Wednesday, March 15, 2017

24 Hours of Movies: A to Z

by Patrick Bromley
A movie for every letter of the alphabet!

This might have been a mistake.

I love programming these hypothetical movie marathons. I like to see how the films interact with one another and how shifting the pacing can alter the overall experience, like making a great mix tape. So while I love the idea of choosing 26 consecutive movies in alphabetical order -- one for each corresponding letter -- I may have been overly ambitious. For starters, it's hard to choose just one movie out of the hundreds that start with a given letter. But that part was actually ok and came to me fairly quickly; it's a combination of trying to represent different genres, different time periods, different rhythms and different movies that I feel like watching. The trouble came when it was time to write up 26 different titles. That's when this article changed from a fun little idea to a massive undertaking.

Much as I love movie marathons, I could never actually make it through 26 in a row. This is just for fun. Hope you enjoy it.

10 a.m. - The Apartment (1960, dir. Billy Wilder)
I generally like to start these marathons somewhat low-key so that we someplace to go. That's even more important for a 26-movie marathon like this one is going to be. One of Billy Wilder's best movies (it's the one that won the Oscars, but I won't automatically call it his best when he also made Some Like It Hot and Ace in the Hole and Double Indemnity and Sunset Boulevard) is the best kind of romantic comedy: one that's also full of sadness and real disappointment at how life shakes out. Wilder is famous for finding a way to combine, in his words, the sweet with the sour. None of his films do that better than The Apartment.

12:15 p.m. - Brain Candy (1996, dir. Kelly Makin)
There are so many directions I could go now, and while my immediate instinct is to reach for something super familiar and comfortable like Better Off Dead, I think I would rather go even weirder. I was mixed on this, the only big-screen Kids in the Hall movie ever made, when I saw it on opening night. Time has been kind to it. The movie is still a lot of ideas barely stitched together (and apparently underwent some extensive edits, which might explain why Janeane Garofalo basically appears as just an extra), but there's some major comedy gold in there -- not to mention satire of the pharmaceutical industry that feels years ahead of its time but probably isn't, which is depressing. Having only seen Brain Candy a few times means I won't be reciting in my brain as it unfolds, which is nice.

1:45 p.m. - Catch-22 (1970, dir. Mike Nichols)
My favorite war movies are the ones that turn the very idea of war into absurdity (movies like Three Kings and The Thin Red Line). Mike Nichols' adaptation of Joseph Heller's Catch-22 does just that in a brilliant, subversive, non-linear way with an incredible cast of actors. Too bad it was completely overshadowed by M*A*S*H, which came out around the same time and grabbed all the attention (it's also a movie I like a lot, so I'm not blaming M*A*S*H). This marathon is all about changing gears so as never to feel repetitive, but I also don't want to shift so hard that it ruins the experience of any one movie. Catch-22 is a good follow-up to Brain Candy while still having its own distinct personality. Also, if you've never listened to the DVD commentary on this movie with Nichols and Steven Soderbergh, you are missing out.

4 p.m. - Django (1966, dir. Sergio Corbucci)
Having already covered a handful of genres, let's slip into the western for 90 minutes. Not just any western, though. This is Sergio Corbucci's Django, one of my favorite westerns of all time and a classic revenge film starring Franco Nero at his best. Both Tarantino and Robert Rodriguez have borrowed a LOT from this movie (Tarantino even lifted the title and theme song for Django Unchained), but for good reason. It's so good -- the spaghetti western other spaghetti westerns not directed by Sergio Leone aspire to be.

5:45 p.m. - The Edge of Seventeen (2016, dir. Kelly Fremon Craig)
The debut feature from writer/director Kelly Fremon Craig came very close to making my Top 10 for last year; instead, I had to settle for putting it on my "underrated" list. This is a movie I think people are going to be discovering for the next few years: it's funny and smart and honest about what it feels like to be young and, more specifically, young and female. Hailee Steinfeld's performance is an all-timer. I like the idea of showing something really recent and hopefully introducing any guests who haven't seen the movie to a soon-to-be classic in the midst of all these great older films.

