Cast: Sylvia Sidney, Oskar Homolka, Desmond Tester, John Loder
Synopsis: An undercover Scotland Yard detective investigates a potential terrorist syndicate who plan to stage a series of attacks throughout London but the plot thickens when his involvement with the prime suspect’s family turns personal.
Critique: Early Hitchcock films are a great deal of fun to watch, not only did he cut his teeth in the silent era, but flourished in the early talkies. And while Hitchcock was fine-tuning his penchant for dynamic thrillers, cinema itself was also on the grow. Watching movies like Sabotage, Secret Agent and Blackmail, you see and hear this director becoming the master we all know him as today. Hitchcock is tuning his cinema, nuzzling into the mechanics of suspense, weighing out the contrast of wry humor and action, calibrating technique and aesthetic flourishes in conjunction with the medium of film. Movies are figuring out how to talk, utilize sound and adjust to this pivotal change. By the time we get to Sabotage, we ’re watching Alfred Hitchcock (a name synonymous with the medium) and cinema undergo a very significant growth spurt.
Sabotage might not have the rapid-fire witticisms, pacing and set pieces that would make The 39 Steps, The Man Who Knew Too Much and The Lady Vanishes iconic titles from the director’s British years but it’s still an inspired companion with more than a few sporadic flickers of the master’s brilliance. The political atmosphere of pre-war British cinema was curious and reflexive in that there are the echoing concerns from WWI as well as the paranoia stemming from varied terrorist organizations. Sabotage turns its narrative toward a terrorist cell operating in London. Of course, it’s from an unnamed European country and their cause is unknown; this decision is likely due to the director’s penchant for omitting unnecessary details in favor of crafting entertaining fare. In the conversation of watching an artist’s creative ascension Sabotage feels like one of the earliest examples of a McGuffin playing a significant role in juicing along the film’s narrative. The antagonistic political motivations of the film’s interpretation of modern terrorism is disturbing, namely in the film’s famous bus scene where a bomb (which is being transported by a child no less) detonates, leveling a double-decker bus. In the 30s, this was a “what if” bit of thriller cinema. However, given the state of international terrorism and the multiple attacks on London, Sabotage is an eerily relevant movie that (perhaps) inadvertently prefigured the extensive destruction of global terrorist attacks.
Why It Belongs in the Collection: Alfred Hitchcock’s Sabotage almost has every standard qualifier for a potential Criterion release. There’s the LaserDisc argument. Along with the director’s other earlier films, Secret Agent, Blackmail and Young and Innocent, Sabotage was one of Criterion’s many LaserDisc entries. Recently, there’s been some Blu-ray quality restorations of Hitchcock’s early works and, of course, Sabotage is one of them. Plus, like so many of the director’s earlier films, Sabotage has fallen into the realm of the public domain. Many (including yours truly) were introduced to the early work of Hitchcock via cheap collector’s sets but the quality of some of these titles is abhorrent and, for some, even off-putting with indecipherable audio and crappy picture that doesn’t serve anyone, especially the movie.
Bruce Thierry Cheung’s Don’t Come Back from the Moon stands out less as a coming-of-age story or a portrait of economic malaise than it does as a simple, extended work of tonal discipline. In viewing the movie, you float from scene to scene on softy, grainy imagery, much of it captured during the magic hour. Cheung’s aesthetic command is laudable but often static, making his narrative feel inconsequential.
In a small, sparsely populated, rundown desert town (it looks like Salton City), the patriarchs keep disappearing. Frustrated by the ever dwindling job prospects, they light out for greener pastures without notice, leaving behind families who wonder whether they’re gone for good or just getting back on their feet so that their wives and children may someday rejoin them. One abandoned boy, Mickey (Jeffrey Wahlberg) finds himself torn between teenage shenanigans like getting drunk and falling in love with another forsaken kid, Sonya (Alyssa Elle Steinacker), and his sudden grown-up concerns like helping to provide for his younger brother (Zackary Arthur) and his now single mom (Rashida Jones).
