Lost in the Movies (formerly The Dancing Image): Top 10 Movie Marathon (#WatchlistScreenCaps, 6/3)

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Top 10 Movie Marathon (#WatchlistScreenCaps, 6/3)


On June 3, 2013, I watched all ten of my favorite films (thirteen, actually, if you count the four entries in the Stille Nacht series separately), according to a list I compiled a year and a half ago. The idea was that it would inspire me as I developed my own feature film idea in the coming days. We'll see how it works out. For now, enjoy the screen-caps I tweeted after each viewing, along with - as always - brief info on the title and a epigrammatic tagline.

As always, Follow this feature on Twitter here, read about the kickoff here, and view the previous #WatchlistScreenCaps roundup here. Links below are to my post on the film in question.


#10 • It's a Wonderful Life (1946) • dir. Frank Capra
The cocoon dissolves into a spiderweb

#9 • The Godfather Part II (1974) • dir. Francis Ford Coppola
Remember the good old days of the Roman Empire

#8 • The Passion of Joan of Arc (1929) • dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer
19-year-old makes her debut at court

#7 • Gimme Shelter (1970) • dir. Albert & David Maysles, Charlotte Zwerin
"Nice to have a chick occasionally" (especially when she steals the show)

#6(a) • Stille Nacht I: Dramolet (1988) • dir. Stephen & Timothy Quay 
Check out the creepy baby at the window

#6(b) • Stille Nacht II: Are We Still Married? (1991) • dir. Stephen & Timothy Quay
MTV used to play stuff like this

#6(c) • Stille Nacht III: Tales from the Vienna Woods (1992) • dir. Stephen & Timothy Quay
Bullet-proof spoon

#6(d) • Stille Nacht IV: Can't Go Wrong Without You (1994) • dir. Stephen & Timothy Quay
Death's head at the door

#5 • The House is Black (1963) • dir. Forough Farrokhzad
Pausing at the moment of expression

#4 • Day of Wrath (1943) • dir. Carl Theodor Dreyer
Wandering the Garden after the Fall

#3 • Vertigo (1958) • dir. Alfred Hitchcock
The green dream

#2 • Lawrence of Arabia (1962) • dir. David Lean
Crossing an ocean of sand to reach the actual sea

#1 • Masculin Feminin (1966) • dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Living and dreaming that total film

7 comments:

Peter Lenihan said...

Saw The House Is Black for the first time a few months ago. It's an astonishing work, unquestionably, and certainly the best film I've seen this year. Good luck with your feature. How far along are you with it?

Joel Bocko said...

Totally agreed - this was only the second time I'd watched it but here's the comment I left on Wonders after the first time:

http://wondersinthedark.wordpress.com/2009/05/05/the-house-is-black-no-23/#comment-17205

At the end I ask "Should a film about leprosy be beautiful? I don't know - perhaps." Today I would say, definitely, as long as it does not hide the ugliness either but rather stares it down, unblinkingly, to find the beauty. I think House is Black definitely does that.

(Interesting side note, btw, learned from Twitter: Mark Cousins has a Farrokhzad tattoo.)

Feature is in very, very early stages - I'm still outlining the plot. However, I'm hoping to move fast and have something I could shoot on a shoestring within a few months. (It's the old goal of, make a feature before you're 30, among other things, and I'm 30 in November.)

My biggest issue, aside from a long-standing case of writer's block, is that knowledge of my practical limitations - I need to design something simple for financial/logistical reasons - is always superseded by a yen for complexity, so that supposedly "easy" ideas eventually become layered with ambition until I realize it's no longer going to be easy to make and I put it on the backburner, move on to the next idea, and so forth. This one seems like it could be doable, so far; I'll try and keep it down to earth in terms of what's required to make it, hopefully without compromising visual interest & compelling hooks. We'll see - thanks for asking!

Mike said...

This is an interesting little project, watching your top ten movies in a row. You must have second guessed your rankings, like is number 4 really better than number 5, and so on. That's the nature of listmaking, especially when you make a list and re-visit it a year or however long later.

In your top ten I have only seen four, but like them all a lot. Not sure if I can stomach The House Is Black. It looks downright excruciating, I don't mind stuff like that in fiction films but this is a documentary, raw, real life. I will watch it eventually, I suppose.

Best of luck on your feature film, I have confidence in anyone to make an interesting movie with a top ten as electric and diverse as yours.

By the way, I just finished The Story of Film: An Odyssey and Mark Cousins has the best voice ever. Wish he narrated my life.

Joel Bocko said...

Thanks Mike - enjoyed your recent comment on Wonders recently too, which Sam shared with me.

The top 10 marathon was a very interesting experiment, kind of like eating your 10 favorite meals in a row. They're not necessarily all going to sit well together, and you aren't necessarily going to be in the mood for all of them right then.

As a result, I found that Godfather II & Passion of Joan of Arc left me relatively cold. While I appreciated House is Black and Day of Wrath, they didn't emotionally overwhelm me as they did on first viewing (in fact, in each case this was only the second time I'd seen them) - and I wasn't really in the right mindframe for the Stille Nacht films either (I also realized I had included them primarily on the memory of the His Name is Alive videos, which are just II & IV of the series). Partly because it came at the end of a very long day (around 2 in the morning) my #1 Masculin Feminin didn't click with me as perfectly as it has in the past although I enjoyed re-discovering parts I had forgotten and actually kind of seeing it from a different perspective, more humanistic than stylistic (it had actually been some time since I watched M/F I think).

