Tag Archives: Jim Jarmusch

30 Days of Madness, Day 31 — Ranking the 30

by Tom Kapr

This has been an interesting month of film viewing, made far more enjoyable by the friends who voted on the movies I watched.

I’ve had dragons, witches, vampires, werewolves, Nazis, serial killers, beast people, alternate realities, zombies of every variety, at least two alien invasions, at least two foiled armageddons, about half a dozen mad scientists, at least half a dozen cases of possession, and at least half a dozen disembodied hands (seriously, did I watch a single movie this month where someone’s hand didn’t get proper mangled?); as well as killer ants, cars, cats, klowns, plants, goats, beavers, Drew Barrymores, and one really big octopus.

I’ve been including my Flickchart rankings with each film, so I thought as a wrap-up, it would be fitting to list again the 30 films I watched, in order of their placement on my chart. I’ve re-ranked each film to see if hindsight has had a significant change on their placement.

Here are the 30 films, by ascending rank, with a comparison to its original placement. I’m ending this month of October with 3275 titles ranked on my chart, which includes 32 more than I ended September with (I saw two new movies at the theater), so numerical rankings and percentages are always fluid.

 

-30-
ZOMBEAVERS (2014)

zombeavers

Original rank: 3202 (2%)
Adjusted rank: 3166 (3%)

Zombeavers is now 1% less terrible.

 

-29-
KILLER KLOWNS FROM OUTER SPACE (1988)

killerklowns3

Original rank: 3081 (5%)
Adjusted rank: 3081 (6%)

Interesting that Killer Klowns ended up at the same numerical rank but falls 1% relative to a list that is now 32 titles heavier.

 

-28-
DEATHGASM (2015)

deathgasm

Original rank: 2863 (12%)
Adjusted rank: 3036 (7%)

I actually expected this to come out higher than its original rank. Deathgasm was such a great movie for the first half. I tend to rank movies lower if they build me up only to knock me down so hard by the end.

 

-27-
Q: THE WINGED SERPENT (1982)

qwingedserpent

Original rank: 3193 (2%)
Adjusted rank: 3019 (8%)

Which is probably how Q managed to rise above Deathgasm. No goodwill built up, so less disappointment at an ending that was just as bad as the rest of the film.

 

-26-
FIRESTARTER (1984)

firestarter

Original rank: 2612 (20%)
Adjusted rank: 2643 (19%)

Here, on the other hand, Firestarter is a slog for much of its running time only to suddenly race full speed ahead with a hell of an ending. Not enough to save it from dropping a bit, though. I covered two Stephen King adaptations this month. One was a good movie called Christine. The other was Firestarter.

 

-25-
ROAR (1981)

roar

Original rank: 2634 (19%)
Adjusted rank: 2512 (23%)

I expected Roar to rise a bit, and won’t be surprised when it eventually breaks out of the bottom 25%. It might even breach the 2000 mark. I have a feeling the bizarre and singular nature of the film, coupled with the fact that it really is well shot, will cause it to appreciate over time.

 

-24-
PRINCE OF DARKNESS (1987)

princedarkness3

Original rank: 1629 (50%)
Adjusted rank: 2049 (37%)

Prince of Darkness was my biggest disappointment based on expectations going in. Those expectations being that John Carpenter is a favorite director of mine, and this was made when he was in his prime (1978-1988). I didn’t expect it to drop quite so far on the re-rank though, and I am sure it will rise back up to around the middle of the list over time.

 

-23-
THE LITTLE SHOP OF HORRORS (1960)

littleshop2

Original rank: 2553 (22%)
Adjusted rank: 1906 (42%)

Little Shop has one of the biggest leaps of all the films on the re-rank, a 20% jump, freeing it from the bottom quarter. I’m not totally surprised, as this one had already been slowly creeping up my chart.

