The Melting Monthly Review of July 2022

Hello, dear readers! No, this month’s heatwave didn’t melt me away to nothing (though it tried its damnedest), but this is a rare sighting of a post on this blog nowadays. I hadn’t intended to be so quiet this month (well, I never do), but, you know, life. Nothing serious, just a mixture of work and personal commitments.

It’s been the same story with my film viewing, which once again fell short of my ongoing aim of watching at least ten new films a month. And as for my 100 Films Challenge, well, that’s way behind where it should be. To reach #100 in December at a steady pace, I should be at #58 by the end of July. As you’ll soon see, I’m not even close.

What I did spend a fair amount of time on this month was catching up with TV — things like Disney+ series Obi-Wan Kenobi, which I seemed to enjoy more than most, and Apple TV+ spy thriller Slow Horses, which is as good as the reviews say — so I intend to refocus on films in August. We’ll see how that pans out.

This month’s viewing towards my yearly challenge

#44 Ambulance (2022) — New Film #7
#45 Johnny Gunman (1957) — Genre #3
#46 A Better Tomorrow (1986) — WDYMYHS #6
#47 Mifune: The Last Samurai (2015) — DVD #4
#48 Calamity Jane (1953) — Rewatch #7

  • I watched eight feature films I’d never seen before in July.
  • Four of them counted towards my 100 Films in a Year Challenge, along with one rewatch.
  • Those are the kinds of numbers there’s not much to say about: they’re nothing special, but they’re not spectacularly bad, either.
  • That said, I’ve slipped further behind in my 100 Films Challenge — as I noted at the start, I should be at #58 by now. I now need to watch, on average, more than 10 qualifying films each month for the rest of the year to complete the challenge.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film was John Woo’s classic action-thriller that defined the ‘heroic bloodshed’ subgenre, A Better Tomorrow.
  • I remain a film behind in my WDYMYHS challenge, and now the same is true of Blindspot too, as I didn’t watch one of those this month. At least there’s still five months left for me to catch up.
  • From last month’s “failures” I watched Ambulance.

The 86th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
When Michael Bay is on form, there’s no action director quite like him — and, for my money, Ambulance is Michael Bay very much on form.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Nothing absolutely terrible this month, which leads me to name Johnny Gunman for this category. It suffers for being a low-budget independent film in an era when low-budget independent films weren’t really yet a thing — it’s solid enough for the forgiving viewer, but does suffer from some weak acting and novice-like filmmaking choices. I didn’t dislike it, but, in the context of the rest of this month’s viewing, it doesn’t quite measure up.

Bickering Old People of the Month
45 Years depicts a couple’s sudden relationship difficulties after four-and-a-half decades of marriage with such scathing realism that I have to give this to The Bucket List for being fun bickering. But I think we all know which is the better film, really. Only one of them is in the Criterion Collection, after all.

Best Weather of the Month
A scathingly realistic drama about a couple having sudden relationship difficulties after four-and-a-half decades of marriage, in part because their emotional communication is inadequate, set in grey, misty, wintry countryside? 45 Years is British through and through, not least that weather. Oh, it looked so beautiful, especially watching it on a hot summer day — personally, I long for our winter to come again.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
After a couple of months where this category has been dominated by my ‘failures’ posts, they dipped to second place in July. Instead, the victor was something of a surprise, but a pleasant one: my review of undeservedly forgotten 1930s melodrama Bank Holiday.

Every review posted this month, including new titles and the Archive 5

More films, hopefully.

Bank Holiday (1938)

aka 3 on a Week-End

Carol Reed | 82 mins | digital (SD) | 4:3 | UK / English | U

Bank Holiday

You’ll be forgiven for not having heard of this one, even though it’s directed by Carol Reed (The Third Man, Oliver!, etc) and stars Margaret Lockwood (The Lady Vanishes, etc), because it seems to be pretty obscure. I only discovered it when browsing the online offering of UK digital channel Talking Pictures TV, and it mainly caught my attention because that was just before the weekend of the Queen’s Platinum Jubilee, when we had a double Bank Holiday. “What appropriate viewing,” I thought. Well, sometimes chance smiles on us, because this definitely doesn’t deserve to be so overlooked.

