About Jenni

Trying to live my best possible life through positivity, writing, roleplaying, film making, craft, art and laughter. Currently blogging the Australian Empire magazine's top 500 films of all time.

Das Boot (1981)

Das Boot
Directed by Wolfgang Petersen
Written by Wolfgang Petersen based on the novel by Lothar G. Buchheim
(number 272)

It’s pretty interesting to see a German film about the crap that happened during the second World War, so I can see how this is the massive film hit that it is. Plus, yes. I have heard that this film is claustrophobic and I can see it as soon as they’re on board the ship. The sets are so close, and there’s so many people and things everywhere. What a hideous existence.

Urgh the food getting worse as the movie goes on D: D: horrorrr…

That one navy officer did a great Josephine Baker impression though. I knew exactly what he was doing and he looked the part.

I can see why this movie is as long as it is.. The way you are made to feel the dreariness of the waiting around, and the sudden bursts of action, or the staying perfectly quiet while the ships are searching for them. You couldn’t do that in a movie with quick cuts and a short running time. It needs time to play out, time to feel. Time to watch the faces of the sailors as they do these things.

I have seen a lot of rough scenes in war movies. a lot of images that will stick with you… but the sequence with the burning ship.. holy christ. It’s one of those things where I guess I’d never thought it through. Of course a submarine cannot take prisoners, there’s barely enough room for the crew. But I’d never considered it. Not until it was shown like that.

Does it make me love the people? Yes. It’s a horrible situation they’re in. Not only at war, but stuffed in together in horrible conditions with heavy machinery all around, no room to move your elbows without hitting another man and none of them able to wash or clean their clothes. The food slowly going off as the voyage continues and then… yeah, the British have stopped making mistakes, so here’s a boat full of young men writing letters to their loved ones and I’m pretty sure they’re all going to die.

There are a lot of moments when I’m pretty sure they’re all going to die. Then there’s the fake out ending where I got very excited about how they had an unexpected happy ending and return home but of course… no. No, there’s still a war on.

Bechdel test: No women on the boat, don’t be silly.

Best line:

It’s better to take photos after the mission, on the return home.

or maybe “AALLLAAAAAAAAARM!!”

State of Mind: I genuinely enjoyed this movie although I didn’t expect to. It is without a doubt a rough, horrifying movie and I suspect pretty close to things that happened. I may even watch it again at some point! I’m sure I missed some stuff when I forgot I should be watching the screen for subtitles. The battle sequences are great, the quiet sequences are tense as fuck and it’s brilliantly acted. Nice work, classic movie!

Watched movie count

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Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989)

Crimes and Misdemeanors
Written and directed by Woody Allen
(number 275)

Okay so I’ve only watched Woody Allen movies because of this list, and I’m already seeing a lot of repeated themes. It’s kind of funny watching this movie after seeing a discussion online where someone wrote that people shouldn’t bother with forced diversity in their fiction. I wonder what Woody Allen would say that that – if you assume that showing Jewish people and customs is diverse and not the norm.

Anyway, it’s actually a pretty compelling movie. I dreaded it being like Love and Death but it’s not actually a parody which was a relief. Instead it’s an overly intellectual sort of romantic comedy. If people in rom coms talked like existential philosophers and cheated on their partners with no remorse. That makes it sound like I didn’t enjoy it – I did. The characters are all interesting and have a little depth to them, the story is twisty and unexpected and I enjoyed all the references to old movies.

Does it make me love the people? Woody Allen’s character is pretty off putting, Clifford, much like Harry in When Harry Met Sally, makes everything that happens around him about him. His sister has a horrifying hookup through a personal ad and he makes it about his failing marriage. The girl he’s into (outside his marriage) gets a great career opportunity and he goes sad sack because he won’t get to see her for four months. This character’s only redeeming quality is that he’s lovely to his niece.

I liked Angelica Houston, not that her character is groundbreaking but she is played by Angelica Houston so there’s a gravitas and a charisma there. Mia Farrow’s Halley is pretty adorable even if she exists in a world where men just lust after and adore her and try and ignore that she has stuff she wants to get done. Alan Alda is the jerky jerk but he’s so charismatic as well.

