August 2019 in Films
I almost made it to an average of a film a day in August. I got a little behind because the fourth season of Cable Girls dropped (it was WILD) and I started to watch a new Spanish show called 45 RPM (so far it’s great!), but I think my average for August was pretty damn good. I want to give a big shout out to KJ Relth at the UCLA Film and Television Archive for really making my summer something special with her amazing programming of female directors at the Billy Wilder Theatre. So grateful to see these thrilling films all summer, and especially to see a few of them introduced by their directors (Nina Menkes, Mary Lambert, Penelope Spheeris). As always, you can find everything I watched after the cut plus a few of my faves.
- The Red Sea Diving Resort
- Night Must Fall (1964)
- The Nightingale
- Pet Sematary II
- Rapid Eye Movements
- Walden (Diaries Notes and Sketches)
- Rocko’s Modern Life: Static Cling
- In Search of Fellini
- Blinded By The Light
- Blue Jay
- Merata: How Mum Decolonised the Screen
- The Great Hack
- American Factory
- Waga koi seshi otome (The Girl I Loved)
- The Trouble With Angels
- The Sun Is Also A Star
- Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly
- Falling Inn Love
- First Match
- Yume (Dreams)
- Brooklyn’s Finest
August was a really strong month for me. I saw many films that challenged me, that spoke to me, that connected to me deep down. Below are the ones that I won’t long forget.
The Nightingale, 2018 (dir. Jennifer Kent)
I am so glad I got to see this with the cast and director Jennifer Kent present. This is not an easy film to watch, but it is so essential to understanding colonialism, and in this case particularly the early days of Australia’s dark colonial past. First time actor Baykali Ganambarr steals the movie with his performance that is both soulful and teeming with anger. Aisling Franciosio’s character transformation from a quite strength, to a blind rage, to true power is breathtaking to watch.
Siesta, 1987 (dir. Mary Lambert)
Speaking of challenging films, Siesta is a film that probably takes a few watches to really understand (which is unfortunate because it is basically not available on home video!). There is a certain dream logic to this film, that is to say there often appears to be no logic. After a decade of defining the music video (go look up Mary Lambert’s music videography!), this singular feature film debut has a cast to die for, including Ellen Barkin, Gabriel Byrne, Julian Sands, and a very peculiar performance from Jodie Foster. This is a movie best watched knowing very little about. That said, once you do watch it (if you can find it!) be sure to watch this essential roundtable moderated by April Wolfe.
Walden (Diaries Notes and Sketches), 1969 (dir. Jonas Mekas)
I’d been putting off Jonas Mekas’s films since we had them on FilmStruck because they are so damn long. What a fool I was! I’m so glad I finally took the time to watch once (there are several more I need to watch!). After immigrating to NYC, Mekas documented his life tireless with many camera formats. He then edited them into his famous avant-garde “diary” films. They are a real thing of beauty. I watched this just a few days before I watched the new doc Travis Scott: Look Mom I Can Fly, which uses a similar technique to follow a year or so in the life of rapper Travis Scott. Always fun when you find cinematic overlaps in the most unexpected places!
Blinded By The Light, 2019 (dir. Gurinder Chadha)
If you have been following me on the internet for any time at all, you know that I love Bruce Springsteen. I don’t just love Bruce Springsteen. Bruce Springsteen is everything. So when I found out one of my favorite directors made a movie inspired by the words and music of the Boss, well can you spell a-n-t-i-c-i-p-a-t-i-o-n? I loved this movie so much I watched it twice opening weekend. Find a theater that has a good sound system because the music is so important! This is a coming-of-age film and it follows some tropes, sure, but it wear its heart on its sleeve and it is so damn charming. I laughed, I cried, I could not stop smiling through the whole damn thing. Not only does it understand what is so moving about the work of Springsteen, but it is also a love letter to the lifesaving power of fandom.
Suburbia, 1983 (dir. Penelope Spheeris)
I’ve seen Penelope Spheeris introduce a film three times now and I cannot stress this enough: if you know she is going to be at a screening – move heaven and earth to get your butt there! Her anecdotes and idiosyncratic personality are worth this admission alone. This film, her first narrative feature, is like a mixture of the first and third films in her Decline trilogy. Using mostly non-actors (and a notable debut performance from Flea), it tells the story of a group of adolescent punks who end up living in an abandoned house for a myriad of reasons. These kids feel real because mostly they aren’t acting, they are just being. This film has a lot of heart, but it is also incredibly dark at times. A perfect antidote to the sanitized teen films of the Reagan era.
American Factory, 2019 (dir. Steven Bognar & Julia Reichert)
If you want a movie to make you feel worse about Capitalism than you already do, this is the movie! That’s really all I have to say about this.
Yume (Dreams), 1990 (dir. Akira Kurosawa)
I am so mad it took me so long to watch this glorious movie. It’s comprised of vignettes that are Kurosawa’s dreams brought to life. They run the gamut of childhood fears and fantasies, PTSD from the war, inspirations from artists (Scorsese plays Van Gogh!), fears about nuclear catastrophe, and lastly the wisdom that comes from a life well lived. The color cinematography is gorgeous and the very final vignette will have you in tears (of joy). Bless you Kurosawa for this most personal of films.
September is going to be a hot mess as I travel to many film festivals (for work which means I most likely won’t get to see anything!) but I will try to keep up my movie watching! I hope you all find a movie that speaks directly to your soul this month. It is the best of feelings.
Posted on September 1, 2019, in 2019 in Films and tagged Akira Kurosawa, Blinded By The Light, Diaries Notes and Sketches, Dreams, Gurinder Chadha, Jennifer Kent, Jonas Mekas, Mary Lambert, Penelope Spheeris, Siesta, Suburbia, The Nightingale, Walden. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.