THE EXCEEDINGLY-ASTOUNDING MONDO-AWESOME FLICKERS PROJECT 2016 WENT EXCEEDINGLY WELL THIS YEAR. My goal of watching over 1000 hours of movies was met and surpassed; as of Dec. 28th, I've watched over 685 films this year. As you can see below, I started the year off with a rewatch of an old fave: the celluloid adaptation of the Pulitzer Prize-winning book THE SHIPPING NEWS and it was all go from there.
Compliments of the wonderful movie site letterboxd.com, I can see that the star I watched the most of in 2016 was Mantan Moreland (a total of 13 films) closely followed by Katharine Hepburn (with 11 films). In third place, we have a three-way tie between dear Boris Karloff (a perennial favourite), Sterling Hayden (whose 100th birthday was this year) and Sidney Toler (testifying to the flurry of Charlie Chan movies making there way onto my watchlist). The rest of my most-watched stars shakes out as follows:
As for my most-watched directors this year, the master of suspense Alfred Hitchcock heads the list with a total of 11 films closely followed by John Carpenter and the trashy Charles Band. Again, the rest of the most-watched directors shakes out as follows:
It was indeed a movie-watching year with more highs than lows . . . however there were some stinkers along the way. Let's start first with the worst:
Poor Bela. The snooze-fest that is MURDER BY TELEVISION features a murder mystery with a tiny bit of science-fiction added starring Bela Lugosi; sadly it seems MUCH longer than it's 53 minute running time. Then there was the continued downward plummet that is SHERLOCK; this time the one-shot Victorian era THE ABOMINABLE BRIDE was lackluster and silly. How can you go wrong with a Winston Churchill documentary??? Well, they did with WALKING WITH DESTINY: an oddly worthless doc focusing on a limited time span that seems totally unnecessary. There are MUCH better Churchill docs out there. A waste of time. And speaking of time-wasters, NAVY SECRETS stars Fay Wray & Grant Withers as two agents who fall in love while tracking down a spy ring. The action is dull, the humour is flat, the romance is nearly non-existent and the film seems MUCH longer than its short running time. And then there's SHARKNADO 3: OH HELL NO! OK, so I get the concept of the Sharknado movies: they're over-the-top bonkers and silly and I liked the first two. But for some reason it seems like the Asylum FORGOT the concept and this third entry is much less wacky and actually dull; it's almost like they're sorta taking themselves seriously in this one and it doesn't work. TAKE THE STAND is an uninteresting "mystery" with Thelma Todd totally wasted in her role as a secretary. SILENT HILL, a mess of incoherent nonsense, is one of the worst films I watched all year. Oh, until I got to the 70's snore bore of MURDERS IN THE RUE MORGUE. I've never seen any of the other Killjoy movies from Full Moon but KILLJOY GOES TO HELL was a complete plotless mess. THE TOY BOX, a dull as dishwater horror "nudie cutie" was even worse than SCARE THE PANTS OFF YOU (which I watched last year) and had none of the wacky fun of, say, KISS ME QUICK. MACBETH with Michael Fassbender, was a total botch of the Scottish play (and I write about it in more detail in an earlier post this year). Italian horrors SOMETHING CREEPING IN THE DARK and Mario Bava's LISA AND THE DEVIL were both incredibly dull affairs with basically nothing really happening until the final 10 minutes. Which I guess is more than you can say for THE PHAROAH'S CURSE in which I don't think ANYTHING happens at all. Opportunities to watch an previously-unseen Vincent Price movie don't come around very often anymore -- unfortunately CRY OF THE BANSHEE also commits the sin of being incredibly boring. Then we have a continuation of the inept DC film franchise with BATMAN V SUPERMAN and SUICIDE SQUAD. The former had some good points: Affleck is OK as Batman and Wonder Woman is the best part of the movie. But then there's whatshisname as Superman who looks right but can't act his way out of the bottle city of Kandor. A really dumb movie with some glaringly stupid things going on; I mean, Batman using a gun?!?!?!?! Really, guys?!?!?! SUICIDE SQUAD was pretty bad but I didn't hate it as much as the overwhelming wave of vitriol foisted onto this movie. It was pretty bad though without any coherent plot. Lastly there was Werner Herzog's oddly unfocused documentary on the internet LO AND BEHOLD which meanders in all directions at once without any apparent planning. Individual segments of the film are interesting but it feels like a pile of unconnected chunks of film. This feels like what my friend Peg always called "a lunchtime production"; that is, they had a lunch hour free so they made this movie. Herzog is so much better a filmmaker than this! So now that we've gotten THAT out of the way, we can get the bad taste out of our mouths by considering some of the best films I watched for the very first time this year . . . and there are a LOT more of them than the dreck. Consequently, I can't possibly talk about each one in depth of we'd be here til NEXT December. But these are the best films I saw for the first time in 2016:
LOS ANGELES PLAYS ITSELF - Quite simply one of the best documentaries on film I've ever seen! There must be clips from hundreds of films in this one showing how the city of Los Angeles has been depicted in film throughout the years.
