Cinecast Episode 295 – I Wouldn’t Wear That. Even in the Future!

This week sees a return to form with all sorts of negativity and disagreement. But [in best DeForest Kelley voice] for God sake man, it’s Anne Hathaway. She’s worth fighting for! Outside of that little tussle, Sean Kelly from SKonMovies.com joins in on the discussion with a bit more of a unique Oscar experience having seen the whole thing in a packed theater. For the majority of this Cinecast it is a look back at Sunday nights Hollywood back-patting at the Academy Awards. We talk about it all: from winners to losers to hosting to gowns (OK, not really) to stage direction to orchestration. Look no further; it’s all in here. From there we venture into the Watch List with Kurt proving Matt Gamble’s prognostication mostly correct with a viewing of Margaret. We grind the axe a bit more (though less enthusiastically) about modern biblical epics while Sean looks at a couple of Oscar-nominated documentaries and Andrew continues his Star Treking.

As always, please join the conversation by leaving your own thoughts in the comment section below and again, thanks for listening!


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A Martin Scorsese Marathon

Basically, you make another movie, and another, and hopefully you feel good about every picture you make. And you say, ‘My name is on that. I did that. It’s OK’. But don’t get me wrong, I still get excited by it all. That, I hope, will never disappear.” – Martin Scorsese

For the better part of the last three decades, I have been a fan of Martin Scorsese. My admiration first took bloom in the summer of 1985, and happened to coincide with what I consider to be the discovery of my young adult life; set off the main drag of the town I grew up in, I found a small video store. Now, this in itself was no great revelation; in the years before Blockbuster came barreling into my area, forcing all the smaller video chains out of business, there were at least half a dozen such stores within a 3-mile radius. But the moment I walked into this particular video palace, I knew it was special. Where most were lining their shelves with numerous copies of the ‘hot new releases’, this one had titles like Midnight Cowboy, 2001: A Space Odyssey, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, Straw Dogs, A Clockwork Orange, films that the others simply didn’t offer. For me, this store was a treasure trove, and I returned there often, sometimes 3-4 times a week, uncovering classic after classic, films that, to this day, I consider some of the finest ever made.

And it was here that I first found Mean Streets.

Tough and unflinching, Mean Streets was like a punch to the head for a 15-year-old from the suburbs; a marriage of images and rock music, violence and pain the likes of which I had never seen before, offering a glimpse into a lifestyle that I found all too real, and a little bit frightening. I must have rented it at least six times that summer, and as a result, Mean Streets fast became my favorite movie. More than this, it was my jumping-off point into the career of Martin Scorsese. After Mean Streets, I moved on to Taxi Driver and Raging Bull, two more shots to the head. Through these three films, I realized just how deep, just how down-and-dirty, and just how moving the cinema could be. They marked a turning point in my development as a film fan. Movies were no longer limited to the land of make believe; they would also be a window overlooking the real world.

Now, almost 24 years after I first walked into that video store, I’ve decided to take my admiration to the next, perhaps the ultimate, level. Over the course of the last several weeks, I sat down with everything that home video has to offer of Martin Scorsese’s work behind the camera, 26 films in all, and what I uncovered on this love-fest of mine proved to be just as enlightening as that first viewing of Mean Streets all those years ago.

As I sat watching one Scorsese movie after the other, I found myself asking, “What exactly is it that constitutes a Martin Scorsese film”? It was a question I had to pose, because I quickly realized that most of my initial beliefs, the pre-conceptions I had built up about the man and his career, only told part of the story.

For one, there was my presumption that the recurring trait in every Scorsese film was a down-to-earth quality, where the genuine, the realistic, would be favored above all else. Well, this is certainly true in some of Scorsese’s finest films, especially those where actual events served as a foundation (Raging Bull, Goodfellas, Casino, The Aviator). However, it was wrong of me to discount the role that fantasy played in Scorsese’s work. The opening scene of Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore looks as if it was lifted right out of Gone With the Wind, and the musical numbers of New York, New York were obvious nods to the Hollywood big-budget spectaculars of the 40’s and 50’s. There is the dreamy romance of The Age of Innocence, and the hilarious bad luck of Paul Hackett in After Hours; in short, films that have little or no basis in reality whatsoever, proving that the fantastic plays just as important a role in the great director’s work as reality does.
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IMDB’s Top 250 – How Accurate Is It?

