90 Movies in 90 Days: Ten Canoes (2006)

I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Ten Canoes
Release Date: 29 June 2006
Director: Rolf de Heer
Production Company: Palace Films and Cinemas

Ten Canoes is a story about Aboriginal people in Australia that is set in a region that has not been influenced by Western colonial settlers so it feels as if it could take place at any time in history.  The framing story involves a group of men on an overnight hunting trip by canoe over a large swamp.  An older man, Minygululu (Peter Minygululu), observes that a younger man, Dayindi (Jamie Gulpilil), desires his third wife.  Over the course of their multiple day journey, Minygululu tells Dayindi a story with the moral lesson of why Dayindi should respect the tribal customs and laws.

All of the characters speak in their native tongues of the Yolŋu Matha language group but there is voiceover narration in English from David Gulpilil (known for his roles in Walkabout, Crocodile Dundee, and Rabbit-Proof Fence).  The framing story is in a crisp black & white while the main story is in full color.  In the flashback story, we learn of a man named Ridjimiraril (Crusoe Kurddal) who suspects a stranger of kidnapping his second wife, leading to conflict with a neighboring tribe.  There are some grim moments in this movie with violence and death, but also a lot of humor and whimsy, such as Dayindi growing bored with the story.

The scenery in this film is gorgeous and is captured in the brilliant cinematography.  While the movie is directed by a white man, it feels about as close as possible to Aboriginal people telling their own story in their own style through film.

Rating: ****

50 Years, 50 Movies (1976): Murder By Death


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously.  If you have any suggestions for movies from the past 50 years, please drop them in the comments!

Top Grossing Movies of 1976:

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners of 1976:

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 1976:

Title: Murder By Death
Release Date: June 23, 1976
Director: Robert Moore
Production Company: Rastar

You’ve tricked and fooled your readers for years. You’ve tortured us all with surprise endings that made no sense. You’ve introduced characters in the last five pages that were never in the book before. You’ve withheld clues and information that made it impossible for us to guess who did it. But now, the tables are turned. Millions of angry mystery readers are now getting their revenge. When the world learns I’ve outsmarted you, they’ll be selling your $1.95 books for twelve cents.

Murder By Death is one of those movies that was constantly shown on television when I was a kid (most likely in an edited format) that I absolutely loved.  I had a feeling this movie would age poorly and I was correct.  Written by Neil Simon, the movie spoofs classic country-house whodunit’s with characters parodying the classic fictional defectives Hercule Poirot, Miss Marple, Charlie Chan, Nick and Nora Charles, and Sam Spade. The large ensemble cast includes some of the best actors of the generation including Peter Sellers as Sidney Wang, David Niven and Maggie Smith as Dick and Dora Charleston,  James Coco as Milo Perrier, Peter Falk as Sam Diamond,  and Elsa Lanchester as Jessica Marbles.  Alec Guinness also stars as the blind butler Jamessir Bensonmum while Truman Capote makes what I think is his only acting role where he’s not playing himself as the eccentric host Lionel Twain.

The problems with this movie are pretty obvious from the first time we see Peter Sellers in yellowface (why did he keep doing that?) and speaking in broken English, and the “blind butler” and “deaf cook” jokes are painfully cringy too.  I want to say that the cast deserved a better script, but they all agreed to do this movie so perhaps they liked it just fine.  While maybe one joke out of three in this quip-packed movie actually hit me as funny, I have to admit that the talented cast were excellent in their delivery, particularly Guinness, Niven, Smith, Falk, and Eileen Brennan as Diamond’s plus one Tess Skeffington.

By the way, when I was a kid the version I watched always included a cameo scene with Sherlock Holmes and John Watson arriving late, so I’m going to include it here.

Rating: **