days-of-heaven-3I’m in the final fourth of my research for Top Ten By Year: 1978 (I’ve got about 13 viewings left). With 1992 and 1958 I conducted a poll with all you fellow film lovers, asking what your choices would be. It has been such a success so far, and it’s become the inaugural kick-off for festivities in the Top Ten By Year Project. Next month, be on the lookout for a series of posts that cover 1978; an amazing disco-heavy Movie Music Mix, Favorite Posters of 1978, a What I’ll Remember post, Ten Honorable Mentions, the Top Ten, and to start it all off; the Poll Results.

Order doesn’t factor in for results, but you are more than welcome submit them that way. If you are struggling to come up with ten passionate picks, a single digit submission is equally acceptable. I don’t want 10 for the sake of 10.

Leave your lists in the comments section. Voting is open for the next seven days.

Top Ten By Year: 1978 Progress Update

Greetings and salutations! For most of 2012, 2013, and some of 2014 I was diligent about writing up capsule reviews for every film I watched. I still jot down thoughts about everything I see, but in my old-fashioned paper journal, for my eyes only! So I realize it looks like I’ve dropped off the face of the earth; but I haven’t! I should be looking for a second job but instead I’ve been procrastinating and making lots of progress in my 1978 (re)watchlist. I can tell you that along with 1992, and possibly 1943, this will be the toughest year I’ve tackled re: the culminating list. I’m relishing the offerings of 1978; there’s been a lot to love and I’ve still got a ways to go. If I stopped now and did a top ten based on what I’ve seen and re-seen so far, it’d be a strong group. And I’ve still got to re-watch four films that are basically guaranteed spots.

So here’s my paper watchlist (because there’s nothing more satisfying than physically crossing something off with a pen. I’ve been doing biweekly updates on twitter, instagram, facebook, etc. But not here! Which I realize is silly. So here you go:

IMG_20150206_115410Started: December 14th, 2014
Watchlist: 32/51
Rewatchlist: 6/12

List: Top 30 Films of 2014

Usually I separate my year-end list into two posts and write about each film represented. However, I’ve run out of time this year, so I’m sadly going to unceremoniously plop the whole thing right here, right now. There’s a lot I still haven’t seen (Selma being the most glaring absence, and unfortunately car trouble has prevented me from getting to it anytime in the next week plus).

Even though I’ve got my Top Ten By Year project, for current years in film, I’ve never taken to the idea of a top ten. It’s the scale to which everything is strapped to (I cannot tell you how many times in December I have to see/hear someone say “I liked it a lot, it just won’t make my Top Ten” or, the worst, when someone sees something missing from a Top Ten and says “you didn’t like this?”). Because with Top Tens as the standard, it’s like nothing exists outside of them. And I hate that. So I like to spotlight an eclectic group of 30. It gives me room to have fun, and it’s a number I still find myself struggling to whittle down to despite giving myself such room to work with.

Other Year-End posts for 2014 films:
What I’ll Remember About the FIlms of 2014
Top Fives of 2014

Some Blind Spots: Selma, Love is Strange, Goodbye to Language, American Sniper, Dear White People, Norte the End of History, Closed Curtain, The Strange Little Cat, Mr. Turner, The Rover, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Beyond the Lights, Wild, Still Alice, Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, Leviathan, A Most Violent Year, Laggies, A Letter to Momo, Top Five, Begin Again, etc)

# of 2014 Films Seen: 99

30.Birdman (US, Iñárritu)

29. Night Moves (Reichardt, US)

28. Cheap Thrills (Katz, US)
A sledgehammer of a black comedy chamber piece; blunt, lean, and mean. Two friends (Pat Healy and Ethan Embry) in separately desperate monetary circumstances; dire straits are busy aligning with long-time-no-see when a wealthy couple (David Koechner and Sara Paxton) who get off on having the working class under their thumb gradually ushers them into a night of dares in exchange for increasingly large sums of money to whoever performs the assigned task first. Craig’s all-in decision, which mirrors Pat Healy’s performance, ignites a power play between the two friends, as Vince’s (Embry) initial enthusiasm wanes and escalating frustration sets in. There is a ton of class warfare here, not just between the two pairs, but between Craig and Vince. To the characters in the film (save one), human worth is equated with economic and educational standing. That callous reasoning comes shockingly natural to the players involved. David Koechner’s buddy-buddy exterior masks a sinister edge, and his improv abilities make Colin’s suggestions seem on-the-fly even though they aren’t. I love Sara Paxton (her performance in The Innkeepers is one of my all-time favorites, the most underappreciated performance in years), so I wish she had more to do here, but it was enough to see her and Healy together again.
(Originally posted here)

27. Vampire Academy (Waters, US)
Basically, fuck everyone. Why? Because lo and behold there’s a lot that works about Vampire Academy, and despite its box-office flop status and universal pans, I believe the film will slowly but surely find some kind of audience.

Its main detractor is that it suffers from the kind of Adaptation Inflammation that tends to plague adaptations of world-building heavy YA films. This one even has the nerve to throw terminology as onscreen text, like a trippy test review session. The harder the  world-building efforts (also taking into account its low budget), the more everything feels inconsequential as opposed to realized. So there’s an unfortunate dwarfing effect from the get-go. As if the exposition weren’t enough, Vampire Academy makes the mistake of acting like the start of a movie franchise so are endless extraneous elements and characters that have no bearing on the story at hand, and are there to assuredly set up  future installments that will only exist in the books. So there is no shortage of dead, and undead, weight.

World-building skeletons with a side helping of complicated etymology exists in all self-serious YA franchises. But Vampire Academy blends (to inconsistent results) that skeleton with the playfully bitchy high school lampoon act its makers (Mark Waters of Mean Girls and Daniel Waters of Heathers) are known for. But instead of the latter subverting the former, they end up feeding off each other til there’s not much left.

But on second thought, I’d say there’s quite a bit left. Yes it’s a mess, but damn if it isn’t an entertaining and sardonic mess. Zoey Deutch alone is a real find, heavily recalling both Ellen Page and a young Lauren Graham, with constantly varying and left-field comic sensibility. She can be annoying and a bit much, but I found her Rose Hathaway badass and lovable, an antidote to the furrowed brows and self-sacrificing heroines of dystopian and supernatural worlds. It would be a travesty, yes a travesty, if we don’t see a lot more of her in the future. Lucy Fry as Lissa is quite memorable too, regal and fluttery; good enough to make us forgive weak screenwriting that flat-out says NO to the transition and logic of character motivation.

For all the bland-boy romance (and let’s be honest, so many female-led films suffer from Bland Boy Syndrome), the friendship between Rose and Lissa (Fry) comes first. It is never lost for a second that they have the most important bond, in sync and connected forever. They are soulmates. Lissa even gives a speech at the end where she’s all ‘I wish you all could have your own Rose Hathaway, I’m the luckiest gal in town’. And Lissa, and the film, even make room for welcome and timely commentary on slut-shaming.

All in all, I wanted to stay in this world. I even want to pick up the second book and give it a try. Mark Waters and Daniel Waters drown a bit in the fold of YA, but with the help of Zoey Deutch they manage to come up for air quite often. The results allow teenage girls to have all kinds of non-judgmental sexual yearnings in a PG-13 world, with snarky growing pains winning out over the arduous and usually meaningless weight others of the same cloth so often bore us to tears with.
(Originally posted here)

26. Inherent Vice (Anderson, US)

25. The Wind Rises (Miyazaki, Japan)
Hayao Miyazaki goes out on a majestic grace note, giving us something he’s never done before while remaining identifiably him; aeronautical fixations, concerns over the impact of human intent (albeit too tiptoeing here), languid pacing. There is no filmmaker I love more than Hayao Miyazaki, and so it was very emotional once this film reached its end. The realization that I’d seen all there is to see of his work for the first time hit hard. That this was it.

More than any other films, animated or live-action, I just want to step into the worlds, fantastical or reality-based, Studio Ghibli’s animation team creates. They are skies to ground corporeal within their own creation. They are complete and inspiring. This is no different. The Wind Rises might be his most visually appetizing film (then I re-watched Princess Mononoke three days later and realize that statement is more a suggestion). From the sheen of the planes to the chug-chug of the trains to the crackle and fire of the earthquakes and those inimitable color spectrum spanning skies. The wind brings all of it together, used as a common denominator.

Miyazaki takes on the standard biopic, replacing the bullet points with poetic airs. Sure, things happen, but they aren’t used to strum forward. In fact, the film halts later on and turns into a weepie melodrama, a move I fell in love with (although Naoko abandons her current residency one too many times and is more of a prop than I’d like). Not something from Jiro’s actual life, the fatalistic romance sets up the sacrifices Jiro makes in order to innovate and create beautiful things. And I think that compromise can in a gentle way represent all of the real life compromises that make up a great deal of the film’s post-release controversy.

I will say that while I don’t think that some of the naysayers are completely off the mark here, I don’t quite see how it is Miyazaki’s responsibility to address these issues. He has a very clear and distinct focus here. The film swirls around Horikoshi’s quote “All I wanted to do was make something beautiful”. Miyazaki is a bit too forgiving of Jiro because on a basic level, he connects with him.

Miyazaki uses film to concentrate on what hope he can see in the world and what soulfulness he can find in his characters despite being a pessimist at heart. Obviously the downplaying of certain key issues isn’t in his purview, although the essay he released, and his well-known pacifist status, when the film came out in Japan speaks to where he stands politically (where he always has). So he’s catching it from all possible sides here. It would have been very easy for Miyazaki to concentrate on the bigger issues, and he isn’t this wistful man who ignores them, but it’s simply not his MO here. Nor should it have to be. People who want it to be are looking for a completely different film than the one they got. I see the downplaying as speaking to a bigger problem, one that is far more evident in where Miyazaki places the Germans in relation to the Japanese within the story.

That said, it was frustrating to see Miyazaki walk up to the issue of beautiful innovations used for unspeakable atrocities at the very end without actually doing anything. I would have liked a bit more at the end, a conversation that felt thought-provoking and irreconcilable perhaps rather than tossed off the way it is.

