Category: Blog

Films Seen 1/1/21 – 4/23/21

Between the Lines (1977), Joan Micklin Silver, B+
Bernice Bobs Her Hair (1976), Joan Micklin Silver, B
Public Speaking (2010), Martin Scorsese, A-
Pretend It’s A City (2021), Martin Scorsese, B+
The Blues According to Lightnin’ Hopkins (1968), Les Blank, A
Yum, Yum, Yum! A Taste of Cajun and Creole Cooking (1990), Les Blank, B+
The Sign Painter (2021), Viestur Kairiss, B
Shared Legacies: The African-American Jewish Civil Rights Alliance (2020), Shari Rogers, C-
The Eight Hundred (2020), Guan Hu, B
Some Kind Of Heaven (2021), Lance Oppenheim, B+
Star Trek: Discovery, Season 3, B-
Outside The Wire (2021), Mikael Håfström, B-
Star Wars: Episode IX — The Rise of Skywalker (2019), J.J. Abrams, A-
Alien Resurrection (1997), Jean-Pierre Jeunet, B+
The Black Legion (1937), Archie Mayo, B
Murder on the Blackboard (1934), George Archainbaud, B
A Glitch in the Matrix (2021), Rodney Ascher, A-
Misha and the Wolves (2021), Sam Hobkinson, C
Summer of Soul (…Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised) (2021), Ahmir Khalib Thompson, A
Mass (2021), Fran Kranz, B-
The Brothers Sparks (2021), Edgar Wright, B
Marvelous and the Black Hole (2021), Kate Tsang, D
Passing (2021), Rebecca Hall, B+
All Light, Everywhere (2021), Theo Anthony, A-
Judas and the Black Messiah (2021), Shaka King, A
Rifkin’s Festival (2021), Woody Allen, C
Leona (2021), Isaac Cherem, B
Western Stars (2019), Bruce Springsteen and Thom Zimmy, B
Letter To You (2020), Thom Zimmy, B
Alexander Nevsky (1938), Sergei Eisenstein, A
Tina (2021), Daniel Lindsay and T.J. Martin, B
St. Louis Blues (1958), Allen Reisner, B
Moxie (2021), Amy Poehler, C+
Batman V Superman: Dawn of Justice, Special Edition (2016/2020), Zack Snyder, C-
Justice League (2017), Zack Snyder and Joss Whedon, D
Zack Snyder’s Justice League (2021), Zack Snyder, C
WandaVision Season 1 (2021), B
Shiva Baby (2021), Emma Seligman, A-
Tom Petty: Somewhere You Feel Free (2021), Mary Wharton, C
Slaxx (2021), Elza Kephart, B
Amarcord (1973), Federico Fellini, A-
Night and Fog (1956), Alain Resnais, A-
Godzilla vs. Kong (2021), Adam Wingard, B
The Power (2021), Corinna Faith, B
North by Northwest (1959), Alfred Hitchcock, A
From Russia With Love (1963), Terence Young, A-
Awaken (2021), Tom Lowe, C-
The Banishing (2021), Christopher Smith, B-
Particle Fever (2013), Mark Levinson, A-
Life in Color with David Attenborough (2021), B
Earth Moods (2021), D
Up In Smoke (1978), Lou Adler, A-
Cheech and Chong’s Next Movie (1980), Tommy Chong, B+
Nice Dreams (1981), Tommy Chong, B-
Things Are Tough All Over (1982), Thomas K. Avildsen, C-
Still Smokin’ (1983), Tommy Chong, B-
Stowaway (2021), Joe Penna, B
Rachel Getting Married (2008), Jonathan Demme, A
Mortal Kombat (2021), Simon McQuoid, C+

