Sunday, January 30, 2011

Leopard13's Favorite Movies of 1980

My good blogging friend Leopard13 took up a request I left in response to one of his many valued comments here that I would love to see a list of his favorite films of the year 1980 on his blog Lazy Thoughts From a Boomer, and the results can be found in a wonderful (and very flattering towards your humble author) post.

Please click here to read "Fer Shur...It's an 80's Thing"

Also click through his archives, which are full of his passionate musings on cinema, life, books, his family and Los Angeles.

Thanks Leopard13!

Friday, January 28, 2011

Posterized: Now Playing January 1981

And now, onward we move to 1981.

The 1981 Project begins with the posters for the films that premiered in theatres throughout the United States in the first month of the second year of the penultimate decade of the millennium (or Willenium, if you're nasty).

January has long been considered a bleak month for new releases, the Academy Award nominee hopefuls are still expanding, the holidays are over, and studios usually use the quiet period as a dumping ground time to release some of the dregs of their vault as financial write-offs. Though this has actually changed a bit in recent years, with high profile big releases with full marketing pushes such as Green Hornet and Cloverfield premiering in January.

Of course, as someone who appreciates the types of films teetering on the fringe of respectability, I find it fascinating to look at past year's black sheeps. Amongst 1981's offering are a film with a bitching poster that playfully subverts Jaws 2's infamous tagline, a Cronenberg film that may not be one of his best but features a scene that is probably he's best known amongst masses, and a guilty pleasure Nostradamus documentary that garnered some infamy after murky connections to the terrorist attacks of September 11th made it on the internet.

Friday, January 21, 2011

The 1980 Project: My Favorite Movie of 1980

1. The Elephant Man (David Lynch)

If there’s some kind of overreaching thematic similarity amongst the majority of the films on my top ten and honorable lists for the year 1980 it’s the attempt (and often times failings) of an outsider, often a societal “misfit”, to fit into a world (stratosphere) in which they do not belong.

This is evident in the bourgeoisie woman who drops out of high society for a seemingly unexplainable relationship with a poor drifter in Loulou, the James brothers attempting to go straight and enter respectful society in The Long Riders, the politician’s daughter who lives on the hard streets of New York’s 42nd Street in Times Square, the criminal hiding out on a film shoot in The Stunt Man, and the petty thief disguised as a great warrior in Kagemusha. You could also include Han Solo hiding out as a romantic hero for the rebellion who is ultimately confronted with his past in The Empire Strikes Back, and Jack Torrance whose disguise as a suburban father and husband slowly erodes in the Overlook Hotel in The Shining.

Is there some sort of deep significance to this theme that resonated in 1980? Was it the fact the baby boom generation was now entering middle age and the responsibilities that entails? Is it the rocky transition from the more personal and politically minded focus of the prior decade’s films to the more commercial aspects of the post Star Wars mindset when ancillaries such as clothing and toys meant that artists had to either become businessmen or at least pay heed to them? Or am I just trying to assign some deep significance to what ultimately is an old tried and true storytelling trope?

Either way, the film from 1980 which most solidifies this theme is David Lynch’s haunting, beautiful and devastating tale of John Merrick. While the other characters need only to make some surface alterations: manner of dress, haircut, disguising accent, to give the appearance of belonging to this other entity, there’s no gentle way to hide the distorted features of Merrick, it’s in the way he moves, talks, and yes, right there on his face. Even his most frequently employed mask, a burlap sack, gives a ghastly baroque visage we associate with a monster (for naught did Jason Voorhees don the same fashion statement for 1981’s Friday the 13th part II).

Merrick’s deformity leads to one of two results when confronted: abject horror or exploitation. The exploitation of him is the thrust of the film; we are first introduced to Merrick in a carnival, where he’s the main attraction of their freak show, on display for anyone willing to pay the price. When taken away from that environment and into a supposedly caring hospital, the exploitation continues as a janitor repeats the freak show economic environment, gathering schillings from drunken bar patrons to come in after hours, and conversely, also by high society when visiting the Elephant Man becomes a de rigeur trend amongst the elite after a stage actress (Anne Bancroft) writes a tribute to him. Even his closest confidant, the doctor who takes him as a patient (Anthony Hopkins) uses him for career advancement and sends his children away when allowing Merrick a visit to his home.

