What I Watched in September 2021
I’m doing things a little different for the next two months. Since I decided to participate in Hooptober (which you could start on September 15), I will only report here on the non-Hooptober movies I watched in September. Now you’ll still see some horror titles on this list, but those were movies that are not part of my Hooptober viewing. Look for my full Hooptober report next month. And please don’t forget to tell me what you enjoyed in September.
Here we go…
Breaker Morant (1980) Bruce Beresford (Criterion DVD)
My college roommate once told me this was a movie worth seeing. 41 years later, I saw it and agree with him. During the Second Boer War, Australian Army lieutenants Harry “Breaker” Morant (Edward Woodward), Peter Handcock (Bryan Brown), and young George Witton (Lewis Fitz-Gerald) stand accused of murdering six Boer prisoners and a German missionary. The men are defended in court by untested and inexperienced defense counsel Major James Francis Thomas (Jack Thompson). There’s much more going on, however, than a simple trial. This is a tremendous film with large, sweeping thematic elements of war, justice and injustice, honor, dishonor, and much more. Many compare the film thematically to Stanley Kubrick’s Paths of Glory (1957). Although far less-seen, I believe Breaker Morant could be the better film. Don’t wait 41 years to see it like I did.
The Last Command (1928) Josef von Sternberg (Criterion DVD)
The film opens with a Hollywood director (William Powell) telling a studio underling to contact a certain Russian immigrant named Dolgorucki (Emil Jannings) for the part of a general in an upcoming production. During a long flashback, we learn that Dolgorucki was once an Imperial Russian general who had a previous history with the film director when he was a revolutionary. The premise may be a bit hard to swallow, but perhaps not. Josef von Sternberg was a master filmmaker, and The Last Command is a silent masterpiece, solidified by a tremendous Oscar-winning performance by Jannings, making him the first winner of the Best Actor Oscar.
Roman Holiday (1953) William Wyler (Amazon Prime) Rewatch, 2x
Research for our Great Movies discussion
The Secret of Roan Inish (1994) John Sayles (Kanopy)
Fiona (Jeni Courtney) is a young Irish girl with a strange family history which includes a missing baby brother that no one wants to talk about. When she moves in with her grandparents on the west coast of Ireland, Fiona hears the story of the selkies, unusual mythical folk who may hold the key to her background. This film is beautiful, odd, and compelling. Highly recommended.
Death and the Maiden (1994) Roman Polanski (Kanopy) Rewatch, 2x
Paulina Escobar (Sigourney Weaver) believes her lawyer husband (Stuart Wilson) has brought home a guest (Ben Kingsley) who is the same man who raped her years ago. This movie builds with amazing intensity, but hardly anyone talks about it anymore. I’m not entirely sure how successful the film is, but I can’t deny its power.
Quantez (1957) Harry Keller (Kino Lorber Blu-ray) Rewatch, 2x
Previously reviewed here
The Falcon’s Brother (1942) Stanley Logan (The Falcon Mystery Movie Collection, Vol. 1, Warner Archive DVD set)
Another fun Falcon outing with detective Gay Lawrence (George Sanders) awaiting the arrival of his brother Tom (Tom Conway, Sanders’s real brother). Ah, but Tom has committed suicide on the cruise ship and is dead on arrival. Or is he? When Gay’s partner Lefty (Don Barclay) is accused of murder, and Gay is hit by a car, who’s going to solve the mystery? A fun, but lesser entry in the series. After this (spoiler!), Tom takes over the series.
The Skin Game (1931) Alfred Hitchcock (Hitchcock: British International Pictures Collection Blu-ray set, Kino Lorber)
Reviewed as part of my Alfred Hitchcock project
The Dish (2000) Rob Sitch (Warner Archive DVD)
In the late 1960s, a group of oddball scientists led by Cliff Buxton (Sam Neill) operate and maintain a large satellite dish near a remote Australian sheep farm. Due to some mishaps with relaying the filming of the Apollo 11 mission, they find themselves in the position of being the only hope for receiving and transmitting Apollo 11’s images to the world. The Dish is a that rare movie that’s light, somewhat goofy, yet weighty in its own way. It’s a film that should be more celebrated. Thanks to my friend Sam for letting me borrow it.
Mysterious Object at Noon (2000) Apichatpong Weerasethakul (Martin Scorsese's World Cinema Project, No. 2 box set, Criterion)
I’m slowly working my way through the Martin Scorsese’s World Cinema Project, No. 2 box set, where I’m finding some real treasures, including this fascinating Thai film, shot in 16mm black and white, which adds to both the documentary and surrealistic aspects of the movie. This unscripted film uses the exquisite corpse device as each person or group of people interprets a strange event that occurred between a disabled boy and his teacher. If you’ve seen Uncle Boonmee Who Can Recall His Past Lives (2010, also directed by Weerasethakul), you have some idea of what you’re in for. Absolutely fascinating.
Hard Boiled (1992) John Woo (Fox Lorber DVD)
I’d seen some of Woo’s Hollywood films, but Hard Boiled marks the first time I’d seen one of his Hong Kong projects. Now I see what all the fuss is about. “An insane, high-energy crime/action movie” doesn’t even scratch the surface. I never thought I’d see a shootout, especially one of this magnitude, in a hospital, but man, what a movie!
The Devil to Pay (2019) Ruckus Skye, Lane Skye (Amazon Prime)
Wow… Technically I watched this one day before Hooptober began, so I’m going to play by the rules and keep it where it is. The less I tell you about this film, the better, but you have to have something to hang your hat on, so here we go: When her husband disappears, Lemon (Danielle Deadwyler) struggles to keep their Appalachian farm operating, all the while trying to raise their young son. To make things worse, the husband is in serious debt to the mountain’s oldest family, controlled by the matriarch Tommy Runion (Catherine Dyer). A slow burn, but the intensity builds nicely. Wonderful cast.
Chinese Takeaway (2011) Sebastián Borensztein (Kanopy) Rewatch, 2x
Research for our Hispanic Heritage Month movie discussion.
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978) Philip Kaufman (MGM Blu-ray) Rewatch, 4x
My wife actually wanted to see this, so there you have it!
Nosferatu (1922) F. W. Murnau (Kino Blu-ray) Rewatch, 3x
Research for our Great Movies discussion
That's it for now. I'll have the rest of my September viewing listed in my Hooptober report next month. Thanks for reading, and do let me know what you watched in September.