Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Cinema’ Category

2020 César awards

[update below]

The French film industry’s carbon copy imitation of the Oscars. The awards ceremony is tomorrow (Friday; it’s normally two days before the Oscars but not this year) The list of nominees is here. Leading with twelve nominations is ‘J’accuse’ (An Officer and a Spy), ‘Les Misérables’ and ‘La Belle époque’ each with eleven, ‘Portrait de la jeune fille en feu’ (Portrait of a Lady on Fire) with ten, ‘Hors normes’ (The Specials) and ‘Grâce à Dieu’ (By the Grace of God), each with eight, and ‘Roubaix, une lumière’ (Oh Mercy!) with seven.

A couple of things. First, I don’t care one way or another about the César awards—it’s just a pretext to write about movies (as with the Oscars, which I care even less about)—but the ceremony will be interesting this year in view of the recent affairs to hit the French film industry: of Adèle Haenel’s bombshell interview last November of the sexual harassment she was subjected to at age 12 by director Christophe Ruggia—as Haenel is a major actress, what she had to say was a big story in the media—and how the film industry missed the boat on the #MeToo movement, and the resignation two weeks ago of the entire board of the César Academy following the open letter signed by 400 filmmakers and actors condemning the Academy’s opacity, elitism, and sexism. Second, there were an exceptional number of very good French films last year, all of which have been nominated for one or more awards. So here goes.

BEST FILM: Les Misérables.
A terrific movie—which I will write about soon—the best of the North/Sub-Saharan African immigrant-populated banlieue ghetto genre in years, if not ever (and it was a big commercial success to boot, with over 2 million tix sold, which is a lot for France). J’accuse (An Officer and a Spy), on the Dreyfus Affair—which I will also write about before too long—is also excellent (and a box office success), as is Hors normes (The Specials), a crowd-pleaser (and box office hit) based on a recent actual story in Paris, of the heroic, almost superhuman efforts of two men (an orthodox Jew and a Muslim, though that’s just a detail, not dwelled upon) who run an association (unlicensed, housed in a Hasidic synagogue) to care for and prepare for adult life severely autistic children and adolescents from disadvantaged backgrounds who have been turned out of established institutions, which cannot cope with them, but with the association being threatened with closure by state inspectors (spoiler alert: the ending is happy). Also very good is François Ozon’s Grâce à Dieu (By the Grace of God), about the Bernard Preynat affair, the pedophile priest who sexually abused dozens of boys from the 1970s to the early ’90s in the Lyon area, and of the campaign of three of his now adult victims to bring him to justice—which was achieved shortly after the film’s release—and in the face of stonewalling from the church hierarchy. Likewise with the gritty policier Roubaix, une lumière (Oh Mercy!), described by cinephile and loyal AWAV reader Massilian as a “grand film, without doubt Arnaud Desplechin’s most poignant and heartrending,” and quite simply “excellent” and “formidable.” I was less taken with Céline Sciamma’s Portrait de la jeune fille en feu (Portrait of a Lady on Fire), considered by a number of US/UK critics to be the best French film of the year but that I thought a little overrated. As for Nicolas Bedos’s crowd-pleasing rom-com La Belle époque, also praised to the high heavens by US/UK critics, it was perfectly watchable but didn’t knock my socks off.

BEST DIRECTOR: Ladj Ly for ‘Les Misérables’.
Eric Toledano & Olivier Nakache for ‘Hors normes’ are also meritorious. Likewise Roman Polanski for ‘J’accuse’, except that it would, for obvious reasons, be unconscionable for the César Academy to give him the award (and he will wisely not be showing up at the ceremony anyway).

BEST ACTOR: Vincent Cassel in ‘Hors normes’.
I have long disliked Cassel but he is quite simply excellent in this. Also tops are Jean Dujardin as Lt. Col. Picquart in ‘J’accuse’, Damien Bonnard as the good cop in ‘Les Misérables’, and Roschdy Zem as the cop (good) in ‘Roubaix, une lumière’. Somehow I won’t be surprised if Daniel Auteuil gets it for his role in ‘La Belle époque’, as a disabused 60-something illustrator en fin de carrière seeking to rekindle the spark with his wife (a crowd-pleasing theme), played by Fanny Ardant (best supporting actress nominee).

