Friday, January 29, 2021
Thursday, January 28, 2021
A thriller that evokes memories of other movies about cops and serial killers, The Little Things traffics in downbeat atmospherics with a thriller set in 1990s.
The most frightening things often go unseen. Considering that, it always surprises me that most horror films focus on the visible impact of one form of mayhem or another.
Wednesday, January 27, 2021
Recently, it seems as if I've been watching nothing but movies about death and dying. That impression probably isn't entirely true and may stem from reading daily news reports about the pandemic and its ghastly mortality rate.
Tuesday, January 26, 2021
Thursday, January 21, 2021
In the spring of 2015, Esquire published what would become a prize-winning article by journalist Matthew Teague. Teague took an unusual approach to the subject of dying, opting for vivid descriptions of the assaults on his wife's cancer-riddled body.
Derek DelGaudio's In & Of Itself
It would be unfair to call Derek DelGaudio a magician, although he does specialize in card tricks and illusions. It would be equally unfair to call DelGaudio a storyteller, although that's part of his repertoire, as well. In the absence of a better description, it's probably best to label DelGaudio a performance artist. Taken from several versions of DelGaudio's off-Broadway show from a couple of years back, In & Of Itself captivates with a heady mix of the abstract and the concrete. DelGaudio was filmed by director Frank Oz working in a small theater in which the audience frequently is asked to participate. DelGaudio appears before a wooden wall into which several box-like squares have been cut and which become part of the stories that DelGaudio tells. At its heart, In & Out (available on Hulu) is an exploration of identity: DelGaudio's, the members of his audience, and those who will see the film version. The movie begins with DelGaudio telling a story he claims to have heard in a bar in Spain. He sketches a tale about a man who played increasingly dangerous games of Russian roulette and acquired the name "Roulettista." Later, he talks about learning that his mother is gay. Whatever direction he charts, DelGuadio manages to create an edge that suggests that both he and the audience might be at risk. Of what? I'm not sure, but DelGaudio's deadpan delivery helps keep us off guard and allows Oz to sustain a consistent level of tension. Home movies and animation are employed to varying effect but keep In & Of Itself from feeling stagebound as DelGaudio builds toward the film's emotional (really) finale.
The Texas/Mexico border is dotted with areas that are south of official border crossings and north of the actual border. No Man's Land begins on a ranch located in this ambiguous territory. As evident as a cowboy hat at a stock show, the movie's purpose quickly emerges: to challenge a young Texan's idea about the immigrants who cross his family's property en route to the US. What could have been a topical gut-punch of a movie becomes an unconvincing journey about one man's redemption as he meets Mexicans who are willing to help him. The key incident in director Conor Allyn's contemporary western involves the shooting of a Mexican boy who's trying to cross the border with his father (Jorge A. Jimenez). Jake Allyn, the director's brother, plays Jackson, the son of a rancher (Frank Grillo) who's used to chasing Mexicans off the land where he lives with his wife (Andie MacDowell) and another son (Alex MacNicoll). After shooting the boy in a chaotic encounter, a guilt-ridden Jackson flees to Mexico on his trustee horse Sundance. Jimenez's character pursues him. So does a Texas Ranger (George Lopez in a deadpan but compassionate performance). Most of the movie deals with Jackson's encounters with Mexicans who feed him, shelter him and teach him that they're people, too. The movie invites us to consider questions about forgiveness and accountability (fair enough) but a persistent haze of idealization undermines credibility and creates a feeling that most of what we're seeing has been pre-programmed to deliver a message.
