Movies Watched over the past Year or So

The Best or most Interesting 18 + Watches

Of the 178 movies I’ve watched between December 1 2020 and Nov. 15 2021 (list created Nov. 16th)

I always worry that films I’ve watched closer to a year ago will unfairly lose out to more recent watches as I make up these lists mostly based on “which movie do I remember most right now?” after going through my long list and picking out those that I gave 3.5 or more stars out of five to earlier. It is what it is.

For now, my best or most interesting watches, over the past year-ish, in their chronological order. 

1.    Hell’s Angels (1930) Directors – Howard Hughes, Edmund Goulding (uncredited) James Whale (uncredited) – Stars: Ben Lyon, James Hall, Jean Harlow – This first-world-war-fighter-pilot film is over ninety years old and while it has its corny moments, it also has moments where it smacks you in the face with a mix of violence, still impressive special effects, and sex.

2.    Five Graves to Cairo (1943) – Director: Billy Wilder – Stars: Franchot Tone, Anne Baxter, Akim Tamiroff – It helps, when watching this sometimes intentionally, sometimes perhaps unintentionally, silly and dramatic story about spying on Rommel that it was made during the war.

3.    The Strange Love of Martha Ivers (1946) – Director: Lewis Milestone – Stars: Barbara Stanwyck, Van Heflin, Lizabeth Scott, and (yes, credited fourth) Kirk Douglas – I freely admit I’m biased towards favouring both Stanwyck and Heflin, but Heflin especially is in the groove in this tale of murder and corruption in a small town – even the-usually-somnolent Scott appears to be awake, unfortunately this movie runs a bit long to be a perfect film noir.

4.    Brute Force (1947) – Director: Jules Dassin – Stars: Burt Lancaster, Hume Cronyn, Charles Bickford – I don’t know how this tale of prison rebellion and ineffectual or cruel authorities made it past the censors, especially as it gets (for the time) quite brutal towards the end.

5.    The Cruel Sea (1953) – Director: Charles Frend | Stars: Jack Hawkins, Donald Sinden, John Stratton, Denholm Elliott – I don’t know how the British do it, but they beat the pants off Hollywood when it comes to making second-world-war navy films. There is some documentary footage in this film, for bonus historical interest points.

6.     Zulu (1964) – Director: Cy Endfield – Stars: Stanley Baker, Michael Caine, Nigel Green, Jack Hawkins – Yes, the stuff at the start with the women is stupid and a bit embarrassing, really, and there’s a whole debate to be had about colonialism, but once you get past the opening bits and into the actual fighting bits, this based-on-a-true story about the defense of a British outpost in 1879 is old-fashioned swashbuck-ly exciting, and makes ample use of South African extras and red coats. And a character acknowledges that the British owed a lot to gunpowder. 

7.   One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975) Director: Milos Forman – Stars: Jack Nicholson, Louise Fletcher, Michael Berryman – I watched this much-praised film set in a mental institution for the first time this year, after for unclear reasons turning down multiple chances to do so earlier – perhaps because it’s from the 70s and I don’t generally have a lot of respect for 70s movies, perhaps because the descriptions didn’t make it sound all that appealing, I don’t know – but anyway, I found it an interesting film and I’m glad I’ve watched at last.

8.   Jackie Brown (1997) Director: Quentin Tarantino – Stars: Pam Grier, Samuel L. Jackson, Robert Forster – Pretty much what it says on the tin, it’s a Tarantino crime flick about what happens after a flight attendant is arrested for smuggling. Did you guess off-the-wall and violent stuff? Congratulations! You’ve seen a Tarantino movie before, haven’t you. This isn’t one of the wilder ones, though.

9.   The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) – Director:  Martin Scorsese – Stars: Willem Dafoe, Harvey Keitel, Barbara Hershey – Holy cow is this a wild movie, with some imagery that is likely to stick to your brain for awhile. A bit long, though, and some of it is just… plain ol’ weird. You might want to fast-forward through some slow parts.

