Sunday, December 31, 2023

The last Nightcap of 2023- The NFL, final film thoughts for 2023 and looking into 2024

Some random final thoughts to close out 2023:

I am a football fan. It comes in large part due to my dad playing for the NY Jets when they were the Titans in their first year. Its something I learned to enjoy sitting on Sundays watching games with my pops.

Sadly over the last few years- and this year in particular, the officiating has become worse and worse. Bad calls are affecting games and it's really obvious. Take for example last night's Cowboys Lions game, where an obviously bad call changed the outcome. 

I used to like to think it's because the refs are human and fallible- but this year  its clear something is going on. Is it because the league wants more drama to keep people watching (last nights game didn't need it) or is there simple an effort to manipulate things ala the WWE? I have no evidence, though social media is full of chatter every week now. I would really hate to think this is the result of betting because why watch then, or why bet? 

As it is I find it odd that the NFL which was formed by a group of rich gamblers in order, in part, to assure a fair game they could bet on, is now being influenced by the large amounts of cash being bet each week. Would it surprise me? no, but I am still naive enough to hope that isn't the case.

Between that and the BS marketing games the NFL push like the Aaron Roger debacle, or the Travis Kelsey "I want to be a reality star so I'm going to pretend to date Taylor Swift for both our benefits" I kind of want to walk away.

I won't of course, but I am so uninvested that like this year, I will be counter programming the Super Bowl with screeners.


A few Final Film/TV notes for 2023.

I am enjoying the new season of REACHER on Amazon. While I think it could have been a bit more compressed it's still must see TV

I am enjoying THE IRRATIONAL on NBC. Yes the last couple of episodes don't seem to know with all the characters, but there is enough there to keep me watching.

BEAU IS AFRAID is bad. It feels more like a prank on audiences and critics than an actual film. Granted I don't like Ari Aster's films, but this seems like the end of a downward progression where Aster makes more and more self important films that he insists are deep and meaningful simply because he says so. While he isn't Albert Serra yet, he is rapidly approaching that level of bullshit. (What kills me is that there are a couple of good things in there that kept it off my worst of the year list)

I'm trying to decide if some corners of social media is serious in being upset that Toho has said it's going to take it's time cranking out Godzilla properties because they want to get it right. Frankly after 70 years of taking their time they are doing something right.

I will have a review of SOUND OF FREEDOM somewhere along the way.

I have been watching a lot of films streaming in the last two weeks and while I have been enjoying it I'm ending up not reviewing them. Where very often I will write something on most things I watch the first time, the recent bunch of things have been just striking me as just okay.

I saw the new specials from Chappelle and Gervais on Netflix and yea, well... there isn't much there. Sure they are trying to poke you in the eye, but out side of that there isn't much there. It's almost like they said I have to do a special and the best way to get attention is to be controversial and not worry about the jokes. That said I give the edge to Gervais because I laughed at couple of things, and because it seems like he's a performer trying to make a point and not a person who is just trying to be truly mean to the people who took offense at what he said.


I'm ready for a new start. 

I'm not going to lie....It's not that 2023 was bad but it keeps throwing things at me that make me stumble every time  I think I'm getting a handle in things. From joining NYFCO just as I was closing up shop so I had to play catch up with all the films I missed, to a new boss who has put so much stress in my life I've slid into one of the deepest funks of my life, to the shifting relationships that have me on uncertain footing, 2023 has been a very bumpy ride. There have been some great moments, but also a lot of blind terror as I wait for the next shoe on the centipede to drop.

I'm lighting candles and saying prayers that 2024 is greatly better.


And speaking of 2024- Unseen Films will turn 14 in 51 days

The endless festival coverage starts next weekend with Palm Springs. I have Slamdance and Sundance films watched and slotted. There is going to be coverage of New York Jewish and other festivals. The down period at the end of 2023 was just the off ramp into 2024

I put in at the day job for Tribeca and the April Drive-in Moster-rama.

There are lots of things on the horizon and I'm waiting to see what happens.


And with that I wish you all a Happy New Year full of everything you want and need.

Best of 2023- Part 1

This is the first group of films that are the absolute best films I saw in 2023- the tip top of these films will be posted tomorrow.

DOWNWIND-frightening look at how the US government hedged atomic contamination and then covered it up even long before a single bomb was ever exploded

MAMACRUZ older woman discovers the joys of porn

SQUARING THE CIRCLE- the story of the guys behind the classic record album covers

RIGHT TO READ - the battle to make sure that kids can read

UNICORN WARS - teddy bears fight unicorns to the death in a film that is not for kids

PRYING EYES - unnerving horror film about ghosts and man who films people

GODLESS - a film that makes exorcisms scary again

PETROL - filmmaker meets a performance artist in a film with no answers and tons of questions. I'm still haunted by it.

MOON GARDEN - fantasy tale of a girl in a coma

ANGEL APPLICANT - a man finds life in connecting to his famous artist

ARTIFICE GIRL - the creation of an AI young girl capable of catching predators raises all sorts of questions 

UNDER SKY OF DAMASCUS - a group of women come together to put on a play in Syria

ONLY THE GOOD SURVIVE - unexpected thriller that turns and turns and turns

SUMMER STORY-  a young girl tries to find her biological father.....two year old Japanese film is one you need to find

TOTEM- not the Oscar nominee- this is the story of a young girl and her totem animal a giant porcupine

NIGHT OF THE 12th - the police try to find the killer of a girl and it all goes sideways

MORE THAN HAIR - sweet short doc about the importance of hair

SOFT SKINNED -Australian vet of the Afghanistan war struggles to survive. This needs to be a feature

DESPERATE SOULS DARK CITY AND THE LEGEND OF MIDNIGHT COWBOY is one of the best films on film you will see because it is not only the film but the society that created it

AMERICAN SIKH documentary about a man bridging culture by dressing as a Sikh Captain America

SEVEN WINTERS IN TEHRAN - crushing film about a woman sentenced to death for killing her rapist in Iran.

FREAKS VS THE REICH - greatest Xmen film ever made. This is what super hero films should be

CURE FOR HATE a member of a hate group goes to Auschwitz and is rocked. Its a deeply moving 

SAKRA - one of the best Donnie Yen films is not on my best of the best list because the last 15 minutes it wobbles too much, but outside of that this maybe one of the greatest action films ever made.

STRANGENESS- the story, kind of, of the creation of the classic Six Characters Looking For An Exit. Its lovely

THE DELTA- magnificent thriller set in the swamps of Italy

ABLED - portrait of para athlete Blake Leeper who is just an amazing athlete.

JOHN WICK 4 - despite the ridiculous turns and shitty villain this is a thrill ride

TO MY FATHER Troy Kostur celebrates his father

PROOF OF CONCEPT a short film about making a short film

THE STARLING - bittersweet story of a parents missing their dead daughter

PRAYING FOR ARMAGEDDON - frightening film looking at the far rights desire to end the world according to their prophecy

NIMONA- a glorious animated film about a shape changing young woman and a (gay) knight set up to be villains who must work together to save the city state they love. Destined to change lives for generations, it scared the crap out of Disney who thankfully sold it (they would have neutered it)

CLOSE YOUR EYES a celebration of life and the movies that hits you with a bat as a director tries to find the actor who walked off from his film years earlier.

