Wyler, Musicals, and #52FilmsByWomen: January ’16 in Film

I may have went a tad overboard with film-watching in January. In total, I watched 71 films throughout the entire month, with 56 of those being first-time watches. Of course, my spontaneous binge-watching of various Looney Tunes shorts during the latter parts of the month – mainly from master Chuck Jones and the lesser Fritz Freleng – could account for these relatively large numbers. Still, I watched 51 feature-length films overall this month, which is pretty impressive in itself. All this is a pretty good sign, as I have been actively trying to keep with my resolutions and I think I did a pretty good job this time around. In particular, I’ve been attempting to complete the filmographies of auteurs I enjoy, as well as watch more classic film in general. Of the 51 full-length films I watched, ten were pre-1965 (the basic cut-off point for classic cinema) – sure, I could’ve done better, but I also could’ve done a lot worse. I’ve definitely already watched more than I had at this point a year ago.

My goal to catch up with a lot of renown directors has also been proving successful so far. My two most popular filmmakers this month (not counting all those animated shorts) were William Wyler and David O. Russell. Wyler is most interesting in how he directs actors, specifically Bette Davis who I am now obsessed with. I enjoy Russell significantly less in general, but have found his pre-00s work that I watched this month – Three KingsI Heart Huckabees, and Flirting With Disaster – to be considerably stronger than his later output. The third most popular in January was Howard Hawks, from whom I watched three new-to-me films. His work is usually an absolute delight and I am looking forward to watching any movie I can stumble across from him. Finally, I’ve been using the #52FilmsByWomen challenge as an incentive to watch more films by women (besides the fact that I just want to do it for universal benefits in general). So far, I’ve watched five woman-directed films, which is more than the number of full weeks in the whole month. Since I want to try to write reviews for the ones that stand out to me the most, I’ve also been increasing my average number of posts per month – already in 2016 I’ve posted five blog entries. On top of this, I’m in the process of a top 25 list of 2015 that is sure to blow everyone else’s out of the water. Overall, I’m off to a great start!

Here is the full list of what I watched in 2015.

  1. Mrs. Miniver (Wyler, 1942)
  2. Shakespeare in Love (Madden, 1998)
  3. Yankee Doodle Dandy (Curtiz, 1942)*
  4. Mustang (Ergüven, 2015)
  5. The Danish Girl (Hooper, 2015)
  6. Dodsworth (Wyler, 1936)
  7. The Little Foxes (Wyler, 1941)
  8. Bye Bye Birdie (Sidney, 1963)
  9. Breakin’ (Silberg, 1984)*
  10. Breakin’ 2: Electric Boogaloo (Firstenberg, 1984)*
  11. Jezebel (Wyler, 1938)
  12. Three Kings (Russell, 1999)
  13. Wings (Wellman, 1927)
  14. Joy (Russell, 2015)
  15. Anomalisa (Kaufman & Johnson, 2015)
  16. Creed (Coogler, 2015)
  17. Desert Hearts (Deitch, 1985)
  18. Monkey Business (Hawks, 1952)
  19. Actress (Greene, 2014)
  20. The Phantom of the Paradise (De Palma, 1974)
  21. Sicario (Villeneuve, 2015)
  22. I Heart Huckabees (Russell, 2004)
  23. Réalité (Reality) (Dupieux, 2014)
  24. 21 Jump Street (Lord & Miller, 2012)*
  25. 22 Jump Street (Lord & Miller, 2014)
  26. Goosebumps (Letterman, 2015)
  27. Sanjay’s Super Team (Patel, 2015)
  28. The Good Dinosaur (Sohn, 2015)
  29. Crocodile Dundee (Faiman, 1986)
  30. Flirting With Disaster (Russell, 1996)
  31. Nuit #1 (Night #1) (Émond, 2011)
  32. The Revenant (Iñárritu, 2015)
  33. Bridge of Spies (Spielberg, 2015)
  34. Avengers: Age of Ultron (Whedon, 2015)
  35. Panique au village (A Town Called Panic) (Aubier & Patar, 2009)*
  36. Phoenix (Petzold, 2015)
  37. Efes beyahasei enosh (Zero Motivation) (Lavie, 2014)
  38. The Martian (Scott, 2015)
  39. I Was a Male War Bride (Hawks, 1949)
  40. Intolerable Cruelty (Coen, 2003)
  41. The American Astronaut (McAbee, 2001)*
  42. She’s Gotta Have It (Lee, 1986)
  43. Only Angels Have Wings (Hawks, 1939)
  44. Elmer’s Candid Camera (Jones, 1940)*
  45. Bugs Bunny and the Three Bears (Jones, 1944)*
  46. Fast and Furry-ous (Jones, 1949)*
  47. Hair-Raising Hare (Jones, 1946)*
  48. Awful Orphan (Jones, 1949)*
  49. Haredevil Hare (Jones, 1948)*
  50. For Scent-imental Reasons (Jones, 1949)*
  51. Frigid Hare (Jones, 1949)*
  52. The Hypo-Chondri-Cat (Jones, 1950)
  53. Baton Bunny (Jones & Levitow, 1959)
  54. Feed the Kitty (Jones, 1952)*
  55. Don’t Give Up the Sheep (Jones, 1953)
  56. Bugs Bunny Gets the Boid (Clampett, 1942)
  57. Tortoise Wins By a Hare (Clampett, 1943)
  58. Samsara (Fricke, 2011)
  59. Cartel Land (Heineman, 2015)
  60. Felt (Banker, 2015)
  61. Fantasia 2000 (Algar et al., 1999)
  62. Canary Row (Freleng, 1950)
  63. Bunker Hill Bunny (Freleng, 1950)
  64. Kit For Cat (Freleng, 1948)
  65. Putty Tat Trouble (Freleng, 1951)
  66. Bugs and Thugs (Freleng, 1954)
  67. The Apple (Golan, 1980)
  68. Electric Boogaloo: The Wild, Untold Story of Cannon Films (Hartley, 2014)
  69. Jûsan-nin no shikaku (13 Assassins) (Miike, 2010)
  70. Kung Fu Panda 2 (Yuh, 2011)
  71. Attack the Block (Cornish, 2011)

