A Sort of 10-Best-Films-of-2009 List from My Niche

I’m not an adventurous filmgoer.

Meaning I’m very seldom in the house for a first-run Hollywood picture.

Rio Bravo - revived
Rio Bravo - revived

There’s generally a lag of a few years – during which a film acquires something of a reputation, or maybe I caught part on it on television – that I’ll check it out more fully.

And then – if it really makes an impression – look for a theatrical revival.

Such was the case – and to the credit of the Egyptian Theater here in the Seattle area – that I had the opportunity to catch up to Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs and Pulp Fiction at weekend midnight screenings.

The following pages of this cover file introduce the other four file uploads, plus other work samples through which I hope to persuade you to sponsor my plan for a stereoscopic three-dimensional news beat.

Then there are the films and filmmakers that I’ve admired maybe even back as far as when I was a little kid watching them on the late show.

And have always wanted to see in a theater at least once before I die.

So the best revivals of 2009 that I’ve seen, is the theme of my ten-best-films list.

And – by identifying in parentheses the Seattle-area venues where these films played – I hope to encourage patronage and similar future programming.

The films are in no particular order.

Nor do my random thoughts, which accompany some of them, have any common theme.

The following pages of this cover file introduce the other four file uploads, plus other work samples through which I hope to persuade you to sponsor my plan for a stereoscopic three-dimensional news beat.

1. Rio Bravo, directed by Howard Hawks (Metro Cinema)
It’s fitting that this, my all-time favorite movie, should be the one by which I acquired projected-Blu-Ray religion.

2. The 39 Steps, d. Alfred Hitchcock (Grand Illusion Cinema and Seattle International Film Festival Theater)
Another digitally-improved experience; by which that tinny 1930s British soundtrack was rendered much more understandable, witty and entertaining.

3. Kagemusha, d. Akira Kurosawa (SIFF Theater)
One of the most enjoyable discoveries during my recent mid-career digital education at Shoreline Community College, was learning how popular Kurosawa remains with the young people that I got to know in the campus Film Club.

When I was their age, black-and-white Kurosawa was what we were studying.

But color Kurosawa is a whole new canon for me to explore.

4. Once Upon a Time in the West, d. Sergio Leone (SIFF and Northwest Film Forum)
The two L’s: Sergio Leone and David Lean.

“Yeah, this is probably the last time for Once Upon a Time in the West in a theater for me.”

“Yeah, this is probably the last time for Lawrence of Arabia in a theater for me.”

A few years go by.

And the modern Hollywood theatrical feature film – which, based on its primary source of revenue, is generally just a TV-movie with a three-month-prior theatrical release – has me craving for the epic theatrical vision.

Then – as much as anyone else, and more than most – Leone and/or Lean draw me back for another screening.

5. The Hustler, d. Robert Rossen (Seattle Art Museum)
Paul Newman’s Fast Eddie Felson: The character in all of cinema with whose self-destructive competitiveness I could, at one time, most identify.

In Jackie Gleason, one of the things Rossen was buying was Reginald van Gleason’s elegance transposed into a realistic context.

I don’t normally encourage such things, but the at-home experience of this film’s mood is enhanced by the presence of two companions: a pack of bad cigarettes and a pint of even worse whiskey.

This is one of the few films that I analyzed in infinitesimal detail with my Dad. And one of the things that we concluded – at the level of alternative casting – is this: He would have been too old when they made the film. But, if they had made it a few years earlier, another skinny little wiseass who would’ve been good in that role is Frank Sinatra.

But does this part bug anyone else?: Big Kentucky-Derby-week party at southern gentleman Murray Hamilton’s house. Scores if not hundreds of guests. Hot-jazz band. Bartender. Servants everywhere. Then – after making a drunken scene – Piper Laurie is upstairs sleeping it off on top of guests’ coats on a bed. Maybe at your party or my party. But wouldn’t you think Murray Hamilton would also have sprung for some kind of coat-check arrangement?

One unintentional laugh that this 1961 film drew from a 2009 audience: Newman is trying to get deep-pocketed gambler George C. Scott to back him against an opponent whom Scott is doubtful that Newman can beat. Scott’s line is the equivalent of asking “What do you think I am? Made of money?” when he asks “Who do you think I am? General Motors?”

6. The Adventures of Robin Hood, d. Michael Curtiz and William Keighley (SIFF)
The great storybook version.

Which I first saw in a theater– way back when the Neptune Theater was a movie-palace-atmospheric repertory house – on a double bill with the great revisionist version, Richard Lester’s Robin and Marian.

On an all-Robin Hood program which was booked at the time of, and included the trailer from, the Kevin Costner version.

Plus Bugs Bunny in Rabbit Hood.

But do you know what any future version of Robin Hood which includes the legend of the archery contest, needs?:

It needs – after Robin splits his opponent’s perfect-bull’s-eye arrow in two and thereby wins the contest – a Monty-Python-epic Cockney-accented peasant to jump out of the crowd.

And exclaim “Wai’ a minute! Both shots were equally true. Robin just ‘appened to shoot last.”

And then have the crowd beat the snot out of him.

7. The Hidden Fortress, d. Kurosawa (Grand Illusion Cinema)

8. Sunset Boulevard, d. Billy Wilder (SIFF)

9. Ace in the Hole, d. Wilder (SIFF Theater)

10. Sullivan’s Travels, d. Preston Sturges (SIFF Theater)

In addition to the films themselves, several of these screenings were richly enhanced by presenters’ commentaries and/or question-and-answer periods.

For 2010 and beyond, ATTENTION PROGRAMMERS!!:

What follows is an incomplete off-the-top-of-my-head wish list of films that I would like to see in a theater at least once before I die:

The Quiet Man, d. John Ford

The Last Hurrah, d. John Ford

Ran, d. Kurosawa

The Bridge on the River Kwai, d. Lean

Finally – with stereoscopic three-dimensional imagery in all media as my own specialty and obsession – I’m hoping that the current success of theatrical 3-D movies, and the coming of mass-market 3-D television, will lead to Robert-Harris-type theatrical 3-D restorations of film such as Alfred Hitchcock’s Dial M for Murder and the Kirk Douglas version of Homer’s Ulysses.

Happy 2010 filmgoing!