But I really loved this. A big step up from Ponyo; a mature and understated swan song that sums up everything I love about this man whose work I’m going to miss so so so much.
(Originally posted here)

24. Only Lovers Left Alive (Jarmusch, US)

23. The Boxtrolls (US, Annable/Stacchi)

22. Like Father, Like Son (Koreeda, Japan)

21. A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night  (Amirpour, US)

20. Edge of Tomorrow (Liman, US)

19. Life Itself (James, US)

18. Palo Alto (Coppola, US)

17. John Wick (Stahelski/Leitch, US)

16. “Olive Kitteridge” (Cholodenko, US)

15. Belle (UK, Asante)
Belle is much more than the following sentiment, but all the same; Amma Asante’s gratifying yet subversive period piece makes my heart go pitter-patter. Some may scoff at the love story (indeed a few reviews I’ve read knock it down a peg for just that) but what about how sweetly investing it is? The adorable abolitionist with unshakable moral footing (Sam Reid) is so steadfast that he amusingly dips into caricature at times. It becomes part of his charm, as does Reid’s slight woodenness. More importantly, Amma Asante gives a mixed race character the otherwise non-existent pleasure of participating in British aristocratic romance with all the heart-racing and letdowns of love and its foibles.”
(Full review here)

14. The Immigrant (Gray, US)
“Some stories are familiar for a reason. James Gray posits this with regularity. Unfashionably leaning on lush (but not, critically, romanticized or glossy) classicism that seems to either envelop the viewer or leave them cold (depending on your predilections), Gray focuses on the precise juxtaposition of operatic scope against intimate human struggles (or more precisely, the latter cradling within the former), largely of the criminal and familial. His films are about what goes on in the confined living spaces of down-and-out working class New York. Again, I can only speak to the three Gray films I’ve seen but there are so many similarities between them in both structure and focus. All three begin with an arrival and end with a departure. The protagonist makes it through, but everyone else is fair game. Joaquin Phoenix’s simmering penchant for producing hidden layers of agonized and doomed empathy are capitalized, casting him in roles that position him as a dubious obstacle, revealed as someone riddled with complexity on top of complexity. Accidental deaths abound. Familial connections increase the tautness. Critically, each James Gray film is near-obsessed with the act of choice.

The Immigrant is a constant balancing act. Shots often walk right up to the tip of overtness. The final image, for example, is on the fence of that line; obvious but packing a majestic wallop of visually splintered destinies — parting, but forever connected. Darius Khondji reconstructs the rich haze of period films, but steps back from gloss. The feeling that someone can slip through the cracks and fog is easily within reach, the lower class a world all its own. The aforementioned familiarity plumbs the depths of clarity and oft depicted material, but is also used to narratively veer ever-so-left or right. Characters we think we’ve got pegged (‘hey I recognize that type; the wayward prostitute, the pimp with a temper, the knight in shining armor’), we don’t, but not in acts of narrative subversion. The familiarity of ‘types’ merely allows Gray to pull back the layers, reveal them as human beings stuck in a system. Against each other, yet mutually dependent in their low placement on the totem pole.”
(Full review here)

13. White Bird in a Blizzard (Araki, US)

12. Gone Girl (Fincher, US)

11. Whiplash (Chazelle, US)

10. The Babadook (Kent, Australia)
“It is altogether rare when a horror film works as equal parts psychological character excavation and a genuinely scary piece of cinema (to be fair, not all horror aspires to both). In Jennifer Kent’s debut film The Babadook, the two are bone-chillingly inextricable by making a grief-ridden mother-son relationship the nucleus from which a storybook monster’s infiltration is born. Statements like this are not usually in my deck of words, but after seeing this heartbreaking and deeply disquieting tale of woe, it is hard to deny The Babadook‘s status as the best horror film of the decade so far.”
(Full review here)

9. Force Majeure (Östlund, Sweden)

8. The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (Takahata, Japan)

7. Coherence (Byrkit, US)

6. The Grand Budapest Hotel (Anderson, US)
“Wes Anderson’s most densely plotted film by more than a considerable margin, complete with a Matryoska doll structure that heightens our awareness of storytelling and how the passage of time imprints the past through the act of looking back. The director’s detail-oriented aesthetic and centered formalism continues to turn what was once stylistic affectation into his own purified visual language. He almost exclusively speaks in push-ins, right angles, three aspect ratios, horizontal and whip pans, presentational framing, miniatures, hand-stitched props, matte backdrops, etc. And this time around, he quite literally creates his own nation, a 1930’s Eastern European pastiche, with historical parallels of the time that purposely recall the ways in which Old Hollywood often depicted the ‘foreignness’ of Europe as an unspecified blanket of antiquated charm. Outside of Hollywood influences, such as the particular brand of dizzying energy, Powell/Pressburger looms heavy over all.”
(Originally posted here:)

5. Snowpiercer (South Korea, Bong)
“Bong Joon-ho, and only Bong Joon-ho, would have a film that features its protagonist tripping on a fish, in slow-motion no less, during an axes-out action scene. Bong, and only Bong, would make a film that allows the wildly divergent performances of grim revolutionary Chris Evans and villain-out-of-a-Roald Dahl book Tilda Swinton to successfully play off each other in the same space. And how many filmmakers would make a blockbuster that has the audaciousness to suggest, especially since the film itself thrives off a directly parallel narrative structure of rigidity, that structural disbandment isn’t enough; that wiping the slate clean and starting from scratch may be the best solution to humanity’s suffering?”
Full review here:

4. Starred Up (UK, Mackenzie)

3. Listen Up Philip (Perry, US)

2. We Are the Best! (Moodysson, Sweden)

1. Under the Skin (Glazer, UK/US/Switzerland)
Image-centric storytelling, with roots in experimental cinema, that distances itself from mankind. Birth to death, human as alien, alien as human. Firmly divided into two parts, routine and the failing quest for basic human pleasures, with the key transitional scene being Laura’s (nobody has any names, including Laura, but she’s billed as such so it’s just easier for me to follow suit) (Scarlett Johansson) encounter with a man with neurofibromatosis. Before that, she goes about her business, luring and leading men into an abstract and oily black digestive space. There’s no connection between her and her body, her victims, or feelings. But gradually the loneliness starts to sink in, and with it the isolation that humans may experience. She begins to seek out basic human pleasures like eating, sex, and companionship, inquisitive and nervous like a child. She knows she needs something, but is unsure how to go about it.

When Under the Skin ended, I felt like I’d been scooped out from the inside. It’s one of the saddest and loneliest films I’ve ever seen. Scarlett Johansson is mainly a presence for the first half, removed and captivating. And then in the second half she is heartbreaking; confused, yearning and unfulfilled. The final minutes, in which she is pursued by a man in the musky never-ending forest, is so palpable; you can feel her fear. Predator to prey. The second she desires the human instinct she loses so much agency. She becomes vulnerable and susceptible, her lair further and further away, unable to reconcile that yearning. We sense the irreparable loss of that center, her time dwindling. My boyfriend found something peaceful about the one-with-the-snow ending, but I didn’t. I just can’t; it’s not in my nature.

The formalism contributes to a new withdrawn perspective of ourselves, as something Other and incomprehensible. The thick Scottish accents further that distance, as does Mica Levy’s slinky and exotic high-pitched string score, and the sound design where much is compressed and blanketed over. Take for instance, as an example of said withdrawn perspective, the way Glazer shoots the scene on the beach, in which attempted rescue causes a chain reaction of familial death, a wailing abandoned baby as sole survivor. Laura, and thus we, take all of it in at once and for what it is (death) with unfeeling coldness. The discrepancy between what is happening, and how we see it, is very disturbing. And then Laura murders a man with a rock, and it’s the opposite of how murder is usually depicted in film. There is no close-up, no sound effect, and no clear view because Laura is crouching with her back to us. The impact of the scene is that there is no impact, and that lack of impact in turn translates to its own unique impact for the audience.

The film does not pass judgment on Laura. As she observes us, we observe her, and ourselves through her. Another layer to this is gradually added when Laura begins to observe herself, in a successive set of mirror scenes as she considers her new form. This observation becomes out-of-body in the end. No mirror is needed in her last moments. There’s certainly an angle on femininity, female sexual power, what it means to be a woman, and examining the male gaze, but I can’t parse through what I take from that with one viewing.

Generally, I think more filmmakers and producers (and let’s be honest, audiences perhaps most of all) need to put their trust in the communicative power of the image (and in viewers), especially since it’s what the medium inherently is to begin with. Under the Skin hypnotically uses impressionistic imagery and Scarlett Johannson’s face as narrative (there is very little dialogue overall) for a final product about existential isolation and irreconcilable cognizance that I haven’t been able to shake all year.
(Originally posted here)

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 2014: A Love Letter

I started my What I’ll Remember posts in 2012 and have since expanded to include one for each year in my Top Ten By Year project. The idea is that while everyone simply posts a Top Ten to cap off the past 12 months, I want to remember and pay tribute to the little things, those indelible moments within (and outside of) the myriad of films any given year has to offer. Because no matter what anyone else says, every year is a great year for film; you just need to know where to look. So without further ado, below are some of the meaningful smatterings and takeaways from 2014 films I hope to take with me moving forward:

Previous What I’ll Remember posts: 1943, 1958, 1965, 1992, 2012, 2013

I forgot to post my favorite posters of the year in my Top Fives post, so this post will be interspersed with the poster designs that stuck out the most to me along with credit to the designers/illustrators.

Some Blind Spots: Love is Strange, Selma, Goodbye to Language, Dear White People, Norte the End of History, Closed Curtain, The Strange Little Cat, Mr. Turner, The Rover, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Beyond the Lights, Wild, Still Alice, Why Don’t You Play in Hell, Leviathan, A Most Violent Year, Laggies, Top Five, Begin Again, etc)

Philip Seymour Hoffman
2014 will always be first the foremost The Year We Lost Philip

2014 will always be, second, the year I got to see and hear Joanna Newsom on the silver screen (Inherent Vice)

Under the Skin, my favorite film so far this decade. This whole list could just be specifics from this, so I’m just giving it a uniform shoutout. Changes the way you see the world around you, and yourself. Challenges what narrative filmmaking is/can be capable of.

