Monday, December 19, 2011

2011: THE YEAR IN MOVIES. At the end of each year I like to look back over those movies which I watched for the very first time in the preceding year. Some were new but most were old movies I'd missed up till now. Just as a library full of books - all of which you've read - has no real use, a history of movies - all of which you've seen - would be terrible; the joy of being a film buff is discovering previously undiscovered movies and watching them for the first time. These are 50 of my favourite films I saw for the first time in 2011:
  • AMERICAN GRINDHOUSE (2010) - rollicking documentary of trashy American movies from the time of Edison right up to the 21st century. Now all I have to do is track down a copy of "OLGA'S HOUSE OF SHAME" (1964).
  • BAGDAD CAFE (1987) - quirky and bizarre tale of a group of misfits who meet up at a desert cafe. Jack Palance has a welcome supporting role.
  • BANDE A PARTE (1964) - Jean-Luc Godard's "BAND OF OUTSIDERS" uses a caper plot as an excuse to do what Godard does. Anna Karina is ravishing and the film makes us all wonder why we don't do "The Madison" anymore.
  • THE BLOODSTAINED SHADOW (1978) - little known and stylish Italian giallo from director Lino Capollicchio (who helmed "THE HOUSE WITH LAUGHING WINDOWS")
  • BMX BANDITS (1983) - I don't believe in guilty pleasures because if you like something you like it and shouldn't have to apologize for it. Put together three teenagers (including Nicole Kidman), three BMX bikes, stolen experimental walkie-talkies and a group of hoods and what've you got? Silly, empty-headed entertainment Australian style.
  • BIGGER THAN LIFE (1956) - Nicholas Ray's brickbat thrown into fifties American suburbia. James Mason is a teacher who becomes addicted to cortizone and decides he needs to sacrifice his son "Abraham and Isaac-style".
  • BORN INVINCIBLE (1978) - kung fu flick featuring the great Lo Lieh. The mastering of Tai Chi makes one become invulnerable to all weapons and the villainous "white eyebrows" (Carter Wong in a super performance) makes life difficult for everyone
  • BRIDES OF BLOOD (1968) - One of the awful "blood trilogy" filmed for cheap in the Philippines featuring hoyden Beverly Hills (late of "THE COMEDY OF TERRORS") and native trees which boff and then scoff young maidens.
  • CAPTAIN AMERICA: THE FIRST AVENGERS (2011) - Enjoyable if rather sedate film bringing Cap to the screen for the first time in a non-embarrassing way!
  • CINEMA PARADISO (1988) - Oscar-winner for best foreign film in 1989 is totally manipulative but nonetheless manages to warm the cockles of a film buff's heart by demonstrating what the cinema can mean to a film lover.
  • CRIES AND WHISPERS (1972) - devastating performances by some of the greatest film actresses ever: Harriet Andersson, Liv Ullman and Ingrid Thulin. Sisters are gathered together as one is dying from cancer in Ingmar Bergman's Oscar-winning red-and-white masterpiece.
  • THE CRIPPLED AVENGERS (1978) - otherwise known as RETURN OF THE FIVE VENOMS, this film is in no way a sequel to the earlier kung fu classic but features the actors who would forevermore be known as "The Venoms" in another excellent film wherein a group of disabled kung fu fighters much conquer their evil oppressors.
  • DAY OF THE DEAD (1985) - George Romero's third part of his "Dead trilogy" is incredibly awful during the first half but gets much better around the middle point. Nowhere near the dual masterpieces of "NIGHT OF THE LIVING DEAD" and "DAWN OF THE DEAD", "DAY" is nevertheless a movie with a great deal to offer.
  • DEAD SNOW (2009) - Superb Norwegian zombie movie which evokes memories of both "EVIL DEAD" and "SHOCK WAVES". A group of shiny young people in an isolated mountain cabin are attacked by Nazi zombies looking for hidden Nazi loot.
  • DEAD-END DRIVE-IN (1986) - Ozploitation maestro Brian Trenchard-Smith's wacky dystopia of a society who locks their "undesirable delinquents" inside a drive-in from which there is no escape.
  • THE DISCREET CHARM OF THE BOURGOISIE (1972) - Luis Bunuel's surreal Oscar-winning best foreign film of a group of friends who just want to sit down to dinner! The exquisite Delphine Seyrig, Stephane Audran, Jean Pierre Cassel and Fernando Rey are featured in the cast.
  • EAT PRAY LOVE (2010) - Hollywood's attempt to film the book (which I admit not having read) came off rather successfully for me - despite the fact it stars Julia Roberts. Elizabeth Gilbert's memoir of her travels to Italy, India and Bali on a spiritual quest after her devastating divorce.
  • THE 400 BLOWS (1959) - Francois Truffaut's nouveau vague classic of the trials and tribulations of a 12 year old "ne'er do well" who always seems to be in trouble with his parents and his school.
  • GERMANY YEAR ZERO (1948) - The third of Roberto Rossellini's "war trilogy" showing the devastated post-war Germany and the crushing effect on a young boy.
  • THE IDIOT (1951) - Akira Kurosawa's operatic filming of Dostoyevsky's novel with masterful performances by Toshiro Mifune, the divine Setsuko Hara and Masayuki Mori. Kurosawa's superb filming of the snowy landscape literally makes the snow a character in the film.
  • JEANNE DIELMAN, 23 QUAI DU COMMERCE, 1080 BRUXELLES (1975) - Belgian feminist/anti-illusionism director Chantal Akerman's hypnotic masterpiece starring Delphine Seyrig as a housewife/mother who leads a double life as a prostitute. Absolutely absorbing film named the Village Voices 19th greatest film of the 20th century already!
  • L'ATALANTE (1934) - Jean Vigo's one and only completed feature before his untimely death is a masterpiece concerning newlyweds encountering life on a canal barge. Dita Parlo, Jean Daste and Michel Simon are all magnificent.
  • LE DOULOS (1962) - Jean-Pierre Melville's crime flick starring Jean Paul Belmondo and Serge Reggiani in a tale of jewel heists and murder.
  • LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA (1982) - Lau Kar-Leung's excellent kung fu romp starring Gordon Liu and Alexander Fu Sheng. Assassins are out to get Gordo in a series of fights which utilize China's legendary "Eighteen Weapons".
