Around this time last year, I put a few writing goals in place – in 2017 I wanted to finish this one thing, completely overhaul another, and start another thing over from scratch, in addition to two play ideas I’ve been kicking around since back when I wrote plays. That should’ve eaten up the year, with plenty of personal accomplishment by New Year’s and widespread back patting done to myself. I mean, I had the whole year! Lots can be achieved in the span of an entire year!
But looking back now, and finding that I only completed one – One! – of these, by far the easiest task, too (“finish that one thing”), I need to take a good hard look in the mirror and see where I went wrong. It didn’t take long to figure out – I watched a lot of movies in 2017.
“The heck!” you say. “Everyone watches a lot of movies!” That’s probably true, I don’t have any evidence that I watch more movies than the average person, but was that person trying to finish my one thing, completely overhaul another, and start this other thing of mine over from scratch, while also bringing my dialogue rich theatrical projects to fruition? They were not, I’m pretty confident! So I guess I accomplished my tasks better than they did, which isn’t saying much.
“Okay,” you say. “How many movies did you see? How do you even know?” Well, the older I get, the weirder I get, so around this time last year, while making a bunch of outlandish plans for crafting nonsense metaphors, I also decided to keep track of how many times I went to movie theaters, which quickly expanded to just documenting all the complete movies I watched, no matter where – on the couch, on a plane, drive-in, phone, computer, projected on the blinds of my apartment. And depending on your definition of “movie,” I discovered that I watched – are you ready? – 199 films last year.
“Shit,” you say. “That isn’t so many.” Maybe not, but string them all together in a list and you start to realize how much of your life got lost in fantastical haze of Maria Menounos’ pre-movie product hawking, a half dozen opening credits production companies, endless scrolling through Netflix, Hulu, Crackle, RCN on Demand (Yes, our building switched our cable to goddamn RCN! Never complain about Comcast – it can get worse!), scanning the dusty shelf of DVDs, and buying Junior Mints because they are slightly lower in fat than Reese’s Pieces, even though they are not entirely fun to eat.
So…do you want to talk about them? All the movies, I mean? I don’t know if this is interesting or not, honestly. I just feel like, I kept track of all this for some reason, and there’s basically nothing else to do with this information, so…if you’ve read this far, you’ve gotta be at least a little interested what I actually watched, right? You want some statistics connected to this whole endeavor. No? If not, skip to the end! You’ll find it as generally unsatisfying as what’s come so far!
Okay, so no one gets hung up on this, for the purposes of this list I included TV movies and TV specials with plots as movies. They kind of aren’t – I get that. Variety specials aren’t movies – award shows, concerts, etc. Long episodes of TV shows aren’t movies (hell, each Saturday Night Live could technically be considered movie-length). So how does this work? I don’t know – if it’s an hour or more, isn’t a series, and has some discernible storyline, it got included. Don’t count it, if it makes you feel better! I think that might knock us down to 194? 195?
And that brings us to the first section of this already-too-long recap:
The Movies I Saw in Theaters!
At my count, I saw 60 movies in theaters this year, across 53 trips to the movies. This does include going to a Drive-In, even though I know that’s not really the same thing. Paying to see a movie in public that other people are also watching is fairly universal, so I say it counts. 44 of these movies I had never seen before, and 42 of them were initially released either last year or this year. 16 of them were movies that I’d already seen, but decided to pay to see again in a movie theater, which might seem like a waste, but come on, I obviously just like going to the movies. Only two of those movies were released in the last two years, and one of those was part of a marathon that I couldn’t split apart. So I don’t tend to see a movie more than once in theaters during its initial run – suspicion confirmed!
So yeah, whatever else you think about this entire pointless pile of info, you’ve gotta admit seeing 60 movies in theaters is kind of a lot. I mean, did you see more than that? Hats off to you if you did, but jeez, were there more than 44 new movies worth seeing out there? Do you live in a big city with a lot of second run movie theaters? It’s gotta be a perfect storm of situations to average more than a movie a week, and congratulations if you pulled it off!
