This is very exciting, and not just because Jabberwocky Audio Theater will happily adapt 1920s sci-fi and adventure material as it did from H.G. Wells’ War of the Worlds, long in public domain. No, this means a lot of works which haven’t been distributed and shared widely can and will be, allowing countless people the opportunity to experience the art anew. As the one article says, it’ll be like a yearly time capsule.
One of the biggest issues plaguing independent entrepreneurial creators (authors, artists, filmmakers, etc.) would be how to find an audience — and even if that nut is well and truly cracked: how do you maintain or even grow it?
That’s a topic for many another post, but amid forums and social media I follow where people discuss the topic, there’s the inevitable discussion of what Faustian bargain should be made with Amazon, the everything store that wants to be your alpha and omega. I was reminded of that when I came across this Axios article from October musing about the slide of Barnes & Noble.
It’s all the more interesting because independent bookstores have apparently made a resurgence, as per articles found on NPR, CBS, and a huge compilation of articles on the American Booksellers Association page (an interested party to be sure, but still…).
It feels like it’s been too long, but really, it’s only been two years since my last 50 Favorite Films. This is my biennial tradition that, honestly, I’ve been doing offline for about 30 years, but now is available for online navel gazing. You can check out the 2012, 2014, and 2016 editions should you care to. For those who are interesting in how I sort films based on criteria of quality, watchability, and personal resonance, I have a post about that too.
This year I went through over 570 films in the sort, though importantly, I did not bother to do a detailed sort of all of the films, just what turned out to be about the top 100 or so. That saved tremendous time.
Boy howdy was there a sea change in the ranking versus 2016. No less than 19 films in the Favorite 50 were not in the 2016 edition. Pretty much all of the “new” arrivals have been in the sort before and many have been in the top 50 before… and then there was the shakeup to the top 10 itself.
Hush! I don’t want any spoilers. I do, however, have some ground rules:
These must be feature films (narrative or documentary). Short films aren’t included.
Film series or franchises do not count as one entry. Each must fend for itself.
TV movies can be included (I don’t think any are in the top 50)
TV mini-series are not included.
Regular TV series are right out.
These are my favorite films, not a “best of.” If anyone else entirely agrees with my list, one of the two of us is an evil doppelganger/replicant/host.
There is no rule # 7.
Not stated in the ground rules is the obvious note that this list, like all subjective lists, is incredibly well-reasoned. So, without further ado, counting down from 50:
Basic Stats (note: genres overlap, based on IMDb genres)
Total Comedies: 7
Total Dramas: 23
Total Action-Adventure Films: 23
Total Sci-Fi/Fantasy Films: 18
Total Westerns: 2
Total War Movies: 17
Total Musicals: 2
Total Animated Films: 1
Total films with Liam Neeson: 2
Mean average year of the 50 films (rounded up): 1986
Decade with the most favorites: 1980s (15 films), followed closely by the 2000s (13 films)
The film at #51 which at least one reader will insist should rank higher: Edge of Tomorrow
Viscerally, it feels like a huge shake-up — and seeing it laid out makes me realize a few things…
It’s an altogether grimmer list There are less comedies, less animated films, and less musicals. Yes, those last two categories aren’t always lighter fare, but the musicals and animated films that left the list definitely were. There’s more war films on the list — I even have two military courtroom dramas for crying out loud! (That’s A Few Good Men & Breaker Morant, for those keeping score at home.) Just about every film in the top 10 either has war either overtly throughout or peeking obtrusively around the corner. Well, except for…
Singin’ in the Rain My #1 film since at least 2008. It had a good run. Maybe it’ll return, but when we got to that part of the sort, I just knew it wasn’t going to claim the top spot this year. Instead, that distinction went to a film that hasn’t claimed that spot since it was first in theaters in 1981.
An Adventure for the Ages I mean, Raiders has been a favorite since ’81 (along with many other great films from the year. Seriously, check out some of the top-grossing ones that were in theaters in 1981). It was a good year. It could be that I’m busy writing adventure stories myself and it could be it scratches that itch many of us are feeling of late to see Nazis punched, but regardless, it’s a rattlin’ good yarn.
I noted a few other trends or tendencies. While the top 50 remained at the average year of 1986, the top 100 averages to 1989. I’m pretty sure my favorites are getting newer overall.
I’m thinking that many a film is played out for me. This isn’t unprecedented as I noticed that with music ages ago. Some films may still be just as objectively good, but I’m not getting as much as I once did on repeated viewings. It’s also the best reason I have for Rogue One thundering in ahead of the original Star Wars. (The next highest film new to the sort was Spotlight, which came in at #55). Franchise films also did not fare as dismally as they did in 2016, though I noted the Marvel films did not do well (Guardians of the Galaxy did the best at #61).
So, there it is. A fun list… that hopefully has a couple titles you’ll want to watch or re-watch. For 2020, I’m probably going to see which of IMDb’s “top 250” I haven’t seen or haven’t rewatched in a while as well as whatever else filmmaker friends recommend. Happy Boxing Day! Hope you’re spending some of the next week in a cinema watching a damn fine film or two.
It has come to my attention that some people out there on the Interwebs still cling to the notion that Die Hard, the celebrated action film starring Bruce Willis, is not a Christmas movie.
Look, Gremlins counts as a Christmas movie, Edward Scissorhands counts as a Christmas movie, and –Lord help us all– Santa Claus Conquers the Martians counts as a Christmas movie. So yes, “the Christmas episode” of action movies does indeed count as a Christmas movie.
Consider the following:
The protagonist is there because he’s trying to re-unite with his estranged wife at Christmastime.
The antagonists are specifically there at the Christmas party because the Christmas party helps their plans.
“A Visit from St. Nicholas” (aka “Twas the Night Before Christmas”) is recited with alternate verses.
Halls, people, and pretty much everything gets decked.
Santa hats are used for great comedic effect.
The end of the film reunites the protagonist with his family, whom he now values more than ever, and they spend Christmas together.
Friends, there are many pressing questions about the holiday season from what the deal is with the Feast of Seven Fishes to the order to light Advent candles. Die Hard‘s place in the Christmas movie canon should not be one of them. Watch it with Yuletide joy… perhaps after the younger ones are in bed (there are some violent bits, after all). Twinkies are appropriate.
Really, it’s like all the Comedy of Errors where all the errors are songs and — okay, it’s not like that.
So, it’s more like all the history plays, which when you watch them in sequence and — okay, it’s not like that, either.
Look, it’s a bunch of takes on Shakespeare plays or characters which you can sing about with tunes may already know because, y’know, Christmas carols. If you don’t find yourself singing along to at least one involuntarily, you’re just not feeling the season. (or not into Christmas carols or Shakespeare as noted above).
While not a secret, I don’t post too much about being a board gamer here, but one of the things I’m most looking forward to during this season of spending time with family and friends is playing a few board games — including some that have not “hit the table” in a while.
I also generally get a game we can play as a family each Christmas (the previous ones, Feuerdrachen and Drachenturm, have been big hits with the kindern). This year, we’ll take a departure from Haba for an adventure game I think the kids will dig.
If you’re toying with the idea of picking up a game or two from your friendly local game store, Ars Technica has what I believe is now their annual board game guide. There’s some solid picks throughout.
I always add a new crop of films to the sort every time, but I also find time to re-watch some of the old films… and Thanksgiving weekend proved to be a great time to do so.
One of the films was the delightful modern fantasy, Field of Dreams. Sharp-eyed readers will recall that it ranked #29 in 2016 and #22 in both 2014 and 2012. Given my reaction to the recent viewing, I won’t be surprised that it remains in my Favorite 50.