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Thread: End of Year MOVIE JOURNAL

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    End of Year MOVIE JOURNAL

    End of Year MOVIE JOURNAL



    Not in NYC this season but still hope to get caught up on the year's most admired movies though I had to send off my IndieWire questionnaire before seeing some films I'm likely to rate high. I will need to see: 1917, THE FAREWELL, JOJO RABBIT, LITTLE WOMEN, PORTRAIT OF A LADY ON FIRE UNCUT GEMS. Also being mentioned: DOLOMITE IS MY NAME, AMERICAN FACTORY, ONE CHILD NATION (which I also have not seen). And some current ones including A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD, DARK WATERS, QUEEN AND SLIM, BOMBSHELL. Plus I'm keeping an eye on Mike D'Angelo's best list including IT MUST BE HEAVEN, FIRST LOVE (Miike) and HIGH FLYING BIRD.

    I am surprised that the grim pseud-doc THE CHAMBERMAID (Lila Avilés) and the actual doc HONEYLAND (Tamara Kotevska, Ljubomir Stefanov) are making multiple ten-best lists, though I myself like HONEYLAND. Ken Loach's PETERLOO is being mentioned but I found it underwhelming. Meanwhile:




    FORD v FERRARI (James Mangold 2019). Interesting that this is about Ford's successful campaign to beat Ferrari at Formula One racing at Le Mans yet the bad guys are the Ford execs. But it's mainly about the colorful personalities of tough ole' boy automotive designer Carroll Shelby (Matt Damon) and fearless and colorful British race car driver Ken Miles (Christian Bale), with Bale giving one of his most engaging performances. Tracy Letts' Henry Ford II isn't one of his more interesting bad guys, but the talented Noah Jupe charms again (after his star turn with SHia Laboeuf in HONEY BOY) using his own English accent as Ken's son Peter. A fun picture whose in-the-cockpit moments are particularly intense and real, but there is nothing new. Watched at Hilltop Dec. 7, 2019. Metascore 81%.



    DARK WATERS (Todd Haynes 2019). A Cincinnati corporate lawyer (Mark Ruffalo, gaining pounds to channel an ordinary guy) winds up fighting for the public against a giant corporation, Dupont, over environmental poisoning with hydrocarbons (and "Teflon") in this film adaptation of the New York Times Magazine article, "The Lawyer Who Became DuPont’s Worst Nightmare." This invites comparison with Michael Mann's 1999 THE INSIDER, about pursuing the legal case against cigarette companies. This is just as dreary and exhausting and less satisfying. Chemical companies seem even more resilient, numbingly determined and indifferent to human life than big tobacco. Worthwhile, but very unfun, doubtless a passion project for Ruffalo, who produced. A change to see the director of VELVET GOLDMINE, FAR FROM HEAVEN, I'M NOT THERE, and CAROL doing something so earnest and fact-based. With Anne Hathaway, Tim Robbins, Bill PUllman. Watched at Hilltop Dec. 8, 2019. Metascore 73%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-04-2020 at 02:50 AM.

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    A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD (Marielle Heller 2019)



    A BEAUTIFUL DAY IN THE NEIGHBORHOOD ( Marielle Heller 2019). About the 1998 encounter between Mr. Rogers and a grumpy, messed up Esquire reporter with serious daddy issues sent to Pittsburgh to do a 400-word "hero" piece on the saintly children's TV figure and then found him too complex for short treatment and eventually, after numerous meetings that wound up having a decisive effect on him, turned in 9,000 words that became a cover story. Tom Hanks is fine as Fred Rogers (because he's a good person too?) so it doesn't feel fake, but he's literally and figuratively bigger and heavier; his turn lacks the real Mr. Rogers' ethereal, light touch. The movie is more about the journalist (Matthew Rhys) and the painfully sincere story of his reconciliation with his irresponsible dad (Chris Cooper), helped by Fred Rogers' caring intervention. The movie has good things and can deliver a healing message. But Morgan Neville's 2018 documentary WON'T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR? told more about the show's lessons on tough issues, and I was left wondering what the Esquire piece was like. Luckily you can read it online here. Watched at Hilltop Dec. 11, 2019. Metascore 80%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-11-2019 at 08:04 PM.