Thursday, January 14, 2021
During the 1960s, FBI director J. Edgar Hoover spied on Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Hoover's aim: to undermine King as a moral leader by proving that he had had extra-marital affairs. None of the FBI's tapes of King's dalliances (the proof) can be found in director Sam Pollard's documentary, MLK/FBI. The tapes will not be made public until 2027. Instead, Pollard's documentary paints a clear and alarming portrait of Hoover's attempts to taint King with salacious disclosures and with allegations that he associated with Communists. Pollard elicits testimony from a wide range of observers: from King associates Andrew Young and Clarence Jones, as well as from historian Beverly Gage. Unlike Hoover, the movie isn't interested in whether King's Marital infidelities should have played a role in qualifying him a a leader of conscience and commitment. Pollard prefers to expose the intricacies of surveillance, pushing deep into details about the FBI's maneuvering while also charting the arc of the Civil Rights movement as seen through King's career. The film serves as an exhaustively researched reminder that the FBI's job isn't supposed to involve attempts to destroy those with whom its director happens to disagree. It has no business peddling destructive gossip to undermine those who righteously seek social change, a particular insult to King who remained an eloquent advocate for non-violent protest throughout his life. MLK/FBI stands as a movie that inspires us with King's commitment while appalling us with the lengths to which an American institution went not only to destroy him but to upend an entire movement.
In The Dig, a British widow with an interest in archaeology wants to conduct an excavation on her land. To make her dream a reality, she hires an excavator known for his meticulous work.
Tuesday, January 12, 2021
A wave of sadness swept over me when I finished watching One Night in Miami. The movie isn’t particularly sad. In fact, it's lively, provocative, and engaging.
In the hands of King and screenwriter Kemp Powers, who adapted his 2013 play, the movie stands as an informed construction of what might have been discussed as the men gathered on the night Clay defeated Sonny Liston, an outcome that shocked nearly everyone in the boxing world except Clay.
All the characters are going through major life changes. Tired of football, Brown ponders retiring from the NFL. Clay’s victory came on the eve of his ascendance to global stardom.
Cooke, perhaps the most satisfied of the group, was plotting further commercial success, and a troubled Malcolm X was about to break with the Nation of Islam.
A gifted actress, King moves behind the camera easily. She provides a fluid cinematic prologue and finds ways to escape the confines of Malcolm X’s suite in the Hampton House, a Miami hotel with a mostly black clientele.
As the men solidify and test their friendships, the movie becomes a complex mixture of brotherly love, mutual admiration, chiding banter, and sharply stated positions.
As Clay, Eli Goree often plays the surprising role of peacemaker. Kingsley Ben-Adir creates a smart, ideologically devoted Malcolm who's more rigid than any of his companions, even as he fears for the safety of his family. As Jim Brown, Aldis Hodge creates a character of strength and conviction.
None of the men treat the others as icons, even though each of them understands that none of them can be considered "ordinary." They're all too famous for that.
One Night revolves around debates about the best way forward for black men in 1964. Economics? Political action? Learning to turn a racist system to one’s advantage?
Leslie Odom Jr.’s Sam Cooke creates the sharpest conflict with Malcolm X. At one point, Malcolm X chides Cooke for not having written a song as relevant as Bob Dylan’s Blowin’ in the Wind.
Malcolm plays the role of provocateur, spoilsport, and conscience. Neither Brown nor Cooke is ready to renounce wine, women and song -- and they're not shy about letting Malcolm know where they stand.
One Night becomes tribute to the characters depicted, to the actors who play them, and to the way it makes an event that took place almost 60 years ago feel intensely present.
Malcolm was murdered in 1965. Later in 1964, Cooke was killed later in a shooting at the Hacienda Motel in Los Angeles. He was 33. Ali, of course, died in 2016.
One Night takes us to a moment when the men were all young, vital and relevant. Because their conversations haven't lost much currency, One Night never becomes an exercise in nostalgia. It's got plenty of bite and although it's about a now-fading moment, it hasn’t lost its relevance.
Monday, January 11, 2021
Is there a payoff for being loyal servant? The question that ripples through writer/director Ramin Bahrani's richly realized adaptation of the best-selling novel, The White Tiger.
Tuesday, January 5, 2021
An abused Dublin woman with two daughters decides that it's time to take matters into her own hands in Herself, a narrow-gauged drama about women for whom an over-burdened social system can't provide stability.
Hungarian director Kornel Mundruczo's White God stands as one of the most riveting movies of 2014, a political allegory that made you gasp and left you wondering how its many scenes with dogs had been filmed