What I've Been Watching: February 2023
Recently watched, links, and more
Even though there have already been a few newsletters posted here in ‘23, I feel like I really haven’t set the course for the new year for the It’s the Pictures newsletter. I’m still playing with some ideas in my head for how I want to use the newsletter to better serve the growing audience (shoutout to the recent new subscribers.) Do you like these monthly recaps of what I’ve been watching? Are there other articles you’d like to see here such as Oscars prep, Upcoming movies, In-depth reviews of already released movies, or anything else?
I haven’t been to the movie theater yet in 2023, but I did rent some movies from the Sundance Film Festival. This was the first year they attempted their hybrid strategy in full, and while many of the most buzzed-about movies premiered in person, there were still plenty of good to great movies to watch on the online platform.
It was a weird month of movies for me! Caught up with the Avatar sequel (which was fine?) and followed it up mostly by watching some movies for an upcoming appearance on the Almost Major podcast with Open Water and The Weight of Water. I continued into the month catching up on some movies that were announced for the Oscars— The short film My Year of Dicks (which is available to watch on Vimeo) and All Quiet on the Western Front (available on Netflix).
I didn’t do any coverage of the Oscars here because I figured it was everywhere if someone wanted to find it and I didn’t have anything new to add to the conversation at that time. I might do something leading up to the show.
Then there were four from Sundance— Fremont, Radical, Going to Mars: The Nikki Giovanni Story, and Beyond Utopia.
But for my mini-review, I wanted to highlight a movie you can now watch at home…
I think I was overwhelmed by Babylon when I first saw it. It’s a monstrous movie, over three hours of glorious excess. And it’s not like the movie doesn’t warn you right away. Within the first ten minutes of the movie, it features an elephant unloading an obscene amount of poop on one of the characters (if you’d like to read more on how that was accomplished, Polygon has an excellent oral history of the sequence.) But if I had to distill the movie down into a simple sentence, I’d say Babylon is the uncensored version of Singin’ in the Rain.
The three main characters don’t represent one person in particular, but rather broad strokes of classic Hollywood personalities— Brad Pitt as Jack Conrad is a silent film star that has charisma for days but is swallowed by his own ego, Margot Robbie as Nellie LaRoy is the big dreamer who will do anything to become a star, and Diego Calva as Manny Torres is the guy who works his way through the system to finally get his big break. Their journey ultimately plays out how you would expect (there’s been a lot of comparisons between Babylon and Paul Thomas Anderson’s Boogie Nights), and their time in the spotlight runs out. That being said, it’s a journey that’s absolutely worth taking.
Despite being positioned as this great Oscars movie, Babylon only managed to get three nominations—one for costume, one for music, and one for production design. I’m pretty sure it has the score wrapped up because that soundtrack is spectacular, but if I had to guess this is going to be one of those movies that only get better appreciated as it ages. Now I’m not going to pretend that Babylon is for everyone, it’s too crazy for that. But those that give themselves over to it, might find themselves smitten with Damien Chazelle’s vision of Hollywood. If nothing else it makes a killer double-feature with his earlier movie, La La Land.
Vulture’s Bilge Ebiri had a great article on Babylon go up yesterday just as the movie becomes available on VOD.
What I’ve Been Watching on TV:
I’ve been watching quite a few shows as I find myself getting more work covering TV than movies these days. That’s fine as I enjoy both. While I didn’t get to review The Last of Us ahead of its premiere, I did get the opportunity to discuss this weekend’s special episode. For Paste Magazine:
I was prepared for the show to make some changes, but I don’t think I ever expected the show would go into Bill and Frank’s relationship in detail.
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I already shared my review of Poker Face, but I hope some of you had the opportunity to watch the show over the last few days and now you can revisit my review for RogerEbert.com:
You might’ve seen the trailer for the upcoming Amazon TV show, Daisy Jones & the Six. I have a review lined up for that show, so I’ll be making my way through it soon. I did manage to make my way through the novel ahead of time and enjoyed it quite a bit. It’s a pretty quick read.
I’ve included the trailer below, as well as, the first single from the show “Regret Me.”
Have you seen that Substack has enabled a new chat option? If you’d like to discuss anything about the newsletter or join in on our conversations you can easily join in today.
The last time I did one of these month round-up posts I linked to Sight and Sound’s Greatest Films of All Time list. Today they’ve updated the list with an additional 150 films, bringing the total to 250. If it gets more people to watch these movies, I’m all for it. Check out if your favorite movie made the list this time:
https://www.bfi.org.uk/sight-and-sound/greatest-films-all-timeposted his latest streaming movies list. It has 10 recommendations for movies that have hit streaming services. One of the biggest has to be, TÁR, which was just added to Peacock.
If you missed Oscars coverage here, I’d like to direct you toas he posted his winners and disappointments from the Oscar nominations.
Are you subscribed toAlan Sepinwall is Rolling Stone's chief TV critic and he has his own newsletter now. He's one of my favorite TV writers so I suggest you subscribe to that.