March 2017 Recap: The Best

movie reviews march 2017I saw some pretty nice movies in March, and this is just a quick post on the 6 I liked the most.

worst of march 2017
my letterboxd (for everything in between)

McCabe and Mrs. Miller (1971)
Directed by Robert Altman

The best movie I saw in February was The Searchers, and my very favorite in March was McCabe and Mrs. Miller . . . Everyone rec me westerns now.

Anyway, I can’t wait to watch this one again relatively soon (I even already bought the Criterion). I’d also really, really love to watch this on 35mm, largely because it’s visuals are so textured and beautiful.

I knew almost nothing about this going in, and I was continually taken aback by it. I was surprised by the sound. Surprised by the images. Surprised by the strangeness and the sadness and the Leonard Cohen songs. What a memorable, distinct, engrossing experience. I’ll remember it fondly for quite some time. . .

The leads in this (Julie Christie and Warren Beatty) are tragic and feel incredibly human. They don’t hover anywhere above or beyond the ordinary, and they are all the more affecting for it. They are trapped. The film is pervaded by an almost tangible sense of hopelessness, and its displays a marked interest in the difficult, fraught nature of human connection.

There’s also a weirdness and boldness to this that is absolutely fascinating. And it all just works so well (vague!). The climactic sequence is mesmerizing. The way the dialogue is written forces viewers to listen closely only to  make them realize that efforts to communicate are all in vain. The snow is this looks absolutely stunning.

I love it.

Most importantly, the coat Beatty wears in this is now my favorite coat in all of cinema.

Five Easy Pieces (1970)
Directed by Bob Rafelson

Class conflicts, the abundance of crap, and a surplus of rage.

A lack of commitment and direction.

And a wonderful character study too.

This film moves with energy and is edited quickly. Like the man at its center, Five Easy Pieces seems anxious about staying in anyone place too long. I’ll admit, it took me about half an hour to adjust to the film’s rhythms and to really “get into it.” Once I did, I had a great time, and any patience Rafelson initially asked of me was duly rewarded.

Nicholson is great (as are his sideburns). For what it’s worth, Karen Black’s Rayette feels a little like a trailer park interpretation of Lana Del (which isn’t a criticism). More importantly, both leads feel extremely real; these are people I know and have lived with and around. Like Robert’s life, the film doesn’t feel overly planned or constructed (which isn’t to say that it didn’t take plenty of thought and skill to put it together). It flows. It envelops as life does. If viewers find that it leaves a scar or ends in a manner that’s less-than-satisfying, they might consider why.

The Tammy Wynnette songs are fantastic too.

Another one I’m excited to revisit . . .

Song to Song (2017)
Directed by Terrence Malick

This one is a lot better than the internet seems to think, and everyone needs to chill. There were quite a few walkouts when I watched this, and I’m still wondering what it is those people were expecting when they bought their tickets. I also wonder what specifically it was about the film that convinced them not to stay.

Because, for all it’s imperfections, Song to Song remains a truly lovely piece of cinema.

The film is self-indulgent, porous, and slow. It’s hypnotic, affecting, and beautiful too. The world is a complicated place, and perfection is a lie after all. Life is unpredictable. Relationships are messy. A little piece of me resents those who wouldn’t even finish the film, who wouldn’t simply let Song to Song be what it is.

This is a tender, sincere work of art. It’s about love, loneliness, and wandering. It’s not without it’s moments of pretentiousness, but I can forgive those for the most part. I was both uplifted and devastated by Song to Song, and I left the theater feeling soothed and rejuvenated. A little Malick can be good for the soul.

Some of Lubezki’s flourishes are a little ridiculous, but the sense of movement and fluidity that he brings to the work overall works nicely. His images also help the film to feel grand and intimate all at once.

Song to Song also benefits from a strong ensemble cast, all of who perform at a volume in tune with the rest of the film. Rooney Mara is particularly good, and her ability to draw the viewer’s eye is really quite remarkable.

This is the only Malick I’ve seen other than The Tree of Life, because nothing is real and I’m fake af . . . That said, I am hoping to check out much more of his work over the summer.

Personal Shopper (2016/7)
Directed by Olivier Assayas

I still don’t know what to make of this. But I enjoyed watching it, I remember how it felt, and I’m itching to see it again. Surely that’s something, right?

Personal Shopper is a beautiful, odd, slippery thing. It also represents my first foray into Assayas. I was caught off guard by this film, and I have a strong feeling that revisiting it would reveal a good deal. That promise alone is a sign of a certain kind of quality. This isn’t a shallow, lazy, or empty work. It’s something all together different.

At one level, it’s “about” grief, loss, identity, celebrity, and maybe even incest. It’s “about” ghosts, technology, and isolation too. It’s even “about” Kristen Stewart.

Personal Shopper is bold, beautiful, and hypnotic. It takes twists and turns that go all over the map. It does not follow any well worn paths. It defies categories. Even if all of Assayas’s choices don’t work the whole here, is more than the sum of its parts. For instance, while the shots of pixelated Skype calls are sort of bad, the use of technology to mediate connection still works…

There’s also some really lovely camerawork here, and the film sets itself apart with its use of mood. It’s almost as if the whole film takes place in some other dimension, somewhere halfway between this mundane world and the next. In fact, Personal Shopper is the most “dreamlike” film I’ve seen in some time.

Kristen Stewart is fascinating and gorgeous, and she more than holds her own here. The way she’s styled is also very important to me (tomboyish piece of trash that I so often am).

Get Out (2017)
Directed by Jordan Peele

Get Out is a smart, well-crafted genre film, and a represents a very exciting, undeniably promising directorial debut from Peele.

The film is both hilarious and deeply disturbing, and it achieves impressive tonal balance over all. In addition to Peele’s sharp writing, the careful set design gives the film a distinct personality. The film isn’t a second too long either, and it has a much stronger ending than a lot of today’s mainstream horror.

A lot more intelligence too.

Not only is Get Out bold and unapologetic, it’s also a really good time at the movies. Sure, it’s unsettling and is all about racism, but that doesn’t stop it from being fun. Therein lies a good deal of Peele’s brilliance. (That bingo scene is iconic btw.)

Take Shelter (2011)
Directed by Jeff Nichols

I don’t have a whole lot to say about this one at the moment except that I love Michael Shannon.

Actually, I love Michael Shannon AND Jessica Chastain, and getting to see them both at the heart of a movie was a real treat. Both are beautiful and give solid individual performances here. The pair of them work well together too.

Hooray for an original script, and for an inspired, intelligent premise.

I liked Midnight Special, but this one better, partially because it’s more intimate and contained. I haven’t yet seen Loving, but from what I can tell, Nichols has a knack for portraying loving (but struggling) couples in a controlled, affecting, and very human way. He doesn’t go straight for the loud or the overly dramatic. And I’ve got to tell you, it’s kind of nice. . .

Until Next Time
Movies that just missed the cut this month include The Spy Who Came in from the Cold and Logan. I’m also one of like 5 people who (generally) liked Ghost in the Shell apparently. It’s flawed to high heaven… but it’s also too interesting to just write off entirely.

As always, thanks for stopping by! I’m up to my ears in school junk right now, so see ya next month!

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