Don’t Come Back’s most clever and subtle conceit is the way it emulates science fiction despite its low-fi, ground level setting. After one departed father leaves a short, cryptic note on his way out, the kids starting referring to these paternal disappearances as “going to the moon.” Even though the true reasons for the depleted dad population are empirical and pathetic, the air of the supernatural begins to creep in (accompanied fittingly by the blips of neo-synth pop that adorn the soundtrack). Continuing in this vein, the town itself begins to resemble a post-apocalyptic dystopia, with barren desert, twisted scrap metal and vacated, rotted out buildings in every direction. These kids can do whatever they want, whiling away the rest of their days in a place with no future. They have freedom but not options and certainly no hope.
Despite Cheung’s ambitious and quietly outlandish scheme, most of what the characters do is relatable in its quotidian banality. There are so many grilled cheese sandwiches made and consumed, it becomes a bit of a motif, a ritual as economically practical as it is weighted with connotations of youthful domestic comfort.
Don’t Come Back from the Moon is a largely superficial affair. Most of the performances, with the exception of Jones’ heartbreaking resilience, are thin. And Wahlberg’s flat narration is filled with on-the-nose observations like, “With all the men gone, we boys became men,” a pointless remark given that Cheung makes that notion visually clear in the way the boys settle into the abandoned neighborhood bar as a hangout, wearily drooping on their stools like worn out pensioners. Still, it’s useful to remind yourself from time to time that cinema is made to deliver, among other things, sensory delights. A little superficiality, when executed well, is more than enough excuse to go to the movies.
It’s kind of beside the point whether or not Victor Polster is good in the lead role of Lukas Dhont’s Girl. In fact, in this case, a good performance may not even be epistemologically possible. The transgender community has not been unclear about the casting of cisgender actors in transgender roles. The message has been sent and, by now, the practice is, frankly, unacceptable. So, from the jump, I was curious how, if I liked it, I would defend a movie that was so drastically wrongheaded before it even began. That, it turns out, was not to be a problem I was going to have.
Lara (Polster) is a fifteen-year-old girl and a very talented ballet dancer who lives with her father (Arieh Worthalter) and her younger brother (Oliver Bodart). She is taking medications in preparation for gender affirming surgery but, as the weeks and months go on and as she becomes deeper and deepter entrenched in–yet alienated from–her ballet troupe, she becomes increasingly uncomfortable with her body and eager to undergo her operations.
In the early going, Girl is rewarding in its observant patience. Long, immersive scenes of domestic life, school or ballet practice go by with little differentiation between events that relate to the plot or character arc and those that don’t. The result is effective and immersive, making moments like the one in which Lara’s teacher asks all the other girls in the class whether they’ll be comfortable changing in the locker room with her all the more sympathetically jarring.
At least Lara has a supportive family and therapist, the latter of whom instructs the cisgender audience to whom Girl is clearly aimed in the particulars of dysphoria. But Lara’s father’s reassuring words (“You are a woman so you have a woman’s body”) is an early sign of Dhont and co-writer Angelo Tijssens’ troubling preoccupation with physicality in general and genitalia in particular.
Even as Dhont shows such superficial sensitivity to the ways in which the smallest turns of language can do harm, he seems blind to the ways in which the things he leaves unsaid but shows in pictures worth thousands of words are insulting, reductive and demeaning. On the one hand, we are meant to bristle when a character uses the word “girls” to refer the other female dancers and, pointedly, not Lara. On the other hand, Dhont’s camera is constantly doing the exact same thing.
So many shots linger on the hips, posteriors and chests of Lara’s fellow ballerinas that the movie becomes mean-spirited. At a certain point, it’s impossible to differentiate between the cruelty of other characters and the cruelty of Girl itself. This preoccupation with the traditional physical signifiers of gender is not only hurtful, it’s a lie. Are we supposed to forget that plenty of cisgender girls also have flat backsides? Or are we supposed to surmise that they too are somehow less female, as Dhont seems to be suggesting Lara is (or will be until her surgery)? If there’s anything the increased visibility of transgender people in our culture has imparted above all, it’s that gender is about more than genitalia. Girl, for all its pretensions toward allyship, regressively insists in the opposite direction.
