The Castro Theatre, Ryan O’Neal and Other Film-Watching Exploits In August

So I managed to watch a little bit less new-to-me films in August than I did in July. That’s okay, though, because I saw so many great films at the Castro theatre (I’m quite the regular there now). I saw The Big Sleep, Key Largo, Moulin Rouge!, Meek’s Cutoff (new-to-me), Limbo (new-to-me), Bad Education, Law of Desire (new-to-me), Talk To Her, All About My Mother, The Flower of My Secret (new-to-me), Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (new-to-me), 2001: A Space Odyssey, 2010: The Year We Make Contact (new-to-me), Double Indemnity, The Postman Always Rings Twice, Days of Heaven, Badlands, The Philadelphia Story and Holiday. All of those were double features except Moulin Rouge! and all of them were well worth the admission price. I’ve said it before, I’ll say it again: nothing beats seeing a great film on the big screen. I’m just glad all these great films were showing in the month between the summer semester and the fall semester so I had time to see them. I also read a handful of screenplays (hey, I’m studying to get an MFA in screenwriting, I better be reading screenplays!) So far I’ve read L.A. Confidential, The Piano, Good Will Hunting, American Beauty, The Hurt Locker, Inglourious Basterds, The English Patient, The Last Detail and Chinatown. It sure is interesting to see how a story starts out on the page and winds up the same, but different, on the big screen. As for my new-to-me list, most of the films I saw I loved (this was another month were it was hard to come up with just five featured films), but I also saw a few I really hated. Today is the first day of the fall semester and I’m taking three classes, so I have no idea what my free time is going to be like or how many new-to-me films I’ll manage to watch. Gonna shoot for at least one new-to-me a day though. As always, the full list of my August new-to-me films is after the cut.

    1. Devil and the Deep
    2. Rain
    3. House of Games
    4. The Blue Gardenia
    5. Julia (1977)
    6. It’s Love I’m After
    7. Made For Each Other
    8. Save The Tiger
    9. My Cousin Rachel
    10. Warlock (1959)
    11. Weekend (1967)
    12. Mr. Blandings Builds His Dream House
    13. The Long Voyage Home
    14. House on Haunted Hill
    15. Klute
    16. Me and Rubyfruit
    17. Hell’s Angels
    18. Meek’s Cutoff
    19. Limbo (1999)
    20. Barry Lyndon
    21. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows: Part 2
    22. Prizzi’s Honor
    23. The Smiling Lieutenant
    24. A Yank At Oxford
    25. Night Tide
    26. With A Song In My Heart
    27. Going The Distance (2010)
    28. The Bride Came C.O.D.
    29. Dodge City
    30. Summer and Smoke
    31. Un long dimanche de fiançailles (A Very Long Engagement)
    32. Glengarry Glen Ross
    33. 42nd Street
    34. Arise, My Love
    35. Nickelodeon
    36. Bells Are Ringing
    37. Lady in the Lake
    38. The Last Command
    39. The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou
    40. La ley del deseo (Law of Desire)
    41. Norma Rae
    42. Source Code
    43. Advise & Consent
    44. La flor de mi secreto (The Flower of My Secret)
    45. Mujeres al borde de un ataque de nervios (Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown)
    46. Bottle Rocket
    47. One Day (2011)
    48. The Help
    49. Watching The Detectives
    50. 2010: The Year We Make Contact
    51. High Anxiety
    52. Cape Fear (1991)
    53. Bluebeard (1944)
    54. Caged
    55. The Door with Seven Locks (aka Chamber of Horrors)
    56. Les misérables (1935)
    57. The Screaming Skull
    58. Holiday (1930)
    59. When Ladies Meet (1933)
    60. Easy Living
    61. A Blueprint For Murder
    62. Ride Lonesome
    63.  Silent Movie
    64. Jesse James Meets Frankenstein’s Daughter
    65. The Constant Nymph (1943)
    66. The Mystery of the Mary Celeste (aka Phantom Ship)
    67. Rio Bravo
    68. Scared To Death
    69. A Tree Grows In Brooklyn (1945)
    70. Clash By Night
    71. Three Days of the Condor
    72. New In Town

1900s: 0
1910s: 0
1920s: 1
1930s: 14
1940s: 10
1950s: 11
1960s: 6
1970s: 9
1980s: 6
1990s: 5
2000s: 4 
2010s: 6

Like I said earlier, picking just five films to feature this month was very difficult. I saw so many great films. I watched a lot of films from the 70s (well, a lot for me) because I’ve been trying to catch up on some of the American New Wave/Renaissance-era films, a time period I have never really paid too much attention. It’s an interesting era, filled with directors who were inspired by Old Hollywood, but were trying new things. It’s interesting to see how these films were both influenced by Old Hollywood and how the films now influence many directors today. I just think it’s important to watch as many films, good, bad and in between, as you possibly can. I know I’ll never watch all the films (WATCH ALL THE FILMS), but I will sure die trying.

