Smell of Camphor, Scent of Jasmine (2000; d. Bahman Farmanara).
A profound and touching (and very funny) film from Iran, written and directed by and starring Farmanara. It tells the story of a death-obsessed film director who hasn’t made a film in years. He mourns his dead wife. He can’t get new projects off the ground (an explicit political point about artists in Iran: they live a living death). There’s an All That Jazz-ish quality to some of it, as well as multiple clear nods to Woody Allen. It’s beautiful.
Moon (2009; d. Duncan Jones)
One of my favorite films from 2009. The illusion that there are two Sam Rockwells walking around on that Moon station is so complete that you forget about it almost immediately. Deep film about identity. Haunting score by Clint Mansell. Sam Rockwell’s performance is out of this world. Literally.
Footlight Parade (1933; d. Lloyd Bacon, musical numbers by Busby Berkeley)
I love this movie. I love the show-girls racing from theatre to theatre in their special bus, the bus zooming by with frenzied blurred images of all of the girls changing into their next costumes through the windows. As a kid, Footlight Parade represented the launching-pad of so many fantasies, of life in the theatre, life in vaudeville, running around in tap shoes, that the fantasies are indistinguishable at this point from my actual personality. Some of us don’t “put away childish things.”
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 4, “Paper Moon” (2014; d. Jeannot Szwarf)
This episode is better than I remember. Yes, there are too many flashbacks and way too much talking and the actress playing Kate is unable to carry the emotion of the episode. But there are so many great scenes of Sam and Dean talking, arguing, discussing … Four, I think. Four!! Dean saying the word “embarrassing”. I forgot about that. When has he ever said that word before? It’s also gorgeously filmed, dark and rainy. So I’m much better with it now.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 5, “Fan Fiction” (2014; d. Phil Sgricca)
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 6, “Ask Jeeves” (2014; d. John MacCarthy)
This cast is HILARIOUS. “Did anyone else just wet themselves?” Dean staring into the knight’s armor. Sam being sexually harassed by the cougars and trying to casually touch them with silver knives to see if they are monsters. Goof-balls all around and I love every one of them. Plus Flowers in the Attic references. So I’m good.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 7, “Girls, Girls, Girls” (2014; d. Robert Singer)
Oh Hannah/Caroline. Naked in front of Castiel. Nope. Nope to the nth degree. How many plot-lines can one episode hold? It’s too much! Also, the actress playing Hannah forgets, constantly, that she is supposed to be a supernatural being, unused to human-ness. She hasn’t tapped into the ONE THING that could make the character interesting. Buh-bye Hannah. Meanwhile: sex trade and human trafficking. “Fancy lady” returns. The insane contingent of Supernatural fans, based only on the TRAILER for the episode, bombarded the poor writer on Twitter with accusations that he was a “rape apologist.” Poor guy. What on earth were these bozos talking about? They hadn’t even seen the episode. I liked that Dean was on a dating site. Yeah, it was never mentioned again (and that’s a flaw: you set up something weird or interesting like this, you might as well explore it further, especially in an “all over the place” episode like this.) but I like Sexpot Dean, on the make Dean.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 8, “Hibbing 911″ (2014; d. Tim Andrew)
Glorious. “Save ya a seat, Jodes!” Off-screen: “Jodeo!” “Jodeo?” The final confrontation with its supposed Woodstock-gone-wrong vibe doesn’t work at all and there’s too much talking and explaining (and, again, the young actress is not up to the task) but the rest is so awesome that I seriously want a Sherriff Mills-Donna spinoff. Plus, all the Bob Dylan references. So much fun.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 9, “The Things We Left Behind” (2014; d. Guy Norman Bee)
