Review: The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Anderson)


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.

Character on the peripheral level is certainly sacrificed to a degree in favor of the nest-egg plot that has hardly any time to dilly-dally with character development not addressing its focus of looking back. An example of this can be seen with Zero and Agatha and the sore spot of it being handled in an ‘oh-yeah-this-was-also-happening’ way. Thankfully, Gustave and his dynamic with the young Zero comes through loud and clear, keying into the film’s swiftness via Gustave’s fast-tracking companionship. Everyone else leaves their mark in some fashion, with varying degrees of success, mostly adding up to caricatures I wish had packed more of a kooky collective punch as opposed to the window-dressing feel of certain players.

This brings us around the ingenious Ralph Fiennes. This is an instance where an actor’s work stamps a character in such a way that the two become inseparable. What I mean is that Fiennes brings Gustave to life in a way nobody else could have, or at least his take on the role suggests as much. For all the savory technical goods, Fiennes wins the If-I-Had-To-Pick-A-Personal-Highlight award. The character as written and performed is made up of comic enthusiasm, antique proclivities and poetic rants. I know this has turned into a praise-rant, but it really is one of the most enjoyable-to-watch performances I’ve seen in years, and if asked to pick a favorite Wes Anderson character, Gustave is on the shortlist.

Clicking along at an almost exhausting pace (I don’t think I could ever conceive of watching this and The LEGO Movie back-to-back), you immediately sense several swigs of the film are in order to grasp and appreciate it story-wise. The underlying sadness provides a nice contrast to the high-energy caper on the surface. Moments of darkly comic macabre violence catch us off-guard, slyly anticipating the very real mourning of change and dire times. Scenarios are revisited with different outcomes and new losses. By the end, we realize that the madcap story is a victory lap for its Old World characters in which Gustave and Zero are given the tribute of triumph in a story being told, being told, being told.

Random Observations:
– One of my favorite touches is how long it takes Dmitri to realize that “Boy with Apple” is missing.
– I want (have) love Alexandre Desplat’s score, which adds such a consistent feel to the entire piece, that of twinkling adornments, foot-tapping snares and ominous organs.
– The fate of a certain cat (this is the second film in a row of Anderson’s which features splayed animal death)
– I love that Willem Dafoe is basically a real-life rendition of his character in Fantastic Mr. Fox
– “Take over”
– Gustave’s various outbursts
– Zero’s applied mustache


Capsule Reviews: Films Seen in 2014 #39-46


#39. Grand Piano (2014, Mira)
Full review over at Criterion Cast:


#40. The Gang’s All Here (1943, Berkeley)
Busby Berkeley, taking on Technicolor, pushes the visionary of geometric extravaganzas as far as he, or anyone in the studio era, was apt to go. I love getting to that certain point while watching a film when you are asked to just let go and hop on for the ride. The answer may be no as often as yes but those ‘yes’ moments are ones to cherish. My answer to The Gang’s All Here was ‘yes, Yes, YES!’ Color is used for grand elegiac expression, such as the “Paducah” under an all-encompassing lavender swirl that predates what An American in Paris would do with dancing and color eight years later. The camera, and the effects work, is periodically used to disorient, heightening our sense of movement and curiosity to a drug-inducing degree. Eugene Pallete’s disembodied head croaking out a song. A camera that arches and lilts over women holding sexualized bananas. The mere fact that a number called “The Polka Dot Polka” serves as a finale with women in purple outfits that look like futuristic workout gear holding neon-pink lit hula hoops.

It’s also, quite simply, a lot of fun despite a central storyline that can exhaust with boredom. Although it must be said that Berkeley himself seems to view it as filler. What makes up for this is that Alice Faye grew on me, that James Ellison is blissfully absent for the entire second act, and that their romance is amusingly resolved with barely a shrug, an afterthought that clearly doesn’t deserve center stage when there are polka dots to be had.

Carmen Miranda is Queen. It’s taken me this long to actually see her in a film, though I was obviously well aware of her before this. A lot can be said for the ways in which her nationality was used as a gimmick as well as a garish ‘foreign’ stereotype, but what about what’s actually there? How about the performance and the work and the fact that she was able to secure a spot for herself within the studio system where every other star also, it must be said, had a minutely constructed screen persona. Miranda is vibrantly hilarious here, with an innate sense of comic timing, over-the-top in every moment (not just when she has dialogue), with the English language locked-and-loaded as her plaything (notably mainly restricted to our idiosyncratic sayings, not the foundation of the language). To say she steals the movie is an understatement. Berkeley sets up a world where the more heightened the better; a world fit to hold and showcase Miranda at the center. She is the purest harbinger of future camp and drag queen aesthetic and performance in the 1940’s.

Charlotte Greenwood, hip society matron and proto-Marcia Wallace with high-swinging legs is a favorite.


#41. Flesh and Fantasy (1943, Duvivier) 
Julien Duvivier’s follow-up anthology film to the previous year’s Tales of Manhattan. Dead ringers for three future “Twilight Zone” episodes, the stories address beauty, fate and self-fulfilling prophecies as they are linked to the occult. The first and second shorts, with their darker twinges, were my favorite. The first suffers a bit from its lack of prelude material. That Henrietta’s experience causes the beauty within to not only materialize but to then transition to the outside is frustrating, mainly because it suggests that the two are inseparable. But I loved this for its vaguely Von Sternberg vibe, its haunted yearning, and for Betty Field with her ratchety voice and hollow-lit face. The second story; “You’re going to kill someone Mr. Tyler”. Still cannot get that oft-repeated line out of my head. Who doesn’t relish watching Edward G. Robinson lose his mind, feverishly talking down an imaginary double and his own self-fulfilling impulses? This is some creepy stuff, with a horror-noir lit sensibility. The third story, featuring Charles Boyer and Barbara Stanwyck, is solid if less interesting. Fate is a central sentiment in many romances, and so this plays out more straight-laced than an occult-led story might have you believe. But Boyer and Stanwyck have enough chemistry together to carry it through, as well as the shimmer of Stanwyck’s lyre earrings. The entire film is beautifully photographed, with a constant tangible sense of the other-wordly just within reach.


