Spanish Prisoner_ that was even close to being worth watching."

Rebecca Pidgeon was cute. Sure she was grating--but still cute.

A lot of people like the film but I am not one of them. I think its a failure and I wonder if its tongue in cheek. The final scene with the japanese tourists just doesn't work at all. And it should be the climax of the film. Ben Gazzara is totally wasted.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:30:01 PM PDT
steelers fan: "Like "The Children's Hour" and "Cat On A Hot Tin Roof", if the film were to be remade today this might well be made more explicit"

The tv version of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof--with Olivier--was actually more explicit about the homoerotic elements than the movie. And the Children's Hour is most certainly more honest than the first version of the play!

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:31:46 PM PDT
Hikari re Eddie Izzard

He was interesting in that weird psychdelic western "Renegade" too. Another example that comedians are actors just like everybody else.

Izzard is one of the few comics that, in his standup routines, makes me laugh aloud.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:41:36 PM PDT
balok: "but if you think that Curtiz was a "low-grade genre nonentity," then you obviously had no clue about what you were watching"

I am sitting here trying to remember a single good film he made. What? Casablanca, the nadir of sentimentality, cliches and a complete lack of versimilitude? The execrable Adventures of Robin Hood, without on moment of truth in it? The gung ho Charge of the Light Brigade and its attendant imperialist nonsense?

What on earth films are you referring to? All I can recall are the trite genre-quota fillers of a Hollywood hack.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:42:23 PM PDT
Fascinus says:
Balok/TAS: It is also a reflection of the sexual atmosphere on set. Ray had relations with so many people on the film- Gavin Lambert, his assistant and a very interesting writer, Sal Mineo and Natalie Wood.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:46:05 PM PDT
fascinus: "Please clarify. What political and social concerns? Sarris promoted Hawks and DeMille - reactionaries, and Losey and Welles-leftists."

Note that I did not accuse Sarris of this, but that his "theories" allowed it to happen.

The defenders of all things light and airy--and empty and void of content--found a "critical" context to hang their rapturous desire for escapism on, and "intellectually" elevate it to the realm of "art".

He made lack of intelligence in filmmaking respectable.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:48:58 PM PDT
It is also a reflection of the sexual atmosphere on set"

Supposedly--but you know how rumors are--Dennis Hopper's scenes were pared to the bone because he was too interested in Ms. Wood.

Someone told me that the term "lover" was how the Corey Allen character initially referred to the Dean character--sarcastic on the surface but everyone thought the subtext was funny. Someone didn't find it so cute because I think those references were all removed.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 2:51:30 PM PDT
"And as to censorship, it was variable throughout the history of Hollywood"

And? So it crippled their filmmaking, that's pretty obvious. I did enough research on how the Hayes office forced one destruction of good properties after another. We had a very VERY brief period of filmmakers being more or less able to make their films as they chose, and now we have what amounts to censorship but in a more insidious fashion. Not much progress, is it?

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 3:01:48 PM PDT
Fascinus says:
TAS: Perhaps not so much rumor. Lambert referred to it, Wood said Ray deflowered her on "Rebel", Mineo bios claim it and I met Ray a couple of times and he was drunk and somewhat coy, but basically copped to it.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 3:02:51 PM PDT
Fascinus says:
TAS: You're ignoring the rest of the post. Censorship is nearly universal.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 3:18:29 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 7, 2012 3:20:57 PM PDT
fascinus: "In the hands of a Vigo or Ophuls it is light, airy and graceful."

Well, good for them. If you go to the movies for "light" and "airy" you must be a very happy person because there is plenty of it out there. You must have loved Herbie Rides Again, McHales Navy Joins the Air Force, Bambi, Busby Berekely, The Monte Carlo Story, The Bowery Boys, Sullivan's Travels, Casablanca, Children of Paradise, Jerry Lewis, American Pie, The Red Shoes, Portrait of Jennie, Love Story, Ghost--need I continue?

You have decades upon decades of pablum to choose from. I kind of envy you that. You will never run out of "light" and "airy" entertainment.

Oh, did I forget Zero de Conduite or (yawn) La Ronde?

Personally, I don't want to waste my time "at the movies."

People like to live in Fantasyland and apparently resent those filmmakers who are pointing out the real world to them.

