90 Movies in 90 Days: Boys and Girls (1983)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Boys and Girls
Release Date: October 1983
Director: Don McBrearty
Production Company: Atlantis Films
Summary/Review:

This short film from Canada based on a story by Alice Munro illustrates the way children are conditioned for gender roles at a young age.  Margaret (Megan Follows), a young teenager, wants to help out on her father’s fox farm but is persistently nudged towards working with her mother in the kitchen and acting “like a lady.”  Meanwhile, her younger brother Laird (Ian Heath) seems to get to what he likes.  The movie captures an act of defiance by Margaret that leads her to understand her place in the world (and strengthens her resolve to resist it).

Just a content warning: a horse is shot and butchered early in this film and another horse is threatened with the same later on so this may not be the easiest film to watch.

Rating: ***

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Battle of San Pietro (1945)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Battle of San Pietro
Release Date: May 3, 1945
Director: John Huston
Production Company: Army Pictorial Service
Summary/Review:

This documentary/propaganda film shot for the War Department by Hollywood director John Huston depicts a key battle in which the Allied forces capture a small town that controls entry to a valley in southern Italy.  The narration takes a just the facts approach but the visuals offer an unflinching account of the horrors of the war.  This begins with the prologue of the film that states the Italian villagers are preparing a future for their children and then immediately cutting to image of a dead child.  Later in the film, several American soldiers killed in battle are shown being tied into body bags.  The realism has lead to The Battle of San Pietro being called an anti-war film, although when it was shown to troops it was recognized as showing the sacrifice necessary to win the war.

Rating: ***

90 Movies in 90 Days: 3-Iron (2004)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: 3-Iron
Release Date: September 2004
Director: Kim Ki-duk
Production Company: Kim Ki-duk Film | Cineclick Asia
Summary/Review:

A young itinerant, Tae-suk (Jae Hee), breaks into houses when the owners are away and makes it his temporary home.  He steals nothing apart from food and spends his time repairing broken objects and taking selfies with the homeowners’ property.  At one house he discovers that one of the residents, a young former model named Sun-hwa (Lee Seung-yeon), is actually at home.  She is abused by her husband Min-gyu (Kwon Hyuk-ho) and stays quietly in her home to hide her bruises.

Tae-suk and Sun-hwa form a bond and run off together, continuing Tae-suk’s life of occupying other peoples’ houses.  Their’s is a silent relationship, as Norma Desmond says “”We didn’t need dialogue. We had faces!”  The movie takes on more and more of a fantasy element that by the end text on the screen asks whether it is a reality and a dream.  The movie is an interesting concept and the leads’ silent acting is well-done, although it stretches credulity at points.

Rating: ***1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: Shadows (1959)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Shadows
Release Date: November 11, 1959
Director: John Cassavetes
Production Company:  British Lion
Summary/Review:

I’ve never watched a John Cassavetes movie before so I suppose it is suitable to start with his directorial debut.  This movie is credited for kickstarting independent cinema in the United States and is certainly more frank about race relations and sex than one would expect of a Hollywood film of the time.  The movie is about three African American siblings – Lelia Goldoni (Lelia), Hugh (Hugh Hurd), and Ben (Ben Carruthers) – although Lelia and Ben are light-skinned and can pass for white. The movie takes a natural/realistic approach and claims to have been improvised although in reality the cast did work from a script.

Lelia is an aspiring writer who has relationships with three different men over the course of the movie.  Significant to the plot is her relationship with Tony (Anthony Ray) who reacts negatively when she meets Hugh and learns that Lelia is Black.  Hugh is a jazz singer who has trouble finding gigs because his style is old-fashioned.  Ben is a trumpeter but spends most of his time hanging out in bars with his friends rather than looking for work.

I thought this was an interesting look at the gritty world of New York City nightlife and the daily lives of ordinary young people of the time.  The location footage of 1950s New York is great and amusing Cassavetes shot it all without getting permits.  The hip jazz soundtrack also works really well with film. Goldoni really shines in her performance and she reminds of the type of New York character I’ve met in my time.

