Sunday, November 1, 2020

Netflix new release roundup for October ‘20


Good movies can still be found this year through streaming sites, and my site of choice remains Netflix. I suspect the overwhelming majority of this year’s Oscar candidates will come via the streamers, so here’s what I’ve been watching over the past weeks. 

Da 5 Bloods. The surviving members of a Vietnam platoon return to Vietnam forty years later to find the remains of their commanding officer, as well as to reclaim a cache of gold they appropriated during the war. Spike Lee captures the beauty of modern Vietnam well, its cities as well as its jungles, and the story is relevant, as you would imagine one of his joints to be. Delroy Lindo’s finest work has always been with Spike, and this may be his best performance ever, MAGA cap and all. A Best Actor nomination is all but assured. Also, how wonderful it was to see the late Chadwick Bozeman one more time, in a key supporting role, to remind us what a treasure we lost in him. Even in a normal year, this would be one of the year’s best.

The Old GuardHighlander meets Unbreakable: a race of immortal beings live in secret, righting wrongs around the world. They encounter a new one of their kind at the same time a pharmaceutical company wants to discover what makes them tick. Gina Prince-Bythewood was known for romantic dramas like Love and Basketball and Beyond the Lights. Who knew she had an action movie in her? And this one hits on all cylinders: Charlize Theron, who has been making a pretty good post-Oscar career as an action girl, rocks it in this one: kicking ass left and right, but with a vulnerable and human side to her as well. A multi-culti cast that goes all over the world, in a movie that could be the start of a new franchise—once The Virus is under control, of course.

I’m Thinking of Ending Things. I feel about Charlie Kaufman’s new film the way I did when I saw Darren Aronofsky’s Mother!: there was definitely a singular artistic vision here, at work in a story that starts out relatively mundane and ends surrealistic and utterly bizarre, but I’ll be damned if I can interpret any of it. My guess is it’s a meditation on aging and the deterioration and fragmentation of memory, though it seems to start as the woman’s story and ends as the man’s, which didn’t make sense. Like Mother!, I went into Thinking blind, assuming all I needed to know was the writer-director and his rep (I have got to stop doing that). Ludicrously talky, it bored me silly in places but I kept thinking well, sooner or later there’ll be an explanation for all this. There wasn’t, not that I could tell.

Rebecca (2020). The critics were less than charitable to this latest version of the world-famous Daphne DuMaurier novel memorably adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1940, but I didn’t think it was as mediocre as they said it was. The set design of Manderley was thrilling, as were the location shots, and weird dream sequences aside, I found it watchable. Lily James is less mousy as the nameless protagonist than Joan Fontaine, and Armie Hammer felt a bit less cold and uptight than Laurence Olivier, but Kristin Scott Thomas as Danvers was the best part for me. It won’t make me abandon my Criterion DVD of Hitch’s version, but for what it is, it’s alright.

More on the other side.

Most of Queens’ local, independent movie theaters, as far as I can tell, are preparing for a future reopening once the word from the governor is given. So far, the only Virus-related casualty is the Squire Great Neck in Nassau County, the former Movieworld. I only made it there once since the move from Douglaston; I would’ve liked to have gone back.

The Kew Gardens is still active on their Facebook page. In a post from August 13, they said they’re “prepping the inside for our ‘new normal,’” and they addressed why alternatives such as playing films outdoors wouldn’t work for them: “It makes no sense for us to do anything other than direct our funds & energy into making our REOPENING all you hoped it would be & would expect from us.”

Cinemart in Forest Hills had been showing movies on an outdoor screen underneath their marquee and adjacent to the cafe next door. In a Facebook post on September 26, they promised “more pop-up movie nights during this time.” They also mentioned a documentary about Cinemart owner and New York indie theater mogul Nick Nicolaou directed by Abel Ferrara.

The Museum of the Moving Image has a Kickstarter page going to help raise money to ensure their reopening “in the coming months—the number of visitors must be limited to 25% capacity, and operating costs have increased,” according to Director of Development Becca Keating in a recent e-mail.

Here’s an account from a critic based in California on returning to the movie theater.

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The reduced time spent here has definitely helped my fiction writing. I’m revising my baseball novel YET AGAIN, only much more drastically this time, chopping away entire chapters and streamlining subplots in order to get to the most important parts. I’m even changing the ending. I might change the title. Basically I’m doing all the things I would’ve been scared to do with this story even a year ago, much less five. The end product is recognizable as the story I’ve devoted much of my writing life to (outside of this blog, of course), but I think—hope?—think it’s a better story this time. 

But I’ve said that before.

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Remember when I made that chicken paprika dish as part of Silver Screen Suppers’ Murder She Wrote cookalong? Well, I recently talked to Jenny and she says her MSW cookbook won’t be ready to go for awhile—she’s looking at October 18, 2021 (Angela Lansbury’s birthday) as a possible release date. She is still looking for test cookers, so if you wanna give it a try, let her know.

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So Tuesday is The Day: either America descends further into a pale reflection of the great democracy we once were, or we admit we fucked up severely four years ago and make a course correction while there’s still time.

You know where I stand: DT has to go. He never should’ve been allowed anywhere near the White House to begin with and he is not the man I want leading us into a post-Virus world. Please don’t forget to vote. 

I’ll be back the 16th with another blogathon post.

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