Friday, January 01, 2021

Best Old Movies Watched in 2020


I've noticed that every "best of" list from this year starts with some jive about how weird this year was, which we all know, so I'll skip that part. But you know, I watched a lot of movies this year: a lot of new stuff, a lot of old favorites, some stuff I'd seen once and long wanted to revisit. In fact, looking at my list, I would say that I watched a pathological number of movies in 2020 (approaching double what I watched in 2016 or 2017, two years where I happened to note the number on Facebook).

There were about two weeks where we were genuinely locked down, with almost nothing to do (I still had about six hours a week of teaching online on Friday and Saturday mornings, but that's it), and in that time, we went to some old favorites, and kept doing that for a bit. I can look at my movie journal (which doesn't have dates), and see the exact point where it started: Night of the Comet, and then the next day a double feature of The 7th Voyage of Sinbad and Flash Gordon. Later, 12 Monkeys and 28 Days Later (along with Contagion and Outbreak, both first watches), Goldfinger and The Spy Who Loved Me, Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery, Alien and Aliens, Clash of the Titans. And I rewatched Sergio Leone's The Man With No Name trilogy (actually, I think this  was the first time I watched For a Few Dollars More all the way through).

Of all these, three stand out. First, Raising Arizona. It feels like I'd watched this movie a hundred times, but it may have only been four or five. At any rate, I hadn't seen it in years--10 years? 20? But God, what a perfect miracle of a movie! Second, Repo Man, which I know I hadn't watched in over 20 years. I'd been meaning to revisit it for a long time, and I think at one point I was avoiding watching it because I was gonna buy the loaded DVD which I never got around to doing. It's one of those situations where I'd been calling it one of my favorite movies for decades, but I couldn't exactly remember it. I remembered the set up, and the conclusion, but in the middle, the only impression I could remember was a lot of aimless driving through L.A., which is actually not an inaccurate idea of the movie! In fact, that's one of it's strengths: It's one of the great L.A. movies if you ask me, with a lot of views of 80's L.A. in neighborhoods that don't make it to film much (that weird industrial sector south of Downtown). And finally, The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, which I had been avoiding rewatching on TV in hopes of eventually getting to see it on the big screen, but since that was no longer an option, I figured I was off the hook from that. It's another one that I've always called a favorite, but couldn't exactly remember because, again, it had been 20, maybe 30 years since I'd seen it. I think what puts this movie over the edge is not one of the scenes I had burned into my memory, but that long trek through the desert with Tuco torturing poor Blondie. That's what really sells the "epic-ness" of the film, like a nastier version of Lawrence of Arabia.

Some stuff that I crossed off my checklist: I watched the two James Bond films I hadn't seen, License to Kill and For Your Eyes Only (although as soon as I finished those, it occurred to me that I'm not 100% sure I've ever seen Dr. No all the way through). I watched the last three installments of the Terminator franchise (A brief digression: The last one I had seen was T3, and I've been saying ever since that the problem with this series is that they keep trying to remake T2 instead of following John Connor's adventures against the machines in the future. Now, having watched all six (!!!) movies, I can tell you that the only one that's an absolute waste of time is the one that followed my advice.). Thanks to TCM, I was able to watch all six Lone Wolf and Cub movies (I think I had seen the first three previously). At first, I thought maybe I had grown out of these types of films, as the violence bugged me more than it would have in years past (and the bizarre set of codes that everyone is wrapped up in make feudal Japan seem like one gigantic death cult), but by the end, I got swept up in the epic adventure of following these characters across six films. I just got Disney+ and decided to watch Thor: The Dark World, which means that The Hulk is now the only Marvel film I haven't watched, and I caught Godzilla Raids Again (aka Gigantis the Fire Monster) on TCM, so now Son of Godzilla is the only film in that series I haven't seen.

There were also quite a few movies that I'd seen once, maybe when they came out, and had long meant to revisit, which I finally got to. Sometimes you have to see a movie twice, because the first time is just figuring out what the movie actually is (this year that included Dorothy Arzner's Merrily We Go To Hell and Powell and Pressberger's I Know Where I'm Going). Most of these didn't really change my opinions, they just confirmed that yes, I really did love that movie (Mystery Train, Ladies and Gentlemen the Fabulous Stains, Gas Food Lodging, The Stuff, Yes Madam, and...would you believe that I had only seen Stop Making Sense once?), or yes, I do like that movie a lot in it's mixed-bag way (Batman Returns, School Daze), or no, I still don't entirely get that movie (Eyes Wide Shut). One I did feel the need to reevaluate because I could barely remember it was Drive, which uh, didn't do much for me. Oh, and just before Halloween, I was listening to Pure Cinema Podcast, and they mentioned Trick or Treat, which I saw in the theater back in '86, so I looked it up on YouTube and watched it, and that movie's a BLAST. Like a lot of 80's pop culture, it comes off better with distance. At the time, I probably thought of it as "so bad it's good" (which is not even a thing I believe in any more), and I probably thought of the hair metal music as awful and "cheesy," but now it just seems like the pop music of the day, and the movie just feels like a lot of fun. (Both Gene Simmons and Ozzy Osbourne have small roles, and they're both pretty good!)  But the one that stands out for me is a short film that I had a vague memory of being shown in elementary school: The Red Balloon. Apparently, this is not unusual--when I posted about it on Facebook, it seems a lot of kids saw this movie in elementary school, and it stuck with them. It's so goddamn delightful and touching, and it makes an inanimate balloon into a fully fleshed-out character in a live action movie.