Remembering now the “all over the place” quality of Season 10, which I am pretty all right with. I like its mess. I am bored with some storylines (Hannah, Castiel in general, Crowley – who started out so strong in his bromance way), but there’s enough going on with the brothers that I’m good with it. (I think the show is stronger, anyway, when the overall Arc doesn’t dominate too much. It’s not that kind of show. Or, that’s not the kind of show I care about. HENCE: I’m good with “all over the place”-ness.) One of the things I think is great is that Dean has “come back” from hiatus with all kinds of problems: Hell. Purgatory. Domestic Life with Lisa. So we see that transformation and how these changes operate him. Here, with the Mark, we see how specific he is in working on whatever these challenges are. The effect of the Mark does not look like Hell … or Purgatory … or Suburban Life. What happens to him when he’s under the influence of the Mark is not just the violence … it is how LOST he feels. That interior “wait … where am I” look, that’s been there from the beginning. It’s so subtle, and so specific, and it’s all on him. He came up with that.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 10, “The Hunter Games” (2015; d. John Badham)
First of all: John Freakin’ Badham. Second of all: I get the sense that a lot of people disliked the actress playing Claire. I really like her. She is clearly still a little girl, and her bravado is ACTING tough, because she needs to. But you always see that child. Sounds a little bit like Dean. I think she’s lovely. Not totally crazy about the Castiel Domestic Arc, and hate “I like emoticons” (can’t stand “Cutesy” Castiel: Ugh) but in the context of the season (which is all about families – broken families, families reuniting), I think it works. However: this episode is worth it for the cracked-mirror shot of Dean early on, as well as the moment when he steps forward to face Metatron, one of the most gorgeous shots of him in the entire series (another one being the shot of him hiding in the police station in the pilot. They started early with The Beauty.) Again, the three-pronged plot (Dean/Sam/Metatron, Castiel/Claire and Crowley/Rowena) is a bit much. But yay, Cain!
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 11, “There’s No Place Like Home” (2015; d. Phil Sgricca)
Charlie! The final scene is killer. Some of Ackles’ best work. Charlie (Felicia Day) brings out something totally unique.
The Gift (2015; d. Joel Edgerton)
Loved it. reviewed for Ebert.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 12, “About a Boy” (2015; d. Serge Ladouceur)
Digging For Fire (2015; d. Joe Swanberg)
I don’t like Joe Swanberg’s stuff but I liked this.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 13, “Halt & Catch Fire” (2015; d. Serge Ladouceur)
This one didn’t really have reverb for me, but I liked Dean’s tortured mien on the college campus with all the pretty girls. He couldn’t take it. A sign of life, human regular life.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 14, “Executioner’s Song” (2015; d. Serge Ladouceur)
The buildup to Cain’s return. Things getting serious. The Crowley-Rowena thing … I don’t know. I like the Shakespearean treacherous court thing they’ve got going on … but there’s something missing. It makes Crowley so irrelevant. Like, what are you still doing here? (And I love Crowley.) Also, the scene with Cain and Dean was awesome – and Dean falling over afterwards was great. But this is an issue with Supernatural: you build up this whole thing, the Mark of Cain, what it is doing to Dean, how it is killing him (this happened in Season 9 too) – and then, in the end, what happens with Cain? A fist-fight. Like any other fist fight. Yeah, Cain says mean things that cut Dean to the core. But … that’s it? The Mark just makes you … have a particularly brutal fist fight? Both actors are playing the subtext, HARD, and they fill in the blanks in the scenario with their considerable gifts, and make it an apocalyptic emotional meeting of the minds. But still.
Ricki and the Flash (2015; d. Jonathan Demme)
I liked it.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 1, “Nothing Important Happened Today, Part 1″ (2001; d. Kim Manners)
Kim Manners starting us off on the final season of The X-Files. These are two very intense episodes. Mulder is gone. Doggett and Monica Reyes are rising. I think Robert Patrick is superb in what was a thankless role. But taken outside of the context that he is “replacing” Mulder or whatever: he is his own guy, with his own arc, and I love so many elements of his performance. I love his skepticism, his wry humor … but what makes it for me is that his face is so sad. It is etched with pain. This is a man who is one of the walking wounded. I also like that he is surrounded by tough mouthy broads and he never once belittles them, shows contempt for them, or tries to lord his male-ness over them. He’s not like that. He listens, he argues, he shakes his head in disbelief, but Season 9 is about a triangulation partnership: three people. Very difficult. But the dynamic works.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 2, “Nothing Important Happened Today, Part 2″ (2001; d. Tony Wharmby)
Paranoia and melodrama.
Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 3 “Won’t Get Fooled Again” (2005; d. Kevin Bray)
I like to let off steam watching this show. I don’t know why. I’ve seen these episodes a million times.
Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 4 “Plain Sight” (2005; d. Matt Earl Beesley)
10,000 Saints (2015; d. Shari Springer Berman, Robert Pulcini)
Enjoyed it, reviewed for Ebert.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 3, “Daemonicus” (2001; d. Frank Spotnitz)
Doggett and Reyes investigate a case. Scully is busy being a new mother. She enters the action only sporadically. It takes some getting used to. But I found the two new actors wonderful together. Also, please kiss, you two.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 4, “4-D” (2001; d. Tony Wharmby)
A near-death experience that will then be mirrored at the end of the season.
Tom at the Farm (2015; d. Xavier Dolan)
A bit much, and it doesn’t really work, but there are parts of it that are gorgeous. Dolan is young. Super-young. Who knows what will happen with him. Reviewed for Ebert.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 5, “Lord of the Flies” (2001; d. Kim Manners)
Another gross bug episode. What is it with Kim Manners and bugs?
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 6, “Trust No 1.” (2001; d. Tony Wharmby)
HOLY SHIT. “Dearest Dana.” Dearest Dana???? Breath-taking.
Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 5 “Broken Mirror” (2005; d. Guy Norman Bee)
Women are in danger. Always.
Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 6 “LDSK” (2005; d. Ernest R. Dickerson)
It’s interesting to see how the series grew. It’s still pretty self-conscious here, with the behavioral analysts being super-imposed on imagined action on a green screen behind them, “imagining” their way into the killer’s head. It’s pretentious. They dropped that “device” pretty quick. Mandy Patinkin is amazing: coiled and focused and pained and smart.
Fast & Furious 4 (2009; d. Justin Lin)
Watched while I was recovering from surgery because it’s comforting and entertaining. Mum got sucked into it too. That opening sequence with the tanker and Michelle Rodriguez. Amazing.
Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 7 “The Fox” (2005; d. Guy Norman Bee)
Serial killers are everywhere. And they are smarter than you and me. Always. And hey, Guy Norman Bee!
Criminal Minds, Season 1, Episode 8 “Natural Born Killer” (2005; d. Peter Ellis)
Hi, Peter Ellis!
Survivor’s Remorse, Season 1, Episode 4, “The Decisions” (2014; d. Bradley Buecker)
A re-watch before Season 2 premiered. My cousin Mike created the show. My cousin Kerry has appeared on the show twice. My brother Brendan is on the writing staff. I am proud of my family. This is a terrific show.
Survivor’s Remorse, Season 1, Episode 5, “Out of the Past” (2014; d. Mike Mariano)
One of the best things about Survivor’s Remorse is how it sets you up to think an interaction is going to go one way, due to our preconceived notions. And then … boom. The undercut. We see a more human and flawed version of events. It’s so refreshing.
Survivor’s Remorse, Season 1, Episode 6, “Six” (2014; d. Victor Levin)
A woman emerges from the past. We get more backstory. This is a family that really cares about each other.
His Private Secretary (1933; d. Phil Whitman)
Early John Wayne, before he became “John Wayne”. It’s cheaply done, it’s barely an hour, but John Wayne is really good. It’s easy to be good when the entire industry is set up to please you, to give you the best roles, to create movies around you. It’s not so easy to be good in something shallow and thrown together: Wayne is charming, funny, natural, and sexy.
The Shooting (1966; d. Monte Hellman)
A moody mysterious masterpiece. It’s out on Criterion, with a video-essay on the great Warren Oates by my friend Kim Morgan. Get it. The Shooting stars Warren Oates, Millie Perkins and Jack Nicholson. It’s incredible.