I saw a bunch of last year’s award contenders for the first time this year – four at one of those Best Picture marathons that AMC does – Lion, Hacksaw Ridge, Moonlight, and Hidden Figures – along with Arrival (one of the two newer movies I saw in theaters again in 2017). Also saw Fences, The Founder, Nocturnal Animals, Silence, Patriots Day, Manchester by the Sea, and rewatched La La Land leading up to the Oscars (but not all in theaters – keep up!). For the record – I actively think Hacksaw Ridge is a bad movie, Silence was way too long, and Fences was just a filmed stage play.
Oh – to bridge this gap – the two movies I saw in theaters this year for the first time which were not new movies: a showing of the 1924 silent film The Last Man on Earth (IMDB only lists 47 people ever rating it!) and Robert Altman’s 1993 epic Short Cuts, in 70mm no less! I got on a big Altman kick this summer, realizing I hadn’t seen many of his ’60s/’70s films, despite madly loving Nashville, The Player, M*A*S*H, and having a soft spot for Popeye. So, in quick succession, I watched McCabe and Mrs. Miller, Quintet, Images, The Long Goodbye, California Split, The Late Show (which Altman produced), Thieves Like Us, Secret Honor, Countdown, 3 Women, and my favorite of the bunch, Brewster McCloud. McCabe, Long Goodbye, 3 Women, and Short Cuts are terrific, and the others are all interesting and solid, with the exception of Quintet, which is a colossal mess, and Secret Honor, which is loosely assembled madness, and also kind of a TV movie. I did rewatch Nashville in this period, as it is – at my last evaluation – my 9th favorite film of all time.
Oh, just to quickly throw a spotlight onto my burbling psychosis – every couple of months, I re-rank a Top 100 list of movies to continually determine where they stack up in my personal preference against each other. I don’t look at the previous evaluation when I do it, so I can be surprised by how things have changed due to nothing but the passage of time, and probably some recency. For example, when I do this list toward the end of the year, It’s a Wonderful Life always places higher than it does in the summer. I’ll touch on this again, I’m sure.
What else did I see in theaters? Well, there are fifteen films I had already seen, and only one was from this year – Branagh’s Murder on the Orient Express, which I enjoyed, but only saw twice because I went with different people. There were three double features in this bunch – The James Bond films For Your Eyes Only & The Spy Who Loved Me, screened in conjunction with Roger Moore’s death, Jaws & Twister at a Drive-In, screened in conjunction with 2017 being a disaster, I guess (These two I also saw at other points in the year – Twister after the death of Bill Paxton, and Jaws because I tend to watch it on the 4th of the July, for some reason. Also, Jaws is my 8th favorite film of all time, while Twister…oh, there it is, 72nd. That seems kinda high for Twister, but I’ve also got a soft spot for mid-to-late ’90s action films), and It’s a Wonderful Life & White Christmas, which the wife and I see every year in the lead up to the yuletide. In addition to being my 15th favorite movie (at least in later parts of the year), It’s a Wonderful Life is also the movie I’ve seen in theaters the most times – ten, as of Christmas 2017, just one ahead of the Bing Crosby/Danny Kaye snowcentric Let’s Put on a Show.
Some other highlights – saw a pretty rare print of Sleeping Beauty in 70mm, Young Frankenstein followed by a Q&A with Mel Brooks himself, and general re-issues of Wait Until Dark, When Harry Met Sally (my wife’s favorite film of all time – I do not have access to the rest of her Top 100!), Singin’ in the Rain, Fight Club (as high as 75th on my all-time previously, currently off-list), Some Like It Hot, and Close Encounters of the Third Kind (77th all-time).
For the second time in three years, I saw two Star Wars movies for the first time – Rogue One and The Last Jedi (liked both, Rogue One considerably more though). In 2015, I finally bit the bullet and choked down Episode III, which I’d avoided for over a decade, before seeing The Force Awakens. In all the Leia mania as 2017 drew to a close, I also rewatched Rogue One and Force Awakens, along with the original Star Wars (34th), the obscenely long Empire of Dreams documentary, and the Star Wars Holiday Special from 1978 – you know, the one with Itchy and Lumpy and Bea Arthur. I’m counting that as a movie, I don’t care what you say.
