The Films of 2020

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
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senseabove
Joined: Wed Dec 02, 2015 3:07 am

Re: The Films of 2020

#101 Post by senseabove » Sun Jan 17, 2021 1:51 am

Bloody Nose, Empty Pockets — The last eighteen hours in the life of a dive bar, and it's really a dive, not a trendily decrepit backdrop for a trend-setting crowd sipping cocktails on Friday night. The walls are papered with torn and faded pictures of regulars. There are no IPAs on tap—I don't think there are any taps at all, actually. And these folks are the lifers, whether they're 25 or 60, and all of them already know it. The barstool is palliative care. The movie's strength is that it refuses to pathologize its characters: no sob backstories or sad excuses or recitations of trauma (well—we get some of those, but they're not presented as justification or explanation, just the traumatic facts of exploitation and loss). Everyone here is intimately familiar with all of the character beats in the day, from the tipsy heart-to-heart to the end-of-night braggadocio to the morning blear. It's not exactly empathetic toward alcoholics so much as serving up proof that even the sad, failed, and fully aware of it are not only sad, failed, and fully aware of it. I don't even know that I'd call it humanist, as the movie doesn't concern itself with convincing us of the value or dignity of anyone here, but it's aware that there is community even in such depths, and it's not healthy or pretty, but it's no less real a comfort.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2020

#102 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Jan 27, 2021 6:09 am

MLK/FBI

Technically a 2020 film, but it's starting to roll out in more virtual cinemas. It just finished its Lincoln Center run, but if you're a MoMA member, you can view it in their virtual cinema until the end of this month.

This was one of the very best films I've seen from last year, and it was spurred by newly declassified FBI documents on MLK. Among the handful of interviewees is an unseen James Comey.

The broader points have been discussed many times before: that the FBI had MLK under surveillance and that through surveillance they knew of his extramarital affairs. Thanks to the sheer amount of detail, much of which is new, a lot of this can be put in a far more damning context, and the way this is framed soberly reminds us that MLK was highly unpopular with the American public - it's not just a history lesson, the public's arrogant dismissals and the refusal to engage on issues of racial inequality resemble a clear and damning reflection of what continues to this day.

As the film depicts the maliciousness of Hoover's growing obsession with King, we're constantly reminded that his actions are never out of step with mainstream America - if anything, he was the embodiment of mainstream American values, and he garnered far more approval than King. Some of this was by design - Hoover made sure the FBI was promoted in American culture as not only keepers of the peace but as the guardian of American values. It's mentioned (and shown) how Hollywood played a big role in fostering this idea in the culture, and it arguably continues beyond Hoover's death. I've already mentioned the Oscar-nominated hit Mississippi Burning in other threads and how Julian Bond and others have called out its gross distortions of history - the film gets no mention here, but the case does, as MLK mentions it as one of several horrendous civil rights abuses where the FBI had yet to make an arrest. (By this time, the Civil Rights Act has been signed into law by LBJ, which also puts the FBI in charge of enforcing it.) The topic comes up because it’s part of MLK’s rebuttal when it’s reported that Hoover has called MLK one of the country's worst liars, and it's later implied that Hoover may have been openly critical because he was outraged that MLK had been awarded the Nobel Peace Prize.

The low point is when the FBI actually fabricates a letter to MLK, pretending to be one of his followers and telling him that he needs to kill himself for his extramarital deeds (all of which is still secret to the public). This accompanies a graphic tape recording of MLK engaging in one of these affairs. Comey confirms this, admitting he has seen the actual letter (which they show). That pathetic act alone is sickening, but the FBI's own surveillance also shows that it succeeded in throwing MLK into emotional turmoil. The possibility of his secret affairs being leaked or reported not only threatened him but also the entire movement, which was indeed the FBI's intent - they believed the Civil Rights Movement was a threat to internal U.S. security and wanted to undermine it by bringing down King.

It's also been suspected that the FBI had informants planted within African American organizations - very difficult given how Hoover recruited very few African Americans to begin with, but not impossible - and MLK's close associates warned King because they had very strong suspicions of who might be an informant. Those suspicions have been confirmed with the film identifying one associate within the SCLC and astonishingly a photographer who has taken some of the most widely-seen photos of King as he took part in high profile protests.

