I saw 53 new movies in the month of January, I re-watched 3 others, and I watched a season of a TV show. A majority of these films were focused on Oscar nominees and other 2013 films for my eventual Top 10 of 2013 post. I also did my annual check of IMDB’s year ending Top 250 list. I’ve been doing it since 1998 and now have 16 years worth of lists, resulting in 552 unique movies. (You can see it here.) I had already completed all the films that have ever been on it, so it’s now just a matter of knocking off any new entries. There were nine films on the latest year ending list that I had not yet seen. I now have three left, so I expect to complete them in February.
Other than that I am actively working on the following lists: Oscar Best Picture Nominees, the six 101 [Genre] Films You Must See Before You Die lists, They Shoot Pictures Don’t They, and Roger Ebert’s Great Movies. Some of these overlap, but I am showing films under only one list’s count in the details below. The 2014 Oscar nominations added another nine films to the overall total. It now stands at 512, of which I have seen 454. I did complete the top 400 films on the ranked TSPDT list, so that’s something.
All of these different lists can be seen by clicking on the names of them. They link to my Lists from Chip posts on them.
Here are the 53 new movies and 3 old ones I saw in January. Highlighted movies are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five. I will single out the four and five star films, as well as the worst films, in the paragraphs below the lists.
IMDB (5): Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009), Incendies (2010), Memories of Murder (2003), The Hunt (2012), Rang De Basanti (2006)
Oscar Nominees (8): Little Women (1933), Captain Philips (2013), American Hustle (2013), The Wolf of Wall Street (2013), 12 Years a Slave (2013), Dallas Buyers Club (2013), Her (2013), The Smiling Lieutenant (1931)
101 Genre (2): Dillinger (1973), Assault on Precinct 13 (1976)
TSPDT (15): Salvatore Giuliano (1962), The Scarlet Empress (1934), The Flowers of St. Francis (1950), The Sacrifice (1986), Nostalghia (1983), Nouvelle Vague (1990), Scenes from a Marriage (1973), The Rise of Louis XIV (1966), The Blood of a Poet (1932), Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927), Early Summer (1951), Fellini’s Casanova (1976), That Obscure Object of Desire (1977), Muriel (1963), Mother (1926)
Ebert (7): Seven Up! (1964), 7 Plus Seven (1970), 21 Up (1977), 28 Up (1984), 42: Forty-Two Up (1998), 49 Up (2005), 56 Up (2012)
Other Movies (16): Sherlock: The Empty Hearse (2014), Upstream Color (2013), Harold Lloyd: The Third Genius (1989), Take a Chance (1918), Young Mr. Jazz (1919), His Royal Slyness (1920), Sherlock: The Sign of Three (2014), Rid of Me (2011), Hansel & Gretel: Witch Hunters (2013), Sherlock: His Last Vow (2014), The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie (1969), The Family (2013), Percy Jackson: Sea of Monsters (2013), Mud (2013), Jobs (2013), The Kings of Summer (2013)
Re-watches (3): Kick-Ass 2 (2013), Safety Last! (1923), 35 Up (1991)
TV Series (1): Archer Season 4
I saw a number of excellent films in January. While no single film in the Up documentary series would merit 5 stars, the series as a whole more than earns that rating. If you have never heard of it, in 1964 a bunch of British 7 year olds from different socio-economic backgrounds were interviewed on what they thought about their lives and what they thought the future would bring. Director Michael Apted has gone back every seven years to re-interview them. He most recently talked to them at age 56. The result is a fascinating look into the changing times, mores, looks, attitudes, and most important, the lives of these people. Imagine the changes that occur over nearly five decades in people’s lives. We see them as awkward 14 year olds, confident 21 year olds, starting families (28), losing their parents (35), realizing not all of their hopes and dreams may happen (42), becoming grandparents and being more content (49), and dealing with aging (56). These are not the uber-exhibitionists that compete to be on TV “reality” shows now. Some of these folks aren’t exactly thrilled to have millions of people think they can understand them by seeing 10 minutes of their lives every seven years, but they continue to participate because of how important so many people feel this series is. Perhaps Roger Ebert said it best when he wrote that it is “an inspired, even noble, use of the film medium.” I wrote more about this series in this post. I suggest watching them in order to get the best experience from them.
A very good film I saw that didn’t quite merit a 5 star rating from me is Incendies (2010). It showed up on the IMDB 2013 year end list. In fact, with this film, Departures, The Hunt, and Rang De Basanti, most of the new foreign films on the list were very pleasant surprises. Incendies is a powerful movie, wrapped within a family mystery that takes some serious unraveling. The only reason I didn't rate it 5 stars is that the writing is awkward on the reason for the mystery to unwind the way it does. In real life the movie would have been over in the first 10 minutes because the mother would have just told her kids about her life, but then there wouldn't have been a movie, of course. This is a powerful drama, so if you only like to see feel good movies this is not the film for you.
Here are the other four star films I saw:
Rang De Basanti (2006) is an Indian film starring Aamir Khan (Lagaan, 3 Idiots) that starts out as a light drama with some goofy moments, but eventually becomes a deadly serious drama. The transition is slow enough that it did not feel awkward at all. There are some interesting comparisons and contrasts with the leads playing dual roles as modern Indian youths and early 20th century Indian rebels.
His Royal Slyness (1920) is a Harold Lloyd two-reeler about an American book salesman who agrees to impersonate the Prince of a tiny European nation – one that is ripe for revolt. I didn’t even realize that it wasn’t Harold Lloyd playing both parts until the characters were standing in the same frame. It turns out Harold’s brother Gaylord played one of the parts.
Sherlock: His Last Vow (2014) is the last of the three TV movies in Season 3 of the show Sherlock. It is the best of them for the most recent year. I can’t describe why I liked it so much without giving a massive spoiler so all I will say is that it caught me by surprise and that doesn’t happen that often anymore.
Mud (2013) is part of Matthew McConaughey’s triumphant year of acting. He’s Oscar nominated for Dallas Buyers Club, and his scene in The Wolf of Wall Street has been much talked about, but for my money Mud is his best starring role in 2013. He plays the title character, a mysterious man living on an island. Two boys meet him while exploring and his stories captivate them. They get caught up in helping him and that’s not a very safe thing to do as we get more and more hints of what Mud’s real story is. This is simultaneously a mystery, a realistic look at love, and a coming of age for the two boys.
Finally, I recently did four star reviews of The Wolf of Wall Street (2013) and Her (2013). You can read them by looking at my January posts.
I had a few one star films in January. I’ll just mention The Sacrifice (aka Offret), a 1986 film from Tarkovsky. It was his last. I generally like his films, but this was a disappointment. He is basically aping the style of Ingmar Bergman in this, or at least Bergman’s style from the late 60s (i.e. The Hour of the Wolf). Unfortunately, instead of getting the best of Tarkovsky and Bergman we get the worst. There are long stretches where not much of anything happens (Tarkovsky) and when characters do interact they don’t talk TO each other, they talk AT each other in artificial non-sequiturs (Bergman circa the late 60s).