Friday, January 15, 2021

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Here's Ten: 2020, Day Twenty-One

Because I missed a day earlier this week, I'm doubling up and giving you ten capsules today!

Never Rarely Sometimes Always
dir/scr: Eliza Hittman
pr: Lia Buman / Rose Garnett / Tim Headington / Sarah Murphy / Alex Orlovsky / Elika Portnoy / Adele Romanski
cin: Hélène Louvart

A teenager buses with her cousin to New York to receive an abortion in secret. One thing it does well is identify the predatory behavior, direct and implied, women face every day, from customers, bosses, strangers, even family; what it also does well is leave just enough unsaid to make you concerned, but not sure. It just unfolds, lets it all play out, a risky thing to do if the actors aren't quite up to it. No worries here: newcomer Sidney Flanigan and co-star Talia Ryder are engaging individually and together, an intimate chemistry that convinces you they are best friends and cousins. 

The Glorias
dir: Julie Taymor
pr: Lynn Hendee / Alex Saks / Julie Taymor
scr: Julie Taymor and Sarah Ruhl
cin: Rodrigo Prieto

Bio of Gloria Steinem. Sometimes its stylized elements are a deterrent: the heavy-handed interactions between the Glorias of all ages on a bus heading somewhere are hokey, but a sequence where a sexist journalist suddenly finds himself surrounded by the Glorias as wicked witches, with he as Dorothy Gale in a red twister, is stupefying. It doesn't always work, but it's at least a fresh approach. Besides, so much else works, from its depiction of women's movements in both India and the United States, among Indigenous, Black and Asian-Americans, to the Women's March finale, emphasizing that this not just her story, but all Women. It's a good movie! On Amazon Prime.

Wild Mountain Thyme
dir/scr: John Patrick Shanley
pr: Anthony Bregman / Bradley Gallo / Michael A. Helfant / Martina Niland / Leslie Urdang / Alex Witchel
cin: Stephen Goldblatt

Neighbors long in love come to a turning point when the father of one threatens to leave the farm to an American relative. No one in this movie seems to ever be having the same conversation, and the will-they-won't-they tension goes beyond the genre's usual contrivances and into something akin to dream illogic. Watchably nuts.

dir/scr: Miranda July
pr: Dede Gardner / Youree Henley / Jeremy Kleiner
cin: Sebastian winterø

A family of small-time crooks runs into complications with the arrival a new recruit. Once it establishes its esoteric tone, everything that comes after builds on it: the singular costuming, the score, Evan Rachel Wood's one-of-a-kind performance. There are even scenes that are so mesmerizing, they transcend into an almost ethereal beauty. Nothing is out of place why did I feel so remote? It's not a bad movie, just not for me - but maybe it could be for you!

The Midnight Sky
dir: George Clooney
pr: George Clooney / Bard Dorros / Grant Heslov / Keith Redmon / Cliff Roberts
scr: Mark L. Smith
cin: Martin Ruhe

Earth's last survivor tries to get in touch with a returning spaceship crew before they land on an inhabitable planet. The survival drama starring George Clooney on the ground is meditative, beautifully shot. The sci-fi drama With the rest of the cast in space is a little cliche, though earnest and also beautifully shot. The marriage of the two chips away at their strengths, highlights their weaknesses; the flashbacks are bad. But gosh, it looks, I say again, beautiful! On Netflix.

Another Round
dir: Thomas Vinterberg
pr: Kasper Dissing / Sisse Graum Jørgensen
scr: Thomas Vinterberg & Tobias Lindholm
cin: Sturla Brandth Grøvlen

Four schoolteachers experiment with a theory that maintaining an alcoholic buzz improves your life. A sobering account of the kind of banal despair that leads someone to drink, the justifications, the friendly enabling; not an alcoholism drama per se, but definitely about the first frightening steps into that. Harrowing as its protagonist (a brilliant Mads Mikkelsen) and his friends push their limits on and off the clock, but with the touch of anarchic fun that a good night on the town can bring. Big fan of the amber lighting.

The Call of the Wild
dir: Chris Sanders
pr: James Mangold / Erwin Stoff
scr: Michael Green
cin: Janusz Kaminski

The story of a dog who goes from domesticated pet to running with the wolves. I believed 100% that Harrison Ford saw and loved that dog. Pretty good effects. A fine adventure tale - I don't think anyone who watches will be surprised, but if this looks like your cup of tea, it probably is. On HBOMax.

dir: William Eubank
pr: Peter Chernin / Tonia Davis / Jenno Topping
scr: Brian Duffield and Adam Cozad, story by Brian Duffield
cin: Bojan Bazelli

Survivors fight to remain alive after a mysterious accident at an underwater oil rig. Rad horror thrills, with some genuinely bonkers "have I lost my goddam mind" imagery taking full advantage of the unknown terror that is the ocean floor. Clever shots. Cool all-around - would make a fun claustrophobic double feature with Gonjiam: Haunted Asylum. On HBOMax.

dir: Pete Docter / Kemp Powers
pr: Dana Murray
scr: Pete Docter & Mike Jones & Kemp Powers
cin: Matt Aspbury / Ian Megibben

A musician dies the eve of his big break and must get his soul back to his body. Appreciate it for what it accomplishes: the visualization of the body transcending when you get into a groove, the conversation about passions and purpose not having to be intertwined, the importance of appreciating the life you have and not just the one you want - good to have goals, but obsessions? Not healthy! And yet, despite all that - plus beautiful animation and an effective score - like many of Docter's films, I have difficulty holding on to it for longer than a week. On Disney+.

Dear Comrades!
dir: Andrey Konchalovskiy
pr: Alisher Usmanov
scr: Elena Kiseleva & Andrey Konchalovskiy
cin: Andrey Naydenov

True story of a massacre against striking factory workers in the post-Stalin Soviet Union. The story unfolds through the eyes of a woman on the local Party Committee, a Stalinist skeptical of Krushchev and his smear campaign to make the late ruler look bad, yet it was she who breathlessly demanded that the ungrateful factory workers be made examples of - something she doesn't even remember when the shooting starts and her own daughter cannot be found in the aftermath. Complex tale about political faith and control, its black-and-white photography capturing shockingly blunt images. Yuliya Vysotskaya's lead performance is terrific!

Taking the weekend off, but will return Friday to start our final week of reviews. And today I'll watch my final 2020 film to qualify for the Hollmann Awards! Oh, what a month we still have ahead!

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