Saturday, January 9, 2021

Weekend Open Thread


  1. And here it is, my WORST-TO-BEST TOP 69 MOVIES OF 2020. Every '20 release I either caught in a movie theater (IMAX/T) or streaming/4K UHD release. Personally this was a banner year for movies directed by women (W) (in quantity and quality), so I'm highlighting them as well as documentaries (doc). We start with the lowest of the low, the worst trash I wasted two hours of my life with I can't ever get back.

    69.-DOLITTLE (T)
    68.-THE GRUDGE '20 (T)
    66.-DOWNHILL (T)
    64.-ENTER THE FAT DRAGON (Hong Kong, T)
    63.-BLOODSHOT (T)
    62.-EARTH '20 (doc, T)
    58.-BURDEN (T)
    53.-THE PAINTER AND THE THIEF (Norway, doc)
    52.-PANGA (India, W, T)
    50.-THE HUNT (T)
    49.-HOPE GAP (United Kingdom, T)
    46.-EMMA (United Kingdom, T)
    45.-THE WAY BACK (T)
    44.-SHIRLEY (W)
    42.-TIME (doc)
    39.-HORSE GIRL
    36.-THE VOICES
    34.-THE SHARKS (Uruguay, W)
    33.-Pixar's ONWARD 3D (T)
    32.-THE GENTLEMEN (United Kingdom, T)
    31.-CLASS ACTION PARK (doc)
    30.-UNDERWATER (T)
    27.-I'M YOUR WOMAN (W)
    26.-SEA FEVER (Ireland, W)
    25.-LOST GIRLS (W)
    21.-THE SOCIAL DILEMMA (doc)
    20.-MULAN '20 (W)
    19.-JASPER MALL (doc)
    17.-THE TRAITOR (Italy)
    16.-THE ASSISTANT (W, T)
    15.-DA 5 BLOODS
    12.-THE OLD GUARD (W)
    11.-WEATHERING WITH YOU (Japan, T)

    (See post below for complete Top 10 of 2020)

    1. Oops, l screwed up and forgot to include one more 2020 flick l saw last week: Netflix's HIS HOUSE. That means l saw 70 '20 movies total, not 69. For the record, l would have ranked "His House" between #37 ("The Death of Michael Corleone") and #36 ("The Voices"). Sorry. 馃樀馃ゴ

  2. 10.-BUFFALOED (W)
    A satire about American capitalism so pinpoint precise it borders on farce. Zoey Dutch is lovely, Jai Courtney proves he can act and Judy Greer delights. Any movie making fun of Buffalo Bills fans is A-OK.

    Writer/director Brian Duffield smartly switches tones/pace for the final act, allowing the depths of the feelings between Mara (Katherine Langford in a star-making performance) and dreamy Dylan (Charlie Plummer) to affect their lives. Come for the unexpected exploding teens, stay for movie-lover, self-aware teenage hipster humor that doesn't grate.

    A balls-deep sci-fi premise that indulges Brandon Cronenberg (son of David) into the next iteration of "new flesh" meshing with technological advances and further dehumanization of society. The final 15 minutes are both batshit and awe inspiring because it dares to go far to complement Andrea Riseborough's powerful performance.

    7.-WONDER WOMAN 1984 (W)
    Truth be told this shouldn't rank so high. Tone is all over the place, special effects are wonky and the moralizing/preaching grates. But my God, this is the best/most heartfelt ambitious failure to come out of Hollywood. Patty Jenkins & Co. literally swing for the fences with too-ambitious-for-the-genre cracks at romance, timely parables, etc. For every strike out (Kristen Wiig starts promising but gets worse as the film goes along) there's also an emotional homerun (Chris Pine's babe-in-the-woods routine, the fireworks display, that Egypt truck chase, etc.). The love for the characters/worlds leap off the screen. Most people hated it, but I love it!

    On the opposite spectrum of "WW84," this slow-burn descent into lonely madness knows that liking and caring for its characters only compounds the horror at the end. No joke, I've had nightmares where Wil Wheaton's Danny talks to me in his sweater. Not for everybody, but makes a great double bill with "Possessor" if you're old enough to remember owning/playing VHS tapes in the early 90's.

