Posted May 26, 2020
by Sean Weiner, Director of Creative Culture
We’re thrilled to share another contribution to our fantastic lineup of staff watchlists, this time from Creative Culture Director Sean Weiner, who notes that this list “is certainly one for a time of quarantine but, I guess, less as it concerns the theme of the films and more of a ‘Reflections from a Sean watching films in Quarantine’ list.” We’ve included streaming information for each of the titles below; if you’re a Letterboxd user, you can also check out the list on the JBFC’s Letterboxd account to save for later!
The Apartment | Dir. Billy Wilder
The tale of a ladder-climber at a Manhattan insurance firm who proffers his flat to higher up execs for their extramarital affairs. Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine work magic with director Billy Wilder and I.A.L. Diamond’s quick-witted screenplay. More than a classic, this unexpectedly dark comedy pioneers with its critical examination of corporate culture’s ill effects on human behavior.
Atlantics | Dir. Mati Diop
While in quarantine I have spent time watching filmmakers’ first features. Mati Diop’s 2019 debut, Atlantiques is a seaside love story set in modern day Dakar—where my mother was born. It’s a thrilling story unafraid of bending genre in that refreshing way a few filmmakers (think Jordan Peele, Yorgos Lanthimos) have been doing as of late. Certainly a film to watch without reading about ahead of time.
Certified Copy | Dir. Abbas Kiarostami
The gift of film is that there are always life-changing stories to discover that you have missed. I finally saw this film as part of a Kiarostami retrospective at the JBFC last year. In it, the Iranian master tells what seems like a straightforward story of two folks getting to know each other over a single day (think Linklater’s Before Sunset) that then thrillingly warps into a filmic exploration of authenticity in art as in love.
Corpo Celeste | Dir. Alice Rorwacher
Continuing my tour of first features, auteur Alice Rorwacher has quickly rooted herself as a profound mirror on present-day Italian identity. Corpo Celeste tells the parallel coming-of-age stories of teen Marta and the Catholic Church in Italy. A film stunning in its world-building, craftsmanship, patience and subtlety—all things terribly rare in a debut feature.
Groundhog Day | Dir. Harold Ramis
Imagine repeating the same day over and over again? Oh right, that’s everyday now. This one hits a bit differently in the time of Covid. Legend has it an early version of the film rooted the plot’s fantastic cycles in a shaman’s curse at the film’s outset (a very 90’s culturally obtuse story mechanism). Brilliance is realized in discarding that mechanism transforming Phil Connors’ curse from mystical to existential. Also, a babyfaced Michael Shannon plays a bit role!
Honeyland | Dirs. Tamara Kotevska & Ljubomir Stefanov
Real life has a habit of unfolding in more compelling ways than fiction. In what I believe was last year’s best documentary, Honeyland takes us to an isolated mountain deep in the Balkans where the last female wild beekeeper in Europe, Hatidze Muratova, lives with her ailing mother in a village without roads, electricity or running water.
In The Mood For Love | Dir. Wong Kar Wai
This week marked 20 year’s since its premiere at Cannes. A poetic masterpiece that takes us to crowded 1960’s Hong Kong and two neighbors whose spouses are having an affair. Things to die for: the lyrical camerawork, the deep sadness, the exquisite cheongsams, the Nat King Cole soundtrack. This film changed everything for me and it is my life’s duty to share it with as many folks as possible. Spending time in Wong Kar Wai’s world is heavenly.
Lord of the Rings: Extended Versions | Dir. Peter Jackson
In search of an hours eater in this moment, I recently watched all twelve and half hours of Lord of the Rings: Extended Version as if it were a series instead of three absurdly long films—an hour or so a time. It was delightful! And, in more reasonably sized portions, the magnitude of information is digestible and the film’s devastatingly brilliant craftsmanship can be appreciated.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always | Dir. Eliza Hittman
Lost in this unprecedented time are phenomenal films that we should have been gathering in a theater to watch together. This is one of them. If you have not seen films from master of nuance Eliza Hittman—you’ve been missing out. In her third feature, a young woman challenged by an unplanned pregnancy travels with her cousin across state lines to NYC. A quiet narrative that harvests wisdom from the exploration of the everyday.
Your Sister’s Sister | Dir. Lynn Shelton
A week ago, the independent film world lost a cherished filmmaker in Lynn Shelton. Inspired by Claire Denis’ story of becoming a filmmaker later in life, Shelton followed suit and steadily made heartfelt comedies that transcended the genre in their investigation of intimacy. Your Sister’s Sister was recommended to me by so many after we learned of Shelton’s passing. I’ll be watching as soon as I can and so should you.
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