2015 In Retrospect

2015 was, as I’m sure you’ve gathered, the largest ever year of 100 Films — or 200 Films in a Year, as it’s currently known. For 2015 only, I think, because I have no intention of trying to replicate that feat next year (see here for more on that topic).

How better to finally wrap up a year than with a look at the best and worst, right? As always, my picks are not culled from films freshly released in 2015, but from this list of my personal viewing. (For what it’s worth, that list includes 22 releases from 2015, as well as 37 from 2014, some of which others would count as 2015 titles… and some of them have indeed made my best-of list.)

You can also vote for your favourites from my pick, and find out which 50 most noteworthy new films I didn’t see. There might be a few surprise along the way, too.

So without further ado…



The Five Worst Films I Saw For the First Time in 2015

In alphabetical order…

Avengers Confidential: Black Widow & Punisher
Marvel may dominate the live-action superhero arena right now, but DC has the edge in animation — and work like this is going to do nothing to change that. An uninteresting story that’s blandly told in every regard, this is a total waste of time.

Blitz
There are a lot of very, very good actors in this Jason Statham vehicle, but it’s a terrible film that’s even below standard for the star, let alone his supporting cast. So bad it feels like a spoof, there is no good reason for anyone to watch this movie.

Jack the Giant Slayer
X-Men’s Bryan Singer is the latest filmmaker to take a fairytale and give it the Lord of the Rings treatment. That formula doesn’t work here, unfortunately. The result is a flat, cheap-looking, overlong bore. Another waste of good talent.

Parabellum
Alfred Hitchcock once said that “movies are real life with the boring parts cut out.” I guess this isn’t a movie, then, because it’s not real life and it’s boring as can be. My least enjoyable viewing experience this year.

Runner Runner
Again, talented stars (Ben Affleck, Gemma Arterton) slum it in a poorly-constructed thriller with no thrills. That it’s from the director of The Lincoln Lawyer, an excellent thriller that made my top ten a couple of years ago, only makes matters worse.



The Ten 20 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2015

Given the extraordinary personal achievement in my viewing this year — doubling my titular goal — I’ve decided to also double my year-end top ten. It seemed appropriate.

Obviously I haven’t done such a percentage-related increase (or reduction) of my list before now, but then no previous year has seen quite so remarkable a change in my viewing total. In other (smaller) years, these additional films may well have made the cut, so this is a way of giving them their due. (Besides which, my list is numbered, so you can ignore #20 to #11 if you want.)

Final point: although this list isn’t limited to 2015 releases, there are six included, so I’ve noted their ‘2015 rank’ too.

2015 #6 After all the behind-the-scenes kerfuffle, Ant-Man probably had the lowest audience expectations for any Marvel Studios movie since Iron Man. Perhaps that’s what allowed it to become the mostly purely entertaining Marvel movie since Iron Man, too.

The Mission series here reconfigures itself as the modern equivalent to classic Bond, washing down espionage thrills with gadgets and humour. The result is fantastically enjoyable, and only so low on this list because of a certain other film a bit higher up…

John Cusack and Minnie Driver have never been more likeable as a guy and the prom date he jilted, brought back together by their high school reunion. Oh, and he’s now a hitman, in town on a job. Consitently funny, this is first-rate action-comedy entertainment.

An idiosyncratic crime drama from writer-director Jim Jarmusch, Ghost Dog stands alongside the otherwise-peerless Léon as a hitman movie that may not deliver enough action thrills for some, but is seeped in distinctive qualities of its own.

Martin Scorsese’s best-regarded works may hew towards the mainstream-intellectual, but here he sets his sights on genre material — specifically, a psychological mystery thriller — and produces a corker. Heavily Gothic in tone, it’s the first of several such films on this list.

A British-made India-set ‘Western’, this beautifully shot Boy’s Own adventure is rollicking old-fashioned entertainment from start to finish. It’s buoyed further by a cast of top-drawer British character actors, topped off with Kenneth More and Lauren Bacall. Magnificent.

One of the most acclaimed films of all time — if we’re talking “the history of cinema”, it’s certainly more important than anything else on this list. Almost 90 years old, it remains surprisingly accessible to modern eyes. An exceptionally affecting experience.

2015 #5 In a year overloaded with spy thrillers, this Bond pastiche stood out by, a) getting in early (it was released last January in the UK), and b) being a helluva lot of fun. Thematically questionable it may be, but the filmmaking verve is a joy to behold.

2015 #4 2015’s highest grossing film, this sequel/reboot of the beloved franchise has proved somewhat divisive. It certainly has flaws in characters and plot, but director Colin Trevorrow has bottled genuine Spielbergian awe and wonder, and that counts for a lot.

If this were only a top ten, I’d’ve slipped this in higher up, as much to recommend it as anything. In many respects it’s a familiar mismatched-people-fall-in-love rom-com (hence why its position dropped), but the uncommon melancholic tone makes it feel unique.

I’d wager it’s impossible to describe a Wes Anderson film without recourse to words like “quirky” and “unique”, both wholly apt epithets for The Grand Budapest Hotel, naturally. Others include hilarious, clever, inventive, controlled, and delightful. The last may be the most appropriate of all: this is a film full of delights, from the performances, to the dialogue, to the locations, to the design, to the camerawork. Anderson is the kind of filmmaker who has a cult following, which can sometimes be a bad omen. Based on this evidence, his fandom might just have the right idea.

2015 #3 There has been an awakening — have you felt it? Well, of course you have. Everyone outside of China has. Half of them twice. The J.J. Abrams-led return to a galaxy far, far away may have received a mixed reception, due to it essentially being the cinematic equivalent of a greatest-hits cover album, dealing in nostalgia more than it does originality… but it’s clearly been made by fans with an eye to crafting something that’s both enjoyable and recognisably Star Wars-y — two balls the prequel trilogy less dropped, more hurled to the ground. It’s a thrilling adventure with likeable new characters and, in my opinion, interesting new villains. There’s scope for the makers of Episodes VIII and IX to produce something even better off the back of this, and that’s exciting.

Terry Gilliam’s 1984 for 1985 is set in a dystopian Britain almost as bad as our current one, where mindless, faceless bureaucracy rules the day. It’s the kind of film where a typo can lead to a man’s death; where Jonathan Pryce fantasises about being a sword-wielding angel fighting a giant silver samurai; and where Robert De Niro turns up as a terrorist plumber. You know, if Wes Anderson is “quirky” and “unique”, I don’t think we’ve yet invented words to describe Terry Gilliam…

I promised you more Gothic and here it is. Director Chan-wook Park places 7th on my top ten for the second year in a row with this dark psychological thriller about a reclusive teenage girl who meets her uncle for the first time when he comes to stay following her father’s death. He’s charming, but mysterious — what are the secrets that everyone seems to know but her? Dripping with style and atmosphere, Stoker is a feast for the eyes and ears; a beguiling, sensuous, classically Gothic thriller.

2015 #2 Director George Miller returns to the Mad Max series after a 30-year hiatus for the stand-out action movie of… well, “the year” seems to undersell it. Once upon a time he was bold enough to make a chase the entire third act of a film; now, the chase is the entire movie. This is action filmmaking elevated to a genuine art form — literally, if the award season buzz is anything to go by. While the done-for-real stunts are busy boggling your mind, there slips by a story that’s surprisingly rich in theme and character. It gives added weight to a type of storytelling that could only be achieved on film — there’s a reason Miller started with a storyboard and only bothered to write a screenplay when the studio insisted.

A third dose of Gothic now, this time with a heavier dose of the “horror” element that’s so often attached to the term. Gemma Arterton and Saoirse Ronan are mother-and-daughter vampires on the run, hiding out in a seedy seaside town, where Ronan tries to lead some kind of normal life as a perma-teen while her mother’s busy doing what she’s always done: whoring. These vampires aren’t glamorous or sparkly, but damaged and discarded. Byzantium is not a very popular film, but its tarnished charms and fatalistic stylings, powered by two strong central performances and atmospheric direction, made me love it.

Selecting these 20 films was tough, then putting them in order was just as hard, but one thing was a lock from the start: these are my top four films I saw in 2015. The only question was the order they went in, which on another day may have been completely different — any one of them could’ve been #1. This little-seen documentary (Channel 4 premiered it in the middle of the night a few months ago, although it’s available on YouTube) takes us to a small, poor town in India where the locals make their own movies, and they’re a roaring success. It’s an inspirational film about living your dreams even when the world won’t let you, though undercurrents of reality stop it from becoming too tweely self-congratulatory. I’m not overstating it when I say I believe this is an absolute must-see for any lover of film, and probably a good many people besides.

I feel like I’m being in some way Awkward with many of this year’s choices, because there’s a notable strand of films that aren’t particularly well regarded by viewers en masse (see: #11, #7, #5, now #3). Well, I’m not being awkward, dear reader: I loved all of them, and I loved this one most of all. Like several of those others, it crafts a unique mood with lashings of style, in this case inspired by ’80s movies and music. Dan Stevens is a mysterious ex-soldier who enters a family’s life and brings a load of trouble in his wake, but is he (anti-)hero or villain? Even by the end, you might not be sure. Witty, exciting, stylish, idiosyncratic, this is one guest I want to stay forever. (Sorry — it seems I can’t end any piece about this film without a terrible pun.)

34 years before Fury Road, there was The Road Warrior. A post-apocalyptic Australian Western, it sees Mel Gibson’s titular drifter drafted into defending an oil-rich community from a violent gang of fetish-attired marauders. While the film has much to offer throughout, the real joy is the third act: a balls-to-the-wall multi-vehicle chase, as Max and co attempt to escape in a heavily-armoured oil tanker and the gang give chase in a fleet of vehicles. Maybe it’s not as slick or extravagant as Fury Road, but it was done without a lick of CGI (for all Fury Road’s “done for real” claims, there’s an awful lot of computer work across that movie) and that added tangibility gives it the edge for me. Not to mention that it did it first — without Mad Max 2, we wouldn’t even have Fury Road.

2015 #1 Not as life-affirming as Supermen of Malegaon. Not as stylish as The Guest. Not as groundbreaking as Mad Max 2. Certainly not as ‘significant’ as a host of films further down this list. But from the moment the familiar beats of the famous theme tune begin to pulse over the company idents at the top of the movie, Rogue Nation engages you in a perfectly-crafted entertainment. It delivers sequence after sequence of finely-tuned action-thriller excitement, both from Tom Cruise’s crazy stuntwork and writer-director Christopher McQuarrie’s Hitchcockian control of espionage scenes. The plot may only be solid rather than any great shakes, but it’s supported by likeable heroes, a menacing villain, and well-pitched humour. It’s all topped off with Rebecca Ferguson, who could hold her own in a stand-off with Daisy Ridley and Charlize Theron for 2015’s most kick-ass heroine. Mission perfected.


As ever, I welcome your opinion on my top ten — not just in the comments section, but also in the form of a lovely poll. Multiple selections are allowed, so feel free to pick several favourites.

And if you feel I’ve made an unforgivable omission, I welcome your scathing criticisms in the comments.


Despite doubling the size of my selection, this was still a really, really tough year for picking favourites. Competition was harder than ever, not just because I watched 200 films (47% more than even my next biggest year) but because I made a conscious effort to watch fewer time-killers and more things I’d really been intending to see. As a result, films that I enjoyed immensely or admired intensely fell by the wayside, leaving several big guns to duke it out for the limited slots.

As if doubling my top ten wasn’t enough, the tightly-fought race got stuck for a while at 30 titles. The closest to making it in was my 1,000th film, Mark Cousin’s epic 15-hour documentary The Story of Film: An Odyssey (so epic that my review draft is still in the form of 4,300 words of notes). It hurt to leave it out, but something had to go. The remainder of those 30 (which I guess would be #22 to #30, then) were, in alphabetical order, The Babadook, Gone Girl, High Noon, Looper, Paddington, Scanners, Spectre, Stranger by the Lake, and Wings. In most other years, any of those could’ve found themselves comfortably in my top ten.

I can’t end this without mentioning the 38 films that earned themselves 5-star ratings this year. 17 of them made it into the top 20 — I won’t list those again, so you can go find the three four-star imposters for yourself (clue: they’re right at the end… or start, in the order I’ve written it). The remaining 21 five-starers were Argo, The Babadook, Boyhood, Boyz n the Hood, Dreams of a Life, Filmed in Supermarionation, Fury, The General, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, Gone Girl, High Noon, Interstellar, Looper, The Philadelphia Story, sex, lies, and videotape, Shallow Grave, The Story of Film: An Odyssey, Stranger by the Lake, Whiplash, Wings, and The Wrestler. Reading through those again, there are several I feel should’ve been in my top 30… or 20… but what would I take out in their place? This year’s been too good, clearly.