SONG OF THE SEA - Beautiful animated film about the Celtic legend of the seal child from the makers of the equally spellbinding BOOK OF KELLS
LETTER FROM AN UNKNOWN WOMAN - I've never been a particular fan of Joan Fontaine . . . UNTIL I saw this film! Heartbreaking.
MAN ON THE FLYING TRAPEZE - Lesser known but still brilliant W.C. Fields comedy.
HELLZAPOPPIN - Absolutely insane and anarchic Olsen & Johnson comedy that gives the Marx Brothers a run for their money.
JAPANESE GIRLS AT THE HARBOR - Hiroshi Shimizu's silent masterpiece about two best friends torn apart by jealousy and revenge.
THE FIVE OBSTRUCTIONS - Lars Van Trier puts another director through hell by imposing five limitations on Jorgen Leth as he tries to remake his earlier short film THE PERFECT HUMAN.
THE FORBIDDEN ROOM - Guy Maddin's cinematic insanity results in an endless stream of consciousness for film lovers.
ONLY YESTERDAY - The one Studio Ghibli film that hasn't been available in the U.S. masterfully depicts the wonder of growing up.
CHUNGKING EXPRESS - A can of pineapple and a spare set of keys.
THE HATEFUL 8 - QT's eighth film is a surprisingly effective claustrophobic ensemble piece.
A SEPARATION - Everyone's favourite Iranian film of late showing the breakdown of marriage as well as a "did he or didn't he".
ROUNDHAY GARDEN SCENE - The earliest surviving film. About 3 seconds from 1888 and it's spellbinding!
DEADPOOL - No one was more surprised than me how much I enjoyed this one.
THE HEIRESS - Like I just said about her sister, I've never been that much a fan of Olivia DeHaviland . . . until I saw THIS film!
YI YI - Wong Kar-Wai's family classic.
MEMORIES OF MURDER - Absolute masterpiece of a true crime drama and the perfect double feature with ZODIAC.
BALLAD OF A SOLDIER - This film is beloved in Russia and now it's beloved of me. Soldier tries to make his way home from the front and falls in love. A masterpiece.
STANDOFF - Terrific little suspense film in which a little girl witnesses a murder and is chased into a stranger's house who then has to defend them both against the killer.
SITA SINGS THE BLUES - Stunningly beautiful and funny animated version of the Ramayana . . . with Annette Hanshaw songs!
SANS SOLEIL - A visual essay that kicks keister!
LES RENDEZ-VOUS D'ANNA - Chantal Akerman's superb character study with Aurore Clement as a filmmaker traveling through Europe trying to get her film made.
THE WITCH - Atmosphere by the bucketful!
REPO MAN - Absolutely cracked movie about . . . well a repo man, I guess.
BLUE - The first in the "THREE COLORS" trilogy and a palpable depiction of grief.
NEWS FROM HOME - My new second-favourite Chantal Akerman film after JEANNE DIELMAN. Akerman let's her camera roll in early 70's New York City while she reads her mother's letters.
GOOD MORNING - Yasujiro Ozu's wonderful and funny film about some kids who constantly pester their parents for a television. Oh, and a lot of fart jokes!
LAST DAYS - Thinly-veiled riff on the last days of Kurt Cobain; I've rarely seen a truer-feeling depiction of depression on film.
CEMETERY OF SPLENDOR - A film which takes place somewhere between dreaming and waking.
STARRY EYES - I don't know what it is about this movie. Horror in Hollywood. Unsettling and creepy.