Stevens' three layered set, his use of the ultra wide screen to prowl his camera through in "Diary", or Kramer's 360 degree tracking shots to emphasize dialogue, or Sidney Lumet and Boris Kaufman using a different lens for the closeups of each character in "Long Days Journey Into Night" or Lean's sweeping vistas, dwarfing his characters and their dreams of grandeur, telling us visually long before the script that they are doomed, or Zinnemann's kinetic cutting of High Noon, almost approximating real time--these are "visual"?

Not only are they visuals, but--and here is point--they are visual that Support the text; they are "style" that exists for a reason, not floating in a vacuum for its own sake. And isn't the melding of form AND content what its all about?

Light, airy and graceful? Sounds like a dreaded Fred Astaire movie. If of course, you add "braindead" to the adjectives.

You should chat with the multi-named Johnathan Baker. He loves those empty Hollywood hacks even more than you do. You guys can wax ecstatic over Henry Hathaway and Howard Hawks together.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 3:24:13 PM PDT
fascinus: "Perhaps not so much rumor. Lambert referred to it, Wood said Ray deflowered her on "Rebel", Mineo bios claim it and I met Ray a couple of times and he was drunk and somewhat coy, but basically copped to it. "

Yeah, I just really hate to talk about that stuff because you know how things get bandied about, even after all these years. But, what's interesting is that it probably all worked to the benefit of the picture. That hothouse attitude is rife in the film and adds to that intensity that makes it work as well as it does. I guess everybody lusting after everyone else created a charged atmosphere that was apparent in the completed product.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 3:29:08 PM PDT
You're ignoring the rest of the post. Censorship is nearly universal"

Well, I don't see "skillful skirting of the censors" to be any kind of noble act. Especially when it resulted in Hollywood emasculating one source after another and turning them into junk in the process. Examples of that are depressingly multitudinous. At least someone like Preminger went ahead a couple of times and made his film the way the wanted anyway--but then he caved in at times too.

Its a sad legacy.

I grew up in a small town and very often roadshow pictures were cut before they even reached us, and that infuriated me even then. But to have them bastardized because someone's concept of what is "right" or "wrong" for somebody ELSE to look at is even more disgusting.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 3:57:53 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 7, 2012 3:59:50 PM PDT
Fascinus says:
TAS: Yes we all detest censorship but surely it inspires creativity, allusiveness and sly humor. The writers of Mitteleuropa, the Enlightenment in France, etc. The censorship of the market is worst of all since its rules are impenetrable. I prefer the coded, elegant language of Laclos, Denon, Crébillon,Diderot or Casanova in 18th c. France to the vulgar artlessness of an infinite number of shades of grey. As to your list of films it is a tendentious mix of disparate elements. "You must have loved Herbie Rides Again, McHales Navy Joins the Air Force, Bambi, The Monte Carlo Story, The Bowery Boys, Sullivan's Travels, Casablanca, Children of Paradise, Jerry Lewis, American Pie, The Red Shoes, Portrait of Jennie, Love Story, Ghost--need I continue?" I did not mention any of those films as they are mostly heavy and airless and you know it, Tendentious Thomas. Grace and beauty are not part of your aesthetic, I guess. To the dustheap with Mozart, Holderlin, Fragonard, Titian, Wilde. The glaringly "stylistic" tropes you mention are divorced from any inherent meaning- and all meaning is aesthetic in a work of art. Kaufman's work was far better for Vigo since less forced and obvious- more open and creative. Cinemascope and 70mm were standard production items for prestige films and not choices made by the directors. The sentimentalization of the Holocaust in Frank (Because claustrophobia demands the wide screen, huh?) is not just vulgar it's immoral. High Noon is not the real world, nor are Zhivago and Lawrence. They are romanticizations done in the most clumsy and obvious manner. Not an ounce of subtlety in any of the films you named. They put up signposts saying "Look at me. I am serious". We have avoided ad hominem attacks for the most part ao I will ignore yours in that post, but it is a classic case of setting up a straw man and knocking it down. And anyone who likes Kramer is an idiot... (That was a joke. I feel I have to point that out or youll begin to take me seriously).

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 7, 2012 4:21:23 PM PDT
fascinus:"Yes we all detest censorship but surely it inspires creativity, allusiveness and sly humor"

Nothing to be proud of. Now,standing up to it would be. Sounds like a backhanded way of saying censorship is good: it sparks creativity. And, you know, Mussolini got the trains to run on time.

