By: Henry J. Fromage –
Another week spent catching up with highly praised films from earlier in the year, and Star Wars, of course (it’s mandatory).
This Netflix release feels like a prestige Oscar play from yesteryear, and would be a very deserving nominee and even winner of many a category this year, if voters can get past the Netflix bias (you’re all in L.A., where they screen these to qualify, so stop ‘plainin’). Mudbound is the latest from Dee Rees (Pariah) and takes a Great American Novel approach to the story of two families sharing the same hardscrabble Mississippi land circa WWII. Not much has changed culturally since the antebellum Confederacy here, which Ronsel Jackson (a superlative Jason Mitchell) finds after returning from commanding a tank under Patton, despite the friendship he strikes with fellow veteran flyboy Jamie McAllan (Garrett Hedlund, also great). What ensues is a uniquely American tragedy, but with a strain of hope, however faint, that makes it something truly special- one of the best of the year.
242. The Rapsittie Street Kids Believe in Santa
From a great film to one of the worst that’s ever graced a screen of any size- this unbelievably shoddy animation that ran for reals on the WB back in 2002 (post not one, but two Toy Stories) conceals one hell of a backstory (the producer claims the first time anyone laid eyes on it after being delivered by the animators was the minute it aired… just… how?) that I’m more desperate to know than Tommy Wiseau’s origins and age. Anyway, the animation beggars belief, especially when you recognize voices like Bart Simpson’s Nancy Cartwright and Mark Hamill giving a horrifying facsimile of life to these monsters. To be seen to be believed- catch it on Youtube!
Kogonada made his name with his Youtube videos studiously and intelligently dissecting great scenes and styles from the masters of cinema, so it’s no surprise that his directorial debut set in the surprising architectural mecca of Columbus, Indiana is beautiful to look at, originally and studiously composed frame by frame, and kind of inert and academic. Judging by what he puts on display here, he’ll find a way to breathe a greater spark of life into his craft sooner than later, especially if he keeps working with excellent actors like John Cho, Haley Lu Richardson, and Parker Posey.
244. Girls Trip
This surprising smash comedy hit of the year frankly isn’t terribly good, content to walk a well-trodden gross-out and girl power path that feels like another male director of mediocre comedies’ change of pace work (Malcolm D. Lee of Scary Movie 5 fame this time) a la Bad Moms and its ilk. There are some genuinely funny moments sprinkled without, though, and Tiffany Hadish in particular is an utter delight. Plus, it references this gold standard of Youtube:
245. Star Wars: The Last Jedi
I’ve been mulling over this more and more since I saw it, not an accusation you could levy at The Force Awakens, and have come around to just how boundary-pushing an accomplishment Rian Johnson achieved here. Sure, it’s overstuffed and has that modern Disney sheen of cold competence on it here and there, but damn, did he go and produce a thesis statement on out with the old and in with the new within the boundaries of a universe founded on Joseph Campbell ur-myths and genre pastiche (which Johnson also proves quite adept at here). Give this exemplary article on the AV Club a read- Sean O’Neal puts it better than I ever could, and introduces new paths into this film that are well worth the exploration.