The CineGuerrillas Episode 4: The movie geek wrap-up 2015
Welcome to Furious Cinema’s movie commentary with Sebastian and Peter – your resident CineGuerillas. This is an ongoing series of conversations we have about movies we love. They are virtual “beer and nachos” sit-downs, so you will have to imagine the smell of alcohol, the crunching of teeth biting on chips and the closing credits of the movie still rolling. Also check out Episodes 1, 2 and 3
Sebastian: I find myself pondering about this year in cinematic terms, considering the insane amount of movies I have seen this year (even for my own high standards), although some of my most anticipated ones haven’t even come out (or at least I haven’t seen them yet). Peter, I know you saw a few oddities in 2015, too, you dove deep into the video on demand treasure trove. But before I go into some of my favorites, what stands out from your perspective, and I don’t mean just theatrical releases.
Pete: Mad Max: Fury Road was the clear standout of this year for me. That one was quite an amazing experience (read my review for more). You don’t get movies that no holds barred very often and I think most critics and fans would agree on that.
One thing I’m sort of worried about with Mad Max as a longtime fan is, where they can take that character in sequels? Because if you lose all the insane car stuff, there’s not much left to do. You’ll just have Max and he’s not that interesting by himself. The basic plots for Mad Max is he drives his car around the Outback and meets nomadic weirdos then gets in a huge car chase. Cool, but how many more variations can you do with that before it loses gas? (pun intended). Can they keep fans coming back again and again? Hopefully! I love that stuff but I’m just not sure I want to watch 2 or 3 more films about crazies in big car chases. We’ll see, maybe I’ll be proven totally wrong on this and they’ll do something completely unexpected.
Ant-Man is another favorite of the year for me. That movie was expected to tank due to the big production shake up, and it just did great with critics and fans anyway. I was happy about that. Now there’s gonna be a sequel due to its success. It’s all good.
Other films I enjoyed: Straight Outta Compton, Creed, Avengers 2. I actually didn’t see as much as I would’ve liked to this year. I need to catch up on a bunch of movies. I always end up seeing them awhile after they’re released. I just can’t get to em all.
An older film discovery I saw that was shown at the New Bev (I watched it on video) was Night of The Juggler (1980). It’s not quite a grindhouse exploitation movie but it’s right on the cusp. James Brolin stars as this shaggy haired ex-cop whose daughter is kidnapped by a nutcase who mistakes her for some rich girl. Watch for Richard Castellano who plays one of the cops on the case. You’d know him best as Clemenza in The Godfather. Dan Hedaya is also in it. He always brings a certain level of menace and anger roles he’s in. But this film has a really fun sleazy late 70s New York vibe that I really enjoyed. One of my favorite little scenes in it is near the beginning, James Brolin stops at a hot dog stand, buys three dogs, puts em on a plate with a candle and gives it to his daughter as a birthday breakfast in bed at like seven in the morning.
I wanted to just mention two great releases on Netflix this year. They both happen to be Marvel properties. Daredevil and Jessica Jones. I thought both those series were incredibly good. Its some of the best work Marvel has done so far. I can’t wait for Daredevil Season 2, which will introduce The Punisher as well as Elektra. Then after that they’ll release series for Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the big Defenders team up finale. Very exciting time if you’re a fan of that universe.
Sebastian: Interesting. I wanna mention Netflix later again, as well. There’s so much I’ve seen this year that I will immediately forget, unfortunately, but I think I was blessed with some really great cinematic moments this year. I think there were the great releases at the beginning of the year, for example Whiplash (which was very intense), Inherent Vice (weird and beautiful), A Most Violent Year (excellent performances, subtlety and just overlooked) and Birdman (what a trip!), and of course Mad Max: Fury Road, one of the greatest action movie experiences in decades probably (let me say a few words on your thoughts on the franchise in just a bit). Then there’s the summer/fall season, of which I particularly liked A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night, to mention an Indie movie.
