January/February/March 2021 Viewing Diary

Better late than never. I moved at the end of January – a big interstate move – so I’ve been a bit, how you say, busy. Not too busy to keep up my viewing schedule but too busy to put together Monthly Viewing Diary posts for the last three months. January was a surreal month. I was planning a move but because of the pandemic none of it seemed quite real. In normal times, I would have thrown myself a party to say good-bye to everyone. Granted, I’m moving only a couple hours away, but still: I’ve lived here for almost half my life at this point. There’s a ritualistic aspect of de-camping, even if it’s not for good. As it was, though, I couldn’t throw myself a party and I couldn’t even get together for drinks. It was freezing cold out so there could be no “let’s go sit in a park and socially distance say good-bye”. It almost felt like a midnight get-away. The pandemic changed my relationship to location. So I was planning this move in isolation. And also watching The X-Files. A compulsive re-watch. I put together these posts as I watch whatever it is, and sometimes I jot down notes here – but obviously this past January I was intermittent with that, so just bear with me. I’ll keep the notes I took the time to jot down. Getting back in the swing of things. And getting vaccinated today.

The X-Files, Season 5
Complete. No recorded comments. #sorrynotsorry

Fight the Future (1998;d Chris Carter)
The whole thing is thrilling and my only regret is that I am so late to the X-Files thing that I didn’t experience any of this in real time. It must have been so exciting. Plus there’s this. Damn that bee to hell.

The X-Files, Season 6, 1-4
No recorded comments. #sorrynotsorry

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 5, “Dreamland” (1998; d. Michael W. Watkins)
Michael McKean and a body swap! There are so many funny moments in this – the mirror moment! – but for me, it is Duchovny’s reaction here: Like … WHAT.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 6, “The Ghosts who Stole Christmas” (1998; d. Chris Carter)
Ed Asner and Lily Tomlin. I like the pared-down nature of this: one set. Four characters. Two great guest stars.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 7, “Terms of Endearment” (1999; d. Rob Bowman)
Bruce Campbell! Not sure this one quite holds together. And all the unspoken stuff … about Scully’s inability to conceive and how this case might have made her remember … it’s on Anderson’s face at one point, but it’s not addressed. I get why they keep doing this, but it can get frustrating.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 8, “The Rain King” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Victoria Jackson playing a woman named SHEILA. I love this episode. It feels like a Very Special Episode of Supernatural, where the leads help the guest stars find love. Lots of funny flirting here, too. Everyone keeps assuming they’re a couple. So do I. The only people who DON’T think you’re a couple are you two.

Herself (2020; d. Phyllida Lloyd)
I really liked this. I reviewed for Ebert.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 9, “S.R. 819” (1999; Daniel Sackheim)
I’ve missed Skinner being in episodes. He’s had a smaller role since “Hersh”? took over his role at the FBI. So it’s good to see him take center stage. His “illness” is shockingly reminiscent of the thick black vein-y virus-type thing that overtakes Sam at the beginning of Season 12.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 10-11
No recorded comments. #sorrynotsorry

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 12, “One Son” (1999; d. Michael W. Watkins)
A lot of exposition. A lot of “Here is what happened 50 years ago.” And … nitpick maybe … but I don’t like the word “rebels” in this context. I actually don’t like the whole thing, the “rebel” aliens, and the “alien war” – this is kinda like the angels warring in heaven in Supernatural … Those faceless “rebels” are scary, but every time someone says “rebel” I just think of Star Wars, and it does not serve the paranoid vibe they want to project.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 13, “Agua Mala” (1999; d. Rob Bowman)
The pregnant woman makes this one for me. This one feels like it should have been in the first season, not the sixth. Haven’t Mulder and Scully built up a level of trust by now? They’re bickering through the whole thing, clashing heads about what this thing is and etc. It’s a little boring. We already DID this.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 14, “Monday” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
I really like this one! Groundhog Day-inspired, very creative.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 15, “Arcadia” (1999; d. Michael W. Watkins)
This one is mostly entertaining because of Scully and Mulder posing as a married couple. Mulder in a pink Izod is classic.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 16, “Alpha” (1999; d. Peter Markle)
I love the complexity of the Karen Berquist character (Melinda Culea), and what she brings up in both Mulder and Scully. Neither of them read her right. Very good performance.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 17, “Trevor” (; d. Rob Bowman)
It was okay. Didn’t have that extra “oomph” of character I am drawn to, although I did love when Mulder said: “Dear Diary, today Scully suggested spontaneous combustion.” And her “Shut up” in response was also charming.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 14, “Milagro” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Kim Manners again. And John Hawkes! What an episode. Extremely emotional. It gets frustrating though when bombs go off like “Agent Scully is already in love” and …. nobody acknowledges it. I get it, I get it, slow burn, but six seasons are an insanely long slow burn. John Hawkes is RIVETING. And Anderson does superb work suggesting how destabilizing this encounter is. It cracks her open and poor Mulder doesn’t know how to deal with it. Fascinating episode.

The X-Files, Season 6, episode 15, “The Unnatural” (1999; d. David Duchovny)
A classic for the final scene.

The X-Files, Season 6, episodes 16-22
No recorded comments.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 1, “The Sixth Extinction” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Scully on the beach, putting together codes from the giant SHIP lying under the waves. She just … camps out there on the beach? And nobody’s supposed to know about her and her project? I can’t remember if this whole SCHEME is followed up on. Meanwhile, Mulder has lost his marbles. Mimi Rogers comes back into play. She’s doing an excellent job in the role.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 2, “The Sixth Extinction: Amor Fati” (1999; d. Michael W. Watkins)
Poor Mulder has his Darth Vader “Luke, I’m your father” moment with the Cigarette Smoking Man. He also sleeps with someone and it’s NOT Scully – and of course he DOESN’T sleep with Fowley, it’s all in his head, but if he was entering his perfect dream world of suburbia, then why is he sleeping with FOWLEY and not SCULLY. This episode’s structure reminds me a lot of the “djinn episode” of Supernatural, “What Is and What Should Never Be”. Sometimes the “mythos” episodes lose me. Lol. I can’t keep track of it. Is it me? I mean, I GET it … but also … what?