Really, it’s Christmas specials that are the trickiest thing in determining what’s a movie and what’s not on this list. For example, I watched a half dozen full length versions of A Christmas Carol, along with some pretty short ones. I’m not counting, say, Mickey’s Christmas Carol as a movie, because it’s only 22 minutes long, but I am counting Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, even though it doesn’t quite hit an hour. Why? I don’t know – it tells the whole story? Same goes for the 1954 version starring Fredric March, which was not only a TV special, but was part of a series – an anthology called Shower of Stars. This flies in the face of everything I’ve said up to now! Holy biscuits am I unreliable! Also movies – Muppet Christmas Carol, the 1938 version with Reginald Owen, the 1935 version with Seymour Hicks, and Scrooged with Bill Murray.
Christmas does sort of dominate the family viewing habits after Thanksgiving, so in addition to the nearly boundless Scrooge, we also crammed in Elf, Love Actually, The Santa Clause, A Christmas Story, Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (more Thanksgiving than Christmas, but okay), and Muppet Family Christmas, which again, is a TV special, but is sort of a movie? Maybe?
Looping back to Empire of Dreams, show biz documentaries are tough to really classify as movies too, in the age of DVD extras (Jesus, that’s the last twenty years! And no one watches DVDs anymore – everything is streaming! What the hell am I talking about?). I mean, what was slapped together only to justify the padded cost of disc manufacturing, and what is actually something? I include a bunch of these showbiz docs, mainly to have some documentaries on here, but also as I think they qualify? It’s close – Drunk Stoned Brilliant Dead about the National Lampoon; Bright Lights about Carrie Fisher and Debbie Reynolds; The Death of Superman Lives, an excellent look at the failed ’90s superhero movie alternately worked on by Tim Burton and Kevin Smith; Wattstax, a concert film, but in the vein of Woodstock; Tricked, a forced prostitution doc which clearly does not fit in this paragraph; Jim & Andy, about the making of Man on the Moon and the lunatic lengths Jim Carrey went to; and HBO’s exhaustive look at God himself, Spielberg.
It was this Steven Spielberg documentary that got me on a mini kick for the director, but given how I’d recently watched Jaws twice and Close Encounters, and it landed just before Christmas, I only managed to go through the three lesser Indiana Jones movies and 1941. Still, I hadn’t seen the other Indy films in a while, and while Crystal Skull is still a tough slog, Temple of Doom holds up a little better than I remember, and Last Crusade (despite being 18th all-time last I checked) a little worse.
Man, for this section to still be The Movies I Saw in Theaters! is hugely misleading. And I still haven’t really covered all the in theater films! Let’s return:
The Movies I Saw in Theaters, Take 2!
Slave to the critics as I largely am, there aren’t a lot of movies I see in theaters that I hate, or even strongly dislike. If the reviews are taking the film apart, I usually won’t bother, unless there is some other big compelling reason to check it out immediately. That was the case with The Dark Tower this summer, which I enjoyed, sort of, having waited most of my life for it to arrive, but it’s a big letdown any way you look at it. Are we gonna get The Drawing of the Three now? Never mind The Waste Lands? You done fucked up, Sony, you fucked up bad. That being said, I’ll probably watch it again at some point.
Movies that I liked more than expected: Wonder Woman, given how godawful the other DC films have been, Logan, considering the other Wolverine movies have been meh, Baby Driver, Spider-man: Homecoming, given how long in the tooth this series is getting, Logan Lucky, Gifted, Kong: Skull Island (not amazing, but still more fun than I would’ve guessed), I, Tonya, Downsizing, for which I simply don’t understand the mixed reviews, and Chuck, this small release biopic with Liev Schreiber as boxer Chuck Wepner, and Jim Gaffigan doing coke with hookers – a movie that prompts me to ask the wife at least once a month to name “that movie where Jim Gaffigan was doing coke with hookers,” and she never comes up with it.
Movies that squarely met expectations: Dunkirk, because Christopher Nolan rarely makes mistakes (Interstellar isn’t my favorite film, though), War for the Planet of the Apes, wrapping up one of the best trilogies in recent years, Blade Runner 2049, Thor: Ragnarok, Coco, The LEGO Batman Movie, Get Out, Beauty and the Beast, Battle of the Sexes, The Disaster Artist, The Shape of Water.
