Synecdoche, New York (Charlie Kaufman, 2008). Roger Ebert called this the best film of the decade, writing “I think you have to see Charlie Kaufman's ‘Synecdoche, New York’ twice. I watched it the first time and knew it was a great film and that I had not mastered it. The second time because I needed to. The third time because I will want to.” There are films that reward multiple viewings; I’ve watched a lot of them in the course of writing about my 50 favorite movies on Facebook. But there is a difference between something that gets better every time you see it, and something that is incomprehensible on first viewing. Synecdoche, New York falls into a category of movie I generally dislike. If I watch a movie and don’t “master it,” I am just as likely to blame the film maker as I am to blame myself. I liked Being John Malkovich (8/10), Adaptation. (8/10), and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (7/10). Those films were written by Charlie Kaufman but directed by others. Based on the evidence, I think it’s a good idea to have someone else on the set to curb Kaufman’s more masturbatory impulses. #83 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 250 films of the 21st century. 5/10.
The Virgin Suicides (Sofia Coppola, 1999). Phil had this at #22 on his Facebook list. It’s an interesting movie, and I liked it a lot, as I did Lost in Translation, which makes Marie Antoinette all the more disappointing. Phil was reminded in a way of Dazed and Confused, but my comparison would be Heathers. Heathers is more smart-ass than The Virgin Suicides, and wonderfully mean-spirited. Yet I think I liked The Virgin Suicides more. The tale is told from the point of view of a man looking back on life as a boy, yet Coppola does a terrific job of turning the idealized girls into real people, and gives us at least as much insight into their lives as to the boys. Of course, all the insight in the world isn’t going to explain the events noted in the film’s title. Coppola offers a fine blend of the real and the slightly surreal, and does a great job with the soundtrack. 8/10.
The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann, 1955). Lear on the Range, as Anthony Mann and James Stewart team up for their last Western together. Stewart does well letting his darker side seep through, and Mann and cinematographer Charles Lang do wonders with widescreen while adding noir touches. A couple of the more violent scenes remain shocking, 56 years later. #785 on the TSPDT All-Time Top 1000 list. 7/10.
Bride of the Monster (Edward D. Wood, Jr., 1955). I had an hour to kill and a cell phone burning a hole in my pocket, so I cranked up Netflix streaming and watched this one again on my phone. Some of the funniest scenes in Ed Wood involve this film, which makes the original scenes even funnier than usual, even if Ed Wood might have played a little loose with the facts. The problem with Bride of the Monster is that it doesn’t stink enough, and so doesn’t really warrant the kind of multiple viewings a true classic like Plan 9 or Robot Monster encourage. 3/10.
Bonnie and Clyde (Arthur Penn, 1967). #3 on my Facebook list, #146 on the TSPDT all-time top 1000 list. 10/10.
The Sorrow and the Pity (Marcel Ophüls, 1969). #2 on my list, #688 on the TSPDT list. 10/10.