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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Movie #136: ET (Movie Theater)
Steven Spielberg is a mad genius for making something is weird and successful.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Movie #147: Harry Potter and the Prisoner 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.
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.
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.
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.