Thursday, March 5, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Black & White Movies (made since 1970)


Well, it's Thursday, so it's time for another Thursday Movie Picks post.  It's also the start of another month, so let's recap the the previous posts before moving forward:

February:

January:

And now we move into March.

And today's theme is:



I love this theme!  I love black and white films.  My wife hates them, so I often watch these alone, but I've spent many, many hours transfixed by the beauty of black and white cinema.  I hate how some have balked at recent black and white films, accusing them of trying to cash in on a gimmick, because when used correctly, black and white films are just stunning.  So, here are my picks for three of the best black and white films released since 1970.

Eraserhead
Eraserhead opened my cinematic eyes.  It was my first real 'auteur' film, the first film I'd seen that was, you know, artsy.  In fact, it was for this movie that I got Netflix.  Until this moment I was all about visiting Blockbuster and only really saw classic films that were widely adored for some reason or another...but I heard of this film and knew I needed to see it.  It's one of the weirdest, most bizarre head-trips out there, but it's a fascinating film that is an unsettling look at man's struggle with responsibility.

Broadway Danny Rose
I couldn't NOT include a Woody Allen film on this list, mostly because he's used black and white cinematography many times in his films, and to such remarkable effect.  While many love Manhattan, it's not a favorite of mine; but Broadway Danny Rose is.  Not only that, but the use of the photography seems so essential to the storytelling, which is why this is so much fun to watch.  It also sports Mia Farrow's greatest performance ever, so unhinged, loose and absolutely captivating.

Blancanieves
While many will most likely think of The Artist, considering it just won the Oscar for Best Picture, I immediately thought of another black and white throwback to the silent films of yesteryear, the stunning Blancanieves. This reimagined take on Snow White is absolutely fascinating to watch, a stunning film both visually and emotionally.  More people should see this film!

36 comments:

  1. Blancanieves seems something I'd enjoy, I always liked re-imagined takes on fairy tales. Great picks!

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    1. You should really check it out. It was dismissed by many before even seeing it, because it came out right after The Artist, but to me it's the superior film.

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  2. Wow, I haven't seen any of these. Hadn't even heard of that last one, but it sounds fascinating. Great picks!

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    1. I hope you catch them all, since they are all wonderful films; all very different, yet wonderful films!

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  3. I've never heard of Blancanieves but it sounds... interesting. Retelling Snow White to make it about Bullfighting is a certainly a curious choice, but I guess she'd at least be a stronger character than the Disney version.

    Now Eraserhead, that is one messed up film. The first time I saw that might be the closest I've ever come to actually being traumatized by watching a movie (and I mean that I came pretty dangerously close), but I am a Lynch fan and I do hope to see it again at some point.

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    1. Blancanieves is a very interesting film! I hope you check it out.

      And yes, Eraserhead is one VERY messed up film, but it broadened my appreciation for what film really is all about, and so I love it deeply. It's probably my favorite Lynch, to be honest.

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  4. I haven't seen Eraserhead (I know it's a big gap but I'm not much of a Lynch fan) and hadn't heard of Blancanieves until now but it does sound pretty cool. I find silents easier to watch sometimes than foreign language films and I like the idea of the reworking of Snow White. I've queued it up already. I love The Artist but figured it would show up in several lists because of its recent win so looked elsewhere.

    I'm so glad you didn't pick Manhattan, ugh! it was like watching molasses run, along with Interiors it's one of my least favorite Allen films but Broadway Danny Rose is a cool pick. It's snappy and amusing with that underlying pathos Woody so good at putting into his better work. Mia is fun here but I think her best work is in Purple Rose of Cairo.

    Here's my three this week:

    Pleasantville (1998)-Twin brother and sister Toby Maguire and Reese Witherspoon are magically transported back to the idyllic land of the 50's dream town of Pleasantville by TV repairman Don Knotts where their more modern outlook wrecks havoc on the status quo. Bookended by color sequences this parable about prejudice and fear of the unknown is a highly entertaining mixture of humor and drama with a cast full of award worthy performances.

    Hester Street (1975)-Joan Micklin Silver directed this drama set in New York City just before the turn of the century. The story follows the culture clash between Russian Jew Yankel, now Jake, who has assimilated to his new country over a three year period and his wife Gitl and son Yossele who have just arrived and cling to the old ways much to his consternation and distress. Carol Kane as Gitl was nominated for a Best Actress Oscar. Filmed in both Yiddish and English.

