Tuesday, December 1, 2015

November Movie Status

In the month of November I saw 24 new films, plus re-watched 1 film, plus watched three seasons of one TV show and one season of another.

I had a lot of time to devote to watching movies, if I chose, in November because I had most of the month off.  As it turns out I had a more even mixture of activities.  And I did watch a bunch of TV show seasons, so that took time away from movies.

As I write this I have seen 499 of the 520 Oscar Best Picture nominees.  (Had I looked for the number yesterday I would have found a way to squeeze one more movie in before the end of the month, but oh well.)  Two of those nominees do not exist to watch, so I have 19 left to finish them off.  They are all from the 3rd through 8th Oscar ceremonies (Nov 1930 to 1936). 1935 and 1936 had twelve (!) nominees apiece; 12 of the 19 films I have left are from those two years alone.  My goal is to get all 19 done this month so I can end the year on a high note.

Here are the 24 films I saw in November.  Ones I would recommend (give at least a three star rating to) are highlighted.

Oscar (14): Anthony Adverse (1936), Bad Girl (1931), The Citadel (1938), The Long Voyage Home (1940), One Night of Love (1934), Our Town (1940), Foreign Correspondent (1940), Pygmalion (1938), The Front Page (1931), The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936), One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937), Four Daughters (1938), Test Pilot (1938), A Star is Born (1937)

101 Genre (4): Daughters of Darkness (1971), The Hunger (1983), A Tale of Two Sisters (2003), The Anderson Tapes (1971)

Other (6): San Andreas (2015), Lava (2015), Riley’s First Date? (2015), Auto Focus (2002), Ant-Man (2015), Mr. Holmes (2015)

Re-Watches (1): The Professional (1994)

TV (4): Orphan Black Seasons 1, 2, 3, Marvel’s Jessica Jones Season 1
Just a note on TV – Orphan Black is simply fantastic. I blew through all three seasons in three days and wanted more.  I wrote a post on it that you can read here.

Daughters of Darkness (1971) – On the one hand there are no likable characters, none of the cast does a very good job with the acting, and the ending feels tacked on. On the other hand it has lesbian vampires that don't have a problem with nudity. All in all, we'll call this a slight win.   3 stars

The Hunger (1983) – I wouldn't have thought it was possible, but Tony Scott managed to cast Catherine Deneuve and Susan Sarandon as lesbian vampire lovers yet somehow managed to make a boring film. When he wasn't shooting scenes for smoking fetishists he was shooting footage from bad 80s music videos (complete with blowing translucent curtains and doves flying in slow motion.) Scott definitely made the right career change when he went into action films after this.   2 stars

A Tale of Two Sisters (2003) – I'm not sure how much credit I should give this film and how much I should downgrade it - for the same thing: deliberately trying to make it as hard as possible to tell which scenes are real, real in flashback, unreal, unreal in flashback, dreams, or delusions from mental breakdowns, not to mention at least one scene that actually does have a ghost in it whereas every other scene with a ghost can be explained as a delusion. I'll split the difference and call this one "just okay.”   2.5 stars

San Andreas (2015) – This delivers exactly what you'd expect from a big budget earthquake disaster flick - lots of buildings coming down and a number of "oh shit!" moments. There are quieter sections as they try to work in a subplot about a loss the family had prior to the start of the movie, but they probably could have cut those out and just concentrated on the action.  And once again Alexandria Daddario shows that you can spend however many millions of dollars you want on cgi and the best visual effect in one of her movies will still be her eyes.   3.5 stars

Lava (2015) – This was a short that played before the Inside Out movie in theaters.  It is included on the BD.  I liked the style of music played with this. It fit it well and the song stuck in my head afterwards (which, thanks to Inside Out, we now know why that happens.)   3 stars

Riley’s First Date? (2015) – This is a new short included on the Inside Out BD.  It was pretty funny, especially the kid and dad air guitaring to AC/DC.   4 stars

Auto Focus (2002) – This was Steve’s Selection for November.  You can read my review of it here.   3 stars

Ant-Man (2015) - This is a reasonably entertaining superhero film, but it's not among Marvel's best. It's still a lot better than many of the non-Marvel-owned Marvel character movies, though.   3 stars

The Anderson Tapes (1971) – If you are paranoid that you're being spied on by other people who have you under surveillance then this is NOT the movie for you. It's interesting how even back in 1971 a movie got made about the constant filming and audio recording that was going on by security, police and any number of branches of the government. I had to laugh when they had a scene of police detectives listening to a secret recording of a suspect and there on the wall behind them is a picture of the President - Richard Nixon.   3 stars

