Movie-a-Day April 2009-July 2011

Movie-a-day is almost as old as this blog itself; the second post I published here was a list of the films I’d watched over the course of June 2007. In retrospect, it’s perfectly fitting; what could better encapsulate blogging’s perversely personal yet public and professionally-tinged disclosures than obsessive catalogs of a media scholar’s viewing habits? Certainly the time I put in watching movies those first few summers after getting hired on the tenure track was intended to broaden my knowledge base and deepen my teaching — and if this gave me an excuse to settle comfortably into pleasant rituals of spectatorship, so much the better. But now, coming up on my fifth year of blogging, I see how movie-a-day has ruined me, for I no longer feel I’ve really watched something unless I’ve entered its title on the little documents I maintain here and there to track such trivia. (Currently I use a private PB Works wiki as my all-purpose ideaspace.)

The limbo this leads to — the realization of what a weightless experience film consumption really is — may be part of why I’ve periodically taken such long breaks from the blog, experimenting with oblivion as it were. Imagine my surprise and delight, then, when I recovered from what seemed a broken Google Doc a list of movies I watched from my most recent m.a.d. post to last summer. Those 170-some titles are below, with asterisks as usual marking the films that, for whatever reason, made the greatest impact on me. In its schematic way, these entries mark out a biography in filmgoing, charting between the lines the large and small events of two-and-a-quarter years in my life. There’s Abrams’s Star Trek reboot, which disabled my public voice in ways I still haven’t brought myself to fully explore, amid a sprinkling of paranoid thrillers and whackadoodle documentaries to prep for my Conspiracy class; elsewhere, the romantic comedies that are about the only cinema my wife and I agree on; in December 2009 my first (and so far only) three-day marathon of the Lord of the Rings extended editions, along with near back-to-back viewings of Avatar; a raft of movies from 2003 I worked through in order to write my chapter on that year for the Screen Decades series; a series of titles from spring 2011 I barely remember staring at as I gradually emerged from the numbness of losing our first child.

Perhaps the most significant movies on the list are the final two, from July 2011. Transformers: Dark of the Moon, an otherwise indefensible turd but the last thing I saw in a theater before we got the call from our adoption agency; and, a few days later, The Dark Crystal, which I watched on my iPad as I cradled a sleeping Zachary in my arms — making that strange and beautiful experiment in puppets and fantasy his first movie.

April 2009
Rachel Getting Married (Jonathan Demme, 2008)
Quarantine (John Erick Dowdle, 2008)
The Poughkeepsie Tapes (John Erick Dowdle, 2007) *
Let the Right One In (Tomas Alfredson, 2008) *
Anatomy of A Murder (Otto Preminger, 1959)

May 2009
Four Months, Three Weeks and Two Days (Cristian Mungiu, 2007)
The Reader (Stephen Daldry, 2008)
Lost Highway (David Lynch, 1997)
Subway (Luc Besson, 1985) *
I Spit On Your Grave (Meir Zarchi, 1978)
Planet of the Vampires (Mario Bava, 1965)
The Celebration (Thomas Vinterberg, 1998) *
The 5000 Fingers of Dr. T (Roy Rowland, 1953)
Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde (Rouben Mamoulian, 1931)
Irreversible (Gaspar Noe, 2002) *
Head (Bob Rafelson, 1968)
Gertrud (Carl Th. Dreyer, 1964)
The Last Man On Earth (Ubaldo Ragona and Sidney Salkow, 1964)
The Hypothesis of the Stolen Painting (Raoul Ruiz, 1978) *
Waco: The Rules of Engagement (William Gazecki, 1997)
Tell No One (Guillaume Canet, 2006)
Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959) *
Dr. Cyclops (Ernest B. Schoedsack, 1940)
Shadows of Forgotten Ancestors (Sergei Parajanov, 1964)
Star Trek (J. J. Abrams, 2009) *
Memories (Katsuhiro Otomo, 1995)
Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle (Danny Leiner, 2004)
Fire and Ice (Ralph Bakshi, 1983)
The Earrings of Madame de … (Max Ophuls, 1953)

June 2009
Shane (George Stevens, 1953)
Up (Pete Docter, 2009) *
Missing (Costa Gavras, 1982)