Movies that didn’t quite get there: It – I still enjoyed it, but given that trailer, I just don’t think it could’ve lived up, Loving Vincent, which is quite literally like watching paint dry – it’s an amazing achievement, but a thunderingly boring movie, Suburbicon, which doesn’t work at all, Marshall, which seemed like it could’ve been so much more, All Eyez on Me, which was a glorious mess, Rough Night and The House, which went for chaos over jokes, Ghost in the Shell, Alien: Covenant, The Man Who Invented Christmas (I guess this technically is another Christmas Carol, in a way), Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and The Big Sick, which I wanted to love, and just kinda liked.
Oh no! I’ve run through all the new movies! This has no where to go but down! I mean, if you haven’t been alienated by what’s preceded, I guess there’s a chance you’ll stick around for the esoteric B movies and my 100th viewing of The Fellowship of the Ring, right? LOTR:FOTR, my 11th favorite film! Anyone who says they like TTT or ROTK more is either lying or Andy Serkis’ mom! Okay, let’s see what we’ve got.
Movies I Watched on Planes This Year!
I’ve started this thing recently where I only watch episodes of Black Mirror on planes, and nowhere else, mainly because there are so few of them, and they’re so good, that I don’t want to burn through them before I go to bed, when I normally watch a fuckload of superhero TV show, all of which are okay except The Flash, which is perfect. Because of this, I didn’t watch a lot of movies on planes this year – also, most flights were to the east coast, and that’s not long enough for most movies. I did watch Duck Soup, because it’s a tight 68 minutes, while also alternating as my 2nd favorite film or #1, when I haven’t seen Dr. Strangelove in a while. I also watched The Great Muppet Caper (51st!) on the way to L.A., and it features an awful lot of Muppets being hurled out of airplanes to view at 20,000 feet. To cover these two favorite film franchises of mine for the remainder of the year, I also watched the Marx Brothers in Go West, Love Happy, and Horse Feathers (48th), while watching Kermit and friends gallivant through 2011’s The Muppets (28th), Muppets From Space, and the aforementioned Christmas flicks. And the actor throwing the Muppets out of the plane in GMC? That’s Jay Tarses, who played Coach Bobby Finstock in my most beloved guilty pleasure film, Teen Wolf (80th all-time!), which I always manage to get in at least once a year.
This didn’t really need its own heading, not for two movies.
Movies I’ve Long Meant to Watch, and Finally Did!
I don’t know if other people keep lists of these sort of things, but there are movies that I never felt like actually tracking down, even though I knew I should. Movies you hear are great, but when you read the description, you’re not burning to actually watch it. I tried to get out of my own way on some of these this year, and for the most part they worked out! Movies like Breaking Away, which never really interested me in concept – teen bicyclists from Indiana?? Come on! – but is really quite entertaining, and Midnight Express, partly inspired by John Hurt’s death. Brian’s Song always sounded kinda miserable, and it is, but it’s solid, and hey, it’s about the Chicago Bears! I’ll watch pretty much anything set in Chicago, including another James Caan film from the era, Thief. I read the book On the Beach years ago, and it’s a downer, so the movie was always something I figured I’d get around to – finally did! It’s fine. And I think just because I’d always been turned off by its endless sequels, I never actually sat and watched all of Meatballs until this year. It’s a shame, ten year old me would’ve loved it. I also crammed in another Bill Murray movie I was completely unaware of – Speaking of Sex – which is not great, but Murray and Catherine O’Hara almost manage to redeem the whole works.
This same concept of never having seen something in its entirety for one reason or another applies to a lot of surprising movies for me. I finally sat and watched both Young Guns movies, they were just on TV one day, and even though I’ve seen a lot of them, I’d never seen them beginning to end. Man, the end of Young Guns II makes a lot more sense when you’ve seen the beginning! Same goes for City Slickers and A Night at the Roxbury and Monster Squad and The Lady From Shanghai and Daddy’s Home and 1776 and On Her Majesty’s Secret Service. They’d all been vaguely on the radar for some time, and I’d seen parts of all of them, but figured I should just power through them. And they were all okay! OHMSS is very underrated!
Movies I Did Not Like!
