If you read last year’s wrap-up you are probably already aware that FINE — the Italian word for The End — pretty much summed up my feelings last year. This year the same, but with a little less anger and a whole lot more resignation.
Letterboxd tells me I watched 176 movies this year, counting rewatches. That’s considerably fewer than last year’s 272, but I neglected to log several of the Rifftrax and MST3K episodes I watched. I did that religiously last year, but this year not so much. I bet that accounts for another twenty to thirty movies.
To be honest, a lot of evenings and weekends in the last quarter of the year I found it very difficult to scrape together enough brain cells to pay attention to a whole movie at once, even extremely brainless ones. An important midterm election here in the United States certainly didn’t help matters, with both parties arguing that this election could be the end of the American democracy. (Only one of the two parties, though, argued that we should not count votes.)
Anyway, you didn’t come here to read about my mental health, you came here for … I don’t know what, exactly. But what you’re going to get is some thought on the year’s entertainment.
House(s) of Wax
This year I watched not one but two House of Wax movies. The first was the 2005 remake of the 1953 remake. Then I watched the original, 1933’s Mystery of the Wax Museum. You could accuse the 2005 version, which murdered Paris Hilton, to be laying on the gimmicks pretty thickly. But, then again, so did the other two. At a certain point I realized I wanted to talk about all three of these in a group and so I spent some of my otherwise-scheduled review-writing time to create my first movie collection on the site. Although I didn’t do much else with it this year, I have plans for that feature.
Of the three, I think the 1953 film is the clear best. Mystery of the Wax Museum however did introduce me to pre-code comedy star Glenda Farrell. Farrell is no longer a household name, unfortunately, but she was once a Big Deal with her comedy partner Joan Blondell. I now have several movies Farrell did on her own and with Blondell, at least two of which I hope to write about in the coming year.
Broadening my horizons a bit, I tackled the French film Trans-Europ-Express, written and directed by the famous French novelist Alain Robbe-Grillet. A lot of people don’t know what to make of Robbe-Grillet’s movies; they are a little too trashy to be considered “art” by the snobs, but much too abstract and weird to be considered grindhouse. You see, Robbe-Grillet ouvre is characterized by two things: bondage and emphasizing the artificiality of narrative structures.
I absolutely loved this movie, shot in the French New Wave fashion (that is, on the scene with handheld cameras), done on a shoestring, and meticulously taking apart the James Bond mistique. In fact, I watched the movie twice this year, which is uncommon — but I had to share it with my film-watching partner. We talked about it for days afterwards.
As of right this moment, Trans-Europ-Express can be streamed free on the KinoCult service with ads, or — with a premium membership — without.
Everything Everywhere All At Once (and others)
Somewhat uncharacteristically, I watched several movies released this year that a lot of people were talking about. Of these, I reviwed X and Barbarian, neither of which I cared for all that much. I did, however, really enjoy Everything Everywhere All At Once, as did a lot of people. Quite a few others loathed it. As I was on the wrong side of popular opinion on X and Barbarian, I was really glad to be in tune with the zeitgiest on EEAAO.
It’s not without it’s flaws, especially for the deGrasse Tysons of the world who want to nit-pick fantasy as though it was a treatise on quantum mechanics. The MST3K creed (“it’s just a show, I should really just relax”) comes in real handy.
Touring Japan in peace
My YouTube obsession emerged late this year with this great genre of travel videos. Instead of having a noisy, enthusiastic influencer shouting at me in YouTube Voice, creators like travelgeek and Solo Solo Travel take you around accomodations and public transit with only the captions for narration. I found these fascinating and also very relaxing, and they were the ideal balm during a hair-raising year.
On to 2023
With luck I can get my groove back in the new year and catch up on movies old and new. For pre-code fun, I have quite a few Torchy Blane films starring Glenda Farrell in her most famous role. You’ve never heard of Torchy Blane? Well, fame is fleeting. I have a whole lot of garbabge cued up, and a lot of good stuff besides. And some of the garbage will no doubt turn out to be pretty awesome, while some of the stuff that was supposed to be good I will entirely fail to connect with.
Just like the rest of life.
Oh, and drugs. Drugs are like that, too.
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