Friday, December 30, 2011

Hits & Misses from KFP's First Year

Since making lists is an internet tradition, here is KFP's first - My own listing of the movies I rated highest this year, and the real stinkers.  These are in no particular order so don't assume they're ranked - In fact, just see all of them if you get the chance.

The Best

1.  Come to the Stable - A forgotten, out of print film from 1949 that's one of the best Christmas movies you could ever want to see.  The plot description is, "Two nuns come to the US to build a children's hospital"...and yet it's not hokey, which is a minor miracle unto itself.

2.  Black Christmas - From the sublime to the insane, Bob Clark's 1974 holiday horror masterpiece about a madman killing sorority girls over Christmas break.  Slasher films don't get any better than this.

3.  Joulutarina - A Finnish film that tells the real story of Santa Claus... Thinks Lord of the Rings visuals meets Batman Begins character-building and you start to scratch the surface of this quirky tale of homeless young Nicholas and his curious tradition of gift giving.

4.  Midnight Clear - A low budget indie film about five residents of a small town facing despair and suicide on Christmas eve.  Its best accomplishment is in showing the characters finding hope through random encounters with each other, without descending into cheese.

5.  The Haunting - This 1963 original is the greatest haunted house film ever made, in my opinion.  Hill House had stood for 90 years and might stand for 90 more, and whatever walked there, walked alone.

6.  The Woman in Black - A 1989 spooky British ghost story that's a fave among those of us who love our horror movies tilted toward the creepy.  Watch out for The Scene.

7.  Hausu - This 70's Japanese haunted house film is the closest you'll get to an LSD trip without the drug in question... Colorful, surreal, bizarre, original, and literally like nothing you've ever seen.  This is what you'd get if you put The Partridge Family and The Evil Dead into a blender.

8.  The Ellery Queen TV Series - This 70's mystery series has yet to be topped as a puzzle-solving experiment in interactive TV, in my opinion.  Watch along with Ellery and see if you can spot the clues and solve the case before he does.

9.  Triangle - This one slipped through the cracks for a lot of people, but it was one of the best surprises of the year.  What starts off as a generic slasher film on an ocean liner soon becomes a brain-bending Moebius strip narrative and a great mental exercise.

10.  The Gamers:  Dorkness Rising - Not a lot of comedies on my list, but this was one of the funniest things I've seen in a long time... Providing, of course, that you have a solid background in fantasy role playing games, because otherwise you'll be one lost puppy.  Stick it out through the first 10-15 minutes and you'll LOL for the rest of the evening.

11.  Dial M for Murder - A 50's Hitchcock thriller that will keep you on the edge of your seat and then some, and all without anyone dodging gunfire in bullet time.

12.  The Eclipse - I think this was the only film I saw all year that I gave a 10/10 review, though I'll readily acknowledge that it's going to be too quiet and too contemplative for a lot of viewers.  It's a strange mix of genres - Art film, drama, romance, and ghost story.

13.  God Grew Tired of Us  - The only documentary in this list is the harrowing and inspiring story of African refugees coming to live in the US, and their experiences here.  It's an eye-opening look at our own culture and advantages from outside, as seen through the eyes of people who have never had a toilet or a mattress before.

The Wretched

1.  Holiday in Handcuffs/The Santa Trap/Christmas with a Capital C - All three of these were horrifyingly bad, but Christmas with a Capital C is the standout for its eye-popping display of preachiness and in-your-face angry religious people.  This is supposed to convert people to their cause?

2.  The Christmas Box - Hands down, the most venomous review I've written all year, and it deserves every word of it and more.  This movie is like that block of holiday fruitcake you find in the back of your cabinet... from 1999.  Don't even go near it, just pick it up with tongs and flush.

3.  Alone in the Dark - This poor, poor movie...  Beating on it is like beating on Twilight at this point, but it's still startlingly bad, and its one saving grace is the sheer joy of making fun of it.  In that sense, it's a positive triumph compared to the previous two.