Some of the above could fall into this, but I thought a nice catch-all for random shit I caught on TV and hate-watched was this space. For whatever reason, the wife convinced me to sit through Twilight Breaking Dawn Pt. 2. I think we had seen a bunch of Pt. 1 at some other point, and I make her watch a lot of stupid shit, so fair is fair. In case you haven’t been keeping score on the Twilight films, they’re real bad. We also watched Transformers Age of Extinction, probably because they filmed a bunch of it in Chicago? I swore we were off those movies after the original trilogy sucked so hard, and yet here we are. Saw The Fate of the Furious, for no good reason, as I couldn’t now tell you any differences between the last four films in the series. Passed on Suicide Squad in theaters, and probably should have left well enough alone. They don’t know what the hell they’re doing. Finally caught the Gene Wilder/Gilda Radner mess Haunted Honeymoon, which I guess was okay, but not something to run out and catch if you haven’t. HBO’s The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks just didn’t work – too short, overacted, oversimplified – and Twin Peaks: Fire Walk With Me, despite having just finished the entire original show in anticipation of the new one, did not really play easily between the two. It is like the confusing, underwritten hybrid of the two series that spins its wheels for two hours and does very little. The Greatest is a biopic about Muhammad Ali starring Muhammad Ali, and as that description should hint to you, it’s not…honest? Reliable? Entertaining?
Movies I Rewatched!
There isn’t a particularly interesting way to wrap this whole thing up besides delving into the random shit I discovered and more-or-less enjoyed, plus we’re only like 70% of the way there, so I thought maybe it was a good time to recount the movies I had already seen and yet watched again. Sound fun? Honestly, why are you still reading this? By WordPress count, we’re bearing down on 4,000 words, and this was time both of us could’ve spent better. The whole point here was why didn’t I write more in 2017 – and now I’m writing about this nonsense. Go read a book! This post probably won’t hit book-length, but that’s a whole other conversation I suppose.
There are some films I watch repeatedly, with some regularity. Not multiple times a year regularity, but every year or two, let’s say. Then there are movies that have slid by unseen for a long time, and my memory being what it is, I can usually tell you whether I saw it, who was in it, and if it won some awards. That’s about it. Therefore – The Untouchables! Filmed/set in Chicago, but the last copy of it I had was on VHS, so it’d been a while. Best Supporting Actor Sean Connery! Murder by Death and The Cheap Detective, Neil Simon’s mystery film parodies of the ’70s, both holding up well. All the President’s Men – in this nightmare year of the Commander in Chief vs. the Press, it felt like time to see it again, after having read the book for the first time, too. Best Supporting Actor Jason Robards! The Princess Bride – I’m surprised it’d been quite a while too. The Shawshank Redemption (90th)– wife had never seen it! And it’d been years for me too. This is Spinal Tap – same deal! We saw Christopher Guest at a Q&A and segway’d nicely. The Man With Two Brains! Steve Martin wackiness I can’t believe I understood as a child. Beetlejuice! I believe this is one of the oldest ticket stubs I still possess – 1988! Oh, did I not mention that I’ve saved virtually ever ticket stub for every movie I’ve seen since I was seven years old? Is all of this cataloging making more sense the longer we go on??
I caught five Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes films at one point or another – as I’m sure we all do, when I don’t actually know what to watch next, I will randomly scan the generic movies channels on the cable – your Movies! or Bounce or THIS or more reputable options like TCM, AMC, and MeToo – and DVR things that sound intriguing. I also tend to DVR these Sherlock Holmes movies – only the Rathbone/Bruce ones, as they were my dad’s favorite, and so I’ve seen them all dozens of times. But I didn’t even watch the good ones, by and large, this year – I caught The Scarlet Claw, sure, which is excellent, but also Sherlock Holmes and the Secret Weapon (not bad, as the updated WWII Holmes movies go), Sherlock Holmes and the Woman in Green (a lesser Moriarity flick), Pursuit to Algiers (oof), and Sherlock Holmes in Washington (the well run dry!).
Another smattering of favorites I revisited this year – The Royal Tenenbaums, 16th at last count, and still my favorite Wes Anderson, when I haven’t seen Rushmore in a while; The Hateful Eight – yeah, okay, it’s a bit too long, but it totally holds up on repeated viewing, like most Tarantinos; Forrest Gump – 23rd last I checked, but has floated all over the 25th to 50th range – I can only assume this placement coincided with a stop a Bubba Gump’s at the Navy Pier. They ask so much trivia!; High Anxiety, the hugely underrated Mel Brooks send up of Hitchcock films; Ichabod and Mr. Toad – after all, it was Halloween; Jaws 2 – okay, it’s no Jaws 1, but as a kid I watched these together a lot, so I’ve always been sort of fond of their retread shark terrors; and far from least, one of my beloved random finds from a few years ago that I now own and watch regularly – The Bed Sitting Room, a post-apocalyptic British absurdist comedy from 1969, based on a play by Spike Milligan and featuring a bunch of great comedians of the day – Peter Cook, Dudley Moore, Marty Feldman, Roy Kinnear, Milligan, and Ralph Richardson. I cannot recommend this movie highly enough.
