Movies of the Week #41 #42 (2020)

The Forty-Year-Old Version (2020): Radha Blank wrote, directed and starred in one of 2020s best movies, a thoughtful, engaging and thoroughly enjoyable story about finding your voice and fighting for what you think is right and proper. This is the rare movie about art and artists that finds the perfect balance in portraying what the life of an aspiring artist, particularly one who’s part of a minority, can look and feel like. But what makes it a standout, beyond the social commentary, is the bright and engaging characters on screen, that you inevitably end up rooting for or loathing. Sure, it’s a tad blunt in some of its strokes, particularly throughout the last third, but this doesn’t make it any less rewarding and uplifting. 8/10

The Trial of the Chicago 7 (2020): Aaron Sorkin is back in the director’s chair after Molly’s Game (2017) and produces a movie that both is and isn’t Sorkin-esque. The courtroom drama starring Eddie Redmayne, Sacha Baron Cohen and Mark Rylance (among many others) is exciting to follow and infuriating to digest. It’s hard to believe that such a topical film, about the social imperative of protesting, police violence and political subplotting began shooting before all these themes were front and center in the (Covid dominated) media landscape of 2020. Of course, Sorkin has never been known for having a light touch, which is why TTotC7 feels heavy handed at times, but beyond that, one could almost argue that this is an important movie. 8/10

A Coffee in Berlin (2012): Getting a bloody coffee has never been so darned frustrating as it is for young Niko (Tom Schilling) in this existential trot infused with social awkwardness. While the movie meanders too much for its own good and not all scenes are equally exciting, I found Niko’s plight relatable and Schilling’s performance endearing, which is saying something, given how much of an aimless hipster his character actually is. But it’s really easy to feel for him, or for anyone trying to make sense of modern life (not so different to Rhada’s struggle either), so I enjoyed looking for that bloody coffee. 7/10

She Dies Tomorrow (2020): So how do you like movies you can’t really understand? IMDb doesn’t like ’em much, but the critics sure do. While I tend towards the latter, She Dies Tomorrow is more opaque than I’d like. The gist of it: Amy (Kate Lyn Sheil) thinks she’ll die tomorrow…and it’s contagious. It’s a seemingly irrational fear, that ends up spreading like wildfire – not unlike other seemingly irrational things in our present tense. The movie can be seen as a commentary on many things, the fabric of our social networks, the tendency to self-isolate and self-replicate ideas and beliefs, our inability to cope with the inevitable and, often times, tell it apart from the avoidable. Visually captivating and interesting enough to be discussed, for sure, but on the frustrating side. 7/10

The Call of the Wild (2020): This CGI-heavy adaptation of Jack London’s famous novel (even I’ve seen it on a shelf in my grandparents’ home at one point) is vaguely endearing at times, yet mostly unconvincing. A rugged Harrison Ford tries to imbue some sense of authentic feeling into the thing, which proves insufficient to distract from the off-putting human behaviour and appearance of Buck, the lead CGI-dog that this is all about. Some people might still enjoy it, but for me it was a tough one to swallow and it sure didn’t help that there’s a boring and predictable villain stuffed into the story for safe measure. I kept wishing this had been The Call of the Wilde, but alas… 5/10

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