Best Films I Watched Over Break

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We’re on the roll again which means a more sparse posting schedule. So here’s an easy list based entirely on fact and doesn’t require the energy of me forming subjective opinions.

The sad thing: I have kept so well abreast of new releases this year that there was nothing novel to watch on the plane. So I watched Moana again (I cried) and then fell asleep watching Dunkirk. Because the struggles of the RAF are so relaxing.

Without further ado

  • Star Wars: The Last Jedi
    Bien sur.
  • Saving Mr. Banks
    The irascible creator of Mary Poppins battles with the demons of her past and Walt Disney’s obsession with animated penguins. Just excellent.
  • The Shape of Water
    Beautiful and atmospheric GdT film that didn’t live up to my unreasonably high expectations but was still sublime.  Beautiful soundtrack, beautiful acting, beautiful images.
  • Undertow/Contracorriente
    I’ve written about this already on my list of my favorite films of 2017, here.
  • A Man Called Ove
    And this would have been on the list (probably) except that I saw it in January. It’s a heartbreaking Danish film about an old man determined to follow his late wife to the grave but whose suicide plans keep being interrupted by noisy neighbors, people in need of help, and a stubborn stray cat.  It gave me feelings deep in my chest.

The takeaway: Irascible adults are the butter on my toast at the moment (Ove, Luke Skywalker, PL Travers). Fittingly, I’m starting on Three Billboards now, featuring the always eloquently irascible Frances McDormand.

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New to Me: Best Movies Watched in 2017

Most of my movie watching is not new releases, so much as catching up on films that were once new releases but haven’t been from somewhere between a year to a century.
And they’re none the worse for that.

To be eligible for this list, the film must be one of my favorites that I watched in 2017 but NOT released this year.

  • Shall We Dance (1937)
    I can’t say enough about this film- one of the most beautiful Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers vehicles that I’ve ever seen.  Highlights: Slap That Bass and Let’s Call the Whole Thing Off (roller-skates!)
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014)
    I’ve already talked tons about Kingsman so I’ll keep this short. You’ll never think of Free Bird the same way again.
  • 3:10 to Yuma (1957)
    While the more recent version is good (particularly for a modern remake, that most justly maligned of categories) it still doesn’t really hold a candle to the absolutely masterful original- the frustrating but heroic town drunk (completely cut from the modern version), Van Heflin’s scrappy portrayal of Dan Evans, and above all Glenn Ford’s suave outlaw Ben Wade. Plus the song.
  • Django Unchained (2012)
    Tarantino’s films are very hit or miss for me, but Django Unchained was very much a hit.  The cast is excellent, the plot is fun and exciting. Tarantino does his fun soundtrack thing.
  • The Piano Teacher/ La Pianiste (2001)
    This movie is beautifully repulsive. Basically a piano teacher (Heyyy Isabelle Huppert) conducts and affair with one of her students who believes that she is falling in love with him, essentially misreading the symptoms of her rapidly deteriorating sanity as signs of romantic obsession.
  • The Hurt Locker (2008)
    I had pretty much decided not to watch this because it looked a bit testosterone-heavy for me, but a confluence of circumstances led to me watching it and discovering that it is in fact a thoughtful and well-paced film with interesting characters and developments.
  • La Piscine/ The Swimming Pool (1969)
    Alain Delon is beautiful. So is Romy Schneider. So is Jane Birkin. So is summer.
  • Les Enfants du Paradis/ Children of Paradise (1945)
    This film had me absolutely spellbound for all 3+ hours of runtime.  A theater mime is in love with a courtesan who is also beloved by three other, very different men- a pretentious actor, a conniving thief, and a rich count.
  • Contracorriente/ Undertow (2009)
    Contracorriente is my most recent addition to this list, having just watched it I think the day before yesterday. It’s a surreal and poignant ghost story in which a married fisherman has to find a way to reconcile two aspects of his life: his more conventional family life with his pregnant wife and his devotion to his male lover, a painter and town outcast.

Here’s to another year of good films!