Films That I Saw: January 2019

Films That I Saw is a self explanatory monthly column dedicated to cataloging each and every film I saw within that month. Each film will be given a grade and a mini review. 

You can find previous catalogs here.


 

Jan. 1

Film: In The Mood For Love

Random thoughts/mini review: This isn’t an easy film to summarize. Much like jazz, it’s all about the notes you don’t hear. The silence between characters is as important as what is being said. Is this film about unrequited love, sexual repression in the face of societal pressures, or did the two main characters cheat and are trying to avoid each other out of obligation to their child? Every interpretation is correct. It’s a poem about an impossible love that’s as emotionally powerful as Romeo and Juliet.

Grade: A+


 

Jan. 2

Film: The Spirit of the Beehive

Random thoughts/mini review: A film about Mexican child who’s obsessed with movies and gets told a scary story that leads her to believe the runaway convict she’s taking care of is the ghost of Frankenstein? Yeah, the Spirit of the Beehive is literally 90 minutes of Guillermo Del Toro porn.

Grade: B


 

Jan. 3

Film: Godzilla

Random thoughts/mini review: Because of it’s numerous sequels, most of which are cartoonishly silly, I always pictured the original Godzilla to be much more lighthearted or kitschy. It’s not. It’s a briskly paced monster flick that isn’t afraid to get dark or scary.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 4

Film: Underground

Random thoughts/mini review: A film that almost defies description, Underground is about a pair of serbian socialist gunrunners who, due to a falling out over a woman, trick a group of people into living and working underground to help the war effort. Kind of. Its a film that wears many hats, all of them great but all of them crazy.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 5

Film: Freak Orlando

Random thoughts/mini review: You can read my review here

Grade: F


 

Jan. 6

Film: Terms of Endearment

Random thoughts/mini review: I honestly don’t know how James L. Brooks made a film, which is essentially a Lifetime movie, not only palatable but great. Is it the cast? Is it his handling of the source material? His direction? I have no idea but I liked this film and I’m baffled as to why.

Grade: B+


 

Jan. 7

Film: In the Heat of the Night

Random thoughts/mini review: The 60’s and 70’s were the golden age of character dramas, with In the Heat of the Night being amongst the best. Poitier and Steiger‘s give powerhouse performances in this murder drama set in racially hostile Sparta, Mississippi. One of the defining films of the Civil Rights movement, the film is as poignant today as it was 52 years ago. A flawless masterpiece.

Grade: A+


 

Jan. 8

Film: On the Waterfront

Random thoughts/mini review: loosely based on the story of longshoreman and whistle-blower Anthony De Vincenzo and mobster Albert Anastasia, the film is really about Kazan trying to make amends for his role in naming names at the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s. Some also believe it was the director taking a shot at fellow director Arthur Miller for his play the Crucible. The politics, although important to the story, are irrelevant to the reasoning behind it’s creation. It doesn’t matter why it was made. All that matters is whether or not it’s good and it definitely lives up to its reputation. There was no better actor on planet earth than Marlon Brando during the 50’s and this is his best film of that decade.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 9

Film: Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence

Random thoughts/mini review: More of a character study than a war film, Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence is about clashes of tradition, culture and beliefs. With top notch performances from its four leads and an unforgettable score, MCML is one of the most underrated films of the 80’s.

Grade: B+


 

Jan. 10

Film: Enemy

Random thoughts/mini review: I dug everything about this film but in 5, 10, 20 years, I’m not going to remember the amazing performances or lush cinematography. I’m not going to remember anything except that goddamn ending that almost gave me a heart attack.

Grade: B


 

Jan. 11

Film: the Diving Bell and the Butterfly

Random thoughts/mini review: The incredible true story of Jean Dominique Bauby, who suffers a stroke and has to live with his entire body minus his left eye being paralyzed. It’s a beautifully shot film about the strength of the human condition that’s almost too unreal to be believed. Along with some incredibly patient nurses, wrote an entire novel with just blinking his eye. That’s fucking insane.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 12

Film: the Taking of Pelham One Two Three

Random thoughts/mini review: A fantastic heist film with solid performances from all involved. All I kept thinking while watching this was “how did they fuck up the remake that badly?”

Grade: B+


 

Jan. 13

Film: Wheels on Meals

Random thoughts/mini review: A decent Jackie Chan action flick that has an outstanding fight at the end involving Benny “the Jet” Urquidez. Why the fuck wasn’t the Jet in more Jackie Chan movies?

Grade: C


 

Jan. 14

Film: Southern Comfort

Random thoughts/mini review: Not as good as Deliverance but better than Rituals.

Grade: B+


 

Jan. 15

Film: Sullivan’s Travels

Random thoughts/mini review: Well, if the old adage “a good film does one thing really well and a great thing does two things really well” is true, that must mean Sullivan’s Travels is beyond great. It deals with poverty, the human condition, it’s poignant without being overly sentimental and is a love letter to comedy and how it unites us all. Preston Sturges is often referred to as the poor man’s Capra and that’s no insult. He earned the right to be mentioned alongside one of the best directors of all time with this film alone. That’s how good it is.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 16

Film: Wargames

Random thoughts/mini review: I put this off for years and years because I was positive I knew what it was before I watched it. I went in thinking it was about a teen who has to play a series of games with a computer to avoid nuclear annihilation and that’s only .05% of the plot. It’s actually a tightly plotted thriller that never slows down and never talks down to the audience. They clearly have to explain the techno jargin but they do it in a way that respects the audiences intelligence. Wargames was a pleasant surprise.

