Saturday, January 2, 2021

Netflix new release roundup for December ‘20


The Vaccine is out in the world now, and it’ll take some time before its impact on the future of the film industry can be measured. One likes to believe 2021 couldn’t possibly be any worse than 2020, but getting past that nightmare of a year with not only a new president on deck but a legitimate defense against the Virus does give one reason to be hopeful. Zod knows we could all use that.

Mank. The making of Citizen Kane through the eyes of co-writer Herman Mankiewicz. I was kinda drowsy when I watched this, plus it was really talky (what a surprise, a movie about a writer was packed with dialogue). It was cool to see historical figures like Orson Welles, Louis B. Mayer, Irving Thalberg and William Randolph Hearst depicted, but ultimately this didn’t thrill me as much as I had hoped it would. David Fincher directs from a screenplay by his late father Jack. Gary Oldman acts drunk most of the time as Mankiewicz and Amanda Seyfried as Marion Davies was good, but overall I thought it was kinda meh.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom. Early 20th-century blues pioneer Ma Rainey comes to Chicago with her band to record her songs, but her ambitious trumpet player has ideas of his own about how her music should be played. Co-produced by Denzel Washington, based on the play by August Wilson, Viola Davis is damn near unrecognizable in the title role but is also a force of nature, taking the contempt she holds for the white men controlling her career, the suspicion she has over Chadwick Boseman (in his final role) subverting her position as bandleader, and her general world-weariness and putting it into the blues. Boseman stands a strong chance at winning a posthumous Oscar with his performance; how very sad it is that he’s no longer with us.

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By now you’ve heard about Warner Brothers’ deal to release all its 2021 films on HBO Max at the same time as they’re released theatrically. It’s a plan that has rubbed some people the wrong way, among them Christopher Nolan

It’s awful hard to look at this and not think the genie is out of the bottle. It’s not likely to return, either. The theatrical distribution model was struggling before the Virus and if it’s a matter of financial survival on the studios’ part, even with a Vaccine now available, I’m unconvinced they’ll go to bat for the theaters without a strong motivation. Maybe one will come. 

That said, the recent stimulus deal signed last month offers some hope, and this piece offers more reasons to be cheerful for the long-term future of theaters (though watching movies at home has its merits too).

More on the other side.


And then there was the thing with Tom Cruise yelling at his Mission: Impossible 7 crew for not following safety protocols for The Virus. 

There are an awful lot of sides to this situation: the very notion of yet another MI movie; the reality of Cruise, the poster boy for a poisonous and destructive cult (which is difficult to ignore in this case) as the one looking out for other people’s lives; the question of whether or not this could’ve been handled in a private way. As the film’s producer, though, it was his right and responsibility to enforce the rules set up to keep everyone on set safe. I doubt he would’ve went ballistic if this wasn’t a last-straw situation; MI7 has suffered several Virus-related delays

As a human being he may come up short in other, unrelated areas, but as an actor and producer, tales of his professionalism have abounded for years, and with reason. He doesn’t need the money he stands to make from another MI flick. This wasn’t about that, and his rant made that clear—but his choice of mask could be better.

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Here’s a sobering gaze into the crystal ball for 2021. I know I personally don’t expect to see a new movie in theaters before the summer at least. A lot will depend on how quickly The Vaccine is distributed, but hell, I can wait. I’ve waited this long.

How will the Sundance Film Festival operate this year? Mostly virtually, from the look of it

The Oscars, by contrast, are still expected to operate live and in person, at least for now.

Also: here’s a remarkable story about a local actor turned filmmaker who put together a short fictional series chronicling how The Virus has impacted his neighborhood. (Thanks to Virginia for the link.)

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Karen’s special annual edition of The Dark Pages is almost set to go. This year’s theme is the year 1947, and I’ve submitted a piece on the Lucille Ball film Lured. Hopefully the issue will be ready to go this month. If you like film noir, give it a try; Karen has been publishing TDP for years and does a good job with it.

The next scheduled post will be the 15th; the first of two blogathons for this month.

4 comments:

  1. Interesting times we live in. The event I look most forward to (The Toronto Silent Film Festival) is up in the air. January 1st passed and we didn't get to take Gavin to the movies for his birthday.

    I got Garry to commit to watching Ma Rainey's Black Bottom but we haven't set a date/time. I've been doing a lot of that lately (sorry). They changed my dialysis appointments to accommodate the holidays and I'm not even sure what day it is even now.

    Hey 2021, this cock-eyed optimist just wants to get on with things!

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  2. I’m surprised the Silent FF hasn’t committed to going online, especially if it’s a popular event.

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  3. I haven't read many rave reviews about Mank, and I keep forgetting to watch it. However, now that I've read your review, I'll give it a go this week.

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  4. You might like it more than me, though I didn’t hate it.

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