Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Movie Roundup: 39-39 Edition

Still trying to catch up with all the movies I've seen. I count 22 that I've yet to record for the internet here on TINAB. So let's see how for we can get before the beer takes over.

Irma Vep - Another in the fine tradition of indie movies about making indie movies. This one stars TINAB favorite Maggie Cheung as Hong Kong action star Maggie Cheung, in France to play the lead in the remake of the classic silent serial Les Vampires. Directed by Louis Feuillade (pronounced, if I remember my French correctly, "Foo-yad") in 1915, Les Vampires is the story of a criminal gang headed by mysterious female Irma Vep (an anagram for vampire, naturally). I've yet to see the serial, but it's on the list. I understand a pretty good DVD edition of it was released last year. Anyway, director Olivier Assayas, who was married to Cheung for a few years after the making of this movie, has made a fine, funny little movie here. It's not as crazy or as over the top or as flat-out funny as it's American genre counterpart, Tom DiCillo's Living In Oblivion (#25, 1995), but it make up for it with a very cool, subtle cleverness. Playing the film's director is Antoine Doinel himself, jean-Pierre LĂ©aud, who's always nice to see. The #13 film of 1996.

In Harm's Way - Otto Preminger's surprisingly dull movie about Pearl Harbor and its aftermath has a great cast: John Wayne, Kirk Douglas, Patricia Neal, Burgess Meredith, Franchot Tone, Dana Andrews, Slim Pickens, Carroll O'Connor, Larry Hagman, George Kennedy and Henry Fonda. But after the initial bombing, which is very exciting and well-done, the film descends into family melodrama and middle-aged romance as Wayne and Neal start some kind of relationship. It's got some good parts, but they're buried by the excessive length. The #14 film of 1965.

The Cowboys - One of the later John Wayne movies is this Mark Rydell film about an aging rancher who has to hire a bunch of kids to help drive his cattle because all the adults have run off in search of gold. Rydell would later direct The Rose, On Golden Pond (#14, 1981) and For The Boys, so this'd most likely be his best film. It's one of Wayne's best performances too, much better than his award-winning scenery chewing in True Grit (#6, 1969). It's a fun little coming of age Western, helped by some pretty good supporting performances by Collen Dewhurst, Bruce Dern and future soap opera superstar (soaperstar?) A Martinez. The #7 film of 1972.

Shaft - I saw the two sequels, Shaft's Big Score and Shaft In Africa many years ago, but I never actually watched all of this first one. Anyway, Richard Roundtree plays a black private dick who's a sex machine with all the chicks. It's interesting for it's translation of film noir conventions (and I do mean conventions) into an early 70s Black Power milieu. Also interesting is that of the two women he sleeps with, Shaft is very nice to the black girl and cruel and misogynistic to the white one. I don't know quite what to make of that, but it's there. The #8 film of 1971.

For Me And My Gal - The most lackluster Busby Berkeley film I've seen stars Judy Garland and Gene Kelly (in his film debut, no less) as a couple of vaudevillians who don't and then, of course, do like each other. There's some interesting bits, of course, with these principals there can't help but be good parts, but the whole doesn't add up to much more than decent.

Cabin In The Sky - More interesting is this early Vincente Minelli film, his first as a credited director. It's a musical with an all-black cast from a time when such things were not done on a mainstream level (1943, a mere 4 years after the execrable Gone With The Wind). The film stars Eddie "Rochester" Anderson (from the Jack Benny Show), a gambler who gets himself shot, but before he can be carried off to Hell, his wife prays real hard and gets him a 6 month reprieve. Over that time, the forces of evil do everything they can to corrupt him, including sicking Georgia Brown (played by Lena Horne) on him. Also feature Louis Armstrong, as a trumpeter, of course.

