Friday, January 18, 2013

27. His Girl Friday

1940; dir. Howard Hawks; starring Cary Grant, Rosalind Russell, Ralph Bellamy
My views: 11

My love for Cary Grant, which is probably more appropriately termed an obsession, makes it unsurprising that I love this movie.  But I've seen a whole lot of Cary Grant movies, and while several of them are going on this blog, it will not be nearly all of them.  It seems that Cary Grant's presence alone is not enough for me to watch a movie ten times.  In this movie's case, I know exactly why it's on here: it's all about the fantastic dialogue.

It's not just that the lines are clever, although they are.  One of my particular favorites is when Cary Grant's character, Walter Burns, is told he's through, and he responds with, "The last man who said that to me was Archie Leach, just a week before he cut his throat."  I love this because, of course, Cary Grant's real name was Archibald Leach.  Another of my favorite lines is when Walter describes Ralph Bellamy's character as looking like, "that fellow in the movies, what's his name...Ralph Bellamy."  I can't help but laugh when movies reference the fact that they're movies, especially when it's done that well.  But the real reason I love the dialogue in His Girl Friday is it's almost like a dance.  The characters are constantly talking over each other, which fits perfectly in the film's newsroom setting, and yet incredibly, they do it in such a way that no word that's vital to the plot is missed.  While the audience can't hear everything at once, they're allowed to perfectly understand everything they need to keep the thread of the story.  That's why I say it's like a dance: the dialogue is not only written; it's choreographed.  And Cary Grant and Rosalind Russell attack this verbal choreography just as well as Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers did with actual dance choreography.  And that is why I love this movie.

The way the characters talk over each other also makes this a movie well worth watching multiple times.  I catch new snippets of dialogue every time I see it.  And it's not just the dialogue that's subtle.  It took me a long time to realize how often the camera shows us the fateful desk that doesn't become important until towards the end.  So while part of the reason I watch this so often is I think it's a wonderful movie, I've also gotten a lot more out of it the last few times I've seen it than I did the first time.

I'm definitely considering watching this at some point today, since it's Cary Grant's birthday and a Friday.  Also, according to imdb this movie was released on this date in 1940.  So we'll see.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

28. Neptune's Daughter

1949; dir. Edward Buzzell; starring Esther Williams, Ricardo Montalban, Red Skelton, Betty Garrett
My views: 11

I think this is probably the movie on this list that the fewest people have heard of.  I have no idea why we got it from the library the first time.  Maybe it was at our home library and we thought it looked fun, or maybe my mom had seen it before, I don't know.  All I do know is that it's cheesy and fun in the best possible way, so while I'm perfectly aware that it is by no means the best film ever made, I'm proud to display it on this blog.

By far the best scene in this film, and a big part of the reason I've watched it so many times, is the "Baby, It's Cold Outside" number, sung first by Esther Williams and Ricardo Montalban, then by Red Skelton and Betty Garrett.  Interestingly while few people have heard of this film, I'm pretty sure most people have heard that song.  It's really funny to me that most people think of it as a Christmas song because it will always make me think of this movie.  As a result, it always pains me to hear people saying it's a disturbing song about attempted date rape.  When they sing it in this movie, it's summertime in California.  The "it's cold outside" argument is not only flimsy, it's completely invalid, as both parties know.  It's just an innocently flirtatious song, and the choreography is flawless.  I don't know if "choreography" is the right word, since they're not really dancing, but what they're doing while they're singing is what makes this scene so delightful.  That's probably why I can't get too upset by the "what's in this drink?" line; all I think of is Red Skelton drinking out of a vase of flowers.

