Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014: Part Two (The Not-So-Discoveries)

This is the same idea as “Favorite Older Films First Viewed in” which I did since 2011. The idea was one I first saw on Rupert Pupkin Speaks. I have usually done the list in parts. This time I will find ways to group the films.

My first installment can be found here. In this installment I will briefly discuss some films that are not discoveries in the truest sense, but rather ones I either took a while to get to and versions I didn’t know existed.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945)

Christmas in Connecticut (1945, Warner Bros.)

This is one of two on this list that I saw for the first time on the big screen. It’s tremendously funny, zany, permanently S.Z. “Cuddles” Sakall in my head (another tremendous Hungarian ex-pat character actor) and quite romantic too. It was a lot of fun. I saw it after A Christmas Carol (1938) which I believe I had seen before but not on the big screen. It was a great presentation by Fathom Events, which showed the positive side of digital projection.

White Christmas (1954)

White Christmas (1954, 20th Century Fox)

This was a separate Fathom Events presentation, and it was another Holiday standard that I finally got around to. It is a simple, effective through-line and proves once again that Michael Curtiz can do anything.

The Hideaways [a.k.a. From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankenweiler] (1973)

The Hideaways (1973, Cinema 5 Distributing)

This story wasn’t new to me. I had seen the ’90s TV version which featured Lauren Bacall. Here it’s Ingrid Bergman as the mysterious woman. The story is rendered better here and equally as capably performed by the young leads. It’s a film I wouldn’t have known of or seen if not for Warner Archive which continues to do great work.

Swiss Family Robinson (1960)

Swiss Family Robinson (1960, Disney)

The first of two Disney films on the list this viewing was a long way coming, because I had it around and because of my having climbed through the Disney World Treehouse inspired by the film a few times. While it was sad to learn that Disney purchased and buried the 1940 RKO version starring Freddie Bartholomew and others, to avoid comparisons this is a very good film with some Disney regulars.

Tarzan (1999)

Tarzan (1999, Disney)

I’ve discussed many a Tarzan film on this site. It was only a matter of time before that theme crossed with my annual devoted to Disney theme and I finally got another film off my list from my hiatus.

Here was my conclusion:

By getting away from certain conventions that other Tarzan movies set, and spinning the tale a Disney way, while also tweaking certain expectations of a Disney film the road to success is already paved. In a pleasurable surprise, however, the film also does manage to tug at the heartstrings like most Disney fare does – more strongly here. Also, Disney flips the script on a template established in The Jungle Book. A successful restructuring of a given pattern can be a joy to watch, conversely a failure of such an attempt is difficult to deal with.

Taking all that in mind, with so many other versions under my belt, and with the hallmark Disney delivery of the origin, this may be the Tarzan film I was looking for all along the one that combines adventure, emotion and the intrinsically fascinating things about this tale in one package.

The Mist (2007) [The Black and White Version]

The Mist (2007, Dimension)

I closed my mostly highly-favorable review of The Mist in 2012 with the following:

The ending is a conversation piece. It is strong and unlike King’s story it’s not open. King approved of this change. Certain elements are very effective some aren’t. What you make of it is up to you. It does not detract from the whole and the film is definitely worth watching.

I still really enjoyed it, I discussed the CG quite a bit. Later on I discovered that there was a black-and-white version, then it clicked. That would probably “deal with” most of the issues I had with it. The film sat around here a while waiting to be seen. When I did my suspicions were confirmed: it’s darn near perfect in monochrome. Check it out if you have a chance.

There will be other themes to follow.

Favorite Film Discoveries of 2014: Part One (Shorts)

This is the same idea as “Favorite Older Films First Viewed in” which I did since 2011. The idea was one I first saw on Rupert Pupkin Speaks. I have usually done the list in parts. This time I will find ways to group the films. I noticed I had four short films that are available to view online so I figured I’d start with them.

Les Oeufs de Pâques (1907)

I only recently discovered the works of Segundo de Chomon. He seems a worthy Spanish counterpart to Georges Méliès. This is a presentational, magic style of silent film implementing many invisible cuts, but it is very enjoyable.

His Wooden Wedding (1925)

Many thanks to Fritzi over at Movies, Silently for suggesting this film when I wanted a wedding-themed silent. I was unfamiliar with Charley Case before viewing this film, and look forward to seeing more. It’s quite funny. Enjoy!

Mickey’s Race (1933)

This is a selection that is fitting not only in light of Mickey Rooney‘s recent passing, but it also plays into my Poverty Row April theme.

This is purportedly the last of the series of Mickey McGuire shorts (back when Rooney was credited as such) that he starred in while not signed with a major studio. The story is simple escapist fare and fairly humorous. It’s more noteworthy because I had not yet seen one of these shorts. Enjoy!

