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Ugly Easter

Why the aeriform view?

Blow the Man Down: Margo Martindale stars as the fishmongers’ procuress.
Blow the Man Down: Margo Martindale stars as the fishmongers’ procuress.

Two tales of troubled towns — and one set in New York, which has enough real-life troubles at the moment.

Video:

Blow the Man Down trailer

Blow the Man Down (2019)

It isn’t long after the Connolly sisters lay their mother to rest that a tangled web of murder and prostitution starts getting woven in this Amazon Studios original. Family secrets commence bubbling over, with enough residual spatter to send sisters Pris (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) wading waterproof mukluk-deep through the criminal underbelly of the non-existent but authentic-looking seaport village of Easter Cove, Maine. Don’t you love it when a film just starts, entering its character’s lives mid-flow, effectively catching the viewer off guard? Isn’t it refreshing when people who have known each other for years don’t speak in explanations or clumsily disseminated backstory? Perhaps it’s the fact that these characters know each other so well — and we don’t — that first draws our interest. Holding it is another story. No sooner does the Greek Chorus of ruddy anglers finish warbling the eponymous ditty than we hit the ground jogging, eager to be brought up to speed on the lives of the Connolly sisters. As it happens, a trio of otherwise fine upstanding fishmonger’s wives (Annette O’Toole, June Squibb, and Marceline Hugot) have it in for Enid (Margo Martindale), the wharf’s proud, pasty-faced procuress. Looking very much like Maleficent after she swallowed a character balloon from the Macy’s Christmas Parade, Enid logs hours at the town beauty salon — where she’s the subject of gossip, even when under the dryer. Being the embodiment of pure evil makes it tougher to get around: her walking cane frequently finds itself in direct competition with the cut of her billowing garment. How did the directorial team of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy ultimately arrive at this remote location for their first feature? They hung a right at Fargo. Aye, there’s the rub. Too many great ideas get trammeled in this copycat crime gone awry.

Video:

Bacurau trailer

Bacurau (2019)

What has mystery, romance, flying saucers, men on horseback, smiles, chills, folklore to spare, horizontal wipes, and just enough splatter to prevent the Comic-Conners in the audience from texting? Answer: this all-encompassing, genre-bending satire from Brazil that examines just what a government can do to a complacent townsfolk who refuse to question authority. We open in the stratosphere; the time: “A few years from now.” Why the aeriform view? Because in space, no one can hear the (fictional) titular town being purged from all manner of digital media, so that it is left to exist only in the memories of the locals and the maps of old-school cartographers. The urge to expunge is traceable to the local Mayor, a greedy martinet eager to make cash by turning the town into a shooting gallery for human-hunting Anglos. (Of the three recent variations on The Most Dangerous Game, this is leaps and bounds ahead of Ready or Not and The Hunt.) A tanned, rested, and tantalyzingly rotten Udo Kier leads the hunt, and woe unto the one who dares to call him a Nazi. Kleber Mendonça Filho, this time co-directing with his production designer Juliano Dornelles, once again brings out the best in Sônia Braga. (If you like this, check out their other collaboration, the altogether differently disciplined Aquarius.) Be advised: this is not a popcorn picture, the sort that encourages viewers to flip their brains off for the duration of the wild ride. I’ll cop to several instances where a clarifying rewind was in order. Added incentive: Digital Gym Cinema programmer Moises Esparza calls it “trying to figure out a way to keep afloat amidst all the closures.” The DGC will earn a percentage of every ticket sold. For more information, visit: kinonow.com/bacurau-digital-media-gym

Video:

A Rainy Day in New York trailer

A Rainy Day in New York (2019)

Upon learning that his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) has landed an interview with cult director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) for the college newspaper, 22-year-old inveterate gambler Gatsby Welles (Timothy Chalamet) decides to go all in. (Gatsby Welles? Really? Why not Plato Pretentious?) Flush with winnings, our hero plans a romantic New York getaway, where the couple is beset by rain, incurable exposition, and a torrent of coincidence. Woody Allen was in his mid-forties when he wrote Manhattan, still close enough in age to remember the real manner in which young, avant-garde lovers spoke. At 85, he comes off as an out-of-touch idealist, trying and failing to return to the style of romantic comedy that made him famous. As written, Ashleigh plays the part of a selective intellectualist: she’s sharp enough to drop a litany of arcane arts references, but when flustered, she lists Akira Kurosawa’s place of origin as Europe and cites journalism as “the world’s oldest profession.” When Pollard offers her a scoop — he wants out of his latest picture — she asks, “Of what?” Timothy Chalamet wasn’t the first substitute Woody — that honor goes to John Cusack in Manhattan Murder Mystery… or was it Mary Beth Hurt in Interiors? — but he’s one of the least accurate mimics in the class. One could practically hear Woody whispering into the actor’s earpiece, “Listen and do as I say.” (Why not? It worked for Bogdanovich and Tatum O’Neal.) Two reasons to see the film: it was photographed by Vittorio Storaro (Warren Beatty never leaves home without him) and it features an unexpectedly emboldened performance by Selena Gomez. The #MeToo movement caused Amazon Studios to think twice — didn’t they know what they were getting into? — and the film never received an American release. Nor is it available for legal download. But finding a copy is simply a matter of knowing which rocks to turn over along the side of the internet superhighway.

