August 28, 2014

Cinema by the Letter: B

Everybody loves lists, right? People make lists for everything. Best of something, worst of something, forgotten somethings, and overlooked somethings. Why should I be any different? I already do best and worst movies, so why not do some other types of lists? This list based column will see me pick a letter and then list ten movies I like that begin with said letter. They may not be my favorite, they may not be the best, but they will always be movies I like starting with that letter. Use it as a jumping off point and add other movies you like with that letter. Keep it positive, this is not a time to judge, just share the love.

This column's theme is the letter B.

1. The Beyond. This movie was originally released back in 1981, but did not make its way to American shores until 1983, albeit in a heavily censored version and bearing a different title, Seven Doors of Death. For a long time this was my favorite film from Lucio Fulci (of those I have seen anyway, it still lives near the top, sharing space with City of the Living Dead). The movie follows the story of a woman (Catriona MacColl) who inherits a hotel. The problem is the hotel is on one of the gates to Hell and the renovations have cracked the seal. The movie is bizarre, weird, borderline nonsensical, and these are some of the elements that have attracted me to it. The plot is very thin, the film is carried more through the visuals and the exploration of the living world and the world of the dead bleeding into each creating a very surreal film.

2. Batman Returns. Do you remember how huge it was when Tim Burton's Batman landed in 1989? I do. It was huge! The film was fantastic, it was one of those things, a big event for a young teenage me. The movie is iconic. With that said, I think the second Burton Batman may be my favorite of that run of Bat-flicks. It is very comic book-like and it is very un-comic book-like. It is twisted, weird, funny, features a great take on Catwoman, a disgusting Penguin, and Christopher Walken in a fright wig. It is a movie that shows a wonderful creative mind in Tim Burton working in ways that only he can, showing he can apply his vision to an adaptation and make something wonderful (before faltering with the likes of Alice in Wonderland and Dark Shadows).

3. Battle Royale. No, not the wrestling event, the Japanese film from 2000 adapted from the novel by Koushun Takami. It was the final film completed by director Kinji Fukasaku (he passed away while working on the sequel, Battle Royale: Requiem). The movie was greeted with a lot of controversy and was was banned in a number of countries, or at least found it difficult o find distribution. The movie is set in the near future where the Japanese government may force a class of high school students to fight each to the death. It is an interesting movie that is a visceral experience as well as engaging on an intellectual level with its commentary on the tenuous relationships between the adults and the youth.

4. Black Snake Moan. This is a daring, audacious example of exploitive filmmaking that seeks to transcend the element of exploitation and deliver something deeper. Director/writer Craig Brewer, has crafted a feature which centers on a pair of fractured individuals who find the path to salvation in each other. It is a film which has much to say, yet never falls into the pit of self-importance, rather it delivers characters which take themselves to the edge of parody, playing the edge with daring dramatics and humor. It is a great film about people seeking and in need of redemption. It features some great performances and is definitely a daring piece of cinema.

5. Buio Omega. This Joe D'Amato flick is one twisted little movie. Not nearly as messed up as some I have seen. Still, there is no denying that there is some sick stuff going on here. These relationships are just not natural and we are never given any breathing room. They are always there, ready to infect your brain with their perversions. This is grimy horror to be sure and one that is a winner for gore fans. It is not the best of the crazy Italian films, but it has that look and feel to it. Watch a nanny with an unhealthy obsession with her adult ward, watch the young man apply his taxidermy skills on his dead girlfriend and bring home friends to the bed next to her body. This is a bizarre little film.

6. Blue Valentine. This is a worthwhile relationship drama (do not call it a romance) because of the intimate, gritty approach and how real the relationship feels. Yes, it could be accused of feeling a bit manufactured, forced grittiness as an attempt to lure the too-cool-for-school hipsters, but I do not think this is the case. It is a drama whose target audience is mature adults, something we don't really get enough of in this age of the blockbuster, opening weekend grosses, and big special effects. This is a movie whose target is emotions at their extremes within the confines of a setting more realistic than not. We watch as the relationship crumbles, interspersed with moments of earlier, happier times. It is raw, disarming, and will leave you thinking. This is not a date night movie.

7. Breakfast at Tiffany's. To show that I am not all about the genre filmmaking, blood, guts, and the like, here is something of a decidedly lighter note. I am not sure that cinema will have anyone match Audrey Hepburn's big screen charisma, although some may try. This film sees her playing a high society girl who falls in with a new tenant in her building played by George Peppard (who would go on to be immortalized as Hannibal on The A-Team). It has been awhile since I have seen it, but I remember it being a charming, light film that is rather enjoyable to watch. It also helps cleanse the palate for some of the other stuff that I watch.

8. Bride of Chucky. As creepy and effective as the first film was, I think this might be my favorite. There is something about the creepy factor blended with the dark comedy creating this oddly toned movie that was always entertaining. There is some great banter, some throwback elements surrounding the nature of the kills, and through it all is Chucky, the killer doll, and the woman who wants to be with him, going so far as becoming a doll herself. Ronny Yu brought a different approach to Chucky and succeeding in making an exceedingly fun movie.

9. Black Christmas. This, or course, refers to the original. The 1974 feature is one of the earliest examples of the slasher film. It took me a long time to actually getting around to seeing it. As a matter of fact, the first time I saw it was on the big screen from a 35mm print at a movie marathon. The movie is set at a sorority house that used to be home to a loon named Billy. He comes home one Christmas season and things start to happen. It is a creepy movie with a really dark tone, and a conclusion that is downright unsettling. It features John Saxon and a pre-Superman Margot Kidder. Also, it is from the same director as A Christmas Story, two tonally diverse holiday classics.

10. Burial Ground. There really is no story here. Zombies are set free, people show up, zombies hunt humans, humans run, and humans die in bloody ways. This is not a movie about subtext or the human condition or anything. There is no lip service to any bigger ideas. It is kind of like director Andrea Bianchi and writer Piero Regnoli took Lucio Fulci's Zombie and filtered out any ideas and the serious feel and left the bare minimum. The end result is a movie that is oddly entertaining. One of the movie's big draws are the zombies. Now, some of them are not exactly good, but a lot of them have a nice rotting look that is enhanced by the use of maggots. They have a unique look as they meander around, slowly walking up on their victims who just stand there, frozen with fear. The end results are nice and bloody with plenty of guts for the zombies to share amongst themselves. There is also the one super creepy not between mother and son (26 year old Peter Bark cast as a 12 year old, just acting to the creep factor), towards the end.

I know there are some big ones I did not mention here, but this is not about my favorites or the best, just ten that I like. What titles would you add?

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Dell said...

Some great choices, here. Glad to see the love for Black Snake Moan, Blue Valentine, and especially Battle Royale, or as I like to call it, the original and still much better Hunger Games. Some others I like: The Bride of Frankenstein, Bride of Re-Animator, Blacula, Bamboozled, and just about anything Batman.

criticaloutcast said...

BSM is pretty underrated, I think, and it has a great soundtrack. Blacula is awesome! It's a lot classier than I was expecting. And so far as Batman goes... even Batman and Robin?

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