Tag: Letterboxd

Rebooting my top 100 movies list

It’s been a few years since I first made my top 100 movies list. Since then each yearly iteration has felt like just that, an iteration. Some new movies appear and there’s some shifting in the numbering but mostly it’s all the same stuff. So this year, with the help of Letterboxd‘s clever Seen It and Lists features, I’m making a new one. In the spirit of The Amazing Spider-Man, it’s time for a reboot. I’m sure there’ll be 50 or so similar films, if not more. That’s not really the point. The idea here is to attack the list with new eyes, eyes of a guy that has seen 2311 movies over the course of his 25 years instead of probably around half that when I made my first list those years ago.

Letterboxd came into my life only recently, with its nifty design and clever social-networking twist on the movie database website. I started by just chronicling the new movies I’d seen. Maybe writing a brief review; a line or two. And then I started going back through the years and clicking the little eye on every movie I could remember seeing. I started in 2013 and went backwards towards the dawn of cinema. It was, in part, a trip through my childhood. As I approached the middle of the 2000’s I noticed that I was clicking fewer and fewer films for any given year. It seems that 2006 or 2005 was the start of my real love affair with film, though even through 1999 I had gone back and seen a lot of the big films. After ’99, though, it was mostly a wasteland of horrible kiddy movies and some of the tent-pole blockbusters of my youth. Godzilla‘s poor attempt at taking over the US, the intense stupidity of Kazaam, that other dinosaur movie from 1993, We’re Back. None of these have a shot at my top 100, unfortunately. And then the 80’s came along and I clicked even fewer of those little eyes, since I was only a kid for two of those years and I probably wasn’t watching any movies at the time. Even if I was, I certainly wasn’t going to remember them. So the 80’s contain some of the bigger films from the era, but it’s a bit more slim pickins. About 1/3 of the movies I’ve seen come from the last ten years. The first 80 or so years of cinema, up through 1979, account for less than half of the movies I’ve seen. Basically all of this is to say, don’t judge me, I’m still new at this.

I’ve seen a lot of the classics, though. I just crossed off Casablanca, The Maltese Falcon, Cabaret, and Aguirre: The Wrath of God in the past few months. I’ve got to start delving into the kind of second-tier movies from the 70’s back. Looking at the movies I love from these past few years, it’s often those smaller movies that I latch on to and begin to have a shot at my top 100 list. You’ll also probably notice a lot of movies from three directors of the golden age of Hollywood’s studio system: Howard Hawks, John Ford, and Frank Borzage. When I was at the University of Connecticut I took one class four times, each semester focusing on a different director or genre. Each of those directors was the focus for a semester, with the last being a general comedy class. So I got to see between 12 and 15 movies from each of them, mostly great ones. You’ll notice at least two from each on my previous top 100 list. Everybody knows Hawks and Ford but fewer know the wondrous Borzage. I urge anybody reading this to seek out his films. They may be hard to find but if you give them a chance you’ll likely fall in love with his romantic and passionate style. He’s the best.

So here’s how it’ll work. After checking off every movie I can remember seeing, I went through and added any movie I though might be top 100 material to a list. There are 205 movies on that list at this moment, though there may be another by the end of tonight (I’m going to complete the Before trilogy with the Midnight entry after work). From that list I’ll pick out the movies that are must haves. Magnolia, my number one last year, will certainly be making a return appearance. I watched it again very recently and was only reminded of just how great it is. Blade Runner, obviously. Jurassic Park, assuredly. But the rest, you never know. That’s why it will be so much fun. Stay tuned for either further updates or the beginning of The List posts. And be my friend on Letterboxd.

Seven Days of Seeing: 5/12/13-5/18/13

I’ve gotten back into writing mini-reviews of every movie I watch thanks to Letterboxd. You can follow me there at this link. However, I’ll also be putting all of my mini-reviews here every Monday for the previous week, so you can just wait a bit and find out what I have to say. I’ll always arrange them in order of best to worst. Any questions? This week we have some musicals and a space action movie. Nothing incongruous there!

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg – 1964

Dir. Jaques Demy – Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo

A simple love triangle blown up to melodramatic heights like no other when every word is sung. And there is little effort to make these words into real songs with rhymes and stuff. It’s weird at first but it grows on you until you can’t imagine it happening any other way. It’s French so you know there’s some true love to be had and you know there’s some heartbreak, too. What Demy does wonderfully is balance the two so it feels like a thing that might really happen, you know, if there wasn’t so much singing. The ever present score highlights each turn of the story. It feels very much of its time, which is great. Deneuve is, as always, gorgeous and easily charismatic. It’s also nice to see her not going crazy (Repulsion), but rather having a pretty ok time, all told. The end is a perfect distillation of everything that has come before. Every movie should end in snow. 9/10.

Star Trek Into Darkness – 2013

Dir. J.J. Abrams – Chris Pine, Zachary Quinto

Too much fun to care about the iffy script. The action is fun, the design is great, and the characters are still really great to hang out with for two hours. All the actors are doing good work, Chris Pine and BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH(!) in particular. Yeah, the story is kinda silly and the stakes all but disappear with one crucial mistake in the script but who cares? There will probably be a better summer movie this year and maybe one or two that might be more fun and they might even have better scripts. I’ll still enjoy going back to this on blu. 8/10.

Hedwig and the Angry Inch – 2001

Dir. John Cameron Mitchell – John Cameron Mitchell, Michael Aronov

This is maybe not my scene. I’m not huge into glam rock (though I can’t deny some greatness from the genre) and I can’t really claim any angst over my sexual identity. Still, this is a really great movie full of songs that work both within and outside the film. The Origin of Love sequence and song is a strong highlight. I love a good creation story. John Cameron Mitchell wrote all the talky bits from what I understand, and directs and acts in the lead role. He’s pretty awesome and I’d like to see more of this side of him in the future. The story is a little threadbare. That’s not to say uninteresting, of course. Thanks to the music I was never bored. However, this isn’t a film to watch for the compelling twists and turns. It’s a pretty standard showbiz story of wronged lovers and artistic problems. That’s fine, it’s still a supremely enjoyable film, one I’m glad I finally got around to watching. 8/10.

Cabaret – 1972

Dir. Bob Fosse – Liza Minnelli, Michael York

Liza Minnelli is a force of nature. Even in the opening number where she only appears halfway through and stays mostly in the background the camera catches her face and the celluloid lights on fire. The movie suffers anytime she isn’t onscreen. It can’t quite handle the long periods without the music stuff, either, because although the story is fine and a new-ish take on the old rise of the Nazis framed by a love triangle tale, it turns torporific five minutes after any given musical number. But boy howdy those musical numbers. They’re all good, some all-time great, and Fosse employs a wonderful technique of intercutting the stage stuff with the real-life stuff in such a clever way that I found myself wondering how such an inherently cinematic method would work in a stage play. Not that it really matters, but it’s great to see a director work not only great dancing and choreography but also camera placement and movement and editing into such a kinetic work. It’s too bad the non-music stuff doesn’t hold the same sense of movie-making wonder. 8/10

And that’s it! Do you like this new feature? Do you have anything to say about the movies I watched? Leave a note in the comments!