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The Letterboxd Show 2.24: Crew Faves of 2021
[clip of Godzilla vs. Kong plays: sounds of helicopters while Godzilla and Kong fight]
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
SLIM Hello and welcome to The Letterboxd Show, a podcast about the movies people love watching from Letterboxd: the social network for people who love watching movies. Each episode your hosts Slim—that’s me—and Gemma are joined by a Letterboxd friend for a chat about their four favorite films. As you listen along, we’ll have links in the episode notes so there’s no excuse not to add these films to your watchlists. Today, in a tiny break from format—but not really—we are bringing some Letterboxd insiders to the table to discuss our four favorites of 2021.
GEMMA That’s right, please welcome Letterboxd’s director of social, Aaron Yap, and our senior editor Mitchell Beaupre to the show. We have all had a look over our Letterboxd diaries from the past eleven months to come up with four favorites each and a handful more because we just can’t help ourselves. But don’t worry, this is still the approximately one hour long podcast you know and love because we’ve instructed everyone to only go along on one film each, which is quite hard in this year of cinema. But anyway, the movies you’ll be hearing the most about today are Titane, The Power of the Dog, Malignant and Godzilla vs. Kong. Ten points to the first listener to guess which guest chose what film. [Gemma & Slim laugh] But first, you may want to get to know our two guests a bit better. This year for Letterboxd, Mitchell Beaupre made Mike Mills cry and had a special connection with Titane’s writer and director Julia Ducournau and almost single handedly took the Letterboxd team to victory in a Cinephile Game Night this past July. And Aaron Yap—well if you follow any of Letterboxd social media accounts, Aaron is the person responsible for overseeing the Mads Mikkelsen thirst and Cate Blanchett GIFs all… day… long. Hello, you two.
AARON Sorry, not sorry. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
SLIM And Mitchell, how did it feel? I mean, we played Cinephile together, you almost took the whole thing solo. What was that night like for you playing Cinephile with the Letterboxd crew?
MITCHELL It was not without stress. I will say I was definitely sweating profusely, the entire time. So it was basically a blackout. It’s nice to hear that apparently, we won. [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA I think it was also about five minutes after you’d joined the staff of Letterboxd. So, you know, it’s pretty much the only reason you got the job is so that we’ll always win Cinephile. No, no, that’s not true. Also, you made Mike Mills cry, which I just love. And the other thing I love about you two, and I’m feeling—I don’t know about you Slim, but I’m feeling a little bit out of my depth at this point—is that between the pair of you Aaron and Mitchell, I’m not sure who would win in a physical media fight. It’s fair to say that you’re both collectors.
SLIM Walk us through it, Aaron. what’s your physical collection like?
AARON It’s pretty embarrassing. I guess I’ve been collecting for—I don’t want to reveal the age part of it. But a good two decades, maybe. [Aaron laughs] So I’ve amassed a little bit over that period of time. And it’s just—I just can’t stop.
SLIM What’s your prize collection in your library?
AARON I need to get back to you. It’s like asking me what my favorite film is.
SLIM Yeah, marinate on it. What about you, Mitchell? What’s your collection like?
MITCHELL Yeah, it’s pretty intense. At the moment, I have run out of rooms on the shelving systems that I have. So I have literally just stacks and stacks just on the floor, that every day, I’m like, ‘Oh, I need to figure out how to get new shelves so that I don’t just have Blu-rays upon Blu-rays on the floor, but I just instead just keep buying more Blu-rays.
GEMMA Aaron’s just nodding in sympathy.
AARON This is the life.
MITCHELL Of course, instead of spending money on new shelves, I instead spend money on new Blu-rays to go on the floor. [Gemma laughs]
SLIM So this has been quote “a year”. And with that in mind, as Gemma said, each person on this episode is going to talk about their main fave released in 2021. And then we’ll go through quick honorable mentions. So that includes Gemma and myself by the way—bee tee dubs.
GEMMA Woohoo! [Slim laughs]
SLIM I think we all know which pick was Gemma’s. I think you probably all know which pick was mine.
GEMMA Godzilla vs. Kong—coming home, baby! [Slim & Gemma laugh] And after that segment, later in the show, we’ll talk about new to us in 2021, meaning movies that were first viewings for us, new discoveries that came out before 2021. So I’m excited to talk about all these movies. Where should we go from here, Gemma? Is it time to go in to our first fave?
GEMMA I mean, well, we’ve got two—we’ve got the two directors, who are the only female directors to have won the Palme d’Or. I think we should start with the most recent because that was a heck of a way to start award season. And I’m talking about Julia Ducournau and Titane, which has currently a 3.7 average, which is, ehhh, we’ll get to that. And 1.1 thousand fans. And this, Mitchell, is your favorite of 2021. Take us into the deep, demented, body horror world of Julia and Titane.
[Light House by Future Islands plays]
SLIM Mental note to myself, edit this out. Edit this all out. It’s disgusting.
MITCHELL Clifford’s coming back!
GEMMA You said you wouldn’t even mention the title! [Gemma & Aaron laugh]
MITCHELL But no, you know, as is true with Clifford a lot of movies really affected me this year and in really extreme ways. And I’ll drop a couple more in the honorable mentions, but I genuinely, in all sincerity, Titane affected me in a way that I don’t think anything else even came close to. For people who don’t know, I’m non-binary, I use they/them pronouns and I always kind of feel like I’m watching films as they’re made from this kind of binary perspective and understanding of the world. There’s so much talk, especially these days, and rightfully so, about male gaze and sometimes about female gaze and like what that even means. But Titane I kind of felt like was the first movie that I’ve seen where I was watching it, presented as almost like a non-binary gaze or a gender-non-conforming gaze. I think the way that Julia Ducournau kind of queers gender in the film, felt like such an alarming kind of visceral representation of how I personally see the world, as she really breaks down these ideas of what’s masculine, what’s feminine, and what those words even mean, which ultimately, they mean nothing. She just rips open kind of these boxes that we’re all placed into socially. And she presents this idea that, maybe this is all a construct, and at the end of the day, it’s all fluid. There’s so much more than what we’re led to believe, you know what I mean?
SLIM I looked up the synopsis that is pulled in and is on Letterboxd right now, listen to this synopsis for this movie: “Following a series of unexplained crimes, a former firefighter is reunited with his son who has been missing for ten years.” That is like the most—[Slim & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA What movie is that?
SLIM …strangest synopsis. I’ve seen this movie and that is an amazing tease for this movie. It’s just the last thing I would have thought of when kind of pitching this. So how do you pitch it, Mitchell?
MITCHELL See, that’s an interesting thing. Because when thinking about how I wanted to even start discussing it, yeah, it makes sense to start with talking about kind of the basic logline of what a movie is. But Titane, one of the really interesting things about how she totally subverts expectation is—this movie is not what you could even possibly sell it as. The marketing for it sold it as this really extreme severe body horror—it kind of is that for the first fifteen minutes—and then it becomes something else entirely with. I mean, it’s about a woman who is also kind of a serial killer and she feels disconnected from the world, but she’s running away from these crimes that she committed so that she’s not apprehended by the police. And in doing so, she takes up this opportunity to sort of camouflage herself by disguising as this boy who disappeared many years ago, this son of a firefighter. And then he accepts her. He hasn’t seen his son in so many years. So he just thinks that that’s—or at least we’re led to believe that he thinks that that actually is his child. And that’s the first 20 minutes of the movie. [Gemma & Mitchell laugh] And the directions that it goes from there are just so much beyond like you can possibly imagine what they would be because she really, she went into this idea of totally deconstructing even the idea of the three-act structure of films. So the structure of the movie itself is just as fluid as anything else. It’s completely reinventing how you think that you would watch a movie.
