This is the conclusion of the analysis of films I’ve seen this year. The first five were devoted to a goal of seeing ten films from each decade: Part 1. Part 2. Part 3. Part 4. Part 5. Part 6 was a continuation- I tried to set sub-challenges, but it didn’t work out. In October, I chose to watch 13 horror/ horror-adjacent films.
And here’s the rest.
Movie #145/ 2010s Movie #19/ Superhero Film #11: The Avengers
This blockbuster isn’t perfect. The plot is based on a lot of gobblygook, but it’s a different type of superhero film than we’ve seen before in the linking of heroes from multiple franchises, all of whom start fighting one another in the classic Marvel manner. It’s also an improved showing for Hiddleston’s Loki. With greater distance, it’s impressive how well Whedon pulled off the hat trick of taking heroes from different series, and making their interactions fun, as well as believable.
Movie #146/ New Movie #103/ 1950s Movie #3: The Trouble With Harry
Hitchcock’s comedy is a strange film about people in a small Vermont town having very unusual reactions to the death of a visitor, and to the efforts of others to cover it up. It leads to dry, absurd humor and some winning performances, especially Shirley Maclaine’s young widow.
Movie #147/ New Movie #104/ 2010s Movie #20/ Superhero Film #12: Thor- Ragnarok
Definitely the best of the Thors, and one of the reminders of just how ridiculously good this year has been to superhero films. It’s a lot of plot in a fun and satisfying way, bringing together strong performances from characters we’ve seen before in a lot of Marvel films, and introducing memorable newcomers from different sources (Academy Award winner Cate Blanchett, rising star Tessa Thompson, whatever the hell you call Jeff Goldblum’s career right now).
Movie #148/ New Movie #105/ 1960s Movie #14: Black Sabbath
This is a solid horror anthology. There isn’t a weak story in the bunch. A story about a woman getting threatening phone calls has two big twists. The closing story has a decent take on ghosts seeking revenge. The middle is the best, with a family unsure if a returned patriarch (played by Boris Karloff) is the beloved grandfather or a monster ready to attack them. It’s elevated by the weaponization of love, and the nastiness that follows.
Movie #149/ New Movie #106/ 2010s Movie #21/ Superhero Film #12: Justice League
DC continues their trend of films that are worse than anything we’ve seen in the MCU. The character interactions often work, so it is fun to see the team hang out together, but that’s hampered by rushed special effects, and lame A-plots. The much critiqued Steppenwolf isn’t as bad as the senseless fight with Superman.
New Movie #150/ 1960s Movie #14: The Graduate
What makes this movie work so well is that it is the best in a very particular category (the coming of age film about someone who has met many traditional markers of adulthood.) It’s obviously elevated by the star turn from Dustin Hoffman, and Anne Bancroft as the best seducer ever, but it also excels really well in the little moments, and in the ways it reveals the potential mistakes of the characters, allowing it to hold up to later viewings, when you’re at a different stage in your life than when you first encountered it.
Movie #151/ New Movie #107/ 2010s Movie #22: Darkest Hour
It’s a slightly unconventional biopic focusing on the great man during a relatively brief but important time, as he has just become Prime Minister, and needs to hold firm against Germany. Gary Oldman’s performance can be described as a transformation, and he deserves the inevitable Oscar, but the script is witty, and the film has decent supporting performances, notably Kristi Scott Thomas’s Lady Churchill- who has made her peace with the sacrifices she must make, and Ben Mendelsohm’s King George, who quietly gets to know what to make of the strange Churchill.
Movie #152/ New Movie #108/ 1930s Movie #14: Lost Horizon
This Capra film about survivors who find themselves in a new land is sometimes preachy and indulgent, and even a little boring. The sets are nice, and there are moments when it really excels.
Movie #153/ New Movie #109/ 2010s Movie #23/ Science Fiction Film #12: Star Wars Episode 8: The Last Jedi
The best Star Wars film since The Empire Strikes Back. It’s a mix of fantastic moments, and new characters, while continuing ably the new trilogy, and excelling with the old favorites. I loved it.
Movie #154/ New Movie #110/ 2010s Movie #24/ Politics Film #12: Confirmation
This HBO film about Anita Hill’s efforts to tell her truth about Clarence Thomas isn’t bad, but a bit by the numbers, quite similar to their Recount film. It hits a lot of the major beats, showing the different sides of the fight, and the decisions that end up having outsized consequences, although it ends up lacking in depth.
