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  • Writer's pictureKeeley Young

Twenty Films To Be Chewed

A few years ago, I began keeping notes to myself on my favourite movies I’d watch within a given month. There would be a shortlist, taken from my organised listing of the movies I watched that month, and then I would sort through the thoughts and opinions in my head to come up with a winner, of sorts. Many months I couldn’t decide on just one—November 2021 had four favourites and three honourable mentions. I still recall it as just an insanely enjoyable month of film-watching.


I decided, for you all today, to choose a selection of films from over the past two and a half years that I am particularly fond of. I love sharing the art that inspires and shapes me, so that is all I offer you today: a little window into my viewing tastes.


[it's perfectly okay if you hate any of these films]


JANUARY

2022


“Mass” (2021)


It’s strangely fitting to begin all of this with a film that encapsulates one of my favourite genres—in television, it’s called ‘the bottle episode’. Characters are detained often to a single location, tension is ripe in the air, and the timeline is tight. Mass is positioned within the confines of one conversation. A long, exhausting conversation between two couples, the parents of two teenagers. One of those teenagers was the victim of a school shooting. The other was responsible for it. Time has passed but the weight of the tragedy hasn’t. Ann Dowd expertly navigates the script. Martha Plimpton delivers a performance I had never truly seen from her. Their husbands aren’t so bad either (Reed Birney and Jason Isaacs). In preparation to writing this, I watched the trailer—I don’t remember doing so before I saw the movie. It doesn’t do justice to Mass, but so many trailers do not.

Mass is available on Stan in Australia.


2023


“Fantastic Planet” (1973)


Fantastic Planet is an absurdist animated French film set on the planet Ygam. It tells the story of a human named Ter, who is determined to liberate the humans from their essentially slave-imprisonment as pets to the aliens that inhabit Ygam. Fantastic Planet is psychedelic and insane, which appeals to me very much. There is so much worldbuilding that shapes this alien species. The animation is old-school but truly compliments the story and the world it creates. There’s something so captivating about listening to French dialogue coming out of the mouths of blue aliens. I was recommended to watch this and I’m glad I spent an evening getting lost in the obscurity of it all. Fantastic Planet is a brilliant example of how animation extends beyond being a medium for children. Best not to show this one to your kids. But engulf yourself in it and get lost in how art really can be experimental and flourish.


Fantastic Planet is available to watch via The Criterion Collection.



“Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” (2022)


I’m a massive fan of Emma Thompson and in Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, she delivers a truly liberating performance. As a woman who has only ever had sex with her husband, who is now deceased, Thompson bares it all—quite literally. There is passion and emotion in her performance, and it’s truly an important role too. So often, older women are separated from this idea of them being sexual beings. It’s actually so empowering to hear Thompson say she wants to “do a 69, if that’s what it’s still called.” But she would be nothing without the perfect scene partner, and Daryl McCormack and that sexy accent of his complete the image. Here is a gorgeous older woman that has been conditioned by society to think the best years of her sex life are well and truly over, standing in front of a devilishly handsome, much younger man who isn’t frightened by her age or inexperience. And sure, it’s what she hired him for, but that doesn’t stop the actual chemistry these actors have together, which makes this viewing experience very enjoyable.


Good Luck to You, Leo Grande is available on Amazon Prime in Australia.



FEBRUARY


2023


“Eat Drink Man Woman” (1994)



I just want to preface this by saying this movie really makes you stare at food. Everything that is prepared and cooked and eaten looks delicious and scrumptious and specific. The latter is probably a strange word choice, but with one of the central characters—the father, Chu— being a semi-retired professional chef, there’s something about the food in Eat Drink Man Woman that is so meticulously planned out and arranged. The film is far more than simply gorgeous food: this is the story of three women finding themselves and the futures, and a father that must adjust to the impending possibility of being an empty nester. Sihung Lung is Chef Chu, and his performance is equal parts stiff patriarch and emotional father, confronting these changes in his life as he grows older. Eat Drink Man Woman is directed by Ang Lee, whose name you might be familiar with for having directed Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, Life of Pi, and Brokeback Mountain. There is so much heart and life in this film. It feels true to life—that there are many surprises, and people find love in unexpected places. That home is people, true, but it can be a place, and it can be food. Glorious food.