But the true gems this year I discovered not out at the movies, but at home or, granted, in retrospectives (I am lucky to be living in Berlin). Bone Tomahawk blew my mind, and I was lucky enough to catch it on the big screen only weeks after I had to purchase it off GooglePlay Movies. A few others that come to mind are Locke, the original Walking Tall (a first for me), seeing She Wore a Yellow Ribbon on the big screen, experiencing the restored 5h version of Wenders’ Until the End of the World, seeing Linklater’s trilogy with Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy (who I saw in an elevator this summer, weird), watching The Artist (an incredible cinematic experience, very moving), the restored BluRay of Suspiria on a screen, and so on.
Another real highlight was seeing a pristine new print of Jaws in a double feature with Hitchcock’s The Birds at the New Bev, just two weeks after going to Bodega Bay and visiting the locations. I also saw (the international cut) of Cinema Paradiso for the first time, in an open air theater. And I loved seeing Hell is For Heroes on the big screen, what a movie! Cop Car was also lots of fun, and Victoria was obviously a trip. I also dug Sicario a lot, saw Psycho for the first time, and White Line Fever, Midnight Run (both restored DVDs/BluRays), and the great Irrational Man and also She’s Funny That Way, both great and entertaining movies. The Connection is one of my highlights also, La French is the original title, an amazing crime flick in the spirit of 70s poliziotteschi, and seeing the restored Opera on BluRay of course, a celebration of Italian film.
You mentioned Mad Max. I think I agree with you when it comes to the question of where they can take this next. I am hoping that after the fireworks of Fury Road, Miller will be able to afford the freedom of telling a move character and nuance driven story like in the first Mad Max. He’s rebuilt this post-apocalyptic universe, it’s gotta be full of crazy characters and adventures, one could even imagine a kind of episodic or even TV show series of adventures. Furiosa and Max drifting from place to place, fighting, loving, surviving, rescuing, and so on. We’ll see. The question is what happens to the franchise once Miller steps away from it once and for all (he’s not the youngest). That’s what I am asking myself.
Pete: As great as Fury Road was, ya gotta admit, Max was almost a sidekick character in that movie rather than the main focus. We’ll need some more character development for him in the next one. There’s no more Furiosa to help him out either. Man, Charlize was badass in that role.
Got any Netflix favorites yourself or thoughts?
Seb: Just like you did, I watched a lot of movies on Netflix this year (and some other VOD channels) than in theaters, aside from my piles of DVDs and BluRays and the (at least for my standards) numerous trips to the theaters this year. Netflix will change even more over the next few years, there’s already tons of original programming on there (Beasts of No Nation was interesting, I loved the show Bloodline), but as a movie geek I really do wanna see large studio catalogs returning to it, otherwise we’ll be left with subscribing to everything that’s out there (Prime, iTunes, Google, etc) to meet our movie geek needs. If one follows the news however, it looks bleak.
Pete: You’ve seen a few awards movies this year, but not all of them. Do you watch them on purpose or does it just happen randomly? I for one am really tired of the Oscars and that whole scene in general. I give them a chance every year and I’m just disappointed every time. This is just from my own perspective but I always feel like many of the movies that are Academy Award nominees/winners aren’t the types you’d want to rewatch. They are often pretty mediocre acting showcases and not much more. You tend to forget about most of them very quickly too. They’re basically the types of movies old, out of touch rich people think are hip and with it. That’s not me!
Seb: Yea, I don’t buy into all the commercial shit, and the rush that goes into releasing movies strategically so they are eligible for awards, that leads nowhere. I mean look at how cramped the holiday season is. The Hateful Eight is suffering like hell because Disney’s Star Wars occupies all the large screens, and The Revenant is just one of more than three big releases. That’s just a crowd. I mean I dig watching a flick like The Help like the next fella, but there are these flicks that are awards recipe trash, so I rather discover small gems, like Bone Tomahawk, or even Irrational Man. I wanna experience great cinematic entertainment. I don’t give a rats ass about whether the film makes bucks (well I hope so for the filmmakers’ sake) or wins awards.
Pete: That’s always the name of the game I guess. Like with Star Wars, that film is obviously gonna push everything out of the way only because it’s been such a pop culture phenomenon. If The Hateful Eight was the only holiday event film, it would definitely be on the top of the lists. I’ve never been against commercial cinema because I grew up on the biggest Hollywood studio films. From Star Wars to Aliens to Die Hard etc. I’m pro-entertaining movies of all kinds. I’m not specifically anti-anything in movies really, except for the ongoing reboots/remakes. I just find the majority of them are pointless and very rarely as as good as the originals.
