How My One-Bedroom Apartment Turned Into A 3-Month Movie Festival Venue

Some chose puzzles. Others made bread. For me, it was movies.

Zac Pacleb
10 min readJul 2, 2020


Do The Right Thing (1989) dir. by Spike Lee

As the coronavirus-induced lockdown transformed the idea of a homebody from an antisocial trait to a responsible one, the guilt of weekend nights spent watching movies alone evaporated. What specifically remained for me was movies’ transportative nature. I could spend time on a New York City block, or hop in a time machine to the Old West, or try to piece together the moving parts of a grand mystery. And although I enjoyed the uptick in Zoom calls and Facetimes with friends spread across the country, I also cherished the ability to put my phone down and go anywhere besides my one-bedroom apartment for 90 minutes to 3-plus hours.

While I did lean on the comfort of rewatching personal favorites like Black Panther, Steve Jobs, and Spider-man: Into the Spider-Verse, the general pause in movie production allowed for an opportunity to look backward without the nagging urgency of the latest blockbuster or Oscar-contender. I finally felt like I had the time to move through filmographies the same way I inhaled musicians’ discographies as a teenager perusing Limewire. I relished seeing actors bend into different roles with varying degrees of success and how directors developed in scope and budget over time. The varying influences and performances started to feel in conversation with each other.

Goodfellas (1990) dir. by Martin Scorsese

I made a belated trek through Spike Lee’s joints ahead of Da 5 Bloods, enjoying the fun of Inside Man and the empathetic lens of Do the Right Thing. I learned how reliable Stephen Soderbergh is in building fast-paced adventures like Logan Lucky and Magic Mike. Imperfect cult classics like Bloodsport and Enter the Dragon were simultaneously marvelous and full of unintentional humor. I got around to movies I was embarrassed to have never seen like Goodfellas, All the President’s Men and Casablanca that regularly occupy those terrible but helpful “Best Ever” lists.

Movies! How wonderful.

There’s also a quicksand nature that comes along with a burgeoning obsession. Filling every cinephilic blindspot grew more insurmountable the more I dug. It seemed like another prestigious, underrated, or influential movie rushed to fill the space I had just cleared, but that’s also the joy in it. Some of this intensifying curiosity is rooted in my attention span relatively shattered by a blend of social media and a breakneck news cycle. Regardless, one of the true pleasures I had during the lockdown was creating “movie playlists” with which to spend a day. In a way, curating a stream of movies that flowed into one another and complemented each other was my version of doing a quarantine puzzle.

Sometimes the playlist faltered if a pair of movies were more methodical than I anticipated, like when I watched The Wrestler and Hard Eight back-to-back. Other times, the movies felt as if they were in dialogue with one another. I am particularly fond of The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford and Tombstone after watching them in the same day and observing their different takes on iconic Wild West figures.

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007) dir. by Andrew Dominik

Of course, this passion is nourished in a time when I can access a whole host of movies from the comfort of my couch. With different media companies going through a content arms-race that has the whole OTT-vs-cable battle looking like the Spider-Man Pointing Meme, I have appreciated the vast libraries available, and without actual movie theaters to attend, renting a film online for $4 or checking out a DVD from my local library further buoyed my journey through movie history.

Among the dozens of movies I watched for the first time during lockdown, and I wanted to highlight a few different categories of films that stood out. Although TV shows and books played their parts in making my days go along a little quicker, I can’t deny my expanding appreciation of movies and those behind making them.

Here’s a few that I’ve watched during the last few months:

Classics (Obviously) Worth The Hype:

All the President’s Men (1976)

I felt a sort of phantom nostalgia for the kind of journalism that is the centerpiece of this movie. There was never a time in which I owned a typewriter or had to scribble handwritten quotes on a notepad during an interview, but watching Dustin Hoffman and Robert Redford chase the Watergate scandal and jump through hoops of political access made me want to scream, “Journalism matters!” at the top of my lungs.

Where to Watch: Hulu (with an add-on)

Butch Cassidy & The Sundance Kid (1969)

A good ol’ buddy movie is always a fun time, and when those buddies are Paul Newman and Robert Redford reciting a script written by William Goldman, you get a classic. Having seen The Princess Bride several times, it was fun to see that same meta sense of humor in a Wild West setting.

