What I’ve been watching (Movie Round-up)

My last movie round up (i.e. round up of movies I’ve been watching) was on November 1st 2020. Time for a new one covering the last 5 or so months. In order, I think (ones I finished only).

Shorts – Canvas (heartwarming), Two Distant Strangers (horrifying).

There was another short but it’s not coming to me.

The series –

Mangrove – the first of Steve McQueen’s Small Axe series (looking at Black British West Indian life and struggles) with Antiguan and Barbudan Shabier Kirchner wracking up awards (especially from critics groups like the New York Film Critics Circle) as the cinematographer. I wrote about his strides in this CREATIVE SPACE. So good I wish it was Oscar eligible. Also I need to make time to binge the other four films in the series.

Mangrove is based on unrest and a trial when Black Caribbean people faced xenophobia and police brutality in the 1960s UK.

Trust – this was a mini-series about the Getty kidnapping back in the day – the Getty sections were obscene, no one should have that much money; but the dynamics between the Italians was very interesting – pretty compelling series overall (the standout performance for me being Luca Marinelli whom I ‘discovered’ last year due to The Old Guard and Francesco Colella, also Hilary Swank and Brendan Fraser)

Fan vid (spoiler alert)

I think it captures the Primo character played by Marinelli very well – hard to believe this coked up hot head is the same guy playing the calm character of Nicky in The Old Guard.

Unorthodox – a series (about a young woman seeking independence from her Orthodox Jewish life by absconding to Germany and joining a group of free spirited musicians and auditioning for a spot in the school they attend) I didn’t plan to watch but what an interesting series it turned out to be.

The Morning Show – forgot this one. Which maybe says too much.

The Movies –

The Holidate – kinda cringey, but surprisingly fun.

Marshall – about famed litigator Thurgood Marshall; a bit by the numbers but great performance from Chadwick Boseman as always (RIP to him and give the man his Oscar for Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom).

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom – speaking of…this should be having more impact this awards season than it is, an August Wilson play adapted, with outstanding performances all around; so much so I was even rooting for a supporting actor nod for Colman Domingo, Viola Davis remains a shoe-in for best actress for me (so consistently good she’ll have to be great to be noticed), and Chadwick’s performance in this (and for me as supporting in Da 5 Bloods) make his inevitable win well earned.

Wendy – a Peter Pan adaptation filmed partly in Antigua with some actors drawn from right here – I wrote about it in my column CREATIVE SPACE

Scene from Wendy filmed at what looks like Hell’s Gate Island, Antigua.

Happiest Season – I kind of hated the girlfriend’s whole family; fun though (also, I think, the first mainstream LGBTQIA Christmas movie)

Dirty Pretty Things – Chiwetel Ejiofor, ladies and gentlemen. This man is so underrated. He is such a good actor (Kinky Boots to 12 Years a Slave to The Old Guard) and so often it’s in the subtle moments, the minute shifting of his eyes, his brows; it’s in his silences as much as his vocal delivery. This film is a dark and quirky look at the undocumented people (in the UK this time) and what they have to do to survive. It’s not pretty.

Uptight – this was a 1968 Us Black power film, the events of the film sparked by the assassination of Dr. Martin Luther King – solid (featuring the always sublime Ruby Dee, who is one of the producers and writers – legend!)

 “No stars in the movement. They kill em too quick.” – Uptight, 1968

Soul – it was okay but I was expecting to be more overwhelmed by its greatness given the reception and its run this awards season; it seems set to win the Oscar for animated feature.

The Salt ‘n Pepa movie – not my favourite hip hop movie though they remain one of my favourite hip hop groups.

On the Rocks – Rashida Jones, Marlon Wayans, and Bill Murray in an unlikely Sofia Coppola film, and, you know what, it works.

Malcolm and Marie – Love, love, love John David Washington, thought the age gap between him and Zendaya was overblown given every other Hollywood film; that said I both liked and hated this film. He drinks a lot and doesn’t know when to leave things alone and is up his own ass at times a lot. This feels as much John David’s Mo Better Blues as it does Zendaya’s Virginia Woolf. It legit made me lol and smh at times, and do both simultaneously. It is a bit of a drama school ish exercise (which perhaps was inevitable given that it was a conversation-heavy two person piece and one of the first attempts to film a pandemic era movie). It’s also quite interesting. The script may be overwrought, and the film feels claustrophobic at times (who wants to be trapped with two people arguing all night, and no one needed to see any of them go to the bathroom, several times, with the door open), but John David and Zendaya’s acting choices are really good for the most part (and if they sometimes tip over into too much, well, that can happen when you throw yourself in to the performances as they clearly did). The film feels intentionally Oscar baity at times which, ironically, might be why it’s not getting the awards love. It was a divisive conversational piece (anecdotally becoming one of the more talked about conversation pieces on my social media).

New Orleans – a 1947 film starring Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday (actually they were secondary characters but they are muthereffing Louis Armstrong and Billie Holiday and should have been centered but, Hollywood).

