DAILY FILM DOSE: A Daily Film Appreciation and Review Blog: 2016

Wednesday, 28 December 2016

Best of 2016

This year's Best of List includes familiar awards contenders, such as Moonlight and Manchester By the Sea, strange head scratchers such as Neighbors 2 and criminally unrepresented pictures such as Terence Davies' Sunset Song and Operation Avalanche.  Unfortunately I couldn't lift one or more of these out of the pack to formulate a true 1-to-10 list of top films in descending order, so here they are alphabetically.

AGE OF SHADOWS (dir. Kim Jee Woon)

Kim Jee Woon (I Saw the Devil) directs this Untouchables/Inglorious Basterds-like spy thriller with the highest level of execution. Set in 1920’s Korea, at the time of Japanese occupation, the allegiance of a Korean officer, working for the Japanese is put to the test when he’s tempted by the resistance movement. Astonishing set pieces executed with high production value (and some of South Korea’s biggest stars) meet the bar of Brian De Palma, Steven Spielberg and Quentin Tarantino.

GREEN ROOM (dir. Jeremy Saulnier)

After Blue Ruin, Green Room serves as the second half of an awesome one-two punch. As with the Blue Ruin Jeremy Saulnier constructs a terrifying predicament for his heroes, and orchestrates an intense adventure of escape within his pre-constructed scenario. In Blue Ruin it was the quid-pro-quo acts of revenge against two warring families, here it’s the more intimate and constrained scenario of a punk band under siege in a neo-nazi compound. Saulnier’s innate feel of realism puts the audience effectively in the moment-to-moment thrills of the characters.

JACKIE (dir. Pablo Lorrain)

The thrill of this picture is the unconventional stylistic take on a what probably seemed on paper a conventional script. As written by Noah Oppenheimer, the story of Jackie, tells like procedural events of Jackie Kennedy in the days after the JFK assassination. Some non-linear segments, flashforwards and flashbacks can give the appearance of an unconventional film, but everything we would need to see from this period of time we do see. For this reason, the film is thoroughly satisfying. But it’s Pablo Lorrain’s vision which elevates the material into something more than a good script. Lorrain’s work in recreating period detail and merging different media and archival footage elegantly in the Oscar nominated film No is applied directly to Jackie. The visual and auditory design of the film is stunning and transports the audience to 1963 with ease and grace.

LA LA LAND (dir. Damien Chazelle)

The familiar is made fresh from the hot Damien (Whiplash) Chazelle. The thrill of Whiplash was Chazelle’s claustrophobic intensity and laser-specific focus into the mind of his artist-alter ego. La La Land is the largest canvas he could possibly play on. Treading in the musical genre taking place over several years, against the backdrop of Hollywood, the music industry, and Los Angeles the city of dreams. The familiar ground is the artistic pressure of the Hollywood lifestyle. All About Eve, or A Star is Born seem more appropriate comparables than the traditional Hollywood musical. The anchor of the picture isn’t necessarily the musical set pieces, which admittedly still don’t ever match up to the best of Hollywood’s past. Gosling and Stone try their best, but they are no Rogers/Astaire, Garland/Rooney or Kelly/Caron. The picture succeeds because of the agonizing frustration which results from the strain on their idealized relationship and resonates on a level rarely achieved even by the best of Hollywood musical standards.

MANCHESTER BY THE SEA (dir. Kenneth Lonergan)

Tragic and devastating. Kenneth Lonergan’s original script, directed with working class humble honesty, puts his ordinary characters through the ringer. Weirdo Casey Affleck is perfectly cast as the unlikeable and reluctant social misfit forced into become surrogate father to his nephew, and in the process is forced to reconcile his own tragedies of his past. The heavy loaded drama admirably mixes in disarming comedy resulting in a perfect concoction of palatable tragedy.

