I just want to watch all the movies. 2022 was another good year for movie-watching with the numbers being comparable to last year’s. In total, I watched 278 movies, up slightly from last year. The number of films I watched for the first time was close to the same as well; a little over half of the films I watched were new to me.
I made it to the theatre sixteen times, up seven from last year. I enjoyed the remakes of Nightmare Alley and Death on the Nile and Top Gun: Maverick scored points with me for it’s action sequences, for Jean Louisa Kelly and also because of the efforts of Tom Cruise, the last of the great Movie Stars. I got a kick out of Amsterdam and Glass Onion: A Knives Out Mystery but my theatre-going year was mostly marked by several underwhelming experiences; Uncharted, The Northman, Bullet Train and See How They Run fell flat. And Babylon, perhaps the biggest disappointment? “It’s commitment to excessive debauchery undermines any artistic qualities it has”. My Letterboxd review actually compared the film to Tiger Woods.
Henry Silva’s death drew me to another deep cut sub genre, the Poliziotteschi film. Also known as Euro-crime, Italo-crime or spaghetti crime films, these Italian police/crime dramas are known for their “graphic and brutal violence, organized crime, car chases, vigilantism, heists, gunfights, and corruption up to the highest levels. The protagonists were generally tough working class loners, willing to act outside a corrupt or overly bureaucratic system”. Like spaghetti westerns and Euro Spy films, many Americans went to Italy in the 70s to make these films, being joined in casts by natives like my man, Franco Nero.
I also attempted to collect into my knowledge bank as many more films from Clint Eastwood as I could. I am becoming more and more in awe of his career, particularly that part of it spent behind the camera. I wonder if we really appreciate the achievements of this legend still with us as of this writing. I was bowled over by his Mystic River and frankly gobsmacked by Million Dollar Baby. Another of his I had never seen before was the charming Bronco Billy, a film I went into reluctantly but enjoyed, partly because it was the first time I had ever been charmed by Sandra Locke.
I suppose the big theatre event for me was Elvis. Partly I had dreaded seeing the film for fear that it would present Presley in a way I did not agree with but also I was intrigued to see what Baz Luhrmann and Austin Butler had come up with. Through the film’s depiction of Elvis in the 50s, I was outraged but the scenes through the 60s were spectacular. Costume design was beautiful and Butler really put in a remarkable performance. So, as I jokingly say, I’ll “allow” the movie but I’m glad the hoopla over it is done.
My tradition of watching 50-year-old movies throughout the year went on in 2023 with my Cinema 72 series. I made a list of 28 films to watch and made it through 20. A handful I simply could not find to watch anywhere while others I happened to score on DVD while out thrifting. One disc I will hang onto is American-International’s Frogs starring Sam Elliott and Ray Milland and another I found was the Kirk Douglas film The Master Touch that Kirk made in Italy. It was actually a great film but they bottled the ending; could’ve been so much better. Skyjacked with Chuck Heston and Ulzana’s Raid starring Burt Lancaster were on DVD sets that I already owned. I struggled to get through The Effect of Gamma Rays on Man-in-the-Moon Marigolds but soldiered through out of respect for Mr. and Mrs. Newman. The best from Cinema 72 include Richard Burton and Joey Heatherton in Bluebeard, Chato’s Land with Charlie Bronson and Silent Running starring Bruce Dern.
The Grasshopper (1970) — My friends at Vintage Las Vegas hipped me to this startling film. Jacqueline Bisset stars as a fresh, young Canadian lass who bolts from her home in British Columbia and navigates the sordid world of Las Vegas night life. She runs into rock bands, free love, makes friends with gay men and marries big Jim Brown. Never was I more bang-on when I called this movie “the most savage, brutal, depraved, depressing, outrageous, fascinating, watchable film I’ve ever seen”. It is magnificent to behold and was the highlight of my year. See my review here.
Red Headed Stranger (1986) — While writing about Willie Nelson, I wanted to peruse some of his films. I had hoped to see Honeysuckle Rose but had no way to access it. Then I saw that he made this film based on his hit album from ten years previous. In Red Headed Stranger, preacher Willie arrives for work in a hick town with his wife, Morgan Fairchild. The town is in the grip of nasty Royal Dano and Willie teaches the residents to fight back. But soon his wife bolts and the red headed reverend leaves the pulpit and takes to drink. My first problem was with Miss Fairchild. She is no doubt beautiful but in a fine Dresden china sort of way. I found it hard to believe she would marry a bearded parson and move to the middle of nowhere. However, this dichotomy was part of the plot.
What really impressed me was Willie’s stoic and increasingly violent performance. Also admirable was Nelson’s determination to get the film made. The property fell from big-studio and big-budget with Robert Redford attached to Willie financing and shooting the movie on his own property in Texas. Featured one attractive actress with no other credits named Marinell Madden and the eternally gorgeous Katharine Ross playing a strong, independent woman. Sleeper of a great western.
