A Decade of Films, 2015

The funny thing about the making of these lists is that it’s becoming increasingly clear to me when I got more seriously into movies.  I watched almost nothing the first year or two of college, but I definitely made up for lost time.

As a result, I have more than 10 favorites this year, but I’ll narrow it down just the same and put the others in some honorable mentions type purgatory.

My top 10, in no particular order:

  • The Force Awakens: I’m not wholly pleased with the newest trilogy, but The Force Awakens is my favorite of the three. I loved it then and I love it now, even as a film, not just as a Star Wars film.
  • The Witch/The VVitch: Everyone needs an evil devil goat that makes babies disappear.
  • The Revenant: Bleak, very bleak. It’s a mood.
  • Sicario: Frankly I’m having trouble remembering much beyond that I quite liked this film.  I refuse to watch the sequel.
  • Spotlight: Sometimes the whistle-blowing newspaper dramas are GOOD. Extra points for Boston setting.
  • Crimson Peak: Sorry not sorry, I loved this.  It was poorly/inaccurately marketed and I think that led to a lot of the dislike.  It’s not a horror film. It’s a weird gothic melodrama with ghosts and incest.
  • Eddie The Eagle: One of the best feel good sports movies I have seen.  Aaron Egerton and Hugh Jackman are both excellent.
  • The Dressmaker: Quirky semi-surreal film starring Kate Winslet.  Quite bizarre, quite good. It kind of borders on magical realism.
  • Trumbo: A biopic that looks into the Hollywood blacklisting and its effect on the life of Dalton Trumbo (Bryan Cranston), a Hollywood screenwriter. Excellent cast if you pretend Louis CK isn’t in it.
  • A Man Called Ove: This is a really touching and undersign Swedish comedy drama about an irascible elderly man, depressed after the recent loss of his wife.  I don’t want to go more into the plot, but my heart felt a bit tenderized after watching it.

Honorable mentions: The Big Short, The Danish Girl, Brooklyn, Inside Out, and Creed.

Movies that I have not yet seen: Room, Straight Outta Compton, Green Room, Mustand, Beasts of No Nation, Me and Earl and the Dying Girl, Victoria, Our Little Sister, Anomalisa, Tangerine, Land of Mine, Son of Saul, Slow West, Embrace of the Serpent, The Assassin, April and the Extraordinary World.

A Decade of Films, 2014

So 2014 was a great year for films, to the extent that I have 10 favorites and 44 honorable mentions. And of course a handful of films I haven’t seen.

And I’m still trying to catch up on 2019’s films. Three films over this past Friday-Saturday-Sunday, which means I’ve watched about 50 of last year’s films. I also did some OCD research last night to see how much I felt I should see before committing to my list of favorites- that would be 32 films still to see. I won’t get through them all, but I can try.
It’s not like the Oscar voters watched all of last year’s movies anyway.
In fact, I’ve probably seen more than Stephen King. (Why does he get to vote for Oscars anyway? He’s a writer. The one great film that was made from his work (The Shining) is one that he’s essentially disowned because it’s too far from his novel. And that’s because his writing sucks isn’t good.)
If you’re not sure why I’m picking on Stephen King, he’s said some questionable stuff about the Oscar nominees’ lack of diversity. And he hasn’t reflected very much on the issue, apparently.

OKAY, SO MY FAVORITES MOVING ON!

In no particular order:

  • John Wick: I’m not in love with the sequels, but the original film is an original concept executed electrically.  And sneakily deep for a film that explores how many deaths it takes to avenge a puppy (dude, if you’ve ever met/seen a puppy you know it’s A LOT).
  • Kingsman: The Secret Service: Again, not a huge fan of the sequel, and there are definitely some moments in this that give me serious pause, but on the whole it’s a great time.  Like, the kind of good time where you want to use the word “rollicking”.  An excellent secret agent film for a post-Bond world. With a sprinkle of class conflict examination.
  • Ex Machina: I’m a bit conflicted on this one because while I quite like Ex Machina, it does feel like it tries a bit too hard to be deep.  There’s a whole lot of navel-gazing going on.  But the performances are all excellent, Oscar Isaac’s dance scene is the most disturbing thing I could ever imagine, and the message is interesting.
  • Fury: It’s an excellent ensemble war film about the crew of a tank, focusing on the newest and youngest member.  Bloody, dramatic, and tragic.
  • Whiplash: I’m not the hugest fan of Damien Chazelle, but this is my favorite of his films so far (the others being La La Land and First Man).  But I’m always into stories of obsession and the clash of disturbed personalities, so there you go.
  • Grand Budapest Hotel: Wes Anderson, Ralph Fiennes, early Saoirse Ronan, and many more exciting faces, plus a pink hotel and Andersonian hijinks. I’ve been feeling a bit deflated about Anderson post-Isle of Dogs, but this was back in the good old days. And I watched it with my family over Thanksgiving break. Anderson has another film coming out next year, so maybe that will get me back on the train?
  • Nightcrawler: Brilliantly chilling thriller starring Jake Gyllenhaal as a man who sells grisly camera footage to news outlets.  Rene Russo is also great and similarly distressing to watch.  Examines the ties between unethical journalism and consumer demand.
  • Big Hero 6: Completely different from the preceding film, Big Hero 6 has a very big heart and watching it is like receiving a very big hug.  I remember it was very popular when it came out but it doesn’t get talked about as much anymore, which is a shame.
  • Ernest & Celestine: A French animated film based on a children’s series, depicting the touching friendship between a big bear (Ernest) and a little mouse (Celestine).
  • The Book of Life: So I guess 2014 was a big year for animation, for me.  To save the love of his life, Manolo sacrifices himself and must journey through the Land of the Remembered, meeting his ancestors along the way. Stop comparing it to Coco. Do you know how many Christmas movies there are? We can have more than one film about the Day of the Dead and Mexican tradition. Thanks.

