January 2020 Viewing Log

My 100th post! Got sonething fun coming down the pipe, but that’s no excuse for not keeping up regular maintenance. Anyways, here you go.

  1. Rojo (19, B+): Communicates so much through spooky precision of form and mood, even as how much “happens” is elliptically unclear. 1/3/2020
  2. Greener Grass (19, B): Satire of suburban identity crisis connects story threads and overarching stakes through surreal, mordant humor. 1/3/2020
    1. The script and cast, especially Jocelyn DeBoer, are committed without locking into one tone or winking at the audience. Great costumes and sets. Unexpectedly adventurous with its camera and editing. You could program this with Dogtooth.
  3. Long Day’s Journey Into Night (18, B): Remarkable, ever-expanding experiments with form, narrative, occasionally to the detriment of its own story. 1/5/2020
  4. Les Misérables (19, C+): Hard to give it full credit for the urgency of its story when its shaping and characterizations are this flat. 1/4/2020
  5. Parasite (19, A-): Saw this with the boyfriend. Even more dazzled on rewatch, by its viciousness, by the camera, by every single one of its designs. Think Lee Jung-eun’s performance might be my favorite of a very accomplished troupe. 1/4/2020
  6. Pink Wall (19, B): Could use some formal polish but Cullen and his cast forge a beautifully lived-in naturalism most films can’t quite reach. 1/5/2020
    1. I wonder how many people who weren’t really jazzed by Marriage Story would be impressed by the building up and breaking down of a relationship that we see here. I think both leads are great, and it manages to cover a lot of terrain without stretching itself thin.
  7. 1917 (19, C+): I mean, alright. Virtuoso “immersive” techniques just feel distancing from its characters. Best Anything, tho?? 1/6/2020
    1. The very best part was this old man sitting near the front who kept falling asleep and emitting a loud snore after every big set piece. Truly an icon.
  8. Transit (18, B-): I admired its mordant, semi-surreal, historically cognizant take on Europe, even as its ironies grew less rewarding. 1/8/2020
  9. The Two Popes (19, C-): Even the few things it wants to say are tinged with compromise. Ragged, ungainly craft. Leads give it some weight. 1/9/2020
    1. Wild how The Two Popes just refuses to let Pryce and Hopkins have both their faces towards the camera at then same time unless absolutely forced to.
    2. I totally get its status as a pleasantry, but I really wish A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood was getting that love. Not just a tremendously lovely film but one that actually has things to say about the men at its center. And it sees the people around them, too!
  10. The Farewell (19, C+/B-): I still don’t love it but its best scenes are so moving and insightful, and Shuzhen’s simply marvelous. 1/13/2020
    1. Spent the whole time impressed at how Shuzhen and Wang really allow room to suggest Nai Nai has some idea what’s up and is performing this scenario better than everyone else. How she and this film never caught on is beyond me.
  11. Evil Dead (82, A-): Fantastically shot and edited. Predictably cruel but its eye for character and modulations of terror are arresting. 1/13/2020
    1. So many images and camera movements are more striking than I could’ve imagined. The characterization of Ash as a terrified bystander forced into action is so much different than I knew him, with such a strong arc. And poor Cheryl!
  12. Evil Dead II (87, B+): Amazing control of comedy/horror tone. Stretches itself in so many directions you don’t mind when it’s show-offy or strained. 1/13/2020
  13. Pain and Glory (19, B+): Swoon-worthy intimacy with its subject, so clever with its revelations, and perfectly acted by Banderas. 1/15/2020
  14. Little Women (19, B+/A-): Indelible as a story in metaconversation with its own ideas legacy yet totally complete as a story by itself. 1/15/2020
  15. Clemency (19, B+): Harrowing and humbling dissection of its characters and their systematic degradation without once being reductive. 1/15/2020
  16. Tabu (12, A): At every turn, maintains a hypnotic unpredictability along with rare, stunning visual and sonic sensibilities. Flawless. 1/17/2020
  17. Edge of Tomorrow (14, A-): Deft, breakneck pace, yet so much room for gravitas, humor, and character. Brilliantly inventive. 1/17/2020
  18. Amour (12, A): With uncommon precision, details the inevitable certainties of its central couple as well as their ambiguities and secrets. 1/18/2020
    1. This was, in some ways, a tremendously formative viewing experience for me about five years ago. Amazing to go back and see what I’d forgotten (the visit from the student) and what’s stayed with me since then (the way Riva is lit when Anne asks Georges not to let her go on).
    2. I remember being tremendously overwhelmed, but also feeling like I was experiencing something totally new and had to pay close attention. It was upsetting, but I felt its warmth, and it really lingered with me.
    3. It’s hard to imagine better benchmarks for understanding what film can even do than the achievements Riva, Tritignant, Khondji, et al, set here, even if I couldn’t grasp just *how*special they were right away.
  19. Haven’t posted on any of the movies I saw this weekend. The big one is, after the fiancé got Disney+, we shotgunned the entire original Star Wars trilogy. Loved New Hope (77, A), loved Empire (80, A) even more. Return (83, B) is good but not on their level.
    1. All three constitute tremendous acts of world building and myth-making from thin air, in a way that feels almost easy to take for granted given how long the material’s lasted. But christ do they make it feel so real from the start.
    2. Think the pacing and plotting of the first two are incredible. Ford and Fisher in Empire are on fire. Design obviously beyond reproach. Think the Ewoks would goad me less if they weren’t playing Natives. Also, Lucas’s modern digital inserts are so distracting.
  20. Honey Boy (19, B): Amazing innovative, unusual act of portraying difficult relationships with yourself and someone else. Intimately designed, yet too hermetically contained? Great performances. 1/20/2020
  21. Selma (14, A-): Collective *and* individuated attention. Attuned to history yet scaled to human size. Every choice, every actor a gift. 1/21/2020
  22. One Child Nation (19, B): Bracing rebuke of governmental tyranny. Rare portrait of communal helplessness. Concludes on ideas it should’ve centralized. 1/22/2020
  23. Richard Jewell (19, B-): More dimensional than I expected in multiple aspects. Still pretty flat in others. 1/27/2020
    1. The Bates nomination is sort of surprising as Jewell’s lone representation, but I thought she was unhistrionic and affecting in a familiar role. Rockwell’s good too, and Hauser is genuinely impressive in a tough part. Keeps so many plates in the air where others would falter.
  24. Ford v Ferrari (19, C+): Great finish. Well acted, mostly fun, boringly shot; hampered in every way by Mangold’s flat approach. 1/31/2020
  25. Doctor Sleep (19, C+/B-): Sad, haunted, beholden neither to King nor Kubrick but smart with both. Could probably stand some compression. 1/31/2020
    1. So nice to see a King film that feels more motivated by plot or character than being a VFX spookhouse. That said, the fact that the one actress looked nothing like Shelly Duvall was very distracting, even if I’m glad they didn’t go full Sean Young in Blade Runner 2049.
    2. Talked to my dad about Doctor Sleep and we both agree that the most interesting stuff was about Danny entering AA and getting over his addictions. Would’ve sat with that story as long as possible.

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