Saturday, March 3, 2018

Oscar Preview 2018

By the time I finish writing this I will have seen Black Panther and hopefully have a sweet review to link right about here.  In the Bay Area Beer Week is taking it’s toll on my liver and if you can see through the hazy ipas, you’ll see The Academy Awards are almost upon us.  Some years I am in better shape than others when it comes to seeing the contenders, but for the first time in awhile I have seen all the nominees for picture, director, actor, actress, original screenplay, supporting actress, and a few others.  So allow this to serve as your official pre-Oscar blog post, not unlike damn near the first blog I ever wrote on this here site.  

In order to keep this from meandering rambling, I’ll discuss the major categories and the films/people nominated.  I’ll offer my own picks later for what it’s worth but keep in mind I’ll mostly be basing my picks on what I think is the best not necessarily what is going to win.  

Best Picture

Call Me By Your Name - Oooh, I honestly didn’t want to start with this film.  For the majority of people and many voters this film is touching some major nerves and affecting people in a truly remarkable and profound way.  With the exception of the person I watched this film with, I seem to be the only person who thinks this film is sentimental tripe.  This seems like the worst sepia toned coming of age story that was polluting screens in the early 90s (King of the Hill, Rambling Rose, etc) except this time one of them is gay, kinda.  This film so deliberately removes any sense of conflict or grounding in reality that it seems like a half baked idea that got turned into a movie and everyone is so blinded by how “brave” the performers are to realize that nothing is worth watching.  Other than objecting to the spelling of his name Timothee Chalamet delivers a fine performance for what it’s worth as does his co star Armie Hammer.  What bothered me about the film is that his character comes across more as a sexual deviant/horny adolescent than someone discovering himself and I didnt necessarily believe that his gay relationship meant any more than the girl he was with or the peach he fucked.  The fact that his family seems obliviously accepting in a time when the only thing people really understood about AIDS was that it was a disease that killed homosexuals.  The fact that all of this goes ignored just seemed to irritate me in lieu of some idyllic summer romp in the country.  I may catch flack for my thoughts, but frankly I don’t see what the deal is.

Darkest Hour - Along with the next film on this list Darkest Hour is a well made waste of time.  Gary Oldman deserves all the awards and he’ll likely get them here, but the film itself would have been damn near unwatchable without him.  For reasons I can’t fathom people are incapable of making a film set in WWII without muting all the colors until they look like some form of grey/brown/khaki puke.  Now this film is set in England so perhaps it just always seems drab.  Whereas Dunkirk was a waste of time for different reasons it at least attempted to tell a story in a unique way.  Darkest Hour just seems like one WWII film too many and a story that I’m not sure needs re-telling especially because it’s timeline is right in place with Dunkirk.

Dunkirk - I’ve discussed super hero movie fatigue as a real thing on this blog before, just as many people are going to be facing Star Wars fatigue either before or immediately after that Han Solo movie craps on our eyes, but WWII movie fatigue has been real for almost two decades.  I know the war is the defining moment of the 20th century and there never seem to be a shortage of stories to tell, but my god I can’t take another one.  Nolan for his sake did try to make this film a little different.  Operating with three unnecessary timelines that intersect, minimal dialogue, and an unrelenting score it does try and shake things up. The problem is that first of all that minimal dialogue helped me not care at all about anyone on screen, except for perhaps the civilian boat captain.  In order to make the huge stories resonate they need to focus on individuals otherwise it’s too easy to desensitize us to what’s happening.  I know Nolan might have thought, it’s been done before, but it’s been done because it works.  Academy voters still have a hard on for WWII movies, as last year’s Mel Gibson gore-fest can attest, but it’s hard to get excited about another one of these.

