Daniel Craig’s final turn as Bond, James Bond, parachuted into cinemas just in time to make the cut for this monthly overview. But there was a whole month before that, so let’s look back at it.
#160 Boss Level (2021)
#161 The Birth of a Nation (1915)
#162 Daughters of Darkness (1971), aka Les lèvres rouges
#163 Futureworld (1976)
#164 Memory: The Origins of Alien (2019)
#165 La Dolce Vita (1960)
#166 Terje Vigen (1917), aka A Man There Was
#167 David Lynch: The Art Life (2016)
#168 The Current War (2017)
#168a Scenes with Beans (1976), aka Babfilm
#169 The Green Knight (2021)
#170 No Time to Die (2021)
- I watched 12 feature films I’d never seen before in September.
- Not a terrible showing (it’s not the worst month of 2021), but far from spectacular (it’s joint second worst).
- It fell just short of the September average (previously 12.54, now 12.50), and well below the average for 2021 to date (previously 19.75, now 18.89) and the rolling average of the last 12 months (previously 18.7, now 18.0).
- One notable success, however, came in my Blindspot viewing: after missing one in August, I caught up by watching two this month — and two of this year’s longest, at that. They were the 193 minutes of D.W. Griffith’s silent racist epic The Birth of a Nation, and the 175 minutes of Federico Fellini’s depiction of the high life in 1950s Rome, La Dolce Vita. I was no fan of the first Fellini I watched, 8½, but I quite liked this one. The Griffith, however, should be consigned to the bin of history.
- From last month’s “failures” I watched Boss Level and Memory: The Origins of Alien.
The 76th Monthly Arbitrary Awards
Favourite Film of the Month
Lots of enjoyable flicks this month, some unexpectedly so, but perhaps the greatest was David Lowery’s divisive adaptation of The Green Knight. I can see why it turned some people off, but it hit just the right tone for me.
Least Favourite Film of the Month
This is an easy one, because I liked all of the film I watched this month, with one glaring exception: The Birth of a Nation. As I wrote above, D.W. Griffith’s once-acclaimed silent epic is so horrendously racist that it deserves to be forgotten. Actually, there’s a more nuanced discussion to be had there about remembering the misdeeds of the past — it merits viewing on such an academic level — but the old “yeah, it’s racist, but if you ignore that it’s really good” arguments can get in the bin. It does have some decent stuff, but the racism is so awful that it completely overshadows any other merits.
First Film I’ve Seen in the Cinema for 19 Months
After a very long wait, it was finally time to not die of COVID from watching No Time to Die.
Most Surprising Sequel of the Month
I wasn’t the biggest fan of the original Westworld (it’s fine), and the sequel has a rep for being much, much worse. So it was a delightful surprise to me that I really enjoyed Futureworld. Whereas the first film basically hangs out in the park until there’s a bit of robot-on-human violence, Futureworld takes the time to have more of a plot, latching itself to the ’70s vogue for conspiracy thrillers. I reckon it might be worth a reappraisal.
The Audience Award for Most-Viewed
New Post of the Month
I’m not sure how much point there is keeping this particular award going until I get back on my reviewing horse. Highlighting the most viewed overall post of the month worked at first, but (based on history) it’s going to be my 15th TV column most of the time (as it was this month, and last month), with only the occasional other old TV column pipping it to the post.
My Rewatchathon continues to tick along, although another month just off pace means I’m falling ever-further behind where I should be to reach my goal of 50 this year. Who knows how things will pan out, but at this rate I’ll be pleased to make 40.
Bill was 2021’s #1 back in (obviously) January. I liked it first time, but I enjoyed it even more on a rewatch. Quite the other end of the rewatch timeline was Pan’s Labyrinth, long-overdue a revisit because I last watched it 14 years ago. My review (linked above) is a brief 2007-style one… though that’s better than what I post currently, eh? Anyway, some fresh thoughts on Letterboxd.
Spectre was also rather overdue a revisit: it was the only Daniel Craig Bond I’d only seen once, and that was six years ago at the cinema. I was fairly positive about it on Letterboxd, but, I must say, it gets worse the more I reflect on it. Blofeld is horrendously mishandled — underwritten and underused — meaning Waltz is wasted, and I think he knows it, just giving another slight variation of his usual Tarantino performance. It really undermines the entire third act of the film, which is kinda crucial. Still, the film as a whole definitely has some high points.