Eat Drink Man Woman is available to buy or rent on YouTube.



MARCH


2021


“Mother” (2009)


Bong Joon Ho is most notable nowadays for Parasite, which rightfully swept the Oscars in 2019, but I urge attention be given to his 2009 film, Mother. Hye-ja Kim delivers a phenomenal performance, trying to clear her son of the murder charge placed against his name. Parasite may have given Bong Joon Ho his flowers, but Mother proves he always been masterful in his delivery. It’s so important to me to engage myself in international cinema—hell, out of the five films I’ve already mentioned, three of them are subtitled. Mother is a thriller that questions just what a mother would do to protect her son. But it isn’t Americanised, it isn’t held back by Hollywood tropes and style. It’s difficult for me to talk much about Mother without spoiling, because much like Parasite, you need to witness the genius yourself. I always have to make sure people know I’m talking about the Korean film when I mention this one. Don’t want it to be confused with mother! (2017), which I enjoyed far less than this.


Mother is available for free on SBS On Demand in Australia.


2023


“Stepmom” (1998)



I sort of laughed to myself when I realised March sort of had a theme to it, coincidentally—mothers. In Stepmom, Julia Roberts plays the much-younger stepmother to Susan Sarandon’s two children. Those two act circles around each other, it’s delicious and brilliant and exhausting, too. As a woman who doesn’t have children of her own, Roberts’s character Isabel stumbles as she attempts to be a role model for Anna and Ben. She loses Ben in Central Park. She gives too-grown-up advice to Anna, who is struggling at school with a bully. Let’s be fair, the advice Isabel gives regarding the bully is badass and I love it, but Sarandon’s Jackie is right in suggesting it might get Anna in more trouble while she’s a literal child. Sarandon delivers, as usual, a beautiful performance. When we discover her character has cancer—that’s not a spoiler, it’s a main plot event— Sarandon is heartbreakingly honest. Stepmothers have a history in media as “evil” and “wicked”, so the odds are stacked against Isabel at the beginning of the film. But the core of this film is the relationship that flourishes between Isabel and Jackie. Stepmother and mother, two opposing forces in a child’s life, and yet what they can both offer these children is love. Stepmom is an underrated gem. And Jena Malone as Anna proves she had talent and charisma even when she was younger. A constant scene-stealer.


Stepmom is available on Stan and Amazon Prime in Australia.



APRIL


2021


“Blue Jay” (2016)



I love Sarah Paulson. Here she stars opposite Mark Duplass, as his former high school sweetheart Amanda. Blue Jay is entirely in black-and-white—indie movie likes doing artistic shit like this, and the pay off is actually beautifully. This is a film that could’ve very easily be in bright colour, but the choice of black and white reminds me of how expertly Frances Ha navigates telling a story without a reliance on colour or visual vibrance. [Side note: fucking watch Frances Ha.] Sorry, my apologies for swearing. Paulson and Duplass have effortless chemistry with each other. They navigate the complicated nature of reuniting with someone they loved many years ago with ease, and maybe you’d say, they make reading a script look so simple. Well, apparently, there wasn’t a script, and they were right to trust Paulson and Duplass with undertaking what Blue Jay ultimately gives us. Of course I was going to love a movie where Sarah Paulson gets to improvise and dance around and take up basically 50% of the screentime.


Blue Jay is available on Netflix in Australia.


