March brings the end of normality and the beginning of Covid Theater


Bottle Rocket (1996)

I like this movie a lot, but to my mind, it's not stylized enough to match my favorite Wes Anderson films, movies like Rushmore, Royal Tenenbaums, Darjeeling Limited, Moonrise Kingdom, Fantastic Mr Fox. The more Wes Andersony the Wes Anderson, the more I like it.

But, as I said, I like this one as well. It's not hard to see Wes Anderson in it and it has the full complement of Wilson brothers.

And it is the big, bang after all.* People said the Italian short was preparation for the dual languages in Isle of Dogs, but you can see even that way back here.

If you don't like Wes Anderson, try this one. If you do like Wes Anderson, you'll like this too. Just maybe not quite as much?

It's Such a Beautiful Day (2012)

I've been over four years since I last saw it and the final chapter I had utterly forgot. (The film started life as three shorts, and the first two I've seen more times, yes, but still.)

It's hilarious. It's upsetting. It's deliriously sad. It it utterly beautiful.

It's Don Hertzfeldt.

And I now I must (must!) get his latest film.

Bambi (1942) ×∞

It's Friday the 13th and Bambi's only the third movie I've watched, well behind recent pace. (Really, only 1.5 movies preceded Bambi, given I started Bottle Rocket in February.)

But today was also the last day of on-campus school this month, so I suspect the pace will pick up.

Lady Steed picked me up after school and she wanted to try and open a movie drawer that was stuck. She managed to open it and took out a few dvds she wanted, but then she couldn't get it locked again. So we took them ALL home. Which was Bambi plus →

Not all those movies, for the record, were on campus for the same reasons.

Anyway, we got home and piled them on the table and the baby found Bambi and insisted on watching it. And who am I to deny her one of life's great pleasures?

I can't watch Bambi these days without admiring the colors and compositions and other visual aspects of the film. I'm not convinced there's been a more beautiful film made. It's in the top eschelon---the celestial kingdom of movies, where all are different yet all are equal.

She loved the slapstick, but found some aspects quite scary---notable the first appearance of man and the fire.

She had a difficult time with these aspects: (what happened to Bambi's mom) and (growing up to look like your parents yet not being your parents). I tried to explain both, but with very, very limited success.

After a lengthy discussion of the film (for a three-year-old), we have started it again.

(Also, don't know if I've ever mentioned this before, but the kid who plays young Thumper is just the best.)

A League of Their Own (1992)

It's taken awhile to the the Covid Movie Festival started, but here we go!

I haven't seen this since shortly after it was first released on VHS and I really didn't remember it that well. I never knew what was happening next. And I'm so glad. It loved not knowing how that final moment would end. And I love that that final moment is ambiguous.

You'll notice, if you know the movie well, that that "final moment" is not at the end of the movie. No, there is a long epilogue which makes the movie less excellent as a movie, imho, but which, frankly, the subjects of the film deserve. I can't begrudge the choice.

The film proper (which is to say, the extended flashback) is terrific and I get why it's still a big part of our culture---beloved, rewatched, quoted.

I'd watch it again.

Whale Rider (2002)

The baby said she wanted to watch something that sounded like whale, so I pulled Whale Rider and Finding Nemo and she chose Whale Rider.

I would like to say that's just because that's the type of babies we have around here, but maybe she was Pixared out after watching Cars this morning?

I haven't seen this since way back when in early 2004 and I think I had a similar experience this time. The movie is honest and I was deeply moved, yet somehow it doesn't feel "great" to me. I'm not sure why. Maybe watching it twice in the same decade would help me decode it? Or maybe it is missing something. I don't know.

But it did move me. And that counts for plenty more than whatever intellectual trappings are getting in my way.

Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010)

I still love this movie. It's peak Michael Cera, the editing is brilliant, Mary Elizabeth Winstead is just the best, and the sharpness of the writing---

Okay. I've spent the last week rewriting Just Julie's Fine and when it's sharp, it's so sharp. And I feel kinship with the writing in Scott Pilgrim.

I wish I could figure out how to be that sharp for the screen.

Finding Nemo (2003)

First, I can't remember ever noticing before how similar the vocal stylings of Albert Brooks are to those of Tom Hanks in another Pixar role. How is that possible?

Anyway, it's still great. Apparently I haven't seen it since at least 2013 when I started this series of posts. I have stated that "Months pass and you start to think it couldn't possibly be as good as you remember. So you watch it again. And it is."

That still seems pretty relevant.

I'm glad to watch it again now, later, that my oldest---who was in utero when I saw Nemo in theaters---is not far from a new stage in life.

Good art grows with you.

UHF (1989)

This isn't just a pastiche of parodies. It's also one of the greatest cheesy 80s movies because it's self-aware enough to know that's just what it is. And, if you know your major ingredient is cheese, you can be sure to choose the right cheese. And then, when, at the emotional climax, a bunch of pickups with monster tires show up, it's earned.

It's earned.

(Incidentally, the #1 biggest laugh from the kids? Flying poodles.)

Captain America: The First Avenger (2011)

The boys compromised on this while I was putting the baby to bed and so okay, whatever. It's still a very fun movie and we had a great time, but

Now they want to binge ALL the Marvel movies while on lockdown.

I, on the other hand, thought to myself, Huh. Well. I think I'm done with Marvel movies. I never need to watch another of these ever again.

Who wants to bet I lose?

Patema Inverted (2013)

I remember the trailer for this movie intrigued me and was one of the first movies I saw promoted in ways that have been reproduced with other films like Your Name. and Okko's Inn. But I never did see it.

