I loathe fanboys…and I’m not alone

“I’m not a fan of modern fandom. This isn’t only because I’ve been swarmed on Twitter by angry devotees of Marvel and DC and (more recently) “Top Gun: Maverick” and “Everything Everywhere All at Once.” It’s more that the behavior of these social media hordes represents an anti-democratic, anti-intellectual mind-set that is harmful to the cause of art and antithetical to the spirit of movies. Fan culture is rooted in conformity, obedience, group identity and mob behavior, and its rise mirrors and models the spread of intolerant, authoritarian, aggressive tendencies in our politics and our communal life.”

A.O. Scott, film critic

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Best Movies Watched in 2022

“Nightmare Alley” (2021) Directed by Guillermo del Toro

“Songs From the Second Floor” (2000) Directed by Roy Andersson

“You, the Living” (2007) Directed by Roy Andersson

“Everything Everywhere All At Once” (2022) Directed by Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert

“Me and You and Everyone You Know” (2005) Directed by Miranda July

“Ivan’s Childhood” (1962) Directed by Andrei Tarkovsky

“Yojimbo” (1961) Directed by Akira Kurosawa

“Drive My Car” (2021) Directed by Ryuichi Hamaguchi

“Coherence” (2013) Directed by James Ward Byrkit

“Titane” (2021) Directed by Julia Ducournau

Honorable Mentions:

“Belfast” (2021) Directed by Kenneth Branagh

“Licorice Pizza” (2021) Directed by Paul Thomas Anderson

“Nightmare Alley” (1947) Directed by Edmund Goulding

“Big Bug” (2022) Directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet

“Predestination” (2014) Directed by Michael and Peter Spierig

“Calvary” (2014) Directed by John Michael McDonagh


“Dick Johnson is Dead” (2020) Directed by Kirsten Johnson

“Lost Soul: The Doomed Journey of Richard Stanley’s ‘Island of Dr. Moreau'” (2014) Directed by David Gregory

“Casting By” (2012) Directed by Tom Donahue

“Grey Gardens” (1975) Directed by Albert & David Maysles

“Phil Tippett: Mad Dreams & Monsters” (2019) Directed by Gilles Penso & Alexandre Poncet

“Tell Me Who I Am” (2019) Directed by Ed Perkins

“Do Not Go Gentle: A Film About the Idles” (2020) Directed by Mark Archer

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Rebecca Solnit, on Cinema

“Movies are made of darkness as well as light; it is the surpassingly brief intervals of darkness between each luminous still image that make it possible to assemble the many images into one moving picture. Without that darkness, there would only be a blur. Which is to say that a full-length movie consists of half an hour or an hour of pure darkness that goes unseen. If you could add up all the darkness, you would find the audience in the theater gazing together at a deep imaginative night. It is the terra incognita of film, the dark continent on every map.”

Rebecca Solnit, A Field Guide To Getting Lost

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Best Films Watched in 2021


“Citizen Kane”* (Directed by Orson Welles)

“Mank” (Directed by David Fincher)

“An Elephant Sitting Still” (Directed by Hu Bo)

“Kajillionaire” (Directed by Miranda July)

“Nomadland” (Directed by Chloe Zhao)

“The Selfish Giant” (Directed by Clio Barnard)

“Shoplifters” (Directed by Hirokasu Kore-eda)

“Another Round” (Directed by Thomas Vinterberg)

“November” (Directed by Rainer Sarnet)

“Katalin Varga” (Directed by Peter Strickland)

“St. Maud” (Directed by Rose Glass)

“The Hollow Crown” (Directors: Rupert Goold, Richard Eyre, Thea Sharrock, Dominic Cooke)

“Code Unknown” (Directed by Michael Haneke)

“Transit” (Directed by Christian Petzold)

“True Grit” (Directed by Ethan and Joel Coen)

“Hud” (Directed by Martin Ritt)

*Seen for the first time on a big screen

Honorable Mention:

“The Green Knight” (Directed by David Lowery)

“The German Sisters” (Directed by Margaret von Trotta)

“In the Aisles” (Directed by Thomas Stuber)

“The Future” (Directed by Miranda July)

“La Haine” (Directed by Mathieu Kassovitz)

“99 Homes” (Directed by Ramin Bahrani)



“Roadrunner: A Film About Anthony Bourdain” (Directed by Morgan Neville)

“Happy People: A Year on the Taiga” (Directed by Werner Herzog & Dmitry Vasyukov)

“Bergman Island” (Directed by Mia Hansen-Love)

“A Pervert’s Guide to Ideology” (Directed by Sophie Fiennes)

“Val” (Directed by Leo Scott & Ting Poo)

