2019 was the year of diarrhea of the hard drive. Like Fredrick Wiseman who seems to have forgotten everything he learned about editing as he has aged, the franchises (Marvel, Star Wars) and elder statesmen of Hollywood (Martin Scorsese and Terrence Malick) are following suit with their lofty “epics.” All of them need he who shall not be named to rev us his chainsaw and start snipping away. If they were including Bollywood song & dance numbers I may give them a little slack. Speaking of Indian cinema, when is Hollywood going to start teaming up the likes of Salman Khan with the Dwayne Johnsons? (I have a great script idea for that pairing.) Speaking of international talent not yet on Tinsel Town’s radar, I offer up Aislinn Derbez (who they gave a thankless role in the middling MISS BALA remake) who I’ve been paying attention to since discovering her in A LA MALA. That film should get an American remake as I doubt most people who didn’t speak Spanish saw it.
If I didn’t have a life to live with diverse interests, I’d rush out to see every “buzzed about” film coming out of film festivals. Years of disappointment and 35 years of industry expertise has taught me to ignore the chatter. My favorite film of 2018, THE DEATH OF STALIN, happened to be one of those buzzers (Armando Iannucci and Steve Buscemi were why I saw it). By year end awards hoopla, the film wasn’t mentioned once (neither was Charlize Theron’s acting in TULLY which had the same “buzz”). The “tastemakers” are like babies with their new shiny toys, PR flacks know how to distract them with their lollipops.
In the late 1980’s I served for a couple of tours as a concessionaire with American Indian Dance Theatre. While on a Western tour, we found ourselves in Helena, Montana. Taking a much-needed cigarette break in front of our venue I was approached by a slumped shouldered man. “You’re not from around here?” he quipped. “No, I’m from NYC.” “I’m from Chicago” he replied. “I’ve been out here for 5 years, let me tell you how things work here. The legislature meets every two years for three months, and they spend half of that time repealing laws. If they have any time left, they might pass a law or two.”
I have given up on trying to catch all the films getting rave reviews coming off the festival circuit. The waste of time and money this year was ridiculous. I spent the week between Christmas and New Years Eve catching up on films that have been littering End of Year Awards lists and have not liked most of them. I can be vicious about certain films but I’ll save that for when I get around to opening a Twitter account which will get me in trouble as my sarcastic wit is appreciated by select well-rounded individuals who don’t live or die on box office tallies.
WORLDS APART is a small sort of film from Greece with big scope and ambition. The film tells three distinct narratives dealing with three love stories of sort, each representing a distinct generation, and each story involving a Greek National and a foreigner. These three stories are partially unified with recurring motifs. They also overlap with other devices that will not be reviled in this review so not to give away major plot reveals. This structure recalls another film from 2016 which I much enjoyed CERTAIN WOMEN. The use of a love story with universal appeal with its healing powers echoes the early films by Francois Truffaut, a filmmaker I greatly admire.
We have to reach into the world of hip hop to come up with an analysis of the films theatrically released in 2016. As Public Enemy would say “Don’t believe the hype.” At every major film festival, any many of the minor ones, a buzz starts about the “hot film” that’s a must see and a guaranteed award winner come end of the year. Everyone gets hot and bothered and starts repeating this statement which most likely originated with the publicist or sales agent. (I have been both and write mean ad copy for lazy journalists.)
In an excellent piece of storytelling, ADMIRAL brings to life Michiel de Ruyter (1607-1676), brilliant naval strategist, creator of the Dutch Marines, family man and stabilizing citizen of the recently created Republic of the Netherlands. With political and familial ties between the great houses of Europe threatening to tear apart the young Republic, Michiel de Ruyter (Frank Lammers) is asked to take over after Admiral Maarten Tromp (Rutger Hauer) is killed in battle by the English forces under King Charles II (Charles Dance). What pulls at de Ruyter is his neglected family, his desire to see his beloved Holland not be torn apart in a civil war between the Republicans and the Orangists under Prince Willem III (Egbert Jan Weeber) and to modernize the naval fleet to protect his homeland and their merchant fleet.
VAXXED: FROM COVER-UP TO CATASTROPHE is not an anti-vaccine film, but surprisingly, not a single mainstream newspaper, television or radio show will say that. The film actually supports true science that uses control groups and what studies have shown – that single dose vaccines are safer than combined vaccines. This has been the consistent view of its director Dr. Wakefield, and his expressed goal in the film to make vaccines better by doing more studies.
Many of us well remember those dry, pithy sketches from Monty Python’s Flying Circus on tv and film from the late 60’s to early 70’s. An easier and more accessible wit is woven through BOOM BUST BOOM, co-directed by former Python Terry Jones with his son Bill and Ben Timlett. Here an important message underscores the humor. Jones displays intent concern at how economics is taught and applied today as he walks through centuries of Boom and Bust scenarios examining how it all went down. Literally.
More films are being made, more “distributors” are launching and yet way too many films are not getting released in a way that avid, or even casual, moviegoers are able to watch them, let alone know they even exist. I…