Books Read, 2020

Covid “Cloudy Head” is real. Even though I had nowhere to be in the evenings for most of the year, I found it extremely difficult to read books. There was a good few weeks in April when all I looked at was a rising graph representing dead New Yorkers. Not that great. Maybe next year will be different, though to be frank last year I didn’t read that much more.
But here is what I did finish.
Dr. Futurity (1960), Philip K. Dick
This is PKD still very much with one foot in pure pulp. Maybe a foot plus a toe. A physician accidentally zooms off to the future somehow, then suddenly becomes a pawn in some kind of ongoing temporal war. I very much recommend this book, it’s a hoot.
The Chosen Wars: How Judaism Became an American Religion (2018), Steven R. Weisman
New York is still the most Jewish city in America, but you may not realize how clutch Charleston and Cincinnati were. Anyhow, this is a pretty fascinating history, and Weisman is wise enough to stay focused on colorful characters as much as possible.
Fleishman is in Trouble (2019), Taffy Brodesser-Akner
There’s a reason this was such a bestseller. It’s very, very funny, and extremely well-observed. Perhaps my familiarity with places like the 92nd St. Y put me in the tank for this early, but by the end I found myself really caring for the characters, even though I think they are doomed.
The Future of Another Timeline (2019), Annalee Newitz
This rules so goddamn hard. Really sharp sci fi, some rich historical sections and a group of characters you adore.
We (1922), Yevgeny Zamyatin
Early Soviet dystopian sci fi that starts out really strong and also ends well but, to be totally honest, kinda put me to sleep in the middle. I did like the idea of a society in which you are ordered to pull the shades down and fornicate at an appointed time.
Dune (1965), Frank Herbert
There’s been a billion things said about this book and I do not have all that much to add. I’d never read it before. I really liked gimmick of opening each chapter with a quote from a different in-world text. That’s how it’s done! I think Denis Villeneuve is a fool for thinking this could be a movie. David Lynch had the right idea, just do your own thing, man.
Apropos of Nothing (2020), Woody Allen
You may have forgotten this, but Woody Allen is incredibly funny. His recent movies have few fans; I remain one of them, proudly, but I’ll admit that they aren’t quite so sharp as his earlier output. None of that lethargy is evident in this hysterical memoir. There’s also strong Hollywood chatter in here, especially from the set of that boondoggle Casino Royale. There’s a lot about his current Josef K. saga, too, which gets just a smidge into “Lenny Bruce reading his court transcripts” territory, sadly. Still, by and large, this is a treasure.
The Jazz Ear: Conversations Over Music (2008), Ben Ratliff
Ratliff schmoozes with everyone (Sonny Rollins, Ornette Coleman, Maria Schneider, Pat Metheny, Wayne Shorter, etc etc etc) as they spin records. Not for commoners.
Dune Messiah (1969), Frank Herbert
Action action action! Some Herbert-heads hate this book but I loved it.
Stan Lee: A Life in Comics (2020), Liel Leibovitz
My chum Liel wrote this short biography, and allowed himself plenty of room to run wild with his interpretations of the work, which is the best part.
The Strawberry Statement (1969), James Simon Kunen
An outstanding document from a different era that I happened to be reading just as the George Floyd direct actions were taking place. Kunen’s POV, that of a Jewish jock in the Ivy League, is far different from the activists who took center stage this summer, which made for some interesting compare/contrasts. For every “right on” there’s a “wait, is this guy putting me on?” Highly recommended if you are into this sort of thing. The movie is only loosely related, but has its own merits.
Beethoven: Anguish and Triumph (2014), Jan Swafford
I spent a week alone at the beach this summer doing nothing but reading this 1,100 page tome. This guy, this Ludwig Van Beethoven, he sure had some kinda life, let me tell you.
Self Care (2020), Leigh Stein
This is a very funny, slim novel about Instagram feminism and wellness and venture capitalism that, if I am being completely honest with you, made me very happy that I have next-to-nothing to do with this world.
Antkind (2020), Charlie Kaufman
I’ve never read anything quite like Antkind. I’ve admired much (not all!) of Charlie Kaufman’s work in the past but this is, by far, the best thing he’s ever done. The story is surrealist mayhem, but that is secondary to the rat-a-tat voice of true madness that narrates, a style and perspective that began to infect my own thinking as I marched my way through these 700+ pages. So many jokes. So many good jokes.
Notes From Underground (1864), Fyodor Dostoyevsky
I needed some hair of the dog after Antkind.
Satchmo: My Life in New Orleans (1954), Louis Armstrong
Louis Armstrong’s first book, Swing That Music from 1936 (which I have not read), was ghostwritten. This was not. It’s wonderful. It’s Louis Armstrong, talking about his life from his earliest memories until he had enough of a career as a trumpet player to leave New Orleans. One interesting section was his description of 1918, when everybody got the flu except for him, because he took a powerful physic.
Open Sky: Sonny Rollins and His World of Improvisation (2000), Eric Nisenson
A good, straightforward bio of Sonny Rollins, with a primary focus on his discography.
Children of Dune (1976), Frank Herbert
Of the first three Dune books this has the most of an “oh, wow, far out, man” factor, but unfortunately there are also seriously long stretches of dull prose and people just talk talk talking at one another. Mixed bag. I intend to continue with more of the series, though.
Betraying Spinoza: The Renegade Jew Who Gave Us Modernity (2006), Rebecca Newberger Goldstein
This is strongest when it is Goldstein talking about Spinoza through the lens of her own life. The stuff about Spinoza’s actual ideas kinda flew over my head. I don’t really know what that guy is talking about. I’m sure he’s very smart. Anyway, this never becomes a straight biography, because not all that much is known about the dude. Descriptions of the Portuguese Jews living in Holland at the time, however, are fascinating.
Through Music to The Self: How to Appreciate and Experience Music Anew (1978), Peter Michael Hamel
This is an out-of-print British publication of a translated German book that, by today’s standards, would be considered xenophobic as hell, but had good intentions for its time. Part of it is just a history of “world music,” but it also gets into music theory and, for long stretches, dated New Age gobbledygook. I found this far more interesting as a time capsule object than anything else.

Films Seen 8/24 – 12/31

Captain America: Civil War (2016), Anthony and Joe Russo, C
Kings of the Road (1976), Wim Wenders, B+
Night of the Living Dead (1968), George Romero, A
The Kings of Capitol Hill (2020), Mor Loushy, B
The Last of Sheila (1973), Herbert ross, B+
I’m Thinking of Ending Things (2020), Charlie Kaufman, D
American Utopia (2020), Spike Lee, A
Hail the Conquering Hero (1944), Preston Sturges, A
The Oyster Princess (1919), Ernst Lubitsch, A-
Mighty Ira (2020), Chris Maltby, Nico Perrino, Aaron Reese, C-
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles (2020), Laura Gabbart, C+
Enslaved (2020), Simcha Jacobivici, B
Nomadland (2020), Chloé Zhao, B+
Small Axe: Mangrove (2020), Steve McQueen, A-
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020), Aaron Sorkin, B
The Gleaners and I (2000), Agnès Varda, B+
American Psycho (2000), Mary Harron, B
The Disciple (2020), Chaitanya Tamhane, A
Small Axe: Lovers Rock (2020), Steve McQueen, A
Small Axe: Red White and Blue (2020), B
Hubie Halloween (2020), Steven Brill, B-
Dune (1984), David Lynch, A-
Prophecy (1979), John Frankenheimer, B-
One Night In Miami… (2020), Regina King, C+
Rebecca (2020), Ben Wheately, D
Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1978), Phillip Kaufman, A
The Vigil (2020), Keith Thomas, B
Jungleland (2020), Max Winkler, C
Zappa (2020), Alex Winter, B+
Dune (1984), David Lynch, A-
Borat: Cultural Learnings of America for Make Benefit Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2006), Larry Charles, A
Borat Subsequent Moviefilm: Delivery of Prodigious Bribe to American Regime for Make Benefit Once Glorious Nation of Kazakhstan (2020), Jason Woliner, B+
Dracula A.D. 1972 (1972), Alan Gibson, B
Dracula Has Risen From The Grave (1968), Freddie Francis, B
Karl Marx City (2017), Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, B+
The Meaning of Hitler (2020), Petra Epperlein and Michael Tucker, A-
Nosferatu: A Symphony of Horror (1922), F.W. Murnau, A-
Young Frankenstein (1974), Mel Brooks, A-
Ad Astra (2019), James Gray, B+
Mank (2020), David Fincher, C+
Challenger: The Final Flight (2020), Daniel Junge and Steven Leckart, B-
Hillbilly Elegy (2020), Ron Howard, D
Zodiac (2007), David Fincher, A-
Secrets of the Saqqara Tomb (2020), James Tovell, B-
Koyaanisqatsi (1983), Godfrey Reggio, A+
Saul and Ruby’s Holocaust Survivor’s Band (2020), Tod Lending, B-
The Last Vermeer (2020), Dan Friedkin, B
Television Event (2020), Jeff Daniels, B-
The Life Ahead (2020), Romain Gary, C
Madame Rosa (1977), Moshé Mizrahi, B+
Ema (2019), Pablo Larraín, C
The Red Shoes (1948), Michael Powell and Emeric Pressberger, A
Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (2020), George C. Wolfe, C
The Sound of Metal (2020), Darius Marder, B
The Father (2020), Florian Zeller, B
The Personal History of David Copperfield (2020), Armando Ianucci, B
The Human Factor (2020), Dror Moreh, C+
Pinocchio (2020), Matteo Garrone, B-
Mayor (2020), David Osit, B-
Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets (2020), Bill Ross IV and Turner Ross, A
La Llorona (2020), Jayro Bustamante, A-
Wolfwalkers (2020), Tomm Moore and Ross Stewart, A-
Tenet (2020), Christopher Nolan, A
Bacurau (2019), Kleber Mendonça Filho and Juliano Dornelles, B
Beanpole (2019), Kantemir Balagov, B
Collective (2020), Alexander Nanau, B+
The Nest (2020), Sean Durkin, C+
The Midnight Sky (2020), George Clooney, B+
Another Round (2020), Thomas Vinterberg, A-
Scrooge (1970), Ronald Neame, B+
Yentle (1983), Barbra Streisand, A
Yeelen (1987), Souleymane Cissé, B
Confidentially Yours (1983), François Truffaut, B+
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020), Eliza Hittman, A-
Public Speaking (2010), Martin Scorsese, A-

