Yes, you read the title correctly. My monthly film round-ups are back.
In case you’re new here (in which case, welcome!), back in 2020 I did monthly posts about everything that I watched that month, both new discoveries and rewatches and then picked a favourite new film for the month. They’re
They’re not very fascinating or original, and they’re mainly just an expanded look at my Letterboxd diary, but I like having them on my blog as a way to keep tabs of everything I watched in a more thorough setting, including thoughts and comments that won’t be on my Letterboxd!
So there’s not much to it, really, and that’s probably all I need to explain. Without any more preamble, here is everything I watched in January 2022!
1. Licorice Pizza (2021) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
I kicked my film-watching year off in the best fashion possible this year! A new Paul Thomas Anderson release, and my first seen on the big screen! A treat for the eyes and ears as its delicious cinematography pairs well with a soundtrack that is basically just banger after banger. A story that meanders but in an interesting, character-driven kind of way, Licorice Pizza captures the best of PTA’s writing ability with direction that truly sets it apart from others films of its kind. He draws two magnetic debut performances from his two leads, Cooper Hoffman and Alana Haim, who are simply outstanding in every way. Their natural chemistry creates such a tender dynamic throughout the film as their friendship progresses through various business ventures as Alana (played by her namesake) tries to find herself in a world that never seems to have a place for her. This is my long-winded way of saying “PTA doesn’t miss!” Seek this out if you can, it’s absolutely brilliant and an unbeatable way of starting a film year (apart from last year where Maddy and I watched all five Twilight films together on New Year’s Day, that’s history right there!)
2. Titane (2021) dir. Julia Ducournau
Not minutes after I came out of Licorice Pizza, I went straight into another screen and went to watch one of my most anticipated films of 2021. I’d seen Raw a few years earlier and eagerly awaited what was to come next from Julia Ducournau. What I got was the most singularly indescribable cinema experience I’ve had in a long, long time. And also a perfect film. I say this a lot, but with Titane I really, really mean it. Ducournau’s direction is absolutely fearless and it’s that indomitable control over her film that truly elevates it to a new height. Titane juggles a lot of heavy themes but never feels like it’s doing too much. The plot progression is something satisfying and quite idiosyncratic and I loved every single second of it. Agathe Rousselle delivers a terrific performance, her physicality second to none. Vincent Lindon also towers above most other performances I’ve seen in the last few years and astonishes with the amount of range he possesses as an actor. He’s simultaneously fearsome and tender, masculine yet openly vulnerable, it’s something truly special. I don’t want to say a lot about the plot because experiencing the film and what it achieves is something you have to see to believe. And see it you should, because it’s probably the best film of 2021.
3. 7 Days (2021) dir. Roshan Sethi
Ah, another COVID-centric drama about the ability to find connections in unlikely places and how we all need to band together and love each other. 7 Days never reinvents the wheel in that department, but it does provide two really good comedic performances from Karan Soni and my queen Geraldine Viswanathan! It’s slight and probably would work better as a short film, but provided some decent laughs and a pleasing yet predictable plot progression. Nothing wrong with it, it just felt like a lot of other, better films.
4. City Lights (1931) dir. Charlie Chaplin
I don’t really know how to defend myself against the fact that I don’t really like or connect with Chaplin films. I’ve seen three of them now and I’ll continue to watch more as they come up in my watchlist, but I don’t really vibe with them too much if I’m honest. Chaplin’s physical comedy is beyond words, but the nature of the film just kept everything a little too repetitive, like once I’d seen one gag, I got to see it another seventeen times until it was no longer funny. Silent films are hard to gauge though, sometimes they’ll really click with me and sometimes they really won’t. This one didn’t, but I recognise its cinematic heft. Killer of an ending, too.
5. Holler (2021) dir. Nicole Riegel
Like with 7 Days, Holler just made me think of other films, particularly Debra Granik’s masterpiece Leave no Trace wherein a teenage girl tries to find her place in the world while battling the odds of her economic status. Holler has some great things to say and filmmaking is never uninteresting, but it just didn’t have the magic that other films of its ilk have had, despite Jessica Barden’s fully realised performance. She’s really great and should be the thing that makes you seek this out.
6. Bad Girl (1931) dir. Frank Borzage
The title and poster for this one really don’t do a good job at painting a picture of what this movie is really about. Dorothy (Sally Eilers) really isn’t a ‘bad girl’ at all, she and her love interest Eddie (James Dunn) just disagree about a lot of things and have several very important misunderstandings about their relationship that really provides the bulk of the complications in the plot. There’s something to this, though, including the two lead performances which are really great. I’m not a huge fan of the rushed ending or the abundance of misunderstandings that give flavour to the story, but I really did enjoy this a lot.