You hear the words “return to form” a lot with BlacKkKlansman, but Spike Lee has always been making bold and irreverent films during his entire career. However, this latest film gets a boost because of its mainstream success and brilliant performances from John David Washington and Adam Driver, who play an unlikely pair of police officers tasked with infiltrating the Klu Klux Klan. Make America Great Again? America is already great with directors like Spike Lee making movies like this.
Dakota Johnson stars as Susie in SUSPIRIA
Image Courtesy of Amazon Studios
Luca Guadagnino’s remake of the classic Italian horror movie of the same name delivers on the scares and blood for the art house crowd. Dakota Johnson shines as the new young star of a mysterious dance troupe in late ‘70s Berlin. One of the most intense theatergoing experiences of 2018 deserves a seat at the table.
Cory Finley’s directorial debut takes an even darker look at suburban life of upper middle class whites than movies like Heathers or Jawbreaker. Anya Taylor-Joy is outstanding in the film, but for my money Olivia Cooke is the one to keep an eye on for the future.
7. If Beale Street Could Talk
If Beale Street Could Talk deepens the mood director Barry Jenkin explored in Moonlight, but with a bigger budget and richer tone. The film also explores justice in an unjust country with great performances by KiKi Layne and Stephan James.
6. Mission: Impossible – Fallout
Tom Cruise jumps out of a plane and into our hearts with another go around as IMF agent Ethan Hunt. Six movies into the franchise and Cruise and director Christopher McQuarrie outdo themselves with bigger stunts, more thrilling action, and a story that appeals to the heart as much as the adrenal gland.
5. Black Panther
Director Ryan Coogler does something with Black Panther that no other Marvel Cinematic Universe director has done before. Make a creative superhero movie his own way, while also making a connection with superhero fans and general audiences alike. Black Panther is a cultural touchstone that will be re-visited for decades to come.
4. First Reformed
With a long and impressive career, Ethan Hawke delivers his greatest performance as a pastor of a small congregation in upstate New York, as he struggles with his faith in God and battles with alcoholism. Don’t sleep on Cedric The Entertainer either. He gives the performance of a lifetime as the showboating pastor of the town’s mega church.
Widows isn’t just one of the best heist movies of 2018, it’s also Steve McQueen’s best film overall. Starring Viola Davis, Colin Farrell, Michelle Rodriguez, and Elizabeth Debicki, this movie takes viewers through the underbelly of Chicago politics, while also constructing one of the tightest heist sequences in the genre.
2. The Favourite
Director Yorgos Lanthimos perfectly blends early 18th century style and political intrigue with modern sensibilities and comedy. Rachel Weisz and Emma Stone shine as two rivals vying for Olivia Colman’s Queen Anne’s favor and affection through the lens of Lanthimos’ misanthrope style… and fisheye lenses.
1. Madeline’s Madeline
It’s tough to watch Madeline’s Madeline without having a big smile on your face every time Helena Howard is on the big screen. It’s also impossible to leave a movie theater and not develop a crush on the film too.
Director Josephine Decker takes an audience on a journey through the mind of Madeline, a teenager who wants more from her mother, played by Miranda July, while also not really understanding who she is herself as a young woman. Madeline’s Madeline is a very surreal film that’s full of joy and brilliant movement.
Was Terrence Malick a genius with a clear directorial vision or a newcomer with no clear idea on what he wanted to do? It’s perfectly understandable to derive one or the other – or both – when watching Badlands, the directorial debut filled with existential stagnation.
Congratulations! With your recent purchase of a brand-new Roku/Apple TV/Amazon Fire Stick you’re ready to – as Obi-Wan Kenobi said – take your first step into a larger world. That larger world is, of course, the world of cord cutting, in which a seemingly endless supply of streaming apps, services, and content are available instantaneously at your fingertips. But with so many options of things to watch spread out across so many different services changing literally by the day, what’s worth binge-watching before it expires and you’d have to – (GASP) – pay for it? Allow Crossing the Streams to be your official guide to what’s worth watching before it expires, what’s just been made available, and what’s just plain damn good.
Watch It Now
Christmas is over. It’s January. It’s cold.
