November 2022: Big Interviews, More Traveling and Noirvember
Monthly Roundup Post
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I didn’t think it was possible, but the combination of a thin November blockbuster release calendar and the other films dropping being smaller, previously covered festival titles made last month my least review-loaded thirty-day stretch of maybe my career? I only reviewed two films. The rest of my time during November was instead dedicated to major interviews and pieces. In fact, last month witnessed some of my biggest interviews, which included my first ever in-print, newspaper conversation. It was for the LA Times. And it really felt like a watershed moment in my career that I’m still buzzing over.
What also contributed to the light review workload was traveling. For the second straight year I visited the Virginia Film Festival, where I took in a range of international films. VAFF occurs on the UVA campus, and it’s a calm, cozy area with a younger verve than most North American film festivals. There, this year, I moderated two Q&A’s: One with the subject and producer of the Margaret Brown’s documentary Descendent Dr. Kern Jackson, and the other with legendary documentary filmmaker Sam Pollard. I also traveled to New York City to attend the Gotham Awards. I’ve been fortunate enough to be on the performance nominating committee for three years. Since my first year doing it was in 2020, however, this was only the first time I’ve been able to be at the ceremony, which was a glorious fulfilling night with colleagues and people I deeply admire.
Consequently, I only watched 44 films last month (a major decline from my usual clip of ~90 films). So this list of my favorite watches from November will be shorter than usual, and will include a couple watches I did for Noirvember (a yearly celebration of the genre that was founded by Marya E Gates, and talked at length by her on platforms ranging from NPR to her Substack).
Dr Hugo - Before I interviewed director Kasi Lemmons about her landmark supernatural, Southern gothic family drama, I watched her proof of concept Dr Hugo, a funny little short about a philandering doctor who gets his comeuppance that would serve as the blueprint for Samuel L Jackson’s later performance as is available for on the Criterion release of Eve’s Bayou.
The Girl with Hyacinths - A 1950 Swedish noir from writer/director Hasse Ekman concerns a married couple investigating the suicide of their young neighborhood, a distant woman who left them everything. It’s a surprisingly complex view through gender roles, mental health, and the intersection between objectivity and empathy that traces back to the singular titular portrait of the woman.
Guillermo del Toro’s Pinocchio - As someone who wasn’t a terribly big on Guillermo del Toro’s remake of Nightmare Alley, I adored his kinetic, yet bleak reimagining of the classic fairytale.
Hold Back Tomorrow - The concept of this noir starring Cleo Moore and John Agar is simply wild: A death row inmate is given a last wish, which ends up being his desire to spend a night with a woman. And that request is happily fulfilled by the prison. What follows is an astonishing romance that reveals the deeper inner lives of both characters.
Orlando - One of the great repertory screenings at Virginia Film Festival this year was Sally Potter’s queer manifesto, wherein Tilda Swinton portrays an immortal Elizabethan noble who traverses eras, politics and genders with a curiosity and glee that keeps it an effervescent and groundbreaking watch today.