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🎬 "That's politics ... I think."

This was the first week since early July in which I didn't watch at least six movies ... only five! I
🎬 "That's politics ... I think."
By Eric Johnson • Issue #86 • View online
This was the first week since early July in which I didn’t watch at least six movies … only five! I must be slipping.
Also: Yesterday was my birthday! In lieu of presents, I’m asking everyone reading this to do one thing for me: Go to your favorite social media app and tell your friends there to go to bit.ly/ESJmovies and subscribe to this newsletter! Or if you don’t use social media, then just tell someone you know IRL to sign up.
Thanks! <3

🇮🇹 The Godfather
The Godfather is beautiful movie about ugly truths. No matter how civil or patriotic or reasonable or nice someone may seem, there is in each of us the potential for cruelty, violence, betrayal — in a word, corruption.
Francis Ford Coppola’s masterpiece, a crime epic with one of the best casts ever assembled — including Marlon Brando, Al Pacino, Robert Duvall, Diane Keaton, and James Caan — is practically perfect in every scene. It runs three hours long but feels much shorter because the pacing is just right, an editing miracle.
Some of you who have been reading for a while may be wondering, didn’t I review this movie in the newsletter already? If you thought that, you’d be right. Back in September 2019, I mused that film-making is like the boisterous wedding that opens the film: It requires people to come together en masse, and The Godfather, I wrote then, is “an incredible unification of creative professionals at the top of their game.” What a movie! Recommended, of course.
The Godfather I Opening scene HD
The Godfather I Opening scene HD
I watched The Godfather on Blu-Ray, but it’s currently streaming on fuboTV.
💔 (500) Days of Summer
There’s so much I want to like about (500) Days of Summer.
In concept, this Annie Hall-esque deconstruction of romantic comedies is exactly my sort of movie, and I think its intentions were good, but it only half works for me.
As in the Woody Allen film that clearly inspired it, Joseph Gordon-Levitt plays an unlikable obsessive jerk in love. The big difference, though, is that while Annie Hall satirizes Allen’s lifestyle and invites the audience to dislike Alvy Singer, (500) Days of Summer takes the side of Gordon-Levitt’s adorkable character Tom 9 times out of 10.
Zooey Deschanel’s character Summer, meanwhile, is painted as a heartbreaker, and the film doesn’t give her enough of a chance to rebut that characterization. Summer is supposed to be a parody of the “manic pixie dream girl,” but in my view the movie becomes what it is trying to mock rather than transcending the trope. Summer’s nuances are buried under layers of style, which this movie has in abundance.
About that style: I love the soundtrack and the many creative sequences, even if they complicate my feelings about the movie overall. My favorite scene in the whole movie is the exquisite “Expectations vs. Reality” sequence, and that is but one of the reasons that, despite my misgivings, I’d still recommend that people see (500) Days of Summer. If nothing else, you’ll walk away ready to have a good conversation.
500 DAYS OF SUMMER | Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight
500 DAYS OF SUMMER | Official Trailer | FOX Searchlight
I watched (500) Days of Summer on DVD, but it’s currently streaming on Starz and DirecTV.
⚔️ The Hidden Fortress
All I really knew about The Hidden Fortress going in was that it had influenced a young George Lucas while he was in film school. The parallels with Star Wars are easy to spot: An epic war seen through the eyes of two nobodies, a headstrong princess on the run, a mysterious older general, and — my favorite catch — frequent “wipe” transitions that I have long thought of as peculiar to Lucas.
Separating his work from this one, however, I still found The Hidden Fortress to be a very enjoyable ride. Director Akira Kurosawa executes some set pieces that would be impressive by today’s standards, much less 1958’s, and the tense showdown between the general and a former foe indisputably belongs in the fight scene hall of fame.
I didn’t care as much for the theatrical acting, which involves a lot of grating voices and shouted lines that didn’t need to be shouted, but eventually I settled into the movie’s rhythm and stopped noticing those habits so much. Recommended.
The Hidden Fortress
The Hidden Fortress
I watched The Hidden Fortress on Blu-Ray, but it’s currently streaming on Kanopy, HBO Max, and the Criterion Channel.
🤪 High Anxiety
High Anxiety has its moments, but it’s the weakest Mel Brooks film I’ve seen to date.
An extended parody of Alfred Hitchcock’s movies, and liberally borrowing plot points from Vertigo and Spellbound in particular, it stars Brooks as a psychiatrist who gets wrapped up in a murderous plot that entails mistaken identities, swarms of birds, sudden orchestral stings, and of course a climactic showdown in a vertigo-inducing place.
The gags miss more often than they hit, unfortunately, but the standout scenes come thanks to frequent Brooks collaborator Madeline Kahn, seen here warming up for her later scene-stealing turn as Mrs. White in Clue. Another pal, Harvey Korman, is here and always fun to watch, and I admire Brooks’ commitment to the bit. All that being said, I can’t recommend that most people — except maybe Brooks/Hitch obsessives — spend the time to watch this one.
