January 2018 Viewing Diary

Supernatural, Season 7, episode 10 “Death’s Door” (2011; d. Robert Singer)
What an extraordinary episode of television. It’s funny: I too block out what happened in that kitchen in Bobby’s childhood. I forget it almost every time. Those actors playing his parents, that young boy … they’re all so fantastic.

Supernatural, Season 7, episode 11 “Adventures in Babysitting” (2012; d. Jeannot Szwarc)
There’s quite a lot going on in this episode. I miss Frank. The “do it with a smile” payoff is something else. It’s freakin’ tragic is what it is.

Supernatural, Season 7, episode 13 “The Slice Girls” (2012; d. Jerry Wanek)
Now the Amazons are very dumb. “Strength in silence, Emma. As in all things.” What the hell are you talking about. Things I love though: the conversation when Sam (before Dean) figures it out, and then Dean’s response. Sam’s increasing bafflement that Dean appears to be stalking his one-night stand. Ackles’ line reading of “She’s real busy” and Jared literally bursting into laughter and walking off-screen. The blue lighting on Ackles’ face in that horrible pickup bar.

Supernatural, Season 7, episode 14 “Plucky Pennywhistle’s Magical Menagerie” (2012; d. Mike Rohl)
So many funny moments. So many.

Dogfight (1991; d. Nancy Savoca)
One of my favorite movies of all time. Matt Seitz and I discussed it years ago in a post still generating traffic, still getting comments.

Smilin Through (1932; d. Sidney Franklin)
I hadn’t seen this before, despite my love of Norma Shearer, Leslie Howard and Fredric March. It’s really good!

The Fear of 13 (2015; d. David Sington)
Dude on Death Row for two decades is finally released because DNA tests. Nick Yarris is a riveting subject. Very painful story.

Spotlight (2015; d. Tom McCarthy)
You never know which current movie is going to be one of those movies you feel like watching again and again. Spotlight has become one of them for me. I’ve seen it maybe 4 times at this point. I reviewed for Ebert when it first came out.

Phantom Thread (2018; d. Paul Thomas Anderson)
I went to go see it in 70 mm. It was overwhelming. My second time seeing it. I wrote the cover story for the Jan/Feb 2018 issue of Film Comment on Phantom Thread. I can’t stop thinking about the movie.

Saturday Church (2017; d. Damon Cardasis)
I reviewed for Rogerebert.com.

The Bad Batch (2016; d. Ana Lily Amirpour)
I loved A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night (reviewed for Ebert), and it took me a while to get to The Bad Batch. I really did not care for it.

Shattered Glass (2003; d. Billy Ray)
God, I love this movie. I felt like I had a second or third row seat to this whole debacle, because I had just started working in the digital world when it all went down. Before the internet bubble burst. The fact that a WEB GUY had helped bring down a print monster like The New Republic was AMAZING to us. Everyone is so brilliant in this. Hank Azaria. Chloe Sevigny. Melanie Lynskey. Hayden Christiensen. And my God, Peter Sarsgaard. At first, “Chuck” seems flat. Low-affect. But then … but then …

Mosaic (2018; d. Steven Soderbergh)
This was a lot of fun. Has anyone else watched it in its app form? Great cast and an interesting experience, clicking around through the App. I know they’ve also released it in a chronological linear form, but I liked watching it on my phone. It’s good to see Sharon Stone.

Ingrid Goes West (2017; d. Matt Spicer)
Fantastic film. I reviewed for Ebert. This was my first re-watch. You never know how something will hold up. This holds up beautifully.

Supernatural, Season 7, episode 20, “The Girl with the Dungeons and Dragons Tattoo” (2012; d. John MacCarthy)
I love it. Lookee here, it pushes forward much of the plot and yet the episode feels totally character-driven. You see, it can be done. They’ve forgotten how to do it, even though once upon a time they knew. I love how it develops: it seems like because of Charlie’s nerdi-techie-ness that she and Sam may be the kindred spirits. But no. It’s Dean. They are basically the same person. Such a great choice and they got so much mileage out of it over the next couple of years. This is what happens when you care about CHARACTER FIRST.

Oklahoma City (2017; d. Barak Goodman)
It makes my blood boil.

