What I watched in January
A list and review of forty movies watched in a month
Top 10 at the end
Kicking off the year with my favorite activity: watching movies. This year I made only one resolution. I promised to watch more movies, as it turns out, it makes me real good.
So, to help me keep it up, I will be listing and writing about these movies, both in the blog and my Letterboxd page.
This month I watched 40 films, 25 of which I’ve seen for the first time (old and new), 10 films from 2021 and already 1 from 2022. There were 2 short films, 4 documentaries, including Beyoncé’s Homecoming doc-concert, and 1 standup special (yes, they will count). So let’s get it started.
I kicked off my list/year watching the Mubi Exclusive Annette, from director Leos Carax, starring Adam Driver at his best and Marion Cotillard in a love and death story told in a surrealistic musical masterpiece. One month has gone by and I still don’t know what to say about this movie. It just touched me so deeply and has such amazing scenes. The central love song is gorgeous and so uncommon in the genre, the kid scenes in the end, the romantic arc between the two leads, the tight supporting cast, it is just lovely. The movie was written by the pop rock duo Sparks, Ron and Russell Mael. They’ve written this over a decade before actually having the movie made, and what a treat it was. Many critics says it is the weakest film from Carax, but I’m not familiar with his filmography, so just imagining how impressive it must be. 4 stars out of 5.
After that, I continue watching Adam Driver as an abnoxious filmmaker in Noah Baumbach’s 2014 film While We’re Young. Acting opposite legend Ben Stiller, Adam is amazing in this story that could be summarized as a coming of age flick (the third age, in this case). We’ve all been young. We’re all getting older. We’re all lying. We’re all pretending. We’re just trying to live it up. It was good to see Ben and Adam properly acting a whole movie, after loving their dynamic in Noah’s 2017 netflix film with Adam Sandler (on my list to reprise in February).
Then I watched 2016’s Voyage of Time, the epic documentary by Terrence Malick. Following the premise of the amazing Creation scene in The Tree of Life, his 2010 masterpiece, Malick crafted this IMAX experience from the outset of the universe till our days. I watched it on my 50” TV, and even then it was worth it. Put aside of the back story of the O’Brien family, it can be less interesting, but still, a good expansion for that one gorgeous scene. Then I went on and watched Maggie Gyllenhaal’s 2021 feature debut The Lost Daughter, and Olivia Colman just fully deserves her second Oscar. It’s such a powerful visual representation of motherhood, told in a visceral and vulnerable way, not leaning to the miracle narrative, but diving deep into the ugly truth of this experience and society’s harsh expectations towards women due to motherhood. At some times I could barely breath, how real and sinister the acting and cinematography joined forces to make each scene be like. Olivia, I have a life, don’t do that to me… Oh, The Father is a available (should I go for it?).
Then I rewatched Rian Johnson’s 2019 Knives Out. Definitely one of the best films of last decade, the most original use of the tropes to the concept, astonishing performances from a stellar cast, beautiful digital cinematography that basically reinvents the way to emulate film quality, and a brilliant direction from one of the best. And damn, beautiful script. Can’t wait for the next ones. Here’s to Christopher Plumber. Then I rewatched 2010’s The Social Network, so Felipe Emrich should be ashamed of himself. There’s nothing new I can say about this movie, it is just perfect. And then, Robert Eggers’ The Lighthouse. So sinister and original. Somebody GIVE WILLEM DAFOE HIS OSCAR. How did it got lost all these years? The man is a nature powerhouse. Also, Robert Pattinson can really deliver his long shots on this one.
Then I watched the weirdest of the month (by a long shot). David Robert Mitchell’s 2018 Under the Silver Lake stars a socially awkward and anxious Andrew Garfield. Most time the movie is weird for weird sakes only, but the vintage style suspenseful soundtrack and some really over the top performance from Garfield keeps you hooked to a bloated end. His mom in this is just delightful. So weird film, but at least you got to see Garfield’s butt and his masturbating face. Oh yeah, and some creepy mystery no one never seems to solve. That weird-as-fuck scene with the songwriter is some great shit out of a loony’s nightmare. Everything seems to be there to make the protagonist go crazy all the way. And the paranoia build up, from the maddening script to the uneven editing to Garfield being evicted for not paying rent, in the middle of the night just goes beyond me and really bring home the message and madness of it. They call it future cult classic, but I’m not watching this mess again. Three stars out of Five, at best.
