stvs.tv/movie-diary/

2021

Movies are listed in watch order

Dawson City: Frozen Time 2017

City of Gold 1957

This short doc was mentioned in Dawson City: Frozen Time. It was nice to see more time dedicated to Hegg’s photos.

鐵漢柔情 The Young Dragons (1975)

獨臂刀 The One-Armed Swordsman (1967)

Passenger 57 1992

L'Année dernière à Marienbad Last Year at Marienbad (1961)

女子跆拳群英會 The Dragon Tamers (1975)

Watched with pretty janky subtitles. Rarely incomprehensible, one could always feels the texture of Mandarin grammar beneath the English words. When so much of modern media is made easy to access, there was something nostalgic and exhilirating about watching something endearingly bootlegged.

Barbarella 1968

合氣道 Hapkido (1972)

Streetwise 1984

モリのいる場所 Mori, The Artist's Habitat (2018)

The Chicken 2020

ハッシュ! Hush! (2001)

There’s a scene where a character ignores, and then gently apologizes to his partner for not listening. I can’t easily recall a film that displays the routine frictions between partners like this. It lends a genuine foundation to their relationship that so many on-screen romances lack.

Mamma Mia! 2008

たそがれ清兵衛 The Twilight Samurai (2002)

ジョゼと虎と魚たち Josee, the Tiger and the Fish (2003)

バーバー吉野 Yoshino's Barber Shop (2004)

アカルイミライ Bright Future (2003)

Cinderella 1997

ゆれる Sway (2006)

さくらん Sakuran (2006)

エッシャー通りの赤いポスト Red Post on Escher Street (2020)

It was nice returning to Sono’s work after a year long break.

While this is getting a lot of comparisons to Why Don’t You Play in Hell?, I think the more interesting comparison is to Bad Film. In 2012, when it was finally released, it already represented the same gesture to a past film-making life that the character Kobayashi is seeking. The final minutes of this, too, echo the activities of Tokyo GAGAGA, the anarchist art collective Sono belonged to who served as Bad Film’s cast.

告白 Confessions (2010)

百万円と苦虫女 One Million Yen Girl (2008)

空気人形 Air Doll (2009)

Ghost Dog: The Way of the Samurai 1999

My father and I watched this a long while ago, closer to its release. Rewatched again with my father, partly in celebration of my parents getting their COVID vaccine.

2つ目の窓 Still the Water (2014)

鈴木家の嘘 Lying to Mom (2018)

帝女花 Princess Chang-Ping (1976)

The Lost Okoroshi 2019

I missed this at TIFF in 2019, so was glad to see Netflix had picked it up.

Riot in Cell Block 11 1954

Riot in Cell Block 11 1954

Rewatched with commentary by Matthew H. Bernstein

La nuit des rois Night of the Kings (2021)

조용한 가족 The Quiet Family (1998)

친절한 금자씨 Sympathy for Lady Vengeance (2005)

少林門 Hand of Death (1976)

반칙왕 The Foul King (2000)

報仇 Vengeance! (1970)

This isn’t a martial arts movie, it’s a stabbing movie. The fight scenes are scrappy and scummy in a way that feels at least a decade ahead of its time, if not more.

阮玲玉 Center Stage (1991)

Music Palace 2005

Galaxy Quest 1999

Never Surrender: A Galaxy Quest Documentary 2019

獨臂刀王 Return of the One-Armed Swordsman (1969)

馬永貞 The Boxer from Shantung (1972)

National Treasure 2004

Old Joy 2007

Der fliegende Koffer The Flying Koffer (1921)

Bamboozled 2000

The pre-credits montage is one of the most affecting few minutes of a film I’ve seen. Even without the preceding two hours, it’s a hell of an indictment of (then) 100 years of film history. With it, it’s also an empathetic remembrance of the black performers and talents featured in it.

