Desperate Journeys (of body, soul … and confiscated car)
Reviews by Ken Burke
Screenings in the domestic (U.S.-Canada) market remain near-nonexistent, but the Internet comes to my rescue once again, so please read on for options of things to watch (maybe not, in one case).
I invite you to join me on a regular basis to see how my responses to current cinematic offerings compare to the critical establishment, which I’ll refer to as either the CCAL (Collective Critics at Large) if they agree with me or the OCCU (Often Cranky Critics Universe) if they choose to disagree.
Never Rarely Sometimes Always (Eliza Hittman)
“Executive Summary” (no spoilers): Autumn and Skylar are close-knit-cousins in rural Pennsylvania, 17 and (possibly) 20 respectively, living humdrum lives, Autumn still in high school (not sure about Skylar in this matter either), working in nowhere jobs in a big-box-store with little incentive to hope for more. However, Autumn’s got a need for at least one major change when she finally has to admit her frequent nausea’s not just disgust with work or dismissive-Dad but instead pregnancy (father never identified but one of her classmates is a likely suspect) which she can’t do anything about in PA without parental approval (clearly unlikely), so with some stolen cash from the till these young women are off on a bus to NYC where abortion options are less restrictive. When they get there, though, Autumn finds she’s at 18 weeks rather than the 10 told to her at the clinic back home (a place pushing adoption anyway). From that foundation, this straightforward (but intriguing, allusive) story veers into the spoiler zone so either continue to read on below if you want to save some cash (this one costs $19.99 to rent for 48 hours on Amazon Prime even if you’re a member) or seriously consider treating this one as being out-on-the-town at a movie theater (I’ve leave it to you as to how to create the sense of that experience in the privacy of your own home—without inviting friends over to join you), paying full price for it (it’s about what I’d spend for 2 senior, late-matinee tickets at my local Landmark locations if they were open [and I’m sure that would be where I’d see this film because it’s too well-crafted, too thought-provoking to likely play in the larger chains]), and allowing yourself the pleasure of seeing in a pseudo-theatrical-experience one of the best of 2020 releases I’ve yet to encounter. There’s nothing complex nor tricky here, just honest emotions of a troubled teen doing her best to overcome a constant stream of real-world obstacles, hoping to find a viable solution to a grim situation she never wanted to live through in the first place.
Here’s the trailer: (Use the full screen button in the image’s lower right to enlarge it; activate that same button on the full screen’s lower right or use “esc” keyboard key to go back to a normal size.)
If you can abide plot spoilers read on, but as this blog’s intended for those who’ve seen the film—or want to save some bucks—to help any of you who want to learn more details yet avoid important plot-reveals I’ll identify any give-away sentences/sentence-clusters like this:
⇒The first and last words will be noted with arrows and red.⇐ OK, now continue on if you prefer.
