Movies Watched, July 2021

Still from “No Sudden Move”

It’s been two months since I went back to a movie theater for the first time since the pandemic started, but thanks to the Delta variant I haven’t been able to bring myself to do it again since. The studios are streaming first run movies though, so I got to watch, at home, “Black Widow” which, whatever, it’s another consumer packaged good from Marvel, and, more interestingly, Steven Soderbergh’s “No Sudden Move,” starring Don Cheadle and Benicio Del Toro.

I feel like we’re all sleeping on an incredibly rich phase of Soderbergh’s career right now, where he’s regularly turning out fascinating and highly entertaining experiments like “High Flying Bird,” “The Laundromat” and even the uneven “Let Them All Talk.” Along with “No Sudden Move,” a period caper set in mid-Century Detroit, these have all come in the span of just two-plus years, usually with great reviews, and yet they’ve failed to make much of an impression on the general movie watching public. None of these films is perfect but all of them are wildly ambitious in unexpected, experimental ways, typically in their preoccupation with how new production methods can yield new storytelling methods. Through it all, Soderbergh seems to be consumed with a mania for scrambling and reconstituting his own cinematic vocabulary to find his version of what a 21st century film is. And “No Sudden Move” is exactly this: a contemporary reboot of one of his career bests, 1998’s magnificent noir caper “Out of Sight,” taken apart and reassembled again into a new, vibrant form. I found it completely transfixing.

Here are all twenty-two of the movies I watched in July.

  1. The Ice Road” (2021) ★★
    Pretty much what you’d expect from a Liam Neeson flick about ice road trucking.
  2. King Kong” (1933) ★★★
    The protagonists in this movie inadvertently make a really persuasive indictment of themselves.
  3. No Sudden Move” (2021) ★★★★
    Not quite a return to the glory of “Out of Sight,” but still rewarding in the way Soderbergh always manages to be.
  4. Isle of Dogs” (2018) ★★★★
    Rewatched. I was surprised by how much more I enjoyed this than on my first viewing—once I set aside the cultural insensitivity.
  5. Heat” (1995) ★★★★½
    Rewatched. Despite its age, this still feels incredibly vibrant and alive.
  6. After Hours” (1985) ★★★½
    The script isn’t particularly remarkable but Scorsese directs the heck out of it.
  7. Ant-Man” (2015) ★★★
    Rewatched. Still the most charming of Marvel’s movies.
  8. Ant-Man and the Wasp” (2018) ★★
    Rewatched. I remembered almost nothing from my first viewing, and I’ll probably retain almost nothing after this one.
  9. Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood” (2019) ★★★★
    Rewatched. I read Tarantino’s novelization, which is not like the movie, and then I went back to rewatch the movie, and both are great.
  10. Unbreakable” (2000) ★★★
    Rewatched. I get why this has become a cult classic, and it mostly earns that, but its dour tone eventually strains bearability.
  11. Man Push Cart” (2005) ★★★
    A would-be neorealist tale of life as a street vendor.
  12. Ava” (2020) ★
    What happens when you mistake backstory for smarts— and when your director doesn’t have the talent to make it work.
  13. The Discreet Charm of the Bourgeoisie” (1972) ★★★★
    A dreamscape built to indict society’s most banal that sadly seems to have turned into a kind of guide on how to be incredibly banal.
  14. Minority Report” (2002) ★★★½
    Rewatched. The predictions hold up and so does the drama. One of Spielberg’s best.
  15. Beyond the Valley of the Dolls” (1970) ★★½
    This over-the-top ridiculous cautionary tale about the dangers of fame and fortune in late 60s Los Angeles is a car wreck you can’t look away from.
  16. Black Widow” (2021) ★
    Noisy, dumb and full of terrible, terrible Russian accents.
  17. That Obscure Object of Desire” (1977) ★★★
    Not bad at all but more than anything it seems like an excuse for an aged auteur to ogle beautiful actresses.
  18. The Prestige” (2006) ★½
    Rewatched. When people complain about Christopher Nolan being clumsy and obvious, this is what they mean.
  19. The Paper Tigers” (2020) ★★
    Endearing kung fu character comedy can’t quite pull together the shaky premise.
  20. Señorita” (2011) ★★½
    A bold statement from a transgender filmmaker that gets distracted by a lackluster political subplot.
  21. Lonely Are the Brave” (1962) ★★★★
    Kirk Douglas as the Marlboro Man, versus the modern world.
  22. Married to the Mob” (1988) ★★★½
    Rewatched. Jonathan Demme takes a not particularly special mob comedy and stuffs it full of surprising and inventive directorial choices.

This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I previously watched this past June, May, April, March, February, and January, and in 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016. Also, you can always keep up with what I’m watching by following me on Letterboxd—where I’m also writing tons of capsule reviews.