April 2021 In Films
In April my freelance writing kept on keeping on. I’m going to recap it all here in case you missed it! Since it was a five Friday month, I spoke to five different women directors (and two men) for my Moviefone column: Emma Seligman, Charlène Favier, Jeanne Jordan and Steven Ascher, Marilyn Agrelo, and Shari Spring Berman and Robert Pulcini. I also took a look back at the career of Joan Micklin Silver. A few Old Hollywood nerds got together and launched the Classic Film Collective on Patreon. Join at any level and you can read out monthly film recs and each month I’ll be contributing a poem. In April I wrote a poem about Lana Turner! I was a guest again on the Zodiac Chronicles podcast. And speaking of podcasts, the first two episodes of Prog Save America are out! In episode one Arianny Pilarte joins me to talk about Bruce Springsteen and New Jersey. In episode two I’m joined by Jill Blake as we count down our top ten rock flute tracks! For Nerdist I wrote about unicorns, Lina Wertmüller, and movie stunts. Lastly, I made my debut at Bright Wall Dark Room with a very personal essay about The Meyerowitz Stories (New and Selected) and forgiveness.
Of course, aside from all that writing I also watched a metric ton of movies! Yes, you will see after the cut that I watched a whopping 123 new-to-me films in April! How? Why? Click on the cut to find out!!
- Final Analysis
- Shiva Baby
- A Walk Among the Tombstones
- In the Air Tonight
- Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
- What the Constitution Means to Me
- Agnes Joy
- Odol Gorri
- Cooley High
- Waiting to Exhale
- Sidste omgang (Last Round)
- Festen (The Celebration)
- Jagten (The Hunt)
- Nobody Likes You As Much As I Do
- Kollektivet (The Commune)
- El camino
- When You Sleep
- I basilischi
- Our Towns
- St. Louis Blues
- Lovers and Lollipops
- The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean
- The Tall Target
- Up Tight!
- Take a Giant Step
- In the Soup (1992)
- Die Angst des Tormanns beim Elfmeter (The Goalie’s Anxiety at the Penalty Kick)
- An Oversimplification of Her Beauty
- Vers Mathilde (Toward Mathilde)
- Dark Days
- I’ve Been Afraid
- Letter From Your Far-Off Country
- Cinema Rex
- Just a Guy
- Just a Small
- Bosquecito (Little Forest)
- Misery Loves Company
- Seepferdchen (Seahorse)
- Girl and Body
- How To Raise A Black Boy
- Lucky Feet 2000
- Mogul Mowgli
- Nuevo Rico
- Portrait en Pied de Suzanne
- Right Now, I Am
- Tiger and Ox
- Un dessert pour Constance (Dessert for Constance)
- Tiny Tim: King For A Day
- Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
- I Don’t Like the Wind, I Like the Sun
- À la recherche d’Aline (Seeking Aline)
- Simone: A Survivor’s Story
- Ten Leaves Dilated
- Imperdonable (Unforgivable)
- I Am Afraid to Forget Your Face
- In the Dusk
- Just the Two of Us
- A Cure for All Things
- The Other Morgan
- Sales Per Hour
- The Price of Cheap Rent
- Five Tiger
- African Violet
- Black Goat
- Swipe Up, Vivian!
- Angie (2021)
- Champ de bosses (Bumpy Field)
- S’temi (Shut Up)
- Twice As Good
- Sukienka (The Dress)
- Anita (2020)
- Les mots croisés (Rose Hotel)
- Solució per a la tristesa (Solution For Sadness)
- Traverser La Nuit (Now, Daphne)
- On My Way
- Témoin (Witness)
- Alive (2020)
- Comme la neige au printemps (As Spring Comes)
- Inabitável (Unliveable)
- Born Again
- Heading South
- Spotted Yellow
- Cet autre hiver (This Other Winter)
- Cotton Comes to Harlem
- L’autre (The Other)
- Marvelous and the Black Hole
- See You Then
- Ma Belle, My Beauty
- The Falconer
- The Legend of Black Charley
- Off The Road
- We’re All Going to the World’s Fair
- Al-mummia (The Night of Counting the Years)
- El-Fallâh el-fasîh (The Eloquent Peasant)
- Split: Portrait of a Drag Queen
- Things Heard & Seen
- Le roi et l’oiseau (The King and the Mockingbird)
- Rita Moreno: Just a Girl Who Decided to Go For It
- S’en fout la mort (No Fear, No Die)
- 35 Rhums (35 Shots of Rum)
- The Mark
Obviously the amount of films I watched in April was super high. More than half of what I watched this month was part of the Atlanta Film Festival, which in particular had a stunning selection of short films this year. Very grateful to have access to those. I hope to watch some of those filmmakers grow and make features in the future! UCLA also continues to have stellar programming on Thursday afternoons of rare films and episodes of television. It almost feels like it’s not the weekend until I’m watching one of those programs. Anyways, as you probably expected there are quite a few films I want to highlight this month. Just so many gems!
Shiva Baby, 2020 (dir. Emma Seligman)
Although this played festivals in 2020 it had its main release in 2021, therefore I’m going to count this on my list for 2021 releases and I’m willing to bet it will make my end of the year list come December. This film is so unique and cringy and hilarious. A comedy of manners calibrated like a horror film. Just brilliant. Director Emma Seligman and star Rachel Sennott ought to have long and illustrious careers after this debut.