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 3, “Hungry” (1999; d. Kim Manners)
Welcome to the show, MARK PELLEGRINO. Also the plot is very very similar to the Supernatural plot about the ravenous man who basically tries to date-rape, i.e. eat his wife. This episode feels ENDLESS. Mulder and Scully are barely in it. There’s this whole POV shift to the “monster’s” POV and … who cares. I guess there’s a Crime and Punishment thing going on here, with the monster-as-Raskolnikov and Mulder and Scully as the police inspector but … come on, this is the X-Files.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 4, “Millennium” (1999; d. Thomas J. Wright)
Crossover episode! Good to see Lance Henriksen. And OCTAVIA SPENCER as a nurse in a mental hospital. And her name is “Octavia”. She has one line: “You’d like a day pass?” And the last scene. Swoon. “The world didn’t end.” “No it didn’t.” Double meaning. Beautifully done.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 5, “Rush” (1999; d. Robert Lieberman)
Hey, it’s Nicki Aycox!! MEG. And a nearly-unrecognizable Ann Dowd. It may just be my Ship-Eyes – but Mulder and Scully are noticeably flirty here, more intimate, even though they’re just working a case. In my opinion, they’ve now boned.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 6, “The Goldberg Variation” (1999; d. Thomas J. Wright)
If you’re sick of me shipping away, oh well. David Duchovny is so freakin’ handsome … and SEXY, in this tender unstated way. He never pushes. He has this dry delivery of these incredibly technical words and he speaks in long sentences, and when he speaks with Scully, he seems to always be playing subtext. This whole thing is subtext. His eyes go down to her lips. She checks him out, too. And now there’s this … flirty thing happening. She teases him. She makes him laugh. It’s obvious how beautiful she is, and riveting to watch – not just because of her beauty but the performance she gives – she creates a real character – emotions buttoned-up – so when she does let go it is heart-wrenching. But HE is just as riveting. And sexxxxy.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 7, “Orison” (2000; d. Rob Bowman)
Scott Wilson as fire-and-brimstone prison preacher. Not a fan of Pfaster being a literal demon. I liked him as just your garden-variety psycho. But boy that scene between him and Scully … it’s like the one between Patricia Arquette and Jim Gandolfini in True Romance. It’s brutal.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 8, “The Amazing Meleeni” (2000; d. Thomas J. Wright)
God, I love Ricky Jay. I miss Ricky Jay. Really cute flirting between Mulder and Scully throughout. And Gillian Anderson on the floor doing that thing with her hand? The vibe is different between them. Plus this hot-ness:

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 9, “Signs and Wonders” (2000; d. Kim Manners)
Truman Capote’s “Handcarved Coffins” opening. Someone’s read Music for Chameleons! Beth Grant: great actress. Always good. Sexy snake-handling repartee: Scully: “I didn’t learn about snake handling in my catechism class.” Mulder: “That’s funny, I knew a couple of Catholic girls who were excellent at it.” MULDER. I’m not scared of snakes but some of these shots give me the heebie-jeebies. Indiana Jones moment:

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 10, “Sein Und Zeit” (2000; d. Michael Watkins)
Duchovny is really REALLY good in this one. He has this very quiet intensity, but there’s always that gentleness in him. That openness. This reminds me a little of “Paper Hearts” – and it’s a very nice zone for him. Uncomplicated. Open. It leaves him a lot of room. When the breakdown comes, there’s no pushing … it comes OUT of that openness he’s had throughout.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 11, “Closure” (2000; d. Kim Manners)
“Believe to Understand” instead of “The Truth Is Out There”. I love when they switch up that title card. Part 2 really of “Sein Und Zeit”. Poor Mulder. Again, Duchovny does beautiful work. But … after all THAT, she’s dead?? For real?

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 12, “X-Cops” (2000; d. Michael Watkins)
This one is so unendingly funny. Mulder and Scully enter the Cops universe. STEVE AND EDIE. I love Steve and Edie so much. And seeing Mulder DEAL with Steve and Edie is so funny and touching.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 13, “First Person Shooter” (2000; d. Chris Carter)
Kind of pointless but you get to see Scully and Mulder in crazy commando outfits and you get to see Duchovny’s biceps.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 14, “Theef” (2000; d. Kim Manners)
Flirting is off the charts throughout. “You always keep me guessing.” “You do keep me guessing.” It’s hot. I’m sorry but that’s my commentary. Plus: Billy Drago is, as always, scary as fuck.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 15, “En Ami” (2000; d. Rob Bowman)
William B. Davis wrote this one. I really like it. It’s very very creepy. Smoking Man fucking undresses her while she is unconscious. It is vile. She looks stunning in that dress that … HE bought for her. It’s interesting to see Scully “fall” for all this. Mulder seems very upset about this. He can’t even look at her. HOWEVER. I dislike what was made of this much later on. Intensely dislike.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 16, “Chimera” (2000; d. Cliff Bole)
I forgot about this one. It was like I never saw it. And somehow I didn’t guess “whodunit”. Or, I didn’t remember. I was surprised! Weird one because Mulder and Scully are separated for this case. Poor Scully, on her weirdo stakeout, staring at prostitutes all day and calling Mulder every other minute to complain. It’s so funny seeing her unraveled. Then there was the interesting moment when whats-her-face asked Mulder if he had a significant other and this weird smile passed over his face and he said, “Not in the traditional way it’s understood.” That kind of shit is what I’m here for.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 17, “All Things” (2000; d. Gillian Anderson)
Go, Gillian! She wrote it too! “Maybe I want the life I didn’t choose.” Welcome to the thought that ruined my life for 15 years. People seem to not like this episode (the little I can see). Yes, it’s not really an X-File … but it’s more a meditation on loss and time, and it shows what is going on underneath Scully’s mostly cool exterior. It’s a world of pain. ALSO: there’s a reason this woman is single and it’s NOT just because she’s a workaholic. You can feel that in her performance. And in “En Ami” the smoking man said something along the lines that she won’t allow herself to love Mulder. And now 2 episodes later comes this? I think it works. It’s like … real life is an X-File.

20/20 “A Tangled Web” (2020)
Allison and I devoured this terrifying freak-fest SHIT SHOW.