As the title indicates, the film is set on a Bank Holiday weekend — the August one, to be precise — and, this being the interwar years (i.e. well before the ease of popping overseas for a quick holiday), city folk flock to the seaside en masse. In terms of the film, a variety of melodramatic and comic plot lines unfurl for an array of characters. The primary one follows a nurse (Lockwood) getting away for a rare holiday with her young fella (Hugh Williams); but he’s not planned it very well, and she’s distracted by thoughts of a man (John Lodge) who was suddenly made a widower on her last shift. That particular storyline gets a bit heavy (death in child birth; attempted suicide), but its balanced by comic antics in other plot lines. Overall, the mix of drama and humour gives a “something for everyone”, all-round entertainment feel that you tend not to get within a single work anymore.

Two outta three ain't bad

Nowadays, the film arguably has greatest value as a snapshot of 1930s British society. There’s a degree to which it feels ‘of its time’ as a work of cinema, but not in a terribly dated way. Indeed, while some things have changed a lot in the ensuing nine decades, but there are definitely behaviours, attitudes, and meteorological phenomena that’ll be familiar to any British viewer and their experience of a summer holiday weekend. And it remains entertaining in its own right. The comic bits still mostly work. Even when they’re not hilarious, at least they’re not embarrassing. The drama is similarly solid: the handling of romantic relationships remains relatable, rather than feeling terribly old fashioned (in fact, it had to be edited for release in the US due to its implication that an unmarried couple had a sexual relationship. And they think us Brits are the prudish ones…)

To call Bank Holiday a “forgotten classic” or similar would be to overstate the point somewhat, but it does seem to be a largely forgotten film that merits being better known.

4 out of 5

The Halfway Monthly Review of June 2022

Another month gone, and suddenly we’re halfway through 2022. Whaaaat?!

To mark the occasion, the Viewing Notes section is a little longer than usual, taking a look at how the rest of the year might shape up — or might need to shape up, considering my new 100 Films Challenge is currently running behind schedule…

This month’s viewing towards my yearly challenge

#36 Top Gun 3D (1986) — Rewatch #6
#37 Scream (1996) — Wildcard #2
#38 Escape in the Fog (1945) — Genre #1
#39 Pretty in Pink (1986) — WDYMYHS #5
#40 Paris, Texas (1984) — Blindspot #6
#41 The Flying Deuces (1939) — DVD #3
#42 Apollo 10½: A Space Age Childhood (2022) — New Film #6
#43 My Name Is Julia Ross (1945) — Genre #2

  • I watched 12 feature films I’d never seen before in June.
  • Six of them counted towards my 100 Films in a Year Challenge, along with two rewatches.
  • Wait, two rewatches? Yep, because I’ve deployed my second wildcard of the year to count Scream as a second rewatch for June. That means I can’t count two rewatches in a single month again this year; but, as it marks the beginning of a rewatch of the Scream series, it does open up the rest of those films to counting under Series Progression. Nifty.
  • Genre was the only category I hadn’t started when June began. Escape in the Fog changed that, meaning all 11 categories are officially underway — and all still ‘in play’, with none completed — as I reach the halfway point.
  • This month’s Blindspot film was Wim Wenders’ Paris, Texas, starring Harry Dean Stanton as a dad trying to bond with his kid.
  • This month’s WDYMYHS film was the John Hughes-penned Pretty in Pink, co-starring Harry Dean Stanton as a dad who’s really good with his kid. I remain one behind here, but there’s still plenty of time to catch that up.
  • From last month’s “failures” I only watched The Contender.
  • I also watched a short film this month — my first this year! I often feel like I should watch more shorts, especially as I own hundreds on disc (a handful of dedicated collections, and then loads included as special features here and there). Maybe I should make it some sort of official goal. 100 Short Films in a Year? Sounds doable — but in addition to what I already aim for? Maybe not.

