Four? Why not five? I ran out of steam, what can I say? When imagining a cinema outing, a romantic would be inclined to imagine a budding filmgoer standing outside a grade II listed cinema building, espresso and cigarette in hand, gazing at an eclectic mix of film posters – shot on 35mm you say? Yes please. This was me earlier. HA.
The reality of course is that your local cinema has likely closed, and you’re doom scrolling through a streaming service – genres mesh like a Braque painting, and you’re left wondering, what can I actually watch? Emily in Paris? Egh. For the record, I love the sublimity of Emily. And Paris for that matter. I want to swan around Paris wearing something sublime – don’t we all? I’ll watch pretty much anything. Except Marvel. Not Marvel. Never Marvel.
Anyway, here are five, sorry four movies, that we’ve watched – and reviewed – this year that piqued our interests. Some were filmed in 2022. Some were not. As always, these episodes are free to stream on Spotify and Apple. Subscribe, like, and leave a comment if you feel inclined. Go on, you know you want to.
Top Gun: Maverick
Top Gun: a summer popcorn movie built on a legacy. This was the highest grossing movie of 2022, bringing in an eye-watering, nauseating amount of money: $1.5 billion. It has all the grandeur of what you’d expect from a Hollywood Tom Cruiseathon movie. Shining abs, a beautifully ridiculous soundtrack, and obviously, all those bright white quarter-back smiles. I heard Biden wants to put Tom Cruise’s face on the American flag. Did you hear that? I can’t remember where, but it’s true. I read it on Twitter.
Maverick is called back to train a group of elite fighter pilots to destroy a missile site that is definitely not in Russia. He must navigate and come to terms with his past. His beloved Goose died in the first movie, and there’s a very formulaic sense of anger from his son, who Cruise – sorry, Maverick – prevented from joining the elite fighter school, pushing his glorious ambitions back by four years. Such betrayal!
Of course, Maverick becomes Rooster’s surrogate father, and with a gentle oiling of a moustache later they destroy the sam sites, they destroy the illegal uranium dump and they touchdown on a phallic looking US Navy fighter jet carrier. That’s basically it. Set against the backdrop of a sun-drenched California with a great 80s soundtrack – what’s not to like? It doesn’t take itself all that seriously, and Joseph Kosinski’s tongue is very firmly resting in his mouth. Check it out.
Roadrunner: a film about Anthony Bourdain
Roadrunner is a reflection on the late Anthony Bourdain – chef, traveller, documentarian. Bourdain came to ‘public attention’ after the publication of his memoir Kitchen Confidential. The documentary tracks his life from the publication of Confidential through to his suicide in 2018 – the film reflects on who he was, his impact as a traveller, and how time can reshape how one is remembered.
This was a particularly solemn one for us. I always say to a budding traveller – oh you’re going to Asia this summer? Where? Vietnam? You MUST watch Bourdain’s Parts Unknown series. Oh, you’re going to Dublin for St Paddy’s Day? Watch The Layover. I’ve only very recently finished Kitchen Confidential – see the memoir as a companion to the documentary. Bourdain is either stretched out on his therapist’s chair imagining death, eating periwinkle in Paris, or cruising down the Mekong River in Vietnam.
There’s a solemnity to the documentary. A wasteful destructiveness. At some points, there’s beauty. And at another points, despair. What’s most crippling is that an entire generation of friends and family, who clearly loved him, are devastated, angry and broken. It’s a chilling thing to realise, quite quickly, that one can be driven to the edge, and not feel like they have anyone to talk to. If this documentary is something, then it’s a chilling celebration – can I use that word – of someone’s life. If nothing else, it’s beautifully sad. Beautifully sad.
The Banshees of Inisherin
The Banshees of Inisherin is a tale of a fragmented and decaying friendship. Set on a bleak fictional island against the backdrop of the Irish Civil War, Martin McDonagh’s latest film captures the dark and complicated relationship between memory and friendship. You’ll laugh, you may cry, and it might just even make you think what living is actually all about.
It’s also hilarious. I wandered down to my local cinema in my hometown of Blackpool, navigating a wintery promenade, skilfully avoiding the previous night’s vomit on the street. Not mine, I’d like to clarify. I should have seen this as a sign of more disgusting things to come. I would say, I was one of 4, in a 200-seat auditorium, watching this movie.
I laughed too loud when a donkey chokes to death on decapitated fingers. I laughed when a young boy steals his father’s liquor – casually informing the audience that ‘one must not disturb father after he’s been drinking and masturbating’. Comedy. I got a few suspect looks, but I don’t care. What type of clientele do you expect in a decaying Odeon on a disused industrial site that was once home to a ten-pin bowling alley, in the middle of the day, on a Tuesday afternoon?
If anything, they should have seen me coming. Figuratively, obviously. Get your head out of the gutter. It’s a story about friendship, and how men don’t seem to have any meaningful ones. It’s sad reflection on a broken masculinity – if anything it’s worth watching for the impeccable performances. But it also pushes language to levels that you never thought it could go.
Summer of Soul
Mark Kermode hailed this as his music favourite documentary of all time. So, it must be good, right? The 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival has been hailed as the ‘Black Woodstock’. Multi-instrumentalists like Nina Simone, Stevie Wonder, BB King, Sly and the Family Stone all performed here, yet after the festival ended the footage was locked away for 50 years.
Nobody wanted to publish it. Everyone knows about Woodstock – largely because it was run by, and largely for, white people. This documentary is a cultural archive and poses the question: Who writes history and what purpose does it serve?
If nothing else, this movie is a valuable piece of art. For me it connects the civil rights movement to art. It teaches us that the price of liberty is eternal vigilance, and art can save people’s lives. I can’t claim that last sentence. The former, respectively, belongs to Simon Schama, and the latter, respectively to Nadya Tolokonnikova of Pussy Riot.
I can’t think of a more important piece of art in the times in which we live – the whole premise was that this footage wasn’t meant to be seen or heard. In a world where the grammar of politics is derision, and basic human freedoms are casually, flippantly even, taken for granted, what better moment in 2023 than to watch and hear voices that you were never supposed to hear in the first place?
Callum Hyde, London, 2023.