I got out of the habit of keeping track of what I watched last year. I’m back in it, but for now, here are the first 12 movies I can remember seeing for the first time last year, in alphabetical order:
The Adventures of Robin Hood (1938)
So much swashbuckling fun! Actually saw this as a little kid, but couldn’t remember much about it; watched this with the fam now, and everybody loved it. Errol Flynn is the perfect Robin Hood (“You speak treason!” “…Fluently.”)
Strange to contrast this with 1991’s Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves, a movie so bad I hadn’t bothered to see it again since then, and when I did this year, I thought it was even worse. From the constant hero shots of Costner’s mullet, to the weird ways they contort their own screenplay to find excuses to use Morgan Freeman’s character, this is a sad, obvious bunch of clichés. What a joke. At least Alan Rickman knew enough to ham it up.
10/10 (the 1938 version!)
Babette’s Feast (Danish, 1987)
My main train of thought watching this was how different–and how much worse–this would have been as an American production. In a Hollywood version, Babette would have been a sexy cougar whose metaphorically erotic orgy of food would have “liberated” all the “narrow-minded prudes” around her, freeing them all to “be who they really are.”
As it is, Babette’s Feast is far more subtle, realistic, and, therefore, moving.
Ikiru (Japanese, 1952)
Honestly, I didn’t see what the big deal about this Kurosawa classic was for most of the film. Sure, it was poignant and beautiful, but not earth-shatteringly so. Until the final act. That daring bit of directorial bravado–where tipsy mourners at the protagonist’s wake review his final days, intercut with scenes of the great living in question–profoundly impressed me. Genuinely insightful and impressive.
Another contrast with a hypothetical American version: in Hollywood, Watanabe would have had a love affair with Toyo in the second act, finding his passion for life in the arms of a young woman. How sad that we’re so predictable.
Iron Man 3 (2013)
The first of the four movies I saw in a theater last year. My favorite in the series, though the plot was too derivative. Might as well have been called Iron Man Rises.
Moonrise Kingdom (2012)
The latest Wes Anderson film. Not his strongest, but commendable for the originality and the excellent work by all in the cast–always fun to see Bruce Willis be a funny everyman, or Bill Murray being Bill Murray.
Drollness is overdone these days, but it doesn’t get any better than this.
Night of the Hunter (1955)
Older movies subvert our expectations so much better than contemporary ones do. A great film in many ways, but especially for the template-creating performance by Robert Mitchum. That’s a scary bad guy.
Pacific Rim (2013)
Had a week at home while the family was away this summer. This is how I spent it. Even dropped some coin to see this in IMAX 3D. Very average film, but very fun, and great effects. That’s what movies like this are for. Kudos on knowing your genre and working it right. Still, only an average movie.
I don’t usually watch R-rated movies, but I was so obsessed with this one for so long, and read so much about it, that it seemed like the rating might have been overblown. Maybe I’m desensitized, but I thought it could have been PG-13.
Anyway, all the criticism of this movie was way off base. The apparently illogical moments are due to shallow viewer interpretation, not weak direction. This is a smart, worthy, important sci-fi film. Loved everything about it.
Ramona and Beezus (2010)
Another family film, and a very fun one. For all the “girl-power” stories out there, few actually seem to be about realistic kids. This one is. Everybody’s having a good time, here, and it shows. My only complaint was that the mom character was too cold and underdeveloped, but that gets solved later in the film. The ending is nice, but hardly fairy-tale.
Joey King is great, and her career should be one to watch–Joey, do NOT go all Miley Cyrus or Lindsay Lohan on us!
Star Trek Into Darkness (2013)
A lot of hate from the fans online for this one. Don’t know why–if you liked the first reboot, this sequel isn’t much different. It celebrates The Wrath of Khan while updating it for the alternate, reboot universe. It’s not like it was meant to replace the original or anything.
Plenty of gee-whiz moments here, but a little light on substance. Still, that’s the ethos of the new franchise. Deal with it.
Winter Light (Swedish, 1962)
I love Ingmar Bergman, not because I agree with much of what he says, but because of how honestly and powerfully he explores important questions.
That’s very evident here. Not his best work, but for Bergman, that’s still a masterpiece. I commented on it here.
One example of this film’s greatness: long, uninterrupted takes of monologues directed at the camera are very hard to pull off. The one in here works perfectly.
World War Z (2013)
I loved the book, and the movie is just a tiny slice of that, but what’s here is good. A sequel could be even better.