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Thief's Monthly Movie Loot - 2021 Edition


Once again, in the wise words of my Internet friend @StuSmallz... [taps mic]

Like the name suggests, I will use this thread to post details of my personal movie challenge where I gather a monthly "loot" of films based on a different set of criteria. Like most RT/Corrie refugees know, I've been doing this for a couple of years now, but after our exile to MoFo, and being a n00b here, I didn't feel like rearranging the MoFo furniture so to speak.

But it's 2021, so what the heck! Here are the criteria for NOVEMBER 2021:

A film with the number 11 (Eleven, Eleventh, etc.) in its title: 11:14
A film with a title that starts with the letters U or V: Under the Skin
A film from the Criterion Collection whose number includes the #11 (i.e. 11, 115, 711): Rififi (#115)
A film from the 2010s: One Cut of the Dead
A war film: Casualties of War
A film noir: The Narrow Margin, Ministry of Fear, Gun Crazy
A film set in Egypt (King Tut Day, November 4): The Mummy's Hand
A film from Poland (Independence Day, November 11): Ida
A film from Jacques Tourneur (born November 12): Out of the Past
A film with the word “Black” or "Friday" in its title: Black Widow

RT/Corrie refugees might notice that, unlike past years, I'm reducing the criteria from 15 to 10. Some reasons for that are to lighten the load for me given work and parental duties, but also to allow some more space for "freebies", if time permits.

I will also use the thread to post new episodes of my podcast, which is also titled Thief's Monthly Movie Loot (you can also find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Podchaser, and Google Podcasts).

Anyway, anybody is welcome to offer recommendations for any category, and anybody is welcome to join in the challenge. Let's loot!


Links to the loots of past months

January 2021February 2021March 2021April 2021May 2021June 2021July 2021August 2021September 2021October 2021
Check out my podcast: Thief's Monthly Movie Loot!

I wanted to share an extensive list of what I saw last year, for the record and mostly to let the MoFo's get the gist of the categories. It's 200+ films, so I'm gonna try to keep it as organized as possible for ease of reading...



















Rewatches are in blue, short films in red.

(1941, Welles)
A debut film

"You know, Mr. Thatcher, if I hadn't been very rich, I might have been a really great man."

Decided to start my 2021 film-watching with the rewatch of a classic. Orson Welles' masterpiece follows the titular character (played by Welles) as we see him rise from a poor kid to a larger-than-life multimillionaire in search of something. The film is truly a masterpiece in pretty much every aspect. From the performances to the broken chronology, from the editing to the flawless direction. Really, the way Welles plays with lights and shadows, perspective and depth in his shots is something impressive. But beyond its technical merits, it really is a great, engaging film.

I've seen/heard a bunch of "making of" featurettes and commentaries, but I had never heard the Ebert one, so the next day, I watched that. The documentary only serves to highlight how impressive Welles' feat is. Ebert offers some wonderful insight into the production and filming process, as well as some thoughtful analysis about the film's themes.


(2018, Kågerman & Lilja)

"The answer is 'none'."
"There's no celestial body to turn at."

The above exchange occurs at the end of the first act of this 2018 Swedish sci-fi. In it, our lead character, who's referred to as "MR" (Emelie Jonsson) receives the shattering news from "The Astronomer" (Anneli Martini) after a risky maneuver to avoid space debris takes the titular spaceship off its course. There is nowhere to turn, which can be interpreted in multiple ways, as the passengers turn to numerous sources and places in their search of comfort, peace, and reassurance that "everything is under control", or "going as planned", as the Captain repeatedly says. But are they?

Aniara, which is based on a Swedish poem with a title that comes from a Greek word meaning "despair", offers a lot of that. The film follows the ship which is making a supposedly routine journey from a ravaged and almost uninhabitable Earth to newly established colonies on Mars. But when the accident occurs, the ship is left fuel-less drifting into the unknown. Much can be unpacked about the religious, philosophical, and existential symbolisms of it, but on the surface, the passengers find themselves getting slowly but surely more desperate about their situation, while trying to cling to numerous things in their search of hope and meaning.