His Kind Of Woman - This truly weird pseudo-film noir was directed by John Farrow (Mia's dad) and stars Robert Mitchum as a gambler who gets bribed to go to Mexico. There, he hooks up with Jane Russell, the girlfriend of a slumming Hollywood action star (Vincent Price). Eventually, he gets kidnapped by a gangster and learns that he was lured to Mexico so said gangster, played by Raymond Burr, what to have Mitchum's face surgically implanted on his own so he can return to the US. It's even stranger than it sounds, when Price's certainly not straight actor loading up on guns and enlisting the Mexican townspeople in a quest to rescue Mitchum from Burr's clutches, it becomes perhaps the most bizarre noir I've ever seen. Good stuff.

Track Of The Cat - This William Wellman film stars Robert Mitchum as the handiest member of a snowed in pioneer ranch family who has to hunt down an evil mountain lion that's killing his cattle. Wellman designed the color film such that
it would appear black and white with only flashes of red for dramatic emphasis (mostly bloody). When the film is following Mitchum's cat hunt, it's great, cool-looking and very tense. It's the family melodrama that dominates the last two thirds of the film that is really rather boring. An odd decision to mix a theatrical-style drama (think lesser Strindberg or Chekov in a pioneer setting) with a man vs. nature action story, and it doesn't exactly work, but is still a fine film and worth seeing. The screenplay's by AI Bezzerides, who wrote the great Kiss Me Deadly, along with They Drive By Night and Thieves' Highway.

Waking Life - Richard Linklater's animation experiment is wildly pretentious, even more so than his classic second film Slacker (#7, 1991), a personal favorite of mine. Wiley Wiggins plays the lead, a guy stuck in a dream that he can't manage to wake up from. In his dream, he encounters any number of characters who expound on random philosophical and political notions to him. Your enjoyment of the film will be entirely dependent on your tolerance for such ramblings. I expected to find the animation annoying, but instead was thoroughly entertained by the changing nature of it, the way it becomes more and less abstract as the dream rolls along. The #9 film of 2001.

A Foreign Affair - Even a brilliant director has to make a mediocre film once in a while, and this is his. A paean to post-war Berlin, it's clear this was a labor of nostalgia for Wilder and star Marlene Dietrich, refugees from the Nazis both. Jean Arthur plays a congresswoman in Berlin to inspect the nature of the Occupation. There she's incensed to learn that her GIs are fraternizing with the local Germans. Her guide, played quite badly by John Lund, in order to cover his own romance with Dietrich, one of those unsavory Germans, begins to romance her as well. A love triangle ensues, but not an especially interesting one.

Monday, June 26, 2006

The Big Music List

Just to prove that movies aren't the only things I can make lists of, I've managed to come up with a Top 100 Songs Of All-Time list. Like any list, it's not meant to be definitive, but argumentative. I've only included songs that I own, as this is actually just an iTunes playlist, though I can't think of any songs I like enough to be on the list that I don't already own. I'm also not including any classical works (sorry Beethoven, Bach, and Mozart! Better luck next time!)

Presented in alphabetical order by artist. Someday I may try to rank them, but I've no doubt that would be even more futile than attempting to rank films, as my opinions on songs seem to be much more mutable than about movies.

