December 2015 Viewing Diary

Christmas, Again (2015; d. Charles Poekel)
So good. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Back Street (1932; John M. Stahl)
Back Street is the story of a woman who allows herself to be a “back street” woman: a long-time mistress to a married man, a woman who gives up her own chance for happiness to stay by his side (or … hovering on the sidelines of his life.) It’s so pre/anti-feminist that I am sure some people’s heads would explode. But, in my opinion, it does show the tendency of women to hang on, to submit themselves to doomed situations, to hope that he will change. (Or, to save myself the trouble: SOME women’s tendencies.) It’s honest about the allure of sex, and it’s honest about the fact that some men marry the wrong woman and then want to have what they’ve missed out on, which isn’t necessarily sex but intimacy. Back Street is bold enough to portray that his desire is for comfort and intimacy, not crazy sex. So you may hate him, but it’s great (story-wise, anyway) that the character is not portrayed as a villain. He’s weak but not evil. It’s based on a best-selling novel by Fannie Hurst, who knew how to write about powerful female emotions of loyalty and passion and heartache (along with Back Street, she also wrote Imitation of Life). Her stuff was made for the movies (even short stories were adapted to film.) Irene Dunne plays Rae, an innocent flirty young woman who is swept off her feet by a charming guy named Walter (John Boles). But turns out, he’s married. She accepts the position of being in the “back street” of his life, and the film shows us the next 30 years of her experience, where she is kept on hold in the background. It’s agonizing and infuriating. Irene Dunne makes it work. You can’t really understand what is so great about Walter, but she makes us understand. She’s a martyr to her own love and that may be a bitter and unwelcome truth, but it’s a truth nonetheless.

Night Owls (2015; d. Charles Hood)
Loved it. Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Sicario (2015; d. Denis Villeneuve)
It was showing up on so many people’s Best of 2015 lists that I finally saw it. I don’t like Denis Villeneuve’s work, so I wasn’t really looking forward to it – although Roger Deakins, as cinematographer, was a huge draw. My favorite of Villeneuve’s films is Enemy, and one of the reasons why I like it, compared to his others, is that it is not political. It’s when Villeneuve gets all political that I hurt my head while rolling my eyes. He sounds like a spluttering undergraduate who just discovered the world was unfair, haranguing his family at the Thanksgiving dinner table: “DID YOU KNOW THAT U.S. OFFICIALS ARE CORRUPT????” “Yes, dear. Everyone knows that.” “I CAN’T BELIEVE THAT PEOPLE IN POWER ARE CORRUPT!!!!” “Read history books, dear. It’s always been that way.” Like, that’s what Denis Villeneuve sounds like to me.) So Sicario is very political, and I had my typical response to it. It looks great (there’s an incredible shot of a phalanx of gleaming black government vans swooping through the Mexican border-booths, from high overhead.) But is it a revelation that in order to bring down bad guys (and no one except the very naive, or brainwashed, would suggest that the drug cartel guys are not bad – like, empirically bad: and Villeneuve connects the bad-ness of the drug cartels to the US system, but until decapitated bodies hang with regularity from the Brooklyn Bridge, and people just drive on by because it’s such a common sight, I’ll maintain a little skepticism about that view, thankyouverymuch) sometimes the good guys have to BECOME bad, and make alliances with bad people? If this is a revelation, then you need to read more. Also see more and better films. Every other movie in the 1970s was a corrupt cop movie. This is well-trod territory. Emily Blunt, whom I really really like, is okay here … but just okay. She’s supposed to be “us,” but she’s really just Villeneuve’s stand-in. She’s an FBI agent who is shocked … SHOCKED … that CIA/DEA guys get in bed with unsavory characters and do some pretty shitty things in order to fight the drug cartels. I found myself on the side of the supposed bad guys, Josh Brolin and Benicio Del Toro (both are great in the film). I mean, they’re not “bad,” but they’re practical realists, who know the monstrous nature of what they are fighting and they will do what it takes. Stop crying, Emily, there’s work to be done. I’m actually shocked that people list this as one of the Best Of the Year. Especially in such a strong year.

Arabian Nights, Volumes 1, 2 and 3 (2015; d. Miguel Gomes)
It’s a six-hour extravaganza: three separate movies. Each movie was released separately, in staggered fashion over a three week period. I saw all three. They resist easy summary. They are breath-taking.

Mustang (2015; d. Deniz Gamze Ergüven)
Astonishing and important. I wrote about it here.

The Big Clock (1948; d. John Farrow)
This noir is extremely depressing to me. I guess all noirs are depressing, but this one in particular. Maybe it’s the long-suffering wife. And the delusion in office-bureaucrats that someday they’ll be allowed to take a breather from the Rat Race and go on a honeymoon. Something. The film is relevant to today’s world, too, where no one, ever, is “off the clock.” You go on vacation and you’re still checking your emails. So yeah. It’s depressing.

Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 8, “Just My Imagination” (2015; d. Richard Speight, Jr.)
So much fun. I still can’t stop laughing when I think about air-guitar imaginary friend crying out in agony, “SHE WAS MY GIRL!” That actor MEANT that in his bone marrow and it was very very very funny.

Hitchcock/Truffaut (2015; d. Kent Jones)
Charlie and I went to go see this at the Film Forum. I’ve met Kent Jones before, and he was there that night. Charlie knows him well, so we talked with him briefly before going into the theatre. I read the “Hitchcock/Truffaut” book so many times in college that my huge paperback copy is literally falling apart. It’s so good! And the documentary is excellent: a feast for Hitchcock fans, for sure (tons of clips illustrating the conversation going on), but also a feast for Truffaut fans, and film fans in general.

Born Under Libra (2001; d. Ahmad Reza Darvish)
I don’t know how I had not seen this film before. It was right up my alley, especially the final sequence of the film where the lovers find themselves trapped in an old battlefield, still sprinkled with land-mines. It’s frankly surreal, terrifying … you’re not sure whether it’s all a dream or not. The lovers surrounded by the apparatus of the war with Iraq, a war that has haunted Iran for a generation (well, mainly because it practically lost an entire generation in that war). This is an extremely angry and political movie. The director was kidnapped by opponents to Iran’s reform-minded government and taken out into the desert where they left him stranded. The final sequence is so strange and scary and dream-like, but the opening of the film has almost a documentary feel to it: a student uprising at a small college, the two lovers embroiled in a student strike about the college’s plan to separate the sexes. Put together, these two parts of the film make it an extraordinary unforgettable experience.

Criminal Minds, Season 4, Episode 8 “Lucky” (2007; d. Steve Boyum)
The show is so overblown (and the “device” of having cast members read quotes throughout is pretentious and often the quotes have nothing to do with what we just saw … they just are supposed to sound “smart”), and yet I can’t look away!! I’ve seen all episodes multiple times. I just choose one at random from Netflix. Shoutout to Supernatural’s Steve Boyum!

Joy (2015; d. David O. Russell)
Lots of people seem to hate this movie. I didn’t mind it. It has a lot of problems, and it’s not great, but I didn’t mind it.

Mistress America (2015; d. Noah Baumbach)
I missed this on its original release. I love Greta Gerwig, and I love what she has brought out of Noah Baumbach. Something kooky. He is clearly inspired by her. It’s making for a very interesting and entertaining collaboration. Gerwig is that weird thing: an original. I read some silly person comment on Twitter or FB (and this is a critic person): “Every movie Greta Gerwig is in, becomes a Greta Gerwig Movie.” He did not mean it as a compliment. It’s such a stupid thing to say, I’m sorry. Yes: everything she is in becomes a Greta Gerwig Movie: That’s called Being a Star. She’s not a transformational actor. She’d look ridiculous in a corset, for example. She is who she is. And Noah Baumbach has created stuff for her to do that highlights her special Greta Gerwig-ness. You may not LIKE Greta Gerwig, she may not be to your taste, you may not ENJOY her persona. But to turn that into “everything she does turns into a Greta Gerwig Movie” means you don’t understand how Stardom operates (and always has operated), and if you don’t understand how Stardom operates and you spend the majority of your life watching films, then you’ve got some serious issues in terms of analysis. I happen to be one of those people who enjoys the Greta Gerwig Thing, but what I really loved about Mistress America was its weird-ness. It’s not weird just to be weird. It’s weird because sometimes human beings are VERY VERY weird. There’s an extremely long sequence in the middle of the movie, with multiple characters hanging out in a Connecticut mansion. Some are connected to each other, others just happen to be present, but the event of that encounter is so loopy, so chaotic, so hilarious, that I almost couldn’t believe it was sustained as long as it was. The movie is very good, but that Connecticut sequence was magnificent.

’71 (2014; d. Yann Demange)
A bat-out-of-hell thriller with the backdrop of 1971 Belfast, represented (correctly) as Hell on Earth. I visited a friend in Belfast in the late-1990s, a friend whose family (and husband, in particular) lived in the neighborhood depicted in ’71. When I visited her, they were still on “that side” of the Falls Road, the Catholic housing-projects side, and while much had changed, the remnants existed – You could feel the remnants in the amazement of people that a Starbucks had opened in Belfast (international businesses feeling Belfast was safe now): we went to the Starbucks and the excitement was palpable. You could feel the remnants when my friend and I went to have an afternoon drink at a restaurant with gigantic picture windows that overlooked a public square surrounded by government buildings, my friend telling me that this was a major moment for Belfast, because huge picture windows would never have been safe in ’71, or at least those windows would have had to have been bulletproof. My visit was over 20 years later, and the community was still in the thick of it. The Black Cab tour we went on was a fascinating monologue of residual – and in many cases – understandable outrage. “See dat pub over dere?” asked our Catholic tour guide (the Black Cab tours are all Catholic). “My girlfriend’s Da got his leg blown off from a bomb in that pub.” It’s PERSONAL. ’71 is not really a political film, and treats Belfast as a third-world anonymous country that untried British soldiers are dropped into with little/no preparation for how much they will be hated. Good thriller.