High Anxiety | #TBT Trailer | 20th Century FOX
High Anxiety | #TBT Trailer | 20th Century FOX
I watched High Anxiety on Blu-Ray, but it’s currently streaming on Starz and DirecTV.
🇺🇸 Boys State
OK. Wow. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes terrifying, and always compelling, Boys State is the best new movie I’ve seen all year.
It’s a documentary about a decades-old annual summer camp where more than a thousand Texas boys are divided into two political parties and have a long, sleep-deprived week to hammer out political platforms, run campaigns, and vote for their leaders.
It’s all a game (the winners don’t actually do anything, as an early scene makes clear) but the kids take it seriously, and so do the filmmakers. I loved this movie in large part because it discreetly keys into the ridiculous moments that reflect our political reality. Each of the main characters is fascinating in his own way, and each is given a chance to articulate what he stands for — or, at least, what he’s pretending to stand for in order to win more votes.
My only criticism of the film is that it appears to be an exclusive to Apple TV+, which is one of the less talked-about streaming services. I hope that Apple eventually makes this movie free for non-subscribers to watch, or allows it on other platforms, to encourage more people to watch it. Highly recommended.
Boys State | Official Trailer HD | A24
Boys State | Official Trailer HD | A24
Boys State is currently streaming on Apple TV+.
🔢 Every Movie I've Seen in 2020, Ranked
(new additions in bold)
  1. The Godfather
  2. 12 Angry Men
  3. Do the Right Thing
  4. Knives Out
  5. Parasite
  6. Arrival
  7. Airplane!
  8. Hot Fuzz
  9. Boys State
  10. Hamilton
  11. Groundhog Day
  12. All About Eve
  13. The Farewell
  14. Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  15. What We Do in the Shadows
  16. Spotlight
  17. Booksmart
  18. Her
  19. Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
  20. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban
  21. Your Name.
  22. North by Northwest
  23. Dr. Horrible’s Sing-Along Blog
  24. The Old Guard
  25. Thank You For Smoking
  26. Little Women
  27. Marriage Story
  28. Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  29. La La Land
  30. Sunset Boulevard
  31. Ford v Ferrari
  32. A Fish Called Wanda
  33. Gremlins
  34. Apocalypse Now
  35. The Hidden Fortress
  36. Hell or High Water
  37. Moneyball
  38. Hacksaw Ridge
  39. Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping
  40. The Lunchbox
  41. Heat
  42. Little Miss Sunshine
  43. A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  44. Coming to America
  45. Shrek
  46. Wet Hot American Summer
  47. Dolemite Is My Name
  48. Good Will Hunting
  49. Palm Springs
  50. The Grapes of Wrath
  51. Fantasia 2000
  52. First Cow
  53. Kedi
  54. The Great Escape
  55. Annihilation
  56. Wordplay
  57. Boyhood
  58. 1917
  59. Once Upon a Time … in Hollywood
  60. Dark Waters
  61. Hail, Caesar!
  62. The Death of Stalin
  63. 50/50
  64. Hannah and Her Sisters
  65. Enemy of the State
  66. Captain Phillips
  67. Uncut Gems
  68. Frost/Nixon
  69. Almost Famous
  70. Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone
  71. Bad Education
  72. Godzilla
  73. Just Mercy
  74. Da 5 Bloods
  75. Guardians of the Galaxy
  76. My Fair Lady
  77. The Hateful Eight
  78. Happy Gilmore
  79. Gates of Heaven
  80. Emma.
  81. Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn)
  82. Gremlins 2: The New Batch
  83. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns
  84. Braveheart
  85. Bicycle Thieves
  86. Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy
  87. Frankenstein
  88. Hugo
  89. All the Money in the World
  90. My Big Fat Greek Wedding
  91. John Mulaney & The Sack Lunch Bunch
  92. Onward
  93. Hidden Figures
  94. Pain and Glory
  95. Bambi
  96. The Great Dictator
  97. Lemony Snicket’s a Series of Unfortunate Events
  98. Anastasia
  99. Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan
  100. Animal House
  101. You’ve Got Mail
  102. The 39 Steps
  103. (500) Days of Summer
  104. Harry Potter and the Chamber of Secrets
  105. Modern Romance
  106. Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story
  107. 3:10 to Yuma
  108. The Big Country
  109. Ghost
  110. History of the World: Part I
  111. The African Queen
  112. Greyhound
  113. Bamboozled
  114. Bullitt
  115. Dracula
  116. The Bachelor and the Bobby-Soxer
  117. Bride of Frankenstein
  118. The Descendants
  119. The Hangover
  120. Joker
  121. Kingpin
  122. 28 Days Later
  123. Bridesmaids
  124. The Great Gatsby
  125. Hang ‘Em High
  126. 13 Assassins
  127. Creature From the Black Lagoon
  128. Kentucky Fried Movie
  129. High Anxiety
  130. Romancing the Stone
  131. Crocodile Dundee
  132. The 40-Year-Old Virgin
  133. Hard Ticket to Hawaii
  134. Gods of Egypt
  135. The Gentlemen
  136. Ace Ventura: Pet Detective
  137. Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band
  138. The Last Airbender

Did you enjoy this issue?
Eric Johnson

I'm reviewing every movie I watch, and watching every movie I own. Settle in, this is going to take a while.

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