NetFlix Recommendations

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@berutt recently posted the following on Twitter:

Looking for some suggestions for my Netflix queue. Documentaries, cult classics, comedies, non-fiction. Any suggestions?

Rather than inundate Twitter with several recommendations (140 characters just doesn’t cut it sometimes), I decided to properly respond by hammering out a quick response here. Not only will I be able to more accurately pick some films to recommend, but hey, it’s an excuse to write more. 🙂

Taking the genres listed into consideration, here are several films that deserve to grace anyone’s NetFlix queue:

Salesman
Dare I say, the perfect documentary? Salesman and the Maysles Brothers opened my eyes to the beauty of documentaries, from their fascinating subjects to their fly-on-the-wall style of filmmaking. (And if you like this, go ahead and add Gimme Shelter and Grey Gardens as well)

King of Kong: A Fistful of Quarters
Another documentary that I fell in love with. It’s easily one of the most suspenseful documentaries I’ve ever seen, and is assembled well.

Plan 9 From Outer Space
Regarded by many as the worst film ever made, this cult classic, directed by Ed Wood, is a treat for the cinema masochist.
And as an added bonus, do your self the favor and watch Ed Wood after wards. Ironically, I consider it to be Tim Burton’s best film and Johnny Depp’s best performance.

Arsenic and Old Lace
Everyone needs to have a little fun now and again, and Frank Capra’s no exception. This off-the-wall dark comedy is an instant classic with many memorable moments.

Raising Arizona
The Coen Brothers wrote and directed. Need I say more? And Nicholas Cage’s performance is good.

The Fisher King
A fantastic film from Terry Gilliam. I’d say more, but I’d rather not ruin the experience.

What NetFlix films would you recommend?

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Reading the Movies MEME

MovieMan0283 at The Dancing Image started a meme called “Reading the Movies”, where the writer lists their top 10 list of books on films that have been an inspiration. I haven’t read many film books (or at least that’s what I tell myself), and most of the following were required reading for my film-related classes. But they all have inspired me in some capacity, so enjoy the following. I look forward to checking out the other lists when I get the chance.

In order of their placement on my bookshelf…

Awake

Title: Awake in the Dark
Author: Roger Ebert
Inspiration: If there’s one thing that I like about Roger Ebert, it’s his unmistakable love of movies, and you can’t help but feel inspired by it.

Great

Title: The Great Movies (Parts I and II)
Author: Roger Ebert
Inspiration: Ditto from above. And I believe this was the first time I read about Fellini.

Lost

Title: I Lost It at the Movies
Author: Pauline Kael
Inspiration: Pauline Kael has inspired me to watch several movies so that I can read her book intelligently. (It hasn’t happened yet)

Celluloid

Title: Celluloid Mavericks: A History of American Independent Film Making
Author: Greg Merrit
Inspiration: There’s something to be said about going back to early days of film, and Celluloid Mavericks does this well. I was introduced to the likes of Edgar Ulmer, Jim Jarmusch, John Cassavetes, Robert Aldrich, and Samuel Fuller. (We also watched some Lynch and Coen as well, who I was already familiar with). It was a great class.

Documentary

Title: A New History of Documentary Film
Author: Jack C. Ellis
Inspiration: I hadn’t seen too many documentaries before taking this class, and wasn’t a big fan. I always thought of documentaries as stuffy, boring, and filled with talking heads. Little did I know how intriguing documentaries could be, and how narrative translate so well to them. If there’s one thing the I learned from this book, it’s that everyone has a story to tell. How you tell that story is another thing. I am now a fan of Albert & David Maysles, Errol Morris, D.A. Pennebaker, Steve James, and many others. I learned more about cinema verite, which is a favorite subject of mine.

Silent

Title: Silent Movies: The Birth of Film and the Triumph of Movie Culture
Author: Peter Kobel
Inspiration: I watched Greed and Sunrise. Is there anything else to say?

Through

Title: Through a Screen Darkly
Author: Jeffrey Overstreet
Inspiration: Perhapy my biggest inspiration of all. Jeffrey encourages his readers to look closer and to seek out quality films. Auto-biographical in nature, the story of his forays into film are personally wonderful.

European

Title: European Cinema
Author: Elizabeth Ezra
Inspiration: Another film class textbook that introduced me to Ingmar Bergman, Sergei Eisenstein, Vittorio De Sica, Werner Herzog, Jean-Luc Godard, Federico Fellini, Jean Renoir, Fritz Lang, and many more.

Story

Title: Story
Author: Robert Mckee
Inspiration: Highly recommended for writers of any kind. Stories are everywhere.

Screenplay

Title: Screenplay
Author: Syd Field
Inspiration: This falls into the same grouping as Story, but with more emphasis on the format of a script.

Consider yourself TAGGED.

