February 2013 in Films: Altman, Shorts, Silents and Documentaries, Oh My!

So February started out on a sour note, with my hard drive on my computer dying on me. Lucky for me, I had just backed everything up on my external for my trip to NYC, so I only lost a few things. The month got better though. I’ve got two months left in this semester and then a summer and then one more semester this fall and I will have an M.F.A. in Screenwriting, so that is boss. I’ve got a couple of feature scripts I am working on that I am really happy with and a few more ideas I hope to tackle soon. Finger crossed guys! As for film watching, I don’t think I saw any “new releases” in theatres, but I did see a few things at the Castro Theatre. I saw several films I’d seen before, but never on the big screen: Nashville, Random Harvest, and several that I had never seen before: Ikiru (more on that later), Modern Romance and attended the S.F. Silent Film Festival’s Winter Event: Snow White (1924), Buster Keaton shorts (always a treat!), The Thief of Bagdad (I first saw this at TCMFF last spring), My Best Girl (more on this after the cut) and F. W. Murnau’s Faust. As the title of this month’s post suggests, I saw several Robert Altman films again this month (I keep trying to watch all of his films, but he made too many!), I will be writing about one of them after the cut. I also saw several great documentaries this month and will be cheating a little bit because of how great they were. I also watched most of the Oscar nominated shorts, and must say they definitely choose the right films for animated and live-action shorts. Anyways, as always, a full list of what I watched is after the cut.


  1. Fresh Guacamole
  2. Head Over Heels (2012)
  3. Adam and Dog
  4. The Simpsons: The Longest Daycare
  5. Henry (2012)
  6. Asad
  7. Dood van een Schaduw (Death of a Shadow)
  8. Curfew (2012)
  9. Buzkashi Boys
  10. Starcrossed (1985)
  11. Denver and Rio Grande
  12. How to Survive a Plague
  13. The Bells of St. Mary’s
  14. Now (1965)
  15. I’m Not Rappaport
  16. Citizen Ruth
  17. De Lucha Boys
  18. Triumph des Willens (Triumph of the Will)
  19. Une vie de chat (A Cat in Paris)
  20. In Old California (1942)
  21. Ikiru
  22. Ken Burns: Jazz
  23. The Bad News Bears (1976)
  24. Quartet (2012)
  25. Little Shop of Horrors (1986)
  26. Snow White (1916)
  27. My Best Girl
  28. Faust (1926)
  29. The Dalton Girls
  30. Brooklyn Bridge
  31. Huey Long
  32. The Delinquents (1957)
  33. Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist and Rebel
  34. Cold Comfort Farm
  35. Thieves Like Us (1974)
  36. Sirens
  37. Safety Not Guaranteed
  38. Bill Cunningham New York
  39. The Robe
  40. Young Fury
  41. Valley of the Dolls
  42. The Whales of August
  43. Bedazzled (1967)
  44. Modern Romance
  45. What Happened Was. . .
  46. Carmen Jones
  47. The Gingerbread Man (1998)

1880s: 0
1880s: 0
1890s: 0
1900s: 0
1910s: 1
1920s: 2
1930s: 1
1940s: 2
1950s: 6
1960s: 4
1970s: 2
1980s: 6
1990s: 6
2000s: 1
2010s: 16

So like I said, I watched a lot of great documentaries this month (although, ironically, I didn’t watch the Oscar nom’d documentary shorts. . .) and because of that, I have seven films I want to write about this month. I’ve grouped three of the documentary together as one entry, though.

Ikiru, 1952 (dir. Akira Kurosawa)


I can’t believe I had never seen this film before. It is definitely one of the most movie portraits of humanity I have ever seen. Kurosawa was such a master of the craft, as well as a deft observer of the human spirit and both talents shine in this film. Someone told me this was one of the films that inspired Alexander Payne’s About Schmidt, and I can definitely see that. It’s about a businessman (played by Takashi Shimura, whom I swear is Mathieu Amalric’s Japanese grandfather), who, after discovering his heart is about to give out, has an existential crisis because he has never really lived. He learns about himself and about life throughout the film, and in the final act builds something that will last beyond the grave. I dare you to watch the scene with him sitting on the swing in the playground and not weep. I dare you.

Ken Burns: Jazz, 2001 (dir. Ken Burns) // Hugh Hefner: Playboy, Activist, Rebel, 2010 (dir Brigitte Berman) // Bill Cunningham New York, 2011 (dir. Richard Press)


Firstly, I would like to point out that the reason my new-to-me count is so low this month is that I watched Ken Burns: Jazz and it is 18 hours long. That is the length of 9 (or more) films, okay! Actually, I watched several Ken Burns documentaries this month because I discovered that Netflix has many of them streaming and oh my are they great. But Jazz, Jazz is a masterpiece. The Hugh Hefner and Bill Cunningham docs that I watched were expiring, which forced me to watch them after having them in my queue for ages. And thank goodness for that, because they are fabulous. Both of these men are astounding figures, full of passion and drive and I’m glad their lives have been properly documented.

My Best Girl, 1927 (dir. Sam Taylor)


How on Earth had I never seen this film?!?! Ahhhh Mary Pickford!!! She is too cute in this film. This is one of those whirlwind romance films that portrays the kind of love we all secret want, but what makes it so particularly wonderful is that it captured a real-life romance that lasted nearly five decades. Pickford met Charles “Buddy” Rogers on the set of this film and the two fell head over heels for each other, though they would not marry for another decade (but their marriage would last another forty years after that). You can see the connection the two stars are having and it makes the romance on the screen that much more delightful. I highly recommend this film for fans of the silent era, as well as romance junkies alike.

Thieves Like Us, 1974 (dir. Robert Altman)


Speaking of romance junkies, ugggggggggggggh. Altman’s take on Edward Anderson’s novel (also turned into a film by Nicholas Ray, entitled They Live By Night), is to die for. Keith Carradine and Shelley Duvall have chemistry to spare and although many might find this film “slow,” it’s more like the perfect kind of slow burn, that smolders and builds and then when it’s raging you just can’t look away.

What Happened Was. . ., 1994 (dir. Tom Noonan)


This is another slow-burn of a movie, which just features two actors (Tom Noonan, who also wrote and directed the film, and Karen Sillas) in one location having a prolonged conversation. It’s a first date (or is it?) between two co-workers at a large law firm. As the conversation starts you think you know who these characters are, but as the film progresses and the conversation gets more and more personal, everything you think you know gets turned on its head. Fans of films like Before Sunset, etc. will enjoy this, but those who can’t stand films that are too chatty will probably yell, “Get on with it!!!” before the film ends. The very opening sequence, where the two are getting ready in their respective apartments is utterly fabulous and includes the best use of ‘Til Tuesday’s “Voices Carry” ever.

So that was February. I hope y’all had a great month for movies as well. I’ve got some big plans to see some pre-codes at the Roxie Theater this weekend and a few must-watches at the Castro (as long as work permits) and maybe I’ll actually see a 2013 release, who knows?! Keep up the watching and see you next month!

About Marya E. Gates

Cinephile to the max.

Posted on March 1, 2013, in 2013 in Films and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. I thought the big confessional climax of WHW sapped some of the power of the movie by kind of plainly stating what was already coming across just fine, but man was I invested in that movie. Forgot to watch THE WIFE before it left Netflix but I think Hulu+ still has it.

  2. I think Ikiru has one of the best uses of the birthday song ever, if not the best. One of my favorite movies.

  3. What Happened Was is probably the most under-appreciated movie from the 90s, glad you found it!

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