The Tercentenary Monthly Update for December 2018

This year, I watched over 300 films… just not if you count by my usual rules. I wrote about that earlier this month, so I won’t rehash it all here; but to update the numbers: my final tally of new films is 261, plus 50 in my Rewatchathon, and 8 short films to boot. Add all that up and you’ve got 319.


#248 The Christmas Chronicles (2018)
#249 Torment (1944), aka Hets
#250 Sorry to Bother You (2018)
#251 Snowpiercer (2013)
#252 Mowgli: Legend of the Jungle (2018)
#253 Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming (1970), aka Una nuvola di polvere… un grido di morte… arriva Sartana
#254 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
#255 Music in Darkness (1948), aka Musik i mörker
#256 The Shape of Water (2017)
#257 Zatoichi the Outlaw (1967), aka Zatôichi rôyaburi
#258 The Man Who Invented Christmas (2017)
#259 Hachi: A Dog’s Tale (2009)
#260 A Christmas Carol (2018)
#261 Black Mirror: Bandersnatch (2018)
Snowpiercer

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

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  • I watched 14 new films this month — a perfectly respectable number, really, but it’s tied with August for the lowest month of 2018. That’s the first time August has been the year’s lowest month, though December previously took the (dis)honour in 2016.
  • It also means December remains my only month to have never achieved a tally of 20+. It’s now a whole year before I can try that again (obviously).
  • And I didn’t watch a film on December 22nd, one of the three outstanding dates on which I’ve ‘never’ watched a film, so that’ll have to wait a whole ‘nother year too.
  • However, this month did beat the December average (previously 11.5, now 11.7), but wasn’t close to the monthly average for 2018, which is now finalised at 21.75.
  • Two Ingmar Bergman-related films this month: one he wrote, Torment, and one he directed, Music in Darkness. I got Criterion’s gorgeous box set for Christmas, which duplicates numerous titles from an old Tartan DVD box set I’ve owned for years, so before I get stuck into the Criterion set I’m watching the films that are unique to the Tartan set, with an eye to selling it. There are only three, though, so I’m 66.7% complete already.
  • This month’s Blindspot film: a 2013 film that only got a UK release a couple of months ago, when it was snuck out on digital-only with no fanfare. Not that that’s what held me back: I imported the US Blu-ray over four years ago. No, this is just my own inexplicable tardiness (again). Anyway, the film in question is Snowpiercer. Thankfully, it lived up to the wait and the hype.
  • And, with that, all 22 of this year’s Blindspot and WDYMYHS films are complete!



The 43rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Ooh, this is a toughie — not, as is sometimes the case, because I didn’t really love anything this month, but because there were at least three films I adored and are strong contenders for my forthcoming 2018 top ten. But on balance I’m going to plump for the dystopian sci-fi allegory of Snowpiercer.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Nothing I outright hated this month, so it’s a question of which was the most disappointing among things I at least liked. On that score, I think I have to go for Light the Fuse… Sartana is Coming, because it’s emblematic of how underwhelming I found that series on the whole.

Best “Christmas Carol” of the Month
I watched altogether too many different adaptation of A Christmas Carol this month, including a meta-ish one in The Man Who Invented Christmas, a Muppet-y one in The Muppet Christmas Carol, and a Shakespearean-studio-sitcom one in the Upstart Crow Christmas special. But I think my favourite was actually the most straightforward: a filmed version of Simon Callow’s one-man show, in which he just reads the story, basically. That’s to undersell it, though: he performs the story, and there’s some neat but not overdone direction to match. It was released in cinemas earlier in the month and screened on BBC Four over Christmas. if you missed it, it’s still on iPlayer here.