MOONLIGHT (dir. Barry Jenkins)

Barry Jenkins’ already massively-celebrated impressionistic memoir of his own youth is as graceful and moving as proclaimed by most critics. Jenkins eschews narrative convention at the same time retooling familiar elements of coming age stories. Jenkins’ hero Chiron grows up in Miami amidst the temptation of drug lifestyle and frustrated by his mom’s own crack habit. An unlikely mentor arises in a drug dealer to become his surrogate father. The evolution of character from child to youth to adult immediate recalls Boyhood. The gentle approach to the often grim subject sparkles with inspiration and innovation in every frame, even when the Jenkins is forced to rely on those familiar coming of age tropes.

NEIGHBORS 2 (dir. Nicholas Stoller)

This delirious and inspired sequel to the 2014 hit film enriches the beautifully conceived characters of the first film. Seth Rogan and company already had perfect comedic concept to work with in the first film – an anxious couple with a new baby moves into a new house only to discover their neighbour is a raucous frat house. Here, the same characters are back, except the frat house is a sorority helmed by a trio of misfit students eager to create the same kind of college experience as their male counterparts. The chemistry of Seth Rogan and Rose Byrne carries through in this sequel, same with the valuable b-player presence of Ike Baronholtz and Carlo Gallo as their dufus best friends. The trio of Chloe Grace Moretz, Kersey Clemons and Beanie Feldstein make admirable comic adversaries, but this picture is Zac Efron’s whose comic chops blossom like never before.


Matt Johnson’s scrappy fake moon landing movie bristles with low budget ingenuity. While the production tales of the filmmakers sneaking into the real NASA to film segments of the film under their own noses tends to lead the discussion of the picture, the film is an impressively complex arrangement of thriller-genre elements, deceptively clever character development and truly awesome combination of reenacted period detail and archival footage.

THE RED TURTLE (dir. Michael Dudok de Wit)

The story of a shipwrecked man on an South Pacific deserted island and the strange but life affirming relationships he forges while on the island. This French/Belgian Studio Ghibli-influenced animated weeper submits itself to the constraint of having no dialogue. The film elegantly lifts itself from the self-conscious to something magical and enchanting, however desperately the filmmakers strive for this effect. You have to give to the filmmaker for effective pulling the heartstrings of the audience so effortlessly.

SUNSET SONG (dir. Terence Davis)

The release of a Terence Davies film nowadays has the same of privileged anticipation we used to get from Terrence Malick. Despite claims in the media of Davies as the great living British filmmaker, he’s relatively unknown, even within cineaste circles. Sunset Song is Davies’ biggest film, based on the revered Scottish novel by Cedric Gibbons which depicted the 20 year journey of a lowly farm girl making a life for itself amid the hardships of rural working class life. For those familiar with the Davies-style, all the visual and narrative hallmarks of the master are in play and elevated to mythic cinematic heights. Comparisons to the work of John Ford are front and centre, but it’s no doubt a gorgeous Terence Davies picture furthering the already impressive body of work of the master.

Honourable mentions:

It was tough to exclude Hell or High Water, a crackjack heist thriller which deceptively turns into a thought-provoking and tragic family drama. Tom Ford’s Nocturnal Animals was a loony thriller playing in the David Lynch world of visceral violence and eccentric quirky humour. Richard Linklater’s Everybody Wants Some, deceptively proclaimed to be a spiritual sequel to Dazed and Confused only to reveal itself another type of metaphysical slacker comedy without a beginning, middle, or end. The morbid curiosity surrounding the story of Christine Chubbock, who committed suicide on camera in the 1970’s was enough to make Antonio Campos’ intense biopic Christine a guilty pleasure. Although barely released theatrically Karyn Kusuma’s The Invitation was an invigorating nail biting chamber drama. Clint Eastwood’s Sully, honoring the humble working class nature of the hero of the Miracle on the Hudson, was effective in its own clinical modesty. Xavier Dolan’s It’s Only the End of the World adds even more flare to his already impressive filmography of stylish suburban shouting matches. And the new franchise starter, Fantastic Beasts and Where To Find Them was surprisingly effective at transplanting the style, tone and thrill of the HP universe to 1920's New York.