July-August 2009
Bolt (Chris Williams and Byron Howard, 2008)
District 9 (Neill Blomkamp, 2009) *
Inglourious Basterds (Quentin Tarantino, 2009) *
Monsters Vs. Aliens (Conrad Vernon and Rob Letterman, 2009)
Elephant (Gus Van Sant, 2003) *
Paranoid Park (Gus Van Sant, 2007)
The Hangover (Todd Phillips, 2009)
Superman: Doomsday (Bruce Timm, Lauren Montgomery, and Brandon Vietti, 2007)
Wanted (Timur Bekmambetov, 2008)
My Neighbor Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988)
Noroi (Koji Shiraishi, 2005) *
Bruce Almighty (Tom Shadyac, 2003)
Taken (Pierre Morel, 2008) *
The Proposal (Anne Fletcher, 2009)
New in Town (Jonas Elmer, 2009)
Burn After Reading (Joel and Ethan Coen, 2008)
Drag Me to Hell (Sam Raimi, 2009)
Knowing (Alex Proyas, 2009)

October 2009
Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs (Phil Lord and Christopher Miller, 2009)
The Fog of War (Errol Morris, 2003)
Paranormal Activity (Oren Peli, 2009) *
Helvetica (Gary Hustwit, 2007) *
Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (David Yates, 2009)
Moon (Duncan Jones, 2009) *
The Secret Lives of Dentists (Alan Rudolph, 2003)
G.I. Joe – The Rise of Cobra (Stephen Sommers, 2009)
The Wrestler (Darren Aronofsky, 2008)
The Clinton Chronicles (Patrick Matrisciana, 1994)
Angels and Demons (Ron Howard, 2009)

November 2009
The Obama Deception (Alex Jones, 2009)
Terminator Salvation (McG, 2009)
Day for Night (Francois Truffaut, 1973)
And God Created Woman (Roger Vadim, 1956)
The Bigamist (Ida Lupino, 1953)
The Body Snatcher (Robert Wise, 1945)
The Taking of Pelham 123 (Tony Scott, 2009)
La Notte (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1961)
Sinbad: Legend of the Seven Seas (Tim Johnson and Patrick Gilmore, 2003)
Orphan (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2009)
The Ugly Truth (Robert Luketic, 2009)
Jennifer’s Body (Karyn Kusama, 2009)

December 2009
The Fellowship of the Ring (Peter Jackson, 2001)
The Two Towers (Peter Jackson, 2002)
The Return of the King (Peter Jackson, 2003)
Barry Lyndon (Stanley Kubrick, 1975) *
Four Christmases (Seth Gordon, 2008)
Star Trek (J. J. Abrams, 2009)
Julie and Julia (Nora Ephron, 2009)
Avatar (James Cameron, 2009) *
Love Actually (Roger Curtis, 2003)
Elf (Jon Favreau, 2003)
Avatar (James Cameron, 2009)

January 2010
Bruno (Larry Charles, 2009)

May 2010
Funny Games (Michael Haneke, 2008)
Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008)
Kick-Ass (Matthew Vaughn, 2010)
Magnum Force (Ted Post, 1973)
The Crazies (Breck Eisner, 2010)
Tokyo Gore Police (Yoshihiro Nishimura, 2008) *
Two-Lane Blacktop (Monte Hellman, 1971) *
The Road (John Hillcoat, 2009)
Shutter Island (Martin Scorsese, 2010)
Dirty Harry (Don Siegel, 1971)
Valentine’s Day (Garry Marshall, 2010)
AM 1200 (David Prior, 2008) *

June 2010
Hulk (Ang Lee, 2003)
X2: X-Men United (Bryan Singer, 2003)
Iron Man 2 (Jon Favreau, 2010)
The Hills Have Eyes 2 (Martin Weisz, 2007)
In the Loop (Armando Iannucci, 2009)
Toy Story 3 (Lee Unkrich, 2010)
28 Days Later (Danny Boyle, 2002)
Martyrs (Pascal Laugier, 2008) *

July 2010
Greenberg (Noah Baumbach, 2010)
Sex and the City 2 (Michael Patrick King, 2010)
The Book of Eli (The Hughes Brothers, 2010)
Harry Brown (Daniel Barber, 2009)
Date Night (Shawn Levy, 2010)
Youth in Revolt (Miguel Arteta, 2009)
Inception (Christopher Nolan, 2010)
Salt (Phillip Noyce, 2010)
The Usual Suspects (Bryan Singer, 1995)
The Ghost Writer (Roman Polanski, 2010) *
Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World (Peter Weir, 2003)

August 2010
Dinner for Schmucks (Jay Roach, 2010)
The Other Guys (Adam McKay, 2010)
The Last House on the Left (Dennis Illiadis, 2009)
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (Shane Black, 2005)
Pontypool (Bruce McDonald, 2009)
An Education (Lone Scherfig, 2009) *
10,000 BC (Roland Emmerich, 2008)
Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (Nicholas Meyer, 1991)