What Happens: In some non-specific, rural Pennsylvania town 17-year-old Autumn Callahan (Sidney Flanigan) is in a school talent show (oddly enough, beginning with an Elvis-imitator and a do-wop group so I thought it was some 1950s theme but, apparently, not so, nor is this story set then) where she sings an original song, drawing some heckling from one of her male classmates; Autumn finishes her tune about an obsessive man but the singer (we never know if the song's actually about Autumn) can’t shake her love for this guy. Later, at a restaurant with her parents and 2 much-younger-sisters her Mom (Sharon Van Etten) tries to be supportive, although the best she can get from sour Dad (Ryan Eggold) is “Your mother wants me to tell you I enjoyed your song” (he also accuses her of always being in a foul mood—as if he's free of such judgments), but we get enough evidence to know he’s a genuine jerk (in later scenes he eats breakfast by himself in the living room [watching TV I think] while everyone else eats in the kitchen, ignores his daughters to cuddle with their female dog then calls her a “slut” because she’s so generous with her affection); Autumn’s not feeling well so she leaves, but on the way out she throws a glass of water on a guy, presumably her heckler (with possibly more significance as the story evolves). Autumn’s ongoing-illness also distracts her at her Wal-Mart-like checkout job where she works close to her cousin, Skylar (Talia Ryder), so she does some Internet searches about what she’s reasonably sure the trouble is, goes to a local pregnancy clinic (without her parents’ knowledge) where she’s checked, told she’s 10 weeks along. (As a result of the “water-splashed-guy”?) While she shows some interest in abortion as an option, in this state that would require parental-permission, plus the clinic's much more interested in steering her toward motherhood or at least adoption. As her nausea continues to be a problem at work Skylar asks their boss to let her take Autumn home (claiming it’s stomach flu), but in another display of male insensitivity, Manager Rick (Drew Seltzer) tells them to wait 2 more hours until the shift’s over. Skylar retaliates by skimming off a good bit of the day’s cash before leaving, gives it Autumn so they can sneak off early the next morning, buy bus tickets to NYC where Autumn’s located another clinic that won’t involve her parents. (Skylar drags along the suitcase, I guess trying to take pity on her pregnant cousin who’s already tried—and failed—to induce a miscarriage by swallowing some pills [didn’t catch what—yeah, I know this was on the Internet and I could rewind but I didn’t, OK?] and pounding on her belly, both to no avail, likely prompting the girls [Skylar later says she’s 20, but there’s no guarantee of that] to skip town, but this is just one of several plot details not given any explicit screen time [nor do they need to be].)
Along the way they have to change buses with a new passenger, Jasper (Théodore Pellerin), attempting to chat up Skylar (sitting right across from him, but Autumn’s in her usual despondent mood anyway so it’s doubtful she’d have said anything if she were the close-by-one), inviting the cousins to join him at a concert in Manhattan; Skylar declines but does share text-addresses with the guy, saying later she has no plans to follow up with him. Once in NYC, our female travelers go their separate way from Jasper, make their next journey through the subway system to Brooklyn where Autumn visits the clinic. However, here she’s told she’s actually 18 weeks pregnant (was her previous test faulty or was there some other strategy being used on her at the PA place?) with abortions in the second trimester not available at this location so she’ll have to visit their main office in Manhattan the next day. With nowhere to go, hotels expensive (Autumn consistently turns down offers of help from social workers), the cousins hang around a bus station as long as they can before being chased out, ride the subway into the night until a pervert causes them to leave, walk through rainy streets, spend some time in a video arcade (one useful thing for semi-derelicts in Manhattan is the vast variety of activity at all hours of the night) where they lose a game of tic-tac-toe to a chicken. ⇒When dawn comes, they make their way to the clinic (entrance surrounded by Catholic pro-lifers) where Autumn learns this will be a 2-day procedure as they have to dilate her then perform the operation tomorrow, so they’re back on the street again, now with little cash because Autumn had to use most of their reserves to pay for the procedure as using her insurance would result in notification to her parents. Social worker Kelly (actual counselor Kelly Chapman) is very supportive, although Autumn’s her usual reserved, silent self most of the time, until she has to answer questions about her sexual history (in an intense 11-min. scene, with the “never rarely sometimes always” choices; however, the probes about abuse and being sexually-forced hit her hard, with implied “yes” although she actually says nothing). Out on the street they happen to run into Jasper who takes them to a bowling alley, pays for everything, says he’ll front the $66.50 apiece for them to buy return bus tickets. Later he does some karaoke, followed by Autumn’s somber version of “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying.” Jasper and Skylar go off to find an ATM so he can get the money, Autumn's tired of waiting so she goes to look for them, sees them kissing so she holds Skylar’s hand around the side of a large post. After they get the cash Autumn goes to finish her procedure, then she and Skylar buy their bus tickets, head home in a very quiet mood.⇐