Night Stalker: The Hunt for a Serial Killer (2020; d. James Carroll, Tiller Russell)
You know I was all over this.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 18, “18 Brand X” (2000; d. Kim Manners)
Very The Insider plot. Big Tobacco! Too preachy. Especially since cigarettes = Evil has already been LONG established on this show.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 19, “Hollywood A.D.” (2000; d. David Duchovny)
Hilarious. Garry Shandling! Tea Leoni! The funniest moment for me is when a scene is going on in the foreground between Duchovny and Shandling, and in the background you can see poor Scully running back and forth. The pitter-patter of her feet in the background. It’s hilarious.

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 20, “Fight Club” (2000; d. Paul Shapiro)
Eh. Whatever. Fight Club came out in 1999 so this is clearly and influence. I wish it had gone deeper. I wish it had explored doppelgangers more and how it affected our two LEADS. They had doppelgangers on the loose in the first scene. Can’t we explore that?

The X-Files, Season 7, episode 21, “Je Souhaite” (2000; d. Vince Gilligan)
No recorded comments.

Class Action Park (2020; d. Seth Porges)
Amazing documentary about this notorious “water park” death trap (literally) in New Jersey. Allison had been raving about it so we finally watched it together. Insane.

Some Like It Hot (1959; d. Billy Wilder)
Allison and I had a blast watching this. Roaring with laughter. Jack Lemmon having a great time on his date is a highlight. He’s not “acting” or “playacting”. He is legit having a blast. It’s the best date of his life.

Ball of Fire (1941; d. Howard Hawks)
One of my faves. Allison had never seen it before. It was fun to be with her as she discovered it.

The Bee Gees: How Can You Mend A Broken Heart (2020; d. Frank Marshall)
Allison, Jen and I watched this. I found it, frankly, overwhelming. First of all, there’s the music. That music is in me. It’s part of my DNA. We all felt the same way. We cooked dinner afterwards blasting the Bee Gees. I learned a lot I didn’t know (particularly about their early years). The “disco sucks” “movement” – in all its racism and homophobia – was disgusting. Like, fucking relax, you babies. Nobody’s taking your rock ‘n roll away from you. I was very moved by this, and filled with admiration for all of them, for the music they made, and for how they persevered.

The Family Stone (2005; d. Thomas Bezucha)
Allison and I love this movie so much. We’ve probably watched it 10 times together. “Beekeeper!” Unfortunately there is no gif of that moment so this will have to do:

Our Friend (2021; d. Gabriela Cowperthwaite)
Very very emotional. My family just went through this. I reviewed for Ebert.

The X-Files, Season 8 (2000-2001)
Nearing the end of January … clearly I was watching WAY too much X-Files for how busy it was, but honestly the month was so stressful I needed to counter-act the stress. I do what I can. I took no notes during this time. Very controversial season due to the absence (mostly) of Duchovny, but honestly I really love this season and I love the dynamic between Robert Patrick and Anderson. It’s such an interesting twist – now Dana is the “believer” and she has to deal with a stronger skeptic than she ever was. I think it’s a really good season. I don’t think my saying this is a “betrayal” of Mulder. Like, calm down.

Saint Maud (2021; d. Rose Glass)
Very good, very intense. I reviewed for Ebert.

The X-Files, Season 9 (2001-2002)
I’ll just leave this here:

The X Files I Want to Believe (2008; d. Chris Carter)
While I very much appreciate – and love – the image of Mulder and Scully in domestic bliss(? not really) – I am kind of confused by this movie. It’s more like a police procedural than anything else and it seems a bit low-key for this uber-paranoid franchise. But never mind. I love Mulder in a beard.

The X-Files, Season 10 (2016)
The eruption in response to “My Struggle” is quite warranted. I don’t have issues with it like some people do, that I’ve read – like, Scully has no agency and has been violated yet again … Yes, it’s very upsetting. But the whole series is about her boundaries being violated, her “agency” taken out of her hands, and the trauma that that causes her, irreversible trauma. I mean … that’s the character conception. She’s a strong woman, a “medical doctor”, and so much has been “removed” from her – physically, as well as her idea of her own future. So to suddenly be angry about the violation … I mean … have you watched the show? I still don’t like the whole Smoking Man plot-twist. Like, at all. This quickie season features one of the best episodes in the whole thing.

The Dig (2021; d. Simon Stone)
I found this very interesting. I learned a lot! It’s been cool too because my nephew is suddenly into Vikings – like, very VERY into Vikings – and Anglo-Saxons – and long ships, etc. – so I got to introduce him to the Sutton Hoo treasure which he hadn’t heard of yet. I was so happy to pass it along! I reviewed for Ebert.

Pvt Chat
I did not like this. I reviewed for Ebert.

The X-Files, Season 11 (2018)
This season – and its approach – was why I decided to “catch up” on The X-Files in the first place. It took me a year, bingeing it with my friend Keith Uhlich – the biggest X-Files fan I know, who has written about the series for The Hollywood Reporter and other places. I decided to “catch up” so I could participate in the zeitgeist of the series’ return. I read a couple of people who were irritated at the ending, as in: Scully is now chained to a domestic role because she got pregnant. But … having babies – and not only that, but being able to get pregnant is a huge dream for … millions of women? Since the dawn of time? I mean, there’s nothing feminist, by the way, at sniffing contemptuously at a woman’s heartbreak at losing her fertility options and then experiencing the “miracle” of having conceived. Many many MANY people go through this, and Scully is basically their very meaningful avatar. Doesn’t mean she’s not still a kickass FBI agent because she’s thrilled to be pregnant. I can’t have children and it has been a tragedy for me and I will never really get over it. I am still a feminist. I have a meaningful life with other things in it but I have grieved HARD for this thing. For YEARS. That’s just the way it is. You learn to move on and try not to dwell on it but it’s always there. Scully’s struggles in this area are DEEPLY validating to someone like me. I mean … the entire series in a way was ABOUT her fertility, to some degree. That may not be your thing and that’s totally fine but it was for Scully – maternity is a huge part of the show. I love The Lost Art of Forehead Sweat. It’s so ridiculously funny.

