October: Festivals, International Films, and More
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.
October was a packed, packed month. Not only did I cover Chicago International Film Festival —whose lineup was stellar—I also made my way to Indie Memphis Film Festival where I was on the Narrative Features jury. Memphis is such a wonderful city, with colorful people and some delicious food. I’m shocked someone didn’t have to roll me to the airport with how much BBQ I consumed! While there, I moderated a panel between director Raven Jackson and cinematographer Jomo Fray, the two visionary filmmakers behind All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (which is out today).
For the fourth straight year in a row, I also had the privilege of being on the Gotham Awards’ film performance committee. It’s a tremendous honor, partly because we get to highlight little-seen films but also because the other committee members are so smart and stellar. I think this year might be our best set of nominations since I’ve been participating; I hope they invite me back.
In the meantime, here’s some of my writing from the past month.
At some point, I’ll be able to post the many of films I’ve seen. October was (unofficially) my heaviest viewing month since January, when I attended Sundance. But I am unfortunately bound to embargo on many of the titles; so publicly, I watched 56 films last month. Here are my favorite watches:
Alien Island - An idiosyncratic interrogation of how trauma can inspire humans to look beyond the stars for comfort intermingled with the traumatic waves felt by those living under Pinochet, gives this Chilean documentary a tactile sense of grief and mystery.
All of Us Strangers - Andrew Haigh is such a tender filmmaker; his newest is not only led by a strong quartet — Paul Mescal, Andrew Scott, Claire Foy, and Jamie Bell — it’s a perfect encapsulation of how loneliness causes you to cling to the ghosts of the past.
Are You There God? It’s Me Margaret - Glad I finally caught Rachel McAdams’ enlivening performance, which along with the coming of age frame, acutely paints the painful personal sacrifices inherent to motherhood.
Chile 76 - One of two Chilean films on here (it’s been an exceptionally strong year for the country’s cinema) Manuela Martelli’s visually bold film about a housewife who becomes a revolutionary against the nation’s totalitarian government is a fiercely hypnotic political statement.
Evil Does Not Exist - I’m quite shocked that Ryusuke Hamaguchi’s nimble ecological drama hasn’t garnered greater acclaim. To my mind, this film about nefarious outsiders upsetting the natural balance of a quaint mountain community is some of his best work.
The Holdovers - Downsizing didn’t work for me. But The Holdovers reminds me of what I loved in films like Nebraska and Sideways; it’s the sense of emotionally fucked up people finding community again through accepting how much life is out of their control.
Green Border - A harrowing work that has only gained greater resonance in the present war between Palestine and Israel, particularly how the world’s lack of empathy for oppressed people is often governed by a fear of the other.
My Darling Clementine - A late-night rewatch, I was reminded of how brilliant Henry Fonda is as Wyatt Earp and how thoughtful and internal Victor Mature can be in the rare instances when he’s trying.
Priscilla - I hated Elvis. I just didn’t think we needed an entire film that reinforced our already established pop culture lore of Presley. Thankfully, Sofia Coppola offers a different lens; she redefines what we know about the King through the eyes of his young wife for an intense picture about power, manipulation, grooming, and rebellion.
Nettles - While preparing to talk with Jackson and Fray, I rewatched their evocative short at Indie Memphis. You can see the seeds of All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt here; a film about nature, texture, and coming of age through seemingly mundane events that actually carry major import.
R.M.N. - We are truly in the Golden Age of Romanian cinema. Cristian Mungiu’s critique of Romania’s far-right is as piercing as it is unblinking.
Stop Making Sense - David Byrne is hot. That is all.
White Chicks - This Wayans Brothers comedy vehicle has been experiencing a critical resurgence. It recently screened at Indie Memphis, and on rewatch, the film deserves its comeback. It remains a smart, densely packed lampooning of race and gender.