Short films:

“The Escape” (Directed by Paul Franklin)

“Death of a Shadow” (Directed by Tom Van Avermaet)

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“Dune” (The Review)

Dune (2021)

Director: Denis Villeneuve

Writers: Jon Spaihts, Denis Villeneuve, Eric Roth

Cast: Timothée Chalamet, Rebecca Ferguson, Oscar Isaac, Josh Brolin, Jason Momoa, Javier Bardem, Stellan Skarsgard

I’ve read the novel Dune exactly one time, when I was around fifteen years old. Frank Herbert’s book was, allegedly, visionary, prophetic, a masterpiece of storytelling, a seminal work of science fiction. Truthfully, even at that age, I found it ponderous, a series of strong set pieces, separated by pages and pages of dull description, the book rife with exposition and pseudo-spirituality. I don’t recall reading more than a chapter or two of any of the follow-ups and once the Herbert estate signed up uber-hack Kevin J. Anderson to boil and render the leftover bones, I lost all interest in the “franchise”.

When I learned Canadian director Denis Villeneuve had been tapped to take another crack adapting “Dune” for the big screen (the 1984 David Lynch version was a fully dressed and steaming turkey), I didn’t exactly jump for joy. His “Blade Runner” sequel was godawful: dull-witted, humorless, literal, a poor man’s ass version of Ridley Scott’s near masterpiece. No poetry, no music, just the sound of cash register drawers opening and closing.

So, I ponied up my money to see “Dune” last night, not expecting much…and have to admit to being pleasantly surprised. One of my problems with Villeneuve’s cinematic output is that the director takes such a detached view of his characters and subject matter that his films lack an essential emotional core: we simply don’t care for the people onscreen. I was worried Timothée Chalamet’s “Paul Atreides” would be another cipher (a la Ryan Gosling), but the kid manages to coax some life into a young man who may or may not be a messiah and savior of the universe. There are other strong performances: Rebecca Ferguson is convincing as “Lady Jessica”, Paul’s mother, and Josh Brolin and Jason Momoa manage to imbue their roles with visceral energy. And it was, frankly, a delight to see Charlotte Rampling again, as doyenne of the Bene Gesserit order.

The movie is pure spectacle, needless to say, the special effects every bit as amazing as you’ve heard. The first appearance of the sand worm is thrilling and the attack of the Harkonnen invasion force, supplemented by the Emperor’s imperial Sardaukar, is something to see (especially on the big screen, Hans Zimmer’s score pounding away). The desert sequences are gorgeous (kudos to cinematographer Greig Fraser) and the film’s production design stellar.

Yet my quibbles won’t be completely silenced.

Yes, the movie looks impressive, but it is also freighted with the novel’s faux-literary hauteur and portentousness: Jesus Christ, doesn’t anyone in this universe crack a joke? And aren’t great movies supposed to be self-contained, boasting an actual climax and resolution of the basic points of conflict? But “Dune” just sort of peters out, the cast trudging resolutely through the swirling, shifting sand toward a sequel looming on the horizon (likely popping up sometime in late 2023), leaving film-goers with a sense of tangible dissatisfaction, a throbbing, annoying case of cinematic blue balls. 

Good, yes, but certainly not a work of genius (never mind what the shrill, undiscriminating fanboys are claiming). Better than a superhero flick, I grant you, but if I want to see a desert-based epic with a beating, human heart, I think I’ll pop in David Lean’s “Lawrence of Arabia” instead. 

“Visual style is never an end in itself, and it cannot be ultimately defended except as it relates to a director’s taste and sensibility. Any visual style can be mechanically reproduced, but without the linkage to a directorial personality, the effect is indeed mechanical.” (Andrew Sarris)

ΩΩΩ1/2 (Out of 5)

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Best Films Watched in 2020

Ninety-four (94) movies watched in 2020 and it’s time to pick the ones that stood out most.

A diverse roster, I think you’ll agree, and, if nothing else, I hope this post draws your attention to fine, ground-breaking cinema from around the world.

