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So far February has been light viewing for new-to-me movies, but I still have quite the backlog from January.

7. (1661.) The Juggler (1953)
This is the last Kirk Douglas movie I saw before he died. He plays a German who survived the Holocaust with severe mental trauma trying to hide from authorities by playing a juggling clown in a post-war Israeli settlement. I missed the start of the film and went looking for it with a Google search on "Kirk Douglas juggler." The title might have been a little too on-the-nose, but Douglas' commitment to the part was noteworthy. What a great actor.

8. (1662.) Knives Out (2019)
There's not much I can say about this murder mystery without spoiling the experience except that it is both keenly aware and deserving of its reflection of the best the mystery genre has to offer. Very enjoyable. (I'd love to see more of Daniel Craig's Detective Benoit Blanc.)

9. (1663.) Despicable Me 3 (2017)
I smiled at this movie several times but didn't laugh once until the "Spy vs Spy"-inspired end credits sequence. I admire the craftsmanship, but I think there are some fundamental problems with the all-over-the-place plotting and stock characterizations. (An '80s villain? Incompetent Millennial bureaucrats? Pig-farming millionaires? Who was the target audience for this thing?)

10. (1664.) Aurora Teagarden Mystery: A Bone to Pick (2015)
This is the first of the Aurora Teagarden series (which I am seeing last because that's how I roll!). To it's credit, it does some good world-building and lays groundwork for character relationships to come. I still don't like the main character, though. I'm still hoping she gets murdered.

11. (1665.) Making Mr. Right (1987)
Leave it to John Malkovich plays both a genius roboticist and his android in a bizarre twist on the standard romcom formula. It's simultaneously silly and charming. As a bonus, everyone in it is drinking either Dr. Brown's Cel-Ray or Coca-Cola.

Drink Coke! (Making Mr. Right)

12. (1666.) Farewell, My Lovely (1975)
I've seen hard-boiled detective Phillip Marlowe played by Dick Powell (Murder, My Sweet), Humphrey Bogart (The Big Sleep), Robert Montgomery (Lady in the Lake), and Elliott Gould (The Long Goodbye). This movie was Robert Mitchum's turn. I love Mitchum as a street-smart tough guy (a la Out of the Past), but I don't really buy him "deducing" the solution to this sort of convoluted mystery plots.

More to come.

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New year, new movies.

1. (1655.) The Spy Who Dumped Me (2018)
Just your run-of-the-mill buddy road action romance comedy spy movie for chicks. Being a mash up of so many genres, it stuck mostly to the established stereotypes of each. That there were so many moving parts (and actors having fun) kept it from being stale. I enjoyed it.

2. (1656.) Chopping Mall (1986)
Imagine Short Circuit with Johnny Five replaced by Micheal Myers and you get this so very 1980s slasher flick. Recommended to fans of Friday the 13th (I'm talking to you, Keith).

Drink Coke! (Chopping Mall)
There were better Coke shots before this, but I wasn't ready.

3. (1657.) A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood (2019)
I liked this as a work of fiction, but I just could not accept Tom Hanks as Fred Rogers. (And although the protagonist is based on a real person, I think it's ridiculous to call a film about a fictitious person a biography.) Therefore, the highlight of the film was the miniature sets used for establishing shots and transitions. If you want to see a movie about Mr. Rogers, I'd recommend last year's Won't You Be My Neighbor documentary instead.

4. (1658.) Kansas City Confidential (1952)
Good, suspenseful noir about a man-done-wrong chasing down the men who did him wrong. Enjoyable.

5. (1659.) Magnificent Obsession (1954)
This is dreary melodrama follows a horrible, trust-fund cad (Rock Hudson) who falls for the woman whose life he destroyed (Jane Wyman) and becomes the world's best brain surgeon to fix her. Ugh.

6. (1660.) The Lodger (1927)
Alfred Hitchcock's third film was obviously heavily influenced by the German expressionism films of the era. As so many silents do, it sags a bit in the middle, but it's totally worth a watch for Hitchcock fans. (It contains the first Hitchcock cameo appearance, by the way. His back is to camera in an early shot of a newsroom. I missed it.)