7:45 p.m. - From Russia With Love (1963, dir. Terence Young)
Part of programming a massive marathon like this is trying to jump around between genres and time periods, but also programming stuff that I feel like watching. I have a pretty good sense for knowing what I'll feel like sitting through once a movie ends, and while The Edge of Seventeen and From Russia With Love (probably my current favorite Bond movie) have very little in common with one another, I know myself enough to know that I'll be ready to have the buttons pushed that Bond is going to push as soon as the credits for a thoughtful teen comedy drama begin to roll. There's a certain hipness to some of these early Bonds -- in form more than in content, which is hopelessly square and outdated -- that will carry over nicely from Edge of Seventeen, too (and certainly into the next movie). This is the right movie for the job not just because it starts with the right letter, but also because it's a low-stakes Bond. Big explosions and saving the world-type shit wouldn't fit, but Bond slugging it out with Robert Shaw on a train is perfect.

9:45 p.m - Gun Crazy (1950, dir. Joseph H. Lewis)
This is such a cool movie. It's fascinating to me that Bonnie & Clyde is cited as being such a watershed movie in forever changing the landscape of American film, influenced as it was by the French New Wave -- primarily Godard's Breathless. It's fascinating because Breathless is basically Godard doing Gun Crazy ten years later. The movie (written by a blacklisted Dalton Trumbo under a pseudonym) stars Peggy Cummins and John Dall as young lovers who go on a crime spree. Sound familiar? Joseph H. Lewis' direction is so energetic and exciting that the movie feels years ahead of its time, though possibly because we (I) often unfairly generalize what we (I) expect from a movie made before 1960. Gun Crazy is going to give us an experience that no other film in the lineup is going to provide.

11:15 p.m. - Heavy Metal (1981, dir. Gerald Potterton)
We've made it this far into the marathon without any sci-fi! That's not right. And this one checks the animation box, too! I know that this movie isn't great and hasn't aged well (just doing the image search for the above photo reveals that the movie exists mostly to show cartoon boobs), but I will never not have some sort of affection for it. This was a movie that was very difficult to see when I was a kid, so I had to make due with my brother's bootleg VHS. When it finally got its official home video release, the studio put it back into a handful of theaters and I got to see it on what was then the biggest, loudest screen in Chicago. I know that my nostalgia is driving this pick, but I've got to get through 26 movies somehow.

12:45 a.m. - I, Madman (1989, dir. Tibor Tak√°cs)
I remember watching this one New Year's Eve back in 1989 or 1990 (that was my family's tradition -- rent three movies and watch them all night; naturally this was one of my favorite nights of the year) and being too young to appreciate it at all. I revisited it when Scream Factory released the Blu-ray and found an underrated gem. It's offbeat and eccentric in the best way, with one foot in the literary and one foot in the trash. Jenny Wright has never been more appealing and even Clayton Rohner manages to not come off as a total lunk.

2:15 a.m. - Jungle Holocaust (1977, dir. Ruggero Deodato)
I like to program some Italian horror in this slot and there aren't a ton of them that start with the letter J (which is not to say there are none, commenters who love to play Gotcha). I've never seen this cannibal "classic," making it the first movie in the marathon that's new to me. I don't love cannibal movies, but Ruggero Deodato did make what I think is the best one (?) and is a good enough director that I'm willing to give any of his work a chance.

4 a.m. - Kuroneko (1968, dir. Kaneto Shindo)
I only saw this Japanese horror film a few months ago, but it knocked my socks on my dick. Set in feudal Japan, it's the story of a mother and daughter who are raped and murdered by a band of traveling samurai and then return for revenge, maybe or maybe not inhabited by the ghosts of some demonic cats. RIGHT? The movie is haunting and beautiful and impossible to predict -- perfect for this slot when we're half awake and half asleep and can't handle any more insane Italian gore. Kuroneko is all about atmosphere and weirdness. It has both of those things to spare.

5:45 a.m. - Lucas (1986, dir. David Seltzer)
Let's soften the transition into the morning lineup with this sweet, gentle teenage drama about an awkward boy (Corey Haim, never better) falling in love with a beautiful girl (Kerri Green, love of my boyhood) who would rather be dating a handsome, popular, totally normal Chuck Sheen (the only time those words can be used in that order). Lucas got lost in the teen movie shuffle of the mid-'80s because it's not a comedy and it's not a drama in the self-righteous John Hughes mode. I wish it was a film that more people talked about, but I'm happy that it lives on in its own unique space. There are very few movies about young people that feel like Lucas.

