Scenes From a Marriage

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

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

Courtesy of Sundance Institute

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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At Your Own Yellow Peril

Benjamin Loeb/A24

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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Roast in Translation

Eric Lin/Sundance Institute

blood (2022)

Essentially “Lost in Translation” with the sads and more interactions with the locals, “blood” takes place in Japan, the seeming destination of choice for lonely whites in search of je ne sais quoi. Newly widowed photographer (bien sur, what else could she possibly be?) Chloe (Carla Juri) arrives in the Land of the Rising Sun, which she previously visited with now-deceased husband, Peter (Gustaf Skarsgärd). She is apparently there taking pictures of the Japanese doing Japanese things, and she greets everyone and everything with wide-eyed wonder and amazement like Nicole Kidman shilling for AMC Theatres.

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Proof of the Pudding


Sundance Institute

Bill Cosby was a bona fide ’80s cultural icon. In his documentary series “We Need to Talk About Cosby,” W. Kamau Bell acknowledges Mr. Cosby’s influence on his initially choosing a career in comedy – the same inspiration that spurred a generation of Black comedians. Of course, the urgency to discuss Mr. Cosby now stems from the fact that he’s better known over the past decade for being a serial rapist.

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Mise en scène de crime

Courtesy photo

Be Somebody (2021)

“Be Somebody” exudes the vibes of a Chinese knockoff “Knives Out” because of its lavish baroque set décor, but it quickly quashes any comparison with that whodunit by readily revealing who did it.

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A Sticky Wicket

Courtesy photo

83 (2021)

It’s no secret that jingoism plays as big a role in Bollywood as do extravagant musical numbers. Considering how often India is underestimated despite the rest of the world benefitting from its massive talent drain, it is more than entitled to toot its own horn. The film “83” recounts a specific moment of great national pride in India’s history – the Prudential Cup ’83 – when its underdog cricket team beat the odds and rivals from seven countries and became champion of the world.

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The Go Master

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Schemes in Antiques (2021)

Based on Ma Boyong’s novel, which has already spawned a popular TV series, “Schemes in Antiques” revolves around a Chinese national treasure – the head of a Buddha statue from Wu Zetian’s palace during the Tang Dynasty – gifted to the Japanese sometime during the early 20th century. Kana Kido (Lilie Matsumine) now wishes to return it on condition that the recipient must be a descendant of Xu Yicheng, the authority on antiques accused of treason and executed for giving the Buddha head away. Following the fall from grace of grandpa Yicheng and abandonment by his father, Xu Heping (Guo Tao), Xu Yuan (Lei Jiayin) trades electronics and dabbles in small-time scams at flea-market auctions.

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Power Moves

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Pushpa: The Rise (2021)

The three-hour-long first half of what is evidently an epic crime saga, “Pushpa: The Rise” recounts Allu Arjun’s titular character working his way up from lowly coolie born out of wedlock to boss of a lucrative sandalwood-smuggling syndicate. He displays ingenuity and cajones very early on, apt at doing whatever it takes to avoid getting busted by the authorities. Pushpa quickly earns the trust of Konda Reddy (Ajay Ghosh), who parcels out greater responsibilities and a percentage of the profits to him. Once he catches wind that dealer Mangalam Srinu (Sunil) grossly shortchanges them, Pushpa urges Konda to renegotiate. When Konda balks, Pushpa conspires to pit him against Mangalam and reap all the benefits.

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It's Complicated

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Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui (2021)

“Chandigarh Kare Aashiqui” starts off like many a Bollywood romance: Manu (Ayushmann Khurrana), working-class gym owner and strong-man contestant, falls madly in love with the well-born new Zumba instructor, Maanvi (Vaani Kapoor). Typically their affair would be doomed when her parents begin arranging for her to marry a suitor of compatible social standing, but something is a little different here. When signing up for a dating app, Maanvi hesitates for a moment before selecting “woman.” During a phone conversation with her father, we learn that she’s not on speaking terms with her mother. Given the press surrounding the film, it’s not spoiling to disclose that Maanvi is trans. There’s no shocking “Crying Game”-esque reveal, what with the aforementioned foreshadowing in place to mentally prepare those watching the film cold.

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