Mr. Robot

Tribeca Festival

Sophia (2022)

Documentaries about tech entrepreneurs take off when the visionary spins a convincing vision, or bump along the runway when the vision is more myopic than they realize. “Sophia,” by Jon Kasbe and Crystal Moselle, finds a not entirely comfortable third path by following David Hanson and the humanoid female robot he and Hanson Robotics are developing, which lends its name to the film. When Mr. Hanson speaks of his creation as a marker on the path to true artificial intelligence his earnestness speaks for itself; but the film doesn’t put Sophia into any context as a point on the arc from here to there, not least since a lot of the running time is taken up by Sophia not actually working very well. The android’s body is not much more than functional anyway, but what its brain is capable of and the seismic impact that its creator predicts can’t really cohere while the company pit crew are under the hood with the jump leads.

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About a Goy

Søren Kirkegaard

Attachment (2022)

Incongruous openings win immediate bonus points, and “Attachment” starts with a chance encounter between an elf princess and a mysterious commoner who perhaps has a curse on her while an uptempo synth beat bounces on the soundtrack, as if the film was about to be the hit meet-cute queer comedy of 1985. Since the setting is clearly a library in present-day Denmark and the elf princess is an actor in costume recreating her TV character for some kids who are bored horizontal, the hidden layers of the set-up are left for you to register later, while “Attachment” skips deftly on into a serious supernatural drama about religion and tradition, lesbian love and culture clash.

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Death Wish

Carole Bethuel/Curzon Film

Everything Went Fine (2022)

Broadly speaking, François Ozon directs two kinds of movies. The first are about young gay men getting themselves into a situation that ends with somebody dying. The second kind are about women in some sort of family-themed trap, to which they learn they must submit. The traps vary (a crappy marriage in “5x2,” a slutty houseguest in “Swimming Pool,” a parasitic twin in “Double Lover”) but they cannot be escaped, and writhing in the net only draws the knots tighter. The daughters in “Everything Went Fine” learned their lessons about their gilded cage in childhood, and tell anyone who asks that it’s impossible to deny their father anything. Mr Ozon must have been thrilled to option the memoir by Emmanuèle Bernheim, the late screenwriter of “5x2” and “Swimming Pool,” on which this movie is based. This is a family in which the ties do significantly more than bind.

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Score Card


Ennio (2022)

One of the great clichés available to the critic is the term “roller-coaster.” This is normally interpreted to mean that the film in question is a fast-moving, exhilarating experience with lots of emotional ups and downs. To this control freak – who’d rather undergo a marathon screening of all the “Fast & Furious” movies than go anywhere near a theme park – “roller-coaster” conjures up an entirely different meaning. It infers that the film is terrifying, nausea-inducing and only to be undertaken in order to impress somebody that you find attractive.

“Ennio” is in itself a bit of a roller-coaster but for different reasons. It starts calmly enough with the aged maestro Ennio Morricone undertaking his morning exercises – including press-ups that many men a third his age could not manage or be bothered with. But then the brakes are off and we are zipping along through the great composer’s life in a blur of archive footage, movie clips and so many different talking heads offering up opinions and anecdotes that it’s hard to keep track of who’s who, even with the captions. “Game of Thrones” was a comparative cakewalk next to this. One emerges from “Ennio” disoriented and slightly breathless.

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Highway to the Comfort Zone

Scott Garfield/Paramount Pictures

Top Gun: Maverick (2022)

An aircraft carrier is 90,000 tons of diplomacy (as they say on the T-shirts) and its smell is hard to describe. It’s an enveloping sensation that permeates the entire world around you, especially when the carrier is out at sea and a floating city for thousands of people. Below decks the air is heavy with the weight of the ship, metal and body odors, recycled air and watertight doors. The flight deck smells like salt air and overheated tarmac, wind and jet fuel. It gets under your skin like very little else.