Mr. Holmes (2015) – I should preface this by saying that I really like Sherlock Holmes stories and I had read everything Sir Arthur Conan Doyle had written about him before I left high school. This means I was predisposed to like this movie. If, however, your knowledge of Sherlock Holmes comes from the Guy Ritchie movies (which are about as non-Sherlock Holmes as you can get) then you will likely be disappointed and/or bored by this movie.  Sir Ian McKellen does a great job at playing Holmes in two stages of life - in his 60s during his last case and in his 90s, retired in the country and starting to lose his faculties. In fact, we are seeing his last case because he is desperately trying to remember it. He knows that it must have gone differently from how Dr. John Watson wrote it up because if everything had turned out okay it would NOT have been his last case. He believes something so horrible happened that it must have broken his resolve to ever try to help others again.   4 stars

Anthony Adverse (1936) – This has got to be among the most overdramatic melodramas I've ever seen. It's almost a parody with the opening 40 minutes or so with the evil rich man stealing away with a young, pretty bride who loves another man, who follows them, dies in a duel, and then she dies in childbirth. Cue tears, sobs, gasps, etc......except that it's so over the top that you can't take it seriously.  Then we get about 20 minutes of actual story, followed by another waste of screen time as the main character kicks around Cuba and Africa for 40 minutes for no apparent advance to the story other than to keep him from the woman he loves. Then there's a whole other section in Paris about him trying to claim his inheritance. This is a 140 minute long movie, fewer than 30 minutes of which are pertinent to the main story and all the rest are tangents. I have no clue how this got a Best Picture nomination.   1.5 stars

Bad Girl (1931) – This is one of those movies that's kind of frustrating because the two main characters never tell each other what's going on so they keep screwing up with each other and causing themselves all kinds of problems. Of course, if they did talk to each other then the movie would be a 10 minute short.  Just fyi - the title (and the poster image) have nothing to do with the movie. I think it was just a cheap attempt to sell more tickets by making people think they'd see something lurid.   2.5 stars

The Citadel (1938) – The film runs a disclaimer at the beginning that it is not intended to be disrespectful of the medical profession, but considering that it then shows most of them being unconcerned with anything other than billing patients as much as possible while doing as little as possible that disclaimer is hard to take seriously.  Of course there is one righteous man, even though he loses his way for a while. And being a British film it shows the Welsh as the biggest lot of ignorant, superstitious, violent, lazy people you can imagine, and the worst possible patients for a doctor. There was no disclaimer that the film was not intended to insult the Welsh, though. :-)   3 stars

The Long Voyage Home (1940) – I had never heard of this John Ford/John Wayne film and now I know why. It's about a bunch of unlikable, angry, idiots who become even more so during the many drunken scenes they have in the movie. Those are interrupted a few times by killing someone off to try to insert some drama. It's the kind of movie where they give someone a ten minute long deathbed scene.  Although top-billed, Wayne hardly appears in the movie and even when he does he says little, probably because Ford cast him as a Swede and while Wayne tries to do the accent it's obvious it's not real.  The only reason to watch this is to see Gregg Toland's cinematography before he did Citizen Kane.   2 stars

One Night of Love (1934) – This is a very generic (even for 1934) tale of boy meets girl, boy and girl hate each other at first, boy and girl eventually realize they love each other, but miscommunications ensue. The selling point for it is all the opera singing from Grace Moore (within the first 15 minutes she had already sung three songs). Unfortunately, it did nothing for me.   2 stars

Our Town (1940) – This is a slow moving film that may not be for everyone. It is various slices of life in the lives of people in a small town. Suspension of disbelief is required for the 28 year old female lead playing a 14 year old girl in most of her scenes. Apparently they changed the ending from the play. If so, the movie is better for it.  And I realize this only bugged me because I live in the state in question, but how exactly does one go "down to Maine" from a town on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border?   3 stars

Foreign Correspondent (1940) – Not one of Hitchcock's best, but still entertaining. For some amusement go read the IMDB message boards for the adolescent boys posting what amounts to "Ewwwwwww! Kissing! Yuck!" Apparently you're not supposed to have that in a movie about foreign spies and intrigue.   3 stars

Pygmalion (1938) – If you've seen My Fair Lady then you've seen a better version of this film. In this non-musical original Henry Higgins is just as much an asshole, if not even more so. Eliza Doolittle is less appealing, although ultimately has a little more backbone. And the ending is still changed from the play to put two people together who have no rhyme or reason to be that way based on everything we've been shown (hence why the play has them not end up together.)  So, still a big asshole, plus less appealing student, minus all the classic songs, equals not as good an experience.   2.5 stars

