Thursday, August 13, 2020

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Original Programming: 2020, Day Six

Five more 2020 releases, all exclusive to their respective streaming platforms.
The Last Thing He Wanted
dir: Dee Rees
pr: Cassian Elwes / Dee Rees
scr: Marco Villalobos and Dee Rees
cin: Bobby Bukowski

In which a journalist stumbles on to shady arms dealings connected to her estranged father. I don't think this movie knows what it wants to be, but it is absolutely committed to stumbling about 'til it figures it out. This is not to say it's all bad - Anne Hathaway's pretty great! - but rather that, more than most movies, you can see where it could be better. A Netflix Original.

The Lovebirds
dir: Michael Showalter
pr: Martin Gero / Tom Lassally / Jordana Mollick / Oly Obst / Todd Schulman
scr: Aaron Abrams & Brendan Gall, story by Aaron Abrams & Brendan Gall & Martin Gero
cin: Brian Burgoyne

In which a feuding couple becomes entangled in murder and conspiracy. Consistently hilarious, sparkling chemistry between leads Issa Rae and Kumail Nanjiani, great (GREAT!) costuming from Megan Coates. Great fun. A Netflix Original.

Circus of Books
dir: Rachel Mason
pr: Adam Baran / Cynthia Childs / Camilla Hall / Kathryn Robson
scr: Rachel Mason / Kathryn Robson
cin: Gretchen Warthen

In which a moderately conservative Jewish couple runs a gay adult bookstore in West Hollywood for over 40 years. When I first came to LA, I was in the closet; finally crossing the threshold of both Circus of Books locations felt like a rite of passage - I didn't even know it's reputation, I just knew making a purchase at a gay adult bookstore was the right thing to do. I love that this movie is a valentine to this now-shuttered business, one that I greatly miss. As a film, the director's close proximity to her subjects - she's the daughter of the couple at the center - is a boon and a handicap. She gets contacts, footage, insight and raw emotion that I don't think another filmmaker could have wrung out. But...she also centers her reactions so much, some things get lost or under-explored. You know what I mean? It just feels like there's something...missing. I liked it overall, though. A Netflix Original.

The Vast of Night
dir: Andrew Patterson
pr: Adam Dietrich / Melissa Kirkendall / Andrew Patterson
scr: Andrew Patterson & Craig W. Sanger
cin: Miguel Ioann Littin Menz

In which a young radio DJ and a young telephone operator in 1950s New Mexico team up to trace the origins of mysterious sounds over the airwaves. An old-fashioned movie, not just because of its vintage setting and costumes, but for the extended takes of pure dialogue and sound, trusting its actors to hold our attention even if they're just listening. There's nothing revealed that necessarily upends or subverts expectations, but the patient unfolding of events can be chilling. Is it the fear of the unknown? The thrill of discovery? The horror of revelation? Yes! Yes, all this and more! An incredible, impressive feat of filmmaking. An Amazon Original.

dir: Thomas Kail
pr: Thomas Kail / Lin-Manuel Miranda / Jeffrey Seller
scr: Lin-Manuel Miranda
cin: Declan Quinn

In which we learn the life and loves of founding father Alexander Hamilton. Filmed over three performances, it's a great document of a breathtaking, vibrant show. Embracing the courage, imperfections, dealmaking and pettiness that not only built this nation but keeps it going, it's the sort of thing that helps you to better understand the United States, warts and all. And with this record, there's no denying the greatest truth of all: RenĂ©e Elise Goldsberry earned the hell out of that Tony. A Disney+ Original.

Best of the Bunch: Hamilton, The Vast of Night

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