There are a number of jokes that have been stuck in my head for years, but this one joke from the animated show THE CRITIC — a show created by some of the best writers and producers involved with the heyday of THE SIMPSONS — is one of my absolute favorites.
This is all you need to know going in: A young woman is being fitted for her debutante reveal. She is Margo, a liberally-minded teen who eschews this blue-blood practice she was born into but feels pressured to participate in. While being fitted for her reveal dress, the following exchange occurs between the dressmaker and herself.
“We dressmakers have a very strict code, so I need to know: Do you deserve to wear virginal white? Because if you don’t, you’ll have to wear an off-white, what we call a ‘hussy white’.
“So, which will it be? White-white?”
“…yes. Um, except for the gloves.”
I watched this episode when it first aired and was old enough to realize just how smutty the joke was and could not believe it slipped through broadcast standards & practices. I will not spell the joke out for you, as I give you enough credit to have a prurient imagination.
This joke has everything I could ever want: it’s far filthier than it initially sounds, it has a rare sense of specificity, it is loaded with cultural and sexual commentary, and the voice reading cleverly underplays all of the above. It is a brilliant twenty seconds of animated network television.
(If you don’t believe me, check out the YouTube comments on the link at the bottom, as I’m not the only one who fondly remembers this joke!)
I am in the thick of National Novel Writing Month and my novel this year is specifically focused on a bridal dressmaker and her clients. While this is a debutante reveal dress, it works in very much the same way as a bridal dress in that it is often meant to visually exemplify the best of you, as well as make the person wearing it feel imbued with the best of themselves.
I previously only thought about this joke once a month. Now I think about it every fucking day. (Don’t worry, I don’t even come close to involving any ‘hussy’ notions in said novel.)
(Eventually I’ll write a more involved post about THE CRITIC. For now? This will do.)
Unfortunately there’s no single clip available of it, but you can see it via tubi or on YouTube before a DCMA claim takes it down:
Thanksgiving is one of the few holidays where the experience is radically different if you live in a rural area or suburban area versus an urban area, especially if you are a shitheel 20-something and away from home.
In rural and suburban areas it’s a communal, often familial affair; almost routine.
In urban areas and far from family, you have a tiny kitchen that is absolutely not equipped for preparing the amount of food folks expect for Thanksgiving and, if you are in your 20s, you have absolutely no fucking clue what you’re doing, but no one else is doing the work so it’s up to, and you have no one to guide you.
There aren’t a lot of great Thanksgiving films out there, perhaps because the stress of a Thanksgiving dinner is equally mirrored and amplified by preparing a Christmas dinner. (A CHRISTMAS STORY is probably the best example of this, even though it’s solely about making a meal for immediate family as opposed to an extended family.)
PIECES OF APRIL is one of the few great Thanksgiving films. It focuses on the dichotomy between rural and suburban and urban expectations, of young adults trying to live up to the expectations of being fully-functional adults, even if they have been or currently are fuckups, while attempting to prepare an adult meal for everyone to enjoy, while also being not at all capable of doing so.
I know, because I’ve certainly been there, but I’m getting ahead of myself.
“I’m the first pancake.”
“It’s the one you’re supposed to throw out.”
PIECES OF APRIL is a very succinct depiction of a garbage person — April — trying to get better and attempting to mend the mistakes of their past by using food to apologize for her familial transgressions by inviting her suburban family — including her recalcitrant cancer-stricken mother, bitter about her sickness and April’s actions — to a Thanksgiving day trip to her NYC apartment.
“[We’re making] a good memory!”
“What if it’s not?”
“I promise it will be beautiful.”
“How do you know?”
“Because I told her it had to be.”
“And if it’s not?”
“Then I’ll kill her.”
April quickly realizes that her oven doesn’t work and scrambles through her building, looking for someone, anyone, to lend her some oven time to cook her turkey, often only to find doors slammed shut in her face while her boyfriend warmly traipses around the city in order to find an affordable suit to impress April’s parents. Matters escalate.