Lost Girls (2020; d. Liz Garbus)
I read the book by Robert Kolker and so I finally watched the series. It’s such an infuriating story. What the hell HAPPENED out there.

Tell Me Who I Am (2019; d. Ed Perkins)
I cannot even express the experience of watching this documentary. It’s unlike any other. If you heard a description, you might think you know what it was going to be. But it’s different. I watched it unfold – I went into it cold – and it was one of the worst stories I’ve ever heard. And the WAY it was done, with little to no manipulation – you don’t need to manipulate the story to make it worse – it’s already the worst thing I’ve ever heard … it was just masterful. I’ll never watch it again though.

Room 2806 (2020; d. Jalil Lespert)
Deep dive into the terrible story of the accusation against Dominique Strauss-Kahn.

Spotlight (2016; d. Tom McCarthy)
I’m on a roll with movies about sexual crimes. This movie has quickly become one of those movies I pop in every so often. It’s very good. It works. I reviewed for Ebert.

What Happened Was (1994; d. Tom Noonan)
A re-watch in preparation for the virtual QA I did with director Tom Noonan and co-star Karen Sillas. It was so fun! My feelings about this movie are very very strong.

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (2021; d. Josh Greenbaum)
Glorious. I’ve seen it 3 times already. I reviewed for Ebert.

Crime Scene: The Vanishing at the Cecil Hotel (2021; d. Joe Berlinger)
I love Joe Berlinger’s work so I went into this sight unseen. He has a way of sniffing out stories, of understanding the story BENEATH the story. This, about a hotel in Los Angeles with a very bad reputation, a very creepy reputation, is very effective, mainly about internet sleuths and how it can be a good thing or a bad thing. Has anyone apologized to the Mexican death-metal singer for accusing him of murder and ruining his life? ANYONE? Mob justice, man. We ALL should fear it. This is such a creepy and sad story. It made me really sad.

Bringing Up Baby (1938; d. Howard Hawks)
“THIS IS MY RUNNING BOARD.” That’s what you think, pallie.

Blithe Spirit (1945; d. David Lean)
I re-watched in preparation for the re-make.

Blithe Spirit (2021; d. Edward Hall)
It was so so bad. Director’s fault. These are all very talented actors. I reviewed for Ebert.

The Shining (1980; d. Stanley Kubrick)
Allison suggested we watch this one cold winter night when we were holed up with Jeremy in our pandemic-free cottage in the woods. Long story. It was so much fun! We popped popcorn and had a blast.

Boogie Nights (1997; d. Paul Thomas Anderson)
Another one watched with Allison and Jeremy. We re-wound to watch what is known as the “Sister Christian” scene no less than 10 times. Thomas Jane is perfect.

FYRE: The Greatest Party That Never Happened (2019; d. Chris Smith)
Epic. I never get sick of this story. The cheese sandwich. Allison and Jeremy and I popped popcorn and watched.

Mr. Peabody and Sherman (2014; d. Rob Minkoff)
Had a lot of fun watching this with the kids.

Alvin and the Chipmunks: Road Chip (2015; d. Walt Becker)
Watched this with the kids as well. At a certain point, I thought to myself, “Wait, do they end up in a Mardi Gras parade in New Orleans?” Whaddya know, yes, they do. Turns out, I reviewed it and didn’t remember I had done so.

Funny People (2009; d. Judd Apatow)
I’ve never been really into Judd Apatow’s world-view which I find very … suburban, basically – and stiflingly/aggressively heterosexual – lol – and I swing that way! – but I like this one. This is one of those “sad-clown standup-comedian faces the void of his existence” movies. My God, it’s its own genre! It’s not really a surprise, I suppose: standups are writers, standups make movies, if “write what you know” is a rule, then it’s a rule for everybody. The Eminem cameo is so ridiculous (and the out-takes are even better). Eminem bitching out Ray Romano for “eyeballing” him. lol

Cherry (2021; d. Joe Russo, Anthony Russo)
Had a lot to say about this one. Reviewed for Ebert.

Dear Comrades! (2020; d. Andrei Konchalovsky)
Dear Comrades! – about the Novocherkassk massacre in 1962 – is extremely EXTREMELY my kind of thing. Fantastic movie.

Dirty Money (2018)
I watched the first season. It’s interesting! That’s all I’ve got. But that’s enough!

Little Women (2019; d. Greta Gerwig)
My niece Lucy just finished reading Little Women, so we watched this together. Eventually we’ll go back and watch the Winona Ryder version – and if I feel she’s ready, further back to the Katharine Hepburn version. The weird thing about this one is … the jumbled-up chronology. Honestly, I understand the impulse and I appreciate Gerwig’s inventiveness with it – because the book does mirror itself in the later sections. However: if you came to the film having NOT read the book, I could see why this could be extremely confusing. I was so proud of Lucy, though. I explained to her beforehand: “so the movie goes back and forth in time – it’s different than the book.” Just so she would be prepared. (Jean also told me about her students’ struggles with flashbacks. They need it laid out beforehand so they are prepared.) So Lucy went in armed with that knowledge. I was so proud of her for just rolling with it. Every time a new scene started, Lucy would announce, “This is now.” or “That’s then.” She kept herself oriented! She explained to Pearl, who got confused: “Jo’s hair is short, so that’s taking place THEN.”

Little Women (2017; d. Vanessa Caswill)
After Lucy and I finished Gerwig’s version, we discussed what to do next. She scrolled through the options and came across a 2017 version, which I had never heard of, and had not seen. This series had the misfortune to come out just a year before Gerwig’s – on PBS, as a mini-series, with Emily Watson as Marmee and Maya Hawke (daughter of Uma Thurman and Ethan Hawke) as Jo. So we settled in to watch. This was a linear version, no scrambled chronology, and since it was a mini-series, it dug into each of the little episodes a bit more. Lucy and I absolutely fell in love with it. Lucy made sure to tell me she liked the other one but THIS one was better. I’m with Lucy. Sometimes the formalized language is a little bit “much” for the young actresses here, but their acting is so good it’s easily forgiven. Kathryn Newton (of Supernatural fame … or infamy? Depends on who you talk to) plays Amy, and she is a PERFECT Amy. Florence Pugh is a good actress, but her “Amy” is Greta Gerwig’s Amy, not Louisa May Alcott’s, and that’s fine, but Lucy – brand new to the book – clocked it immediately. I also prefer Maya Hawke’s “Jo”. Emily Watson KILLS. IT. Highly recommended this if you haven’t seen it.

