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20 FANTASTIC FINALES FROM FILMDOM (3 of 4)

IsleofCinema and BoxingUweBoll have teamed up to bring you The TOP 20 CLOSING SCENES in film, as selected by our writers. We continue our countdown with part 3 – numbers 10-6:

10.) Jackie Brown (1997) – Quentin Tarantino

[by Louis Doerge]

Being that the foundation for Quentin Tarantino’s critical success certainly doesn’t stem from his ability to create great romances, it seems odd that the ending to Jackie Brown is (what I consider to be) one of the most romantic and bittersweet scenes in motion picture history. Throughout the film we’ve been subjected to scenes featuring flight-attendant Jackie Brown (Pam Grier) and bail-bondsman Max Cherry (Robert Forster) falling for each other while trying to pull a heist on gun-dealer Ordell Robbie (Samuel L. Jackson). The film’s final moments consist of these two middle-aged, would be companions performing brilliantly, managing to pine for one another and simultaneously recognize that theirs is a relationship that won’t work. They kiss briefly, only to be interrupted by a phone call. While Max struggles to feign interest in his business call, he watches Jackie leave out his front door, then promptly requests his client call him back in thirty minutes. Given how strong-willed, calm and collected he’s been for the entire film, there’s something to be said for Max suddenly needing a moment – even if it is just a half-hour. Tarantino’s closing shot features Jackie driving away, lip syncing the words to Bobby Womack‘s “Across 110th Street“. Like Forster, Grier’s sadness is incredibly tacit, exposing a soft side that Tarantino hasn’t expressed since.

09.) Being There (1979) – Hal Ashby

[by Sean Carnegie]

After fostering the meteoric rise of simple-minded Chance (Peter Sellers) amongst Washington DC’s political elite, banker and power-broker Ben Rand (Melvyn Douglas) finally succumbs to his battle with anemia. As his coffin is carried to his crypt by his kingmaker friends, they discuss  in whispered tones the forthcoming presidential election and which candidate they should throw their support behind in hopes maintaining their political clout. The unanimous conclusion is Chance. Ever disinterested in their machinations – or the funeral itself for that matter – Chance wanders away through the forest. He comes upon a lake and, seeing something on the far side that strikes his fancy, miraculously walks toward it on the water’s surface. This parting shot beautifully captures the perfect, unadulterated innocence of a man who lives beyond the institutions of guile, malice or simple reason. He is, in every way, above the scheming and back room dealing that have become synonymous with American politics and, as such, unwittingly stumbled into the unlikely role of Idiot-Savant Messiah. As he walks across the calm waters you can’t help but feel a twinge of anxiety at the possibility of this sweet, nonthreatening man-child being swept up into a malicious and destructive world of which he has little to no understanding. The scene becomes even more bittersweet when you realize that this was Seller’s penultimate on-screen performance – and that he, like Chance, was walking steadily toward his destiny. Life is, indeed, a state of mind.

08.) Don’t Look Now (1973) – Nicolas Roeg

[by David Micevic]

Nicholas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now remains one of the most mesmerizing of all horror films because the majority of its terror emanates from within rather than manifesting as an external danger. It’s the story of a couple, John and Laura Baxter (Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie), tortured by the accidental drowning of their daughter. As they travel through Venice, John encounters a mysterious figure in a red raincoat—the same red raincoat his daughter was wearing when she died. Meanwhile, a blind seer tells Laura that she has spoken with her daughter, and conveys her sense of peace and tranquility in the afterlife. As Laura begins to accept her daughter’s death, John hunts relentlessly for her ghostly apparition among a swirling backdrop of mounting eroticism and tension. All this boils over into the movie’s startling conclusion, in which John confronts what he believes to be his daughter’s ghost, cornering it in an abandoned structure. The moment when the figure turns to reveal its ghastly true form remains stunningly horrifying not because it embodies the tired old “gotcha” moment synonymous with horror films, but because it marks the inevitable end result to an impossible obsession. The monstrous figure John stares down could be just about anything, it need not be a tangible threat (although, from a narrative perspective, it most certainly is), but rather the sad realization that those who cannot let go of the past face nothing but hardship and disappointment… which unfortunately for John Baxter also includes death.

