For the past two years, I've been using online lists to steer myself toward must-see movies that I've either missed or forgotten. This year, all of that stops. For 11 months in 2017, I've relinquished the curating of my monthly watchlists over to my friends. In a mammoth movie trust exercise, I'm letting them pick all of the movies I'll be watching for PopGap and then falling backwards into the uncertainty of their judgement.
Every month (except for October, when I will indulge in my traditional "Octoblur" insanity), a different handful of presumably trustworthy film fanatics will combine to assign me twelve (or so) movies that are missing from my Flickchart. It's just like a potluck, but with movies instead of food, and I don't have to do any cooking, just eat eat eat with my fat hungry eyes.
January's movies were mostly chosen by Dan Kocher and Hannah Keefer, both of whom I know through the movie-ranking website Flickchart. Dan likes challenging European dramas. Hannah loves the theater. A year ago when I watched my top unseen movies from the charts of my fellow Flickcharters, I watched Dan's top two movies, Sergei M. Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible, Parts I & II, and Hannah's #16, Mary Poppins (a.k.a. Ivan the Terrible, Part III). This month I've given them each five slots to fill.
Additionally, every month, I'll be watching one movie each from a couple of knuckleheads whose taste only intermittently aligns with my own, Nigel Druitt and Ty Tag. I didn't want to leave them out, but I also figured I couldn't handle a full month from either of them, so they get twice as many movies as everyone else, only spread out one per month.
Thoughts on January's List
- Abbott and Costello Meet Frankenstein (1948) — assigned by Ty. I saw several Abbott and Costello movies on TV as a kid and have fond memories of them as my favorites of the old-timey comedians. I've started to watch this one a few times in recent years but have always been pulled away. I'm glad to have an excuse to force myself to see it all the way through, perhaps for the first time.
- Angels in America (2003) — assigned by Hannah. Hannah gave me an alternate if I didn't want to include this six-hour HBO miniseries from Tony Kushner's Pulitzer-winning Broadway epic. I probably should have taken her up on it. I dislike both sanctimony and lecturing disguised as drama, and expect both aplenty. Director Mike Nichols has two movies in the top 10% of my Flickchart, but just as many in my bottom 10%.
- Artists and Models (1955) — assigned by Dan. I don't know what to expect from this Jerry Lewis comedy. I don't think I had ever heard of director Frank Tashlin until very recently, when he became the subject of vociferous praise. His career seems split between feature films and short Warner Bros. cartoons, so that's interesting.
- The Beaver (2011) — assigned by Nigel. This was the movie in which director Jodie Foster tried to help her friend Mel Gibson recover from his nightmarish personal behavior by playing a character who talks to a beaver hand-puppet. It didn't work, but this movie is a curious and welcome assignment from Nigel, with whom I often joke about being movie-opposites.
- Branded to Kill (1967) — assigned by Dan. Japanese? Stylish? Crime? Yes, yes, yes. If this is a yakuza movie, as I suspect it is, it will be my long-overdue first.
- The Court Jester (1956) — assigned by Hannah. Another old comedy, this one starring Danny Kaye. I haven't seen any Kaye movies all the way through; my impression of him is not positive. We'll see what happens with this one.
- Gold Diggers of 1933 (1933) — assigned by Dan. This movie seems to be very popular among lovers of early sound, "pre-Code" era movies. I don't know anything about it. It sounds like a Busby Berkeley-style musical, but I don't know anything about those, either, so whether I'm right or wrong, that doesn't help. It's directed by Mervyn LeRoy, whose evil child classic The Bad Seed I watched last October.
- Love Affair; or the Case of the Missing Switchboard Operator (1967) — assigned by Dan. This is a bold choice. I've seen two other movies from Serbian director Dusan Makavejev, and they've been…different. I don't even know if I've liked them. Now that I'm looking at his filmography, I'm shocked that this eccentric arthouse director of experimental counter-culture movies also made the 1985 Eric Roberts movie The Coca-Cola Kid. I remember seeing advertisements for that as a teenager and it does not seem to fit with what I know of Makavejev's other work.
- The Merry Widow (1925) — assigned by Dan. A silent from Erich Von Stroheim, who appeared as an actor in previous PopGap movies Sunset Blvd. and Grand Illusion. I haven't seen any of his directorial work since college, when I saw his epic Greed. No preconceptions about this one.
- Ordet (1955) — assigned by Hannah. Carl Theodor Dreyer is one of many "great directors" of whose work I am almost wholly ignorant. I've only seen his silent movie The Passion of Joan of Arc and his perplexing early sound film Vampyr. This looks severe. I'll probably like it.
- Sleuth (1972) — assigned by Hannah. I've been hearing about this Michael Caine / Sir Laurence Olivier mystery for decades, but only have a vague idea what it's about. Other than its alarming two-hour-and-18-minute running time, I'm looking forward to it.
- Spellbound (2002) — assigned by Hannah. Not to be confused with the Alfred Hitchcock classic which I reviewed in September, this is the Oscar-winning documentary about a spelling bee. I'm rarely excited for a documentary, but I often end up liking these kinds of subjects.