As we enter a short dry spell before the Rise of Skywalker and other Christmas movie fare, it’s good to acknowledge that November was a great month for movies. For me, at least. It’s been something of a weak year at the cinema for me. Maybe it’s because I, like so many others, have fallen to the wiles of the comic book movie, which often has the right double-punch of humor and action. Smaller movies, slightly different movies of good quality with a certain kind of buzz, seem a little harder to come by.
November started with Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite. Even though it has two very different families at the heart of its story, it’s far from family fare. In the story, Ki-woo plays a young man who takes a job as the tutor for a wealthy family even though he’s not really qualified. Over the next thirty minutes, the remainder of Ki-woo’s family infiltrates the Park family, in ways both humorous and haunting. Things go seemingly well for the interlopers until one rainy weekend, when the Parks leave for a trip and things fall completely and utterly apart. Parasite is the closest thing you’ll see to a horror-tinged thriller . . . and it mostly takes place within one sprawling house. Parasite fulfills its promise to give you a tense cinematic experience.
The second week of November brought Taika Waititi’s latest satire to the silver screen. Jojo Rabbit is the awkwardly funny, ultimately heart-breaking story of a young boy in Nazi Germany who has a comedic version of Hitler as his imaginary best friend. The movie feels a lot like a Wes Anderson flick, as there’s something slightly magical and farcical about the proceedings. Waititi plays Hitler to much effect, which is part of what makes the experience awkward. But then, as needed, the movie turns dark and sobering. A number of well-known actors take part in the story, including Scarlet Johansson, Rebel Wilson, and Sam Rockwell. Thankfully, none of them “take you out of” the movie, which can easily happen in this kind of piece.
The third quality movie in the month of November for me was Ford v. Ferrari starring Matt Damon and Christian Bale. Racing isn’t really my form of entertainment, but the reviews were good and the actors and director had earned my trust, so I gave it a try. It was quite brilliant, a great picture of people who are passionate about things and who don’t quite know how to navigate the world between work and people all that well. I found myself tearing up a little at odd places, moments that weren’t particularly telegraphed to evoke emotion. And when you finally get to the moments that do want to evoke something? Yeah. Beyond that, FvF is a period piece of a kind, too, one that is just out of reach for many of us. Bale, as always, is brilliant. And Damon, as is often the case, plays someone you’re not sure you should feel much sympathy for, and yet he gets it out of you yet again.
While I was in Victoria for Thanksgiving break, I took at an afternoon to see Rian Johnson’s Knives Out at the local Odean theater. I’m so used to a certain kind of cinema seating that it’s always a little jarring to have nice seats that don’t shoot up steep like a mountainside. Still, the experience was good . . . mostly because the story is so well-told. It’s a who-dun-it story that is just enough Clue the Movie to keep it light while still treading in some heavy moments. It’s the kind of story that gives you just enough but doesn’t tell you what to do with it. Because even if you know the who, you’re still not quite sure about the dun-it. Knives Out is a great late autumn/early winter movie, as it evokes a kind of place and time that is both cozy and obviously dangerous.
And so now we wait for The Rise of Skywalker. Part of me wants to see the new Mr. Rogers movie, but a part of me just doesn’t want to. Last year’s documentary was enough for me . . . at least for now. Beyond Skywalker, 1917 is the only other movie that’s really on the radar for me as the year comes to a close. I’m sure that others will pop up, but they haven’t yet. I’m grateful, though, for a good and diverse cinematic experience in November. That kind of streak is becoming all too rare.