Films seen 5/8 – 8/23

Dersu Uzala (1975), Akira Kurusawa, A-
The Adventures of a Dentist (1965), Elem Klimov, B-
Rebels of the Neon God (1992), Tsai Ming-liang, C
Zelig (1983), Woody Allen, A+
Sweet and Lowdown (1999), Woody Allen, A
The Lovebirds (2020), Michael Showalter, B
Manhattan Murder Mystery (1993), Woody Allen, A+
Mahler (1975), Ken Russell, B+
Aviva (2020), Boaz Yakin, B
The Vast of Night (2020), Andrew Patterson, B
The Kids are Alright (1979), Jeff Stein, A-
Harold and Lillian: A Hollywood Love Story (2015), Daniel Raim, B-
The King of Staten Island (2020), Judd Apatow, B+
The Strawberry Statement (1970), Stuart Hagmann, B+
Da 5 Bloods (2020), Spike Lee, C+
Raga (1971), Howard Worth, A
The Old Guard (2020), Gina Prince-Bythewood, B-
Palm Springs (2020), Max Barbakow, B+
Sputnik (2020), Egor Abramenko, C
Tchoupitoulas (2012), Bill and Turner Ross, A
Star Trek: Picard, Season One (2020)
McMillion$ (2020), B
Nostalgia for the Light (2011), Patricio Guzmán, A-
An American Pickle (2020), Brandon Trost, B-
Imagine the Sound (1981), Ron Mann, B+
The Atomic Café (1982), Jayne Loader, Kevin Rafferty, Pierce Rafferty, A-
Project Power (2020), Henry Joost, Ariel Schulman, D
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015), George Miller, B
Paris, Texas (1984), Wim Wenders, A
Good Time (2017), Josh and Benny Safdie, A-

Films Seen 1/1 – 5/6

Thunderball (1965), Terence Young, B+
You Only Live Twice (1967), Lewis Gilbert, B+
On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969). Peter R. Hunt, B+
Bosna! (1994), Bernard-Henri Levy, B
Peshmerga (2016), Bernard-Henri Lévy, B-
The Battle of Mosul (2017), Bernard-Henri Lévy, B-
Bad Boys for Life (2020), Adil El Arbi and Bilall Fallah, B-
Spaceship Earth (2020), Matt Wolf, A-
Wild Combination: A Portrait of Arthur Russell (2008), Matt Wolf, A-
Teenage (2013), Matt Wolf, B+
Miss Americana (2020), Lana Wilson, B
The Dissident (2020), Bryan Fogel, B
Downhill (2020), Nat Faxon and Jim Rash, B-
Shirley (2020), Josephine Decker, B-
Worth (2020), Sara Colangelo, A-
Wendy (2020), Benh Zeitlin, D
Uncle Frank (2020), Alan Ball, B-
Scare Me (2020), Josh Ruben, C+
The Social Dilemma (2020), Jeff Orlowski, B
Kajillionaire (2020), Miranda July, A-
Minari (2020), Lee Isaac Chung, A
Possessor (2020), Brandon Cronenberg, A-
On The Record (2020), Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, B-
Into the Deep (2020), Emma Sullivan, B+
Sylvie’s Love (2020), Eugene Ashe, B+
Tesla (2020), Michael Almereyda, B
The Last Thing He Wanted (2020), Dee Rees, D
Horse Girl (2020), Jeff Baena, A
The Petrified Forest (1937), Archie Mayo, B
Ikarie XB-1 (1964), Jindřich Polák, A
I Still Believe (2020), Andrew Erwin and Jon Erwin, C-
Cane River (1982), Horace Jenkins, B
Birds of Prey (and the Fantabulous Emancipation of One Harley Quinn) (2020), Cathy Yan, C
The Artist’s Wife (2020), Tom Dolby, B-
Minyan (2020), Eric Steel, B+
Hunters, Season One (2020), B-
Kamasi Washington Live at the Apollo Theater (2020), Michael Garber, B
First Cow (2020), Kelly Reichardt, A-
An Easy Girl (2020), Rebecca Zlotowski, A-
The Plot Against America, Season One (2020) A-
Starcrash (1978), Luigi Cozzi, A-
Uncorked (2020), Prentice Penny, C+
Elephant (2020), Mark Linfield and Vanessa Berlowitz, B
Voyage to the End of the World (1977), Jacques-Yves Cousteau, Phillipe Cousteau and Marshall Flaum, B
Wings of Life (2011), Louie Schwartzberg, A
Animals Are Beautiful People (1974), Jamie Uys, A
White Wilderness (1958), James Algar, B
Marcel Duchamp: The Art of the Possible (2019), Matthew Taylor, C-
Tigertail (2020), Alan Yang, B-
Sátántangó (1994), Béla Tarr, A
The Eddy, Season One (2020), A-
DAU. Degeneration (2020), Ilya Khrzhanovsky, B+
Extraction (2020), Sam Hargrave, C
Beyond the Visible: Hilma af Klint (2020), Halina Dyrschka, B
Circus of Books (2020), Rachel Mason, C-
Paris Blues (1961), Martin Ritt, B
The Woman in Question (1950), Anthony Asquith, B
The American Friend (1977), Wim Wenders, A
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, Season Three (2019), B+