Then I rewatched two 80’s classics. First, The Karate Kid, on Netflix now. Karate Kid is more than nostalgia. The movie is as good as my feelings about it from the time I was just a kid growing up watching it on after school special TV shows. The acting is grounded. Miyagi is a well rounded character given some space to become human in an era and type film where it would just become an asian magical entity, and this is golden. Daniel San is everything I’ve dreamt of being when I hit my teenage years, thou I props my suffered as much bullying. The score is legendary and poignantly beautiful. The pacing is marvelous and the school/beach/flirty scenes feels as real as it gets, totally honest all the way. And the father-son relationship between both main characters is beautiful and even more heartbreaking when you think about how Miyagi couldn’t be a father for the loss of his wife and kid, and how Daniel did not really missed a father figure, since his mom was a powerhouse, but was definitely available to have one. Just beautiful and smartly funny. I just love this movie and am grateful to see it again. Then Ghostbusters, for some reason. The visual effects have aged terribly. The casual misogyny too. But cult classic is cult classic and it has some great comedic performances and one-liners. But yeah, the plot is ludicrous. We can say that already right? Almost forty years. It manages to be better than any sequel, of course. But nah, I remember it better than it actually is. Maybe it’s the misogyny. Maybe.
Then I rewatched The Matrix (just the best sci-fi, action, kungfu, romantic and philosophical movie ever made) to prepare for the new one. I’ll talk about it soon. Then I rewatched Spider Man, the very first one, and Tobey is just a solid Peter from the outset. But OMG, where’s Willem Oscar? The man is just the best supervillain in comic book movies ever. Both the blueprint and the master. Then I watched Ari Aster’s Midsommar, the most disturbing and beautiful (and for that more disturbing) horror flick ever. What a visual treat for the eyes while the mind is broken into pieces trying to come around it. Then I watched Alex Garland’s Ex-Machina, the movie that made me think that maybe I’m not inside the Matrix, maybe I’m a robot myself. Oscar Isaac is the best in it. The dancing scene is incredible.
Then I rewatched Luca Guadgnino’s Call me by your Name, one of my favorite films ever, and it just made me sure once again that I don’t want a sequel. Then I watched The Opposite of Sex, a teen drama about a girl who gets pregnant with her brother’s boyfriend’s baby, and kills someone in between takes. It has Friends’ Lisa Kudrow as a supporting controlling character and a nice discussion on gay rights and relationships in the midst of the Aids epidemic of the late 90’s. It is funny as it tries to flip some tropes of coming of age stories with a narration that breaks the fourth wall to sound sarcastic (and somehow nails it). But it is difficult to watch. The pacing is weird, I’ve seen it in two parts because I got bored in the first try. But the ending is pretty solid. Not available on Netflix anymore though.
Then I watched the Netflix 2021 Oscar contender Passing, directed by Rebecca Hall. I talked about it more on my post about the movie, but it is just as solid in my mind now as then. What a beautiful thing. Then because of it I rewatched the 2021 Oscar nominee short film Two Different Strangers, on Netflix. devo dizer que se trata de uma história morbidamente realista ao retratar com tanto cuidado inúmeros casos de mortes de jovens negros por abuso policial. Usando a premissa de um loop temporal como em “Feitiço do Tempo” ou o mais recente “Palm Springs”, o filme leva ao questionamento sobre como a violência policial à população negra (não diferente no Brasil) se torna um tipo de looping em que o indivíduo está sempre em risco de uma fatalidade, e faz sua crítica social sem tirar os pés do holofote que em que o momento #BlackLivesMatter se posiciona, especialmente após a morte de George Floyd (homenageado no longa em diversos momentos que ecoam sua súplica e grito de resistência). Porém a resolução do filme encontra alguns problemas. Por um momento parece que uma longa conversa entre o jovem protagonista e seu algoz policial branco de meia idade pode apresentar a solução para um problema estrutural de séculos de racismo e negligência ao povo negro em todo o mundo ocidental (pra não esquecer, existe racismo no Brasil e este deve ser combatido). Contudo, mesmo trazendo argumentos plausíveis, a história não encontra um eixo, e se encerra pontuando que não é apenas o povo negro que está preso num looping, mas também a estrutura policial racista, que mais do que nunca está ciente de sua atrocidade baseada em preconceito (já não se pode dizer em 2021 que alguém não se sabe racista, mesmo que o saber não tenha atingido a consciência). Observando a repercussão do filme, percebe-se que é nesse ponto que alguns o acham inferior a muitos outros (há quem tenha chamado de pior indicação na categoria do Oscar em anos), contudo, foi aí que enxerguei a força do longa, que com seus diálogos trata de trazer à luz da consciência aquilo que todos já sabemos.
