2017 has come and it really hasn’t been a very easy ride so far. For me, the month of January could easily be summed up by the image of me curled up in my bed and scrolling through social media, feeling utterly helpless and afraid of what’s to come. I want to be well-informed, as I see it as one of the biggest ways to fight back against this oppressive new government, but I’ve also found that keeping myself aware is often detrimental to my mental health and emotional stability. In a desperate attempt to keep my anxiety levels from falling off the deep end, I’ve been keeping myself very active with writing on this site, as an attempt to bring some sort of positivity into my daily life. Along with the One Random Single a Day posts that I’ve, so far, been successful with keeping up on a daily basis, I also wrote the latest post in my Billboard Hot 100 challenge, covering 1981, as well as another post on my personal 20 Worst Hit Singles of 2016. Films Like Dreams no longer seems like a very suitable name for this site, but I’m still trying to either think of a better name or start putting more efforts into making more film-based posts.
Although I’ve gotten a lot of writing done this past month, there’s still so much more I need to get around to. I still have my 20 Best Hit Singles of 2016, Best Albums of 2016, and Best Films of 2016 posts to get around to; for the latter two, I’m still playing catch-up with releases from the past year, so expect them both sometime around the middle to the end of February. As far as film-watching, though, I decided early on to play the game a little differently this time around. For one thing, I don’t want to feel pressured to watch as many films as possible in a short amount of time, like what I tended to do in previous years. Not only does it cause me to fall into the trap of not being very productive, but I often find myself watching movies for the sake of watching a movie, not necessarily because it’s something I want to watch. By only watching films when the mood calls for it and when I don’t have anything else scheduled, I have more of an opportunity to get more out of what I’m watching, whether I love the film, hate it, or lie somewhere in between. Also, I want to get more in the habit of watching only what I actually desire to watch. I often feel so pressured to watch as many of the canonically “important” films as possible, many of which don’t exactly lie within my personal interests. I pledge in 2017, then, to deviate more toward films that cater to my particular tastes.
Of course, all of this still comes with its own continuous efforts to connect with the film community. Though I am increasingly critical of the political surroundings of the Academy Awards, I still find the concept oh so fascinating and still join in on the race to watch as many Oscar-nominated films as possible before the awards ceremony. Furthermore, I have joined in on the Queer Films Challenge on Letterboxd in an attempt to diversify my viewings, as well as doing yet another female filmmaker challenge for the second year in a row, aiming for 100 films this year instead of 2016’s fifty-two. All of these factors combined have led to January being one of the most satisfying movie-watching months that I’ve had in quite a while. This month may have been horrible in other ways, but I’ll de damned if I’m not remaining as optimistic and forward-thinking as possible during this long haul ahead of us all.
So, as always, here is the full list of films I watched in January, with asterisks indicating rewatches.
- Sam sei goon (Justice, My Foot!) (To, 1992)
- White Chicks (Wayans, 2004)
- Step Up (Fletcher, 2006)
- Monster (Jenkins, 2003)
- Aileen Wuornos: The Selling of a Serial Killer (Broomfield, 1992)*
- Blown Away (Spencer, 1992)
- Fire and Ice (Bakshi, 1983)
- Honey, We Shrunk Ourselves (Cundey, 1997)
- The Fits (Holmer, 2016)
- Sweet Movie (Makavejev, 1974)
- Elle (Verhoeven, 2016)
- La La Land (Chazelle, 2016)
- Other People (Kelly, 2016)
- Cabaret (Fosse, 1972)*
- Silence (Scorsese, 2016)
- 20th Century Women (Mills, 2016)
- Little Sister (Clark, 2016)
- Batman & Robin (Schumacher, 1997)*
- Hero (Zhang, 2002)
- Suffragette (Gavron, 2015)
- Whip It (Barrymore, 2009)
- Go Fish (Troche, 1994)
- The Captive (Egoyan, 2014)
- The Woman in Black (Watkins, 2012)
- Happy Feet (Miller, 2006)*
- I Am Not a Serial Killer (O’Brien, 2016)
- Aquarius (Filho, 2016)
- Norm of the North (Wall, 2016)
- Diamonds Are Forever (Hamilton, 1971)
- The Room (Wiseau, 2003)*
- Tom à la ferme (Tom at the Farm) (Dolan, 2013)
- Fences (Washington, 2016)
- Audrie & Daisy (Cohen & Shenk, 2016)
- La tortue rouge (The Red Turtle) (de Wit, 2016)
In January, I watched seven films directed by women. Although the rate I’m going at so far doesn’t yet guarantee that I’ll reach my 100 films goal by the end of the year, I’ll chalk it up to me taking it easy before I watch a whole bunch of women-directed films in the following months. One of the most notable of the six I watched came pretty early in the month, with Patty Jenkins’ Monster. I’m absolutely fascinated with Aileen Wuornos and the absolute bullshit she went through throughout pretty much her entire life, the dangerous conditions of her sex work notwithstanding. While I’m certain that much of the narrative of the film was manipulated by Jenkins for the purpose of dramatic appeal to Wuornos’ story, I think it did justice to her character and really spelled out just how dire her circumstances were that led her to mass murder. I was absolutely spellbound by Charlize Theron’s performance, especially her chemistry with Christina Ricci which kept the whole thing moving along very nicely. I also watched Anna Rose Holmer’s The Fits, which I absolutely loved and will probably write more about once I get around to my Top Films of 2016 list.
