Author Topic: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time  (Read 146044 times)

1SO

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time - The Best Years of Our Lives
« Reply #170 on: October 10, 2010, 12:45:04 AM »
Marathon Update



The Best Years of Our Lives

The Best Years of Our Lives stood as one of the most acclaimed films I had yet to watch.  Appearing on many Top 100 lists and winner of Best Picture and 6 other Oscars, this nearly 3-hour look at life after wartime kept me away because I just wasn't interested in the subject matter.  I'd already grown up with Vietnam and films like Coming Home.  I didn't think a melodrama from the 40's about heroes from a more supported conflict could best the impact of a comparatively modern take on similar subject matter.

I'm now happy to report my doubts were mostly proven wrong.  I say mostly because for long stretches The Best Years of Our Lives is everything it sets out to be and nothing more.  The script is competent, hitting the important story beats like a well-producted, social issue TV-movie.  The acting is uniformly excellent, with everyone doing the most with their dialogue and characters.  Visual storytelling is often kept to a minimum.  Lots of good framings in the group scenes, but most of it feels like a filmed play and not the typical bold strokes of Cinematographer Gregg Toland.  And yes that 170 minute running time does feel a bit long.  Not padded, there's just a lot of story and little that can be done to quicken the pace.  It's your average above-average movie.

But then there are the exceptional scenes.  Peppered throughout and often when you're not expecting them, are moments of intense emotional turmoil and high drama.  This script has some real land mines, and whenever the story lands on one, everyone rises to meet the challenge.  There's at least one standout scene for nearly the entire cast and this films status as a classic is cemented in these scenes.  It starts with the three reunion scenes, each one tense in different ways.  That unease of returning from a long absence and instantly realizing you're not the same person who left years ago is perfectly captured.  

The showiest scenes are the mental breakdown at an airplane graveyard (which is very visual), and the handicapped sailor who must share the nightly ritual of putting away his metal hands with his loyal girlfriend if they are to have any future together.  But then there's Fredric March and Myrna Loy's great moment when they explain to their grown daughter that the marriage hasn't been perfect.  That in fact, many times mom and dad have had to fall back in love.

Almost as a side note to the G.I. stories, a love triangle springs up.  In some ways it feels like a Hollywood necessity, but it actually takes some very bold and grown up risks, placing characters we like into unlikable situations.  The maturity and wisdom of the script here ultimately made it my favorite story.  Everything ends optimistically, but at a great emotional cost along the way.  And there's a perfect final image which involves all of the characters.  Unfortunately, the film goes on for one more shot, choosing instead to end on one couple saying things that the true final image already conveyed just fine.

Compared to my Top 100 of the 00s...
The Best Years of Our Lives would be #32 of the 00s.

Next Up:
All Quiet on the Western Front
F*cking Amal
Harlan County U.S.A.
The Passion of Joan of Arc
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Bondo

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time
« Reply #171 on: October 10, 2010, 09:04:18 AM »
Yay. I felt like it was just such a well constructed film that I had to love it even though it didn't often wow me.

BTW, the anticipation from seeing F*cking Amal sitting there in the next up list for a few posts is getting to me. :)

1SO

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time
« Reply #172 on: October 10, 2010, 09:52:44 AM »
BTW, the anticipation from seeing F*cking Amal sitting there in the next up list for a few posts is getting to me. :)
I got it yesterday.  Happily, I now have copies of the final 5 films from the first phase of this marathon.  My planned viewing order is...

1. F*cking Amal
2. Harlan County USA
3. All Quiet on the Western Front
4. The Passion of Joan of Arc
5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans


Plus, I'm adding a couple of last minute films to this section, The Ox-Bow Incident and My Darling Clementine.

I also hope to watch Munich this week for my other marathon.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2010, 09:56:23 AM by 1SO »
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Bondo

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time
« Reply #173 on: October 10, 2010, 11:21:24 AM »
The Ox-Bow Incident

Good times.

I also hope to watch Munich this week for my other marathon.

Yeah, I have it here so it's just a matter of getting it watched.

Sam the Cinema Snob

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time
« Reply #174 on: October 10, 2010, 11:48:16 AM »
Yea, Best Years of Our Lives is pretty great but not a top 100 for me. Glad to see it's on yours, though.

Bill Thompson

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time
« Reply #175 on: October 10, 2010, 02:04:50 PM »

5. Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans


You better be saving the best for last, otherwise this should be your #1 priority. :) Love the addition of Ox-Bow, splendid film.

1SO

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time
« Reply #176 on: October 10, 2010, 07:11:56 PM »
You better be saving the best for last, otherwise this should be your #1 priority.
Exactly right.  Each film should be even better than the one before it.
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1SO

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time - F*cking Åmål
« Reply #177 on: October 12, 2010, 06:15:05 PM »
Marathon Update



F*cking Åmål
"I’d rather be happy now than in 25 years.  … Cause in 25 years.  That’s like 25 years… It doesn’t exist."

This was added to the marathon after it surprisingly showed up on the most recent Filmspotters 100.  This is also my 2nd film by Lukas Moodysson after watching Together (a personal favorite of zarodinu, for my rebuttal marathon.)

