Monday, October 05, 2015

'70s Horror Poll: Daughters of Darkness

#18 (Tie) - 4 Votes

No survey of '70s horror movies would be complete without a few lesbian vampires. While Dracula has been a perennial influence on the genre, the 1970s saw a wave of movies that drew inspiration Sheridan Le Fanu, whose short story Carmilla, about a young woman preyed upon by a female bloodsucker. Of all the movies of varying quality indebted to Carmilla and Le Fanu's real-life inspiration, 18th century serial killer Countess Elizabeth Báthory - whose beauty regime, it was rumored, included bathing in the blood of virgins - Daughters of Darkness is notable for actually featuring an immortal Báthory as its baddie. As played by Delphine Seyrig, Báthory arrives for a stay at a seaside resort in Belgium with her "secretary," Ilona (Andrea Rau), when she targets a newly married couple as her next prey. The Countess and her "secretary's" attempts to seduce and destroy the hip young marrieds almost plays as subversive - a queer triumph over bourgeois heteronormativity - though the movie's leering, porn-y vibe discourages that reading. Not that I'm complaining about the porniness, mind you.

I hadn't seen Daughters of Darkness before checking it out for this list, and my first impression is that it's a hysterical clash of the most highbrow and lowbrow trends in '70s cinema. The stylish art direction and costume design, evocative lighting, portentous dialogue and the casting of Delphine Seyrig - who'd worked with directors like Resnais, Buñuel and Truffaut - all suggest a horror movie that could have easily played in art houses. At the same time, the movie's frequent nudity and sex have a distinctly softcore Europorn vibe. The contrast between the high-minded approach to genre and gratuitous T&A are a reminder that flashes of nudity were one of the main selling points for European art house fare in the '60s, and that art films and smut weren't all that far apart.

In any case, as a vampire movie, Daughters of Darkness is a slow burn with a payoff that I found not entirely rewarding. As far as vampire movies with Sapphic overtones go, I remain partial to Hammer's Karnstein trilogy. Still, it's beautiful to look at, and I can see why director Harry Kumel's uniquely atmospheric approach to the genre has its fans. Also, cast members are naked and/or screwing around in full frontal, unshaven '70s glory every other scene, although, it must be noted, sex of the Sapphic variety is limited to a few tight-lipped kisses.

U.S. Release Date: May 28, 1971 (Also released that day: Big Jake, The Grissom Gang, Kuroneko)

Sunday, October 04, 2015

'70s Horror Poll: The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh

#18 (Tie) - 4 Votes

Hopefully the only "the dog ate my homework" post I'll have to share this month, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (AKA Blade of the Ripper, AKA Next!) is one of the movies on this list that I hadn't seen before. I found Sergio Martino's 1971 giallo on YouTube only to discover, as I sat down to watch it this week, that none of the uploads of the Italian-language movie that I could find featured subtitles. I watched anyway, relying on plot summaries of the film, so I'd have something to write about, but apologies in advance, as this will (hopefully) be the briefest entry I write this month.

Thankfully, there are two aspects of the movie I was able to enjoy that transcended the language barrier. The first was the lovely Edwige Fenech, who plays the unfaithful wife of a diplomat (I learned this from other reviews, though I ascertained that she's a jet-setter who likes to bang a lot) who finds herself targeted by a mysterious killer. Fenech appeared in several movies that showed up on people's ballots; she's a scream queen before the term had been coined, and for good reason. She's mesmerizing whenever she's onscreen, and while I can't speak to the quality of the script, her performance makes for a strong giallo counterpart to Susannah York in Robert Altman's Images, released the following year. She's both a great screen presence and, as the movie becomes more hallucinatory, manages to deliver a credible performance despite the kind of late-in-the-game plot convolutions (if I understood them correctly) that are as much a part of gialli as their stylish death scenes.

And as far as death scenes go, The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh nails it. Unlike Argento's protracted, hyper-stylized setpieces, Martino's murder sequences are stylish but quick, gory and disturbingly economical. Coupled with the movie's blunt nudity, Martino's movie reminds of the influence gialli would have on slasher movies several years later. Martino, who would go on to direct Torso, 2019: After the Fall of New York, and Island of the Fishmen (re-titled Screamers when it was released, with a hilariously misleading trailer, by New World Pictures), among many others, seems less interested in aestheticizing violence than most of his peers, but having to rely entirely on the images to get through the movie, I can at least report that he has a great eye, and I'm looking forward to revisiting The Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh and more of his movies when I can know what the hell everyone is saying.