One of my proudest achievements through the month of January (besides all the freakin’ writing I accomplished) is finally getting around to Drew Barrymore’s Whip It, which I’ve been putting off pretty much ever since it was playing in theaters. It’s a sweet movie and I’m glad I watched it now, but now I’m just more frustrated that I didn’t watch it in ’09, when I was a graduating senior in high school. I know for sure that the images of all these badass ladies at the roller derby would’ve been so important to me back then, and maybe would have inspired me to take up skating myself. It tackles so many topics like friendship, friendly competition, romance, and familial relationships and doesn’t really take the easy way out on any of these arcs. The characters – major and minor – are all so fun and memorable, and while there are several aspects that really damper my enjoyment (I’m looking at you, Jimmy Fallon), I thought it was quite an exciting ride nonetheless. I feel like I’ll be shipping Ellen Page and Alia Shawkat from now until the end of days.
January is usually the month where I go crazy with catching up with movies from the previous year; while I still watched thirteen feature films from 2016, I didn’t binge in quite the manner that I usually would. That just goes hand-in-hand with my attempts to relax my viewing tendencies a bit, and I’m certainly not complaining! I caught up with Paul Verhoeven’s latest film Elle. While I understand that many were turned off with his approach of rape, I personally found it a refreshing example of a victim of sexual violence who reclaims her identity as such and uses it to her own advantage. Isabelle Huppert was terrific in this film and I’m so glad that she’s finally getting the accolades that she deserved a long, long time ago. I also watched La La Land and I do feel pretty underwhelmed as a whole. The opening shot is fantastic as are the last ten minutes or so, but everything else in between is… meh. Every song just sounds like different variations of the same song; you know a musical has failed to be a musical when you aren’t humming a single bar of any of the songs as you walk out of the theater. It was a pretty decent way to spend two hours, but I didn’t love it as much as everybody and their grandparents seem to and it certainly doesn’t deserve fourteen Oscar nominations.
Later in the month, I watched Martin Scorsese’s twenty-five-year-old passion project The Silence and… well, I didn’t like it. It was essentially just this bloated but nicely shot mess of Christian abductees getting tortured in Japan for three hours, all leading up to a dismal ending that just felt like a totally pointless cop-out. I feel like the vision of the film is admirable, but with it being twenty-five years in the making, it’s almost inevitable that a fair fraction of the vision would get lost or distorted along the way. Adam Driver’s terrible Portuguese accent was just the icing on top of a shit cake. Every other notable 2016 film I watched this month I want to save for potentially writing about on the upcoming post – but I will note that Norm of the North is definitely not on there. Also, we should just all forget that Norm of the North ever even happened.
I already included the links to my attempt at the Letterboxd Queer Films Challenge, as well as links to pretty much every little film review I’ve written through the month, but here is the link again in case you’re interested in keeping track of what I’ve watched and what I thought about any particular films. I’ve already found a new favorite film with Go Fish, and it’s always nice to see queer characters in films that aren’t always available in mainstream media and to whom I can relate to some extent. I’m pretty positive that the rest of the year will bring me some positively awesome, gay vibes!
In January, I finally got around to Dusan Makavejev’s Sweet Movie, and… yeah, everyone should totally watch Sweet Movie. Seriously, if you’ve never heard of Makavejev’s other work and/or Sweet Movie, do not read anything about it. Just watch it and indulge in some of the realest, weirdest, most subversive cinema to come out of Eastern European cinema of the 70s. On that note, everybody should also watch W.R.: Mysteries of the Organisms, which may very well be one of my favorite movies of all time. Really though, watch Sweet Movie! Just do it! And tell me what you think!
As I try to do every February, I will be doing my best to pay homage to Black History Month by watching as many films by and about Black people as possible. Specifically, I want to focus on Black women and femmes this month, and also want to watch as many films from Black women directors as I can get my hands on. Nonetheless, I don’t want to limit myself strictly to movies only made by Black directors, but also widen the scope to include writers, actors, and other individuals vital to creating a such films. I want to emphasize the work of Pam Grier, Angela Bassett, Whitney Houston, Sidney Poitier, and Ice Cube just as much as the work of Spike Lee, Julie Dash, and Charles Burnett. I also want to focus more on films that feature positive depictions of Black people – as opposed to the widely-circulated stereotypes – as well as older films that stand out as some of the very first of their kind amidst a flurry of white-dominated cinema. I’m always on the quest for expanding my diversity in what I watch, since it’s something that I always need to work on, and Black History Month is always a good way to do so. If you’re reading this, I hope you plan to do the same!