Films Seen 9/30 – 12/31

Robin and Marian (1976), Richard Lester, B
Joker (2019), Todd Phillips, C
The Cotton Club Encore (1983/2019), Francis Ford Coppola, A
The Three Musketeers (1973), Richard Lester, B
The Cave (2019), Feras Fayyad, C
Uncut Gems (2019), Josh and Benny Safdie, A+
Marriage Story (2019), Noah Baumbach, A
Monty Python and the Holy Grail (1975), Terry Jones and Terry Gilliam, A+
The Leopard Man (1943), Jacques Tourneur, B
Jojo Rabbit (2019), Taika Waititi, C+
Gemini Man (2019), Ang Lee, C
Dolemite is My Name (2019), Craig Brewer, A
A Hidden Life (2019), Terrence Malick, B
Saudi Women’s Driving School (2019), Erica Gornall, C
Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019), Céline Sciamma, B+
The Laundromat (2019), Steven Soderbergh, B
Green For Danger (1946), Sidney Gilliat, A-
Les Miserables (2019), Ladj Ly, A-
The Report (2019), Scott Z. Burns, A-
Dolemite is My Name (2019), Craig Brewer, A
Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound (2019), Midge Costin, C
The Painted Bird (2019), Václav Marhoul, D
Golda (2019), Sagi Bornstein, Udi Nir, Shani Rozanes, B-
Ford v Ferrari (2019), James Mangold, B+
American Son (2019), Kenny Leon, C-
The King (2019), David Michôd, C
Dancing with the Birds (2019), Huw Cordey, B
Earthquake Bird (2019), Wash Westmoreland, B
He Dreams of Giants (2019), Keith Fulton, Louis Pepe, B+
The Devil Next Door (2019), Yossi Bloch, Daniel Sivan, B+
Healing From Hate: Battle for the Soul of a Nation (2019), Peter Hutchison, B-
Little Women (2019), Greta Gerwig, A-
The Two Popes (2019), Fernando Meirelles, B
Knives Out (2019), Rian Johnson, A-
Murder, My Sweet (1944), Edward Dmytryk, B+
Babylon (1980), Franco Rosso, A
The Harder They Come (1972), Perry Henzell, B
No Place Like Home (2006), Perry Henzell, B+
Rockers (1978), Theodoros Bafaloukos, A-
The Hottest August (2019), Brett Story, A-
The Nightingale (2019), Jennifer Kent, B+
Hustlers (2019), Lorene Scafaria, B-
1917 (2019), Sam Mendes, B+
Popeye (1980), Robert Altman, B
The Farewell (2019), Lulu Wang, B
Gosford Park (2001), Robert Altman, B+
Richard Jewell (2019), Clint Eastwood, A-
Star Wars: Episode VIII — The Last Jedi (2017), Rian Johnson, B
Star Wars: Epsisode IX — The Rise of Skywalker (2019), J.J. Abrams, B
Cats (2019), Tom Hooper, N/A
The Oath of Tobruk (2012), Bernard-Henri Lévy, C

Films Seen 6/17 – 9/29

The Quiet One (2019), Oliver Murray, D
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am (2019), Timothy Greenfield-Sanders, C+
My Name is Julia Ross (1945), Joseph H. Lewis, B
Chernobyl (2019), Johan Renck, A-
The Queen (1968), Frank Simon, B+
Maiden (2019), Alex Holmes, C
The Art of Self-Defense (2019), Riley Stearns, C+
Tel Aviv on Fire (2019), Sameh Zoabi, A-
Spider-Man: Far From Home (2019), Jon Watts, B+
Marianne and Leonard: Words of Love (2019), Nick Broomfield, C+
The Cat Rescuers (2019), Rob Fruchtman, Steve Lawrence, B
When Harry Met Sally … (1989), Rob Reiner, A
Vox Lux (2018), Brady Corbet, C+
Between Me and My Mind (2019), Steven Cantor, A
Apollo 13 (1995), Ron Howard, A
The Red Sea Diving Resort (2019), Gideon Raff, C
Star Trek: First Contact (1996), Jonathan Frakes, A
Once Upon A Time … In Hollywood (2019), Quentin Tarantino, A
The Killers (1946), Robert Siodmak, A-
Woodstock (1970), Michael Wadleigh, A
Gojira (1954), Ishirō Honda, B
Invasion of Astro-Monster (1965), Ishirō Honda, B+
Blinded By The Light (2019), Gurinder Chadha, B
2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Stanley Kubrick, A+
Angel Has Fallen (2019), Ric Roman Waugh, B-
Lucy In The Sky (2019), Noah Hawley, C-
Ad Astra (2019), James Gray, B
Parasite (2019), Bong Joon-ho, B+
Synonymes (2019), Nadav Lapid, A-
Brainstorm (1983), Douglas Trumbull, B+
The Wandering Earth (2019), Frant Gwo, B-
The Lighthouse (2019), Robert Eggers, B+
Atlantics (2019), Mati Diop, C+
To The End of the Earth (2019), Kiyoshi Kurosawa, B+
The Whistlers (2019), Corneliu Porumboiu, B
Melvin and Howard (1980), Jonathan Demme, A-
Righteous Kill (2008), Jon Avnet, D
Mister America (2019), Eric Notarnicola, B+
Model (1981), Frederick Wiseman, A-
First Cow (2020), Kelly Reichardt, A-
Ms .45 (1981), Abel Ferrara, C-
So Fine (1981), Andrew Bergman, B
The Irishman (2019), Martin Scorsese, A