So What? As I’ll detail below I’ve been using recommendations of what to watch in terms of releases either new in distribution or at least new to me during this Shelter In Place time of our mutual (hopefully) response to the COVID-19 pandemic, so heeding the advice of the San Francisco Chronicle’s critic, Mick LaSalle, along with extraordinary support from the CCAL—Rotten Tomatoes offers a whopping cluster of 99% positive reviews, Metacritic gives a 92% average score (far and away the highest number of anything both they and I have addressed of 2020 releases; more details on both of these review-clusters in the Related Links section of this posting much farther below)—I was eager to see Never Rarely Sometimes Always, which I then began to remember I’d seen the preview for it some time back, BCV (Before Coronavirus), because it did open briefly during the March 13, 2020 weekend, just before most all of the moviehouses came to a halt, so it only got less than a week’s chance to be seen in just 4 venues, earning a paltry total of $16,565 (Disney/Pixar’s Onward [Dan Scanlon; review in our March 12, 2020 posting] was still dominating at that point, but patrons—including me [I’ve based all my reviews on Internet fare ever since]—were already voluntarily choosing to stay away from public gatherings as even that top-grosser brought in only $11.8 million), so I’m glad it’s now available again for streaming (although you’ll have to pay for it; I saw it on Amazon Prime for $19.99 [from the time you choose to rent it you have 30 days to start your viewing, then you have 48 hours to watch/re-watch as much as you want]) because of the few 2020 releases I’ve been able to see it’s a close-call with Blow the Man Down (Bridget Savage Cole, Danielle Krudy; review in our March 26, 2020 posting) as to which one’s the best of this year so far.
There’s little plot-complexity (except in the realm of choked-back-human-emotions) in Never …, but that just adds to its straightforward strength, as explained in detail by screenwriter-director Hittman in the second item connected to this film in Related Links, extolling her novice-lead-actors who bring such heartfelt-passion to this teenage-nightmare-story, with sincere-surface-responses to their situations taking us close to documentary level without trying to fully embrace that; she also explores in this brief anatomy of a scene (3:02; for me this link takes forever to load in Safari, comes up faster in Chrome or Firefox) how, as the filmmaker rather than in her other role as narrative conceptualizer, she was able to get such an impactful response from Flanigan in that extended-interview-scene, shot in claustrophobic-closeups to capture every facial/vocal-nuance of Autumn’s answers to these very personal questions, enhanced by filming in an actual Manhattan Planned Parenthood clinic, with the counselor an actual member of that profession, not an actor (Flanigan gave it her all in the first take, couldn’t bring herself to do it again). We don’t get into Autumn’s head much because she mostly keeps her traumas to herself (except the obvious one in her womb), giving most of the dialogue (and expressed feelings) to cousin Skylar (in a very modified manner of what we experience in the masterpiece-version of such supportive/clashing-encounters between 2 females with varying agendas in Persona [Ingmar Bergman, 1966]—#2 behind Citizen Kane [Orson Welles, 1941] on my All-Time Top 10), a helpful presence but at times a problem in her own right for Autumn during her time of travail. (By the way, given this plot hinges on choices and options regarding births and abortions, my full disclosure is one of ambivalence in that I was born out of wedlock in Texas in 1947 at a time and place where abortion, if practiced at all, was likely dangerous as well as hidden as much as possible. While I’m thankful my birth mother [whom I’ve learned a bit about but never met] had the option of giving me up for adoption as well as thankful for parents who raised me in a loving manner [even when we didn’t agree on what love meant] so I’ve had a mostly-wonderful-life [with the usual rainstorms everyone must endure], I have no hesitation in supporting any female, anywhere, anytime who feels abortion is the best choice for her life, not what some male-dominated religion and/or political system wants to impose on her. Those of us adoptees who found stable homes can be thankful for our fortunate circumstances [as is the case with one of my great-nieces], but it should be the pregnant person’s decision as to what becomes of the fetus [I say “person” because not all pregnant females are old enough to be called women, thanks to horrendous circumstances brought upon them by grotesque men showing no hesitation in abusing children], despite some of the Catholic dogma I was raised on but now reject.)
