This December started out to be quite an eventful month, until Christmas reared its head. Over the holiday season I didn’t watch much but over the course of January I hope to rectify it. I got loads of DVDs, including The Three Colours trilogy, Stranger than Paradise and Jacques Tati’s Playtime. I also saw Melancholia on January 1st. But here’s what I watched in December:
Movies Watched for the First Time in December 2011:
Man on the Moon (1999)
Finally a Jim Carrey performance we can take seriously! This interesting Carrey vehicle is one of the comic mastermind’s better efforts, mixing genuine laughs with great storytelling and interesting characters. 8/10.
Larry Crowne (2011)
Oh god, this movie was awful. Actors that we thought could do no wrong, such as Tom Hanks and Bryan Cranston, turn out absolutely terrible performances. It’s not all their fault, it’s mainly the issue of a bland and predictable script that offers nothing new. 4/10.
There’s no denying this is a great documentary, but there are a few things missing that stop it from being exceptional. I’ll admit Ayrton Senna’s story is remarkable, but it may have been more interesting if, say, Werner Herzog directed it. 8/10.
Oranges and Sunshine (2011)
The excellent Emily Watson is easily the best part of this otherwise unexceptional true story about atrocities that occurred when orphans and poor children were shipped from the UK to Australia. Maybe it’s because I was watching it too late, but I did briefly fall asleep during this one. 6/10.
25th Hour (2002)
One of Spike Lee’s greatest films, 25th Hour, which I waited way too long to see, prompts one of the best performances of Edward Norton’s career, as well as impressive supporting roles, particularly the always brilliant Philip Seymour Hoffman. Set in the post-9/11 haze of America, it brings to life a beautiful story equivalent to a modern Ikiru. 8/10.
La Belle Noiseuse (1991)
Easily one of the shortest 4 hour movies I’ve ever seen, La Belle Noiseuse makes time fly, and impressively manages to do so despite an uneventful plot and slow pace. But plot turns and quick pacing are not necessary for this beautiful film about the creation of a masterpiece, and the energy and life it steals from its creator and muse. Easily one of the five best movies longer than 3 hours ever made. 10/10.
Considering how much I love a well-made film about war, it’s surprising how long it took me to see Platoon, which might not be Oliver Stone’s best film, but it is certainly his most realistic and powerful. Combining long and brutal sequences of violence, gunfire and spiteful, emotionless killing with Charlie Sheen’s naïve innocence and mournful narration is a stroke of absolute genius. 9/10.
The earthshattering twist of this fantastic European Oscar-nominee is far less interesting than the character and plot development that precedes it. The music of Radiohead plays over the film’s unforgettable opening scene and remains an ever-present spectre over the movie; stunning is putting it lightly. 9/10.
Simon of the Desert (1965)
Although it’s only 45 minutes long, this brilliant Luis Bunuel drama about a man who attempts to get closer to God by spending his life on top of a giant pillar is a cheeky, controversial, rule-breaking stroke of genius. Bunuel doesn’t give a shit and breaks all the rules of cinema in the absolutely amazing, completely unexpected final ten minutes, which is the equivalent of a slap in the face, in a good way. 8/10.
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
For every film-lover, there are only a handful of films that truly shake them and leave them nothing short of completely amazed. For me, Werckmeister Harmonies is one of those films. From its stunning opening to the moving conclusion, this Bela Tarr masterwork is a completely engrossing, indescribably beautiful cinematic experience. Just thinking about it makes me want to cry tears of admiration. 10/10.
Horrible Bosses (2011)
A decent enough comedy with more than enough funny moments, Horrible Bosses, like The Hangover before it, is saved from oblivion by a great cast and likeable leads. Kevin Spacey reprises his role in Swimming with Sharks turns out a great performance as one of the titular bosses, as does Jennifer Aniston in a surprisingly sexy role. While Colin Farrell is excellent as the third boss, he doesn’t get anywhere near enough screen time. 7/10.
I Shot Andy Warhol (1997)
Though nowhere near as enjoyable and interesting as the film that followed it, American Psycho, Mary Harron’s first film is still well-made and watchable. Lili Taylor is in her element and gives one of her best performances as a feminist who believes men should be exterminated, and when then-filmmaker Andy Warhol refuses to adapt her screenplay, she decides to take things into her own hand. Unmistakably indie in style, feel and look, but still worth a watch. 7/10.
Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
The last film I watched in 2011 was a very divisive Sam Peckinpah western. Some hate it, some love it, but I am definitely in the ‘love it’ category. Though at the time Peckinpah was lost in the throes of serious alcohol addiction, he still managed to make one of his best films, which manages to be essential for fans of westerns, and still recommended for those who don’t like the genre. Fantastic. 8/10.
Movies Re-Watched in December 2011
The 400 Blows (1959): I watched this one so I could write my All-Time Favourites review, and after a long time without seeing it, I was glad to finally view it again. 10/10.
The Battle of Algiers (1965): Still as intensely powerful as when it was released, this absolutely exceptional film about the war between the French and Algerians boasts one of the most tense sequences in war movie history, in which three women with bombs strapped to them attempt to pass security. 9/10.