More to come.

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The Hollywood Reporter reports the totally inevitable news that Disney is remaking Bambi as a "live-action feature" as a "companion piece to its remakes The Jungle Book and The Lion King." I can't tell you how much it bothers me that Disney insists on calling its computer-generated eye-candy "live-action." I also can't tell you exactly why.

A large part of it must be related to my distaste for Disney itself. I once had a great deal of respect for the company that Walt built on the back of an animated mouse. Mr. Disney was an imperfect man, but he really did believe in making disposable entertainment into art. His successors less so. These days, the powers-that-be at Disney are obsessed solely in their quest to be the only entertainment company on earth. They'll do anything that gets them an extra almighty dollar, mostly including exploiting pre-packaged nostalgia for Walt's corpse.

However, a bigger problem is the lie itself. Computers are powerful, but outside of Weird Science, they remain incapable of breathing life into binary code. Nothing about The Lion King was live action, but Disney has been very careful to avoid saying so. (For example, they refused to submit the movie for consideration for Best Animated Feature Film Oscar.) I don't know why. Movies aren't real to begin with, so why mislead people about how they are made?

It increasingly looks like we're living in a post-truth society. The man in the White House can't say two sentences without a lie. Facebook will not restrict political campaigns from spreading intentional, demonstrable mistruths in paid advertising. Enemy states are using face-switching technology to promote propaganda on social media. With politicians already doing such a great job at it, why should we let corporations continue to degrade America's tenuous grasp on "reality" any further?

Sigh. I know I'm over-reacting. It's just promotional press for a movie that I won't watch. (Unless they shoot Bambi this time.) I know I'm just getting old and weary. But these uncontested, re-reported lies are really starting to get to me. It feels like 1984 is getting closer ever day, and now it's coming soon to a theater near you.

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Movies watched in 2019: the final batch.

209. (1648.) Bumblebee (2018)
Surprise, surprise: it is possible to make a good live-action Transformers movie! No, really, it's a great combination of coming-of-age and buddy action pictures, intentionally evocative of the best of the Love Bug movies. Wriphe endorsed!

210. (1649.) Jojo Rabbit (2019)
If Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse was my favorite film watched in 2019, this is my favorite movie released in the year 2019. I'm so glad it was nominated for Best Picture Oscar. More people need to see it. (In fact, it is be re-released in theaters this weekend. If you haven't seen it yet, consider going. You won't regret it.)

211. (1650.) Made in U.S.A. (1987)
I watched this indie cross-country road picture via TCM Underground, and that was a perfect place for it. The plot, such as it is, doesn't make a lot of sense and there isn't a great payoff, but it is definitely some sort of adventure.

Drink Coke! (Made in USA)
No matter how far you are off the beaten path, there's Coke!

212. (1651.) Bundle of Joy (1956)
This is the Debbie Reynolds musical remake of Ginger Rogers' Bachelor Mother. The original movie is so much better. Don't watch this one.

213. (1652.) Office Christmas Party (2016)
Completely predictable, but not without its chuckles. Besides, who really wants a truly chaotic Christmas party.

Drink Coke! (Office Christmas Party)
Oddly, no one in the entire movie actually drinks a soda.

214. (1653.) The Opposite Sex (1956)
Sex comedy, 1950s style: Yawn. Leslie Nielsen leaves his wife for a starlet who cheats on him, so the ex-wife plots to steal her old husband back. Why, lady? He's obviously not that great a catch.

215. (1654.) This Could Be the Night (1957)
Not a great title for an otherwise charming film. A young teacher takes a job in a strip joint and soon charms everyone, including the audience. A good way to send out 2019.

More to come.

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You can keep your Romero, Nicholson, Ledger, Leto, and Phoenix...

Come hither... and die!

Nope, nothing crazy happening here

A perfect example of how normal people laugh

...*my* Joker is Jack Lemmon from Some Like It Hot.

I'll show them how many boners the Joker can make!

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December is over, so it's past time I started wrapping up movies watched in the last month of 2019. Here's the first batch.