Sidenote: Nora Orlandi's haunting theme for the film, which has been stuck in my head for a couple of days, was used by Quentin Tarantino for the soundtrack to Kill Bill vol. 2.

U.S. Release Date: August 6, 1971 (Also released that day: The Brotherhood of Satan, The Horseman, Let's Scare Jessica to Death, The Love Machine)

Friday, October 02, 2015

'70s Horror Poll: Honorable Mentions

Unlike last year's '90s poll, which offered the deliberate challenge of coming up with ten genuinely worthy horror movies from a decade that was a mixed bag for the genre, the 1970s offers no shortage of genuine classics, underrated gems and interesting obscurities. Many thanks to all of the people who shared their top ten lists with me; as you can tell from the honorable mentions listed below, the results were wonderfully eclectic (this may be the only list where Cries and Whispers and Death Bed: The Bed That Eats are two slots apart).

I'll unveil the movies that got the most votes one day at a time, starting tomorrow. I should admit upfront that my schedule is busier (in a good way, mostly) than the past few Octobers, so I may not write at as much length about each movie as I have in the past or always manage to post one per day. However, I'll write at least a little bit about each (along with some guest writers who'll be contributing later in the month), and by Halloween, I'll have the entire list unveiled.

Movies that recieved one vote:

Airport 1975 (Jack Smight, 1974)
Alucarda (Juan López Moctezuma, 1977)
The Amazing Transplant - 1
The Amityville Horror (Stuart Rosenberg, 1979)
Arcana (Doris Wishman, 1970)
Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter, 1976)
The Baby (Ted Post, 1973)
Blood from the Mummy's Tomb (Seth Holt, 1971)
The Blood on Satan's Claw (Piers Haggard, 1971)
Blue Movie (Alberto Cavallone, 1970)
The Cannibal Man (Eloy de la Iglesia, 1973)
Captain Kronos, Vampire Hunter (Brian Clemens, 1974)
Countess Dracula (Peter Sasdy, 1971)
The Creeping Flesh (Freddie Francis, 1973)
Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972)

Cyclone (René Cardona Jr., 1978)
Death Bed: The Bed That Eats (George Barry, 1977)
Deathdream (Bob Clark, 1974)
Delirium (Peter Maris, 1979)
Don't Deliver Us from Evil (Joël Séria, 1971)
Don't Look in the Basement (S.F. Brownrigg, 1973)
Doriana Gray (Jesús Franco, 1976)
Dracula (John Badham, 1979)
The Driller Killer (Abel Ferrara, 1979)
Epileptic Seizure Comparison (Paul Sharits, 1976)
Exorcist II: The Heretic (John Boorman, 1977)
Flesh for Frankenstein (Paul Morrissey, 1973)
Footprints on the Moon (Luigi Bazzoni, 1975)
From Beyond the Grave (Kevin Connor, 1974)
God Told Me To (Larry Cohen, 1976)

Horror Express (Eugenio Martin, 1972)
House of Whipcord (Pete Walker, 1974)
The House that Dripped Blood (Peter Duffell, 1971)
The House with Laughing Windows (Pupi Avati, 1976)
I Drink Your Blood (David E. Durston, 1970)
I Spit on Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978)
The Iron Rose (Jean Rollin, 1973)
It's Alive (Larry Cohen, 1974)
The Last House on Dead End Street (Roger Watkins, 1977)
The Legend of Hell House (John Hough, 1973)
Lips of Blood (Jean Rollin, 1975)
Magic (Richard Attenborough, 1978)
Mandingo (Richard Fleischer, 1975)
Mumsy, Nanny, Sunny and Girly (Freddie Francis, 1970)
The Night Child (Massimo Dallamano, 1975)

The Night of the Seagulls (Amando de Ossorio, 1975)
Night Train Murders (Aldo Lado, 1975)
Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974)
Phase IV (Saul Bass, 1974)
The Phone Box (Antonio Mercero, 1972)
Picnic at Hanging Rock (Peter Weir, 1975)
Private Parts (Paul Bartel, 1972)
Race with the Devil (Jack Starrett, 1975)
The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (Emilio Miraglia, 1972)
The Return of Count Yorga - (Bob Kelljan, 1971)
Rituals (Peter Carter, 1977)
The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Jim Sharman, 1975)
Salem's Lot (Tobe Hooper, 1979)
Satan's Triangle (Sutton Roley, 1975)
The Sentinel (Michael Winner, 1977)

