2022 Blind Spot Picks

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well and having a terrific Christmas Eve! Tomorrow I will not only be celebrating Christmas but I will be heading off to Disneyland for a trip. I have actually caught up with my podcast and am able to take almost a whole week off! Wow! I can’t wait. Make sure you follow me on instagram to get all of my travel and other updates!

Before I leave I wanted to announce my Blind Spot picks for 2022. This will be my 7th year of reviewing ‘blind spots’ each month. These are popular or critically praised films that for whatever reason I have not seen. I love having a variety of Oscar films, cult classics and indie darlings. Sometimes I don’t enjoy the picks (Beverly Hills Cop…) and then other times I love films I didn’t expect to enjoy (Halloween).

So without further ado here are my Blind Spot picks for 2022:

January

Clerks (1994) - IMDb

Clerks

With the Sundance Film Festival coming back in January (hopefully) it seems appropriate to check out one of the darlings of the festival, Kevin Smith’s Clerks. I know it is a pretty hard R so I haven’t seen it but I think you will find this year I am check off some more mature films in blind spot that I haven’t seen until now. Hopefully this indie comedy brings the laughs and I have a good time watching it.

February

About Time - Trailer - YouTube

About Time

I can see all of your shocked expressions now. Rachel, the rom-com girl has never seen About Time? It’s true! It’s not that I’ve been avoiding it. I’ve just never seen it for some reason. Now that will be solved because I will finally watch it for the February blind spot!

March

Shaun of the Dead is a near-perfect movie - Polygon

Shaun of the Dead

Again, because I didn’t watch many R rated movies in the past I have never seen Shaun of the Dead or any of the Cornetto trilogy. It’s only fairly recently I’ve started to get into horror comedy as a genre and I’ve enjoyed movies like Warm Bodies and Anna and the Apocalypse. So I bet I will enjoy Shaun of the Dead. We’ll see!

April

Logan' Review from Berlin Film Festival 2017 - Variety

Logan

Most people are probably shocked to find I have never see Logan. I don’t in general love violent movies but I think it is time for me to check this gritty superhero movie off of my list. I hope I like it as much as everyone else seems to.

May

Barry Lyndon

I don’t know a ton about Barry Lyndon, except it is a period piece from Stanley Kubrick based on the novel by William Thackerary. I love period pieces so that alone has me intrigued to see what Kubrick can bring to the genre. I hope it is a good one!

June

Mystic Pizza Is The Movie That Launched Julia Roberts' Career

Mystic Pizza

The beginning of summer seems like a great time to finally watch the 1988 film Mystic Pizza. It’s a film I’ve heard of for years because it introduced the world to Julia Roberts but I am intrigued to finally watch it because a Broadway show is coming based on the film.

July

Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou' Review: 2004 Movie – The Hollywood Reporter

The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou

I have seen most Wes Anderson films but I’ve never seen The Life Aquatic. I usually like his movies and I enjoy Bill Murray who is the star so hopefully it will be a fun time for me. What do you think of this quirky Anderson film?

August

In the Heat of the Night Soundtrack Music - Complete Song List | Tunefind

In the Heat of the Night

I love Norman Jewison as a director so it is surprising I have never seen his 1967 Best Picture winner In the Heat of the Night. This film stars Sidney Poitier and went on to influence countless police procedurals and crime dramas. Plus, it inspired the line ‘they call me Mr Tibbs!’.

September

Let's Go Crazy: Why Prince's 'Purple Rain' Is a Masterpiece - Rolling Stone

Purple Rain

Recently I was with a group of critics who were shocked to find out a friend had never seen Purple Rain. I didn’t admit to the group I have also never seen Purple Rain. Probably because I am not as familiar with the music of Prince as I should be. Nevertheless, let’s fix that in September and watch this music themed film classic!

October

How to Watch the 'Nightmare on Elm Street' Movies in Order - How to Watch the Freddy Krueger Films

A Nightmare on Elm Street

As you all know I’m a big of a horror movie wimp but I’ve been trying to do better lately. I’ve seen and enjoyed Scream, Halloween and other scary films. Now I am going to watch one of the classics of the genre- the original A Nightmare on Elm Street. Hopefully it won’t haunt me too much in my dreams!

