If you’d have asked me ahead of time which two films of these last 10 films I’ve watched would deserve mention here, I would not have picked Ken Rodgers’ The Two Bills or Corrado Farina’s They Have Changed Their Faces, but here we are anyways.
- Voice Without a Shadow (Seijun Suzuki, 1958)
- The Two Bills (Ken Rodgers, 2018)
- Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri (Martin McDonagh, 2017)
- Duel at Yagyu Valley (Eisuke Takizawa, 1945)
- Mary and the Witch’s Flower (Hiromasa Yonebayashi, 2017)
- Masterminds (Jared Hess, 2016)
- Festival (Murray Lerner, 1967)
- They Have Changed Their Faces (Corrado Farina, 1971)
- Eero Saarinen: The Architect Who Saw the Future (Peter Rosen, 2016)
- The Oyler House: Richard Neutra’s Desert Retreat (Michael Dorsey, 2014)
I must admit that I was beginning to believe that the long format 30 for 30 documentary had lost its lustre. I still thought that the short films had vitality and the capacity to transcend what had become the 30 for 30 house style and I believed that the podcasts were effectively standing on their own. This was in large part due to the greater apparent freedom in the shorts and the pods to select less popular but more interesting topics. The Two Bills was a welcome relief from my feelings that 30 for 30 had peaked with O.J.: Made in America and was now just running on feel good/bad war stories that were actually little more than recitals of facts. Ken Rodgers’ documentary explores the relationship between NFL coaches Bill Parcells and Bill Belichick and it is a fascinating look at the non-game day world of sport and of the sometimes harsh business of professional football. It is also an intriguing view on the collaborative/competitive existence of men eager in their professional and personal lives to avoid “distractions.” The Two Bills poses questions it often struggles to answer, but reveals more fascinating things in the process.
Corrado Farina’s They Have Changed Their Faces transplants Jonathan Harker’s visit to Castle Dracula to modern day Italy and employs a metaphorically Marxist approach to vampirism. Giuliano Esperanti is a mid-level employee in a car company who is brought to the owner’s mansion and offered control of the business. The owner, Adolfo Celi as “Giovanni Nosferatu” (no kidding), is not what he seems and is exactly what you expect, and the film is even weirder. Roaming packs of Fiats guard the estate, radio ads play in the mansion as specific products are used, and Francesca Modigliani provides some gialli skin as a topless hitchhiker. Worth a look if expectations are modest and curiosity for something unusual is high.
The last ten films I’ve watched hit me where I live, although often in unusual ways. My Journey Through French Cinema is la cataire for French cinephiles – bring on Volume 2! Hype! reminds me of everything I loved about mid-’90s rock and why I still wince at hearing Nirvana covers. Call Me by Your Name was bucolic and sensual, Scum of the Earth! earns its reputation as cinema’s first “roughie,” and The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant is a single-set pressure cooker of love and obsession, pleas and rebukes, victims and victimizers, and doms and subs. Perhaps most memorable was My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea, which plays like Wes Anderson’s trippy remake of The Poseidon Adventure replacing the boat for a high school and its passengers with teenaged Peanuts characters.
- Scum of the Earth! (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1963)
- Operation Lipstick (Umetsugu Inoue, 1969)
- The Bitter Tears of Petra von Kant (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1972)
- Tales of Masked Men (Carlos Ávila, 2012)
- Call Me by Your Name (Luca Guadagnino, 2017)
- Elegant Beast (Yuzo Kawashima, 1962)
- My Journey Through French Cinema (Bertrand Tavernier, 2016)
- Hype! (Doug Pray, 1996)
- My Entire High School Sinking Into the Sea (Dash Shaw, 2016)
- Tributes: Pulse (Bill Morrison, 2011)
I watched Tributes: Pulse in anticipation of seeing Bill Morrison speak at my local cinematheque about Dawson City: Frozen Time. Morrison provided various observations:
With just a few major films of 2017 still to see, I expect Kogonada’s Columbus (2017) to be my favourite film of the year. I naturally love the movie’s formal rigour, being full of compositional matches and self-reflexive treatments of architecture that draw in complimentary ideas about the nature of film (oh, those mirrors!), however I also found it emotionally clear and engaging. It helps that I live in a city with its own particular debt to modernist architecture. Is John Cho’s “brutal” comment when looking at Haley Lu Richardson’s concrete school an architecture joke? I hope so, because I laughed like it was.
- The Vampire and Sex (René Cardona, 1969)
- One Piece: Chopper’s Kingdom on the Island of Strange Animals (Atsuji Shimizu, 2002)
- Some Like It Hot (Billy Wilder, 1959)
- Columbus (Kogonada, 2017)
- A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 1957)
- Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson, 2017)
- Top Hat (Mark Sandrich, 1935)
- Kamikaze 1989 (Wolf Gremm, 1982)
- Snows of Grenoble (Jacques Ertaud and Jean-Jacques Languepin, 1968)
- 13 Days in France (Claude Lelouch and François Reichenbach, 1968)
A few final thoughts:
- I find it hilarious that the vampire in the Santo-starring The Vampire and Sex seems only able to drink the blood of women while they’re topless.
