The Films of 2021

Discussions of specific films and franchises.
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willoneill
Joined: Wed Mar 18, 2009 10:10 am
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Re: The Films of 2021

#76 Post by willoneill » Sat Sep 18, 2021 12:37 pm

The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Michael Showalter)

The Eyes of Tammy Faye has one redeeming aspect, and that is Jessica Chastain's performance. She gives the role everything she has, and on that strength alone, I'd recommend the film. I've long been a Jessica Chastain fan (to the point where that probably biases my recommendation), and while this isn't my favorite film of hers (not even close), it's definitely one of her best performances. The movie itself though is a bit problematic, both technically and from a subject-matter point of view.

From a technical sense, I found a lot of the editing to be clunky. Part of that, i think, is that large chunks of time were not shot/scripted, and the film glosses over things that seem like they would be important, but aren't covered at all. Two examples, in spoilers:
SpoilerShow
- the film sets up a conflict between the Bakkers and Pat Robertson and CBN and the 700 Club, then immediately jumps ahead 5 years to when the Bakkers are running PTL, and the immediately jumps back with a quick montage that doesn't explain anything other than fashion changes. However, later in the film, when discussing Robertson's 1988 presidential run, the Bakkers are inexplicably loyal to Robertson despite the fact they they objectively need Jerry Falwell's support more (and he backed Reagan).
the other example isn't a spoiler per so, but putting it there just in case:
SpoilerShow
- the movie at no point explains why Tammy Faye uses more and more and more makeup as she gets older. And I don't think the movie had to, where it not for the fact that the opening scene implies that that will be explained at some point.
My other issue with the opening framing scene referenced above, is that it's not clear that it's the same event as the final scene. Which, it feels like it should be. Again, just feels like an editing issue.
Lastly, Sam Jaeger has a fairly sizeable supporting performance as Roe Messner, Tammy Faye's second husband. I did not learn that fact from the film, however, I learned it from Wikipedia after I got home. The film in no way even hints that they eventually get married (not even in the pre-credits, "what happened to these people" photo montage.

In terms of performances, as I said, this is Chastain's showpiece, and she nails it. With regards to Andrew Garfield, I'm still undecided. I can't resolve in my own head whether his performance is just a caricature, or whether Jim Bakker was such a caricature himself that Garfield's performance is actually genius. But Tammy Faye was a caricature too, yet Chastain doesn't play her that way. Cherry Jones (as Tammy Faye's mother), and Vincent D'Onofrio (as Falwell) are both great, but in fairly one-note performances.

Ultimately, the movie it reminded me of most was I, Tonya. Over the last few years, there have been several biopics/bio-limited series attempting to rehabilitate maligned female cultural icons of the 80's and 90's: I, Tonya, American Crime Story season 1 and 3, and this film, for example. Some of those women (Marcia Clark and Monica Lewinsky) were treated unfairly. But just like Tonya Harding, Tammy Faye Bakker was guilty of her crimes. And this film makes it clear factually that she's guilty, but once the audience to feel emotionally that she's not. It's an off-putting dichotomy. I didn't like that aspect of I, Tonya, and I don't like it here.

Overall, if you like Jessica Chastain, see this film. If you don't, probably don't.

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knives
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Re: The Films of 2021

#77 Post by knives » Fri Sep 24, 2021 4:00 pm

Surprised Showalter’s Lovebirds got totally trashed because it’s incredibly funny with some of that Game Night energy. The two leads are really charming and the thorough line of a relationship on the brink provides a weight to the action in a fun way.

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soundchaser
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Re: The Films of 2021

#78 Post by soundchaser » Mon Sep 27, 2021 3:29 pm

willoneill wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 12:37 pm
The Eyes of Tammy Faye (Michael Showalter)
...
SpoilerShow
- the movie at no point explains why Tammy Faye uses more and more and more makeup as she gets older. And I don't think the movie had to, where it not for the fact that the opening scene implies that that will be explained at some point.
My other issue with the opening framing scene referenced above, is that it's not clear that it's the same event as the final scene. Which, it feels like it should be. Again, just feels like an editing issue.
SpoilerShow
I think this could have been made a little more clearly, thematically, as well, but the implications I picked up on were that as she lost sight of why she was doing what she was doing, and particularly within her marriage, she compensated by putting on a face to hide herself from the world, or God. It's notable that she appears to be praying for the first time in a while just before the final concert.
willoneill wrote:
Sat Sep 18, 2021 12:37 pm
But just like Tonya Harding, Tammy Faye Bakker was guilty of her crimes. And this film makes it clear factually that she's guilty, but once the audience to feel emotionally that she's not. It's an off-putting dichotomy. I didn't like that aspect of I, Tonya, and I don't like it here.
I don't know that the film presents *everything* this way - the person I saw it with said that she was just as guilty for willingly sticking her head in the sand about everything going on around her. And I think the very end attempts to swerve a little bit...
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After we spend an entire film empathizing with Tammy and feeling pity for her, the last shot of the American flag and that knowing "God bless America!" feel like they're trying to tell us she's been just as complicit in creating this machine all along.
I'm not entirely sure it worked for me, tonally, but it does feel like some effort was made.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#79 Post by therewillbeblus » Fri Oct 01, 2021 1:12 am