Nashville Film Festival Report, Day 2

Capturing_Reality

Day 2 of the Nashville Film Festival started with the 1:00 showing of a documentary called Capturing Reality: The Art of Documentary. The overall format of the film was interviews with a host of documentarians around the world broken up by clips from their films. I appreciated the range of talking heads, as there were many faces that I didn’t recognize. After the film was over, I came away with two cemented ideas: Errol Morris continues to fascinate me (Especially with his interviewing device showcased in Fog of War), and I appreciate Werner Herzog more and more…but trust him less. He blurs the line between fact and fiction too much for my tastes. His point that all film in a sense is fictionalized, but I don’t think that should stop filmmakers from trying to portray truth in the films. This is a discussion that I would have liked to see more interaction with between the interviewed.

Mothers and Daughters

After a quick lunch, I watched Mothers & Daughters at 3:15. This film followed the mother/daughter relationships between several characters, overlapping in some areas. Overall it came across as being overly dramatic in several scenes, but there were a few gem moments that really touched me. The older woman (pictured above)  in the film was fantastic. The emotionality of the character was portrayed with such subtelty.

Gonzo

I admit that William Shatner was one of the selling points of the festival for me. I’d read a little about the William Shatner’s Gonzo Ballet here and there, but wasn’t quite sure what it was about until watching it at the festival. In short, it’s a documentary that tells the story behind choreographer Margo Sappington’s ballet Common People. The performance fuses the ballet with Has Been, a recent album by William Shatner and Ben Folds. The documentary, which works more as a DVD special feature than a feature-length film, tells the story through interviews with the artists involved in both productions, which is a great story to tell. It also features footage from the ballet, which was riveting to say the least. I would have loved to see it performed live. After returning from Nashville, I purchased a copy of Has Been, which is quite a treat.

Nashville Film Festival Report, Day 1

This post is a long time in the writing, largely due to graduating from college, and the extended trip back home to Pennsylvania. It has given me more time to digest the films that I watched, however. I had the opportunity to attend the Nashville Film Festival again this year, and it was a great experience. Aside from watching some great films, I also had the opportunity to hang around with some of the people involved in the creation of these films, through the Q&A sessions after their films and bumping into them outside of the theater. I would like to write up a post for each day that I was at the film festial, briefly recounting what went on and my quick reactions to the many films that I saw.

Poster

On Thursday, April 16th, (500) Days of Summer started the festival at 7:00 PM. Directed by newcomer Marc Webb, the film is a semi-romantic comedy. (Watch the preview here) Leads Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel have a great on-screen chemistry that propels the film. The style and narrative structure of the film is unique and postmodern at times. It is centered around Tom (Gordon-Levitt), who falls in love with Summer (Deschanel). The film jumps around from the aftermath of Summer breaking up with Tom, and the 500 days before-hand. It’s quirky, but at the same time realistic. Look for it’s limited release on July 17th, and pray that it gets picked up for a wider audience.

After the film, there was a quick Q&A between director Marc Webb (right) and Variety film critic Joe Leydon (left). Afterwards I found myself in a conversation with the two outside of the theater. At one point they were talking about the differences between Truffaut and Goddard, at which point Mr. Leydon showed off a tatoo of film strip that read “Truffaut Lives”.

Summer

Alphabet Meme

The Rules

1. Pick one film to represent each letter of the alphabet.

2. The letter “A” and the word “The” do not count as the beginning of a film’s title, unless the film is simply titled A or The, and I don’t know of any films with those titles.

3. Return of the Jedi belongs under “R,” not “S” as in Star Wars Episode IV: Return of the Jedi. This rule applies to all films in the original Star Wars trilogy; all that followed start with “S.” Similarly, Raiders of the Lost Ark belongs under “R,” not “I” as in Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark. Conversely, all films in the LOTR series belong under “L” and all films in the Chronicles of Narnia series belong under “C,” as that’s what those filmmakers called their films from the start. In other words, movies are stuck with the titles their owners gave them at the time of their theatrical release. Use your better judgement to apply the above rule to any series/films not mentioned.

4. Films that start with a number are filed under the first letter of their number’s word. 12 Monkeys would be filed under “T.”

5. Link back to Blog Cabins in your post so that I can eventually type “alphabet meme” into Google and come up #1, then make a post where I declare that I am the King of Google.

6. If you’re selected, you have to then select 5 more people.

Mine was done free-form. Whatever film popped into my head first was the one I picked, provided that I have seen it before. I didn’t want to just plug in my favorite films, which would be boring.

