With the NBA Playoffs in full swing (plus devoting some time to some TV programs and getting sick over the last couple of weeks), my usual pace for watching movies has slowed considerably. Accordingly, these last ten films I’ve watched extend back to last month’s Calgary Underground Film Festival and screenings of Harpoon and Foosballers (both of which were enjoyable films, particularly the latter).
- Amazing Grace (Sydney Pollack and Alan Elliott, 2018)
- MFKZ (Shoujirou Nishimi and Guillaume Renard, 2017)
- Madman (Joe Giannone, 1981)
- The Last Circus (Álex de la Iglesia, 2010)
- Murder Obsession (Riccardo Freda, 1981)
- Crazy Thunder Road (Gakuryū Ishii, 1980)
- The New Rijksmuseum (Oeke Hoogendijk, 2014)
- Foosballers (Joe Heslinga, 2019)
- Harpoon (Rob Grant, 2019)
- Welcome Mr. Marshall! (Luis Garciá Berlanga, 1953)
Actually, this list has some sneaky good titles in it. The New Rijksmuseum is a rather fascinating observational documentary about the ten year renovation of Holland’s iconic art museum, offering a complicated survey on the intersection of art and creativity on the one hand and democracy and bureaucracy on the other. Ishii’s Crazy Thunder Road is an underappreciated classic of Japanese cinema that is not merely about punks but also is punk from its production to its aesthetics. The Last Circus, a story of mad love and violent clowns in Franco-era Spain, and MFKZ, a Studio 4°C adaptation of a French comic book, turned out to be a pair of secret successes, proving to be surprisingly entertaining despite their relatively poor critical reputations. The Criterion Channel’s Berlanga titles included Welcome Mr. Marshall, a sweet Andalusian comedy in the best spirit of an Ealing film that concerned some opportunistic townsfolk greedy for some sweet foreign aid. Amazing Grace looks like it’s cobbled together from off-cuts (a testament to the degree Pollack struggled in filming the two-night performance) but the janky camera movements and haphazard focus pulls somehow work to only revere Aretha Franklin’s singing, as if the film production is staring into the sun itself and struggling to depict its full glory.
These last ten films I’ve watched represent various things: my effort to watch more great art house cinema (I Am Cuba, True Stories), my aim to work through the DEFA catalogue on Kanopy (Trace of Stones), my son’s love of giant monsters (the Godzilla films), my monthly horror watch-group (Horror Noire, Blood Bath). The only real failure amongst these ten films was Blood Bath, a too-brief take on a nonsensical story about vampirism and painting. Thankfully, Arrow Video provides three more versions on its Blu-ray release to hopefully offer some improvement. (Those looking for a Roger Corman take-down of artsy-beatnik pretentiousness should stick with A Bucket of Blood (1959).)
- Deadbeat at Dawn (Jim Van Bebber, 1988)
- I Am Cuba (Mikhail Kalatozov, 1964)
- True Stories (David Byrne, 1986)
- Trace of Stones (Frank Beyer, 1966)
- Godzilla Against Mechagodzilla (Masaaki Tezuka, 2002)
- Godzilla, Mothra and King Ghidorah: Giant Monsters All-Out Attack (Shusuke Kaneko, 2001)
- Horror Noire: A History of Black Horror (Xavier Neal-Burgin, 2019)
- Bodied (Joseph Kahn, 2017)
- Blue Ruin (Jeremy Saulnier, 2013)
- Blood Bath (Jack Hill and Stephanie Rothman, 1966)
I feel somewhat ambivalently about Bodied, a very funny and very talented satire about hip hop and political correctness, both of which are presented as kinds of word games. Without any spoilers, Bodied ends with a condemnation and then a celebration that felt very contrary to me. I expected a deflatation of its apparently happy ending, but it never came and I’m left wondering about Bodied‘s “rules” (or lack thereof) for rap battles and the morality of its contest. If anyone has seen Bodied, I’d love to hear some thoughts – Are the contradictions in Bodied‘s conclusion able to be reconciled? Are they meant to be? If not, what are we to take from its conflict?
These last ten films I’ve watched continues to reflect my desire to catch up with the best films of 2018 as well as my discovery of hoopla, another library streaming surface and a surprising home to a number of top films from last year. My intention is to round out my 2018 screenings, submit my top 20 to the Film Comment Reader’s Poll, and post my list at the end of the month. The deadline for submission is February 28, 2019, so get your lists in as well and maybe win some stuff!
- Roma (Alfonso Cuarón, 2018)
- Ryuichi Sakamoto: Coda (Stephen Nomura Schible, 2017)
- Blindspotting (Carlos López Estrada, 2018)
- Night is Short, Walk On Girl (Masaaki Yuasa, 2017)
- Support the Girls (Andrew Bujalski, 2018)
- Burning (Lee Chang-dong, 2018)
- The Night of the Virgin (Roberto San Sebastián, 2018)
- The Marriage of Chiffon (Claude Autant-Lara (1942)
- A Bay of Blood (Mario Bava, 1971)
- Day for Night (François Truffaut, 1973)
As far as surprises go, as much as I enjoyed Blindspotting (a West Coast, post-millennial reflection of Do The Right Thing), Masaaki Yuasa’s Night is Short, Walk on Girl was even more impressive, a trippily fanciful tale of romantic pursuit and youthful experience. This seems to be the year that Yuasa demanded recognition as a master of the animated form, having released Night as well as Lu Over the Wall (2017) and Devilman Crybaby (2017). Yuasa’s work is defined by thin lines, careful impressionism, and bravely untethered narratives. His style is not the typical aesthetic we are accustomed to in feature animation, sometimes resembling the appearance of rough storyboards (Yuasa has worked as a storyboard artist for many projects including Space Dandy and Adventure Time) and embracing a visual distortion beyond the typical stretch and squash, but his imagination and daring seems unparalleled. Add Yuasa to this year’s crop of Oscar snubs and keep a look out for his next film, If I Could Ride a Wave With You, a romantic story connected to Lu and centred around surfing.
