Movies Watched [September 2012]

In order of viewing:
1) There Will Be Blood [2007]*
There Will Be Blood [2007]

2) Batman [1989]*
Batman [1989]

3) Glengarry Glen Ross [1992]
Glengarry Glen Ross [1992]

4) Traffic [2000]*
Traffic [2000]

5) Before Sunset [2004]
Before Sunset [2004]

6) Notorious [1946]
Notorious [1946]

7) Magnolia [1999]
Magnolia [1999]

8) Hard Eight [1996]
Hard Eight [1996]

9) Life in a Day [2011]
Life in a Day [2011]

10) Carnival of Souls [1962]
Carnival of Souls [1962]

11) I Stand Alone [1998]
I Stand Alone [1998]

12) The Imposter [2012]
The Imposter [2012]

13) Sleepwalk With Me [2012]
Sleepwalk With Me [2012]

14) Team America: World Police [2004]
Team America: World Police [2004]

15) The Five-Year Engagement [2012]
The Five-Year Engagement [2012]

16) Chicago [2002]
Chicago [2002]

17) Miami Connection [1987]
Miami Connection [1987]

18) Bernie [2011]
Bernie [2011]

* denotes rewatch

Movie of the Month: There are a few strong contenders, including Glengarry Glen Ross, Before Sunset and Magnolia, all of which I loved, but I have to select Alfred Hitchcock’s espionage thriller, Notorious, as the best of the month. If rewatches were included, There Will Be Blood would likely be my choice. It was even better the second time around.

Dud of the Month: Miami Connection is technically the “worst” movie I saw last month, but it was so much fun that I cannot rightfully consider it a dud. Therefore, I’ll go with The Five-Year Engagement, an overlong mess of a romantic comedy that wasted its strong cast.

Yearly Total: 206

What’s your favorite from this group of movies? What’s the best film you saw last month?

Movie Project #39: Notorious [1946]

Due to the surprising success of my initial Movies Project, I decided to do a part two for 2012. This time around I put a greater emphasis on directors I am not familiar with, but I also tried to compile a mix of different genres and eras. This will be an ongoing project with the finish date being sometime this year.

Notorious [1946]

Notorious [1946]
Director: Alfred Hitchcock
Genre: Film Noir/Romance/Thriller
Starring: Cary Grant, Ingrid Bergman and Claude Rains
Runtime: 101 minutes

Seeing an Alfred Hitchcock film for the first time is always an exciting experience. Last year, I witnessed a handful with fresh eyes, including the fantastic Vertigo and Psycho (both for this project). For this year’s project, I included another of his most highly-regarded films: Notorious.

Released in Hitchcock’s first decade in America, Notorious is a post-war thriller with film noir elements that also happens to provide one of cinema’s most intriguing love stories. Cary Grant stars as T.R. Devlin, a secret agent who is an important figure in a plan to infiltrate a Nazi organization that has relocated to Rio de Janeiro. In order to do so, the government enlists the help of Alicia Huberman (Ingrid Bergman), the daughter of a convicted Nazi spy. While privately against the Nazi beliefs, she still has ties to those in Brazil, and she is sent to seduce their leader, Alex Sebastian (Claude Rains). Her commitment to the job is unparalleled, but there is a wrench in their plans: Devlin and Alicia fall madly in love with each other.

Notorious [1946]

This love triangle leads to some tense moments, as Alicia is asked to do things that were not part of the original plan. She is also tasked with riding that delicate balance between acting in love with Sebastian while still attempting to discover intel about the Nazi operations. Devlin does his best to remain detached, trying not to mix love and his work, and never flat out saying “I love you.” But when your love interest is Ingrid f’n Bergman, it’s hard to stay in check.

There are several noteworthy scenes in Notorious, including many that rank amongst Hitchcock’s most suspenseful. One unforgettable sequence happens at a huge party at the Nazi headquarters. Alicia has stolen a key to the wine cellar, where she is to lead Devlin in hopes of uncovering a secret to the organization’s operations. Everything is going well until the hosts begin running low on alcohol upstairs. Sebastian and an associate start heading downstairs at the same time Devlin and Alicia are investigating the cellar. The suspense builds as the chances of a successful escape grow very slim.

The film’s conclusion is also thrilling, including one of the slowest descents down a staircase that I have ever seen.

Notorious [1946]

Despite being nearly 70 years old, Notorious holds up remarkably well today. The story, while taking place shortly after World War II, is a timeless tale of espionage and romance. Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman are a fantastic pairing, two gorgeous Hollywood A-listers with strong chemistry. Claude Rains adds a great deal to the film as well, delivering a performance that somehow makes the audience sympathize with the plights of a Nazi.

It’s a bit shocking that Notorious only received two Oscar nominations: Best Supporting Actor (Claude Rains) and Best Original Screenplay (Ben Hecht). Then again, Hitchcock’s lack of support from the Academy is well-known (he never won for Best Director). Regardless of these oversights, Notorious ranks among his best work, and it is easily one of my favorites from this year’s project. This deserves to be mentioned when others talk about the director’s more popular and critically-acclaimed work (i.e. Psycho, Vertigo, Rear Window, etc.).