1957: Movies Sorted By Tier
Submitted by jim on Wed, 07/21/2004 - 10:20
12 Angry Men
The Bridge on the River Kwai... Best P.O.W. movie I've seen, due in part to the lack of the "Colonel Klink factor" that mars otherwise excellent movies like The Great Escape and Stalag 17. Alec Guinness's relationship with the P.O.W camp colonel (Sessue Hayakawa) seems destined to be a one-dimensional sadistic warden/defiant prisoner relationship, but it transcends that beautifully. Equally welcome are the revelations about William Holden's Major Shears, and all that character development pays off handsomely in the climax. Don't even get me started on the lush cinematography. Of Lean's work, this is my favorite (although I've only seen this, the also-excellent Lawrence of Arabia, and the disappointing Dr. Zhivago).
Paths of Glory... One of Kubrick's better movies, and perhaps Kirk Douglas's best. Okay, I just realized what an absurd statement that is, given I've only seen a handful of his 87 movies, but I liked both him (and Kubrick) quite a bit better here than in Spartacus. Here Kubrick gives us a war movie and a courtroom drama bundled together, so fans of either genre should be fine, and fans of both should be in heaven. Maybe I've just overlooked them, but it seems to me that WWI and the horror and futility of trench warfare gets short shrift in the movies. Vietnam, WWII, Civil War, heck, even Gulf War movies more readily leap to mind, so it's nice to add this to my martial movie mental landscape, and be reminded just what "life in the trenches" really means.
Sweet Smell of Success... Wow, what great performances from Tony Curtis (best role of his I've seen), Burt Lancaster (how did it take me so long to discover how great he was?), and NYC (best work until Manhattan, perhaps?). Lancaster, I've discovered, was really a master at bringing the slime (that's a compliment), but I had no idea Tony Curtis had such an inner scumbag to unleash. It's a bit hard to enjoy a movie that leaves you feeling like you need a bath, but it's still a treat to watch.
Glad I Saw
The Cranes are Flying... It's funny, I had no idea I was engrossed at all in this movie until Boris' big abstract flashback scene. I found it stunning. That and several other images from this movie will certainly stay with me, and the movie as a whole largely worked for me as well. I try not to politicize movies, but I can't help turning this one over in my mind from that perspective. I'm impressed this movie's expression of such rampant, joyful *individualism* at the outset was even allowed under Soviet rule, but then there's the ending, which left me wondering just which ideals were being subverted? It didn't obviate the joy of the romance by any means . . . Or did it?
Night of the Demon... It's really a shame this movie gives us a close-up of the demon in the first ten minutes, because it pretty much looks like a teddy bear with fangs. It's hard to get worked up over any hex where you know the instrument of mutilation and death will be Fozzie Bear. The rest of the movie is very effective though, with some good jumps, a delightful villianous turn from Niall MacGinnis, and a wonderful climactic battle of wits fought in a train compartment. The parchment is a nifty device; who would have thought a strip of paper could be menacing?
Throne of Blood... I know I'll get raked over the coals of righteous and justifiable indignation for not thinking more of this, but this Kurosawa movie grabbed me less than perhaps any other of his I've seen so far. Of Shakespeare's "Big Five" tragedies I'd rank Macbeth fourth, so he's already not off to the best of starts, and then, unlike Ran, the story further suffers by the loss of the Bardish dialog, which is replaced with Kurosawa's visual presentation. This is not a knock against AK's cinematographic stylings, which are as unimpeachable here as anywhere, it's just that it made the tale less effective for me 's all. Still, Toshiro Mifune's Macbeth/Washizu is great (of course), and Takashi Shimura's Lady McB/Asaji is possibly even better. Also, I don't think I'm spoiling anything since EVERYBODY knows how Macbeth goes, but Kurosawa throws Mifune a fabulous death scene right over the plate, and he knocks the cover off of it. The crowd goes wild!
Witness for the Prosecution... A very enjoyable courtroom drama with a closing twist-fest that'll leave you spinning. Vicky has convinced me that Agatha Christie really was all that. This adaptation is helped tremendously by a wonderfully curmudgeonly performance from Charles Laughton, who somehow never made it onto my radar as an actor until now.
- None Yet
Could Have Missed
Sayonara... I had hoped Brando would make some inroads with me, but really most of what I found appealing in him were those moments where he reminded me of Mark Ruffalo. Brando came first, so he should score those points, but somehow Ruffalo steals them. Furthermore, it's hard to relate to why any woman--and our educated, talented, Japanese woman in particular--would find his character so appealing. He woos her by basically looking at her (and not all that smoulderingly), and that just doesn't seem like enough for her to overcome her hard-earned antipathy. I guess it helped that he was tall. While the movie may have failed to make a Brando fan of me, it did wake me up to Red Buttons, who turns in a fabulous dramatic turn as Airman Kelly, who marries a Japanese woman in defiance of strong army discouragement of fraternization. The movie does deal very well with those issues, although it surprises me that a movie can be take such a progressive stance with regards to racism, and still cast Ricardo Montalban as the only Japanese male in the whole movie. I'm glad I watched it, but I feel like I happened to accidentally catch glimpses of a great Red Buttons movie that was captured accidentally by filmmakers shooting an average Marlon Brando movie.
The Seventh Seal... And here I thought this was going to be the story of a young boy, adopted into the circus, who takes charge of a lackluster act featuring six trained seals, who overcomes adversity, and who makes the act a roaring success by adding a seventh seal. That is about my intellectual speed, apparently, as I was pretty bored by this outwardly gloomy meditation on life and God's apparent absence. I say "outwardly" and "apparent" because I suspect there's some serious "God is Life" stuff going on, with a selection of life's joys depicted, and the beautiful imagery. I really need to change my nomenclature, as there's nothing "average" about this movie, but it wasn't my cup of tea. Kinda surprising, given my occassionally tortured agnostic tentencies.
Should Have Missed
- None Yet
El Sucko Grande
- None Yet