Even under heavy make-up and prosthesis, John Hurt gives a soulful performance as the titular character, who amongst the (supposed) best and worst of English society, always stands out as being the most human. Getting closer to death, and offered one moment of dignity in his life, Merrick makes a suicidal decision to commit one minor bit of human normalcy, an act we all take for granted every day, which allows him to leave the world unburdened by his deformity.

Coming off the midnight movie circuit cult success of Eraserhead, David Lynch’s first studio picture reveals he had skills at more straight forward storytelling while honing his distinct stylistic flourishes on Paramount Pictures’ dime. With stark black and white cinematography (great work by director of photography Freddie Francis), Lynch plays with our perceptions by using signifiers from classic English and American horror films (and remember a large number of the Universal horror films are set in Europe) as well as circus and industrial noises and images (the latter a technique he would deploy liberally in his subsequent career) that unsettle and play with the notion of what makes a monster, the exterior body, or the interior mind? Merrick’s defiant humanity in the face of such physical mutations amplifies our deficiencies.

The decade would see America going through a political shift and the films that reflected this sea change more than often mirrored the more “aw shucks” nature and easily simplified sales pitch techniques favored by the president (a former Hollywood actor, natch). While many of the impressive roster of directors of my Top 10 list would go on to have steady careers and successes through the 80’s, there’s also the sense that these men, much like the outsider characters of their creations, became increasingly pushed out. Richard Rush would not direct again until 1994, Akira Kurosawa and Stanley Kubrick would only make one more film between the period of 1981-1989 (though in fairness, Kubrick’s lapse is probably due to his perfectionist streak), and even though much younger, Lynch would only direct two more films in the decade. Seeing that most of films made in the year 1980 were at the very least conceived in the prior decade, perhaps 1980 itself is an anomaly. As we move further along, will the rebels be further pushed to the outskirts? For that answer, onward to 1981.

My Final Top Ten List for 1980

10. Airplane (Zucker-Abrahams-Zucker)
9. The Stunt Man (Richard Rush)
8. Stardust Memories (Woody Allen)
7. The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner)
6. Melvin and Howard (Jonathan Demme)
5. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese)
4. Dressed to Kill (Brian DePalma)
3. Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa)
2. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)
1. The Elephant Man (David Lynch)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

The 1980 Project: My 3rd and 2nd Favorite Movies of 1980

3. Kagemusha (Akira Kurosawa)

Though less explicit than the film at number 2, Kagemusha is a ghost story, one concerning the unexpected (and for his battle experience, rather anti-climactic) death of the warlord Shingen, and how his spirit and influence pervades all he comes in contact with: his closest confidants who must grieve in silence and follow through with his battle plan, his son who is burdened with living up to the expectations of his father fully knowing he will never ascend to the same ranks, his disciples who worship him, and his enemies who fear him. Most integrally is the impact he has on the petty thief (Tatsuya Nakadai in a tremendous dual role) who bears a striking resemblance to Shingen and is offered the opportunity to impersonate the deceased warrior to maintain battle strategy. Through his influence, the thief is visited by the late warrior in his dreams, this “shadow warrior” keeps a dividing clan together and is offered redemption, while also providing a heretofore non existent touch of humanity to the warrior’s legacy.

Kurosawa’s late period masterpiece, released in America 20th Century Fox and co-funded by to executive producers Francis Ford Coppola and George Lucas, is presented as an epic, and culminates in a twenty plus minute battle of large scope and futile possibilities, but its focus is much more intimate: the circumstances that unite these two separate men, and how the influence of one haunts initially, but eventually improves, the other.

2. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick)

It’s appropriate that a film in which the main character’s tenuous grasp on reality steadily corrodes over the running time would leave viewers to question their own sanity. Wait, what was Jack Torrance doing in that New Year’s Day picture? How the hell did Scatman Crothers get to the Overlook hotel so quickly in that storm? How did Jack get out of the meat locker? Oh my! Why the hell is the guy in the bear suit giving that old man fellatio? Like all good horror films, questions remain unanswered.

