Friday, January 13, 2023

Notes on Film: 2023 Movie Goals

 by Anthony King

2023: The Year Of...

What started out as a joke became an idea for a column, and now I actually think it's a good idea. Some people make New Year's resolutions. Some set intentions for the year. Others scoff at the whole idea. But we, the movie-watching folk of planet Earth, know what really matters when it comes to goals for the year. Actually, maybe I'm the only person to do this. If you set movie-related goals for yourself please sound off in the comments so I can cheer you on and hold you accountable. But first, a few highlights of what I've seen the first couple weeks of 2023.

As I prepared to record the last Cult Movies Podcast for the season on Duck Soup (1933) I realized that's the only Marx Brothers movie I'd ever seen. And to be quite honest, I wasn't very high on it. So I watched Animal Crackers (1930), Monkey Business (1931), and A Night at the Opera (1935) and wouldn't you know it, those gents are pretty funny. I must've been in a funk when I watched DS a few years ago because I laughed my ass off during all three of these. The comedy stylings and the influence of each brother is undeniable. Groucho's speed and dryness with which he delivers his one-liners are still unmatched today. The facial expressions and physical comedy of Harpo are obvious inspirations for the comedy of people like Jerry Lewis (still, in my opinion, the funniest man to have ever lived), Jim Carrey, and Jackie Chan. Each movie follows the exact same template with the exact same beats and characters, but when it's that funny I could never tire of it. To say nothing of the musical talent of Chico and Harpo would be a crime. The way Chico uses finger guns to hit the high notes on the piano, and the speed of Harpo's fingers while he plays the harp are not only hysterical but stunning to watch. If you haven't seen a Marx Brothers movie or you just need a couple dozen belly laughs in your life, you can't go wrong with any of these.
While I'm known as a curmudgeon when it comes to newer movies (JB and I share the title for this site), and especially big blockbusters, I have to admit something: I love Jurassic World (2015). Serious Christ Pratt has as much charm and screen presence as gravel, but it's all about the damn dinosaurs for me in these movies. Getting to see Jurassic Park (1993) on opening weekend in the theater was a highlight of my life. The Lost World (1997) was a bit of a let down. Jurassic Park III (2001), while highly disappointing when I saw it upon its release, has grown in my mind to be a pretty fun monster movie. But Jurassic World seemed to recapture the magic of the first film, and having watched it three times now, I can safely say it fits snuggly behind JP in the number two slot. Human gravel aside, the dinosaurs are still cool as shit, and the moment when the T-Rex shows up to kick some ass is one of my favorite movie moments of the 21st century.
Finally, I watched a movie I'd wanted to see for ages but could never seem to find. Hard Boiled (1992) is never streaming, not on VOD, and the Blu-ray is out of print. But I finally got my hands on a copy and my mind and heart were annihilated upon watching it. It was like injecting a Monster and cocaine slurry directly into my heart. I was so amped up after watching it that I had to show the final hospital scene to my boys that night (Good parenting or GREAT parenting?). After saying Robert Mitchum was the King of Cool last week, I'm happy to say Chow Yun-Fat has reclaimed that title. There is absolutely nothing in the world like a Hong Kong action movie, and at the hands of a bombastic director like John Woo, this is easily my favorite discovery in the first couple weeks of the year. It's going to be hard to top this one. All other shoot-em-ups are only trying to emulate what Hard Boiled did.
I've also watched a slew of short films. Without going into any details, here are eight of them I really enjoyed, all either streaming or on YouTube.

Ambush (John Frankenheimer | 2001 | 8 min.)
Breaktime (Abbas Kiarostami | 1972 | 14 min.)
The Carnival Is Over (Shirin Neshat | 2018 | 9 min.)
Dead Knot (John Woo | 1968 | 19 min.)
A Guide to Breathing Underwater (Raven Jackson | 2018 | 7 min.)
Jabberwocky (Jan Svankmajer | 1971 | 14 min.)
L'Opera-Mouffe (Agnes Varda | 1958 | 16 min.)
You and I and You (Terence Nance | 2015 | 8 min.)

This leads nicely into the topic at hand: Movie Goals. A silly concept, yes, but fun to think about nonetheless. Last year (and every year since I've been keeping track) my most-watched actor and director were white men (Marjoe and Fulci). Of the 700 films I watched, 493 came from the United States, and 573 were English-speaking. These are films that have that information included on Letterboxd. You could add probably 100 to that first number and 60 to the second and it'd be closer to reality. These things need to change, thus my 2023 movie goals. 