Please follow the link to view the film:


The Fly (1981)

I when watching this film preferred to take a textual approach rather than a subtextual one. Regardless, it’s one of the most impressive pieces of first-“person” perspectives I’ve seen. For more of a read and more of a background on this film check the post on The Dissolve that drew this piece to my attention.

Considerations for Favorite Older Film of 2014

Here is where I will assemble the titles that will have an opportunity to make a list wherein I chronicle my favorite vintage titles that I first saw during the last calendar year. It is a concept introduced to me by Brian Saur that I have done since 2011. Here is the 2011 version. The 2012 version was published in five parts starting here, as was the 2013 list, starting here.

Unlike my BAM considerations where I will now post a new entry monthly, I will have this list run through the entire year, but will denote when titles were added.


The Good Bad Boy


Officer 13
Mickey’s Race (1933)
Easter Eggs (1907)
Hoosier Schoolboy
His Wooden Wedding (1925)


Miracle in Bern
Swiss Family Robinson (1960)
Mondscheinkinder (Children of the Moon)


Die Wilden Kerle 4
Reel Injun
Emil and the Detectives (1931)


Ivan’s Dream
Tarzan (1999)
The Famous Five

Favorite Older Films First Seen in 2012, Part 5

This is an idea I first saw on @bobfreelander‘s blog. The idea is to list your favorite films from the past year that you saw for the first time, but exclude new releases. This allows much more variety and creates a lot of great suggestions if you read many of them.

Since I tracked these films much more closely this year my list grew long. I will occasionally combine selections by theme, but there is enough for five posts. These choices are in no particular order.


Hellphone (2007)

Hellphone (2007, Studio Canal)

This is a movie that is an absolute blast and it’s certainly unexpected. This is a French horror/comedy, which stars Jean-Baptiste Maunier a few years after his breakthrough in The Chorus. It’s about a demonic cellphone with a mind of its own. From the inciting incident, which plays out kind of like the acquisition of the Gizmo in Gremlins, you know what you’re in for: a lot of laughs, great kills and creative cinematography. 

House of Long Shadows (1983)

Here’s another assembly of horror legends and in this film you’d think there’s no way all these icons can have their moment, you fear it’ll fall victim to All-Star Cast syndrome but it doesn’t. Aside from the problematic lead, and a build-up you have to work your way through, this film really works.

The Thing from Another World (1951)

The Thing From Another World (1951, RKO)

If you’ve seen either the Carpenter version or the new silly pre-make, you owe it to yourself to watch this one as well.

The Rape of the Vampire (1968)

The Rape of the Vampire (1968, Les Films ABC)

I got on a little Jean Rollin roll at one point this past year and it lost some of its momentum. He’s typically more stylistically intriguing than narratively, but this has both.

Wes Craven’s New Nightmare (1994)

Wes Craven's New Nightmare (1994, New Line Cinema)

Typically during 61 Days of Halloween I tackle at least one series to watch and occasionally write on. This year I got those cheap 4-in-1 sets to take in the Nightmare on Elm Street series. This was the late-series surprise. A tremendously reflexive work, that pre-dates Craven’s meta work in Scream, and is quite an effective close to his direct involvement in the series.

The White Shadow (1924)

The White Shadow (1924)

This is the famous fragmental silent Hitchcock that was found in a family attic in New Zealand last year. In typical Hitchcock fashion the film stops at the height of suspense to that point, even fragmental Hitchcock is great – it would’ve been interesting to finish it though as the text indicates some wild plot twists from there. You can watch it here.

Apocalypse Now (1979)

Apocalypse Now (1979, United Artists)

There may be more classics taken in for the first time next year as I have a new outlook on long overdue screenings. This list remains mostly quirky and classics I don’t need to sell anyone on are few and far between – should there be a plethora of long overdue screenings I will make the semantical change to “Dicoveries,” which would preclude the need to mention obviously good titles.

World on a Wire (1973)

World on a Wire (1973, Janus Films)

This past year, owing to my fascination with Berlin Alexanderplatz the year before, I took in two Fassbinder films and this one was the most fascinating. I will likely take in more next year and wouldn’t mind if his work became a staple on these lists.

The Birds (1963)

The Birds (1963, Universal)

OK, so far as this goes I never considered this film viewed because I never saw it from start-to-finish straight through I had several fragmented viewings, thanks to TV before this. Here Hitch’s idea to use no score truly works.

Emil and the Detectives (1964)

Emil and the Detectives (1964, Disney)

When considering what to do with this final spot a lot of the candidates covered niches I had covered already: Shot/Produced in Brazil (Where the River Runs Black), Hitchcock (Frenzy), Horror (The Mummy) and Disney (Child of Glass), however, to be more specific a Disney Movie Club selection didn’t make it. Now, yes, it one of those clubs where you buy a bunch cheap then have a membership requirement, but if you’re vigilant and a Disney nut it can be worth it. Another perk is Club exclusive titles. This tale is German and translated, but with a solid cast, very well-composed cineamtography and an engaging storyline it works fairly well. Disney titles that aren’t available openly are a topic for another day, but the club is a way to get some unique titles, and this was the best of the lot to me thus far.

