December 2022: Babylon And A New Year
Monthly Roundup Post
Welcome to my newsletter! Every month you’ll receive this update featuring all of my writing, and my favorite film and television watches.
Not only are we at the end of another month, we’re at the beginning of a new year. In December I returned back to writing reviews in earnest, provided end of the year blurbs for varying outlets (my personal top-50 will be dropping soon, so keep an eye open for that!!), appeared on PBS: WTTW to talk Sight &Sound, and booked a trip to Sundance. There weren’t many surprises in December, apart from one, and it was a big one: I actually adored Damien Chazelle’s Babylon. To the point of writing about its score for RogerEbert, and debuting in /Film to discuss its role as an assimilation narrative (the latter is maybe the best thing I wrote in 2022). Here’s a rundown of the rest of my December work:
Damien Chazelle's Babylon Is A Story Of Identity And Assimilation Amid Hollywood Chaos
I mentioned up top that I’ll be going to Sundance, where I’ll be reviewing films for RogerEbert, The Playlist, and IndieWire (at the very least). So I suspect the amount of films I see in January will drastically increase. In December I watched 74 movies, in fact. Like most, I also celebrated Christmas. The first one in mine and Marya’s apartment. And rung in the new year in style (watching Hype Williams’ Belly at Facets in Chicago). Here’s the best of what I watched in December:
The Awful Truth - This wonderful screwball comedy starring Cary Grant and Irene Dunne as a couple nearing divorce is smart, funny, and filled with wonderful patter and charisma.
Carnival of Souls - I watched Carnival of Souls for the first time on Christmas Day, as one does. An ingenious, studied take on An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge, it sufficiently riveted me through its modest run time.
Double Wedding - One of William Powell and Myrna Loy’s many collaborations, this one outside of their famed Thin Man series, concerns a performer and businesswoman, who despite their best efforts, drift into love with each other.
Hachi: A Dog’s Tale - I cried my eyes out watching this film about a dog’s lifelong loyalty to an owner (Richard Gere), one composed of painstaking fate and aching longing.
Hook - With the release of The Fabelmans, I decided to fill one of my few Spielberg blindspots. Magical and pure, Robin Williams gives a tour-de-force performance wrapped in some of Spielberg’s most enchanting filmmaking.
Midnight - Claudette Colbert arrives in Paris without a penny to her name. She receives help from a dashing Don Ameche, playing a cab driver. Her fortunes shift, however, with John Barrymore, a rich aristocrat perturbed by his wife’s dalliances with a younger man, bankrolls Colbert to woo the man away. Plenty of steam, and heaps of laughs power this screwball comedy (and Ameche is irresistable).
O Henry’s Full House - An omnibus of O Henry’s stories composed by a quintet of directors, such as Howard Hawks, Henry King, and so forth — my favorite part of this cruelly ironic series, narrated by John Steinbeck, is “The Cop and the Anthem,” starring Marilyn Monroe and Charles Laughton.
The Pez Outlaw - This zany documentary is as entertaining as its iconoclastic subject, a man who took on a company for his economic and artistic rights.
Ride the High Country - A Sam Peckinpah film I hadn’t watched until now, this early Western from him gives slight hints of his signature style until a bleak, bloody shootout that tells you this is for sure a Peckinpah classic.
Shoes - Marya put Shoes on her Sight & Sound ballot, and I can’t think of a higher recommendation than that. Lois Weber’s tear-jerking film about a working-class woman with tattered shoes pushed to the brink of an unthinkable decision if her father doesn’t get a job, features enrapturing filmmaking in a tight story that still carries big emotions.