Normally I avoid starting Christmas until at least December 1st. Shops and TV channels can begin to flood themselves with Christmas-related product throughout November (if not before), but I feel like “the day you open the first door of your advent calendar” is when Christmas can begin.
This year’s a bit different, though. Never mind the whole “2020 has been shit” of it all — despite that, I was still aiming for December 1st — but then family wanted to watch Netflix’s Jingle Jangle in the middle of November, and that opened the door a crack, until eventually Christmas fully barged in on the final weekend of the month. Presents bought! Decorations up! Built a festive LEGO set I didn’t get round to doing last year!
What I didn’t do is watch another Netflix original Christmas movie: Klaus. I didn’t get round to it last festive season, and as it’s (surprisingly) on the IMDb Top 250, I’ve been waiting impatiently all damn year for the time to roll around when I felt I could watch it. Well, it’s December now, so…
But before I get stuck into Christmas properly, let’s remember the month that just was.
#238 Robolove (2019)
#239 Rose Plays Julie (2019)
#240 Showrunners (2014), aka Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show
#241 Falling (2020)
#242 An Impossible Project (2020)
#243 Coded Bias (2020)
#244 Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)
#245 The Lie (2018)
#246 Mangrove (2020), aka Small Axe: Mangrove
#247 The Mask of Fu Manchu (1932)
#248 You Will Die at Twenty (2019)
#249 Influence (2020)
#250 My Mexican Bretzel (2019)
#251 Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (2020)
#252 Ordet (1955), aka The Word
#253 Never Surrender (2019), aka Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary
#254 Millennium Actress (2001), aka Sennen joyû
Normally I include any short films I’ve watched in amongst the list of features, but this month I watched 53 short films. No, that’s not a typo. In the almost-14-year history of this blog to October 2020, I’d watched 97 shorts; now, AMPLIFY! alone has increased my count by 55%. That seemed an overwhelming amount to include in the above list, so I’ve separated them off here.
A quick guide: #247a–e were the IMDb New Filmmaker nominees; #249a–k were in the Cornwall Film Festival South West Regional programme; #249l–s were in the Cornwall Film Festival International programme; #249t–z were in the New Voices programme; #250a–i were in the CINECITY Open programme; and #250j–v were in the FilmBath programme.
#247a Under the Full Moon (2020)
#247b Flush Lou (2020)
#247c The Monkeys on Our Backs (2020)
#247d Players (2020)
#247e Home (2020)
#249a Shuttlecock (2019)
#249b Stitch (2020)
#249c Nut Pops (2019)
#249d Swivel (2020)
#249e Anoraks (2020)
#249f Frayed Edges (2020)
#249g So Far (2020)
#249h Man-Spider (2019)
#249i Slow Burn (2020)
#249j Closed Until Further Notice (2020)
#249k Quiescent (2018), aka Anvew
#249l Clean (2020)
#249m Appreciation (2019)
#249n Adnan (2020)
#249o Sticker (2019)
#249p Interstice (2019), aka Mellanrum
#249q The Day of the Coyote (2020)
#249r Chumbak (2019)
#249s Guardians of Ua Huka (2020)
#249t Destructors (2020)
#249u Nelly (2020)
#249v Life in Brighton: An Artist’s Perspective (2020)
#249w My Life, My Voice (2020)
#249x Embedded (2020)
#249y One Piece of the Puzzle (2020)
#249z Time and Tide (2020)
#250a The Wick (2020)
#250b We Farmed a Lot of Acres (2020)
#250c A Spring in Endless Bloom (2020)
#250d Booklovers (2020)
#250e The Fruit Fix (2020)
#250f Keratin (2020)
#250g Blue Passport (2020)
#250h Siren (2020)
#250i Reconnected (2020)
#250j The Last Video Store (2020)
#250k Water Baby (2019)
#250l Window (2019)
#250m Alan, the Infinite (2020)
#250n Our Song (2020)
#250o Hold (2020)
#250p Befriend to Defend (2019)
#250q Fuel (2020)
#250r My Dad’s Name Was Huw. He Was an Alcoholic Poet. (2019)
#250s Quiet on Set (2020)
#250t A Map of the World (2020)
#250u Talia (2020)
#250v The Starey Bampire (2019)
- I watched 18 new feature films in November.
