Author: Alex Thompson

Back Catalog Review: Rebecca


The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all the movies I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films. 

I’d been curious about Rebecca since I heard about it about a decade ago. It doesn’t really feel a whole ton like the other Hitchcock films I’ve seen, it’s much more character based than something like North By Northwest. And the romance is a thing I can really believe in for the first time outside of maybe Rear Window. I read the back of the Criterion case and it sounded a heck of a lot like Jane Eyre with the class difference between the man and the woman and the man’s mysterious past that haunts his (big and beautiful) house. But this is its own thing, enhanced by some superb acting and Hitchcock’s amazing eye for detail and manipulation of the frame.



Movie Review: Call Me By Your Name

Call Me By Your Name 1

There are some movies that you really love because they become markers in your life. Jurassic Park, for example, was one of the first “adult” movies I saw and loved. Once was the movie that started my reevaluation of the musical genre, same for The Shining and horror. Fanny and Alexander became that kind of movie later on. I knew when I watched it that I was seeing something amazing, something better than I had ever seen before, but only recently has it become pivotal for my academic career when I wrote about it for my Master’s Thesis. Call Me By Your Name is the newest of these kinds of movies. My response to this film is deeply personal, almost entirely disconnected from the kinds of stuff I usually respond to in the other kind of favorite movies, the ones that are just really good versions of the things that you like. Call Me By Your Name is a marker movie not because of the wonderful acting (particularly by Timothée Chalamet) or the assured filming style (loose, but also formally experimental in certain scenes) or the resonant themes (though that gets the closest, especially by the end). No, Call Me By Your Name is important to me because it reflected (in some ways) an experience I had only a few years ago.


A personal response to Star Wars: The Last Jedi

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I don’t like Star Wars. Wait, stop, don’t go yet. Let me clarify. I don’t like Star Wars movies very much. When I was around 7 years old, I got both the Original Trilogy (hereafter OT) and the Indiana Jones Trilogy on VHS at roughly the same time. I started with Star Wars and found myself enjoying but not falling head over heals with the films. Then I watched the Indiana Jones movies and fell in love with them. Here’s a movie for me! Whips! Nazi punching! The best part of Star Wars given his own films and no whiny kids to muck it all up (ok, well, at least not in 2/3 of them). That isn’t to say that I cast Star Wars aside entirely. In fact, if you looked at my toy collection for the next 5 or so years of my life, you’d think I was the biggest Star Wars fan there was. I did love the extended Star Wars universe. I read a bunch of the books, ignoring the generally bad prose for the pretty fun world-(or universe)-building. As I got older I got really into a few Star Wars videogames, especially the Dark Forces/Jedi Knight series and, of course, both Knights of the Old Republic games. When the Prequel Trilogy began I was 11 years old and of course I loved The Phantom Menace because I was the perfect age for it. I came home and fought the classic broom-handle-lightsaber battles with my friends. I played the terrible videogame that followed the events of the movie and the fantastic podracer game. I got Lego sets and the action figures. I made up stories of my own because the stories (and most of the primary characters) weren’t all that interesting to me. This is my Star Wars apostasy, I’m a spiritual Star Wars fan, not a fundamentalist. And that is why The Last Jedi is, for me, the first truly great Star Wars movie.


Movie Review: Lady Bird

Lady Bird

I guess we’ve reached the point where 9/11 sight gags are funny. At one point in Lady Bird, Greta Gerwig’s directorial debut, there’s a montage of fun stuff that happens during the titular character’s senior year at a Catholic High School in Sacramento. During the montage there’s a quick insert of a character giving a speech and behind her hangs an accurately cutesy pushpin bulletin board that features the old slogan, “9/11: Never Forget” in sparkly bubble letters. I laughed at it, then I thought about why that shot got that reaction from me. Part of it is the specificity and authenticity to 2002, one of this film’s strongest selling points, and part of it is the juxtaposition between that serious message and the silly events that surround it. But the element of that quick shot that stood out most to me was the difference in how I felt about that saying in 2002 and how I feel about it 15 years later. Lady Bird is about 4 years older than I was in 2002 but even in late middle school I felt a deep and serious calling to never forget the events of that day. I guess I haven’t forgotten 9/11 half my life later but it feels much less central to my definition of myself than it did at the time. There are all kinds of reasons for this change, from the mere passage of time to the reckoning one must do with the way we responded to the attack (the film also pays attention to this, at least in the background), and I think it is probably a good thing to not have terrorism on my mind 24/7 anymore. Lady Bird isn’t about 9/11, but Gerwig’s film does address all of these other ideas. Its conflict is a fraught mother/daughter relationship among various other high-school-finding-yourself drama and it is so invested in the details of the fights, the way they’ve grown imperceptibly until they explode into month-long silences, that it is very easy to get wrapped up in them. But I grew out of that kind of stuff long ago and Lady Bird is likely to as well. So why look at them? Because those feelings and fights mattered, and the way we think about them now is related to how we thought about them then. Like 9/11, see?


Back Catalog Review: Hiroshima Mon Amour

Hiroshima Mon Amour 1

The Back Catalog is a series following my quest to watch all the movies I own. Check out the index, or follow the Back Catalog tag to see what I’ve watched and what I’ve thought of the films. 

Why does Breathless get all the hype? Where that movie has cool cynicism and Parisian wandering to recommend it, Hiroshima Mon Amour has profound discussions of memory and peace wrapped up in a dual focus on a two-day relationship and atomic bombs. That’s a movie that says something! Here’s a movie that makes you feel! Think! And don’t tell me it’s not formally daring! It might not be all cut up, but damn, those flashbacks and that prologue are spectacularly inventive. And the relationship here, between Emmanuelle Riva and Eiji Okada, feels like a real thing captured on film rather than a pastiche of genre conventions. What’s up, cinephiles?