HUMANIST VAMPIRE... wonderful  horror comedy romance about a vampire who won't kill

AS LONG AS WE BOTH SHALL LIVE fantastic action romance set in an alternate reality where there is magic. One of the best comic/manga adaptions ever.

PERSIAN VERSION - unexpected and joyous celebration of life. I had no idea what this was and now I can't stop recommending it.

TALLYWACKER - Jeremy Dubs makes a film based on his life and makes a funny and touching and real  film about people you want to hang out with. (I have been trying to decide if this belongs here or tomorrows part of the list since I saw it. Ultimately it doesn't matter, its just one of the best films I saw this year)

THE COLOR PURPLE- While the narrative is a bit uneven the music and performances bring wave after wave of emotion. Bring tissues.

A TASTE OF THINGS- a glorious food porn romance. 

Saturday, December 30, 2023

Film Finds 2023

Every year there are some films that miss being on the best of the year list but which we still can't forget them- these are the film finds.

CASH COW -  one man passes the time of the lockdown by making a movie about all sorts of things....entertaining as all hell

WITH PETER BRADLEY - An awesome look at the artist and his life. This is like sitting and talking to him.

MAD CATS - Cats turned into women try to take over the world. Sooo much fun.

WORLD WAR III -Iranian film about reality and cinema colliding. The fact the film is on the Holocaust and from Iran is the reason you've probably never heard of it.

LITTLE RICHARD -CNN documentary is a magnificent celebration of the man

CRAWLSPACE - awesome action film about a man trapped in a crawlspace when bad people come to the house he's working on 

SADNESS AND JOY IN THE LIFE OF GIRAFFES- a young girl and her foul mouthed teddy bear go on adventure to get the Discovery channel

STAND BY FOR FAILURE - a wonderful look at the group known as Negativland

MOTHERLAND epic stop motion fantasy set in Lapland 

DEADLAND - a border patrol man finds a dying man...and then it get weird.

KITE  ZO A - must see doc about Haiti that will blow your mind

SATURN BOWLING - tense thriller about two brothers, one a cop and one a psycho

AMERICAN OUTLAWS - fact based tale of family on the run

KILLING ME SOFTLY WITH HIS SONGS -portrait of Charles Fox, the man who wrote most of the TV theme songs you know

LOCALS ONLY story of a pub in Santa Barbara

KNOW YOUR PLACE a young man takes a suitcase of medicine across the city and we see the world

VIKING man volunteers for a program that mirrors one that is taking place on Mars. 

STAY WITH US - Jewish comedian returns to France to convert to Catholicism and the chaos it creates in his family

MINORE - magnificent horror film with echoes of HP Lovecraft

ECHO OF EVERYTHING it starts as a meditation on music and then goes all over the place in the best way

COFFEE TABLE - stomach turning horror film about a new table

SISU- one man beats the crap out of the Nazis

HAWAR- true story of a woman trying to connect with the daughter taken by Isis

ABRUPTIO - disturbing tale of a man with bomb in his neck told with puppets

KING OF WUXIA- three hour long look at the man who refined martial arts films

CATCHING DUST- noir thriller about a couple and the visitors who come to stay

DADDY ISSUES the story of a man who works in a dungeon and I dare not say another word.

GULLSPANG MIRACLE - the surprising story of a family

SOMEONE LIVES HERE - moving film about a man who wanted to help the homeless and was told to take a hike by the city

MOTHER OF ALL LIES- a wonderful look at memory an

YOURS IN PEACE,BILL BAIRD - inspiring portrait of the activist

RIGHT TO FIGHT - wonderful look at the history of women's boxing

THE WALK - moving look at a puppet who walked across Europe

HIT MAN - Soderbergh's latest is a fantastic and unexpected story.

LIMBO - two cops chase a serial killer in a visually stunning film noir

VISITORS COMPLETE EDITION - friends go to check on a friend and find the is a zombie.

JACKDAW - wonderful action film that will blow your mind

CLEAN UP DUTY a hit man and his target have a conversation

PHANTOM espionage thriller that is Agatha Christie meets balls to the wall action film

HUNDREDS OF BEAVERS silent comedy must be seen with a crowd. Its about a guy and some beavers

LEGEND AND THE BUTTERFLY - epic historical drama is a moving bio that turns into crushing action film

SINGLE 8 if you ever made any sort of film this film is for you

I AM COMEDIAN a Japanese comedian runs a foul of unwritten rules concerning free speech

I AM WHAT I AM story of a non-binary person who just wants to be 

PRIMEVALS Dave Allen's long unfinished stop motion film is finished and is so much fun

CORD OF LIFE - a musician takes his mother who is suffering dementia home

MIRACLE CLUB - a group of women go to Lourdes and find unexpected salvation

SAINT OF SECOND CHANCES portrait of a man who found life in baseball

BS HIGH portrait of a con man who ruined the lives of numerous kids by promising them college football scholarships

FALLEN LEAVES - wonderfully unexpected romance

FREUD'S LAST SESSION CS Lewis meets Sigmund Freud and the universe opens up

Friday, December 29, 2023

Fifteen 2023 Horror Films with Great Performances

This is Ted Geoghegan's fault.  Ted and I were talking about the great horror performances this year and about how some of the year end horror lists were made up of just the big hits or festival favorites. Everything was the typical horror films with typical performances, no one it seemed to be discussing how the films this year were containing performances that did more than check off boxes on the horror film cheat sheet. Any talk of good horror or horror performances on the net was focused on your typical EVIL DEAD, SAW, scream queen sort of thing. 

As we talked, I started to drop titles of films with magnificent- and often unexpected performances- performances that are not typical horror performances but very real to the point that they make the films something greater-sure they are horror films, but they are also life. The bad things in these films are happening to real people and not just cut outs for horror directors to move around and slaughter. Many of the films I was truly impressed by transcended the genre to be something more (though some are just great scary movies).

Why were people taking the road most traveled, and not looking at the grand field of horror in 2023?

Since I did the work already, I decided to add a couple of films to get it up to 15 and then post my list of what I consider great horror films with great performances.

A few quick notes: 

First - I am not going to name a lot of names. Not because I am lazy, but because I picked films where the whole cast kicked ass. These are films where there isn't a bad performance anywhere in them. (Also, I did this on the fly in the spur of the moment and I wanted to get it out and up before I had time to forget what I wanted to say)

Second - I have included three short films. Honestly, I could have done a piece of just short films that was two or three times as long as this whole list made up of just shorts because there were so many that were that good. For this list I simply picked the first shorts that came to mind.

Lastly - there is no real order to this list. Yes, Ted's film is the best of the lot because it is truly has Oscar worthy performances, but honestly the casting of all of these films are as good as BROOKLYN 45 since there isn't a bad performance in any of them.

Fifteen 2023 Horror Films with Great Performances.

