July 2020 Film Round-Up

Coming in a bit late this month, but I’m back for another monthly film round-up of everything I saw in July.

It’s definitely not as packed as the past three editions, but I still watched some good stuff.

There are going to be a lot of Best Picture Winners in here due to me finally finishing that particular task, so I’m going to skip by those pretty quickly (there’s a larger post about that coming sometime soon so I don’t want to spoil anything).

Without wasting any more of your time, here’s what I watched in July and what I thought about each film.

First-Time Watches – July 2020

  1. Away From Her (2007) dir. Sarah Polley

Quite beautiful, but that’s also its downfall, perhaps romanticising certain topics a little too much for the sake of storytelling. Two great lead performances, though!

2. Hamilton (2020) dir. Thomas Kail

Before the “it’s a not a film!” crowd comes to fight me, I recognise that it’s not a proper feature film in the same way as the others, but it is a piece of film that I watched, so I feel like I should include it. Naturally, it’s brilliant, manages to capture the same energy of seeing a live performance through recorded playback which is pretty brilliant. Leslie Odom Jr. is even better than I thought he would be from listening to the soundtrack multiple times.

3. La Vie en Rose (2007) dir. Olivier Dahan

Cotillard is truly wonderful and earned her Oscar, and the Hair & Make-Up teams are putting in the finest of work, but the narrative drags a lot more than I bargained for, resulting in lack of engagement whenever Cotillard wasn’t performing.

4. The Jazz Singer (1927) dir. Alan Crosland

Honestly the less said about this the better. Has a better reputation than it has earned, though it is notable in terms of technical progression in the film industry, but as a piece of film itself it’s a garbage fire on most fronts.

5. Saving Christmas (2014) dir. Darren Doane

I’ve literally seen this and I still don’t believe that it’s real. One of the most bizarre films I have ever seen and not in a good way. Great film to laugh at with friends, though.

6. The Savages (2007) dir. Tamara Jenkins

The film boasts some great writing and wonderful performances from Linney and Hoffman, but doesn’t quite go deep enough with the core relationship for my liking. There could have been some powerful moments added on to really bring the themes home. Still a great piece of film!

7. The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) dir. Andrew Dominik

Absolutely marvellous on all fronts. Dominik’s direction paired with Roger Deakins’ superlative cinematography is a treat for the eyes, and the revolving door of perfect performances doesn’t hurt it either. Pitt and Affleck work seamlessly off each other and both put in some of their finest work to date.

8. I’m Not There (2007) dir. Todd Haynes

I’ll admit it. I wanted to love this more. The concept is absolutely genius, and it mostly worked…just sometimes it didn’t. The Richard Gere sequence feels completely out of place, but watching Blanchett and Ledger’s portions was something to behold. Blanchett is incredible in this.

9. American Gangster (2007) dir. Ridley Scott

This film is just too long and too overcrowded to be anything of real substance. Washington and Crowe are good, perhaps great, but the narrative isn’t interesting to me at all.

10. Gone Baby Gone (2007) dir. Ben Affleck

A competent mystery-thriller with enough great character work and occasional moments of great writing to sustain it. Amy Ryan is a clear standout and delivers a fantastic performance here.

Note: Here, with one or two exceptions, is the start of my “Best Picture Binge” so beware the brevity.

11. Tom Jones (1963) dir. Tony Richardson

This was a film that I saw. Albert Finney was there. That’s all the positives I really have for it.

12. Lawrence of Arabia (1962) dir. David Lean

It’s remarkable how wide this film is in scope. Peter O’Toole was one of the best.

13. Paris is Burning (1990) dir. Jeannie Livingston

An interesting, engaging, and informative documentary on the 80’s drag-ball scene. Watched as a necessary companion piece to the TV show Pose.

14. Ben-Hur (1959) dir. William Wyler

And thus the 3-hour long epics begin. Charlton Heston looked like a pure snack the entire time and I was pleased by it.

15. Palm Springs (2020) dir. Max Barbakow

Oh, I adore this movie. Samberg and Milioti work so brilliantly together with such natural chemistry that you find yourself really, really wanted to be in their position with them, just so you can spend time with these thoroughly engaging characters.

16. Gigi (1958) dir. Vincente Minnelli

We end the 60’s with some good old-fashioned misogyny through the backdrop of lovely costuming and the occasional catchy melody.

17. The Bridge on the River Kwai (1957) dir. David Lean

Appreciated the concept and the direction, as well as Guinness’ spirited performance, but this one kinda lost me around the middle.

18. Around The World in 80 Days (1956) dir. Michael Anderson

Imagine having enough money that you can travel around the entire world and not have to budget…cannot relate.

19. From Here to Eternity (1953) dir. Fred Zinnemann

I do love an emotional war film. And when said war film has Burt Lancaster rolling around on the beach in tight shorts and Montgomery Clift being a Nice Boy(TM), I’m absolutely sold.

20. The Greatest Show on Earth (1952) dir. Cecil B. DeMille

Believe the (lack of) hype. Truly one of the worst movies to receive the top prize. The trapeze sequences were actually really well done and full of tension, but the character work was minimal. Spectacle over substance.

