film fatales #22: 2 days in paris (julie delpy, 2007)

I saw this film and its sequel, 2 Days in New York, in the “wrong order”, having seen the latter four year ago. I don’t think it matters ... both are enjoyable, I might have gotten a bit more enjoyment from New York if I’d known Paris, but they are both standalones.

This truly is “A Julie Delpy Film”. She produced it, she wrote it, she directed it, she starred in it, she composed music for it, she sang one of the songs, she edited it, she cast her parents to play her parents in the film and used their house as their house in the film. (Roger Ebert claimed, “When a women takes that many jobs, we slap her down for vanity. When a man does, we call him the new Orson Welles.”) She has been a film actress since she was a kid, so it’s not like she was new to the world of film.  And 2 Days in Paris is a confident film ... Delpy has a feel for how to make a fictional movie seem almost like a documentary, which won’t surprise anyone who has seen her work in the “Before” series.

Adam Goldberg plays a fish out of water, visiting Paris with his French girlfriend and finding himself clueless and suspicious when, as can be expected, everyone speaks in French. He is not instantly likable ... I’m not sure the character ever becomes likable ... but gradually we see how this mildly irritating fellow not only suffers, but is to some extent our representative in the film (speaking only for Americans here). Goldberg also seems like a stand-in for another character, specifically Ethan Hawke as Jesse in the “Before” movies. As Mick LaSalle wrote, “Millions of men have been psychically dating Julie Delpy for years, thanks to ‘Before Sunrise’ and ‘Before Sunset,’ and we've come to accept Ethan Hawke as an acceptable surrogate. But Adam Goldberg in ‘2 Days in Paris’ takes some getting used to.” (In the sequel, Goldberg’s character is gone, and Chris Rock plays the love interest.)

Perhaps it’s unfair to compare 2 Days in Paris to the Linklater films. It has some slight similarities, but that is all. This film is pure Delpy. And she is very fair to her characters. Goldberg may be annoying, but no more so than Delpy’s character. I wish I’d seen this movie when it came out, because my love for Delpy has only grown over the years, and it would have been nice to see her take on the director’s chair. 2 Days in Paris is slight, but engaging, and convinces me I need to see some of her other work as a director. 7/10.

(Explanation of the Film Fatales Series.)


guess who's coming to dinner (stanley kramer, 1967)

I’ve seen a handful of Stanley Kramer movies ... a few more if I count the ones where he produced but didn’t direct. I have a pre-conceived notion about Kramer that poisons my ability to fairly evaluate his work. I don’t like his movies. But I realize that it’s been a long time since I’ve seen any of them ... I have never given a rating to his films, because I haven’t seen one since I first began assigning ratings. So I’m revisiting Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner, but I’m rating it for the first time.

The only time I saw it was more than 40 years ago, and my memory is that I hated it. This time, I felt obliged to bend over backwards to see its good points, and I admit there are a few.

Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy are very good. Beau Richards is OK. Having said that, too many actors here are hamstrung by the parts they are asked to play. It’s not that Katharine Houghton, in her first movie, is bad, but she is given a character with no shadings. Houghton plays the wide-eyed idealist in love as well as can be expected, but like almost every character in the movie, she isn’t playing a person but a placeholder in a framework. Roy Glenn seems to exist solely to give Sidney Poitier one scene where he can turn on the fire. Cecil Kellaway is the Irish monsignor, a part he could do in his sleep. And he, too, is only in the film to show the expansive liberal nature of Spencer Tracy, whose best friend is a monsignor even though Tracy’s character isn’t Catholic.

You can already see how hard it is for me to say something nice. I began the above paragraph noting some of the movie’s good points, only to quickly move into attack mode.

Your reaction to film’s approach to Poitier’s character, Dr. John Prentice, likely colors your reaction to the film as a whole. The film exists to make a comment about interracial marriage, and Dr. Prentice is the black half of that relationship. Prentice is perfect: he’s a doctor, he does good all over the world, he’s on his way to Zurich to do more good, he’s great looking, he is, in short, the Perfect Man. Some of us feel this perfection undercuts the film’s seriousness ... wouldn’t it make a better point if Prentice was a real person with real problems, instead of an idealized man the likes of which have never walked the earth? In fairness, Kramer knows this ... in fact, he did it on purpose. His idea was to remove any possible objections to Prentice, so that the only possible reason why you wouldn’t want him to marry your daughter is because he is black and your daughter is white. For Kramer, the focus is unmistakable, which forces the audience to consider race and only race.

