I’ve set myself a goal this year of completing various lists of acclaimed films. I’ve likely reviewed over a thousand films here (typically in big posts of 20-35 movies each) so it shouldn’t be surprising that I’ve seen most of the obvious choices.
But there’s some stuff I haven’t got to yet. My aim is to take care of it, this year although with nearly a third of the year gone, I haven’t made much progress.
These films come from various books of the best films ever (The A-list, Taschen’s Top 100 films, etc.) as well as major institutions (the AFI Top 100, the Sight & Sound Top 100 from the Directors and Critics Lists) and the IMDB Top 250.
The full list is…
3 Idiots All About My Mother The Ascent Au Hasard Balthazar Big Wednesday The Bitter Tears of Petra Von Kant Black Girl Breaking the Waves Bridesmaids Brighter Summer Day Blue Angel Capernaum The Celebration Celine and Julie Go Boating Chant of Jimmie Blacksmith Children of Heaven Cleo from 5 to 7 La Cienaga Come and See The Cook, The Thief, The Wife… Dance, Girl, Dance Dangal Daughters of the Dust Dead Ringers Dersu Uzalu Death in Venice Diary of a Country Priest Discreet Charm… The Dirty Dozen Eraserhead Faces Face/ Off Fanny and Alexander The Fourth Man Genevieve The Gleaners and I Greed Gregory’s Girl Hachi: A Dog’s Tale La Haine The Handmaiden Histories Du Cinema Howl’s Moving Castle The Hunt Happy Together Landscape in the Mist Les Jeux Interdits/ Forbidden Games
Incendies The Intouchables Jailhouse Rock Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles Journey to Italy Into the Wild Jao Bhim Klaus Kes L’Argent Late Spring Love Exposure Like Stars on Earth Madame De La Mama et la Putain Mary and Max Meet Me In St Louis My Father and My Son My Brilliant Career My Neighbor Totoro La Notte Oh! Mr Porter Los Olivados/ The Young and Damned Orpheus Paris is Burning Pat and Mike Pink Flamingos Pixote Playtime
A Place In the Sun Salo Le Samourai Sans Soleli Satantango Scenes From a Marriage Secrets & Lies A Separation Snatch Sex, Lies and Videotape Shoah Spirit of the Beehive A Star is Born (1954) Taste of Cherry Ten Commandments (Silent) Topsy- Turvy Tropical Malady Under the Roofs of Paris Vagabond Les Vampires Waiting for Guffman Wanda Where is the Friends’s House Wild Things
Witness Written on the Wind A Woman Under the Influence Women On the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown Wuthering Heights Yi Yi Z
During this year, I’ve seen Memories of Murder, Meshes of the Afternoon, 42nd Street and Genevieve.
This is an eclectic watchlist. I suspect one factor is that at this point I’ve seen most of the films on multiple lists, which leaves some more oddball choices.
Whatever the policy is should be applied evenly without regard to the political party or the cause of the protest. If someone would be happy if Republican members were expelled from a state legislature for leading chants inside of the state capitol during a protest, they should support a similar process here. Likewise Republicans who support kicking out these Democrats should welcome a similar response if members of the party act in a similar fashion in a state where they’re the minority of the legislature. A lot of people think tactics are okay for their side, but not for the other guys, and this seems to inform much of the discussion.
There are specific arguments that the vote was racist because the white representative was spared, and that previous situations didn’t merit similar responses, including a fight, an incident in which a state rep’s chair was peed on, and one state rep facing serious allegations (and admitting to some wrongdoing) of skeevy behavior with his high school students when he was in his early 30s (although 20 years prior to his election).
The efforts to remove Jones (who is black) from office passed by 72-25, the effort to remove Pearson (who is also black) passed by 69-26 and the effort to remove Johnson (the white lady) failed 65-30 (it needed a supermajority) so the majority of Republicans (68 of 75) voted the same for all three legislators. Jones and Pearson spoke at the protest inside the capitol using bullhorns, so there is also a difference in action.
Pearson had only been in office for ten days, so he argued that there should be more efforts to educate new lawmakers on rules of decorum. That may have persuaded the handful of Republicans who voted differently for him than Jones.
With physical brawls, it’s sometimes harder to demonstrate who was at fault. In a protest, it’s clear-cut who did what. There is no question that the Democrats violated rules of decorum. If it’s clear who started a brawl, they should remove that person. In those situations, I’d recommended calling the police and filing charges.
One question I have is how Democrats who are currently upset about this would have reacted if the situation were reversed, and this was a case of a few Republican legislators in a blue state (IE- New Jersey, Oregon or Maryland) going with bullhorns to lead protesters in chants when the floor session is interrupted by advocates on some right-wing issue (eligibility of trans girls/ women in competitive high school/ college sports, opposition to bans of plastic bags, etc.)
I can appreciate an argument that Democrats haven’t gone that far to silence Republicans, although as far as I know, Republicans haven’t joined a protest inside a state capitol during a session.
One thing I’m thinking about is the connection to January 6. Plenty of people have called for specific Republicans to be expelled after January 6, but did any Republican member of Congress address and encourage the rioters while they were in the capitol, with or without a bullhorn?
I get the argument that Democrats think this is an important issue and are frustrated, but isn’t a lesson of January 6 that parties should accept election results, and procedural votes that didn’t go their way?
One one message board someone countered by pointing out that Josh Hawley met with protesters on January 6, Lauren Boebert was rumored to give a tour to people who broke into the capitol, and former congressman Joe Wilson yelled “You lie” during a state of the union address.
An issue with Wilson is that his comments lasted like two seconds, so it’s not the equivalent of an hour-long interruption.
Hawley met with protesters outside the capitol, and there were calls for his resignation (a key distinction is that he was encouraging them in something he knew to be untrue.) I would assume there are many situations where politicians meet with and encourage politically simpatico protesters outside the state capitol, without significant penalty.
As for the rumor that Boebert led tours of the capitol, she says that the only people included were members of her family. This hasn’t been disputed in the years to investigate that question. It’s also worth noting that she hadn’t even been sworn into congress, so she would not be very familiar with the layout of the capitol. If she lied to investigators, she should be expelled from Congress, but that hasn’t been established.
One argument is that Jones, Pearson and Johnson represented the will of their voters who wanted more action against gun rights. I don’t think the people saying this want to set the precedent that Republican legislators get to ignore procedures just because their voters support their stand on an issue.
The final argument is that this was overkill. It’s a fair point that this is a unique situation, but it makes sense to avoid copycats. Granted, there may have been better ways to handle this situation, including waiting longer than a week for tempers to cool down, and maybe censuring the three Democrats and setting clear standards going forward so that anyone who does something similar in the future is expelled, but there isn’t any argument on the lack of warning.
For this year, I’m setting a goal of seeing the films that have popped up on various best of lists that I just haven’t gotten to yet. I’ve seen most of those types of movies, but there are about a hundred or so I’ve got left, so this will close off a big chunk of my watchlist. These are films listed in the book The A-List, in the AFI Top 100, the Sight & Sound Top 100 (Critics & Directors), Filmsite’s Top 100, the IMDB Top 250 and assorted other greatest films lists. Early in the year, I do have a Regal Unlimited pass, and many of the Oscarbait films are out, as well as some interesting horror-adjacent choices, so I may be contributing to their bankruptcy by taking advantage of the offers.