- That’s the exact same tally as last month (and also February), so the same applies: it’s in the lower-middle for the year, coming =7th out of 11 months.
- However, it’s below my average for 2020 to date (previously 23.6, now 23.1), and below the rolling average of the last 12 months — although, because I only watched 12 films last November, that still goes up slightly (from 21.1 to 21.6).
- But it does pass the November average (previously 10.4, now 11.0).
- Plus, #254 is the furthest I’ve ever reached by the end of November, beating #248 in 2018. It sets me up well to beat that year’s record for my highest ever final total — although victory is by no means guaranteed: I need eight more films to reach a new record, and last December I only watched five…
- I’ve already noted above how the number of shorts I watched this month is measurable on an “entire history of the blog” scale, but, for what it’s worth, the next closest month came last November, also thanks to a film festival, when I watched… 9. Pales in comparison, doesn’t it?
- This month’s Blindspot films: first, to catch-up for last month, a belated Halloween pick (that I therefore watched right at the start of the month), An American Werewolf in London; and second, Carl Th. Dreyer’s acclaimed meditation on religion, Ordet.
- From last month’s “failures” I watched Borat Subsequent Moviefilm and The Lie.
The 66th Monthly Arbitrary Awards
Favourite Film of the Month
Not that this was a bad month by any means, but it started on a high that was never quite equalled: An American Werewolf in London is exactly the kind of film “What Do You Mean You Haven’t Seen?” was created for (honestly, I’m surprised it’s taken this many years for it to make it onto the list), and it didn’t disappoint.
Least Favourite Film of the Month
Conversely, failing to live up to expectations was The Mask of Fu Manchu. I didn’t exactly expect great things of it (there’s the inherent racism, for one thing), but even as a pulpy ’30s pre-code adventure movie, it didn’t tick the right boxes for me.
Favourite Short Film of the Month
With so many short films watched this month, it seems only right to extend the Arbies to them; though I won’t do a “least favourite” (seems unfair when shorts struggle to gain attention enough as it is). There are lots of entertaining little numbers in the 53-strong field, but undoubtedly my personal favourite was The Last Video Store, a documentary about Bristol’s still-running independent video rental place, 20th Century Flicks. It’s all about the importance and brilliance of physical media — right up my street. It’s available free on Vimeo, so do check it out.
Best Documentary Where the Tagline Gets Listed as Part of the Title of the Month
I watched two behind-the-scenes-y documentaries this month, Showrunners and Never Surrender — those are the titles they use on screen, anyway, but look online and you’ll mostly find them listed as Showrunners: The Art of Running a TV Show and Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary. Regular readers will know how much this kind of imprecision / inconsistency annoys me. Anyway, they were both interesting, but Never Surrender was really warm-hearted and lovely as well as informative — if you love Galaxy Quest (and who doesn’t?) then you must see it. It’s on Amazon Prime, at least in the UK.
The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
A very deserving victor this month, in my opinion: my review of “missing hammer in a Belgian nudist camp” comedy-thriller (that should totally by a subgenre) Patrick.
After being ahead of target most of the year, last month saw me slip behind slightly, and I haven’t caught it up… but I’m close enough that December could yet see me reach my goal of 50 rewatches.
#42 Hot Fuzz (2007)
#43 Fisherman’s Friends (2019)
#44 Knives Out (2019)
Considering how much I’ve always enjoyed Hot Fuzz (and how often it’s on ITV2), it’s a little remarkable that I’ve only watched it once since seeing it at the cinema in 2007; and, according to my records, that was around when it came out on DVD, in late ’07 or early ’08 — so I haven’t seen it in over 12 years. (Don’t ask me how long it’s been since Shaun of the Dead…) To think: all the mediocre movies I’ve watched in that time, and I could’ve just been rewatching this classic. Oh well.
At the other end of the time spectrum, I only first watched Fisherman’s Friends this May, and Knives Out this March. Both were family-appeasing viewing choices — not that I dislike either (indeed, I’d been specifically wanting to rewatch Knives Out). I’ve not got round to reviewing either in full yet, but I will someday (probably).
Cinemas may’ve been closed again thanks to Lockdown 2, but new releases continue to debut online — like Christmas lesbian romcom Happiest Season, which I’ve heard good things about; or Netflix’s The Christmas Chronicles 2, which hopefully is as likeable as the first one; or Ron Howard’s Hillbilly Elegy, which I’ve not heard anything good about. It does star Amy Adams and Glenn Close, though, so I expect it’ll be part of the awards conversation nonetheless.
