The breakdown: 26 films & 2 TV specials watched - 19 on DVD, 3 in the theatre, 5 via Netflix instant, and 1 via YouTube; of those 13 were first views, 15 were re-watches, and they came from the following decades: 30s, 40s, 50s, 70s, 80s, 90s, 00s, and 2010s.
As it turns out I went a little overboard in my planning for the month, which resulted in a handful of films left unwatched at the end. Fortunately since they're sitting on my shelves in DVD form I can always try again next year. Ah, but the month spent watching DVDs over streaming content yielded excellent results for the most part, as evidenced by the fact that the lowest rating for the month was 6/10. Of course, watching all of Quentin Tarantino's films helped skew the ratings higher than usual, but having that for a monthly focus also pushed my spirits up throughout December.
I made it out 3 times to the theatre this month & all 3 trips were mostly well worth it. Sure there were some issues both times I attended screenings for Tarantino's films, but at least when I took my daughter things went smoothly. Ah, and the unfortunate unspooling of the 35mm print of Kill Bill Vol. 2 led to free passes & a refund so it's hard to hold a grudge there.
And I suppose I could complain about Netflix instant removing about 20 pieces of content at the end of the year, but most of what they pulled was either films I'd hoped to re-watch or films I'd added out of curiosity rather than strong desire to see them. Fortunately I keep track of such things & so I can get around to them eventually.
Oh yeah, and this month saw the official wrap-up of the Movie Exchange Program project for me. It's been a lot of fun, and we've already got a new project cooked up for 2013, so keep an eye out for that.
Well, that's it for 2012. I'll be keeping these monthly lists going throughout 2013, so I'll see you next year!
Best film for December I hadn't already seen:Django Unchained (though The Secret in Their Eyes and Arsenic and Old Lace aren't too far behind) Best hidden gem:The Long Goodbye Worst film:The Big Store
Our family tradition is to watch this while decorating for Christmas. As excited as my daughter is for the holiday this year, I decided the first weekend of the month was the perfect time to do that. And I got to watch one of my favorite Christmas movies too. :)
First viewing - Dec. 8th
We recently picked up a Christmas box set on the cheap, mainly so that my daughter could see the old Frosty the Snowman and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer specials. She's watched both of those already (and we'll probably watch them again later this month), so I thought we should watch something I've never seen & picked this one.
It's pretty entertaining actually. The song it's adapted from gets sprinkled in along the way in the dialogue, and there's a good message about being true to yourself in the face of adversity. Overall though I also found it pretty cheesy & thus unintentionally funny. I'm sure that if I'd watched this as a child it would've endeared itself to me more, but now I merely found it good but nothing great or exceptional.
Re-watch - Dec. 12th
My daughter wanted something "new" to watch, and this one caught her interest so we gave it a shot. Predictably she was scared of the grasshoppers at first, but eventually she got over it & seemed to really enjoy the film. It's long been a film I've enjoyed, and the pill bugs Tuck & Roll are possibly my favorite characters. It's funny, the story is a good take on the tale of the grasshopper & the ant, and the characters are memorable. I could probably drop this one down from a 9 to an 8 since it falls a little short of some of Pixar's other efforts, but I'm just not ready to do that yet for whatever reason.
First viewing - Dec. 14th
Soderbergh is hit or miss with me usually, so when his name popped up I immediately lowered my expectations. While he certainly has a knack for making films that seem true-to-life regardless of who is cast in them, his tendency to do so mostly falls flat with me. Perhaps if he didn't do it so often it'd be less bothersome, but forgive me if I'd rather watch a movie I can get lost in the experience of than something that SHOULD be a movie but feels more like a documentary. This one feels like a long-form reenactment of a news item, right down to the unknown cast members. As it moved along I found myself more interested in it, and in the end I felt it was worth watching. But I can't say I was ever deeply invested in it, nor that I'd go out of my way to watch it again.
Re-watch - Dec. 14th
I loved this movie as a child (and the book too), but hadn't seen it since childhood. In the wake of the Connecticut school shooting, however, this seemed like the perfect film to watch while curled up on the couch with my daughter snuggled against me. Definitely a good time to cherish childhood while it lasts, and this film certainly celebrates that. As it turns out, not only do I still love this film but my daughter fell in love with it too. I foresee her asking to watch it again in the near future, perhaps as soon as tomorrow morning.
