Film Discoveries of 2016

TOO LATE FOR TEARS, Dan Duryea, Lizabeth Scott, 1949

As 2016 staggers to a close, I am looking back at the pockets of film pleasure I enjoyed from the year that was. This season is clogged with lists, and here I offer another, though one more suited to the historically minded viewers of TCM and FilmStruck. It is a list of my favorite old movies that I viewed for the first time over the past twelve months. These came from all over – rare MoMA film prints, old Warner Brothers DVDs, and yes, from streaming titles on FilmStruck. It’s an eclectic grouping of arts high and low, from all over the world. I hope it points you in some different cinema directions in 2017, or at least diverts your attention from current events for a few minutes. So prematurely, let me wish you all a Happy New Year, and I hope you’ll continue reading our little blog in the year to come.


Top Ten Films You Will Likely Never See: 2015

blogopener2As always, my list of cinematic lost causes for this year consists of the type of movies that the commercial Hollywood industry has turned its back on—indies, documentaries, and overlooked gems that failed to attract audiences to the theaters. What is different this year is the number of medium-budgeted films or star-driven dramas on the list that the studios, distributors, and exhibitors did not support with sufficient marketing, distribution, or screens.

Medium-sized Hollywood films and the star-driven dramas are rapidly becoming a thing of the past. Since the turn of the millennium, studios have opted to make fewer films and to throw their considerable resources at blockbusters, assuming that large investments will equal large returns. Projects that are not blockbusters, tent poles, or part of franchises, such as dramas, character-driven comedies, and mystery thrillers, are not getting studio support. Medium-sized films, which tend to offer a diversity of content, are more likely to appeal to adult audiences—a group Hollywood continues to ignore as it panders to adolescent males.

With the increase in vapid blockbusters by hacks who curry favor with the studios, the caliber of Hollywood filmmaking continues to decline. An entire generation of filmmakers who thrived in the 1980s and 1990s—Walter Hill, David Lynch, Susan Seidelman, Carl Franklin, Martha Coolidge—no longer make films. Auteur cinema is all but gone in Hollywood.

The films on this list were overlooked or under-marketed at the time of their theatrical release. Most them are currently available for home viewing and deserve a second look and more thoughtful consideration. It is not without irony that my list of overlooked films appears just after the opening weekend of this year’s biggest behemoth blockbuster.


Top Ten Films You Will Likely Never See: 2014

10openerI should call my annual compilation of indies, documentaries, and mistreated Hollywood films “Lost Causes of 2014.” The truth is few people will watch these films: Many won’t be interested because the titles are not familiar to them; others will have problems tracking down the obscure movies because there are too few venues or outlets willing to exhibit them. Still, as everyone who has seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington knows, lost causes are the only ones worth fighting. If you really want to make a statement about free speech, don’t waste your time with The Interview, track down one of these films and watch it, because mainstream Hollywood has long since closed its doors to disenfranchised voices, diverse points of view, and alternative visions. [...MORE]

10 Films You Will Likely Never See from 2013

tenopenerI should start calling my annual compilation of neglected indies, unknown documentaries, and mishandled and mistreated Hollywood films the “Lost Cause List.” Not only are these films hampered by the inequality and inadequacies of contemporary distribution and exhibition, but most lack the millions of marketing dollars routinely spent by the studios on the most mediocre of releases. Others suffered from the Monday morning quarter-backing by media pundits too eager to declare a film a failure if it does not live up to their box-office projections.

In his top ten list for Variety, critic Scott Foundas pondered how the best films of 2013 “managed to get made at all in a climate that has rarely been less hospitable to mid-budget, non-franchise movies by personal-minded auteurs. . . .” Each year, I am more disappointed by the output of the Hollywood studios and more fearful that the movies—once the art of the people—have been reduced to eye candy for adolescents. Here’s hoping that some of you will take the time to seek out some of the films on my list, or others like them.


My Top Ten Genre Movies of 2010

I was able to see more movies during the year than this guy. To honor him, I’m going to run down my favorite Genre Films of 2010. As top-ten lists rain down upon us, a general consensus emerges and recurring titles get chewed over like regurgitated cud. So while I greatly admire The Social Network (#2 on my year-end list here), I feel no need to spill more metaphorical ink over it. What doesn’t get recognized during the awards season hullaballoo are the disreputable action/sci-fi/horror movies that earn profits and low Rotten Tomatoes scores. I’m using the colloquial definition of “genre films”, of macho flicks with b-movie scenarios, but in reality everything that’s produced slots into one genre or another (David Bordwell persuasively argues that even the art film is one). So forgive my semantic fudging for the sake of headline-writing brevity. In any case, anonymous disfigured corpse from The Crazies, this is for you.


This Year’s 10 Films You’ll Probably Never See—Unless. . .

Last year, I joined the “list brigade,” that huge contingent of writers and reviewers who feel compelled every December to offer lists of films they have seen during the previous year. I have a confession to make: Once you step into those waters, it’s addictive, and there’s no going back. Usually the lists are generated by movie reviewers obsessed with the year’s ten best films, but I prefer lists of overlooked gems that slipped through the cracks. Many movies that might appeal to a mainstream audience, or to a large segment of the population, are treated shabbily by distributors and exhibitors, and they don’t receive a decent distribution in the theaters. For movie-lovers who don’t live in a major market, the only chance to see some of these films is on DVD, if at all.

My tastes are fairly populist; none of the titles on the list are esoteric art-house movies or quirky British fare with eccentric characters offering life lessons. They are all films that adults with an interest in good drama and appealing subject matter will appreciate. In the spirit of bringing attention to some decent films that were shafted by the conditions of the current industry, I bring you my list of ten favorite movies from 2010 that deserve a second chance or a second viewing.


As of November 1, 2017 FilmStruck’s blog, StreamLine, has moved to Tumblr.

Please visit us there!

 Streamline is the official blog of FilmStruck, a new subscription service that offers film aficionados a comprehensive library of films including an eclectic mix of contemporary and classic art house, indie, foreign and cult films.