Amelie
Barton Fink
Conversation
Departed
Elephant Man
Fargo
Gosford Park
Heat
Ikiru
Jurassic Park
Kate & Leopold
Little Miss Sunshine
Mystery Men
No Country for Old Men
October Sky
Pirates of Penzance
Queen
Road to Perdition
Shawshank Redemption
Taxi Driver
Unbreakble
V for Vendetta
War of the Buttons
X-Men
You Can’t Take It With You
Zulu

Instigators: Blog Cabins / Insight into Entertainment

Victims:
1. Super Movie Time
2. Impromptu Audience
3. Rants of a Diva
4. Is This Seat Taken?
5. Noirishcity

The Men Behind the Monsters

As my first post after the horror fest (12 classic horror films in four days), I would like to write about some of the recurring actors that I encountered. Some were old friends, like Claude Rains, while others were new faces.



Actor: Bela Lugosi
Filmography: Dracula / The Wolf Man
Previous Films Viewed: Plan 9 From Outer Space

Fond Memory: Listening to his inspired Count Dracula voice.

His performance as Count Dracula lived up to my expectations. It was a little weird watching this version having already seen Bram Stoker’s Dracula (Dir. Francis Ford Coppola), which I didn’t care for all that much. The difference in character is very different from film to film. The next Dracula film on my list to see if Werner Herzog’s adaptation. Kinski in the titular role sounds like a match made in heaven.

Personal Quote:

“Never has a role so influenced and dominated an actor’s role as has the role of Dracula. He [Dracula] has, at times, infused me with prosperity and, at other times, he has drained me of everything.”


Actor: Dwight Frye
Filmography: Dracula / Frankenstein / The Invisible Man / Bride of Frankenstein
Previous Films Viewed:
N/A
Fond Memory: Watching his performance as the crazed Renfield in Dracula.

I have quickly become a fan of Dwight Frye, who is aptly known as “The Man of a Thousand Deaths”. His roles included Renfield in Dracula, Fritz in Frankenstein, a news reporter in The Invisible Man, and Karl in Bride of Frankenstein; he’s quite the versatile actor, though he seems too type-cast as you can see in the following quote from Frye himself.

I’m wanting to see more films that he has been in, so any recommendations would be appreciated before I update my NetFlix queue.

Personal Quote:

“If God is good, I will be able to play comedy, in which I was featured on Broadway for eight seasons and in which no producer of motion pictures will give me a chance! And please God, may it be before I go screwy playing idiots, half-wits and lunatics on the talking screen!”


Actor: Edward Van Sloan
Filmography: Dracula / Frankenstein / The Mummy
Previous Films Viewed:
N/A
Fond Memory: Seeing his face popping in 1/4 of the films we watched.

Actor: Boris Karloff
Filmography: Frankenstein / The Mummy / Bride of Frankenstein
Previous Films Viewed: How the Grinch Stole Christmas

Fond Memory: Fully understanding the references to Karloff in Arsenic & Old Lace.

Personal Quote:

“One always hears of actors complaining of being typed – if he’s young, he’s typed as a juvenile; if he’s handsome, he’s typed as a leading man. I was lucky. Whereas bootmakers have to spend millions to establish a trademark, I was handed a trademark free of charge. When an actor gets in a position to select his own roles, he’s in big trouble, for he never knows what he can do best. I’m sure I’d be damn good as little Lord Fauntleroy, but who would pay ten cents to see it?”


Actor: Claude Rains
Filmography: The Invisible Man / The Wolf Man
Previous Films Viewed: The Adventures of Robin Hood / Mr. Smith Goes to Washington / The Sea Hawk / Casablanca / Notorious / Lawrence of Arabia

Fond Memory: His incredible performance in Notorious.

I hadn’t realized until now how many Claude Rains films I’ve seen before. I loved his performance in The Invisible Man; the blend of madness and intelligence was brilliantly portrayed, I thought.

Personal Quote:

“Often we’d secretly like to do the very things we discipline ourselves against. Isn’t that true? Well, here in the movies I can be as mean, as wicked as I want to – and all without hurting anybody. Look at that lovely girl I’ve just shot!”


Actor: Vincent Price
Filmography: House on Haunted Hill / House of Wax / The Last Man on Earth
Previous Films Viewed: The Fly / The Three Musketeers / The Ten Commandments
/ Edward Scissorhands
Fond Memory: Playing Egghead in the 60’s Batman TV show.

Personal Quote:

“I sometimes feel that I’m impersonating the dark unconscious of the whole human race. I know this sounds sick, but I love it.”

Horror Fest: Day 4

Here’s what we got through on our last day. In hindsight, a more apt title would be “Monster Fest”, really. If I find time I’ll most likely be posting some thoughts on what I saw within the next few days or so.

Creature from the Black Lagoon
Directed By: Jack Arnold
Starring: Richard Carlson / Julie Adams
Rating:

House of Wax
Directed By: André De Toth
Starring: Vincent Price / Phyllis Kirk / Charles Bronson
Rating:

The Invisible Man
Directed By: James Whale
Starring: Claude Rains / Gloria Stuart
Rating:


The Last Man on Earth
Directed By: Ubaldo Ragona
Starring: Vincent Price
Rating: