This weekend I saw this year’s Oscar Nominated Animated Short Films. I’ve seen most of the animated and live-action nominees since 2009 (though Covid may have interrupted the last couple years).
Four of the five films from this year are available online for free on either YouTube or Vimeo. I’ve ranked the films below from what I think is best to worst. The first two are maybe some of my favorites from all of the years I’ve seen these shorts and I would love to see either win. My third and fourth picks are more typical of what one would see for nominations.
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse won the BAFTA over the weekend. If it wins the Oscar, I’ll lose my faith in humanity. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful looking and well executed, it has Idris Elba and Gabriel Byrne providing voices, and Woody Harrelson and JJ Abrams produced it. It’s written like a first-year philosophy student in a bad creative writing class. Maybe it works better in the original book, but it doesn’t here.
An Ostrich Told Me the World Is Fake and I Think I Believe It
My Year of Dicks (it’s not for the kiddos)
The Flying Sailor
The Boy, the Mole, the Fox and the Horse (trailer only)
In all of my horror film watching over the last several years, one filmmaker stands out over all of the others – Dario Argento. While I have my quibbles with some of his techniques, the visuals alone are astonishing. So far, I’ve watched Suspiria, Deep Red, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage, Inferno, and Opera. Other than Inferno, the films listed above tend to be his most highly praised.
For the uninitiated, many of his films fall under the Italian horror/thriller subgenre or Giallo. Giallo, Italian for yellow, takes its name from the typical color of the country’s pulp novel book covers. The genre will usually include a black-gloved killer. While Suspiria doesn’t technically fall under this thematically, it’s often included in lists of Giallo films. There’s a clear throughline from Hitchcock to Argento and, despite his claims otherwise, a similarity to the films of Brian De Palma.
For Argento, there are other calling cards to his films beyond the visuals and Giallo tenets; the protagonist is usually someone creative (a writer, singer, dancer, etc.), a score by Italian prog rock band Goblin, violent and unexpected murders, and a twist ending.
About those visuals – Suspiria and Inferno share a sense of color and set design. While the latter is the weaker of the two as a film, it looks as good as the other. Even if saturated colors aren’t present (as is the case with 1987’s Opera), innovative camera moves and set design will be.
For all this praise, there are negatives. The films are typically dubbed (even with English-speaking actors speaking English dialog), as was the fashion in both these films and Spaghetti Westerns. The films can also be a bit repetitive – for example, The Bird with the Crystal Plumage and Deep Red have very similar endings. That said, the films are creative enough that it’s not a huge problem and it feels like he’s trying to improve each time. Let’s talk about music. Throughout most of these films, the music is great and fits well. But when there’s a horror moment, you’ll know it because the music by Goblin (or their keyboardist, Claudio Simonetti) will tell you how. This criticism may be a bit thin, but like Hitchcock and De Palma, women in his films are used, shall we say, interestingly. Even if the film contains a female lead (Suspiria, Opera), they are often damsels in distress or objects of desire.
I’d also recommend the Luca Guadagnino Suspiria remake. While they share many of the same themes and plot points (and even a cast member or two), they differ signifigantly.
Continuing a tradition I started in 2020, I’ve been binging horror movies for the spooky season. As time passes, I’m pretty sure they’ve gotten weirder. I’ll likely keep watching this month and will post here (and Letterboxd) once I’ve watched more!
I managed to squeeze in a few more horror / semi-horror movies and TV shows for October/November. Gotta say, House, the Haunting series, and Squid Game are probably the standouts from this batch. Mike Flanagan might be a new favorite!
I’m bit behind on my October/November horror movie watching compared to last year (see posts Halloween, Halloween II, Halloween III) where I hit 30+ movies. I may have been distracted by Dune (both versions!), No Time to Die,Shang Chi, and other new movies (some of which I saw in a real theater!!!).
I’ll concede that some of these lean towards Sci-Fi or psychological thrillers and maybe even outside October and November… my blog, my rules!
Breathless/À bout de souffle (1960) Bonnie & Clyde in France with a dash of noir and Bogart by Jean Luc Godard.
Breathless (1983) A remake with Richard Gere where the nationalities of the protagonists and location are flipped (American and French) and made visually interesting. It can’t hold a candle to the original, but it’s an interesting watch to compare the two.
True Romance (1993) Written by Tarantino and directed by Tony Scott, this film was for sure influenced by both the ’60s and ’80s versions of Breathless. Cars, guns, comic books,
Alphaville (1965) French sci-fi noir, also from Godard.
Code 46 (2003) Michael Winterbottom is a favorite filmmaker. Code 46 basically a sci-fi take on Breathless (think Alphaville meets Breathless), right down to Samantha Morton’s hair.
Honorable mention: I love 24 Hour Party People by Michael Winterbottom. It’s about the Manchester UK music scene in the late ‘70s to early ‘90s (Joy Division, New Order, etc.). It doesn’t actually fit in this marathon fest, but my blog, my rules!
It’s not every day that you get to see a newly discovered film from a director you love. Recently, I attended a screening of a previously-thought lost film by George Romero. Romero is of course known for making Night of the Living Dead, Day of the Dead, Dawn of the Dead, Monkey Shines,Mr. Rogers Gets a Tonsillectomy, and more.
The film was funded by a Pennsylvania Lutheran church as an anti-elder abuse informational film. It’s very hard to describe, but if you’re a fan of George Romero, I’d absolutely recommend watching it.
I saw A Quiet Place II in the theater last night and, as someone who loves film, it was great to be back! I’ll probably stick to seeing any films I can see at home actually at home, but what a treat to see something up on the big screen once again. Vaccines/science are great! The sequel was also just as good as the first one, in my opinion. Are you excited to see something in person?
Continuing on my previous post, I’ve watched even more horror films. With Halloween and a Friday the 13th so close together, it seemed only appropriate to watch a certain franchise (plus a few others) to stick with horror films.