Bottom Line Final Comments: One of the most compelling aspects of this film is you easily know what’s happening at all times in the plot (you’d have to really steel yourself against trailers, reviews, or anything else that even briefly summarizes what this story’s about to go into it not knowing Autumn’s pregnant; even so, her actions early on make her condition clear even before she goes to the first clinic) so you’re never lost as the action unfolds (unlike our protagonists who spend 2 nights in “the city that never sleeps”—they don’t either, not much—with Autumn constantly surprised at what she has to face at the NYC clinics, both she and Skylar completely unprepared for navigating metropolitan-life as they keep hauling that suitcase around [although I’m still not sure what good it did them as I don’t recall any time when they took anything out of it, but maybe that was off-camera, just as other transitionary-plot-points are, intended to keep this story moving without bothering to explain all the details of 2 young women lost in an environment likely unlike anything either of them have ever known]). The focus here is on the unsaid, the unexplained, the result of actions not elaborated. (It’s fairly clear Autumn was raped, but was it the heckler or is he just someone who knows more about her troubles than we do?) Obviously these girls—if you can really refer to them as such, given Autumn’s situation; further, is Skylar really 20 as she tells Jasper so he has to buy the beer at the bowling alley or is this just a way of keeping him from thinking she’s “jail bait,” with the possibility of scaring him off when they desperately need his cash?—have been through a hell of a lot in the few days of their lives we’ll allowed to observe, but what happens with them when they get home? Autumn attempts to call Mom at one point but hangs up before saying anything; I can hardly begin to imagine Dad’s reaction to their 3-day-disappearance (unless he’s preoccupied with the dog again and could not care less about the mysterious absence of his daughter). There’s a lot left intentionally-unanswered here, but all we really need to know is the range of somber expressions on Autumn’s face to understand some aspect of her constant pain (physical and emotional), to appreciate how this film wants us to open our minds to the needs of young women often adrift in this society at the mercy of intransigent morality, unconnected parents, dead-end lives awaiting them during high school and beyond, all presented here in a manner calling for our observance, our empathy, but not our incorporation into any specific sociopolitical stance despite the fierce-ongoing-hostilities in our society between abortion advocates and opponents. (Although, given the kinds of difficulties opponents have been trying to establish in various states as a means of forcing the Supreme Court to reverse a woman’s right to choose, based on the 1973 Roe v Wade decision, you can certainly see these filmmakers aren’t advocating the loud protests Autumn had to walk through even in hyper-liberal NYC; they just want her to have a chance to make her own decisions despite a sociopolitical environment and family structure set to deny such to her.)
Well, I think you’ve got the idea about Never Rarely Sometimes Always so I’ll bring these comments to closure with my usual finale of a Musical Metaphor, using a song for final reflections on what’s been said before, what’s contained in the film under review. In this case, Autumn’s provided what I need with “Don’t Let the Sun Catch You Crying,” which she sings (in my opinion) in a rather flat manner, echoing both her increasingly-morbid-assumptions about her increasingly-empty-life (in a BUILD interview I saw [already made "private" so I can't link it for you], Flanigan says when HIttman discovered her she was singing, not acting, so maybe this is a case of the character having better pipes than we hear here but just not able to put much enthusiasm into a song she’s having trouble believing in [or she really doesn’t sing all that well but when Hittman first heard her she thought “That’s just what I need for this film I’m writing. I can always teach her to act.”]) and the irony of lyrics encouraging belief in better days ahead ("Your heart may be broken tonight But tomorrow in the morning light Don’t let the sun catch you cryin’") after a romantic breakup (or a life crumbling around you) when she probably feels at best ("But don’t forget that love’s a game And it can always come again […] Don’t let the sun catch you cryin’") such relief might someday be on the horizon but what’s waiting for her at home may just take her back to the reality of “The night’s the time for all your tears.” Anyway, she’s at least trying to make an effort to be optimistic in a story where much of the action takes place at night, where it’s often the case her “heart may be broken,” but we can get a better rendition of the tune by going to the original hitmakers, Gerry and the Pacemakers, with their version