A banner year (comparatively of course) for female directors (Selma, Unbroken, A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night, CitizenFour, Obvious Child, Honeymoon, It Felt Like Love, Night Moves, Beyond the Lights, Belle, Palo Alto, Olive Kitteridge, The Babadook, Hellion, 20,000 Days on Earth, Thou Was Mild and Lovely, See No Evil 2, Abuse of Weakness, Endless Love, Step Up All In, Laggies, Fed Up, Last Days in Vietnam, Awake, Fort Bliss, etc)

Gutsy narrative decisions in mainstream children’s fare (Maleficent, How to Train Your Dragon 2, The LEGO Movie)

Jim Jarmusch, always distinguishing and foregrounding his own experience/sense of location, this time with Detroit and Tangier (Only Lovers Left Alive)

Angelina Jolie and (and her subtly digitally enhanced beauty) in Maleficent, showing us the potential and gravitas of true star power. Film itself aside, she did not get enough credit for her work here

Satirizing and/or communicating through media (Gone Girl, Nightcrawler, The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Meta ruminations on the relevance of aging actors playing versions of themselves (The Congress, Birdman)

Designed by Jay Shaw

Designed by Jay Shaw

“Hate the sport! Hate the sport! Hate hate hate hate hate the sport!” (We Are the Best!)

Tyler Perry throwing gummy bears at Ben Affleck’s head (Gone Girl)

Just leave the music in your movies at the door and keep the rest, thanks (Into the Woods, Interstellar)

Michael Keaton isn’t playing himself in Birdman but Edward Norton certainly is

Oh how dearly I’d missed the Neptune crowd (Veronica Mars)

“Boy with Apple” and how long it takes Dmitry to realize its missing (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

The joys of watching actors actually act together in the same high-wire space (Birdman)

Realizing I’m a Gale/Liam Hemsworth apologist (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Painted by Laura Baran, lettering by Theresa Berens

Painted by Laura Baran, lettering by Theresa Berens

Bigfoot and the chocolate banana (Inherent Vice)

Movies that provoked controversy and lively if exhaustive and often reductive discussions: The Wind Rises, Gone Girl, Boyhood

Edge of Tomorrow’s narrative switcharoo, slyly putting Tom Cruise ahead of the audience halfway through. Now we’re playing catch-up. We’re Emily Blunt.

Lots of dog killings this year you guys (John Wick, The Babadook, Cheap Thrills, Cavalry, Joe)

Thinking The Wind Rises was the most beautiful Studio Ghibli film I had seen…and then seeing The Tale of the Princess Kaguya

Nicolas Cage’s delivery of “Kristy, call the cops before someone gets kills. Would you do that for me honey?”, quite literally the only thing about Joe I liked

The second time I’ve seen trichotillomania depicted in a film (Starry Eyes)

Spaceship? Spaceship! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!!!” (The LEGO Movie)

If anyone can tell me who designed this, I'd appreciate it!

If anyone can tell me who designed this, I’d appreciate it!

Holy shit, Emma Roberts can actually act (Palo Alto)

Acting Winners of 2014: Scarlett Johansson (Under the Skin, Lucy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier). Runners Up: Emily Blunt (Edge of Tomorrow, Into the Woods), Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights), Marion Cotillard (The Immigrant, Two Days, One Night), Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men” S7.1, The One I Love, Listen Up Philip)

That kiss. My God, that kiss. (Philip Seymour Hoffman and Nina Hoss, A Most Wanted Man)

“Nothing in my hands, nothing in my hands” (The Babadook)

Jenny Agutter getting to kick so much ass in Captain America: The Winter Soldier

Doppelgangers! (The Double, Enemy, The One I Love, Coherence, Muppets Most Wanted)

Bible Epics! (Noah, Exodus: Gods and Kings)

Sheila Vand, serving up vampiric Winona Ryder and Jane Adams as The Girl (A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night)

The jarring experience of seeing dubbed versions of The Wind Rises and The Tale of the Princess Kaguya in theaters even though they are the most explicitly Japanese/engaged with Japanese history and culture films Studio Ghibli have ever released

Design and illustration by BLT Communications, LLC

Design and illustration by BLT Communications, LLC

Now that’s what horror can do. That’s why horror is the best (The Babadook)

Why oh why is Disney so committed to making everything look so visually ugly and/or flat? The mystery continues (Maleficent, Into the Woods)

The year that Scarlett Johannsson showed new levels of control, naturalism, and range in her craft. I’m convinced Broadway had something to do with it (Under the Skin, Lucy, Captain America: The Winter Soldier)

Angelina Jolie making sure we feel the central violation/rape metaphor in Maleficent

Beginning of the end/end of an era melancholy that creeps up on you in The Grand Budapest Hotel and Inherent Vice

Whiplash throwing me for a loop by not being the competitive jazz drumming film I’d assumed, but a blistering sadomasochistic portrait of mutual destruction in the efforts to attain a futile level of greatness 

Marion Cotillard mastering the acute body language of depression (Two Days, One Night)

Realizing I need to listen to all the James Brown music (Get on Up)

Who would have thought a member of the Naked Brothers Band could unnerve me? (Palo Alto)

Designed by Brandon Schaefer

Designed by Brandon Schaefer

Red streaks in the sky; the descent (Godzilla)

Jake Gyllenhaal looking like Gumby in Nightcrawler, starring the whites of his eyes

“Play with my balls” (Birdman)

One last Philip Seymour Hoffman/Julianne Moore reunion for the road (The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1)

Matt Damon making surprise appearances (Interstellar, The Zero Theorem)

Edge of Tomorrow for being the biggest surprise of 2014, an outlier in its comparatively original/non-franchise status

Lucy calls her mother (Lucy)

Rosamund Pike in her skivvies, crawling across the floor like some sort of arachnid in Gone Girl

Designed by Jay Shaw

Designed by Jay Shaw

The more I think about the bizarre sound mixing in Interstellar, the more I’m okay with it. If I can’t hear crucial not-so-great dialogue in favor of Hans Zimmer’s score, maybe this isn’t such a bad thing?

The Tom Hooper school of framing; sometimes magical, often off-putting (Ida)

A death scene to end all death scenes (Gone Girl)

Michael C. Hall’s character taking an eventual backseat in his own film (Cold in July)

The pastel streaks on human faces in The Boxtrolls’s and the film’s admirable commitment to filthiness

Being basically the only person who loves Vampire Academy. You’ll all come around eventually

Living in an age of blockbuster spectacles in which the industry has no idea how to instill wonder…except, all its other misgivings aside, Godzilla

Most successful use of exposition: Oculus

Teddy Blanks of CHIPS with artwork by Anna Bak-Kvapil

Teddy Blanks of CHIPS with artwork by Anna Bak-Kvapil

Joaquin Phoenix going full-Brando at the end of The Immigrant

Overreaching doppelganger atmospheres (piss-yellow and wiry Toronto in Enemy, admirable but tiresome Gilliam copy The Double)

A question for the ages; who is scarier – Ben Mendelsohn or J.K Simmons? (Answer? You’re both wrong, it’s Peter Mullan) (Starred Up, Whiplash)

Tom Hardy’s velvety voice in Locke

It’s so nice to see you again!! Sheila Kelley (The Guest), Nicholas Brendan (Coherence), Sherilyn Fenn (Raze), Sheryl Lee (White Bird in a Blizzard), Taylor Nichols (Godzilla)

“Be a shoe” (Snowpiercer)

Having a new favorite Wes Anderson character in Gustave (The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Tilda Swinton in lots of makeup (Snowpiercer, The Zero Theorem, The Grand Budapest Hotel)

Reunions! Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon (Walk the Line/Inherent Vice), Zoe Bell and Tracie Thoms (Death Proof/Raze), Song Kang-ho and Ko Ah-sung (The Host/Snowpiercer), the cast of Veronica Mars. I know there are others, but I’m blanking

Designed by Empire Design

Designed by Empire Design

That long take of Michel (Christophe Paou) coming out of the water as a killerthen he begins to put on his sneakers and puts himself back together as someone we, and Franck, recognize (Stranger by the Lake)

Reminder that Katee Sackhoff should be in everything (Oculus)

Inspired casting goes a long way folks (Gone Girl, Snowpiercer, Inherent Vice)

6 months later and I’m still wishing that Peter Gabriel’s “Shock the Monkey” had been worked into Dawn of the Planet of the Apes somehow

Crying a lot during movies I’m lukewarm to because I’m a sap (Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, Interstellar)

And then sobbing at the end of The Wind Rises, knowing I had now seen all the Miyazaki there was to see

The first shot of Karen Gillan and her swinging ponytail in Oculus 

Watching Starred Up and having it gradually transform into the most invested narrative experience I had in 2014

Watching Tom Cruise play around with his persona and die over and over again (Edge of Tomorrow)

Designed by Neil Kellerhouse

Designed by Neil Kellerhouse

Realizing how attracted I am to ‘a mysterious man/woman enters the lives of etc.’ narratives (Borgman, The Guest)

Poor Ian (Only Lovers Left Alive)

Lyle Vincent’s black-and-white digital cinematography in A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

The remarkable achievement of Space in Interstellar

The Robert DeNiro party (Neighbors)

Another age-old question: does Lucky McKee have another May in him? My hopes sink ever further (All Cheerleaders Die)

Coherence showing you can make an exceptional genre film with zero budget (and I mean zero budget)

Elisabeth Moss’s Ashley when Philip leaves her apartment, the most striking acting moment of 2014 (Listen Up Philip

Vin Diesel doing good by humankind for basically resurrecting his role in The Iron Giant (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Marion Cotillard’s coral pink tank in Two Days, One Night 

Seeing 20,000 Days on Earth in NYC with Nick Cave Q&A and solo piano performance, directors Q&A

More stuntmen who inherently understand the mechanics of action directing films please (John Wick)

Seeing There Will be Blood on a massive screen with live orchestral accompaniment and Jonny Greenwood was a year highlight for sure and my favorite theatrical experience of 2014

Films Seen in Theaters: 32
2014 Films Seen: 100

2014 Double Features I Had:
Birdman/John Wick
Only Lovers Left Alive/A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night

Top Fives of 2014 (in which I dole out a boatload of superlatives)

Welcome to the 4th annual Cinema Enthusiast awards! Everyone is done with their 2014 round-ups, Oscar nominations are tomorrow and as per usual I’m just getting started on mine. These will likely evolve a little because there are still films I’d like to see. I try to make these as exhaustive and representative as possible, but keep in mind it’s difficult at the end of the year to remember all one’s favorite nooks and crannies.