I’d rather play a maid […] than be a maid
— Hattie McDaniel

Bamboozled 2000

Rewatched with commentary by Spike Lee

Miss Fisher and the Crypt of Tears 2020

豪俠 Last Hurrah for Chivalry (1979)

Shutter Island 2010

空山靈雨 Raining in the Mountain (1979)

Wendy and Lucy 2008

来访 Visit (2020)

錢作怪 From Riches to Rags (1980)

Has exactly two good jokes in it, and they’re subtle enough that they might not have even been intentional.

Space Is the Place 1974

重慶森林 Chungking Express (1994)

2008 Criterion version

Salt of the Earth 1954

重慶森林 Chungking Express (1994)

Rewatched with commentary by Tony Rayns, which I don’t recommend

Sound of Metal 2020

Rewatched for a film club

Sergeant Rutledge 1960

摩登天師 To Hell with the Devil (1982)

This Is Not a Burial, It’s a Resurrection 2019

Minari 2020

Rush Hour 1998

Curve 2016

575 Castro St. 2009

八彩林亞珍 Plain Jane to the Rescue (1982)

The slapstick stuff doesn’t do much for me, but there’s a comedy of desperation throughout that’s biting and quite good. The tunnel scene alone, of people recognizing their power having stopped the machine of the city, and extracting mahjongg/pop concerts/free tunnel tolls for life is a particularly fun power fantasy to see on screen.

The Wild Bunch 1969

Rewatched for the first time as an adult; this time through the lens of John Woo.

Was disappointed with the handling of codes and principles. There’s clearly tension around duty, obligation, and betrayal, but the main characters have a non-self-aware inconsistency in their application of those principles that it’s hard to take the transformation at the end seriously.

The editing in the action sequences is stunning, rapidly stiching together multiple parallel sequences of simultaneous action. Best exemplified by the onset and conclusion of multiple gun fights in the time it takes a body to fall from a roof.

Girls on Film 2006

To the Happy Few 2003

Releasing Human Energies 2012

Mary Jane's Not a Virgin Anymore 1998

In Nomine Patris 2019

The Thing 1982

菊とギロチン The Chrysanthemum and the Guillotine (2018)

Meek's Cutoff 2010

Death Proof 2007

April 2020 Paris 2020

海上浮城 Dead Pigs (2018)

英雄無淚 Heroes Shed No Tears (1986)

The Story of a Three-Day Pass 1968

I hadn’t been to a theater in 14 months. Exiting the Roxie was such a time warp that I was halfway home before I realized I was walking to the apartment I’d moved out of a year ago.

As for the movie, it was exciting seeing the likely inspiration for Spike Lee’s double dolly shot.

Blood Simple 1984

The Last Angel of History 1996

三枪拍案惊奇 A Woman, a Gun and a Noodle Shop (2009)

A reimagining of Blood Simple.

The closing shot captures my problems with this. Adherence to individual shots and scenes, but deviating in so much of the connective tissue that it’s lost all thematic coherence.

リンダ リンダ リンダ Linda Linda Linda (2005)

극장전 Tale of Cinema (2005)

Fairy Tales 2015

英雄本色 A Better Tomorrow (1986)

A startling stylistic leap from Heroes Shed No Tears. I expected to see a more gradual discovery of style.

Dawn of the Dead 1978

Watched for a horror film club. “Complete” cut.

I’d heard a fair amount about the critique of consumerism in the film, but that didn’t really land. Instead, especially after the intervening 40+ years of disaster and post-apocalyptic media, I saw a lot in here about the seductive narrative of the apocalypse. The group is never really happier than when they’re striving for their basic needs. Never unhappier than when those needs are met and the hard work of living resumes.

News from Home 1977

Watched on what would have been Akerman’s 71st birthday. I’d read so much about it in reference to Jenni Olson’s work, but found it significantly different, especially in the portrayal of motion. Basically every shot in the subway was breathtaking.

Soul 2020

Watched for a film club

The Fall 2019

The Crazies 1973

I ran from it and was still in it 2021

ゆきゆきて、神軍 The Emperor's Naked Army Marches On (1987)

No Maps on My Taps 1979

野火 Fires on the Plain (1959)

皇家師姐 Yes, Madam! (1985)

野火 Fires on the Plain (2014)

Interesting in its contrast to the 1959 version. The more subjective camera here ends up lessening the impact of a number of significant moments, such as the strafing scene.

