Tuesday, January 2, 2018

Favorite Movies Seen in 2017

In the order that I watched them:

Bird People (2014)
Burning Bush (2013)
The Measure of a Man (2015)
O.J.: Made in America (2016)
Train to Busan (2016)
Kubo and the Two Strings (2016)
Paterson (2016)
The Salesman (2016)
Headhunters (2011)
The Gatekeepers (2012)
The Florida Project (2017)
Certain Women (2016)

Monday, January 2, 2017

Favorite Movies Seen in 2016

Here are my five-star films of 2016, in the order I saw them (IMDB's year of release in parentheses).

Room (2015)
Time Out of Mind (2014)
Chi-Raq (2015)
Coming Home (2014)
I Killed My Mother (2009)
Krisha (2015)
Hannah Arendt (2012)
Mother of George (2013)
The Hateful Eight (2015)
A Brighter Summer Day (1991)
The House I Live In (2012)
The Strange Little Cat (2013)
Le Havre (2011)
A Summer's Tale (1996)
The Galapagos Affair: Satan Came to Eden (2013)
Marguerite (2015)
A Monster with a Thousand Heads (2015)
Violette (2013)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
The Last of the Unjust (2013)
Sing Street (2016)
Hillsborough (2014)

Sunday, April 3, 2016

Favorite Movies Seen in 2015

Here are my five-star films of 2015, in the order I saw them (IMDB's year of release in parentheses).

Boyhood (2014)
It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)
U-Carmen eKhayelitsha (2005)
Barbara (2012)
The Loving Story (2011)
Photographic Memory (2011)
Nightcrawler (2014)
Whiplash (2014)
The Well-Digger's Daughter (2011)
The Boxtrolls (2014)
Dear Zachary: A Letter to a Son About His Father (2008)
The Fitzgerald Family Christmas (2012)
The Professional (1994)
Inside Out (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
The Diary of a Teenage Girl (2015)
Two Days, One Night (2014)
The End of the Tour (2015)
Gloria (2013)
The Rabbi's Cat (2011)
The Martian (2015)
Experimenter (2015)

Ranking the 2016 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees

And now a more recent set of movies.

1. Mad Max: Fury Road

A spectacle of world-building.

2. The Martian

Sci-fi adventure, served light and droll.

3. Room

A really gripping tale that somehow makes a virtue of a severely limited environment. These top three films were just noses apart in my ranking of favorites.

4. Spotlight

Not quite All the President's Men, but we're always ready for another story of the virtuous press scoring a victory against a rotten institution.

5. Bridge of Spies

A very comfortable old sweater: A virtuous man continues to make right choices and does good.

6. Brooklyn

A modest little immigration romance, easy to underestimate.

7. The Big Short

Mostly entertaining, but it lost points for being self-consciously cute; and in the end it's hard to root for any of these hardcore capitalists.

8. The Revenant

Like the top film, a spectacle. Unlike the top film, kind of ridiculous. Still worth a look, though.

Ranking the 2015 Academy Award Best Picture Nominees

Remember these films? I do, vaguely. I ranked these a while ago but am only now getting around to adding a few notes. Starting at the top:


Brilliant psychological drama, great performances, boffo ending.

2. Boyhood

A monumental anti-epic, a gamble of a project that paid off handsomely.
3. Birdman

Showy, sharp take on performance. Loved the ending. Maybe a bit too much drumming.

4. The Grand Budapest Hotel

This time, the quirkiness is charming.

5. The Imitation Game

Cumberbatch is immensely watchable, and the interwoven tracks showing three different periods in Turing's life are a satisfying way of telling his story.

6. American Sniper

Good lead performance by Cooper, and the war zone sequences are tense; but the film has the feel of a whitewash.

7. Selma

The film suffered from trying to cover two subjects: Selma and MLK. The former was much more engrossing; ditching the Nobel Prize, LBJ, and even George Wallace would have made this a much better movie.

8. The Theory of Everything

This seemed like an even bigger whitewash than the sniper film, and much less interesting.