Supernatural, Season 6, episode 20 “The Man Who Would Be King” (2011; d. Ben Edlund)
This was from when Castiel was central to the action, not peripheral. It’s interesting to go back and re-watch this, because I remember feeling so upset that Castiel was betraying the Winchesters, lying and working with Crowley and all the rest. I was so nervous because I knew the truth would come out. Now, I barely know Cas’ function anymore. Something essential has been lost in the transfer. But this is a beautifully structured episode, with Cas really taking center stage. I think it’s really well done.

Supernatural, Season 6, episode 21 “Let it Bleed” (2011; d. John F. Showalter)
I will never ever approve of the wiping of Lisa’s memory banks. Lazy writing. It makes no sense. It leaves her even MORE in danger. Dean WANTING to have her memory wiped clean makes sense. But Castiel should have said, “You are insane. No.”

Supernatural, Season 6, episode 22 “The Man Who Knew Too Much” (2011; d. Robert Singer)
This is a fabulous episode of television. A real showcase for Padalecki, but also just beautifully layered and deep. All about identity and memory, taking place inside Sam’s head. Innovative. Upsetting. Unexpected.

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 1 “We Need to Talk About Kevin” (2012; d. Robert Singer)
It’s subtle, but I think what Ackles does in those first sequences in the cabin with Sam represents some of his best work on the show.

The Witness (2015; d. James D. Solomon)
This is the new-ish documentary about the Kitty Genovese case. I HIGHLY recommend it. You may think you know the story. But there’s so much nuance there, so much that went unreported – or at least ignored – at the time. Pieces keep coming out, and those pieces usually make the headlines, since this is such a notorious case. Kitty’s brother investigates, determined to figure out what really happened.

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 8 “Hunteri Heroici” (2012; d. Paul A. Edwards)
Jensen Ackles saying: “What’s up, Doc?” I can now die at peace. So Castiel supposedly doesn’t know about culture but he does know “Ode to Joy?” He’s a snob then?

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 9 “Citizen Fang” (2012; d. Nick Copus)
I love anything having to do with Benny. I also love the spark of SEX flashing in Dean’s eyes before he gives the woman his number. It’s brief, gone in a moment, nothing too overt, but he receives her signalling, and decides to move on it. The same thing happens with the blonde bartender in “Defending Your Life.” You can see when he GETS the come-on, and adjusts his behavior. It’s Dean realizing: “Oh. Available woman throwing down mating signals. Copy that.”

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 10 “Torn and Frayed” (2013; d. Robert Singer)

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 11 “LARP and the Real Girl” (2013; d. Jeannot Szwarc)
In unison:

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 17 “Goodbye Stranger” (2013; d. Thomas J. Wright)
I have come around on the Naomi thing. I don’t know what exactly my beef was with her on my first watch. I apologize. I think she’s fabulous now and I think her role – and the role she plays in the Arc – is great. It makes Heaven interesting again. Not a glorified Amway office. She’s an excellent actress and you can feel how high the stakes are for her. The opening sequence, with the warehouse full of dead Deans, is one of the most striking images in the history of the series.

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 19 “Taxi Driver” (2013; d. Guy Norman Bee)
The graffiti in the alley is beautiful. Really striking. The scene between Benny and Dean is killer.

Supernatural, Season 8, episode 20 “Pac Man Fever” (2013; d. Robert Singer)
I cry every time. “See? You can’t stop either.” It’s such a good line. It works on the surface level, it works on the subtext level, it is character-revealing, it brings us into another layer of understanding. Killing her was a mistake. Her episodes – her function in their lives – was all about bringing them into a deeper and richer engagement with themselves, each other, their circumstances. Without her, we lose so much. Also, she’s a great character. But it’s her FUNCTION that was really necessary.

Supernatural, Season 11, episode 8 “Just My Imagination” (2015; d. Richard Speight Jr.)
So so good. On so many levels. It’s laugh-out-loud funny. Supernatural without humor isn’t Supernatural. But it’s also extremely touching, and brings us deeper into Sam’s life, filling in some blanks for us – and for Dean. I weep! PLUS, Anja Savcic, the young actress who plays the killer, absolutely NAILS her scene. She goes DEEP. Her pain is real. It transforms the room she’s in. You can feel every actor react to how deep she goes. Hats off. Plus, there’s Weems crying out in agony “SHE WAS MY GIRL” and forget it, I’m on the floor.

