The Book of Henry is certainly not a good film, but calling it a bad one doesn’t seem to fit; it falls short of the mark, but not in the way a truly bad film does. Rather, it fails to answer two vital questions—who is it for, and what is it about?—and it’s hard to imagine anyone being satisfied with the end result.
I’d known about Poil de Carotte for many years, my father having spoken very highly of it, but despite his regard (and the general regard of the critics), the film has drifted into moderate obscurity in recent years, possibly in part due to the decline in writer-director Julien Duvivier’s reputation.
However, it’s now available through Criterion’s Eclipse series (in a set with other Duvivier films of the era), and I was finally able to see it…and I’m damned glad I did.
In case you didn’t know, I like movies.
And more than that, I like going to the movies. Watching a movie at home, there are all too many distractions. In the theater, your attention is compelled. Distractions are discouraged, even penalized. In the theater, the film rules all. So I go to theater quite a bit.
But it wasn’t always that way. Growing up, going to the movies was a comparatively rare treat. It wasn’t like we couldn’t afford it – once my dad got a DVD player we began amassing a collection which now numbers in the thousands. But we didn’t go to the cinema as a matter of course.
The first film I can definitively remember seeing in the theater was The Pagemaster. I’m sure there were others before it, but I no longer have even a shadow of a memory of them. I saw Titanic at age 8 and said “Eww!” at the sex scene; I saw The Phantom Menace and hated it intensely; we went to the next town over to see Fantasia 2000 because it didn’t play everywhere in its non-IMAX release.
And of course, we saw The Lord of the Rings, Harry Potter, Spider-Man, and so forth – we also saw both the 1998 Godzilla and Godzilla 2000. (I can also claim to have seen Alexander in the theater, for what that’s worth.) But for the most part, we watched movies at home. In 2006 – not, admittedly, a banner year for cinema – I think we only went once, to see The DaVinci Code.
It was the next year – March 9, 2007, at 9:30 p.m., to be exact – that things began to change. I didn’t become a ravenous film-goer overnight, but visit by visit my cinephilia grew, and the end result is this article; a trip down memory lane, and a long lane it is. So join me, if you will, and remember.
I’d known about this 1986 feature for some years, first reading about it in VideoHound’s Movie Retriever, but it had eluded me for years; VHS copies are seemingly scarce, at least in the wild, and the DVD – part of a set compiling the works of Faith and John Hubley – is so out-of-print its very existence seems more rumor than fact. However, it is available to view online, and I finally sat down and watched The Cosmic Eye.
Here it is, the final batch of 2016 reviews. Savor them, because I’m not sure when I’ll be putting up more.
The first 9 films are ***½. The final three are ****.
I decided to break the final batch of capsule reviews into two: this contains all the remaining films which I ranked *** or less; the final batch, which you’ll get in the next day or two, will contain all the ***½ and **** films. This list, however, does contain two Best Picture nominees and three films nominated in other categories.
Please also note that these reviews may contain spoilers for the films in question.
I’m the kind of guy who tends to go against the grain, so it gives me a kind of perverse delight to make the case for a film being worth rather less than it has generally been taken for.
All the same, I still love cinema (if I didn’t, why would I spend so much time writing about it?), and with many of these films, I felt a certain regret that I couldn’t share in the love so many had for them.
So my intent here is to make my case fairly, rather than smashing idols just to hear them break. A thousand assholes are doing that at any given second. Here are my picks for the most overrated films of the year.