7:30 a.m. - The Man Who Came to Dinner (1942, dir. William Keighley)
A marathon like this -- one that's not built around a specific common theme -- allows us to jump around from decade to decade, genre to genre. It's kind of nice to be able to move from '80s to the '40s and back again but not feel like we're getting whiplash. While I'm not positive The Man Who Came to Dinner is a bona fide comedy classic, it is an incredibly winning picture (based on the play of the same name) featuring a really funny turn from Monty Woolley as a pompous blowhard, a completely irresistible Ann Sheridan and Bette Davis doing a fairly rare romantic comedy turn. Yes, it feels like a stage play transplanted to the screen, but it's really charming and really entertaining.

9:30 a.m. - The Night Before (1988, dir. Thom Eberhardt)
Here's a movie that's charming and entertaining in a totally different way. Writer/director Thom Eberhardt built a career in the 1980s by subverting the conventions of the genres in which he was working. With The Night Before -- one of the darkest and most subversive teen comedies made this side of Heathers -- Eberhardt made a movie about a nerd (Keanu Reeves) who takes a popular girl (Lori Loughlin) to the prom only to black out and lose her to a pimp. It's a movie about a high school prom that doesn't show the prom (like Reservoir Dogs and the bank robbery!) and sends a sweet dork on an underworld odyssey the likes of which we don't normally see in teen comedies. As a lifelong Keanu Reeves fan, I also really like this early performance from him. The excited way he says "It's a little owl!" will never not make me laugh.

11 a.m. - Once Upon a Time in America (1984, dir. Sergio Leone)
It's probably a mistake to include a four-hour epic when trying to program 25 other movies into a single marathon, but it's impossible for me to not put this here because it's one of the best American films of the 1980s and can singlehandedly stand in for the entirety of the gangster and crime genres in this lineup. Sergio Leone has no shortage of great movies, but this one can stand right alongside the likes of Once Upon a Time in the West and The Good, The Bad and The Ugly as one of the greats. I know it's long, but it has such a different energy and is so willing to luxuriate in its epic running time (just think about the opening scene in which a phone rings what feels like 50 times) that I'm not even put off by how long it is, even in the context of this lineup.

3 p.m. - Punisher: War Zone (2007, dir. Lexi Alexander)
Building on the brief moments of violence in Once Upon a Time in America, let's move on to one of the most fucking bonkers violent movies of the last 10 to 15 years. Lexi Alexander's heavily stylized take on the Garth Ennis Punisher run doesn't always work as a story and has performances that are all over the place, but it's a comic book movie that so extreme in its visuals and its bloodshed that it stands apart from every other in its genre -- even more recent R-rated efforts like Deadpool and Logan, which get a lot of credit for doing things that War Zone did a decade ago.

5 p.m. - Quick Change (1990, dir. Bill Murray & Howard Franklin)
Our choices for the letter 'Q' are more limited than most letters. It's too early for Q: The Winged Serpent and Quigley Down Under is the wrong fit between Punisher and our next movie (and before you start commenting "You could have programmed _____!" just remember this is my marathon). I like the idea of going with Quick Change, a great poison love letter to New York, the only movie ever (co) directed by Bill Murray and one of the most underrated comedies of the 1990s. It's a movie at once slight and existential, filled with great, quotable dialogue and colorful performances. It's also truly, truly funny.

6:30 p.m. - Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981, dir. Steven Spielberg)
I try to slot mainstream, populist films into the prime time spot, and there aren't too many movies more crowd-pleasing than Raiders. It's interesting that for a movie as steeped in history as this one -- it exists to pay tribute to adventure serials of the past -- Raiders is the cultural touchstone, not the films it's referencing. The movie feels more relevant than ever, probably because I can think of some modern-day Nazi's trying to steal something that doesn't belong to them and whose faces I wish would melt.

8:30 p.m. - Savage Streets (1984, dir. Danny Steinmann)
I normally wouldn't go dark and sleazy this early in the evening, but I also want to indulge the part of my movie love that responds to exploitation junk like this -- a rape revenge tale that's really nasty courtesy of Friday the 13th: A New Beginning director Danny Steinmann. Linda Blair and her friends seek justice when a group of horrible assholes rape her deaf-mute teenage sister (Linnea Quigley). Things escalate quickly. This is a movie I feel terrible about enjoying, but it's so entertaining and so committed to its ugliness that it wins me over. This is probably going to clear out anyone who came over for Raiders.