Finally, on the same topic, there was one five-starer from each of my additional kinds of reviews (I love it when that happens — so neat). They were: non-list review 2001: A Space Odyssey, extended cut X-Men: Days of Future Past – The Rogue Cut, and short Feast.


Naturally, there were a considerable number of notable releases this year that I’ve yet to see. In my annual tradition, here’s an alphabetical list of 50 films — chosen for a variety of reasons, from box office success to critical acclaim via simple notoriety — that were released in 2015 and that I’ve not seen.

As is so often the case, it’s a funny old mix, because there were some films that seemed too ‘significant’ to leave out. This is why, despite recording my progress with these in my statistics every year, I’ll never, ever see 100% of them. For a current example, Minions is the 5th highest grossing film of 2015, so on the list it goes; but I didn’t really like Despicable Me and haven’t watched Despicable Me 2, so what are the chances I’ll ever decide to spend some of my time on Minions? Pretty darn slim, I reckon.

Anyway, the 50 I’ve chosen to highlight — some of which I do very much want to see — are…

Amy
Beasts of No Nation
The Big Short
Black Mass
Blackhat
Bridge of Spies
Brooklyn
Carol
Chappie
Cinderella
Creed
Crimson Peak
The Danish Girl
Everest
Ex Machina
Fantastic Four
Fifty Shades of Grey
Furious 7
The Good Dinosaur
The Hateful Eight
Home
Hotel Transylvania 2
The Hunger Games: Mockingjay – Part 2
In the Heart of the Sea
It Follows
Joy
Legend
Macbeth
The Man from U.N.C.L.E.
The Martian
Me and Earl and the Dying Girl
Minions
Pan
Pixels
The Revenant
Room
San Andreas
The Second Best Exotic Marigold Hotel
Sicario
Snoopy and Charlie Brown…
Spotlight
Spy
Steve Jobs
Straight Outta Compton
Suffragette
Taken 3
Ted 2
Testament of Youth
The Visit
The Walk


And so, after all that verbosity, the largest ever year of 100 Films comes to an end.

Apart from the 21 reviews I still have to post, of course. (In that respect, 2014 isn’t even finished yet.) But no matter, it will be done.

For now, all that remains is for me to thank you for reading, to wish you all the best with your own film-watching endeavours (having spent several days shut away in my own world of statistics and lists, I’ve a few people’s posts to catch up on!), and to say “see you soon” for 2016 — the 10th year of 100 Films! I have some stuff planned…

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)

2015 #118
Lorene Scafaria | 91 mins | TV | 2.35:1 | USA, Singapore, Malaysia & Indonesia / English | 15 / R

This melancholic apocalyptic comedy wasn’t too well received, which is a shame because I thought it was absolutely brilliant.

As an asteroid heads inevitably towards Earth, Steve Carell decides to go on a road trip to reconnect with his high school sweetheart. Neighbour Keira Knightley tags along. Quirky things happen; they bond; as the end of the world nears, they rethink their lives.

Carell gives a very good performance, trading in the kind of understatement that makes him a much more interesting actor than his stock-in-trade outrageous comedies continue to imply. I guess Knightley is playing a Manic Pixie Dream Girl, at least to an extent, but I thought she was a plausible character nonetheless. There are certainly more egregious examples of the trope. It’s another strong performance, anyway, containing a lot more truth than your average MPDG.

Also, there’s a really, really cute lickle doggie.

The thing both leads nail, as does writer-director Lorene Scafaria, and what made the film so good for me, is an overwhelming sense of melancholy. It’s a hard feeling for films to evoke, I think — more complex than happiness or sadness, or excitement, or even fear. It comes to a head in an ending that actually brought a tear to my eye, a rare enough feat that it cemented a five-star rating.

5 out of 5

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World placed 11th on my list of The 20 Best Films I Saw For the First Time in 2015, which can be read in full here.

This review is part of the 100 Films Advent Calendar 2015. Read more here.

Haiku Review

Ev’ry August film
reviewed in haiku form. (And
you thought drabbles short!)