Moxie (2021; d. Amy Poehler)
A cute coming-of-age movie about a teenage girl who discovers her mom’s stash of riot grrrl zines and decides to start a feminist revolution in her school. I’d love a movie that takes place during the riot grrrl era, to put it into context for people who don’t know. I mean, it happened so recently, there is no reason it should be this lost weird history, but since it is to some extent, it provides rich material for storytelling. Feminism wasn’t invented yesterday. Anyway, I get into that a little bit in my review for Ebert.

Lucky (2021; d. Natasha Kermani)
Thought this was terrific! I reviewed for Ebert.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020; d. Charlie Kaufman)
I need to write something on this. I felt this way AS I watched it for the first time, and then I read a really bad “take” on it recently which made me go, “Fuck it, I need to counter-act that nonsense.” I went back and watched it again. I am overwhelmed by this movie. I was so overwhelmed the first time that I distrusted my initial response. So I went back and watched it again. It slayed me. Same, the third time. So okay. I’ll get to it.

Bringing Up Baby (1938; d. Howard Hawks)
“I should have known it was you the minute I hit the floor.”

69:The Saga of Danny Hernandez (2020; d. Vikram Gandhi)
Tekashi 69 does not make music I care for (understatement) but I’ve been fascinated by his whole thing, watching much of it play out on YouTube, through all of the reactor channels I watch and follow – they cover him because … he’s hard not to cover. Then of course came his very public arrest on these crazy serious charges AND how he “turned” and gave up his conspirators – which made him persona non grata to the very community he wanted to be part of. It’s complicated. He’s only been around for about 5 minutes but it has been a VERY eventful five minutes! So I really appreciated this documentary, which certainly gave me more context – as someone who was just a casual observer, and not really steeped in all the nuances of this stuff.

Nevenka: Breaking the Silence (2021; d. Maribel Sánchez-Maroto)
This Spanish documentary series showed up on the main page of Netflix which is how I discovered it. Dammit, that algorithim sometimes works. Below, I bemoan the bloated nature of so many of these docu-series – why say it in one episode when you can stretch it out to four or five, amirite? But this one NEEDED all the time it took to express and explain the complicated nature of everything that was going on in this case. As someone who did not grow up in Spain, where this case made non-stop headlines – I knew nothing about this story, and found myself so sucked into the horror show of what this woman went through. It was heart-wrenching, infuriating – and I really appreciate the format of the documentary, the time it took to give me – an outsider – the lay of the land, so that when shit went south, I understood the import. Very very good docuseries.

The Winslow Boy (1999; d. David Mamet)
A casual comment from my friend Lian on Instagram made me remember my love of this film so I went back and re-watched it. I own it! It’s really beautiful and I love Jeremy Northam’s performance, in particular – AND how the subtext is played so strongly – the best buttoned-up English dramas have that swirling passionate subtext – and when both are played as strongly as possible – the subtext AND the buttoned-up text – you get fireworks. I really love this movie.

Murder Among the Mormoms (2021; d. Jared Hess, Tyler Measom)
Exec. produced by Joe Berlinger! This is an example of … maybe stretching things out a bit much. Do we really need all these episodes? Never mind. What shocked ME was how I have no memory of ANY of this. I am sure it made headline news. Was I under a rock? This is what happens when you grow up – and not just grow up but go through adulthood – without the Internet. Now, it would be trending – explosions all over Salt Lake City, etc. – horrifying! An added element of interest here is the whole forgery/counterfeit element – I love forgery stories. Very interesting!

The Widower (2021)
Dateline multi-part series! Allison and I watched this together and were so viscerally disgusted by this monster we could 1. barely get through it and 2. not stop watching.

The Awful Truth (1937; d. Leo McCarey)
Allison and I had a blast watching this together. She’s been devouring Scott Eyman’s Cary Grant bio, so I’m so happy to re-watch these classics with her. She’s totally on board!

Rose Plays Julie (2021; d. Joe Lawlor, Christine Molloy)
What a haunting creepy movie! I reviewed for Ebert.

Rewind (2020; d. Sasha Joseph Neulinger)
I’m almost sorry I watched this. It was so upsetting I had to force myself to finish it. What these children went through … this multi-generational shit-show – it just kept getting worse … and worse … and worse … In this case, making a movie – i.e. telling a story – is a heroic act of courage. The fact that it exists at all is hope for the future. But at what cost. Harrowing.

Smooth Talk (1985; d. Joyce Chopra)
THRILLED that Criterion brought out this phenomenal coming-of-age film from Joyce Chopra, starring Laura Dern and Treat Williams (who is unforgettable). Plus Mary Kay Place as Dern’s mother. Incredible special features, with covid-era interviews with Mary Kay Place, Williams, Chopra, etc. The film is a stunner. People say it’s ahead of its time. I think it’s ahead of OUR time. We still haven’t caught up.

White Dog (1982; d. Samuel Fuller)
I had never seen this VERY controversial movie about a young hopeful actress (Kristy McNichol) who takes in a white dog after hitting it with her car. The dog heals under her care. She loves the dog, the dog loves her. But there’s a problem. The dog is a killer. Even worse … it’s a “white dog(TM)” – a dog trained to only kill Black people. McNichol takes the dog to a place where a trainer – a Black man (the wonderful) Paul Winfield – will break this dog out of its bigoted mindset, clearly taught to him by his racist former owners. Criterion released the film (which was considered wayyyy too hot to handle back in 1982), and has published quite a few good essays about it, including this one by Armond White.

Under Suspicion: Uncovering the Wesphael Case (2021; created by Georges Huercano, Pascal Vrebos)
There is literally no need for this to be stretched out into a “docuseries”. You could have gotten in/gotten out in an hour and a half. It was so elongated, so bloated, it literally doesn’t warrant this kind of treatment. The “let’s stretch things out” trend is irritating. Once I was two episodes in, and already bored, I was like, “Fuck it, can’t quit now.” You should not have that feeling when watching a documentary.