There are more revelations, but at the end, we're reminded that all of the FBI's audio tapes will be released to the public in 2027, so who knows what else is there? It's pointed out that one of the FBI's reports had a bizarre and unusual hand-written update that inserts the damning assertion that MLK observed a young woman's rape. A lot about it is highly dubious and most likely it's slander - it came when Hoover was ramping up his efforts to discredit MLK because he was now speaking out against Vietnam, something MLK was reluctant to do because it was certain to ruin his relationship with LBJ. (It pretty much did.) However, in light of the possibility of more revelations, it leaves a fairly uncomfortable end to the film.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Films of 2020

#103 Post by Michael Kerpan » Fri Feb 26, 2021 7:07 pm

Naomi Kawase's True Mothers (Asa ga kuru literally Morning Comes) has been picked up by Film Movement and has been showing virtually here and there (probably its virtual run is near its end). It struck me as a return to form, of sorts. I certainly liked it more than any other Kawase film I've seen in many years. The basic story involves a middle schooler (Aju Makita) who gets pregnant and gives up her baby for adoption. The baby is adopted by a couple (Hiromi Nagasaku and Arata Iura) who have been able to have a baby of their own, despite best efforts. Then, one day a scruffy girl claiming to be the birth mother enters the story. The best aspects of this are the performances of Makita and Nagasaku -- and the often (nostalgic to me) documentary feel of many bits of the film. It is a longish movie (around 2.5 hours), but while slow-moving most of the time, it did not feel overly long. If you want to see this, you may need to act fast.

Theaters are listed here: https://www.filmmovement.com/true-mothers

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Films of 2020

#104 Post by Michael Kerpan » Mon Mar 01, 2021 7:54 pm

Kawase's True Mothers is currently streaming (apparently for free) via Japan House in LA:

https://www.japanhousela.com/events/fil ... e-mothers/

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OldBobbyPeru
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Re: The Films of 2020

#105 Post by OldBobbyPeru » Thu Mar 04, 2021 4:09 pm

Michael Kerpan wrote:
Mon Mar 01, 2021 7:54 pm
Kawase's True Mothers is currently streaming (apparently for free) via Japan House in LA:

https://www.japanhousela.com/events/fil ... e-mothers/
I watched this last night via that link and quite enjoyed it, so thank you for posting that. She's really good.

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aox
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Re: The Films of 2020

#106 Post by aox » Thu Mar 04, 2021 5:31 pm

TheKieslowskiHaze wrote:
Sat Dec 12, 2020 11:02 pm
Minari (Dir. Lee Isaac Ching)

I got to see this with Lincoln Center's virtual cinema.

There are a few moments that come close to crossing the line into sentimentality, but, in my view, it never does. It's genuinely lovely. A tension--due to race, American religious fundamentalism, and/or capitalism--undergirds the whole thing, but so does a genuine appreciation for the beauty of family and the American landscape. Shades of Malick and Steinbeck. I was legitimately moved. Also, the music is great, punctuating scenes without taking over, heightening the sublimity of it all. I recommend this movie pretty strongly.
This was the surprise of the year for me. It seemed to balance the line a melodrama and sentimentality quite well. It never went for the cheap and easy portrayal of racism and instead remained nuanced focused on larger issues of both (im)migration and integration. It's an expensive rental, but well worth it if you have been saving money this year not going to the cinema during lockdown. I cannot wait to revisit this again.

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Michael Kerpan
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Re: The Films of 2020

#107 Post by Michael Kerpan » Thu Mar 04, 2021 5:33 pm

True Mothers is probably my favorite Kawase film since her Sharasojyu back in 2003.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2020

#108 Post by knives » Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:48 pm

I saw that Domino Harvey favorite Michael Polish came out with a movie last year called Force of Nature and the advertising suggested something terrible and trashy, Mel Gibson, and I had to figure out who that squared with Dom’s interest. Simple answer is that Gibson’s hardly in this and is mostly present as a selling point with a bit of a meta commentary possibly showing up.

The film immediately communicates how it is not the poster with a sparse sort of editing more focused on in camera movement than the cheap hyperactivity I’ve seen in a million Nic Cage films. Even the cinematography which while teal and orange has a brightness I hadn’t expected. That leads into a character focused first act as Emile Hirsch’s apathetic cop takes the lead. Without getting into too many details throughout Polish seems to defeat the idea of this as an action movie not only with the focus on character, but also with a sense of the magical that is reminiscent of the only other Polish film I’ve seen, but also Garcia Marquez with this isolated community of shadows.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2020

#109 Post by DarkImbecile » Thu Mar 25, 2021 9:58 pm

Is guessing the name of the movie part of the fun?