    Lenny (1974)-Bob Fosse's harrowing trip down the rabbit hole that was Lenny Bruce's life with Dustin Hoffman absolutely brilliant in the lead. Downbeat film is difficult to watch at times as we see Bruce's blistering talent crushed, sometimes by his own actions and poor judgement and finally by the government. Dusty is great, this really is one of his best performances, and is fortunate to have as his co-star the equally strong Valerie Perrine as his mess of a wife Honey. Had she competed in Supporting Actress which would have been the role's proper placement instead of lead she probably would have won the Oscar. Also excellent is actress Jan Miner, famous as Madge the manicurist in the Palmolive commercials for over 25 years, as Bruce's mother. She was a surprising casting choice at the time because of her typecasting but Fosse made the right choice in casting her. The black and white cinematography compliments the story and adds an edge to the film that would have been missing in color.

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    1. I love all three of your picks. Carol Kane is devastating in Hester Street...bravo performance! Lenny is a great film, and one of Hoffman's best roles and performances, and Perrine is just tragically wonderful in it as well. Pleasantville is one of those films I didn't like when I first saw it, but like The Truman Show, it's grown on me so much since then, to the point where I love it!

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    2. Carol Kane in Hester Street SLAYS me. UGH SO SAD!

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    3. It's a shame that so many dismiss her that year, considering that she's not really a known name, and when people think of her they think of throw away comedic roles in crappy movies, but she was just so incredibly heartbreaking in Hester Street. Such an inspired Oscar nom, as well.

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    4. Hester Street was the first film that came to mind when I saw the theme. It's so unique and under known I hoped to raise awareness of it even if only a bit by including it. I don't love it, more respect it's intentions and find it's story interesting but Jake was such a tool I had a difficult time engaging with his character. That said Carol Kane rocked her part, I'd go as far as saying she makes the movie.

      I love her in comedy, she has an innate gift for it and matched with her slightly off kilter looks it's a good fit for her but success in that area has come at the cost of her dramatic career. That and the fact that she was a bit too singular to be able fit into the conventional leading lady roles. At least she has had a solid career in character roles.

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    5. Yeah, it's a shame that Hollywood or any other cinematic medium couldn't find a place for her outside of throwaway roles, especially as of late (it's embarrassing considering her talent). At least she was used...but still.

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  5. Eraserhead! I haven't seen the other two, but Blancanieves sound really interesting. I might have to check that out.

    I'm guilty of making fun of some films for using the gimmick..like Frances Ha. That was a cute movie, but the black and white served no purpose.

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    1. I can see how Frances Ha feels gimmicky, since the whole film feels rather gimmicky in many areas, but it's gimmick that, for me, worked really well. It just shimmers with emotion and spontaneity.

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  6. Great picks. I love how you went out of your way to introduce us to some less obvious ones. I'm definitely interested in checking out that last one.

    And I'm fully surprised we managed without Allen on our site today because you're right - he comes right to mind!

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    1. Thanks! It's been my goal with these to try and pick obscure films or lesser known or forgotten films to try and add some diversity to the more obvious picks. I hope you do check them out!

      Allen loves to work with this 'gimmick', so he came rushing to mind as soon as I heard the theme. I can't wait to check out your picks!

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  7. I found it really difficult to get through Eraserhead. I still haven't actually watched it all the way through lol.

    Broadway Danny Rose is on my list of films to watch. I like the premise. I agree that Manhattan as a whole isn't quite as superior as its reputation would have you believe, but the B&W cinematography is just stunning. THE famous shot of the bridge made me actually stand up from my couch and say "OH, COME ON!" it was so gorgeous.

    Blancanieves has been in my Netflix queue ever since it came out. It looks so good, and I LOVE Maribel Verdu.

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    1. Also: I do not understand why people are so automatically against black & white films. They miss out on so many good ones. Films don't have to be in color to be good, or even enjoyable.

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    2. I love so many Black and White films...SO MANY, but it's true that many dismiss them before even attempting to watch them. Oh well, more for me!