07.) Dr. Strangelove (1964) – Stanley Kubrick

[by David Micevic]

Has there ever been a more iconic movie image than Major Kong riding a plummeting atomic bomb as if it were a bucking bronco, appropriately waving his Stetson wildly in the air? This single act of destruction, colored in broad comic strokes, sets in motion the entire famous ending sequence to Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove Or: How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb; an ending that takes its bizarre fascination with mankind’s annihilation and subverts it with satirical, incisive humor that lessens what objectively should be viewed as an immensely dreadful occurrence. The scene is loaded with off-kilter jokes: Nazi-defector Dr. Strangelove (Peter Sellers in one of three roles) lays out a post-apocalyptic contingency plan involving subterranean dwellings and a ten-women-to-every-man breeding plan that appeals to the libidinous General Turgidson (George C. Scott); the Americans start planning in advance for another arms race with the Soviets even as the world crumbles around them. To top it all off, the whole thing ends with a throwaway gag in which the wheelchair-bound Strangelove rises to his feet and declares “Mein Fuhrer, I can walk!” before the film launches into its legendary closing sequence of nuclear bombs detonating across the globe; all set to Vera Lynn’s soothing “We’ll Meet Again.” Often mimicked, rarely surpassed; given the lasting influence of this single scene and its morbid juxtaposition of destruction and comedy, it’s hard to imagine that initially Dr. Strangelove was intended to be a drama. Lucky for us, Kubrick knew better.

06.) Psycho (1960) –  Alfred Hitchcock

[by Nick Burd]

Heralded by some as the first psychoanalytic thriller, Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho starts out as a simple tale of workplace embezzlement and turns into an analysis of a man who has lost his grip on reality to a degree that is both wildly dangerous and slightly comical. Even the few people out there who haven’t seen the film are familiar with the basics of the plot: a cross-dressing hotel manager keeps his mother’s dead body around the house and butchers one of his guests in the shower. While cultural familiarity and changing taboos may have forever lessened the film’s punch, many at the time labeled it an indulgent festival of gore and sex. Censors at the time were shocked by the opening scene which featured Janet Leigh in a bra, and the sound of Marion Crane, (Leigh’s tragic character) flushing the toilet caused quite a stir as well. So imagine how audiences felt at the end of the film when Marion’s sister Lila (played by Vera Miles) makes that grizzly discovery in Norman Bates’ basement. Now multiply that by a wild-eyed, dragged-up Anthony Perkins bursting in with a butcher knife. Needless to say, Psycho was unlike anything that came before it. But for all its campiness, the picture still manages to hold a firm, terrifying grip on the cultural consciousness. While its influence can be seen everywhere, from De Palma’s Dressed to Kill to Thomas Harris’ The Silence of the Lambs, there’s nothing quite as creepy Norman Bates thinking in his mother’s voice that he wouldn’t hurt a fly.

[admin. note: almost made it through an entire post without an ‘embedding disabled’ link. But alas, it was not meant to be.]

Hope you’ve enjoyed parts 12 and now 3. Be sure to tune in next week when we bring you the Finale to the Finales countdown post: part 4! And be sure to check out Boxing Uwe Boll for the countdown of the top 20 film openings!

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August 1, 2011   1 Comment

Instant Classics: Criterion on Netflix #76-100

And we’re back with more Netflix Instant Watch goodness. Writing lead-in filler isn’t my strong suit so let’s just skip right to the films, yes?

-76. Brief Encounter (David Lean, 1945)

*Sigh* While there are certainly David Lean films that I thoroughly enjoy, it’s becoming rapidly apparent that he is, by and large, not my favorite director. One of his earlier films, Brief Encounter, is based on a Noel Coward play and follows the star-crossed love affair of a middle aged doctor and a bored but staid housewife. They first meet at a train station on their way home from jobs and errands and continue to encounter each other there one day a week until their innocent friendship develops into a full blown affair which they both know can never be maintained.