Favorite Older Movies First Seen in 2012, Part 3

This is an idea I first saw on @bobfreelander‘s blog. The idea is to list your favorite films from the past year that you saw for the first time, but exclude new releases. This allows much more variety and creates a lot of great suggestions if you read many of them.

Since I tracked these films much more closely this year my list grew long. I will occasionally combine selections by theme, but there is enough for five posts. These choices are in no particular order.


Goobers! (fka Mystery Monsters) (1997)

Mystery Monster (1997, Full Moon)

And here comes a Charles Band that works. It’s the kind of title that really shouldn’t. The premise is silly, the production is low-rent, the acting sparse, but here there’s a brazen stick-to-itiveness and an over-the-top dedication that drives the comedy home above the mandatory tropes that must be dealt with.

If I wanted to get overly-specific I could formulate how often either Charles Band or Roger Corman produced and/or directed titles really work. My assumption is the latter has a higher success rate. However, I’m glad to have found more of Band’s movies lately and this one is absolutely ridiculous and works.

28 Up (1984)

28 Up (1984, Grenada Television)

Here is another somewhat representative choice. Prior to this year I had only seen thru 21 Up I believe. This year I await 56 Up. However, this past year I got current on the series. It’s hard to tell which of the series I enjoy most so I just selected the next in the series to be representative. It’s perhaps the most fascinating documentarian experience ever: every seven years people are interviewed and share their life and thoughts on various subjects. Clearly, there’s filtering but there’s a reflexive nature to it. As much as I adore the most recent Narnia installment this is Apted’s legacy.

Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog (2008)

Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog (2008, Timescience Bloodclub)

Prior to The Avengers, and after having seen The Cabin in the Woods, I finally checked out this short demented film and loved it. I was not so well-versed in Joss Whedon’s work and wanted to see some more of it. It’s enjoyable and short so it should be seen if you, like me, are in the minority who have yet to see it.

The Life and Passion of Jesus (1905) and From the Manger to the Cross(1912)

The Life and Passion of Jesus Christ (1905)

Here’s one where I had to combine picks. These two films are packaged on DVD together. They’re silents that were filmed in the Holy Land and deal, as the titles indicate, with different parts of Christ’s life. It’s a pre-made double feature but a good one. Each fills in gaps the other leaves.

Coriolanus (2011)

Coriolanus (2012, The Weinstein Company)

This is the newest selection on this list and one I regret missing towards the end of 2011. This film confirms that I’m a sucker for modernized Shakespeare adaptations and that John Logan is a kick-ass screenwriter.

No Greater Glory (1934)

No Greater Glory (1934, Columbia)

There are a few interesting notes about this movie: first, it’s an adaptation of a classic Hungarian novel (Yes, a US Studio tackled it first), next it’s an overlooked Borzage war critique, and in my eyes a more effective one than A Farewell to Arms.

The Manster (1959)

The Manster (1959, Lopert Pictures)

Spinning off from No Greater Glory George Breakston, after his days as an actor, went on to be quite a prolific and successful B-Movie director and producer. At random I chose one of his titles the seemingly schlocky Manster and was quite impressed by it. It’s low-rent, there are downright mistakes in it, but most of the handling and the narrative is highly effective for what it’s attempting.

Only When I Dance and L’il A (2009)

Only When i Dance (2009, Film Movement)

I’ve written ad nauseum about how I like Film Movement’s movie club and how they pair films with shorts on their DVD. When I watched this dance doc, obviously the short was one too. They tackle different disciplines, ballet and hip hop, but are equally successful.

Island of Lost Souls (1932)

Island of Lost Souls (1934, Paramount)

If your only prior exposure to The Island of Dr. Moreau was through the 1996 version of the film, then you can guess what my reaction to Island of Lost Souls was: I absolutely fell in love with it. Yes, having Bela Lugosi involved does buoy the film but Charles Laughton owns this film entirely and without question – truly one of the greatest performances in the genre I’ve seen.

Favorite Older Movies First Seen in 2011

Now, I know what you’re thinking “Another list and in the middle of February no less?” Well unlike my Best of 2011 (#25-20, #20-16, #15-11, #10-1), my awards (Nominees, Acting Winners, Behind the Scenes Winners and Film Winners) and my horror list timeliness isn’t as much of a concern with this list because I am discussing my favorite older films that I viewed for the first time last year.

I have to tip my hat to @bobfreelander from whom I first heard of such a notion. Now I was hesitant to backtrack through 2011 but in seeing all those he posted I just had to and I’m glad I did. I could have split it up amongst some Honorable Mentions, Well-Known Films I Just Happened Never To Have Seen and Films I Never Heard Of Then Saw And Loved but I decided to throw them all into the same heap and unranked no less!