Movie #155/ New Movie #111/ 2010s Movie #24: Lady Bird
An excellent coming of age film, that seems to function on different levels: either one of the best made movies about an artistic girl’s senior year of high school, or the perspective of the parents trying to make ends meet.
Movie #156/ 1940s Movie #24: It’s a Wonderful Life
Saw it on the big-screen as a part of a Christmas revival. It remains one of my favorite movies ever, and I can defend it as the best independent movie of all time.
Movie #157/ New Movie #112/ 2010s Movie #25: Three Billboards in Billings, Missouri
The powerhouse performance by Frances McDormand as a grieving mother anchors the film that looks at the people affected by her response to inaction. It goes in some unexpected places, as writer/ director Martin McDonaugh (also an exceptional playwright) considers questions of meaning and order while consistently revealing new wrinkles to everything.
Movie #158/ 1940s Movie #24: A Matter of Life and Death
This was a fun fantasy story that works on several levels. The lead’s experiences could be taken literally, as a hallucination he suffers as a result of surviving a plane crash. But it also comes to a trial that’s ultimately a defense of England.
Movie #159/ New Movie #113/ 2010s Movie #26: The Disaster Artist
James Franco’s take on Tommy Wiseau is a decent transformation, although the comparisons at the end with the original The Room don’t do the film any favors, as it reveals just how much more distinctive the real Wiseau is. It ends up being a decent take on the struggles of a young actor, although that’s been handled better.
Movie #160/ New Movie #114/ 2010s Movie #27: The Post
I don’t think anyone but Spielberg could have done this film so well, manipulative but often powerful. The cast is excellent, and Streep gets one of her best performances- in a film that captures her transformation as she pushes the Washington Post into being a more serious institution.
Movie #161/ New Movie #115/ 1970s Movie #8/ Estonian Movie #2: The Dead Mountaineer’s Hotel
Since the version of the film I found on youtube is in Estonian, and lacks subtitles, it’s not something most viewers are going to be able to appreciate. It’s an atmospheric detective story that takes a weird turn. I’m going to watch this one again, before grading it.
Movie #162/ New Movie #116/ 2010s Movie #28: All the Money in the World
Imperfect but solid procedural about the opposing forces when a rich man’s grandson is kidnapped. Highlights the flaws and the beauties of the kid’s life, with excellent performances by Michelle Williams as the patrician but humbled mother, and Christopher Plummer, essentially playing a Scrooge who never got a visit from the three spirits.
Movie #163/ New Movie #117/ 2010s Movie #29: Phantom Thread
This has to be a weird sell in terms of determining the audience for a Paul Thomas Anderson/ Daniel Day Lewis collaboration about a troubled dressmaker’s relationship with a waitress. The score and costumes are great.
Year in Review: Obviously, this is limited to what I’ve seen this year. I’m splitting each decade into two categories: best “new” movie (film I hadn’t seen before) and best overall movie (often including notable classics I have seen before.)
Best movie of the silent era: Nosferatu
Best new movie of the silent era: The Phantom Carriage
Best movie of the 1930s: The Grand Illusion
Best new movie of the 1930s: L’Atalante
Best movie of the 1940s: It’s a Wonderful Life
Best new movie of the 1940s: The Red Shoes
Best movie of the 1950s: On the Waterfront
Best new movie of the 1950s: Ashes and Diamonds
Best movie of the 1960s: Lawrence of Arabia
Best new movie of the 1960s: The Umbrellas of Cherbourg
Best movie of the 1970s: Jaws
Best new movie of the 1970s: Cries and Whispers
Best movie of the 1980s: The Princess Bride
Best new movie of the 1980s: Stand By Me
Best movie of the 1990s: Trainspotting
Best new movie of the 1990s: Metropolitan
Best movie of the 2000s: The Dark Knight
Best new movie of the 2000s: Amelie
Best movie of the 2010s: Dunkirk
Best new movie of the 2010s: Dunkirk
Worst Movie: Transformers (1980s animated film)
Best surprise: These are the Damned. I did not expect a science fiction film I hadn’t heard about to be this good.
Weirdest Surprise: Valerie and Her Week of Wonders. Wow, was this pervy.
Best movie I hadn’t seen before: Dunkirk, I think.
Best movie I had seen before: It’s a Wonderful Life