Some Blind Spots: Love is Strange, Selma, Goodbye to Language, Dear White People, Norte the End of History, Closed Curtain, The Strange Little Cat, Mr. Turner, The Rover, The Imitation Game, The Theory of Everything, Beyond the Lights, Wild, Still Alice, Why Don’t You Play in Hell, Leviathan, A Most Violent Year, Laggies, Top Five, Begin Again, etc)

Simpsons Don Hertzfeldt

Beginnings and/or Title Card and/or Opening Credit Sequences:
1. Don Hertzfeldt’s couch gag for “The Simpsons” Season 26, Episode 1 (opening credits) (TV isn’t included here but there are a couple of instances where TV broke through)
2. Inherent Vice (You had me at “Vitamin C”) (title card)
3. Under the Skin (beginning)
4. Guardians of the Galaxy (opening credits)
5. “Olive Kitteridge” (credit sequence)


1. Whiplash
3. Force Majeure
4. The Immigrant

5. Cheap Thrills
Honorable Mentions: Night Moves, Stranger by the Lake, Under the Skin


Ensemble Cast:
1. Olive Kitteridge
2. Gone Girl
3. Listen Up Philip
4. The Grand Budapest Hotel
5. Inherent Vice
Honorable MentionsBirdman, Snowpiercer


Underappreciated Films:
1. Coherence
2. White Bird in a Blizzard
3. Vampire Academy
4. The Boxtrolls
5. Get on Up


Films That Started Strong But….
1. Boyhood (Come back Lorelai! Ugh, Mason, just stop your babbling)
2. Blue Ruin (lots of skill with nowhere to go)
3. Into the Woods (strong is too strong a word, but the second half undoes all good will of the first)
4. Nightcrawler (as it becomes clearer that the film has nothing new to say after its first half. The final ‘gut-punch’ is so clearly telegraphed from the start thanks to surface level skewering)
5. Birdman (oh, so the movie is only about Riggan now? Goodbye excellent ensemble, good-byyy-eeeee)


1. Foxcatcher
2. Enemy
3. Obvious Child
4. Ida
5. The Double

obvious child

Wait…People Love…This?
1. Obvious Child
2. God Help the Girl
3. Neighbors
4. Locke
5. X-Men: Days of Future Past
Honorable Mention: Ida


1. Gugu Mbatha-Raw (Belle, Beyond the Lights)
2. Jack O’Connell (Starred Up, Unbroken)
3. Chadwick Boseman (Get on Up) (I know 42 was last year but this was my first experience with him and it’s a powerhouse performance in every sense of the word)
4. Katherine Waterston (Inherent Vice)
5. Zoey Deutch (Vampire Academy)
Honorable Mentions: Jack Kilmer (Palo Alto), Wyatt Russell (22 Jump Street, Cold in July)


Underappreciated Performances (work I’m not hearing mentioned nearly enough in general and/or year-end discussion):
1. Jamie Bell – Nymphomaniac Volume II
2. Sam Shepard – Cold in July
3. Nelsan Ellis – Get on Up
4. Zoey Deutch – Vampire Academy
5. Jesse Eisenberg – Night Moves
Honorable Mentions: Sarah Gadon – Enemy, Nicholas Brendan – Coherence, Viola Davis – Get on Up, Chadwick Boseman- Get on Up, Emmanuelle Seinger - Venus in Fur


Bit Parts/Smaller Roles:
1. Joanna Newsom – Inherent Vice (obviously)
2. Hong Chau – Inherent Vice
3. Evan Peters – X-Men Days of Future Past
4. Uma Thurman – Nymphomaniac Volume I
5. Missi Pyle – Gone Girl 
Honorable Mentions: Martha Wainwright – Olive Kitteridge, Martin Short – Inherent Vice, Frank Grillo and Jenny AgutterCaptain America: The Winter Soldier


1. Interstellar – Hans Zimmer
2. The Grand Budapest Hotel – Alexandre Desplat
3. Under the Skin – Mica Levi
4. Gone Girl – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross
5. Can I just put Brian Reitzell for his insane work on “Hannibal”? Because that’s what I’m doing

GHB_9907 20130130.CR2

Favorite Characters:
1. Gustave (Ralph Fiennes) – The Grand Budapest Hotel
2. Hedvig, Bobo, and Klara (Liv LeMoyne, Mira Barkhammar, Mira Grosin) – We Are the Best! (Don’t make me choose!!!)
3. Groot (voiced by Vin Diesel) – Guardians of the Galaxy
4. Amy (Rosamund Pike) – Gone Girl
5. Henri (Patrick D’Assumçao) – Stranger by the Lake
Honorable Mentions: Oliver Baumer (Rupert Friend) – Starred Up, Lou Bloom (Jake Gyllenhaal) – Nightcrawler, Margo (Carrie Coon) - Gone Girl 

The Guest[(040066)17-18-33]

Sexiest Folk of 2014 (a log of who I’m into any particular year)
1. Dan Stevens – The Guest
2 J.K. Simmons in Whiplash (those arms, the yelling; terrifying but oh so sexy)
3. Tilda Swinton – Only Lovers Left Alive
4. Tom Hardy’s voice (and Tom Hardy) – Locke
5. Emily Blunt – Edge of Tomorrow
Honorable Mentions: Jack O’Connell - Starred Up


The ‘Why Are You Even Here’ Award:
1. Everybody  – X-Men: Days of Future Past
2. Johnny Depp – Into the Woods
3. Jena Malone – Mockingjay Part 1
4. Topher Grace – Interstellar
5. Juliette Binoche – Godzilla


This Performance Isn’t Working For Me:
Am I allowed to put Christoph Waltz in Big Eyes as #1 off the trailer alone? No? OK.
1. Jennifer Lawrence – X-Men Days of Future Past (the crux of the entire film, yet she sleepwalks through it. Zero commitment)
2. Christian Slater – Nymphomaniac Parts I and II
3. Johnny Depp – Into the Woods
4. Sharlto Copley – Maleficent
5. Steve Carell – Foxcatcher
Honorable Mentions:Daniel Radcliffe – Horns, Max Minghella – Horns, Aaron Taylor Johnson - Godzilla


Great Performances in Not-So-Great Films:
1. Emily Blunt – Into the Woods
2. Chris Pine – Into the Woods
3. Tom Hardy – Locke
4. Zac Efron – Neighbors
5. Sarah Gadon – Enemy
Honorable Mentions:Brendan Gleeson – Cavalry, Gaby Hoffman – Obvious Child, Channing Tatum - Foxcatcher


Worst Film:
1. Raze
2. Turks and Caicos (made for TV)
3. See No Evil 2
4. Joe
5. God Help the Girl

Chris Evans Snowpiercer

1. “I know babies taste best” (Snowpiercer)
2. “There are no two words in the English language more harmful than ‘Good Job'” (Whiplash)
3. “There are still faint glimmers of civilization in this barbaric slaughterhouse once known as humanity” (really just pick anything that comes out of Ralph Fiennes’s mouth in The Grand Budapest Hotel)
4. “We are Groot” (Guardians of the Galaxy)
5. “Here’s a piece of paper with some staples in it”(Listen Up Philip, or really anything from this film)


1. Edge of Tomorrow
2. Palo Alto but particularly Emma Roberts in Palo Alto
3. Chris Pine in Into the Woods
4. Whiplash (yes huge Sundance hit, but I honestly did not expect to latch onto this anywhere near the way I did)
5. Lucy

Character Dynamics:
1. Bobo, Klara and Hedvig – We Are the Best!
2. Andrew and Fletcher – Whiplash
3. Cage and Rita – Edge of Tomorrow
James Brown and Bobby Byrd Get on Up
Gustave and Zero – The Grand Budapest Hotel
Honorable Mentions: Doc and Bigfoot – Inherent Vice, Gunther and Irna – A Most Wanted ManHenri and Franck – Stranger by the Lake, Ernest and Celestine – Ernest and Celestine

Gone Girl

1. Bloodbath – Gone Girl
Escaping the palace – Tale of the Princess Kaguya
3. Crushing the male ego – Force Majeure
4. “Agony” – Into the Woods
5. Philip returns – Listen Up Philip
Honorable Mentions: Dave Schultz’s interview - Foxcatcher, The Red Circle – John Wick, Visiting Dr. Blatnoyd – Inherent Vice, Harry Potter book opening – Boyhood, Lucy talks to her mother – Lucy, Times Square – Birdman


1. Belle and John Davinier – Belle
2. Nick and Amy – Gone Girl
3. Adam and Eve – Only Lovers Left Alive
The Girl and Arash – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
5. Olive and Henry – Olive Kitteridge

Song Usage:
1. “Super Bad” – James Brown – Get On Up 
2. “Vitamin C” – Can – Inherent Vice
3. “Death” – White Lies – A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night
4. “Gloria” – Van Morrison – Two Days, One Night
5. “Trapped by a Thing Called Love” – Denise LaSalle – Only Lovers Left Alive

Music: 2014 Movie (and sort of TV) Mix

Under the Skin OST

I’ve still got a few things to see before posting all my year-end stuff, but for now, I’ve completed my mix celebrating the music of film in 2014. Criteria is that the music has to either come from the score and/or be recent (like, made within the past couple of years). You can listen to the mix on 8tracks.