First viewing - Dec. 15th/16th
And a long overdue first viewing it was. Very funny and fun from start to finish, I really enjoyed watching this one. I felt the opening was a little awkward albeit amusing, and it ran a little longer than I expected, but these are minor complaints. Most importantly, for the first time I was actually impressed by Cary Grant's performance. In the other films he's in I've seen he tends to be a mix of stuffy & stiff, but here he goes all out & really creates a memorable, endearing, & occasionally frustrating character. I should also note that for a moment I thought Karloff really had walked into the room when Jonathan Brewster first appeared on screen, which wound up being even more amusing as the events continued to unfold.
If you haven't seen this one for whatever reason, I encourage you to give it a chance as soon as you can especially if you like dark comedies.
Re-watch - Dec. 19th
My daughter asked to watch "something new" & out of the options I gave her she picked this one & I sat down to watch it with her. I thought for sure the bear would scare her, but if he did she didn't show any sign of it.
Anyway, I love these characters, dig the social commentary, and there are many cleverly funny moments throughout the film. Add to that its good heart & you've got a movie well worth watching. It falls a little short of greatness, as after 3 viewings I still don't know the names of the hedgehogs or the young possum (though I can tell you most of the actors who voice said characters), & the trademark DreamWorks potty humor is the weakest humor in the film. But overall it's solidly entertaining & enjoyable enough to let such things slide a little.
This movie covers incredible amounts of ground emotionally (not to mention temporally) with such seemingly impossible efficiency. Moments of pure hilarity are cozied up next to scenes of tragedy and achingly vivid brutality, which are weaved seemlessly through moments of unadulterated heartache, which then give way to a beckoning potential for profound transformation and happiness. Doors are closed and opened, closed and opened--on camera, in the hearts of the characters, and in our minds as we try to guess at the answers to the murder case. This movie is so different from anything I've seen in long time and so much is handled so well in this film that I can't even begin to give it the recommendation I'd like to here. It truly deserves a thoughtful audience so please, reader include yourself among them.
--from Xanadon't's review
Definitely different, though I couldn't help but be reminded to some degree of Zodiac which I'm now thinking I should revisit in the near future. Which isn't to say they're the same film, because they're not. But I did happen to think of it a couple times along the way.
So glad I FINALLY managed to sit down with this one. Ignoring Netflix's attempts to derail me this month are paying off so far.
the giraffe's rating:
Monthly focus: the films of Quentin Tarantino
With Django Unchained arriving this month, I've decided it's a good time to re-watch all the films that Tarantino has directed thus far. Think of it as a month-long celebration of my favorite working director.
Figured if I'm going to revisit all of Tarantino's films I should start with his first, which I hadn't seen in several years. Once upon a time, however, I was so obsessed with this movie that I watched it repeatedly to the point where I had the dialogue memorized. And for the most part, I still have it memorized...but while watching the film I kept forgetting that fact due to my getting lost in this heist tale that never shows the heist. Which is a brilliant move on Tarantino's part, as it immediately delivers something fresh & original.
All his signature elements are on display here: the dialogue that rings true & sounds almost poetic, the non-linear structure, plenty of ultraviolence, and a soundtrack of mostly obscure 70s music. And what's most impressive is the fact that this is his directorial debut, and aside from a few minor editing missteps (ones I only notice now, but none of which negatively affect the film in any way) it's damn perfect.
Re-watch - Dec. 8th/9th
Still 3 hours of pure fun. Those unfortunate souls who waited for DVD & watched the split releases missed out on a great experience here. While I enjoy the extended cut of Death Proof (though I'm in the minority), in Grindhouse it's edited to a slick hour & 1/2 which honestly works better especially when paired with Planet Terror. Ah, but the best thing about Grindhouse is the overall presentation with faux trailers & intermission cards. Having the full thing on DVD makes me very happy...the only thing that could be better would be seeing it in a theatre again.