Bechdel test: Yes, there’s a tiny interchange between Jenny and Wendy where Wendy says ‘don’t you have homework to do?’ and Jenny says ‘yes’.

Best line:

Lester: Comedy is tragedy plus time!

Professor Levy: You will notice that what we are aiming at when we fall in love is a very strange paradox. The paradox consists of the fact that, when we fall in love, we are seeking to re-find all or some of the people to whom we were attached as children. On the other hand, we ask our beloved to correct all of the wrongs that these early parents or siblings inflicted upon us. So that love contains in it the contradiction: The attempt to return to the past and the attempt to undo the past.

State of Mind: Its not the joyful nostalgia of Radio Days, and it’s not the cringe-fest of Love and Death. This is a good middle ground kind of Allen film. I’m not sure it’s one I’d seek out to watch again, but I didn’t hate it the way I feared I might. It’s got some interesting things to say about the human experience and decisions and how we define ourselves, but I kind of wish Allen would get out of his own way and let the script breathe a little rather than being SO intellectual ALL the time. Good soundtrack.

Watched movie count

National Lampoon’s Animal House (1978)

National Lampoon’s Animal House
Directed by John Landis
Written by Harold Ramis, Chris Miller, Douglas Kenney
(number 287)

Content warning for animals in distress, animal death, rape jokes, sexual abuse in this movie.

Okay so I have seen a movie like this before, Monsters University. Which was a weird movie for Pixar to make TBH, since it’s basically this but for kids. And this movie is one of those classic gross out/sex/slapstick comedy about a bunch of dudes.

Kevin Bacon plays a bad guy – a pledge for the ‘fancy’ frat house, John Belushi as the stereotypical drunken lout and Donald Sutherland as the coolest professor in the world. (Has a great cat, writing a novel, gives his students pot).

I guess a lot of my feelings about this film are covered in my review of Dazed and Confused where I basically don’t understand why it’s fun to watch people bully each other and treat them like crap. Or why is it funny to kill a horse? I just.. urgh.

Oh and… attempted rape. Like, very near miss date rape. How… funny? with his little angel and devil on the shoulder and the devil calls him a homo for not raping her? And there’s a lot of things like that later in the movie with other characters too. To be honest it was just gross.

Oh hey, there’s lots of references to this in season three Veronica Mars as well aren’t there? I guess that this film must’ve been influential. Is this the front runner for stuff like The Hangover? Road Trip? All those kind of stoner comedies? I don’t know if that’s a film family tree that needs celebrating.

Does it make me love the people? I… don’t think so.

Bechdel test: There’s a tonne of girls talking to each other in the sorority with their bras off, about how they’re having a pillow fight but only Mandy is named. And then she immediate is peeped on by Bluto as she gets undressed. He even gives us a little knowing eyebrow raise so we’re complicit in his peeping. So that’s just great. Mandy and Babs are the ‘nice girls’ and then there’s Katy who’s the ‘cool girl’ (please watch Gone Girl for the definition of this) and then a few other women who only speak to men.

Best line:

No more fun of any kind!

State of Mind: I kind of want Bluto’s shirt which just says “college” but overall. Nah. Nah to this movie. I want to question why it’s on the list but.. so’s a whole lot of other crappy male centred comedy so I dunno. This kind of film makes me want to give up this list. I won’t, because I have found a bunch of gems in here as well but…urgh.

Watched movie count

A Place in the Sun (1951)

A Place in the Sun
Directed by George Stevens
Written by Harry Brown and Michael Wilson based on the novel by Theodore Dreiser
(number 278)

I should have guessed from this movie being based on a novel called ‘an american tragedy; that it wasn’t about to be a happy fun time watch. It’s pretty bleak. I had thought it would be a kind of commentary on the classes and how one man is trying to find his way… but actually it’s about falling in love with two women and then killing one to be with the other. Rough.

This movie has some dark themes: abortion, misguided love, murder, accidental death and classism, but that said it didn’t grab me as a film. I wasn’t super invested in the lives of these people. I can’t help thinking it might work better as a play as it was before the film.