Films Seen 5/21 – 6/16

Rolling Thunder Revue: A Bob Dylan Story by Martin Scorsese (2019), Martin Scorsese, A-
Rim of the World (2019), McG, C-
The Perfection (2019), Richard Shepard, C-
Overture to Glory (1940), Max Nosseck, B
Rocketman (2019), Dexter Fletcher, B+
Leaving Home, Coming Home: A Portrait of Robert Frank (2005/2019), Gerald Fox, C+
Elevator to the Gallows (1958), Louis Malle, A
The Dead Don’t Die (2019), Jim Jarmusch, B-
Memories of Murder (2005), Bong Joon-ho, B+
Miami Vice (2006), Michael Mann, C
Renaldo and Clara (1978), Bob Dylan, C-
I Am Mother (2019), Grant Sputore, B-
Being Frank (2019), Miranda Bailey, C+
X-Men: Dark Phoenix (2019), Simon Kinberg, C
The Other Story (2018), Avi Nesher, B+
Turn Left At The End Of The World (2004), Avi Nesher, A
Rage and Glory (1985), Avi Nesher, B
Our Time (2019), Carlos Reygadas, B+
Murder Mystery (2019), Kyle Newacheck, B-
Unzipped (1995), Douglas Keeve, A
The Golem: How He Came Into The World (1920), Paul Wegener, A

Films Seen 1/1 – 5/20

Scrooge (1970), Ronald Neame, B
Cold War (2018), Paweł Pawlikowski, A-
First Man (2018), Damien Chazelle, A
They Shall Not Grow Old (2018), Peter Jackson, A-
True Stories (1986), David Byrne, A-
The Mule (2018), Clint Eastwood, B
Once Upon A Deadpool (2018), David Leitch, C
Chinatown (1974), Roman Polanski, A-
Bohemian Rhapsody (2018), Bryan Singer, C
Tolkien (2019), Dome Karukoski, B+
Who Will Write Our History? (2019), Roberta Grossman, B
The Invisibles (2019), Claus Räfle, B-
Sunset (2019), Lázsló Nemes, A-
Autonomies (2019), Ori Elon and Yehonatan Indursky, B+
David Crosby: Remember My Name (2019), A.J. Eaton, B
Memory: The Origin of Alien (2019), Alexandre O. Phillipe, C
After the Wedding (2019), Bart Freundlich, C
Apollo 11 (2019), Todd Douglas Miller, A
Ask Dr. Ruth (2019), Ryan White, B
Late Night (2019), Nisha Ganatra, C+
The Infiltrators (2019), Alex Rivera and Cristina Ibarra, B
The Sunlit Night (2019), David Wnendt, D
Where’s My Roy Cohn? (2019), Matt Tyrnauer, B-
Monos (2019), Alejandro Lanes, A-
Knocking Down The House (2019), Rachael Lears, B
Velvet Buzzsaw (2019), Dan Gilroy, B+
Aquarela (2019), Viktor Kossakovsky, B
Dolce Fine Giornata (2019), Jacek Borcuch, B
Big Time Adolescence (2019), Jason Orley, B+
Luce (2019), Julius Onah, B-
The Last Black Man In San Francisco (2019), Joe Talbot, B+
The Lady Eve (1941), Preston Sturges, A-
Russian Doll (2019), Leslye Headland et. al., A-
Sunset (2019), Lázsló Nemes, A-
Untogether (2019), Emma Forrest, D
High Flying Bird (2019), Steven Soderbergh, C+
Yucatan (2019) Daniel Monzón, B
Tree of Blood (2019), Julio Medem, D
Honeyland (2019), Tamara Kotevska and Ljubomir Stefanov, A-
War and Peace (1968), Sergei Bondarchuk, A
Anthropecene: The Human Epoch (2019) Edward Burtynsky, Jennifer Baichwal, Nicholas de Pencier, B-
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (2018), Marielle Heller, A-
Radio Unnamable (2012), Paul C. Lovelace and Jessica Wolfson
Alita: Battle Angel (2019), Robert Rodriguez, B-
Paddleton (2019), Alexandre Lehman, B
Firebrand (2019), Aruna Raje, D
Paris Is Us (2019), Elisabeth Vogler, B
Zathura: A Space Adventure (2005), Jon Favraeu, B+
Budapest (2019), Xavier Gens, C+
Greta (2019), Neil Jordan, B
The Boy Who Harnessed the Wind (2019), Chiwetel Ejiofor, B
Time For Ilhan (2019), Norah Shapiro, C-
Triple Frontier (2019), J.C. Chandor, B+
Apollo 11 (2019), Todd Douglas Miller, A
Breslin and Hamill: Deadline Artists (2018), Jonathan Alter, Steven McCarthy, John Block, B
Juanita (2019), Clark Johnson, C
Walk. Ride. Rodeo. (2019), Conor Allyn, D
Captain Marvel (2019), Ryan Fleck and Anna Boden, C+
Captive State (2019), Rupert Wyatt, B+
The Hummingbird Project (2019), Kim Nguyen, B
The Mustang (2019), Laure de Clermont-Tonnerre, B
Hotel Mumbai (2019), Anthony Maras, C+
Peterloo (2019), Mike Leigh, A-
The Brink (2019), Alison Klayman, B+
Us (2019), Jordan Peele, B-
Diane (2019), Kent Jones, A-
Wall (2019), Cam Christiansen, B
The Legend of Cocaine Island (2019), Theo Love, B
Unplanned (2019), Cary Solomon and Chuck Konzelman, F
Duck Soup (1933), Leo McCarey, A+
City Without Jews (1924), Hans Karl Breslauer, B+
Wolf’s Hole (1987), Věra Chytilová, B+
The Late Afternoon of a Fawn (1983), Věra Chytilová, B+
Fruit of Paradise (1970), Věra Chytilová, B
Pleasant Moments (2006), Věra Chytilová, B
Daisies (1966), Věra Chytilová, B+
The Silence (2019), John R. Leonetti, D
Penguins (2019), Alastair Fothergill and Jeff Wilson, B-
Booksmart (2019), Olivia Wilde, A-
The Cranes Are Flying (1957), Mikhail Kalatozov, A
A Free Soul (1931), Clarence Brown, B
Someone Great (2019), Jennifer Kaytin Robinson, C
Star Trek: Discovery, Season 2 (2019), Various, B+
High Life (2019), Claire Denis, B+
Recorder: The Marion Stokes Project (2019), Matt Wolf, B
Avengers: Infinity War (2018), Joe and Anthony Russo, C+
Avengers: Endgame (2019), Joe and Anthony Russo, B+
The Hateful Eight: Extended Edition (2015/2019), Quentin Tarantino, A-
Between Me and My Mind (2019), Steven Cantor, A-
Shadow (2019), Zhang Yimou, A
It Takes A Lunatic (2019), Billy Lyons, C
Wine Country (2019), Amy Poehler, B
Asako I & II (2019), Ryusuke Hamaguchi, B
Aniara (2019), Pella Kågerman and Hugo Lilja, A
Barbara Rubin and the Exploding New York Underground (2019), Chuck Smith, B
Asbury Park: Riot, Redemption, Rock & Roll (2019), Tom Jones, C+
Letter Never Sent (1959), Mikhail Kalatozov, A-
Garlic Is As Good As Ten Mothers (1981), Les Blank, B
The Souvenir (2019), Joanna Hogg, B
Catch-22 (1970), Mike Nichols, A
What We Left Behind (2019), Ira Steven Behr and Dave Zappone, B-
See You Yesterday (2019), Stefon Bristol, B
The Dybbuk (1937), Michał Waszyński, B+
Her Second Mother (1940), Joseph Siden, B-
American Matchmaker (1940), Edward G. Ulmer, A
Tevye (1939), Maurice Schwartz, C