"As to your list of films it is a tendentious mix of disparate elements"

They were the most empty films I could think of off the top of my head. I felt them analogous in terms of depth to Vigo or Ophuls.

"Grace and beauty are not part of your aesthetic, I guess."

They are simply not relevant. Would Pasolini's "Salo" be as funny if it had "grace" and "beauty" for instance. They are just two words for a kind of style; they have nothing to do with content. They are neither positive nor negative, but irrelevant to quality. To single them out for praise, divorced from their content, doesn't mean anything. Whether they support the content decides whether they are effective or not. As do the moments of style I mentioned serve the story, in the case of Lawrence, they ARE the story, they tell the story as much as the dialogue.

"Shane" and "Giant" strain at the bonds of the screen. Stevens and his cameraman (was it Mellor?) on Anne Frank obviously chose Cinemascope for its possibilities for composition. It is a testament to their success that the film feels claustrophobic even on the huge--and they were huge then--screen. I certainly cannot agree that he sentimentalizes the Holocaust as, except for a distorted dream sequence, he doesn't even deal with it. He deals with the Threat of it, the dread of it. I believe I mentioned before that after Stevens filmed the Second World War and the concentration camps, he turned his back on his earlier career (filled with Cary Grant, Fred Astaire and Katherine Hepburn) and said he wasn't making froth any more.

What did he know that so many "movie lovers" still don't?

High Noon and Lawrence reflect the real world and comment upon it. (I know you read what I wrote the other day about Lawrence because you commented on it. If you feel that an anti-military anti-imperialist, anti-colonialist film about a man's moral and pschological disintegration and a fatalistic view of our lives is "romanticized" the no wonder you love Hollywood's "golden age".) Both of them operate on several levels--something I cannot say about Ophuls or Vigo (admittedly there isn't much to judge on). Maybe its all that 'lightness' and 'airiness' getting in the way.

Why am I suddenly thinking of all those people at school who thought Star Wars, Raiders of the lost Ark and The Road Warrior were the last word in "great cinema"?

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 11:22:30 PM PDT
Balok says:
@Thomas A. Stith:

> Sidney Lumet and Boris Kaufman using a different lens for the closeups of each
> character in "Long Days Journey Into Night"

If you think that this somehow reflects "the real world" then you are even crazier than William Smith thinks you are.

Posted on Jun 7, 2012 11:52:14 PM PDT
Jonathan says:
As is typical, Mr. Stith completely misunderstands a phrase like "light and airy" when referring to a director's touch, as if it were an apologia for lack of content.
No, nobody is talking about MGM programmers and series pictures.

If a message movie lacks a style to match it's subject, the overriding "message" to me is: "You'll get more out of this story by reading a book on the subject." Why the hell would one go to the movies at all if not to witness grace and beauty from time to time?

And anybody who likens 'Zero for Conduct' with fluff or hackery clearly knows nothing about the fundamentals of cinematic craft.

To merely have "Truth" heavy-handedly served up, you may as well attend some unctuous speaker's lecture, or better yet, record your own voice and stay home listening to it on repeat.

I already know Facinus's feeling on Robert Wise. I hope he's not as harsh about William Dieterle.

Dieterle and Wise made some of the best movies of their time. Both made some crap later in their careers, but not much on balance to disturb the high quality of their work on the whole.

And now that I'm in a fightin' mood, anyone wanna call Hathaway a hack? Go'head! See what happens!

Posted on Jun 8, 2012 8:58:55 AM PDT
Steelers fan says:
The study of film censorship, both in general and as specifically applied to individual motion pictures, is itself fascinating.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 5:44:41 PM PDT
balok: "Sidney Lumet and Boris Kaufman using a different lens for the closeups of each character in "Long Days Journey Into Night"

If you think that this somehow reflects "the real world" then you are even crazier than William Smith thinks you are."

To use a different lens,one that will express visually their state of mind, for the closeups of each of each major character and at the same time emphasize their isolation from each other is as "cinematic" as a director can get,particularly helpful when adapting a play to the screen. It is an example of how cinematic "style" can work with and not against the all-important "content" of the film. It is the director's responsibility to use the means at hand to explore or even heighten the "reality" of the scene for the audience, which this film is highly successful at.It is not really available to a theatre director.

I would not think this would need explanation.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 5:52:05 PM PDT
steelers fan: "The study of film censorship, both in general and as specifically applied to individual motion pictures, is itself fascinating."