8tracks link:

Track Listing: 
1. “Lonely Void” – Mica Levi – Under the Skin
2. “Sister Rust” – Damon Albarn – Lucy
3. “Opening Titles” – Carter Burwell – Olive Kitteridge
4. “Mr. Moustafa” – Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel
5. “Serial (Main Theme)” – Bad Dream – Serial podcast
6. “Daylight Express to Lutz” – Alexandre Desplat – The Grand Budapest Hotel
7. “Omniverse” – SURVIVE – The Guest
8. “Son of Placenta Previa” – Clint Mansell – “The Knick”
9. “Technically, Missing” – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Gone Girl
10. “Cornfield Chase” – Hans Zimmer – Interstellar
11. “Dust” – Hans Zimmer – Interstellar
12. “I’ll Get You What You Want” – Constantine – Muppets Most Wanted
13. “Agony” – Chris Pine and Billy Magnussen – Into the Woods
14. “Whiplash – Selections from the Soundtrack” – Justin Hurwitz and Tim Simonec – Whiplash
15. “Stay with Me” – Meryl Streep – Into the Woods
16. “Yellow Flicker Beat” – Lorde – The Hunger Games: Mockingjay Part 1
17. “Think” – Kaleida – John Wick
18. “Spooks” – Jonny Greenwood – Inherent Vice
19. “End Credits Extended Mix” – Waxworks Records – Starry Eyes
20. “Cosmo Black” – Dynatron – Cold in July
21. “Nightcrawler” – James Newton Howard – Nightcrawler
22. “Love” – Mica Levi – Under the Skin
23. “Like Home” – Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross – Gone Girl
24. “Bloodfest (from Mizumono)” – Brian Reitzell – “Hannibal” (Season 2)

50 Favorite New-to-Me Films Seen in 2014

Here are the 50 films not released in 2014 that I consider my favorites. Films are ordered chronologically; not ranked. Although, the ones I’d pick as my top ten are bolded. My first-time viewings are very heavily dictated by the ongoing Top Ten By Year project I started in 2013. During 2014 I finished 1965 and completed 1943, 1992, and 1958.


  1. The Old Maid (1939, Goulding)
  2. Angels of Sin (1943, Bresson)
  3. The Gang’s All Here (1943, Berkeley)
  4. The Hard Way (1943, Sherman)
  5. Flesh and Fantasy (1943, Duvivier)
  6. The Constant Nymph (1943, Goulding)
  7. The Man in Grey (1943, Arliss)
  8. The Wicked Lady (1945, Arliss)
  9. Anna Lucasta (1958, Laven)
  10. Bonjour Tristesse (1958, Preminger)
  11. The Lineup (1958, Siegel)
  12. Man of the West (1958, Mann)
  13. Murder by Contract (1958, Lerner)
  14. The Tarnished Angels (1958, Sirk)
  15. Fists in the Pocket (1965, Bellocchio)
  16. For a Few Dollars More (1965, Leone)
  17. The Loves of a Blonde (1965, Forman)
  18. The Party’s Over (1965, Hamilton)
  19. Red Beard (1965, Kurosawa)
  20. Tokyo Olympiad (1965, Ichikawa)
  21. Who Killed Teddy Bear (1965, Cates)
  22. What’s the Matter with Helen? (1971, Harrington)
  23. Whoever Slew Auntie Roo? (1971, Harrington)
  24. The Story of Adele H (1975, Truffaut)
  25. The Passenger (1975, Antonioni)
  26. The American Friend (1977, Wenders)
  27. Lucas (1986, Seltzer)
  28. Manhunter (1986, Mann)
  29. Mauvais Sang (1986, Carax)
  30. Mystery Train (1989, Jarmusch)
  31. The Exorcist III (1990, Blatty)
  32. Bad Lieutenant (1992, Ferrara)
  33. Bitter Moon (1992, Polanski)
  34. Bob Roberts (1992, Robbins)
  35. Brother’s Keeper (1992, Berlinger)
  36. Deep Cover (1992, Duke)
  37. A Heart in Winter (1992, Sautet)
  38. Malcolm X (1992, Lee)
  39. One False Move (1992, Franklin)
  40. Orlando (1992, Potter)
  41. Savage Nights (1992, Collard)
  42. US Go Home (1994, Denis)
  43. From the Journals of Jean Seberg (1995, Rappaport)
  44. The Yards (2000, Gray)
  45. Trouble Every Day (2001, Denis)
  46. We Own the Night (2007, Gray)
  47. Step Brothers (2008, McKay)
  48. 35 Shots of Rum (2009, Denis)
  49. Laurence Anyways (2013, Dolan)
  50. The Spectacular Now (2013, Ponsoldt)


Top Ten By Year: 1958

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year column:
I pick years that are weak for me re: quantity of films seen and/or quality of films seen in comparison to other films from that decade. I am using list-making as a motivation to see more films and revisit others in a structured and project-driven way. And I always make sure to point out that my lists are based on personal ‘favorites’ not any notion of an objective ‘best’. I’ve done 1935, 1983, 1965, 1943, 1992, and now 1958. Next I’ll be doing 1978.

1958 was a curious year for my Top Ten By Year project. I had seen 14 films from 1958 before all of this. Not much compared to the other years of that decade. When I said I picked 1958 for this, everybody proclaimed “Such a great year!” And it is, in the sense that every year is a great year in film if you know where to look. But the reason that 1958 stood out to me so much when I was trying to decide on a year from the 1950’s is because I was ambivalent on many of the ‘classics’ I had already seen. And three months later, that’s still the case. I’ve already mentioned it in my What I’ll Remember post but it bears repeating. I flat out do not care for The Hidden Fortress; it’s my least favorite Kurosawa film by a mile. Elevator to the Gallows is a taut genre exercise but nothing more than a first-timer testing the waters; impressive but not involving. I appreciate Cairo Station’s importance but didn’t take to it. Okay, I like Mon Oncle and Big Deal on Madonna Street, I’ll give you that. Ashes & Diamonds is masterful, but not in my wheelhouse. Outside of Nicholas Ray’s unshakable popularity among cinephiles, I’m perplexed for the love that people have for Party Girl. And Equinox Flower is richly pleasant but there’s a wall between the two of us. That’s a lot of films I just listed right there. And I’m sure anyone reading this loves one or more of the above and is shaking their head right now. So the question is; what am I left with? In my efforts to plumb the depths of what 1958 has to offer, I came up short. A lot of what I watched was merely, well, okay; engaging in context or in spurts, or in how they fit as part of the larger whole, but rarely in their own right. There was a lot of divergence in my own preferences and 1958 as a whole (interesting that 1957 though, contains so many favorite films of mine).

So while this is a very strong group of ten (I absolutely treasure all of these films), unlike other years, it was not too difficult to secure a spot this time around, at least comparatively. Though there are five very distinctive films not on the list that I wish there was room for. I’ve now seen 44 films from the year. In addition to first time viewings, I re-watched 11 of the original 14 films I’d seen for this project. I’ve also realized that my list this time is almost entirely US films, which is sort of embarrassing but it’s just the way the cookie crumbled this time. In writing this post, I find myself touching on the particular quality of actresses, even more than normal, and what it is that the women of 1958 bring to the films they are so central to.

We’re right at the tip of some major cinematic movements that are soon to start. Tawdriness is welcomed in increasingly growing measures. Noir is gasping its last corrupt breaths. The musical is on the downslide. European ennui is catching on. Auteurs are communicating cynicism through genre. Stars of Hollywood’s Golden Age hang on like aging apparitions. Authentic and naturalistic emotions make up the new. And at the forefront, theater has taken over cinema; The Adaptation Craze is in full operating mode.

Top Ten By Year: 1958 Poll Results
Movie Music Mix: 1958
What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1958: A Love Letter

Biggest Disappointments:
The Lovers
The Blob
Cry Terror!
Attack of the 50ft Woman
I Want to Live! (re-watch)
It Happened in Broad Daylight
The Matchmaker
The Haunted Strangler

Blind Spots:
Brink of Life (could not get hold of this though I tried, oh how I tried), A Time to Love and a Time to Die, The Horse’s Mouth, Fiend without a Face, Ice Cold in Alex, Run Silent Run Deep, No Time for Sergeants, South Pacific, Ballad of Narayama, The Long Hot Summer, Cowboy, The Last Hurrah

TOTAL LIST OF FILMS SEEN IN 1958: (bold indicates first-time viewings during research, italics indicates re-watches during research):
The 7th Voyage of Sinbad, Anna Lucasta, Ashes & Diamonds, Attack of the 50ft Woman, Auntie Mame, A Movie, Le Beau Serge, Bell Book and Candle, The Big Country, Big Deal on Madonna Street, The Blob, Bonjour Tristesse, Bridges Go Round, Cairo Station, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Cry Terror!, The Defiant Ones, Elevator to the Gallows, Equinox Flower, The Fly, Giants & Toys, Gigi, The Goddess, The Haunted Strangler, The Hidden Fortress, Horror of Dracula, I Want to Live!, It Happened in Broad Daylight, The Last Day of Summer, The Lineup, The Lovers, The Magician, Man of the West, The Matchmaker, Mon Oncle, Murder by Contract, The Music Room, Party Girl, “Robin Hood Daffy“, Some Came Running, The Tarnished Angels, Terror in a Texas Town, Too Much Too Soon, Touch of Evil, Vertigo

Honorable Mentions:
The Music Room (India, Ray): Music as symbolic wealth and obsolete extravagance haunt a decaying mansion and its owner who refuses to acknowledge change.

Some Came Running (US, Minnelli):
The prodigal son accidentally returns home, torn by himself and the two sides of town, each represented by a lady. Poor Shirley MacLaine; those last five minutes are brilliant and devastating.

Man of the West (US, Mann):
The Straw Dogs of studio westerns, and a volatile, sickening and at times unbearably tense piece of filmmaking. Damn do I really need to catch up with some more Anthony Mann films.

“Robin Hood Daffy” (US, Jones):
Um, Daffy Duck as Robin Hood. Need I say more? “Ho! Haha! Guard! Turn! Parry! Dodge! Spin! Ha! Thrust!”

The Lineup (US, Siegel):
Think of this as being tied with my #10. With San Francisco location shooting even more notable and far less appreciated than Vertigo, this starts as a dull police procedural and morphs into something episodic, dangerous, and off-kilter.