Kramer doesn’t trust that audience. He clearly doesn’t think we have the ability to ascertain character in a person who is as complex as any other person. He reduces Prentice to “Black Man” because he worries that otherwise, we won’t be sympathetic to Kramer’s central (i.e., only) theme.

One result is that Kramer turns Poitier, one of our most dynamic actors, into a quiet man who wants to please. By turning off Poitier’s capacity for anger, he makes Prentice more like a stereotypical “boy” than like the man he is supposed to be. And while Kramer does give Poitier one scene where he lights up, he directs his anger at his father ... he never lets any of the white characters see what might be seething underneath the mask.

The film benefits greatly from the presence of Hepburn and Tracy. I’ll be kind and say that while Kramer knew the backstory of the two, he didn’t necessarily milk it. Well, I think he did, but I have no evidence. It was known that Tracy was dying ... it was known by the audience, since Tracy had died before the film’s release. This adds poignancy to every scene between the two stars. When Tracy gives his final soliloquy, talking about true love, Hepburn is crying real tears, because she hears Tracy in the context of their love affair. At one point, we get a one-shot of Hepburn and her tears, and Kramer holds it for a few seconds, after which he switches to a one-shot of Tracy looking at Hepburn, also for a few seconds. The two shots are designed to elicit tears from the audience, and even I can’t say Kramer shouldn’t have given us that moment.

It reminds me very much of a scene that tears me up every time I see it, and I’ve seen it a lot of times over the years: the deaths of Bonnie and Clyde. Warren Beatty and Faye Dunaway are great in that movie ... as fine actors, they convince us of the connection of their characters. And when they die, we get a brief moment where they look into each other’s faces. But the real impact comes from the brilliant editing of Dede Allen, who uses quick cuts to give us the last seconds of the two outlaws. Is that any more “artistic” than Kramer using longer cuts to draw emotion out of the last scene of Tracy and Hepburn? I know which one I prefer. But I must accept that I am unfair if I don’t accept the power of Kramer’s work here, as well.

So I still want to hate Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner. But it’s time I pulled back. It’s not a very good movie, but it’s not worth the energy of my ire. 6/10.


terminator 2: judgment day (james cameron, 1991)

I once listed the first Terminator movie at #26 of my 50 favorite movies of all time. I mentioned Terminator 2 a couple of times:

The Terminator was James Cameron’s first hit, his second feature (Piranha Part Two came first). He later spent more money (Terminator 2 cost almost $100 million more than the original, which came in at $6.4 million). He became King of the World with Titanic. Avatar cost more than $300 million. None of them was better than The Terminator, still Cameron’s best film. ...

One of the best things about Terminator 2 is the way Linda Hamilton’s Sarah Connor became an icon for a certain kind of tough heroine. The roots for that characterization happen in the original, where Sarah goes from fun-loving waitress to terrorized target to mother of a future hero to the person who finally kicks the terminator’s ass, all in two hours.

The Terminator has very little flab; it’s a punk-rock action film. T2 fetishized its special effects, which were indeed amazing for their day, but the result was more Emerson, Lake and Palmer than The Stooges. The Terminator had one superb special effect, and it made the most of it: Arnold Schwarzenegger.

Watching T2 again, I realized I’ve been a bit harsh over the years. I stand by what I’ve written, but I don’t think it’s fair to dismiss the movie simply because it wasn’t as good as the 26th-best movie of all time. It’s like saying because Do the Right Thing is such a great movie, Spike Lee can never make another good one.

What were the specific critiques above? T2 cost a lot more than the original. Some of the best parts of the sequel were a direct result of the first movie. And it dazzled without a heart. (I admit I got off a pretty good line about The Stooges and ELP.)