It certainly is. I read a book when very young called The Face on the Cutting Room Floor that really got me interested in the subject. That, coupled with what I said before about many films being cut before they ever got to my small town when I was growing up practically got me obsessed with it for a time.

Of course there were many factors that went into that editing rather than censorship, but there was much of that too. Apparently, for instance, the homosexual sequence in Carl Foreman's "The Victors" (1963) was okay for large city audiences--it was mentioned in the reviews I read--but it was completely gone before it reached my little town.

Frustrating wasn't the word for it.

For a long time I had planned to do my masters thesis on censorship in cinema, but I could not really hone it down to a narrow enough subject, so I moved on to David Lean--not exactly tiny in scope itself.

One of the most interesting graduate courses I took was Arthur Knight's Sex in Cinema (based on his Playboyt series) that dealt a great deal with censorship, something he was diametrically opposed to. He travelled all over the country, at his own expense, to testify at censorship hearings and "pornography' trials.

Even as late as the 1970's some cities still had their own censors and, even in 1971, the producers of "Carnal Knowledge" had to go to the Supreme Court to fight it being declared "pornographic".

So now Hollywood has a neo-censorship system they call the MPAA. A rose by any name...

Boggles the mind.

In reply to an earlier post on Jun 8, 2012 6:04:30 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 8, 2012 6:28:50 PM PDT
Robert Cole:

"Why the hell would one go to the movies at all if not to witness grace and beauty from time to time?"

Because it is IRRELEVANT. It has Nothing to do with quality. Absolutely nothing. It is just a kind of style, and an empty one at that.

Look at that question again. Now, do you SERIOUSLY think that I "go to the movies" to "witness grace and beauty"? I don't give a **** about grace and beauty.

You want "grace" and "beauty" for Salo? For Long Days Journey Into Night? Death of a Salesman? All Quiet on the Western Front? The Bitter Tears of Petra Van Kant? The Silence? 8 1/2? Il Grido? The Lower Depths? A Streetcar Named Desire? The Plague? No Exit? The Condemned of Altona? The Little Foxes? On the Beach? The Sorrow and the Pity? The Spy Who Came in from the Cold? One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich? Five Easy Pieces?

Want more examples?

You are arbitrarily assigning quality to something that says absolutely nothing about quality. "Grace" and "beauty"--however you define them which remains a mystery anyway--have no intrinsic value except what you are assigning to them.

It is IRRELEVANT.

Just because you decide that you like "grace" and "beauty"--which, judging by some of the filmmakers you adore is not much of a surprise--doesn't make it a sign of quality except to you. It is just one way of working--and quite often a shoddy attempt to schmooze an audience.

Those blue haired little old lady "movie lovers" just adore "grace" and "beauty".

Yesterday still surrounds you
With a warm and precious memory

As I just posted above, the filmmakers job is to explicate the truth, not fudge over it with pretty images.

Zero for Conduct is a childish film. There is nothing in it or about it that would be beyond the understanding of a kid. Like most films adored by "movie lovers".

Did I mention Henry Hathaway? And the "grace" and "beauty" of True Grit?

Please. Can't we move on to the real world--at last.

Posted on Jun 8, 2012 7:13:26 PM PDT
Last edited by the author on Jun 8, 2012 7:24:04 PM PDT
Jonathan says:
Thomas Stith: "Because it is IRRELEVANT ....I don't give a **** about grace and beauty.... It is IRRELEVANT."<

Watch that blood pressure, Mr. Stith, "SERIOUSLY."

Nobody here is extolling the value of "pretty images" over "truth", not that I'm aware of, unless we're only talking about one man's (your) version of "truth."

>"Zero for Conduct is a childish film. There is nothing in it or about it that would be beyond the understanding of a kid."<

So what. Most kids are more intelligent about the things that matter than most grown-up/out people are.

>"Did I mention Henry Hathaway? And the "grace" and "beauty" of True Grit?"<

Last July I had a premonition that you might ask that question, so I made this video to reveal that truth... it's only 8 minutes long:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kc8AmWUn4Uw

>"Please. Can't we move on to the real world--at last."<

Watch "Maya Grit" and get back to me on that quest(ion)....
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Discussion in:  Movie forum
Participants:  139
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Initial post:  May 4, 2012
Latest post:  Jul 25, 2012

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