My Adventures in the Tallyteers Pt. 2: The Second 100 Films

I cleared 200 films!  Thank the Heavens for Netflix and such, because I haven’t been getting out to the movies much at all.  In fact, I only saw seven first-run theatrical releases since my last update in April!  Let’s dig into the second 100 movies I tallied (you can see the first 100 here)…

2nd 100:  Top Five Favorite Vintage (pre-1990′s) Movies I’d Never Seen Before 2011

I watched more vintage films this time around, but few were close to the quality of the films in the first 100. Here are the ones I liked…

1.  The Masque of the Red Death (’64)

From what I’ve seen of Corman’s films (the ones he actually directed, not just produced), this one is the best.  It holds up as a sinister, perverse ode to Poe, with Vincent Price’s slimiest performance.  Corman reveals an artist’s touch here that isn’t always evident in his work, and if you like classic horror films at all, this one is a must-see.

2.  The Living Dead Girl (’82)

Thanks to Netflix, I discovered French director Jean Rollin this Summer.  This was the first of his films that I watched, and it’s still my favorite as I dig deeper into Rollin’s work.  His films straddle a line between cheeseball softcore Euro-horror and atmospheric, artsy spine-tinglers in a way that beats many of his Italian contemporaries, who were also attempting the same balance.  Living Dead Girl, between its spurts of gore and rampant nudity, manages to actually have something to say about co-dependency.  Highly recommended to open-minded horror fans.

3.  Angel Heart (’87)

Its length robs it of some of its punch (and I don’t think there’s much of anything surprising about its mystery’s big reveal), but the movie has a timeless quality not found in most 80’s chillers.  Angel Heart looks like a period piece that could’ve been shot last year; it’s that air tight.  It’s fascinating to watch Mickey Rourke in this phase of his career.  DeNiro has aged gently over the past 20+ years (partly because he always had an “old” face), but Rourke looks like a completely different human being than the scarred, Easter Island-headed mug that shows up in The Wrestler and Iron Man 2.  This is a worthwhile watch, and  I know it has its fans, but I didn’t quite fall in love with it.

4.  Duck Soup (’33)

There’s just not enough time to watch everything, so I hope you’ll take that as a good enough excuse for me not to have seen a Marx Brothers film before this one.  Duck Soup was fun, particularly the trial of Chicolini — a masterpiece of comedic wordplay.

5.  Fright Night (’85)

Just in time for the remake!  Director Tom Holland finds that rare right-down-the-center tone that can turn horror into a crowd-pleaser.  Balancing comedic touches with adventure tropes (a hero, his mentor, a villain, and a damsel in distress), it’s easy to see why Fright Night was so popular for its time, and why it’s endured all these years.  Holland seems convinced the vampire film would get a PG-13 now, and while the tone is relatively light, it’s still an R-rated horror film to me, complete with peekaboo cheesecake and inventive gore.

2nd 100:  Top Five Favorite Modern Films (1990-2010) That I’d Never Seen Before 2011

1.  Fish Tank

I was pretty much blown away by Fish Tank, a character study that examines the uncomfortable space between being childhood and adulthood.  Katie Jarvis as Mia is probably not someone I’d like to know, but she’s incredibly real — an energetic bundle of insecurities and anger and a palpable frustration that’s forcing her down a path which she doesn’t seem to have any control over.  I can’t recommend this enough.

2.  Dark Days

This wasn’t quite the doc I expected.  I was looking for a broader film on the subject of tunnel squatters, and instead I was treated to a microcosmic study of one tight-knit community of homeless addicts, hustlers, and drifters making their nest in a NYC Amtrak tunnel.  I found it to be both grim and life-affirming, and first-time director Marc Singer captures some really striking black and white images (even if he admits a general lack of skill).

3.  Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everyone Talking About Him)?

I’m still haunted by this movie, and I can’t seem to articulate why.  This music documentary was recommended by two very different acquaintances (“Triple Kelly” of fame and Lars Nilsen of Alamo Drafthouse fame), and I’ll admit I was dismissive, based solely on the fact that I don’t like “Coconut” or the soundtrack to Popeye.  I’m glad I gave it a chance.  This is a story of how short-sighted self-destructive behavior can be, and that maybe surface talents can’t change the course of who a person is at their core.  The soundtrack opened up my eyes to Nilsson’s genius, and I can’t hear his songs now without being taken back to exact moments in the film.

4.  Red Riding: In the Year of Our Lord, 1980

You have to watch 1974 before this installment in the Red Riding trilogy, but this one is superior, with a mystery more tautly drawn and dialogue that these American ears could (mostly) understand.  I haven’t gotten around to 1983 yet.

5.  Still Bill

Three docs on this list, and two of them are about music.  This would actually make an interesting double-feature with Harry Nilsson, because Bill Withers is also one of those people who’s created music that has already stood the test of time, and his story is almost the flip side to Nilsson’s.  Quietly stepping back into a comfortable family life while his career was still on fire, Withers stopped working to be successful and made his successes work for him.

2nd 100:  The Five Worst Movies I’d Never Seen Before

1.  Marilyn:  Alive and Behind Bars

Unscrupulous psychiatrists use mind-control to force a widower into kidnapping women for Arab slave trade.  Along the way, the widower discovers Marilyn Monroe is living in the top story of the sanitarium in which he stays, and they quickly fall for each other.  Also, WHAT???

2.  Carnival of Fools (aka Death Wish Club)

From the creators of Marilyn:  Alive and Behind Bars comes this story of a college “kid” who becomes obsessed with a nutty, infantile porn star.  She’s the moll of a bored millionaire and the two bide their time getting their kicks as part of a “death wish club,” where they challenge each other with unique Russian roulette-style games of death.  Repelled by this secret club, the college boy dumps her, breaking her heart and her mind.  She fakes her own death and re-emerges as male lounge singer tough guy Charlie.  Now, it’s up to the college dude and the millionaire to restore her sanity!  Also, WHAT???

3.  The Van

Hey, dude, I used all my college money to buy a custom van with a built-in toaster!  Wanna get raped?

4.  Predator:  The Concert (aka Grizzly 2)

In this sequel to Grizzly, a grizzly bear eats George Clooney, Charlie Sheen, and Laura Dern, and almost ruins a Toto Coelo concert.  Also starring John Rhys-Davies, who never met an American dollar he didn’t like, this film was never officially finished or released.

5.  Monster Dog

From the director of Troll 2, comes this tale of a music video shoot that all goes to hell when everyone starts turning into wolves.  Starring Alice Cooper.