2022 has been my journey to explore new content both to hone my critical eye and for my personal enjoyment. So far this year I have watched over 150 that I had never seen before. Some new just to me and some brand new content. I eat all that popcorn and drink all that wine for you!
In July I watched 25 of those 150 and here are the best, worst, weirdest and biggest surprises:
Best: The Freshman
Before stumbling on The Freshman on HBO Max’s Turner Classic Movie collection I had never heard of it. The comedy features the young and charming Matthew Broderick in his Ferris Bueller hay day and Marlon Brando playing a barely altered parody of his own most famous role, Don Corleone from The Godfather. The concept is a young college Freshman accidentally gets involved with the mob. It is hilarious. Brando picking fun at his own character (which is one of the greatest characters in movie history) really proves what a quality actor and person Brando really is.
The Freshman is quirky, well paced and refreshingly modern. Check it out on HBO Max.
I also discovered Protocol down the Turner Classic Movie rabbit hole on HBO Max. The comedy starring Goldie Hawn (Overboard) follows a cocktail waitress on her journey into foreign politics. While Hawn is as effervescent and charming as ever, the movie refuses to steer into its own camp and takes itself way too seriously. You can’t make a slapstick romp about a cocktail waitress ditzing her way through global politics and then try to make it an actual exploration on women’s rights and the ethics of government.
Not fun, don’t watch.
Weirdest: Boo, Bitch
Netflix’s miniseries Boo, Bitch, follows a teenage girl who discovers she has died and is actually basically haunting all her friends in a pseudo dead/pseudo alive state of being. The concept is bizarre. Think: Casper meets Mean Girls. But the show is actually a lot of fun and has some unexpected depth as well as a few major twists and turns. If you’re looking for something a little off-beat, Boo, Bitch, is a fun one to try.
Biggest Surprise: Viva Las Vegas
I had never seen an Elvis Presley movie before trying Viva Las Vegas and I didn’t know what I was expecting but it’s not what I got. The film itself was pretty standard to the era and the genre. Infantilized woman gets fought over by two rogues and falls in love with the main rogue. But what surprised me was Elvis himself. He had the kind of screen charisma that resonates more with figures like Timothy Chalamet, Miles Teller and Tom Cruise than with Bing Crosby, Carey Grant and James Dean. Presley’s performance was extremely modern and stood out from the rest of the performers. I knew that he was a super-star but I didn’t realize that his star quality was so advanced from those he was around in his time. The material didn’t lend itself to know whether or not he was a “good” actor but what I can say for sure is that he stole every second of screen time. It’s worth watching if you’ve never seen an Elvis movie and are curious about how he performs.
Best critical education: How Green Was My Valley
How Green Was My Valley famously beat Citizen Kane for Best Picture in 1942. If you know anything about me and my taste in film you know I hate Citizen Kane and I think it was shoved very far up its own rear. So nothing pleases me more than another film controversially taking home top prize instead of Citizen Kane. How Green Was My Valley also stars the iconic Maureen O’Hara who basically defined what it is to be a movie star.
The movie was extremely good. Well acted, well constructed and told from a creative reference. The fun thing about watching classic award winners is learning the techniques and formats from which modern filmmakers derive their styles and vision. Watching How Green Was My Valley reminded me a lot of the 2022 favorite and Best Picture nominee, Belfast and I realized how much Kenneth Branaugh was drawing upon its classic,award winning style.
If you’re interested in learning more about film in the historical, contextual and artistic sense, How Green Was My Valley is a great watch.