Best Spider-Man of the Month
Spider-Verse featured a surfeit of Spider-People to choose from, and while it may’ve been newbie Miles Morales’ film, with a key role for a worn-out Peter Parker, there’s definitely something to be said for Nicolas Cage as Spider-Man Noir. Part of me wants to see a whole spin-off film starring him; part of me thinks that would be a bit much. A decent-length short film would be welcome, though.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
Netflix’s Mowgli was building a comfortable lead for itself in this category, far ahead of second-placed Spider-Verse… and then Bandersnatch happened. The first “Netflix interactive film” generated a tonne of buzz on social media (it was the top trend on Twitter almost all day on its release), and I watched and reviewed it promptly. Those factors combined led to a surge of page views that saw it surpass Mowgli’s 21-day tally in under 24 hours. Of course, they’re both Netflix films, which almost always do well in these stats. And with a couple more days under its belt since then, Bandersnatch may have found itself among my most-viewed posts of the entire year, despite only being around for three days.



My evenly-spaced-throughout-the-year Rewatchathon schedule allows for four films most months, but for some reason it decided there needed to be five in December. There have to be two “five” months to get me to 50, but why did one have to be the very last month of the year?! (I mean, when you stop and think about it it’s kinda logical this would happen, but it did seem to put a burden on the final month of the task).

Anyway, I made it, so that’s jolly.

#46 The Princess Bride (1987)
#47 Scooby-Doo (2002)
#48 Death Becomes Her (1992)
#49 Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
#50 The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

I don’t really feel like doing a Guide To The Princess Bride anytime soon (my backlog’s too huge as it is), but I should someday — it’s a magnificent film that, with hindsight, deserved a place in my 100 Favourites.

It wasn’t a conscious choice to end with three 1992 films back-to-back, it’s just a bizarre coincidence. Indeed, I watched Home Alone 1 last Christmas and intended to get round to the sequel back then. Instead, it took me 371 days. Though, another coincidence: they were both Rewatchathon #49.

I wrote a little about Death Becomes Her and Scooby-Doo on Letterboxd, though to the latter I’d add my highly amusing observation about the lead cast being a bunch of “before they weren’t famous” faces.


Other sites and blogs may get their year-end stuff out in December (or, if you’re Empire magazine, Oc-frickin’-tober), but if you write a blog that covers everything you see in a whole year, you ain’t done ’til 11:59:59pm on 31st December.

So, as usual, January will begin by looking back over 2018, in a series of lists and whatnot that I’ll post over the rest of this week. And then I’ll start this shebang all over again, for my 13th year. Lucky for some…

A Christmas Carol (2009)

aka Disney’s A Christmas Carol

2016 #188
Robert Zemeckis | 88 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA / English | PG / PG

Disney's A Christmas Carol

You surely know the story of A Christmas Carol — if you don’t instantly, it’s the one with Scrooge and the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future — so what matters is which particular adaptation this is and if it’s any good.

Well, this is the one made by Robert Zemeckis back when he was obsessed with motion-captured computer animation, following the financial (though, I would argue, not artistic) success of The Polar Express and Beowulf. Fortunately A Christmas Carol seemed to kill off this diversion in his career (he’s since returned to making passably-received live-action films), because it’s the worst of that trilogy.

The theoretical star of the show is Jim Carrey, who leads as Scrooge — here performed as “Jim Carrey playing an old man” — but also portrays all the ghosts, meaning he’s the only actor on screen for much of the film. Except he’s never on screen at all, of course, because CGI. Elsewise, Gary Oldman is entirely lost within the CG of Bob Cratchit, as well as, bizarrely, playing his son, Tiny Tim. The less said about this the better. Colin Firth is also here, his character designed to actually look like him — which, frankly, is even worse. There are also small supporting roles for the likes of Bob Hoskins, Robin Wright Penn, Cary Elwes, and Lesley Manville, but no one emerges from this movie with any credit.

I ain't afraid of no ghosts... except this one

In the early days of motion-captured movies many critics were inordinately concerned with the “uncanny valley”, the effect whereby an animated human being looks almost real but there’s something undefinable that’s off about them. Robert Zemeckis attracted such criticism for The Polar Express, mainly focusing on the characters’ dead eyes. No such worries here, though: the animation looks far too cheap to come anywhere near bothering uncanny valley territory. There’s an array of ludicrously mismatched character designs, which put hyper-real humans alongside cartoonish ones, all of them with blank simplistically-textured features. Rather than a movie, it looks like one very long video game cutscene.