The last couple years, I've been trying to watch more old Westerns. I've never been a particular fan of the genre. There are plenty of movies I love that happen to be Westerns, but I'm not a person for whom that genre really gets me every time, you know? I think a lot of that is the color scheme: When I was a kid, all those dusty earthtones just didn't excite me. Anyway, this year I crossed off several films from my list by Anthony Mann (Winchester '73, Man of the West), Howard Hawkes (Red River) and John Ford (My Darling Clementine and the first two films in the "cavalry trilogy," Fort Apache and She Wore a Yellow Ribbon--for some reason, they don't seem to show the third film very often). I liked Fort Apache better than Yellow Ribbon, and not just because it rejects the worst colonialist sensibilities that are central to the other film. 


I watched 344 films this year. I only went to the theater three times before the lockdown: Jo Jo Rabbit at the Pasadena Laemmle; a double-feature of The Pack (1977) and Darker Than Amber (1970) at the New Beverly, and The Invisible Man at the Pasadena Arclight just before the lockdown. We did go to the Mission Tiki Drive-In a couple times after the lockdown, first to see a double feature of Knives Out (second viewing) and The Hunt, and then again to see Jon Stewart's rather forgettable political satire Irresistible.

The first film I watched in 2020 was A Star is Born (1976). That was actually a disappointment: I had watched the three other versions, plus the proto-version What Price Hollywood?, in 2019, so I wanted to have them all in one year, but whatever. The last film I watched in 2020 was Hamilton, which was a fantastic way to end the year. (I think Bobbie went in expecting to hate it, and she instantly loved it.)

I didn't set out to do the 52 films directed by women challenge, but I somehow managed to do it without even trying (an inevitable consequence of the sheer number of movies I watched, I guess). In fact, the final total was (I believe) 53, although that counts two second-time watches and three or four shorts. Now, much of the credit for that goes to TCM for their Women Direct Film series over the past few months. I think about 20 of those films were ones I watched because of that program (a little more on that later), but also a lot of it is just that studios are giving women a lot more opportunities--shout out to Blumhouse, seriously!

I managed to check nine films off my Danny Peary Cult Movies checklist, which leaves me with 22 remaining on my list (at one point I was hoping I could get it down to less than 20 before the end of the year, but I guess I got distracted by other stuff).

Before We Begin

OK, so before I get to the list proper, I want to set aside a few chunks of films to talk about separately. First, I mentioned TCM's Women Direct Film series. This was an overwhelming series, and I probably watched no more than a third of the films they showed (if that). Among those were Lina Wertmuller's fantastic Seven Beauties (this was my first Wertmuller); Vera Chitlova's lunatic Daisies; Mai Zatterling's bleak Loving Couples; Leontine Sagan's Madchen in Uniform (which I've had on my list for a long time); Andrea Arnold's short Wasp (a sort of miniature of The Florida Project); Germaine Dulac's silent film La Cigarette; and Nancy Savoca's Dog Fight with River Phoenix romancing young Lili Taylor. One that really stood out to me was Cheryl Dune's 1996 faux-documentary The Watermelon Woman, a low budget black and white indie starring the director that follows her quest to find more information about a (fictional) black lesbian actor who appeared in a handful of films in the 30's and 40's. Right up my alley!

The movies from this series that struck me the hardest were all from the last twenty years, and none of them do I remember ever hearing about, movies made by women in Africa, Asia, the Middle East, Eastern Europe. (I'm going to use the English titles for all of these, just to keep things simple.) From Lebanon, Randa Chahal Sabag's The Kite (2003) has a Muslim girl falling in love with a guard at an Israeli checkpoint on her way to an arranged marriage; from Pakistan, Sabiha Sumar's Silent Waters (2003) follows a woman whose son is becoming inducted into a radical Muslim sect; from Mongolia, Byambasuran Davaa's Cave of the Yellow Dog (2005) observes a family of nomadic herders living in a yurt with documentary-like naturalism; from Mozambique, Teresa Prata's Sleepwalking Land (2007) follows an orphan traveling the countryside with a solitary man in a country torn by civil war, the film's bleakness eventually giving way to a sort of magical realism reminiscent of Beasts of the Southern Wild; and from Kenya, Wanuri Kahiu's Rafiki (2018) offers a lighter story about two girls falling in love while their fathers run for local office against each other. The one that struck me the hardest was from the small West African country of Burkina Faso: Fanto Regina Nacro's Night of the Truth (2004) takes place at the end of a civil war, as the two warring tribes try to make peace. But how do you get people to make peace with the very people they watched hack their son to pieces with a machete? This is rough stuff! Finally, from Poland, Agnieszka Smocynska's The Lure (2015) is one of the wildest movies I saw this year, a disco musical about a pair of mermaids attempting to integrate into human society.

