With August already in the rear-view, here are my 10 favorite watches from last month!
11. Chicano Love is Forever (1977)
- Though this is a top-10 list, I’ve included Efrain Gutierrez’s film as a special #11 since you can’t really find it anywhere. It’s not streaming, and it isn’t available as a physical Blu-ray/DVD/4K purchase. I only saw thanks to the archive at UCLA. It’s an intense film about a Chicano couple struggling to balance work with their love life, a harshly intimate look at human connection, class and race. Email your local library to try and see if they have archive access. You won't regret it!
10. Prey (2022)
- I’ve already done a short analysis of this film, so I’ll keep my thoughts quick, but suffice it to say: I loved it! Smartly done, brilliant acting with some sneakily good shots. Definitely one of the more interesting and innovative additions to the Predator franchise. Stream it on Hulu!
9. 3,000 Years of Longing (2022)
- Tilda Swinton, Idris Elba, a wildly fun adventure with genies and some pretty stunning visuals. What more could one ask for? Don’t let it’s depressing box office numbers fool you; I think that can mostly be attributed to the butcher-job MGM did with their so-called marketing campaign. If we really want to support new, exciting movies, then we should give them enough of a push to let the public know they exist. Long story short: you have to see this movie! Catch it in theaters while you can.
8. Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010)
- Apichatpong Weerasethakul’s Palm d’Or-winning supernatural drama is one of the most unique watches one can hope to find. Centered around themes of memory and trauma— specifically the genocide of communists in Thailand—replete with ghosts and the long takes captured from a still tripod which have become a penchant for Thailand’s best auteur, it’s a wild ride you have to experience. Stream it on Prime video!
7. Thief (1981)
- WOW is all I can say about Michael Mann’s feature-film debut. Even this early in his career, the same themes that are present in his more mature work such as Heat (1995) are front and center: masculinity, criminality and how hard it is to connect with other people in modern society. As usual with Mann, the visuals are eye-popping, with the city itself almost becoming a character as we follow diamond thief Frank trying to navigate his way out of Chicago’s criminal underworld—but not before one final score. The music, the acting, the visuals, it's an all-around must-watch.
6. Wild Strawberries (1957)
- I first heard about this Swedish drama when reading how it was nominated for an Academy Award, until director Ingmar Bergman rejected the nomination and requested to never be nominated again, saying art isn’t something to be competitive over. As with all of his films, it’s beautifully-directed, and the confidently classical narrative stands out against his later experimental approach. Centered around an old, bitter doctor on the verge of receiving an award while simultaneously reckoning with his past, it’s a touching look at some of Bergman’s most recurring themes, with fantastic acting and editing. Wild Strawberries is definitely something you should try to watch soon.
5. Bodies Bodies Bodies (2022)
- Halina Reijn’s slasher-whodunnit is a breath of fresh air for a genre that had previously gone stale. As we follow a group of influencers trapped in a mansion during a hurricane, trying to find which of them is a serial killer, viewers are guaranteed one of the most funny, searing critiques of bourgeois class society we’ve yet to receive this year. Don’t miss it in theaters!
4. Metropolis (1927)
- Fritz Lang’s sci-fi dystopia has some of the best set design I’ve ever seen, which says a lot considering the film was made so long ago. Workers trying to overthrow their bosses, robots posing as humans to mislead the masses, love, loss, it’s a great film—and it’s free on YouTube! Need I say more?
3. Casino (1995)
- After watching this movie, I’m convinced it’s one of Martin Scorsese’s best films. With De Niro and Joe Pesci playing their classic gangster roles—this time with an entire casino at their disposal—it’s one of the best critiques of American capitalism one can hope to see. From the cinematography to the soundtrack and editing, and of course the acting, it’s a typical Scorsese home run. I recommend watching it in 4K to really get all the excess that’s been jam-packed into this almost-three-hour epic.
2. Heat (1995)
- Michael Mann with two spots on this list should come as no surprise. When Mann does heist-thrillers, he’s at his best, and this film is no different. Widely known as the first time De Niro and Pacino acted in the same film, it’s got everything you’d expect from a movie about cops and robbers, but it’s so much more than just that. Now one of my favorite films of all time, I couldn’t recommend this enough!
1. Belle (2021)
- The first time I saw Belle, I knew I’d watch it again. And again. And again. Currently, I’ve seen it seven times, and will definitely be watching it again tonight. Something about Suzu’s journey to overcome her mom’s death is beautifully vulnerable; I don’t care if it could’ve been written a little better; Academy Award-winning director Mamoru Hosoda’s modern take on Beauty and the Beast is gorgeous and epic to look at, with some of the best musical numbers I’ve ever heard. Stream it on HBO Max while you can! It’s an amazing watch, maybe one of the best you’re likely to have this year.
If you liked these recommendations, please be sure to join The Chicano Film Shelf’s mailing list (for free)! Just click ‘Log-in’ on the drop-down menu to sign up. Members are updated anytime there’s new content or exclusive giveaways and get access to the site’s Reddit forum, where you can keep up with all things film/engage with the rich community of deep thinkers who’ve gathered around this blog!