BROOKLYN 45 - This is as perfectly cast a (horror) film as you will see all year. I have been championing the film and the performance of Anne Ramsay in particular since I first saw it. Ramsay gives a performance for the ages as a torturer who wants to forget what she did in the war. The moment where she agrees to use her skills to find out if someone was a Nazi spy is one of the most crushing moments in any film this year, while also being the most terrifying, because her demeanor is now cold and monstrous.  The typical horror movie monsters are not as chilling as this woman doing evil for her country.  What makes it all the more chilling is that she is backed up by a cast to kill for. Kristina Klebe as her victim breaks our hearts, as does Jeremy Holm as a man doomed by his own actions. The rest of the cast crush us as they reveal the depths that basically good people have sunk to in the name of preserving freedom. Thanks to the performances BROOKLYN 45 transcends the genre and becomes a blistering social commentary that is more chilling than the occasional ghost that drifts through the film.

WHERE THE DEVIL ROAMS - The Adams family strikes again with a chilling tale of horror carnies with the devil's heart. As with all of the films from the Adams family the characters are front and center. Sure, there is some spooky stuff, but mostly in their films the effects are at a minimum and what we react to is the perfectly rounded characters. While this film has more blood and guts than their earlier films, the characters are still what makes the films. And while the characters are well drawn, the fact that the performances are flawless makes the film all the more disturbing.

IT LIVES INSIDE - A young woman unleashes an ancient evil and we are terrified. While the fact that this is an Indian centric tale might make it's ability to connect with a wide audience seem uncertain, most, but the fact that the performances are so good never have us question as to whether this could ever happen to us.

WHEN EVIL LURKS - Sure the evil that is unleashed in this film is icky, and disturbing, but at the same time if the performances weren't perfect, the over the top nastiness would be funny and not stomach churning horrific. No one is a cartoon, they are just real people we know sliding off the table into unspeakable evil. Hell, where in most horror films we chuckle at the doomed doing something stupid, here we are just crushed at the start. We know they are fucked but we can't laugh. Why? Because the performances make the characters people we know.

TRANSYLVANIE - horror short film is one of the greatest vampire films ever made. What seems like a jokey film seems at first that this is a light an airy film, but the "goofy" performances of kids ends up turning into perfection as the film reaches its conclusion and we realize what we were watching.

GODLESS THE EASTFIELD EXORCISM - the story of a couple dealing with the weird experiences of one of them seems like a typical mental health drama or a typical horror film, but then the film turns into something black and unexpected. That it works is the result of actors selling their experiences. We aren't in a fake horror film but something very real. Possession is frightening again.

HUMANIST VAMPIRE..... horror comedy romance  should have fallen off the ledge and into parody, but the cast sell the charmer in ways that you don't see in horror film, namely creating characters that are more than just vampires.

DEADLAND - months on I am still haunted by the characters in the film. The story of a border agent who finds a dying man and has his world turned upside down shouldn't work. Or rather in different hands wouldn't work. The weirdness and the paths the film take shouldn't be as compelling as this.  We accept the weirdness because the actors give us people we can relate too, and as such we'll buy what they are experiencing.

ABRUPTIO - Yes I know the characters in this film are puppets. However the manipulation of them and the vocal performances make them very real. Frankly I remember them more than many real actors.

YOU'LL NEVER FIND ME - a woman shows up at a trailer home in a pouring rain storm and dark magic happens. Sure the plotting doesn't work to the  end, but god damn this two hander is absolutely riveting. It's just two people interacting for 90 minutes with no effects. Pure movie magic.

COFFEE TABLE - horrifying tale of the events around a coffee table will turn your stomach. Why? because once it gets going it's simple the interaction of characters orbiting a black hole of the soul. This could have been the wrong sort of funny, but it's not, it's just soul crushing.

PRYING EYES - the reason this short is as chilling as it is is simply because, like BROOKLYN 45 this is a ghost story about the people. As it is the film's horror isn't about the ghost but the ugliness hidden in people.

OUTWATERS - I am not a found footage fan. However there are exceptions, this is one of them. This story of something evil in the dark shouldn't work. So much of this is dark and impenetrable, but the performances, often just vocal, sell this. We feel the fear, if not in the words and images but the inflection in the screams.

UNDER BUG - social commentary horror film about the cost of hate works because we accept the characters. We buy who they are going into the house and we are moved by the karmic events they are forced to endure. Sure we are frightened but at the same time our hearts break.

WHITE NOISE- final film and final short is the story of a woman with a hearing problem undergoing a procedure that goes wrong. Sure the film has a kick ass sound track, but it wouldn't work if Bahia Watson's other worldly performance didn't knock it out of the park.  She is the film and it's terrifying.

Worst of 2023

 There is some talk that we shouldn't have a worst of the year list but I think we need to warn people about the bad films out there

But I begin with the films that miss the mark by a wide margin but aren't wholly bad:


ONE NIGHT WITH ADELA- Laura Galan goes on a rampage  in one of the ugliest most mean spirited films you will ever see. Yea some of this works, but why is this a single take?
JE'VITA - a woman goes home and remembers her terrible life. It might have worked if things had been connected but they aren't.
BOUDICA- the life and times of the warrior queen is mostly a dull drama until the final battle
AGGRO DRIFT- Harmonie Korine  makes a scifi film based on the work of a rapper but other than looking cool it never comes together.
HERD- wildly too short zombie apocalypse tale that wants to be a character study but the plot and the world don't work.
KIDNAPPED-Marco Bellachio's latest is a simplified retelling of what happened when a Jewish boy was taken from his family and raised as a Catholic. It looks great but dramatically its just a sermon.

And now the films to avoid at all costs.

FIRENADO- passionless horror/scifi film where no one cared except for the money
STALKING FIELD- a great looking stupidly plotted version of the Most Dangerous Game
RIDE ON- disappointing Jackie Chan film has a couple great sequences but most it's Chan looking old beyond his years in a baddly plotted film.
THE MAIDEN- a film only NDNF could love
GUSH- NDNF plays a clip film
POUNDCAKE - One of my least favorite filmmakers Onur Turkel, makes a film about a serial killer in Brooklyn.
ARTHUR MALEDICTION- LucBesson's meta rethink horror film of his Minimoy saga is pure crap.
SONGS ABOUT FUCKING - a fans only rip off film about Marc Rebillet's post covid tour is just bad.
DO NOT EXPECT TOO MUCH FROM THE END OF THE WORLD- two and a half hours of driving through Romania.
KITTY THE KILLER- terrible action film does everything wrong
#MANHOLE- after a night of Partying a man ends up at the bottom of a manhole. Its a film that ultimately  makes no sense and is largely on an unrealistic set
RISE THE SIYA KOWALSKI- sports biography is going to be tough for even fans of the star athlete.
SEEDING - huge WTF film about a man kidnapped and forced to live at the bottom of pit with a young woman. It makes zero sense on any level.
SILENT NIGHT- John Woo's laughably bad action film.
KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON- over hyped Scorsese film is full of self importance and laughable performances.

Thursday, December 28, 2023

Unseen Film Awards 2023 - Pro and Anti

The Unseen Film Awards are going to take the same path that they followed in 2020 when covid forced the awards to skip awarding a prize for a movie and went int a different direction.  In that year the award went to the Mads (Trace and Frank) for bringing joy to everyone who was locked inside by providing new riffs for everyone to enjoy.  The award was the result of no one seeing the same films because everyone was locked up in quarantine.

