First Watch: February 2024

Hayao Miyazaki, Jonathan Glazer, Ethan Coen, and John McTiernan...

First Watch: February 2024

Some thoughts on movies I watched for the first time last month, more or less in descending order of enjoyment or appreciation...


aka: Ponyo on the Cliff

We decided to introduce our daughter to Studio Ghibli and it was definitely a good choice. She sat in rapt attention, watching this little goldfish/girl... that in its human form kinda sorta looks like her a bit, actually?

It's a visually stunning film with a pretty wild and captivating little tale that I've heard is basically Miyazaki's take on the Little Mermaid story archetype (which totally makes sense).

I loved every second of it and it's probably my favorite of the Ghibli/Miyazaki films so far, though I'm still very early in my journey through the filmography.

The Zone of Interest

I saw this at the start of February, so I've had nearly a month to sit with it and it's impact has only grown in my mind. I'd put it right up there with Oppenheimer as one of the two best films of 2023 and, honestly, the two make quite a lot of sense as a double feature that takes a look at history – partially contemporaneous history, even – as a means of better understanding the world we currently live in. The lessons of each are dark and The Zone of Interest is, decidedly, the harder watch in a way, but it's very much worth it. Yes, it's about the "banality of evil," as you may glean from skimming plenty of reviews, but it's also about how the choices we make shape our relation to the world around us. It's no accident then, of course, that many of the choices made in the craft of the film – from the sound design to the cinematography and editing – are made in such away as to call specific attention to themselves and how you experience the it all. The result is a bold stand in form against what we've come to expect from films depicting the Holocaust.

Drive-Away Dolls

I really wanted to like this. It's directed by one of the Coen Brothers, after all. And it also has a really solid cast. But man, is this disappointing in how merely serviceable it is. I don't begrudge the Coens working a part, but I really hope what Ethan does next is better than this.


The first and, I think, only time I previously saw this was in the summer of 1987 at a theater in Kirksville, Missouri, with my dad and my grandmother.

I was 7 years old and the skinned dudes at the beginning definitely were too much for me. But somehow, I got through it, unlike the time when I was even younger and my dad took me to what I'm pretty sure was a Death Wish sequel where they made someone eat glass, I lost it, and we walked out and went to Pizza Hut.

Look, the point is, I have no idea what my dad was thinking taking me to these movies, but hey, here I am.

Also, this movie rules.

*not actually a "first watch," but it's been nearly 40 years since I saw it and I only had 3 first watches otherwise.

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