' ' Cinema Romantico: Some Drivel...in Capsule: Playing Catch Up

Tuesday, March 15, 2022

Some Drivel...in Capsule: Playing Catch Up

As previously explained lamented in other posts, I got through my time in the Roman COVID hotel through year-end screeners. I watched a lot. And I watched some more when I returned, though my mind was still foggy (not that the fog has necessarily lifted). Writing reviews of all these, it just feels like too much, except perhaps in special circumstances. But I did jot down notes at the end of each viewing to preserve my initial reaction and mindset, at least, and so will, as writer brain fog permits, type up some drivel on those movies in capsule form. We continue our catch-up drivel today with “About Endlessness” (yes), “Shiva Baby” (hell yes), “The Harder They Fall” (grade: incomplete), Encanto (shout-out to the coffee kid), and Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar (just a series of skits only in so much as tapas is just some small plates of food). 

About Endlessness. Many critics have noted that Roy Andersson’s sorta-documentary “About Endlessness” opens with an image of a couple flying above a city that echoes Marc Chagall’s 1913 painting Over the Town. Of course, Andersson’s image, as we discover when he returns to it later, is two people soaring not just over a city over a war-ravaged city. That doesn’t mean the sort of documentary is not a celebration, though, of life itself in its own way, where Andersson’s explicitly staged scenes of prosaic minutiae, often bleakly funny, sometimes just bleak, occasionally transcending bleakness, suggest staged photography, as if capturing random moments and than recreating them to accentuate how that randomness is, itself, something lyrical and significant. In one of the myriad snapshots, when a waiter pouring a glass of red wine just.keeps.pouring, spilling vino all over the white tablecloth, the narrator that chimes in from time to time observes “I saw a man with his mind elsewhere.” In that moment, in that time and place (read: after the last two years), reader, I felt seen.  

Shiva Baby. In adapting her NYU thesis as her first feature film, Emma Seligman utilizes something as culturally specific as a Jewish mourning ritual to render a movie that’s universal in feeling. Set almost entirely over the course of an afternoon at a Shiva, Seligman both draws out the tension that goes hand-in-hand with the ceremony’s familial pressure, shame and nit-picking and maximizes mankind’s tendency to let our problems pile up until they get dropped on top of us at once and at the worst possible moment, the room’s distinct claustrophobia a purgatory that Danielle (Rachel Sennott) must endure to get to the other side. It’s a socially anxious thriller, if you will, the best thriller of 2021.

The Harder They Fall. I’m still not sure if I think the end, in which a nigh omnipresent ebulliently cocky Jonathan Majors collapses, weeping, onto the shoulder of Zazie Beetz, re-characterizes all the splashy artifice we have seen as just that, or if it’s a substantial case of a movie having its camp bread and eating it too. 

Encanto. “Surface Pressure” > “We Don’t Talk About Bruno”

Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar. Like the suicide soda a character mixes for herself early on, Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo’s comedy is an unlikely amalgam of ingredients that harmoniously blends into something like a modern Elvis movie as that specific genre was covered by Team ZAZ in “Top Secret!”, transforming a small town Midwesterner’s fear of travel (to which I can totally relate) into an uproarious version of the Hero’s Journey. (Special shout-out to the ultra-committed Jamie Dornan in support. The way he reacts by not reacting, really listening during his back-to-back ridiculous walk-and-talks with Mumolo’s Barb and Wiig’s Star is Oscar-worthy.)

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