Roadies, Season 1, Pilot (2016; d. Cameron Crowe)
My friend Allison forced me to watch this. I had no choice. We do this to one another. And neither of us are EVER sorry. I absolutely loved it. Have not had any time to delve further into it, but I will.
Amanda Knox (2016; d. Rod Blackhurst, Brian McGinn)
The new Netflix documentary. Allison and I watched it together. It took us 5 hours because we kept having to pause and discuss.
Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 4, “The End” (2009; d. Steve Boyum)
A favorite. “Apparently … we … have a connection.” It’s the hand gesture that makes that line.
The Eyes of My Mother (2016; d. Nicolas Pesce)
This one hasn’t come out yet. It’s extraordinary. Keep your eyes peeled. Completely messed-up psychological slightly-zombie-esque horror story. Amazing acting.
The Land (2016; d. Steven Caple Jr.)
This one hasn’t come out yet either. (Many of these I had to watch for my participation in the Gotham Awards on a nominating committee. These were all of the submissions.) The story of 4 kids in Cleveland, all of whom have pretty terrible home lives, who dream of escaping into the world of pro-skateboarding. Very touching: same old coming-of-age story, but SPECIFIC to its locale.
Hologram for a King (2016; d. Tom Tykwer)
Starring Tom Hanks as a down on his luck middle-manager-executive guy who travels to Saudi Arabia to try to sell the King on some new technological product. Culture clash ensues. There is much charm to this story, especially in the character of his carefree and chatty assigned driver.
The Love Witch (2016; d. Anna Biller)
I am in LOVE with this movie. It also has not come out yet. I actually am rather startled that it exists at all – on its own terms (or: on the director’s own terms, which are quite exacting, and she is totally on her own: making these films by herself). So often compromises have to be made and you can tell that Biller has compromised nothing. This is the film she wanted to make. I can’t stop thinking about it.
Deepwater Horizon (2016; d. Peter Berg)
I read some complaints that this movie focused too much on the explosion and not on the corporate bullshit and economic devastation. I get so frustrated with critiques like that. Not all movies are supposed to be about EVERYTHING. And movies that try to be about EVERYTHING usually suck or become a propaganda preachy pamphlet. This is a story of the men (and one woman) who worked that rig, and what it was like. I thought it was superb. And very upsetting. It is totally clear (by the way) that the corporate men are cheap-ass douchebags, and it is totally clear (by the way) the devastation to the Coast this will cause. But the STORY is about what happened on that rig. Honest to God. These people should just stay in school and read sociological books full of pie charts instead of reviewing films. It’s fine to not like it, but to not like it because it’s not what you THINK it should be … Well: why don’t YOU try to make a movie. And please everyone. Go ahead. I dare you.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 4 “Baby” (2015; d. Thomas J. Wright)
One of the most innovative hours of television I’ve ever seen, even more extraordinary because this innovation is occurring in its 11th season, when they could just coast along. But they don’t. And I listened to the commentary track which was fascinating. They all – including the whooping girls – did their own driving. This makes the episode even more exciting. Thomas Wright wasn’t even in the car. They’d go off, play their scenes, come back, and he’d watch the footage. And so, as we all knew, because it looks so real, Jensen really did that crazy back-up turn. As well as the crazy turn after he hits the barrels.
Under the Shadow (2016; d. Babak Anvari)
Wonderful movie. Truly scary. But with a background and atmosphere not seen before in a horror film: Tehran in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq War. Highly recommended. As of now, it’s on my Top 10 of the year. Here’s my review.
Manchester by the Sea (2016; d. Kenneth Lonergan)
Talk about my Top 10 of the year … This one is solidly on it. It won’t be bumped off. (Many of these movies haven’t come out yet. This one could garner some Oscar noms.)
The Childhood of a Leader (2015; d. Brady Corbet)
Another uncompromising film, fully ITSELF. Some said it was “slow.” What they meant by that was: “It feels like a horror movie but nothing is really happening!” This is a problem of perception, of analysis, of being unwilling to submit to what a movie IS, as opposed to what you were EXPECTING. This is an extremely successful and very creepy film with a GREAT child performance. How does a dictator become a dictator? What was it in childhood that predisposed him to want to rule others with an iron fist? I loved this movie.
Always Shine (2016; d. Sophia Tikal)
This one comes out on December 2. Do not miss it.
Coming Through the Rye (2015; d. James Steven Sadwith)
This one came out in October. It may already be gone. I thought it was lovely. Two teenagers go on a road trip to try to find J.D. Salinger. This isn’t a spoiler to say that Chris Cooper plays Salinger, and it’s a wonderful performance. Perfect. The kids are great too. I thought it would be very “twee” but it’s not at all. Wonderful teenage-girl performance too from Stefania LaVie Owen. She’s not a hottie-mchottie. She’s a regular girl, with her own mind, her own kind of beauty, a smart and capable person.
