This is practically a “monthnote” since I haven’t posted much since early December.
I spent most of December reviewing and recovering from the launch of “Uncluttered”, followed by a much-needed break over the Holidays.
For most of the past week or so, I’ve been reviewing and analysing the work I’ve done over the past couple of weeks with an eye towards putting together a sensible strategic plan for the year.
That this work falls on the start of a new year is actually a bit of a coincidence. It’s been overdue for a while and comes naturally after a big launch. It fits well with the ritual of looking back at the beginning of a new year.
It’s tough. Some of my projects worked. Others did not. I made mistakes. It’s been both an extraordinarily productive couple of years and and extraordinarily unproductive couple of years. A mixed bag, shall we say?
The first part of the strategic review is up already, and I’ll post the rest as I put the finishing touches on them over the next few days.
Finally watched Carol, a movie that I had been saving as a treat for myself, largely because I thought it would be a holiday-themed movie. But it turned out to only be set during the holidays without being holiday-themed. It is excellent. A lovely film in every way. Great cast. Great soundtrack. Solid plot and structure. An immediate favourite. I have a lot more to say about it, but that will have to wait.
Also watched the new Indiana Jones. It was all right. Better than both Kingdom of the Crystal Skull and Temple of Doom, wich is unsurprising as those are both atrocious movies. Too long, but that is a constant in modern filmmaking.
I also finally got around to testing out Mubi. It has exactly the kind of movie selection I loved when I was an obnoxious teen. Finding interesting movies to watch is getting more and more tricky these days. Prime is getting a steady trickle of movies from the MGM catalogue. Viaplay and Netflix in Iceland are getting the occasional Warner Bros movie these days, which I’m guessing have been dropped from the Max service in the states? Disney Plus (with Star, which is the non-US equivalent of Hulu) is the weirdest one of the bunch as they have, by far, the deepest catalogue but very little of it is actually available for streaming. I keep deciding to drop D+ and then putting it off, but unless they change their strategy I think it’s only a matter of time until I drop it.
Mubi, on the other hand, has a small but well-curated selection of world cinema, classic movies, and festival entries. Much of it is unwatchable pretentious avant garde garbage (I have little patience for non-narrative or ergodic media), but a lot of it is genuinely interesting.
So far, I’ve watched:
- The General, with Buster Keaton. A public domain movie so this doesn’t really count in Mubi’s favour, but the version they have is of decent quality. Like many of the silent movies, it’s a great film with abysmal politics.
- The 36th Chamber of Shaolin, in the original Mandarin, which I’d been looking for. The dubbed version is easy to find. The story only properly starts about 15-20 minutes in, which is a problem other Shaw Brothers movies suffer from, but really works once it gets going.
- Baghead, a 2008 movie featuring Greta Gerwig.
That last one is an interesting movie, even though I’m not sure I’d call it good. It’s what the US film industry called “mumblecore”, which is just their way of pretending that it isn’t the US take on Dogme 95.
(It’s weird how Dogme 95 seems to have been erased from US film history. I know for a fact that it and specifically Festen were major influences on US filmmakers, but you rarely see a mention of it online.)
The problem with Baghead is that it’s an instance where a more concrete and nuanced understanding of genre conventions would have made the film stronger. It doesn’t have enough of “horror” in it to effectively give the revelation towards the end an emotional punch. It doesn’t set the romance up well enough for it to deepen that emotion at the end as it clearly intended to. And the comedy either doesn’t have a punchline or a setup (depending on what you think the joke is).
And one of the male leads plays his character a little bit too creepy. I get that it’s a part of the joke, but it also undermines the twist at the end.
It’s an interesting movie overall, despite its flaws. If Mubi can keep on delivering interesting movies then I might stay beyond the trial period.
But that would mean I really would have to drop one of the other streaming services.