- I also find it hilarious how wrong that movie portrays mirrors.
- My wife put The Last Jedi at the top of her non-original trilogy list, but I felt almost nothing for it either way.
- You know that Marilyn Monroe is sexy when even a 4 year-old boy stops in his tracks multiple times to watch her giggle and bounce.
- I’m loving the Criterion Collection’s Olympic box and I’m very happy with my approach of starting in the middle and working my way outwards.
- One of these ten films will be my next MMC! proposal!
The last ten films I watched have two films that will certainly make my Top Ten for 2017 (Lady Bird and Coco), a pretty poor feature (Macabre Legends of the Colony), and a pair of movies that I’ve watched for a Christmas-horror film group (Better Watch Out and A Christmas Horror Story). And you heard it here first, Office Space and The 7th Voyage of Sinbad remain all-time masterpieces.
- Better Watch Out (Chris Peckover, 2016)
- The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Nathan H. Juran, 1958)
- Macabre Legends of the Colony (Arturo Martinez, 1974)
- A Christmas Horror Story (Steven Hoban, Grant Harvey, and Brett Sullivan, 2015)
- Jabberwocky (Terry Gilliam, 1977)
- Coco (Lee Unkrich and Adrian Molina, 2017)
- Trash Fire (Richard Bates Jr., 2016)
- Lady Bird (Greta Gerwig, 2017)
- J.D.’s Revenge (Arthur Marks, 1976)
- Office Space (Mike Judge, 1999)
We caught Coco early enough that were victimized by the lamentable, 23-minute short, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (Kevin Deters and Stevie Wermers, 2017). Putting aside that it stars a thoroughly obnoxious and lamentably indestructible character and that it ends up taking space usually devoted to a brilliant Pixar short film, OFA was way too long and far too unrelated to Coco to have any place ahead of the feature film. My little one was one of the wide chorus of kids asking “What is this?”, “Where is Coco?”, and “When is this over?” By the time the feature started, his patience was understandably worn thin waiting for Miguel to get to the Land of the Dead and a pee-break was naturally necessary two-thirds of the way through Coco. Like Frozen, Olaf’s Frozen Adventure was watched for the first time in what will be forever.
Despite it being November, the last ten films I’ve watched exhibit something of a Halloween hangover. Best in class goes to Over the Garden Wall, a Cartoon Network miniseries by Patrick McHale that wonderfully mashes-up Washington Irving, The Wind in the Willows, Van Beuren animation, Hayao Miyazaki, the teen drama, and countless other texts into a fantastical celebration of randomness and colonial Americana. It remains a favourite work of the new millennium and is quickly becoming a Halloween tradition for me.
- Five Came Back (Laurent Bouzereau, 2017)
- The Lure (Agnieszka Smoczynska, 2015)
- Three Tough Guys (Duccio Tessari, 1974)
- Raw (Julia Ducournau, 2016)
- Over the Garden Wall (Patrick McHale, 2014)
- Faces Places (Agnès Varda and JR, 2017)
- The Brood (David Cronenberg, 1979)
- The Super Inframan (Shan Hua, 1975)
- Dead & Buried (Gary Sherman, 1981)
- Blood Feast (Herschell Gordon Lewis, 1963)
Dead & Buried has long been a horror-blind spot and it didn’t disappoint when finally screened, being slick in look and surprisingly atmospheric. Five Came Back won with a great title sequence and a timely statement about defending American values without losing the capacity for compassion and humanity. Faces Places exhibited that typical Varda populism and generosity of spirit, while Blood Feast was cheaply alluring in a particularly Floridian way. A close second to Over the Garden Wall was another unusual fantasy, The Lure. This horror-musical about two mermaids coming of age in a Polish nightclub and set in the early 1980s is a wonder, being extravagant and audacious in its approach to genre, narrative, and visual style. Do nastepnego miesiaca!
Among the last ten films I’ve watched, top marks go to the traumatic chronology of Muriel, or The Time of Return and The Dust Bowl‘s heartbreaking ecology, while Nothing Bad Can Happen might be a feel-bad masterpiece if you can stomach its tortuous content. Those looking to kick off this Halloween month with a mix of class and trash might consider the double-bill of The Beauty of the Devil and Mystics of Bali, an unexpected celebration of supernatural deals gone wrong.
- Mystics in Bali (H. Tjut Djalil, 1981)
- The Beauty of the Devil (Rene Clair, 1950)
- The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson, 2001)
- Okja (Bong Joon-ho, 2017)
- Muriel, or The Time of Return (Alain Resnais, 1963)
- Fury of the Karate Masters (Alfredo B. Crevenna, 1982)
- Evil Ed (Anders Jacobsson, 1995)
- The Dust Bowl (Ken Burns, 2012)
- Wonder Woman (Patty Jenkins, 2017)
- Nothing Bad Can Happen (Katrin Gebbe, 2013)
Finally, The Royal Tenenbaums remains a sad, warm blanket ready for when I need it.