This film is a typically rote version of a romantic tragedy. The plot is poignant at times but maudlin at others. The heavy use of voiceover narration rapidly becomes grating and the soundtrack appears to be stuck on a loop for most of the film. Not really an unpleasant film, but still one that lacks any means of recommending itself to anyone but the most die-hard Romance fan.

-77. And God Created Woman (Roger Vadim, 1956) [Unavailable]

And Criterion created a DVD cover that makes me wish this was streaming. Bridget Bardot is the pretty much the definition of hotness. Noticing a definite trend of veering away from streaming the more sexually explicit titles in the Collection, possibly out of concern for younger viewers. As I am not a parent, I am unaware if Instant Watch comes with any kind of parental control option. Call me old fashioned but I think, in that situation, I would just opt to be an attentive parent.

-78. The Bank Dick (Edward Cline, 1940) [Unavailable]

W.C. Fields was easily the world’s greatest purveyor of the notion that drunkenness is it’s own reward. Probably the most well known work from one of history’s most renowned comedians.

-79. W.C. Fields-Six Short Films (Various Directors, 1933) [Unavailable]

The title says it all, really. Wish I could add to that, but I’ve not had the pleasure of watching any of these shorts.

-80. The Element of Crime (Lars von Trier, 1984) [Unavailable]

Lars von Trier has become a bit of an iconoclast over the last two and a half decades and has, consequently, developed a bit of a love/hate relationship with the film-going public as well as industry insiders. No matter what you feel about the man, his artistic style and bold directing have been beyond reproach since this debut movie, which is sadly unavailable. I’ll have to do a full blown review of this next time I stumble across anything even remotely resembling free time.

-81. Variety Lights (Federico Fellini and Alberto Lattuada, 1950) [Unavailable]

Yet again, by the grace of Netflix, I have avoided sitting through what would most assuredly be another tedious Fellini film that renders the definition of time into hollow meaninglessness.

-82. Hamlet (Laurence Olivier, 1948)

Christ, I was beginning to think I wouldn’t get to watch any more movies this week. And what a movie to come back to! There have been over fifty screen adaptations of William Shakespeare’s seminal tragedy, but this one easily stands at the top of the heap. Four years after he was infamously snubbed by the Academy Awards, Sir Laurence Olivier fired back with this masterful take on the story of the titular Danish prince (Olivier) who plots revenge against his own uncle for the murder of his father, the usurpation of the throne and the unseemly marriage of his mother. This time the Academy gave him his due, awarding him the Oscar for Best Actor as well as Best Picture.

Olivier brings his prior experience as a theater actor to bear here with full force, melding the finest traditions of stagecraft with inventively shot scenes and stunning in-camera effects. Shot almost entirely on a sound stage, the characters move about an a beautifully crafted, multi-level set in ways that hearken back to the blocking that is practiced in theater performances but never appear to be playing to an audience or the camera itself. One of the more arresting visual effects I have ever seen is the ghost of Hamlet’s murdered father. Each time the ghost appears the camera fixes on an actors face, jumps forward and out of focus by degrees and then snaps back into focus once it has stopped moving, which gives the viewer an unsettling sense of motion sickness. The ghost itself is the stuff of nightmares, half visible and suggesting all the rot and decay that your mind can conjure up.

It’s nearly impossible to emphasize the enormity of Olivier’s achievement with this film. In 1996, Kenneth Branagh tried to follow in Sir Laurence’s actor/director footsteps and ended up with sprawling four-hour-long monster that had more in common with a Cecil B. DeMille extravaganza than Olivier’s Hamlet. From the featherweight adaptation directed by Tony Richardson in 1969 to the target=”_blank”>overcooked Mel Gibson version in ‘92 to 2000’s Ethan Hawke-led target=”_blank”>horrorshow, this was the only one to bring the The Bard’s words to their full, dazzling, on-screen potential.

-83. The Harder They Come (Perry Henzell, 1973) [Unavailable]

Sitting through 153 minutes of Shakespearian dialog only to find that this classic Rastaploitation flick is unavailable has been one of the more character building moments of my life.

-84. Good Morning (Yasujiro Ozu, 1959) [Unavailable]

Wait, wait, we’ve got streaming access to pretty much every single move that Kurosawa ever directed, but no dice on Ozu? Strewth.

