“20th Century Women” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Mike Mills’ film is semi-autobiographical, but his ’70s teenage stand-in really fades into the background as his film looks at several strong, influential women in his orbit, including Annette Bening as his prickly, baffled mother and Greta Gerwig as one of her older, worldly tenants. Not for nothing, the film also serves as a potent reminder of the impact that Planned Parenthood has had on countless’ women’s lives over the decades.
At first it seems like miscasting. Brendan Gleeson and Emma Thompson are two of the most charismatic, playful, purely present actors working today, scarcely able to do a scene without some sort of spark.
So why would they be cast to play a plain, quiet, grieving, beaten-down German couple in World War II Berlin in “Alone in Berlin”?
It’s the absence of that spark we’re expecting that ends up being key to the performances, and to “Alone in Berlin,” out on DVD and Blu-ray from IFC Films. It makes us understand how much this couple has lost under the Nazi regime, and what it takes for them to foment a tiny rebellion from their dingy flat.
“I Am Not Your Negro” (Amazon Prime) — My full review is here. Author James Baldwin’s words on race in America come to fiery life in this documentary, which artfully puts ’60s civil rights struggles hand in hand with Black Lives Matter protests to show how a society in which one man is allowed to subjugate another has a moral sickness that infects both oppressed and oppressor.
On a recent trip to New Orleans, I did all the traditional New Orleans things – saw jazz, ate jambalaya, walked the French Quarter and bought music on Frenchman Street. It was fantastic.
One of the highlights was the Carousel Bar inside the Hotel Monteleone, a circular bar in which the patrons slowly revolve around the bartenders in the center. Two pieces of advice about the Carousel Bar. 1. Order a Vieux Carre, their specialty. 2. If you get to a point where you can no longer tell that the Carousel Bar is rotating, it is time to leave the Carousel Bar.
So, all in all, it was a typically great first visit in New Orleans. But, being a film critic, I just couldn’t resist. I had to see a movie while I was there. I almost felt guilty – this was New Orleans! – but it ended up being one of the most memorable experiences of the trip.