Movie #1/ New Movie #1: The Fabelmans (Movie Theater) It’s a well made film with a decent cast giving top performances. There are some touches that Steven Spielberg is one of the best directors alive, like the ways he has Seth Rogan’s Bennie suddenly intrude on family events, or how we get a sense of how a teenager would respond to Judd Hirsch’s Boris. I appreciate how deeply weird the family is, and how Sammy’s talents are recognized which makes his home movies more interesting. It’s certainly indulgent, but fun. 9/10
Movie #2/ New Movie #2: John Wick (HBO Max) The trailers for the fourth one make me want to check out the whole series. It’s a good introduction to Keanu Reeve’s badass hitman, and does a decent job of worldbuilding. It’s a bit bland, like a competent version of things I’ve already seen in other films and especially R-rated comic books. 7/10
Movie #3: Avatar: The Way of Water (Movie Theater) Seeing it a second time, I get an appreciation for how well it continues the saga while being completely different thanks to the focus on the next generation. It’s pretty good at capturing the turmoil of adolescence, and the effects are astounding, potentially the best of any movie. 8/10
Movie #4/ New Movie #3: The Woman King (Movie Theater) It’s great to see Viola Davis as a warrior action hero like Braveheart or Henry V. The film has a good sense of the culture it depicts, although the personal drama is much more interesting than the conflict with relatively bland bad guys. 7/10
Movie #5: Friday the 13th (Movie Theater) The Regal chain decided to show this on Friday the 13th, which was a welcome use of my Unlimited Pass. It’s pretty good at capturing a specific atmosphere of an empty campground in New Jersey, and establishes some suspense as characters realize what’s going on one at a time. The Psycho influence is pretty damn obvious. I didn’t really care for the final act when the bad guy was revealed, although the last twist elevated this above most horror movies. 8/10
Movie #6/ New Movie #4: The Child (Blu-Ray) This was an odd regional horror, with a creepy sense of atmosphere before the big reveal (although that’s kind of spoiled by many of the loglines.) Like many of the other films in Arrow’s American Horror Project, it’s interesting and the extras provide some context, but it’s not quite great. 7/10
Movie #7/ New Movie #5: Mothra VS Godzilla (Blu-Ray) The Godzilla crossover is charming but slight. I do like the fairies and the resolution. 7/10
Short Movie #1: The Black Tower (Mubi) This is an interesting example of the power of film, a shorter piece with one narrator mainly speaking over a series of photographs, mostly about architecture that manages a tell a story is compelling, unsettling and suited for the format. 9/10
Movie #8/ New Movie #6: The Whale (Movie Theater) I appreciated this film. Brendan Fraser is excellent at capturing someone grotesque and nuanced. The crammed house is appropriately claustrophobic. The rest of the cast is pretty good. Some of the criticism seems misguided. This is not about gawking at a morbidly obese guy, but a self-destructive man’s search for meaning. It’s not about the audience thinking we’re better than the lead, but recognizing that we may be capable of falling so low. 8/10
Movie #9/ New Movie #7/ Listed #1: 42nd Street (HBO Max) This pre-code backstage musical is perfectly fine. It’s got some decent lines, and excellent set pieces which do lead to some layered performances, as we often have actors playing someone else performing a role. It captures a few specifics pretty well like the division between juvenile and adult actors. Given how she steals the show in a small role, I’m not shocked that Ginger Rogers would go on to be one of the biggest stars in Hollywood. 8/10
Movie #10/ New Movie #8: Puss in Boots: The Last Wish (Movie Theater) It’s an excellent all-ages film, much better than I expected- best in this film universe since Shrek, and possibly even better. It gives the comic relief hero a decent arc, with a really good mix of villains (even if a twist with the wolf was spoiled by all the memes.) 9/10
Movie #11/ New Movie #9/ Listed #2: Genevieve (Amazon Rental) It’s a fun specific family-friendly comedy about a silly rivalry between two vintage automobile enthusiasts that drags their significant others into it. It’s charming and funny, with mostly low-stakes set pieces, though the references may be lost now that the contemporary cars in the film are much older than the titular Genevieve was when this film came out. 8/10
Movie #12/ New Movie #10: Women Talking (Movie Theater) It’s a compelling drama about people who have discovered a terrible betrayal who have a limited amount of time to make a difficult decision. There are a solid performances from a mix of largely unknown actresses who convey the humility of the characters, and three of the best of their generation highlighting different sides of a messed up situation. Some of the comments by illiterate Mennonites do seem a bit anachronistic, but that’s a minor quibble. 8/10
Movie #13/ New Movie #11: Skinamarink (Movie Theater) This is a very strange film. The style makes it hard to make sense of the narrative, but it has a nightmare logic to it. It may be appreciated with more concentration than I could provide on the Saturday night I saw it. N/A
Short Movie #2: Train Again (Mubi) It’s an odd film to try to grade. I watched it my train buff dad, who appreciated what he could recognize. It’s very impressionistic, going with the experience of being on a train or seeing early film. 7/10
Movie #14: Close Encounters of the Third Kind (Blu-Ray) This film may do something that ten percent of films ever made tried to do, and it may have done it better than any of them, in the focus on an ordinary man who receives a great calling. It’s a sci-fi story where the drama comes from a family’s breakdown after the father saw something that overwhelmed him. Visually, it’s fantastic, feeling like a golden age of Hollywood alien story with better effects, and better emotional realism. 10/10
Movie #15: Total Recall (HBO Max) It’s not a perfect film, but it is interesting in contrast to 21st Century CGI stuff in the use of practical effects, and just a different sensibility. And they have some fun with the question of whether it’s all in his head. 8/10
Movie #16: Mars Attacks (HBO Max) It is a very weird and esoteric film that was released as an attempt at a blockbuster in the mid-90s. I can see why it flopped, but as someone who appreciates weird films, I did ultimately like it. Quite a few of the set pieces are excellent. 7/10
Movie #17/ New Movie #12: Turn Every Page (Movie Theater) There’s something generic about this documentary. It’s well-made but has a similar vibe to PBS style projects that interview an accomplished legend and show clips of him when he was younger. The stories are interesting, and it covers a partnership between two people who are at the peak of their industries (editing and political non-fiction) with some differences (Caro is methodical; Gottlieb is prolific) but it’s a good look at how to achieve excellence. 8/10
Movie #18/ New Movie #13: A Knock at the Cabin (Movie Theater) This is a creepy home-invasion story that lives up to the premise. It’s not perfect in setting up an absurdly difficult choice for the young family, although the questions about why they’re targeted work. The performances are also decent, with this as potentially the best on-screen version of Batista’s reluctant gentle giant persona. 8/10
Movie #19/ New Movie #14: Megan (Movie Theater) This Frankenstein story has some fun with the visuals of a living doll, and something to say about modern parenting and business. It’s not as slight as you would think, and it’s fun. 8/10
Movie #20: Titanic (Movie Theater) Man am I glad I saw this film again in theaters. It’s just better than I remember, and I was blown away when I first saw it. This time I saw it twice. There are little things that make it endlessly rewatchable, and it sells the idea that these made-up people are the main characters in a much covered tragedy. It’s the definitive film romance of my lifetime. 10/10
Movie #21/ New Movie #15: Antman and the Wasp Quantamania(Movie Theater) I really don’t get the negative reviews. Is it a backlash to the dominance of the MCU? Is it about cancelling Evangeline Lilly and Bill Murray? Is it that people were expecting a caper like the first two? Is it too obviously a set-up for sequels?
It’s fine. Jonathan Majors is impressive as the big villain. The family drama is okay, and the interactions are fun. The CGI is generic, and while Kang’s okay here, we don’t get a sense that he’s an Avengers-level threat. 7/10
Movie #22/ New Movie #16: Dune 1984 Fan Edit (Download) The version I saw is a fan-edit (The Alternative Edition V2 by SpiderDiver) so some of the weirdness of watching the film may be due to the inherent difficulty of making a special version of the film that there has disavowed, with extras assembled by other people. One takeaway is that the Denis Villeneuve version (which covers two-thirds of this) is much better. This is more of an interesting mess than anything else, although there is much to recommend in set designs, and oddball 1980s visuals. 6/10
Movie #23/ New Movie #17: Crazy Rich Asians (HBO Max) It’s a well-made romantic comedy that tackles familiar tropes (woman realizes her boyfriend’s family is rich and sees her as an outsider) elevated by strong performances from Constance Wu and Michelle Yeoh, and the specificity with which it handles the culture clash between Asian-Americans and the Singapore upper class. 8/10
Short Movie #3/ Listed #3: Meshes of the Afternoon (Vimeo) This is kooky and interesting, possibly the best short avant-garde film. It’s a puzzle but an enjoyable one, with some truly amazing sequences. It’s staggering that it was made 80 years ago. 10/10
Movie #24/ New Movie #18: Burial (Mubi) This was an odd project, an avant-garde tone poem about the decommissioning of a Lithuanian power plant. The sequences are often amazing, although I’d honestly prefer a more straightforward narrative, given all the questions that are raised with the difficulty of shutting down a functioning nuclear power plant. 7/10
Short Movie #4: Short Films of the Daniels (Vimeo) This is a catch-all for shorter films and musical videos the Daniels put on their Vimeo channel. The two gentlemen are interesting and weird, but really good at what they do. These shorter pieces show their range, from a father singing to his infant kid to visually stunning silliness. 9/10
Movie #25/ New Movie #19: All Quiet on the Western Front (Movie Theater) The cinematography is stunning and definitely worth seeing on the big screen. It’s a beautiful film about the horrors of war, especially for the poor suckers on the losing side.
It’s the last best picture nominee I’ve seen from this batch, and an example of how it’s a strong category this year. 9/10
Movie #26: Top Gun Maverick (Movie Theater) Still awesome. 10/10
Movie #27: Everything, Everywhere All at Once (Movie Theater) It’s my favorite Best Picture winner since Return of the King. I get why it did so well in the acting Oscars, giving performers opportunities to show their range, as well as character growth in quite a few of the universes. 10/10
Movie #28: Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon (Movie Theater) Man, this was exceptional. It’s a lovely story of the clash between love an duty in the guise of a martial arts drama. It was great to see it in theaters. 10/10
Movie #29: Green Book (DVD) I got inspired to watch it again after Youtube recommended more clips. It’s still a fantastic two-hander, and I think some of the detractors are still out of their minds to not want something this entertaining to exist, especially since this may be able to persuade people to be better, rather than just preaching to the converted. 9/10
Short Movie #5: Interesting Ball (Vimeo) This is the longest video the Daniels put on their Vimeo channel, and it gives more than a few hints about their interests in Everything Everywhere All At Once, with a man on a bad date considering the implications of the multiverse. 9/10
Movie #30/ New Movie #20: Cocaine Bear (Movie Theater) This is a movie that knows exactly what it is: a 1980s-infused horror comedy about a bear doing cocaine. Some decent and not-so-decent people die in vicious ways. A bit of a Sam Raimi pastiche, but that’s part of the charm. 8/10
I’m not a fan of the idea of student loan forgiveness.
If people got screwed over, we should look into reforming the immoral institutions that did it, and protect future college students.
In most cases, adults chose to make an expenditure. For some of them, it worked out. For some of them, it didn’t. On average, people who have gone to college earn more money than those who didn’t, so there is also a bit of a class element, in the idea that student debt would be repaid for college students, but that blue-collar workers won’t be compensated for the professional investments they made (IE- the purchase of a truck.)
This is one of the biggest failings of the left, as it does seem to be an issue where they’re at fault. The teachers unions that are supposed to make sure that every mainstream graduate is ready for college are a major force in Democratic politics. The employees in academia are likely to be progressive. The main reason college is so expensive is administrative bloat, and regulations mandating unnecessary spending.