The same conditions that have kept theatrical releases to a minimum have seen the streamers all pile on new content, though little of it’s brand-new. Particularly drawing my attention on Netflix was Assassination Nation, and Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, the latter because it’s reminded me I still haven’t watched the 3D Blu-ray I imported from Australia. On social media, they made a big fuss of having Spider-Verse in 4K — I believe it’s a 2K upscale, but its visual style seems made for HDR enhancement. So, basically, I need to rewatch it twice, once in 3D, once in 4K…
iPlayer is also offering original movies at the minute — kind of — with Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series. I watched the first, but need to catch up on Lovers Rock and Red, White and Blue. They also have a speedy TV premiere for recent UK release Monsoon. Over on Amazon, the best they could offer is Military Wives — the kind of thing I might watch with my mum over Christmas. They also added Parasite, but I (a) have seen it, and (b) own it on disc.
In fact, I own it on disc twice, thanks to picking up the US 4K release back in July (they’ve just released it on 4K here, but I think the import still cost me less), and buying the Criterion edition this month. I’m not one of those Criterion completists buying it for the sake of it being a Criterion — I want the special features, and also the black-and-white version (though that’s on Amazon Prime too, so…) It was one of many titles I imported thanks to Barnes & Noble’s biannual Criterion sale — although, as they still refuse to ship to the UK, I actually bought stuff price-matched from Amazon.com. Other titles I picked up included Ghost Dog (been waiting for that on Blu-ray for years), Christopher Nolan’s Following, Alfred Hitchcock’s The Lady Vanishes, Marriage Story, and the Three Fantastic Journeys bu Karel Zeman box set — the UK editions were still slightly cheaper, but pop-up packaging? Yes please! While I was at it, I also imported a bunch of other US stuff I’ve wanted for a while: Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (I’ve never heard great things about the film, but the US release is a 4K-HFR / 3D combo pack that entices me), Shout’s release of Creepshow (as the UK release is long out of print and it’s one of the few George Romero titles I didn’t own), the 4K restoration of Rian Johnson’s Brick, animation Long Way North, The Mask of Zorro in 4K, the 26th Zatoichi film (upgrading my Arrow DVD)… and a few others too (this list is getting plenty long enough, and I’ve not even started on my UK purchases).
Yes, various UK sales further decimated my bank account this month. There was a UK Criterion offer, too, in which I picked up The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou, The Life of Oharu, and Metropolitan; Indicator had a Hammer sale, from which I nabbed two of their box sets (Volumes Three and Four, if anyone’s interested); from Arrow’s Noirvember offer I snagged Dark City, Hangmen Also Die, and (after many years of never quite buying them) both the 1946 and 1964 versions of The Killers; plus random discounts on the 4K box sets of Sicario 1 and 2, and the Three Flavours Cornetto trilogy.
Oh, and there were new releases too! The headliner has to be Second Sight’s incredible 4K box set of Dawn of the Dead, a behemoth packed with alternate cuts, special features, and books — not booklets, literal books. Amazing. Also available in multiple fancily-packaged editions was the 4K release of V for Vendetta, though I just went for the regular version in the end. There were also two new Jackie Chan titles from 88 Films (Shaolin Wooden Men and New Fist of Fury); plus another Eastern action classic from Eureka, The Bride with White Hair; and Japanese sci-fi from Eureka too, in the form of Mothra, The H-Man, and Battle in Outer Space. More noir, as well, in the form of Indicator’s Columbia Noir #1 box set — that number at the end promising I’ll be spending much money on this series in the years to come. And, finally, rounding out the month, a Train to Busan trilogy box set, meaning I finally picked up that zombie modern classic, along with the anime prequel (which I don’t much care for) and the new sequel, Peninsula.
Christ, look at that list — anyone’d think I’d just had a Christmas present haul! And I left half-a-dozen titles out just to speed things up. But no, Christmas is still to come…
Iiiiit’s Chriiiiiistmaaaaas! I have been waiting pretty much all year to be able to watch Klaus (can’t watch a Christmas film from January to November, no no no), so if I don’t get round to it I’ll be doing some serious self-chastising in my December review.