Beyond that, Esther Williams is beautiful and, naturally, gets to do quite a bit of swimming; Ricardo Montalban is quite attractive; and Red Skelton and Betty Garrett are both hilarious.  It is a little insulting how uninformed the movie assumes people are about South America, as characters keep referring to it as a country, and there is no way Red Skelton could pass for South American, even if Betty Garrett's character is supposed to be exceptionally stupid.  Also, O'Rourke really doesn't sound like a South American last name.  But focusing on these glaring flaws means completely missing the point of the movie, which I think is to rejoice in ridiculousness.  Let's face it, sometimes real life is bizarre and doesn't make a lot of sense either.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

29. Legally Blonde

2001; dir. Robert Luketic; starring Reese Witherspoon, Luke Wilson, Selma Blair, Matthew Davis
My views: 11

I distinctly remember walking into the room one day when my mom was watching this.  I'm not sure what year it was, but it was long before I had ever seen it.  She was at the scene in the restaurant when Elle thinks Warner is going to propose, but he breaks up with her instead. I thought it looked like the stupidest movie in the world. I hurried out of the room to do something else, shocked that my mom would be watching some dumb blonde movie.  Beyond that, my first impressions further consisted of watching the court room climax at the same mock trial camp where I first watched Newsies, but since I didn't know anything else about the story I just found it confusing.

My mom didn't manage to talk me into watching the whole film until March of 2006.  I'm not sure how she finally convinced me, but according to my data I watched it a total of five times in that year alone.  Perhaps it was partially due to my low expectations, but I discovered to my immense surprise and delight that this was anything but a dumb blonde movie.  It's more like a smart blonde movie.  And that's why I love it so much.  I know it's cheesy, but I love films about people demonstrating that they're better than everyone expects them to be.  This also pointed out to me how judgmental I was being.  After watching two seconds of her life, I dismissed Elle Woods as a stereotype, just as Vivian and Warner and lots of other characters do in the movie.  But when I finally sat down and got to know her, I realized just how complicated she was, and found that I actually really liked her, right along with Vivian.

I know this sounds kind of ridiculous.  Who cares if I'm judging a fictional character?  But I think this is extremely applicable in real life.  We all like to think of ourselves as accepting and non-judgmental, but let's face it: whenever we meet someone new, we immediately make assumptions about what they're like.  It's not like we can help it; the human brain is very good at putting people and things into categories.  What we need to do is prevent these first impressions from getting in the way of creating more informed opinions later.  So that's just one important lesson that this movie helped teach me.  It also helped teach me that Reese Witherspoon is an amazing actress, which I kind of knew already because I'd seen her in other things (so I'm not sure why I was so hesitant to watch this).  It also reminded me to take all movie suggestions from my mother seriously.  I'm not even kidding: I can't tell you how many of the movies that ended up on this list were ones that my mom had to talk me into watching the first time.  Even though she doesn't like Mamma Mia, in general my mom knows how to pick great movies.

Friday, January 11, 2013

30. Mamma Mia!

2008; dir. Phyllida Lloyd; starring Meryl Streep, Amanda Seyfried, Colin Firth, Pierce Brosnan, Stellan Skarsgard
My views: 11

Remember those "phases" I mentioned in my first post?  Well, this is one of them.  Not only have I managed to see this film 11 times since it was released in 2008 (later than any other movie that made it on this list), all 11 of those views took place over a span of approximately 14 months.  When I first saw it in a theater in 2008, my sister had already seen it and told me that it was hilarious, so I was quite excited.  Apart from Pierce Brosnan's abysmal singing, I was not disappointed.  Okay, so it's not a great movie, but it's a lot of fun to watch.  I'm not afraid to admit that ABBA music makes me feel incredibly happy, so what could be better than an entire movie devoted to it?  As if that wasn't enough, it features Colin Firth, whom I still find hopelessly attractive even when he's playing a gay man.  I also really enjoyed seeing Amanda Seyfried in a role other than Karen from Mean Girls, which was the only other thing I'd seen her in.  But, as is the case in all Meryl Streep films, the real star is Meryl Streep.

I feel like I did the Meryl Streep fan thing backwards.  While I'd seen her in a couple of movies prior to this, it wasn't until after Mamma Mia that I started to go back and watch a bunch of her earlier films.  I know a lot of people consider this one of her worst movies, and I'm not saying I necessarily disagree, but this is one of the more fun movies that she's in, and, strange as it seems, it's what turned me into a Streeper.  Because she's just fabulous.  And yes, I realize I'm using that word too much on this blog, but that doesn't make it any less applicable.  Anyway, I kept watching this film mainly for the songs and the cast and the happiness that it imparted.

