November 2019 Viewing Diary

The Best of Everything (1959; d. Jean Negulesco)
I love this movie so much. I read the book this year (for the first time). I highly recommend both. This is the wellspring from which Mad Men sprung.

The Devil Next Door (2019; d. Yossi Bloch and Daniel Sivan)
This is an interesting documentary series on Netflix about suspected Nazi – who had settled in Cleveland, with the Ukrainian community as camouflage – and the subsequent trial in Israel. A total circus.

Spotlight (2015; d. Tom McCarthy)
I have seen this movie many times by this point. It satisfies. It’s an incredible story of the investigative process, and how much of journalism is basically … boring, meticulous, fact-checking, administrative … but that’s the thing: we need journalists to do this painstaking work for us. Newspapers are not a business so much as they are a public trust, and that’s what Spotlight is about. I reviewed for Ebert.

Supernatural, Season 15, episode 4 “Atomic Monsters” (2019; d. Jensen Ackles)
I agree with you, Becky.

An Elephant Sitting Still (2018; d. Hu Bo)
This is definitely one of the strongest films of the year. It makes me sad to say that since Hu Bo committed suicide after completing the film (which is based on his novel). What a talent. To say the film is “depressing” isn’t even coming close to expressing the bleak hopeless mood throughout. “Depressing” is not a helpful term. It should be abolished. The film swims in hopelessness, in no-way-out-ness, which you see through the experiences of four different characters, all of whom live in the same apartment building. I watched this very lengthy film in one sitting, on a rainy grey Saturday. It really affected me.

High Life (2019; d. Claire Denis)
This movie is INSANE and I loved every second of it. It is drowning in sperm. There. That’s my review.

Fire in Paradise (2019; d. Drea Cooper and Zackary Canepar)
A very upsetting Netflix documentary about the Paradise fire last year.

Chernobyl (2019; d. Johan Renck)
My second time through. It’s fantastic.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019; d. Matt Wolf)
A really interesting documentary. At first, it’s about this one interesting woman, who starts taping everything off her television, everything – for reasons she couldn’t really articulate. 35 years later it is a massive archive. And then the documentary shifts into profound waters, about the importance of archiving, of libraries, of preservation. I highly recommend it. I reviewed for Ebert.

Candleshoe (1977; d. Norman Tokar)
It was so much fun watching this again, in preparation for my Film Comment essay on “tomboy films.”

Love & Basketball (2000; d. Gina Prince-Bythewood)
I also re-visited this favorite for the “tomboy films” essay. I love it so much.

Appropriate Adult, episodes 1 and 2 (2011; d. Julian Jarrold)
I saw this back when it aired. It’s very very good, and quite frightening. I like Emily Watson a lot, particularly in what are – essentially – procedurals. Watching this and Chernobyl basically back to back drove the point home. She’s excellent in this type of material. You BELIEVE her.

Supernatural, Season 15, episode 5 “Proverbs 17:3” (2019; d. Richard Speight Jr.)
I was okay with this one. I like “the boys” on the road. I could do without the mansion-sized tent. There’s a thin-ness at work, and I don’t understand many of the choices. Like, I don’t know what’s going on “over there” (as I call it). Why cast three identical blondes? It’s okay if you want to do that, but I need to feel there’s some thought behind it, some reason why? I’m just not getting that sense. I’m not sure the purpose of “bringing back Lilith” – especially if you’re not going to use the same actress. I feel like they’re just throwing everything at us, right now, in the mad rush towards the end … knowing that some of it will please some people, other stuff will please other people … it’s fan service, I guess, but it’s all over the place.

Uncut Gems (2019; d. Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie)
This movie, people. THIS MOVIE. And ADAM SANDLER. Believe the hype. I’ll be reviewing it.

Queen & Slim (2019; d. Melina Matsoukas)
An epic-scoped parable. I reviewed for Ebert.