September 2010
Scott Pilgrim Vs. the World (Edgar Wright, 2010)
The House of the Devil (Ti West, 2009)
Frontier(s) (Xavier Gens, 2007)
Dead Snow (Tommy Wirkola, 2009)
Batman: Under the Red Hood (Brandon Vietti, 2010)
Splice (Vincenzo Natali, 2009)

October 2010
The Godfather (Francis Ford Coppola, 1972) *
The Godfather Part II (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974) *
How to Train Your Dragon (Chris Sanders and Dean DeBlois, 2010)
The Social Network (David Fincher, 2010)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
The Fall (Tarsem Singh, 2006)
Winter’s Bone (Debra Granik, 2010) *
It’s Kind of a Funny Story (Anna Boden and Ryan Fleck, 2010)
The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980) *

November 2010
Twilight (Catherine Hardwicke, 2008)
Megamind (Tom McGrath, 2010)
House (Nobuhiko Obayashi, 1977) *
Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark (John Newland, 1973) *

December 2010
Tron: Legacy (Joseph Kosinski, 2010) *
The Queen (Stephen Frears, 2006)
The Family Stone (Thomas Bezucha, 2005)
Gone Baby Gone (Ben Affleck, 2007)
Back to the Future (Robert Zemeckis, 1985)
Back to the Future 2 (Robert Zemeckis, 1989)

January 2011
Matango (Ishiro Honda, 1963)
Paranormal Activity 2 (Tod Williams, 2010)
The Kids Are All Right (Lisa Cholodenko, 2010)
The King’s Speech (Tom Hooper, 2010) *
127 Hours (Danny Boyle, 2010)

February 2011
Frankenstein (James Whale, 1931)
Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
Predators (Nimrod Antal, 2010)
Away We Go (Sam Mendes, 2009)
Equinox (Dennis Muren, 1970)
Kings Row (Sam Wood, 1942)

March 2011
Tangled (Nathan Greno and Byron Howard, 2010)
The Next Three Days (Paul Haggis, 2010) *
Love and Other Drugs (Edward Zwick, 2010)
The Fighter (David O. Russell, 2010)

April 2011
Source Code (Duncan Jones, 2011) *
Unstoppable (Tony Scott, 2010)
Get Low (Aaron Schneider, 2009)
The Number 23 (Joel Schumacher, 2007)

May 2011
Blue Valentine (Derek Cianfrance, 2010) *
Thor (Kenneth Branagh, 2011)
Battle: Los Angeles (Jonathan Liebesman, 2011)
Ju-on (Takashi Shimizu, 2000)
I Saw the Devil (Kim Ji-woon, 2010) *
Bridesmaids (Paul Feig, 2011)

June 2011
Unknown (Jaume Collet-Serra, 2011)
Kung Fu Panda 2 (Jennifer Yuh Nelson, 2011)
Cedar Rapids (Miguel Arteta, 2011)
Limitless (Neil Burger, 2011) *
Frozen (Adam Green, 2010)
The Tunnel (Carlo Ledesma, 2011)
Super 8 (J. J. Abrams, 2011) *
Insidious (James Wan, 2011)
Cedar Rapids (Miguel Arteta, 2011)

July 2011
Transformers: Dark of the Moon (Michael Bay, 2011)
The Dark Crystal (Jim Henson and Frank Oz, 1982) *

Coming attraction

Wow, here’s a discovery: a Google doc I’d thought corrupted and unreadable (a case of acid rain in the computer’s cloud) yielded up its secrets when shared to and opened from another Google account. I retrieved a file recording my Movie-A-Day activities over the course of something like three years. Formatting the list, however, turns out to be a bit of a slog: a monotonous yet demandingly precise pointing-and-clicking which, at 12:30 a.m., exceeds the stamina depleted by a wakeful baby the night before. So I’ll simply leave this post as a preview of what’s to come: the return of a once-standard feature on this blog, a long-ass list of movies I’ve watched and some accompanying commentary. Look for it tomorrow.