    5.-BLOW THE MAN DOWN (Wx2)
    "Manchester By The Sea" gets invaded by female filmmakers and a cast of actresses that bring a serious "Fargo" vibe to a murder mystery that threatens to expose a Maine fishing village's dirty laundry. The older cast (Annette O'Toole, Margo Martindale, June Squibb, etc.) get the lion's share of best lines and intriguing subplots.

    I don't get this movie's internal logic in the slightest, but so what? Christopher Nolan builds an expensive cinematic sandbox to play with time and space, and hires good musicians to go wall-to-wall nuts with memorable tunes. Robert Pattison steals what little humanity "Tenet" has, IMO.

    Other than the casting of Sarah Paulson (she's fine but typecast) this is a perfect little movie that took me for the biggest rollercoaster ride of the year. I cursed, hit my sofa, fist-pumped 'till I got winded, covered my face, etc. Not bad for a PG-13 flick me and some patrons at an AMC A-List crowd would have bonded watching if you-know-what hadn't happened. :'(

    2.-Pixar's SOUL
    The ability to visualize abstract concepts is just one of the many triumphs of this entertaining appreciation of life and living. It surpasses "Inside Out" in my book, further proof that co-director Pete Docter is an animation auteur.

    1.-PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE (France, W, T)
    I knew when I watched this last February that it was the one to beat. A few came close, but this one is the complete package. Compelling human story, period-accurate production values, actors that disappear into their role and a top-to-bottom feminist perspective that knows breaking its characters (and our) hearts make for the best drama. It's also the last movie I saw with an attentive, respectful and packed house of appreciative filmgoers. An artistic triumph and best movie of 2020, IMHO.

    1. I still haven't watched Portrait but I know I'll love it. I wasn't in the right "mood" before but I may watch it soon. Looks beautiful.

    2. It's sumptuous cinema for the learned masses, and currently only available for rent on streaming VOD (VUDU, Apple TV, etc.) 馃槆馃

    3. I need to watch the Jasper documentary. My early life was defined by hustling kids in Street Fighter, eating cheap pizza, and smoking the half-burnt cigarette butts soccer moms left in the ashtrays outside our local mall. I miss it like crazy! Hah.

    4. I'm happy to see Buffaloed made your top 10! :) Lots of good movies by women this year, you're right! Your list includes several I really liked including Sea Fever, I'm Your Woman, and The Photograph (plus of course the ones I included on my list earlier this week). Looks like you had a very good movie-watching year!

    5. James K, other than the Street Fighter, everything you mentioned is touched upon in "Jasper Mall." 馃ゲ馃槆

      Rosie, thank you for your list. Wanted alternatives to the Netflix monopoly l kept running into in other people's lists, and many of your picks were on Hulu, rental, etc. Four days ago l didn't even know "run." and "Buffaloed" existed, and they skyrocketed to my Top 10 list upon sampling. Keep being you and making awesome recommendations year-round on FTM.馃槑馃惗

  3. Let's see, I watched:

    Pirates of the Caribbean at worlds end (2007): Fun, although I find this series oddly confusing plot wise. But I just kind of go along with it, so hey. I don't really care to watch the next two so. I heard the next one will have Margot Robbie which sounds incredible, but apparently Disney said Depp won't be allowed in the series again or something, so that's sad. I mean, I know Disney has no moral backbone just like any other corporation (making it easy to remove lgbtq content to appease daddy China, underpaying park workers, etc) but still a bit disappointing. I sort of wish there could be a sequel that unites Kiera Knightly and Margot Robbie and Jack Sparrow and they just kick ass together. Enough about my fanfiction-

    She's Gotta Have It (1986): I randomly watched this, I knew nothing about it except that it was clearly an older Spike Lee movie. I've only seen Do the Right Thing before this. I reallyyy liked the vibe of this movie. The random photographs of new york, the laid back vibe, it felt like such a specific time/place. I found Mars (Spike Lee's character) insanely watchable and funny. I was worried the lead character would sort of clearly be put in the wrong for her choices but for the most part this didn't happen and it made me respect Lee even more as a filmmaker for making this, the lead performance/character was really nice. This all got a bit weird when a -certain- scene happens towards the end, which makes it impossible to not hate one of the characters retroactively and on repeat viewings, but thankfully the movie didn't end the way I was fearing and I ended up being really positive on it still, even if it would be a lot harder to enjoy it as much the second time. Interestingly Spike Lee said he regrets that scene more than anything, and as far as I can tell he made a netflix series adaptation to tell the same story, minus that scene, but I haven't seen it.

