February 11, 2003

My pal Hoffman (who should really be blogging) is in the middle of an ongoing project (that should really be blogged). I'll let him explain:


My New Year's resolution was to see 300 movies this year. I'm keeping a
journal -- after each film I give it a letter grade and write a very short
review. After each 10 films I zip out a bulletin. Here are the first
three. Volume 4 should be coming soon.

Feel free to agree or disagree -- that's what makes it fun:

1) Gangs of New York, Martin Scorsese, B
Great sets, great Day-Lewis, but really just a Hollywood epic without much
of a sense of humor.

2) Tokyo Olympiad, Kon Ichikawa, A-
Unparalleled cinematography and editing. Hypnotic.

3) The Song Remains The Same, Peter Clifton & Joe Massot , C+
Technically appalling, but any glimpse into the idiocy of mid 70s Led
Zeppelin is bound to be fascinating and hilarious. Who knew Robert Plant
would have fit in perfectly in Kiss? And, yes, Page really does have a
double-guitar. I thought this movie ruled when I was 16. Some songs still
rock, though.

4) Jesus' Son, Alison MacLean, B
Another movie about junkies in love redeems itself with an unexpected and
extended third act. Fantastic lead performance, even if the character is
though to empathize with. You can tell this film was based on great short

5) Ciao! Manhattan, John Palmer & David Weisman, D
The novelty of seeing 60s Manhattan wears thin after 30 minutes. Edie
Sedgwick's death wasn't much of a loss for the acting community.

6) All That Jazz, Bob Fosse, A-
Pretentious, yes, but such a rich, fun ride. Who doesn't want to see Roy
Scheider in spandex?

7) Star 80, Bob Fosse, B+
Fosse does De Palma. Well crafted, well acted (where has Eric Roberts
gone?), story is a little too "E! Hollywood Story" to make it perfect. Lots
of sexy girls.

8) Nights of Cabiria, Federico Fellini, B-
Maybe I'd like this more if I hadn't seen 9 million of its imitators? And
why must all of Fellini's early films be so "wonderful"? I'd like to see a
Guilieta Massina performance directed by someone else some day. She is lots
of fun. The scene in the church is the best part -- and it's the only one
that isn't played for laughs or for melodrama.

9) Taste of Cherry, Abbas Kiarostami, B+
One of my favorite movies where an Iranian man drives around. Audacious and
annoying, especially the ending. I highly recommend it.

10) Repo Man, Alex Cox, C+
Oddly, this hasn't aged all that much. Harry Dean Stanton is entertaining.

11) Chicago, Rob Marshall, A
Kerry didn't buy Richard Gere, but I couldn't find any fault with this film.
Big fun. Odd, cause it really has you cheering on some horrible people.
Perhaps an updated version with "liquor and jazz" replaced with "hip-hop and
the rock"? Nah, it wouldn't be the same.

12) The Horse's Mouth, Ronald Neame, A
Not only funny, but completely original. Midway through some surprising
insights into creative madness. Why do all British movies have such great
side characters?

13) Rivers and Tides: Andy Goldsworthy Working With Time, Thomas
Reidelsheimer, B-
Wonderfully shot and mostly fascinating doc about a fantastic artist who,
unfortunately, won't keep his trap shut about his own art. He talks about
his work as he creates it. Thus Reidelsheimer is unable to edit the
pontifications out, reducing what could have been a transcendent film into
one man's wanking. Despite my disdain for the man, I recognize his genius
and think Reidelsheimer is a great filmmaker, too.

14) Raising Cain, Brian De Palma, B+
Idiotic and implausible, but oh so much fun. Lithgow is priceless. How in
the hell did they do that tracking shot up to the morgue through that
elevator? The film's final shot made Ann & I both jump!

15) Ghost in the Shell, Masamune Shirow, D+
Visually interesting, yes. Also, great sound effects -- and I rarely notice
that. But a half-baked plot boringly executed with pitiable acting.

16) Monster's Ball, Marc Forster, B
Good mood, great performances. Simple story -- and that quietness obscures
that it is not all that original. Great score. That's the real star of the

17) City of God, Fernando Meirelles, B+
"Gangs of New York" all over again, this time in 70s Rio de Janeiro.
Nothing too groundbreaking, but a few scenes are harrowing. Slick moves,
too. I want the soundtrack album.

