Previously on Midlife Crisis Crossover: I came up with a recurring feature that was meant to be me jotting down capsule-sized notes about Stuff I Recently Watched on our own TV. And then I spent the last several months accumulating a backlog while finding plenty of other topics to explore instead. With 2016 a handful of hours away, I’m taking this moment to play superficial catch-up and clear the slate in case I decide to call do-over on this next year.
Many of these were made possible by the power of Netflix, for which we finally signed up in 2015 and learned to super-like. Others came from assorted sources, but many sort neatly into categories. These, then, are the films I watched at home within the past 365 days that weren’t in the last five Scorecard summaries. I’ve added notes only to those titles that spark the sharpest, most immediate memories and reactions.
CRITERION COTILLION! — Because I do love their half-off sales, both online and at our local Barnes & Noble.
* It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World — I smiled more than I laughed, and I missed a couple dozen cameos.
* Ace in the Hole — It’s about ethics in cave-in journalism! (#cavergate) I saw several Billy Wilder films over the past two years, and this cynical lambasting of 1950s media was the most black-humored of all.
* Paths of Glory — Between these two films, my impression of Kirk Douglas has grown three sizes more impressed.
* Stereo — Early black-‘n’-white Cronenberg effort included as an extra on the Scanners set, though I found the jagged modern architecture of the complex where it was filmed more fascinating than the omnisexual found-footage shenanigans.
* Watership Down — Gorier than I remember from the one time I saw it on Saturday afternoon TV as a kid. Huh.
* In Cold Blood — Robert Blake is sufficiently conflicted, but young Herschel from The Walking Dead is so cocky, smooth, and arresting that I wish I’d watched this before passing up the chance to meet him at Wizard World Chicago.
* Night and Fog — This traumatizing 1955 French documentary short about Nazi concentration camps earned its own Criterion disc, but at 31 minutes it’s not a movie and shall be therefore stricken from the record even though it’s an unforgettable experience.
OBSCURE FINDS! — Documentaries you won’t find on Netflix or at your neighborhood’s last surviving video store.
* The Untold Christmas Story — A DVD souvenir from our 2013 road trip, autographed by the Cleveland resident who played the leg-lamp delivery man.
* See a Little Light: A Celebration of the Music and Legacy of Bob Mould — My reward for the last Kickstarter I ever backed. The DVD of this much-appreciated concert film was delivered to me a few weeks after the campaign ended. Because that’s what professional crowdfunding looks like. Best part is superfan Dave Grohl playing drums with Bob and friends on “New Day Rising”. Still deciding whether or not I’m annoyed at Ryan Adams turning Mould’s seven-minute sonic dirge “Black Sheets of Rain” into an achingly tender acoustic elegy.
* The Hand Behind the Mouse: the Ub Iwerks Story — A feature-length special feature included with the Walt Disney Treasures: Oswald the Lucky Rabbit set. Writer/director/producer Leslie Iwerks makes the case that her father was as integral to the creation and success of Mickey Mouse as the unsung Bill Finger was to the success of Batman.
BEST OF THE BEST! — Criterion doesn’t have a monopoly on quality.
* Beasts of No Nation — I’d like to say Idris Elba wins again, but li’l Abraham Attah’s final, single-take speech surged ahead and took the crown. This needs awards, please.
* Sunset Boulevard — The Marvel movies wish they had a villain one-tenth as intimidating as Norma Desmond.
* The Right Stuff
* To Kill a Mockingbird — Relevant to our 2015 road trip in ways reserved for a future MCC entry.
* Short Term 12 — I’m curious how someone with Brie Larson’s unresolved issues would’ve been hired to work at a group home in the first place, but I got past that. I couldn’t stop laughing at the Mr. Robot guy’s spot-on portrayal of a well-meaning square out of his league.
HONORABLE MENTIONS — The continental gray area between Meh-Plus and Great But Inessential.
* Mad Max — In preparation for Mad Max: Fury Road, I figured seeing the first three films might be to my advantage. The first one’s Death Wish with larger explosions.
* The Road Warrior — Now THAT is more like it, except the one ugly thirty-second part I fast-forwarded through. I haven’t seen Thunderdome yet, so Fury Road is winning the series for me so far.
* Best in Show
* The Skeleton Twins
* The Homesman — Not a remake of the direct-to-video Kevin Sorbo/Felicia Day vehicle Prairie Fever, but weirdly close.
* The Guest — For this you left Downton Abbey, Dan Stevens? I…uh, I see.
* A Long Way Down — So far the weakest film I’ve seen with Nick Hornby’s name on it. When I read the novel years ago, Pierce Brosnan’s character was played in my head by Martin Freeman.
* The Babadook
* Kumiko the Treasure Hunter
* The Producers — Kenneth Mars and the Hitler production were worth it. All the hammy lead-up, less so.
* Circle — What if The Hunger Games but aliens made people kill each other with Twitter debates instead of weapons. My son recommended it to me on the basis of its high-concept, didactic Twilight Zone vibe.
* Robocop — Might’ve stood a chance with the viewing public if, instead of rebooting the original, they’d simply ripped it off. Called it PoliceBorg or S*W*A*T*B*O*T or something. It was a not-bad sci-fi tale on its own, but suffered from the mandatory comparisons. And I’m not even a fan of the original.
* Clue — Almost as star-packed as Mad Mad World, but funnier. (“FLAMES ON THE SIDE OF MY FACE!”) And I had no idea that Lee Ving from Fear ever acted. Or “acted”. Whichever.
TURNER CLASSIC WWII-A-GO-GO — Part of an extended tie-in with one of the best books I read this year, Mark Harris’ Five Came Back: A Story of Hollywood and the Second World War. I had a ball live-tweeting these and hanging with the #TCMParty crowd for a few Tuesdays.
* Meet John Doe — Frank Capra not at his best.
* The More the Merrier — Does Joel McCrea count as underrated? I wish he weren’t.
* Across the Pacific — Possibly my favorite of the bunch if only because Sydney Greenstreet’s white suit was the purest stuff of which MST3K riffing is made.
THE ONES I’VE ALREADY FORGOTTEN — Sometimes that’ll happen with movies that neither wow you nor send you flying into a rage.
* The Brothers Bloom
* A Passage to India
NEVER ON MY TV AGAIN — Varying degrees of UGH PLEASE NO WHY GOD WHY. The four that were on DVD went straight from our player to the Goodwill pile.
* Kiss Me, Stupid
* Breakfast at Tiffany’s
* Charlie Wilson’s War
* In a World…
* Boondock Saints (Sorry, fellow Wizard World Chicago attendees, but two hours of cringing is not my idea of a good time.)