Lastly, three movies that don’t really fit any of the above criteria – Lady and the Tramp, Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them, and Jackass: The Movie. Saw ’em all! All fine! Lady and the Tramp was the wife’s pick, I think I was visiting my mom and she hadn’t seen the Potter spin-off yet, and I want to say maybe we were drunk and Jackass just came on?
Everything Else! This is Where You Should Pick Back Up Reading If You Skipped the Previous 3,000 Words!
Welcome back! How refreshed you look! I didn’t want you to miss the obvious highspot of this recounting of the time I spent on my stupid duff soaking in media through my surgically corrected eyeballs. These remaining (unless I’ve lost count) thirty-four movies are the smattering of crazy B movies, skipped major theatricals, and streamed/bootlegged menu denizens I rarely sought out by name, and just gave a whirl, and largely enjoyed! Are you keeping track of things you yourself want to check out in 2018? Some of these should find their way to your screens soon!
Let’s start with the low budget and/or wackiest of the movies, in no particular order – I Wonder Who’s Killing Her Now?, a goldmine of mid-range comedians hamming their way through 1975’s TV schlock (IMDB, only 139 ratings!) – Bill Dana, Bill Dishy, the great Severn Darden, and Joanna Barnes. Meh! Galaxina, space bullshit incapable of being saved by the presence of Avery Schreiber. Superchick, as ’70s and exploitative as it sounds, unredeemed by the presence of John Carradine. Let’s Scare Jessica to Death – a fairly famous cult horror film I’d never heard of, but I guess titles that double as sentences really pull me in. It was pretty solid, considering.
The Ghost in the Invisible Bikini – a kind of lunatic mash up of ’60s ghost story/Frankie & Annette romp, almost saved by the presence of Basil Rathbone. Freebie and the Bean, a weird buddy cop film with Alan Arkin and James Caan (jeez, I had a regular Caan film festival this year – zing! Puns!) that tries super hard but doesn’t succeed a lot. The Assassination Bureau, a bizarro European comedy with Diana Rigg hiring professional murderer Oliver Reed to off himself. Hardcore, part of a mini George C. Scott dive I took in the summer, trying to find rarer gems. It’s a pretty wild one, his puritan-ish daughter gets abducted into sex pictures, and Scott goes all out to track her down. Similarly, The Bank Shot, a polar opposite Scott character in a massive tonal shift from the prior film – a relatively light-hearted crime caper co-starring Joanna Cassidy and Sorrell Booke. Worthwhile! George C. didn’t make a ton of bad movies in this time period.
Oh, and Gas-s-s-s-s, the sort of movie that draws the eye at the old video store, but you have no sense of what it’s about, and when you watch it find that a bunch of random hippies are trying to make a point about the end of society and onrushing nuclear devastation and you wonder how the hell they threw this thing together but you kinda admire the effort, and you enjoy the numerous young actors popping up who had relatively robust careers in years to come, such as Cindy Williams, Bud Cort, Ben Vereen, and Talia Shire.
A pair of Cheech and Chong movies infiltrated here, too. I’m not ashamed, even though Up in Smoke may well be the only movie they made that’s worth a damn. Things are Tough All Over, despite some nice Chicagoing, really falls apart by the end.
A random collection of older, more established films worked their way in this year, too. The nothing-special Joseph Cotton/Marilyn Monroe drama Niagara, the nothing-special John Belushi/Blair Brown rom-com Continental Divide (some decent Chicago in here, though!), the wacky Elvis romp Fun in Acapulco, a well-acted but forgettable ’30 Colin Clive/Peter Lorre nightmare Mad Love, and the superior, crazier ’30 horror team up of Lugosi and Karloff, The Black Cat.