Movie-a-Day: June 2008

June has always been a grand month for me; my birthday falls within it, as does the end of the school year (and I love it that this annual academic bisection still occurs in my life, just as it did when I was in junior high). This time around, June was also full of an unusual number of movies across a variety of genres. Mel Gibson’s Passion of the Christ gets a big fat star for being the most special-effects-intensive guinea-pig movie I’ve ever seen, and once I get a chance to watch the copy of Flower of Flesh and Blood that’s been lurking on my shelf, I plan to write about the spectacle of the systematically destroyed body. Though I found a few things to say about Jumper, I cared for the film no more than the rest of the planet did; not so John Huston’s Asphalt Jungle, an exemplary, unhappy caper film that almost made the cut for this fall’s Intro to Film course (instead, I’ll be kicking off the term with Sunset Boulevard, another perfect movie). After Kurt Wimmer’s brilliant sleeper Equilibrium, Ultraviolet was a real letdown, almost enough to make me stay away from the filmmaker’s work in the future — an anti-auteur effect, something like what I experienced with Darren Aronofsky and his repellent if skillful Requiem for a Dream. On the evidence of Jules et Jim, I’m starting to agree with my friend Chris Dumas that Truffaut is a limp noodle by comparison with Godard, whose films dominated my April. The month’s biggest surprise was a Spanish horror movie, Tombs of the Blind Dead — utterly seductive with its half-clothed victims, slow-moving twig-taloned zombies, and an ending sequence of shrieking, freezeframed paralysis. Murnau’s Faust, by contrast, was a glorious trippy dream: a bit of slog through the middle romantic section, but bookended by astounding, cosmic visions.

Movie-a-Day: June 2008

Viridiana (Luis Bunuel, 1961)
Tombs of the Blind Dead (Amando de Ossorio, 1971)*
You Only Live Once (Fritz Lang, 1937)
Tokyo Drifter (Seijun Suzuki, 1966)
The Firemen’s Ball (Milos Forman, 1967)
Revenge of the Creature (Jack Arnold, 1955)
The Passion of the Christ (Mel Gibson, 2004)*
Peyton Place (Mark Robson, 1957)
Faust (F. W. Murnau, 1926)*
The Asphalt Jungle (John Huston, 1950)
Earth vs. the Flying Saucers (Fred F. Sears, 1956)
Futurama: The Beast with A Billion Backs (Peter Avanzino, 2008)
Jumper (Doug Liman, 2008)
Jules et Jim (Francois Truffaut, 1962)
Eyes Without a Face (Georges Franju, 1960)
Ali: Fear Eats the Soul (Rainer Werner Fassbinder, 1974)*
Steamboy (Katsuhiro Otomo, 2004)
Killer of Sheep (Charles Burnett, 1977)
Kronos (Kurt Neumann, 1957)
Lost Horizon (Frank Capra, 1937)*
The Long Goodbye (Robert Altman, 1973)
Be Kind Rewind (Michel Gondry, 2008)
Destination Moon (Irving Pichel, 1950)
The Mummy (Terence Fisher, 1959)
Ultraviolet (Kurt Wimmer, 2006)
Rome: Open City (Roberto Rossellini, 1945)
On Dangerous Ground (Nicholas Ray, 1952)
The Man with the Golden Arm (Otto Preminger, 1955)
Mysterious Island (Cy Endfield, 1961)
Porco Rosso (Hayao Miyazaki, 1992)
WALL-E (Andrew Stanton, 2008)*

Movie-a-Day: May 2008

An odd lineup this month. I was on the road a fair amount of the time, which in movie-watching terms means you take what you can get; I had to rely on Ann Arbor’s video rental stores rather than the lofty reserves of Swarthmore and its partners in the TriCo system, Haverford and Bryn Mawr. So along with some classic texts like Godard’s La Chinoise (too didactic for my tastes) and Mankiewicz’s Suddenly Last Summer (overcooked), there’s a grab bag of recent titles, some of them genuinely painful to watch (White Noise, Speed Racer, Untraceable) and others a most pleasant surprise (Next, Iron Man). My wife was responsible for at least two of the movies, Lars and the Real Girl and Baby Mama; the two of us thought we’d enjoy I Want Someone to Eat Cheese with a lot more than we ultimately did. Meanwhile, my admiration for Bergman’s work continues unabated — the stars, as always, mean the movie got to me on a deep level — while I feel asleep during the famous car chase in Bullitt. (No fault of Steve McQueen’s; I’ve been dosing daily on Benadryl.)

