Two years ago I began my movie review blog. I had confined it primarily to films I watched in an ACTUAL movie theatre. (remember those? Oh how I miss them). These reviews are about two years old and have traveled from theatre release to streaming. I tried to get the sources right, but I might have one or two wrong.
Eighth Grade (Amazon Prime)
Most of us managed to survive eighth grade and are happy to never think about it again. With this film you will revisit that year and– (at least for me) re-live the anxiety, self-consciousness, and insecurity of it all. My viewing companions included three about- to -be eighth graders who conceded that there was some truth to it all, but they “knew it was meant to be for adults because there was no plot”. The acting is great and the script and editing avoid most of the cliches of coming-of-age films.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (HBO)
I could watch this film every day for a year. Bring two boxes of tissues. Go with someone who makes you feel special or at least be prepared to think about someone who did/does. I went with Lauren who loved Mr. Rogers, Mia, and Steve who said “I didn’t know this would be a therapy session”.
Isle of Dogs (Amazon)
Went with the kids. Great animation and what seemed to me vaguely racist overtones, but maybe I’m wrong. Not as great as I expected it to be.
Three Identical Strangers (Netflix)
Please see this gripping film so I can give you my take on it. It’s disturbing at several levels, but I’d rather talk about it with someone who’s seen it.
Sorry to Bother You (Netflix)
Negatives: trouble understanding/hearing the dialogue at times(hearing loss? or soundtrack issues?), needs tighter editing–a little slow or something in the beginning.
Positives: very engaging cast, a few really horrifying scenes, important commentary.
Can You Ever Forgive Me? (Netflix)
Great movie. Must see. all the reviewers are justifiably raving about it. The trailers are a bit deceptive though. I brought Mia, my 13 year old granddaughter (now 15) who got very squirmy toward the end (“it was interesting but really slow”). I don’t know what I was thinking. She’s never heard of any of the writers (e.g. Noel coward, Dorothy Parker) and fortunately she hasn’t had much contact with alcoholism.
Free Solo (Netflix)
Apparently Alex’s Honnold’s lateral amygdala ( the fear center of the brain) is not very responsive. (as opposed to mine — a quivering mass of receptivity to any stimulus (e.g. “I don’t like the way that chipmunk keeps getting closer. Does he seem to have a strange look in his eye?”) But don’t let your acrophobia get in the way of going to see the movie. I did not experience climbing envy as I watched Alex Honnold’s ascent of Yosemite’s El Capitan free solo–without any harnesses or special equipment. The cinematography is jaw dropping fantastic. And it is a testament to the skill of the direction and editing that in spite of knowing the satisfactory ending, I was biting my nails and covering my eyes on occasion. Alex’s quest is obsessional and personal. He’s not using his skills to save people from burning buildings or flooded tunnels. So he’s not really a hero. But I suppose the movie makes a good case for looking at the things we are afraid of, deciding which one we could actually control, and then focusing everything on overcoming it. I’m starting with chipmunks.
Crazy, Rich Asians (Amazon Prime)
Pretty formulaic cotton candy stuff but very entertaining and provides two hours of relief from current events. The book is written by someone from that Shanghai social class He says that the enormous wealth depicted is not only not exaggerated but if anything is underplayed!! Check out his very entertaining Fresh Air interview.
The Wife (Amazon Prime)
Glenn Close has moved from her role in Fatal Attraction thirty or so years ago as slasher/outsider single woman threat to the nuclear family to enraged- insider- nuclear family beacon as “The Wife”. Close plays an elegant and gracious foil (she’s a WASP) to Jonathan Pryce’s vain, work-the room charm (he’s Jewish) The husband’s self-centeredness is garden variety narcissism, quite recognizable, nothing crazy or sociopathic. The story develops fairly predictably. Close’s increasingly leaking repressed anger becomes the tension focal point–when will she explode? (not the boiling rabbits kind of explosion a la Fatal Attraction, just an angry moment-of-truth kind of blow up). Does anybody remember when audiences would cheer and applaud that moment? It actually all makes for a fairly watchable movie and provides a topic for post film discussion of women writers in the Fifties or a “what would you do?” kind of talk. Close could finally get a well-deserved Oscar. Without her distractingly good performance the plot would be a little silly. Well, maybe not silly but lacking in the development of a credible motivation for Close’s martyrdom. The film does attempt to depict the complexities of love and marriage, but it doesn’t do that great a job of it. That may be because its intention seems more to make a contribution–albeit heavy-handed– to the recent pantheon of film and literature reminding us of the lack of recognition for talented women in mid-century America.
It’s billed as a “comedy”. Which surprised me. Sure, it has its comedic moments, but… I found a great John Updike quote about the distinction between the two: “Is not the decisive difference between comedy and tragedy that tragedy denies us another chance?” And it is this premise that is both bewildering and assuring, allowing viewers like me to give the film a good review with a few caveats.
Shoplifters (Amazon Prime)
One of the best movies I have ever seen! It has everything: riveting actors, powerful cinematography, important and complex story story/line theme. I became obsessed with watching every Hirokazu Kore-eda film I could get my hands on. I will revisit this filmmaker in future posts.