“Wake in Fright” (1971)

This is a movie that feels like it should be right down my alley; a film about a normal man’s slow downward spiral descent into madness, with creepy unnerving imagery. So then why did I find myself mostly disinterested with this film? And I can’t even really point to anything wrong this movie is doing (the pacing is fine, the acting is fine, and story flows quite naturally). This just might be a case where a movie might very well be well made, well crafted, and well-constructed, but it just isn’t for me. Clearly people saw something unnerving in this film that I didn’t see, because people often cite this as one of the most disturbing underrated films of all time. I wasn’t disturbed by this film in the slightest. Maybe it’s because other movies have come much further in showing really creepy and disturbing imagery. But that can’t be it, because I’ve been unnerved by imagery that doesn’t go quite as far as this movie does. The attempts at creating an uneasy atmosphere just fall flat. And the characters just never came alive to me. Like I said, clearly I’m missing something because everyone seems to love this movie. And it’s not awful by any means. It just didn’t interest or intrigue me like I thought it would. So, I guess I’ll say check it out and come to your own conclusion, but for me, I have no desire to watch it ever again.

Rating: 3/5

“Harakiri” (1962)

Powerful, impactful filmmaking. Harakiri is a rather thorough and intelligent deconstruction of the Japense concept of honor, while also simultaneously working as an entertaining and engaging revenge film. The film is beautifully constructed, as it slowly, almost painfully, pulls back the curtain in such a way so that the film’s surprise twists and turns hit the audience with maximum effect. The 133-minute runtime goes by so quickly; a credit to the film’s remarkable pacing and editing. Everything just works flawlessly, and there’s not a single element that’s out of place. Honestly, there’s nothing else to say about this film; it’s just a masterpiece from top to bottom, and if you haven’t seen it, please rectify that as soon as possible. It deserves to be ranked among other quintessential Japanese classics, like Rashomon and Seven Samurai

Rating: 5/5

“Bone Tomahawk” (2015)

Well, this was a brutal experience. I mean, I knew going in that this was going to be violent, but I had no idea just how violent this film would be. And the violence feels all the more gut-wrenching here because we actually grow to like these characters. This is a horror Western that has a deep understanding of what makes for both a great horror film and a great western; great characters, excellent tension-building, and a gripping climax. As such, this blending of genres that feels like a tough sell, instead feels so natural. The plot is both old-fashioned and simplistic, whilst simultaneously creative and unique. The acting is all great. While the second act’s pacing could’ve been tightened just a little bit more, this is a great experience for those who feel they can stomach the exceptionally brutal material.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Toy Story 4” (2019)

Yes, I was one of the people who rolled their eyes when this film was announced. And is it as good as the first three? No. But that doesn’t make this bad. At all. In fact, it’s pretty great. The writing is top-notch, and the new characters are incredibly entertaining, memorable, and played by incredibly talented actors (Keanu Reeves in particular being especially great as Duke Caboom). This is also the funniest of the Toy Story films with lots of scenes of genuine hilarity. And while the ending isn’t quite as emotional as it’s been hyped up to be, it still works as a poignant finale (if this is indeed the last film). The animation is excellent, and shows that Pixar is continuing to up the ante with regards to making CG animation look as realistic as possible; and no better example can be seen in the gorgeously animated cat. But still, it does have the most problems out of all the Toy Story films. Plot elements that were built up over the last movies are completely dropped without an acknowledgment, some characters don’t get as much screen time as they feel like they should, and the film takes the concept of the toys not being spotted to rather ridiculous extremes (apparently, all the adults in the Toy Story universe have no peripheral vision whatsoever). Still, these minor issues don’t in any way dampen what’s an otherwise great sequel I didn’t know I wanted, but am very glad exists.

Rating: 4.5/5

“Before I Disappear” (2014)

Based on the Academy Award winning short film Curfew, this feature length film does what a film based on a short should do; expand on it, in particular when it comes to the characters. Because this film has more time to let the events sink in, we get to understand the character motivations a lot clearer. And this isn’t just a rehash of the original short film; it actually tells a slightly different, but still familiar version. The two works complement each other extremely well. Still, there are a few minor quibbles. While the film should be commended for taking daring risks with its story, not all of them work. And also, there are some scenes lifted directly from the original short that don’t feel that organically woven into this new narrative. Still, these are all relatively minor issues. Overall, this is an extremely well-made and well-acted drama, that has a lot of heart and is well worth your time.

