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Mike’s Top Ten of 1945

I like 1945 because of the history surrounding it. World War II was basically over. It ended in June, though it had been a long time coming. By Christmas, 1944, it was pretty inevitable that the Allied countries would win. So you don’t really see a whole lot of war-oriented films out there. We’re returning to classical Hollywood storytelling.

There’s not a major overarching theme for this year. All things considered, it’s actually a pretty ho-hum year. Good stuff, but the overall quality of the films feels diminished from most of the other years of the 40s.

Though this is actually the year where foreign cinema started rising. Italian Neorealism began with Rome, Open City and that led to a lot of the major European movements over the next two decades. Read the rest of this page »

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Mike’s Top Ten of 1944

For me, the big thing about 1944 is the noirs. I know the war is still in full force and the dominant set of films are either pro-war movies or light and fluffy stuff to take people’s minds off of it. But really, the thing that stands out is the amount of noir films that came out this year. This is really the first year where the noirs are a staple of cinema. Sure, all those other ones were the headliners, but the noirs played in front of all of them.

You look at this list — maybe 7 or 8 noirs in total. And it’ll only grow from here. This is the time when the cynical underbelly of society started to pop up. Most people speak of that popping up post-war. With everyone returning to the suburbs and people’s collective weariness about the war and all of that starting to creep into the films. But you really start to see it as early as 1944. It doesn’t solidify until after the war, but you definitely start to see it happening as early as now. I’d say the noirs here are much more “drama”-leaning. That is to say, they’re presented more like dramas than what we’d consider the traditional noirs. But they’re still noirs by any account.

That’s how I look at this list — great comedies, great war films, and that nice underbelly of noirs. Just how I like it. Read the rest of this page »

Mike’s Top Ten of 1943

1943 is the weakest year of the early 40s, and a lot of that has to do with one thing and one thing only: World War II. A lot of the top directors in Hollywood (the ones with the highest percentage of great films) were off participating in the war. There’s a great book (and documentary) about it called Five Came Back. The big five are John Ford, John Huston, Frank Capra, George Stevens and William Wyler. Of the five, only one has a movie that came out this year, and that was because he was finishing his obligations before joining the war.

With those directors gone, it’s pretty slim pickings at the top. That’s not to say there aren’t really good films here, but there’s a marked difference between the overall quality of films in 1941 and 1942 vs. 1943. And it’s totally understandable. America is in the thick of the war effort and the industry doesn’t really have the time or the money to churn out the amount of films they had been.

The other thing I like about 1943 is the overall influx of Technicolor films. Still a primarily black-and-white top ten, but there’s definitely more color all around, and good use of color, too. Read the rest of this page »

Mike’s Top Ten of 1942

You’d think maybe there’d be a bit of a drop off, the year after Citizen Kane. But no, we come right back with Casablanca. And about five or six other really iconic and incredible movies. (I mean like, all-time iconic and not just regular iconic.)

The big thing to discuss for 1942 is that it’s the first year of World War II. The U.S. entered the war at the end of 1941, and this was the first year you start to see incredibly pro-war effort films start to come out there. That is really the main trend for the year.

Outside of that, the year is full of terrific biopics and classy dramas. And one film that is one of the most entertaining and underrated hidden gems out there, that almost nobody knows about today. Read the rest of this page »