Gimme Shelter (1970; d. Albert Maysles, David Maysles)
I’ve seen it a bunch, of course, but this time, still in recovery from surgery, I listened to the commentary track, which is fascinating. The insider view of what it was like on that crazy awful day.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 18, “Hollywood Babylon” (2007; d. Phil Sgriccia)
A re-watch in preparation for a re-cap, whenever I’ll get to it. I love this episode.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 19, “Folsom Prison Blues” (2007; d. Mike Rohl)
“Poor … giant … Tiny.” Another great episode, one of my favorites in Season 2.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 7, “John Doe” (2002; d. Michelle MacLaren)
Michelle MacLaren’s first directing job. It’s amazing. The light is all saturated and bleached out, a glamorous and yet dried-out look. Robert Patrick’s breakdown, when he remembers, again, about his son, was heart-wrenching. He’s so so good! Why doesn’t he get enough credit for this performance? What a character.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 8, “Hellbound” (2002; d. Kim Manners)
Monica Reyes is a bit nutty, even for the X-Files people. I like that, though. They aren’t setting her up as a kook, or a Mulder stand-in. She is her own thing. It would have been so easy to make fun of that character, or to set her up as “female competition” (yuk). Instead, she’s an excellent collaborator with her own view on things.
Phoenix (2015; d. Christian Petzold)
One of my favorite movies of 2015 so far. Review here.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 9, “Provenance” (2002; d. Kim Manners)
Here we go.
Break Point (2014; d. Jay Karas)
Watched to review for Rogerebert.com. It opens this Friday.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 10, “Providence” (2002; d. Chris Carter)
Intense. Scully’s baby is rising in importance.
Straight Outta Compton (2015; d. F. Gary Gray)
Another one of my favorite movies of the year thus far. Review here.
Stella Dallas (1937; d. King Vidor)
You know, I cry every time. Especially that scene when Stella goes to see her husband’s new woman and says “Please take my daughter.” That scene is KILLER. Stanwyck has no vanity. That character is a mess. A complicated mess. She does not hold back.
20 Fingers (2004; Mania Akbari)
Directed and written by the hugely talented Mania Akbari (she’s a formidable person), 20 Fingers also stars Akbari with Bijan Daneshmand – the only other cast member. Daneshmand is also a talented and fascinating guy, known mainly as a producer. This is a short film, barely over an hour, but it features a series of vignettes, written by Akbari, showing the contemporary issues facing individual men and women in Iran. Some are funny-ish, some are disturbing (the first one especially), and some are interesting in the way that good writing can remain on the surface but also suggest disturbances in the depths. These two actors are incredible. They play a series of totally different characters. Oh, and each vignette is just one take. The cumulative effect of all of this is devastating. One of the unspoken and yet totally clear subjects of the film is how patriarchy doesn’t really empower men after all: it weakens them, makes them brittle and small and afraid. It’s not just about what patriarchy does to women. Patriarchy RUINS men. Bold and radical.
Five: Dedicated to Ozu (2003; d. Abbas Kiarostami)
Kiarostami is so intellectual in his process and a wonderful manipulator of events onscreen. This film is made of a series of long takes (five in total), dedicated to the great Japanese master of the long take Yasujirō Ozu. How to describe these long takes? There is no dialogue. One involves a cluster of dogs lying on the beach (each “take” happens on the beach). One involves a piece of driftwood being sucked back out to sea. One involves the reflection of a full moon in a small pool of water. One involves an army of ducks marching along the beach. There is a structure to these events. The takes are all about 10, 15 minutes long (some longer). It may try your patience. But what ends up happening is you start to get drawn into the images onscreen, repetitive and yet always in flux, and all kinds of thoughts and associations start coming up as you make your own sense of what is going on.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 11, “Audrey Pauley” (2002; d. Kim Manners)
Amazing episode. Loved it. it reminded me of “In My Time of Dying,” the Supernatural episode also directed by Manners.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 12, “Underneath” (2002; d. John Shiban)
A Doggett-centric episode, a dirty-cop police procedural. I love Robert Patrick so much (have I said that??): he is positively riveting onscreen. “You broke my heart,” he says to his partner with such openness I gasped.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 13, “Improbable” (2002; d. Chris Carter)
Burt Reynolds shows up. Burt Reynolds!! I adore this episode. It reminded me of Jacques Tati, with its understanding of math, its symmetry, its group scenes where people move in seemingly random ways but that make sense in a larger pattern. It ends with a musical number. This episode is insane and I am in love with it.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 14, “Scary Monsters” (2002; d. Dwight Little)
Moody Monster of the Week.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 15, “Jump the Shark” (2002; d. Cliff Bole)
Lone Gunmen-centric. Moving towards the end of the series now: re-visiting all of the characters who populate this world. I cried at the end.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 16, “William” (2002; d. David Duchovny)
Duchovny’s style as a director is so damn romantic. Heart-wrenching episode.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 17, “Release” (2002; d. Kim Manners)
Tying up a loose end with Doggett’s back-story. Doggett Doggett Doggett. I’m so taken with this man, his closeups, the thoughts, the emotions, the blazing blue eyes filled with pain. Maybe he’ll be okay after all. Mark Snow pulls out all the stops with his stunning score.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 18, “Sunshine Days” (2002; d. Vince Gilligan)
Cannot EVEN with the Brady Bunch theme! “Bobby? Cindy??” TOO MUCH.