Don’t go outside. Watch movies instead. Start with these since they’re expiring
The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Netflix): Amazon’s Lord of the Rings series that looks to be the most expensive series in history has showrunners but very few details so far. Fans of Tolkien’s Middle-earth are a devoted and protective bunch, so the success of the show is far from guaranteed. Luckily, the epic film trilogy isn’t going anywhere (unless you’re a Netflix subscriber, in which it’s definitely going somewhere on January 19th). Collectively winning seventeen Oscars – including a perfect eleven-for-eleven for The Return of the King – and occupying three of the top fifteen spots on IMDb’s Top 250 films of all time, the films made Viggo Mortensen and Orlando Bloom household names, enshrined Sir Ian McKellan in genre circles as a godlike figure, and ensured that a New Zealand director previously known mostly for entertaining horror schlock would forever be known as THE Lord of the Rings guy (for both good and ill). At this point in history, there are no more debates to be had about the films; you’re either a fan or you’re not and you’re not being convinced one way or the other. They’ll be sailing off to the Undying Lands soon though, so if you don’t already own the impressively stacked Blu-ray set, this may be your last chance for a 12+ hour binge watch.
28 Days Later (Hulu): Until 28 Days Later was released, Danny Boyle was mostly known for his audacious sophomore feature effort, Trainspotting, and for underwhelming everyone with his adaptation of Alex Garland’s The Beach. Still, the director from Manchester had proven himself to be a bold and versatile director and it was his first foray into the horror genre that further cemented his reputation as a director whose work demanded attention. Shot on low resolution MiniDV tapes that allowed for a healthy element of guerilla filmmaking, 28 Days Later was a kinetic and often surreal horror film, adhering to the societal subtext inherent to many zombie films while breaking with their archetypical conventions in many ways. The film grossed ten times its meager budget, exposed many Americans to UK talents Cillian Murphy and Naomie Harris for the first time, and was the first time that Boyle would collaborate with writer Alex Garland, who would later write Sunshine (more on him in a bit), and DP Anthony Dod Mantle, who would shoot almost every Boyle project after this, picking up an Oscar for Slumdog Millionaire. In this current political and social climate, a film about a global epidemic called “Rage” seems all the more prescient. Its streaming rights will be wiped out quicker than humanity will be though, expiring on January 31st.
Reservoir Dogs (Hulu): Arguably the most notable name to rise to prominence from America’s independent film surge of the 1990s is Quentin Tarantino, the movie brat who famously circumvented the previous generation’s path to film education and stardom by eschewing film school and voraciously ingesting cinema while working at Video Archives in Manhattan Beach, California. Love him or hate him, it’s undeniable that the writer/director of Pulp Fiction, Kill Bill, and Inglourious Basterds has made an indelible mark on American cinema with a writing and directing style that heavily borrows styles and archetypes from preceding filmmakers while brilliantly repurposing and homaging them to elevate the story he’s trying to tell. It all began in 1992 with Reservoir Dogs, a heist film inspired by Hong Kong film City of Fire that focuses on the relationships of the criminals to each other in lieu of the actual heist. The film laid the early groundwork for many of what would become known as signature trademarks of later Tarantino films including irreverent dialogue, an effectively dissonant soundtrack, and phenomenal performances all around, including those from actors that Tarantino loved growing up despite the industry considering them past their primes (specifically Lawrence Tierney as Joe Cabot and Edward Bunker as Mr. Blue). Reservoir Dogs was nominated for the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance along with Gas, Food Lodging from Allison Anders and eventual winner In the Soup from Alexandre Rockwell, both of whom would later team with and be overshadowed by Tarantino when Miramax collected them all and Robert Rodriguez for the little seen and less loved anthology Four Rooms. Reservoir Dogs expires January 31st.
Notable Titles Expiring:
HBO Now: A Cure for Wellness (1/31), Drag Me to Hell (1/31), How to Train Your Dragon (1/31), It (1/31), Kingsman: The Golden Circle (1/31), The Lego Batman Movie (1/31), The
Princess Bride (1/31), Vanilla Sky (1/31),
You’ve Got Mail (1/31)
Hulu: Amelie (1/31), Death Wish (1/31), Existenz (1/31), Four Rooms (1/31), Hostel & Hostel 2 (1/31), Jerry Maguire (1/31), Pleasantville (1/31), Searching for Bobby Fischer (1/31), Searching for Sugar Man (1/31), Serendipity (1/31), Teen Wolf & Teen Wolf Too (1/31), Up in the Air (1/31), Winter’s Bone (1/31)
Netflix: Rogue One: A Star Wars Story (1/18)
Watch It Later
All of the titles mentioned in this section
have either just been made available, will be available soon, or their rights
have recently been renewed. Either way, they’re not going anywhere anytime
soon, which is good because you’re not either unless 30 degrees that feel like
20 degrees with wind chill sounds appealing to you.
