Wednesday, December 28, 2016


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, 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!"

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