-85. Pygmalion (Anthony Asquith and Leslie Howard, 1938) [Unavailable]

Haven’t seen this, but seeing as how this was the inspiration for My Fair Lady, which has the dubious honor of being the least abrasive musical I have ever sat through, I would bet it’s probably a solid little film.

-86. Eisenstein – The Sound Years (Sergei Eisenstein) [Unavailable]

While widely renowned for his silent films such as Battleship Potempkin, these three films constitute the entirety of Eisenstein’s “talkie” period which are Alexander Nevsky and the two remaining films of his Ivan the Terrible trilogy…

-87. Alexander Nevsky (Sergei Eisenstein, 1938)

Eisenstein’s first film with sound is a pretty straightforward historical account of Prince Alexander Nevsky (Nikolai Cherkasov) who rallies the Russian people to defeat the invading Teutonic Knights. While the plot is rather painfully simple due to the close eye being kept upon him by the Soviet government, the rest of Eisenstein’s strident filmmaking style isn’t censored in the least. The action sequences on display here revolutionized the industry and are widely regarded as being the direct progenitor of every “sword-and-sandals” battle scene from Ben-Hur to Lord of the Rings. What’s even more impressive is the half-hour long (!)climactic battle scene that is the very definition of “epic”. I mean, we are talking about literally hundreds of extras, many of them garbed in ridiculously complicated wardrobes, who are then handed disturbingly real looking prop weapons, lined up on opposing sides, and told to have at one another. You simply cannot do that type of thing anymore and come up with a film that will make back it’s budget.

Another interesting facet of this film, is it’s political agenda. At the time, there was a lot of anti-German sentiment in Russia due to the fact that Germany was a right-wing totalitarian regime and the Soviet Union was a left-wing totalitarian regime. The German Teutonic knights are clear stand-ins for Nazi stormtroopers, many of them even wearing helmets that look like medieval analogs of those worn by Nazi soldiers before and during WWII. The knights are shown as town-razing, civilian-slaughtering, baby-burning (Seriously. This movie has burning babies in it.) zealots whose only motivation is an insatiable appetite for conquest. Most interesting of all, however, is the film’s presaging of the German invasion that would happen three years after it was released. Just goes to show, no matter if you’re a medieval knight, or Napolean, or Hitler or even just playing the board game Risk: don’t invade Russia. They’ve had a lot of practice killing people who try.
(Side Note: While this is in fact streaming on Netflix, it is not the Criterion Collection presentation. The film stock and sound are not restored and the white subtitles are constantly fading into the monochrome images on screen. Still a good movie though.)

-88. Ivan the Terrible, Part 2 (Sergei Eisenstein, 1958) [Unavailable]

Considered by Stalin to be critical of his autocratic reign, the film was immediately banned upon release and it’s incomplete sequel was confiscated and burned. A pretty good rule of thumb for most things in life would be to go and check out anything that Stalin didn’t like.

-89. Sisters (Brian De Palma, 1973)

Brian De Palma is a bit of an acquired taste. This is one of his earlier thrillers starring a fiercely mulleted Jennifer Salt as Grace, an aspiring young journalist who sees her neighbor, Danielle (Margot Kidder) brutally kill a man in her apartment. She calls the police but when they arrive, the body, as well as any evidence of a crime, have vanished, compelling Grace to investigate the murder on her own. As she digs deeper into Danielle’s background, she unearths a disturbing past that may prove to be more than one journalist can handle on her own.

De Palma’s inventive camera style is all over this one. Split screen shots, POV shots and circular zoom wipes all combine to confuse the lines between reality and fantasy. While the overall tone is exceedingly Hitchcockian, I couldn’t shake the feeling that I was watching an overlong episode of The Twilight Zone. Not bad, just… De Palma.

-90. Kwaidan (Masaki Kobayashi, 1965) [Unavailable]

Remember all those J-Horror movies that were flooding the US market about ten years back? Every single one of them owes their existence to this film. If you are a fan of slow-building, psychological horror, then this film is an absolute must see.

