My plan is to watch 100 movies during lockdown, or whatever vagaries of lockdown we evolve into. To watch classics I’d never bothered with, or movies shelved under that pompous fog-cloud marked “important”. Or even just the ones that pop into my consciousness, having seen them before and enjoyed them, or scrolled past them on Amazon, or Netflix, or Disney Plus, or whatever streaming service is rifling through my pockets at any given time.
Here are the most recent delights (not all delightful unfortunately), with a handy Covid rating attached – 19 being a must-watch, 1 being a must-watch only under extreme duress.
Husbands (1970) – A Woman Under the Influence found me impaled on the fence, so I thought I’d take another John Cassavetes for a drive. No ambiguity this time, I pretty much hated it. Overly intense, overtly woman-hating, it was like being trapped in a cage with three self-important Norman Mailers. Cock swinging at its most humourless.
Covid Rating: 3
The Squid and the Whale (2005) – an early one from Marriage Story’s Noah Baumbach, produced by Wes Anderson. There’s a Tenenbaums vibe with the horny tennis coach (Baldwin, William), then you get a little bit of Stranger Things with the younger brother and the mid-80s setting. Then there’s ole Jesse Eisenberg going large on the Jesse Eisenberg brand of outspoken social discomfort. There’s a laugh-out-loud homage to Godard’s Breathless (for the movie nerds). The whole thing is like Instagramming your tape collection, so no huge complaints here.
Covid Rating: 14
My Own Private Idaho (1991) – classic rent-boy Shakespeare based on the bard’s numerous Henry plays (IV parts 1 and 2, possibly a bit of V), featuring art house sex scenes and impassioned soliloquies. Fondly, and probably correctly, remembered as River Phoenix’s finest hour, what the history books don’t tell you is that it might be Keanu Reeves’ finest hour too. If you discount all of Point Break.
Covid Rating: 15
The Player (1992) – biting Hollywood satire from Robert Altman, a director whose trademark is a low cacophony of muttering voices enveloping important scenes, and plenty of cameos from famous faces. Tim Robbins takes the lead, playing it low key, almost like he’s giving the whole thing a cursory read-through before the real acting starts, while Greta Scacchi is yet again the greatest Greta since Thunberg. This is, as Jesus would put it, a very good film about the movie biz.
Covid Rating: 14
Ratatouille (2007) – widely considered a Disney/Pixar classic up there with the Toy Stories, this follows a humble sewer rat’s journey up the culinary ladder in a Parisian restaurant. It’s fine, isn’t it? If you like children’s animations. Not as good as Coco, but what is?
Covid Rating: 10
Bed & Board (1970) – another one from Frenchman Francois Truffaut’s semi-autobiographical adventures of Antoine Doinel, and I’ll throw it out there, my favourite Truffaut yet (a point I’ll be reasserting at many dinner parties over the next few years). Moments of pure Woody Allen, bits straight from a farcical episode of The Monkees, it’s a shame that more directors don’t make episodic movies focusing on unspectacular, gentle characters. And before anyone says Richard Linklater, please note I said it’s a shame MORE directors don’t do that.
Covid Rating: 17
The Florida Project (2017) – downtrodden motel life, a prostitute having her child taken away beneath the technicolour shadow of Disneyland – there’s a pretty clanging metaphor there. Nice performances, especially from Dr Willem Defoe, but whisper it – a bit borin’.
Covid Rating: 7
Badlands (1974) – Martin Sheen is a psychopath in double denim, Sissy Spacek is his creepily passive teenage girlfriend as they murder their way towards Montana. You’ll find a number of lessons lurking within – how easy it is for a casual killing spree to cause pandemonium, how beautifully oppressive open stretches of US countryside can be, and ultimately, how going on the run probably isn’t a good basis for a healthy relationship. Considered a classic from the enigmatic director Terrence Malick, and rightly so. You’ll recognise much of the music and voiceover work echoed in True Romance a couple of decades later.
Covid Rating: 16
American Gigolo (1980) – forget the gigantic plot holes – most notably the central storyline that doesn’t make sense – the whole thing is pure sleaze, like driving a Ferrari on cocaine, or masturbating to pulsating synthesiser music. Actually scrap that, I can’t drive and I don’t masturbate. It’s like going to a strip club and ordering a watermelon full of vodka (something I do regularly). Here’s another thing that rings true: 1980s Richard Gere is an absolute superstar.
Covid Rating: 11