[What Did Jaci Think: January]

So, as mentioned earlier, the shape of things over here will be a little different because the shape of the world is different. More first watches for me, fewer actually new films. For obvious reasons, my viewing habits have changed over the last two years, but I’ve been trying to do two things to keep from sinking into exclusively comfort viewing.

First, I monitor the page for films leaving Criterion Channel at the end of the month, & make a watchlist from that, prioritizing women directors, queer films, and world cinema. Second, I look out for remote film festivals (tips welcome!), as well as random free screenings popping up at Eventive.

…so that’s why one of the best new films I saw in January was a Taiwanese film from 1970. So let’s start with that! The End of the Track, a free offering from the Harvard Film Archive, is a raw and beautiful film about grief, class, and my favorite thing, subtextual queerness.

A Criterion highlight was The Official Story, a film from Argentina about the personal costs for a family that took in one of the stolen children of the Dirty War – one aware of it, one in denial.

Between Shadow and Soul, a silent, black-and-white reworking of The Third Wife, was completely engaging and effective in a different way from the lush green original.

I’m Your Man, the “Cousin Matthew as a robot boyfriend” movie mysteriously described by many letterboxd posts as a romantic comedy, despite the fact that … it’s not romantic. I liked it, and it made me think of Ex Machina (which I love) but I just don’t believe you can have a romance where one partner has no desires of their own. I felt like I had watched a completely different movie than everyone else. (The joke about why he speaks German with an English accent is very good.)

& finally, the wildest double feature of The Lost Daughter and Together Together, if you too ever want to experience two polar opposite (but both terrific) takes on motherhood and parenting.

I don’t usually make film resolutions, but this year, since I’m not doing anything else anyway, I thought I’d try to watch a long film every long weekend. And by long I mean over three hours. For New Year’s I finally watched the four hour cut of A Bride for Rip Van Winkle, which actually turned out to be a series (imagine trying to sell that!) Still loved it, so precise and strange. Then over MLK weekend I splurged on Happy Hour, spending five hours living in a novel about these four friends. I could have stayed there longer.

In theater highlights include – The Tragedy of Macbeth (I honestly wished I was watching it on an even larger screen than the midsized multiplex house, all those gorgeous Expressionist lines and shadows, an impossible sound stage castle), Licorice Pizza (though I’m still furious about the racist “jokes” here because they were harmful, bad storytelling that overshadowed everything that was beautiful about that movie), Parallel Mothers, and Flee.

& finally, ~BL Corner~. At the end, so normal people can skip it! January saw the end of “Bad Buddy“, a series which I famously anticipated madly and then adored all the way through. It’s absolutely a classic Thai BL with all the soapiness and low production value and unsubtle product placement which that implies, but it also gives us an unusually healthy relationship, great chemistry, a GL side couple (!), and just in general P’Aof making interesting choices inside the genre.

On the other end of things, an anti-rec for “My Beautiful Man“, a super toxic BL from Japan. It’s one thing to have dark themes and complex characters, it’s another when it’s romanticized abuse and straight-up bad storytelling.

& that’s that for January!

[2021 Film Wrap-up]

Total: 50 (full list here)
Revival: 6

That’s the lowest number since I started tracking in 2006! It’s also fewer films than 2020, despite the fact that I only went to films for about 2 months in 2020 compared to 6 in 2021. The difference is: no film festivals. I miss festivals SO MUCH y’all. I want to stand in a line and complain about passholders while also being a passholder. The dream!

Anyway, so the the strategy this year is looking at anything I watched for the first time in 2021 that was released in 2019-2021. And here we go!

Favorite films: Titane, Thin Skin, The Power of the Dog, Passing

Also: Spencer, Wisdom Tooth, Romeo & Juliet at the National, Preparations to be Together for an Unknown Period of Time, The Souvenir Part II

More after the jump!

Continue reading “[2021 Film Wrap-up]”

[2020 Film Wrap-Up]

Total: 61 (full list here)
Revival: 23
Avg cost: $2.40, which is not bad considering I think I paid for a month of A List that I didn’t use.

Wrap-ups for previous years live under the year-end tag & I just spent my first year on letterboxd where I’m wickedjaws. My 2020 stats are here.

No one needs me to tell you it was a weird year. The last film I saw in the theater was The Invisible Man on March 13th. I was the only person in the second-largest house at Pacific Place, which was possibly the best, creepiest way to watch it. But since then, it’s been hard to get excited about new movies, even when there are exciting new movies to be had. I just don’t enjoy paying $10-20 to watch a movie alone on my television.

So instead, I watched a lot of free theater, mostly opera, which is listed here. And I also got deeper into trashy television, by which I mean BL & mostly Thai, which I wrote dumb zines about here and here.

