This is a conclusion of notes on films I saw this year, following Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4. Part 5. and Part 6. I’m keeping track of some features of the films. and set myself a few sub-challenges with each entry. Since this is one of the last entries for the year, I figured I’d rewatch at least five films. I had an expiring HBO Now subscription, so I added five films from the service. Since I hadn’t seen The River, and wanted to watch La Bette Humaine with my train-buff dad, I figured I’d add five Renoir films. The period included October, so I added at least five horror movies, as I didn’t have time for 13, like last year.
Movie #181/ 1990s Movie #15/ HBO Now Film #1: The Fugitive
The big-budget TV adaptation is astoundingly successful. The set pieces are amazing. The central conspiracy is solid. Tommy Lee Jones is excellent as a driven marshal who initially starts as an antagonist, but slowly becomes the good guy as the truth becomes revealed.
Movie #182/ New Movie #118/ 2018 Movie #19/ HBO Now Film #2/ Documentary #8: For Whom the Bell Tolls
Well made, and inspirational take on the life of John McCain. I’ll quibble a bit about some key omissions (his wife’s painkiller addiction, his first wife’s disabilities, the 1996 Veepstakes, the remarkable comeback during the 2008 presidential primary, anything McCain did during the Obama presidency) but this is a solid take on a great man at the end of his life looking at a world that is on the precipice.
Repeat Movie #1: Marketa Lazerova
This remains hard to follow, given the large cast, dream sequences, parallel cutting, and lack of a clear lead (the title character disappears for chunks of the film.) But it is impressive and beautiful, giving an impression of what it would be like to live in the harsh and uncivilized medieval Czech Republic for those caught in the crossfire of a larger conflict.
Movie #183/ 1990s Movie #16/ HBO Now Film #3: Analyze This
Last time I saw this was when it was theaters; that was a good bonding experience with my dad. It remains a funny tale of a psychiatrist out of his element when he gets dragged into a Mob dispute. This time I have a better appreciation of some of the mob film parodies.
Movie #184/ New Movie #119/ 2017 Movie #17/ Documentary #9: Icarus
Excellent documentary by someone who was doing one thing (trying to show the effects of steroid use on himself in a semi-professional athletic endurance event) but was in the right place at the right time to capture something very different, as a new acquaintance became a major figure in an international scandal.
Movie #185/ New Movie #120/ 1960s Movie #18/ Criterion Edition #36/ French Film #: Fanfan la Tulipe
Solid and enjoyable film about a roguish swashbuckler. It’s immense fun, with Gerard Phillipe showing that he could compete with anyone else in the dashing rogue category.
Movie #186/ New Movie #121/ 2016 Movie #8/ HBO Now Film #4: All the Way
Political dramas are catnip for me, and this is one of the better HBO efforts. Cranston’s LBJ is a powerhouse performance, and the cast is solid. It gets across a flawed guy manipulating competing interests to change the world, as he betrays friends, ignores an international crisis, and pushes through major civil rights legislation.
Movie #187/ New Movie #122/ Theatrical Release #37/ 2018 Movie #20: The Old Man and the Gun
I don’t think anyone else but Robert Redford would have pulled off this role so well. It’s initially a take on a charming older criminal who is surprisingly successful at bank robberies, but becomes a bit of a study on his compulsion.
Movie #188/ New Movie #123/ 1930s Movie #15/ Criterion Edition #37/ French Film #/ Renoir Film #1: La Bête Humaine (The Human Beast)
Dad appreciated the look at 1930s French rail. It might be a step down from Renoir’s other work of the era, produced between The Grand Illusion and Rules of the Game, but still a good take on the dark things people are capable of.
Movie #189/ 2017 Movie #18/ Best Actor Winner #6: Darkest Hour
It might be manipulative, but this take on Churchill at the first month as Prime Minister is inspirational, elevated by Gary Oldman’s transformation into the iconic figure (on par with Day Lewis’ Lincoln), a solid cast and astounding production values. Churchill might never have gone into the Underground to query the populace about whether there should be a deal with Hitler, but it fits the myth and the character.
