I keep painting with the light from different times of days and seasons in mind. It always ends up trees. ”Summer’s End” is twilight on one of those hot, balmy August days. ”Last Freeze” is one of those “surprise, it snowed” mornings in the beginning of spring when a few plants have already started to bloom.
I asked Kara to pick American or British. She picked British, so were talking about British film director, Ken Russell. As far as Brits go, it’s not that I think think Ken Russell is a better film director than Stanley Kubrick, just that he had more films that I wanted to recommend. Both are great and of my favorite directors. Ken Russell is a mind trip. His films are dirty, religious and dirty filled with insane, freakish and sometimes beautiful bizarre imagery. When I say dirty, I mean naughty. Yeah, like sex, naughty. That said, let’s get to the Ken Russell films I’d recommend seeing (in chronological order).
Lisztomania (1975) – Roger Daltrey in a musical, farce-biopic about the Romantic-era composer, Franz Liszt.
Tommy (1975) – The Who in a rock opera. Quirky story with quite the cast: The Who plus Eric Clapton, Elton John, Tina Turner, Jack Nicholson and more.
Altered States (1980) – William Hurt does some serious prehistoric research with some serious hallucinogens. A classic.
Crimes of Passion (1984) – Anthony Perkins and Kathleen Turner mix religion and the oldest profession into one crazy film. Make sure to watch the unrated version to get all of the imagery in (so to speak). One of my favorites of Russell’s, though not one I would watch again and again.
Gothic (1986) – is another favorite of mine. Great cast with Gabriel Byrne as Lord Byron, Julian Sands as Percy Shelley and Natasha Richardson as Mary Shelley in a story about the night Mary Shelley came up with story of “Frankenstein”.
The Lair of the White Worm (1988) – Hugh Grant in one very campy horror film. Looks like a classic Eighties Ken Russell movie.
Salome’s Last Dance (1988) – For me, Russell really hit his stride in the late Eighties. This is another one of my favorites by Russell that I could watch over and over. It’s about Oscar Wilde attending a production of his play, “Salome”. Albeit a trumped up Ken Russell version. What is so great about this film is the stunning visuals and the witty dialog.
There are a lot of other Ken Russell films that probably have more critical acclaim. These are the ones that really struck me. What usually stood out for me with Ken Russell was the intense and extreme imagery. I think you can really see how he grows in watching the movies above.
These lists are not complete. I know I have forgotten some. Wavered on others. The Last Emperor (1987) comes to mind. Great film, great soundtrack. Do I consider it essential? No. Is it a cultural reference point for me? No. Thus it didn’t make any lists. I’ll try to explain why each film did. Incidentally, none of the directors of the films listed here are getting their own lists. And there are some great ones (Wilder, Capra, Fellini, Kubrick, Lynch, Tarantino). Thus there may be mention of related or other noteworthy films in discussing the films listed.
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) is the only silent film in the bunch. Beautiful high-contrast cinematography. Classic German expressionist picture. For any student of film and art, this is a must see.
Citizen Kane (1941) is on every ding dang best film list for a reason. It’s great. Sweeping, fictionalized biopic does one of the most fantastic jobs at story telling ever. It is a marathon and an engaging one at that. Again cinematography makes the movie and helps tell the story.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – is sappy, trite and wonderful. It is probably the only holiday movie I will list. I could have named other James Stewart movies. Harvey (1950) and Mr. Smith Goes to Washington (1939) come to mind. But this one is like home to me and co-stars Donna Reed.
Sunset Blvd. (1950) – is a great tale of Hollywood, sadness, sorrow, greatness, etc. I could have also listed Giant (1956) or Gone with the Wind (1939) here. This is the movie I’ll watch again and again though. Note to self, compare to Dead Again (1991)…
North by Northwest (1959) – is the film you watch if you are only going to watch one Alfred Hitchcock movie. Great scenes, great action flick. Man that Cary Grant can act.
La Dolce Vita (1960) – is the one essential film by Federico Fellini. It has it all: Marcello Mastroianni, a circus, girls, etc. The sweet life indeed.
Charade (1963) – has Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, style and Paris starring in a comedic, mystery. What more could you ask for? I could have named Breakfast at Tiffany’s (1961) to include Audrey Hepburn, but I have already named one film too many that is on every other film list.
What’s New Pussycat? (1965) – Peter O’Toole and Peter Sellers were going to get in my list someway, somehow. How better than in a British, swinging 60’s comedy?
A Clockwork Orange (1971) – Stanley Kubrick is big player with me. This film is edgy, sometimes hard to watch. The sets display an amazing look at bygone modernism. The soundtrack pushes the sinister and creepy only further. Honorable mention here for 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968). In the end A Clockwork Orange just has more. More color, more sound and of course, “ultra-violence”.
The Last Picture Show (1971) – is a sad, beautiful drama. Maybe it’s a Texas thing but I will take this film over the aforementioned Gone with the Wind any day. Young Jeff Bridges and Cybill Shepard look and act amazing in Peter Bogdanovich’s black and white masterpiece. Skip the sequel.
The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie (1972) – French surrealism by Luis Bunuel. I don’t know enough about Bunuel. I have a feeling there is a lot more with his work…
What’s Up Doc? (1972) – This is personal nostalgia for me. I saw this on TV for the first time when I was five. I have watched it pretty much annually ever since. I still love it, love the slapstick. Once again, it’s Peter Bogdanovich but completely different than The Last Picture Show. With Babs, Ryan O’Neal, Randy Quaid, Madeleine Kahn’s film debut, San Francisco and the best car chase ever, how can you go wrong? Yes, I put this car chase above those in Bullitt (1968) and Vanishing Point (1971).