Rating: 4/5

“Goldilocks and the Jivin’ Bears” (1944)

And the final of the infamous “Censored Eleven” is, perhaps rather fittingly, the cartoon with the least amount of objectionable content in it. This is probably the most palatable of the eleven, but it’s also the most okay. It’s got some good music, and some decent gags, but nothing that you can’t see in other cartoons; there’s not really anything here to help push this beyond anything other than standard. This isn’t a bad short at all, since it is enjoyable and a pleasant watch, and it doesn’t really do anything that wrong; it’s just that it struggles to find its own unique voice, which means it’ll easily be lost under the tsunami of the other Looney Tunes cartoons. And if it wasn’t for its reputation, it would be hard to remember that this even exists.

Rating: 3/5

“Angel Puss” (1944)

Probably the most famous thing about this “Censored Eleven” cartoon, is that this one was directed by Chuck Jones. It’s also the one I’m the most conflicted about. On the one hand, I have to admire the short for its extremely dark and surprisingly mean spirited premise and taking it pretty far. On the other hand, this short also contains some of the more blatantly racist jokes out of the entire eleven cartoons. And it does have some of the tenets of what makes Chuck Jones such a great director, such as his playing the facial reactions of the characters in a unique and funny way. But still, those race related jokes are pretty darn awful here. And most of the other ones in the other cartoons don’t really bother me as much, but for some reason, there was just something about the jokes in this one that really, really bothered me and I can’t quite put my finger on why this one in particular struck a nerve. Aside from those few jokes, the cartoon is quite good, which just makes the whole thing all the more tragic. Unless you want to be a completionist this is one that I have very strong reservations about recommending.

Rating: 3/5

“Tin Pan Alley Cats” (1943)

This cartoon is actually very reminiscent of two other “Censored Eleven” cartoons; Sunday Go to Meetin’ Time and Clean Pastures. The only difference between this one and those? This one is actually good. And because the character designs are caricaturized in a completely different way than your typical “blackface,” by also making the lead characters cats, it adds an extra level of separation that makes the gags and mannerisms of the characters feel much less stereotypical. The imagery in this one is creative, the music is great, and it’s actually pretty funny. The main problem is that there’s a section that reuses a lot (and I mean a lot) of the gags from Porky in Wackyland, which, I’m not going to lie, is very distracting. But even so, the high energy, fast pace, as well as its fantastic ending, help this cartoon overcome that unfortunate and pretty glaring flaw.

Rating: 3.5/5

“Coal Black and de Sebben Dwarfs” (1943)

This is not only easily the best “Censored Eleven” cartoon, it’s one of the absolute very best Looney Tunes cartoons, period. There is just so much to like about this cartoon. This is an excellent parody of Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs. This is one of the more subtler examples of a WWII propaganda cartoon. The gags in this one are highly original and really funny. The music is fantastic. The ending is fantastic. And So White, despite being a parody of Snow White, actually makes for the more interesting and entertaining lead character. This was clearly a passion project for director Bob Clampett, and that passion oozes through in every single frame. It truly is a one of a kind, and extremely entertaining experience that doesn’t at all deserve the thrashing it’s received for being one of the “Censored Eleven.” If you only check out at least one of the eleven, I would highly recommend that you make it this one.

Rating: 5/5

“All This and Rabbit Stew” (1941)

This “Censored Eleven” cartoon is probably the most infamous of the bunch, simply because it’s the only one of the bunch that stars Bugs Bunny. And it also just so happens to be one of the very best Bugs Bunny cartoons, especially from this era. The gags in this one are simply incredible, and the tight, quick pacing make this a speedy watch. Under the direction of Tex Avery, he manages to elicit some genuine laughs from the timing of the slapstick, to the hilarious expressions of the characters. The short’s only failing is its weak ending (which is also the cartoon’s only race-based gag). But the rest of the cartoon is just so well made and so entertaining. And it’s a shame, because had Elmer Fudd been the victim instead, or even if they’d not caricaturized the black hunter, I’m convinced that this would’ve gone down as one of the very best Bugs Bunny cartoons ever made.

Rating: 4.5/5