KUBO AND THE TWO STRINGS - Quite possibly the best film of the year.
THE GREAT SILENCE - Odd and haunting western with an ending you don't expect.
THE AGE OF INNOCENCE - Scorsese's overlooked classic.
SUMMER WARS - Heir to Miyazaki's excellent animated film about an artificial intelligence taking over.
CHIMES AT MIDNIGHT - Finally we have a release of Orson Welles' Falstaffian epic.
THE END OF SUMMER - I just LOVE Ozu!
SONS OF THE DESERT - Hilarious Laurel & Hardy feature length film about the efforts of two nitwits to sneak off to a lodge convention without telling their wives.
ME AND MY PAL - Classic Laurel and Hardy short where the groom and his best pal can't seem to make it too his wedding due to a jigsaw puzzle.
45 YEARS - Charlotte Rampling and Tom Courtenay (where are their Oscars for this???) play a married couple whose anniversary plans are tested by the discovery of the husband's former lover discovered frozen in ice.
MUSEUM HOURS - A lonely woman and a museum guard strike up a friendship.
THE HOLLOW CROWN 2 - Actually 3 movies. Like the previous HOLLOW CROWN series, 3 excellent adaptations of Shakespeare's HENRY VI PART ONE, HENRY VI PART TWO and RICHARD III.
VIVRE SA VIE - Anna Karina being mesmerizing.
IN THE MOOD FOR LOVE - Neighbours in an apartment building slowly discover their spouses are having an affair with each other. Masterpiece.
SPOOKY BATS AND SCAREDY CATS - Wonderful claymation-style Halloween.
PAPRIKA - Trippy hijinx inside the mind of human and computer.
TURBO KID - Hilarious, dead one parody of post-apocalyptic 80's style sci-fi.
PHILOMENA - Dench and Coogan give great performances in this true story of a woman forced to give her child up for adoption and her attempt to now track him down.
TIMECRIMES - Timey-wimey time paradox movie which is both funny and disturbing.
THE IMPOSTER - Masterfully directed documentary the less you know about going into it the better. A young boy is kidnapped. Several years later, the family receives a phone call . . . can their boy have been found???
CHICAGO 10 - Another excellent documentary outside the norm as the story of "The Chicago 10" is told using archival footage, talking heads, animation and movie star voice acting. It doesn't sound like it should work but it does.
IT'S SUCH A BEAUTIFUL DAY - Arresting depiction of mental breakdown . . . using basically stick figures.
AMERICAN BEAUTY - Best picture winner which, oddly, deserved to win.
DON'T BREATHE - Horror/suspense hit of the past year which amps up the nail-biting.
THE SNOWMAN - Who knows why it's taken me this long to see this short Christmas classic?!?!?!
MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW - Possible (indeed probable) inspiration for Ozu's TOKYO STORY. As Orson Welles once said: "That movie could make a stone cry!"
IT'S AROUND THIS TIME EVERY YEAR THAT I LOOK BACK AT THOSE WE'VE LOST. At the risk of repeating everyone else, I would agree that this year seems to have been particularly bad in that we've lost too many hugely talented individuals. As we prepare to move across into the new year, let's take a moment to remember them.