GEMMA I feel like out of all the movies that came out this year, Titane is the one that has Parasite-level plot twists, if it’s not a cheesy thing to say. It’s the one where you go in with a very vague notion of plot and no idea where you’re about to be taken.
AARON Yeah. The structure of Titane is definitely so—it appeals to me the way that it sort of starts one thing and it sort of goes the other direction by the end, almost. There’s another film that came out this year called Agnes, by Mickey Reece and it’s—I just love the way films you can do that, where it’s like one thing, and at the end, it’s completely another thing, it kind of vanishes from what it originally was. And I love seeing that happen and I think Titane does that immensely well.
SLIM This was probably the most recent movie that I can think of that sent shockwaves through like my group of friends. Like “Oh, Titane, you got to see Titane, you’re not ready for Titane.” [Gemma & Mitchell laugh] And I was like, ‘Oh, god, what am I getting into here?’ Like it was almost kind of a real subtle buzz around the movie because it was one of those things where like “Now, don’t read anything, just go in, you’re not ready.” And I think that might have worked against the hype for some people because it set real like lofty expectations. Like “Titane, Titane, Titane!” And you’re like ‘Alright, shut up the eff up, I’ll go watch it.’ And that was the first movie I think I thought of this year that was like so crazy different hype that it worked for people or really didn’t work for people.
GEMMA Well Slim, I mean, given that you are the master of running in the opposite direction from hype to the point that—wait, what did you see for the first time this year? Roma? [Slim laughs] Just that small Oscar-winning—
SLIM Just wait until everyone gets to my segment of the episode, okay? No one’s ready for my segment.
AARON Slim, I haven’t seen Roma either, so. [Gemma laughs]
SLIM Thank you, Aaron. Thank you. Our bravery right now.
AARON Little confession. [Slim laughs]
GEMMA Bravery, bravery all around. So given that, have you seen Titane?
SLIM I have. I was wondering when Gemma was gonna pull her strings and ask my opinion on the movie. I did finally sit down to watch it. And the hype worked against me, I think, unfortunately. Because I started to mentally put this movie in a box, which I shouldn’t have. And when you hear so much about like body horror, Cronenberg, different-than-Cronenberg body horror. I’m like, ‘Oh my god, what is this movie?’ And you start to get an expectation of what you’re going to feel and see. But the movie, like you said Mitchell, is so different in its fluidity of a film, you can’t put it in a box. And I kind of almost wish that I had seen this maybe before my group of friends, movie-watching friends, or anyone on Letterboxd so that I just kind of went in totally blind and before the hype, kind of like, took hold of me. The hype fog, so to speak.
GEMMA So what you’re saying, Slim, is you need to be on the screener list for studios… [Slim laughs]
SLIM Julia, if you’re listening right now.
GEMMA …for people who get to see it first.
MITCHELL Yeah, just be friends with Julia Ducournau from now on, and you’ll get the first look anytime.
GEMMA Hey Mitchell, before we move on, I’m really keen to know a little bit more about your experience of getting to talk to Julia, about your experience of watching her film.
MITCHELL Yeah, I mean, that was definitely—I’ve done a handful, more than a handful of interviews this year, and that was certainly the most profound for me, being able to express not only just to talk to her about kind of the things that really specifically I keyed into with the movies about the way that it deconstructs gender and all these like social ideas, but to also just express just what it meant to me personally, as somebody who has a non-binary gender. A lot of these times, when you’re doing these interviews, you get fifteen, twenty minutes to talk to somebody and they can feel a little bit canned, but you try not to make them. But that one, it really felt like there was a kind of personal connection there, that really meant a lot to me. I was coming from a place that was really personal with the film. And I mean, we also got to talk about the homoerotic firefighter rave. [Slim & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA Oh my god. Which is the moment I wept during the movie, because I think we were in lockdown at that point. I was like, ‘I just want to be in a firehouse right now!’ [Gemma laughs]
SLIM So what about what about your honorable mentions for 2021, Mitchell? What are three films that maybe we can quick hear about before we move to Gemma’s picks?
MITCHELL Yes, so some other ones that really did hit me a lot. Petite Maman was one that when I saw it, thought was gonna for sure be my favorite movie of the year permanently until I saw Titane. But Petite Maman was really interesting because it was a film that I saw it about a month after my grandmother passed away, like over the summer. And the film starts off with this main character, this young girl, her grandmother passes away. And it goes so far beyond that, but it really felt in a way like it helped me also process my grief and not only my grief, but also kind of my relationship with my parents who I’ve always wanted to feel more connected to. There’s always kind of a distance between parents and children. And I think that Céline Sciamma really, really keys into that. I actually did want to ask Aaron, kind of what Aaron’s thoughts were on Petite Maman because I know Aaron just saw it in theaters as the first movie that he saw in theaters after 100-plus days on lockdown.
AARON You know, I hadn’t read too much about it. So I thought it was just going to be a straight kind of coming-of–age film two young girls becoming friends in the woods or something like that. But the way it just kind of changed into something else was quite was emotional, and also quite—what’s the word—unexpected, I guess. Are we allowed to talk spoilers?
SLIM I have not seen it, but it is on my list.
GEMMA I haven’t seen it yet!
AARON And I don’t know how much that sort of plays into, is it a spoiler-proof film. But it definitely—I just loved the low-key nature of the way it was told and just a perfect length at 72 minutes.
AARON In and out. It still packed a punch at the end.
MITCHELL Yeah, it’s so funny, Petite Maman is 72 minutes. And then my kind of third-favorite film of the year is Drive My Car, which is three hours long and kind of runs the gambit. There’s so many arguments on Twitter about the perfect length of a movie. Movies shouldn’t be longer than, you know, 110 minutes. And it’s like, no, any movie can be as long as it wants, as long as it’s good. And Drive My Car, I mean, he does exactly that. It’s three hours long, but it just goes by so well. And like part of the appeal of Drive My Car is the fact that it’s three hours long, because it takes its time to really unravel its characters, and the emotional wavelength and everything. And then I’ll drop in my fourth one. My last honorable mention is Memoria, the most recent film from Apichatpong Weerasethakul, the kind of master of hypnotic slow cinema. And this one, his first movie is shooting outside of Thailand, he shot it in Colombia. And it takes on this really interesting kind of examination of time, and how our present is always informed by the past and the future. And not only the past and the future of ourselves, but also the people around us and like the Earth itself that we inhabit. And it’s the kind of movie—which I think all four of my favorite movies of the year do this thing that kind of makes me ruminate and really reflect on my place within the world and kind of the, I mean, the world itself, but especially my place within the world, and just who I am and how I relate to the world. And I feel like you get lucky if one movie a year can really make you feel like that and really make you change your perspective. And just think about what your perspective even is. And the fact that I had four movies this year that did that for me and that I just keep thinking about and every time they come into my head, I spend hours thinking about them again, even though I’ve already done it so many times. To have four movies in a year that do that, feels honestly kind of like a miracle. You know?
SLIM What a friggin’ year.
MITCHELL Yeah, what a year.
SLIM We have been leading up to this moment for I feel like the entire season of The Letterboxd Show, and that is Gemma talking about Jane Campion’s newest film, The Power of the Dog. 3.8 average on Letterboxd right now.
GEMMA Too low.