Next, a quick list of my favorite 2018 films watched in 2020:

Climax - One of the most intense and disturbing horror films I've seen lately, and also some great dance choreography, so it's everything I want from a movie.

Three Identical Strangers - The most interesting documentary I saw this year. 

Lords of Chaos - This movie deeply disturbed me. The characters in this movie all feel like hilarious comedy characters, but nothing that happens is funny. 

Rafiki - (I already mentioned this in the previous section.)

A Quiet Place - This movie has cool monsters and a great concept, so I don't know what about the movie turned me off from actually watching it when it came out. It's great! Real follow-through on the concept.

A Vigilante - Came across this looking for action films on Netflix. I'd never heard of it, but listen to this pitch: If your husband is abusing you, you can call Olivia Wilde, and she will come to your house, beat the living shit out of him, and force him to sign divorce papers giving you the house and his savings and get the fuck out. HOW WAS THIS NOT A GIGANTIC HIT?

Rudeboy: The Trojan Records Story - Self-explanatory

Arizona - Another one that I happened upon looking through the stuff available on HBO. A thriller that might have been forgettable if the villain weren't Danny McBride, being full-on Danny McBride.

A Few Oddities

These aren't films that really made the list of the BEST I saw, but they're all stuff I want to at least mention.

Kisses For My President (1964) - This one sticks in my mind because it was one of the last "normal" days I remember. I returned from teaching a morning class, picked up some food on the way home, turned on TCM just to see what was on, and this was coming on. It's about the first female President of the U.S., but it's really about her husband, played by Fred MacMurray, and the awful emasculating experience of being the first male First Lady. I don't even need to give you a spoiler warning, from that description you already know that it ends with her stepping down because she decides being a mother is more important that being President, and even if you accept all the awful archaic gender nonsense, it's still not a very good film, but it's such a weird, oddball film that I enjoyed it.

Night of the Demons (1988) - This was part of my Halloween marathon. It's about a bunch of teenagers who decide to spend Halloween partying in a masoleum, so I figured it would be perfect, but what really sells it is the final scare (a staple of 80's slashers), probably my favorite final scare of the entire 80's horror genre.

On the Twelfth Day (1950) - Since I included a Halloween movie, I should throw a Christmas movie in there. I don't think this played as part of the Women Make Film series, but clips of it showed up in the accompanying documentary series Women Make Film: A New Road Trip Through Cinema, and I tracked it down on YouTube. From what I can tell, it seems to have been a BBC Christmas special from 1950. I wonder if it's one that is beloved in the UK, or just as forgotten there as here? Anyway, it's basically an extended musical comedy sketch about the guy delivering all the gifts from The Twelve Days of Christmas to his increasingly exasperated true love. It's filmed in delightful candy colors, and should really be in the holiday canon for annual viewing. 

Miracles for Sale (1939) - The final film from Tod Browning is about a smartass stage magician who debunks spiritualist con men in his spare time, and him getting dragged into solving a murder case. This material is perfect for Browning!

Shaolin Invincibles (1977) - I'd heard about this one for a while, mostly about the scene where the heroes have to fight gorillas who are trained in kung fu. It's wacky and insane, but those scenes with the gorillas, as ridiculous as they look, actually have quite good fight choreography, and those are far from the only weird shit in the movie.

Les Blues Entre les Dents (Blues Under the Skin) (1973) - I just happened to come across this on YouTube. The description there calls it a documentary, but the story is clearly staged with actors (it's a French film about African Americans). That said, the selling point is that about two thirds of the film is documentary performance footage of B.B. King, Furry Lewis, Junior Welles & Buddy Guy, Bukka White, Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee, and Mance Lipscomb.

Lords of Salem (2012) - It was October, and this was free on Prime, so I figured what the hell and gave it a spin. My feelings at the time were, basically, I like this better than the rest of Rob Zombie's movies, but that's not saying much. I think Zombie is a pretty skilled filmmaker who doesn't have a lot to say. He knows what movies he likes, he knows what he likes about them, and he knows how to filter that stuff through the aesthetics of rock videos to create these fetish pieces, and this one certainly has more interesting influences than House of 1000 Corpses or The Devil's Rejects, but it's still mostly just a fetish piece. But then images and ideas settled into my brain over the next few days and stuck with me. I like that this is actually a movie about (among other things) metal, a subject that Zombie should actually be pretty good at, and about a cursed doom metal record--how awesome is that? The combination of imagery and music works to create a beautiful nightmare that is hard to shake.

