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Monthly Archives: February 2020

Long Day’s Journey Into Night

(Chinese): Luo has returned to his hometown after the death of his father. The trip back evokes memories of a friendship with a man he calls Wildcat and Wan, a woman with whom he fell in love and then who disappeared from his life. The film is in two main parts. During the first half, he begins his search for Wan with only an old photograph he finds in his father’s things. The film moves dreamily between past and present to develop the story of Wan. During the last hour, Luo ends up where Wan possibly is singing, falls asleep …

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Holiday

(Danish): Sascha is a young woman whose older boyfriend is a drug dealer – and is also very controlling. The film seems to be an examination of her life with her boyfriend over several days. There were a couple of aspects of the film I liked. The lead actress who played Sascha is very good, and I liked how the cameral focused much of the film on her. The director captured the nuances of her character very well. Otherwise, I found the film rather boring. There is a story, but the story itself did not make a lot of sense …

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A Sun

(Chinese): This film is about a family whose structure begins to disintegrate when their youngest child A-Ho, a troublemaker from his youngest days, ends up serving a 3-year prison sentence. There are two main parts to the film. The first part tells how A-Ho ended up in prison and uses flashbacks to better understand the dynamics of the family. For those who have seen Ordinary People, another remarkable film about a dysfunctional family, it is reminiscent of that film. The second part of the film takes a bit of a shift and becomes a crime drama. Part of the brilliance …

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Blue Jay

Having watched and really enjoyed Alexander Lehmann’s Paddleton, I decided to catch his earlier film, Blue Jay. The entire film consists of two characters (well, there is a very brief encounter with a third minor character). Jim (Mark Duplass) and Amanda (Sarah Paulson), old high school sweethearts, and who are now moving toward middle age, meet unexpectedly in a grocery store in a California mountain town. He is there to settle his mother’s estate and sell her house, and she is there for the upcoming birth of her sister’s baby. The film takes place over the course of one afternoon …

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Asperger’s Are Us

After seeing Paddleton, I was interested in other films by Alexandre Lehmann, and I found this film. This is a documentary about four young men – Noah, Ethan, New Michael, and Jack – who are all on the autism spectrum, had formed their own comedy troupe and were preparing to perform their last show. While I would have liked to have had more background on each of them in terms of their growing up years, I was inspired by these four men who set out to do what they loved doing – comedy. It was also great to hear these …

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Cake

(Pakistan): This film is about three siblings who return home to Kabul after their father suffers from congestive heart failure. The return home surfaces a number of interpersonal struggles and family secrets that risk fracturing the family. At first glance, it seems like a standard “dysfunctional family dynamics” film. However, the film is really well constructing. The ensemble acting is great. The screenplay is very well crafted, frequently very funny, and keeps coming up with more surprises; I didn’t find it at all predictable. I am impressed with the music; I don’t know anything about Pakistani pop music, but it …

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Paddleton

Michael (Mark Duplass) and Andy (Ray Romano) are two best friends who live next to each other. Michael is diagnosed with terminal stomach cancer, and he asks Andy to help him to end his life early before the worst of the illness sets in. The film follows their story after Michael’s decision. I really loved this film. It isn’t perfect – there is one part in particular that seemed not necessary to the overall story – but the film reminded me of Sean Baker films that focus more on character development than plot. Duplass and Romano are excellent and have …

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Ash is the Purest White

(China). Story of Qiao, a young woman whose boyfriend Bin is a gangster (well, I am not sure of the exact translation – he kind of runs an underworld gambling operation and seems to perform “dirty work” for his boss). One day, Bin is viciously attacked by a pack of young men, and Qiao fires warning shots in the air to scare them off. She is arrested and spends the next 5 years in prison. The story is told in three parts: The first, as Bin’s girlfriend before she is arrested; 5 years later, her release and post-arrest life; and …

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Border

(Sweden). This is a very unusual and strange film. Tina is a customs officer. She has an unusual knack for being able to smell people’s emotions – she can tell when someone is trying to get something illegal through the security checkpoint. One day, Vore comes through security; she senses something is wrong but cannot quite determine what it is. When her partner searches Vore, he doesn’t find anything. Another man comes through who has a child pornography disc hidden in his phone, and this sets off a series of events that connect Tina, Vore, and the other man in …

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Unbelievable

This Netflix miniseries that begins with a young woman living in the Seattle area, Marie (Kaitlyn Dever) who was raped, reports it and then, under pressure from the local police, withdraws her allegation. This further alienates this young woman, who spent many of her childhood years moving from one foster home to another. Meanwhile, about 5 years in the future, two detectives (played by Toni Collette and Merritt Wever) are investigating a series of sexual assaults that appear to be connected. The film moves back and forth across the 8 episodes between the two stories. Overall, I liked the film. …

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