Monday, December 31, 2018

End of Year Nine

Today marks the end of the ninth year of this blog. Technically, the first three posts were in 2009, but the first reviews were posted at the start of 2010. Sometimes it feels like I’ve been doing this my whole life, and sometimes it feels like I’ve just gotten started.

Regular readers have probably noted that my posting has dropped off significantly for the second half of this year. I had a brutally difficult three-month period this year with work, and because I was so busy, things had to get cut out of my schedule. As much as this is important to me, it’s not as important as a regular paycheck. I watched only a few dozen movies in July, August, and September, and that threw me off for the rest of the year. It ecame harder and harder to get back into the habit of writing about films.

Don’t worry—this isn’t all doom and gloom. I’m still at 38 movies remaining to be seen and reviewed, not including the 20-25 that will be added to the Oscars lists in a few weeks. Figuring that there are a few movies I’ll never get to see for one reason or another, I’ve realistically got a few months’ worth of reviews. Add in a few more for the next 1001 Movies edition.

The big question, though, is Oscar Got It Wrong! I’m estimating another 18 months or so to complete that project. What happens after that? We’ll see.

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Open Your Gifts!

Every year I suggest a collection of ten films that I think deserve to be on the 1001 Movies list that have, for one reason or another, been overlooked. I take this seriously in the sense that I really want these to be movies that belong on The List for some reason. They aren’t just movies that I like or that I wish more people knew about. That can be a challenge—but not in the way you might expect. Heading into this post, I have a list of 37 possibles. Presented in no real order are the 10 that I think should have made the cut.

Saturday, December 22, 2018

Fever Dog

Film: Almost Famous
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

As I come closer and closer to the end of this Oscar project (slowly, if you’ve been paying attention—more on that in a few days), I’m finding the movies that have waited to this point harder and harder to get to. There’s something that feels like it’s preventing me from watching them. In the case of a film like Almost Famous, I don’t have a real explanation for why that is. This is a well-beloved movie, one that almost everyone I know who has seen it has an extremely positive opinion about. And so it’s been a long time since I’ve been this conflicted about a movie.

Here’s the thing—I’m supposed to like Almost Famous, and I have a feeling that if I had seen this when it was originally released, I probably would have liked it a lot more than ultimately do. Two decades ago, I cared a great deal more about music than I do now. And yet, even then, there was always something about music that I found at least a little depressing, at least in terms of live music. There’s something that always feels a little like a funeral to me when it comes to live music. I have no explanation for that, but it colors how I feel about a film that is in large part about a band on tour.

Thursday, December 20, 2018

Off Script: Wolfen

Films: Wolfen
Format: DVD from Cordova District Library through interlibrary loan on The New Portable.

Of all of the classic Universal monsters, the Wolf Man is the most tragic. Our poor human never did anything to bring the curse down on him. It just happened to him, and no matter how much he doesn’t want to change into a wolf, he does. It’s kind of sad, but it’s also possibly what stopped werewolves from being cool for a really long time. For some reason, the idea never really caught on like Dracula and Frankenstein. Werewolves wouldn’t be cool or interesting or fun for a really long time. Wolfen, released in 1981, might have been a step in that direction, but it’s not entirely clear that this is a werewolf movie when you come right down to it.

In fact, I’d be willing to say that Wolfen runs a lot closer to myths like the Wendigo than anything else. While we have some moments where it appears we might get some lycanthropy, ultimately, it’s something very different. Things start with the grisly murder of a developer named Christopher Van der Veer (Max M. Brown) and his wife Pauline (Anne Marie Pohtamo) as well as their bodyguard. The murder is not a normal one both in terms of its ferocity and what appears to be a lack of weapons. That the bodyguard was a practitioner of Haitian Voodoo is brought up as possibly important. To handle the case, former NYPD captain Dewey Wilson (Albert Finney) is brought in to investigate.

Sunday, December 9, 2018

Off Script: Maximum Overdrive

Film: Maximum Overdrive
Format: DVD from Cortland Public Library on The New Portable.

There are some movies that have to be experienced to be believed. Maximum Overdrive is exactly that sort of movie. Starting from the decent but flatly weird Stephen King short story “Trucks,” Maximum Overdrive is what you get when, given a series of decisions and possible directions to go in, a group of people make the wrong choice every single time. Staggering in its dumbness, there is not a part of this movie that isn’t head-slapping in some way. Because of this, I almost love it despite it being so terrible. This is a movie that has the foresight and wisdom to set up a series of rules and then break them consistently when it’s convenient.

Here’s the basic premise: the Earth passes through the tail of a comet and suddenly mechanical devices come to life and try to kill everyone. That’s it. Seriously, that’s literally it. While our suddenly homicidal devices will include video game cabinets, soda machines, and electric knives, most of what comes to life is vehicles. Specifically trucks.

Wednesday, December 5, 2018

Wednesday Horror: Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)

Film: Witchfinder General (The Conqueror Worm)
Format: DVD from River Valley District Library through interlibrary loan on The New Portable.

Witchfinder General is one of those movies that comes with a great deal of additional baggage in the vast number of names it goes by. The copy I got was titled Matthew Hopkins: Witchfinder General, and I’ve seen it listed as Edgar Allen Poe’s Witchfinder General. It was also released in the States as The Conqueror Worm another weak attempt to connect this story to the canon of Poe despite it having no connection at all.

Sherman set the Way-Back Machine for the time of Oliver Cromwell and civil war raging across England. While Cromwell’s troops attempt to purge Catholicism from Great Britain, Matthew Hopkins (Vincent Price) moves from town to town conducting trials to find witches. This goes about how you would expect based on what history you know from these days. Someone accused of witchcraft is put on trial and endures a variety of torture, in this case at the hands of Hopkins’s assistant John Stearne (Robert Russell). Eventually, they are put to a final test which is either fatal, proving their innocence or valid confession, or not so fatal, which means a horrible death.