2021

film goal: one new movie a month.

january

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg - Criterion poster

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Original Title: Les parapluies de Cherbourg
Director: Jaques Demy
Writer: Jaques Demy
Stars: Catherine Deneuve, Nino Castelnuovo

gorgeous, romantic, moving. adored this one; so glad to finally cross it off the to-watch list.

Fiddler on the Roof - Theatrical release poster by Ted Coconis

Fiddler on the Roof (1971)

rewatch, Title TK Podcast
Director: Norman Jewison
Writers: Joseph Stein (stageplay & screenplay), Sholem Aleichem (Tevye the Dairyman stories)
Stars: Topol, Norma Crane

a rewatch for the podcast. brilliant adaptation. makes me cry every time. movie musicals weren't the name of the game in the '70s, but the decade still produced some greats.

What a Girl Wants poster - Amanda Bynes throws up a peace sign while standing between two guards in bearskin hats.

What a Girl Wants (2003)

rewatch, movie night with K
Director: Dennie Gordon
Writers: Jenny Bicks & Elizabeth Chandler (screenplay), William Douglas-Home (stageplay "The Reluctant Debutante")
Stars: Amanda Bynes, Colin Firth

movie night with K. you can tell how old I am because I have an awful lot of nostalgia for the 2000s. the music, the fashion, and...perhaps the frivolity. films like this are a pleasure to return to; lighthearted fun. goes on the shelf next to Chasing Liberty.

Chemical Hearts - Amazon Original poster

Chemical Hearts (2020)

movie night with K
Director: Richard Tanne
Writers: Richard Tanne (screenplay), Krystal Sutherland (original book "Our Chemical Hearts")
Stars: Lili Reinhart, Austin Abrams

putting this on the shelf next to Untamed Heart, in a loving way—though the brain chemistry talk in this one is nearly as awkward as the "baboon heart" monologue poor Christian Slater had to deliver. Chemical Hearts is exactly the sort of romantic drama that appeals to me. angst, damaged characters, blurry friendship/romance dynamics. surprised me with its unusual structure & and ending. standout performance by Lili Reinhart. she's got the right energy for Diana Bishop, actually.

february

Maudie poster

Maudie (2016)

Director: Aisling Walsh
Writers: Sherry White
Stars: Sally Hawkins, Ethan Hawke

it's a goal of mine to get more Canadian media into my diet. Maud Lewis was a folk artist from Nova Scotia. gosh, I want to get to the Maritimes. the same part of me that longs to get to Scotland wants to get to the east coast—and they are very similar, for what it's worth. this film (shot in Newfoundland, sorry Nova Scotians) is gorgeous. and again, exactly the kind of thing I like: quiet, character-driven, unconventional love story. the relationship at the heart of it is not particularly warm. Everett is gruff, boorish. and then Maud, sweet and frail...

wonderful performances. a real pleasure to watch.

Pieces of a Woman poster

Pieces of a Woman (2020)

Director: Kornél Mundruczó
Writers: Kata Wéber
Stars: Vanessa Kirby, Shia LeBeouf

stress and relief. there's the "fun-scary" that we might get from a horror movie or a roller coaster. there's also the catharsis that we might get from hurt/comfort fanfiction or a good tragegy. we seek safe ways to work through difficult feelings.

under the right conditions, stories about trauma help me find a little peace. the comfortable melancholy swallows me up and I feel at ease. a story that is supposed to make me hurt, or sad, or upset is a relief, just like rain on a day you don't want to get out of bed. in that spirit, I watched this film at precisely the right time.

it may be a strange comparison, but like Up, this film has an exceptional prologue and never quite recovers. still. I could watch Vanessa Kirby all day.

Speed Racer poster

Speed Racer (2008)

Title TK Podcast
Directors: Lana & Lilly Wachowski
Writers: Lana & Lilly Wachowski, Tatsuo Yoshida (animated series "Speed Racer")
Stars: Emile Hirsch, Matthew Fox

art versus commerce. love versus capitalism. a tale of justice and vengeance. beautifully entwined timelines, particularly at the start of the film. an op art masterpiece, right down to the zoetrope at the start of the grand prix. heck your realism. this is the goddamn American Dream.