“Tigers Are Not Afraid” (Directed by Issa Lopez)

“Sorry We Missed You”  (Dir. Ken Loach)

“Come and See”  (Dir. Elem Klimov)

“Uncut Gems”  (Dir. Josh Safdie)

“Parasite”  (Dir. Bong Joon-ho)

“Loveless”  (Dir. Andrey Zvyagintsev)

“The Wolf House”*  (Dir. by Cristobal Leon/Joaquin Cocina)

“Daughter”* (Dir. Daria Kashcheeva)

“The Personal History of David Copperfield”  (Dir. Armando Ianucci)

“Motherless Brooklyn”  (Dir. Edward Norton)

“1917”  (Dir. Sam Mendes)

*Animated short film

Honorable Mention:

“Aniara” (Dir. Pella Kagerman/Hugo Lilja)

“The Duke of Burgundy”  (Dir. Peter Strickland)

“In Fabric”  (Dir. Peter Strickland)

“Are We Not Cats”  (Dir. Xander Robin)

“Son of Saul”  (Dir. Laszlo Nemes)

“Gosford Park”  (Dir. Robert Altman)

“The Laundromat”  (Dir. Stephen Soderbergh)

“The Gentlemen”  (Dir. Guy Ritchie)


“The Zen Diaries of Garry Shandling” (Dir. Judd Apatow)

“David Attenborough: A Life on This Planet”  (Dir. Alastair Fothergill)

“Nomad”  (Dir. Werner Herzog)

Honorable Mention:

“Gates of Heaven”  (Dir. Errol Morris)

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Best Films Watched in 2019

Didn’t quite achieve my goal of watching a hundred films during the course of 2019, but at 92 I came pretty darn close.

Not as many documentaries this past year, which is somewhat surprising as it’s a genre that has long fascinated me.

I was blessed to view not one but two Stanley Kubrick films on the big screen, “2001” and “A Clockwork Orange”.  I’ve seen them both dozens of times but never in a theatrical venue. The former was a special thrill because I managed to get down to the Imax in Regina and watch it in 70mm, which made the experience even more awe-inspiring and powerful.

An interesting mix of movies made my final roster of favorites so let’s get right down to it:

Drama & Comedy

“2001: A Space Odyssey” (Directed by Stanley Kubrick)
“Capernaum” (Directed by Nadine Labaki)
“Ratcatcher”  (Directed by Lynne Ramsay)
“Ugetsu” (Directed by Kenji Mizoguchi)
“Roma” (Directed by Alfonso Cuaron)
“Happy As Lazzaro”  (Directed by Alice Rohrwacher)
“Leave No Trace”  (Directed by Debra Granik)
“Happy End”  (Directed by Michael Haneke)
“A Clockwork Orange”  (Directed by Stanley Kubrick)
“The Aerial”  (Directed by Estaban Sapir)
“Birds of Passage”  (Directed by Ciro Guerra and Cristina Gallego)
“Thunder Road”  (Directed by Jim Cummings)
“Zama”  (Directed by Lucrecia Martel)
“Her Smell”  (Directed by Alex Ross Perry)
“Smoking Aces”  (Directed by Joe Carnahan)
“White Boy Rick”  (Directed by Yann Demange)
“Galveston”  (Directed by Melanie Laurent)
“Under the Silver Lake”  (Directed by David Robert Mitchell)
“Listen Up, Philip”  (Directed by Alex Ross Perry)
“The Conformist” (Directed by Bernardo Bertolucci)
“The Favorite”  (Directed by Yorgos Lanthimos)
“The Man Who Killed Don Quixote”  (Directed by Terry Gilliam)

Honorable mentions:

“Too Late”  (Directed by Dennis Hauck)
“First Man’  (Directed by Damien Chazelle)
“Triple 9”  (Directed by John Hillcoat)
“High Life”  (Directed by Claire Denis)
“Knives Out”  (Directed by Rian Johnson)
“Valhalla Rising”  (Directed by Nicholas Winding Refn)
“Vice”  (Directed by Adam McKay)
“The Banishment”  (Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev)
“Elena”  (Directed by Andrey Zvyagintsev)
“Legend”  (Directed by Brian Helgeland)
“The Apostle”  (Directed by Gareth Evans)

Most disappointing movie of 2019:   “Ad Astra” (Directed by James Gray)

Best Documentaries viewed in 2019:

“Apollo 11”  (Directed by Todd Douglas Miller)
“Three Identical Strangers” (Directed by Tim Wardle)
“Last Man on the Moon”  (Directed by Mark Craig)

Honorable Mention:

“Ice Guardians”  (Directed by Brett Harvey)


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Film Quote (David Thomson)

“Art is not a recreation, a consolation, a pastime, a business…it is the stone on which your knife is sharpened.”

“The human tragedy is not our diligent wars, our arbitrary floods and earthquakes, our ordinary outrages of cruelty…It is that desire is sometimes obscured, and impeded.”

David Thomson, The Big Screen

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“Whiteface” Directed by Everett Sokol; Director of Photography Sam Burns

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Film Quote (Tarkovsky)

“In cinema it is necessary not to explain, but to act upon the viewer’s feelings, and the emotion which is awoken is what provokes thought.”

Andrei Tarkovsky 



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