2018: Year In Review + Top 11 Movies Watched

Update on 12/23/2019: I hadn’t planned on doing anymore editing of this one, but since I decided to make my 2019 list a Year In Review, I’ve decided to come back and do the same for 2018. In looking back, 2018 saw me deciding, just for the fun of it, to go through and “review” many of the movies I watch for my friends. With their support, I started out with a few then-recent purchases, posting those reviews as notes on my Facebook profile. After starting to see how quickly they were going to pile up, I then created my own FB fan page, where I moved those written reviews over to. On there, starting with my review of Going Hollywood, I started doing the reviews as videos. Then, after a while, I decided to start a blog, and this site was born! Now home to my written reviews, along with exclusive stuff, like my posts on screen teams, comparing films, film series, not to mention some of my lists (including my Top 40 Christmas Movies list), It’s been a work-in-progress as I try to refine how I am doing everything.

On the movie side of things, as I said, I started out doing a few then-recent purchases, before switching to the filmographies of various movie stars. I started out with plans to review movies from George Burns and Gracie Allen, along with Eleanor Powell, but, after previously reviewing King Of Jazz and throwing in a few of his other films, I decided to add in Bing Crosby, too. And while I had planned to take a break from those reviews to focus in on Christmas movies in December (or rather, for the days before Christmas day itself), I decided to break even earlier and focus on a few film noirs for the month of November (or, rather, “Noir-vember”). Of course, I also focused in on comments about screen teams like George Burns & Gracie Allen and Bing Crosby & Fred Astaire, plus comparing My Man Godfrey and Merrily We Live, as well as my thoughts on the two Bob Hope Paleface films and Bing Crosby’s turns as Father O’Malley in Going My Way and The Bells Of St. Mary’s.

Update on 8/26/2019: originally published on 11/22/2018, it was my plan to leave this post alone, and do it every year on Thanksgiving. Since then, I have decided to do my first edit of “Top Disc Releases Of The Year” posts on Thanksgiving, and do my “Top 10 Movies Watched In The Year” posts just after my final review of the year. Since I hadn’t included the remaining movies I reviewed in 2018 after publishing this post, I am including the one movie that would have made the list and, instead of dropping the last movie on the list, make this a one-time “Top 11 Movies Watched In The Year” list.

And here’s my list, for what I think are some of the best movies I watched in the year 2018 (and reviewed).  Admittedly, this list mainly includes titles I have watched and reviewed since I started doing this (otherwise, the list would be quite different).  These are all movies I enjoyed, and would recommend to anybody that is interested!  And if any of these appeal to you, be sure to click on the movie titles to go to Amazon!

  1. Blue Skies (1946) (Universal Studios, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire team up for a second to prove that they are “A Couple of Song and Dance Men,” and Fred proves shows us what it would be like to see him dancing with a chorus of dancers as good as he is (because they are all him!) in this musical, with the wonderful music of Irving Berlin to support them!  Full review here.
  2. Carefree (1938) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The eighth of ten movies to co-star Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers, this screwball comedy mainly features Ginger Rogers, and shows just how well she can handle comedy!  And of course, what would an Astaire-Rogers movie be without some dancing as well, with music provided by composer Irving Berlin!  Full review here.
  3. Follow the Fleet (1936) (Warner Home Video, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The fifth Astaire-Rogers movie features Fred Astaire in the navy.  He is joined by Randolph Scott, and Ginger Rogers and Harriet Hilliard (Nelson) are their love interests.  Features music from Irving Berlin, including the haunting “Let’s Face The Music and Dance.”  Full review here.
  4. The Sky’s The Limit (1943) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • A wartime musical featuring Fred Astaire as a flying ace trying to go incognito to enjoy his ten-day leave.  He meets a photographer played by Joan Leslie, who wants to be do more for the war effort than just fluff pieces on local celebrities.  Features one of Fred’s best tap solos set to the song “One For My Baby (And One More For The Road).”  Full review here.
  5. Seven Brides For Seven Brothers (1954) (Warner Archive Collection, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic tale of Adam Pontipee (Howard Keel) coming to town looking for a bride, and finding Milly (Jane Powell).  Upon meeting his rough-housing six brothers, she helps refine them to help their prospects.  And of course, who can ever forget the barn-raising dance, one of the best dances ever put to film!  Full review here.
  6. A Damsel In Distress (1937) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • In his first movie alone since being partnered with Ginger Rogers, Fred Astaire is joined by comedy (and dance!) team George Burns and Gracie Allen in a musical supported by the music of George and Ira Gerswhin.  Full review here.
  7. White Christmas (1954) (Paramount, Blu-ray, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The classic Christmas musical featuring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as a show business team, both onstage and behind the scenes.  When they, along with their new girlfriends played by Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen, run into their former general, now running a failing inn, they decide to help save his inn.  A wonderful movie to watch around Christmastime, but just as fun the rest of the year, too!  Full review here.
  8. Broadway Melody of 1940 (1940) Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • The king of rhythm (Fred Astaire) and the queen of tap (Eleanor Powell) team up in this movie about a pair of Broadway hopefuls, one of whom gets a big part due to a case of mistaken identity.  Full review here.
  9. Broadway Melody of 1936 (1935) (DVD not currently available but available as digital copy/streaming on Amazon, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Fun movie starring Eleanor Powell as a hopeful dancer wanting to make good on Broadway, supported by several wonderful tunes from the song-writing team of Nacio Herb Brown and Arthur Freed.  Full review here.
  10. Honolulu (1939) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Robert Young stars in a “Prince and the Pauper”-type role, as two different men with an uncanny resemblance, while Eleanor Powell does the Hawaiian hula her way, with support from George Burns and Gracie Allen!  Full review here.
  11. Little Nellie Kelly (1940) (Warner Archive Collection, DVD, My Rating: 10/10)
    • Judy Garland pulls double duty as a mother and daughter from Ireland, does “Singin’ in the Rain” her way and more in this classic based on the George M. Cohan show.  Full review here.

