Continuing my catch-up of the past year of movie posts, here’s my roundup of the twenty-seven movies I watched in February.
Mid-winter is the worst time for movies in general, and this slate reflects that. On the one hand, I was still watching holdovers from the previous year’s prestige season, though what remained on my list was not exactly the cream of the crop: “Old Henry,” a mediocre revisionist Western; and “Nightmare Alley” Guillermo Del Toro’s unremarkable remake of the classic carny noir. Joachim Trier’s “The Worst Person in the World” doesn’t necessarily fall into this bucket, but I found this to be little more than a decent romantic tragedy that’s frankly undermined by its clickbait title.
This was also the time of year when film studios empty their coffers of unpromising dreck, most of which I was smart enough to skip. As a whodunnit fan though, I nevertheless felt compelled to watch “Death on the Nile,” in which director Kenneth Branagh continues his overwrought abuse of Agatha Christie’s catalog and star Gal Gadot continues her unbroken streak of never appearing in a genuinely good movie. February is bleak times.
Still, there are some gems to be found in the rough. One of them was director Philip Barantini’s “Boiling Point,” a deep dive into the inner workings of a London restaurant on one of its worst nights, shot in a single, continuous take. I’ve been a bit of a sucker for one-shot films ever since seeing Hitchcock’s “Rope” as a kid. The ingenuity required to stage the action and camera movements, plus the storytelling nimbleness required to maintain a cohesive narrative in “real time” fascinates me. I enjoyed “Boiling Point” so much that I immediately went back and watched the original 2019 short film on which it was based, also directed by Barantini and starring several of the same players, including the superb Stephen Graham. The feature length version is definitely recommended, and if you enjoy it, I think you’ll find the short film worthwhile too.
Here’s the full list.
“Light Sleeper” (1992) ★★★★ An absurd premise but executed so well; Paul Schrader creates a somnambulent version of Manhattan that Willem Dafoe glides through like a wounded ghost.
“Boiling Point” (2021) ★★★½ Scrappy indie film about a restaurant staff basically on fire. Not perfect but very worthwhile.
“Boiling Point” (2019) ★★★ The original short film that formed the basis of the 2021 feature-length version. Also very worthwhile.
“Old Henry” (2021) ★½ The terrific Tim Blake Nelson in a western, but fighting against a mediocre plot and casting.
“To Live and Die in L.A.” (1985) ★½ Rewatched. Aside from a car chase clearly meant to one-up “The French Connection,” the rest of this is satire-level macho posturing.
“Nightmare Alley” (2021) ★★★ Both better and worse than the 1947 original, but not a movie that really sticks with you.
“Radio On” (1979) ★★★ A gorgeous, dissonant tone poem in the form of a road movie.
“My Cousin Vinny” (1992) ★½ I can’t believe this sitcom plot of a movie made any kind of cultural impression at all, much less garnered an Oscar for Marisa Tomei.
“Paper Moon” (1973) ★★★★½ Rewatched. A grand slam of a movie, with a walk-off home run ending that’s spot on perfect. The Coen Brothers learned so much from this.
“What’s Up, Doc?” (1972) ★★★½ A remarkable recreation of the wit and spirit of screwball comedy, but still a recreation. Streisand is fabulous though.
“5 Fingers” (1952) ★★★★ A corker of a spy tale but in the old fashioned sense, so don’t expect explosions and golden girls. Instead what you get is a comedy of manners, rendered with extreme elegance by James Mason in the lead role.
“All About Eve” (1950) ★★★★½ Every bit as good as everyone says it is.
“A Letter to Three Wives” (1949) ★★½ Post-war melodrama sports three terrific leads and digs into some interesting territory for a while, but never really breaks through.
“Kimi” (2022) ★★★½ Capable, small scale noir unexpectedly set in the world of smart speakers defies expectations and manages to be terrific.
“Gaslight” (1944) ★★★★ I’m amazed that the 21st century reached way back in time to this terrific but fairly obscure noir and turned its title into a culturally incisive colloquialism.
“Lifeboat” (1944) ★★★★ Hitchcock’s specialty: a sparse, limited set; richly drawn characters; and a taut, morally ambiguous conflict. Genius.
“The Hit” (1984) ★★★★ An existential odyssey disguised as a gangster flick.
“Speed Racer” (2008) ★★★★ Rewatched. This might be the best f all of the Wachowski’s films, even that one with the sunglasses and trench coats.
“Rushmore” (1998) ★★★★ Rewatched. Holds up, and shows how Anderson’s early characters were sometimes more internally coherent than they are today.
“The Thief of Bagdad” (1940) ★★ Dunderheaded plot logic, but interesting to see how special effects were pulled off in the dark ages.
“The Addams Family” (1991) ★★★ Rewatched. Raul Julia and Angelica Huston were perfect.
“Phantom Boy” (2015) ★★½ Gorgeously animated, as expected, but not much of a progression from “A Cat in Paris.”
“A Whisker Away” (2020) ★★★ The story, a teenager’s fairy tale in every aspect, is delicately executed, but the main reason to watch this is for the long string of exquisitely, lovingly rendered backgrounds.
“Air Bud” (1997) ★½ There’s not a moment here where naturalism of any kind creeps in, even for a second.
“Death on the Nile” (2022) ★★ Reasonably entertaining if intermittently bombastic and unconvincingly woke take on a classic drawing room (on a boat) whodunit.
This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. You can also see what I previously watched in January, 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.