Here's the skinny: a boy and a girl from worlds that border but which have opposing gravities---she falls up and he falls down (or, if you prefer, vice versa). Drama and action pour forth.

Something I did not expect was the fullscale vertigo the film would make me feel, even on my laptop screen. Who knew looking at the stars could make you grab the edge of your mattress in a lack of equilibrium?

The story itself doesn't bring much new. But the vivid visualizations and innovative world never stop impressing.

Phase IV (1974)

I just heard of this film today and was intrigued. And it was only to be on Prime for a few more days and---since it was directed by Saul Bass and is only just over 90 minutes---Lady Steed signed on as well.

First question: The heck?


A couple moments I thought I might have seen some stop-motion, but I don't think so. I think those were all real ants. And some of the footage you couldn't get just by letting ants roam around being recorded for hours.

This is a movie about ants who want ants ruined for them the way Scott Smith ruined plants for them. Or, it's a weirder and less stupid ant story than the unfinishable Invasion.

And, when you've seen it, check out this alternate ending that makes the rest of the movie look like standard Hollywoodery.

It comes out five years after 2001 which it referenced quite deliberately at the top but is not really beholden to at all. And it's not hard to imagine it being a source for future works including, perhaps most notable, Ender's Game.

Anyway. Cool watch. If you're into ambitious '70s scifi, I guess it's the Arrival of that era?

Heart of Africa (2020)

This film is unlike any missionary thing I've ever seen before. It feels very honest and lived in. And it did not feel like a director's first movie. Let alone one with as little previous experiene as this director had.

I particularly liked how it was, yes, a missionary movie, but it wasn't so much about "being a missionary" as how missionaries are just one piece of a much larger world. (And, given this film was almost entirely crafted by Congolese artists, it made me feel the Black Panther people really did their research. This is the AfroNOWism version of that film, in many ways. And, although it recognizes the reality of violence and its reciprical nature, it has much more hopeful things to say than a Marvel movie setting up its next sequel.

Anyway, I highly recommend it. But I can't recommend buying it through Living Scriptures. Rent it, okay, sure---why wait?---but don't think they'll be straight with you and give you what you've paid for.

WALL·E (2008)

Even missing the second act, this is a great movie. An excellent, silent-clown brilliant first act. A moving conclusion. (A Peter Gabriel song that's just never worked for me, though I get why Peter Gabriel fans would like it.)

Even the first time we saw it, I found the ending depressing in the way Lady Steed found depressing the end of I Lost My Body, but I still think the conquering of human (and humanlike) agents is heroic and beautiful and worthy of our enjoyment.

But let's all be glad it was never the toy juggernaut of Cars because that irony would have killed us all.

Miniscule: Valley of the Lost Ants (2013)

Take supercartoony cg bugs and place them against real natural settings. Add one part Mad Max to one part Alamo to one part Bug's Life to one part Psycho to one part Sandlot to one part Bambi to one part Two Towers to one part Star Wars to one part Indiana Jones and a bunch of other pieces and you get this fun little romp about a ladybug who loses his family and a wing and makes friends with a cosmopolitan colony of ants who find themselves under siege by the Evil Empire of ants.

The baby and I watched it at doublespeed which messed up the sound but still felt reasonably paced (don't tell any purists).

Fun and exciting film!

The Avengers (2012)

Well, they picked another movie while I was putting baby to bed.

The great thing about Marvel movies is how competent they are. Hypercompetent! Nothing is more competent than a Marvel movie. But this one's another cat movie with sufficient music. This one in particular has some awesome crowdpleasing moments with perfectly placed emotional beats.

But after you've spent weeks watching these movies, what else is there to care about?

This chart lists all the Marvel movies released to date. Those with a single slash I've seen once. Those with crossed slashes I've seen more than once. I can no longer keep track of more than that.


Previous films watched


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  1. So I've seen all of the Marvel movies up until Spiderman: Far From Home (is that the latest? I don't keep up with them anymore) and while it's survivable to binge them all, it's not much fun unless you're deep into the fandom. I watched them all over the summer between 8th grade and freshman year. Also, the first Captain America movie doesn't have as much weird gay subtext between Steve and Bucky in it so I personally like it a little less. The fight scene choreography is a bit better in Winter Soldier, which is an Actual Movie Critique and not just me wishing for better representation. Thor is bad up until Ragnarok, Iron Man 2 is horrible (3 is marginally better but not great - it's the only MCU movie that vaguely addresses how traumatizing being a superhero can be) and I'd probably not rewatch Age of Ultron if I were going through them again.
    This month I watched Raising Arizona, Akira (my friend finally pressured me into watching it. Yikes.), and The Last Black Man in San Francisco. I liked all of them; my dad (an SF native) had a lot to say about the latter. I thought it was beautiful but the premise was a little thin.
    Mostly I've been watching youtube video essays, I really liked Lindsay Ellis's episode about Death of the Author with John Green. I also rewatched a ton of PhilosophyTube videos, just because I like his content. He's a professional actor and and also has a philosophy degree so his content does not resemble a powerpoint, which is great. He was supposed to be in a production of Dracula, but it's gotten postponed and some of the cast is facing homelessness, so on the 10th he's gonna do a read-aloud marathon of a bunch of gothic fiction to raise money for them.

  2. .

    I love Raising Arizona but it's not even in my top-five Coens films. But even their one bad movie is interesting. You can't go wrong.

    I was just introduced to Lindsay Ellis a week ago. Someone sent me a link. It was a good video (the one about Shape of Water) but the same person sent me, at the same time, a well-spoken misogynist reviewing Last Jedi, so she was a bit tainted by association. You know how it goes....