2022 film diary


Hillbilly Elegyposter

Hillbilly Elegy (2020)

movie night with mom

Director: Ron Howard
Writer: J.D. Vance (based on the book by), Vanessa Taylor
Stars: Amy Adams, Glenn Close, Gabriel Basso

better folks than me have leveled their critiques at this film (and the memoir and its author). in spite of all that, I still find myself moved.

I Care a Lot poster

I Care a Lot (2020)

Director: J Blakeson
Writer: J Blakeson
Stars: Rosamund Pike, Peter Dinklage

villains, villians everywhere, but do we care a lot? our leading lady, Marla, has a grift that is devastatingly real: a con artist working as a court-appointed guardian, seizing the assets of vulnerable elderly people. naturally, to qualify as a comedy, this film has to get the mafia involved and take things to extreme lengths.

does it work? mostly. the characters are all interesting enough to get me emotionally involved—I was particularly delighted by Chris Messina's appearance as a mafia lawyer—but the film doesn't quite strike the black comedy balance in a way that justifies its 2-hour run time. at least for me. but not being great doesn't stop it from being good, and it's well worth a watch.

Juliet, Naked poster

Juliet, Naked (2018)

Director: Jesse Peretz
Writers: Tamara Jenkins, Jim Taylor, Evgenia Peretz (screenplay), Nick Hornby (based on the novel by)
Stars: Rose Byrne, Ethan Hawke, Chris O'Dowd

when you take a Nick Horby novel and turn it into a film that has my faves Ethan Hawke and Chris O'Dowd, you've basically guaranteed that I'll like it. indeed, this story feels incredibly personal to me. between my experiences in fandom, my recent years learning to navigate online relationships, and the complicated love story at its centre, this film nestled in right next to my heart.

I am a huge admirer of Ethan Hawke as an actor. I could watch him all day. he and Rose Byrne have a fantastic, natural chemistry here. my dear Chris O'Dowd is not used to his full comic potential, but he's got a scene at the dinner table confronting his idol that is just excellent.

I was raised on romance movies. I love a contrived plot, a happy ending where "Somewhere Over the Rainbow" plays. but as I get older (and I know, I'm not old yet, but still), I find myself enjoying more grounded stories about more adult love, the kind that is messy and awkward and complicated and comes with an awful lot of baggage. like the song goes, "I'm looking for baggage that goes with mine."



Nuts (1987)

Director: Martin Ritt
Writers: Darryl Ponicsan, Alvin Sargent (screenplay), Tom Topor (based on the play by)
Stars: Barbra Streisand, Richard Dreyfuss

this film was mentioned briefly in this Be Kind Rewind video about the 1988 Oscars. as courtroom dramas go, it's not the most convincing, nor does it offer much in the way of surprise. and you know what? I thoroughly enjoyed it. excellent performances from Streisand and Dreyfuss, a pairing I never knew I needed.

The Misfits poster

The Misfits (1961)

Director: John Huston
Writer: Arthur Miller
Stars: Marilyn Monroe, Clark Gable

again, this choice inspired by a Be Kind Rewind video. both Clark Gable and Marilyn Monroe are immensely watchable. but the screenplay also caught me off guard at several points. the last bit of the film with the horses...some of those lines are gonna stay with me.

almost all stories are about change, but I do find myself particularly interested in stories about people caught up in transitions. the world is changing around these cowboys and they haven't figured out how to change with it. ("trouble is, charlie, that's what everyone does...blames the way it is on the way it was. on the way it never ever was...)

“Killers! Murderers! You're liars! All of you, liars! You're only happy when you can see something die! Why don't you kill yourself to be happy?”
“Damn 'em all. They changed it, changed it all around. Smeared it all over with blood. I'm finished with it. It's like roping a dream now. I just gotta find another way to be alive, that's all. If there is one anymore.”
The Masque of the Red Death poster

The Masque of the Red Death (1964)

Director: Roger Corman
Writers: Charles Beaumont, R. Wright Campbell (screenplay), Edgar Allan Poe (from stories by)
Stars: Vincent Price, Jane Asher

early in the pandemic, I read The Masque of the Red Death. the film does well to capture the vivid and haunting imagery of that story. this is, at the moment, the first and only Roger Corman film I've ever seen, and it was a compelling watch. a dance macabre to remember.