Solo: A Star Wars Story (Netflix): The kerfuffle around Lord and Miller being replaced by Ron Howard as directors of Solo has been well documented, with many wondering how much the behind the scenes drama led to the (relatively) tepid critical and financial response to the film that effectively ended plans for more – pardon the pun – solo offshoot Star Wars titles. While Lord and Miller are known for their unique, irreverent comedy voices (21 Jump Street, The Lego Movie), Howard has always been a director that toed the company line. An auteur he is not but the guy responsible for Backdraft, Apollo 13, and The Da Vinci Code knows a thing or two about keeping the reins on films of massive scope and scale. Studio interference aside, Solo is an entertaining blockbuster with fun performances – Donald Glover (Lando Calrissian) and Phoebe Waller-Bridge (L3-37) especially – and a harrowing chase sequence that illuminates one of the most famous claims about the Millennium Falcon’s capabilities. From my perspective, people seemed disproportionally upset over what Solo delivered versus what Rogue One delivered, even though there’s objectively more evidence that a significantly altered version of the latter film exists (and is a less entertaining film than Solo). Now far removed from the backlash, give Solo another watch on Netflix, where it’s been available since January 9th.
Conversations with a Killer: The Ted Bundy Tapes (Netflix): I’ll be honest and say that I knew absolutely nothing about this documentary series – including its existence – before researching for this blog but what little is known is worth highlighting. The four-part series on the “Jack the Ripper of the United States” is inspired by the book written by Stephen G. Michaud and Hugh Aynesworth and utilizes over 100 hours of audio interviews with the serial killer for unprecedented perspective on his motivations. The series should satisfy the macabre curiosity of those who, like myself, loved David Fincher’s Netflix exclusive Mindhunter. Directed and executive produced by documentary stalwart Joe Berlinger (Brother’s Keeper, Paradise Lost, Metallica: Some Kind of Monster), the series will debut on January 24th.
Marvel’s The Punisher Season 2 (Netflix): Along with Jessica Jones, The Punisher is the only Netflix exclusive Marvel series that hasn’t been canceled (yet). While I was a fan of the first season’s meditation on how violence begets violence and supremely impressed with the work Jon Bernthal was doing, it wasn’t until I saw the most recent trailer for Season two that I decided I would carry on with the series. Marvel’s Netflix offerings all seem to suffer dips in quality in their second seasons (I couldn’t even finish Jessica Jones’s sophomore effort) and early reports say that The Punisher is, unfortunately, no exception. It’s worth re-emphasizing, however, how phenomenal Bernthal is as Frank Castle and I, for one, am curious as to how the show will reinterpret the Billy Russo/Jigsaw character, whose previous iteration was brought to us by Dominic West eating more scenery than his hooligans ate bullets. See for yourself if The Punisher suffers the sophomore slump on January 18th.
Leave No Trace (Prime Video): There was a fair amount of outrage recently when women directors were entirely shutout from the Feature Film and First-Time Feature Film nominations for the Directors Guild of America Awards. Nominations for Peter Farrelly (Green Book) and/or Adam McKay (Vice) very well could have/should have gone to Lynn Ramsey (You Were Never Really Here) or Debra Granik (Leave No Trace), two women directors who made films that are both currently being considered for inclusion in my Top Ten films of 2018. Leave No Trace is Granik’s first narrative feature film since her Oscar-nominated Winter’s Bone (an eight-year gap that she details in a wonderful episode of the podcast, The Business) and stars Ben Foster and relative newcomer Thomasin McKenzie as a transient father/daughter spending their days living in a vast public park in Portland, Oregon. When the two are found, placed into social services and given housing and work on a Christmas tree farm, the generational and psychological divide between the father with PTSD and his daughter entering her most formative years begins to painfully widen. As of this writing, the film still holds a 100% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes, yet has also been largely overlooked when it comes to end of the year awards. Rant and rave about how misguided awards voting is after you watch it on January 12th.