The Shiver of the Vampires (Jean Rollin, 1971)
Shock Waves (Ken Wiederhorn, 1977)
The Spirit of the Beehive (Victor Erice, 1973)
The Stone Tape (Peter Sasdy, 1972)
Straw Dogs (Sam Peckinpah, 1971)
Tales from the Crypt (Freddie Francis, 1972)
Thriller: A Cruel Picture (Bo Arne Vibenius, 1973)
The Town That Dreaded Sundown (Charles B. Pierce, 1976)
The Track (Serge Leroy, 1975)
Trilogy of Terror (Dan Curtis, 1975)
Under the Blossoming Cherry Trees (Masahiro Shinoda, 1975)

Vampyres (José Ramón Larraz, 1974)
Vampyros Lesbos (Jesús Franco, 1971)
A Virgin Among the Living Dead (Jesús Franco, 1973)
The Visitor (Giulio Paradisi, 1979)
Werewolf Woman (Rino Di Silvestro, 1976)
What Have You Done to Solange? (Massimo Dallamano, 1972)
The Witch who Came from the Sea (Matt Cimber, 1976)
The Woman who Powders Herself (Patrick Bokanowski, 1972)
Woods Are Wet (Tatsumi Kumashiro, 1973)
Your Vice is a Locked Room and Only I Have the Key (Sergio Martino, 1972)

Movies that received two votes:

The Abominable Dr. Phibes (Robert Fuest, 1971)
A Bay of Blood (Mario Bava, 1971)
The Blood Spattered Bride (Vincente Aranda, 1972)
Duel (Steven Spielberg, 1971)
Eaten Alive (Tobe Hooper, 1976)
Even Dwarfs Started Small (Werner Herzog, 1970)
The Hills Have Eyes (Wes Craven, 1977)
Let's Scare Jessica to Death (John Hancock, 1971)
The Living Dead at Manchester Morgue (Jorge Grau, 1974)
Psychomania (Don Sharp, 1973)
Salo (Pier Paolo Pasolini, 1975)
Shivers (David Cronenberg, 1975)
Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando de Ossorio, 1972)
Torso (Sergio Martino, 1973)

Movies that received three votes:

Alice Sweet Alice (Alfred Sole, 1976)
The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (Dario Argento, 1970)
Burnt Offerings (Dan Curtis, 1976)
Fascination (Jean Rollin, 1979)
Ganja and Hess (Bill Gunn, 1973)
The Grapes of Death (Jean Rollin, 1978)
The Last House on the Left (Wes Craven, 1972)
A Lizard in a Woman's Skin (Lucio Fulci, 1971)
The Shout (Jerzy Skolimowski, 1978)
Theatre of Blood (Douglas Hickox, 1973)
Who Can Kill a Child? (Narciso Ibáñez Serrador, 1976)

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Halloween Horror Poll: '70s Edition

I jumped for joy yesterday when I realized that it's almost October. Not that I haven't had a great summer, but there's something about the crisp fall weather, Halloween decorations and watching as many horror movies as I can possibly cram into a month that feels like bliss to me. Since I had a lot of fun tallying everyone's choices for the best '90s horror movies last year, I'll be hosting another poll this season. While the '90s poll was an interesting opportunity to highlight the underdiscussed gems in what wasn't a great decade for the genre, this year I'll be focusing on a decade, the 1970s, that has no shortage of great horror movies to choose from (honestly, I could probably come up with a solid top ten for any year that decade).

If you'd like to contribute to the poll, please submit your own top ten via e-mail (, Twitter, Facebook, Letterboxd or in the comments sections here by 9/20. And if you'd be interested in writing about one of your choices, please let me know. I'm blessed with the problem of several other writing gigs and my movie's premiere in November, so I can certainly use the help.

A few things:

- You can rank your list if you want, but it won't affect how I'm tallying the votes.

- Release dates are determined by the movie's first commercial (non-festival) release anywhere in the world. If you want to make a case for a movie that you think should be an exception, I'm happy to consider it.