Anne at 13,000 Ft. is a worthwhile indie drama that escapes potential mumblecore pitfalls and firmly plants itself as a contained bosom of a character study. The camera never ventures beyond inches of our lead, so we're afforded a front-row seat barely removed from her experience, down to labile mental health shifts, impulsive defects, strengths and resilience. It's a short film without much plot, but for those who struggle with social emotional issues and have both successfully and unsuccessfully managed those symptoms through relationships and working in high-stress environments with kids, well, this is a pretty apt look at that life. Deragh Campbell is sensational.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#80 Post by Pavel » Fri Oct 01, 2021 3:54 pm

The Guilty
Of interest primarily as an attempt to answer the question of the extent to which two identical films differ due to their wider cultural and political context. Conflicted judgments regarding law enforcement, literally presented in an interaction with a little girl in the film, with Joe's late-film catharsis and escape from the cycle of avoidance of accountability — perpetuated by the other cops all too ready to lie for their friends — serving more so as an attempt to enrich, and indeed ultimately absolve, our trigger-friendly protagonist than to dig deep into the problem. If the Danish political landscape (or perhaps my unfamiliarity with it) allowed us to focus only on one man, then here is a film which suggests that the guilty are too many to name. Far from an ACAB film however — a picture which strives to show the balance of good intentions and unhelpful actions, led by quick judgements before the arrival of enough information (motivating a particular in-film revelation). The same film is the same film though, and the surroundings of the country only get you so far.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#81 Post by Pavel » Sat Oct 02, 2021 5:22 pm

Hard to properly assess a film like Benedetta because it's a toothless, facile satire that's also absolutely hilarious for practically its entire runtime. Only a few steps away from the "so bad it's good" category, but clearly intentionally featuring ridiculous scene after ridiculous scene (to describe them would be to spoil them). There's a certain respect I have for embracing full-on, bang-your-head-against-the-wall idiocy to such an extent and with such bravado, especially when the result is a non-stop blast. This is clearly just my attempt to find some sort of justification for an entirely superficial reaction. Whatever, it's a riot, and any version that's better would almost invariably turn out to be worse.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#82 Post by Pavel » Sun Oct 03, 2021 6:13 am

Pavel wrote:
Sat Oct 02, 2021 5:22 pm
Hard to properly assess a film like Benedetta because it's a toothless, facile satire that's also absolutely hilarious for practically its entire runtime. Only a few steps away from the "so bad it's good" category, but clearly intentionally featuring ridiculous scene after ridiculous scene (to describe them would be to spoil them). There's a certain respect I have for embracing full-on, bang-your-head-against-the-wall idiocy to such an extent and with such bravado, especially when the result is a non-stop blast. This is clearly just my attempt to find some sort of justification for an entirely superficial reaction. Whatever, it's a riot, and any version that's better would almost invariably turn out to be worse.
Having let this sit in my mind a day longer, I began to wonder if Benedetta is not a film at least partially defeated by the culture surrounding it. What is the role of such blatant provocation — and of supposedly transgressive cinema — in our contemporary liberal society? What's the point of telling an offensive joke if nobody will be offended? A film that's designed to shock and makes fun of religion while showing (relatively) explicit sexual acts will scandalize few people (all of them likely religious) and will have no trouble entering the broader cultural discourse. It would cause no controversy to have it selected for the most prestigious film festival in the world. A festival that gave its top prize to a film that's supposedly just as outré. I think that the moral progress we have achieved may have hindered provocateurs like Verhoeven. These things are no longer going to shock anyone — even the largest theater in Bulgaria (and I think Europe) had few walkouts and mostly an audience ready to laugh at every other scene. Truly transgressive cinema today shouldn't concern itself with what's acceptable on a moral level, testing what it can get away with doing without censorship. It should test the boundaries of the artistry — what can I do that people haven't before (but not because they weren't allowed to, but because they couldn't conceive it)? And I'm very much wrestling with whether Benedetta is a success on the level of imagination.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#83 Post by Pavel » Sun Oct 03, 2021 3:30 pm

