September: A New Season Is Coming
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.
It’s the fall festival season, meaning I’m permanently chained to a theater (not that I’m complaining). For Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) I watched forty films (the bulk of that work, 21 films covered, are below). I also visited New York City for NYFF, and in a couple week’s time Chicago International Film Festival (ChiFilmFest) will kick off. It’s the best time of the year, offering a truckload of strong films from sturdy visionaries.
Of course, the big news is the announcement that I’m now Associate Editor at RogerEbert.com. It’s a tremendous honor that is in its early stages, but I’m excited about the adventures to come. This newsletter and Substack will continue, so no need to worry that it will disappear.
In the meantime, here is all of my writing from the past month:
After a down film watching month in August, I did indeed bounce back with 70 films in September. There is still quite a bit of stuff I haven’t marked because I’m participating in a few movie related events that I have to keep close to the vest, but that will be revealed in good time. For now, here are my favorite watches from September:
Black Shadows on a Silver Screen - An Ossie Davis narrated documentary from 1975, this film gives a quick history of Black representation in film, from race movies to Blaxploitation, as a good primer for big and underseen Black films and Black stars. It’s available to screen on Youtube.
Bottoms - It’s not perfect; the events are too scattershot to really build a cohesive narrative. But the comedic ambition is incredible, crafting a millennial queer rally cry.
Do Not Expect Too Much from the End of the World - No one else is working on Radu Jude’s formal or substantive level. This is a bold statement that collapses time to critique the manipulation of reality by film, TikTok, capitalism, and overreaching governments.
El Conde - Pablo Larraín is damn near undefeated. His newest film, a black and white vampire tale serving as a metaphor for the blood-sucking dictators of South and Central America is a smaller work with seismic political implications.
Jammin' the Blues - During the 1930s, Cab Calloway and Duke Ellington did plenty of jazz shorts, but Gjon Mili’s 1944 film is the peak of such films. It’s alluring, moving, and expansive — uplifting the music to poetic proportions.
The Pigeon Tunnel - Some filmmakers offer a kind of comfort food; you know they’ll bring a certain level of quality to whatever they do. Errol Morris convenes with writer John le Carré to talk about how the latter’s relationship with his father influenced his life and career.
The Settlers - Chilean filmmaker Felipe Gálvez Haberle’s spaghetti western see three men — a Scotsman posing as British soldier, an American tracker, and an indigenous navigator — dispatched to “cure” the land of its native population. It’s one of the smartest critiques of colonialism and the Western genre I’ve seen in quite some time.
Tehachapi - JR heads to a correctional facility to make art with the incarcerated, in the prcoess showing their humanity amid a dehumanizing setting. It’s touching, fulfilling, and eye-opening.
Wham! - This is a pretty standard documentary about the duo, hampered by relying exclusively on archival interviews. But it’s also just nice listening to Wham! music.
Zinzindurrunkarratz - The director Oskar Alegria decides to take his father’s old camera out for a walk on the formerly well-trodden trails of his family’s village to capture the sounds and traditions that seem to be slipping away. The adorable donkey that accompanies him makes this peak donkey cinema.