The Jane Austen Book Club poster

The Jane Austen Book Club (2007)

movie night with K
Director: Robin Swicord
Writers: Rian James & James Seymour (screen play), Bradford Ropes (original book)
Stars: Ruby Keeler, George Brent

a fun little primer on Austen. nice diversity of relationship types.

42nd Street poster

42nd Street (1933)

movie night with G
Director: Lloyd Bacon
Writers: Robin Swicord (screenplay), Karen Joy Fowler (book)
Stars: Maria Bello, Hugh Dancy

this one's been sitting in my WB musicals box set for years, just waiting to be watched. it's a charming little picture from the pre-Code era about backstage life, finished off with some classic Busby Berkeley numbers.

march

Serendipity poster

Serendipity (2001)

rewatch, movie night with K
Director: Peter Chelsom
Writer: Marc Klein
Stars: John Cusack, Kate Beckinsale

on the one hand, it is almost painful to watch this sequence of coincidences and near-misses. on the other hand...gosh, I just melt at the thought of a romantic universe that cares enough to try to match you with this one, perfect person. I like this fantasy. just because my favourite film of all time is a fairly realistic tale of two friends who fall in love does not mean I want all my romances to have their feet on the ground.

also: "Cassiopeia" is such a lovely word to say aloud. I adore the sound of it. "And I will love words for their own sake, like ‘hyacinth’ and ‘Piccadilly’ and ‘onyx’..."

Northanger Abbey PBS poster

Northanger Abbey (2007)

rewatch, movie night with K
Director: Jon Jones
Writers: Andrew Davies (screenplay), Jane Austen (novel)
Stars: Felicity Jones, JJ Feild

remains delightful. I am charmed by the way this adaptation intercuts Cat's fantasies like she's the self-insert heroine in her own fanfic stories. I'm a big fan of the casting. Carey Mulligan stands out as a member of the supporting cast and is great fun.

Love & Friendship poster

Love & Friendship (2016)

movie night with K
Director: Whit Stillman
Writers: Whit Stillman, Jane Austen (based on her novella "Lady Susan")
Stars: Kate Beckinsale, Xavier Samuel

I've not read Lady Susan. I might do so yet. I was delighted to watch such a clever, beautiful, unscrupulous lady scheme her way through the plot. this is one of those charming, devious stories in which the characters manipulate and are manipulated but no one we care about is really hurt in the end. though I couldn't put anything in the same category as The Favourite, this does have a touch of that essence—a period comedy with modern flavour and scheming characters. Love & Friendship would be a better lead-in to that film than to other Austen romances, I think.

book vs. film: “My dear Alicia, of what a mistake were you guilty in marrying a man of his age! Just old enough to be formal, ungovernable, and to have the gout; too old to be agreeable, too young to die.” (book) / “What a mistake you made marrying him: too old to be governable, too young to die.” (film)

Mansfield Park poster

Mansfield Park (1999)

movie night with K
Director: Patricia Rozema
Writers: Patricia Rozema, Jane Austen (based on her novel and letters)
Stars: Frances O'Connor, Jonny Lee Miller

omg YES to Patricia Rozema's Mansfield Park. I thought it was extraordinary. though I've not read the novel, I'm aware that this is a very different Fanny Price. and I love her! I found myself truly feeling for this character who had principles and was uncertain what to do when someone attractive and unprincipled came along. (does that remind anyone else of Broadcast News?) the plot is also complex and heckin' dramatic. and was it a surprise to anyone that the love between Fanny and Edmund, lifelong and full of warmth and long-suppressed, would appeal to me? then there's the charming and careless Mary Crawford, who has quickly become a favourite Austen character...

honestly, I'm now curious about the book and other, more faithful adaptations. I have a feeling I will be visiting Mansfield Park again soon.