Holy Mountain (1973) – Holy Mountain? Holy shit! What a head trip. This movie blew my mind when I saw it. One review I read said something like, every frame is a piece of art. I have to agree. Surreal, beautiful and disturbing. This movie was funded in part by some Beatles after seeing the “prequel”, El Topo (1970), which is even more disturbing. Films by Alejandro Jodorowsky are a different experience. He is worth reading about outside of the mentioned films. Also worth a look is Santa Sangre (1991).
The Warriors (1979) – is a cult classic. “Warriors, come out ‘n plaaayyy…” who can resist the late night DJ and her reports, the gang names and their costumes. This one is fun. I have written about The Warrirors before. Twice in fact. Watch for a young James Remar, you’ve seen him before.
The Shining (1980) – Kubrick and Nicholson doing justice to a great Stephen King novel. Best horror film, ever. Bonus? It’s got Scatman Crothers. This is a decent example of why I think Kubrick’s cinematography is superior. It is always the lighting. No ones movies are lit like Kubrick’s. Watch the lighting in this and any other Kubrick film. Tis a thing of beauty.
Diva (1981) – French and arty street mystery. This movie looks good, sounds good and has a one awesome scooter subway chase in it. Plus it’s called DIVA.
Liquid Sky (1982) – is the campiest movie on the list. Also another cult classic. New wave fashion plus catty models plus crazy German synth pop a la Otto von Wernherr, encounters aliens in NYC. Written this one up before. Search out some clips online. A lot of the good parts are out there.
The Hunger (1983) – is the only decent vampire movie out there. David Bowie and Catherine Deneuve being dignified and stylish, eternally. Nice Bauhaus cameo at the beginning.
Blue Velvet (1986) – floored me when I saw it. I almost got up and left a third of the way through it. Then I went back two more times the same week just to try and take it all in. Intriguing and disturbing. Even though I had seen some other work of David Lynch’s prior to this, I consider this my introduction into the whacked world of David Lynch. I like that Lynch uses medium to be fantastic and go beyond plausible reality and then some. Not everything has to be linear. Wild at Heart (1990) and Mullholland Drive (2001) are the other great Lynch films. Eraserhead (1977) and Elephant Man (1980) if you’re really into him. While talking Lynch, I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention the late, great Jack Nance. I think he was underrated. Watch for him as “Paul” in Blue Velvet.
Full Metal Jacket (1987) – Kubrick again? You bet your ass. One or two more and Stanley would have had a full on director post… There are a ton of war movies. A lot of really good ones. This is one of my favorites. Again it’s the lighting with Kubrick that gets me. the homicide/suicide scene in the beginning is so incredible and intense and it is all due to lighting. And some fine acting by Matthew Modine.
Slam Dance (1987) – LA mystery starring Tom Hulce and Virginia Madsen. Neither of them star in enough movies for me. Fine movie, good soundtrack. Have you seen The Moderns (1988) or Queen’s Logic (1991)? I could have given those movies this spot. Same, same but different. They all appeal to me the same way but Slam Dance came out first, so there you have it.
Wings of Desire (1987) – Where do I even begin? My favorite movie. Lovely story of an angel in love with a trapeze artist. Black and white, color, German, French, English… Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds make an appearance. Berlin. Life. Death. The human condition. The poetry of Marie Rainer Rilke. Wim Wenders put together an amazing thing with this movie. There is an US remake but we don’t talk about that. Wenders did make a sequel, but we don’t talk about that either. Instead watch Until the End of World (1991) also staring Solveig Dommartin (Wim’s late wife) and Notebook on Cities and Clothes (1987).
The Cook Thief His Wife and Her Lover (1989) – is violent and disturbing. It is the gorgeous sets and cinematography that keep this film watchable. Peter Greenway makes some odd films. I get lost or bored in most of them but this one stands out. Nice soundtrack too.
Paris is Burning (1990) – “House of Extravaganza”, “House of Labasia”, etc. Drag shows. Attitude. Fierce competition. NYC documentary. Malcolm McLaren wrote a song about it (“Deep in Vogue”).
Pulp Fiction (1994) – Tarantino put together an amazing cast, soundtrack and collection of story arcs. How could I keep it off the list? If you like cruising through the odd slices of life in 1990s LA, Short Cuts (1993) and The Player (1992) are worth a look.
The Adventures of Priscilla Queen of the Desert (1994) – Drag in the outback. Great road trip movie. Funny as can be and a handbook for Burn event costuming.
American Beauty (1999) – Kind of like Blue Velvet but a different look at what lies underneath it all in middle USA. Kevin Spacey and Annette Bening are both brilliant in this.
City of God (2002) – Based on a true story of rough life in a planned neighborhood in Brazil. While the story is amazing, how this film is shot is outstanding. Great editing, great narration. Makes a tough story watchable again and again.
Black Swan (2010) – has great everything. It is a horror film disguised as a mystery. Really beautiful film by Darren Aronofsky.
So there you have it. Sort of. Some of the best will be in the next six posts.
I just finished my first two paintings of 2011. More trees. Considering the paintings I have in process, trees will likely be a reoccurring theme this year.
These two paintings were drawn together on separate scrap panels and started as an experiment. I then painted them separated and then together and kept repeating the cycle. I really enjoyed the process and liked the results.
One of the neater effects was painting the white and seeing it look like snow on one panel and then cherry blossoms in the next.
The final build of this stuff???
A self-contained, portable PA.
First it was in The Dreamroom in 2008. Then inside Ooh Ooh in 2009. Now I am hoping it’s final spot is in the Soundbox 2.5.
800w driven by a 12v deep cycle battery and a two farad capacitor.