Arty Chick’s Seven Picks: Week 8

This week’s picks include classics and cult faves. There’s only one foreign film in the bunch for a change of pace. Two of the films come from the same director, though one is a frightening drama and the other is a sci-fi. There’s a screwball detective comedy and a Spanish psychopath on the Amazon drama. It’s heavy on the 30s and the 70s.

 

The films are: Aguirre Wrath of God, It Happened One Night, Don’t Look Now, Notorious, Fight Club, The Thin Man, The Man Who Fell to Earth

 

Review: Our Friend

Read this first. It’s the Esquire article on which Our Friend is based. The writer is Matthew Teague, a journalist who wrote an essay about the slow and painful death of his vibrant wife Nicole from ovarian cancer at the age of 36. Only the article wasn’t just about him and his wife; it was about their best friend Dane, a guy who put his own life on hold to help Nicole, Matthew and their two young girls get through their darkest days. It’s a story that is heartbreaking and uplifting all at once and will have you thinking about who your friends are, the types of sacrifices they might make in similar situations, and the type of friend you strive to be. This went way beyond a little cooking, babysitting or GoFundMe type stuff. Dane was all in, as a friend and caregiver extraordinaire. And when Nicole eventually succumbed to cancer, Matt was able to take a step back and see just how critical Dane was to his own survival.

Review: One Night in Miami

Academy Award winning actress Regina King’s extraordinary directorial debut is an adaptation of a play that tells the story of one evening in 1964 when four African-American icons get together in a small motel room in Miami. Those men are Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir, “Peaky Blinders”, “High Fidelity), Cassius Clay, soon to become Mohammed Ali (Eli Goree, Race, “Ballers”), Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge, Hidden Figures, The Invisible Man), and Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr., Hamilton‘s Aaron Burr). They come together to celebrate their friend Clay’s upset victory over world heavyweight boxing champ Sonny Liston. But amidst the revelry their conversations turn to the power and responsibility of being a celebrity in the Black liberation movement’s early years. What’s great about the script is that it isn’t dogmatic or preachy. It’s the kind of conversation old friends might have, peppered with jokes and digs and a heated disagreement or two along the way.

Review: The Marksman

What can I say? It’s Liam Neeson – with a straw hat, a rifle, and a faithful dog. There’s nothing particularly unique or original about The Marksman, but Neeson gives the type of performance that’s made him watchable in even the lamest of movies like Honest Thief in October or Made In Italy in August. The Marksman is certainly better than those, but not as good as the moving marital drama Ordinary Love released in barely pre-pandemic times (February 2020). The guy is nothing if not prolific at the ageless action-thriller-romantic hero age of 68. In The Marksman, Neeson plays Jim Hanson, a hardened rancher (with an all-American name and distinctly Irish accent) who works an isolated stretch of borderland in Arizona. He’s a widower drowning in debt, and he doesn’t have much use for anyone or anything outside his ranch, a bottle, and his four-legged companion Jackson. But he’s also an ex-Marine – so he’s got honor. The kind of honor that propels him to make good on a promise to take 11-year-old migrant Miguel (Jacob Perez) to the safety of family in Chicago, even though the border patrol and a group of ruthless killers from a Mexican drug cartel are hot on their trail.

Arty Chick’s Seven Flicks: Week 7

This week’s picks won boatloads of Oscars and had nominations galore. They hail from France, and Italy, and Germany, and Spain, and one has no dialogue.

When I put together the list I was just choosing a favorite film a day with no overall agenda, but this week’s turn out to be heavy on male characters, from a movie star to a boxer, a mime to a brute, an angel to a hard boiled detective. And five of them are in black and white.

The films are:

The Artist; Raging Bull; Biutiful;  Les Enfants Du Paradis; Chinatown; Wings of Desire; La Strada 

 

Quickie Review: Stars Fell on Alabama

It could’ve been worse. I could have paid to see Stars Fell on Alabama in a theater. Instead, I was able to float mindlessly through this romantic dramedy as if it were just some leftover entry in the Hallmark/Lifetime/Netflix Christmas movie rotation. Except there is no holiday. Just a high school reunion – and a junior varsity version of the much, much, much better romantic drama Sweet Home Alabama. Please don’t get them confused.

Review: Da Five Bloods

I can’t believe it’s taken me so long to watch this one, but since awards season is sneaking up and screeners are flying into my mailbox, I finally bit the bullet. And I am glad I did. Spike Lee has created another powerful film with a foreground story about four Vietnam vet buddies returning to Nam to retrieve some gold they left behind and also to repatriate the remains of the fifth Blood buried in a remote jungle. The film is underpinned with a history of the US government’s racist treatment of Black soldiers and it’s not a stretch to see how much of that has not changed. Lee has never been one to sugar coat anything. It’s an entertaining movie with some great performances, though it could have been cut down a bit without losing its way.

Review: Small Axe: Mangrove

The first film of Steve McQueen’s (12 Years a Slave) Small Axe anthology sets a high bar for the 5-part series.  Mangrove tells the true story of a group that would come to be called The Mangrove Nine. Centered on a restaurant in the Notting Hill neighborhood of London where the West Indian diaspora gather, it’s a harrowing indictment of the Metropolitan Police’s violent systemic racism and a powerful story of the community’s push-back that landed nine of them in a high profile court case. And while there are nine defendants, the film’s heart is with Frank Crichlow (Shaun Parkes, “Lost in Space”), the owner of the Mangrove restaurant who is one policeman’s favorite target. The film boasts great performances, intense action, and a yell at your television story.

Review: Wonder Woman 1984

Wonder Woman 1984 is the first movie released mid-pandemic for which I was sorely tempted to mask up and venture into a theater. Really glad I didn’t. Lasso of truth: WW84 is okay, but falls far short of its predecessor and is, most definitely, not worth risking your life for. It’s simply too long and meandering in plot to fully satisfy all but those desperately hungry for a superhero movie. I thought I was. Now I’m not so sure! I didn’t dislike WW84; but I was disappointed.

Girl Power – in front of and behind the camera – can only take you so far. Pieces of the story are good. They just don’t hang together all that well. The movie is too heavy on the messaging (Don’t lie. Greed is bad. Most people want to be good. Be careful what you wish for. Truth is all there is.) and too light on the superheroics. I’m all for Diana Prince living a double life, but aren’t we here mostly to see Wonder Woman doing her thing? Wonder Woman 1984 needed more Wonder Woman!

Review: The Midnight Sky

Not sure what George Clooney thought he was making, but this post-apocalyptic drama is a slog. In it a heavily bearded Augustine Lofthouse (Clooney) is left behind at an arctic research outpost by choice after everyone else evacuates. He’s got only one goal and that is to alert Sully and the rest of the astronauts on a distant space mission that they can’t come back to earth because an unnamed disaster has made it uninhabitable. But he can’t reach them. And then he finds a cute little girl named  Iris (Caoilinn Springall) who’s been left behind and the two of them have to make it to another research station across the unforgiving frozen landscape to get to a stronger antenna. Meanwhile, up in space Sully (Felicity Jones) and her crew that consists of her husband Tom (David Oyelowo), Sanchez (Demian Bichir), Maya (Tiffany Boone), and Mitchell (Kyle Chandler) are happily heading home from a mission to scout out a habitable planet, oblivious to what’s happened back home, but growing more concerned each day that they aren’t able to reach NASA – or anyone else for that matter.