March was a very interesting month for me, in film-related ways and otherwise. As I mentioned in another post, I had intended on this being almost solely focused on completing the James Bond franchise. I soon realized that I had bit off a bit more than I could chew; therefore, I focused instead on completing the Bond films of the 60s throughout this month. And complete I did… and you’ll find out what I think about each one in a blog post that should hopefully appear here fairly soon!
I’ve found that I always want some variety in the things I watch month by month. I could never stick to a monthly theme any stricter than as a loose underlying theme, one that works more as a strong suggestion than anything else. While I’ve enjoyed following these topics month by month, it’s really hard for me to follow it very strongly, especially after long work days when I simply don’t feel up for watching anything more than easygoing comedies, cartoons, or the ilk. It’s especially difficult when there’s always new stuff coming out in theaters that I really want to check out. And I don’t think there’s anything wrong with this sense of looseness at all, especially since I expect to upkeep my reputation of being up for watching basically everything under the sun.
Overall, however, this month was successful. I’ve had more time on my hands than usual, so I’ve been particularly friendly toward my Netflix account lately. The lists of what I watch each month have not been as vibrant and unpredictable as when I could afford to go to my favorite independent video store a year or two ago, but I’ve still been able to get a lot of stuff watched. Besides Bond and films I watched in theaters, I’ve also been trying to watch some stuff I should have watched years ago. I watched James Cameron’s Avatar and was thoroughly unimpressed; I also watched Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers and, while not enjoying it as much as the first installment, I still really loved it. On top of that, I’ve also been reading a lot of comics (especially manga!), nonfiction, and some novels. Finally, I’ve set up another goal for myself to watch the entirety of Dragonball Z in a month or two – that’s 300 episodes of pure, unadulterated, epic anime funtimes, a lot of which has been filler. Gonna need a lot more vodka for this one…
So here is the full list of movies that I watched this past month:
- The Great Muppet Caper (Henson, 1981)
- Muppet Treasure Island (Henson, 1996)
- Dr. No (Young, 1962)
- Shaolin Soccer (Chow, 2001)
- Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem (Elkabetz & Elkabetz, 2015)
- Leviathan (Zvyagintsev, 2014)
- Teen Witch (Walker, 1989)
- From Russia With Love (Young, 1963)
- Goldfinger (Hamilton, 1964)
- The Loving Story (Buirski, 2011)
- Relatoes salvájes (Wild Tales) (Szifron, 2014)
- Thunderball (Young, 1965)
- You Only Live Twice (Gilbert, 1967)
- The Hunting Ground (Dick, 2015)
- The Invisible War (Dick, 2012)
- Entre Nos (La Morte & Mendoza, 2009)
- Downloaded (Winter, 2013)
- Avatar (Cameron, 2009)
- L.I.E. (Cuesta, 2001)
- She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry (Dore, 2015)
- Get Shorty (Sonnenfeld, 1995)
- The Muslims Are Coming! (Obeidallah & Farsad, 2012)
- Jerry Maguire (Crowe, 1996)
- Philadelphia (Demme 1993)
- Dancer in the Dark (Von Trier, 2000)
- In & Out (Oz, 1997)
- The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (Jackson, 2002)
- Frozen Fever (Buck & Lee, 2015)
- Cinderella (Branagh, 2015)
- The Karate Kid (Avildsen, 1984)
- Good Morning Vietnam (Levinson, 1987)
- Sense and Sensibility (Lee, 1995)
- On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (Hunt, 1969)
- Tenkū no Shiro Rapyuta (Castle in the Sky) (Miyazaki, 1986)
- Mystic River (Eastwood, 2003)
- Case Study: Barbituates (1969)
- Case Study: Amphetamines (1969)
- Case Study: LSD (1969)
- Case Study: Heroin (1969)
- Annie (Huston, 1982)
- How to Marry a Millionaire (Negulesco, 1953)
- The Amityville Horror (Rosenberg, 1979)
- Mystic Pizza (Petrie, 1988)
- Thank You For Smoking (Reitman, 2005)
Total watched in 2015: 146
Total new-to-me in 2015: 140
It’s pretty cool that every film I watched this month has been a new viewing – that hasn’t happened in a long time (at least not since I’ve started logging everything I watch, not just new-to-me films).
It was really hard for me to narrow my top favorites to only five, since there were a lot of films I watched that I really loved. Nonetheless, here is my best attempt.
Six delicious tales of revenge and unflinching critique of the upper-middle class make up Wild Tales, which has very quickly become one of my favorites from last year. While some of these stories are certainly better than others (the wedding segment being a particular favorite), they are all very well-made, often hilarious, and certainly worthy of every bit of attention it’s gotten. I’m almost afraid to potentially become disappointed upon rewatch, as the audience I watched this film with was particularly reactive and made the shock value of this film all the more plentiful. I give Wild Tales my highest of recommendations.
