Before coming to college, watching movies was one of my bigger pastimes. I would watch movies when I was happy, sad, or bored, in the mood to sing, cry, or scream at the TV. It’s an easily shared pastime, one that often brings people together (cue Nicole Kidman AMC ad). But, since arriving at Princeton, I have not been able to indulge my love as easily as I would’ve hoped. Yes, there are screenings at the Garden theater and a ROMA film series. Of course I could always watch something on my computer, and I’ve watched the occasional movie for class. But it’s just not the same. It feels like I would be missing out on something in order to just sit down and put my energy into another for upwards of three hours. So in the weeks leading up to my first fall break as a Princeton student, I daydreamed about the movies I would watch when I got home. What follows, dear reader, is a detailed account of my cinematic journey (“cinexpedition” if you will) from October 14th-23rd.
- Confess, Fletch (2022) dir. Greg Mottola
I started off break with the effortless and fun new installation of the Fletch series. The Fletch movies are based on a series of books of the same name, and were originally produced because they were Chevy Chase’s favorite books (he stars in the first two as Fletch). I have a vivid memory of being, let’s say, eight years old and sitting down with my family to watch the original Fletch with Chevy Chase. Immediately, none of us enjoyed it, and we stopped about 15 minutes of the way through. This time around, Jon Hamm stars as the wise-cracking retired journalist. It’s about time we had a Jon Hammissance and I think the time is now. Great movie to watch with your dad. He will enjoy many jokes and will in fact repeat a lot of them just to show you how funny he thought they were.
- Bande à Parte [Band of Outsiders] (1964) dir. Jean-Luc Godard
Not my favorite Godard, but it was beautiful and sweet and just a little bit pretentious. Jean-Luc Godard was French director and pioneer of the Nouvelle Vague or New Wave cinema movement of the late 50s and 60s in France, which then spread to many other parts of the world (such as the US, Czechoslovakia, and China, among others). Bande à Part falls in the early middle of Godard’s extensive filmography, post his earliest (and I think best) films, and pre his Maoist propaganda period, which gets kind of weird. It centers around three students from an English class who attempt to commit a robbery, with a love triangle, an aunt, and a doghouse getting in the way. Bande offers great fall fashion inspo courtesy of Anna Karina, as well some iconic scenes like the one in the Louvre or the café dancing scene (think TikTok dance but in 1964). This was my first Godard post his death, not that it altered the way I felt about the movie in any way, more like “wow this cinema giant is gone, who, if anyone, will replace him?” Those types of conversations have been going around a lot on film twitter and they honestly make my head spin but are worth asking. If you decidedly don’t like Godard and haven’t seen this one, I’d check it out, it’s often been described as the “Godard film for people who don’t much care for Godard.” If you’ve seen this one and want something a little more fun from him, I’d recommend A Woman is a Woman or Pierrot le Fou.
- The Fly (1986) dir. David Cronenberg
LOVED. My first Cronenberg. Jeff Goldblum is perfection, as is his then-girlfriend Geena Davis as Seth Brundle, a scientist studying teleportation, and Ronnie Quaife, a reporter profiling his process, respectively. All the effects hold up shockingly well. I was almost at the point of vomiting whenever “Brundlefly” would lose body parts as his physical and mental transformation from human to human-fly began, even more so in the scenes where he uses the digestive enzyme he acquires post-hybridization to completely melt off others’ limbs. The film itself is a really heartbreaking analogy for disease, aging, and death, not only on oneself but on the ones around you, as seen through the final scene when Ronnie can’t bear to kill the mutant fly/humanfly Brundle has created, even though he isn’t even recognizable as the man she once knew and loved. Aside from that, this movie dares to ask the question, “what if a fly was a huge asshole who really liked having sex?” and I think there should be more movies brave enough to ask things like that.
- Triangle of Sadness (2022) dir. Ruben Östlund
Saw this in the theater and was absolutely blown away. The film follows a group of extremely wealthy Europeans on a luxurious yacht vacation, sort of The White Lotus-y but with more blatant criticism of class tension (and way more feces). It’s set up in three sections, pre-yacht, during-yacht, and post-yacht, each section escalating from the previous one. I’m hesitant to reveal anything more than that, and I know it’s completely cringe when people say that, but believe me when I say going into this blind is the way to go. This goes in the most unexpected directions and I was hooked every minute of it. I do think that it ran a bit long, but I still adored every minute. I will say that about halfway through, the plot takes a shit, vomit, and champagne-filled turn worthy of the king of scat John Waters himself. If the Garden theater shows this, I better see all of your asses in those seats for the 149-minute run time.
- The Slumber Party Massacre (1982) dir. Amy Holden Jones
Clocking in at a cool 76 minutes, this is an interesting one, folks. It features some of the worst acting, writing, and gags I’ve ever seen which can sometimes make for a great watch but unfortunately not here. This was 76 minutes and felt like a movie three times as long. The plot is pretty self-explanatory, a massacre occurs at a slumber party. This was intended to be a parody of slasher films of the era but unfortunately got taken a little too seriously during production so any satirical element kind of fell flat. I did appreciate, though, that the killer in this is just a guy in double denim. No backstory. No mask or horribly scarred face or anything that normally made killers scary in slashers of this era. If you want a little chuckle and something stupid, then go ahead and watch this. But if you want something a little more seriously scary with a vaguely similar plot, I recommend Black Christmas.