at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=p9G_0hplf_w (from their 1964 album named for the song; video’s not great in this clip but audio’s fine). However, when I watch those bus rides in this film I can’t help but also think of Simon and Garfunkel’s majestic "America" (from their 1968 Bookends album; here we’ve got a live performance from the famous 1981 Concert in Central Park [a free event, but far too early to have helped Autumn and Skylar pass a night away]); now, I’ll admit there’s nothing in Never … to summon up any connection to Saginaw, Mrs. Wagner’s pies, or a man in a gabardine suit, but at the very least on the ride back home, after having accomplished her dangerous, clandestine mission, I can hear Autumn saying to Skylar “I’m empty and aching and I don’t know why Counting the cars on the New Jersey Turnpike [a likely route to and from NYC, leaving/returning to PA] They’ve all come to look for America.” A lot of folks, of any age, ethnicity, gender-identity, religion, occupation are out there (or, now, hunkered-down at home) looking for America, desperately hoping to find it, even if it may just be at a rest stop on the New Jersey Turnpike (which I last traveled in 1973, dragging a U-Haul through ice and snow on my way back from living in NYC to restart my previous life in Texas; in another car with another U-Haul, in 1984 summer weather, I journeyed again, this time to California where I’ve come closer to finding America than ever before even if it’s still elusive; I fondly wish similar results for Autumn and Skylar).
SHORT TAKES (spoilers also appear here)
Coffee & Kareem (Michael Dowse) Not Rated
A divorced Detroit cop’s (Ed Helms) dating a widow (Taraji P. Henson), but her 12-year-old son objects, attempts to hire a hit man to injure the cop instead stumbles onto a cabal of corrupt cops and thugs soon chasing our protagonists all over town; this movie’s not as funny as it hopes to be, not as worth your time as I had hoped it would be.
Here’s the trailer:
(Please note the abundance of R-rated language in this trailer, indicative of the movie as a whole.)
Before reading any further, I’ll ask you to refer to the plot spoilers warning far above.
With the myriad possibilities available for me to watch via streaming during the shutdown of all local theaters in my San Francisco area I try to depend on trusted (well, at least some of the time) recommendations from established critics because I’d like to share reviews with you of things you might truly be interested in. Thus, when the SF Chronicle’s esteemed critic, Mick LaSalle, promoted Never Rarely Sometimes Always (“[…] a controlled and reserved film“)—echoed as noted above at a stellar level by the CCAL—I tuned in, was very glad I did, so I decided to trust him again with Coffee & Kareem, especially because he gave it the same encouraging rating to Coffee ... as he did to Never … (the Chronicle uses a “Little Man” 5-step-system from an empty chair to the man clapping wildly, jumping out of his seat; I, at least, see this as 5 steps, but when Metacritic assigned a score to his review they called it 75% [essentially, 3 of 4—Rotten Tomatoes makes the same assumption], discounting the empty chair as 0, I suppose, where I’d call his choice of the guy sitting, smiling, clapping as 4 of 5 or 80%), supporting his satisfaction in a manner that seemed most encouraging with arguments such as: "‘Coffee & Kareem’ might be the ideal airplane movie. It opens at a time when few people are flying, and yet, oddly enough, when many of us on the ground are feeling the way passengers often feel in the air: a little jittery and easily distracted, stuck in one place and hoping there’s no more turbulence. ‘Coffee & Kareem’ is big and simple and funny enough to break through the distraction." Well, after watching it (fortunately, on Netflix streaming where I’m already a subscriber so there was no extra charge in this case) I can agree with the “simple” part of LaSalle’s account but that’s about all, except it does offer some humor at times (including, I suppose, the title which seems to be a goof on “coffee and cream,” in that just like when you mix that caffeinated black liquid with a white dairy enhancement you get a brownish-result blending the 2 flavors just as this movie merges a Black single mother, Vanessa Manning [Taraji P. Henson], with a White boyfriend/cop, Officer Coffee [Ed Helms], to produce a hot-to-trot-interracial-mixture, although it’s one rejected by her foul-mouthed, attitude-driven, 12-year-old son, Kareem [Terrence Little Gardenhigh], when he comes home early one afternoon, catches them in bed [his rejection intensifies because there’s anyone there at all, the guy’s White, and, mainly, he’s a cop]). Overall, the movie became extremely annoying to me because the kid is mostly an irritating know-it-all (who doesn’t actually know as much as he thinks he does) with enough profanity-filled-exclamations to push this movie to the limits of a R rating had it chosen to submit to such scrutiny.