EDIT: Just saw the exchange in the Sound of Metal thread... this discussion starter is going well!

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domino harvey
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Re: The Films of 2020

#110 Post by domino harvey » Thu Mar 25, 2021 10:01 pm

Maybe but this version of his post includes it. But you can still guess, I guess

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Big Ben
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Re: The Films of 2020

#111 Post by Big Ben » Thu Mar 25, 2021 10:14 pm

knives left out the best part of Force of Nature. This movie has:
SpoilerShow
An unseen monster or animal that kills people. No really. It straight up kills people but they didn't have the budget so something is straight up killing fools who show up. It straight up drags them offscreen as they scream. It's hilarious.
Last edited by Big Ben on Thu Mar 25, 2021 10:59 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2020

#112 Post by knives » Thu Mar 25, 2021 10:35 pm

I took that as an intentional choice to emphasize the magic of reality. The film also has an interesting usage of race theory that I imagine many won’t stomach in the context of a genre film.

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Dr Amicus
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Re: The Films of 2020

#113 Post by Dr Amicus » Fri Mar 26, 2021 10:08 am

Cured (Bennett Singer & Patrick Sammon) - I watched this as part of BFI Flare (I had a couple of free tickets courtesy of BFI membership) so may well count as a 2021 for UK purposes, but seems to have had a proper US release (as far as possible in these times) in 2020. Anyway, it's a really solid, interesting documentary about the struggle to remove homosexuality from the authorised list of Mental Disorders. Choosing this focus narrows the timeline substantially, but also makes you look at much-covered events (Stonewall, the first Pride marches) in a different light. The result is fascinating, disturbing in places (some of the early footage includes ECT and as much as I needed to see of a lobotomy) and quite moving. The interviews in particular are fascinating and well chosen and tie in nicely with the historical footage. The one real flaw is that occasionally the music is a bit heavy handed - at time it moves into exciting thriller mode which is really not necessary. Still, if you're vaguely interested in the subject, this comes strongly recommended.

As an aside, another film I have a ticket for is Dramarama (dir. Jonathan Wysocki) - has anyone here seen it? I have only 4 hours to finish watching it when I start so if it's really good (and suitable for a young teenager) I'd like to know beforehand so I can see if my son wants to watch it.

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lzx
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Re: The Films of 2020

#114 Post by lzx » Fri Mar 26, 2021 6:00 pm

Dr Amicus wrote:
Fri Mar 26, 2021 10:08 am
As an aside, another film I have a ticket for is Dramarama (dir. Jonathan Wysocki) - has anyone here seen it? I have only 4 hours to finish watching it when I start so if it's really good (and suitable for a young teenager) I'd like to know beforehand so I can see if my son wants to watch it.
It's been a while since I saw this, but I don't remember anything that might be inappropriate for minors (the partying kids don't even bring any alcohol, bless them!). I would say it's fine if unspectacular, making up for its technical deficiencies with a whole lot of heart. Though I suspect if you used to be/are a "theatre nerd" then you might take away more from this film than I did!

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Dr Amicus
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Re: The Films of 2020

#115 Post by Dr Amicus » Tue Mar 30, 2021 12:30 pm

Well, I watched Dramarama over the weekend - alone, my son wasn't bothered - and it turned out to be not quite the film I was expecting. Most of it is set during a sleepover murder-mystery party as a group of High School drama students prepare to leave for college and one of them is intending to come out. What follows lightly subverts the conventions of the coming-out genre (for a start, the kids are quite scared about moving on and becoming "adults" - and are largely conservative(ish) Christians) but, as Izx says, with a lot of heart. Wysocki has a good eye - his sense of space as he moves his cast around the frame is impressive - and gets good performances from the cast. Listening to the Q&A afterwards (which may be available on the BFI Youtube channel - I know some of these from this year's festival are) he's very articulate about it, but I'm not quite sure the script is as sharp as it could be. I'm not sure though if I came to the film expecting one film and found another - a second viewing will be required to be sure. Anyway, it's likable enough, plays with generic conventions nicely and passed 90 minutes very pleasantly - I'd be interested to see if Wysocki can make a career because this is definitely promising.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2020

#116 Post by therewillbeblus » Thu Apr 01, 2021 7:31 pm

The Kid Detective is at worst an interesting failure and at best a safe satire that softly pulls apart genre tropes to reveal the humanity behind the masks we wear. The film has fun portraying the life of a private dick as the unglamorous, lonely existence that it likely would be outside of the vacuum of the glossy-lensed Greatest Generation self-empowered masculinity and into the sensitive amalgamation of post-9/11 coddled America. Adam Brody plays a man perpetually in the developmental stage of “emerging adulthood” and the filmmakers have a blast juxtaposing grown-up responsibilities and skills with frailties stemming from existential crises that should be self-deprecating amusement for many of us 30somethings who feel like blended half-adults/half-kids. The film resonates pretty directly with the dominant spirit of the Gen Y middle-upper class white American male population of 'ideological identity'-deprived "adults," including some dry witty observational comedy aimed at the dissonance between them and Gen Z.

