So, I think I may have Quentin Tarantino FOMO. This past month, I’ve mostly been home in Korea, where the latest Tarantino film, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood, has not yet been released. I’ve seen some reactions online in my peripheral vision, while trying my best to avoid lengthy plot descriptions. The basic premise is that it’s a comedy drama set in 1969 Los Angeles and I also know Margot Robbie plays the tragically murdered ’60s It Girl Sharon Tate. (Another thing that’s been in my peripheral vision: the shirt Tarantino’s been wearing, which looks like Gucci at first glance, but is actually just a 69 shirt? I still can’t decide whether I love it or hate it or if I…want it?)
I absolutely do not have FOMO as it relates to the discourse around him at the moment. I briefly checked Twitter while on vacation in Japan this week, and saw a flurry of takes about how he makes movies for only the “white film bro,” and everyone had something to say about that. I promptly decided to log off and steam my face over a bowl of shoyu ramen.
I know getting excited about a new Tarantino movie sounds like stereotypical film bro-iness, but I am neither white nor male, and there are many of us who still want to engage with his work in a meaningful manner without simply brushing him off because we all know at least one guy who had a Reservoir Dogs poster in his college dorm room.
So, until I’m able to update you all with my Once Upon a Time reaction, I can recommend some good streaming accompaniments: On August 1, Netflix is bringing back Jackie Brown, one of Tarantino’s best (if not the best?) movies, starring the legendary Foxy Brown herself, Pam Grier, in her middle-aged comeback as a flight attendant caught between her bad boss (Samuel L. Jackson) and the feds. I think it’s better than Pulp Fiction—and the subdued violence (for Tarantino), makes it even more witty and thrilling. Tarantino made the movie for Grier, breaking a long hiatus after her ’70s Blaxploitation era, and the way Jackie Brown mirrors her real-life anxieties about being past her prime is unexpectedly heartfelt.
If You’d Rather Groove to the Free-Loving ’60s Vibe…
The real Sharon Tate can be seen in all her glory in The Valley of the Dolls, which is quintessentially ’60s in its high-ponied, pastel looks. Tate, Patty Duke, and Barbara Parkins star as three young women who navigate romance and try to make it big in show biz. Along the way, they hit some lows (“valleys”), and pick themselves up with “dolls” (read: pills). It is capital-C Camp and Elle Fanning paid perfect homage to it at this year’s Met Gala. The Valley of the Dolls is available to rent on a bunch of different platforms (iTunes, Google), but if you’re in New York, head over to the Quad Cinema next month to catch it during the “Beach Reads: From Sand to Screen” series, which includes many adaptations of “guilty pleasure” novels (if you even believe in the concept!). They’re not all beachy movies, but they’re perfect A/C-fueled escapes.
The Criterion Channel (have I mentioned it’s my favorite streaming service?) has also highlighted three movies released in the summer of ’69, the summer of the moon landing, Stonewall, Woodstock, and, of course, the Manson murders. These movies, including Midnight Cowboy and Easy Rider, leave July 31 so get on them ASAP, but I suggest prioritizing Paul Mazursky’s Bob & Carol & Ted & Alice, an infidelity comedy about two couples who want to loosen up and try their hands at spouse-swapping—to hilariously awkward results.
Let’s Skip Forward to the Summer of 1970
Pull on a pair of jorts and tie a colorful, oversized summer blouse over them, because Now and Then is also coming to Netflix on August 1. In Lesli Linka Glatter’s coming-of-age cult classic, four female friends reminisce about their teenage selves during one unforgettable summer in 1970. It always makes me think of my carefree childhood days, biking around and stopping for ice cream with my buds. I used to wear thick, stretchy headbands like Gaby Hoffman does, though Mallory mentioned Devon Sawa might be the real style hero of this movie and… wow, she’s right. I am so inspired by this subtle stripe coordination of his jacket collar to shirt collar to socks.
For Even More Sister Acts…
August is a great month for sororal bonding over at Netflix. Joining Now and Then is The House Bunny—you know, that Anna Faris movie about an ex-Playboy Bunny who takes a group of nerdy sorority sisters under her wings (ears?), including one about-to-breakout Emma Stone. I haven’t seen this movie in 10 years, but I do distinctly remember practicing that demonically deep voice Faris uses to help her remember names (I stand by my long-held belief that she is an underrated comedic genius). I also just realized that within the decade of not having watched this, I’ve aged a year past 27-year-old Shelley (Faris), who gets kicked out of Hugh Hefner’s mansion for being too old….