 

-22-
BLAIR WITCH (2016)

blairwitch

Original rank: 2186 (33%)
Adjusted rank: 1706 (48%)

Blair Witch is another I expected to rise somewhat in the ranks, simply because I found it to be mediocre but not terrible. It definitely has some excellent sequences, and I suspect that if I watch it again on a small screen in a dark room, it will be more effective.

 

-21-
IT CAME FROM BENEATH THE SEA (1955)

itcame2

Original rank: 1588 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1612 (51%)

It Came from Beneath the Sea manages a 24-spot jump but doesn’t shake its 51%. This is another one I found disappointing, certainly not by its special effects, which are still awesome thanks largely to Ray Harryhausen; but because the story framing them was much less well done than other favorite Hollywood creature features of the 1950s like Them! and The Beast from 20,000 Fathoms.

 

-20-
EVIL DEAD II (1987)

evildead2

Original rank: 1510 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1531 (53%)

Evil Dead II has been in and out of the “gateway” position into the top half of my chart; that is, when I add a new title, this is the one it often comes up against, being at the middle. I honestly don’t know which way this one will head over time, but the 2% indicates an appreciation in hindsight. Sam Raimi’s ingenuity and Bruce Campbell’s campy, cult-status-cementing performance will be the deciding factors.

 

-19-
PHANTASM (1979)

phantasm

Original rank: 1206 (63%)
Adjusted rank: 1425 (56%)

Phantasm probably doesn’t deserve to have fallen even further, and I think it’ll probably rise back up a bit over time.

 

-18-
CAT PEOPLE (1942)

catpeople

Original rank: 1607 (51%)
Adjusted rank: 1297 (60%)

Cat People managed to rise a couple hundred spots, thanks in no small part to the fact that it’s just a technically well-made film. It’s my aversion to some of the norms of the time period (xenophobia and animal abuse being unfortunately among those crimes) that will keep it from making a showing in the Top 1000.

 

-17-
XTRO (1982)

xtro

Original rank: 1894 (42%)
Adjusted rank: 1261 (62%)

Another 20% leap, this time from the bottom half well into the top half. Xtro is the one that has appreciated the most in my mind, and rather quickly. It may have been the tug-of-war between my awe at its visual effects and my repulsion to those same visual effects. I’m sure it also helps that this has become somewhat of a favorite in the past month among my fellow horror aficionados. It’s a strange film to bond over, but hey, if it works, it works.

 

-16-
GREEN ROOM (2015)

greenroom

Original rank: 1230 (62%)
Adjusted rank: 1031 (69%)

Green Room is another I expected to appreciate a bit, though I don’t expect to see too much greater movement.

 

-15-
MAY (2002)

may

Original rank: 761 (77%)
Adjusted rank: 887 (73%)

I was actually surprised to see May drop out of the top quarter on the re-rank. This is one that will always have favor based almost entirely on its wonderful lead performance by Angela Bettis. That will be the deciding factor anytime it’s up against a film of similar quality.

 

-14-
TRIANGLE (2009)

triangle1

Original rank: 782 (76%)
Adjusted rank: 885 (73%)

Triangle. I’m still not sure what to make of this film. It will definitely take a second viewing to know how I feel about it. For now, I expect it to bounce around the top middle quarter of my chart.

 

-13-
I WALKED WITH A ZOMBIE (1943)

walkzombie

Original rank: 919 (72%)
Adjusted rank: 884 (73%)

Zombie rose a bit, and no surprise. Sometimes a film’s effective qualities stick more than its ineffective ones, and this one is a slow-build of a scary film that overcomes its bad narration and the hard-to-swallow romantic relationship at the center. It also has the distinction of introducing me to the work of producer Val Lewton, whose catalog I wish to complete.

 

-12-
HUSH (2016)

hush

Original rank: 804 (75%)
Adjusted rank: 876 (73%)

Hush is the one that I was second-guessing the most on whether it deserved the A I gave it, or if it was really more of a B. It works far more often than it doesn’t, but some of those things that don’t work stick with me. This will probably be one of those films that is always just on the verge of being knocked out of my top 1000.

