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Final 8 of 16 movies watched in August:

148. (895.) The Baroness and the Butler (1938)
William Powell again in another romance! Here he plays the butler to a Prime Minister who is elected to parliament as a member of the opposition party — who keeps his job as a butler! That's not as improbable as the fact that the Hungarian Prime Minister's daughter speaks with a French accent.

149. (896.) Expo: Magic of the White City (2005)
Documentaries are easier to watch while coding, especially when they are just a narrator talking about a subject I'm already familiar with, in this case Gene Wilder reading a historical account of the Chicago Colombian Exposition of 1893. (I'm a man of varied interests.)

150. (897.) Winnebago Man (2009)
Another documentary, this time about the search for a man who had become an Internet celebrity as a side-effect of an ill-spirited prank. He reminded me of my dad.

151. (898.) Conan O'Brien Can't Stop (2011)
This film just followed Conan O'Brien around during the tour he undertook after his unceremonious departure from The Tonight Show. I like Conan, but I thought this made him look petty and compulsive. It wasn't very entertaining, and I'm not really sure what the point was.

152. (899.) The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
Watched because Myrna Loy was in this, but she's not in it nearly enough. This is NOT my kind of film. Life sucks enough without watching others discovering how much it sucks.

Drink Coke! (The Best Years of Our Lives)
Did you murder people for a country that doesn't love you? Wash that bitterness down with Coke!

153. (900.) Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles (2014)
The sequel to this movie will be released on June 3, 2016. If this film is any indication of what to expect, DO NOT GO SEE IT. I wish I could un-see this one.

154. (901.) Katy Perry: Part of Me (2012)
This was similar to the Conan documentary in that very little is learned about its star. Whereas Conan is a cypher because he moves at a breakneck pace and never stops for introspection, this film felt like it was a piece of stagecraft and not a real peek into Katy's life. It's funny that she feels like a more genuine person on Entertainment Tonight than she does in her own rockumentary.

155. (902.) Hungry (2014)
A documentary about the sport of competitive eating. Apparently, the Nathan's Hot Dog contest is a fraud. I'm so disappointed. If the NFL is as self-interested, corrupt, and focused on profit as Major League Eating.... Oh, shit.

More to come.

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I only watched 15 new-to-me movies in October (plus a few Halloween classics), which is why I'm breaking them out into 3 groups of 5. Here's the second group:

176. (713.) Khartoum (1966)
I enjoyed this semi-fictional story based on the Siege of Khartoum. You know, I've read multiple times in recent years that more movies have been "based on a true story" since 2000 than before. Wikipedia even has an article on it! But I don't believe that, and not only because this movie isn't on that Wikipedia list. Hollywood has always relied on the "true story" to inspire its never end crusade illuminating the human condition. Like snowflakes, every movie needs something real to crystallize around, whether it's a major battle in the fall of the British Empire or a ghost story told to the writer of The Exorcist.

177. (714.) The Sniper (1952)
I watched this movie because I saw its poster was included in a recent book about great noir movie posters. It's a pretty good movie, too, unusual in the fact that the protagonist is also the killer. That may be common in post-Sopranos America, but was unusual in 1950s cinema.

178. (715.) Gone Girl (2014)
Meh. Too long. Too much distracting product placement. Too reliant on unexplained character quirks. (The whole movie doesn't work if the protagonist isn't just an inexplicably horrible human being who lies about random things for no good reason.) But I will praise the stunning acting by Rosamund Pike. Her performance is Oscar-worthy if anything is.

179. (716.) Third Finger, Left Hand (1940)
A romantic comedy of errors featuring Myrna Loy. She's so dreamy.

180. (717.) Magic Boy (1959)
Shown during an animation marathon on TCM, this film is apparently the first anime film released theatrically in the US. The finale is great, but the rest is a little boring. While I can't really recommend the movie (despite an occasionally impressive scene, including the finale), I do recommend the theme song that spells out the entire plot.

