This is a continuation of observations on films I’ve seen this year. The sub-goals for this section are five films by Czech director Jiri Menzel, five films involving trains, five films from the Shudder streaming service (I ultimately went with ten), and five comic book documentaries (I found a few online, so it seemed like a worthwhile subgenre to explore.) I’m also trying to close out the decade subgoals, where I had aimed for ten movies per decade.
Movie #122/ New Movie# 57/ 2010s Movie #10/ Comic Book Documentary #1: Warren Ellis: Captured Ghosts
This is a decent analysis of his work and impact on comics, with some friendly interviews that get to why he’s such an absurd and interesting character, even beyond his actual work. I’m not sure it succeeds for someone who isn’t familiar with his record, and some of the reproductions of his ideas come across like cosplay, but it gets into what makes this particular writer tic. I should note I watched this one before the allegations came out, so I wasn’t considering that context.
Movie #123/ New Movie #58/ 2010s Movie #11/ Comic Book Documentary #2: Grant Morrison- Talking With Gods
The Grant Morrison spotlight is slightly less interesting to me, even if his stories are more outrageous, perhaps because I’m familiar with most of it before. If Warner Brothers is looking at the success of Joker and considering R-rated properties, a Grant Morrison biopic could make sense because he is such a unique man, with some crazy stories involving his DC comics influence. His version of Saving Mr. Banks would be bonkers.
Movie #124/ 1940s Movie #11/ Criterion Edition #25/ Trains #1: Palm Beach Story
A pleasant comedy of divorce and remarriage, that deals with some serious themes (during the Great Depression, a young wife tries to leave her husband to find a wealthy man to pay for his ambitions) while featuring some great absurd asides and sequences, especially with the ale & quail hunting club, and Rudy Vallee as the type of rich guy Tony Curtis would pretend to be in Some Like It Hot.
Movie #125/ New Movie# 59/ 1960s Movie #16/ Criterion Edition #26/ Czech Film #3/ Jiri Menzel Film #1: Pearls of the Deep
A portmanteau with some of the leading figures in the Czech New Wave movement adapting short stories by the same writers. The results are consistently interesting. Menzel depicted a strange conversation between motorycle afficianados heading to a race. Němec had a great take on two old men looking back at their accomplishments, with a twist. Chytilová showed surreal events in a diner. Jireš depicted the beginnings of a young romance from people with very different backgrounds. Schorm highlighted a very strange artist. It was all interesting and enjoyable.
Movie #126/ New Movie# 60/ 1960s Movie #17/ Criterion Edition #27/ Czech Film #4/ Jiri Menzel Film #2: Capricious Summer
This movie about three middle aged guy trying to impress a travelling magician’s beautiful assistant is funny, but doesn’t sell the idea that she would be interested in any of them.
Movie #127/ New Movie #62/ 2010s Movie #12/ Comic Book Documentary #3: Rude Dude- The Steve Rude Story
This is a contrast from the other comic book documentaries in getting to some serious stuff, including mental illness and the effect all this has on the artist’s family.
Movie #128/ New Movie #63/ 1950s Movie #12/ Trains Movie #2: The Titfield Thunderbolt
It was an okay Ealing comedy, in which a small British town is way too emotionally invested in the local railroad, stakes that are never quite explained. My train buff dad appreciated the contrast between trains of different eras, which became relevant to the plot.
Movie #129/ New Movie #64/ 2020 Movie #6: Hamilton
Hamilton the musical is potentially the best artistic work of the 21st century, so it’s tremendous to have a great recording of it. I’ve listened to the soundtrack a lot, but the filmed version provides an appreciation for character arcs: Angelica’s unrequited love, Eliza as potentially the true hero, Burr’s ethos of waiting for the right moment, and Hamilton as Lin-Manuel Miranda’s spirit animal. I don’t think I’ve been this affected by anything in years.
Movie #130/ New Movie #65/ Silent Movie #9/ Trains Movie #3: The Wrecker
My train buff dad did appreciate the decent set pieces involving the British Southern Rail, in a silent mystery about the hunt for someone intentionally causing train derailments.
Movie #131 / New Movie #66/ 2020 Movie #7: Palm Springs
Fun take on Groundhog Day exploring what it would mean for two people to be stuck in a loop together, what happens when there are consequences to all of this, and differing approaches to being in a fantastic situation.
Movie #132 / 1970s Movie #13/ Shudder Film #1: Texas Chainsaw Massacre
One of the most iconic horror movies ever made. It’s sent up so well in A Cabin in the Woods that it seems like part of a shared universe, but it still holds up pretty well.
Movie #133 / New Movie #67/ 1980s Movie #10/ Shudder Film #2: The House By the Cemetery
This story of a family in a haunted cabin gets pretty weird. The revelation about the bad guy is unsatisfying, but there are some interesting twists at the end.
Movie #134 / New Movie #68/ 2010s Film #13: Sgt. Stubby An American Hero
The story of a decorated war dog during World War 1 is a change of pace in between horror films. It’s a very pleasant movie worth sharing with the older or younger generation. And the film’s social media account likes what I said about them on twitter.
Movie #135 / New Movie #69/ 2010s Movie #14/ Shudder Film #3/ German Film #1: Hagazussa
A bit like The Witch in its depiction of a young woman who turns to paganism, it has some strong moments and eerie moments, but it’s often dull and meaningless.
