I’m going to start listing everything I saw each month. It’ll be a good way for me to keep track, and also a good record for my end-of-year lists.
So here’s everything I watched in January, 2015.
Inherent Vice (2014; Paul Thomas Anderson): my second time. Even better the second time.
The Bling Ring (2013; Sofia Coppola): I saw it on its opening night (thoughts here), and just re-watched it. Just as entertaining, although seeing it in a packed chaotic theatre was a real high-point for me, in terms of movie-going. Especially these days when people can’t put down their phones long enough to watch the movie. This was an engaged EXCITED audience, people couldn’t WAIT to see it, and that energy was infectious.
Sullivan’s Travels (1941; Preston Sturges): I love this movie, I ADORE Veronica Lake and Joel McCrea together: what an unforgettable pairing. It’s also a celebration of the comedic in life. Comedy is dismissed as un-serious, it’s undervalued. Sullivan’s Travels has its serious element, and the Depression-ravaged world shown is pretty bleak. And that’s where comedy is most needed.
Music and Lyrics (2007; Marc Lawrence): Loved it.
Bakery Girl of Monceau (1963; Éric Rohmer): The first part of Rohmer’s “Moral Tales” series, starring a young and slick Barbet Schroeder. Heartless. I loved the narration. I had planned on going through the Moral Tales in order, but the best-laid plans and all that …
The Postman Always Rings Twice (1946; Tay Garnett): A favorite. It never gets old.
Inglourious Basterds (2009; Quentin Tarantino): His masterpiece. Wrote about a tiny moment of acting that I love here.
The Letter (1940); William Wyler): One of Bette Davis’ best performances. Herbert Marshall kills me. Wrote a bit about it here. My friend Mitchell observed: “Watch her right-hand throughout the movie. The hand that held the gun. It always remembers what it did.” He is so RIGHT.
My Man Godfrey (1936; Gregory La Cava): Carlo the morose protege. The furious dad holding the tray of martinis. The ridiculous mother. Gail Patrick. Carole Lombard falling apart. The maid also falling apart. The two of them collapsing into one another’s arms crying. William Powell’s sexy confident charm. The magnificent opening credits. I know the movie by heart, which only increases the pleasure of it.
The Congress (2013; Ari Folman): I don’t know, I think I liked it. Yeah, just a bit … Kidding: it blew me away.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 11, “Playthings” (2007; Charles Beeson): A re-watch for the re-cap.
The X-Files, Season 1, Episode 16, “E.B.E.” (1994; William Graham): I just need to point out that William Graham directed 3 episodes of The X-Files, and he also directed Elvis’ last feature film, A Change of Habit in 1969. Elvis loved him. Graham treated him like a real actor. He only had good things to say about Elvis, which is basically a theme in Elvis’ life. I wrote about William Graham when he died.). Back to X-Files: “E.B.E.” is as paranoid as it gets, and X-Files is a VERY paranoid show!
The Big Year (2001; David Frankel): I’m not a fan of the term “under-rated” because what it usually means is “that thing nobody else likes that I love.” But The Big Year, for me, really qualifies. It came and went and barely caused a blip. Nobody paid attention to it. It got some nice reviews. It was only through the high praise of my friend Craig, whose opinion I trust, that made me loop back to see it. And Jack Black is one of my favorite actors, as is Owen Wilson. It just wasn’t on my radar at all! It is a WONDERFUL film. It’s very funny but it’s also poignant. I saw it a couple of years ago for the first time, fell in love with it, and it held up in the second viewing. I recommend it to everyone.
Caged! (1950; John Cromwell): A “women’s prison” drama, with Agnes Moorehead as a reform-minded warden, fighting an uphill battle, and poor pregnant innocent Eleanor Parker as an incarcerated woman, learning the ropes of prison from the tough dames around her. Sent to me by my good friend Stevie, who knows my taste, and it did not disappoint. The posters and advertisements for it look really salacious, but it’s actually not that at all – it’s a serious film.
