MoviePass was always too good to be true, and this last stretch could be a challenge
Hey there, folks, and welcome back to The 300, a recurring feature on my impossible attempt to watch 300 movies in theaters in the year 2018. I’ll be watching new releases, classics, hidden gems, and festival films to experience the wide world of cinema in all its forms. I hope there’s something here for you to enjoy and share as well.
As always, there are three rules for The 300:
- The movie must be at least 40 minutes long, meeting the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences’ definition of a feature film.
- I must watch the movie at a movie theater, screening room, or outdoor screening venue.
- While I can watch movies I’ve seen before 2018, I cannot count repeated viewings of the same film in 2018 multiple times.
As we hit week 30, I’ve surpassed 200 movies. I wish I’d caught a few more movies at Japan Cuts this year, since the programming sounded phenomenal as usual. The film tally would have been a bit higher this week, but problems with MoviePass over the weekend (i.e., they ran out of money) kept me out of the theater. Yesterday’s $5 price hike and restrictive policies on new blockbusters are intended to save the company money, but I’m not sure how long these changes will keep MoviePass afloat. It has always been too good to be true, and I have worried about the eventual collapse for a while (The 300 Week 18).
The changes to MoviePass will likely result in a glut of cancellations from people who a) just want to see the latest big studio picture within the first two weeks of release and b) people who live in smaller cities or towns that do not have many theater options. I also expect cancellations from people annoyed by surge pricing, which now seems to apply to all showings of a movie through the weekend at major theaters, including early morning shows. The surge charge has been as high as $8 in some cities, which is a comparable price to a matinee ticket purchased without MoviePass.
Looking at my own numbers, 96 of the 201 movies I’ve seen so far were released before 2010. Since I love catching indies and repertory screenings, my moviegoing habits won’t be impacted too much by the new restrictions. As a friend joked the other night, there’s probably a picture of me on a dartboard at MoviePass HQ. They probably have special urinal cakes with my face on them as well.
And so, onward.
198 of 300: Tremble All You Want (2017)
(aka 勝手にふるえてろ; Katte ni furuetero)
Director: Akiko Ohku
Starring: Mayu Matsuoka, Daichi Watanabe, Anna Ishibashi, Takumi Kitamura
Seen at Japan Society (New York, NY)
Japan Cuts 2018
Saturday, July 28th
Tremble All You Want fully inhabits the mindset of its heroine, with both whimsical and downbeat results. Yoshika (Matsuoka) is a 24-year-old introvert who’s never had a boyfriend and still harbors a crush on a boy from high school. Her life is surrounded by quirky characters with whom she overshares her relationship struggles. There’s an Amélie-like air to so much of the movie, with its obsessions over small gestures and quotidian rituals. Yet there’s a certain point when the whimsy that dominates the film unveils an underlying sadness. We inhabit Yoshika’s world so closely, and by pulling back just a bit, we understand who she is outside of her own head.
I can see the latter half of the movie turning off viewers who were captivated by the sheer playfulness that came earlier. But I think Akiko Ohku is doing something interesting with this contrast in mood encapsulated in a single character. This is an exploration of solitude, but Yoshika contains multitudes. We’re allowed to see the dark side of someone’s crippling introversion, how someone with so much to offer may be holding themselves back, and how we rarely match up to the idea of ourselves. Even if you don’t care for where the movie goes, Matsuoka’s layered performance is endearing and keeps the movie watchable.
199 of 300: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984)
(aka 風の谷のナウシカ; Kaze no Tani no Naushika)
Director: Hayao Miyazaki
Starring (English dub cast): Alison Lohman, Patrick Stewart, Uma Thurman
Seen at Prospect Park Bandshell (Brooklyn, NY)
BRIC Celebrate Brooklyn! Festival
Saturday, July 28th
I’ve been slacking on watching free movies this summer. I can’t think of a better inaugural movie under the stars than Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind, the film that established the cinematic sensibilities and themes that define Hayao Miyazaki’s career. It was also the first collaboration between Miyazaki and composer Joe Hisashi, whose music effortlessly complements the Miyazaki aesthetic. In Nausicaä, we have a quintessential Miyazaki protagonist: a pacifist, an environmentalist, a dreamer, and a flyer. Even when confronted by the dangers of the natural world, her first instinct is to talk rather that fight. The entire movie seems to be built on a single choice: compassion or annihilation.
The pacifism even extends to Lord Yupa. We’re told by many people about his prowess with a sword, yet he’s slow to draw steel during conflict. When he finally does (Chekhov’s badass), it’s a glorious display of his control; rather than hacking and slashing everyone to pieces, he is so good that he intimidates people into a bloodless surrender. True power in Nausicaä is rooted in a concern for the other in its different forms—your fellow human being, the creatures that share the world, even for the world itself. All this playing out in a park as a few stray fireflies dotted the summer air with a gentle glowing green.
