This is a continuation of notes on films I saw this year, following Part 1, Part 2 Part 3, and Part 4. and Part 5. I’m keeping track of some features of the films. and set myself a few sub-challenges. Because of a vacation to Ireland (well worth it) I figured I’d watch five Irish films, defined as films shot or set in Ireland. With the recent purchase of a John Ford box set, I figured I’d watch five of his films; there was some overlap. I had a trial subscription to the Shudder streaming service, so I thought I’d watch five films from that. While working on an article on whether “Medievals” should be a genre, I also determined I’d watch five of those, and added five directorial debuts and five Japanese films.
Movie #151/ New Movie #95/ 1960s Movie #15/ Directorial Debut #1/ Irish Film #1: Dementia 13
Francis Ford Coppola’s first film is a combination of Psycho and Rebecca, as a shady American discovers her Irish husband’s family secrets, and runs afoul a slasher. The Corman produced film is sometimes amateurish and excessive, especially with the fate of a woman swimming in her underwear, but it does have a good sense of atmosphere and details.
Movie #152/ New Film #96/ 2018 Movie #17/ Tom Cruise Film #7/ Theatrical Release #34: Mission Impossible Fallout
This is a series where I keep thinking the newest entry is the best, and the latest is no exception. It’s got excellent action set pieces and a sense of humor, with a solid focus on Cruise’s allies. The swerves might get excessive, but this is a lot of fun.
Movie #153/ New Movie #97/ 1970s Movie #11/ Japanese Film #1/ Shudder Collection #1/ Directorial Debut #2: Female Prisoner #701- Scorpion
This Tarantino favorite is a visually striking revenge saga, although quite lurid, as can be expected from a Japanese women in prison film. The direction is visually striking for a freshman effort.
Movie #154/ New Movie #98/ 1970s Movie #12/ Japanese Film #2/ Shudder Collection #2: Female Prisoner Scorpion- Jailhouse 41
The sequel to the Japanese women in prison saga is probably more creative when it comes to the cinematography, and darker when it comes to the criticism of the treatment of women. The supporting characters shine, even if some of the stories are quite messed up.
Movie #155/ New Movie #99/ 2000s Movie #3/ Japanese Film #12; Western Sukiyaki Django
This reimagining is a strange film, putting a legendary Japanese clan rivalry in the context of American westerns. There are some great moments, especially with the revelations about the world’s best gunsmith.
Movie #156/ New Movie #100/ 2010s Movie #12/ Directorial Debut #2/ Shudder Collection #3: Resolution
Justin Benson and Aaron Scott Moorhead’s debut is set in the same world as The Endless, and it does have a similar approach of ordinary people trying to figure out an ancient force, while also dealing with their own issues. It’s okay by itself, and as a prototype to a bigger and better film.
Movie #157/ New Movie #101/ 1950s Movie #11/ Russian Film #/ Criterion Edition #31/ The A-List #: The Cranes are Flying
This Russian drama is a beautifully shot take on the effects of war on a society, and the people who don’t get to fight.
Movie #158/ New Movie #102/ 2010s Movie #13/ Irish Films #2: The Irish Pub
This was a fun documentary on the people who run the Irish pubs, as they deal with change, the weight of history and the time commitments of a job where there isn’t any chance for vacations or days off.
Movie #159/ New Movie #103/ 1940s Movie #16/ Japanese Films #4/ Criterion Collection #32: Women of the Night
Kenji Mizoguchi’s sympathetic take on women forced to make difficult decisions in post-war Japan is often powerful, but sometimes clunky. Granted, subtlety isn’t really to be expected from this type of movie.
Movie #160/ New Movie #104/ 1960s Movie #16/ Czech Films #1/ Medieval #1/ Criterion Collection #33: Marketa Lazarová
This take on 13th century Czechoslovakia is beautiful, and gives a tremendous sense of what it was like to live in that era. I can appreciate why it’s the most popular Czech movie ever made. It’s worth rewatching to get a better appreciation of the sagas of all the side characters, who are more fully-realized than many leads
Movie #161/ 1950s Movie #12/ Irish Films #3/ John Ford Films #1: The Quiet Man
This Wayne/ Ford collaboration about an American who returns to his native Ireland is lovely (taking advantage of the setting) and fun. It can be a bit low-stakes, although the conflicts do matter to the characters, and that part is depicted well.