And then, after obsessively watching this for a while, I got kind of tired of it, and so did the rest of my family.  I think part of it was that my mom really doesn't like this movie, which kind of put a damper on my feelings toward it.  A lot of the movie watching I've done has been with my mom, and I think I probably would have seen Mamma Mia even more than this if she'd liked it.  Regardless, there are very few movies I can watch 11 times in a little over a year without tiring of, and this did not turn out to be one of them.  I'm sure I'll watch it again at some point.  In the meantime, I listen to the soundtrack not infrequently, although I usually skip Pierce Brosnan's songs.  Nothing against him as an actor, but this was not the right film for him.  Couldn't they get anyone who could actually sing?  Also, I'm really sad they didn't put Waterloo on the soundtrack because, let's face it, that's the best part of the movie.

I guess I wasn't paying attention when I put this list together; I had no idea so many of these were musicals.  If you don't like musicals and you're still reading this, thank you for bearing with me, and I promise there are more non-musicals coming up.  And if you do like musicals, don't worry, there are more of those too.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

31. The Sound of Music

1965; dir. Robert Wise; starring Julie Andrews, Christopher Plummer
My views: 10

I know I saw this movie before 2003 because I used to watch it on TV when I was young, although it's possible that I hadn't seen the whole thing in one sitting, and I don't exactly remember my first impressions.  But then in 2004 I went through a phase when I was totally obsessed with this film.  I started telling people it was my favorite movie of all time, partly because I wasn't really sure what my favorite movie was and it was one of the few I liked that I thought most people had heard of, but mostly because of Julie Andrews, whom I had come to regard as one of the most fabulous human beings on the face of the planet.  During my freshman year of high school (2004-2005), I listened to the Mary Poppins soundtrack every day after school while doing my homework.  (Sadly, I won't be blogging about Mary Poppins because I've only seen it nine times, but I had to mention it here.)  It took me a little longer to purchase the Sound of Music soundtrack, but once I did I started listening to it obsessively too.  There's just something about Julie Andrews's voice that makes me feel that no matter how bad things get, they will get better.  She's one of the few people I can credit with helping me stay sane.

But I don't watch The Sound of Music for Julie Andrews alone.  As I've mentioned, I love the songs, but I also really love the story and its message.  Maria thinks she has her life all figured out: she decided to be a nun, so even though she's not very good she's going to do her best.  Then her world gets turned upside down, and she finds a way of life that suits her much better.  In my experience, this happens a lot in real life.  The problem is, at first it's not apparent that things actually will get better eventually, so this movie serves as a good reminder.  It's really long, but it's worth sitting through for all the encouragement it brings.  And if nothing else, it's really nice to be able to travel to Austria for a few hours and enjoy its beautiful scenery without all the hassle and expense of actually going there.

As if all that wasn't enough, I think I was also drawn to this film because I've always kind of wanted to be in a big family, and I thought it would be awesome to have six brothers and sisters.  So there's a part of me that really wants to switch lives with one of the Von Trapp children.  I mean, if they each take one note they make up an octave, and they get to have Julie Andrews sing to them and make them clothes out of curtains.  How does life get better than that?  Okay, so they have to worry about Nazis chasing them, but sometimes that seems like a small price to pay.  I also really love the fact that they go to a song competition just to get away from the Nazis, and they end up winning the whole thing.  Because they're just that awesome.

This movie won the Academy Award for Best Picture, so if you want to read what I said about it two years ago when I was watching the Best Picture Winners, click here.  Also, this is the last film I've seen exactly 10 times, so the remaining 30 are all movies I've seen more than 10 times in the last 10 years.  So get excited and stay tuned.