The costs in college are ridiculous. The main solution is less government involvement rather than more. One major reason college is so expensive is that there are regulations that mandate spending on things that aren’t essential for educating young adults. If these regulations were carefully altered, it would be possible to start new schools that are much more efficient. Existing schools would also now have an incentive to lower costs a bit in order to compete. Why should student loans be forgiven when universities who are so wasteful many of their students are in debt are making no effort to respond to Bowen’s rule and cut every penny of inessential spending?
One counterargument is that student loan forgiveness is about helping people who had bad luck, but there is an element of choice in the decisions to pay or not pay loans. Obviously, for some people the reason they’re able to pay their student debt faster isn’t because they worked harder, or because they made wise decisions (IE- picking a stem major rather than something that doesn’t correlate to high income.) It may be because they had relatives who worked hard (or wealthy relatives who didn’t work hard) and sometimes there will be some kind of lucky break. Likewise, some people who aren’t able to pay their debt could have tried hard, but had bad luck (entered the job market at the wrong time, needed to take care of other expenses a prudent man would consider worthwhile, etc.) However, on average, the average person who has paid off their debts is more responsible than the average person who has not. We should generally encourage people to pay off their debts as quickly as is prudent. There may be a place for government intervention for people who are unable to pay college loans, but this works better if that number is as low as possible.
Conservatives do tend to argue that life isn’t fair, and you should put yourself in a position to do something about that. Typically, doing something is working harder, or working smarter (selecting professions with upward mobility, moving to locations where jobs are available) rather than taking money from people who are lower on the income level, or who have taken care of their responsibilities.
Sometimes we have targeted aid at people affected by a specific problem, especially if there’s the understanding that a failure to fix that problem immediately has consequences later (IE- bank collapses will take down a lot of people.) In these comparisons, we have to consider the amounts of money. The auto bailouts cost about $17.4 billion. The estimate for the debt cancellation comes to about $519 billion. This decision just incentivizes colleges to keep screwing up with the understanding that political allies will help them out.
Supporters of student loans will compare it to Republican views on taxes. Tax cuts are different because that’s a decision to take less money from people by force, rather than a decision to take more money from people by force. We can believe that a particular tax or use of taxpayer funding is worthwhile, but that’s a different question.
Sometimes people will bring religion into it, with the implication that Christians should be happy with taxpayer money paying off loans. Religious conversations are very quickly going to be messy. If someone has very different values, any discussion of their views may end up being an argument about a caricature. Personally I would not want to make any policy decisions based on my understanding of theology. It would be shameful to waste other people’s money because I lacked the historical context to understand some bible passage.
Government aid is also distinct from charity, since this is not about people making the decision to help others, but it’s the government taking money from others to pay a group that is on average more privileged (most Americans did not finish college) and where the people who screwed up tend to be Democrats (the people who run teachers unions and colleges), who are overrepresented among the debtors.
There is another argument that colleges should be extensions of public schools, costing just as much. We should make K-12 better so that college isn’t seen as the way to get the barest socially acceptable education. I certainly agree that we should have more of these alternatives available and look into reducing requirements that job applicants have college degrees.
I’m also curious on the implications here in shifting to a public school model for colleges. How would you have any quality control? What restrictions will there be on students when money’s no longer a limit?
With the idea that the government should run things more efficiently, spending isn’t a binary where the only choices are that it’s obviously essential or obviously wasteful. There are things that are defensible, but shouldn’t be mandatory. Should the government make it illegal to have a fancy student activities center? Should they provide some kind of bare minimum alternative?
One idea was to have students pay back a portion of their salary, although there is a potential perverse incentive here. It’s a much better deal for colleges that have law schools, since those students would be expected to make more money, and it rewards colleges for discouraging students from going in to less financially rewarding work (IE- public defense, government.) Law schools are going to want students who will get paid a lot of money to call Harvey Weinstein’s accusers liars rather than anyone who might work for the Legal Aid society.
We’ll see how the voters who don’t have student loans respond to policies that are going to favor those with above-average income.
Movie #151/ New Movie #101: Smile (Movie Theater) It can be a bit derivative. Some of the performances seem off in a way that isn’t clearly intentional. Some effects work better than others. The trauma metaphor is quite obvious. But it’s creepy. Sosie Bacon is really effective at depicting someone who was tightly wound becoming unhinged. Writer/ Director Parker Finn plays with expectations in interesting ways. 8/10
Short Movie #23: Laura Hasn’t Slept (Youtube) A creepy proof of concept for the superior Smile. It doesn’t have the clever ideas, although it does have the atmosphere and chilling performances. 7/10
Movie #152: In the Mood For Love (Movie Theater) This is a film about middle-class people in 1960s Hong Kong forming a relationship because their spouses are having an affair. How is it so beautiful? It provides its mood astoundingly well. 10/10
Short Movie #24: Werewolf By Night (Disney Plus) It’s an oddball project: a one-off special in the style of a Universal horror film. But it works really well, playing a bit with expectations while going into a monster hunt story. Gael García Bernal and Laura Donnelly are effective at introducing their leads. 8/10
Movie #153/ New Movie #102: Police Story (Criterion Blu-Ray) An action comedy with fantastic practical effects that sometimes goes in unexpected directions. It’s tonally quite varied, but it’s fun and an excellent showcase for a young Jackie Chan. 9/10
Movie #154/ New Movie #103: The Great Buster (Mubi) It’s a decent documentary on a film genius, getting into his troubled beginnings. Structurally there’s a clever decision to focus on his renewed reputation at the end, so it can conclude with the films that made his reputation, even if those would chronologically be in the center. 7/10
Movie #155/ New Movie #104: Triangle of Sadness (Movie Theater) This is an oddball project, with three sections that have different tones dealing with many of the same characters. Some of the discussions about ideas are kind of obvious, and it seems some people really hate the film (my brother thought it was overlong and might have a white supremacist message in a plot point in the final section when one character becomes powerful.) I can believe the ridiculousness depicted here, which helps the satire. Dolly De Leon is a revelation in the final act. 8/10
Movie #156/ New Movie #105: Police Story 2 (Criterion Blu-Ray) It’s a bit more padded than the original, and not as innovative, but it’s definitely worth checking out. The sequel is a lot of fun, making the case that Jackie Chan may be the best ever in the arena of action comedy. There are some fantastic set pieces, and the great use of long shots likely makes it worth it seeing on the big screen if you ever have the chance (I saw it on the quite decent Criterion Blu-ray.) 8/10
Movie #157/ New Movie #106: Terrifier 2 (Movie Theater) I saw it in a fairly crowded screening in a local theater which only plays it at 9PM. That’s a good atmosphere for a film that strikes me as a homage to a types of films it generally surpasses. Art the Clown is an over the top monster, but the film’s good at establishing the heroine who can stand up to him. Not for everyone, due to graphic violence. 7/10
Movie #158/ New Movie #107: TÁR (Movie Theater) It’s worth going into this knowing as little as possible, and worth seeing on the big screen for the visuals and the sound (a film about a conductor is best appreciated with a better speaker setup than the one I have at home.) The following’s in the first act so it’s not spoilers, but this is a film that combines the modern (a female conductor, smartphones and the internet, the aftermath of the pandemic) with classic themes of the meaning of music, and difficult artists. Cate Blanchett is amazing. I’m primed to like movies about big ideas where some key things are ambiguous, and this hits the sweet spot. 10/10
Movie #159/ New Movie #108: Halloween Ends (Movie Theater) The reviews were bad, but this is one of this situations where I blame the critics for failing their duty to distinguish from generic audience expectations and recognize craft. A good chunk of it is a Curse of the Cat People type of sequel in that it’s not the film you expect it to be, especially due to a new male lead. But the Scarecrow is an interesting character, and the entire saga (the 1978 original and the requel trilogy) is now a part of the horror canon. I think this elevates . 7/10
Movie #160/ New Movie #109: Armageddon Time (Movie Theater) It’s a decent film about the director’s experiences with his family growing up, when he wanted to be an artist and dealt with a growing awareness of antisemitism, with the bad luck to come out in the same year as Spielberg’s film on a similar topic. It has a good cast, and can lead to interesting conversations about privilege and responsibility. I do kinda want to smack some sense into the spoiled lead, but he’s a brat in a realistic way. 7/10
Movie #161/ New Movie #110: Rouge (Criterion Channel) It’s an interesting ghostly romance as the spirit of a courtesan wishes to be reunited with her partner 53 years after their joint suicide, and figures into the lives of a modern (circa 1987) Hong Kong couple. The story works to show a clash between Hong Kong in the early and late 20th Century, and the reality behind old myths. 7/10
Movie #162/ New Movie #111: Black Panther: Wakanda Forever (Movie Theater) Obviously, this was not the story Coogler and company intended to tell. They wanted to continue T’Challa’s arc as he faces new challenges and becomes more comfortable as the king of Wakanda. Real-life circumstances led to a new story on loss and mourning.