7. The Beta Test (2021) dir. Jim Cummings; PJ McCabe
There’s something here. There’s a version of this film that I absolutely adore, but it just isn’t the one that’s portrayed on screen. The concept is rich and exciting, but the script never takes it all the way with the potential of it. Cummings gives his all to his lead performance though and absolutely nails it as the dickish, paranoid agent who tries to unravel the mystery behind a secret sexual encounter. I think the problem there is that it wasn’t nearly erotic enough for what it offered. I wanted an erotic thriller that delved into the underworld and sexual politics of the rich and famous. It had shades of this, but never quite followed through on the tantalising promises it seemed to make in its first act. Not a bad film by any means, but this could’ve been excellent.
8. Sweet and Lowdown (1999) dir. Absolutely No-One.
Genuinely the only thing I enjoyed was Samantha Morton. Sean Penn absolutely drives his performance and the film over the edge in the worst way and the script is kind of a nightmare.
9. The Tragedy of Macbeth (2021) dir. Joel Coen
Okay, let’s lay out the details of this film for a second. It’s a black-and-white Shakespeare adaptation starring Denzel Washington and Frances McDormand, directed by one of the Coen brothers and I didn’t give it 5 stars? I’m still wondering how this happened myself and it’s been almost three weeks since I saw it. The performances are great, the production design and cinematography are beyond perfect, but the overall result is a little underwhelming. I don’t know what exactly it is that about it that didn’t sit well with me, but I came away feeling like I should have seen a better film? The visuals are more than worth the price of admission though.
10. The 400 Blows (1959) dir. François Truffaut
I was not about to pass up the opportunity to see this in the cinema and I’m so glad I didn’t. My first experience with this film and Truffaut’s work in general and I was completely amazed by the entire result. Such a simple story told with such power and care, and extremely well-acted. The camerawork is so fascinating, sometimes completely far away from the subject of the frame and just watching characters behave and making it powerful and thematic. Very excited to dive into more of Truffaut’s work after this!
11. Scream (2022) dir. Matt Bettinelli-Olpin; Tyler Gillett
I had such high expectations for this, having loved Ready or Not and also the previous 4 Scream movies. It felt as though it couldn’t go wrong. And it didn’t. The directors keep the tone of Craven’s excellent series intact throughout, including the powerful third act which delivers and then some on its killer reveal in a way that felt like a tribute of Craven’s legacy. For a ‘ten years later’ sequel to a ‘ten year’s later’ sequel, I don’t think we could’ve gotten anything better than what was delivered. Jenna Ortega is an absolute superstar.
12. The Hurricane (1999) dir. Norman Jewison
Tell me why on Earth I thought this was going to be a full-on boxing movie from start to finish. I was so prepared for a good, long sports movie and a brilliant Denzel performance, but I only got one of those things. He is absolutely electric throughout and it’s absolutely one of my favourite performances from him, but he’s so clearly carrying the entire film around him that it sort of falls apart and can’t sustain the runtime. Performances can only go so far when the content isn’t completely engaging throughout. Amazed by Denzel and his breadth of talent, but disappointed by the film as a whole. Oh well, I’ll just go watch Warrior.
13. Skippy (1931) dir. Norman Taurog
Okay, I can fully admit that this film was not made for me to enjoy, not even close. It’s fun I suppose and Jackie Cooper has roguish energy that he carries well through the film, but the whole thing feels like it’s trying to justify why it exists and, for me at least, it never really does. I had a fun enough time, but nothing really impressed me.
14. The Divine Lady (1929) dir. Frank Lloyd
Remember how I said that silent films can be either a hit or a miss for me? This one was a hit, for sure. With some ahead-of-their-time battle scenes and a delightful and emotional performance from Corinne Griffith, The Divine Lady succeeds in justifying Frank Lloyd’s Best Director Oscar and reminds me that there are some silent films that I like and enjoy. I just have to look a little harder for them.
15. The Intouchables (2011) dir. Olivier Nakache; Éric Toledano
Oh, I was so excited about this. I used to know someone who claimed this their favourite film of all time and I was excited to see what the fuss was about. From all accounts, audiences seemed to go wild for this. I did not. Sure, it’s well-performed by Cluzet and Sy and has some really great moments throughout but the end product is just kind of empty? Lacking all subtlety in just about every moment, The Intouchables doesn’t at all live up to its reputation for me. It sure tries its best though.
16. Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) dir. Sergio Leone
No, but I genuinely am finding it hard to write anything coherent about this film. I loved it so much, everything about it, that I’m just sort of left with the option of rambling on and on about how much I loved it? Or maybe about how amazing Charles Bronson and Jason Robards are in this? Bronson in particular is just exceptional and I would have loved to have watched him on set filming this. It’s also really nice seeing Henry Fonda playing against type, I really loathed his character but also the story and writing were so powerful that I felt for him at points too. Long, yes, but unlike The Hurricane, this film is immaculately paced. Leone is a master.
