June 2018 Recap

(image via Criterion)

Midway through the summer, and my quest to purge my DVR of old recordings is still going strong. As always, I am impressed by the quality of the films that I have been allowing to sit un-watched for months on end; it makes for a potent reminder not to let them build up like that again. Over the course of the month I caught up on my Anthony Perkins films from when he was Star of the Month on TCM; I watched some really excellent films from 2017, including Game Night and Last Flag Flying, and the Pride Month triple feature of Thelma, Beach Rats, and God's Own Country; I had a fantastic Noir double feature, Kiss of Death and Inferno, with Blu-rays that I blind-bought from Twilight Time; I saw Hereditary and Incredibles 2 in theaters, both great experiences in entirely different ways; and I discovered the films of Albert Brooks, a filmmaker who has immediately become one of my favorite directors. Read on to see the full list of films I watched, and a more detailed list of my favorite first-time discoveries.

First-Time Viewings: 60
Re-Watches: 0
  1. The Fearless Vampire Killers (1967)
  2. The Little Foxes (1941)
  3. Dead Ringers (1988)
  4. Purple Noon (1960)
  5. Possessed (1947)
  6. They Won't Believe Me (1947)
  7. Doc Savage: The Man of Bronze (1975)
  8. Game Night (2018)
  9. Repulsion (1965)
  10. Phaedra (1962)
  11. The Trial (1962)
  12. Thelma (2017)
  13. Fear Strikes Out (1957)
  14. Haxan (1922)
  15. Dunkirk (2017)
  16. Beach Rats (2017)
  17. God's Own Country (2017)
  18. Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)
  19. Kiss of Death (1947)
  20. Inferno (1953)
  21. Tender Comrade (1943)
  22. Wife vs. Secretary (1936)
  23. Bus Riley's Back in Town (1965)
  24. Birdboy: The Forgotten Children (2015)
  25. Marketa Lazarova (1967)
  26. Wild Seed (1965)
  27. Last Flag Flying (2017)
  28. The Landlord (1970)
  29. All These Women (1964)
  30. Cinema Paradiso (1988)
  31. Hereditary (2018)
  32. Blume in Love (1973)
  33. Odds Against Tomorrow (1959)
  34. Avanti! (1972)
  35. Promises in the Dark (1979)
  36. Scarface (1932)
  37. Summer with Monika (1953)
  38. Miracle Mile (1988)
  39. McCabe & Mrs. Miller (1971)
  40. Teresa (1951)
  41. Incredibles 2 (2018)
  42. Fists in the Pocket (1965)
  43. Delicatessen (1991)
  44. This World, Then the Fireworks (1997)
  45. Sexy Beast (2000)
  46. Star Wars: The Last Jedi (2017)
  47. Winchester '73 (1950)
  48. Pushover (1954)
  49. The Post (2017)
  50. A Bigger Splash (2015)
  51. The Man with Two Faces (1934)
  52. Real Life (1979)
  53. Paddington 2 (2017)
  54. Black Beauty (1994)
  55. Modern Romance (1981)
  56. The Little Giant (1933)
  57. Private Parts (1972)
  58. Honky Tonk (1941)
  59. Homecoming (1948)
  60. Betrayed (1954)
By Decade:
  • 10s: 0
  • 20s: 1
  • 30s: 4
  • 40s: 7
  • 50s: 8
  • 60s: 10
  • 70s: 8
  • 80s: 4
  • 90s: 3
  • 2000s: 1
  • 2010s: 14
The Trial (1962) (image via eriklerouge.blogspot.com)

Today, Anthony Perkins is synonymous with Norman Bates in the minds of many. While it is true that few of his other films reach the same heights as Alfred Hitchcock's classic, Perkins was an incredibly talented and versatile actor who deserves a more multifaceted legacy than Psycho has afforded him. After watching a string of his films this month, my vote for the film most deserving of reappraisal is The Trial, an under-seen film that, when it is discussed, is remembered within the context of the works of Orson Welles, director, and Franz Kafka, author of the source novel--Anthony Perkins barely seems to figure into the conversation. And yet, it is his performance, simultaneously sympathetic and hard to pin down--is he actually guilty or not?--that anchors the nightmare world Welles has put together. This is a film that is subtly disorientating from the opening frames and becomes increasingly confusing as it goes along. This is achieved both narratively and visually, as the sets become more claustrophobic and the camera films them from increasingly bizarre angles. But as the world of the film literally appears to be coming apart at the seams, the one constant is the confused, boyish face of Anthony Perkins as the viewer accompanies him on his descent into madness. I have seen a lot of strange films, but never one quite like this, and I loved every minute of it.

