February 20th, 2020
For many people, Judy Garland’s story is the story of Hollywood: a natural talent who grew up in front of the movie camera, the pressures of fame that consumed her and the tragedy she eventually met. She comes to mind anytime we lose a star too early, whenever we reference “The Wizard of Oz,” or when we hear her golden voice on the radio over the holidays. Naturally, she’s a figure whose story still has the power to fascinate many, and in Rupert Goold’s new biopic “Judy,” we revisit the last few months of her time on earth with us: the booing crowds, the empty bank accounts, and the custody battle to come. It’s less the portrait of the glamorous Judy Garland we’ve put on a pedestal, forever young and singing “Somewhere Over the Rainbow” or “The Trolley Song,” and more the wounded figure still unsure if she could perform again the next night.
The film does well at contextualizing Garland’s abusive childhood. The audience watches uncomfortably as young Judy (Darci Shaw) is forced on and off pills with enough regularity to warrant a call to child services. We also learn how she was shamed for wanting to eat burgers and play like other kids, and about the latent creepiness and control MGM mogul Louis B. Mayer held over her early years. It was enough unhappiness to last many lifetimes, but for Garland, it was enough to cut hers short.
March 5th, 2020
Bong Joon Ho brings his work home to Korea in this pitch-black modern fairytale. Meet the Park Family: the picture of aspirational wealth. And the Kim Family, rich in street smarts but not much else. Be it chance or fate, these two houses are brought together and the Kims sense a golden opportunity. Masterminded by college-aged Ki-woo, the Kim children expediently install themselves as tutor and art therapist, to the Parks. Soon, a symbiotic relationship forms between the two families. The Kims provide "indispensable" luxury services while the Parks obliviously bankroll their entire household. When a parasitic interloper threatens the Kims' newfound comfort, a savage, underhanded battle for dominance breaks out, threatening to destroy the fragile ecosystem between the Kims and the Parks.
“Parasite,” a twisty look at a poor family’s attempts to insinuate itself into the lives of its rich employers, is a worldwide box office phenomenon, a critical sensation and a bona fide awards contender. It’s also the rare Korean film to be embraced in the United States, where it has racked up $12.5 million and counting to become the highest-grossing foreign language film of the year. Globally, it has sold more than $109 million in tickets. Clearly something remarkable is going on here, and it’s partly attributable to the way the movie’s subversive portrait of class tensions resonates at a time when economic inequality has become a dominant political issue.
April 16th, 2020
In “Hope Gap,” Annette Bening plays a fiercely intelligent but not nearly independent enough English housewife who has been toiling away on a project for years. A lover of literature, and poetry in particular, Bening’s character Grace is compiling a book of verses for the full range of human experience. She intends to call it “I Have Been Here Before,” and it will serve as a kind of life preserver for the dejected and depressed, reminding that no one is experiencing hardship for the first time, and that others more eloquent have managed to put those feelings to paper, signaling the way through for all who follow.
Writer-director William Nicholson intends “Hope Gap” to work in much the same way. Slow and stuffy, like a filmed play, but also considerably more nuanced and mature than your typical relationship drama, it’s the story of a marriage that ended almost entirely out of the blue after the couple had been together for 29 years. Except the split wasn’t unexpected; it had been telegraphed in tiny ways almost every day for decades, until at last, it came to a head, and the husband (played by Bill Nighy) left, enlisting his son (Josh O’Connor) to help Grace cope with the separation. It’s a difficult prospect, inspired by the divorce of Nicholson’s own parents, and the filmmaker navigates it as sensitively as possible in order to be fair to both parties. In the process, his characters’ pain, and also their resilience, serve to let others know they’re not alone.