Good Movies, December 2021-January 2022

Good Movies, 2021

My favourite movies released in 2021

Ten older movies I watched and loved in 2021

Good Movies, October-November 2021

Good Movies, September 2021

Good Movies, August 2021

Good Movies, June 2021

Good Movies, May 2021

Good Movies, April 2021

Good Movies, March 2021

Good Movies, February 2021

Good Movies, January 2021

Letterboxd Year in Review 2020

If we’re going to give all this data to companies, the least they can do is give us a nice web page with statistics that seem kind of neat for five minutes.

If I’d have guessed, I would have said I’d watched 500 movies this year.

This one shows that some of Letterboxd’s metadata may not be perfect. These count up based on tags, and On The Rocks” probably shouldn’t be counted as Russian. To Live and Die in LA probably shouldn’t count as Spanish just because William Peterson inappropriately uses amigo.”

Unfortunately Letterboxd doesn’t know if I’m rewatching a movie but just hasn’t reviewed it on the site before. So…there? I sure did like a lot of the movies I watched this year.

What do you mean, they’re still making new movies? I haven’t heard of this.

Letterboxd definitely thinks I should have watched more 2020 films. But what can you do?

Good Movies, December 2020

Good Movies, November 2020

I tweeted about a bunch of these movies in a #noirvember thread.

Good Movies, October 2020

Holy crap did I watch a lot of movies this month. This was mostly brought on by Criterion’s horror lineup, but, still. Wow.

Good Movies, September 2020

Good Movies, August 2020

Good Movies, July 2020

Good Movies, June 2020

The Apartment and How To Escape Toxic Masculinity

One Room With A View:

Barring a few cultural touchstones…that tie it to its setting, Billy Wilder’s 60-year-old classic remains the kind of story that still feels incredibly modern. In our post #MeToo era of heightened awareness regarding workplace harassment, toxic masculinity and relationship power dynamics, The Apartment makes for a fascinating watch.

It basically hasn’t aged a day. One of my top 10 and a movie everyone should watch. One of the few perfect movies.

Good Movies, May 2020

  • Love Exposure, 2008 - ★★★½. So many crimes. So many kinds of crimes.

  • The Out-of-Towners, 1970 - ★★★★. Oh my god, now I have an ulcer too.

  • The Player, 1992 - ★★½. Cameo.com fucking wishes

  • Cowboy, 1958 - ★½. I refuse to believe Jack Lemmon has ever spent time in broad daylight.

  • Bay of Angels, 1963 - ★★★½. I think it’s weird to have a movie like this end happily?

Good Movies, April 2020

  • The Deadly Affair, 1966 - ★★★½. I’m not sure what surprised and delighted me the most: James Mason’s amazing domestic troubles or Harry Andrews’ incessant narcolepsy.

  • Tampopo, 1985 - ★★★★½. This movie is equal parts innocent, charming, disgusting, confusing, and endearing. It made me go aww” and oh, oh my god why oh interesting” every five minutes.

  • Miami Connection, 1987 - ½. FRIEND!?!?!?

  • Cover Girl, 1944 - ★★. Good dancing, bad singing, good lines (“Sure, I’ll marry you. Who is this?”), meh plot.

  • Cinematic Titanic: Danger on Tiki Island, 2010 - ★★. My new business card is definitely going to say Carla, to my friends and enemies.”

  • The Anderson Tapes, 1971 - ★★★½ Now that’s how you fuck up a heist, kids.

  • Hardcore, 1979 - ★★★ Really wanted George to invite Season back home to help rehab his daughter, but that would be a whole different movie. Ah well. If you liked Taken but wanted the dad to have a much lousier set of skills.

  • Bitter Moon, 1992 - ★★★★. Being an adult means being the kind of hypocrite you can live with — an old piece of advice that definitely ran through my head as I watched a Polanski film in 2020 while self-isolating.

  • The Big Heat, 1953 - ★★★★. The crib on the porch is for the outside baby we don’t talk about.

  • Shadow, 2018 - ★★★★. It’d be cool to just hang out in those robes doing calligraphy though.

