Classifying What I Saw in 2014: An Observational Study

Taking inspiration from Steven Soderbergh, I give you the list of movies and miniseries that I watched from beginning to end last year. Rather than frame my inventory of 169 titles within a calendar year, I decided to begin last year on March 3, 2014, the day after the 86th Academy Awards ceremony aired. Since I don’t plan on updating this list after today, these are all the movies and miniseries I watched through today, January 14, 2015. I don’t keep a log of TV shows and books that I read, although I do write down in a personal diary what I watch/read whenever I do. Titles in bold are favorites, and those crossed out are the absolute worst.

ON TELEVISION & CABLE My sister thinks I watch too much TV, to the detriment of my professional productivity. I am happy to see that this short list proves that pretty much the only stuff I watch from beginning to end on TV and cable are miniseries (excepting TV shows, of course). By the way, 47 Ronin is not as advertised. If, like me, you initially shirked the Keanu Reeves picture because you thought it would be a martial arts movie, I am happy to tell you that it is a romantic historical epic with a dash of the supernatural thrown in. Entertaining if not always convincing.

Celeste and Jesse Forever (Lee Toland Krieger, 2012)

To Rome With Love (Woody Allen, 2012)

Death Comes to Pemberley (Daniel Percival, 2013) miniseries

Olive Kitteridge (Lisa Cholodenko, 2014) miniseries

The Missing (Tom Shankland, 2014) miniseries

47 Ronin (Carl Rinsch, 2013)

 

ON DEMAND (that is, through an online streaming service that either releases a film before or during its theatrical run) As you can see, watching movies on demand isn’t really my bag. I much prefer to go to the theater, but sometimes it’s necessary to rent from Amazon or M-Go, as was the case with Alan Partridge. Did it ever play a theater near me?

Veronica Mars (Rob Thomas, 2014)

Alan Partridge: Alpha Papa (Declan Lowney, 2013)

Life Itself (Steve James, 2014)

In Secret (Charlie Stratton, 2013)

The One I Love (Charlie McDowell, 2014)

 

MOVIES I’D SEEN BEFORE I’m as surprised as you: I don’t revisit favorite films much anymore. For the record, neither Little Man Tate nor Go is an all-time favorite.

Little Man Tate (Jodie Foster, 1991)

I Love You, Alice B. Toklas (Hy Averback, 1968)

Jurassic Park (Steven Spielberg, 1993) I don’t know how many times I’ve seen this

Virtual Sexuality (Nick Hurran, 1999)

Go (Doug Liman, 1999)

 

FROM THE LIBRARY Well, this isn’t surprising. My town’s library reopened about a year ago after staying closed for renovations for something like three years. I go there all the time, and about a month ago, I rented 15 movies at once and managed to see them all within a week. Dedication.

Another quick note: If I could label one film the most overrated from all 168 that I saw, it would be Locke. No, I’m sorry. It did not reinvent the cinematographic. Eighty-five minutes of Tom Hardy’s ridiculous Welsh accent is stretching my patience.

Amour (Michael Haneke, 2012)

All is Lost (J.C. Chandor, 2013)

Hysteria (Tanya Wexler, 2011)

The Hedgehog (Mona Achache, 2009)

The Monuments Men (George Clooney, 2014)

Easy Money (Daniel Espinosa, 2010)

The Impossible (J.A. Bayona, 2012)

This is 40 (Judd Apatow, 2012)

Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)

The Empire Strikes Back (Irvin Kershner, 1980)

Return of the Jedi (Richard Marquand, 1983)

Divergent (Neil Burger, 2014)

Nebraska (Alexander Payne, 2013)

Seven Psychopaths (Martin McDonagh, 2012)

Muppets Most Wanted (James Bobin, 2014)

Wrinkles (Ignacio Ferreras, 2011)

We Are the Best! (Lukas Moodysson, 2013)

Out in the Dark (Michael Mayer, 2012)

The Great Beauty (Paolo Sorrentino, 2013)

Gravity (Alfonso Cuaron, 2013)

Man of Steel (Zack Snyder, 2013)

Hitler’s Children (Chanoch Ze’evi, 2011)

Turn Left at the End of the World (Avi Nesher, 2004)

Neighboring Sounds (Kleber Mendonca Filho, 2012)

The Pride of the Yankees (Sam Wood, 1942)

The Day He Arrives (Hong Sangsoo, 2011)

The Broken Circle Breakdown (Felix van Groeningen, 2012)

Our Children (Joachim Lafosse, 2012)

Local Hero (Bill Forsyth, 1983)

Therese (Claude Miller, 2012)

Le Havre (Aki Kaurismaki, 2011)

