By: Henry J. Fromage –
I was able to keep up my enhanced pace from last week, and have started to dig into the bounty of missed critical darlings from earlier in the year and in theaters.
211. Gerald’s Game
Once this Mike Flanagan-directed Stephen King adaptation gets its claws into you, it really digs in and doesn’t let go. Carla Gugino is absolutely captivating as a woman who finds herself alone and handcuffed to a bed with nothing but her husband’s (Bruce Greenwood) corpse and the specters of past and present to keep her company. Her arguments with those specters and mad struggle for survival will hook you entirely. Nevermind the utterly unnecessary epilogue- a dealbreaker for some, but not for me.
212. Rat Film
Rat Film may start out as an examination of rats’ coexistence with humankind, but becomes much more- a history of animals far more insidious to our well-being. Director Theo Anthony takes his time coming around to his central premise, but finds a throughline between Baltimore’s (not that the metropolis in particular mattered- many U.S. cities share disturbing similarities I’m sure) history of rat control and it’s history of zoning and racial containment that culminates in a stunning comparison between color-coded maps drawn out in secret by city planners a hundred years ago and demographic heat maps of all of Baltimore’s social ills today. They’re virtually identical.
213. Only the Brave
This story of the heroic and tragic Stone Mountain Hot Shots is rendered in much the same style as Peter Berg’s ripped from the headlines masculine weepies Lone Survivor, Deepwater Horizon, and Patriot’s Day. You come to know these men, played by recognizable character actors like James Badge Dale, Taylor Kitsch, and yet another eccentric and amazing Jeff Bridges performance. Then the fires start, and director Joseph Kosinski shows he’s got more in his toolbox than just inconsistent, amazing-looking sci-fi. The emotional core of the film, though, and what really elevates it to something especially effective, is the core relationship between team captain Josh Brolin, junkie fuckup Miles Teller, who reminds him so much of himself, and Jennifer Connelly as Brolin’s wife, who’s not sure she’s so okay with giving her man to wildfires for broad swathes of the year.
214. The Florida Project
This is an unfairytale of a uniquely American vagrancy- permanent residents of the Magic Kingdom Motel in the shadow of its just a tad less seedy namesake. Sean Baker, who’s made a career of documenting the tribulations and small but brilliant beauties in the lives of some of America’s least visible citizens, from African immigrant Time Square handbag hustlers to transvestite prostitutes on the Sunset Strip, brings both a purely empathetic humanity and an unjaundiced eye towards the consequences of his characters’ actions. What sets The Florida Project apart from the rest of his filmography, and what has set it on the path to some measure of Oscar glory, is how he takes the point of view of the children for which this stripmall and marshland existence is perhaps magical in its own right, but as adults we see how Willem Dafoe, playing the compassionate motel manager, and Bria Vinaite, playing the lead’s mother have to scramble in the background of this sunkissed concrete playground to preserve any measure of dignity and constancy.
215. The Snowman
I heard this was the right kind of bad- hilariously bad, “how did this get made?” bad, and the production stories seemed to correlate with that- director Tomas Alfredson claiming large chunks of the script were unshot, the terrible ADR on Val Kilmer (and in a few other scenes), etc. However, I’m sad to report that this is honestly a very pedestrian kind of bad. I can’t imagine how 15 minutes of unshot footage could have helped such an uninspired airport novel plot, or what in the world could have attracted such a top-notch assemblage of talent to waste a year of their lives on this thing. It’s a decade-late Silence of the Lambs wanna-be, which has been edited and in spurts amusingly reconfigured to be a coherent story, which is probably what went most wrong here. I suspect that there was more, you know, mystery, in the source material, and in salvaging what must have been a true mess they lost that aspect in the name of putting together a story that network TV procedural consumers can follow. In the process they lost anything resembling a story worth telling.