2022


“Everything Everywhere All At Once” (2022)



This is a no-brainer. I saw Everything Everywhere All At Once in cinemas after hearing a few incredibly positive reviews about it, and I walked out of that cinema absolutely obsessed. The Best Picture winner stars Best Actress winner Michelle Yeoh, Best Supporting Actor winner Ke Huan Quan, Best Supporting Actress Jamie Lee Curtis, and robbed of a golden Oscar statuette Stephanie Hsu. But enough with the bragging, because this film deserves more praise than simple awards. Everything Everywhere All At Once is a multiverse epic about a laundromat owner named Evelyn Wang and the alternate universe version of her daughter, Joy, named Jobu Tupaki, that is hellbent on destroying all of the timelines with her Everything Bagel. Sure, it sounds absolutely absurd. But life is too dull, drab and depressing for anything less. Michelle Yeoh delivers a performance that deserves every iota of your attention, and my disappointment in Hsu losing out on the Oscar for Best Supporting Actress is merely because her performance as Joy/Jobu Tupaki is spellbinding and just incredibly fun. There’s footage of her audition tape for the film and you can just see how perfect for the role she is (it’s wild to think we could’ve gotten Awkwafina in the role instead). Beyond everything, what Everything Everywhere All At Once offers is hope. And it is love, too, because so much of the film resides in the love a family has, or could have, if it just opens its arms a little wider.


Everything Everywhere All At Once is available on Binge and Amazon Prime in Australia.


2023


“Hush” (2016)


What’s better than a film confined to one location? A horror movie confined to one location! I’m a massive fan of horror, despite being a jumpy bitch. Hush is set at Maddie’s secluded home in the woods, and I don’t know, was she asking to be terrorised? In a horror movie, sure, but I don’t blame her for wanting to escape the psychotic craze of the city for something much quieter. Which brings me to an interesting point – Maddie is deaf. So much of the film relies on silence. Now, will I confess Hush is the most brilliant horror film ever made, no, but it was directed by the terrific Mike Flanagan, whom you’d be familiar with for The Haunting of Hill House and Midnight Mass. I feel like I avoided Hush for a while for two facts – the poster is kinda odd to look at, and I didn’t know Mike Flanagan was so heavily involved in it. He and Kate Siegal, who plays Maddie in the film, co-wrote the screenplay together. I like my horror creepy and tense, and Hush delivers on that.


Hush is available on Netflix in Australia.



MAY


2023


“On a Clear Day You Can See Forever” (1970)


The first musical in this list is one from the 70s, starring Barbra Streisand as a chain-smoker that turns to hypnosis to cease her habit so that she fits in with her fiancé’s high-class friends. What her psychiatrist soon learns is that Daisy Gamble (Streisand) is easily hypnotised, is a clairvoyant, and seems to subconsciously remember a past life. Immediately I was hooked. Through their sessions together, Dr. Chabot comes to understand this past – Daisy was once a 19th-century woman named Melinda. [he sings a whole song about how attracted to Melinda he is. Not Daisy, Melinda.] As usual with any musical she stars in, Barbra Streisand sounds gorgeous and is just so campy and fun. Daisy is already an over-the-top character, but Streisand pivots for Melinda and delivers even more of a frivolous, campy performance. There’s that word again. On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is camp—Dr Chabot sings a song near the close of the film that Daisy Gamble cannot escape. Literally wherever she goes, the song follows. The film is fun and directed by Liza Minelli’s father and Jack Nicholson is in like two scenes as Daisy’s former stepbrother. I mean, the poster is literally Barbra’s face on a pot plant. It’s an odd, odd movie, and I love it dearly.


On a Clear Day You Can See Forever is available to rent or purchase on iTunes.



JUNE


2022


“Fire Island” (2022)


A gay romcom! This movie warmed my cold, dead heart so much. Joel Kim Booster wrote and starred in Fire Island, a movie made by the gays, starring the gays, and completely for the gays. [If you’re straight, you can watch it too, actually please do, I highly recommend this movie.] I love watching gay men fall in love. I love watching them have complicated relationships. Conrad Ricamora is so incredibly hot. He plays Will, a man that seems out of place in the Fire Island Pines, but just you fucking wait. Fire Island is more than just a gay movie—this is an opportunity for gay men to see themselves in stories without being tokenised. It’s hard to be the token anything in a film like this. If anything Margaret Cho is the token women in the central cast, but the beautiful messy dynamic would be lost without such a queer icon like her. As someone that probably would feel entirely out of place on Fire Island, this was my chance to embrace it. Sure, this film is slutty and sexual and queer as fuck, but there is incredible heart to its characters. Gay men are front and centre and deserve to continue making films like this.