204. (1643.) They Call Me Mister Tibbs! (1970)
The sequel to In the Heat of the Night feels like it takes place in a different universe. That's not to say that this detective story (about finding the real killer of a dead call girl) is bad, exactly, just that it would probably work better if this wasn't supposed to be the same character.

Drink Coke! (They Call Me Mr Tibbs!)
Not a lot to choose from in that soda pop machine, guys.

205. (1644.) The Three Musketeers (1948)
This was the Gene Kelly version, and it may be my least favorite of all I've seen (which is, let's see, this, plus the 1921, 1973, 1993, and 2011 versions). Kelly seems too... *gay* for the role of D'Artagnan, and I mean that in the traditional 1940s MGM musical sense of the word. Watch him dance-fence, and you'll see what I mean.

206. (1645.) Tapeheads (1988)
The spiritual predecessor of Will Ferrell movies. I'd've loved this in high school. (Note: Tim Robins played the art nerd here the same year he was a hotshot pitcher in Bull Durham. Boy had range!)

207. (1646.) Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia (1974)
A small-time crook gets mixed up in a meandering, hapless bounty hunt for a man who is already dead. It doesn't end well for anyone involved, including the dead man and especially the viewer. Obviously, I'm not a fan.

Drink Coke! (Bring Me the Head of Alfredo Garcia)
Also bring me a Coke!

208. (1647.) Phase IV (1974)
Science fiction fable about how humanity's hubris results in its death at the hands of super-smart ants. I mean, considering how many ants I've killed in my backyard, I guess we all have it coming.

Drink Coke! (Phase IV)
Obviously you can't make a movie about an army of ants without a sugary beverage.

More to come.

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Friend Randy complained when my last movie post promised eleven movies and only delivered five. I correct that omission here.

198. (1637.) Terms of Endearment (1983)
Several times during the movie (which is surprisingly more of a comedy than a tragedy), I asked myself "Why am I still watching this." I don't have an answer. The acting is good, yes (in fact, the cast is phenomenal), but the subject matter really isn't that engaging to me. Whatever. Just not my thing.

Except for the Coke.

Drink Coke! (Terms of Endearment)
Spoiler: Teddy is not careful.

199. (1638.) Smithereens (1982)
More my thing, at least in spirit. The actual story — a girl constantly making the wrong decisions in life — wasn't particularly captivating for a whole two hours, but the "indie" (read: cheap) filmmaking style was immersive, like these were real, heavily flawed, people. Felt like a Warhol film.

200. (1639.) I Am a Thief (1934)
A detective mystery (with a little romance) set on a train. Thin and lightly contrived, but still a pleasant way to spend an afternoon.

201. (1640.) Downton Abbey (2019)
I told Mom I wanted to go to the movies, and she said she wanted to go, too, so long as we saw this. So we did. I'd never seen an episode and can't believe they are all as good as the film was. Mom assures me they are. I was particularly thankful for the recap the theater ran in front of the actual film so that I had at least an inkling of who the houseful of players were. The most impressive thing about the plot is the incredibly low-stakes plot. There have been many, many dramas that have managed to do far less with much more.

(Sidenote: Mom and I weren't the only two in attendance. A couple of rows in front of us were three people who, it turned out, were watching the film again in anticipation of a vacation to visit the filming location, Highclere Castle.)

202. (1641.) In a Lonely Place (1950)
Is Bogart a murderer or just a bad guy? Is he aware of his own flaws? Is he deserving of love? Overall, a great noir movie. (There's a running gag in the movie about Bogart's screenwriter character having not read the book he's turning into a movie. Apparently, that was the case for this movie and the book it's based on. Meta!)

203. (1642.) Image Makers: The Adventures of America's Pioneer Cinematographers (2019)
TCM closed their month-long salute to cinematographers with this documentary highlighting the accomplishments of some of the best film has to offer. As a film buff, I found it engrossing, especially the anecdotes about the early days of Hollywood.

More to come.

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November wasn't only about pies and movies!