John Woo Will Be My Most-Watched Director

As you can see I got an early jump on this. Having watched three shorts and two features already, my excitement for watching as many Woos as possible has only grown. Several of his early films are hard to find (oddly enough his two student short films are on YouTube), but I am determined to see them all. Counting the two features this year (Hard Boiled and Manhunt), the only other Woos I've seen (but will be rewatching this year) are Face/Off (1997), The Killer (1989), and A Better Tomorrow (1986). I don't plan on going in chronological order (obviously) so it'll be a nice mashup of Woo through the decades.

Geraldine Chaplin Will Be My Most-Watched Actor

With Remember My Name (1978) being one of my top discoveries of last year I realized how deprived I was of the greatness of Geraldine Chaplin. Before RMN, my only other experience with Chaplin was her hysterical turn in Jodie Foster's Home for the Holidays (1995). So as I'm looking at her filmography I see ahead of me some Altman I've never seen; the films she did with her husband, director Carlos Saura, and a few other Alan Rudolph films she did. It looks like I've got some great stuff to watch this year!

The Ratio of English-Speaking To Non-English-Speaking Films Will Be 50:50

The above-mentioned stats notwithstanding, I could always use more culture in my life. Last year's dip into the French New Wave was enlightening, and I had a blast with most of the films I saw. This year my journey through French cinema will continue, but I also want to head even farther east into China, Hong Kong, Japan, and Korea. The three Akira Kurosawa films I've seen (Rashomon, Yojimbo, and Sanjuo) were fine. That statement alone is ridiculous, not to mention boneheadedly wrong. I need to set myself up for success when I watch these movies, meaning I need to watch them at home instead of on a computer with fewer distractions. And as I'll be watching more action films than I have in the past, I'll be turning to Hong Kong, China, and my friend Mike Scott for killer shoot-em-ups and martial arts films. My experience with the few Czech films I've seen have always been positive, so I'd like to watch more from that region. I'm also severely lacking in African and Middle Eastern cinema, so I'll be including several of those films as well.

I Will Watch 60 Movies Released In 2023

I watched about 30 movies released last year. In the past I've complained about the lack of good and/or interesting new movies and, simply put, I need to shut the fuck up. I claim to love movies, yet I don't support (financially or otherwise) new movies. It's hypocritical to say the least. Not that the world needs another straight white man talking about new movies, but I need to put up or shut up if I say I actually love movies. This will sound obvious and, frankly, stupid, but movies always start out as new movies. My excuse has always been: “There's so many older movies I need to catch up on.” Well, you know what? Those movies will be there when the day ends. Why not mix it up? And to be honest, I sort of feel left out of the water cooler talk. I went to a holiday party last year and sat at a table where everyone knew me as “the movie guy.” Everyone wanted to know my five favorite movies of the year. I completely drew a blank because the last new movie I'd seen was back in September. Not that I need to be known as a movie guy, but c'mon. That was a little embarrassing. I also can't participate in several of the discussions in the Discord I'm in because they revolve around new movies. *sad trombone*

I Will Watch One Short Film Per Day

I blew the recorder for short films last year; this year I'll blow a bugle. I think the short form is crucial to cinema. Aside from Hard Boiled, the best thing I watched all year so far is a short starring Cate Blanchett called The Carnival Is Over. Some of the most powerful experiences I've ever had were during a short film. There's something special about seeing what an artist can do armed with a story and a camera in a short amount of time. The hypnotic state Stan Brakhage can put me in, the shock I feel when I watch a Richard Kern short, or the beauty that steals my breath away watching people expose all vulnerability and dance in front of a camera is something that could only happen in a short film. So a goal of watching one short film per day is quite attainable. Anywhere from 60 seconds to 14 minutes, it's a nice, little respite from the day where I can immerse myself in cinema. I will never stop preaching the art of short form storytelling and the enjoyment I get from it.


  1. I don't know how old your kids are, but Great parenting.

  2. Anthony, I had this (probably too) long comment all written up & then my browser decided to crash, but I guess that gives me a chance to refine, haha.

    I LOVE that you got to see Hard Boiled, such a great movie. I also make pop culture resolutions. For one year, I decided to do one movie per week directed by a woman and now I have a huge passion for female filmmakers. Another year, I watched at least one international movie per week and discovered so many gems. I haven't officially made a pop culture resolution for this year other than I do want to watch more Indian cinema and hopefully that will lead to some cool discoveries.

    I'm sure you already have a long list of movies to watch for your non-English language challenge; if I may, I'd like to make sure you don't miss these:
    ARGENTINA: Wild Tales
    BRAZIL: Bacurau
    IRAN: The Mirror
    PARAGUAY: 7 Boxes
    CHINA: Blind Shaft
    SENEGAL: Atlantics
    ROMANIA: The Whistlers
    GERMANY: Phoenix
    NETHERLANDS: The Vanishing (1988)
    SPAIN: Blancanieves

    1. War Witch (French title, Rebelle) is very good but a devastating movie that was hard to watch at points. I just want to point out that it was a Canadian production set in Africa. I watched this as a double feature with Beasts of no Nation, and was left distraught for days afterwards.

