2017: My movie year in review

My top 10 favourite 2017 movies:

10. It
9. Thor: Ragnarok
8. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
American Made
Casting JonBenet
The Big Sick
Get Out
2. First They Killed My Father

1. Wind River It not only has suspense, a great story, good acting, good characters, and excellent storytelling, it also highlights an issue in our North American world that desperately needs a spotlight.

Honourable mentions: Coco, The Mountain Between Us, The Glass Castle, Wonder Woman, Spider-Man: Homecoming, Kong: Skull Island, Beauty and the Beast, Unacknowledged, Jim and Andy: The Great Beyond, Nobody Speak: Trials of the Free Press

My top 10 favourite movies I watched in 2017 (that were not released in 2017):

10. Hot Fuzz (2007)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
The Basketball Diaries (1985)
The King of Comedy (1982)
The Crucible (1996)
Brokeback Mountain (2005)
Punishment Park (1971)
Steamboat Bill Jr. (1928)
The Red Violin (1998)

1. Winter on Fire: Ukraine’s Fight for Freedom (2015) — You’ll remember all the news coverage on Ukraine a few years ago, and this movie will bring to light so much more! You will understand the details surrounding those events, why they happened, and why it’s so relevant and important to us today.

Honourable mentions: Rosemary’s Baby (1968), Beasts of No Nation (2015), Fatal Attraction (1987), The Lunch Box (2013)

2016 Movies Watched in 2017

(I watched a pile of 2016 movies in 2017 that I had missed in that preceding year. A lot of them got Oscar attention (like Jackie, Moonlight, Deadpool, et al), but the following are ones that you may not have considered and that I really enjoyed and recommend to you.)

10. Keanu (2016)
Free State of Jones (2016)
Tower (2016)
Maudie (2016)
Hunt for the Wilderpeople (2016)
5. The Girl on the Train (2016)
4. The Nice Guys
The Birth of a Nation (2016)
Tickled (2016)

1. 13th (2016) — A documentary that, I believe, is not only relevant, but essential viewing to understanding the time we are living in, especially with regards to poverty and race.

Congratulations Back to the Future. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Carrie Fisher as Princess Leia Organa in Star Wars.

Best Actor: Michael J. Fox as Marty McFly in Back to the Future.

Best Quote:You want to talk to God? Let’s go see him together, I’ve got nothing better to do.” — Harrison Ford as Indiana Jones in Raiders of the Lost Ark.

This year I’m hoping to see all of the movies nominated for best picture like I did last year. It ain’t easy, but it’s fun trying!


Pick your movie of the week: Heavy Hitters! (Dec 31/17-Jan 6/18)

Often I will avoid putting a movie in as a nominee because I think it would win too easily. This time we’re going in the opposite direction. All movies that are crazy popular and having them compete against each other would have to be a close race. I do believe Princess Bride (1987) could have been included, but we can save that for another time. For now, which heavy hitter hits the hardest in your book?

Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope (1977)

Back to the Future (1985)

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981)

The cool pizza guy

The other night Joy suggested we get take out for supper. She made the order and I made the pick-up, which is when I was served by a gentleman I’ve known for the past 17+ years. I actually don’t know his name, but he’s always been the one to serve when I’ve eaten at his establishment and he’s really nice. We’ve actually had a lot of good chats over the years. Sometimes it’s just pleasantries, other times we’re solving all the world’s problems. This last pizza order reminded me of a great story from a few years back and I was reminded of how much I like this guy. Here’s the memory:

I was chatting with some students in town about how much we loved this particular pizza joint. And, of course, any time this restaurant comes up in conversation amoungst residents of this town, two things are sure to be said: 1) “That pizza is awesome!” …and 2) “I wonder where that guy’s from.” The latter is said because the man has darker skin than me, which means he has darker skin that about 90% of the population of Sussex and he has a slight accent. And in a small, mostly white town, people are constantly wanting an answer to that question when meeting someone with that distinction. And let’s be honest, we’ve all wanted to ask someone where they were from because of how they looked and sounded. And if that person answered with something like “Lakeville,” well, you have to admit you were probably disappointed and struggled to fight the urge to press further in hopes to get the real answer. So, as you’d expect, in this conversation with the students…

“I wonder where he’s from.”

“I know. It’s India,” says one.

“Oh really? I heard it was Dominican Republic. I’m pretty sure it is,” says another.

“It’s neither,” pipes up a third. “It’s Pakistan. I mean, he’s from Moncton. But his parents moved here from Pakistan.” I wasn’t surprised to hear this answer seeing as I’d heard his establishment being referred to with a racial nickname that indicated this country.

Now the one who said India restates his position, saying he knows he’s from there because so-and-so asked him one day and that’s what he told them. Then the guy with the Pakistan answer said something that made my day. He said, “So did I. I asked him myself where he was from and he told me Pakistan.” (I believe the Dominican Republic guy said something to the same effect.) And I realized… He’s changing the answer every time someone asks! I love this guy!

Congratulations Fanny and Alexander. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Pernilla Allwin as Fanny in Fanny and Alexander and...
Best Actor: Bertil Guve as Alexander in Fanny and Alexander. Unfortunately this is the only movie I’ve seen of our nominees, though I plan to watch the other two. I thought it was fitting to give it to the two child actors. I’m not sure why, but children always seem to be better actors in foreign language films.

Best Quote: When asked if he’s sad about growing old, a character answers with I’m certainly not. Everything’s getting worse. Worse people, worse machines, worse wars… and worse weather. I’m glad I’ll soon be dead.” — Fanny and Alexander.

I wouldn’t say I recommend F&A. I’m not quite done it because it’s so long, which is a strike for me unless the movie is so good it earns a long running time. However, the first act is all about Christmas in a Swedish family and it was a lot of fun to watch. “God Jul!”

Pick your movie of the week: International Christmas Movies (Dec 24-30/17)

Most of the Christmas movies we watch every year are American/Hollywood, so I thought it would be interesting to take a look at some non-American films that are considered Christmas movies. And since I haven’t seen them, the one that wins I will try and track down and watch it. Which one would you pick to watch?

Mon Oncle Antoine (1971, Canada)
Set in cold rural Quebec at Christmas time, we follow the coming of age of a young boy and the life of his family which owns the town’s general store and undertaking business.

Fanny and Alexander (1982, Sweden)
Two young Swedish children experience the many comedies and tragedies of their family, the Ekdahls.

2046 (2004, Hong Kong)
The women who enter a science fiction author’s life, over the course of a few years, after the author loses the woman he considers his one true love.

The Guy You Sort Of Know

Oh trust me, you know him. You may not recognize “Vaclav” to see him, but I guarantee you’ve got a connection with him. He was a royal duke from what we know today as The Czech Republic. At that time it was known as Bohemia (formerly Moravia) and his story is pretty cool.

Now Vaclav was not one of those royals who aren’t in touch with real people and real situations. He was a very good leader and a very good example. Even when at war he was known for trying his best to avoid bloodshed, especially for the innocent. One time, there was a rebel Count that wanted to attack Vaclav’s army with his so that he could overthrow him in government. Vaclav heard about it and suggested to the count that the two of them fight each other instead, one-on-one, so that they could determine a winner without anyone else dying. According to legend, the count simply gave up because as he approached Vaclav for the fight he saw two angels on either side of him telling him to stand down.

Vaclav was also known for his generosity. He was intent on taking good care of orphans, widows, prisoners, and anyone facing troubles of any kind who lived in his country. He would travel long distances just to give individuals who were in some dire situation a gift of money or goods. This brings us to the reason you’ve heard of him. His best known story is traveling a long way in a bitter snow storm to bring alms to a poor peasant during one of their holiday feasts (He didn’t even know him. He just randomly saw him, could see he was in need, and wanted to help the guy out.). But the weather was so bad his attendant didn’t think he’d make it. He just knew he’d die if he kept going. Vaclav’s solution? Just follow behind me and take your steps in the snow in the steps I’ve already made. And they made it to the peasant’s house and gave him what they brought.

The holiday observance was the Feast of Stephen back in the 9th century. Vaclav is the more modern name of Wenceslas. We know him as King Wenceslas, but he was never a king. It was a Roman emperor who would centuries later confer upon him the title king because of his proven greatness.

And as Paul Harvey would say, “Now you know the rest of the story.”

Congratulations The Lego Movie. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Courtney Cox as Julie Winston in Masters of the Universe.

Best Actor: Shia LaBeouf as Sam Witwicky in Transformers.

Best Quote: I only work in black and sometimes very, very dark grey.” — Batman (Will Arnett) in The Lego Movie.


And the full lyrics to the song…

Good King Wenceslas looked out

On the feast of Stephen

When the snow lay round about

Deep and crisp and even

Brightly shone the moon that night

Though the frost was cruel

When a poor man came in sight

Gath’ring winter fuel

“Hither, page, and stand by me

If thou know’st it, telling

Yonder peasant, who is he?

Where and what his dwelling?”

“Sire, he lives a good league hence

Underneath the mountain

Right against the forest fence

By Saint Agnes’ fountain.”

“Bring me flesh and bring me wine

Bring me pine logs hither

Thou and I will see him dine

When we bear him thither.”

Page and monarch forth they went

Forth they went together

Through the rude wind’s wild lament

And the bitter weather

“Sire, the night is darker now

And the wind blows stronger

Fails my heart, I know not how,

I can go no longer.”

“Mark my footsteps, my good page

Tread thou in them boldly

Thou shalt find the winter’s rage

Freeze thy blood less coldly.”

In his master’s steps he trod

Where the snow lay dinted

Heat was in the very sod

Which the Saint had printed

Therefore, Christian men, be sure

Wealth or rank possessing

Ye who now will bless the poor

Shall yourselves find blessing

Pick your movie of the week: Toys!

I can remember every December of my childhood turning to the toy section of the Sears Wish Book and staring, dreaming, and wondering. All of our nominations are movies inspired by toys (…though perhaps in the case of He-Man the cartoon came first?). Sorry that these are mostly male-centered toys—I could have included a Barbie movie and/or Jem and the Holograms, but this is what I settled on. Anyway, which flick would you pick?

The Lego Movie (2014)

Transformers (2007)

Masters of the Universe (1987)

This is my 500th post: Gremlins at the Movies

I think it’s neat when movies make reference or pay homage to other movies, and Gremlins does this quite a bit. Here are some cool ways in which the makers of Gremlins snuck in references to other films:

  1. That poor theater. In 1984 it is blown up by gremlins. It got fixed, but one year later Marty McFly runs into it with a Delorean in Back to the Future (1985). In fact, the set for Kingston Falls was the same one used for Hill Valley.
  2. Speaking of McFly, Frances Lee McCain who plays Peltzer’s mom in this movie also plays Lorraine’s 1955 mom in Back to the Future.
  3. Stripe attacks Billy with a chainsaw, an intentional homage to The Texas Chainsaw Massacre (1974).
  4. Near the beginning of the movie you can see a local cinema is showing A Boy’s Life and Watch the Skies. You may not think you’ve seen these, but you probably have. They are the working titles (or secret names to keep people from knowing what they are) of E.T. the Extraterrestrial and Close Encounters of the Third Kind respectively.
  5. Speaking of E.T., a stuffed toy of the alien can be found in this movie. Also, there is a gremlin who utters the words, “Phone home.”
  6. In Billy’s home you can see a rolled up movie poster for Twilight Zone: The Movie (1983).
  7. The time machine prop from The Time Machine (1960) can be seen in the background of a scene.
  8. There is a bar scene where some Gremlins are playing a Star Wars arcade game.
  9. Chris Columbus wrote the script for this movie as well as for Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. All three movies have clips from It’s a Wonderful Life in them.
  10. Director Joe Dante made a nod to his 1981 movie The Howling with a smiley face on the family’s refrigerator door.
  11. When Billy falls asleep after feeding the Mogwai after midnight you can see poster for The Road Warrior (1981) on the wall.
  12. …and in the same scene, before he feeds them he is seen watching Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978).
  13. In one scene at a science convention you can see a robot talking on the phone in the background. That robot is from Forbidden Planet (1956).
  14. When the Gremlins are in the theater they are watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs (1937), which was a movie released in December. This movie was actually released in June (on the very same day as Ghostbusters) even though it is set at Christmas time.
  15. You may also remember that while the classic movie is playing, one of the gremlins is wearing Mickey ears.

Congratulations Gremlins. This is your week.

And the Oscar goes to…

Best Actress: Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman (Selina Kyle) in Batman Returns.

Best Actor: Danny DeVito as the Penguin (Oswald Cobblepot) in Batman Returns.

Best Quote: “I don’t make things complicated. That’s the way they get, all by themselves.” — Mel Gibson as Riggs in Lethal Weapon.

It is also interesting to note that it was this movie and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom—both 1984 summer blockbusters—that led to the creation of the PG-13 rating.