Film Review: “Jujutsu Kaisen 0” (2021)

“That’s dark.”

Escape From New York (1981)

Mostly avoids the anime show-to-movie trope of feeling like a few episodes of the series strung together and introduces a fascinating new character with a crushing story to that whole Jujutsu Kaisen anime thing that’s going on. More importantly, did you see how Gojo’s eyes shimmered?? Most of the extra budget went into enhancing Gojo’s incredible eyes. He was looking right at me, I swear.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “My favorite character is Panda because Panda.”

Film Review: “The Automat” (2022)

“These people thought this would last forever.”

A shaggy, Mel Brooks style documentary featuring Mel Brooks and a ton of other people that gave me a powerful feeling of nostalgia for food service automats that were completely gone from the world not even two years after I was born.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It is, perhaps, fitting that interviewees Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Collin Powell, and Carl Reiner died before this was released, as it really illustrates the sad, dwindling memory of the Horn & Hardart Automats that the documentary is trying to convey. Lost with these figures is their unique experience of a distinct place in a distinct time.”

Film Review: “The Worst Person in the World”

“All I do is watch my favorite movies over and over again.”

A melancholic, romantic character study told in a prologue, 12 chapters, and an epilogue. A true reflection of modern love and how the search for it is intertwined with the search for the modern meaning of our lives. There are moments in this that are truly arresting, pulling the movie up and far away from what you think it will be while elevating the genre with it.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “The central relationship in this is between a millennial and a gen-xer, and the film captures the divide between these generations better than any other piece of media that I’ve seen or read. Although only ten years or so apart, the punk, analog past of one partner conflicts with the other’s more ‘detached’ future resulting in a soft yet meaningful commentary on generational identities.”

Film Review: “Drive My Car” (2021)

“Those who survive never stop thinking about the dead.”

The Fast and the Furious (2001)

A gentle, human drive down a highway through loss on the way to understanding and healing. It enhances the Murakami story, while thankfully steering away from some of the writer’s worst tendencies. While Pig, my favorite movie of 2021 that was actually released in 2021, didn’t get any meaningless Oscar love, Drive My Car explores some similar themes on a search for humanity in the face of loss, so I am stoked that a film like this is getting acknowledged.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It’s three hours, too, which means it’s a good movie. Long movies = good movies. That’s just movie math, right? (Really, though, it’s so well-paced that it barely feels like it’s 2 hours.)”

Film Review: “Spencer” (2021)

“Where the fuck am I?”

A dreamy, ghostly and claustrophobic horror story that explores abusive and overbearing (and royal) control the same way Larrain’s previous film Jackie explored grief. Also like Jackie, it features a singular performance from a central actor in Kristen Stewart who commands every single scene.

Above all, though, Spencer is a sympathetic portrait of Princess Diana that, while I’m sure takes liberties with some things and completely changes others, captures the feeling of an individual trapped in circumstances she couldn’t predict.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I guess we should be careful about conspiracies, but the royal family had her killed. At least in the Spencer cinematic universe.”

Film Review: “Titane” (2021)

“It’s titanium.”

A movie that dares people to call it a ‘wild ride’ and put it in quotes at the top of the poster or home video case, then just ratchets up the wild and weird and body horror until it becomes something wonderfully uncontrollable and keenly unknowable.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It does have a lot in common with the Fast and Furious movies, though, and I won’t be elaborating.”

Film Review: “Licorice Pizza” (2021)

“Of course I go to the movies.”

Licorice Pizza feels like a collection of scenes from different movies featuring the same shaggy characters that form an impeccable snapshot of a certain period in time at a certain place. It’s at its best when it moves away from the sketchy/lightly cringe teen fantasy movie scenes and focuses on the “loser” characters’ escapades and attempts to make something of themselves, even if they don’t know what that something is because they’re too young, too lazy, too apathetic, or any combination of the three.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “It is worth seeing for Bradley Cooper’s cameo scenes alone. His are pulled from a comedy of errors featuring these characters and he captures the coked up energy and manic drive of what I conjure in my mind palace when I think 70s producer.”

Film Review: “The Tragedy of Macbeth” (2021)

“I have done the deed.”

A concise, sparse production of the play that makes use of the film medium’s varied perspectives to craft something that feels less like a stage play and more like a dream, moving ceaselessly through curtains towards its conclusion in the theater of the mind.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Someone in the audience called it ‘Macbeth’ before it started so Denzel died at the end. Wish I could have seen how it really ends.”

Film Review: “Pig” (2021) *Favorite movie of 2021*

“You have no value.”

This anti-John Wick in ratty clothing is my favorite movie of 2021. It’s a film noir that exudes empathy. A journey into the Portland restaurant underground to find some semblance of hope for humanity (and a pig) that actually finds some and shares it with the audience. I am a better person than I was before I saw Pig back in July. Somehow, Nic Cage and company improved me.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “I think my second favorite movie of the year is Demon Slayer: Mugen Train, which wrung similar emotions from me. I don’t know how else to connect Pig and Demon Slayer, but I’ll ponder it.”

Film Review: “Nightmare Alley” (2021)

“People are desperate to tell you who they are.”

A dark parable that casts viewers as adjudicator and soothsayer, signalling the ending and waiting for the main character to catch up to his destiny. The supernatural elements Del Toro is most famous for are relegated here to set dressing and production value, building the world and genre encroaching upon the troubled soul we follow, from carnival trappings to brutalist art deco noir and back again.

My VHS cover pull-quote: “Why is the call of the carnival still so strong even though they’re barely a thing anymore? Every time I’m overwhelmed, I hear Willem Dafoe’s voice ushering me towards a field somewhere. That’s normal, right?”