The Fast and The February: A Film Diary

This February, I watched all the Fast & Furious movies for the first time.1 It felt like a big hole in my pop cultural lexicon, right up there with my general James Bond ignorance and never having seen the Lord of the Rings trilogy. So I bought a boxset of films one to seven from CEX2 and borrowed the rest from the library,3 and got to work.


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The Plumber Is a Sour Clash of Class and Gender [Certified Forgotten]

After directing Australian New Wave classics Picnic at Hanging Rock and The Last Wave, Peter Weir made The Plumber, a television film that — like Steven Spielberg’s Duel — was released theatrically in overseas territories. It’s a forgotten middle child of Weir’s filmography. Not a ground-breaking piece of art like the dreamily stylish Picnic at Hanging Rock nor a universal cultural touchstone like later Weir films Dead Poets Society or The Truman Show. But beyond its beginnings on television, the pleasures The Plumber offers are more off-kilter. It goes down satisfyingly sour. 

I wrote about Peter Weir’s TV movie The Plumber for Certified Forgotten! You can read it here.

Gimmicks Aside, The Tingler is Fucking Fantastic [Unwinnable]

William Castle, King of B-movies, loved gimmicks. Giving audience members a certificate for a one-thousand-dollar life insurance policy in case Macabre caused them to die of fright. Red/blue glasses so you could see or hide the ghosts in 13 Ghosts. A forty-five-second “fright break” to leave and get a refund if you were too scared to watch the rest of Homicidal.

I wrote about The Tingler for Unwinnable! You can read it here.

It’s Been a Long, Lonely December

This article is part of In Defense of the Genre, a series of critical and personal essays in praise of pop punk. Previously, Tina Kakadelis’s ode to The Summer Set.

This year I entered a truly unprecedented third emo phase. My first was the usual one, in my early teens, sad and lonely and ready to burst out of my skin. My second was in college, an instinctive reaction to a mental health crisis that had me climbing out windows so I wouldn’t have to see my roommates. It’s odd, then, that my third came this year, when – despite living in the apocalypse – things have mostly been fine for me. The overwhelming panic that would have me hiding in bathrooms, the worry worry fluttering in my stomach that made it so hard to speak, has, if not subsided, then become something I can cope with.

But I listened to more pop punk than I have in years. I listened to all of All Time Low, a band with a consistently mixed discography who finally fulfilled their promise with 2020’s Wake Up, Sunshine. I had my triennial Blink-182 hyperfixation, so deep that I happily watched livestreams of Mark Hoppus doing the Sunday crossword. I got into Modern Baseball, Stand Atlantic and Something Corporate. I listened to this one Good Charlotte song five million times.

It wasn’t the lightning strike epiphany moment I had back in 2012: after pop punk got me through my first year at college, I don’t think I could ever turn my back on it the way I did in the back half of secondary school. It felt like “it’s not a phase, mom” had finally reached the fullness of truth. It felt like it was pointless still delineating waves in the face of the tide.

I spent February this year listening to ‘December’ by Neck Deep on repeat and thinking about people I don’t know anymore. Like Motion City Soundtrack were in a faraway city the guts of a decade ago, it was the wintery soundtrack of my spring.

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Westerns, Part 3

“I can name for you every western I’ve ever seen. It wouldn’t even be hard.” – 2018

“There’s something just better about westerns, I can’t explain it. A great western is a special thing.” – 2019

“… nobody wants to be the crotchety old man saying things were much better in the good old days. But then you sit down and actually watch a 1940s western and it melts your face clean off.” – 2020

There probably wasn’t an exact moment when I went from “getting into westerns” to just “being a big westerns guy,” but if I had to pick, it would probably be around the time I started watching the Friday western on TG4. TG4 is an Irish public broadcast TV station that mostly shows Irish language programming, but every Friday night, they show a western. I’m not sure why, but I’m glad. “An western”: Irish for “the western”, with the word western untranslated, the way you wouldn’t translate noir or giallo into English. The films they show range from established classics to obscure gems to stuff that really isn’t very good at all, but usually in an interesting way. I don’t always watch the western on Friday, but I’m always happy I did. There are some things in this world that are so purely joyful, so satisfying, that they make your heart feel like it will burst. They’re precious, and I try to hold onto them where I can. A great western is one of those. The particular pleasures great westerns offer make me fall in love with films all over again.  