Ain’t Them Bodies Saints (David Lowery, 2013)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (Steven Spielberg, 1981)

The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (Marc Webb, 2014)

Le Week-End (Roger Michell, 2013)

THX 1138 (George Lucas, 1971)

The Woman in Black (James Watkins, 2012)

Ida (Pawel Pawlikowski, 2013)

42 (Brian Helgeland, 2013)

Europa Report (Sebastian Cordero, 2013)

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (Steven Spielberg, 1984)

Quartet (Dustin Hoffman, 2012)

Ender’s Game (Gavin Hood, 2013)

Farewell, My Queen (Benoit Jacquot, 2012)

To Be or Not to Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)

The Shop Around the Corner (Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)

The Earrings of Madame de… (Max Ophuls, 1953)

Bicycle Thieves (Vittorio De Sica, 1948)

Good Hair (Jeff Stilson, 2009)

Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade (Steven Spielberg, 1989)

Despicable Me 2 (Pierre Coffin & Chris Renaud, 2013)

Renoir (Gilles Bourdos, 2012)

Inside Llewyn Davis (Joel & Ethan Coen, 2013)

In the House (Francois Ozon, 2012) This film confirmed for me that Ozon, one of my favorite directors, is a genius.

The Deep (Baltasar Kormakur, 2012)

The Rabbi’s Cat (Antoine Delesvaux & Joann Sfar, 2011)

The East (Zal Batmanglij, 2013)

Barbara (Christian Petzold, 2012)

No (Pablo Larrain, 2012)

Children of Paradise (Marcel Carne, 1945)

O’Horten (Bent Hamer, 2007)

Night Moves (Kelly Reichardt, 2013)

Omar (Hany Abu-Assad, 2013)

Locke (Steven Knight, 2013)

Finding Vivian Maier (John Maloof & Charlie Siskel, 2013)

 

FROM REDBOX Thank goodness for Redbox. I wouldn’t have seen everything that I’d wanted to without it. Quick notes: Having loved Animal Kingdom, David Michod’s follow-up, The Rover, left a lot to be desired. Disappointing. Speaking of disappointment, Chef may have made my mouth water, but there was too little character development and narrative plausibility for me to become emotionally invested in the father-son road trip movie. Magic in the Moonlight is minor Woody Allen, OK, but it’s not as bad as your sister made it out to be.

Dallas Buyers Club (Jean-Marc Vallee, 2013)

Labor Day (Jason Reitman, 2013)

Vampire Academy (Mark Waters, 2014)

The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (Ben Stiller, 2013)

August: Osage County (John Wells, 2013)

Saving Mr. Banks (John Lee Hancock, 2013)

Winter’s Tale (Akiva Goldsman, 2014)

The LEGO Movie (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, 2014)

Noah (Darren Aronofsky, 2014)

About Time (Richard Curtis, 2013)

Under the Skin (Jonathan Glazer, 2013)

Only Lovers Left Alive (Jim Jarmusch, 2013)

The Other Woman (Nick Cassavetes, 2014)

They Came Together (David Wain, 2014)

Captain America: The Winter Soldier (Anthony & Joe Russo, 2014)

Belle (Amma Asante, 2013)

The Rover (David Michod, 2014)

Hateship Loveship (Liza Johnson, 2013)

Obvious Child (Gillian Robespierre, 2014)

Million Dollar Arm (Craig Gillespie, 2014)

Godzilla (Gareth Edwards, 2014)

Neighbors (Nicholas Stoller, 2014)

Chef (Jon Favreau, 2014)

Begin Again (John Carney, 2013)

How to Train Your Dragon 2 (Dean DeBlois, 2014)

Magic in the Moonlight (Woody Allen, 2014)

Pride (Matthew Warchus, 2014)

 

TURNER CLASSIC MOVIES My DVR is almost full of recordings from TCM, my favorite channel. These are the ones that I have seen and deleted. Exercising film appreciation is a daunting task.

Born Yesterday (George Cukor, 1950)

To Paris With Love (Robert Hamer, 1955)

Tim (Michael Pate, 1979)

The Doctor and the Devils (Freddie Francis, 1985)

Lonely Hearts (Paul Cox, 1982)

Badlands (Terrence Malick, 1973)

Starstruck (Gillian Armstrong, 1982)

Friendly Persuasion (William Wyler, 1956)

Libel (Anthony Asquith, 1959)

Two English Girls (Francois Truffaut, 1971)

The Way We Were (Sydney Pollack, 1973)

The Age of Innocence (Martin Scorsese, 1993)

From Here to Eternity (Fred Zinnemann, 1953)

Dark Victory (Edmund Goulding, 1939)

