Thursday, January 16, 2020

Best of 2019

The in my book best of 2019

After the anger that spat and sparked like a gunpowder trail through much of 2018 I found films released in 2019 a bit muted--strange considering how much louder and more urgent world developments have become, from climate-related disasters to the recent escalation in tension between Trump and well everyone else.

Thursday, January 09, 2020

Atlantics (Atlantique, Mati Diop, 2019)

Sea of love

I don't think there's much to uncover underneath the surface of Mati Diop's feature debut Atlantics (Atlantique, 2019) now available on Netflix. It's a love story--young girl Ada (Mame Bineta Sane) in love with poor boy Souleiman (Ibrahim Traore) but is promised to wealthy Omar (Babacar Sylla)--and as with all such stories the two lovers pine for each other for the duration of the film. Predictable simple trite--and yet and yet and yet

Thursday, January 02, 2020

Rise of Skywalker (JJ Abrams, 2019)

Recyclable Skywalker

Finally, the last installment of this third trilogy that George Lucas a long time ago in an era far far away once cobbled together, from Flash Gordon serials, The Adventures of Robin Hood, World War 2 fighter plane footage (particularly The Dam Busters) and most of all Kurosawa's The Hidden Fortress (with a brief callback to Yojimbo). The capstone to his grand edifice of a fantasy* franchise if you like.

Does the movie live up to all expectations?

Sunday, December 29, 2019

Watchmen (Damon Lindelof, 2019)

Who's watching this Watchmen?

(Warning: plot twists discussed in detail

Getting the big question out of the way: Damon Lindelof's new HBO miniseries is fun. Fastpaced, engaging, funny and at times even witty, it ingeniously picks up the various threads of Alan Moore's intricate weave and extends them, introducing patterns and themes of its own to create a new narrative.

Thursday, December 19, 2019

Marriage Story (Noah Baumbach, 2019)

Splitting image

Noah Baumbach's Marriage Story starts positively: Charlie (Adam Driver) and then Nicole (Scarlett Johansson) reading offscreen what they like about each other while Baumbach runs a series of images as illustrative commentary. Then the kicker--this is the start of a mediator session where the two are in the process of divorce, and Nicole refuses to read to Charles what she's so movingly and eloquently written. The end of the relationship, not its affirmation.  

Thursday, December 12, 2019

The Irishman (Martin Scorsese, 2019)

I heard you make movies

In The Irishman (2019) someone puts a question to Frank Sheeran (Robert De Niro), the same question that is title of Charles Brandt's 2004 book--the same question one might ask of Martin Scorsese with the same innocuousness, and just the hint of something more.

Thursday, December 05, 2019

Eskapo (Escape, Chito Rono, 1995)

Escape Films

Eskapo begins with video footage of the days just before Martial Law: eerie, washed-out images of marching demonstrators and riot police. I've always thought that in this cybernetic age our memories would appear as if shot by videocam and with the first few minutes of his film, director Chito Rono seems to suggest this--the First Quarter Storm as a collective nightmare, witnessed through the unblinking eye of television. It's a terrific beginning that sets an ominous tone for everything that follows.