January 01, 2009

...and a new year begins!

Well the year 2008 is gone now and so it's time to reflect about what happened through the year and wonder about what the new one will bring. Hopefully, it'll bring us great cinema, whether that means newly released movies on the big screen or newly released films on DVD, I won't mind. As long as it's great cinema. Will this be the year when Tod Browning's "London After Midnight" (1927) gets discovered? Nobody knows, but 2008 brought us the release on DVD of the most completer versions of "The Hunchback of Notre Dame" (1923), "Nosferatu, eine Symphonie des Grauens" (1922)and of course, the discovery of some of the missing footage of "Metropolis" (1927) in Chile promises a new DVD for 2009. In the mean time, we can only hope.

The big screen was pretty good last year, while I wasn't really watching the newest releases, the critics I respect and follow covered pretty good films (that I'm sure I'll check later this year) that seem to prove that cinema is not dead, on the contrary, it's quite alive and kicking. I've already published my humble Top 10 of year 2008, which isn't much considering that out of 200 films I saw last year, only 16 were 2008 releases. Anyways, this time I'm publishing two brief lists: out of the 200 films I saw, here are the Top 15 discoveries I made in the year, as well as the Worst 15 discoveries of the year.

Let's start with the rotten eggs first:

15) Love Wrecked (2005, Randal Kleiser) 5/10
14) The Mummy's Curse (1944, Leslie Goodwins) 5/10
13) Moving Target (2000, Paul Ziller) 5/10
12) Virus (1980, Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso) 5/10
11) La Mujer murciélago (1968, René Cardona) 5/10
10) The Devil's Daughter (1939, Arthur H. Leonard) 4/10
9) Night of the Blood Beast (1958, Bernard L. Kowalski) 4/10
8) Spontaneous Combustion (1990, Tobe Hooper) 4/10
7) La Momia azteca contra el robot humano (1958, Rafael Portillo) 4/10
6) Scared to Death (1947, Christy Cabanne) 4/10
5) El Hombre de Blanco (1994, René Cardona Jr.) 4/10
4) Chloe, Love Is Calling You (1934, Marshall Neilan) 3/10
3) Teenage Zombies (1959, Jerry Warren) 3/10
2) Rats - Notte di terrore (1984, Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso) 3/10
1) Manos: The Hands of Fate (1966, Harold P. Warren) 1/10

Topping the list is the legendary "worst film of all time", Harold P. Warren's 1966 turd, "Manos: The Hands of Fate" , which I must say lives up to its hype. It's truly beyond awful. Italy makes its way to the top with Bruno Mattei & Claudio Fragasso's "Rats - Notte di terrore", which really has one wacky ending. The 50s nuclear era appears in #3 with "Teenage Zombies", which is pretty boring, same as our #4, 1934's obscure and racist tale of voodoo, "Chloe, Love Is Calling You". Mexico makes its entrance on #5, with a clone of 1986's "The Hitcher" called "El Hombre de Blanco".

Now, the discoveries:

15) El Esqueleto de la Señora Morales (1960, Rogelio A. González) 9/10
14) The Unknown (1927, Tod Browning) 9/10
13) The Queen of Spades (1949, Thorold Dickinson) 9/10
12) Dellamorte Dellamore (1994, Michele Soavi) 9/10
11) El Libro de Piedra (1969, Carlos Enrique Taboada) 9/10
10) Låt den rätte komma in (2008, Tomas Alfredson) 9/10
9) Pedro Páramo (1967, Carlos Velo) 9/10
8) The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976, Clint Eastwood) 9/10
7) The Searchers (1956, John Ford) 9/10
6) The Invisible Man (1933, James Whale) 9/10
5) El Hombre Sin Rostro (1950, Juan Bustillo Oro) 9/10
4) Santa Sangre (1989, Alejandro Jodorowsky) 10/10
3) M (1931, Fritz Lang)
2) Citizen Kane (1941, Orson Welles) 10/10
1) The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance (1962, John Ford) 10/10

Well, a lot of those films are well-known classics that I just discovered this last year. One of my favourite direcors, John Ford, keeps surprising me, not with his most famous film ("The Searchers", which also made the list), but with "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". I have no words to describe it other than "perfect". I was able to finally see "Citizen Kane", a film that, like all famous books, everybody talks about it but few have really seen. As a fan of 30s cinema, it was for me an eye-opening experience, as to me that film meant the ending of 30s style and the birth of modern cinema. Speaking of the 30s, I manages to catch Lang's "M", and was enormously pleased with it, not only because of its extremely awesome technic, but with Peter Lorre's performance. Easily one of the best of all time. To my surprise, my native country, Mexico, made the top 5 twice: #5 with Juan Bustillo Oro's remarkable mix of Film-Noir and Horror, "El Hombre Sin Rostro", and with Alejandro Jodorowsky's nightmarish "Santa Sangre". I must say that "Santa Sange" was a surprise, because I had talked about Mexican horror in October, making a list and all, and barely a week after publishing that I was watching a Mexican horror film good enough to top all the listed films. Finally, I was glad to find a 2008 release so good to make the Top 10, "Låt den rätte komma in" or "Let the Right One In".

In the end, 2008 was a very good year, and here's hoping that 2009 gets even better.



Marin Mandir said...

I'm surprised it took you so long to check out "Citizen Kane". I don't mean that in a mean way - it's just that you saw so many movies from the silent up to the modern era, many of which I never heard of, that I assumed you would have known "Kane" since kindergarten.

I agree "Kane" and "M" are masterpieces. "Searchers" are excellent and "Liberty Valance" is arguably my favorite John Ford movie, even more than "Grapes of Wrath".

J Luis Rivera said...

Hi Marin! Well, I dunno how that could have happened, it was a serious lack in my education. Fortunately, it is now corrected :D

About "Libery Valance", damn, "Grapes" was my secure favourite Ford film, but after watching "Liberty Valance" I'm tempted to agree with you now. I don't know, the only sure thing is that both are quite amazing films.