Welcome back to my Home Movies! Today, we have the cream of last year’s crop hitting shelves in Red Rocket. Alongside that gem, we also have other strong options to discuss, including the remake of West Side Story. Read on for more…
My favorite film of 2022, Red Rocket is brilliance from director Sean Baker and co-writer Chris Bergoch. I spoke to both about the instant cult classic (here and here), eager to probe into the utter gem. The same happened when I spoke to star Simon Rex (here), as well as co-stars Bree Elrod (here) and Suzanna Son (here). Back at the New York Film Festival, I raved about the flick like so:
I’m so delighted that storytellers like Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch exist. Truly, they’re cinematic savants, able to find brilliant tales set within society’s fringes. If there’s a person who no one else would think of making a film about, Baker and Bergoch are almost guaranteed to find the beauty and the heartbreak in their situation. Red Rocket is yet another example of this. In fact, they’ve found riotous comedy in a situation almost no one else would play for laughs, while retaining all of their trademark heart. Playing at the 59th New York Film Festival, Red Rocket is not just the best of the fest, but one of the crowning achievements of 2021. All hail these slightly demented geniuses.
Red Rocket can certainly be read in a political context, but some of the earliest reviews that presented Simon Rex‘s protagonist as a Donald Trump-like figure are grasping at straws. Sure, this is also a vain huckster, but there’s so much heart and almost child-like innocence to this fictional creation. Watching him be awful is amusing, not enraging. It’s a notable choice that makes the character study not just fascinating, but wildly entertaining as well.
Woody Allen is a dirty word these days, and has been losing supporters for years now. At the same time, even his reduced quality has still resulted in largely enjoyable, if disposable works. Rifkin’s Festival is just the latest example. I spoke to star Wallace Shawn here about it and that was a delight, but this review here includes the following bit about the movie:
Rifkin’s Festival is breezy, light, and thoroughly inconsequential. In many ways, it’s the Woody Allen template over the past decade or so. Your reaction to that will largely dictate how you respond to this movie, if you opt to take it in at all. Whether it seems like a harmless diversion or something you wouldn’t dream of enduring, it does nothing to change your mind.
West Side Story
Even if I didn’t fall for this one like most, I can still recognize quality. West Side Story is certainly that, with Steven Spielberg‘s directorial precision. Go figure, he managed to pull it off. In my review, I had this to say about the remake:
A remake of West Side Story is wholly unnecessary. I firmly believe that. The classic musical is just that, a classic. Now, that’s not me saying don’t do a remake, just that it’s not necessary to the cinematic world. At the same time, since we live in a universe where it was happening, we’re in luck that Steven Spielberg wanted to helm it. Alongside writer Tony Kushner, Spielberg has a take for the film, preventing it from being an abysmal boondoggle. Now, I still think there are flaws to this movie and it pales in comparison to the original, but considering what could have been, it’s damn good.
Vikings: The Complete Series (TV)
Vikings: Season 6, Volume 2 (TV)
Le cercle rouge
From The Criterion Collection: “Alain Delon plays a master thief, fresh out of prison, who crosses paths with a notorious escapee (Gian Maria Volontè) and an alcoholic ex-cop (Yves Montand). The unlikely trio plot a heist, against impossible odds, until a relentless inspector and their own pasts seal their fates. With its honorable antiheroes, coolly atmospheric cinematography, and breathtaking set pieces, Le cercle rouge is the quintessential film by Jean-Pierre Melville—the master of ambiguous, introspective crime cinema.”
Stay tuned for more next week…