There is a lot that’s good. Namor as an indigenous figure is compelling, and he is an effective antagonist. It’s a star turn for Tenoch Huerta. Angela Basset is compelling as a queen struggling with the loss of her son as the rest of the world waits to pounce. However, it is the most like a TV show than any Marvel movie. Part of it is the way a supporting character from the first film is essentially the lead here. A sad aspect of it is “the show must go on” attitude after the death of a beloved cast member. Letitia Wright is probably the weakest lead of any MCU film (this is more of a compliment to the other films) and the earlier parts drag a bit when we don’t always have performers on the level of Boseman, Michael B Jordan, Daniel Kaluuya or Lupita Nyong’o, who is absent for the first half. There is a bit of Spider-Man No Way Home in that the challenge isn’t just to stop the bad guy, but for the heroes to avoid losing their souls in the process. It’s a grey and morally messy world, and the film reflects that well. 8/10
Movie #163/ New Movie #112: The Menu (Movie Theater) There seems to be an eat the rich mood with films like this and Triangle of Sadness, with wealthy and amoral morons getting their comeuppance. It’s a bit undercut by the knowledge that the director, producers and cast aren’t exactly middle class, and it seems to be venting about the conflict of making something special that can mainly be afforded by the rich. It’s okay. 8/10
Movie #164/ New Movie #113: Till (Movie Theater) It’s a well-made procedural from the perspective of the victim’s mother, showing her view of the murder case and the pathway to becoming an activist. It conveys the tragedy of a nightmare coming true. There are some good details, especially how it’s often up to the grieving mother to comfort others who are also devastated by the loss. And it’s a reminder of how nasty things were in living memory. I’d love for Danielle Deadwyler to get an Oscar nod. 9/10
Movie #165/ New Movie #114: Glass Onion (Movie Theater) It’s not a retread of Knives Out. Frankly, it plays with expectations from the original in clever ways. It’s a solid ensemble in a story that tackles a different group of rich twerps than Knives Out: this one is about disruptors/ influencers whereas that one was about generational wealth. Janelle Monae is as good here as everyone says. It’s the best supporting actress performance I’ve seen this year (with the caveat that I have not yet seen She Said, The Whale or Women Talking.) 8/10
Movie #166/ New Movie #115: Black Adam (Movie Theater) There are serious flaws in concept and execution. The movie keeps secrets about its lead for the sake of a third act twist spoiled by the trailer. The bad guy kinda sucks, and is less interesting than the Middle-Eastern family who takes up with Black Adam, who are themselves less interesting than the Justice Society. Dwayne Johnson is decent as a more dangerous than usual superhero. Pierce Brosnan is great as Doctor Fate, in a stealth Justice Society film (which doesn’t quite work when two characters are new members who don’t have any history with the other two so there isn’t much of a sense of why we should care about them.) 6/10
Short Movie #25: Guardians of the Galaxy Holiday Special (Disney Plus) It was fun. The 45 minute Holiday specials are an interesting diversion for Marvel/ Disney Plus. This one was a decent spotlight on Pom Klementieff’s Mantis, while riffing on the meaning of the Holidays and the characters in between the big adventures. 8/10
Movie #167/ New Movie #116: Lonesome (Criterion Blu-Ray) It may be better to go into this knowing as little as possible. This is an odd film that seems to try to be many things, some very well. Two young people meet and have a good time at Coney Island, with the director using some innovations which remain impressive and some which seem a bit dated. It sometimes tries to go for the universal, although the leads are quite likable. 8/10
Movie #168/ New Movie #117: I Know Where I’m Going (Criterion DVD) It’s not my favorite of the Powell/ Pressburger films, though it is quite pleasant. It’s predictable, but there’s a good sense of the Scottish location. 8/10
Movie #169/ New Movie #118: The Banshees of Inisherin (Movie Theater) This is a weird film in which a small local conflict in a tiny Irish island leads to extreme reactions. The cast is exceptional. Colin Farell gives humanity to someone who isn’t very bright, which is a tough trick in film. Brendan Gleeson may get an Oscar with slight fraud since he’s definitely a colead, though he is quite good at conveying one of the most intense midlife crises in film. Barry Keoghan brings pathos to the village idiot. Kerry Condon has the most traditional role of a woman intellectually limited by small-town life but she portrays it well. The whole thing shows how good Martin McDonagh is at interpersonal drama taken to 11. 9/10
Short Movie #25: Ls Chambre (Criterion DVD) It’s an oddball experimental short that likely influenced a pivotal scene in the recent Green Knight movie, and other work. It’s a showcase for a potentially interesting trick. 8/10
Movie #170/ New Movie #119: The Incredible Shrinking Man (Criterion DVD) This B sci-fi film almost seems like a procedural, just showing how an ordinary man realizes that he’s shrinking and what happens next. It gets to life and death situations quickly, and gets theologically heavy with weighty questions on the will to live and an individual’s meaning, along with charmingly dated special effects. 9/10
Movie #171/ New Movie #120: News From Home (Criterion DVD) It is weird to me that this is one of Sight & Sound‘s Top 100 films. I’m curious about the critics who rate this as one of their ten favorites. There’s no false advertising. It’s footage of New York interspersed with letters from Akerman’s mother, worried about how she’s doing and updating her on all sorts of developments. I can appreciate that it’s innovative, unlike other films and there is some complexity to it. I watched it with my dad who enjoyed the footage of 70s New York, and made some observations on the locations. 9/10
Movie #172: It’s a Wonderful Life (Movie Theater) I saw it with friends on my birthday, and it was a fantastic experience. One thing that works really well is how it’s a showcase for how Jimmy Stewart got a bit more of an edge after going to World War 2. The earlier pre-depression scenes show the nice guy audiences loved, but by the time we get to the crisis of the film, he’s pissed off about how things went. Honestly, it might be the best midlife crisis in film. Potter is a great bad guy, amoral in a way that people encounter in the real world. 10/10
Movie #173/ New Movie #121: Avatar- The Way of Water (Movie Theater 3D) It’s a big sequel that’s part of an epic series, but it tells a new and different story focusing on what it’s like to be the kids of the heroes (and villain in one case) of the original. The focus on water culture obviously fits Cameron’s strengths, but leads to a different sensibility and stunning visuals. 8/10
Movie #174: The Most Dangerous Game (HBO Max) I wonder how many people watch this film because it’s 62 minutes long, so it’s the bare minimum to meet various challenges. It’s a decent concept, and the sets are solid, but it does highlight the problems of early talkies when the sound quality isn’t great, and they compromise a bit on the visuals. The pacing is a bit odd, as it takes about halfway through the film to realize just what’s going on.. 8/10
Movie #175: Love Actually (Peacock) I really like how the film is structured, with multiple narratives meaning there’s no filler, and allowing the stories to get to more complex understanding of the meaning of Christmas and types of love. And it’s a fantastic cast. 10/10
Short Movie #26: Red Nose Day Actually (Vimeo) A few minutes of catching up on what characters we like are up to is a decent trend in films (later copied by the Father of the Bride Zoom sequel.) It’s pleasant and preferable to a padded sequel. 8/10
Movie #176: Die Hard (Blu-Ray) This was only my second time seeing the film. I’m getting a sense of its influence on a lot of stuff I like (Tarantino films, the show 24, at least one South Park gag) as well as references that are a bit dated now (not sure how many modern viewers know who Roy Rogers was, or what a party line could do for that matter.) Bruce Willis’ McClane is an effective protagonist; competent but imperfect, while Alan Rickman has an equally impressive breakout role as the suave Gruber, a bad guy who consistently seems like he could get away with it all. And it is definitely a Christmas movie. 10/10
Movie #177: The Muppets Christmas Carol (Disney +) This is probably the most successful of the Muppets, or Muppet style adaptations I’ve seen. Some of the songs/ sequences are great, especially the introduction of Scrooge. Michael Caine is an excellent Scrooge, and makes the muppetness of it all work, although the designs are also genius. 8/10
Movie #178/ New Movie #122: Babylon (Movie Theater) I liked it, but I can understand why it flopped. A three hour reimagining of Singin’ in the Rain by way of Goodfellas/ Wolf of Wall Street is not what everyone’s looking for. But it’s decent (in the quality sense of the word) and about something, and also about how the people in the film understand the value of the medium. 8/10
Movie #179/ New Movie #123: Close-Up (Criterion DVD) This was a strange film, but worth checking out for the generous exploration of a screw-up, a film buff who pretended to be a famous filmmaker and tricked a family, all of whom are playing themselves. The context of it is fascinating and worth greater discussion, but the generosity of spirit is exceptional. 10/10
Movie #180/ New Movie #124: Beau Travail (HBO Max) I don’t think I can grade it, which puts the film in rare category. It captures mood really well, showing the day to day life of French legionnaires, while a conflict beings to simmer. It conveys certain things better than any film I’ve seen, and showcases the potential of the medium. I get why it made the Sight & Sound Top 10. N/A
Movie #181/ New Movie #125: Three Colors- Blue (Criterion Blu Ray) It’s a well-made story of a grieving woman trying to withdraw from society, that avoids many of the typical cliches, and has some interesting techniques I haven’t seen before. 9/10
Movie #182: Modern Times (HBO Max) It’s too obvious to say the Chaplin classic holds up, but it does. I wish there were more movies like it, with filmmakers using universal characters to explore modern concerns, or even playing around with the combination of silent characters and carefully tailored sound. There are several astounding sequences. Paulette Goddard should not be playing a teenage orphan when she’s in her mid-twenties, the common law wife of the law and several years from a divorce with a coal tycoon. It is a bit episodic, which makes the ending a bit abrupt, although I appreciate Chaplin shows the problems without suggesting there’s one cause or solution. 10/10
Movie #183/ New Movie #126: Je, Tu, Il, Elle (HBO Max) I watch a lot of films, but I’ve got a bit of a blindspot with some arthouse fare. Recently I’ve starting check out the work of Chantal Akerman, whose narrative debut is very weird. It’s quiet, slow, primitive and mysterious. It can seem pretentious and self-indulgent, but it captures a particular sensibility rather well, with storytelling that is still novel nearly fifty years later. 9/10
Movie #184/ New Movie #127: Three Colors- White (Criterion Blu Ray) This is more fun than what I’d usually expect from Kieślowski, as he explores the story of a hapless guy who is a big deal in Poland but not in France. It’s ridiculous, while also dealing with serious issues. 8/10
Movie #185/ New Movie #128: Days of Being Wild (Criterion Blu Ray) This is a pretty decent movie about a screwed up young man and the people he hurts. The green filter on the Criterion release is a decent touch. It’s not Wong Kar Wai’s best film, but it’s a great example of how his major films are part of a specific shared vision. It’s weird and daring, but also satisfying.