November

The Lost Boys' Cast: Where Are They Now? - Biography

The Lost Boys

I’ve seen a lot of vampire movies but I’ve never seen the cult classic The Lost Boys. Directed by Joel Schumacher this should be a fun break for me in November when I am deep in Hallmark season of 2022. What do you think of this 80s favorite?

December

'Tangerine' Magnolia Pictures

TANGERINE

Back in 2015 an indie favorite was Sean Baker’s film Tangerine. He shot the film all on an Iphone and it starred trans actress Mya Taylor in the lead role. I didn’t know at the time it is set on Christmas Eve so it makes for the perfect December pick.

So there you have it! My Blind Spot picks for 2022. What do you think of these films? It should make for an eclectic and fun year catching up with these classics!

Blind Spot 72: Our Vines Have Tender Grapes

Every year when coming up with my blind spot picks I try to pick something holiday related for December that I haven’t seen. Given I host the Hallmarkies Podcast that covers holiday films it’s no easy task. For 2021 I decided to go with a film I heard about while watching a special on TCM profiling classic Christmas movies called Our Vines Have Tender Grapes. From 1945 this film stars Margaret O’Brien as a little girl in Wisconsin growing up in a Norwegian-American immigrant community. It’s actually not much of a Christmas movie but I thoroughly enjoyed it!

It has one of the strangest trailers I’ve ever seen…

Our Vines Have Tender Grapes is based on a novel by George Victor Martin and I think I will seek out the book because I really liked this old fashioned story. This movie will definitely not be for everyone. It lays on the sentimentality about as thick as possible and it will be too much for some but O’Brien is so cute that it worked for me.

It’s a very simple story about growing up and the ebbs and flows of childhood. O’Brien’s Selma plays with her friend Arnold and they squabble and learn life lessons. One of the best scenes is when she is scolded by her Pa played by Edgar G Robinson for not sharing her skates. He tells her she is a selfish little girl and her expression is devastating. Then you have sweet moments when he takes her see the animals on the circus train. You really get the feeling O’Brien was genuinely thrilled to see an elephant. It’s so cute.

Agnes Moorehead plays her Ma and I’m used to seeing her play more cantankerous characters (especially in Pollyanna which I love. I had no idea she was nominated for 4 Oscars!).  This was a nice change of pace and she has great chemistry with Robinson (who also plays against type).

They probably explain it in the book but I have no idea why it has the title it does as there are no vineyards or grapes of any kind in the town. I guess the children and small town life are the tender grapes but it seems like a stretch.

There is also a romantic plot between James Craig and Frances Gifford. She is a city girl who has come to do her student teaching in the small town. He is the editor of the local paper. Will she fall for small town life? What do you think?

In many ways this feels like a precursor to the Hallmark movies of today but with more melodrama. A story about small-town America and the joys and heartaches of being a child in the country. It warmed my heart and I almost wished it was a series so I could keep spending time with these people.

The main Christmas element of the movie is a pageant Selma is asked to memorize a recitation covering the First Christmas. She is so nervous and does so well you can’t help but feel the Christmas spirit from her words. It’s so sweet and heartfelt.

Like I said, Our Vines Have Tender Grapes will be too sentimental for some but I loved it. If you haven’t seen it I recommend giving it a watch.

8 out of 10

Smile Worthy

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Blind Spot 70: Frankenstein 1931

I think because I have never been a big horror movie person I have a ton of blind spots in that genre including the Universal monster movies. This is why I really wanted to include Frankenstein 1931 in my blind spot this year. Strangely I have seen Young Frankenstein which is a parody of this film but not seen the original. I have also read the book several times and seen the Kenneth Branagh version from 1994 (and I’ve seen Frankenweenie!). Now I have seen the1931 film and I loved it! It’s an extremely well made film with several scenes that really got to me.

Frankenstein 1931 is directed by James Whale and stars Colin Clive as Henry Frankenstein and Boris Karloff as Frankenstein’s monster. It’s a simple story and at 71 minutes it doesn’t waste much time. Dr Frankenstein creates a monster and that monster is misunderstood and mayhem results.

The film starts off with the iconic image of lightning bringing the monster to life. We of course get the doctor calling out ‘It’s alive! It’s alive’. I love the black and white in these scenes and the way director Whale uses light and shadow to create mood.  They are scenes so often parodied they lose some of their impact but if you think about what it must have been like to see for the first time it is very exciting.

