Movies Watched, March 2024

Auto Draft

Sometimes the best movie experiences are the ones that you go into with few expectations, or maybe even with a bit of reluctance. On a cold, incredibly rainy night in March, the kind of evening where staying warm and dry sounds even better than going to see a movie, my wife and I somehow roused ourselves to trek all the way from Brooklyn to the Upper West Side of Manhattan to see a screening of “The Temple Woods Gang.” This 2022 noir from Franco-Algerian director Rabah Ameur-Zaïmeche was being shown as part of a festival of recent French movies at Film at Lincoln Center, and we went at the suggestion of some friends, not really knowing anything about it.

Ameur-Zaïmeche’s film is a sobering story of a misfit band of losers from a Parisian housing project who conspire to rob what turns out to be an incredibly dangerous victim, and the backlash that ensues. It’s told with bracing, efficient skill, with little to no exposition in the dialogue, and barebones audio—there’s no score to speak of. If you eat up this kind of raw, minimalist filmmaking, and I do, then this is for you. At the same time, it’s also humanist and contemplative; the director takes long detours from the plot to linger on quiet moments like an aria at a funeral, a racehorse and jockey rounding the track, an antagonist dancing along with a club deejay, and more—these add a real poetry to the violent proceedings. Superb stuff and totally worth the cold temperatures and downpour.

On a different night when I did stay home, my family and I watched Mamoru Hosoda’s 2012 anime film “Wolf Children.” I’d seen it before and remembered liking it, though it was only on this second watch that I realized what a masterpiece this fantastical story about a young mother raising two werewolves is. For context I’ll offer a hot take on anime: most of it bores me, even the work of Studio Ghibli. Maybe especially the work of Studio Ghibli, which I find to be visually spectacular but thematically tiresome and egregiously incompetent when it comes to character development. Yes, I said it! Anyway, Hosoda’s work, for me, inverts Ghibli’s formula of huge spectacle and thinly drawn characters; what “Wolf Children” offers instead is eloquently dimensional protagonists set against a backdrop of quotidian imagery that’s drawn with such precise, loving care that it becomes fantastical in a way you never knew the world around us could be. That’s the kind of animation magic that resonates for me, even if there’s not a cat-bus in sight.


Here’s the full list of all sixteen movies I watched in March. This is the latest in my monthly round-ups of movies I’ve been watching. You can also see everything I watched in February, in January, and summaries of everything I watched in 2023, 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.

  1. Dune: Part Two” (2024) ★★★★½
    First of three times seeing it in a month.
  2. Friedkin Uncut” (2018) ★★
    Despite lots of original interview footage of its subject, this documentary about the life and career of William Friedkin, one of the greatest directors of modern cinema, is not as interesting as the man or his work.
  3. Night Falls on Manhattan” (1996) ★★★★
    An underappreciated gem from Sidney Lumet about how a debacle of a police manhunt reverberates through pre-Giuliani New York.
  4. Mad Max: Fury Road” (2015) ★★★★★
    Rewatched. This movie is nine years old already and it’s still a miracle, but its scant CG effects are just starting to show their age.
  5. The Temple Woods Gang” (2022) ★★★★
    Steadfastly minimal yet also ardently humanist story of small time criminals in a Parisian banlieue who get in over their heads.
  6. Dune: Part Two” (2024) ★★★★½
    Rewatched. Second viewing confirmed it for me: this is an honest-to-goodness masterpiece, not just for its spectacle but for the way it peoples its fantastical landscape landscape with authentic, dimensional human characters.
  7. Beverly Hills Ninja” (1997) ★½
    Director Dennis Dugan must’ve had to work extra hard to deliver this film with so much incompetence that it manages to blot out all of Chris Farley’s comic radiance.
  8. Ready Player One” (2018) ★★
    A gigantic misfire from Steven Spielberg that’s so bad it really made me wonder how the director got so far off track.
  9. Amanda” (2022) ★★★½
    This is a genial, American-style indie movie—except that this time the conspicuously quirky, child-like adult at its center is, unexpectedly, a young woman living in the bourgeois Italian countryside.
  10. Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters” (1985) ★★★★
    A beautiful, abstractly constructed biopic of Japanese writer Yukio Mishima from the master of stories about disturbed men with a code, Paul Schrader.
  11. River” (2023) ★★★½
    Another beguiling, gentle time loop comedy from Junto Yamaguchi, director of “Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes.”
  12. Indiana Jones and the Dial of Destiny” (2023) ★
    For the rest of their lives, everyone involved in this will have to live with that fact that they were involved with this.
  13. Dune: Part Two” (2024) ★★★★½
    Rewatched. Even on the third viewing, this gets better and better.
  14. Dune” (2021) ★★★★
    Rewatched. Revisited this with my daughter as she got ready to see the sequel.
  15. Wolf Children” (2012) ★★★★
    Rewatched. A sparkling, soulful fantasy about coping with otherness that surprised me the first time and that I felt even more profoundly on this second viewing. It also confirmed for me that I actually can enjoy anime—it usually bores me to tears—or at least I can when it’s as thoughtful about character development as this one is.
  16. Mirai” (2018) ★★★½
    From the same director: an anime “Where the Wild Things Are” for the 21st Century. Loaded with gorgeously precise, quotidian imagery that comes alive and enters the realm of the fantastical through sheer storytelling, underpinned by deep reserves of empathy for the inner lives of young children.