 

-11-
ISLAND OF LOST SOULS (1932)

islandlostsouls

Original rank: 877 (73%)
Adjusted rank: 826 (75%)

Another film that manages to overcome an inauthentic romantic entanglement with a genuinely horrifying story, a strong heroine, and an iconic villain courtesy of Charles Laughton, Island of Lost Souls manages to climb to the brink of the top quarter on the re-rank.

 

-10-
CHRISTINE (1983)

christine

Original rank: 511 (84%)
Adjusted rank: 666 (80%)

Christine dropped just enough to land at #666. So, yeah. Devil car.

 

-9-
THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM (1961)

pitpendulum1

Original rank: 438 (87%)
Adjusted rank: 615 (81%)

Pit seems to have dropped a bit, but I won’t be surprised to see it claw its way back into the top 500. Of the two Roger Corman pictures I covered this month, this was the good one. (The other was The Little Shop of Horrors.)

 

-8-
TRICK ‘R TREAT (2007)

trickrtreat2

Original rank: 614 (81%)
Adjusted rank: 595 (82%)

Trick ‘r Treat was a pleasant surprise and a great film to end on. Full disclosure: this is the second time I re-ranked this. The first time, it came up against Fargo, which was inexplicably low and kept it from even breaking into the top 1000. After re-ranking Fargo (which jumped way into my top 250), Trick ‘r Treat was able not only breach the top 1000 but the top quarter of the list.

 

-7-
HALLOWEEN (1978)

halloween

Original rank: 397 (88%)
Adjusted rank: 417 (87%)

Halloween has been on my Flickchart for years. It had started out in the 500s before I saw it on the big screen this month. The re-rank didn’t hurt it much, and I expect it to be a staple of my top 500.

 

-6-
PHASE IV (1974)

phaseiv-1

Original rank: 751 (77%)
Adjusted rank: 383 (88%)

Phase IV was probably the greatest surprise of the month. What I expected to be a cheesy 70s creature feature turned out to be a thoughtful piece of sci-fi. No great surprise that it jumped a few hundred spots on the re-rank. Sometimes it just depends on what films it comes up against.

 

-5-
THE BODY SNATCHER (1945)

bodysnatcher

Original rank: 177 (95%)
Adjusted rank: 318 (90%)

Again, sometimes it just depends on what it comes up against. I didn’t expect The Body Snatcher to drop as far as it did, but nor do I expect it to depreciate over time. Even if it weren’t an excellent film, it would be kept afloat by Boris Karloff alone. But this is a great film that will continue to haunt my 300s.

 

-4-
THE WITCH (2015)

thewitch

Original rank: 329 (90%)
Adjusted rank: 316 (90%)

The Witch was another pleasant surprise: not surprise that it was good, but because it was nigh impeccable. I think the only thing that keeps it from climbing any higher is its extremely disturbing subject matter. The higher on my list we go, the more likely we are to see films that emphasize the beauty in life rather than the horror. But The Witch is about as beautiful as a truly disturbing horror film gets. It had its general release in 2016, and I expect it to be on my year-end top 10 list.

 

-3-
GOJIRA (1954)

gojira

Original rank: 347 (89%)
Adjusted rank: 270 (92%)

Gojira makes the leap to the borderlands of my top 250. This was a film that actually got more engaging as it progressed, and has appreciated quite a bit in my mind.

 

-2-
EYES WITHOUT A FACE (1960)

eyesface4

Original rank: 389 (88%)
Adjusted rank: 178 (95%)

While Eyes Without a Face, with the benefit of some time to process, leaps effortlessly into my top 250. I was considering compiling my list of the best horror film of each year, only to realize that it would have to be between this and Psycho. That’s not a decision I want to make, but it does speak volumes about how good this movie is to challenge an established favorite.