Movie #136 / New Movie #70/ 2010s Movie #15/ Shudder Film #4/ Finnish Film #4: Lake Bodom
It opens with an interesting idea with one teen kinda tricking others into going to the site of a notorious unsolved murder in order to test a theory about it. When the inevitable bad stuff happens, there are some really weird reactions to a murder somewhat mitigated by a twist into the motivations of the character, although it is often hard to find someone to root for.
Movie #137 / New Movie #71/ 2010s Movie #16/ Shudder Film #5: The Taking of Deborah Logan
It combines a decent concept (a woman who may have been involved in demonic stuff decades ago suffers Alzheimers) with found footage horror, in a generally satisfying way. A highlight is the departure of one of the leads just as things go to hell.
Movie #138/ New Movie #72/ 1980s Movie #11/ Shudder Film #6: Tenebrae
A kinda-meta Argento where the lead is an author facing criticism of his work similar to the kind Argento faces. Elevated by some really nice shots, a decent soundtrack and a few bold twists.
Movie #139/ New Movie #73/ 1980s Movie #12/ Shudder Film #7: The Beyond
More of an excuse for creative practical effects than any kind of satisfying narrative, but the practical effects are a lot of fun. The idea of seven gateways to hell seems like something worth exploring in a TV show.
Movie #140/ New Movie #74/ 1980s Movie #13/ Shudder Film #8: Phantasm
This is an oddball independent film with a lot of weird concepts and practical effects. It certainly has its own style.
Movie #141/ New Movie #75/ 1970s Movie #14/ Shudder Film #9: Cat O’Nine Tales
Karl Malden’s blind former reporter is a pretty likable co-lead for a slasher, and makes for some interesting complications in the otherwise completely competent giallo.
Movie #142/ 1960s Movie #18/ Criterion Edition #27/ Czech Film #5/ Jiri Menzel Film #3/ Trains Movie #4: Closely Watched Trains
What works so well about the film is the contrast between the setting (Nazi occupied Czechoslovakia) and the concerns of the lead, an unambitious man who got a steady job and wants to satisfy his girlfriend, stumbling into a moment of historical impact. The combination of satire, sex comedy, and resistance makes this the definitive film of the Czech New Wave.
Movie #143/ New Movie #76/ 2010s Movie #17/ Shudder Film #10/ Trains Movie #5/ South Korean Movie #2: Train to Busan
Solid zombie film with decent social commentary, and an interesting concept executed well with a zombie outbreak on a train, resulting in clever threats and solutions to challenges.
Movie #144/ 2000s Movie #9/ Criterion Edition #28: The New World (First Cut)
This version remains an impressive take on people whose actions will be relevant for centuries figuring out their own lives during a historically significant time, although I do think I prefer the shorter theatrical cut, or the longer extended edition. The cinematography is breathtaking, and it is one of the great film culture clashes, a surprisingly mature and complex romance.
Movie #145/ 1990s Movie #11/ New Film #6/ Czech Film #6/ Jiri Menzel Film #4: Larks on a String
Technically, this was made in the 60s, but wasn’t released until the early 90s. It starts as a whimsical take of life at a reeducation camp (a highlight being an absurd wedding by proxy), but things get darker when the lead starts wondering where his friends have gone and asking too many questions of the authorities.
Movie #146/ New Movie# 77/ 2010s Movie #18/ Comic Book Documentary #4: Future Shock- The Story of 2000 AD
It’s an accessible documentary about the impact of a British comics anthology on pop culture and American comics, and the feedback loop as the company has to adjust to all these changes. It’s a good primer on a period in comics that I’m not all that familiar with, and has some great stories. My main complaints are that some of the events seem convenient (The current publisher and creative teams are all an improvement over a dark period in the 90s) and some of the rationale isn’t always explained (Are concerns about censors due to British law, the market, or some mix of the two?)
Movie #147/ New Movie #78/ 2000s Movie #10/ New Film #6/ Czech Film #7/ Jiri Menzel Film #: I Served the King of England
It’s satisfying to see Menzel back at it thirty years after the Czech New Wave came to a cruel end. It’s a fun story of a flawed ambitious man, exploring themes and eras from Menzel’s earlier work.
Movie #148/ New Film #79 Silent Era Movie #10/ Criterion Edition #29: Master of the House
A theatrical adaptation set in one house is probably not the best material for a silent movie, but this is a worthwhile look of a patriarch getting humbled by the women around him, after spending the first half of the film earning their ire.
Movie #149/ New Film #80/ 2010s Movie #19: Dragon Ball Super: Broly
It’s a solid movie-length adventure for iconic characters, having some fun with the clashes between Goku and Vegeta, while setting up a worthwhile threat, and introducing decent side characters with some modern touches, like the assistants of the big bad guy having their own character arcs.
Movie #150/ New Movie #81/ 1990s Movie #12/ Criterion Edition #30/ Comic Book Documentary #5: Crumb
Probably the most famous comic book documentary, it’s a great take on a writer/ artist who provides excellent material. Robert Crumb’s upbringing, unusual style and some of the well-earned controversies about his work are all explored, in a portrait of a man who seems guileless but reveals a more twisted personality. It comes across as what it is; a talented director telling the story of a complex friend involved in a visually interesting medium. The commentary tracks are particularly useful, given how well Zwigoff knows the subject.