Alphabetical Movie – The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Alfred Hitchcock is one of the directors film fans must watch. His worst movies are still crafted well and his best movies are – well – as good as anyone’s best movies. Ever.
I’m a film fan, not a film student. I can recognize why certain movies are shot well and why other movies are shot poorly. If you want me to explain why Hitchcock’s films are film school standards, I’m not going to do a great job. I just know that there is something to like in nearly all of his films.
As I’m going through all of the movies in my collection (oh so slowly at the moment), I’ve gone through many of Hitchock’s early films that are part of a set I own encompassing all of his British work.
Some of the movies in that group are not particularly good. Others, like this one, are considered part of his lasting legacy.
All of them are possibly the shittiest quality film transfers you can ever hope to see.
Here’s the thing – you get what you pay for.
If you pay $40 for a Criterion edition of The Seven Samurai, you are going to expect a really top quality transfer of the film in addition to thoughtful and well produced extras.
If you pay $40 for 30 Hitchcock films, you are aren’t going to get anything that even approaches that level of quality.
Alphabetical Movie – The Majestic
You know, I really loved The Majestic the first time I watched it. Until I watched it for the Alphabetical Movie Project, I hadn’t watched it again. I didn’t really understand why it was considered a bad film.
I don’t think it’s a bad movie. But wow. It is nowhere near as good as I remember.
I generally think I’m a bad judge of movies on a single viewing. I like a lot of films the first time I see them because I’m focused on the stuff that was good. Most films have at least a few parts that are good. It took me a few weeks of thinking about the film before I finally concluded that yes, Man of Steel was pretty dumb.
There was still stuff I liked in the film that I liked. Can’t recall what that stuff was but I remember there were a lot of parts I liked.
When I watch a movie in the theatre, I want it to be a good experience. I like seeing films in the movie theatre but it costs a lot to see go to the theatre. If I’m going to shell out money and time to see a film, I want to find something to enjoy.
A few years later, I’ll go back to a film like The Majestic and realize that my desire to enjoy the film was what made it worthwhile.
I’m not saying that is a bad thing. Unless my goal was to watch a bad film, it is actually a good thing to walk out of the theater feeling like it was time well spent.
Alphabetical Movie – The Madness of King George
I don’t know if anyone has kept an official tally but it sure does seem to me like the best way to earn an Oscar nomination is to play an English monarch. Helen Mirren has an Oscar for playing Queen Elizabeth II. Judi Dench has one for playing Queen Elizabeth I. Dench was also nominated for playing Queen Victoria. Cate Blanchett was nominated for playing Elizabeth I twice.
That’s just the queens. When it comes to the Kings, things get completely ridiculous. Not too many wins. Colin Firth has one for The King’s Speech, Charles Laughton for The Private Life of King Henry VIII, and Laurence Olivier got an honorary one for Henry V but when it comes to nominations, seems like almost every king of England is Represented.
Nigel Hawthorne was nominated as George III in The Madness of King George. Both Olivier and Kenneth Branaugh were nominated for Henry V. Peter O’Toole was nominated for playing King Henry II in two different films! Robert Shaw was also nominated for playing Henry VIII but he probably lost that award due to stupid Oscar politics. Henry VIII already had an Oscar.
Fucking Charles Laughton.
Olivier was nominated for Richard III.
Oooo! Richard Dreyfuss won for The Goodbye Girl and he was in a production of “Richard III” in that movie. I’m going to count that one!
I mean, you can get nominated for playing a lot of other roles but a head of state in England just might be the ticket, baby!
Maybe it just feels that way because when it comes to historical drama, political leaders are well represented. If you make an American film, you wouldn’t be surprised to see it feature a President (and boy o boy have a lot of folks been nominated for playing Presidents). If the film is set in England, a monarch just might show up.
Alphabetical Movie – Lover Come Back
Lover Come Back is a perfect example of 60’s feminism viewed through the lens of Hollywood Producers who were, unfortunately, men.
Which means they had no idea what the hell they were doing.
The story involves a man (Rock Hudson), who is a sexist jackass and a woman (Doris Day) who dislikes him because he’s a sexist jackass. So he behaves like the “perfect man” for her and she falls for him.
Day plays a competent advertising executive and Hudson plays a far less competent one who has the important skill of knowing how to make other guys happy. He doesn’t have to put together the best campaign because he gets his clients drunk and laid.
Fortunately, it’s the sixties so all of his clients are men. His plans work perfectly.