Karloff is great as the monster. He plays it almost like a zombie unaware of what he is doing but with just enough alertness to be cognizant of his actions. The most tragic scene is when he is playing with a girl named Maria and in the game he drowns the girl. That scene combined with the farmer bringing his dead little girl into the town is so sad. Devastating.

Like I said, Frankenstein 1931 is not a long movie so its elements are simple. However, I found it effective and very well made. It’s violent, tragic and exciting all at the same time and it has something to say about playing God and how we treat things we don’t understand. Is it a monster just because we are unfamiliar with it? Maybe? Maybe not?

I did think the film ended rather abruptly and I wanted a little bit more. I suppose I will need to watch the sequels one of these days.

8 out of 10

 

Blind Spot 69: Perfect Blue

Originally my plan for this month’s blind spot pick was to cover the anime Her Blue Sky. It was done by writer and animator Mari Okada who created Maquia: When the Promised Flower Blooms and A Whisker Away. Both films I enjoyed a lot. Unfortunately Her Blue Sky is not available anywhere I could find both streaming or on US playable physical media. This forced me to find a different anime selection and after some discussions with friends I decided to finally watch the classic Perfect Blue by Satoshi Kon.

Satoshi Kon has been fresh on my mind lately because I just watched a documentary on his life as part of Fantasia Fest 2021. Back in 2016 I reviewed his masterpiece Millennium Actress for rotoscopers.  I also covered his film Tokyo Godfathers in 2019 as part of this blind spot project. And finally my friend Conrado and I recently covered Paprika as part of our Criterion Project podcast.  So, it is appropriate I would finish this Satoshi Kon immersion process with quite possibly his most famous film in Perfect Blue. Perfect Blue tells the story of a woman named Mima who gives up her career as a popstar in order to become a serious actress. Unfortunately she ends up getting a role in a show called Double Blind where she has to perform in a rape scene (this is the reason I had avoided this movie until now). At the same time she is asked to do this she is being stalked and threatened (even letter bombs).

Mima starts to have conversations with her old popstar self and the line between reality and dreams becomes more and more confusing (a theme of Satoshi Kon).

The animation for Perfect Blue is absolutely stunning. Satoshi Kon weaves layers of backgrounds so multiple things are happening in each frame. You also feel for Mima’s character and want her to be treated fairly.The movie also uses music very well, which allows the viewer to become fully immersed in the story.

Perfect Blue also takes on deep themes of celebrity, fandom, identity, dreams, mental health, suicide, sexual discrimination and more.

The downside to the film is with so much happening both in the animation and story it can be confusing and difficult to follow. This is especially true when you have Mima talking to her former self and another person who is delusional thinking herself to be the “real Mima”. Even with the dub it’s still felt overwhelming to watch and keep track of.

There are also disturbing elements but I wouldn’t say it is gratuitous. It’s all part of the story and important to Mima’s progression.

What do you think about Perfect Blue? Is it a favorite of yours or is it not for you? Let me know in the comments section. Also let me know what anime you’d like me to review that I haven’t? I would love to know.

7 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blind Spot 68: Godzilla (1954)

Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well. Before starting this review I must own is for my August blind spot pick and as you know it is September. This is the first time in 68 months of this project I have been late. I just got back from a trip to visit friends in Texas and combined with a very busy month reviewing movies I let it slip away and not get done. Not that anyone cares but myself! I like being consistent in my posts but things like this happen to the best of us!

So here goes!

This month for Blind Spot we are talking about the classic monster movie, Godzilla, from 1954. I have seen the modern Godzilla movies like this year’s Godzilla vs Kong but have never seen any of the classics. I’m not sure why but it’s true!

Check out my friend Alexander Robinson’s channel for tons of great Godzilla content

So what did I think of the original Godzilla film from Toho Studios in 1954? I quite enjoyed it. More than I was expecting to be honest! Like King Kong, the film’s stop motion animation/suitmation has a charm to it that the hyper-realism of today’s CGI can’t match. I also love the black and white cinematography and the simple, clean message told throughout.

It definitely surprised me how little Godzilla appears in the film. A lot of people complained about that in the recent 2014 version of Godzilla (including myself) but if they were basing off of this original film I can see why they kept him rather sparse. The only difference between this and 2014 is the Godzilla action is more consistent throughout the film where in 2014 it all comes at the end.