Movie #190/ 1940s Movie #3/ Criterion Film #38: The Great Dictator
This Chaplin film’s reputation has increased recently, and for good reason. It may be a bit disjointed, but has some fantastic sequences, and an astounding dual performance as the busy Hitler-like dictator and a barber. Some points are a tad underdeveloped (the barber’s generation-long mental break) but this does include some of the high points of film. The closing speech has been shown out of context, but the build-up to it is why it works so well.
Movie #191/ 2010s Movie #14/ New Movie #124/ Best Actor Winner #7/ Best Actor Winner #2: The Revenant
It’s a staggeringly beautiful film that deserves the Best Cinematography Oscar. There is a unique visual approach in how there is a consistent down to earth depiction of characters injured and crawling, and unable to walk. The rest of it is fine.
Movie #192/ New Movie #125/ 2010s Movie #15/ Horror Movie #1/ Irish Film #6: Grabbers
This is a fun high-concept for a monster film, as an Irish island community faces an invasion from creatures that can’t stand alcohol. As a result, the heroes have to get sloshed. The exploration of character also works, helping the final result to be a decent film.
Movie #193/ New Movie #126/ 2017 Movie #19/ HBO Now Film #5/ Horror Movie #2: It
Maybe seeing what might be Stephen King’s best-loved book in film shows how much elements of it have popped up elsewhere in his work (the kids VS vicious older bullies in Stand By Me, abusive parents of loner children in Carrie and The Stand) but it’s a decent take on friendship, coming of age, and ancient evil. It’s just not exceptional yet, although that may change with Chapter 2.
Movie #194/ New Movie #127/ 1980s Movie #13/ Horror Movie #3: Hellraiser
This horror pick is rather mixed. The designs and music work, although the style can be dated, and the motivations are kinda messed up.
Movie #195/ New Movie #128/ 1990s Movie #17/ Horror Movie #4: Ghostwatch
Excellent mockumentary that soon becomes something else. It definitely seems to have an influence on the likes of Paranormal Activity, although I appreciate how believable it is in how it depicts an initially mundane TV special, and the world that’s built here.
Movie #196/ 1990s Movie #18/ Horror Movie #5/ Best Actor Winner #8: Silence of the Lambs
We pay so much attention to Hopkins’ Hannibal Lecter, who may just be the best movie villain ever, that one can neglect how well the film shows Clarice Starling’s arc as an FBI cadet investigating a completely different serial killer. The pacing is also astounding.
Movie #197/ New Movie #129/ 1990s Movie #19/ Criterion Edition #39: The Fisher King
This is a film worth exploring for a few reasons. The central story of a disgraced celebrity trying to help out a mentally ill man he wounded in the past is done well enough, especially with the visuals introduced by Terry Gillam, and the performances by Willaims and Bridges. The story is elevated by the level of care put into the allegories, and Mercedes Bruhl’s Academy Award winning performance as a woman aware that she’s become an afterthought in some man’s redemption story, and outraged about it.
Movie #198/ New Movie #130/ 2018 Movie #21/ Horror Film #6/ Theatrical Release #38: Suspiria
There is depth here in Luca Guadagnino’s more muted (in comparison to the prog-rock neon original) take on Suspiria, which ties the story of the evil cabal of witches to the German psyche in the 1970s (the situation between East and West Germany; individual guilt over the Holocaust.)
Repeat Movie #2/ Renoir Film #2: The Rules of the Game
The comedy of manners balances an absurd amount of fully realized characters with their own moral codes and understandings, all of which lead to tragedy. Can be appreciated on different levels, depending on whose story you’re following/
Repeat Movie #3: The Band of Outsiders
The crime film is still fantastic, and is probably my favorite Godard, thanks to the three astounding leads in a story about two criminals and a girl who gets involved with them, who just aren’t very good at what they aim to do.
Movie #199/ 1960s Movie #18/ Directorial Debut #: The Producers
Mel Brooks’ directorial debut is one of the funniest movies ever made, the perfect execution of one of the best concepts for a comedy ever.