Katie Holmes is nakedly honest as April, a troubled youth, the black sheep of her family, the eldest of three children. As a youngster she had a penchant for fire and rebellion and when she had the chance, she ran off to New York City and spiraled into a world of drug dealers and even worse behavior.
PIECES OF APRIL is a perfect depiction of urban life, where many folks just want to live anonymously and are hardened by the rough life of an unforgiving city, but also of young misfits realizing what they put their family through, while also aware that they’re leading a very different life than the one that was expected of them.
The distance between myself and my immediate family is vast enough that I’ve never been put through the pressure cooker that April goes through, but as a fucking piece of garbage youth who moved halfway across the country to one of the largest cities in the U.S., and as someone who — along with my then-girlfriend/now-wife — has hosted my fair share of Friendsgivings and has screwed up my fair share of dishes, this film hits hard.
“You’re a bad girl! A very bad girl!”
“…no. I’m not.”
This was a ramshackle labor of love for writer/director Peter Hedges, shot extraordinarily cheaply — he was paid a whopping $20 for his efforts, and most of the cast worked for under $300 a day — Hedges made the most of it. There’s a visual intimacy here, mostly medium shots or close-ups to capture the emotional fraught nature of her family’s trip, as well as the stress April is enduring. Long shots are reserved for when April’s mom — an acerbic Patricia Clarkson — pushes her family away, rejecting the current situation.
Colors are often muted, although I’ve only seen this film via terrible DVD transfers. It might be intentional, an effort to visually cast a pall over the endeavors, but I might be reading too much into that.
While this summary may make this film sound like a downer, ultimately it’s about perseverance, of folks muscling through to try to do better, to give folks second chances, to showcase the grace that others can give others.
Is Thanksgiving fundamentally a fucking terrible holiday, one celebrating colonialism and downright genocide? Yes, yes it is. Is it terrible that so much of the nation overlooks that in favor for stuffing their faces? Yes, yes it is.
(I will note that PIECES OF APRIL does hang a hat on that, albeit not extremely successfully, but narratively and from a character perspective it makes sense.)
However, hosting Thanksgiving dinners is a rite of passage for many. It showcases that you can provide for others, that you can wrangle the many, many courses and dishes in a way that satisfies everyone and everyone can commune around the table and take comfort in one and another.
You’re living in this moment — a tiny one in the long run of your life — of knowing you’ve provided for those you hold dear and, despite the strife and stress and endless planning, you have a communal bonding moment over your rustic culinary efforts, the table a truce place setting, a few hours that are hopefully conflict-free where you can live in an idyllic familial fantasy of grace.
PIECES OF APRIL ends with a montage of photographs, memorializing the day, recording the above feelings for posterity, not just for the family, but also for whatever comes next. It’s a very simple, no-fuss film, but one that resonates with truth and the hardships of willing the endeavor of bringing everyone to the table, of making the effort in service of others. In other words: the perfect Thanksgiving film.
I’ve previously penned about William Castle’s cinematic escapades, specifically regarding THE HOUSE ON HAUNTED HILL and the influence of Castle on Joe Dante’s work (and THE TINGLER? Definitely an influence. You can see it not only in MATINEE, but also GREMLINS 2).
Yet again, my favorite local arthouse theater — the Music Box — hosted another Castle screening by the same folks (this time presented in Percepto! Whatever that is!), all interactive and enthralling!
If you are or have been an avid MYSTERY SCIENCE THEATER 3000 viewer, you’ve seen THE TINGLER before. They, well, they do eviscerate it. Despite a rocky premise and a number of clumsy lines and awkward special effects, it’s far smarter than they give it credit.
The always magnanimous Vincent Price is a scientist who is investigating the physiological logistics of fear. He postulates that fear is imbued by a creature — the titular Tingler — that only manifests itself when one is terrified. He sets out to prove his point, and matters escalate.