Movie #162/ New Film #105/ 2018 Movie #18/ Theatrical Release #35: BlackkKlansman
Man, I hope this film gets Spike Lee his first Best Director nomination. It tackles some heavy issues, but it’s a lot of fun. Great cinematography, and supporting performances. It’s clearly a message movie, but there’s enough historical material for the message to work (If David Duke goes to the Charlottesville rally, it fits a film about an undercover investigation into his organization).
Movie #163/ New Movie #106/ Silent Movie #12/ Irish Films #4/ John Ford Films #2: The Hangman’s House
This film about a judge’s daughter forced into an unhappy marriage was a bit disappointing, and often dated.
Movie #164/ New Movie #107/ 2010s Movie #14/ Shudder Collection #4/ Irish Film #5: Cherry Tree
This Irish horror film is terrible, and flawed on so many levels. There’s a germ of an idea that has potential with witches who force a teenage girl to do their bidding, but it struggles in terms of dialogue, worldbuilding, acting, and everything to do with the execution.
Movie #165/ New Movie #108/ 1970s Movie #13/ Shudder Collection #5/ Medieval #2: Mark of the Devil
I wanted to check this out since I really enjoyed The Witchfinder General, the success of which led to this film. It lacks the wit, but works as an indictment of the abuses of the time, depicted with suitable outrage. The focus on a witchfinder’s apprentice gives a different insight into that perspective, even if it goes way too far at times.
Movie #166/ 1990s Movie #12: Wag the Dog
This is a great take by David Mamet on politics and storytelling, with Dustin Hoffman’s producer going to an end that is sad but inevitable, and elevates it beyond memorable satire (although that part is way too believable now).
Movie #167/ 1990s Movie #13/ Medieval #3: Robin Hood Prince of Thieves
The acting quality here is wildly inconsistent (Freeman’s moor and Rickman’s sheriff of Nottingham are great; Costner and Slater seem to be in the wrong movie) but it’s often fun.
Movie #168/ New Movie #109/ 1930s Movie #14/ John Ford Films #3: Judge Priest
This relatively short John Ford film about a wise judge does highlight Will Rogers’ natural affableness (we can understand how he was one of the biggest movie stars on the planet) but the story is low-stakes, and the racial dynamics are quite outdated (the black characters are caricatures, everybody loves the Confederacy.)
Movie #169/New Movie #110/ Silent Movie #13/ Fritz Lang Film #6/ German Film #6/ Medieval #4: Die Nibelungen: Siegfried
Including the sequel, this Fritz Lang fantasy saga is probably the longest silent film I’ve ever seen. The first half has astounding production design, and comes across as a dark tragic fairy tale. It’s silly and fun, and then things get twisted.
Movie #170/ New Movie #111/ 1930s Movie #15/ John Ford Films #4: Steamboat ‘Round The Bend
This was rather similar to Judge Priest, with Will Rogers in another John Ford film playing a southerner whose best friend is played by Stepin Fetchit, and whose nephew is getting married to a girl from a lower class. But it’s significantly better. A key difference is that Rogers is better suited to be a minor scam artist than a paragon of virtue and wisdom, especially with the Southern setting. There are also higher stakes with a nephew facing the possibility of hanging, and a better satire of something specific: the religious fervor of the era.
Movie #171/ New Movie #112/ 1960s Movie #17/ Directorial Debut #3/ Criterion Collection #34/ Czech Film #2: Closely Watched Trains
Perhaps the best known film of the Czech new wave, this look at the life of a young train conductor in World War 2 is pretty effective at capturing an unambitious man who freaks out due to problems with women. It’s a bit incongruous but it works to show that it’s the height of World War 2 and he’s involved in all sorts of intrigues, but all he wants to do is get laid, which functions as an effective satire of a genre that doesn’t exist yet: the teen sex comedy.
Movie #172/New Movie #113/ Silent Movie #14/ Fritz Lang Film #7/ German Film #7/ Medieval #5: Die Nibelungen: Kriemhild’s Revenge
The conclusion to Fritz Lang’s fantasy epic takes the series in a deeper direction, more like Sophocles, as brother and sister are drawn to a tragic final confrontation due to differing feelings of guilt, loyalty and a desire for revenge. Brilliant set design and silent storytelling.