In regards to the future of moviegoing, right now the only reason I think most people still go out to the movies is because you want to see the films right away. But the digital projection is as QT says ”TV in public”. It just is. You notice all the cellphones and general disrespect in the theaters now too. It’s no longer a sacred space for most people. It’s become more like a big TV lounge and not a special exhibition like it used to be. We need some type of SUPER IMAX setup to make it worth our while now.
Seb: Yea, if the state of moviegoing at all revolves around the experience of going out to the movies, then for sure theaters and filmmakers will flock around those aspects where they can still truly set themselves apart from the home video crowd. Folks have surround sound and Ultra HD screens at home, but what you don’t have in your house is a 70mm projector, a screen the size of a house, a crowd that laughs along with you, or the city lights when you leave the theater, your head still enchanted by moving images. But on the other head, as QT said in the Hollywood Reporter roundtable, the price of moviegoing is so high already, no wonder people are staying home. I mean I dig going out, but does that have to cost 20 bucks each time? I can buy two or three BluRays for the price of one night out at the movies, that’s a huge bummer.
Pete: You recently wrote a piece to drive home the point that the Western isn’t dead. Now we’ve got The Revenant, The Hateful Eight, Bone Tomahawk, Jane’s Got a Gun, and a few others on the scene. Do you think this will be a true revival or will they just always be around and occupy a niche every few years? I love the genre as you do so I think there should always be a few Westerns on the film list every year if they can do it.
Seb: I do hope so. However, for many years now we’ve seen the Western’s elements surfacing in other genres, and in a way it has just evolved. The 90s saw the birth of the realistic western (the 60s was the birth of the Spaghetti Western, the 70s the twilight or sociocritical western, the 80s the comedy western, and so on), and now we’re entering a phase where the Western is absorbed and appears in other places, it’s theater of operations expands. The Revenant is not your typical Western. The Dark Valley takes place in the Alps, The Proposition took place in the Outback, Firefly is a show that takes place in outer space, and so on.
Just like the Western though, it’s important to keep the classics alive, educate people and make sure that we’re not drowning in just new shit and remakes. That’s why I loved seen Hell is For Heroes. I also rewatched The Great Escape this year, and I already saw The Reivers twice. Steve McQueen remains the king of cool.
Pete: He really was The King of Cool. One thing that everyone will agree on is that he could keep people’s focus on him by just standing there. He had that magnetic connection with the camera not every actor has. I heard the new doc about him, Le Mans wasn’t very good. But I’ll try to see it anyway since I’m a fan. Movies I always go back to with McQueen almost yearly are: The Blob, The Great Escape, Bullitt, Nevada Smith, Papillon, The Getaway, Junior Bonner and The Hunter (his last film).
It’s cool to hear you dug She’s Funny That Way. I haven’t seen it yet. Are you big into Bogdanovich?
Seb: Honestly I don’t know so much. I mean I loved The Last Picture Show, Paper Moon and Targets, but that’s it. Speaking of gaps in my directors knowledge, I also lack lots of Linklater. I don’t think I’ve seen Dazed n Confused. I also haven’t seen Boyhood, but I am looking forward to his next Everybody Wants Some, seems to be some great 80s fun judging from the trailer
Peter: I think Paper Moon might be my favorite Bogdanovich. Its definitely my most watched film of his. I find it to be a perfect road comedy. But I still have a few others I need to see like Saint Jack and They All Laughed. This year I discovered one of his other overlooked 70s pictures: Nickelodeon. It’s this wacky ensemble comedy about the early days of studio filmmaking and the cast is so good. Burt Reynolds, Ryan O’Neal, Tatum O’Neal, John Ritter and many more character actors.
