By: Henry J. Fromage –
Week two of my 365 Days of Movies Challenge kicks off with two very literal tearjerkers (yeah, I’m not ashamed to say it) before continuing to work some of the most acclaimed films of 2016, plus some filler for me to multitask to.
12. A Monster Calls
Well, this was an emotionally devastating way to start the week of movie-watching… Think Pan’s Labyrinth, but terminal cancer swapped in for the Spanish Civil War. Brilliantly structured, brilliantly mature, brilliantly truthful, just brilliant.
If anything, even more collar-drenching (just let ’em roll allll the way down your face) than A Monster Calls, this is not the conventional Weinstein Oscar contender as advertised. Instead, this tale of an Indian boy separated from his family who tracks them down 25 years later using Google Earth is an interestingly structured buildup to a full on roundhouse kick to the feels.
14. Keeping Up With the Joneses
After those two flicks, a blandly inoffensive Hollywood comedy maybe starring Zach Gerbrakanaxis, not-Amy Adams, Mad Man, and Wonder Woman was just what felt right. And it’s exactly what I got.
15. The Man Who Knew Infinity
Continuing my Dev Patel kick, this is the sort of Weinstein Oscar-grab film I was expecting out of Lion, but as by the numbers as it really is, the story of tragic genius Srinivasa Ramanujan is gripping all the same. This uneducated Indian clerk proved himself to be perhaps the preeminent mathematical mind of the 20th Century to the Cambridge stuffed shirts of the 1910s. Plus, Patel and Jeremy Irons are as good as always.
16. How to be Single
It may seem like I’m catching up on all the stuff I didn’t feel warranted spending theater prices on, and that’s because I am. This one traffics in some truly awful sex and relationship stereotypes, but you wouldn’t be watching a Hollywood “romantic” comedy if you couldn’t handle that. For the dubious genre, this one does have a cast jam-packed with funny attractive people and enough snarky lines to be tolerably entertaining for all.
17. Queen of Katwe
This story of Phiona Mutesi, a Ugandan girl who went from being unable to read to becoming a Chess Master, is in some ways a pretty typical beat by beat uplifting Disney sports film, still an effective formula. However, in others it’s an extremely emotionally affecting ode to the selflessness of her mother (Lupita Nyong’o) and teacher (David Oyelowo) which supported such an incredible prodigy, painted in vibrant African colors by Indian filmmaker Mira Nair, herself married to a Ugandan, in her best film since at least The Namesake. Welcome back, Mira!
18. City of Gold
This documentary is ostensibly about renowned L.A. critic Jonathan Gold, but really is a love letter to the city of Los Angeles, the rich multicultural stew that makes it up, and a man who shows his love for both and the people that make them up through his generous and curious writing.