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.
The star of the last ten movies I’ve watched is Bruno Dumont’s feature film/television mini-series Li’l Quinquin (2014). Twin Peaks fans finding themselves in withdrawal from their favourite surreal murder investigation should consider Dumont’s quirky take on the procedural, something my wife ably called “the Napoleon Dynamite version of True Detective, but French.”
- Creepshow 2 (Michael Gornick, 1987)
- Blood Simple (Joel Cohen, 1984)
- Li’l Quinquin (Bruno Dumont, 2014)
- George Best: All By Himself (Daniel Gordon, 2016)
- Hellish Spiders (Federico Curiel, 1968)
- Good Time (Ben Safdie and Josh Safdie, 2017)
- Ingrid Goes West (Matt Spicer, 2017)
- Hellish Love (Chûsei Sone, 1972)
- Kedi (Ceyda Torun, 2017)
- C.H.U.D. II: Bud the Chud (David Irving, 1989)
Moving past Li’l Quinquin, these last ten screenings found a number of very enjoyable films. Blood Simple remains a neo-noir classic with its spare story-telling and its misapprehended characters. Good Time is an exceptionally tense crime story that features an astonishingly captivating performance by Robert Pattinson. Creepshow 2 is a fun triptych of PG terrors wrapped up in an R-rated package. Kedi‘s presentation of the cats of Istanbul was utterly charming, while Hellish Love delivers a pleasingly familiar, period-set, Japanese ghost-lover horror story. And finally, Hellish Spiders is an incredibly fun Blue Demon vehicle with great wrestling, some atmospheric cinematography, and some gloriously wobbly science fiction staging.
The last ten movies I’ve watched include a violent yakuza tragedy, a French comic book spectacle, a lengthy basketball documentary, an anesthetic-induced erotic fantasy, and an animated mini-series.
- Hiroshima Honor: Hostage Rescue Tactics (Yûji Makiguchi, 1976)
- Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets (Luc Besson, 2017)
- Django, Prepare a Coffin (Ferdinando Baldi, 1968)
- Malibu Express (Andy Sidaris, 1985)
- Celtics/Lakers: Best of Enemies (Jim Podhoretz, 2017)
- Superchick (Ed Forsyth, 1973)
- The Freshman (Sam Taylor and Fred Newmeyer, 1925)
- The Masseurs and a Woman (Hiroshi Shimizu, 1938)
- Daydream (Tetsuji Takechi, 1964)
- Adventure Time: Stakes (Andres Salaff, Elizabeth Ito, and Adam Muto, 2015)
The best and worst film of this bunch is definitely Malibu Express, the ridiculous tale of a hunky detective with all the ’80s trappings (moustache, fast cars, houseboat, hand cannon), some Cold War espionage, a murder mystery, some salacious blackmailing, a few hired goons, a helicopter, a race car, a drag queen, a family of redneck yokels, and plenty of sexy Playboy Playmates and Penthouse Pets in various states of undress. As far as pubescent male fantasies go, Malibu Express is glorious garbage and will take its rightful place on my Mount Rushmore of terrible films.
Certainly the most prominent of the last ten films I’ve watched is Baby Driver. Edgar Wright’s reliance on musical conventions create some potential shortcomings – his characters are rather simply drawn, his romantic performances tend toward the syrupy, and the film’s early suggestions of a traditionally integrated musical (at least with regard to its main character Baby) sit uneasily with the rest of the movie – however Baby Driver‘s musically choreographed driving and action sequences (which makes up the majority of the film) are wonders, expertly constructed around a superb soundtrack and thrilling all the way to the movie’s edges. It’s essential summer movie-viewing, sure to be a mainstay on second-year film studies syllabi on the movie musical, and making for a very interesting ride home from the theatre.
- Oh, Hello: On Broadway (Alex Timbers and Michael John Warren, 2017)
- The Graceful Brute (Yuzo Kawashima, 1962)
- Psychout for Murder (Rossano Brazzi 1969)
- The Creeping Garden (Tim Graham and Jasper Sharp, 2014)
- Baby Driver (Edgar Wright, 2017)
- A Report on the Party and the Guests (Jan Nemec, 1966)
- Never Too Young to Die (Gil Bettman, 1986)
- Taking Care of Business (Arthur Hiller, 1990)
- Blue Demon vs. the Infernal Brains (Chano Urueta, 1968)
- Jour de fête (Jacques Tati, 1949)
For those looking for quality international cinema, we recommend Yuzo Kawashima’s The Graceful Brute (about a family of con artists defending their ill-gotten lifestyle while their various embezzlements fall in around them) and Jan Nemec’s A Report on the Party and the Guests (an allegorical tale of totalitarianism set amid bucolic picnics and celebrations). Those looking for something more frivolous might consider Blue Demon vs. the Infernal Brains (where legendary luchador Blue Demon occasionally appears to do battle with nonsensical, super-science brain collectors).
Putting aside the Cousteau films, the last ten films I’ve watched trend toward middling-to-decent cult films. C.H.U.D. still entertains with Daniel Stern doing his best to steal the film from its monstrous creatures. Parents is unlike anything I’ve ever seen, a middle class nightmare that seems to channel David Lynch, John Waters, and Joe Dante all at once. And while still a terrible movie, I can’t say I disliked Suicide Squad nearly as much as I thought I would, although my opinion of Will Smith as being gratingly moralistic and woeful in his choice of projects remains unchanged. Highest marks go to 13 Steps of Maki, a solid, butt-kicking exercise in Japanese genre cinema sure to reappear here at MMC!
- 13 Steps of Maki (Makoto Naito, 1975)
- Beyond the Gates (Jackson Stewart, 2016)
- C.H.U.D. (Douglas Cheek, 1984)
- Voyage to the Edge of the World (Jacques Cousteau, Philippe Cousteau, and Marshall Flaum, 1975)
- World Without Sun (Jacques Cousteau, 1964)
- The Silent World (Jacques Cousteau and Louis Malle, 1956)
- Blue Demon vs. the Satanic Power (Chano Urueta, 1966)
- The Legend of Jimmy the Greek (Fritz Mitchell, 2009)
- Parents (Bob Balaban, 1989)
- Suicide Squad (David Ayer, 2016)
I’m happy to report that the rest of my time has been spent finishing the first two seasons of Lucha Underground, watching highlights of the Natsu Sumo Basho (the May Tournament), and … starting the first season Twin Peaks! I’ve never seen Twin Peaks, having made the assessment as a kid when it first came out that it just weird for weird’s sake. Fast forward twenty-seven years and I’m all about weird for weird’s sake! So far, so good. I could even see this Twin Peaks thing catching on some day, maybe finding a little cult following of its own!