Taken 3 (2015); Olivier Megaton): Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Django Unchained (2012; Quentin Tarantino): I was even more upset by Samuel Jackson’s performance than I was the first time I saw it. And Leo is flat-out brilliant, but that’s not a surprise. I love the movie.
Three Night Stand (2015; Pat Kiely): Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 12, “Nightshifter” (2007; Phil Sgriccia): Re-watched for the re-cap.
Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 5, “Dog Dean Afternoon” (2013; Tim Andrew): The lack of perfection of the episode doesn’t bother me in the slightest. I love the dog behavior and it’s pleasing to me and very relaxing to behold. Pop this one in when I need to chillAX.
The Passenger (1975; Michelangelo Antonioni): Prompted by a brief discussion about Antonioni in the comments section to a post. I saw The Passenger years ago, at the Music Box Theatre in Chicago, and have never forgotten that final shot. That final strange mysterious shot. It’s been years since I’ve seen it though.
Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 7, “Bad Boys” (2013; Kevin Parks): Has quickly become a favorite.
Supernatural, Season 9, Episode 8, “Rock and a Hard Place” (2013; John MacCarthy): Many fans dislike. I get their reasons, and I also do not understand why everyone looks alike in the episode. A GREAT example of an unimaginative casting director AND (I would think) an unimaginative director. However: I love it for the burlesque.
Something’s Gotta Give (2003; Nancy Meyers): A favorite. I watch it all the time.
Save Me (2007; Robert Cary): A devastating drama, starring Judith Light, about a young guy put into a halfway house (basically) to undergo reparative/conversion therapy. Stephen Lang is incredible as Judith Light’s husband. Another one watched on Stevie’s recommendation. So excellent.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 20, “What Is and What Should Never Be” (2007; Eric Kripke): A favorite.
Supernatural, Season 2, Episode 21, “All Hell Breaks Loose, Part 1” (2007; Robert Singer): Moving ahead in Season 2, preparing for the rest of the re-caps. Also, I love it. I watched it alone, and then with the commentary track.
Cake (2015; Daniel Barnz): Reviewed for The Dissolve.
Appropriate Behavior (2015; Desiree Akhavan): Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Water Lilies (2007; Céline Sciamma): A re-watch in preparation for Sciamma’s latest film Girlhood, which was fantastic, reviewed for Rogerebert.com. I love Sciamma’s work so much. Water Lilies is a wonderful coming-of-age story about three young girls, all involved in a synchronized swimming team called “Water Lilies.”
When Evening Falls on Bucharest or Metabolism (2013; Corneliu Porumboiu). I love his films, and this is his latest. Write about it here.
Girlhood (2015; Céline Sciamma): Reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Blackhat (2015; Michael Mann): So much fun. Mann is always fun. Gorgeous to look at.
Locke (2013; Stephen Knight): Phenomenal. Wrote about it here. It was then syndicated on both Road & Track and the BMW blog, so I am feeling particularly bad-ass about it.
Wadjda (2013; Haifaa Al-Mansour): The first film shot inside Saudi Arabia. By a Saudi director. By a FEMALE Saudi director. These facts, in and of themselves, make the film historic. But, thankfully, it is also a wonderful story, beautifully told. Wrote about it here.
Against the Sun (2015; Brian Falk): Very good, reviewed for Rogerebert.com.
Before Sunrise (1995; Richard Linklater): 2015 is the 20th anniversary of Richard Linklater’s Before Sunrise. I wrote about the film for Movie Mezzanine.
Before Sunset (2004; Richard Linklater): The follow-up film to Before Sunrise. All three in the trilogy (thus far) are amazing. Before Sunset is my favorite of the three. Painful. Precarious. Brilliant.