Tromperie (Desplechin)
Good God, what a tremendous chore. Roubaix got a lot of criticism over its perceived lack of idiosyncrasy (I've only been able to see half of the film, and I noticed some Desplechin trademarks in the form if not at all in the narrative) but I'd take it any day over whatever this abomination is. Takes the chaotic, novelistic energy of My Sex Life and ditches all signs of life (albeit keeping some of the sex), reducing the film to a series of jarring rhythms and loosely-structured shallow conversations with virtually no honesty or playfulness remaining. Let me quickly say that if anyone wants to watch a great recent Desplechin film, they should try John Magary's The Mend, which wears its influences on its sleeves but uses many of Desplechin's quirks (some of them also seen in this film — notably the iris out) to achieve something wonderful.

kubelkind
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Re: The Films of 2021

#84 Post by kubelkind » Mon Oct 04, 2021 8:02 am

Plastic Semiotic (Radu Jude)
From what I've seen by Jude, he's big on using elaborate formal strategies to make political and social statements which I find to be a bit crass and obvious (if admittedly oft-true), running more on cartoonish misanthropy than detailed analysis, despite a continual checklisting of his country's (and the world's) historical atrocities. He also has a tendency toward the "inventing horrible people and then saying "aren't people horrible?"" method that I find exasperating in other film makers. However, there's usually some wit and invention involved, and I'm prepared to cut him some slack 'cos who can blame anyone for being down on humanity these days? So I keep watching, I'm sure he'll make something I'll think is great some day.
Of the 4 films I've seen, this new festival short may be my favourite yet. For a start it is only 22 minutes long, and it looks like he's found the perfect cast for his methodology here - a bunch of cheap and ugly plastic toys. "Plastic Semiotic" packs in a large amount of plastic doll tableaux, fixed-frame stationary of course (most dolls don't move, though the occasional clockwork thing whizzes past), roughly arranged on a birth-to-death lifecycle. Which means we get the childish delights of seeing plastic toys behaving badly, performing sex acts and war atrocities, crashing their cars and being eaten by smiling but menacing teddy bears, that kind of thing. Jude's referencing of Chekhov and Flaubert in his press material and the film's gormless title for something that isn't really too much bigger or cleverer than a sniggering 8 year old putting a naked Action Man doll on top of a naked Barbie is also hilarious, as is the vision of grown adults playing with dolls for hours to make this. The arrangement of toys here is pretty elaborate and there's a lot of scenes, in fact each one could stay on the screen a fair bit longer for me.
The main pleasure of "Plastic Semiotic" is the feeling of admiration of something which a lot of work must have gone into, even if the results are a bit...questionable. A bit like being impressed by a guy who has made a perfectly to-scale replica of the Taj Mahal out of matchsticks. Nowt wrong with that, of course, but this is another Jude film of high minded ambition and juvenile execution,albeit a funnier one than usual.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#85 Post by Pavel » Mon Oct 04, 2021 5:27 pm

Don't have much to say about Maria Schrader's I'm Your Man but I'll throw in a good word for a surprisingly pleasant sci-fi comedy. Offers a relatively fresh take on the age-old question of what it means to be human (seemingly a major theme in every movie featuring humanoid robots) but also explores the nature of happiness and relationships, how they blend together, how sometimes they differ, how much of either one is able to sacrifice in order to achieve success with the other, etc. Dan Stevens is great, and the ending is quite clever. I think this one is actually out in some American cinemas.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2021

#86 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Oct 06, 2021 1:01 pm

I saw Întregalde last night at the New York Film Festival in Alice Tully Hall, and it's back again tonight (albeit in one of the smaller theaters). The writer/director (Radu Muntean), one of his co-writers Alexandru Baciu, and two of the main cast members Maria Popistașu and Alex Bogdan will all be back for another Q&A, so definitely go if you can - it's standby only but standby has been easy to get in for this festival.

