Tuesday, August 18, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #30

The Wizard of Oz (1939)

That illustrious year, 1939, may have been the high point for all of motion-picturedom. Wuthering Heights, Gone With the Wind, The Women, Gunga Din, and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, among many other classics, were released in 1939. But perhaps none was more beloved than The Wizard of Oz. Through annual showings on television, this film has wormed it's way into the hearts of all. Based on the beloved children's classic by L. Frank Baum, The Wizard of Oz tells the story of  Dorothy Gale of Kansas, who, along with her small dog, Toto, gets swept up in a tornado, and somehow winds up in a magical land called "Oz." Boasting a wonderful score by E.Y. Harburg and Harold Arlen, the film includes wonderful performances by such stalwart character actors as Frank Morgan, Bert Lahr, Ray Bolger, Jack Haley and Margaret Hamilton. But of course it will most of all be remembered for the performance at the center of the action, Judy Garland as Dorothy. This is the film that catapulted Judy to stardom and rightfully so. Anyone who has seen this film cannot help but fall in love with her.

Wednesday, August 12, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #31

Laura (1944)

Laura is quintessential Hitchcock-style film noir, except it wasn't directed by Hitchcock, but by Otto Preminger. Starring one of the screen's most beautiful actresses, Gene Tierney, Laura concerns itself with a young designer whose presumed death leads to a murder investigation and even further mystery. Starring a stellar list of colorful character actors, including Clifton Webb, Vincent Price, Dana Andrews  and Judith Anderson, it also contains some of the most scintillating dialogue east of the Mississippi. One sample: "I don't use a pen. I write with a goose quill dipped in venom." Blessed with a gorgeous theme song by David Raksin (you can listen here), Laura was voted one of the top five mysteries by the American Film Institute.

Friday, August 07, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #32

The Great Race (1965)

I've written about The Great Race previously on this blog here.

Monday, July 20, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #33

The Commitments (1991)

Based on the first third of a trilogy by the novelist Roddy DoyleThe Commitments tells the story of a group of misfits from Dublin who form a soul band. Boasting a soundtrack packed with wall-to-wall pop/soul classics sung by the cast, including Mustang Sally, Take Me to the River, Chain of Fools, and Destination Anywhere, the film won the BAFTA award for Best Film of the year, and enjoys the delicious distinction of being voted the Best Irish Film of all time, in a 2005 poll run by Jameson Whiskey.

Monday, June 29, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies #34

The Endless Summer (1966)

This groundbreaking documentary, directed by Bruce Brown, takes a look at the international surfing community, and those who chase the sun looking for the perfect wave. Following particularly closely two California surfers and their endless travels (as well as travails), the film spawned many imitators, including a sequel, Endless Summer 2Riding Giants, and Step Into Liquid. The soundtrack is outstanding, and the film itself is visually breathtaking.

Monday, June 01, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #35

The Odd Couple (1968)

Mismatched housemates make for nonstop hilarity in this classic comedy based on Neil Simon's hit Broadway play. Legendary screen actors Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon never fail to mine the pathos beneath the comedy in this story of two divorced best friends who decide to live together in spite of their obvious incompatibility. One of the greatest passages of dialogue in the movies is the following,  from the character Oscar Madison: "I can't take it anymore, Felix, I'm cracking up. Everything you do irritates me. And when you're not here, the things I know you're gonna do when you come in irritate me. You leave me little notes on my pillow. Told you 158 times I can't stand little notes on my pillow. "We're all out of cornflakes. F.U." Took me three hours to figure out F.U. was Felix Ungar!" This film is a joy, from start to finish.

Sunday, May 24, 2015

My 150 Favorite Movies - #36

Duck Soup (1933)

For my money one of the absolute funniest screen teams of the twentieth-century, the Marx brothers had some of their most memorable bits in this comedy classic from the 1930's that was way ahead of its time. A relative flop both with the audiences and critics at the time of its release, it is now recognized as arguably their best film. Skewering both politics and war, Groucho stars as Rufus T. Firefly, President of the bankrupt country of Freedonia, who declares war with neighboring Sylvania, over the love of the wealthy Mrs. Teasdale, played by the inestimable Margaret Dumont. Among the film's classic quotes: "Remember, you're fighting for this woman's honor, which is probably more than she ever did." Selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress, Duck Soup has also appeared on AFI'S "100 Years...100 Movies" list, film critic Barry Norman's list of the 100 Best Films of the 20th century, and Roger Ebert's list of The Great Movies. Time Out voted it the 17th greatest comedy of all time.