Some catchup, some Oscar-buzzy stuff, some more:
True History of the Kelly Gang
dir: Justin Kurzel
pr: Justin Kurzel / Paul Ranford / Hal Vogel / Liz Watts
scr: Shaun Grant
cin: Ari Wegner
Bio of infamous Australian outlaw Ned Kelly. Rad and bizarre new telling. Just when you think it's going to go too far into bro school of storytelling, with its ultra-violence and hyper-masculinity and penchant for rough blowjobs, it suddenly stops to eroticize and drink in its men, puts them in gowns and smeared makeup, has them cuddle up together. It depicts and challenges what crime film epics usually define as what a "real" man does. Accents? Wobbly. Audacity? Firmly in place. A gift to heteros and homos!
dir: Vincent Masciale
pr: Luke Barnett / Giles Daoust / Timothy Kerigan / Vincent Masciale / Tanner Thomason
scr: Luke Barnett
cin: Will Stone
A pair of slackers try to strike it rich by making a Christian film. Now, full disclosure, one of my very good friends is producer and co-lead Tanner Thomason (pictured above, on the right). But if I didn't like it, I would've just written a nice note to him and been on my way. I did send him a nice note, but I'm also here to tell you that this is an often laugh-out-loud funny, surprisingly sweet comedy that takes on modern cynicism and opportunism. A satire of faith-based films, yes, a sometimes parodical take on the "liberal" churches, certainly, but never mean-spirited towards people of faith - it's the humor of someone who's been there, knows the territory, acknowledges its shortcomings without hostility. Have a laugh.
Pieces of a Woman
dir: Kornél Mundruczó
pr: Ashley Levinson / Aaron Ryder / Kevin Turen
scr: Kata Wéber
cin: Benjamin Loeb
A woman grieves following the death of her newborn. I suppose there's no way to really play grief correctly, especially something like this, and she's not what you would call bad, but Vanessa Kirby's performance isn't unexpected or revelatory. Honestly, no one seems to be acting in the same movie, though that may be because it's got an identity crisis: it's a grief drama, a courtroom drama, a family drama, clunkily-written except when it's poorly semi-improvised. Over-scored. Nothing is bad, they're just not working together, and the more I think about this mess, the more I resent it. On Netflix.
Your Name Engraved Herein
dir: Kuang-Hui Patrick Liu
pr: Pao-Ying Chen
scr: Yu Ning Arthur Chu
cin: Hung-i Yao
A student realizes he's in love with a classmate at an all-boys' school in late-80s Taiwan. A very well-executed romance, better than most at depicting the tension between romantic passion, friendly affection, and resistance to either, often blended together in one look. Great performances, lovely score and title song - and, for those of you interested in that kind of thing, one very very hot shower scene. On Netflix.
dir/scr: Lee Isaac Chung
pr: Dede Gardner / Jeremy Kleiner / Christina Oh
cin: Lachlan Milne
A Korean-American family moves to Arkansas to start a farm. Steven Yeun's understated performance as a father trying to achieve his American Dream, keeping his nose to the dirt, everything around him re-prioritized so that he can prove that he can make it, make this work, provide with his bare hands and sweat - that performance is subtle and quiet and perfect. Because of that subtlety, it is easy to overlook him, especially when considering the rest of the ensemble: Alan S. Kim is adorable as David, the child through whom we see the events unfold; Will Patton is unexpected as the eccentric evangelical farmhand; Youn Yuh-jung is a delight as the grandmother, indulgent of David, possessed of a silly sense of humor. But Yeri Han as the mother is the movie, treading a difficult line between pessimistic about their chances for success and fighting to maintain the family unit, often communicated in the pauses between her lines. These performances, the elegiac score by Emile Mosseri, the quietly beautiful cinematography...it's a lovely film.
Taking tomorrow off - who can compete with an inauguration? - but I'll be back Thursday with the last five reviews for the films of 2020.