Where to Watch: Hulu (with an add-on)

Do The Right Thing (1989)

Roundly considered Spike Lee’s best, he captures the kind of familiar neighborhood feeling I never knew while also setting the groundwork for a climactic clash that is both evergreen and timely amidst the protests against racial inequality in the country. What stands out is how much Spike generally refuses to pick sides in the conflict, instead laying everything out for the viewer to see of a whole piece that considers the racial conflicts which remain deeply relevant today.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Goodfellas (1990)

Martin Scorsese making a movie about the mafia is as reliable as it gets. It is also humorous that Robert De Niro played the “Irishman” once again decades later.

Where to Watch: Hulu

Jackie Brown (1997)

Quinten Tarantino’s follow-up to Pulp Fiction is just a fun, lower-stakes crime movie in Los Angeles. It is cool and contained in ways that allow Tarantino to create all the edgy dialogue that he does so well.

Where to Watch: Hulu (with an add-on)

Woman of the Year (1942)

I was definitely in the camp that believed romantic comedies started with Nora Ephron and When Harry Met Sally, but jumping backwards and watching the Trans-Atlantic-accented quippy charisma between Katherine Hepburn and Spencer Tracy shed light on how wrong I was.

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Fun! Movies! Wow:

Inside Man (2006)

A Spike Lee movie that doesn’t necessarily feel like a Spike Lee “joint,” Inside Man is smart, tantalizing and features a couple engaging-as-ever performances from Denzel Washington and Jodie Foster.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Knives Out (2019)

A fun, stylish, puzzle box mystery movie where so much of the cast is doing the absolute most and yet it doesn’t feel out of place. Chris Evans is cynically charming as all hell, Ana de Armas provides the steady heart, and Daniel Craig is having a ball.

Where to Watch: Rent on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu or Amazon Prime

Logan Lucky (2017)

Adam Driver, Channing Tatum, and Daniel Craig talking in thick West Virginian accents pull off a heist directed by Stephen Soderbergh. This could not have been anything other than the fun, ridiculous and succinct movie that it is. The Game of Thrones bit is incredibly funny, as well.

Where to Watch: Rent on Youtube, Google Play, Vudu or Amazon Prime

Magic Mike (2012)

Yes, the male-stripper movie with Channing Tatum and Matthew McConaughey. Again, Stephen Soderbergh movies are almost always, at the very least, solid fun, and that’s exactly what Magic Mike is.

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Support the Girls (2018)

A heartwarming, endearing and witty movie about a small-town restaurant that mostly takes place over the course of a long day, Regina Hall is the gravitational pull that holds the restaurant staff her character manages, and the movie as a whole, together.

Where to Watch: Hulu

Tombstone (1993)

At first, the mustaches and Val Kilmer’s accent as Doc Holliday might make one assume the movie is more ridiculous than anything, but it’s surprisingly affecting while also, yes, being every bit of the badass gunslinging it should be.

Where to Watch: Rent on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu or Amazon Prime

Unstoppable (2010)

I don’t think I’m alone in confusing Unstoppable with The Taking of Pelham 1–2–3 strictly because they deal with trains and star Denzel Washington. That aside, this movie has Tony Scott’s hands all over it along with a great Been-Around-The-Block-energy performance from Washington. Chris Pine and Rosario Dawson go blow for blow with him in the movie.

Where to Watch: HBO Max

Quiet And Moving:

The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (2007)

All things cinematographer Roger Deakins shoots are beautiful, and his lens on the Wild West is no exception. Methodical and yet stunning, this epic story features Brad Pitt channelling a cynical, aged sense of charm as well as a haunting kind of display from Casey Affleck.

Where to Watch: Rent on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu or Amazon Prime

Imperial Dreams (2014)

A movie that sheds light on the difficulties that Black people face coming out of prison doesn’t pull punches on the odds stacked against the main character played by John Boyega, but the warmth and unsubstantiated optimism that Boyega omits carries the film.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Inside Llewyn Davis (2013)

The Coen Brothers’ depiction of the 1960s folk scene in New York City seeps with taunting hope as Oscar Isaac’s main character couch-surfs in search of his big break. You see exactly the kind of star Llewyn is in arm’s reach of becoming, and that tension’s loosening and tightening is what is so gripping in the movie.