Then I watched 1975’s Monty Python and the Holy Grail and damn, satirical gods have put together one of the best genre bending comedies of all times and i’m even more impressed by it. the acting is so over the top and the ludicrous is so palpable you better brace your self and prepare for the worst case scenario. arthur is hilarious. the bit about democracy and class divides is so poignant, even today, almost fifty years later. that girl’s castle scene is brilliant and even covers up for some misogyny that speaks more about the society we’re in than the movie itself. the pacing is phenomenal, as it really sets you up to what feels like an eternity of laughs pressed together in a ninety minutes film. the joke rate is so high you need a second view to get all the info cramped into funny shenanigans. just go open for it. anything can happen. it feels like every time there’s something new going on.
Then I rewatched Kill Your Darlings, the 2013 drama starring Daniel Radcliffe as Allen Ginsberg. this is one of my favorite movies ever. it introduced me to a handful of writers and poets i did not know before and to feelings i did not know i had. radcliffe is great in it, but dehan’s performance is close to perfection. i love the fast pace editing, the harlem scenes, the hallucination montages, the music… oh the music. the cinematography can put you off, totally on purpose. and some one liners are just so close to my heart right now they might be to blame for some of my personality issues. jack kerouac is a jackass in it and i love it. the war back story is gorgeous as it is the love enthusiasm of the main characters. lucien and allen are just two sides of the same weird coin, so much as myself.
Then Beyoncé’s Homecoming, the best musical documentary-concert ever put to film. Then I rewatched Query, the 2020 short film hit me right in the face. The question “are we being manipulated by society” is poignant in any circumstance, but asking me that about how my generation could probably have been conditioned to some specifics on gender identity and sexual orientation hits heavier. And the film does that in a believable, challenging the concepts of bromance and queerness, as the conversation strikes between two well-educated best friends who spent their day arguing about the issue before putting it to test, just to figure out there might be more for it then we previously expected. The acting is in a good level and the heart touch moments are truly well done, the editing is fast paced, keeping the viewer interested in the story, and the dialogue is great, specially in the work made to foreshadow the final experience and honesty gut punch. I’ve seen it a dozen times and am likely to do it again. It is that good. I’ll take down half a star though, just because it ends too fast. It should be a feature. 4.5 out of 5.
Then I went to the movie theater and watched The Matrix Resurrections on IMAX. i’m just exploding of happiness for living to see it. the saga is very aware of its history, very aware of the days we’re living of reboots and remakes and repeated ip, and still manages to bring something new to the table. we’re resurrecting them for a reason and need we did not know we had, and that’s the gold of this installment. plus, fight scenes as sharp as ever, inventive and exciting. keanu and carrie are just picking up where they left, with perfect chemistry all over again. the new score is brilliant but every time they played some classics themes i got goosebumps. and oh damn, isn’t it an experience. neil is great in it, but groff, c’mon. the cinematography is so unique and unlike anything we saw before in the matrix, and the colors really pop. the ducatti scenes are incredible. i loved the pacing and camera movements during fight scenes in the matrix, especially because of how much you can actually see and place yourself into it even if the speed (or slow-mo) tries to make it unsettling sometimes. it’s action filmed by the legend herself, and much better than the self glorified cgi extravaganzas some super hero movies put out. lana really expands the universe of the series, and as a fan who knows the expansion the series has in animatrix it is amazing to see something new once again. not much classic philosophy to be explored but how meta it is the discussions of the way we live as a society today. meta, meta, meta. and i love how campy it behaves sometimes. tell me lana is doing the fifth, please. i beg you.