AARON Yeah, it’s not in the 3.9 club, which is the elite Letterboxd ratings club. [Slim & Gemma laugh] You gotta hit the 3.9.
GEMMA I think we’re gonna hit that 3.9 as more young queers come to this film.
SLIM Well, didn’t her other film that we talked about also do the slow rise over the years?
GEMMA What other film was that, Slim? [Slim laughs] We haven’t talked about any other Jane Campion films on this podcast! [Gemma laughs]
SLIM If there was a drinking game for me mentioning I haven’t seen a movie, there’s a definitely drinking game for Gemma and Jane Campion on this show. But you were waiting for this movie to come out. Tell us about The Power of the Dog and tell us about how it made it to be your fave of the year.
[music from The Power of the Dog plays]
GEMMA Yeah, so anyone listening to this podcast for any length of time will know that I’m a Campion fan, specifically have In the Cut, Mark Ruffalo, and Bright Star. Those are the two I think I rewatch most often which is surprising because you’d think The Piano, being the big award-winner and the film that set on the beautiful west coast of Auckland, where Aaron and I both live and there’s a lot of people we love in it, including my movie dad, Sam Neill. But it’s the kind of sexy edge of In the Cut. And it’s just the sheer doomed beautiful romance of Bright Star that I love. There’s other films I love this year too, but I’ve ultimately chosen The Power of the Dog based in large part on how the reality of the film met my very long anticipation for it. And I haven’t read Thomas Savage’s novel that it’s based on, so I don’t come at it from that angle. I come to it from the angle of Campion fans waiting twelve long years for a new feature film. We definitely had two seasons of Top of the Lake to get us through in the meantime. But there’s something different. There’s something about the uninterrupted nature of a self-contained Campion feature, I guess. And that just is immersive and glorious. And I also come to it—and I am one of these people who will watch trailers and I will lap up all the pre-release vibes. So all the things Benedict Cumberbatch had to learn to be Phil Burbank from learning to play banjo, to learning to make ropes, to debollocking a bull. The fact that Elisabeth Moss was first cast as Rose, but scheduling issues put Kirsten Dunst in the role instead and what a happy thing that was, alongside her husband, Jesse Plemons. Plus Elisabeth had already done a lot of drunk acting in Shirley so it was Kirsten’s turn really. And the fact that we’re in a pandemic, and this is a movie we’d already waited a long time for. And then its production was interrupted by Covid and New Zealand’s locked down. And then—and then—just as it was ready to be the Gala presentation at the Auckland part of the New Zealand International Film Festival, we went into lockdown. And so we missed that big chance. It was going to be the red carpet event of the year for me, and instead I went along just a couple of days ago, just as we came out of lockdown, to a 10AM Monday-morning screening with ten other people. So anyway, how to actually talk about The Power of the Dog? Hmm.
SLIM Well let me read the synopsis. We have a synopsis battle, maybe that’s like a new segment. We determine if the synopsis is actually good or bad. [Gemma & Aaron laugh] But the synopsis for The Power of the Dog right now on Letterboxd is: “Charismatic rancher Phil Burbank inspires fear and awe in those around him. When his brother brings home a new wife, Rose and her son Pete, Phil torments them until he finds himself exposed to the possibility of love.” And I was listening to The Big Picture pod with a friend of the show, Sean Fennessey. And one of the guests was talking about The Power of the Dog. And I am one of those that kind of just ignores the trailers for the most part and just kind of goes in. They referenced this movie as sort of like a thriller. Is that correct? Because I didn’t even know that. I thought it was more of like a simmering drama, potential love story or something.
GEMMA So did I until I saw it.
SLIM Oh, really? Okay. Genre spoilers.
GEMMA And I really, really am reluctant to talk about spoilers here. Because it really is—and not to hype it up beyond belief, because I also don’t think that that’s correct to do with this film. It really is—I now understand why the film has been talked about in the way it’s been talked about and why Phil (Benedict Cumberbatch) has been the focus of the marketing and why Peter, the son of Rose played by Kodi Smit-McPhee, beautifully in this, he’s stunning, has been somewhat backgrounded in the marketing. And I think that that is so important, and it kind of matches the story in and of itself. I mean, when we first meet Peter, we meet him at the top of the film and he’s making paper flowers in this very masculine kind of isolated, Montana rancher territory. So it’s clear from the get-go that he’s a sissy in a manscape. Right? And so, immediately, immediately, you’ve set up two complete masculine opposites—or so we think. It sort of goes from there, I guess. But yeah, I don’t want to say much more, but I’m happy to report that Jane’s obsession with hands remains intact and that she’s added feet and shoes, quite a lot of different pairs of shoes, to the mix. As always, there are many, many fetish objects. In The Piano, it’s the piano, in Bright Star, it’s books, and The Power of the Dog, it’s rags and ropes and hula hoops and paper flowers. There’s a Hitchcockian use of windows and of space, speaking to the thriller element of it. The house itself, it’s just dark and brooding. It’s not a feminine environment at all, that George, that Jesse Plemons, is bringing Rose to. It looks like something from Psycho. And it has possibly the best terrorism-by-banjo scene in a cinema possibly ever. I don’t know, no one started a terrorism-by-banjo list on Letterboxd yet.
[banjo scene from The Power of the Dog plays]
SLIM That’s a market opportunity.
GEMMA It feels to me like it’s the ultimate comeback for all those assholes who have always told that joke, “What’s the difference between a banjo and a ukulele?”
SLIM Aaron, have you seen this yet?
AARON Oh, yes, I did. I saw it just last week on Netflix. Did you watch it on the big screen, Gemma?
GEMMA I watched it at the Cineplex.
AARON Maybe I should have done that. Yeah, I wasn’t as blown away as the general consensus seems to be but I still found a lot to admire in it. And I think I was just kind of, those expectations, that kind of hype thing, where I think I was going in expecting the whole Cumberbatch thing to be the part that was interesting or seemed interesting came really late in the film to me. So I think I just need to readjust that kind of expectation and just relax into it a bit more.
GEMMA I think a lot of people who have read the book had said that as well. I know that Brian Formo knows the book well and had to go back and sort of rewatch it, having—trying to forget that he’d read the book, and that the second time it gave more to him. And I mean, I agree, I didn’t walk out of that cinema going, “Wow, Jane, you’ve smashed it out of the park!” I think I walked out in the same way that I walked out of Bright Star the first time I saw it and went, “Huh. Well, that was, um, that was sweet. That was sad.” And then as the years have gone by, it just sits deeper and deeper and deeper in my heart.
SLIM And Mitchell, you have not seen this yet. Correct?
MITCHELL No. So I actually saw it. I knew that it was Gemma’s pick for favorite, so I watched it. I squeezed it in last night at one o’clock in the morning.
GEMMA The perfect time to watch it. [Slim laughs]
MITCHELL Yeah, for anybody who hasn’t watched it yet, don’t watch it at one o’clock in the morning. Maybe give it an afternoon viewing. [Gemma laughs] It definitely sinks in. It is very much—yeah, describing it as like a thriller or whatever is a little bit disingenuous. Because it really is, it really sinks underneath your skin. And it just has that kind of slow burn where it just unsettles you and you at first can’t even necessarily like put your finger on why it’s unsettling you and then the longer it goes on, the more you think like, ‘Oh, this is why.’ But also the unsettling thing is so much more complex than you would even think that it would be and it creates this kind of world where there’s no good people, no bad people, necessarily. Everybody’s kind of a victim of circumstance and pressure from society and everything. And I mean, I think that that’s just so wonderful. It makes sense that it comes from a novel because it’s such a novelistic movie, in a way where you watch it and then you want to go read the novel to get all the extra details and stuff. But she packs everything so well into the little over two hours there.