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Blow the Man Down: Margo Martindale stars as the fishmongers’ procuress.
Blow the Man Down: Margo Martindale stars as the fishmongers’ procuress.

Two tales of troubled towns — and one set in New York, which has enough real-life troubles at the moment.

Video:

Blow the Man Down trailer

Blow the Man Down (2019)

It isn’t long after the Connolly sisters lay their mother to rest that a tangled web of murder and prostitution starts getting woven in this Amazon Studios original. Family secrets commence bubbling over, with enough residual spatter to send sisters Pris (Sophie Lowe) and Mary Beth (Morgan Saylor) wading waterproof mukluk-deep through the criminal underbelly of the non-existent but authentic-looking seaport village of Easter Cove, Maine. Don’t you love it when a film just starts, entering its character’s lives mid-flow, effectively catching the viewer off guard? Isn’t it refreshing when people who have known each other for years don’t speak in explanations or clumsily disseminated backstory? Perhaps it’s the fact that these characters know each other so well — and we don’t — that first draws our interest. Holding it is another story. No sooner does the Greek Chorus of ruddy anglers finish warbling the eponymous ditty than we hit the ground jogging, eager to be brought up to speed on the lives of the Connolly sisters. As it happens, a trio of otherwise fine upstanding fishmonger’s wives (Annette O’Toole, June Squibb, and Marceline Hugot) have it in for Enid (Margo Martindale), the wharf’s proud, pasty-faced procuress. Looking very much like Maleficent after she swallowed a character balloon from the Macy’s Christmas Parade, Enid logs hours at the town beauty salon — where she’s the subject of gossip, even when under the dryer. Being the embodiment of pure evil makes it tougher to get around: her walking cane frequently finds itself in direct competition with the cut of her billowing garment. How did the directorial team of Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy ultimately arrive at this remote location for their first feature? They hung a right at Fargo. Aye, there’s the rub. Too many great ideas get trammeled in this copycat crime gone awry.

Video:

Bacurau trailer

Bacurau (2019)

What has mystery, romance, flying saucers, men on horseback, smiles, chills, folklore to spare, horizontal wipes, and just enough splatter to prevent the Comic-Conners in the audience from texting? Answer: this all-encompassing, genre-bending satire from Brazil that examines just what a government can do to a complacent townsfolk who refuse to question authority. We open in the stratosphere; the time: “A few years from now.” Why the aeriform view? Because in space, no one can hear the (fictional) titular town being purged from all manner of digital media, so that it is left to exist only in the memories of the locals and the maps of old-school cartographers. The urge to expunge is traceable to the local Mayor, a greedy martinet eager to make cash by turning the town into a shooting gallery for human-hunting Anglos. (Of the three recent variations on The Most Dangerous Game, this is leaps and bounds ahead of Ready or Not and The Hunt.) A tanned, rested, and tantalyzingly rotten Udo Kier leads the hunt, and woe unto the one who dares to call him a Nazi. Kleber Mendonça Filho, this time co-directing with his production designer Juliano Dornelles, once again brings out the best in Sônia Braga. (If you like this, check out their other collaboration, the altogether differently disciplined Aquarius.) Be advised: this is not a popcorn picture, the sort that encourages viewers to flip their brains off for the duration of the wild ride. I’ll cop to several instances where a clarifying rewind was in order. Added incentive: Digital Gym Cinema programmer Moises Esparza calls it “trying to figure out a way to keep afloat amidst all the closures.” The DGC will earn a percentage of every ticket sold. For more information, visit: kinonow.com/bacurau-digital-media-gym

Video:

A Rainy Day in New York trailer

A Rainy Day in New York (2019)

Upon learning that his girlfriend Ashleigh (Elle Fanning) has landed an interview with cult director Roland Pollard (Liev Schreiber) for the college newspaper, 22-year-old inveterate gambler Gatsby Welles (Timothy Chalamet) decides to go all in. (Gatsby Welles? Really? Why not Plato Pretentious?) Flush with winnings, our hero plans a romantic New York getaway, where the couple is beset by rain, incurable exposition, and a torrent of coincidence. Woody Allen was in his mid-forties when he wrote Manhattan, still close enough in age to remember the real manner in which young, avant-garde lovers spoke. At 85, he comes off as an out-of-touch idealist, trying and failing to return to the style of romantic comedy that made him famous. As written, Ashleigh plays the part of a selective intellectualist: she’s sharp enough to drop a litany of arcane arts references, but when flustered, she lists Akira Kurosawa’s place of origin as Europe and cites journalism as “the world’s oldest profession.” When Pollard offers her a scoop — he wants out of his latest picture — she asks, “Of what?” Timothy Chalamet wasn’t the first substitute Woody — that honor goes to John Cusack in Manhattan Murder Mystery… or was it Mary Beth Hurt in Interiors? — but he’s one of the least accurate mimics in the class. One could practically hear Woody whispering into the actor’s earpiece, “Listen and do as I say.” (Why not? It worked for Bogdanovich and Tatum O’Neal.) Two reasons to see the film: it was photographed by Vittorio Storaro (Warren Beatty never leaves home without him) and it features an unexpectedly emboldened performance by Selena Gomez. The #MeToo movement caused Amazon Studios to think twice — didn’t they know what they were getting into? — and the film never received an American release. Nor is it available for legal download. But finding a copy is simply a matter of knowing which rocks to turn over along the side of the internet superhighway.

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