Monday, December 1, 2014

November Movie Status

I watched 32 new movies in November, plus rewatched 1 movie, plus watched a TV miniseries/season. 

I continued to work on the They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  I passed 900 of the 1,000 entries.  As of this writing I have 83 left to see.  And after a year of trying to get Heimat from Netflix they moved it to Unavailable status this month.  I appealed for help in getting it to watch and a very kind person was able to do that for me.  I finally knocked off the longest entry on the list – all 16 hours of it.  I now have only one entry longer than 2.5 hours left and only ten longer than 2 hours.

I once again worked on completing directors with at least four entries on the list.  In November I finished off the last of: 7 von Sternberg, 15 Bunuel, 7 Mizoguchi, 5 Melville, 5 McCarey, 8 Huston, and 9 Scorcese.  I still have 17 more directors like this to go (out of 77), including the two with the most entries – Godard and Ford.

Here are the 32 new movies I saw in November.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

TSPDT (20): Simon of the Desert (1965), The Devil is a Woman (1935), Nazarin (1959), News from Home (1977), From the East (1993), Kwaidan (1964), Van Gogh (1991), A Page of Madness (1926), Synecdoche, New York (2008), The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955), Taira Clan Saga (1955), Man’s Castle (1933), Knife in the Water (1962), The Wings of Eagles (1957), Second Breath (1966), Ruggles of Red Gap (1935), The Fallen Idol (1948), The Misfits (1961), New York, New York (1977), Heimat (1984)

Other Movies (12): One Starry Christmas (2014), The Christmas Ornament (2014), Trust (2010), Death at a Funeral (2010), The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition (2014), Vampire (2011), Broken Embraces (2009), Million Dollar Arm (2014), Angels and Ornaments (2014), Begin Again (2014), Sex Tape (2014), A Room for Romeo Brass (1999)

Rewatches (1): First Blood (1982)

TV (1): True Detective Season 1

One Starry Christmas (2014) – Hallmark started showing Christmas movies before Thanksgiving.  I vegged out on a Sunday and watched a couple of them.  It was exactly what you’d expect.   3 stars

The Christmas Ornament (2014) – This is the second of the two.  It was exactly what you’d expect.   3 stars

Trust (2010) – It starts out as a generic “teenage girl gets lured in by guy on internet” kind of movie, but then it goes into some interesting territory.  She goes to his motel room, models underwear for him, and although a little scared, has sex with him.  Where this is different is that while she’s not jumping for joy that it happened, she’s also not all broken up over it.  When her friends and family find out, though, they put her through emotional hell.  Her father, in his zeal for revenge, particularly harms her far more emotionally than the event itself did – to the point where she tries to commit suicide.  So the title refers both to the guy she met on the internet who took advantage of her, but also to her parents.   2.5 stars

Simon of the Desert (1965) – Typical Bunuel movie making fun of faith in general, and the Catholic Church in particular.  2.5 stars

The Devil is a Woman (1935) – Horrible woman uses men, and makes no pretense that she is going to do anything other than use them, yet they still keep coming around.  This kind of film is not for me.   2 stars

Nazarin (1959) – Another Bunuel movie about religion.  In this one an honest to God good man is a priest, and the people love him, but the church persecutes him for not doing the things they want him to do.  2.5 stars

Death at a Funeral (2010) – Remake of the 2007 British movie with a mostly black American cast.  Interestingly, Peter Dinklage plays the same role in this remake that he did in the original.  This remake has some laughs in it, but overall is not nearly as good as the original.  See that one.   3 stars

The Hobbit: The Desolation of Smaug Extended Edition (2014) – This is sort of a rewatch, but since this had new scenes in it I am calling it a new movie.  For the first time, though, Peter Jackson doesn’t only add new footage; in this one he replaces footage in at least three places that I noticed.  So in some cases you are not seeing scenes from the theatrical version.   4 stars

News from Home (1977) – Random shots of New York City in the 1970s with an occasional unrelated voiceover of a woman reading banal letters from a mother to her daughter.  Other than seeing what the city looked like in this time period there was nothing interesting about this.  It’s brought to us by the same woman who did Jeanne Dielman.  At least this was only an hour and a half.  See also From the East below.   1 star