SLIM Gemma, can you let us know some honorable mentions for this past year that we’re still in, technically?
GEMMA I just—that we’re still in—I don’t even. It’s a funny one, because while it has been a year for cinema indeed, it’s the ones that just kind of stick with you, right? Like, this is a favorites format. I know I’m just putting it off, because I’m kind of not sure if I’m proud or embarrassed about my choices.
SLIM You and me both.
GEMMA I want to say the film from this year that I’ve seen the most often, obviously with my child, is Luca. Which we adore. We utterly adore it. One, it’s the shortest Pixar movie in a long time, which is really nice. It means you can watch it twice in one night. Two, for me, I know that there’s a lot of Call Me by Your Name beautiful identity reading into it and as they should be. It’s a gorgeous movie about two outsider fish boys who decide that they want to be able to ride bicycles and eat pasta in the local town. And for me, it felt like growing up in the suburbs, like the deep suburbs, like ‘it takes an hour by train to get to the city’ suburbs. Just love it. Love, love, love. It’s great. What else? Spencer. So Pablo Larraín’s Spencer starring Kristen Stewart. This particular case, the screening came through and I’m probably going to get in trouble for saying I watched it with other people. But this film is what popped the bubbles between me and my mum and my sister when we were having to isolate. We came together around this film. So for the first time in many months, it was the first movie I got to watch with the two most important women in my life. And on top of that, it’s just the little touches of genius like her wardrobe: she’s had an outfit selected for every single event that’s happening in this palace over these three Christmas days. And when you see the hangers hanging on the rack, it says “POW”, and you stop and you go, ‘Hang on. Oh, Princess of Wales.’ Not prisoner of war.
SLIM We just got an email from the Spencer people. They said no more screeners for Letterboxd.
GEMMA Oh, man! [Slim & Gemma laugh]
SLIM You have one more movie that you didn’t talk about for your honorable mentions before we get to Aaron. Gemma, what is it?
GEMMA You can see my notes. You know I’ve got three more. But I’m not gonna do that to you. [Gemma & Slim laugh]
SLIM Gemma has ten more movies that she wants to talk about.
GEMMA I’ve got 25 more movies—wait, isn’t this 40 favorites? [Slim laugh] I’m confused. Look, I did very quickly want to shout out the Todd Stephens film Swan Song starring Udo Kier as a retired hairdresser walking back to his small hometown, to do the hair of the corpse of the town’s maven, with a side of a little-known Irish film, that it screened in some festival in America this year, and they sent me a screener. And I was like, ‘I love this! This is great.’ But I haven’t seen it come out yet anywhere other than Ireland. So I’m hoping for 2022 released for Deadly Cuts, which is classic Gemma, it’s sitting at about a 3.2 among the very few people on Letterboxd who have seen it, who are basically arguing that it doesn’t know whether it wants to be a comedy or a horror. And I’m like, exactly! It’s perfect. It’s another small-town movie about hairdressers, the women who run a salon that as being terrorized along with the neighborhood shops by a group of absolute thugs. And they decided to take matters into their own hands and it’s really exciting. And there’s a hairdressing competition as well. So yeah, it kind of sits in the in the same camp as Australian films like The Castle and Strictly Ballroom, but with horror, with dead bodies. It’s brilliant. But no, my real—it’s just in the last hour, risen to the top of my top four for the year. My real other top four is The Worst Person in the World, which is—and I’m going to attempt to say his name correctly. Joachim Trier’s, The Worst Person in the World, which is this story of the coming of age of a woman into her 30s. And also a look at people in their mid-to-late 40s. And usually those kind of coming-of-age movies around the 30-ish age, which I love. There’s something about 30, right? On your way up to, it’s terrifying and scary and you can’t imagine ever being old. And out the other side, you’re like, what was I ever worried about?
SLIM Mitchell, have you seen that yet?
MITCHELL I haven’t. I’m extremely excited for it. I love the directors movies. I love Reprise and Oslo, August 31st, especially, which this is apparently kind of a thematic trilogy with his like Oslo movies. So I’m very excited to see it. And I turned 31 this year so Gemma saying that life really starts after 30, very, very encouraging. Very nice to hear. [Gemma laughs]
SLIM Life isn’t over after 30. My main mantra. We have to move on to maybe the most divisive movie released this year. Aaron’s pick.
AARON I’m sure there are fans out there that would contest that. [Slim laughs]
SLIM It’s about to get real. James Wan. 3.1 average. 320 fans. I’m talking about Malignant, released this year. Let me read the synopsis. We’ll do our little synopsis segment. “Madison is paralyzed by shocking visions of grisly murders, and her torment worsens as she discovers that these waking dreams are in fact terrifying realities.” Tell us about your relationship to Malignant, Aaron.
AARON It’s a toxic relationship. [Slim & Gemma laugh] I guess one of the main reasons, I love putting horror in my top ten end-of-year lists, is just to give the genre that prominence that most—don’t be afraid of putting a horror for number one. It’s the same the same way that Oscars rarely recognize the genre. And so I love putting a horror film like Malignant next to Drive My Car, for instance, and I think that should just be the normal thing. There’s no change, and I don’t see that there’s a big vast difference in quality of films. They both mean the same amount to me emotionally when I watch it. So yeah, Malignant, I wouldn’t say I’m a huge James Wan fan, but I’ve definitely followed his career and enjoyed almost everything that he’s put out. And Malignant is kind of a, I guess, almost like a back-to-basics kind of thing where he’s going back to a smaller horror film, after making Aquaman, which is his biggest film. And I think a lot of people, ultimate fans, love that he actually just kind of said, “I’ve got a blank check, I’ll do this crazy little film called Malignant.” I don’t know how much I should reveal if you haven’t seen it, because part of it is going in definitely completely blind to this film. I did not watch the trailer for this film. I just saw that the title of Malignant was enough to get me in. And I heard that it was kind of like a slightly Giallous exercise in horror. So I did not see anything from the film before I saw it, which is great. But people who have watched the film, there’s a point in the movie where it completely changes gears and it does it so incredibly, that it almost just takes you off guard. But I also just wanted to say that this film could easily be both the best horror film and best action film of the year, if that sort of gives you an indication of why Malignant is so awesome. Who’s seen it here?
SLIM I have seen it. I have seen it. Mitchell raised their hand. Gemma, have you seen this? No.
GEMMA I have not seen it.
SLIM She’s doing the ‘cut mic’ action. She doesn’t even want to mention this movie. [Gemma laughs] The trailer that I remember seeing—
GEMMA No, I haven’t seen it. But I’m really intrigued by Patrick Willems’ Letterboxd review that says, “This movie opens with a shot of a huge, terrifying hospital on a cliff surrounded by lots of fog. So two seconds in, you know it’s gonna rip.”
SLIM Mitchell, what are your vibes on Malignant when you saw it?
MITCHELL Yeah, I mean, I think it’s a pip. It’s so much fun. And I think, exactly what Aaron’s talking about just there, that we’re kind of in this world where horror is kind of being pushed into two different realms. You kind of get like the art-housey A24 horror movies. And then you get kind of like the more generic, whatever’s coming out, every Friday that like ‘the teenagers will go see’ kind of horror that is very boiler play kind of, but movies like Old and Malignant.