Supernatural, Season 2, episode 20 “What Is and What Should Never Be” (2007; d. Erik Kripke)
It hasn’t lost its power. My lengthy recap here. Unfortunately, the big FIZZLE-OUT that was Mary’s return in Season 12 has worked retroactively, tainting the power of Mary’s return here. It made me angry all over again at the missed opportunities. It’s unforgivable. I had to pretend Season 12 didn’t exist in order to allow this genius episode to work its magic. Look at how open he is. Never before and never since would we see this character so open, and that’s why this episode works as well as it does. It’s TRAGIC.

Mary and the Witch’s Flower (2017; d. Hiromasa Yonebayashi)
This was okay. Not great. I would have FLIPPED over it at age 11. I reviewed for Ebert.

Love Me or Leave Me (1955; d. Charles Vidor)
I have an essay on this film coming out next week (I think). Doris Day’s best performance and one of James Cagney’s best too. A harrowing film about domestic/emotional abuse. These two actors give extremely vulnerable (in different ways) tour de force performances.

My Next Guest Needs No Introduction with David Letterman Episode 1 (2018)
Amazing. So painful. I watched it in a state of something like awe. Disbelief.

Miracle (2004; d. Gavin O’Connor)
After a discussion on Facebook about Kurt Russell, I re-watched this film. One of his best performances.

Supernatural, Season 13, episode 10 “Wayward Sisters” (2018; d. Philip Sgriccia)
Claire wears far too much makeup. It’s just not the look of the show. Think of how they’ve treated younger female characters in the past. Jo. Charlie. Lisa. (Before she turned orange, but that wasn’t her fault.) They are all beautiful, of course, but they looked like real people. It’s just yet another sign that those “in charge” aren’t really in sync with the whole mood of the show. Thank God for Donna. She brought humor to the table, in a series that DESPERATELY needs humor, and too often forgets to include it.

The Clapper (2017; d. Dito Montiel)
I reviewed for Ebert.

Jodi Arias: An American Murder Mystery (2018; d. Rex Short)
Three episodes. Nothing new, really, but this story holds a fascination for me because of her pure psychopathy. It’s chilling.

The X-Files, Season 10, episode 6, “My Struggle II” (2016; d. Chris Carter)
Spent the day with Keith, my X-Files guide and guru, watching the new season (thus far). His recaps for MUBI are phenomenal. We began by re-watching the final episode of Season 10, with its crazy visions of a germ pandemic and Scully getting … abducted? Again? As she races the vaccine across a traffic-choked bridge? It’s so fun to see Lauren Ambrose in this, especially since I just completed a re-watch of Six Feet Under.

The X-Files, Season 11, episode 1, “My Struggle III” (2016; d. Chris Carter)
Starting Season 11. It all was a dream! God, I love Chris Carter!

The X-Files, Season 11, episode 2, “This” (2016; d. Glen Morgan)
This was fascinating, especially because it features a building in New York I have been obsessed with ever since I moved here.

The X-Files, Season 11, episode 3, “Plus One” (2016; d. Kevin Hooks)

American Crime Story, Season 2, episode 1 “The Man Who Would Be Vogue” (2017; d. Ryan Murphy)
I only watched the first episode but I thought it was great. It is funny to me that the Italian characters are played by a Puerto Rican, a Venezuelan, and a Spaniard. All righty then. When you’ve heard one accent, you’ve heard them all, apparently. But everyone is doing a wonderful job, particularly Penelope Cruz.

Robocop (1987; d. Paul Verhoeven)
So good. I haven’t seen it in years.

Total Recall (1990; d. Paul Verhoeven)
I saw this in its first release. There was a lot of controversy surrounding it, as there usually is with Verhoeven films. The violence was an issue (especially the scene where Schwarzenegger uses a dead body as a shield), but I loved it. The re-watch was a lot of fun. I was amazed at how much I retained, a testament to the film’s quality.

