The Quarantine Watchlist, Part 1

I’ve lost count of how many days I’ve been inside. I think it’s been three weeks now, with a few brief masked-and-gloved excursions for supplies. What have I been doing most of the time? What everyone’s been doing: playing Switch and watching movies. Here’s part one of my watchlist:

  • The Age of Innocence - This is said to be Martin Scorsese’s “most violent film.” I’ve got to tell you, I don’t agree! I think his movies where people get murdered for no reason are much more violent! I will say the scene at the party near the end, when he realizes everyone knows, is one of the most horrifying moments I’ve ever seen in a Scorsese film, though. He’s a great filmmaker! Who would have thought?

    It makes me wonder what would have happened if my film major boyfriend had started me with this one when I asked to see a Scorsese movie, instead of starting with Mean Streets. Don’t start with Mean Streets, guys. Start with Goodfellas or The Departed or one of the more mainstream ones. Maybe Taxi Driver if they know what they’re in for.

    I’d also completely forgotten that Daniel Day-Lewis is incredibly hot. That hair, those cheekbones! In this movie alone, he looks like at least three different men I’ve had crushes on. I’ve only seen him as Lincoln or Daniel Plainview or the like in the past ten years. Clearly I need to watch more of his earlier work, for, uh, research.

  • The Remains of the Day - DUTY! LOVE! REGRET! Yes, please! I love the book and Kazuo Ishiguro in general, so I knew I would like this, and Emma Thompson being in it was an added bonus. Both Mike Nichols and Ishiguro are great at making you feel for people you don’t know if you should feel for, and for the slow revelation of character. I think this is the movie that made my mother fall in love with Anthony Hopkins — and that’s saying something, because in this he plays a butler to a British fascist.

  • Pride and Prejudice (1995) - Not bad, but too long. Jennifer Ehle was wonderful, Julia Sawalha was hilarious, but they could have cut about half of Mrs. Bennett’s part and we still would have understood how unbelievably annoying she is. And I’m sorry, I really am, but Matthew Macfayden remains my favorite Darcy. Colin Firth is undoubtedly handsome, and one of the best British actors ever, but he just doesn’t make my heart flutter. This is probably because the first film I ever saw him as a lead in was The King’s Speech, and I think he looks just like my dad in that. I actually called my dad after I saw it to tell him so, and my dad, ever droll, responded, “Well, I’m sorry for ruining Colin Firth for you.”

  • O Lucky Man! - This I really liked! I think it also helped me realize something: while I don’t like movies where the main character is completely abused or humiliated the whole time, I’m fine with them going through all sorts of crazy shit—as long as they, the character, seem fine with it. I can’t laugh at Meet the Parents because I always just feel bad for Ben Stiller’s character, but I can laugh at Looney Tunes, because I know Daffy and Wile E. Coyote are going to be just fine. (I can also laugh at shows like Always Sunny or Peep Show because the characters there are generally the worst and usually brought whatever happened upon themselves.) This was wonderfully funny and dark, and I could make a direct line between it and Sorry to Bother You.

    It also reminded me of working with Malcolm McDowell, who was wonderful, when I was nine years old, and the time I met his son Charlie at a party when he was a teenager. Charlie was doing backflips on a trampoline in the middle of the night.

  • The Young Girls of Rochefort - What a strange movie! It’s a visual delight from beginning to end, but just when you think it’s going to be a simple ‘60s love story suddenly there are these lines about war and man’s inhumanity to man and very frank (for the time) talk of casual sex, not to mention a subplot about a brutal murder that comes out of nowhere. Entertaining, and I’m glad I saw it, but as I told my friend I was distance-watching it with, I am pretty sure this is both the most French and the most ‘60s thing I’ve ever seen.

  • Hair - Speaking of the ‘60s! How the hell do you adapt Hair? I saw a staging in college, though it was a very experimental, and now somewhat infamous version, where the stage and costumes were all white, and instead of wearing their hair long, all of the actors had their heads shaved. Hair without hair. I remember being moved, but also a little annoyed at the director.