AARON Movies from Blumhouse—
MITCHELL Yeah, I didn’t want to say it, but that was exactly what I was thinking. [Aaron laughs]
AARON Nothing against Blumhouse.
MITCHELL Yeah, it’s just a different, you know, it’s a different kind of thing. And if that’s your kind of thing, that’s cool. And some of those movies I really liked. But then there’s other ones like Fantasy Island that can kind of go the other way. But a movie like Malignant or Old, takes this kind of like mid budget, which we don’t often see anymore, and you get to see what a virtuosic director can really do with a genre movie, which we don’t get to see a lot of anymore. And it really creates something that is so exciting to watch. And I think Aaron, being like—I was the same as Aaron, I didn’t know anything about the movie, I had no idea what even the basic synopsis was, I hadn’t seen a trailer or anything, I just saw people talking about it, so I watched it. And that’s definitely part of the fun is you get to really get invited along the ride with like, you’re watching the movie trying to figure out what the answers are. Andwhat the reveal is gonna be. And it’s just a lot of fun to really engage with the movie because it really keeps you just up and down and up and down and up and down the whole time.
GEMMA What about you, Slim? I’m gonna read you this sentence from Josh Lewis’s Letterboxd review about Malignant. “It’s deeply stupid in retrospect, but it’s the kind of stupid that’s actually kind of an asset when the goal is to string together a series of horror set-pieces as ambitiously literal and goofy and stylish as the ones here are.”
SLIM Yeah, I totally agree on the horror stuff. Horror is pretty much the only genre that my wife and I both watch in terms of movies. So I don’t tell her like, “Oh, I have to watch this French New Wave movie, you want to watch it with me?” She’ll say, you know, “Eff you.” So we did watch this opening night and I remember the trailers when this came out. It was kind of like, James Wan horror, potentially imaginary friend that’s real? Question mark? Murdering people? And I’m like, oh, yeah, let’s go see that. My wife did not like this at all. My bravery, I also did not like this movie. But I like James Wan movies. [Gemma gasps] The Conjuring is like one of my favorite horror movies. I had a lot of fun with that. And I think the reason why I didn’t like it as much—so two of my friends do a movie podcast about general filth, like genre horror—Bat & Spider—and I watched a few Frank Henenlotter movies for the first time. So like Brain Damage, Basket Case which are the muck and the grime of seedy horror. And this felt like James Wan’s version of that, but it just didn’t work in that same way that those movies worked. Those movies make me feel like uncomfortable watching. Like Brain Damage, there are some just revolting scenes in that that are just very genre-esque. And this one almost felt like a mainstream version of it. So that’s why I just kind of didn’t gel for me. But I am so appreciative that James Wan can even just spend all this money to even make this. [Slim laughs] Like he spent this amount of money making HBO Max day-and-date movie. Like yes, let’s have more directors continue to take swings and whether or not they hit it or not, I don’t care. I just want them to do it.
GEMMA In terms of your other honorable mentions this year, Aaron, it’s been quite the year for folk horror, especially with I guess, Kier-La Janisse’s documentary Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched and you have Hellbender on your list, which I didn’t get to the screener and time when it was, was it Fantasia that you watched this at?
AARON Yeah, Fantasia. Yeah, it was my favorite film.
GEMMA But man, you wouldn’t shut up about this film when Fantasia rolled around! It was so—
AARON Yeah, Hellbender is just an almost perfect little low-budget independent gem made by a family of filmmakers. Toby Poser, Zelda Adams and I think it’s John Adams who is the father. And the mother and daughter, they play in a punk band called Hellbender as well. Just need to fact check that later. But yeah, it’s like a little folk-horror film about this girl living in the mountains and the mum’s very protective of her. She tells her that she’s got this illness, she can’t see other people. So it’s kind of like a secluded environment. But then she starts experiencing these, I guess, supernatural powers. So she’s sort of coming of age, but also just kind of starting to realize who she really is. And it’s got that sort of arc with it, like a young witch becoming, realizing the extent of what she has. But it’s told in a way that’s very, just very homespun. I didn’t know they were a family before I watched it, but you still get that sort of earthy feeling in the storytelling. There’s just a lot of scenes of Zelda and Toby just bonding and just sort of performing little magic tricks, witchy tricks. There are just kind of downtime scenes, as well as some really out-there stuff. Like the interludes of them jamming in their punk band, and also really a weird, kind of After Effects, like very low-budget, but I felt like everything kind of stitched together really nicely for what it was trying to achieve.
AARON Yeah, it feels like a horror movie in ways, in the best sense where it’s a family of filmmakers that love horror, and they’ve just gone out and shot this movie. And yeah, I think it’s one of the more unique—they’ve done six films, I think, but this is definitely one of the more unique horror films I saw this year, and definitely the standout in Fantasia.
SLIM What about—well, we talked about Memoria, but what about the remaining honorable mentions for 2021?
AARON Yeah, so I was trying to pick between Memoria, or Wife of a Spy or Drive My Car, they’re all almost neck, you know, just on the same level of love for me. I chose Wife of a Spy, I just wanted to—Kiyoshi Kurosawa is one of my favorite filmmakers. And I feel like he’s still super under-recognized. And his output is just mammoth and he is so prolific. And last year, my favorite film was To the Ends of the Earth, a Kiyoshi Kurosawa film. And Wife of a Spy is, it’s probably one of the more traditional kind of classical movies where it’s not—he’s well known for horror, but this is like an old-fashioned spy drama. And it’s just beautifully made. And I think people should—this might be a nice film for people to start in terms of getting into his films.
GEMMA Can I just have a thirstful moment here and point out that the spy in the titular Wife of a Spy is played by Issei Takahashi who was the voice in Whisper of the Heart and Only Yesterday, my two favorite Studio Ghibli films. Who, like, if it’s possible to love a cartoon character, his characters in both of those films are, yeah, anyway. On top of that, speaking of some of the greatest things to ever come out of Japan, shall we now move to Slim’s—[Slim laughs]
SLIM Oh boy.
GEMMA Number one of 2021. It is quite the shift, I guess you could say, in genre, cinephilia. But no judgment here.
SLIM This is a no-judgment zone. We’ve made that clear all season.
GEMMA This is a total no-judgment—no, no-judgment zone. Slim’s number one has a 2.9 average on Letterboxd. [Slim laughs] But no judgment. It has 178 fans.
SLIM That is so low! That is sickeningly low. [Gemma laughs] Listen, I represent the movie watcher that loves to sit on their floor, eating a chicken-parm sandwich from WaWa and watching Godzilla vs. Kong at all hours of the night. So I need to back up a little bit. So when we talked about doing this episode, we’re gonna do our faves of 2021 and I went on the stats page of my Letterboxd account. What the heck did I watch this year and rate highly? And I don’t have a whole heck of a lot of up there. All the big hits that I’ve seen this year, I didn’t rate that much, very highly. Like Dune, was really rated highly from everyone, I didn’t really rate that highly. So when I looked at my list, I was like, ‘Oh god, I don’t really have a whole lot here.’ And believe it or not, Godzilla vs. Kong was rated five stars when I saw it. [Gemma laughs] So here we are. And let’s talk about it. So I have a son, he’s turning eleven this month. Years ago when Kong: Skull Island came out, which is really fun, gorgeous movie. I had told him that they’re planning on doing a Kong versus Godzilla movie to like unite their universes. So for those that aren’t in the know, there’s like a combined monsterverse in these movies. So he was amped. So every year, he would keep asking, like, “When’s this movie coming out? When’s this movie coming out?” And finally, it came out this year. And through Covid, there were some more delays. So he grew up watching the Godzilla movies. And so in the back of his head, he like knows and loves the lore of Godzilla. There’s a new Godzilla movie, he wants to see it. So when we sat down at home to watch this on HBO Max in 4K, god bless. It was like a religious experience, you know? I call these moments getting son-fluenced, getting influenced by watching a movie with my son. So this happened when we saw Shang-Chi [and the Legend of the Ten Rings].