Tuesday, 20 December 2016

Akira Kurosawa's Dreams

'Dreams' is pure cinema, an intoxicating assembly of images, sound and thought-provoking existentialism that only cinema can provide. Kurosawa’s confidence in his ability to hold the audience’s attention through a series of narratively disconnected and peculiar episodes is remarkable.

Friday, 2 December 2016

Short Cuts

Robert Altman’s deliriously-intricate LA mosaic is just about the last word in ensemble film. With effortless style, Altman’s observational approach to the collection of Raymond Carver writings used to inspire this film creates a uniquely disarming melodrama which starts out as a light satirical farce, then sharply turning into dead serious emotional powerhouse.

Friday, 18 November 2016

McCabe and Mrs. Miller

For those new to 'McCabe and Mrs. Miller' it can be hard to relate to its reputation as the anti-Western that shook up the genre. Today, a non-traditional film like this would be common place, but in 1971, at the beginnings of the New Hollywood movement Altman’s shaggy Hippie Western was as strange an anomaly as could be.

Wednesday, 2 November 2016


The humble workmanlike nature of pilot Chesley ‘Sully’ Sullenberger who flew the Miracle on the Hudson plane into the Hudson River in Jan 2009 sets the tone for Clint Eastwood’s no frills dissection of the events following the famed event. There’s no doubt this is a film about a hero, but Eastwood’s emotionally-detached approach plays against heighten state of action which belies other recent conservative-value hero films of late ('Deepwater Horizon', 'Captain Phillips', 'Lone Survivor', or even his own 'American Sniper'). 'Sully' is the best of these pictures.

Thursday, 27 October 2016


A horror film of a completely different kind, Rebecca Hall is mesmerizing in Antonio Campos’ sobering cinematic rendering of the true story or Christine Chubbock, a Sarasota FL news reporter who committed suicide on air in 1974. Campos lets the audience’s own morbid curiosity and fascination with death and violence create the unique and extremely uncomfortable psychological journey.

Tuesday, 25 October 2016

The Story of the Last Chrysanthemum

Often regarded as revered Japanese master Kenji Mizoguchi’s first masterpiece, this pre-war picture personifies the poetic elegance of the ‘Mizoguchi-style’. An epic/tragic romance of a struggling actor and his supportive lover, Mizuguchi crafts a melodramatic love affair strained by the pressures of finance, class, family expectations and the demands of artistic life.

Friday, 7 October 2016

A Taste of Honey

One of the seminal British kitchen sink dramas of the 60’s, A Taste of Honey, resounds today on the strength of Rita Tushingham’s delightful screen debut and author Shelagh Delany’s taboo-confronting script which looks at interracial romance, homosexuality and teen pregnancy with delicate earthy realism.

Thursday, 22 September 2016

Night Train to Munich

Carol Reed’s WWII espionage pot boiler confidently stands as tall as any of the celebrated Hitchcock war thrillers of the era. While this picture predates his more acclaimed post war pictures, The Third Man and Odd Man Out, it sizzles with the same kind of high stakes urgency.

Wednesday, 31 August 2016

Woman in the Dunes

'Woman in the Dunes', the third film from Japanese provocateur Hiroshi Teshigahara, is an indefinable film for genre and full of glorious Japanese strangeness, a captivating two-hander about a man imprisoned in a sand dune with a woman with no means of escape. Both a thriller, and meditative art film -  "Knife in the Water" meets "L'Avventura"- the film also has the distinction of receiving a Best Director Oscar nomination – then a rare feat for a foreign language film.

Thursday, 21 July 2016

Night and Fog

Despite numerous other documentaries on the subject, as a masterwork of craft and technique, Alain Renais’ landmark Night and Fog still evokes the mind-boggling obscenity of the Holocaust with maximum impact. Renais forces us to witness the horror and digest those horrible images which, once seen, never leave one’s mind. While the breadth of Claude Lanzmann’s work is missing from Night and Fog, Renais’ vision in documenting the Holocaust is close to being the first and final word on the subject.

