Feb. 14, 2020): That the just-ended Westminster Dog Show so closely followed the Oscars loudly barked the reminder of how totally ridiculous these apples vs. oranges vs. peanuts competitions are (e.g., The Irishman in the ring with Little Women?? Or, a Havanese up against a Standard Poodle? Nuts!). But both hugely entertaining events have a greater, noble purpose: to justifiably celebrate two things we love most -- great films and great dogs.
The stunning Parasite sweep will continue to fire plenty of discussion. BUT (pay attention, conspiracy theorists!!) the film has generated yet another and weirder statistic: with Parasite notching the Academy's top recognition as Best Picture, the annual Hamptons International Film Festival (HIFF), a prestigious fall boutique event on New York's Long Island East End, has achieved an astounding, unmatched ten years in a row of introducing to the public, prior to commercial release, the future big Oscar winner. Note that HIFF, unlike so many bigger fests (Toronto, Cannes, Venice, Berlin, Seattle, etc.), offers a relatively small line-up. So who there in programming/curation has that secret algorithm? Go fetch, conspiracy theorists!!...
Those who think they've seen Republicans at their worst should catch Amazon's fascinating doc Ted Bundy: Falling For a Killer and see how the eponymous suited-up monstrous serial killer toiled as a dedicated young Republican activist/operative while studying law. With its focus on Bundy's long term girl friend, the doc is an interesting look at one reason why the "weaker sex" label might have stuck around so long and provided Harvey Weinstein and others so much fun in their heyday.
DOINGHS! (Just Dinghy ideas -- don't call them dumbh! -- caught in the tradewinds): Why not Golden Globe nom Sacha Baron Cohen, versatile Brit funny man and serious actor (acclaimed Netflix series hit The Spy) starring as late chef/writer/producer/cable celeb Anthony Bourdain?... And doingh! Why not an updated smart, new, "woke" Charlie Chan detective long form with Crazy Rich Asians savvy and actual Asians/Asian Americans finally playing key roles, including a Number One Son who can really put across “Awesome, Pop!” for today's diverse viewers? Or, also “woke,” why not a Number One Daughter?
SEE WORTHIES! — IFC Films' The Truth (bows in theaters March 20th) because the film unites megastars Cathérine Deneuve and Juliette Binoche on screen for
the first time shows them off in top form in a familiar familial story set in the world of what else? Film, of course…
Greed, starring Dinghy favorite Steve Coogan (24 Hour Party People) from Sony Pictures Classics (bows Feb. 28th ) because Coogan’s pal/fellow traveler director Michael Winterbottom (also 24 Hour…!) delivers an oft amusing, oft frenetic dark spin on the likes of showy, dodgy Brit billionaire magnates like Sirs Philip Green and Robert Maxwell. This alternatingly rollicking/shameful dirty laundry exposé of the giant clothing retail biz -- from its obscenely underpaid third world workers to the obscenely overpaid folks at the decadent far, festive end of the chain — has it both ways: pouring on the glitz and excess of living large and partying hard while also delivering, with seams exposed, some ugly backstory swatches and stats behind near slave labor. Also here is the dramatic reminder that like a gun, a lion introduced in Act 1, inevitably goes off in Act 3…
Corpus Christi (A Film Movement release opening at New York's Film Forum Feb. 19) because it signals breakthroughs for both young director Jan Kosama and his star Bartosz Bielenia, who, having cut his teeth in Polish theater, proves he’s ready for many more big screen close-ups. He plays a religious 20 year old former juvenile delinquent recently released from a hellish detention center who is mistakenly offered the gig of a temp village priest. His inner con artist spurs him to accept we're off. Can he fool the villagers and the Church authorities?
One of the Academy's five Best International Feature Film nominees this year (it lost to something called Para something, Paraglider maybe?), Corpus Christi will also bless writer Mateusz Pacewicz and cinematographer Piotr Sobocinski Jr. whose wondrous Alexa Mini camera and lenses (shut up, Alexa! It's not always YOU!) exquisitely captured this dreary milieu (Yes, Bleak is Beautiful!).
Feast of the Seven Fish (now available on YouTube, Amazon Prime, Google Play, and Vudu menus) because this delectable by-the-numbers period rom-com is so deeply and heartwarmingly Italian-American, you can almost smell the marinara simmering. It's what Dinghy calls a worthy/watchable "calling card" film, although writer/director Robert Tinnell has been "calling" around for a while. Here, Tinnell delivers a charming, real (rare these days for this kind of film), feel-good coming-of-age tale set deep in Italian-Americana. Problem is that in today's too-much world of great content, Feast..., whose title references the iconic Italian Xmas meal, needed a Bigger Idea. But for many, its cinematic exuberance and ethnic authenticity will work as a kind of Green Book in the worn paperback edition. Helping stir its secret marinara are a fine cast (esp. Booksmart's so memorable Skyler Gisondo and beloved screen vets like Joey "Pants" Pantoliano and the just-deceased Lynn Cohen).