Google+ Cinema Viewfinder: My 12 "Holy Grail" Films

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

My 12 "Holy Grail" Films

by Tony Dayoub

MovieMan0283 (I still don't know my friend's name) over at The Dancing Image has just tagged me for a Dozen Movie Meme of My Holy Grail Films, meaning 12 films I've never seen, and can't obtain on video in the U.S. He got the idea from Piper at Lazy Eye Theatre, and I guess Out 1 got MOVIEMAN0283 into the game. For more on the rules I had to follow, you can go here. I've chosen to tag:

Aaron Aradillas at The House Next Door and Movie Love
Dylan Fields at Blog Cabins
Glenn Kenny at Some Came Running
Jeremy Richey at Moon in the Gutter
Dan Seitz at thetathx1138's journal

As for the movies, since I haven't seen them, I'll follow my friend's example and use any IMDB commentaries or summaries to describe them. My list follows after the jump.

The African Queen (1951, dir. John Huston)

"...this film will always be the validation of Humphrey Bogart's long and distinguished career. His portrayal of the hard drinking Charlie was what made this film what it was. Also, he showed just how great an actor he was when he was able to match up against the woman who is generally considered to be the greatest actress in film history, Katherine Hepburn."(Brian Washington)

Brewster McCloud (1970, dir. Robert Altman)

"Bud Cort plays Brewster McCloud. He's a very strange young man who lives in the Houston Astrodome and is building a huge set of wings so he can fly. The movie is about him and his VERY odd assortment of friends and family. And how about the killer running around Houston strangling people and leaving bird droppings on them? As you can see this is a very strange film. It's unlike anything director Robert Altman has ever done. The film isn't perfect--it's too long, the weirdness wears you down at times, some of the humor is real sick and there are characters that are just disgusting (Stacy Keach) or too flat out weird, even for this movie (Jennifer Salt)! And what's with the circus ending (entertaining as it is)? Still I love this film."(Wayne Malin)

Cul-de-Sac (1966, dir. Roman Polanski)

"Desperate hoodlums overcome borderline insane proprietor of Northumberland castle and his loose wife in order to rescue their situation. One wonders how these things got sold to the money men! In fact there's a great deal to like in this cult picaresque film. Plenty is unexplained - starting with the wonderful opening idea, that the getaway car is a stolen driving instructor's vehicle. There's such a profusion of ideas, location-proffered opportunities and good acting that it seems difficult to criticise in retrospect."(Framescourer)

The Devils (1971, dir. Ken Russell)

"For some, it's a horrific and unwatchable display of savagery, while for others it's an intense yet rewarding ride into a city besieged with madness. It is Ken Russell's most tolerable film to sit through, because it is always interesting and contains many memorable scenes and images, but at the same time it is highly controversial and challenging, often making you want to turn away from the screen."(Jonathon Dabell)

Il Vangelo secondo Matteo a.k.a. The Gospel According to St. Matthew (1964, dir. Pier Paolo Pasolini)

" far the best depiction of the last days of Jesus' life. By taking the view that Jesus was a revolutionary rather than emphasising the religious aspects, the film succeeds in presenting a unique view of the life, and death, of Jesus and the reactions of His followers. There are no mystical halos descending from heaven, no 'angelic music' and none of the other cliches that Hollywood's attempts at presenting the story usually contain. Instead the humanity of those who lived the story comes through, and by doing this the film takes on emotional, even religious intensity totally lacking in other, larger budget depictions of Christ. Possibly the most moving part of all is the moment Peter realizes he has disowned Jesus three times. This isn't portrayed as some great epic Biblical act, the denial of the Messiah, but rather as the actions of a man, scared for himself, who, when he realizes that he has betrayed his friend runs away in shame sobbing uncontrollably."(dababog)

The Jericho Mile (1979, dir. Michael Mann)

"An interesting and involved film about a 'lifer' just trying to live out his days peacefully. Elements of the main character appear in Michael Mann's later films, like Thief (1981), Heat (1995), and so on."(awatters1)

L.A. Takedown (1989, dir. Michael Mann)

" is superior in many ways to the remake Heat. The movie rests solely on the performances of the actors and the writer/director rather than on any star attractions or hype (Pacino and De Niro have both made far better films and put in far better performances). There are a few good set pieces in here, and a myriad of fine acting performances from both the leads and the supporting cast. The fact that the remake was relatively faithful to the original is in itself a bit of a homage... where the two films really differ is in the action sequences that overtake the story in the remake. If you want to watch a more intelligent and somewhat darker crime thriller, then I recommend this before Heat every time."(roger-hepburn)

Pirates (1986, dir. Roman Polanski)