Re-watch - Dec. 14th/15th
As much as I love this film, it still falls on the lower end of QT's films I've rated a 10. In fact, watching it last night I was tempted to drop it to a 9 but I'll watch it once more before doing so. On a day where real-world violence was swirling in my mind, it turns out my taste for cinematic violence wasn't all there so perhaps I should've chosen something else to watch. My fault for wanting to watch a Tarantino film to close out my birthday I guess. Still I dig the purely fictional tale told through the perspective that cinema could have an affect on the events of WWII. And the opening scene is still easily among the best of them.
Re-watch - Dec. 18th/19th
It's been over 10 years since I last watched Jackie Brown, which was a good thing because I'd managed to forget some of it. This has long been my least favorite of Tarantino's films, but now I'd place it above Death Proof (especially the extended version released on DVD). It's clear that QT was aiming for Greatness here & he pretty well hits the mark. The cast is excellent all around, especially Samuel L. Jackson (his performance as Ordell is possibly his best that I've seen). The story is great, the characters are well drawn, and the dialogue is excellent (which is always to be expected). I dig the soundtrack, though by the end of the film I'm tired of hearing that Delfonics song. So really I guess the only thing that holds me back from giving this a full 10 is a matter of taste. Ah, and as it ends I don't have that feeling I can't describe that most 10/10 films give me.
Re-watch - Dec. 29th/30th
Still one of the best movies I've ever seen. It's entirely possible that the only reason I've put Kill Bill over this one among my favorites is that it'd been so long since I last watched Pulp Fiction, whereas I've spent the past 10-ish years in love with Kill Bill. The long break was good though, because it allowed the film to work its full magic on me. Of course I still have all the dialogue memorized thanks to all the repeat viewings back in the '90s (including at least 8 theatre views) when I was obsessed with the film. But that intimate knowledge of the dialogue only serves to deepen my love for the film, not turn me away from it in any way.
Simply put, watching this film is like having Great sex. A few times in a row. And you know when it ends you can do it all over again soon. It won't be 10 years before I re-watch Pulp Fiction again, I can tell you that.
Re-watch - Dec. 7th
As luck would have it, Alamo Drafthouse decided to do a Tarantino Retrospective this month in the run up to Django Unchained. They screened Jackie Brown (which I missed), and on this night they were scheduled to show both volumes of Kill Bill back-to-back. Unfortunately, their copy of the 2nd volume came unspooled in the projection room before they could start it. They tried to get it back together, but didn't get it lined up right the first time & so everyone was given refunds & free passes rather than be asked to wait for another hour to see whether they'd get it put back together correctly again. I was truly, deeply bummed.
On the upside, however, I did get to watch the first half on the big screen in all of it's 35mm glory. Another upside is that their issues allowed me to watch both halves in the way Tarantino intended, though with a much longer intermission period than I'd hoped. I'd got up right before the final montage prior to the end credits of the first volume (the running water in the O-Ren vs. the Bride scene is brutal on a full bladder), and when we got home I started the 2nd half right after the re-cap scene that kicks it off (a scene that's not necessary if you watch both films back-to-back). And in doing so a key element is changed that makes for a bigger impact later on, one which I found improved the experience.
Still, it would've been much nicer if I could have watched both halves on the big screen. Can't fault the film for that though.
First viewing - Dec. 11th
Thank goodness for Baby Day. Nice to have an excuse to not only get the kiddo out of the house but to catch a movie that's been getting mostly good feedback around here lately. And I'd say the positive feedback is well earned in this case.
Admittedly the story follows an overused, predictable path, but the characters are well-formed & endearing, the visuals are often jaw-dropping/breathtaking, and the main message is delivered successfully without going overboard. I personally enjoyed seeing the central characters get reinvented & given a purpose besides their usual role as holiday mascots & mythical entities. My daughter enjoyed it too, though probably more for the visuals which elicited vocal responses from her along the way than anything else.
Definitely worth seeing in the run-up to Christmas.