#42. Lady of Burlesque (1943, Wellman)
Notable if only for the opportunity of seeing William Wellman and Barbara Stanwyck re-team for a B-movie at the height of her career (or was it?) based on a novel by Gypsy Rose Lee. Stanywyck sings (badly), does splits (!) and cartwheels (no, seriously, it’s awesome). Highlights include the antagonistic romance between Dixie and comic Biff Brannigan and a lived-in seedy setting that the film supports and backs 100%. But this is largely dull, with endless group interrogations and no central mystery for the audience to grab, even if the killer’s motives fall in nicely with the notion of burlesque camaraderie.


#43. The Human Comedy (1943, Brown)
Exactly the kind of film that theoretically worked like gangbusters on an American WWII audience looking for idyllic patriotism. Also a prime example of a WWII Hollywood film I find fascinating, for lack of a more original word, as a cultural artifact. It is one of the most inconsistent films I’ve ever seen, wavering from a poignant and studied slice-of-life to the pushed-to-the-hilt brand of saccharine Americana that reads as nauseating today. This was Louis B. Mayer’s baby, with heaven always in sight and lessons always one step away from being learned, all in warm deep focus. The loose vignette-like structure is slightly ahead-of-its-time for Hollywood; narrative takes a backseat to the on-goings in the microcosm homefront town of Ithaca.

Any genuine moments, and there are quite a few, are subsequently undercut by five unbearably syrupy developments or beats that undo anything that rang true mere moments ago. You know it’s rough when they make the illiterate kid’s struggles unintentionally funny by way of overbearing. A prime example of The Human Comedy’s chronic overkill habit comes at the end. The film’s loveliest moment occurs when Mickey Rooney’s Homer (in by far the best work I’ve seen from him) plays horseshoe with James Craig during his walk home; a brief respite before having to deliver some devastating news to his family. This segues into the final scene in which the loss of death is immediately substituted by an orphan character looking to weasel his way into the family before they’ve even learned the horrible news-to-come. What would normally be seen as creepy and invasive and stalker-like is welcomed and championed by the film. Hell, it’s even supported by the dead! We get it; The Human Comedy, like many WWII-era films, promotes a set of ideal and wholesome standards and values with which to strive towards in turbulent times. But by the time the kid in the library just keeps repeating “All these! All these!” over and over again, patience has long lost the battle.


#44. Finding Vivian Maier (2014, Maloof & Siskel)
Review coming soon


#45. The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014, Anderson)
Short review coming soon


#46. Jane Eyre (1943, Stevenson)
At a certain point, watching the 1943 adaptation of Jane Eyre becomes something approaching painful. This surely has to be one of the worst adaptations of a classic novel out there in the vast world of filmic interpretation. Moves from event to event, unforgivably skipping some (see ya formative Red Room incident), botching others (we don’t even get to see Bertha? Seriously?) to grossly failing to convey or understand the material in any way that would service even a mediocre motion picture. Joan Fontaine brings her permanently pained look to Jane, where characterization fears to tread. Orson Welles seems like he is talking to himself the entire time. He acts for himself, as if unaware that maybe, just maybe, he may want to consider playing a scene with the other people in the room. So the central romance, Jane’s arc, and connecting her emerging adulthood to her childhood experiences all fails to register. Restructuring the purpose and role of Rivers makes little sense from virtually every angle. The sets and photography help us through, evoking an effectively unfamiliar Gothic sensibility.

The last scene is a tour de force of unintentional hilarity. Welles, forever stumbling through his own ruins, momentarily turns into Ron Burgundy, only to then plant the most aggressively awkward kiss of the studio era.

Films Seen in 2014: #26-38

Catching up with these, some of which had been written a month ago, some of which won’t be written and some of which were written recently. February being such an upheaval of a month for me, I could not get around to constructing thoughts on some of these films with everything in such a state of turmoil, so I’ll provide a 1-5 star rating for those, if only for some ballpark sense of my reaction to them on a positive/negative scale.

Hard Boiled

#26. Hard Boiled (1992, Woo) (Hong Kong)
Melting pot of virtually every action movie cliche there ever was. Widespread mayhem, avenging lost partners, undercover cops, hotshots, antagonistic teamwork banter. It all comes together with fluid chaos through Woo’s ‘bullet-ballet’. And all of it, I mean all of it, is kicked up to an outrageous plane. Even for Woo. Arms arsenal hidden underneath a hospital? Babies in jeopardy? Guns hidden in library books? Protagonists who are able to dodge an endless onslaught of bullets while everyone else around them gets hit? It’s all there.

Gunfights are my least favorite kind of action scene and even John Woo: Master of Ammo can’t entirely alleviate that. It makes up the entire second half which is pushed to dizzyingly destructive heights. It becomes a bit too end-all-be-all for me to stay with it for keeps. From the John Woo I’ve seen, I much prefer The Killer and Face/Off. Chow Yun-Fat and baby-faced be-still-my-heart crane-building Tony Leung are marvelous. The early tearoom and warehouse fight sequences are my favorite and Woo has a knack for instilling marvel in the viewer from the sheer chaos and stuntwork within the frames and cuts. Can’t forget that 5-minute hospital take that predates what all future first-person shooter games. It’s unfortunate that the hour-long onslaught actually flattens Woo’s cinematic language instead of purifying his brand of explosive mayhem. This is probably why the earlier standalone action sequences did more for me. But I have the utmost respect for a film that hinges its climax on a baby urinating down Chow Yun-Fat’s leg.

Pierrot le Fou

#27. Pierrot le Fou (1965, Godard) (France)
Pierrot le Fou is sort of invaluable from an auteurist perspective. It is uncommonly locked and loaded, marking a major turning point in Godard’s career. But it’s not a turning point before-or-after. It’s a turning point in progress, and that’s where I find most of the film’s return value. Godard goes about self-destructing his own refined patchwork formalism even as he continues to engage with it. American gangster tropes remain but he’s not invested in them, not even remotely, not even as passive pastiche.