The Sorrow and the Pity (1969) - OK, I realize this is a recognized masterpiece, I just wanted to take a second to note that Woody Allen's character in Annie Hall is obsessed with this film, and it's treated as an indication of what an effete snob he is, but in 2020, a 4-hour documentary about the French Resistance would actually be considered the most middlebrow Netflix binge, and everyone would be watching it!

Big Laura and Little John (1973)/Darker Than Amber (1970) - These two films were both filmed in the 70's on locations in my old stomping grounds of South Florida. Big Laura specifically was filmed in my hometown of Stuart/Martin County and the surrounding regions, and is about local folk heroes the Ashley Gang (it's pretty clearly modeled after Bonnie and Clyde). At one point, the gang hides out at the House of Refuge on Hutcheson Island! Darker Than Amber is (still) the only theatrical feature made from one of the Travis McGee books, and it's filmed in Ft. Lauderdale and the Bahamas. There's a scene in the Ft. Lauderdale bar that has a mermaid tank (I believe it's still there). This one is a good, gritty, violent 70's crime film, and an interesting take on Travis McGee. In John D. MacDonald's books, he's described as a big guy, but one who comes off as sweet and gentle when you meet him, belying the violence that he's capable of. But here, played by Rod Taylor, you take one look at him and think "Oh shit, this motherfucker is dangerous!" (I saw a rare print of this at the New Beverly, but it was in such bad shape that it literally had to be respooled every five minutes, so I bailed, but I later found it on YouTube and finished it.)

Strangers in Paradise (1984) - I was looking through my Facebook memories, as I do every day (as sure a sign of narcissism as I can imagine), and came upon a post about my favorite movies of 1984, and there I saw a comment that I either had never seen or completely forgotten about, telling me about this movie. It sounded up my alley, so I tried to Google it, which is very difficult--Google just says "Oh, you mean Stranger Than Paradise, right?" Eventually, I found it on YouTube, and wow! It's almost more like a long-form music video than a "real" movie. It's less than 90 minutes, and has a TON of songs, each of which has their own musical segment. The songs are mostly pastiches of popular styles c. 1984: There's a faux Devo song, a faux Bauhaus song, etc. It's also striking how much it reflects the worldview of American underground/punk culture of the early 80's. The villains are a bunch of suburban nuclear families who are disturbed by their punk rock teenage offspring, and are looking for a mind control technique to force conformity. They explicitly use mind control for gay conversion therapy, among other things. A great little time capsule from the Reagan/MTV era.

Skate Witches (1986) - At two minutes, I don't know if this can even count as a short, but it's pretty rad.

The 20 Best Old Movies I Watched for the First Time in 2020

I didn't number the entries so I could keep moving them around and adding/subtracting til the last minute, but the list counts down from 20 to 1.

The Housemaid (1960) - Something you see from time to time in film noir are these very dark stories that have a tacked-on happy ending, almost surely the result of some studio exec's insistence. This Korean film has one of the most jarring examples, but I feel like it kind of works. At any rate, I got a chuckle out of the ending, but the film leading up to it (maybe more melodrama than noir) is some serious shit. I almost went to see this at Noir Fest this year (it would have been the last film I saw in a theater before lockdown), but when I missed it, I found it on Amazon (it's got a Criterion release). Noir Fest was selling it as "the film that inspired Parasite," which, I guess, kind of, but put that aside, this is a strong discovery.

Year of the Woman (1973) - Rebecca Traister briefly mentions this documentary in her book Good and Mad, and whadya know, here it is on YouTube. It's filmed at the 1972 Democratic convention in Miami, the same convention we saw on the FX series Ms. America, where Shirley Chisolm sought the nomination. I expected a straightforward documentary, but the director, Sandra Hochman, is a poet and author (this is the only film she ever made), and her approach to the material is quirky and humorous, a comedic impression of what was happening on the floor and in the country. There is some great (and revealing) footage of things that happened on and around the convention, but a lot of it is looking in places most people wouldn't think to look, and it's framed with these scenes of improvised comedy between Hochman and Art Buchwald.

Two for the Road (1967) - So you know, the traditional telling of the New Hollywood story is that in the late 60's, the studios were in a rut, but these young directors came in and made movies that were influenced by the European art films of the time and revitalized the industry. But here is a movie from 1967, made by the director of Singin' in the Rain and Seven Brides for Seven Brothers, that's distinctly in that tradition, and if you ask me does a better job of it than a lot of the movies made by the young generation (I like this a lot more than The Graduate). 

