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    End of Year MOVIE JOURNAL 2020

    End of year movie journal 2020


    RASHIDA JONES, BILL MURRAY IN ON THE ROCKS

    INTRODUCTION. This drastic year of closed movie theaters has wound up being an unusually good time for indie, low budget films to get seen - and for major US art film centers like Film Forum, Metrograph, and Film at Lincoln Center to act as national distributers. Rushing to cram in some last 2020 movies before the end of 2020, whatever looks good and can be found online. It's the pandemic. But it's also the holidays, so, just some notes. Can't yet watch: MINARI (Lee Isaac Chung 2020) (MS 88%), the movie about the Korean family in the eighties who start a farm in Arkansas; KAJILLIONAIRE (Miranda July 2020)(MS 78%), with Evan Rachel Wood, Debra Winger and Richard Jenkins as family of swindlers. Both are on a lot of ten best lists. But they are not available online yet. For ON THE ROCKS, I went to the bother of joining Apple TV. It was worth it. This journal excludes my reviews of recent festival items like New Directors New Films, which will be found on Filmleaf HERE, and viewings of old films or repeated looks at recent watches such as Wong Kar-wai.
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    THE NEST (Sean Durkin 2020). First in nine years for Durkin of MARTHA MARCY MAY MARLENE and another creepy, powerful, memorably uncomfortable movie, this time about a delusional man (Jude Law) whose destructive, crazy fantasies of wealth and success take him and foamily back to England from New York. With Carrie Coon. Powerful, brilliant acting. If you don't like any of the people and feel trapped, that's just fine. Feels like one of the year's best American features. Metascore 79%.



    SOUND OF METAL (r: Darius Marder 2020). Metascore 81%. Riz Ahmed as a death metal drummer who suddenly loses his hearing. He is totally relatable, a fine and appealing actor, and the details about deaf drug recovery program is wholly authentic, but it gets a bit obvious and preachy. It turns out going deaf is easier to simulate on film, with sound design, than going blind would be. You can make the screen go silent for a while, but you can't make it go dark, not for long. This is a movie that really grabs you, but then loses momentum.



    COLLECTIVE/COLLECTIV (Alexander Nanau 2019). Like Spotlighit only real and Romanian. Follows journalist chasing a healthcare scandal that reaches into deep corruption and the government itself. Hospitals and drugs are cash cows, is the trouble. And when you've got a virtually failed state... But the documentary filmmakers and the journalists are on the top of their game. Relevant to current global and US political trends. The editing creates a pulsating, suspenseful narrative that after a while, you can even call enjoyable, at least certainly compulsively watchable. In Romanian with English subtitles. Metascore 95%.



    DICK JOHNSON IS DEAD (Kirsten Johnson 2020). Metascore 89%. The dad of the maker of the 2016 Cameraperson, which I did not like, has made another film every loves and I don't. Her dad,in his mid-eighties, is found to have dementia, so she takes him from Seattle to live with her in NYC. Along the way, to help them both confront his impending death, she repeatedly stages his violent, accidental death. Why is this considered a good idea? Well, everybody is into dementia nowadays. What saves it is that Dick Johnson has an impressively equitable, open personality and accepts the proceedings with great good nature. The fake funeral is pretty impressive. He was a psychiatrist. Why don't we learn more about his work life; about his ideas?




    SAVE YOURSELVES! (Alex Huston Fischer, Eleanor Wilson 2020). Having Ben Sinclair ("The Man") as a peripheral character, this is first cousin to a long "High Maintenance" episode. A Millennial couple from Greenpoint, Brooklyn, go upstate for a week to keep their phones and laptops turned off and get back in touch with themselves. Unfortunately they check out just at the time when there is an alien invasion of the planet. A very engaging and charming picture. The directors are a couple, and they get how that works. Metascore 66%.



    MANK (David Fincher 2020). Fincher has lovingly adapted his late father Jack's elaborate screenplay about alcoholic screenwriter Herman J. Mankiewicz (Gary Oldman) the time when he dictated the script of what would become Citizen Kane - with a lot of flashbacks of Hollywood in the thirties and Hearst's San Simeon castle.Shot in black and white digitally, evoking Gregg Toland's famous, stylish cinematography. The cars and the period California landscapes seem the best parts of this beautiful, busy film. On Netflix. Metascore 79%.



