Interstellar (2014) Christopher Nolan
Interstellar asks you to take in a lot of information – perhaps too much – while it entertains. I can’t deny being entertained, but maybe there’s just too much science being thrown at us for too long. Maybe part of my problem was seeing it in IMAX and having the sound effects drowning the dialogue. Regardless, I wanted to buy into the last third of the film – which seems to abandon science in favor of humanity – but never completely did.
Watership Down (1978) Martin Rosen
(2x rewatch 1979)
I must confess to abandoning Richard Adams’s novel Watership Down at the halfway point a few years ago, mainly due to its being “the wrong book at the wrong time” rather than due to any shortcomings of the work itself. I wondered if I would feel the same about the animated version I’d previously seen 35 years ago. I’m not sure what allegorical elements Adams or director Rosen did or did not have in mind – I tried to watch without venturing down that road – but found myself enjoying the beauty and artistry of the film on its own terms. This quest story of rabbits fleeing the impending doom of their warren to seek their own home is effective without getting sappy or sentimental, largely due to the voices of some very fine actors. I’m glad I revisited this and am considering buying the Criterion Blu-ray when it’s released in February.
Judex (1963) Georges Franju
Those who have seen Judex seem to be divided in their opinions of it. Those who haven’t seen the original 1916 French serial by Louis Feuillade seem to enjoy the Franju verion; those who have mostly loathe it. The 12-part silent serial chronicles the adventures of the masked Judex, a mysterious vigilante who fights crime. The 1963 version has a similar story: a shady banker receives a note demanding that he return the money he has swindled from many people. The note is, of course, signed Judex. Much more happens, of course, and Franju keeps the film interesting by playing around in various styles: mystery, noir, horror, suspense. In homage to the original, much of Judex feels and looks like a silent film. Although I haven’t seen the 1916 serial, I will seek it out. Regardless of my opinion of them, I can’t see my enjoyment of the 1963 version diminishing.
Eraserhead (1977) David Lynch
(3x rewatch 2005)
David Lynch Project
I plan to soon post a full review on Eraserhead as part of my David Lynch project.
Armored Car Robbery (1950) Richard Fleischer
Warner Archive Instant
Based on an actual 1934 armored car robbery, Fleischer’s film is a tough, unrelenting picture that’s mentioned more often than not when discussing hard-edged noir films, and deservedly so. One of the main reasons to watch the film is to see William Tahman as Dave Purvis, the mastermind of the plot. Classic TV fans will recognize Tahman as DA Hamilton Burger from Perry Mason, but you probably never saw him like this. Although a professional criminal and all-around bad guy, Purvis is proud of the fact that he’s never been arrested. He’s arrogant, cocky and smart enough to convince you that he might just get away with it. Armored Car Robbery is a quick film with no wasted scenes: you’re in, you’re out, but you have a great time while you’re there.
Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) Peter Jackson
(4x rewatch 2013)
Extended edition, Blu-ray
Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002) Peter Jackson
(3x rewatch 2013)
Extended edition, Blu-ray (3x)
What can you say about Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy that hasn’t already been said? Not much, other than it’s always a pleasure, made even more so by my wife wanting to see it again with me.
The Shooting (1966) Monte Hellman
Kim Morgan’s superb essay focuses on Warren Oates, but she also makes some great points on Oates’s performance in The Shooting as well as the film itself. Far from a conventional western, The Shooting is a compelling, challenging film that has a very simple premise: a woman (Millie Perkins) hires a one-time bounty hunter turned gold miner (Oates) and his tag-along partner (Will Hutchins) to lead her to a town called Kingsley. Although he doesn’t appear until well after the halfway mark of the film, the 29-year-old Jack Nicholson is clearly an unforgettable figure.