A new year of mostly not-new films


I needed a title before I knew what was coming this month. Including a lot of time in bed with nothing to do but movies and a lot of rule-bending in terms of letting nonfeatures on this list. So . . . depending on how you define "not new" this may or may not accurately describe what's below. I mean, there are 13 movies from the 2020s.....

That said, what a great month. So many good movies. And the kinds of movies watched are all over the place. I feel well-fed.


our dvd
Krampus (2015)

It's funny. It's startling. It's a PG-13 horror movie. And spoiler alert, the ending seems to be one thing then another and then it finds a way to make the whole thing work, right there at the end.

It's just okay.

But it is okay. Worth at least one watch.

library dvd
Wayne's World (1992)

This is my second time seeing Wayne's World; I'm not sure when the first time was—high school? post-high school? post-mission? Certainly I was still living at home. I don't remember being that impressed, but who knows. I think it was before I discovered "Dreamweaver" on my own and I got "Bohemian Rhapsody" through people younger then me playing it in their cars (assumably because of this movie?).

It's all . . . a long time ago now.

Anyway, Lady Steed's been wanting to show it to the boys and one of them took us up on it tonight and he laughed and laughed and said he thought it was too old for him to get half the jokes. We did explain a couple as they came up (eg) but he certainly got his money's worth. He about died during the product-placement scene.

our dvd
Mission: Impossible (1996)

Of course, not only is this the only M:I film I've se en multiple times, but I've seen it way more than a couple. So perhaps it's not fair to not really believe any of the others are better. But De Palma's style, man. Can it be bested?

We watched it because the 7yrold (?!?!) requested it. You can thank her first celebrity crush, Mark Rober. That video also brings up Ocean's Eleven, which I also love (do these two films have the best it's-way-harder-than-you-think heist planning sessions of all time?) and Entrapment, which I haven't seen in ages and cannot vouch for.

Anyway, much of the movie was too much for her, but she managed to see the scenes she needed to see and said she liked it. So there you go.

library dvd
A Man Called Otto (2022)

We've checked this out from the library twice and kept it the full nine possible weeks plus overdraft each time and only today did anyone finally watch it. And it is so good.

The international wildness over the novel gave me the wrong impression, perhaps; I was expecting sentimental claptrap. And I suppose a cynic could say that about the second (ie American) adaptation but screw you, cynic. This is a beautiful film. I laughed loudly and regularly and wept almost throughout. Hard to say if it would have taken the top spot for 2022 had I seen it in time, but it would have been competitive. I absolutely loved this movie.

It's not exactly a new story but that's not why we consume story. It tells an old story with truth and feeling. Tom Hanks was great; Mariana Treviño was incredible. Mike Birbiglia is such an a-hole I didn't even recognize him for most of the movie.

Sometimes the cat is cg, and that always annoys me. In a couple scenes, Tom Hanks and Peter Lawson Jones are de-aged, but thankfully we only had to see that briefly.

There's a carcentric scene my father must see. I had no idea there was so much suicide content, which in an age of trigger warnings is astonishing.

Just me and the 7yrold watched it and we both thought it was great.

It's so good, you guys.

The Death of Stalin (2017)

A very funny movie. A very horrifying movie. Not at all a comforting movie.

Delighted to share it with (willing members of my) family this time. (Last time.)

The Dark Truth of Peanuts, or One Must Imagine Charlie Brown Happy (2023)

Although I had enjoyed what I'd watched, after the first hour yesterday, what I'd written of this review in my head was largely takedown. So much to disagree with and mock in the first hour even though it is well researched and well thought-out and well understood. But then the second hour deconstructs all the brilliant stupidity of the first hour and reveals is as a parody of stuff like this (which is often near self-parody anyway, delightful though it may be).

I've said many times that Peanuts will prove to be one of the most lasting artistic creations of the 20th century, and I stand by that, but while criticism is trickling out from university presses, most popular criticism is either too shallow or too look-at-me clever. The last hour of this video is a takedown of the nonsense, a heartfelt personal exigesis, and a genuinely helpful set of critical tools to use going forward.

Plus, it's really enjoyable. Even the first hour is filled with sterling insights, and the combination of great art and earnest consideration makes for a frequently emotional experience. And it's frequetly funny as well.