Center Stage (1991; d. Stanley Kwan)
A long-unavailable masterpiece, starring a young Maggie Cheung, available again. Do not miss this film. I wrote about it for Ebert.

Come and See (1985; d. Elem Klimov)
The film’s legend precedes it, but for a long time this Soviet anti-war film was impossible to see, or get a hold of. Unless it was screened somewhere at a festival – it had vanished, really. Now it has finally re-emerged, and it got a short theatrical release – in early 2020, I think – I remember thinking, “I should catch that one in the theatre while I can” but … then lockdown came. The window passed. The theatrical release though was attached to the Criterion release, and so I bought it, because a film like this you want to own. Or, if you’re someone like me, you want to own it. What if it disappears again? I can’t trust streaming platforms to carry this thing. What, I’m gonna trust Disney+? Or Amazon? Or Netflix? The TRUST normally anti-corporation progressive people put in these corporations will never cease to boggle my mind. Anyway. I bought it. And finally watched it in the privacy of my own home. The film is one of the most shattering portrayals of war trauma and PTSD in existence – as a matter of fact, after the first attack – when the boy’s hearing is blown out by the explosion – you are in the “aftermath” of that initial trauma, to such a degree the whole world becomes a howling wilderness of terror. And the WAY it’s filmed is a huge part of its effect – the way characters look right in the camera, often in the middle of extreme distress and/or panic and/or terror – normal “grieving” has no place in this world – it’s just pain and terror and horror. Brilliant film and maybe halfway through, STRESSED OUT beyond belief watching this thing, I thought: “Oh. So this is why this movie has the reputation that it does.” I get it now. It’s excruciating and essential.

A Bug’s Life (1998; d. John Lasseter, Andrew Stanton)
Watched this classic with my nieces and nephew, who really wanted to watch it with me. This gave me a heart-crack! Me and Bug’s Life go way WAY back. I know the movie by heart because I watched it with Cashel so many times when he was 3 and 4 years old. He would sit on my lap and we’d watch the movie and he’d tell me to “talk about the movie.” (Well, you can read that piece I linked to.) And here I was, so many years later, and Cashel is now a college graduate, and the torch has been passed. My FAVORITE moment was saying to William, “Hey, do you know what was the inspiration for the bar scene?” (which we had just been laughing about). He said, “What.” I said, “The bar scene in Star Wars.” He got SO excited, me putting those pieces together for him, and he could totally see it – “Ohhhh REALLY??” It was two movies he knew and I was helping him to see the connections and it was so sweet and tender I am in tears as I type this.

Tina (2021; d. Daniel Lindsay, T.J. Martin)
I loved it. I needed it! I reviewed for Ebert.

The Letter Room (2020; d. Elvira Lind)
Oscar-nominated short film, starring Oscar Isaac and directed by his wife, Elvira Lind. It’s very good.

The Rules of the Game (1939; d. Jean Renoir)
“Corneille! Put an end to this farce!”
“Which one, your lordship?”
Oh God this movie is so wonderful. I lay on my couch with Tarzan the cat curled up next to me and had a blast reveling in the film’s shimmering genius. That final shot! But there are so many …

The Accountant of Auschwitz (2018; d. Matthew Shoychet)
An interesting look at culpability: how far does it go, how far should it go? There have been a couple of breakthrough cases, where not just the engineers of the Final Solution, or the big-wigs who made it happen like Eichmann – but guards have been brought to trial for war crimes. As a guard, you are responsible and you cannot say that you did not know what was going on. This is about the trial of an ancient old man whose title was “bookkeeper” at Auschwitz, but what that really meant was cataloging all of the goods stolen from the Jewish people before they were marched into the gas chambers. So … can we really say this man is innocent? But at the same time, he’s 92 years old. What good is it trying him now? All of these questions are laid out and discussed over the course of the film.

I’m Sorry You Feel That Way (2014; d. Jay Karas)
Bill Burr has been keeping me (slightly more) sane (than I normally would be).

About Endlessness (2019; d. Roy Andersson)
I love Andersson’s films and his latest – opening soon – is riveting and I can’t stop thinking about it. Another one I want to write about. In the meantime, read Imogen Smith’s gorgeous Film Comment cover story about the film.

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23 Responses to January/February/March 2021 Viewing Diary

  1. Carolyn Clarke says:

    Sometimes I feel that I am too pedestrian for your blog. Don’t get me wrong. I love the way you write and think. Your essays are so packed with information and feeling that I know that there will be something somewhere that will send me down the internet rabbit hole for at least half a day. And that’s the problem, because there are some days that I simply don’t feel up to the challenge and I say to myself, “Nope, don’t even start.” But. ..I skim for highlights, find something that I’ve seen and loved/hated, or something that I’ve never even heard of, start reading and I am lost.

    • sheila says:

      Carolyn – You are never too “pedestrian” – I hope I don’t make you feel that way!! However, I totally understand being like “You know what? Not time for that internet rabbit hole today.” I have to do that on a constant basis because otherwise I’d be on the internet all day!!!

  2. Jessie says:

    TWO Bringing Up Babys! haha I love that.

    I just watched I’m Thinking of Ending Things the other week! I really appreciate the way its puzzle-box nature and inventiveness comes from a devotion to a human mental/emotional state and not trickery for its own sake. Form and content, you know? Having said that I was disconnected from it emotionally so I’d be very curious to read your piece whenever you get around to it.

    I was laughing scrolling down because I recognised half the true crime titles from L giving me the run down over dinner or on the night walk. This woman gets in an elevator and looks scared…she’s looking to the side but no one is there. It’s the last anyone sees of her……and then other guests start complaining about the water quality. I can’t watch this stuff myself but I love hearing about it second-hand!

    • sheila says:

      Jessie –
      // Having said that I was disconnected from it emotionally so I’d be very curious to read your piece whenever you get around to it. //

      I was just talking with another friend on Friday about this. He felt as you did! I am still kind of taken aback by how hard it hit me – it was a genuinely unnerving experience, my first time watching it – clearly it’s personal, it’s got to be – but I’m not even sure I could put it into words. The challenge of that is exciting – like, how do I describe it without it JUST being personal? So I am going to attempt it at some point!