    2. Thanks Rosalie! The only one on that list I’ve seen is ATLANTICS (which is amazing). I will be watching all these this year!

  3. You, sir, are The Curmudgeon. I, sir, am The Quibbler.

    1. Every time you say "I have a quibble", I think of that episode where you became The Quibbler. I don't remember the original episode, but it's in the archives somewhere.

    2. And together, with our sourpusses combined, we shall conquer the world!

  4. My goals for this year, since all of my goals last year went to hell with a cross-country move:

    1. At least 50 2023 releases.
    2. The 52 Films By Women challenge.
    3. My Decades project, where I watch the highest-rated film from 100, 90 and 80 years as so on, according to Letterboxd.

  5. My goal for this year is actually to watch more TV and less movies. When I realized that watching 365 movies in the year was actually attainable (sometime in September), but I was a bit behind, I just watched movies to the exclusion of everything else (except Star Trek...always going to watch a bit of Star Trek). But there's some TV series that have been strongly recommended that I want to see. SAS: Rogue Heros, Chernobyl, Andor, Slow Horses, Generation Kill, Band of Brothers, The Pacific. Heck, I haven't even seen a single episode of Game of Thrones, The Sopranos, Breaking Bad. But I've rewatched Das Boot and Master and Commander 3-4 times in the last year, so life is good.

    As far as movie challenges, I would like to complete some filmographies of directors I love. Walter Hill, Ridley Scott, Sam Peckinpah, and Tony Scott are the main ones. I want to watch more westerns. I want to watch more movies about people exploring the "new world" on sailing ships. I want to watch all the pirate movies. I want to watch movies about the early mountaineers. While recognizing that the colonization of Africa by European countries was a nasty affair, I kind of want to watch more adventure movies about Europeans exploring Africa. I want to watch Jeremiah Johnson right now. I want to watch all the submarine movies. I want to watch Antarctica (1983). I want to watch Babylon but it was pulled from theatres. I want to watch Babylon (1980) because it's fantastic.

    In other words, I'm going to forget all my goals and just haphazardly watch a bunch of great movies.

    1. When you get to watching Red Cliff (2008/2009), be sure to watch the original release that was split into 2 movies. There's a heavily cut version that was released in America as a single film, but it's worth watching the whole thing. One of John Woo's best imo.

    2. Mike Scott warned me about the Red Cliff thing so I stopped watching the one on Prime immediately since it's the chopped up version.

    3. Ah, glad he let you know in time. I hope you enjoy it! I love those Asian big epic war movies set in ancient times. Another one you should check out is The Admiral: Roaring Currents (2014). It was based on some historical battle that is important in the history of Korea. Also, at the time (and maybe still?), was the biggest Korean domestic box office movie ever. It's a naval battle! Great film.

    4. It is funny that you mention The Admiral, Paul. I got a DVD of it at a dollar store this week. It looks interesting. I picked up a blu-ray of Red Cliff (for a few dollars) with the cut version. I will seek out the full version.

  6. Been reading your column since it started - it's great. Now that you mention Czech cinema I can pay you back some as my wife is Czech and we come here almost every year (going on 7 years now). We're currently living here (Brno - their second-largest city) right now until early July. They do have a great history of cinema - pound for pound, they are right up there.

    Here are some of my favourites:
    - Cozy Dens - Czech: 'Pelíšky' (1999 - a stone cold classic that every Czech person knows. Focuses on three families living above/below each other in one large three-story house. It's funny, has drama, is relatable to everyone, and manages to communicate what it was like to live under Communism for the old and young + a poignant and fitting ending). It's timeless. It should have won the Academy Award for Best International Feature Film of '99.
    - The Inheritance or Fuckoffguysgoodday - Czech: Dědictví aneb Kurvahošigutntág (1992 - another classic. Czech people will tell you that it portrays what it was like to live here in the early 90s (as the country was transitioning to capitalism). Oddball and funny and even funnier when you realize that the main character is actually a kind of person you can find living here to this day)
    - The Ear - Czech: 'Ucho' (1970 - banned until Communism came to an end. It creates a real paranoid vibe that I have rarely felt to such a degree in a movie. I imagine the director captured something you can only truly feel if you've lived under such a repressive system. Highly compelling).
    - Little Otik - Czech: 'Otesánek' (2000 - a unique Czech horror film. The synopsis via IMDB: "A childless couple passes off an anthropomorphous tree stump as their baby, but things get out of hand when the thing comes to life and demands to be fed".)
    - A Higher Principle - Czech: 'Vyšší princip' (1960 - follows three students living in a small Czech town during the Heydrich - Nazi occupation - regime. Focuses on a high-school. About defiance, truth, and the immoral brutality that sometime masquerades in repressive regimes' so-called 'higher principles').
    - Closely Watched Trains - Czech: 'Ostře sledované vlaky' (1966 - set amidst WWII at a small train station somewhere in Czechoslovakia. But it's not a typical blood and guts war film - it depicts the everyday struggles the 'heroes' of this train station went through. One reviewer writes.. "a chamber tragicomedy about the civilian dimension of war." That's bang on.

