Sunday, March 1, 2015

February Movie Status

I watched 33 new movies in February, plus rewatched 1 film.

I spent the month mostly concentrating on 2014 films and new entries from the just released 2015 They Shoot Pictures Don’t They list.  My thanks to Bert in The Netherlands for alerting me to the fact that the new list had been released, and especially for helping me track down the hardest to find new entries.  I also watched single entries from two other lists since the opportunity to see them happened to come up.  Finally, I watched a couple more of the new IMDB Consolidated Top 250 entries, but I still have three Indian films, with a combined running time north of 12 hours, left to finish off all the new additions.

As the month started I had 41 entries left to see in the TSPDT list.  I knew the updated 2015 list was coming very soon, so I didn’t bother watching any until that happened.  I was hoping some of the ones I didn’t want to watch might drop off.  In some cases that did happen (i.e. three Sirk melodramas), but not for all I had hoped.

The 2015 list had a total of 77 new entries added to it, many of them documentaries.  Because of the fact that some of the ones that dropped off were ones I had not seen, and because some of the ones added were ones I had already watched, I ended up with a net result of 45 entries I had left to finish the newest list.  That was only 4 more even though 77 had been added.

That was the good news.  The bad news is that I now had a total of a dozen new entries that were more than two hours long, including three that were over four hours long – one of which was nearly six hours in length.  Another entry was for only part 2 of a three part documentary series, but it didn’t make sense to watch just that, so I watched all three, which made for another lengthy time investment.

It wasn’t a complete waste because for the first time this year a list of “the next 1,000” movies was also released and the other two parts were on it.  These next 1,000 are not ranked, but simply listed in alphabetical order.  I have seen 412 of them already.  I don’t know when or even if I might try to work on this newest list.

I have added this “next 1,000” list to my TSPDT post at my Lists from Chip site.  I’ve also included the newest version of the main 1,000, as well as a list of the 435 former films that have dropped off it.  (I have seen 199 of those.  Combined with the 970 I have seen on the current list, I have watched a total of 1,169 of the 1,435 films that have ever been on a TSPDT main list.)

I’m figuring on completing the current version of the TSPDT list either this month or next month, depending on how much I concentrate on it.  I’ve still got 11 entries left that are more than two hours long, including five of the twelve new additions.  I did knock off the three new 4+ hour entries in February.

Here are the 33 new movies I saw in February.  Highlighted films are ones to which I would give at least three stars out of five.

TSPDT (16): A Diary for Timothy (1945), Taipei Story (1985), Grin without a Cat (1977), Doomed Love (1979), Moi, un Noir (1958), Lessons of Darkness (1992), Elephant (1989), La Commune (Paris 1871) (2000), The Battle of Chile Part 2: The Coup d’Etat (1976), The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987), Harlan County USA (1976), Ashes of Time (1994), The Age of the Earth (1980), Hamlet (1964), Arabian Nights (1974), Pickpocket (1997)

IMDB (2): Interstellar (2014), Gone Girl (2014)

101 Genre (1): The Time Machine (1960)

Ebert (1): The Terrorist (1998)

Other Movies (13): Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014), Foxcatcher (2014), Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014), Chef (2014), Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984), Snowpiercer (2013), Calvary (2014), John Wick (2014), The Battle of Chile Part 1: The Insurrection of the Bourgeousie (1975), The Battle of Chile Part 3: The Power of the People (1979), When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970), Art and Craft (2014), Miss Meadows (2014)

Rewatches (1): Forbidden Planet (1956)


Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (2014) – Worthy sequel to first reboot.  The cgi on the apes is still impressive and the story is one that you could see happening.  3.5 stars

Interstellar (2014) – Nolan tries to do 2001: A Space Odyssey and for the most part succeeds.  The ending isn’t quite up to the rest of the film and there is one major section of plot that requires all of these extremely intelligent people to all not realize what time dilation’s impact is, even after they just got done explaining it.  4 stars

Gone Girl (2014) – Pretty good, but not great.  The trailer essentially gave away the reveal in the film, but thankfully that occurred about midway through the movie so the rest was not spoiled.   3.5 stars