I used to think Terminator 2 was flabby, that all the extra money took away from the streamlined excitement of the original. But watching it now, I understand that it was money well spent. Linda Hamilton was great, Arnold got to reprise his signature role, and the combination of Robert Patrick and special effects made for a terrifying villain. It’s more expansive than The Terminator, and yes, on some level it’s more dazzling. But I’m being unfair to say T2 had no heart. It tugged at our own hearts in ways The Terminator never did, and if that was sometimes a bit sappy, well, at least they tried. The original had no time for that kind of emotion ... it’s part of why I prefer it. But at least Cameron wasn’t just trying to repeat himself.

He also deserves credit for the coherence of the action scenes. In 1991, Michael Bay was still four years away from directing his first film. That Cameron knew how to present action didn’t seem all that noteworthy. Nowadays, after years of “chaos cinema”, Terminator 2 is positively old-fashioned, and I mean that as a compliment.

So yes, my own taste preferences will also lead me towards the punks over the Emerson, Lake and Palmers. On that most basic of levels, the first movie was half-an-hour shorter than the sequel, reason enough in most cases for me to react negatively to the long one. But the truth is, Terminator 2 was consistently engaging. The Terminator remains a 10/10, but I’m raising my rating of T2 to 8/10. (#546 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time.)

A proper action scene:

Here is an excellent discussion of the film, with a section devoted to its action scenes and their relation to chaos cinema:

The big action and little problems of Terminator 2: Judgment Day


andrei rublev (andrei tarkovsky, 1966)

The day after the Golden Globes, Eileen Jones wrote a fired-up piece titled “Against Meryl Streep”, with the subtitle, “Meryl Streep’s speechifying at the Golden Globes was the worst thing to happen since Trump’s election.” Whatever you think of Jones (and she seems to have pissed off a lot of people), she does have a way with words:

“That I should live to see the day when Meryl Streep’s speechifying at a Hollywood awards show is admired as solemnly and discussed as fervently as Lincoln’s second inaugural address is a personal nightmare.”

“[S]he brought to the Golden Globes all the fiery rhetoric she used to play Margaret Thatcher in a recent admiring biopic”.

“She strikes me as about the worst possible spokesperson imaginable for the Left in an era of working-class rage”.

This inspired me to buy her book, Filmsuck, USA, which doesn’t disappoint. We disagree on the value of a lot of movies, but I find her writing smart and fun to read. She announces her intentions with the first sentence: “That loud sucking noise you hear is American cinema going down the drain.”

The book is devoted to American films, which she doesn’t think live up to their possibilities. She doesn’t talk much about foreign films, but she does talk about “art films”. “[W]e tend to rely on stupid premises like Art Film = Good Film. And when I say ‘we’ I mean ‘you’: I swing exactly the other way, being far more inclined to regard with suspicion any film selling heavy doses of ‘artistry’."

Now, I have no idea what Jones thinks of Andrei Rublev, or the work of Tarkovsky in general. It is clear from her writing that Jones has a vast knowledge of film, and that her interests reach beyond what you might suspect from the quotes I am cherry-picking here. (As one example, Jones, who teaches in the Film Department at Cal, teaches a course on the History of Avant-Garde Film.)

I mention all of this because I experienced something of a disconnect, watching Andrei Rublev after reading Jones on Rango (she loves Gore Verbinski), “David Fincher’s The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and the Audience That Loves This Kind of Crap”, and Peter Greenaway (“I can’t stand Greenaway films, can’t even stand to hear descriptions of Greenaway films.”) Here I was, settling in to a three-hour art-house classic, and I couldn’t get Eileen Jones out of my head.

Andrei Rublev survived. I’ve been afraid of his movies for years, only seeing one (Ivan’s Childhood a couple of years ago ... I liked it ... and I saw Solaris so long ago I don’t remember anything except I hated it). But I did what I could to put my concerns out of mind, and for the most part, it was a success.