The Blue Gardenia, 1953 (dir. Fritz Lang)

This is such an interesting, overlooked piece of comical (yes, comical) noir from Fritz Lang. Director/Film Historian Peter Bogdanovich called it, “A particularly venomous picture of American life.” I could not agree more. It’s hard to really describe what’s so biting about the film, and perhaps it’s so overlooked because its venom is so subtle. I could easily imagine many a casual viewer watching it and only seeing the surface and taking all the dialogue at face value. Maybe that’s its brilliance.

Hell’s Angels, 1930 (dir. Howard Hughes, James Whale)

I love Jean Harlow. She’s one of my favorite actresses. There’s something indescribable about her screen presence that I just love. This was her first starring role, and although she is a bit rough at times, she’s also quite brilliant. Her character, a sexually liberated woman before and during World War I, is also quiet shocking. I read that James Whale shut down production for three days to work exclusively with Harlow on her part. Regardless of how long it took them to get to where they did with it, they got somewhere great. Harlow aside, this film is also fascinating because of its production history. Hughes originally planned the film to be a silent picture, but with the release of The Jazz Singer in 1927 he decided to make it a talkie (this is also how Harlow got cast in the lead). What you have is a film that has elements of the Silent Era – tinting, inter-titles, etc – but also a synchronized soundtrack (meaning dialogue, score and sound effects) and even a color sequence (filmed in Metrocolor, but printed by Technicolor). Hughes was a master of aerial photography and you’ll be hard-pressed to find better airplane fights than those in this film (I’m talking to you, directors who use CGI). Brilliant film all around.

Barry Lyndon, 1975 (dir. Stanley Kubrick)

This film is so good. SO GOOD. I had been meaning to watch this film for ages, but resisted because of its length; sometimes I am incredibly stupid. This film does not feel long for an instant. It’s brilliantly paced and, other than The Shining, may well be my favorite Kubrick film. It’s also one of the most gorgeous films I have ever seen. Kubrick and director of photography John Alcott (who won an Oscar for his work on the film) worked with special super fast lenses (apparently originalyl developed for NASA) to shoot without the use of electric light, in order to maintain the aesthetic of the pre-electric age. Basically, this is the first film to successfully shoot with nothing but candlelight. Any film you see today that uses candlelight and nothing more for a scene owes this film a lot. I also must say I love Ryan O’Neal. I thought he was great in this film and still maintain it’s a shame that his only Oscar nomination came from his performance in Love Story, which has got to be the weakest of his work from the 1970s.

Nickelodeon, 1976 (dir. Peter Bogdanovich)

Speaking of Ryan O’Neal, I watched another film with him that I absolutely loved this month. Peter Bogdanovich is slowly becoming one of my all-time favorite directors. I just love the films he made in the 70s and I love his love of film and its history. Nickelodeon is a film about the early days of the Silent Era – the 1910s when little independent filmmakers were fighting big patent film companies. This is an era in film history that your average film goer probably doesn’t know much about. To be fair, until I saw TCM’s epically wonderful documentary mini-series Moguls and Movie Stars last fall, I didn’t know about it either. It was fun to watch because I now know a lot about the era, but I could imagine many a person being a little lost. Read up on the era and then watch it. Also, the film was dedicated to silent film directors Allan Dwan and Raoul Walsh, both of whom I believe Bogdanovich talked with extensively before their deaths.

Bells Are Ringing, 1960 (dir. Vincente Minnelli)

This film is based on a musical that was on Broadway in the 1950s; when it finally made it to the big screen Judy Holliday reprised the role she originated. And boy is she fantastic. The musical itself is apparently based on a real woman (Mary Printz) who had an answering service (Belles Celebrity Answering Service, opened in 1956, is still open). I just love Judy Holliday, she’s one of the greats. Unfortunately, this was Holliday’s last film; she was apparently already ill with breast cancer while during filming and died a few years later of the disease. Regardless, she and Dean Martin are simply fantastic in this musical. As is Frank Gorshin as an out-of-work Method actor who is described as someone who “mumbles like he’s got marbles in his mouth” – a clear homage to Marlon Brando. It’s just good, clean, Old Hollywood musical fun.

So that was August. Like I said, classes start up again today, so who knows how many films I’ll be watching in September. But I will make time, I swear I will. You keep watching and I’ll keep watching and someday maybe we’ll see ALL THE FILMS.

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on September 1, 2011, in 2011 in Films and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I liked your list of 5. Very thoughtful. I remember seeing Bells are Ringing when I was a girl and how much I loved it. It is sad that Breast Cancer took so many of our great actresses when they were just in their prime.

    Good luck with classes!

  1. Pingback: 2011 in Films: A Year-Long Cinematic Odyssey Through 1,117 New-To-Me Films « the diary of a film awards fanatic

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