Like all of us who spend a good deal of time here on Row Three, I love movies. However, (and I say this without knowing the depth or breadth of each person’s particular obsession), the way we express this love differs from individual to individual. For instance, one of the particular ways that my affair with all things cinematic has manifested itself is in an enormous excel database, one that I have been maintaining for six years now (in fact, it all started six years ago yesterday). In this database, I have compiled, among other things, daily viewing logs for every day since August 16, 2002 (there’s no real significance to that date…it’s just when I decided to start keeping track of this information), which I cross-reference with an alphabetical list of films and the days on which I viewed them. On March 19, 2003, the day the U.S. first launched the war against Iraq, I was busy watching The Big Bird Cage, a Roger Corman-produced exploitation film starring Pam Grier. The film I’ve seen the most since August 16, 2002 is Robert Altman’s McCabe & Mrs. Miller, which I’ve viewed 10 times in the past 6 years.

One of the spreadsheets I put together as part of this database was a list of IMDB’s Top-250 films, which I did with the express intent of watching every film on that list. To date, I’ve been fairly successful, with only 8 films on the list that I still need to see. The problem is that the top-250 I laid out for myself was from December 15, 2002. Looking at today’s IMDB top 250, the number I have yet to see has jumped to 17. Furthermore, only five of the films I haven’t seen from my original 2002 list are even on the newest top 250. Three of them (The Others, You Can Count on Me and The Man Who Would Be King) have dropped off completely.

Even the five that appear on both lists have shifted positions since 2002, some significantly:

Das Boot (#36 on the list in 2002, #66 on the current list)
Double Indemnity (#44 in 2002, #54 now)
It Happened One Night (#112 then, #130 now)
Arsenic and Old Lace (#131 then, #241 now)
His Girl Friday (#148 then, #231 now)

The new additions to the Top-250 that I haven’t seen are:

The Lives of Others
Oldboy
Kind Hearts and Coronets
Brief Encounter
Sleuth (1972)
The Lady Vanishes
The Diving Bell and the Butterfly
The Kid (1921)
Stalker
Ace in the Hole
Hate (La Haine)
Great Expectations (1946)

Now, the additions of The Lives of Others, Oldboy, and The Diving Bell and Butterfly make perfect sense; none of those films had been released at the time the 2002 list was compiled. What’s surprising is that the remaining nine are considerably older, and were around in 2002. Kind Hearts and Coronets, released in 1950 and completely left off the 2002 list, is now #140 on the current Top-250. Why the 110-position surge? I originally thought the answer might be DVD related, that the release of the film to the home market may have influenced its standing, but Kind Hearts and Coronets was first released on DVD in the U.S. three months prior to the 2002 list I copied (I don’t know when it was released in other markets). Has the film found a recent audience, or did a few zealous Alec Guinness fans ‘stack the deck’, taking the time to create hundreds of accounts on IMDB in order to vote it onto the list?

Other films have also changed significantly. Some (released around 2002 amid a great deal of hype, only to see the furor dwindle by 2008) make sense. Others don’t. Here are a few of the other ‘list shifts’:

Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (dropped from #5 in 2002 to #20 today)
Citizen Kane (#4 in 2002 to #29 today)
Lawrence of Arabia (#22 then, #35 now)
Raging Bull (fell 20 places, from #51 then to #71 now)
Touch of Evil (down a whopping 35 places, from #58 then to #93 now)
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Still other films on 2002’s list have now dropped off completely, and not just ones that were at the bottom to begin with:

All the President’s Men (was #171 in 2002…gone today)
The Iron Giant (#198 in 2002, also gone today)
Miller’s Crossing (from #205 to oblivion)
The Untouchables (#215 to nowhere to be found)
Clerks (#217 to nothing)

Of course, not every film has dropped. Some have even increased in popularity over the last 6 years:

The Good, The Bad and the Ugly (#27 in 2002, #5 today)
Pulp Fiction (up 13 places, from #19 in 2002 to #6 today)
12 Angry Men (from #24 in 2002 to #10 today)
Fight Club (was #37 in 2002, and now it’s #23)
A Clockwork Orange (jumped from #64 in 2002 to #48 today)
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And for the record, the #’s 1 and 2 films in 2002 were The Godfather (#1), followed by The Shawshank Redemption (#2). Today, #’s 1 and 2 are The Shawshank Redemption (#1) followed by The Godfather (#2)

So, how reliable do you feel the IMDB top-250 list is in determining the likes and dislikes of its contributors? Can it be heavily influenced by a ‘fad’ mentality (The Dark Knight is still sitting at #3 overall on the current list), or does it do a good job in detailing the tastes of the hundreds of thousands (if not millions) of film fans who vote on a regular basis?

What do you think?