Peele's film just barely missed the mark for me
Get Out - So for reasons that escape me Jordan Peele’s debut feature film got nominated under the Comedy-Musical category at the Golden Globes.  They aren’t alone as HBO also had this film listed under comedy.  Perhaps Peele’s history as 1/2 of Key and Peele may have led to some misinterpretations but what some people are viewing as comedy I see as comedic relief in a horror film.  This was probably the earliest film released and one that many people are rooting for.  I liked the film but man is it hard to make an original and great horror film.  Certainly among the better films of the year I don’t seem to share the same extremely high praise others do, still I’ll take this over the previous three nominees.

Lady Bird - Another in the first time actor-turned-director camp, Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird got about as much praise as Peele’s film for very different reasons.  Although the film is uniquely personal and made me wonder how much of it was fiction it still draws comparisons to some of the other well liked films of the year.  Chalamet does appear in this film as well and to me this film gets right everything Call Me By Your Name dropped the ball on.  Here the characters don’t talk like Kevin Williamson fountains of articulation but they seem awkward and wonderfully authentic.  The film is painfully white and suburban but when that’s your life you gotta tell what you know.  It’s hard for me not to picture Gerwig’s character in Frances Ha as the adult version of Lady Bird.  Again this film was good but didn’t hit me in that best picture of the year sort of way.

Phantom Thread - Paul Thomas Anderson has proven himself one of the best filmmakers working today and unlike many of his peers each of his films seems destined to be dissected and analyzed ad infinitum.  The Master and Inherent Vice went largely ignored by the Academy, but Phantom Thread is definitely well represented this award season.  Perhaps it’s the rare appearance of the legendary Daniel Day Lewis, the fact that it’s a period picture, or perhaps most likely it’s the least weird Anderson film perhaps ever.  That doesn’t mean you won’t occasionally scratch your head at certain character’s actions or behavior, but there aren’t too many curve balls being thrown here.  The film is certainly well made but like every Anderson film except Magnolia I feel like I missed something here.  I tend to appreciate Anderson’s films over time and with another viewing or two, so it’s not entirely fair to judge Phantom Thread on my single viewing, especially considering the less than ideal seats I had for our screening.

The Post - Ever since the Academy bumped up the number of best picture nominees it seems a foregone conclusion that if Spielberg has a film that isn’t hated it will get a nomination.  Many of these films in hindsight weren’t good (War Horse and Lincoln come to mind) but most are simply decent to good.  The Post is a film that makes me really appreciate what a great film All the President’s Men is.  There are so many times where this film seems like it wants to pay homage to Pakula’s film but like how Spielberg completely missed Stanley Kubrick in A.I., he doesn’t have the recklessness to go all in the way Pakula’s film did.  This seems too safe, and even the central conflict never seems truly threatening.  This is overall a pretty bland film, and down to the casting seemed hell bent to take no chances.

Kind of like The Creature From the Black Lagoon in reverse
The Shape of Water - You might be thinking by now that I just hated every film nominated for best picture.  It’s true that the majority of this year’s nominees are forgettable and merely decent, they weren’t all so pedestrian.  Guillermo del Toro seems determined to deliver a masterpiece every few years and this film is easily his best since Pan’s Labyrinth.  There do seem to be some similarities, not just in the look and feel of the films but some plot points as well.  Sally Hawkins is fantastic here, but this is one of those truly unique visions being allowed to run wild.  Michael Shannon seems perfectly cast here and definitely brings back memories of his Boardwalk Empire days.  This was easily one of the best films of the year and although I don’t expect it to win best picture I wouldn’t be shocked if del Toro took home best director honors. I should also give a special shout out to Michael Stuhlbarg for pulling off the rare hat trick appearing in three best picture nominees in one year.

Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri - Alright, I’ll come out and admit it, this is probably the best film nominated this year.  Now I didn’t expect my personal favorite Lady Macbeth to get a lot of recognition, but Three Billboards is pretty damn excellent.  It does face the unusual hurdle of not having a best director nomination, but that doesn’t necessarily mean it won’t take best picture.  The fact that this film seems to be dominating other award shows had me pegging this as the front-runner, but considering what happened last year that can’t be too safe a pick.  Frances McDormand is brilliant and worth any award coming her way.  She’s like a less pretentious Daniel Day Lewis, quietly emerging every few years to let everyone know she’s better than them.  The remaining cast is all excellent and there’s no surprise Rockwell and Harrelson are both nominated for best supporting actor Oscars as well.  My money is on this and deservedly so.

