Movies Watched, October 2021

Still from “Dune” by Denis Villeneuve

In October I went out to see the new James Bond film “No Time to Die,” Wes Anderson’s “The French Dispatch,” and Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of the Frank Herbert novel “Dune”; all first run movies, all in theaters. That’s a new post-COVID, one-month record for me for going out to see movies. Having gotten my booster shot not long ago, I think I’ve mostly just come to terms with the risks of being in public spaces now.

I actually saw “No Time to Die” twice. This movie is totally passable, but no one really needs to see it more than once unless, like me, you saw it without your spouse the first time and she insisted you go back with her again a second time. I might have actually preferred to see “The French Dispatch” twice because, like most of Anderson’s movies, I get the sense that I won’t know how I really feel about it until I get some additional viewings under my belt. It’s genial enough, but as per usual with Anderson’s singular directorial approach, it’s so stuffed with ornamentation and narrative framing devices that it’s hard to suss out whether there’s an actual, coherent core at its center (e.g., “Fantastic Mr. Fox”), or whether it’s conceptually vacant (e.g., “The Darjeeling Limited”).

Speaking of repeat viewings, before the month was out I found myself having watched Villeneuve’s “Dune” multiple times. I watched it first with a friend via streaming, and even though we watched it in my basement, projected fairly large on my wall, I immediately regretted not seeing it in theaters. The scope of this film is so massive and so sweeping, both in its monumental alien landscapes and its dynastic political narrative, that it really demanded to be seen on the big screen. As soon as I could, I ran out to see it on IMAX, which truly did it justice; this Reddit thread shows the stark contrast between the standard 2.35:1 and the larger IMAX 1.90:1 aspect ratios. And then, thanks to HBO MAX’s generous policy of allowing thirty days of streaming access to all of its 2021 first run movies, I found myself rewatching “Dune” twice again at home, which gave me the opportunity to appreciate its many nuances and finer details. There’s not another movie I’ve seen in recent memory that rewards so well both the large-scale impact of a movie theater screen and the intimacy of repeated home viewings. Unfortunately, it’s already gone from HBO MAX, but moviegoers will have another chance to catch IMAX screenings starting 3 Dec. If you haven’t seen it already, you should go.

Here are all the movies I saw last month…

  1. His Girl Friday” (1940) ★★★★★
    Rewatched. A marvel of comedic perfection that never wears thin.
  2. Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle” (2017) ★½
    Plasticky, heartless cash grab, as befits the franchise.
  3. The Panic in Needle Park” (1971) ★★★★
    Notoriously gritty drug addiction film shot with a beautifully visceral style.
  4. The Many Saints of Newark” (2021) ★★★½
    A very special episode of “The Sopranos.”
  5. F9” (2021) ½★
    Vin Diesel’s juvenile ego should not be making the creative decisions for this franchise.
  6. The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou” (2004) ★★★½
    Rewatched. This works largely because of Bill Murray, and in spite of some pretty lame special effects.
  7. Au Hasard Balthazar” (1966) ★
    I just didn’t see the brilliance here that others do.
  8. Le Doulos” (1962) ★★
    Some cool French gangster shenanigans, periodically interrupted by a whole lot of police yammering.
  9. No Time to Die” (2021) ★★★½
    Rambly and overlong, but manages to take James Bond a few places he’s never been before, more or less credibly.
  10. Strange Days” (1995) ★★★½
    Rewatched. Shockingly well-made and surprisingly classical sci-fi noir.
  11. Darkest Hour” (2017) ★★★½
    Only partially the Oscar-bait I was afraid it might be. Overall, kind of terrific.
  12. The Trouble With Harry” (1955) ★★
    Exceedingly polite, and quite uneventful, murder mystery from Alfred Hitchcock.
  13. Chan Is Missing” (1982) ★★★★
    Scrappy, earnest, canny proto-indie with an incredibly fascinating lead.
  14. The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1981) ★★★★
    Unclear whether this is trying to break down or update noir conventions, but it’s very good.
  15. The Postman Always Rings Twice” (1946) ★★★
    Seminal but hokey.
  16. The Asphalt Jungle” (1950) ★★★★★
    Rewatched with a great commentary track.
  17. Devil in a Blue Dress” (1995) ★★★★
    An unremarkable plot gilded with wonderful details from Black life in post-War L.A.
  18. Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” (2021) ★★★½
    A wonderful, tear-jerking story, but a documentary that never really asks tough questions.
  19. No Time to Die” (2021) ★★★½
    Rewatched. No worse—or better, really—than it was the first time.
  20. Out of the Past” (1947) ★★★★★
    Rewatched. A magnificent, gourmet meal of double-crosses, snappy dialogue and exquisite noir cinematography. A masterpiece.
  21. The Bride of Frankenstein” (1935) ★★★½
    Less of a horror movie than a movie about something horrible. Campy but cohesive.
  22. The French Dispatch” (2021) ★★★½
    As per usual, a beautifully realized concept built on a scaffolding of rickety ideas.
  23. Willow” (1988) ★★
    Never rises above the merely amusing, but still a damn sight better than most of the “Star Wars” prequels and sequels.
  24. Escape from New York” (1981) ★★★★
    Rewatched. Endlessly rewatchable.
  25. Undine” (2020) ★★
    Director Christian Petzold’s latest casts a beguiling spell, as he seems to be able to do almost effortlessly, but he’s aiming low here.
  26. Dune” (2021) ★★★★
    A monumental achievement in imagining a science fiction reality.
  27. Dune” (2021) ★★★★
    Rewatched. Having originally watched it at home, I rushed out to see it on IMAX. Spectactular.
  28. Werewolves Within” (2021) ★★★
    Genial little horror-comedy, emphasis on the little.
  29. Dune” (1984) ★★
    Rewatched. I hadn’t seen this David Lynch version since I was a kid. What a debacle.
  30. Dune” (2021) ★★★★
    Rewatched. I came down with a 24-hour bug so I figured I may as well watch it again.

This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I previously watched this past September, August, July, 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.