- Nashville (1975) dir. Robert Altman
This was absolutely amazing. I’ve been debating for months whether I should just give in and buy this for myself rather than going to my brother’s apartment to watch it with him (he already owns it, and this movie is not rentable). The wait was well worth it. The film centers around the Nashville country music scene in the 70s, with politics, capitalism, and the quest for fame intervening at the best and worst moments. Altman’s films tend to include large ensemble casts, but this is to an extreme, featuring 24 different “main” characters who all mesh together by the end (some characters definitely get more screen time than others, like Barabara Jean or Linnea Rease over ‘silent Tricycle Man’). The most famous characteristic of his style is the overlapping dialogue which is at play many times throughout Nashville. This is a perfect high for Altman, mixing the ultra-silliness of his earlier films with the ultra-seriousness of something like his 1977 film 3 Women. The music in this is incredible, written and performed by all of the actors themselves. I would never have expected to actually kind of enjoy country music at the end of this 180 minute epic, but hey, we’re all full of surprises. If you haven’t seen any Altman movies, I wouldn’t start here. But wherever you do start, it only gets better from there, and this is no exception.
- Gimme Shelter (1970) dir. Maysles Brothers, Charlotte Zwerin
I see something of myself in Mick Jagger as I too am frequently fixing my bangs/hair. This is interesting because as a music documentary, it isn’t great. The first half is quite chaotic, with a few different timelines ultimately converging into the Altamont concert footage. The drama of this half comes outside of the MSG concert footage, either in the editing room with the Maysles brothers or with their attorney trying to set up the concert. Early on, to the tune of “Wild Horses,” the boys ruminate in their own sound (and other things I presume), a very “calm before the storm” type feel. There is a very felt lack of music when the band enters the concert, which makes them seem unimportant. There is a general unimportance to the music at the concert, with the filmmakers making very obvious choices to focus on the crowd. But to focus on anything other than the chaos that was the Altamont Speedway concert would be unjust, so I don’t really care about that (for context, the Altamont concert was infamous for somebody getting stabbed by a security guard, among other mishaps). This doc just makes me wish there was a camera crew at that Travis Scott concert because that would’ve been CRAZZZYYYYY.
- The In-Laws (1979) dir. Arthur Hiller
This is one of those movies that when you tell your parents you’re seeing it they immediately go into a frenzied, almost psychosis-like state telling you how much they love it (I say this because that’s exactly what my parents did when I said I was going to see this). It’s about two men, played by Peter Falk and Alan Arkin, who days before the marriage of their children, go on an Odyssey-like journey for the CIA to a fictional South American country to retrieve some engraving plates that were stolen from the US Treasury. It was fun and silly and stupid and worth a watch if you want to laugh for a little bit. The beauty of it, though, is that I saw it at the Paris Theater, Manhattan’s sole-surviving single-screen theater (across the street from the plaza). Living in New York City means I can go see a movie at some historic site and not think twice about it, which is exactly what happened here! This felt really special because the curator of the theater came out before the showing and talked about how much this movie meant to him, which made the whole experience very intimate.
- Les Vacances de Monsieur Hulot (1954) dir. Jacques Tati
I think a good litmus test for people is whether or not they enjoy the films of Jacques Tati. Each film is a uniquely curated world void of cruelty or criticism without reason, simply showing a man (Tati himself plays a character in most of his other movies named Monsieur Hulot, who is intended to have the POV of both the audience and Tati) who is struggling with the loss of the world that he once knew. They’re short and silly and beautiful to look at, and if you’re able to find something to criticize within that I’m genuinely a little scared of you. Don’t let the French name fool you, Tati’s movies are the least pretentious, most fun that I’ve ever seen. This is the first of the Monsieur Hulot series, which is evident, but doesn’t make this any less enjoyable. It takes place during summer vacation 1953 at Saint-Marc-Sur-Mer, a small town near the Saint-Nazaire port, and hilarity ensues as the bumbling Monsieur Hulot interacts with his surroundings. It doesn’t have as robust of a critique on consumerism and the impracticality of modern technology that are present in the later Hulot movies, but the seeds are definitely planted here. What I love about Tati films is the lack of substantial dialogue, it really forces you to just sit and enjoy the movie or else you’ll miss out on the visual gags.
- Polyester (1981) dir. John Waters
In one word—the only word fit for John Waters—camp. Satire done correctly, perfectly, even (take notes Slumber Party Massacre). This movie is a lot of things, but boiled down it’s a satire of White, Christian, suburban life, involving foot-fetishism, alcoholism, adultery, and more! The most overt joke in that regard is that the housewife is played by Divine, a drag queen who worked with Waters in most of his films. She’s actually quite a good actress, at least compared to the quite bad ones featured in this film. My one wish in life is to see this with the original odorama card, which, though a repetitive gimmick, builds the atmosphere of the film really well (the odorama card was a card given at each original screening with 10 different scratch-n-sniffs, ranging from a bouquet of flowers to feces, which viewers are indicated to smell at certain points throughout the movie). The lighting is SO well done, always highlighting Divine’s intensely expressive eyes. This feels like a great entry point for John Waters, as I am slightly afraid to watch his other, more grotesque films.
All of these movies were on the countless lists I have of movies I want to see, but other than that I’m not sure that there’s a thread or theme to link all them together. I’d gone a little stir-crazy leading up to break, so this was my medication. If you watch all of these movies, you’re a little crazy yourself but that is a welcome craziness. I’d like to give an honorable mention to the masterpiece that is Mad Men, which I was rewatching throughout all of this. All I can say is that though I’m excited to get back to campus, I can’t wait for Thanksgiving to binge-watch myself dizzy again.
Finally, and I’m truly sorry for what I’m about to say, follow me on letterboxd @elliediamond.