The X-Files, Season 9, Episode 19, “The Truth: Part 1 and 2″ (2002; d. Kim Manners)
Kim Manners brought the series to a close. Mulder returns. I’m now getting used to seeing Scully and Mulder kiss and that may be the most unbelievable thing about this series. The final shot … with its womb-like intimacy … was gorgeous. Closing the series out. I am sure fans were hoping for more. Or, some fans. But ultimately: what matters in this life? What truth is the most important? The ties that bind us together, our connections, and our love.
The X-Files: I Want to Believe (2008; d. Chris Carter)
Really really enjoyed the second movie. It’s a relationship movie. Mulder has a beard.
Man of the World (1931; d. Richard Wallace)
An early Carole Lombard. It’s interesting to see her, pre Twentieth Century, when she emerged as the screwball-dame comedic genius that we all know her to be. Here, she plays a straight leading lady, charming and gorgeous and thoughtful, but with not one funny line. William Powell is gorgeous and sad, living a bad life, filled with guilt. And loved the ending. Unexpectedly dark. But right, ultimately.
We’re Not Dressing (1934; d. Norman Taurog)
What is not to love about this movie? Let me list the details:
1. Norman Taurog, eventually known for directing most of the Elvis movies, directed this maniac film.
2. Bing Crosby as a sailor, who sings constantly. He sings as disaster ensues. He sings five full songs, and the songs are long as hell. He’s gorgeous.
3. Carole Lombard, now fully emerged as her comedic self. Watch her facial expressions as Bing sings to her.
3. Ethel Merman, singing, and riding a bicycle through the ocean in her pant suit.
4. A roller-skating bear.
5. Ray Milland as a tuxedo wearing Prince, desperate to win the favor of Carole Lombard.
6. All of these people are shipwrecked on a deserted island. Or, they think it’s deserted, when actually there are two other people living on the island. Those two other people are:
7. George Burns and Gracie Allen.
8. Carole Lombard is a spoiled rich brat. Bing Crosby sings love songs to her but also treats her callously. “Callously” as in: he attempts to rape her because it’ll serve her right. Later, he says to her that she wouldn’t have even been worth it. And this is the HERO of the film.
9. At one point, Carole Lombard, soaking wet, stands behind a rock and disrobes. She wrings out her filmy sheer underpants. She hangs them out to dry. So for the rest of the movie you know she is stalking around commando. So there’s that. But then a brisk wind whips the underwear into the air, and carries them through the tropical forest where they land at Gracie Allen’s feet, unnoticed at first. Gracie then proceeds to put on Carole Lombard‘s underwear, thinking it is her own.
10. Can you tell this is Pre-Code?
11. This movie is literally INSANE.
Update: Found this gif online of Carole Lombard in We’re Not Dressing standing on the ship-deck and hearing Bing Crosby sing from the deck below. I can’t stop watching it.