Movie #173/ New Movie #114/ 2016 Movie #7/ Science Fiction Film #4: Passengers
I’m familiar with the film, mainly as a notable flop, and it’s worth examining why that is. There’s some stuff it does quite well (little details about the sci-fi world, Michael Sheen’s robot bartender) and stretches where things get dull. I read the screenplay before, so I had been familiar with the moment that disappointed readers, and I kept being reminded of Nerdwriter’s argument that it should have been structured differently, although there is more to the shortcomings. Fantastic production design.
Movie #174/ New Movie #115/ 2000s Movie #13: Ghosts of the Abyss
It’s a solid documentary (very impressive in 3D) about the ruins of the Titanic, which takes for granted audience familiarity with the subject matter (I didn’t remember that Bill Pullman was even in the damn film) but highlights the power of history and the iconic nature of this one tragedy.
Movie #175/ New Film #116/ 1980s Movie #12/ Directorial Debut #4: Blood Simple
This is an astoundingly impressive debut for the Coen Brothers as directors, for Frances McDormand as lead actress, and cinematographer Barry Sonnenfield. The Coens’ philosophy is fully formed, in a tragedy of cascading consequences as people without all the information make fatal decisions after a hitman gets hired by a jealous husband. Little details make the characters seem believable, like people who have known one another for years, but aren’t quite aware of what others are capable of, which informs their own decisions.
Movie #176/ 1950s Movie #13/ Japanese Film #5/ Criterion Edition #35: The Hidden Fortress
Best known as a major influence on Star Wars, this samurai saga is several excellent tales, as a princess flees her pursuers, a fallen samurai seeks redemption, and two idiotic bandits seek treasure. Excellent witty action-adventure story in its own right that balances tragedy and humor, with high-class and low-lives. Misa Uehara’s Princess Yuki is one of the best female leads of the genre, and it’s nice to see Toshiro Mifune playing a badass with nobility.
Movie #177/ 1990s Movie #14/ Directorial Debut #5: The Shawshank Redemption
One of the most popular movies ever made remains pretty damn good. The central story of two men forming a friendship in prison, and getting used to changes works so well that it hides two big secrets: the first about what someone did before they were in jail, and the second about what someone’s been up to while no one’s looking. It sets up one of the biggest reveals in film, but it’s enjoyable before that happens, even with all the messed up aspects of prison life.
Movie #178/ New Movie #117/ 1950s Movie #14/ Theatrical Release #36: This Can’t Happen Here
Bergman disavowed this early effort, which is of interest to several groups. Aficionados of his work will be curious about the seeds of his later films. Spy fans might be interested in how one of the great directors handles a Hitchcock/ Fritz Lang style mystery (and the answer is that it’s okay enough). It’s also interesting to explore in the context of the metaphor for the experience of Baltics fleeing the Soviet Union (my grandparents were Estonian refugees, and my Aunt was born in Sweden) and what this suggests about their lives.
Movie #179/ 2000s Movie #14: Eurotrip
This is a lot of fun within the genre of teen sex comedies. The cast isn’t that great, but it does have some great bits (Scotty Doesn’t Know!) and takes advantage of the European setting quite well.
Movie #180/ 1940s Movie #17/ John Ford Films #5: How Green Was My Valley
This movie’s overshadowed by the injustice of Orson Welles losing Best Picture and Best Director. It remains a solid take on a young boy becoming a man, in a society that is full of love and sometimes deeply flawed. The supporting cast is excellent, especially Walter Pidgeon as a lovelorn pastor.
And a roundup…
Best Film: The Shawshank Redemption
Best New Film: Marketa Lazerova
Best Irish Film: The Quiet Man
Best John Ford Film: How Green Was My Valley
Best Directorial Debut: The Shawshank Redemption
Best Japanese Film: The Hidden Fortress
Best Film on Shudder: Female Prisoner Scorpion- Jailhouse 41 (although there are some better films on the service that I’ve already seen, including Battle Royale, November (Recent addition- Congrats Estonia!), Run Lola Run, The Host, The Descent, The Wicker Man, Night of the Living Dead, The Texas Chainsaw Massacre and Black Sunday
Best Medieval: Marketa Lazerova
Worst Movie: Cherry Falls