What We Do in the Shadows poster

What We Do in the Shadows (2014)

movie night with E

Directors: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Writers: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi
Stars: Jemaine Clement, Taika Waititi, Jonathan Brugh, Cori Gonzalez-Macuer

this year, E introduced me to the WWDITS television series, which I've been obsessed with. always interesting when a great series begins its life as a film. this is like watching the Buffy movie.

The Mummy poster

The Mummy (1999)

movie night with E

Director: Stephen Sommers
Writers: Stephen Sommers (screenplay), Lloyd Fonvielle (screen story), Kevin Jarre (screen story)
Stars: Brendan Fraser, Rachel Weisz

a modern classic. though these period adventure movies all have that whiff of colonialism about them.

Grease poster

Grease (1978)

drive-in with K, N & S

Director: Randal Kleiser
Writers: Bronte Woodard (screenplay), Jim Jacobs (original musical), Warren Casey (original musical)
Stars: John Travolta, Olivia Newton-John

perfect drive-in movie.

Back to the Future poster

Back to the Future (1985)

drive-in with K, N & S

Director: Robert Zemeckis
Writers: Robert Zemeckis, Bob Gale
Stars: Michael J. Fox, Christopher Lloyd

a perfectly constructed movie. like seeing someone assemble a puzzle right before your eyes, and you even like the finished image. also: that soundtrack! that score! hell yeah!


First Daughter poster

First Daughter (2004)

movie night with K

Director: Forest Whitaker
Writers: Jessica Bendinger (story, screenplay), Kate Kondell(screenplay), Jerry O'Connell (story)
Stars: Katie Holmes, Marc Blucas

Forest Whitaker?! yes, really. this, Waiting to Exhale and Hope Floats.

I am the right age to like both this and Chasing Liberty but the latter wins for me due to Matthew Goode. Sorry Marc Blucas, I've seen all of Buffy and can't shake that Riley baggage. Still. Perfectly watchable if this is your kind of thing, which for me it is!


Last Night in Soho poster

Last Night in Soho (2021)

Director: Edgar Wright
Writers: Edgar Wright (story, screenplay), Krysty Wilson-Cairns(screenplay)
Stars: Thomasin McKenzie, Anya Taylor-Joy

both more and less than I expected. wonderful style, as usual. very much enjoyed the 60s segments. protagonist is not the most compelling, the finale is strange and dissonant, but it strikes me as memorable and worth watching, in the end.


A Fish Called Wanda poster

A Fish Called Wanda (1988)

movie night with E

Director: Charles Crichton
Writers: John Cleese, Charles Crichton
Stars: John Cleese, Jamie Lee Curtis, Kevin Kline, Michael Palin

I need to figure out who is making caper films these days. I think there's lots to recommend about this, but you'll know fairly quickly whether the humour works for you.

Network poster

Network (1976)

movie night with E

Director: Sidney Lumet
Writers: Paddy Chayefsky
Stars: Faye Dunaway, William Holden, Peter Finch

when it's been a few decades since your black comedy satire of the news, and now it just looks like...the news.


Meet Joe Black poster

Meet Joe Black (1998)

Director: Martin Brest
Writers: Ron Osborn, Jeff Reno, Kevin Wade
Stars: Brad Pitt, Anthony Hopkins, Claire Forlani

a film built on pauses and silences. an adult fairy tale. enchanting. this one had me in some kind of trance.


Howl's Moving Castle poster

Howl's Moving Castle (2004)

date night

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writers: Hayao Miyazaki, Diana Wynne Jones (novel)
Stars: Christian Bale, Emily Mortimer, Jean Simmons (English dub)

it is enchanting. I also think it's a wonderful kind of adaptation, one that doesn't so much tell the story in Jones's novel as it uses key elements of the novel to tell its own story. I love both. I was very happy to get to introduce a new person to this film.