    And just about every Milos Forman film I've watched has been very good - both his Czech films and his hollywood ones. The ones I've seen I can vouch fot:
    - Black Peter (Czech)
    - One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (Hollywood)
    - Taking Off (Hollywood - his first Hollywood film and, I think, captures well how Forman viewed the social/cultural state of the US in he early '70s)
    - The Firemen's Ball (Czech - a satire. How do you manage to run a ball in a communist regime?)
    - Hair (Hollywood - a musical so might be an acquired taste but I was immediately on it's wave-length)
    - Love of a Blond (Czech)

    1. This is great, Reuben! I’ve only seen Closely Watched Trains and loved it. Can’t wait to dive into these films!

    2. Happy to help. I just watched Remember my name based upon your recommendation. Terrific and slightly beguiling. Loved the ending.

  7. There are plenty of great Japanese films out there, Anthony. Ones that I would recommend are TAMPOPO (1985), HARIKIRI (1962), WOMAN IN THE DUNES ((1964), UNDER THE FLAG OF THE RISING SUN (1972), and KURONEKO (1968). For genre cinema, the FEMALE PRISONER SCORPION films with the wonderful Meiko Kaji are worth watching. She is also in the entertaining BLIND WOMAN'S CURSE. The LONE WOLF AND CUB series is very stylish and action packed. Director Norifumi Suzuki created some interesting exploitation films, like SCHOOL OF THE HOLY BEAST and a series of girl gang movies (LYNCH LAW CLASSROOM).

    A Chinese film that I watched at the end of last year was Zhang Yimou's SHADOW, from 2019. I found it to be a good blending of practical shots and digital effects The plot is convoluted, but the action scenes are staged beautifully.

  8. I guess my movie watching goal is to keep watching movies. There is no cinematic realm that I particularly desire to explore right now. I should aim to watch more of what is in my collection than I generally do, though. The list of unwatched discs only grew in 2022.

  9. For movie goals, I mainly have them concerning ones watched together with my partner, since she is less inclined to spend time on the couch than to spend it outdoors. :-) Our goals are pretty basic and recent ones are below. (Actual quantities vary each time.)
    - total overall viewed together
    - total narrative and total documentaries
    - total that are new to me or to her
    - total in a foreign language
    - total that are over 120 min
    - total in a cinema
    - and a maximum of unilateral choices through the year
    Your own categories give me ideas to try, when she and I discuss our 2023 goals! eg: I think competing a director's filmography might work for us.

    On my own, I've just tried to watch more movies that are new to me, but my current-year-release counts are much worse than yours (6 out of 220, in 2022).

    I'm surprised Hard Boiled has been a complete blind spot for me, and I noted it down in my list thanks to you (along with A Night at the Opera)!

    In foreign language movies, here are some (not-so-niche) ones I've enjoyed lately:
    ‣ Police Story (1985) - A lot of fun, sometimes inappropriate, but usually more wacky humor and great Jackie Chan fights. Plus, outtakes during the end credits.
    ‣ Riders of Justice (2020) - It brings so much to the table and really clicked for me in many ways. Violent, funny, and sad.
    ‣ Enter the Void (2009) - Of course heavy on style thanks to Gaspar Noe, and also harrowing and nightmarish at times.
    ‣ Tampopo (1985) - So much fun, especially with viewed a group that is passionate about food. The interspersed vignettes sprinkle some different entertainment from the main story, and again clicked well for me.
    ‣ Raw (2016) - For me it wove subtle style and gross/weird stuff in a balanced way. The lead's performances and the sister relationship engrossed me.
    ‣ The Skin I Live In (2011) - The less said the better, but quite intriguing and good performances.
    ‣ With a Friend Like Harry... (2000) - Uncomfortable but not overly so. I enjoyed speculating about the motivations or inner meaning afterward.
    ‣ Caché (2005) - Similar comments to WaFLH above. I guess this kind of thing works for me!
    ‣ The Night Comes for Us (2018) - Violence of varied types, topping itself at times (if that's your thing).

    Happy viewing in '23!

  10. If you get Turner Classic Movies, Anthony, you can watch one of Geraldine Chaplin's Spanish movies early Monday morning.