betteveil

As I mentioned earlier, I watched four films from William Wyler this year, those being Mrs. MiniverDodsworthThe Little Foxes, and Jezebel. Prior to these, I had watched four others – Wuthering HeightsThe Best Years of Our LivesRoman Holiday, and Funny Girl. It’s no lie that the ability to churn out consistent crowd-pleasers is nearly unparalleled – twelve Best Director nominations across a 45-year career can’t be wrong. While The Best Years of Our Lives remains the strongest film of his I’ve seen overall, I’ve found another new favorite with The Little Foxes, a Southern Gothic parable with a sinister bite that still resonates with me to this day. With this, as well as Jezebel, I have been re-introduced to the monumental greatness of Bette Davis and am tempted to just marathon all of her films alone.

Wings-Clara-Bow

Another one of my resolutions is to watch more winners of the Academy Award for Best Picture – ideally, I’d like to complete this goal by the end of December 2016. I’m more than halfway done already, but I still have some work to do. In January, I watched two of these films. Wings, from 1927, was the first ever Best Picture winner and boy is it a strong one. It’s made me realize that I haven’t seen nearly enough films featuring Clara Bow and I should fix that ASAP. Its strongest points come not only with its visual effects of air combat (these scenes were amazing), but also with its compelling story of camaraderie between two soldiers. I love scenes of emotional bonding moments between two male characters – especially within typically “macho” settings – and the tragic climactic scene is one of the best I’ve encountered. I’d recommend this to anyone who loves good silent film.

The second Best Picture winner I watched is a newer one – Shakespeare in Love, from 1998. It’s one that I had constantly heard as being one of the most undeserving of the honor, but after watching it, I can’t completely stand with these complaints. Sure, the performances aren’t anything to go on about, but it’s a pretty great story and one that cleverly employs so many Shakespearian tropes and classic literary references in general. It’s dated, yes, but it’s also smartly tongue-in-cheek. I don’t know it it “deserved” the prize per se, but it’s a damn good film regardless (although I’ve yet to see its most fiercest competitors for the top prize, The Thin Red Line and Saving Private Ryan).

177d7c98-4e95-4265-98cd-53358ca5c287-bestSizeAvailable

My year in watching more female-directed films is off to a pretty nice beginning. So far, I’ve watched Deniz Gamze Ergüven’s fierce drama Mustang, Donna Deitch’s 80s queer classic Desert Hearts, Anne Émond’s slow-burn Nuit #1, Talya Lavie’s fresh and funny Zero Motivation, and Jennifer Yuh’s animated tour-de-force Kung Fu Panda 2. Immediately, it’s become evident that simply adding women directors to my usual random playlist of films offers much more diverse styles and themes than had ever been present before. I’ve realized now that this is pretty much a given – women inherently have a whole different worldview than men, shaped by their own experiences with the outside world (sexism usually being a major factor in it). This has not only made me hunger to encounter more of these types of experiences, but has also aided in my being more excited about film-writing than I had ever been in my life. All of this excites me so much.

ZCROzKl

Surely, I wouldn’t dare close this blog post without at least mentioning Menahem Golan’s madcap musical The Apple, one of the last films I watched in January. I’m aware that it’s been considered among the worst films of all time, yet at the same time my expectations were strangely high – probably because these types of films usually fascinate me. Sadly, this film is a mess… but boy, what an impressive mess it is! It’s obvious that so much care and love was placed in all the costumes and sets; there’s rarely a moment where what’s on the screen isn’t interesting as all heck. It’s a real shame that the songs weren’t more interesting (with the exception of the disco fever dream “Coming For You”), because I think it really deserved some wild music to balance out just how weird everything else is. As it stands, it unfortunately stands in the shadows of both Rocky Horror Picture Show and the “Disco Sucks” movement and it’s overwhelmingly subpar. Still, it’s well worth a watch, if for the mere fact that there’s not very much quite like it out there.

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