Above: Elke Sommer ushers in the New Year
Happy New Year! The holidays are winding down and I’ve been enjoying catching up on my film watching and book reading lately. Apologies for neglecting to share any DVD Picks of the Week for the month of December (besides Latitude Zero), but I’ve been slowly compiling a list of my Favorite DVD Releases of 2007 which I plan to share soon. It will be a Top 30, much like the list I shared last year.
This weekend I spent some time catching up with various blogs I like to read and I want to mention a few things of possible interest:
– I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind
I recently helped Robert Monell revamp his terrific blog I’m in a Jess Franco State of Mind. Robert is a great writer and he covers all kinds of different films with a special focus on European cult cinema. If you’re interested in the films of Jess Franco I highly recommend spending some time at Robert’s blog.
– Wildgrounds Now Available in English
One of my favorite blogs covering Japanese cinema is Michael’s Wildgrounds, which I first mentioned here way back in September. Wildgrounds is a French blog, but it now has a sister site in English so English speaking readers can easily enjoy all of Michael’s posts now.
– The Mod Squad at Moon in the Gutter
At Moon in the Gutter Jeremy has been enjoying the recent release of The Mod Squad on DVD and reviewing each episode. This terrific television series is easily one of the best DVD releases of December so if you’re curious about the show I highly recommend checking out Jeremy’s thoughtful review of the series. He recently covered one of my favorite episodes of the show called When Smitty Comes Marching Home.
– Oscar Chatter
The 80th annual Academy Awards are scheduled to happen in February with lots of interesting filmmakers like David Cronenberg, the Coen Brothers and Todd Haynes possibly in competition this year it could make for a worthwhile show. Over at Cinema Styles Jonathan has been warming up for the event all year by covering various aspects of Oscar history and if you’re a history buff like myself, you might find his posts on the topic as interesting as I do.
– Pro. Bertram Potts Hella Homework for the Holidays
Over at Sergio Leone and the Infield Fly Rule Dennis has put together a Christmas Break Quiz for his blog readers to take part in. I always enjoy participating in these things and reading everyone’s responses and this Quiz might be his toughest one yet. If you’re so inclined please stop by his blog and participate. You can find my own answers there as well as below:
1) Your favorite opening shot
The opening shot from Le Samourai has been a favorite for years.
2) Tuesday Weld or Mia Farrow?
I really like them both a lot. Weld is probably the better actress, but she made lots of films I don’t care for much even if her performances were terrific in them. Mia has made a lot of great films and often elevated them with her vulnerable and smart performances. If I was forced to choose one it would probably be Mia, but for now I’ll say it’s a tie.
3) Name a comedy you’re embarrassed to admit made you laugh
I’m almost 40 and way over being embarrassed about much of anything, much less a movie that made me laugh but I recently wrote about Last of the Secret Agents? and some responses I got seemed intent on making me feel embarrassed for liking the movie. Naturally it didn’t work!
4) Best Movie of 1947
My current Top 3 are: The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, The Lady from Shanghai and Kiss of Death.
5) Burt Reynolds was the Bandit. Jerry Reed was the Snowman. Paul LeMat was Spider. Candy Clark was Electra. What’s your movie handle?
How about Sinebeats?
6) Robert Vaughn or David McCallum?
I really like both men a lot. I’ve always preferred McCallum in The Man from U.N.C.L.E., probably because he was super cute and had that fabulous British accent. Vaughn is undoubtedly the better actor though. His performance in The Magnificent Seven has always really impressed me. It seems like I’ve written about both actors a lot this year so picking one over the other sort of feels dirty.
7) Most exotic/unusual place/location in which you’ve seen a movie
One of the most unusual movie experiences I can remember is seeing The Sound of Music while I was in Japan as a kid way back in 1976. I was there with my mother visiting a relative who was working for the Peace Corps and teaching English there. My mom and I went to see The Sound of Music which had been dubbed in Japanese without subtitles just to get a “taste of home” I suppose. Of course I could only understand the songs, which were still sung in English, and we were the only Americans in the audience. According to imdb the Sound of Music was re-released in Japan in 1975 so I guess the movie was still playing in some theaters due to the revival there. Even now the experience seems like a strange dream.
8) Favorite Errol Morris movie
The Fog of War. I like all of his films a lot actually, but The Fog of War is an incredibly important historical document as well as a great film that affected me much more than any of his other movies. Of course when I say The Fog of War, I mean the complete uncut version of the film with the additional footage only available on the DVD. It’s a stunning movie and deeply disturbing. It should be required viewing for every American frankly.