Starting out in an ABC manner, the second half is like it was caught on camera. The story is in the spaces, the non-events, the improvised restlessness. Ferdinand and Marianne are static opposites; There’s nothing particularly investment-worthy about them and their connection never feels quite sustainable. Or rather there’s always something disingenuous about them. Marianne wants to live, be active, and if liveliness comes through in criminality so be it. Ferdinand wants to write, to philosophize about the world around him, but it’s a dead-end. He shuts himself off, doesn’t acknowledge Marianne. So it’s a stalemate. And of course it’s a stalemate that in some ways mirrors the disintegration of the Godard/Karina marriage.

Primary colors pop everywhere. The first half has a lot of stylistic wow moments, my favorite being the nighttime car scenes with accompanying UFO-circling lights. And then there’s the color-coded bourgeois boredom. Godard seems to be contemplating the words that come courtesy of Sam Fuller’s cameo.

Those oppositional personalities also come into play through the overlapping voiceover, which doesn’t necessarily have competing narrative battling, but a singular narrative being fought between two people. The sea is crucial to the film, its open, endless, hazy blue picaresque backdrop for the ‘idyllic’ couple-on-the-run story.

I don’t know if I’ll ever find Godard as rewarding. as a whole, as so many people do. The way he incorporates story within his formalism often feels incredibly cardboard or inconsequential, if impressively rigorous and risk-taking, instead of renegade pastiche cool. But I’d like to get an intellectual handle on his life’s work, all of it (not just the hip 60’s stuff, some of which I do happen to love) with whatever accompanying appreciation that eventually brings. There’s a lot of airily marvelous stuff here that is off-the-cuff in content; again, like it’s been caught. Like it’s constructing its own narrative or lack thereof as it goes. That’s a great thing to see as a viewer. I’m particularly fond of Belmondo’s Michel Simon impression and his conversation with the man with the song in his head.


#28. Fists in the Pocket (1965, Bellocchio) (Italy)
Next-level dysfunctional family films are kind of my bag. Films that leave behind any trace of quirky dysfunction (actually forget leave behind, more like not even considered or acknowledged) in favor of the kind of fucked-up toxicity where black comedy lurks at the edges and may give way to horror which may give way to new tonal territories.

So I knew I’d love this. This was Marco Bellocchio’s first film, and it upends Catholic devotion and the ways they come in hand with family priorities, bonds and loyalties. On the surface, nothing about the film seems subtle but there actually are some nice narrative slight-of-hands played on the audience without fanfare, and through slow unfolding. They don’t even play directly into narrative developments, but significantly add to it as a character piece.

At the outset, it looks as if Augustus is being pitched to us as the ‘normal one’. That he is our protagonist. Turns out not only is he least useful to the story and to himself, but Bellocchio sees him as being worst offender for having thoughts and not acting on them, however bad. He feigns altruism. He never expresses rage at Ale’s suggestions, secretly hoping they are carried out. The inactive escapes to happier things bare the consequences of their misguided intentions. The end irony is that Ale is the very thing he hates. He may not be part of the ‘incurables’ like the mother and Leone, but he kind of is. He’s just as dependent. And he resorts to murder just to separate himself from those he sees as helpless an dependent.

Seamless and jarring scene transitions keep everything slightly askew. Behavior is in a generally regressive state of play. There is an emphasis on hands. Most importantly is the focus on spontaneous gesture, on communicating with jolts of the body.

Lou Cassell is explosive. Everything at once. Inner child, killer, dependent, impulsive, hesitant, inept, depressed, operatic. The finale is borne out of an attack that positions those body-driven moments as the climax.

The snowy mountainous landscape is gorgeous and isolated. Ennio Morricone’s dirge-like score sounds like a siren calling from the deep. It is echoing and mocking. Challenging work in terms of character motivations and dynamics. It’s all laid out on the table for us, but you soon realize all that surface level regression is a show. It’s an empty banquet. The reality is off in the corner, and we never quite get to see it though the film’s aggression makes us think we do. It’s in that ambiguous time passage in the attic. It’s in all the unspoken background. For this, and many other things, I love it.

The Passenger

#29. The Passenger (1975, Antonioni) (Italy/Spain)
Rests comfortably below L’Avventura and Red Desert and above Blow-UpL’eclisse and La Notte. All the Antonioni trademarks are present, still feeling vitally introspective and universal to how existentialism fits into the act of living. It’s a study on alienation and loneliness of course. And certainly of depression in a way I can’t recall feeling from his other films. It’s about an unfillable void, which is why the negative space is central to compositions. The search for answers, for a new identity, is a dead end.

Thoughts on The Passenger cannot exist without addressing the bravura 7-minute take at the end. It’s a new way of showing, or not showing, death. The logistics and accomplishment of the thing is impressive enough. But the way it makes death unpunctuated, with no fanfare. As something that is as secluded as secluded gets, passing by while a child plays outside, where the sun keeps shining. The other side of the window. The Girl recognizes David. Rachel doesn’t. And how about that other take early on as the David’s blend together in past and present, the camera tracking Nicholson as he makes his decision.

Just who are we? David doesn’t want to be David anymore. But you can’t escape yourself; just the external components. Just the baggage. He is a reporter. He’s seen a lot, been many places. But he’s just a perpetual observer working within the accepted guidelines. Just look at his interview with the President of an unidentified African nation. The old life and the new life collide and squeeze him dry.

The Passenger has the markings of a thriller, but it’s incidental, used to push the character study. Jack Nicholson gives such an atypical performance for him, and it stands out in ways that need to be seen to be believed. He is vulnerable, desperately wanting to change, going about everything cautiously even in newfound freedom. Hard to reach, but ready to be open. Waxing philosophical.

I hope Criterion or some other respected video distribution company picks this up and gives it the release it deserves. Its current DVD condition is really rough stuff. Would kill to see this film looking its best.

Random Notes/Highlights:
– Seeing Barcelona, specifically Palau Guell and the roof of La Pedrera, was a special treat.
– David’s camera getting turned on him, the questions saying more about him than interviewee’s answers.
– David being approached in the church. The way Nicholson plays that entire scene, particularly his slow turn.
– “What are you running away from?” “Turn your back to the front seat”
– Love David’s green suit. That green suit and mustache look.


