Wednesday, August 19, 2020

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The Good Stuff: 2020, Day Eight

People. People. You must watch these movies. All of them. Even the not-as-good-as-the-others one!
Athlete A
dir: Bonni Cohen / Jon Shenk
pr: Serin Marshall / Julie Parker Benello / Jennifer Sey

In which a modest newspaper uncovers a history of abuse by USA Gymnastics' national team doctor Larry Nassar. It's the straightforward truth, blunt, without flash or even too-graphic detail. Just testimony from the victims, their families, and the reporters who uncovered the truth. And that's all it needs to properly indict Dr. Nassar and the system that enabled and protected him for the sake of national pride. A thorough, quietly outraged film. A Netflix Original.

The Truth
dir/scr: Hirokazu Koreeda
pr: Muriel Merlin
cin: Eric Gautier

In which an actress who's just released a memoir clashes with her screenwriter daughter while shooting a new film. Who can resist Catherine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche playing off each other? I certainly cannot, not when they're playing a mother and daughter who both passively support and aggressively (yet "lovingly") antagonize. They are funny and lovely and perfect together, in a funny and lovely and perfect little movie! And it's interesting: my dad's passing has obviously colored my year, but also how I'm taking in and relating to movies. In this case, the conversations about memory, whose is more accurate, the little slights and significant moments that just aren't shared or remembered by the other person in the room... It all took me back to my sisters and I talking, realizing that in certain stories, it wasn't only location we remembered differently, it was the players. As it says in Jesus Christ Superstar, "We both have truths/Are mine the same as yours?"

Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado
dir: Cristina Costantini / Kareem Tabsch
pr: Cristina Costantini / Alex Fumero / Kareem Tabsch
cin: Peter Alton / Rich Briglia / Chris Campa / Joey Daoud / Eduardo Mariota / Xavier Medina / Jochi Melero

In which superstar astrologer Walter Mercado becomes a television celebrity, goes to court, disappears, and re-emerges. Getting to see Walter Mercado at home, uncensored, no theatrics - what a treat! Its examination of Mercado as a queer Latinx icon is beautiful. Most fascinating is the biographical sketch of Mercado, a seemingly unknowable man who'll tell vague stories of being a local healer and share photographs of his theatrical days and has close relationships with the women in his family and his devoted assistant - but who only lets us in so far. His reticence in discussing Walter the man (the only virgin in town, he claims) compared to his natural flamboyance and joie de vivre in the role of Mercado makes for a compelling, often frustrating portrait. But gosh, the positivity - it's rare you see someone actually live the good vibes they claim to put out, but Mercado was the real deal, no matter what. Intriguing stuff. Love the score. A Netflix Original.

dir/scr: Josh Trank
pr: Russell Ackerman / Lawrence Bender / Aaron L. Gilbert / John Schoenfelder
cin: Peter Deming

In which a syphilitic Al Capone wanders his Florida mansion and hallucinates half-memories. Feels like you have to know a little something about the life of Al Capone, which I do not. Good ideas, some striking visuals, and Linda Cardellini is a gas, but it doesn't completely work. The phone call to Matt Dillon makes zero sense, and Tom Hardy seems to be entering self-parody here. Love the sets.

Wasp Network
dir/scr: Olivier Assayas
pr: Charles Gillibert / Lourenço Sant'Anna / Rodrigo Teixeira
cin: Yorick le Saux / Denis Lenoir

In which 1990s Miami and Havana become the centers for violence and espionage in the struggle between pro- and anti-Castro Cubans. Faithful readers know I'm a sucker for ensemble films and political dramas, and here we get both, all in a milieu that is somewhat familiar to me, as a born-and-raised South Floridian with Cuban relatives. A steady-as-she-goes thriller full of terrorists and freedom fighters, patriots and opportunists - and the delineations between them depends on your own political beliefs. A complex and challenging story. Filled with great performances, of course, Edgar Ramirez, Penelope Cruz and Leonardo Sbaraglia the standouts. A Netflix Original.

Best of the Bunch: Athlete A, Mucho Mucho Amor: The Legend of Walter Mercado, The TruthWasp Network
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