Yes God, Yes.

Yes God, Yes. ⭐ ⭐ ⭐

Directed by: Karen Maine. Cast Natalia DyerTimothy SimonsWolfgang Novogratz, Francesca Reale, Susan Blackwell, Alisha Boe.

Beyond the all-a-but-too-easy critique at the hypocrisy of strict Catholic schools in the 90s, there’s a warm and affecting coming-of-age tale here, which captures adolescent (female) sexual desire with both great honesty and sweetness. It may touch some of the same subject matters as films like “American Pie” but it’s really on a different planet altogether. Some people may find it all rather “objectionable”, but it’s actually a rather smart film and touching one too. The fact that it’s directed by a woman clearly shows and I mean that in the best possible way. Even the “masturbation” moments (yes, you heard me right) are done very tastefully, they’re never titillating, just like the women in the film are never objectified.
Straight from “Stranger Things” fame, Natalia Dyer’s perfectly pitched performance carries the whole film on her shoulder: she comfortably manages to be naive, ignorant, curious, confused and.. well, plainly horny and makes it all not just very believable and beautifully human and very sweet too. Yes, there are stereotypes left and right, some of the depictions might a bit on the nose and the short duration feels more like “ops run out of things to say” rather than “let’s keep it tight”, but I have to confess, I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.


Anima ⭐⭐⭐

Director: Paul Thomas Anderson. Cast: Gala MoodyDajana RoncioneThom Yorke

An interesting exercise by Paul Thomas Anderson, which barely can be passed as a “MovieADay” item (the exercise I’ve been undertaking since January the 1st 2020). A short film, or rather an extended music video, which plays to the music by Thom Yorke (frontman of the Radiohead) in a sort of surreal nightmarish dystopian setting (apparently it was filmed in Prague). Whether it’s meant to signify the dehumanisation of workers in modern times, or whether it’s about people sleepwalking in their daily lives or about two lost souls managing to find each other… I don’t know: I don’t understand it and actually I don’t really care much. It is undoubtedly a mesmerizing silent film and some of the imagery is indeed rather beautiful, but I have to say this feels a bit just like a big budget student film, just as pretentious. But hey, it’s only 15 minutes long and it’s an interesting watch, by one of the greatest American directors alive today.

On Netflix.

The Book of Life

The Book of Life ⭐⭐⭐

Director: Jorge R. Gutiérrez. Cast:

I’ve been hearing a lot about this one, but I’ve only got around to watch it. Produced by Guillermo del Toro (you can just about see his imprint in some of it) , this has always been eclipsed by the similar-themed Pixar Coco (even though that was released 3 years later). Comparing the two of them comes rather natural : they are both beautifully animated (though two different styles), they are both set in Mexico, the both take place on the “Day of the Dead”, they both deal with the “other world”. However this one seems to cram so much storyline in it that it feels like it would have needed at least 3 hours to allow it to breath and given it the time a subject and a story like this deserves.

This film seems to run so fast that you hardly have time to catch your breath. Not a moment goes by without an action scene, a sudden twist, a slapstick gag (often a quick side one, coming in just about in the corner of the screen), people screaming, fighting, running. Whether it’s doing this because it thinks its viewers have a short attention span and it’s afraid of losing them if it slows down, or whether because there is just too much story in it, or possibly because they’re afraid that dealing with such a subject like death might feel too gloomy if it wasn’t counterbalanced by all the rest, or maybe all of the above. Whatever the reason, the result is something which is yes beautiful to look at, yes brave, well-intentioned and potentially deep, but it’s so crammed with stuff that unfortunately it doesn’t give you the time to digest it and crucially to “feel” it. There’s no reflective moment to realise the importance of what we are seeing, no time to feel sorry for the dead or happy for a son finally being able to see his deceased mother again, nor to enjoy the amazing colours and beautifully designed world, nor the costumes or details of the characters, just because everything moves so fast.

The music by the usually reliable Gustavo Santaoalla (who does his best for the understated cues) never seem to stop blasting through, once again contributing to the “cacophony” and feeling of everything being “overstuffed”.

But I don’t want to sound too down on it. In fact I quite liked it and there’s certainly a lot to take away from it, but Pixar’s Coco is just on completely different level, emotionally and in terms the message it’s carrying and how it’s delivering it.

A Night in Miami

A Night in Miami ⭐⭐⭐

Director: Regina King. Cast: Kingsley Ben-Adir, Eli Goree, Aldis Hodge, Leslie Odom Jr., Lance Reddick

An extraordinary night in 1964 when 4 amazing men (Cassius Clay, Malcom X, Sam Cooke and Jim Brown) met to celebrate the unexpected victory of Clay. It will be the night that will mark a sort of turning point in all the men’s lives. After a very dynamic and lush beginning, the film soon settles down into a more claustrophobic setting, inside a hotel room, clearly exposing its stagey origins (it is based on a play). It is indeed a very dialogue-heavy film, not all of it very subtle (and some feels actually a bit forced and some slightly impenetrable), but there are undoubtedly some very powerful moments too. And by the time you get to the epilogue you feel like you’ve witnessed something quite profound. It is obviously a very timely film with all the talk about #BlackLivesMatter, and it’s clearly screaming to be noticed at the forthcoming Award Season (It’s going to be released at Xmas in the cinema and later in January on Amazon Prime to capitalise on that too).It’s not completely success as a film in my view, but the charismatic performances and a very controlled, un-showy direction by Regina King (here on her debut film) remind us all about these extraordinary people in an extraordinary time.


Collective (Colectiv) ⭐⭐⭐⭐⭐

Director: Alexander Nanau. Cast: Razvan LutacMirela NeagCatalin Tolontan 

This is an astonishing piece of work about the power that freedom of press can still have in uncovering the shocking truths about a whole nation rotten to the core: from scandals within the health care (patients left abandoned on their beds for days to the point that worms start to grow on them!), to criminal pharmaceutical companies, right to government itself. In doing so it exposes the corruption, the mob mentality, the lies, the cover-up, the hypocrisy, the cynicism on which the whole Romanian system seems to have been built on over the past decades. Filmed, edited, constructed and paced like a political thriller, this documentary manages to tell a rather complicated story in the clearest of ways, without ever resorting to voiceover, captions or talking heads: it’s exciting, gripping, infuriating, mind-blowing and incredibly sad. Every now and then we keep on cutting back to one of the survivors from a massive fire during a concert (the “Colectiv’’ of the title) where 80 young people died. A scene where she tries on a prosthetic hand is not just incredibly moving, but also a reminder that beyond all the criminal corporations, all the lies, money stolen and the political agendas, there are human lives at stakes here. Towards the second half, unexpectedly the film-makes go beyond closed doors, behind the scenes within the Goverment itself as we follow a newly appointed minister of Health, crusading to expose the corruption that came before him: maybe a little glimmer of hope that things one day might improve a little bit.

One of the best documentaries of the year.

On streaming platform right now (Amazon, Apple+, Sky)

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