Monday, 20 June 2016

Here Comes Mr. Jordan

Alexander Hall’s thoroughly delightful ‘heavenly’ comedy, a Capra-esque tale of a deceased boxer who’s given a second chance at life by his angel/mentor Mr. Jordan by being able to inhabit the bodies of other recently deceased persons, is perhaps most famous for its notable remake as Warren Beatty’s ‘Heaven Can Wait’. But as produced under the studio system (Columbia), Mr. Jordan represents that unmistakable pre-war Hollywood magical combination of swift screwball comedy, dry black humour and high concept fantasy.

Wednesday, 1 June 2016

The Naked Island

Two lowly Japanese farmers repetitively climbing an intense incline slope from the seaside shore to the top of a mountain to water their measly crops is the signature image of Kaneto Shindô’s social realist experimental film. Shindô observes his characters' backbreaking work with the same kind of salt of the earth honour as in the Soviet propaganda films if the 1920’s. Shindô’s cinematic eye triumphs over his self-imposed dialogue-free obstruction to achieve a woefully tragic slice of Japanese peasant life.

Wednesday, 11 May 2016

In a Lonely Place

As a Hollywood screenwriter burdened with a hair trigger temper and seemingly psychopathic predilection to violence, Humphrey Bogart delivers one of his great late-career performances. 'In a Lonely Place' marries the mysterious tension of the unknown in Hitchcock’s 'Suspicion' and 'Shadow of Doubt' with director Nicholas Ray’s interest in brooding and damaged enigmatic characters.

Thursday, 21 April 2016

Strike up the Band

Mickey Rooney is an electrifying dynamo in this foot-tapping, often astonishing musical which helps cement for me why the pre-war period was the absolute creative peak of Hollywood. This Rooney/Garland vehicle, the second of many musical pairings charts the journey of the young teenage pair to make something of their fledgling big band. The magic of the Busby Berkeley choreography matched with Rooney’s electrifying performance, as singer/dancer/actor /musician and Judy Garland’s youthful energy gives this film a pulse rarely seen in movies today.

Wednesday, 13 April 2016

Only Angels Have Wings

The exotic lands of South America provide the location for one of the big adventure films of Hollywood’s most famous year (1939). Cary Grant as an adventure-seeking enigmatic airline pilot running mail into dangerous regions of an unnamed town in the Andes established his Hollywood star status as a true leading man, game for comedy, romance and adventure. Howard Hawks’ recurring themes of male comraderie and his knack for wordy rhythmic dialogue elevate this straight-ahead actioner into something memorable and resonant.

Wednesday, 30 March 2016

Over the Edge

A sublime time capsule of the era, Over the Edge, exists as a rarely-seen cult classic, plugging nihilistic punk-like anger into the conventions of a teen rebel movie. Based on an actual incident in which the teenagers of a dreary Midwestern town unite and use anarchic violence to take over their school, director Jonathan Kaplan and his team create an angst-fueled ride of adolescent rebellion. The soundtrack featuring Cheap Trick, The Ramones, Van Halen and the Cars, exemplifies the pitch perfect American suburban flavor of this film.

Friday, 18 March 2016


What a strange and wonderful picture, a thrilling remake of Clouzot’s Wages of Fear, made with the documentary-like realism which embodied most of Friedkin’s films. At a cost of nearly $22m of 1977 dollars, Sorcerer exemplifies the hubris of those celebrated 70’s mavricks who at the beginning of the decade shook up the studio system with the New Hollywood movement then through a series of expensive flops saw the end of the progressive scene at the onset of the 1980’s. Sorcerer survives magnificently over time as one of Friedkin’s best films, now revered by cineastes around.

Monday, 7 March 2016

Southern Comfort

Walter Hill’s Cajun siege picture, for a long time barely registering on the cultural radar, for cinephiles now sits nicely in the highly influential late 70’s-early 80’s period of Hill’s filmography. At once a retelling of the wolfpack themed pictures Hill nearly perfected around this time ('Alien', 'The Warriors', 'The Long Riders'), but also sharp allegory to American foreign policy, 'Southern Comfort', like all of Hill’s films resonates on multiple levels – historical and social commentary, cinematic legacy and a good old fashioned movie thrills.