I don’t need to tell you that Price is amazing here — he always shows up and gives his all, no matter the material — but the film is surprisingly gorgeous, especially the print that we saw. The contrast of blacks and whites are measured but effective; there’s a surprising amount of center-framing, and well, everyone just looks splendid, even the Tingler! (Yes, the Tingler definitely is poorly puppeteered, but the design is great and it glistens like it’s real!)
What is most astounding about this work — and unfairly discounted — is its reliance on a deaf and mute individual. This is one of the earlier genre films I can think of that utilizes ASL and deafness as a plot point without belittling the character. Said character is the wife of an older man, and together they pointedly run a theater that exclusively shows silent movies. Her husband mostly communicates with her via ASL, despite the fact that she can read lips.
(I will note that this film does slightly disparage her by briefly labeling her as ‘deaf and dumb’. She is not dumb.)
This is a film that explicitly asks you to scream at certain points. (I’ll note, everyone at the Music Box gamely participated, myself included! It was a lot of fun!) However, the crux of the film is centered around a woman who cannot scream, who has no voice, who can only communicate via visual motions. What’s more filmic than that?
Castle gets a lot of shit for being a schlocky, gimmicky director. Yes, he definitely more than leaned into that, but hell, so did Hitchcock. Did Castle rig up electrical shocks in theater seats to thrill audiences? Yes. Did I attend a screening featuring a number of campy interactive performances, solely meant to titillate? Yes. However, the work does have an empathic heart beating under the schlock.
If you do choose to watch THE TINGLER, please bear that in mind.
What if I were to tell you that there’s an episode of TV that features Peter Lorre, Boris Karloff and Lon Chaney Jr. trek out to a Chicagoland hotel to brainstorm horror ideas for a cooperative project?
You might not believe me. It sounds like something a horror fanboy would either pitch, or get their friends together to make a homemade version of said idea.
It absolutely exists. It was an episode of the hit TV show ROUTE 66 entitled Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing and was the fourth episode of the show’s third season.
PETER LORRE: “What frightened them in then in the dark ages, it still frightens now. Fear is born into people […] And don’t you sell it short, Boris!”
If you are pressed for time, here’s a brief summary: NAKED CITY and THE NAKED CITY TV show creators Herbert B. Leonard and Stirling Silliphant pitched the idea of two younger men — the over-educated Tod and the suave lady’s man Buz — band together and tour the U.S. and picking up odd jobs along the way to fund their efforts. Unlike just about every TV show at the time, each episode was shot on location, turning ROUTE 66 into a weekly U.S. travelogue.
Lizard’s Leg and Owlet’s Wing does take place in Chicagoland.* As previously mentioned, Lorre, Karloff and Chaney Jr. want to brainstorm a project together. Lorre suggests meeting at an innocuous conference Chicagoland hotel ‘The O’Hare Inn’ and they agree. Karloff suggests that they replace their surname with reversed versions of their first name because, sure, that’ll fool everyone.
It just so happens that Tod and Buzz have wrangled a job at the inn as Junior Executives in Charge of Convention Liasons. The job thrills them — especially Tod — as the inn is hosting a large ‘Executive Secretaries of the Midwest’ conference and features a number of attractive women.
TOD, remarking on the number of young women exiting a bus: “What makes you think it’s a convention group?”
BUZZ: “When two or more girls get together and there’s no guy in the group, it’s just got to be a convention.”
TOD: “Buzz, there are things carved in marble with not the one-tenth of content of that last authoritative remark.”
While Tod and Buzz work on wooing secretaries, the three horror maestros finally meet up. Lorre requests a very specific coffin from Tod before Karloff arrives, so he can give Karloff a special reveal.
Tod quickly sees through Lorre’s scheming and suggests that Lorre and Chaney Jr. try their own brand of old-school terror on the secretaries. Chaney Jr. makes himself into one of his classic monsters and matters escalate. Meanwhile, Karloff consoles a secretary who pines for a love who left her.
It’s roughly fifty minutes of self-satisfying indulgence for writer/creator Silliphant but, happily, is also a raucous and memorable crowd-pleasing episode. This might not be the venue we wanted to see all three of these masters together for, but it is a lot of fun.