This year the awards are going to other things than the best film. This is the result of my simply not having the bandwith to put the awards together. Too much is going on and I am being run ragged by trying to finish up my year end viewing and by a number of things in real life.

There were a couple of discussions about the awards with various people, some people wanting to know when they could send in their ballots, and some about whether it was even possible to do an awards this year.  The discussions about possibility beyond my ability to tabulate votes stalled when it was realized that outside of Barbie and Oppenheimer most people honestly and truly haven’t seen remotely the same films. With the return of life before covid everyone is going in different directions so the result would probably be predetermined winners. 

Talk then spun out as to what we could give awards to and a few ideas were tossed around. I then took those ideas and tossed them out to some of the normal voting body, but not all the usual suspects since I didn’t want to end up with an echo chamber. After a few days of discussion, we came up with not only a few winners of Unseen Film Awards but also sone winners of the Anti- Unseen Film Awards.

What are the Anti-Unseen Film Awards? They are some things that are really pissing us off. They are trends that are killing the souls of filmgoers everywhere.

The winners of the ANTI-UNSEEN FILM AWARDS are as follows.


Yea we all know that Hollywood has been eating it’s tale for decades with more and more sequels. However now we are being faced with yet more remakes, restarts and retreads. DC is trying to be relevant by redoing all of their superhero franchises with all new faces. We are getting an endless array of remakes, now not of old properties, but films only relatively new vintage. Hollywood is no longer giving us definite endings but with to be continued, even for stinker films. They aren’t pretending any more they are just giving us the same crap over and over again, and linking everything to a false nostalgia (I'm looking at you WONKA)

Worse they are trying to make everything look like everything else with the result everything new seems shop worn and half assed.


The fact that mere days after opening in theaters most films are on VOD. Theaters are dying because most people feel that the there is no reason to see it in theater. Sure there are exceptions, but most things are in and out of theaters so fast that most people I know feel that if they don’t see a film on the first weekend they will just wait.

Added into this is that outside of the big films it’s no longer possible to plan on seeing a film past the first weekend because you don’t know if theaters are going to be playing after that.  Schedules are not set. Even trying to plan seeing Godzilla Minus One in IMAX was a crap shoot since the theater managers I spoke with couldn’t be sure if they would have the film.

In the drive to make a fast buck studios are killing the theaters.



While we know that superhero films are making some money, it’s not like before. Everyone it seems is tiring of the same old same old and complete lack or originality. While we are getting  some good moments, the films have stalled into superpowered people having the same fights over and over again, with no real fear of anyone dying because it’s comic and comic movies and no one dies because there is always going to be at least the promise of sequel. And without weight or danger no one cares. (And as such they are just waiting for streaming because they don't want to spend any money to see a bad movie before it's on TV the following week)

Worse because they have to go on the stories are compromised, compromised and convoluted as they have to keep the train rolling.

With so many of the same type of stories being dropped into theaters people have stopped caring.’

Thank god.

And while it will be a while before they crawl into their grave it seems the end is near and we are better for it.


The whole Babriehiemer thing made Christopher Nolan’s film a hit. I am absolutely certain that had the films not been linked OPPENHEIMER would have only made a fraction of what it did. But the whole see them both challenge made people want to go and engaged them.  Going to the movies were, for a while at least, fun again.


The success of GODZILLA MINUS ONE and THE BOY AND THE HERO effectively destroyed the Hollywood studio notion that films not in English won’t play in Peoria. Yes they will and we are better for it.

Yes RRR started the trend last year when it played to packed houses of non-Indian audiences across the country but the much too early trip to Netflix short circuited that.

The success of the two Japanese films is forcing Hollywood to sit up and take notice since what many thought would be a one and done trip to the theater is getting extended as people continue to go see the films pushing the home grown product out of the way.

The report on covering the red carpet for SHARI AND LAMB CHOP at DOC NYC

On Saturday I met Lamb Chop and Mallory Lewis, who took over being Lamb Chop’s companion. It was a day of craziness, only some of which I can share. I say that because there were a couple of things that were kind of outside of the public view that should remain there.

The meeting was the result of my covering the Red Carpet for the World Premiere of the film Shari and Lamb Chop about Mallory’s mom and her best know buddy.

I arrived early at New York’s Village East and after trying to find out where to go I was shuttle down stairs where I met Barbara Okun, Shari Lewis’s sister and a woman, who I have completely forgotten  the name of. We fell into a conversation about Shari, Mallory and Lamb Chop. Mostly I was asked to take pictures of the ladies with each other and Mallory because they wanted a keepsake.

Mallory arrived and we fell into a conversation. After instructions on how to shoot Lamb Chop she produced one of my heros from childhood and I began to lose it. It isn’t often you get to meet some you admired as a kid and have them turn out as something wonderful as you hoped. I got a kiss on the cheek and then had to pause taking pictures as I was overcome with emotion. (SadlyI never had the opportunity to get a picture with Lamb Chop)

I was shooting pictures like crazy with the family and kibutzing with them. It was delight.

And then we were all called over to the Red Carpet…. And then it got even crazier as the family and friends was expanded by the filmmakers, PR people, City Officials, members of the press and assorted other all wanting to have their picture taken with Mallory and Lamb Chop. I shot pictures of everyone, even after the other photographers  stopped.  I had to because Lamb Chop kept yelling to me..”Are you getting these pictures Steve?”  How could I not?

While I was hoping to get an interview with Lamb Chop it didn’t happen because too many people wanted to meet the little one. DJ Biggs started an interview that probably ran five minutes and took the netter part of an half an hour to do because everyone pulled Lamb Chop away. Yes the Festival got a minute long interview but that was because it was a just over a minutes.

Eventually everyone got pulled upstairs to the screening.

I didn’t go because I didn’t have a ticket and while I know I could have gotten into the Q&A I went home instead since I could get home at a reasonable hour if I did. (I got home about the time the Q&A would have ended)

Yes I am leaving details out. Partly because I don’t remember a few things, but mostly because some of it was just interacting “with family” . (None of it was bad)

I had a blast. Everyone was so welcoming.

While there is much I will remember about that night, I will always have the memory of Lamb Chop calling to me by name to make sure I got the shot. There is something magical about that.

Wednesday, December 27, 2023

Two by Chris M. Rutledge -TROMBONE JONES and DATE NIGHTS

This is the story of a returning soldier who is unable to get a job. Picking up the trombone he manages to teach himself how to play and ends up going from street corners to concert halls.

Shot as silent film with a synced sound track (there is a reason for it that I can’t tell you in this review) this is a largely moving tale about what it’s like to be a returning vet and the struggles one faces.  I really liked much of the film.

My one quibble with the film, and it’s one that I’ve been rolling over in my mind for several days now, is the ending. While it isn’t bad, and while it absolutely works, I’m not sure how I feel about it. Normally I would let it go and not say anything but the film builds to it and I’m sure how I feel. The problem is that I can’t say anything  about what it is since the whole film hinges on it it. Its not that I don’t dislike it, I’m just not sure I like it enough.

Which is actually a kind of rave for the film because it’s a film that very seriously is challenging my thoughts, and expectations. I couldn’t just watch the film and move on I had to wrestle with it over several days and revisit it. I don’t always do that and any film that I look at multiple times, as I did with TROMBONE JONES is special.

