June 2017 Recap

This month has truly been an emotional roller coaster. I had my high school graduation ceremony,; my apartment building had a fire, luckily with no damage to any suites but still a pretty harrowing experience; and, most importantly of all, I finally quit the truly terrible job I've been working since January. I was planning to stay until the end of the summer, but I finally had enough and I've now officially completed my final shift there. I'll be on the lookout for another job very soon, but in the meantime I'm taking a little vacation, which means lots of time to relax, and more importantly, watch and write about movies. I'm pretty exited! Despite all the busyness, I managed to see a lot of movies, including more catch-ups from 2016, a few Gable stragglers, and lots of TCM's Noir Alley series. It was a rough month in real life, but overall a pretty great one for movies--see a breakdown of what I watched and some highlights after the cut.

First-Time Watches: 47
Re-Watches: 0
  1. Christine (2016)
  2. The Neon Demon (2016)
  3. Mogambo (1953)
  4. The Red Turtle (2016)
  5. Paterson (2016)
  6. Just a Gigolo (1931)
  7. Hidden Figures (2016)
  8. For Pete's Sake (1974)
  9. Toni Erdmann (2016)
  10. To Sir, With Love (1967)
  11. House on Haunted Hill (1959)
  12. The Prowler (1951)
  13. Never Let Me Go (1953)
  14. Band of Angels (1957)
  15. To Please a Lady (1950)
  16. Touch of Pink (2004)
  17. Somewhere I'll Find You (2004)
  18. Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
  19. Barrios Altos (1987)
  20. Dave (1993)
  21. Act of Violence (1949)
  22. From Hell It Came (1957)
  23. Desire (1936)
  24. City of the Living Dead (1980)
  25. Light in the Piazza (1962)
  26. Metropolitan (1990)
  27. Barcelona (1994)
  28. The Roman Spring of Mrs. Stone (1961)
  29. The Last Days of Disco (1998)
  30. The Strawberry Blonde (1941)
  31. Alice, Sweet Alice (1976)
  32. Phantom Lady (1944)
  33. The Set-Up (1949)
  34. He Ran All the Way (1951)
  35. Journey Into Fear (1943)
  36. Any Number Can Play (1949)
  37. Brute Force (1947)
  38. Frida (2002)
  39. Come September (1961)
  40. The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
  41. Sound of the Mountain (1954)
  42. The Sign of the Ram (1948)
  43. The Picture of Dorian Gray (1945)
  44. Julieta (2016)
  45. John Wick: Chapter 2 (2017)
  46. Crime of Passion (1957)
  47. Shield for Murder (1954)
 By Decade:

  • 20s: 0
  • 30s: 2
  • 40s: 10
  • 50s: 11
  • 60s: 5
  • 70s: 2
  • 80s: 3
  • 90s: 4
  • 2000s: 2
  • 2010s: 8
The Neon Demon (2016)

I've been so exited to see The Neon Demon ever since the very first promotional images were released; I'm a big fan of Drive and Refn's unique visual style, and I couldn't wait to see what he had come up with in the realm of fashion and modeling, really the perfect environment for his flashy and colorful images. Now that I've finally seen it, it was even better than I could have hoped for: a perfect exercise in style over substance, with so many perfect images and sequences that keep playing over and over again in my mind. While I can certainly understand why this film isn't for everyone, I'm just enamored by it, and I already can't wait to revisit it.

Paterson (2016)
This is only my 3rd Jarmusch film, but I feel like my journey with this director is so much longer; each new viewing of his filmography results in what legitimately feels like a life-changing experience. Only Lovers Left Alive, Night on Earth, and now Paterson: each one seems to perfectly understand the kind of person I am and how I see the world, and give me new understanding of both of these things. In the case of Paterson, I was so moved by the emphasis on artistic pursuit in everyday life--I've seen some discussion on whether Paterson's poetry is supposed to be good or not, but I think that misses the point. He's a lover of art, and creating it himself gives him this meaningful creative outlet, regardless of whether or not anyone else ever sees it or appreciates it. It's a simple, quiet little story that moved me more than I can describe, and definitely stands as one of the very best films to come out of 2016.