 10.   Wadjda (2012) – Director:  Haifaa Al-Mansour – Stars: Waad Mohammed, Reem Abdullah, Abdullrahman Al Gohani – As the first feature film shot entirely in Saudi Arabia, and the first feature film directed by a female Saudi director (the director also wrote the script,) the way in which this film (about a girl who wants to buy a bicycle) was made is in some ways just as interesting as the story it tells – both are stories of hope pushing back against repression.

 11.   Flowers (Loreak) (2014) – Directors:  Jon Garaño, Jose Mari Goenaga – Stars: Itziar Ituno, Nagore Aranburu, Itziar Aizpuru – A drama acted out in Basque which starts when a middle-aged working woman is surprised to receive bouquets of flowers from an unknown person, and becomes a melancholic imagination of how lives intersect.

12.   The Sisters Brothers (2018) – Director: Jacques Audiard – Stars: John C. Reilly, Joaquin Pheonix, Jake Gyllenhaal – here to represent the western genre on this list for this year, this movie is based on a book, and in my opinion improved on the source novel, while still not being perfect. Violent, sometimes a bit hard to follow, but also sometimes quite funny.

  • Runner up in category: Meek’s Cutoff (2010)

 13.   Bad Education (2019) – Director: Cory Finley – Stars: Hugh Jackman, Ray Romano, Allison Janney, Welker White – really quite mis-promoted as a comedy, although there are a few moments of humour, this is mostly a crime drama about corrupt school officials in New York, based on a true story.

14.   The Climb (2019) – Director:  Michael Angelo Covino – Stars: Kyle Marvin, Michael Angelo Covino, Gayle Rankin – This was not quite the film-about-bicyclists-being-buddies I expected, it has less actual cycling, but I was pleasantly surprised by where this “life drama” and comedy went.

15.   Elizabeth is Missing (2019) – Director:  Aisling Walsh – Stars: Glenda Jackson, Maggie Steed, Sofie Rundle – Glenda Jackson is in her eighties, people! In this film, she plays a woman with dementia trying to find her friend.

 16.   Mr. Jones (2019) – Director:  Agnieszka Holland – Stars: James Norton, Vanessa Kirby, Peter Sarsgaard – Not the best movie in an artistic sense, but this “based on a true story” takes us to Ukraine during the Holodomor and related famines in the Soviet Union which killed millions in the 1930s.

17.   The Invisible Man (2020) – Director: Leigh Whannell – Stars: Elizabeth Moss, Oliver Jackson-Cohen, Harriet Dyer – I don’t usually enjoy Elizabeth Moss performances, she always seems so grim to me, and I’m also predisposed to not-like remakes, so it is definitely to this film’s credit that I ended up enjoying – if enjoying is the right word – this re-make of the classic science-fiction/horror story, with all it’s shiny new special effects.

 18.   Words on Bathroom Walls (2020)Director:  Thor Freudenthal – Stars: Charlie Plummer, Andy Garcia, Taylor Russell – Not what I expected, this teen-romance film is also an exploration of mental illness, I don’t know how “well” it does in it’s portrayal of schizophrenia, but it did well in keeping me watching.

Two movies I watched quite close to the end of this “year” and am not sure how they’ll stand against the others in the list after some time has passed but they were among the best I watched in November –

 Evergreen (1934) – a slow start, but this turns into a costume-and-choreography musical spectacular which even now does it Depression-era job and makes a viewer feel happy by the end

 The Lineup (1958) – a “Noirvember” presentation with location filming (and stunting!) in San Francisco – the car chase in here is considered by some to be the best car chase sequence up until Bullitt came along ten years later. Bonus for me as an old time radio listener, is that radio’s “Johnny Dollar” has a supporting part. This is based (sort of) on a TV show, which was based off a radio show, all of the same name.  (That radio show is not great, the movie is better!)

 Plus a special mention to these family favourites, which I remember watching more than once as a kid and re-watched again this year, enjoying again:

 Only Angels Have Wings (1939); Odd Man Out (1947) The War of the Worlds (1953) Torn Curtain (1966); Mad Max 2: The Road Warrior (1981) 

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