  • Pain and Glory, 2019 - ★★★★. Intimate and touching. Very well done.

  • Experiment in Terror, 1962 - ★★★★. So good. One of those great ones that’s just to the left of ten other movies you love, but takes this long to bubble up to the surface.

  • Beauty and the Beast, 1946 - ★★½. Disney’s 90s version is probably the best, but this came out fifty years before and still puts up a fight.

  • Dead Reckoning, 1947 - ★★½.

  • The Skeleton Twins, 2014 - ★★★.

  • You’ll Never Get Rich, 1941 - ★★. Ugh, the army.

  • Violet Evergarden: Eternity and the Auto Memory Doll, 2019 - ★★. Some episodes of Violet Evergarden are so crushing you feel your heart wrench itself apart. Other episodes are just sort of sweet and slow, but it’s okay because this is a pretty and winning world for a hang. This movie is more of the second. I was hoping for more of the first.

  • High and Low, 1963 - ★★★★★.

Moments I Enjoyed from 1950’s The Breaking Point

  • When Patricia Neal just grabs a cigarette out of John Garfields’ pocket without asking.

  • Phillis Thaxter slapping John Garfield for saying Patricia Neal might have nice legs.

  • Patricial Neal just easing into the bench seat at the yacht club, both arms up on the backrest. So fucking cool.

  • John Garfields’ line delivery of For all I know she’s covered in moles.”

  • Juano Hernández’s son at the end, left alone, the crowd dispersing without him. The movie doesn’t forget that he has a son, even though it’s a very small part.

  • Michael Curtiz’ directing style, who is so good I often forget he exists and the movie simply wills itself into being.

  • Patricia Neal’s delivery of Speaking of coincidences, I live in Number Seven. My friends just kick the door open.”

  • Sherry Jackson and Donna Jo Boyce as Garfields’ daughters. They bring so much life and chaos to the domestic scenes. And that delivery of it’ll grow out” about their mother’s dye job. Why you gotta hit her so hard?

  • Me yelling at John Garfield to just go pick lettuce in Salinas, already. Everyone would be much happier!

From my review on Letterboxd.

Movies I’d show in the office if such an occasion arose

Movies I’d show in the office if such an occasion arose

Organized by decade

40s

  • Ball of Fire
  • Casablanca
  • The Lady Eve
  • The Philadelphia Story

50s

  • Funny Face
  • GIGI
  • Love in the Afternoon
  • Sabrina

60s

  • Can Can
  • Charade
  • From Russia with Love
  • How to Steal a Million
  • Paris When It Sizzles
  • What a Way to Go

70s

I don’t own any office-appropriate films from the 70s, nor do I believe any exist.

80s

  • Die Hard
  • The Princess Bride
  • Aliens
  • Beetlejuice

90s

  • Brain Candy
  • Cant Hardly Wait
  • Death Becomes Her
  • Gosford Park
  • Office Space

2000s

  • Death to Smoochy
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox
  • The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy
  • The Royal Tenenbaums

2010s

  • La La Land
  • Moonrise Kingdom
  • The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl
  • What We Do in the Shadows

Letterboxd: When rated

Letterboxd rules, but sometimes it’s hard to see an exact chronological list of when you saw a movie. The Activity” view shows all your ratings, but it also shows everything else you do on the site (add movies to lists, etc), so it can be daunting. I’ve never fully understood the Diary” tab, since it seems only movies I review with words (and not just a star rating) show up, but sometimes just the star ratings do?

Anyways, this view seems to do it for me: When rated. You sort it by anything, but sorting my ratings by when rated” seems to give me the best view of movies I’ve watched in reverse chronological order.

Kanopy

Kanopy seems pretty great so far. It’s working very well on our two Roku devices and my iPhone. Video streaming services that aren’t YouTube or Netflix often don’t work as well, but Kanopy seems as good as the big companies. I love the library. It has the table-stakes features of a first-class streaming service like a que, and it’ll keep your place if you pause and move to a different device.