This month’s big release at the cinema… doesn’t get a mention in this section, because I saw it. Wonders will never cease. Although, as things edge towards normal, there were a couple of other noteworthy titles too, like Disney’s “theatrical only” ‘experiment’ release of Marvel’s latest, Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings, and Sopranos prequel The Many Saints of Newark. I’ve never seen all of the The Sopranos, though I mean to, so it may be a while before I get round to that one…
Perhaps the most-discussed direct-to-streaming release of the month was not a Netflix title, for once, but Amazon’s new version of Cinderella. Unfortunately for them, that was because it looks terrible. And apparently it is terrible. It’s not on my watchlist. They also generated a few column inches with erotic thriller The Voyeurs, but I didn’t see many people talking about Everybody’s Talking About Jamie, though I did pick up that it’s quite good. Meanwhile, on Netflix, the only new title I’ve noted is actioner Kate. I don’t actually know what the reviews have been like — “Mary Elizabeth Winstead leads an action movie” was enough to get it on my list. And talking of female-driven action, Sky Cinema grabbed the UK release of Gunpowder Milkshake.
Among the never-ending parade of old(er) titles coming and going and jumping from one streamer to another, standouts to me included Minari on Sky Cinema, as well as the Russian remake of The Raid, cannily titled Russian Raid. Leaving Sky to popup on Netflix was the new Charlie’s Angels; and, having left Amazon a while back, The Farewell is now on Netflix too. As for Amazon, they now have Chaos Walking (in 4K, too), and also Selma, which I think has been available on every streamer at one time or another (even iPlayer) and I really should get round to. And talking of iPlayer, they had a seemingly-rare chance to watch The Graduate this month, so I should do that too. They also had Whiplash, which I ought to rewatch — I liked it a lot, but don’t really understand why it seems to have become an Instant Classic in the past few years.
Finally… I say “finally”: this is going to take more than half the section. Yes, my bank balance is sobbing once again — as is my shelf space — as new purchases flowed through my letterbox like water. Where to begin? Indicator’s Columbia Noir series reached its fourth iteration, adding six new films to my unwatched noir pile. Similarly, Master of Cinema’s Early Universal range is just getting underway (I hope), with Volume 1 bringing me three silent titles I’d never heard of before. Fun times. Other new releases included an MoC edition of Johnny Guitar; Eureka’s release of Duel to the Death, billed as “one of the greatest swordplay movies of all time”; an Aussie Imprint import for Terrence Malick’s Days of Heaven; and Anime Ltd’s release of the first CG Lupin III film, Lupin III: The First.
My 4K collection also got a considerable boost this month, between brand-new releases like Black Widow (the first Marvel film in yonks I’ve not been able to buy in 3D — boo!); archive releases in fancy box sets, like The Thing and The Servant; semi-random sale pick-ups, like Shadow and Full Metal Jacket; and the kind of titles you might once have never believed you’d see on Blu-ray, never mind 4K, but nowadays all bets are off as indie labels go for the new tech but studios remain wary — by which I specifically mean a bundle I imported from Vinegar Syndrome including The Beastmaster, Daughters of Darkness, and SexWorld — which, if you’ve not heard of it, is a porno riff on Westworld and Futureworld. It sounds surprisingly good. I also bought Eleven Days, Eleven Nights and Robotrix this month, which as a set make my glad Blu-rays don’t come through the post in transparent boxes…
But I’m still not done! I caved to a bunch of gialli and other international semi-oddities in a recent 88 Films sale on HMV, snaffling the likes of The Bloodstained Shadow, Eyeball, Harlequin, Ironmaster, Seven Blood-Stained Orchids, and Watch Me When I Kill. Throw in The Blood Spattered Bride with that VS order, and there’s clearly a lot of the red stuff waiting to spray from my Blu-ray player. Finally, helping round out my classic 3D collection was Dynasty (nothing to do with the TV series), and I completed Richard Lester’s Musketeers trilogy with The Return of the Musketeers.
And that’s not even mentioning the TV Blu-rays I bought.
We’re off to Arrakis. Hopefully it’ll be a return ticket.