Chris Knipp Writing: Movies, Politics, Art

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PostPosted: Thu Apr 01, 2021 8:47 am 
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Minari trailer
Admittedly, I can't watch this without tearing up.

Peter Bradshaw's enthusiastic review appears in the Guardian today (April 1, 2021). Five stars (very rare):
Minari review – a Korean family sows seeds of hope in Arkansas
Infused with a wonderful sentimentality, Lee Isaac Chung’s fictionalised account of his rural US childhood explores the growing pains of a family farm
"Instant classic."

I believe this film will be remembered when all the other 2021 Best Picture noms will be forgotten, cared about still when they are no longer cared about.

That's right: "a wonderful sentimentality." Bradshaw nails it. Sometimes, sentimentality can be wonderful. This is the celebration of an iconic American - Asian American, Korean American - experience. It's full of pain, but also treasured. It has to be sentimental. Its burden of emotion is too heavy to be anything else. But it's a good sentimentality, a "wonderful" sentimentality.

Comments on the other Oscar Best Picture nominees:


To Johann, my treasured longtime colleague at Filmleaf:

Yes, Mank is the logical cinephile's choice, a celebration of cinematic complexity recreating a memorable, generous period of Hollywood production.

Other titles in the list also have virtues of their own.

Ultimately, though, I go by what moves me most.

Mank dazzled me but left little emotion and has faded from my mind and heart.
Let's look at the other Oscar candidates.
Some indeed may be most moved by The Father, touching as it does plangently and with all Anthony Hopkins' still impressive histrionic skill on the sadness of an old man losing his grip on memory and functionality. However I find it cynically manipulative of our emotions and without anything original to say.

I think we can politely dismiss Sound of Metal and Promising Young Woman. The first boldly approaches a too special world it cannot quite fully reach, that of the deaf. The second hits on a hot concern, sexual harassment, but even if you grant the excellent Carey Mulligan's casting as right which not all do, the whole movie seems fake and forced, depicting a series of entrapment scenes that would not play out so easily in real life.

Nomadland has become overhyped, partly through its oddity, partly no doubt through certain lucky accidents of distribution and promotion which bring out that it too, despite its apparent seamlessness and authenticity, is in its own way artificial. The insertion of a very famous actress among a lot of "real" people to jazz up a story about semi-homelessness was a shrewd or lucky move on Chloe Zhao's part. I'm happy for her, but the whole thing feels totally false to me, and is frankly not all that interesting.

The Trial of the Chicago 7 I like a lot: I'm such a big Aaron Sorkin fan I will forgive him almost anything and the casting is fun, the subject an essential moment in modern American history, when everything was exploding in the sixties. It's just that it seems more like a great slice of TV than a real movie movie. It lacks cinematic qualities. It throws so much information at us in so short a time, it probably would have worked better as a miniseries.

Which leaves us with my two hands-down favorites, Judas and the Black Messiah and Minari. The acting in Judas is tremendous, the cast, director, and most of the writers are black, the subject matter is even more crucial to America's current concerns than the other thematically "relevant" films on the list. The Black Panthers and their brutal repression by the FBI is something we need to take a good look at again today.

But Minari is the film that I anticipated most eagerly and the one that moved and moves me the most. Its subject, a little Korean family making its way in rural midwestern America, is a new and important one. Its director and actors, everyone involved, is working as if it matters more than their life itself. This is a deeply meaningful and beautiful film.

And so Minari is my first choice, Judas and the Black Messiah my strong runner-up.


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