The Revenant (2015; d. Alejandro González Iñárritu)
Gorgeous, violent, and unforgettable.

Starting Point (2014; d. Michał Szcześniak)
A fantastic short documentary (it’s about half an hour long), about a Polish woman in prison for murdering her grandmother, who then starts to work (under the auspices of the prison) at a local old folks’ home. It is part of the hope for rehabilitation: she will learn responsibility and caring for others. Maybe it will help in her eventual release from prison. An elderly lady who has been disabled all her life shares afternoons with the prisoner, and the two talk. The documentary is excellent. The Polish Filmmakers of NYC asked me to do a QA with the director after a recent screening. It was a wonderful event. One of the most striking features of the documentary is that it LOOKS like a feature film. One of the audience members observed, “The film looks very very expensive.” Starting Point is short-listed for the Academy Award.

The Big Short (2015; d. Adam McKay)
I am in love with it. I’ve seen it three times already.

Grand Hotel (1932; d. Edmund Goulding)
All of those 1960s/70s movies featuring a star-studded cast holed up in one location (for disaster reasons or otherwise) owe a great debt to Grand Hotel. Grand Hotel also has a light giddy European touch (you can tell that Wes Anderson watched it repeatedly, it’s all over Grand Budapest Hotel). Joan Crawford is excellent and almost walks away with the whole thing. Her posture! Her shape! Her easy friendly manner, the shop-girl vibe. She may have been a thoroughbred physically, but she hauled her way out of poverty and obscurity to get where she was, and she played those types of roles. I love this movie (in particular the opening sequence, with the busy lobby and snatches of conversation heard at the telephone banks.)

I Heart Huckabees (2004; d. David O. Russell)
A re-watch in preparation for my Joy review. Dustin Hoffman and Lily Tomlin are a match made in heaven. And Naomi Watts with the sun-bonnet? Dying laughing.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower (2012; d. Stephen Chbosky)
I had somehow missed this one. It was very good. Also, it was such a perfect representation of what my own high school years were like, complete with midnight screenings of Rocky Horror Picture Show.

Leftovers, Season 1, Pilot (2014; d. Peter Berg)
Allison is deeply involved in this show so she made me watch Episode 1. It was creepy as shit and I admit I am now sucked in.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: The Road Chip (2015; d. Walt Becker)
Sue me. I found it entertaining. Almost against my will. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

Wild Strawberries (1957; d. Ingmar Bergman)
Dream-like and strange. Eerie at times. A man who has never taken the time to really get to know himself, starts on that process of discovery. He moves in and out of the past. The scene where the teenagers serenade him is so frankly sentimental – one of the most sentimental things Bergman ever did – and I find it so poignant.

Air Force (1943; d. Howard Hawks)
I’m working on a Howard Hawks project so I thought it was time to re-visit this one. It’s a fabulous movie.

Sadie McKee (1934; d. Clarence Brown)
Joan Crawford, in another of her early “shopgirl” roles. It’s a tour de force performance. She’s humorous and funny in the early sequences. After her experiences in the city, the downfall into prostitution, her entire demeanor has changed: her voice, the look in her eyes, the posture, her reactions. It’s a sad film and she’s great in it. I have a post in the works about one of her bits of physical behavior but I just haven’t gotten around to putting it all together yet.

Millennium, Season 1, Episode 6, “Kingdom Come” (1996; d. Winrich Kolbe)
Keith and I have continued on with our project to binge-watch Millennium! (He’s watched the whole thing multiple times, of course. It’s all new to me.) “Kingdom Come” has almost a spooky supernatural aspect: Priests are being targeted and their deaths have a ritualistic aspect to it. One man is burned at the stake. There are deeper existential issues at work: a bird flies into the window of Frank’s house, and their adorable young daughter is very concerned about it. Is it dead? Will it come back to life? I am very very curious to see where this series goes. Keith isn’t telling me anything! He’s a good guide.

Millennium, Season 1, Episode 7, “Blood Relatives” (1996; d. Jim Charleston)
I thought this one was really interesting: a sort of creepy young man appears to be going to funerals and then attacking attending family members. Is he a killer? Or is he just one of those weirdos who likes to be in the presence of other peoples’ strong emotions in order to feel like he belongs to something? Side note: It is the actors who play the “guest spots” who have to do the real heavy lifting. The stars are more remote, although they get to have emotional depth too. But these guest spot people have to create a fully realized character in 2 minutes, and usually have enormously emotional scenes they have to play. Millennium has superb acting, across the board.

Millennium, Season 1, Episode 8, “The Well-Worn Lock” (1996; d. Ralph Hemecker)
Paul Dooley! I got so excited when I saw his name in the credits: “I love him!” Keith murmured, “I don’t think you’ll love him here.” And I don’t.

Millennium, Season 1, Episode 9, “Wide Open” (1997; d. Jim Charleston)
So much for investing in hi-tech security systems. No one is safe. You would have to pay me money to live in a community like that.

Millennium, Season 1, Episode 10, “The Wild and the Innocent” (1997; d. Thomas J. Wright)
First of all: Go, Thomas Wright from Supernatural! I loved “The Wild and the Innocent” for a couple of reasons:
1. Clearly inspired by Badlands, with its dreamy somewhat cut-off narration by the young girl (Heather McComb, who was so so excellent in that one episode of X-Files, and she’s excellent here too.)
2. Jeff Donovan plays the wild boyfriend. Jeff Donovan is an old old friend of both my cousin and my brother. He is an honorary O’Malley. He used to show up at O’Malley cousin get-togethers in New York and comedy always ensued, because that is the kind of person he is. It has been very exciting to see him reach the level of success he has, with Burn Notice and the Clint Eastwood films, and speaking of Sicario, he was great in his small role in Sicario. My brother was on a couple of episodes of Burn Notice, in a very funny recurring role. The first time he appeared on the show it was filmed in Colombia and Donovan was the director. So it’s all kind of a fun full circle. It was fun to see him here, too. He was great. His emotions blunted and impulsive in that psychopath way.

45 Years (2015; d. Andrew Haigh)
Such an incredible film: quiet and unrelenting. Good observations about behavior and rhythms. It plays like a stage play (it could definitely work in the theatre). It’s theatrical: it opens with a morning scene of a woman (the great Charlotte Rampling) going through her morning routine: walking the dog, washing the dishes. She gets the mail, delivers an envelope to her husband (Tom Courtenay): he opens it, reads it, and … nothing will be the same again. All of that happens in the first … 2 minutes of the film? That plot description may make it sound like a thriller or something. But it’s not. It’s the story of one woman, busy planning the party for her 45th wedding anniversary, realizing that not only did she not know the extent of her husband’s past, she ends up realizing that she did not know her husband at all. And her whole life starts to seem like a lie. They’ve been married 45 years. Nothing was really changed by that letter. But nothing will ever be the same. You know, sometimes I wish I had been married. The culture so assumes that that is “what you do” that it’s almost like living in a one-party state if you opt out. But still: the wish is there. But when I saw the final gesture in the film – what Charlotte Rampling does with her hand just before the screen goes to black – I thought to myself afterwards that maybe I’ve gotten off easy by opting out of that nonsense. INCREDIBLE film.

Son of Saul (2015; d. László Nemes)
I had heard so much buzz about it, but didn’t know “what happened.” I went into it pretty cold. There aren’t real spoilers or anything, but it was a very interesting experience because the film is quite confusing: much of it is done in whispers by characters huddled in the dark where you can’t tell who is who. Not knowing even the bare bones of the plot helped, I think, immerse me in the sheer chaos of that film, of that time. I would think, “Wait … who the fuck is that now?” and before I knew it, he’d be gone. Nobody has time. Nobody can speak in normal tones. Everything is rushed. It’s brutal. It’s a unique style, and apparently some people issues with it, with focusing on one individual in that dreadful historical moment. I found it harrowing and effective.

Creed (2015; d. Ryan Coogler)
Not only one of the best films of the year, but one of the best of the Rocky franchise. I like all of the Rocky films, although I think Rocky V was a bit of a misfire. Rocky Balboa was terrific too. It’s an important and emotional franchise on a populist level, with Stallone’s writing akin to Clifford Odets’ street poetry (which Stallone acknowledges as an influence.) Nothing can really touch the original, but Creed brings that franchise into the new era. (And it has a similar Odets-ian feel in the dialogue: the “date” over Philly cheese-steaks is a perfect example.) The film acknowledges the nostalgia for those early Rocky films, it’s a tribute in many ways to what that franchise means to people … but it’s also a new and energetic thing, a very NOW thing. I loved it. (I’ve seen it three times.)

Supernatural, Season 6, Episode 9, “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” (2010; d. John F. Showalter)
A favorite. I watch it when I’m stressed out. I was very stressed out in December. It works like a charm. “What were the aliens like??” “They were grabby incandescent douchebags. Good night.”

Star Wars: The Force Awakens (2015; d. J.J. Abrams)
A lot of fun. It was what I wanted/hoped for it to be.

The Mend (2015; d. John Magary)
What an incredible and bizarre film. Josh Lucas is amazing: when has he ever even been allowed to be this good, this out there? There’s a Repulsion-like thing going on with the two brothers: the wife leaves, and all hell breaks loose, the apartment descending into such chaos that you feel like life will never go back to normal. There is nothing here that is expected. You, the audience, are on your own.

Queen of Earth (2015; d. Alex Ross Perry)
So so good! Elizabeth Moss and Katherine Waterston (who was so unforgettable in Inherent Vice) play best friends (but with friends like these who needs enemies) spending a weekend at a house in the country. Elizabeth Moss is recovering from a couple of horrible life events. Katherine Waterston tries to understand. But doesn’t seem to really get it. But that’s just the beginning. I found this film so unsettling and half the time I couldn’t point to why. It’s fantastic.