Buffalo ’66 (1998): Almost one year to the day I first saw it, I rewatched Buffalo ’66 for the fourth time and found myself as admiring and loving of it as always. One of the best comedies of the 90s. 9/10.
Scarface (1983): I bought a two-DVD pack of this film and Scorsese’s Casino many months ago, but it took me ages to finally get around to rewatching this Brian De Palma classic. Pacino is great and the bloody conclusion is still powerful and engrossing. 8/10.
Heavenly Creatures (1996): Unusually, this was a film that I liked less the second time I saw it. When I first saw it years ago, I admired Jackson’s visual storytelling style and the film’s original feel and unique outlook, but the second time round it just didn’t feel as good. 7/10, bordering on 6/10.
Delicatessen (1991): If you asked me which Jeunet film I liked more out of this and Amelie, I would be thinking for a while. They’re both astonishing films, but Delicatessen is so much fun; a true joy to experience and one I’ll be rewatching many times. That sequence with the bed springs squeaking is like something out of Jacques Tati. 9/10.
La Dolce Vita (1960): Another film I liked even more the second time round. After first viewing, I had problems with the change of pace in the second half, but now I’ve come to admire it. Fellini and Mastroianni are on top form in one of the best films of both their careers. Also, it was nice to see a reference to The 400 Blows so soon after it came out. 10/10.
Reservoir Dogs (1992): I’ ve seen this nearly ten times and I keep liking it more and more. I think I’m gonna have to place this as my favourite Tarantino. Brilliant in so many ways. 10/10.
Three Colours trilogy (1993-1994): The second I received my Criterion copy of the trilogy, I sat down and watched all three films on my friend Stephen’s big screen and was absolutely swept away by the beauty of the images. Red is still my favorite of the films, but Blue has to be one of the most beautiful films ever created. 10/10.
The Godfather: Part III (1990): Not quite as good with my second viewing of the film, the comparitively awkward final entry of the trilogy still retains the style of its predecessors, but is sadly lacking in the magic that made them succeed. Still a damn good film though. 8/10.
Summer with Monika (1953): In the 50s in Sweden, Harriet Andersson was the sexiest actress alive. Ingmar Bergman saw this and made sure she became a star. Though her roles in films such as Sawdust and Tinsel and Dreams were impressive and more-than-decent supporting performances, it was her role in Summer with Monika that saw her truly shine. Fans of Blue Valentine will love this film. 8/10.
Day for Night (1973): Federico Fellini’s 8 ½ may be the best film made about filmmaking, but Day for Night is easily the most accessible, fun and enjoyable. Dripping with absolutely hilarious comedy, countless love triangles, and held together by director/star Francois Truffaut, Day for Night is absolutely essential for everyone who loves cinema. 10/10.
8 ½ (1963): I watched this one in preparation for my ATF review and was for a fourth time, entranced by its beauty, brilliance and captivating storytelling ability. Fellini’s best film, and quite possibly the greatest Italian film ever made. 10/10.
Un Chien Andalou (1929): Timeless Bunuel short film which delightfully makes no sense and is still wondrous to watch. 10/10.
L’Age D’Or (1930): The follow-up to Un Chien Andalou, this 60-minute feature may be the most controversial of all Bunuel’s films (and he’s made some pretty controversial movies). The final scene which sees Jesus exiting a brothel after re-enacting the work of the Marquis de Sade speaks volumes about how daring and defiant Bunuel was.
The French Connection (1973): That final shot. Holy fuck, it’s subtle but brilliant. And it’s only one moment of countless brilliant scenes in this, probably the greatest cop movie of all time. 9/10.
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (1966): I thought maybe I might like this more the second time round. I didn’t like it any less, but it still stayed the same with a rewatch. Godard tackled prostitution best in Vivre sa Vie and all the subsequent works on the subject seem less impressive. Still really good though. 8/10.
Gerry (2002): Don’t know if I’ll buy the other two films in the trilogy, but when I bought a copy of van Sant’s Gerry that I found in an indie DVD store, I knew I had to see all the films in the trilogy again. I started my marathon with this bold, impressive, beautiful movie. 10/10.
Elephant (2003): Van Sant’s Palme D’Or winning film deals with violence in an interesting, original and very disturbing way. 9/10.
Last Days (2005): Though many see it as the weakest of the trilogy, I think it is equally as strong and powerful as the others, in many ways. All three movies use music beautifully, but Last Days, for which some music was composed by star Michael Pitt himself, uses it in a truly unique and different way. And that shot where Pitt climbs out of his own body… chilling. 9/10.
Cinema Paradiso (1988): It was on TV so I saw it for a second time, and still I love it as much as ever. Though I’m not one of its highest praise-givers, I still admire its smart and funny attitude, and especially the fact that it introduced so many people to foreign cinema. 8/10.
Best Film Watched in December 2011 (not including rewatches):
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000)
Worst Film Watched in December 2011 (not including rewatches):
Larry Crowne (2011)
So what did you watch in December, and what do you think of these films?