The worst films of 2020

If 2020 forced viewers to come up with ways to fill hours of idleness, The Queen’s Gambit and The Crown sufficed. So did a number of flicks under the aegis of Disney+, Amazon, or Netflix. Yet having the time didn’t make me profligate about spending it, especially after one of the five films below leftContinue reading “The worst films of 2020”

Kate Winslet makes ‘Ammonite’ worth watching

A actor who in youth showed no fear or self-consciousness inhabiting women whose will is a manifestation of their intelligence, Kate Winslet promises to fascinate as she approaches her third decade in film. Ammonite is unworthy of her. This film about British paleontologist Mary Anning and her romance with the younger future geologist Charlotte MurchisonContinue reading “Kate Winslet makes ‘Ammonite’ worth watching”

The best films of 2020: we made it

From the severe (Vitalina Varela) to the joyous (Lovers Rock), these four films kept surprising me. I wish Beanpole had shown up on more lists. At any rate I’m grateful to have survived 2020 to have watched them. Click on hyperlinks for full reviews. 4. Vitalina Varela (dir. Pedro Costa). “No casual Pedro Costa fansContinue reading “The best films of 2020: we made it”

Radio days: ‘The Vast of Night’

To suggest a character’s relation to their environment, directors like Max Ophuls and Robert Altman used the tracking shot with a surveyor’s accuracy. Simultaneously intimate and suffused with a twice-told tales distance, The Vast of Night is an impressive debut for Andrew Patterson. The film is a rare thing: a period piece suffused with dread,Continue reading “Radio days: ‘The Vast of Night’”

‘Miss Juneteenth’ a lovely, modest depiction of mother love

Few things pall like adolescent glory. Old timers remember it. Younger people wonder why the fuss. For Turquoise Jones, winner of Ft. Worth’s Miss Juneteenth pageant in 2004, life made other plans. An employee at a suburban BBQ joint, she hopes her daughter Kai will follow in her footsteps. Channing Godfrey Peoples’ charming debut tracesContinue reading “‘Miss Juneteenth’ a lovely, modest depiction of mother love”

‘Pieces of a Woman’ an uneven study of grief, numbness

The first third of Pieces of a Woman consists of one of the most harrowing depictions of childbirth I’ve seen. The gradations — smiling anxiety shading to the grim determination to get the deed done before the onset of sheer terror — have a visual correspondence; director Kornél Mundruczó’s camera, his long shots imbued withContinue reading “‘Pieces of a Woman’ an uneven study of grief, numbness”

Muddying the waters: ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’

Like The Naked Gun series, the Borat films seem review-proof. Sacha Baron Cohen’s schtick — playing the boobish Kazakh who coaxes out the polite, casual racism and misogynism of Americans — seems a mid ’00s phenomenon as tied to its era as Dubya jokes, 50 Cent singles, and Blackberries. The United States visited by BoratContinue reading “Muddying the waters: ‘Borat Subsequent Moviefilm’”

‘Promising Young Woman’ shows a Monte Cristo of #MeToo

Malice becomes Carey Mulligan; it makes her light on her feet. In Promising Young Woman, she plays Cassie, a coffee shop barista who fakes getting wasted on weekends, waits for guys to attempt to rape her, and, after threatening them, writes their names in a notebook whose entries keep expanding. She’s up to the challengesContinue reading “‘Promising Young Woman’ shows a Monte Cristo of #MeToo”

Enjoy the silence: ‘Sound of Metal’

From a pre-title sequence at a concert to an establishing shot inside a trailer, Sound of Metal understands how the adrenalized rush of performance must yield to normality. A recovering addict, Ruben (Riz Ahmed) had trouble with this transition. But from its opening minutes director Darius Marder disorients the audience. Making breakfast for girlfriend andContinue reading “Enjoy the silence: ‘Sound of Metal’”

‘The Father’ relies on stagebound gimmickry

Treated as a Great Actor by audiences and his peers, Hopkins is actually a hambone like mentor Richard Burton, at his most commanding when he leavens the bluster with chuckled asides. Playing the eponymous character in Florian Zeller’s adaptation of his own play gives the eighty-two-year-old actor the chance to flaunt every trick. In aContinue reading “‘The Father’ relies on stagebound gimmickry”

‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ a valentine to an artist, a farewell to an actor

Viola Davis has never played a scene like the one between her Ma Rainey and girlfriend. Dussie Mae (Taylour Paige). Encircling Dussie in her arms, Ma sings “Those Dogs of Mine” in a moist bullfrog croak as hot as the perspiration agleam on their bodies. Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom has a few moments like this,Continue reading “‘Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom’ a valentine to an artist, a farewell to an actor”