📺 WATCHED

American Beauty (1999)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Released just months before I was born, I first watched this film when I started college, and I've revisited it a few times since.

There's something about American Beauty that feels like a sign of its times. It did its best to portray a set of morally-ambiguous characters, and I believe it was interpreted that way when it was released. Now though, I feel like my ideas of identity, sexuality, and what it means to be American are far removed from those popular at the time. It's simultaneously timeless and aged, if that makes any sense.

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📺 WATCHED

Call Me by Your Name (2017)

⭐⭐⭐½

A fantasy rich with sexual excitement, played out in sun-bleached shots of 1980s Italy. This film brings a lot to the table, and some of it it really good. Here's an all-over-the-place series of thoughts:

Elio had near limitless privilege, choosing to write music and read to pass the summer. He leaves a mess whenever he wants to, brushes off the house staff, and brags about his sex life. What makes Elio a relatable character? Despite the script he was given, Chalamet does a lot of work to make his character intriguing and watchable. By far my favorite of his performances that I've seen!

I really don't care about their age gap. Age differences shouldn't be so taboo, and this is very clearly a fantasy anyways. But the way Oliver handles his relative power felt cringey to me, and difficult to believe. The way he and Elio flirt with each other didn't really make me happy for them — I was either annoyed by their intellectual jousting, or by how little respect they often showed to each other. Queer representation is allowed to be complex or uncomfortable, but I'm not sure if I liked many of the choices made in this film.

I think Elio and Marzia's relationship was impactful and added value to the plot. I'd argue Esther Garrel was the best supporting actor. Elio checking his watch while they had sex to see how much longer until he could have sex with Oliver? That didn't sit well with me. Does poly or pan representation need to make the woman seem less valuable? Do gay men need to also have relationships with women? Bleh.

Richard Brody's review in The New Yorker is a must-read. In particular, I found this quote to be on the nose:

Half a year after their brief relationship, Oliver and Elio speak, seemingly for the first time in many months. Elio affirms that his parents were aware of the relationship and offered their approval, to which Oliver responds, “You’re so lucky; my father would have carted me off to a correctional facility.” And that’s the premise of the film: in order to have anything like a happy adolescence and avoid the sexual repression and frustration that seem to be the common lot, it’s essential to pick the right parents. The movie is about, to put it plainly, being raised right.

Elio's dad delivers a monologue near the end of the movie that I would argue is the best scene of the film. It solidifies the parents' strong influence on the plot, as described in the quote above.

This film takes risks and tries to forge its own path. I enjoyed it (I'm giving it three and a half stars!), but it is rough around the edges.

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📺 WATCHED

Danny Deckchair (2003)

⭐⭐½

Honestly just watch the first half hour. Once he's off the deckchair, Danny's romantic life isn't particularly exciting...

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📺 WATCHED

My Neighbor Totoro (1988)

⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Watched on Monday July 25, 2022.

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📺 WATCHED

Office Space (1999)

⭐⭐⭐

Not quite as funny as I remembered, but still a good time overall.

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📺 WATCHED

Flushed Away (2006)

⭐⭐⭐½

There were some hilarious moments in this film, and Aardman's production style shines through even in CGI. Not a great script though!

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📺 WATCHED

Meet the Robinsons (2007)

⭐⭐⭐½

In 2007 when this movie came out I was in 2nd grade. I think this is how my 2nd grade gifted teacher wanted me to turn out lol

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📺 WATCHED

Our Father (2022)

⭐½

This story is really interesting, and well-suited for a documentary. However, cringey dramatizations, out-of-place music, and sloppy editing made this film difficult to watch. Embarrassing for Netflix and production teams involved.

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📺 WATCHED

Turning Red (2022)

⭐⭐⭐⭐½

I'm so glad this wasn't another cruel narrative about how "awful" puberty is. Turning Red asks big questions about how new generations of women can redefine their identities, and not-so-big questions about how a giant panda could participate at a middle school birthday party. I grew up knowing Toy Story, Finding Nemo, and The Incredibles. Now I'm in my 20s, and Pixar is still producing some of the best films I've watched. With Domee Shi directing, they're telling stories with more nuance than ever, and I can't wait to see what she has in store next.

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📺 WATCHED

Cats (2019)

⭐⭐⭐

I'm not a huge fan of film adaptations of musicals. Beyond not really being a musical person, I feel as though the life of a stage performance can be lost on the screen.