My money is on this winning a lot of awards
Best Director

Rather than go over each individual nominee I’d rather examine the other major categories as one group.  There are definitely some well known names in this race including first timers Peele and Gerwig.  I know the Academy won’t stop patting itself on the back any time soon to remind people they nominated a black person and a woman in the same year.  Nolan and Anderson are two worthy nominees but I can’t help but feel like if they won it would be reparations from being snubbed earlier for better films.  Del Toro seems like a strong candidate to win it this year.  He has definitely earned a reputation as one of the better and more imaginative filmmakers working today and this film is definitely stronger than Nolan’s or Anderson’s.  I might be projecting a bit, but my money is on del Toro.

Best Actor

Now we get to the most boringest category this year.  I really couldn’t begin to care who wins here.  That said I do have a passive rooting interest in Gary Oldman taking it home.  Oldman’s win would be more of a career appreciation because really this man has quietly been one of the best actors of all time over the past thirty or so years.  I can think of no other actor that so thoroughly transforms himself into whatever role he plays, and that certainly applies in Darkest Hour.  My girlfriend would not believe that was the same man as Sirius Black.  He is certainly good in Darkest Hour but in the same boring way other actors were who played real recognizable people (Ray, Walk the Line, Capote).  I’ve already spoken a bit about Chalamet and my problems there even if my complaints with his performance are minimal.  Daniel Kuluuya stole James Franco’s nomination after recent allegations were made public just before the nominees were announced.  Perhaps the Academy thought, if we nominated Franco we’ll have to allow Tommy Wiseau in the building.  Kuluuya is damn good in the film, but maybe it was his disloyalty in Black Panther that have me rooting against him.  Denzel Washington is fine enough in Robert J. Israel Esq. but that film itself was terrible.  Daniel Day Lewis is another boring safe choice.  That doesn’t mean he isn’t up to his usual excellent standards but after three best actor Oscars his greatness is almost taken for granted.

Best Actress

This genuinely was a fantastic year for women in movies.  I feel most years there is a struggle to find more than two great films with best actress nominees.  This year four of the five nominees were excellent and the other was Meryl Streep.  Although she has little chance of winning I do want to acknowledge Margot Robbie in I, Tonya.  Not only is she fantastic but the film itself mercifully transcends what could have been a very pedestrian bio-pic.  Honestly I’d prefer I, Tonya to over half the best picture nominees but I wasn’t a voter.  This definitely seems like Frances McDormand’s award to lose but she did win one for Fargo so maybe voters go with a first timer.  Both Hawkins and Ronan would definitely be excellent choices but I feel it’s unlikely we’ll see someone other than McDormand on stage.

The Rest

Sam Rockwell is amazing in Three Billboards and his performance looks to join the long list of no doubter best supporting actor winners (J.K. Simmons, Heath Ledger, Christof Waltz).  In a perfect world Willem Dafoe would finally get the hardware he deserves for The Florida Project.  As great as Dafoe is The Florida Project was probably one of my top three favorite films this past year and was wrongfully snubbed in the best picture race even if it wasn’t too surprising.  

The supporting actress category is perhaps an even bigger foregone conclusion.  In the race of overbearing mothers Allison Janney edges out Laurie Metcalf this year.  Once again the foreign film category is full of shit no one ever heard of.  Both Mary J. Blige and Kobe Bryant could become Oscar winners this year, who saw that coming?  Holy shit Logan is up for best adapted screenplay, no chance of winning but still comic book movies making a big step forward.  As for the rest of the categories I can’t say I’m too worried who wins or doesn’t.

So I’ll be watching tomorrow and will probably have my own ballet torn to shreds as I guess everything wrong, but that’s part of the fun.