-91. The Blob (Irvin Yeaworth, 1958) [Unavailable]

One of my favorite 50’s B movies. This film scared the crap out of me as a child. The 80’s remake is available on Instant Watch, but not fit for human consumption.

[admin. note: check out the great scene from the 80’s schlocky hokum here!]

-92. Fiend Without a Face (Arthur Crabtree, 1958) [Unavailable]

Man, the late 50’s was a hell of a good time to be a horror movie fan, which, it would appear, Netflix is not.

-93. Black Narcissus (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1947)

A great example of how the directorial team of Powell and Pressburger, who made films under their collective nom du cinema was The Archers, were years ahead of their fellow British competitors. Black Narcissus is based on a Rumer Godden novel about a group of nuns, led by Sister Clodagh (Deborah Kerr), who set up a convent in an old harem high in the Himalayan mountains. Their efforts to bring western medicine, education and religion to the mountain tribes soon become hampered by a variety of obstacles, including the distracting presence of the cynical British foreign agent, Dean (David Farrar), the arrival of a local General’s son (Sabu) who has come to be educated, and, most of all, their new unfamiliar and exotic surroundings. Sister Clodagh does her best to keep the convent on mission, her own troubled past begins to resurface as she finds herself drawing closer to Dean in the face of her mounting hardships.

While the story is high 1940’s melodrama, the overall point it is attempting to make is rather progressive for the times in which it was made. While Britain was looking down the barrel of the end of it’s sprawling empire (India would gain it’s independence from the UK a mere three months later) The Archers were promoting the idea that such remote parts of the world are beautiful and alluring to Westerners is because of those location’s lack of Western culture, not in spite of it. The whole film is a giant allegory of the many ways in which the imperialistic spreading of Western ideals to the four corners of the earth is both fundamentally flawed and inherently futile. Also of note are the visual effects, which are as reliably beautiful as in any Michael Powell film. Absolutely breathtaking hand-painted matte backgrounds, impeccably shot miniature exterior models and lovingly reproduced interior sets were of far greater quality than what was being filmed on most other movies at that time. Even today, this film is a testament to that fact that you don’t need high-tech CGI effects and thirty tons of explosives to transport and audience anywhere the filmmaker desires to take them.

-94. I Know Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1945)

A pretty basic little romance from the The Archers. Joan (Wendy Hiler) is a headstrong young woman who is engaged to be married to a wealthy, older businessman. She is traveling to meet him on an isle in Scotland and has almost arrived when she meets a handsome but poor naval officer named Torquil, who is traveling to the same island. When the weather turns bad, he offers to put her up at his friend’s house until the weather turns and I think you can see where this is headed without me writing any more about the plot.

While not nearly as good as some of their later films, it is interesting to see Powell and Pressburger experimenting with elements they would later go on to master. The overall attitude of the film towards it’s determinedly proto-feminist heroine is a rather irritating mix of head-shaking exasperation and begrudging respect that, while more than likely par for the course at the time of it’s filming, consistently got in the way of me enjoying a film that is otherwise beautifully shot and full of wry, unforced dialog. It’s also yet another film in the Collection that is a puzzling favorite of Martin Scorsese. I’m almost sure that one day he’ll come forward as being a secret Michael Bay fan and then the mystery of Criterion’s release of Armageddon will be solved.

-95. All That Heaven Allows (Douglas Sirk, 1955)

Douglas Sirk has become widely regarded as a master of subversive cinematic criticism of the American status quo. This film concerns Cary (Jane Wyman), an aging, suburbanite widow who wishes to find love again but finds all of the options available to her somewhat uninspiring. Enter Rock Hudson, playing the part of her (in no way homosexual) gardener, who shows her that love can transcend social class.

While writing this column, I have been pleasantly surprised by more than a few films, but this is the one that has caught me the most off guard. I watched it once as a young film student and dismissed it as the standard 1950’s pap that it appears to be. But when you pay closer attention to the line delivery and the subtle facial reactions they elicit, it becomes clear that Sirk was shooting some very pointed commentary at a complacent lifestyle that was repressive at it’s worst and banal at it’s best. While up front the plot does deal with a time-relevant taboo regarding the mixing of social classes, it quickly becomes a stalking horse for the director to voice his disdain for an entire mindset that was based in homogeny, propriety and, above all, repressed sexuality. As the Tea Party and other hard-right factions gain an ever-increasing foothold in American politics, this film has become quite a relevant piece of evidence, insomuch that it proves that the fairy tale of the 50’s that these political groups pine for is exactly that: a fairy tale.

