Friday, November 1, 2013

Riffing on the Movies

It’s a bit odd that I don’t post more often about movies, considering their profound impact on me. So many of the most fulfilling moments of my life have been spent in darkened theaters, given over to an absorbing story line playing out on a giant silver screen.

How could I forget the nights of my youth, taking in the cinematic wonders of the thirties, forties and fifties flickering for free on late night TV? Or seeing The Godfather, Raging Bull, The Last Emperor and The Painted Veil in a theater? They looked like beautiful gems on a black velvet pillow.

Like you, I have my favorites. In addition to the above, there’s Out of the Past, Vertigo, Picnic at Hanging Rock, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Last Picture Show, The Wrestler, La Strada, Network, The Unbearable Lightness of Being and Casablanca. And Fargo, The Hustler, A Streetcar Named Desire and Ikiru. And Rashomon and Citizen Kane and Mulholland Drive.

Can I really ignore Lawrence of Arabia, Chinatown, The Treasure of the Sierra Madre or 12 Angry Men? Or Mr. Roberts, The Shawshank Redemption and One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest?

Hell no.

Just to make it an even thirty, let’s throw in His Girl Friday and My Cousin Vinny. (I don’t broadcast the fact, but yes—I like to laugh. Sometimes.)

Billy Wilder, Alfred Hitchcock, Martin Scorsese, Akira Kurosawa and Roman Polanski are geniuses. John Huston, Werner Herzog, Steven Spielberg, Federico Fellini, Sidney Lumet and Peter Weir aren’t far behind.

Which leaves out Sydney Pollack, the Coen brothers, Stanley Kubrick, Bryan Forbes, Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, John Schlesinger, Robert Altman and Anthony Minghella!

Crap. No wonder I don’t post more about film.

As best I can, I reckon I have seen approximately 1,057 movies in their entirety. The decade most often represented is the eighties, which makes sense since a.) I was young, and b.) had disposable income.

I have seen more of Hitchcock's films than any other director’s, and find it very appropriate that, given the extravagant imagery of his films, Fellini died on Halloween.

In a really peculiar bit of coincidence, the countries which produce my favorite cars are also the country of origin for my favorite foreign-language films (Japan, Italy and Germany).

I tend to like movies featuring conflicted and troubled individuals. Individuals facing dilemmas, moral and otherwise.

That said, I love film noir. It is, without a doubt, my favorite genre. And for my money, Out of the Past is the ne plus ultra of the species. Razor-sharp dialogue, great cinematography and one of the best performances of Robert Mitchum’s career.

Not surprisingly, the female lead--Jane Greer--is my femme fatale of all-time. Her Kathie Moffat has a heart colder than a stripper’s smile. To borrow a line from the Gene Hackman movie Heist, she could talk her way out of a sunburn.

This is also Kirk Douglas’ first film, and for an actor lampooned for his over-the-top performances, he turns in a taut, no-frills one here, conveying a violent menace barely contained by a cool exterior.

OK. That's the end of this post. If you’re of a mind to, leave your favorites in the comments section. I am nothing if not curious.

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