    Abraham Lincoln Vampire Hunter: I thought this might be oddly thematic relevant/cathartic considering current events. I remembered Ebert wasn't dead when this came out and told myself I would rent it if he gave it 2.5 stars or more. Unexpectedly he gave it three stars (that's better than A Clockwork Orange and Blue Velvet folks!) and called it "without a doubt the best film we are ever likely to see on the subject", which made me excited tbh. I think I have to disagree a bit there, mainly because Mary Elizabeth Winstead didn't have nearly as much of a role as I was hoping. I thought she would be fighting alongside Abe in their younger days, but she's basically just a side love interest (as Mary Todd). She doesn't even seem to have any particular opinions on slavery or politics, which is a bit weird tbh. Especially considering she was being courted by Stephen Douglass, I figured she would have some kind of "oh wow no he's a massive dick for liking slavery" moment but it's more like "I guess Abe is slightly less boring". Also, I thought the whole thing was an obvious "racists=vampires" thing but after the climatic battle Abe explaims "I guess there can be good vampires!" bc his mentor is a good vampire but like what the heck is the point of having vampires if it's not for that incredibly obvious metaphor???? Them just doing the civil war but also there's some vampires I guess is not as cool. Yea, I probably thought about this too long. Also there's a moment where a young boy is being whipped and the whip was CLEARLY meant to be in 3D which is...yea. I didn't expect subtlety but I was hoping for slightly more.

    1. Last thing, I rambled on wayyy too much lol:

      Alphaville (1965): Hadn't really heard of this one, but I was looking at different noir films and the premise of this excited me. Never seen a Godard movie. I liked the idea that's it's trying to do a futuristic noir thing but just using regular paris and locations. I think I was hoping it would be more atmospheric with outside scenes and encounters, mostly it was just people walking around modern looking office buildings and a lot of exposition. I appreciate the themes it was concerned with and there's interesting stuff there for sure, as well as a few really aesthetic moments (aka the ones with Anna Karina), but wasn't quite what I was hoping for. Also, I get that it was normal for a 50 year old dude to be with a younger girl, especially in "tough guy" detective movies, looking at you Bogart in "The Big Sleep" and Dark Passage and the like, but goddamn, the dude in this movie looks like someone ripped half his face off and then just let the skin regrow however it wanted. I get that she was attracted to him because, like, he didn't have concepts like "love" and "poetry" and "conscience" brainwashed out of him, but I sure as hell couldn't have pointed him out as the guy that's really living life considering that he's only ever annoyed or angry. But yea, overall I'm positive on it and will want to think about it some more.

    2. hol up, idk how I forgot Borat 2. I loved it. That is all.

    3. I watched a bunch of 2020 movies the past couple of weeks, but "Borat 2" wasn't anywhere near my radar. Not my type of jam I guess.

  4. Sure, I'll make a list too. I'm going by Finnish release date, so there are a bunch of 2019 movies in here too. So I made a top 20.

    1. Parasite
    2. Underwater
    3. Color Out of Space
    4. Dick Johnson Is Dead
    5. Weathering with You
    6. Little Women
    7. Host
    8. His House
    9. The Invisible Man
    10. Soul
    11. The Vast of Night
    12. The Trial of the Chicago 7
    13. Unhinged
    14. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
    15. Jojo Rabbit
    16. Birds of Prey
    17. The Witch in the Window
    18. Tenet
    19. Jiu Jitsu
    20. 1917

    Still on the watchlist: Uncut Gems, True History of the Kelly Gang, Horse Girl, Run, Palm Springs, Saint Maud

    Not yet out in Finland: First Cow, Spontaneous, Possessor, Never Rarely Sometimes Always, Sound of Metal, Small Axe, and oh so many more

    1. Paraphrasing Poison Ivy in "Batman & Robin," so many movies to watch and so little time to kill. 馃様馃

    2. Love your list, Mikko! I really need to catch up with Weathering With You. Happy to see Dick Johnson high up on the list, and glad you finally got to see Parasite & love it as much as so many of us on this site. ;)

    3. I just posted on today's Open Thread my top 10. I have the same problem, in that many of my top movies are 2019, because they were available until a year later, or I just didn't get around to seeing them until the year later...I really should be posting these lists a year later!

