Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 20: “What Is and What Should Never Be” (2007; d. Eric Kripke)
My 300-page re-cap here.
At Any Price (2012; d. Ramin Bahrani)
Inspired by the recent conversation Mitchell and I had about Zac Efron (Part 1 and Part 2), I rented At Any Price, directed by one of the most interesting filmmakers working today, Ramin Bahrani. (Other films of his to check out: Chop Shop, Goodbye Solo and 99 Homes.) At Any Price may be a bit too melodramatic at times (Bahrani can definitely go that way), but it features incredible performances from Dennis Quaid and Zac Efron. Everyone’s good. AND it’s a story about the situation with American farmers. Bahrani is interested in economic realities, his movies are all investigations into different aspects of that. Highly recommend it.
Marguerite (2016; d. Xavier Giannoli)
I reviewed for Rogerebxrt.com.
Ministry of Fear (1944; d. Fritz Lang)
Gorgeously paranoid. I love Fritz Lang. There’s microfilm buried in a cake. There are Nazis and Nazi-sympathizers everywhere. An innocent man gets caught up in the web of evil.
The X-Files, Season 10, Episode 6, “My Struggle II” (2016; d. Chris Carter)
I have found this entire experience of Season 10 to be 1. hugely entertaining and 2. tremendously emotional. I thought it was wonderful: it hit all my sweet spots – I love the silly episodes, and boy, some of these were silly, and I love the overall sense of yearning and love and can’t-have-you-fully-but-love-you thing between the two leads – and, if I had to say what any of this was really ABOUT, it would be that second one. I realize some people find this frustrating. For me, it’s about that relationship. I really enjoyed the whole thing.
Millennium, Season 2, Episode 7 “19:19” (1997; d. Thomas J. Wright)
It’s The Sweet Hereafter, except when the bus is pulled up out of the water, all of the children inside are gone. Glen Morgan and James Wong wrote. It’s an X-Files reunion. Plus Thomas J. Wright, well-known to Supernatural fans. I am REALLY loving Season 2 of Millennium, as the series tips into darkness even more dark, and encroaching chaos. It seems perfectly connected to the title of the series, as well as the overall mood. Things are getting distinctly spooky, and the golden-lit family life in that pretty yellow house is getting messy. It’s turning and nothing can seem to stop it. Keith and I are watching this together, and we haven’t finished Season 2 yet (of course, he’s seen the whole thing already), so I have no idea where it’s going to go.
Millennium, Season 2, Episode 8 “The Hand of Saint Sebastian” (1997; d. Thomas J. Wright)
I find Terry O’Quinn to be enormously sexy. I love paranoia. I don’t love to experience it myself, but I love paranoid story-telling, and stories about paranoia. Of course, this means that Chris Carter is a man after my own heart.
Millennium, Season 2, Episode 9 “Jose Chung’s ‘Doomsday Defense'” (1997; d. Darin Morgan)
A masterpiece. Jose Chung! Charles Nelson Reilly! Lance Henriksen getting to play an “upbeat” version of Frank Black, bursting through the door, with hair like Siegried and Roy’s, punching someone in the nuts, KA-POW. I could not stop laughing. Plus, a take-down of Scientology that was so so bold for that era. Pre-dating South Park’s definitive lampoon by a decade.
Millennium, Season 2, Episode 10 “Midnight of the Century” (1997; d. Dwight H. Little)
A Christmas episode, Millennium-style.
Millennium, Season 2, Episode 11 “Goodbye Charlie” (1998; d. Kenneth Fink)
An example of how a “genre show” (or film, too) can often get away with social and cultural critique better than a more on-the-nose message-y type story can do. Euthanasia is on the table. It’s frightening.
Millennium, Season 2, Episode 12 “Luminary” (1998; d. Thomas J. Wright)
A fascinating search for a young kid who has disappeared into the Alaskan wilderness. Into the Wild is a clear influence on this episode (the book had come out 2 years before, but was probably still on the NY Times-bestseller list.
