By: Henry J. Fromage –
This week I found myself swinging back towards TV more, but long-form, single series stories from great directors that, despite the length, sure feel cinematic to me.
29. If Beale Street Could Talk
There is possibly no more classically romantic a filmmaker working right now than Barry Jenkins, and he proves Moonlight was no flash in the pan with this gorgeously shot and tremendously felt James Baldwin adaptation that will undoubtedly once again prove a springing board for the acting talent on display (many who are already making waves since they shot this) and that he and his principal collaborators, especially DP James Laxton and composer Nicholas Britell. May this team make a movie every year or two ad infinitum! Two Beers.
30. The Little Drummer Girl
Park Chan-wook’s latest has a lot in common with his last film, The Handmaiden, despite this not being a film exactly- or more accurately, a 6-hour one. It’s similarly obsessed with sex and the performative while aesthetically lush and romantically and melodramatically inclined, for both better and worse. Overall, a new Park joint is an unmissable experience, but it’s just a teensy bit hard not to wonder if he could’ve played his le Carré adaptation a tad less straightforwardly. Two Beers.
31. The End of the Fucking World
This Netflix one-season-only series has a runtime that’s about the same as your average Oscar contender, so, yes, I’m counting it as a film. The sharp-edged character work of the Bonnie & Clyde leads, which opens with the boy describing how he thinks he’s a serial killer and has picked his first human victim- yes, the girl, is laudable, and the filmmaking and storytelling energy is palpable, but when it all is said and done the cumulative effect is a bit lacking. Well worth the modest time commitment, however. Three Beers.
Danny Boyle’s 10-episode dramatization of the 1973 Getty kidnapping, yes, the same one from Ridley Scott’s All the Money in the World that drew so much acclaim for Christopher Plummer’s quick replacement role, supersedes that must shorter film in every way. Donald Sutherland is imperious and arrogant and magnetizing as the elder Getty, and Boyle and the others creating this gem find new angles and depths to the material that make the case for the long-form treatment quite well. Brendan Fraser of all folks as a Fourth Wall-breaking Texan fixer brings it all together. Really quite something. Two Beers.
33. Cold War
Pawel Pawlikowski goes back to the same acclaimed black & white period piece well as Ida, with this 1940s-1960s era-spanning tale of a romance between Polish artists based on his parents’ own relationship (which… weird). In a scant 90 minutes he creates a world and a relationship that is both deep and specific. Tomasz Kot and most especially Joanna Kulig will blow up off of the strength of this film, and its every accolade, not the least of which those being drawn by DP Lukasz Zal’s cinematography, is well deserved. Two Beers.
Rating this on your normal criterion for films (and it’s a feature-length film, make no mistake about that), or episodes of Black Mirror, this is no great shakes. However, there’s something diabolically addictive about the mechanics of the the choose your own adventure gimmick, especially as you learn how you’re being railroaded just as the main character does. The cumulative effect is, perhaps, as genius as anything Charlie Brooker has done in his opus show. Train Ending for that distinctly Black Mirror sort of win. Two Beers.
35. The Trump Prophecy
This theatrically-released film is about a PTSD-riddled fireman who starts to have visions about a demon that looks exactly like a Lord of the Rings orc but then God visits him in 2011 and tells him Donald Trump will be president. So the world’s worst flier and/or most self-satisfied woman taps into a “National Prayer Circle” and everybody blows on rams horns and the producers have an extremely difficult time working in any footage of Trump that doesn’t make him look like the least Christian human that’s ever walked the Earth so they don’t include all that much and then the election happens and it’s a Miracle! Theatrically released. Six Pack.