- TV movies/miniseries and shorts are allowed.

- "Horror" can mean whatever you want it to.

Thanks in advance - I'm looking forward to seeing your lists!

Tuesday, June 09, 2015

My Top 5%


I've been using Flickchart for several years now. It's a site that randomly pits two movies at a time against each other - you click the one you prefer, and the site gradually produces a ranked list of your highest-rated movies. The site has never taken off the way Letterboxd has - it doesn't allow you to write extended reviews or keep a viewing diary, and it's considerably nerdier than Letterboxd. However, it's one of my favorite time wasters.

This past weekend, I saw that my list had grown long enough that, according to Flickchart, I've now seen 5000 movies (the five thousandth was John Sayles' Lianna, which I quite liked). Granted, their definition of "movies" extends to things like Michael Jackson: Moonwalker, Gallagher stand-up specials and the straight-to-video My Pet Monster tie-in movie that I watched too many times as a kid. Still, I'll take it. To celebrate the occasion, I thought I'd post my top 250 according to my Flickchart rankings. I gave up making any sort of deliberately ranked best-of list a few years back, and this makes for a fun alternative - the first twenty or so are pretty close to the list I'd make if I sat down and thought about it, but after the first fifty, it gets a little more idiosyncratic. It's like a list made by an alternate universe version of me, slightly hipper and with less regard for good taste. I'd trust this guy's opinion over mine, honestly. He just likes the stuff he likes.

1. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
2. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
3. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese, 1980)
4. Nashville (Robert Altman, 1975)
5. There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)
6. E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (Steven Spielberg, 1982)
7. Vertigo (Alfred Hitchcock, 1958)
8. Blade Runner (Ridley Scott, 1982)
9. Lawrence of Arabia (David Lean, 1962)
10. Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)
11. 2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)
12. Carrie (Brian De Palma, 1976)
13. Jaws (Steven Spielberg, 1975)
14. Boogie Nights (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1997)
15. Alien (Ridley Scott, 1979)
16. The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)
17. One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Milos Forman, 1975)
18. Aguirre, the Wrath of God (Werner Herzog, 1972)
19. Kill Bill vol. 2 (Quentin Tarantino, 2004)
20. Kill Bill vol. 1 (Quentin Tarantino, 2003)
21. Taxi Driver (Martin Scorsese, 1976)
22. Dawn of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1979)
23. Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)
24. Persona (Ingmar Bergman, 1966)
25. The Elephant Man (David Lynch, 1980)

26. All That Jazz (Bob Fosse, 1979)
27. Nosferatu, Phantom der Nacht (Werner Herzog, 1979)
28. Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975)
29. Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008)
30. Fargo (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1996)
31. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
32. Chinatown (Roman Polanski, 1974)
33. Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)
34. Harold and Maude (Hal Ashby, 1971)
35. Don't Look Now (Nicolas Roeg, 1973)
36. Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960
37. The Fly (David Cronenberg, 1986)
38. Manhattan (Woody Allen, 1979)
39. McCabe and Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)
40. Mulholland Drive (David Lynch, 2001)
41. 8 1/2 (Federico Fellini, 1963)
42. Halloween (John Carpenter, 1978)
43. The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
44. El Topo (Alejandro Jodorowsky, 1970)
45. The Last Temptation of Christ (Martin Scorsese, 1988)
46. Jules and Jim (François Truffaut, 1962)
47. Eraserhead (David Lynch, 1977)
48. A Clockwork Orange (Stanley Kubrick, 1971)
49. Sid and Nancy (Alex Cox, 1986)
50. The Thing (John Carpenter, 1982)

51. Secretary (Steven Shainberg, 2002)
52. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
53. The Dark Knight (Christopher Nolan, 2008)
54. Dead Man (Jim Jarmusch, 1996)
55. The Searchers (John Ford, 1956)
56. Goodfellas (Martin Scorsese, 1990)
57. Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
58. The New World (Terrence Malick, 2005)
59. Star Wars: Episode V - The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)
60. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
61. The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972)
62. Modern Romance (Albert Brooks, 1981)
63. Annie Hall (Woody Allen, 1977)
64. Ran (Akira Kurosawa, 1985)
65. Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Steven Spielberg, 1977)
66. Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972)
67. Orpheus (Jean Cocteau, 1950)
68. Days of Heaven (Terrence Malick, 1978)
69. Last Tango in Paris (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1972)
70. Once Upon a Time in America (Sergio Leone, 1984)
71. No Country for Old Men (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 2007)
72. Eyes Wide Shut (Stanley Kubrick, 1999)
73. Blow Out (Brian De Palma, 1981)
74. Schindler's List (Steven Spielberg, 1993)
75. City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)