Sunday, February 18, 2018

Black Panther (2018) - Ryan Coogler

I graduated college in 2008.  During my final semester I took an overnight job at Motorola and worked with a few temps who happened to be black.  I wound up working there way longer than expected and the closer we got to November and election day I noticed something rather remarkable.  So many of my coworkers who never once gave a shit about politics were excited to vote, some of them for the first time despite being in their 70s.  I knew beyond a shadow of a doubt Barack Obama would be our next president and I also learned a little about what it felt like to finally have someone representing you.

As a white man I don’t have that type of hardship.  Call it white privilege but as long as I can remember political candidates look like me and most of the heroes in movies whether they be super or not tend to bare a resemblance.  Now I know many black people do love comic books and super heroes, but I can also guarantee there were many people at the Regal Cinema in Jack London Square on Thursday night who were seeing their very first super hero movie.  I’ve been to some midnight screenings before and you’ll see your fair share of nerds but this was something else.  This was a celebration of all things black and African.  Like that second Tuesday in November of 2008 I was witnessing a group of people mobilized and celebrating the fact that for once they were witnessing one of their own.  Perhaps this is because I was seeing the film in the director Ryan Coogler's hometown, and one of the most historically black cities on the west coast, but unlike the 16 previous Marvel movies, this one seemed bigger than comic books and the Marvel Cinematic Universe.

It’s hard to talk about this film without getting into the bigger picture here.  This film is unapologetically black in all the best ways.  It celebrates black culture in a way that not only shows African culture as equals globally but in many ways blatantly superior.  It’s a film that might scare idiotic and easily threatened white people, but again is more of a cultural event than a random super hero movie.  Marvel has built up a ton of good will with their Cinematic Universe and although it might seem insulting it’s taken this long to bring Black Panther to the screen, it is a character whose time has come.  This franchise has been painfully patient when it comes to introducing characters and you can tell there is a definite desire to get this right rather than just get it out.

Blackness Squared
 Hollywood often lacks imagination when it comes to what will sell.  This is the reason we had to wait an embarrassingly long amount of time for Wonder Woman to get her own film.  That movie vastly exceeded expectations and proved to be the only modern DC film people actually somewhat enjoyed.  Black Panther as a character isn’t nearly as universally known as Wonder Woman but it once again showed that a large segment of the population was ready and waiting to see themselves represented on screen.

I know nearly twenty years ago Blade came out in theaters and damn it it’s still a pretty awesome movie.  In many ways Blade was the first Marvel movie that helped opened the doors to X-Men, Spider Man, and eventually the MCU.  When Blade came out we were all so excited to see any sort of super hero it didn’t matter.  Although Blade was undoubtedly black, his race seemed largely incidental in that film and franchise.  The Luke Cage Netflix show used clumsy kid gloves trying to tell an inner city story about a Harlem super hero that seemed incapable of taking chances.  Cage was largely a boring show because it seemed the show’s creators were too scared to offend people or alienate others that it largely played it down the middle and left us wishing the show had some balls.  Thirty minutes into Black Panther and that is not the case.  This film punches you in the face with African culture, it embraces it’s blackness in a way that is downright inspiring and truly beautiful.

Now before this white man starts talking any more about what this film means to black people I’d like to actually try and discuss the film on it’s own merits and to some degree how it fits within the MCU.  These films have occasionally gotten a little formulaic and considering I’ve reviewed so many of them I honestly wonder if I’m falling prey to my own cliches when I break them down.  So I suppose I should get into my what I liked and disliked sections but forgive me if bigger picture issues muddy up the waters.

Many solo films in the MCU do tend to stand alone, but I feel like not since the first wave of movies have we really seen a film largely ignore the rest of the MCU.  Sure we know T’Challa was introduced in Civil War, and the death of his father is shown in flashback.  Also Klaw is an early antagonist and we first see him in Age of Ultron, losing his arm no less.  It is perhaps a little ironic that one of the two white people in the film happen to play a villain.  For an actor that spent so much of his career creating iconic roles for CGI characters it is nice to see Andy Serkis get to be a human here, and he seems to relish every devious moment his character has.  I’m not going to lie, I thought Klaw was a very minor player in Age of Ultron, and didn’t connect the dots of who he was which is one of the great things about these movies playing for the long haul.

