Wednesday, December 19, 2012



That's right, it's once again time to list the 50 favourite films I saw for the first time ever this year.  Old films or new films -- these are the movies which, for one reason or another, I never saw until this year . . . . and from them I choose my favourite fifty.
  1. ABSENTIA (2011) -  Independently-made horror film on a shoestring that really makes you feel those things moving just out of the corner of your eye.
  2. ACT OF VIOLENCE (1948)  -  little-seen but cracking little film noir featuring Van Heflin as the war hero with something to hide and Robert Ryan as the inexorable fate limping towards him.
  3. AIR FORCE (1943)  -  John Garfield and a bevy of Hollywood character actors (Gig Young, Harry Carey, Arthur Kennedy, Stanley Ridges, John Ridgway) man an air force bomber in the wake of Pearl Harbor in Howard Hawk's patriotic war film.
  4. ANDREI RUBLEV (1966)  -  Andrey Tarkovskiy's epic of the 15th century Russian icon painter is a most unusual biopic and a most unlikely epic.
  5. AND SOON THE DARKNESS  (1970)  -  Robert (ABOMINABLE DR. PHIBES) Fuest's taut suspense thriller featuring Pamela Franklin in her first starring role.  Two young women (Franklin & Michele Dotrice) are on a cycling tour of the backroads of France when one goes missing.
  6. THE ANNIVERSARY (1968)  -  One of Bette Davis' forays into the Hammer House of Horror.  This one is a wry & warped wackfest as three sons of an overbearing matriarch (guess who?) try to cope.
  7. THE AVENGERS (2012)  -  If you had told the 15 year old me that one day a big budget live action major motion picture of Marvel Comics' Avengers would be made, I wouldn't have believed you.  This was a fanboy's dream come true and surprisingly well-executed.
  8. BERGMAN ISLAND (2004)  -  Very personal glimpse into the reclusive life of master director Ingmar Bergman on his island of Faro only a couple years before his death.
  9. THE BLOOD OF A POET (1932)  -  Jean Cocteau's surreal first film in his Orphic trilogy offers some unforgettable images.
  10. CAVE OF FORGOTTEN DREAMS (2010)  -  Werner Herzog's absolutely absorbing documentary concerning the discovery of the oldest known paintings on Earth inside the Chauvet caves in southern France.  Breathtaking expressions of earliest humanity.
  11. THE COMPLETE BOB WILKINS CREATURE FEATURES (2012)  -  Absolutely delightful smorgasbord of clips from the late TV horror host's programme coupled with eye-catching artwork.
  12. CRIME WAVE (1954)  -  Another little known film noir (featured in Martin Scorsese's PERSONAL JOURNEY documentary) with Gene Nelson as an ex-con who is trying to go straight but keeps getting pulled back into "the life" and Sterling Hayden as the hard-nosed cop who is sure he's guilty.
  13. DECOY (1946)  -  Bizarre little film noir featuring Jean Gillie as an off-her-rocker sociopath.
  14. THE DEVIL AND DANIEL WEBSTER (1941)  -  William Dieterle's classic adaptation of the Stephen Vincent Benet story with a delightful Walter Huston as Mr. Scratch and Edward Arnold as the wily jurist Daniel Webster.  A wicked performance by Simone Simon.
  15. DR. HORRIBLE'S SING-A-LONG BLOG (2008)  -  Josh Whedon's made-for-the-internet-during-the-writers'-strike musical which became a surprising cult hit.  Neil Patrick Harris and Nathan Fillion give particularly hilarious performances.  The oddest thing about it is that the commentary track is ever funnier and has better songs!
  16. THE EARRINGS OF MADAME DE... (1953)  -  Max Ophuls' late-career renaissance featuring a typically luminous Danielle Darieux as the wife who sells her earrings given to her by her husband.
  17. ELEVATOR TO THE GALLOWS (1958)  -  Louis Malle's murder flick with the twist in its tail featuring the magnificent Jeanne Moreau.
  18. EXTREMELY LOUD AND INCREDIBLY CLOSE (2011)  -  A movie I never expected I'd like.  An emotionally-damaged boy embarks on a quest inspired by his late father who was killed in the 9/11 attack on the World Trade Center.  Thoughtful performances by Max Von Sydow, Tom Hanks and Sandra Bullock.