“Top Gun: Maverick” is all about what it’s like to chase a sensation. It begins with old-school renegade expert Maverick (Tom Cruise) taking an experimental plane for a test flight before its program is shut down by an admiral so tough (Ed Harris in a delightful cameo) he doesn’t even flinch as the plane passes so low overhead it knocks the roof of a guard hut. It transpires that Maverick is needed urgently at the flight school outside San Diego, where a secret mission – think the targeting of the Death Star in “Star Wars,” only more convoluted – requires training only Maverick can provide. The training is overseen by Cyclone (Jon Hamm), a by-the-rules admiral who dislikes Maverick, personally and professionally. One of the trainee pilots is Rooster (Miles Teller, phenomenally cast and with a superb mustache, and otherwise serviceable), whose late father was Maverick’s wingman and who has daddy issues galore. Maverick’s daddy issues from the original are forgotten. As the world turns, eh? The rest of the plot is pretty standard blockbuster stuff.

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True Bromance

DVV Entertainment

RRR (2022)

Gatekeeping is and has been a serious problem plaguing international film culture. Even those most deeply immersed are often blissfully ignorant of this fact. A tiny, overwhelmingly white group of tastemakers ­­– programmers, critics, editors, distributors – essentially dictate what is fit for Western consumption. For the past year, nary a week has gone by without at least one new Indian release surfacing at multiplexes across the U.S. thanks to the pandemic-related short supply of Hollywood products. Yet major outlets and critics have deemed these films unworthy of any attention. They would of course never do this with a French film, even one without stars or festival credentials. “RRR,” a Telugu-language Indian film which has so far grossed in excess of $10 million in the U.S. – more than four times what “Drive My Car” made in its theatrical run – did not land a review in The New York Times until 12 days after opening, yet that was better than what most films from that country could get.

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When the Saints Go Marching In

The Kennedy/Marshall Company/Sony Pictures Classics

Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story (2022)

In a way, “Jazz Fest: A New Orleans Story” feels like “Summer of Soul ( . . . Or, When the Revolution Could Not Be Televised)” with melanin vastly depleted. Directors Ryan Suffern and Frank Marshall seem oblivious at best, ignorant at worst, glossing over glaring questions so as to not hold anyone accountable for apparent inequities on display, making the proceedings as pleasant and inoffensive as possible to make nice with white upper-middle-class boomers who presumably make up their target audience.

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L'état d'urgence

Carole Bethuel

The Divide (2021)

The English title implies something that’s grown apart, while the original French title means something which has broken, which is more appropriate. This slice-of-life story, set in a Parisian emergency room on a day of the Yellow Vests protests, manages to excoriate French society at all levels while also being a kind, clear-eyed metaphor of how a nation handles its suffering.

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Small Town Mentality

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

Wet Sand (2021)

The arrival of a city mouse into a country village is a tale as old as time, but the city mouse doesn’t usually wear a cigarette lighter on a cord down her cleavage. The village itself, on the edge of the Black Sea in Georgia, is not an easy place – the doctors and the police don’t always do their jobs properly; the men don’t always keep their fists to themselves; and the neighbors’ mouths don’t always stay shut. On the news it’s announced the national day against homophobia is now a day for families. But in the village the big news is that the elderly Eliko (Tengo Javakhadze) has killed himself, and the bigger question is what his granddaughter Moe (Bebe Sesitashvili) will do with his house after the funeral. But director Elene Naveriani, who cowrote the script with Sandro Naveriani, isn’t interested in how the dead bury the dead. This is an excellent movie about the tremendous difficulty of finding joy in a spiteful world and on how little an entire lifetime can be built.

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Gone but Not Forgotten

BFI Flare: London LGBTIQ+ Film Festival

Jimmy in Saigon (2022)

Why would someone choose to make a documentary without being capable of facing the issues the documentary is about? This is the only question for Peter McDowell’s “Jimmy in Saigon” – Jimmy being the director’s two-decades-older brother, who died in Vietnam when Peter McDowell was five. The movie took over a decade to make and, despite the amount of time and work that went into it, utterly fails to address its own topic. This is due to the Peter McDowell’s failures as a documentarian, but also to his personal refusal to own up to his own behavior.

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