Tarkovsky certainly wouldn’t have approved of my method of watching, but he did make it easy for me. Andrei Rublev comes in two parts, a total of eight segments, giving me many opportunities to stop for a bit and think about what I was seeing. (OK, at one point, I replied to an email I’d gotten from Jones.) The film gives the story of the title character, a famous 15th-century Russian painter. From what I can gather, the film doesn’t appear to be a stickler for accuracy about that life. Instead, Rublev stands in for people like him: artists, people of faith, members of communities. Tarkovsky isn’t didactic about his representation of the 15th century. He presents it to us, and leaves it to us to imagine how different life was then, at the tail end of the Middle Ages. The film looks beautiful ... the cinematographer, Vadim Yusov, worked with Tarkovsky on several films. I found the acting rather inscrutable, perhaps because my ear wasn’t clicking with the Russian. But the actors served well as visual representations of their characters.

The entire thing almost works like an 8-part miniseries, although that impression might be amplified by the way I watched it. Three hours at one time would have felt a bit much. If my piecemeal approach to watching the film is too impure for you, add a point to my rating. #26 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of all time. 8/10.


what i've been reading

Fuck you, members of the media.

Fuck your constant pursuit of ratings, of quarterly profits, of giving this tinpot cumdumpster a platform with which he can influence a large part of our country

Fuck you for buying into the idea that racism should be afforded an equal platform with equality, for calling a Nazi anything other than a Nazi.

-- Chris Kluwe, “Fuck You, Donald Trump

 

Hugh Laurie, winning for his work in “The Night Manager,” joked that he assumed this would be the last Golden Globes because “I don’t mean to be gloomy. It’s just that it has Hollywood, Foreign and Press in the title. And I think to some Republicans, even Association is slightly sketchy.” The point about the press is taken, and taken with thanks, but this formulation — which Streep repeated and made worse by prefacing it to say “You, and all of us in this room, really belong to the most vilified segment of American society right now” — has the unfortunate effect of suggesting that some of the richest and most influential people in the world are victims.

-- Alyssa Rosenberg, “In the Trump era, artists can be Jimmy Fallon or Donald Glover. Choose wisely.

 

“Why can’t you give him the benefit of the doubt…,” [Kellyanne] Conway asked, to which, [Chris] Cuomo answered “because he’s making a disgusting gesture on video about Serge.”

-- Ken Meyer, “Conway Asks: Why Do You Believe What Trump Says ‘Rather Than What’s in His Heart?

 

If happiness comes when you find something you are good at, and then you do it, then I guess Preston Epps was a very happy man. After "Bongo Rock" hit #14 on the charts, Epps locked in with the following songs, in alphabetical order: "Baja Bongos," "Blue Bongo," "Bongo Bongo Bongo," "Bongo Hop," "Bongo in the Congo," "Bongo Party," "Bongo Shuffle," "Bongo, Bong, Bongo," "Bongola," "Bongos in Paradise," "Bongos in Pastel," "Gully Bongo," "Hully Gully Bongo," "Prest Bongos Under Glass," "Stormy Bongo," and "Surfin' Bongos." None of them made the charts, with the exception of "Bongo Bongo Bongo," which made it to #78.

-- Steven Rubio’s Online Life, January 9, 2009


road to morocco (david butler, 1942)

The third in the Road series starring Bing Crosby, Bob Hope, and Dorothy Lamour. It turned up on TCM while I was channel surfing, and I have fond memories of it, so it was an easy decision to watch it.

Do the Road Movies need to be explained? Their peak was in the 1940s, when five of the seven movies were released, with the final picture coming in 1962, when Hope and Crosby were almost 60 and Lamour was reduced to a cameo. It’s hard to imagine many people under 50 seeking out comedies from the 40s that were very popular at the time but not considered “classics”, so my guess is there is a need to explain the series. All except the last involved Hope and Crosby stuck is some quandary, during which they’d cross paths with Lamour, with a battle for her heart ensuing. There were songs, Lamour wore sarongs in most of them, and the laughs were non-stop. The movies were ... how about “insouciant”? They were nonsensical, offering parodies of popular genres of the day. There were lots of ad-libs, with Hope often talking directly to the audience. As in Hope’s comedy act, there were plenty of topical references, one reason the films don’t hold up as well as some ... there was no attempt to be timeless. I guess the closest thing in more recent years would be the Naked Gun movies with Leslie Nielsen.