Georgy Girl (Silvio Narizzano, 1966)

2001: A Space Odyssey (Stanley Kubrick, 1968)

Woman of the Year (George Stevens, 1942)

Kind Hearts and Coronets (Robert Hamer, 1949)

The Magic Box (John Boulting, 1951)

The Grass Is Greener (Stanley Donen, 1960)

Love Affair (Leo McCarey, 1939)

The Black Stallion (Carroll Ballard, 1979)

An Affair to Remember (Leo McCarey, 1957)

Fatso (Anne Bancroft, 1980)

 

IN THE THEATER What can I say? Ever since I left New York in late 2011, it’s been a struggle to get to the movie theater. At least I’ve seen more Oscar bait movies in the theater this year than in years past.

The Grand Budapest Hotel (Wes Anderson, 2014)

X-Men: Days of Future Past (Bryan Singer, 2014)

Words and Pictures (Fred Schepisi, 2013)

22 Jump Street (Phil Lord & Christopher Miller, 2014)

The Fault in Our Stars (Josh Boone, 2014)

Jersey Boys (Clint Eastwood, 2014)

Dawn of the Planet of the Apes (Matt Reeves, 2014)

Boyhood (Richard Linklater, 2014)

Guardians of the Galaxy (James Gunn, 2014)

The Hundred-Foot Journey (Lasse Hallstrom, 2014)

The Trip to Italy (Michael Winterbottom, 2014)

The Skeleton Twins (Craig Johnson, 2014)

Gone Girl (David Fincher, 2014)

Fury (David Ayer, 2014)

Dear White People (Justin Simien, 2014)

Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) (Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu, 2014)

Interstellar (Christopher Nolan, 2014)

The Theory of Everything (James Marsh, 2014)

Foxcatcher (Bennett Miller, 2014)

Top Five (Chris Rock, 2014)

The Imitation Game (Morten Tyldum, 2014)

Selma (Ava DuVernay, 2014)

Inherent Vice (Paul Thomas Anderson, 2014)

 

NETFLIX I can’t believe I see so little on Netflix. I really can’t. Logging into my sister’s account, scrolling through her queue (or list, whatever they call it now) of 500+ titles, is so completely overwhelming. That, and I have a voice in my head that tells me that rather than select from Netflix, I really ought to work towards cleaning out my DVR.

Beauty is Embarrassing (Neil Berkeley, 2012)

Short Term 12 (Destin Cretton, 2013)

Filth (Jon S. Baird, 2013)

Goodbye, First Love (Mia Hansen-Love, 2011)

Breathe In (Drake Doremus, 2013)

Age of Uprising: The Legend of Michael Kohlhaas (Arnaud des Pallieres, 2013)

Chinese Puzzle (Cedric Klapisch, 2013)

Los Angeles Plays Itself (Thom Andersen, 2003)

Frank (Lenny Abrahamson, 2014)

 

UNCLASSIFIABLE I hope it’s obvious how I saw these, if I didn’t see these in the theater or on demand or any other method listed here.

Maleficent (Robert Stromberg, 2014)

Transcendence (Wally Pfister, 2014)

Edge of Tomorrow (Doug Liman, 2014)

The Giver (Phillip Noyce, 2014)

Predestination (Michael & Peter Spierig, 2014)

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Missing Reels is a Thrilling Film Preservation Mystery

Last night, I finished reading Missing Reels, the debut novel of Farran Smith Nehme, who writes about herself in the third person over at her classic film blog Self-Styled Siren. Spoiler Rich [my former blog where this essay was first posted] may be devoted to dissecting film and TV shows, but considering that the story of Missing Reels concerns a young vintage clothing salesgirl in 1980s New York obsessed with classic films, I feel obligated to share some thoughts on the novel.

Missing Reels is 339 pages long and filled mostly with rat-a-tat dialogue, primarily between Mississippi-born protagonist Ceinwein (pronounced “KINE-wen,” apparently) and her snobby English mathematician boyfriend Matthew. He doesn’t share her love of old movies, but he does become an assistant to her film preservation detective work. Ceinwein is convinced that the old woman Miriam who lives in her building had to have been a Hollywood starlet once-upon-a-time, given Miriam’s snarky comments about Jean Harlow being a slut, bemusement at Ceinwen’s preference for vintage glamour, and living room-displayed headshot of a young woman with more than a passing resemblance to Miriam. It turns out that the headshot is actually a production still from the silent film The Mysteries of Udolpho (yes, Miriam’s name was momentarily flashed on a movie theater marquee, emphasis on “momentarily”), and the autographed inscription dedicated to “Emil” refers to none other than the fictitious film’s German expatriate director Emil Arnheim, with whom Miriam had a red-hot love affair during the film shoot in the late 1920s. The usually taciturn Miriam confesses to as much upon receipt of an unexpected Christmas gift from Ceinwen. Miriam’s gift to Ceinwen is a quest: unbeknownst to the curmudgeon-y lady, Ceinwen sets out to track down the long-lost film to reunite Miriam with her long-gone lover (he wrecked his car in a drunken stupor following the film’s poor test audience reception and the studio head’s butchering of Emil’s artfully composed edit). Ceinwein wants to assure Miriam that she was right: The Mysteries of Udolpho may have gone over most people’s heads at the time of its initial release, but it was in fact a bold and interesting work, just as the one-time actress’s memory has preserved it all these years.