Now, maybe you’re thinking that as a 72-year-old White guy (originally from not-as-progressive-as-it’s-becoming-now-Texas, despite my midlife-relocation out to liberal-beyond-calculation-northern California [home of the GOP’s favorite target, Nancy Pelosi]) I’m just not appreciating what could be intended as predominantly-Black-humor; well, maybe so (although I still think Beverly Hills Cop [Martin Brest, 1984] is one of the funniest, spot-on movies concerning assumptions about race in America—although nothing of that mainstream sort even begins to compare to the riotous-indie-satire of Putney Swope [Robert Downey, Sr.—yes, Iron Man’s father—1969]—and I definitely appreciate Taraji!), but, if so, let me steer you to the second item connected to this movie down in Related Links where you’ll get a response akin to mine from an African-American-movie-fan who’s turned off so much by the trailer I can’t guess what he’d think of the entire experience; further, here’s a guy from Kentucky Let's Talk (13:56) who has seen it, forcefully dismisses it. The OCCU’s with me as well, RT offering only 22% positive reviews (of 46, so only 10—including LaSalle—were supportive), MC's a bit better at a 35% average score (more details on both in Related Links), so all I can say is LaSalle’s need for humor must be more desperate than mine at this point because despite the great comic potential of the 2 well-loved-leads in this cast, they’re given pathetically little decent material to work with so any laughs they generate come from meticulous work on their parts. In very brief summary of what passes for a plot, Kareem’s very upset with Mom about her latest choice in men (Dad died from drug abuse, so divorced-Coffee’s [father issues of his own as his stepdad was an asshole] is at least trying to be a sincere lover to Vanessa, makes every [failed] effort he can to get Kareem to stop cussing for a minute, trying desperately to find some common ground). Kareem even has Coffee (who picked the kid up in his squad car after school at Mom’s request) drive him to a gangland-location, then wait while he goes to ask fugitive-criminal* Orlando Johnson (Ron Reaco Lee) to paralyze Coffee from the waist down (no more sex with Mom!), but once inside the kid witnesses Johnson involved in the murder of dirty cop Steve Choi (Terry Chen) who’s working with rotten elements within the local force, headed (we later find out) by pompous Detective Watts (Betty Gilprin) and Captain Hill (David Alan Grier). Coffee and Kareem manage to escape the scene of this crime, but now, as homicide witnesses, they’re on the run all over Detroit.
*Bungling on Coffee’s part let Orlando escape from his previous arrest, infuriating Det. Watts (yet, Johnson was working with her?) who now detests Coffee, has him busted back down to traffic duty.