Elizabeth Taylor is charming in her role as rich girl Angela, she’s probably the highlight of the movie although her character is pretty flat. The main character was a bit slimy, really. I didn’t particularly care for that performance.

Does it make me love the people? Not particularly. I didn’t feel much empathy for our main character, George. Angela is kind of sweet but vapid and Alice was kind of sweet but annoying. Maybe I need to really watch it again to connect to them, but I don’t know. I didn’t connect.

Bechdel test: Yes, early on Angela talks to Hannah Eastman, briefly. But its only that one moment.

Best line: This one isn’t terribly impressive but I feel like it’s been copied and paraphrased a lot since:
George: I love you. I’ve loved you since the first moment I saw you. I guess maybe I’ve even loved you before I saw you.

State of Mind: It fell flat for me. Maybe it’s just that I had a bad cold when I watched it. Maybe it’s just that the story’s no good. I’m not sure. And I’m not sure I want to watch it again to figure that out. I don’t feel too bad about not loving this movie since it’s actually not a black and white classic that I’ve heard of before. Maybe one of the other Liz Taylor movies will be more better? Let’s hope so!

Watched movie count

Carlito’s Way (1993)

Carlito’s Way
Directed by Brian De Palma
Written by David Koepp based on the novels by Edwin Torres
(number 286)

I gotta say, I wasn’t pleased about another movie about crime and criminals. I do love Al Pacino but I really didn’t need to see another movie about random violence and stuff. I was assured by some of my Tuesday night roleplaying group that this movie was different so… here I go.

Why does it have to be two and a half hours?

At least it’s not about glorifying the life of a criminal – this is very much Carlito trying to get out of the life. To get out of the system which has screwed him over. Unfortunately he still has the same friends who are in the life, and he gets sucked back in. With the voice over you do start to feel sorry for him. There’s a horrible inevitability to the story.

Great soundtrack – like, every hit of the seventies plays in this movie, especially since Carlito runs a club. Lots of opportunity to show off the best songs and lots of incredible dance moves and fashion.

The action sequences and shoot outs are well filmed and I think it’s worth mentioning that they all have established stakes. I know exactly why the fight is about to happen, and I know who’s involved and why they are. There’s a lot of clever cat and mouse stuff, and the sequence on the boat was genuinely gripping. It’s very well made, which… not surprising given the director. I will admit he deserves to have so many movies on the 500 list.

Does it make me love the people? I yeah, I like Gail and I like Carlito. I really really hate Kleinfeld. So pleased when Carlito had emptied his gun. I guess that’s pretty dark… but anyway. Carlito and Gail I like them, and obviously John Leguizamo because he’s amazing all the time, and Luis Guzman. But generally the other characters are kind of interchangeable.

Bechdel test: No, we have Gail and we have Steph but they never speak to each other. Most of the women are prostitutes or dancers, just there to be objects for men to fight over.

Best line: Not a line but Carlito lying down on the escalator is freaking brilliant in the last sequence.

If you can’t see the angles no more, you’re in trouble.

State of Mind: Okay yeah, this was way better than the other crime films but it’s still kind of too long and I don’t know if I’d watch it again. The end sequence really really reminds me of Twelve Monkeys… Also the staring at the poster for a tropical paradise reminds me of something else? Oh yes, the Fifth Element. Both of those came out pretty shortly after this one so… clear influences.

Watched movie count

Se7en (1995)

Se7en
Directed by David Fincher
Written by Andrew Kevin Walker
(number 140)

It seemed appropriate to watch this movie when I’d just started watching Mindhunter, Fincher’s newest tv series about serial killers. This guy has a serious MO. He’s also got a high number of movies on this list, so I get it. He appeals – his movies are slick, and they deal with some disturbing, taboo shit.

I remember when this movie came out – I was too young to watch it by three years, and I was fine with that. Then I remember it being on offer at friend’s sleepovers and just sooooo not wanting to know. Lots of my friends did watch it, somehow, and I heard about things that happened in it. The posters were all over town, it gets written about and I deliberately spoiled it for myself so I wouldn’t have a morbid curiosity about it.

At least I know Fincher makes a slick film, even if the subject matter is pretty disturbing.

