The New Year’s Resolutions: Round Three

I’ve been updating my New Year’s movie-watching resolutions once a month. Thirty days have passed since my last entry, and that means it’s time to take another gander.  With 81 days in the books for 2012, I’m inching towards wrapping up at least a few specific goals and generally doing well with all of them.

Preminger's The Cardinal is well worth your time.

American Classics (including films directed by Otto Preminger and Ernst Lubitsch)
In this category, it’s a bit of a mixed bag. I watched a healthy chunk of American classics in the last month… though I’ve cooled off on Preminger and Lubitsch. Regarding those two, I saw Preminger’s The Cardinal (1963) and Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950). I struggled with Sidewalk if only because it was yet another Preminger noir and they’re starting to blur together at this point other than Angel Face. On the flip side, The Cardinal was a really good film, very bold for its time. It dealt with racism, abortion, and the rigors of life as a Catholic priest. It felt a lot like Preminger doing a David Lean impersonation. And even at three hours, it could’ve continued and I wouldn’t have felt that it had overstayed its welcome. The only Lubitsch film I saw was Trouble in Paradise (1932), and I struggled with it mightily.

The list of classics from other directors is a healthy one. I finally watched The Big Sleep (1946) and reveled in the Lebowski parallels. The best film I watched all month was Orson Welles’ The Magnificent Ambersons (1942), a tremendous deep focus cinematography-infused effort. I also managed to check off five other classic films, but you’ll have to wait until you get to the 100 Laughs list update to find out what they were.

Wrapping up Steven Spielberg’s Films
Last month, I mistakenly claimed that there were only three Spielberg films that I needed to watch to complete the task–The Sugarland Express, War Horse, and Always. I forgot that I’d never seen War of the Worlds (2005) from start to finish, or The Terminal (2004). And if I’m really going to do this right, I owe re-watches to A.I. and Amistad. I can now say that I’ve seen The Sugarland Express and War of the Worlds. I loathed the ending of War of the Worlds, and the youth-in-a-post-9/11 world theme was awfully heavy-handed. Other than that, I genuinely enjoyed the movie. Sugarland was cool, possessing many of the flourishes that would turn “Spielberg” into “SPIELBERG!!!”

Not many people have performed harder on stage than Levon Helm in The Last Waltz.

Watching more classic or non-new release films at theatres
My goal: 15 to 25 classic or non-new release films at theatres in 2012. I upped my total to six or seven. The Last Waltz (1978) and The Quiet Man (1952) obviously count. However, I’m not sure if I’m going to count The Big Lebowski. It was the fifth time (or sixth?) that I’ve seen it on the big screen. It feels like I’m cheating by counting it. As for the others, I went nuts for The Last Waltz–I haven’t stopped listening to The Band ever since–but I struggled a bit with The Quiet Man. Strangely, I enjoyed it less on the big screen than I did when I first saw it at home a few years ago. I appreciate that the theatre had their heart in the right place, but the transfer was bad. It was grainy, the blacks destroyed the shadows, and it even stopped at one point because the DVD they’d transferred it to had skipped. So… yeah. Come on, people. Someone re-master The Quiet Man. Coming up in the next few weeks: an Eastwood double feature (A Fistful of Dollars/For a Few Dollars More), and then a John Ford/Henry Fonda double feature (The Grapes of Wrath/Young Mr. Lincoln). I can’t promise I’ll see both of those Fonda films but I’m sure I’ll see at least one of them.

Attack the AFI 100 Years, 100 Laughs list
I’ve really demolished this list. I was somewhere around 57 of the 100 films when I started. I’m now up to 85. That’s right. I only have 15 more of these and then I’m done. Since the end of February, I’ve seen: His Girl Friday (1940), What’s up, Doc? (1972), Victor/Victoria (1982), Moonstruck (1987), Born Yesterday (1950), Ball of Fire (1941), Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House (1948), Woman of the Year (1942), and Mr. Deeds Goes to Town (1936). Of the three months-worth of 100 Laughs movies, this was my least favorite monthly group, though I still enjoyed most of them on some level. What’s Up, Doc? was the most bizarre. The premise? A young Barbara Streisand does a Bugs Bunny impersonation and wins the affections of a befuddled, Elmer Fudd-esque Ryan O’Neal. So… yeah. It’s a romantic comedy where Bugs Bunny tries to bone Elmer Fudd. Mr. Blandings was probably my favorite of the batch. Cary Grant had a great comedic persona. I also got a kick out of a very nerdy Gary Cooper in Ball of Fire. Broderick Crawford’s comedic turn in Born Yesterday had to have been at least part of the impetus behind the creation of Tony Soprano. Judy Holliday is hilarious in that film, as well. I couldn’t listen to her speak without laughing.

Challenge, indeed.

Challenge myself more
I made big strides here. If you just read the list of 100 Laughs films that I watched last month, two of those titles should scream at you because of how abnormal they are amongst my usual choices. Moonstruck is one of them, and Victor/Victoria is the other. Unlike last month when I was pleasantly surprised by When Harry Met Sally, these two left me cold and empty. When I told my friend that I’d seen Moonstruck and he asked me what I thought, my reply was “More like MoonSUCK, am I right?!?!” (yes, I know that joke is dumb). I enjoyed Victor/Victoria a little more than all that, but I would never choose to see it again. The third “challenge” movie that I watched in the last month turned out to be a big hit. While I’ve had a profound appreciation for the Fellini films that I’ve seen, they all feel like homework to me, no matter how genius they are at times. In fact, I’d put away the notion of watching more Fellini for three years or so. And then, this past month, I watched La Strada (1954). And I finally found a Fellini film that I really enjoyed. Score one in the column for challenging yourself. This next month will be the REAL challenge. One way or another, after years of never watching them, I’m going to watch Titanic and Avatar. You’ve got 30 days to pick your jaw up off the ground.