⇒In the process of their escape, Coffee hijacks a citizen’s car, barely gets Vanessa away from an attack by Orlando’s thugs, hides out with her and Kareem at a motel, sees on TV he’s accused of kidnapping the kid and killing Choi; Kareem realizes he lost his phone which could lead Orlando to them so he and Coffee go to retrieve it at Orlando’s warehouse-drug-plant where Orlando takes control and is about to kill Coffee until Kareem pulls a gun on him so he surrenders then starts working with the refugees to take down Watts (who kills Hill along the way); as per a previous agreement, Coffee brings Kareem to a strip joint where he chats up stripper Thursday (Samantha Liana Cole), Vanessa’s captured by Watts’ forces, Coffee puts out an Internet video explaining everything and asking for police help in meeting him at the steel mill/drug HQ where French Canadians are coming to buy Watts’ product. Cops arrive, lots of shooting happens before the whole place accidently blows up, it seems Watts has the drop on Coffee but escaped-Vanessa shoots her instead. When the dust settles, Coffee’s cleared of all charges, he’s with Vanessa again, Kareem finally accepts him.⇐ Yes, there’s some occasional humor here, countered with lots of stereotypes about Black drug dealers and crooked cops, borderline-amusing (maybe?) bits about using tough-guy-gay-language to intimidate your antagonists (not unlike clearly-questionable-gay-jokes in Beverly Hills Cop, I admit), enough profanity from the kid to already put him over the average for his entire teen years, and a general mess of a plot that might make an “ideal airplane movie” assuming it's on a short flight from Oakland to L.A. (if you have to risk flying these days) where you wouldn’t even have time to finish this 88 min. diversion subtracted from your life. It’s not so terrible as to completely avoid (maybe not fully as bad as judged by the RT/MC folks, may be OK in a pinch if you already subscribe to Netflix or can see it under their 30-day-free-trial-offer), but I think you might do just as well by reading all my spoiler details, then just replaying a few times my Musical Metaphor, chosen (with help from searching-suggestions by my wife, Nina) to note a Motown song (given the plot’s Detroit locale) but one to be taken as silly as is the fundamental silliness of Coffee … as this struggling cop tries to win the affection of his distant “stepson” by showing him how he’s really cool “now that [he] can dance [that is, protect Mom—maybe—and overcome dangerous criminals],” so I chose The Contours’ “Do You Love Me” (from their 1962 Do You Love Me (Now That I Can Dance) album) at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l3zJZ2d4cis. As a song in this context, I know it’s a stretch but so’s the whole concept of this movie. My goal during shutdown is to guide you to quality-time-fillers, but sometimes I get bad intel. I’ve found LaSalle to be on target before occasionally when defying the OCCU opinion; however, not this time.
However, I do have some other things to note that may truly be more worth your free time, which you probably have more of than you need at this point, waiting to get back to your prior routine on a daily basis. First, let me remind you of a much-more-encouraging-review than the one just above for Coffee & Kareem, back in September 2019, of a fabulous short film, The Flying Fish, by Murat Sayginer of Turkey, a fascinating display of computer animation; well, he’s come up with a new project called Familiar Strangers in which he’s used deepfake-technology to alter the faces of a few dozen subjects to somewhat resemble more-famous-personages in our global society, female and male actors. I’m not evaluating it as such because in my opinion it’s more of a high-tech-demonstration (he doesn’t disagree with me, calls it “both a quiz and a tribute. A brain/memory practice maybe.”) than anything I feel I can actually review (a lot of experimental video is like that in my experience: it may be fascinating—or not—to watch in a museum or gallery setting, but it’s hard to put a number-of-stars-evaluation on). However, Sayginer's new video is only 4 min., moves along in a smoothly-rapid-fashion, makes an interesting game of deciphering whose “famous” face has been merged with someone not in the public eye. In Murat’s email to me he said: “I hope this cheers you up on these hard days. Stay safe,” a sentiment I endorse, pass on to you. (You can also view this on Vimeo and get more info on it at IMDb, then at Letterboxd you can also find out more about this and his other films, share opinions, etc.; for even more grand opportunities to see a full range of Murat’s work, though, please visit his official website where you’ll find lots of marvelous imagery, including Familiar Strangers and The Flying Fish).* In other cinema-related-news, here’s an article about the cancelled SXSW Film Festival coming to Amazon Prime Streaming hopefully by late April (for free, but with payments to the filmmakers!), plus this one on how small theater chains and independent producers are now teaming up to get new product intended for current distribution out via streaming (for these screenings you’ll have to pay, though, renting access for a short period of time; options such as these or extensive others can be searched for via JustWatch).
*I'm not attaching an official Musical Metaphor here, but the title, concept, and images of Murat's video always make me think of Barbara Lewis' "Hello Stranger" (from her 1963 album of the same name), so I might as well include it here as it does relate a bit to some aspects of Familiar Strangers.