  19. EL FANTASMA DEL CONVENTO (1934)  -  If not the first then one of the very first Mexican horror films.  Heavily influenced by the classic Universal horrors, this atmosphere-heavy ghost-fest is a feast for the eyes.
  20. FEARLESS (2006)  -  Jet Li's final martial arts film offers the life story of Jin Wu Sports Federation founder Master Huo Yuanjia and a series of blockbuster fight scenes.
  21. THE GUMBALL RALLY (1976)  -  Another of those great 70's road race flicks starring Michael Sarrazin instigating a cross-country race of car crashes and comedy.
  22. HALF LIGHT (2006)  -  Don't let the final third of the film spoil the impact of the spooky ghostly film which precedes it.  Demi Moore is a writer who moves to an isolated Scottish village after the death of her young son and encounters some ghostly goings-on.
  23. THE HAUNTING OF JULIA (1977)  -  Mia Farrow is in full post-Rosemary mode as coincidentally another mother on this list who tries to recover after the death of her young daughter and finds spooks aplenty in her new house.
  24. THE HOST (2006)  -  South Korea's most successful film ever features a nasty reptilian monster emerging from the Han River and causing mass havoc.
  25. THE INDIAN TOMB (1959)  -  Part two of a pair of films directed by Fritz Lang upon his return to Germany which brings to a conclusion the fraught love story between European Harald Berger and Indian temple dancer Debra Paget.
  26. I NEED THAT RECORD (2008)  -  Interesting and ultimately very sad documentary examining the death of the independant record store in the wake of record company greed and downloading.
  27. IN SEARCH OF MOZART (2006)  -  Absolutely magnificent documentary on the life, career and music of Mozart by director Phil Grabsky (who would later give the same treatment to Beethoven).
  28. THE LAST PLAY AT SHEA (2010)  -  Entertaining documentary which intertwines the history of New York's Shea Stadium and it's closure with the life, career and music of rocker Billy Joel (who played the final concert at the stadium). 
  29. LATE SPRING (1949)  -  Yasujiro Ozu's stunning masterpiece featuring the spectacular Setsuko Hara as the 27 year old who refuses to marry and leave her widowed father alone.
  30. LOST IN TRANSLATION (2003)  -  Thank God Sofia Coppola is a wonderful director so hopefully we never have to suffer through her acting again.  Incredibly charming film with a weary, jaded film star Bill Murray in Japan to make whiskey commercials encountering a neglected young wife Scarlet Johannsson and the friendship that ensues.
  31. LUDWIG (1972)  -  Visconti's epic portrait of the mad king of Bavaria Ludwig II.
  32. LUMIERE AND COMPANY (1995)  -  40 modern-day film directors are asked to make short films utilizing the original Cinematographe used by the Lumiere Brothers.
  33. THE MACHINE GIRL (2008)  -  Absolutely bonkers Japanese gore fest heavily influenced by the work of Quentin Tarantino is a revenge fantasy of a school girl who offs her family's killers.
  34. MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA (1929)  -  The perennial "greatest films list" nominee featuring the revolutionary Soviet filmwork of director Dziga Vertov.
  35. MARLENE (1984)  -  Maximilian Schell's fascinating documentary of the iconic film star with the uncooperative Marlene Dietrich refusing to appear on camera.
  36. MARY AND MAX (2009)  -  Absolute classic animated film featuring a young girl in Australia randomly selecting a middle aged man with Asberger's in New York to be her penpal. 
  37. THE MILKY WAY (1969)  -  Luis Bunuel's hallucinogenic surreal film of a pair of pilgrims on the Santiago de Compostela in Spain encountering various religious and historical incidents.