Stanley Kubrick’s master class in tension, heavy on long steadicam shots, is at its most base elements the story of a man discovering that his best days are long gone and succumbing to the spirits of a hotel that too is irrelevant (at least in the winter months), unable to revive his struggling writing career, he revolts against his life’s impending uselessness. Tellingly the father, impacted by the ghost of the hotel’s past, will be thwarted by his son who has the power to see into the future.

The Shining is different things to different people. It could be both the scariest movie of all time to one person and ludicrously hilarious to another. A straight-forward crackerjack thriller with the occasional trips into symbolic imagery or a metaphor for a bout of writer’s block that manifests itself into something soul corrosive or even a subtext leaden missive on the plight of Native Americans. Or, if you’re Stephen King, a dispiriting bore with no respect for fidelity to the source material.


Wednesday, January 19, 2011

The 1980 Project: My 5th and 4th Favorite Movies of 1980

5. Raging Bull (Martin Scorsese)

Long touted as the “best film of the 1980s” Martin Scorsese bifurcated telling of Jake LaMotta’s rise and fall, the boxing scenes are dazzling displays of full tilt cinematic formalism, his non-fighting life comparatively stark and bland, full of hand held Cassevettes-esque shots, Raging Bull is no doubt a monumental achievement, but honestly, there’s other Scorsese films I value more, and this is my list, and I am trying to be honest with the placement of the films on it, so, your miles may vary.

That said, it is excellent, and screenwriter Paul Schrader’s and Scorsese’s depiction of how a man borne of and career dependent on violence inevitably is unable to turn off (or pull any punches if you are feeling puny, har har) these instincts when out of the ring uncomfortably burrows its way into the viewer's psyche. And Robert DeNiro’s Jake La Motta is perhaps a career best performance, something remarkable considering his career is full of iconic characters like Travis Bickle, the young Vito Corleone, Rupert Pupkin, Al Capone, Jimmy Conway and the dad from Little Fockers.

4. Dressed to Kill (Brian DePalma)

I have a little saying “There are those that love Brian DePalma’s trashy highly stylized thriller Dressed to Kill and those that hate cinema”, I know it’s cheeky (and probably not entirely accurate) and I imagine a certain segment of critical circles would probably scoff at me placing the film above such a landmark as the one at number five, but I gots to be honest, and honestly, I get a contact high, a cinematic joie de vivre each and every time I view Dressed to Kill that leaves me giddy, and should you put it and Raging Bull in front of me and ask me to choose, sorry LaMotta.

With giallo and Alfred Hitchock’s Psycho as inspirational starting points (and please if you are one of those “all DePalma does is rip off Hitchcock” people, kindly find someone else to annoy), DePalma crafts a darkly comic (and frankly, sometime mean spirited) thriller rooted in sexual hang-ups and voyeurism. This is best cemented by the opening dream sequence, which in and of itself was a serendipitous occurrence as Angie Dickinson refused to do a nude scene. Therefore, when the middle aged housewife (Dickinson) fantasizes herself having sex in the shower, the supple body of the much younger body double replaces reality, serving as a reminder of how one prefers to imagine themselves.

DePalma uses every cinematic trick in the book: split diopters, long, deliberate tracking shots and slow motion that extends a murder scene that would be about ten seconds in reality to about three minutes of film. Style over substance? No, it’s style as substance. Cinematic reality over the real world. And yes, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

The 1980 Project: My 7th and 6th Favorite Movies of 1980

7. The Empire Strikes Back (1980, Irvin Kershner)

Full disclosure: every one of the films on the Top Ten list have been viewed (or rewatched) within the last two years, with one exception: this film. The last time I did see Empire, however, was of symbolic significance. It was spring 2004 at a theatrical screening held at the Arclight. The title of Episode 3 (in case you blocked it out of your memory, that title was Revenge of the Sith) had just been announced, and the theatre was packed with people (mainly late 20 to mid-30 something males) with bootleg t-shirts featuring the upcoming finale’s title using the font from the original title of the third film (er, episode six): Revenge of the Jedi. The buzzing pre-film excitement about the sure to be excellent sixth film (er, episode three) was palpable. This despite the fact that the first two prequels were, well, less than expected to put it kindly. While I wondered why the lack of cynicism or at the very least more measured expectations, I realized the reason for the high hopes were because of the film we were about to watch.

