Each year I like to single out not only the best new films and TV shows I saw in the year, but the best new discoveries from the full spectrum of film and TV history. If I’m seeing something for the first time, no matter how long ago it was produced, then—guess what?—it’s a new movie. This is the first time I’ve done this for my blog. (And where else are you going to find a Best-of list that includes both Ozu and Pokémon?)
Partly because I retired this year, I made more trips to movie theaters this year than I have in a single year since 2004. I made 31 trips to theaters in 2015 and saw 33 movies. 18 were U.S. productions, eight were from Japan, six from the U.K., three from China, and two from Hong Kong. 24 were new releases dating from 2014 or 2015. 17 were indies and six were documentaries (the most I’ve seen in one year on the big screen in a few decades). Ten were revival/repertory screenings. Only six were major studio Hollywood releases. It helped that I’m now eligible for senior citizen discounts at some theaters. ($8 at the Paris!)
Back in 2010, I participated in DVD Talk’s December Holiday Challenge, which propelled me to go through my collection and dig out Christmas-themed movies and TV episodes from all sorts of places. I was especially curious to locate Christmas-themed anime episodes and found quite a few. Here’s what I wrote at the time:
What’s been particularly gratifying about this challenge for me is the chance it gives me to go through my anime collection and find Christmas-themed films and TV episodes. I’ve screened 17 so far, from TOKYO GODFATHERS and Pokémon to episodes of “Little Women” and “The Trapp Family Singers.” The oldest so far is from 1981 and the newest is from 2003. The funniest is the “Urusei Yatsura” episode, “The House of Mendou – Summer X’mas,” where Ataru, Lum and the entire cast are motivated to climb this giant Christmas tree in Mendou’s massive mansion by specific rewards waiting at the top. The most unusual was “Mahoromatic Automatic Maiden,” which is about a high-tech female combat android who’s retired from active duty and serves as a maid to an orphaned high school boy, much to the jealous ire of his friends at school. (Kind of like Ataru and Lum in “Urusei Yatsura,” only the combat android is much nicer.)
The biggest challenge was watching the “Trapp Family” episodes in Japanese with no subtitles. I only figured out they had Christmas in them from pictures on the VHS case. They sing a number of familiar Christmas carols in Japanese, though. That was nice.
Frank Sinatra would have turned 100 today, December 12, 2015. He died at the age of 82 in 1998. For at least the last 55 years of his life, he was an iconic figure in American show business, starting out in the early 1940s as a “crooner” who sang popular tunes with big bands for audiences of wildly enthused teenage girls known as “bobby-soxers.” He starred in film musicals, but branched out in his 30s to dramatic roles (MIRACLE OF THE BELLS) and, after a career slump in the early 1950s, made a remarkable comeback in FROM HERE TO ETERNITY, playing the role of Maggio, a defiant, ill-fated young soldier in the days before Pearl Harbor, and winning an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor, launching a film career with renewed vigor that turned him into one of the biggest movie stars in the country in the 1950s and ’60s. During all this time, he made a series of best-selling record albums and cemented his reputation as one of the finest American singers of the 20th century, continually challenging himself and trying new things. His private life kept the gossip columns busy as his love life went through ups and downs and he became renowned for wild antics with a group of show biz buddies known as the Rat Pack, who hung out with him, performed with him and made movies with him. Long after he phased out his movie career, he continued making Top Ten recordings and performing live all over the country and the world.
In a recent Sunday New York Times Magazine article on women directors in Hollywood (“Waiting for the Green Light,” November 22, 2015), Maureen Dowd discusses the difficulties women directors have in getting hired by the major studios and manages to interview an impressive range of women film and TV industry personnel, including directors, writers, producers, show runners and studio executives. It covers quite a bit of ground and should be read by anyone interested in the state of the industry today. Here’s the link:
I had questions about some of the assumptions made in the article, but my intention is not to dispute them but to simply examine them from a different perspective.