Grade: B+


 

Jan. 17

Film: Paddington

Random thoughts/mini review: Utterly delightful from the first frame to the last. The director some how manages to make Paddington endearing even though he’s borderline obnoxious. The only negative I can think of is that it isn’t as good as the second one but that’s like comparing Toy Story to Toy Story 2. The sequel is clearly superior but the first is better than almost everything else made for kids.

Grade: B+


 

Jan. 18

Film: Paddington 2

Random thoughts/mini review: Paddington 2 reminded me of a Wes Anderson film and that’s about the biggest compliment I can give a film. Believe the hype, this is one of the best children’s films ever made.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 19

Film: Mid90s

Random thoughts/mini review: A film that feels like it was written when Hill was a teenager before he became famous. The performances are all great and the emotion never feels false but I don’t buy this reality. There are multiple scenes where the main character, who is 12, drinks hard liquor and smokes pot and is barely effected. There is a skateboard shop where all the kids hangout but you never see a single adult working there. At no point do you see the kids go to school but yet they talk about it constantly. The main character treats his mother like shit for no reason, gets involved with these skate punks for no reason and even though the mother disapproves of the kids her son is hanging out with, she still let’s them see him after his accident, even though they were the ones responsible. The film is never boring but it also doesn’t take place on planet earth.

Grade: C


 

Jan. 20

Film: Four Weddings and a Funeral Random thoughts/mini review: Andie MacDowell single handedly ruins any enjoyment or entertainment one could get from this movie. Besides having the acting ability of a sea slug, her character is thoroughly unlikable throughout the entire film. Andie MacDowell Is like a grapefruit; she doesn’t belong in anything and she’ll ruin whatever you put her in.

Grade: F


 

 

 

Jan. 21

Film: Bloody Friday

Random thoughts/mini review: Bloody Friday is a low budget, Italo-German heist thriller that’s far too light on action and violence to earn its cult status.

Grade: C


 

Jan. 22

Film: The Ballad of Narayama

Random thoughts/mini review: The final film to be added to Roger Ebert‘s list of “Great Movies” before his death, the Ballad of Narayama is about a village whose people have to be carried to a nearby mountain to die once they hit the age of 70. Combining kabuki style balladeer narration and musical accompaniment with a heart wrenching story of loss and the acceptance of death, the Ballad of Narayama is one of the most unique, heart breaking films I’ve ever seen.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 23

Film: Oscar Nominated Short Film Collection

List of shorts I watched:

  • The Man Who Planted Trees
  • Popeye the Sailor Meets Sindbad the Sailor
  • The Hand
  • The Street
  • The Dam Keeper
  • The Man With No Shadow
  • Jumping
  • The Three Inventors
  • Creature Comforts
  • Damon the Mower
  • This Way Up
  • Your Face
  • The House of Small Cubes
  • Head Over Heels
  • Mr. Hublot
  • French Roast
  • The Maker
  • Oktapodi
  • The Big Snit
  • The Cat Came Back
  • Bob’s Birthday

 

Jan. 24

Film: Gulliver’s Travels

Random thoughts/mini review: Dave Fleischer‘s first full length picture is an enjoyable retelling of Swift’s classic story but man, you can really tell the difference between Disney and everyone else back then.

Grade: C+


 

Jan. 25

Film: Support the Girls

Random thoughts/mini review: Strip away the humor (the good and the bad), memorable characters, narrative thrust and dramatic purpose of the film Waiting and replace the cast with women, and that’s this film. It’s aimless, boring and devoid of meaning. Regina Hall showed up but no one else did.

Grade: D-


 

Jan. 26

Film: Love, Gilda

Random thoughts/mini review: A well intentioned, albeit slightly dull love letter to a massively influential female comedian. The film interviews far too many of her contemporaries and not nearly enough of her old co-stars. The film’s heart is in the right place but at the end of the day, it’s a by-the-numbers talking head doc.

Grade: C+


 

Jan. 27

Film: Char.act.er

Random thoughts/mini review: Actors Dabney Coleman, Peter Falk, Charles Grodin, Mark Rydell, Harry Dean Stanton and Sydney Pollack wax poetic about life, art and everything in between. The film would’ve been better paced if all the actors were in the same room having a conversation amongst themselves instead of cutting between them because after twenty minutes or so, it becomes dull and uninteresting.

Grade: D


 

Jan. 28

Film: Tumbbad

Random thoughts/mini review: There Will Be Blood directed by Tarsem and written by Clive Barker. A tale of greed told over three decades, Tumbbad is an archetypal story of a man’s lust for wealth and power mixed with some slight horror elements and a mythological backstory. It’s a unique film that shouldn’t be missed.

Grade: B+


 

Jan. 29

Film: Free Solo

Random thoughts/mini review: A documentary about Alex Honnold and his dream of climbing Yosemite’s 3,000ft high El Capitan Wall with no ropes or safety gear. The last fifteen minutes is the most ass clenching intense thing I’ve ever seen in my life. What Honnold is able to achieve with less than a centimeter of grip space is literally unbelievable. See this film on the biggest screen possible.

Grade: A


 

Jan. 30

Film: The Last Hard Men

Random thoughts/mini review: *Kanye Shrug* It’s a western.

Grade: C


 

Jan. 31

Film: Chico and Rita

Random thoughts/mini review: A beautifully told love story about a piano player and a singer set in 1940s Cuba. It chronicles their ups and downs, their struggles and numerous break ups. Its a solid little romantic drama that beat out Cars 2 for an Animated Oscar nom, which is obvious now but is kind of crazy in retrospect. Good for you Academy.

Grade: B