"Polanski's talents did not wane with his exile from the U.S. Basically what I'm trying to say here is Polanski's talent for genre redefinition is alive and well in this wonderfully comedic look at the action-adventure film. Not only this, but he also manages to re-evaluate and comment on the action hero as well as the genre as a whole. It is puzzling, as in most Polanski films, to ask yourself are the main characters heroes, and if so what kind? and if they are heroes, then to look at the way the film treats them... and with Polanski this is always a fresh, beautiful, and rewarding task." (PMGII)

The Pit and the Pendulum (1991, dir. Stuart Gordon)

"As mentioned, Lance Henriksen gives what is maybe his best performance in this film. He is both powerful and frightening in his role as Torquemada, the head witchfinder of the Spanish Inquisition. When he says 'I am the inquisition', it's enough to make your hairs stand on end. Henriksen is a criminally underrated actor and one that certainly deserves more's just unfortunate that he tends to shine in movies that don't get noticed." (The_Void)

Song of the South (1946, dirs. Harve Foster, Wilfred Jackson)

" it racist? Well, it has no overt depictions of racism and therein lies the problem: Song of the South presents life in the Southern states after the civil war as idyllic and harmonious, a place where white people live in their mansions, black people in their cabins, everybody knows their place and is happy in it. 'Yes sir, things are lookin' mighty satisfactual' says Uncle Remus and his Br'er Rabbit stories convey the same social conservatism: leaving your home (to a non-segregated North for instance) is pointless because 'You can't run away from trouble. There ain't no place that far.' This movie can't imagine a single reason why a black man living in the post-slavery South wouldn't be happy with the way things were." (bartman_9)

Vampire Circus (1972, dir. Robert William Young)

"An often overlooked gem from Hammer, Vampire Circus is one of Hammer's best and most original vampire films. Count Mitterhouse has been feeding on the children of a small village and they storm his castle and eventually kill him, but he lives long enough to tell them that their children's blood will bring him back to life. 15 years later, when the village is cut off from the outside world because of the plague a circus breaks through the roadblocks and comes to the village. At first the villagers welcome this entertaining attraction/distraction, but soon they realise that something is wrong, and their children are in danger again as the circus people go about their business of making the Count's prophecy come true." (Steamcarrot)

What? (1972, dir. Roman Polanski)

"What? is one of those few movies to play on the obvious notion that 99% of all pornography is just plain silly - hence unwatchable to any viewer with even an elementary sense of the ridiculous. Its 'parody porn' screenplay reads like an LSD-fueled collaboration between Escher, Borges and Lewis Carroll. Not only is it far and away Roman Polanski's funniest film. It is also, quite possibly, his most stylish." (david melville)


Anonymous said...

Yep, I want to see a good chunk of the movies on your list, too. Take a look at mine, I just put it up. :-)

Joel Bocko said...

Great list - lots I hadn't even heard of (including the two Mann's - for some reason I was under the impression that Thief was his debut - has he suppressed these films?)

Fletch said...

Will give this some thought. Might be tough to check the availability as I don't have Netflix...

Oh, and my name is spelled "Dylan," no Daryl. Thanks. :)

Tony Dayoub said...

Sorry Dylan, I corrected it. I hate when people do that to me so my deepest apologies.

Tony Dayoub said...


Those 2 Mann movies were TV movies. You never said we couldn't select those. :)

They are very good from what I hear. At least "The Jericho Mile" is. I believe that one gave him enough street cred to leave TV, where he started as a writer for shows like "Starsky & Hutch". "L.A. Takedown" has mixed reviews.

Anonymous said...

Nice list. I STILL haven't seen The African Queen. I really need to.

Anonymous said...

I got Il Vangelo secondo Matteo a.k.a. The Gospel According to St. Matthew at a christian bookstore for really cheap (i want to say under $10) a few years ago so maybe it is available but not through the usual channels.

Anonymous said...

Your list is good. it reminded me of some things I want to keep an eye out for but had forgotten about. Thanks.

Nostalgia Kinky said...

Thanks for the tag. I've been tagged twice actually so I need to get my act together and get my list posted! Great list by the way.

Anonymous said...

Cul de Sac is my favorite of all Polanski films, and echoes of it are in just about everything he's done afterward. Or perhaps he's stuck to the same themes and visual motifs his entire career. Wha? is practically unwatchable, though.

Anonymous said...

There are a few quality torrents on internet of Brewster McCloud... for me the holy grail are the spanish subtitles!!

greetings from chile.

Tony Dayoub said...


Como estas? Estan leendo esto en Chile? Que bueno. Una de mis mejores amigas es Chilena.