January 2020 Viewing Diary

Hell Is for Heroes (1962; d. Don Siegel)
A spare lean and mean war movie – pretty standard, actually – except Steve McQueen is actually presenting a character study here, a character he probably knows something about. He is eerie as hell in this movie. It’s a very controlled performance.

The Careless Years (1957; d. Arthur Hiller)
HALLELUIA. This is the only Dean Stockwell movie I – for whatever reason – had never seen. I finally rectified that. It’s in the couple of years before he dropped out – for the second time – after dropping out as a teenager. Dean Stockwell kept saying, “Oh fuck this, I don’t want to do this anymore” and then coming back. This movie … my God … makes dating in the 1950s look like a total cluster-fuck. It’s William Inge-ish, yet way worse. Psychotic. These poor characters. They have imbibed the rules of their culture to such a degree that they are turned against themselves. Splendor in the Grass-ish. It made me think “Thank God I came of age when I did. It was hard enough THEN but I would have lost my mind in 1957.”

Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood (2019; d. Quentin Tarantino)
Fifth time! Still working! Still “got it”!

The Great Escape (1963; d. John Sturges)
So much fun.

Michelle Wolf: Joke Show (2019; d. Lance Bangs)
This is fantastic. I am a huge fan.

Les Misérables (2020; d. Ladj Ly)
I reviewed this Oscar nominee for Ebert.

The Big Street (1942; d. Irving Reis)
Lucille Ball as leading lady – which she wasn’t often. Until she basically bought RKO and became everybody’s boss. This is a fascinating movie and a very good performance.

That Girl From Paris (1936; d. Leigh Jason)
Created as a vehicle for opera singer Lily Pons, Lucille Ball walks away with the whole film, particularly in one unforgettable musical number where she realizes – too late – that her rival has rubbed soap all over the bottom of her dance shoes.

Too Many Girls (1940; d. George Abbott)
First movie with Lucy and Desi together! It takes place at, hands down, the weirdest college campus I have ever seen in my life.

Dolittle (2020; d. Stephen Gaghan)
I reviewed for Ebert.

Stage Door (1937; d. Gregory La Cava)
This movie had such a huge influence on me as a child I’m not sure I can even put it into words. It basically helped form me.

Without Love (1945; d. Harold S. Bucquet)
Tracy and Hepburn. This is a weird one. There’s a “Mirror Has Two Faces” things going on … a marriage of convenience … and they’re lovely together and it’s playing to their strengths … but I find it strangely unsatisfying somehow.

Killer Inside: The Mind of Aaron Hernandez (2020; d. Geno McDermott)
This is so fucked up. I have a lot to say about this, but I feel like I already got it out the other night with David, over a couple of very hoppy beers. We dug INTO. IT. So. Too bad you weren’t there.

Dance, Girl, Dance (1940; d. Dorothy Arzner)
Lovely film.

Daughters of the Sun (2000; d. Maryan Shahriar)
I wrote about this wonderful film – which has haunted me ever since I saw it – for my column at Film Comment.

The Irishman In Conversation (2019; d. Martin Scorsese)
I found this really emotional. It’s on Netflix.

Supernatural, Season 15, episode 9 “The Trap” (2020; d. Robert Singer)
My two cents: in “Into the Mystic” there was chemistry with Eileen. That was … 4 years ago. They lost so much momentum in the intervening years that I welcomed her back with apprehension. The chemistry is no longer there between them. I think the writers listen to the fans too much. You can really tell in the way things have gone, ever since social media really became a thing. I think it has been detrimental to the continuous development of this show, particularly since the fan base is so divided and toxic (not us here! just EVERYONE ELSE.)

The Gentlemen (2020; d. Guy Ritchie)
I reviewed Guy Ritchie’s latest for Ebert.

Easy Living (1937; d. Mitchell Leisen)
With screenplay by Preston Sturges. Starring Jean Arthur – who’s a woman riding on a bus, with a fur coat falls on her – literally from the sky. Hijinx ensue. Ray Milland. And Edward Arnold, who brings me so much joy. His VOICE. His line readings! His attempts to be in control and then when he LOSES control of his world. So good.

Graves, Season 1, episode 1 “Evil Good and Good Evil” (2016; d. Joshua Michael Stern)
I hadn’t seen this – two seasons! – and decided to check it out. It’s Nick Nolte! And Sela Ward! It aired a month before you-know-who took office so I feel like the timing might have been … off, although I don’t know what the consensus is around it. The pilot was worth it for the opening shot alone. And then a later shot, another closeup, of Nolte realizing he feels regret. The man goes deep.

Luck, Season 1, episode 1 “Pilot” (2011; d. Michael Mann)
I never watched Luck, so I checked it out. I feel nervous for the horses. Good acting.

