In late July I mentioned on Twitter that I wanted to watch several of the unwatched movies I’ve had on my shelf for at least a year. That brought up an interesting discussion of how many unwatched DVDs and Blu-rays my Twitter friends have, so I know I’m not alone. I decided to tackle as many of the films as I could from the photo above. My main purpose was to purge, freeing up some valuable shelf space. Were these films I’d keep or get rid of? I’ll start with my original review/mini-review, followed by my verdict on whether to keep or to purge. We’ll see how I did…
The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou (2004) Wes Anderson
Criterion DVD (1:58)
I know exactly what I’m going to get with a Wes Anderson movie. They’re all the same, yet they’re all different. If you’ve seen even a couple, you know what I mean. You also know they’re irresistible. This one finds oceanographer/documentary filmmaker Steve Zissou (Bill Murray) on an expedition to find the “Jaguar Shark” responsible for the death of Zissou’s friend and chief diver Esetaban du Plantier (Seymour Cassel). Along for the ride are first mate Klaus (Willem Dafoe), a pregnant journalist (Cate Blanchett), and a man named Ned (Owen Wilson), who may or may not be Zissou’s son. The film also stars Anjelica Huston, Jeff Goldblum and many others. Probably not the best place to start with Anderson’s films, but if you’ve seen at least one other, I think you’re good to go.
Bottom Line: I liked the film enough to keep it and will probably watch it again, but if I do, I’ll get it from the library. Had this been a Blu-ray rather than a DVD, things might be different, but I’m going to PURGE IT.
Kagemusha (1980) Akira Kurosawa
Criterion Blu-ray (3:00)
The word kagemusha can be translated “shadow warrior” or “political decoy,” both of which are appropriate here. Set in 16th century Japan, the leader of a powerful clan discovers a low-life criminal who looks exactly like him. The possibilities are just too good to ignore. This criminal can impersonate the clan’s lord, especially when it’s discovered that the lord is dying. That’s a very simplistic set-up of an epic film that’s a visual feast for the eyes. If you watch the Criterion Blu-ray, be sure to check out the extras and learn about how the film probably never would’ve been made without the help of George Lucas and Francis Ford Coppola.
Bottom Line: The film is clearly stunning visually and the story contains many facets that I’d like to explore further as well as supplements that I only sampled in part. KEEP IT.
Home from the Hill (1959/60) Vincente Minelli
Ex-Library DVD (2:30)
In the opening of Home from the Hill, Captain Wade Hunnicutt (Robert Mitchum), a wealthy East Texas landowner, gets shot by man while out with a hunting party. The man claims Hunnicutt, despite being married to his gorgeous wife Hannah (Eleanor Parker), has been seeing the man’s wife. Hunnicutt is a womanizer and everyone in town knows it, including his illegitimate son Rafe Copley (George Peppard). Yet Hannah has tried to shield Theron (George Hamilton), Hunnicutt’s real son with her, from full knowledge of his father’s shenanigans. The rest of the film is one of those epic family sagas that I typically don’t like, but the actors are superb, the script is good, the Milton Krasner cinematography is beautiful, and Vincente Minelli’s direction combine to make this two-and-a-half hour family drama nothing short of riveting.
Bottom Line: As much as I enjoyed Home from the Hill, it isn’t the type of film I’ll watch on a regular basis, but I do plan to watch it again. Although this is an ex-library DVD, the picture and sound quality are quite good. Plus this is Mitchum and I just don’t think I could part with a Mitchum movie. KEEP IT.
Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday (1953) Jacques Tati
Ex-Library DVD (1:27)
Previously discussed here
Bottom Line: In this particular case, watching Monsieur Hulot’s Holiday created more problems than it solved. I loved this film and PlayTime (1967) so much that I bought the Criterion Jacques Tati box set which includes both films. So for my ex-library copy of Monsieur Hulot, I’m going to PURGE IT.
Body and Soul (1947) Robert Rossen
I purposefully didn’t watch this one, saving it instead for Noirvember.
Swamp Water (1941) Jean Renoir
Twilight Time Blu-ray (1:30)
According to Renoir scholar Alexander Sesonske, Renoir’s first American film was not under the director’s complete control since producer Darryl F. Zanuck was firmly holding the reins (or muddying the water, as you might say in this case). Set in Georgia’s Okefenokee Swamp, a young man named Ben (Dana Andrews, right) goes deep into the swamp looking for his lost hunting dog. Along the way he discovers Tom Keefer (Walter Brennan, standing), a man wanted on a murder charge. Keefer’s been hiding out in the swamp for a long time and refuses to let Ben leave, fearing he might disclose his hideout.
Swamp Water contains some wonderful scenes and an exceptional cast (including Walter Huston, Anne Baxter, Ward Bond, John Carradine, and Eugene Pallette, one of the most recognizable voices in classic cinema), but suffers from clichés, stereotypes, and some painful overacting by Andrews. The most enjoyable performance for me was Walter Brennan as the fugitive. Who knew he could be so menacing?
Bottom Line: I’m glad I saw this film, but I don’t plan on watching it again. PURGE IT.
Lost Horizon (1937) Frank Capra
Haven’t watched it yet.
Bullets or Ballots (1936) William Keighley
Warner DVD (1:22)
The only ballots you’ll find in Bullets or Ballots are those talked about, which is good news. You’ll find plenty of bullets, however… What else would you expect from a film starring Edward G. Robinson, Humphrey Bogart and Barton MacLane? Robinson plays Johnny Blake, a New York City cop, once notorious for nabbing racketeers, who’s been given the boot thanks to a new budget-slashing police commissioner. Crime boss Al Kruger (MacLane) brings Blake in to use his expertise in avoiding the cops, paying him far more than he ever made with the police department. But Kruger’s right hand man Bugs Fenner (Bogart) doesn’t trust Blake. Another great Warner Bros. gangster flick with an outstanding cast including John Blondell as a woman running a numbers racket.
Bottom Line: I really enjoyed this one. Not only does it star two of my favorite actors, Bogart and Robinson, it’s also a great story. KEEP IT.
The Blot (1921) Lois Weber
Milestone DVD (1:31)
It’s a shame that (1) so few people watch silent films and (2) that fewer still know of the legacy of Lois Weber, one of most important American directors who was also an actress, screenwriter, producer and much more. The Blot is possibly her most seen film, a social drama about Amelia, a young librarian (Claire Windsor, right) whose professor father (Philip Hubbard) is a college professor struggling to make ends meet. Amelia catches the attention of a spoiled rich college student in her father’s class named Phil West (a young Louis Calhern, left) as well as an equally poor young preacher. The wealthy immigrant family next door looks down upon Amelia and her family and Weber provides some potent social commentary while delivering an expertly produced narrative, one that clearly shows her talent and influence.
Bottom Line: This one’s a tough call. The Blot is an excellent film, one more people should see and also one that could potentially change the minds of those who think they know what silent films are all about. I really enjoyed it and may revisit it again, but I believe I want to make it available to someone else who might also enjoy it. PURGE IT.
Dr. Jeckyl & Mr. Hyde (1920) John S. Robertson
Haven’t watched it yet.
So I’ll be purging four of the 10 films on my list. (Really four out of seven, since I didn’t watch three of the films.) Of course the Tati box set pretty much takes up any space I might’ve saved by purging those four films, but hey, you’ve gotta take the victories wherever you can, right? This was a good project for me, one that I’ll probably take up again at some point.
So how many of you do a similar type of purging? Or a different type? Does it help? Please share your thoughts.