Supernatural, Season 15, episode 6 “Golden Time” (2019; d. John F. Showalter)
There’s one small moment that indicates my issue with …. everything that’s going on. On this show and everywhere else. In the “fight scene” – where ghosts apparently can strangle each other … Eileen has a “win” – I can’t remember what exactly – and she pauses for a moment, to look at Sam, with a huge “I’m awesome” grin on her face. YUK. It’s pandering. It’s like that moment in Lord of the Rings, when the chick rips off her helmet and her long hair billows and the audience bursts into applause. Okay, fine. She’s a fierce girl. But truly fierce girls don’t STOP in the middle of a huge battle to revel in their awesome-ness. Think back to Eileen’s first appearance. How logical she was, how competent, how she was competent in a way the boys were – she had worked to become a brilliant hunter, on her own, an amazing tracker. She’s not the type to have a moment where she gets to be all pleased with herself. It’s not her style. I know it’s a small thing, but it’s representative of a huge thing elsewhere – all this “you go girl girl power” stuff – which leaves a bad taste in my mouth. A hangover from Wayward Sisters. Imagine Sam or Dean stopping in the middle of a fight to throw a happy self-pleased grin at a nearby person. Wouldn’t that be silly? Yes. It would. And it’s silly when Eileen does it too. That’s where the “here, let’s give the Eileen fangirls something they will LOVE” feeling from the writer’s room is most explicit. They’ve got one eye on “us” out here, and the show suffers as a result.

The Morning Show (2019)
Allison and I just binge-watched it. I haven’t read the lukewarm reviews so I have no idea what the complaints are. I think it’s phenomenal. And complex. It’s not a black-and-white story, it’s actually nuanced. Maybe that’s the issue. Now is “not the time” for nuance, I guess. Well, fuck that. Plus, it’s awesome to see Jennifer Aniston in this role, not ingratiating, not even particularly likable, but you love her. Everyone’s good, though. I’m really into it.

Miracle (2004; d. Gavin O’Connor)
I’m so excited my nephew William has just discovered the “miracle on ice” story. Little did he know his Aunt is a Miracle on Ice buff! We watched the movie together on Thanksgiving night and had some good discussions about it.

The Disappearance of My Mother (2019; d. Beniamino Barrese)
I’m reviewing for Ebert.

Linda Ronstadt: The Sound of my Voice (2019; d. Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman)
I am so glad this documentary exists now! I hadn’t realized how much I needed it. I cried. Hearing Dolly Parton … Emmylou Harris … Don Henley … Kevin Kline … pay tribute to her … forget it. I was a wreck.

Cafe Society (2016; d. Woody Allen)
Working on something. Needed to re-watch. I like this movie a lot. Has a lot in common with Radio Days, and it maybe works better in Radio Days, but I like the “family collage” approach.

Pain and Glory (2019; d. Pedro Almodóvar)
One of the best films of the year. It laid me FLAT, I tell you. I never wanted it to end. And Banderas … one of his best performances. So pained, fragile, truthful. People should be flocking to see this movie.

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19 Responses to November 2019 Viewing Diary

  1. Bethany says:

    I always enjoy these monthly round-ups – interesting to see what’s on your radar. I’m intrigued by The Morning Show, though I haven’t watched it. I have some friends going NUTS for whatever crazy-weird thing Billy Crudup is doing with his character. Have you seen the new Malick film yet, or is that coming later in December? Maybe it’s just anticipation (and the timeliness of his subject), but the trailer alone made me a little teary.

    • sheila says:

      Bethany – Billy Crudup is fanTASTIC. Not that that’s a surprise – but I can see why your friends are going nuts. He’s very mysterious. he’s not a villain. And yet he is also awful sometimes. He gets off on chaos. He loves it. I’m really loving what he’s doing. The cast as a whole is great, and Allison and I had many in-depth discussions as we watched – it’s a deep look at the topic – nothing is as simple as it seems, and I appreciate that approach, especially right now, which is such a black-and-white era.

      and yes! the new Malick! I reviewed it for last month’s Film Comment. It’s soooo good. Very upsetting, and – of course – gorgeously filmed in the Alps. Let me know what you think when you see it.

  2. Carolyn Clarke says:

    Sorry that I am a little late to this party. I had to bury a friend who committed suicide this week and I’m still processing.

    //Newspapers are not a business so much as they are a public trust, and that’s what Spotlight is about.// You are so right about that. I saw Spotlight when it first came out and I loved it. I went to see it because of Mark Ruffalo who I love, even in silly stuff like Now You See Me. He always fun to watch. Watching Spotlight put me on a riff of movies about newspapers from His Girl Friday to All the President’s Men to The Post. It took me a bit of time to realize that what they all had in common is that the stories were about the obligation of the press to seek out the truth, particularly when they are seeking the truth about giant authorities with ridiculous power like the government or the Catholic Church. Although I agree with your comment that most newspaper work is boring and you need a lot of strength and fortitude to get through the boring stuff until you find that tiny kernel of truth. Spotlight is particularly good IMO because most movies just skip to the exciting parts or shorten the timeline to beef up the excitement. Spotlight didn’t really do that. Also, Spotlight was writing about the Catholic Church and no doubt were probably threatened with ex-communication during the whole process.