Here Comes The Sun -- The Beatles
Across The Universe -- The Beatles
Everybody's Got Something To Hide Except For Me And My Monkey -- The Beatles
Lord Only Knows -- Beck
There's More To Life Than this -- Bjork
Tangled Up In Blue -- Bob Dylan
Shelter From The Storm -- Bob Dylan
Love Minus Zero//No Limit -- Bob Dylan
Just Like Tom Thumb's Blues -- Bob Dylan
Floater (Too Much Too Ask) -- Bob Dylan
High Water (For Charley Patton) -- Bob Dylan
It's Alright, Ma (I'm Only Bleeding) (Live) -- Bob Dylan
Don't Think Twice, It's Alright -- Bob Dylan
A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall (Live) -- Bob Dylan
Mack The Knife -- Bobby Darin
Rosalita (Come Out Tonight)-- Bruce Springsteen
Johnny B. Goode -- Chuck Berry
Lost In The Supermarket -- The Clash
Have You Ever Seen The Rain? -- Creedence Clearwater Revival
Just Like Heaven -- The Cure
Ants Marching -- The Dave Matthews Band
Life On Mars -- David Bowie
I Hear A Symphony -- Diana Ross And The Supremes
Sultans Of Swing -- Dire Straits
(What's So Funny 'bout) Peace, Love And Understanding -- Elvis Costello
Burning Love -- Elvis Presley
Yoshimi Battles The Pink Robots, Pt. 1 -- The Flaming Lips
Love Is Here To Stay -- Frank Sinatra
Ripple -- The Grateful Dead
St. Stephen (Live) -- The Grateful Dead
Me And Bobby McGee -- Janis Joplin
Hallelujah -- Jeff Buckley
All Along The Watchtower -- The Jimi Hendrix Experience
Braver Newer World -- Jimmie Dale Gilmore
Instant Karma! -- John Lennon
Watching The Wheels -- John Lennon
I Walk The Line -- Johnny Cash
Coyote (Live) -- Joni Mitchell And The Band
Love Will Tear Us Apart -- Joy Division
Over The Hills And Far Away -- Led Zeppelin
Take This Waltz -- Leonard Cohen
Stardust -- Louis Armstrong
California (All The Way) -- Luna
Free Bird (Live) -- Lynyrd Skynyrd
Reno Dakota -- The Magnetic Fields
I'm Free Now -- Morphine
Cowgirl In The Sand -- Neil Young
Thrasher -- Neil Young
Pocahontas -- Neil Young
99 Luftballoons -- Nena
Bizarre Love Triangle -- New Order
Temptation -- New Order
Where Did You Sleep Last Night (Live) -- Nirvana
Smells Like Teen Spirit -- Nirvana
Breed -- Nirvana
(Sittin' On) The Dock Of The Bay -- Otis Redding
Wish You Where Here -- Pink Floyd
San Tropez -- Pink Floyd
Debaser -- The Pixies
Dress -- PJ Harvey
Fairytale Of New York -- The Pogues
The Broad Majestic Shannon -- The Pogues
Sally MacLennane -- The Pogues
Welcome To The Terrordome -- Public Enemy
Under Pressure -- Queen And David Bowie
Find The River -- REM
(Don't Go Back To) Rockville -- REM
Half A World Away -- REM
The National Anthem -- Radiohead
Let Down -- Radiohead
(I Can't Get No) Satsifaction -- The Rolling Stones
New Slang -- The Shins
The Boxer -- Simon And Garfunkel
The Sounds Of Silence (Live) -- Simon And Garfunkel
Landslide -- Smashing Pumpkins
Teen Age Riot -- Sonic Youth
The Joker -- The Steve Miller Band
Birthday -- The Sugarcubes
Goodbye Stranger -- Supertramp
Alienation's For The Rich -- They Might Be Giants
Hearing Aid -- They Might Be Giants
Ana Ng -- They Might Be Giants
American Girl -- Tom Petty And The Heartbreakers
One -- U2
Stay (Faraway, So Close) -- U2
Where The Streets Have No Name -- U2
Brown-Eyed Girl -- Van Morrison
Heroin -- The Velvet Underground
Sweet Jane (Live) -- The Velvet Underground
American Music -- Violent Femmes
Add It Up (Live) -- Violent Femmes
The Good Life -- Weezer
The Union Forever -- The White Stripes
Baba O'Reilly -- The Who
I Am Trying To Break Your Heart -- Wilco
Adieu -- Yoko Kanno
Cherry Chapstick -- Yo La Tengo
Blue Line Swinger -- Yo La Tengo
Taco Wagon -- Young Fresh Fellows
La Grange -- ZZ Top