Ballet 422 (2015; d. Jody Lee Lipes)
Such a good film. One of the best of the year, certainly one of the best documentaries. I wrote about it here.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 8, “A Very Supernatural Christmas” (2007; d. J. Miller Tobin)
A classic. I watched it on the night before Christmas Eve. It’s still a miracle that it works as well as it does and doesn’t tip over into … too much. I’ve watched it a bunch. And it’s still mysterious how all the pieces fit together. I love it when that happens, when the nuts-and-bolts don’t show … when it’s clearly well-constructed but there’s still magic at work.

Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 9, “Malleus Maleficarum ” (2008; d. Robert Singer)
I hadn’t watched this one in a long time. I love blonde Ruby. I could never have her hair unless I had a wig stitched to my head, and I love her hair.

A Fool There Was (1915; d. Frank Powell)
A vehicle for the sexy vampire woman Theda Bara, it was a blockbuster for the time, and very controversial. At one point, the title card says, “Oh, kiss me. Kiss me, you fool!” That was too much for the mores of the day. While Theda Bara’s character is every stereotype of the spider-woman known to man (she brings men to ruin using her sexuality and does so just for the fun of it), it’s still pretty radical and at least – at LEAST – it acknowledges that women have power. I know it’s not all that nuanced, but whatever: it has almost a mythic quality. Woman as so Other that she is barely human. Bara is great (I love the opening sequence, the only really surreal sequence, where she picks up a rose from a nearby table, admires it, and then plucks the head off, laughing. It’s something from out of a nightmare: and watch her gestures: that’s the echo of the 19th century, it was already on its way to becoming a lost art). She drives men to suicide, she lures men away from the plump stodgy wives (looking at the wife in the film and then looking at Bara I think, “No contest. I’d choose Bara too.”) There are a couple of scenes where Bara is running around in her loose nightgown, with her hair tumbling down her back and around her shoulders, and she’s luscious and unbound and touchable. To quote Camille Paglia: a powerful sexual persona.

Supernatural, Season 7, Episode 7, “The Mentalists” (2008; d. Mike Rohl)
A conversation on Twitter where I mentioned my love for Melanie (well-known to old-timer SPN participants here) caused confusion for some, because she’s not generally touted as a major character, she’s supposedly just a one-off so there was a: “Wait … who is that?” She’s my favorite of all the Dean Girls, and became much more than a one-off for me, but as a valid alternative for Dean Winchester if he wasn’t such a weirdo. In other words: he’s a specific man and he needs a specific kind of woman. Or, he doesn’t need her, but if something WERE to solidify with another person, she would have to be … equally weird, but with an energy to counteract/calm down his. So I went back to watch, and got sucked into their very unique dynamic, unlike anything else in the series (in terms of his male/female interactions, that is). Much of this in part to Dorian Brown, who plays her. It’s not a generic “girl of the week” performance. There’s humor in her line readings (watch HOW she says “I need a drink” – it’s not just the line that’s funny, it’s how she says it). She seems fun, not a DRIP, Dean could never be with a drip. I love how the character is written and I love how she plays it.

The Sons of Katie Elder (1965; d. Henry Hathaway)
John Wayne was too old to be dragged into that river by his feet. The moment always hurts me, he looks awkward. Wayne should never be allowed to look awkward. (He had just gotten diagnosed with the “Big C.”) Dean Martin is great, drawling, and natural in the role. You can tell Wayne and Martin get a kick out of each other (they were friends and had worked together before). The youngest brother is terrible. Wayne is great. Not my favorite Wayne, but I’ll take it.

Shampoo (1975; d. Hal Ashby)
Some of the commentary about this film doesn’t do it any favors. The commentary: It’s social-commentary/it’s political-commentary/it’s a sad and existential treatise on loneliness. Granted, you can’t get more existential/lonely than that final sequence. But come on, the thing is practically a French farce, except a French farce usually takes place in one location, with bedroom doors slamming open and shut down hallways, and here, poor Warren Beatty has to race around from bed to bed on his motorcycle, because L.A. is so spread out. But he is his own walking embodiment of a French face, spiked with distraction, desperation, and also (so important) a kind heart, which is hard to believe, and only Beatty could put that all together. The guy is not a user. He’s a pleasure-spreader, he feels an obligation to please all these women. It’s not really “using”, what he’s doing. God, I love this movie. I can’t count how many times I’ve seen it. Julie Christie getting drunk at that election party is a high-point, flicking olives at the back of Jack Warden’s head. And the Senator showing up with his drum to sing some “Native” type of song? “Hy-uh hy-uh hy-uh hy-uh HY-uh HY-uh …” It goes on forever and it is so funny – the deadpan looks on everyone’s faces as they watch him, like: “What the hell has happened to politics in this country … what exactly are we watching …” I tried to count how many times Beatty had sex in that one day. I think it’s 6, but I may be missing one. Brilliant film.

Concussion (2015; d. Peter Landesman)
O’Malley Tribal Pride must be taken into consideration since my cousin Mike appears in the early scenes of the film as Will Smith’s boss, who gets increasingly frustrated with his underling’s approach, and also conclusions. The two have a great fight scene that suddenly sparks into rage on both sides: and it’s a wonderful setup for all of the pushback that Dr. Bennet Omalu (Smith) will face throughout the film, and the sheer scope of the Football Temple he is cracking apart. Aside from cousin Mike, though, this is a very good film featuring a really superb performance by Will Smith. He is so charming, and inhabits this man’s personality so beautifully: it seems organic. Smith has tapped into the humor and the honesty that drives the character forward. David Morse is absolutely haunting. And if Concussion doesn’t make you re-think some of the aspects of football, if it doesn’t cause you grave concern for these players, especially when it comes to the Pee Wee Leagues, you’re part of the problem.

Henry Gamble’s Birthday Party (2015; d. Stephen Cone)
It opens this Friday. I will be reviewing for Ebert. All I will say is it is gorgeous and funny and sad and thought-provoking: Look for it.

Ball of Fire (1941; d. Howard Hawks)
An all-time favorite. It’s re-released in theatres right now (or, at least, it’s playing at the Film Forum) and what an intense joy it was to see it in a packed house. There was none of that “oh aren’t we so superior to those old-fashioned people in old films” laughter that RUINS so many screenings of old films (even in arthouse cinemas like the Film Forum where you think the audience would know better) … everyone was truly engaged. “14 watercolors ….”

Heaven Knows What (2015; d. Ben and Joshua Safdie)
Incredible film. I discussed it here.

I’ll See You In My Dreams (2015; d. Brett Haley)
Do you know how exciting it is when Blythe Danner generates buzz? It’s just as exciting as Charlotte Rampling generating buzz. Oh, what Bette Davis and Joan Crawford might have done in their latter years if they hadn’t been shuffled to the side due to their age. They still worked. Dammit, they were actresses to the end. But some really interesting things are going on right now with older actresses, Meryl Streep being the main pioneer. If Barbra Streisand starred in something right now, she’d be a bigger box office draw than any young actress I can think of, even Jennifer Lawrence. So yay for the older ladies. But Blythe Danner has always been a supporting character in films (although in theatre she always plays leads.) And she’s always wonderful. But here, she’s the lead. And when the film opened, people were calling it one of the best performances of the year. I missed it on its release, and finally caught up with it, and in this case the Buzz is justified. It’s one of the best performances of the year. Before I say more on Blythe Danner: I get excited when Mary Kay Place shows up in anything. She’s awesome, and has one of the funniest moments in the film: “We live right over there. In the Royal Oaks Village Retirement Community Village.” Long long silence as you watch the struggle on her face and then she BURSTS into laughter as though her head has exploded. And Rhea Perlman! Yes!! Great ensemble of older ladies. And Martin Starr: the younger man in the film. He’s phenomenal, he gives a very unexpected performance (and it’s unexpectedly written as well: Brett Haley also wrote the script). You keep thinking (or I did anyway) that his character will go a certain way. But he doesn’t. He’s so wonderful. But back to Blythe Danner: Her performance in this film was part of the Best Performances of 2015 list, put together by Rogerebert.com contributors. I loved what my friend Odie had to say about her performance:

Later, she is serenaded by Lloyd (Martin Starr), whose friendship has a slightly romantic, though unrequited touch. Carol’s a musician, so Lloyd’s act is a big risk on his part. But watch Danner’s reaction. She’s paying attention with her entire being: she’s the musician impressed with Lloyd’s composition, the supportive friend easing the nervous singer through his performance, and the listener experiencing an introspective catharsis through the lyrics.

Rent it immediately.