Discovering an older film you enjoy is a pleasure so I decided to not add the stress of splitting hairs, plus as Awards season winds down we’re all tiring of rankings anyway. So I picked 31 titles that I most enjoyed. I always seek diversity and balance when making these lists up and I think this may be the most mixed bunch of all. Enjoy!

Mrs. Miniver (1942)

Mrs. Miniver (MGM)

I already wrote at length about Mrs. Miniver in the link above. Suffice it to say like any “through the years film” of a certain length you must give it time. I watched it for Greer Garson any loved it all.

Witness for the Prosecution (1957)

Witness for the Prosecution (United Artists)

Courtroom dramas don’t come much better than this, Charles Laughton in top form and Marlene Dietrich steals every scene she’s in. It’s as compelling as it is entertaining.

Piranha (1978)

This is a movie night special. It was picked from Netflix as something to try. I had, and still have, avoided the remake but I really enjoyed this film, great horror/comedy as usual from Dante.

Basket Case (1982)

This is one of two Frank Henenlotter films on my list. This one, in spite of its effects, I interpreted as a less comedic, more horror approach than the second film based mostly on conception, execution and tone. I was told I’d enjoy it and I did because the concept really works.

Reservoir Dogs (1992)

There will be a few films on the list which will be somewhat emblematic. The first Tarantino I saw was Kill Bill. I never really backtracked until last year for many reasons. When I did this, and not Pulp Fiction, was my favorite.

The Howling (1981)

Here’s Joe Dante again. In some cases when I was trying to break ties I tried to have another director represented but in others I knew I had to have the film on the list and didn’t give it a second thought. Here’s the best film I saw when I was on my werewolf kick.

Son of Frankenstein (1939)

I really should and could get all the Universal box sets but the one I found cheap was Frankenstein. I found all of them enjoyable to a different degree but I concur with the sentiment that this is better than the original.

Trick ‘r Treat (2007)

Being a fan of the horror genre I don’t know how I managed to avoid this one for so long and didn’t have it ruined for me but nonetheless I loved it and went in after the hype had died down, which was a plus.

Videodrome (1983)

I really have to get better at completing filmographies. I saw Spider shortly after it came out and absolutely loved it but never made a concerted effort to seek more Cronenberg. I caught a few this past year. This was the best one I saw.

[REC] 2 (2009)

Though the found footage subgenre is running out of wiggle room I did ask for suggestions, and thankfully got good ones, and I love both these films but I really love the way this one flipped the series on its ear. Jaume Balagueró is a director I had to pick just one film for and whose name makes me press play.

Berlin Alexanderplatz (1980)

In my review of The Turin Horse I talked about how there’s only baptism by fire when it comes to learning Tarr’s canon and no film is really an ideal starting point in my estimation, no prior film. Well, Fassbinder does likely have a logical starting point of his own but I decided to start here. Yes, I watched it. All 894 minutes or so, by Netflix discs no less and I’d wait for them and watch them immediately upon arrival and I loved it. Some of my favorite movie watching moments last year were having my morning coffee and playing the next few chapters. Not only did I like the whole thing but then in the very last section it absolutely blew my mind by the direction it took and how brilliantly and boldly it went there. So now I need to figure out where to go from here but it was a wonderful place to start.

Careful (1992)

I had the chance to see more of Guy Maddin‘s features last year (as I am rather well-versed in his short films) and this one took the cake, what an incredible concept and handled as only he could.

La Jetée (1962)

I probably won’t say anything about this film that hasn’t been said before except to repeat that it’s stunning, original and inspirational.

Flash Gordon Conquers the Universe (1940)

I love serials. I have since I first learned of them. One of my first posts on this site was about feeling gypped by purchasing a “composite” (i.e. a feature film version which makes practically no sense). However, my affection for them has far exceeded the rate at which I’ve been able to see them, so if I have a chance to, like on Netflix for instance, I usually do. This is the first Flash Gordon I encountered and though I’ve seen a few earlier this one is still my favorite of them.

Berlin: Symphony of a Great City (1927)

One of the most accurate titles you’re likely to see. It is the day in the life of a major metropolitan area but the way it’s cut and shot really is symphonic.

Attack of the Killer Tomatoes (1978)

Last year was notable because I was able to finally see some B-Movies that wanted to be funny and actually were. This is one of them. This was a favorite of my best friend in junior high but I had no interest in seeing it at the time. I’m glad I finally did.

Strike (1925)

I am not one who subscribes to the theory that Eisenstein’s films are more important than they are enjoyable. I think his contribution to film touches every possible facet of it, it’s complete so, yes, his work important but not a chore and I enjoyed seeing Strike very much.

I Bury the Living (1958)

I remember after I saw this film I tried to remember where I first heard of it: it was in Stephen King’s non-fiction book about horror Danse Macabre. He listed it in an appendix as one of 100 excellent horror films released between 1950 and 1980 or so. I agreed with his assertion immediately. It’s a jarring film but brilliant at both ends so to speak.