Sequelizing the highest grossing film of all time provides more than a few obstacles. But creator-producer George Lucas’, who was so burnt out by the process that he handed the directorial reins to his college professor, Irvin Kershner, follow up to Star Wars was more Godfather part II than Jaws II. The pacing is tighter, the themes more fully developed, Empire bests the original film in most aspects. Lucas’ love of cliff hanger serials resulted in a shocking denouement which saw our two main protagonists at a crossroads, one now embedded with life altering information, the other a statue for a slovenly loan shark.

Out of all the films on this list, this is the one whose placement led to the most internal debate. Do I discredit the film for the blahness of the prequel films giving me a serious case of Star Wars phobia? Do I pay extra credence to it since next to Airplane! it’s the movie on the list I’ve seen the most times in my life? When preparing this list, I had it placed as high as three and as low as nine. Ultimately, I am happy with it here at lucky number seven since the next six films always bring something to the table with each viewing as oppose to Empire, whose pleasure I’m pretty sure have been completely exhausted. Still, when I look at the state of modern blockbuster sequels (Iron Man 2 and Tron Legacy are the first that come to mind) I see failure where Empire succeeds. Empire expands the universe introduced in the first film and gives its characters challenges related to their past that provide depth whereas the two more recent efforts mentioned replace these elements merely with more characters and bigger budgets.

6. Melvin and Howard (1980, Jonathan Demme)

Whether or not you believe that Howard Hughes left 1/16th of his fortune to Melvin Dummar after he picked up the reclusive billionaire hitch-hiking (for the record director Jonathan Demme and screenwriter Bo Goldman proceed as if Dummar’s story is factual) is inconsequential. Demme’s hilarious yet humane comedy is more interested in contrasting the two flawed men, both prone to flights of fancy, rebellious gestures, doomed relationships and selfish grand acts, yet financially as disparate as possible, where Hughes owns his own casinos, movie studios and airlines, Dummar was a frequent mark for repo men.

Paul LeMat and Mary Steenburgen give career best performances that wonderfully balance being fully realized people and comedic foils, while Jason Robards in what is essentially a 15 minute cameo as the peculiar Hughes leaves an impression that permeates through the rest of the film. However, the star of the film is director Demme, who after a diverse decade of filmmaking that included being a director in Roger Corman’s exploitation production house, helming a woman in prison joint, a CB radio comedy and a Hitchcock inspired thriller, finds his thoroughly distinct voice, like Sam Peckinpah with Wild Bunch, Quentin Tarantino with Pulp Fiction and Wes Anderson with Rushmore, Melvin and Howard represents a turning point in the director career for which rhythms, tropes and themes that would reoccur later completely culminate.

Monday, January 17, 2011

The 1980 Project: My 9th and 8th Favorite Movies of 1980

9. The Stunt Man (Richard Rush)

On the lam from the cops, a petty criminal (Steve Railsback) hides out as a stunt man on the film set of a World War II epic, where he’s able to reinvent himself at the price of his sanity, as a ruthless director (Peter O’Toole, wonderful here), who appropriately enough is presented on the poster in silhouette with a devil’s tail, takes advantage of the situation and makes the newly anointed stunt man pay for his sins via elaborate death defying stunts and tests of his mental fortitude.

Richard Rush’s clever comedy plays with our perception of reality and is a tribute to the magic, and inherent madness, of cinema.

8. Stardust Memories (Woody Allen)

Very much a transitional film for Allen, it was his final for United Artists before jumping ship to Orion, and a declaration of his intentions to continue to tow the line between comedy and drama in the upcoming decade, and indeed, the 1980s were a potent decade for the writer-director rife with experimental formal exercises and quality results (Zelig, Broadway Danny Rose, Purple Rose of Cairo, Hannah and Her Sisters, Another Woman, Crimes and Misdemeanors).

Woody Allen’s 8 ½ inspired film angered some of his long time followers who felt insulted and slighted in being depicted as narrow minded and change phobic, but Stardust Memories' satirical edge is equally sharp in its portrayal of director Sandy Bates(Allen) ‘s pretensions.

Amongst the satire are some very interesting and pertinent questions about the relationship between artist and consumer, and who is or should be answering to whom.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

The 1980 Project: My 10th Favorite Movie of 1980

So here's how this is going to go down, I will be posting brief to not so brief reviews of my ten favorite films from the year 1980 over the next five days. With the exception of this choice and my number one film, each post will have two films per article (for example tomorrow's post will be my 9th and 8th favorites).