Foxcatcher (2014) – Good, but not great.  I can see why it didn’t get a Best Picture nomination.  Carell is good, but Tatum is the real star and he didn’t get enough credit for the job he did on it.  3 stars

Mr. Peabody & Sherman (2014) – I loved the old Rocky & Bullwinkle cartoon show when I was a kid, which included the skits of Sherman and Mr. Peabody time-traveling, so I was pre-disposed to like this movie.  3 stars

Chef (2014) – Jon Favreau writes and directs a thinly veiled cooking metaphor for his Hollywood career – critically acclaimed, but little known; then big budget and critics turned on him; then returning to his roots with this film.  3.5 stars

Eight Diagram Pole Fighter (1984) – The second of Steve’s Selections.  You can read my review here.  3 stars

A Diary for Timothy (1945) – Short done by the British on the hopes for the future now that WWII was winding down.   2.5 stars

Snowpiercer (2013) – Cult film that has good moments in it, but ultimately not one that made me understand the massive amount of fan talk that it has generated.  3 stars

Calvary (2014) – I had heard nothing but good things about this film, so I was very disappointed when it got done.  It had a great opening, a decent middle, and one of the stupidest character endings I have seen in a long, long time.  Yes, I get that it is a Jesus metaphor, but that story plays much better in an ancient world filled with myth and superstition, not our modern world today.   2 stars

Taipei Story (1985) – Slice of life among some Taiwanese people.  Early effort that the director got better at later on.  Watch his film Yi Yi, instead.  2 stars

Grin without a Cat (1977) – Pointless “documentary” that mostly steals clips from other documentaries, and also extols the virtues of communism and how it’s going to be the downfall of capitalism.  In fact, many of the new documentary entries had a very similar message.  1 star

Doomed Love (1979) – 1970s Portuguese TV miniseries loosely based on Romeo and Juliet, whose entry on this list appears to be for no other reason than enough people listing everything this director has ever done on the top-whatever lists and those lists then getting factored into the overall TSPDT list.  2 stars

Moi, un Noir (1958) – Sort of, but not really, documentary on what life was like for young black men in western Africa in the late 1950s.  It chronicles their work lives and then what they do with their free time.  It is actually a fictionalized version of the real thing performed by non-actors who actually did the jobs.  3 stars

Lessons of Darkness (1992) – Werner Herzog’s mostly silent images from after Iraq retreated from Kuwait and set thousands of oil wells on fire.  3 stars

Elephant (1989) – Short in which people randomly go around city streets and locations shooting other random people.  The first few times it is shocking, but then it just becomes tedious.  There is no dialogue and no explanation of why we are seeing this.  I read afterwards that it was a commentary on all the lives lost in Northern Ireland with the Catholics and Protestants killing each other.  The problem is that there is nothing whatsoever in the short with which to understand that so it ends up just being pointless.  Note: Gus van Sant’s film a few years later that is also titled Elephant, and which included a school shooting, had to have been inspired by and/or stolen from this short.  1 star

La Commune (Paris 1871) (2000) – Interesting concept – actors portraying people and journalists in the 1870s, including being in period dress, but with modern news such as TV, microphones, etc and it being done as if it is a newscast or documentary.  Unfortunately, it just didn’t work for me.  It’s also over four hours long.  And the overall message is about how great communism is. 1 star

John Wick (2014) – Better than average action/revenge film starring Keanu Reeves.  The director bucked the trend of using shakycam and instead shot all the action with steadycams, which really allows the viewer to appreciate the skill that went into them.  It also allows them to show that it is actually Reeves doing a lot of his own stunts, including much of the stunt driving.   3.5 stars

The Battle of Chile Part 1: The Insurrection of the Bourgeousie (1975) – Decent introduction to why elected Communist dictator Allende was overthrown by the military in Chile in the late 1960s.  Very biased.  2.5 stars

The Battle of Chile Part 2: The Coup d’Etat (1976) – The events surrounding the actual removal of Communist dictator Allende from power in Chile.  Extremely biased, and something the same director was still bitching about 40 years later when he made his documentary Nostalgia for the Light.  2 stars

