Oh, what I have seen!
"The Day After" (1983, dir. Nicholas Meyer) - It traumatized me as a kid, even though I didn't actually see it. I mean, I think I saw the part where the nuclear explosions vaporize people, but the rest of it - no, I don't think so. Or I've blocked it out. But it's a much better movie than I would have thought. And I was surprised and pleased to see that it was directed by the fine Nicholas Meyer who brought us one of the best sci-fi movies ("The Wrath of Khan"), one of the best time travel movies ("Time After Time") and one of the best Sherlock Holmes movies ("The Seven-Per-Cent Solution"). "The Day After" is a made-for-tv movie and so was shot quickly on a relatively low budget. Despite that, the inevitable, unstoppable deterioration of human life in the wake of a limited nuclear exchange between superpowers is depicted just beautifully. Chaotic, hopeless, tragic, absurd. I'm eager now to see its British counterpart "Threads" (1984, dir. Mick Jackson)
"Triumph of the Will" (1935, dir. Leni Riefenstahl) - I'm in an apocalyptic kind of mood, I suppose. I'm also doing some research for a scary, apocalyptic kind of scary tv thing, so that's my excuse. "Triumph of the Will" is a great film. Beautiful. Effective. Perfectly structured. A masterpiece of cinematography and editing. The only problem is it was made by crazy people. In fact, it was made by crazy people for crazy people. But it's a must-see if you're interested in how propaganda/journalism/documentary are used by institutions to engineer passions, fears, motivation in big masses of people. In the film, Joseph Goebbels (who I like to call "Joe Gerbils"), Hitler's propaganda minister, proudly extolls the virtues of propaganda as the greatest new art form. We know now that this was a mistake and that the best propaganda, like good acting, takes on the illusion of an accurate depiction of real events and flatly denies even the very existence of propaganda.
"Doctor Zhivago" - (1965, dir. David Lean) - It may be my favorite David Lean film. I think it probably is. There are aspects of "Zhivago" - its bourgeois subject matter, for one - that keep it from having the grave profundity of "Bridge on the River Kwai" and "Lawrence of Arabia", but it is the most subtle of David Lean's films and the most multi-faceted in its technique. Lean uses the setting of revolution era Russia as a pretext for trying every one of Eisenstein's and Pudovkin's editing tricks, and then some. Every time I see the film - and I have seen it a lot - I enjoy some new aspect. This last time it was merely sitting back and soaking in the artistry. And I shed a few tears - not at the moving and tragic story - but at the stunning conjunction of perfect writing, acting, directing. I hesitate to admit the shedding of tears, because it makes me sound totally faggy. But in a packed theater, it was preferable to jumping to my feet, making rock-n-roll devil horns with both hands, and yelling "Fucking touchdown!!" - which is what I really wanted to do, and often.