    Hair is such a period piece that any interpretation, even ones less drastic than “Hair without hair,” will be seen more as a commentary on the time. The adaptation, while visually stunning (fuck yeah, Twyla Tharp!) is very different than the stage show: it’s told through an outside character, and the “tribe” members don’t feel like part of some bigger movement, they feel like outsiders. I get why the creators of the original Hair didn’t like it — the Beverly D’Angelo subplot was a bit overlong, though she was great, and I do get the importance of showing how rich kids got attracted to the hippie lifestyle — but I liked seeing a very ‘70s take on a very ‘60s show. The switcheroo at the end felt like a cruel joke, but is there anything more ‘70s cinema than to laugh bitterly at it all?

    This is only the second Milos Forman movie I’ve seen all the way through. I’ve seen parts of Cuckoo’s Nest, but we watched Amadeus a lot at my house growing up. I’m just now realizing that’s kind of a weird movie for a family to watch over and over again.

  • Xanadu - And now for things that didn’t age well. I was hoping the cheese factor would be enough to keep me entertained — I love dancing, montages, and ELO — but this was actually pretty dull. As Anna said, “Every song goes on for a minute and a half longer than it needs to.” (I agreed, but reminded her that perception of time was different in those days, because cocaine.) The plot drags on and on, and it’s devastating in retrospect: an artist waits for a genius idea, and at the end, his masterwork is revealed to be a disco roller rink. Two fads dead in the water by 1980. Maybe people just shouldn’t try to make movies that are about art at the turn of a decade? Like it or not, people seem to group things in ten-year increments, and your aesthetic is bound to be seen as dated and embarrassing immediately.

    The pluses were Gene Kelly, a nice homage to Singin’ in the Rain, a surprisingly racially diverse cast for the early 1980s, and some cute muses. I do get why some lesbian friends of mine love this movie.

  • Boogie Nights - Hey, look, everybody! I saw a Paul Thomas Anderson movie and really liked it! Maybe even loved it! It could be that I have a soft spot for the San Fernando Valley, where I grew up, and where this is set. But then, Magnolia is also about the Valley, and I can’t stand that movie, and I also probably would have watched this much sooner if you had just told me I would get to see Alfred Molina singing in a bathrobe.

  • The Godfather, Part One - So this one I’ve seen before. (I first saw it in college with aforementioned film major boyfriend. We’d only been dating a few months at the time, and I remember his mom called him about halfway through. He told her what we were watching, and she, also droll, said “Oh, horse’s heads! That makes for a romantic date night movie!”) But Anna had not seen it, and I’ve been begging her to watch it with me for years. I’m happy to report that she liked it! I knew she’d be into ‘70s-era Al Pacino, dark eyes and aquiline noses are very much her type, but I did not expect her to root as much for certain deaths as she did. Every time Carlo came on screen she’d groan, “Ugh. I hope somebody kills him. Why can’t they kill him already?” I was not expecting this from my pacifist, art teacher-in training little sister. She also much preferred Appollonia to Kay. But I forgive her all this, because last night, she asked me, “Do you want to watch Part Two?” It was way too late at night for that, but I’m glad I started something.

Stuff I Did This Week: The Hundreds launched their Roald Dahl-based collection, and I got to model for them and do an interview! I also got to keep that green Matilda hoodie, which is both adorable and comfortable!

If this month had gone the way we’d anticipated, I would have spent last week in New York with Joseph Fink and Jeffrey Cranor promoting The Faceless Old Woman Who Secretly Lives in Your Home. Unfortunately, we had to cancel that event and be content with a livestream. But that livestream was a blast, with tons of fun guests, and you can watch it here! The book is available to buy now, as is the audiobook I was lucky enough to read.

Fake BBC Show of the Week: The PM’s Been Infected!