-96. Written On The Wind (Douglas Sirk, 1956) [Unavailable]

Have not seen it, but given how much I enjoyed All the Heaven Allows, I expect it to be joining my DVD queue with a quickness.

-97. Do The Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)

Quite possibly one of the most important films to ever come out of American Cinema. Do The Right Thing thrusts the viewer headlong into the joys, sorrows and tensions of living in Brooklyn’s predominantly black Bedford-Stuyvesant neighborhood on the hottest day of the summer of ‘89. Following a “day in the life” structure, we are rapidly introduced practically everyone in the neighborhood. Mookie (Lee) delivers pizzas for Sal (Danny Aiello) and his two sons, Pino (John Tuturro) and Vito (Richard Edson). Da Mayor (Ossie Davis) is the local drunk who hangs out on building stoops shouting his opinions to anyone who will listen and harassing Mother-Sister (Ruby Dee) for her affections. Everyone, black, white, Puerto Rican and Korean does their best to get along, but as the mercury rises, so do old racial tensions until one tragic spark ignites a firestorm of rage.

I am deeply dissatisfied with that plot synopsis, because I can’t sum up the intricacies of this film in a single paragraph any better than I could sum up all of Brooklyn in a sentence. This film is raw, powerful and utterly unflinching in it’s look at a topic that most Americans would rather sweep under the rug. There is, quite simply, no other filmmaker, living or dead, that can fully portray the frustrations and pain caused by centuries of slavery, decades of segregation and the ongoing daily indignities of racial discrimination, like Spike Lee. He peels back preconceived notions on both sides of the issue and discards the niceties and obfuscations that clutter the dialog to home in, with scalpel-sharp precision, on the bleeding heart of the matter while simultaneously addressing such weighty subjects as when an act of violence is a condonable option. I tell you, when he’s on his game, the man is the Michael Jordan of filmmaking; handling the most impenetrable of subjects with confidence and competence while hardly breaking a sweat. It doesn’t matter if you like movies or not, if you are a human being and you live in America, seeing the movie ought to be mandatory.

-98. L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)

This is an art house movie with a capital A. Anna (Lea Massari) is the absolute poster child for ennui as she accompanies her friend Gabrielle (Monica Vitti) and lover Sandro (Gabrielle Ferzetti) on a boat trip to the Mediterranean. When they land on an island, Anna disappears and is never heard from again. So what is Claudia and Sandro’s reaction? They hook up of course! However, seeing as how Sandro is a bit of a manchild and Claudia is wracked with guilt over shacking up with her possibly dead friend’s boyfriend, problems quite naturally abound.

Did I say that Anna’s character was the poster child for ennui? I meant this entire film. While it did help break a lot of ground for future existentialism-heavy art flicks, L’Avventura also demands that the viewer find some level of empathy with it’s wealthy, disaffected characters. Furthermore, the current trend of Mumblecore films can trace their horrid little lineage straight back to plot-light, dialog-heavy films full of beautiful people stuck in quandaries of their own making, such as this. Best saved for a rainy day, in the middle of winter, when you’re lightly depressed, on Quaaludes.

-99. Gimme Shelter (David Maysles, Albert Maysles and Charlotte Zwerin, 1970) [Unavailable]

Fuck that. Gimme Streaming.

-100. Beastie Boys Video Anthology (Various, 2000) [Unavailable]

And we cross the triple digit line, not with a bang, but with an unavailable. To be fair, Netflix is probably just avoiding the logistical headache involved with individually streaming a bunch of 3-4 minute long music videos.

100 down and only 571 to go! That is…daunting. There were a couple good surprises in the mix as well as films that didn’t hold up on my second viewing of them. All in all, though, this week’s roundup was a bit weaksauce. I mean, I only had to watch nine movies out of twenty-five! Boo-urns.