GEMMA ‘Son-fluenced.’ [Slim laughs]
SLIM My friends have this term when something gets so hyped, they just don’t want to see it anymore and they call it getting ‘Slimfluenced’. [Gemma laughs] Because that’s what happens if I hear someone talk about a movie for too much, I actively hate it and I never want to see it. So when I watch a movie with my son, this happened with Shang-Chi [and the Legend of the Ten Rings]. Like we watched Shang-Chi [and the Legend of the Ten Rings], he was in the theater audibly gasping at some of the action. And that kind of rubs off on me that he’s having such a good time watching this movie. I’m having such a good time with him watching this movie. So in this movie, it’s Godzilla versus King Kong, what more do you want? So we’re having such a great time watching this movie at home, all the action, the fight scenes in the city. And one of the coolest things in my opinion about this movie—this is also kind of like how I rate movies, that viewing was a five-star experience. If I watched this by myself, maybe like on a Wednesday morning, it’s probably not going to be a five-star viewing experience by myself. So that’s just kind of how I rate. But one of my favorite things about these movies is there’s like a theory about the Hollow Earth. And that’s where a lot of these monsters kind of reside in or live. And in the last Godzilla movie, King of the Monsters, they have to like wake up Godzilla at one point and they go underground, closer to the center of the earth. And you see Godzilla’s like, domain, his cave system. And it’s insane. It’s so cool looking. So in this one, they actually traveled to the Hollow Earth in this movie. So it’s like—
GEMMA It’s so cool!
SLIM It’s amazing. So for comic fans, it’s kind of like the Savage Land with Ka-Zar, it’s this mythical mystery forest area, where at this point it’s like a country in the Hollow Earth, where animals that you don’t think exists, do. And it’s just so well designed. It’s so cool. I want like a whole movie that takes place in this Hollow Earth. They don’t spend a ton of time in the movie.
GEMMA Yeah! I was disappointed when they came back up to Earth.
SLIM Yeah, it was too short. It was way too short in the movie.
GEMMA I didn’t know anything that had happened because I didn’t see the ones leading up to it. And unfortunately for you, Slim, the film came out before you arrived on The Letterboxd Show, so I had to helm a Junkie XL interview all by myself. [Slim laughs]
SLIM I read that interview before we did the show. It was a fantastic interview.
GEMMA Yeah, he was a lot of fun to talk to. He could talk for hours about why he loves Kong and Godzilla and why he can’t choose between them but also what they each represent in terms of not just their universes, but the human universe. You know, Godzilla representing Japan’s history with nuclear fallout and then designing the music for Kong to be more organic and Gojira to be sort of half-synthesized and yeah, it was cool.
SLIM Which by the way, I should say that Shin Godzilla is probably my favorite standalone Godzilla movie.
AARON Love that movie, Shin Godzilla.
GEMMA But the thing about watching Godzilla vs. Kong in 2021, I mean, don’t you—[Gemma laughs] Sorry, I just read your, I just read Slim’s Letterboxd review of Godzilla vs. Kong. It just says “Eff yeah dude!” [Slim & Gemma laugh] Could you elaborate? It was Brian Tyree Henry’s character, it was the whole conspiracy theorist. And just like watching this film, like, of course, every single film that you watch in the middle of a pandemic takes on a greater meaning, but this one in particular just felt, surely they had written it and filmed it pre-pandemic because Junkie XL (Tom Holkenborg) had done the music quite a lot beforehand. But it was just like, it was freaky. It was weird.
SLIM Yeah, it’s funny, the conspiracy stuff, I had thought about this a lot because I love The X-Files. And all those old episodes of The X-Files. And conspiracy theorists are such a huge part of that show. And they’re fun. And when [The] X-Files came back, and Chris Carter did it and like Joel McHale, I think was like this Alex Jones parody. It was such a big turn off, it’s like ‘this isn’t fun anymore’. Like, having these kinds of characters talk about conspiracy theorists. This is not my bag anymore, but for whatever reason in this I felt like it wasn’t as on the nose, a lot of the times. It was still kind of fun, ‘I can still have fun’ conspiracy theories if there is such a thing anymore. But at least that was my viewing for this time around.
GEMMA I did enjoy seeing that boy Julian Dennison from Hunt for the Wilderpeople.
SLIM Anyone else see Godzilla vs. Kong that wants to add any five-star thoughts? [Mitchell laughs]
AARON I’m a King of the Monsters enjoyer so this one was a bit maybe a level below that, the previous film. So I don’t know if you’re in the same camp.
SLIM I thought King of the Monsters was a step up above the first Godzilla one with Cranston. I didn’t love the Cranston one. Especially that wig he was wearing.
MITCHELL Yeah, I like these movies, the more that they’re—like, that first one, the 2014 Godzilla, the Gareth Edwards one, it took itself extremely seriously. And I think that the ones that are kind of moving away, particularly Kong: Skull Island and then King of the Monsters and now this, are embracing the fun of it, where it doesn’t have to take itself too seriously. It can have kind of the themes that are still there that have always been there with these movies, but they’re really more embracing the fun aspect of it to where it doesn’t need to be all brooding and dark and everything the entire time. And I think that definitely enhances the ability to have fun with whoever. Especially watching it with somebody like your son or something, you know, you really get to just enjoy the movie as well.
GEMMA Diving into your other honorable mentions, I noticed that you did briefly have the new James Bond film No Time to Die, Daniel Craig’s last one, and now it’s gone. And I diligently watched it last night.
SLIM Oh god! [Gemma laughs]
GEMMA So I’m going to talk about it for 30 seconds. But it was just, it’s just the same thing of just accepting that there is crazy bonkers future-junk science tech in these films and it just works and the universe of these films. And I think that’s part of the joy of the multiplex, right?
GEMMA And it’s just the bombast. Although, on that front. I just feel like—can we talk about No Time to Die for a second? I feel like I could have watched that movie without Rami Malek’s character, without any of the bad guy stuff at all. You just remove all of that, just watch it for the relationships wrapping up. That would have been a nice Daniel Craig-starring drama for me.
SLIM Yeah, was a bit disappointed in Rami’s character in No Time to Die unfortunately.
MITCHELL Yeah, I saw it. I thought it was okay. But yeah, the character stuff was really interesting. I loved Ana de Armas in it, she’s only in it for like fifteen minutes at most.
GEMMA I know!
MITCHELL She just pops so much when she comes on screen. The two of them, her and Daniel Craig have such good chemistry together. I would have much rather watched that for—
GEMMA Two hours of that!
MITCHELL Rather than trying to bring back Christoph Waltz.
MITCHELL And a lot the plotty kind of elements just really didn’t work.
AARON Oh god, they’re still doing that?
MITCHELL Yeah, yeah.
GEMMA Yeah, they are. And also Lashana Lynch was totally wasted in this!
MITCHELL I agree.
GEMMA I couldn’t feel the Phoebe Waller-Bridge injection into the script at all. Especially in her character. I was like, just give that woman a whole separate Double 0 and put her in her own series of movies. She just didn’t work in this world. And though I loved her, but I agree with you about Ana. That was…
SLIM I’ll quickly go through my honorable mentions. Pig, Nicolas Cage.
