Thursday, August 28, 2008

High Seas and Epic Tease

In this crazy Eighth episode of Best Pictures from the Outside In, Nathaniel and Goatdog and I pop some giant horse-pills of testosterone to confront two big Man Movies: Frank Lloyd's Mutiny on the Bounty, Oscar's champ from 1935, and Ridley Scott's Gladiator, the first post-Y2K winner. General consensus is that Mutiny is yare, while Gladiator's the one at sea. Read the full transcript, and share your thoughts.

Unfortunately, the week catches me totally unprepared to embellish much beyond what I wrote in the conversation. 1935 is an even sparser year in terms of my own viewing than 1934 was. In my very distant memory, I loved John Ford's The Informer, though almost everyone I know tells me it's overly stylized and unconvincingly acted, so I can't stand by it as my Best Picture vote without another look. I'm a huge fan of Alice Adams (see here for the proof) and of Top Hat, and Broadway Melody of 1936 is steady entertainment, thanks largely to the dynamic Eleanor Powell, if not a full-on knockout. Sadly, I have seven Best Picture nominees left to see and, from my own viewing experience, only Alfred Hitchcock's crackling 39 Steps to insist upon as an Oscar oversight. (Lots of folks would stump for The Bride of Frankenstein or The Devil Is a Woman, but I'm a dissenter on both counts: I think the former is too facetious and the latter is just too tacky and skimpy on feeling, even though Marlene memorably, gruffly asserted it as the best of her Sternberg vehicles in the indispensable documentary that Maximilan Schell made about her.)

Meanwhile, I also have some 2000 dilemmas to solve. I've been trumpeting Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (reviewed here) as my favorite BP nominee ever since they were announced... but at this point, isn't my heart with Erin Brockovich (reviewed here and here), an issue picture, biopic, and vanity vehicle that glides over all three of those huge generic hurdles and improves with every single viewing? I didn't get to re-watch Tiger to find out, but the race is tight. Adventures in high concept: Erin Brockovich goes wuxia on PG&E!

So, no firm verdicts on either year, just a bunch of ambivalence and fond memories. When I eventually go back and review my Top Ten of 2000, I'll also be eager to revisit Timecode, The Wind Will Carry Us, and Yi Yi (A One and a Two...), three films I may well have undervalued at the time; Up at the Villa, a delicious perversity that I may nonetheless have over-estimated; The Claim, Traffic, and The Yards, which I always liked but have largely forgotten in their particulars; and a bunch of critically idolized titles that I couldn't access at the time, including Lodge Kerrigan's Claire Dolan and Laurent Cantet's Human Resources. And those are just the U.S. commercial releases! 2000 also yielded festival sensations like Shinji Aoyama's Eureka, Ousmane Sembene's Faat Kiné, Jiang Wen's Devils on the Doorstep, Chantal Akerman's La Captive, Jia Zhangke's Platform, Bernard Rose's ivansxtc., and Béla Tarr's Werckmeister Harmonies, all of them still hovering on my viewing horizon.

So, make like Commodus and cast your thumbs up and down in the Comments. Make like Captain Bligh and lead me in the right direction, however roughly. Make like Fletcher Christian and buck the prevailing authorities. I'm eager for your guidance.

This Week: Goatdog's transcript and Nathaniel's Gable/Crowe profile
Previously: ep.1: Wings & No Country; ep.2: Broadway Melody & Departed; ep.3: All Quiet & Crash; ep.4: Cimarron & Million Dollar Baby; ep.5: Grand Hotel & LOTR:ROTK; ep.6: Cavalcade & Chicago; ep.7: It Happened One Night & A Beautiful Mind

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Blogger goatdog said...

My favorite 1935 films are the aforementioned Bride of Frankenstein (just a moment while I look askance at you for not loving it ... ok, I'm done), followed by Les Miserables, Ruggles of Red Gap, Top Hat (can you tell the Best Picture category is my primary guide to this year?), and John Ford's Steamboat Round the Bend, the third of his Will Rogers vehicles.

My 2000 list is a mess, so I'm no help there.

6:01 PM, August 28, 2008  
Blogger Dame James said...

For 1935, my favorite film is Top Hat, the best of the Astaire-Rogers films, followed by The Triumph of the Will (the Nazi ideals are troubling, but Riefenstahl is clearly an artist above anything), Bride of Frankenstein, The 39 Steps and The Gold Diggers of 1935 (an infinitely better musical sequel than Broadway Melody of 1936).

Erin Brockovich all the way in 2000. It's one of the few films I can watch over and over again, know every twist and turn and exactly when each line is coming up and still love it everytime. The rest of my nominees would be Requiem for a Dream, Bamboozled (a film that is possibly even more indicting and courageous than Do the Right Thing), Crouching Tiger and Dancer in the Dark with a big shoutout to one of the smartest films about high school ever, Bring It On.