It's been awhile since I've seen a Romanian film, but I did catch Muntean (and I think Popistașu too) at their last NYFF appearance when they screened Tuesday, After Christmas. As always the acting's impeccable, but this was quite a surprise. The film never develops as predicted...
SpoilerShow
...as it's been mentioned elsewhere, with the way it initially unfolds, one expects a horror film. Then it seemingly becomes a dark comedy, one that was so irritating for one particular character that I thought I was going to hate this. But the film wouldn't be nearly as effective if it didn't test your resolve in this way - it's actually essential, and it surprisingly becomes a beautifully poignant work as a result. I was actually reminded of someone I knew who passed away some years ago, and it really brought back memories of their final year or two, which was enormously sad.
I was also highly impressed that one of the key cast members was a local in a remote, rural town who never acted before - without giving away too much, the elderly woman doing the washing is actually his real life wife. (She plays his neighbor in the film.)

A wonderful film that deserves more attention, no U.S. distributor is currently listed on its NYFF page, but it has already played theatrically overseas.

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hearthesilence
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Re: The Films of 2021

#87 Post by hearthesilence » Wed Oct 06, 2021 10:23 pm

I hope Ryûsuke Hamaguchi's Drive My Car gets its own thread - it was by far the biggest surprise for me at the NYFF. Granted I didn't know much about the director's work, but over the course of three hours it grew better and better, turning into an enormously rich and complex film about dramatic art. Namely, what artists get out of creating and interpreting art, and perhaps what the audience gets from viewing it too. That may sound pretty broad, but it explores those ideas in great, thorough detail.

An adaptation of Haruki Murakami's short story, he greatly expands it, primarily with material taken from other stories in the same anthology. (It superficially brings to mind what Robert Altman did in planning Short Cuts, but the approach bears much more fruit here.) More importantly, he takes Chekov's Uncle Vanya and greatly expands upon its use, making it the heart of the film.

I was so impressed, I was throughly disappointed that I let the opportunity to see The Wheel of Fortune and Fantasy pass me by - IIRC it played two consecutive mornings over the weekend. Fortunately, The Wheel of Fortune... opens a weeks from now, followed right behind by Drive My Car.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#88 Post by Pavel » Fri Oct 08, 2021 3:41 pm

Three Floors (Moretti)
Alternatively Three Stories. One is absurdly "meh" to the point where it barely registers as a separate story, with literally nothing happening in it (and practically no emotional depth to be found) until 5 years pass and it suddenly wakes up from its deep slumber. Once 5 more years pass, it goes back to sucking ass.
One sounds very intriguing on paper, but the ostensible moral dilemma can't sustain even a third of a feature because it turns out to be no dilemma at all. Interesting enough pre-time-jump, goes in a dull direction afterward.
One is quite good (albeit also quite flawed) and more eventful than the other two combined — it could've very well been the entire film. Makes the most of its concept, presents an interesting variation on the idea of semi-obsession in the search for justice, stays constantly engaging. Was able to roll with a turn it takes, wasn't particularly satisfied with its conclusion, but altogether the best part of the film.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#89 Post by Pavel » Sun Oct 10, 2021 4:23 pm

L'évenement (Diwan)
Generally truthful and uncompromising which makes its forays into cheap conflict all the more irritating. The scenes with the doctor are very effective at showcasing how even fairly empathetic people can further sustain the problem by refusing to do anything about it out of fear, but scenes like the one in which she gets bullied in the shower don't meld well with the tone of the film, and it's often a similar tug of war between realistic and powerful moments and (perhaps realistic, but) not dramatically effective scenes. In the end it feels, and I'm not sure that's the right word for a film like this, somewhat slight, and occasionally repetitive. But hits the emotional beats, is tough to watch and an incredibly convincing case (not that I needed convincing) for why abortion bans are awful and regressive (though I guess not for the pro-life elderly people that walked out). A good-enough Important Golden Lion winner, but certainly no Power of the Dog.

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flyonthewall2983
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Re: The Films of 2021

#90 Post by flyonthewall2983 » Mon Oct 11, 2021 4:46 pm

Ridley Scott’s House of Gucci has a runtime of 3 hours, 15 minutes.