Cuba Feliz - This is just a little (faux?) documentary following Cuban singer Miguel "El Gallo" Del Morales as he travels across the island playing with musicians in all the little towns, and it's fantastic. 

The Golden Bat (1966) - From time to time, you'll come across someone who is of the opinion that superhero films aren't crazy enough these days, don't have the wild imagination and commitment that you see in, for example, the 1966 version of Batman. But I'm telling you (and this is probably no surprise to anyone), nobody in 1966 Hollywood was getting anywhere NEAR the lunacy that this Japanese flick had! You can watch it on YouTube.

Vamps (2012) - This was one of the most surprising discoveries of my year. A few days before Halloween, someone Tweeted a list of horror films directed by women, and this was included in it: An Amy Heckerling vampire movie from 2012 starring Alicia Silverstone and Krysten Ritter, which I don't remember even hearing about when it came out! How did I miss this? It feels like it takes place in the same world, and has about the same tone, as Clueless, but it's about Vampires! It's funny, it's touching, and it doesn't even shy away from the disgusting stuff. 

Orpheus (1949) - Any time you see some old movie in a surrealist style, people jump to say it was an obvious influence on David Lynch (often correctly, the guy obviously has watched plenty of Cocteau and Bunuel and Maya Deren), but man, this one really has identifiable shit that Lynch uses to achieve otherworldly effects (running the film backwards, flickering lights). Also a fantastic work of art outside of the Lynch connection, but that was the first thing that struck me.

Harry and Tonto (1974) - I'd heard of this film before, wasn't expecting too much from it, but it really, really touched me. Art Carney is fantastic (he won an Oscar for this). There's so much in it that could come off corny, but ends up just perfect and warm and charming.

Hard to Handle (1933) - OK, so a while back, I was thinking about how 1933 was such a great year for movies (in my book, a much better year than the often-cited 1939), and so last year I started just recording anything that came on TCM from 1933 that I'd never seen. I got some good stuff, but nothing that would really be on the same level as King Kong or Duck Soup or Gold Diggers of 1933. But this year, I grabbed one more, and WOW! This is one of Cagney's best performances, as a con artist looking for his next grift. It just CRACKLES! 

Chopping Mall (1986) - I always saw this box at the video store, and just assumed it was a slasher flick that took place in a mall. Nobody told me there were deathbots!

Blood Money (1933) - There's an enticing piece on this film in Cult Movies 2, but it's a hard movie to track down. But it showed up on YouTube, so here we are! Extremely sleazy pre-code/proto-noir flick about corruption and whatnot (another 1933 gem!).

Beach of the War Gods (1977) - Pure Cinema Podcast did a whole episode that was just talking to Tarantino about kung fu movies, and this is one he really sold hard. "It's like a Seven Samurai-type epic condensed down to 90 minutes" was his pitch, and I'll be damned if he wasn't absolutely correct! The last 30-40 minutes of the movie are one long battle as all the local warriors team up to fend off the Japanese invaders. Each warrior has their own unique fighting style: One guy uses two shields to just bang his opponents head with, another wears a vest with about 200 throwing knives under his coat, and so on.

Nothing Lasts Forever (1984) - A hard one to find! I'd been looking for it for about five years, and a friend just sent me a file ripped from a VHS a few weeks ago. Made by Tom Schiller, who wrote and directed short films that appeared on SNL in the 70's and 80's, this film expands the odd style of humor that he developed on shorts like "Don't Look Back in Anger." It's hard to even describe the film. It's obvious influences are Max Fleischer and Winsor McKaye cartoons, but I feel like there's some Cocteau in there as well. Nothing Lasts Forever creates a whole, consistent world for it's protagonist to wander through, and it makes you feel like you understand this seamless universe even when the low budget is obvious. There are a lot of 80's indie films that go for this feeling, and few if any achieve it this well.

Say Amen, Somebody! (1982) - It's weird to think how so many of the long-gone heroes of 20th Century American music were still alive and performing in the 80's. I'm talking about your B.B. Kings, your Chuck Berrys, your Dizzy Gillespies. I remember one time around 1986, Cab Calloway, who had been making records since the 20's, played in Miami (I wish I'd gone to see him). One person I didn't think would have been alive then was the Rev. Thomas A. Dorsey, the father of gospel music. But he was alive, performing, and quite spry in 1982 when this documentary following him and several other gospel performers was made. 

Zachariah (1971) - Here's another one that I remember seeing the box at the video store every week, but never looked into. I really wish I had been a more curious movie renter. Anyway, this rock musical is a little different from many because it has actual live bands performing the songs. Each character has their own backing band, and sometimes they're just standing in the desert playing. It's very cool. You can watch it on YouTube.