On a slightly different plane of sisterhood are Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda—yes, the first Sex and the City movie is also coming to a Netflix carousel near you. As someone who loves the show through its sometimes awkwardly-aged politics, the movie feels cheap to me. Cheap—not literally, because holy shit that penthouse Mr. Big casually buys for Carrie is actually insane. What I mean is cheap in all its clichés and basest appeal to fandom. Like that scene where Carrie tries on all her old clothes including that infamous tutu? It’s fun in the moment, but it’s nothing more than a “previously” recap filling out the 2.5-hour runtime. Also, I’ll never forget how everyone in this movie has relationship problems except Charlotte, so they make her literally shit her pants in Mexico?? I mean?! (Feel free to get “carried away” in the comments if you agree or disagree with me on this one.)
Squeeze in a French Fling This Summer
Since I’ve been in Korea for most of the summer, I’ve replaced my usual rotation of NYC repertory theaters for Cinematheque Seoul Art Cinema, which showcased a bunch of great summer movies by one of my favorite directors, Éric Rohmer. A couple weeks ago, I went to go see the 1987 comedy Boyfriends and Girlfriends (another movie about partner-swapping), which makes a great case for summer minimalism with its bare interiors and simple, color-blocked outfit coordination.
The Green Ray is one of my annual summer re-watches (it’s basically the movie version of “Summertime Sadness”), as is La Collectionneuse, about a girl who “collects” men during a summer stay at a beautiful French villa. Both are available on the Criterion Channel and make me feel moody and wistful, even on—especially on—vacation.
A current highlight on Criterion right now is a collection of films starring the late Jeanne Moreau, who is my favorite French femme fatale. The French New Wave icon took on a lot of complicated, edgy roles, and wore the history of her characters on her face (especially in her very seductive, charismatic eye bags). Any movie starring Moreau is worth watching, in my opinion, but her best-known (and probably a good place to start) is Truffaut’s Jules and Jim, in which two male friends become enamored with her.
This year has seen a few great French films as well. I highly recommend A Faithful Man, currently playing selected theaters. The hunky Louis Garrel directs himself in a comic yet tragic love triangle (I guess actually a rectangle) involving his ex (Laetitia Casta), who left him for his now-dead best friend years ago, only to crawl back when a younger woman (Lily-Rose Depp) starts pursuing him. It is a very, very French affair and very entertaining. Another French romance film from this year, the gay 1993-set drama Sorry Angel, has recently been added to Netflix. It is as blue as the film’s nearly monochromatic hue, and one of my favorite releases of 2019 so far.
Globe-Trot Over to China
Have y’all seen Lulu Wang’s The Farewell yet? It’s one of the best movie tickets you could spend your hard-earned money on at the moment. Remember when I said Always Be My Maybe felt like an Asian-American Vox explainer? Well, The Farewell, which stars Awkwafina in her first leading role as a Brooklyn-residing Asian woman who flies back home to China to covertly say goodbye to her dying grandmother, is the opposite of that. It totally nails that first-generation immigrant feeling in such a poignant and well-humored manner.
In a Chinatown slightly closer to my place of residence, New York’s Metrograph theater will be showing a bunch of women-directed movies from Hong Kong’s Shaw Brothers Studios, the massive production company famous for popularizing the kung-fu genre (from August 23–September 1). I’ve been meaning to brush up on my Asian cinema so I’m stoked to discover these rarely-screened, little-seen movies that range from murder mysteries to ghost hauntings to lesbian love stories. If you’re not in New York, many of these movies may be hard to find online, but Ann Hui’s Love in a Fallen City is on Amazon Prime.
And Speaking of Female Auteurs…
Brooklyn’s BAM theater is chasing their currently screening “Millennials on Film” series with a truly incredible lineup of movies directed by American women in the ’80s: Desperately Seeking Susan, Losing Ground, Variety, and Desert Hearts, to name a few. They’re all so good that I don’t really know where to start with recommendations. Maybe just dedicate your entire August to working your way through these movies (most of which are available to watch online). It’ll feel like spending your summer hanging out with all the adventurous friends you’ve ever dreamed of having.
Feature photo by ©New Line Cinema via Everett Collection.