Thanksgiving through New Year’s Day is a wonderful time for movies, both because so many big-budget and prestige films arrive in theaters, but also because there’s a helluvalotta time spent sitting around with friends and family around the holidays. Here are most of the movies I’ve watched over this past holiday season.
Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them (2016)
This was one of the most sigh-heavy theater experiences of the year as me, Tom and Tony squirmed and sighed heavily through about 2/3 of the film. This was ugly dollar-theater performance art in the seats. Most of the characters were not interesting and the main “fantastic” beast was a flying streak of black goo. Cool.
Overstayed its welcome, but the majority of this film about alien communication was excellent. The first time Amy Adams communicated with the aliens was one of my favorite scenes this year, effectively portraying the horror and exhilaration of a pioneering moment.
Did you know that the idea of the JFK White House as “Camelot” was completely made up by Jackie Kennedy after JFK’s assassination? It was a way for her to take ownership of the Kennedy legacy. Obviously, she succeeded. I wasn’t completely behind the film, but Natalie Portman was great, as was the cinematography and music.
La La Land (2016)
A very enjoyable film, deserving of just about all of its praise. Once Gosling and Stone got together, I loved it. I also appreciated about five Casablanca references.
Rogue One (2016)
Visually astounding, this Star Wars spin-off unfortunately did not deliver on Star Wars’ usual character-first approach. By the end of the movie, I did not care about many characters, and I think we could have done without the male lead entirely. I was not a fan of the robot. Snark is not attractive, and this robot out 3PO’d C-3PO!
Why Him? (2016)
This sucked HARD. Do not see.
TV! (teacher, mother…secret lover)
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
One of my favorite movies of all time continues to warm my heart. Why do people in John Hughes films have such giant houses?
Taxi Driver (1976)
A first-watch for me. Reinforces in my mind that every city in the 1970s was a haunted house.
Always a treat.
Love Actually (2003)
My two favorite storylines are the Billy Mack and Colin Firth ones. But Jesus, why are there so many fat jokes in this movie? And is bare-midriff Keira Knightley what fashion looked like in 2003? I’ll take Snuggie Blankets any day.
Last Holiday (2006)
Queen Latifah stars in this movie about a terminally ill woman who abandons the drudgery of her life to do all the things she ever wanted to do. Ladies Love Cool James is the man who chases after her, all the way to the Czech Republic. It was a charming film because of the Queen. Ebert was right when he said this film “plays like a hug.”
It Happened on 5th Avenue (1947)
This was a tremendous discovery this year, as only recently has this film been saved from oblivion by TCM. The film circled around a group of ramblers, evicted WWII veterans and your normal down-and-outers who took up residence in the mansion of the second wealthiest man in the United States. It is very funny and definitely worth watching next year around Christmas.
I will rewatch this a few hundred times.
Pass Thru (2016)
Neil Breen’s latest romp is even more head-scratch worthy than his previous films. I *think* it’s a worse movie for that? Breen fired his camera crew and bought a drone for most of the shots, except for close-ups.
Fast and Furious 6 (2013)
Green Room (2015)
This is an unnerving horror film about a band which becomes trapped in a Neo-Nazi club in the Pacific Northwest after witnessing a murder. Patrick Stewart plays the club owner.
Annie Hall (1977)
This was a first-watch. Woody Allen’s neurotic, depressed, moody persona doesn’t really do it for me, but there were some great jokes and scenes here. After a slow start, Diane Keaton really energized this film.