What I Watched: December 2016

New year, new series! This is basically like Recent Rewatches, but instead of just covering rewatches I’m covering all the films I watched over the month. What prompted this is that I realized a couple films by my favorite directors were slipping through the cracks because I didn’t feel like I had a good enough handle on them for a full review. So instead of informally talking about only what I rewatched recently (even if I’ve never gotten around to giving some of them a full review), I’ll just briefly write a few sentences about each film I saw over the month.

December 5: The Major and the Minor 

Billy Wilder’s first film is… disappointing to say the least. It features Ginger Rodgers as a woman eager to get back to her hometown after living in NYC for a while, and to do so she disguises herself as a 12 year old to get a train fare she can afford. Then she falls in love with Ray Milland, which is awkward, because she’s pretending to be 12. I suspect in 1942 is was seen as funny, but it just comes across as a little bit skeevy now. Not as if anything happens between them, but it’s always in the back of your mind. A similar plot was played for much bigger laughs and far less unease in Wilder’s Some Like It Hot.

December 6: Manchester by the Sea 

December 7: I Confess

I wasn’t a fan of this Hitchcock film, which is the reason I didn’t review it. It’s one of his more talkier ones, and as such I had a really hard time sticking with it. It does feature Gregory Peck as a priest who is wrongly accused of a crime, so it’ll be interesting to pay more attention to the Catholic elements on a rewatch. If I ever get to it. *shrug*

December 9: The Shop Around the Corner 

Such a charming romantic comedy from Lubitsch! I just reviewed Ninotchka so I didn’t want to over saturate with Lubitsch, and I liked this movie slightly less but it’s still really good. Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan play coworkers who are always at odds with each other, not realizing that they are also each other’s pen pals and falling in love. It’s a very cute movie, though I wish Margaret Sullivan’s character had been given equal footing with Stewart’s; he always seems to be a step ahead of her and making decisions for the both of them.

jimmystewartandmargaretsullivan_theshoparoundthecorner

December 11: Top Hat + Holiday Inn

These two Fred Astaire films were rewatches on a weekend with the fam. Top Hat (almost a carbon copy of The Gay Divorcee that I rewatched last month) is a fun Ginger Rodgers and Fred Astaire musical comedy. They improved the formula slightly the second time around which makes Top Hat the superior film in my view. Holiday Inn pairs Astaire with Bing Crosby, and a bunch of holiday themed Irving Berlin songs. It’s a lovely classic holiday film that I try to watch every year.

December 12: She Wore a Yellow Ribbon + Cape Fear

December 13: Meet Me in St. Louis

This Vincent Minnelli-directed and Judy Garland-starring musical is one I wish I had had time to review. This is my third time seeing it, and the nostalgia with which it paints a bygone era really got to me this time around. It has a lot of great songs and the period costumes and production design are standouts. Oh yeah, and my favorite: three-strip technicolor!

christmasball_meetmeinstlouis

Also, I want Judy Garland’s dress!

December 14: Nocturnal Animals

December 15: Blithe Spirit

TCM was going ham with the technicolor movies, and Blithe Spirit is another one of those directed by David Lean in 1945. Blithe Spirit is a comedy involving ghosts and seances in which Rex Harrison’s late wife appears, much to the dismay of his second living one. I found the black humor very enjoyable, though the special effects on the ghosts were a bit off. One would be hard-pressed to find a more British film than this one, and I definitely mean that as a compliment.

December 17: Holiday Affair + Sleepless in Seattle

This was another couple of films we watched on a Saturday when we were snowed in. Holiday Affair I liked, but I’ll be the first to admit I just like it because it’s old and it has Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh. Unfortunately, I can’t say it’s that good. It has a tendency to recap and explain itself a bit too much. Sleepless in Seattle I wasn’t a huge fan of, the decision to have the kid and his friend pull the strings while Meg Ryan and Tom Hanks are totally separated for the whole movie felt like a weird contrivance to me. It’s like The Parent Trap except there’s really no reason why these two should be together, so I didn’t really get invested in it too much.

December 18: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story 

December 20: Mon Oncle Antoine + The China Syndrome

Mon Oncle Antoine was my Blindspot film and I enjoyed it more than I usually enjoy my Blindspots so that’s a minor victory. The China Syndrome is a conspiracy movie (I’m always up for one of those) starring Jane Fonda and Michael Douglas as a news crew that accidentally witnesses a mishap at a nuclear power plant. It’s a pretty reportative in its filmmaking; it’s very concerned that you know the ins and outs of the power plant accident and why nuclear energy can be unsafe. I really liked Jack Lemon as the power plant supervisor; he doesn’t give a magnificent performance or anything but he does well and I’m always happy to see him in a movie.

December 22: Hail, Caesar! (review to come)

December 23: Jackie (review to come)

December 25: It’s a Wonderful Life + Beauty and the Beast

It’s not really Christmas without a viewing of Frank Capra’s classic, It’s a Wonderful Life. We were travelling on Christmas so we had to watch it on Amazon Prime, instead of our old vhs from the late ’80s with all of the period commercials. I’m not sure if this was a good thing or a bad thing, but it may have been the first time I’ve seen the film without the ads. Either way, it’s still one of my favorites. After that I missed seeing A Christmas Story on tv (never been able to see that film in its entirty, one of those weird things) and caught the Disney animated Beauty and the Beast instead. ABC was clearly advertising for the Emma Watson live action version coming out in March, but I was glad to have finally caught up with the old one anyway. It was pretty good, and I especially enjoyed the voice actors in the supporting roles.

supportingcharacters_beautyandthebeast

December 28: La La Land (review to come)

December 30: Fences (review to come)

Total: 22 films (5 rewatches, 6 new, 11 “new to me”)

Being unemployed for the whole month (sigh), I had way more viewing opportunities than usual. Though it started out on a rocky note (why Billy Wilder, why), it ended up being pretty great towards the end there. Let me know if you’ve seen any of these, look out for the rest of those reviews coming this month, and let me know what you think about the new format! Happy New Year, everybody!

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