Millennium, Season 2, Episode 13 “The Mikado” (1998; d. Rod Pridy)
This episode freaked me out. It was a very Criminal Minds-ish episode.
Public Speaking (2010; d. Martin Scorsese)
Scorsese’s wonderfully entertaining film about Fran Lebowitz. Keith and I went and saw Fran Lebowitz and Frank Rich at BAM this month, so we watched this in preparation. I love her so much, and Public Speaking features her doing what she does best: Talking. Never stop talking, Fran. We need you.
Shop Around the Corner (1940; d. Ernst Lubitsch)
I love this movie so much and I love the ensemble nature of it. The different personalities in that shop, the alliances, the undercurrent of hostilities and unhappiness … but also, the film’s hope. People WANT to connect. But they have such a hard time doing so. Beautifully directed by that master of humor and gentle irony, Ernst Lubitsch.
Moneyball (2011; d. Bennett Miller)
I love this movie for many reasons. I reviewed it for Capital New York when it first came out. The performances please me, the nerd-baseball aspect pleases me even more. It’s a portrait of loneliness, to some degree, the loneliness of the obsessive, the man focused on only one goal and how that isolates him. Brad Pitt does excellent work. Everyone does.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 4, “Sin City” (2007; d. Charles Beeson)
The long scene between the gorgeous demon (I love her teeth) and Dean in that basement-dungeon is one of my favorites in the whole series. So well-written (Robert Singer and Jeremy Carver. Singer is such a character-based director/writer. Relationships are what interests him, not the larger Arcs of monsters, etc. And that one scene is SUCH a great relationship scene.) The scene goes on for so long, interspersed with scenes elsewhere, as Sam tries to find Dean. But it keeps going back to that basement. And the relationship keeps changing, growing. At first there’s hostility. There’s a sexual element to what’s happening. But then Dean starts asking her questions. And she answers. And an almost kinship starts to develop. It’s fascinating how it all happens and every time I see the scene I am surprised by it.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 11: “Mystery Spot” (2008; d. Kim Manners)
“Do these tacos taste funny?”
Mulholland Drive (2001; d. David Lynch)
Criterion just brought the film out and this was the version I watched, complete with special features, interviews with Watts, Lynch, Justin Theroux, Laura Harring, etc. Gives great background on the film, and how they cast all of these miraculous people. It’s one of my favorite movies.
High School (1968; d. Frederick Wiseman)
One of America’s best documentary filmmakers, Wiseman has spent the entirety of his career (and he’s still going), investigating and infiltrating American institutions, and observing how they work. There’s no outside commentary or talking-heads or grand-standing “here is the message”. He’s done films on mental institutions, hospitals, the police, and here, he goes into a high school in Philadelphia in 1968, and just hangs out, filming. The new Metrograph theatre in New York is doing a Wiseman series – it lasts until April 14th, and I went to the press screening of High School. PBS often runs Wiseman’s stuff (he’s had a relationship with them for 40 years now), but I had never seen High School on the big screen. It’s incredible. The details he chooses to focus in on. Class rings. Hands. Close-ups. Long scenes unfold: a kid being dressed-down by the assistant principal who looks like Bob Haldeman. It’s 1968, but flower-power hasn’t trickled down yet, not really. It’s a conservative conformist world. I don’t see in it what a lot of other people seem to: a commentary on what assholes the adults were. Maybe it’s because I come from a family of teachers. Not all of the adults are assholes. They are trying to keep these kids on the right track. Vietnam is out there. How many of those boys in the student assemblies will end up in the jungle? Times are scary. Yes, “conform or die” is not really a great message, but – on the flipside – investing ONLY in “individualism” can result in a total fracturing of the social contract. You’ve got to have both to get along in this world. The students look bored in class. They look like little robots doing calesthenics in gym class. The sheer BOREDOM of high school is so evident that I practically was having PTSD flashbacks. It’s a great great film.
Krisha (2016; d. Trey Edward Shults)
A great film with a GREAT central performance. One of the best films I’ve seen this year, thus far. My review for Rogerebert.com.