Unfortunately, Ceinwen’s efforts to track down the lost film only pick up halfway through the novel. The first half establishes her relationship with Matthew, a postdoc at NYU, who is in a long-term, long-distance relationship with an arrogant Italian economist. Although he is honest upfront about his romantic entanglement, Ceinwen is jealous when he spends Christmas in Europe with Anna. Right off the bat, I felt annoyed by this situation. If she had a problem being with a guy who’s attached to someone else, why pursue him? Why let him pursue her? I know, I know, the heart doesn’t know what’s good for it. That would be one thing, but Matthew is downright mean. He patronizes her for never eating, somehow forgetting that her chain-smoking is an appetite suppressant and that she’s skint more often than not (and that she seems to prefer spending her income on vintage clothes and tickets to repertory movie theaters). Ceinwen’s inability to feed herself may be the manifestation of an underexplored eating disorder but it more likely signals her poverty. Matthew doesn’t take her seriously. Virtually everything he says puts her down; he clearly has a superiority complex, because she’s eight years his junior and didn’t finish college. Reading Missing Reels, I couldn’t help but imagine that Matthew would have found an instant rapport with Hugh Grant and his chums in Four Weddings and a Funeral: he’s pompous, snarky, and elitist, too.

The one truly good thing Matthew does (at least in terms of the narrative mise-en-scene) is introduce Ceinwen to a cadre of classic film enthusiasts–no, fanatics–from his department. The book lights up at the crazy professors’ introduction; like Ceinwen, I recognized who I wanted to be while making their acquaintance. Well, minus the condescension that Harry, Matthew’s mentor, points toward Ceinwen. I would never ask someone which they prefer, Love Affair or An Affair to Remember, and then judge them harshly if they didn’t choose the former. I’d probably chalk it up to the probability that he or she saw the Cary Grant-Deborah Kerr version first. (Shot almost twenty years apart by the same director, the films are practically identical, and watching them back-to-back can be a tedious experience.)

In any case, I loved Missing Reels‘ intelligent engagement with cinephilia and classic films, mixing in the likes of Make Way for Tomorrow, Angel Heart, and The Crowd. Nehme concocts a thrilling and plausible story about what it may be like to track down an orphan film. She manages to do the seemingly impossible: make film preservation sexy. There are vivid comic scenes, whether charming or awkward, in the respective living rooms of an eccentric film collector and a gossipy former assistant film director. The scenes at Ceinwen’s place of employment, Vintage Visions, never spark with as much creative energy; they mainly exist just to serve as stock portraits of Ceinwen’s over-the-top, intractable boss. I am not a Mack Sennett aficionado, but I would love to attend an event like what the Bangville Police Society puts on. I also wish there were more scenes in the lab at the uptown Brody Institute for Cinephilia and Film Preservation. In fact, I enjoyed the friendship Ceinwen struck up with the schlubby curator Fred far more than I enjoyed Ceinwen and Matthew’s whirlwind romance.

And why couldn’t she have ended up with Fred? They’re more compatible, with the same interest in watching and preserving films. I never for one second believed that he was secretly in love with his domineering boss, Isabel. That was just Ceinwen projecting, and even Matthew was jealous of the time she spent with Fred. Matthew’s dumping Ceinwen toward the end of the book and announcing his engagement to Anna threw me for a loop, too. But worse still, the closing scenes, in which they reunite after Anna throws a plate of food onto his chest, struck a farcical tone out of step with the rest of the novel. I’m glad that Ceinwen gets a job at NYU and therefore can take advantage of tuition remission benefits, but why did she have to fall for a jerk like Matthew?

I’m purposefully leaving out the good narrative bits concerning Miriam’s reaction to Ceinwen’s investigative career and whether or not she manages to find the titular reels. I hope that the book will inspire readers to explore older films and recognize that they are pieces of history we must preserve and interpret in order to come to a fuller understanding of the evolution of popular entertainments.