10:15 p.m. - Tales of Terror (1963, dir. Roger Corman)
Trying to out-crazy Savage Streets going into the late hours of Day Two would be a huge mistake because by 3 a.m. I would have to be watching video of my own murder. Instead, let's dial it back a little for some quieter, more classical horror with this anthology from Roger Corman's Poe cycle. I love all the entries in this subgenre, but I love Tales of Terror more than most. It's not his best (that would probably be Masque of the Red Death) but it's one of the most fun, aided in no small measure by a middle segment that's more comedy than horror in which Vincent Price and Peter Lorre square off in a wine tasting competition. The success of this story is what led Corman to believe he could cast the actors again in an adaptation of Poe's "The Raven" and do the whole thing as a comedy. This one will fly by, and it's late enough in this insane marathon that we need some movies to do that.

11:45 p.m. - Under the Skin (2014, dir. Jonathan Glazer)
The more time passes, the more movies I see, the more I'm pretty sure Under the Skin is one of the best movies of the decade. I'm sure it's a mistake to program it this late at night after already watching 20 movies, but maybe that will only help the film's non-narrative approach, one that's more dependent on sound and picture than on character and plot. It will be interesting to see what tricks our brains play on us when we're this sleep-deprived and watching something that's weird and hypnotic and challenging even on a solid eight hours of rest.

1:45 a.m. - Visitor Q (2001, dir. Takashi Miike)
In lieu of some crazy Italian gore, let's go for some Japanese insanity courtesy of Takashi Miike, a filmmaker who does insanity better than most. It's been a long enough time since I saw Visitor Q that it might as well be new to me, which will make it especially fun in the middle of the night. Miike is a fucking lunatic.

3:15 a.m. - Wishmaster (1997, dir. Robert Kurtzman)
I would be letting Adam Riske down if I programmed any other "W" horror movie.

5 a.m. - Xtro (1983, dir. Harry Bromley Davenport)
I would be letting Dennis Atherton down if I programmed any other "X" movie, horror or otherwise.

6:30 a.m. - Yellow Submarine (1968, dir. George Dunning)
This is only the second movie in the entire lineup that I've never seen. I feel bad about that. I like scheduling it in the morning because a) it will serve as the soothing balm for the psychic wounds inflicted upon us by Xtro and b) if we start this on the right day, Yellow Submarine can screen on a Saturday or Sunday morning and bring back fond memories of weekend cartoons growing up. Plus it's a musical, which is going to help us rally across the finish line.

8 a.m. - Zoo (Robinson Devor)
I would love to end the marathon with David Fincher's Zodiac because it's probably the best "Z" movie ever made. I also thought about Zero Effect, a fantastic Bill Pullman comedy noir from 1997, as well as Zombieland because it would go down easy even though I don't really love it. Instead I'm going with the 2007 documentary Zoo, the true story of a man who died after letting a horse fuck him in the ass. I've never seen it. But after 25 films and close to 60 consecutive hours of watching movies, why the fuck not? Let's roll the dice.

26 comments:

  1. Great list! I agree that Heavy Metal has not aged well, but I still find "Den" to be a hilarious (and even affectionate) satire of adolescent mentality, with a dead-on performance by John Candy.

    From Russia With Love is just the best. The Bond filmmakers have been trying to recapture this perfect blend of humor, action, sex appeal, and spycraft ever since.

    Django is another great film, with a terrific score. I thank Hollywood Heath for putting me onto this gem.

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  2. I didn't know that you were starving till 5:45pm

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  3. This list is the equivalent to when a friend would make you a mixtape back in the days. Love it. No "Zardoz" tho? :P

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    1. I was fully expecting Zardoz, too, but only because that was the first "Z" title to leap to mind. I guess Patrick felt that one appearance by Connery was enough. How else to explain omitting The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen?

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    2. or simply 'Z' by costa-gavras. i wish it would come out on blu-ray

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    3. Fucking 'Zoo' was the last thing I was expecting by the time I got to it, wow. I saw Zoo because it was made by the director of my favorite movie, 'The Woman Chaser'. It's tone is nearly the opposite of what you'd expect based on the subject matter, totally about atmosphere, and it's an amazing, ambiguous way to end a marathon like this (whether or not it's any good is a different subject.) I think it's closest equivalent from the other movies on this list is Under the Skin.

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  4. You rock!

    I was getting sweaty palms as I was getting closer to X, but you came through with flying colours, its also programmed in the middle of the night where it may or may not be a dream, which is perfect for its dream logic, you might of seen a midget dwarf with a flashing YoYo with blades onnit but at this time of night its a bit fuzzy....