Eighth Grade (Prime Video): Of those aforementioned DGA nominations, one that I think we can all agree was awarded deservedly was Bo Burnham’s nod for First-Time Feature Film for Eighth Grade. The film stars Elsie Fisher (who can gush over any movie SHE DAMN WELL PLEASES, YOU MONSTERS!) as Kayla Day, an introverted eighth grader trying to survive her last week of school before she can graduate and move on to what she views as the greener pastures of high school. Burnham, who is much younger than his twoamazing stand-up specials and lavishly praised feature debut would imply, has always made the hypocritical and contradicting nature of staying true to one’s self a core theme of his comedy, undoubtedly informed by his experience of developing his voice and persona in the public eye as a teen on YouTube. He brings insight into what it means to try and be both unique and accepted in a connected world to Eighth Grade, which sees Kayla offering a daily, little seen YouTube advice column on staying true to yourself when she constantly struggles with how being accepted or rejected informs her self-worth. Elsie Fisher gives one of the finest lead performances of the year, supplemented by Josh Hamilton as her often clueless but always earnest father. Another film in the running for my Top Ten, Eighth Grade is available January 13th.
Annihilation (Hulu/Prime Video): If you haven’t yet picked up on a theme for this month’s recommendations, it’s films that are in the running for my Top Ten films of 2018. Annihilation got an early asterisk* on my list of films seen in 2018, but admittedly suffers from the fact that its early release – February 23rd – means its resonance has been significantly diminished due to the distance between my having seen it and my now writing about it. Thankfully, as of January 5th, I’ve been able to fix that and while I ::ahem:: haven’t yet, I fully intend to, because the things that I do remember about it – the haunting beauty of nature reclaiming its dominance, the dreamlike cinematography of Rob Hardy, the terrifyingly tense bear sequence – still stand out almost a year after viewing. Annihilation was named one of Ten Best Films of 2018 by io9 but isn’t without its minor controversy due to the claims of whitewashing the two leads of Jennifer Jason Leigh and Natalie Portman, who are portraying characters that were Asian in Jeff VanderMeer’s source material, which director Alex Garland adapted.
asterisk next to a title on my Movies Seen list in my Keep Notes app reminds me
to consider it for one or more categories come BPs nomination time.
True Detective Season 3 (HBO Now): What was raised by Cary Joji Fukunaga, Woody Harrelson, and Matthew McConaughey in Season one was killed by Nick Pizzolatto, Vince Vaughn, and Taylor Kitsch in Season two and thus, we now look to Jeremy Saulnier and Oscar and Golden Globe winner Mahershala Ali to resurrect it in Season three. The latest season of True Detective will take place across three different time periods and stars Ali as Detective Wayne Hays as the lead investigator on a brutal crime in the Ozarks. While Season three will emulate Season two in handing the director reins to multiple people across the season, it will benefit from its first two episodes being directed by Saulnier, whose Blue Ruin and Green Room were both exceptional films (I’ve heard good things about Hold the Dark too). Season three premieres January 13th.