I rarely link to full episodes, however, if you’re in New York City, you can also watch it for free at the mind-blowing New York Paley Center which is exactly the first work I watched upon my initial visit.
To Chicago residents like myself, there is a difference between Chicago and Chicagoland. A lot of folks who live in Chicago suburbs often say they live in Chicago. Chicago residents often classify those who live outside the radius of Chicago’s L train support as living in Chicagoland.
Back-to-back cosmos-enacted zombie horror films! First, NIGHT OF THE CREEPS and now a quintessential take on Los Angeles: NIGHT OF THE COMET!
This is another repost, as Sunday is a day of rest. I’m not religious, but I do think it’s a it’s a healthy action and I will be relying on Sunday reposts here on out because I do need to prepare for NaNoWriMo.
I fucking love this film. It’s a whimsical teen zombie film, witty, surprisingly progressive, vibrant, and has one of the more nuanced sisters dynamic I’ve seen in genre films. It’s brilliant and well-worth your time this month.
This film features portrayals of rape and abuse. I do not go into specifics in this write-up, but felt it was worth the warning.
So, I done fucked up in attempting to have an entire month of extolling fun, non-traumatizing works. As seems to be a persistent theme, I thought this film was more fun than it is — and it is very fun, in a JAWBREAKER high-school way — until it isn’t.
I simply forgot about the final act. Well, didn’t forget exactly as just blocked it out. Of one of my many conditions, I suffer from dissociative disorder. For example: once my wife and I were having a pleasant discussion and the film playing on the TV in the background had an awful rape scene in the film and she asked me to turn the channel and noted: “How can you not be affected by this?” Simply put: my mind blocked it out. It wasn’t happening. That situation was not playing out. I went to another place.
Again, I wanted this month to all be about fun horror films. Initially, I’d planned to write about Brian de Palma’s PHANTOM OF THE PARADISE today, but I want to save that for our at-home Halloween viewing instead. A bad decision for sure, but so it goes.
Moving along. ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE is a sadly mostly-overlooked film from MAY and DARLIN’ director Lucky McKee, one of the few male writer/directors that seems attuned to taking the piss out of masculinity and shining a light on the shit women have to endure.
“No, you’re not rotten. You’re just… living.”
The film starts with high-schooler Maddy — a stern Caitlin Stasey — who, at first blush, feels a bit like Veronica Mars. She films herself talking about how she’s going to infiltrate the world of American football and cheerleading at her school, and undermine it. She does, she gets into the cheer squad, attends a party and gives the Tracy The Captain — a very blonde Blake Lively-ish Brooke Butler — the fingerblast of her life, while also telling off Brooke’s cheating ex for reasons later explained. Matters escalate, and four members of the cheer squad try to drive off to escape masculine insecurity and violence. Unfortunately, their car suffers an accident and all four of them die.
“How do I look?”
Fortunately, Lanna, who has been pining over Maddy for some time — I’ll note that this film is extremely sapphic — is prone to being witchy and she manages to bring them back to life via a handful of gems. Kinda. Two of the squad members were sisters, and they end up body swapped. Also, now they can only feed on blood and, oh, everyone is emotionally and physiologically tethered to each other.
“Leena’s a witch.”
“That’s not nice Maddy. You shouldn’t call people names.”
“No, she’s right. I am a witch.”
What results is what can only be described as unbridled hedonism due to their imbued power. There’s a lot of lust and murder. Again, matters escalate, and as others discover exactly how they survived their car crash, there’s the inevitable pursuit.
“Uh, what did he do to you?”
If I had remembered the final act, I certainly wouldn’t have rewatched this, but I did mean to write about it the first time I watched it as its cadence and sense of humor and twisted set-pieces are so fulfilling. Of note: cross-cutting between a death and an orgasm across all of the squad that is expertly and comically handled.
“Uh, what the fuck is going on?”
“Somebody got fucked, somebody got killed and I’m going to P.E.”