I still haven’t seen any of Richard Linklater’s Sunrise/Sunset movies or Boyhood. So I have some catching up to do. His new one Everybody Wants Some looks like it will be fun. I always enjoy revisiting different eras like that. Dazed and Confused was set before my time, but I loved it just because the characters were so relatable and of course it had all the great rock music. Rewatching that movie is always like hanging out with your childhood friends, partying and getting into trouble. It was interesting because even though it’s set in the 70s, the cast were Generation Xers like me. It came out right around the time I graduated high school so it became a cult classic for us. As for Everybody Wants Some I was actually growing up in the 80s, so i think I’ll be able to connect with the vibe/music even more.
Sebastian: Still gotta see Boyhood, it’s on Netflix now so I’ll watch it soon. What also tickled my interest this year, just to change the topic a bit, more so than before, was, I think I started getting more into Gialli, but my journey has only just begun. I did see Four Flies on Gray Velvet, Opera, Suspiria, but there’s still so much to see. I mean I had seen a lot more in the past, but this year I think I made a deliberate choice to catch up on more, there’s also tons of them coming out on DVD.
I also watched a whole bunch of 40s comedies, I dug Man’s Favorite Sport and those other Cary Grant and Hepburn flicks, etc. How about you?
Pete: I’ve been a fan of Giallo cinema for years now. Some of the first ones I saw were Sergio Martino’s Strange Vice of Mrs Wardh, Fulci’s Lizard in a Woman’s Skin and Massimo Dallamano’s What Have You Done to Solange. I just took a liking right away to the stylish 70s European atmosphere they had mixed with the beautiful babes, the overt creepiness and the weird mind games they have going on in them. They had a unique vibe.
If we’re talking 30s and 40s comedy, I really like The Marx Brothers, WC Fields and Howard Hawks classics like Bringing Up Baby and Ball of Fire. I think with the early 20th century film era my favorite genres are crime and comedy.
Did you have any big film disappointments this year?
Sebastian: Knight of Cups for sure, what a piece of crap. Spectre was also horrible unfortunately. There’s a few more but I don’t waste much thought on that. Star Wars was actually a positive surprise, but that’s coming from very low expectations.
Pete: There was a bunch of duds this year for me. A few off the top, Blackhat, Southpaw, Terminator Genisys and Inherent Vice. With Inherent Vice, it was such a tedious experience. I really like a few of Paul Thomas Anderson’s films but sometimes you watch a movie and it just doesn’t interest you. Films that inspired it like The Long Goodbye, Cheech n’ Chong series, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas and The Big Lebowski are long time favorites but this one just didn’t do anything for me. I would never sit through it a second time because I didn’t care about that Doc Sportello guy one bit. I’m also not a fan of watching Joaquin Phoenix act drunk or stoned for entire movies. It’s not my cup of tea. I just felt like I had already seen this kind of film before and didn’t need to see it again.
I think Malick has lost most of his interest for me as well. I mean I love Badlands, Days of Heaven and The Thin Red Line, but when you see a famous director doing pretentious arthouse repeats of what made them popular it’s a turn off. That whole ”visionary genius” thing has an expiration date for every director I think. They can go from visionaries to hacks if they’re not careful. I like to be entertained when I go see movies, not put to sleep. I’m spending my money and time on these films.
I still haven’t seen Spectre but admittedly I’m not a big Bond fan these days.
Seb: Yea, Spectre… talking about letdown. One of the reasons I like watching older movies. I mean one could even say why make new movies? Aren’t there enough? Haha. Well for example it took me ages to see The Birds and Psycho. I got tons of Hitchcock I still gotta see….
Pete: You said you were lucky to live in Berlin. That’s mainly because of the revival houses right? That’s a major benefit for film geeks in the city. Where I’m at, we only have multiplexes so I don’t have as much access to the newer indie films or the old classics in a theater setting. It’s mainly cable channels like TCM and others where I get my ongoing film education.
Seb: Revival houses too, yes. But most of all just the general diversity. It’s a very multicultural city with lots of theaters showing stuff in their original languages or subtitled (not normal in Germany), and then all the smaller arthouse chains, and backdoor cinemas, and some attached to film museums, others part of the Berlin Film Festival (which is only a few weeks away from announcing the lineup), yea, there’s tons going on. I am blessed to be here, I don’t even make use of it often enough.