Finally, I’ll note older, high-quality films are also available on certain TV networks such as TCM and PBS, usually as part of basic-cable-subscription-packages; I just recently re-watched (who knows how many times) my all-time-favorite, Citizen Kane (Google it for more info if needed; you’ll find plenty)—the very definition of a 5 stars-film for me—on TCM, then last Saturday saw again on PBS the thought-provoking A Man for All Seasons (Fred Zinneman, 1966)—Oscar’s Best Picture, Best Director, Best Actor (Paul Scofield), Best Adapted Screenplay (Robert Bolt), Best Cinematography - Color (Ted Moore), Best Costume Design - Color (Elizabeth Haffenden, Joan Bridge)—about Sir Thomas More’s principled-defiance, as Lord Chancellor of England, of King Henry VIII’s orders for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine of Aragon and an Oath of Supremacy declaring Henry as Supreme Head of the Church of England, conjuring up for me thoughts of such current truth-tellers as Dr. Anthony Fauci, Director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, NY Governor Andrew Cuomo, fired Navy Capt. Brett Crozier, former commanding office of the USS Theodore Roosevelt aircraft carrier; all have spoken out about various aspects of U.S. government absurdities in response to this coronavirus pandemic, although watching Henry become obsessive about loyalty and fealty to the point of having More executed for refusing to swear to such may be a bit too disgusting to watch in comparison to our current POTUS, frequently demanding such subservience during this time of national crisis (ironically, Henry becomes such a gruesome tyrant, changing English society and religion, due to his need to justify abandonment of his marriage in order to wed Anne Boleyn only to have her executed in 1536, a year after the climactic events of … All Seasons; we can only [fearfully] wonder what attempts Trump may make to insure his continued dominance of U.S. society given his already-demonstrated-hostility to U.S. Intelligence agencies, the free press, those members of Congress and governors who don’t sing his praises). As usual during these days of upheaval I’ll close with Joni Mitchell’s "Big Yellow Taxi" (from her 1970 Ladies of the Canyon album), always notably reminding us: “You don’t know what you’ve got ‘till it’s gone.”
Related Links Which You Might Find Interesting:
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Here’s more information about Never Rarely Sometimes Always:
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SAVkTVv_NHA (25:483 interview with screenwriter-director Eliza Hittman and actor Talia Ryder)
Here’s more information about Coffee & Kareem:
https://www.netflix.com/title/80220009 (as with all Netflix official sites I’ve seen so far there’s not a lot of information here)
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dp8-nDj3bQI (5:05 negative response to the trailer above from a man calling himself Superbarrymore; his comments, to me, are funnier—while still being caustic—than the movie intends to be)
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If you’d rather contact Ken directly rather than leaving a comment here please use my email address of email@example.com. (But if you truly have too much time on your hands you might want to explore some even-longer-and-more-obtuse-than-my-film-reviews—if that even seems possible—academic articles about various cinematic topics at my website,
https://kenburke.academia.edu, which could really give you something to talk to me about.)
If we did talk, though, you’d easily see how my early-70s-age informs my references, Musical Metaphors, etc. in these reviews because I’m clearly a guy of the later 20th century, not so much the contemporary world. I’ve come to accept my ongoing situation, though, realizing we all (if fate allows) keep getting older, we just have to embrace it, as Joni Mitchell did so well in "The Circle Game," offering sage advice even when she was quite young herself.
By the way, if you’re ever at The Hotel California knock on my door—but you know what the check out policy is so be prepared to stay for awhile. Ken
P.S. Just to show that I haven’t fully flushed Texas out of my system here’s an alternative destination for you, Home in a Texas Bar, with Gary P. Nunn and Jerry Jeff Walker. But wherever the rest of my body may be my heart’s always with my longtime-companion, lover, and wife, Nina Kindblad, so here’s our favorite shared song—Neil Young’s "Harvest Moon"
—from the performance we saw at the Desert Trip concerts in Indio, CA on October 15, 2016 (as a full moon was rising over the stadium) because “I’m still in love with you,” my dearest, a never-changing-reality even as the moon waxes and wanes over the months/years to come.
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