    • sheila says:

      yes TWO Bringing Up Babies! It never gets old.

    • sheila says:

      and hahahaha about true crime stuff. I did a LOT of it in the last three months.

      The water quality! Yes! so disgusting – I’d never get over it. The creepy elevator footage! I can see why the internet got obsessed because her behavior is TRULY eerie!

  3. Mike Molloy says:

    Always so glad to see these recaps.

    I’m rewatching the David Lean Blithe Spirit at the moment, 20 minutes at a time. Fun! Keep wanting to shout at the screen, “it’s El-VYER-a, not El-VEER-a”. The actress they got for the medium in that movie is fantastic.

    • sheila says:

      Blithe Spirit!! Even though I thought the most recent version was terrible – it was a fun review to write because I got to talk about Noel Coward! That Lean version is definitely in the right spirit!

    • sheila says:

      and thank you! love to hear people’s responses to these.

  4. mutecypher says:

    “All Things” is such a striking episode. I loved the slow motion shots of Scully walking in the wind. I loved the slowing of time. It was beautifully shot. I remember that after all of the Eastern religious involvement there were two nuns in black and white habits walking along just as Scully mistakenly found Mulder – thinking he was the pony-tailed woman. That was an interesting way to return to the “regular” world. And I was glad that at the ending Scully told Mulder about everything that had happened – and amused that she fell asleep during his attempt at a justification for the life that she did choose. I really liked the ambiguity, she made peace with choosing to leave Daniel, but had she made peace with the life that she did chose? It wasn’t clear to me.

    • sheila says:

      // I loved the slow motion shots of Scully walking in the wind. //

      So much! Dreamlike and haunting.

      // I really liked the ambiguity, she made peace with choosing to leave Daniel, but had she made peace with the life that she did chose? //

      Right! This is perfectly put. This is how a lot of people live – there’s a person who thought was the one – and then it doesn’t happen and you have to somehow still make sense of life. That ending scene is so beautiful.

  5. Kim says:

    Around May last year I realized the lockdown wasn’t going to be a quick “let’s flatten the curve so we can get over it” I started a spreadsheet to track my viewing. ( I watched a lot of tv) Plenty of comfort food tv-#SPN, Chuck, Psych, Eureka and some others that I can’t recall, but I also watched a lot of really good new dramas and some re-watches of favorite dramas and genre tv. I watched a ton of true crime & documentaries. Whenever I hear”I Started a Joke” I can’t listen without thinking of Barry Gibbs sadness when talking about living with out his brothers and being the last one left. I kind of fell in love with Dolly Parton after watching her documentary.

    I’m a huge Cary Grant fan, I can watch Arsenic & Old Lace over & over so I planned Bringing up Baby as my part of my election night viewing. Alas, the frenetic pace of the movie proved too much for my stressed out self so I’m pretty sure I put on something really vanilla to watch instead. I couldn’t even read! Yikes.

    I tried to keep going with my spreadsheet at the beginning of the year but it has kind of fizzled out-I think I’ll go back and try to catch up with some of it.

    I’m re-watching Lost and started back up watching The Good Fight. Christine Baranasky is just brilliant, the micro expressions on her face as she reacts to the absurdities around her… and they seem to have hired every really good character actor at one time or another to play a judge. Such great dialogue and great casting. I love how the show skewers both the right and the left.

    I have found the utlimate in comfort viewing -Columbo. My younger self never noticed or appreciated but the costuming and the visuals on this old show are amazing, Peter Falk plus every character actor, or film star on their way down appeared there. It can be rather corny but a better soporific than Midsommer Murders!

    • sheila says:

      Kim – love the idea of a spreadsheet! Especially during last year where – I don’t know about you – but TIME became this very strange thing – I lost track – so it does help to somehow … track things. Binge watching, for whatever reason, helped me feel like there WAS a track. One-offs, i.e. movies, were howling in a wilderness of space – lol – but committing to a binge of X-Files was almost like time continued to trudge on in a normal way. I sound insane.

      It sounds like we were drawn to similar things. Binging. True crime! Docs!

      // I couldn’t even read! Yikes. //

      Same. A real struggle.

      I love Christine Baransky – I haven’t seen The Good Fight though – I am now intrigued!

      I need to get on the Columbo train – I know so many people who have been doing what you’re doing (I think all the episodes have recently become available to stream) – Peter Falk is so great, but yes – the PARADE of greats as co-stars – including Dean Stockwell – one of his best performances is on a Columbo episode!

      Thanks for reading and commenting – here’s to a 2021 with a little bit more space to breathe!

  6. TraceyK says:

    Love Bill Burr, particularly when he gets worked up and starts ranting. I especially like his referring to pears as “pretentious.”

  7. Todd Restler says:

    Good luck on your move Sheila. It looks beautiful where you are. Enjoy your family. I felt a disturbance in the force when you left New York.

    Regarding Boogie Nights, I could go on and on. It’s one of my two favorite films along with Goodfellas. They both to me are endlessly fascinating studies of misplaced American ideals and the human need to belong. OR, just two of the most viscerally entertaining and funny movies ever made. Most great movies either make me think or feel. It’s the VERY rare film that makes me do both, as these do. And just the huge tapestries of actors and music and scenery, they are two of the most rewatchable movies ever made. Always find something new. Always.

    I have a copy of the script and PT Anderson wrote a short intro that is filled with gold nuggets, including this:

    “I’ve come to realize that my function as a director is to be a good writer. My obligation as a director is to deliver the actors a good script, thus making my job as director describable as hanging out and watching them go. No good actor needs direction beyond ‘Let’s do another one’ or ‘Keep it simple’.”

    Boogie Nights is on the Mount Rushmore of best casts. I’ve given this a lot of thought. I have a spreadsheet. I choose it over Magnolia although it’s close. My other 3 are The Godfather (no brainer), Short Cuts (edging Nashville) and then take your pick among older (All About Eve, 12 Angry Men, or even Gunga Din) or newer (Heat, or, trust me on this, Cop Land, which is the most underrated cast of all time. De Niro abounds.)

