Monday, January 11, 2021

These I Like: 2020, Day Eighteen

And we're back, with five more 2020 releases, and filks - all of these are at least a 3.5/5 for me. Recommended!

Vitalina Varela
dir: Pedro Costa
pr: Abel Ribeiro Chaves
scr: Pedro Costa & Vitalina Varela
cin: Leonardo Simões

An Ivory Coast woman arrives in Lisbon to find her husband's died; she remains to piece together who he was and what now. Based on a true story, played out by the people who lived it. Predominately set in an endless night, buildings and people lit like they exist in an infinite void - I've not seen a Costa film before, but it appears to be his "thing," and it's very effective in visualizing the feeling of loss and of trying to get your bearings after. A waking dream, one that's stuck with me since I first watched it. On Criterion Channel.

Mank
dir: David Fincher
pr: Ceán Chaffin / Eric Roth / Douglas Urbanski
scr: Jack Fincher
cin: Erik Messerschmidt

Screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz reflects on his years in Hollywood and possible influences he can use while writing Citizen Kane. The story of a man in search of redemption, and all the reasons why. Thrilling when focused on the 1934 gubernatorial race and the insidious ways in which people with resources can manipulate information to sway things their way. Beautiful depiction of "platonic romance" between Mank and Marion Davies. Great performance, glowing cinematography, dazzling costumes, sets, makeup... Ironically, for a film about one of the greatest screenplays ever crafted, the writing is the weakest element: it limps to a conclusion, clumsily interrogates Welles' contributions, undercuts a tale of humility and close-enough redemption. On Netflix.

The Personal History of David Copperfield
dir: Armando Ianucci
pr: Armando Ianucci / Kevin Loader
scr: Simon Blackwell & Armando Ianucci
cin: Suzie Harman / Robert Worley

Young man's life from destitute orphan to success. Gets into the details not just of the author as a writer, but the then-practice of author as public speaker. Energetic, almost manic, at times; through that, it conveys a breathless joy of life, always moving yet never missing a detail, seizing the cup of life and drinking it in one go, memorizing the rich flavors passing the tongue. Dev Patel's at his floppy-haired winningest. Great fun.

Let Him Go
dir/scr: Thomas Bezucha
pr: Thomas Bezucha / Mitchell Kaplan / Paula Mazur
cin: Guy Godfree

A retired couple go to save their newly-married former daughter-in-law and grandson from an abusive family. Patient, reflective of the sturdy performances from quiet Kevin Costner and watchful Diane Lane. Uneasy throughout, a thriller of set jaws and cautious conversation, of violence and terror waiting to strike. Doesn't rest on rescue and revenge, either, but observes the strains of family and survivors of tragedy and trauma. Subtle period detail. Meat-and-potatoes filmmaking.

Ammonite
dir/scr: Francis Lee
pr: Iain Canning / Fodhla Cronin O'Reilly / Emile Sherman
cin: Stéphane Fontaine

Fossil hunter Mary Anning trains a wealthy young married woman in her work; they end up having a steamy affair. Kate Winslet's giving one of her best performances: she's focused in her work, possessed of an intense but highly-guarded well of emotions, not what you'd think of as happy but there's a certain steadiness to her, a kind of...well, she's more than you expect, let us say. Camera captures a prehistoric, perhaps even alien beauty in the slate and mud of the Dorset coast, reflected in the deceptively simple production design of the village: sparse, off-white, one with the rock. Adore the costumes. 

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Monday, January 4, 2021

The Beginning of the End of 2020 in 2021

The events of 2020 have led to some interesting developments in the world of cinema, from the shuttering of theaters to year-long delays for potential blockbusters to big studio films moving to streaming. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences even pushed their ceremony back to April and extended their qualifying period to the end of February 2021, a decision resulting from knee-jerk panic that seemed to confirm that most members don't pay attention to movies until it gets closer to nomination time. That extension has a lot of us movie-loving writer folk talking amongst ourselves about wether or not to follow suit: when we make our best-of lists, do we go by the 2020 calendar, do we go by the Academy's calendar, do we include festival screenings, how should we consider streaming titles? 

Speaking for myself, I have had my Hollmann Awards at the end of January since 2016, and I see no reason to change that. Starting tomorrow, I'm writing up the films I've been watching since September, five a day, weekdays only, running through the 22nd (I did this before, of course, back in August, and you can catch up with my takes on those 65 films by hitting the 2020 tag). Then, of course, my Top Ten on the 25th, nominations the 26th, awards the 28th and 29th.

It begins tomorrow!

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