There's a reason our host buries the subtitle at the end of the film and in the shownotes below. It's because if we know that we're going somewhere real, we might not take the journey. We'ld rather have gotchas and fun facts and did-you-knows rather than real meaning. But real meaning is there. And he had an honest take on just what it might be.

library dvd
D.O.A. (1949)

Such a great idea for a movie. The main character has been poisoned and has at most a week to live. So he may just have time to solve his murder. Excellent.

Bits of it are a little silly, a little b-movie (that slide-whistle wolf whistle), but overall this is a taut thriller. Only 81 minutes and it does not feel rushed at all. Its pace is methodical. The mystery compounds and compounds and then—there it all is!

We laughed a lot at some of the choices (the science, for instance), but none of that got in the way of a fine entertainment. I'm curious if any of the remakes match its heights.

Also, I loved seeing Frank Cady in an early uncredited role, doing what Frank Cady does best.

Self Reliance (2023)

It's about as much fun as the trailer promised, with the added wrinkle of is-he-or-isn't-he, crazywise. I'm not sure I loved that wrinkle, but I'm satisfied with how it was resolved.

Jake Johnson and Anna Kendrick are great leads and the supporting cast is just as strong. The danger (he is playing a game in which people are trying to murder him, remember) isn't nearly strong enough. A couple more rules about allowable weapons and so forth could have helped.

But all in all, a pleasant enough evening.

Cryptozoo (2021)

You can tell by how short the end credits were how cheaply made this was. And so you see cost-saving manuevers like we all know from 60s tv animation and indie animation from a couple decades ago. The rotoscoping is very much of the film's genre, and the main cryptid fueling the plot is clearly inspired by Fantastic Planet.

The title doesn't show up for twelve minutes, but until that point we see a couple hippies walking in the woods, stripping, having sex, climbing a fence. Then one kids murdered by a unicorn and the other kills the unicorn in return.

The movie spends a lot of time screaming that it's an allegory but it's not at all clear just what it's an allegory for. Racism? Animal rights? Something less concrete?

Anyway, it was fine.

Mandibles (2020)

One thing that's annoying about Kanopy is they frequently send the credits at a much lower resolution. I assume this is to save on bandwidth, but I hate it.

Anyway, imagine if Lloyd and Harry were French criminals. Got it?

Now imagine they find a fly the size of a corgi. What happens next?

That's exactly right. That's exactly what happens next.

I watched this on my own but I highly recommend watching with people who enjoy laughing. I suspect you and they will find lots to laugh about. Solo, an hour seventeen felt much longer, even though it was pleasant enough all the way through.

I appreciated that the fly was a practical effect. There was only one point I though could have been digital, although I suppose some digital cleanup may have been used throughout. But it's just a puppet. A disgusting puppet.

And when you have a giant fly, there's always the chance that what you're watching will turn into a horror movie. I like how this movie played with that threat.

So I guess my advice is: find the right crowd and settle in.

Dr. Jack (1922)

According to the studio, Dr. Jack is the greatest comedy ever made, providing not only "tidal waves of laughter" but "sound[ing] the depths of the human soul" as well "in the intensity of its pathos."

I don't know about that, but certainly it's a very funny movie.

Harold Lloyd plays a smalltown doctor who can't make money because he's too good a guy, spending more time curing souls than bodies (don't worry—the bodies are already healthy; we don't see a single sick person in the entire movie). His goodness leads him indirectly to the Sick-Little-Well-Girl whose father is paying a fortune to a quack who claims she is ill.

The good doctor had already met her once in a cafe so they had a quasi-romantic interest before he became her doctor, so I'm not sure what the ethical standards are here, but a faulty footstool will get him to cross the line clearly and thus get him fired. Only an extended comedy routine can save the day.

Silent comedy and cartoon comedy both understand that the inherent irreality of their medium is a feature. This film gets away with things that don't work once foley is part of the equation, for instance. But other aspects are just parts of film, fullstop, and modern comedy could be better at incorporating the frame and cuts etc.

Anyway, if you watch this on Tubi, be aware that the music was selected entirely and completely at random. But that's kinda cool because it forces you to realize how affected we are by music.