200 of 300: Hanagatami (2017)
Director: Nobuhiko Obayashi
Starring: Shunsuke Kubozuka, Takako Tokiwa, Mugi Kadowaki, Shinnosuke Mitsushima
Seen at Japan Society (New York, NY)
Japan Cuts 2018
Sunday, July 29th
To appreciate Hanagatami, I feel like people will need to watch a few of Nobuhiko Obayashi’s films first. Obayashi is the director of cult favorite Hausu, but his subsequent films have been so varied. Hanagatami brings the anarchic experimentalism of Hausu together with the anti-war sentiments of Bound for the Fields, the Mountains, and the Seacoast and the glacial existential ruminations seen in Seven Weeks. It’s a long movie and I felt every minute of its nearly three-hour runtime, but there are moments so undeniably moving that I can allow its unevenness. An appreciation for an artist’s career and sensibilities can make certain aesthetic decisions more acceptable.
The film takes place in Japan before WWII as a group of teenagers grapple with the forthcoming conflict. All of the teens are played by actors well into their twenties and thirties, which is both funny and fitting—war does make children grow up prematurely. A series of melodramas unfold and overlap, and the movie is steeped in characters dealing with mortality and budding sexuality. Most of the characters are already dying or will die.
Some of the green-screen work and digital effects look too chintzy, such as the CG cherry blossoms or clumsily composited seascapes in the background. While the overt artifice is the point, I wonder if Obayashi’s health scares were part of the decision to make the film so fast and improvisational. One of the characters is described as possessing “an aimless vitality,” which may be the right phrase for Hanagatami. It is a movie that meanders and yet there are moments of overwhelming life.
201 of 300: Mission: Impossible – Fallout (2018)
Director: Christopher McQuarrie
Starring: Tom Cruise, Henry Cavill, Rebecca Ferguson, Ving Rhames, Simon Pegg
Seen at Cinépolis Chelsea (New York, NY)
Tuesday, July 31st
There are two Tom Cruises. Both are found in varying degrees in Mission: Impossible – Fallout, which is one of the best action movies of the year. Christopher McQuarrie’s direction is so crisp and clean, and so well edited and varied (notice the music and lack-of-music to differentiate the back-to-back vehicle chases in the Paris sequence, for instance). Even though I was sitting in the front row, I could tell exactly what was happening, where everyone was, and the sort of spectacle that was unfolding before me. The plot is a convoluted pretext for the set pieces, which are all ticking clocks, last-second saves, and contingency plans manufactured on the fly.
The first Tom Cruise is the international movie star who exudes a magnetic charisma and does many of his own stunts even well into his 50s. He sprints like hell, he fights rather well, and he rides his motorcycle with a reckless, helmetless confidence. Tom Cruise is essentially riffing on the Jackie Chan model of action stardom. That may be why Fallout reminded me a lot of Chan’s globetrotting movies from the 1980s-1990s by way of The Dark Knight.
The second Tom Cruise is the crazy-ass cult member who has been surrounded by sycophants for decades, feeding his ego and convincing him that he can do no wrong. We get glimpses of this other Cruise when the movie slows down to discuss Ethan Hunt as a character. (The name Ethan Hunt is so smoothly yet blandly “action hero,” much like the name Tom Cruise.) Characters pledge featly to Ethan, thank him for who he is and doing what he does. Cruise is occasionally bathed in a soft, messianic light in certain scenes. It sours the movie a little since it feels like it’s some sort of crass deification of Tom Cruise, but it’s only a bit sour—the tart portion of otherwise delicious summer candy.