FTV: First Time Viewing

RW: Re-watch
LTF: Long-time Favorite

10. Gigi
(US, Minnelli) (RW)
Some Came Running, Vincente Minnelli’s other 1958 film, may have more meat on its bones, but Gigi is home to personally preferable Parisian frills. The many reasonable criticisms leveled against it play heavily into why I find myself so smitten with it. It is, overall, an admittedly inconsequential story. It’s a musical with nary a dance to be found (and let’s be honest, no real singing either). The protagonist is an impossibly rich and handsome man (Louis Jourdan) who we are meant to empathize with, because, wait for it, he’s bored (besides “It’s a Bore”, another of Gaston’s songs is the petulant “She is Not Thinking of Me”). The story is conflicted over what we expect of women, and then resents them for achieving just that. It has none of the pizzazz or freedom of the director’s soundstage musicals and none of the propulsion of his melodramas.

So; why Gigi? It’s difficult to say. I’d argue that all of the above works, at least to some degree, in its favor. It has a deceptively stilted charm, made up of Minnelli’s sumptuous obsession for dressing-the-frame paired with sparse camera movement. When you look closer, what at first seems oppressive is actually freeing. The actors are given ample room to move about the elaborately constructed spaces or locations, leaving us to appreciate the rich precision of the interiors (That red room! That yellow room! That pink room!), or the way the imaginary is transported into legendary Paris locations. With one simple pan, Maxim’s becomes a gossip funhouse where space curves and endless planes of speculating people blur into one another.

Gigi is a mix of innocuousness and sly implications, and just like Gigi (Leslie Caron) and Gaston, the two constantly play off each other. Sister makeover musical My Fair Lady may have the better songs, but give me the light playfulness and balanced business of this over the stuffy lifelessness of the latter any day. How can I not fall for a film that has Maurice Chevalier misremembering history with Hermione Gingold against a soundstage lit setting sun?

Anna Lucasta
9. Anna Lucasta
(US, Laven) (FTV)
As written, “Anna Lucasta” (inspired by” Anna Christie”) centers on a Polish-American family and an estranged daughter-turned-prostitute returning home. But it was originally performed and adapted by the American Negro Theater, opening in Harlem with an all-black cast in the 1940’s. Fifteen years and one Paulette Goddard film later, an adaptation of the African-American production was released.

Nobody talks or writes about Anna Lucasta. Nobody seems to have seen it (it’s available on Instant Netflix fyi). Those who do write about it do so for its historical value and seem underwhelmed by what’s actually there. It was barely advertised and also dismissed upon release.

I love Anna Lucasta. For one, it’s a needle in a haystack to see an all-black cast during the studio era (fuck, any era) in something other than a musical. Most importantly, it’s damn good. Cinematic? No; Arnold Laven’s direction is something tepid. It’s seen as a detractor, possibly a deal-breaker, when a film isn’t able to shed its stage origins. But there’s a particular way theater grabs hold of its audience from the get-go, using personalities and everyday dynamics that are old hat for the characters but brand new to us. Anna Lucasta fails in the directorial department, but it’s got this quality in spades.

It also has Eartha Kitt, Queen of the World; watching the camera take to her serpentine presence is a privilege. And then there’s Sammy Davis Jr, character actor Rex Ingram as Anna’s deeply troubled father, and a host of offbeat characters rounding out the central family. Though the film prefers a romantic interest  it’s impossible to get behind (who among us actually wants Anna with snoozefest what’s-his-name over the one, the only, Sammy?), Anna Lucasta has an immediately welcoming energy in which we the audience are invited into the well-worn dynamics of this family as Anna herself is begrudgingly and deviously welcomed back into the fold.

The Magician Bergman
8. The Magician
(Sweden, Bergman) (RW)
Hiding among all these adaptations is Ingmar Bergman, wrestling with the very idea and purpose of cinema and his relationship to his audience.

A story of versus; the illusion of truth versus scientific explanation, acknowledging transparency versus willful submission. It’s pretty clear which side Ingmar Bergman is on in this case of absolutes. Bergman asks to what end humiliating the creator serves. In The Magician, stuffy authoritative detractors, led by Gunnar Björnstrand, clinically dissect a form of illusion for being the very thing that it is; illusion. Thus, they are seen as useless, seeing only facade without bothering to think on why the facade exists. Those that submit know they are doing so, whether to be seduced like the sex-starved maids downstairs, or to extract a source of faith or entertainment.

The Magician has a curiously hodgepodge structure. Starting with an enchanted trek through in unforgettably fairy-tale forest as photographed by the great Gunnar Fischer, we then devote whole sections to bawdy sex comedy, elusive two-person conversations and horror. Stringing these sections together is a series of humiliations committed by the stingy non-believers onto Bergman’s alter-ego, the worn-out masked Vogler (Max von Sydow). The Magician is in part about how we mask ourselves and the protection that it provides us. What affected me most about the film was how Vogler reveals himself in the final half (pretending to be mute he finally speaks and sheds his physical disguise), only to be rejected by nearly everybody.

7. Murder by Contract (US, Lerner) (FTV)
An assassin who doesn’t like guns. Prepping over doing. Kicking your feet up and seeing the sights. Those who’ve seen Murder by Contract know how singular it is (Martin Scorsese is chief among them, citing this as a major influence), that it zags where others zig. Removed from almost everything going on in American cinema at the time, it’s a B-movie sunken in its own mellow groove even though the hit job in question has a steadily decreasing deadline. It’s impossible not to think of what Jim Jarmusch would be doing nearly thirty years later. The sparse budget constraints are accompanied by a mulling eccentricity, and a keen sense of humor. Yes, this is one of those films that could easily be described as ‘cool’. Claude (Vince Edwards), our unknowable assassin, is in full control of the existential narrative, even as he struggles to complete his task on time. We’re just happy to be along for that smooth, smooth ride.

6. Auntie Mame
(US, DeCosta) (RW)
Why is it that the happy-go-luckiest film from this group is the most difficult to write about? Auntie Mame doesn’t impress so much as it does slap you silly with celebration. Don’t look too hard at those encrusted jewels and turbans or it all falls apart; luckily, the devil-may-care surface is the thing. It’s got a daring lack of conflict. When something major does happen, like, oh, say, poverty or death, it’s treated like a mild speed bump in the jovial banquet that is life. Director Morton DeCosta sets the stage, literally, bringing theater into film and sectioning the episodic structure by incorporating divisive flourishes like punctuated fade-to-black stage lighting.

Reprising her Broadway role, Rosalind Russell’s uproarious high-wire performance (which stupidly lost an Oscar to Susan Hayward) is no small part of what would eventually define Auntie Mame as a seminal camp work. She plays to the camera, going a mile-a-minute (distracting us so much that we almost don’t notice, but definitely do, the cringe-worthy racist caricature that is Ito), and never loses sight of Mame’s humanity, shown through loyalty and protectiveness. Her constantly evolving interior decorating and costumes are by turns lavish and kitsch. As much as it is a fuck-the-haters film about living life to the fullest, it is also about expressing and flaunting oneself through appearances (which is of course assuming everyone has the social status necessary for this kind of living; like I said, don’t look too hard). Devoid of irony, yet self-aware, Mame’s wealthy bohemian and nonconformist ideologies set up indulgent spectacles in presentation and character. I suspect that a film like Auntie Mame was a healthy and mild way for the general public to engage with eccentricity and alternative living in 1958. It offers a non-threatening form of bohemia while tossing in taboo markers like lesbians, unwed pregnancies and excessive casual drinking on the sidelines. It’s made up of whims, moving at Mame’s swift tempo to the next thing and the next, always in transition. Does time fly by too quickly when living life this way?

With sustained conflict-free lightness and class-based exclusivity, films like Gigi and Auntie Mame may be largely unfashionable and easy targets for present day audiences, but they are indicative of the kaleidoscopic universes that Hollywood was still capable of creating in this dwindling stage of the studio game. And I love them both dearly.

5. Touch of Evil (US, Welles) (RW)
This refers to the reconstructed version of Touch of Evil, put together by editor and audio engineer Walter Murch, producer Rick Schmidlin and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum according to Orson Welles’s famous 58-page memo to Universal which details the ways in which (through both editing and sound) the studio chopped up his vision.

There are only a handful of films that make me want to take a shower afterwards. The Texas Chainsaw Massacre is one. Touch of Evil is another. To see it is to feel the muck of it all in your bones. Every single thing in Welles’s film about border corruption in no man’s land, from macro to micro, is designed to keep us permanently off axis. The second it starts, with that revelatory three minute plus take, it’s like we’re part of a harshly lit carnival attraction. Everybody keeps losing each other, and the combination of characters is constantly shifting. The conventionalized dialogue is delivered like a relay race, with everybody passing the baton to their ever-changing neighbor. And the streets, even when occupied by people, always feel deserted.

Of course, Touch of Evil wasn’t the exact end of film noir’s Golden Age, but it does make for a hell of a send-off; the genre is flayed open, innards spilling out. Uncompromising in every way, all the latent and pent-up sleaze of decades past rises to the top. At the center of it all and at the edges too, is Welles as Captain Hank Quinlan. While watching him, I couldn’t help but think of a line from Robert Shaw’s Indianapolis speech in Jaws, spoken with that drawl; “you know the thing about a shark, he’s got…lifeless eyes, black eyes, like a doll’s eye”. With all that extra padding and makeup, Welles looks like he’s made out of wet clay, sputtering around like a wind-up toy, jerking and lumbering this way and that. He muscles his bloated visage into every frame he can, brandishing Quinlan’s nefarious qualities on the outside. Considering that Orson Welles was a legitimate fear of mine for two years during my adolescence (seriously; I couldn’t go into Blockbusters or look through magazines; guidance counselors got involved), it’s no hyperbole to say that Hank Quinlan was, at one point, my literal worst nightmare. Watching Touch of Evil today reminds me that my fear was completely valid.

4. Bell Book and Candle
(US, Quine) (RW)
Shot after Vertigo, Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak reteamed for Bell Book and Candle, a supernatural comedy that retains Stewart’s obsession with Novak, but trades all of that torment for eccentric frothiness. In the film, Novak casts a literal spell on Stewart. Gillian works for herself, and owns her manipulations, regrets, and the circumstances that lead to her decision (I also love the novelty that someone like Kim Novak is convinced she needs a spell to make someone fall in love with her). Where Vertigo posits Novak as otherworldly through Scottie’s eyes, Bell is about her predicament, breaking through the actress’s distinct brand of impenetrability as well as explicitly engaging with the notion of Novak as feline.

