It’s insane because the number of movies available from my Mysterious Disreputable Sources increases sharply for every year of movie history. But as long as I can finish the years in less than real time, I could actually take this pretty far.
What, someone made a good movie this year? Be patient. I’ll get around to it.
A reader has requested a list of only the movies that I think are worth watching. I’m tempted, but that kind of misses the point. There are no lists of movies worth watching, and never will be. There are only lists of movies worth watching for me, or you, or someone else. You could pick some of the movies I watched to the end, (which has been and will remain the only way I grade these movies), but who knows what forgotten masterpieces you’ll miss out on?
Reading reviews in search of the perfect choice of movie is pointless when you can just get a hundred random movies, and watch them for as long as you’re interested, and no longer. (Just remember to get the ones you like from a Non-Mysterious Reputable Source afterwards. Don’t be a leech.) The movies you find that way will be your own, in a way some idiot reviewer’s favorite never can be.
The Old Maid (1939, USA) – I just noticed how grotesque Bette Davis’s head is. Beautiful but malformed, like a real-life manga character. Oh, and there’s a love triangle in the shadow of the American Civil War. Watched: 15 minutes.
Each Dawn I Die (1939, USA) – Journalists vs gangsters. The journalists are the good guys, and the drunk driving frameup isn’t very plausible either. Watched: 12 minutes.
The Little Princess (1939, USA) – Gah, Shirley Temple! Watched: 4 seconds.
King of the Underworld (1939, USA) – This gangster movie has cheap written all over it, from the TV drama sets to the not-even-trying Humphrey Boghart. Watched: 7 minutes.
Five Came Back (1939, USA) – It’s the prototypical disaster movie: A group of diverse people with Backstories, (including a rabid anarchist), ends up on the same plane, which ends up in the jungle. To judge from the foreshadowing, they’ll be running from headhunters next, before at last the Final Five are revealed. Watched: 34 minutes.
Oss baroner emellan (1939, Sweden) – A bored noble fails to pick up a girl on the street, and begins a stalker-like search to find out where she lives. Why is it that behavior that is creepy in real life is romantic in movies, (and vice versa)? Watched: 12 minutes.
The Four Feathers (1939, UK) – On the eve of his first assignment, to quell restless natives in Khartoum, a British officer resigns. Branded a coward by his friends and fiancee, he realizes that they’re right, and sets out to the Sudan alone to prove himself through reckless displays of bravery. This is fantastic both as an adventure movie and as a display of the British imperial self-image. A bit unfocused, not to mention implausible and jingoistic, but all its blemishes are interesting blemishes. Watched it all.
The Three Musketeers (1939, USA) – The movie equivalent of a person who laughs at their own jokes. Watched: 8 minutes.
The Story of Vernon & Irene Castle (1939, USA) – Enough with the Fred Astaire and the Ginger Rogers. Enough. Watched: 21 minutes.
Bachelor Mother (1939, USA) – Ginger Rogers (no Astaire, so okay then) is fired right before Christmas, and through an unbelievable confusion of identity finds herself adopting an abandoned child. I don’t like where this is heading. Watched: 7 minutes.
Le Jour se Lève (1939, France) – A man has committed murder. Locked, trapped in a room, he recalls how he became a murderer. No that isn’t my description, it’s the movie’s introduction text, but it’ll do. Starring Jean Gabin, who dies romantically, (***spoiler apology***). Watched it all.
Goodbye, Mr Chips (1939, USA) – An old teacher at a British public school looks back on his life, and the generations of boys he has taught. This is probably the perfect nice movie, intelligent and well balanced between melancholy and humor. Starring Robert Donat as Albus “Chips” Dumbledore. Watched it all.
Buck Rogers (1939, USA) – Upon being awakened from 500 years of suspended animation, Buck Rogers is immediately handed a space ship and a stupid suit, courtesy of .. the FUTURE! First episode of a serial, but that is no excuse. Watched: 17 minutes.
Der Feldzug in Polen (1939, Germany) – This came without subtitles, but the gist of it seems to be that all Germany wants is peace. Watched: 37 minutes.
Another Thin Man (1939, USA) – Another hard-boiled comedy with Nick & Nora, taking the series to new heights of plot complexity. The underlying message is that every alcoholic (indeed, every man) should have a wife like Myrna Loy. Watched it all.