The new films struggle to integrate the human characters with Godzilla (especially King of the Monsters, which was so stupid). They do a much better job with in that regard here. I particularly liked Momoko Kōchi as Emiko the female who is torn between the 2 scientists Ogata and Serizawa. She reminded me a lot of Sally Hawkin’s character in The Shape of Water and wouldn’t be surprised if Guillermo del Toro took some inspiration from her (he is a big Godzilla fan obviously by his own kaiju film Pacific Rim. I liked Emiko because she was a damsel in distress without being useless and annoying as the archetype often is. It shows characters can be archetypes without being morons.

If you think about the anti-nuclear warfare message of Godzilla (1954) it must have been especially poignant back in 1954 when World War II was so fresh in the Japanese consciousness. What might seem like dumb fun to us now was probably all too real a fear for moviegoers then. When Serizawa struggles to give the oxygen destroyer to the people because it might be used as a superweapon that is only too real for 1954 audiences.

I do think I enjoy King Kong more than Godzilla because we get more invested in Kong’s story compared to Godzilla. When Kong is chained up and put on display it’s so devastating and I didn’t feel that kind of connection to Godzilla.

Still I can understand why they have been constantly trying to remake Godzilla 1954. It’s a great film and manages to combine spectacle with message extremely well- not an easy task to do. If you haven’t seen it I recommend watching it on HBO Max or as part of the Godzilla collection from Criterion.

8.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blind Spot 67: The Wild Bunch

The whole point of this blind spot series is a chance to push me out of my comfort zone and finally watch classic films I’ve never seen before. Each year I try to select a variety of films just to keep things interesting for myself and you wonderful readers. One genre I have many blind spots in is Westerns and I’ve enjoyed a fair number of the classics like The Magnificent 7, Stagecoach, High Noon and last year’s blind spot pick The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance.

This year I picked the 1969 classic The Wild Bunch and I must own I did not enjoy this one much at all. It was incredibly violent, which would have been fine, but I didn’t like the story or any of the characters. It felt really long and I will definitely never watch it again.

The Wild Bunch is directed by Sam Peckinpah and stars William Holden, Ernest Borgine, Robert Ryan and Edmond O’Brien. It was highly praised upon its release and was nominated for best screenplay and best score at the Oscars.It tells the story of a gang of outlaws in the Old West along the Mexican border. They want to make a big last score so they can retire but their attempt leads to one stand-off after another.

I think the reason this movie didn’t work for me is it has no heroes. I was craving a John Wayne or Jimmy Stewart to come and fight for truth and justice. These men are all so decrepit and terrible I grew weary of their antics and surly ways. The violence is strong and unending with even women getting shot at point blank and innocent civilians getting caught in a outlaw shout-out.

It’s weird because I always think of these Westerns as being wholesome but they really are not. Even one’s I like such as Liberty Valance are very violent. The women are also treated terribly here and often shown topless for no reason. It was too much especially at a long 145 minute run time!

I know this movie is highly praised for its editing, music and cinematography and I can see why. They are very well done. I just didn’t care about the story or any of the characters. I think I will stick with the Westerns I have enjoyed like Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid or even The Cowboys. Those films have charismatic performances and are about people I understand or enjoy spending time with. The guys of The Wild Bunch are pigs and the warfare in the Old West gets old fast. Not for me!

 

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

What about you? Do you like The Wild Bunch? I know it is a classic for many so please share your thoughts in the comments section. Thanks! Yeehaw!

For a children’s western I had a lot of fun reviewing An American Tail: Fievel Goes West for Family Movie Night

Blind Spot 66: Beverly Hills Cop

Recently I watched Eddie Murphy’s classic comedy Coming to America and really enjoyed it. It was genuinely funny and had a sweet romance to it. Naturally when looking at another one of his classics, Beverly Hills Cop, I wasn’t expecting a romance but I did expect it to be funny. Now I have seen it and…I didn’t laugh. Maybe I’m missing something but it seemed like an ordinary police procedural?

The film definitely earns its R rating with language and some strong violence for a comedy but the story is pretty bland. Murphy plays a Axel Foley a Detroit cop who travels to Beverly Hills to try and look into the murder of his friend shown at the beginning of the film. While there he meets various local cops including detectives Rosewood (Judge Reinhold) and Taggart (John Aston).