Movie #200/ New Movie #131/ 2017 Movie #20/ Horror Movie #7: I Remember You
An odd combination of Icelandic detective story and ghost story. It’s not bad, as three different stories (three friends on a secluded island, a detective trying to figure out his diabetic son disappeared, hauntings involving a decades old disappearance) intersect.
Movie #201/ New Movie #132/ 1930s Movie #16/ Criterion Edition #40/ French Film #4/ Renoir Film #3: La Chienne
I didn’t realize until I watched it that it was remade as Fritz Lang’s Scarlet Street. To be more technical, the same source material was used for that one. This starrs Michel Simon, who I know more as one of the old first mate in L’Atalante, and as one of the judges in one of my favorite movies ever: The Passion of Joan of Arc. It’s a solid film, although overhadowed by Renoir’s other work, as well as Scarlet Street, which has a stronger sense of visual identity. The main distinction here is that Simon’s lead is a bit more subtle, and they’re more explicit about the pimpish aspects of the relationship between the love interest and the other guy. And there is a very dark backstory. According to wikipedia, and a piece on Renoir/ Simon’s follow-up Boudu Saved From Drowning…
In the film Michel Simon falls in love with Janie Marèse, and he did off-screen as well, while Marèse fell for Georges Flamant, who plays the pimp. Renoir and producer Pierre Braunberger had encouraged the relationship between Flamant and Marèse in order to get the fullest conviction into their performances (La Chienne was Flamant’s first acting experience). After the film had been completed Flamant, who could barely drive, took Marèse for a drive, crashed the car and she was killed. At the funeral Michel Simon fainted and had to be supported as he walked past the grave. He threatened Renoir with a gun, saying that the death of Marèse was all his fault. “Kill me if you like”, responded Renoir, “but I have made the film.”
Movie #202/ New Movie #133/ 1950s Movie #15/ Criterion Edition #41/ Renoir Film #4: The River
Beautifully shot coming of age film, showing a somewhat ordinary British family in an environment in which everything is heightened. The awkwardness of the largely non-professional cast fits well with the characters.
Repeat Movie #4: Earth
The version on Kanopy might not be the best edition of what reviews suggest is one of the most beautiful silent movies ever made, so it’s possible that I’ll appreciate a remastered version significantly more. This still remains icky due to the endorsement of one of the worst causes of the 20th Century (the specific brand of Socialist Collectivism that led to the Ukranian famine) although the imagery is often iconic.
Repeat Movie #5/ Horror Film #8: November
Watching the Estonian film on Shudder for a second time, I got the sense of its depiction of poor people living in a supernatural world, and trying to take advantage of it in weird ways. It’s oddly sympathetic to Baltic Germans, and against the salt of the earth Estonians, but does depict struggles in a fully-realized world.
Movie #203/ New Movie #134/ 1940s Movie #18/ Renoir Film #5: The Southerner
The film that got Renoir his one directing nomination is a solid take on a family’s difficulties in farming. Often quite beautiful, and it does address both sides of the mythmaking of what it means to be American and independent.
Movie #204/ New Movie #135/ 2018 Movie #22/ Saw It In Theaters #39: The Green Book
Mostly a two-hander with excellent performances by Viggo Mortensen as an Italian-American lunk, and Mahershala Ali as an African-American singer going on a tour of the segregated South. Generally entertaining and funny with characters who slowly reveal complexity and nuance. Probably the best picture choice for those in my social circle.
Movie #205/ New Movie #136/ 2018 Movie #23/ Saw It In Theaters #40: Spider-Man Into the Spider-Verse
Easily Sony’s best Spider-Man film since Spider-Man 2. It tells a story about an interdimensional crisis, as well as the origin of the Miles Morales Spider-Man, in an accessible way. Bonus points for all the little clever moments, and the sense of visual identity for each of the spider-people.
Movie #206/ New Movie #137/ 2016 Movie #9/ Documentary #10: I Am Not Your Negro
Weirdly relaxing take on race relations using James Baldwin’s reflections on the deaths of Martin Luther King, Malcolm X and Medgar Evers. He was definitely ahead of his time given how often and how well he counters arguments that have popped up recently (IE- When Bobby Kennedy said there might be a negro President in forty years, Depictions of African-Americans in films white liberals like.)