9) Best Movie of 1967
You have to be kidding? This must be a trick question because there were so many great movies released in 1967 and I wouldn’t trust anyone who would dare to claim that one film was “the best.” As a matter of fact, I would vote for 1967 as being one of the greatest years for film. Period. With all that in mind here’s my Top 20 for today which is subject to change at any time: Le Samourai, Point Blank, Branded to Kill, Spirits of the Dead, Belle de Jour, Poor Cow, Week End, Jewel Thief, Reflections in a Golden Eye, I’ll Never Forget What’s ‘is Name, Death Rides A Horse, The Fearless Vampire Killers, The Young Girls of Rochefort, Far From the Madding Crowd, The Graduate, Casino Royale, In Like Flint, Bedazzled, The Shuttered Room and The Fox.
10) Describe a profoundly (or not-so-profoundly) disturbing moment you’ve had courtesy of the movies
11) Anne Francis or Julie Newmar?
I love them both and Julie was amazing as Catwoman, but Anne was Honey West! I wish Julie had gotten her own TV show in the sixties called Catwoman, but Honey West is fantastic, plus Anne has made some good films as well. My vote goes to Honey West.
12) Describe your favorite one sheet (include a link if possible)
I’ve got a lot of favorites and you can see many of them in my Flickr Poster Gallery
13) Best Movie of 1987
This was actually a pretty good year for film. Some of my favorite films from 1987 would currently include Wings of Desire, The Belly of an Architect, Opera, Goodbye Children, City on Fire, Angel Heart, Full Metal Jacket, Siesta, Aria, Hellraiser, Evil Dead II, Straight to Hell, Raising Arizona and Empire of the Sun.
14) Favorite movie about obsession
Antonioni’s Blowup (1966)
15) Your ideal Christmas movie triple feature
My ideal Christmas movie marathon would involve six hours of Rankin/Bass.
16) Montgomery Clift or James Dean?
I love Monty, but James Dean changed the way I looked at films and started appreciating acting when I was a young teen. The first film poster (re-print) I ever bought was for Rebel Without a Cause when I was only 12 years old, which was quickly followed by a life-size – yes, you read that right – a life-sized poster of that iconic image of Dean as Jett Rink in a topless car with his feet up and cowboy boots on. Nobody has ever looked better in a pair of jeans. I get shivers thinking about Dean’s performances in East of Eden and Giant. As much as I love Monty, he’s never given me the shivers or made my heart skip a beat just by smiling and Dean has.
17) Favorite Les Blank Movie
Werner Herzog Eats His Shoe (1980)
18) This past summer food critic Anton Ego made the following statement: “In many ways, the work of a critic is easy. We risk very little yet enjoy a position over those who offer up their work and their selves to our judgment. We thrive on negative criticism, which is fun to write and to read. But the bitter truth we critics must face is that, in the grand scheme of things, the average piece of junk is more meaningful than our criticism designating it so. But there are times when a critic truly risks something, and that is in the discovery and defense of the new. Last night, I experienced something new, an extraordinary meal from a singularly unexpected source. To say that both the meal and its maker have challenged my preconceptions is a gross understatement. They have rocked me to my core. In the past, I have made no secret of my disdain for Chef Gusteau’s famous motto: Anyone can cook. But I realize that only now do I truly understand what he meant. Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” Your thoughts?
I personally don’t thrive on the negative and I often find critics and bloggers that do to be a task to read so I avoid them. On the other hand, when I really dislike a film that 95% of the people seem to love (which happens all the time), I enjoy reading a smart argument pointing out its flaws. As for the “discovery and defense of the new,” I agree that this is probably the most important thing a critic can do. I would also add to that the importance of “discovery and defense of the old” which I try to do as much as possible in my own blog. I’m not sure I agree with the statement that critics “risk very little” since now more then ever they seem needed and good ones are hard to come by. There is a strong “herd” mentality among critics (and people in general) who like agreeing with each other and slapping one another on the back as if they’re playing team sports instead of using their critical thinking abilities. Critics are also becoming too easily swayed by press junkets and blinded by the celebrities they mingle with so that they can’t possibly use their critical abilities to judge a film without it becoming “personal.” Any critic who can sidestep all that crap and put their opinions out there even if they’re unpopular should be applauded. I’m kind of baffled that something as self evident as “Not everyone can become a great artist, but a great artist can come from anywhere.” isn’t common knowledge. Last but not least, my mind wanders to thoughts of Truffaut and I wonder how many critics and film buffs actually know where he came from?
19) The last movie you watched on DVD? In a theater?
On DVD – Eastern Promises
In a theater – Joe Strummer: The Future Is Unwritten
20) Best Movie of 2007
So far, it’s a tie between Eastern Promises and Zodiac, but I still need to see a lot of movies. No Country for Old Men, Control, I’m Not There, This is England, Sunshine, Away from Her, The Orphanage and 4 Months 3 Weeks & 2 Days are just a few movies still on my “must see” list.