A 1949 Best Picture nominee, Battleground, adds a little respectability to this neighborhood of viewing, and it really does hold up, giving the interchangeability of the war movies of the era. The Bogart/Tracy adventure The Devil at 4 O’Clock has been on the radar a long time – another favorite of my old man – and it also delivers pretty strongly, even with some cliches. A pretty slick man-on-a-ledge yarn Fourteen Hours is gripping stuff, even if it’s all very familiar without really referencing anything directly.
Skidoo, given my lifelong affinity for the Marx Brothers, probably should’ve been obtained before now – it’s not perfect, but an older Groucho playing a mobster nicknamed God? That’s a must-see, right? Also, it’s never too late to see a Pam Grier movie for the first time, and even though I’ve weirdly been a fan of Coffy for a while, this year was the first time I actually caught all of Foxy Brown. Strange, I know.
Oh! And this year I finally finished watching Firefly – I think I always avoided it because (like Black Mirror, I suppose) there’s so little of it, and it’s so good, I didn’t want to blow through it. Still, enough was enough, I knocked it out, and then obviously watched Serenity, which is even a little bit better than the series, as I’m sure you all already know.
And then there were a bundle of recent-ish films I caught on demand or streaming or missed in theaters for various reasons and chased down: Office Christmas Party – more Chicago! – and it was fairly funny, Irrational Man – a pretty terrible Woody Allen movie from 2015, Split – a way better movie than one could expect given M. Night Shyamalan and the fact that this isn’t 1999, Creed – the best Rocky movie since 1976, The Belko Experiment – a crazy and weirdly fun Battle Royale/Office Space mash-up horror comedy with John C. McGinley and Tony Goldwyn, The Little Prince – which not surprisingly doesn’t make for a great full length movie, but is still fairly watchable, Oh Hello on Broadway – which sold out when it toured through Chicago, so I’m glad they filmed it on stage in New York, and it was hilarious, The Wizard of Lies – further proof that Robert DeNiro simply doesn’t try anymore, and Tangerine – after endlessly hearing from folks on Facebook about how amazing this movie was, I was sorta underwhelmed. It’s a very impressive production yarn – they filmed the whole thing on iPhones or something! – but it’s got some screechy uneven acting from its cast of relative newcomers. It’s worth watching to be sure, but it’s not, like, the best movie of 2015, as so many people seemed to keep saying.
But my absolute favorite newly discovered movie is not a particularly obscure one, but isn’t widely shouted about either – the Paul Williams 1974 wacko musical Phantom of the Paradise, which I watched twice and listened to the soundtrack dozens of times. It was early in Brian DePalma’s career, so his directing was still innovative and hadn’t devolved into hacky, lazy tricks and homages yet. The songs are terrific, the style is out there, and while a bit underacted, the whole thing works with a rollicking indie vibe and risk taking spirit. Big fan.
Odds are I screwed this up along the way, if the execution of my other plans is any guide, but I think that’s everything? Congratulations! You made it through, and look how enriched your life is by this knowledge!
So let me guess some of the questions you are asking right now –
“Why the hell keep track of all of this?” Well, as I said earlier, this was a small idea that got way out of hand, and I’m not one to abandon lunatic list-keeping once it’s begun.
“Why don’t you do something else with your time?” Like what?
“Well, why don’t you read a book? You’re trying to write, aren’t you?” Hey, I read 39 books last year too! I’m consuming media as fast as I can, I’m just not doing much else!
“What, were you too good to watch Ghostbusters this year?” Good point! Big miss!
“But did you even have time to watch television shows?” Holy moley, did I! In addition to all those goddamn superhero shows, I powered through seasons of Ray Donovan and Hap & Leonard and Six Feet Under and The Simpsons and Saturday Night Live and Firefly and The Night Of and all that Twin Peaks and Master of None and Making a Murderer and Fargo and GLOW and Wet Hot American Summer and Get Shorty (based on my 31st favorite movie ever) and Cops! We watch so much Cops! Frankly, it’s amazing I get anything else done.
“You read 38 books last year?” 39! But a bunch of those were audiobooks! My job is boring!
“What were they?” That’s a whole other post!
“What do you even do for a living?” Hey, get off my back, will you? I’ll get a career together soon!
I’m sure this answers all your questions, and is starting to verge on abuse, so I’ll wrap up. Watch this space next January to stay current on my viewing habits in 2018! I’ve already seen seven movies, and three of them were pretty good!