The B+ Movie Guide: Part XXIII

In May of 2012, Colin said I should make a list of movies that need to be seen, because he felt there were huge gaps in what he’d seen, and wanted something to do. The idea was that I’d make up a list, as “homework” for him, and he’d use that as things to watch.

So we came up with a giant list of 500 movies that worked, and Colin went about finishing it. And now that it’s finished, we’re gonna write it up. Because you don’t watch a giant list of movies without documenting that you did it.

We’re going through the entire list, little by little, for posterity’s sake. And here’s the next set:

lonely-are-the-brave-1

Lonely Are the Brave (1962)

Mike:

This was a personal choice I put on there, but as a huge fan of the western, I think this is one of the great unsung films of the genre. It’s a western that takes place in the modern world. Where the hero refuses to give up the old ways. The scene of Kirk Douglas riding his horse on the freeway is amazing. (3)

Colin:

This is a special kind of Western that bends the genre in a way that works for me more than some of the later movies. Like, this is a bent-genre Western a decade before Eastwood started doing it with stuff like High Plains Drifter. Kirk Douglas does things like an old cowboy and refuses to give up his ways, and you’re supposed to identify with Walter Matthau, the sheriff who respects Douglas and doesn’t want to arrest him but has to track him down. That sort of, “Man, I wish you weren’t so delusional so I didn’t have to take you down, because I wish we could all live in the world you inhabit.” There aren’t other movies like this, which is why it was super special to me — and there are a lot of Kirk Douglas movies like that on this list.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)

Mike:

John Frankenheimer directed this and Birdman of Alcatraz in the same year. Fucking wow. (2)

Colin:

They released this DURING the Cuban Missile Crisis. Like, it’s a movie about brainwashing and Communist conspiracy and stuff, and they released it during the Cuban Missile Crisis. How awesome must that have been? As far as movies go, Birdman of Alcatraz was this guy’s better film for the year, but it still blows my mind that he did both and that this came out THAT WEEK. I mean, WOW.

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance - 7

The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962)

Mike:

One of the five greatest westerns ever made. Plain and simple. This is the stuff movies are made of. (2)

Colin:

This is my favorite Western, and one of my favorite movies ever. Jimmy Stewart is a lawyer who comes to the wild West and gets beaten to within an inch of his life by Lee Marvin. Gunfighter and rancher John Wayne takes him in, and Vera Miles takes care of him. The whole “end of the Western” and “closing of the frontier” tropes are personified in Miles’ choice of Stewart over Wayne, but Ford shows that the gun and the man who carries it are necessary for the preservation of the community and the civilization of the frontier before it can be turned over to the advocates of law and order.

Once again, you’ve got a classic John Ford Western community with characters representing individual ideas and roles that figure into the vision of the frontier and the people that populate it. You’ve got Woody Strode as Wayne’s friend and ranch hand, Vera Miles as the redemptive woman who learns to read and whose education represents the commitment of the community to learned progress, the Norwegian immigrant couple (the man is John Qualen, who played every Scandinavian ever, including Berger in Casablanca) who remind us how much we love America, Andy Devine as the cowardly marshal, Edmond O’Brien as the drunken newsman (my favorite), and Strother Martin and Lee Van Cleef as Lee Marvin’s sidekicks. They don’t really come better than this. If anyone remains unconvinced that the Western is the quintessential film form for dealing with American history and values, this movie is the master class. It’s not exactly The Searchers in terms of scale or subject matter, but I enjoy it even more. It’s the full package. 

the-miracle-worker-5

The Miracle Worker (1962)

Mike:

Gurgle gurgle. (2)

Colin:

Gurgle?

to-kill-a-mockingbird-42

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Mike:

Chiffarobe. (1)

Colin:

If you think this isn’t essential, we’re going to have a fight.

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? - 36

What Ever Happened to Baby Jane? (1962)

Mike:

This movie. Have you ever heard of the psycho biddy genre? Well, you’re about to. Bette Davis and Joan Crawford. Who notoriously hated each other in real life. Acting together. In one of the weirdest movies ever made. I… can’t even describe it. You know how Freaks was kind of like that? Well, this is like Freaks. Just watch it. You’ll understand. (3)

Colin:

This is here because of industry drama. What a messed up movie, where Bette Davis is effectively insane and Joan Crawford is crippled and kept as a captive in her own house. They’re sisters, but Bette Davis is out of her mind and torments her sister. Total nutcase, and the insinuation is that they actually had this sort of relationship in real life. It’s queerly like a horror movie, and watching it shook my faith in human sanity, impressed with the film though I was.