The Front Page (1931) – This is the original version of His Girl Friday. It has the same basic story and the rapid fire dialogue. There is one big difference, though. In this version Hildy Johnson is a man. That eliminates any romantic interplay with the editor (even for a pre-Code film). Overall, this isn't as good as His Girl Friday, but it's still entertaining.  One note - the version I saw had audio that was in very poor condition. Combine that with the very fast dialogue and I didn't always understand all exchanges.   3 stars

The Story of Louis Pasteur (1936) – I was surprised how short (less than 90 minutes) this biopic was, and I was also surprised that it did not cover the process that modern people most closely associate with the name of Pasteur. Instead, this film shows him working on a vaccine for anthrax and a treatment for rabies, all while suffering the fools in France's Medical Board who not only willfully refuse to look at any of his research because he's a mere chemist, but they in some cases actually try to sabotage him.   3.5 stars

One Hundred Men and a Girl (1937) – I first saw Deanna Durbin in the movie Three Smart Girls, but it didn't do much for me. This is her follow-up and it works a lot better. Oh sure, the plot is as predictable as most any other movie from this time period, but Durbin is hard to dislike. She's practically a force of nature in this film as she tries to save her father's job as a musician, along with an entire orchestra's worth of out of work players.  This is a star vehicle for Durbin who had a hell of a soprano opera voice for anyone, let alone someone who was 15. There's a great visual with a multi-level orchestra setup late in the film that impressed me.   3.5 stars

Four Daughters (1938) – Forget about a love triangle, here we've got four sisters all in love with the same man, men in love with one each of two of the sisters and two other men in love with a third sister.  Despite all this, as well as some scenes obviously intended to be tear jerkers, the movie was just sort of there to me. It wasn't horrible, but it wasn't particularly interesting, either.   2.5 stars

Test Pilot (1938) – Great cast: Clark Gable. Myrna Loy, Spencer Tracy, Lionel Barrymore, Marjorie Main - in a story that starts out comic, but turns serious. Gable is Gable and Loy matches him. Tracy provides the "been there, done that" voice of reason and experience to Loy as he represents essentially the “first wife” to Gable (in a 1930s bromance way).   3.5 stars

A Star is Born (1937) – Having seen the 1954 version first sapped some of the impact of this one.  The 1954 movie seems to have been a very close remake.  I don’t remember any big differences, other than the singing.  March overacts some of the early drunk scenes, going for slapstick comedy which feels a little out of place.  Other than that I have no real complaints with this film.   3 stars


  1. The Hunger: I enjoyed it for the atmosphere and soundtrack. Many say it lacks story, so I can see where you're coming from.

    A Tale of Two Sisters: I liked the soundtrack score, but due to the languid pacing and confusing story, it didn’t grab my attention as much as I had hoped. It also didn’t really scare me. The twist was good, but I prefer I Saw the Devil (2010) from this director, which had faster pacing.

    Not watched anything else on your list. I'm curiuos to check out the short film from Inside Out.

    1. I figure I will watch I Saw the Devil at some point.

      Watch Inside Out before you watch the short on Riley. I've seen some people say they watched the movie last so the short didn't make much sense to them.

  2. On the ones I've seen...

    Lava--Cute, but I didn't find it that memorable.
    Autofocus--Obviously I liked it enough to recommend it, so...
    Anthony Adverse--I gave it a half star more than you on Letterboxd. I don't know how it got nominated, either.
    Bad Girl--I rather liked this one. Sure, if the two actually talked there'd be no movie, but I liked the two characters.
    The Long Voyage Home--Agreed completely.
    One Night of Love--People fall in love because high notes sung loud. Ick.
    Foreign Correspondent--Lesser Hitchcock, agrreed, but still pretty fun.
    Pygmalion--I like this version pretty well, mostly because I really like Wendy Hiller's take on Eliza.
    The Front Page--Did nothing for me.
    One Hundred Men and a Girl--Just missed a "like" from me on Letterboxd. I liked Three Smart Girls more.
    Four Daughters--Agree completely. If you have to watch it, do so for John Garfield.
    Test Pilot--I liked this well enough, but probably not well enough to watch it again.
    A Star is Born--The Mason/Garland version is better, but this one isn't bad.

    For what it's worth I almost watched The Citadel yesterday.

    1. "For what it's worth I almost watched The Citadel yesterday."

      Did I scare you off of it? :-)

    2. On the contrary, you inspired me. The review is going up tonight.