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    3. I can certainly understand Eraserhead being hard to watch...it's a very divisive film and one that is not easily relatable unless you really get into it's head so-to-speak.

      As far as Verdu is concerned...I don't always relate to her, but she is PERFECTLY cast in Blancanieves.

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  8. I almost picked Blancanieves, but I decided to use it for the week of adapted fairy tales, ahha. Something tells me it might be a popular pick. Such a great film.

    I also picked Eraserhead. It's one of my favorites. Never fails to inspire me.

    Great picks!

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    1. Blancanieves may not be as popular as you think, considering that almost everyone has said they haven't seen or heard of it yet. But maybe they'll seek it out before that Thursday.

      YAY, another Eraserhead fan!

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  9. Yeah I just realised recently that many of Woody Allen films are in black and white, mostly because I haven't watch most of his older ones. I did watch Manhattan and like you didn't like it.

    Wandering through the Shelves

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    1. Some of his older films are great, though, so I hope you check them out. I particularly LOVE his 80's output.

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  10. I have yet to see Eraserhead and always feel like i have to get into the right headspace to see this film. I enjoyed Broadway Danny Rose as well but sicne some sort of angst is in Woody Allen films i always have to get into the mood to see them. I have not heard about the last one but that is a stunning shot you used. I now have a book of films to see and I shall add that one if i can find it. I don't have netflix or anything like that. I don't want to watch a film on the laptop and have no idea how to hook that up to the TV:) I would pick The Artist because i so enjoyed that film. It was a great homage to the stars of yesteryear and brought a smile to my face. I go to Schindler's List and recall seeing that film at the cinema and afterwards, nobody was talking. They were in shock and despite it being Spielberg I felt the performances were excellent and Ben Kingsley should have been nominated and should have won. My last is the brilliant Young Frankenstein. I love it that Brooks used the original sets for the lab. Marty Feldman was brilliant as was Cloris Leachman and Kenneth Mars. Now I must put the candle back and go roll, roll, roll in the hay:)

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    1. Your three picks are great!

      Yes, Eraserhead demands the right headspace, but it's well worth seeing if you can.

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  11. Great list -- I haven't actually seen any of these movies yet. I am very intrigued by Blancanieves.

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    1. Blancanieves is great, and I'm so happy that my post this morning seems to have developed interest in the film for so many of you guys!

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  12. Ok. I've tried to watch Eraserhead. I hated it. Turned it off after not very long at all. David Lynch doesn't work for me. Blue Velvet is the only one of his I've seen (the other being Mulholland Drive) that I could really say I enjoyed, though I haven't seen it since the first time (easily ten years ago).

    I've used Woody several times, so I backed away from him on this one. I could've easily put Manhattan or Broadway Danny Rose on my list this week. Both great movies!

    I haven't seen your other pick. Seems interesting!

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    1. I am FAR from a Lynch fanboy, so I get your reservations. Eraserhead is so uniquely deep as a cinematic experience and an emotional one that I absolutely love it, but I can see why anyone would hate it, because it's just...really weird.

      I think that Lynch just regurgitates his own ideas too often to be really anything lauded, to be honest. Eraserhead, for me, is a masterpiece. Mulholland Drive is very good, and The Elephant Man is kind of genius.

      That's it.

      INLANDEMPIRE is messy and basically the same thing as Mulholland Drive, just ugly. Lost Highway is a bore or a film with no real meat and fails to be anything more than a nice ensemble piece (Arquette's best performance, ever). Even Blue Velvet is just, not all there as a whole experience. I love some of the cast, but it's just weird for weird's sake and doesn't fully drive it all home.

      Oh, but he did direct The Straight Story, which is beautiful. See, he's a weird case because when he's on it, he's so good and yet...he very often incompletes his own thoughts.

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  13. Oooh I've been wanting to see Blancanieves!! I love Snow White so I'm intrigued to see an unconventional adaptation of that.

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    1. It works so well. I can't wait to hear your thoughts!

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  14. Eraserhead.... oh hell yeah! Blancanieves is a film that I've been hearing about for years. I need to see it.

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    1. Yes you do, and YAY more Eraserhead love!

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  15. Love these! Blancanieves definitely deserved more love.

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    1. I was really bummed when Oscar overlooked those costumes.

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