Rating: ***1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: Mur Murs (1981)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Mur Murs
Release Date: September 13, 1981
Director: Agnès Varda
Production Company: Ciné-tamaris
Summary/Review:

Without planning to do so, I have watched three Agnès Varda films in the first month of this year.  And I honestly, I want to watch more!  Mur Murs is a documentary film made at the same time as the narrative film Documenteur.  Varda explores greater Los Angeles through the art painted on its walls.  Dozens of murals are shown and in most cases the artists who created them have the opportunity to talk about their work.. The subjects of the murals are also sometimes on hand as well as many locals who live and work among the wall art.

Like all Varda films, Mur Murs is really about her deep love and humanity.  Through the stories of these murals we learn about the lives and dreams of many colorful characters who call Los Angeles home.  She also focuses on the voices of Chicano and Black Americans whose voices are often ignored as well as the violence they endure whether it be from gangs or the police.  On top of all this, the music is great including a disco track for Venice roller skaters and a live performance by a Chicano punk band.

Rating: ****

90 Movies in 90 Days: News From Home


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: News From Home
Release Date: 8 June 1977
Director: Chantal Akerman
Production Company: Institut National de l’Audiovisuel (INA) | Paradise Films | Unité Trois | Zweites Deutsches Fernsehen (ZDF)
Summary/Review:

Before creating Sight and Sounds 2022 “Greatest Film of All Time” Jeanne Dielman, 23 quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975), Belgian filmmaker Chantal Akerman lived in New York City from 1971-1973 self-reportedly as a “vagabond.” In 1976, Akerman returned to New York to shoot the footage for this film primarily in areas she’d spent time in on her earlier sojourn such as Hell’s Kitchen, the Meatpacking District, and the neighborhood now known as Tribeca, as well as on the subway and Staten Island Ferry.  Much like New York 1911, the film serves as a time capsule of the city.

What sets this film apart is that the narration, read by Akerman, is entirely made up of letters her beloved mother Natalia sent her from 1971 to 1973.  The letters show that motherhood is universal as they grow increasingly anxious.  They’re also the only insight we have into Akerman’s character as she does not speak for herself.

The camera remains static for much of the film, I think there are 2 or 3 pans the entire movie, as it captures long takes of various parts of the city. The fun part for me was trying to recognize the places in the film, many of which have changed dramatically in the past 50 years. It was also interesting to watch the people in the movie, most of whom don’t seem to notice that there’s a camera filming them.  I wondered if I might see anyone I know.  Would I spot my father going to work? (I did not).

I wonder if I would’ve enjoyed this movie as much if Akerman filmed it in a city that I had no connection with, such as her native Brussels.  All the same, for such a simple concept, I found this movie surprisingly affecting.

Rating:

90 Movies in 90 Days: The Elephant Whisperers (2022)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: The Elephant Whisperers
Release Date: 8 December 2022
Director:Kartiki Gonsalves
Production Company: Sikhya Entertainment
Summary/Review:

Filmed over several years at Theppakadu Elephant Camp in the Mudumalai National Park in southern India, this short documentary follows the life and work of a couple named Bomman and Belli, The couple, who are married during the course of the filming, help rehabilitate lost and abandoned elephants.  The stars of the movie are Raghu, a young elephant who bonds with Bomman and Belli, and Baby Ammu, and even younger elephant abandoned and brought to the camp.

The love Bomman and Belli have for the elephants is strong and the movie is full of sweet moments.  According to the text on the screen they are also the first people to successfully raise an orphaned elephant to adulthood, so they’re doing good work.  Elephants are amazing, seemingly improbably creatures, and it’s such a joy to watch them in this film.

Rating: ***

50 Years, 50 Movies (2021): Petite Maman


I will turn 50 in November of this year, so my project for 2023 will be to watch and review one movie from each year of my life.  The only qualification is that it has to be a movie I’ve not reviewed previously.

