Over the course of the year, I saw many movies in many forms – in the theater, on planes, while exercising, during my commute, and at home with my family. I rate each movie on a scale of 1 to 5:
- 1 = Bad
- 2 = Okay
- 3 = Good
- 4 = Great
- 5 = Absolutely fabulous!
I generally enjoy movies, so of the 108 movies I’ve seen (so far!) this year, 81 received a good rating or above. Note that I rate movies within genre, so a silly comedy that’s great at being a silly comedy may get the same rating as a serious mediation on war violence that great at being that.
My top six movies for the year (with direct links so you can watch them right now) were Cinema Paradiso (1988 – Amazon/YouTube), Embrace of the Serpent (2016 – Amazon/YouTube), About Elly (2015 – YouTube), Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016 – Amazon/YouTube), Sing Street (2016 – Amazon/YouTube), and The Wizard of Oz (1939 – Amazon/YouTube). The children’s movie that you probably didn’t see but should is Kubo and the Two Strings (2016 – Amazon/YouTube
Below is the full list, ordered by rating – and then alphabetically within ratings. Links are to Rotten Tomatoes, which gives a synthesis of critical reviews. Bolded titles are the 35 movies I saw in the theater. I occasionally include the movie’s release year to add clarity. Lastly, I didn’t re-calibrated the list at the end of the year, so some ordering may be affected by my mood or the quality of popcorn at the theater.
What did I miss? What did you love?
thought-provoking story of justice, money, and vengeance served very, very cold
Dramaan Drameh is a shopkeeper and the mayor elect of Colobane, a poor town. Then Linguère Ramatou returns after decades away, having accumulated fabulous wealth and seeking vengeance for a long-past but deeply grievous wrong carried out by Dramaan.
The film explores fascinating issues of justice and money and the relationship between the two. It also explores how the promise of money changes people. The pacing is pretty good. The film is in Wolof with English subtitles. The DVD has no special features: Just the movie and the option of scene selection.
My favorite line: “She has more money than the World Bank!”
Note on content: No swearing, no sex. Mention of prostitution and an adolescent pregnancy. No visual violence.
19. Best of the month!!! Storyteller: The Authorized Biography of Roald Dahl, by Donald Sturrock. I thought this biography was completely compelling and fascinating and fun. Wonderfully well documented. I wrote a longer review, which you can read here: my longer review. 9/10
18. A Savage Place, by Robert Parker (audiobook). Spenser (#8) goes to L.A. to help a TV reporter bust a big story.
17. Promised Land, by Robert Parker (audiobook). Spenser (#4) goes up against militant feminists and loan sharks. (And we meet his long-term buddy Hawk.)
16. The Judas Goat, by Robert Parker (audiobook). Spenser (#5) goes to Europe to track down terrorist assassins!
22. Beginners (theater) – Sweet movie about falling in love and the courage to start a new life, played out in two generations by Ewan McGregor and his father (in the film), Christopher Plummer. It reminded me of when I fell in love, nine years ago. 8/10
21. Lost (Season 2) – Compulsive viewing. Two groups of survivors meet up.
I went to see Tron Legacy the other week, and to be honest, I didn’t think it was a very good movie. But the company was great, and there is something about that darkened room and the other world you enter. (Hat tip to Linda Holmes.)
If you happen to understand Portuguese, the beginning of this lovely movie Lisbela e o Prisionero captures that same feeling.
I read some science fiction and fantasy, but one thing that drives me CRAZY is when the characters have these Totally Absurd Names. I had to put down the Dune audiobook for just that reason. (I know, Dune!)
The movie Gentlemen Broncos, which is almost completely unfunny, has this funny riff on just that.
My favorite non-scripture books (of the 43 read or listened to) of the year were Jonathan Lethem’s Motherless Brooklyn (loved it), Ian McEwan’s Atonement, and Willa Cather’s My Antonia.
I enjoyed lots of movies this year. I really recommend – of the 91 watched – two Brazilian movies, one called Behind the Sun (available on Netflix) and another called A Dog’s Will (O Auto da Compadecida). The latter is not available on Netflix but is watch-able on Youtube with English subtitles (see here). I loved two children’s movies, How to train your dragon and Toy Story 3 (cried!). I loved two classic comedies, Tootsie and Groundhog Day. And I really, really enjoyed Crazy Heart.
Books for December
43. Mockingjay, by Suzanne Collins – Great conclusion to the Hunger Games trilogy. Good thoughts on government and what it really means to be good/bad. 8/10
42. The Good Doctor, by Damon Galgut – Two doctors, one idealistic, one cynical, clash in rural South Africa in the modern day. Very good. Insightful interview with the author is available at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00c50nk .
41. Catching Fire, by Suzanne Collins – weakest of the three hunger games books, but I really liked the second half. 6/10
Movies for December
91. Scott Pilgrim vs the World (DVD) – Very creative, mash-up of video games and film. Some dull moments but points for creativity. 8/10
90. Megamind (theater) – Will Ferrell is a super villain who learns to love. I laughed a lot. 7/10
89. True Grit (theater) – Girl seeks justice for her father’s murder in the Old West. Three leads all shine (Jeff Bridges, Matt Damon, and Hailee Steinfeld). Very exciting. 7/10
88. Going the Distance (airplane version) – Romantic comedy with Drew Barrymore and Justin Long. Fine. 6/10
Continue reading “what i’ve been reading and watching – July through December”
One of my favorite movies this year is the Brazilian comedy (family appropriate, although not a kid’s movie) A Dog’s Will, or O Auto da Compadecida. It has my favorite comedy character of all time, João Grilo, or Jack the Cricket!
Unfortunately, this is not available via Netflix or Blockbuster. I can’t even buy it with subtitles.
It is available via youtube with subtitles. Here are the links:
Much has been made in some quarters (here, here) regarding a “nude” scene in the newest Harry Potter offering. In fact, one sees a couple of characters kissing passionately with bare shoulders and mist swirling around them. The implication is of nudity, but the actual appearance is just of bare shoulders and smooching.
Some people feel this is inappropriate to a children’s movie, to which I say, The movie is rated PG-13, and the P.G. really stands for something. And while the books may be for kids (older kids), a lot of things are more disturbing in translation to the screen. (I can imagine letting children read the Hunger Games well before I’d be comfortable letting them see everything that happened there on screen. Likewise with the Bible; I’ll never be old enough to see all of that stuff on screen.)
BUT the scene still didn’t fit, and the reason is that Harry and his friends have always been incredibly – well – virginal. The big smoldering sexual tension in the Harry Potter books has always been about kissing, even as the characters pass through puberty. It apparently has never even occurred to Harry and his friends – laudable and amazingly – to use the invisibility cloak for some mischief. These kids are sexy-free. So for Ron’s vision of horror to suddenly be of So Much More is just a little bit out of place.
That’s my take.
I thought the movie was excellent overall.
25. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, by Roald Dahl – Read this aloud with my older son. A creative masterpiece. 9/10
24. Fantastic Mr. Fox, by Roald Dahl – Read this aloud with my older son (5 yrs old) in a day. It was great fun! 8/10
23. Os Espiões [The Spies], por Luis Fernando Veríssimo – An alcoholic book editor receives a mysterious manuscript by a woman who claims to be held captive and who threatens to commit suicide after finishing the memoir. Editor tries to intervene. Absurd mayhem ensues. Fun enough, and plays on the controversies about what memoirs really are. But if you’re going to read Veríssimo (and I recommend him), I’d read Borges and the Eternal Orangutans, my favorite so far. 7/10
22. The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes, Volume 3, BBC dramatization. Once again, a great time. 7/10