I found this to be an incredibly thought-provoking film with economically effective production values and a subtle but great performance from Jonsson. Much of the story is focused on her character, a low-level employee at the ship that manages a spa-like AI room called MIMA, where passengers can go to relive past images of Earth in their search of solace. But as the fate of the ship becomes widely known, both MIMA and its "liaison", the "MR", find themselves burdened in more ways than one. But who can we turn to when things don't "go as planned"? The MIMA can be seen as a fairly obvious reference to God or religion, and its failure to completely soothe the despaired passengers works as both a criticism of it and its followers ("there is no protection from mankind").

But as the passengers shift their hopes into various directions, Kågerman & Lilja continue to tear everything down with relentless fatalism. Mars? ("it's cold. Nothing grows except for a small frost-proof tulip!"), science? ("maybe we shouldn't have said it's a rescue probe?"), any "celestial body" out there? But no, there's ultimately nothing or no one that can turn us away from our fate. In many ways, I feel like the film is telling us to learn to live with what we get instead of clinging to false hopes, but also warning us of how we can be taken off course beyond the point where there'll be no body to turn at.


(2011, Cornish)
Film that starts with A or B • Debut film • Action/adventure film

"This is the block. We take care of things our own way. Get me?"

"This is my house!"... "This is our turf!"... "This is our country!"... "This is our planet!"... Films are full of examples of groups of people proudly and loudly proclaiming their place and their right to defend it whichever way they see fit. From Home Alone to Independence Day, to name a few. This British film puts a slight spin on it by putting a teenage street gang on one side and a pack of dog-like aliens that land on their block in London. As the teens realize what is happening, they don't hesitate to go out to protect their place, probably not fully realizing what they're up against.

I had read good to great things about this film for some time, so it's been on my radar for a while. I'm glad to say it was a pleasant surprise. What the film might lack in depth, it more than delivers in intensity and thrills. Even though they are essentially "thugs", there's an infectious energy in the gang that you can't help but root for. They are led by Moses (John Boyega), who apparently craves to be recognized one way or the other; whether it's by the group of friends that follow him or the leading drug dealer in the block that ends up recruiting him or just by the way he and his friends take care of things on "the block".

I had seen Boyega before he blew up with Star Wars since he had a small supporting role on Season 9 of 24, and I could see then that he had the necessary chops to be a good actor. But I was surprised by the restrained ferocity he brings to his role. On the other hand, we have Jodie Whittaker as Sam, an young nurse that is robbed by Moses' gang in the opening scene but who ends up reluctantly paired with them as they fend off the aliens. Whittaker manages to create a great balance between fear, vulnerability, and poise against the gang first, and the aliens second. The rest of the members of the gang also share the same confidence needed for their roles, even if they all don't have excellent acting chops.

Debuting director Joe Cornish manages to make the most of a relatively small budget by maintaining a simplicity to the alien creatures. His direction is not necessarily flashy, but it's efficient and energetic. There are some subtle and interesting tidbits about racial differences and social inequality in the script that hint at Moses mindset. Even if they are not fully explored, I'm glad they are there. It's a way to understand what "the block" is about and why they "take care of things" their own way, which is ultimately a sense of identity and belonging that you can't get anywhere else, and which makes you protect it at all costs; whether it's "the block" or Planet Earth.


My original review from 2018...

(2010, Jeong-beom)
A debut film • An action or adventure film

"You live only for tomorrow. The ones that live for tomorrow, get ****ed by the ones living for today... I only live for today. I'll show you just how ****ed up that can be."

The "revenge" sub-genre is very popular among studios and filmmakers. From Death Wish to Kill Bill, or Mad Max to John Wick, the search for payback for the death or harm of loved ones, highlighted by high doses of violence, is something that fuels the audience with a desire to see the bad guys get what's coming to them. But for every John Wick there's a Colombiana, or for every Death Wish, there's a Death Wish sequel, or remake. Fortunately, The Man from Nowhere is a breath of fresh air in what could be a tired sub-genre.

