[What Did Jaci Think? Early July]

Animal World is a ridiculous movie about a guy trying to pay off a debt by playing a cutthroat game of rock paper scissors on some sort of industrial ocean liner boat ship thing. It’s the rare film where I don’t care that the characters are almost exclusively men because – not to be one of those feminists, but no lady would get herself into that particular mess. Like last week’s Lobster Cop it should have been somehow MORE than it was – and maybe a little less statistical analysis – especially given it had a hero who imagines himself as clown: the monster killer. Plus it has Michael Douglas

I’m not too proud to say that The Incredibles 2 made me happy all the way through. (I also loved the short, Bao, but it did not make me want to call my mother, sorry Internet).

The more I think about Fireworks the less sense it makes, and it didn’t make much to start with. I knew immediately that something was wrong when the girl was introduced lying on her back, two perfect ice cream scoop breasts. Which is not how breasts work. Magical breasts are the closest thing to character development she has.

It’s a high-concept story: the hero finds a magical sphere that allows him to go back in time to correct what he feels are errors about that day. But actually, the girl finds the sphere and the boy is the one who uses it. To. Save her? I guess. Even though we know pretty much nothing about her, including why she’s into him. Plus every time we relive part of his day we have to experience him and his friends with their inane and sexist conversations.

The fireworks are pretty, though.

Leave No Trace, a story of a father & daughter living off the land in a lush Pacific Northwest setting, features an excellent debut performance from Thomasin McKenzie, who matures throughout the film so thoroughly that she actually looked different to me by the end. It’s a kind, character-driven piece, where people largely act in good faith, but even that is not always enough to bring together all the ways that people are different. That Debra Granik works so little is a goddamned sin.

Damsel is one of my under-the-radar delights for this year, taking all the trappings and expectations of a western and turning them on their heads. I wish I’d seen it with an audience who understood it was a comedy right away. Samuel Alabaster (Robert Pattinson) hires a parson (David Zellner, half of the writer/director team) to travel with him to his fiancé Penelope (Mia Wasikowska) to marry them. Things don’t go quite as he expected, but they do go as they should, which is both unusual and deeply satisfying. Some folks were turned off by the violence, but for me it was very clearly intended as cartoon violence, as signaled by a scene where a character goes over a cliff and the camera hovers like Wile E. Coyote before plummeting to the bottom.

The best film I saw in July was En el Séptimo Día, a week in the life of a community of undocumented immigrant men in NYC, all played by non-professional actors. They work all week in all the thankless jobs that go unnoticed but keep a city running, live in an overcrowded apartment, and on the seventh day, like the Lord, they rest by playing recreational soccer. The focus of the film is on José (a luminous Fernando Cardona), the star player of the team, and his struggle through the week to find a solution to a deceptively simple problem: his team made the finals, but he can’t get the day off work. This is one of my favorite kinds of movies: where the stakes are (at first) deceptively low from the outside, but the film’s empathy draws you in to the character’s perspective and the vital importance of their story.

For home viewing, I caught a handful of the titles in the FilmStruck Black in America collection before they expired: Losing Ground (a film about the complications of marriage written and directed by the gone-too-soon Kathleen Collins), Black Roots (a 1970 documentary of black people speaking about their own experiences), You Got to Move (a 1985 documentary about intersectional activisim in Appalachia, directed by two women). All of them were well worth watching, and the documentaries in particular I never would have known about let alone seen without FilmStruck.

Finally, I plowed through the first season of Kim’s Convenience on Netflix. I only stopped because there are only two seasons so far & I’m trying to make it last. It’s very charming if you’re looking for a comfort watch and I know you are.