The Movie Backlog

While I said in yesterday’s post that I was going to start posting weekly updates instead of individual reviews (with some notable exceptions), I have noticed that my biggest backlog in reviews is in movies. I keep logging them into Letterboxd but have little to no opinions on them. Okay, I have opinions, but like I said in my last post, my thoughts seem to be limited to whether or not I enjoyed them and not some critical analysis.

But to make sure I’m keeping myself honest (or as honest as I can be), I thought I would do a “rundown entry” of movies and TV series that I’ve recently made my way through. I do need to note, however, that I streamed all of these and therefore I’m going with “watch or skip” as a ratings decision since there’s nothing physically taking up space in the house; and there are movies not in this entry that I have watched but am saving for a podcast episode.

VHYes. A Kentucky Fried Movie/Amazon Women on the Moon-type of story told through the interrupted camcorder movies and stuff taped off the television of a 12-year-old kid. Funny in places, really uneven in others, it’s interesting and reminds me of the silly things my friends and I used to do with my parents’ video camera. But the movie relies a little too heavily on its gimmick and skimps on plot and character development, making it a novelty at best. Still, it’s entertaining enough if you want a “newer” version of those hodgepodge comedies. Watch.

Challenger: The Final Flight. The Netflix docuseries that recaps a lot of what I remember from 1986 and afterwards, but serves as a good lesson for those who were not there and don’t remember it. The series is pretty thorough and well-constructed and hits the right emotional beats. Watch.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project. From 1975-2005, Marion Stokes recorded television from 24 hours a day. No, really. Thousands of video tapes of news and important events throughout the world. This documentary not only moves through her life and her work, it also incorporates the footage that she taped, giving us a look at the way the world changed over those thirty years. It’s an outstanding documentary. Watch.

Spotlight. A Best Picture winner that needs no explanation. This was phenomenal. Gripping and heartbreaking, it’s one of the best journalism films i have ever seen, and one of the best dramas I have watched in recent years. Watch.

Nostalgia. A film directed by Mark Pellington that has serious star power behind it but could be better than it is. It’s mostly three stories that are slightly linked, but there’s a thinness to the plot because once we start to get interested in one story, we have to leave to find the other. What worked in Richard Linklater’s Slacker doesn’t really work here, even if the cast–Ellen Burstyn, Jon Hamm, Catherine Keener, James LeGros–are excellent. Skip.

Life Itself. This documentary is a career retrospective of Roger Ebert while also a chronicle of his final days. I’d grown up watching Siskel & Ebert, and this was not only a nostalgia trip for me, but also was an outstanding look at his life. Watch.

The War At Home. Had I had access to this one when I was doing In Country, I would have covered it. It’s a 1979 documentary about the anti-war movement in Madison, Wisconsin that not only goes chronologically through footage available at the time, but also interviews those involved years after the protests. If you have ever been curious as to how the 1960s anti-war movement operated and were sure it wasn’t just hippie bullshit, this is perfect for you. Watch.

In the Gloaming. Directed by Christopher Reeve, this is a TV movie from 1997 that originally aired on HBO an dis now on HBO Max. Glenn Close and David Strathairn play the parents of a dying AIDS patient who has come home to their Upstate New York house to live out the end of his life. The tensions among the family are palpable and Close and Strathairn are remarkable in their performances, saying so much throughout the film in the smallest, quietest moments, guided by deft direction by Reeve. Watch.

THX-1138: The Director’s Cut. After all these years, I’d never seen this film, even though I grew up loving George Lucas. THX-1138 was his directorial debut, a feature-length version of his famous student film, Electronic Labyrinth. In it, Robert Duvall plays the title character, who lives in an emotionless dystopian society that is constructed entirely underground. The film is beautiful in its style even though it’s slightly thin on plot, and I can see the talent that would give us American Graffiti and Star Wars. Watch.

Double Dare. A documentary (yeah, I’ve watched a ton of these lately) looking at the careers and personal lives of Jeannie Epper–one of Lynda Carter’s stunt doubles in the 1970s and Hollywood stunt royalty–and Zoe Bell, who was Lucy Lawless’ stunt double on Xena: Warrior Princess. It’s a great inside look at the struggle for respect of women in Hollywood as well as the struggle for stunt performers in general. Plus, you get to see how students get planned and shot. Watch.

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