May 2020 Film Round-Up

So here are the films I watched in May 2020.

First Time Watches – May 2020

  1. Wag The Dog (1997) dir. Barry Levinson

A pretty competent balance of politics and comedy with some impressive performances, particularly Dustin Hoffman and Anne Heche. Wish it could have been a little more political, taking a stance on something rather than the relative ambivalence it practices.

2. The Queen (2006) dir. Stephen Frears

Absolute irredeemable garbage. And that’s me being nice about it.

3. Caché (2005) dir. Michael Haneke

An absolute knockout of a paranoid thriller. It’s smart, cryptic, and has a final shot I’ll be talking and thinking about forever. Also…Juliette Binoche.

4. Midnight Cowboy (1969) dir. John Schlesinger

A surprisingly provocative Best Picture winner. Hoffman and Voight are excellent, and Schlesinger’s direction has a great amount of dreamlike style that really amplifies the material. Oh, and that ending is so impactful.

5. Certified Copy (2010) dir. Abbas Kiarostami

Oh yeah, this will end up being one of my favourite movies of all time. Certainly one of the best I’ve ever seen and so, so intelligent. Kiarostami is a god and Juliette Binoche is the greatest actress ever to live. Will be revisiting this a lot in the future, that’s for sure.

6. Centre Stage (2000) dir. Nicholas Hytner

I enjoyed this far more than I should have, it’s mostly poorly made, but the dance sequences are great. Even if the big one at the end barely makes any sense. Great to see Zoe Saldana do things though and she’s great in her debut film role.

7. The Half of It (2020) dir. Alice Wu

Surprised to learn this wasn’t a YA adaptation because it has all of the trademarks of being one, but was actually quite subversive and intelligent for something of that ilk. Also about POC developed and produced by POC? We love to see it. You can find my full review here.

8. How To Build A Girl (2020) dir. Coky Giedroyc

Another one I reviewed on here in case you missed it, but something I wish I loved more, especially with a spirited performance from Beanie Feldstein at the helm of the story.

9. Bonnie and Clyde (1967) dir. Arthur Penn

Really loved this. The whole cast are amazing, the direction is tense and controlled, and the writing is really sharp. This is called iconic for a reason and what a way to reinvent a genre!

10. Capone (2020) dir. Josh Trank

Not nearly as daring as it could or should have been, aside from a nice dreamlike sequence in the middle, but that requires sitting through some awful writing and a Tom Hardy performance that isn’t enjoyable or interesting to watch.

11. Less Than Zero (1987) dir. Marek Kanievska

Features a great Robert Downey Jr. performance and some nice moments of writing following some high school graduates in their next steps. The plot is repetitive but the soundtrack is incredible.

12. Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy (2011) dir. Tomas Alfredson

Wondering why I didn’t love this at all, but beginning to understand why Alfredson was tapped to direct The Snowman.

13. Platoon (1986) dir. Oliver Stone

Oliver Stone using his real experiences at war really heightens this from being a typical war drama, and some good performances from Dafoe and Berenger really make this one to remember.

14. The Assistant (2020) dir. Kitty Green

Julia Garner gives one of the most stunningly effective performances of the year and you should absolutely check this one out.

15. Kill Bill Vol. 1 (2003) dir. Quentin Tarantino

First time watching this…and not impressed. Thurman is great, the fight choreography is good, but the opening gives away the ending (a trope I really hate in movies) and some of the sound design really ruins some of the fight sequences.

16. Out Of Africa (1985) dir. Sydney Pollack

Streep and Redford are good, not great, and the direction is nice. But the screenplay and story have significant issues for a film of such a bloated runtime. Cinematography was nice though and John Barry created a beautiful score for it.

17. A Better Life (2011) dir. Chris Weitz

Demián Bichir is great in this film, but the film itself had so much untapped narrative potential that it failed to capitalise on. A great performance though, for sure.

18. A Special Day (1977) dir. Ettore Scola

A humanistic look at the trappings of an oppressive government and societal regime, A Special Day showcases two gloriously down-to-earth performances from Marcello Mastroianni and Sophia Loren, who anchor this piece to its themes with spectacular depth. A truly beautiful film.

19. Albert Nobbs (2011) dir. Rodrigo Garcia

A bit of a slog, but did have some good performances. There was a story here about the gender politics of the era and they took the least interesting and a fairly offensive way of telling it.

20. Goodfellas (1990) dir. Martin Scorsese

Yes, you read that right, this was a first watch for me and I really liked it. Perhaps not as much as The Irishman, but it was still impeccably made with some great performances. Pesci and Bracco are incredible.

21. Warrior (2011) dir. Gavin O’Connor

Riveting, exhilarating storytelling capped off by some great writing and three incredibly brilliant performances from Hardy, Edgerton, and Nolte. The emotion really brings out the best of this volatile sports drama.