The Battle of Chile Part 3: The Power of the People (1979) – Doesn’t really follow the first two parts chronologically, but instead focuses on how wonderful communism is and the nirvana Chile would supposedly have become had Allende not been removed from power.  1 star

When Dinosaurs Ruled the Earth (1970) – British attempt to capitalize on the success of Hollywood’s One Million Years B.C.  Other than seeing great looking women and men in what are essentially fur bikinis/trunks, there’s not much reason to watch this.  The stop motion effects on the dinosaurs were considered top notch at the time.  The dozen or so word vocabulary gets really old after a while as they keep repeating the words over and over and over.   2 stars

The Time Machine (1960) – Science fiction film that does a good job of adapting the book.  There were compromises for the time it was made in, of course, but overall it’s worth seeing as one of the classics of the genre.  3.5 stars

The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987) – Documentary ostensibly about a man trying to get the truth about two deserters from the Japanese Imperial Army that were shot three days after WWII ended.  The problem is the main subject. He feels his cause is righteous, so he is therefore allowed to do anything he wants because his actions will be righteous, too. At best this means being an asshole to most everyone he comes into contact with and at worst it means murder.  In retrospect he probably had a serious mental illness and should have been getting treated somewhere, not running around in front of a camera confronting and physically attacking people.  2.5 stars

Harlan County USA (1976) – Documentary about striking coal miners in the 1970s.  It includes the usual stuff with the aggressive tactics of the coal company to break the strike and how the workers valiantly hang on.  It’s easy to see how this was included among so many pro-communism documentaries that got added to the list this year.  3 stars

Art and Craft (2014) – I'm predisposed to like any film that shows just how much bullshit the art world and art "experts" are full of, so I went into this expecting to like it. It turned out to not be what I was expecting, but I still liked it quite a bit.  The main person in the documentary is a forger who is somewhat mentally ill and copies paintings almost without knowing why he's doing it. He doesn't sell them, though; he donates them to museums as the real thing because it makes him feel good.  He was discovered by a man at one museum who while researching the painting he had received found out that the same painting was already hanging in not one, not two, but five other museums. This man essentially made it his life's mission to expose the forger. There's more than a bit of Inspector Javert in him because the forger is actually doing nothing illegal and the only thing he's doing to upset people is making art curators embarrassed that they couldn't tell his forgeries from the real thing. I was reminded of the film F for Fake.  This is definitely worth a watch and it has something happen that made me sit there and think "only in the art world" - one of places fooled by him actually does a show on his work and has him there as a guest of honor.  3.5 stars

Miss Meadows (2014) – I liked the character and the concept of this dark comedy – emotionally childish woman tries to bring manners to everyone while also being a vigilante, but the film is let down by having an easy-out, clichéd ending.  3 stars

Ashes of Time (1994) – Wong Kar-wai period martial arts film that is unfortunately incoherent for much of its running time.  There are a number of beautiful shots in it, though.  2.5 stars

The Age of the Earth (1980) – What a complete waste of time and film.  If I went lower than one star this would receive it.   1 star

Hamlet (1964) – Well-done Soviet version of the Shakespeare story.  It was mostly faithful to the original play.  The setting was impressive.  Strangely, though, they had everyone dressed as if they were in Elizabethan England when the play was written, rather than 12th century Denmark when the play was set.  3 stars

Arabian Nights (1974) – I will not call this the best Pasolini film I have seen, since that might be misinterpreted.  Instead, I will call it the “least worst” of his films.  If lots of full-frontal male nudity works for you then you will definitely want to check this out.   2 stars

Pickpocket (1997) – Slow moving slice of life in China about a young man who picks pockets and has not become a success like his friends who used to do the same thing.   2 stars

The Terrorist (1998) – Anyone who thinks a movie from India just means big song and dance numbers with a lighthearted plot should check out this film.  In an unspecified place, and during an unspecified conflict, a woman is selected to be a suicide bomber. All she's ever known is the fighting. While preparing for the assassination, though, she learns she is pregnant. The cinematography is great, and if you like water then you will love this movie since there are numerous scenes of waterfalls, raindrops on faces, on leaves, as well as the symbolism of water washing away sins and of giving life.  3.5 stars

Thursday, February 26, 2015

Net Neutrality

Today the U.S. FCC five person panel determined that Net Neutrality should be enforced in this country.  This means that under their span of control (i.e. U.S. cable companies and telecommunications providers) that those providers will not be allowed to slow down internet connections to those people and companies who do not pay them extra to prevent it.