    BTW, to the journalists/reporters, etc. out there, when someone tells you something that is not true, just call it a lie. Not an “untruth”, “fake news”, “alternative facts” or any other euphemism. It’s a lie. This is something you learn in kindergarten and it hasn’t changed. It’s not “answers from A to Z” or anything else. It’s a lie, pure and simple and you don’t need 10 dollars words to describe. So, say so and get off the stage. Secondly, if you know that someone is lying to you, then stop speaking to them, stop reporting on them and stop wasting my time. Don’t interview them. Stop the nonsense.

    Re SPN. I like your commentary as usual. Brief and to the point. There are glimmers of the old Supernatural in the story line despite what mistakes they’ve made with the canon. I am intrigued by the idea that Sam evolves into some sort of super Warlock. I don’t understand this Dean who appears to have given up the fight and what they’ve done to Eileen is sinful. I see the fine hand of someone who thinks that Supernatural needs to have a bevy of young pretty girls in the story rather than fully developed (in every sense of the word) women. But Supernatural Lite is better than no Supernatural at all.

    • sheila says:

      Carolyn – catching up with this thread now. I am so so sorry to hear about your friend! That is just awful! My deepest condolences.

    • sheila says:

      // Spotlight is particularly good IMO because most movies just skip to the exciting parts or shorten the timeline to beef up the excitement. Spotlight didn’t really do that. //

      I so much agree with this. There’s that whole section where they have to scour the church registries to see which priests were put on sick leave – and it takes the whole team about a week to get through it all – there’s this really great montage of all of them working on the same thing – during their commute, at a bar, in a library, sitting waiting for a train – it shows just how painstaking research is, how boring, and yet ultimately it has to be done, it’s the only way. I thought that was really great.

      // Not an “untruth”, “fake news”, “alternative facts” or any other euphemism. It’s a lie. //

      I find this so FRUSTRATING. It’s like the media have somehow incorporated 45’s bullshit – they’re playing by his rules every time they say “fake news” – I so appreciate the journalists who – all along – have been fact-checking him and calling his lies what they are – LIES.

      // I see the fine hand of someone who thinks that Supernatural needs to have a bevy of young pretty girls in the story rather than fully developed (in every sense of the word) women. //

      I know. It saddens me. Last night’s episode was more of the same. They don’t know how to write women. If Eileen were a 17 year old girl, they’d apparently have no problem. But women? They cook meals and sit by the sick bed. ARGH.

  3. I too am glad the Linda Ronstadt doc now exists….Planning to get it for my birthday this month! I always considered myself a big fan–nagged the RRHOF to put her in for years, her voice was the one I needed to hear when my dad died, etc. But I didn’t TRULY understand how big the raw talent was until the RRHOF induction and the staggering lineup of one-name singers (Bonnie, Sheryl, Carrie, Stevie, Emmylou) did their versions of her signature songs. Nice versions but they were clearly straining to do things she once made sound as natural as breathing. All of them. Then I realized, “Ah, that’s why everybody was so in awe!”

    • sheila says:

      // the staggering lineup of one-name singers (Bonnie, Sheryl, Carrie, Stevie, Emmylou) did their versions of her signature songs. Nice versions but they were clearly straining to do things she once made sound as natural as breathing. //

      Yes!! This clip plays while the credits roll at the end – and I had the exact same thought. They’re all wonderful performers – but you could feel the strain.

      Some of the footage of early Linda – right before she hit it big – is just jaw-dropping. She’s, like, 18 years old, and she is a fully formed full-voiced artist – I’m blown away. Always loved her but this is a gorgeous tribute.

      • O-h-h-h…can’t wait to see early Linda!

        On another subject, can you please ping me at

        jwr1960@gmail.com

        ?
        …I’ve done some serious writing on Elvis (as part of a big new project I’ve started with two other writers) and also Brenda Lee. I’d like to send you the links. I’ve tried your email and don’t seem to be getting through!

  4. Jessie says:

    stacks of good an interesting stuff here as usual (High Life as drowning in sperm has me on the floor) but I saw that the Safdies won that best director award and I am SO EXCITED about Uncut Gems, I loved Good Time and think about it like every other day. It was like a tender shotgun to the face. Feel like I’m dancing on coals waiting for UG to come out over here and really looking forward to your review although I might even read it afterwards, because going into Good Time knowing nothing about it was such an experience.

