[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]”

[Best of the Decade 2010-2019]

I threw together some lists for fun; obviously these are canonically the best films.

 

25 maybe underseen movies of the decade in alphabetical order:

  • BPM
  • Castaway on the Moon
  • Columbus
  • Damsel
  • En El Septimo Dia
  • Fill the Void
  • GETT: The Trial of Viviane Ameselam
  • girl walk // all day
  • Girlhood
  • Girl Asleep
  • God Help the Girl
  • Holy Motors
  • I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians
  • Liza the Fox Fairy
  • Mommy
  • Never Let Me Go
  • Novitiate
  • Our Little Sister
  • Retrospekt
  • Sworn Virgin
  • Toni Erdmann
  • Torrey Pines
  • Trigger
  • Upstream Color
  • Zoology

DOCS

  • Cameraperson
  • Dawson City: Frozen Time
  • Don’t Think I’ve Forgotten: Cambodia’s Lost Rock & Roll
  • Faces Places
  • Hooligan Sparrow
  • Maiden
  • Marwencol
  • Planet of Snail
  • Project Nim
  • Shirkers

SUPERHEROES

  • Black Panther
  • Captain America: Winter Soldier
  • Colossal
  • Fast Color
  • K-20: The Fiend with 20 Faces
  • Professor Marston and the Wonder Women
  • Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse
  • 10 Cloverfield Lane
  • Thor: Ragnarok
  • The Widowed Witch

SCI-FI/FANTASY

  • Annihilation
  • Attack the Block
  • Ex Machina
  • Ghostbusters: Answer the Call
  • In the Beginning (short)
  • John Carter
  • The Last Jedi
  • The Mermaid
  • Monster Hunt 1&2
  • We Can’t Live Without Cosmos (short)

ACTION

  • Cell 211
  • Europe Raiders
  • Furie
  • Gravity
  • The Heat
  • Mad Max: Fury Road
  • Mission Impossible: Fallout
  • Fast & Furious series
  • John Wick trilogy
  • Planet of the Apes trilogy

QUEER MOVIES

  • Closet Monster
  • Pariah
  • Suicide Kale
  • 3
  • Tomboy
  • Undertow
  • The Way He Looks
  • Wild Nights with Emily
  • Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow
  • Yossi

ROMANCE

  • Amira & Sam
  • The Big Sick
  • A Bride for Rip Van Winkle
  • Crazy Rich Asians
  • Friend Zone
  • The Mountain Between Us
  • Obvious Child
  • Phantom Thread
  • This Is Not What I Expected
  • The Wedding Plan

HORROR

  • Absentia
  • The Conjuring
  • Creep
  • Goodnight Mommy
  • In Fabric
  • Rift
  • Ruby Sparks
  • Under the Shadow
  • Us
  • We Are Still Here

PODCASTS

  • Wolf 359 above all but also…
  • Alice Isn’t Dead
  • Limetown
  • The Penumbra Podcast: Juno Steel
  • Wooden Overcoats

TEEVEE

  • The Americans
  • Call the Midwife
  • Catastrophe
  • Halt & Catch Fire
  • Hannibal
  • Jane the Virgin
  • One Day at a Time
  • One Mississippi
  • Russian Doll
  • Yuri!!! on Ice

[What Did Jaci Think? Late November]

* Somewhere Winter was rather the lesser of some multigeneration-spanning romances I’ve seen lately, but I did appreciate that the lead’s devotion to her idol (music star) wasn’t seen as infantilizing as it might in a Western film. It was just another aspect of her worthy of love.

* I am no expert on The Shining – I’ve seen the film a few times but I haven’t read the book – but Doctor Sleep worked for me. It’s better the further it is from Kubrick, but while wrestling with the trauma from that story. Things I particularly loved: Dan working in hospice care, the metaphors for the mind, Rebecca Ferguson using all her wiles as Rose the Hat and being stymied by clever-as-hell Abra Stone (Kyleigh Curran). Plus I didn’t check my watch at all and putting Cliff Curtis in a movie gets an extra star from me every time. But way to fuck me up with an evil found family, how dare you.

* End of the Century is a lovely film about a two men who hook up in Barcelona and realize they’ve met before, 20 years ago. The film explores the past and the what-ifs if they had stayed together and for obvious reasons doesn’t make any attempt to de-age the actors. In fact, the camera almost relishes their signs of aging, giving the effect of the men walking through their own memories.

* The Good Liar should’ve been a half hour shorter and a tight noir, and that cut would be easy to make: just remove everything having to do with Berlin. Spoilers from here: the twist, such as it is, is obvious from the beginning if you’ve seen a movie ever, but I don’t think it’s supposed to be a surprise. What I had a problem with was not the twist, but the motivation for it. Why can’t she double-cross him because she’s wicked herself? No, there had to be Big Motivations like Nazis and murder and sexual assault. It’s exhausting. Just give me Helen Mirren as a wicked lady please and thank you.

* Marriage Story destroyed me. Sometimes I like to be destroyed. Let me have this, Twitter!

* Two Tigers was better than I expected, a buddy comedy about a kidnapper and his victim. The kidnapper isn’t too great at his job, the victim isn’t too bothered about being kidnapped, and together they help each other deal with elements of their pasts to get themselves unstuck.

* I’ve also spent a frankly embarrassing amount of time watching Thai BL shows lately (for which I blame Douyin, which pushed shippy videos of the leads into my feed) & it got me wondering what the appeal is for me (aside from the obvious.) Here’s what I think: they’re soap operas where men spend a lot of time talking through their feelings (non-toxic masculinity!), the characters inhabit largely queernormative settings (any homophobia I’ve seen has been internalized), and Asian men are portrayed as sexual beings and worthy of desire (this is also obvious, but still rare in Western media).

Or maybe it’s just that the world is a garbage fire and I would like to spend my few remaining days watching pretty boys kiss. Probably all of the above.