RIP Bill Cunningham

I don’t do this kind of post often/ever — as we all know, I’d’ve had a very busy year of it if I did — but the death of Bill Cunningham, New York fashion photographer, is less likely to be mentioned in the film world.

That’s with the notable exception of the documentary Bill Cunningham New York, which I reviewed in 2012 and included in my top ten for that year, too. It’s a film about one man, not only in name but in attitude — it’s a portrait more than a narrative, and the skill of the filmmaker lies in the fact you don’t notice the filmmaker’s skill.

Bill was 87 years old — “a good innings”, as we say, and consequently not the most tragic newsworthy death to have happened in this year of perpetual bitterness. Nonetheless, as I wrote in my review, Bill seemed “a fascinating, unusual, but likeable, and certainly unique, individual”. That’s why the film is so interesting, and why his loss is particularly sad.

For much of his photographic career he contributed columns to the New York Times, and so it seems most fitting to link to their obituary. As they write, he was less a mere ‘fashion photographer’ and more “an unlikely cultural anthropologist, one who used the changing dress habits of the people he photographed to chart the broader shift away from formality and toward something more diffuse and individualistic.”

If you’ve not seen the documentary, keep an eye out for it.

Alan Rickman, 1946—2016

I rarely break from reviewing on this blog, but I think I can afford such a courtesy to Alan Rickman.

In part this is because, after I heard the news, I realised he’s been a constant presence throughout my film-loving life. I adored Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves as a kid, when the American accents didn’t matter and it was a glossy big-budget extravaganza. I watched it a few years ago, and it no longer looks glossy, big budget, or particularly extravaganza-y, but Alan Rickman shines as arguably the best Sheriff of Nottingham ever to grace the screen.

Then there’s the role that has obviously defined him for a generation: Professor Severus Snape in the Harry Potter series. I’m sure casting the Potter films must’ve been a tricky business, but Rickman as Snape was one of those choices where you just think, “well, obviously.” A pretty one-dimensional character to begin with (The Mean Teacher), Snape has a significant and complicated role as the series goes on, and is probably the most nuanced character in it by the end. Having an actor of Rickman’s ability involved was obviously beneficial.

And as I got older still, there was Die Hard. His film debut at age 42, and the film that will always define him for many, but (again) it’s a magnificent performance, a definitive villain. Pretty much every action-thriller villain for the next, what, decade? more? is really a rip-off of Hans Gruber, however all portrayed by whichever British actor was currently available.

Those are just three keystones in a sea (mixed metaphor much) of fantastic movies and excellent performances that have been scattered throughout my viewing life: the Spock-ish thespian in Galaxy Quest; the punk-y angel in Dogma; the voice of Marvin the Paranoid Android in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy film (another spot of perfect casting); the adulterous(?) husband in one of Love Actually’s strongest yet most divisive stories. Several of these films are to come on my 100 Favourites; several more were in contention; and, in every case, a significant reason for their presence was Alan Rickman’s performance.

And if you ever forget that life isn’t fair, remember this:

So we've lost 69-year-olds Bowie, Lemmy (ok 70-year-old) and now Alan Rickman – but Donald Trump is still with us.

The Hyperbolic Monthly Update for September 2015

September 2015 has passed targets, smashed records, and wound up as the biggest month of 100 Films in a Year ever!

…maybe.

All will become clear…


When I started this year’s WDYMYHS theme, I was worried I would quickly watch the six “populist” films (due to them being accessible and easy viewing), and be left with all six “critical” films to squeeze in (due to them being Worthy and Arty and stuff). Things have panned out quite differently, however: after this month’s viewing, I’ve accounted for all but one of the “critical” films, while four of the “populist” ones remain. They’re mostly the Worthier end of populist though, so go figure.

Anyway, this month’s film was one that’s sometimes cited as being among the greatest ever made. I confess I wasn’t so enamoured with it, though it had its moments. It was Jean Vigo’s only full-length feature, L’Atalante.


North West Frontier#119 Go (1999)
#120 Murder by Death (1976)
#121 One-Eyed Monster (2008)
#122 The Swimmer (1968)
#123 They Live (1988)
#124 The Dark Crystal (1982)
#125 Mad Max Beyond Thunderdome (1985)
Ed Wood#126 North West Frontier (1959), aka Flame Over India
#127 The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 1 (2014)
#128 Superbad (2007)
#129 What Dreams May Come (1998)
#130 Avengers: Age of Ultron (2015)
#131 American Sniper (2014)
#132 Willow (1988)
#133 The Informant! (2009)
Filmed in Supermarionation#134 Ed Wood (1994)
#135 Filmed in Supermarionation (2014)
#136 Foxcatcher (2014)
#137 Boyz n the Hood (1991)
#138 L’Atalante (1934)
#139 Spooks: The Greater Good (2015)
#140 Terror by Night (1946)
#141 The Falling (2014)


  • Most months I watch a selection of films from the 2010s, topped up with a couple of films from the 2000s, and maybe an earlier decade getting a look in or two. That’s not a conscious choice, just how things usually pan out. September has gone quite differently, though: this month I watched films from the ’30s, ’40s, ’50s, ’60s, ’70s, ’80s, ’90s, and 2000s, as well as the 2010s (of course). Ooh, get me, right? But it’s notable for this reason if no other: that’s a better temporal spread in one month than I’ve managed in some entire years!
  • For what it’s worth, the 2010s still took the biggest share, with seven films — though in this particular month, that’s only 30.4%. Although they’re all Blu-ray or streaming views, five of them were only released to UK cinemas earlier this year… though two of those five were also big awards contenders from last year, so, you know, swings and roundabouts.
  • I’ve started so I’ll finish: to summarise the other decades, there were four apiece from the ’80s and ’90s (17.4% each), three from the 2000s (13%), and then one each for the rest.
  • #140, Terror by Night, is the penultimate Basil Rathbone/Nigel Bruce Sherlock Holmes movie. I’ve been slowly making my way through that series for most of this blog’s lifetime, and may now finish it this year. Maybe.


Even before we get into the regular “how does this compare to previous Septembers” and “what does this mean for the rest of the year” type stuff, there’s a lot to say about this month — multiple milestones have been passed.

So to tackle that claim from the introduction: last month, I’d’ve told you that December 2008 was my “best month ever” with 19 films. Now I’d tell you it’s my third best. What dark magic is this?! Well, with 23 films watched this month, September 2015 beats it and then some. However, I finally got round to going back through 2007, when I recorded such things in weeks / clumps of weeks (rather than monthly), as anyone who followed this month’s reposts will have seen, and tried to estimate what each month’s viewing was. That’s why September 2015 may be the highest month ever, because I can only say with certainty that in August 2007 I watched somewhere between 21 and 29 films. My best guess is (coincidentally) exactly the mid-point of that range, 25, which leaves September 2015 in second place. Either way, it’s undoubtedly my most film-filled month for almost eight years.

Such a strong month coming at this point also helps 2015 pass all kinds of yearly markers, too. So at #123 it became my blog’s third most successful year; at #130 it slipped into second place; and at #137 it took the crown of my blog’s most proliferative year. (That’s a good word, isn’t it? Thank you thesaurus.) Plus, at #136 it became my highest overall-totalling year — that’s also counting the alternate cuts, shorts, and the like — with a grand tally of 142; as of month’s end, it’s up to 147. With three months remaining, in which I should watch a minimum of 30 films (for this year’s ten-per-month target), 2015 will be well established as my largest year.

I suppose it now goes without saying that all the regular monthly and yearly goals and records were achieved or surpassed, too: it’s the 16th month in a row with 10+ new films; it single-handedly raised the September average from 9.71 to 11.38; it passed the 2015 monthly average of 14.75 (now 15.67 — the first time it’s been over 15 this year, and certainly the first time it’s been nearer 16… excepting January, that is, which by itself was 16); and it’s the 11th month in a row to beat its equivalent from last year.

I do like statistics.

Looking ahead, then, there are no more records left to topple (well, unless I have another exceptionally large month — you never know), only new ground to tread. The aforementioned “at least 30 more films” finds the year ending with #171; if I can continue besting the same months last year, it’ll make #183; if I slip back to the previous 2015 monthly average I’ll make it to #185, though if I can maintain that freshly-established one it takes me all the way up to #188.

188! That’s exactly double what I managed in my worst-ever year (2009). Insane.



The 4th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
A tough call this month, but the joyous and information-packed Filmed in Supermarionation is pipped by the lovely surprise of unexpectedly discovering a marvellous Boy’s Own adventure in North West Frontier.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
I wasn’t sure what I’d make of L’Atalante, so wasn’t too saddened when I didn’t care for it all that much. However, I was quite disappointed by how much I didn’t enjoy cult favourite The Dark Crystal.

Film Where They Most Obviously Started with a Title and Went From There
One-Eyed Monster.

Award For Taking an Accidental Trope and Doing Something Ridiculous With It
“All our films end with huge flying things crashing into cities, but what if the huge flying thing was a city?!” Ah, Avengers: Age of Ultron, you were certainly… different.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It’s Keanu Reeves again, though this time without the aid of a retweet. I guess that’s the sheer popularity of the film in question: John Wick.


I’ve made a poor fist of reading others’ blogs this month, I’m afraid (clearly it’s all that time spent watching so many more films), but here’s a couple (literally) of things nonetheless:

Invictus (2009) @ Films on the Box
We’re still halfway through the Rugby World Cup, so there’s still much relevance in Mike’s praise for Clint Eastwood’s somewhat-overlooked true story drama about Nelson Mandela and the South African team’s success when their nation hosted the 1995 competition.

Top That: Five of My Favorite Directors @ Digital Shortbread
I feel like, recently, I keep reading about how Ron Howard is an average, journeyman kind of director, so it’s interesting to come across a short list of favourite directors that includes him — which Tom’s selection does, of course. For the other four worthy picks, take a look. (I really must come up with a list of my favourite directors someday…)


Not so many new reviews as I’d like this month (clearly it’s all that time spent… yeah, you know the story now).


This month’s repostathon updates can be split into two sections. First, the final editorials:

With those complete, it was time for an entire week-by-week recap of Year 1, aka 2007:

Next month, daily double bills will see us race through all of 2008, 2009, and half of 2010 in just one week, before slowing down slightly to cover the rest of 2010 and all of 2011. Exciting times.


In Memoriam

At the risk of making this a semi-regular feature, this month we had to quite suddenly bid farewell to my partner’s mother’s dog, Lupa. She was an Irish Wolfhound, a giant breed with an average life expectancy of seven years. Sadly, Lupa was just four — what initially seemed to be some kind of sprained ankle turned out to be aggressive bone cancer and, a little over a week later, she passed away.


Rory and Lupa.

Getting an Irish Wolfhound fulfilled a lifelong ambition, so Lupa was a little bit indulged. When she was younger she was boisterous, especially when it came to saying hello with the whack of a paw — we all endured some scratches and bruises to attest to that — but she was sweet-natured (the whacks were friendlily meant) and matured into a dopey softie. Once she realised Rory was old and doddery, she was always very careful around him. I know some people think dog owners confer too much intelligence on their pets, but as she played riotously with other little dogs (including our Poppy) she certainly knew the difference. She will be sorely missed.

Finally: I jest about this becoming a regular feature, but their other dog, Millie, is 15 and looking every day of it, so 2015 may not be done with us yet.


…will almost certainly not be as good as this month. Let’s just expect that now, then we won’t be disappointed.

The Centennial Monthly Update for July 2015

It’s a month of mixed emotions here at 100 Films, not least thanks to it being the earliest I’ve ever made it to #100.

But before even that, this month’s menu:


What Do You Mean You Haven't Seen…?