Tony Rayns described the 1959 version as free of ideology, which is nonsense. Rather, it used an objective, austere, clean image to precisely depict the debasement of humanity in war. This version loses that with its change in visual language.

Censor 2021

Perfect Fifths 2020

英雄本色2 A Better Tomorrow II (1987)

The Doom Generation 1995

Watched in 35mm from someone’s personal collection. Shown at the Balboa Theater.

Subject to Review 2019

Ping-Pong 1974

Mr. Yellow Sweatshirt 2017

Mating Games 2017

Multiple Maniacs 1970

Independence Day 1996

Lake Mungo 2009

The first movie that scared me in years.

The cinematographer shared some fun details about the film.

Lick the Star 1998

Preshow short before The Virgin Suicides.

The Virgin Suicides 1999

音楽 On-Gaku: Our Sound (2020)

Rewatched in theaters to better spend some time with it as pure showcase of animation. Glad I saw The Tale of Princess Kaguya first, since the running away scene might have hit a little less hard if I’d seen the same kind of technique (used less powerfully) here.

The Ox-Bow Incident 1943

五毒 The Five Venoms (1978)

この空の花 長岡花火物語 Casting Blossoms to the Sky (2012)

Obayashi’s didactic approach works well for me, as does his situating of the fiction as a thread through multiple specific moments of history. The blurring of those boundaries, as when an actress’s photo is placed inside a real war memorial, can be discomforting in moments, but I have enough faith in Obayashi’s compassion for these people’s stories to tell them faithfully.

The video quality of the Japan Society stream tanked when trying to compress the play scenes, reminding me of what we’ve lost with today’s streaming technology.

Les Sorcières de l’Orient The Witches of the Orient (2021)

魔女の宅急便 Kiki's Delivery Service (1989)

喋血雙雄 The Killer (1989)

It's Such a Beautiful Day 2012

Didn’t finish. I tried three times, but I couldn’t get through it. Whatever poignancy exists at the end, which I’ve read plenty about, couldn’t motivate me enough to plod through the early-2000s-internet-esque mean spirited & non sequitur laden humor that’s layered on top of everything.

Frogs 1972

Les Diaboliques Diabolique (1955)

Watched as part of a horror film club

TOKYO! Tokyo! (2008)

Could have done without Carax’s segment. Rewatched Gondry’s segment multiple times because it was that good.

あたしがあたしの好きな事をやって自分の存在を定義できるじゃないの?

I actually loved Hiroko’s stance on ambition vs hobby, and the ending reads as a different kind of tragedy to me than what was intended.

Kamome 2020

野のなななのか Seven Weeks (2014)

夜は短し歩けよ乙女 Night Is Short, Walk On Girl (2017)

Rewatched as part of a film club.

Kind of fortuitous to watch it so soon after Seven Weeks, given both films’ fixation on the manifestation of connections betwen people, and the power of personal histories embedded in used books.

Lu tempu di li pisci spata The Age of Swordfish (1955)

花筐 Hanagatami (2017)

The Green Knight 2021

CatCam 2012

Hella Trees 2020

Friday the 13th 1980

Watched as part of a horror film club

龍虎風雲 City on Fire (1987)

Old 2021

Unfriended 2015

Watched as a companion to Jordan Schonig’s lectures on new media theory.

Freshman year of high school, a friend showed me a video he’d downloaded of a man being beheaded. The audio was distorted. The visuals small and muddy. I wouldn’t say I saw anything, but that was certainly a human’s last moments.

Gore captured in that degraded digital aesthetic will probably always register as real to me.

義膽群英 Just Heroes (1989)

Having characters in your film talk about being fans of the movie you made 3 years ago is a bold move.

June 4, 2020 2021

いとみち Ito (2021)

全員切腹 Go Seppuku Yourselves (2021)

Perpetual Spawning 2018

ヒルコ/妖怪ハンター Hiruko the Goblin (1991)

The action felt stuck in the past perfect. A tool had been invented. A discovery had been made. A child had been killed. We rarely witness events, instead just seeing their consequences. Presumably there’s something interesting happening just off screen.