Basic Instinct (1992; d. Paul Verhoeven)
Another controversial film (understatement). It speaks to the paucity of LGBT characters in film at the time that this ridiculous pulpy movie would generate such a firestorm. Remember that brief era when every other movie was about Michael Douglas’ dick getting hard in inappropriate situations? Like, he was Mr. Erotic Thriller Man there for a hot second. It’s very strange, in retrospect. I like Michael Douglas. I think he’s a good actor. I don’t see him as a sexual being, though. At least not as he is portrayed in these movies. It’s amazing how retro this movie feels in a lot of ways, especially the male reaction to female sexuality. It’s like nobody can believe a woman loves sex and has sex because it’s fun. At any rate, all of this aside: After her small-ish role in Total Recall, Verhoeven put her front and center in Basic Instinct. It’s a riveting performance, mainly because of just how well Stone understands every single film noir trope, and can PLAY those tropes. She’s Barbara Stanwyck in Double Indenmity. She’s Jane Greer in Out of the Past. She’s Lana Turner in Postman Always Rings Twice. Even the way she smokes her cigarette is a call-back. It’s pure 1940s pulp-noir melodrama.

Supernatural, Season 13, episode 11 “Breakdown” (2018; d. Amyn Kaderali)
I love Donna, but I have some issues with this episode. Once again, it feels like the writers are choosing the easy way out of conflict. Conflicts need to fester, remain unspoken but present, things need to be hard, challenging, so that we can watch the characters react to things from multiple angles. That’s not really happening anymore. Like I said, I love Donna, and they needed to “dispatch” Doug so she can be free and clear for Wayward Sisters – although I would ask: WHY. Why do they need to dispatch him? Wouldn’t it be equally interesting to keep him around? To examine what life is like as a hunter when you also have a relationship? Why do all the women have to be single? Why can’t Donna struggle to make it work? Why can’t Doug? I don’t know, seems like Storytelling 101 to me. Create conflicts. Create conflicts on TOP of conflicts. Let the characters struggle with the weight of these conflicts. REMOVING obstacles is the OPPOSITE of drama. There. I’ve said my peace.

Six Feet Under, Season 1 (2001), Season 2 (2002), and most of Season 3 (2003)
I haven’t seen this series since it first aired. The Sopranos, Sex and the City and Six Feet Under were MY shows. My whole life was different back then. Jen and I lived together. I moved out in 2003. We both shared obsessions with these three shows, and had dates every week to watch new episodes. We discussed them endlessly. Each show had to “deal” with September 11th, which went down on their hiatus. Each show brings up memories of 9/11 for me. I don’t know that people who didn’t live in New York can really get how long the trauma lasted for the city. In many ways, it’s still there. When these shows returned from hiatus, we were still reeling in the aftermath of that horrible event. I wasn’t ready to start watching television again. Narrative television, at any rate. I could only watch the news. Each show dealt with 9/11 in its own way. I was relieved that each one chose to acknowledge it, to incorporate it into the characters and the plot. It was subtly done. But necessary. I would have felt far too alienated to continue watching if the shows ignored it. I just finished my re-watch of Six Feet Under this past week and I have so many thoughts. I’m too busy right now to really blog here – as is probably apparent – but I would like to put down some of these thoughts. The main thing that strikes me is personal. Re-watching Six Feet Under shows – in the starkest of contrasts – the difference between Me Then and Me Now. It couldn’t be more clear. It almost feels like a whole different show. The main difference is my reaction to Nate. I am fascinated by that character – was then and still am – but I am so aware of the change in reaction. It makes me sad, but hey, that’s life. Life happens to you and changes you whether you like it or not. What a show.

A Fantastic Woman (2018; d. Sebastián Lelio)
I reviewed for Ebert.

This entry was posted in Monthly Viewing Diary, Movies, Television and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

13 Responses to January 2018 Viewing Diary

  1. Lyrie says:

    //Supernatural, Season 8, episode 1 “We Need to Talk About Kevin”
    It’s subtle, but I think what Ackles does in those first sequences in the cabin with Sam represents some of his best work on the show.//
    I remember my first time watching the beginning of that season, I kept wondering “what HAPPENED to him, that he’s so different?” As often in SPN, the subtext and what the actors create is never – cannot be – topped by what is made explicit. This weird hug with a vampire, his lost look, like he’s still in Purgatory even while he’s talking to people… Amazing!

    Also: BennyBennyBenny

    //Supernatural, Season 11, episode 8 “Just My Imagination”//
    I cry-laugh just thinking about that episode. Weems! The suspenders! Unicorn man!

    I’m avoiding the X-Files parts because I haven’t caught up yet – I record them, it will be my reward when things calm down a bit. But those gifs are sexxxy.

    • sheila says:

      // I kept wondering “what HAPPENED to him, that he’s so different?” //

      I know! He was so macho, so traumatized, jittery and jumpy – and how immediately the reunion with Sam goes SO SOUTH. It was just a fantastic conception for the premiere of a new season. Devastating!