I don’t necessarily like getting distracted by technical merits of special effects over story, etc, but A Christmas Carol’s style — or lack thereof — is so damn distracting. Beside which, as I said at the start, this is a very familiar and oft-told tale, making the method of this particular telling all the more pertinent. At times it well conveys the free-flowing lunacy of a nightmare, at least, but who enjoys a nightmare?

2 out of 5

The Decadal Monthly Update for December 2016

Happy New Year, dear readers!

And with that, 100 Films’ 10th year is at an end.

Well, apart from the fact that I’ll spend the next few days going on about it, and the blog’s actual 10th birthday is in February, so I’ll go on about it some more then. But in terms of films that will be watched within that first decade, here are the last dozen…


#185a Come Together (2016)
#186 Wizardhood (2016)
#187 Rogue One (2016), aka Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
#188 Disney’s A Christmas Carol (2009)
#189 Partners in Crime… (2012), aka Associés contre le crime… “L’œuf d’Ambroise”
#190 Dragon (2011), aka Wu xia
#191 Our Kind of Traitor (2016)
#192 Mr. Nobody (2009)
#193 Howl’s Moving Castle (2004), aka Hauru no ugoku shiro
#194 The Tale of Zatoichi Continues (1962), aka Zoku Zatôichi monogatari
#195 The Last Dragonslayer (2016)
#195a Suicide Squad: Extended Cut (2016)
Rogue One

Dragon

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  • My final total for 2016: 195 new films. Slightly less than last year; way above every other year. (More on this kind of thing in the next few days.)
  • I watched exactly ten new feature films this month, making it the 31st consecutive month to reach double figures.
  • This year’s WDYMYHS / Blindspot list is rounded out by Miyazaki fantasy Howl’s Moving Castle. I’ve not even started thinking about 2017’s list yet…
  • The Jim Carrey Christmas Carol was my only Christmassy film all season — and I thought it was crap. Poor Christmas. (I guess Scrooge and It’s a Wonderful Life are going to sit on my TiVo for the next 11 months…)
  • I finally watched the second Zatoichi movie, only 38 months after the first. Hopefully this will be the start of more regular viewing, because even if I watched the rest of them at a rate of one per month it would take until the start of 2019 to finish.
  • I ended the year with the extended cut of Suicide Squad. I watched the theatrical in November but didn’t get round to reviewing it, so I guess I’ll do them both at once now.



The 19th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
It had its problems, and whether it’s better or less-good than The Force Awakens is still something that’s percolating in my mind, but the film I most enjoyed this month was definitely Rogue One.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
While the French take on Agatha Christie’s Tommy and Tuppence in Partners in Crime was certainly (shall we say) off-book, I didn’t think it was a crushing disaster like Disney’s A Christmas Carol. What most amazes me about that is the number of positive reviews online, especially those that praise the animation — I thought it looked cheap and terrible. Maybe it’s just aged badly.

Most Unrealistic CGI Human Beings of the Month
Say what you will about Tarkin, it’s bloody good CGI. On the other hand, thank goodness Robert Zemeckis has returned to live-action films — after The Polar Express, Beowulf, and A Christmas Carol, I’ve had enough of his not-real-enough-to-be-in-the-uncanny-valley motion-captured ‘humans’.

Best Donnie Yen of the Month
Between being one with the Force in Rogue One and chopping off an arm to fight the original one-armed swordsman in Dragon, Donnie Yen is the best Donnie Yen in this and every other month.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It looked like a certain Star Wars story was going to easily bag this award, until a pair of unexpected last-minute sweeps knocked it down to third. First its place was taken by a martial arts bear’s threequel, but that too was leapfrogged — within just a single day as well — by my review of Sky1’s The Last Dragonslayer.



The final selection from my favourites includes superheroes, comic book adaptations, and superhero comic book adaptations. Plus cartoons come to life and a moody literature adaptation.


Oh, forget January — I’ve got a bunch of 2016 stuff to post yet! There’s the full list of my 2016 viewing, my bottom five, my top ten (or so), the major new films I missed, the 36 reviews I haven’t gotten round to… and, of course, the highlight of the entire year: the statistics.

Good times.