"Deep in a spooky forest lived a boy
a wicked witch was trying to destroy.
He said, 'to fight a witch
who uses magic tricks,
I'll have to learn to be a maah-gic boy'!"

So, so good. Take a listen:

"Magic Boy"
written by Fred Spielman and Janice Torre
performed by Danny Valentino and Ray Ellis
from the 1961 MGM release of Magic Boy (aka Shônen Sarutobi Sasuke)

More to come.

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Where was I? "162"?

162. (699.) Double Wedding (1937)
More William Powell and Myrna Loy romantic comedy. A good one, too. (As if there are any that aren't.) I will see them all, oh yes, I will.

163. (700.) Ziegfeld Follies (1945)
More William Powell as Florenz Ziefeld. Ok, so he only played the role twice, but now I've seen both. Frankly, the standout scene in this vaudeville-style movie isn't the dance with Fred Astaire and Gene Kelly, although that is pretty good, but a comedy routine by Red Skelton, which is just amazing. (Keenan Wynn and Fanny Brice have comedy skits in the movie as well, but they both fall far short of the bar that Skelton sets.)

164. (701.) The Lego Movie (2014)
Maybe I expected too much, but this movie bored me. I never forgot that I was watching a 2-hour toy commercial. (And I'm hardly one to criticize someone else for being misogynistic, but ouch. Cringe-worthy. I hadn't realized Legos were only for boys.)

166. (703.) Wreck-It Ralph (2012)
Now this was the movie I was hoping Lego was. I kicked myself for not figuring the Big Bad earlier than the reveal, but I didn't mind a bit. Lots of fun visual and vocal gags in this great animated Disney movie. (How could Disney go from this to Frozen a year-and-a-half later? Blech!)

167. (704.) Detective Story (1951)
Maybe I watch too much noir, but this story was on rails. Too obvious at every turn, the only thing that made this worth watching was Kirk Douglas' powerful on-screen charisma.

168. (705.) Dinner at Eight (1933)
I watched this entire comedy of manners feeling that everything was exposition for the titular dinner. "When will the dinner start?" I kept wondering. The dinner starts just before the closing credits roll! If there was a settlement to any of the story's many, many conflicts, I missed them. (As everyone goes to dinner, there is a sensation of detente, but not resolution.)

169. (706.) Battleship (2012)
Oh, this is a Big, Stupid Action Movie. But it knows its place. It never strives to be anything other than a Big, Stupid Action Movie. The writers and director competently put all the pieces and place and hit all the necessary character notes to achieve the desired outcome. (Yeah! Take that, aliens!) I was very surprisingly entertained throughout. You should take notes, Micheal Bay. (I think this has all the makings of a cult classic.)

170. (707.) Love in the Afternoon (1957)
The rising action was a little slow for my tastes, and the age difference between the male lead, Gary Cooper (playing a 60-year-old man), and the female lead, Audrey Hepburn (playing a college student), was too disparate for me to tolerate. I guess it's a rule that if you want to make a movie focusing on inappropriate March-December sexual relationships, you have to cast Chevalier? (Fun fact: GiGi turns my stomach!)

And that's all my movies watched in September.

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The final batch of movies watched in 2013:

223. (530.) Bunny Lake Is Missing (1965)
Terrific Otto Preminger directed psychological suspense movie with a weird tinge of incest. Hitchcock quality. Highly recommended.

224. (531.) Manhattan Melodrama (1934)
The first Myrna Loy/William Powell movie, and the movie that John Dillinger had just watched before Federal Agents gunned him down. It felt a little cliche for my taste, but it's always hard to tell how much of that cliche comes from others who have copycatted this. I'm willing to give it the benefit of the doubt.

225. (532.) Grand Central Murder (1942)
A wacky whodunnit, this film would have served as a fine undercard with a bigger production. Lots of comedy for a relatively straightforward murder mystery.

226. (533.) The Roaring Twenties (1939)
This movie title gives us the phrase we now associate with the decade of bootleggers. It's fun to see Bogart play a bad guy.