8 ½ (1963)

Mike:

Fellini. His greatest achievement. If you had to boil foreign cinema down to ten movies, this would be one of those ten movies. (2)

Colin:

I’m still going to stick with La Dolce Vita as my favorite to watch, but I recognize that this is really the superior accomplishment. Mastroianni is more convincing — compelling? — in this film, particularly because you can instantly recognize it as an autobiographical film trying to portray a filmmaker obsessed with the autobiographical. That’s why, as striking as much of the cinematography is, it’s the disjointed storyline, the flashbacks and the dream sequences and all the glue that holds them together that make this such an interesting movie. And just to look at it, you feel that there are infinite possibilities in scope. The French New Wave films are well written, but they feel a bit claustrophobic in comparison. Fellini has less concern for reality and more concern for emotion, and I enjoy that.

The Birds (1963)

Mike:

Hitchcock. Not necessarily essential, but it’s iconic. And it’s birds pecking the shit out of people. That’s fun. (3)

Colin:

People know this, right? It’s The Birds. Before I had seen Hitchcock movies, this is the one that I had heard of because people talked about it. I assume you’ve all seen it, or even if you haven’t, you know about it. Cause…it’s not the sort of Hitchcock plot that really requires much scrutiny. There are birds. They peck.

The Cardinal (1963)

Mike:

Preminger. Huge movie, historically, because this movie deals with just about every subject you couldn’t talk about during this era. Maybe not essential for this list, but fuck it. Can never get enough Preminger. (3)

Colin:

A big movie — a long movie — by Preminger, and startting Tom Tryon, who you’ve never heard of and probably haven’t seen anywhere else. It’s very much of its time, because as a 175-minute drama, it fits in with other stuff from the early 60s. Think about this story only twenty years earlier, and you probably had something much more like Going My Way, but this was the early 60s, so we needed a straight drama with no singing and no humor. It deals with faith in a very different way, including (gasp!) questioning of how the church conducts its business and deals with major contemporary issues. Not super essential, but I can now say that I’m glad I saw it, if only for the context it provided about what film was doing at this point during history. 

Charade (1963)

Mike:

Yes. Just yes. For the record, Hitchcock did not direct this movie. And you wonder how he managed to not. My way of introducing this movie: have you seen it? Then see it right now. (2)

Colin:

Did I mention that I love Cary Grant? An amazing Hitchcock movie that Hitchcock didn’t actually direct, it turns out. I need to go watch this again this week or something. This is one of those movies that I hadn’t even heard of, and watched, and LOVED, and then found out that a lot of people who haven’t seen really essential stuff had seen this randomly. And I’m not upset about that at all. Like, someone who’s seen this but not To Kill a Mockingbird, I’m not angry at them for having seen this instead. I yell at them for not having seen that, but I’m consoled by their having seen this. It’s awesome. 

– – – – – – – – – –

Final Thoughts:

Mike:

This is an interesting segment. Five or six really essential movies, and four maybe not as essential but really unique and interesting entries into film history. Some of whom are very iconic. So I’m down for this. Plus, at this point, do I even need to get into it? It’s my list, goddamnit.

Colin:

Please watch The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance if you haven’t seen it. Please. I don’t care about the rest — because I’m assuming you’ve seen To Kill a Mockingbird, since that’s basically a prerequisite for continued existence as a human on this planet. It’s hard to get more essential than that. But go watch Liberty Valance and talk to me about how awesome it is, because that’s a movie that I can talk about for hours. The symbolism, the writing, the imagery — it’s a perfect film, and I don’t say that often. 

– – – – – – – – – –

More movies tomorrow.

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One response

  1. Really glad you put The Cardinal on here. That was one of the first films I feel like I really DISCOVERED, and for a long time I carried a torch for it as one of the great underrated films. I’m not sure if it would hold up for me QUITE as well on a rewatch, but I think this film deserves to be remembered much more than it is.

    July 30, 2015 at 7:52 pm

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