At the end of 2012, I made a lot of movie-related New Year’s resolutions for 2013. Adding them all up, my goal comes out to 109 (mostly) specific films to watch this year. The year is a quarter of the way done. March came packaged with special issues, like crippling depression, work stress, and a week-long vacation. Can our hero fight through these barricades? What kind of progress has been made this month?
Watch Martin Scorsese’s Documentaries
There was only one film in this category this month. Shine a Light is Scorsese’s documentary about the Rolling Stones. On the surface, it’s a match made in heaven because I love Scorsese, like the Stones, and went nuts for Scorsese’s The Last Waltz. In reality, it simply made me feel old. And more importantly, it made me feel like the Stones were old and should cease and desist. Don’t get me wrong. I loved hearing the classic Stones songs, and Scorsese filmed it as well as he could. But Jagger and crew sure looked old. I felt like I was watching Clint Eastwood lecture a chair about American politics all over again. Which is to say that I saw icons lose their charm right before my very eyes.
AFI’s 100 Years of Musicals
I hit a wall here. I had chances to watch Chicago– amazingly, it’s on the list- but couldn’t pull the trigger. The only 100 Years musical that I watched was An American in Paris (1951), and that was very early in the month. It didn’t do much for me but I’ll admit that there’s a dash of humor in the handful of Gene Kelly films that I’ve seen, which makes me like them more than most other musicals.
Watch every film on the BFI Greatest Films Ballots for Edgar Wright, Martin Scorsese, Quentin Tarantino, Francis Coppola, Gaspar Noé, and Lukas Moodysson
This happened to be a productive category for the month. I wiped out Francis Ford Coppola’s list by watching I Vitelloni (1953). I tackled two from Scorsese’s list- Salvatore Giuliano (1962) and The River (1951). And I checked Soy Cuba (1964) off of Gaspar Noé’s list.
All four were significant viewings, each dripping with meaty art house goodness. You don’t have to squint to see the influence that I Vitelloni had on films like Mean Streets and American Graffiti, amongst others. The River was a highly unique blend of eastern mythology and typical western storytelling techniques, combined with some some very bold use of color. Salvatore Giuliano was a triumph of Italian neo-realism and a bit of a groundbreaker in regards to plot structure. It fit perfectly in the counter-culture of the 1960s.
The real star of the whole month was Soy Cuba. Mikhail Kalatozov’s propaganda film was apparently controversial. Cubans and Russians alike disliked it. Cubans felt it painted them in a poor light, while Russians thought it was too sympathetic to the Cuban bourgeois. It was banned in America for a very long time. Personally, I struggled with how hilariously anti-American it was, although I can’t hold that against it since it was designed to be exactly that. Where it really separates itself is with the stark black and white cinematography. In fact, I’d say that the cinematography in Soy Cuba is some of the best ever put to film.
Finish the AFI Top 100
The end of this list is nigh, but no progress was made this month. The only films left are All About Eve, Intolerance, A Streetcar Named Desire, Spartacus, and Sophie’s Choice. I have Sophie’s Choice on my DVR now, so I’m sure I’ll check it off this month. Spartacus will most likely come next.
At Least Three films Each from Pédro Almodovar, Yasujiru Ozu, Satyajit Ray, and Busby Berkeley
The Gold Diggers of 1935 (1935) is the only film I watched from this category. I appreciated that it slightly subverted the plot of the first film- The Gold Diggers of 1933. Although it was mostly moot, since I’m technically at my three film quota for Berkeley.
… and At Least Ten Non-Satyajit Ray Films from India
This category has been dormant all year, but it should get a kickoff it deserves in April with Sholay (1975). I have no idea what it’s about but reviews are overwhelmingly positive.
Ten Classic or Non-New Release Films in the Theater
I didn’t make any trips to the theater, either for new releases or older films, in March.
The AV Club 50 Best Films of the 90s
The only film I saw in this category was Metropolitan (1990), a film that basically drove me crazy because I couldn’t stand any of the characters. That’s not to say that it was a bad film. I’m just pretty sure I’d stab any of the characters in the face with a plastic KFC spork if I ever had to spend more than five minutes alone in a room with them. I guess that kind of makes it The Big Chill (1983) of the 90s.
At Least Five Ray Harryhausen Films
There was no progress here but I have The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms in the on-deck circle.
I’m now at the quarter pole for the year. I came in with a goal of 109 mostly specific films. A quarter of the way through, I’ve seen 32, putting me just slightly ahead of pace. Come back next month for more Adventures in Film Neuroses.