Road to Morocco is thought by some to be the best in the series. I certainly saw it many times on TV when I was a kid. It was nominated for two Oscars, including Best Original Screenplay (if the rumors are true, Crosby and especially Hope, or their writers, deserve a bit of credit for their ad-libs). It was named to the National Film Registry in 1996. Watching it again, I thought it fell a bit short of expectations, and in my memories, my favorite remains Road to Rio (admittedly a minority view).

There is a feeling that anything goes in the Road series. In Morocco, there’s a musical interlude with the three stars where each of their voices comes out of the mouths of others (so you’ve got Lamour with Hope’s voice, or Hope singing as Bing). There are talking camels. Anthony Quinn plays a desert sheik ... wait, that’s not so odd, the Mexico-born Quinn was famous throughout his career for filling whatever ethnicity a movie needed. A running gag in the series has Hope and Crosby playing “patty-cake” as a way to distract bad guys ... this time it backfires, the bad guys are expecting it, leading to the line, “That gag sure gets around”.

I don’t know ... I feel a fondness for the series, and re-watching Road to Morocco was enjoyable. I’m inclined to rate it higher than it probably deserves. 7/10.


love actually (richard curtis, 2003)

By the time Richard Curtis directed his first feature, Love Actually, he had established himself as someone who could be relied upon to deliver a certain kind of film. After a career in television, he wrote or co-wrote the screenplays for films like Four Weddings and a Funeral (an Oscar nominee), Notting Hill and Bridget Jones’s Diary. Love Actually is a bit like a Marvel superhero movie, in that there are so many characters and so many romantic permutations that the film runs 135 minutes and still doesn’t have time to give a full presentation of all those characters. In fact, you can find charts all over the Internet that offer visual representations of all the characters and their interactions.

Of course, a lot of characters means a lot of room for actors, and it almost seems like every living British actor in 2003 is in this movie. A sample: Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Chiwetel Ejiofor, Andrew Lincoln of Walking Dead fame, Martin Freeman, and Rowan Atkinson. Not to mention Americans like Laura Linney and Billy Bob Thornton, and cameos by Claudia Schiffer, Ivana Miličević, January Jones, Elisha Cuthbert, Shannon Elizabeth, and Denise Richards. Some of these actors fare better than others ... I imagine everyone will have their favorites. I always love Bill Nighy, and Hugh Grant always makes it look easy (this time playing the Prime Minister!).

The film was a massive box office hit, returning almost $250 million at a cost of only $45 million. And it is easy to see why it is popular. It’s an epic rom-com, and if you don’t like one scene or character, there will always be another right around the corner. Curtis throws in just enough melancholy to take the edge off of the saccharine, and there are what feels like a dozen different endings, most of which are designed to bring a tear of happiness to your eye.

In short, just the kind of movie I don’t usually like. But Curtis won me over, and if I never felt like Love Actually was making any major statements about actual love, it rolled along pleasantly enough.

What is remarkable is the history of Love Actually since 2003. While it takes place in December, and Christmas is the background for some scenes, it’s not what you’d think of as a Christmas movie. Yet it has gradually become one of those movies people look forward to watching again every Christmas. Fivethiryeight, better known for political data analysis, ran an essay last month titled “The Definitive Analysis Of ‘Love Actually,’ The Greatest Christmas Movie Of Our Time”. I can almost see it, although I’d rather make a Xmas tradition of watching Die Hard.

It’s not just a fan favorite. Amazingly, it’s #328 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t List of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 7/10.

It even inspired a recent Saturday Night Live skit:

Spoiler alert ... here’s the original:


film fatales #21: stories we tell (sarah polley, 2012)

How long does one have to wait before spoilers are no longer an issue? Stories We Tell is more than four years old, but part of me is still squeamish about revealing anything crucial. Suffice to say, there will be spoilers, and this is a movie where the less you know going in, the more you will get from it.

Sarah Polley is up to many things with Stories We Tell, which seems surprising if you just offer a brief description: Polley makes a documentary about her family, using interviews and home movies. Polley turns this seemingly simple exercise into a smart examination of memory, family, and the very act of making a documentary. She is so smooth with her craft that her ambitions never slow the film down, never seem pretentious.