#30. Red Beard (1965, Kurosawa) (Japan)
Couple this with Ikiru, and you’ve got Akira Kurosawa’s two most humanistic films (of the 11 I’ve seen). All about empathy and the human experience, Red Beard has an edge of sentimentality to it, a do-unto-others quality that could have easily felt naive or saccharine but is instead intensely sincere and beautifully observed. Perfectly paced, with each character having their own story, their own beaten down struggles which we are made privy to.

His last black-and-white film, and generally a major transitional marker in his career, Kurosawa makes exquisite use of depth perception and the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. His use of horizontal planes and angles make for compositions that fiddle with distance and closeness, cramming people together and forcing them apart in equal measure. The enormous contained sets make the tragedies feel more resonant and the victories that much more radiant. And it even manages to sneak in a healthy dose of Toshiro Mifune Kicking Ass when he beats the tar out of a group of petty criminals.

#31. Love is Colder than Death (1969, Fassbinder) (West Germany): **1/2 
#32. Katzelmacher (1969, Fassbinder) (West Germany): **1/2 
#33. Siren (2014, Peyronel) (USA): **

Obchod na korze.avi_snapshot_00.54.32_[2011.12.17_02.05.05]
#34. The Shop on Main Street (Obchod na Korze) (1965, Kadar & Klos) (Czechoslovakia)
Sneakily broaches its subject by bringing the fledgling everyman, not the heroic everyman, into the systematic erasure of his Jewish neighbors. Flirts with comic sensibilities with its plucky nightmare strings which in fact are building to an agonizing pressure-cooker last act where cowardice flips to bravery flips to drunken cowardice flips to really drunken cowardice flips to Holy-Fuck-Tell-Me-That-Did-Not-Just-Happen. Josef Kroner is bravura, a kind of sad sack Bob Denver.


#35. Tokyo Olympiad (1965, Ichikawa) (Japan)
Momentous national pride is paired with a worldly look at physical human strength and feat; what the human body can do and where it can go. What starts as evenly distributed straightforward coverage begins to take many different forms as we move from sport to sport. Fish-eye masters, slow-motion recaps, shaky mediums. Narration often disappears. What is left is something for everybody. With the outcome rarely at the center, athlete and spectator participate to break records and to marvel at human will.


#36. The Wind Rises (2014, 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. Thank God Studio Ghibli has two upcoming projects I’m stoked about. New Takahata!


#37. The LEGO Movie (2014, Lord and Miller) (USA)
The most high-energy film I’ve seen since…Scott Pilgrim vs. the World? Or going further down the line, Moulin Rouge! An astonishing sense of ceaseless forward momentum. I’d actually use the word ‘manic’ as a descriptor. Visually kind of mindblowing with its combination of CGI and LEGOmation, resulting in a specific aesthetic none of us have seen before. The visual qualities parallel the essence of the toys at their most imaginative with constant motion and an always evolving landscape. In fact, it’s impossible to process everything you are seeing at any given point and warrants several re-watches on this quality alone. Lord and Miller bring their irreverent and slightly absurdist brand of humor from “Clone High” (hear that dolphin sound fellow fans?) into this world. The jokes are so quick that when they miss it flashes by in an instant and lands on something  uproarious. “Spaceship? Spaceship! SPACESHIP! SPACESHIP!!!”

As far as objectives, it bites off a bit more than its capable of chewing by the end. There’s a lot of ‘don’t conform!’ to ‘but rules are good! to ‘corporation=bad’ (but it’s a LEGO movie you say! Yes, we hear you) and ‘you just have to believe’ to the importance of imagination and creativity. Luckily the film has pretty interesting ways of going about each of these objectives, and I found its final act rug-pulling pretty inspired even if I’m still working through how I feel about it. Yes, it ends up being even more directly promotional to LEGOs, but I admired the way it addressed the ways in which children use toys (and specifically the nature of LEGOs) not only as an outlet from their personal lives but as an environment which fosters creativity and imagination in some essential ways. The reveal also makes glorious parody of the done-to-death stories of prophecies, chosen ones and vague dictatorial villains in that it credits these cliches into something a child would make up. And “Everything is Awesome” is addicting and really captures the film’s spirit.


#38. Stormy Weather (1943, Stone) (USA)
About Bill ‘Bojangles’ Robinson’s life, except that it really isn’t at all. What this is is an all-out revue with minimal pretext. With an all black cast in a Hollywood picture, as a response to MGM’s Cabin in the Sky, its a one-off to say the least, especially considering that the characters, while struggling to make it in the business, are allowed the kind of frivolity afforded to many studio system productions. It surprisingly sidesteps piety and unsurprisingly sidesteps critique in favor of neutrality (hello white filmmakers) but also kind of refreshing if only in its sense of lightness. What we get is a kind of time capsule treat of legendary black performers of the era, a production so rare that a new musical number occurs every couple of minutes as if the film had to cram in and make sure to represent everything these icons had to offer in one fell swoop. Because, well, ain’t that the truth. Highlights include Horne’s “Stormy Weather”, Fats Waller’s “Ain’t Misbehavin'”, dapper Cab Calloway and his droopy drawers, and The Nicholas Brothers who give the most impressive feat of a tap-dance routine ever committed to celluloid. It’s a show-stopper.

Movie Music Mix: 1965

Scores and soundtracks alike, many of the films I watched from 1965 had me tracking down some kind of music after watching them. 1965 was a booming year for music and I think that comes across with this mix. I’m rubbish at writing about music, so I won’t, but there’s a mix of psychedelic pop, lounge jazz, iconic classics and more.

There were a couple of pieces of music I would have liked to get on here but there is literally no isolated versions of them anywhere. Yoyo, which perhaps had the most indelible music from anything I watched from that year, has no soundtrack or even youtube music uploads to speak of. This is all related to the film becoming recently available for the first time. Repulsion’s skittish jazz score also has no succinct existence anywhere on the interwebs. So I had to let those go. Everything else I was at least able to find a youtube upload and convert it to MP3. There’s some really famous stuff I opted out of putting in here. Most notably “Lara’s Theme” from Doctor Zhivago and anything from The Sound of Music. Reasons being I’m indifferent to each. I do like a lot of the songs in The Sound of Music but not enough to put them on here. These are songs I love. And that was the criteria for me. Not to be represent the year as a whole.