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    QUEEN & SLIM ( Melina Matsoukas 2019)



    QUEEN & SLIM (Melina MMatsoukos 2019). In this intermittently exciting actioner with political overtones, a black man and woman in Cleveland on an unpromising Tinder date go on the run after killing a white cop who belligerently pulls them over for a minor violation, the sort of thing that more often ends with the black driver's death. As they head south with the aim of escaping to Cuba, a dashboard video from the police car goes viral. Thus they become accidental celebrity outlaws especially admired by some elements of the Black Lives Matter movement. The Bonnie and Clyde, Thelma and Louise genre acquires a whole new angle. The most entertaining interlude comes when the pair visit the woman's colorful uncle, a pimp with Iraq war PTSD living in a polyamorous relationship with two sex workers. Matsouikos is a maker of music videos so there is a lot of swirling, explanatory music, and not such good momentum or plotting. It goes on too long. Two English actors, Daniel Kaluuya (Oscar-nominated for Get Out) and Jodie Turner-Smith play the couple. Bokeem Woodbine is amusing as Uncle Earle. Chloe Sevigny and Flea appear briefly as a couple providing a momentary hideaway. Watched at Hilltop Dec. 13, 2019. Metascore 75%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-14-2019 at 08:29 PM.

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    RICHARD NEWELL (Clint Eastwood 2019)



    RICHARD JEWELL (Clint Eastwood 2019). About the shlubby security guard at the 1996 Atlanta Olympics who calls attention to a terrorist bomb and becomes a hero, then is terrorized by the press and FBI when he's made a prime suspect for the crime. May distort various facts, but all the actors shine, particularly Paul Walter Hauser as Jewell. Kathy Bates is touching as his mom with whom he lives. Jon Hamm is sexily menacing as the local FBI boss leading the futile investigation. Sam Rockwell is particularly sympathetic as the angry lawyer who defends Jewell against the media and gov't onslaughts. Olivia Wilde doesn't come out too well as the overzealous Atlanta Constitution reporter who exposes Jewell to menacing media scrutiny after sleeping with Hamm to get the info, a detail strongly challenged by the paper about the late reporter. Guess Clint doesn't care for the gov't or the press much. Some see this as a pro-Trump message. If it was that simple it wouldn't be worth watching or worthy of Clint. Watched at Hilltop Dec. 14, 2019. Metascore 69%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-21-2019 at 08:39 PM.

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    End of Year MOVIE JOURNAL, cont'd



    THE TWO POPES ( Fernando Meirelles 2019). This is billed as entertainment but a lot of it seems like punishment, especially the heavy-handed flashbacks to the dubious past of Cardinal Bergoglio, future Pope Francis (Jonathan Pryce), not to mention all the laborious Vatican rituals and buddy gestures. And hey, Prtyce ain't Argentinian, nor is Anthony Hopkins, who plays the then-current Pope Benedict XVI (former Joseph Ratzinger), a German - and this secret meeting never happened. I guess it's meant to be a smoothing over of the presumed blots on the otherwise admirable (to liberals) Pope Francis's past by the Brazilian Meirelles, also a looking over of the two popes' contrasting styles and politics. I'm one who liked the 2002 City of God, which Meirelles co-directed; no special fan of anything he's done since. Of course this is an acting fest, anyway, and it shows the 81-year-old Hopkins still has skills. Logical physical casting: both actors look a lot like the guys they're playing. Maybe most valuable for Argentinians, or papists. Like Little Women, The Irishman, and Marriage Story, a Netflix film, this one the most okay to watch on your small screen. Did not admire the editing or the camerawork. Limited release Nov. 27, wide, Dec. 20. Watched at Landmark Shattuck Cinemas Dec. 15, 2019. Metascore 75%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-15-2019 at 11:19 PM.

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    JOJO RABBIT (Taika Waititi 2019)



    JOJO RABBIT (Taika Waititi 2019). A surprising comedy, in English, about the last days of Hitler in Germany from the POV of a 9-year-old boy who's an ardent Nazi, which doesn't work out very well for him. The director, Taika Waikiti, aka Taika Cohen, a New Zealander who's half Maori and half Jewish, plays a goofy fantasy--friend Hitler imagined by the protagonist, played by an appealing Roman Griffin Davis. Scarlett Johansson plays his single mother, Sam Rockwell a failure of a German officer who's friendly to the boy. The boy is a softie. His inability to kill a rabbit during a Hitler Youth camp exercise gets him the titular nickname, and also explains why (also because he's lonely and she's cute), when he discovers a Jewish girl hiding in the house (Thomasin McKenzie), he befriends and protects her. The designers of sets and costumes went to town. For a modest production this looks distinctive and great, and it was largely from that point of view that I admired it. A chastening dark realism creeps in more toward the end, but there's not a huge amount of emotional resonance, considering. Watched at Shattuck Cinemas Dec. 15, 2019. Metascore 58%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-16-2019 at 11:38 PM.