Notable Titles Arriving:
HBO Now: Crashing Season 3 Premiere (1/13), High Maintenance Season 3 Premiere
(1/20), Brexit (1/19), Super Troopers 2 (1/5), Ocean’s 8 (1/12), Tully (1/19), Tag (1/26),
The American President (1/1), The Beach (1/1), Big Fish (1/1), In the Valley
of Elah (1/1), Logan (1/1), Psycho 1998 (1/1), Psycho II & III (1/1), Traffic
(1/1), X2 (1/1), Z for Zachariah (1/1)
Hulu: Atlanta Season 2 (1/1), A Simple Plan (1/1), Babe (1/1), Basic Instinct(1/1), Beetlejuice (1/1), Bill &
Ted’s Excellent Adventure (1/1), Bill
& Ted’s Bogus Journey (1/1), Capitalism:
A Love Story (1/1), Chinatown (1/1),
The Dead Zone (1/1), Dirty Pretty Things (1/1), Finding Neverland (1/1), For a Few Dollars More (1/1), Friday Night Lights (1/1), Gods and Monsters (1/1), Grizzly Man (1/1), Heathers (1/1), Hellraiser (1/1),
Lethal Weapon 1 – 4 (1/1), Mud (1/1), Mimic (1/1), The Others (1/1),
Revolutionary Road (1/1), The Running Man (1/1), The Two Jakes (1/1), The Virgin Suicides (1/1), Total Recall 1990 (1/1), The X-Files Season 11 (1/3), The Commuter (1/8), Brooklyn Nine-Nine Season 6 Premiere (1/11), Love Gilda (1/31)
Netflix: A Series of Unfortunate Events Season 3
(1/1), Babel (1/1), Black Hawk Down (1/1), City of God (1/1), Hell or High Water (1/1), Indiana
Jones Quadrilogy (1/1), Jay and
Silent Bob Strike Back (1/1), Pan’s
Labyrinth (1/1), Pulp Fiction (1/1),
Swingers (1/1), The Addams Family (1/1), The
Dark Knight (1/1), The Strangers (1/1),
Watchmen (1/1), Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1/2), Sex Education (1/11), American
Gangster (1/16), Carmen Sandiego (1/18),
FYRE: The Greatest Party that Never
Happened (1/18), Hotel Transylvania
3: Summer Vacation (1/24), Unbreakable
Kimmy Schmidt Season 4 Part 2 (1/26), The
Incredibles 2 (1/30)
Prime Video: A Beautiful Mind (1/1), Brazil (1/1), Beautiful Boy (1/4), Fahrenheit 11/9 (1/19)
Showtime Anytime: Shameless Midseason Premiere (1/20), Ray Donovan Season Finale (1/13), Adventureland (1/1), The Blair Witch Project & Blair Witch: Book of Shadows (1/1), Bull Durham (1/1), Eastern Promises (1/1), Frida (1/1), Planes, Trains, and Automobiles (1/1), Punch Drunk Love (1/1), A Single Man (1/1), Star Trek: First Contact (1/1), Trainspotting (1/1), Molly’s Game (1/5)
Just Watch It
Somewhere in between the titles that are
expiring and the titles that have just entered this world lay those that we’ve
either taken for granted, forgotten about, or just plain didn’t realize we
could watch for free. Let’s fix that because they’re damn good and they’re
waiting for you.
First Reformed (Prime Video): First Reformed didn’t crack this year’s Golden Globe nominations and, with the exception of an outside chance for lead Ethan Hawke, isn’t likely to be recognized once the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences weighs in on the year’s best films either. But make no mistake – the latest feature from writer/director Paul Schrader is one of the best films of the year and as of this writing, occupying a spot in this writer’s top three. First Reformed revolves around Reverend Toller (Hawke), the minister of a historical, sparsely populated, small town church who struggles with hope and spirituality amongst what he considers to be mounting despair and tragedy in the world, yet who is called upon to provide guidance for a pregnant congregant, Mary (Amanda Seyfried), when tragedy strikes her marriage. Schrader’s script explores the physical and spiritual health of a man who finds purpose for his life again after battling with despair. As is often the case with Schrader, where and in what Toller finds his answers and meaning is not without its share of controversy and outrage but First Reformed is a film with themes that emulate the journey of a large percentage of the population deconstructing and reevaluating what faith and action look like in the face of seemingly inescapable despair.
Schitt’s Creek (Netflix): When a rich family finds itself suddenly broke and all their assets seized by the IRS with the exception of a small, backwater town that their patriarch purchased as a joke – the titular Schitt’s Creek – it’s in and with that joke that they must live as they attempt to regroup. That’s the premise of Schitt’s Creek, created by stars and family members Eugene and Dan Levy. Rounding out the Rose family along with the Levys are Second City alum Catherine O’Hara and Annie Murphy. Veterans of the improv heavy films of Christopher Guest, O’Hara and Eugene Levy (A Mighty Wind, Best in Show) have instant and hilarious chemistry, but the additions of Levy’s son and Annie Murphy into the fold create a group dynamic that, in a similar vein to Arrested Development, battles with itself as much as it unites against the peanut gallery that surround them. Schitt’s Creek is absent any cynicism or condescension towards small town folk that could potentially sink a similar show, treating all of its characters with the same amount of deprecation.
