Movies Watched, April 2019

Still from “High Flying Bird”

I got out to theaters twice last month to see “Shazam!” and “Avengers: Endgame,” both jam-packed with super-hero action and special effects (and, incidentally, virtually indistinguishable from one another). But the most thrilling new movie I saw in April was Steven Soderbergh’s very odd “High Flying Bird”—on my iPad.

Despite possessing a vibrant sense of verve and daring, this original Netflix release from director Steven Soderbergh is almost perfectly designed to be swallowed up whole by today’s media landscape, before anyone notices. It’s ostensibly a drama about the world of professional basketball but it includes virtually no basketball; its cast is noticeably lacking in star power, even if the performances by up-and-comers André Holland and Zazie Beats are transfixing; and its plot is so obtuse as to practically defy any buzz spread by word-of-mouth. It’s almost unsurprising that when it debuted back in February, it was met with a mixed reception before promptly sinking into the deep, mealy swamp that is Netflix’s bottomless catalog.

Still, I found it riveting. “Birds” is the latest vehicle for Soderbergh’s fascination with iPhone cinematography, and the result is, if not uniformly pleasing, never less than alive, imbued with a powerful, hyper-aware detail and immediacy. In many ways the aesthetic is perfectly matched by the unapologetically ambitious script from screenwriter Tarell Alvin McCraney (who also wrote the Oscar-winning “Moonlight”). Both are intensely precise—deep focus imagery and dense, nuanced dialogue—yet paradoxically vague and open to interpretation, and both are beautiful in inelegant, even brutalist ways. You never quite know what you should be looking at or even listening to, but the wallop they pack together is undeniable.

Here is a full list of all seventeen movies I watched in April.

  1. The Square” (2017) A fascinating mess.
  2. The Muppet Movie” (1979) A real gem, but…
  3. The Great Muppet Caper” (1981) For my money, this is the best Muppet movie.
  4. So Dark the Night” (1946) Beautifully photographed but empty-headed.
  5. Muppets Most Wanted” (2014) Actually has the right kind of energy, but runs too long on too few original ideas.
  6. Youth of the Beast” (1963) Violent, angst-driven, stylized yakuza fairy tale.
  7. High Flying Bird” (2019) Feels stridently out of step with Hollywood in the best way.
  8. Solaris” (1972) Fully engrossing, very, very serious sci-fi classic that’s also unintentionally absurd, if truth be told.
  9. Last Hurrah for Chivalry” (1979) An early work from director John Woo that’s as over-the-top and homoerotic as you’d expect.
  10. Suede: The Insatiable Ones” (2018) More than decent rockumentary.
  11. Interstellar” (2014) Really flawed, but also really thrilling.
  12. Shazam!” (2019) Captain Meh-vel.
  13. Spider-Man: Homecoming” (2017) Probably the best super-hero movie of the Marvel age of cinema.
  14. Solaris” (2002) Re-watched this after seeing the original, and I was surprised by how well it compares.
  15. The Wife” (2017) Terrible. Truly terrible.
  16. Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) Re-watched it, didn’t like it any better the first time around.
  17. Avengers: Endgame” (2019) A triumph of lowered expectations on a mass scale. That means I thought it was crap. Read my review.

This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I watched in March, in February, in January and a full list of everything I watched in 2018, in 2017 and in 2016. And, if you’re interested, you can follow along with my movie diary at