The Skeleton Twins (2014) *watched on June 1* – A perfect way to kick off the month of June! This charming dramedy starring Saturday Night Live alumni Bill Hader and Kristen Wiig as twin siblings who reunite after ten years and must confront their current struggles. It’s rare for a movie to affectionately portray the brother-sister dynamic. With Craig Johnson’s tender script and direction and the terrific performances by Hader and Wiig, The Skeleton Twins will make you laugh and cry.
A Clockwork Orange (1971) *watched on June 2* – Stanley Kubrick is a master behind the camera. Full Metal Jacket served as my proper introduction and my favorite among his films, even though I was WAY too young to even see it the first time around (13, to be exact). If I saw his 1971 cult classic as a teen, I would have had nightmares for years. I would like to take this time to thank my parents for preventing me from seeing this until right now.
If you would have guessed by now, I really wanted to like A Clockwork Orange. Don’t get me wrong, it has its moments. Kubrick’s trademark of using classical music is clearly existent throughout the film. There are plenty of unique filming techniques to admire. Malcolm McDowell’s shit-eating grin will stick with me for the rest of my life. I appreciate the film’s idea involving being in control of one’s society until society strikes back. However, it doesn’t stop the movie from being overtly nasty and unpleasant to look at. I hardly find the character of Alex DeLarge, who–along with his “Droogs”–finds enjoyment in beating up and raping people as he pleases, to be entirely interesting at all. I’m not a squeamish person, but A Clockwork Orange is, as Alex perfectly puts it, “cold and pointless”.
Jeff, Who Lives at Home (2012) *watched on June 3* – Now, onto something that is the exact opposite of A Clockwork Orange. Jeff, Who Lives at Home, stars Jason Segel as thirtysomething slacker who embarks to find his destiny after finding inspiration from watching Signs over and over again. When he goes on an errand to buy some wood glue, he unexpectedly reconnects with his brother Pat (Ed Helms). Although not laugh-out-loud funny, the Duplass brothers put on a pretty decent film about finding the purpose in life. Segel and Helms lead the stellar cast including Susan Sarandon and Judy Greer.
Big Night (1996) *watched on June 4* – Before Julie and Julia, Chef, and The Hundred-Foot Journey, there was Big Night, one of the first food porn movies. This indie film from 1996 stars Tony Shalhoub and Stanley Tucci as two Italian brothers who are head chefs at an authentic yet struggling Italian restaurant in 1950s New Jersey. As another restaurant gets ahead of the competition, they must live up to their name by having a night of delectable cuisine and music.
I knew this was going to be something special within the first five minutes. Shalhoub and Tucci are outstanding as Primo and Secondo, who put in a lot of efforts to leave their restaurant open for the locals. Their Italian is spot-on, it looked like I was watching two actual immigrants from Italy. The supporting cast including Allison Janney, Marc Anthony, Minnie Driver, Campbell Scott, Isabella Rossellini, and the recently deceased Ian Holm are just as delightful as the food. I’m convinced Big Night will leave you starving once the credits start to roll.
The Vast of Night (2020) *watched on June 6* – This new release on Amazon Prime Video is what Close Encounters of the Third Kind would look like if it was made for a budget of $700,000. This brilliant film debut by director Andrew Patterson will require repeated viewings and tons of discussion for years to come. The movie’s plot device is that it’s actually an episode of a Twilight Zone-type show. That’s only a part of the film’s ambition and creativity. Imagine seeing this movie at a drive-in.
I Am Not Your Negro (2016) *watched on June 9* – When the death of George Floyd caused protests around the country, streaming platforms have added movies with African-American subjects available to rent for free. I Am Not Your Negro is a harrowing documentary about author James Baldwin’s unfinished manuscript of a memoir about the lives of Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, and Medgar Evers. It shows footage of Baldwin discussing his views of race and how they are relevant to today’s events, such as the Black Lives Matter movement (which is still going on to this day). This doc couldn’t be more important and insightful than right now.
Pat Garrett and Billy the Kid (1973) *watched on June 11* – I have been on a Bob Dylan listening binge this past month. It’s amazing that he is still writing and recording music since the 1960s. His new album, Rough and Rowdy Ways, is nothing short of a masterpiece. It made sense for me to watch this romanticized Western, in which he does the music score as well as co-starring with Kris Kristofferson and James Coburn. Although nothing entirely special, the graphic violence and sexual content, the music, and the dynamic between the title characters are enough to make up for the film’s sluggish pace. Kristofferson is somewhat miscast as Billy the Kid though.
Da 5 Bloods (2020) *watched on June 12* – After the success of BlacKkKlansman, director Spike Lee returns with this Netflix original film. At its center, Da 5 Bloods is far from your typical Vietnam war movie. It’s a film about brotherhood (“Five bloods don’t die, we multiply.”), racism, and imperialism. It couldn’t be a more perfect time to have a movie like this. Veteran actor Delroy Lindo is tremendous as Paul, who is dealing with post-traumatic stress ever since the war. When he reunites with his fellow soldiers–Melvin (Isiah Whitlock Jr.), Eddie (Norm Lewis, and Otis (Clarke Peters)–in Vietnam, they must go deep into the jungles to search for a hidden treasure and the remains of their captain Norman (Chadwick Boseman, in flashbacks). Although the movie is two-and-a-half hours long, the movie never once drags. There is plenty to be admired in this brutal, beautiful, funny, and gripping epic. Easily one of the best films of 2020.
The Glenn Miller Story (1954) *watched on June 14* – I always love Jimmy Stewart. He always brings a lot of his down-to-earth charisma to his films. The Glenn Miller Story is no exception. This biopic/love story tells the story of how trombone player Glenn Miller set up his own jazz orchestra band with a lot of determination and eventually becoming one of the most successful bands in the country. For someone who barely knows about Glenn Miller, this is a good film.
Just Mercy (2019) *watched on June 15* – I’m surprised this movie didn’t earn more Oscar recognition than Joker. Just Mercy is an excellent true story of Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan), a young lawyer who graduates from Harvard to go down to Alabama to defend Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx) accused of murdering 18-year-old Ronda Morrison in 1986. Jordan and Foxx lead an impressive cast including Brie Larson, Tim Blake Nelson, Rafe Spall, and O’Shea Jackson Jr. This is an important film about racial injustice that needs more attention.
Artemis Fowl (2020) *watched on June 21* – How can a solid filmmaker like Kenneth Branagh make such a terrible movie as Artemis Fowl? With a budget of $125 million, the film based on Eion Colfer’s novel of the same name feels rushed, unfinished, and sloppy. I have to admit it did have promise within the first 20 minutes and Patrick Doyle’s music and Colin Farrell’s performance aren’t all that bad, but they don’t make up for its terrible performances, horrible action, and messy screenplay. What the hell is Josh Gad doing in this disaster?
The Hunt (2020) *watched on June 22* – Behold…the worst movie of the year!
I know 2020 is far from over, but no other movie will ever come close to being worse than The Hunt, a movie that was originally going to be released in September 2019 before the mass shootings in Dayton and El Paso. I wish this movie would have just stayed on the shelves indefinitely instead of being released in theaters before the pandemic. Once you know the political background of this movie following a group of strangers being hunted down for sport will most likely infuriate, offend, and gross out a lot of viewers. The dark humor is forced, the characters have little to no personality, and the narrative plays out as a Hunger Games ripoff. I will not, for the life of me, recommend this movie whatsoever.
Blindspotting (2018) *watched on June 22* – I had to watch this to immediately get the bad taste of The Hunt out of my mouth. I never expected to love Blindspotting more than I did. This is what Sorry to Bother You should have been. Not some ho-hum fantasy, but a genuine, timely portrayal of race relations in a diverse city like Oakland, California. Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal (who also served as the film’s screenwriters) are fantastic as Collin and Miles, whose friendship gets tested when Collin (who is finishing up his one-year probation) sees a black person getting shot by a white police officer. There is plenty of humor and poignancy to be found here. Diggs’ rap monologue near the end will send chills down your spine.
Cabaret (1972) *watched on June 27* – This musical–winner of 8 Oscars–definitely earns the term “classic”. Liza Minnelli is a pure delight as Sally Bowles, the title cabaret dancer performing at a nightclub in Berlin in the wake of the Nazi uprising and falls for a British academic (Michael York) and a German playboy (Helmut Griem). There is so much to love about this movie: the music, the characters, and the production values. Easily a musical I’ll watch again and again.
You Don’t Mess with the Zohan (2008) *watched on June 28* – Adam Sandler is a talented entertainer who always picks terrible roles. Zohan is no exception. Although not a complete disaster like Grown Ups, Jack and Jill, or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, there are a handful of funny moments and the opening is kind of fun to watch. However, they don’t make for its offensive racial stereotypes, juvenile humor, and its waste of acting talent. Also, the action sequences give the biggest middle finger to physics.