The Struggle Is Thrill

Neon; top right, Focus Features; bottom left, Jaap Buitendijk/Focus Features

Parasite/Downton Abbey (2019)

With “Parasite,” Bong Joon-ho gives the “Upstairs, Downstairs” premise a long-overdue update. Although the film is unmistakably current and relevant, the myriad uncanny parallels between it and the contemporaneous big-screen installment of “Downton Abbey” are impossible to ignore. So glaring are their similarities, the fact that no one has pointed them out already must have something to do with the racial cognitive dissonance of the critical mass failing to see Asians in this context.

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The Grand Ole Opry Ain't So Grand

2019 Tribeca Film Festival

Wild Rose (2019)

Concerning a Scot with country music aspirations, “Wild Rose” is predictable and just as predictably crowd-pleasing. Drug-trafficking ex-con? Check. Unemployable? Check. Broke? Check. Irresponsible single parent? Check. Long-suffering grandmother (played by Julie Walters)? Check. Resentful kids? Check. Mamas and prison and getting drunk? Check. Impossible dream? Check. Talent? Check. By merely connecting the dots, the screenplay practically writes itself.

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Charlie's Angels of Death

IFC Films

Charlie Says (2019)

Director Mary Harron and screenwriter Guinevere Turner explore the Manson family lore through a couple of literary entry points, namely “The Family” by Ed Sanders and “The Long Prison Journey of Leslie Van Houten” by Karlene Faith, who as a graduate student worked in the California Institute for Women with Manson women Susan Atkins, Patricia Krenwinkel and Ms. Van Houten. Having grown up in a cult herself, Ms. Turner’s firsthand experience also promises to imbue the film with insight.

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Much Ink Spilled


Skin (2019)

Guy Nattiv made a live-action short film called “Skin” that went on to win an Academy Award despite its reprehensible take on white supremacy and racial injustice. Then after pouting with his wife-producer Jamie Ray Newman at the press call backstage at the Dolby Theatre in Hollywood, Mr. Nattiv went on to make a feature, also titled “Skin,” which deals with the same subject matter. Fortunately, that is where most of the similarities end.

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Who Is the Vainest of Them All?

Emmanuelle Jacobson-Roques/2019 Tribeca Film Festival

‎White as Snow (2019)

Anne Fontaine gives “Snow White” a contemporary makeover by recasting the evil stepmother as a hotel owner (played by Isabelle Huppert, bien sur) and the seven dwarfs as men hopelessly charmed by stepdaughter Claire (Lou de Laâge) during her exile in their bucolic village. It may sound inspired, but by what exactly is not clear. In fact, it’s not apparent that Ms. Fontaine necessarily has anything in particular to say about either the timelessness of the Brothers Grimm tale or the times that we live in.

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Manchu Work

Ian Cook/Netflix

American Factory (2019)

When General Motors’s Moraine Assembly operations in Ohio shuttered in December 2008 after 27 years of operation, there were few prospects for its 2,400 workers. When Chinese-owned Fuyao Glass set up shop there in 2014, economically depressed local residents greeted it as if it were the Second Coming. But before the honeymoon even got underway, Senator Sherrod Brown party-pooped in a speech at the factory’s opening ceremony by urging the workers to organize.

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Miss Me Deadly

Sabrina Lantos/2018 Tribeca Film Festival

State Like Sleep (2019)

Writer-director Meredith Danluck attempts to put a feminine spin on the tired noir genre with “State Like Sleep,” with Katherine Waterston’s character, Katherine, obsessing over the mysterious death of her celebrity ex husband (Michael Huisman) and getting tangled in a dangerous web of secrets.

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Tayarisha Poe/2018 Tribeca Film Festival

We the Animals (2018)

Based on Justin Torres’s eponymous novel, “We the Animals” recounts the coming-of-age of a Puerto Rican child amid his parents’ turbulent relationship and his own budding (homo)sexuality.

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Residential Evil

Haut et Court

The Night Eats the World (2018)

Based on a novel by Martin Page under the nom de plume Pit Agarmen, “The Night Eats the World” imagines a zombiepocalypse as akin to one hundred days of solitude.

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The Kids Aren't All Right

Hillary Spera/2018 Tribeca Film Festival

Duck Butter (2018)

In some ways, “Duck Butter” feels like the lesbian take on “Chuck & Buck.” The fact that Miguel Arteta directed both notwithstanding, each seems to revolve around the warped sense of love and romance and the arrested emotional development shared by some members of the LGBTQ community – perhaps for being sheltered through puberty.

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