76. The Thin Red Line (Terrence Malick, 1998)
77. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry, 2004)
78. The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
79. Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)
80. Miller's Crossing (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1990)
81. Phantom of the Paradise (Brian De Palma, 1974)
82. Cabaret (Bob Fosse, 1972)
83. Creepshow (George A. Romero, 1982)
84. Hannah and Her Sisters (Woody Allen, 1986)
85. La Dolce Vita (Federico Fellini, 1960)
86. The Tree of Life (Terrence Malick, 2011)
87. Death Proof (Quentin Tarantino, 2007)
88. My Own Private Idaho (Gus Van Sant, 1991)
89. The Big Lebowski (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1998)
90. The King of Comedy (Martin Scorsese, 1983)
91. Rosemary's Baby (Roman Polanski, 1968)
92. Spirited Away (Hiyao Miyazaki, 2001)
93. The Seventh Seal (Ingmar Bergman, 1957)
94. Nights of Cabiria (Federico Fellini, 1957)
95. True Romance (Tony Scott, 1993)
96. Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)
97. Fearless (Peter Weir, 1993)
98. The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson and Frank Oz, 1982)
99. Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan (Nicholas Meyer, 1982)
100. One From the Heart (Francis Ford Coppola, 1982)

101. The Silence of the Lambs (Jonathan Demme, 1991)
102. The Verdict (Sidney Lumet, 1982)
103. Lost in America (Albert Brooks, 1985)
104. A Trip to the Moon (Georges Méliès, 1902)
105. Re-Animator (Stuart Gordon, 1985)
106. Y tu mamá también (Alfonso Cuarón, 2001)
107. Django Unchained (Quentin Tarantino, 2012)
108. Before Midnight (Richard Linklater, 2013)
109. The World's End (Edgar Wright, 2013)
110. The Year of Living Dangerously (Peter Weir, 1982)
111. Planes, Trains & Automobiles (John Hughes, 1987)
112. Manhunter (Michael Mann, 1986)
113. Bambi (David Hand & various, 1942)
114. Eating Raoul (Paul Bartel, 1982)
115. Stop Making Sense (Jonathan Demme, 1984)
116. Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)
117. The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
118. The Treasure of the Sierra Madre (John Huston, 1948)
119. Shoah (Claude Lanzmann, 1985)
120. Woodstock (Michael Wadleigh, 1970)
121. Robocop (Paul Verhoeven, 1987)
122. The Wolf of Wall Street (Martin Scorsese, 2013)
123. Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967)
124. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
125. Stroszek (Werner Herzog, 1979)

126. Mean Streets (Martin Scorsese, 1973)
127. The Last Emperor (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1987)
128. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (Luis Buñuel, 1972)
129. Frenzy (Alfred Hitchcock, 1972)
130. The Dead Zone (David Cronenberg, 1983)
131. Andrei Rublev (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1966)
132. The Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
133. Images (Robert Altman, 1972)
134. The American Friend (Wim Wenders, 1977)
135. Solaris (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1972)
136. Roma (Federico Fellini, 1972)
137. Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)
138. Superman (Richard Donner, 1978)
139. The Secret of Roan Inish (John Sayles, 1995)
140. Repulsion (Roman Polanski, 1965)
141. Bad Timing (Nicolas Roeg, 1980)
142. Almost Famous (Cameron Crowe, 2000)
143. Far From Heaven (Todd Haynes, 2002)
144. The Great Dictator (Charles Chaplin, 1940)
145. Throne of Blood (Akira Kurosawa, 1957)
146. The Bridge on the River Kwai (David Lean, 1957)
147. Solaris (Steven Soderbergh, 2002)
148. Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (Frank Capra, 1939)
149. Rear Window (Alfred Hitchcock, 1954)
150. Diner (Barry Levinson, 1982)