Monday, January 7, 2013

32. Newsies

1992; dir. Kenny Ortega; starring Christian Bale, David Moscow, Max Casella, Robert Duvall, Bill Pullman
My views: 10

One summer when I was in middle school (I'm pretty sure it was 2003, but it might have been 2002), my sister and I went to this day camp which consisted of watching a film and putting on a mock trial about it.  That particular year we put Joseph Pulitzer on trial for cruelty to the newsboys during their strike, and for a reason that now escapes me, I was the one who played Joseph Pulitzer.  I had never seen this movie before, and I found it very confusing.  I thought the singing and dancing was kind of fun, if in a super cheesy way, but I did not understand the plot at all.  I was not alone in this, which made our trial possibly one of the least comprehensible mock trials in the history of mock trials.  I think the jury decided I needed to join an anger management program and left it at that.

I thought my relationship to Newsies was over after the mock trial ended, but it was just beginning.  Suddenly, my sister was completely obsessed with all things Newsies.  She'd go around singing and playing the songs on piano, reciting lines, constantly reminding me how hot all of the main actors were...there was no way for me to tell her that I thought it was a terrible movie.  I bought her the soundtrack and put it in a shoe box decorated with pictures of Max Casella because she said she wanted him for Christmas.  We didn't own the movie at the time, but she kept getting it from the library and borrowing it from her friends.  Occasionally I'd watch it with her just to make her happy, but I still thought it was really lame for a while.

And then, I have no idea how it happened, but somehow it didn't seem quite so strange that my sister loved this movie so much.  I started to appreciate its charms: hot guys dancing in period costumes; an Alan Menken score and songs; poor kids defeating a rich tyrant; the awesomeness that is Bill Pullman; even the cheesiness started to seem charming rather than annoying.  I wish I could pinpoint an exact time that this happened, but I'm not sure when it was.  All I know is that I went from absolutely hating Newsies to making it my life goal to see it on Broadway someday, and that my sister and I now each have our own copy of the DVD.  Headlines don't sell papes, Newsies sell papes, and they certainly sold me.

Saturday, January 5, 2013

33. Duck Soup

1933; dir. Leo McCarey; starring Groucho, Chico, Harpo, and Zeppo Marx, and Margaret Dumont
My views: 10

I've seen nine different Marx Brothers movies in the last 10 years, and this is by far my favorite.  It's completely ridiculous, as all of their films are, but I think each of the brothers is at his best here.  Groucho is at his wittiest, Chico is at his most obnoxious (in a good way), Harpo does some of his best slapstick, and Zeppo actually gets to do something besides stand around.  And let's not forget poor Margaret Dumont, who accepts all of Groucho's creative insults with the utmost grace and dignity.  Another thing I love is that Duck Soup manages to make fun of both politics and early film musicals at the same time, which are two things that are crying out to be made fun of.  "The country's taxes must be fixed, and I know what to do with it," Groucho sings to a crowded room.  "If you think you're paying too much now just wait 'til I get through with it!"  And all the people cheer.

Arguably the best scene in this movie is when Chico and Harpo both dress up like Groucho.  Two of the three of them (I'm still not sure which) meet up and mirror each other's actions for several minutes before the third one shows up.  This is a scene that has been imitated and re-used a ridiculous number of times in films and TV shows since.  I always take some pride in recognizing these spoofs when I see them.

Whenever I'm in the mood for a good comedy, this is a perfect option.  It's short and hilarious the whole way through, so I usually watch it when I don't have much time but need some cheering up.  While The Phantom of the Opera and Gaslight have helped me experience and explore deep emotions, Duck Soup provides an escape.  I think we all need that balance in our movie watching lives.  Not every movie is Oscar-worthy, nor should it be.  We need some fun, silly movies to keep us sane.  What's particularly interesting about Duck Soup, though, is that a lot of people now consider it one of the best comedies ever made; it's not just me.  It kind of surprises me how many people know what I'm talking about when I mention it, since often when I talk about my favorite films people just look at me like I'm crazy.  I got super excited once when I was watching a CupOfTeam video on YouTube and noticed a Duck Soup poster on their wall.

