Apocalypse TV Guide Vol. 2: Period Pieces to Help You Forget That Now is Actually Also Pretty Terrifying
And sweet, sweet nostalgia for stuff you never experienced.
I’m Not Crying, You’re Crying: Portrait of A Lady on Fire (2019) (film)
Utterly ravishing. Elegant. Passionate. Slow-burning. An 18th century period piece without men. Irreparable heartbreak. Longing. Greek mythological literary allusions. Harpsichords. The female gaze. Lesbian tears. A perfect film. 10/10
Groovy and Smells Like Weed: American Hustle (2013) (film)
Corduroy, crochet, and chest hair galore. American Hustle is a lush to death and expertly manicured inspired-by-a-true-story story of two con artists in love and in trouble, both rife with complication. This film’s selling point is truly its commitment to the late 70’s texture, as evidenced by the sets, the costume design, and the location shots all curated to sepia-stained perfection. But more than a satisfying pastiche, characterizations are well-defined and well-executed, each one earnest, flawed, and believable. The disregard for moral absolutism is palpably erotic, fun, sad, cheap, melodramatic, and gross at times. All the right hairs are out of place. Even Jennifer Lawrence is good in this movie. And Bradley Cooper is actually kind of a good dancer??? 8/10
Rich Girls Still Don’t Marry Poor Boys: Great Gatsby (2013) (film)
Speaking of killer textures, Great Gatsby goes big in exactly the opposite way. Luxe Roaring Twenties art deco, delightfully anachronistic, and dripping with the glitz and glam of modernity, the film and its half hip-hop/half electroswing soundtrack breathe fantastic new life into a high school English classic. Baroque and bejeweled, the fast pace and dramatic camerawork take a surrealist approach to a grounded story. However, my chief beef is its depiction of the titular character, Jay Gatsby, whose composure slowly deteriorates over the course of the film. Maybe I’m a book nerd, but in the novel, Gatsby was cool and collected to the bitter end, and in my mind, deserves to stay that way. Dazzling in true Baz Lurhmann form, but just a little too distant from its beloved source. 7/10
Alfred Hitchcock: Vertigo, now with 70% reduced misogyny! - Spellbound (1945)
Vincent Price: House on Haunted Hill might be a classic, but it’s also a snooze. How about a film that is either scary or hilarious? Entertaining regardless, just depends on how you feel about bugs. - The Tingler (1959)
Quentin Tarantino: If you liked Pulp Fiction, but have now realized you’re no longer 15 years old, here’s a movie with a hip new thing called character development. - Jackie Brown (1997)
Carol Reed: Okay, actually, you’re right, The Third Man is objectively a masterpiece. But you should also watch this. - Night Train to Munich (1940)
Jean-Luc Godard: Listen, everyone swoons over Breathless after undergraduate Global Film 101. It's a phase, and you'll appreciate the technical style and then grow out of it. If you like grit, arrogance, road movies, legendary directors, and French New Wave, may I suggest something a little heavier? - Vagabond (Agnes Varda, 1985)
Movie and TV reviews finally finished during quaran-time. Favorite films from the last decade, first time viewings, binge-watched TV series, foreign and classic films, snuck-in book reviews, gay stuff, wildcards. No particular order.
Existentialism Lite™: The Good Place (2016-2019) (series)
Drawn in by positive critical reception and the regionally famous “I should get to spend eternity in a medium place, like Cincinnati” line, I quickly found The Good Place to be a lighthearted, wholesome, and occasionally thought-provoking little romp. From the creator of TV hits such as The Office, Parks and Recreation, and Brooklyn Nine-Nine, writer/director Michael Schur pumps out yet another twee but bingeable series. Repetitive at times and a few minor plot holes, but with easily digestible 22-minute episodes and clever, lovable characters, those four seasons go down fast. Season 1 is by far the most amusing as you get to know each character, and by the Season 3 finale, you’re wholly invested in the absurdity. With a brightly lit and colorful palette, great one-liners, Maya Rudolph being Maya Rudolph, and Michael’s (Ted Danson) bowties on point, it's an enjoyable-for-what-it-is 8/10.
Damn Good Reporting: The Death and Life of Marsha P. Johnson (2017) (documentary)
Raw, unfettered commentary about the police negligence of the violence against trans women, particularly trans women of color. Heart-wrenching firsthand stories, tender black-and-white nostalgia, and just as much about Sylvia Rivera, Victoria Cruz, Islan Nettles, and an entire movement as it is about a vibrant, loving Marsha. Johnson's murder remains unsolved due to unwinnable systemic circumstances, and the storytelling evokes a deep helplessness. Although, Victoria explains that her motives for re-investigating are to shed light on injustice and bring new hope to forgotten (ignored) cases of victimized women - and that it does. Watching Sylvia Rivera’s impassioned speech at the 1973 march and her ultimate redemption does the soul good. A lo-fi, no-frills political doc that inspires anger, action, and pride. Gay power!!! 9/10
Sophomore Slump: Midsommar (2019) (film)
He says it better than I could. Director Ari Aster's second feature-length film after horror success Hereditary (2018) is visually stunning and meticulously composed; reminiscent of Wes Anderson, The Wicker Man, and Ingmar Bergman (eh, maybe just because it’s Swedish); and has beautiful, sun-soaked cinematography and an artfully anxiety-inducing score. Alas, there is no real character development. Other than Dani, (Florence Pugh, who is as good as ever in this role), the film generally resorts to trite and standard horror movie character tropes. There’s an interesting, pseudo-intellectual back-and-forth between actual sociological critique and a dumb willingness to suspend moral judgment for the sake of appearing culturally sensitive. A black man infringes on some white people’s culture? That has to be a joke, right? (No, it’s deadly serious.) I liked the film more after I read Aster describe it as a "big operatic, apocalyptic breakup film.” It’s far more satisfying that way, because otherwise, it's pretty thematically stunted. Christian (Jack Reynor) sucks, I’m glad he gets toasted in a bear suit, and I need an all-female empathetic screaming circle. 5.5/10