Movie-a-Day: May 2008

Iron Man (Jon Favreau, 2008)
White Noise (Geoffrey Sax, 2005)
Next (Lee Tamahori, 2007)*
Lars and the Real Girl (Craig Gillespie, 2007)
La Chinoise (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)
There Will Be Blood (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2007)*
Speed Racer (Larry and Andy Wachowski, 2008)
The Simpsons Movie (David Silverman, 2007)
Untraceable (Gregory Hoblit, 2008)
If … (Lindsay Anderson, 1969)
L’Eclisse (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1962)
Seven Faces of Dr. Lao (George Pal, 1964)
Ah! My Goddess: The Movie (Hiroaki Goda, 2000)*
Shame (Ingmar Bergman, 1968)*
Performance (Donald Cammell and Nicolas Roeg, 1970)
Cries and Whispers (Ingmar Bergman, 1972)*
Baby Mama (Michael McCullers, 2008)
Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull (Steven Spielberg, 2008)
The Orphanage (Juan Antonio Bayona, 2007)
Suddenly Last Summer (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1959)
Fanny and Alexander (Ingmar Bergman, 1982)*
The Last Laugh (F. W. Murnau, 1924)*
Bullitt (Peter Yates, 1968)
I Want Someone to Eat Cheese with (Jeff Garlin, 2006)

Movie-a-Day: April 2008

Has it really been four months since I last posted a compulsive record of my movie regimen? Guess so. Around the winter holidays I stopped watching for “homework” purposes and wrote down no titles from the first few months of 2008. (All I can remember from that time is Apocalypto, which made my adrenal glands light up like a love-tester game at the carnival.) Even though movie-a-day is a summer thing and classes didn’t end till the start of May, I impatiently dived back into the ongoing mission on April 1, armed with a list of remedial filmgoing provided by my friend Chris Dumas.

Dumas, who in terms of cinema aesthetics is the filet mignon to my Philly cheesesteak, has been imploring me since our grad-student days at Indiana University to watch more European modernism and less Die Hard; hence the predominance of Godard and Bergman on the list below. As always, titles that kicked my ass get a star. The aforementioned adrenal glands can testify that I persist in evaluating even the most Brechtian of works in terms of visceral impact, despite the fact that, as Dumas naggingly reminds me, “modernism requires the cultivation of another kind of response as well.” Perhaps. Yet the frigid bleakness of Winter Light, like the inky, geometric delerium of Branded to Kill, seem at least as much about mood as mind — sweat as sentience.

Movie-a-Day: April 2008

A Woman Is a Woman (Jean-Luc Godard, 1961)*
Contempt (Jean-Luc Godard, 1963)
Smiles of a Summer Night (Ingmar Bergman, 1955)
City Lights (Charles Chaplin, 1931)
1408 (Mikael Hafstrom, 2007)
Beowulf (Robert Zemeckis, 2007)
Green Street Hooligans (Lexi Alexander, 2004)
Branded to Kill (Seijun Suzuki, 1967)*
A Hard Day’s Night (Richard Lester, 1964)
The Leopard (Luchino Visconti, 1963)
Hardcore (Paul Schrader, 1979)
Modern Times (Charles Chaplin, 1936)
Pierrot le fou (Jean-Luc Godard, 1965)
Belle de jour (Luis Bunuel, 1967)
The Devil’s Backbone (Guillermo del Toro, 2002)
Masculin feminin (Jean-Luc Godard, 1966)*
Quintet (Robert Altman, 1979)
Sunrise (F. W. Murnau, 1927)*
Otaku no video (Mori Takeshi, 1991)
Second Skin (Juan Carlos Pinero, 2008)
2 or 3 Things I Know About Her (Jean-Luc Godard, 1967)
Feast of Love (Robert Benton, 2007)
Band of Outsiders (Jean-Luc Godard, 1964)
Who the F*** Is Pete Doherty? (Roger Pomphrey, 2005)
Winter Light (Ingmar Bergman, 1962)*
The Silence (Ingmar Bergman, 1963)
The Lost Weekend (Billy Wilder, 1945)
Through a Glass Darkly (Ingmar Bergman, 1962)

Movie-a-Day: November 2007


An unexpected benefit of charting my movie-watching habits through this series of posts is the perspective it sheds on my work rhythms — the ebb and flow of teaching, grading, doing research, and attending daily to dozens of other details of the academic profession — and their impact on what I choose to watch. November was crazy-busy — not just with school but a trip back to Indiana for Thanksgiving with my and my wife’s families, followed by our first wedding anniversary. Looking back, I’m surprised that I got to see anything at all. But no: somehow I managed to squeeze in nineteen films in thirty days, or roughly (my compulsive calculator checking reveals) .63 movies per day. Reviewing the list, though, what jumps out at me is how many recent and new releases I gravitated toward: eleven of the nineteen or (more calculator-tapping) 58% of the titles are from 2006 and 2007.