First viewing - Dec. 30th
First off I'd like to comment that the "wife" & I tried to get in to see Django at two different Drafthouses & both were sold out for the shows that worked for us. Since we had my parents already watching the kiddo, we were thus forced to see it elsewhere & thus endured through countless commercials (actually I played with my phone instead of watching them) & no less than 7 or 8 trailers, all but one of which completely sucked. If those films were any indication, 2013 will be a sad year for film. Ah, but the upside is that after all that Django was all the more appreciated.
Now as for the film itself, well as expected it's excellent. Easily the best film of 2012 out of what I saw, though I'll admit I've still got more to see. And you'll notice from my rating that there's the slightest possibility that a film will come along & knock it out of the top spot. But for now it earns top honors. The cast is mostly stellar...even DiCaprio impressed me with his performance, which is a first actually. Samuel L. Jackson once again completely disappears into his character & thus makes him memorable when a lesser actor might have made him stereotypical. I could go on & on about the cast, but I'll leave that for our reviewers. ;) I will add, however, that the only part of the cast that doesn't work is QT's performance which for unfathomable reasons finds him saddled with an accent he can't handle AT ALL.
Otherwise everything here works well, and I liked little touches like the discussion of the Klansmen's masks, the restraint from showing the bloody details of a runaway slave's death, and the film's final moment. And yet I can't give it a full 10, as it falls short of the Greatness achieved by Pulp Fiction, etc. But I'd still say it's great in its own right.
Those who have followed my lists are familiar with the Listal Group Project I was a part of all year long. Well, this month all the movies get returned home. So I'll be re-watching some of the ones that came back.
Re-watch - Dec. 10th
I've had a special place in my heart for this film since I first happened upon it one night on cable (TCM). And while I realize that it was on cable so I definitely wasn't the only person watching it, it still felt like a personal discovery of a hidden gem. And I still think it's excellent. The camerawork, the transformation scenes, and Fredric March's performance make this one well worth watching. I've always found it surprising that he plays both Jekyll & Hyde since he's unrecognizable under the Hyde make-up. Overall, it still feels pretty modern despite being made over 80 years ago & I still highly recommend it.
Re-watch - Dec. 20th
Still consistently entertaining & frequently hilarious, but I've dropped it down a star. I think my deep love for it the first time around was due to not being completely sober when I watched it (having a couple drinks beforehand will definitely make a film like this even funnier), though I do still appreciate the attention to detail throughout to not only make it look & feel like a blaxploitation flick but also keep it in the '70s era. Most spoofs these days are happy to reference something more modern regardless of when they're supposed to take place just for a laugh, whereas here the jokes remain firmly grounded in both the '70s & the events of the film. I especially love the way the ending plays out.
First viewing - Dec. 28th
For those who don't already know, I own a DVD that has this on one side & the 1932 version on the other. I hadn't got around to watching this one yet when I shared it with the rest of the group, but figured it'd be a good excuse to finally watch it.
Turns out, it's worth watching. The acting is solid across the board, the score is excellent, and for the most part it's pretty well put together. There's an extra half hour here that's used to add some excellent dream imagery & a little more detail to a few sequences, but I couldn't help feeling like the extra time was mostly unnecessary. The 1932 film excels in part because it flows well from start to finish & hardly has a moment to lag, whereas this one I felt did lag from time to time. Also, the make-up effects weren't quite as strong I felt & I wasn't as impressed by the camerawork here. Plus in the final scene I could tell that most of Hyde's actions were done by a double instead of Spencer Tracy, which broke the spell a bit.
Perhaps I would've liked this one better had I watched it first. Ah well. Still I wouldn't talk anyone out of watching it. Now I should finally watch the silent version that's sitting in my IQ.
the giraffe's rating:
Year-long series focus: The Marx Bros.
I've decided this year I want to re-watch all of the Marx Bros. movies in order. Since there's 12 of them total that gives me one per month.
First viewing - Dec. 6th
I thought I'd seen this one already, but it turned out I hadn't. And odds are I won't be watching it again either. This is easily my least favorite Marx Bros. film, as overall it feels less like their movie & more like something they unfairly got dropped into. There's a lack of their comedic sensibilities in several instances, plus too big a focus on their singer co-star Tony Martin. This could easily have been his movie for how much he's allowed to dominate the picture. Unfortunately while he's got some talent, he's rather boring & I found myself skipping through his big number rather than endure it.