227. (534.) Miami Vice (2006)
Not as bad as I'd been lead to believe. This film has style and artificial pathos to spare, but it could have used an injection of humanity. Everyone is so serious! (And Colin Farrell's southern accent...? No. Just no.)

228. (535.) Mr. and Mrs. Smith (1941)
A Hitchcock comedy that is a little heavy on the suggestive and innuendo for the period That's not a knock, it's just a fact. Maybe I'm too prudish.

229. (536.) Frozen (2013)
Friend Cooper called and asked me to go to the movie, and this is what he chose. The film is front-loaded with exposition, mostly delivered in song. Once the singing slows down, the movie takes off, and I enjoyed myself. (I'm a sucker for Kristen Bell.)

230. (537.) Taking Woodstock (2009)
I don't know how much of this comedy was factual, but I can't imagine that it was too much. Best in Show aside, Eugene Levy so rarely appears in real documentaries.

That's 230 new-to-me movies in 2013, a vast majority of which were comedies (68). The actor I saw the most was Tom Conway, the actress, Myrna Loy (for the second year in a row). Alfred Hitchcock was by far the director I saw most often: 10 different movies! (I thought I had seen a lot of Hitchcock's movies before now. The man was prolific.) The writer's work most watched was Preston Sturges, who I came to sincerely appreciate. And, of course, the most common production studio was MGM. (Thank you, Turner Classic Movies!)

So what'll be playing in 2014?

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October movies, part 2 of 3.

183. (490.) Nosferatu (1922)
This is bram Stoker's Dracula in all but name. Modern movies have told the same story better than this German silent film, but the visuals are great, especially Max Shreck's portrayal of Count Dracula Orlok himself. (If you don't remember, I posted a jack o'lantern of Orlok last month here.)

184. (491.) The Evil That Men Do (1984)
Charles Bronson playing a badass. Again. The highlight of the film is the scene in which Charles picks up a man in a bar to have a threesome with the woman who is pretending to be his wife. (The wife is just there to make a third. It is pretty clear that Bronson is hunting for some guy-on-guy action.) This happens just after he squeezes a man's penis off. Funny, funny stuff.

185. (492.) Malone (1987)
Burt Reynolds playing a badass (with a really, really bad wig). Again. Reynolds helps a small town deal with a psychopathic political reactionary who is determined to... you know, I still have no idea what the bad guy's plan was. Die at Burt Reynold's hand, I guess. As a reward for Reynold's selfless action, he is given the local mechanic's teen-aged daughter. Awkward, awkward stuff.

186. (493.) The Gorgon (1964)
Hammer Horror at it's finest. Christopher Lee is teh highlight, but the only truly bad thing in this movie is the Gorgon itself. The snakes look like they've been pulled out a pop-up book. You could make a better effect with a rake and some tube socks.

187. (494.) Torn Curtain (1966)
Another Hitchcock spy thriller. This film has a lot going for it, including a brutal hand-to-hand sequence and a very entertaining climax. Something is not quite right here, though, and it's hard to put a finger on what that is. The middle of the movie is too empty, with too many moving parts that aren't doing anything. I know Paul Newman and Julie Andrews could do better. I've since read that Hitchcock had a problem with the script and the studio while working on this film. It certainly shows in the finished product.

188. (495.) Billy the Kid vs. Dracula (1966)
Back when there were drive-ins, you had to put something on the screen so kids could have an excuse to go make out in their cars. Therefore this.

189. (496.) The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
I cannot tell a lie: I watched this just for Myrna Loy, who plays a sadistic femme fatal with a dangerous sexual fetish. The movie is very entertaining while Boris Karloff is on screen, not so much otherwise. I should point out that this film is really super racist with it's Imperial British attitude against the Chinese. Truly cringeworthy in moments, especially the denouement.