Vampire (2011) – I watched this for Keisha Castle-Hughes (Whale Rider), but unfortunately she only appears in the opening.  In fact, this movie almost seems to be a vehicle for a number of recognizable, but not A-list, actresses to walk on, do a scene with the lead male character, and then never appear again.    2 stars

From the East (1993) – News from Home (see above) apparently was too entertaining, so in this one she just shows us random shots of unidentified eastern bloc countries for two hours with no voiceover at all.  1 star

Kwaidan (1964) – Very good set of four unconnected ghost stories.  Three of the four are effectively creepy, and all four are very interesting visually.   4 stars

Van Gogh (1991) – An exercise in how to make a boring movie about one of the most interesting painters who ever lived.  The formula for “success”?  Avoid everything that made him famous and instead focus on him having inconsequential conversations for more than two and a half hours.   2 stars

A Page of Madness (1926) – Interesting set of images that both evoke The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and that pave the way for the surrealism from Bunuel and Dali.   3 stars

Broken Embraces (2009) – Perhaps not what you’d expect from Almodovar, but he and Penelope Cruz team up again for a movie.  It’s not the best from the two, but it’s worth seeing.   3 stars

Synecdoche, New York (2008) – Written and directed by Charlie Kaufman.  Not to get all SAT test on you, but in regards to “meta-ness” Adaptation is to Synecdoche, New York as checkers is to chess.  You’d better be prepared to pay attention while watching it.   3.5 stars

The Criminal Life of Archibaldo de la Cruz (1955) – Done at a time when Bunuel was making pretty straightforward movies.  When is a serial killer not a serial killer?  When he wants to kill people, but all of them end up dead before he can do the deed.  2 stars

Taira Clan Saga (1955) – family politics and betrayal during the samurai age.  Not as good as some other films from Mizoguchi, but worth seeing.    3 stars

Man’s Castle (1933) – A movie made just before the Production Code was enforced, so it gets away with a lot.  Not only do an unmarried man (Spencer Tracy) and woman (Loretta Young) live together, they have sex and she gets pregnant.  They are living in a shantytown during the depression.  He’s got wanderlust, though, and every time he hears a train whistle he dreams of hopping on the cars.   2.5 stars

Knife in the Water (1962) – This early Polanski film was probably shocking when it came out, but nowadays it’s nothing special in regards to the plot.  There are many interesting shots and angles in it, though.   2.5 stars

The Wings of Eagles (1957) – John Wayne and John Ford team up yet again, this time in the sort of true story of a Hollywood screenwriter they both knew.  He had been an early Navy pilot before tragedy struck and he started over as a screenwriter.   3 stars

Million Dollar Arm (2014) – Disneyfication of what could have been an interesting story.  Already knowing what actually happened probably took something away from this movie for me.  My biggest problem with it, though, is that lead actor Jon Hamm plays a complete and utter dick through the whole movie.   2.5 stars

Second Breath (1966) – Yet another criminals, heists, and cops movie from Melville.  This isn’t bad at all, but he’s done better.    2.5 stars

Ruggles of Red Gap (1935) – This is the last of Charles Laughton's three 1935 movies that I've seen and he's done an outstanding job in all of them. And all three are such different roles - Captain Bly in Mutiny on the Bounty, Inspector Javert in Les Miserables, and Ruggles in this film.  Laughton really gets to show his physical comedy skills in this one, from quietly freaking out when his Earl tells him he lost him to an American in a "drawing poker" match, to the "wahooooo!" when he's drunk, to the "I'm a naughty widdle boy" face when he's being berated while still drunk.  Then there is the Gettysburg Address scene, though, that reminds people of just how good a serious actor he is.  This is an all around enjoyable film and it's worth your time tracking it down to see it.   4 stars

The Fallen Idol (1948) – A movie about how a child can ruin your life.  Not really, but that’s certainly one interpretation of it.  There is some good suspense in this film as we wait to see what new way this little kid will unwittingly find to possible destroy the life of the main character, but man is the kid annoying.   2.5 stars

The Misfits (1961) – Existentialism being spouted by Marilyn Monroe, while love interest Clark Gable tries to not look twice her age.  This is the film that he killed himself to make because he dropped far too much weight in too short a time to try to look like a reasonable match for Monroe onscreen.  He weakened his heart and died right after filming completed.  Too bad it’s not a better movie.  It’s telling that all three main actors (Monroe, Gable – who saw a rough cut, and Montgomery Clift) hated this movie.   2 stars

