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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Academy Awards Predictions: Part 1

The following are my tentative predictions for the 2009 Academy Awards.

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Best Picture
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button
*I’m being pretty risky with my picks this year, with the Slumdog train constantly picking up momentum, but this was such an incredible film. And winning would help make up for Zodiac not receiving one nomination last year.

Best Director
David Fincher (The Curious Case of Benjamin Button)
*Even if Slumdog manages to take best picture over Button, Fincher still deserves the best director award. (Did I mention that Zodiac didn’t receive on enomination last year?)

Best Screenplay (Adapted)
The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (Eric Roth)
*From what I’ve heard (Planning on reading the short story soon), Roth’s adaptation took the story to a whole nother level. It definitely has it’s Forrest Gump influences, but it’s still a great story.

Best Screenplay (Original)
In Bruges (Martin McDonagh)
*There’s a lot of good competition this year, so it’s a hard call to make. Relative newcomer McDonagh wrote a mighty fine script. The underdog award goes to him.

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Best Actor
Mickey Rourke (The Wrestler)
*Just watch The Wrestler, already.

Best Actress
Kate Winslet (The Reader)
*I admit that I haven’t seen The Reader yet, but I plan doing so before the ceremony. Anne Hathaway and Meryl Streep also have a decent chance here as well.

Best Supporting Actor
Heath Ledger (The Dark Knight)
*Especially in a year where there isn’t much competition in the supporting actor award (Why is Josh Brolin in there?), this is a lock.

Best Supporting Actress
Penélope Cruz (Vicky Cristina Barcelona)
*Again, haven’t seen it, but it should be coming in via NetFlix today. I wouldn’t mind seeing Amy Adams or Marisa Tomei taking the award, either.

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Best Animated Feature
WALL-E
*Grade A work from Pixar, from start to finish.

Best Documentary Feature
Man on Wire
*Totally took my breath away; kicking myself that I didn’t see this in the theater when I had the chance. It is nice to see Herzog nominated as well, though it’s not one of his best films. I still have to see the other three nominations.

Best Foreign Language Feature
Waltz With Bashir
*I’m picking this solely on the buzz. I haven’t seen any of the films in this category yet.

I’ll continue with the technical awards at a later date…

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.”

Review: Umberto D

Umberto D
Directed by: Vittorio De Sica
Starring: Carlo Battisti / Maria-Pia Casilio
Rating:

Last year I watched De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief in my European Cinema class at college, and was fascinated by Italian Neo-Realism. It seemed so fresh and real to me; something that I could think about weeks after watching the film.

Over the Summer I read about Martin Scorsese’s documentary My Voyage to Italy, in which he talks about and shows clips from Italians films that he grew up with and loves. His passion for the films, coupled with some amazing scenes that were shown, prompted me to go on a crash-course in classic Italian film. I started it off with Fellini’s I Vitelloni, which was a fantastic film, and a definite inspiration for George Lucas’ American Graffiti. I then watched Rossellini’s The Flowers of St. Francis, which had some powerful moments. After that I returned to the director who started it all for me, with Vittorio De Sica’s Umberto D. I’d always seen it near the top of different lists of great films, so I was quite psyched about seeing it.

The film follows Umberto Ferrari, an older man, as he navigates through the latter part of his life. His best friends are his dog and the young maid where he lives. These two characters have a fascinating albeit friendship, albeit strained at times. The comparisons between her flamboyant youth and his reclusive old age cannot be avoided.

Similar in style to The Bicycle Thief, De Sica again takes his story to the street, and casts a no-name actor in the lead role. We’re only shown one portion of Umberto’s life, and while he is a difficult character to like, you still feel certain empathy for him. Carlo Battisti plays the role famously. He tells us everything we need to know through sheer physicality.

In Umberto D., De Sica deals with many social and ethical themes. These range from the way the younger generations deal with the elders in their community, to begging on the streets, and the pride that comes with that. One scene near the end of the film is especially poignant in that area and is masterfully shot.

If you have an interest in Italian Neo-Realism, this is a definite must-see in this viewer’s eyes. Add it to your NetFlix queue and enjoy!

(Also posted at Reel Suave)

Attack of the Meme

You can blame this on MovieMan0283 at The Dancing Image for starting this up and T.S. at Screen Savour for tagging me. 😉 So before we get to the goodies, here are the rules for the latest Internet fad:

1. You must not have seen any of the films on your list, either in theatres or on video.

2. The films on your list should not be available on Netflix (this will be the criteria for “availability” since it’s too hard to track down what’s available where, to who, etc.)

3. You can organize the list however you want, in themed couplets like Piper’s original list, or just as twelve semi-random films.

4. You must credit and link to my blog, Piper’s blog for getting the original ball rolling, and for good measure, the guys at Out 1 for planting the seed.

5. Tag five people to keep the meme going.

6. If you’re too lazy to follow all of these rules, but still want to participate, you have my blessing (the more the merrier). Except for the rule about linking to my blog. That you still have to obey.

This time around I decided to break the films up into pairs of two, mostly by director. At first I thought that this would be too hard to accomplish (while abiding by the rules, that is), but then I remembered that there were quite a few Italian films that I couldn’t find on NetFlix. So doing some backtracking, and aided by a few bouts of genius, let’s get this party started:

Theme: Vittorio De Sica (Director)
Films: Shoe Shine / The Gold of Naples

Theme: Roberto Rossellini (Director) / Ingrid Bergman (Actor)
Films: Stromboli / Journey to Italy

Theme: Luchino Visconti (Director)
Films: Senso / Days of Glory

Theme: Abel Gance (Director)
Films: Napoleon / I Accuse

Theme: Miscellaneous
Films: Chaplin / Sleuth (1972)

***BONUS FEATURES***

Theme: Hitchcock Films that NEED to Be More Available
Films: Notorious / Rebecca

Honorable Mention:
War of the Buttons (Why is this gem not on DVD yet?)


Obligatory Tags:

Movie Reviews By CaptainD

The Kinetoscope Parlor

YDKS Movies

Celluloid Fire

/Film

(EDIT: Just found out that this is my 100th post. Yay)

NetFlix Update No. 7

1. Umberto D (Dir. Vittorio De Sica)

Why Did You Pick That?

Still continuing on my classic Italian kick. And I’m especially looking forward to watching this one because I loved De Sica’s The Bicycle Thief very much.
2. Germany Year Zero (Dir. Roberto Rossellini)

Why Did You Pick That?

Same as above…again. 🙂 I’m thinking I’ll have to write up a massive response to Italian cinema eventually and break it up into different posts over time. I’ve found that I really dig neo-realism.
3. Nausicca of the Valley of the Wind (Dir. Hayao Miyazaki)

Why Did You Pick That?

I’m watching this for the LAMB MoTM. But it’s also a good excuse to watch more Miyazaki. I believe the only other film of his that I watched was Howl’s Moving Castle (and part of Spirited Away)

NetFlix Update No. 6

1. I Vitelloni (Dir. Federico Fellini)



Why Did You Pick That?

My Voyage to Italy.

2. The Flowers of St. Francis (Dir. Roberto Rossellini)

Why Did You Pick That?

See above.

3. Detour (Dir. Edgar G. Ulmer)

Why Did You Pick That?

It’s on the Movie Noir Month list at Movie Zeal.