If you want a film that will make you think and wrestle with it beyond just watching it and moving on, try TROMBONE JONES (which is on Apple TV)

Mike and Lynn have their weekly date night,

Sweet little film about a relationship that seems is beautifully put together. It’s a film that is really good, but kind of hard to discuss since there is a moment where the film shifts and suddenly you see what you’ve seen before takes on a new meaning.  I am being cagey with what I’m saying on purpose since something I read before hand said too much. As a result the film didn’t have the punch in the chest quality it might have had I gone in totally blind.

Lack of discussion aside, this film kicks ass and you need to take the time and search it out. (It will be released around Valentine’s Day, which is absolutely the perfect choice)

GODLAND (2022)

A priest is sent from Denmark to Iceland in order to build a church. Unfortunately the priest's holier than thou attitude causes damage to the people around him.

I fell in love with the images from this film. Every image I saw made me want to see the film more. Unfortunately I never managed to connect during it's theatrical run, VOD run or release as a Criterion DVD. It was only when I was given the chance to see the film for the year end voting and lists did I get to see it.

I should have skipped it. 

The problem with the film  is nothing with the technical aspects. The images are breath taking. This is as gorgeous a movie as you will ever see. Everything about the film on a technical level is first rate. 

The problems here are the script and the performances.  From the opening scene the line readings didn't seem right. Watching the actors deliver their lines had me giggling. The opening meal scene had me roaring. The whole scene seemed like an SNL sketch, I wasn't certain if they were serious because the lines of dialog and the delivery was off. 

I was disappointed.

Tuesday, December 26, 2023

FREMONT (2023)

Odds are FREMONT is going to kick you in the ass. This simple film about an Afghani woman living in the Bay Area who works in fortune cookie factory doesn’t seem like much, until you get to the end and you find it has quietly gotten under your skin and into your heart.

The arc of the film follow our heroine, a former interpreter for the US military as she tries to make her life. She misses those left behind and she is trying to find a new path forward. It’s a film that feels kind of small and closed in because of where she has come from but that’s intentional since as the film goes we end up watching her open up, and while the final images are not big an Hollywood, they are so emotionally right that you maybe wiping away a tear or two.

This is a wonderful film that is largely off the radar.

Track it down because you will fall in love with it.

Monday, December 25, 2023

Fallen Leaves (2023)

Aki Kaurismäki comedy romance is a delight.

It's the story of two people who collide together and kind of fall in love despite things getting in the way.

This was one of the films I missed at the New York Film Festival that was high on my must see list, I was hoping that the film wasn't going to disappoint me as several other had. When I finally sat down to watch it I got nervous since Kaurismaki's dry style hadn't really clicked, but then suddenly the wicked retorts started and I began to choke on my drink from laughing. 

Yes, this film is very mannered. If you have never seen one of Kaurismäki's films you have to get used to his rhythms and style, but once you do, this film will make you laugh and warm your heart.

I can not wait to see it again.


NORYANG: DEADLY SEA (2023) is playing in LA now and opens wide January 5

Last film in the Admiral Yi Sun-shin trilogy covers the events leading up to and during the Battle of Noryang Strait.

Following THE ADMIRAL:ROARING CURRENTS where Choi Min Sik played Yi and HASAN: RISING DRAGON where Park Hae-il played him, Kim Yun-seok puts his own spin on the great man in the story warring factions battling to remain in power and remain alive, with as much money as possible and hopefully without going to war.  As the film opens the political leaders want to let the Japanese go home. Yi doesn't trust them and thinks they should attack. Complicating things is the fact that no one knows if they can trust the Ming leader. He is playing his own angle. Of course things end up moving toward war...

After just over an hour of political intrigue and maneuvering NORYANG switches gears to the reason everyone came to the theater and that is to see the spectacular sea battle, Taking up roughly half the film the final battles are jaw dropping and bone crushing as they navies clash in blood fights to the death, it's amazing. To be certain some of the computer generated images aren't flawless, but it doesn't matter since  the drama and momentum is so strong we are carried along. Besides its only the odd shot and not sequences.

While I thought the film cold have been a bit clearer about some of the politics, my unhappiness was purely because the film moves through the non-action scenes with speed, I still knew what was going on and why. As a result by the time the ships are crashing into each other I was fully invested.

For those who are curious, I really have no opinion as to how this film compares to the first two. Each film is different enough that I don't want to compare them. Besides, the battle scenes in all three films kick serious ass which is all anyone needs to know- after all the battles are the selling point and make this film and the others must sees.

This is grand cinema. This is the sort of a film that you go to see in a theater because you can see it big and loud. It's a grand popcorn film of the highest order and highly recommended.

Sunday, December 24, 2023

Teachers Lounge (2023) opens Christmas Day

When things begin disappearing in her school and a student is accused of doing it a teacher begins to look into the matter and ends up causing all sorts of problems as she tries to negotiate between various groups.

This very mannered film walks the fine line between drama and uncomfortable comedy as a do good and principled teacher finds the way she sees the world is not compatible with the way things are. The drama comes from the situation and the dark humor comes from the way things just don’t quite play out the way out heroine wants them to. It’s not really funny as such but it’s in that uncomfortable place where bad things happen to good people and you laugh lest you squirm.

While everything in the film is really well done I found that I never connected to what was happening. I blame it on the tone which really didn’t connect to me. I’m not really a fan of cinema of discomfort and I usually need something to hold on to in order to make the connection. Here I didn’t have it and while I could intellectually appreciate everything on screen there wasn’t any emotional connection.

Because there is enough good here and because several other reviewers loved this I think this is worth a look.


This is the story of the Game Stop short sell where individual investors made millions at the expense of Wall Street.

This is an absolutely wonderful film with a subject I have no interest in (I hate finance). I rate this as a good film instead of a great film because it never got me to get past my natural dislike of the financial con game to care about what was happening on the screen beyond the characters. THe characters are why you wan to see this.

Prominent Chilean couple Augusto and Paulina struggle with his Alzheimer's diagnosis. As Augusto struggles not to slip away, Paulina does everything she can to help him remember. 

Deeply moving film is almost certain to be in the Oscar mix.  Have tissues handy when you watch it.

The rise and fall of the Blackberry smartphone. 

Low key comedy drama is a hellish ride through life in a big corporation and their ability to wreck themselves as the clueless men at the top break things that don't need fixing.

I really liked it, though to be perfectly honest the hairdressing and costuming was distracting since it seemed like a dress up. Still worth a look.

A coroner steals the body of a little girl to be the next one used in her attempt to raise the dead. She is successful but must use tissues from pregnant women to keep the child alive.

Dark and disturbing scifi horror film is one part Frankenstein and one part nightmare mixed into discussion of the things we do to remain alive. 

This is creepy as all hell.

Rebel Moon: Child of Fire (2023)

Destined to be expanded by a second part and another hour of material for  a directors cut the first part of REBEL MOON is already too long.

The film is a derivative retelling of the SEVEN SAMURAI about a former Imperial soldier who long ago crashed on a distant moon having to go off world and round up people who will come back to help fight off the evil empire.