 

-1-
ONLY LOVERS LEFT ALIVE (2013)

onlylovers

Original rank: 150 (95%)
Adjusted rank: 145 (96%)

I knew this was going to be the top spot. I was pretty sure about it even when I watched it on day 4. I was expecting Only Lovers Left Alive to be a challenge to sit through, but it is such a beautiful, engaging, life-affirming film–about vampires. It’s funny, heart-warming, shimmering with music and art. I certainly didn’t expect it to take a place among my  favorite films, but now that it’s there, I don’t see it leaving any time soon. Thank you, Jim Jarmusch.

And thank you everyone who read and commented and voted and helped make this such an unpredictable movie-watching adventure for me.

30 Days of Madness, Day 4 — Only Lovers Left Alive (2013)

by Tom Kapr

Wherein I attempt to watch one new-to-me horror film every day of October till Halloween and write a quick review. I will end my review with a letter grade like we do on our podcast (A, B, C, D, or F–pluses and minuses are for the non-committal!) and with the movie’s rank on my Flickchart.

onlylovers

 

Wow! What a fantastic film!

This is going to be a short, rough review. I did not take notes. I barely thought of what kind of response I would formulate to Only Lovers Left Alive. But that is the sign of a truly great film–I am so engaged in it, I am barely thinking of my critique. I have seen little of writer/director Jim Jarmusch’s filmography, but with every one I check off the list, I grow more impressed with him. I don’t know exactly how to explain what it I love about the way he shot this movie. The way the camera moves, the way everything is composed, the color. It all just works. And the fabric of music throughout, and the incredible dialogue, and the sense if humor and humanity. These two vampires, perfectly portrayed by Tilda Swinton and Tom Hiddleston, are two of the most fascinating characters I’ve seen in a film. They love everything beautiful and artistic in the world, they’ve loved each other for hundreds of years, and they need blood to survive; and finding good blood is becoming increasingly difficult in a world of disease and law. They really do feel like characters with hundreds of years of history behind them, yet they still have the same yearnings that the rest of us have. The great supporting cast includes Mia Wasikowska, Jeffrey Wright, Anton Yelchin (already my second film this month featuring the late actor), and John Hurt (playing Christopher Marlowe!). I imagine it’s not for everyone, but I have to think lovers of film, music, literature, and vampiric lore would appreciate this film, if not outright love it as I did. (This is also the first film I’ve covered this month that Buried Cinema has covered on our podcast, though it was during my year-long hiatus.)

Final grade: A

My Flickchart ranking: #150/3250 (a relative 95/100)

 

Buried Cinema – Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai

By Nathanael Griffis

Not your typical samurai garb.

I was first introduced to Jim Jarmusch films while taking a class on Westerns during my undergraduate. The last film we watched was Dead Man, which was introduced as post-modern Western. It was a strange experience, and certainly post-modern. It had a clear sense of being within the Western genre, but was willing to break out of it at times and ends without resolution. A friend in the class was a big Jarmusch fan, and we watched Coffee and Cigarettes later, which was honestly one of the first vignette films I’d seen. I loved it, especially the “Strange to Meet You” segment with Stephen Wright and Roberto Benigni. So, for some time now I’ve been interested in watching Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai. I’ve heard so many conflicting opinions on the film that it sounded great to me. This is because Jarmusch, from my experience, either leaves you scratching you head or reveling in his brilliance.

Thankfully, Ghost Dog is amazing. It follows the trials of Ghost Dog, played by Forest Whitaker, as he tries to maintain the life of a samurai in an urban crime environment. Think of it as what would happen if Spike Lee had directed Rashomon from a Martin Scorsese script. Ghost Dog is a solitary warrior whose master, Louie (John Tormey) doesn’t fully understand the life Ghost Dog is committed to. When the crime bosses over Louie decide Ghost Dog has to be eliminated, Ghost Dog struggles with keeping the way of the samurai while still honoring his master, who is trying to kill him.