7:14 PM, August 28, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Goatdog: Okay, so let's throw Bride of Frankenstein onto that pile of movies I need to revisit. It's true that I didn't like Frankenstein all that much the first time, either, so maybe I'll have a Damascus Road experience on this one, too.

@James Henry: Thanks for the tip on Gold Diggers..., and I appreciate a (crucially) qualified defense of Riefenstahl's artistry. I'm not a Requiem fan, even though I respect it. I love the best parts of Bamboozled, and even some of the shakier parts, because of the conviction and expansive sense of critique pushing the whole project, which is often very funny, too (and has a great soundtrack). The narrative gets too discombobulated by the end, though, for me to go all the way with the movie. But it's clearly one for the time capsule. I was so mad when I was alone in the theater that was showing it.

11:41 PM, August 28, 2008  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

My viewing of 1935 is woefully incomplete, but I nominate Anna Karenina for another great performance by Greta Garbo.

My viewing for 2000 is much more complete, though. My top five reads like so: Dancer in the Dark, Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon, Requiem for a Dream, Erin Brockovich and House of Mirth. Something which I find infuriatingly common is that they all feature very strong female performances, so it might seem like I'm picking the movies just for that. But I genuinely enjoy all five films, and the first two in particular rate highly among my own personal canon.

To say nothing of Gladiator, which isn't an embarassing win; but still not one that I can get behind at all.

12:04 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Brooke: I just heard good things from Tim R., too, about Anna Karenina, so I'm glad to hear that motion get seconded. You know you won't get any flak from me about a possible bias toward films with prominent female characters expressed by dazzling actresses... but I find that people who confess their prejudices are often the most in control of them, too! The House of Mirth is juuuust on the cusp of staying in or falling out of my Top 10 based on my re-exposures to some of the other titles, but it remains appalling that Cinematography and Costume nods at least were not forthcoming. (Mal&#232na in Cinematography and every single Costume nod short of CT,HD should have cleared way...)

12:09 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger CanadianKen said...

I'd heartily endorse GOLD-DIGGERS OF 1935. It's often cited only for its mammoth musical sequences (and they ARE wonderful). But I think it also delivers on other levels too with zingy dialogue and career-funniest work from Hugh Herbert, Alice Brady, Glenda Farrell,Joseph Cawthorn and Adolphe Menjou. Which is saying a lot - because those were some pretty funny - and prolific - people. Plus - playing most of her scenes caught in the comic crosswinds generated by Herbert and Brady - future TITANIC nominee Gloria Stuart is a total charmer, making exasperation look downright irresistible. All in all, the picture's proof to me that, given the right circumstances, Busby Berkeley was fully up to the challenge of handling non-musical segments.
Other suggestions for 1935?Certainly CAPTAIN BLOOD, the lively vehicle that introduced another pretty irresistible force to the world at large - Errol Flynn. I believe the picture was nominated but Flynn himself missed a well-deserved Best Actor nod. And - if you can - check out John Ford's THE WHOLE TOWN'S TALKING, a warm and very funny film. I'd say it's Edward G.Robinson's best work; Jean Arthur's superb as usual. And - as if that's not enough - Donald Meek and Etienne Girardot pop up frequently and hilariously - the kind of matched set of milque-toast salt and pepper shakers no 30's comedy should be without.

12:49 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

Why can't I learn that Blogger no longer accepts unicode in the Comments? I meant "Malèna" up in the last comment.

@Ken: Quite literally, you always come up with films to recommend that I've never even heard of, and brand new reasons to expand my enthusiasm for the films and stars I have heard of. Thanks for keeping the trend alive!

1:08 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

Nick, I assumed you were just inserting expletives into the very title of Malèna, as well you might.

I've just rented The Informer, but pending that my 1935 picks would be Top Hat, The 39 Steps, Bride of Frankenstein, Mutiny and the wonderful Karl Freund/Peter Lorre horror movie Mad Love (aka The Hands of Orlac). Pure expressionist creepiness.

I like Alice Adams and Anna Karenina on about the same, second-tier level -- mainly as great star vehicles.

2000 gets complicated, if only because so many films have shuffled up and down my original list since I first compiled it. From Oscar's picks I am all about Brockovich. But my own top ten is probably something like this, now:

The House of Mirth
Amores Perros
Code Unknown
The Yards
A One and a Two
Erin Brockovich
Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

With honourable mention for Requiem for a Dream, You Can Count on Me, Bamboozled, Eureka, Tears of the Black Tiger, Songs from the Second Floor, Faithless, Nationale 7, Under the Sand, A Time for Drunken Horses, Last Resort and Dancer in the Dark.

Not that you needed all that.

