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October 2021

Putting It Together

Josh Barrett/A24

The Souvenir Part II (2021)

“The Souvenir Part II” is, in essence, the making of “The Souvenir,” Joanna Hogg’s maybe autography about Julie (Honor Swinton Byrne), the Sloane Ranger-y student enrolled at the Raynham Film School (stand-in for Ms. Hogg’s alma mater, the National Film and Television School) and living in Knightsbridge, who perpetually feigns a smile as her forehead tightens. The school seemingly expects her well-to-do folks (Tilda Swinton, Ms. Swinton Byrne’s real-life mum, and James Spencer Ashworth) to bankroll her student projects. They do, and in turn she takes some of the hard-begged handouts to support the drug habit and wastrel lifestyle of The Worst Fuckboi Ever, Anthony (Tom Burke).

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Stumbling Out of the Gate

Adolpho Veloso/Sony Pictures Classics

Jockey (2021)

“The Rider,” about an injured rodeo star living on a South Dakota reservation, was a much-admired little gem that catapulted the career of an auspicious filmmaker. It made such an impression that her follow-up would warrant a full-fledged Oscar campaign. That filmmaker was of course Chloé Zhao; and her follow-up was “Nomadland.” To try to bottle that lightning twice would be a fool’s errand. But the distributor of “The Rider,” Sony Classics, seems to have another one just like it in the hopper three years later.

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Chaos Reigns


True Things (2021)

Some people lead messy lives. They can’t get out of bed in the morning. They can’t get to work on time. You don’t have to relate to them. You don’t even have to like them. You must, however, recognize their existence. There really haven’t been many movies about these folks. “Four Weddings and a Funeral” seems to be the last to leave a lasting impression, and that’s almost three decades ago. “True Things” is one such movie though, about an individual who can’t get her act together and doesn’t bother trying.

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Body Snatcher

Amazon Studios

Encounter (2021)

Not sure what it is with these recent British bait-and-switchers, but “Encounter” unfolds very much like “Here Before”: It begins in one genre and then swerves into something else entirely. “Encounter” commences as science fiction, with Riz Ahmed as a former marine Malik Kahn, who, after years of absence, hurriedly snatches his two kids, Jay (Lucian-River Chauhan) and Bobby (Aditya Geddada), from his estranged ex, Piya (Janina Gavankar). They embark on a secret mission to take cover at a military base amid an alien invasion. Through elaborate special effects, the film depicts people altering their behaviors after insect bites, and their eyes give them away. If you are a sci-fi fan, just know looks here are deceiving. If that doesn’t deter you, beware of spoilers ahead.

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Made in U.S.A.

Samuel Goldwyn Films

Snakehead (2021)

Among the recent films on immigrants – “Limbo,” “I Carry You With Me,” “El cuartito,” “Chal Mera Putt,” “Flee” etc. – “Snakehead” is the only one that actually hammers home the point that lives are at stake. Perhaps that’s because it is also a gangster flick. In the others, border crossing is merely a process: If you get caught, you get deported; it’s no biggie – the movies don’t even remind you of the dangers awaiting the immigrants back home. “Snakehead,” on the other hand, shows that the peril doesn’t end on arrival. The smugglers, to whom the undocumented are indebted, are far more dreadful than the Border Patrol.

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Fellow Travelers

Sami Kuokkanen/Sony Pictures Classics

Compartment No. 6 (2022)

Finland’s entry in the Academy Awards’ International Feature Film category, “Compartment No. 6” tells a deliberately heart-warming story, of an extremely unlikely friendship, that’s patronizing and inadvertently offensive.

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Future Perfect

Courtesy photo

Chal Mera Putt 3 (2021)

“Chal Mera Putt 3” bears more resemblance to an entry in a blockbuster franchise than to the 2019 Punjabi sleeper hit that spawned it. The latest sequel is a blast, but it feels for the most part like a feature-length epilogue to the previous two films. Every plot in it is tangential.

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Spies Like Him

Nicola Dove/Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer

No Time to Die (2021)

Danny Boyle could easily have been installed as honorary co-monarch of the United Kingdom by a grateful populace in 2012 after his efforts to bolster the national morale via the Olympics opening ceremony, five minutes of which involved him directing Daniel Craig as James Bond for a quick cutaway gag. Since 2012 the United Kingdom has fallen to bits like a clown car and deep-sea divers continue to hunt for the national morale; but James Bond himself has carried right on, fixed on the course set by "Skyfall" that same fateful year, and which reaches its final destination in "No Time to Die." Mr. Boyle was due to reunite with both Mr. Craig and 007 as director of the new film, before being replaced by Cary Fukunaga. It seems a safe bet that disagreements over that destination played a part.

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On the Ropes


The Survivor (2021)

Sometimes you have to wonder if there is any story from the Holocaust left untold. And yet the news this week reminds us there are still living Nazis on the run from the justice system; and the photos from the American border of men on horses whipping other men make it bloodily obvious how so many of the choices which led to the Holocaust remain unchanged.

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Emotional Laborer

Robert Viglasky/Sony Pictures Classics

Mothering Sunday (2021)

Based on Graham Swift’s 2016 novel, “Mothering Sunday” is another absolutely pointless reminiscence about a bygone era of wars, manners and servitude, when well-bred society people (Olivia Colman! Colin Firth!) indeed suffered real loss and tragedy – and not the elective and entirely preventable kind such as Lehman Brothers or Covid-19 – yet remained undeterred to meet for picnics and dinners just to trade barbs, throw hissy fits and be awful.

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