[What Did Jaci Think? Early January]

Welcome back! For 2019 we’ll attempt a regular posting schedule of two weeks out from the block in question, on the 1st & 15th. Let’s get to it!

On the Basis of Sex is an affectionate superhero origin story about the young Ruth Bader Ginsberg, covering her time in law school through her first historic case. It’s better than the pop documentary RBG, but still more simplistic than I would have liked. I do keep being tempted to see it again for supportive-partner!Armie Hammer alone. Look, sometimes what a girl needs is to watch a disconcertingly symmetrical man get it done in the kitchen. No shame.

Minding the Gap had been on my radar as “another skateboarding movie”, mentioned in concert often with Skate Kitchen & mid90s. While skateboarding is how the subjects of the documentary are connected, it’s more accurately a documentary about cycles of family violence and access to opportunity. The director, Bing Lui, is a subject himself, and his long-standing relationships with the other subjects gives us access to a privileged intimacy on difficult topics. (The skateboarding scenes are also pretty sweet, excellent work by Lui.)

It’d make a great (but intense) double feature with Hale County This Morning, This Evening. I was grateful for the opportunity to see this in the theater, because I know myself, and at home I would not give its pacing the attention it deserved. Hale County is a beautiful documentary about a black community in rural Alabama, lightly focused on two young men, and while wholly its own piece of art, it is also the sort of constellation-of-moments, impressionistic picture we rarely if ever see about black people. There is no narration, only the occasional name or intertitle, and it is on us to do the work of considering why two scenes have been placed together, or to find the story in a lengthy shot. That work is well worth it.

Becoming Astrid was fascinating, both specifically about the late childhood, early adulthood of author Astrid Lindgren, but also generally as a Swedish biopic. I found it difficult to imagine a similar film being made about an American children’s author. It introduces Lindgren to us as a clever teenager, taking a job at a newspaper where she is, frankly, groomed into a …let us say wildly inappropriate relationship with her older, married editor. Though the film is bookended by elderly Lindgren reading messages from children on her birthday, the bulk of the film is Lindgren’s struggle with this relationship, with the inevitable pregnancy, reclaiming her child, and single motherhood. Alba August is terrific as Lindgren, taking her from the charismatic energy of her teens through her growing independence and struggles as a single mother.

And then, then there was Replicas. Look. I went to see this because it stars Keanu Reeves and I have an A-List subscription. It’s a ridiculous movie and I have no regrets. But I have a good deal of confusion. Keanu is a father and a scientist, and when his family is killed in a car accident he…downloads their memories and clones them. YES. It’s absurd. It raises a lot of questions and doesn’t answer any of them. We would be here all day if I tried to list them all.

Plus, Replicas drops hints that it might turn into one of many different films, and then it does not (maybe a clone horror movie where his family turns on him? or there’s a scene that hints at a Flowers for Algernon situation?). There are also robots, and how it jumps from robots to human cloning is unclear. There’s a scene where cops stop by and they’re like “Oh, you’re the only person who was not a victim of this random crime? How lucky for you! Clearly this does not make you a suspect in any way! Have a nice day!” I could go on and on, but most importantly, the montage of Keanu crying and scrubbing the kitchen table is why cinema was invented. Thank you and goodnight.

Oh, but wait. Did I talk about Shirkers yet? It’s on Netflix, and you should definitely watch it. It’s a documentary about an indie film that the documentarian made in the early 90s as a teen in Singapore. I loved it for the throwback to early 90s indie film & zine culture, the mystery of what happened to the film, the peeks at the film itself and the making of it, and the terrific personalities of the three women who made it (I would like to be friends with all of them but I am definitely not cool enough.)