Goat (2016; d. Andrew Neel)
This one already came out. It’s the story of Hell Week at a fraternity. It’s extremely brutal. I’ve read a lot of reviews complaining that women play no part in the movie except as sex objects. Honest to GOD. It’s about Hell Week at a fraternity. It’s about the toxic male Bell Jar. That’s how women are viewed in that environment, especially with testosterone-pumped young sexually inexperienced kids. These critics, man … Not everything is about YOU. Not every story is supposed to include you. And it doesn’t celebrate toxic masculinity, as I’ve seen commented as well. The film presents it and it is a STRONG critique of it. What happens when a sensitive kid – already suffering from PTSD from a horrible mugging he experienced the summer before – submits to Hell Week? It ain’t pretty. Ben Schnetzer – as the kid – gives an A-List performance and he’s an unknown. He was amazing. Nick Jonas was good too.
Valley of Violence (2016; d. Ti West)
Stupid. But I enjoyed it.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 8, “Just My Imagination” (2015; d. Richard Speight Jr.)
Yup. Just as enjoyable as the first time. “So Sparkles is a unicorn … and a man?” So pissed.
As You Are (2016; d. Miles Joris-Peyrafitte)
A story of a messed-up intimate friendship between two teenage boys around the time that Kurt Cobain killed himself. The film has some problems, but the young actors are great, and the film really nails that time, and what that suicide felt like to those of a certain age (I count myself.)
Eye in the Sky (2015; d. Gavin Hood)
Helen Mirren stars as a focused commander determined to stop a terrorist attack in Iraq – using Intel from her “eye in the sky,” the drone. Operated by two American pilots in Las Vegas. This is the topic of my friend George Brant’s award-winning play Grounded. It’s a very good film. It focuses only on this one attack: so it takes place in an extremely compressed time period.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 7, “Plush” (2015; d. Tim Andrew)
This case was very disturbing.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 13 “Love Hurts” (2016; d. Philip Sgriccia)
I watched it again for that final scene. Superb acting from both of them.
Equity (2016; d. Meera Menon)
I REALLY enjoyed this Wall Street film. I also enjoy that the entire project was run by women: director, writers, production company designed to facilitate projects by women. I love that this was their first project. Not a domestic drama or a romance. But a cutthroat look at a couple of women working in the corrupt and fast-paced world of the trading floor. Really good acting too.
No Letting Go (2015; d. Jonathan D. Bucari)
Clearly a personal project. A mother fights to get her son diagnosed and get him treatment when he is diagnosed bipolar at a young age. You can tell it’s low-budget, and the film maybe tries to do too much, but its heart is in the right place (and that’s a good thing) and it’s really good on all of the familial adjustments that have to take place when someone in the family is a “problem.” I was that “problem” in my own family. So I appreciated this.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 22 “All Hell Breaks Loose Part 2” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
A re-watch so I could finish up the re-cap.
Little Sister (2016; d. Zach Clark)
I REALLY liked this film. My review.
La La Land (2016; d. Damien Chazelle)
This one opens in December. An old-fashioned musical starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. It’s beautiful. Big production numbers with hundreds of people dancing up and down the LA freeways. Filled with emotion too. Magic.
Birth of a Nation (2016; d. Nate Parker)
I had to go see it, just … because I had to. As a film critic, I couldn’t sit that one out. I didn’t want to see it after all the controversy. Not that I would refuse on principle. That’s not my style. I love the films of Roman Polanski, and I’m unapologetic about it. However, from reviews it sounded like he left a lot out that might turn us against Nat (the slaughter of babies, for example), and also Parker ADDED a lot of things – mostly, a couple of rapes, no less – and these rapes – in the story Parker wrote – were the final straws for Nat Turner, the events that MOTIVATED Nat Turner to take revenge … well. I have SERIOUS problems with this. Not that there wasn’t a horrifying sexual element to the slave-owner relationship. But Nat Turner did not rise up because his wife was raped. So in Nate Parker’s version of this fascinating story: women are once again background, props, they’re “in refrigerators”, and the men – slaves or no – “own” them. It’s like Parker cannot imagine a woman on her own terms, or thought (even grosser) – “I know! Let’s rape a couple of the women so that the audience will really get why Nat snapped!” I mean, that’s what it feels like in the film too. This did not sit well with me at ALL. How about Nat killed a bunch of white people because slavery was evil and he had fucking had it, not because white men raped your women? AND the fact that Parker had been accused (and acquitted, yes – but read the transcripts of what happened: it’s horrifying) of rape … it makes his “use” of rape as a plot-point – where HE gets to be the avenger of wronged womanhood – something about that makes me go: “Nope. You do not get a pass.” It’s too unsavory even for me. But anyway, I saw the movie. I felt that it had no visual style. It was filled with visual cliches. I felt that he did not at all explore the character of Nat Turner. I have seen the film compared to Braveheart, and that’s definitely on the money: it’s an act of hero worship – not really for Nat Turner, because Nat Turner does not come off as a three-dimensional character – but hero worship for Nate Parker. Nat Turner the real guy deserves much better. The Sundance audience gave this film multiple weeping ovations. Is that because of the altitude? What on earth were they reacting to? Nate Parker’s career has been torched. I’m bummed because I have loved him for years. I adored him in The Great Debaters and I thought he was fantastic in Beyond the Lights. But this? Not sure his career can recover. And his comments once the controversy broke? Yikes.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 1 “The Magnificent Seven” (2007; d. Kim Manners)
A re-watch for whenever I get to the re-cap.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 2 “The Kids are All Right” (2007; d. Phil Sgriccia)
Figured I’d move on into Season 3, also in preparation for the re-cap to remind myself of the progression, but also just because it’s fun.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 3 “Bad Day at Black Rock” (2007; d. Robert Singer)
“I lost my shoe.” I cannot TAKE IT. Also, rest in peace Michael Massee.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 10, “Dream a Little Dream of Me” (2008; d. Steve Boyum)
One of the most important episodes certainly in the first half of this entire series.