Before we start, a little preamble, these are purely personal choices and not representative of some overall consensus of what the best films of 1980 are, I have no interest in that, and besides that's what the Academy Awards are there for. Speaking of Mr. Oscar, two of the five Best Picture nominees for 1980 make my list, but not the winner, Ordinary People (a film I run lukewarm/negative on).

I would like to dedicate this list to two men who passed away recently and whose work will be featured in this list (one very soon): Leslie Nielsen and Irvin Kershner.

10. Airplane! (Jim Abrahams, David Zucker, Jerry Zucker)

“Do you like gladiator movies?” “And don’t call me Shirley!” “I picked the wrong week to stop sniffing glue!”

Out of all the films on the list, the most quotable and the one I’ve watched the most times is easily Airplane! My last viewing was also my first since actually seeing the entire Airport series, which the ZAZ boys mercilessly satirized (along with the film Zero Hour), adding a new level of appreciation to my enjoyment.

While not the first of its type, its wild success led to a glut of (mostly awful) parody films that have popped up in its wake. Try as they might, those imitators, which in our ADD culture have been going strong again the last five or so years, what with the name check as many popular films and internet memes cinema of the likes of Epic Movie, Date Movie, Meet the Spartans and the Scary Movie franchise (some of which are depressingly even directed by Jerry Zucker himself) never match the wit and hilarity of it.

While that old adage about having to explain humor taking away from its impact is true, there needs to be some discussion of why Airplane! endures thirty years on, while most of the works of, say Seltzer-Friedberg, are already stale by their release date: namely a fidelity and focus on a specific target, the disaster film of the 70s in this instance, with an understanding of the structure, the tropes, etc, that are then completely dismantled coupled with a clever ear for language that twist well known clichés into subversive and hilarious results. Sure direct references are made to then current popular culture (Jaws, Saturday Night Fever) but those are jokes within jokes, not just lame name calls.

The other brilliant stroke, and soon to become cliché itself, the ZAZ boys conceived of was casting well known, dramatic actors past their prominence, and having them deliver everything as if it was a serious drama, the cast in this instance includes Leslie Nielsen (who reinvented his career and became a rock for the trio), Peter Graves (who admitted to never getting the whole concept), Robert Stack and Lloyd Bridges.

Thirty years later, Airplane! is still the standard by which we judge these types of satirical comedies, and don't start up with your white zone shit again.

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The 198o Project: Honorable Mention

Before delving into my Top Ten Films of 1980 list (look for it starting this Sunday!) and the end of the 1980 Project (the 1981 Project is next), here are the ten films that just missed making the cut for the Best Of list.

20. Loulou (Maurice Pialit)

An upper class Parisian woman (Isabelle Huppert) leaves her husband and lifestyle for an affair with an aimless younger man (Gerard Depardieu) in Pialit’s film which strives for verisimilitude (no score, awkward staged fights) over theatrics or pat explanations. (My review)

19. The Changeling (Peter Medak)

A grief stricken professor (George C. Scott) purchases a dilapidated mansion that houses the spirit of a murdered child. As the slasher genre was really taking off (a genre for which I am a fan), Medak’s haunting, adult ghost story is subtly effective counter programming. (My review)

18. Blues Brothers (John Landis)

Following the tremendous success of their prior collaboration, Animal House, Landis and star John Belushi reteam for a loud over-the-top musical cum comedy road trip which incorporates every whim, favorite musical act and friend of the director and stars-writers Belushi and Dan Aykroyd, sparing no collateral damage to complete their mission from God.