So she’s competent but has to work twice as hard as he does just to get ahead. He’s pretty much a complete tool but is successful because he works in an industry (advertising) where being a tool is a benefit. That’s something we’ve all learned from “Mad Men.”
Alphabetical Movie – Love Actually
I know there is wild disagreement about Love Actually.
A lot of people find it funny, romantic and charming. Others find it cloying, sexist and offensive.
I’m not going to wade into that debate because like or hate Love Actually, the film has resulted in the most sinister of conceivable side effects.
I’m talking about Valentine’s Day. And New Year’s Eve. I’m talking about every film that uses a holiday to create a romantic melting pot of celebrities being adorable. These films are the bastard children of Love Actually and they keep popping up every year in a sad attempt to do what someone else already did better.
To call these films forgettable feels like a complement. They don’t deserve enough time to be forgotten.
Alphabetical Movie – Lost in Translation
There is a shot at the end of Lost in Translation when Bill Murray whispers something into Scarlett Johansson’s ear. We don’t get to hear what he says because the moment is a private one. What was said is not so important as the idea that Murray manages to open up to someone, if only for a short time.
I find it interesting that so many people have spent so much time trying to figure out what Murray said. As if that will unlock a deeper understanding of the film.
Lots of theories exist and, as with most such things, none of those theories are more interesting than that private exchange we don’t get to share.
I think there is some sort of insatiable desire to know the unknowable. Watching a movie is a voyeuristic experience. As such, we feel we are entitled to know everything The movie should keep no secrets from us. And yet the final shot of the film is one big secret.
Alphabetical Movie – The Return of the King
I have a framed poster for this film signed by Peter Jackson and it is hanging in my bathroom. There’s a picture of it on the left if you don’t believe me. Every time I poop, I see this poster.
I’m not saying that to brag. I mean, if I was trying to brag, I wouldn’t admit that I look at this poster every time I poop, would I?
OK, fine. I’m bragging just a little bit.
I’m not a big memorabilia collector. When it comes to autographs, I place far more value on a genuine interaction with another human being than I do on their signature. Still, it’s pretty damn cool that I got to see an advance premiere of Return of the King with Fran Walsh, Philippa Boyens and Peter Jackson and Peter signed a poster for everyone in the room.
The story is a lot more interesting than the autograph, actually. I could’ve forged the autograph. It could have been stamped on by a printer.
Alphabetical Movie – The Two Towers
When I watched the Lord of the Rings trilogy for the Alphabetical Movie Project, I made the choice to watch the extended editions. I don’t believe they are better than the theatrical editions but one of the most remarkable things about the universe Jackson created is how excited I was by the prospect of seeing more – even if the extra bits didn’t add all that much to the story.
If I’m watching a movie for the first time, I’m pretty much always going to try to see the theatrical cut of the film. If I don’t like that version of the film, why would I want to watch a version that has more stuff I don’t like? If I like the film, I want to establish a baseline and I feel that baseline should be what everyone else has already seen.
Besides, the theatrical cut is almost always better. Most movies don’t need to be longer. Most movies need to be shorter. As much as I love the extra stuff in the LOTR movies, I don’t feel like any of the movies are improved by the additional material. The theatrical versions exhibit better pacing and storytelling than the extended editions. I don’t know about you, but I don’t think that the avalanche of skulls really makes Return of the King better.
Alphabetical Movie – The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring
Let me tell you about what convinced me I was watching a truly great work of cinema when I first watched this film.
It wasn’t the extraordinary characterizations by the lead performers. Although they were extraordinary.
It wasn’t the scope of the film that seemed to stretch beyond the frames. Although that was brilliant.
No, what sold me on the film was the way Peter Jackson managed to make an inanimate object terrifying.
Alphabetical Movie – The Long Kiss Goodnight
I’m pretty far behind on Alphabetical movie blogging and I blame this film.
See, I just don’t know what to write about this movie. Every time I sit down to write about the movie, I can’t figure out what angle I want to take.
The Alphabetical movie blog is all about angles. Make no mistake, it is not about the movies themselves. There have been hundreds of thousands of words written about most of these movies so I don’t feel as if I can add anything particularly insightful.
Instead, I like to write about how the movie makes me feel. Or what the movie makes me think about.
You’d think I could do that with just about any movie. Yet somehow, this movie has resulted in a void. I’m blocked.
So I’ll write about writer’s block!