It's been a couple years since the last time I watched this movie, but I'll probably revisit it soon.  I could use a little more comedy in my life right now.  By the way, if anyone reading this knows why this movie is called Duck Soup, please tell me because I have no idea.

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

34. Gaslight

1944; dir. George Cukor; starring Ingrid Bergman, Charles Boyer, Joseph Cotten
My views: 10

I'm not sure exactly when I first saw this movie.  It was one of the first films I saw in 2003, but I don't remember now if I'd seen it before then or not.  I know we got it from the library, but I can't recall how I reacted or what initially made me want to watch it again.  I just know why I keep watching it now, and it's almost entirely Ingrid Bergman's fault.

Seriously, I cannot get over her in this movie.  She's always fabulous, but I think this is arguably her best performance.  Charles Boyer is also brilliant as the creepy husband who tries to convince her she's going insane, but his Gregory's manipulative nature wouldn't be half as disturbing to me if I didn't care so much about Ingrid Bergman's Paula.  She's so real and relateable that I genuinely feel for her very deeply.  Rather than becoming numb to this film's disturbing nature with multiple viewings, I find myself becoming even more disturbed each time I watch it.  But it's definitely disturbing in a good and very watchable way.  Between Ingrid Bergman and, to an only slightly lesser degree, Charles Boyer, I become mesmerized every time.  And then there's Joseph Cotten, although his character admittedly isn't nearly as interesting as the other main characters.  Still, I find it refreshing to see him treat Paula the way she deserves to be treated after the way her husband abuses her, and Cotten does as much as possible with the limited role.  The rest of the supporting cast is fabulous, notably including a very young Angela Lansbury in her film debut, and Dame May Whitty providing much-needed comic relief.

Interestingly, I think another reason I've watched this movie so much is similar to why I kept watching Phantom of the Opera: I can relate to the depressing parts, and thus find encouragement in the hopeful ending.  Sometimes, like Paula, I feel as though I'm going crazy, or that someone is trying to make me think I am.  I don't want to spoil the ending for anyone who's reading this and hasn't seen it yet, but suffice it to say the climax is one of my all-time favorite movie scenes, again mostly because of Ingrid Bergman.  Just thinking about that scene is making me want to watch Gaslight again right now, and I just saw it three times in 2012.  That's how fabulous it is.

Beyond the characters and the acting, I really appreciate the story itself.  It's one of the best portrayals of an abusive relationship I've seen on screen.  The whole thing is so well put-together that I have to give a huge thank you to George Cukor, who is one of my favorite directors.  He's known for bringing out the best performances in actresses, so that might at least partially explain why Ingrid Bergman is so magnificent here, not to take any credit away from her.  I also must admit that I find Joseph Cotten extremely attractive in this film, which is another perk, though I would still watch it for Ingrid Bergman's performance regardless.

Tuesday, January 1, 2013

35. The Phantom of the Opera

2004; dir. Joel Schumacher; starring Gerard Butler, Emmy Rossum, Patrick Wilson
My views: 10

I first watched this film in 2005 because my sister's friends were obsessed with it (I think mostly because they thought Gerard Butler was hot), and we happened to own it on VHS.  I must admit, at first I didn't really understand it.  I didn't get why the phantom kept killing people, or why Christine thought he was her dead father.  But something about the film intrigued me.  I've always loved musicals, but I was used to them being lighthearted and fun.  This was probably the first dark musical I saw, and it spoke to me on a deeper level than I was used to.  And, if nothing else, Emmy Rossum has a killer voice.  So I kept watching it.