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Michael Collins Remains an Irish Cornerstone 25 Years Later [Paste]

25 years ago, Neil Jordan was coming off directing The Crying Game and Interview with the Vampire. He had two box office hits and a screenplay Oscar under his belt. So, naturally, he spent his Hollywood cache on a biopic about Irish republican Michael Collins.

The result occupies a peculiar place in film history and Irish culture. Despite being a major studio release, it faded from the consciousness of the international film community more or less immediately. But in Ireland, it remains a cornerstone of both pop culture and popular history: We’ve all seen it, probably lots of times, so it’s a big part of how we understand our nation and its history. For me, and I’m sure millions more, when I picture some of the most significant figures in Irish history they look like Liam Neeson or Alan Rickman.

I wrote about the 25th anniversary of Neil Jordan’s Michael Collins for Paste magazine! You can read it here.

Double Features #8: The Whole of the Moon

This article is part of the Double Features series, which pairs great films that go great together. Check out previous installments here.


One of my pet peeves is complaints that a film isn’t basically a totally different film. Why doesn’t The Deer Hunter deal with American war crimes instead of being an extremely beautiful, sad film about three working-class Russian-Americans’ experience of Vietnam? Why doesn’t Michael Moore make documentaries that drily recite the facts instead of comedic leftist polemics? Why won’t Aaron Sorkin stop writing in the style of Aaron Sorkin?

Films don’t need to be about all things to all people, and probably shouldn’t be. I like when films are about something specific and small, and I love a lot of my favourite films because of their attention to granular detail, not for speed-running through everything they can fit in.

But there is something nice about feeling like you’re getting a panoramic view. Like you’re seeing a bunch of sides to something all at once. These double features are each made up of two opposite halves that make up something approximating a whole. Whether that’s taking on similar material from opposite directions or using the same approach to deal with apparent opposites, you won’t come out of any of these pairings asking why they didn’t address blah blah blah.

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Circle Calls Our Conscience To a Vote [Certified Forgotten]

Aaron Hann and Mario Miscione’s 2015 film Circle opens in a dark room.  Fifty people are waking up, confused and disorientated. They don’t know why they’re here or what’s going on. They’re standing arranged in concentric circles around a black dome with red lights. Then there’s a flash, and they start dying. 

Every two minutes, one of them is killed. It can be from a beam of light that comes from the dome. It can be if someone tries to leave, stepping outside the small red circle under their feet. But every two minutes, someone dies. The early parts of Circle are nervous chaos, as the group’s attempts to figure out what the hell is going on are interrupted by another death. They talk about what they remember from before they woke up here. They discuss if there are any connections between the people in the room. They theorize about how they might buy time. But every two minutes, flash, another body drops. 

I wrote about Circle, talky sci-fi and cynicism for Certified Forgotten! Read it here.

Revisiting Steven Spielberg’s Undersung Masterpiece, Catch Me If You Can [Film Daze]

Catch Me If You Can is a well-loved but still underappreciated film: the kind of movie that, were it made by almost anyone else, would be rightfully thought of as their masterpiece. But it was made by Steven Spielberg, who has made so many masterpieces that Catch Me If You Can gets lost in the shuffle. But at almost two decades’ distance, it stands out as a shining bright spot of the latter part of Spielberg’s career. It is one of the films that made me fall in love with cinema.

It’s one of the films that I watched as a kid that really blew up what I thought films could be and do. I have watched it so many times, and I’m always taken off-guard by how extraordinarily well-made it is: impeccably structured, bursting with extraordinary performances, and so goddamn exciting. Just as thrilling as the first time, every time. 

I wrote about Catch Me If You Can for Film Daze. Read it here.