Monday, May 29, 2023

Favorite first-time watches thus far in 2023

Where Chimneys Are Seen
Synecdoche, New York

Through the first five months of the year, I haven't watched as many movies as I would have liked. There are a lot of reasons, including getting into a daily rut that involves winding down for bed around 8:30 p.m., the fact that Ashar and I have been primarily watching streaming series and, of course, taking care of the many cats 24/7.1

Last year I shared a list of my 20 favorite "first-time watches." I looked over what I've watched so far this year (written down in my cat-chewed Story Supply Co. notebook) and started mulling what might make the year-end list for 2023.

The best movie I've watched this year is 1953's Where Chimneys Are Seen, directed by Heinosuke Gosho and starring Kinuyo Tanaka and Hideko Takamine. It's an outstanding drama that revolves around a group of struggling Japanese citizens and how they deal with a baby that is suddenly thrust into their midst.

This is my short list of first-time watches that are most likely to be considered for the year-end list:
  • Dead of Night (1945)
  • Where Chimneys Are Seen (1953)
  • Marjoe (1972 documentary)
  • The Happiness of the Katakuris (2001)
  • Synecdoche, New York (2008)
  • Game Night (2018)

My most recent first-time watch was 1958's Black Cat Mansion, directed by Nobuo Nakagawa. It's part of the delightful Japanese subgenre of "ghost cat" films. It is also, decades before Ringu/The Ring, an early example of the Japanese horror trope of the slow-moving supernatural entity with long hair covering its face.

Now I want to track down some other films by Nakagawa. He's most famous for 1960's Jigoku, but I've read a lot about that one, and it sounds too grim/depressing/sadistic for my taste. One that I would like to watch is 1949's The Adventures of Tobisuke. With this poster, how can you go wrong?

1. That includes the growing population of outdoor feral cats. This morning I had multiple visits between 5 a.m. and 9 a.m. from Creamy, Fjord, Mittens, Cirque, Big Boi and Mamacita and her still-unnamed but very hungry kitten (pictured at right). Also, I discovered yesterday that Cirque has at least four kittens of her own, which are about a month old. They're in the neighbor's yard and inaccessible because of a tall wall, which is a conundrum. Also, Mamacita is almost certainly pregnant again. We need to get the TNR into a higher gear.

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