21. An American in Paris (1951) dir. Vincente Minnelli

The superior of the Minnelli musicals to win Best Picture, because this one has the affable Gene Kelly at its heart.

22. All The King’s Men (1949) dir. Robert Rossen

Mercedes McCambridge did not come to play. By far my favourite thing about the film, but Broderick Crawford is no slouch, either.

23. Hamlet (1948) dir. Laurence Olivier

I’m gonna say it. Hamlet is never going to thrive on the screen. It’s a play through-and-through and no matter how you do it, it just won’t work properly. Olivier does his best though, and I would have loved to see him play this role on the stage.

24. Gentleman’s Agreement (1947) dir. Elia Kazan

Both surprisingly ahead of its time and misguided at the same time. Peck could have been better, but the writing and Holm’s performance really pulled this one through for me.

25. The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) dir. William Wyler

Really enjoyed this one, some tremendous performances and another really well-commanded tone from Wyler, who hasn’t misstepped yet for me.

26. The Lost Weekend (1945) dir. Billy Wilder

I’ll say what I said in my Letterboxd review: I just bet that Edward Norton has spend his entire career hoping somebody casts him in a remake of this film.

27. Going My Way (1944) dir. Leo McCarey

Endearing almost to a fault, somewhat sacrifices characterisation for faux emotional beats. Has a pretty good ending though.

28. Mrs Miniver (1942) dir. William Wyler

Another intelligent Wyler picture with a good central performance and a really great ending.

29. How Green Was My Valley (1941) dir. John Ford

A well-shot and surprisingly endearing movie that has lived its entire life being shamed for beating Citizen Kane to the Best Picture prize. I still prefer the latter, but Ford also made a really great movie that year.

30. You Can’t Take It With You (1938) dir. Frank Capra

Absolutely charming, with Jimmy Stewart showing off his natural charismatic energy with some really fun pick-up lines. Would have 100% worked on me.

31. The Life of Emile Zola (1937) dir. William Dieterle

For a movie that’s literally titled so as to be about the life of a figure, the parts with Zola were the least entertaining. Everything about the army’s cover-ups were really interesting, but everything else just fell short.

32. The Great Ziegfeld (1936) dir. Robert Z. Leonard

I respect the ambition, but it’s far too long and surprisingly dull to be anything of great value.

33. Mutiny on the Bounty (1935) dir. Frank Lloyd

Performances were fun, but the story didn’t capture me. The filmmaking for time is pretty great, though.

34. Cavalcade (1933) dir. Frank Lloyd

Hugely forgettable. If I hadn’t made notes just after watching, I would not know what to say about this film at all. Highly boring and its structure is a mess.

35. Grand Hotel (1932) dir. Edmund Golding

They should have just give up and made this a Greta Garbo one-woman show instead because she was the only good thing about it.

36. Cimarron (1931) dir. Wesley Ruggles

Not to spoil my rankings or anything, but this is the worst film to ever win Best Picture. Despite its controversy, it’s not even well-made.

37. All Quiet on the Western Front (1930) dir. Lewis Milestone

This film is 90 years old and still looks and sounds like that. Definitely one of the best of the older bunch for me.

38. The Broadway Melody (1929) dir. Harry Beaumont

I love Broadway but this was so boring.

39. Wings (1928) dir. William A. Wellman

The first Best Picture winner was also one of the most surprising. The aerial scenes are masterful and it’s just so ahead of its time.

40. The Kissing Booth 2 (2020) dir. Vince Marcello

If I thought the first one was long, I had another thing coming.

41. The Rental (2020) dir. Dave Franco

Franco’s directorial debut is promising, but this didn’t quite hit the beats that it should have. Alison Brie is great as always, though.

42. First Cow (2020) dir. Kelly Reichardt

I become more enamoured with Reichardt’s style the more I see it, and this was a charming little tale to tell with that particular lens. Magaro is wonderfully peaceful in this performance.

43. Atlantics (2019) dir. Mati Diop

Not quite what I expected or hoped for, but it was shot beautifully and had some really cool directorial choices. Looking forward to seeing more from Diop.

Favourite First-Time Watch: Palm Springs

43 new films watched…I know I said it wouldn’t be as long as the previous ones, but I underestimated how many Best Picture films I had watched…oops.

Anyway, here are the films I rewatched in July:

Films I Rewatched This Month:

  • Spider-Man: Into The Spider-Verse (2018) dir. Bob Persichetti, Peter Ramsey, Rodney Rothman
  • Easy A (2010) dir. Will Gluck
  • Clueless (1995) dir. Amy Heckerling
  • La La Land (2016) dir. Damien Chazelle
  • Booksmart (2019) dir. Olivia Wilde
  • Parasite (2019) dir. Bong Joon-ho
  • Little Women (2019) dir. Greta Gerwig
  • Mistress America (2015) dir. Noah Baumbach
  • The Kissing Booth (2018) dir. Vince Marcello
  • I Know Who Killed Me (2007) dir. Chris Siverton

53 films in total this month! Not my usual number, but life is starting to get in the way of my film-watching habits again!

Hopefully my Best Picture post will be with you all soon, it’s becoming a pain to rank & write it, but I’m working at it!

Until next time!

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