As I look back over my data, I see that most of my views of this movie took place in 2005 and 2006, which I now find very interesting.  At the time, I was in high school and struggling with very serious clinical depression.  Though I didn't realize it then, I think part of the reason I was so fascinated by this film was that, strange as it seems, I could relate to it.  No, I wasn't caught up in a bizarre love triangle with a deformed murderer and an opera patron, but I understood the motivations of the characters who were.  I could relate to Christine's longing for a past that can never return, to Raoul's futile attempts to turn his confusing world into something he could understand, to the phantom's despair and loathing of a world that had rejected him.  And then, despite the darkness of most of the film, it ends on a hopeful note.  I really needed that reminder of hope at that time in my life.  I'm not positive that that's the reason I kept watching it, but I think that was at least part of it.  I also really enjoyed the music and the acting (although I must confess that I never saw in Gerard Butler what my sister's friends did).

I don't want to make it sound like this movie cured me of my depression, because it definitely didn't.  But I find it noteworthy that I have not viewed this film since my recovery.  This was certainly not a conscious decision, and it could be simply that I got tired of it after 10 times.  Perhaps I no longer felt the need to watch it once I had the soundtrack on my ipod, since the songs make up almost the entire film.  I do still listen to the soundtrack quite a bit (I'm listening to it right now, as a matter of fact), but I haven't seen this movie in over five years.  I suspect that it wouldn't speak to me now the same way it did then, but I could be wrong.  Since my first viewing of this film, I have become enthralled with dark, passionate musicals, so at the very least I am greatly indebted to Phantom of the Opera for introducing me to those.

Is it really 2013 already?

Have you ever heard someone say, "I've seen that movie like 100 times" and wondered if they really had?  Maybe not, but I always did, especially when I was 12 years old and just starting to really get excited about movies. Not that I didn't enjoy films before that.  I consider myself extremely lucky to have grown up during the Disney Renaissance, so I distinctly remember going to theaters to see The Lion King, Pocahontas, Mulan, and several other great children's films.  When I got the chance, I watched movies at home, but my family didn't have a VCR, let alone DVD player, until I was about 10.  I didn't really turn into the movie freak I am today until my mom decided to start borrowing classic films from the library, when I was about 11 or 12.  She introduced me to a whole new world, and I couldn't get enough of it.  It was my introduction to that world, well over ten years ago, that planted the seed that eventually led to this blog.

In January of 2003, when I was not yet 13 years old, I decided to start keeping track of the movies I watched.  It was one thing to say that I'd watched a film so many times, or even to feel like I'd watched a film so many times, but to know how many times I'd watched a certain film would be truly awesome, I thought.  I wanted to know which, if any, films I had actually seen "like 100 times".  So throughout the year, I would keep track by hand in a notebook, writing down each movie as I watched it the first time that year, and keeping tallies for multiple views per year.  At the end of each year, I'd add the new data to an ongoing spreadsheet, which later included statistics about how many films of certain actors I'd watched and other analyses that I found interesting.

I can't believe it's already been 10 years since I started.  I now have a ton of data, which in a way documents the last 10 years of my life.  I've had phases: several movies were watched a lot for a few years, then not for several years, if ever again.  In addition, the way I've watched movies has changed drastically since 2003.  Back then, I didn't have very many movies, so I was mostly dependent on the library for my movie needs.  Over the years, I've accumulated more and more videos and DVDs (yes, I still watch videos; some of my favorite movies were never released on DVD).  A few years ago, I started watching the free on-demand movies, which are usually not that great, so I started seeing a lot of films that I had no inclination to watch more than once.  And just this past year I started using Netflix, which has opened up many new movie-watching possibilities.  Combining these with movies on TV and at theaters, I have managed to watch 1,017 different movies a total of 2,335 times in the last 10 years.

But even with all these ways to watch movies, I haven't seen a single film anywhere close to 100 times.  I have seen several films at least 10 times, though: 35 to be precise.  And I thought that, since this is an important milestone for my movie-data-gathering career, I would blog about those 35 movies and why I'd watched them so many times.  Since only two of them are best picture winners, this won't overlap very much with my other blog.  So I'm going to write about each one, starting with the films I've seen 10 times and counting down to my most watched movie.  When there are ties, I'll take into account how many times I probably saw each movie before I started keeping track, and the first time I watched it since keeping track.  So stay tuned for my top 35 most watched movies in the last 10 years!