190. (497.) Starman (1984)
One of the few John Carpenter-directed films I hadn't seen. (Now I think I'm down to Assault on Precinct 13 and The Fog.) It's very good. Jeff Bridges is fantastic as the unnamed title character. (Surprisingly, Mom decided that she loved this movie and has mentioned it several times since.)

191. (498.) Mark of the Vampire (1935)
While the run up to Halloween was filled with vampire horror movies, this was actually an intentionally misleading crime drama. If this movie had been made 70 years later, you wouldn't have been surprised to see M. Night Shyamalan's name on it. I'm still not sure if I feel cheated by it, but I think that I do.

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My last batch of movies from July.

119. (426.) The Rains Came (1939)
This movie is kind of a weird, unhappy romance with massive social inequality, death, and the destruction of India as the backdrop. Myrna Loy is the highlight, but the special effects of the earthquake and flood are spectacular even by modern CGI standards.

120. (427.) The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift (2006)
Imdb.com tells me that the 4th, 5th, and 6th installments in the Fast and Furious franchise all take place before this movie. That doesn't make a lot of sense, but then, none of these movies do.

122. (429.) The Bank Job (2008)
Caper films are always fun. Jason Statham films are always fun. Jason Statham robs a bank films are practically a cottage industry.

123. (430.) The Explosive Generation (1961)
William Shatner opens a dialogue about sex with *cough* 30-year-old high school students and it nearly destroys a small town. The sexual discussion in the isn't any more risque than you'd find in a "Dear Abby" column. The best part of the film is discovering that high school was exactly the same in 1961 as it was when I went 30 years later. Unfortunately, I did not have William Shatner for a social studies teacher.

126. (433.) The Falcon's Alibi (1946)
Another Falcon movie, this time involving murderous bootleggers. The more I see of these Falcon films, the more clear it becomes that this sort of thing was the Magnum P.I. of the 1940s.

127. (434.) The Twelve Chairs (1970)
Of the many films Mel Brooks has made, this is reportedly his favorite. It's a little less wacky or slapstick than his more familiar films, but just as good.

128. (435.) The Wolverine (2013)
I watched this in a theater (my first theater experience in 2013) just because it started with the word "the." I'd say it was the stupidest of all the films I watched in July, but I did also watch The Fast and the Furious: Tokyo Drift.

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And this is everything else I watched in June, my catch-all category, I guess.

89. (396.) Evan Almighty (2007)
Chock full of name comedians and character actors, but still really, unforgivably terrible. I demand to know who thought any part of this movie was a good idea.

93. (400.) It Came from Beneath the Sea (1955)
Stop motion horror animation by the recently deceased Ray Harryhausen. Not exactly must-see material — what this film really lacks is a proper ending — but the special effects do look far more convincing than what you might see in Zack Snyder's CGI movies these days.

95. (402.) Stranger Than Fiction (2006)
Dustin Hoffman plays a supporting role in both Huckabees and this metafictional film, the two of which were my favorite movies in June. Coincidence? I'm naming Hoffman my Star of the Month. (Seriously, I'm no big fan of Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I didn't even mind her in this film.) Also recommended.

99. (406.) Libeled Lady (1936)
A classic 30s screwball comedy with Myrna Loy, William Powell, Spencer Tracy, and Jean Harlow. I know that Harlow was the big sex symbol of her day, but it's really Loy who sizzles onscreen. Also also recommended.

100. (407.) The Return of Peter Grimm (1935)
Not too long ago, I watched On Borrowed Time and The Cockeyed Miracle. This film is essentially the same story (dead man intervenes in the lives of the still-living), but manages to make it exceedingly boring. Next time Peter Grimm goes away, I hope he'll stay there.

101. (408.) How to Steal the World (1968)
A movie made out of the final episodes of The Man from U.N.C.L.E.. The highlight of the movie is the opening title sequence. I don't mean that to be snarky; the opening title sequence is really a lot of fun. It's not that the rest of the movie isn't entertaining, it's just slow-developing with a lot of improbable sequences, such as when heroes Napoleon Solo and Illya Kuryakin escape a firing squad because, well, just because. There's a particularly dumb scene where Leslie Nielsen is rendered mostly brain dead that must take 10 minutes.

