Discover more from 812: Film Reviews and Other Musings
February/March: Light Work For Better Living
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.
February was a light month. So, for my March newsletter, I decided to do a combo piece to keep everyone abreast of my work from the past two months.
It’s the same with the movies I watched the last couple of months; it was light. Mostly because I attended the Sojourner Truth Festival of the Arts 2023 at the University of Chicago back in February, a nourishing event that brought together a cadre of legendary Black women filmmakers like Julie Dash, Zeinabu irene Davis, Fronza Woods, Cauleen Smith and more. I also did some programming for the Chicago Critics Film Festival (coming in May) and visited Marya’s hometown of Alturas, California in March, which was a revitalizing trip to a town that still bills itself as “where the west still lives,” and certainly earns the title through its humble architecture, cattle roots, wide picturesque plains and majestic mountains.
That means, between February and March I only watched 115 movies. A light price I’m happy to pay for the last two months. Here were my favorite watches (you can also follow me on Letterboxd):
Attack the Block - I haven’t watched this John Boyega starring, Sci-Fi alien horror flick since its release, but I was reminded of how radical—in the confines of Black Lives Matter—this thought-provoking confrontation between local London kids and ravenous extraterrestrial dogs remains.
Branded to Kill - Few things in cinema are weirder or more committed than Joe Shishido’s sniffing steamed rice to get sexually aroused.
Contempt - This major blindspot for me might be Godard’s most conventional film, but it also might be his most beautifully shot and actorly work too. Jack Palance in particular is deliciously wretched.
Dancing With The Birds - This is among Marya’s favorites documentaries. We watched it at her parents’ home, and I never thought I’d identify so much with a group of exotic birds using dance to attract a potential mate.
Dreams of Passion - My jaw was dropped during every sensual second. A groundbreaking film—which possibly shows the first lesbian kiss filmed by a Black woman—still packs an incredible, audacious punch.
Drylongso - Cauleen Smith’s sharp coming-of-age story set in Oakland, California features a young Black woman filmmaker recording the lives of Black men before their untimely deaths across a landscape where Black women are equally vulnerable.
Friday - My rewatch of this Black classic reminds me that John Witherspoon gave one of the best, most heart-wrenching line readings of all time in his lecture to Ice Cube.
Rhubarb - A cat inherits a baseball team when its owner dies, bringing to the team a bounty of good luck and enemies. That’s really all you need to know to enjoy this out-there concept.
Set It Off - Similar to Steve McQueen’s interpretation of Widows, F. Gary Gray’s Black woman heist flick interrogates racial profiling, nefarious policing, and misogynoir through a lens that was far ahead of its time.
X: The Man with the X-Ray Eyes - Ray Milland wasn’t a stranger to shlocky science fiction, but this work about a scientist developing an eye drop so powerful that it expands the human vision to see what we’re not meant to perceive is surprisingly politically robust.