Wednesday, January 2, 2013

My Favorite Movies: #90-88

In yesterday's post, I started to countdown my favorite films of all time. Now it's time to continue with the ranking. I must say I'm getting more and more excited because I cannot wait to reveal my favorite movie of all time. I love it to pieces. Whereas most of the movies on the list (moreso from number 50 and up) could be interchanged, my number one is set in stone, as it has for two and a half years now. So, let's get this thing on the road to get to the final hotspot.

90. Au Hasard Balthazar (Robert Bresson, 1966)
This film is an interesting addition to my repertoire. While I was watching it, I was frustrated. By the slow pace, by the young girl and her poor decisions, by the main antagonist, by the lack of justice, by the mistreatment of the titular donkey, by the dad not popping a cap in those vagabonds towards the end of the movie. I still am. Yet, however sad, the ending wraps up everything into a sumptuous package. Bresson knew what he was doing. Had anything in the movie been handled differently, the movie would have fallen over itself. It's that sensitive of a cinematic piece. Yet, Bresson managed to make it all work and I found myself in tears by the end of it. Now, since you guys don't even know me, I can confirm that it is impressive for that to happen because, even when a film is highly emotional, I rarely cry (though I do get feels). Balthazar's emotional aspect is not directly in your face as with most other films. It's not exposed or conspicuously intent to get the viewer somewhere; it's subtle and builds up to that final sequence, ever so indiscernible  Au Hasard Balthazar is a film about the journey and not just about instantaneous gratification. I watched Au Hasard Balthazar a month ago; now, am I ready for another Bresson film? I'll say not. I still have to detox from the bleakness and pain I endured from Balthazar. I did not originally plan to include it on the list, but as I kept eliminating titles for the list, there it remained, a bleak beacon of humanity's cruelty (whether it is against an inoffensive girl or an infoffensive donkey).  True martyrdom.

89. The Cat's Meow (Peter Bogdanovich, 2001)
This little seen gem is about one of the most fascinating stories of Old Hollywood lore: the mysterious death of film magnate Thomas H. Ince in 1924 aboard a luxury yatch, the Oneida. Who owned the Oneida? William Randolph Hearst. Yes, the same Hearst who was parodied by Orson Welles in the acclaimed Citizen Kane two decades after Ince's death. Oh, this gun be good. Yet, the film is about more than that. It's about every single person that was aboard the yatch during Ince's last days; some who are still known today (Marion Davies, Charlie Chaplin, Louella Parsons) and some whose names are vaguely familiar (Margaret Livingston, Elinor Glyn). Trust me, before you see this film, read about the Oneida affair. It's one of the juiciest Hollywood stories out there. And I say that because the film's true motive is not to uncover exactly how Thomas H. Ince mysteriously died (of a possible gunshot wound) on that yatch just four days after boarding. The film's motive is to show all of the characters' own motives; their aspirations, their desires, their humanness, and ultimately their fate after the ordeal. The film personalizes people who are larger than life, making us see past our preconceived notions about them and their stories. It humanizes them and makes us feel for them. That truly is a feat and can be attributed to the talent of the actors, most of all my love Kiki Dunst who is charming as the ingenue Marion Davies. Ugh, the nostalgia I feel for a time when I did not even exist.

88. Gone With The Wind (Victor Fleming, 1939)
I have been following the movie blogging world for a while now (probably a year around May or June) and it is safe to say that Gone With The Wind is one of the most hated classics in the LAMB blogosphere. I understand where the naysayers are coming from: long running time, melodrama, racism (frankly my dear, Gone With The Wind romanticizes slavery, so yes it really is. The good ol' days), and caricatured characters. But, for me, it all works. Now, I don't agree with the racist components, but I don't find them to be as detrimental to the picture as most find them to be. The character of Mammy is, for her time, shockingly outspoken and is really the glue that holds the house together. The character of Prissy, endearingly ditzy and fatally useless,  is my second favorite character after Scarlett. Those African-American characters could have easily been off-putting, but I don't find them to be. The film mostly gets a lot of hate because it is what engendered countless parodies and furthered certain stereotypes. However, unlike its successors, the material is not handled in a way to poke fun at the African-American community. Because Gone With The Wind is primarily a tragic love story between spoiled Scarlett and suave Rhett. What makes the film so successful for me is its lushness, and how the actors manage to dodge sensitive landmines and give depth to their characters (especially Hattie McDaniel and Butterfly McQueen). I loved every single character, well except for wooden Ashley Wilkes (either the part called for us to hate the character or Leslie Howard's acting style is just too contemporary for my liking). The best part of the film to me is, however, Vivien Leigh. She is hands down the most beautiful creature to ever grace the silver screen. It has often been said that she was a great actress impaired by beauty. It is not shocking to see why that is. Her portrayal of Scarlett is, to me, one of the best film performances of all time. I mean, I was cheering for a bitch! But, I really couldn't keep my eyes off Leigh when she was onscreen. Everything else was secondary, even given how much fun this movie is all on its own. Vivien Leigh's beauty is out of this world.

Obligatory Vivien Leigh caps:


  1. Great post, I agree with you about Leigh in Gone with the wind, such an iconic performance.

    1. One of the most underrated actresses by modern day standards.

  2. Counting down 100 films is serious dedication! Look forward to seeing the rest of the countdown.

    1. Ha, thanks. It really is, especially when broken into segments and you're enticed to move things around. Thanks for the comment.