Fish Tank (2009; d. Andrea Arnold)
Nothing I would say about this extraordinary film could improve on Kim Morgan’s gorgeous essay. What she said, essentially.
The Earrings of Madame De … (1953; d. Max Ophuls)
So breathtakingly brilliant that it’s even hard to process. Ophuls is probably one of the Top 5 filmmakers in terms of the Long Take. He showed what was possible in the long take, incredibly intricate long takes. He makes that Good Fellas shot through the Copa that everyone raves about like a gimmick, a stunt. You can’t believe what Ophuls accomplishes and how he accomplishes it. Along with his technical bravura, though, the story itself is so innovative, so strangely funny (it’s about the journey of her earrings … where those earrings go … and the chaos they wreak wherever they go), but then – ultimately – so tormented that it feels like a Russian novel. GREAT performances. The Criterion release has a fantastic special feature where Paul Thomas Anderson (another master of the long take, whose work owes much to the example set by Max Ophuls) talks about the film, certain shots, how they operate, how they influenced him.
The Perfect Match (2016; d. Bille Woodruff)
A romantic comedy. It has its points, it’s not very good, but I enjoyed it a little bit anyway. I reviewed for Rogerebxrt.com.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 14, “Long Distance Call” (2008; d. Robert Singer)
Some killer closeups in this one. Dean waiting by the phone like a nervous teenager waiting for her gentleman caller. Lots of upsetting stuff going on beneath the surface, relationship stuff, Dad stuff, and this is Robert Singer’s sweet spot. Monster-shmonster, sure, we’ll give them some scares, and a couple of good scary moments (I love how Sam eventually kills the monster. It’s gruesome as hell), but the real guts of the story is Dean waiting for that phone to ring, and the look on his face as he talks to his dead father. Of course, all of this can really be attributed to Jensen Ackles (“I was taking care of Sammy, just like you told me to …), but Robert Singer, at the helm of the ship, knows that that’s what really matters. I love this episode.
Prophet’s Prey (2015; d. Amy J. Berg)
This is one of the most upsetting documentaries I’ve ever seen. The situation is so fucking disgusting that I’m in a rage. I don’t understand why polygamy – illegal in the United States – is not enough to shut that bullshit down. At least there are people who are obsessed with this situation and have basically devoted their lives to destroying it. Who knows. But it made me sick to my stomach. I read Jon Krakauer’s book. None of this is news to me. I watched those pompadoured-women being loaded up into busses. I know what a monster that man is. But seeing this film … The footage is incredible.
Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 10 “1,000 Cuts” (2015; d. Rosemary Rodriguez)
I love the mood of the show, its look and feel. I think all of the lead actors are, frankly, phenomenal. I’m not getting obsessed, though. The series is not sticking with me in any meaningful way. It doesn’t have staying power. I still appreciate what they are attempting to do, and I cannot express my admiration for all of these actors deeply enough.
Jessica Jones Season 1, Episode 11 “I’ve Got the Blues” (2015; d. Uta Briesewitz)
Even though I saw this episode so recently, I can’t remember much about it. I will continue on with the series, because I am in now, I can’t help but be invested, but I can tell I’m losing interest. Those first 5 or 6 episodes though … hoo boy!
Born To Be Blue (2016; d. Robert Budreau)
A Chet Baker biopic. Very interesting and well worth seeing. I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
I Saw the Light (2016; d. Marc Abraham)
I thought Tom Hiddleston did an incredible job. Listen, I’m not saying he sounds like Hank Williams. Or that his singing equals Hank Williams. But it’s good enough, at least for the purposes of a biopic. It’s good enough. More importantly, he brings to it the sense of Williams’ vitality onstage, his ability to make every person in the audience feel like he was singing only to them. And that’s the most important thing. It’s a sad story. More thoughts here.
Let’s Get Lost (1988; d. Bruce Weber)
Weber’s 1988 documentary about Chet Baker, filmed in the last year of Baker’s life. Watched in preparation for Born To Be Blue. It’s a riveting piece of work. The whole thing is on Youtube.
