Modern day Yogi Bear
- Paddington 2 (2018): There used to be a time when anything above a 90% Rottentomatoes rating meant something really special and a 100% rating was unheard of. Even in the worst of cases, you had an Armond White to make it elusive – well, you still do, he just hasn’t review this. I don’t remember where, but I must have heard this one in a movie recently, about how once everyone agrees about how phenomenal your work is, you’re done as an artist. It’s exaggerated, sure, but the claim could easily extend over those evaluating the art. Anyway, much ado about nothing, Paddington 2 is very light, warm hearted, enjoyable little movie that brings together the usual the British A-listers and flows squeak-lessly. And that’s about all I can say about it, sorry for being the Grouchmaster. 7/10
Just take the shot already!
- Infinite Football (2018): Corneliu Porumboiu’s most recent work is a ‘documentary-essay’ about – well, the human condition. The director likes to focus on the question of how one can be truly free within rules and norms, but that was not the strong point that made me appreciate this work. Instead, I was fascinated by how well ‘Infinite Football’ captures the manner in which life shapes the ideas we hold and how, with the passing of time, we have the tendency to create our own narratives almost regardless of whether those ideas align or not. Full review here. 8/10
Dope like there’s not tomorrow
- Icarus (2018): The surprise Oscar winner for Best Documentary Feature #politics, Icarus is two movies: the first part, starting out with director Brian Fogel trying to dope himself and get away with it in an amateur cycling event; the second part, the unveiling of the Russian state-sponsored doping program. The connection between the two is the now former director of the WADA approved anti-doping laboratory in Moscow, Grigory Rodchenkov. In some ways, the movie is similar to Alex Gibney’s The Armstrong Lie (2013), which also started as one thing and ended up being about Lance Armstrong’s confession of doping. But the tear in Icarus is more deeply felt, as the failed personal doping project of Fogel lacks a proper insightful resolution beyond “even if I had doped, I would never have won the Tour de France”. This renders the first part as little more than an introduction to the eccentric Rodchenkov, whose willingness and ease at assisting Fogel in his doping is questionable in itself but never really questioned. As the state-sponsored doping program blows up and Rodchenkov finds himself in the middle of it, the movie becomes something else, a taut little thriller and a convincing portrayal of the purported facts. It cedes initiative towards the end again, when the Olympic Committee’s willingness to allow more than two thirds of the Russian athletes to participate in the Rio 2016 is left unanalyzed. So take away the first half hour or so of the movie, refocus it on the (lack of) consequences to the scandal, and you’ve got something really, really good here. 7/10
The silent killer
- Marjorie Prime (2017): There’s something so beautiful, haunting and eerie about Marjorie Prime that it makes me want to ignore its shortcomings. In this elegy to memory, director Michael Almereyda just captures the cyclical nature of our lives, in a slow-paced, introspective and deeply emotional venture. Maybe it could have done even better with more focus, in a different interpretation, but it’s hard to say. The movie works because it feels suspended in time and is beautifully acted by its small cast of veteran actors (Tim Robbins, Geena Davis, Jon Hamm, Lois Smith). I’m a bit short for words, but MP is probably one of the best movies I’ve ever seen about grief, pain, acceptance and everything in between. 9/10