Don’t Look Now (Shudder): Nicholas Roeg’s seminal horror film was an instant purchase for me when Criterion announced it as a Blu-ray release. Roeg, who was an accomplished DP before he became a director, brings an alluring yet ominous tone to the streets of Venice where Don’t Look Now primarily takes place. Starring Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie as a couple..
This week the Meltdown Gang gets together to create an audio culinary dish made of stacked layers of movie geekdom. Listen as we add layer after layer of geeky content… like a good lasagna. And eventually, we’ll discuss a very specific “bad lasagna”.
And while we fight off nazis and vampires, we also cover… The Predator, Derry Girls, Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, Leave No Trace, Bill & Ted’s Excellent Adventure, Clue, Red Eye, The Drive-in Movie Channel, The Howling Man, Bill & Ted’s Bogus Journey, R.L. Stine, hiding in the abbey, sit down giant Pikachu, have another chili dog, six or seven other people tied to chairs with similar cuts on their arms, has opened up a whole new world of possibilities to keep me from doing real things, we have the VHS, a weird fake spider book, Christopher Plummer is… fine, the old traditional scrolling through all the streaming apps, a peoples-worth of remains, Rachel McAdams, during the depression these two brothers moved to town, it’s probably the most devastating movie and scene from last year, genius Tim Curry, red and blue 3D movies, a whimsical tone, most least haunted, the multi-talented Chuck Connors, you’ve got to drink that deal with all the ghosts, William Sadler, Phantom of the Paradise, weirdly more academic, choose your own adventure, Ben Foster, later-era Wes Craven, a Civil War era man that was supposed to be haunted, it reminded me of when movies didn’t have to bum me out all the time, Cillian Murphy and that weird manic cocaine energy.
“…it revels in its own stupidity… but the level of stupidity is brilliant.”
There’s nothing better than watching a movie that is unlike anything you’ve ever seen. Celine and Julie Go Boating is a flooring experience. Rivette swivels and steers through the thematic, narrative, stylistic and even philosophical domains with the relative ease, as if he were an old hand in the form of improvisational, stream of consciousness directing. Coming from the modernized nouvelle vague Rivette’s cinema is the least referential; movies and their directors read like maps, Godard’s lineage can be traced through American gangster films with his now trademark revolutionary pop-art pastiche. While Truffaut was more sentimental works embraced cinematic artifice in favor of more romantic stories, and the (in my opinion) criminally underappreciated Claude Chabrol, who, like his contemporaries was a student of Hitchcock maintained a more restrained aesthetic but committed to a massive output of provincial chillers and sly mysteries. While the luminaries of the French New Wave were forging new ground, there’s still some air of familiarity in their work. With Rivette, there isn’t even the faintest whiff of recognition. While his framing is sometimes static and his stylistic chops paired down, it’s his revisionist amalgamation of all things relating to fictional storytelling that yield such a quietly ingratiating feature that is Celine and Julie Go Boating. The only time this movie invites comparison to popular storytelling is in setting up the film’s thesis of revision, the reflective opening title card that reads, “Usually it began like this…” of course, what follows is anything but.
Although nothing happens quickly in a Rivette film, Celine and Julie Go Boating is straightforward in showing us that it exists in a world where the mystical and ethereal play a central force in the story and that there’s an air of hypnotic mystery.
This is the kind of film you get lost in. There’s a street-hewn modernity and there’s a curious, investigative style of filming that invites us into this hallucinatory but discernible journey. The spirited technique makes the viewers active participants in the freewheeling narrative; the film plays in what feels like a choose-your-own-adventure book that operates with mystical self-awareness. While heady movies that explored themes of identity and dissolving personalities tend toward bold forms of expressionism, a la Bergman’s Persona, Lynch’s Mulholland Drive and Altman’s 3 Women. Celine and Julie Go Boating is daunting in length and at times obtuse, but Rivette doesn’t tend toward over emphatic confections but opens a new avenue of participatory storytelling that is cryptic, funny, modern, and challenging.