Saturday, October 17, 2015

A Netflix Film Festival

Contra the words of the Preacher, there is not a time for everything. Take movies, for instance. I keep track of movies that come out, and I take note of the ones I want to see; when Netflix makes them available for streaming, I add them to my My List. And there they sit until I watch them, or until Netflix bids them adieu.
Netflix is kind enough to post a seven-day warning when a movie is about to become unavailable. I check my My List every few days to see what's expiring; usually I get an all-clear, or maybe one or two titles are flagged as departing soon. That's when I must decide: Do I really want to watch this film? Do I really have time to watch this film? (Sorry, Turin Horse, I don't have 146 minutes to spare in the next few days; but I watched all of Sátántangó a few years ago, so I feel no guilt.)
And then there was Thursday, September 24, 2015: Sixteen items on my My List suddenly had the expiration date of doom. (I found out later this was part of an Epix decision to move a bunch of films from Netflix to Hulu.) Which ones would I watch? Time to pop the popcorn and hunker down.
You're Next. I decided to start with this wide-release horror film favored by the critics. I liked the interplay of the family members, and there was a bit of cleverness in the murder plot. But there was a lot of stupidity too, which ultimately put me off the film.
The Sun. This narrative film depicts Hirohito at the end of World War Two. Austere, but I liked it. I posted a few scribbles about the film on Second-Chance Cinema, my blog about movies that didn't get a commercial run in my town of Houston, Texas.
Jim Norton: Contextually Inadequate. An entertaining stand-up show, maybe leaning a little heavily on self-deprecating humor. (I criticize to prove I saw it.)
The Last Mogul and Great Directors. Two documentaries on moviemaking, both enjoyed. A few notes here.
A Most Wanted Man. Meh. Weighted down by the routine cynicism I've come to expect from a John le Carré adaptation.
Labor Day. This is a ridiculous story about a convict, a single mom, and her son. I did not expect to like it, but by the end of the film Josh Brolin and Kate Winslet had won me over, somehow.
Rapture-Palooza. My third-favorite of this run of movies; I slobber over Craig Robinson's brilliant performance here.
Gloria. My favorite: An over-40 Chilean woman hits the clubs and finds romance (for a while). The super-obvious, on-the-nose disco number at the end is totally earned.
The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete. That title wins points all by itself, and the film, about a couple of inner-city boys left to survive on their wits, doesn't disappoint.
Russell Brand: Messiah Complex. My second-favorite. Brand is brilliant, quick-witted, and very funny.
Hours. A modest thriller, which Paul Walker makes worth watching, as I note here.
Renoir. I watched the first half of this quiet, gorgeous film on Monday, then picked up the rest on Tuesday without much harm. Apparently there a number of people who hiss and cough up hairballs if they hear “Pierre-Auguste Renoir” and “artist” in the same sentence. They should not watch this movie. For the rest of us, it depends on how much patience we have with art-house film. I'm good.
Bella. This was a festival favorite several years ago. I disliked it, and I have erased most of it from my memory; all that's left is something along the lines of, Passive woman, I rescue you, because I am Noble Man Who Rescues, and this is Rescue Story That Makes Everyone Feel Good and Noble.
Going Places. I had read a Pauline Kael article about Bertrand Blier and this film in particular, and I think Kael helped me appreciate, helped me enjoy Gérard Depardieu and Patrick Dewaere's spree of larceny and thoroughly incorrect behavior toward women. This is a fun trip.
That left one expiring film Wednesday night, and … I gave it a pass. I've never seen Mommie Dearest, and I'll just have to catch it another time–maybe at camp camp.

Monday, February 23, 2015

Favorite Movies Seen in 2014

It will be several months before I rank all the 2015 Oscar nominees (if I get to the task at all); but for what it's worth, here's a list of my favorite viewing experiences of 2014: 20 movies that I gave five stars to, listed in the order I saw them (year of release in parentheses).

What Maisie Knew (2012)
Imitation of Life (1959)
A Hijacking (2012)
Thunder Soul (2010)
The Square (2013)
Monsieur Lazhar (2011)
American Hustle (2013)
Like Someone in Love (2012)
Sholay (1975)
The Selfish Giant (2013)
Zulu (1964)
Wake in Fright (1971)
The Adventures of Prince Achmed (1926)
All Is Lost (2013)
Ilo Ilo (2013)
Midnight's Children (2012)
In the Fog (2012)
Snowpiercer (2013)
Nymphomaniac: Vol. I (2013)
Rosetta (1999)