3:48 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim: "Need" is rarely the appropriate verb, and I certainly wanted all that. Some of the titles you mentioned would count as '01 releases over here. Among the others, You Can Count on Me, Dancer in the Dark, and Ghost Dog were high in my original '00 list and aren't in danger of going anywhere.

I've got Mad Love on tape and it's one of the titles I'm most excited about. Plus, aren't Drew Barrymore and Chris O'Donnell in it, too? (Kidding, of course.)

8:20 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

I never seem to get the release dates right. Which ones are "officially" 2001? My habit these days is just to go by whatever IMDb tells me -- even though technically I saw The Insider, Ripley and various other things in the early months of 2000, they've got to count as 1999, right? In fact, half of my honourable mentions probably didn't make it over here till 2001, but I've pushed them back according to their IMDb year, to try and get on the same page as everyone else. Do you have some one-stop way of looking this stuff up, or is it all scribbled down in the fabled Flick Pick archives?

9:09 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Tim: Usually the most accurate way is to click on Release Dates on IMDb and look at the country-by-country breakdown. Occasionally a festival gig or an isolated preview screening will get wrongly billed as an actual release, but normally, but usually the picture becomes clear. So, Amores perros was a 2001 commercial release in the States despite the '00 release in Mexico and Foreign Film nod at the Oscars; Ripley and several others were '99 releases even though lots of people didn't see them till their releases platformed out in early '00; Ghost Dog and The Yards were '00 release in the U.S. even though they bowed at Cannes in '99; etc., etc.

You can imagine the Excel sheets I have generated out of all of this.

And it's obviously all contingent from country to country. I'm sure lots of these dates differ in the U.K. That's why I'm moving retroactively for the two alternate Top 10s for each year (U.S. release vs. world premiere), though the site is still largely organized by U.S. release since the vast majority of my readers have that as common context.

9:38 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger tim r said...

Ta for that. Just watched The Informer and am now going to attempt to write my first blog-review in several aeons...

10:52 AM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger Sam Brooks said...

The Yards would also rate pretty highly on my 2000 list; I viewed it this week and found out that I liked it quite a bit. Not least of all for giving Faye Dunaway a halfway decent role that, shockingly, allowed her to be subtle and nuanced. It's definitely an interesting movie, and one I would consider rewatching again (I actually heard of the movie from your full review of it, was interested in the cast and Fauxflix'd it).

9:15 PM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger NicksFlickPicks said...

@Brooke: Try to guess how thrilled I am to hear that someone actually rented a movie based on one of my reviews! And I'm so glad you liked this one.

We should probably take a special moment here in honor of Faye's eyeglasses in this role. Can you not just see her finding them in some thrift store, and walking up to James Gray on the set? "Jim, I have to wear these."

11:37 PM, August 29, 2008  
Blogger Ryan said...

1935: “Bride of Frankenstein” for sure! Breaths

2000: My Top 10:
01) Traffic
02.) Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon
03.) Erin Brockovich
04.) Dancer In the Dark
05.) The Cell
06.) Requiem for a Dream
07.) Quills
08.) Urbania
09.) Gladiator
10.) American Psycho

Nick, I’ve always been fascinated/excited by your love for “The Cell”; an unforgettable cinematic experience that brought to life one of the most haunting dream-worlds I’ve ever been privy to. I mean the visuals alone- their blending of styles and subversive, dual nature… just hypnotic (and so disturbing). Many of the film’s evocative images left an indelible imprint in my mind- popping up every now and then. Currently, the image that burns strongest is that slow-mo shot of the wet dog shaking blood off itself… and the sound design that accompanies it. Amazing. Also, the ADG deserve one hell of a pat on the back for recognizing the visionary production design of this extraordinary- and quite distinct- work of art.
I’m glad a big name other than Ebert supports it. And I honestly belive if Lopez hadn’t starred in it (personally I thought she was okay) more people would have been open to embracing it.

Also, I’m with you all the way on the Julia/”Erin Brockovich” love. The film (and performance) is rather special. Oh, and I’d love to know what you thought of “Urbania”. I think it made Nathaniel’s Roger’s Top 10. Have you seen it yet?

2:33 PM, September 02, 2008  
Blogger Glenn Dunks said...

The 39 Steps is my second/third (it changes routinely) favourite Hitchcock film. I love it so so very much.

As for the year 2000, outside of the obvious (your Psychos, Dancers, your Requiems, your Erins your Billy Elliots, your Bring it Ons, your Best in Shows and your Crouching Tigers) I am a fan of I'm the One that I Want, The Cell, The Dish, Dinner Rush, One Day in September, Pollack, TimeCode, What's Cooking, Chicken Run, Urbania, Looking for Alibrandi, Chopper, You Can Count on Me and The Emperor's New Groove.

11:00 PM, September 03, 2008  

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