Even before I started reading Vulture’s list ranking Todd Haynes’s films I knew I would disagree with it. It’s probably fairly accurate judging by the strength of the filmmaking, but it fails to account for what I’m actually looking for from a Todd Haynes’s film, which is something more than strong filmmaking. Todd Haynes is my favorite director because he makes really queer films. His major in college was semiotics, and I swear, it shows. What follows is a list of his films based on how much I love them, which says more about the kind of things I love than how good any of the films are. But my list is still better than Vulture’s.
Maybe this makes me a bad lesbian, but I don’t care — Carol is a boring movie. It’s very pretty, and I’m happy it exists, and that lots of straight people went and saw a film about happy lesbians, and all the memes are great. But it’s a kind of boring movie.
- Far From Heaven
There’s something restrained about this film which is a problem for me. It reaches towards all these things, but never quite touches them. It’s such a prestige movie — a well done prestige movie and everything, about issues, a period piece with accent design. But it doesn’t do anything surprising or exciting. It’s just well done, without making me care enough.
I need to see this again, because I watched it before my Genet kick, and Haynes films are more fun when you recognize what he’s poking at. This was his first feature film, and it’s three different things braided together, and it’s super intriguing, but also baffling? I don’t know how well it works, or how enjoyable it is, but it’s thought provoking, and an important statement in queer cinema.
I just saw this, and I’m probably going to try to write about it more soon, but it was a very sweet movie, and inspired me to listen to “Space Oddity” on repeat for weeks. It’s kind of precious, and there sure are a lot of tidy coincidences, but it’s a kids movie, and I don’t care. I don’t think it always succeeds, but at least it’s trying to do something special and odd.
Objectively, Todd Haynes’s best movie? I’ve only seen it once, and I want to see it again. It’s very smart, and very cool, and Julianne Moore does this breathy little voice, and is so fantastic. (How good Julianne Moore is in so many Todd Haynes movies is another discussion, but just: wow, I love her.) The problem with this film is that it’s too a bit close to things that I worry actually worry about.
- I’m Not There
I lied. This is my favorite Todd Haynes film. But I couldn’t bring myself to rank it any higher, because on some level it isn’t very good? But I love it. It’s about Bob Dylan, and the many masks he’s worn. It’s very fragmented, and I have no idea how much sense it makes if you aren’t a huge Dylan nerd (which I am). But it has Cate Blanchett playing a version of Bob Dylan, and that alone is transcendently amazing. I’ve watched it more times than any other film on the list, and really, find it endlessly rewatchable, probably because the plot is really tenuous while the soundtrack is great. Which is actually a weakness, but whatever, it works for me.
- Superstar: the Karen Carpenter Story
This is a biopic shot with Barbie Dolls, and it’s brilliant. It’s just, so good? And so weird? And its legend is enhanced by its status as a cult object, circulating on VHS copies before the web, because he couldn’t get music clearance for a real release. Do yourself a favor and watch it right now.
- Velvet Goldmine
A feature length film of David Bowie/Iggy Pop fan fiction. How could I love anything more than this? The soundtrack is so good, the world is so bright and shiny. I honestly can’t believe this film exists, and the fact that it does, and is such a wild trip, makes me have faith in the universe. The reason why I love Todd Haynes is because he makes films I want to see that I can’t imagine anyone else making. Lots of people can make nice prestige films, but I can’t imagine anyone else making this, and that’s why I love it.