    • sheila says:

      “a tender shotgun to the face” – you are so amazing, Jessie.

      I was very psyched to go into Uncut Gems knowing nothing, except the buzz around Sandler (and the presence of Kevin Garnett which – as a Celtics fan – was truly bizarre).

      Can’t wait to hear your thoughts on it once you see it!

      Have you seen High Life?? I’m kind of obsessed with it

      • Jessie says:

        ah, that solidifies my intent then to go into UG knowing nothing!

        I haven’t seen High Life yet aaaaargh. Hoping it will pop up at the library or a streaming service I have soon. It definitely looks like the kind of movie it’s easy to become obsessed with.

        • sheila says:

          I think it’s right up your alley.

          • Jessie says:

            I had to come hunting for this thread again because I saw High Life last night finally — in the end I had to borrow it from the library — and it left me reeling. I was scared to watch it for a long time actually because babies in peril has become something I need to be careful about consuming but it wasn’t as focused on that side of things, in the end. I’m not really sure how to talk about it tbh. Drowning in sperm is right! Drowning in all sorts of genital and other bodily fluids, juices, milk, blood, piss, – I’ve never seen anything so moist, haha. I found the ending supremely discomforting and intriguing metaphorically, and I thought Pattinson, in all the different phases of the film, was absolutely phenomenal. Also very interesting seeing that actress with no eyebrows in Emma a couple of weeks ago and then this!! Highly memorable film that, much like Beau Travail, feels like on almost entirely sensory terms, it poses a complex and uneasy of being without forming a question around it. If that makes sense. Anyway, glad to knock another off the list and to be able to come back here and spew about it!

          • Jessie says:

            Almost exactly two years later, lol. And I tell you what it is messing with me that that awful story to Supernatural s15 was two years ago also, and that it belongs to 2019.

  5. Maureen says:

    The Best of Everything is one of my very favorite movies. Suzy Parker-I am always blown away by how incredibly beautiful she is, and I think her performance in this is heartbreaking. The sets, the clothes, A PUBLISHING COMPANY! Add an aging Brian Aherne, who in his own way-was such a sad character. Then the incredible Joan Crawford, playing a part where she tries to settle with a man, and she just can’t do it. Then the dewy Diane Baker (who I met at a TCM film festival and she couldn’t have been kinder, and by the way-still incredibly beautiful)-this is a movie that hits on all my favorite things! I feel it is underrated-I talk about it quite a bit-but it doesn’t seem that well known. I haven’t read the book-but I will!

    • sheila says:

      Maureen – // Suzy Parker-I am always blown away by how incredibly beautiful she is, and I think her performance in this is heartbreaking. //

      So heartbreaking. I REALLY recommend the book – it’s a total page turner. I think she wrote it in like 6 weeks and she put into it everything she knew as a young woman working in publishing. It’s fantastic. In general, the film adaptation sticks very closely to the book – even though the abortion subplot is changed – but only slightly – you still get the picture of what’s going on. It’s very frank.

      // Then the dewy Diane Baker (who I met at a TCM film festival and she couldn’t have been kinder, and by the way-still incredibly beautiful) //

      She’s wonderful! How cool to have met her!

      I agree, that there is an underrated quality to it – maybe because it’s melodrama? and it’s all women? I don’t know. Mad Men gave it a boost in profile – Matthew Weiner talked about how much it was the inspiration (or one of the inspirations) for his series.

  6. sheila says:

    Jessie – ha! I love that you came back to seek out this post!!

    // I’ve never seen anything so moist // I know!! It kind of grossed me out but it was so fascinating.

    //Pattinson, in all the different phases of the film, was absolutely phenomenal. //

    He really was. I’m just so amazed by what he has made of his career and the projects he involves himself in. He’s fantastic.

    // much like Beau Travail, feels like on almost entirely sensory terms, it poses a complex and uneasy of being without forming a question around it. If that makes sense. //

    It makes total sense. Watching the movie felt like swimming through all those fluids – hard to get a grasp onto anything – and also beautifully opposed to the sort of futuristic environment, supposed to be sterile but … leaking EVERYWHERE.

  7. sheila says:

    Jessie –

    // that that awful story to Supernatural s15 was two years ago also, and that it belongs to 2019. //

    Ugh. I know. It’s like we’ve traveled a universe since 2019. and Supernatural … I just don’t know what to say. I haven’t even considered re-watching that last season – although I did watch the finale. I don’t know. It was a sad experience, a sad way to end it – those last 3 years. :(

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