Elevator to the Gallows (1958) - I'd heard about this movie for years, but never really looked into it. I don't know what I thought it would be, but it's a fantastic French film noir with a great plot and (the one thing I did know about it) a score by Miles Davis. This might be one of my all-time noir favs now!

Chan is Missing (1982) - This is almost a textbook example of 80's independent cinema. It follows the story of a couple guys searching for their missing friend, guiding the viewer through the contours of the culture of San Francisco's Chinese-American immigrant community. You can watch it on Kanopy.

Times Square (1980) - This has been on my list for decades, and I finally got to it! (It played on TCM, and something was definitely wrong with the broadcast--it seemed to be playing at a low frame rate?--but I soldiered through.) It's of a piece with films like Smithereens and Ladies and Gentlemen, the Fabulous Stains, but with more of a crowd-pleaser ending. 

The Hidden Fortress (1958)/High and Low (1963) - Two Kurosawas that I (shamefully) hadn't gotten to yet. I feel like there's not much point in me writing to inform you that "Hey, Akira Kurosawa movies are actually good," but both of these really knocked me out. The epic adventure of Hidden Fortress, the noirish drama of High and Low (a rich text that reminded me a little of Parasite), both live up to the hype. I'm still holding out for a chance to see Ran on the big screen some day.

Koyaanisqatsi (1982) - Another one that I've been aware of for years (without actually being 100% sure what it "is"), and had been maybe holding off for a chance to see it in a theater, but I finally took the plunge and WOW. Absolutely hypnotic. I liked it so much that I watched it twice. That shot of the 747 taxiing slowly toward the camera, with the heat rising from the runway? Oh my God! This is the only movie I've ever seen that felt like a successful attempt at capturing some of the way 2001: A Space Odyssey felt, and in fact I was more satisfied with it than with 2001 (it's also shorter).

OK, But What About the New Stuff?

Like just about everyone who's not "in the biz" in some way, I still haven't seen Promising Young Woman, Nomadland or Minari, and there's probably a few others out there I need to catch, but here's a sort of preliminary list of my favs:

1. Lover's Rock
2. His House
3. Possessor
4. First Cow
5. The Invisible Man
6. DOUBLE FEATURE: Class Action Park/The Donut King
7. 18 to Party
8. The Hunt
9. I'm Thinking of Ending Things
10. Palm Springs

Sunday, August 11, 2019

New Stand Up Comedy Videos 2019

Looks like the last time I posted anything here was before I started grad school, which does tend to take up a lot of one's time. So now that I'm done, here's some video. First, my current 30 minute set, recorded at the new location of Tao Comedy Studio:

If you want something shorter, here's a hot 5 minutes at Flappers. I had a pretty good set that night:

Monday, December 26, 2016

Stand Up Comedy Videos, 2016

Jokes from the godawful disaster of a year, 2016.

Here's me in the YooHoo Room at Flappers doing some political jokes on August 2nd. There are some old jokes mixed in at the beginning and end. If you want to hear just the new stuff, you can watch this shorter set from Tao Comedy Studio on July 26th, but the Flappers set was really good.

Here's another Flappers set, in the Main Room on November 1st, right before the election. 

And here are some post-election jokes at Tao on December 17th, my last set of the year.

Here's a couple others from earlier in the year. Most of this is stuff that I used in the other sets, but this one has my Marco Rubio joke, and this one has a Bernie Sanders joke that I didn't use elsewhere.

Stand Up Comedy Videos, 2014-2015

For aggregational purposes, here are some links to all the videos of myself doing stand up comedy in 2014 and 2015.

My 50-minute set from August 2014 is here.

My 30-minute set from August 2015 is here, along with links to some podcast appearances.

While we're at it, here's a really good set at the Ice House in September 2014.

Tuesday, December 15, 2015


I did something like this with music a while back, and I was meaning to do it with movies but never really got around to it.  Earlier this year, I kind of ended up doing it on Twitter with the #80sTen hashtag (and every other decade).  As it turned out, I got the years of a couple of these movies a little wrong, but here it is anyway. Oh, and I attributed them to directors just because that's the tradition (and the easiest way to specify), but I don't really see how anyone can be ascribed authorship when they're collaborating with Ray Harryhausen or Busby Berkely or The Marx Bros. or Ennio Morricone or Roger Deakins or Charlie Kaufman or Barbara Stanwyck or...well, you get the idea.  This digression is my tiny protest against the auteur theory.

I don't feel like I can really do much justice to the silent era, so I'll just start with...

The 1930's:

So a couple of these turned out to be from 1940, but I'm going to leave them because the competition is much stiffer in the 40's. Or, if you want a more logical rationale, you could say the 40's don't really begin until the U.S. enters WWII in 1941.