The case involves a drug ring led by villain Victor Maitland (Steven Berkoff). It was all extremely obvious and by the numbers. What surprised me was how serious the movie took itself? I was expecting to laugh more and the jokes were hardly there. I guess something like Foley putting bananas in the officers car tailpipe is funny? I’m not sure why but they referred to that incident several times as a sign of Foley’s wild ways. Huh?

I guess you can enjoy it as a cop procedural and there is some chemistry between Murphy, Reinhold and Ashton but if that’s the strength of the movie I wish they’d given them a more interesting case. Maybe they do in the sequels?

A lot of 80s comedies fall flat but this one didn’t even seem to be making jokes so I evidently am missing something? It felt long and was under 2 hours. It just did nothing for me.

4 out of 10

Frown Worthy

Blind Spot 65: Bonnie and Clyde

Part of the purpose of the Blind Spot series is to challenge myself to watch classic films outside of my comfort zone. These are usually films I’ve heard great things about but have been hesitant to watch for one reason or another. 1967’s Bonnie and Clyde definitely fall into that description. A landmark of its time Bonnie and Clyde is a film that changed cinema with its grounded feel and shocking violence and sensuality.

Of course, Bonnie and Clyde tells the story of the outlaw couple in Depression Era America. Bonnie is played by Faye Dunaway and Clyde by Warren Beatty. Gene Hackman and Estelle Parson also play notable supporting roles (Parson won an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress). Burnett Guffey also won an Oscar for the incredible cinematography.

The best thing about Bonnie and Clyde is its realism. Even though I know it plays fast and loose with the real story of the couple, when you are watching it feels real. It feels like what it might actually have been like stealing and scrounging for food and lodging- learning to dodge bullets along the way. Nothing feels clean or glossed up for the movies.

As you are watching you feel the exhaustion from the actors as if they were actually experiencing the events of the film. And by the time you get to its very graphic ending it is a relief for the chase is finally be over. I can see why critics like Pauline Kael and Roger Ebert were so drawn to such a visceral piece of work.

All that said, the film could do a better job in helping us to get to know Bonnie and Clyde as characters better. They are always kept at a distance and that’s a weakness in the script. Also, this type of violence just isn’t my cup of tea so I don’t picture myself ever watching Bonnie and Clyde ever again.

Still, I’m glad I saw it once to see a turning point in film and to broaden the scope of the films I have seen.

Have you seen Bonnie and Clyde? What did you think of this classic?

6.5 out of 10

Smile Worthy

Blind Spot 64: Two for the Road

I always like to have a variety in this blind spot series, so for April I decided to watch the 1967 romantic comedy Two for the Road. As a huge Audrey Hepburn fan this is one I had heard about but never seen and was excited to check off my list.

It’s interesting because this film was made 2 years after Jean-Luc Godard’s Pierrot le Fou which we just reviewed for The Criterion Project (my podcast with my friend Conrado about films on The Criterion Channel. We had guest artist Esther Ko on and it’s a fun listen!). I mention it because both films feel very similar. They are both about couples going on road trips in France and their relative tumultuous relationships. I don’t know which one I like better but they are both unusual romances to say the least.

Two for the Road is about a couple (Hepburn and Albert Finney) and their relationship over 12 years all told with their road trips in France over the years. It’s an experimental film like Pierrot le Fou and goes in and out of non-linear storytelling without any notice of a changing time (you have to tell by what car they are suddenly driving). It’s all very creative and the script is well done.

All that said, this is one of those movies I admire more than I like. I found both of them to be very unlikable and cynical takes on romance just aren’t my thing. I can see it is well done and understand why it was given an Oscar nomination for best screenplay.

However, I like my romances more on the fluffy-side (big shocker coming from the Queen of Hallmark movies). Even when they were supposed to be young and in love it still felt cynical and I wasn’t feeling the chemistry between Hepburn and Finney.

Two for the Road is directed by Stanley Donen with style and I can see why Roger Ebert said it was a ‘romance for grown ups’. Like I said, it’s well done but just not for me. This makes giving it a grade difficult (these are the hardest reviews to write) but I will go with…

5 out of 10

Frown Worthy barely