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May 07, 2006


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Alison Croggon

Isaac - I am such an uncinephiliac - I haven't seen enough movies to be able to take any such long view. (Though from Terry Teachout's description of Birth of a Nation, it seems that sometimes ignorance is bliss...) But I'll give it a go.

It's interesting revisiting films that impressed you as a callow youth. One such was John Boorman's 1981 movie Excalibur, which impressed me mightily at the time and when watched by accident 20 years later induced stomach ache for its sheer kitsch, painfully self consciously 70s-style "daring" (mainly incredibly sexist), glitchy SFX and awful costumes, including the dreaded knitted chainmail. Oh boy. (A quick google just showed me that many people disagree with me and think it a masterpiece...dear me. It had my kids in fits of laughter...maybe it will survive as a comedy...)

At present I can't think of anything else that deserves to be put in the back room of the archives. If something occurs I'll be back...


Response is in the LJ.

George Hunka

I'm loathe to put any book or film aside for any reason whatever as having had its due. I once made the profound mistake of remarking in a class with William Gaddis that "How to Win Friends and Influence People" was not worth reading any more, only to be rebuked by Gaddis in no uncertain terms that this was blind and somewhat snobbish besides; there was much to learn about the book, not to mention about the millions of people who read the book (and not to mock or judge them, either, as his depiction of Mr. Pivner in "The Recognitions" demonstrates). Who was I to judge?

Throwing this particular caution to the wind, I'd have to say that most of Woody Allen's early comedies leave me oddly cold now; they seem far more labored than they did at the time (compare "Annie Hall" for example with the Albert Brooks' far more incisive and lacerating -- and funnier -- "Modern Romance" of a few years later).

But most movies continue to give in the most unexpected ways. Even the early German films "Cabinet of Dr. Caligari" and "Nosferatu" -- the techniques of both have been thoroughly assimilated into film, but both are still eerily powerful. (Though I'll give you "Metropolis," which has a Nazi-like feel and theme that can be attributed more to Fritz Lang's scenarist-wife Thea von Harbou than to director Lang himself. I never could sit through that movie.)

Tim Hulsey

I rather like the restored version of Metropolis, now on Kino DVD. The truncated public-domain copies are generally painful to watch.


1) A Clockwork Orange
2) Rambo
3) Dazed & Confused

Paula Jarvis

I have one contribution: "My Dinner with Andre." I sat through every interminable minute of this self-indulgent and incredibly boring movie, hoping that it would eventually get better, eventually make a point, or eventually, in some small way, justify its claim upon my attention. It didn't. However, I'm glad I saw it because I now have a catch phrase for anything that utterly fails to live up to one's expectations and, in the process, bores one totally silly. The phrase: It's another "My Dinner with Andre."

Mgmax, le Corbeau

The obvious three are indeed The Birth of a Nation, Potemkin and The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. All three were staples of film appreciation societies and classes when that was in its infancy; all three had significant influence (BOAN on the status of films, Caligari on their look, and Potemkin on editing), arguably the most influence of any movies ever made; and all three are pills to sit through today.

Fortunately one doesn't have to, since so many more things are available to us on video today that were totally unknown or unseeable back in the 16mm film society days. Skip Caligari and see The Indian Tomb, with Conrad Veidt doing a David Bowie androgynous bit; skip The Birth and see DeMille's ripsnorting The Cheat instead, or Raoul Walsh's neorealist Regeneration; skip Potemkin and see Bed and Sofa, a delightful Soviet feminist comedy.

Alison Croggon

Bit I really liked The Cabinet of Doctor Caligari! All those fabulous expressionist sets!

Jason Grote

Yeah, I think Potemkin, Caligari, and Birth of a Nation are worthy for any student of film - their only purposes may be pedagogical but that's good enough.

I will think about this and add it to my blog. But in a little while. Right now I feel like my soul has heartburn.

Abe Goldfarb

No such discussion can be allowed to pass without the mention of Easy Rider. If there is ANYTHING this film has left to say, or anything useful left to be said about it, please let me know. Otherwise, I'll sit content in my assumption that it's a sub-moronic guilt pang for hippies-turned-corporate and an exhausted rallying cry for those deluded they still haven't given up the fight. Try Dennis Hopper's stunning, critically lacerated, flawed, often brilliant follow-up The Last Movie instead.

I also think Tarkovsky's bloated Solaris is a dead issue, rendered even more so by Soderbergh's beautifully spare 2002 iteration (feel free to scream at me). Into the vault with it.

Nevertheless, I've a soft spot for Griffith's spectacle, and a dear love for the total immersion artifice of Lang. And anyone who DARES to say Citizen Kane is done....well, I'd cry. So, you know, deal with THAT.

George Hunka

Or, if Abe's going to mention Easy Rider, there's Albert Brooks' parody/satire Lost in America, which confirms Abe's assumption of its place in American culture.


If we're talking about films that should be viewed for historical merit only, might I make the case for Olivier's Hamlet and Henry V?

And here's a quesiton: does drama age better than comedy? I was recently watching "A FISH CALLED WANDA" with Anne, who had never seen it before... and I realize that so much of its comedy relied on pushing envelopes that have been thoroughly exploded since... the interrogation scene (for example) isn't that funny in a post-There's-Something-About-Mary world. And all the sex humor certainly isn't that funny today, because it's not skirting any kind of norm of what is showable in a film.


1. Mallrats
2. Ben-Hur
3. a number of nameless John Wayne films that are only 'classic' movies about the old west because John Wayne is in them.

Abe Goldfarb

On the Fish Called Wanda score, I'd argue that it's funnier than ever now, because it doesn't rely on incident itself, but character for the laughs. What makes Something About Mary kinda-sorta-I-guess funny (and dated) is what happens. What makes Wanda enduringly funny is that it will always be shocking to see THOSE PEOPLE, so perfecty and precisely written by Cleese, doing those things. I still can't control myself when I watch Kline in that film.


Perhaps then it is the number of times that I have seen it that gets in the way of my enjoyment now.

Although Kline's line to the effect of:

"You know what Nietzche had to say about animals, don't you Ken? God's *second* mistake." is priceless.

Too bad Fierce Creatures is such a waste...


Jules Et Jim
Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
Dr. Zhivago

Movies my parents raved about. Then I watched them and came away less than impressed. Then they rewatched them and shook their heads, stumped.

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