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Movies for April, part 1:

53. (360.) Mansfield Park (1999)
Mansfield Park is the one Jane Austen novel I just can't make it through. I just don't connect with this story, told largely second-hand. I liked this movie, but it really isn't very much like the book. At least now I can say I've completed Mansfield Park.

54. (361.) Detective Dee and the Mystery of the Phantom Flame (2010)
Think Wild Wild West in ancient China but actually good. Very enjoyable.

55. (362.) Free Willy (1993)
No, I never saw this before. I really hadn't missed anything at all. Not very enjoyable.

56. (363.) Man-Proof (1938)
I couldn't tell you how to classify this movie. It's not quite crazy enough to be a screwball comedy, and it's not quite silly enough to be a romantic comedy, and it's almost too dramatic to be a comedy. In any case, Myrna Loy makes it watchable enough.

57. (364.) Dark Shadows (2012)
Once upon a time I was a Tim Burton fan; then there was Planet of the Apes. This film isn't good enough to bring me back to Burton fandom, but Burton does enough of the things well here that he used to do well (set design, atmosphere) that I was reminded of old times.

58. (365.) Othello (1965)
I'd never seen a production of Shakespeare's Othello. Since this is Laurence Olivier Month at TCM, I took my opportunity. I discovered that I don't like Othello. Othello's sudden onset of jealousy seems too artificial to me. When Iago's plan falls apart because he couldn't control his own wife, I felt I'd just spent 2 hours watching an idiot murder people. Not my cup of tea.

59. (366.) Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006)
This film got me to thinking about how American cinema has fallen into a rut of having one reigning King of Comedy every few years, where that star will make a half dozen sophomoric movies that are all essentially the same before eventually abdicating the position for the sake of new dramatic rolls. Will Ferrell, Ben Stiller, Adam Sandler, Jim Carrey, Robin Williams, Steve Martin.... When did this start? Can I already guess who will be next comedian to dabble in drama? (I'm looking at you, Kevin James.)

60. (367.) Wordplay (2006)
A very good documentary about crossword puzzles convinced me that 1) I can be better at them, and 2) I'll never be great at them.

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The final 8 movies watched in February, making a total of 28! I strongly doubt I will approach one movie a day in any other month this year.

33. (340.) Hot Tub Time Machine (2010)
I would've expected a film that featured John Cusack and Chevy Chase to be more accurate in depicting the atmosphere of the 1980s than this. Considering that we are more than 2 decades removed from the era, I should expect modern media to remember only the most caricatured aspects of the decade as found parodied in a modern Nickelodean teen sitcom. I did enjoy watching this film, but its false nostalgia was less satisfying than I think it was meant to be.

34. (341.) The Stunt Man (1980)
Great movie. The opening of the movie, as the criminal runs from the cops through the woods and stumbles into a movie set of a WWI war movie shooting on a beach in modern California, is a tremendously enjoyable entrance into the openly referenced Through the Looking Glass Hollywood fantasy-world in which the movie takes place. I loved it.

35. (342.) Ocean's Thirteen (2007)
For what it's worth, this is superior in all ways to Ocean's Twelve.

36. (343.) Safe House (2012)
An action/thriller spy movie with the genre-standard who-can-you-trust plot twist and entirely unnecessary Bourne Identity-emulating unsteady-cam. It's all right if you're in for that sort of thing, but it's really not very deep.

37. (344.) The Broadway Melody (1929)
Also not deep is this cliche-ridden musical. This, the first talkie to win Best Picture, has one greatly redeeming number, "Wedding of the Painted Doll," which stands up well over time. More amusing is the fact that the more attractive of the two female leads is the one that the movie treats as comparatively ugly (Bessie Love). Go figure.

