Six-String Samurai (1998) – It’s good, but this would probably mean a lot to me if I cared more about the history of American pop music or classic Chinese martial arts films, or if I didn’t hate every piece of the kid character. A question you should always ask when writing a child character–especially if that child is going to spend most of the story in dire peril–is whether your audience will wish the child alive or dead. In short, if the child is not intended as a villain of some kind, I should not wish for a poisonous desert lizard to fly up into the child’s mouth and smother/poison him. I should not have thought up several amusing ways for that child to die, most of which involve his noise-hole being clogged.
Watership Down (1978) – More of this, please. More serious, grown-up animation not geared specifically to children, nor even generously toward “families”. Some stories are not for small children, and there’s no reason children should have any kind of dibs on animation. A movie should not have to explain that although it’s animated, that doesn’t mean it’s for children. And there are some things that can only be done with animation. I can’t think of another way to present this story as a film that wouldn’t be monumentally stupid, so kids and families are just going to have to suck it up and see something else.
The FP (2011) – It was bound to happen at some point this year, as with all years, that I would see a movie that makes me angry for having seen it. My life is diminished by these grown people speaking someone’s idea of street slang as if they learned it phonetically. I am far too sober for this.
It is tempting to assume that this is meant as comedy, and all this idiocy is deliberate. And it may be, we’ll never know for sure, but comedic intent doesn’t excuse anything. In many ways, it’s worse if this was supposed to be funny. Whatever they’re going for, they missed their target.
Incubus (1966) – The most beautifully filmed, most competently acted instructional language film ever made, made to demonstrate a language that can’t even be called dead because it was never alive.
To have a blinded character wander around shouting “Marco” is a test of the audience’s self restraint.
The Book of Life (2014) – That could have been a very good movie, except for some major problems. Putting aside the feminist problems for a moment (and that’s not easy, considering the main plotline centers around two men fighting over a woman, and surprise, it doesn’t pass the Bechdel test), it just fails on several basic technical and structural grounds.
The DVD was loaned to me with the warning that the music is terrible; it was terrible. One unnecessary cover after another, shoehorned into the story sideways. I was also warned that the framing device was obnoxious; it was. A framing device can be used effectively to bridge the real world to the fantastical story world. I do not need to be pulled from the story every five minutes to be explicitly told what I should be feeling. That makes me feel angry.
The movie is rife with characters and throwaway jokes we’ve seen a thousand times in Disney movies for twenty years or more. Just watch everything between The Little Mermaid and Pocahontas, and you’re all set.
The Innocents (1961) – With a governess, a housekeeper with dire-but-cryptic warnings, and creepy children, this is the quintessential gothic horror movie, and is really among the best I’ve ever seen.
Women Aren’t Funny (2014) – It’s an absurd assertion made by assholes that doesn’t even deserve a response. At least, the response shouldn’t just be listing off funny women but rather wondering how such a person with such views can still be a thing.
Seven Samurai (七人の侍, 1954) – With a running time of 207 minutes, that averages to nearly half an hour per samurai, which seems like a lot. But really, for such a long movie, it doesn’t feel wasteful, or long for the sake of being epic, as other directors might do (you know who you are, Peter Jackson). Even the stupid love story that nobody cares about doesn’t drag the movie down.
Albert Nobbs (2011) – Between The World According to Garp and Albert Nobbs, Glenn Close has shown herself capable of portraying the most heartbreaking characters and stories. And yet, for her six Oscar nominations, she has never won even once. It’s like she’s trying to outdo Peter O’Toole or something.
Faust (Faust – Eine deutsche Volkssage, 1926) – Emil Jannings as Mephisto is fabulous, in every sense of the word.