Also, there was one shot where I suspect one of the Black actors was replaced by someone in blackface? It's hard to be sure, but I wonder if they had to go back and reshoot that reaction shot and it was cheaper just to put one of the hands in her costume? Just a guess.

The two Black characters are as full as most of the other characters in the film, but I wonder if they're based on old stereotypes? I suspect so, though I don't know them well enough to say.

Palm Springs (2020)

Took us long enough, but we've finally screened it and nope. Not shoing it to the kids. But we liked it.

As time-loop movies go, it's no Groundhog Day or Edge of Tomorrow, but it's solid enough and does new things I at least haven't seen before. I like the solution and I'm surprised it's new to me.

It's funny. The characters are strong and they are given interesting opportunities to grow.

Solid little movie. And with a $5 million-dollar budget, easy to justify. They should make more movies like this. Or, if they do, they should be better at marketing them to me.

Linoleum (2022)

First, having seen it, I still have no idea why it's called Linoleum. It's a terrible title and someone should have talked him out of it. Absolutely unmarketable.

But it's not an easy movie to honestly market anyway. Spoilers from here on out, guys.

Over 95% of the film takes place in a mind adled by some form of age-onset dimensia. Nothing is as it is. His wife and his daughter are the same person, for instance.

And this is all being done with tools usually associated with short fiction (novels too, I guess) and the stage, but adapted to film with reasonable success. It's weird, and not in any of the ways I'd expected. I'm not surprised to read he loves Aronofsky.

I think Lady Steed liked it more than I did. Anyway, she was more moved by it. (I suspect because she had done less figuring-out-of-what's-happening than I had. See, I had noticed Cameron never called his dad Dad and it made me wonder what Tony Shalhoub was on about.)

Also, if Barry Keoghan ever needs someone to play his American litte sister, Katelyn Nacon, folks.

But serious.

Why is it called Linoleum??

The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar (2023)

So I loved it. Maybe if you don't already have a deep appreciation for Wes Anderson and a love for Dahl (and in partcularly "Henry Sugar") your mileage may vary, but by the end I was moved. I was a little bummed the makeup artist didn't get more play but it was clever how they fit in as much as they did. Both Lady Steed and I enjoyed the doubling by the actors. Of course, it helps that they are wonderful actors.

I also love this way of just making a film the book. A huge percentage of the actual text is simply recited and I love that.

Anyway. I've said "love" a lot and so, though I don't usually do write-ups of short films and the rest of this series falls short of my half-hour cutoff, but we may make an exception. Especially if they happen this month.

The Swan (2023)

This is one of the most upsetting works of fiction I read as a child. And so part of my appreciates that this is the most hermetic, visually, of the four films. Must more is left to our imaginations. The two Watsons even do most of the show's actions of the bullies—when they are shown at all. Some of the changes are purely symbolic (changing to black clothes). On a first watch, this was the least affecting of the four films. (Second watched, fourth written about.)

But still the most upsetting.

The Ratcatcher (2023)

Although we watched this film third and I am writing about it third, I have seen all the movies as I write. And I think it's fair to say this is the most entertaining of the three. Ralph Fiennes is a terrifically weird ratcatcher. Rupert Friend is as charming and as watchable as he was in Asteroid City. The story has the most visual pizzazz, I would argue, with the animated rat, but even when they're just miming animals it's visceral stuff, "The Ratcatcher." I had thought, entering this watchfest, I had only read two of the stories, but I was wrong.

Even when the title and plot have fallen away, you do not forget a Dahl.

Poison (2023)

Dev Patel might be the most successful of the narrators. Or perhaps it's just that by the fourth rendition, I realized that these films are showcasing storytelling. They are bringing the art of storytelling to cinema. Of course, all four of these pieces have been doing that. And it's nothing new: Gonzo as Charles Dickens is a successful example. As are many of Wes Anderson's own narrators. But narration is still not quite the same thing as storytelling, and these stories really rely on what storytelling is all about. A good storyteller is merely providing paints and a canvas for the audience to tell their own story in their own head. In Henry Sugar a few choices were made that I thought were mistakes. Because the visual representation did not match the narration. But these weren't mistakes. Because that was not narration. It was storytelling.