Eurocrime! The Italian Cop and Gangster Films That Ruled the ’70s (2012) — Let’s give it up for Tubi. Again, in the wake of Henry Silva’s death, I went looking for what this wonderful free streaming service had to offer for Poliziotteschi films. I came across this documentary and when it started I was repulsed by the cheap look of this film. Then while it played I was impressed with how simple to understand it made this whole genre. Equally impressive was the line-up of actors and directors interviewed. People like Silva himself and also John Saxon, Franco Nero and Fred Williamson. Some goofy grade school graphics do well in explaining for the viewer such things as the political climate in Italy at the time. Sneaky good, this doc, and very informative. It highlighted for me the films I wanted to seek out. I subsequently enjoyed Nero and Martin Balsam in Confessions of a Police Captain (1971) and the hard-hitting Almost Human (1974).
Other highlights include: The Comeback, a 1978 horror film starring Jack Jones, of all people, a film I went into begrudgingly and then found enchanting, The Facts of Life with Bob Hope and Lucille Ball, one of my two top trips to the theatre was to see Mark Rylance in The Outfit, a riveting tale and one that had me not knowing what to expect next. I didn’t recognize anyone, really, in Stanley Kubrick’s harrowing Killer’s Kiss (1955) but it was riveting, Mystic River (2003) was a grand film experience, one of epic proportions from Clint Eastwood that was loaded with stunning performances, the aforementioned Million Dollar Baby was a good reminder that it helps me to go into a film not knowing anything about it and just letting it unfold, Child’s Play was the gem of the Cinema 72 series and featured a slightly sinister Robert Preston working at a creepy boys school alongside a defeated James Mason, Jason Bourne joins the Expendables in The Gray Man and I had another fascinating experience at the theatre watching the glorious visuals of Don’t Worry, Darling.
Blonde (2022) — I’ll admit there was a titillation factor in sitting down to watch this. Ana de Armas is certainly pretty and all the more so looking like Marilyn Monroe but this film left me feeling…bad. I felt depressed, complicit and slightly soiled. What really troubled me was the fact that it was a fictional story of a factual life. Why dramatize a life already filled with drama? Why create and suggest things that never happened? And why present a film that leaves you nothing to celebrate, nothing to appreciate about the achievements of an icon? Sadness after sadness after sadness after sadness. I was watching terrible things happen to Marilyn – and then learned that they didn’t happen. So, what was the whole purpose? Monroe had a sad enough life as it was without this craziness. While watching, I thought “what a terrible thing to have happen to her”. But it didn’t. “Oh, that’s sad. Too bad that happened to her”. But it didn’t. So…why? Having said that, the visual presentation is striking and the performance of Ana de Armas is extraordinary.
Cry-Baby (1990) — This one, I guess, I can understand. It is definitely presented in a certain style, a bonkers John Waters-type style that you either love or hate. I hated this. So much. Maybe as a lover of all things Fifties, I just felt like the lampooning was somehow being critical of the decade and the types of films that were made then. I know that Waters was paying a sort of homage but the preening, face-twisting technique employed by some of the garishly made-up actors was revolting. I could not wait for this to be over. The best thing about it – along with Johnny Depp’s hair – was the use of the fantastic “Bad Boy” by the Jive Bombers. So, I guess I’m not a fan of John Waters. Interesting to read about young Amy Locane making the film, though.
Licorice Pizza (2022) — I was so excited to see this film. Judging by the advance images I was seeing, I thought it would be right up my alley. So many boxes were checked; homages to American Graffiti, set in the 1970s, Tom Waits, Sean Penn. As it unrolled on the screen, I perceived that it would be perhaps not so linear, story-wise, and just ramble and chat a bit with the viewer. Fine, I’m down with that. Movies don’t have to be about anything for me to like them. But inside the first hour I realized I was finding the scenes to be too disconnected. It seemed like I was bingeing brief episodes of a web series or something. I can’t even explain what I did not like about this movie. I assumed it would be saved by heavyweight Sean Penn and my favourite living person, Tom Waits. But their scene together fell so flat. I thought I was seeing a rehearsal that Paul Thomas Anderson happened to shoot and then cut into the film. Perhaps I need to watch it again. I did get a charge out of the scenery-chewing of Bradley Cooper. But even the scene depicting the kids stealing the truck and racing away…just didn’t go anywhere. So disappointing to not connect with a film you felt you should have.
Other lowlights include: Purple Rain, a dull, boring film who’s appeal and historical significance I could not fathom, Rock the Kasbah, another film that had so many elements I thought would click with me; Barry Levinson, Bruce Willis and Bill Murray, Westworld, a movie I thought should have been much more sinister than it was though it had an exciting finale, 1984 I was so happy to finally see because I thought it would depict such a horrific and dire future but it, too, wasn’t as disturbing as I thought the subject matter would make it and Tarzan the Ape Man. Bo Derek is a sight to behold but the whole point of this wretched waste was just to display her undraped. I’m OK with “cheeseball” but this was horribly bad in the extreme.
|Year||Watched||1st time (%)||1940’s & before||1950’s||1960’s||1970’s||1980’s||1990’s & after|
|2019||242 (+37)||125 (51%)||44||30||62||22||28||55|
|2020||337 (+95)||170 (50%)||53||39||60||58||30||97|
|2021||270 (-67)||159 (59%)||49||22||44||72||21||62|
|2022||278 (+8)||155 (56%)||41||21||51||62||31||69|