The Making of a Murderer
I watched all 10 episodes in a frenzied binge because I could not bear the suspense and the whole thing was giving me a heart attack. I may have a minority view on this one. The police are corrupt, no doubt. The prosecutor is a skeeve of the highest order. (In the last episode, when it’s revealed what was going on with him during the trial, I admit I thought: “I KNEW it. I KNEW something like that was going on with that guy.”) And there’s a lot of pathos in the poverty/attitude of the Avery family. But I don’t see Steven Avery as a martyr. Or not in terms of the SECOND case. What happened in the first case was an abomination, but I think there’s more to the story than we’re being told in the doc. He had a violent reputation, and a violently sexual reputation already. I think him making “jerking off” gestures at his cousin was just the tip of the iceberg. She may have exaggerated (and I think she did: NOBODY comes off reliable or truthful in this thing – and neither does Avery) but that behavior doesn’t come out of nowhere. The man doused a cat in oil and threw the cat into the fire. He did jail time for that. Killing animals is a clear indication of a disturbed and violent mind. So I don’t think the police (corrupt and awful as they are) were way off-base in focusing in on him. I am not exonerating the police. But I think equating this totally with wrongful conviction – at least in terms of the second case – is not really what was going on there. To counteract this thought (because the whole documentary is so ambiguous I couldn’t keep up with everyone’s lies): I don’t think the prosecution proved its case in court, by the way. The evidence did not match up and there was evidence of police misconduct. No doubt. But I think Steven Avery did that second crime. I’m sorry everyone. I don’t think he did it in the way the police/prosecution painted – that whole story was a fabrication and the evidence did not support it (where the hell was the blood in that trailer?). We will never know what really happened to that woman because the police/prosecution fucked it up so badly. But I think he did it. Maybe with help from the cousin who was “going hunting” at the time. Not the 16-year-old cousin, whose first legal representation was so sinister I couldn’t even catch my breath. He’s the real victim in this thing, but I also think he was involved, even if he just watched. I also think Teresa’s brother knows more than what he is saying: not that he killed her, but that there was something else going on that he felt guilty about. (In the video where Teresa mentions love for the people in her life, she mentions only her sisters, not her brothers.) So maybe somebody else did it, maybe Steven Avery didn’t do it. I turned on him and distrusted him the second I heard the cat details. (He mentions it so casually, but if you realize what really happened – the real story that the documentary does not provide, but the information is out there – it was brutal and gleeful cruelty on his part, and that behavior doesn’t come from out of nowhere. Imagine dousing a cat in oil and throwing it into a fire. Can’t do it, can you? Steven Avery could.) I imagine a lot of people will be angry with what I have to say. I’m sorry, I truly am! I’m not alone though. One of the best things about this documentary was the sheer confusion it creates. And the flip-flop of attitudes. Maybe some people immediately assumed he was railroaded because of the current environment and its attitude towards the cops, and that’s understandable. I went into it feeling the same way. But slowly, my mind changed. I felt the documentary was not telling the story it thinks it was telling. Or maybe it was. The whole thing remains ambiguous (and I think that’s one of its huge strengths.) The only people in the film whom I thought were even halfway reliable/truthful were his two defense lawyers and then the false-confession advocates brought in late in the game. Everybody else had something to hide and lied lied lied. I won’t be signing any online petitions to free Steven Avery any time soon.

On that not-so-positive note, my viewing diary for December 2015 has ended.

What have you seen this year that you really liked? Or disliked?

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63 Responses to December 2015 Viewing Diary

  1. Patrick says:

    I saw “Sicario” and had a similar reaction to it that you did, except I kind of separated out the message part from that action part and enjoyed it on the level of an action movie, not how it was meant to be taken I’m sure. Blunt was meant to be the conscience of the film I suppose, but not sure what her alternative was to what they were doing. The point of the opening scene was to indicate following normal procedures wasn’t working, yet she wanted to bring that to the group she was working with. Benicio was great in this thing.

    Just saw “Joy” yesterday, getting some lukewarm reviews but I really liked it. There is always a tiny little voice in my head when watching a movie based on someone’s life wondering just how accurate it really is, but I can sort of go with it at the same time.

    • sheila says:

      Patrick – glad to hear your reaction to Sicario! Yours is a bit more nuanced than mine, and I’m happy to hear other alternatives. I liked Blunt’s relationship with her partner a lot (I liked that actor – I’m not sure his name). I spent a lot of the movie thinking, “Get with the program, woman” which I’m not sure was the intent. I saw a lot of people making comparisons with Silence of the Lambs – but I didn’t see it that way. Clarice was such a newbie – still in training – unlike Blunt’s character who had experience already with horrors, and should have (in my opinion) been less surprised than she was at the morally ambiguous shit going on with the cartels.

      And yeah: Benicio. Wow. He had so few lines at first – but contained such gravitas – that when he finally did speak, it was heart-wrenching. And you believed he meant every word he said. And who could blame him?

      In re: Joy. Very happy to hear you liked it too! I read some article about the real woman – or actually an article about how little information there really is out there about the real woman. I think a lot of it Russell invented – and those might have been the best parts of the film. I loved Virginia Madsen.

      What did you think of the soap opera re-creations? I think it was a lot of fun to see those glitzy stars from night-time daytime soaps sort of lampoon their whole careers – but I wasn’t sure of the point.

      Thoughts?

      • Patrick says:

        Those soap opera scenes were funny, I’m also not quite sure what the point of them was. Maybe just to set a tone for the movie – not to be taken too seriously? I didn’t quite pick up on it as it was happening, but the scene towards the end, when the patent lawyer was with them in the hotel and things looked hopeless, and her father said it was his fault – they encouraged her but she just wasn’t up to it, that did seem unnatural, probably deliberately veering into a soap opera-like tone.

        I’ll add another favorite from the year, just because very few liked it (Roderick Heath has defended it a few times at Ferdy) – “Blackhat”. Has made quite a few worst of the year lists, but a few best of lists too. I can get one of the issues people have with it, but overall I thought it was very well done.

      • sheila says:

        Hmm, interesting thoughts on the soap opera thing. And Isabella Rossellini certainly took on a Joan Collins-ish aspect, or one of those ruthless women so common in soaps – she even had the big shoulder pads!

        You know, I loved Blackhat too – I think it might have been the first movie I saw in the theatres on 2015 – I’d have to check, so I sometimes forget about it – but I enjoyed every second of it.

        I can’t believe it would make a “Worst of the Year” list – what the hell are the issues with it? I haven’t read Roderick Heath’s pice but my friend Keith – who is a huge Michael Mann fan – wrote a really beautiful analysis on Reverse Shot (I think? I’ll check) – going into Mann’s visual style and what it means/says to him. I think sometimes Michael Mann’s defenders see something that isn’t there – but Keith’s piece definitely made me see it all on a bit of a deeper level. I’ll find the link.

        • Patrick says:

          Whatever it was about “Blackhat”, lot of people didn’t like it. I almost think that sometimes people/critics have it in for a movie before they’ve seen it and then look for a reason to dislike it (Waterworld maybe?).

          Here are a couple of lines from the review at your link that might have captured the thing I most liked about Blackhat, the alien ambience part that is –

          “At one point, Viola Davis separates the tail end of a kiss-off line into . . . three . . . emphatic . . . inflections. In the moment, it’s bizarre as hell. In the full context of the movie, it feels just right, an alien rhythm of speech to complement the film’s equally alien ambience.”

        • sheila says:

          I think the “having it in for a movie” thing was most clearly shown this year in By the Sea. Even the trailer was greeted with sneers.

          Obviously I loved it.

          I think the critics had it in for “Joy” too – there was an interesting conversation on Twitter about it. Someone said that American Hustle (which I didn’t care for at all, and I could not understand the frenzy of love towards it) had created such a mania of hyperbole in critics (baffling to those of us who didn’t like it and thought it was really really sloppy) – that when the critics realized later that they maybe over-spoke their case – went gunning for Joy to show they weren’t going to be duped this time. “Buyer’s remorse” is how the person on Twitter said it. I have no way to prove this, and it may be too conspiratorial, but I thought it was interesting.

          Michael Mann’s fanboys sometimes do him no favors – putting him on a level with Eisenstein, etc. Although I can understand why they do this. They are pissed off that he is so under-rated, dismissed, because he directs genre pictures. He is CLEARLY a visual master. One of the best. And so the critics who love him try to counteract the fact that he’s not put on the same level with lesser talents who do “serious” movies. They’re “making a case” for Mann.

          And I do appreciate that. He certainly deserves to be taken very seriously as an artist. I love his stuff. Miami Vice, The Insider, Heat … great great stuff.

          I love the line you pulled out of Keith’s review. That line stuck out for me as well and made me want to see it again.

  2. Wren Collins says:

    Clap Your Hands is in my top five. ‘Grabby incandescent douchebags’- I think I peed a little.
    (Hey, Sheila, I think you’ve missed out ‘O Brother Where Art Thou’? If you haven’t, ignore me.)
    Just My Imagination was so so funny. ‘She’s got Sparkle on her face!’ And JP wandering around the kitchen making coffee, completely oblivious to the gigantic array of rainbowy cake on the table. These are such funny actors. JA’s angry dressing gown tying. ‘I’m gonna get my gun.’ It was GOLD.

    • sheila says:

      Oh I guess I did miss that one – OOPS. Thank you! I keep a running list and sometimes I think I am on top of it when clearly I am not.

      I think I love the “Good night” almost as much as the “grabby incandescent douchebags.” It’s how it comes right on the heels of it, and he says it in the same gruff crabby tone. I die every time.

      // And JP wandering around the kitchen making coffee, completely oblivious to the gigantic array of rainbowy cake on the table. //

      hahahahahahaha

      And yeah, Dean in dressing gown with glimpse of bare leg. What the hell is happening??

      • Wren Collins says:

        Sleepy Winchester behaviour is the BEST. (And Dean’s flash of leg. THEY’RE PRACTICALLY NAKED.)
        Sully’s rainbow suspenders.
        ‘He’s no Clapton.’
        JP during the speech about the Cage. Heartcrack.

        The whole hippie chick encounter is brilliant. Soulless checking out the girls throughout the episode makes me snigger. ‘You should sit in the dark and suffer.’
        SPN has a reputation for being all sad and whatnot, but they’re a comedy duo really.

        • sheila says:

          “I’m saying suffering is the only game in town.” hahahahaha

          And then: “I’m not supposed to laugh at that, am I.”

          Sam touching Dean’s knee, and Dean getting all skeeved out.

          • Wren Collins says:

            Sam touching Dean’s knee was so funny. Dean just gives him this little horrified look. Hey, Sam’s cool with it.
            I think The Man Who Knew Too Much- with Sam confronting Soulless- is my favourite SPN ep ever. There can never be too many Sams.

  3. Wren Collins says:

    Oh, and I love Perks Of Being A Wallflower. I have vivid memories of camping out with a friend at her aunt’s empty house one night to watch it. We woke up sixteen hours later with popcorn in the lampshade, wearing each other’s clothes, and with my hat floating in the upstairs toilet. Clearly the film affected us greatly.