The Carter Effect – true story, someone recently told me it was a waste of time discussing basketball with me because I did not know anything about the game; this, in response to me referring to Vince Carter as one of the all time best dunkers in the game (mere days after they argued with me that Detroit only had two championships while I insisted they had 3, 2 from the Bad Boy era and 1 from the Ben Wallace early millennium era). And that wasn’t even the stupidest part of the debate (love this person but this was a nonsense debate). No, presenting the facts didn’t earn me an apology. But whatever, facts #drumpf opinion and I may not watch the full NBA season like I used to but I’m not sleeping on my basketball docs and this one was a love letter to one of the best dunkers to ever dunk.

(Not the doc. a Vince Carter highlight reel)

Judas and The Black Messiah – deserves more awards love than it’s getting. Daniel Kaluuya and Lakeith Stanfield both headscratchingly being nominated for best supporting actor by the Academy notwithstanding. Also can we tip our hat to Spike Lee and his unjustly overlooked Da 5 Bloods because Judas director Shaka King and Oscar nominated Nomadland director Chloe Zhao are former students of his.

Miracle at St. Anna – Speaking of Spike, I finally watched his previous war drama, this one set in World War 2. There was a fair amount of similar beats to Bloods but I’m glad I saw the Vietnam War era Bloods first because it was better (way better). St. Anna was not as bad as its rep though.

Operation Finale – Starring Oscar Isaac (as a Mossad agent) and Ben Kingsley (as a Nazi war criminal), this is a true to life (complete with video reels of the actual trial) historical action drama of the tracking and capture and trial of the said criminal who had resettled post WWII in Argentina along with other secret Nazis (word is, some settled in the Caribbean too). This sent me down a research rabbit hole of how all too common this was (with a reminder of just how evil the Third Reich).

Coming 2 America – no criticism; it was fun to return to Zamunda. I laughed (mostly the barbershop scene) and I liked the plotline about the daughters more than the plotline about the son…but whatever Eddie’s back, again (y’all slept on Dolemite and he really should have been in awards conversation for that one). This one was just for the family.

One Night in Miami – this was part of my catch-up on films in awards contention mission. Plus Regina King’s directorial debut. Plus I stan Aldis Hodge (even watched Invisible Man because of him) so once I realized he was in this, it wasn’t a matter of if I would watch but when. Being an in one room film for the most part, I thought it would feel static but it didn’t; It was pretty good.

Liberty Heights – a sometimes uncomfortable 1990s teen interracial film set in the 50s. It reminded me of A Bronx Tale, which I preferred by a mile.

Loev – this was a Indian/Asian gay drama with a very uncomfortable *spoiler alert* rape scene. That scene aside I thought it was a fresh take on India as a location and modern film triangles and love unexpressed, and gay themes generally.

Sarah’s Key – the story of a child in the holocaust and a reporter investigating her story.

Promising Young Woman – unpopular opinion, I liked the ending; the ending, the storytelling (script and directing), the visual aesthetic (production design), the strong lead performance. If Viola doesn’t win best actress, I wouldn’t mind it going to Carey Mulligan. All the awards!

Let them all Talk – Meryl Streep’s latest. I watched it though for Dianne Wiest whom I’ve loved since I first saw her when I was a child in Independence Day, a film that affected me deeply at the time because (as I’ve been recently reflecting) I cried a lot in movies back then – in my defense, we had one TV station at the time and they were always showing sad movies (lol). Anyway, this movie was about a writer struggling to write her latest book and being shaded by a friend whose life she had (allegedly) mined for her fiction. Slow, pensive pace, twist ending; me, a little bit jealous that my publisher nor agent have ever booked me (and three of my peeps) on a cruise to a major book event so that I can work on my novel. Sigh. Hollywood lied about the writing life…either that or …there’s like a secret door I haven’t been able to open yet. Where are you hiding secret door? I want a slow cruise in a suite on the QEH with my besties and ample time to write too.

The Photograph – Lakeith Stanfield is amazing. Anyone saying otherwise is wrong. That’s all.

(Not a scene from The Photograph but evidence of the amazingness of the actor who appears in two films on this list).

No, that’s not all. Good performance from Issa Rae as well and just a beautifully shot, affecting Black romance.

Concrete Cowboy – how could I forget to add this one. Idris. On horseback. Is my new Urban Cowboy. Sorry, John Travolta.

Love and Monsters – It’s crazy to me that this one – I think I fell asleep for a bit in the third act – is now Oscar nominated but okay, sure. There may be hope for Thunder Force (why was this made) yet.

And whew that’s a lot (and there may be more, I don’t remember. It’s six months. I know some of y’all watch more than 5 things a month, so don’t judge me. I work a lot, sleep very little, and movies/TV is one of my escapes.

What are some of yours?

Have you seen any of these films? What have you been watching for the last half year?

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