The mesh of self-conscious modern-PI updates in familiar, unthreatening milieus, plays out like a loose version of Brick, except it often takes itself as seriously as the scene in the Pin’s mom’s kitchen, at least for a little while. However Brody’s protagonist harbors a sympathetic energy and the subtle information we get, in certain seemingly superfluous moments, disclose affirming qualities through acknowledging elisions we didn't know were there. We should have guessed though, as Brody is as complex as any of us, and the film's deliberate pace sneaks up on us by beginning with a distanced mockery of self-pity and gradually accessing the embedded morality in his core, exposing the burdens we carry underneath our pathetic-looking exteriors (I never loved Adam Brody, but he's perfectly cast here and I hope more filmmakers decide to use him this way going forth). The film has a lot to say about the nature of self-imposed responsibility, thankfully without overstating it and instead burying the feeling between the lines, emulating the internal silent processing we engage in, swallowing our traumatized conscience in isolation. In the end this film is too restrained and aloof to be great, but it's these very qualities that keep it interesting and mature.

The final shot is an excellent demonstration of this conflicted tonal plate, as Brody becomes emotional surrounded by music and grimaces that reflect it as awkwardly funny in another's subjective context, but is also a deeply felt catharsis for him inside- finally able to purge his buried pain. That the film leaves us out of this experience too is in step with its thematic contrast of public v private activity (in terms of the case content and one's emotional roots), which we're left to feel compassion for and relate to and wryly smile at knowingly, but not truly align with- so we can instead look at it like a mirror for our own layered psyches searching to find a home in an alienating world.

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brundlefly
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Re: The Films of 2020

#117 Post by brundlefly » Tue Apr 13, 2021 12:55 pm

Spontaneous (Brian Duffield, 2020). The kids are alright, at least until they pop.

Two-thirds of this flick about mysteriously exploding New Jersey teenagers manage a neat win, marrying gross black humor with an easy charm into an ode on just getting by. It’s less than thorough with the practical implications (there are acknowledgments of school shootings and a scale rehearsal of quarantine), not particularly intent on social satire (though “Our boy was too much rock for this world, bitch!” may be the new “I love my dead gay son!”), and may drop too many movie references (there’s a Carrie gag that’s more clever for how it doesn’t land) – all fine, because everyone is agreeable and the trauma is backgrounded by the swell of a new romance. Kids worry and laugh and cry and puke and get fucked up and fall in love, all while wearing chunks of their classmates. The chemistry between leads Katherine Langford and Charlie Plummer is so casually engaging that the plot doesn’t feel like one giant coping mechanism.

I don’t have as many problems with the other third as I thought I might. “Oh no,” I said, and immediately checked how much movie was left. What was left was off-balance and dropped a few balls and staggered over itself a bit. But not inappropriately, and I thought it righted itself enough to make it out the door with some confidence. It had been through a lot.

Choice soundtrack with Tampa’s cover of All That Jazz’ “Bye Bye Life” (née "Love"), Wolf Parade, Julien Baker, Sufjan. The Hooters! Bon Jovi is mentioned and never heard, as it should be. Did Bruce Springsteen ever write a song about a milk truck?

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colinr0380
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Re: The Films of 2020

#118 Post by colinr0380 » Sat May 08, 2021 4:01 pm

AidanKing wrote:
Tue Jun 30, 2020 7:07 am
Thomas Clay (previously suspected to be 'Nothing' on this forum) has finally managed to get his new film 'Fanny Lye Deliver'd', on which he has apparently been working for several years, released, albeit only on streaming obviously. I think it actually looks rather interesting and the trailer seems to show a great deal of technical sophistication in the making in a very 1970s Brit-film sort of style. Unfortunately, it only looks as if it is going to get a DVD release with no Blu Ray: I suspect Nothing would have had something to say about that.
DVD Beaver on the 4K UHD release of the Extended Cut version of the film!

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