Here are some two sentence reviews of the movies I watched in December.
- Movies watched – 15
- Movies that were new to me – 7
- Hitchcock to Holmes ratio – 3 to 2
- Monthly Masterpieces – It’s a Wonderful Life
- The Black Swan (2010) – Well made, but ultimately rather underwhelming and obvious. As portraits of artistic obsession go, it doesn’t hold a candle to The Red Shoes.
- Salt (2010) – The action is decent and Jolie is moderately convincing, but I still found myself resisting the urge to roll my eyes throughout most of it. Probably because the plot is a few orders of magnitude too preciously convoluted for pedestrian action fare like this movie ultimately is.
- Die Hard (1988) – Great lead and bad guy combined with breathless pacing and badass set pieces–this may very well be the best action movie of all time. Making the action hero more of an everyman “one man army” than invincible super soldier is a welcome addition too.
- Goldfinger (1964) – The gadgets and silliness are beginning to creep into the series by this point, but not so much that they detract from the film like in You Only Live Twice. If this isn’t the best Bond film, it is at least one of the three best.
- Christmas Vacation (1989) – An episodic collection of great gags and endlessly quotable dialog, Christmas just wouldn’t be the same without this. Cousin Eddie alone is worth the price of admission.
- Saboteur (1942) – Hitchcock sure does this story a lot, but I suppose that is because it tends to make such a ripping good yarn. The film is about average for him; the lead isn’t super compelling, but the set pieces (especially the Statue of Liberty finale) are mostly quite good.
- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – A brilliant depiction of all the despair and joy that is an inseparable part of the human experience. Uplifting but never sentimental–an astounding feat for a movie about a motherfucking prayer-sent angel.
- Rope (1948) – Another Hitchcock tour de force that effortlessly confines its clever narrative to a single room. The long takes work very well; if I have a complaint it would be that I kind of feel like both sides of the film’s philosophical core (the motive and the final speech from Stewart) seem a bit simplistic.
- Going the Distance (2010) – Barrymore’s performance seems dodgy at first, but she grows on you, and they really do make a cute couple. More importantly, the movie is really quite funny, and has a lot of nice work from the supporting cast as well.
- In the Street (1948) – Great silent document of a city street in Harlem in the 1940s. The message seems to be “just cause you’re poor, doesn’t mean you can’t be happy”, which is as brilliantly delivered as it is naive (not that I disagree with it).
- Perceval le Gallois (1978) – Such a seemingly oddball choice makes a great deal more sense when evaluated against Rohmer’s full body of work. By portraying Perceval as a young “innocent fool” searching for a moral code, this film is the bridge between the moral conflict of his earlier films and the comedies of errors of his subsequent comedies and proverbs series.
- I Confess (1953) – What a great premise for a film, executed perfectly by Hitchcock’s direction and Clift’s acting. I didn’t even mind Karl Malden this time around since he is actually playing a douche instead of just making me think he is one.
- Dressed to Kill (1946) – Holmes battles a female criminal mastermind in this last film of the series. A lot of great stuff (including the debut of Watson’s old school buddy “Stinky”) even if Holmes is a little behind in the race this time around.
- Pearl of Death (1944) – Pretty entertaining Sherlock Holmes film, with the hideously deformed Creeper as a villainous highlight. While the jokes are funny, this is also a bit sillier than the rest of the series.
- The Fight for Life (1940) – It is surprising how compelling this is for a dramatized educational film. The soundtrack is pretty great too.