This month I was, happily, faced with the choice about what should be 2015’s #100. Fundamentally this doesn’t matter, of course — it’s just another thing watched, which just so happens to be the 100th new thing I’ve watched since a point in time we have decided marks the beginning of a new time-cycle (…just to suck all the romance out of it, there). Given the aim and title of this blog, however, of course #100 takes on significance. In a last-week-of-December scramble-to-the-finish situation, which film is #100 doesn’t matter so much as the very existence of a #100 does; in the more leisurely situation of reaching that point in July, however, there’s time to reflect and consider what film will join the likes of Citizen Kane, The Hurt Locker and Lawrence of Arabia in the 100 Films #100 Club. And I mention this in the WDYMYHS section, rather than Viewing Notes or Analysis or something, because the natural choice for such an accolade seemed to be a WDYMYHS film. So from the list of what was left, I selected the movie I felt most likely (based on its reputation and so on and so forth) to chime with my own tastes — the movie I most felt ‘should’ wind up being a personal favourite.

But first — I’m behind on WDYMYHS, so have been intending to watch multiple selections within a month for a while now, and this month I finally managed it. So before the glory of #100, another WDYMYHS graced my list at #97: John Carpenter’s The Thing. I thought there was a lot to like, but I didn’t love it.

Then on to #100 — the movie I felt most likely to love, that I should find a personal favourite. I have to say, it’s the kind of film I started WDYMYHS for — the very point of the exercise is to make me watch films like this; ones I’ve been meaning to for years, have been led to believe that I will love, but for whatever reason haven’t had a pressing enough reason to get round to. So that’s what led to Terry Gilliam’s Brazil being 2015’s #100. Thank goodness, it lived up to the hype. Naturally I watched the “final cut” he created for Criterion (is any other version readily available these days? Apart from the “avoid except for academic interest” “Love Conquers All” version Criterion bundle in, that is), which I might think is a little on the long side, but, well, I still greatly enjoyed it.

Anyway, that’s 100 done. Hurrah! And with that said, of course July wasn’t just about those two films…


July's viewing
Scanners
#91 Returning to Jedi (2007)
#92 Necessary Evil: Super-Villains of DC Comics (2013)
#93 Scanners (1981)
#94 Song of the Sea (2014)
#95 The Death of “Superman Lives”: What Happened? (2015)
#96 The Voices (2014)
Brazil#96a X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut (2014/2015)
#97 The Thing (1982)
#98 Lilo & Stitch (2002)
#99 TMNT (2007)
#100 Brazil (1985)
#101 Salvation Boulevard (2011)
#102 RED 2 (2013)


Viewing Notes

  • I backed The Death of “Superman Lives” documentary on Kickstarter a couple of years ago now and have been patiently waiting for it to turn up ever since, so it was kinda weird when half the internet (not to mention Proper Film Magazines ‘n’ that) was talking about it a few weeks ago. At some point I’ll post a proper review, but if you’re interested in its topic then it’s definitely worth a look.
  • Utterly meaningless, but it’s also the first film I’ve watched this year that’s title begins with ‘D’. Odd for such a common letter. (The only other unrepresented letters at this point are Q, U, Y and Z. And X, technically, as Days of Future Past isn’t on the main list.)


Analysis

July 2015 was a month of mixed results. On the one hand, watching 12 new films ticks a number of boxes: it smashes July’s low average (previously 5.86, now 6.63); as that might indicate, it’s also the highest July ever; it continues my at-least-10-per-month-all-year goal; and it’s the ninth month in a row to show an increase year-on-year.

On the other hand, it’s the lowest-tallying month of 2015 so far, and only the second month to fall short of the yearly average (which still rounds up to 15). That said, not included is that I spent time this month re-watching the Lord of the Rings trilogy, in its extended form to boot. Add that to The Rogue Cut and you get 16 films for the month — much more normal (well, normal for 2015). So, y’know, swings and roundabouts.

