The Best or Most Interesting Movies First Watched in 2013

Movies
For the last few years I’ve done this list of the best movies that I watched for the first time during the calendar year, not movies that came out in the calendar year. (2012 list) (2011 list) In fact, this year I don’t think I saw anything that came out in the theaters. I’ve been keeping track of the movies I watch on Letterboxd where you can keep track of what I watch also! The Netflix links are mostly disc.

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99 River Street (1953) Noir tale much better than I expected! Economical storytelling at it’s best with plenty of tension. A failed boxer is driving a taxi to make ends meet while his wife who wants furs and diamonds is cheating on him with a thief. The thief has some diamonds that several people want. Things go south and she is killed and the cab driver is framed for it. He must try to find the guilty party before he winds up in jail. Amazon Netflix

Marlowe

Marlowe (1969) James Garner getting ready for his role in Rockford. But, this is not a longer Rockford episode, it’s very much a Phillip Marlowe. Actually, if you’ve read the books, Garner’s portrayal of private eye Philip Marlowe is pretty spot-on, possibly the closest to the book. And Bruce Lee tears apart his office in a most impressive manner. Amazon Not on Netflix.

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The Wanderers (1979) Started out without much focus and very episodic. About 1/3 into it I had to go somewhere and almost sent it back without finishing it. Boy am I glad I didn’t, the last 1/3 packs an emotional wallop that most of the first 2/3 set up. Amazon Netflix

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Now, Voyager (1942) Wow, this is what a melodrama is supposed to be! A very moving portrait of a woman becoming her own because of love. A love that can’t continue because he’s married. Wow. Amazon Netflix

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Drums Along the Mohawk (1939) John Ford directed. I was surprised this was in color with the early date! Same year as Gone with the Wind. And it’s beautiful. Henry Fonda is a farming pioneer during the American Revolutionary War. Lots of major battle scenes with Indians and Tories. Indians were on both sides, but the overwhelming numbers were always on the other side in this film. There’s one stunning red sunset/sunrise that rivals the one in Dances with Wolves. What really made this movie was Edna May Oliver as the pragmatic Mrs. McKlennar. She was a treat. Amazon Netflix

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The Prisoner of Zenda (1937) This came on a disc with the 1952 version also. The 1937 version is much better cast. Stewart Granger in the 1952 was good, but the rest of the cast couldn’t compare with the 1937 cast. A fun adventure movie for those who love these old adventure flicks. Amazon Netflix

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Thief (1981) James Caan, Michael Mann, Tangerine Dream, 1981, what more do you need? How about James Belushi, Denis Farina, Robert Prosky, and Willie Nelson? Caan is a hard-as-nails high-end thief with anger issues who gets mixed up in the mob for what he thinks will be one last big score and he can quit and get his dream of a wife, house, kids, etc. The mob doesn’t want to let such a skilled guy go, but they don’t count on Caan’s impulsive, self-destructive nature. Amazon Netflix

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The Passion of Joan of Arc (1928) Five stars and two thumbs up! This is a silent film, but don’t let that fool you into thinking you won’t connect with it. Very powerful and moving and Maria Falconetti’s only screen appearance will knock you out. Amazon Netflix

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Witness to Murder (1954) Barbara Stanwyck and George Sanders. Stanwyck is convinced she saw Sanders kill a woman across the road through his apartment window. She tells the police, but he’s covered it so well, it begins to look like she is crazy or stalking him. She might have dropped it thinking she didnt’ see what she saw, but he’s a sociopath and won’t let it drop. Plenty of tension in this quick B-noir. Not at Amazon Netflix Instant

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If You Could Only Cook (1935) Jean Arthur and Herbert Marshall in this amusing tale that could only be told in the Depression. Marshall quits as CEO of his own car company and sits on a park bench with unemployed Arthur. She’s reading the want ads and assumes he’s in need of a job also. She reads about a married couple wanted as cook and chauffeur and proposes that they pose as a married couple to get the job. He thinks she’s cute so he agrees. A cute tale. Amazon Netflix

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The Day of the Jackal (1973) Slow and methodical movie about an assassination attempt on French President de Gaulle in the early 1960s. We follow both the preparations of the assassin, and the government intelligence trying to discover who and where he is. I liked it a lot, but it was a bit long at 2 hours 22 minutes. Anyone attempting the movie should be aware it is slowly paced like many early 1970s films. Fred Zinnemann of High Noon and A Man for All Seasons directs. Amazon Amazon Instant Netflix

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The Apartment (1960) Billy Wilder directs Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine to brilliance. Fantastic script, beautifully shot, amazing acting, just a joy. At first I was a little put-off by the blatant immorality of that many guys so guiltlessly cheating on their wives, but the story that came out of it is really touching. Very funny, very poignant. Amazon Amazon Instant Netflix

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My Gun is Quick (1957) Practically the first words out of Mike Hammer’s mouth are “Shut up chick!” so that’s a great start right there. Robert Bray as Mike Hammer looks the part with his rugged good looks. The dialog swings between really sharp and very pedestrian. I assume the witty stuff comes from the Micky Spillane book. Lots of good-looking 1950s dames showing lots of leg. Not too bad for a B-noir time-killer. Amazon Netflix Instant