The 300: By the Numbers Breakdown
Movies by Decade
2010s – 105
2000s – 12
1990s – 12
1980s – 20
1970s – 24
1960s – 10
1950s – 6
1940s – 5
1930s – 3
1920s – 4
Movies by Country
USA – 104
US co-productions – 1
Argentina – 2
Argentine co-productions – 4
Australia – 3
Australian co-productions – 1
Belarus – 1
Belgian co-productions – 1
Canada – 1
Chile – 1
China – 4
Chinese co-productions – 1
Denmark – 1
France – 9
French co-productions – 2
Georgian co-productions – 1
Germany – 2
German co-productions – 1
Hong Kong – 6
Hungary – 1
Indonesia – 1
Iran – 2
Iranian co-productions – 1
Israeli co-productions – 1
Italy – 1
Italian co-productions – 2
Jamaica – 1
Japan – 14
Japanese co-productions – 1
Mali – 1
Netherlands – 2
Philippines – 1
Polish co-productions – 1
Russia – 1
South Korea – 1
Spain – 1
Sweden – 1
Taiwan – 1
Thailand – 1
UK – 7
UK co-productions – 11
Yugoslavian co-productions – 1
Multiple Films by the Same Director(s)
Susana Aiken and Carlos Aparicio (The Salt Mines; The Transformation)
Robert Altman (Nashville; Brewster McCloud; McCabe & Mrs. Miller)
Wes Anderson (Fantastic Mr. Fox; Isle of Dogs)
Chang Cheh (Five Deadly Venoms; Shaolin Temple)
Dorothy Davenport (The Red Kimona; Linda)
Claire Denis (Let the Sunshine In; White Material)
Terence Fisher (The Revenge of Frankenstein; The Devil Rides Out)
Sebastián Lelio (A Fantastic Woman; Disobedience)
Lucrecia Martel (The Holy Girl; The Headless Woman; La Cienaga; Zama)
Hayao Miyazaki (Ponyo; Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind)
F.W. Murnau (Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans; Faust)
Lynne Ramsay (We Need to Talk About Kevin; Ratcatcher; Morvern Callar; You Were Never Really Here)
Paul Schrader (First Reformed; Mishima: A Life in Four Chapters)
Steven Spielberg (The Post; Ready Player One; E.T.: The Extraterrestrial)
Masaaki Yuasa (Lu Over the Wall; Mind Game; The Night Is Short, Walk On Girl)
I hope to see at least one more Altman movie on the big screen before the year is up.
Films by Women Directors
So in addition to The 300, I’m also doing 52 Films By Women, in which I try to see 52 feature films in theaters that were directed or co-directed by women.
Currently I have seen 50 of 52.
Daughters of the Dust (1991), dir. Julie Dash
Loving Vincent (2017), dir. Dorota Kobiela and Hugh Welchman
Soft Fiction (1979), dir. Chick Strand
Dis-moi (1980), dir. Chantal Akerman
The Ties That Bind (1985), dir. Su Friedrich
The Salt Mines (1990), dir. Susana Aiken and Carlos Aparicio
The Transformation (1995), dir. Susana Aiken and Carlos Aparicio
Strange Days (1995), dir. Kathryn Bigelow
The Party (2017), dir. Sally Potter
Oh Lucy! (2017), dir. Atsuko Hirayanagi
Scary Mother (2017), dir. Ana Urushadze
Ava (2017), dir. Sadaf Foroughi
We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011), dir. Lynne Ramsay
Ratcatcher (1999), dir. Lynne Ramsay
Morvern Callar (2002), dir. Lynne Ramsay
You Were Never Really Here (2017), dir. Lynne Ramsay
The Holy Girl (2004), dir. Lucrecia Martel
The Headless Woman (2008), dir. Lucrecia Martel
La Cienaga (2001), dir. Lucrecia Martel
Zama (2017), dir. Lucrecia Martel
Love, Gilda (2018), dir. Lisa D’Apolito
Nico, 1988 (2017), dir. Susanna Nicchiarelli
Island of the Hungry Ghosts (2018), dir. Gabrielle Brady
Cargo (2017), dir. Ben Howling and Yolanda Ramke
O.G. (2018), dir. Madeleine Sackler
State Like Sleep (2018), dir. Meredith Danluck
All About Nina (2018), dir. Eva Vives
General Magic (2018), dir. Matt Maude and Sarah Kerruish
The Miseducation of Cameron Post (2018), dir. Desiree Akhavan
Roll Red Roll (2018), dir. Nancy Schwartzman
Time for Ilhan (2018), dir. Norah Shapiro
The Feeling of Being Watched (2018), dir. Assia Boundaoui
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland (2018), dir. Kate Davis and David Heilbroner
Blockers (2018), dir. Kay Cannon
Angels Wear White (2017), dir. Vivian Qu
Let the Sunshine In (2017), dir. Claire Denis
Sleepless Nights (1978), dir. Becky Johnston
RBG (2018), dir. Betsy West and Julie Cohen
One Sings, the Other Doesn’t (1977), dir. Agnès Varda
Summer 1993 (2017), dir. Carla Simón
Werckmeister Harmonies (2000), dir. Béla Tarr and Ágnes Hranitzky
Marlina the Murderer in Four Acts (2017), dir. Mouly Surya
Leave No Trace (2018), dir. Debra Granik
Smithereens (1982), dir. Susan Seidelman
On Happiness Road (2017), dir. Sung Hsin-Yin
White Material (2009), dir. Claire Denis
The Red Kimona (1925), dir. Walter Lang and Dorothy Davenport
Linda (1929), dir. Dorothy Davenport
Wanda (1970), dir. Barbara Loden
Tremble All You Want (2017), dir. Akiko Ohku
Top 5 Theaters for The 300
* Cinépolis Chelsea – 26 (25 of these films were seen during the 2018 Tribeca Film Festival)