So what does this mean? Maybe older films are simply more taxing; good as my favorites were — the 1939 Hunchback of Notre Dame, Powell and Pressburger’s I Know Where I’m Going!, Bogdanovich’s Paper Moon — they demanded more in the watching than did the blissful, frictionless experience of newer pleasures like The Host, No Country for Old Men, and Meet the Robinsons. When I started this regimen last summer, I was able to sit through very old, very long movies in alert immersion — taking notes, no less. Most of November’s selections I watched flat on my back, relaxing into the TV screen or the laptop balanced on my chest, and I’m embarrassed to admit that I fell asleep once or twice during movies that really demand more respectful attention: I Walked With A Zombie, The Italian Job.

Ah well. I’ve learned to stop apologizing for watching what I watch, the way I watch it. (It’s pretty much a requirement if you commit to doing media studies.) If it surprises me now to learn that I saw The Ex — recorded in brainspace only by a fugue-patch of static — I’ll just remind myself that wasted time is usually good for the soul. But I will admit that the coming summer is starting to look very good to me: a long lush season of quiet during which I can finally get back to a real movie-a-day plan, digging into film history and moving outside my comfort zones.

As usual, I’ve placed stars next to the films that made an unusually strong impact on me. In one case, perhaps, more stars are deserved: Frank Darabont’s adaptation of Stephen King’s The Mist was the most wrenching horror film I’ve seen since The Descent, and in its way a thing of remarkable beauty.

Movie-A-Day: November 2007

Notes On A Scandal (Richard Eyre, 2006)
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (William Dieterle, 1939)
Spider-Man 3 (Sam Raimi, 2007)
Allegro Non Troppo (Bruno Bozzetto, 1976)
Harlan County USA (Barbara Kopple, 1976)
The Italian Job (Peter Collinson, 1969)
I Know Where I’m Going! (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1945)*
The Host (Joon-ho Bong, 2006)*
No Country for Old Men (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2007)*
Battlestar Galactica: Razor (Félix Enríquez Alcalá & Wayne Rose, 2007)
La noire de … [Black Girl] (Ousmane Sembene, 1965)
I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
Sherrybaby (Laurie Collyer, 2006)*
Inland Empire (David Lynch, 2006)
The Ex (Jesse Peretz, 2006)
Meet the Robinsons (Stephen J. Anderson, 2007)
Paper Moon (Peter Bogdanovich, 1973)*
Hairspray (Adam Shankman, 2007)
The Mist (Frank Darabont, 2007)*

Movie-a-Day: September-October 2007

It might seem odd to kick off the new year by looking back at last fall, but that’s the kind of guy I am: whether engaging in moody retrospection and fatuous nostalgia, I prefer to live in the past. Plus we’re talking about movies, which remain — at least until Sony releases its Tachyon-CCD FutureLook Imaging System — recordings of history, offering us hitchhikers a ride along a one-lane highway marked with a backwards-pointing time’s arrow.

In any case, my mission to watch a movie per day, which began midway through 2007 (prior lists here, here, and here), continued to unravel throughout a busy autumn. Teaching, writing, and moving into a new house took their predictable toll. Hence the 27 titles listed below, reflecting an increasingly desultory viewing practice, extend over two months, September and October. I cheated a bit by including movies I screened for my Intro to Film class — touchstones like Singin’ in the Rain and Psycho — as well as a number of films for my Animation and Cinema course, including Wizards, Perfect Blue, and Happy Feet. Anything I happened to grab at the video store is on the list, though I tended to watch these items with pen and paper determinedly not in hand; sometimes you just want to look, not think. That said, I was pleasantly surprised by at least one piece of recreational viewing, 28 Weeks Later, which kept me wide-awake and riveted to the screen after the endless bellowing blur of Transformers put me to sleep.

28 Weeks Later is marked with an asterisk, as is any film that made a powerful impression on me. The asterisk for The Blob, you might be interested to know, was almost entirely earned by Aneta Corsault, who occupies the girlfriend-of-hero structural position opposite Steve McQueen. One holdover from my misspent youth (there’s that preoccupation with the past again) is a tendency toward crushes on movie actresses; Corsault’s eyebrows alone ensnared me as irresistably as the glutinous alien invader of the title.