Then I watched Oscar favorite Jane Campion’s the power of the dog, and it has all the power. jane is amazing. kirsten is incredible in it. i loved the twists and the relationship build up between cumberbatch and jordi. the score is magnificent. cinematography on point. no complaints except maybe some pacing issues by the end of act one, and the division in chapters. i understand she follows the book, but weird. now, somebody make benedict shut up about that guy who’s dead since beginning, i can’t hear anything more about it. there’s one scene in the beginning though that reminded me of cinema sins’ jeremy. benedict says: where were we 25 years ago. and his brother says: why do we need to talk about it, or something like that. then jeremy, in my head said: exposition dump, ding (bell sound).
Then I watched The House, this new netflix animation is so inventive, so brilliantly made and so original it gives me the chills. i just finished watching it now and it was the best thing i’ve watched this year so far. all the three stories that compose the movie are exquisite. the first one is a nerve racking horror thriller that blows your mind at every corner, with such a pace to put you on the edge all the time. the second is so absurd and funny and suspenseful you can’t really say what’s coming next, and that’s brilliant. and funny, how funny. then the third one is liberating, funny, harsh and especially touching. the money joke is hilarious and poignant. all three stories wrap an unbelievable arc for the house, of all characters. the voice acting is top notch. the stop motion animation is gorgeous. the editing, score, every shot is a masterful painting more beautiful than the last one. everything to love here and to be amazed at every minute of this story that just flows pretty naturally for an anthology three-part movie. first, the thriller at the edge, then uncomfortable comedy, and at last release and liberation. it’s all here. i’ll pay close attention in these artists from now on.
Then I watched the Netflix Taiwan Original Dear Ex. This film was a good surprise. It has some issues right off the gate with the narration/therapist talk and the irregular animation. The acting is the strongest asset in this production, while the editing is pretty confusing at times but at least it has a good pace. The mother is awesome and some really strong gut punches await on the best and most emotional scenes between the dad and his two lovers. The scene she asks the therapist if there was no love at all was the best acting I’ve seen in a long time, but then, some technical choices in the movie just takes some stars away. It is pretty good and one of the best things netflix has done, especially considering the good challenge of the language. The kid is just okay compared to the mother and the “mistress” but that’s okay. At times, it seems like there’s only a kid to strike some conflict, and even if one scene near the end justifies his existence in the story, his overall situation here is to be an audience surrogate, and the actor plays it fine. The score has some good and some cringe worthy moments. I might rewatch it, at least his best scenes, again in the future.
Then I watched David Lowery’s The Green Knight. The best film of 2021. The retelling of the Arthurian legend just got its best adaptation ever and a breath of freshness to the fantastical genre movies. Dev Patel is incredible in it and carries it beautifully with the help of one of the best soundtracks of the year. Plus, you have the extraordinary cinematography bending its knees to portray reality and surrealism in the most outrageous way, what a lightning, just that. Plus, Joel Edgerton as Lord and Barry Keoghan as the Scavenger are just both magnificent. And the pacing is brilliant, the locations are gorgeous, the editing is heart. So much is put into it, no wonder it will become a cult classic for generations to come.
Then I went back five Oscar races and finally watched Spotlight and I gotta say: I wasn’t expecting to cry at all. Always knew it was a movie about a newspaper thingy, but never knew what this newspaper was after. Once I finally gave it a shot today and the story started, I understood why the movie was so important in its year as this, and honestly, am grateful for waiting all these six years to watch it. This story resonated to me so deeply, as a former church member and youth pastor myself, who saw such thing happen, as kids were abused by church leaders and the institutions just threw it under the rug. The movie made me complicit, for knowing and not coming publicly on those children’s behalf. The movie made me realize how shocking and traumatic all those stories of abuse actually were, to me, as a passive observer and to the kids who endured it. It made me realize why the now young adult that was abuse could not forgive that leader, even when so called leader passed away for covid and diabetes months ago. And most importantly, the movie stroke the right note so I might more actively work towards protecting children in any scenario they’re in, to prevent them to go through this. Moviewise, Mark Rufallo is the revelation we all know by now he is. Casting is a phenomena apart, script is tight and cohesive as possible. Cinematography and edit are sober and simple, but hits the mark. It do not win the Oscar, this movie would fall into forgetfulness pretty easy, but thank god I did not forget and had not seen it back in the day.
