October 2019 Viewing Log

Note: Any film with a parenthesis around it indicates it was something I got to see at this year’s Chicago Film Festival, which was super awesome. Any film with an asterisk indicates a different grade from when I originally saw it.

  1. Mr. Turner (14, A-): Firmly situated not just in time and place, but in the innovations and artists orbiting Turner, and the world he’s part of. 10/2/19
    1. The cinematography is so completely stunning, shifting in color and lighting to match Turner’s even as it goes above and beyond mimicking his aesthetic, which didn’t always look this ravishing. Surely Leigh’s technical peak, and just as rewarding towards theme and character
  2. Topsy-Turvy (99, B+/A-): Not as insightful on every point, but the overall portrait of artistic teamwork and creative ingenuity dazzles. 10/2/19
  3. Knock Down The House (19, B-/B): Every second of footage is moving and compelling, but inordinate attention to AOC misserves it. 10/3/19
    1. That is, I loved seeing her, and loved meeting the other women just as much. The film is valuable in lots of ways. But there’s *so much* more time with AOC, clearly cuz she won. Paula, Cori, and Amy feel deserving of ten more minutes apiece yet somewhat extraneous
    2. Knock Down The House weirdly handicaps itself from being the snapshot of 2018 its opening promises to be. But what we get is still a smart, aggravated portrait of many brilliant women attempting real change, and whose impact is still very much felt and appreciated.
  4. Eve’s Bayou (97, A-): Every image and sound feels delicately crafted, even as it grapples with familial abuses and prophetic sorrows. 10/4/19
    1. Lemmons’ script and direction are just virtuosic, and any director who helped coax Debbi Morgan’s performance would be worth celebrating for that reason alone.
  5. Easter Parade (48, B/B+): Very eager to please, with its songs, its leads, its silly outfits. Usually does so, with real panache. 10/4/19
  6. The Rainmaker (56, C+): Surely benefits from low expectations. Dubiously premised, not everything gels, but sincerely on Lizzie’s side. 10/6/19
  7. Holiday (38, A): Heartbreakingly sweet, organically funny romance so incisively premised on what it means to compromise for others, and for yourself. 10/6/19
  8. Judy (19, C-): So little perspective on Garland and the industries grinding her down. Zellweger’s good, admirably so, with almost nothing to support her. 10/7/19
  9. Joker (19, C-*): So charmed by its own nihilism despite having nothing to say. Political lunges laughable. Horrific take on mental illness. 10/7/19
    1. Two pluses: As @robsolonhamer said, the set design is genuinely impressive. And as upsetting as the violence is, it’s rarely prurient about it. But so much else about this character’s psychosis is gratuitously indulged.
    2. A lot of what’s good with Phoenix, the score, etc., feel like totally generic achievements. The ideas it’s in service to are profoundly vaguer and less provocative than its reference points. And the plot gets ludicrous too often.
  10. Alice (88, B+/A-): Still a phenomenal achievement of tone, editing, and animation. Wittier than I first realized. 10/8/19
  11. Parasite (19, B*): Starts off a daring, nastily funny parable of a poor family invading a rich one. Then it gets crazier. 10/10/19
  12. Bringing Out the Dead (99, B+/A-): Propulsive, baroque storytelling around a soulsick guy. Pulpy, exhausted, contemplative in equal measure. 10/14/19
  13. Husbands and Wives (92, A-): So viciously insightful about a group of intellectuals who know absolutely nothing about themselves. 10/14/19
    1. Of course, I wouldn’t want to grow up into any of those people, but as far as right now goes, I really hope I’m not Rain.
    2. Can you fucking imagine going to a therapist only for them to turn around and say they love you? What a goddamn nightmare.
  14. Tootsie (82, A-): I’m always caught a little off guard by it, the way it plays itself so smartly, breezy and hilarious yet building so specifically. 10/14/19
    1. I see what’s dated about its ideas, in ways that probably insulate it a little bit from aging too badly, but it’s kind of amazing to watch these characters learn new ideas without the film acting too proud of itself.
  15. Pain and Glory (19, B): Had a hard time getting past the style in the beginning, but it deepens and finds itself as it goes. 10/16/19
    1. My opinion of the film and Banderas really warmed up once Addiction happens, and especially once Federico shows up. The last scene isn’t its best, but I walked out more impressed than I anticipated, and I never stopped thinking about what was happening.
  16. (Harriet (19, C+): Film and Erivo markedly improve the instant she hops to freedom. Overstatements and limitations persist but holds real stakes. 10/17/19)
  17. (A Girl Missing (19, B+): Keeps finding new visual and sonic ways to unsettle its audience and suggest the subjectivity of its complicated characters. 10/17/19)
  18. (Portrait of a Lady on Fire (19, A-): Like its lovers, says and suggests a lot within a purposefully restrained appearance. Only gets better. 10/17/19)
  19. (Carmilla (19, B): Potent, superstitious mood. Not always well lit but its visual techniques are subtle and revealing. Great ending. 10/17/19)
  20. (Ringside (19, B-/B): Reveals such specific, insightful perspectives around fathers and sons. A shame everything around them is so vague. 10/18/19)