GEMMA Wait, do we have four hours?
SLIM We do not have four hours. We’re running at a tape as it is. Pig, all that’s been said about pig has been said. Go see it. tick, tick…BOOM! I watched actually this morning, my friend Danny who’s an artist said he had like a visceral emotional reaction watching it. So I watched it. And I really enjoyed it. That’s streaming on Netflix.
GEMMA Isn’t it incredible?
SLIM Yeah, had a lot of fun. Music was great.
GEMMA Yeah, I was not expecting to enjoy it as much as I did. And then all the beautiful nods, bringing Joel Grey and all those great old Broadway faces and just the story behind it. Knowing that that Jonathan is no longer with us, but that his graduation musical gets to come to the masses, thanks to Lin Manuel Miranda. Who I know is, I don’t know, problematic for some. But he’s doing the current best job that anyone is doing in bringing musicals back to the screen—not withstanding Steven Spielberg. [Slim laughs]
SLIM Thank you Steven for bringing musicals back.
AARON Are we comparing Lin Manuel Miranda with Steven Spielberg? [Slim & Mitchell & Gemma laugh]
SLIM She did that.
GEMMA No. [Gemma laughs] Let me explain!
AARON No judgment.
GEMMA I was merely mentioning it. [Mitchell laughs]
SLIM I was not expecting this episode to go there. But my final honorable mention is to stay on-brand as possible, and this kind of talks about how I was hard to choose my 2021 movies cuz I haven’t seen a lot of new 2021 movies. Most of my watches—I looked at my stats page again, and it was kind of like all non-2021 films. You know, that pie chart. It was just all covered. So Zack Snyder’s Justice League, the Snyder cut made my Top 2021 movies. I had a lot of fun with this.
GEMMA Had to make someone’s!
SLIM It might as well be me! Why not me?
MITCHELL It makes a lot of people going by the replies that we get on Twitter. [Slim & Gemma laugh]
AARON We’re gonna get retweets through the roof for this podcast. [Slim laughs]
GEMMA Oh, yeah. As long as he just mentioned it even for 30 seconds.
SLIM It was a good marketing plan for me to have this included on my list. But I was into his Superman movies on my second watch. I didn’t like Man of Steel in theaters. I liked it on second watch. So like as I said before, I’m a comic reader. I grew up reading comics. And I was one of those people in theaters like, “Not my Superman”. But after I rewatched it, I kind of just said like, “Look, I’m gonna treat this as like an Elseworld Superman”, like a different-universe Superman. And I really enjoyed it. I’m one of those few that love the highway scene with Kevin Costner. Love the visuals. I didn’t like Batman v Superman. I thought it was junk. I also really didn’t like the toxicity that kind of brought the Snyder Cut to existence. You know, it’s a huge part of why it exists in the first place. But I enjoyed the Snyder Cut. I put all of that aside, I watched all four hours of that. And I had a great time. I thought it was interesting and fascinating to see a director release—toxicity aside—release a four-hour cut of an original vision of one of their movies. I just think that’s so fascinating and that we got to experience that in the highest quality possible. I had a lot of fun. I thought the Flash stuff at the end was pretty emotional, in my opinion. Teared up a little bit. Not gonna lie to you.
GEMMA I’m gonna—speaking of bravery. I’m going to be brave and say the first hour was really entertaining, way more entertaining than I thought it would be. And haven’t seen the rest. [Slim laughs]
SLIM Thank you for your honesty. What about Aaron? Aaron, did you watch the Snyder Cut?
AARON Yeah, I did. I watched it in two parts. And I couldn’t do the one sit of four hours, unfortunately. But I much preferred it to the, I guess, Joss Whedon cut? Yeah, I’m not a huge superhero person myself. But I can see why it’s resonated with you and a lot of other people.
SLIM Mitchell? Any thoughts?
MITCHELL I... [Slim laughs] I watched 30 minutes of it and fell asleep and did not go back to it. [Mitchell & Gemma laugh]
GEMMA Look, good on those fans for getting what they needed to get. But the way they got it was—
GEMMA Well, yeah, despicable and—
AARON It’s set a standard now
GEMMA Yeah and will always sort of possibly taint the experience of those films for anyone other than those fans. I mean, you know, it’s kind of like the Christmas hangover. You know? Kids open their presents, and then half an hour later, they’re complete assholes. [Slim & Mitchell laugh] What else do you want? What else do you want?
MITCHELL Why can’t we all just peacefully enjoy getting more Ben Affleck on this screen? Like it’s a good thing for all of us. [Gemma laughs]
SLIM Incredible shape in those reshoots. My god. So we have gone long this episode, but we do want to focus on our movies that we discovered this year that were not new in 2021. Ones that [we] maybe want to call out, that maybe people should check out. So Mitchell, why don’t we start with you? What are some rapid fire movies that were first time watches for you?
MITCHELL Yeah, so kind of my four favorites that were first time watches for me. One River’s Edge. Tim Hunter’s kind of achilingly authentic portrait of a bunch of degenerate kids in a go-nowhere town and the sad kind of emptiness that their lives entail. I found it very relatable for me, as you know, someone who spent most of my youth growing up in Dover, Delaware, a town where you kind of just feel your life’s never gonna be anything. And this weird ennui that comes with it. Second would be Deep Cover, Bill Duke’s neo-noir about kind of, I feel like it’s all about kind of the masks that we wear and what happens like when those masks come off. There’s a scene in it that really ties directly to that idea. And it’s just got this amazing pairing, early ’90s movie of Laurence Fishburne and Jeff Goldblum who are just both absolutely phenomenal in it. Sticking with neo-noir in like a different kind of hue, my third one would be Cutter’s Way, this neo-noir from the early ’80s, that is more like a sun-soaked kind of neo-noir. The Criterion Channel had this like great list on Letterboxd over the summer of like sun-drenched noir, and Cutter’s Way was one of the movies on there, which got me to finally watch it. And it’s just like really interesting, really bleak movie about these like three people who are just come together, almost like a Scooby Doo gang trying to solve this mystery, but they’re all trying to solve it because they’re trying to find some kind of purpose in their life, they don’t really care about the actual mystery itself. They’re just trying to find a reason to live. And the answers that they get aren’t very hopeful or optimistic, but it really stuck with me and made a mark. And then the fourth one I would say is Mississippi Masala, which got a gorgeous new 4K restoration at New York Film Festival this year that I hope and assume will be coming out more to people in 2022, the 4K restoration. But it’s the first time that I saw it. Mira Nair’s romance with Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury, who are both—the chemistry between the two of them is unreal. We’re in a time where people are always talking about how sexless movies have become. And watching a movie like that from the early ’90s and seeing just how much of these to pop on screen really does give you an appreciation for what chemistry actually looks like. You know, not movies like Red Notice or whatever is on Netflix where they just kind of put whatever stars they can get on a screen together. This is a movie where chemistry is just through the roof and you watch it—there’s a scene between the two of them where they’re on a phone call with each other. They’re not even in the same frame. But it’s the sexiest scene that I’ve seen in years just because the two of them just really ooze that sexuality and that chemistry together. So that would be my fourth one.
SLIM Mitchell mentioned 4K restoration. Gemma, did you know that there was a new restoration done of Vanilla Sky starring Tom Cruise? Just released on Blu-ray.
GEMMA Um… that’s excellent to know for you, Slim. [Mitchell laughs] Merry Christmas! Really excited for you!
