This year, Sraëka asked me to pick more challenging movies, more art-house movies, more world cinema. As we dug into my first pick along those lines, Zigeunerweisen, they became curious about Seijun Suzuki's career, and so we dedicated all of January to a little retrospective on him. From then on, the format for twenty-twenty-snore was decided: I'd pick a director for each month, and our weekly movie nights would belong to them. So far, we've done Seijun Suzuki, Ousmane Sembène, Ken Russell, and Agnès Varda. But there have been a good deal of extra-curriculars on the off days... As usual, here are some of my recent favourites.


The Music of Regret (2006)

Funny, poignant, inventive puppet show in 3 acts, loaded with original songs that actually slap-- and Meryl Streep serenading a procession of ventriloquist dummies.

38 (2021)

One woman stalks another on instagram and in real life. I adore the way this renders the hybrid internet/irl intersubjective mindscape, still the most significant technical question in a/v media today, with space wide open for experimentation. Screens are seldom shown; instead, we watch as the posts themselves are made, and the stalker's stream-of-consciousness ruminates on looping selfie clips.

Film (1965)

A silent short (one word, Shhh, is uttered, a couple minutes in) starring a very late career Buster Keaton as a man with cataracts who fears being seen. Captivating to watch. About cinema but also (self-) consciousness, makes you viscerally aware of yourself as a watcher, as subject and object.

Special mentions

Detour (1945)

An efficient, tight noir with a truly unique antagonist-- not a femme fatale in the usual sense, but a relentlessly strong-willed, self-interested woman. She's almost like a working-class version of Azula from ATLA, and she's stuck with me in the months since watching.

Samurai Cop (1991)

A perfectly bad movie. Never boring, flawed in original ways, fast paced and just really silly, especially when it comes to the dialogue, the wigs, and the action. My introduction to b-movie legend Robert Z'dar, which I followed up with Yin Yang Insane, which has got to be the most audaciously terrible piece of shit ever released. Watch that to see Z'dar ad lib around the same few lines, just him and the camera, for half an hour.

Roar (1981)

A delight if you enjoy watching people get attacked, but not killed, by charismatic megafauna. The tone of this film is utterly inscrutable. I assume it was made out of love for lions and other large cats, but practically all of the footage is of people clinging desperately to life as wild animals behave in predictably unsafe ways. I actually think that the movie is a feat of editing, in a sense, as the escape sequences are clear and genuinely frightening. But the score is loud, terrible, and absolutely incongruent, and the story is nonsensical, so taken altogether it's a bizarre joy.

The Incredible Shrinking Man (1957)

The corny 1950s effects and the outlandish premise had me expecting a typical adventure story. But the ending was a welcome surprise, yet totally appropriate after time and again the movie was willing to subvert expectations and make you confront your own amusement at the tragedy of its subject, and face your own smallness in the universe.

Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019)

Marion Stokes was a fascinating woman who, through her outsider-archivist work recording TV news for over thirty years, built an unusually thorough archive of American television-- which after her death was donated to the Internet Archive and now contributes to their searchable TV news database. This movie delves more deeply into Stokes' idiosyncratic personal and family life than into her political thought, in what verges on a pathologization of her passion. But her mission, to document American propaganda for the sake of public inquiry and political education, first motivated as she followed the coverage of the Iran-CONTRA scandal, is as important now as it ever was, and with the internet, perhaps more possible than ever before...

Starman (1984)

This movie brims with silly Christian feel-good virtue and strange, probably racist, incomplete ideas about colonialism and civilizational stages. I should probably try to write on those sometime, because there are threads to pull out there. BUT all that aside, I'm recommending it because Jeff Bridges is a constant delight as the alien, and Karen Allen is refreshingly human and manages to sell the unlikely love story at the heart of the movie.

Clockwatchers (1997)

Touching, funny, subtle movie about office temps, friendship between women, and the fractures that form under alienating conditions. The characters are three dimensional, charming, and the chemistry between Toni Collette and Parker Posey has the complex sweetness of honey. The wardrobe is also top-notch, and expressive. (I want practically everything Posey wears in this movie).


Good Time (2017)

Robert Pattinson plays Connie, a small time crook who tries to rescue his developmentally disabled brother (Nick, played by Benny Safdie) from his life of institutionalization. But while Connie is highly skilled in weaseling his way into and out of trouble, he can't control everything, and the film is a sprint from one impossible situation to the next. We sought this one out after finishing The Curs, which is an amazing show, and having loved Uncut Gems when it came out. This might be the most straightup enjoyable of the three, but strikes a similar tone, sensitive to the profoundly negative impacts its characters have on the world around them, while curious about the structural pressures and incentives that influence their personalities. Pattinson is phenomenal.

Branded to Kill (1967)

This film is considered a bridge between Seijun Suzuki's yakuza films (we watched Take Aim at the Police Van, which is a pretty fun story, in gorgeous black and white, and Detective Bureau 2-3: Go to Hell Bastards!, which I found harder to follow and less interesting) and his late career Taishō Roman Trilogy, surreal psychosexual ghost stories set in Japan's Taishō period (comprising Zigeunerweisen, Kagero-za, and Yumeji). For my tastes, Branded to Kill strikes the best balance, formally strange and stranger as it progresses, but narratively and thematically straightforward. You can feel the bones of the original script's hackneyed, typical crime story, as Suzuki contorts it into something beautiful and absurd-- watching it, I get the joke, at least most of the time. On the other hand, those later films are too convoluted for me, and they can get really slow, even bloated, so that you have to earn their poetry by being willing to sit through, for example, twenty minutes of bad children's theatre recapping the two hour movie you just watched.