april

National Theatre Live - Yerma poster

Yerma (2017)

national theatre at home

Directors: Simon Stone, Tony Grech-Smith
Writers: Simon Stone (adaptation), Federico García Lorca (original play)
Stars: Billie Piper, Brendan Cowell

everything written about Billie Piper is absolutely true—she gives a phenomenal performance.

and it supports what is a stunning production. the cast is brilliant. the minimal design of the set, a glass box which contains the actors and transforms astonishingly quickly from scene to scene, never feels gimicky. the writing is sharp and poignant, completely real and reflective of the mess of life.

I am fascinated by stories of women driven mad. what I mean is...there is turmoil always stirring within me, fear and desire and passion and shame and longing. but it's held in by...what? by good sense? by the confines of a privileged life? by my relationships, the people I on whom I depend and who depend on me. so I'm fascinated by stories in which people are pushed beyond reason. the freedom and the horror of going so far.

National Theatre Live - Julie poster

Julie (2018)

national theatre at home

Directors: Carrie Cracknell, Matthew Amos
Writers: Polly Stenham (adaptation), August Strindberg (original play Miss Julie)
Stars: Vanessa Kirby, Eric Kofi-Abrefa, Thalissa Teixeira

let me say it again: I will watch Vanessa Kirby do anything. this was true from the moment I first saw her in The Hour, and especially true after The Crown, where the rest of the world discovered her.

this role is right in her wheelhouse. I'm sure it says something about me that I frequently fall a little bit in love with these kinds of characters—charismatic, lonely, self-indulgent, vulnerable. it's the kind of performance I find mesmerizing to watch. like seeing a distant shimmer and coming nearer and nearer only to realize it's the broken, bloodied glass of some tragedy glinting in the sun.

though I'm not familiar with Strindberg's play, it does seem this adaptation is less successful than Yerma in modernizing its source material. as a tragedy, it doesn't have that sense of inevitable momentum carried by the characters' convictions. the stage, too, is gorgeous but enormous. an awful lot of space in which for two or three characters to have their conversations.

still. I will always turn up watch bright young things collide with one another.

P.S. shout-out to the incredible Thalissa Teixeira, who I was unfamiliar with before and have now seen in two productions. I find myself watching how she moves, stands, sits on stage...

National Theatre Live - Mosquitoes poster

Mosquitos (2017)

national theatre at home

Director: Rufus Norris
Writer: Lucy Kirkwood
Stars: Olivia Williams, Olivia Coleman

oh look, more trauma.

Ladybird does an extraordinary job of portraying a complex, loving-but-difficult mother-daughter relationship. Mosquitoes manages to achieve similar greatness with the relationship between the two sisters, Alice and Jenny. I grew up with a sibling who is very different from me. sometimes you complement one another. sometimes you collide and do you damage.

being "smart" doesn't mean you have a handle on your life. trusting your feelings over logic doesn't make you "stupid." and none of us ever really have an appropriate sense of persepective, because life demands that we adopt so many perspectives. contemplate the universe if you wish, but the dishes still need doing.

not a play I might have seen based solely on its summary, but an excellent watch.

Wildlife poster

Wildlife (2018)

national theatre at home

Director: Paul Dano
Writers: Paul Dano, Zoe Kazan, Richard Ford (original novel)
Stars: Ed Oxenbould, Carey Mulligan, Jake Gyllenhaal

like watching a fire smoulder for 100 minutes.

Just Like Heaven poster

Just Like Heaven (2005)

movie night with K

Director: Mark Waters
Writers: Peter Tolan, Leslie Dixon, Marc Lévy (novel Et si c'etait vrai / If Only It Were True)
Stars: Reese Witherspoon, Mark Ruffalo

high-concept romantic comedy with a surprising amount of charm and heart, largely due to the performances from our two leads. winner for best supporting role goes to Jon Heder (yes, Napoleon Dynamite himself) as Darryl, the psychic bookstore clerk.