Vilmos Zsigmond, cinematographer "Close Encounters of the Third Kind" Robert Stigwood, band manager/producer "Bee Gees", "Grease", "Saturday Night Fever" Pierre Boulez, conductor Pat Harrington Jr., actor "One Day at a Time" Richard Libertini, actor "All of Me", "The In-Laws" Kitty Kallen, singer "Little Things Mean A Lot" Otis Clay, singer "Tryin' to Live My Life Without You" Angus Scrimm, actor "Phantasm", "John Dies at the End" David Bowie, singer Brian Bedford, actor "Robin Hood", "Nixon", "Much Ado About Nothing" Alan Rickman, actor "Die Hard", "Harry Potter" Robert Banks Stewart, screenwriter "Dr. Who: Seeds of Doom", "Dr. Who: Terror of the Zygons", Callan, The Avengers Dan Haggerty, actor "The Life and Times of Grizzly Adams" Noreen Corcoran, actor "Bachelor Father" Clarence Henry Reid, singer "Blowfly" Glenn Frey, singer "The Eagles" Sheila Sim, actor "A Canterbury Tale" Mike Minor, actor "Petticoat Junction" Abe Vigoda, actor "The Godfather", "Barney Miller", "Fish" Paul Kantner, musician "Jefferson Airplane" Jacques Rivette, director "Celine and Julie Go Boating" Gordon Goody, Great Train Robber "A Tale of Two Thieves" Frank Finlay, actor "Othello", "The Pianist", "The Three Musketeers" Terry Wogan, broadcaster Bob Elliot, comedian "Bob and Ray" Jack Elrod, cartoonist "Mark Trail" Edgar Mitchell, astronaut Maurice White, musician "Earth, Wind & Fire" Jimmie Haskell, composer/arranger "Dirty Mary, Crazy Larry" Sam Spense, composer "NFL Films" Johnny Duncan, actor "Batman and Robin", "Plan 9 From Outer Space" Antonin Scalia, Supreme Court Justice George Gaynes, actor "Tootsie", "General Hospital" Jean Rabier, cinematographer "The Umbrellas of Cherbourg", "La Femme Infidele", "Bay of Angels" Boutros Boutros-Ghali, United Nations Secretary-General Harper Lee, author "To Kill A Mockingbird" Umberto Eco, author "The Name of the Rose" Sonny James, singer "Young Love" Humbert Allen Astredo, actor "Dark Shadows" Jon Rollason, actor "The Avengers", "Doctor Who" Douglas Slocombe, cinematographer "The Lion in Winter", "Jesus Christ Superstar", "Indiana Jones" George Kennedy, actor "Cool Hand Luke" Frank Kelly, actor/comedian "Father Ted" Jerry Maren, actor "The Wizard of Oz" Bud Collins, sports journalist Nikolaus Harnoncourt, conductor Pat Conroy, author "The Great Santini", "The Prince of Tides" Nancy Reagan, US First Lady Paul Ryan, comic book artist "Fantastic Four" George Martin, producer "The Beatles" Richard Davalos, actor "East of Eden", "Pit Stop" Adrienne Corri, actor "Madhouse" Angela Paton, actor "Groundhog Day" Gogi Grant, singer "The Wayward Wind" Keith Emerson, musician "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" Ernestine Anderson, singer Riccardo Garrone, actor "La Dolce Vita" Sylvia Anderson, producer "Thunderbirds", "UFO", "Space: 1999", "Captain Scarlet and the Mysterons" Frank Sinatra Jr., singer Larry Drake, actor "Dark Night of the Scarecrow", "Dr. Giggles", "Darkman" Joe Santos, actor "The Rockford Files" Ken Howard, actor "1776", "The White Shadow" Rob Ford, mayor of Toronto Jim Harrison, author "Legends of the Fall" Joe Garagiola, baseball player Garry Shandling, comedian "It's Garry Shandling's Show", "The Larry Sanders Show" Mother Mary Angelica, nun "EWTN-TV" James Noble, actor "1776", "Benson" Patty Duke, actor "The Miracle Worker", "The Patty Duke Show" Douglas Wilmer, actor "The Vampire Lovers", "El Cid" Ronnie Corbett, comedian "The Two Ronnies" Gato Barbieri, saxophonist Erik Bauersfeld, actor "Star Wars" Merle Haggard, singer David Gest, producer Gareth Thomas, actor "Blake's 7", "Children of the Stones" Cracker, cat Doris Roberts, actress "Everybody Loves Raymond", "Soap" Pete Zorn, musician "Steeleye Span" Victoria Wood, comedian/actor "Dinnerladies" Guy Hamilton, director "Goldfinger" Chyna, wrestler