When I was a kid, my favorite Christmas decoration was a pair of legs painted on plywood mounted to the top of a chimney. They were connected to a windshield wiper motor and kicked, like Santa was stuck face down. It was a good gag.

Cue earlier last month when Mom said that she wanted a new Christmas yard decoration. She was looking at lit Santa Claus blow molds like she had on her door as a child, but when she tried to convey the idea, all I could think of were those kicking legs.

I didn't manage the same level of technical innovation, but I think I got the nostalgia angle right.

Ho, Ho, Ho

Kind of looks like a bit of Photoshop there, doesn't it? Here it is a little closer.

The Taste of Christmas

My next door neighbor seems to like it. He's already asked where we bought it so that he could get one of his own. Mom had to let him down easy. This Santa stands alone.

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I only saw 11 new-to-me movies in the month of November. I'm no numerologist, but that seems an appropriate number.

193. (1632.) Caged Heat (1974)
This was the first movie that Jonathan Demme (Silence of the Lambs) directed. They grow up so fast! No, really, it looks only slightly more professional than the average women-in-prison exploitation flick. Hard to imagine while watching it that the guy behind this went on to Philadelphia.

194. (1633.) Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans (1927)
TCM spent the month highlighting films chosen by the The American Society of Cinematographers, and I'm so glad they did. This silent film directed by the legendary F.W. Murnau (Nosferatu) with the assistance of two great cinematographers (Charles Rosher and Karl Struss) is almost as perfect as a movie can be. There are very few title cards; the movie simply doesn't need them. This should be a must watch for everyone who loves movies.

195. (1634.) Fashions of 1934 (1934)
A comedy of errors? A screwball? A romantic comedy? A little bit of all of them. Not quite a classic, though it does feature a pairing of William Powell and a criminally underused Bette Davis, for those who love such things.

196. (1635.) The Big Picture (1989)
Kevin Bacon is put through the wringer of the Hollywood system in this satire a la The Player (with less murder). I didn't love it. Didn't hate it. Maybe it just didn't speak to me.

197. (1636.) Shadow of the Vampire (2000)
After watching a Murnau movie, I decided to watch this, a fictional re-telling of the making of Nosferatu as if the vampire was a real vampire. I remember William Dafoe promoting this on the talk show circuit at the time. It's a pretty good atmospheric horror. I liked it.

More to come.

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Late in the season, I'm way off the pace for movies in 2019, and it only gets worse as we get to the end of the football season. I've only got two eyes!

Anyway, here is the final batch of movies watched in October:

186. (1625.) Ghost World (2001)
I think I really enjoy coming-of-age movies more when they are based on comic books. Fantastic stuff here, really. Especially that ambiguous ending.

187. (1626.) This Gun for Hire (1942)
The original story of a hit man with a heart of gold! No, not really. He's actually kind of a jerk, but he does have a legit beef against some crooks worse than he is. Highlight here is Robert Preston as a crack-shot cop.

188. (1627.) The Phantom Carriage (1921)
Swedish silent film about paying for your sins in the afterlife. Great atmosphere if light on actual plot. Highlight here is the bit of trivia that the axe-through-the-door scene was the inspiration for a similar shot in The Shining.

189. (1628.) The Sheepman (1958)
Glenn Ford goes so far out of his way to play a cad that it's nearly impossible to accept that he would end up with town hot potato Shirley MacLaine in the end. Highlight here is Leslie Neilsen as a villainous cowpoke.

190. (1629.) Atomic Blonde (2017)
This very stylish action film wants to be John Wick, but the unreliable narrator aspect and resulting questionable reality are a detriment. Highlight is the 80s soundtrack.

191. (1630.) Here Come the Nelsons (1952)
This film uses a traditional sit-com setup, so it feels like a long TV episode. Highlight is that it is the first visual adventure of Ozzie and Harriet and family.

192. (1631.) The Dawn Patrol (1938)
Always-smiling Errol Flynn and his real life best pal, David Niven, leads their WWI flying aces into combat and inevitable deaths! Highlight is the chemistry between the leads.

More to come.

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To be continued...

 

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