SLIM What are your discoveries, Gemma, for 2021 that you want to spotlight in rapid-fire manner?
GEMMA Alright going in reverse order. Because it is Christmas season I finally got around to watching Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers, which keeps coming up in every highest-rated Christmas movie list across Letterboxd for the last few years. I was just like, ah, I don’t know why. I’ll put it off, I’ll put it off, I’ll put it off. Why did I put it off? It’s my new favorite Christmas movie of all time. I absolutely love that it’s a Christmas film that focuses on the people we don’t usually get to see at Christmas, which is three houseless friends who discover an abandoned baby and must try to reunite that baby with its family by the end of this Christmas season. And it’s just great. The action sets are brilliant. I love how it manages to follow the three different characters at different times when they get separated and how they come back together and all the little Christmas bows that get tied up. It’s genius and it’s also gritty and contemporary and it has language. It’s great. Love it. The Green Ray, which was introduced to us by Carin Besser from The National who has done the lyrics for the new Cyrano movie. Éric Rohmer. One summer in France, a young woman searching for herself, just sat so deeply with me. Love it. And then David Lean’s The Passionate Friends, which was one that came to us via Angelica Jade Bastién, which I know Slim, you and I both were like, we watched it and then immediately rewatched it. There are conversations in that film that are extraordinary cinema. I just love, love, love it. And finally, no, I haven’t finished all four hours of Justice League. And I’m only one and a half hours in to Get Back, the extraordinary Beatles documentary film series that Peter Jackson has made. But I did sit through—and absolutely love—what has got to be one of the best kept secrets among film lovers everywhere, which is Chantal Akerman’s Jeanne Dielman. In a day and age of spoilers, I am blown away by how much I didn’t know about that movie and by how fucking brilliantly it pays off. And the fact that it only pays off if you sit through it. Oh my god, just a masterpiece.
SLIM God bless. What last a list.
AARON Okay, quick fire. First up, I just want to give a shout out to Psycho III. [Slim & Gemma laugh] Which I’ve been putting off. I’ve seen I and II and III, for one reason or another it’s been so in the back of my mind that I haven’t watched it yet. But I saw it about a month ago and I was quite bowled over by how actually good it was. I think it’s one of, out of the four Psycho films, maybe IV doesn’t get much rep either, but this one isn’t as highly rated as the second one, which is one of the great horror sequels Psycho II, directed by Richard Franklin, who’s an amazing Hitchcock protégé. And it’s sort of one those sequels that completely subverts—you go in thinking it’s a Psycho film and just turns that on its head. And then Psycho III, it’s a bit woolier in a sense that it’s not, doesn’t quite fit in that mold. Anthony Perkins directed it and I think it’s the only one or two films that he made. And it’s kind of tonally all over the place, and not as consistent, but just kind of the stuff that he gets away with and the places it goes to. It’s really entertaining. A second one, Suzanne, it’s a film by a French filmmaker, Katell Quillévéré. She made this other film called Heal the Living which I really love from a few years ago, and I put it in my top 20. But this film some stars Sara Forestier and Adèle Haenel, I think she was a bit younger. This came out in—let me just look this up. 2013. And it’s a story about these two girls who are living with their father, mother’s passed away and their father’s this truck driver. And it’s kind of like a, I guess it’s a dysfunctional family kind of situation. And then it follows Suzanne who’s played by Sara, and she meets this guy who’s a drug dealer and then it sort of follows her through, like a span of her life from when she was little. But it’s all done in under 90 minutes. And I thought the film was, just the way it handles time and the passage of time without having to go the distance to say, okay, tell this person’s story, we need to have two hours or three hours. I think we were talking about time before. So it kind speeds. What I find interesting about film is it kind of speeds through all these moments in her life. And I’ve never seen it done in a way that brings it together in a really, emotionally kind of devastating way. A couple of noirs I saw last month, Ida Lupino’s The Bigamist. And the second one called The Brothers Rico, directed by Phil Karlson. Both kind of show more kind of a sensitive side, some noirs are always hard boiled and you’ve got this really gritty, tough sort of atmosphere. But I found these two kind of stood out in the way they kind of revealed a more sensitive approach to telling those stories, especially with The Bigamist, which I feel like, I haven’t seen anything like it in the sort of noir cycle of the era.
GEMMA Incredible. What about you, Slim? It’s been quite an interesting year for you and I both, I think with starting up this new four favorites format of The Letterboxd Show. It’s certainly done things to my statistics that I never would have expected at the beginning of the year. What was new to you in ’21?
SLIM You already mentioned The Passionate Friends, but that is one of my honorable mentions for new to me. Harakiri I watched for the first time this year. And that’s on The Criterion Channel. You know, Samurai down on his luck, goes to a clan to essentially commit harakiri to end his life honorably. And then you find out there’s a little bit more to the story. I thought that was probably—I mean, that’s in my all-time list for the year, like my faves of the year. When I make my faves list, it’s generally ‘new to me’. I would pay like $100 for 4K of that movie. Honest to god, it’s insane. Pieces of a Woman I watched for the first time in February, I think. And I thought this was an unsettling film about human suffering, and pain, and being stuck in place. And unfortunately, I feel like this movie is kind of lost due to the male co-star’s off-screen storyline. Which kind of sucks, because—
GEMMA Yeah, Vanessa Kirby is extraordinary in it.
SLIM She’s insane.
GEMMA And she was honored in at least a couple of festivals for her work. And in a way the storyline kind of, yeah, sort of, unfortunately, but fortunately, plays into what we know about her co-star, which adds to that unsettling feeling.
SLIM Yeah, she was unbelievable in that movie. And then for the first time finally, I held this off because of aforementioned slimfluencing, but Roma, Alfonso Cuarón. I watched that this year for my podcast, and I had a religious experience watching that film. I mean, the final scenes in that movie, I was just a sobbing mess on my basement floor. I have never experienced probably emotion in that way in a mainstream film. That rocketed to my four faves on Letterboxd. So my list has changed since we did our first episode of the season. Roma is now up there. And Aaron, I think you need to get on it and watch Roma this week. [Gemma laughs]
MITCHELL Matrix [Resurrections]!
GEMMA Many more things. Matrix [Resurrections]! Oh my god! Matrix [Resurrections]! How good does that trailer look? Holy heck! So much more still to come. The year is not over as Aaron so rightly said on our Letterboxd Twitter. We wrap when the year wraps.
AARON Love you Spotify. No dig at you at all. [Mitchell & Slim laugh]
[The Letterboxd Show theme music Vampiros Dancoteque by Moniker fades in, plays alone, fades down]
GEMMA Thanks so much for listening to The Letterboxd Show and thanks to our guests Mitchell Beaupre and Aaron Yap. You can follow Aaron, Mitchell, Slim, Gemma—that’s me—and our HQ page on Letterboxd using the links in our episode notes.
SLIM Thanks to our crew, composing dynamos, Moniker for the theme music ‘Vampiros Dancoteque’, thanks to Jack for the facts, our Booker Linda Moulton for looking after our guests and Sophie Shin for the episode transcript. And to you, for listening. The Letterboxd Show is a Tapedeck production.
GEMMA And that’s the show. You know, Slim, being able to speak freely is the lifeblood of love. From Tokyo Godfathers. [Slim laughs]
SLIM All the Tokyo Godfathers fans will be listening to the end will be like, “Oh yeah, that is”.
[clip from The Power of the Dog plays]
ROSE What is it, George?
GEORGE I just want to say, how nice it is not to be alone.
[clip from The Power of the Dog ends]