Wednesday, August 26, 2020

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Nominees' Latest: 2020, Day Eleven

One of today's directors is an Oscar nominee for his previous work behind the camera; another is a two-time nominee for writing. Do you know who?
First Cow
dir: Kelly Reichardt
pr: Neil Kopp / Vincent Savino / Anish Savjani
scr: Jon Raymond & Kelly Reichardt
cin: Christopher Blauvelt

In which an American cook and a Chinese expat meet in the Oregon territory, befriend each other, and work on a business plan. I'm thinking of John Magaro's quiet pride, the smile hidden beneath his beard as he hears and sees the joy his food brings to people. I'm thinking of Orion Lee's very real pleasure when he reunites with Magaro. I'm thinking of the drizzle of honey over the biscuits. I'm thinking of the line about the kind of rich man who can't conceive of anyone stealing from him. I'm thinking of the last frame, how beautifully it fills in the prologue while still leaving much to the imagination, and how almost an hour after the movie ended, I remembered this image and wept. 

Double World
dir: Teddy Chan
pr: Soi Cheang
scr: Liu Fendou / wen Ning
cin: ?

In which a scheming vizier guy organizes a tournament to trap the nation's warriors and royal family - and one young man rises to the challenge. A good time, visually - costumes, sets, action sequences, monster designs, Henry Lau's arms, etc. Entertaining! Apparently based on a video game, which may explain its vague world-building. A Netflix Original.

Miss Juneteenth
dir/scr: Channing Godfrey Peoples
pr: Toby Halbrooks / Tim Headington / Jeanie Igoe / James M. Johnston / Theresa Page / Neil Creque Williams
cin: Daniel Patterson

In which a single mother enters her daughter into the Miss Juneteenth pageant she won as a teen and works to keep up with it all. Boy, what this movie gets about disappointing your own expectations, the constant struggle to better yourself and your offspring, feeling like every step forward comes with a violent shove back. And oh, what it understands about the real love between parents and children, the disagreements and frustrations balanced with affection and understanding, both doing their best to protect the other...even if they don't always "get it." Gosh, what a performance from Nicole Beharie, her smile changing scene to scene from weary to proud to plastered-on to the real deal. You buy her and Alexis Chikaeze as mother-and-daughter, they have that magic.

Hope Gap
dir/scr: William Nicholson
pr: Sarada McDermott / David M. Thompson
cin: Anna Valdez-Hanks

In which a family struggles to find its footing when Dad leaves Mom after 29 years. Some terrific lines here, beautifully delivered by Annette Bening despite an occasionally shaky accent. Cares much more about the son than I do, though it's great seeing someone trying to be a son to both parties, despite everything. Wonderful observations, like needing time to grieve a relationship as you would a loss, that unraveling is part of the process and needs to be given time, that no matter what the tragedy, others have gone through it, and always will. I found it a great comfort.

Military Wives
dir: Peter Cattaneo
pr: Rory Aitken / Ben Pugh / Piers Tempest
scr: Rosanne Flynn / Rachel Tunnard
cin: Hubert Taczanowski

In which a group of military wives, their husbands serving in Afghanistan, form a choir. You already know what to expect here: it's funny, wrings the tears, builds its ensemble. You've seen this movie 100 times, we all have - that's fine. It's still a a very good movie! Fascinating is the performance/construction of Sharon Horgan's character, who considers herself more laid-back than Kristin Scott Thomas's prim colonel's wife, but shows herself to be just as pushy and narrow, just in a different way. The finale song "Home Thoughts from Abroad" is lovely, heartbreaking and hopeful.

Best of the Bunch: First CowHope Gap, Miss Juneteenth

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