Close Encounters of the Third Kind - 1977
Don't watch this film unless you like the idea of having the same five notes running through your head for the entire next day. These notes are of course how the aliens communicate with the human scientists and eventually the vocabulary between the two expands to other musical combinations. I even heard the theme from Jaws thrown in there at one point.
Captivating film as always with Spielberg. He always has had the ability to suspend the audience's disbelief as he tells his story, and this is a fairly early example of that craft. Of course, going back over the movie in my head, none of Richard Dreyfuss's relationships made sense to me. The wife packs up the kids and leaves him to build a six-foot geological formation in his living room out of mud. They never come back in the picture. Then there's a bit of a bonding thing between him and the mother of a boy who was kidnapped by the aliens. This bonding consists of defying the US military and escaping from a set of helicopters. And it of course leads to a "where the hell did that come from" kiss. Guess he's over his wife now. But that affair is short-lived as well. For reasons I won't reveal in case anyone wants to see the movie.
City Lights - 1931
I'll preface my comments here with a brief confession. Watching America's Funniest Home Videos is my secret guilty pleasure. I really love the physical comedy. For some reason, if I know the punchline to a joke, it's not funny the second time around, but a person getting hit in the groin is good for four or five replays. I laugh so hard at this show that I have to sometimes put my hand over my mouth for fear that roommates would discover my secret.
I mention this of course because City Lights is from the silent film era. (That's actually inaccurate because The Jazz Singer came out four years before it, but it's still told in "pantomime.") The physical comedy is fantastic. No one moves like Charlie Chaplin. He can make picking up a hat funny in twenty different ways. But there's also a tremendous pathos behind the film. It's remarkably a comedy that uses some of the "lower" forms of humor to tell a deeply compelling human story of a tramp who falls in love with a blind flower girl.
High Noon - 1952
Sort of a forerunner to 24, this movie happens in real time, or approximates it. As the movie opens, a marshal (Gary Cooper) is married his beautiful young wife (Grace Kelly - *swoon*) when a telegram arrives that a convicted murder with a score to settle has been pardoned. The killer's friends show up and announce that he'll be on the noon train. Cooper has just over an hour then to rally a posse of men to turn the men away and ask them to leave the city. The rest of the movie takes place in that hour leading up to noon. From the audience stand point, in that hour find out the necessary background to understand the stakes of the encounter and we watch as men continually refuse to stand behind Cooper, most encouraging him to run. The final shootout sequence is worthy of any Hollywood action movie.
Another interesting soundtrack note on this one - In the saloon scene, the piano player is playing "Buffalo Gal Won't You Come Out Tonight", the same song that appears prominently throughout another Republic Picture, It's A Wonderful Life. Though I couldn't find any mention of this note online, I am guessing that maybe the studio owned the rights to the song and didn't want to pay to use something else or have another song written. I don't think it's meant to be a quirk of the film for film geeks to get giddy over. Especially since It's A Wonderful Life was not a very big hit at first and certainly wouldn't have the cultural capital in 1952 as Jaws would when Close Encounters comes out. That is, if it was a joke, very few people would have gotten it.
A trip to the library today yielded four more films from the list and I've got Treasure of the Sierra Madre from Netflix. That means I have five more movies in hand to start on.