Manhattan Melodrama (1934)

This is a film I caught during 31 Days of Oscar last year and it’s part of why I love the festival. You will turn up some surprises or films you never saw. I love the title too, the film knows what it is but does it so well and is very memorable for that reason.

The Nickel Children (2005)

This is a movie I found at my local library and more proof that you need to use all sources available to you to find worthwhile films. This movie is not an easy one to watch as it deals with kids who live on the street whether kicked out or have run away and the harsh realities they face and what needs doing to survive. The film could be more sensationalistic than it needs to when dealing with subject matter such as child prostitution, juvenile delinquency and so on, barring one scene the film handles it all very well.

Phantasm IV: Oblivion (1998)

I have to see the Phantasm series again. If there’s not a box set there should be. I’m not sure there’s a horror series with a better, more consistent through-line than this one, which continuously adds layers to the equation. I saw them all as they popped up on Netflix and it’s hard to say which of the last two I enjoyed more but they really do need revisiting, it’s fascinating stuff.

Charcoal People (2000)

This is a great documentary because all it does is shed light on an issue and give you food for thought, it gives you facts. Charcoal People is about Brazilians who cut down trees to make charcoal that is sold to international car manufacturers to make pig iron, which is, of course, the cheap construction solution. Much of it deals with these people’s lives eloquently and poetically but it also addresses deforestation and the conundrum they face, essentially they don’t want to contribute to the deforestation of the Amazon but they have no other means to make a living. It’s powerful stuff.

The Flyboys (aka Sky Kids) (2008)

This is a film I knew about for sometime. It did some festivals but sat in the can for a while. Then I heard there was a premiere but never saw any evidence of the film say like a DVD. I figured it was just going to be one of those films I never saw because I couldn’t. Well, the world is a funny place. Much the way certain musicians retain or have popularity in unexpected regions so are the curious ways of distribution deals because I saw this film on a premium movie channel in Brazil. It’s an interesting one which has its first plot point feeling very climactic but it doesn’t really slow down from there (As a matter of fact my aunt wondered what took me so long because passing through she thought the movie was nearly over) and I really enjoyed it. In some ways it’s like a lot of kid’s movies but it does have a unique combination of elements and always keeps things adventurous so while changes in the story are surprising they’re not mutations of tone or genre.

Demonic Toys (1992)

This movie is part of the reason that this list is called “Favorite” and not “Best.” I don’t usually distinguish between the two but this is the rare film in my estimation that garners that elusive title of “So Bad It’s Good.” It has an audacious script by David S. Goyer (pre-Nolan Batman films) and a great albeit dubbed evil kid performance by Daniel Cerny, good flashbacks and chemistry between leads. For all its faults, which are myriad, I still found it to be very enjoyable to watch. Beyond that it nearly defies description. I wanted to include it in my 61 Days of Halloween series but I stuck with mostly posting about the original class, this year I may include it.

Der Wilden Kerle 5: Hinter Dem Horizont (2008)

I first saw a film from this series on Netflix but sadly they only offered it with the godawful American dubbing furthermore the US distributor has labeled part two as part one for reasons unknown. So thanks to the magic of the internets I tracked down most of the films and not only is the the first one I saw another film when watching it subtitled the series absolutely refuses categorization and gets curioser and curioser as it goes and you never really know what genre you’ll stumble into making it even more fun.

Burnt Offerings (1976)

This is another Danse Macabre special and after I was finished watching I could not find enough superlatives to laud it with and it held up on second viewing too. Dan Curtis brings to this the same palpable tension that imbues Dark Shadows minus the markings of daytime TV. I was quite literally gobsmacked when I was done watching it.

Lake Mungo (2008)

This was a film that I also found thanks to my seeking out found footage films worth watching. What’s most compelling about this film is its construction. It’s an after-the-fact mockumentary that incorporates a lot of found footage and it also provides some amazing and chilling twists and turns.

Face to Face (1976)

Proof that I have diversity in this list is that I have things from B-grade horror/comedy to this long lost (to Americans anyway) film by Ingmar Bergman. I have been enamored with Bergman’s work since I first saw it and slowly but surely have seen all I could get my hands on, owning most of it. The funny thing about Face to Face is that I actually read it before I saw it. I happened upon a script one day, in an old pocket book edition, read it and I still have a photocopy in my files. The film is much more vibrant and crystal clear to me than the script was, I have read a few other Bergmans and didn’t encounter that particular quandary. Regardless, it’s quite the mind-play and one of Ullmann’s strongest works.