Some may call Bell Book and Candle slight. To me it’s got a brand of lounging whimsy that doesn’t exist today. Sure, it gets up to indulge in some mishaps, but this is primarily a film defined by its quirks (and an alternative Christmas film too!). Witches and warlocks are portrayed as harmless kooky beatniks who blend in with the New York City crowds, and hang at a club called The Zodiac. Jack Lemmon is Gillian’s bongo playing brother and Elsa Lanchester’s her flighty aunt, and she plays it exactly the way you’d imagine.

1958 is the Year of Novak, and her Gillian Holroyd is a hallmark for those of us who appreciate the kinds of presence you can’t buy. Her airs, her clothes, her cat named Pyewacket, her voice like warm honey, and those formidable painted eyebrows. It’s sort of sad that the film systematically strips away her exoticism (her store is even transformed into one of fragile femininity; glass flowers), but what can I say? I’m moved by her conflicting fears and desires to be human, to allow herself to love and be loved. It’s just disappointing that she couldn’t have all this and be a badass witch too. But it gives us a happy ending for Jimmy Stewart and Kim Novak, and who among us could balk at such a resolution?

3. The Tarnished Angels
(US, Sirk) (FTV)
Douglas Sirk transports the stock players and the baggage of melodrama from the previous year’s Written on the Wind into desolate black-and-white territory with a longtime dream project; an adaptation of William Faulker’s Pylon. It’s about post-WWI identity but feels dislodged from time. Trading a suburban setting for death-defying airshow attractions, a pilot (Robert Stack), his wife (Dorothy Malone), and mechanic (Jack Carson) all live in a sort of lost haze where resignation reigns and communication is vacant. For a how-did-I-get-here-and-why-do-I-stay narrative with so much dialogue and reminiscing, this is all about failure to communicate. And when the unspoken finally is spoken, it is too late. Catharsis and loss are all that’s left.

We enter the trio’s (plus son Jack) lives via Rock Hudson’s reporter character named Devlin. James Harvey writes about Hudson’s performance in his excellent book Movie Love in the Fifties, and it’s not exactly a kindly assessment. I don’t agree with him. Hudson’s boyishly masculine persona works for him, not against him, precisely because it goes against the character, complicating everything about him. If he can’t quite pull off the selfish ‘human interest’ pursuer, torn between observing and participating, it only makes the performance more atypically shaded. Instead of a gruff worn-down alcoholic who pokes his nose where it doesn’t belong, we get a man whose looks hide a self-loathing and constant tension derived from his place within the narrative. In short, Hudson makes Devlin less of an immediately recognizable type, and more of a pretty wayward scavenger hunting for scraps.

Dorothy Malone’s (the film’s true MVP) LaVerne understandably runs hot and cold on him. One the one hand he’s trying to help smooth things over. On the other hand; who the fuck does this guy think he is? He barely knows this woman and thinks he can break in on these three tethered souls, judge them, and then, however sincerely, get involved in their affairs. Back up Rock Hudson; back the fuck up.

Douglas Sirk may have had an arduous experience working in black-and-white Cinemascope, but the film doesn’t show it. He and cinematographer Irving Glassberg create sprawling and glowing images that emphasize alienation and the solitary corners of shared spaces. Doom is everywhere. A shadowy specter appears after two characters kiss. Nightmarish parade masks lunge at us throughout. In truth, I find more resonance in the windswept hauntings of The Tarnished Angels than some of Sirk’s color-embellished stories of suburban pulp.

2. Bonjour Tristesse
(US, Preminger) (FTV)
I had been looking forward to seeing Bonjour Tristesse more than anything else on my watchlist. Turns out my hopes were not unfounded. After Otto Preminger launched Jean Seberg into uncertain fame with the much maligned Saint Joan, he put her through his tyrannical ways again with an adaptation of Françoise Sagan’s steamy and scheming coming-of-age novel. Teardrop stained minimalism courtesy of Saul Bass segues into the dour partying of a black-and-white prologue which in turn gives way to the sunny blue skies of the French Riviera. Of course our young Cecile (Seberg) would see her life in the kinds of extremities that alters film stock.

Almost half of the films on this list take on the personalities of their protagonists in some way. This being Cecile’s story (and her narration), Preminger heavily plays into the adolescent angst angle, so much so that at times we even unfairly balk at Anne’s (Deborah Kerr) seemingly obstructive manner. The bond that Cecile has with her father (David Niven) contains far more, and far less, than an underlying incestual vibe. They are, first and foremost, party companions in a world of their own carefree design. Third parties are welcome on the unspoken understanding that it’s all temporary. Not because father and daughter are inseparable (although they kind of are), but because Raymond isn’t built for monogamy. And responsibility is resolutely not welcome on the premises. Preminger makes Seberg a constant presence within the frame, especially when it’s just Raymond and another woman. She’s always somewhere to be found; after all, she’s part of the package.

Besides the potential end of a lifestyle, the threat of Anne’s presence is even more significant in the way it throws Cecile into self-critical thinking. She begins measuring herself against Anne, looking at herself in the mirror, yelling at herself, cursing herself. She is seeing herself in a way she never has, and she doesn’t like what’s looking back.

An easy case could, and should, be made that David Niven’s Raymond is worse than Cecile. At least she can hide behind misplaced passion, the selfishness of privileged teenage life, and eventual remorse. He however, is passive and remote in a story that theoretically revolves around him. Anne and Cecile are the active parties. They battle over someone who is always present but never fully aware or concerned with the extended showdown going on right in front of him. So when we hear him speak to Elsa (Mylène Demongeot) as overheard by Anne as overheard by Cecile as overheard by us (the specific dialogue of which is, critically, not in the book) it is a shocking and cruel moment; a gut-punch to the heart with irrevocable residual impact.

Jean Seberg is a source of constant fixation for me, a mix of the old and new functions of stardom. New because audiences didn’t quite know what to make of her or her modern look (though Godard did after seeing this film); that boyish frame and pixie blonde hair. Old because Preminger’s attempts to launch her career embodies that classic studio way of thinking in that yes, skill matters, but essence is the true key. Seberg’s abilities are limited, yet she’s intoxicating to watch. There’s a flatness in her voice that works in tandem with the character. She may not have it but she has it, and the latter is what counts.

A couple of times during the black-and-white sequences, Cecile looks at the camera, past us, past anything. That final shot is one of self-loathing; she assesses herself a final time, furiously rubbing that emptiness in as far as it can go. There’s a gaping hole where communication ought to be but isn’t. She and Raymond are trapped in a routine of debauchery. Neither have the maturity necessary for confrontation, so they will remain stuck with the tired routine they had once coveted so dearly.


1.Vertigo (US, Hitchcock) (LTF)
There was never any surprise or doubt that Vertigo would be my number one. It’s the film that overtook Citizen Kane as Sight & Sound’s Greatest Film of All Time. It obviously won my Top Ten By Year poll by a landslide even with a juggernaut like Touch of Evil in there. And it’s the second Alfred Hitchcock film to have the top spot on one of my Top Ten By Year lists. The other was my first post for this ongoing project. The year was 1935 and the film was The 39 Steps. Shadow of a Doubt also featured at #2 on my 1943 list.

What do you even say about a film like Vertigo? What strikes me most upon revisiting is it’s the rare film (if anyone can think of others do let me know) that manages to retain its sense of eerie discovery. However well we know the narrative, its almost supernatural hold remains. The ‘mystery’ goes beyond story; it’s pumping in the blood of the thing. It is here that Hitchcock, the definitive deliberate filmmaker, makes what must be his most assured work. While watching, I slowly realized that the entire film consists of two-person scenes (visiting the bookshop with Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes) and the courtroom are the exceptions and even those…). This thread of narrow focus makes its endless calculations an uncommonly intimate experience.

Vertigo is constantly folding and peering in on itself, presenting mirror images of illusions, the act of watching and following (often accompanied by dissolves) never more to the forefront in a Hitchcock film. We watch, we watch Scottie (James Stewart), we watch Scottie watching. Hitch is Scottie, we’re Scottie and we’re Hitch, the director laid bare like never before or since. Under an auteurist lens, Vertigo is something like the ultimate catnip. He’s not hiding behind any defense mechanisms, no acerbic humor. We’re in the deep end of fetishistic obsession; transformation, blondes, the threshold of death, the list goes on. A woman’s eye becomes something out of a Spirograph, the fairer sex a gateway to a destructive black hole.

With that key perspective change, Scottie and us go our separate ways, while a window into Madeleine/Judy (Kim Novak) is cracked; something Scottie never gets. She looks at the camera, begging us to understand and forgive her. Her words, intended for him, never reach their destination. The landmarks and streets of San Francisco function as something recognizably concrete amidst all the slippery pieces, visual cues that set the stage for the final third as Scottie doubles back through his own story in a desperate effort to recreate all he has lost. His damaged pride and blindness to his weaknesses sends him into a frenzied tailspin that goes so wrong so quickly. All we can do is wince and watch with knowledge of the truth while he becomes more and more unreachable.

The key to Vertigo, at least for me, is the crucial fact that ‘Madeleine’ is an invention. Even outside of that fact, Scottie is in love with a backlit profile, never a person. ‘Madeleine’s’ nonexistence only further underlines that. He needs to be needed. We see her through his point of view constantly; as a wilting flower, a painting, a puzzle, a ghost; again, never as a person. In line with the story fed to Scottie, she moves as if possessed. She comes with a hazy kind of light. She is immediately positioned and spied upon as an object among either delicate or timeless objects. Madeleine among the flowers, Madeleine as one with the garden, Madeleine in the museum. Kim Novak’s undercurrent of unease about her own perfection plays directly into her performance. There’s a scene where she sits in Scottie’s living room after a faked attempted drowning. It is their first formal meeting. Her hair is in a loose ponytail and she is wearing a red robe with white polka dots. The scene is an anomaly for both Novak and her character. The ‘Madeleine’ costume hangs in the laundry room (the dress is often made visible in the scene). Her face is open and bare; it’s the only time she isn’t made up to be someone else. Neither Madeleine nor the brash Judy, this scene is Kim herself.