As I was saying, now that we’re halfway through the year, here’s how things are shaping up overall…

  • I should be at #49 now (not #50, thanks to the first six months of the year being slightly shorter than the second six). Although I’m short of that, at least I’m not a whole month’s worth short (the target for the end of May is #41), so that’s something. Nonetheless, I need to push a bit harder for the rest of the year: the monthly average to reach 100 in 12 months exactly is 8.3 films per month, but for the rest of the year I need it to be 9.5.
  • As a point of comparison, so far this year I’ve averaged 7.2 Challenge films per month, so it’s a bit of a step up.
  • But I’ve averaged 10.5 films per month overall, so if I just make more of them Challenge-compliant going forward then I should be fine.
  • Were I still doing my old-style 100 Films Challenge (just watching any new-to-me 100 films in a year), I’d currently be at #63 — which would be my poorest performance at this point since 2014.
  • All of which sounds fine and dandy, until you remember this: I typically watch fewer films in the back half of the year.
  • That’s not just a casual observation: I have numbers on this. For example, I can tell you that, out of 15 years of running this blog, I did actually watch more films in the back half of the year five times. And on a further three occasions, the second half was within 10% of the first half’s tally. So, it’s not as if the two halves are often wildly different. Which is funny, when you think about it, considering my overall annual tallies can be so very different — historically, anywhere from 94 to 264 films in a year.
  • Anyway, what do the stats foretell for this year? Based on my all-time average first-half-to-second-half ratio, I would watch 122 films this year. Narrowing that to just the last five years, I would make it to 108. And if we look at just years where I’d made comparable progress by the end of June — which happen to be 2010 to 2014, when I’d reached between #55 to #64 by this point — they too reckon I’d make it to 122.
  • Which is all well and good for my old target, but what about the New 100 Films Challenge? Well, so far my ratio of new films to films that count is roughly 1.47:1. If that holds, then watching 122 new films would mean I watch only 83 that count towards my Challenge. So, as I said earlier, I need to up the number of compliant films. Or, of course, just watch more films.
  • As to that final point, the last time I watched more films in the second half of the year than the first was in 2015, driven by pushing myself to make it to #200. But such a goal isn’t always necessary: in 2014, I did an even greater percentage of my viewing in the back half, but only to make it to #136. And goals aren’t a guarantee of anything: in 2016, I watched more in the first half of the year than I had in 2015, but so much less in the second half that I only made it to #195.

All of which goes to prove one thing: when it comes to my film watching, statistics may be fun, but they’re useless at predicting the future.

The 85th Monthly Arbitrary Awards

Favourite Film of the Month
Quite a few more-than-solid films this month, but the one that comes closest to jumping out at me is also one I’ve been meaning to see ever since it came out, 12 years ago now. That would be political thriller The Ghost Writer (originally released as The Ghost here in the UK, but now under its international title on Netflix). Why does it sometimes take me so damn long to get round to things I was actually quite keen to watch? Goodness only knows. And it’s things like this — where, as I expected, I enjoy them a lot — that prove I shouldn’t let such delays happen.

Least Favourite Film of the Month
Apologies to any Laurel and Hardy fans reading this, but my first real experience of their work didn’t really make me laugh, and a comedy that doesn’t make you laugh isn’t much of a success, so The Flying Deuces takes this (dis)honour.

Most Timely Viewing of the Month
Here in the UK, we got a bonus Bank Holiday if June, to celebrate Queenie’s Platinum Jubilee… and, on the first of them, I watched the fairly-obscure (I’d certainly never heard of it before) 1938 film Bank Holiday. The film and modern real-life event aren’t really connected in any way (no Jubilee going on in the film), but hey-ho.

Best Accent of the Month
Accents in films are a funny business. Sometimes, people don’t even bother: witness My Name Is Julia Ross, a Hollywood production set entirely in London and Cornwall, where half the cast don’t even bother to attempt English accents. Sometimes, you wonder if people needed to: take The Ghost Writer, where it feels like everyone’s doing one accent or another, be it Scots and Americans doing English, or Brits doing American. And then there’s films that are a wonder unto themselves, like House of Gucci, where the entirely-English-speaking cast are doing ‘Italian’ as if they’re in a Dolmio advert. “I cooka da pasta” indeed.

The Audience Award for Most-Viewed New Post of the Month
For the second month in a row, my monthly failures roundup — namely, May’s Failures — has topped the chart. I say “topped”: it was the highest new post, but 29th overall. I guess my new reviews just haven’t been that interesting. (My ‘mistake’ has been stopping TV reviews: 24 of the 28 posts above May’s Failures were old TV columns.)

Every review posted this month, including new titles and the Archive 5

Y’know, I still haven’t been to the cinema yet this year. I keep meaning to see Top Gun: Maverick, but things keep getting in the way. But, as of today, my local cinema have put it back on to their biggest screen for the weekend, so maybe I’ll finally pull my finger out and get there in the next couple of days.

As for the rest of the month… oh, who knows!