It’s the most wonderful time of the year—for film nerds. It’s that season when all the awards contenders roll into theaters and we get to see some of the best stuff of the year from some of the best directors working. Things got off to a big start last month with Martin Scorsese’s “Killers of the Flower Moon,” a sprawling, ambitious, emotionally devastating historical drama set in the world of the Osage Nation in Oklahoma, in the 1920s. It’s a towering work.
It’s also three and a half hours long! I went to the theater and sat through every minute of it and I’m glad I did; in this day and age it’s a privilege to be able to see anything Scorsese does on the big screen. And yet, it’s hard for me to deny that this thing is overlong by at least thirty minutes, if not a full hour. There’s just too much in it—too many amazing set pieces and period reconstructions and too much painstaking detail.
For Scorsese this is perhaps the flip-side of being among the elite few who can pull off the double whammy of, first, raising money from streamers like Apple, the primary backer of this movie, and second, securing from those streaming-biased companies a theater-first release for the movies he makes for them. Having been previously responsible for a long list of some of the most prominent cultural landmarks of the past four-plus decades, he brings such enormous clout to the table that the streamers apparently give him a free hand. That’s really evident when you watch “Flower Moon,” for good and bad.
To be clear, a Scorsese without limits is still very much a Scorsese in full command of his powers—or almost all of his powers, at least. Scene for scene, minute by minute, the filmmaking in “Flower Moon” is extraordinary. But what fails him is the ability to judge in the aggregate, to know when to make painful, necessary cuts for the good of the whole. You might say that carte blanche is the undoing of this otherwise immensely compelling film; absent a studio willing to battle him over the script or the budget or the runtime, Scorsese seems to be missing some of the creative friction that has made his past works so incredibly vital. Apparently there was no one to tell him that 206 minutes is too many minutes, no one to say “no.” That’s a shame, because for many artists, even singular masters like Scorsese, sometimes there’s nothing more valuable than something to fight against.
Here are all seventeen films I watched back in October.
“Ferrari” (2023) ★★ Michael Mann’s first movie in years broke my heart with its shockingly disappointing averageness.
“To Be or Not to Be” (1942) ★★★★½ Rewatched. This Ernst Lubitsch classic somehow—through magic, maybe—turns a horrific milieu into a brilliant, buoyant comedy.
“Zodiac” (2007) ★★½ Rewatched. I don’t understand why people make a big deal about this term paper-esque, aimless procedural tale. Reveals all of the hollowness in David Fincher’s vaunted precision.
“Killers of the Flower Moon” (2023) ★★★½ An ambitious, expertly executed and heartbreaking noir that, unfortunately, should have been much shorter.
“No Hard Feelings” (2023) ★★ Starts off great! Raunchy and belligerent and thrilling. Then devolves quickly into cheap sentimentality to the point where I was infuriated.
“Frankenstein” (1931) ★★★★ Rewatched. Not particularly frightening but a powerhouse of visual expressiveness, almost painterly in nature, that has obviously left an indelible impression on the public imagination.
“The Adventures of Tintin” (2011) ★★★½ Rewatched. This overwrought, hyperactively CG-animated romp is not a sensical approach to adapting the vividly minimalist source material, but somehow it works better and better with each revisit.
“The Russia House” (1990) ★★★½ A real pleasure for fans of dour, not particularly novelistic spy capers.
“Moonshine” (1918) ★★ Fatty Arbuckle and Buster Keaton in a ramshackle, hilarious and unexpectedly modern comedic short from over a century ago.
This is the latest roundup of my monthly movie consumption. I usually try to publish these earlier in the month but it’s a struggle! You can also see what I previously watched in September, in August, in July, in June, in May, in April, in March, in February, in January, in 2022, 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.