Welcome to another installment of Movies, Movies, Movies!
The Midnight Sky (2020) (netflix)
Starring: George Clooney, Felicity Jones, David Oyelowo, Caoilinn Springall, Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir, Tiffany Boone, Sophie Rundle, Ethan Peck, Tim Russ, Miriam Shor, and many more.
Director: George Clooney
Genres: drama, fantasy
Synopsis: Augustine (played by Clooney) stays behind when the Arctic research station is evacuated. Also mistakenly left behind is a small girl. Something is wrong with Earth and planet death is imminent. The only hope for humans to continue is if Augustine can get a warning out and through the now-deadly earth’s atmosphere to the space ship, “Aether,” that is headed home from a habitable moon to tell them that they need to turn around and go back to it, away from Earth. Complicating the situation is that Augustine is dying and the girl cannot speak. Augustine has flashbacks of when he was a young man who was a brilliant scientist who never let love stand in the way of his work. There’s also a story line going on up on “Aether” with the crew members, one of whom is pregnant.
Impressions: I think the editing in this was a little iffy, but the story is worth the patchiness of the editing. There is one disturbing scene that caught me by surprise.
Etc. from imdb: Felicity Jones found out she was pregnant after being cast, and George Clooney simply rewrote her part to accommodate. “I did get to sit down a lot, which was a real joy,” says Jones. It ultimately adds layers of jeopardy and hope to the story. Clooney revealed to us that, ‘The fact that Felicity ended up being pregnant…. gave us something that now feels like we should have done it all along, which is to have this other through line, this future, going through it.‘”
Awards: 2 wins and 48 nominations
So B. It (2016)
Starring: Alfre Woodard, Talitha Eliana Bateman, John Heard, Jessica Collins, Jacinda Barrett, Dash Mihok, Cloris Leachman, Mataeo Mingo, Michael Arden, and many more.
Director: Stephen Gyllenhaal
Genres: family drama
Synopsis: Heidi It (played by Bateman) and (her) Mama (played by Collins) come to be under the care of Bernadette (played by Woodard) when Heidi is just a few weeks old. Heidi is now around 11 or 12 years old and still has no idea why her last name is “It” and what her and Mama’s origins are before she came to live with Bernadette. Bernadette’s information has been enough through the years but something triggers Heidi’s need to find out what her past is. To complicate matters, Mama is developmentally disabled and doesn’t speak and Bernadette has agoraphobia. As an enterprising girl Heidi finds what she is seeking.
Impressions: “So B. It” is geared to young viewers and would be a good one for children who have been adopted or placed in foster care. I like the sensitive way the developmentally disabled and someone with agoraphobia are portrayed. I love any movie Alfre Woodard is in, and she is the central figure in this film, even though Bateman gets much of the screen time. Cloris Leachman has only a very small role. Nice to see John Heard in a film again. I see he passed on in 2017.
Awards: 1 win
Pizza: A Love Story (2019)
Director: Gorman Bechard
Synopsis: The film focuses on 3 pizzerias (aka pizza palaces) in New Haven, CT: Pepe’s, Sally’s, and Modern – all located within a 6-block radius of each other. It goes in-depth on the origin stories of each. LOTS of archival photos and film footage, alternating with interviews and commentary from the pizzeria original owners and/or descendants of the owners, celebrities who choose which one they like best and why, and random residents of New Haven who give their views on these gems of their home town.
Impressions: I learned so much about the 3 places and their historical context for New Haven, and by extension, their pizza styles and influence as it has rippled across the US. I enjoyed the film and one day would love to go check out Modern’s as they have fermented crust and put more tasty items on theirs than the other two. (Sorry, very few can be neutral!)
East Lake Meadows: A Public Housing Story (2020) Ken Burns Presents (TV movie)
Starring: Henry Cisneros, Bill Clinton, Jelani Cobb, Eva Davis, Chasity Dixon, Rilene Dixon, Nikole Hannah-Jones, Willie Harrison, Lawrence Lightfoot, Beverly Parks, Ronald Reagan, Franklin D. Roosevelt, Mario Luis Small, Brandon Thrasher, David Williams.
Director: Sarah Burns, David McMahon (daughter and SIL of Ken Burns)
Synopsis: In-depth look at the East Lake Meadows public housing “project” that was built in 1970 in Atlanta, GA, specifically but also examines it in the larger scope of federally subsidized public housing projects across the US. The story is told with a sociologist’s perspective, which gives it a richness that is appreciated, particularly in where they chose to build it, how they chose to build it, and how it was maintained and monitored once built. There is quite a bit of archival footage of the politicians involved in the trajectory of public housing both local and nationally. Alternating are many interviews with former and current residents and archival footage of residents, namely iconic figure Eva Davis, the head matriarch and political voice of East Lake Meadows. The film also covers the public outcry on the decrepit state of the place – and many other public housing projects across the nation – which led to its demolition in 2000. Many were lied to or otherwise coerced into leaving with promises they would be able to come back when new housing was built on the site, only to be turned away. Also included is how the crack epidemic of the 1980’s changed the social fabric of East Lake Meadows.
Impressions: I think the film was well-done, especially examining how institutionalized racism led to segregation for people of color, effectively corralling them into living spaces in Atlanta and across the nation. I also appreciate how it stands in reflecting the current situation for all individuals at the lowest levels of poverty who are forced to live in crumbling slum rental properties or are otherwise constrained in public housing structures and neighborhoods where street crime is off the charts. Good soundtrack!
Goodbye to all That (2014)
Starring: Paul Schneider, Melanie Lynskey, Audrey P. Scott, Michael Chernus, Celia Weston, Steve Coulter, Robert Haulbrook, Amy Sedaris, Melcher Smith, Steven Hall, Heather Graham, Ashley Hinshaw, Jeffrey Dean Foster, Anna Camp, Beth Bostic, Ben Baker, Patrice D’Evans, Mabel Robinson, Sally Meehan, Heather Lawless, and many others.
Director: Angus MacLachlan
Genres: dark comedy, drama
Synopsis: Otto (played by Schneider) is a clumsy and clueless husband who is blindsided when his mild-mannered wife, Annie (played by Lynskey) says she’s been planning on leaving him for awhile and there’s no use trying to talk her out of it. Otto is abruptly pushed out of the home and parenting time with his young daughter is ill-conceived at best until the divorce is finalized. Most of the movie shows Otto having sex in a creative mix of ways with a string of gorgeous women while at the same time trying to spend time with his daughter and be a good dad.
Impressions: First thing I’ve seen Schneider in and I like what I’m seeing. He does clueless-yet-sexy very well. The humor is a little dark with some slapstick thrown in. I like the cross-section of female personalities in here. The film is entertaining but also has important messages to convey.
Etc.from imdb: The film was made in Winston-Salem, NC, which is also the location of the prestigious University of North Carolina School of the Arts. Both Paul Schneider and Angus MacLachlan are alumni.
Awards: 1 win and 1 nomination