The People vs. OJ Simpson (2016; d. Anthony Hemingway, Ryan Murphy, John Singleton)
This entire series has blown me away. I didn’t even want to watch, because we all lived through that nonsense once, and wasn’t once enough? But I read enough about how good it was that I decided to check it out. I binge-watched the entire thing over a two-day period. The ACTING. There is not one weak link. Everyone is so perfectly cast, so excellent!! Courtney B. Vance, Nathan Lane, Sarah Paulson, Cuba Gooding, David Schwimmer, JOHN TRAVOLTA IS KILLING IT, Sterling K. Brown, so beloved by Supernatural fans, and here is playing Chris Darden, with a quiet sensitivity and thoughtfulness that holds the screen. The scenes between Darden and Paulson are revelations. I am having PTSD flashbacks again, and I wonder where the public outcry was when O.J. Simpson was busted for breaking/entering/kidnapping, for which he is in jail now. Was he framed then, too? It was a horrible and tense moment in time, dominated by the Rodney King beating, the atmosphere poisoned because of that event and the riots that followed. NOBODY kept their heads. Mistakes are made all around. I mean, putting Fuhrman on the stand! Are you kidding me? The fucking glove?? You can see where the prosecution went wrong (obviously). You can see the maneuverings of the defense team (Dream Team, my ass), the battle of wills going on in their camp, Cochran’s opportunism but also his smarts, and one of the things that is really clear is that if the prosecution hadn’t made all of those mistakes, the so-called Dream Team would have had a much harder time. I mean, there was literally a trail of blood leading from her house to his, including in his car and on his socks. Slam-dunk, right? Nope. One of the best parts of this series is that you are given all sides. It’s a cross-section of race and class. You can see where everyone is coming from. Not one narrative is prioritized over another. It’s a collage. It’s extremely thought-provoking and deep. It’s so well done. Acting tour de forces all around, everyone is doing such excellent work.
Sing Street (2016; d. John Carney)
It opens April 15th. I will be reviewing for Rogerebert.com.
The Dark Horse (2016; d. James Napier Robertson)
It opened yesterday. Here’s my review. Seek this movie out. It’s very very good.
Cries and Whispers (1972; d. Ingmar Bergman)
Such an astonishing tour de force that I am still amazed that it even happened. This is what independence from an industry looks like. (Or can. Bergman was a genius. If a non-genius tried to make Cries and Whispers, it would be pretentious, stilted and terrible.) The performances! The red room. The absolute heartlessness of these characters. The repression. The anguish. It may seem like an “exercise in style,” and maybe it is to some degree. The movie started with a vision that had been dogging Bergman for years: a completely red room, red walls, rug, chairs, and standing against the back wall were four female figures, dressed in white, old-fashioned gowns from the first years of the 20th century. That’s what he saw. But how he developed it. Harriet Andersson, Liv Ullmann, Ingrid Thulin as the sisters give titanic performances, all. And Kari Sylwan as their devoted maid … the only character who is good, who tries to do good … is extraordinary. This is some really bleak shit.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 21: “All Hell Breaks Loose Part 1” (2007; d. Robert Singer)
Breakfast Club meets High Noon.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 22: “All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
Despite the Roger-Corman-ish cemetery-scene, which borders on – and tips over into – C-movie camp – this is a very powerful episode, with one of the best endings in the entire series: pushing us off into Season 3 with a vibrating sense of urgency and hopelessness. (Which makes the first moment we see Dean in Season 3 so fantastic. What we expect is not what they give us.)
Thelma and Louise (1991; d. Ridley Scott)
Thelma and Louise turns 25 this year. Three of us discussed this groundbreaking for Rogerebert.com.
Grizzly Man (2005; d. Werner Herzog)
My friend Alex and I are absolutely obsessed with this movie. One of the times I stayed with her out in LA, we watched it twice in one day. And then called up my brother, and invited him to drive over, so we could watch it again. I have so many observations about Treadwell. His VOICE. That fake high breathless voice. Why? Why is that the voice you’ve chosen? I’m so curious about what HE thought he sounded like. Because then when he goes on a rampaging rant against the park service, screaming at the camera … I think every time: “Okay. He’s being honest now. That is his real voice.” So the high breathless voice he chose was a smoke-screen for THAT voice, and imagine how much energy it would take to pretend you don’t have that much rage in you. Endlessly interesting.
