June 2022: 70MM Fest, Luis Buñuel and Traveling
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.
I know I’m a tad late on my June newsletter. That month happened to be my busiest, writing-wise, in sometime. I wrote 20 pieces and appeared on a podcast, covered Tribeca from afar and served as a Guest Editor for RogerEbert’s Black Writers Week. I also traveled with Marya to the Czech Republic to cover the 56th Karlovy Vary International Film Festival (I’ll have a lot more to say about this trip in the coming weeks). In the meantime, here is everything I wrote and/or appeared on last month:
Fire Island Review
In June I continued to fill quite a few blindspots by managing to watch some Jean Renoir films (particularly Grande Illusion), some early John Fords, and a few classics by Luis Buñuel, along with taking in some films at Chicago’s 70MM Film Festival, which took place at the Music Box Theater. Last month, I watched 67 films in total. Here are a few of the highlights.
3 Bad Men - A major void in my John Ford knowledge, this early silent is a simple yet deeply affecting epic. It follows three supposedly bad men who protect the life of a young woman against some real bad men. The film contains some of Ford’s best compositions of the West (high praise, I know).
Belle du Jour - Of the Buñuel films I watched (I saw seven in total), this was by far my favorite. Mostly because it centers a woman searching for sexual freedom, Catherine Deneuve working in a brothel, rather than in his past movies where women are being acted upon.
The Duke of Burgundy - While researching to interview Peter Strickland, I did a quick rewatch of his movies and I forgot how funny and subservice this film about two sexually role playing women trying to keep the spark in their relationship is.
Easy to Get - A trigger warning on this one: It’s an World War II Army training film geared toward Black GIs about VD featuring some gruesome images (and appearances by Ruby Dee and Paul Robeson, no TW on them). I first heard about this short through Sergio Mims who wrote about in further depth for RogerEbert.com.
In A Lonely Place - It’s probably Humphrey Bogart’s most unhinged performance next to his dark turn as a white supremacist in Dark Legion. Here he plays a demented screenwriter accused of murder as he obsesses over his next door neighbor (Gloria Grahame).
Liquor Store Dreams - During June I covered Tribeca Film Festival and one film I wish I could’ve written about extensively is So Yun Um’s directorial feature, a powerful documentary mixing her personal history, the legacy of Koreans living in LA and the difficulties them and the Black communities they sell to have faced.
Mahogany/Bless Their Little Hearts - I’m pairing these wildly different films: the former a fashion Blaxploitation romance starring Diana Ross and Billy Dee Williams, and the latter, an LA rebellion drama about a family living on the edge of poverty in Watts, because I wrote about both for my Black Film Recommendation series (which will soon become a paid component).
Moonfall - This is an absolutely bonkers, self-derivative disaster film from Roland Emmerich about a super-structured moon with alien tech inside of it on a collision course with earth. So of course I loved it. Low-key Halle Berry as the head of NASA is doing some of her best acting in years. She takes the material’s silliness and adds a gravitas that it probably doesn’t deserve.
Official Competition - Penelope Cruz and Antonio Banders reteam in this black comedy about stardom and creative control as a feuding director and leading man, with Oscar Martínez as an embittered rival. Every second is a hilarious surge of bitchiness from three world-class actors.
Starman - Jeff Bridges portrays an alien who falls in love with a widow (Karen Allen) after he comes to earth on a scouting mission. Bridges’ fish out of water performance is brilliant, but Allen is just as electric in this heartwarming sci-fi classic which remains just as far out today (seen in 70mm @ the Music Box).