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The Mask of Dimitrios (1944) Pretty interesting story that puts together Sydney Greenstreet and Peter Lorre. Lorre plays it straight as a crime writer who finds out about a dead criminal named Dimitrios. Along the way Lorre meets Sydney Greenstreet, who was an associate of Dimitrios, and thinks he knows a way for them both make some money out of the deal, but he keeps putting off the details. Greenstreet plays almost exactly the same character he played in The Maltese Falcon, which is alright by me. I prefer Lorre when he has more menace, he’s pretty mild here. But certainly recommended for fans of Lorre and Greenstreet. Amazon Not on Netflix

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Ffolkes (1980) Roger Moore plays Ffolkes, an anti-social egotist who leads a paramilitary group. Anthony Perkins also has a group that has taken over some oil wells in the North Sea, each with several hundred people on them. He wants 25 million British pounds or he’ll blow them up. The ending action was tense and well done. Director Andrew V. McLaglen doesn’t get much auteurist love, but he was a competent action film director, especially men-on-a-mission type films. Amazon Netflix Instant or disc

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The Conversation (1974) Gene Hackman is one phenomenal actor. Francis Ford Coppola was in his prime. Slow, but wonderful. Amazon Netflix Instant
The Lives of Others (2006) Devastating. I thank God I don’t live in a police state. My original plan was to watch The Conversation one night and this one the next. That didn’t work out, but I watched them with in a few weeks of each other. Very different, but both show the enormous cost of listening in on other people’s lives. The moral is, MIND YOUR OWN BUSINESS! Amazon Netflix

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Miami Connection (1987) Miami Connection is proof that you don’t need actors, dialog, or a budget to make an entertaining movie. All you need is a decent cinematographer and fight choreographer. There’s motorcycle ninjas, a tae-kwon-do rock band, some drug dealers, a bully brother with his own gang, and I’m not really sure what else. The camera set-ups and editing were really good. I was surprised at that. And These idiots who shoot today’s fight scenes that are so close up you can’t see who’s hitting who could learn a few things from this film. Highly recommended for those who know what they’re getting into with this low-budget film. Amazon Netflix Instant

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Rififi (1955) Much more than a standard caper film. Beautifully shot with many magnificent uses of 1950s Paris. Much as I love The Asphalt Jungle and The Killing, this one is the best. Amazon Netflix
Le Doulos (1962) Impressive! A few moments of sudden and unexpected violence, questions about who to trust, and some outstanding directing, acting, and cinematography. A few more watches and this could be a 5-star film. Amazon Netflix

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Ike & Tina Turner: Live in ’71 (1971) You need to watch this. Tina Turner doesn’t stop moving for an hour and a half, and she’s in heels and about the miniest miniskirt possible, as are the Ikettes. And they don’t stop moving either! But the music is the real show, just knock-out rhythm and blues.Amazon Netflix

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Twilight (1998) Paul Newman, Gene Hackman, Susan Sarandon, Stockard Channing, James Garner, Liev Schreiber, Reese Witherspoon, and M. Emmet Walsh! Newman is a private eye that’s living with some old movie stars (Hackman and Sarandon) when he gets mixed up in a murder and blackmail scheme. Twilight is a movie about friendship (“I’m there for you” is a repeated theme) and the trappings of wealth and class. But mainly friendship and how they can endure (or not) under great stresses. Amazon Amazon Instant Netflix Instant

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Dodge City (1939) I STINKING LOVE movies like this! My kids weren’t sure about Errol Flynn as a cowboy, but he was great. Olivia de Havilland has less to do than in other pairings with Flynn, but she still had plenty of spunk. He was basically a Wyatt Earp type fellow, cleaning up Dodge City (which for some reason they seemed to think was east of Wichita). The technicolor was beautiful (again, color the same year as Gone with the Wind). There are several exciting set pieces with fires, barroom brawls, trains, etc. Amazon Amazon Instant Netflix

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The Stranger (1946) You know who’s amazing in this film? Loretta Young. As an innocent gal who falls in love with a charming college professor, watch her as she slowly realizes that she’s married to a Nazi monster. She really knocks it out of the park, and that’s saying something as she’s acting opposite Edward G. Robinson and Orson Welles. Amazon Not on Netflix

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Cornered (1945) I’ve become quite the fan of Dick Powell films noir. My introduction to him was in Murder, My Sweet, but Cry Danger, Pitfall, and now Cornered are all worth seeking out. This story concerns a Canadian pilot who married a French resistance fighter during WWII. She is killed with several other resistance fighters while he’s in a POW camp, so he tries to track down the man who ordered the massacre. First, he makes his way back into France, then on to Buenos Aires, Argentina. Once there he blunders around and runs into a lot of shady characters, a lot people easily bought, and a few double crosses. Pretty solid show (though there are a few holes here and there), and Walter Slezak gives one of his Slezakyist performances as the shady “tour guide.” Amazon Netflix

Let me know a few of your new discoveries this year! Leave a comment. And thanks for coming around!

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4 thoughts on “The Best or Most Interesting Movies First Watched in 2013

  1. I’ve come to the conclusion that our taste in movies is similar. Lots of variety, a big appreciation for the oldies and not ashamed to watch some schlock from time to time. 😉

    I didn’t know about Letterboxd, but I’ve been keeping my own text file movie/TV diary since 2011. It’s probably 60-70% TCM movies. Lots of film noir! (I watched 99 River Street on Nov. 18, 2013. The way he got out of the car was awesome!)

    Like

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