  4. mutecypher says:

    Did you see Bone Tomahawk? I know of your Kurt-love.

    That was intense and harrowing. The husband limping for days on his broken leg, and then being aware enough to infiltrate the troglodyte’s domain. The idiot/henpecked mayor asking if anyone can spell “troglodyte.” The wonderful language all through, I would almost do without wifi to live in a town where everyone spoke that way. The relationship between the husband and wife was so well established. And we got a good glimpse of the one with Kurt and his wife.

    • sheila says:

      I haven’t seen that one yet – have heard great things! Looking forward to it!

    • mutecypher says:

      The trogs were like a Wild West version of The Bender family from SPN. Or the Peacock family in the X-files “Home” episode. Humans really are worse than demons.

      • mutecypher says:

        Didn’t watch Wild Strawberries this year, but did watch Autumn Sonata last night. To some extent, having the camera move in to highlight the faces was distracting. I didn’t need to be told who to look at and what to watch for. I mean, the acting is right there on the screen. I would assume that at that point in their careers, Nykqist and Bergman knew who their audience was and what they were capable of.

        I liked the occasional character narration, that worked well. Ingrid and Liv were just incredible, a terrible and powerful movie. I have a sad feeling that my daughter and my ex are well down a similar path to Eva and Charlotte.

        • sheila says:

          It’s been a while since I’ve seen Autumn Sonata but I’ve been meaning to buy the latest Criterion release – my friend Farran wrote an essay for the booklet!

          Bergman was always so obsessed with faces, you’re right.

          • mutecypher says:

            I read Farran’s essay, it’s online. So the pushing in on the faces is a Bergman/Nykvist thing. I’m feeling kinda dumb here. Having a giant closeup, or cutting to a closeup, feels different from the zooming from a two-person shot (not sure of the correct lingo here). I felt more forced to look, rather than presented with a view. Perhaps the subject matter was too touchy for me, though “I want to be sure you see this” does seem like it would be a Bergman goal.

            I recall plenty of close-ups in Persona and The Virgin Spring (the two of his films that I recall best, I think) – but not so much with the “let’s climb over the sofa and get right up in her face” of the zooms. Could be like my muddled recollection of Rebel Without a Cause that we discussed a few years ago. Seems like a good excuse to put Persona in the queue, gauge how far the Alzheimer’s has progressed.

          • sheila says:

            Persona feels almost claustrophobic in its close-ups – You (or at least I) yearned for the camera to pull back from those two women, to TRY to get some perspective. But of course Bergman didn’t want you to have perspective.

            I think sometimes that’s a “tic” with Bergman – his long career as a stage director may have something to do with it. A closeup is the one thing (well, and also futzing with time through editing) that theatre cannot do.

            And obviously he fell in love with his leading ladies and you can see that in those closeups too – in Persona, you are so close you can see the fuzz on Ullmann’s face. It’s almost pornographic. But beautiful too.

            I’d have to re-watch Autumn Sonata, though – I’ve been meaning to, ever since Criterion released it!

  5. mutecypher says:

    Shampoo is an excellent movie. There was a lot of kindness in nearly every character, even Jack Warden’s Lester. I loved the “Go easy on him, he’s a nice boy” line when he and Warren have their confrontation. And Warren’s George always looks put-upon. He doesn’t seem like a guy whooping it up because he’s getting so many babes. He has this “thing” that they all want, and he doesn’t really have the heart to say no. That’s the funny/outrageous/touching thing about him. He gets so much attention that so many guys would envy, but doesn’t have a strong sense of self about it. I think that’s part of why Lester initially thinks he’s gay: George isn’t strutting like a rock star. He’s another odalisque, like a certain character we often talk about.

    • sheila says:

      // He has this “thing” that they all want, and he doesn’t really have the heart to say no. That’s the funny/outrageous/touching thing about him. //

      Yes!! That’s exactly right. He can’t deny them what they want. And the women aren’t idiots … they’re all quite formidable in their own right. Hal Ashby doesn’t make the mistake of making all the women seem the same, or like idiots … What could be better than spreading pleasure around? Especially on election night in 1968 when the whole world was falling apart?

      I love Jack Warden so much. I love when he decides, “Oh what the hell” and takes off his tux to join the hippies in the hot tub.

    • sheila says:

      Pauline Kael called Warren Beatty’s character in Shampoo “a sexual saint.”

  6. Jeff says:

    I had missed your piece on The Big Short, but agree whole-heartedly with your assessment. When I was watching it, I had the same sort of “nervous tension” (but in a positive way) as with Mad Max – the next scene couldn’t come fast enough. And the cast was uniformly amazing.

    I haven’t gotten around to putting these in order, but these were my favorite movies that I saw in 2015 for the first time: Whiplash, Love & Mercy, Mad Max: Fury Road, The Past, Ex Machina, The Raid: Redemption, The Raid 2, A Most Violent Year, The Drop, Boyhood, The Insider (don’t know how I missed it all these years), Martha Marcy May Marlene, Inside Out, Ida, Snowpiercer, Spotlight, Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and The Big Short.

    • sheila says:

      Jeff – so glad to hear your response to The Big Short. It’s so good! I’ve seen it three times now (I got a screener – hence, its availability to me) – and it’s holding up. I couldn’t quite believe it on my first viewing – wait, is this as good as I think it is??

      It has such energy, and there’s so much anger there – of course – but the mood is often quite light somehow. Or, not light … but energetic, the kind of outrage that is ACTIVE, as opposed to sour and passive.

      I thought it was phenomenal.

      In re: your movies: Many of my faves there too.

      Isn’t The Drop wonderful? I need to see that one again.

      Love & Mercy killed me. A Most Violent Year was terrific, I thought.

      Snowpiercer was insane – I need to see that one again.

  7. Michelle says:

    The only movie I got to watch at the theatre in the entirety of 2015 was Star Wars: The Force Awakens….so I guess that was my favorite movie! It really was wonderful. It FELT like Star Wars if that makes any sense. I saw Star Wars: A New Hope when I was 5 years old. It was the first movie I fell in love with….I didn’t even have the vocabulary or the knowledge to express that fact accurately then. I just knew that it was special and magical. I didn’t hate the prequels by any means, but they just never felt right. The Force Awakens was wonderful though and a perfect balance. The nostalgia factor was high and seeing familiar faces was amazing but the new characters were absolutely fantastic and I am as interested in following their story as I was in Han, Luke, and Leia the first time around. So yes, those Star Wars feelings were very much present and I was very happy to feel a little magic again.

    • sheila says:

      I absolutely loved the new characters too! Fantastic – with that zippy banter-ing dynamic that always connected some aspects of the Star Wars franchise to those corny serial-movies of old. It doesn’t take itself too seriously. Maybe that was the problem with the prequels (and many members of the fan base too, come to think of it.)

      I like Star Wars best when it’s told like a YARN, and not some ponderous Joseph Campbell philosophy lecture. And those two new lead characters are out of a YARN, and I love how they both thought that Han Solo, Leia, Luke Skywalker – were myths – like yarns told to them by their parents. Very nice.

      I was so happy that Han was such a huge part of it, and I absolutely loved the scenes with Leia.

      And how awesome was that final scene.

      So yeah, it was a lot of fun!

  8. Stevie says:

    I’m in total agreement with you on Making a Murderer. Total. He killed her, but not in the trailer, nevertheless the entire investigation and prosecution were so poorly done, lots of evidence-planting, outright staging. I despised the perv prosecutor so much; his voice (and hairdo) made me puke – that purposefully soft spoken vileness, plus there was absolutely no theory of the case presented at all! The young nephew – completely railroaded by the confession technique, plus his incompetent first attorney damning him to hell, whether he participated or watched or didn’t, he had no chance. The series shone a bright light on the fact that “justice” (forget “truth”) is based on so many things working competently, fairly and well – attorney skill, judicial excellence, investigative competence, jury selection, evidentiary strength, community response, luck – – – – all these factors, any one of which can change the outcome.

    I loved Ballet 422, too! Any doc that shows the creative process fascinates me. It was so poignant when he took the bow as choreographer, then ran to his dressing space to appear in the second act ballet as a member of the corps.

    Happy New Year, my angel Sheila! I love you. xoxoxo Stevie

    • sheila says:

      Stevie – I cannot tell you how relieved I am that you got the same thing out of Making of a Murderer. I backed out of a conversation on Twitter when I realized the general consensus was that this was a story of police misconduct, wrongful conviction, and “Better stay out of Wisconsin…” These were smart people too. But they were so certain that that was the story they were seeing. I don’t doubt they have their reasons but I’ll be damned if I walk into that and say “I think he did it though.” Not that the police/prosecutor proved it – they DIDN’T – but I still think he killed that woman.

      So happy to hear, too, your thoughts on that creepy prosecutor. Yes: his VOICE. And how about in his opening argument when he accidentally referred to Teresa as a “little girl.” And then had to correct himself. It was so CREEPY and I think it was a “slip” – that shows his true feelings towards women (as eventually was revealed). In the press conference where he told everyone what happened to Teresa (based on that coerced confession): I honestly felt like he was enjoying painting the picture of her torment. He was getting off on it – sexually. So disgusting.

      Still a clusterfuck of incompetence all around – as you said.

      But Steven Avery is not a martyr to the Bad Cop Dialogue dominating this country right now. Not even close. They had good reason to think he did it, he had a long record before he was falsely imprisoned. He was a bad guy.

      That final scene of Ballet 422 was just so perfect – that’s what life is like for so many performers – no time to revel in the triumph – onto the next thing. I was just so impressed by that young guy!