I can’t even remember what gave me the idea, but the other day I started writing haiku-sized reviews of films I’d watched, and before I knew it had written one for every film from August. So, in what may or may not become a new regular feature, I’m going to share them with you. You lucky, lucky people.

Technically a haiku is more than just the 5-7-5 syllable structure most people know: it should be about nature, and (to quote Wikipedia) “the essence of haiku is ‘cutting’… often represented by the juxtaposition of two images or ideas and a kireji (‘cutting word’) between them.” Obviously these haiku have nothing to do with the first of those conditions; as to the second, well, it comes and goes. At times, I’ve tried; others, less so. Hopefully none are just 17-syllable sentences split in three. Nonetheless, I don’t promise poetic quality with these.


Contagion
Gwyneth Paltrow eats,
whole world at risk of grim death.
Scares ’cause it could be.

End of Watch
Cops film selves, sort of.
Inconsistent P.O.V.
undermines reel-ism.

Inherent Vice [review]
Pynchon’s comedy
filmed by P.T. Anderson.
Laughs for weed users.

Interstellar [review]
Two-Thousand-And-One,
A Space-Time Anomaly.
Mainly, spectacle.

Justice League: The New Frontier
Uncommon premise
raises expectations, but
promise is squandered.

Life of Pi [review]
Tiger on a boat:
CG extravaganza!
Better than the truth.

Monsters: Dark Continent [review]
Genre transplanted,
but soldiers pose same quand’ry:
aren’t we the monsters?

Seeking a Friend for the End of the World
This: way the world ends —
not with a bang or whimper,
but a love story.

Shallow Grave
Danny Boyle’s debut.
Cold cash leads friends to distrust
and dismemberment.

Sherlock Holmes (1922) [review]
Moriarty v.
Barrymore. Gillette-derived
slight Sherlock silent.

Shivers
Amateur work by:
biologist, kills neighbours;
Cronenberg, upsets.

Space Station 76 [review]
Groovy future fun,
undercut by theme of frac-
tured relationships.

The Story of Film: An Odyssey
Epic history,
too personalised for some.
Piqued insight abounds.

Stranger by the Lake
French gays have the sex
with a killer in their midst.
A slow-burn beauty.

The Theory of Everything [review]
Eddie Redmayne won
awards, but the film’s heart is
Felicity Jones.

The Thing (2011) [review]
Under prequel’s guise,
computers doodle a mere
Carpenter rehash.

The Haiku Review may return next month. We’ll see how things go.

The Millennial Monthly Update for August 2015

After last month was all centennial, because I reached 2015’s #100, this month is millennial, because I made it to 1,000 Films in a Decade Eight Years and Eight Months.

More on that soon, as well as all this:


Shallow Grave#103 Space Station 76 (2014)
#104 The Thing (2011)
#105 Shallow Grave (1994)
#106 Sherlock Holmes (1922), aka Moriarty
#107 Life of Pi (2012)
#108 Contagion (2011)
#109 Justice League: The New Frontier (2008)
#110 Interstellar (2014)
#111 End of Watch (2012)
Stranger by the Lake#112 The Story of Film: An Odyssey (2011)
#113 Inherent Vice (2014)
#114 The Theory of Everything (2014)
#115 Monsters: Dark Continent (2014)
#116 Shivers (1975)
#117 Stranger by the Lake (2013), aka L’inconnu du lac
#118 Seeking a Friend for the End of the World (2012)


  • As you may have noticed, this month I reached my 1,000th film. More about that here.
  • Before that, there was a countdown — with pictures! Thrilling stuff. It’s archived here.
  • As #1000 was 15-hour documentary The Story of Film, it took over a few extra slots in my schedule. If I’d been watching regular-length films instead, August’s tally would be four or five films larger.
  • No WDYMYHS films this month — just The Story of Film adding more ideas for future iterations!


In October 2014 I commented that, at best, “one of 2015’s last films will be #1000”. Hahahaha, how times have changed! “One of 2015’s last films”? Oh no, dear sir (“dear sir” in this instance being “me 11 months ago”) — there are still four months of 2015 to go!

