December: Ending the Year on a High, And Other Treats
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
In December, I took stock of what I’d accomplished in 2023 (you can read a full piece about those personal triumphs, here). I didn’t travel at all during the month—a shocker, I know—instead, I remained a homebody withfor much of Christmas. We watched plenty of Christmas classics and ate even more sweets. Having those treats, however, shouldn’t be confused with a lightened workload. I actually wrote quite a bit, particularly on the review front—an area that allowed my writing for the year to end on a high.
I’ve never watched more movies in a year than in 2023. This past year, I viewed 814 films (a combination of new releases, old classics, features and shorts). In December, I totaled 66 viewings, most of them rewatches. I get to take it easy for another week before Sundance kicks off mid-January, and then a couple of other film festivals I’m happy to be attending begin ticking off too in the coming months. So I suspect I’ll have an avalanches of new watches to share with you. But for now, for December, here are my favorite titles:
Candy Cane Lane - The reception to the Eddie Murphy joint was tepid, at best. But I quite enjoyed the holiday hijinks this lovely family tale provided.
Godzilla Minus One - Count me as one of the fans of the newest Godzilla. While I find it annoying that many have either forgotten or totally dismissed the deep politics inherent to the iconic kaiju, I think this film is a sturdy homage in its own right.
The Housemaid - The eloquent camera movement, particularly the controlled tracks and pans, and the critique of a male society suppressing women’s sexual desires are testaments to the craft of mid-century Asian cinema.
Maggie’s Plan - This tidy little film is one of’s favorites, and I found myself smitten with this screwball comedy, particularly Julianne Moore’s pitch perfect performance as Ethan Hawke’s jilted wife (I think Moore is probably the best actress of her generation, and the choices she makes here are inspired, even for her).
Marnie - Criterion Channel’s ‘Hitchcock for the Holiday’ package finally allowed me to catch up with the director’s slippery psychodrama. Usually, I’m wary of giving a director too much self-awareness—filmmakers aren’t always totally conscious of what they’re exploring. But damn if this isn’t Hitchcock fully aware of his own predatory desire to control women.
Memories of Underdevelopment - A classic of Cuban cinema whose every frame is a charged critique of the fangless upperclass.
Phantom of the Paradise - Paul Williams, that is all.
Shadow of a Doubt - Another Hitchcock catchup, this time, featuring Joseph Cotten as the very definition of that creepy uncle.
Taipei Story - Like many, the recent Edward Yang retrospective occurring at Gene Siskel Film Center and Lincoln Center have granted me the opportunity to finally catch up with the filmmaker’s work. I love the central role baseball plays in this film, how it and America are the maker and breakers of dreams that die as quickly as a cheer.
Witness for the Prosecution - Elsa Lancaster and Tyrone Power are good. A catty Charles Laughton is excellent. But Marlene Dietrich is simply on another plane of existence. Her turn, oh her turn. How she wasn’t nominated for an Oscar remains a grievous crime.