As a minor note, the Criterion blu ray I had was a bit scratched, but I watched the last half hour on the alternate edition extra which was a bit more primitive. The ending is better on the original. 8/10
Movie #186/ New Movie #129: 2046 (Criterion Blu Ray) This is a strange crossover, building on In The Mood To Love and Days of Being Wild, with characters and themes intersecting. It’s more interesting in the context of Wong Kar Wai’s work than as a film. It does peter out a bit at the end, although it is a underappreciated melancholy Christmas drama. 8/10
Movie #187/ New Movie #130: Breaker Morant (HBO Max) This is an interesting and satisfying military drama, where you don’t have the typical good guys and bad guys, and it’s more of a legitimate effort to understand the messiness of war. It’s a good showcase for Edward Woodward, who I quite liked as the lead of The Wicker Man. 9/10
Movie #188/ New Movie #131: The Steel Helmet (Criterion DVD) This is a war film that shows how the genre got a bit more cynical in the 50s (along with the likes of Paths of Glory and Bridge on the River Kwai) though it’s not quite as dark as New Hollywood or Oliver Stone. It shows a group of infantry pushed to the limits and does address political issues of the time (racism, internment camps) in an efficient 84 minutes. 8/10
Movie #189/ New Movie #132: Bay of Angels (HBO Max) This French new wave film about a young man getting into gambling is fine. It’s a bit dull and obvious, which goes against what the whole movement is supposed to be. Demy and Moreau have made better films, although the soundtrack is nice and the characters’ flaws are believable. 7/10
Movie #190/ New Movie #133: Portrait of a Lady on Fire (Hulu) It’s a bit messy that this movie became a particular cultural touchstone, but it does work as a particular story in a very specific setting, and it also about several things. It is exceptional as an analysis of what it means to look at something else, which is always worth considering in a visual medium. 9/10
A weird thing about Senate elections is that it’s often based on circumstances from earlier cycles, with some incumbents benefitting from earlier wave years. Republicans had decent years in 2010 and 2016, which meant they were defending 60 percent of seats in 2022 (still no excuse for awful candidates in Arizona, Pennsylvania and Georgia.) The class of 2024 comes after strong Democratic cycles in 2006, 2012 and 2018.
Looking at the states up in 2024, this is how I see the landscape.
Democrats heavily favored to keep a seat California- Whether it’s an open election, or whoever is appointed to replace Dianne Feinstein is running for a full term. Connecticut Delaware Hawaii Maryland Massachusetts Minnesota New Jersey New York Rhode Island Washington
Republicans heavily favored to keep a seat Mississippi Missouri Nebraska Nebraska (Special Election)- Ben Sasse is retiring, but this is a state Republicans win by around 20 points. North Dakota Tennessee Utah Wyoming
Democrats favored to keep a seat Maine- Angus King is an independent who caucuses with Democrats. He will run for a third term at 80, and even if he changes his mind, an open election in Maine favors Democrats. Michigan- It’s a swing state where a Republican came within two points of unseating an incumbent in 2020, although Stabenow seems like a stronger incumbent. New Mexico- It’s a bit more competitive than New York or Maryland. Pennsylvania- It’s a swing state, although the incumbent is popular. Virginia- The popular Republican Governor defeated a former Democratic Governor, so Republicans have a shot with a good nominee. Wisconsin- It’s a swing state, although the incumbent is popular.
Republicans favored to keep a seat Florida- It’s more of a red state than a swing state now. Indiana- Open election Texas- Ted Cruz did win by only three points last time.
Democrats hold a really competitive seat Arizona- Sinema essentially counts as a Democrat here, but this was going to be a competitive seat whether she officially stayed in the party or not. Montana- Incumbent holds seat in state Trump won by 16 points. Nevada- The incumbent Democratic Governor lost. The incumbent Democratic Senator won narrowly. Ohio- Incumbent holds seat in increasingly red state. West Virginia- Incumbent holds seat in state Trump won by nearly 40 points.
Republicans hold a really competitive seat None really
This may be why there’s some talk about whether Sotomayor (a 68 year old with a major health condition) should leave the court. It’s entirely possible that after 2024, there won’t be the combination of a Democratic President and Senate for some time.
Much is unpredictable. There could easily be a Democratic wave year, especially if Republicans nominate Trump, or if he loses the nomination and torches the party. Politicians can have scandals, and lose sure things. Strong candidates can make a difference, as can weak candidates.
Quentin Tarantino recently suggested that he thinks the current film era is tied for the worst ever, at least as far as American films are concerned. This probably connects to some different views he’s shared (that film should have a unique identity, that directors are supposed to have personalities apparent in the movies, that it’s fine for material to be very R-rated, that practical effects are important.) I like a lot of the recent stuff, but I think one major subtext for these types of discussions is that it seems that in the last 25 years, there’s a lack of agreed upon classics, the movies that will be on multiple best of lists, so I want to explore why that is.
The early 1990s had some all-time classics in quick succession. Hollywood produced Goodfellas, Silence of the Lambs, Unforgiven, and Schindler’s List. In one year alone, we had Shawshank Redemption, Forrest Gump and Pulp Fiction. The last 27 years do not appear to have been as kind. There are some prominent films that are regularly considered among the best ever (Titanic, The Dark Knight, The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring) but there’s not as many.
So what’s going on here? Have films gotten worse? Is the audience more divided so there’s less of a consensus? Am I imagining things? Or is it something else?
I’ve been thinking of some possibilities.
#1- The audience is divided so there are less recent consensus picks. You like action? There’s the Lord of the Rings trilogy, Daniel Craig James Bond, and Mad Max: Fury Road. You want the continuation of the 1990s indie directors? There’s Kill Bill, Boyhood, and The Grand Budapest Hotel. Do you prefer films by women? There’s Nomadland, CODA, Power of the Dog, Lady Bird, etc. Do you prefer films by and about African Americans? There’s Judas and the Black Messiah, Get Out, Fences, Moonlight, Till and much more. Do you want historical prestige pictures? There’s The King’s Speech, Gosford Park, There Will be Blood, Lincoln, etc.
#2- There are artistic compromises for various reasons, with suggestions including the focus on superhero films, the advent of streaming services, a desire to get films to play in international markets, focus on CGI and green screens over physical effects, overreliance on wokeness, etc. This is one argument that’s been posed.
#3- Serialization means it’s hard to pick one representative example of a top franchise. What’s the best MCU film? What about the best Lord of the Rings? So this leads to a lack of consensus, even if as many people might consider at least one MCU film to be on the level of Pulp Fiction.
#4- Are critics more diverse? Perhaps the apparent consensus of the past is due to gatekeeping by an establishment that prized stories by New Hollywood directors about straight white men? Maybe the reputations of Shawshank Redemption and Unforgiven would decline in favor of Boyz N the Hood or The Piano if different critics shaped the first impressions.
#5- The golden age of television has taken some of the cache and critical attention of movies. Sylvester Stallone says that the one project he wishes he had done was The Sopranos, so he’s happy to do a streaming show by a top Sopranos writer.
#6- Critics and the culture pay more attention to foreign films, and with a much larger pool of films in the cultural conversation, it’s harder for an American film to really take off.
#7- One wrinkle may be the emphasis on, for lack of a better word, different types of derivative movies. A different way to phrase is that everything’s a remake. We have major franchises that are trucking along and we don’t even know what to call some new installments. Is The Batman a remake of Batman Returns (a previous film in which Batman romanced Catwoman and fought the Penguin?) because it’s not a sequel. Marvel’s been making the MCU fresh by using it to tell stories in different genres (Captain America: Winter Soldier was a 1970s style paranoid thriller complete with Robert Redford in a key role; the Antman films are basically capers.) There’s an emphasis on diversity and telling old stories with different contexts. Crazy Rich Asians was not the first romcom in which a young woman realized her boyfriend’s family was rich. Bros took romcom tropes for a story about a gay activist. So many prestigious films are about the history of movies and/ or in the style of earlier films. Lalaland is about an aspiring actress, and modeled on the Jacques Demi musicals. Many of the results are good, but there’s a difference between telling a good story in the spaghetti western style, and inventing something completely new. It could also result in some vote-splitting when it’s time to figure out a magazine staff’s favorites, as the derivatives compete with the classics.
#8- For whatever reason, recent films just haven’t taken off yet. Sometimes a work that’s been around for a while becomes popular for whatever reason. Shawshank Redemption was on the right cable channel. It’s a Wonderful Life accidentally went public domain. It could very well be that some streaming films weren’t promoted correctly, and will develop a later life.