Honorable mentions: The Jazz Singer (1927) (Warner Home Video, Blu-ray and DVD), Merrily We Live (1938) (Classicflix, Blu-ray and DVD), My Man Godfrey (1936) (Criterion Collection, Blu-ray and DVD)

Thoughts From The Music(al) Man (2018) on… Follow The Fleet (1936)

And here we are, for my thoughts on the fifth Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers movie, the 1936 film Follow The Fleet, also starring Randolph Scott and Harriet Hilliard (Nelson).

Fred plays “Bake” Baker, a former dancer who has joined the navy.  In San Francisco on leave, he runs into his old partner, Sherry Martin (Ginger Rogers), at the nightclub where she works.  He gets her fired, hoping to get her a better job, but his leave is cancelled that night.  Meanwhile, his shipmate, Bilge Smith (Randolph Scott) meets Sherry’s sister, Connie (Harriet Hilliard).  He likes her, but she is a little too marriage-minded for him, so he goes with her divorced friend, Mrs. Iris Manning (Astrid Allwyn).  While the fleet is away, Connie tries to repair her father’s old ship, in hopes that Bilge would be the captain.  When the fleet returns, Bake tries to help Sherry (but unintentionally causes her to fail her audition for a big producer), and Bilge tries to avoid Connie.  When Connie can’t pay off her ship, they recruit Bake to put on a show.

Now as far as my own personal opinion is concerned, this movie has two points in its favor: 1) it’s an Astaire-Rogers movie, and 2) music by Irving Berlin.  This movie includes songs such as “We Saw The Sea,” “Let Yourself Go,” “Get Thee Behind Me Satan,” “I’d Rather Lead A Band,’ “But Where Are You?,” “I’m Putting All My Eggs In One Basket” and “Let’s Face The Music And Dance.”

With “Let Yourself Go,” I’m left with the feeling they expected this song to be a hit.  It’s used multiple times in the movie, starting with Ginger singing it at a nightclub, followed a few minutes later by it being used as music for a “dance contest” that she and Fred dance to.  It is used again when she auditions for a theatrical producer, both with her singing it and also doing a tap solo (her only tap solo in the ten movies she made with Fred).  And of course, several of the characters are singing and humming it throughout the movie.  So if you don’t like it, that might make it a little harder to like the movie.

Then there is the song “I’d Rather Lead A Band.”  This is Fred’s tap solo for the movie, and he is joined partway through by a chorus of sailors.  He “drills” them utilizing different tap steps.  This idea would be used by other dancers later, including Ann Miller in the 1954 movie Hit The Deck.

The highlight of this movie is the song “Let’s Face The Music And Dance,” this movie’s lasting song.  Done as a “show within a show,” it gives Fred his only moment in the movie in his iconic tuxedo.  Of course, it always impresses me what they did, especially since Ginger wore a bead dress that may have weighed about fifty pounds (whether exaggeration or not, I don’t know), with a sleeve that hit Fred in the face and knocked him for a loop in the first take.  Considering how the first was what they used in the movie, I can only say that is just amazing how well-rehearsed he was.  And of course, the way this was filmed is how I prefer dance to be filmed, since the dance was filmed within one take, with no edits or camera changes, not to mention the fact that it was full body shots, allowing us to see them dance the whole time.

As you can tell, I really like this movie, and highly recommend it.  I would rank it about third of the Astaire-Rogers movies, but that is partly because I really like Irving Berlin’s music.  Maybe my opinion is biased because of that, but I do recommend it, just the same.  And of course, keep an eye out for a young (and BLONDE!!) Lucile Ball!

The movie is available on DVD from Warner Home Video.

Film Length: 1 hour, 50 minutes

My Rating: 10/10

*ranked #3 in Top 11 Movies Watched in 2018

List Of Actor/Actress Filmographies/Collections

Top Hat (1935)Fred AstaireSwing Time (1936)

In Person (1935)Ginger RogersSwing Time (1936)

Top Hat (1935) – Lucille Ball – Having Wonderful Time (1938)

Top Hat (1935) – Fred Astaire/Ginger Rogers (screen team) – Swing Time (1936)

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