Movie-a-Day: June 2007

It’s been a fantastic summer so far. No classes to teach = lots of time to catch up on work and reading; my wife and I house-sat in Philadelphia for ten days, giving us a valuable but safely contained experience of life in the big city; like several of my colleagues, I finally bought a Wii.

But the most pleasurable and consciousness-expanding element of the summer has been my movie-a-day diet. Pure and simple, I committed to watching at least one film a day, beginning June 1. There are a few loose rules: ideally, the titles should be ones I haven’t seen before; they should be older movies (i.e. not currently playing in theaters); most important, they should be significant in some way, whether measured in terms of aesthetics, historical place, cultural impact, or position in one “canon” or another. As you’ll see from the list below, this leaves me a lot of selection variety, and one of the chief joys has been leaping from one cinematic universe to another, switching up classical Hollywood with European arthouse, chunky westerns with lithe anime, high art with low exploitation. I’ve struggled through some real endurance tests, but for the most part watching these movies has been a constantly rewarding experience, both personally and professionally (I’m getting lots of ideas for what to show my students in the fall).

Here’s the lineup for the first month. I’ve starred the films that made the greatest impression on me. I’ll continue to post these lists, and hazard some capsule reviews now and then.

Movie-a-Day: June 2007

The Getaway (Sam Peckinpah, 1972)
Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)*
High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)*
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)
Young Mister Lincoln (John Ford, 1939)*
From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963)
Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1998)
A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
Winchester ’73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)*
Fiend Without a Face (Arthur Crabtree, 1968)
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)*
Giant (George Stevens, 1956)
The Trouble with Harry (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940)
Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968)
Halfouine: Child of the Terraces (Férid Boughedir, 1990)
The Pride of the Yankees (Sam Wood, 1942)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)*
The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960)
Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936)*
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1933)*
Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)
Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding, 1932)
Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992)
To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944)*
Mr. Death (Errol Morris, 1999)
Mutiny on the Bounty (Frank Lloyd, 1935)
Loves of A Blonde (Milos Forman, 1965)*
Norma Rae (Martin Ritt, 1979)

3 thoughts on “Movie-a-Day: June 2007

  1. Very sexy new blog, Bob. Regarding your movie-a-day diet (which sounds dead cool to me. I am most fond of any media in perverse saturation), and since you gave Seven Samurai an asterix (brilliant film, no? Also fun to see where Lucas got the Battle for Endor from), let me highly recommend a Kurosawa-a-day (or thereabouts: many are 4 hours after all) diet. My roommate and I did it once and were amazed at the breadth, from Dersu Uzala to Ran, Kagemusha to Ikiru, Dreams to Hidden Fortress (the original Star Wars), etc. Much better than an Ernest movie-a-day diet, that’s for sure 😉

  2. Thanks, Jon, for your comments. Seven Samurai did indeed take my breath away — which, at three-hours-plus of oxygen deprivation, almost killed me. You’re dead on about Lucas’s steal — of course, stealing is what he does — and I’d add that Steven Spielberg swiped a trick or two for Jaws (there’s a scene early on where the villagers are in the marketplace, looking for samurai to hire, and the camera moves in tight on one face while passersby blur the foreground, just like Roy Scheider nervously scanning the water while beachgoers crisscross the frame in front of him). Have to say I didn’t like The Magnificent Seven (which I watched the next day) nearly as much — though Yul Brenner and James Coburn were both extremely cool.

    We’ll have to do an Ernest fest sometime!

  3. I’m convinced too that Spielberg’s trick of cutting the sound during the fighting in Saving Private Ryan was learnt from Kagemusha, where Kurosawa uses the trick once to great effect (particularly since a field full of Kurosawa warriors is usually a pretty loud sound … second only to a screaming Kurosawa princess).

    I don’t really fault them, though — this is how all art works, right? And Lucas and Spielberg have at multiple times acknowledged both specific homages (Lucas has been very open that 3P0, R2, and the whole opening of Star Wars was lifted from Hidden Fortress) and generic debt to Kurosawa. It’s Sergio Leone’s Fistful of Dollars that deserves frowns and scowls for ripping off Yojimbo completely.

    What was interesting to me (and here I’m geeking out, yes) was that knowing Hidden Fortress’ role in generating plot points for Star Wars, it was possible to accurately predict quite a few second trilogy Star Wars plot points in the late 90s before they began (namely Anakin being horribly disfigured in a duel with Obi-Wan, and left for dead)

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