You Can’t Cheat an Honest Man (1939, USA) – Some moderately funny circus jokes. Watched: 16 minutes.
Made for Each Other (1939, USA) – Apparently even James Stewart can be a terrible actor, as long as the script is bad enough. Watched: 8 minutes.
Destry Rides Again (1939, USA) – A good western, finally! Bottleneck is the dirtiest town in the West. The drunkard sheriff sends for James Stewart, a gunslinger’s son who doesn’t like guns. The result is a quieter Blazing Saddles. Watched it all.
Jamaica Inn (1939, UK) – A gang in Cornwall lures ships onto land, where they murder the crews and steal their cargo. One of the darkest movies in the marathon so far, made by someone who likes to see ugly bandits slobber over pretty women. Watched it all.
My Love for Yours (1939, USA) – The message here seems to be that successful business woman Gail Allen should give up her silly hobby and settle down in some sweet-talking guy’s kitchen. Watched: 40 minutes.
Gjest Baardsen (1939, Norway) – Gjest Baardsen, a trickster thief and escape artist, befuddles the police and rescues Maid Marian from the claws of Guy of Gisbourne. Watched it all.
The Hunchback of Notre Dame (1939, USA) – I hope the scene where “everybody” in 1482 knows the world is flat is Hollywood’s invention, not Victor Hugo’s. I know I should still give the movie a chance, but don’t you find it hard to get back into a movie after it has caused you to slap your forehead? Watched: 10 minutes.
The Private Lives of Elizabeth and Essex (1939, USA) – Bette Devis plays Elizabeth I well, but the prospect of watching a whole movie with even a non-swashbuckling Errol Flynn is intolerable. Watched: 19 minutes.
Gulliver’s Travels (1939, USA) – Paramount imitates Disney, with an animated feature based on Jonathan Swift’s heartwarming children’s tale, (ahem). Snow White was terrible, but in a polished way. This is just bad. Watched: 17 minutes, then fast forwarded to the end, where there are no yahoos. One IMDB reviewer calls it “one of the best Literary Films of 1939 [..] and I think I would like to read the original novel sometime”. She’s in for a surprise.
The Lion has Wings (1939, UK) – Britain is the awesomest country in the world. Is all this to end simply because one man wants to conquer Europe? No! Fine propaganda movie, which makes the British case for war with a stiff upper lip and dry humor. Watched it all.
Only Angels Have Wings (1939, USA) – A movie made by and for people who find airplanes sexy and interesting. Watched: 20 minutes. (Observant readers will note that its title contradicts the previous one. They are of course both wrong: Lions don’t have wings, and angels don’t exist.)
Dark Victory (1939, USA) – Dr. House treats Bette Davis for a horrible brain disease, but she’s doomed .. doomed .. doomed! Watched: 45 minutes, (there’s a reason why all medical dramas these days are in the format of 43 minute TV episodes, not feature-length movies.)
Frontier Horizon (1939, USA) – Another dreadful western. Watched: 5 minutes.
The Rules of the Game (1939, France) – Everybody is cheating with everybody in decadent Paris. Watched: 18 minutes.
Midnight (1939, USA) – An American woman with a talent for lying finds herself in Paris without money, and gets mixed up in adulterous upper-class intrigues. One of the funniest farces I’ve seen. Watched it all.
Pygmalion (1938, UK) – My Fair Lady without the silly songs, and about twice as intelligent. Perfect. Watched it all.
Bringing Up Baby (1938, USA) – Cary Grant and Katharine Hepburn in two very annoying roles. I expect this from Grant, but Hepburn?! Watched: 15 minutes.
Love Finds Andy Hardy (1938, USA) – Andy Hardy is a teenage boy who is just wild enough to land himself in the sort of trouble that leads up to the delivery of valuable life lessons from his stern, wise father, but not enough to shock any 1938 middle class parents. I don’t approve, but I have a weakness for nice movies done well. Watched it all.
Boys Town (1938, USA) – The street kids are unruly, but all they need is a little attention from the local Catholic priest. Watched: 14 minutes.
Sex Madness (1938, USA) – I’m confused: Is the anti-syphilis message a pretext for making a movie with burlesque shows and “frank” sex talk, or is that just a ruse to teach moviegoers about the joys of clean, syphilis-free living? It’s a dreadful movie either way. Watched: 13 minutes.