Another director I have to catch up with by the way, is Tornatore. Not sure what else I haven’t seen aside from Cinema Paradiso. That is such an emotional, beautiful film. But then you read about the two different versions and now I am just not sure anymore. I mean there exist two radically different versions of the film. It’s not one films.
Pete: I’m not sure about the different versions actually. It’s one of my favorite films though. The way it tells the story of Toto’s life in that cozy Italian village where film is such a huge attraction, and his return decades later. Ennio Morricone’s music, can’t forget that either. I consider it one of the films every movie geek should see.
I just saw the commercial for the Point Break remake, ok, that being remade is a sin for me. Did you see the Walking Tall remake with Dwayne Johnson? Now he’s doing a remake of Big Trouble in Little China next! Kurt Russell and John Carpenter must love that idea. They seem cool about it but I bet they think its BS. You just watched the original Walking Tall for the first time. What did you think?
Seb: I loved it! It’s so cruel and intense, and so much a child of its time. To this date it’s banned in Germany (glorification of violence, vigilante justice etc, that shit doesn’t go down well with our MPAA equivalent). I haven’t seen any of the sequels though. It’s high up on my list. I do like this style of movie. The remake with The Rock was alright but it’s a completely different thing. I am gonna stay away from that Point Break remake, the reviews are bad enough.
White Line Fever is a vigilante movie along the lines, and speaking of Jan Michael Vincent, I also saw Vigilante Force this year, albeit not as cool. But where you connect the dots, is Kristofferson, who then starred in Convoy. Thats one other thing I want to say, I really love discovering all the connections, filling the gaps and educating myself about some of the backgrounds and makings and genres and decades, sometimes even more than I love watching the movies themselves.
Pete: Walking Tall is a real hixploitation/crime classic and it’s pretty damn violent for that time period. That guy was a bull in a china shop, breaking down doors and such. You should check out the sequels with Bo Svenson too. White Line Fever is an excellent anti-establishment trucksploitation movie. The Blue Mule! Convoy is as well with Kris Kristofferson as Rubber Duck. Those would make a great double feature. All about fighting back against the corrupt system. I agree with your comment on Vigilante Force, it was so so. Another Jan Michael Vincent film I liked that just got released on BluRay recently is called Defiance. You might want to check it out sometime.
Hey, how come you had never seen Midnight Run before?
Seb: Defiance, goes on my list, haha. Jeez that list is long. Well, as for Midnight Run, the BluRay came out this year, and since I had never seen it on TV, and it wasn’t really available before the re-release, it just escaped me. It was high on my list, and oh boy, it’s entertaining as hell.
Pete: That’s one of my other favorite buddy road movies. It’s just a blast from start to finish. DeNiro and Grodin made a great comedy team. “Chorizo and eggs”. Also, Danny Elfman’s score is fantastic in that. It really pumps the movie up. That movie makes me wonder if DeNiro’s new film with Zac Efron “Dirty Grandpa” could be any good. It looks like it might be a fun Midnight Run type of buddy comedy but with a granddad and his grandson. Ya never know. We’ll see, it could be a total dud too.
Well, to wrap up, my next theatrical experiences in the new year will be: Star Wars: The Force Awakens and The Revenant. After that I’m really looking forward to Captain America: Civil War and The Coens’ new comedy Hail Caesar!
Seb: I was planning to cross a few more 2015 releases off my list before the new year but that didn’t quite work out. I am only gonna get to see The Hateful Eight at the end of January and I’ll also have to wait a bit for The Revenant, but both I am very excited about. I caught Star Wars before christmas eve and I had a great time, but my expectations were way low. I still wanna see By The Sea, Knock Knock, Dheepan and a few others. So the list of shit I gotta watch just keeps getting longer, but I do feel 2015 was a great year in movies. 2016 will be awesome. My first trip to the movies was Joy, and I’ve seen a low key movie to add to my Patrick Wilson checklist: Zipper. (update) While I was editing this up I also saw The Revenant, and it was a breathtaking adventure. Hey let’s talk about that, The Hateful Eight and modern day westerns next, after I’ve seen it.
Pete: Absolutely, let’s do that! Thanks for chatting with me Seb! Here’s to an even better year of movies in 2016!
Seb: It was a pleasure as always, my fellow guerilla!