In fairness to past-me, the three previous occasions on which I’d reached a #112 (2007, 2010, 2014) were all in November. It just continues 2015’s extraordinary run, though: this month, it passed 2013 to become my fourth most successful year, even with four months still to go. #118 is further than I’ve ever reached by the end of October, never mind August.

As for this August in itself, a tally of 16 makes it the 15th month in a row to reach double figures. It easily passes the August average (previously 10.57, now 11.25) and is just above 2015’s rolling average (currently at 14.75). It’s the third month this year to reach 16, and the fifth ever, which makes it part of a five-way tie for my third highest-tallying month ever. It’s also the 10th month in a row to best the same period a year ago, when August 2014 totalled 15. That may be the end of that though: September will have to be my second highest-totalling month ever to beat its 2014 counterpart. Of course, if I can keep up my current pace — and without a schedule-hogging behemoth like The Story of Film to stand in the way — that’s not an impossible expectation.

Last August, I pointed out how inaccurate August was for predicting the final tally… but then used those inaccurate predictions to spot a new pattern and offer a revised prediction. Which, naturally, I completely obliterated: having predicted a final total of 115-120, I reached 136. Nonetheless, there’s no fun in offering no predictions — and I’ve been remarkably consistent with my viewing this year, actually — so here we go regardless.

To be honest, whatever I forecast is good news. Four more months of my ten-film-minimum goal has 2015 becoming my best-ever year before the end of October, and a final tally of at least 158. If my rolling average of 14.75 holds I’ll make it even further, to #177, and if I can continue my year-on-year monthly increase (with, as mentioned, September being the greatest challenge) then I’ll pass #178. I’ve been forecasting a finish in the 170s ever since February, so, to be honest, I’ll be a bit disappointed if I don’t make that. And all of these numbers are slight increases on their counterparts from last month, so perhaps #180+ isn’t out of the question…



The 3rd Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
It’s a toughie this month — lots of films I really enjoyed, including five I gave full marks to. Five! (If you were going to look to see which, know that I haven’t posted reviews for four of them yet.) But the one that most surprised me, and created the strongest emotional connection to boot, was Seeking a Friend for the End of the World.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Conversely, not many poor films this month. That said, there were a couple I found to be below par, but none felt like they squandered their potential quite as much as Justice League: The New Frontier.

Space-Set CGI That Looked Most Like Models (Pleasingly)
Space Station 76.

Space-Set Models That Looked Most Like Reality (Pleasingly)
Interstellar.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
It always helps give hits a boost if someone else promotes a post. In August, thanks to a tweet by the film’s producers, the most-viewed post was Space Station 76.


Ben-Hur (1925) A Silent Film Review @ Movies Silently
For her 200th silent film review, Fritzi has penned a “mammoth” about the first feature-length adaptation of Lew Wallace’s novel, including a comparison to the more-famed 1959 adaptation. “Mammoth” is the word: by my quick count it clocks in at over 12,000 words! I confess I haven’t even read all of it yet, but I think we can trust it to be worth every syllable.

The highest ranked feature length narrative film on Letterboxd for each year 2014-1920
An interesting way of looking at film history, shared by Letterboxd’s own Twitter courtesy of someone on Reddit who since deleted their name. The gallery can still be viewed here, though.

The Last Unicorn (1982) Review @ Cinema Parrot Disco
This month’s lesson is “don’t judge a film by its cover”, because The Last Unicorn looks like some dated, cheesy, little-girl-y crap, but table9mutant’s review makes it sound awesome, and there are lots of other pretty pictures to cement the point.

My Top 7 James Bond Opening Title Sequences @ Film Grimoire
Who doesn’t love a Bond title sequence? Here, Anna explains her top seven picks (in honour of 007, of course), and while I can’t say I agree with all of them (Quantum of Solace? No thanks) it’s still a good read.

My Top Ten Drew Struzan Movie Art Pieces @ Cinema Parrot Disco
What movie fan doesn’t love the work of Drew Struzan (even if you don’t know his name), the renowned poster artist who created enduring imagery for a host of ’80s and ’90s films, and whose style tends to influence at least one poster for every major movie still, even as they’ve moved on to nought but photo montage. Here, table9mutant takes on the tough job of selecting favourites from Struzan’s extensive oeuvre.