Polley isn’t exactly offering a cast of unreliable narrators. But each of the interviewees (“storytellers”, they are called in the credits) gives the truth as they remember it, in many cases admitting that they aren’t sure their memories can be trusted. One person says that only people who were there can tell a story, and if one of them has passed away, as Polley’s mother did, we have to take the survivors’ word as true. He is at least open about his desire to make his truth into the truth. But Polley suggests that we all do this, that life is partly about turning our truth into the truth. Since Stories We Tell features the remembrances of so many people, the truth can’t be found. It isn’t cumulative ... we can’t just toss all of the stories into a salad bowl.

Polley is behind the camera ... she is the interviewer. She is the one trying to find the truth, and at first it seems she stands outside of the collective attempt to remember. But the film is hers ... more than one interviewee asks her pointedly why she is making the film, what she hopes to accomplish. She wants to turn the truth into her truth, but her methods prevent her from ever grasping “the truth” ... in fact, watching Stories We Tell, we despair of ever being able to grasp.

The one person who can’t tell her story is Polley’s dead mother, Diane. Perhaps for this reason, she is the center of the story ... all of the living offer their memories of her. Polley supplements this with home movies ... it would seem the Polley family took a lot of movies in their day, and as people talk about Diane, we see her acting as they remember. Mostly, we see her love of life, and love of fun. The stories and the movies make a powerful team ... the stories may be full of subjective experience, but the movies show how things “really” were.

Polley saves her knockout blow for the closing credits. At least that’s how it was for me ... I’m sure some people figured out Polley’s trick before I did. As the credits get to the actors, we see the various interviewees, all as the aforementioned “storytellers”. Then, suddenly, we see a list of actors playing other people. “Rebecca Jenkins: Diane Polley.” As this list went on (“Eric Hanson: Mark Polley, age 11”), the realization that the “home movies” were staged puts the finishing touch on Polley’s examination of documentary truth. We have reflexively assumed the movies were the objective counterpart to the subjective storytellers. Now we find that those movies are subjective reconstructions.

This does not feel like a cheat. On the contrary, with the revelation that Polley used “fake” home movies, we are forced into a further understanding of Polley’s theme. The storytellers weren’t the only ones trying to pass off their truths as the truth ... Polley herself turns out to be the biggest storyteller of them all. #185 on the They Shoot Pictures, Don’t They list of the top 1000 films of the 21st century. 9/10.

(Explanation of the Film Fatales Series.)


by request: shoot 'em up (michael davis, 2007)

Shoot ‘Em Up has a lot going for it, if you’re a fan of non-stop action. Mostly, since it’s non-stop action, it will appeal to those fans. There’s eye candy from Clive Owen and Monica Bellucci (although Bellucci is never allowed to be more than eye candy). The cinematographer is Peter Pau, an Oscar winner for Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon. And writer-director Michael Davis admits to some impressive influences, in particular John Woo’s Hard Boiled.

It did poorly at the box office, but has become a cult favorite. And it’s easy to see why. The action is over-the-top absurd, the plot is largely non-existent (and thus stays out of the way), and Clive Owen is dedicated as the “hero”.

I admit I was impressed. I laughed throughout the movie. At first, my laughter was joyful, because I was seeing things I hadn’t seen before. (Suffice to say that Owen kills a man using a carrot in the very first scene.) And I never quit laughing. But by the end, I wasn’t as surprised as I was in the beginning, because the never-ending lunacy became something I expected.

Now, I would think I was the perfect audience for Shoot ‘Em Up. I have often praised action movies that ignored plot and character in favor of “pure” action. And indeed, I was entertained. But the very thing that made the movie seem intriguing, Davis’s influences, gradually turned into a check-list. Hard Boiled came first ... the opening scene features Owen in a shootout, carrying a baby. There was a lot of John Woo homage ... the two-handed spicy gun play, the gallons of blood and dead bodies (body count 151 according to the IMBD). There was snappy dialogue a la 007 or Arnold Schwarzenegger. (Samples: “Eat your vegetables” after using the carrot as a death tool. “Talk about shooting your load” after dispatching a bunch of bad guys in a shoot out while having sex with Bellucci.) Clive Owen’s action-with-a-baby reflects a similar scene in Children of Men. The problem is, every time you notice an influence/homage, you remember that those movies were better than the one you are watching. I’ve seen Hard Boiled. I love Hard Boiled. And Shoot ‘Em Up is not Hard Boiled. Michael Davis is not George “Mad Max” Miller, or Quentin Tarantino. (Of course, Davis is not the first person to forget that what makes Tarantino great isn’t the blood, it’s the dialogue.)