Concerts, 2019

Jan 12 – Moshen Namjoo at Symphony Space
Persian cabaret, fiery and soulful.
Jan 19 – Riyaaz Qawwali at the Cathedral of St. John the Divine
Indian devotional music, everyone sitting on the floor, under the dome, quite amazing.
Feb 16 – Mingus Big Band at Jazz Standard
As good as ever.
Feb 22 – moe. at Brooklyn Bowl
Somehow my first time seeing them. Loved the vibes (and the vibe.)
Feb 28 – The Dirty Dozen Brass Band and Cha Wa at Brooklyn Bowl
Legendary figures with full tanks of gas. Opening act Cha Wa in Cajun Indian regalia, deep, energetic funk. Will absolutely catch them again.
March 12 – Anne-Sophie Mutter and Lambert Orkis at Carnegie Hall
It’s good to see classical music once in a while.
March 17 – Mike Gordon Band at White Eagle Hall
PATH train to Jersey City to see Mike in a small club. He was having so much fun. Good songs, very good performance. For the devoted only, maybe. Trey showed up at the Cambridge, Mass gig to play with his friend.
March 21 – Noura Mint Seymali at Brooklyn Bowl
Third time seeing her. Same act. Will go a fourth time. Unbelievable power.
April 11 – Buckethead at Sony Hall
A real shitty show. I left early.
April 12 – Trey Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest at United Palace
Was in the second row for this, a magical night.
April 13 – Trey Anastasio’s Ghosts of the Forest at United Palace
Brought the wife and was in center mezz. Got to drink in the stage design. A long show, no breaks, emotional, better than night 1. I’ll never forget this.
April 19 – Nick Mason’s Saucerful of Secrets at the Beacon Theater
Kind’ve a waste of time. I was curious, I rolled the dice and I spent way more money than I should have. I blame David Gilmour’s show at MSG in 2016 (or was it 2015) for being so perfect, prompting me to catch to this. Rebbe gelt.
April 26 – Trey Anastasio Band at the Beacon Theater
Trey’s big night. A 75 minute set after the debut of his movie Between Me and My Mind (review here at Thrillist). I was right up front and so happy for him. To be 100% honest I think he was a little spooked out at first, and during the opening numbers he wasn’t in his groove. That ended by the finish.
April 29 – Trey Anastasio Band at Brooklyn Bowl
Hot damn. TAB up close and personal in a small club, tix won on lottery. Back was breaking by the end but it was worth it. He’s really the greatest performer ever.
May 4 – Baaba Maal at The Town Hall
I love Town Hall, so any show there is already +5. First 2/3rds was mellow, third-stream Afrobeat/jazz with Steven Bernstein leading an orchestra. Bernstein is very talented, but so fucking obnoxious. Always has been. Whatever. By the end the place was on fire when Baaba took full control and everyone started dancing.
May 18 – Mulatu Astatke at Le Poisson Rouge
The Father of Ethiopian Jazz at a small basement club. Hot and crowded and perfect. Funky, spacey and really warm. A highlight of the year.
May 29 – The Musical Box at Sony Hall
Pre-’78 Genesis, played to perfection, with a Peter Gabriel mimic nonpareil. Costumes, bass pedals, the whole bit. Where else will you see someone jam out “Dance on a Volcano” or “Cinema Show” note-for-note? Nowhere, that’s where. The greatest thing to come from Quebec since poutine.
June 15 – Gary Lucas at Metrograph
Lucas’ original score to The Golem is hypnotizing, terrifying, awe-inspiring.
June 23 – Dead & Co. at CitiField
I have a very weird relationship with Dead & Co. They are really quite boring to listen to at home. Sorry, but it is true. And I would much rather hear JRAD if I wanted to hear someone play Dead music. There’s also something to be said about the intimacy of the Dark Star Orchestra, which is a brilliant Grateful Dead facsimile with just none of the hassle, man. Okay, but all that aside — I have now seen Dead & Co. four times, so clearly there’s some reason I keep going back. And not just Mickey Hart’s beam (even if that is my favorite part.) There’s the vibe, I guess, that can’t be replicated. Also, if you know when and where to buy, you can see them on a balmy summer night for about $55. The songs are still great. Let Oteil sing!
June 28 – Phish at BB&T Pavilion
It took five hours to get from NYC to Philly. I couldn’t tell you why. Traffic. Who knows. But then we got there and there was a torrential storm so the show was delayed anyway. I was inside the pavilion so it wasn’t so bad for me. But it was stinking HOT! That can be kinda fun sometimes. I sweated so much it looked like I was out in the rain. Anyway, the “Drift While Your Sleeping” at the end of Set I really knocked me out. I was singing at full voice. The “Sleeping Monkey” encore was very funny. I love this band so much.
June 30 – Phish at BB&T Pavilion
The “What’s The Use?” encore just destroyed me. After the show I lined up with hundreds of others to take the ferry from Camden to Philly, where I was bunking at a cheapo Hotels.com spot for the night. On the line I made friends (you always do!) and we were joking, as the ferry filled up, that SOMEBODY had to be the first one told “sorry, we’re full” and have to wait a half hour or so for the next one. I said “I don’t mind if it is me, I have nowhere to be.” And then, of course, it ended up being me. I did not mind, truly. I was by the water, with Phish fans, joking around. I met a couple who travelled there from Mississippi. Really nice. Then we got to the other side and I shared an Uber with a professional lawyer lady type who had that Laura Dern “I am a killer in the boardroom” look. She said that every summer she dumps her kids with her husband to catch a few Phish shows. She was in from Seattle. Anyway, she was a hoot. Then I got back to my room and stayed up til 4am alone listening to Phish and tweeting with Phish fans.
July 11 – Spafford at The Stone Pony
Might become my new favorite thing, I’m not sure.
July 26 – Cha Wa at Bryant Park