A fanatic of Jane Austen’s novels I am not (with the exception of Jane Eyre). However, while Clueless will always be a personal favorite inspired by an Austen work, Sense and Sensibility may very well be my favorite strict adaptation. Emma Thompson’s screenplay really brings out the best parts of the Dashwoods’ plights into something emotionally fleshed-out and compelling. Kate Winslet and Thompson herself excel marvelously in their roles, and while I never thought I’d give in to Alan Rickman’s charms, I certainly did in this one. This combination of master performances and a lush Austenian atmosphere made this an absolute delight to watch, surely a film I’d love to curl up and live in for a little while (save for its obvious gender restrictions of the British 19th century).
And speaking of films inside which I’d like to live… although I suppose that could be said with most Miyazaki flicks. I don’t know why it’s taken me so long to get around to Castle in the Sky. Perhaps it has something to do with the fact that I wasn’t very fond of the last Miyazaki film I watched – Nausicaä, which immediately preceded this one. Needless to say, however, my premonitions were incorrect, as this has become one of my very favorites from the filmmaker. I’m sure this isn’t only because of my recent fascination with Japanese animation. It simply seems that it comes so easy for Miyazaki to so skillfully combine simple concepts – friendship, triumph over evil – with such beautiful landscapes and mature overarching thematic elements. Simply put, it’s absolutely beautiful and breathtaking in every which way. It also seems to be the film that would affirm Miyazaki’s mastery, which he would continue with My Neighbor Totoro, Porco Rosso, Princess Mononoke, and Spirited Away.
2) Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem.
As a feminist and as a woman, a lot of things I watched this month infuriated me. I watched The Invisible War and The Hunting Ground, two documentaries by Kirby Dick that covered the proliferation of sexual abuse toward women in the military and college campuses, respectively. Another documentary, She’s Beautiful When She’s Angry, skillfully details the exhausting trials and pinnacle accomplishments of second-wave feminism (although like the movement, this film is imperfect). The one film that affected me the most, however, surprisingly came in the fictional form of Gett: The Trial of Viviane Amsalem. In modern day Israel, this titular character is trying to get a divorce, the problem being that her husband refuses to offer consent. Shot almost entirely in one room, its tight framing and minimal personal characters stands opposite to the explosive dialogue and raw emotion that surrounds the trial. Although Ronit Elkabetz (who plays Viviane and also co-writes and directs this film) gets relatively little speaking roles, her presence and performance define this portrait of a woman who has become upsettingly fatigued by the patriarchy. Men are awful.
Now, I’ve expressed my distaste for a lot of filmmakers over the years, but the one that I seem to get the most rebuttals from is Lars Von Trier. I just can’t help it – although I was really impressed with Melancholia, I hated Antichrist and Dogville and was thoroughly let down by Breaking the Waves (which a lot of my cinephile buddies consider his best). I’m not going to try to convince myself that any of these films are “bad”; there are just certain aspects of each that seriously bored me or turned me off completely. I can never connect to his exhaustively cold style, even in some of his more emotionally-charged films. With this kept in mind, it’s easy to see why I’ve been putting off Dancer in the Dark for so long. To be honest, there were only two selling points that even made me remotely interested in Dancer in the Dark: the first being that it’s a musical, the second being Björk. Ironically, once I finally rolled my eyes and got around to this “necessary” film (as “necessary” as I was told the others were), I could have kicked myself for not getting around to it sooner. Björk has got to be the best Von Trier protagonist I’ve seen yet; she truly put her very heart and soul into every second of screen time. All of the musical sequences happen in her head, as her way of making light of the tragic, grim circumstances that surround her. In such a way it’s a lot like Pennies From Heaven one of my favorite musicals, only these Berkeley-esque song-and-dance numbers are less humorous and much more steeped in realistic despair. Its story is a sadistic one, but the way our central character is fleshed out creates a layer of sympathy surrounding this tale that renders it viably humanistic and undeniably beautiful. And once again, it only further proves to me that everything Björk touches is bound to turn to gold.
Despite these positive thoughts, I’m still not sure if I’ll ever get around to Nympomaniac or any of Von Trier’s other films – not yet anyway. If Dancer in the Dark forever remains the exception in my eyes, I wouldn’t be complaining at all.
In honor of April Fools’ Day, I’ve decided that the theme for the month of April will be devoted to a certain subsection of films that I don’t nearly pay enough attention to. I’m talking about bad movies, and while I do already watch a good amount of B-movies or mediocre films from directors I enjoy, these aren’t the films I’m talking about. I’m talking about the universally (or almost universally) despised movies, the ones with overwhelmingly bad reviews and less than 20% on Rotten Tomatoes. I’ve realized that I don’t spend nearly enough time seeking out films other than the ones I want to see. Lots of film critics go out and watch movies that they already expect to be bad; sometimes they are even pleasantly surprised, although not usually. I don’t think I could really call myself a true cinephile unless I delve into some real crap every now and then. I’ve already made a long list of movies for my personal usage – let’s just say that there’s a lot more sequels and bad CGI oriented movies that I’m particularly proud of. Nonetheless, I think I’m prepared for the month of masochism that’s bound to occur. Wish me luck!