Mandabi ("The Money Order") (1968)

Ousmane Sembène was a Senegalese novelist and filmmaker, and is often referred to as the father of African cinema. His films are relentlessly critical, often sardonic, and deeply invested in the liberation of the African masses. We watched Borom Sarret, Black Girl, Niaye, Tauw, Mandabi, Emitai, Xala, Ceddo, and Guelwaar, and of these, I think Mandabi is my favourite, although Black Girl and Xala also stand out, and all of them are distinctive, generative, and insightful, even if some are imperfect. Mandabi is grounded by an excellent performance by Makhourédia Guèye, who is subtly comic in his portrayal of Ibrahima Dieng, a dignified-yet-naive, patriarchal yet subaltern man lost in a bureaucratic maze as he attempts to cash a money order sent by a nephew who's been working in France. Ibrahima is reminiscent of Monsieur Hulot, with Guèye bringing least as much complex charm to the role as Tati does his. And through the problem of the money order, we are toured through the tensions in every social-economic relation in Ibrahima's life, and through this, we get an intimate portrait of the margins in 1960s Dakar.

Savage Messiah (1972)

In previous years, I enjoyed The Lair of the White Worm and Crimes of Passion, both strong showcases of Ken Russell's brand of psychedelic camp and the glamorous, theatrical performances of ugly, grandiose characters he captures from the actors he works with. This year, we watched Mahler and Salome's Last Dance, both of which have their strengths and their fun, but which weren't as strong on the whole, and were too extreme with their ironically offensive aspects for my tastes. We also finally saw The Devils, in a 111 minute fancut which restored the Rape of Christ scene as well as the section with the bone fragment near the end. That movie's a masterpiece, but everyone talks about it, so all I'll say is that the movie is much more serious than I'd expected, entertaining of course, but with real convictions and heft (especially in Oliver Reed's Grandier).

Savage Messiah is interesting because it's much simpler, more humble, than any of the movies I just mentioned. It's a Harold and Maude story of two struggling artists in an essentially asexual but deeply romantic relationship. Taking a step back from the wild set pieces (although it does have a few songs, they are performed naturalistically), shocks and flamboyant costumes, this film is intimate, relying on its two central characters, Sophie Brzeska and Henri Gaudier, both based on real people. They both have strong, borderline anti-social personalities, and each is written with a fully realized voice. Brzeska, an author and twenty years Gaudier's senior, is deep inside of herself, and when she talks, even at length, they're ideas she's been working out over decades, expressed with no concern that you might follow her train of thought, bitter and intellectual. Gaudier, on the other hand, is a college freshman, all passion and energy, every word he says just off the cuff, with no concern about consistency, just in expression. When Brzeska has her first real monologue, the camera tight on her head and shoulders as she chops vegetables and tries to scare off the smitten Gaudier, that's when the movie got me.

Hoop Dreams (1994)

Lately, I've had a hunger for sports. To actually start following professional sports, however, is daunting, and I can't be bothered to learn how people do it. So, instead, I started watching sports anime. And while Ping Pong and Haikyuu are both great at what they set out to do, Hoop Dreams is the greatest sports anime of all time, and it's a documentary shot on videotape. We follow William Gates and Arthur Agee, two Black teens from the inner city of Chicago, through their entire high school basketball careers, both pursuing paths which could lead to the NBA. The meat grinder of the industry collides with their dreams in ways that are at times predictably grim, but they are not crushed, and their lives take surprising turns. It's a beautiful coming-of-age story, and a documentary that almost feels miraculous in the robustness of its story and arcs of its subjects. Bonus features which follow up on the Gates and Agee families, as well as feature length commentaries by themselves and the filmmakers, are welcome and if you love this movie, too, I definitely suggest you check them out.

Le Bonheur (1965)

Finally got into Agnès Varda, with Cléo from 5 to 7, One Sings, the Other Doesn't, Vagabond, and this film. All four are excellent, and the interplay between One Sings, the Other Doesn't and Vagabond, released eight years apart and giving voice to the dreams of women's liberation and the persistent destruction of women who want to be free, respectively, is especially potent. That said, Le Bonheur is my favourite of the bunch, because its tone is so surprising, with an understated, shocking irony which escalates and tightens ever onward to the finish. Colourful and sunny, almost managing to have a flower in every single frame, watch as a man does whatever pleases him and every woman smiles and laughs and takes it. There's a brief moment which had me fall in love with this movie, when our lead man walks down the street in his perpetual joy, crosses paths with an unknown woman carrying a baguette, and happily he tears off a piece for himself and chews it as he goes on his merry way. It's perfect.

The People's Joker (2022)

Clowncore psychedelic alt comedy trans coming-of-age story, complete with a toxic T4T Harley Quinn / Mistah Jay love story... I've never seen a movie take the Neil Breen DIY CGI aesthetic so far, at times reminiscent of Robert Yang's games. An then it pivots to analog, and then 2D animation, and back, always hilarious, dazzling, fast-paced and passionate. The editing is tight, the jokes come at you fast and the theatre was loving it. It's like the best, funniest parts of Tim&Eric, or the CBB television show. Snuck in amidst all the jokes is a tender, sincere story of hurt and healing, centred on a traumatic mother/daughter relationship treated with overwhelming compassion and love. Although initially released in 2022 at TIFF, this film is just starting to come out in theatres, so check your local indie! If they aren't screening it, call them up and let them know you'd be interested. Being in an audience of mostly trans people was a really exciting experience of community I haven't gotten anywhere else. (Although I think cis people with a sense of humour will like this movie too).