      Happy new year to you too Stevie. I am so excited for all of the new opportunities/challenges you will face in 2016 – I’ve got a great feeling about all of it and I’m proud of you! xoxo

      • Stevie says:

        Dare I invoke the name OJ, but in these situations the cops and prosecutor know that “he” did it, but the evidence isn’t really there, so the prosecutor at a pre-trial conference says something like, “Damn, I wish we could find the keys to the Kia in his bedroom or something…” and the ambitious, seedy cop goes out and does it. Especially when a trial is high profile, you have egos and ambitions and paranoia all swirling around, and in the case of a prosecutor like that skank, a future political campaign to think about. Hell, even the judge wants to show he’s tough on crime (he’s got a reelection to think about, too) and that colors every decision on every motion, especially what testimony and evidence to allow in. When the prosecutor and investigators are all upstanding people, throw the light of media coverage on a trial and things deteriorate quickly. It’s Shakespearean – ambition and failure and judgment played out in the harsh glare of klieg lights.

        I love the comeuppance of collateral damage in this series – skanky mister prosecutor getting his sexting scandal splashed all over everything (I was hating him so much I googled him halfway through the series and was so gratified to see the stories).

        The other thing to mention about the series is how it captures the amazing lack of clear communication in that family. The stunted phone conversations between Avery and his mother sounded like something a drunk Hemingway and a wasted Capote would write together. The (admittedly slow) nephew was utterly beyond communication, both understanding and explaining. Perhaps hunting skills were important for humankind in the near past, and for some it still is, but these days eloquence is more helpful in truly life-or-death situations involving cops and investigators and judges and lawyers and probation officers and parole boards and, to a lesser extent, loan officers and apartment managers and government workers. Strange, huh?

        Thank you for the positive support for my changes, dear friend! I’m high as a kite thinking about all the things I’ll be able to do! Love you – Stevie xxx

      • Most people who are sure Avery is guilty cite the cat. I agree that he may well be guilty, but what upsets me about the whole thing (in addition to the railroading of his nephew, which brings up the whole shameful history of eliciting confessions from children and slow adults) is the larger question of what we should be demanding from police and prosecutors. Ultimately–to me–whether Avery is guilty or not, he should not have been convicted. There’s another documentary–Unreal Dreams–about the unjust and (after 25 years in prison) eventually overturned conviction of a much more attractive person–an obviously good man, honorable, likeable, articulate–who was equally badly treated by the system. It’s much easier to get worked up about injustice when its victim is clearly innocent and, as a bonus, one of us. I guess what I’m saying is that I found Making of the Murderer a hard slog, depressing as hell from start to finish, but an excellent doc precisely because it forced me to take seriously the rights of creeps. No small feat!

        Also I’m glad you like Millennium–I love Lance H., in that series and in everything I’ve ever seen him in. That series really captured the horror of the upcoming Millennium turn; sometimes I found it really hard to watch because it made me recognize my own silly anxiety. Another not so small feat!

        • sheila says:

          // I guess what I’m saying is that I found Making of the Murderer a hard slog, depressing as hell from start to finish, but an excellent doc precisely because it forced me to take seriously the rights of creeps. No small feat! //

          Jincy – that is an excellent point. I felt a similar way. It’s not clearcut. It is so obvious that the prosecutor (god, what a creep) did NOT prove his case. Not in the slightest. And the defense attorneys did as well as they could possibly do – I think if anybody was going to create “reasonable doubt” it was those two.

          I guess my reaction comes from the sloggy sentimental commentary from a lot of others (at least that I’ve seen) – who seem unable to see this documentary as anything other than a treatise on police corruption – but the story is much more complex than that, I think. It’s not the story of an “innocent man sent to prison.” Or, I don’t think it is. I think he did it. And so that does matter in how you talk about it. It’s more about the judicial system – and how much money one needs to erect a proper defense – the whole breakdown of the system. It’s fascinating, that’s for sure – One of my regular blog-reads is a guy who does “forensics statement analysis” for a living – analyzing the texts of confessions, looking for signs of deception only in the language (he prefers to not know anything about the context of the case at all – it’s better to go in cold) – and this guy has been having a field day breaking down the linguistics of all of the language in Murderer.

          // It’s much easier to get worked up about injustice when its victim is clearly innocent and, as a bonus, one of us. //

          And I definitely agree with that. I disliked all of the Averys so much – and felt so sad for poor Brendan, who asked his mother what “inconsistent” means and she said “I don’t know.” Now how on earth is that teenager – who can barely read – who clearly does not even know the difference between his own lawyer and the police (and in his case the lines were blurred anyway) – supposed to DEFEND himself against a system so rigged against him? Those interrogations were shameful. He said it himself: he was “guessing.”

          The issue of false confession has been a fascination of mine for years – maybe because of my interest in the Stalin Show Trials, and the brutal interrogations that made these guys say, “Yes, I did this horrible thing.” A confession is seen as so rock-solid – it is very very difficult for people who haven’t been pushed/manipulated that way to understand why you would say you did something you didn’t do. I mean, look at the Central Park 5, another shameful case, where the whole thing was based on the confessions, not the evidence.

          A confession is almost impossible to fight against – and for that, poor Brendan dug his own grave. I felt so bad for that simple-minded gentle little guy – who was surrounded by morons who couldn’t help him. Only those false-confession people near the end – my God, they were a breath of fresh air – SOME intelligence, Jeez Louise … and they really understood what had been done to him. More so than even he could understand.

          Bah, the whole thing is very upsetting.

          and glad to hear you love Millennium too! Lance H. is awesome. He so often plays heavies – and here he gets to be thoughtful, a family man, with humor – it’s like Rutger Hauer playing an upstanding citizen. It’s a lot of fun and must have been so much fun for him as well.

  9. Paula says:

    Glad to hear The Leftovers was so creepy. It’s been on my watch list for awhile but at the time I was watching The Returned and needed a break from disturbing and mysterious shows in the appearance/disappearance genre (is that a thing?) Did you see any episodes of The Returned? I started watching because of Mark Pelligrino who walks that thin line between anti-hero and villian with ideals and stuck around because it was truly unsettling.

    A Very Supernatural Christmas has a soft spot in my heart because of the Samulet *sniffs* and our first glimpse of baby Sam snark and bitchface. “What is it?” “A pony.”

    • sheila says:

      I haven’t seen The Returned, Paula – what’s the premise? I love Mark Pellegrino so much. I think I first saw him when he played Dick Hickock in Capote, with Philip Seymour Hoffman – and it was a small role but he was great in that dead-eyed psycho way. He looks just like the real guy – it was almost creepy. Handsome, but blank.

      And yeah, if I have any free time, I might try to keep watching The Leftovers – mainly because I want to know what the hell is happening!! I thought it was really good.

      Supernatural Christmas: The amulet. It just gets more and more powerful the more you think about it – especially when you consider how that arc was closed out – 10 years later – in Fan Fiction. EXTRAORDINARY.

      • Paula says:

        The Returned is about a small mountain town where people who were killed (flashbacks to the accident are so normal that is ups the creep factor) start showing up one by one. They are normal and scared and unaware that they are dead. Mark P is amazing because he is NOT likeable at first, a cheater who essentially walked away from his family during the emotional fallout from the accident. Was broadcast on A&E but should be out on Netflix this year (original French show is already available there.) I loved it.

  10. Barb says:

    Supernatural Christmas. Yes, I watched it, too, after the feast at Grandma’s. The part that always makes me laugh? “Are you gonna get that? You should get that–” Followed closely by the poor brutalized Christmas tree. The moment that hits the hardest? After the amulet origin story, it’s Dean, gazing up at Sam’s impromptu Christmas decorations like a little kid.

    I’m doing a rewatch with my 15-year-old right now (he wanted me to lay out the plot, and I decided, rather than try to tell him, I would show him!) Not every episode, we’re concentrating on the main storyline and episodes that are important either because of character or show development. We just finished Season 2. He pronounced Dean’s ultra-smooth behavior in the first Tall Tales flashback “cringeworthy.” What Is– left him speechless. And he was mad at Sam for turning his back on Jake during their showdown. He’s a mercenary gamer at heart, you see, and “Sith”-identified (to corrupt a term from your 2015 reading list!)

    One of the funniest things to me, though, was when we were discussing whether or not to watch No Exit, and I told him that character-wise, the most important thing that happens is the flirtatious behavior between Jo and Dean. My 13-year-old, hearing this, made the patented “Icky-kissy” noises. He fixed a glare on his little brother and said, “you’re too young. You Don’t Understand.” Bold talk, I thought.

    Like Michelle, I don’t get to see as many movies in the theater as I would like. Star Wars was a big one. Also Inside Out. Of movies seen through Netflix, through my job (where I share the responsibility for movie nights), and other methods, my favorites this year were Ex Machina, Inside Llewellen Davis, Ida, Mostly Martha, Moon, The World’s End, The Babadook, Powwow Highway.

    Last night I saw Mr. Holmes, and I liked it, but I’m still a bit on the fence about it. Some gorgeous imagery, Ian McKellen was great in it, and it had something to say about memory and facts vs. stories. I can’t quite put my finger on what left me a bit cold, though–perhaps the famous “last case”, which didn’t have the impact for me that I think it should have? I don’t know–

    As always, thanks for your lists, and for your site, Sheila! Long may you run–

    • sheila says:

      // And he was mad at Sam for turning his back on Jake during their showdown. //

      I feel the same way! Huge mistake!

      and ooh, The Babadook. Wasn’t that movie agonizing??

      Thanks for reading and commenting, Barb!

  11. Lyrie says:

    This year, for the first time, I wrote down everything I watched. I’m not sure I should have done that because I scare myself a little: so much tv, it’s ridiculous!! No wonder I don’t find the time for movies…

    Most of my favourite movies of 2015 were recommended by you, it’s like I have no personality of my own: Babadook, A Pigeon Sat On a Branch Reflecting on Existence, Jafar Panahi’s Taxi. I also have to add The Wolfpack, What Happened Miss Simone ?, Spy and Room.

