Los Angeles

Doing the Right Thing

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Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Emergency (2022)

“Emergency” is one of those one-crazy-night movies (“Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle,” “Superbad,” “Dazed and Confused” et al.), about two college kids attempting to make history as the first Black students ever to complete a tour of every Greek party on campus in one evening – but the plan derails with their discovery of an unknown white girl passed out in their living room. They try to do the right thing and get her help, mindful that they are risking their lives because of the optics – strangers presume their guilt in this scenario based on skin color. Indeed, this well-trodden trope takes on a sense of somberness and urgency in the age of Black Lives Matter.

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I'm Like a Bird

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IFC Midnight

MOVIE REVIEW
Hatching (2022)

“Hatching” functions like the hybrid of a dark fairy tale and an adolescent horror. It’s utterly implausible, yet it isn’t explicitly sci-fi or supernatural. It falls into the body horror subgenre somewhat, but it’s more gross than it is scary.

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Scenes From a Marriage

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Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Lucy and Desi (2022)

Those vexed by the revisionist history in Aaron Sorkin’s “Being the Ricardos” may be looking forward to Amy Poehler’s documentary “Lucy and Desi” – both films focusing on the off-screen relationship between Lucille Ball and Desi Arnaz, stars of the storied 1950s CBS sitcom “I Love Lucy,” and released three months apart by Amazon Studios/Prime Video. The good: “Lucy and Desi” is built around Ball and Arnaz’s own words culled from cassette tapes in the private collection of their daughter, Lucie Arnaz Luckinbill. The bad: Her involvement does kind of place the documentary’s objectivity in doubt. One can’t shake the feeling that she’s pushing her own narrative about her parents.

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Study Hell

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Courtesy of Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Master (2022)

The opening scene in “Master” crosscuts between an older Black woman and a younger Black woman both moving into a residence hall. The reason for the juxtaposition is not readily apparent. Is the older one experiencing déjà vu as she moves in? Are there parallels to be gleaned from this montage?

It’s not revealed until a bit later that the younger woman isn’t in a flashback and that their moves are in fact contemporaneous. Professor Gail Bishop (Regina Hall) is the first Black woman to assume the position of master at the Belleville House on the Ancaster College campus, where Jasmine Moore (Zoe Renee) is the lone Black incoming freshman. What ensues is akin to a supercut compilation of Microaggression’s Greatest Hits.

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Pregnant Pause

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IFC Films

MOVIE REVIEW
Happening (2022)

Something at which French cinema excels is the feeling of living inside a body. It’s the slow accretion of details: people putting coins into a phone box, ordering beers at the bar of a sweaty student dance, or frowning over their books in the park as their friends chatter around them. Audrey Diwan’s “Happening” is about only the physical experience of being pregnant when you don’t want to be, and somehow is a tactile experience. It won the Golden Lion at the 2021 Venice Film Festival, Ms. Diwan herself has been nominated for a BAFTA, and all these awards are incredibly well deserved. A young woman trying to regain control of her body from an indifferent world is proven here to be something extraordinary.

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Growing Apart

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Emily Knecht/Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Am I OK? (2022)

It’s a Hollywood adage that putting a question mark in a movie title is bad luck. For a movie that centers on anxiety, the question mark in “Am I OK?” is a surprising choice. But that’s the only old adage codirectors Tig Notaro and Stephanie Allynne, directing Lauren Pomerantz’s script, have ignored. This is a glossy movie, in the tradition of Claudia Weill’s “Girlfriends” and Noah Baumbach’s “Frances Ha,” about how underemployed female best friends maintain their closeness as adulthood pulls them in separate directions. It looks modern, but it’s nothing new. Not even its exploration of coming out as portrayed by the most sexually bold actress of her generation contains anything like a surprise.

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Captive Audience

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Chris Witt/Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Breaking (2022)

John Boyega channels both the defiance of Denzel Washington and the pathos of Michael B. Jordan as the beating heart of “Breaking,” an upsetting dramatization of the true story of an Atlanta bank hold-up in 2017. It is a silent protest at the militarization of the American police and a howl of injustice at the way American veterans are treated by the system they served. It takes care to show just how a good and decent man can be pushed too far. And it takes even more care in showing how the American systems which were meant to serve and protect are now bulldozers, crushing everything in their path. Make no mistake, this is a horror movie. It’s about the horror of existing inside a society where violence is the only answer, no matter what the question. The people within the society are trying their best to be kind and empathetic, but when there’s a gun to your head or a bomb in a bag it’s impossible to relax. Safety is an illusion, and if you start the downward slide – whether or not it’s your fault – no one will do the right thing.

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Let's Talk About Sex

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Nick Wall/Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Good Luck to You, Leo Grande (2022)

The optics aren’t great. Here we have a movie about a mixed-race Irish sex worker teaching a posh white British woman about her capacity for physical pleasure in which race is not mentioned once. The major concern expressed by the woman is for the man’s relationship with his family, who do not know that he does sex work, which you would not think would be brought up so much, but that is a red herring to distract from the more obviously uncomfortable issues. So with difficulty, we’ll set the temptation to use the word “colonizer” to describe Emma Thompson’s character aside, and assess the movie on its own terms. “Good Luck to You, Leo Grande” is a two-hander between one of the best actresses of our lifetimes and a total unknown (unless you watch the Irish soaps) who burns through the screen with the impact of a new Marlon Brando. It’s about a former teacher who has waited for her husband to die before she begins the exploration of her own body. She pays for the privilege, of course, but with her privilege she thinks it will only cost her money. Leo, the handsome young man she hires (Daryl McCormack), will have to teach her more than one lesson.

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Some Catching Up to Do

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Alfonso Herrera Salcedo/Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
A Love Song (2022)

A woman (Dale Dickey) is waiting. She is waiting in the middle of unusually gorgeous scenery. A large mountain in the distance towers over a gentle plain that glides down to the lake she is camping by. She is waiting in a trailer, brand new in the 1970s, hitched to a pickup truck. She has a bait trap with which she catches crawdads, almost the only thing she eats. When she makes her morning coffee she listens to music on a Longines Symphonette, a lucky radio; whenever you twist the dial it magically plays the perfect song. It’s about 10 minutes before a word is spoken aloud, and that feels like no time at all.

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At Your Own Yellow Peril

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Benjamin Loeb/A24

MOVIE REVIEW
After Yang (2022)

Asians are often derided as robotic; in “After Yang,” the titular Asian is literally a robot. Jake (Colin Farrell), Kyra (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Mika (Malea Emma Tjandrawidjaja) form the performatively picture-perfect interracial family, and Yang (Justin H. Min) is part of that picture, too, albeit it enters slightly later, both literally and figuratively, during the film’s opening sequence.

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