28 Comments

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28 responses to “The New Year’s Resolutions: Round Three

  1. Great work John, nice to see you keeping up with your resolutions. I must comment on what you said about Fellini, though… homework? I agree when it comes to films like LA DOLCE VITA and 8 1/2 that they do require a fair amount of thought, but movies like NIGHTS OF CABIRIA and AMARCORD are just beautiful to watch, even without following the plot or thinking too carefully. AMARCORD especially. That movie is stunning.

    I need to see more classic American films, particularly comedies. I will be seeing THE THIRD MAN in a movie theatre next month, hopefully, which should be awesome.

    • I’m doing Nights of Cabiria soon. I haven’t seen it yet. Amarcord didn’t do it for me. That’s not to say it was a bad movie, not by a longshot. But it felt a lot like 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita to me, with flourishes of genius wrapped around a lot of other stuff I didn’t care about. And to be blunt, I liked 8 1/2 and La Dolce Vita quite a bit more.

      • Fair enough. If I had to rank the Fellini I’ve seen, it’d be: 8 1/2 > La Dolce Vita > Nights of Cabiria > Amarcord > La Strada > Juliet of the Spirits.

  2. Titanic and Avatar in the same month? Your head may splode. Be ready for “Dances with Smurfs”. You will particularly appreciate the dialogue in the final hour of Titanic….”JACK! ROSE! JACK! JACK! ROSE!” This is like drinking Busch Light and Stag to challenge your palette.

  3. You should do both movies on a Saturday. Start early with Titanic, take a lunch break and then do Avatar. Finish around 4:30 or 5:00. Go to the bar and cleanse your psyche. It’s like chugging two movies to get as little flavor on your tastebuds as possible. One good thing about Titanic? Gaelic Storm.

  4. rtm

    Well done on your resolutions, John. I didn’t make one as I’m not good at keeping ’em, ahah. I do want to see more classics as well, and having seen Casablanca for the first time a few days ago and LOVED it, I’m definitely more inclined to do so.

    Boy ‘The Cardinal’ poster is stunning, the subject matter doesn’t interest me though.

    • I probably oversold the controversial subject matter, Ruth. For 1963, it was controversial. For now? Not so much. Actually, I could see it being cherished by people of faith.

  5. A.I. is a film that’s vastly underrated in my opinion and it’s more and more being hailed as a masterpiece as years go by, just like a lot of other Kubrick films (Even though Kubrick didn’t direct it, his signature is everywhere). AO Scott called it the #2 best film of 2000s and even Roger Ebert recently named it one of his great movies after giving it 3 out of 4 stars in it’s initial release. I think it deserves a re-visit.

    My article defending AI: http://oktayegekozak.wordpress.com/2012/01/27/in-defense-of-a-i/

    • I’ll be honest, I struggled with AI the first time I saw it. I flat-out hated it. But tastes change, tastes evolve, opinions change, and it’s been over a decade since I’ve seen it. I really do want to take a gander at it now, and very soon.

  6. manilovefilmsdylan

    Your goals are much loftier (read; artier and/or older) than mine. For instance, I just watched Birdemic. 😀 But seriously, I’m trying to knock out several classics this year (no specific goals like yours – I did a “50 movies I’ll see in 2011” list and it didn’t turn out so well) and am pleased thus far.

    Just keep swimming, just keep swimming…

    • I have to say, it’s been made easy for me because I’m genuinely enjoying the majority of what I’m seeing for this project. I saw the beating you took over at MILF about classics and I felt sort of bad about that. I’ve become a firm believer that there’s no such thing as watching the wrong movies. If you like them, if they appeal to you, then go for it. If not, try it when they DO appeal to you. But if you’re not interested in it, it’s not really a fair chance to the movie, nor is it fair to you as a viewer.

      I ultimately turned to these classics because I felt like I’d hit a wall with everything else. I needed a break from foreign, from horror, from new releases… And I was fortunate enough to find some things I liked from the past. But it took me 6 years of hardcore film geekery to get there.

  7. nimorphi

    I have just one question: Are you going to go see Titanic in 3D?

    • I watched it at home yesterday. If it had been originally shown in 3D, or if Cameron had even shot it in 3D (and not made it 3D in post), I might’ve gone to the theatre for it. But since it was originally a 2D film, I caught it that way.

  8. Great work! At this point I feel bad I didn’t create more movie resolutions (although I did vow to see 100 movies I’ve yet to see and I’m clocking at 60) but I wish I had vowed to tackle one of those AFI lists…maybe next year! You’ve definitely given me some inspirations for this summer.

    • That’s great to hear! The good thing about the AFI lists is that there’s a lot of variety- one for thrills, one for humor, one for romance, and of course the big one- the top 100.

  9. Castor

    Nice progress on your 2012 resolutions, that’s great to see and you might even be able to raise your goals pretty soon ahah. If I was to go back and check my resolutions, I would probably fail at every single point. I know I wnated to write more but I did the exact opposite. Seeing more movies, not the exact opposite as well lol… yea I will stop here.

    • The beauty of movie-watching resolutions is that they aren’t real resolutions. It’s just a fancy way of saying “Here are a bunch of movies I should probably watch”.

  10. You are doing much better than I am at attacking your resolutions. I still am yet to tackle any of the films I vowed not to watch. I have slipped back into modern cinema, and I haven’t read a single line from a book!!

  11. Keep up the good work, John! I need to make an effort to see more classics in the theater as well, though I did see a screening of THE ROOM over the weekend, heh.

  12. Pingback: The New Year’s Resolutions: Round Four |

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