One of the most common questions I get is, “Cory, what have you watched recently?”
In my grand return to 615 Film, I’ve decided to streamline my Letterboxd ramblings into a controlled setting where you can see what I’ve been up to in my moviegoing, if that’s something you’re interested in.
Welcome to The Letterboxd Files with Cory, a “best of” from my Letterboxd scribblings. If you’d like to see them in real time, the username is “cwood,” the photo is me on the news as a nine-year-old.
Forgive the casual tone and first-person references; these are very unrefined, but capture immediate thoughts.
The Thief and the Cobbler (Recobbled Cut, Mark 4)
After missing my local arthouse doing this a few years ago, I finally decided to jump into the Moby Dick of animated films. Holy cow.
Richard Williams was a genius, and this is absolutely a great film, even as just a work print unfinished by unreal expectations and a creative titan who just, sadly, couldn’t get out of his own way. The animation on Zigzag alone, and Vincent Price’s voice performance…just immaculate. The sequence where the thief makes it through the Rube Goldberg death machine is one of the great moments in animation history, too.
I did the Mark 4 of the Recobbled Cut, and bless whoever took the time to give this a permanent cut that enshrines the finished work but also pieces together in the sections that didn’t make it fully to completion. It’s a stunning achievement and better than Aladdin (sorry, Disney). How ironic a movie about a thief was in part stolen to make one of the biggest animated films ever.
Where to watch: YouTube
Persistence of Vision
I swear I’ll never be able to look at Aladdin the same way again. The shade this documentary throws here is damning.
I wish Richard Williams had the confidence to be okay with not needing every shot in this to be perfect. If he had finished it, it’d have been a masterpiece and would’ve probably made sure he was properly recognized among his peers as a generational talent. Just a sad story of a perfectionist who could never achieve perfection. You can’t excuse the way he treated his staff, even if it seemed more unintentional than malevolent. He was just blinded by his vision and let it get in the way of being rational. It seems like his folks understood him, but knew when to walk away when it got to be too much. Hard to blame them when your boss was just not getting the harm of his actions.
Even so, The Thief and the Cobbler is a brilliant work even unfinished, and Williams is tragically a mastermind in the medium who was held back by a Captain Ahab complex to really seize the potential of his studio into feature animation outside of Roger Rabbit. But hey, contributing RR and Thief to the lexicon is a hell of a lot more than most people ever get to achieve.
Where to Watch: Vimeo
Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters
You know, this has to be one of the most notable releases in the 2000s, if only because it sparked a national bomb scare and inspired a Kennedy to introduce national terrorism hoax legislation in Congress. Yes, this movie that features Bruce Campbell as a talking chicken nugget probably had more of an impact on the Congress than any film released by Oliver Stone or Michael Moore in shaping American legislation. This, a film where an angry band of movie theater refreshments threaten violence pre-movie to anyone who would’ve used a cellphone in the theater.
The thought of Ted Kennedy sitting down to watch this to prepare for a Congressional session, only to be greeted by a talking meatball dancing to club music coming from a rogue workout machine, or to be flipped off by the same Mooninite that for some bizarre reason seized the whole community of Cambridge, Mass., in terror for one very strange day in American history. I wonder if Ted Kennedy watched this, was absolutely confused and bothered, and then watched the whole series to try and better understand what was going on. And then, on the way to Congress, he had his driver pop on the theme song and sang along, if only because, hey, it’s catchy. He had people call him Shakezilla just for the hell of it for a week. Why not.
I like to think the whole Bush administration watched this for a briefing, too, only to be greeted by the Cybernetic Ghost of Christmas Past from the Future making out with a Plutonian at random, or Carl being rotated to the point of almost deadly muscle gain, or Water Melon coming to save Meatwad with the magic of Neal Peart’s live-giving drumming. Dick Cheney probably walked out when the poodle attacked at the Egypt opening. Who’s to say?
It’s one of the funniest moments in American history that a promotion for a movie called Aqua Teen Hunger Force Colon Movie Film For Theaters sparked a nationwide moment of panic and hysteria. Can you imagine being one of the creators of this, a movie that premiered on Adult Swim on April Fool’s Day with no sound in a bottom third box, waking up from a nice night of sleep, having your morning coffee, and seeing a Mooninite being discussed by Wolf Blitzer on CNN? You can’t script something that good. You just can’t. It is truly stranger than fiction.
I watched this late at night to simulate a midnight movie experience, and holy cow, that’s absolutely the best way to watch this. It is basically just a very long episode of ATHF, complete with the lack of interest in any sort of structure or consequence. It feels almost like a prank, a referendum against making everything for television into a movie. It’s like Time Warner just wanted something to put in theaters with a semi-recognizable IP, and they turned to Adult Swim and said, “just give us the best of what you’ve got.” And this is what they made to troll normal movie audiences (a la Freddy Got Fingered) and reward the die-hard fans who knew exactly what they were getting into. There are of course some great adult animated shows that got the feature treatment, but this is definitely not one of those by exact design. It’s not a great movie, but my gosh, it’s a fun, bizarre one, and probably a great example of why ATHF was such a lasting part of that early AS block. I really enjoyed this, even if it’s easily one of the stupidest things a major studio has ever released. Clearly that’s the point. It fulfilled its goal, but also sparked a moment in American history. They should put this in history books. “The Mooninite bomb scare,” what a world.
