Sep 2, 2019

The Month in Movies: August 2019

Watched: 58
First Viewings: 44

Best First Viewing(s)
Do the Right Thing / Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
The revelation of this month, perhaps this year, was Do the Right Thing. Spike Lee is a filmmaker I haven't explored enough, and right from its opening seconds, as Rosie Perez dances to Public Enemy, I felt like I was seeing something special here. It's a film of inventive visuals, rich dialogue, crackling energy and boiling, righteous, anger. I can't wait to see it again.

If Do the Right Thing catches a young filmmaker at the peak of his energy and powers, Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood finds a directorwho had a similar electricity and groundbreaking quality re-finding some of it coming at his story and setting from a more reflective place. It's a perfect mix of Tarantino old and new; elegiac and romanticised in its view of cinema and bending history to angrily and brutally redress wrongs. These are the two films I've thought about and wrestled with most this month, it may be a while before my thoughts are fully settled on either of them. 

Best Rewatch(es)
Contact / Fucking Amal / Paper Moon
I'm currently revising my Top 100 films list, and my rewatch of Contact was for that purpose. Between viewings, I feel I forget just how good a film it is, the intelligence and grounding of its scientific story, the push and pull of its debate between science and metaphysics, the subtle beauty of its images and Jodie Foster's outstanding, perhaps career best, work all make it stand out. I don't know where yet, but it will be on that list.

The other two highlights of the month in rewatches were two of my favourite coming of age films. Fucking Amal is a film that speaks to me on so many levels, it feels almost like a document of my teenage years - though, clearly, the specifics vary quite a bit - and I'll always take the chance to see this 2016 restoration, with its much improved subtitles, projected. Paper Moon was a surprise, the first screening of a mystery allnighter, and we couldn't have had a better start to the night than a largely pristine release print of Peter Bogdanovich's charming road comedy, with Tatum O'Neal sparking brilliantly off her father Ryan as little girl getting caught up in con trick with a man who might be her father.

Worst Film(s)
The Mummy [2017] / Playmobil: The Movie 
The cinematic universe model has its interesting points, but The Mummy, meant as the beginning of Universal's Dark Universe for its monster properties, which had been announced with great fanfare and star wattage, was hilarious in its hubris. Unfortunately that's the only entertaining thing about this farrago, which is more like watching a pitch meeting than a movie, so concerned is it with world building and setup over telling its own derivative and perfunctory story. Even Tom Cruise, whose charisma can help most things, looks like he's aware it's not working.

I suspect Playmobil also wanted to launch a franchise - one to rival the Lego movies - with their first crack at the cinema. Again, the overwhelming feeling is that of watching a focus group, as the film throws all the different worlds Playmobil can represent at the screen without any of them sticking. The characters are thin, Anya Taylor-Joy looks mortified in the live action scenes and barely a single joke hits the mark.

Best Actor: Leonardo DiCaprio / Brad Pitt - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood
Best Actress: Paula Beer - Transit / Never Look Away
Best Ensemble: Do the Right Thing
Best Director: Spike Lee - Do the Right Thing / Quentin Tarantino - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood / Christian Petzold - Transit
One(s) To Watch: Julia Butters - Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood / Isabella Moner - Dora and the Lost City of Gold
Best Visuals: Once Upon a Time in Hollywood / Never Look Away
Best Score/ Use of Music: Use of "Fight the Power" - Do the Right Thing
Biggest Surprise: Dora and the Lost City of Gold / Next of Kin
Biggest Disappointment: Animals
I'm Pretty Sure No One Else Has Seen This: The Last Dragon
Movie I Finally Got to See: Do the Right Thing

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