Love Me Tender (1956; Robert Webb): Elvis’ much-anticipated film debut! I wrote it up for Bright Wall/Dark Room‘s upcoming issue devoted to musicals. It will come out this March. I watched the film once, and then again with Jerry Schilling (lifelong friend of Elvis) doing commentary. I’ve seen the film 100 times, of course, and have written about it here and there, but it was really fun to go in-depth.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 4, “Sin City” (2007; Charles Beeson): The long conversation between Dean and the demon is the Keeper here. It feels like a play. Beautifully written and beautifully played.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 7, “Fresh Blood” (2007; Kim Manners): Because Gordon Walker.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 10, “The Hunter Games” (2015; John Badham): Yes. THAT John Badham.
Night of the Hunter (1955; Charles Laughton): One of my favorite movies ever made. Popped it in again because of the ongoing conversation here. So brilliant I don’t even know what to do with myself.
American Sniper (2015; Clint Eastwood): The controversy around it has been unbelievably annoying and I did my best to tune it out until I could see it. On one side, we have the “Yay! Killing rag-heads!” brigade. Idiots. On the other we have, “But what about the reasons we went into the war? And how Bush Lied People Died? Doesn’t the film GLORIFY killing?” They must have missed all of the PTSD scenes at the end, which are the opposite of “glorifying” his actions. (Many people were arguing about the movie without even having seen it. Like Glenn Greenwald going off on Zero Dark Thirty without having seen it. Moments like that actually make things simple: you know who to tune out. You know who’s not serious.) Both sides are wrong. American Sniper is neither an endorsement nor an indictment. (Would those critics have been happy if Chris Kyle broke down in tears at the end, sobbing, “Why did Bush send us into this dirty war?” Honestly, people who yearn for a moment like that are not artists, they are propagandists, and also should be ignored. They want to neuter complex art.) I thought the movie was great, disturbing. There was criticism that his Iraqi equivalent was dehumanized. I didn’t think so. He was portrayed as just like him, the same focus, the same drive, the same ability. Yes, Chris Kyle saw him as someone to be taken down and OUT, but that’s war, kids. Eastwood filmed him with the same clarity that he filmed Chris Kyle. It’s not on the nose. The film is completely 100% from Chris Kyle’s point of view. That is confrontational, for sure, but that’s the movie. That’s also why it works. An upsetting portrait of PTSD, as well as the patriotism that got a lot of people involved in the military in the first place. To condescend to that impulse (people joining up after 9/11) is rather silly. I mean, you can sneer at it if you like – but Eastwood is just telling the truth there, and letting you in on a secret about how the world operates outside of your little enclave where everything is so black-and-white and all right-minded people (according to you) agree with you. This is a portrait of a world that is NOT that, and Eastwood is under no obligation to include the stuff that matters to YOU just because YOU think it should be in there. For God’s SAKE. The film is not perfect and Chris Kyle’s minor-level fabulist-tendencies are not addressed at all. It’s an error. He was all messed up at the end, telling stories about punching Jesse Ventura, perching on the top of the Superdome with his sniper’s rifle after Hurricane Katrina, and killing two guys at a gas station in Texas. Fabrications, as far as can be ascertained. VERY interesting: he couldn’t let go of his self-image as a vigilante, it’s all a part of the mindset that allowed him to shut out reality (how disturbed he was by some of the things he had to do in Iraq): of course it would be hard to give up being a hero, a legend, and adjust to being a regular civilian again. The lies make perfect sense. But all in all, the film is a brutal look at a killer, rewarded for killing in one context, and then being flat out unable to come back home. He has been forever changed. It’s in the same vein as perhaps the most famous line in any film directed by Eastwood: “It’s a hell of a thing, killing a man.” Yes.
Before Midnight (2013): Watched again in preparation for the Before Sunrise piece. Painful film, so good.
The Palm Beach Story (1942; Preston Sturges): Soooo funny. So excellent. Great comedy about marriage. Lunacy on the fringes. Mary Astor … that type of acting is a lost art. Love every crazy second of it. Check out the essay Stephanie Zacharek wrote for The Criterion Collection.
