If you’re spending your pandemic working your way through the seemingly endless lists of movies and television recommendations for quarantine life, then I salute you. That has not been my experience. Instead, I’m barely keeping up—if I’m honest, I’m not keeping up—with all of my duties as an employee, parent, ersatz home schooler and, as our house falls apart, barely competent handyman.
Still, somehow I managed to watch thirteen movies last month, which is surprisingly not far off from my usual low of around sixteen or so. (I just went back and checked, and for some unaccountable reason, I watched only a dozen last June.) As I’ve said in the past, the way I’m fitting in all these viewings is by first, largely abstaining from television (which I largely gave up several years ago and without regrets), and second, by watching most of these movies in short snippets as brief as ten or fifteen minutes. It’s sort of like the best advice about getting enough exercise: you just gotta make the time.
Don’t tell my boss, but I’ve also taken to watching this stuff while I’m working. Midway through April it occurred to me that I could (occasionally) prop up my iPad next to and at about the same eye level as my monitor and rewatch a film with the sound turned all the way down—and no one would be the wiser. Foreign films, or at least films with subtitles, work best so I can get a sense of what’s happening, since I’m really only dipping back into the movie every five or ten minutes or so and only then for a few moments. It’s definitely not what you would call focused viewing (and I’m not counting movies I watch this way in lists like the one below) but I find it adds a little boost to my day, sort of the way looking at a painting can give you a shot of creative energy. Even catching short glimpses of a movie—even a movie I didn’t find particularly notable the first time around—is worthwhile, especially if I get to find a new appreciation for the way a given scene was shot, lit or edited. These are the little pleasures that make self quarantining more bearable.
Overall, though, April was not the most interesting month of movie viewing for me. Probably the most notable, new-ish films I saw were: Robert Eggers’s arthouse psycho-horror-drama “The Lighthouse,” which people raved about and I thought was fine (though not a great choice to lift one’s spirits during quarantining); and Corneliu Poromboiu’s overly conceptual policier “The Whistlers,” which was memorable mostly for lead actor Catrinel Marlon’s searing gaze. I also saw Matt Bettinelli-Olpin’s slasher B-movie “Ready or Not,” which was amusing and unpretentious if not particularly brainy. None of these are essential viewing though.
Here is the full list of what I watched in April.
“Emma” (1996) ★★★ I could watch another dozen remakes of this story.
“Tangled” (2010) ★★½ Disney seems to think it can outsmart stereotypes by playing into them.
“The Lighthouse” (2019) ★★★½ Sumptuously crafted but a disappointingly predictable rendering of lunacy.
“Based on a True Story” (2017) ★★ Roman Polanski brings together two intensely watchable actresses, concocts a tantalizing conflict for them, and forgets to do anything with it all.
“Sons of the Desert” (1933) ★★★½ The sheer delight of Laurel and Hardy’s slapstick genius, stretched to its narrative limits.
“Vendetta of a Samurai” (1952) ★★★★ An unsparing indictment of the falsity of combat glory, wrapped inside a samurai flick.
“Knives Out” (2019) ★★★★ Rewatched. Had a ball again.