Thursday, 25 February 2016


Sweetie, the title character of Jane Campion’s idiosyncratic and typically Aussie -quirky first feature, is the house guest from hell, the firebrand bi-polar sister of Kay who shows up unwanted at Kay and her boyfriend's door thus disrupting her attempt at a regular life of independence from her thoroughly messed up family.  Strange but inspired, Sweetie admirably showed the signs of a director with a unique voice and laid the thematic sign posts for Campion's future works.

Friday, 19 February 2016


It’s impossible not to watch a Michael Mann film these days without the context of his previous work in mind. Because virtually each and every one of Mann’s films connect so intimately with one another in theme, character and tone. Blackhat is no exception, a crackerjack procedure crime picture about a different kind of thief, tracking a different kind of criminal essentially retelling the cat and mouse chase antics of obsessive cops and robbers on ultra-grey sides of good and evil as in Mann’s previous films.

Friday, 12 February 2016

The Gold Rush

The second of Chaplin’s feature films (after 1921’s 'The Kid') loses nothing over time, easily gliding past all technical innovations (sound, colour, widescreen, 3D). And with Chaplin’s natural gifts as a filmmaker and performer, he crafts a hilarious adventure epic with heartbreaking emotional sentimentality.

Tuesday, 2 February 2016

The Hunger

Overwhelmingly beautiful but cold, Tony Scott’s The Hunger, once dismissed back in the day, now resounds as a seminal film of the vampire genre. Consciously aloof, Scott seemed to be striving for what Ridley Scott strove for in his early days, expressive, moody and supremely visual tone pieces. For better or worse Scott would never make a film this again, quickly moving into the Bruckheimer brand of cinema.

Friday, 29 January 2016

52 Pick Up

This underseen Elmore Leonard-penned project about a prominent LA industrialist blackmailed for his infidelity cruises through the seedy LA crime underworld in the same way Chinatown and other LA-based noir films before it. But as a time capsule of the decade, for better or worse, it’s also burdened with the vulgarities of 1980’s cinema.

Wednesday, 13 January 2016

The Revenant

Perhaps more admirable and commendable than moving or masterful, the large scale frontier adventure tale visualized with eye-popping wide angle realism doesn't quite to add up to something greater than the sum of its parts. This is the power of that indescribable piece of storytelling/cinematic magic which when missing can make even the boldest, visionary works of art feel strangely inert.

Friday, 8 January 2016

Elvis on Tour

You don't have to be an Elvis fan to be thrilled by this treasure of a documentary depicting the elder Elvis, in the twilight of his career - the jumpsuit, the rhinestone belts, the rings, the cape, the sideburns, and the choral grandiosity of his performances - revving it up on the quintessential road trip rock doc.

Tuesday, 5 January 2016

Best of 2015

IT FOLLOWS (dir. David Robert Mitchell)

David Robert Mitchell’s exercise in horror minimalism masterfully pulls off the best retro movie experience of the year. Much like the resurrection of Mad Max, and 70’s era Star Wars Mitchell deviously recreates the terror of the 70’s/80’s silent stalker character. Mitchell takes inspiration from the hypnotic Yul Bynner/Richard Benjamin walking foot chase in Westworld, Michael Myers' terrifying stalking of Jamie Lee Curtis in Halloween I and II and relentless onslaught of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s 1984 Terminator. Mitchell’s premise is deceptively simple and with nil backstory, his ghostly baddie simply exists without question. If Mitchell painted film with just this brush he’d still have a terrifying picture, but what elevates the film is his pitch perfect depiction of the millennial malaise. Mitchell manages to make the relationships of the four central youngsters as compelling as the genre components. Mitchell’s application of the melancholy tone from the his previous picture Myth of the American Sleepover to his ironclad horror premise is a sublime cinematic marriage.