Most importantly, it’s the classic movie service I’ve always wanted (and Filmstruck provides in the US). I don’t know how popular classic” cinema is, but if you find the selection on Netflix lacking, Kanopy will satiate.

The fact that it’s free” with a library card is really great, but I’d happily pay for this. There’s an arbitrary limit of 8 movies per months, but I’m not sure what happens if I reach it. Can I pay more to watch more? Or is 8 films all I can watch in a month? It’s a civilized amount and I likely won’t go past it most months, but I’m curious.

In general, though, great, great stuff so far. I’m very impressed.

Phantom Thread

Phantom Thread reminded me of my own stories. Somewhat unlikeable characters who fall in love and ruin one another in new ways, mostly with one-on-one conversations? That’s where I’m a Viking.

Phantom Thread is probably going to be a lot better on the second or third viewing. I wonder if my books are like that. You finish them the first time and you’re like what?” And then maybe on the next go around you find the bits that work for you and it’s a little better. Or put more simply, the more I think about Phantom Thread, the more I like it. I hope people think about my work like that.

Comparing a production like Phantom Thread, with a cabal of seasoned professionals doing very good work, to my own self published and little-read work is super egotistical, sure, but it actually isn’t all that often I watch or read something that reminds me of my work. Phantom Thread is kind of like if my books were better.

I wonder if they love their movie. I mean, that might be something I should be asking of my own work? Do I love my finished work? I don’t know. I have my favourites. I poured so much into Skypunch and I know it’s a failed book but I still look at some scenes and think it’s my best thing. Kate in No Chinook is my favourite creation. I wanted more of her and that’s how Skypunch happened. Tess and Bret in Record Year, I’m still in love with them. But for the most part, I just see where things could be better. I’m hard on myself. Phantom Thread proposes that probably everybody is.

But at least I take my girl out on New Years.

The Shining

Watching the Shining for the first time can be confusing. It doesn’t seem all that scary. It plods along, nothing much happens, and by the end you sort of feel like it’s you’ve been suckered. It’s all hype, you’ll think.

But then you’ll watch The Shining again. Perhaps it’ll be on late and it’s the best thing on the guide. Maybe a partner will insist you missed something. Listen to them. They know better. (This is good advice generally). Inevitably, the re-watching will make you pay a little bit more attention. You’ll start to look around the actors, and pay attention to the series of events. At some point, you’ll catch an inconsistency. You will feel clever. Later, you will feel like an idiot, because there’s loads of them.

If you’re completely nuts, you’ll dive into the content about it online. Here are the best pieces I’ve seen about the movie, to save you some time (but you’ll want more. There is no enough” with this film):

Todd Alcott’s Seven Part Analysis of The Shining’

The Shining and The Steadicam

11 Things You Might Not Have Noticed In The Shining

The Set of The Shining” is Intentionally Impossible

The Shining doesn’t just reward multiple viewings, but different kinds of viewings. And that’s why I was so excited to see it in the theatre (TIFFs Kubrick Exhibit), where I’d surely pick up on a few bits I hadn’t before. I did notice two things I hadn’t before. One inconsistency is that the first time we see the Overlook, there is no maze. This is definitely one of those head-smacking ones. I’m sure other people noticed it years ago. I’m sure there’s tons of posts about it. But hey, it was the first time for me.

The other thing I noticed was just how loud the movie is. Having only watched it at home, I never realized I was supposed to crank the volume and break my speakers, but that’s how it was in the theatre. The waaaaah” factor reached 0.8 Nolan, and the enveloping noise succeeded in making a movie I’ve seen half a dozen times scary again. Well done.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Review

You can also find this review over at Deadshirt.

Nobody’s saying it’s a stroll down the tree line promenade with a fine lady and a white poodle but it’s got what you’d call venerability.”