夢みるように眠りたい To Sleep So as to Dream (1986)

School Radio to Major Tom 2021

二重のまち/交代地のうたを編む Double Layered Town / Making a Song to Replace Our Positions (2021)

I was first introduced to Rikuzentakata in Kamome when NBC aired it during the Olympics. While that story had a great hook, hearing directly from the survivors in this felt far more pressing.

Relatedly, the documentary explores the limits of telling a story on behalf of another, and the way that our retellings (or our recollections) of stories are malleable. The intertwined fiction gestures towards the idea that fiction can accurately convey the emotional truth of a story in a way that conveying a comprehensive factual truth might be infeasible.

サマーフィルムにのって It's a Summer Film! (2021)

Reflective Notes (Reconfiguration) 2021

Manhatta 1921

An idea I’ve been thinking about for a while is the notion that while we may think of places “in the wide”, our experience of them, by virtue of scale, is wholly dominated by details, and the best avenue for evoking a location is not in a wide shot that captures, say, the whole skyline, but by an assemblage of specific views that in sum capture that place’s essence (potentially without even containing its landmarks).

All that to say, this resonated in a similar way as The Joy of Life.

Candyman 2021

Works best as a story of an artist summoning a spirit to enact vengeance upon a vicious art world. It never actually tells that story, but one can squint and see it for a brief moment.

ZONA 2021

彼女来来 Mari and Mari (2021)

Thief 1981

Saw it on 35mm. Thought throughout: “this is really blue”. Got home and stumbled upon the hubbub around restoration broadly and the allegedly revisionist coloring of the latest release. I guess they’re wrong?

ロビンソンの庭 Robinson's Garden (1987)

Beyond the Valley of the Dolls 1970

スパイの妻 Wife of a Spy (2020)

ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:破 Evangelion: 2.0 You Can (Not) Advance (2009)

There’s an noteworthy transmedia trick going on here. This movie is quite light on characterization, possibly due to the assumption that the TV show has already done the work of defining the characters, and the Rebuild movies can just focus on what’s distinct. Similar to the way Marvel movies can avoid introducing characters/stories because the viewer is assumed to already know, or to imbue it with prestige for dedicated fans who seek it out.

ヱヴァンゲリヲン新劇場版:Q Evangelion: 3.0 You Can (Not) Redo (2012)

シン・エヴァンゲリオン劇場版:|| Evangelion: 3.0+1.0 Thrice Upon a Time (2021)

On a literal narrative level, this whole series is Kabbalistic word salad and is not really deserving of deep inspection. Where the series is special is its revisions, and how the differences between them help triangulate Anno’s mental and emotional state during their creation. It gives us the opportunity to hold some things constant, to permit a glance into his heart in a way lots of singular pieces of art can’t.

The Card Counter 2021

Blue Velvet 1986

Blue Collar 1978

1968 < 2018 > 2068 2018

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings 2021

Black Panther had years of revision and redefinition to elevate it out of “a white fantasy of blackness”. Shang-chi as a character is much earlier in that journey out of yellow peril exploitation.

喋血街頭 Bullet in the Head (1990)

T 2019

T 2019

So good I had to watch it a second time. I sometimes get discouraged after watching several middling shorts, wondering if I’ll find something as good as my favorite feature length works. This is does that.

花樣年華 In the Mood for Love (2000)

Watched the 2012 Criterion version

花樣的年華 Years Like Flowers (2001)

@In the Mood for Love 2001

How do I watch this movie of Tony and Maggie cooking and dancing?

Raúl Juliá: The World’s a Stage 2019

縱橫四海 Once a Thief (1991)

Woo is haunted by A Better Tomorrow’s Mark. Revived, then referred to as a known fictional character, and now found rolling across a kitchen on a skateboard. Mark is too fun of a character to not see his echoes everywhere.