Then I watched 2021’s Being the Ricardos (terrible title), Aaron Sorkin’s new obnoxious feature. Nicolle Kidman is just crazy incredible here. The back and forth with the time was a little confusing. Tell me why Sorkin missed the chance to play with the aspect ratio? It was right on the nose. The script is good, the floating heads are not good. It’s a little cocky, but really, when is he not? Then I watched Jonah Hill’s directorial debut Mid90’s. Gut punch after gut punch. The movie has an interesting frenetic pace. The character development is subtle enough to not be on the nose, and the acting is authentic, to say the least. This directorial debut from the legend Jonah Hill is an unfiltered take on coming of age stories and that is both heartwarming and uncomfortable as shit. Those final scenes are dope, but the scenes where the main kid is alone learning how to skate or researching a cd to give his brother are the best in the film. It is not patronizing and sends a good message on family and friendship alike.
Then I watched Robert Eggers’ other movie, The Witch. Just top quality horror. No tired tropes and great performances, specially Anya and Harvey that steals the show on Caleb’s death scene. And the concepts are so well put into it. Robert really nails the genre and brings something new to the table. Brilliant. And then I watched Joel and Ethan Coen’s Inside Llewyn Davis, one of his less popular (and more grounded) pictures. And I admit. It is just perfect. Enjoyable, intense, surprising and enigmatic. Oscar Isaac is a revelation. The songs are great. The script is tight. The protagonist is relatable and yet something you’ve never seen before. Loved every minute of it. It’s of course the less caricature driven film from the Coen’s, but nonetheless brilliant.
Then I watched Kick Ass 2 for some reason, and it is just a lot worse than the first one. preso por clichês e esteriótipos patéticos, diálogo insustentável e um arco cringe demais pra ser visto. Porém, boas cenas de ação e o inegável carisma de Cloe Grace (que faz muito com uma personagem tão bidimensional e mal desenvolvida) salvam a experiência de assistir o filme, mas vale mais a pena rever o primeiro do que assistir essa continuação. Then I rewatched Black Mirror: Bandersnatch, the Netflix interactive film that you have to choose the character’s actions to build the story. It was better the first time I watched it in 2018. Then I watched two movie documentaries. Being James Bond: the Daniel Craig story, and Honoring a Broadway Legacy: behind the scenes of tick, tick…Boom!, and they were good enough to calm my eagerly desire to see some bts footage on how films are made. Then I rewatched Michelle Wolf’s Netflix special Joke Show from 2019, and she’s just incredible. The joke about the Spider-Man and Batman tampons are everything to me. Then I rewatched Solo: A Star Wars Story because I like it. I honestly find it one of three best Star Wars movies since the prequels era, joining Rogue One and The Last Jedi with a literal brand new story that has just the amount of fan service and subtle nods to what made this characters great before. Is it perfect? Not at all. But as enjoyable as it gets, and to me, just resonates, even emotionally. Gotta give em credit for trying. They could easily have made another The Force Awakens.
Then I rewatched Paddington just because, and to close out the month, I watched 2021’s Sundance darling CODA, and OMG. I did not expect to cry so much. But when she sings to her dad and auditions in sign language I was long lost in my dignity that doesn’t allow me to cry. Best way to finish this month and list. Just hope this casting get the SAG and the movie gets an Oscar nom. It is a lot deserved. Editing is really beautiful, the sound mix and (OMG) the silent scenes are otherworldly. The acting is so magnificent. The strongest scene in the movie features no spoken word, literally body language and is as powerful as it gets. The script is tight and follows the high school premise with a fresh breath of air that just goes beyond having deaf actors and characters. Just the loveliest. I’ll think about it a lot and probably just rank it highest than all of my January watchlist. And definitely will rewatch a few times.
And that’s it. Those were the movies I watched in January.
My top ten of first time viewing is CODA, The Green Knight, Inside Llewyn Davis, The House, Mid90’s, Spotlight, Passing, The Lost Daughter, Annette and The Matrix Resurrections.
Go watch some of them and form your own opinion.