Maciej at the Movies: Recapping One of the Craziest Years in Film History (Part II)

| April 23rd, 2021

Maciej Kasperowicz is a special cinematic correspondent for DaBearsBlog. He’s also a good friend, a dedicated Bears fan/Josie Woods loyalist and the voice I trust most when it comes to all things movies.

This is his follow-up to yesterday’s column. (Just scroll down and read it.) 

Best Picture

Whoo boy.

Minari is pretty handily my favorite of these. Granted, I’m a sucker for immigrant family stuff, but it’s as good an old-fashioned family drama as I can recall. It’s almost like a great novel in all the ways that the five main characters are allowed to disappoint, surprise, forgive, and love each other. The movie never seems long, but when I think about how much real emotion and character development is packed into the fact that it’s under 2 hours long seems astounding. I can’t bring myself to think that something this good might win the year after Parasite, but there’s a world where the Amazon stuff gets enough of the progressive wing of the Academy off of Nomadland, it turns out that many people don’t actually like Chicago 7, and this both exciting and traditional movie has enough 2nd and 3rd place votes to actually win.

I am actually picking the favorite, Nomadland, to win, though, and I’ll be relatively happy when it does. Between Nomadland and Promising Young Woman, this has been a great year for totally fair and well-written criticism of movies I still rather like. If you haven’t been keeping up, Nomadland has a scene towards the beginning filmed at an Amazon facility, and mentions that evil megacorporation a few times off-hand, all without really taking any sort of stand on them (it has been pointed out that the book the movie is based on is less afraid to have people voice criticism).

I think that’s a fair reading, though I read Fern’s off-hand remark about how well Amazon pays more as a sad reflection on the available options than any sort of endorsement. Setting all that aside, Nomadland is absolutely gorgeous-looking. And, especially when it takes time to focus on the characters Fern meets along the way, I think it does a beautiful job portraying the search for some kind of freedom and control in a harsh society while allowing for glimpses of beauty and joy. Chloe Zhao rules. 

If you’re the type of reader that enjoys a thorough evisceration, I’d recommend Ayesha Siddiqi’s shredding of Promising Young Woman, much like Nomadland, a movie I quite like while totally sympathizing with many criticisms of it. Indeed, it’s very much not the satisfying rape-revenge movie that its trailer promises (and that many people do still seem to be treating it as). If anything, it’s a deeply sad movie about repeated attempts to grab onto some kind of power or happiness that offers very little solace. I think the acting by Mulligan and a cavalcade of well-cast nice guys really carries it to something unique and good (though I don’t think the ending works).

While I totally see how Promising Young Woman isn’t for everyone, Judas and the Black Messiah seems an easy recommendation no matter what your tastes are. It both works great as a Departed/Infernal Affairs style undercover cop thriller and as a quick primer about the politics of the Black Panthers and the racism of the FBI. One caveat, specifically applicable to readers of this blog, is that you’ll have to tune out how much Cleveland, where the movie was shot, really doesn’t look like Chicago all that much.

I’m not quite as in love with Sound of Metal, but it’s also a really easy movie to like, with the approachable structure of an easily frustrated main character trying to overcome adversity, largely for love (of both music and a woman). The movie really strikes a chord (thanks Sandy Kenyon, I assume) when it questions what “adversity” really means in this case and again, as expected) in its sound design.

The Father, I wouldn’t recommend to everyone, as I know several people for whom movies about dementia and Alzheimer’s are a no go, but damn, it’s actually really good. Neither a Still Alice-style straightforward weepie nor a straight play adaptation, The Father plays some Lynch-y character tricks, and it really feels like it’s playing them on us and on Anthony Hopkins’ aging Anthony at the same time. The rest of the cast is superb, the production design is excellent, I was shocked at how much I liked it (though, again, I’m not quite sure it sticks the landing).

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