Leaning more into the characters the film does create people we like, at the expense of any forward momentum. There are long flashbacks and scenes of discussion. Events lurch forward simple because the film so wants to build character it has to jump to the next thing. 

While there are some good action sequences, much too filled with slow motion, they almost seem like an after thought. 

There are also some truly great moments in this that come from the characters, the old soldier robot saving the girl for example. These stray moments seem to have been brought in from a better version of this tale.

The absolute killer here is the villains suck rotten eggs. Instead of giving us something new, Zach Snyder leans way way too heavily into Nazi Germany with SS style haircuts and uniforms and cartoony creation. It's a  move that made me disconnect because it's so damn lazy. I mean he created a whole new universe and he ends up using boo hiss stereotypical 1940's Hollywood evil Nazis as the bad guys? They are the least rounded and most under written characters in the film. Worse their motivations make zero real world sense. It kills the film outright with a huge stake through its heart.

While part of me never wants to bother with the sequel or the extended cuts, I insanely think there maybe more there and as much as I am disappointed with this film I am planning on try the longer cut whenever it surfaces.

As it stands now Snyder has made a great looking  but largely dull film.

Saturday, December 23, 2023

Ferrari (2023) opens Christmas

Michael Mann's FERRARI is pretty okay.

I mean that sincerely, it's a pretty okay film. I say this because  that was the thought I kept having all through the movie. 

The film is the story of Enzo Ferrari (Adam Driver)  over a several month period in 1957 ending in the tragic final running of the Mille Miglia. It also coincides with his wife Laura (Penelope Cruz) discovering that he has a son with another woman.

This was a project that Michael Mann has been trying to put together for years. Mann was finally able to pull it together and the result is a film that is like the pet projects of many great filmmakers, a film that is only going to mean something to him. 

What I mean is that the filmmakers know so much about their subject that they forgot to put all of that on to the screen. With FERRARI the script leaves a great deal out concerning Laura. Reduced to an angry bitter woman, unhappy about the death of her son and the infidelities of her husband, we don't get to know what a kick ass woman she was who was truly in the trenches with her husband. As Mann said at the NYFF press screening she was doing more than bookkeeping and would, among other things, sleep with the tires for the race cars so no one messed with them.

All through the talk Mann and his actors mentioned things about the Ferrarris that they learned in doing research on the couple. Every time some detailed was mentioned I could hear people around me react audibly including wanting to know why he bit wasn't included. For me, each new revelation made me wonder why we weren't told that since it gives me a better understanding of what was happening. In relating the stories that were never in the script Enzo stopped being a walled off figure and Laura became more than a grief stricken mother. I kept thinking that if some of what Mann and the others had said after the film was included, even by of a line or two, the film would have been so much better. We would have had real people on screen and not two characters who are ciphers we can see anyway we want.

To be honest I don't know why the film has been a festival darling. While the film is far from bad, it is really unremarkable. It's so "okay" that I'm pretty certain that had Michael Mann not directed  no one would have paid any attention to it.

I think part of the reason the film is getting the attention is the racing sequences. They are spectacular. There is a visceral quality to them that, I, a life long race fan, responded to. The crash, when it occurs is shocking and produced a audible reaction in the people around me. I knew what was coming and it still rattled my cage. I wanted to hit rewind and see it again.

Racing sequences aside, Is this a bad film? No. It's a perfectly adequate one. It's enjoyable, but it isn't anything special.

(An aside- is this the moment that Adam Driver jumps the shark? His quiet brooding performance is nothing special and lacking all the character detail, except an Italian accent, of other films it seems like he is coasting. Could it be that he isn't that good an actor and has just been playing all his roles the same way and we never noticed? Seriously without the character ticks of other scripts there is nothing here. It's a performance emptier than his Ben Solo turn, which was kind of interesting due to the histrionics he performed with. It such a nothing role that it suddenly occurred to me this nothing is what he's been doing all along)

2023 Catch up reviews: L'IMMENSITA and TOTEM

Penelope Cruz stars as a mother who, in the 1970's,  moves with her family to Rome for a better life and finds life and complications. 

Good soapy family drama that is based on director Emanuele Crialese life. It is story filled with life and change. The film's one problem is that the film has too much going on. Between the trans story line, the dysfunctional family, the shifting of life in Rome and so much more. It feels spread thin at times. It's not bad, just too short to cover everything it wants to cover.

TOTEM (2023) 
The course of a day for Sol, a young girl whose family is getting ready for her father's birthday. It's going to be a huge party that Sol's father may or may not attend since he is struggling with a debilitating form of cancer.

Shot in academy ratio  this is a film that puts you up close an personal, with many shot long take close ups. Its a film that borders on being a documentary. 

While the film was extremely well done it didn't completely connect to me. While I wanted to see how this played out, I never stopped feeling the director moving here pieces.

Reservations aside it's worth a look.

Friday, December 22, 2023

The Crime Is Mine (2023) opens Christmas Day

THE CRIME IS MINE is based on a 1934 play by  Georges Berr and Louis Verneuil and it’s an absolute delight. The plot of the film has a desperate actress claiming to have killed a lecherous producer for the publicity. As she rides the notoriety to fortune complications, not the least of which is someone else steps forward to say that they were really the one who did it.

I had an absolute blast with this film. Yea I know that’s wearing my heart on my sleeve, but after weeks of serious year end films  seeing a really well done French farce with Isabelle Huppert in scene chewing supporting role just warmed the cockles of my heart and made me smile.

What an absolute joy.

While the film is mining the same sort of territory as CHICAGO, albeit in a gentler less cynical form, it still is a biting attack on the rich, the patriarchy, and the entertainment industry. You can feel the barbs as you laugh.

Yes there is a creakiness to bits of this, but that’s okay since it’s just part of the films period charm.

If you want something light to make you smile I can’t recommend this film enough

Boys In The Boat (2023)

This is the story of the 1930's University of Washington rowing team that went to Germany in 1936 and took home the gold.

George Clooney returns to the directors chair with a good, but incredibly by the numbers story that you can write for yourself. It's so by the number that between seeing the trailer and seeing similar films you can pretty much tell how it is going to go.

Don't get me wrong, this is a beautifully made film, it's just not remotely remarkable. Why it's getting dumped in December as a possible Oscar contender has more to do with Clooney than with the the worthiness of the film.

I liked it, but at the same time I wish it wasn't being pushed as the next big thing, because it's not and as such it is going to get some critical backlash.

Worth a look when it hits Prime

Thursday, December 21, 2023

The Color Purple (2023) opens Christmas Day

This film version of the musical of the Alice Walker novel will move you to tears. The full on emotion in the story is amplified by the music. See this big if you can..

The film is the story Celie, a young girl sold by her father to a horrible man named Mister, but who manages to change the lives of everyone around her.

I saw the Broadway musical in it's original incarnation. I fell in love with the show and the songs. When I saw that there was a film version I was delighted and put it high on my must see list.

This film moved me to tears. Moments had me openly sobbing. This film kicks ass.

A large part of the reason the film works is the cast. Headed by the glorious Fantasia Barrino as Celie, everyone nails their roles. They are so good that I had no idea who was who for many of the roles. For example Coleman Domingo who is my choice for Best Actor for his work in RUSTIN is so good as Mister I didn't connect him to the role.  The only person who stood out was Taraji P. Henson as ,Shug, but that is understandable since she is supposed to be a person who makes an impact, which she does.