    ON THE ROCKS (Sofia Coppola 2020). A mother and writer (Rashida Jones) starts suspecting her hotshot startup husband (Marlon Wayans) is seeing someone else. Her worldly wise dad (Bill Murray), a long successful art dealer, takes up the case. Yes, lightweight, but well worth joining Apple TV to watch to see Coppola and Bill Murray in action. Also fun to go around in their effortlessly posh New York with them. Maybe one of the deepest pictures of a shallow person you'll see. Like more grown up, female-POV Woody. Metascore 73%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-26-2020 at 01:40 AM.

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    RESIDUE (Merawi Gerima 2020). Ambition, creative daring, nostalgia, and survival guilt merge seamlessly in this subtle and original first film about a Black fledgling filmmaker, Jay (Obinna Nwachukwu), who returns from California to his childhood home of Q Street, Washington, DC to discover multiple kinds of alienation and loss through disconnection and white gentrification of the neighborhood as he plans an autobiographical film like this one we're watching and goes around looking for his childhood best friend Demetirus. Gerima interweaves old film with flashbacks, using local non-actors to project a strong authenticity. Powerful glimpse of what it's like to be urban Black in America. New on Netflix, Sept. 2020, a brilliant new talent. Metascore 82%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-24-2020 at 01:08 PM.

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    A WHITE, WHITE DAY/HVÍTUR, HVÍTUR DAGUR (Hlynur Pálmason 2019). Missed this in April when it came online but was reminded, even urged, by its high ranking on the annual lists of Peter Debruge and Mike D'Angelo. All the elements found in his debut feature, in a more relatable framework of love, loss, adultery, revenge, maybe aging-out at the workplace, wisely in Palmason's native Icelandic heath this time. I liked, appreciate and respect the way he works, and will watch Pálmason with great interest from now on. Metascore 80%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-26-2020 at 01:12 AM.

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    I AM GRETA (Nathan Grossman 2020 This has been accused of being a lazy, sycophantic doc about Greta Thunberg with too little three-dimensional coverage of her. But what is wrong with following around the development of a global phenomenon from its earliest origins when she's sitting in front of Swedish parliament, unknown, without getting in the way? Access is so excellent the picture of Greta is pretty complete. It's also a fascinating study of Asperger's, and how it can sometimes be a remarkable advantage. The filmmaker is Swedish. Metascore: 69%. (Another underestimate partly related to bias, I suspect.)
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-25-2020 at 08:02 PM.

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    BAD EUCATION (Cory Finley 2020). The THOROUGHBREDS director's 2nd feature is an HBO movie about the true larceny scandal of the Rosyln Long Island school district in the early 2000's when superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman)and the schools' business administrator, Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney) stole $11.2 million from the district to live high while running schools that provided top quality education and got grads into the best colleges. It's a paradoxical, creepy slow burner about corruption and deception. It's good and rather unique, if not great, with excellent leads. Mike Makowsky, who was in Rosyln middle school at the time, wrote the screenplay. Emmy for best TV prime time TV movie, Jackman nominated for best actor; other nominations and awards. Another one I learned about late: on US TV in Apr. 2020. Watched Dec. 24. Metascore: 79%.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-25-2020 at 09:15 PM.

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    A SUN (Chung Mong-hong 2019). Watched this because on the Variety Best Films of 2020 it was no. 1 on Peter Debruge's list. It's an intense story of a family with deep conflicts, especially a man's deep rejection of his delinqient son when he goes to jail. The mother is the one who has to face the family issues head-on and achieve some kind of wholeness. In an informative review in the Taipei Times Han Cheung writes that this is a common Taiwanese dynamic, and I concluded perhaps that's the problem: Chung speaks profoundly to Taiwanese experience but it's not universal. In any case the film didn't resonate deeply with me despite its intensity and 2 1/2-hour length. But I think it is also just the timing and context. Had I had time and other positive introductions to it, I might have opened to the film more, and A SUN should be seen by serious fans of Asian film. No Metascore. Watched Netflix Dec. 15.
    Last edited by Chris Knipp; 12-26-2020 at 01:42 AM.

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