Note: Each week I’m choosing a year randomly and then deciding what movie to watch from that year.  You can help by voting in the poll below!  Next week’s year is 1985.

2021

Top Grossing Movies of 2021:

  1. Spider-Man: No Way Home
  2. The Battle at Lake Changjin
  3. Hi, Mom
  4. No Time to Die
  5. F9

Best Picture Oscar Nominees and Winners of 2021:

  • CODA
  • Belfast
  • Don’t Look Up
  • Drive My Car
  • Dune
  • King Richard
  • Licorice Pizza
  • Nightmare Alley
  • The Power of the Dog
  • West Side Story

Other Movies I’ve Reviewed from 2021:

Title: Petite Maman
Release Date: 2 June 2021
Director: Céline Sciamma
Production Company: Lilies Films | Canal+ | Cine+ | France 3 Cinéma
Summary/Review:

It’s easy to say this is a simple and quiet film, but that would deny it’s underlying metaphysics or the fact that it involves time travel! The essential sweetness of this movie is evident as it deals with deeper issues of grief, depression, and the relationships of mothers and daughters.

Nelly (Joséphine Sanz) is an 8-year-old French girl whose beloved grandmother (Margo Abascal) just died.  She stays at her grandmother’s house for a few days with her mother, Marion (Nina Meurisse), and father (Stéphane Varupenne) to clean the house out. Nelly’s mother disappears without explanation and that same day she meets a girl in the woods building a tree fort.

The girl is also named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) and she lives in a house identical to her grandmother’s and Marion’s mother has the same physical disability as her grandmother.  Nelly and Marion look similar.  You can probably guess where this is going.  The sisters Joséphine and Gabrielle do a great job at playing their respective roles and showing the bond that forms between the two girls.  The film is gorgeously shot, and deeply human, and ultimately hopeful.

Rating: ****1/2

90 Movies in 90 Days: Le Pupille (2022)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Le Pupille
Release Date: May 27, 2022
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Production Company: Esperanto Filmoj
Summary/Review:

It’s Christmas time at a Catholic boarding school for girls in Italy during World War II.  Some girls have returned to be with their families, but the orphan children remain under arbitrary and authoritarian rule of the Mother Superior (Alba Rohrwacher).  Serafina (Melissa Falasconi) is the shy, outsider of the group.  After an incident the Mother Superior declares that Serafina is a “bad girl.”  Serafina internalizes this leading to a delicious twist in this film’s climax

This short movie is shot on a warm, grainy film that makes it feel like it’s from another era.  It’s full of imagery that borders on the absurd and surreal.  The title works as a pun, both “pupils” as the term for students as well as the center of the eye.  Many close-ups on the girls’ eyes reveal their inner intentions even as outwardly they obey the sisters’ instructions.  All in all its a fun and  mischievous little movie, and stylistically different from a lot of the other content on Disney+.

Rating: ***

90 Movies in 90 Days: Killer of Sheep (1978)


I’m kicking off 2023 by trying to watch and review one movie every day for the first 90 days, all of which will be 90 minutes or less.

Title: Killer of Sheep
Release Date: November 14, 1978
Director: Charles Burnett
Production Company: Third World Newsreel
Summary/Review:

This slice-of-life drama set in the Los Angeles neighborhood of Watts depicts the everyday lives of working class Black Americans.  The central character Stan (Henry G. Sanders) works in a slaughterhouse – hence the film’s title – but the movie is mostly vignettes around Stan’s household and in the neighborhood.  In fact, there are large portions of the film where he is absent, especially the extended sequences of children playing.

Killer of Sheep adopts the Italian neorealist style with a cast of largely nonprofessional actors to great effect.  It also has some excellent needle drops of classic jazz and soul tracks.  In fact, gaining clearance for the soundtracks was an obstacle to the movie getting a wider release for a long time. I definitely want to check out more of Charles Burnett’s work now that I’ve watched this one.

Rating: ****