Black Panther largely ignores the outside world and the other films and events of the Marvel Universe.  This makes it prefect for those people who are just coming on board to this movie here, because anything that happened in a previous film is quickly referenced to so you don’t need a phD in MCU history to appreciate what’s going on, nor do you necessarily need to be all caught up on these films to get everything.  Now I would say that I might get into some spoilers so again I recommend seeing this film before reading further but I’ll try not to divulge too many details.

Erik Killmonger was without a doubt my favorite part of this film.  Michael B. Jordan is absolutely phenomenal here and I couldn’t help but find myself rooting for him and his character rather than our hero.  Marvel movies have given us a fair share of monster of the week villains who want to bring destruction because blah blah blah destiny, etc.  In recent films they’ve come to almost laugh at these motivations and have made things slightly more interesting but Killmonger is something different.  He is from Oakland but Wakanda by blood and man does he have a point.  He knows that Wakanda and their Vibranium can help liberate oppressed black people throughout the globe and it isn’t hard to take his side.  Perhaps a few of his methods might seem to go overboard because after all we’re supposed to view him as a villain but even T'Challa begrudgingly seem to admit he was at least partially right.

Now there are a few things that didn’t really work here.  There were a few half-assed attempts at comic relief most of which went over about as well as a fart at a funeral.  In many ways this movie does take itself very seriously so even the occasional attempt to add some levity winds up seeming awkward and forced.  Luckily these moments are few and far between so you just cringe and move on.  I also was thoroughly removed from any sense of reality when CGI rhinos showed up to fight.  I know they showed up earlier in the film but they looked far more silly than menacing.  Last bit of nitpicking is that when looking through the credits it appears as though the scenes set in Oakland were actually filmed somewhere in Atlanta.  Much like I shook my first in anger at Chicago being filmed in Toronto, I have to gripe a little about this considering the director Ryan Coogler is from Oakland and damn it I wanted my town to be in this properly.

Too many strong black women to count
If you were keeping track the faults I found with this movie are all definitely in the minor category, especially if you were one of the people who were put off by the over abundance of humor in Thor: Ragnarok or the Guardians movies.  What this film does right is so much more.  I haven’t even begun to mention the absurd amount of strong female characters here.  This isn’t a token female gets to be a bad ass, it’s more like every female is either a hell of a fighter, incredibly smart, powerful, and proud warriors.  It takes a special gift to make these characters seem authentic in their abilities and powers rather than forced examples of inclusion.  This is something the last couple of Star Wars films have been unable to do for the record.

Now I am reluctant to get into some sort of recency bias and declare this a transcendent masterpiece.  I do think some perspective is necessary when assessing what this film means in the larger picture.  Structurally a lot of things are right in this film.  There are a few moments when there seem to be fight scenes drawn out just for the sake of having action.  A few plot points seem slightly clumsy that help to motivate story and character arcs but didn’t seem to make rational sense among the characters.  *Spoilers* Why didn’t T'Chaka take Erik home to Wakanda when he was a kid?  Why did they immediately agree to duel each other when both eventually come to a similar conclusion?  

Still obligated by law to have your hero shirtless

These are the types of things that tend to stick out when you think too much about everything, but seem like potential flaws that can be exposed like a sore thumb upon closer inspection.  I’m reluctant to declare this a masterpiece right out of the gate but it is a damn good movie, and one that was long overdue.  The cast is all pretty excellent and the one performer I feared most for Forest Whitaker mercifully didn’t bring his Rogue One or Battlefield Earth performance here.  The females and villains however remain the best of the scene-stealers.