ALL CHEERLEADERS DIE fully recognizes the youthful feeling of invincibility but also of vulnerability and being pursued and power dynamics. Of all of McKee’s work, it feels far more succinct and the most impactful, and it’s a shame that it’s overlooked.
To those in the goth community, Elvira — a.k.a. Cassandra Petersen — is a living legend as a not just a TV horror film host, but also as a singular personality. (Unfortunately, her predecessor Maila Nurmi was not a fan.) A lot of folks believe being goth is all doom and gloom and feeling sad for themselves and the world and, while that’s part of the subculture, there’s a lot of whimsy and a fuckton of self-awareness and comfort with one’s body and sexuality.
In other words: Elvira knows who she is, what she wants, she doesn’t feel the need to filter herself and, as a result, she’s completely content with being brazen and someone who unapologetically revels in the darker facets of humanity, while also leaning into her love for vaudeville humor.
“Oh, fragility. Thy name is woman.”
While you might think that ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS is a sequel to her cult film ELVIRA: MISTRESS OF THE DARK, it most certainly is not. It takes place in 1851 and riffs on a lot of traditional gothic works — there’s a lot of DRACULA here — but more than anything it’s a love letter to Roger Corman’s very loosely adapted films based on Edgar Allen Poe stories.
“That’s really weird. Cross-dressers are usually great dancers.”
(I’ll note that Lord Vladimere Hellsubus is portrayed by the one and only Richard O’Brien, best known for THE ROCKY HORROR PICTURE SHOW’s Riff Raff.)
During the sixties, Corman warped a number of Poe works into films, including his version of THE FALL OF THE HOUSE OF USHER, THE RAVEN, and THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM, all of which ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS riffs on, even down to mimicking the production design of Corman’s THE PIT AND THE PENDULUM.
While ELVIRA’S HAUNTED HILLS leans quite a bit on Corman’s works, it’s still singularly hers. It’s brazenly cartoonish, and she’s certainly the star. From her making the most of her cleavage to also being the smartest and funniest person in the room, she’s also not even close to shy. This is best exemplified by her repeated attempts to woo Adrian, Gabi Andronache recreating a vapid Fabio, all shoulder-length brunette curls and buff chest.
“Adrian! You came too late! …again.”
Additionally, she gets her own CABARET-esque musical number which ends with her brandishing underwear that literally begs for applause.
Even if you aren’t part of the goth community, this is one hell of a lark, one that is very self-aware and doesn’t take itself seriously but is also very smart and knowing. I do wish she’d been able to turn out yearly films because she’s so fun and charismatic while also being an absolute misfit and we need more of that in the world. However, I’m thankful we can watch the few films that she willed into the world.
It’s hard to imagine now, but back in the day Roseanne Barr was considered a progressive blue-collar feminist, first through her brusque stand-up, then with her heralded sitcom ROSEANNE (who had now-disgraced self-proclaimed feminist Joss Whedon in the writer’s room).
Despite being a pre-teen, I absolutely loved ROSEANNE. Barr encapsulated the type of outspoken, driven woman that reminded me of my own mother, who willfully worked whichever job she could get because she wanted to give back and keep her hands busy. She was restless and smart and witty and the Barr in ROSEANNE mirrored that same sort of mentality and cultural ethic.
So, it wasn’t terribly surprising that she was cast as Ruth, the unruly protagonist of the film adaptation of THE LIFE AND LOVES OF A SHE-DEVIL. It was not hard to imagine Barr inhabiting the role of a scorned woman, a woman who undermines positions of authority with the intent to shoehorn her way into a patriarchal society because, well, she did all of that.
However, there’s one major flaw with this adaptation, and that is: Barr is not tall.
As noted in my prior write-up, Ruth’s height is the predominant facet to her being an unwelcome woman in society. To the extent that she goes through major elective surgery to change from being 6’ 2” to around 5’ 8”, which takes the work from being a piece about a scorned and envious woman to outright body horror due to what she is willing to endure to mould herself.