BEST ACTRESS: Karin Viard in Chanson douce (The Perfect Nanny).
I actually did not like this film—a (flawed) cinematic adaptation of Leïla Slimani’s 2016 Goncourt-winning novel—which I found creepy and had me uncomfortable throughout (and not to mention the horrific ending), but Viard’s performance as the nanny from hell is disconcertingly powerful. She’s an exceptional actress. Eva Green is also very good in the very good Proxima, in which she plays a French astronaut training for a mission on the Soyuz spacecraft to the International Space Station, realizing the dream of her life but which she has to juggle with her responsibilities as the mother of an 8-year-old child. The film—which is technically very well done (and partly shot in Russia and Kazakhstan)—is a tribute to all the astronaut/cosmonaut women/mothers over the years of all nationalities, indeed to all women who have sought to excel in demanding professions and succeeded, all while raising children. The always pleasant Anaïs Demoustier is likewise good in Alice et le maire (Alice and the Mayor), as the earnest, newly-hired normalienne adviser and speechwriter to the ageing longtime mayor of Lyon (played by Fabrice Luchini, whose character rather obviously conjures Gérard Collomb), who was once full of ambition and bubbling with ideas but is intellectually and politically running out of gas and in need of inspiration (which his perky adviser, Alice, provides). I wasn’t too enamored with Chiara Mastroianni in Chambre 212 (On a Magical Night), who plays a late 40ish university professor and femme volage who walks out on her nice guy husband to spend a night in an apartment across the street (on Rue Delambre in Montparnasse, which I’ve been on several thousand times), where she can revisit (in her head) the moments spent with the many men in her life, including a student (Vincent Lacoste) half her age (a fantasy of male directors) and her husband when they were young. The film didn’t work for me. I was also not too taken with the invariably very good Adèle Haenel in ‘Portrait de la jeune fille en feu’, though am pretty sure that she’ll win the award for this.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Louis Garrel as Alfred Dreyfus in ‘J’accuse’.
This is a coin toss, as Grégory Gadebois is also good as Lt. Col. Henry in the same film. Likewise with Swann Arlaud and Dénis Menochet in ‘Grâce à Dieu’. I can’t speak to Benjamin Lavernhe in ‘Mon inconnue’ (Love at Second Sight), as I haven’t seen this one.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Sara Forestier in ‘Roubaix, une lumière’.
Hands down. Also tops is Laure Calamy in Seules les bêtes (Only the Animals), a slick, riveting, non-linear thriller that travels back-and-forth between the rugged Grands Causses in deepest France and teeming Abidjan in the Ivory Coast, and with sudden twists in the plot. Really good movie.

MOST PROMISING ACTOR: Anthony Bajon in Au nom de la terre (In the Name of the Land).
This is a very good film (and was a box office hit) about a farmer (Guillaume Canet) in the 1990s in the Pays de la Loire, who, buried in debt, ends up taking his life; a true story of director Edouard Bergeon (Bajon is him as a teenager) and his father, dedicated to the farmers who, facing financial ruin, commit suicide (and they’re numerous, as we learn in the credits at the end). Alexis Manenti as the bad cop and Djebril Zonga as the conflicted POC cop in ‘Les Misérables’ are meritorious, as is Liam Pierron, the cheeky teen with attitude in La Vie scolaire (School Life), directed by Grand Corps Malade and Mehdi Idir, a first-rate film (and big box office hit), almost documentary-like, about a middle school in Saint-Denis and the interaction between pupils, teachers, and staff. The umpteenth film of the jeunes de banlieue genre but a good one. Benjamin Lesieur is touching as the young Joseph in ‘Hors normes’.

MOST PROMISING ACTRESS: Céleste Brunnquell in Les Éblouis (The Dazzled).
A no-brainer. This 13/14-year-old girl (her age in the pic) is simply stunning in this terrific movie about a devout bourgeois family in the Charente that joins a traditionalist Catholic community, but which turns out to be a cult, with the brainwashed parents under the spell of the community leader-guru (played by Jean-Pierre Darroussin) but the children wiser to what’s going on. Nina Meurisse in Boris Lojkine’s Camille is good in this very good biopic of the intrepid photojournalist Camille Lepage, who was killed in 2014 while covering the civil war in the Central African Republic. A tribute of sorts of to the brave reporters who risk their lives informing the world of nasty wars in poor countries that few outside those countries’ regions know or care about. Lyna Khoudri is radiant in Papicha, as a first-year university student in Algiers during Algeria’s 1990s ‘years of terrorism’ (Islamist). And Mame Bineta Sané is memorable in the somewhat surreal Atlantique (Atlantics), set in contemporary Dakar, Senegal, entirely in Wolof and with a migration theme (I was looking forward to this film, which, while good and worth seeing, fell a little short of my expectations).

BEST FIRST FILM: ‘Au nom de la terre’ (In the Name of the Land).
‘Les Misérables’ is the obvious choice but as I’ve already named it Best Film I’m not going to repeat it here. Mounia Meddour’s ‘Papicha’ and Mati Diop’s ‘Atlantique’, though French co-productions, are not stricto sensu French films, so I’m not sure if they belong in this category (I will write separately on ‘Papicha’, in an eventual post on contemporary Algerian cinema). ‘Le Chant du loup’ (The Wolf’s Call) has been well-reviewed but I have yet to see it.

UPDATE: ‘Les Misérables’ happily won best film, Roman Polanski best director (!), Roschdy Zem best actor (deserved, and for his entire career), Anaïs Demoustier best actress (surprising; not an obvious choice), Swann Arlaud best supporting actor (he’s good), Fanny Ardant best supporting actress (pourquoi pas?), Alexis Manenti most promising actor (why not?), Lyna Khoudri most promising actress (nice; A Star Is Born), and ‘Papicha’ best first film (salutary hat tip to the dynamism of contemporary Algerian cinema. which gets little help from the official cultural establishment there). Full list is here.