Prince, singer "Purple Rain" Lonnie Mack, blues singer Billy Paul, singer "Me and Mrs. Jones" Papa Wemba, Congolese singer Peter Thomas, narrator "Nova", "The Great Depression" Isao Tomita, musician "Snowflakes are Dancing", "The Planets" William Schallert, actor "The Man From Planet X", "The Patty Duke Show" Gareth Gwenlan, producer "Only Fools and Horses" Bill MacIlwraith, screenwriter "Two's Company" Mark Lane, lawyer/author "Rush To Judgment" Julius La Rosa, singer "Eh, Cumpari" Darwyn Cooke, comic book artist "Justice League: The New Frontier", "Catwoman" Guy Clark, singer "Desperadoes Waiting for a Train" Ian Watkin, actor "Dead Alive" John Berry, musician "Beastie Boys" Morley Safer, journalist "60 Minutes" Alan Young, actor "The Time Machine", "Mister Ed" Buck Kartalian, actor "Planet of the Apes" Burt Kwouk, actor "The Pink Panther", "Goldfinger" Gustav Meier, conductor Rick MacLeish, hockey player "Philadelphia Flyers" Carla Lane, TV screenwriter "Butterflies", "Solo" Dave Swarbrick, musician "Fairport Convention" Muhammad Ali, boxer Theresa Saldana, actor "Raging Bull" Sir Peter Shaffer, playwright "Amadeus", "Equus" Marina Malfatti, actress "The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave", "All the Colors of the Dark", "Seven Blood-Stained Orchids" Janet Waldo, actress "The Jetsons", "Penelope Pitstop", "Josie & the Pussycats", "Wacky Races" Henry McCullough, guitarist "Spooky Tooth", "Wings", "My Love" Ann Morgan Guilbert, actress "The Dick Van Dyke Show" Yumi Shirakawa, actress "Rodan", "The H-Man", "The Mysterians" Mary Ann King, TV host "Romper Room" Attrell Cordes, singer "P.M. Dawn" Anton Yelchin, actor "Star Trek Beyond", "Star Trek Into Darkness" Harry Rabinowitz, conductor/composer "I Claudius", "Reilly Ace of Spies" Ralph Stanley, musician "O Brother, Where Art Thou?" Bernie Worrell, musician "Parliament-Funkadelic" Bill Cunningham, photographer Alvin Toffler, author "Future Shock" Mack Rice, songwriter "Mustang Sally", "Respect Yourself" Buddy Ryan, football coach "Philadelphia Eagles" Scotty Moore, guitarist "Hound Dog", "Don't Be Cruel" Robin Hardy, director "The Wicker Man" Elie Wiesel, author "Night" Michael Cimino, screenwriter/director "The Deer Hunter" Noel Neill, actress "The Adventures of Superman" John McMartin, actor "All the President's Men" James Gilbert, producer "The Two Ronnies", "Last of the Summer Wine" Abbas Kiarostami, director "Taste of Cherry" Garry Marshall, producer/director "Happy Days", "Laverne & Shirley" Bill Cardille, TV horror host "Chiller Theater", "Night of the Living Dead" Marni Nixon, singer/actress "My Fair Lady", West Side Story" Youree Del Cleomill Harris, actor/TV psychic "Miss Cleo" Sandy Pearlman, producer/manager "The Clash", "Black Sabbath", "Blue Oyster Cult" Jack Davis, artist "E.C. Comics", "Mad", "TV Guide" Fred Tomlinson, singer/composer "Monty Python's Flying Circus", "The Two Ronnies" Gloria DeHaven, actor "Three Little Words", "Summer Stock" David Huddleston, actor "Blazing Saddles", "The Big Lebowski" W. Carter Merbreier, actor "Captain Noah and His Magical Ark" Glenn Yarbrough, singer Kenny Baker, actor "Star Wars", "Time Bandits" Fyvush Finkel, actor "Picket Fences" Bobby Hutcherson, jazz musician John McLaughlin, TV host "The McLaughlin Group" Arthur Hiller, director "Love Story", "The In-Laws", "The Out-of-Towners" Jack Riley, actor "The Bob Newhart Show", "Spaceballs" Toots Thielemans, jazz musician Michael Leader, actor "EastEnders", "Star Wars" Rudy Van Gelder, recording engineer "Blue Note Records" Marvin Kaplan, actor "It's A Mad Mad Mad Mad World", "Alice" Gene Wilder, actor "The Producers", "Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory", "Young Frankenstein" Jon Polito, actor "The Big Lebowski", "Modern Family" Hugh O'Brian, actor "Ten Little Indians", "The Fiend Who Walked the West" Prince Buster, singer "One Step Beyond", "Al Capone" Jerry Corbetta, singer "Sugarloaf" Greta Zimmer Friedman, woman kissed by sailor in iconic end-of-WWII photo Alexis Arquette, actor Edward Allbee, playwright "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?", "A Delicate Balance" W.P. Kinsella, author "Field of Dreams" C. Martin Croker, voice actor "Space Ghost Coast to Coast", "Cartoon Planet" Bobby Breen, singer/actor "Let's Sing Again", "Rainbow on the River" Curtis Hanson, director "L.A. Confidential", "Wonder Boys" Buckwheat Zydeco, musician Bill Nunn, actor "Spider-Man", "Do the Right Thing" Robert Weinberg, author "Lovecraft's Legacy" Arnold Palmer, golfer Shimon Peres, Israeli prime minister Tommy Ford, actor "Martin" Bhumibol Adulyadej, king of Thailand Curtis Roosevelt, author "Too Close to the Sun" Herschell Gordon Lewis, director "Blood Feast", "2000 Maniacs" Laura Troschel, actor "Four Flies on Grey Velvet" Oscar Brand, singer Sir Neville Marriner, conductor "Academy of St. Martin in the Fields" Trịnh Thị Ngọ, Vietnamese radio personality "Hanoi Hannah" Bill Warren, author "Keep Watching the Skies" Andrzej Wajda, director "Ashes and Diamonds" Ted V. Mikels, director "The Astro-Zombies", "Girl in Gold Boots" Steve Dillon, comic book artist "Hellblazer" Jimmy Perry, scriptwriter "Dad's Army" Tom Hayden, author/activist "Chicago Seven" Pete Burns, singer "Dead or Alive" Bobby Vee, singer "Walkin' with My Angel", "Take Good Care of My Baby" John Zacherle, TV horror host "Shock Theater" Don Marshall, actor "Land of the Giants" Tammy Grimes, actor Kay Starr, singer "Wheel of Fortune", "Rock and Roll Waltz" Jean-Jacques Perrey, musician "The In Sound from Way Out", "Moog Indigo" John Carson, actor "Captain Kronos Vampire Hunter", "Plague of the Zombies" Janet Reno, U.S. Attorney General Leonard Cohen, singer "Everybody Knows", "Hallelujah" Al Caiola, musician Robert Vaughn, actor "The Magnificent Seven", "The Man from U.N.C.L.E." Lupita Tover, actor "Dracula (Espanol)" Tom Neyman, actor "Manos, Hands of Fate" Leon Russell, singer Janet Wright, actor "The Perfect Storm", "McCabe & Mrs. Miller" Gwen Ifill, journalist "PBS NewsHour", "Washington Week" Mose Allison, jazz musician "Seventh Son" Jerry Tucker, actor "Our Gang", "Captain January" Florence Henderson, actor "The Brady Bunch" Andrew Sachs, actor "Fawlty Towers" Ron Glass, actor "Barney Miller" Fidel Castro, Cuban President Fritz Weaver, actor "Fail-Safe", "Holocaust", "The Thomas Crown Affair" Valerie Gaunt, actor "Curse of Frankenstein", "Horror of Dracula" Grant Tinker, producer "Mary Tyler Moore", "The Bob Newhart Show" Van Williams, actor "The Green Hornet" Peng Chiang-kuei, chef "inventor of General Tso's Chicken" Alice Drummond, actor "Ghostbusters", "Doubt" Don Calfa, actor "Return of the Living Dead" Billy Chapin, actor "Night of the Hunter" Wayne Duncan, musician "Daddy Cool" Peter Vaughan, actor "Porridge", "A Warning to the Curious", "Brazil" Greg Lake, singer "Emerson, Lake & Palmer" John Glenn, astronaut E.R. Braithwaite, author/teacher "To Sir, With Love" Jim Lowe, singer "The Green Door" Alan Thicke, actor "Growing Pains" Bernard Fox, actor "The Mummy", "Bewitched", "Titanic" David Berry, playwright "The Whales of August" Zsa Zsa Gabor, actor "Queen of Outer Space" Michele Morgan, actor "Port of Shadows", "Passsage to Marseilles" Richard Adams, author "Watership Down" George Michael, singer "Faith", "Father Figure" George S. Irving, actor "Year Without A Santa Claus", "Underdog" Carrie Fisher, actor/author "Star Wars", "Postcards from the Edge" Debbie Reynolds, actor "Singin' in the Rain" William Christopher, actor "M*A*S*H*"
WILL THE GREAT PUMPKIN BE PASSING OVER THIS PARTICULAR PUMPKIN PATCH?!?!?