  38. THE MUMMIES OF GUANAJUATO (1972)  -  Another wacky Mexican Wrestler film featuring the triumvirate of El Santo, Blue Demon and Mil Mascaras battling the crumbly mummies.
  39. MYSTERY STREET (1950)  -  This obscure film noir is a precursor to all those "CSI" programmes featuing Ricardo Montalban as a detective trying to solve an old murder case with forensic evidence.
  40. ONE WAY PASSAGE (1932)  -  Star-crossed lovers William Powell and the wavishing Kay Francis meet and fall in love on an ocean liner.  Unknown to each of them, Powell is a convicted criminal on his way to be executed and Francis has a terminal illness!
  41. THE OVERLANDERS (1946)  -  At the start of World War II, the Japanese are getting close to giving Australia a taste of "scorched earth" so Chips Rafferty and Co. attempt to evacuate their cattle across continent to save them from the invaders in this fine Australian film.
  42. POOL OF LONDON (1951)  -  Another superb Basil Dearden film sailor Bonar Colleano getting involved in smuggling and unwittingly involving fellow sailor Earl Cameron.
  43. PRIMER (2004)  -  Another independent film produced on a shoestring.  A mind-boggling science fiction/time travel movie where some friends inadvertently invent a time machine that works.  A film that definitely rewards repeated viewings -- in fact, it requires it!
  44. THE RAID REDEMPTION (2011)  -  Another absolutely bonkers action flick where an Indonesian SWAT team invades the high-rise building of a local drug lord.  Action and violence that are over-the-top.
  45. THE ROCKING HORSE WINNER (1949)  -  Superb Anthony Pelissier directed adaptation of the D.H. Lawrence story of a young boy who receives a rocking horse which somehow gives him the power to predict the winners of horse races.  John Mills and Valerie Hobson (as do all) give splendid performances.
  46. THE RULES OF THE GAME (1939)  -  Another film which features on many "greatest film ever" lists.  Jean Renoir's masterful look at bourgeoise French society on the eve of World War II.
  47. SUMMER INTERLUDE (1951)  -  Ingmar Bergman is at it again in this tragic love story.
  48. THE TIGER OF ESCHNAPUR (1959)  -  The first part of that Fritz Lang pair of films which concludes with THE INDIAN TOMB.  Breathtaking colour and sumptuous sets.
  49. TRIANGLE (2009)  -  Here's another taut time travel film on this list, this time from Australia where the enphasis is on horror.  A group of friends out sailing are sunk by a violent storm and encounter a deserted ocean liner where strange things are happening.
  50. THE WAY (2010)  -  Is there any scenario in the past which would've predicted the directorial talent of Emilio Estevez?!?!?!???  This very personal film stars Martin Sheen whose son (played by Estevez) dies while attempting the Camino of Santiago de Compostela.  The father decides to complete the pilgrimage while carrying his son's ashes across Spain.  An incredibly moving and beautiful film.


Weaverman said...

So where is L'ATALANTE ? I've asked you twice for your opinion and you've ignored me. Did you hate it so much you left it off your list?

Cerpts said...

Silly boy you. I saw L'ATALANTE before 2012 when you first sent it to me. When was that? 2011 maybe? I think that if you look at the 2011: YEAR IN MOVIES post I did the same time last year, it's probably there. Unless of course you sent it to me in 2010 but I don't think it was THAT long ago. But as I recall I did comment about it way back then that I thought it was definitely a masterpiece but I felt that I needed to see it once or twice more to fully appreciate it. And now that I've watched it again this year, I can say that I liked it even more.

Cerpts said...

Yup. I just checked and it was in 2011 that I first watched L'ATALANTE. For convenience sake, I'll put the link here:

Weaverman said...

Forgive an old man his memory lapse.

Cerpts said...

Forgive what??? What was it we were talking about???

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