The film does strike a little close to home at the end.  T’Challa eventually decides that he wants to help the rest of the world, particularly black people with Wakanda’s technology and resources.  The first place they establish a base in is Oakland, and looking around my neighborhood I can’t help but wish there was some super human help on the way.  People here really do need help and I couldn’t help but feel a little bit of melancholy knowing that this was just a movie and the help was was purely fictitious.  

Sunday, January 28, 2018

They Shoot Pictures Don't They 1000/1000

I’d like to begin this story back around 2006.  I was a member of a few different film forums and it was with my good friends at the now defunct that someone first posted a link to They Shoot Pictures Don’t They and their top 1000.  The original thread was “how many films in the top 100 have you seen?  I was rather pleased with myself to find that I had seen all the top 100.  I then looked further down the list and found I’d seen the top 200.  After extending my search a little further I found Mikio Naruse’s Floating Clouds somewhere around 250, and at the time it was the highest movie I had not viewed.  Later that year I went through the entire list and wrote down every film I hadn’t seen, which turned out to be quite a bit more than I was expecting.  Luckily with Facets and Odd Obsession as my allies, I spent the next year doing some serious damage.

Fast forward to 2012.  I was at a rather unimportant party with a group of people I didn’t really know and haven’t hung out with since.  At some point a game was started that essentially involved asking each other questions.  Someone asked me what I was most proud of accomplishing.  Now I didn’t have one of those go to cliche answers to this question, I had no kids, didn’t own a house or my own business, and I damn well wasn’t about to pick my college education as a point of pride.  So I said I was most proud of having seen 998 of the 1000 films on They Shoot Pictures Don’t They.  At this point I was quite possibly the only person alive who had seen that many, but like that 199/200 score I got on my Buster Keaton paper from Miss Anderson (I will never forget), almost perfection is hard to live with.  It’s hard to say exactly why this list was my badge of honor.  There are no shortage of greatest film lists that I’ve seen everything from, but to me this was always the most definitive and authoritative.

The two films I hadn’t seen at that point were Jacques Rivette’s Out 1: Spectre and Stan Brakhage’s Art of Vision.  Now I had seen the full 12 hour version of Out 1 at the Siskel Center a few years before so I was willing to count that film as a technicality.  As for the Brakhage film it was a bit of the reverse.  Art of Vision was essentially an extended version of his much better known and way easier to find Dog Star Man.  So in a way I had seen the entire list but like many of Barry Bonds’ records this had a big fat asterisk next to it.  The same can be said of the previous incarnation of the list I looked at with the god awfully pointless Andy Warhol film Empire.  Yeah I’d seen an excerpt of it which is essentially the same static shot over 8 hours so really looking at a still of the film kind of counts and saves you from wasting soooooo much of your life.  

Now we arrive at 2018.  Every year Bill Georgaris takes it upon himself to update this massive list with whatever new best film lists he comes across and for the record, no my own list isn’t listed as one of the sources.  The new lists generally get updated in winter, and this particular year it was updated around the second week in January.  I decided to get down to it and see what new arrivals I needed to check out, and double check whatever older films I may have missed.  Unlike most years I found some of the new additions were rather easy to find mercifully.  Double bonus some of the films that had tormented me in the past like Art of Vision and Empire had dropped off, and that finish line was in my grasp.

So I can say that as of January 27th, 2018 I have officially seen all 1000 of these films.  I have finally officially crossed every god damn one of these movies off the list.  This process has taken over a decade, and I know very well that when 2019 comes and the list is updated again there will inevitably be a few more for me to check out to stay up to date.  However for the next year I can safely boast that list is completely accomplished.  So if you’ll indulge me I’d like to take you through the new editions to the list I just watched and the few remaining movies needed for complete supremacy.

