Sunday, January 9, 2011

Movies In Review 2010

2010 was a record-breaking year for movie watching. I saw 219 different film titles in 2010 (not counting multiple viewings), most of them on Turner Classic Movies, the greatest channel that has ever existed. I don't think I've ever watched so many movies in one year ever! None of the movies I watched were actually released in 2010 (the most recent title was Michael Jackson's This Is It (2009), which I watched three times over two days -- once with my Mother who, surprisingly, loved it). I keep a movie log (and a book log, but that's a whole other post) to keep track of all my new discoveries, and I thought I would do a quick run-down of some of the year's highlights. I hope to cover some of these movies soon in my lagging, poorly-named Fluorescerama series where I post pictures and inadequate commentary about movies I've enjoyed. I expect to pick up the slack there eventually so that I can move on to the great films I'll stumble upon in the new year.

January started off well with nineteen movies, the best being the 1959 adaptation of a Tennessee Williams play, Suddenly Last Summer. While I'm not normally a fan of Williams, Katharine Hepburn's rather manic monologue and the disturbing story drew me in. Up until this time, this was also one of the stronger performances I had seen from Elizabeth Taylor who played a disturbed young woman who was forced into an institution to cover up a twisted family tragedy.

My favorites from February included Ray Milland in the supernatural thriller The Uninvited and my first foray into the acting brilliance of Marlon Brando, On The Waterfront [2] (I had seen other Brando movies before but wasn't impressed until this one).

March was jam-packed with a lot great movies, but some of my lesser-known favorites included a delightful romantic comedy starring Ginger Rogers and Jimmy Stewart called Vivacious Lady; a 1946 film noir that has become an instant favorite and a bit of an obsession of mine, The Blue Dahlia [2]; and Peter Fonda's 1975 camp-fest, Race With The Devil [2].

One of the most provocative movies I saw this year was Judgment At Nuremberg. With superb performances from the entire cast, memorable courtroom monologues, and powerful revelations into what was, essentially, current events at the time of its release, this movie is incredibly humbling and should be mandatory viewing. You really expect it to take many more decades of percolation for such meticulous historical and philosophical depth to emerge from such a highly consequential event.

One of the most affecting movies I saw this year was One Flew Over The Cuckoo's Nest. I had managed to never see this movie or read the Ken Kesey book, and I was impressed with the story and ensemble acting of this touching story, which I found to be equally beautiful, amusing, and tragic.

I saw a few really excellent movies in June, including the delightful tale of Lili starring the demure Leslie Caron; Truffaut's haunting coming-of-age drama The 400 Blows; and the real-life, modern noir, In Cold Blood (also, it's worth reading the Truman Capote book!). In August, I saw another slew of superior movies, including another excellent courtroom drama, 12 Angry Men. To some extent, I think it works as a good companion piece to Judgment At Nuremberg. At the very least, both films will leave you with a lot to ponder.

I also had an opportunity to watch a trio of Orson Welles films this autumn, and I was especially taken with two noirs, The Third Man and The Lady From Shanghai. Finally, Charlie Chaplin captured my heart with The Kid (who knew Jackie Coogan had been so adorable?!) and continued to simultaneously warm my heart and tickle my funny bone with The Great Dictator. It was said of the Tramp's first foray into talking pictures that he kept silent until he had something of real importance to say, and you can't help but admire Chaplin's sheer nerve at skewering such a humorless individual (especially considering the fact that even a heiling dog got them all bent out of shape). Once again, like Judgment At Nuremberg and 12 Angry Men, the speech from The Great Dictator is just as relevent today as it was upon its original release.

In retrospect, I realize that 2010 was a big year for Marlon Brando (A Streetcar Named Desire, Viva Zapata!, The Wild One, On The Waterfront, One-Eyed Jacks, Mutiny On The Bounty, Morituri, Burn!, Last Tango In Paris); Montgomery Clift [2] (The Heiress, A Place In The Sun, Indiscretion Of An American Wife, From Here To Eternity, Raintree County, Lonelyhearts, Judgment At Nuremberg, Suddenly Last Summer); and Paul Newman (Sweet Bird Of Youth, Hud, Harper, Cool Hand Luke, Butch Cassidy And The Sundance Kid, The Sting).

I also noticed I saw a few familiar faces in every movie I watched. It's amazing how many movies Spring Byington (Lucky Parters, When Ladies Meet, Dragonwyck, Faithful In My Fashion, In The Good Old Summertime, Please Don't Eat The Daisies) and Edward Everett Horton (The Gay Divorcee, Top Hat, Arsenic And Old Lace, Faithful In My Fashion, Sex And The Single Girl -- plus he was the narrator of Fractured Fairy Tales) are in!

Finally, by genre, my top three...
B-Movies: Terror on the Beach, Race with the Devil, Zaat
Noirs: The Blue Dahlia, The Lady From Shanghai, The Third Man
Musicals: 42nd Street, The Gay Divorcee, Can't Help Singing
Comedies: The Awful Truth, Victor/Victoria, This Is Spinal Tap

And.. the three WORST movies I saw last year (each creepier than the last):
William Shatner in the only movie I saw this year in Esperanto, Incubus; the truly horrifying Shanks starring Marcel Marceau; and the split-screen blood spiller, Wicked, Wicked [trailer], which featured a creepy Ian Curtis look-alike and a song ('Wicked, Wicked') that I still get in my head six months after seeing this movie!

So far, 2011 has had a slower start. I've only watched one new title so far this year, State Fair. I can't believe I've never seen this Rodgers & Hammerstein musical before now. I must have equated it with Carousel, but it ended up being a pleasantly delightful treat! I'm excited to see what other cinematic treasures I'll discover throughout the new year, and I plan on sharing them here (along with further televisual, literary, and online findings)! Stay tuned!

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