151. Betty Blue (Jean-Jacques Beiniex, 1986)
152. The Texas Chain Saw Massacre (Tobe Hooper, 1974)
153. Performance (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970)
154. Poltergeist (Tobe Hooper, 1982)
155. Richard Pryor: Live on the Sunset Strip (Joe Layton, 1982)
156. Tokyo Story (Yasujirô Ozu, 1953)
157. M (Fritz Lang, 1931)
158. A.I. (Steven Spielberg, 2001)
159. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
160. Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
161. Rashomon (Akira Kurosawa, 1950)
162. Ed Wood (Tim Burton, 1994)
163. Macbeth (Roman Polanski, 1971)
164. The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
165. The Road Warrior (George Miller, 1981)
166. Day of the Dead (George A. Romero, 1985)
167. Inferno (Dario Argento, 1980)
168. Sunset Boulevard (Billy Wilder, 1950)
169. The Red Shoes (Michael Powell and Emetic Pressburger, 1948)
170. Zero Dark Thirty (Kathryn Bigelow, 2012)
171. The Apartment (Billy Wilder, 1960)
172. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Philip Kaufman, 1978)
173. Doctor Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)
174. If.... (Lindsay Anderson, 1968)
175. Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa, 1980)

176. Catch-22 (Mike Nichols, 1970)
177. Coming Home (Hal Ashby, 1978)
178. The Deer Hunter (Michael Cimino, 1978)
179. Full Metal Jacket (Stanley Kubrick, 1987)
180. Three Kings (David O. Russell, 1999)
181. Gangs of New York (Martin Scorsese, 2002)
182. Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960)
183. Spartacus (Stanley Kubrick, 1960)
184. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Selick, 1993)
185. Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1964)
186. Black Sunday (Mario Bava, 1960)
187. Being There (Hal Ashby, 1979)
188. Night Moves (Arthur Penn, 1975)
189. Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
190. La jetée (Chris Marker, 1962)
191. The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (Jacques Demy, 1964)
192. Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008)
193. A Star is Born (George Cukor, 1954)
194. North by Northwest (Alfred Hitchcock, 1959)
195. Un Chien Andalou (Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dali, 1929)
196. Chungking Express (Wong Kar-wai, 1944)
197. Breathless (Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)
198. Peeping Tom (Michael Powell, 1960)
199. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
200. An American Werewolf in London (John Landis, 1981)

201. 3 Women (Robert Altman, 1977)
202. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
203. I'm Not There (Todd Haynes, 2007)
204. Being John Malkovich (Spike Jonze, 199)
205. The Iron Giant (Brad Bird, 1999)
206. Pather Panchali (Satyajit Ray, 1955)
207. Diabolique (Henri-Georges Clouzot, 1955)
208. Notorious (Alfred Hitchcock, 1946)
209. The Killing (Stanley Kubrick, 1956)
210. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
211. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo del Toro, 2006)
212. Dog Day Afternoon (Sidney Lumet, 1975)
213. Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens (F.W. Murnau, 1922)
214. 12 Years a Slave (Steve McQueen, 2013)
215. The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940)
216. Raising Arizona (Joel Coen and Ethan Coen, 1987)
217. American Beauty (Sam Mendes, 1999)
218. Inglorious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
219. Wings of Desire (Wim Wenders, 1987)
220. The Fountain (Darren Aronofsky, 2006)
221. Magnolia (Paul Thomas Anderson, 1999)
222. Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid (Sam Peckinpah, 1973)
223. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (Andrew Dominik, 2007)
224. The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993)
225. Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

226. Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2014)
227. A Nightmare on Elm Street (Wes Craven, 1984)
228. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater, 1993)
229. Once Upon a Time in the West (Sergio Leone, 1968)
230. Popeye (Robert Altman, 1980)
231. Rushmore (Wes Anderson, 1998)
232. Double Indemnity (Billy Wilder, 1944)
233. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
234. The Birds (Alfred Hitchcock, 1963)
235. The Postman Always Rings Twice (Kay Garnett, 1946)
236. Dr. Strangelove or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
237. To Kill a Mockingbird (Robert Mulligan, 1962)
238. Belle de jour (Luis Buñuel, 1967)
239. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
240. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)
241. Some Like it Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
242. The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
243. Beauty and the Beast (Jean Cocteau, 1946)
244. Breaking the Waves (Lars Von Trier, 1996)
245. Gravity (Alfonso Cuarón, 2013)
246. Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)
247. Black Moon (Louis Malle, 1975)
248. The Adventures of Baron Munchausen (Terry Gilliam, 1988)
249. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
250. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emetic Pressburger, 1947)

Monday, June 01, 2015

I am into tacos like you are into turqoise.

