Movies of the Week #29 #30 (2020)

The Russian Five (2018): With all my experience of hockey coming about during that one edition of NHL I played relentlessly in the early 2000s, I still look upon the sport with a certain fondness. This is a phenomenal underdog story, about the Detroit Red Wings finally finding their groove and winning the Stanley Cup after half a century. The plan, set out in the early 80s, took ten plus years to mature, and it provides an interesting perspective on the challenges of sports management, strategic planning as well as that certain extra that you need to win in the big moments. Add to that the human interest story, with the costs and risks of importing Russian players in the late 80s and early 90s, and you get a colourful documentary. It doesn’t really matter if you care about hockey in the end, even though TRF doesn’t hold your hand to explain the ins and outs of the game/business. Ultimately, the story is bigger than the puck (hah!). 8/10

Quiz (2020): For fans of Who Wants to be a Millionaire, this will most certainly prove a tasty little nugget. It’s a surprising true story about the (supposed) fraud committed by one of the early millionaire winners. While the movie clearly sways towards the players, with few pretenses of objectivity, the story leading up to the big showdown is the real treat. Matthew Macfadyen, playing Charles Ingram, is great to watch in this, embodying the uncertainty about the truth or fiction that the movie tries to convey. Unfortunately, this playful approach feels rushed at times, with the conclusion less than the rewarding finale the mini-series deserved. 7/10

Dave Chappelle: Killin’ Them Softly (2000): I was only vaguely aware of Dave Chappelle before going down a Youtube rabbit hole earlier this week. So I thought catching up on his highly rated 2000 breakthrough special seemed like a good thing to do. Chappelle is extremely watchable, even when he isn’t funny, whether on purpose or not. Hence, this stand-up has a lot of good moments and some topics feel just as valid today as they did twenty years ago (police brutality and racism much?). Others taste like they’ve gone off a little, as our minds have been trained to be more alert to certain comedy riffs, implicitly taking the humor out of them. I still enjoyed Killin’ Them Softly, particularly the first 2/3 of it, and I’m going to keep exploring Mr. Chappelle. 7/10

Spaceship Earth (2020): I was disappointed to find out that Spaceship Earth focused primarily on the ecological themes of the story and less so on the psychological ones. I was also impressed by the sheer ambition people can have, the kind of passionate innovation and boundless projects that arise when all pieces fall into place. It feels like something from a different time. Unfortunately, SE doesn’t embrace its own eccentricities, it spends too little time with the messiah behind the cult(ish) organization that gave birth to the project, and ultimately doesn’t offer much in terms of new perspectives on the environmental welfare front. I was left reeling at the thought of what this might have looked like in the hands of a young Werner Herzog. Alas, it is what it is, merely a complex curiosity. 6/10

The Art of Racing in the Rain (2019): This Simon Curtis movie is, more or less, The Notebook with a dog. It carries the same sensitivity, the same emotional squareness, the same outright cheesiness as the 2004 hit, taking little effort in going beyond what’s expected of it. Following the crowd pleasing recipe of old, The Art of Racing takes something I enjoy a lot, motor racing, and something I enjoy moderately, a dog, and manages to say nothing about a man’s relationship with both. There’s so much fodder here, that a lot of things will beggar belief, none more so than the closing scenes, with an 8 year old Ferrarista having Senna as his idol. Alright, I jest. But not really. 4/10

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