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    BOMBSHELL (Jay Roach 2019)



    BOMBSHELL (Jay Roach 2019). This movie about a key #MeToo event, the takedown for sexual harassment of Fox News impresario Roger Ailes (and anchorman Bill O'Reilly), despite real footage of then candidate Donald Trump, is hasty-seeming and doesn't pack quite the punch such a hot topic deserves. Numerous shapely ladies shashay round the Fox studios with pancake makeup and bleach-blond hair, including Charlize Theron as Megyn Kelly and Nicole Kidman as Gretchen Carlson, leading Fox News personalities, and Margot Robbie as new staffer and new object for predator Ailes Kayla Pospisil. These good looking actresses are doing the right thing in depicting something so much a key issue today, but a better film would have earned them more credit. Also involved in good works are Allison Janney as senior staffer Susan Estrich, John Lithgow (fresh from playing Winston Churchill in "The Queen")" heavily inflated via prosthetic makeup, as Roger Ailes. Malcolm McDowell enters late in the action as Fox owner Rupert Murdoch, who takes the reins. I would have had more scenes where Ailes shows his foul behavior toward women. Ultimately the screenplay by The Big Short coauthor Charles Randolph doesn't go quite deep enough. US release Dec. 20. Watched at Hilltop. Metascore 64%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-21-2019 at 07:37 PM.

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    STAR WARS: EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF STARWALKER (J.J. Abrams 2019)



    STAR WARS: EPISODE IX: THE RISE OF STARWALKER (J.J. Abrams 2019). The surviving Resistance faces the First Order once more in the final chapter of the Skywalker saga - so at least this is meant to be the last Star Wars episode. Duty might have led me to see it anyway - though I've missed a majority of other ones - but I was curious to see Adam Driver, who I've become a fan of for his work over the last decade in "Girls" and with Baumbach, Jarmusch, Scorsese, and a lot of good directors, as Kylo Ren. The production mars his rough beauty by smoothing out its roughness with makeup and hair styling, but a lot of the time he's in a mask anyway. It was nice to see Richard E. Grant, who I'll always think of as Withnail (and so many disreputable cousins), picking up a nice fat paycheck as General Pryde. This episode has s very low critical rating, but some say those can go up substantially later. Only for fans though. There are some strikingly beautiful landscapes, with more use than usual of big objects in the foreground, possibly because they're so effective in 3D. i will now do my duty and watch Driver star in the earnest and significant The Report, out Nov. 15, but who saw it? Watched at Hilltop Dec. 21, 2019. Metascore 54%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-17-2020 at 06:51 PM.

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    THE AERONAUTS (Tom Harper 2019)



    THE AERONAUTS (Tom Harper 2019). Loosely based on the life of a British weather scientist and his exploits in 1862, this brings back together Felicity Jones and Eddie Redmayne for the first time since The Theory of Everything. It's about a struggle to survive in a gas balloon with pilot Amelia Wren (Jones) and meteorologist James Glaisher (Redmayne), who barely survive, and almost kiss. The movie is about a great exploit, accomplished by a much older, less dapper man than Eddie, but it's all as light as air, and rather forgettable, because it's so conventional. An entertaining piece of period fluff. Actually seen a week or two back, but I forgot to make a note of it. At Albany Twin, Berkeley. Metascore: 60.


    SEE WHAT I MEAN ABOUT DAPPER? HARPER, JONES, & REDMAYNE
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-04-2020 at 02:43 AM.

