The Feature Films of January 2018


At home:

Shane (1953): I always intend to watch this film, of course, but Logan forced my hand. So we all watched it tonight. Lady Steed was troubled by the reality of the violence and the reality of the bad guys. The kids were quiet. We had to rush them to bed, so I'm not sure what they'll think about it as it moves into memory, but no question Shane paints a convincing picture. And it's not an easy movie. It may have a literal white hat and a literal black hat, but it's not simple. Sure, you could read it simply, but that's not what the movie deserves. It asks challenging questions.

Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981): We've owned the dvds for, gosh, over ten years now? But we only now took the plastic off. The kids liked it! The callous loss of life is less fun for me now and the final face-melting is less distressing than it used to be, but it's indeed fun. I just wish Marion hadn't disappeared for so many films.

The Creature Walks Among Us (1956): The poster's a bit misleading (no San Francisco rampage, alas), but I really liked this series of films. None of them are "great" movies but each one was thematically distinct. This one, for instance, is about trust and kindness; the real monsters are the lead doctor who is cruel to his wife and the hired muscle who's always trying to force himself onto her. And they're the ones who get the comeuppance. I do hope, however, that The Shape of Water either leaves the science alone or tries a little harder.

Believe (2013): I had high expectations for this film based on who recommended it to me. But he did recommend it for my kids and they did like it. Me, however. This is not a good movie. Most of the pieces are good (the cast, the filming, the camera work), but they don't come together. Largely, this is because the script isn't good. It's a slapdash quilt of cliches. Or, rather, it's a brick wall of cliches held together with crap mortar. Nothing fits right; some bits are missing; it's all slowly collapsing.

One Man's Treasure (2009): I have no memory of hearing about this Mormon comedy, but it came up on Prime when I was looking for something else, and the set-up intrigued and I was looking for a Sunday night movie to share with my ten-year-old, so why not? It was unlikely to be Singles Ward bad, after all. And it wasn't! I won't defend it as a great film---certainly the acting wasn't always on and the set-up / continuance of the treasure-hunt device was a bit ... unlikely (although that's the disbelief the movie's asking us to suspend, and it's a reasonable ask), but overall, this is good stuff. This is certainly no worse than some of the '70s Don Knotts films my kids enjoy, and anything that normalizes missionary service is a plus. And I won't go crazy on a second watch, so I'm going to make sure the other boys see it as well. Thumbs up. (As an added bonus, the six missionaries are of two sexes, two accents, and two colors.)

A Goofy Movie (1995): This is an exquisitley crafted movie. One of the greatest father/son movies ever made. And it does it while simultaneously embracing its madcap cartoon universe.

Cast Away (2000): This movie was released later than I thought. Which means my memories of watching it are incorrect. I don't know when I saw it or where or how many times. But oh do I remember it. It's a great movie. It shows how to use a long runtime and to use it well. I can only see about thirty or forty seconds I would cut, but that's largely true only because Tom Hanks is bleeding amazing in this movie. We wouldn't think of this movie in the same way had it starred, say, Sean Penn. I also now realize why losing Wilson is so sad: it's a stand-in for everything he has lost and will lose as well. Wilson is a totem for everything. Which is a crass way to put it, but no one's paying me to write essays here.

The Avengers (2012): Not as good as the first time I saw it but better than the second time. This was Lady Steed's first (she had refused previously because of her anti-Joss bias). She did, as I predicted, love the schwarma scene.

The Wolfpack (2015): I've wanted to see this movie for a while. Almost talked Lady Steed into going to the theater with me. But we've finally made it. And on the one hand, it was about exactly what I expected. On the other, it had much more emotional resonance than I anticipated. It's a beautiful story. These kids became beautiful people. When it started, given recent news, I wondered if this was really a documentary I wanted to watch just now. The answer: was yes.

Faces Places (2017): This film made me so happy. It shares some elements with her first film (Gleaners and I), but having a constant companion and the undercurrent of mortality makes this film truly beautiful. Inspiring.


Hot Rod (2007): I don't know if this movie doesn't know what it is, or if I'm just thrown by not being able to fit it into a box. Maybe this is the issue professional critics have with Jared Hess? Anyway, this is a movie that recreates '80s sports films with zero respect, but massive love. I have no way to predict whether or not you will enjoy it.

Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid (1982): This has been a movie I've wanted to see for as long as I've been seeing it on video-store shelves. And I only finally got around to it because the '80s All Over guys were drolling over it and told me something I did not know: in addition to Steve Martin, there's is footage from old-time noir intercut. So this film's supporting cast includes Humphrey Bogart and Ingmar Bergman and Fred MacMurray and Bette Davis and Alan Ladd and Vincent Price and Veronica Lake and Kurt Douglas and Jame Cagney. Plus: this was Edith Head's last movie. So, in short, it looks right. Although, perhaps weirldly / perhaps appropriately, the movie it reminds me of the most is Chinatown. Parts of this movie are hilarious. Parts are successfully full noir. But that simultaneously means the movie's a bit uneven. As an aside, I was telling my students today that one watch is enough to have a reaction to a movie. But an opinion only comes with rewatching.

College (1927): I wasn't really watching this (alas) but I was present and the moments I caught were as wonderful as ever. Also, if you can, help?

Previous films watched

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