1. King Kong (Merrian C. Cooper, 1933)
2. Duck Soup (Leo McCarrey, 1933)
3. Fantasia (Ben Sharpsteen, James Algar, Norm Ferguson, et al, 1940)
4. Gold Diggers of 1933 (Mervyn LeRoy, 1933)
5. The Wizard of Oz (Victor Fleming, 1939)
6. Mad Love (Karl Freund, 1935)
7. Swing Time (George Stevens,  1936)
8. The Great McGinty (Preston Sturges, 1940)
9. Vampyr: Der Traum Des Allan Gray (Carl Theodore Dryer, 1932)
10. The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)

The 1940's:

I consider this the height of the Classical Hollywood Era. I had to drop a couple off this list that turned out to be from 1950. I was torn between The Clock and It's a Wonderful Life for that last spot, but ultimately decided to give the lesser-known film some love.

1. Casablanca (Michael Curtiz, 1942)
2. Nightmare Alley (Edmund Goulding, 1947)
3. To Be Or Not To Be (Ernst Lubitsch, 1942)
4. White Heat (Raoul Walsh, 1949)
5. His Girl Friday (Howard Hawks, 1940)
6. Stormy Weather (Andrew L. Stone, 1943)
7. Brute Force (Jules Dassin, 1947)
8. Citizen Kane (Orson Welles, 1941)
9. I Walked With a Zombie (Jacques Tourneur, 1943)
10. The Clock (Vincent Minelli, 1945)

The 1950's:

When I think 1950's, I think sci fi, but as I made this list I realized it's really the golden age of film noir. EDIT: I decided to nix some of the noir/scifi content and replace it with a couple of colorful not-from-Hollywood musicals.

1. The 7th Voyage of Sinbad (Nathan H. Juran, 1958)
2. Touch of Evil (Orson Welles, 1958)
3. Gojira (Ishiro Honda, 1954)
4. Invasion of the Body Snatchers (Don Siegel, 1956)
5. Night of the Hunter (Charles Laughton, 1955)
6. Tales of Hoffmann (Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger, 1951)
7. Rififi (Jules Dassin, 1955)
8. Pickpocket (Robert Bresson, 1959)
9. Pickup on South Street (Samuel Fuller, 1953)
10. Black Orpheus (Marcel Camus, 1959)

The 1960's:

I never really thought of the 60's as one of my favorite decades, but when I look at these lists, this is the one I could seriously sit down for a 24-hour viewing marathon and be very happy.

1. Playtime (Jacques Tati, 1967)
2. Dr. Strangelove, or, How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Live With the Bomb (Stanley Kubrick, 1964)
3. Night of the Living Dead (George Romero, 1968)
4. Faster Pussycat! Kill! Kill! (Russ Meyer, 1965)
5. The Good, the Bad and the Ugly (Sergio Leone,  1966)
6. The Connection (Shirley Clarke, 1962)
7. Youth of the Beast (Seijun Suzuki, 1963)
8. DOUBLE FEATURE: Black Sunday/Danger: Diabolik! (Mario Bava, 1960/1968)
9. La Dolce Vita (Frederico Fellini, 1960)
10. The Manchurian Candidate (John Frankenheimer, 1962)

The 1970's:

The hardest one, no doubt, because there are so many great 70's films, and so many different kinds of great 70's films. So let's say the top 5 are written in stone, the next 5 are almost random. Ask me tomorrow and I'd give you 5 different movies.

1. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls (Russ Meyer, 1970)
2. Star Wars (George Lucas, 1977)
3. Monty Python's Life of Brian (Terry Jones, 1979)
4. Dawn of the Dead (George Romero, 1978)
5. Coffy (Jack Hill, 1973)
6. The Holy Mountain (Alejandro Jodorowski, 1973)
7. Fritz the Cat (Ralph Bakshi, 1972)
8. The Conversation (Francis Ford Coppola, 1974)
9. Death Race 2000 (Paul Bartell, 1975)
10. Baby Cart on the River Styx (Kenji Misumi, 1972)

The 1980's:

I could easily do a whole top10 of just gory horror movies that I left off: Return of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Re-Animator, Hellraiser, An American Werewolf in London, Creepshow, Near Dark, Parents, The Fly, A Nightmare On Elm Street Part III: The Dream Warriors and (of course) Evil Dead 2. But just consider Evil Dead to be the representative of that genre.

1. Evil Dead (Sam Raimi, 1981)
2. Pee Wee's Big Adventure (Tim Burton,  1985)
3. Do the Right Thing (Spike Lee, 1989)
4. Blue Velvet (David Lynch, 1986)
5. Repo Man (Alex Cox, 1984)
6. The Shining (Stanley Kubrick, 1980)
7. Brazil (Terry Gilliam, 1985)
8. Afterhours (Martin Scorsese, 1985)
9. Heathers (Michael  Lehman, 1988)
10. DOUBLE FEATURE: John Carpenter's The Thing (John Carpenter, 1983)/Aliens (James Cameron, 1986)

The 1990's:

The first decade that I entered with my "adult" taste pretty much fully formed.