There are worse things than falling short of your influences. And while the action in Shoot ‘Em Up is frantic, I found it a bit more intelligible than the usual Michael Bay Chaos extravaganza. Ultimately, despite my claims of loving “pure” action, I clearly need something more. I need John Woo, I need George Miller. Or I need something that isn’t just nostalgic, but in some way new, like the Gareth Evans/Iko Uwais “Raid” films from Indonesia. Feel free to upgrade my rating if all of the above sounds exciting to you. 6/10.


what i watched last year

To copy what I said at this time in 2015: “A summary, sorted by my ratings. I tend to save the 10/10 ratings for older classics, so a more recent film that gets 9/10 is very good indeed. Movies that are just shy of greatness will get 8/10. I waste more time than is necessary trying to distinguish 7/10 from 6/10 … both ratings signify slightly better-than-average movies, where if I like them I’ll pop for a 7 and if I don’t, I’ll lay out a 6. I save 5/10 for movies I don’t like, and anything lower than 5 for crud. This explanation comes after the fact … I don’t really think it through when I give the ratings. They skew high because I try very hard to avoid movies I won’t like … if I saw every movie ever made, my average might be 5/10, but I skip the ones that would bring the average down. Anything I give at least a 9 rating is something I recommend ... might sound obvious, but if someone is actually looking to me for suggestions, that limits the list to 10.  So I’ve included links to my comments on those movies.”

I watched 82 movies last year, which is quite a total ... approximately one every five days. But for whatever reason, my viewing was way down from recent years. For instance, in 2015 I watched 136 movies. I have no explanation for this. It’s not like I “got a life” in 2016. Suffice to say, the sample size is smaller this year.

Which doesn’t change the results. My average rating this year was 7.4 ... last year, 7.1 ... two years ago, 7.4.

Here we go:

10:
My Darling Clementine
Richard Pryor Live in Concert

9:
Beauty and the Beast
The Kid
Kwaidan
Last Day of Freedom
Late Spring
Macbeth
Odd Man Out
Weekend

8:
About Elly
Amanda Knox
The Asphalt Jungle
Blue Is the Warmest Color
Carol
Citizenfour
City Lights
City of Hope
Diary of a Teenage Girl
Ex Machina
The Gleaners & I
Mind Game
Mother
On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Paju
Pather Panchali
The Phantom Carriage
Picnic at Hanging Rock
Secret Sunshine   
World of Tomorrow
Zazie dans le métro

7:
2001: A Space Odyssey
Advise & Consent
The Americanization of Emily
Amy
Arrival
The Barbarian Invasions
The Blue Angel
Bridge of Spies
Bridget Jones's Diary
Captain America: Civil War
Cartel Land
Chau, beyond the lines
Cure
East Side Sushi
Edge of Tomorrow
Eye in the Sky
The Great Escape
The Gunfighter
Hannah and Her Sisters
Hot Fuzz
L'Eclisse
Licence to Kill
The Martian
Mouchette
Obvious Child
Only Lovers Left Alive
Pride
Rogue One
Room
Sicario
Spotlight
Star Wars: Episode VII - The Force Awakens
Straight Outta Compton
Suffragette
Tallulah
Tangerine
We Need to Talk About Kevin
What Happened, Miss Simone?
When Marnie Was There
Whiplash
Winter Light
Winter on Fire: Ukraine's Fight for Freedom

6:
Cinderella
Night Catches Us
Quartet
Star Trek Beyond
Unbreakable

5:
Guardians of the Galaxy
The Last Five Years
O Lucky Man!

4:
Survivor