Ever since it took 24 films to nurse me through my own wrestle with Covid-19, my goal has been to watch 50 movies before we all finally emerge from our bunkers blinking at the sun – a mixture of films I really should have seen by now, and others I haven’t seen since I was a kid, and ones that are just there.
Add this 14 to the 24 I’ve already done, and I move slinkily onto 38 – stay tuned for the final 12 at some point in the nearish future.
High Fidelity (2000) – Is this John Cusack’s best performance? Grifters and Say Anything might have something to say about that, but it’s definitely up there for the man once excellently described as “just a pile of coats”. I wish I could remember who said that. It’s definitely one of the angriest romantic comedies ever made. Jack Black famously plays Jack Black in it.
Covid Rating: (1 being sucky, 19 being bees knees) 13
Claire’s Knee (1970) – one bizarre side effect from this pandemic is that I’ve unwittingly become a Francophile. I like the bread, the flaky little pastries, the casual attitude towards body hair, but the thing that’s really got me are Eric Rohmer films (which is by far the most pretentious thing I’ve ever admitted to). He’s one of those New Wave guys everyone keeps warning you about, and he’s magnifique, a master of getting inside people’s heads and turning small ideas into massive ones. This one scans a little creepily, as a grown man attempts to seduce teenagers on holiday, but don’t let that put you off.
Covid Rating: 15
Before Midnight (2013) – the third (hopefully not final) instalment of Richard Linklater’s Before… films, where Ethan Hawke and Julie Delpy wander around Europe excavating their feelings, this one starts off a bit rickety but ends terrifically. I’m going to throw it out there, this might end up being the greatest screen romance of all time.
Covid Rating: 17
Hustlers (2019) – I went in with high hopes. There’d been Oscar buzz, I’d heard the buzzing first hand (from newspapers), I’d got word that drooling over Jennifer Lopez had been given the all-clear (even encouraged) by society’s various behavioural diplomats because it’s empowerment not exploitation – just JLo really owning her ass, you know. Then I watched the thing. Nothing makes sense to me anymore.
Covid Rating: 3
The Notebook (2004) – whenever I’d log into my Amazon Prime account (i.e. turn the telly on), there this’d be telling me to watch it. So eventually, after a couple of years of haranguing, I did. And guess what? By the end, when they’re all rained-on and snogging, I was crying my goddam eyes out.
Covid Rating: 11
Three Men and a Baby (1987) – if anyone ever asks you what the 1980s were like, just point them in the direction of this film. There’s Cheers, Magnum PI, Police Academy, an entirely unnecessary heroin storyline, an insane apartment, men in micro-shorts, and a baby that no one knows how to feed. That’s pretty much all bases covered.
Covid Rating: 9
Love in the Afternoon (1972) – the second Eric Rohmer film (of three) on this list, and probably the second best. A moderately successful, moderately smooth businessman skives off work in the afternoon to “innocently” hang out with his sexy friend who’s just crawled out of the woodwork. She’s played brilliantly by Zouzou, a model/actress who seemingly boned the entire 1960s in real life. A wonderful film.
Covid Rating: 17
A Woman Under the Influence (1974) – as we all descend into insanity, I thought I’d give this John Cassavetes mental health classic a spin around the block. Amazing performances – Gena Rowlands is adorable and scary, Columbo is astonishing – but you’ve got to be in the right mood. And I have no idea what that mood is.
Covid Rating: 12
Straight Outta Compton (2015) – there’s a popular school of thought that suggests you shouldn’t believe everything the history books tell you, because history is always written by the people who savaged the weak, won the battles, and skewed the story in their favour. This feels a bit like that, too autobiographical to be objective, too taken with record contracts and legal wranglings to be captivating, but once you get past that, it’s entertaining enough. Ice Cube’s son playing Ice Cube is particularly good. And obviously the music’s excellent.
Covid Rating: 11
Prick up Your Ears (1987) – I’d heard great things but never seen it, so I remedied that with immediate effect, 33 years late, and it was a fantastic decision on my part. 1980s Gary Oldman is always good (amazing in this), but it’s Alfred Molina as his jealous mentor/lover who steals the show. Props also to Vanessa Redgrave of the Redgrave acting dynasty.
Thor Ragnorok (2017) – some of it’s like Clash of the Titans, other bits are like Flash Gordon – particularly Jeff Goldblum playing Ming the Merciless – as it veers from melodrama to comedy, but Scorsese has a point, these are just theme park rides. Presumably much better in the cinema.
Covid Rating: 7
Billy Madison (1995) – Adam Sandler unleashes all of his most Adam Sandlerish Adam Sandlerisms – shouting at children, pretending to be brain damaged, somehow convincing hot girls there’s more to him than meets the eye. On almost every level, an appalling film. And yet, somehow, I quite enjoyed it. A tiny bit.
Covid Rating: 8
Big Night (1996) – two Italian brothers throw an amazing dinner party in their Jersey Shore (I think) restaurant in the 1950s (I think). The food looks delicious, it made me want to drink a shitload of grappa, but, the cardinal sin – it’s a bit dull.
Covid Rating: 6
The Green Ray (1986) – the third Eric Rohmer film on the list, and my favourite so far. Delphine can’t quite go on holiday is essentially the storyline, but it’s really about what it’s like to think you don’t fit in, to be shy, lonely, and self-conscious. It’s also really uplifting. Best film of the lockdown so far. Everyone should watch it.
Covid Rating: 19