I posted the mix on 8tracks (sans Fists in the Pocket track because they only allow 2 songs per artist) so it’s available for listening if anyone is interested. Sorry for the poor quality on certain songs. It is literally the only access I had to them.

8tracks mix link:


  1. “For a Few Dollars More” (theme) – composed by Ennio Morricone – from For a Few Dollars More
  2. “Main Title/Spiral Waltz” – composed by Piero Piccioni – From The 10th Victim
  3. “My Little Red Book” – Manfred Mann – from What’s New Pussycat? (was so tempted to put Love’s rendition but held back)
  4. “Just Out of Reach” – The Zombies – from Bunny Lake is Missing
  5. “Linus and Lucy” – Vince Guaraldi Trio – from A Charlie Brown Christmas
  6. “Run Pussy Cat” – The Bostweeds – from Faster Pussycat Kill! Kill!
  7. “What’s New Pussycat?” – Tom Jones – from What’s New Pussycat?
  8. “Hooligan” – Artist unknown – from Loves of a Blonde
  9. “Ticket to Ride” – The Beatles – from Help!
  10. “Skating” – Vince Guaraldi  Trio– from A Charlie Brown Christmas
  11. “I Pugni in Tasca” (Fists in the Pocket) – composed by Ennio Morricone – Fists in the Pocket
  12. “Who Killed Teddy Bear” –  Leslie Uggams– from Who Killed Teddy Bear
  13. Final Duel Music (no official name) – composed by Ennio Morricone – For a Few Dollars More (not available on soundtrack, used in film only. “Sixty Seconds to What” is closest representation on soundtrack)

Top Ten By Year: 1965

For those unaware of my Top Ten By Year column; I pick years that are weak for me re: quantity of films seen. I’m using listmaking as a motivation to see more films and revisit others in a structured way. And I always make sure to point out that my lists are based on ‘favorites’ not any notion of an objective ‘best’.

Back, way back, into the yesteryear of December, I cannonballed into 1965. I had easily seen the least amount of films from that year out of the entire decade (16). At first glance it looked like a bit of a barren wasteland, particularly when looking to Hollywood. They were right on the precipice of major crumblings and new beginnings; bloated seemed like the surface term of choice for the time being. Bigger is better was the mantra, sometimes striking very expensive gold, often striking out. Always searching for that new aspect ratio that would stretch the limits even more. Trying to come up with draws to combat the titillating European imports. Of course there were major New Waves happening many places from France to Japan to Czechoslovakia. Britain was in a transitional spot, shifting from their recent Wave towards a more escapist centrality. Basically what I’m saying is that in my mind I’d foolishly already sized up 1965 before I started. It didn’t look like there was too much I wanted to see in addition to what I was already familiar with. I’m never blind enough to follow suit with reductive historical thinking, yet I can’t say I was overly enthused with what the year had to offer at first glance.

Going into any year in film to this kind of ‘nth’ degree, you come out of it with a new understanding. The new understanding is the concrete evidence from concentrated film viewings that the written-in-stone overview of anything historical always masks endless subtleties, exceptions to the rule, the fact that most things are overlooked, and that nothing is ever what it seems. Bigger, bigger, bigger may have been the mantra in Hollywood, with Britain following suit with escapism and epic adaptations (Help!, Doctor Zhivago), but an electric underground streak of exploitation and a bolder acknowledgment of social changes (The Party’s Over, Who Killed Teddy Bear, Repulsion, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!) was very much present in both countries. These weren’t ‘issue’ films created under a structure; the transgression was the text. For every goofy played-out genre smacking (Beach Blanket Bingo, The 10th Victim) and epic race-themed comedy (Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines, The Great Race) someone in Hollywood or Britain did something bold or confrontational in form, story or tone (The Train, Bunny Lake is Missing, The Loved One, The Pawnbroker, The War Game).

The pedestal ‘canon’ films, the mammoths, both previously seen and unseen, provided a wide range of responses from straight-up unimpressed (Juliet of the Spirits, Alphaville, Come Drink with Me) or unengaged to yes-this-is-just-that-great (Repulsion, Loves of a Blonde, Red Beard). And the ever-present middle ground of ‘like/like a lot with reservations’. In that category falls Chimes at Midnight; a towering patchwork creation in both making-of and content but subject to long bouts of slobbery tomfoolery which left me behind. Pierrot le Fou; invaluable from an auteurist perspective and a key work in every way, but Godard’s hyper-aware deconstructions often make his films, all rewards aside, feel ponderous on a basic and inescapable level for me. That being said, I liked Pierrot le Fou. It just won’t appear on the list. Doctor Zhivago; a production for the ages with unforgettably photographed winter, but tepid in its central love story. The Sound of Music; watchable and lively, but not a film I’ve ever considered even a casual favorite (indeed I never feel the need to see it again).

More than 1935 and 1983 (the two other years I’ve completed), 1965 introduced me to an array of underappreciated (in some cases barely discovered!) gems. We’re talking underappreciated even within the online film community (lack of availability for a few of these titles surely to blame).All of those will be either on the Honorable Mentions list or the actual list.

I figured I’d have a solid top ten by the end of this. A top ten I could stand by like the proud lover of film I am. But, just like 1983, 1965 made my job excruciating within the realms of listmaking. I cannot stress enough that the ten films, and the five I’ve highlighted as honorable mentions, are all films I loved.
Now to pay tribute to five films that did not make my final cut, but have surely left their marks. Of the five, Bunny Lake is Missing is comfortably nuzzled into place. The other four shine a light on the closeness and flimsiness of compartmentalized listmaking because each may as well be on the list alongside the chosen ten.

Bunny Lake is Missing (UK, Preminger) for its potentially feminist reading, a Hall-of-Fame level assortment of eccentric British supporting players, and a macabre display of updated Gothic tropes.

Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (USA, Meyer) in which Tura Satana gives us an iconic rough-and-tumble Class A Bitch in Varla. Varla is Satana. Satana is Varla. She takes ownership of the film and its gaze. All of her life experience, her defenses, her attitude make up this cult classic’s DNA.  She twists dialogue into seething barking camp gold (I don’t beat clocks, just people! Wanna try me?) She’s the primo example of essence sometimes meaning more than traceable talent. Despite a lack of evidential acting skills, she possesses the oxymoron of not only convincing us through her stilted rawness, but being more watchable than 99% of people who have ever graced the silver screen.

The Shop on Main Street (Czechoslovakia, Kadar & Klos) which would be my #11. Sneakily broaches its subject by bringing the fledgling everyman, not the heroic everyman, into the systematic erasure of his Jewish neighbors. Flirts with comic sensibilities with its plucky nightmare strings which in fact are building to an agonizing pressure-cooker last act where cowardice flips to bravery flips to drunken cowardice flips to really drunken cowardice flips to Holy-Fuck-Tell-Me-That-Did-Not-Just-Happen. Josef Kroner is bravura, a kind of sad sack Bob Denver.

Tokyo Olympiad (Japan, Ichikawa) where momentous national pride is paired with a worldly look at physical human strength and feat; what the human body can do and where it can go. What starts as evenly distributed straightforward coverage begins to take many different forms as we move from sport to sport. Fish-eye masters, slow-motion recaps, shaky mediums. Narration often disappears. What is left is something for everybody. With the outcome rarely at the center, athlete and spectator participate to break records and to marvel at human will.

Yoyo (France, Etiax) for its elegant light of touch coupled with startling ambition rooted in comedic slapstick traditions. Uniquely traditional, especially considering the time and place, yet progressively playful. Remains fresh, even when seen today.

Biggest Disappointments (from the new-to-me viewings):
Planet of the Vampires
The 10th Victim
The Saragossa Manuscript
The Loved One

Blind Spots (not exhaustive): 
Darling, In Harm’s Way, Cat Ballou, The Family Jewels, The Hill, Inside Daisy Clover, Die! Die! My Darling, Lord Jim, Mickey One, Ship of Fools, Sword of the Beast, A Thousand Clowns, Thunderball, Ride in the Whirlwind, Samurai

Complete List of 1965 Films Seen: Alphaville, Bad Girls Go to Hell, Beach Blanket Bingo, Le Bonheur, Bunny Lake is Missing, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Chimes at Midnight, Come Drink with Me, Doctor Zhivago, The Dot and the Line, Faster Pussycat Kill Kill!, Fists in the Pocket, Flight of the Phoenix, For a Few Dollars More, Help!, I Saw What You Did, Juliet of the Spirits, The Loves Goddesses, The Loved One, Loves of a Blonde, The Nanny,The Party’s Over, A Patch of Blue, The Pawnbroker, Pierrot le Fou, Planet of the Vampires, Pleasures of the Flesh, Rapture, Repulsion, The Saragossa Manuscript, Simon of the Desert, The Shop on Main Street, The Sound of Music, The Spy Who Came in from the Cold, Story of a Prostitute, The 10th Victim, Those Magnificent Men and their Flying Machines, Tokyo Olympiad, The Train, The War Game, What’s New Pussycat?, Who Killed Teddy Bear, Yoyo 

10. Fists in the Pocket
 (Italy, Bellocchio)
Next-level dysfunctional family films are kind of my bag. Marco Bellocchio’s debut upends Catholic devotion and the ways they come in hand with family priorities, bonds and loyalties. On the surface, nothing about the film is subtle, but there are actually some nice narrative slight-of-hands played on the audience without fanfare and through slow unfolding. They don’t even play directly into narrative developments, instead significantly adding to it as a character piece.

Seamless and jarring scene transitions keep everything slightly askew. Behavior is in a generally regressive state of play. There is an emphasis on hands. Most importantly is the focus on spontaneous gesture, on communicating with jolts of the body.

Lou Cassell is explosive. Everything at once. Inner child, killer, dependent, impulsive, hesitant, inept, depressed, operatic. The finale is borne out of an attack that positions those body-driven moments as the climax.

The snowy mountainous landscape is gorgeous and isolated. Ennio Morricone’s dirge-like score sounds like a siren calling from the deep. It is echoing and mocking. It is a challenging work in terms of character motivations and dynamics. Surface level regression is a show. It’s an empty banquet. The reality is off in the corner, and we never quite get to see it, though the film’s aggression makes us think we do.

Loves of a Blonde 1
9. Loves of a Blonde (Czechoslovakia, Forman)
A coming-of-age triptych built on a naive clutch for escapism via romance. There is a constant back-and-forth between characters who criss-cross within comic setpieces, trekking through social and domestic debacles with a wry tracking observation. The first sequence in particular has the camera functioning almost as a sports announcer, catching increasingly lumbering developments from all sides. What impressed me most about it was how Forman’s second work has a quick-witted touch, laced w/ Czech pop music and a kind of farcical comedy-of-errors, but there’s a sincere sadness underneath it all that may or may not be reconcilable.

8. For a Few Dollars More
 (Italy, Leone)
Trumps The Good, the Bad and the Ugly for me. I just find it more consistently engaging on a storytelling level, specifically the set-up of Clint Eastwood and Lee Van Cleef as rival bounty killers who tenuously team up to take down El Indio. They tiptoe around each other for a bit; we are introduced to each via their disparate work strategies. With their first meeting, communication comes in boot-crunching, silent assessments and, in a patient bit of comedy with a matched pay-off, hat shooting. In fact the entire film is littered with pay-offs, most notably the finale (big shocker) which had me cheering out loud during a solo viewing for the first time in forever. Those kinds of moments don’t come around often; it’s always affirming to be swept off one’s feet, roused to such a degree and so firmly in a character’s corner as I was the moment Manco shows up with that timepiece.

When Ennio Morricone and Sergio Leone get together, music becomes a tent under which the entire production gathers. In both For a Few Dollars More and Once Upon a Time in the West, non-diegetic and diegetic sound merge and inform each other with one common element. In For a Few Dollars More it’s the timepiece. In Once Upon a Time in the West it’s the harmonica. The music is a direct outgrowth of the story. Part of the fabric, its essence you could say, gallantly taking off in grander operatic directions.

