Thursday, January 31, 2019

Rage Against the Dying of the Light: Dealt (2017)

Richard Turner in Dealt. (Photo: Geoff Duncan)

I thought I’d just about finished reviewing documentaries after that last piece. After all, documentaries aren’t usually known for their aesthetic innovations. But then along comes Dealt (2017), about Richard Turner, the world’s most renowned card mechanic (i.e., white-hat card shark), who just happens to have 100% vision loss, and the way that it introduces its subject, follows him through a turning point in his life, and conveys it all with a purposeful cinematicity just begs to be unpacked.

Monday, January 28, 2019

The Front Runner: Satire and Beyond

Hugh Jackman (centre) in The F.ront Runner.

Movie-wise, 2018 culminated in the lamest Christmas season in years; aside from Mary Poppins Returns, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse, three of the six segments in the Coen Brothers’ The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, and Peter Jackson’s extraordinary World War I documentary They Shall Not Grow Old, I didn’t see a single film I could get behind. And the dim slate of Academy Award nominations for Best Picture confirm the widespread disgruntlement about the caliber of last year’s releases. Actually, it wasn’t quite as terrible a year for movies as the list of nominees indicates. It’s just that in 2018, even more radically than in most years, the majority of the interesting films were sidelined – they opened only briefly, and only in a few cities, and didn’t draw the attention they deserved. (Ironically, the other cadre of movies worth checking out resided at the other end of the spectrum: the franchise movies that saturated the cineplexes over the summer, most of which were immensely enjoyable.) This was the year of Blaze, Hearts Beat Loud, The Sisters BrothersPaddington 2, Leave No Trace, Juliet, Naked, Christopher Robin, The Death of Stalin, Don’t Worry, He Won’t Get Far on Foot and Journey’s End. And of The Front Runner, Jason Reitman’s movie about Gary Hart’s doomed bid for the Democratic presidential candidacy in 1988, which a friend helpfully steered me to a couple of weeks ago. It’s amazing that a movie as good as this one, by a respected director and with a major star (Hugh Jackman), released at the beginning of prestige-movie season (it came out Thanksgiving week), could have slipped by virtually unnoticed.