Ants In Your Pants!

Our next proposal is taking forever. Maybe with a little effort I can get it posted before Christmas!

While we all wait, how about a quick shout-out to The Magic Lantern podcast! It’s the end of the year, so that means that the show’s hosts, Ericca Long and Cole Roulain, have recently put up their latest “Ants In Your Pants” episode where they share their respective top ten first time screenings for the year (plus some honourable mentions). Included on their list are various MMC! favourites like Ruggles of Red Gap (Leo McCarey, 1935), ‘I Know Where I’m Going!’ (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1945), The Lineup (Don Seigel, 1958), and The Hourglass Sanatorium (Wojciech Jerzy Has, 1973). If you haven’t already discovered their wonderful podcast, go take a listen and maybe even buy one of their swell, glow-in-the-dark pins!

And because imitation is the sincerest form of flattery (and because I’m incapable of restraint and of not making lists of my own), here are my top 20 first time screenings for 2017 along with my Letterboxd reviews.

Mr. Thank You (Hiroshi Shimizu, 1936)

“A sweet little travelogue that amicably traces the changing face of Japan and beautifully documents the rural mountain roadways of the coast and countryside. A favourite.”


Night Train (Jerzy Kawalerowicz, 1959)

“Feeling less like Hitchcock and more like Antonioni, Night Train is an excellent work of spatial and emotional claustrophobia shot in a gorgeous gray scale. Night Train mixes pessimism and exhaustion with a certain playful cheekiness and makes the film a definite classic of the Polish School/New Wave.”


All Night Long (Basil Dearden, 1962)

“This jazz-Othello plays like hepcat-psychodrama and looks like skinny tie noir. Its intensifying plot becomes increasingly desperate and ever more poorly planned, but its buzzing, agitating score and its provoking close-ups keep the paranoia rising and the seams unwinding.”


The Graceful Brute (Yuzo Kawashima, 1962)

“A family of con artists defend their ill-gotten lifestyle from victims and grifters alike. Kawashima exploits every angle and view within the Maedas’ apartment to bring dynamism to the mercenary plots enacted therein. A hidden masterpiece.”


Muriel, or the Time of Return (Alain Resnais, 1963)

“Resnais explores a network of personal and national traumas by inscribing them into the film’s temporally dissociated structure and its constantly shifting mise-en-scène. Intelligent, tragic, disorienting, and highly affecting.”


Puzzle of a Downfall Child (Jerry Schatzberg, 1970)

“A brittle, temperamental, daringly told tale of female madness and indulgence. Dunaway is a marvel of false starts, blind alleys, and gripping contradictions. Certainly a film in need of rediscovery.”


The Champions of Justice (Federico Curiel, 1971)

“So much lucha awesomeness – evil scientists, mini-henchmen, motorcycles, “goddaughters,” tiger print, beauty pageants, dune buggies, waterskiing, cryogenics, cliff falls, paralyzer rays, and more punches than you could kick a stick at!”


The Night Evelyn Came Out of the Grave (Emilio Miraglia, 1971)

“Alan hates redheads. Or maybe he loves them too much? He loves his dead wife though. Or does he? Well at least he can trust his family. Or can he? Thankfully, his beautiful new wife who can’t keep her top closed is on his side. Or is she? Gothic suspense meets the outlandish murder conspiracies of the gialli in this very entertaining slice of lurid cinema.”


A Touch of Zen (King Hu, 1971)

“Such a fascinating collection of narrative techniques and visual flourishes. A Touch of Zen has such an oddly engaging grammar, being both measured and accelerated, dedicated and diverted, document and dream. A gorgeous, seminal art house take on a grindhouse favourite.”


Orders (Michel Brault, 1974)

“Brault makes himself into Quebec’s answer to Costas Gavras with Orders, a poignantly mundane examination of political oppression on an innocent citizenry. Using self-conscious techniques and direct cinema style, the film matter of factly reveals how quickly and easily democratic values can be set aside in the name of security. Orders remains a shockingly relevant statement on the casual, inhumane violence of such overreaches.”


Powers of Ten (Charles Eames and Ray Eames, 1977)

“An informative, impressive, and wondrous presentation of the universe’s scale from the massive to the sub-minute.”



Possession (Andrzej Zulawski, 1981)

“Poor Bob. Mommy and Daddy are breaking up / descending into an eldritch world of psychosexual madness and transmogrification. Stunning.”


Springtime in Greenland (John Paizs, 1981)

“Pool parties and parades in the postmodern prairies.”





Desert Hearts (Donna Deitch, 1985)

Desert Hearts feels thin and wrought, yet somehow it manages to inspire my adoration. Maybe it’s the breezy pace or the open spaces. Maybe it’s the countrified, lovelorn, period soundtrack, those big, hulking ’50s autos, or those embroidered Western shirts. Maybe it’s recognizing that we don’t get to choose who we love and oftentimes it doesn’t actually make any sense or have any reason. It’s amazing how Deitch can make a film so spare that it’s almost flawed and still completely grab hold of your sympathies. A wonderful take on the May-December romance.”


Malibu Express (Andy Sidaris, 1985)

“An entire movie serving as a MacGuffin to portray a 14 year-old’s fantasy of awesomeness, particularly where that 14 year-old was raised on late-’80s TV detective shows (moustaches, fast cars, houseboats) and looking at his friend’s stash of Playboys. It’s not good-bad; it’s awesome-terrible. Would have got 5 stars if a ninja was in it and its pedigree of pubescent wonder was made complete.”


Baxter (Jérôme Boivin, 1989)

“A really fascinating film. Partially told from the perspective of Baxter, a white bull terrier, the film does an uncanny job describing the exceptionally rational, sensorial, and purposeful life of a dog, often to chilling effects. Threads of dominance and fascism intertwine with images of middle class, suburban indulgence and resonates in unsettling ways. Baxter feels unlike anything else – part horror film, part art film, part something altogether different.”


Boiling Point (Takeshi Kitano, 1990)

“Deadpan comedy and nihilistic violence make for a Japanese gangster classic. Feel the Beat!”



Tokyo Godfathers (Satoshi Kon, 2003)

“Satoshi Kon’s visual invention remains but his concerns with the fragility of identity are replaced by a nimbly adept hand at comedy. Touching and sweet, I have a new favourite added to my Christmas canon.”


It’s Such a Beautiful Day (Don Hertzfeldt, 2012)

“Life, the universe, (illness) and everything – beautifully realized.”



L’il Quinquin (Bruno Dumont, 2014)

“A Napoleon Dynamite version of True Detective, but French. And it’s even better than it sounds. Absurdly sublime.”

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