Movies Watched, January 2022

“Bergman Island” directed by Mia Hansen-Løve

Following my much-delayed recap of the movies I watched in 2021, here’s a roundup of January of this year. February will follow in a day or two, then March, etc., until I’m all caught up.

Looking back, I watched almost a full third of my year-end top ten list in January: “A Hero” (now somewhat notorious) “Bergman Island” (wonderful but esoteric) and “Titane” (only for the brave). I was of course still catching up on all of the prestige releases from late 2021, which also meant I sat through some real stinkers: Ridley Scott’s completely air-headed “The Last Duel” and Jane Campion’s excruciatingly shallow “The Power of the Dog.” Don’t let anyone try to convince you that these are good, ’cause they ain’t.

A word though on Mia Hansen-Løve’s “Bergman Island,” which seems to have slipped by unnoticed by many. I went in with somewhat dire expectations; the title alone suggested slavish imitation but this ode to the great director Ingmar Bergman somehow pays tribute while remaining fully distinctive. It’s also got a wonderfully intricate, story-within-a-story construction that dovetails at the climax with such grace and lyricism that it beautifully recolors its preceding hundred minutes; a nifty trick. I wasn’t familiar with Hansen-Løve before this, but based on what I saw in this film, I’m desperate to see the follow-up she released this year, “One Fine Morning.”

Here’s all seventeen of the movies I saw in January.

  1. The Power of the Dog” (2021) ★★½
    Exquisitely made prestige drama without a lot of substance.
  2. Yesterday” (2019) ★★★
    Rewatched. Leaves a lot unexamined in its “Only one guy remembers The Beatles” plot, but it has a real soul.
  3. Polytechnique” (2009) ★★★★
    Powerful, hypnotic meditation on a mass shooting.
  4. Bergman Island” (2021) ★★★★
    I expected this to be flimsy fan fiction, but it manages to be both faithful to Bergman’s legacy and uniquely its own expression as well.
  5. Titane” (2021) ★★★★
    This movie has everything in it and I couldn’t stop watching it, even if its images are so excruciating that I also couldn’t wait for it to be over.
  6. Raging Fire” (2021) ★½
    Thick-headed, sad echo of what was once great about Hong Kong action flicks.
  7. Encanto” (2021) ★★
    Wake me when people finally get over Lin-Manuel Miranda, please.
  8. Conan O’Brien Can’t Stop” (2011) ★★★½
    Rewatched. Inspired look inside the mind of one of our comic greats.
  9. A Cat in Paris” (2010) ★★★★
    A kids movie that’s also a revelatory reminder of the power of hand-drawn animation.
  10. Howl’s Moving Castle” (2004) ★★
    I’m sorry, Ghibli fans, I was so bored watching this.
  11. The Tragedy of Macbeth” (2021) ★★★
    Appropriately wry take from Joel Coen that results in a lot to admire, relatively little to truly love.
  12. Nightmare Alley” (1947) ★★★
    The original version is a bit hokey, but still full of wonderfully raw desperation.
  13. A Hero” (2021) ★★★★
    Absolutely gut-wrenching portrayal of what it’s like to be a nobody in a world of bureaucrats.
  14. Shadow of a Doubt” (1943) ★★★★
    Rewatched. Hitchcock crystallizes the ideal of “Small Town USA,” then slashes it to pieces.
  15. The Last Duel” (2021) ★
    Colossally stupid morality tale directed by an overrated production designer who has somehow masqueraded as an auteur for more than three decades.
  16. The Prisoner of Zenda” (1937) ★★★★
    A fairy tale of benevolent monarchies that’s also a marvel of old school Hollywood storytelling.
  17. Avengers: Infinity War” (2018) ★★½
    Rewatched. Mass death as cheap thrills.

This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I previously watched in 2021, 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.