Wednesday, January 13, 2010

50 Years Ago: My Favorite Movies of 1960

Recently I was struck by a couple things: 1) I mentioned this in my previous post, but the need to fill in some of the gaps in my movie knowledge by seeing some classic and more recent foreign films. Most of which happen to be European, but I should see more stuff from Japan besides Kurosawa. But there's nothing wrong with getting stuck on the master. I mean, I'm not a complete philistine in this sense, I have seen some, but some of, particularly the classics have passed me by. Something I am going to work to rectify. What originally made me think of this was, well, basically it had become a new decade and a new year: 2010, of course. Being a round number it made me think: Wow, Psycho turns 50 this year, lets look at my other favorite movies of the year. Then it showed me while I had seen a loved Breathless I had never seen La Dolce Vita, in fact I'm not quite sure I had seen any Fellini, inlcuding 8 1/2. Again, the only the type of thing a movie dork worries about. But since its mainly what the blog is about then I get to worry about it here.

Also, too, this isn't a top ten list, there are only eight movies I could come up with that I could call a favorite. And obviously, Fellini isn't on here. (Wait until I get to 1970-its much worse that year) So I guess this is going to probably end up being somewhat of a series.

My Favorite Movies of 1960 : (in order)

8) The Grass Is Greener

Probably the definition of a trifle, but also a second or third tier Cary Grant comedy. Its just something that has stayed with me ever since I rented from the library many years ago. I have to say, though that the four leads, particularly, Robert Mitchum are pretty perfect. I mean Grant could do this kind of light comedy in his sleep. It involves a rich couple down on their luck, and Mitchum and an eventual love triangle. Its slight and its fun. Worth it to see the split-screen scene which was probably cutting edge at the time it came out.

7) Inherit The Wind

Inherit The Wind is great as a rousing courtroom drama, with some pretty hefty and important ideas. This doesn't take away from it but like with most movies, but terrible as a history lesson. You know sometimes it happens, just take it with a grain of salt and enjoy the ride.

6) Swiss Family Robinson

The sentimental favorite on here. Disney did a great job in the 50's and 60's of making some pretty great adventure films like this or 20,000 Leagues Under The Sea or In Search of the Castaways. But this was one of their better ones. In some ways, its pure wish fulfillment. Sure, you didn't want to get lost on some jungle island: but how great was it when all there was to do was jump off waterfalls, ride animals in races (Ostriches!) make the greatest tree house in creation, then fight pirates where people were falling into tiger traps and down huge the side of huge mountains. Man, it was great. It only holds up today probably because of those memories, but I think it still works in a certain way.

5) Spartacus

The absolute end-all, be-all in gladiator/slave revolt movies. Not only does it have somewhat of a heart, which is odd to say about a Stanley Kubrick movie, I liked how there was not only the slave uprising and rebellion but the backdoor machinations of the senators trying to use and/or hinder the slave revolt for their own political fortunes. Ultimately tragic, but is says so much more about freedom and rebellion than Mel Gibson yelling it ever could. And, of course, the original cut with the homoerotic subtext is the best.

4) Breathless

One of those cases where it is just as good as people says it is. Also one of those cases where you can see where certain directors might have borrowed from Godard (Tarantino is an obviously example-he loves talky European movies). Makes you want to move to Paris and hang out with the people somewhat on the fringes there. Makes you want to get a time machine and go back and absorb the atmosphere of Paris in 1960.

3) The Magnificent Seven

One of the better remakes of a foreign film property, but also sort of jumpstarting that kind-of trend in the 60's of turning Kurosawa movies into westerns. I've said it before and I will say it again, I am sure: if you are going to steal its best to steal from the best. Just like in the original Seven Samurai, a group of gunfighters are hired to protect a small village from a group of killers that have been menacing them. An awesome cast, and a chance for Eli Wallach to test out his Tuco character before Tuco was even a gleam in his or Leone's eye. And I would be remiss in not mentioning the great Elmer Berstein score. (Trivia: John Williams was a part of the orchestra that recorded the score!)

2) The Apartment

I was recently having a shitty day at work after coming back from the holidays and I thought about doing a top ten workplace movie list, and I thought of The Apartment. Which, in turn, made me think of how I could easily do a list of my favorite Billy Wilder movies and this one would be right at or near the top of that list as well. Billy Wilder is amazing first off, and this is him at the top of his game. Not only is it a funny and sad look at people trying to connect, but its also a funny and sad look at not only interpersonal relationships, but our relationships with our so-called superiors at work. Absolutely amazing. Not only is the script great, but Wilder makes it looks great, like that indelible image if Jack Lemmon working in that huge office with wall-to-wall desks and the harsh glare of the lights. I'm not doing it justice in my description, obviously, but it is something special.

1) Psycho

One thing we don't get enough of anymore is master directors not only getting into feuds, but having amazing work coming out said feuds. The famous story is that Hitchcock originally wanted to make the movie that became Diabolique but Clouzet beat him to the punch and bought the rights, and made one of the great gut-punch thrillers of all time. This just made Hitchcock want to beat Clouzet at his own game so his answer to him was Psycho which was a whole new gutpunch of its own. I could list a host of reasons that Hitchcock changed the game leading into the 60's with this movie, from showing a woman undressed and with a man who wasn't her husband in the opening scene, to killing off the main character part way through the movie, to even getting the audience to identify briefly with the killer when Norman Bates is trying to get rid of Marion Crane's car and it stops sinking for a second....I could go on. Its almost like Hitchcock put his all into making this movie and for the rest of the sixties the air was slowly let out, besides The Birds and possibly Frenzy there wasn't a lot left in the tank. Sure, the second half perhaps might not be quite as good as the first, and then there is the voiceover of the doctor which some people don't like, but in the grand scheme of things these are minor quibbles. Just an awesome movie.

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