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December 10, 2020 / barton smock

some words toward some films

Wade In The Water is a film that builds itself so quietly from its physical and spiritual surroundings that any viewer may find themselves checking the room they’re in to make sure it’s in the right place. If dialogue driven, it is walked to where it is by character, and Tom E Nicholson follows the offhand with a focus most can’t summon for travelogue, while Danika Golombek drains dream from both open space and cramped diner long enough to correctly guess the names of sleepwalkers.

Both gritty and cosmic, Black Bear is a terror ignored, a film of paused immediacies, of art imitating art via bodies alive to the horror of approachable motion. Plaza cuts deep in the shallow and covers ground so silently that every surface seems a sound longing to be mothered by a scratch. Gadon is a backward fire and gently pulls origin through outskirt without waking either until the dream restarts. And Abbott, as in the recent Possessor and not so recent James White, gives a performance of planned confusion that leaves no guess unknown. This movie wounds, for sure, but knows scar gets there first.

Brandon Cronenberg’s Possessor, while definitely Brandon Cronenberg’s, could also be called, if in front of another body, Andrea Riseborough’s Inhabitor. Her performance plants itself as host to the genesis of disorientation. And with Christopher Abbott adding a layered confusion to what is already a weary disconnection, the movie becomes blessedly the wrong map to the right film.

The Dark and The Wicked is a hopeless beauty of a film, and Marin Ireland and Michael Abbott, Jr. use the sibling performance of their lived-in bodies to avoid possession and give us something humanly frightening. After this and In The Radiant City, am thinking they were born to play siblings.

Light From Light is a film that knows that even grief is a little curious about which page to turn, and while Jim Gaffigan rightly gathers himself for and from solitude, it’s Marin Ireland who plays silence as a handwritten thing that keeps the angels looking.

The Swerve is both ascent and descent, is both invite and mousetrap, and is all so slowly and elegantly killed. What Azura Skye does in this film is dissolving, and with the lower beauties that her performance is able to unearth, she is able to replace being looked over with being decidedly invisible. If cure has no choice that poison hasn’t already tried, then illness is all of the above.

The Wolf of Snow Hollow is a strange and nostalgically impulsive horror show or show of horror which, either way, lives both inside and outside its moving home. Cummings and Forster play the gentle and the toxic as two heads made for the same chicken, and Riki Lindhome quietly collects costumes in a performance that knows to transform by wearing its own skin. Cummings is the whole deal and it could be we’ve never pictured a wolf correctly because we think sight belongs to what we see.

Jungleland is a great looking film that plays fast and loose with its rambling familiarity. It loves the films that came before it, and has a few detours into which it carves its trailing initials. Every character has a few grace notes…Charlie Hunnam and Jack O’Connell find music in looking directly at and away from each other, Jonathan Majors sings a resigned menace, and, most successfully, Jessica Barden frames the meandering doom with a performance loyal to an outsider’s confidence. The movie fumbles the violence here and there, but that might be the point. No blood, here, is wasted.

Using stillness to travel through time, The Giant, as directed by David Raboy, is a meditation on memory and terror that gifts a delayed fear to an elegantly doomed present. Odessa Young brings a dreamy energy to a spiritually nervous character, and allows physicality to anchor the film’s more ambitious evaporations. Lovely lovely film. I don’t think we’re small just because we look up to nothing.

A film of beginnings and endings, of short term genesis and lopsided aftermath, Racer and the Jailbird has very little middle to speak of, as if it knows the less it needs to fill, the more it can run from absence while on empty. It’s a strange choice, and better for it once its drainings come full color. Matthias Schoenaerts and Adèle Exarchopoulos choose their spots wisely and in so doing give tragic shine to the doomed singularity of their pairing, and if, in the end, one of them lives too long, neither believes they’ve died.

Antonio Campos does some brave things with The Devil All The Time…from using stillness as an inquiry into its mapmaking, to using negatives to reflect the violence we think we’ve already seen…and the movie is definitely its own thing, but overall still needs the book it’s based on in order to live. I think there is a longer movie, with shorter scenes, here…that could’ve been epic. But maybe that would have lessened the viewer’s shortness of breath? All said, I think it’s a success. Bill Skarsgard and Haley Bennett register most strongly performance-wise, but all have a moment or two where they turn their commas into periods. Pattinson’s performance is the oddest…equally checked in and checked out.

I’m Thinking Of Ending Things is still scaring the fuck out of me. Jessie Buckley navigates hell as if she will soon have been there before, and Jesse Plemons tints his return to modified nothingness with vivid exile. Collette and Thewlis, comically together, hide separately from lipstick inside death’s too big costume. What a subtraction, what a film.

Do not understand the lazy reviews that Mary Magdalene rec’d. A reverent and careful film about vulnerability, the fear of death, and maybe also a little about what death might fear. I loved it. And I’m not religious in a word-for-word way. Phoenix plays Jesus as enthralled. but this movie belongs to Rooney Mara. I don’t think she steps wrong in anything she’s in, and this is no different. What washes over her face in terms of expression carries the same baptism over many lands.

A Good Woman Is Hard To Find carries itself brutally well while bleeding but then Sarah Bolger puts it on her back, takes its legs, and gives it heart.

The movie Blood On Her Name is morally precise in its desperation and comes constantly correct with its emotional messiness and from its decorative fog there emerges a densely sharpened performance by Bethany Anne Lind that has to be seen to be seen again.

Hunter Hunter, as directed by Shawn Linden, is a slowburn resignation of hunger and skin that seems it might close in on itself only to come loose like a B-movie rabbit jumping from the reappeared hat with a half-human hand in its mouth. Grim magic that knows violence when it sees it, and knows also how to make itself scarce when needed.

Phillip Youmans directs Burning Cane with an eye that sees triple- the inch of life, the inch of death, and the mile impoverished by home. If any ground is covered, it is also uncovered, and if the story is short, it is made so by never being done in the telling. The performances are giving, and in that giving we are lucky to receive what is done here by Karen Kaia Livers, who embodies both place and dislocation via the trinity of carriage, lift, and release.

Director Julia Hart is a master of lived-in discomfort, and, as such, the films Miss Stevens and I’m Your Woman glow with embedded locality. Miss Stevens is not as small as it seems, and Lily Rabe brings the world to itself with a performance of reminder and remainder. As no one should worship study, the writing here centers the theatrics of being taught, and allows that lesson is a left field we enter on fire. I’m Your Woman is an anxious film noir placed just outside of the times being had, and Rachel Brosnahan and Arinze Kene break bread with heartbreak and funny bone and let blood in the home just long enough for it to turn grey among the blue brutalities of the transience that here is caught redhanded.

The Midnight Sky is a subtle hallucination of a film, and Clooney shows and tells its lonely story with a friendly anger and viral sadness that, while coloring the checkboxes of restraint, allows for the moral greys of epic to shrink and, eventually, overtake. I’m not sure why so many are so wrong about this one, so lost to its communique. For me, it was hard to leave.

Miranda July’s Kajillionaire plays house long enough to become a home of stranded acceptance. Evan Rachel Wood plays it downbeat but does not succumb to disappearance so much as allows the performance to surface elsewhere as a straw posing as another’s breath. Richard Jenkins and Debra Winger give melancholy its own tremor and are constantly becoming one so as to separate. Gina Rodriguez allows hurt to flash and longing to scar itself on thunder. We don’t always need each other at the same time, and that…is theft.

One Comment

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  1. barton smock / Dec 23 2020 1:30 pm

    Reblogged this on kingsoftrain and commented:

    added, some.

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