So again, I don't know if Dev was the best at this or I simply (finally) figured it out, but that's what these movies are about. They're about the child you get when you marry storytelling and cinema. Which is not the same thing as marrying theater and cinema, or journalism and cinema, or novelism and cinema, or poetry and cinema, or whatever. It is it's own thing. And we now have been blessed to see it done very well indeed.

(Incidentally, it's interesting having Dev Patel play this narrator as the other Englishman's racist rant at the end plays differently when his friend too is suchawun. It's been sad, of late, to learn more about Dahl's own racism. Particularly when so many of his stories know better.)

Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping (2016)

I read an article a couple months ago about how well this movie's holding up.

Lady Steed thought maybe since we'd just watched a Lonely Island movie (Palm Springs), we should watch another.

We'd never watched it because we thought it would probably be gross.

It was.

But it was also hilarious.

And it's final moment got an enormous reaction out of me. I'm sick enough, I'm not sure I was ever going to breathe again.

Film (1965)

I don't usually write about short films here but I already made an exception for Wes Anderson and so I will now make an exception for Sam Beckett.

If you haven't heard, Film is Beckett's only film and it is one of Keaton's last films. Keaton wasn't sure what the heck was going on and, frankly, neither was anyone else. And neither are we. The camera is a character and, at least to some, terrifying. In the end, it's Keaton. Whom we have not been able to see face-on this same time. Why? I don't know. To either question.

The film is intensely silent. I expected that, coming in. It is a silent film after all. And I was doubtful there would be music. But this is a world where humans could make sounds if they wanted. Early on, one says, Shhhh!, and that shh makes the rest of the film so much more quiet than it otherwise would be.

The film does do a few interesting things with silent vocabularly (if you will), but in the end it's only an exerise. It belongs more in some dark nook of an art museum than in a cinema.

If I were a student and had to, I could easily write something intelligent about Film. What's with his horror of eyes, for instance. What does it mean that in one photograph we can see the photographer. Why does his have a cataract.

There's really only one bit of Keatonian comedy, a bit with a kitten and a puppy. It's filmed to prevent it from being actually funny, but it does amuse.

One imagines that if Beckett had made this earlier in his career, instead of scratching an itch it would have made it all the itchier. And then we would've got some weird stuff!

Instead, I'm left trying to decide which character in Godot would be best when played by Buster Keaton....

(Beckett wanted him as Lucky in the play's American premiere, which is the obvious choice but I'm not convinced the best.)

Oh! One last thing. The modern media Film reminds me of most is videogames. You can switch p-o-v from behind the lead to first-person. You go to a room. You wander around, see what you can pick up. Can you close the drapes? Cool. What if we get rid of the kitten? What if we get rid of the puppy. Hang on. Oh, wait—you have to push the down arrow. Got it. Now what.....

Quiz Lady (2023)

If we hadn't picked this on impulse based on what was on the top page, I doubt we ever would have watched it. But I'm so glad we did. It's a terrific movie and it's working well on multiple levels.

It's a great sister/buddy film. Sandra Oh has apparently become Jennifer Coolidge and no one told me. Awkwafina is like in The Farewell but funnier. And their dynamic is excellent. I love them as sisters. And I love how this established relationship develops through new experiences and new understanding of old experiences. That's what films like this need to do.

I love the small roles from favorite actors doing just the right amount with what they're given, notably Will Ferrell, Tony Hale, and Jason Schwartzman (who always plays the same guy yet somehow is sometimes lovable and sometimes inspires absolute hatred; amazing). And props to Holland Taylor who finally has forced me to learn her name.

The film also has my now alltime favorite where-are-they-now sequence. It started in a too-expected fashion but I think that was the right choice given the beauties it gave us as it continued onward.

Anyway, it was awesome.

This Beautiful Fantastic (2016)

This is a beautiful and charming with with a terrific cast and . . . it's not totally confident that's true. What I mean is, it's not sure if it's something magical or wondrous like Amélie or Paddington or something kinda like that but ultimately a work of realism, like About a Boy. I mean—it knows what it's trying to be (magical) but it's not quite sure how to do it. Some of the relationships don't make even magical sense and our romantic lead is supposed to be quirky and cute and charming and twee . . . but is also kind of an ahole. The passage of time doesn't allow things to develop quite as they should and so we're just supposed to believe in it because the colors are saturated and our hero has a wonderful wardrobe. Which is okay and I did like the movie quite a lot but it never quite succeeded at what it was attempting.