22. The Red Shoes (1948) dir. Michael Powell, Emeric Pressburger

The obsessive nature of art framed through a self-referential causation. The shoes themselves seem to embody the idea of perfection and dedication to one’s talent. Beautifully shot and scored, The Red Shoes is an enchanting, delightful look at ballet as an art form, and how hyper-focused obsession with art is self-destructive in the end.

23. Heartbeeps (1981) dir. Allan Arkush

Please save yourself the time and don’t watch this. Borderline unbearable and not even in a fun way. Boring with seemingly very little effort expended to make something worthwile.

24. Amadeus (1984) dir. Miloš Forman

Absolutely impeccable in every way. F. Murray Abraham gives what I think is one of the all-time great screen performances and every single aspect of this film works and makes it a masterpiece.

25. Terms of Endearment (1983) dir. James L. Brooks

Your typical emotional family drama with some great performances from Winger and MacLaine and a really touching screenplay.

26. Biutiful (2010) dir. Alejandro Gonzalez Iñárritu

Javier Bardem is great, and it’s shot well, but the story and plot are so bleak and morose that it’s hard to stay invested. Things are piling on top of Uxbal without necessity, it just feels like an exploration of how to make the most downcast movie of all time. 

27. Gandhi (1982) dir. Richard Attenborough

Undoubtedly impressive in terms of scope, but the unnecessarily bloated runtime really makes this hard to watch. There’s rarely a great deal actually happening and that does not bode well for a 191 minute movie. Kingsley is great though.

28. The Matrix (1999) dir. The Wachowskis

Yes, another first time watch. The world-building is cool and the action sequences are pretty great. I wish it spent a little more time with Neo before thrusting him headfirst into the plot though. I wanted to know him as a person rather than a prophecy.

29. Rabbit Hole (2010) dir. John Cameron Mitchell

A showcase for great performances from Kidman, Eckhart, and Teller, as well as some effective writing and emotional resonance. A worthwhile watch for the performances alone.

30. Leave Her To Heaven (1945) dir. John M. Stahl

This is considered as Gone Girl for the Old Hollywood crowd, and I fully endorse this. Gene Tierney’s performance is fantastic while the writing around her is mostly solid. Hard to think this is 75 years old.

31. Animal Kingdom (2010) dir. David Michôd

A great combination of crime thriller and family drama. Weaver and Mendelsohn are the standouts and give excellent performances.

32. M (1931) dir. Fritz Lang

I’m absolutely floored by this. Fritz Lang created such a layered, socially relevant film with some great directorial techniques and a riveting story. For something like this to have come out 89 years ago blows my mind. A truly excellent film that deserves every iota of the legacy it has garnered.

33. Another Year (2010) dir. Mike Leigh

A soft, subtle look into the lives of ordinary people with a flustering, realistic performance from Lesley Manville.

Okay so by absolute accident, I’ve watched the exact same amount of new films this month last month with 33. Some fantastic, some not so fantastic.

Favourite First Time Watch: Amadeus

Films I Rewatched This Month

  • Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009) dir. Wes Anderson
  • Burlesque (2010) dir. Steve Antin
  • Gone with the Wind (1939) dir. Victor Fleming
  • Madagascar (2005) dir. Eric Darnell, Tom McGrath
  • Whiplash (2014) dir. Damien Chazelle
  • Steve Jobs (2015) dir. Danny Boyle
  • Molly’s Game (2017) dir. Aaron Sorkin
  • I, Tonya (2017) dir. Craig Gillespie
  • Up In The Air (2009) dir. Jason Reitman
  • Jackie (2016) dir. Pablo Larraín
  • Monster’s Inc (2001) dir. Peter Docter
  • Finding Nemo (2003) dir. Andrew Stanton
  • The Incredibles (2004) dir. Brad Bird
  • Cars (2006) dir. John Lasseter
  • Ratatouille (2007) dir. Brad Bird
  • WALL-E (2008) dir. Andrew Stanton
  • Up (2009) dir. Peter Docter
  • Birds of Prey (2020) dir. Cathy Yan
  • Frances Ha (2012) dir. Noah Baumbach
  • Blade Runner (1982) dir. Ridley Scott
  • Annihilation (2018) dir. Alex Garland
  • Her (2013) dir. Spike Jonze
  • Hustlers (2019) dir. Lorene Scafaria
  • Before Sunrise (1995) dir. Richard Linklater
  • Before Sunset (2004) dir. Richard Linklater
  • Before Midnight (2013) dir. Richard Linklater
  • The Graduate (1967) dir. Mike Nichols
  • Hacksaw Ridge (2016) dir. Nobody, Apparently
  • True Grit (2010) dir. Joel Coen, Ethan Coen
  • Sideways (2004) dir. Alexander Payne

So that’s 33 new watches and 30 rewatches, totalling out at 63 films watched this month, making 3 more than April’s total. I’m bound to watch every film ever made soon, right? No? Oh well.

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