I knew going into the film that it would be slow moving, because most of the viewer complaints are that there’s not enough action. (There are actually several action scenes, so all you Netflix reviewers are liars.) I imagine people are just disappointed that Forest Whitaker never chops down a hundred ninjas with a katana. (Hey, I was too, but what I got instead was still good). I am a critic though, so naturally I do still have a complaint about the action. Jarmusch does some strange slow-motion with cross dissolves of the same image slightly offset that I couldn’t quite understand. This was the main thing that bothered me about the film. I couldn’t decided if Jarmusch was trying to be cool, or comment on slow motion as cool, or display some meditative meaning in Ghost Dog’s violence.

Ghost Dog using the samurai technique of gun to temple.

The film is wonderfully reflective upon its place in samurai films. Ghost Dog sees himself as part of a dying philosophy, but stays true to his code. Throughout the film, selections of the Hagakure, the samurai code book, help transition throughout the story and build Ghost Dog’s character. This direct approach is used well, because the selections inform the whole film and not just the next scene. They aren’t prophetic. They don’t give anything away, and they don’t seem repetitive or unnecessary. Plus Forest Whitaker’s calm steady voice lends a gravitas to them that’s wonderful. They also provide the audience with a perfect sense of just what the samurai code is. It might feel like a gimmick to some viewers, but if that’s the case, it’s a well used gimmick.

Whitaker’s performance overall is wonderful, as is the whole cast. Each gangster has a personality all their own. Jarmusch did a great job of rounding up aging Italian-American actors and getting them to stretch their acting ability. It’s something to watch Richard Portnow, Henry Silva, and Gene Ruffini playing roles they’ve been typecast into completely differently than they’ve ever played them. This movie pushes against both the crime and samurai genres just enough to claim a unique spot in both, which is something Jarmusch is great it. He modernizes within a genre without forgetting the roots of the genre. He seems to be concluding that the samurai code of honor may be ancient and extinct, but so are the codes of organized crime, and there is room for some code or philosophy to be revived or something new to be created.

Ghost Dog ordering some books at the local Haitian ice cream stand. No joke, that's what's going on.

As I’ve mentioned already, a frequent criticism of this film is that it’s boring and you’re basically waiting for the action sequences. I couldn’t disagree more. In between each action scene are wonderfully quirky scenes of comedy. Ghost Dog’s best friend is a Haitian ice cream salesman, Raymond, who only speaks French. Their interactions speak to the bond of friendship being more than speech and communication. They’re also hilarious together as Raymond, the highly underrated Isaach De Bankolé, worries about health reports on ice cream on the radio and only manages to confuse Ghost Dog with his rants. The three Mafia bosses are either strangely aware of rap culture, stoic to the point of comedic, or apparently suffering from Tourrette’s. Watching them stare down a nervous John Tormey as they order Ghost Dog’s death is both frightening, because you realize this group is run by psychopaths, and hilarious, because you realize they’re psychopaths. It’s a fascinating duality that fits into samurai philosophy brilliantly.

The soundtrack is also wonderful. RZA has shown a strange attachment to samurai films and a wonderful ability to compose excellent scores (he also composed the original music for Kill Bill: Vol. 1 and Unleashed). RZA uses traditional Asian string instruments, but combines them with drums and puts them into loops, so they sound like modern hip-hop derivations. What’s amazing is it flows perfectly and sounds natural, which is a credit to his composing. The music expresses emotions and drives scenes perfectly without overpowering anything. He clearly has a love for samurai films, and a talent to mesh conflicting genres together, which makes me excited for his directorial debut The Man with the Iron Fists, a samurai film with Russell Crowe. Sure, why not, sign me up.

I wish I could recommend this film to everyone, but my film lover’s heart has been broken too many times. If you have a healthy knowledge of samurai films, this should be an interesting watch for you. If you like crime dramas, perhaps you’ll like it. If you’re the kind of person who sits at home watching Lynch, Cronenberg, Aronofsky, or Gilliam, but also likes Scorsese and Kurosawa, then you’ll love it. If all those names just went over your head, stay away. It’ll just make me cry if you watch this film and hate it.