I suspect this might be budget. They wanted flies buzzing so they threw in the sound but we saw no flies. At one point it's raining everywhere but just one bit of the screen. I think there wasn't money for enough shots and so the edit didn't quite work. Combine that with a not-quite-finished script and there you go.

But I'm a sucker for this kind of thing and if you loved it and wanted to watch it again, I'd watch it again. And I'd do so dearly hoping I was wrong.

our dvd
Office Space (1999)

We were flossing a couple weeks ago and I watched a video about Office Space and all the boys gathered around, mesmerized.

Then we all got covid but today we all spent the evening in the same room again and watched it before son#1 heads back to Montana.

It was not what they expected, but they loved it. Watching it this big for the first time, I noticed some details that in 2024 would be listed in the credits, like a cover of WIRED and a Cathy comic. But not in 1999, apparently.

I still really want to know what alternated ending Mike Judge wanted but Fox wouldn't let him shoot. I wonder if he even remembers.

library dvd
A Night at the Roxbury (1998)


This is a pretty dumb movie.

It was fun to see 1998 Jennifer Coolidge.

MAST: Small Screenings
Ninety-five Senses (2023)

Jared and Jerusha Hess directed this short animated movie which is now nominated for an Oscar. It took a while to understand what the movie was actually about and it never shouts even after we come to understand.

Incidentally, this has turned into a month of me writing about a lot of short films! I don't think I've watched more than usual, or at least not many more, but so many writeups. And it would be kind of wonderful if this and "The Wonderful Story of Henry Sugar" win, bringing the Hesses and Wes Anderson their first Oscars in the same year. (Also, how upsetting Asteroid City received ZERO nominations. Ugh.) Note: I don't think the Hesses would get the Oscar. I believe the Oscar goes to the producers. But would be happy to be wrong.

Anyway, back to the movie. Tim Blake Nelson did an excellent job as the sole actor carrying the movie, and the young animators brought game to their segments.

Link+ dvd
A Man Called Peter (1955)

In the span of a couple weeks, on disparate locations on the internet, I had this movie recommended to me as one of the greats not once not twice but three times.

It was a bit challenging to run down (at my chosen price point of zero), but I did, and, um, okay?

It's a nice little hagiography of a guy I'd never heard of based on the biography written by his wife.

The actor playing the minister essentially does cover versions of what I assume are the man's greatest hits (sermons). The flow of time is confusing and the first act has gaping holes one assumes must've been covered in the book.

It's a pleasant enough journey but it's never clear exactly what the point is. It has a very 50s civic-religion vibe, but I'm not sure that's it. It has a lot of casual sexism, but I'm not sure it can see it. It tries to push some liberal ideas but it just says, it never argues. The character we see most affected by his words, a senator, appears not to be a real person.

So yeah. It was nice but I don't get it. Perhaps when it came out and the book was fresh in people's minds and his preaching still rung in folks' memories it worked, but here he almost seems to preach from a glass jar and other than more people showing up to see him it's not quite clear what difference he's making.

The Personal History of David Copperfield (2019)

Ever since I saw the trailer I've been anxious to see this film. Same writer/director as Death of Stalin above (though I don't think I'd seen that when I first saw the trailer) but my cheapness made this difficult. It wasn't in theaters. The library decided not to buy the dvd even after I filled out a polite request. It wasn't streaming anywhere we were paying for. And then, tada, here it is on Hulu after we go for the buck-a-month deal.

But Lady Steed wanted to wait until she'd finished reading Demon Copperhead. Which seemed fair.

And now here we are. We've watched it.

Lady Steed enjoyed the filmmaking but felt it was just too rushed. For me, the joyous filmmaking made it okay that we were skirting over characters and maybe not coming to feel for them as much as we might otherwise. So that didn't bother me. I enjoyed the movie just as much as I expected.

And now I really want to read David Copperfield. I had an abridged version I read many times as a child, but it's time, I think, to read the real thing.

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