American Pastoral (2016; d. Ewan McGregor)
Not good. The book is all about how you have to piece together the truth, and you’re never sure if you’re actually getting the truth or a version of it. The adaptation here irons all that out and presents the story as flat truth. And so you lose everything.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 9, “O Brother Where Art Thou” (2015; d. Robert Singer)
It’s weird, this was just last season and I already don’t remember so much of this. I block out the bad-acting angels and demons. I block out Castiel. I just can’t take it. But there’s still enough to keep me hooked.
Supernatural, Season 11, Episode 10 “The Devil in the Details” (2015; d. Thomas J. Wright)
Watching this episode just makes me sad because of the spectacular derail of all of this potential in the final 3 episodes. Ugh: It’s all THERE. Right in front of your FACE. Why did you drop THIS ball, of ALL BALLS?
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 12 “About a Boy” (2015; d. Serge Ladouceur)
One of their finer episodes, in general, I think.
American Honey (2016; d. Andrea Arnold)
Wow. Just wow. I love Andrea Arnold (Fish Tank!) and Sasha Lane – discovered by Arnold sunbathing on a beach in Florida – gives such a good performance in the lead role that she’s one of our nominees for the Gotham Awards Breakout Performance. The movie is not like anything else. It is, perhaps, 45 minutes too long. But I didn’t care. The length is evidence of how uncompromising Arnold is with her projects, and I want more of that, not less.
Supernatural, Season 12, Episode 1, “Keep Calm and Carry On” (2016; d. Philip Sgriccia)
Here we go! Season 12!
Elle (2016; d. Paul Verhoeven)
I saw this at the big public screening at the New York Film Festival with Charlie. Isabelle Huppert was there, as was Paul Verhoeven, and there was a QA after the film. I think the film is brilliant. It’s going to be extremely controversial. I’m reviewing for Ebert. I’m going to see it again this afternoon.
20th Century Women (2016; d. Mike Mills)
This one opens in December. Don’t miss it. It’s really special.
Justin Timberlake and the Tennessee Kids (2016; d. Jonathan Demme)
Demme’s concert films are so above and beyond normal concert films that they are in their own category. Stop Making Sense, anyone? This may sound hyperbolic, but I think Justin Timberlake reaches the Stop Making Sense realm, in terms of how he films it, what he captures, how he allows the performer the space so we can see what they’re doing, but also provides intimacy so it feels like we’re on that stage. In the final 15 minutes, I actually found myself getting emotional. As in, tears were welling up because Demme captures so well the collaboration, the family aspect of being on tour like that, the enormity of the talent of everyone on that stage, the generosity of a show like that…. This, also, is on my Top 10 of the year. It’s streaming on Netflix.
The Wolf of Wall Street (2013; d. Martin Scorsese)
This is my 3rd or 4th time seeing it. It’s a hoot. Leo trying to get to the car while flattened on some kind of ‘Lude is a high watermark in his career, and that’s saying something. I can’t believe how long it goes on for. And his BODY. His physicality. I love the movie.
Supernatural, Season 12, Episode 2, “Mamma Mia” (2016; d. Thomas J. Wright)
Some intriguing possibilities opening up. Torture. Nonconsensual sex. Mom. Grown men reverting. The final sequence. I wanted that complexity and I’m getting it.
Supernatural, Season 4, Episode 21 “When the Levee Breaks” (2009; d. Robert Singer)
I needed to go back and re-visit Sam’s breakdown, especially the sequence with his mother.
Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 11 “Sam, Interrupted” (2010; d. James L. Conway)
I love this one. I love how the insanity overtakes them, completely debilitating them, and completely changing HOW THEY WALK, how they talk, how they behave and look at each other. Tour de force from both of them.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 1, “Black” (2014; d. Robert Singer)
Messed up, and it just reminded me of how boring Crowley has become and just how much Rowena has ruined the Crowley character. I’m hopeful (sort of) with the Castiel/Crowley team-up – but seeing Crowley here is a GLARING reminder of just how long Rowena has out-stayed her welcome. I miss this Crowley. He adds so much to the show when he’s like this. He DETRACTS when he’s eye-rolling at his Mum from the throne. Fine, give us one episode of that, not two seasons. Bad.
Supernatural, Season 6, Episode 1, “Exile on Main Street” (2010; d. Philip Sgriccia)
May be one of my favorite episodes. It works every time. It’s very upsetting. AND it’s something NEW. Never before and never again have we seen either man in such an environment and what that must be like, like cramming an octopus into a thimble. It’s extremely uncomfortable and I felt like they really played it for the reality of it.
Supernatural, Season 6, Episode 2, “Two Men and a Baby” (2010; d. John F. Showalter)
So I got a little sucked into Season 6. November has been very busy – with a family situation that is horrible, and another family situation that is joyful – plus my writing work plus two upcoming trips. It’s been a lot. I’ve needed to just escape. Also, I spent an entire month watching about 3 movies a day for the Gotham Awards. I’m a bit movie-d out. Also: Soulless Sam is my favorite Arc.
Supernatural, Season 6, Episode 3, “The Third Man” (2010; d. Robert Singer)
Seeing Balthazar made me want to weep when I think of the boring angels now. LOOK at his face. LOOK at what an accomplished actor he is. Angels should be fierce and eccentric and unpredictable. What the hell has happened and why does ANYONE involved think that boring angels played by bad actors would make good television?
Supernatural, Season 6, Episode 5, “Live Free or Twihard” (2010; d. Rod Hardy)
One of the most sexually fucked-up episodes they have ever done. Maybe the Siren one is the most fucked-up. But this one … It also has my favorite closeup of Jensen Ackles in the whole series. Go, Rod Hardy, whoever the hell you are.
Supernatural, Season 6, Episode 6, “You Can’t Handle the Truth” (2010; d. Jan Eliasberg)
This episode works really really well. I don’t mind them using Greek and Roman Gods as much as a lot of other people seem to. Whatever. It’s a supernatural show. A LOT of it is cheesy. What I like about this one is how “on the nose” it is. This is how you tell a story with a Theme. If you read Streetcar Named Desire, a great play, “subtlety” is not one of the play’s attributes. I mean, the title alone … Subtlety is over-rated. The REAL interest in Season 6 is Dean’s ongoing freakout of being in a relationship – alongside the suspicion that something is wrong with his brother. That is ALL that matters. Anything else is just filler. Here: we have a case that leads them to a Truth Goddess, who flips out when Sam lies to her. I love that moment. It’s a very very well designed episode.
Supernatural, Season 12, “The Foundry” (2016; d. Robert Singer)
Of course Robert Singer directed this one. I can picture him flagging the script immediately: “Yup. This one’s mine.” This is his wheelhouse. More so than any other director on the roster.
The Jon Benet Ramsey Case (2016; d. Eddie Schmidt)
A two-part documentary on CBS. It’s fantastic. And – and I can’t believe I’m saying this – I actually agree with the conclusions the investigative team came up with. After all this time, I’m not sure we’ll ever know what happened for sure, but they really laid out a strong case.
Supernatural Season 6, Episode 7, “Family Matters” (2010; d. Guy Norman Bee)
This is the power of the whole Soulless Sam arc. Padalecki is beyond good. I could write a 10-page essay about how good he is and why in this arc. The thing just would not work if he wasn’t doing what he was doing with the depth that he was doing it. And because he’s so good, watching Dean literally fall apart and ratchet up into a rage is thrilling – and even better against the background of his supposed new family, who all treat him like he’s a weakling. It’s an explosive psychological mix on both sides. It’s excellent.
Supernatural Season 6, Episode 8 “All Dogs Go to Heaven” (2010; d. Philip Sgriccia)
I had forgotten about this one. I was on a Season 6 roll. It was fun.
Supernatural Season 6, Episode 9 “Clap Your Hands If You Believe” (2010; d. John F. Showalter)
Sera Gamble gets so much shit, but she was the one in charge of the Soulless Sam Arc, so whatever, she’s awesome in my book. She wanted to explore it from all angles, AND she wanted to give the Arc an opportunity to play out in a COMEDIC context. Season 6 has been so upsetting so to suddenly have … this absolutely hilarious episode … where Sam not having a soul is funny … I still don’t know how they pulled it off, but they did.