    So I could spend an hour on each character in Boogie Nights, (and 20 on Philip Seymour Hoffman) but since you mentioned Thomas Jane I will zero in on him, and the scene you kept re-watching, which is undeniably one of the greatest movie scenes of all time.

    The build up. (Do you have his phone number? Do you have his address? You guys should be careful).

    The insane bouncy walk up the steps. The snorting. Once inside, Cosmo with the firecrackers. The “faking” of the Russian Roulette. I mean my goodness. All the actors crush it. Molina is off the rails. Reilly flinches just a LITTLE bit more each time a fire-cracker goes off. The LONG look at Wahlberg during Jessie’s Girl is amazing. You can read his mind. “Where am I? How did my life get so fucked up? Am I about to die?”. Just amazing. Anderson said a studio guy wanted to trim that for time. He wanted to strangle him.

    But I think it’s indeed Thomas Jane that elevates this into masterpiece territory. His raised eyebrow when the first deception works. “Here’s five grand.” “Five grand?” You can see the wheels turning. He gets amped up, and ultimately delivers what may be my favorite line reading ever:

    Todd Parker: Nah, I’m not, see? I’m not kidding. I want what’s in the safe! We want what is in the goddamn safe, in the goddamn master bedroom, in the fuckin’ floor in the goddamn fuckin’ floor safe, that’s all!

    Like I said, I have the script. Here is what PT Anderson wrote:

    Todd Parker: No I’m not. I’m not kidding. We want what’s in the safe. We want what’s in the safe in the floor under the bed in the master bedroom.

    The gap between those two lines of dialogue, the void that Thomas Jane leaps over, is the difference between a good film and a masterpiece.

    Like Anderson said, write a good script, cast well, and get the hell out of the way.

    Oh and since I mentioned Goodfellas (and always will), I believe you saw it recently. Did you notice Jerry the cop at the end who brings in the coke filled equipment, has a little taste, and then smiles? I’ve mentioned him to you before. My favorite “no lines, one brief reaction shot” performance of all time.

    • sheila says:

      Todd – hi! what a great comment! I love PTA’s thoughts on how his main job is to be a good writer, to deliver a script actors want to act. So smart!!

    • sheila says:

      oh and I love Cop Land! I’ve never written about it but I do love it – have you listened to the commentary track? and is that a dumb question? lol it’s fantastic. I love James Mangold – one of my pitches for my now-retired FC column (sob) was on Mangold’s debut, Heavy – which I think is remarkable and it’s really hard to find now and not really all that well known.

      Now: onto the Sister Christian scene – yes! the buildup is INSANE. you already know going in that this is a bad idea and that the Thomas Jane character is the most lunatic character onscreen – in the whole damn thing – and that’s saying something!

      I love how there’s a “funny” vibe to it – funny as in absurd – the firecrackers, Molina in that robe – the decor – the blasting music – you’re not exactly lulled into a sense of safety – but the sense of danger does work on a slow creep. You realize – uh-oh. This is BAD. and when Thomas Jane looks worried, you should REALLY be worried, because that guy is a MANIAC.

      // the void that Thomas Jane leaps over, is the difference between a good film and a masterpiece. //

      that’s great! and the way he says that line – it’s such tough-guy language – but you can feel how out of control he is. His voice is … tight, panicked … and he sounds more truculent than macho – it’s CRAZY good.

      // Anderson said a studio guy wanted to trim that for time. He wanted to strangle him. //

      “trim for time” – these people are idiots. they always always want to cut things that end up being classic.

      and in re: Goodfellas – have you read Glenn’s book yet?

  8. Todd Restler says:

    Ooh no I haven’t read Glenn’s book yet but I will it’s RIGHT up my alley. I am so obsessed with that film.

    Cop Land is so underrated. I am not kidding when I say it might be the best cast ever. My favorite Sly. De Niro and Liotta not long after Goodfellas but you can’t even see those other characters. (Not to mention Paul Herman). Bruce Altman pops up in one scene. Paul Calderon and John Spencer in small but key roles. Seriously. Go look at the cast. Janeane Garafalo and Noah Emmerich here, Peter Berg and Harvey Keitel over there. It’s crazy.

    You know David Chase loved it. It came out in 1997 and The Sopranos debuted in 1999.

    And Edie Falco, John Ventimiglia, Frank Vincent, Robert Patrick, Tony Sirico and Annabella Sciorra were in Cop Land and The Sopranos. Throw in The Goodfellas crew and this film is like a bridge between my favorite movie and favorite TV show.

    And somewhat ironically I fell more in love with Mangold after hearing his interview on The Sweet Smell of Success dvd, where he describes learning in film school under Alexander Mackendrick. Easily the best “Film School in a Box” feature I have ever seen on Criterion which is saying a lot.

    • sheila says:

      yes, it’s great – and I spent so much time in that area during my time working in the CNBC offices (long story) – and I always thought of Cop Land when I’d be up there. It was like this underbelly was revealed.

      I just don’t know why Heavy isn’t more well-known or discussed. it got good reviews. It has an amazing cast. It got a theatrical run. It opened in that weird early-mid 90s era – which pre-dated DVD releases – and so somehow has been lost to history – even with young film critics. It’s weird – it was such a rich time in American movie-making. What Happened Was… suffered the same fate – although that’s about to be rectified with the long overdue film release. Heavy did come out on DVD but for whatever reason nobody seems to know about it – even though James Mangold is still around, and gets a lot of chatter for his current movies.

      I need to write about it. Add it to the list!

    • sheila says:

      and yes – you of all people need to read Glenn’s book! He interviews everybody, down to the day-players.

  9. Todd Restler says:

    I have not seen Heavy although I do remember it making a splash. It’s weird to me how some movies just seem to fade away while others do not, but I should seek that one out.

    • sheila says:

      yes! I mean – Shelley Winters and Debbie Harry. and Evan Dando?? I’m going to re-watch and see if I can think of something to write about. You just don’t hear that much about it – like, at all. It’s very bizarre especially – like I said – Mangold has gone on to be rather big, and helming big movies! soo … yeah, I don’t get it.

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