Everybody Wants Some!! (2016; d. Richard Linklater)
Loved it so much. Here’s my review for Rogerebert.com. I look forward to seeing it again. Yesterday on Twitter, I saw some asshole Tweet: “This is why we need female film critics” and then linked to a review written by a “female film critic” (grrrr), who said that the film is “dismissive” towards women. Now, I don’t care whether or not people do or don’t like the movie. Not everyone is going to like everything. That’s not what annoyed me about that Tweet. It was the comment “this is why we need female film critics,” as though all “females” have the same reactions to things, the same opinions, the same concerns. We fucking DON’T, okay? Women are as diverse as any other population. I can’t believe people who are supposedly “tolerant” repeatedly do not get this. So I, a “female”, loved the movie, disagree entirely with that critic’s assessment … so that means that I, somehow, am not “needed”? Or … am I not a woman, too? Last time I checked, I was. This kind of shit SEEMS empowering to the people who say it. I am sure they mean well and mean what they say. But it’s just another way to marginalize women, and keep us in a little contained bucket, where we all (of course!) feel the same way about everything. Well, fuck that. I loved this movie. And I’m a “female film critic,” too … although I just prefer the term WRITER. Now that feels REALLY empowering. And no. The film is not “dismissive” towards women. My voice is just as important a counter-narrative as any other. Go see it.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 16 “Safe House” (2016; d. Stefan Pleszczynski)
I’m not normally frightened by Supernatural, but this episode legitimately freaked me out.
Maps of the Stars (2014; d. David Cronenberg)
Oh my God, this movie, I love it so much. It’s brutal, it’s in-SANE, it’s melodrama and satire and sick twisted shit all mixed up in one. It’s so cynical about Hollywood that it makes Sunset Boulevard look kind and forgiving.
God’s Not Dead (2014; d. Kevin Cronk)
Watched in preparation for the sequel, which I was reviewing.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 17 “Red Meat” (2016; d. Nina Lopez-Corrado)
I literally cannot believe that the prospect of these guys dying still has the capacity to be gripping and/or upsetting. I don’t mean to be cynical, but come on. The way it all went down, though, was so visceral and Lopez-Corrado played both “death” scenes in a way that felt … abstract, almost? Like, she lingered on what was happening – Sam even went down in slo-mo – the show almost never uses slo-mo. Maybe 3, 4 times? And then the inter-cut fluorescent-lit death scene in the storage room, which looked so real and chaotic with foam coming out of his mouth, etc. that you could tell it was really happening. These things MATTER, and they are choices on the part of the director/editor, dealing with the challenge that these guys have died so many times, and wept over each others’ so-called death beds so many times … that how can it still “get to” us? “Red Meat” showed that it still can – but only if it’s done in a way that is the least manipulative possible. I don’t know how they pull it off. It isn’t easy. I knew, of course, they weren’t dead … but the episode was structured so elegantly and efficiently – that the Romeo and Juliet aspect was so perfectly timed and perfectly clear – and leading off with that gun-shot to the belly and the slo-mo collapse had an epic Spaghetti Western feeling (one of the inspirations for the series in general) that flat out would not have worked if the series indulged in such devices all the time. You have to be very sparing with stuff like this. Anyway, I thought it was a very effective episode, although bringing back Billie and then having her do …. nothing … was a let-down. She’s a Big Gun. Hold her back until you need her. Also, beautiful LOOKING episode. Those foggy woods. That opening sequence where you honestly could not tell what was happening it was so dark. Plus, the explicit connection between a married couple and Sam and Dean. Brother-wives. I’m enjoying Season 11.
God’s Not Dead 2 (2016; d. Kevin Cronk)
Here’s my review. I really said it all right there.