I don’t love Mills’s casual homophobia.

I am interested that the actual plot line of the movie is not too predictable. There’s the inevitability of the murders, the what feels like a relatively early reveal of Jon Doe, and then him turning himself in. However I feel like the music of the movie lets some of the twists down. It keeps you on edge, keeps reminding you that bad shit is happening, that it’s going to continue to happen. It’s not a movie you can ever relax while watching. Which… I think it undermines the drama.

Does it make me love the people? Yep, Mills and Somerset are both instantly likeable and I think it’s because they’re such obvious stereotypes that you can instantly connect to. The ageing veteran, Somerset, he’s seen it all, he knows so much, this is his last case before he retires and he’s played by Morgan Freeman who’s just instantly likeable. Mills is the rookie, the full of energy spitfire who’s determined to make a difference. It’s easy to understand and they’re played well so you connect to them.

Bechdel test: looolllll no. The only live woman with a name is Tracy and at first she’s just a perfect fifties era housewife, hair flips and all. She only speaks to the men. Mrs Gould is arguably a named woman but she only talks to the men too. We don’t even see women in the big groups of police officers.

Later Tracy gets to be a little flawed but still beautiful, she reaches out to Somerset for the best advice ever of course, it’s about being a mother – such a womanly thing.

Best line:

Somerset: Uh… Doc, is there absolutely no chance that he might survive?
Dr. Beardsley: Detective, he’d die of shock right now if you were to shine a flashlight in his eyes. He’s experienced about as much pain and suffering as anyone I’ve encountered, give or take… and he still has hell to look forward to. Good night.

State of Mind: The movie as I said, was spoiled for me. But I can see how going in fresh it would have been a good mystery and a new kind of thing. The influence of this movie is pretty clear on stuff I’ve watched more recently, including Saw and Prisoners, films like that. I didn’t enjoy this film though, it’s too much keeping the viewer on the edge and too much gross out. Great performances, will not watch it again.

Watched movie count

The Lady Vanishes (1938)


Directed by Alfred Hitchcock
Written by Sidney Gilliat based on the short story by Ethel Lina White
(number 277)

An early Hitchcock. I think the only one I’ve seen of his which was earlier was the 30 Steps. If I have indeed seen that one, which I don’t actually recall if I have or not. Anyway, it’s got all the hallmarks of a great Hitchcock – trains, weird disappearances, ordinary people and a good sticky mystery.

The film is beautifully made, just like all of Hitchcock’s work, it’s slick, the people are stylish and the lighting is totally perfect all through. There’s some great sound design and it’s just a very entertaining and exciting film. I can’t even think of too much to say about it because I enjoyed it so much. (Also I don’t want to give away the plot at all.)

I wonder if Iris’s two friends Blanche and Julia are gay? I mean, one of them was wearing a fantastic pant suit and we assume they’re rooming together. They’re both begging Iris not to go through with the wedding too.. Well, headcanon says yes.

Does it make me love the people? Absolutely. Iris is completely adorable and Gilbert is a kind of charming cad. Sort of Flynn Ryder-ish and somewhat sweet really. I love Miss Froy as well, she’s a brilliant character and she’s someone you genuinely worry about when she’s gone.

Bechdel test: Iris talks to both her girlfriends Blanche and Julie about food, champagne and her wedding plans. Then she speaks at length to Miss Froy about the noise, about Miss Froy’s bag, and tea, and whether or not Iris is all right after being hit in the head. Lots of passes! It happens when the lead character is a woman.

Best line:

Charters: sir, would you happen to know what time the train leaves Bale for England?
Stranger: – speaks in another language –
Charters: oh, really? – tuns to his friend – the fella doesn’t speak English.

Iris: well I may be very dense, but if this is some kind of joke, I don’t see the point.

State of Mind: What an awesome trip that was. I loved it and recommend it to anyone interested in a good mystery or a romp. The characters are brilliant and the fashion is gorgeous. Will definitely be watching it again – maybe to spot more clues and see if I missed anything in particular. Great film, go watch. Hitchcock cameo is very near the end, and he looks weirdly young with dark hair.

Watched movie count