Where to Watch: Rent on Youtube, iTunes, Google Play, Vudu or Amazon Prime

Portrait of a Lady on Fire (2019)

This might be the prettiest movie of the last couple of years, and Adele Henel is powerful as all hell as Héloïse. While the slower pace to the movie and the necessity for subtitles (unless you know French) could threaten to lose you, the straight-up beauty and performances in body language from Henel and Noémie Merlant are enough to miss a few lines here and there.

Where to Watch: Hulu

Tigertail (2020)

At once a heartbreaking and personal story of Chinese immigrants captures the reverberating impact that experience can have for generations. Tzi Ma wears the weight of life’s difficulty heavily throughout the movie, and the scenes that take place in the past hold a warm nostalgia to them.

Where to Watch: Netflix

A Little Off-Kilter But Give It A Chance:

Ex Machina (2014)

The whole movie drips with a sense of something going wrong, and the patience in Alex Garland’s direction and script holds you with that suspense as the power dances between Domhnall Gleeson, Oscar Isaac and Alicia Vikander. A jarring scene in which Oscar Isaac’s character dances somehow feels in-tune with the rest of the movie, and how it fits so well continues to confuse me in a good way

Where to Watch: Netflix

The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999)

The first hour is just a fun, although slightly creepy and despicable, hang with Matt Damon, Gwenyth Paltrow, Jude Law and Phillip Seymour Hoffman in 1950s Italy. Damon flips the switch from charming to chilling on a dime, and Hoffman steals his scenes with such grotesqueness that only he could sell.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Snowpiercer (2013)

This Bong Joon-Ho-directed, Chris Evans-starring movie should’ve been a blockbuster when it came out, but it’s definitely a fun, weird action movie sprinkled with class-commentary and the unmistakable Director Bong vibe.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Not Particularly Easy, Definitely Worth It:

Da 5 Bloods (2020)

In the genre-bending way that Spike Lee can, this old-guy/buddy movie turns into an anxiety-ridden look at the way a war and the Black experience in America strips away at a person. Delroy Lindo is going 100 miles per hour in his performance, and you can feel the depths to which he goes in creating his character.

Where to Watch: Netflix

The Master (2012)

Phillip Seymour Hoffman is sickeningly appealing as he partners with a ticking time bomb of a Joaquin Phoenix performance to create the centripetal force of this Paul Thomas Anderson movie. There is a harsh intrigue that builds within both characters while Amy Adams balances it with a measured, sinister control.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Shot Caller (2017)

Watching Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (yes, Jamie Lannister) slowly break himself into a necessary monster to survive prison is a little jarring in the best way. He holds the keys in this movie that builds its world relatively quickly without letting off any steam.

Where to Watch: Netflix

If You Like This Actor, You’ll LIke This Movie:

Fighting With My Family (2019)

Florence Pugh plays WWE wrestler Paige in this fun biographical sports movie that has more heart in it than you’d assume. For the record, I am not a WWE person nor did I grow up with it in my life to any degree, and I still found the story moving and entertaining.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Hot Summer Nights (2017)

A small movie set in early-90s Cape Cod features an unsure, twitchy performance from Timothee Chalamet that is much easier to watch once accepting the unreliable perspective from which the movie takes place. Also, a summer in Cape Cod just sounds like a nice time.

Where to Watch: Amazon Prime

Locke (2013)

One of maybe three movies Tom Hardy isn’t wearing a mask or going off the rails, the entirety of this 85-minute journey takes place in his car while he makes phone call after life-changing phone call. Olivia Colman, Tom Holland and Andrew Scott show up vocally, adding some fun in a wounding movie that doesn’t feel as claustrophobic as its setup might indicate.

Where to Watch: Netflix

Malcolm X (1992)

Disclaimer: Malcolm X’s life is fascinating, important and absolutely stands up on its own without the need for a movie star at his most Movie Star self. That said, Denzel Washington is an absolute force in this Spike Lee epic about Malcolm X. Although the 3-and-a-half-hour runtime and subject matter are properly intimidating, the pacing and magnetism in the movie make the time fly. You basically get to spend more than two hours with Denzel. I can think of worse ways to use that time.

Where to Watch: Netflix