When I saw Cha Wa open for the Dirty Dozen Brass Band in February I said “I will see them again.” (Scroll up to confirm.) I didn’t think it would be this soon. Brought my nephew, who I think was more impressed that in New York, on a weekday, you can get on the subway, ride to a park, and see such a strange band for free.
August 7 – Southside Johnny and the Asbury Jukes with Bruce Springsteen at Asbury Park Convention Hall
Special event show. Really fun.
August 28 – King Gizzard and the Lizard Wizard at Summerstage
These guys are great but I wasn’t feeling it. I was wet, then cold, then surrounded by people who were shoving, and getting blasted in the face with smoke. I left early. No shade on these guys, they are terrific, just a bummer night.
September 3 – Georgie Fame and Blue Flames at Ronnie Scott’s Jazz Club
An incredible night of songs and stories from a British R&B singer I only know because of Van Morrison. The 60-and-older set in London loved him, and I did, too. This was special.
September 21 – King Crimson at Radio City Music Hall
6000 fans in stone silence, seated, as this dissonant racket makes their scales and squonks and screeches up there on the Radio City stage. I kept wondering what the ushers thought. Absolutely incredible (and better than the Beacon show in 2017) with three drummers at the front of the stage like syncopated swimmers. All rock shows should have three drummers at the front of the stage. No words were spoken from the stage, Robert Fripp barely acknowledged he was in public and other than the lighting turning diabolically red during “Starless” and the drummers tossing their sticks on a rest at the end of the encore (“21th Century Schizoid Man,” naturally) there was zero stagecraft at all. It isn’t a warm night. But I’d see them again tonight if I could.
September 27 – Tedeschi Trucks Band at the Beacon Theater
So tight and polished and uplifting and strong and then blazing and then again uplifting and the crowd absolutely loved it but they also sat down the whole time, which was weird, but it was absolutely great.
October 12 – Trey Anastasio with Wynton Marsalis and the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra, Chris Thile and Sarah Jarosz at The Town Hall
A voyage deep into NPR country. Had a great time but I don’t see myself tuning in for future Thile shows if my heroes aren’t on them.
October 30 – Trey Anastasio at Carnegie Hall
Just Trey, his songs and his acoustic guitar. And some stories. This was a night for the already-initiated. Trey is a great singer, but he isn’t a “Great Singer” if that makes any sense. Anyway, this was a wonderful night and I had so much fun.
November 3 – John Zorn’s New Masada Quartet at Village Vanguard
I had not seen Zorn in any form in maybe 15 years. But the Masada stuff has always been my favorite aspect of his career. This was a tsunami. Sure, maybe not the shock of the first iteration, but no one has invented a time machine yet. Julian Lage, the new guitarist, is a little less cerebral, if that is the right word, than some of the other Masada-ites like Marc Ribot, and could definitely crossover into the jam world if he so chooses. Naturally, this is a big selling point for me. This show was incredible and if they do a similar residency next year I’m not just catching one I’m gonna plant myself and go broke.
November 19 – Bill Frisell Trio at Jazz Standard
The greatest of all time? Maybe so, maybe so. A perfect show, quiet then driving then a little axe-shredding then quiet again. About a 70 minute set with only one pause. Covers of Lennon-McCartney and John Barry (!) plus one of the jams from “The Intercontinentals” which is maybe my favorite Frisell period. So good. So goddamn good.
November 29 – Hot Tuna (with Steve Kimock) at The Town Hall
If Steely Dan brings out all the retired dentists from Westchester, Hot Tuna brings out their burnout older brothers from Nassau. At Town Hall, especially, this was truly a gift of a show; a caravan of hairy, stoner Jews that looked like Alan Moore and Frank Zappa’s love children, a Workmen’s Circle meeting of the Mind, leather jacket-wearing dirtbags with enormous stomachs who don’t go to Temple anymore now that their nephews have all been bar mitzvahed. A sixty-five year old man out front arguing he couldn’t bring a knife into the venue, a woman who once co-edited a poetry journal at Stony Brook thunderstruck by the price of a glass of red wine. Despite the advanced age (Jorma Kaukonen, weeks away from his 79th! Mazel!) an undercurrent of danger, still, when these people collect. “Hot Fuckin’ Tuna!” they’d shout, before a song, after a song, during a song. The boys shredded and wailed and there was so much cowbell. I was the youngest person there and I am a hundred and six years old. Absolutely fantastic, one of the best nights of the year.
December 1 – Phish at Nassau Veterans Memorial Coliseum
A dream gig, which I attended with a carload of old and new friends, and had a great spot down front and center, on my aching feet, enjoying “Avenu Malkenu” with a room full of giggling Jews, a spacey Tube, a sweet Ruby Waves and, man, I dunno, a lot of great stuff. The best Phish show I saw in 2019 (thus far!)
December 4 – Phillip Glass’ Akhnaten at The Metropolitan Opera House
I don’t know if going to the opera counts as going to a play or going to a concert, but considering the price tag involved I’ve decided to make note of it. So, yeah, a significant percentage of what I’ll take away from this event is the visual element — the costumes, the lighting, the weirdo props, the juggling! — but it wouldn’t mean squat without Glass’s swirling melodies and uncannily delicious and mostly-predictable (but not always) permutations in melody. I had no clue what the hell was going on in the story, and not just because I don’t speak ancient Akkadian. The program notes would say something like “the King then created a new religion” but all that was happening on stage was a bunch of people with giant bird heads were juggling and going “huh huh huh huuuuuh huh huh huh haaaaa.” Nevertheless, this was a delight and I would go again if tickets weren’t so goddamn expensive.