Honorable mentions: The Wind Rises, Gone Girl, Edge of Tomorrow (good film but if I see poor Emily Blunt do the sexy stretch one more time I’m going to break something), Imitation Game.

I have not seen: Boyhood, It Follows, Highway, or The Lunchbox.

A Decade of Films: 2013

This is a short list, in large part because I’ve missed a large number of films from 2013.

But I did enjoy…

  • From Up on Poppy Hill: It’s a cute anime!
  • Blackfish: A devastating documentary about what captivity does to orcas!
  • The Conjuring:  A great modern horror film that has since created an expanded universe of lesser modern horror films. Excepting Annabelle: Creation. That sh*! was nasty.
  • Her: Joaquin Phoenix falls for disembodied AI Scarlett Johansson. Relatable.

I have not yet seen (but do intend to see): Room 237, In the House, The Hunt, Fruitvale Station, Inside Llewyn Davis, 12 Years a Slave, Oldboy, and The Past.

Best Movies of the Decade, 2012

2012 was a much better year in terms of movies than the one that came before.

My favorites as follows, in no particular order:

  • The Secret World of Arrietty: An excellent Studio Ghibli animated film based on the book The Borrowers. A good watch if you, like me, are someone who likes imagining what you would do if you were very very tiny. I blame a childhood spent watching George Shrinks.
  • 21 Jump Street: I don’t usually enjoy modern comedies, but this is one of the few exceptions.  Channing Tatum and Jonah Hill are great together, the premise is good, and performances are good all around.
  • Moonrise Kingdom: Moonrise Kingdom was my first Wes Anderson movie and one of the first movies where I really realized how amazing the theater experience can be.  It’s an aesthetically beautiful movie, a musically beautiful movie, and my enjoyment of it was certainly aided by the freshness of never before having seen Anderson’s particular style of quirk.  That all said, it’s one of his best and is probably one of the more important films in my movie-viewing history.
  • Rise of the Guardians: This is an underseen, under-rated animated Christmas film that takes place around Easter.  Long story short, a group of magical mythical heroes (The Tooth Fairy, Santa, the Easter Bunny, Sandman, and Jack Frost) must team up to protect the children and the hopes and the dreams from Pitch Black/The Bogeyman.  The Easter Bunny is Hugh Jackman.  Santa/North looks like a very Daddy version of Auguste Rodin. Jack Frost is also hot. Wholesome content.
  • Skyfall: I very much like Daniel Craig James Bond and this is one of his better ones (Second to Casino Royale).
  • Django Unchained: I used to think I couldn’t stand Quentin Tarantino but have come to a change of opinion, largely through Inglourious Bastards and Django Unchained.  I was thinking recently about how some of Tarantino’s movies seem to show a desire to retcon history, to take injustices and rewrite them.  I like him best when he plays in this sandbox.

I didn’t see: Monsieur Lazhar, Beasts of the Southern Wild, Magic Mike, Samsara, The Master, Looper, A Late Quartet, or Amour.

Favorite Films of the Decade, Part One: 2010

My favorite thing to do is start out a fairly obvious list with its own list of special disclosures that make everything much more complicated than it needs to be.
As 2019 and the 2010s draw to a close, I’m starting to think about favorites, namely my favorite films of 2019.  While I’ve seen a lot of movies this year (probably more new releases than any other year), there are still exactly 19 movies that I have not seen (many because they have not yet been released in France).  In order to buy myself more time to catch up, and to get myself in the movie-list-making mood, I’ve decided to do a quick look at the past decade, starting with 2010.
Disclosure: I know that technically decades go 1-10, 11-20, etc.  But that’s because some idiot who didn’t understand math/had never used a ruler decided to call the first year Year One, as opposed to Year Zero, as he should have.  That’s like saying your newborn baby is already a year old. Let’s stop with the nonsense. My decade is 10-19.
Disclosure: I haven’t seen all of the films from 2010.
This list is in no particular order.
Some films I saw too long ago to make a good call about. I’ll mention those after.