17. Rear Window (1954) dir. Alfred Hitchcock
Yes, I know, this is long overdue but I finally saw it! And adored it! It’s suspenseful as you’d expect from Hitchcock and features some truly dynamic storytelling for a film set in such limited spaces. The use of cameras within the film is peerless. Stewart and Kelly make for a wonderful duo and Thelma Ritter is also really great. One of Hitchcock’s more prominent classics and now I know exactly why. And I couldn’t agree more.
18. Cyrano (2021) dir. Joe Wright
Being a moderate Joe Wright period piece fan, I was excited for this. It promises so much, a different take on an overdone story, a bunch of excellent performances, and the kind of period-piece tenderness that you would come to expect from Wright after something like Atonement or especially Pride & Prejudice. This is here in places, particularly in Dinklage’s performance which is so earnest and genuine that he’s a large part of why it works. Haley Bennett and Kelvin Harrison Jr are also brilliant and the dynamic of the story is brought to life by their performances. The Dessner-penned original songs are largely great with a few forgettable pieces throughout. But the film works more often than it doesn’t and I quite enjoyed the work Wright did for this film.
19. Funny Face (1957) dir. Stanley Donen
I love Stanley Donen and I love Audrey Hepburn. That’s really all I needed to know to know that I was going to enjoy this. Even the startling lack of chemistry from Hepburn and Astaire can’t stop this from excelling because the story and performances are so convincing. Hepburn’s character loses a little of her initial narrative heft during the latter acts, but it never feels unfaithful to her arc. The ending really pays off what has come before it, and the smattering of musical numbers really don’t hurt anyone.
20. Oldboy (2003) dir. Park chan-Wook
Another first-time watch that absolutely amazed me this month. I knew of its reputation for violence but didn’t expect it to be so emotional and heartfelt. Choi Mink-Sik gives an amazing performance and a lot of the big narrative twists rely on how he reacts to them and he does so with aplomb. Definitely going to check out the rest of the unofficial trilogy because this was mind-blowingly good.
21. Together Together (2021) dir. Nicole Beckwith
I guarantee you’ve seen this film before. The surrogate mother and single father fall in love during the course of the pregnancy. There’s nothing ‘new’ about the concept, but the script is pretty funny and there are some solid jokes throughout. Patti Harrison absolutely dominates the screen and Ed Helms is pretty good too. Recommended for a light little watch, but it’s not going to change the world.
22. Pleasure (2021) dir. Ninja Thyberg
What a heavy hitter of a film. I loved this film, but it’s absolutely not for everyone. Thyberg does not hold back with her explicit depiction of the porn industry and all of its nuances, and Sofia Kappel is her equal in how much effort and energy she gives it. It’s a demanding performance, both physically and mentally, but she handles everything that’s thrown at her and delivers a stunningly nuanced performance and character arc. Again, not for everyone, but more than worth the watch if you feel you’re up to it.
23. Compartment No. 6 (2021) dir. Juho Kuosmanen
I’m not going to say much about this because I’m just so disappointed. I thought I was going to love it but ended up finding it average and wanting to watch Before Sunrise instead, which is what I was expecting. Love the premise, not so crazy about the execution.
23 first-time watches isn’t bad for where I’m at with my film-watching lately. Hoping to watch more in February, but no promises!
Favourite first-time watch: Once Upon a Time in the West
And just like the last versions of these, here are the films I rewatched in January 2022:
- All Too Well: The Short Film (2021) dir. Taylor Swift (it counts!)
- The Haunting of Hill House (2018) dir. Mike Flanagan (I know, it’s TV, but it’s one of my favourite pieces of media and I adore it so it stays)
- Bo Burnham: Inside (2021) dir. Bo Burnham
- Spencer (2021) dir. Pablo Larraín
- The Swimmer (1968) dir. Frank Perry
- The Amazing Spider-Man (2012) dir. Marc Webb
- The Amazing Spider-Man 2 (2014) dir. Marc Webb
- Panic Room (2002) dir. David Fincher
- Easy A (2010) dir. Will Gluck
- Batman Begins (2005) dir. Christopher Nolan
- Zodiac (2007) dir. David Fincher
- Licorice Pizza (2021) dir. Paul Thomas Anderson
I know, I accidentally bookended the month with Licorice Pizza which was really entirely accidental, but I’m not mad about it!
35 films across the month, not my usual total but I’m not mad at it! The goal is always to watch the equivalent of a film a day and I’m more or less on track to do it!
Hoping to commit to making these for every month this year, but can’t promise anything!