Fire Island is available on Disney+ in Australia.



JULY


2021


“Shiva Baby” (2020)


Shiva Baby takes place almost entirely at a shiva—a shiva is a Jewish period of mourning, lasting seven days—and here is yet another film on the list that contains everything so tightly and stresses you the fuck out. The film follows Danielle (Rachel Sennott) as she attends the shiva with her parents. Naturally, she runs into her ex-girlfriend and her sugar daddy, along with her sugar daddy’s wife. It’s a real hoot of a time while everyone’s trying to mourn the deceased—well, certainly a hoot for Danielle, played chaotically by Sennott. She’s one to watch. Her performance in Bodies Bodies Bodies is so effortlessly hilarious and, again, chaotic. I cannot wait to see her in Bottoms. Special mention to Dianna Agron, who I have loved since Glee. In Shiva Baby she portrays Danielle’s sugar daddy’s wife, Kim, and while her role is not massive, she’s just always fun to watch. Shiva Baby is messy and unnerving, and loves dwelling in the tension of silences and subtleties. We love awkward drama.


Shiva Baby is available to rent or purchase on iTunes and YouTube.



AUGUST


2021


“French Exit” (2020)


I’m such a fan of actors. Not all of them, granted, but I love following the careers of talented actors. In French Exit, my attention was rarely diverted from Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges. The pair play mother and son, who must recuperate after Frances (Pfeiffer) spends the last of her deceased husband’s money. I love watching Michelle Pfeiffer act the hell out of a script, and French Exit is no exception. Her dialogue is bizarre, dramatic, and yet humbled by the experience. She looks to be the shell of the woman she had once been. Now, this is a strange film—there’s a series of eclectic characters and a séance or two, I think that says it all. While the plot may sometimes feel like it meanders, you stay for Michelle Pfeiffer and Lucas Hedges. Hedges first notably came to my attention for Boy Erased. I loved him there, and in French Exit he balances the nuances of a young man coming to terms with the death of his father and his own growth from boy to man. The supporting cast is terrific too––Imogen Poots, Danielle Macdonald, and Valerie Mahaffey leave their own little marks on the film. This is a film that is glamourous and yet lonely, too. There’s always something behind her eyes. That’s why I keep coming back for more from Michelle Pfeiffer.


French Exit is available for free on SBS On Demand.



SEPTEMBER


2021


“Come From Away” (2021)


This one is a complicated offering because it technically isn’t a film, it’s a proshot. For those unaware, a proshot is a filmed version of a stage production. In this case, I offer you Come From Away, a musical set in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. Initially, yes, the premise sounds distressing. Come From Away positions the audience in Gander, Newfoundland. 38 planes are forced to land when the airspace is closed following the terrorism action in New York City. The townspeople of such a tiny little town welcome the stranded passengers with open arms, but there is an unsettling feeling in the air. No one knows what’s going on, beyond what they can see on the news. I saw Come From Away live for the first time, and I was so impressed by it. I was in awe. The proshot was released in time for the 20th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, and I watched this brilliant musical for the second time, with a different cast—most of the original Broadway cast returned to film the proshot. The staging of Come From Away is simplistic but so well suited. There’s minimal set design, only twelve cast members, and a small band on stage. The cast portray multiple characters, and the cast deserve recognition for their talent. This is one of my favourite musicals and I am so grateful the proshot exists, so that people who cannot access live theatre can simply sign up for a free AppleTV+ trial and watch it for themselves.

Come From Away’s proshot is available on AppleTV+.