17. Flash Gordon (Mike Hodges)

Candy colored, Queen scored and camp tinged, Flash Gordon is top shelf pop art comic book film adaptation, forgoing the seriousness of modern adaptations, Mike Hodges’ playful (and at times kinky) sci-fi throwback also was one of the first films I remember seeing theatrically. (An appreciation)

16. Times Square (Allan Moyle)

Two runaway teenage girls, one the daughter of a politician and the other a homeless girl with serious mental issues, form a punk band and a complement-each-other’s-deficiencies based friendship on the hard streets of New York. (My review)

15. Little Darlings (Robert F. Maxwell)

What could have been a forgettable teenage comedy with a tabloid plot synopsis (two 15 year olds enter a contest to see who will first lose their virginity) is actually a very potent, earnest, and at times solemn examination about how sex complicates matters and changes people. (My review)

14. The Fog (John Carpenter)

Carpenter follows up the massively influential Halloween with a ghost story and throwback to the EC Comics of his youth. (My review)

13. Used Cars (Robert Zemeckis)

Zemeckis’ second film as director has frantic energy, gleefully tossed around obscenities, endlessly quotable dialogue (“that’s too fucking high!”) and though there’s enough un-PC jokes to offend every one, the affable nature never leads to any actual offense. Most impressive, in contrast to the last two decades of Zemeckis films are the following aspects: no character arcs, a well-paced decent running time, and no special effects, save a fearlessly high-wired (and according to him, coked up) performance from Kurt Russel.

12. The Long Riders (Walter Hill)

This elegiac western tells the tale of the Younger-James gang, how they dissolved, and how they will always be connected. (My review)

11. The Ninth Configuration (William Peter Blatty)

Had this faded to black about ten seconds earlier and perhaps had a stronger directorial hand (Blatty, who’s making his directorial debut is certainly capable, but I’d love to live in the alternate universe where William Friedkin directed this) it might have snuck into the top ten. But as the film stands, it’s still quite an achievement: rife with over-the-top quirky characters and an otherworldly vibe (the film is set in “a castle” in the Pacific Northwest!), Blatty’s film balances humor, pathos, horror and big questions (like uh, the existence of a God and the meaning of life for two!) successfully in a way that Richard Kelly’s being attempting (and failing at) in each of his post-Donnie Darko films.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Favorite New to Me Films Watched in 2010

Normally I include this list when I do my year end stat post, but I always felt that it got lost in the shuffle of those unwieldy articles plus I dedicated more of my time this year to catching up on older film than ever before, so I am making this list its own individual post.

I've made no secret that I feel increasingly despondent when faced with the multitude of prepackaged, remakes, super hero, and sequels to films that I didn't care about in the first place that dominate the modern film landscape (of course there's always a dozen or so quality films that sneak through the conservative mindset needless to say), so delving into the vast history of cinema can be both stimulating and exhausting, the more you see, the more you need to see.

This year I discovered the joy of post-war Japan's film noir scene, finally became a devoted David Cronenberg fanboy (I always appreciated him, but this was the year I finally fell in lurve with him), and further delved the huge depths of Spaghetti Westerns, low budget exploitation horror and American film noir. This would not be possible without the aid of Netflix (and the increasingly useful Instant Watch feature), quality repertory theatres like the New Beverly and Cinefamily, Warner Archives, and a gray market bootlegger or two.

I have a lot of writing left to complete the 1980 Project, so I am just going to provide the list and some poster art, though if I wrote about the film over the course of the year, I will include a link to that post.

My only restrictions with this list is that the film must precede the year 2000 (I am kind of planning a late best of decade lists one of these days).

What were you favorite older cinematic discoveries of 2010?

My 20 Favorite Pre-2000s Films Seen for the First Time in 2010*

(*technically 24 four films, as I've included one five film series, which in full disclosure, I didn't finish the final chapter until the first few days of 2011).

in alphabetical order

A Colt is My Passport (1957, Takashi Nomura) (here I write a little about the film as part of the Criterion collection Nikkatsu Noir box set)
Comanche Station (1960, Budd Boetticher)
Deadlock (1970, Roland Klick)
Drunken Angel (1948, Akira Kurosawa)
Gambit (1966. Ronald Neame)

The Great Silence (1968, Sergio Corbucci)
Hausu (1977, Nobuhiko Obayashi)
The Leopard (1963, Luchino Visconti)
Little Girl Who Lives Down the Lane (1976, Nichols Gessner) (Here I wrote about it for my Top 10 Underrated Horror Film list)
Lonely are the Brave (1962, David Miller)
The Misfits (
1961, John Huston) Navajo Joe (1966, Sergio Corbucci)
Nightmare Alley (1947, Edmound Goulding)
Rabid Dogs (1974, Mario Bava)
Shivers (1977, David Cronenberg) (Here is the "Trailer of the Moment" post)
The Silent Partner (1978, Daryl Duke) (Here is the "Holidays as Backrop" post)
The Sniper (1952, Edward Dmytryk)
The Swimmer (1968, Frank Perry...and Sydney Pollack)
Tell Them Willie Boy Is Here (1969, Abraham Polonsky)
The Yakuza Papers: Battles Without Honor or Humanity series (1973-74, Kinji Fukasaku)