I honestly think this is an exception. It rightfully focused on style and expression over plot, just as (I suspect) the stageplay did. Cats is suited for a medium where the level of surrealness can be turned up even higher. With gorgeous sets, creative camera movement, and a daring animation style, I can better appreciate the essence of a show that isn't meant to be fully understood.

Reading about the making of this film, I learned that the animators were mistreated, and given far too little time to achieve the visual effects. I'm so impressed that, in my opinion, they pulled it off. Who cares if a human hand is visible, or if someone's feet doesn't quite touch the ground? The eccentric proportions of each set were weird in a good way. Feline features made the choreography more sensual, mysterious, and fantastic.

I won't pretend to know much about Cats, and wish I could watch the original West End and Broadway productions. Maybe the version critics were hoping for really would have been better. But as far as I can tell, this was a fitting adaptation, and worth a watch.

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📺 WATCHED

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Held up nicely the second time! Each story is worth watching, with a few really stand-out moments.

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📺 WATCHED

When Harry Met Sally... (1989)

⭐½

Wow so Harry was a complete asshole the entire time and Sally somehow put up with him? No thanks

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📺 WATCHED

Eurovision Song Contest: The Story of Fire Saga (2020)

⭐⭐⭐

Don't let those three stars fool you: this is the best film I've ever watched.

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📺 WATCHED

Little Miss Sunshine (2006)

⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Aw man I forgot how much I love this film. An adventure equal parts silly and meaningful, with strong social commentary just sprinkled right on top 🍨

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📺 WATCHED

Ella Enchanted (2004)

⭐⭐½

Things that slap:
○ The sound effect that played every single time Ella's gift was activated
○ Pretending that the green screen shots worked well
○ Every scene with the snake
○ Giant farts
○ Critiques of capitalism in a 2004 kids movie

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📺 WATCHED

Shiva Baby (2020)

⭐⭐⭐½

This film had me so stressed out! I agree with the reviews comparing it to Uncut Gems (2019): beyond Jewish themes, they share a relentless sense of panic. Shiva Baby felt more like a nightmare, with Danielle's friends and family crumbling almost as much as she is.

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📺 WATCHED

Encanto (2021)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

You know what? Encanto surprised me. It hit all the beats I was hoping it would, and tied the plot up with a lovely bow. Beside a few songs that felt rough around the edges, there was an attention to detail in this film that makes it worth watching.

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📺 WATCHED

Palm Springs (2020)

⭐⭐⭐⭐½

Watched on Sunday January 23, 2022.

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📺 WATCHED

The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement (2004)

⭐

Less San Francisco, more orphans and problematic feminism!

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📺 WATCHED

The Princess Diaries (2001)

⭐

Oof. When I watch a film this bad I like to check and see if the budget was a limiting factor. $26M and you didn't put a second pair of eyes on the script? Once Mia got a makeover by a body-shaming asshole, her life turned upside-down with fame and power. With mediocre acting, flat cinematography, and a cliché Disney ending, I wasn't a fan! The star is for the few gags that made me laugh.

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📺 WATCHED

Uncut Gems (2019)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

During the opening credits, music is mixed over the dialogue to make a confusing mess of noise. Things get more and more suffocating, as we watch Howard make one bad decision after another. An artistic and well-paced film that is hard to watch.

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📺 WATCHED

Columbus (2017)

⭐⭐⭐⭐

Every shot is stunning. The plot was less important than the exploration of meaning in relationships, architecture, and life. The dialogue was a bit rough at times, but beautiful at others. I recommend this film!

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📺 WATCHED

The Shape of Water (2017)

⭐⭐⭐½

So much to like in this film! Sally Hawkins' performance was stellar, the visual aesthetic was dreamy, and I fell in love with Giles. There were moments of romance, excitement, and comedy all paced out very nicely.

...but why, in this lovely fantasy, did you have to include a white male bigot? And gratuitous violence? Those tensions did not serve the plot, and felt like lazy attempts to engage the audience. This film is strong because it is tender and romantic, and it deserves a conflict to match.

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📺 WATCHED

Midnight in Paris (2011)

½

Oh wow that was trash. I can't think of anything nice to say. Goes to show that an all-star cast and $17M budget does not guarantee a good film.

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📺 WATCHED

Booksmart (2019)

⭐⭐⭐

This film had a unique style to it, but I don't feel like it had much to say. Yay for mending some relationships on the last night of high school?

One of my favorite soundtracks of all time was somehow misplaced in a very white teen drama 😬

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