2022


“Marcel the Shell With Shoes On” (2021)


This is a movie about a shell that is wearing shoes. Marcel, the shell in question, is voiced by Jenny Slate, who created the character with her then-husband in a series of shorts on YouTube. In his feature film debut, Marcel lives with his grandmother Connie, desperately searching for his long-lost family. It’s a strangely touching film, strange because you feel so many emotions watching the journey of this little shell with googly eyes and a pair of shoes for feet. Marcel is a compelling little character, full of titbits and anecdotes you love listening to. Jenny Slate has always been a compelling comedian to me—from her role on Parks and Recreation as the messy, chaotic Mona Lisa Saperstein, to her comedy special Jenny Slate: Stage Fright, I just think she’s hilarious. But also incredibly relatable, too. [Maybe not as Mona Lisa Saperstein, although she’s very memeable]. I don’t think Marcel is an exception – this little shell is both brilliantly funny and so interesting to get to know and understand. Who knew a film about a couple talking shells and a disembodied human voice would be so beautiful. I mean, I’d like to think I knew. Or suspected, at least, that I would love something just like this.

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is available to rent or purchase on iTunes and YouTube.



“Bodies Bodies Bodies” (2022)


Rachel Sennott is a scene-stealer, truly. Bodies Bodies Bodies is about a group of friends spending the weekend in a mansion during a hurricane. But oh is it so much more than that. When they begin to play a party game in the dark, things quickly shift as a member of the group is found dead. I love a good murder mystery, but something Bodies Bodies Bodies nails so charmingly is how rooted in modern society it feels. Sure, that sounds a little strained—modern society isn’t the tamest or most enjoyable thing to exist in. Technology has staked its claim in all of us, rotted our brains a little probably. But I think what Bodies Bodies Bodies examines so well is how the current generation is so focused on airing out dirty laundry and exposing the hell out of it. For better or worse. This film is also incredibly funny, the cast is talented and portrays their characters perfectly, and Lee Pace is just so hot. I know some of this mini review talks about the positioning of this film in relation to what the world looks like nowadays, but I think why I love, and recommend so highly, this movie is because ultimately, it’s just such a great example of a fun, overdramatic thriller that feels very, very 2020s.


Bodies Bodies Bodies is available on Binge in Australia.



OCTOBER


2021


“The Autopsy of Jane Doe” (2016)


Logan Roy does an autopsy on a woman that is definitely not just a Jane Doe. Before his Succession days, Brian Cox starred in this horror movie…set in a confined space, again. I’m not sorry for obsessing over horror movies set in one location. The Autopsy of Jane Doe takes place in a coroner’s office building, where Tommy Tilden (Cox) and his son Austin (Emile Hirsch) work. They are tasked with carrying out the autopsy of an unidentified young woman found at amongst a multiple homicide crime scene. Horror is such a love of mine. The Autopsy of Jane Doe is thrilling and eerie, and I suppose there isn’t much I can say without giving away what unfolds. I feel like horror can easily become too cheesy or campy sometimes, but there’s a balance in this movie that just works. I might sideline a little just to mention a few horror movies I love, since we’re in the horror month of the year: Evil Dead Rise (2023), They/Them (2022), As Above, So Below (2014), Watcher (2022), Ready or Not (2019), and The Others (2001). Maybe I’ll discuss those in more detail sometime, but for now, get yourself a bucket of popcorn and settle in for some creepy but fun horror, because that’s what I think The Autopsy of Jane Doe has to offer.


The Autopsy of Jane Doe is available to rent or purchase on iTunes and YouTube.



NOVEMBER


2021


“Language Lessons” (2020)



You’re probably tired of hearing me talk about films that are confined to a certain space, but this one is a little different. It takes place entirely through video calls—hear me out here, because I know the potential of any sort of Zoom-based film is basically shot to hell immediately. Language Lessons centres on two characters: Cariño, a Spanish teacher, and Adam, her student. Natalie Morales and Mark Duplass (oh, him again!) have a beautiful chemistry, especially considering everything is digital and they don’t stand opposite one another, in person. There’s nothing crazy elaborate about this movie. Cariño begins teaching Adam Spanish, expanding his vocabulary and getting to know him in the process. Their one-on-one conversations are close and intimate, personal. Language Lessons is a comfortable, compelling film—and it certainly isn’t just an hour and a half of a white man learning Spanish, I promise you that. Morales and Duplass wrote the screenplay for this beautiful film and I just…I really love it.