  5. This month Turner Classic Movies is showing the early films of Pedro Almod贸var. With some of those titles not available through Netflix’s DVD service, I am glad to have a chance to see them on TV. I am discovering that they can be a very mixed bag. Almod贸var did not start out making anything close in quality to All About My Mother or Talk To Her.

    PEPI, LUCI, BOM AND OTHER GIRLS LIKE MOM (1980) – Almod贸var’s first feature is rough on a technical level but full of the energy that defines so many of his films. There is no central story that ties the characters together beyond them being friends. Almod贸var seemed more interested in being provocative and channeling the heady energy of post-Franco freedom. My favorite character is Luci, a middle-aged housewife who throws herself into a masochistic lifestyle. PEPI is fun and succeeds as an expression of its time.

    LABYRINTH OF PASSION (1982) – I wish I could say that I found this even a little enjoyable. Though a big leap on a technical level for Almod贸var, LABYRINTH suffers from not having enough of a story to tie the individual scenes together. It probably would have worked better as a short film about the Madrid music scene of the early 1980s. Those were the only parts I found engaging, anyway. I was at least intrigued to see the actress Helga Line, a familiar face from European genre films, in a glamorous role. Antonio Banderas looks so young here.

    There were also a couple of watches on Prime.

    A PISTOL FOR RINGO (1966, dir. Duccio Tessari) – As spaghetti westerns go, this is very much middle-of-the-road. You get a little action, romance, and western spectacle. There is also a lightly comic edge to story to tone down any meanness. But I like these kind of films mean, though. Giuliano Gemma brings a lot energy and charm to the title role, and Tessari is workmanlike in his direction.

    SURVIVAL OF THE FILM FREAKS (2019) – A very enjoyable discussion on the phenomenon of cult films. I thought the talking heads in this documentary were chosen well, all very enthusiastic and articulate. There certainly could have been more female voices in the mix, though.

    The mention of USA’s Up All Night programming brought a nostalgic grin to my face. Thirty years ago I was regular viewer, watching junk like The Bikini Car Wash Company and Buford’s Beach Bunnies. I believe I first watched Porky’s through Up All Night. There are some films I remember scenes from but cannot put a film title on.

    Somehow I was not aware of Joe Bob Brigg’s Monster-Vision show in the 1990s. I do not know how I missed that.

  6. Assessing what I watched in 2020 has proven to be tricky. I am remembering the re-watches to a greater extent. Maybe that is because I saw a lot of mediocre films. I got to a lot of deep genre cuts, which can be very hit or miss in the quality of the viewing experience. There were also a lot of “well, that was decent” kind of watches. Moreover, all of the troubles in the world made watching movies seem trivial at certain times. There were probably more repeat viewings than usual for that reason.

    The order of my top first-watches list is not indicative of anything, really. (My favorite watch this year was ALUCARDA, which I became acquainted with a decade ago.)

    Top Ten First-Watches

    1. THE PARTY ANIMAL (1984) – I had such a good time watching this that it became the film that has lingered in my mind the longest this year. It is the story of Pondo Sinatra, an Alabama farm boy going to college to get laid. Referencing Faust, Frankenstein, mad scientists, and other things, The Party Animal is much smarter than sex comedies of the era needed to be.

    2. BATTLES WITHOUT HONOR AND HUMANITY (1972-74) – Kinji Fukasaku’s five-film yakuza saga was the high point of my spring lockdown viewing. Though there is an element of homework in keeping up with the characters and their changing alliances, the series rewards the effort.

    3. POLICE STORY (1985) – My top watch of Junesploitation was this Jackie Chan classic. There were plenty of great action sequences before the mall fight, but that mall sequence completely astounded me.