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    THE REPORT (Scott Z. Burns 2019)



    THE REPORT (Scott Z. Burns 2019). Caution: contains disturbing images of torture. Covers zealous Senate staffer Dan Jones (Adam Driver) who works for years doing a report for Sen. Diane Feinstein (Annette Benning) on the CIA's illegal post-9/11 use of torture (aka advanced interrogation techniques aka AIT) on terrorism suspects. Jones's 'relentless pursuit of the truth leads to explosive findings that uncover the lengths to which the nation's top intelligence agency went to destroy evidence, subvert the law, and hide a brutal secret from the American public' - that torture does not gather information, humane and friendly interrogation does. The film is as dry and relentless as Dan Jones, and perhaps naive in thinking the unconverted will be made sophisticated in this matter by such a treatment. "Adam Driver’s gracefully intelligent performance as an investigator never quite zaps this dramatically frozen procedural to life" (Jeannette Catsoullis, New York Times). Shocking details though. Watched (as an alternate to Adam Driver as Kylo Ren in Star Wars) on Amazon Prime Dec. 21, 2019. Limited theatrical release by Amazon. Metascore 66, but the Guardian (Benjamin Lee) gives it 4/5 stars.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-22-2019 at 01:49 AM.

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    A HIDDEN LIFE (Terrence Malick 2019). Malick departs from his usual themes for a true story of a (now) Christian martyr, Franz Jägerstätter, an Austrian farmer who in 1943 was put to death for refusing to sign an oath of allegiance to Hitler. This theme involving self-examination and conscience gets the woozy Malick treatment, which doesn't work so well, after three hours, I found the drawn-out action maddening. Some like it though: Metascore 78%. Watched at Albany Twin Dec. 22, 2019.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-22-2019 at 10:12 PM.

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    CHICHINETTE: THE ACCIDENTAL SPY (Nicola Hens 2019). Is a documentary about Marthe Cohn, née Hoffnung, who is French, Jewish, and 99 years old. She not only served a key function as an informant to the French toward the end of WWII, a function enabled by having grown up fluent in both French and German, but for the last several decades has gone around the world telling her story, accompanied by her American husband, a retired anaesthesiologist. She had been working as a wartime nurse, when the French government discovered her linguistic advantage. Here, she does most of the talking, and she's an impressive old gal. This supplements info found in her 2002 book, coauthored with Wendy Holden, Behind Enemy Lines. Pending release (screener Dec. 2019).
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 01-04-2020 at 02:41 AM.

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    THE PAINTED BIRD (Václav Marhoul 2019)



    THE PAINTED BIRD (Václav Marhoul 2019). Czech director Václav Marhoul's remarkable adaptation of Jerzy Kosinski's controversial Sixties work is a devastating WWII version of a picaresque novel. It follows a boy from 1939 to 1945, ages six to twelve in an "inter-slavic" invented language to avoid saddling any one Eastern European country with the horrors that occur - too horrible to be taken literally, but how can they be taken otherwise? Through it all the mostly mute boy (Petr Kotlar) is impassive, while seeing eyes gauged out, being beaten, buried up to the neck to be pecked at by crows, be the object of rural sex perverts and a sadistic pedophile, dumped in a manure pit, taught revenge by an ace sniper, put in an orphanage, then, at last, retrieved by his father, whom he may not want to forgive. Gorgeous black and white cinematography helps distance us from the ugliness. The source may have been plagiarized but Marhoul has made it his own. With Udo Kier, Harvey Keitel, Julian Sands, and Barry Popper, among others. This is coming out early next year. Watched on a screener. When the film was released at Venice 14 people are said to have walked out in shock. Metascore 75%. 169 mins.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-24-2019 at 05:45 PM.

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    LITTLE WOMEN (Greta Gerwig 2019)



    LITTLE WOMEN (Greta Gerwig 2019). Every generation needs a new Little Women movie and Gerwig has delivered this warm and loving one, with Saoirse Ronan, her protagonist in her debut feature Lady Bird, as Jo, and Timothée Chalamet and Louis Garrel as notable men in her life, Laurie and Friedrich Bhaer. It's a high-speed, frenzied account. Playing with the chronology, against the advice of my late friend and ace editor Richard Todd, causes confusion about the development of these characters and their relationships. I show this on reporting from a new viewing of Gillian Armstrong's 1994 version, which holds up well. But any adaptation of this bustling novel is a thing of vignettes anyway, and much survives. Watched at Hilltop on opening day, Christmas 2019. Metascore 91%

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    UNCUT GEMS (Benny and Josh Safdie 2019)
    . Their brilliant, punishing new study of gambling madness focused on a diamond dealer obsessed with basketball, in a lifetime best performance by Adam Sandler. I cannot recommend it, but it's a triumph for the filmakers and their lead and a compulsive watch. Watched as second of my Christmas Day double bill at Hilltop. Metascore 89%. But this is artistically better than Gerwig's enjoyable but partly botched film that got a 91.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-26-2019 at 11:26 PM.

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