The Hunt, 2012 (dir. Thomas Vinterberg)
Thanks to the American Cinematheque and Le Cinema Club I did a mini-marathon of Thomas Vinterberg films leading up to the Oscars and I’m so glad I did. Seeing key films in his filmography – starting with a short he made as a student – really helped see how Another Round was a pinnacle within a body of work. There are a few actors and themes that Vinterberg uses throughout his career and seeing him grow as an artist and storyteller was incredibly rewarding. This film (and Another Round) really proved to me that vast talent of Mads Mikkelsen (yes, I have watched Hannibal many times; don’t @ me). His best work is in his native Denmark and as such he’s yet to receive an Oscar nomination. Utter bullshit.
Lovers and Lollipops, 1956 (dir. Morris Engel & Ruth Orkin)
An early piece of independent cinema (and a great pairing with their other film The Little Fugitive), Engel and Orkin shot this film mostly on location around New York City, which gives it a time capsule feel. I love that the girl in this is allowed to be a little brat. As she should be at this age! A stunning piece of midcentury feminist cinema. Should be more well known and more widely seen!
I basilischi, 1963 (dir. Lina Wertmüller)
I also revisited Lina Wertmüller’s career from this (her first film) through her most famous 70s films, and like watching the Vinterberg films in order, it was incredibly rewarding to see how Wertmüller honed both her craft and what she wanted to say. She said of this film her biggest mistake was trying to make an art film. She wanted her message to reach the masses, which is why her later films embraced grotesque comedy. You can see the kernels of every theme and idea from her later films in this early work. Astonishing.
The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean, 1966 (dir. Juleen Compton)
This was a film I had never heard of until UCLA programmed it, and I am so grateful! They had a Q&A with filmmaker Juleen Compton afterwards and she talked about how her time in Hollywood nearly destroyed her. You can see in this film she is working through the ways in which show business can exploit a woman’s talent, often to the point of absolute destruction. Unique and also of its time, another rare feminist film that deserves a wider audience.
Bamboozled, 2000 (dir. Spike Lee)
Reading reviews of this film from when it was initially released is an exercise in seeing just how off the mark a lot of those critics were. Restored and released by Criterion last year for its 20th anniversary, this Spike Lee Joint was so far ahead of its time that when you watch it now it’s shocking (at least to me) how many of the themes tackled are still huge problems in this industry today. Also, it gave me major nostalgia for the mini-DV digital aesthetic.
Up Tight!, 1968 (dir. Jules Dassin)
Sort of an adaptation of The Informer (first made into a film by John Ford in the 30s), Dassin and his screenwriter move the action from Dublin to Cleveland and set the film in the aftermath of the assassination of Martin Luther King, Jr. The film features stunning performances from Max Julien, Julian Mayfield, and Ruby Dee (who also co-wrote and produced the film). Another film where you read the contemporary reviews and cringe a bit on how some of those critics just did not get what this film was doing.
Dark Days, 2000 (dir. Marc Singer)
This film left me breathless. On paper it sounds like it will be incredibly depressing: it follows a group of people who inhabit abandoned subway tunnels in New York City. However, filmmaker Marc Singer imbues the film with such rich humanity. I think he was able to achieve what he was with this film because the subjects themselves captured much of the footage and as such you get a much truer portrait of their lives than just an outside observer alone would have been able to capture.
Tiger and Ox, 2019 (dir. Kim Seung-hee)
One of my favorite short films I saw during the Atlanta Film Festival, filmmaker Kim Seung-hee mixes animation and a voice over conversation with her mother to explore their familiar dynamic. A single mother – from divorce, which is still shocking in Korean culture – her mother is a complex woman, but together they find the strength to be themselves in a society that isn’t quite ready to accept their family.
Angie, 2021 (dir. Inés Michelena)
Another short I saw at the ATLFF, this one hit me hard. It’s one of those films that really shows why we need women telling women’s stories, because the incident in the plot is something that I feel like only someone who had also been a teen girl would know and understand. I don’t want to spoil it, but I will say that it resonated with my teen experience more than anything I’ve ever seen. The actress who plays the titular Angie is Victoria Germano and her eyes are so incredibly expressive. I hope we see more from both her and filmmaker Inés Michelena!
African Violet, 2019 (dir. Mona Zandi Haqiqi)
Another wonderfully poignant film about family from Iran. The film follows a woman named Shokoo who rescues her ex-husband from a nursing home when her estranged children unceremoniously dump him there. Her current husband is supportive in theory because doing a good deed is good for the soul, but as the town begins to gossip and as their household dynamics begin to shift, he starts to have second thoughts. There were a few scenes in this that were so beautifully humanist that I damn well sobbed. Just a stunning piece of empathetic cinema.
Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It, 2021 (dir. Mariem Pérez Riera)
There is no one like the irrepressible Rita Moreno. She is honest and spunky and this doc I think captures her spirit so perfectly. The thing that stuck with me the most, as often does when looking at the careers of minorities in Old Hollywood, was when a historian remarks that the real story about Rita is not how much she achieved despite all the barrier, but how much MORE she could have achieved without them. We’ll never know what could have been, but I’m greatly to have lived in a time with Rita in it and I’m glad she shared her remarkable story with us all.
So that was April. I’ve got a lot of things in the hopper for May, so definitely look forward to a lot more writing and other cool stuff coming in the next few weeks! On ward and upward!
Posted on May 1, 2021, in 2021 in Films and tagged African Violet, Angie, Bamboozled, Dark Days, Emma Seligman, I basilischi, Inés Michelena, Juleen Compton, Jules Dassin, Kim Seung-hee, Lina Wertmüller, Lovers and Lollipops, Marc Singer, Mariem Pérez Riera, Mona Zandi Haqiqi, Morris Engel, Rita Moreno: Just A Girl Who Decided To Go For It, Ruth Orkin, Shiva Baby, Spike Lee, The Hunt, The Plastic Dome of Norma Jean, Thomas Vinterberg, Tiger and Ox, Up Tight!. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.