One common complaint is that it takes a while to recognize that something has staying power, but it’s worth noting there are indications that previous critics liked some then-recent work. The first Sight& Sound Top Ten in 1952 correctly included the four year old Bicycle Thieves (good choice) and the three year old Louisiana Story (a more complicated choice that may have been a way to honor a recently deceased director.) 90s nostalgia is a thing, but it’s not the only factor here. Pulp Fiction, Forrest Gump, Goodfellas and Schindler’s List became mainstays of best of lists pretty quickly. Dances With Wolves was initially very popular, but then its reputation faded.
There may be weird stuff that has nothing to do with the quality of the film that affects its reputation. Pulp Fiction might be less popular if Tarantino didn’t use his later films to develop a cult of personality. The Sixth Sense might be better regarded if M. Night Shyamalan’s next film has a really good reputation.
It could very well be a combination of many factors. Maybe American films are just as good as they were in the early 90s, but need to compete with foreign films and prestige TV for exposure.
There may be complex factors that lead to movies of a particular time developing reputations. So it’s hard to figure out whether the new Hollywood films were a little bit better for assorted reasons (film needed to compete with television which led to greater maturity of subject matter, studios were more willing to experiment, a generation of directors was influenced by foreign films, movie theaters moved to the suburbs where more viewers lived, etc) or if a handful of movies released in a ten year period (The Graduate, The Godfather, The Godfather Part 2, Taxi Driver, Bonnie and Clyde, In the Heat of the Night, Easy Rider, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, MASH, A Clockwork Orange, American Graffiti, The Exorcist, Chinatown, Rocky, All the President’s Men, Network) just captured the zeitgeist even if these weren’t better than films released in another ten year stretch. Although that suggests that there are hidden gems in all sorts of earlier eras that have the potential to be recognized as all-time classics with the right promotion.
This is a continuation of notes on films I’ve seen this year. For this series, I planned to watch films from a few major movements, but because there was a Harry Potter showing at Regal films I got distracted and only got to French Poetic Realism.
Movie #126: Thor Ragnarok (Disney Plus) Watching it again, I’m a bit more disappointed in the follow-up Love & Thunder. This story is fun, and does a good job of slamming two epics together with a mix of excellent new characters (Cate Blanchett is one of the best Marvel villains, Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie & Korg are immediate fixtures to the supporting cast, Jeff Goldblum’s Grandmaster is a unique force) and showcases for Thor, Loki, the Hulk and even Anthony Hopkins having fun as Odin. It was fun to watch this with my dad who had no idea Hulk was in it. 9/10
Movie #127: The Social Network (DVD) It’s one of my favorite films of the 2010s, and one I keep coming back to. It works as a celebration of youthful ambition, and shows where it can go wrong. It should’ve been nominated for supporting Oscars, and won more. 10/10
Movie #128/ New Movie #86: Children of Paradise (Criterion DVD) It’s an odd film with a strange history, essentially made under false pretenses in Vichy France and Occupied France, about a love triangle (it’s honestly a bit more complex than that) in the theatrical world of Paris. It’s a really good film in which a mime is a romantic lead in a sophisticated drama (which is the most French thing possible in any context), and it conveys the idea of the pain of missed opportunities years later. 10/10
Movie #129/ New Movie #87: Mission Impossible II (Paramount Plus) This seems to be the odd man out with the franchise. It tells a mostly self-contained story that borrows heavily from a classic narrative (Notorious) with the unique style of an international star director, combined with a rising star actor who never really took off as the villain. At this point, the tech is a generation old and the late 90s music hasn’t aged well. It was a massive blockbuster hit. The sequences are impressive and it is interesting to see Tom Cruise at the peak of his star power. Thandiwe Newton is lovely. It’s a bit annoying to have the second film in a row where the bad guy turns out to be a member of the impossible mission task force, although I do like the bad guy’s familiarity with Ethan Hunt and how he operates. 7/10
Movie #130/ New Movie #88: The Exterminating Angel (Criterion DVD) This is a strange film in many ways. Some rich people at an upper-class gathering find themselves unable to leave the music room of a mansion. They recognize that it’s irrational, but try to make do regardless, even if things start getting grimmer. It works quite well as an allegory, as a film to be decoded for its symbolism, although it’s satisfying just to see everyone going nuts as the layers of decorum peel away. 9/10
Movie #131/ New Movie #89: Marius (Criterion DVD) This early sound French film is weird. It’s not obviously primitive, and functions pretty well as a decent hangout movie as a young couple tries to figure out their lives. It’s classified as a melodrama, and while people make serious sacrifices, it’s enjoyable. The characters are ridiculous but playwright Marcel Pagnol and director Alexander Korda show off what makes them likable. The main leads seem to be people in their mid-30s playing 18 and 23, which is the case, although they are often quite good. There’s an odd decision to hide the central conflict for half of the film, which is difficult with the first of a trilogy and a film that was remade a lot. Most people are going to watch the film knowing what it’s about. 9/10
Movie #132/ New Movie #90: Your Vice Is A Locked Room And Only I Have The Key (DVD) This giallo has one of the least likable leads of any movie ever, and there are some decent twists. 7/10
Movie #133/ New Movie #91: Fanny (Criterion DVD) This trilogy is interesting since each chapter has a different director. It’s based on plays, so the lengthy conversations are understandable, but the Marseilles setting is appropriately cinematic. This gets to be more of a melodrama as the characters deal with the consequences of their sacrifices, but it’s also an enjoyable hangout film, and builds effectively on the characters in Marius (for example, the revelation about why a sailmaker wasn’t more modern.) The Criterion box set is highly recommended. 9/10
Movie #134/ New Movie #92: Cesar (Criterion DVD) The conclusion to the Marseilles trilogy brings it to a satisfying end. Nearly twenty years have passed, with the romantic leads better able to pull off people their age than 18 and 23 year old young lovers. We do get a sense of the weight of the sacrifices and regrets for all involved, which seems a bit similar to Children of Paradise in terms of how it may take a while before the characters are all in one place. Conversations about class matter more, as we see how they’ve changed over the years. It seems like dark subject matter, but it remains enjoyable, partly with Pagnol’s skill in depicting the flavor of the location and details about characters, all aware of one another’s ridiculousness and what they’re going through. It gets bonus points for nailing the landing. 10/10
Movie #135/ New Movie #93: Blow Out (Criterion DVD) It’s better to go into the film knowing as little as possible. It seems a bit derivative as Travolta plays a sound engineer who gets evidence of a crime (similar to Blow Up and the Conversation), and gets drawn into a conspiracy. It plays with expectations in interesting ways. The protagonist is involved with the movie business, but when he tells the girl about his background, she’s more interested in work he did involving crime and real people. He tries to do a bold and boneheaded stunt to get through a police barricade, and ends up hospitalized. I can see why young Travolta was such a major star, and Nancy Allen is excellent at depicting a very specific type of imperfect woman. 9/10
Movie #136: ET (Movie Theater) Steven Spielberg is a mad genius for making something is weird and successful. 10/10
Movie #137/ New Movie #94: Give Em Hell Harry (DVD) This is one of the strangest best actor nominations ever, as it’s literally a filmed version of a prestigious one man show. James Whitmore (who I recognize mostly as Brooks from Shawshank Redemption) plays Truman at various stages, sometimes as a new President and sometimes commenting on then-contemporary issues. It’s clever and powerful. 8/10
Movie #138: Spider-Man: No Way Home More Fun Stuff Example (Movie Theater) I wasn’t as excited by this version. I hope it’s not a matter of one of my favorite movies losing its luster. It sometimes feels a bit long, and the new scenes don’t add much, padding out stretches of the movie before the interesting happens, and the villains of the multiverse make their way to Spidey. 9/10
Movie #139/ New Movie #95: Three Thousand Years of Longing (Movie Theater) It’s a beautiful fantasy film with two great actors discussing important ideas, and the other stuff that matters in life. It takes an understandable turn in the final act, as Tilda Swinton’s academic realizes there’s something she can wish for, and the film explores the aftermath of that. 8/10
Movie #140/ New Movie #96: Barbarian (Movie Theater) This is a horror film with some interesting twists, so it’s likely to have three conversations. There is the way the film is discussed to avoid spoiling it. There’s the way its discussed by people who have seen it and can get into the specifics of the surprises. There’s also going to be a different way when it’s part of the horror movie landscape, and likely to pop up on best of lists. A non-spoiler point would be that the characters are solid, and the take on the blight of modern Detroit is impressive. 9/10
Movie #141: Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone (Movie Theater) For whatever reason Regal played the entire Harry Potter saga back in theaters, so it was fun to see these again. The first time when I was a kid, I remember being a bit disappointed by small changes to the novel. The second time, as part of a rewatch before the last film, I remember thinking the sequels were better. That may very well be the case, but this movie does a really job of worldbuilding. So many triple-A concepts are introduced, and there are so many excellent side characters. If this film were all that existed of Harry Potter, it would still have a seismic reputation. 8/10
Movie #142/ New Movie #97: Petrov’s Flu (Movie Theater) I saw this at the IFC theater, which may be a good idea because if I was watching it at home I’d be so tempted to pause it every 10-15 minutes, try to see if I can Google references, or talk about what something means. The film is a lot, largely focusing on a Russian family over a weekend, where everyone has the flu and experiences things in a dreamlike logic, where it’s not always clear what’s real or what the connections are. I’m really looking forward to an in-depth article to cover the stuff people who aren’t familiar with Russia might miss.