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DarkImbecile
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Re: The Films of 2021

#91 Post by DarkImbecile » Mon Oct 11, 2021 5:19 pm

Probably not… seems to be an unsubstantiated rumor

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Never Cursed
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Re: The Films of 2021

#92 Post by Never Cursed » Mon Oct 11, 2021 5:56 pm

I saw somewhere else that it was 160 minutes

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domino harvey
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Re: The Films of 2021

#93 Post by domino harvey » Mon Oct 11, 2021 6:08 pm

3h15m reflects the length of the earlier cut which began with a behind the scenes prologue of Adam Driver sitting in his trailer listening to Kreayshawn for half an hour on repeat to get in character

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#94 Post by Pavel » Tue Oct 12, 2021 6:07 pm

The Story of My Wife (Enyedi)
This got annihilated at Cannes this year (a friend that went walked out of it) but I had a more positive reaction than most. The first hour is quite good — I was caught off guard by the amount of comedy (the audience at my screening was very responsive) but I quickly warmed up to it and I think it worked well with the tone. However this is probably the clearest example I can think of of a film that is wayyy too long — after 2 hours I started checking my watch every 5 minutes. There's a good hour or so you can cut out without changing a single thing in the plot — the film becomes incredibly repetitive, the same endless cycle of suspicion, fighting and reconciliation. By the end it had sort of won me back over though, and the lead actor has a strong presence. Split right down the middle on this one but happy I saw it in theaters, partly because it looks very nice, partly because it would've been kind of challenging at home.

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therewillbeblus
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Re: The Films of 2021

#95 Post by therewillbeblus » Sun Oct 17, 2021 12:25 am

The Velvet Underground begins as a typical programmer doc of the history of the band's formation, but Haynes mostly avoids banality by lifting his first feature-length documentary into an anamnesis of affection for what the music evoked, destroyed, and created for those of the time, as well as audiences still today. He accomplishes this through traditional documentary means of talking head interviews, combined with a collage of phantasmagoric imagery to emulate a Warhol-esque multimedia sensory experience over psychedelic VU tracks. Haynes also gets more personal in the back half as the band's critique of the hippie movement lends way to an amalgamation of their ethos as raw confessions of a dirty, oppressive, upsetting, and painful milieu, as well as a more truthful indication of the drugged-out rotten existence that comprised the late 60s, in the underbelly of the visible Flower Power veneer (at least from all the anecdotal evidence I've accrued from people who actually spent time hanging out in Haight-Ashbury and NYC during this era).

There's an implicit irony when the band goes pop and the more accessible tracks play over footage of jovial hippie counterculture partying, but the celebrations are allowed to coexist as an ascension from one dimension into new developments as artists. It's a deserved party for us to share with the filmmaker and band around their music, even if the images don't reflect the literal forms of engagement their ethos supports, for they elicit the warmth the catalog brings to us individually. Of course the pathos surrounding the fates of the band members challenges any white-light uniformity of positive vibes -as does the repetition of "Heroin"'s skinned confession of fatalistic emotional torment and alienated confusion, mixed with energetic push towards euphoria, in a necessarily compromised form of surrender. "Heroin"'s split, contradictory yet compositely authentic, essence is a good marker for the band's magic, and the significance of Haynes' utilization of the track, especially when and where he places it, is not lost on me.

I don't know if this film will sway detractors of the group to give them another go, but for those of us deeply in love with this music (for me, one of the few bands that changed my life as I entered adolescence and continues to change my life today, with rarely a day going by that I don't think of their music), it's well-worth checking out. But if you love them, you were probably already planning to do that. Despite some directorial flourishes that elevate the material, Haynes isn't trying to reinvent the wheel- the whole package is still reminiscent of many music documentaries that have come before, TV episodes dedicated to a band, etc., without a consistent auteurist flavor - though around (and within) some dry moments, it's still informative, well-edited, and fun.

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Pavel
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Re: The Films of 2021

#96 Post by Pavel » Sun Oct 17, 2021 4:12 pm

I didn't have much time to write anything about them, but a couple of days ago I saw the new Scott and the new Ozon.
I loved The Last Duel which is one of the most fun and engaging times I've had at the movies recently. It uses its structure to great effect, and the fact that it pretty directly indicates which side is correct doesn't stop it from highlighting the subjective nature of the different accounts in the sense that everyone believes they're telling the truth. Ben Affleck steals the show in a wildly counterintuitive performance that works pretty perfectly imo (even though a friend hated it).

Everything Went Fine is one of the most uneventful films in recent memory — a "then this happened and then that happened and then this happened and then..." type of film in which nothing really happens, and which features next to no emotional or psychological complexity. It's just there until it isn't, despite never being unpleasant. Held together by a wonderful André Dussollier.

Today I caught Xavier Giannoli's Lost Illusions which is a pretty standard rise and fall story (adapted from Balzac), entertaining and exhausting in roughly equal measure, with a couple of fun supporting performances.

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