November: Black Harvest, Podcasts, And New York City Theaters
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.
November began with Black Harvest Film Festival — my first time covering the event — and ended with me attending the Gotham Awards. In that time, not only did I watch a plethora of independent Black creatives offer visionary works, I also appeared on three fantastic podcasts. I spoke with hosts Marc and Seth about a film I reviewed out of AFI Fest 2019, Melina Matsoukas’ Queen & Slim. Though I wrote glowingly about the film four years ago, I wanted to look back on it now, in a post-2020 world. On another podcast, I spoke with Emily St James and Phillip Iscove about Bill Duke’s landmark noir Deep Cover. Lastly, I talked with Ryan McQuade and Jay Ledbetter about Paul Thomas Anderson’s peerless rom-com Punch-Drunk Love.
Here’s my work and appearances from the month of November:
Between Black Harvest Film Festival and Noirvember, I watched 73 films in November. While I was in New York for the Gothams, I also watched a few films too, visiting Nitehawk, the Metrograph, and Film Forum. It was a treat taking a swing through the city’s rep cinema scene, mostly, because usually when I arrive in New York it’s for a film festival. During those times, either the programming is uninteresting or I can’t escape the festival bubble.
With everything that happened in November, it was actually quite difficult narrowing down a list of some of my favorite watches from the month. If why, if I had more time, I might have written about twenty films. Instead, I kept it to these ten:
Carnal Knowledge - Jack Nicholson is such a piece of shit in Mike Nichols’ critique of the viciousness of the male gaze. I loved it.
Dave -and I needed a comfort watch, so one night we popped on Dave. As a society, we really didn’t deserve peak Kevin Kline. Also, the gentle way Ving Rhames lands his final line, it brought tears to my eyes.
Life Is Cheap… But Toilet Paper Is Expensive - Such an oddball, off-kilter deconstruction of film noir by Wayne Wang.
One Mile from Heaven - Claire Trevor is out to destroy everyone’s family in a film with a robust Black cast.
Panic - When a woman is suddenly murdered by a con-man, his moll targets the ostracized photographer who might hold proof of his guilt. Michel Simon is wonderful as a towering, intelligent, and gentle giant trapped in a world suspicious of all three traits.
Peeping Tom - I was lucky to Michael Powell’s classic film at Film Forum. I’ve seen it before, but not in a theater. Seeing it on the big screen was splendid. Powell’s use of color is unparalleled; Karlheinz Böhm is heartbreaking yet unnerving; Maxine Audley provides a visceral meal.
Purple Noon - Saw René Clément’s film at Nitehawk. And while I’m not as big on his adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, as I am on the Matt Damon-starring version, I still couldn’t resist the way Alain Delon’s magnetism can cut across an Italian seascape.
Sambizanga - Sarah Maldoror’s perceptive political film sees a mother tracing around the country to find her husband, a political prisoner. A picture of corruption and Totalitarianism, the rare picture of feminism amidst war.
So Long at the Fair - An Englishwoman arrives to a hotel room. The next day her brother and his room are missing. No one remembers either ever existing. Part of Criterion’s Gaslight Noir collection, Terence Fisher and Antony Darnborough’s film is an arresting work of psychological fiction.
Wild River - I mulled over Elia Kazan’s masterwork for a few days; I watched it at the Metrograph while in New York. While film is a politically rich portrait, it fails its Black characters. Nevertheless, Montgomery Clift, post his horrific car crash, is so vulnerable and raw, near crumbling, that it’s salient themes (displacement, individualism, shared responsibility) have stuck with me.