Movie-a-Day: September-October 2007

Assault on Precinct 13 (John Carpenter, 1976)
The Last Detail (Hal Ashby,1973)*
Monsoon Wedding (Mira Nair, 2002)
The Passenger (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1975)*
The Third Man (Carol Reed, 1949)
Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen & Gene Kelley, 1952)
Perfect Blue (Satoshi Kon, 1998)
Wizards (Ralph Bakshi, 1977)
Happy Feet (George Miller & Warren Coleman, 2006)
Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartel, 1975)
Mrs. Miniver (William Wyler, 1942)
New York, New York (Martin Scorsese, 1977)
Blackboard Jungle (Richard Brooks, 1955)*
Metropolis (Rintaro, 2002)
Hot Fuzz (Edgar Wright, 2007)
My Darling Clementine (John Ford, 1946)
Transformers (Michael Bay, 2007)
28 Weeks Later (Juan Carlos Fresnadillo, 2007)*
L’Avventura (Michelangelo Antonioni, 1960)
The Kid Stays in the Picture (Nanette Burstein & Brett Morgen, 2002)
Enron: The Smartest Guys in the Room (Alex Gibney, 2006)
Near Dark (Kathryn Bigelow, 1987)
A Letter to Three Wives (Joseph L. Mankiewicz, 1949)
The Blob (Irvin S. Yeaworth Jr., 1958)*
M*A*S*H (Robert Altman, 1970)*
The Darjeeling Limited (Wes Anderson, 2007)
Psycho (Alfred Hitchcock, 1960)

Happy new year, everyone, and here’s to good watching in 2008!

Movie-a-Day: August 2007

Nineteen titles this time around, reflecting the fact that, around the third week of August, the oncoming fall semester was looming as large as the giant alien saucers that shadow the world’s capitals in Independence Day. Getting my courses up and running finally killed poor Movie-a-Day, bringing to an end the blissful ritual that structured my summer … except that Movie-a-Day isn’t dead; in fact, since September 29th, I’ve been back on the plan. Turns out I’m hooked. Hooked not simply on movies – I’ve always loved them – but on the practice of watching them daily, of unequivocally setting aside two-plus hours to lock the door, kick back in my armchair, and do nothing but watch (with occasional note-taking). With the semester underway, it’s a lot harder to find the time, and I’ve loosened the rules a bit (it’s now OK to watch movies I’ve seen before, and films screened for class count). But, like my friend and former employer Sy Safransky at The Sun Magazine, who wakes up every day at 4 a.m. to meditate and write, I’ve learned that the commitment itself – the claim one stakes on each new day – is the real treasure, and not one to be traded away lightly.

As always, I’ve starred the titles that made the greatest impression on me, positive, negative, or any other flavor. More stars than usual in August – either I meandered into some good choices, or I’m becoming easier to impress. (Not that I’m complaining: impressionability is precisely what I’m trying to cultivate.) Also a few more animated titles; recent releases; my first silent film of the summer (unless one counts Sherlock, Jr.); and films from outside the U.S.

Movie-a-Day: August 2007

Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid (George Roy Hill, 1969)
Paths of Glory (Stanley Kubrick, 1957)*
Key Largo (John Huston, 1948)*
Waitress (Adrienne Shelly, 2007)*
Ninja Scroll (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 1993)*
Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (Mamoru Oshii, 2004)
The Passion of Joan of Arc (Carl Theodor Dreyer, 1928)*
A Scanner Darkly (Richard Linklater, 2006)
Fantastic Planet (René Laloux, 1973)
Avalon (Mamoru Oshii, 2001)
The Shanghai Gesture (Josef von Sternberg, 1941)*
The Holiday (Nancy Meyers, 2006)
Wicked City (Yoshiaki Kawajiri, 1987)
Sink or Swim (Su Friedrich, 1990)*
A Face in the Crowd (Elia Kazan, 1957)*
One Missed Call (Takashi Miike, 2004)
Medium Cool (Haskell Wexler, 1969)*
Soylent Green (Richard Fleischer, 1973)
Children of Men (Alfonso Cuarón, 2006)*

Movie-a-Day: July 2007

It had to happen: after an exhilarating summer of bulk viewing — the optical equivalent of chain smoking, except that instead of reducing my capacity to “inhale,” it seems to have forced open some kind of cognitive-perceptual valve, allowing me to absorb much greater quantities of cinematic information than ever before — I hit a wall. Preparing my courses for the fall is the main culprit; in a few weeks I start teaching Swarthmore’s venerable Introduction to Film and Media Studies, but also a class of my own design, Animation and Cinema. My wife and I are also gearing up to move into our new house in September, creating lots of fun details to obsess over, like remodeling our kitchen. With all of this going on, I only made it through about thirteen movies in August, an ignominous list I’ll post later.

But. Here from less hectic times is the complete list for July, in which I watched 36 movies — a personal record. Once again, I’ve placed stars next to the titles that made a particularly strong impact on me.

