Earlier in the year, I set a goal of watching at least 100 films, and to make sure it includes some older stuff, included an additional challenge of focusing on at least ten films per decade (counting the 2010s as one decade, and any movie from the 1910s as part of the silent era.) There have been three previous entries with a tally of my progress: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3
Movie #62/ 1940s Movie #4/ New Movie #54: Passport to Pimlico
I heard about this one in an article about how Mike Myers wanted to adapt it for Wayne’s World Part 2. It’s a decent comedy about what happens when a section of London is legally determined to be an independent nation, following the discovery of documents revealing it is to be owned by the Duke of Burgundy. It’s also interesting as a look at Britain in the post-World War 2 rationing.
Movie #63/ 2000s Movie #6/ New Movie #55: Apocalypto
Mel Gibson’s focus on conflicts between the Mayans is dark and violent, but has quite good storytelling, as well as impressive set designs and costumes.
Movie #64/ 1950s Movie #6/ New Movie #56/ Musical #4: The Court Jester
This burlesque of medieval hero epics is quite funny, as the minstrel to a band of rebels has an opportunity to play the hero impersonating a court jester to get close to the usurper king. Strong performances include Angela Lansbury as a spoiled princess, and Basil Rathbone as a deceitful royal adviser. It has impressive musical numbers, and numerous royal misunderstandings.
Movie #65/ 1980s Movie #8/ Science Fiction Movie #6/ Animated Film #4: The Transformers: The Movie
Some decent dialogue, location designs, and deathtraps, but the narrative is kind of a mess.
Movie #66/ 2010s Movie #11/ New Movie #57/ Superhero Movie #4/ Fantasy Film #5: Wonder Woman
This was a really well-done superhero film that established the world of the Amazons effectively, before sending Wonder Woman to Europe circa World War One. It had a star turn for Gal Gadot, but the impressive ensemble all had solid moments (Robin Wright’s amazon general’s joy at finally getting to fight, Lucy Davis’ Etta Candy getting some quips in, etc.) Maybe it steals liberally from Thor and Captain America, but it does it so well.
Movie #67/ 1990s Movie #4/ New Movie #58: Mighty Aphrodite
Clever comedy, elevated by the Greek chorus gimmick and a solid performance by Mira Sorvino (who might not have quite deserved her Oscar.)
Movie #68/ 1950s Movie #7/ New Movie #59/ Criterion Edition #15: Mr. Arkadin
The spy drama is flawed, although there is quite a bit to recommend, with a performance by Welles that keeps you guessing, and some impressive visuals.
Movie #69/ 1940s Movie #5: The Philadelphia Story
It might be the best romantic comedy ever, with an all-star cast (Cary Grant and Jimmy Stewart compete for Katherine Hepburn) and a smart script. Some parts are a bit icky, especially the insistence of accepting toxic flaws. although it’s easier to enjoy it when you remember characters don’t have to be right when saying what they think.
Movie #70/ Silent Movie Era #5/ German Film #3: Nosferatu (Restored)
It’s one of the most iconic horror movies ever, and probably one of the most iconic movies ever, with a memorable take on vampires, gothic set designs, and impressive sequences.
Movie #71/ New Movie #60/ Silent Movie Era #6/ Fantasy Film #6/ German Film #4: The Golem: How He Came into the World (Black Francis Soundtrack)
The soundtrack didn’t always work (although it was sometimes effective) though I can’t really complain about something that’s streaming for free. The expressionistic sets are great, and it’s fascinating to see the development of horror tropes, in a Frankenstein story that came out a decade before Universal Horror kicked off.
Movie #72/ Silent Movie/ 1920s Era #7: Cocoanuts
The early Marx Brothers film has nice sets, memorable dialogue, and some crappy sound—oddly enough in scenes meant to stun audiences through technological innovation—though it’s worth the technical limitations to enjoy some of the finest film comedians.
Movie #73/ 1990s Movie #5: Trainspotting
I watched due to a combination of an awareness of the sequel, and the recent realization that it was my favorite film of 1997. It’s an energetic take on 1990s Scottish drug addicts who keep screwing up their lives in funny and tragic ways. Fantastic ensemble.