38. (345.) Drumline (2002)
Shallower and shallower. Stop me if you've heard this one: very talented boy learns what it takes to make it in the cutthroat of competitive college sports. That in this case the sport happens to be "marching band" is the closest that this film deviates from this well-worn movie cliche.

39. (346.) Out Cold (2001)
A comedy of the same sub-genre as Hot Tub Time Machine, which we may as well call "Meatballs on ice." I did much enjoy Lee Majors as the Snidely Whiplash of the picture.

40. (347.) The Great Ziegfeld (1936)
The bio-pic is a genre that I have greatly mixed emotions about. What's the point of learning about someone's life in the most inaccurate way possible? I will say that the film inspired me to look up some more factual history of Ziegfeld and his cast, which I wouldn't have done otherwise. I've come to like William Powell, and his snappy delivery of some clever dialogue — did Flo Ziegfeld really say any of these things? — and his interactions with Frank Morgan gave me plenty to watch between the elaborately staged musical numbers. (Added bonus: Ziegfeld's second wife is played by Myrna Loy!)

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I enjoyed keeping track of my movies watched last year, so even though I don't have any goals for 2013, I'm just going to keep on tracking.

I watched 12 movies in January, which puts me on pace for 144. I think that's probably about average for me, as that's what I initially expected when I planned to watch 150 last year. I guess we'll see if I keep up that pace.

1. (308.) Love Crazy (1941)
Another William Powell and Myrna Loy film, this time firmly in the "screwball comedy" genre. Like all screwballs, the plot is more forced than the average primetime situation comedy, but the interaction between Powell and Loy is, as always, fantastic.

2. (309.) Rounders (1998)
This film featuring Matt Damon as a poker savant denying his destiny and his chance at love has a strong Good Will Hunting vibe. I didn't like Good Will Hunting.

3. (310.) The Swan (1956)
Grace Kelly plays a wannabe princess, but it's really Alec Guinness who steals the show as the aloof prince. This movie shows its age at the end: 21st-century Hollywood would NEVER tolerate this film's fitting finale.

4. (311.) Spy Kids 3-D: Game Over (2003)
Just because a movie is intended for kids doesn't excuse a script from being this bad. Fortunately, all the actors -- who I suspect are all Robert Rodriguez's drinking buddies -- know how bad it is and are all trying to out-ham one another.

5. (312.) Rififi (1955)
To get the taste of Spy Kids out of my mouth, I turned to this French caper film. Truly a must watch for anyone who loves noir cinema.

6. (313.) Island of Terror (1966)
My friend Otto paid $90 for a copy of this late 1950s British sci-fi/horror film. That was money well spent.

7. (314.) Big Deal on Madonna Street (1958)
An Italian lampoon of the caper sub-genre that is genuinely funny, if a little long-winded.

8. (315.) Gone in 60 Seconds (2000)
Oh, Nic Cage. Just because someone tells you you only have two options ("commit suicide" or "steal 50 cars in 12 hours") doesn't mean you have to immediately take his word for it. But you're not really know for making good decisions, now are you?

9. (316.) Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (2011)
There may be too much James Bond in this Sherlock Holmes for my taste (it brought to mind my least favorite Agatha Christie mystery, The Big Four), but it is entirely worth it for the Holmes/Watson interaction.

10. (317.) Gosford Park (2001)
I can't say enough great things about this murder mystery story. If you haven't seen it, correct that mistake.

11. (318.) Suspicion (1941)
An early Hitchcock where Cary Grant plays the scheming villain. Not Hitchcock's best work, but not bad by any stretch.

12. (319.) A Thousand Words (2012)
Did I just say "bad by any stretch"? This film is too risque for kids and too juvenile for adults. It's nothing but an excuse for several un-funny "comedy" bits glued together by a clumsy smattering of forced sentimentality. IMDB.com says this performed so poorly in the U.S. that it's overseas release was aborted. Don't let it be said that there isn't at least one advantage to living in Greece.

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To be continued...

 

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