Movie-a-Day: July 2007

Shock Corridor (Sam Fuller, 1963)
Duel in the Sun (King Vidor, 1946)
On the Waterfront (Elia Kazan, 1954)
McCabe & Mrs. Miller (Robert Altman, 1971)*
Five Easy Pieces (Bob Rafelson, 1970)*
Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk, 1954)
The Conformist (Bernardo Bertolucci, 1970)
Ratatouille (Brad Bird, 2007)
The Naked Kiss (Sam Fuller, 1964)
Broken Arrow (Delmer Daves, 1950)
Days of Heaven (Terence Malick, 1978)*
Howl’s Moving Castle (Hayao Miyazaki, 2004)
Imitation of Life (Douglas Sirk, 1959)*
The Ten Commandments (Cecil B. DeMille, 1956)
The 400 Blows (François Truffaut, 1959)
Zodiac (David Fincher, 2007)
La Grande Illusion (Jean Renoir, 1937)
Knocked Up (Judd Apatow, 2007)*
Sans Soleil (Chris Marker, 1983)
Bamboozled (Spike Lee, 2000)
Ugetsu (Kenji Mizoguchi, 1953)*
Scarlet Street (Fritz Lang, 1945)
La Strada (Federico Fellini, 1954)
The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (Michael Powell & Emeric Pressburger, 1943)
Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959)
Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (David Yates, 2007)
Lolita (Stanley Kubrick, 1962)
The Man from Laramie (Anthony Mann, 1955)
Knife in the Water (Roman Polanski, 1962)
Stalker (Andrei Tarkovsky, 1979)*
20,000 Leagues Under the Sea (Richard Fleischer, 1954)
The Fallen Idol (Carol Reed, 1948)
Saturday Night Fever (John Badham, 1977)
Fellini Satyricon (Federico Fellini, 1969)
Hud (Martin Ritt, 1963)
Jordan Belson: Five Essential Films (Jordan Belson, 2007)

Movie-a-Day: June 2007

It’s been a fantastic summer so far. No classes to teach = lots of time to catch up on work and reading; my wife and I house-sat in Philadelphia for ten days, giving us a valuable but safely contained experience of life in the big city; like several of my colleagues, I finally bought a Wii.

But the most pleasurable and consciousness-expanding element of the summer has been my movie-a-day diet. Pure and simple, I committed to watching at least one film a day, beginning June 1. There are a few loose rules: ideally, the titles should be ones I haven’t seen before; they should be older movies (i.e. not currently playing in theaters); most important, they should be significant in some way, whether measured in terms of aesthetics, historical place, cultural impact, or position in one “canon” or another. As you’ll see from the list below, this leaves me a lot of selection variety, and one of the chief joys has been leaping from one cinematic universe to another, switching up classical Hollywood with European arthouse, chunky westerns with lithe anime, high art with low exploitation. I’ve struggled through some real endurance tests, but for the most part watching these movies has been a constantly rewarding experience, both personally and professionally (I’m getting lots of ideas for what to show my students in the fall).

Here’s the lineup for the first month. I’ve starred the films that made the greatest impression on me. I’ll continue to post these lists, and hazard some capsule reviews now and then.

Movie-a-Day: June 2007

The Getaway (Sam Peckinpah, 1972)
Stagecoach (John Ford, 1939)*
High Noon (Fred Zinnemann, 1952)*
The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (John Ford, 1962)
The Man Who Fell to Earth (Nicolas Roeg, 1976)
Young Mister Lincoln (John Ford, 1939)*
From Russia with Love (Terence Young, 1963)
Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1998)
A Place in the Sun (George Stevens, 1951)
Winchester ’73 (Anthony Mann, 1950)*
Fiend Without a Face (Arthur Crabtree, 1968)
Rebel Without a Cause (Nicholas Ray, 1955)*
Giant (George Stevens, 1956)
The Trouble with Harry (Alfred Hitchcock, 1955)
The Grapes of Wrath (John Ford, 1940)
Barbarella (Roger Vadim, 1968)
Halfouine: Child of the Terraces (Férid Boughedir, 1990)
The Pride of the Yankees (Sam Wood, 1942)
Seven Samurai (Akira Kurosawa, 1954)*
The Magnificent Seven (John Sturges, 1960)
Dodsworth (William Wyler, 1936)*
The Testament of Dr. Mabuse (Fritz Lang, 1933)*
Sherlock Jr. (Buster Keaton, 1924)
Grand Hotel (Edmund Goulding, 1932)
Orlando (Sally Potter, 1992)
To Have and Have Not (Howard Hawks, 1944)*
Mr. Death (Errol Morris, 1999)
Mutiny on the Bounty (Frank Lloyd, 1935)
Loves of A Blonde (Milos Forman, 1965)*
Norma Rae (Martin Ritt, 1979)