This is also the most potent I’ve found Clint Eastwood’s presence as iconic figure. All fluidity in his essential movements; ever-watchful and unwavering. Waiting for opportunities to present themselves. Co-lead Lee Van Cleef is best in show as Colonel Mortimer. Persistent weariness and endearing conviction. All three lead players compliment and elevate each other.

Leone continues to perfect frame-filling studies of the masculine face and the vastness around them. Sure enough, the soundtrack has already joined the rest my Morricone on the iPod to be listened to on endless repeat.

7. The Dot and the Line: A Romance in Lower Mathematics (USA, Jones & Noble) (short)

Chuck Jones adapting a Norton Juster book combines two of my favorite people in one fell swoop. Well, problem is, Jones’ other adaptation of Juster’s work, his 1966 animated feature The Phantom Tollbooth, is purely disappointing fare. Luckily, this slightly earlier, much shorter work by Chuck Jones from a much shorter (picture book short) work by Norton Juster is just the opposite. With reliably droll narration from dependable character actor Robert Morley, Jones combines abstraction and flexible wit to make one of my favorite animated shorts of all time.

It presents a tale as old as time story of boy-meets-girl, girl-shuns-boy, boy-eventually-wins-over-girl in a new way; as a fable with geometric shapes. The third part of this romantic triangle is a Squiggle beatnik, a very snap-snap of-the-time threat. It’s a slow-and-steady wins the race kind of message. What may seem boring and stolid is actually something else entirely. What may seem adventurous and hip can actually be anarchic and slippery. Its fable-ness makes it quite conservative, but it’s a lovely story in the way it shows the flipside of perception, turning negatives into pluses. Look a little deeper it says. And there’s a sly little critique of its own message at the very end in that they love “if not happily ever after, at least reasonably so”.

Who Killed Teddy bear
6. Who Killed Teddy Bear (USA, Cates)
This hit all my check boxes for cult curios with a rare kind of verve. It revels in its simple ‘Peeping Tom’ plot and is largely made up of the threat of transgression and threatening-to-boil-over sexual energy. The body is constantly eroticized; male and female alike in the forms of Sal Mineo and Juliet Prowse.

The location footage captures Times Square and Manhattan as peep show haven. A place you can stroll to your crotch’s desire. All proto-Taxi Driver comparisons are apt. Mineo seethes with self-hate, both at his unquenchable thirst and an inability to separate himself from what he sees as the gutter. It’s too preoccupied with deviancy to function as an on-the-level release at the time. It’s also too much of a rehash story to be truly outre. So it lies between with its underground renegade spirit and endless streaks of art-sleaze stopping by way of kitsch.

You’ve got Sal Mineo with his chiseled bod, and a perfectly repressed performance, complete with gym workout montage! There’s Juliet Prowse who is so engaging and gorgeous. There’s Elaine Stritch as a lesbian discotheque manager! There’s a detective obsessed with fetishists whose daughter is stuck overhearing victim’s detailed case interviews and being surrounded by smutty mags lying around the apartment. Outdated in its hilarious blanket definition of ‘perverse’ and yet progressive in its voyeuristic fixation on and acknowledgment of different types of sexuality and urges (both healthy and harmful) that society largely ignored(s). Comes complete with an almost too-catchy title song and contains quite possibly the greatest scene in the history of film. Oh yes. I’m talking about the Sal Mineo/Juliet Prowse dancing scene.

5. Red Beard (Japan, Kurosawa)
Couple this with Ikiru, and you’ve got Akira Kurosawa’s two most humanistic films (of the 11 I’ve seen). All about empathy and the human experience, Red Beard has an edge of sentimentality to it, a do-unto-others quality that could have easily felt naive or saccharine but is instead intensely sincere and beautifully observed. Perfectly paced, with each character having their own story, their own beaten down struggles which we are made privy to.

His last black-and-white film, and generally a major transitional marker in his career, Kurosawa makes exquisite use of depth perception and the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. His use of horizontal planes and angles make for compositions that fiddle with distance and closeness, cramming people together and forcing them apart in equal measure. The enormous contained sets make the tragedies feel more resonant and the victories that much more radiant. And it even manages to sneak in a healthy dose of Toshiro Mifune Kicking Ass when he beats the tar out of a group of petty criminals.

repulsion photo
4. Repulsion (France, Polanski) From the bottled-up tension on the open seas in his debut Knife in the Water, Roman Polanski then moved to France to create an even more claustrophobic endeavor with this his second feature. Repulsion is elemental, using psychological horror to depict a mental break defined by aberrant tinglings everywhere. An experience that exists in the mind but that you feel in the gut. The sound design repeats itself in screeches and ticks and thundering cracks. And in frantic uncontrollable jazz courtesy of the great Krzysztof Komeda.

Polanski uses Deneuve’s rimy veneer to present a dichotomy. Carole is a cipher, closed off to us; not even the camera can get to her brain. So what the camera does do is present an enigma to us at face value, while using the art of film to gradually depict her nightmarish disintegration. The burgeoning insanity reveals itself by bleeding into the everyday. The cracks in the wall appear as miniscule and hardened cracks in dried-up facial cream applied on a woman’s face in the salon. We get a red herring kind of skeleton key, in the form of a beyond eerie childhood photograph, in relation to how Carole has come to this stunted and grisly place where everything is threatening and sex equals horror. As the rabbit rots, as the apartment devolves into a decrepit wasteland, and as the bodies pile up, we get a portrait of low-budget crumbling isolated insanity. Gilbert Taylor channels Val Lewton kinds of penny-pinching dread, while using it for fallout too, to maximum effect. Repulsion is an inescapable putrefaction about a woman made prisoner to herself. Polanski’s willingness to try stuff out and see what sticks, or rather what comes further unhinged, is in large part why Repulsion is considered a rightful classic.

3. A Charlie Brown Christmas (USA, Melendez) (short)
In all honesty this should probably be number 1 but I wanted to make room for a couple of new all-time favorites. I’ve never tried to put into words why A Charlie Brown Christmas remains an inarguable classic. I still don’t even think I can. I cherish the purity that emits from certain childhood outings. This is one of them. I’ve seen it more times than I could ever count but it’s not a Christmas-themed work (unlike A Christmas Story which appeared on my 1983 list) I will ever tire of. At this stage in life it offers a comfort. I love the Peanuts and I love these characters. This special gets at why more than any other animated outing of theirs.