21) Worst Movie of 2007
How about, I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry? I haven’t seen it yet myself, but I’m afraid that the commercials and numerous clips I’ve seen tell me all I need and want to know about the movie.
22) Describe the stages of your cinephilia *
Stage 1: Ages 3-8/ Watch lots of old movies on TV with my dad and go to the drive-in every weekend with my parents. Discover and fall in love with horror films, sci-fi and westerns. Become enamored (or is that hypnotized?) with anything shot in black and white. Learn to dance from musicals like West Side Story and Viva Las Vegas. Worship at the church of Disney.
Stage 2: Ages 9-14/ Bitterness and disappointment set in early when my father passes away. The TV set becomes my babysitter when my mom is forced to work fulltime and I watch countless movies week after week. Start worshiping at the churches of Kung Fu Theater and Monster Matinee. Start to appreciate actors as artists. Start reading books about Horror cinema and biographies about actors. Become enamored with Kazan’s films and fall in love with Brando and Dean who cover my bedroom walls while other kids my age only seem to have posters of bands and teen idols.
Stage 3: Ages 15-21/ Become obsessed with British cinema. Nicolas Roeg, Lindsay Anderson, Ken Russell, Kubrick and Antonioni become my favorite directors. Discover documentaries thanks to concert films like Gimme Shelter and become fascinated with them. Start going to see The Rocky Horror Picture Show almost every Sat. night with friends at the local revival theater. Memorize every line and enjoy shouting at the screen while the movie plays. Start buying Fangoria magazine whenever I can afford it and read Joe Bog Briggs’ syndicated reviews every weekend in the SF Chronicle (think to myself, I can do that!) Write my first movie review for my high-school newspaper. Get mad crushes on filmmakers like Jim Jarmusch and Alex Cox who I consider to be “rock stars.” Start getting the urge to make my own films.
Stage 4: Ages 22-25/ Become obsessed with Italian Neorealism and the French New Wave. Attempt to see as many foreign films as possible. Realize I like Eurohorror and British horror films more then American horror films. Decide to go to college and focus on film and English lit. with the hope that I’ll one day write and direct my own movies. Discover there are only two other women in my film classes and realize cinema is still an art form dominated by male filmmakers and male critics. Obsess over filmmakers like Welles, Huston and Hitchcock, as well as surrealists like Cocteau and Deren. Realize I’ll never be able to come up with the money to make my first student film so I drop out of college. Give up my dreams of making movies, but never give up my love for film. Get angry and discover the Cinema of Transgression and start reading magazines like Film Threat and Film Comment. Attend film festivals as often as possible and start writing for lots of zines. Fall in love with British film directors working on the fringe like Peter Greenaway & Derek Jarman. Start hating Hollywood films and modern horror movies. Become really bitter and unable to watch comedies. Work part-time at a video store, which just adds to my bitterness.
Stage 5: Ages 26-31/ Meet my future husband at a screening of Blade Runner and discover that film obsession can lead to love. Bitterness begins to fade and thankfully I’m able to enjoy comedies again. My hate for Hollywood grows so I continue watching lots of foreign films and obsess over Japanese and Hong Kong cinema. Start spending large amounts of money on Laser Discs and finally get to see Argento and Bava films uncut. Become obsessed with French crime films or “policers” and Alain Delon, which leads me to create the first Alain Delon fansite online and meet other film-obsessed nuts. Volunteer for a local film festival and mingle with various actors and filmmakers. Still have some need to see every crappy film released. Continue writing for various zines and read lots of small press film publications like Asian Trash Cinema and European Trash Cinema.
Stage 6: Ages 32-36/ Start buying lots of pre-80s films on DVD and reading lots of film books. Become obsessed with things like Japanese crime films or “yakuza” cinema as well as Italian gialli and German krimi films. Realize I really don’t care for 75% of the film criticism published. Stop going to the movies every week and learn to enjoy watching films at home. Begin visiting lots of film chat boards, websites and blogs that suddenly have started appearing almost daily. Become a lurker because film chat boards tend to be dominated by men with inferiority (and superiority) complexes. Decide I really want to write about the films I watch and enjoy, but figure no one will publish me. Stop writing for zines and start contemplating film-related book proposals.
Stage 7: Ages 37-39/ Realize there are very few women writing about genre films online (or anywhere for that matter) and feel the urge to change that. Create cinebeats.com with the idea of having a place to celebrate the movies I like where I can write and self-publish whatever I want, whenever I want. Stop lurking and start posting on other people’s blogs and enjoy chatting with other film fans online. Start getting positive feedback for my writing. Try to keep my head above all the critical bullshit being said about bloggers and online film criticism. Attempt to take part in a local Film Projectionist Training Program, but don’t get accepted. Vow to try again next year. Continue contemplating various film related book proposals. Start contributing to other film blogs. Continue watching lots of older films on DVD and not caring much about new releases.