      “So Sparkle is a unicorn … and a man?”

      He’s so PISSED.

      also how many nicknames can he use for Sully?? It’s so disrespectful. “So Drop Dead Fred here …”

  2. Just curious…Is the Love Me or Leave Me Essay going to be behind a pay wall? (I’ll want to budget something out of next week’s paycheck if so because I sure don’t want to miss it!)

  3. WaitingforAslan says:

    No, you will not make me go back and reread your writing on What Is and What Should Never Be! OK, confession: I did go back and start reading it because I love the episode and I love what you wrote about it and I love the screen shots you used to highlight your points and it’s so much fun but I really need to clean the house and stop being indulgent!

    “Death’s Door” – what an episode! Bobby’s childhood was so sad. I thought the way it touched on themes like protection and mothers and violence was so intriguing because those have been in Supernatural since the beginning.

    I love the way the show kept returning to that scene again and again, him reliving it in his memory. And I was so freaked out by the way things kept disappearing like the view outside or the words in his books. The finality of how everything was shutting down I found both scary and deeply poignant.

    I’d like to think that Castiel would know Ode to Joy because it is in praise to God so the Angels would know it ( at least in my traditional understanding of God in heaven and angels, not the supernatural view of them!)

    I agree about wiping Lisa and Ben’s memories, but it just doesn’t make sense. Like you, I understand why Dean would want it, but Castiel should have said no. ( is this just bad writing or could it be because Castiel feels guilty for what’s happened to Dean in general but also perhaps specifically when he tried to be God so maybe he just gives into what his friend asks of him?)

    • sheila says:

      // it’s so much fun but I really need to clean the house and stop being indulgent! //

      Ha! I know. That episode is so killer. I avoid it because it’s so intense – and I avoided writing that recap too!

      // I thought the way it touched on themes like protection and mothers and violence was so intriguing because those have been in Supernatural since the beginning. //

      I so agree. And his interactions with his wife about not having kids … all of these details about Bobby that even Sam and Dean never knew – that no one ever knew … but it made perfect sense when you put the character all together.

      // And I was so freaked out by the way things kept disappearing like the view outside or the words in his books. //

      I know! Just like Eternal Sunshine, when suddenly the Barnes & Noble is filled with pure white books, all the text vanishing. The episode is a huge nod to that film from start to finish.

      // is this just bad writing or could it be because Castiel feels guilty for what’s happened to Dean in general but also perhaps specifically when he tried to be God so maybe he just gives into what his friend asks of him? //

      I feel like it’s bad writing. They just needed to get rid of Lisa. It seems that they might have wanted to keep that a little more open-ended – like they do with everything else … these stories have a way of returning, and can be very useful. It just makes no sense. She’s gonna go home and everyone in her neighborhood is gonna be like, “Oh my God, your new boyfriend was killed??” and she won’t know what they’re talking about. Did Castiel wipe the memory of every single person Lisa knew? Because CLEARLY she would have talked about Dean to them, they would have met Dean, Ben’s friends would have met Dean …


    • Jessie says:

      one of the eeriest places I’ve ever been is Prieto’s White Library at Mona, which consists of 6000 entirely blank texts. It was deeply uncanny — unhomely in the sense that it is something you recognise but can’t interpret in the way you are used to. I wanted to touch the books but was literally frightened of them.

      (is its positioned, brilliantly, directly across a corridor from one of my favourite pieces of art in the world, Ozolins’ Kryptos, dedicated to the mystery of the written word, as dark as the library is bright)

  4. Paula says:

    Kurt Russell is so underrated as an actor. He brings something inteeesting to every role. I loved his turn as Ego in Guardians of the Galaxy 2. The perfect level of camp but with an emotional core. So many great roles but Miracle really tugged at me.

    • sheila says:

      He is so so good! Underrated for sure – but I predict that when he passes (hopefully a long time from now) it will become clear what an important and unique career he had – and how he acted many of his contemporaries (many of whom have multiple Oscars) off the screen.

    • Melanie Rice says:

      I think people judge all his work by ‘The Computer Who Wore Tennis Shoes’ and Snake Plissken, but that just makes him more interesting to me. There is a place in the world of entertainment for those characters and Kurt brings IT with gusto!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.