If the film wobbles anywhere it's in the plotting. Tweaking things further from the show (which tweaked things from the novel)  some of the story threads don't entirely move as well as they could. A few moments could have used a few moments more to strengthen the resonances. Fortunately the songs are strong enough to carry the emotions. (And the new songs fit in seamlessly)

Also helping are some things that you can only do with film. For example the way the film opens up with the arrival of Shug. The bigger dance numbers make this something special (I love the dance at the movies)

This film is cinematic magic see it and have your soul soar.

The Promised Land (2023)

Mads Mikkelsen stars in a grand epic of the sort they don't make any more. You need to see this on a big screen with a big bucket of popcorn.

Mikkelsen plays Ludvig Kahlen who in the 1750's  attempted to turn the Jutland heath into farmable land. Using outcasts and others looked down upon by society he makes a go of it, but he runs afoul of a noble who wants to control the heath for his own ends.

Magnificent costumed epic is something you give yourself over to. This is a the cinematic equivalent of getting lost in a great novel. It's full of people and places and images and sensations that despite being projected on a big screen you feel as though you're slipping into another place and time.

I was blown away by this film. Seeing this in the middle of seeing lesser American epics (especially the greatly disappointing KILLERS OF THE FLOWER MOON)  I was reminded what great filmmaking could be. Where most other filmmakers want to make epics they remember the size and the flash, they forget the people and the humanity. For big films you need big emotions, something most recent epics are lacking.  However wit THE PROMISED LAND director Nickolaj Arcel makes us feel. He puts the emotion up there on the screen, and while it might be over done compared to other films, in the frame work of this film it is pitch perfect.

I loved this film to death. It is an absolute joy.

Highly recommended.

The film is on the Oscar Short List for The Best International Feature



BREAKWATER is good little thriller. It’s perfect for a night on the couch.

The film is the story of a you ex-con who breaks his parole to track down the daughter of a big wig con. The problem that in addition to causing problems with his parole, he is also walking into a more complicated situation then he could ever imagine.

As you probably can guess BREAKWATER doesn’t break any new ground, however it expertly moves over the well worn path it chooses to travel. While the turns aren’t as surprising as they could be you really don’t care because the cast, headed by Dermot Mulroney and Darren Mann is so good. Creating characters we both care about and hate with a passion, they give us enough of a reason to sit and watch.  This is a film I would have loved to have sat and watched on a rainy night on TV with my dad. It’s the sort of film we would have  enjoyed and engage with during it’s whole time with a steady running dialog.

Definitely worth a look when you want something not over whelming, and just solid.

Wednesday, December 20, 2023

MEMORY (2023) opens Friday

Jessica Chastain and Peter Sarsgaard are the reason to see this affecting drama.

The plot concerns what happens when Sarsgaard follows Chastain home one evening. She's creeped out and hurries into her apartment figuring that he would leave. Finding him still outside in the morning she calls to have him removed. What follows is an unexpected dance as he is slipping into dementia and she is trying to get over severe trauma that Sarsgaard may have been responsible for.

One of the most unexpected films of 2023, MEMORY is a must see partly because it doesn't do what we expect but mostly because Chastain and Sarsgaard give us complete characters. We are not watching constructs of a writer but two fully formed peopl on the screen, It's a titanic achievement. It's so good that I don't fully remember the plot, I just remember the two people on the screen.

To be  honest I think part of the reason I don't remember parts of the plot is that some of it isn't as strong as it should be. Some things that should have been clearer aren't. It's far from fatal, but it keeps the film off my absolute love list.

Highly recommended.

About Dry Grasses (2023)

A big favorite at this past New York Film Festival ABOUT DRY GRASSES tells the story of a school teacher in a small village in the Anatolia region of Turkey. As he prepares to finish up his fourth year at the school complications arise.

This is a really good film. I had wanted to see it at NYFF but the run time of three and a half hours made it difficult because of how it ran across other films. I was also wary because I was afraid of getting locked into a really long film at the festival where it might be difficult to bolt.

I should not have worried. This film is compelling film. Watching the film for my year end catch up I figured that if I didn't like it I could just move on to something else.  However from the first frame to the last I was held captive by the film. I was completely engaged with the people up on the screen. I was carried away.  To be honest I really don't know if the film needed to be 217 minutes, I started to waiver a bit after two hours, but at the same time I wasn't going anywhere because I wanted to see where it was headed.

If you want a great drama and have the time, I highly recommend ABOUT DRY GRASSES.

Tuesday, December 19, 2023

Iron Claw (2023)


THE IRON CLAW is a late addition to the years prestige  films. Not officially screened for critics or audiences until late in the year, there were whispers that it was a ploy by A24 to storm the Oscars by having it appear when the dust had settled on every other contender. I kind of understand that but personally I’m not certain the film would have reached the top of the heap.

The film is the story of the family of wrestler known as the Von Erichs. A legendary family that spanned generations, the family suffered more pain and suffering than is just. The parents of the boys were the poster people for abusive parenting. They drove their kids for their own glory and basically tolf them to sort it out for themselves when it turned to shit (blaming their sons for their own deaths). It’s a long tragic story that is crushing.

With the exception of one performance (I’ll come back to this in a minute) this is quite simply one of the best made films I’ve ever encountered. The film looks and feels exactly like the end of the 70’s and beginning of the 80’s. The TV recreations are spot on, and it was as if I was back 40 years. Seriously this is perfection. This is a magnificent portrait of the dangers of toxic masculinity and exploration of how men being allowed to be human can end the pain.

There is greatness here.

I have to say that with the exception of the WTF performance of Rick Flair everyone in this film is pretty much spot on with their portrayals of their characters. Sure Zac Efron is much too pumped for Kevin, but outside of that, all of the actors disappear into their roles. They are scary good. This is what Bradley Cooper failed to do in MAESTRO, where you never believed he was Bernstein. In IRON CLAW everyone is that person.

Well except for Aaron Dean Eisenberg as Ric Flair. He is beyond bad. In a bad fright wig he gets none of Flair’s mannerisms or vocal inflections right.  He is so bad he killed the film for me. Where the film was life, he made it all make believe.  I stopped loving the film and simply liked it.  The only thing right about the performance was the way they put blood in the gawd awful wig. I know I shouldn’t mention it but the performance is so bad that he took at least a star off any rating I might have given it.

It's so bad that with the spell broken I started to pick up problems I never noticed previously. As good as Efron is there is a point where he stops being part of events and all he does is observe, everything is happening outside of him. Kevin and his story, which should be the thread on which all of it hangs, stops being told except in shorthand. Some roles, such as the boys' mother is underwritten. I’m guessing in earlier drafts it was something but here she is largely unhelpful or just mourning her lost sons. The time frame of events is not always clear. Worst of all I started to question why they were telling me this story, since if you stop to look at it, I'm not sure the film has thematic point until the final fade out. Before the break I wasn’t thinking about it, after I questioned everything.