  21. (The Whistlers (19, B): Crime as a universal language and one all its own. Admirable tonal experiments but not every bit pays off. 10/18/19)
  22. (Clemency (19, B+/A-): All the more harrowing for how deeply it invests in the souls of its characters. Magnificently acted, especially by Woodard. 10/18/19)
    1. Hearing director Chinonye Chukwu talk about her film and how she collaborated with her actors after the film was so rewarding. It’s clear in her filmmaking how invested she is in people, and the way she talks about her processes and ideas fully reflects that.
    2. It’s a profoundly humbling experience, honestly. I think I realized how few death row films I’ve seen recently are invested in the humanity of the people carrying out the executions without denying their culpability, and how it impacts them.
    3. And enough good, great, incredible things cannot be said about Alfre Woodard, who illuminates this woman with such detail and insight, beautifully in tandem with Chukwu’s complexities.
    4. Aldis Hodge deserves a spotlight all his own for how mightily he externalizes and bundles together his hope and despair. Danielle Brooks adds a whole life into five minutes of screentime. I genuinely can’t wait to see this again, and encourage everyone to see it when they can.
  23. (Adam (19, B/B+): Well-shot story about two women studying and opening up to each other while harboring their own secrets. Refuses false dramatics on all sides. 10/20/19)
  24. (Just Mercy (19, B): Probably too restrained with its cast and images, but movingly inhabits Stevenson’s political clarity and empathy. 10/22/19)
  25. (Just 6.5 (19, A): Police thriller that sees every characters on individual and systematic levels. Never stops adding dimensions. Ace leads. 10/22/19)
  26. (Jump Shot (19, B-/B): Light, entertaining, and informative on a person and innovation I knew nothing about. Last 20 minutes too eulogizing. 10/23/19)
  27. (The Orphanage (19, A-): Direction incredibly dexterous with tone, character, and setting. Keeps finding new ways to express itself. 10/23/19)
  28. (Corpus Christi (19, B/B+): Great lead. Compelling ironies about self deception and honesty. Fresh in many parts, clichéd in others. 10/23/19)
  29. (By the Grace of God (19, A-): An unbelievably complex, upsetting object, adding so many layers in form, scope, and integrity. 10/23/19)
    1. To the couple a few rows ahead of me who were cuddling, giggling, and playing on snapchat during this film: what is wrong with you.
    2. Between Corpus Christi and By the Grace of God I had a very fun festival day when it came to films tackling organized religion.
  30. (The Prince’s Voyage (19, B): Not an unfamiliar template, but this parable maintains more layers than you’d expect. Great score and animation. 10/24/19)
  31. (Wild Sparrow (19, D+): Keeps finding new ways to be reductive towards its characters and their hardships without having much to say. 10/24/19)
  32. (The Vast of Night (19, C+): I enjoyed its pastiche(s), but spreads its story ambitions too thin to really make something coherent of them. 10/24/19)
  33. (The First Rainbow Coalition (19, B): In itself, its feels incomplete. Still, engaging and informative in a way that’ll hopefully encourage folks to do their own digging. 10/25/19)
  34. (Spider (19, C+): Present more stranded than the past. Some obvious triggers at least shake up its rhetoric. Maybe? Badly edited. 10/25/19)
  35. (Maternal (19, B+/A-): Where every individual character and the communities they belong to feel as though they’re driving this story. 10/25/19)
  36. (Atlantics (19, A): A haunted love story. An act of retribution. Gorgeously, sensuously realized, and magical to watch as it goes. 10/25/19)
    1. As hard as it is to articulate what’s so brilliant about this film, I can safely say it’s the most fantastically shot film of the year. Claire Mathon, who shot this and Portrait, is a goddamn genius. 
  37. Dolemite Is My Name (19, B/B+): Less risky than Hustle & Flow, but genuinely entertaining to its audience and rewarding of its artists. 10/26/19
    1. Pretty fuckin wild that a film whose whole point is “there are audiences for all art, especially in communal spaces, so long as that art gets the space to thrive” is being denied a theatrical run
  38. (A Thief’s Daughter (19, A-): Taut, morally provocative filmmaking suits this domestic drama as vivdly as it does A Ciambra or Dheepan. 10/26/19)
  39. (The Prince (19, C+/B-): Protagonist’s journey to become smarter than his sugar baby self parallels the film’s growing consideration towards a lurid premise. 10/27/19)
  40. (The Wild Goose Lake (19, B+/A-): Not everything is new, but the sly builds in tension and character plus the brilliant orchestration of style and key set pieces makes it invaluable. 10/27/19)
  41. Us (19, B): Allegory still doesn’t totally work for me, but the risks and experiments from everyone involved are even more impressive. 10/31/19
  42. The Mist (07, B): Could be more nuanced with theme and overall construction, but strongly acted and scary as hell, with great set pieces. 10/31/19
    1. Harden’s fantastic, and so is Braugher. Wish they’d had a real scene to play against each other. The whole cast is great but she’s so the MVP.

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