    4. THE WARRIORS (1979, Theatrical Cut) – Walter Hill’s cult classic had been in my shame list for a long time before going to the Mahoning Drive-In in the fall to finally watch it. It is a fun ride from the beginning to the memorable conclusion. (Why did Hill change so much for his director’s cut?)

    5. LONE WOLF AND CUB: BABY CART AT THE RIVER STYX (1972) – The second entry in the series is an action-packed adventure full of visual flair. Japanese exploitation at this period could be extremely creative.

    6. EMANUELLE IN BANGKOK (1976) – Joe D’Amato’s first Black Emanuelle entry hit so many Italian sexploitation boxes for me: Laura Gemser, a bouncy Nico Fidenco soundtrack, exotic locations, and some questionable dubbing. It brought back the days when I was first discovering sleazy Italian exploitation films.

    7. LOST HIGHWAY (1997) – Undoubtedly the most mesmerizing film I saw in 2020. The atmosphere and visuals were more than enough to overcome my confusion with what was going on.

    8. PRIVATE PARTS (1972) – Paul Bartel’s tale of a young woman discovering the mysteries of a rundown hotel in Los Angeles was another top watch from Junesploitation.

    9. THE VAMPIRE DOLL (1970) – A stylish and poignant Japanese take on vampire stories. The style is gothic but is still completely Japanese in its aesthetic. A highlight of Scary Movie Month.

    10. Le Samura茂 (1967) – Jean-Pierre Melville’s French gangster classic about a hitman.

    Honorable Mentions: NIGHTMARE (1964), WILD AT HEART (1990), SYMPTOMS (1974, RAZORBACK (1984)

    1. Reading your list makes me realize there's plenty of catching up to do from previous years for me - maybe 2021 will be the year I finally watch Lost Highway and the Warriors!

      Happy to see Le Samourai on your list, that one is an all time favorite for me.

    2. Definitely watch the theatrical cut of The Warriors, Rosie. A lot of the changes to the director's cut are distracting and disrupt the flow of the film.

      Yes, I get the same feeling reading these lists. There are far too many movies to catch up with and to stay current with. Catching up tends to win out over staying current.

      Looking at my list, I feel bad not putting any pre-1960 movies on it. I watched plenty of those watches but none of the films that were new to me really made a big enough impression impression to make the list. The Hunchback of Notre Dame from 1939 and Key Largo got close. There were flaws, small and big, with all of films noir I watched that kept me from really being blown away by any of them. The search for a cinematic gem can be a rewarding experience, though.


    1. MANKILLERS (1987) – A female version of The Dirty Dozen that has no redeeming entertainment value. It is VHS trash at its worst.

    2. THE WARRIOR QUEEN (1987) – A boring low-budget sword and sandal film. Even Donald Pleasance’s energetic performance cannot save this dud.

    3. STEWARDESS SCHOOL (1986) – A completely unfunny combination of Police Academy and Airplane. I found the humor painfully juvenile at times.

    4. SCREWBALLS (1983) – My sentiments about Stewardess School apply here as well. Screwballs throws in a mean-spirited streak to the humor that renders it an even more uncomfortable watch.

    5. PEEPER (1975) – Considering the talent involved with this noir spoof, the final product failed to deliver anything close to a satisfying viewing experience. Maybe I saw worse films than Peeper, but no other film disappointed as much as this.

    Not-so-honorable Mentions: LOVE AND BULLETS (1979), SAVAGE SISTERS (1974)

  8. I mentioned in my Top 10 list that I watched a lot of movies from previous years. Here's my top 25 discoveries in 2020:

    25. Alice in the Cities (1974, Wim Wenders)
    24. The Spirit of the Beehive (1973, Victor Erice)
    23. The Big Combo (1955, Joseph Lewis)
    22. Good Morning (1959, Yosujiro Ozu)
    21. The Piano (1993, Jane Campion)
    20. The Purple Rose of Cairo (1985, Woody Allen)
    19. Where Is the Friend's House (1987, Abbas Kiarostami)
    18. The Offence (1973, Sydney Lumet)
    17. The Living End (1992, Gregg Araki)
    16. Aladdin (1992, Ron Clements & John Musker)
    15. Apollo 13 (1995, Ron Howard)
    14. Red Rock West (1993, John Dahl)
    13. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence (1983, Nagisa Oshima)
    12. The King of Marvin Gardens (1972, Bob Rafelson)
    11. Destroyer (2018, Karyn Kusama)
    10. Water Lillies (2007, Celine Sciamma)
    9. In the Cut (2003, Jane Campion)
    8. Tammy and the T-Rex (1994, Stewart Raffill)
    7. Train to Busan (2016, Yeon Sang-Ho)
    6. Phantom of the Paradise (1974, Brian De Palma)
    5. The Guest (2014, Adam Winguard)
    4. Crossing Delancey (1988, Joan Micklin Silver)
    3. Stop Making Sense (1984, Jonathan Demme)
    2. Defending Your Life (1991, Albert Brooks)
    1. Starstruck (1982, Gillian Armstrong)

    1. The Spirit of the Beehive is a lovely film. Phantom of the Paradise was in my list last year.

      This year I have the intention to watch at least one of Celine Sciamma's films.

    2. If only l could talk JB into watching "Spirit of the Beehive" without spoiling why. I've been trying for years to push that movie on him to not avail, even though there's a major subplot that has 'JB' written all over it. 馃槩馃槶

    3. I've seen it, J.M. I own it on Criterion DVD. It's wonderful and terrific. It took me a few years, but I finally caught up with it.

  9. Making lists is fun!

    Best pre-2000 first time watches of 2020:

    1. The Wages of Fear (1953)
    2. Welcome Home Brother Charles (1975)
    3. Do the Right Thing (1989)
    4. The Black Cat (1934)
    5. Sorcerer (1977)
    6. Ghidorah, the Three-Headed Monster (1964)
    7. Stop Making Sense (1984)
    8. Used Cars (1980)
    9. Five Fingers of Death (1972)
    10. Avenging Force (1986)

    Worst first time watches of 2020:

    1. Oh, Ramona! (2019)
    2. Holmes & Watson (2018)
    3. Blood Thirst (1971)
    4. Dead Man's Hand: Casino of the Damned (2007)
    5. Gold of the Amazon Women (1979)
    6. Drive-In Massacre (1976)
    7. Killing Gunther (2017)
    8. Pixels (2015)
    9. Dolittle (2020)
    10. Clifford (1994)

    1. I just got Avenging Force from Kino Lorber, nice to see it get some love here! I'm excited to check it out.

    2. Junesploitation is a great excuse to go digging into some of the more obscure realms of cinema. It is good to see some discoveries from that month appearing in the lists.

      I am already looking forward to June.

    3. For a second I was thinking "Oh, someone else who liked Holmes and Watson!". Alas, it's a worst list, haha. It recently came out here on Netflix, and I'm scared to rewatch it, because I sure had a good time, but I fear I might have just been temporarily insane or something.

  10. I would like to participate and comment on all the other people's watched films this week, but I've seen so few of them :(

    The Verdict (1982)
    I imagine this was really good and "new" when it came out. So that's good.

    The Color of Money (1986)
    I spent the first half of the film wondering how/why Eddie Felson from The Hustler became this guy. I liked that in the middle of the film - the second part - it looks very "old timey" and Paul Newman LOOKS like Eddie Felson again. Clothes, posture, stance, hot, etc. It's all in the hair, makeup, costume and lighting people.

    Eastern Promises (2007)
    I am a little bit (A LOT) allergic to gangster films now so I don't know why I watched this again this week. I kept thinking how insanely naive this nurse is (an adult woman living in a big city) to even step foot in the DIRECTION of any man who vaguely looks like one of these guys (dress/hair, sleeze vibe, etc).

    1. Man, the start of Paul Newman's 'old man' movies couldn't have been better. Sydney Lumet and Martin Scorsese sure knew how to use him. 馃槑

      Vigo is the man. What other excuse do you need to like spending two hours with him in "Eastern Promises"-land? 馃槂馃憤

    2. This comment has been removed by the author.

    3. Sorry, deleted. Didn't want to scare people with some of my observations about nyc now. Yea - still an impressively choreographed fight scene at the end of EP.