GREAT FIRST TIME VIEWINGS OF 2017

Every year I watch way too many movies. While it’s nice to talk about the best films of the year gone by what happens to those that you watch just because you love movies????

Well this is the story of those movies. Never forgotten and cautionary tales to those who feel that old movies don’t exist anymore. More than just that thing we use to wrap our fresh fish in…

BILLY ELLIOT (2000) (Stephen Daldry)

I’ve heard people talking about this film for years and just continued to put it off. Not for any real reason but rather just it got lost in the ever growing piles of movies I just hadn’t seen yet.

Fastforward to 2017 and it’s nothing but a joy of my year to finally watch this story of this young boy who wants nothing more than to dance. Dance Billy Dance!!!

DANCER IN THE DARK (2000) (Lars von Trier)

Hello internet. I love musicals. I didn’t know musicals could be this depressing.

Lars you hurt my soul with this movie where it even added Joel Grey (famed for his role in Cabaret) into this twisted musical where it’s music comes mostly from environmental music and Bjork’s crazed voice. I’ve never been the biggest fan of Bjork’s music, but I can’t deny how great her voice is and this film highlights that if nothing else.

The film contains some of the most interesting set pieces I’ve seen in a musical which isn’t about being bombastic but rather engimatic as it relates to the saddening world that the story exists in.

FRENZY (1972) (Alfred Hitchcock)

One of the weirder films I’ve seen this past year. Being a fan of Hitchcock this film stands out as a special case. It takes about 45 minutes for you to find out what this movie is really about and becomes a twisted version of the “mistaken identity” plot in films like North by Northwest and The Big Lebowski in which the killer is intentionally twisting the world to seeing someone else as this killer of women. It’s crazed, silly and more graphic than you’ve seen Hitchcock make before and I loved it.

FUNNY FACE (1957) (Stanley Donen)

Here’s another musical I caught up with and Audrey Hepburn does wonderful things. She has a wonderful thing being an “empath” and my laughter cannot be contained. It also helps to have a seasoned Fred Astaire to keep the story, and feet, moving throughout.

HIGH PLAINS DRIFTER (1973) (Clint Eastwood)

This I feel would be the film that if released today would be the most reviled. Eastwood rolls into a town and robs, kills and rapes within the first few minutes. Then he’s immediately hired to protect the town from other bad men coming to cause choas and is given the run of the town to do as he pleased. It’s crazy that something like this could be made but at the same time I bought into the ridiculousness of it. When the films caps off in hell no less it reminded me what these wild westerns were like where they wanted to show the world as an unforgiving one where you make yourself into a monster to survive and Eastwood, as always, is the biggest monster of all.

THE INSIDER (1999) (Michael Mann)

I miss 90s Pacino. He overacts but in all the right ways. This also was a blind spot in my viewings of Mann’s filmography and I was more than happy to fill in the spaces.

A story of a journalist getting the story and getting it right. But moreso about the whistleblower and what happens to him after he does the right thing. Your industry, no matter how right you were to tell the truth, doesn’t welcome you back and your life as you know it is over. Is this guy any different than Henry Hill? Both are staring down the barrell of suburbia and changes that will haunt them? They just made different moral decisions that led them there. We thank them for their service and move on with our days.

LET THE BULLETS FLY (2010) (Wen Jiang)

One of my more random surprises of 2017 as I didn’t even know this movie existed before it popped up on Mubi one day. In a ridiuclous Chinese gangster/western/comedy film where a bandit poses as a mayor for a town and ends up in a battle of wits with the local underlord, played by Chow Yun-fat, it’s an over the top crazy film. It has a few of my favourite scenes of the year including a scene in which a gang member is accused of stealing from a shop owner and has one of the craziest resolutions to the accusation. A fun, slightly gory, tale that I recommend highly.

MEMORIES OF MURDER (2003) (Joon-ho Bong)

Sometimes a detective story doesn’t end well. We’ve seen many of them. However, it feels cool to watch this story play out where we know both sides aren’t playing fair. We take it entirely from the perspective of the police and watch as they try to make sense of these killings. Even employing traps to try and find the killer in the act, but it never seems to work out and it’s heart wrenching but at the same time feels like an old tale you hear someone tell of something that happened a time gone by, and enthralling regardless of it’s ending.

OFFSIDE (2006) (Jafar Panahi)

Just let the girls watch the football…. please.

Apparently females in Iran can’t attend public events, like football matches. Excepting the special all female games. This is a story of a few dedicated souls who wants nothing more than to watch their national team play a football match and are caught by authorities attempting to pass as male in order to get into the stadium.

Part of me loves this movie because I love seeing these young girls talk so passionately about football as I would. Part of me has my heart break watching them not able to do the simplest thing, that being watch a football match. It’s a part of Iranian films that I struggle with, where my cultural background sees it and wonders why it’s even a problem and even question what the intention of the film is at it’s core. Is it to make me feel sadness for these girls who just want to watch football? Is it a comedic take on “oh these silly girls want to watch football”? Is it a mixture of both?

Panahi consistently in his filmmaking wants to play with these feelings knowingly. He never wants to make it all a cultural critique of his nation’s values, but at the same time it is. It’s as if he sees the mockery in his world and points to it with a fine lens. While at the same time knowing how to make some entertainment out of it all. At this point I feel I should just leave a Panahi spot open for this list yearly as I find my way through his films.

RUSSIAN ARK (2002) (Aleksandr Sokurov)

An experiential film that I think Terrence Malick is jealous of that he wasn’t able to make. I may not have gotten all the of the historical references in it but it’s nothing more than a marvel to watch. Also I can’t help but thinking about that moment half way through where a door opens and someone blows a raspberry to our main characters. I believe that was not planned and Sokurov couldn’t bother to cut at that point to redo it.

SIGN ‘O THE TIMES (1987) (Albert Magnoli & Prince)

Another year and another concert film added to my list. I love this album and I love the performance here. I continue to be sad at all the artists I love that I’ll never see live.

Also my never ending love for Cat Glover’s dancing.

THREE… EXTREMES (2004) (Fruit Chan, Takashi Miike & Chan-wook Park)

A trilogy of Asian horror films; Dumplings (Fruit Chan), Box (Takashi Miike) and Cut (Chan-wook Park). While Dumplings is my favourite of the three I do love them all in their own way. Maybe a more outside pick for this list this year but a worthy addition nonetheless.

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Author: Andrew Robinson

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  • Offside is a film that I totally love as it has this element of reality that is engaging where you’re enthralled by the situation but also sad that women aren’t being able to participate in an event that means so much. My parents saw this film and were surprised how good it is.

    • doubt i could ever get my parents to watch an Iranian film (they dont play well with subtitles)… but ye… that movie’s awesome

      • They’ve seen a couple of films by Asghar Farhadi so far just out of curiosity as they usually don’t see these kind of films. That’s a major surprise.