My quibbles side THE IRON CLAW is killer. It is a heart breaking tale of a cursed family being crushed by circumstances. It has some of the best performances of the year, and despite that it is going to make you cry, you need to see this.

Full TIme (2023)

Crafted as a thriller, FULL TIME is the story of one woman trying to get by in todays world. Working at a high end hotel she is faced to deal with a tough long distance commute. Complicating matters is her need to take an interview for a better paying job elsewhere with out the bosses finding out.

We've all been here and we all lived this. It's a real life tale that could have been just another day at the office, except that director Eric Gravel decided to change things up and make this a thriller. It's a brilliant move that makes the outcome of events that much more exciting.

To be perfectly honest this film was no where on my radar. However I got a list of awards films from the distributor and decided to take a chance. It wasn't a big chance mind you since I had liked all the other films on the list I had seen. It was an excellent move on my part since I got to discover a film that really knocked my socks off.


Monday, December 18, 2023

Freud's Last Session (2023) opens Friday

Matthew Goode plays CS Lewis and Anthony Hopkins plays Sigmund Freud in the story of a meeting between the pair that probably didn't happen.(An Oxford don met with Freud 3 weeks before he died, but we don't know who it was)

The plot has Lewis visiting Freud on the eve of World War 2, three weeks before Freud committed doctor assisted suicide. Lewis the Catholic wasn't sure why Freud, an atheist wanted to see him. The result is a discussion of life and death, the nature of our souls and psyches, as well a general discussion of the human condition. It's a truly compelling and moving clash (I've watched it several times now)

For the most part this is top shelf filmmaking.  Goode and Hopkins are Oscar worthy, with the rest of the cast equally good. The look, the feel of it all is what great filmmaking is all about. You will want to see the film because it's that good.

Where the film wobbles is in the opening up of some of the material. This was originally a book, a miniseries and stage play that was transformed into screenplay. Beyond the Lewis/Freud meeting there is a subplot involving Anna Freud and her father as well as various incidents in the lives of the men that act as backstory. While none of it is bad, it seems to act more as a distraction to the central discussion. For example a walk to a bomb shelter seems only there just to show us Lewis' trauma from the First World War. We don't  need most of it since it only provides shading. Perhaps if the film were longer it would have worked better.

But I'm quibbling. I loved this film. I loved it so much I've seen it three times now. While it isn't the best film of the year it still fed my soul and got my mind going. Between the performances, the filmmaking and especially the heady and heart felt discussions this was manna for this movie lovers soul.

Highly recommended, this is a late in the year must see.

Sunday, December 17, 2023

Nightcap 12/17/23 - Random Notes

A couple of quick notes:

First a reminder that my end  of the year lists will be based on what I saw this calendar year. I see too much to play the olde film, new film, unreleased film game. It is for any film I first saw in 2023, regardless of when  the film was made.


Having now been part of an actual big critic organization voting I’m going to remind you that believe what individual critics put on their end of year lists. However be less trusting of a groups awards. I say that because what I saw from my small window was perfectly reflected by my experience doing the Unseen Film Awards. This is not a knock against any of the awards its simply that it’s a reminder that the awards are simply the best  of what’s agreed upon.


Speaking of the Unseen Film Awards…

I’m not in position to do full blown voting so I’m talking to a couple of people about maybe just doing something along the lines of 2020 when the award went to the Mads because they were they one thing that got people through covid.

I’ll keep you posted.


If the IRON CLAW fails to win any awards it was because of a misstep by A24.

The plan to screen the film late  for voters/critics was, in theory, a brilliant move because it allowed for it to appear after all the hype of the other films. The problem was that some FYC and critics screenings were late.  Many of the screenings were coming after various critic organizations started voting. I saw it the after my final votes were in because that was a screening that lined up with available window.

Tribal (2023) hits VOD Tuesday


This is a kick in the ass documentary that is ultimately just three vets,(Wade Spann, Michael Gomez, and Omar Hernandez ) talking about their combat experiences and the even more difficult efforts of trying to come back home and fit into society. 

This is a punch in the face cinema at it’s most basic, it’s simply people sitting and talking and telling their story. It’s kind of a solo theatrical performance because it’s real. The camera doesn’t look away and we are hypnotized.

More importantly these tales of what our soldiers go through in battle and after drive us to out knees. These guys went through hell and they let the experience bleed out before us so we understand what they have lost.

This is a great film. Yea it’s not the most cinematic, but it’s stories we need to hear and take to heart. These men are opening themselves up to us so that their brothers and sisters down the road can have an easier time. We need to listen to them.

See this

Saturday, December 16, 2023

Napoleon (2023)

Joaquin Phoenix stars as the legendary leader in Ridley Scott's portrait of the man from his first great victory until his death.

Scott has made a great looking film that will blow your mind with some of the greatest period action set pieces ever put on film (regardless if thats what happened or isn't). Its  a technically amazing film that is going to delight people for years...

...unfortunately the film, even at two and a half hours, is much too short. We are marched through the moments between the set pieces. We really don't get any sort of character development simply because there isn't enough time. Yes, we do feel some emotion at times but it's purely because most of the actors are good enough to make anything they do great (thank you Vanessa Kirby)

I know many people have praised Joaquin Phoenix's performance, but I'm still trying to sort out if it is anything to write home about. The problem is that as we see here there is very little room for him to do more than look and sound imperial.  I'm curious if Scott will release a longer version as he did with films such as KINGDOM OF HEAVEN which improved with expansion. For me it's kind of one note

On the other hand there are the set pieces which simply blow you away. From the opening storming of the fortress and attack on the British fleet to the final Battle of Waterloo it's just glorious filmmaking that keeps us watching even as the drama  stalls.

Worth a look if you can see it big.

(Just try not to giggle at the final shot)

Leo (2023)

Adam Sandler is a 74 year old lizard living in a school terrarium with a turtle. He has been watching the kids come and go for decades. One day he lets slip that he can talk and as a result he and the kids are made better for it.

One of the great finds of 2023 is one of Adam Sandler's best films. A warmhearted film that works for kids and adults. It's a joyous celebration of life that is going to put a smile on your face.

That the film works as well as it does is due in large part to Sandler selling the role of Leo. Unable to mug for the camera he has to play it straight from start to finish and as a result we get one of his most modulated performances. It's an absolute joy.

I loved this film a great deal.

Highly recommended.

Friday, December 15, 2023

American Symphony (2023)

Portrait of Jon Batiste as he attempts to finish a symphony as his wife, writer Suleika Jaouad, undergoes cancer treatment.

Matthew Heineman's film started as project to chart Batiste's symphony, but it changed almost from the start as Batiste's Grammy nominations happened and Suleika got sick. The focus changed and 1500 hours of film was shot over nine months. The film then changed in the editing all the way until right before it's premiere at Telluride. The result is a film that is deeply moving.

I really liked this film. I liked that it didn't go where anyone expected. I also love the film's expression of the love of two people,. I want to find someone who looks at me the way Jon and Suleika look at each other.

Actually I love the film so much that I want to see more  of what happened. I would love to see what else was going on. I would also love a physical media release with a commentary track because after seeing Batiste and Heinman at a post screening Q&A I know there are many stories to tell about making the film.

This is a wonderful film.  Take the time and see this.