January’s movies, reviewed

In the Mood for Love

“In The Mood For Love”

With 33 films in 31 days, January of 2013 has tied with August of 2012 for the most movies I’ve watched in one month. I don’t think that’s a good thing, to be honest, but that’s the way it is.

Some stats: The average release year was 1999, the earliest film was 1933’s “King Kong,” which I can finally strike off my Top 5 Films I haven’t seen. Of the 39 directors, only one was female (Brenda Chapman, co-director of “Brave“).

28 (84%) films were in English. The average length was 105 minutes, running times went from 39 minutes (“Seven Up!“) to 180 minutes (“49 Up“). The most prevalent genres were drama (16), comedy (11) and documentary (10).

The vast majority of the films were new to me, only five I had seen before, and of those, two were audio commentary viewings. I streamed (legally, mind you) 20, most of them on Netflix. Only two trips to the cinema, but at least both were Best Picture nominees. 14 more films were projected, as well, but at home.

I won’t list everything I saw here – you can always see that on Letterboxd – but here are a few that I especially enjoyed:

Star Wars Revisited” (2008). After hearing about the documentary “The People vs. George Lucas” on one of the audio commentaries for “The Simpsons” season 15 and checking it out, I remembered that I had downloaded this fanedit of the first “Star Wars” movie a while back. I had never seen the film on the big screen, so I was in for a treat anyway, but to fully grasp just how much hard work and dedication went into this I turned on the subtitle track explaining and pointing out (almost) every little change, all the improvements and painstakingly restored elements that make this, as far as I’m concerned, the definitive version of “Star Wars.”

In The Mood For Love” (Kar Wai Wong, 2000). I was very impressed by “Days of Being Wild,” which I had seen last year, but this one really blew me away. One of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.

The Fall” (Tarsem Singh, 2006). Is it too soon to use “One of the most beautiful things I have ever experienced.” again? I know, I know, I’m easily moved by things, but, well, that’s how I am. I’m not going to apologize for loving things. When it comes to screen sizes I’ve always said bigger is better, but I can’t remember any recent film that is so clearly, without compromise, meant to be watched on a huge screen. (Also: Lee Pace!)

Apocalypse Now” (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979). I had avoided this 153 minute war drama for years, but in the end it was the fact that the movie was expiring from Netflix on February 1st that finally got me to sit down and watch it. And I’m so glad I did! The length and subject matter didn’t bother me at all, instead I was mesmerized by the film, constantly wondering “How on earth did they do that?

Other new and old favorites watched last month: “The Visitor,” “Punch-Drunk Love,” “Amour,” “Django Unchained,” “Primer,” “Planes, Trains & Automobiles,” “Killer Joe,” “Brave,” “Girl Walk // All Day,” “King Kong” and Michael Apted’s “Up” series, of which I watched the first seven (of now eight) installments.

Two indies I liked and want to recommend were Whit Stillman’s (and not Walt Whitman’s…) “Damsels in Distress” and Lee Kirk’s “The Giant Mechanical Man.”

And then there was Nagisa Ôshima’s “In the Realm of the Senses,” which you can watch on Hulu (with commercials), and which helped me through one particularly nasty bout of insomnia, first by watching it, then by reading what Dana Stevens wrote about it on Slate after Ôshima passed away a few weeks ago, as well as the two very interesting essays that are up on the Criterion Collection‘s homepage.

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