Happy new year. If you’re just tuning in, I’m catching up on my monthly movie roundups for 2022. This post covers August but you can also see what I previously watched in July, in June, in May, in April, in March, in February, and in January.
The start of a new year is a good time to talk about the nearly complete uselessness of many movies’ officially recorded release dates. Some of the best films often debut late in the year at film festivals or in very limited release in theaters so as to qualify for awards season early the following year. As a result, they are listed with a release year that’s out of sync with when the vast majority of audiences actually get to see them. So does that make them a part of the conversation for the current or the previous year?
I ask because I’ve been thinking about my best-of-the-year list for 2022, but also because back in August I saw a surprising number of movies with 2021 release dates, even though no one was really able to see them until 2022. This included “Ted K,” a fictionalized account of how the Unabomber lived; “Official Competition,” a Spanish satire about the making of an arthouse movie; “Paris: 13th District,” a romantic fairytale about life outside of the city’s tourist traps; and “Happening,” a raw look back at a time when abortion was illegal in France. Except for “Happening,” these weren’t all masterpieces, but they were all way, way better than the average movie. (To be clear, “Happening” is a stone cold masterpiece.) It’s just a shame that they get lost in the weird shuffle between best-of lists from the previous year and the following year. I guess that’s showbiz, though.
Here’s the full list for August.
“Last Night in Soho” (2021) ★½ A horror movie that’s barely even scary, made by a director more concerned with visual spectacle than fundamental storytelling.
“Oblivion” (2013) ★★★ Visually impressive post-apocalyptic action flick that manages to be surprisingly engaging, despite its many blatant rip-offs from other, better sci-fi movies.
“Spider-Man 2” (2004) ★★½ Rewatched. Much more heavy-handed than I remembered, full of useless moping and unconvincing histrionics.
“Die Hard” (1988) ★★★★ Rewatched. The script is the real winner here but somehow everything else—performances, music, editing, cinematography—is great too.
“To Be or Not to Be” (1942) ★★★★½ Rewatched. Lubitsch’s genius in full bloom; he sees the inherent silliness of theater and drags it out into the coldness of wartime.
“All the President's Men” (1976) ★★★★★ Rewatched. The mesmerizing beauty of grunt work in the service of something much, much bigger.
“To Be or Not to Be” (1983) ★★ Really hard to see why Mel Brooks would remake this without really having anything new to add.
“The Lost Weekend” (1945) ★★★★ An agreeably overwrought message film elevated by Billy Wilder’s unflinching honesty.
“Tenet” (2020) ★★★★ Rewatched. A rare thriller where it’s as enjoyable to not understand as to understand what’s happening on screen.
“The Sea Beast” (2022) ★★★ A pedantically woke script with few surprises, but for some reason they decided to direct the hell out of it.
“Official Competition” (2021) ★★★½ Little more than an excuse for the three leads to clown around, but their clowning is magnificent.
“Happening” (2021) ★★★★½ A bare knuckled, uncompromising story for our time, set sixty years ago.
“Miami Vice” (2006) ★★★★½ Rewatched. Hits a frequency that few other filmmakers have even heard.
“Paris: 13th District” (2021) ★★½ Buoyed for long stretches by its two ridiculously watchable leads, but never figures out where it’s going.
“Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) ★★★★★ Rewatched. Every viewing is like peering into an impossibility.
Don’t forget: you can also see what I watched in in 2021, 2020, 2019, 2018, 2017, and 2016. Also, you can keep up with what I’m watching by following me on Letterboxd—where I’m also writing tons of capsule reviews.