Overall I liked it, more than Together, and more than I usually like films made in this style.  I still think Moodysson uses and abuses the camera zoom more than anyone else out there.  It's like he's trying to distract you with his erratic push ins, but it wasn't as omnipresent here as in Together.  It also has two very, very likable leads which is great because the rest of the cast is made up of clueless but sometimes earnest adults and your typical batch of snobby, mean girls and clueless guys who just want to have sex.

Alexandra Dahlström is great at conveying the adolescent confusion of Elin.  She's such a complex character and the performance is so in the moment that I don't think you can get the full scope of what she's doing until you step back from the film.  Elin's also a bit bitchy at times, but she's trying so hard to be seen as more than sexy, trying to find her own path.  And nobody else cares, perhaps not even Agnes, who also mostly sees her for her looks.  Perhaps she sees the better person Elin keeps locked up inside, but is too wrapped up in her own raging emotions to give Elin the respect.  There's too much physical longing in the way.

The uniquely cute Rebecka Liljeberg is a real discovery, and I'm so glad to see she's made a pretty good career since this role.  Agnes has fewer notes to play, but Liljeberg plays them so honestly and winningly.  Every emotion is right on her face, and you could follow the film completely if consisted of nothing more than close-ups of her.

Moodysson has created good characters, but struggles to bring the narrative to feature length.  When focusing on the two girls he has my complete attention, but when he expands to the parents, siblings and (especially) friends I lose interest.  The final sequence in the school is great, and very well executed.  I don't know why the film didn't end there.  The chocolate milk scene after is completely unnecessary.    

Other than the location, there's nothing new being discovered in Åmål.  I didn't need him to remind me that all teens are going through emotional turmoil and parents just don't understand no matter how hard they try. That's why The Breakfast Club is a better film, as is Smooth Talk, Fast Times at Ridgemont High and the romantic longings of Wong Kar Wai.


Compared to my Top 100 of the 00s...
F*cking Åmål wouldn't make the list.

Next Up:
All Quiet on the Western Front
Harlan County U.S.A.
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Sunshine: A Song of Two Humans
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1SO

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time - Harlan County USA
« Reply #178 on: October 13, 2010, 02:29:52 AM »
Marathon Update



Harlan County USA
Quote from: Adam
Anybody out there who's interested in documentaries, or just interested in film, this film is powerful enough and important enough that you need to see it.
Harlan County USA is a great film by a great filmmaker.  Director Barbara Kopple demonstrates first class skill right from the opening shots of coal workers riding a conveyer belt down the mine to where they will work.  The same belt that will carry up the coal, now transports the people.  The system sees humans as no different from the stones and the machines.  This point is hammered home by a retired worker who tells a story about how the mules were more important than the workers, because the workers could be replaced but the mules would have to be bought.

Kopple tells her story directly and while she clearly sides with the striking miners, she rarely makes her presence felt, allowing instead for the citizens to tell the story for her.  And I say 'rarely' because as the strike drags on, it becomes impossible for the opposition to not take notice of her camera.  The company sends in their thug 'strike breakers', and the possibility of violence increases until finally one night shots ring out and Kopple's cameraman shines a light on and photographs the shooter.  The footage (which led to an arrest warrant) is some of the most startling single moments I've ever seen in a documentary.  Jerry Johnson, one of the striking miners, attributes the ultimate conclusion of the strike to the presence of Kopple and her crew: "The cameras probably saved a bunch of shooting. I don’t think we’d have won it without the film crew. If the film crew hadn’t been sympathetic to our cause, we would’ve lost."

Kopple stays embedded with the miners, collecting everything from the shareholder meetings to wives have shouting matches where they accuse each other of alcoholism and adultery.  Though a work of non-fiction that bears little sign of manipulation, there's a definite emotional and dramatic arc here.  There's also a lot of bluegrass, protest music, which I liked at first but became relentless as the film went on.  It's my biggest complaint against the movie.  Even though I liked the timeliness of it, how the songs were about what was happening like a Hillbilly Greek Chorus, the Hee-Haw voice wore on my like a cat that won't stop meowing.

I also started losing interest in the final ten minutes, as we watch the very nature of labor unions and corporations evolve into a more complicated system.  There's a story at the beginning about how raising wages will force the company to raise the price of their product, and that additional cost will be the burden of the worker.  The end seemed to suggest a similar defeat embedded within the victory.  It's just too bad that after a very clean narrative, Kopple had to end her story on such a muddled note.  Still, this is one of the best documentaries I've ever watched, and definitely one of the high points from the first part of this marathon.

Compared to my Top 100 of the 00s...
Harlan County USA would be my #22 film of the 00's.

Next Up:
All Quiet on the Western Front
The Passion of Joan of Arc
Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans
« Last Edit: December 18, 2010, 12:12:47 PM by 1SO »
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zarodinu

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Re: 1SO Rebuilds His Top 100 of All Time
« Reply #179 on: October 13, 2010, 02:37:10 AM »
That movie is a very well made version of everything that is wrong with documentaries, its journalism not cinema.  It feels like a good New Yorker article, not a movie.  

Anytime somebody describes a movie as "important" I make a mental note to avoid it.  
« Last Edit: October 13, 2010, 06:15:24 AM by zarodinu »
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