At this point in time in Barr’s career, she was very well-known for being short and stout. The stout fits the Ruth character. Short? No, not at all.
I’m getting ahead of myself, especially if you haven’t read my prior write-up about the source material.
SHE-DEVIL comes across as a simple vengeance tale: Ruth, a plain woman, discovers that her accountant husband — and parent to her son and daughter — is cheating on her with Anne, his romance author client. Ruth decides to burn her life, and their lives, to the very ground.
For the most part, SHE-DEVIL is yet another film that: if you watch it before consuming the source material, it comes across as brilliant. Yes, it casts aside the most extreme acts of the novel, but otherwise its fidelity to Weldon’s book is quite astounding. They could have just lifted the concept — scorned, vengeful woman wrecking the lives of those she feels have wronged her — and ran with it, but instead they recreate most of the non-body horror scenes, almost word-for-word, and it plays! It works!
Part of that is simply because of the cast. I previously harped on Roseanne Barr’s involvement, but motherfucking Meryl Streep plays Anne, the romance author, during Streep’s astounding run of playing absolutely independent but also unwelcome women. Ed Begley Jr. is Bob, Ruth’s accountant husband and, while on paper you wouldn’t think that Begley Jr. could pull off being a philandering, sexy debonair — he usually just plays a mostly innocuous schmuck — it actually works here. A lot of it has to do with his robust and glorious hair styling, but he also conveys a charismatic and alluring type of sleaze.
I honestly didn’t know he had it in him.
Cinematically, it’s rather straight-forward and not handled with much grace, but the main attraction here is the script — mostly cribbed from the novel — and the performances. If nothing else, it feels like it was greenlit to capitalize on the sensation of recent accessible-but-camp films, such as John Waters’ HAIRSPRAY, films that portray women taking charge of their lives through any means possible, but in a darkly comic way.
That means circling back to what isn’t in the film: the body horror. A keen eye will notice that Barr’s Ruth does take advantage of some physical alterations, but nothing so severe as in the novel. Essentially, all of that is dropped, which severely neuters the work.
However, even without that facet, it’s still a powerful feminist film. If you don’t believe me, believe the illustrious and erudite Criterion Channel, which routinely plays it. It is a smart film, however, if you know what it could have been, you might be slightly disappointed.
In the late 90s, there were two contemporary films I absolutely would not shut up about: Joe Dante’s SMALL SOLDIERS (1998, and there is video footage out there somewhere of me drunkenly ranting about how it should have had at least one Oscar nomination) and John McNaughton’s WILD THINGS (also released in 1998, and I would repeatedly tell people: it’s not the soft-core porn you think it is).
WILD THINGS means different things to different people. Most folks only remember it for the threesome scenes between a never-better Denise Richards, Neve Campbell (always giving it her all), and an amazingly duplicitous Matt Dillon, or they remember Bill Murray’s very sleazy turn as an amoral, neck-braced lawyer, or they remember it because out-of-nowhere, there’s Kevin Bacon’s cock and there’s definitely a romantic subtext to his character and Dillon’s (which, honestly, is basically text — initially that was written in the script).
However, I remember it because it’s a goddamn sun-soaked gonzo neo-noir that is so bat-shit-crazy that the film felt the need to explain itself in the end credits. That’s the memory I took with me when I went to rewatch it at the Music Box Theatre (absolutely killing it this month), with McNaughton in-attendance for a post-film interview with Dmitry Samarov (whose brilliant self-reflective work HACK you should definitely seek out).
Also, both McNaughton and Samarov just happened to be sitting behind me and watched the entire film — not a brag, just a dumb coincidence, as that sort of positioning makes me super-anxious, like when I ended up seated next to Karina Longsworth for her YOU MUST REMEMBER THIS Chicago wintertime screening of OUTRAGE.
I’ll note that: if you’ve been to enough of these sort of ‘director interview’ screenings, it’s rare that the folks involved sit through the entire film. They usually dart off for dinner or drinks and arrive just as the credits roll. I don’t blame them! I’m just shocked when they opt to endure it!