Never Rarely Sometimes Always 2020

Watched as part of a film club

Drop Dead Gorgeous 1999

Buyer Walker Rover (Yiwu) Aka. There then 2019

重慶森林 Chungking Express (1994)

Watched the 2021 restoration (with the weird credits) in theater.

All I wanted was to hear California Dreamin’ played at too loud a volume. Too bad it was balanced to be reasonable.

2046 2004

If possible, I pick images for this diary that’re evocative of the movie as a whole. Here, I just really liked the juxtaposition with the Chungking Express frame below, and how it emphasizes the doubling inherent to 2046’s characters.

牛皮 Oxhide (2005)

The Bingo Long Traveling All-Stars & Motor Kings 1976

Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) 2020

Skyfall 2012

Watched this on a plane without sound (lost my headphones) and without closed captioning (the option didn’t work). I’d seen it before, so wasn’t worried about not following the plot. As a purely visual spectacle, it was great, and it’s impressive how rarely the film dips into bland shot reverse shot. There’s almost always something of visual interest happening.

辣手神探 Hard Boiled (1992)

The last Hong Kong film of Woo’s. The tracking shot through two floors’ of hallways is perhaps his best action scene so far. It smartly deemphasizes a key moment of friendly fire in the middle, a casualty of the fog of war.

Mystic Pizza 1988

Will 2012

Hard Target 1993

Thematically barren. Not unrelatedly, Woo didn’t write this (nor any of his other US or Canadian films). Late in the film, Henriksen lampshades and asks Van Damme why he meddled since this wasn’t his problem. Good question.

バトル・ロワイアル Battle Royale (2000)

Inspired by having watched a few episodes of Squid Game.

Forbidden City, U.S.A. 1989

Throughout the pandemic I’d been interested in borrowing from the library the book of the same name by Arthur Dong, but the one copy available was a reference copy only. Glad this popped up on Criterion Channel. There was also some serendipity of this becoming available at the same time as the first volume of The Good Asian, which references the club.

Possession 1981

Watched the 2021 4K restoration.

Upsetting and alienating. I didn’t recognize among the principal characters anything that resembled understandable behavior or motivations, in a way that remained enthralling rather than frustrating.

返校 Detention (2019)

Dune 2021

Sewing Woman 1982

Top Spin 2014

The Spy Who Came in from the Cold 1965

Hooligan Sparrow 2016

No Time to Die 2021

Host 2020

Watched as part of the Halloween edition of horror film club

The Fall 2019

Watched as part of the Halloween edition of horror film club

Lake Mungo 2009

Watched as part of the Halloween edition of horror film club

The Rocky Horror Picture Show 1975

Broken Arrow 1996

Devil in a Blue Dress 1995

Daddy and the Muscle Academy 1991

Deserved a far more critical assessment. Isaac Julien’s contribution on the fetishization of black men shouldn’t have been so clearly abridged, and someone really should have said something about the Nazi stuff.

Us 2019

Watched as part of a film club.

Expected to enjoy it more on my second go, when I didn’t have to spend so much time/energy trying to unravel the mystery. Wrong. Without the mystery, everything after the appearance at the house is weak. The scenes before, of a traumatized Adelaide returning the to site of said trauma, is incredible, and I wish that anticipation had been held for more than about 20 minutes.

Caprice 1986

Once a Thief 1996

Not nearly as bad as I expected. That might’ve been because I was less watching the movie, and more watching the space between this and the original. There are some interesting choices (making one of the “siblings” the villain) and some curious (not getting rid of the semi-incestuous romance).

I bought this for $5 since it’s not easy to track down otherwise. It has the saddest bootleg-looking DVD menu I’ve ever seen.

食神 The God of Cookery (1996)

Watched in Cantonese with Chinese subtitles. I understood a bit of dialogue, I could read a little bit more, but mostly I just relied on already knowing the dialogue.

Ford v Ferrari 2019

Confusing morals. Perhaps best captured by Shelby’s “they’ll find new ways to screw you because you’re different”? But is that all there is? Both titular entities are ultimately villains. But one holds our heroes hostage so we cheer for them, I guess.

