I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen. The Battleship Pretension Top 100 list provided such a challenge.
Duck Soup was my first Marx Brothers film and I think it will be my last. I like to try and find positive things about all the movies I watch for this challenge, so we’ll start there. I have to give the Marx Brothers credit for their ability to do physical comedy. There was a scene where Chico, Harpo, and a merchant keep swapping hats and it is quite skillful and funny. Probably the best scene in the film is when Groucho and Harpo are dressed identically and do a choreographed mirror scene. It is completely silent and a delightful several minute-long break in the film.
We have a longstanding love affair with gangsters and criminals on screen, and the evidence lies in the decades of crime cinema. Despite the influence of German expressionism on the noir genre gangster movies, they are (like westerns) are a distinctly American facet of moviemaking. Shadows and light might illuminate the scene but derby hats, Tommy guns, G-men, and wiseguys aren’t likely to turn up anywhere else in the landscape of world cinema, and Depression-era bank robbers are pure Americana.
With After the Storm, yet another grand achievement from director Koreeda Hirokazu, currently in theaters, I thought it worth turning my attention back to Nobody Knows, the 2004 film that first made me aware of the director and one that has remained indelible.
I decided to undertake a movie challenge in 2017. This seemed like a good way to see some classic movies that I have unfortunately never seen – the Battleship Pretension Top 100 provided just that challenge.
One of the reasons I undertook this challenge was to see films I have never seen before but always wanted too. The Bridge of the River Kwai is one of those films. It was also a film that I knew a surprising amount about despite never having seen it. I had seen the big train crash before and the classic whistling soldier’s scene.
Luis García Berlanga’s The Executioner is a dark comedy, all the darker for the fact that it doesn’t, on the surface, feel like one. It’s sunny and frothy, with a predilection for mild physical comedy. But make no mistake, this is a heady yet farcical look at what it means to take another human’s life.
The big happening this week is undoubtedly the annual Noir City series happening at the Egyptian over the next ten days, full of seedy crime films both rare and popular, some virtually unseen and not available on DVD and some standard-bearing classics. This year has an interesting twist – they’re pairing the films by year, showing an A-picture and a B-picture for each night, much as they would have been shown upon release, and proceeding chronologically. They won’t be hitting every year between 1942 and 1953, but they’re getting most of them.
You’re better off just going to the Cinematheque site and browsing the schedule yourself, but my experience with the series over the years has been that it’s hard to really go wrong on any given night. Eddie Muller and Alan Rode of the Film Noir Foundation assemble the program, and they know their stuff, which partially means knowing what plays to an audience. And baby, these films play. I can certainly vouch for This Gun for Hire (1942, 35mm), Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950, DCP), and The Big Heat (1953, DCP), but with titles like Quiet Please, Murder (1942, 35mm), Escape in the Fog (1945, 35mm), Behind Green Lights (1946, 35mm), and I Was a Shoplifter (1949, 35mm), I’m excited to see what’s in store for us.