1. Heavenly Creatures (Peter Jackson, 1994)
2. Dazed and Confused (Richard Linklater,  1993)
3. Natural Born Killers (Oliver Stone, 1994)
4. Fast, Cheap and Out of Control (Errol Morris, 1997)
5. Pulp Fiction (Quentin Tarantino, 1994)
6. DOUBLE FEATURE: Drunken Master II (Lau Kar-Leung, 1994)/Police Story III (Stanley Tong, 1992)
7. Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (Terry Gilliam, 1998)
8. South Park: Bigger, Longer and Uncut (Trey Parker, 1999)
9. Princess Mononoke (Hayao Miyazaki, 1997)
10. The Nightmare Before Christmas (Henry Sellick, 1993)

The 2000's:

I just noticed that this is the only decade for which I have a Coen Bros. movie, which seems...inadequate. Also, it could just as easily have been O Brother, Where Art Thou?

1. Hedwig and the Angry Inch (John Cameron Mitchell, 2001)
2. Oldboy (Park Chan-Wook, 2003)
3. Kill Bill (Quentin Tarantino, 2003/2004)
4. Pan's Labyrinth (Guillermo Del Toro, 2006)
5. Shaun of the Dead (Edgar Wright, 2004)
6. Battle Royale (Kinji Fukasaku, 2000)
7. No Country for Old Men (Coen Bros., 2007)
8. The 25th Hour (Spike Lee, 2002)
9. Y Tu Mama Tambien (Alfonso Cuaron, 2001)
10. The Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Michel Gondry,  2004)

The 2010's (so far):

This is interesting. A lot of movies on this list that don't seem like the kind of movies I usually obsess over. I guess my taste changes as I get older.

1. Moonrise Kingdom (Wes Anderson, 2012)
2. Black Swan (Darren Aronofsky, 2010)
3. We Need To Talk About Kevin (Lynne Ramsay, 2011)
4. Holy Motors (Leos Carax, 2012)
5. We Are The Best! (Lukas Moodyson, 2014)
6. Mad Max: Fury Road (George Miller, 2015)
7.  Shoplifters (Hirokazu Kore-Eda, 2018)
8. Ex Machina (Alex Garland, 2015)
9. The Raid (Gareth Evans, 2011)
10. Sorry to Bother You (Boots Riley, 2018)

And a bonus mention to the Planet of the Apes trilogy!

Monday, December 14, 2015

New Video and Podcast Appearences

Wow, it's been almost a year since I posted here. Here's some stuff I've been meaning to put up.

In August, I recorded a 30-minute set at Tao, warming up for Bobbie who was recording her new album, FEMINAZI C*NT (Go download it from iTunes, and rate and review it and all that! It's the best hour of comedy you'll hear this year!) Here's the video of my set. Beginning and end are old, reliable material, the middle is newer stuff.

If you just want to see the newer stuff, I broke it into a few videos. This first part is about 15 minutes, and it's all my stuff about racism and what have you in one place. Most of it is new, but there's some old stuff  mixed in there.

I like this next one because it's not really the kind of stuff I usually do. More personal, less punchlines. About 3 minutes.

And here's another new, somewhat political bit. About 4 minutes

You can also hear me on the latest episode of the Sonic Safari podcast. I don't show up until the end, but I'm very proud of my crazy Ric Flair-style rant wherein I manage to reference Steve Martin, Monty Python, Dazed and Confused and Harper Lee.

And last month, I was on the Crab Diving Progressive Radio Podcast with Ryan Pfiefer and Patrick Viall, discussing politics, the election, Religion and Smokey and the Bandit. Hilarious, raucous show!

Wednesday, December 31, 2014

So How Was Your Year?

Major accomplishment of 2014: performing a 50-minute set of standup comedy.  I was a bit unsatisfied with the conditions, so I didn't go through with my plan of posting the audio as an "album," but I posted the video on YouTube.  I may try to re-record it at some point, but I dunno, I'm onto new material, so...we'll see.  Anyway, I got some really good responses to this, and I'm quite proud of it, so here it is:

I also recorded eight episodes of Sleestak Lightnin!!!, the musical podcast that literally no one listens to!  So hey, if you want to hear some eclectic tunes and madcap commentary, download some of these.  (Episode 12 is a good starting point.)

And we continue to build the reputation of our venue, Tao Comedy Studio.  We have an open mic every Friday night, a women-only open mic (Laugh Riot Grrrl) every Monday night, a variety of shows and workshops.  The feminist-themed Pussy Riot show is starting to pick up a following.  We have made it a goal to run a safe space for female comics, and we book the shows and run the mics accordingly.  And the space is available to rent for shows, classes, meetings, readings, whatever. 

Plus, I got to see Acid Mothers Temple live.  So I had a pretty good year.