  • LESBIAN VAMPIRE KILLERS (2009) - Vampire Queen Carmilla descends on a British village and there's nothing but a couple of knuckleheads (Mathew Horne and James Corden) to defeat them. Yet another in the run of recent quite good horror comedies.
  • LOOKING FOR RICHARD (1996) - Al Pacino's documentary/performance film of his attempts to stage Shakespeare's RICHARD III.
  • MACHETE MAIDENS UNLEASHED (2010) - Director Mark Hartley (of "NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD") helms this documentary on the wild and wooly exploitation films made on the cheap in the Philippines.
  • THE MERCHANT OF VENICE (2004) - Excellent version of Shakepeare's play featuring Al Pacino and Jeremy Irons.
  • NOT QUITE HOLLYWOOD (2008) - Documentary filmmaker Mark Hartley's acclaimed debut about the wonderful world of Ozploitation.
  • ORDET (1955) - Carl Theodor Dreyer examines the many aspects of faith.
  • PAISAN (1946) - The second in Roberto Rossellini's "war trilogy" (and my favourite of 'em) concerning the invasion of Italy by the Allies in World War II and the interaction between Italians and Americans. The episodic film starts in the south and works its way up the Italian peninsula to the north.
  • THE PASSION OF JOAN OF ARC (1928) - Carl Theodor Dreyer's masterpiece is often on many lists of the top ten greatest films of all time. The trial of Joan of Arc is depicted in a truly stunning performance by Renee Jeanne Falconetti.
  • THE PHANTOM CARRIAGE (1921) - Silent Swedish film starring and directed by Victor Sjostrom (much later to star in Bergman's WILD STRAWBERRIES) is generally considered one of the central works in Swedish cinema history. The film concerns the legend that the last person to die each year must spend the following year working for "strict master" Death collecting the souls of all those who die in that year.
  • PRIVATE LIVES (1931) - Hollywood adaptation of Noel Coward's play featuring Norma Shearer, Robert Montgomery, Reginald Denny and Una Merkel in this comedy of sex and divorce.
  • RED (2010) - Hollywood bang-bang-shoot-em-up adaptaion of Warren Ellis and Cully Hamner's DC Comics series is actually a lot of fun. Bruce Willis, Helen Mirren, John Malkovich, Mary Louise Parker and Morgan Freeman join in the hijinx.
  • RICHARD III (1955) - Laurence Olivier's wonderful pantomime-villain version of Shakepeare's play with ravishing colour and a wicked sense of fun. A dream cast includes Cedric Hardwicke, Ralph Richardson, John Gielgud, Pamela Brown, Claire Bloom, Michael Gough, Michael Ripper, John Laurie, George Woodbridge, Esmond Knight, Patrick Troughton, Stanley Baker and many more.
  • RUSSIAN ARK (2002) - Not a documentary. Not a drama. What exactly is it? Like no other film ever made. Half tour of the Russian Hermitage museum and half peek at hundreds of years of Russian history with a little ghost story thrown in, director Alexander Sokurov filmed the entire film in one take only. Dreamlike and surreal.
  • SAPPHIRE (1959) - Crime film dealing with racism in London against immigrants from the West Indies. Directed by Basil Dearden, SAPPHIRE won a BAFTA Award for Best Film. A cast of exemplary British character actors includes Nigel Patrick, Yvonne Mitchell, Rupert Davies, Paul Massie and Michael Craig.
  • SCOTT WALKER: 30 CENTURY MAN (2006) - Documentary about singer Scott Walker examines his career from pop idol in the Walker Brothers to avant-garde music experimenter. The music will make you leap for your Scott Walker albums!
  • SECRET MYSTERIES OF AMERICA'S BEGINNINGS VOL. 1: THE NEW ATLANTIS (2006), VOL. 2: RIDDLES IN STONE - THE SECRET ARCHITECTURE OF WASHINGTON, D.C., (2007) and VOL. 3: EYE OF THE PHOENIX - SECRETS OF THE DOLLAR BILL (2009) - I love a good conspiracy theory and these three DVDs feature a boatload! The Freemasons, the Rosicrucians, the Illuminati . . . they're all here and more. You gotta love it!
  • SENSO (1954) - Luchino Visconti's ravishing depiction of the Italian-Austrian war of unification and romance gone sour. Alida Valli and Farley Granger star.
  • SH! THE OCTOPUS (1937) - poverty row comedy-thriller-horror movie with no name cast and no budget. Actually much better than one might think with a delirious, almost hallucinatory plotline, an effective tentacled monster attacking a group of people trapped in an abandoned lighthouse and a superbly shocking transformation special effects scene at the end. This one's a rare duck and an odd one.
  • SHAOLIN MANTIS (1978) - another cracking Shaw Brothers kung fu movie starring David Chiang as a martial artist who learns a new style by studying the praying mantis.
  • SHAOLIN VS. LAMA (1983) - One of the best Hong Kong kung fu films with wall-to-wall super action!
  • SOMETIMES A GREAT NOTION (1970) - Hollywood adaptation of Ken Kesey's second novel (following "ONE FLEW OVER THE CUCKOO'S NEST") concerning an Oregon logging family who cut down trees for a local mill in opposition to striking unionized workers. Paul Newman, Michael Sarrazin, Henry Fonda and Lee Remick star.
  • A STAR IS BORN (1954) - Vincent Minnelli's troubled remake starring Judy Garland and James Mason as an actress whose star is on the rise while her husband's is falling fast.
  • THE TAKING OF POWER OF LOUIS XIV (1966) - Roberto Rossellini's epic movie for French television depicting the rise to power of Louis XIV and his gradually education in how to wield that power. Non-professional actor Jean-Marie Patte stars in the title role in an echo of Rossellini's neo-realist past.
  • THOR (2011) - Following their string of hit super-hero movies, Marvel brings us this good if not great adaptation of the Norse thunder god's comic book adventures directed by Kenneth Branagh of all people. Chris Hemsworth is perfect casting as Thor.
  • WALK, DON'T RUN (1966) - Cary Grant's final film is a frothy bit of pleasant nonsense also starring Charlotte Rampling and Jim Hutton. This remake of the 1943 film "THE MORE THE MERRIER" transposes the romantic comedy to Tokyo during the Olympic games.
  • X-MEN: FIRST CLASS (2011) - Surprisingly good prequel to the previous three X-Men movies, this features the origins of the X-Men team as well as Magneto. Michael Fassbender is particularly good as the young Magneto.

