Watch it with us: Filmstruck
Fritz Lang’s 1931 proto-thriller M still feels fresh, eighty-plus years after its original release. It’s not exactly a lighthearted romp—one of its major contributions was to introduce the world to the concept of the serial killer, something that we had never seen on film and didn’t even have a name yet. (In fact, the German word for serial killer was coined in an article written about M some thirty years after its release.) Films about serial killers are old hat now, but Lang’s take on them is still uniquely humane and empathetic, rather than lurid and lascivious.
Drink every time an antagonist becomes an ally.
The movie that made me fall in love with this trope is The Fugitive. We’re rooting for Dr. Kimble (Harrison Ford) from the beginning since we know he’s innocent, so Deputy Gerard (Tommy Lee Jones) seems like the obvious villain as soon as he gives his famous speech about searching for Dr. Kimble in every “warehouse, farmhouse, henhouse, outhouse, and doghouse.” But gradually we find ourselves rooting for Deputy Gerard as well, almost against our will. He’s a good man who’s doing a good job of trying to catch Dr. Kimble, and even though we don’t want that to happen, we admire his integrity and savvy. What makes this trope so satisfying is the moment you realize you’re actually supposed to feel this way, that the film has been leading you this direction all along without making it obvious that Gerard is actually a good guy. For me this happens when Gerard and his team start to put the pieces together about the one-armed man–we know him so well by this point that we trust him to do the right thing with this information and bring the right man to justice. Continue reading
Watch it with us: Tubi.tv
Fish Tank is a real punch in the gut, in a good way. I went into the film looking for answers to two questions. First, what did director Andrea Arnold accomplish by casting Katie Jarvis, a teenager with no prior acting experience, as her lead? Second, what’s the significance of the title? I think I found answers to both, but like all great works of art, Fish Tank leaves room for interpretation. It’s not an easy sit, but it’s riveting in the moment and tough to shake afterward.
Watch it with us: Amazon Prime, Tubi.tv
The Agatha Christie novel And Then There Were None was simultaneously one of my best and worst reading experiences of all time. I was thirteen and it was my first murder mystery—I had purchased it through my school’s book order, if I remember right. I settled in to read it before bed and ended up staying awake until 2 a.m. so I could finish it, completely out of my mind with terror. It was such an unnerving experience that I didn’t go near a murder mystery again for a couple of years. The premise is uniquely effective: ten people arrive at a mysterious house on a deserted island, and one by one they begin dying off. Now that it’s been twenty-plus years and I have somewhat recovered my wits since that night in seventh grade, I couldn’t wait to see how René Clair’s adaptation of this pivotal (for me) novel capitalizes on the book’s structure. Continue reading
Watch it with us: Letterboxd
One of the great things about Letterboxd (which I am not shilling for, I just love their site and wish everyone would use it so I would know what all my friends are watching) is its list functionality—users can make lists of movies on any topic. When I logged Always Shine (2016) this morning and saw that it appears on the list “movies where female friendships are the scariest concept on earth,” along with forty other movies, I was surprised more by the frequency with which female friendship is the center of a film than by the fact that it turns toxic so often. There’s something inherently dangerous about women becoming close friends, and filmmakers love to let their imaginations run wild with the myriad ways these friendships can combust. Continue reading
Watch it with us: Filmstruck or iTunes
In addition to my usual indie discoveries, I’m going to start tackling some classics here. Not that they need me to bring attention to them, but when a film endures this long, it’s usually because there’s a lot to talk about. I tried to go see a Harold Lloyd movie at the Film Forum a few years ago but was stymied because, I shit you not, the theater caught on fire about twenty minutes in and had to be evacuated. So Safety Last! was my maiden voyage with Mr. Lloyd, and what a treat it turned out to be. If you’re unfamiliar with his work, this is a perfect place to start. Continue reading