The Man from Nowhere follows Cha Tae-sik (Won Bin), a young man living a quiet live while running a pawnshop out of his apartment. His most frequent contact is with So-mi (Kim Sae-ron), a 10-year old neighbor who he reluctantly befriends because of her mother's addiction. But when the girl is kidnapped, Tae-sik sets out to rescue her and finds himself caught up in the crossfire of two rival gangs fighting for the organ harvesting market against the police.

The premise might sound tired and cliché, but the execution is not. Director Lee Jeong-beom takes his time to build the story and establish the characters, while keeping things moving at a nice pace. Things pick up mostly in the second half, with some kick-ass action setpieces and great fight choreographies. There's a particular continuous shot that will probably make you blink twice and go back.

But not everything is action. The performances from Bin and Sae-ron are pretty good, with the chemistry between the characters feeling honest. Bin manages to convey the tragic nature of Tae-sik, as we discover on the way, why he lives the way he lives, "only for today". The bad guys are well played, although there are so many that at some point, I got a little confused about who was who. Still, there are two or three standouts among the bad guys and henchmen, with one in particular stealing the show with a low-key, nuanced performance.

There is a bluff near the end that might feel like a bit of a cheat at first, but after the film ends, you understand where they came from, and how earned the moment is. The Man from Nowhere might not bring anything new to the table, but what it does, it does extremely well. I wouldn't mind rewatching this in the near future.


(2019, Wang & Zhiang)
A film with the word "One" in its title

"I'm struck by the irony that I left a country where the government forced women to abort and I moved to another country where the governments restrict abortions."

From 1979 to 2015, China enforced the famous "one-child policy" to deal with the rapidly growing population. To achieve this, they used propaganda, law enforcement, fines, and ultimately forced sterilizations and abortions. This documentary follows the implementation of that policy and the impact it had in the general population and in the country overall.

Wang, who was born in China during that period, uses her family as a starting point to highlight the lengths to which the government would go to enforce this policy. To do so, she interviews a former village leader, authors of propaganda, as well as a midwife that claims to have performed tens of thousands of abortions. She also establishes the connection between the one-child policy and the growing Chinese adoption market, which was established in the 1990s, and is fed by child trafficking as a direct result of the one-child policy.

Most of what the documentary presents is both compelling and shocking, but there are times when it feels a bit scattered. I would've appreciated a bit more focus. Finally, Wang's general approach is also somewhat amateurish, both in how she addresses some of her interviewees and in how she directs it. There are parts where you can see the "seams" of her narrative, and the conclusions don't feel organic, but rather forced. Given the source material, I don't think that was necessary.


For what it's worth, I'll cross-post reviews and blurbs through this thread, the Rate the Last Movie thread, and the HOF 24 when necessary.

For your Criterion one, have you seen The Naked Kiss or Shock Corridor?

For the animated film, are you hoping for something you can watch with the kids?

If you haven't already seen it may I suggest the absolutely batsh*t Wild at Heart for your Nicolas Cage film

Oh yeah, I've seen that. Loved it. I might check out Vampire's Kiss, which I've heard is just as batsh*t, if not more.

For your Criterion one, have you seen The Naked Kiss or Shock Corridor?

For the animated film, are you hoping for something you can watch with the kids?
I saw The Naked Kiss last year. Haven't seen Shock Corridor. However, I had thought of using that slot for Shame, which also counts for the HOF24.

For the animated one, anything goes. I've been trying to catch up with classic Disney animated films, so I had Fantasia in mind, or something from that era (They've seen a couple of classic ones. Actually they rewatched Bambi tonight). I also thought of watching Soul (they already saw it), but I'm open for anything.

Yay, all is right with the world.