Dunkirk (2017) (image via Quays News)

Every year I make an effort to watch all of the Best Picture Oscar nominees, and every year there is at least one that does not really interest me, but I end up seeing anyway because I want to complete the list. Dunkirk was one such film, one that I probably never would have persuaded myself to watch if not for its nomination, yet, after watching it I must humbly admit that it truly is one of the greatest films of the year, and I would have been missing out if I had chosen not to see it. Many of the complaints about this film revolve around the lack of characterization, and I thought this would bother me as well, but it turned out to be a non-issue: this is a film where the viewer becomes one of the nameless faces, facing all of the action and tension alongside of them, and as such more extensive character development would merely get in the way of this incredibly visceral film-going experience. My only regret is that I did not go see this in theaters; if it was this gripping on my 32" TV screen, I can only imagine what it would have been like in IMAX.

Summer with Monika (1953) (image via YouTube)

If someone ever asks me how I like my Bergman, I will have to respond that my preference is young, troubled Harriet Andersson shot in black-and-white. First Through a Glass Darkly, then Sawdust & Tinsel, and now Summer with Monika; I just cannot get enough of Andersson's face and the complex, heartbreaking characters Bergman came up with for her to play. As Monika, she is an unhappy young woman who finds temporary release with an equally restless young man, and the two run away to spend a blissful summer alone on a little island by the sea. The setting of this film is gorgeous, with Bergman perfectly capturing that sense of a naive, idealistic first love; yet, the high contrast black-and-white cinematography lends a sense of doom to the proceedings, and eventually the perfect romance goes sour, as it tends to do with Bergman. All the same, the journey to get there is a beautiful, highly emotional experience, and one that I cannot wait to undergo again when Criterion releases their 39-film Blu-ray boxset of Ingmar Bergman's work, an announcement that has quite literally made my year.

Real Life (1979) (image via midnightonly.com)

I previously mentioned my discovery of Albert Brooks' filmography this month, a double feature that included Real Life and Modern Romance. Both are excellent, however Real Life is the one that I felt compelled to re-watch within a week of my first viewing. There are so many films out there that satirize reality television, yet this one--released when reality television was quite literally in its infancy--is by far the most incisive one that I have seen. Where contemporary films tackling this topic tend to focus their attention on viewers of reality TV and the implications of people who take pleasure in watching other people's lives at the expense of living their own--see the villain of Incredibles 2 for just one example--Real Life arrives so early in the development of reality TV that it can focus exclusively on the insanity of actually being the filmmakers and subjects of a reality TV program, and as a result it offers a lot of laughs and a lot of valuable insights that remain fresh even now, nearly 40 years later. In fact, there are too many such moments to single out any specific scenes; this is a film that must simply be watched and enjoyed in its brilliant entirety.

Paddington 2 (2017) (image via The New Yorker)

Back in 2014--wow, has it really been 4 years already?--I seemed to be the only one who was not quite smitten with Paddington. I loved the Wes Anderson-inspired visual style and the character of Paddington himself, particularly Ben Whishaw's pitch-perfect vocal performance; however, I was disappointed by Nicole Kidman's villain and the way that a dramatic climax was shoehorned into a story that really did not need it. I was worried that I would have the same problem with its sequel, but happily, this film easily corrects all of my concerns. Specifically, Hugh Grant's villain and his motivations are introduced early on in the film, so that he is an organic part of the story from the beginning rather than something that becomes significant only in the last act. And oh, how significant Hugh Grant's character is; he puts in one of the funniest performances of the year, effectively stealing the show even from sweet Paddington. This is the kind of family movie that is rare nowadays, one that is written by people who understand that children are entirely capable of enjoying the same things as adults, and what is needed are intuitive writers who can recognize where these two interests intersect--and I am happy to say that they found the perfect intersecting point while crafting Paddington 2, one of my new favorite films of a particularly exceptional year for cinema.

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