I'm afraid so, my little goblins. Loathe as I am to admit it, I just won't be able to participate in this year's Countdown to Halloween. This makes me sad because I've participated in almost every one for the last decade or so; however, the woeful lack of activity on this blog attests to the difficulty I've had in finding the time to post much of anything this year. While I am hoping that this changes soon, I fear it wouldn't happen by the time the Countdown to Halloween rolls around.
So, while I won't officially be participating, I do still hope to post as much Halloween content as I can during the month of October. It won't be much but ideally it will loosen up the ole blogging muscles enough to get me to post more on this blog than I have done and to look forward to full participation in next year's Halloween Countdown.
A somnambulistic and confused filmic adaptation of the Scottish play. Director Justin Kurzel reveals an almost complete lack of understanding as to what the play is about while focusing instead on showy (if often beautiful) shots and "edgy" hand-held camera unnecessarily occurring during conversational two-shots. The entire cast often seems to be at a loss as to what they should be doing during any particular scene (hinting at a lack of guidance from the director); they also all seem to have been instructed to say their lines in a throaty whisper which lends a sleepwalking air to the performances. Honestly, after each line delivery I kept expecting Michael Fassbender to state "I'm Batman!".
Fassbender as Macbeth plays the entire movie on one monotonous note without the hint of an emotional character arc or any internal turmoil whatsoever; he starts off the movie as a sociopathic cold fish and stays that way throughout the movie. It's Macbeth as automaton rather than a good man turned to evil by a fatal character flaw. Lady Macbeth, one of the most powerfully ambitious and manipulative of all Shakespeare's characters, here has absolutely no charismatic, seductive influence upon her husband in Marion Cotillard's equally one-note performance. Having seen both actors in other movies, I can only surmise that the performance choices here were imposed upon the actors deliberately by the director; maybe Kurzel was insecure about the Shakespearean language coming across as comical. Well, the endlessly earnest whispering going on in scene after scene DOES become laughable after about 15 minutes and the complete lack of any identifiable character takes one completely out of the movie before too long. Again, the total lack of inner conflict shown in Macbeth's character creates a listless, matter-of-fact quality to the proceedings: the 3 witches prophecy Macbeth will become king, he comes home and tells his wife, they say "Hey, let's kill Duncan", he goes and does it -- all without any soul-searching anguish or one iota of suspense, guilt or panic. All this reduces one of the Bard's most visceral and tormented tales to a dull, "Who cares what happens" slog.
It seems to me that one of the most interesting and purposeful themes in Shakespeare's Scottish play is the fact that a relatively nice bloke like Macbeth and his presumably normal good lady wife can, through a set of fatal character flaws like ambition or the ability to be easily led, can quite quickly ruin their lives before they even know it. The relative flood of positive reviews for this film admittedly bewilder me; were they watching the same film I was?!?! The above poster, which points out that the film's producers are the same as brought us the equally over-praised and lackluster THE KING'S SPEECH was perhaps a warning that went unheeded in my case. The air of "this is a SERIOUS PRODUCTION" hangs over Kurzel's MACBETH like a dagger of the mind which apparently hoodwinked some reviewers that this was a good film. In Fassbender's and Cotillard's -- well, let's face it -- lackluster performances, they make the Thane of Cawdor and his wife appear like they've already seen the play MACBETH and are going through the motions by rote. Watching Kurzel's film reminded me of sitting in a high school English class while the teacher made teenagers read aloud from the text; not exactly the makings of great cinematic drama!
THIS YEAR MARKS THE 100TH ANNIVERSARY OF THE BIRTH OF STERLING HAYDEN.
I'm a little bit late since his birthday was in March but it's never too late to celebrate one of my favourite human beings. Fellow New Jerseyan Sterling Hayden was born in Montclair, NJ in 1916. He was working on board a ship when some beefcake photos of him appeared in a magazine and Hollywood came a-calling. With no theatrical or acting experience, they dropped him into major Hollywood productions as Tinseltown's latest hunk. Hayden, always refreshingly candid about himself, viewed his movie career as laughable; however, he did excel in film noir and Western tough-guy roles and, in later years, took his acting more seriously and gave nice performances in such 70's classics as THE GODFATHER and THE LONG GOODBYE. I think my favourite performance was in Stanley Kubrick's classic heist movie THE KILLING in which Hayden played the lead with a credibility that may have been lacking in some of his other movie work.