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March 31, 2011   No Comments

SCORE! The 150 greatest OST’s – pt. 5 (of 15)

110.) Odds Against Tomorrow (1959) – John Lewis

Another Robert Wise crime film, this one revolving around racial tensions within a group of bank thieves. And if you thought the cast of Harry Belafonte, Robert Ryan, and Shelly Winters was jam-packed, just look at the players on the soundtrack: Milt Jackson on vibes, Bill Evans on piano, Jim Hall on guitar! Conductor John Lewis later released a studio version of this album with his small combo group, The Modern Jazz Quartet, that’s well worth seeking out as well!

Here’s track 9, “Skating in Central Park”:

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and track 12, “Games”:

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109.) Bugsy Malone (1976) – Paul Williams

Alan Parker, who also directed Pink Floyd’s The Wall – not eligible thanks to my strict self-imposed guidelines – is responsible for the cinematic oddity that is Bugsy Malone, which is either one of the worst ideas ever conceived or one of the best, depending on your perspective. A gangster movie where all the gangsters are played by children, the guns shoot some sort of cream filling, and Scott Baio stars alongside Jodie Foster is a bit hard for me to swallow, but the music isn’t – written by pop musician and hit songwriter Paul Williams, who also wrote and composed songs for the equally entertaining Phantom of the Paradise soundtrack for Brian De Palma.

Here’s track 3, “Tomorrow”:

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and track 7, “So You Wanna Be a Boxer”:

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108.) Dune (1984) – Toto

David Lynch returns to our list with his adaptation of Frank Herbert’s sci-fi epic, Dune, scored by Toto, the band that brought you the soft rock hits “ target=”_blank”>Africa” and target=”_blank”>”Rosanna”. It’s a surprisingly listenable affair, though when I think of Dune I can’t help but imagine the film that might have been: Alejandro Jodorowsky’s version, which was going to be written by Dan O’Bannon, was going to star Salvador Dali and Orson Welles, be designed by H.R. Giger and Jean Giraud (a.k.a. Moebius), and be scored by none other than Pink Floyd. Wow! Read more on the failed super-project here, and Jodorowsky’s account here. But back to Toto – very nice, very electronic score. The opening track, “Prologue,” lays out the basic plot:

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and here’s track 17, “Take My Hand”:

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107.) Kamasutra (1969) – Irmin Schmidt & The Inner Space

For the American release of Kobi Jaeger’s documentary, American-International Pictures removed some footage it considered ho-hum, added psychedelic drug-inspired scenes of wife-swapping and body painting, and marketed the whole thing as a dramatic film rather than a documentary. If that’s not the definition of sexploitation I don’t know what is. At least they left the soundtrack intact, by Irmin Schmidt and Inner Space, who would soon form the legendary Krautrock band Can. Here’s track 1, “Indisches Panorama I”:

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106.) Strange Vice of Mrs. Wardh (1971) – Nora Orlandi

Sergio Martino’s target=”_blank”>crazy giallo stars Edwidge Fenech as a woman stalked by several sadists at once, the least kind among them being a razor wielding slasher. The soundtrack is just as stylish as the film, composed by one of the only female composers in the world of Italian horror films, Nora Orlandi.

Here is track 14, “Edwige In Dodici Ottavi”:

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and track 27, “Body Fox”:

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105.) La Marche de l’empereur [March of the Penguins] (2005) – Emilie Simon

Luc Jacquet’s Oscar winning documentary shows the life cycle of penguins (and when Orca whales are around, it shows the gory death cycle too). Their twenty day march to the safe haven where they will select their mates, procreate, protect and feed their offspring was set to the safe, predictable (though pretty) score of Alex Wurman in the US version, but in France it was set to an experimental soundtrack by Emilie Simon, a Björk-like chanteuse with a penchant for fractured electronica. Check out track 4, “Song of the Sea”:

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and track 11, “To The Dancers On The Ice”:

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104.) Around World in 80 Days (1956) – Victor Young

Michael Anderson’s wonderful technicolor adventure based on the novel by Jules Verne tells the tale of pompous Phileas Fogg, who bets his entire fortune on his claim that a man can travel around the world in 80 days, and then sets out to prove it. So off he goes, with butler in tow, from country to country, followed by an inspector who suspects him to be a criminal a man named Mr. Fix trying to sabotage his journey. Good old fashioned entertainment all the way around, with a fun soundtrack that quotes the traditional musics of the countries visited.