23) What is the one film you’ve had more difficulty than any other in convincing people to see or appreciate?
The films of one director come to mind right away since he probably contributed to the end of a few friendships and that is Peter Greenaway. I love Greenaway and I have defended his work against some of the most idiotic and venom filled criticism you’re likely to hear.
24) Gene Tierney or Rita Hayworth?
Rita is fabulous and I adore her, but very few actresses hold a candle to Gene Tierney in my mind. Not only is she one of the most stunning women that I’ve ever seen, she literally casts a spell on me when I spot her in a film. Rita’s lovely and cute, but Gene is absolutely magnetic and almost otherworldly. She was also a great actress with terrific range that wasn’t used enough. She could be sugary sweet and just plain evil and I never questioned either side that she presented in a film.
25) The Japanese word wabi denotes simplicity and quietude, but it can also mean an accidental or happenstance element (or perhaps even a small flaw) which gives elegance and uniqueness to the whole. What film or moment from a film best represents wabi to you?
For some reason almost the entire body of Jess Franco’s work came to mind. All his films seem to be flawed if they’re measured by typical standards and critics have no problem tearing them apart, but the flaws in Franco’s films give them life and make them personal. In many ways the flaws in Franco’s films have made him one of my favorite filmmakers.
26) Favorite Documentary
At the moment it’s a tie between Peter Whitehead’s The Fall (1969) and Frederick Wiseman’s Titicut Follies (1967).
27) Favorite opening credit sequence
There’s so many great ones, but most recently I watched Last of the Secret Agents? and the opening credit sequence for that film is pretty wonderful so it’s a current favorite.
28) Is there a film that has influenced your lifestyle in a significant or notable way? If so, what was it and how did it do so?
Without a doubt, James Whale’s original Frankenstein. It was the first horror film (probably the first film, period) that I fell in love with when I was just a child and because of my love for the film I finally read the original novel by Mary Shelley when I was about 11 years old and it became my favorite book. From there I got passionately interested in Mary Shelley and read every biography I could on her which lead me to discover more gothic literature. I became obsessed with the romantic poets Percy Shelley and Byron when I was in my late teens. When I went to college in my twenties I focused on film and English literature thanks to my initial interest in Frankenstein. Even after dropping out of college my interest in the Shelleys & Byron has never waned. I’m a bit of independent scholar still and I try to collect various versions of Frankenstein whenever possible. I’ve been a member of the Byron Society and the Shelley Association and when I traveled to Britain I visited many historical places associated with the Shelleys & Byron. One of the highlights of my life so far was spending an afternoon with John Murrays great granddaughter (Byron’s publisher) in London where she gave me a tour of Byron’s rooms and let me hold the pillow Byron died on. I’m not sure where my interest in Frankenstein will take me in the future, but thanks to the original film I’ve met many fascinating people and I suspect that my interest in the book and it’s author (as well as the people she knew and surrounded herself with) will never end.
29) Glenn Ford or Dana Andrews?
Clearly this has become a Gilda vs. Laura quiz. I love Gilda, but Laura will always win my vote and so does Dana Andrews. Andrews is terrific in so many great films. Something about Glen Ford has always rubbed me the wrong way for some strange reason and I’m not sure what it is exactly.
30) Make a single prediction, cynical or hopeful, regarding the upcoming Academy Awards
I’d like to see David Cronenberg – an absolutely brilliant director who works outside the mainstream and has always been ignored by the Academy – be rewarded for his work this year in some way. Unfortunately, I don’t think many critics or movie viewers really understood or appreciated Eastern Promises so I don’t think that will happen.
31) Best Actor of 2007
Currently it’s Viggo Mortenson (Eastern Promises)
32) Best Actress of 2007
Currently it’s Ashley Judd (Bug)
33) Best Director of 2007
At the moment it’s David Fincher (Zodiac)
34) Best Screenplay of 2007
Original screenplay – Steven Knight (Eastern Promises)
Adapted screenplay – James Vanderbilt (Zodiac)
35) Favorite single movie moment of 2007
So far it’s been Viggo’s nude fight scene in Eastern Promises.
36) What’s your wish/hope for the movies in 2008?
More ambiguity, more imagination, more risks, more ugliness, more beauty, more brains and more magic. I also wouldn’t mind seeing a few more nude fight scenes featuring male actors as well.
Quick side note – Some observant readers might notice that my name is now associated with Dennis’ blog and that’s only because I’m in the process of trying to help Dennis put together a new look for his blog as well, but it’s taking longer than expected due to the holidays. Once I’m done helping him, my name will disappear and no longer crowd Dennis’ space.
* My “Stages of Cinephilia” will be edited and added to for my own reference when & if I remember some fact that I think is important.