18) Two Minute Warning, Larry Peerce, D-
"Airport" meets "Black Sunday." How could any film starring Charlton Heston
& John Cassavetes be this bad? Good cinematography and a decent, but
completely out-of-place moment by Gena Rowlands keeps this from getting an

19) A Streetcar Named Desire, Elia Kazan, A+
Yep, it just doesn't come better than this. The few moments that come off
as a bit over-the-top need not be shrugged off as dated, rather enjoyed as
high camp. Would things have turned out all right if Mitch had just married
Blanche? He lives in the French Quarter, for God's sake, why should he be
so shocked that she lied about her past and "wasn't straight"? But I
suppose lying was the big sin. Even though Kowalski's world is cruel and
brutal, at least everyone is honest. I must admit that when I first saw
this film, when I was 17 or so, the implied rape sailed over my head.

20) Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, Richard Brooks, B+
Lacks the spark of perfection found in "Streetcar" but certainly is a good
yarn about a woman who doesn't get enough sex. At least one round of
shouting in the drawing room could be cut out. Burl Ives' Big Daddy has
inspired many a loud fat guy role in the work of the Coen Bros.


21) The Hudsucker Proxy, Coen Bros., A
Be sure to watch this DVD with the closed captioning on to catch all the
stray verbiage. This may be The Coens' most epic film. The Carter Burwell
score swells in just the right moments to make you forget about irony. And
then Norville Barnes says something idiotic (he never quite gets that Amy
isn't a Muncie Girl, does he?) to make it all crash down around him.
Jennifer Jason Leigh's performance is nonstop fun and the Dingus Production
montage keeps me in stitches every time. Will they ever collaborate with
Sam Raimi again?

22) The Big Lebowski, Coen Bros., A+
And if you don't like this movie, well, it's just, like, your opinion, man.
I've seen it probably six times and it only get funnier. One day I might
even follow the plot.

23) Hair, Milos Forman, D
Just awful. I hope Milos had no creative control here -- otherwise it is
hard to imagine how the insightful creator of "Loves of a Blonde" or
"Amadeus" could have released such tripe. One or two of the musical
numbers, "Black Boys/White Boys" especially, are fun.

24) Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, George Roy Hill, B
I know it's the buddy movie to end all buddy movies, but let's admit that it
gets a little draggy once they leave for Bolivia. It's a very good movie,
but not perfect. The DVD transfer is a revelation -- having only seen the
washed out VHS or Superstation broadcast, I was stunned to realize it is a
beautiful looking picture.

25) I See A Dark Stranger, Frank Laudner, C
A poor man¹s "39 Steps." It¹s particularly enraging because it suffers from
what I call "Breakfast at Tiffany¹s" disease, specifically, a film¹s false
assumption that we¹ll forgive the heroine of all her annoying habits because
she is a blithe spirit. Fuck that! Deborah Kerr plays a dithering twit
that any of us would want to smack in real life. Some sequences, though,
specifically on the train, show an economic visual style that is remarkable,
I must admit.

26) The Last Metro, Francois Truffaut, A-
Truffaut¹s epic wisely plays to his strengths. He shows the effects of war
by keeping the story intimate and micro.

27) The Matrix, Larry & Andy Wachowski, C
This movie stars leather pants. You have to sit through a lot of bad,
boring acting in between scenes of flying and shooting. Only Hugo Weaving
brings anything resembling wit to his role ­ and wouldn¹t you know he¹s the
one playing the computer program?

28) Contempt, Jean-Luc Godard, B-
I fell asleep when I saw this Freshman year and I fell asleep again now. It
took 3 sittings to make it all the way through. I see what Godard is doing
here, but I think he does it much better elsewhere: "Pierrot le Fou,"
"Masculine-Feminine," "Band of Outsiders" even "Le Weekend." Nice touches
here & there ­ especially the recurring music and the framing.

29) The End, Burt Reynolds, B+
A relentless black comedy about death and suicide. Great dialogue and
fantastic cameo performances from Joanne Woodward and David Steinberg.
Where¹s Dom Deluise these days?

30) The Scent of Green Papaya, Anh Hung Tran, A-
Pure cinema. This must¹ve been a 20 page script. Wong Kar-Wei without the
irony. Sometimes you need a movie without irony.