Monday, May 17, 2010

My Movie Year, the conclusion.

OK, now to finish what I should have finished a long time ago, a look back at the films I watched in 2009.


Blood Simple
The Blood Waters of Dr. Z aka Zaat

I though Jumpers was fast-paced and fun; no classic by any stretch but a good time-waster with a decent cast and few dead spots. Blood Simple was the only Coen Bros. film I hadn't seen, and I'm sorry I waited so long. It isn't as polished and quirky as their subsequent films would be, but it's no less well written and full of memorable characters. Blood Waters, also known as Zaat!, aired as part of Turner Classic Movies' Underground late night showcase for Psychotronic cinema; it's a dull grade-z dud that I had been curious about for a long time. Now I can check it off the list and happily live the rest of my life without seeing it again! October, especially on the 31st, is usually a big movie-watching month for me, but the usual cable network suspects didn't air the expected Halloween marathons and the films they did screen I'd already seen many times. Hopefully 2010 will be better. I also held on to Blood Simple for a long time before I finally watched it.


Johnny Mercer: The Dream's on Me
Run, Fatboy, Run
Role Models
American Scary
The Day the Earth Stood Still (2008)
It Takes a Thief
The Devil and Daniel Webster aka All That Money Can Buy

I kinda picked up the pace in November; the Mercer documentary aired on TCM, and was an interesting look at the legendary songwriter who wrote such standards as "Moon River" and two longtime favorite songs of mine, "Skylark" and "Drinking Again". Milk told the story of slain San Francisco political figure Harvey Milk; the period detail looked good and Sean Penn was excellent in the title role. Taken had Liam Neeson giving a typically solid performance in a often ludicrous kidnap rescue action thriller. It was fun as long as you didn't think about it too hard. Fatboy was the Simon Pegg vehicle in which he trains for a marathon to impress the girl he loves; not top-flight Pegg, but he was likeable as ever in the role and there were a few laughs here and there. Role Models surprised me a lot; I expected another lame comedy with Hollywood life lessons and/or juvenile fart and tit jokes, but it turned out to be a good, and often very funny, little account of two slackers who wind up having to mentor two misfit kids. American Scary was a documentary on TV horror movie show hosts; I rented it hoping to see some footage of Sir Cecil Creape, the fondly remembered (by me, anyway) 70's horror host that I watched faithfully on Nashville's NBC Channel 4 in my teenage years. Sure enough, Sir Cecil got some screen time, but not as much as others- some of which, like Zacherley and Ghoulardi, I had heard of and many I hadn't. Worth a look if you're interested in the subject. Keanu Reeves sleepwalked through the unnecessary remake of Day the Earth Stood Still, no big surprise but at least he was playing an alien. Don't know what the rest of the cast's excuse was, including one annoying kid with big hair. Thief was some classic Hitchcock I hadn't seen, very enjoyable. Finally, one of my favorite films- the excellent 1941 version of Devil and Daniel Webster, imaginatively staged and featuring excellent turns by Walter Huston as Mr. Scratch, and the stunning Simone Simon as a literal nanny from Hell.


Breaker Morant
A Christmas Carol (aka Scrooge)
Drag Me to Hell
Gran Torino
Four Wives
Mystery Science Theater 3000: The Indestructible Man

The death of Edward Woodward prompted me to finally get around to screening Breaker Morant; it was a gripping drama with a fine perf by Woodward as the lead. Usually, a little Will Farrell goes a long way with me, and so I was fully prepared to ignore Semi-Pro, even though it was a film that was loosely based on the real-life American Basketball Association, which I loved as a kid. Happened to catch it on HBO one afternoon, and wound up liking it a lot more than I expected- sure, Farrell was doing his usual clueless buffoon schtick, but the supporting cast was great and the situations, many based on ABA stunts I recall, were very funny. Every year at Christmas, I watch 1951's Scrooge, which is one of my favorite films period and features what I consider to be one of the best performances in the history of cinema, Alastair Sim's portrayal of the title character. The supporting cast is excellent as well, featuring many vets of British stage and screen at the time (including young Patrick MacNee, who appears (as an older man, in the 1990s) on my DVD in a completely pointless color introduction) as well as gorgeously oppressive and gloomy black and white photography. When Christmas Eve fell on a Saturday one year in the 70's, Sir Cecil Creape (see above) screened this on "Creature Features", it was so gothic; I saw it for the first time, and I've made it a point to watch it pretty much every year since. Drag Me to Hell was a bit of a disappointment; Sam Raimi's energetic return to horror was sabotaged by an unlikable heroine and some (admittedly typical for Raimi) scenes that came across as a bit more goofy than I think they were intended. I liked Gran Torino; Clint Eastwood's grouchy, bigoted old man who gradually comes to accept his foreign neighbors was a very good role for him, and was often touching without overdoing it. Four Wives was the sequel to Four Daughters, which starred my Forties inamorata Priscilla Lane and her sisters, along with Claude Rains as their dad and John Garfield as a bad-boy love interest. Wives brought most of the cast back (sans Garfield) and caught us up on what they were doing later; it was an enjoyable soapy time-waster, and of course you all know I can watch Priscilla in pretty much anything. Finally, the last thing I watched in 2009, on Netflix's "watch it now" on New Year's Eve, was the MST3K episode that spotlighted an old el cheapo Lon Chaney thriller called The Indestrucible Man. I had seen that film many times growing up on Nashville Channel 5's afternoon Big Show, but I thought it would be fun to see what Crow, Tom Servo and Joel brought to it, and I wasn't disappointed- much fun.

And that's all, folks! I'm keeping a movie diary this year, too, so perhaps I'll do this again in 2011.

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