Tie Me Up! Tie Me Down! (1989)
I'm so fascinated by Pedro Almodóvar. His films are so sensational, so colorful, and yet also so intimate--much like Jarmusch, his films never fail to impress and move me, and I'm always exited to delve into another one of his works. This time, I got to see his controversial follow-up to the film that made him famous in America, and it's certainly unlike anything else I've ever seen! A darkly comedic examination of Stockholm Syndrome, Tie Me Up! is a ridiculous film that finds solid ground in the performances of Antonio Banderas and Victoria Abril, who really sell their characters and the unbelievable situation they find themselves in. It's a very difficult film to pin down, but above all it's a truly unique experience and one I enjoyed greatly.

The Last Days of Disco (1998)
 I finally watched Whit Stillman's loosely connected trilogy of Metropolitan, Barcelona, and The Last Days of Disco this month. It ended up being difficult to choose just one to highlight, because I truly loved all three of them, with Metropolitan and Last Days vying for top place. Ultimately I think this one is my favorite, for the way it more explicitly addresses the "end of an era" theme present throughout the films. I found the closing scene, in which the characters acknowledge that disco is dead, particularly moving because I watched this the night before my graduation--their feelings about this important moment in their lives now being over nicely mirrored what I was feeling in my own life. The trilogy as a whole is really a masterclass in smart, subtly humorous dialogue, and I already know I'll be returning to it many times in the future to enjoy the highly intellectual stupidity of these wonderful characters Stillman has created.

The Set-Up (1949)
Sports is one of the few film genres I just can't get into as a rule, but every rule has a few exceptions, and one of them is this harrowing noir take on the cutthroat world of boxing. The most fascinating thing about it is something I didn't even catch onto until the final frames: it takes place in real-time. In fact, everything about this film feels very real, down to the ingeniously crafted cast of spectators whose reactions we cut back and forth between as Robert Ryan finally gets his time in the ring--a fight that stands as one of the most authentic sports sequences I've seen in a film, with every care taken to make it both tense and believable. This film is a true diamond in the rough, an under-seen noir that deserves to be rediscovered. 

He Ran All the Way (1951)
Another fantastic noir, this one more conventional but no less riveting. John Garfield and Shelley Winters both put in great performances, as two people who seem to have the potential to truly love each other but their messed up situation turns their attraction into something twisted and revolting--it doesn't get much more noir than that! I also love how most of the film takes place in the family's small apartment: there's something about single-location films that always gets me, and this one ramps up the stress and claustrophobia even more than most, with a truly demented and dangerous protagonist at its center--while we may pity him, we also truly believe that he could snap at any moment, a change from most films of this nature where the criminal's heart of gold is eventually unearthed by his captives. This also has one of the best endings I've seen in a classic Hollywood film--it gained further poignancy when I found out this was John Garfield's final film role. What a scene to close things out with! A truly grim, tragically ironic finale for both the film and the actor.

The Manchurian Candidate (1962)
Somehow, I managed to avoid basically any details of this film's plot, and I'm so glad because this is one of those rare, wonderful instances of watching something from the American film canon and having it actually exceed your expectations. Everything about this film is masterful: the performances, the cinematography, the atmosphere, the storyline. I was especially impressed by how it's completely devoid of any sentimentalism or sense of catharsis: it's a tense, draining emotional experience from beginning to end, with so many complex and fascinating characters to keep you guessing the whole way through. I just can't stop thinking about this film and it's already worming its way onto my all-time favorites list.

Sound of the Mountain (1954)
Sound of the Mountain is the first film I've seen from Mikio Naruse, and it's definitely not going to be the last. A surprisingly mature, modern, and cynical outlook on the traditional Japanese family unit, it tackles so many serious issues and all of them in a very sensitive and nuanced way. It also features a truly beautiful ending, one of those wonderful ones that eschews an upbeat happy ending for one that truly fits the characters--and is, indeed, happy in its own bittersweet way. I was so moved by the characters in this film and the unfortunate circumstances they find themselves in; this is definitely one of the best classic Japanese films I've seen so far and if Naruse's other work is anything like this, I can't wait to start diving in.

We're already a few days into July now, and it's promising lots of great things: a vacation at home, and lots of great movies to pass the time, including potential Audrey Hepburn and Powell & Pressburger marathons. Stay tuned, and keep watching lots of great movies!


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