Peculiar opening credit text @ Dial M For Movies
Rhett Bartlett mounts a collection of opening-credit oddities, things “the film maker feels they must tell the audience” right at the start. My personal favourite is the first, from The Old Dark House: “We explain this to settle all disputes in advance…”

The Serpent and the Rainbow @ Vinnieh
The sad news of the death of horror auteur Wes Craven reached us yesterday, but this is an incidental tribute. A carry-over from last month, this write-up by Vinnie meant Craven’s true story-inspired tale of voodoo in Haiti really piqued my interest. It seems it was recently released on a poor UK Blu-ray, though a Shout Factory release is expected in the US early in 2016, which will no doubt be excellent.

Shaun the Sheep Movie (2015) A Silent Film Review @ Movies Silently
The Wallace & Gromit spin-off’s spin-off movie opened to much acclaim here way back in February, but finally made it across the pond at the start of August. Here, Fritzi offers her typically irreverent take on why it really is a true silent movie. No, really.

Straight Outta Compton (2015) [Review] @ movieblort
It’s not an area of music I know much (read: anything) about, nor especially care for, but movieblort has me sold on why this biopic about the rise and fall of hip-hop group N.W.A. will be worth a look.

The Western Godfather @ True West
Bending the “articles from the past month” rule, but this interview — of Kurt Russell by Henry Cabot Beck — was too interesting not to share. In it, Russell reveals for the first time some of the truth behind the filming of Tombstone. The piece is nearly nine years old now, so I’m sure aficionados are well aware of its contents; but if you’ve not come across it before, it’s rather fascinating.



This is the last archive review summary. My dedicated effort to re-post all my old reviews began in July 2014, and 14 months later they’re finished. (After the reviews: what comes after the reviews.)


With all the reviews up, it’s now on to the rest of my unposted posts. More details in the first. (The one with the mop.)



Films I Hadn’t Heard of Before Watching The Story of Film
But Now Really Want to See

Mark Cousins’ documentary features somewhere north of 500 films. Kudos to anyone who’s seen all of them (especially if it was before the documentary came along and automatically became a checklist for some people). For us mere mortals, however, it’s a mix of ones we’ve seen, ones we want to see, ones we’re merely aware of, and a whole load of stuff we’ve never even heard of. The series also has a propensity to make you really want to see the films it features — not just ones you already knew you wanted to get round to it, but out-of-the-blue discoveries. So in tribute to the latter, I present this month’s highly personal (when isn’t it?) top five.

  1. Napoleon (1927)
    A cheat, because I have heard of Abel Gance’s 5½-hour biopic about the diminutive French general, but I’ve kind of ignored it because it’s hard for normal folk to see: Kevin Brownlow’s acclaimed restoration has never been released on any home format, only screening at festivals and the like (with two intermissions — one for dinner!), apparently due to some dubious copyright claim by Francis Ford Coppola. Shame.
  2. Cairo Station (1958)
    Cousins has a tendency to label films “the first great [insert name of place] film”, and I believe this was his pick for Africa; certainly for Egypt. Patrick Heenan in The International Dictionary of Films and Filmmakers may seem to disagree, but he does concur that it has “visual brilliance”.
  3. Black Girl (1966)
    Another thing Cousins has a tendency to do is give away the ending of films he covers. I suppose the only way to examine a work’s full meaning or worth is to discuss it in its entirety, and any truly great film is going to withstand having its plot revealed. Indeed, it may only have been Cousins’ full explanation of Black Girl that made it so intriguing.
  4. The Emperor’s Naked Army Marches On (1987)
    And the same could be said of this Japanese documentary, which follows a former soldier as he attempts to find out the truth about what happened to some of his comrades during World War 2, and unearths some very, very dark secrets. Sounds to me like a film about a kind of paranoia being vindicated.
  5. Hyenas (1992)
    Three of these films are from Africa, which possibly says as much about Western awareness of African cinema as it does about the inherent quality of that continent’s output. This Senegalese comedy-drama explores consumerism in a way that apparently “brings human folly and cynicism into sharp focus”.

…and there are so many, many more. Whatever you think of the documentary as a whole (and opinions are certainly mixed), as a showcase for great cinema it may be unparalleled.


After three months where the new-style titles of these progress reports actually signified something, the parade of meaningless monthly update adjectives begins…

And I’ll probably watch some films and write about them, too.