for reels: November 2020

Welcome to for reels, a monthly look back at my movie diary on Letterboxd // Today, I’m looking back at November 2020 //

It’s as a good a month as any to start doing this thing ‘cause I really went all the fuck over the place with what I watched. A lot of people do “Noirvember” which I’ve never really attempted ‘cause after October I’m always in a horror hangover and feel like I need to decompress by not putting a lot of thought into what I’m watching and just sorta vibe around.

That said, I definitely got into some trashy Neo-noir and fucked around with some more horror after a couple weeks off (highly recommend The Dark and The Wicked if you’re looking for something both new and emotionally devastating). November also started with Moneyball (Brad fucking Pitt, amirite) and ended with Con Air and Marie Antoinette in the same night, so it’s a real unbridled glimpse at my scattered movie-lizard brain circa 2020.

Anyway here are some fake awards for 11 notable joints from my November diary.

Best New Movie: Possessor (2020)

As it stands, I’m thinkin’ this one might be my fave of the year. I’ll have to watch it again to be sure, but after having experienced the tense, beautiful viscera of the first viewing I’ve been reflecting on it as a non-literal Blade Runner-meets-Videodrome rumination on the dispossessed and digitally repossessed generations now living in the fallout of the social media atom bomb. Just my early thoughts tho. 

Best New-To-Me Movie: Christine (2016)

I’m still not sure how great this one is (and I know it’s got a less than stellar reputation compared to Kate Plays Christine, the other film about reporter Christine Chubbuck, who committed suicide on air in 1974) but I think it was really good at a lot of things. It's an engaging and effective take on mental illness, misogyny, and the demoralizing exploitation of violence in American media. Like 2014's Nightcrawler, it’s a mid-2010s dark character study that walked so Joker could run.

Most Rewarding Rewatch: Marie Antoinette (2006)

Hadn’t seen Marie Antoinette in like 12 years. Remembered it mostly as an impeccable work of production design (which, ya know, sometimes that’s all you need), but damn is it way more than that. A propulsive, moody tour de force that’s up there with all the great mid-2000s output of Sofia Coppola’s peers. Coppola is a master of her craft, and this is the clearest example of her playful, precise command over her own oeuvre.

Least Rewarding Rewatch: The Enforcer (1976)

Been mulling around some ideas for a piece on Dirty Harry (50th anniversary coming up), so I gave this one a rewatch and confirmed it’s the worst of the series by far. Aggressively dumb, seething with misogyny (and the usual racism) to an unsalvageable degree, and not even entertaining for your troubles. It’s a dud, folks.

Lives Up to Its Rad™ Poster: Cobra (1986)

Speaking of copoganda movies, I picked this one up as a used dvd a while back 'cause I LOVED the stunning, uber-'80s poster/cover art. The movie itself (directed by George B. Cosmatos, father of Mandy director Panos Cosmatos) is stupid, beautiful, dank, disorienting, and unintentionally hilarious in all the right (or wrong) ways. It’s a bizarre blast and a slick Reagan-era kabuki riff on the Western hero — the apex of cocaine-fueled cartoon fascist MTV-fetish 80s action flicks.

Trashterpiece of the Month: Wild Things (1998)

People are aware of how great this is, right? A spiritual sequel to Showgirls, borderline Verhoeven-level great trash. Kevin Bacon hanging dong, Denise Richards and Neve Campbell slapping the shit out of each other then inexplicably making out in a pool, and Bill Murray “Bill Murraying” — all in one place. Chefs kiss.

Checkin’ It Off the List: Thor: The Dark World (2013)

Thor: The Dark World was literally the only MCU movie I hadn’t seen, so I finally checked it off the list last month on a night when I didn’t give a shit. Main takeaway (which also kinda captures how I feel about the MCU in general): Fantasy and space-bound stuff, not bad. Earth-bound stuff, mostly unwatchable. Chris Hemsworth is a god and a snack.

Shit Holds Up: Citizen Kane (1941)

Fired up this mfer in prep for David Fincher’s Mank (droppin’ on Netflix today). Citizen Kane will never be a personal fave, yet every time I watch it I’m amazed at how much it lives up to its impossible-to-live-up-to reputation. Cinema, bro.

Literally Followed Up Citizen Kane with: The Mask (1994)

Yeah so the day after I watched Citizen Kane I said fuck it and watched The Mask for the first time since, idk, fifth grade or some shit. Chock full of all the garish ‘90s-brand kid-movie happy-meal freneticism, especially in the final act (blech) but there are also moments where the movie’s concept and Jim Carrey’s performance come together in pretty magnificent live-action renderings of old Looney Tunes and Tex Avery-type stuff. Here’s the best example:

Movies that genuinely feel like cartoons are underrated, ya know?

The Citizen Kane of Movies About Snuff Films: 8MM (1999)

Finishing this thing off Nic Cage-heavy (you’re welcome). Really appreciate Joel Schumacher (RIP) as a unique Hollywood entertainer, and 8MM is just an absolute kaleidoscope of Neo-noir Hollywood sleaze, melodrama, and poor taste. And like every Schumacher film, from Falling Down to goddamn Batman & Robin, it’s freakishly immaculate.

Document of an Alien Civilization: Con Air (1997)

It’s weird to be old enough to remember when movies like Con Air were insanely popular and not just memes, but also feel unable to contemplate an actual civilization that would produce them. Anyway, my wife said John Malkovich is hot in it, so that’s something.

…good luck in December everyone!

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