Burning Secret (1988)

This is a fascinating film which actually prompted me to buy the short novel its based on. I think the adaptation is really great not only because it manages to capture the right elements and change a few that it needs to but it strips the inner-monologue from all characters, which while illuminating leaves less of an air of mystery to the tale. It also allows the film to be quite visual and features great performances by all three featured players Klaus Maria Brandauer, Faye Dunaway and David Eberts, in his only role as an actor.

Frankenhooker (1990)

I was fortunate to win this in a Twitter giveaway (so enter them, you can win) and I must say I was laughing from start to finish, as I was supposed to. As I said under Basket Case I felt this one was much more skewed towards comedy and maybe the better for it. Hilarious.


So there’s my list. This year’s is taking shape and who knows how different it will be I’m much more tuned in to 31 Days of Oscar this year, anyway, I’m very glad I did this because if anything it’ll keep me (and maybe you too) on the lookout for older treasures.

The Best Films of 2011 #10-1

As the number of films I watch has grown so has the number of films I rank among my best of the year. Essentially what matters to me is not so much the number of films included amogst the best of the year but rather the proportion. When I started these picks as a teenager I’d pretty much only be guaranteed a Saturday matinee at the local UA so that amounted to about 52 films a year. Meaning the five Best Picture nominees were equivalent to the top 10%. It’s not a bad rule of thumb. Granted only picking 10 Best Picture nominees of about 222 films deemed eligible equals about 4.5% of the total films I viewed. Therefore it’s not much of a stretch to take my Best List which goes beyond just the nominees from 15 to 25. In fact, I just had to pick the first few that came to mind. Some that wouldn’t show up on another list I did because 30 would be easily achievable.

You can find the beginning of the list here.

Top 10 introduction

It was an interesting year in terms of cinematic themes. The truth of themes is they happen by accident when it comes to a list such as this. I never expected going into the year that it’d be a year for glorifying the halcyon days of moviemaking while also celebrating the art and pushing it forward. Yet it was also done mostly in films that aren’t exactly about filmmaking.

At the top of this list you’ll find two films that are kind of about filmmaking but they’re also about life, friendship, dealing with loss and falling in love. They use movies and aliens as devices. They speak brilliantly about the power of the form and exude it but they also both feature train crashes but aren’t about them.

Waxing poetic about the marvel of cinema alone isn’t enough. It’s interesting to note but not a guaranteed formula.

By now you may have guessed that Super 8 and Hugo are on this list. I will speak more specifically of their merits below. In common terms though it’s wonderful that to different extents they revere the process and glorify the form but that is only a small part of why they work and symptomatic of the fact that we want films to debate, discuss and become enamored with; films that encourage the kinds of behaviors and practices that we want both the industry and audiences.

It’s not something I’d expect to pop up as a theme annually but as I’ve said about these awards that I want them in essence to be a snapshot. Time is a factor on all works of cinema and feelings evolve, however, there seems to be sentiment prevailing amongst filmmakers wherein the need to express the importance, history and majesty of be art which I, of course, support but these sentiments are also nested in fantastic stories- a true win-win proposition.

10. War Horse

Jeremy Irvine in War Horse (DreamWorks/Disney)

I noticed a lot of lukewarm sentiments towards Spielberg’s two 2011 offerings. While at face value I wasn’t as amped for these two as other pairings these are two Spielberg movies, which makes them automatically more interesting and exciting than two movies by anyone else on the face of the Earth. I thought the trailers undermined the likely quality of both projects and I was right. I also thought after becoming absolutely enamored with Tintin after I saw it that it’d be the better of the two and I was wrong. Even coming in with raised expectations and some knowledge of what the movie was and would be like I didn’t expect War Horse to be as good as it is. There’s the grandiosity and scope of old time filmmaking as well as the heart and earnestness of them but unlike a lot of the masters Spielberg just has my number and knows how to get to me. I’ve never been as moved by what’s essentially a boy and his horse movie or more aptly put a horse and his boy movie. There’s also that hearkening to yesteryear in as much as the film doesn’t fear traveling and shifting human protagonists or at the very least adding different perspectives. The cinematography is brilliant and captivating. I expected to really like both of his offerings and prefer the first one. I loved them both but Spielberg knows how to surprise us still and I love this one more.

9. Terri

Bridger Zadina, Jacob Wysocki and John C. Reilly in Terri (ATO Pictures)

Terri is one of those really great indie discoveries that you have to make an effort to make. I try and find a few of them annually. To tell you the truth I’m not even sure I remember how I first heard of it. All I recall was I’d heard little about it before it came out but then I read the synopsis and that was enough for me. As my review indicates there’s much in it I loved and practically none of it was expected. The summer, for whatever reason, seems to yield the most indies I enjoy so by all means check out the event films, the tentpoles if you will, that intrigue you but look around some really great films are lurking where and when you’d never think to look.