I have to end this with a special shout-out to Midge, one of my favorite characters in film and to Barbara Bel Geddes for making the longtime hanger-on the most relatable, lovable and individualistic that type has ever been.

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1958: A Love Letter

The What I’ll Remember posts are an ongoing tradition; it’s a logbook of sorts and a way to pay tribute to the year-specific viewing I’ve done. It’s also a way of stressing that, while the Top Ten by Year list is the endgame, the process  is what counts. There are takeaways, good and bad, everywhere, and here are some of them.


The meddlesome ultramodern house in Mon Oncle

The 1950’s, the cinematic era of theater (Auntie Mame, Gigi, The Matchmaker, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Bell Book & Candle, Anna Lucasta, Separate Tables)

Banner Years for: Kim Novak, Shirley Maclaine, Deborah Kerr, Tony Curtis, Charlton Heston, Burl Ives, Jeanne Moreau, Paul Newman, Dorothy Malone, Jimmy Stewart, David Niven

The sweet buffoonery of Big Deal on Madonna Street

Gert Fröbe, Burl Ives, and Lee J. Cobb are scary scary men….. (It Happened in Broad Daylight, The Big Country, Man of the West)

touch of evil

….but they have nothing (to be fair, does anybody?) on Orson Welles in Touch of Evil, whose bloated monstrous visage spills into every composition

Marlene Dietrich living every fatalistic line of dialogue as Tanya in Touch of Evil (“Your future’s all used up”, “What does it matter what you say about people”)

Two vastly underseen showbiz biopics (Too Much Too Soon and The Goddess)

Marilyn Monroe didn’t have a film released in 1958, yet Kim Stanley plays a thinly veiled version of her in the probing The Goddess. A worthy technician with none of her spark.

Dorothy Malone
Dorothy Malone’s tattered drunken mess in the harrowing nadir moment of Too Much Too Soon

In his last film appearance, Errol Flynn playing friend John Barrymore but also in turn playing himself in Too Much Too Soon

“The stoplight was against me” (Cry Terror!)

Peter Cushing, so slick in that red velvet (Horror of Dracula)

The laidback ahead of its time eccentricity of Murder by Contract 

the music room

The kathak dance in The Music Room

“His last words were…” (The Lineup)

Forget Christopher Lee, Carol Marsh is Horror of Dracula’s MVP

Horror goes Technicolor (The Blob, Horror of Dracula, The Fly)

Ginnie and Ms. French in the classroom accompanied by visual hierarchy (Some Came Running)

Soaked breasts; the latest weapon against censorship (Cairo Station, The Haunted Strangler)


Confirmed suspicions that Dorothy Malone is not appreciated nearly as much as she deserves (The Tarnished Angels, Too Much Too Soon)

Starting in media res (Terror in a Texas Town)

“Haaaaaaarrrrrrrryyyyyyy!!!!” (Attack of the 50ft Woman)

Sterling Hayden with an endearingly terrible Swedish accent, bringing a harpoon to a gunfight (Terror in a Texas Town)

Man of the West reminding me I need to catch up with Anthony Mann’s filmography

Being unprepared for Man of the West’s descent into torment; it’s the true horror film of 1958

Two films each from Vincente Minnelli, Douglas Sirk, Ingmar Bergman (Some Came Running & Gigi, The Tarnished Angels & A Time to Love and a Time to Die, The Magician & Brink of Life)


The red room in Gigi

The final five minutes of Some Came Running

Postwar life in The Tarnished Angels and Some Came Running (WWI and II respectively)

Suggested Double Features:
Vertigo/Bell Book & Candle
Some Came Running/The Tarnished Angels
Gigi/Auntie Mame
The Goddess/Too Much Too Soon
Murder by Contract/The Lineup 

Real life ex-couple Eartha Kitt and Sammy Davis Jr. (in his film debut) sizzling onscreen together in Anna Lucasta

Have I mentioned how grateful I am for Jack Carson? (The Tarnished Angels, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)

Screen shot 2012-05-15 at 2.59.11 AM

The constantly evolving interior decorating in Auntie Mame’s living quarters

Breakdowns in communication as the starting place (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, The Tarnished Angels) and the finish line (Bonjour Tristesse)

Most intriguing use of screen persona: Rock Hudson in The Tarnished Angels (also; Rock Hudson screaming “Embalming fluid!!!”)

Least Favorite Film Characters of 1958: Agnes Gooch (Peggy Cass; Auntie Mame), Mae Pollitt (Madeleine Sherwood; Cat on a Hot Tin Roof), Gwen French (Martha Hyer; Some Came Running), Horace Vandergelder (Paul Ford; The Matchmaker)

Favorite Characters of 1958: Midge (Barbara Bel Geddes; Vertigo), Gillian Holroyd (Kim Novak; Bell Book and Candle), Ginnie (Shirley MacLaine; Some Came Running), Jiggs (Jack Carson; The Tarnished Angels), Mame Dennis (Rosalind Russell; Auntie Mame); Pat Cooper (Wendy Hiller, Separate Tables)

Ingrid Thulin looking really hot in drag (The Magician)

Gigi’s green coat (Gigi)

Seberg + Preminger Take 2 (Bonjour Tristesse)

Sirk channeling Von Sternberg (The Tarnished Angels)

Wondering if I’m one of those people doomed to find the majority of Ozu’s work merely pleasant (Equinox Flower)

More Afqa film stock please (Equinox Flower)

Dynamation! (The 7th Voyage of Sinbad)


Jean Seberg looking through us as she breaks the fourth wall (Bonjour Tristesse)

Jeanne Moreau walking the streets to Miles Davis (Elevator to the Gallows)

1958; the year of canon films that Katie has varying degrees of dislike, indifference, or merely moderate positivity towards (The Hidden Fortress, Mon Oncle, Equinox Flower, Elevator to the Gallows, Big Deal on Madonna Street, Cairo Station, Ashes & Diamonds, etc etc :dodges all of the tomatoes:)

Jeanne Moreau’s pearls and orgasm in The Lovers

Poor Dandelo (The Fly)

The pale pinks and the red teapot in Equinox Flower

The Matchmaker Perkins Morse

Anthony Perkins and Robert Morse being adorable together, hiding and peeking out of places (The Matchmaker)

The memorable cinematography starring Flashlights and Snow in the final sequences of Le Beau Serge

The needle in a haystack existence of a non-musical 1950’s film with an all-black cast led by the incomparable Eartha Kitt, yet nobody has seen it! Fix that people! (Anna Lucasta)

I want a cat so I can name it Pyewacket (Bell, Book & Candle)

Elsa Lanchester + bongo playing Jack Lemmon = greatest kooky relatives ever? (Bell, Book and Candle)

“America is Japan” (Giants & Toys)

defiant ones

The exhausting physicality on display in The Defiant Ones

The lighter superimposition montages of Giants & Toys

Mendacity (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)

Elizabeth Taylor’s delivery of “He says ‘bull’ when he’s disgusted” (Cat on a Hot Tin Roof)

The somehow charming exclusively experiential ethos present in Gigi and Auntie Mame

Speaking of Gigi and Auntie Mame, both showcase a strangely cavalier attitude towards death and/or near death

All of Kim Novak’s costumes in Bell Book and Candle please, thank you


Auntie Mame and Bonjour Tristesse title pictures from Art of the Title

Bonjour Tristesse titles

Vertigo titles
Battle of the title sequences (Auntie Mame, Bonjour Tristesse, Vertigo)

Jimmy Stewart obsessed with Kim Novak x2 (Vertigo, Bell Book and Candle)

Mame Dennis’s camp and costumes (Auntie Mame)

Rosalind Russell fine tuning the sitcom style of acting (this is meant as a high compliment) (Auntie Mame)

Marveling at how Separate Tables manages to make its Acceptance of a Sexual Predator ending genuinely moving

Extensive San Francisco location shooting (Vertigo, The Lineup)

A handful of favorite shots:

The Magician Bergmanashesanddiamonds1le beau serfejeanne-moreau-les-amants-twotarnishedangls5Kim-Novak-Collection_DVD_R1_Disc2_Bell-Book_03215vertigo-grey-suit-flower-shop

Movie Music Mix: 1958


It goes without saying that this has been, to say the least, a disgusting past couple of days. It’s very difficult to reconcile the stupidity of others and the rather incredible modes of selective thinking and delusional rationalizing people embed in themselves in order to deny what is right in front of their faces.

But the reason I’m here is to share with you a jazzy fun mix from the films of 1958. Unlike 1992’s sprawling and unfocused scope, this is direct and punchy, alternating between jaunty bursts and brooding strings, the latter courtesy of Bernard Herrmann. There’s some tragically unknown gems in here, so do yourself a favor and discover these for yourself (thank me later). Next week I’ll have my ‘What I’ll Remember’ post for 1958 as well as the Top Ten By Year finale post. Below is the track listing as well as a link to 8tracks where you can listen to the whole mix. Hope you enjoy!

Movie Music Mix: 1958 

1. “Theme from Mon Oncle” – composed by Franck Barcellini and Alain Romans – from Mon Oncle
2. “The Night They Invented Champagne” – sung by Betty Wand, Hermione Gingold and Louis Jourdan – from Gigi
3. “Good Times” – composed by Elmer Bernstein – from Anna Lucasta
4. “Main Title” – composed by Henry Mancini – from Touch of Evil
5. “Prelude and Rooftop” – composed by Bernard Herrmann – from Vertigo
6. “Blues for Gassmann Parts 1 & 2″ – composed by Piero Umiliano – from Big Deal on Madonna Street
7. “The Executioner Theme” – composed by Perry Botkin – from Murder by Contract
8. “Jalshagar” composed by Vilayat Khan – from The Music Room (Jalshagar)
9. “The Ballad of Thunder Road” – sung by Robert Mitchum – from Thunder Road
10. “Générique” – Miles Davis – from Elevator to the Gallows
11. “Scene D’Amour” – composed by Bernard Herrmann – from Vertigo