Here's looking forward to much more movie watching in 2012!!!

7 comments:

wellyousaythat© said...

wow that's some list. Talk about Diversity; BMX Bandits to The Idiot.
Keep up the good work
Merry Blogging

Cerpts said...

Thanks for that! Diversity is such a nicer word than schizophrenic so I wish all my friends would stop calling me that!!!! Heh heh.

But since diversity is the spice of life, I like to make a great big pot of soup with it.

OK. Yes sir, I'll come along quietly. . .

wellyousaythat© said...

Don't forget the croutons of absurdity

Cerpts said...

I like the way you think!

Cerpts said...

Obviously I did this list a little too soon because IF YOU MEET SARTANA, PRAY FOR YOUR DEATH and VIOLENT NAPLES need to be on the list too.

Buffalo Chuck said...

I really enjoyed SH THE OCTOPUS because it proves these oft-seen character actors of the '30s, '40s and into TV could carry a fun, decently-written film. No telling how many junk films were made in those years - I imagine there were many - but SH is a terrific 'small' film.

Another one to covet, though not on DVD, is Jerome Cowan's excellent CRIME BY NIGHT (1944 w/Jane Wyman). And my favorite lost-gem is probably Marjorie Main and James Whitmore paired as defacto detectives on a train in MRS O'MALLEY & MR MALONE (1950).

Thank goodness for TCM.

Buffalo Chuck said...

Cerps, drop me an email at my screen name (no spaces) at GMAIL. I'll make sure you can watch THIRTY.