Movie #74/ 1940s Movie #6: The Bank Dick
This can be an excellent overview of the funniest guys in film: WC Fields. The plot is mostly a vehicle for inspired gags small (Fields salutes an opened bottle, raising his hat to the gentlemen) and large (a madcap final race) united by Fields’ alcoholic blowhard.
Movie #75/ 2010s Movie #12/ New Movie #61/ Superhero Movie #5: Spider-Man: Homecoming
I’m obviously a big Spider-Man fan, and I was quite satisfied with his solo debut in the Marvel Cinematic Universe in a story that’s actually about something, and captures the clash between Peter’s private life and his duties as Spider-Man. Great cast especially Michael Keaton as the blue-collar Vulture.
Movie #76/1950s Movie #8/ Criterion Edition #16: On the Waterfront
This may very well be the best movie I’ve seen all year. I’ve seen it once before in college, and enjoyed it then, but it seemed more powerful this time around. The first time I might’ve been distracted by what I knew about the iconic “contender” scene. The cast (including five Oscar-nominated performances) is fantastic, and the sense of atmosphere is excellent, as Brando’s Terry Malloy is caught between loyalty to people who screwed him over in ways they can’t appreciate, and doing the right thing.
Movie #77/ New Movie #62/ 1930s Movie #8/ German Film #5: People on Sunday
This was included as a DVD extra on an issue of The Believer I bought a while back, so it was interesting to finally watch it. It seems initially like a lightweight piece about young Berliners enjoying the weekend, but it is elevated by great storytelling (Billy Wilder wrote the script; Fred Zimmerman was the cinematographer) and takes a turn as a young rake decides to abandon his date in favor of her friend.
Movie #78/ 1970s Movie #9: Jaws
A very watchable movie about a somewhat exaggerated premise that is quite useful to any aspiring screenwriter. I like the clash between the blue-collar Quint and Richard Dreyfuss’s wealthy oceanographer, one of the best Act 1 endings ever (the false hope with the capture of another shark) and the many little moments (the greedy mayor’s rationalizations for what he did; the genius closing, etc.) It’s strong competition for On The Waterfront in the category of best movies I’ve seen this year.
Movie #79/ 2000s Movie #7/ Superhero Movie #6: Iron Man
Downey Jr’s Iron Man is one of the best film superhero leads- a guy who finds the norms of superheroes as ridiculous as much of the audience. It’s an excellent intro to the MCU with storytelling that is smart, if sometimes a bit obvious, and a lot of fun.
Movie #80/ 1940s Movie #7/ Fantasy Movie #7/ New Movie #63: It Happened Tomorrow
This was a charming romantic comedy based on the idea of a budding reporter briefly getting insights into the future, and using that to build his reputation, and get Linda Darnell’s pretend-clairvoyant to fall in love with him, before it all backfires. Perfectly suited for Dick Powell.
Movie #81/ 1970s Movie #10: Network
Very smart script with excellent scenes for Robert Duvall and the five actors who got Oscar nominations (three who got Oscars.) The criticism of television and the prioritization of profit over news has only gotten more relevant, even if the criticism of the TV generation seems a bit like an old guy picking on the young.
Movie #82/ 1950s Movie #9/ New Movie #64/ Criterion Edition #17: Ashes and Diamonds
This is an excellent war film that deals with the transition of one era to another (from being part of the resistance to being part of the rebellion) exploring the ambiguities on all sides. Beautifully shot with an excellent lead performance by Zbigniew Cybulski (described as the Polish James Dean, although I’m not convinced James Dean was ever this good) as a soldier caught at a crossroads.
Movie #83/ 1950s Movie #10/ New Movie #65/ Criterion Edition #18: Pather Panchali
With this I’m done with the 50s, as well as the 70s, and the current decade. A beautifully shot exploration of childhood in rural India, it captures small joys and heartbreak. Good god, is there heartbreak. I can’t think of any other film that depicts extreme poverty so effectively.
There are a total of 18 films left on my itinerary (two from the silent era, two from the 1930s, three from the 1940s, three from the 1960s, two from the 1980s, five from the 1990s, and three from the 2000s) and it allows me to reflect me on why I’ve seen more of certain decades and not others. Some of it’s chance, although I’m more likely to have already seen the notable films of certain decades (the 90s and 2000s especially) and be less interested in that. Recent DVD purchases have biased me towards the 50s, while the 30s and silent era had plenty of shorter films.