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Film diary: 2/20

If you’re on letterboxd, I’m here.

Films seen: 30
Films directed by women: 6 (up 4)
Strong recommendations: Room 237, Clueless, Okja, Suspiria (1977), Parasite, The Lighthouse, Lady Bird, Blade Runner, Kiki’s Delivery Service, Ocean Waves

Obviously, great month of film. I haven’t been reviewing them as I’ve been watching them this month, so it’s a much fuller diary than expected. I don’t expect I’ll watch as many next month.

Many of the new films have non-UK release dates, which I regret, but can’t be bothered to change. I’ve started tracking the number of films I’ve seen that have been directed by women to 1) keep me honest and 2) subtly pressure me into seeing more of them.

Quick note on inclusion: I put in short films if I remember to. I leave out behind-the-scenes docs unless I’m compelled otherwise. I’m making this up as I go along.

Full list follows:

Taylor Swift: Miss Americana (2020, dir. Lana Wilson)
Watching this film so close to release just confirms what a massive Swiftie I’ve become. Full review here. (1/2/20)

Hannibal Rising (2007, dir. Peter Webber)
There are a few interesting ideas in this boring, generic thriller that bears little relation to the other Hannibal films. (1/2/20)

Flavors of Youth (2018, dir. Yoshitaka Takeuch, Xiaoxing Yi, Haoling Li)
Run of the mill, slightly insufferable anthology film. (1/2/20)

Room 237 (2012, dir. Rodney Ascher)
An astonishing symphony of visual essays, where the spell is only broken when you consider whether you believe a word of it. Sent me on a (largely fruitless) search for similar films, which is a recommendation in itself. (3/2/20)

Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes (2008, dir. Jon Ronson)
Jon Ronson’s great. Apparently there’s a slightly longer cut, and it would be good if any version was more generally available (rather than hiding out as a Vimeo bootleg). (3/2/20)

Jojo Rabbit (2019, dir. Taika Waititi)
Not sure where this film sits for me quite yet, even after thinking about it all month. Taika’s definitely been watching his Wes Anderson before making this movie. While there are plenty of things to this movie’s credit, it has led me down a path where I’m now pretty sour on Hollywood films about World War II in general. I’m glad it isn’t the stodgy, over-emotional take you usually get of such material, but this isn’t really a film I admire or immediately wished to revisit. I realise now I was very influenced in my viewing by Stanley Kubrick’s Boxes, which has a sequence detailing the difficulty Kubrick had in putting together a film about the Holocaust (in the end, it remained unmade), as well as 1917, which is another film that stops far short of depicting the true horror of the historical situation in favour of making an exciting Hollywood confection around its periphery. Which is not necessarily a bad thing. Not to mention Oh! What a Lovely War. I’m conflating a wide range of both historical periods and approaches to filmmaking, I know, but my reaction to all of it sits in the same place at the moment. Apparently the film I need to watch to sort my thoughts out on it is Son of Saul, but I’m not sure if I have the stomach for that one yet. So, I’m sure I’ll watch Jojo Rabbit again, and see if it sits differently, but I’m in no particular rush. If you’re ranking cinematic conversations, though, it’s a much more interesting one than that surrounding Joker. No, I won’t stop beating that dead horse. (4/2/20)

Dolphins (2000, dir. Greg MacGillivray)
The photography’s spectacular, but the film is deeply irritating. (7/2/20)

The Abominable Snowman (1957, dir. Val Guest)
Didn’t really hold my attention. (7/2/20)

Clueless (1995, dir. Amy Heckerling)
I love this movie. Reminds me of being a teenage Californian. I’d watch it again RIGHT NOW. (8/2/20)

Okja (2017, dir. Bong Joon-ho)
That megapig shat its way into my microheart. (9/2/20)

Suspiria (1977, dir. Dario Argento)
Beautifully shot, some great murders, and an excellent score. What more can you ask for? (10/2/20)

Suspiria (2018, dir. Luca Guadagnino)
My second Suspiria of the night, and second Tilda Swinton of the week. This is the correct sort of remake, and a somewhat interesting film. However, it’s not an entirely interesting film, it’s massively long, and I’m not sure it’s argued its necessity. Still, worthy attempt, and plenty of interesting filmmaking in there. And I totally missed Swinton’s second role, so full credit for that. (10/2/20)

Hanna (2011, dir. Joe Wright)
Stylish, confident action. Part of “watch everything the young Little Women stars have been in” season. (11/2/20)

Call Me By Your Name (2017, dir Luca Guadagnino)
Second Guadagnino film this week, part of “watch everything the young Little Women stars have been in” season. My main takeaways are, in order:

  • I’d like to go to Italy
  • It should have been half an hour shorter
  • I’m pretty sure I’ve seen some of these places before in Before Midnight and Aquaman
  • Who wouldn’t fall for Armie Hammer
  • The best speech probably doesn’t belong in the film
  • Great soundtrack

I’m not sure a sequel’s necessary. (12/2/20)

Hail Satan? (2019, dir. Penny Lane)
Top notch. (13/2/20)

Parasite (2019, dir. Bong Joon-ho)
To quote Beyoncé, #flawless. You should definitely see this film unspoiled, and you should definitely see this film. Second #bonghive film this week. I hope the English-language HBO remake, if it happens, is a nice surprise. (14/2/20)

The Lighthouse (2019, dir. Robert Eggers)
I’ve always hated seagulls. This film is so far up my street it’s singing sea shanties in our back garden. The drinking game would be lethal. (14/2/20)

Lady Bird (2017, dir. Greta Gerwig)
Love love love love love. Greta Gerwig is INSIDE MY MIND. And there’s Sondheim! Part of “watch everything the young Little Women stars have been in” season. (15/2/20)

Goldman v Silverman (2020, dir. Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie)
As short films go, this fits the definition if not the ethos. (18/2/20)

Blade Runner (1982, dir. Ridley Scott)
It’s great to discover that a film not only holds up, but has grown on you, that you appreciate it more now than the last time you saw it. A blunt and beautiful movie. (19/2/20, rewatch)

The Man Who Killed Don Quixote (2020, dir. Terry Gilliam)
It’s a great film, but not one that bears the weight of 25 years of production. I almost prefer Lost in La Mancha, which is terrible to say, but there it is. (21/2/20)

Ghost in the Shell 2: Innocence (2004, dir. Mamoru Oshii)
I don’t get it, but I enjoy not getting it. The dog is great. The dub is not. (21/2/20, rewatch)

Pokémon the Movie: I Choose You! (2017, dir. Kunihiko Yuyama)
This is only occasionally the nostalgic retread of Indigo League it threatens to be. Instead, the storytelling elements and plot lines recognisable to fans of a certain age, along with the exploration of Ash’s relationship with Pikachu, provide a an emotional base for a better-than-average standard issue legendary Pokemon plot, the sort you get in the films. Mixing in Pokemon from all generations of the game, regardless of whether they’re from the Kanto region, was a great touch I think. It gives the world a cohesiveness the anime usually doesn’t have. I’m sure this film is tedious if you have no prior investment in the brand. Even though it’s a new beginning, it doesn’t really demonstrate its own need, or explore why the franchise means so much to people. For those who are unable to escape it, though, this film passes the time moderately well. (22/2/20)

Kiki’s Delivery Service (1989, dir. Hayao Miyazaki)
It used to be that I thought this was a pretty good film in a run of classics from Miyazaki. You know, sort of Ponyo level, very good, well made but not essential. This latest time I watched it, it really spoke to me. I was clearly in the mood for it this go-around, and I’ve stopped seeing it as a decent thing to put in front of a child, and started seeing it as it is, a beautifully paced meditation on growing up and coming into your power. It’s the opposite of flashy storytelling, and luckily I now get it, am with it, and want to shout about it from the mountains. Top notch. (22/2/20, rewatch)

Pokémon the Movie: The Power of Us (2018, dir. Tetsuo Yajima)
Sentimental nonsense. I liked it. Second Pokémon film of the week. (24/2/20)

The VVitch (2015, dir. Robert Eggers)
What a great era of horror films we’re living in. Small and fabulously formed, atmospheric, and a dark joy to watch. Experience only let down my having to watch it on the computer screen due to it being an iTunes rental. Both the second Eggers film and the second film with <spoilers>naked dancing witches at the end</spoilers> that I’ve seen this month. (27/2/20)

Pokémon: Mewtwo Strikes Back – Evolution (2020, dir. Motonori Sakakibara, Tetsuo Yajima, Kunihiko Yuyama)
Pointless. (27/2/20, technically not a rewatch but it’s exactly the same film but in a bendy new CG skin)

American Honey (2016, dir. Andrea Arnold)
Beautiful, meditative road trip through the American heartland, with a vein of sadness, struggle and growth through the heart of it. A sensory experience as well as an emotional one. (28/2/20)

Julie & Julia (2009, dir. Nora Ephron)
I wish Nora Ephron was still around, making great films like this. (28/2/20)

Ocean Waves (1993, dir. Tomomi Mochizuki)
A wonderful film about the horror of teenagers, being a teenager, and falling in love for the first time. (29/2/20, rewatch)