Judy (2019; d. Rupert Goold)
I think if she had just lip synched to the real Judy I might not be so irritated. RZ is coming from a place of deep affection and love – that’s clear – as well as respect – but judging from what we see here, it’s not at all apparent why Judy Garland was ever famous. Any biopic that doesn’t address that – or show that – isn’t doing its job. My favorite scene was when she connected with the gay couple who came to the show, and then took her home with them. The context was such, and it was set up as such, that to anyone who for some unbelievable reason is NOT aware of Judy Garland’s stature – that you’d actually start to understand what it was about her, and what she meant to people. Judy Davis lip synched in her version of Judy Garland, and she was brilliant. There’s no shame in lip synching, especially not when you’re talking about one of the most iconic singing voices of all time.

Supernatural, Season 15, episode 10 “The Heroes’ Journey” (2020; d. John F. Showalter)
I just feel like what’s happening now is hostile and I also feel like the writers over there SO WISH they were writing about comic book characters. They don’t get the show they’re on, they have no idea that it’s a horror show, they have no idea that Sam and Dean are human. They get colds, for Christ’s sake. The Impala has broken down before because … it’s a CAR. It BREAKS DOWN. I really dislike what was done here. HOWEVER. Jensen tap dancing is wonderful.

More Than a Secretary (1936; d. Alfred E. Green)
On a Jean Arthur kick. This movie is sort of Mad-Man-ish, and she plays a “Peggy”, who strolls in as a secretary and shows such a gift that she quickly moves up the ranks, becoming indispensable. Jean Arthur is a very aspirational figure, most of all because she comes across as so HUMAN.

Adventure in Manhattan (1936; d. Edward Ludwig)
I love this movie! Joel McCrea and Jean Arthur would team up again in 1943 in the classic The More the Merrier, where their chemistry is off the charts, like, too much, so intense I wrote a whole column about it. In this one, he plays a true crime writer, who is known for making wild predictions about whodunit. Thomas Michell is the editor who hires him to write about a crime spree going on. Jean Arthur is a tough cookie who comes into his life. They’re both two tough cookies. Very entertaining.

Joker (2019; d. Todd Phillips)
Taxi Driver did it better. King of Comedy did it better. Hell, Lynne Ramsay – just a couple years ago – WITH Joaquin Phoenix – did it better. Phoenix is great, but that’s no surprise.

The Assistant (2020; d. Kitty Green)
Such a fantastic film. I’ve been telling everyone to see it. Here’s my review.

If You Could Only Cook (1935; d. William A. Seiter)
Herbert Marshall and Jean Arthur, team up, to get a job as a butler and a cook for a bunch of goombahs who are up to no good. Very charming.

Supernatural, Season 15, episode 11 “The Gamblers” (2020; d. Charles Beeson)
I have many thoughts about how this show is no longer a horror show and is now longer a YA fantasy show. It’s so disheartening. I honestly never saw this coming, honestly. Yes, the show got “lighter” and Jensen had orange skin in Season 8, and we lost a lot of the stylistic flourishes of the early seasons … but it was still recognizably horror, with that supernatural element. When did it shift? I have always blamed Rowena, and her “brand” of magic, which shows that everyone on board grew up with Harry Potter, as opposed to Halloween or Exorcist. And it SHOWS. This episode would have benefited so much from a horror style. I don’t like the “luck” thing. I could literally make a list 500 pages long of all the times the Impala had problems, or Dean had a stomach ache, or Dean got a ticket, or … I mean, they’re HUMAN. By taking that away from them, you take away everything. It feels hostile. But I get that I’m not thinking completely rationally. Meanwhile: Jensen playing pool makes up for a multitude of sins.

The Defense Rests (1934; d. Lambert Hillyer)
I had never seen this one! It’s really good! Jean Arthur plays an idealistic young law clerk, working for her idol, a PR-hungry lawyer who turns out to be totally corrupt, and owned by the criminal element.

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

3 Responses to January 2020 Viewing Diary

  1. Desirae says:

    I watched Meet Me in St. Louis for the first time over Christmas with my family, and Judy was all that and a bag of chips. Just pure star power and charm. Also my sister is apparently the only person on earth who didn’t know that Liza Minnelli is Judy Garland’s daughter. She was completely shocked when I told her.

  2. Sarah says:

    Ahahaha, I knew that’s what Joker was from the first trailer. I rented it anyway, and quit 30 minutes in. Predictable. Yep, he’s great, and when he wins the Oscar, I’ll mentally replace this performance with the one that I’ll never get over: The Master.

    I CANNOT see Renee Zellweger in this biopic. I’ll probably never see it willingly.

    My feelings are a little hurt that I wasn’t there for the breakdown of the Aaron Hernandez docuseries AND THEN you had to be all mean girls about it. Know I have stuck my tongue out at you.

    I have no words for recent SPN, except that I’m happy Jensen is singing, tapdancing, landing complicated pool shots with ease, crying, fighting (almost all of it without a stunt double), and generally using the show to provide the material for his reel. Our boy needs a good project for later! That’s all I’m hoping for now. What a wasted opportunity this has been.

  3. Charlotte says:

    Hostile is a really good word to use to describe Dabb’s writing, there’s seem’s something passive (or not so passive) aggressive about how he’s destroying the show’s legacy. It’s like he really hates the show he’s running and is deliberately ruining it.

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.