Doug Tilley is staff writer for DailyGrindhouse.com and a connoisseur of both good and truly terrible cinema. Check out his 'No Budget Nightmares' reviews at DG as well as the NBN podcast he co-hosts.
Favorite First Time Watches of 2011
1. Legendary Weapons of China (1982; d. Lau Kar-Leung)
I have no excuse for this one. Despite loving everyone involved, I had managed to totally ignore LEGENDARY WEAPONS OF CHINA until 2011. A decision I massively regretted after watching, as it quickly rose to the top of my list of favorite martial arts films. Not only is the choreography excellent - particularly in the scenes featuring the late Alexander Fu Sheng - but it's beautifully filmed and even the storyline - so often an after-thought in this era of kung-fu films - is engaging. Heck, I want to watch it again right now!
2. Make Way For Tomorrow (1937; Leo McCarey)
Orson Welles reportedly said MAKE WAY FOR TOMORROW "would make a stone cry," and I can confirm that by the final scene I was an emotional mess. While never overtly depressing, there are certain scenes - Lucy speaking on the phone during her daughter's bridge game, especially - that mix comedy and drama in such a potent combination that it's absolutely devastating to watch. Director Leo McCarey has such a masterful control of tone that you never feel manipulated, and the performances are beyond reproach.
3. The Dragon Lives Again (1977; Kei Law)
And now for something completely different. "Bruce Lee" (played by the great Leung Siu-lung) fights off James Bond, Zatoichi, "Clint Eastwood" and a variety of other famous faces while battling his way out of hell. Tasteless, ridiculous, and bat-shit insane, it's also incredibly entertaining - and totally unpredictable.
4. The Life and Death of Colonel Blimp (1943; Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger)
I suppose I can be excused for not being too enthusiastic about a film titled THE LIFE AND DEATH OF COLONEL BLIMP, though the fact that it was directed by the esteemed Michael Powell and Emeric Pressburger with cinematography by the legendary Jack Cardiff should have tipped me off that my dismissal was premature. The film proved to be not just a pleasant surprise, but an overwhelmingly beautiful, resonant and timeless achievement. There are sequences that simply left me breathless, particularly the celebrated duel sequence. "War starts at midnight!"
5. Las Vegas Bloodbath (1989; David Schwartz)
I love transitioning from COLONEL BLIMP to the no-budget wonders of LAS VEGAS BLOODBATH. There are few films that could combine extreme violence and hot oil wrestling, but director David Schwartz somehow manages to jam in enough bizarre decisions - along with a suitably unhinged performance from Ari Levin - to help you ignore the fact that it looks, sounds and IS absolutely awful. Why does this exist? And why is it so much fun to watch?
6. The Five Obstructions (De fem benspænd) (Lars von Trier; 2003)
Notable nut-job/merchant of sadness Lars von Trier tasks fellow filmmaker Jørgen Leth with remaking his 1967 experimental short film THE PERFECT HUMAN in five different ways, each time with a different obstacle chosen by Von Trier. I've always been fascinated by the way that restrictions can shape (and improve) art, so this documentary - while not always totally engaging - is consistently fascinating. Rumors that Von Trier is doing another set of restrictions with Martin Scorsese has me absolutely tickled.
7. Fletch (1985; Michael Ritchie)
I know. I'm embarrassed to admit it as well. Somehow despite being a child of the 80s I had managed to completely miss FLETCH during my formative years. Since then, perhaps I was mistaking it for one of Chevy Chase's more forgettable 80s comedies, or for a cult phenomenon that I just couldn't totally grasp - like CADDYSHACK. But I was so incredibly wrong. A wonderfully quirky adaptation of the Gregory Mcdonald featuring Chase at his most enjoyably smarmy. The late (great) Michael Ritchie was awfully inconsistent, but here he's firing on all cylinders and giving Chevy license to bring his own warped sensibility to the character. "Yeah, do you have the Beatles' White Album? Never mind, just get me a glass of hot fat. And bring me the head of Alfredo Garcia while you're out there. "
8. Memories of Murder (2003; Bong Joon-ho)
Sometimes there is simply no excuse. I'm one of the few who were sadly underwhelmed by Bong Joon-ho's international hit THE HOST, so I felt there was little hurry in checking out his back catalogue. A chance viewing of MEMORIES OF MURDER showed me how wrong I was, and I finally clued in on Joon-ho's particular brand of quirky humor and visual inventiveness. When writing about it originally I compared it to David Fincher's ZODIAC, but despite my love for that film I feel MoM is a fresher, more fascinating take on the serial killer genre.
9. The Friends of Eddy Coyle (1973; Peter Yates)
Look, I'm not proud of the gaps in my film knowledge. One I was particularly embarrassed in missing was Peter Yates' gritty, awesome crime film THE FRIENDS OF EDDIE COYLE (based on the George V. Higgins novel). Let me just join the choir in singing the praises of this impeccably acted look at the Boston underworld. It's Robert fucking Mitchum, ok? We may have lost Yates in 2011, but with flicks as good as this he'll never be forgotten.
10. Suburban Sasquatch (2003; Dave Wescavage)
Sometimes a title just says it all. SUBURBAN SASQUATCH is a severely flawed, occasionally near-unwatchable film. The acting is terrible, and the effects are worse, while the sound.. well, it's probably best to not talk about it. But it's called SUBURBAN SASQUATCH, and it features plenty of scenes of a Sasquatch wandering around suburbia (before being hunted a mystical native american wielding magical arrows. Yes, that happens). If you enjoy watching a well-endowed bigfoot stomping around, ripping arms off and lifting police cars, you really can't beat it. For lovers of junk - like me.