I did watch some good films in those two and a half months (here’s my best of the decade because why not), and I did stream a little new work, mostly through festivals, so let’s give this a go anyway. For tradition’s sake & in no particular order:

Best films: First Cow, Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Emma, Birds of Prey, Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Best films directed by men: The Personal History of David Copperfield, Beanpole, And Then We Danced, Sylvie’s Love, Your Name Engraved Herein

More categories after the jump.

Continue reading “[2020 Film Wrap-Up]”

[What Did Jaci Think? January]

In theaters!

Midnight Family is a documentary about a family who operate a private ambulance in Mexico City, and through them, it is a documentary about people doing their best in the midst of systemic failure. Relatable! The number of official ambulances is so small that to call it a mere shortage is laughable, and the void is filled by private EMTs hustling their way around the city, trying to get people to pay who can’t or won’t, and when that fails, trying to make a buck on referrals. The whole operation (and family!) is held together by Juan who is something like 17 years old, and Juan for President, honestly; he’s the best.

I was always going to see Underwater regardless of reviews – I mean cmon, a KStew monster movie? – but it is one of those frustrating movies that hints at intriguing ideas, and then consistently makes the less interesting choice. The movie in my head with all those elements – the monsters! dream logic! softboi Kstew! her brothers-in-arms relationship with Vincent Cassel! the cute intern in the rainbow tshirt! Mamoudou Athie being charming! – was much better. All those elements except please cut TJ Miller thanks because who the fuck wants him around? No one. They should have left him in the rubble. (Also a moment here to wave my Cast Mamoudou Athie In More RomComs You Cowards flag, thank you for coming to my TED talk.)

The day before I saw 1917, a man suggested I “broaden my perspective” by seeing more movies about men as if I have not been seeing movies about men for 40 years. And as I watched it, I thought a lot about why Award Worthy Directing means chest-thumping like putting George MacKay through hell and not, say, creating empathy for Amy March.

Whatever. I went to 1917 for Roger Deakins’ cinematography and also for the possibility that at one point one boy would hold another boy tenderly, and both of those things met my expectations. I didn’t care much about the one-shot trick going in, but by the end I found it a liability. The stakes for the film are of course the question of they’ll get to the line in time to stop the men walking into the German trap. But the stakes are really: will they survive? And in a film so firmly driven by one character (obviously they don’t both make it; this is not a spoiler to anyone who has ever seen a war film) there’s an immediate loss of tension. Anyway whatever it’s fine. It looks great. And if it made you curious about MacKay, I recommend Pride and For Those in Peril.

Everything interesting about The Rhythm Section feels like it came from the fact that it was directed by a woman, and everything cliched and dull about it feels like it came from the fact that it was written by a man. There you have it.

Really, the best time I had in the theater in January was the mini Varda retrospective. Viva Varda!

Home viewing!

I bought Swing Kids unseen on the strength of a scene where two characters dance to “Modern Love”, and it was 100% worth it. The story of a dance troupe put together to “improve morale” in a POW camp during the Korean war, it never forgets the “POW camp” part of that equation, & manages the inherent tonal challenges astonishingly well. If you want a dance movie that also stomps on your heart, have I got a movie for you! Also D.O. is terrific in it, so thanks a lot now my queue at MyDramaList is even longer.

On a related note, I’m still spending a lot of time with Cdramas & Thai BL & most of that is embarrassing but some I will tell you about regardless.

Because the universe is amazing there are somehow *two* different comic Cdramas that star Xiao Zhan & various members of XNine *and* have world-building centered on astrology: “Oh! My Emperor” and “Super Star Academy“. (I mean, this is me assuming “Fights Break Sphere”/”Battle Through the Heavens” *isn’t* about astrology and honestly it could be, who knows.)

I’m halfway through “Oh! My Emperor”, a time-traveling historical which I’m finding a bit of a slog but I’ll keep at it because the girl is adorable and XZ as the guy who won’t get the girl is also adorable.

However, I found “Super Star Academy” thoroughly entertaining. It’s basically a high school for kids with superpowers determined by their star signs, and it’s goofy in a self-aware way that was extremely my jam: secondary characters who complain about their lack of characterization, a chase scene that throws every joke at the wall to see what sticks, a person who isn’t what they pretend to be turning out to be a Gemini.

Also, they have great uniforms. Every episode where Xiao Zhan wears a cape is a good episode in my opinion.

What have you been watching?

[2019 Film Wrap-Up]

2019collageTotal: 256 (full list here)
Revival: 45
SIFF: 63
Avg cost: Two bucks!

Wrap-ups for previous years live under the year-end tag, canonical best-of-decade lists are here, and I’m now on letterboxd as wickedjaws so add me fer crissakes.

I skipped three film festivals as well as missing a third of SIFF for work, so. It was a rough year in general. But the movies? The movies were great.

Best films: Parasite, Better Days, I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians, Pain & Glory, Little Women

Also: Booksmart, The Farewell, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, Transit, Hustlers, High Life, Swing Kids

More vital categories after the jump!

Continue reading “[2019 Film Wrap-Up]”