WILD THINGS holds up with aplomb, and also takes on a severely different context today than it did before, while also being a timeless tale. At first it feels very #MeToo, and then it takes a turn, then another turn, then another turn, then it twists, and then again and it will leave you breathless. It is not the film you expect it to be; it’s quintessential noir to its goddamn bones.
In other words: it’s all about sex, power play, and beguilement. Nothing more noir than that, and it all takes place in the humid air of Miami, one of the least noir locations you can think of.
Seeing it in 35mm — McNaughton’s personal print, I’ll add — only made it better. Like most, I first saw it on a well-worn VHS tape from a local rental store as opposed to projected in a theater. It’s that sort of trash — which McNaughton extolls and he specifically told us that that was the intent of the film — but it’s a beautiful alchemy of trash.
While everyone on board knew how brazenly ridiculous the script was, they treated it dead-seriously, and it’s all there on the screen, from the script punch-ups that really give life to the characters, the lush settings, the convoluted narrative, as well as the breezy score, it is trashy perfection.
Stay for the credits, as it’s hand-down, one of the most memorable end-credits sequence ever shot. Marvel could learn a lot from WILD THINGS.
While there are a number of straight-to-video sequels, I have not seen any of them and cannot vouch for them (at this time).
I was lucky enough to pick McNaughton’s brain a bit after the screening, particularly about one scene on a boat that I felt riffed on Patricia Highsmith’s THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (as well as the two best-known film adaptations: THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY (1999) — of course — but also the French adaptation of that Ripley novel: PLEIN SOLEIL).
McNaughton told me: “I love Highsmith, but no, that was never part of it.” So now you know!
This was not a great year for prestige films or flyboy-less blockbusters, but it was a fantastic year for small-scale genre films. Granted, I have missed out on a lot of films — I have yet to see ARMAGEDDON TIME or EO or WOMEN TALKING or a bunch of others as there’s never enough time — but below are my current favorites of 2022.
Brilliantly nuanced work about youth and child rearing. One of the most intriguing body horror films since Cronenberg’s THE FLY.
EVERYTHING EVERYWHERE ALL AT ONCE
“[An] absolutely outrageous film; it’s mind-bogglingly high-concept, often amusingly puerile, always inventive, but also remarkably emotionally grounded.”
MARCEL THE SHELL WITH SHOES ON
“This is a quiet film, both in tone and in scope, but it confidently speaks volumes. It’s a work about ennui and minor victories and emotional stumbles while also being about longing for an accepting crowd. It’s a melancholy, complicated film told simply, one that’s destined for cult status, simply because it defies tonal categorization or, perhaps, because it’s so cute, so initially innocuous, while ultimately being a measured existential tale, one so immaculately put together in a way that will almost certainly have you smiling through tears.”
High-concept filmmaking with the heart of Cahiers du Cinéma; an audacious look at Hollywood’s role in representing history and people.
The film that made me ask myself: “Why the fuck do I put myself through this?” A brazen and tautly constructed spiral of trauma.
WE’RE ALL GOING TO THE WORLD’S FAIR
“A meditation on finding one’s identity and transformation [and] how people reach out through technology when there’s no other way. It’s a heartfelt, singular work.”
Cronenberg returns to body horror in a big way, letting Kristen Stewart do whatever she wants, indulging Viggo Mortensen in breath work, all while showcasing Tarkovsky-esque backdrops.
If life is fair — and we all know it is not — this film will become a cult-classic, at least as long as long as it’s available to stream. It starts off as a private high-school STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and then becomes something completely different, all backed by an astounding 90s soundtrack. Shades of a modern JAWBREAKER from the creators of SWEET/VICIOUS.
MRS. HARRIS GOES TO PARIS
Extraordinarily winsome character drama that puts the delights and desires of the best features of attire forward.
A surprising “paean to 50s Technicolor melodramas” from one of the most humanist genre filmmakers working right now.