Midnight Family is a documentary about a family who operate a private ambulance in Mexico City, and through them, it is a documentary about people doing their best in the midst of systemic failure. Relatable! The number of official ambulances is so small that to call it a mere shortage is laughable, and the void is filled by private EMTs hustling their way around the city, trying to get people to pay who can’t or won’t, and when that fails, trying to make a buck on referrals. The whole operation (and family!) is held together by Juan who is something like 17 years old, and Juan for President, honestly; he’s the best.
I was always going to see Underwater regardless of reviews – I mean cmon, a KStew monster movie? – but it is one of those frustrating movies that hints at intriguing ideas, and then consistently makes the less interesting choice. The movie in my head with all those elements – the monsters! dream logic! softboi Kstew! her brothers-in-arms relationship with Vincent Cassel! the cute intern in the rainbow tshirt! Mamoudou Athie being charming! – was much better. All those elements except please cut TJ Miller thanks because who the fuck wants him around? No one. They should have left him in the rubble. (Also a moment here to wave my Cast Mamoudou Athie In More RomComs You Cowards flag, thank you for coming to my TED talk.)
The day before I saw 1917, a man suggested I “broaden my perspective” by seeing more movies about men as if I have not been seeing movies about men for 40 years. And as I watched it, I thought a lot about why Award Worthy Directing means chest-thumping like putting George MacKay through hell and not, say, creating empathy for Amy March.
Whatever. I went to 1917 for Roger Deakins’ cinematography and also for the possibility that at one point one boy would hold another boy tenderly, and both of those things met my expectations. I didn’t care much about the one-shot trick going in, but by the end I found it a liability. The stakes for the film are of course the question of they’ll get to the line in time to stop the men walking into the German trap. But the stakes are really: will they survive? And in a film so firmly driven by one character (obviously they don’t both make it; this is not a spoiler to anyone who has ever seen a war film) there’s an immediate loss of tension. Anyway whatever it’s fine. It looks great. And if it made you curious about MacKay, I recommend Pride and For Those in Peril.
Everything interesting about The Rhythm Section feels like it came from the fact that it was directed by a woman, and everything cliched and dull about it feels like it came from the fact that it was written by a man. There you have it.
Really, the best time I had in the theater in January was the mini Varda retrospective. Viva Varda!
I bought Swing Kids unseen on the strength of a scene where two characters dance to “Modern Love”, and it was 100% worth it. The story of a dance troupe put together to “improve morale” in a POW camp during the Korean war, it never forgets the “POW camp” part of that equation, & manages the inherent tonal challenges astonishingly well. If you want a dance movie that also stomps on your heart, have I got a movie for you! Also D.O. is terrific in it, so thanks a lot now my queue at MyDramaList is even longer.
On a related note, I’m still spending a lot of time with Cdramas & Thai BL & most of that is embarrassing but some I will tell you about regardless.
Because the universe is amazing there are somehow *two* different comic Cdramas that star Xiao Zhan & various members of XNine *and* have world-building centered on astrology: “Oh! My Emperor” and “Super Star Academy“. (I mean, this is me assuming “Fights Break Sphere”/”Battle Through the Heavens” *isn’t* about astrology and honestly it could be, who knows.)
I’m halfway through “Oh! My Emperor”, a time-traveling historical which I’m finding a bit of a slog but I’ll keep at it because the girl is adorable and XZ as the guy who won’t get the girl is also adorable.
However, I found “Super Star Academy” thoroughly entertaining. It’s basically a high school for kids with superpowers determined by their star signs, and it’s goofy in a self-aware way that was extremely my jam: secondary characters who complain about their lack of characterization, a chase scene that throws every joke at the wall to see what sticks, a person who isn’t what they pretend to be turning out to be a Gemini.
Also, they have great uniforms. Every episode where Xiao Zhan wears a cape is a good episode in my opinion.
What have you been watching?