Ah, but at least the Marx Bros. have a few shining moments. The exchanges between Groucho and Margaret Dumont have the same magic they always did, there's a funny bit or two involving a car, an amusing duet with Harpo & Chico on piano, and one of Harpo's best harp playing scenes. The harp scene largely saved the film from a lower rating, as it comes during the last half of the film which is rarely as amusing as anything in the first half (nevermind anything else the brothers did).
Re-watch - Dec. 5th
Wow it had been forever since I last saw this. I vaguely recall going to see The Aristocats with my parents when it was re-released to theatres at some point in the '80s, but hadn't seen it a 2nd time until now. Thus most of it felt like a first view to me.
Anyway, I've never been a fan of cats much in general, but I didn't hold that against the film. The songs are excellent throughout & the quality of the animation is on par with The Jungle Book and Robin Hood (which makes sense given they were all filmed around the same time & share many of the same cast & crew members). The story is merely OK. Fairly predictable, safe enough to not upset anyone, but with a few truly funny moments & a couple memorable ones too. I can't say I ever deeply enjoyed it, but then I watched it with my daughter who liked it slightly more than I did (so it seems anyway...that doesn't mean she won't ask to watch it again tomorrow).
Entertaining enough anyway, though I can see why it tends to be forgotten...or at least less celebrated than some of Disney's other animated films.
The above review hits most of the things I enjoyed & disliked about this film, and I don't really have much to add. Wasn't planning on watching this yet, but a day of rest on the couch as my daughter recovers from being ill & I do my best to avoid falling ill as well demanded some variety in our TV-watching schedule. Can't let the kiddo choose everything we watch. I'll add, however, that the "wife" who wanted to watch this as much as I did wound up leaving the room instead of watching it & the kiddo's attention was only held fleetingly. I was the only one who stuck with it.
First viewing - Dec. 22nd
Overall, I liked Paths of Glory. I liked what it had to say, the film looked great, & the acting was excellent across the board. I was entertained by it well enough, but for whatever reason I was never very deeply invested in the film. Whether that was a matter of mood or simply the fact that I feel like the same ideas have been explored better elsewhere I'm not entirely sure. But whatever the case I can't say I liked it well enough to go out of my way to watch it a 2nd time. Glad I managed to catch it though before Netflix removed it at the end of the year.
First viewing - Dec. 27th
Always nice to find a movie where Nicolas Cage actually acts rather than trying to be an action hero. The entire cast does a good job & the story is fairly believable. There's a bit too much going on perhaps, but I thought the way it played out was well done for the most part. Nice to not have a typical Hollywood ending. The presence of fast food ads gets annoying after a while though (no doubt they largely paid for the film), and it's not a movie I'd go out of my way to watch again. But it's definitely worth a look.
First viewing - Dec. 31st
Caught this one on its way out from Netflix instant, and I'm sorry to say I didn't catch it sooner to let others know it's worth checking out. Clearly this film and/or the book it was adapted from is a direct influence on The Big Lebowski, with its private detective who goes through all manner of insane, life-threatening, and tough situations, but unlike The Dude he never gets too angry about whatever's happening to him. Elliott Gould kicks ass as Marlowe, a character I couldn't help but love, and the supporting cast is mostly solid if rarely exceptional. I also dug how the film has a theme song that's played throughout in a variety of styles, rather than being done to death by the same musicians. And there are so many unforgettable moments & lines that I'm still chuckling over & thinking about. I personally loved every moment of it & was glad I stayed up later than usual to catch it.
EDIT: Evidently its exit was short-lived, as I was able to pull it up on Netflix on Jan. 1st. So go watch it.
the giraffe's rating:
AKA Movies the giraffe watched: December 2012
Last year I started a new annual tradition for December, and it had nothing to do with winter holidays. Throughout the month of December every year my main focus will be to watch films from my own collection (or shelves at least, as I have some borrowed movies in need of watching too) rather than relying heavily on Netflix for films to watch. Of course Netflix will almost certainly excise a ton of content this month, which means my plans may well fall apart & that I'm probably overreaching. But I'll do my best to get as many of these watched as I can.