With these films, I was reminded that my "favorites" list is really more of a "favorites/best" not based on how repeatable and universally applicable these movies are for me (Goodfellas, for example, I don't think I'm ever NOT in the mood to watch) but on how overpowering my high-water mark was with these particular titles; in other words, if I had at least one viewing where the earth moved under me that was how I judged the movies.

On the other hand, Vertigo - which I've seen so many times it's become somewhat rote on recent viewings - felt a bit more fresh & alive for me than it has for a while, especially the first half. (I also realized more than ever how little I care about the story mechanics, which hang up a lot of the film's critics, and how totally it is a mood piece for me.) It's a Wonderful Life completely engrossed me as it had the last few times I watched it, while Gimme Shelter had me completely glued to the screen.

And Lawrence of Arabia - which I hadn't watched for a while - was completely my groove, despite putting it on at 10pm after a very long day of film-viewing. The 4-hour film had me absolutely riveted, reminded how much I loved it and that, despite seeing it 3 times in a theatrical presentation, it remains oddly undiminished for me on a TV set.

(continued...)

Joel Bocko said...

(...continued)

Not sure what the pattern to all this was but interesting to observe. I'm glad I did this exercise, but next time I do a marathon I'll probably conduct it like a DJ, not counting down favorites which may or may not go well together but deciding only after finishing a given movie which movie I'm "feeling" next.

It was also funny to revisit these and realize, even with films that had made a big impact and lived on in my memory, there were so many things forgotten or undiscovered. And screen-capping was a blast: I think I found some really striking images from every movie (the only one I kind of wish I'd gone with something else for is Day of Wrath, although it works ok) - the Vertigo, Gimme Shelter, and Passion of Joan of Arc ones are probably my favorites and I like the moments captured from Wonderful Life & Lawrence too. Hopefully they encourage other people to check these movies out: I always find images entice me more than anything else (except maybe full-blown clips) to view a film.

As for House is Black, as my comment on Wonders suggests, viewers expecting a sobering, very harsh look at leprosy are going to be startled and moved because the movie is above all a poem, stylistically lyrical, wearing its heart on its sleeve and finding immense beauty not in spite of the darkness, but enmeshed in it. It's very hard to describe, and must be seen to soak up its uber-cinematic grace and gumption.

Glad you loved Story of Film and Cousins' (actually often-criticized) voiceover, which I too found charming. I'm currently in the midst of a monthslong effort to screen-cap each film clip from the doc via streaming Netflix on my phone (I generally do it at night, when lights are out but I haven't fallen asleep yet). It'll be a complete visual directory to the series which will hopefully be helpful to those seeking a reminder of the fascinating films featured throughout. Probably it'll be up in July, after the anniversary post.

Oh and thanks for the kind words on the feature. I seem to be hitting a groove right now with a lot of things and hopefully the time is right to move forward on my primary goal in life, which the others usually end up either serving or being distractions from (sometimes both).

Mike said...

I figured I'd "break my cherry", so to speak, on Wonders eventually, I mean I spend so much time reading it I might as well comment. Cool to hear more about your little marathon, I want to do something similar where I just devote an entire day to watching movies, mainly my favorites and maybe some new ones. If I made a top ten right now it would be made of films I have seen multiple times, for some reason I hesitate on rating/ranking a film to highly based on one viewing.

I have only seen Vertigo once and that was in a classroom, and even though I really enjoyed it and found it fascinating the plot didn't make a lot of sense to me. It was still really powerful and hypnotic. Also, I have seen Mulholland Drive 3 times yet I still couldn't tell you what goes on in that film- I learned more about the plot from the brief segment on it on The Story of Film: An Odyssey than I did actually watching it. Still a fantastic movie.

That's an ambitious project, to screen cap every single film featured on The Story of Film. It would help immensely since the mini series never spends too much time on one film or filmmaker, it's always on to the next one, and so many films that interested me while watching I have now completely forgotten about. Can't see how anyone would criticize Cousin's voice, it made the series for me ;)

Joel Bocko said...

The Mulholland Dr thing is interesting. I think someone basically gave it away to me before I saw it; either way, I can't remember watching it without that interpretation in mind and it seems to make so much sense I have trouble even seeing how it could be interpreted differently.

I've gone back and forth in what I think of that - at times wishing there wasn't such a literal meaning to pin the events to, at others appreciating the resonance that the "real-life" 3rd act offers. Now I'm very much in that latter camp. I think Lynch takes what could be cynically condescended to as another "aspiring starlet gets her soul crushed by Hollywood" melodrama and really excavates the deep pathos and hurt by amplifying it as a kind of dream mythology. Very moving the way the imagination rejiggers reality as a rationalization - speaks a lot not just about dreams but movies in general.

Yeah, I feel the "explanation" of MD, far from diminishing it, amplifies it to the nth degree.