The parts I understood worked. There’s a good sense of emotional reality, and the weirdness of the Russian people under Putin and before (this was filmed pre-Covid) with a casual coldness that’s familiar to me as an Estonian. The cinematography is nice. 9/10
Movie #143: Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire (Movie Theater) This was playing at Regal over the weekend, and it is one of my favorite Harry Potter movies. It sets up the big bad of the series pretty well, with Ralph Fiennes pulling off one of the most important roles in the series. It gets across Harry legitimately being a reluctant hero, happy to be a minor character for the first half hour before he’s suddenly involved in the tournament. The challenges work, and while there’s limited focus on the usual school-year stuff (Harry’s classes are barely a problem) the passage of time is conveyed well, thanks to a temporary rift between teenage best friends. It does appear some big stuff is missing, especially with Hagrid and his girlfriend. 9/10
Movie #144: Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince (Movie Theater) Director David Yates is definitely worth seeing on the big screen. His work has been described as desaturated, which is fine with the setting and subject matter (English teens learning the world is nastier than they expected) and there are some scenes that may not tolerate normal living-room conditions. A pet peeve of mine is when a protagonist keeps stumbling into big adventures, and this story is surprisingly low-key with Harry’s main task being to befriend a professor with a secret. Jim Broadbent is quite good as the professor in question, adding complexity to a guy with really adult problems that Harry Potter has to figure out. 8/10
Movie #145: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Part 1 (Movie Theater) It may very well be the weakest of the Harry Potter films, although that speaks to the strength of the larger series. Considering they split a novel into two halves, it does make sense why this film’s unsatisfying as its own thing. There is a major Lord of the Rings influence, more of the vibes of the struggles of the hobbits as they go on the quest. 7/10
Movie #146: Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows Part 2 (Movie Theater) The Harry Potter finale did what it needed to: it nailed the landing. Deathly Hallows Part 1 reminded me a lot of the Frodo/ Samwise sections of Lord of the Rings; this one is Helms Deep. It’s mostly a set-up to one big epic battle, and it works, providing a satisfying payoff to a saga that includes one of the best fantasy movies ever. The best moments come in the completion of Snape’s arc. 9/10
Movie #147: Harry Potter and thePrisoner of Azkaban (Movie Theater) Cuaron is pretty obviously the best director to work on the Harry Potter series, and you could see it in the small moments that elevate the larger story. The central mystery is one of the strongest of the series, and works really well at this stage. It’s the third film of a much larger series, but there is a legitimate sense of character growth, of a transformation that is earned. 9/10
Movie #148/ New Movie #98: Don’t Worry Darling (Movie Theater) It’s not as bad as I thought, but not that good either. Florence Pugh is great, and it is nicely shot. It kinda gets progressively worse, with a compelling atmosphere in the first act, a sense of dread in Act 2, and then the twist and the aftermath. The discussion about it is interesting. This is an ambitious misfire. 5/10
Movie #149/ New Movie #99: Paddington 2 (Movie Theater) This was such a pleasant, wholesome movie. It has the perfect combination of being set in the modern world with a classic old-fashioned charm. Hugh Grant is a delight as the villain, one of the vainest actors on the planet. 9/10
Movie #150/ New Movie #100: They’ll Love Me When I’m Dead (Netflix) It seemed to provide some useful context for The Other Side of the Wind. It does explain how Orson Welles had a film that was so close to completion that had never been released before. It covers his genius and the shortcomings, as well as the weirdness that belongs in its own category. 8/10
A question on a message board was what people would do with the DC Extended Cinematic Universe, given the weird shape of the series. It’s trucking along with new movies including The Flash, Black Adam, Aquaman 2 and other films. Ezra Miller is toxic. Henry Cavill’s involvement is uncertain and he’s pushing 40. The Matt Reeves Batman film made a lot of money, and has its own world. It kinda took Batman out of the shared universe. The Joker is getting a sequel. And then there’s chatter about new reboots.
If I were in charge, I think I’d focus on winding down the main cinematic universe. There might be a handful of new projects like a Black Adam VS Shazam film.
I’d try to go for one standalone Superman film, maybe with Henry Cavill and the cast of Man of Steel, although it could also be something different. One idea would be something with a 1930s/ 1940s Superman, as something we haven’t seen on film that would be unique from what’s been done before, and would allow a generic take on Superman later.
I wouldn’t touch the Joker/ Matt Reeves Batman series since these seem to be working fine. I might suggest a Zoey Kravitz Catwoman spinoff.
In about seven years it might be time to start a new DC Cinematic Universe. A good structure for a Superman film might be based on the graphic novel Superman: Earth One, where Clark Kent is trying to figure out what to do with his life when he has so many options. Around the same time we might introduce new versions of Green Lantern (John Stewart) and the Flash within that world to seed the way for a Justice League film about five years later.
At this point I’d focus on the major franchises and those already confirmed, rather than more obscure series that have mentioned as potential films (Booster Gold, Metal Men, Lobo, Nightwing, Plastic Man, Static Shock, Zatanna, Supergirl) just because I’d prefer those series connected to a new DC Cinematic Universe, rather than potentially complicating one that can be tied up. There would be potential spinoffs for characters who have already been introduced (Cyborg, Black Canary.)
How it might look like… 2023- Shazam 2, The Flash, Aquaman & the Lost Kingdom, Blue Beetle (This is the current schedule) 2024- Joker 2, Gotham City Sirens, Wonder Woman 3, Cyborg 2025- The Batman 2, Black Canary, Standalone Superman project 2026- Catwoman, Aquaman 3, Shazam VS Black Adam 2027- Final Harley Quinn film, Cyborg 2 2028- The Batman 3, Logan style Black Adam film 2029- Superman relaunch 2030- Flash relaunch, Green Lantern relaunch 2031- Superman 2, Aquaman relaunch 2032- Flash 2, Wonder Woman relaunch
Movie #101/ New Movie #73: Kid90 (Hulu) The story behind the documentary is interesting. Soleil Moon Frye wanted to explore what it was like to be a child star and former child star in the days before social media when it was possible to have a private life, but it was also still possible to record much for private video. Initially, it was meant to be the general story but Frye realized much about herself in the process, looking at footage and journal entries in a new light. The results are brief but compelling. 7/10
Movie #102: Mission Impossible (Paramount Plus) It’s interesting how this series has changed as the later sequels became the epitome of 21st Century action films. This one’s a bit different. Sometimes it seems shot more like a TV drama. The central sequence of breaking into Langley computers is slow and detailed, like something out of Rififi. 8/10
Movie #103: Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker (Disney+) On a second watch, I’m still not a fan. This is a largely disappointing finale to the Star Wars saga. It starts out a bit promising but the moment a character says that Palpatine returned somehow, and that’s that, it becomes clear that will be the weakest of the new trilogy. Some new characters are decent (Babu Frik!), and the trap for Rei is a good one. They could have gone further with the temptation of the dark side, but that part was okay.