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  5. Of all the Bs in the world, you chose Kids in the Hall: Brain Candy. It is my Xtro. It is my favorite comedy and my second favorite movie of all-time. My best friend and I would watch it over and over again until his laser disc player broke. He committed suicide about 10 years ago. It will always hold a special place in my heart. Thank you.

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  6. Great list. Raiders and Quick change are two of the movies I saw the most before I was 11 or so and got some autonomy at the video store because they were two of the four movies my Dad owned along with the Gregory Hines/Billy Crystal/Peter Hyams joint Running Scared and Black Orpheus. He had an interesting collection.

    Just saw Visitor W recently on Shudder. It's like Miike is slapping all reality TV shows and found footage movies in the face. I'm not sure if he's a genius or seriously deranged. Still can't get down with the omnipresent sexual violence in a lot of Japanese cinema.

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    1. Visitor Q. Not W.

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    2. Also didn't see it on Shudder,I forgot a friend had a VCD if it. I saw The Happiness Of The Katakuris on Shudder, which is also worth seeing.

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    3. Man, if you thought Visitor Q was bonkers, wait until you get to W. The mom's butthole gets turned into a functioning soft-serve machine.

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    4. And I meant Visitor W, not the classic W (aka W is War)

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    5. Soft serve is better then dry serve. Too damn dusty.

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  7. I also didn't work as hard on my list as Patrick did his; there's nothing from the '30s or '40s, no Westerns, etc. Patrick, I remain in awe of your breadth and scope of movie knowledge! I'd never even heard of The Night Before. Check out Jungle Holocaust, it's the first Cannibal movie I can remember watching, and I do think it's kind of the movie that jump-started the genre (though it wasn't the first.)

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    1. This was an amazing article and line-up. I have no right, I am ashamed, but fuck it, I had to rip off the idea and come up with my own line-up too. I don't have my own website, and yesterday's time travelling game wasn't really my bag; what else can I do?

      10 a.m. - The Adventures of the American Rabbit (1986)
      11:30 a.m. - Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (1970)
      1:15 p.m. - Condorman (1981)
      2:45 p.m. - Dementia (1955)
      4:00 p.m. - Emmanuelle in America (1977)

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    2. And still fucked it up; here's the trailer for Condorman: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KXA-PtsKmFg

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  8. Blogger is convinced my comment is spam, so no more links, sorry; if anybody cares enough to want to see trailers, urls are next to the titles.

    5:45 p.m. - Firestarter (1984) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kjF674gZQps
    7:45 p.m. - Gentlemen Broncos (2009) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qdpFpfIBkXc
    9:15 p.m. - Heaven (1987) https://vimeo.com/136132940
    10:45 p.m. - I Am a Hero (2015) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=gmzIQdmDZUY
    1:00 a.m. - The Jar (1984) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6giuPqa1dCc
    2:30 a.m. - Killing Zoe (1993) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jE9jSplVc7E
    4:15 a.m. - Little Boy Blue: Tiny Terrestrial (1991) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KxKVxK8pG8Q
    7:00 a.m. - Mezzo Forte (2000) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TQpTPw_Tgw0

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    1. 8:30 a.m. - New Wave Hookers (1985) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0HyiaCozTRE
      9:45 a.m. - Oh! Heavenly Dog (1980) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W29-B47dcVA
      11:30 a.m. - Persona (1966) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=amxvetvKfho
      1 p.m. - Quest for Camelot (1998) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UV5kS_B6Zws
      2:30 p.m. - The Rambler (2013) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LQpGbA4mHZE

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    2. 4:15 p.m. - Skyscraper (1997) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dcVa_5kHSu8
      6 p.m. - The Taste of Tea (2004) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KCMCu8c1Uho
      8:30 p.m. - The Unknown (1927) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0ZPxz_gwOvk
      9:45 p.m. - Village of the Giants (1965) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qFCll6bHUOQ
      11:15 p.m. - Wake in Fright (1971) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2ZEa97VRDU

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    3. 1:15 a.m. - Xie ying wu aka Bloody Parrot (1981) http://www.cutscenes.net/videos/7359/bloody-parrot-19812
      2:45 a.m. Young Einstein (1988) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=elM8LCDmtzo
      4:30 a.m. - Zombies: The Beginning (2007) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUL-TqYLx3s

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    4. Bloody Parrot, fuck
      http://www.cutscenes.net/videos/7359/bloody-parrot-19812/

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  9. The props given to Lucas and Under The Skin are heartwarming. Love this marathon.

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