Miami Vice (2006; Michael Mann): Was in the mood for Mann after Blackhat. I love this movie.
Thunder Road (1958; Arthur Ripley): Another Mitchum movie, wonderful, about the dangers of illegal liquor transportation throughout Tennessee. The movie is a Gearhead Paradise.
Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 1, “Sympathy for the Devil” (2009; Robert Singer): I love Season 5.
Supernatural, Season 5, Episode 2, “Good God Y’All” (2009; Phil Sgriccia): Continuing on with Season 2.
Heaven Knows, Mr. Allison (1957; John Huston): A glorious two-hander, Robert Mitchum as stranded Marine, and Deborah Kerr as a nun abandoned on the desert island. I adore this movie. Another one I pulled out again after our big Mitchum conversation. Love every second of their magnificent scene work.
Ghost Town (2008; David Koepp): The movie makes me howl with laughter, and it also makes me cry. I consider that a win. And Greg Kinnear is PERFECTION.
Supernatural, Season 10, Episode 11, “There’s No Place Like Home” (2015; Phil Sgriccia): Adore it. Watched it twice in a row.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 11, “Mystery Spot” (2009; Kim Manners): Because, always.
Supernatural, Season 3, Episode 12, “Jus in Bello” (2009; Phil Sgriccia): Because, Agent Henriksen.
Edge of Tomorrow (2014; Doug Liman): One of the most exhilarating innovative movies I’ve seen in a long long time. I got covered in goosebumps of excitement multiple times when watching. It’s a kind of Ground Hog day mixed with an apocalyptic war-movie. It’s an existential examination of the human condition, how we learn through trial and error, through repetition, however annoying: we are better at things the 20th time than the first time, only because we have fallen on our ass 19 times before. Perhaps not a profound thing to realize, but in a way it is – because it’s so difficult. If it were easy, then human beings would not struggle so much with it. Tom Cruise at his mega-watt best, with some definite quirks and a very steep learning curve in the first half of the film. Emily Blunt playing, what is, essentially the “Tom Cruise” role, the established hero, the bad-ass strolling slo-mo towards the camera as everyone moves back in awe and admiration. In one moment, Cruise says to a skeptical regiment who have no idea why he is ordering them around, “No. You won’t follow me [into battle.] But you will follow her.” And he moves back to let her step into place. Everyone’s jaws drop. SHE is the draw, not him. Amazing switch-off, and it fits, it fits so well. There’s a lot here about gender roles, gender mash-ups and mix-ups, Alphas, Omegas … it’s a buddy movie with a man and a woman. There’s no time for romance. Sex is discussed but only as a possible practical solution to the threat facing them [maybe we can stop this thing if fluids are exchanged … It’s a scientific proposition, in other words). I could have done without the yoga pose being shown, what, five times? Come on. But that’s a quibble. What happens with the story set-up is that gender norms, and what we expect, especially with actors like Tom Cruise and Emily Blunt, and action movies in general, is completely eradicated. What is created in Edge of Tomorrow is its own extremely specific dynamic. Riveting.
His Kind of Woman (1951; John Farrow: although there were a lot of fingers rooting around in this particular pie. However, Farrow got the director credit): It’s been a Mitchum kind of month, just because of me posting that one photo and then all of us talking about him. Robert Mitchum and Jane Russell are incredible onscreen together: wary, but also hot: sizing each other up, a space of total honesty between them. And the entire last half-hour of the movie Robert Mitchum is shirtless. Being whipped, locked in a steam room, beaten up by six guys at a time. His BODY. I’m sorry. But that BODY. To speak like the leering objectifier that I am, it is my favorite male body type, and more’s the pity, because it’s out of style now. Kim Morgan wrote about the “barrel-chested man” for Salon and THAT’S what I’m talking about.