In retrospect, it would have been better to split this into two films given where Last Jedi had left the characters and to spend more time on this one, rather than to stick to a schedule established before Carrie Fisher passed away, necessitating major changes. 5/10
Movie #104/ New Movie #74: Badlands (Movie Theater) Mallick’s debut is a great take on young love in really dire circumstances, as a girl in Texas falls for a psycho who develops a hell of a body count. There’s a fairy tale vibe to it all, which works for the girl’s naiveté during the senseless violence. Martin Sheen is excellent as a sociopath who is obviously doomed, but you can see why some people are drawn to him. It’s a good example of how dangerous likable people can be. 9/10
Movie #105/ New Movie #75: Malatesta’s Carnival of Blood (Blu-Ray) It’s an interesting B movie by people who have largely never worked again in film (Hervé Villechaize is the biggest star) taking advantage of access to an amusement park on its last legs to come up with crazy deathtraps and scenarios. It’s quite primitive, but there are some strong sequences. It’s part of a worthwhile collection by Arrow Video, and of interest to fans of independent horror, grindhouse and the so-called video nasties. 7/10
Movie #106/ New Movie #76: Last Year at Marienbad (DVD) It’s an interesting and mysterious film about memory and how other people see the world. It’s hard to describe because so much is uncertain and contradicted. It is at times quite spellbinding. 9/10
Movie #107/ New Movie #77: The Witch Who Came In From The Sea (Blu-Ray) It appears this has been marketed for the sleazier elements, and there is plenty of that, but it is more effective as a character exploration of a troubled young woman, her crimes contrasting with her goody two shoes way of talking. 7/10
Movie #108: The Manchurian Candidate (DVD) The definitive political thriller. The scenario is compelling and makes for some great sequences. Angela Lansbury may just be the most twisted mother in film. Lawrence Harvey makes the brainwashed war hero obnoxious but layered. There is a documentary feel to it that works very well. I’m not sure I buy Novak’s motivations, but it works in this particular context of ramping up the paranoia. For something so definitive and copied, it goes in some interesting directions, with Sinatra’s lead ahead of where you would expect him to be. 10/10
Movie #109: A Shot in the Dark (DVD) One of the funniest mystery parodies. Sellers’ Clouseau is exceptional as the lead for these types of projects, balancing the ridiculousness and incompetence with an effort to maintain his dignity. Add to that great running gags. 9/10
Movie #110: Hamilton (Disney Plus) I guess there’s a technical argument that this doesn’t count as a film, as it’s more of a recording of a play, albeit with much better production values than the typical stuff that you could find on Broadway Plus. It doesn’t matter. This is one of the greatest works of art of the 21st Century. Lin Manuel Miranda’s performance as Hamilton is overshadowed by the depth and cleverness of his script, and by some of the supporting cast. Everyone who got a Tony and Tony nomination deserved it, and there’s a handful of others who would’ve been nominated if they had given a performance of that level on a different show on a different year, rather than being the fourth or fifth best supporting male performance in this one. 10/10
Movie #111/ New Movie #78: Premonition (Blu-Ray) I saw this as part of Arrow’s American Horror Project blu-rays, and I recommend that along with the commentary which gives a sense of why this film is so nuts. A psychotic woman wants to take back her daughter from the couple who adopted them, and is aided by her boyfriend, a more meticulously psychotic clown played by Richard Lynch. He is excellent in this film: menacing and clownish. The adopted mother starts having visions of the future, which her professor husband is compelled to explore. The threads don’t come together very well in the end, but there is much to enjoy in all that effort. 7/10
Movie #112/ New Movie #79: Class of Nuke ‘Em High (Pluto TV) It’s shlocky and borderline immoral (not in the ways you think but the anti-nuclear message is one of the major reasons American society is unable to get a handle on climate change) but man it’s fun. It has a bit of a so bad it’s good reputation, but it is more clever than that, with teens mutated by a power plant, so the honor society has become the bullies and two young lovers have a bad experience with irradiated marijuana. 8/10
Movie #113/ New Movie #80: Nope (Movie Theater) Peele’s third film takes a decent concept- two young minor players in Hollywood find out about a UFO and decide that they’re going to be the ones to get evidence about it- and layers onto it different questions about exploitation and efforts to control nature. Palmer and Kaluuya are excellent as siblings who are quite different but who seem to have a life outside the film, with Palmer as a showman and Kaluuya as a stoic almost classically western lead. Yeun’s traumatized child star is a bit underdeveloped. His whole narrative makes sense to me, although big stuff occurs off-camera, but I’d like to see more of him because he is the most interesting character. The film does have great set pieces, and balances a legitimate exploration of interesting topics with characters I’m invested in. 8/10
Movie #114/ New Movie #81: World on a Wire (Criterion DVD) It makes sense that this 1970s mini-series would see a reevaluation in the streaming age. The pacing is a good fit for the current era, assuming you’re able to handle a double-length German language movie. It’s quite ahead of its time in the exploration of what it would mean to have a simulated reality, as a scientist realizes that the citizens of a simulation (used to answer policy questions) are starting to realize the truth of their existence, as well as the exploration of the merging of business and government-sponsored science. There’s a great sense of unease to the sci-fi noir. 8/10
Short Film #18: Rainer Werner Fassbinder’s World on a Wire: Looking Ahead to Today (Criterion DVD) Solid bonus on the Criterion edition of “World on a Wire” which notes elements of the film that were more obvious for the original audience in Germany in the 1970s (IE- unconventional casting decisions, filming in Paris locations that would seem near-futuristic at the time). 7/10
Movie #115: F For Fake (Criterion DVD) I didn’t care for the film as much the last time I saw it years ago. I think it was on Netflix then, so maybe the streaming quality wasn’t great. It could also be that I’ve been persuaded by a video essay about how it’s so well-edited.
It is really well-edited, has some interesting twists and gets into interesting questions about art and truth, as Welles considers the true story of a forger who was exposed by a writer who went on to commit a bigger hoax. The material is quite rich, and one of the most creative filmmakers has fun with it. This is essential viewing to anyone interested in video essays, as one of the best examples of the form. 9/10
Movie #116/ New Movie #82: Blackmail (Talkie Version) (DVD) It starts out a bit slow. Hitchcock hasn’t quite mastered the ability to keep things interesting during the phase of the movie where we’re getting to know the characters before things go nuts. But it’s a decent movie once the stabbing occurs. It seems a bit primitive, although that’s likely due to the quality of the surviving prints as well as technological limitations in the very early sound era. Hitchcock’s still able to play around with the new tools at his disposal. 7/10
Movie #117/ New Movie #83: Dr. Mabuse the Gambler (Blu-Ray) It’s been a while since I’ve watched a silent film, so one way to make up for that is with a four and a half hour expressionist epic.
This cat and mouse crime saga has one of the great film villains (not just silent film villains) in the hypnotist criminal mastermind with a penchant for disguises. It drags on at times, and can be hard to follow with a character who is often in disguise, and where some events are paced slowly and some major events occur quickly. But it is often inventive, and surprising, with interesting commentary on Weimar Germany and the respect for autocrats. Someone who seems to be a minor character comes across like a stiff, but he gets interesting when he’s in Mabuse’s claws. It is episodic, but the final sequence does tie it all together. 8/10
Short Film #19: The Story Behind Dr. Mabuse (Blu Ray) This was an extra on the Kino blu-ray collection of Fritz Lang’s silent films. It seems more like several shorts put together spotlighting different aspects of Dr Mabuse the Gambler, such as the decisions behind a new soundtrack or changes to the source material. 7/10
Movie #118/ New Movie #84: This Much I Know to Be True (Mubi) There are other people who will appreciate this more, since they’re more familiar with Nick Cave as a singer and the context of things that are referenced here. I appreciate it as an amazingly shot rehearsal film (it’s not a standard concert; it’s more like being in the room when top-tier talent is performing for posterity) with some deep songs, and some insights into a thoughtful man who remains rather private. 8/10
Movie #119/ New Movie #85: The Last Laugh (Youtube) There is a sequence early in the film so immediate that it just does not seem possible for it to be shot in 1924. Obviously, it’s a prank of some sorts, an elaborate hoax where a film buff uses modern tech and editing, while pretending its from a nearly century-old silent film.
Murnau famously tells the story with only one intertitle, and it works. He’s able to show the emotional life of an ordinary man during a difficult time from highs to lows. His experiences are given the weight of the lead of an epic. For him to be demoted to bathroom attendant is as great a loss as a king being deposed, or a captain of industry losing an essential contract.
After this film, Murnau, lead Emil Jannings and cinematographer Karl Freund were all invited to go to Hollywood, where Oscars and other major accolades would follow. 10/10
Movie #120: The Golem: How He Came into the World (Youtube) After the Last Laugh, I’ve really come to appreciate cinematographer Karl Freund and this film is really well shot. It comes across at times like it was inspired by the Cabinet of Dr Caligari, but it was released only a few months after, and is the last of a trilogy so much of the work had to be done independently. It’s a bit odd as the one surviving film in a series, although as a prequel, it is a standalone story that seemed to be the story the director had been trying to tell now that he could do it as a period piece. The Golem is an interesting conflicted monster, a proto-Frankenstein. It also seems like this story is a major influence on the Sorcerer’s Apprentice. I’m curious about learning more about the extent to which imagery about witchcraft is coded as Jewish, as that is a bit distracting, though it is otherwise satisfying to see Jewish leads in a German expressionist film.
It’s public domain so it’s available free online. One interesting version has a modern soundtrack by Black Francis of the Pixies. vimeo.com/15581812?embedded=true&source=vimeo_logo&owner=2308334
Movie #121/ New Movie #86: Marcel the Shell With Shoes On (Movie Theater) It’s a fine cute film, a mockumentary about a living shell who would like to be reunited with his family. Marcel’s got personality, and the film has much to say about the need for community in a time when everyone is very much online. There are some clever details on what life would be like for someone who is only an inch high. 7/10
Movie #122/ New Movie #87: Vengeance (Movie Theater) BJ Novak’s directorial debut is very meta, with a New York media figure going to Texas because the death of a girl he hooked up with (whose family thinks they were much closer) might be material for a podcast. Doing a story about a writer is a way to get to some obvious insights about the heartland VS coastal America, although the character sometimes seems too obnoxious, even if the point for others to call him out on his condescension. Still it’s a solid conversation starter. Ashton Kutcher is quite good as a music producer who manages to stay ahead of expectations. 7/10
Movie #123: Black Panther (Disney Plus) Watching it this time I get a sense of how deliberate Chadwick Boseman is in his choices as the lead. I remember thinking he was fine, but overshadowed by much of the supporting cast, although he is effective at conveying a new king grappling with the sins of his predecessors. 10/10
Short Film #20: The Colour Merchant (Blu Ray) It’s a nice extra in various versions of A Matter of Life and Death/ Stairway to Heaven, about a cinematographer’s experiences on his first solo project, which ends up being a stylistically daring classic. Hardly essential but nice. 7/10
Movie #124: Metropolis (Blu-Ray) Watching it this time, I am struck by how a film about a class war in the future does serve to flatter the elite with the metaphor of the head (them) and the hands (the poors who forget about their children in a crucial time.) The quality is weaker with the recently restored films, but it works to create an impression of some lost artifact from another world. 10/10
Short Film #21: Cartoonland Mysteries (Blu Ray) It was an extra on a Universal blu-ray set, and it’s a decent take on making animation 85 years ago. The cartoon wasn’t included in the set, which is disappointing, although it is on Youtube. It’s interesting to see what has changed and what hasn’t changed. 8/10
Movie #125: Trumbo (DVD) I watched it again for inspiration on writing, as Dalton Trumo has one hell of a work ethic, although on the second watch, I have a greater appreciation for the characters who don’t want to put up with his shit, as well as his grand plan to ridicule the blacklist. 7/10
Short Film #22: Valparaiso (Mubi) This was a nice short documentary I saw on Mubi. It mainly seems to be an explanation of how Valparaiso is an interesting and cinematic setting for other people to explore in documentaries or narrative films. The narration is a bit pretentious, but fitting for the setting, and there is a clever shift in storytelling. 9/10