One question that I’m sure some of you might be asking is, how the hell can you keep track of all of these?  1000 films is a lot and I’d be hard pressed to give you an accurate plot synopsis of all of them, but there’s another way.  I do keep a list of every film I’ve ever seen listed by year.  I’ve mentioned this system elsewhere on this blog and I found it’s the best reference to quickly find whether or not I’ve seen a film yet.  As one would expect there are inevitably a few that were either never added to the list, or put under the wrong year, and sometimes I do find myself doubting whether I’ve seen something.  This brings me to the extra sure part I played in the 2018 edition, watching at least one film I have already seen because I forgot to add it to my list and potentially re-watching another one or two for good measure.  There is a decent adage you can use which is if I don’t remember watching it, then maybe I should see it again.  So here is the recap of what I’ve seen and possibly re-seen in order to complete the ultimate cinematic mission.

#1000 - Sorcerer (1977) - William Friedkin

The seventies when everyone needed a shave, a shower, and a haircut
New to the list is Friedkin’s poorly titled flop that followed up The Exorcist.  Now it’s hard to really bash a film that is at the absolute bottom of the list, but seeing some of the films that just missed the cut I’d say this doesn’t really belong.  It is a well made remake of Clouzot’s Wages of Fear, a film deemed by many to be a masterpiece that I just was never wild about.  I do love Clouzot’s work, but for some reason Wages of Fear did nothing for me even upon a second viewing.  Friedkin’s film therefore seems doubly unnecessary.  The performances are good and there are some well executed scenes but ultimately this was just another tick.

#999 - Oasis (2002) - Lee Chang-Dong

UGH the movie
This is one of those films that was actually on a previous version of the list that I simply didn’t see.  Perhaps it was the very generic title, and the fact that I was familiar with some of Lee’s work (Secret Sunshine, Poetry) that I think I just assumed I had seen it.  After downloading it and getting a few minutes in I quickly realized I very much had not.  I don’t know how to put it, but I hated this movie.  On paper it seems like an odd plot for a movie, a mentally unstable ex-con falling in love with a girl who has cerebral palsy but that leaves out so much of what is wrong here.  Particularly how they meet, and the bizarre and awkward rape that is just hard to look past.  Roger Ebert was apparently a huge fan and lord only knows what he found so charming about it.  If you plan on crossing all of these off I’d make this one of the last.

#998 - L’Humanite (1999) - Bruno Dumont

This makes as much sense to you as it does to me
Another film that was on a previous version of this list, albeit towards the very bottom.  Bruno Dumont is a filmmaker I was more aware of than familiar with.  His films are thoroughly pretentious, alienating, and French in the worst sense of the term.  L’Humanite seems like it could be a decent police procedural ala Memories of Murder but is filled with so much head scratching behavior and slow pacing that eventually you just cease to care.  It may seem like I’m shitting all over this list but keep in mind these are the bottom films and essentially the dregs of the list.  I wouldn’t be surprised if other Dumont films pop up on this list in future editions but for now this seems as good of an introduction as any.

#980 - Scarecrow (1973) - Jerry Schatzberg

Seriously so fucking seventies
Technically the last film I watched to complete this list, Scarecrow was a film I just always thought I had seen.  Ever since I first got into film and was watching classics from the glorious American cinema of the 70s, Scarecrow just seemed like a film I had seen.  I had watched nearly every other Pacino film from the decade but the more I thought about this particular one the more I didn’t remember it.  Checking my master list I didn’t see it included anywhere and this is just one of those ones that slipped through the crack.  Scarecrow is so thoroughly 70s it’s almost a cliche.  Schatzberg was definitely second tier in terms of filmmakers of the period but this might very well be his best work.  Gene Hackman and Al Pacino were at the top of their game in 1973 and make a near perfect pair.  Audiences mostly passed on the film as it seemed all too familiar, and watching it now it isn’t hard to see why, but in terms of revisionist cinema it is testament to how rich and fertile American movies were in the seventies.

#979 - O Bandido da Luz Vermelha (1968) - Rogerio Sganzeria

Once upon a time men had hair on their chest
Also known as The Red Light Bandit, this is a curious film from the peak of Cinema Novo.  Like many of his contemporaries, Sganzeria is deeply indebted to the French New Wave, almost to the point of plagiarism.  The plot which is essentially about a man on a crime spree has lengthy diversions to discuss social and political issues in contemporary Brazil and just sort of wanders at it’s own pace.  It’s certainly one of the more unique and interesting films among the new additions, but it’s hard to say it sustains it’s pace throughout.  The first thirty minutes or so are spectacular and the last act just sort of meanders until the film ends.  Godard’s Breathless had similar pacing issues but was so groundbreaking it got away with it.  Worth checking out for sure, and proof that even us know-it-all’s sometimes miss films.

