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.
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!!!”
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 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.