8. In a Better World

Markus Rygaard and William Jøhnk Nielsen in In A Better World (Sony Pictures Classics)

Another hallmark of 2011 was films being awarded big prizes and after having seen them I agreed wholeheartedly. This is a rarity for me. It was my disagreeing with consensus on a lot of occasions that inspired the BAM Awards when I was 15. My knee-jerk uninformed opinion was this film won awards for kowtowing to American sensibilities. It doesn’t, not in the least. It deals with very idealistic questions of non-violence, morality and integrity but does so in a very smart, artful and thoughtful way and all while being a great drama too.

7. The Tree of Life

Brad Pitt and Laramie Eppler in The Tree of Life (Fox Searchlight Pictures)

Basically, what I’ve said about this film in the review and in the BAM Winners is most of what needs saying except for the fact that this was the one film all year that screamed to be re-screened. I haven’t gotten that chance because I need to find someone else to go with if it’s theatrical and also the DVD/Blu-Ray bundle is one of the most uninspired for an acclaimed film I’ve seen in a long time. Aside from that it is overdue for a second look and interpretation as it’s so fun to try and tackle it.

6. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2

Daniel Radcliffe, Emma Watson and Rupert Grint in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows, Part 2 (Warner Bros.)

All good things come to those who wait it is said. I discussed a little bit in my review about the difficulties I had in seeing the last Harry Potter movie. I knew what dates I planned to go to Brazil for a family function and later I realized Potter’s worldwide release fell right in the middle, I could not and would not wait. So I had a few attempts that failed. Once it seemed a website almost sold me tickets to a show that didn’t exist. We gave up on the site because I couldn’t use my card and found out there was no midnight show on a Sunday night. Anyway, after a few aborted attempts, and a few trips to the mall where the theatre was (so close, yet so far), I saw Harry Potter. Albeit delayed things worked out perfectly. My cousin picked the seats in the automated system because he knew the incline of the stadium seats made my preferred front row undesirable and we got a subtitled screening as we all wanted. The subtitles is something I dealt with before but actually proved a great litmus test. I had to focus twice as hard to watch it because I wanted to follow, analyze and digest the story and technical elements yet there’s writing on the screen I comprehend yet don’t need. It’s a weird position to be in. Anyway, the litmus test is I would’ve been that glued to the screen whether I needed the extra focus or not it was and is an enrapturing experience and with it being the first theatrical film in about 10 years wherein I was dealing with superfluous (to me) subtitles I eventually got into a comfort zone but the focus remained due to the film itself.

5. Winter in Wartime

Martijn Lakemeier in Winter in Wartime (Sony Pictures Classics)

In my writing on The Worst Film of 2011 I talk about how some of my favorite films of the year are ones I don’t expect to see and I remember the experience of it whether the film was good or not. I was in New York and I had a couple of viewing options I had thought of but was running off schedule and I was debating what to watch before hopping on a train and heading home. Potiche was an option, which I later Netflixed and it was OK, but I passed. I can’t even tell you what my number one option which was no longer viable was. Then I happened upon the Quad Theatre I saw they were playing Winter in Wartime, which I wanted to see anyway. So my choice was made. I forgot how great a little movie house it is. I even took some pictures on my phone on the inside before the film and after to mark the occasion. I probably only saw a trailer for the film once if that. I was a pretty blank slate. As soon as it ended my initial reaction was “Wow, wow, wow, that was great” I tweeted something to that extent. It is and was a great movie but it was also a great experience and one I didn’t expect and one of the best case studies I have for being a blank slate.

4. The First Beautiful Thing

Aurora Frasca, Micaela Ramazzotti and Giacomo Bibbiani in The First Beautiful Thing (Palisades Tartan)

Life, death, family, love, secrets, lies, forgiveness, redemption are just a few of the things this movie is about. In short, everything as Ingmar Bergman might’ve said. Similarly, it takes place equally in the past and the present because a lot of what it’s about it getting over past issues and struggles. The photo you see above features two of the main characters, a brother and sister, when they were very young and very different. It’s their scenes when they’re older (the kids go through three phases) that really stick with me just as their mother’s younger scenes stick with me. It’s an intricate thing to synopsize but as convoluded as it sounds its seamless and logical in watching the film. It’s funny, shocking and moving too and a great film.

3. Toast

Victoria Hamilton and Oliver Kennedy in Toast (W2 Media)

Toast is another case of a movie just finding you. I mentioned it in the review and a few other places. I frequent a local arthouse which is actually a non-profit and they participated in a film series called From Britain with Love which showcased many British independent films. I believe I saw three and all shows featured a Q & A with the director afterward via satellite. All the screenings were memorable because of it but clearly the films weren’t all on equal footing. I just wish I got to see all of them at the time but the scheduling didn’t work due to my aforementioned trip to Brazil. I hardly heard of Toast before or after so I’m so glad it was in this program and I got to see it. All its wonders are detailed in my review but do see it. It’s Lee Hall taking his skill to an adaptation and S.J. Clarkson elevating it with great direction and cinematography and a perfectly selected cast.