But I think more than for his movie work, I appreciate him for the intensely free-spirited outsider life he lived. Rather than fall into the Hollywood trap, Sterling Hayden soon began only making movies when his money ran out and he needed capital to sail his boat around the world. He fought in Yugoslavia during World War II and was so impressed by Marshall Tito that he momentarily joined the Communist Party (until scheduled meetings cramped his style and he quit). During the HUAC witch hunts, Hayden sadly did cooperate and "name names" but, as ever truthful with himself, regarded his behaviour as weak and shameful, apologized many times for it and was forever haunted by it. In 1963, he published his autobiography WANDERER which is one of my favourite books of all time (thanks, Lisa*). And during his 1970's career renaissance, he made several legendary appearances on Tom Snyder's TOMORROW show in which he demonstrated what an intensely interesting conversationalist he was -- audiences demanded multiple reruns of the episodes in the days before VCRs.
In my small way, I am choosing to celebrate his 100th birthday by watching a great big chunk of his movies. The films you see above are those Sterling Hayden films I've already seen (and some of which I'll be revisiting): THE GODFATHER (in which he breaks Al Pacino's jaw), JOHNNY GUITAR (one of my favourite Westerns which Nicholas Ray makes gothic and operatic with a strange colour palette), THE KILLING (my favourite Kubrick film and one which Quentin Tarantino owes a large debt to), THE LONG GOODBYE (nihilistic 70's take on Philip Marlowe), ZERO HOUR! (which was the template for AIRPLANE!), THE ASPHALT JUNGLE (with MM), 9 TO 5 (in which Sterling has a cameo as the company CEO that Jane, Dolly & Lily work for), THE STAR (middling Bette Davis melodrama with Hayden as her hunky boy toy), CRIME WAVE (a little-known cracking film noir), CRIME OF PASSION (an over-the-top barnstormer with an off-her-nut Barbara Stanwyck). VENOM (a daffy "horror" movie with a deadly Black Mamba snake on the loose and Oliver Reed teaming up with Klaus Kinski as kidnappers!) and DR. STRANGELOVE (a movie I'm admittedly not a fan of but will probably revisit to see if my opinion has changed).
In addition, there's a passel of movies which I've never seen but which I intend to do my durndest to watch: (as shown above) SUDDENLY, WINTER KILLS, THE ETERNAL SEA, TERROR IN A TEXAS TOWN, THE GOLDEN HAWK, KANSAS PACIFIC, NAKED ALIBI, DEADLY STRANGERS, CRY ONION, TOP GUN, ARROW IN THE DUST and THE IRON SHERIFF. Add to that the previously unknown-to-me documentary about Sterling Hayden which was made three years before his death: PHAROS OF CHAOS: A PROFILE OF STERLING HAYDEN. Happy birthday, you rebel you!
I CAN'T TELL YOU WHAT A SHOCK IT WAS TO LEARN OF DAVID BOWIE'S DEATH.
My mother has always been a huge Bowie fan so I pretty much grew up listening to his music since I was the size of a little bitty alien. "THE RISE AND FALL OF ZIGGY STARDUST AND THE SPIDERS FROM MARS" remains one of my top 10 favourite albums. And Bowie himself has proved to be a major formative influence in my life. He famously was a chameleon and strove to be a leader and not a follower; to head in directions that were least expected. Robert Frost's "road less travelled". Along the way he's managed to create some phenomenal music. As a woefully inadequate tribute, I thought I'd list my top 10 favourite Bowie songs. Now, this is a particularly impossible and painful task -- to pick only 10 -- but I've taken my protein pills and put my helmet on. So here goes . . .
10. MODERN LOVE
9. PLEASE MR. GRAVEDIGGER
8. THIS IS NOT AMERICA
7. LADY STARDUST
6. FIVE YEARS
5. QUEEN BITCH
3. SPACE ODDITY
2. ASHES TO ASHES
1. LIFE ON MARS
All I can say is that the world just got a lot less interesting.