My Neighbor Totoro poster

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

movie night with E

Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Writer: Hayao Miyazaki
Stars: Noriko Hidaka, Chika Sakamoto

got to introduce E to this one. this kind of low/no-conflict story where events unfold like you are watching a life is so different from most films I watch; it is engrossing. I'm always surprised to reach the end of the film. a stunning piece of work.


Repo! The Genetic Opera poster

Repo! The Genetic Opera (2008)

Director: Darren Lynn Bousman
Writers: Terrance Zdunich, Darren Smith
Stars: Alexa Vega, Paul Sorvino, Anthony Head

I have never seen a film with less subtext. pretty assuredly not my thing, though it is stylish and fun. Sarah Brightman gives my favourite performance among a cast who all seem to be having a blast.

Alone Together poster

Alone Together (2022)

movie night with mom and dad

Director: Katie Holmes
Writer: Katie Holmes
Stars: Katie Holmes, Jim Sturgess

pandemic movie. are we ready for pandemic movies?

I have seen Jim Sturgess in a lot of things, and always thought he was excellent regardless of the quality of the project (and I have seen him in a lot of films that, like this one, get a resounding meh from me).

Uncut Gems poster

Uncut Gems (2019)

movie night with mom and dad

Director: Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Writers: Ronald Bronstein, Josh Safdie, Benny Safdie
Stars: Adam Sandler

a relentless pace. my dad was making predictions for the ending. he was about half right.

yes, we did watch this immediately after the lukewarm Katie Holmes romance. what a double feature.

Grosse Pointe Blank poster

Grosse Pointe Blank (1997)

Director: George Armitage
Writers: Tom Jankiewicz (story, screenplay), D. V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack
Stars: John Cusack, Minnie Driver

I saw this years ago, liked it, and remembered it fondly. then heard Adam Savage mention it offhand in a Q&A and needed something to put on while I cooked. WOW. as it turns out, this is pure Alicia Movie and I want to use it to screen potential partners.

deeply enjoyable, funny, witty. maybe I'm just a little in love with Minnie Driver as Debi. and we already know Cusack's my boy. like Repo, this is also a film without subtext (apparently that's what Mrs. Donttrythis observed), but it serves a function here; part of the humour comes from the characters' self-awareness.

in any case, this was the start of my weekend-long, informal John Cusack trilogy...

High Fidelity poster

High Fidelity (2000)

Director: Stephen Frears
Writers: D. V. DeVincentis, Steve Pink, John Cusack, Scott Rosenberg, Nick Hornby (original novel)
Stars: John Cusack, Iben Hjejle

another rewatch, second in my Cusack trilogy. I'm a Nick Hornby fan. I'm a John Cusack fan. this is a good film. Rob Gordon is just so much a guy, y'know? Like, he kind of sucks, but he's also kind of charming, but he's mostly just a guy and, in the end, he is capable of change. what more could we aspire for?

this and Grosse Pointe Blank illustrate the difference between a "good" movie and an "Alicia" movie. not to say that the latter isn't good, rather to say that its overall vibe and impact elevates it to personal favourite, rather than just a movie I think is good.

Being John Malkovich poster

Being John Malkovich (1999)

movie night with E

Director: Spike Jonze
Writer: Charlie Kaufman
Stars: John Cusack, Cameron Diaz, Catherine Keener, John Malkovich

concluding my Cusack triology is a new watch, recommended by E. and here again, the different between a "good" movie and an "E" movie. he loves this one, it's exactly his kind of weird, whereas it is the kind of weird that I am glad exists even though it does not exist for my benefit.

the world needs movies like this. Cameron Diaz turns in a fantastic performance. it's rather incredible how trans this movie is, how queer. I am so grateful to get to watch movies with trans people and analyze the gender stuff together. some very interesting gender & sexuality stuff at play here, imperfect and complicated and—most remarkably—joyful. euphoric.

this film kicks of another informal trilogy for me and E of absurd and surreal fantasies...