New York, New York (1977) – Way, way too much filler in this nearly 3 hour movie.  The first 30 minutes are literally nothing more than Robert De Niro’s character trying to pick up women at a dance.   An hour and a half could have easily been removed and not been missed.   2 stars

Angels and Ornaments (2014) – Yet another Hallmark Christmas movie.  You get what you expect.   3 stars

Begin Again (2014) – Knowing that this was pretty much the same story as the director’s earlier film Once I was able to avoid getting emotionally invested in the lead characters, so when it turned out like Once it didn’t bother me.  See this movie for the songs and the creative process behind them.  Knightley will never be a professional singer, but she certainly doesn’t embarrass herself, either.   3 stars

True Detective Season 1 – This was actually a TV miniseries, but it proved to be so popular that there’s now going to be an unrelated second “season”.  The writing is good, but not as great as some have made it out to be.  There’s certainly some filler, especially the fourth of the eight episodes, which is completely out of place with the other seven.  It’s as if they felt “we’ve had too much talking and investigating; we need a big shoot out.”  No, the reason to see this is the truly great acting from both Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson.  Oh, and also for the incredibly beautiful, all natural Alexandra Daddario, who finally managed to distract me from her intense eyes for a few seconds.  If you can’t put the name with a face, she’s been in a bunch of movies, but you’re most likely to remember her as the woman with the incredible eyes that’s carrying the stuffed animal into battle in the Imagine Dragons’ music video Radioactive.  There’s a whole Google category just for pictures of her eyes.   4 stars

Sex Tape (2014) – Has a few amusing scenes, but overall it’s just not that funny.    2.5 stars

Heimat (1984) – German TV Miniseries that is worth your time to track down.  It shows the life of a small village from just after WWI to about 1980.  Some have called it the best miniseries ever, but I’d put Roots firmly ahead of it.   4.5 stars

A Room for Romeo Brass (1999) – Two little brats in England meet up with a young man who is not right in the head.  At first things are good, but the danger from him eventually becomes apparent.  Paddy Considine does a good job as the young man in his film debut.  Ultimately, there’s just not quite enough there in regards to story.   2.5 stars


  1. Glad you got to see Ruggles of Red Gap, the Gettysburg Address scene feels iconic. A British guy being a fish out of water in the US never gets old, timeless.

    Kwaidan is a one-of-a-kind experience, so colorful. You can tell the background set pieces are fake here and there, but the film is gorgeous to look at, and I agree the stories are pretty effective too.My favorite was the tale in the snow.

    1. I actually like Kwaidan better because of the obvious fakeness of the sets. It made it more artistic to me, and gave it a little more of an otherworldly feel, sort of like the sets in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari.

  2. One of the joys of Kwaidan is the weird sets. It occurs to me that a film like Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters borrows from it a bit in some of its stories, too.

    I'm also pleased you liked Ruggles. I had a feeling it's one you'd enjoy, mostly because Laughton is such a delight in it. I think it's evident that he's having a great time filming it.

    I'm disappointed to see the low score for Knife in the Water. It's one I've been looking forward to seeing, in part because I tend to like Polanski's films. I'll probably still get to it someday, but the anticipation has dimmed a bit.

    1. Don't take my score for Knife in the Water as gospel. While I think some Polanski movies are fantastic (i.e. Chinatown, Rosemary's Baby), some others I have seen from him I've not been impressed with (i.e. The Tenant, Tess). My reaction to his movies is decidedly mixed.

      There's nothing wrong with Knife in the Water; I just didn't find anything particularly special about it, other than the cinematography. A 2.5 star rating from me means "it was okay."

      For me, I think it's a victim of the fact that 50 years have passed since it came out and other movies have used it as an influence and have done it one better. Dead Calm from the 1980s would be an example.

  3. I like The Fallen Idol more than you. I've forgotten about the kid but still remember how really great Ralph Richardson was. Still, different strokes ...

    1. I thought Richardson did a great job, too. I just was so annoyed by the kid that it brought the whole movie down for me.