And, as mentioned, I made it to #100 — that excuses plenty in my book. It’s the earliest I’ve ever reached it, the previous best being September 9th. That was all the way back in my first year, 2007, making it perhaps the only record 2014 didn’t claim. This year has been rather good by my standards, so it’s one I don’t foresee breaking again. I mean, if I had five consecutive best-ever months (i.e. better than I’ve ever done, x5) then I could squeeze it in by the end of May. Well, you never know.

Over in prediction corner, if I can keep up my ten-minimum for another five months, as desired, 2015 will end no lower than #152. Remember, my previous best is 136, so that alone would leave me feeling pretty darn chuffed. Bolder estimates: my pace so far has me reaching #175; if I could consistently reclaim the 2015 mode average (which is 15), I’d hit #177; if I can manage to continue the year-on-year monthly increases (an increasingly tough task, as the end of 2014 was so strong), I get as far as #178. A finish anywhere northwards of #170 is a 25% improvement on my previous best, so that’d be more than grand.


The Arbies
The 2nd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
A few films this month were good but didn’t quite live up to my expectations, which makes this feel like a pretty clear choice: it’s Brazil again.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
It’s taken me eight years to get round to it, so I clearly can’t’ve been that fussed, but I really wanted to enjoy TMNT. I didn’t not enjoy it, per se, but it wasn’t all I wanted it to be either.

Best Portrayal of a Dog, Cat, Deer, Fish and Bunny Monkey
Ryan Reynolds, your superhero sins are forgiven. (Also, the Comic-Con Deadpool trailer looked great, so that too.)

Most Evil Alien
The Thing from The Thing, or Stitch from Lilo & Stitch? Stitch from Lilo & Stitch, or the Thing from The Thing? Oh, it’s a tough call! Ok, Stitch does redeem himself (itself?), so I guess the Thing edges it.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
This award goes to another award — my Liebster Award! Maybe y’all want to know about me more than I thought you did.


Reviews


Archive Reviews


In Memoriam

Just a couple of weeks ago, I commented here on the enduringness of our elderly dog, Rory. Sadly, not very long after that post, his long-standing health problems meant it was time for us to choose to say goodbye.

I know non-pet-owners often don’t ‘get it’ when a beloved pet passes away — I grew up in a very non-pet-y home, so I’ve been that person in the past. However, it’s a terrible wrench, even when it’s been inevitable for a while and you know you made the right decision.

Rory was a rescue, found as a stray, with enough health issues that we’ve been taking him to the vet essentially non-stop since we got him. He certainly went through the ringer even with us, starting with a dreadful skin condition, which eventually cleared up entirely after years of uniquely-formulated treatment. He lost the tip of one ear in an assault by another dog, and had his neck punctured in another (both encounters entirely unprovoked!) Then there was the more regular old-age ailment of arthritis; and, two-and-a-half years ago, he slipped a disc and his gall bladder packed up at the same time, leading to a tense Christmas/New Year spent at a specialist vet hospital (and to me not making it to 100 films in 2012).

Experienced owners in the family said they’d never seen a dog be so ill and pull back, but pull back he did, and for another couple of years to boot. He’d been judged too old and fragile to endure a back operation, so he lived with that slipped disc for those years, on pain killers of course, but he kept on. He was a little fighter, right to the end. In his last week, his spine problems finally reached a point where he could only stand for short periods intermittently, even for his beloved food, and that really meant it was time.

We’ll never know what happened to Rory in the years before he knew us, but — in spite of his catalogue of woes — we gave him six years, one month and one day of loving happiness. I don’t believe in an afterlife, but if there is one, I do believe dogs are far more deserving of it than any of us humans. I’m sure Rory would enjoy being able to run free again, in between eating copious amounts of bacon and sausage. It breaks my heart that I’ll never see him again, but at least he’s at peace and out of pain.

(“From around the blogosphere”, the list of 5, and so on, will all return next month.)


Next month…

With the thrill of #100 passed, there’s a whole new level of excitement…

#1000 is coming.

The countdown begins imminently, as 2015’s #103 (i.e. the very next new film that I watch) will be the blog’s #991.

Expect banners, people.