Brazil poster

Brazil (1985)

movie night with E

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writers: Terry Gilliam, Tom Stoppard, Charles McKeown
Stars: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist

the second entry in this new trilogy is a Terry Gilliam classic, one E had not seen before. after seeing his love for Malkovich, I thought, "well, if you like that kind of weird..."

happily, he loved this film. it's outstanding cinema. I hugely respect Gilliam as a director/creative, and its no wonder the influence of his work is still felt decades later.

but Brazil is not my favourite Gilliam film. that honour belongs to the next movie on this list, which concludes our weird trilogy...

The Fisher King poster

The Fisher King (1991)

movie night with E

Director: Terry Gilliam
Writer: Richard LaGravenese
Stars: Jeff Bridges, Robin Williams

last in our trilogy, and E liked it even more than Brazil! in this case, he pointed out the little autistic details he saw in the characters; I loved seeing him connect deeply with them. in particular, Lydia and Parry's date, the scenes in the restaurant and then on the sidewalk...how lovely. how lovely!

the surreal elements of the film—Parry's recurring Red Knight, the waltz in the middle of Grand Central Terminal—are wonderfully Gilliam but also deployed perfectly to serve the screenplay. the depth of the pain, grief, and heartbreak in this film is matched by moments of profound love, joy, and comedy. I find myself moved every time by the relationship between Jack and Anne, which reads as more painfully real to me than nearly any other screen couple I can think of (no wonder Mercedes Ruehl won the Oscar).

I can't make any sweeping statements about whether I prefer realism or fantasy on screen. films I've love range from the understated Lost in Translation to the live-action anime Speed Racer. perhaps it's most fair to say that no performance is too big, no silence too long, no visual too absurd...if someone thinks a film is too "weird" or "boring" or "trying too hard," there is a good chance I'll love it.

Little Women poster

Little Women (2019)

Director: Greta Gerwig
Writers: Greta Gerwig (screenplay), Louisa May Alcott (novel)
Stars: Saoirse Ronan, Emma Watson, Florence Pugh, Eliza Scanlen

in many ways, this is Alicia-bait, so it's surprising it took me three years to get around to it. in the end, well worth the wait. beautiful storytelling and performances, cozy and familial and dramatic. total Alicia-bait. and, okay, I finally get the Timothée Chalamet thing. that speech to Jo? I mean...

Truly, Madly, Deeply poster

Truly, Madly, Deeply (1990)

Director: Anthony Minghella
Writer: Anthony Minghella
Stars: Juliet Stevenson, Alan Rickman

'twas a gifset on Tumblr that led me to this film. Alan Rickman is easy to love. the story is small, contained, and has a somewhat unusual structure. it does unfold more like a life than a film, by which I mean that people and events arrive in their own time. a romance worth watching, if you can get your hands on it.

Last Christmas poster

Last Christmas (2019)

Director: Paul Feig
Writers: Emma Thompson (screenplay, story), Bryony Kimmings (screenplay), Greg Wise (story)
Stars: Emilia Clarke, Henry Golding

cheesy? sure. but I'd watch Emilia Clarke do anything. had a lovely time with this one. and I think Christmas movies get graded on a different scale, y'know?

Joyful Noise poster

Joyful Noise (2012)

movie night with mom and dad

Director: Todd Graff
Writer: Todd Graff
Stars: Queen Latifah, Dolly Parton, Keke Palmer, Jeremy Jordan

I mean, sure. we're what, 3 years into the Glee era at this point? we'll get Pitch Perfect the same year. it was the showchoir era.

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey poster

Jingle Jangle: A Christmas Journey (2020)

movie night with mom and dad

Director: David E. Talbert
Writer: David E. Talbert
Stars: Forest Whitaker, Madalen Mills

okay, hello?? modern Christmas musical?? so much fun. it's got heart. it's a bit like a patchwork quilt made up of recognizable pieces. definite Mr. Magorium energy. (if you love that film, as I do, you will probably like this. if you felt it was too childish and boring, you probably have an allergy to whimsy and I suggest you get that checked out.)

The Noel Diary poster

The Noel Diary (2022)

movie night with mom and dad

Director: Charles Shyer
Writers: Charles Shyer, Rebecca Connor, David Golden, Richard Paul Evans (novel)
Stars: Justin Hartley, Barrett Doss

as Christmas movie fare goes, it's of higher-than-average quality, but with all the familiar tropes. yum.