Charlie Brown finally gets a chance to fit in, to please others, but he botches it. His so-called friends, and even his dog, are pretty uniformly cruel here. The cruelty doesn’t equate badness; just a form of regular childhood behavior that can turn and be erased at the drop of a hat. And then Linus comes in and reminds everyone of the true meaning of Christmas. That true meaning of Christmas doesn’t hold clout with me personally, and yet the world seems to quietly stop as Linus takes center stage. It never fails to move me to my core. Sincerity doesn’t come in a better package. It gets at the innocence of the whole production, from the uncut glory of having unpolished children lend their voices to the way the characters come together at the end and quietly vocalize in harmony.

And Vince Guaraldi’s music, man. There’s nothing like it. Its wintry ways sooth and its perkiness acts as a concrete musical representation of joy.

2. The Party’s Over
(UK, Hamilton)

The Party’s Over is a pulsating time-capsule piece. It portrays British youth on the cusp of Swinging London (it was shot in 1963) as mostly privileged folk who wish to deaden themselves. There’s nothing really bubbly or freeing about the film. The parties are shown with a messy frankness. But the film isn’t didactic. It doesn’t condemn. It just looks on with wariness on anyone who gets tunnel vision from fully committing to an extreme whether on one end or the other. The film had major issues with the BBFC in order to get a release. By the time the cuts and changes had been carried out, Guy Hamilton asked for his name to be removed from the film and it was released with the ‘X’ rating.

The film begins with Oliver Reed smoking, drinking, pouring alcohol on a dude’s head and jumping out a window. I kid you not.

Silly me, I unforgivably forgot that Oliver Reed was probably the most magnetic actor who ever was. His was a genuinely dangerous presence. His slinky bedroom eyes constantly harbor carnal secrecies. The character and performance go a long way in establishing this as a personal canon film. His Moise reveals unexpected depths. We assume he is the leader, the villain, the one most capable of damage. But Reed as Moise fools everyone. Turns out he is in fact most capable of change, and a desire to move on. Guy Hamilton tracks an environment where tragedy isn’t led by crime, but from a level of bacchanal self-absorption that renders death unnoticed yet unknowingly mocked and play-acted, while the real thing festers underneath their noses.

1. Rapture (France/USA, Guillerman
The definition of an undiscovered jewel. Patricia Gozzi, looking like a gamine teenage Juliette Binoche, is uncut, honest, and raw as the troubled Agnes. This is a highly fractured fairy tale; delusional, grand, and run-down. Played out on an isolated farm with scarecrows and manhunts. Rapture is keyed into French New Wave sensibilities but isn’t led by them. The isolation and family dynamics sit somewhere above us, slightly inexplicable and unconventional but visible all the same.Dean Stockwell is sort of impossibly good-looking in the 60’s, something I wasn’t aware of until now. I urge everyone to seek this out when you can. It’s sumptuous, troubling, and off-kilter in equal measure. And its placement on this list should indicate just how strongly I feel about it.

What I’ll Remember About the Films of 1965: A Personal Sampling

Top Ten coming tomorrow! And as a prelude, I’ll be doing my ‘Personal Sampling’ posts for years in film that I cover. It helps make film viewing specific to me and my takeaways as well as touching on all the individual merits that I would otherwise be unable to pay tribute to.


The widescreen winters of (and Pre-) Revolutionary Russia Doctor Zhivago courtesy of Freddie Young.

The bitter cynicism and guarded cageyness of Rod Steiger (in his best performance for my money) in the ceaselessly depressing The Pawnbroker

Two Evelyn Piper adaptations (The Nanny, Bunny Lake is Missing)

The distorted Betty Boop-da-da-doop-de-da-doop music and Ursula Andress’ machine-gun boobs in The 10th Victim

o'toole dance1

Peter O’Toole’s sweaty flouncy striptease dance to “My Little Red Book” in What’s New Pussycat? 

Speaking of stripteases, making a striptease out of the removal of a shoe in Yoyo

Rotting rabbits, grabby hands and floating knife-wielding Deneuve with her transparent nightgown in Repulsion

The pressure cooker last act of The Shop on Main Street and a final scene that proves to me that an afterlife ending, whether as false uplift or tragic underlining, can actually work


Tura Satana as Varla with her one-of-a-kind presence, a no-nonsense badass whose wrath I wouldn’t wish on my worst enemy (Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill!)

Clint Eastwood swaggers in with a timepiece to save Lee Van Cleef’s keister in For A Few Dollars More

Dick measuring becomes hat shooting in For A Few Dollars More

In which speed walking is represented exactly how I’d want it to be, all crotches, butts, waddling and jaunty wah-wah music. (Tokyo Olympiad)

Keir Dullea

Keir Dullea giving me nightmares as he lights a doll on fire (Bunny Lake is Missing)

Abebe Bikilia and the leader to straggler to leader depiction of the marathon in the climax of Tokyo Olympiad

Radioactive Flash! (Simon of the Desert)

Feisty Sarah Miles criminally partnered with a dull cowboy romantic lead in Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

Pleasures of the Flesh

Nagisa Oshima’s use of Cinemascope, dissolves, and sound in Pleasures of the Flesh

Burt Lancaster is his own stunt man in The Train


Physical spasms used for communicating in Fists in the Pocket


The use of pastels in Le Bonheur

Happily ever after played out and back again in Rapture

That indelible musical theme played on a loop throughout Yoyo

Noel Coward with his whips and slimy propositions in Bunny Lake is Missing



The soul-crushing moment in which Falstaff is shunned in Chimes at Midnight

Paul Williams as a kid genius in The Loved One

The greatest gym montage ever and the greatest dance scene; both from the same film! (Who Killed Teddy Bear)

Black backdrop car rides with mobile kaleidoscopic lights and Jean-Paul Belmondo’s Michel Simon impression in Pierrot le Fou


The Party’s Over reminding me that Oliver Reed is the most magnetic actor who ever lived

Speaking of kaleidoscopic, those Help! end credits