2. Super 8

Gabriel Basso, Ryan Lee, Joel Courtney and Riley Griffiths in Super 8 (Paramount)

With the top couple of movies it really does become an exercise in repetition because I have written about them so much. What does need saying flat out is that I try and take films for what they are and what they are trying to accomplish therefore there’s no ceiling to me for a certain kind of film in my list. Similarly, it’s usually right around the top 3 that you really see the class of the year and this year has a pretty strong top I think with some pretty special achievements. I always think it’s dangerous and difficult to play “Grade the Year” there’s always good, bad and ugly. My allusion to 1987 in Foreign Films category was to all the great films in that year’s Oscar field and so on, as a whole any year has its peaks and valleys some higher than others I think these three are about as good a vanguard as one could ask for.

1. Hugo

Asa Butterfield and Chloë Grace Moretz in Hugo (Paramount)

There’ve been years where I had no idea what I was going to pick as my Best Picture, 2005 seems to fit that bill. There have been years were I wanted to make sure something got in under the wire, it did and then blew me away like in 2003 or where a favorite at mid-year went pretty much unchallenged like in 2010. I expected Super 8 to repeat the feat Inception did of being a summer favorite and although many would assail it none would touch it. Then Hugo came along and I know I talked about anticipating it but I didn’t expect these heights. I didn’t expect to know during first viewing, and to re-affirm it upon second and third, that it was my favorite film of the year as much I didn’t expect anything to top The White Ribbon the early favorite in 2010. However, the good that comes from singling out a few films through the year is that it sets a bar (hopefully a high one) and there are those two or three films, usually three, a year that really do something amazing and the third is usually the most surprising it seems. In any case you make a list because you like enough films to want to call attention to them and I make a point here of saying these top three, hell, my whole top 25 made all the difficult ones bearable but the upper-crust, those in this section, are why we keep going back to the movies. Regardless of what films you put in your top 10, or five, or however many you pick, cherish these; know that they’re rare and that’s what you seek as a moviegoer or moviemaker and that if you try, you shall find them.

Updates: November 4th, 2013

As tends to happen from time to time, things came up on the previously intended update day (November 1st) that made updating the lists due for additions (as well as other posts) a bit hard.

However, many exciting things are afoot at The Movie Rat. So here’s a quick rundown.

First, and these posts will be forthcoming soon, we are in the midst of a new theme: Thankful for World Cinema.

Second, The Movie Rat is currently co-hosting its first ever giveaway thanks to the fine folks at Film Movement. Details on how you can win Broken and three other films can be found here.

As you also may have noticed, new pages are up (and will continue being added) go here to learn more about The BAM Awards and the Associations this blog is a part of.

I may have been a bit generous but my Contenders for Favorite Older Film First Viewed in 2013 saw its most additions in October.

Five new titles added to My Radar.

Another change on the site is that October 2013 marked the last time I will post a Mini-Review Round-Up. The reason being that in the last theme many mini-reviews spawned their own post anyway – and the idea originally was to save myself some work. In the end it doesn’t save work but creates more. Yes, this will make it easier to fill up my schedule. However, this will also give some oft overlooked films a post all their own rather than being buried in a long running post where they need to be found.

My Year-End Dash will likely remain a running post.

Four candidates added to the Entertainer of the Year Award race.

One name added to the Lifetime Achievement Award.

Lastly for today is my contribution to the Silent Recasting Blogathon where I re-cast Harry Potter as a silent film.

Next updates should be on November 15th, as scheduled.

Updates: September 16th, 2013

If you’ve been paying extra-close attention you may have noticed I’ve not adhered to my policy of updating or adding new content daily as of late. Essentially what has occurred is that I got ahead of the game for a period of time where I was away but didn’t get ahead after returning to the daily grind. So I took some days off to re-strategize: I will slowly and surely build the surplus starting today, which is my regularly scheduled round of updates to running lists. Below you will find links to all that has changed today. New content will arrive tomorrow.

The next update day will be Tuesday, October 1st, 2013.

Considerations for the Robert Downey, Jr. Award for Entertainer of the Year Award
2013 BAM Award Considerations – September
Films Viewed in 2013
Contenders for Favorite Older Film First Viewed in 2013
My Radar

Updates: August 1st, 2013

As those of you who follow my Twitter or the sites Facebook once every two weeks I update all the posts that I consider to be what I call “Running Posts.” Those being lists I update throughout the year or month for various year-end considerations. This is also why I like to say I (try) to post new or updated content daily, as usually update days allow for little else. However, I thought it time to formalize this process. So every two weeks or so (the next one will be up on August 13th) I will write a brief blurb and link to all the posts being updated on the day in question.


Films Viewed in 2013
Contenders for Favorite Older Film First Viewed in 2013
My Radar
Contenders for the 2013 Robert Downey, Jr. Entertainer of the Year Award
Series Tracker