Television

A Laughing Stock

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Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets

MOVIE REVIEW
Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets (2022)

The documentary “Diamond Hands: The Legend of WallStreetBets” recounts how, for one brief moment, unsophisticated investors posting on Reddit beat Wall Street at its own game only to find out that game is indeed rigged in Wall Street’s favor. The entire saga prompted House Financial Services Committee hearings in Washington.

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Millennium Mambo

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Charlotte Croft

MOVIE REVIEW
Pirates (2021)

In 1999, when it was first heard as part of a hidden infomercial track on early pressings of Britney Spears’s “. . . Baby One More Time,” would anyone have guessed that The Backstreet Boys’ “I Want It That Way” would become a deathless classic? The answer is no. And yet, when young Terrell (Jordan Peters) is attempting to apologize to the fearsome Kelly (Rebekah Murrell) for their breakup, which may or may not have happened because he faked being in a coma to go on holiday with his mates, he recites the lyrics to her like a poem. If only the other people in the record shop where she works didn’t recognize the song. As a gimmick it’s pure silliness: Would any teenage MC from North London, one-third of the Ice Cold Crew, a rap group good enough to get play on the city’s cutthroat pirate radio stations, really be listening to the Backstreet Boys? Also no. But in Reggie Yates’s adorable “Pirates,” shown as part of this year’s SXSW Film Festival, the song both grounds the movie in its time, and sets the cheerful, childish tone.

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Space Oddity

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SXSW

MOVIE REVIEW
Apollo 10 1/2: A Space Age Childhood (2022)

Memory is a funny thing, isn’t it. Looking back, especially at your own family, often you remember only the best parts, and certainly you focus on what you want to see. In the summer of 1969, while the future Kenneth Branagh was in Belfast going to the cinema to admire Raquel Welch with his family, the future Richard Linklater was in a suburb of Houston also going to the cinema to admire Raquel Welch with his brothers, but more often to watch movies about space. Practically everyone in the Houston area was involved in the space race, including young Stan (voiced by Milo Coy). Believe it or not, his kickball skills brought him to NASA’s attention, since – due to a minor math mishap – one of the space modules had been built at half size. So while his family thought he had a summer camp scholarship, Stan endured months of training to become the first boy to walk on the moon.

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Doing the Right Thing

Emergency-movie-review-rj-cyler-sebastian-chacon-donald-elise-watkins
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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Scenes From a Marriage

Lucy-and-desi-movie-review-lucille-ball-desi-arnaz
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

Master-movie-review-regina-hall
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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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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Women Helping Women

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Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
The Janes (2022)

“The Janes” opens with archive street footage of fabulously dressed women in the 1960s. The immediate point that makes is that while fashions change, people more or less stay the same. But codirectors Emma Pildes and Tia Lessin use the fashions of the late ’60s and early ’70s to make a quiet point in their story of the Jane Collective, an underground network in Chicago, at a time when abortion was illegal, that safely arranged at least 11,000 abortions in five years.

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The Graduate

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Sundance Institute

MOVIE REVIEW
Cha Cha Real Smooth (2022)

In her first book, Mindy Kaling has a section where she discusses romantic comedy tropes, one of which is the Typical Mother Character. To paraphrase Ms. Kaling, basic math makes it clear that the Typical Mother Character became a parent at an uncomfortably young age, which means that her backstory can’t really be discussed, because it is automatically more interesting than anything happening in the romantic comedy. Writer-director Cooper Raiff, who also stars in “Cha Cha Real Smooth,” evidently took this statement as a challenge. His incredibly charming movie is about how an open-hearted young man and a jaded older (but not much older) woman suddenly find themselves with an unexpected potential romantic situation, and the all-encompassing question of what they are going to do about it.

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Proof of the Pudding

TELEVISION REVIEW | 'WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT COSBY'

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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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