    I was do disappointed not to like Mad Max Fury Road – and it seems like I’m the only one in the world! Listen, a movie with a violent woman called Furiosa who can drive her way out of any shit: I was down. Very quickly, I got bored out of my skull. All I remember is that there are scenes with a blue filter and scenes with a yellow filter. At some point, a woman says “one man, one bullet”, and that almost woke me up – I might even have snorted. And… that’s it. That’s all I remember.

    I also saw Star Wars The Force Awakens. I’m not a Star Wars fan. Sometimes I get really tired of hearing so much about it, but as an obsessive fan myself, I get it, you know? So I – usually – won’t bitch. I went to see The Force Awakens wanting to like it. I had to preconceived judgement. I didn’t hate it. I kinda of enjoyed it, but was mostly bored. I was disappointed, because as someone who couldn’t care less about the lightsabers and the ships and stuff, I just wanted to be interested in the interactions. Well, that happened only when the guy takes off his mask and talks to the older guy on the bridge above Nothing (trying to avoid spoilers, just in case. And I don’t know the character’s names. Ahem.). He was the only one that made me feel something.

    // Side note: It is the actors who play the “guest spots” who have to do the real heavy lifting //
    I was watching Luther, and in one episodes, the performances of the guest actors just blew me away. So, so true, I was a mess! I love it when that happens.

    I couldn’t watch A Very Supernatural Christmas this year. I was so sad already, I just couldn’t have handled it, I think.

    A few years ago, when I saw Mike O’Malley somewhere, I was like “Oh, it’s that guy from Glee.” Now, I’m like “Oh hey, Cousin Mike!”. I almost feel like I know the guy, somehow. It’s so strange and so so funny.

    • sheila says:

      Lyrie – I love that Pigeon and Taxi are on your list. YES for bizarre and important international cinema!!

      That being said, I don’t know what to say about being BORED at Mad Max!!

      My only regret about Mad Max is that I only saw it once in the movie theatre – and the next time will be on my screen at home. I should have gone to see it on the big screen multiple times – because that’s how it should be seen and now … when will I get the chance again? Boo!

      Plus: Elvis’ granddaughter. So you know, I’m good.

      And Force Awakens: I too am bored by Star Wars stuff, and this is a franchise I grew up with. By March of this year, April, I was like, “Oh my God, will this movie just come out already.” I was so sick of it. But I felt that the film captured the spirit of the original trilogy – in the way the prequels didn’t – and created characters that had some SPARK. Unlike Anakin, etc. Plus, I thought BB8 was funny. Yes, in a very manipulative way, but I liked his rolling Weeble-ish body and the way he could tilt his “head.” And while I kept waiting for Han/Leia/Luke, I really liked the two young leads. You know, it is what it is. There were far better movies made this year but I thought it was entertaining.

      Cousin Mike – ha! My critic friends, who have never even met him, will be like, “Hey, cousin Mike was great in Concussion” or “Hey, I love cousin Mike’s show …” it’s hilarious. He’s not THEIR cousin, but he’s become “cousin Mike.” When Mike comments here, he signs it “cousin Mike.” I love this.

      And I’m sorry you were sad at Christmas. The holidays can be a very very rough time.

  12. Todd Restler says:

    Happy New Year Sheila! Thanks for another great year of amazing writing.

    I am so happy you started watching The Leftovers, and am BEGGING you to stay with it. Season One was excellent and you will love the acting, especially Carrie Coon. But Season Two was one of the ALL-TIME great seasons of television I have ever seen, I would put it up with any season of The Sopranos or The Wire or Mad Men. It was just insane, brilliant, addictive TV. But you need to see Season One first. I really hope you stay with it because I would love to hear your comments.

    I will add to the support for Blackhat. I loved it. Opening shot was amazing and set the tone. A lot of flaws in the movie with plotting, lack of a clear villain, blah blah, but Mann is such a great director he elevated the whole thing into a stylistic, dream-like experience. Really absorbing movie.

    Yes see Snowpiercer again. I can’t stop watching it when it comes on. One of my favorite movies of the last 5 years.

    The movies I saw in a theater in 2015, which was a pretty good run as my kids start to age into at least some of the stuff I want to see:

    Mad Max: Fury Road
    Jurassic World
    Inside Out
    Mission Impossible : Rogue Nation
    The Martian
    Star Wars : The Force Awakens
    Point Break

    I would recommend all of these, especially The Martian, Mission Impossible, and Mad Max.

    Point Break was awful but I enjoyed it immensely, so maybe it was good, I don’t know.

    Some other stuff I saw that I would highly recommend to you if you haven’t seen yet:

    Maidentrip. Documentary by and about Laura Dekker, the youngest person to solo sail around the world. Just an amazing film, shot largely by her alone at sea, it will inspire anyone who sees it. Streaming on Netflix. One of my favorite movies of the year.

    The Seven Five. Another documentary about a completely different kind of person, Michael Dowd, the “Dirtiest Cop Ever” , who operated in Brooklyn from 1982-1992. Dowd and his partner give interviews forming the bulk of the movie, and no matter how much we know about Serpico and The Princes of the City, etc., this is absolutely jaw dropping stuff. So riveting, and provokes plenty of thought when it’s over.

    Keep up the great writing Sheila and I hope you have a happy and healthy 2016!!

    • sheila says:

      Todd – thanks, and Happy New Year!!

      Yes, I will continue on with The Leftovers – there was enough in that pilot that made me think: What the HELL is going on … that I am very intrigued to see how the story turns out. Thanks for the vote of confidence – my friend Allison is equally passionate about the series.

      //but Mann is such a great director he elevated the whole thing into a stylistic, dream-like experience.//

      I totally agree.

      I saw The Martian – I think I wrote about it here somewhere – I loved it!! Did not see Mission Impossible, although I meant to. I love that franchise.

      I love the original Point Break so much that I didn’t see the point of a sequel at all so I didn’t go see it. :( I love surf movies though.

      And thank you so much for the heads up on those two documentaries! I had heard of the first one, but not the second. I will definitely check them out.

      • Todd Restler says:

        Yes, you wrote about The Martian! We discussed a bit.

        Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation was really something, while watching it I felt like I was seeing the action movie reach it’s maximum potential, which is saying something in the same Summer that brought us Mad Max: Fury Road.

        I have no interest in Tom Cruise’s personal life, but for God’s sake, the man strapped himself to the side of an airplane for 7 takes for our amusement. That has to count for something.

        Unless he gets shot out of the universe in the next installment I really have no idea where they go from here.

        The Point Break remake was utterly pointless, but it’s so fun! It’s not even really a movie, it’s just an excuse to film some of the most amazing stunts ever put on screen. And there is a boat party to end all boat parties. It’s interesting to compare it to MI because it shows the power of having a character at the center of the action that you care about at least a little, it makes the stakes of the scenes in MI seem so much higher than in Point Break. But it doesn’t really matter, Point Break is a completely visceral experience that willfully disregards things like “plot” and should be seen on the big screen if it’s going to be seen at all.

        But watching those two movies, I really have no idea at all where the action movies go from here. You literally cannot film stunts more daring or exciting than in these two movies.

        • sheila says:

          Todd – oops, of course, now I remember we talked about The Martian! It was fun because nobody I knew had gone to see it – so I couldn’t discuss it with anyone. I post so much shit on here that I sometimes don’t remember what the hell happened 5 days ago.

          // Unless he gets shot out of the universe in the next installment I really have no idea where they go from here. //

          hahahaha I know.

          People are so sneering about Tom Cruise – but that’s only because of the cult-connection, and maybe a sneering sense of superiority about his sexuality? He’s a major movie star, who keeps taking risks (not just strapping himself to a plane – I saw the trailer and thought: “This guy is out of his mind and I love him” – but Edge of Tomorrow – what a great film!!) He’s a very effective screen presence.

          A friend of mine had a small part in the last Mission Impossible movie (the one before this one) – he played a priest who officiated the marriage of Tom Cruise’s character – and the stories my friend told of that one day of shooting – were just amazing. He’s a fine actor who works all the time – he’s in Hell on Wheels now – but that was the biggest production he’d ever walked onto. The sheer amount of people on the set was awe-inspiring and terrifying.

          But his observations about who Tom Cruise was speaks worlds. He was a true leader, not a diva, nice to everyone – kind and considerate towards everyone – and went out of his way – literally: out of his way – to make my friend feel comfortable in what was an extremely intimidating environment for an actor. There was a huge complicated shot, a big pan-in on my friend’s face, and he had to say a line once the camera got close. Cruise was standing right there off-screen. The pressure!! There was a hell of a lot else going on (they didn’t even send my friend the script for the scene because they were so afraid of leakage to the press – my friend had to hurriedly memorize his entire speech in his trailer while he was getting makeup put on. Imagine!! He was TERRIFIED. So the moment comes to start shooting, quiet on the set, and the camera starts moving on in … until it reaches the point near him … and he opens his mouth … and flubs the line. Because he had only memorized it 20 minutes earlier. It was terrifying – a shot like that costs money, 300 people are quietly watching you mess up, and Tom Cruise is standing 2 feet away staring at you. I want to piss my pants just thinking of it. My friend, an elegant lovely polite man, apologized – “I’m sorry … ” and Cruise interrupted him, making sure it was public enough so that everyone around him heard: “No. Don’t apologize. This is your moment. We’ll just do it again. No need to apologize. This is your moment and we’ll do it till we get it right.” And from that moment on, my friend remembered all his lines, felt totally relaxed, and had a great experience. On a production like that, Cruise is the leader, not the director. And he takes that position very seriously. He has an excellent reputation within Hollywood for stuff like this. (Jack Nicholson does too. People who worked craft services on, say, Five Easy Pieces, still get Christmas cards from Jack. You know: you can be talented, but if you’re a dick, you won’t have the same reputation.) (Another friend of mine was an extra in the pool hall scene in Color of Money. He was a hopeful actor, a kid, and he spent the day soaking up the atmosphere, and watching Tom Cruise’s behavior. Again, what he saw was, Cruise circulating, bonding with everyone, making everyone feel loose and friendly and relaxed … It may be “manipulative” but it’s also a smart work ethic. Let’s all get on the same page here … we’re all involved in putting this together … Cruise is very intuitive and he must have noticed that there was something a little bit more intense about my friend. Extras in movies are sometimes hopeful actors, but a lot of time they aren’t. They’re just people who need a few extra bucks. And Cruise sensed my friend was different – and walked over to say Hi. “You’re an actor, right?” Cruise said. My friend said, “Yes, Mr. Cruise, or I want to be, I’m happy to be here, Mr. Cruise, thank you, Mr. Cruise…” You know, babbling. And Cruise stuck with him and said, “Then this is a great opportunity. Keep doing what you’re doing; watch everything going on here, look at everything going on here … take it all in.”