This is my contribution to this year's White Elephant Blogathon, hosted by Philip Tatler IV at his blog Diary of a Country Pickpocket.

If a movie is repeatedly described by its fans as "Dadaist," isn't the joke on anyone who tries to write about it? Putting aside the question of whether "Dada" is a descriptor that has any real meaning outside of the zeitgeist that birthed it - WWI-era Europe - if a work, like Robert Downey Sr.'s Two Tons to Turquoise to Taos Tonight, is indeed deliberately artless as a protest against the crimes of polite society, is there anything else to say except to note its existence and move on? Maybe, but as I've been assigned Two Tons of Turquoise to Taos Tonight to write about, I will try.

For what it's worth, I wouldn't call the film (originally titled Moment to Moment) Dadaist so much as cheerfully nonsensical - while Downey's movies, most famously Putney Swope, were often designed to rankle the status quo, this plotless collection of brief sketches seems less like a calculated provocation than the result of Downey and his friends screwing around with a camera for their own amusement. One scene crashes into the next - there are men on horseback playing baseball, there's a scene aboard a spaceship, and at one point, it seems like the apocalypse might happen, but then it doesn't. The results are uneven as that sounds, though I admire the spirit of the movie even as the experience of actually watching it was something of a chore to get through. Writing that makes me feel like the lieutenant played by Fred Willard in This is Spinal Tap who tells the band he's a fan "not of your music personally, but the whole genre of rock and roll." That's how it is, though.

It's entirely possible that my feeling that I just watched a version of The Kentucky Fried Movie without jokes is on me for not being on Downey and his cast's wavelength. Everything about the way the movie jumps formlessly from one vignette to the next without concern for beginnings, endings or any kind of context suggests that, if it made Downey laugh, that was good enough for him. And as Putney Swope and some of his other movies combine this anarchic sensibility with more focused, pointed satire, I assume that he didn't set out to make a more conventionally satisfying comedy and screwed it up. This is the movie he wanted to make, and there's something admirable about how it's defiantly its own thing, even if I didn't enjoy it very much.

What enjoyment I did get out of it is reflected in the interview for the movie's Criterion release featuring Downey and Paul Thomas Anderson, where the younger director is clearly tickled by the notion that Downey convinced his cast - including his wife, Elsie, who appears in nearly every scene - to act out whatever crazy nonsense they could come up with, which is absurd in the way that all moviemaking is inherently absurd but which few movies acknowledge. My main takeaway is that Elsie, who, according to Downey, never said no to anything, must have been a real hip lady (young Robert Downey Jr. also appears in what seems to be home movie footage). Two Tons to Turquoise to Taos Tonight goes beyond personal into the realm of private filmmaking, and while I found myself thinking "that's clever" but not actually laughing throughout the movie, maybe it'll click with me if I revisit it sometime. And, while it's cheap to dismiss any surreal movie by accusing its makers of being on drugs, as the cast literally does lines at one point in the movie, it seems safe to say that I would have had a different experience if I was high.

Sidenote: I submitted one of my favorite movies, Dead Man, to the blog-a-thon, thinking that the person who was assigned it would be very lucky indeed. He actually hated it and spent multiple paragraphs rolling his eyes at it. Oh well, Jarmusch isn't for everyone. But I have to say, to the person that contributed Two Tons to Turquoise to Taos Tonight to the blog-a-thon: it wasn't my favorite, but if it's one of yours, thanks for nudging me to watch it, and I hope I haven't let you down.

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Blatant self-promotion.

I'm making a movie this spring. It's called Most Likely, and it's a comedy about a group of lifelong friends spending a weird weekend in the country together for a wedding. We're scheduled to shoot in New Hampshire's White Mountains region in April, and we've assembled a talented cast and crew to make the movie, but we need your help. Please check out our Kickstarter page to learn more about the movie - at the very least, I highly recommend giving our ridiculous video a look. Whether or not you're able to contribute, sharing the link with your friends would be enormously helpful. Thanks very much!