Here is track 2, “Paris Arrival”:

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and track 20, “Prairie Sail Car”:

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103.) Brave Story (2006) – Ben Watkins

Kôichi Chigira’s animated tale about an eleven-year-old boy who enters a magic world in order to change his fate and save his terminally ill mother sounds like a vintage tearjerker, along the lines of Grave of the Fireflies with a slight influence from Miyazaki’s Spirited Away. Ben Watkins, the key figure in the ever-changing, international band Juno Reactor, composed the soundtrack, which shifts between styles and instrumentation, and is filled with fantastic moments. Here’s track 3, “Mitsuru Theme 2″:

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and track 10, “Hare and Heather Part 1″:

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and track 12, “Aerial Ballet”:

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102.) Cat People (1982) – Giorgio Moroder

Paul Schrader’s remake of the Jacques Tourneur-directed, Val Lewton-produced 1942 horror film may not be the classic the original was, but it does have two things going for it: the sexy shapeshifting Nastassja Kinski and the score by Giorgio Moroder, a key figure in the 1980’s music scene who also composed The Neverending Story, Scarface, Midnight Express, and American Gigolo. Here’s track 5, “Leopard Tree Dream”:

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and track 6, “Paul’s Theme”:

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101.) Dark of the Sun (1968) – Jacques Loussier

Jack Cardiff’s movie about a band of mercenaries battling through the Congo in search of $25 million in uncut diamonds is pure machismo. And can we talk about that cover for a second? A guy with a chainsaw charging a shirtless soldier while battles, explosions, and romantic embraces rage around him? Why is Hollywood not jumping at the chance to remake this album cover!?!?? Scored by Jacques Loussier, a jazz musician of the first order, the soundtrack delivers on the cover’s promise, sounding like a fusion of Spaghetti Western and Crime film. Awesome.

Here’s the opening track, the main theme:

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and track 10, “The Mission”:

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50 down, 100 to go!!!

Click to see part 1 (OST’s #141-150) , part 2 (131-140),  part 3 (121-130), part 4 (111-120), part 5 (101-110), part 6 (91-100), part 7 (81-90), part 8 (71-80), part 9 (61-70), part 10 (51-60), part 11 (41-50), part 12 (31-40), part 13 (21-30), part 14 (11-20) and part 15 (1-10).

Check back in the coming weeks to see the rest of the soundtracks, as we head past the century mark into the meat of the countdown!

And be sure to leave feedback, even if it’s incredibly petty or negative!

September 20, 2010   No Comments

Great Neon Noir – BODY DOUBLE

BODY DOUBLE is a b-movie excuse for De Palma to let loose.

Some people dislike this 1984 DePalma thriller, a Vertigo/Rear Window tribute transported to seedy Los Angeles, co-starring Melanie Griffith as Holly Body – an aptly named porn star who becomes embroiled in a murder plot – and featuring the largely unknown Craig Wasson as a claustrophobic loser who finds himself the target of an elaborate frame-up. I personally love it – as a guilty pleasure you don’t get much better than young undressed Melanie Griffith, out-of-its mind camerawork, a lead character so plagued with neurosis and guilt he makes Woody Allen look like Charlton Heston, and layers of homage and self-reference that remind us how manipulative the medium can be. De Palma is an amazing visualist, one of the best, but was at a turbulent point in his career: he had just made Scarface, would soon direct the Joe Piscopo dud Wise Guys, and then follow that one up with the classic The Untouchables. And this fluctuation continued through the 1990’s, when at the strike of the new century his fairy godfather Alfred Hitchcock turned his career into a pumpkin, once and for all. But during the 80’s he was still magic. Check out this amazing rear-projection to see the sort of eye candy this incredible movie-lover’s-movie has to offer:

June 3, 2010   3 Comments

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