These last ten movies I’ve watched reflects two things: (1) I’m trying to catch up with the movies of 2018 and round out my list of favourites for the year, and (2) I’ve discovered Kanopy and I think I’m in love. (Not that I need to tell anyone reading this post but) Kanopy is a streaming service with an impressive collection of classic films, independent cinema, and documentaries. Probably the most stupendous aspect of Kanopy (over selections from The Criterion Collection, Kino, A24, Oscilloscope, The Orchard, Flicker Alley, Arbelos Films, the DEFA Film Library, and others) is the inclusion of Frederick Wiseman’s entire documentary catalog, so expect to see more Wiseman appearing on future “10 on the 10th” posts and on MMC!‘s top film discoveries for 2019!
- Racetrack (Frederick Wiseman, 1985)
- If Beale Street Could Talk (Barry Jenkins, 2018)
- All You Can Eat Buddha (Ian Lagarde, 2017)
- The Phenix City Story (Phil Karlson, 1955)
- Vice (Adam McKay, 2018)
- Darker Than Amber (Robert Clouse, 1970)
- The Other Side of the World (Orson Welles, 2018)
- Save the Green Planet! (Jang Joon-hwan, 2003)
- Happy as Lazzaro (Alice Rohrwacher, 2018)
- Mary Poppins Returns (Rob Marshall, 2018)
Ian Lagarde’s All You Can Eat Buddha deserves some comment here as possibly the least known title of the ten. This small, Canadian film stars French actor Ludovic Berthillot as a mysterious, diabetic, Québécois tourist who becomes the patron saint of a waning all-inclusive resort, quietly performing miracles and bringing slow ruin to the vacation spot while allowing his own body to deteriorate. Buddha is strangely funny and hauntingly enigmatic, operating something like the snowbird nexus between David Lynch and Luis Buñuel. (And while technically having a late 2017 festival release, Buddha sits as my #13 title of 2018.)
Happy October film nerds! This month’s list of the last ten films I’ve watched reflects my concerted effort to spend most of my time watching horror films. And while I quite enjoyed most of these films, I once again seem to be running against the popular grain by not loving Martyrs. It felt unfortunately dated in its looks and style, philosophically thin despite its “big idea,” and somehow less violent than I expected. (I’m obviously a monster.)
- The Unholy (Camilo Vila, 1988)
- The Fly (Kurt Neumann, 1958)
- Scooby-Doo! Mask of the Blue Falcon (Michael Goguen, 2012)
- Demon (Marcin Wrona, 2015)
- Santo vs. Frankenstein’s Daughter (Miguel M. Delgado, 1971)
- Solo: A Star Wars Story (Ron Howard, 2018)
- Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008)
- Are We Not Cats (Xander Robin, 2016)
- Let Me Make You a Martyr (Corey Asraf and John Swab, 2016)
- Horrors of Malformed Men (Teruo Ishii, 1969)
Are We Not Cats was a surprisingly enjoyable body horror romance about a pair of underemployed twentysomethings with a proclivity for eating hair, Demon remains a secret masterpiece, Solo‘s production design was the movie’s star by capturing the janky technology and frontier spirit of the first two Star Wars films, and I loved watching a priest level-up on Catholic demon-fighting powers in The Unholy (even if my mother, who watched the film with my wife and I, thought the sexy demonic temptress had “ugly boobs” – Wha?). I watched Let Me Make You a Martyr specifically based on Sam Ashurst‘s description of it being “True Detective if it were directed by Andrei Tarkovsky” and while I’m not sure it’s quite the success he makes it out to be, the film’s unusual combination of ellipsis-heavy plot structure, white trash criminality, portentously philosophical dialogue, and grimy mise-en-scène kind of won me over.
This latest list of the last ten films I’ve watched kicks off with a movie recommended to me by the TIFF Cinematheque Recommendation Engine. Sandra was recommended for me along with Rashomon, Seven Samurai, In a Lonely Place, and To Live and Die in LA. I’d say that the TIFF Engine knew me pretty well but Visconti’s film is certainly the least of these five titles and probably would have not been remarkable but for Claudia Cardinale’s starring role. My hunt for a Visconti film to fall in love with continues!
- Sandra (Luchino Visconti, 1965)
- Design Canada (Greg Durrell, 2018)
- Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)
- Ready Player One (Steven Spielberg, 2018)
- Deep Red (Dario Argento, 1975)
- Shanty Tramp (Joseph G. Prieto, 1967)
- Get Out (Jordan Peele, 2017)
- Save the Tiger (John G. Avildsen, 1973)
- The Cat o’ Nine Tails (Dario Argento, 1971)
- David Lynch: The Art Life (Jon Nguyen, Rick Barnes, and Olivi Neergaard-Holm, 2016)
Those looking for sneaky fun titles should check out Design Canada and Shanty Tramp. The former is a conventionally congratulatory but thoroughly charming take on the golden age of Canadian design, while the latter is a byNWR hicksploitation title that crazily mashes up white trash hussies, hep cat biker gangs, legit racism, moonshiners, gangsters, and plenty of cheap deaths. I can’t really decide what that titular tramp is worse at: dancing or stabbing!