Ready or Not 2019

I was excited to see how this depicted violent reactions to status threat, but via a certain reveal at the end, the family’s terrible ritual was shown to be totally rational, deflating much of the critique. That choice also meant the absence of a cathartic triumph.

Face/Off 1997

Titane 2021

The Taking of Pelham One Two Three 1974

I thought this was a thriller but it’s actually a comedy about a bunch of shitty New Yorkers just trying to run a railroad.

Blackjack 1998

Time and Tide 2000

Full of ellipses. Produces a wonderful rhythm.

The Decline of Western Civilization 1981

Having been involved in Norcal punk/hardcore from the mid-00’s, where stories of what it took to beat up and expel honest-to-god Nazis were still in the air, it was startling the see the volume of swastikas here. And fuck Fear.

Tea and Sympathy 1956

Point Blank 1967

薔薇の葬列 Funeral Parade of Roses (1969)

Mission: Impossible 1996

Santa Barbara 2020

Mission: Impossible II 2000

Continuing a pattern in Woo’s Hollywood work, the action lives separate from the narrative. It’s only spectacle, filled with the iconography of Woo’s Hong Kong work but little else. A more integrated climactic fight might have spoke to Ambrose as a poor, more impulsive, substitute for Hunt. But instead it’s Hunt who ultimately “gets his gun off” to defeat him. Some nice Bruce Lee homage before that, though.

Cruise does seem to be the best suited actor for Woo that I’ve seen in this stretch.

Hostage 2002

The whole BMW short series helpfully juxtaposes Woo against contemporary Hollywood filmmakers. This period marks a transition from Intensified Continuity to Chaos Cinema, and Woo’s style is much more continuous and readable. Hostage shares a release year with The Bourne Identity, which is the poster child of this new style.

Ticker 2002

Beat the Devil 2002

Windtalkers 2002

萌の朱雀 Suzaku (1997)

Paycheck 2003

Contrary to what I wrote about Hostage, there is actually a dash of Chaos Cinema in here. But for that, and several other reasons, it never ends up feeling like a Woo film.

ドライブ・マイ・カー Drive My Car (2021)

I am a sucker for narratives within narratives, and the role that Uncle Vanya plays in being a space for the characters to work through their issues is magical. Lines and scenes repeated through the film take on new flavor as the circumstances of their performance changes.

赤壁 Red Cliff (2008)

Watched as one 5 hour movie.

Thematically right in Woo’s wheelhouse, and it feels good to return to steady ground. The “romance” between Zhuge and Zhou Yu, temporary allies against a foe lacking in principles ties, it to Woo’s Hong Kong work. Having a passing familiarty with the historical event, and the fictional representations, provides the opportunity to see what Woo is adding: melodrama, and men standing far to close to each others’ faces.

赤壁2:決戰天下 Red Cliff Part II (2009)

Watched as one 5 hour movie.

Jurassic Park 1993

The CGI is wisely often obscured. Behind rain, glass, poor lighting. Keeping us from getting a good view of the dinosaurs helps them blend into our world so much better, and protects this from looking aged.

キュア Cure (1997)

Last and First Men 2020

I’ve long been a fan of the spomeniks. I do wonder if that familiarity, and association with very human pursuits/events, hinders seeing them as otherworldy, in the way this film wants.

This movie also sufferred badly from compression artifacts on the Metrograph stream.

White Echo 2019

G.F.C. 2012

A City of Children 2012

蛇イチゴ Wild Berries (2003)

害虫 Harmful Insect (2001)

Too Much Cendi 2012

Kids 2012

Trey (Interlude) 2012

B.L.B. 2012

The Dreamer 2012

Indigo's Smile (Interlude) 2012

El Train 2012

Heist 2012

千と千尋の神隠し Spirited Away (2001)

偶然と想像 Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy (2021)

永い言い訳 The Long Excuse (2016)

太平轮(上) The Crossing (2014)

The Matrix Resurrections 2021

太平轮(下):彼岸 The Crossing II (2015)

追捕 Manhunt (2017)