#965 - Pickpocket/Xiao Wu (1997) - Jia Zhangke

Another day in China
Not to be confused with Bresson's far better known film of the same name comes our first entry in the “wait did I see this?” category.  I’ve been a fan of Jia’s since I saw The World in the theater back in 2005.  I quickly checked out his previous films only to discover his first feature was at the time unavailable in this country.  At some point in time I did find a copy of it and don’t know if I ever watched it, so alas I made sure to settle that now.  It might lack some of the scope of his later films but it isn’t a bad start at all.  Full of long takes, real locations and non-actors it is a worthy successor to Neorealist films of the 40s.  Zhangke definitely did better later in his career, but it’s always interesting to see where the great directors start.

#924 - Sholay (1975) - Ramesh Sippy

Mustache game on fleek
Now we’re talking.  Perhaps second only to Facets was the Mt. Prospect Public Library.  If you know anything about Mt. Prospect, IL (which I’m sure you all do) it’s that that town has a very large Indian population.  So I often saw the DVD for Sholay and wondered what the hell it was about.  Bollywood cinema is a monumental undertaking.  There are thousands of films, and nearly all of them are over 3 hours, so knowing where to start can be a bit overwhelming.  I tend to focus on the films that pop on lists, and there have been a few that have been on TSPDT.  Sholay was new this year and it instantly became my favorite Bollywood movie.  There are some great films in Bengali, notably Ray, Sen, and Ghatak’s work, but the mainstream Hindi movies have often failed to impress.  This has at times been called a “Curry Western” and it’s a nice way of saying it’s a Western from India.  The plot has some things in common with Once Upon a Time in the West as well as Seven Samurai, but with all the ridiculous and colorful musical numbers you’d expect out of a Bollywood film.  This was easily my favorite of the films I watched for the 2018 list, so yeah this one is pretty damn awesome.

*Bonus Film*

#733 - The Ascent (1976) - Larisa Shepitko

Chalk this up to faulty record keeping.  I saw Larisa Shepitko’s best known motion picture at Facets probably a dozen or more years ago.  They were running a Shepitko and Elem Klimov retro, and this was the only film I was able to catch.  It eventually got a DVD release courtesy of The Eclipse Series, and it was one of those I knew I saw.  Since it was curiously absent on my list of 1976 movies, I seriously started second guessing myself.  So just to be 1000% sure (get it?) I gave it another crack.  It didn’t take long for the film to start ringing some bells, and it rightfully deserves it’s place not just as one of the greatest films directed by a woman, but one of the highlights of all Soviet cinema.  Sometimes it pays to give yourself a little refresher on these films just to make certain.


This has been a long journey.  There definitely aren’t many of us out there who have seen everything and I certainly join select and incredibly obsessive company.  I am definitely thankful that this list is a little biased towards older films, because I’m sure the more recent offerings would be the place to trip me up.  Over the next year I aim to tackle a good amount of the 1001-2000 movies to make sure I don’t get caught off guard too much when 2019 rolls around.

Now this list isn’t necessarily the final word in great film.  There are plenty of excellent movies, especially recent releases that won’t be found here.  One thing I do love about this list is it isn’t one person’s opinion.  It is multiple lists, multiple people voting, with literally thousands of different movie lists combined.  I know my own list has a few of those movies that make you shake your head and say “really?”, so a compilation of others helps minimize that.  There isn’t a ton of movement in the top 100 this year, so I’d say if you were looking to tackle just that first part of the list, it doesn’t fluctuate too much and is certainly doable.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I might go back to working on Jonathan Rosenbaum’s top 1000 again.