Where to Watch: VUDU
George Carlin’s American Dream
It’s not quite as piercing as Apatow’s Shandling doc, but it’s still a pretty thorough and engaging look at who Carlin was and how he frustratingly refused to fit into the box you’d want him to fit in. He was excellent at his craft, but curiously undefinable as either a disappointed optimist who never gave up believing in his fellow man, or a fading nihilist who never really liked any of us in the first place.
I choose to feel like Carlin was who he said he was – someone who believed in the beauty of the individual but had aggressive reservations about the collective and how the social dynamics can corrode what’s great about individual thought when the collective tries to dictate what you think and do. I think the late stage bleak comedy is very poignant but not in the way where Carlin actually is cajoling at the destruction of his species. I think he’s trying to mimic what he sees as he’s nearing the end of his life / a world that can’t get enough pain and suffering as nonstop entertainment. Just look at the Depp/Heard trial as example of what he’s going for; it’s hard not to feel a little low watching people feast and mock such an awful situation. The power of Carlin’s satire can get lost in the delivery, but I still think it’s there, and hits.
I’m a bit like Colbert as to where I appreciate his religion satire as a religious person, though a lot more than I did when I first heard it when I was younger. Carlin was a flawed guy, but so are we all, and I appreciate how he always kept trying. There was no quit in that guy. I think this is of course the definitive portrait, but I couldn’t help but feel a little annoyed by the big montage at the end supercut with his commentary. It felt a little cheap and superficial – I think sometimes people want Carlin to be darker than he actually was deep down. Even though I don’t always agree with his worldviews, I always feel like even his darkest material had a silver lining. I get every biopic gets some sort of “this is America!” filter to it; this very openly, but that almost ending just felt like it was leaning too hard into the supposed nihilism and didn’t appreciate how much of that is supposed to be a mirror rather than a book. I’ll never think Carlin was the dark one; it almost reinforces his point that some of us want him so badly to be.
Where to Watch: HBO Max
My Blue Heaven
Pure joy. Just a lovely film that flips gangster tropes on their head and proves even a wise guy can still be a nice guy. Bill Irwin’s big dancing number nearly made me leap from my seat and applaud. The kind of relentless feel-good comedy that actually makes you feel good about the world. Steve Martin as an Italian mob middle man works so much better than I ever could’ve anticipated, and his and Rick Moranis’ chemistry is just irresistible. Joan Cusack is also, well, Joan Cusack, so that’s always good. I could watch this again right now. My gosh this one caught me by surprise. What a fantastic movie.
Where to Watch: HBO Max
Darren Aronofsky: I’m going to create a surreal Biblical allegory that’s going to alienate audiences!
Alex Garland: lol; lmao
It’s no mother!, but I respect Garland going so hard on a movie that’s just not for anyone but people who are super into surrealism to the point of being absolutely okay with not knowing exactly what’s going on at any given moment.
It’s obviously about the world women find themselves in when surrounded by a culture of men who ignore, abuse, gaslight, take advantage of and generally don’t help them, going back to being blamed for the fall of man, and Garland always says the loud part loudly. That approach can be overwhelming at times, and a bit distracting at others when you’re trying to get lost in the fascinating world he’s built. It’s an admirable thesis, buffeted by a heck of a Jessie Buckley performance and an outstanding, terrifying turn from Rory Kinnear. Kinnear’s going to win the body horror award this year, no matter what happens in Crimes of the Future. He’s got it in the bag. No competition.
The last bit of this made my audience howl to the point where someone loudly farted in the theater, so I guess that’s why the CinemaScore is what it is. Yea, it was startlingly hilarious to watch … that … but I was also impressed by how by uncompromising Garland’s vision is on each project he undertakes. I’m not entirely sure everything here works, but I respect the hustle.
A24 tossing out this one in the heat of the summer movie season is a flex. I want an apple now.
Where to Watch: In Theaters
As the kids say, “it’s a vibe.”
Tony Scott knew how to make a movie cool, and Top Gun’s clearly stuck around all of these years for the atmosphere, the swagger, the Cruise-iness of it all. It’s less to me about what’s going on than how it’s going on, and we’d be way better off if more big movies spent less time worrying about the story and more time worrying about the feel. This feels effortless. I’m sure the new one will be better, since this has the flaws it has, but it’s quite a movie to step into and rummage around for a bit. Using the same songs over and over again doesn’t bother me after what Michael Bay did to Green Day’s “21 Guns” in Transformers 2.
Where to Watch: Paramount+