This is it: my final report for 2016. I hope you’ll find something good to watch (or to avoid watching, as the case may be) from the list below. If you missed Part I, you can find it here.
Today I provide you with a little unexpected comedy to end a year that hasn’t been very funny at all. Sometimes, just when you think life can’t get any worse, something comes out of left field and simply demands laughter. I had such an experience a couple of days ago. Maybe it will evoke a chuckle or two for you as well.
December wasn’t as active as November, but I still put up some respectable numbers. And the month’s not finished yet, so here we go:
Directed by William Friedkin
Produced by William Friedkin, Bud Smith
Written by Walon Green (screenplay), Georges Arnaud (novel)
Cinematography by Dick Bush, John M. Stephens
Edited by Robert K. Lambert, Bud Smith
Music by Tangerine Dream
Paramount Pictures, Universal Pictures
Warner Bros. Blu-ray (2:01)
William Friedkin’s Sorcerer may be one of the most unjustly cursed films of all time. Not only did it have to complete with the initial release of the first Star Wars movie, the film featured only one recognizable star (Roy Scheider, above, in case you don’t recognize him), boasted a title that was misleading, contained some of the most destitute locales ever filmed, and suffered production mishaps that were, according to Kelly Vance in an article about the film, “near-biblical, rivaling even Francis Ford Coppola’s ordeals while shooting Apocalypse Now.” (“Sorcerer: Noir… or Not?”, Noir City Annual 2014, The Film Noir Foundation) Yet the film stands as a stunning example of film noir (thus answering Vance’s question – at least for me – with an assertive “yes.”).
Confession time: I utterly failed with my Blind Spot Series in 2016. Epic fail. Miserable. Terrible. Kick-me-out-of-the-classic-movie-lovers-club awful. But I’m here to make amends in 2017…
I once had a few Christmas Eve movie traditions that have fallen by the wayside. One of them was, of course, watching It’s a Wonderful Life (which I have yet to watch this holiday season), but others included mostly Christmas TV specials (A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, etc.). One film I first saw in the 1980s that became a favorite was The Bishop’s Wife (1947) with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven. It was one of the first VHS tapes I owned, but I haven’t seen the film in years, so maybe I’ll catch it later. (The VHS tape is long gone.)
Not exactly a family tradition, but when I was younger and visited my brother in Dallas, it was not unusual for us to venture out to the theaters on Christmas Eve (or sometimes Christmas Day) to see movies. I recall seeing The Dark Crystal (1982) on Christmas Day, Starman on December 23, 1984, and others. Today, my brothers-in-law Dave and Pete and I plan to venture out to see Rogue One: A Star Wars Story today. I doubt the three of us will make going to see a movie a Christmas tradition, not because we usually don’t spend Christmas together (we normally do), but because with Dave’s two kids and Pete’s three, it’s hard for those guys to get away. But I’m looking forward to hanging out with these guys.
So what Christmas Eve or Christmas Day movie traditions do you have?
The Unsuspected (1947)
Directed by Michael Curtiz
Produced by George Amy, Michael Curtiz and Charles Hoffman
Cinematography by Woody Bredell
Edited by Frederick Richards
Costumes by Milo Anderson
Music by Franz Waxman
Borrowed from K.D. (1:43)
A shadowy figure moves through a darkened house at night, passing by a painting of a woman (which immediately reminds us of Laura ) as he ascends a staircase. Upstairs, a secretary works alone in an office and picks up a ringing telephone. From a pay phone in a nightclub, a woman named Althea (Audrey Totter) asks the secretary if Althea’s husband Oliver is there. “I’m all alone here,” secretary says nonchalantly as the shadowy figure approaches. Althea hears a woman’s scream on the other end of the line. In fear and confusion, Althea abandons the phone and leaves the nightclub with a man who is not her husband.
Better Call Saul: Season Two (2016) Vince Gilligan, Peter Gould
Blu-ray + UltraViolet
Sony Pictures (10 episodes, 7:39 total)
Last year I reviewed Better Call Saul: Season One (2015), noting that the show was far better than it had to be and maybe even the best show on television. Nothing I saw in the show’s second season causes me to change my opinion. In fact, I’m even more convinced.
Unfortunately there’s not an awful lot to get excited about in January as far as new Blu-ray and DVD releases go, but oddly enough, 2017 does include a mountain of horror releases. (Make of that what you will.) Although the noir and neo-noir releases are criminally low this time out, I do have an alternative for you at the end of this post. (As usual, all items are North America Region A Blu-ray releases unless otherwise specified.)
I’ve got a huge struggle that few people understand, but maybe you do. My struggle is this: I’m interested in far too many things for one lifetime. It’s a real problem. I love my library job, I love books, I love comics, and I love movies. Especially movies. Of all the things I love, it’s the subject I loved first, starting as a very young child. It’s ingrained, I can’t shake it, I can’t be cured. And I think I can honestly say I get more excited about movies every year and that’s saying something. If you’re a regular reader of this blog, as I said before, I think you understand.
So with that in mind, I thought I’d share my year in movies with you. (And I’d love to hear about your year in movies as well.)