December 11 – New York Andalus Ensemble at La Nacional, Spanish Benevolent Society NYC
Sitting in the round and led by a professor/lecturer singing and playing the oud, this group resurrects music of al-Andalus in Hebrew, Arabic, Spanish and Ladino. And it rules.
December 13 – Central Conservator of Music Symphony Orchestra of Beijing at Carnegie Hall
We ended up in the 3rd row, center orchestra for this. I’ve never even been on the ground level at Carnegie Hall, let alone the 3rd row and WOW it is just OTHERWORLDLY to hear a humongous symphony orchestra even just tuning up when you are that close and in its swirl. This night was incredible: eight contemporary composers from China. It was a full Western orchestra with additional Chinese instrumentation. Five of the eight pieces featured a soloist: either bamboo flutes, marimba/drums (and the woman banging these was a POWERHOUSE), pipa (which is like a flat oud) and a curious, enormous mouth organ called the sheng that looks like a Star Wars prop and sounds like the “Carnival of Souls.” This was a really lengthy program that didn’t get dull for 2 seconds.
December 24 – Yemen Blues at Joe’s Pub
Radical Yemenite Jewish funk with Chicago (the band) type horns and an Israeli James Brown up front, featuring a cello, an electric oud, the guembri and a lot of energy. It was night 3 of Chanukah so a Hassid named Shlomo to light candles and then started toasting. Far out! Merry Christmas!
December 28 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
Great opening night to the New Year’s Run. Bumped into two Phish buddies in my section. They played Say It To Me S.A.N.T.O.S.! And Drowned into Ass Handed with Chalkdust Torture Reprise with Ass Handed lyrics.
December 29 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
I had such incredible seats this night – directly behind the stage, which sounds bad, but isn’t because you are basically FACING THE CROWD with the band. I felt like I could reach out and bash Fish’s cymbals and I watched them tease and delight the sea of dancing fans. Far out.
December 30 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
Was with a really fun group tonight. Set 1 was super but Set 2 was one for the ages. A 36 minute Tweezer that had a Yo La Tengo-inspired section and then a “Potvin Sucks!” conclusion, then into Ruby Waves and Steam and then back into Tweezer again. Aaaaaaaaaaa it is all too much.
December 31 – Phish at Madison Square Garden
Set 1 – great! We got a Fluffhead.
Set 2 – super great! A really wild jam on Light and Twist and Possum brought the house down.
During set break for the midnight gag, the tech guys REMOVE all of Phish’s gear (and there is a lot of gear) and leave the stage empty except for 8 cubes with black drapes. The music on the PA is all about colors (Green Tambourine, 99 Red Balloons) or songs about doubles (Double Dutch Bus or Double Vision). Lights go out and we hear the band goofing over “not hot mics” about how it is their dream to do a cappella jazz at Madison Square Garden. They come out in color-coded outfits. Trey is in green, Mike is in yellow, Page is in blue and Fish’s dress is red. The get to the mic and sing “Send in the CLONES.” Sondheim but with a dumb pun. When it ends, their instruments descend on platforms, color-coded to what they are wearing and they each step on. As they zoom up, they begin First Tube (Yay!!!) Then the clones come in — dancers and backup singers all dressed exactly like one of the four guys. The lights blast only these four basic colors. It’s nuts. Then it is midnight and there are million balloons during Auld Lanf Syne. It’s superb. Then they play Sand. The dancers are still doing an involved, modern choreographed dance. So great. (The clones, about 10 groups of four, aren’t just dressed like their guy, they have matched hairstyles too. So Trey’s clones have red hair, Mike’s are grey and Page’s look like David Ben-Gurion.) They take the drapes off the cubes and they are bright colored matching platforms. They move them around with their dance. Sand eventually ends and …. TREY IS STUCK. The other three guys come down, he does not. After a long, long beat, Trey makes some jokes about stage diving like Eddie Vedder. Mike says “Death Don’t Hurt Very Long.” (Or maybe that was Fish who said it.) Trey makes a Spinal Tap joke. Even though Trey is stuck and his platform is crooked, they continue to play: Drift While You’re Sleeping and What’s The Use? and YEM. They don’t do trampolines for YEM. (Trey actually has to kneel once or twice while playing because his platform is crooked.) The dancers do the trampoline bit. Oh, and earlier, they had Dan Flavin-esque fluorescent tubes but I didn’t watch that part because I was FREAKING OUT, worrying Trey was going to crash and die in front of 20,000 fans. Eventually the set ends, but they can’t leave and come back for the encore. So Trey says “we’re back for the encore now!” and they play Tweezer Reprise and everyone leaves except Trey. “Good-bye! I’ll be here!” he says to the rest of the band. Finally, the Rescue Squad saves him and within 30 minutes LivePhish.com has a new song “Rescue Squad.” In my heart I knew that “this will seem funny” tomorrow, but at the time, I genuinely was worried the cable might snap or he might fall. We all were worried. It … it wasn’t that fun. I barely heard Drift While You’re Sleeping because I was panicky, and I *love* that song. You could tell the guys kinda wanted to get their guy DOWN. But they did the most “show must go on” set of their careers. Phish. What a band!

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Jordan Hoffman is a New York-based writer and film critic working for The Guardian, Vanity Fair, Thrillist, Times of Israel, NY Daily News and elsewhere.

He is the host of ENGAGE: The Official Star Trek Podcast, a member of the New York Film Critics Circle and challenges you to a game of backgammon.

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