I’ve read in various reviews for The Grand Budapest Hotel that it confirms everything about writer and director Wes Anderson, and by extension presents nothing to change the minds of people who don’t care for his style. Certainly, there are signature moments of twee precision, of people with more money than us having problems we will never have. I understand the lack of reputability in many of his films, the alien notion that these people aren’t found in any life we know, and that their decisions aren’t ones people here — on this earth — would make. Grand Budapest has these characters, but we find them all on the side of villainy. The hero only wants to help his boss break out of prison to (maybe) sell a stolen painting inherited to him because he slept with an 84-year old murdered woman, and along the way clear his name for her murder which he didn’t (probably) commit, but can’t tell the truth to because it would disrepute some other old woman in another old country.

Okay, the heroes aren’t your next door neighbors. The villains are even less so. The old lady’s son (Adrien Brody) is painted as a Moose-and-Squirrel-hunting cartoon, clad entirely in black with pointed accents and a tiny gun around his ankle. His muscle (Willem Dafoe) scowls with missing teeth, punches with brass-knuckle-style rings on both hands, and shoots with a gun holstered on his chest, next to a flask. The death toll in the film is on him, but he’s a great skiier and I’ve had his theme music on repeat all week.

All right, so maybe The Grand Budapest Hotel is just another Wes Anderson movie, and to make matters worse, part of the recent set where it seems less like a deep character sketch (Rushmore, The Royal Tenenbaums) and more like a frolicking adventure for the kid in all of us (everything he’s done since). This means that the plot is more important than spending time with the cast, and this unfortunately means much of the cast is a blur. The movie ostensibly features nearly two dozen incredible stars, but few reach more than a paragraph in the script. Everyone chews the scenery (and what scenery there is!) but nobody is going to come out of this thinking they saw enough Bill Murray, Owen Wilson (literally 20 seconds of screen time), Tilda Swinton, Jude Law, the aforementioned Brody and Dafoe, or the charming, beautiful, and crafty Agatha, played by Saoirse Ronan.

I even get the sense that we didn’t get enough time with Ralph Fiennes and Tony Revolori, the unlikely pair of buddies in this ostensible buddy caper. This isn’t due to lack of screen time, but instead that Anderson only scratched the surface of their profile. Revolori’s Zero has the back story of a refugee and survivor, but the guile of a man well beyond his years. Fiennes’ M. Gustav H combines dandy sensibilities with a sea of secret society esteem.

But here’s the thing with Anderson’s work since The Life Aquatic: if you let them in, his movies are an immeasurably good time. His work forces you to smile ear-to-ear like no other director, marveling at both the scale of his dioramas and ability to — stone-faced and without irony — tell you that none of it matters. There’s artifice upon artifice, stories about stories about stories, wrapped up neatly in a framing device that reminds us that even the most daring and brilliant adventures will one day be just a way to lazily burn an afternoon. And yet, I still found myself attracted to nearly everyone on screen, invested in their well-being, and hoping for not only the best but more.

Throughout The Grand Budapest Hotel, characters begin reciting poetry. These poems are romantic and profound (if a little pedantic), and invariably interrupted by plot. This happens roughly half a dozen times. The characters want to ruminate on a moment, and have the perfect stanza with which to do so, but there is no time. They are on the run, and their enemies are close. There is a sense that if they don’t hurry, there will never be time for poetry ever again. This is where the movie gets its actual weight: enemies are on the horizon. The edges of the film’s map are already lousy with Nazis (here retrofitted with no-name branding, complete with two Z’s instead of S’s), and they only encroach as the film progresses. But the Nazis aren’t what defeats our heroes eventually. It’s time.

The Grand Budapest Hotel shares quite a few ingredients from pre-war films with eastern-European flavor: The Shop Around The Corner and Grand Hotel, to name two. I look at films like these with borrowed melancholy, and see their essence as something lost to time and war. Technically, there’s nothing stopping films like Grand Budapest, Grand Hotel, and Shop Around The Corner from happening today. There are nice hotels, old ladies still get murdered, and young refugees find work and struggle with reality. But we miss both the feeling that death is actually around every corner, and the charm with which to repel it. Grand Budapest illuminates this, and makes us nostalgic for a time that is long since gone (if it, in fact, ever existed at all), like the particular world M Gustav H tried to keep alive, and the one Zero holds up in a ruin.