The Bishop's Wife poster

The Bishop's Wife (1947)

movie with mom

Director: Henry Koster
Writers: Leonardo Bercovici, Robert E. Sherwood, Robert Nathan (novella)
Stars: Cary Grant, Loretta Young, David Niven

An image of two men: David Niven on the left, Cary Grant on the right. Caption reads: You vs. the angel who literally answered your prayers yet is still trying to steal your wife

The Nightmare Before Christmas poster

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)

movie night with mom and E

Director: Henry Selick
Writers: Tim Burton (story), Michael McDowell (adaptation), Caroline Thompson (screenplay)
Stars: Chris Sarandon, Danny Elfman, Catherine O'Hara

mostly I'm filled with admiration for Henry Selick, who is a phenomenal stop-motion director, and for Danny Elfman, who sure knows his way around a catchy tune. but that Tim guy probably contributed some good ideas too, idk. I have genuinely been on the Nightmare Before Christmas-themed Haunted Mansion ride more times than I've seen this film.

The Muppet Christmas Carol poster

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Director: Brian Henson
Writers: Jerry Juhl
Stars: Michael Caine and the Muppets (puppeteers Dave Goelz, Steve Whitmire, Jerry Nelson, Frank Oz)

a great adaptation of this story, which we read for book club this month. in his directorial debut, Brian Henson delivers an all-time classic Christmas movie that has stood the test of time. you have to imagine Jim would have been proud.

Little Women poster

Little Women (1994)

Director: Gillian Armstrong
Writers: Robin Swicord, Louisa May Alcott (novel)
Stars: Winona Ryder, Trini Alvarado, Kirsten Dunst, Claire Danes

I will get around to reading the novel sometime, really. I find Gerwig's adaptation more enchanting all-round, but this smaller, more grounded version of the story has its charm and heartbreak. (And Amy falling through the ice? absolutely terrifying here.) I have to praise the performances of Winona Ryder and Kirsten Dunst in particular, but all four sisters are great. Christian Bale is a cute enough Laurie, Eric Stolz does kinda steal my heart (when does he not?), but it's Gabriel Byrne as Friedrich who steals the show in the last act.

Everything Everywhere All At Once poster

Everything Everywhere All At Once (2022)

Directors: Daniels (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)
Writers: Daniels (Daniel Kwan & Daniel Scheinert)
Stars: Michelle Yeoh, Stephanie Hsu, Ke Huy Quan

perhaps you had your eye on Daniels after Swiss Army Man. (I did, because Dan Radcliffe picks the most interesting projects...)

this film is another surreal, absurd fantasy which could fit right in alongside Being John Malkovich or Brazil. it is stunning on so many levels, from its sublime screenplay to its outstanding and emotionally complex performances to its imaginative and bizarre visuals.

Albert Camus's The Myth of Sisyphus begins: "There is but one truly serious philosophical problem, and that is suicide. Judging whether life is or is not worth living amounts to answering the fundamental question of philosophy." Everything Everywhere All At Once explore nihilism and absurdism using the multiverse and the everything bagel (not an everything bagel, to be clear: the everything bagel).

a book I read this year (and this is a spoiler, kinda) uses the recurring phrase "There's only one question to resolve" without explicitly revealing what the question is. my theory is that it is a reference to Camus's "fundamental question." but that book doesn't really engage in the question, because the question has already been resolved by the start of the story, even if the reader doesn't know it. this film, in contrast, takes the question seriously. it tries to explore what it means to be alive, to love, to bear the weight of all the lives and loves not experienced, to experience every possible life and love simultaneously, and to find meaning in a meaningless universe.

it is worth noting that Camus ends his essay by concluding, "The struggle itself toward the heights is enough to fill a man’s heart. One must imagine Sisyphus happy."

this is a deeply joyful film, and the path to that joy runs through an almost overwhelming despair.

if you like this kind of philosophical, silly, meaningful and absurd storytelling, I suggest Jon Bois's 17776.

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