(I've already watched a couple that qualify )
You can check out anytime you like... but you can never leave *cue guitar riff*

The trick is not minding
A film with the number 1 (One, First, etc.) in its title: Once upon a Time in China (counts?)
The first film from any director you like:*
The first Best Picture winner you haven't seen (starting with*Wings):
A film with a title that starts with the letters A or B:*Aniara
A film from the*Criterion Collection*whose number includes the #1 (i.e. 10, 21, 31)*
In a Lonely Place (#810)
A film from before 1920:*
An action or adventure film:*The Man From Nowhere
An animated film: *The Breadwinner
A film with Nicolas Cage (born January 7): *
A film from Cuba (Cuban Revolution, January 1):

A bit of explanation about this one, in case it's not clear...

The first Best Picture winner you haven't seen (starting with Wings):
I take the list of Best Picture winners, starting with 1927/1928 Wings and pick the first one I haven't seen. When I started with this category in 2019, I saw, well, Wings, which was pretty good. In 2020, I chose 1930/1931 Cimarron cause I had already seen The Broadway Melody (1928/1929) and All Quiet on the Western Front (1929/1930) before (for the record, Cimarron and The Broadway Melody aren't very good). This year, it's turn for 1931/1932 Grand Hotel.

In December, I do the same but from the other way. That is, I start with 2019 Parasite and go backwards till I find one I haven't seen. In 2019, I saw Green Book and in 2020, I saw Million Dollar Baby. If nothing changes, this year it will be the turn for 2002 Chicago.

La Casa Lobo (The Wolf House)

Our old friend Slentert from Corrie recently logged this on Letterboxd, so credit goes to him for introducing me to it. From what I gather the subject matter is pretty grim and some knowledge of Chile is necessary to fully understand it, but the animation technique looks incredible. I'm gonna shell out the bucks for a rental soon. Just throwing that out there for your animation category.

La Casa Lobo (The Wolf House)

Our old friend Slentert from Corrie recently logged this on Letterboxd, so credit goes to him for introducing me to it. From what I gather the subject matter is pretty grim and some knowledge of Chile is necessary to fully understand it, but the animation technique looks incredible. I'm gonna shell out the bucks for a rental soon. Just throwing that out there for your animation category.
This has been on my watchlist for a while now. Let me know what you think when you watch it!

La Casa Lobo (The Wolf House)

Our old friend Slentert from Corrie recently logged this on Letterboxd, so credit goes to him for introducing me to it. From what I gather the subject matter is pretty grim and some knowledge of Chile is necessary to fully understand it, but the animation technique looks incredible. I'm gonna shell out the bucks for a rental soon. Just throwing that out there for your animation category.
What's up with Slentert? I thought he'd make the jump to MoFo.

(1919, Griffith)
A film with a title that starts with the letters A or B • A film from before 1920

"In every group there is one, weaker than the rest — the butt of uncouth wit or ill-temper"

A couple of years ago, I had the *ahem* pleasure of watching D.W. Griffith's The Birth of a Nation, a film that got from me what is probably one of the most visceral reactions I've had to a feature film, which was utter disgust and anger. Regardless of that, I decided to check this one out.

Broken Blossoms follows Cheng Huan (Richard Barthelmess), a Chinese immigrant that travels to Britain to "spread the gentle message of Buddha". Although things don't go that well for him, he falls for Lucy (Lillian Gish), the abused daughter of a brute boxer (Donald Crisp).

I found this film to be, at its best, awkward and at its worst, racist and problematic. Starting with Griffith's decision to cast an American to play the lead Chinese character, or with the awkward interactions between him and Gish. Although there is a slight vibe of innocence between them, the awkwardness in how he approaches her and how she reacts doesn't allow for their relationship to *ahem* blossom. It doesn't help that Gish looks significantly younger than him, even though there was only a 2-year gap between them.

What I think saved the film for me was the last act, in which Griffith takes a decidedly bleaker approach to the plot. There is a scene in particular in which Gish shines as she perfectly conveys the terror and impotence of a young "weaker" woman against abuse. Crisp was also very effective as her father.

Overall, I don't think the strengths of the film manage to take it over the hump, but there's at least something to appreciate here.