  • Black Swan: Black Swan was a big one for me, given my love of Natalie Portman and ballet.  And the depiction of destructive magical thinking really resonated with my little OCD heart.  The ending is a bit on the nose in terms of hammering home the ‘theme’, but I don’t mind.
  • The Secret of Kells: This is a brilliant and brilliantly strange animation by the same group that did Song of the Sea.  It’s beautiful, it’s intricate, and it’s magical. I do like Song of the Sea better but that may just be because it involves the ocean.
  • How to Train Your Dragon: I’ve enjoyed the How to Train Your Dragon trilogy right through to the end, and Hiccup (Harold, if you’re in France) has had a great arc over the course of the saga. I would still say the first film is the best.
  • Toy Story 3: It was a good year for animation.  Toy Story 3 was the first film I saw in the series as a more or less adult, and it carried some pretty dark themes.  It hit me pretty hard and I loved every minute of it.  I do think this was the natural end for the franchise, and while Toy Story 4 this year was nice enough, I found it largely uncalled for and, in the end, unearned.
  • Inception: Inception is one of those that I expect will go down as a modern classic.  It’s still very much appreciated and talked about, and I would say rightfully so.
  • Mao’s Last Dancer: While Inception is as much a people’s favorite as it is my favorite, this one is a bit more niche, what with the ballet and the politics.  It’s excellent.
  • Undertow: This I saw the most recently, which is to say only about a year ago.  It’s a foreign film about sexual identity, secrets, intolerance, and the fallout.  Would make a good triple feature with The Talented Mr. Ripley and Call Me By Your Name.
  • True Grit: Back when I didn’t have any idea who the Coen brothers were.  It’s a great cast and a great Western, a remake of a John Wayne film (which no, I have not yet seen). Hailee Steinfeld and Jeff Bridges. and I believe also Matt Damon?
  • The Social Network: Facebook’s just gotten more and more shady as time’s gone on, hasn’t it?

Yes, that is 9 films, not 10. We’re leaving a space open for whatever film I haven’t seen/saw to long ago. Like the guy you leave a seat for at passover.
(Can you tell I’m not religious?)

I have NOT seen Never Let Me Go, Grizzly Man, Restrepo, The Fighter, and many others.

Things I saw a long time ago: The Runaways, Easy A, Ondine, and The King’s Speech. I have mixed feelings about Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.

Shrek Forever After does not make the list.

Early Look: Top 5 Films of 2017

Some of my favorite film critics are putting out their lists of ‘top 5 (or 10) films of 2017’ and I don’t want to be left out.  However, the difference between me and them is that they get early screenings to everything, and so have actually seen the big 2017 films that I have yet to see (especially the Oscar-bait ones that cluster toward the end of December).

But I’ve been thinking back on what I’ve seen so far, and it’s definitely enough to make a top five, plus honorable mentions, plus shout outs to films I’m excited to see but that I haven’t had time to see, am saving for later, or that haven’t come out yet.

In an order that indefinitely particular:

  1. Baby Driver
  2. Dunkirk
  3. It
  4. Wind River
  5. Ingrid Goes West

Honorable Mentions: Coco, The Shape of Water, and The Killing of a Sacred Deer.

Not yet seen: Lady Bird, The Post, I Tonya, Phantom Thread, Call Me By Your Name, Three Billboards Outside Ebbing Missouri, Hostiles, The Disaster Artist, Loving Vincent, The Square, Only the Brave, Professor Marston and the Wonder Women, Mudbound, Good Time, Lucky, and many many more.

If I Could Have Only 10 Perfumes…

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My collection has never been very large (at least by the standards of most perfume lovers) but I still have a lot of trouble playing the ‘pick only ten perfumes’ game- a favorite masochistic mental exercise of the fragrance community.
The game is presented in different forms- 10 perfumes for a deserted island, 10 perfumes to save from your burning house, 10 perfumes to wear exclusively for the rest of your life.

Anyone who collects has an idea why this is so difficult- and it’s really tempting to turn to logical shortcuts to make the list-making easier.  Which of my perfumes are the most expensive? The most irreplaceable? Which ones do I own in rare vintages? Which are discontinued and gone?

I went through my collection a few days ago with the goal of culling the perfumes that no longer *sparked joy* when I held them (Thanks Marie Kondo). And I came out with only a 5 mL decant of Montale’s Patchouli Leaves ready to be let go of (it’s a cruder, more brutish version of Chanel’s Coromandel, which I prefer- but both are excellent chocolate patchoulis, with the Montale feeling more resinous).  Even if I didn’t make significant inroads into diminishing my perfume collection, I reconfirmed for myself my love of and attachment to what I do have. Continue reading “If I Could Have Only 10 Perfumes…”