Friday, January 7, 2011

Books Read in 2010

I read 29 books last year, which is an increase from the 25 I read in 2009 (link), but still way below the 54 I read in 2008 (link), when I set a goal to read at a pace of one book per week.

Amongst the selection are some classic authors read for the first time (Sartre, Victor Hugo, William Burroughs, Thomas Mann), a rereading of Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye for the first time in about fifteen years prompted by the author’s death, film history related books (Midnight Movies, a Sam Peckinpah biography), and per usual, a lot of crime fiction (three books from Richard Stark’s Parker series, a Raymond Chandler, my first Charles Willeford).

Shamefully, this was the year I finally read some of Elmore Leonard’s work, and as expected, his gifted prose of flawed heroes, dim villains and crackerjack pacing, set their hooks in me; I read three of his books and have a stack twice that size on my ever intimidating “too read” pile. Also in the pile are recently received holiday gifts, thrift and used book store finds, and five film reference books of varying size (Stephen Thrower’s Nightmare USA, Destroy All Movies: Punks on Film, a Spaghetti Western history, Danny Peary’s Cult Movies and a history of Universal Monsters) that I have begun skimming.

Here for posterity's sake, are all the books I read in 2010.

1. Midnight Movies-J. Hoberman & Jonathan Rosenbaum
2. No Exit and Three Other Plays-Jean Paul Sartre
3. The High Window-Raymond Chandler
4. The Catcher in the Rye-J.D. Salinger
5. Margrave of the Marshes-John Peel & Shelia Ravencroft
6. Deliverance-James Dickey
7. The Book of Other People (complitation)-edited by Zadie Smith
8. Freaky Deaky-Elmore Leonard

9. The Man With the Getaway Face-Richard Stark
10. Mary-Vladimir Nabokov
11. The Hunchback of Notre Dame-Victor Hugo
12. The Leopard-Giuseppe di Lampedusa
13. Death in Venice/Tristan/Tonio Kruger-Thomas Mann
14. Yipee Kay Ya Moviegoer-Vern
15. Junky-William S. Burroughs
16. The Outfit-Richard Stark
17. The Burnt Orange Hearsay-Charles Willeford
18. 52 Pick Up-Elmore Leonard
19. A Special Providence-Richard Yates
20. The Big Rewind-Nathan Rabin
21. If They Move...Kill 'Em: The Life and Times of Sam Peckinpah-David Weddle
22. Glitz-Elmore Leonard
23. The Haunting of Hill House-Shirley Jackson

24. Carrie-Stephen King
25. My Year of Flops-Nathan Rabin
26. The Mourner-Richard Stark
27. No Borders, No Limits-Mark Schilling
28. The West End Horror-Nicholas Meyer
29. The Catch-Gary Meyers

What did you read in 2010?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

The 1980 Project: My Favorite Performances

Where we equally celebrate achievements in dramatic and comedic acting and pay no heed to differentiating between the size of the role in selecting our favorite acting performances from the year in cinema, 1980.

-Lloyd Bridges, Peter Stack, Leslie Nielsen, Robert Stack, Airplane!

-Bill Murray, Caddyshack

-Sissy Spacek, Coal Miner’s Daughter

-John Hurt, The Elephant Man

-Harrison Ford, The Empire Strikes Back

-Tatsuya Nakadai, Kagemusha

-Catherine Deneuve, The Last Metro

-Kristy McNichol, Little Darlings

-David Carradine, The Long Riders

-Joe Spinell, Maniac

-Paul LeMat, Jason Robards, Mary Steenburgen, Melvin and Howard

-Dabney Coleman, Nine to Five

-Robert DeNiro, Raging Bull

-Jack Nicholson, The Shining

-Peter O’Toole, The Stunt Man

-Robin Johnson, Times Square

-Kurt Russel, Used Cars

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