          You know, you don’t HAVE to reach out to an EXTRA. It’s so rare that that ever would happen – or that someone would even see through the faceless masses of extras to perceive that everyone was an individual. and THEN to take a moment to talk with the guy, give encouragement, but also give tips. The most important thing you can do is to watch, listen, look, learn … keep at it.

          So I have always loved Tom Cruise – as an actor, sure, but because of those two stories of two very different friends in two different movies separated by decades. And so neither moment is an anomaly. I am sure there are hundreds more such stories.

          The gleeful media who predicted that Cruise’s career was over because of the Matt Lauer appearance and Katie Holmes and couch-jumping – do not understand the industry. What matters is star power, work ethic, and people liking you: a reputation like that can withstand a lot.

          And, miracle of miracles: you’ve made me want to see Point Break!

          I love surf movies anyway, so maybe I’ll check it out!

          • Todd Restler says:

            I love those Cruise stories, and that’s why I like him too. He cares, really really cares, about the movies he makes and the people he is making them with. I actually think there is a humility there that goes completely against his image.

            There is a great story from Rob Lowe in his book on the making of The Outsiders. (You seriously need to read that if you haven’t yet. You will absolutely love that book).

            Lowe could see the intensity and ambition in Cruise even then. Cruise had a small part in the film as one of the greasers, it was onje of his first roles. In the rumble at the end of the movie, Cruise decided that his character would lose a tooth in rumble. So he went to a dentist and had the tooth literally removed, and got a replacement tooth he could pop in and out.

            That seems insane to me, but that kind of ambition and dedication is the reason he is Tom Cruise.

            I think you might like Point Break, it’s such a unique experience!

          • sheila says:

            // So he went to a dentist and had the tooth literally removed, and got a replacement tooth he could pop in and out. //

            He is a lunatic.

          • sheila says:

            and I know, I know, I have to read the Lowe book! A friend of mine was so insistent I read it that he sent it to me through the mail. It sits on the shelf. I will get to it!!

            And the makeup artist on my short film was also raving about the book in between takes when we would hang out – she grew up a Malibu kid, and hung out with some of those people back in the day, before anyone was really famous – and said that Lowe’s book totally captures what that crazy Malibu un-monitored-child childhood was like.

  13. Melanie says:

    Christmas Again. At first I was thinking slice of life, but then I realized it’s like a slice OUT of life. It’s like a tiny metaphor for that time between Thanksgiving (in the US) and New Years when nearly everything you do is not like your regular life at all. Not expressing it very well…

    We wrapped up season 2 of Fargo. Never saw season 1, but this was CRAYZEE!!!! Someone on this site told me to try it and we were riveted. I think that’s my favorite Ted Danson character ever, but there were dozens of great characters. So quirky and weird!!

    SPN Just My Imagination. So much funny, “pull up, pull up”. Easy to get carried away with legs and libraries and Baby!Sam, but gotta say thank you to Richard Speight for the beautiful morning light cutting through the samcave and then again in the hallway – gorgeous and atmospheric!

    • sheila says:

      Melanie – I’m so happy you saw Christmas Again too! What a beautiful movie. Sad and quiet, but not nihilistic or bleak. It gets that undercurrent of melancholy that the holidays can often bring. and when he smiles near the end, at the old folks’ home … it’s so moving, surprisingly moving, because he seems almost unable to smile up until that point. I loved it.

      I’ve never seen Fargo. :( I’ve heard amazing things. Yet another TV series that eventually I’ll have to catch up on.

      and I need to watch Just My Imagination again – I’m not remembering “pull up, pull up” … what is that? But yes: it was beautiful and funny – and I LOVED that THAT would be what Sam’s imaginary friend looked like. A pudgy Mork from Ork. That actor was just great. The whole thing managed to be completely un-creepy (adults hanging around with kids could have gone so so wrong) – and I loved all of those imaginary friends.

      • Melanie says:

        //“pull up, pull up” … what is that?//

        I love it when Dean gets REALLY awkward and flustered. He starts down this rabbit hole about the family that showers together. Even Sully is so embarrassed for him saying, “pull up, pull up”.

  14. Melanie says:

    Criminal Minds //yet I can’t look away!!// EXACTLY!

    Haven’t seen Night Owls, but it’s on the list.

    Binged Jessica Jones WOW! Absolutely the best of the “super” genre. Watch it if you can Netflix original series. I love David Tennant (10th Doctor), but he wins the prize for creepiest super villain EVER!

    Should I binge Millennium next? I am piqued by your comments…

    Also binged Man in the High Castle on Amazon. The alternate reality was so well conceived and brought to life. Mind blowing.

    • sheila says:

      Okay, yes, you mention other TV series I’m intrigued by: Jessica Jones, Man in the High Castle – Paula mentioned it to me in another thread.

      I am finding Millennium super-fun. It’s kind of a Criminal Minds, but with a wordless anxiety about the approaching millennium informing all of it – apparently the show gets almost supernatural in Season 2 – but for now I’m in the “case of the week” section of the series. It’s beautifully done, and the lead character is compelling and somber, with a sense that life is dangerous and scary – his family unit fragile and needing of protection. I have no idea where it will go but it’s been fun. Chris Carter is some kind of genius – where does he come up with this stuff. He makes the conspiracy-theory mindset look cool.

    • Melanie says:

      I should qualify that JJ does not feel at all like a comic book, superhero show. She’s a super tough, alcoholic, living this grungy Hell’s Kitchen, cheap PI life. She also just happens to have super strength. It’s a very dark anti-hero story.

      • Lyrie says:

        Ooh, yes, I have loved binging on Jessica Jones. The comic book influence is there, but you’re right Melanie, it’s not really super-hero-y. It’s more subtle and mixed with a Noir feeling that makes it its own thing. I loved her immediately, and I loved that it’s all very murky — there are no easy answers, it’s all very much in a grey area. There are no good guys and bad guys, just some that might be worse, and make you question what are the limits of what you would do to stop them.

        Some of the images of New York made me want to lick the screen, they were so gorgeous!

  15. Debra Thomas says:

    I’ve always wanted to live in the movie Shampoo. The first movie I watched over and over again. I will always love it.
    Criminal Minds helped me this year. It was strangely soothing during a big grief period.
    Happy New Year and thanks for all the years of enjoyment.
    Debra

    • sheila says:

      Debra – I am sorry about your grief. And I totally understand about the appeal of Criminal Minds, of all things – I find it “strangely soothing” too – and I can’t really explain why because it’s so violent and creepy. Maybe it’s the ensemble work – and the fact that the team of Behavioral Unit people have minimum drama between them interpersonally. They may skirmish a little bit – but in general it’s a team that respects each other, works really well together, and have each others’ back. Maybe that’s one of the reasons why it’s somewhat comforting, even though the cases are so horrific.

      I want to live in Shampoo, too. I want to wear backless dresses and throw olives at my elderly lovers’ head and then ride off with Warren Beatty. It’s such a funny fun movie.

      Happy new year to you too!!

  16. bainer says:

    “But some really interesting things are going on right now with older actresses, Meryl Streep being the main pioneer.”

    I wrote a feature length screenplay featuring a protagonist in her 60’s, with a role for another actress, also in her 60’s. A friend took it to a screenplay writer (working) friend in L.A. who ran it by a producer friend who, as soon as the character’s ages were mentioned said, “Nope, that’ll never get made.” So I’m always cheering on movies that do feature older actresses, especially after hearing that!

  17. Melanie says:

    Supernatural,“Clap Your Hands If You Believe”
    //A favorite. I watch it when I’m stressed out.//
    Me too! I could watch the Dean v. Tinkerbell “Ground Control to Maj. Tom” scene on an infinite loop forever and just roflmao. And speaking of favorite one-off female characters, the hippie chick and the wackadoo fairy lady both go on my list. I feel sorry for the watchmaker… he gets stabbed and nobody cares. Awkward Dean again, “He’s done well for himself, considering…the tough economic times…”

    As for Supernatural Christmas I watched it and of course loved it, but I should have taken your cue, Sheila. I learned about a personal event in one of the actor’s lives at the time of filming this episode that colors my feelings when watching. It seems selfish to want to unhear it. It is still great.

  18. Melanie says:

    SPN The Mentalists. I was the confused one on Twitter because…Twitter. And because I forgot her name was Melanie. Seems like I would have remembered…hmm. I do love her interactions with Dean, especially when she says she doesn’t believe the woo-woo. Dean says “you don’t?” And she says, “you do?!?” You can see that in her mind he just goes from cool, sexy FBI agent to wackadoo nerd in the space of 2 words. It’s totally forgivable to speculate if the bro-drama had not been quite so high what might have happened between them.

    As for Shampoo it was forbidden fruit when it first came out. (I was just a little too young for the “bed hopping” as my mother called it.) I was not too young to recognize Warren Beatty was hot and I eventually got to see it, but boy it’s been a long time.

    Also the whole family (husband & daughters 18, 21, 24) saw Star Wars the day after Christmas. I felt like I had visited with an old friend. Fun and especially fun to see them excited about it

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