Movie #207/ New Movie #138/ 2018 Movie #24/ Saw It In Theaters #41: Aquaman
Gorgeous in Imax 3D. It is probably the second best of the DCEU films, with a sense of fun pushing through multiple narratives (young Arthur learning how to be a superhero and learning the tragic fate of his mother, a war between four kingdoms, a raider seeking revenge for the death of his father, a dynastic clash between heirs to the throne, a battle with a secret race.) A narratively cleaner film could have made more sense, although I’m not sure any of these stories would be good enough on its own, and this was a film that made the moment Aquaman put on his classic costume seem cool.
Movie #208/ New Movie #139/ 2016 Movie #10: The Lobster
It was released in 2016 in the US, so I’m counting it in that category. Dry and deadpan look at a world where no one is allowed to be single, bad news for a guy whose wife just left him.
Movie #209/ New Movie #140/ 2018 Movie #25/ Saw It In Theaters #42/ Documentary #11: They Shall Not Grow Old
This is an astounding effort at modernizing century-old footage to show what the typical World War 1 experience was like for young men in England. The Fathom events version included Peter Jackson’s explanation about the goals and process, which turns a great film into one of the best of its kind.
9/10, 10/10 (with the Peter Jackson explainer)
Movie #210/ New Movie #141/ 2018 Movie #26/ Saw It In Theaters #43: Bumblebee
Perfectly solid prequel to a film that didn’t seem like it needed one. It also works as a homage to the 80s, the era of the Transformers. The story of a teen trying to get over her father’s death sometimes falls into self-parody, but Hailee Steinfeld’s is more compelling than any of the other Transformers human leads (low bar admittedly) and it works with the action sequences, as well as the friendship with an odd alien robot.
- Favorite Horror Film: Silence of the Lambs
- Favorite HBO Now Film: The Fugitive
- Favorite Repeat: Marketa Lazerova
- Favorite Renoir: Rules of the Game
- Favorite Movie I Had Never Seen Before: Ghostwatch
- Favorite Movie Overall: Marketa Lazerova
- Favorite Silent Film: The Passion of Joan of Arc
- Favorite New Silent Film: Thief of Bagdad
- Favorite 1930s Film: M
- Favorite New 1930s Film: Steamboat ‘Round the Bend
- Favorite 1940s Film: Gaslight
- Favorite New 1940s Film: Rome Open City
- Favorite 1950s Film: All About Eve
- Favorite New 1950s Film: The Big Heat
- Favorite 1960s Film: 2001- A Space Odyssey
- Favorite New 1960s Film: Marketa Lazerova
- Favorite 1970s Film: Aguirre, the Wrath of God
- Favorite New 1970s Film: Stalker
- Favorite 1980s Film: Tootsie
- Favorite New 1980s Film: Rain Man
- Favorite 1990s Film: The Shawshank Redemption
- Favorite New 1990s Film: Magnolia
- Favorite 2000s Film: Children of Men
- Favorite New 2000s Film: The New World
- Favorite 2010s Film: The Social Network
- Favorite New 2010s Film: Tangerines/ To Kill a Man
- Favorite 2016 Film: Captain America- Civil War
- Favorite New 2016 Film: Moana
- Favorite 2017 Film: Star Wars- The Last Jedi
- Favorite New 2017 Film: Call Me By Your Name
- Favorite 2018 Film: Black Panther
- Favorite Fritz Lang Film: M
- Favorite German Film: M
- Favorite Directorial Debut: The Shawshank Redemption
- Favorite Japanese Film: The Hidden Fortress
- Favorite French Film: Band of Outsiders
- Favorite Horror Film: The Silence of the Lambs
- Favorite Science-Fiction Film: 2001: A Space Odyssey
- Top Five Films I’ve Never Seen Before: Marketa Lazerova, Thief of Bagdad, Rome Open City, Stalker, Black Panther
- Favorite Documentary: They Shall Not Grow Old
- Favorite Overall Film: The Passion of Joan of Arc
- Worst Movie: Head