Despite the fact that the vast majority of the country supports Net Neutrality (or as you'll see John Oliver refer to it in the video below "Preventing Cable Company F*ckery") this decision by the FCC was far from assured.  Back when this video was originally broadcast in the summer of 2014 it seemed almost certain the decision would fall the other way - that cable companies would be allowed to create slow lanes for people and companies who did not pay higher rates.

Maybe Oliver's humorous, but real, exortations to get people to let the FCC know what they thought about the subject actually played a part in today's decision.  As you'll see in the second video, so many people tried to comment that it crashed the FCC's website for the better part of a day.



Monday, February 23, 2015

Some Observations on the 2015 Oscar Results and How I Did With My Picks

This year I picked 15 of the 24 winners, not quite as good as last year’s 17 for 24, but I’ve had fewer than 15 correct in other years.  I got Best Picture winner Birdman correct.  I’ll review all the winners and my picks below.

First, some observations:

No film dominated the show, or was even a clear frontrunner.  The Grand Budapest Hotel and Birdman tied with four Oscars apiece.  Whiplash, with three wins, was the only other film to receive more than one.  And in what I believe is a first since the Oscars expanded to more than five nominations, every single Best Picture nominee won at least one Oscar.

On the other end of the spectrum, Foxcatcher (5 noms), Mr. Turner (4), Into the Woods (3), Unbroken (3), Inherent Vice (2), Wild (2), and Guardians of the Galaxy (2) were shut out.  Interstellar (5) won only for Best Visual Effects (and it didn’t deserve that.)

Despite tying with four Oscars apiece, Birdman is the “winner” over The Grand Budapest Hotel because it took home Best Picture, Best Director, and Best Original Screenplay among its four wins.  This was a trifecta for director/co-writer/co-producer Alejandro Inarritu.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

My 2015 Oscar Predictions

The Academy Awards ceremony is tomorrow night on ABC.  Check your local listings. 

I first tried to pick the Oscar winners four years ago.  I got a respectable 16 out of 24 correct.  The next two years I tried to really do my homework and see as many nominees as possible.  The result?  I dropped to 14 out of 24 then 12 out of 24.  Last year I didn’t really have time to research probable winners, so of course I did my best yet with 17 out of 24 winners picked correctly.

This year I’ve seen most of the major nominees, although several of the acting nominations were in films where that was the only one from the movie.  I haven’t seen some of those yet.  Regardless, I will do my best to make selections for every category.  Good or bad I will do a follow-up post on how I did.

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Oscar Quiz: Best Picture Nominee or Adult Film? Can You Tell By Just the Title?

I did this quiz last year and it got a good reaction.  Here are fifty more films for you to try.  If you didn’t do that well last year then hopefully you, um, boned up for it this year.

Here’s a little quiz to see how well you know your Oscar nominees.  I will list a series of real film names, grouped by related titles.  Some of them will be ones nominated for the Academy Award for Best Picture and others will be on AVN’s list of the Top 101 Adult Videos.  Can you tell which is which?  Score one point for every correct answer.

Religion:

All About Eve
All This and Heaven Too
The Bells of St. Mary’s
The Bishop’s Wife
Body & Soul
Dark Angels
Devil in Miss Jones
The Nun’s Story
The Resurrection of Eve
Seventh Heaven

Splitsville:

Bad Wives
The Divorcee
The Gay Divorcee
An Unmarried Woman

When the Lights Go Out:

In the Heat of the Night
It Happened One Night
Neon Nights
Night Trips
One Night of Love

A Little Naughty:

As Good As It Gets
Conflict
Flirtation Walk
Friendly Persuasion
Love Affair
The Love Parade
Nothing to Hide
One Hour With You
Scent of a Woman
Scoundrels
Secrets & Lies
A Touch of Class

Getting Freaky:

Awakenings
Bound for Glory
Dangerous Liaisons
Dr. Strangelove
Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close
Hidden Obsessions
The More the Merrier
Underworld
Wild Things

Miscellaneous:

Bus Stop Tales
Double Feature
Naked Came the Stranger
Raw Talent
Realities
Reel People
Watchers
West Side
Wild Goose Chase
Zazel


Answers:

There are a total of 27 Best Picture nominees and 23 Adult Films in this quiz.  They break down as follows:

Religion: All About Eve, All This and Heaven Too, The Bells of St. Mary’s, The Bishop’s Wife, The Nun’s Story, and Seventh Heaven are the nominees; Body & Soul, Dark Angels, Devil in Miss Jones, and The Resurrection of Eve are the adult films.

Splitsville: The Divorcee, The Gay Divorcee, and An Unmarried Woman are the nominees; Bad Wives is the adult film.

When the Lights Go Out: In the Heat of the Night, It Happened One Night, and One Night of Love are the nominees; Neon Nights and Night Trips are the adult films.

A Little Naughty: As Good As It Gets, Flirtation Walk, Friendly Persuasion, Love Affair, The Love Parade, One Hour With You, Scent of a Woman, Secrets & Lies, and A Touch of Class are the nominees; Conflict, Nothing to Hide, and Scoundrels are the adult films.

Getting Freaky: Awakenings, Bound for Glory, Dangerous Liaisons, Dr. Strangelove, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close, and The More the Merrier are the nominees; Hidden Obsessions, Underworld, and Wild Things are the adult films.

Miscellaneous: Bus Stop Tales, Double Feature, Naked Came the Stranger, Raw Talent, Realities, Reel People, Watchers, West Side, Wild Goose Chase, and Zazel are all adult films.  There are no nominees among these miscellaneous movies.  As Bugs Bunny would say, “Ain’t I a stinker?”

How Did You Do?

0
Seriously?  You didn’t even get Dr. Strangelove?
1 – 10
At least you got Dr. Strangelove.
11 – 20
You might want to explore more Oscar nominated films.
21 – 30
Not bad.  You must have seen your share of films.
31 – 40
Damn good.  You really know your stuff.
41 – 49
Very impressive.  You are an expert on Oscar nominees.  (Or adult films.)
50
That IMDB sure is a handy site, isn’t it?


If you are interested, here are my prior Oscar quizzes:

Saturday, February 14, 2015

Ranking the 2015 Best Picture Nominees, Plus Some Observations

I have now posted reviews for all eight films nominated for the Best Picture Oscar. 

Here is where I would normally say that I am not done reviewing Oscar nominated movies; that I am going to do more right up to when the Oscars are handed out.  This year, though, the ceremony is coming earlier than usual.  There’s only a little over a week left and I still need to do posts for this year’s Oscar quiz, and one on my predictions for the winners.  On my “post 2-3 times a week” pace that will fill up the time between now and then.  I may still review other Oscar nominees after the ceremony this year.  I haven’t decided yet.

In regards to ranking the eight nominees, right off the bat I have a tough time picking not only the best film of the year, but what order to put the best three in.  My top three are American Sniper, The Grand Budapest Hotel, and The Imitation Game.  It’s almost impossible to compare them because you could probably not pick three films more unlike each other.  One is an examination of the toll war takes on a person, another is a comedic, quirky tale about the misadventures of a hotel concierge, and the third is an historical drama based on the life of Alan Turing and his code breaking efforts during WWII.

Wednesday, February 11, 2015

Movie – The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

The Grand Budapest Hotel allowed writer/director Wes Anderson to finally break through and receive Best Picture and Best Director Oscar nominations.  Oh sure, he had received nominations before, but it was almost always in the Best Original Screenplay category, so the Academy was saying, “We like your stories, but the movies aren’t mainstream enough for us.”  You can debate how mainstream The Grand Budapest Hotel is, but one thing is for sure, it’s definitely Anderson’s most popular film.  In addition to tying Birdman for the most Oscar nominations this year with nine, it has also achieved the biggest box office of any film Anderson has done.  And it’s the only true comedy among the eight Best Picture nominees.