Language Lessons is available on Stan and Binge in Australia.



“tick, tick…BOOM!” (2021)



I know awards aren’t everything, but Andrew Garfield deserved an Oscar for his performance in tick, tick…BOOM!. The film is based on the musical of the same name, and tells the story of Jonathan Larson, a theatre composer who you just might be familiar with, if you know a little musical called Rent. Larson passed away in his 30s, but his influence on the theatre scene is recognised in the popularity of the aforementioned Rent, which opened a few days after his death. I can never hate Lin Manuel Miranda because he introduced me to this beautiful show—tick, tick…BOOM! —and yes you should always spell it out like I just did. No, I don’t make the rules. Frankly, I relate so much to the story of this musical. A man nearing his thirtieth birthday is terrified he’ll never produce something he can be celebrated and recognised for. I’m not near thirty yet, thankfully, but as a writer I’m always inherently terrified I’ll never be successful. I want people to read what I write, feel what I felt writing my work. The title comes from the ticking clock of anxiety within Jonathan Larson as he nears his birthday. Everything is a stress. He’s attempting to mount a musical, but he needs someone to take it seriously and believe in his vision. Andrew Garfield not only excels in portraying Larson, but his voice is gorgeous too. For someone that claims to not be much of a singer, Garfield is immensely talented, and I’ll probably never stop singing my praises for this film. It’s fucking beautiful, and depressing.

tick, tick…BOOM! is available on Netflix in Australia.



DECEMBER


2022


“Matilda the Musical” (2022)



You’re hopefully familiar with Matilda from 1996, starring and directed by everyone’s favourite short little man, Danny DeVito. Matilda the Musical is an adaption of the stage musical, which in turn was adapted from the book, not the movie. There are a handful of obvious changes—new characters, a subplot about an escapologist and an acrobat, and this brainy little girl is an only child. And of course, Matilda the Musical is layered with musical numbers. I’m especially fond of the song Miss Honey sings late in the film, in her little cottage, but you’ll have to watch, or hunt down the soundtrack, to listen to it. To me, this is a pretty faithful adaption of the stage production. A few songs are cut, but the story is not necessarily lost without them. Tim Minchin’s music and lyrics are brilliant and quirky. Emma Thompson is here on the list again, this time as the formidable Agatha Trunchbull. It’s truly admirable to see her at work here, playing such a grumpy, cruel woman. Alisha Weir has big shoes to fill as Matilda, and she is just so precious and has a great voice. I don’t know, I can already tell this is going to be a big comfort movie for me. Having seen a production years ago, I remember adoring it on stage. This wasn’t a letdown in the slightest. There is so much joy in musical theatre, and there is so much joy in Matilda the Musical, despite the fact a grown woman literally swings a little girl by her pigtails and then flings her through the air. But even that’s fun, because it’s not real!

Matilda the Musical is available on Netflix in Australia.


______



The Complete List:


Mass, dir. Fran Kranz

Fantastic Planet, dir. Rene Laloux

Good Luck to You, Leo Grande, dir. Sophie Hyde

Eat Drink Man Woman, dir. Ang Lee

Mother, dir. Bong Joon Ho

Stepmom, dir. Chris Columbus

Blue Jay, dir. Alexandre Lehmann

Everything Everywhere All At Once, dir. The Daniels

Hush, dir. Mike Flanagan

On a Clear Day You Can See Forever, dir. Vincente Minnelli

Fire Island, dir. Andrew Ahn

Shiva Baby, dir. Emma Seligman

French Exit, dir. Azazel Jacobs

Come From Away, dir. Christopher Ashley

Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, dir. Dean Fleischer Camp

Bodies Bodies Bodies, dir. Halina Reijn

The Autopsy of Jane Doe, dir. André Øvredal

Language Lessons, dir. Natalie Morales

tick, tick...BOOM!, dir. Lin Manuel Miranda

Matilda the Musical, dir. Matthew Warchus

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