As for Polanski’s award, this prompted an immediate walkout by Adèle Haenel, followed by Céline Sciamma and others. Polanski is a great director—no dispute about that—and, all things being equal, he did deserve the award for ‘J’accuse’. But all things are not equal and given Polanski’s personal history with women, it was unconscionable to give him the award. It’s almost as if the old men of the César Academy (and maybe some of the old women too) were thumbing their noses at the #MeToo movement. Good for Adèle Haenel.

Read Full Post »

2020 Oscars

Voilà my annual Oscars post. I’ve seen all of the films in the top categories that have opened so far in France (or Germany). The list of nominees is here. Here are my brief takes, beginning with the Best Picture nominees.

Ford v Ferrari: Best popcorn movie of the year, not to mention the best on auto racing since the terrific Rush (which is to say, one of the two best movies ever made on the auto racing theme; okay, there’s also Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, so one of the three best). I thoroughly enjoyed it (as did movie-goers in France, who gave it the thumbs way up). It’s a great story (a true one, of course) and with a first-rate cast (Matt Damon and Christian Bale are tops). If you haven’t seen it and can appreciate a well-done, entertaining movie for the grand public, by all means do so; you won’t regret.

The Irishman: I’ve had mixed feelings about Martin Scorsese’s films over the years (having seen all but two or three). Of his gangster pics, I thought ‘Goodfellas’ was excellent (there’s a general consensus on this), though not so much ‘Casino’. ‘Mean Streets’ is a little dated but still worthy (I saw it recently, for the first time in four decades). ‘The Departed’ was okay and all but the Hong Kong original, ‘Infernal Affairs’, did not need a remake. ‘The Irishman’, while not a chef d’œuvre, is up there with ‘Goodfellas’. The story is gripping, the acting exceptional (particularly Joe Pesci; and Anna Paquin’s character—Frank Sheeran’s catatonic daughter—was as it should have been), and one simply does not see the three-and-a-half hours go by. As for the story—of the mob of the era, the heyday and demise of Jimmy Hoffa (played by Al Pacino), and, more generally, of an important slice of American labor history, indeed modern American history tout court—the pic is worth seeing for that alone (here in France, I’ve had to tell people the story of Jimmy Hoffa and the Teamsters, which are unknown). All the characters were real, as the events, though with a few exceptions and one major one in particular, which is the big issue with the film. As one is probably aware (though not in France), Scorsese’s screenplay is based on an account—that of the real-life Frank Sheeran (“the Irishman,” played by Robert De Niro)—that is almost certainly not credible, and particularly in regard to the murder of Jimmy Hoffa. In other words, the story is, at crucial moments, bullshit (on this, see the articles by Bill Tonelli in Slate and Jack Goldsmith in the NYR Daily). Now a movie may recount historical nonsense and still be riveting, top-notch entertainment, e.g. Oliver Stone’s ‘JFK’, which is based on a crazy conspiracy theory. And such is the case here. But still. If Scorsese’s œuvre were not driven by a bullshit version of history, he wouldn’t have been able to make the movie, and least not as he did. It’s still a good one, though.

Jojo Rabbit: It takes an addled mind IMHO to conceive of and make a light comedy about the Nazis and Hitler, and with children at the center. What an unpleasant movie, and which is, moreover, not at all funny (I didn’t chuckle even once, let alone laugh out loud). Its Oscar nominations—and particularly for Best Picture—are incomprehensible. That’s as much as I have to say about it

Joker: I was initially not going to see this one, as it’s not the kind of movie I normally see and I have not been a fan of Joaquin Phoenix, but relented in view of the hype. When asked by friends what I thought of it, I replied that it’s both a horrible movie and a very good one. It’s horrible because of the extreme violence—actual and psychological—and from practically the opening scene. The violence and psychological abuse visited upon the Phoenix character, Arthur Fleck, are almost unbearable to watch, and all the more so as Fleck is, in the outset at least, a harmless man with a miserable life and suffering from mental illness plus a neurological disorder (on the mental illness theme and controversy over it, see this piece in The Guardian). Watching cruelty and humiliation visited upon vulnerable persons, I just hate that—though it’s a fact of life (there are so many cruel, sadistic people in this world) and not at all gratuitous in the film. It is indeed central. The ramped-up Bernhard Goetz-style vigilantism that Fleck indulges in after getting the pistol also unsettles—and in part because one feels grim satisfaction, at least initially, in his actions. As for what’s good about the film, there’s first Phoenix’s extraordinary performance. It’s an acting tour de force. Then there’s the image of “Gotham City,” which is, as those over a certain age will readily recognize, 1970s-80s New York City on steroids. It’s been a few decades since one has seen such a dystopian depiction of NYC (recalling ‘The Warriors’, ‘Escape from New York’, even ‘Taxi Driver’). Except that this one is not cartoon-like. The demagogic mayoral candidate—and Fleck’s putative progenitor—could be contemporary (suivez mon regard) and the nihilistic mob at the end—though whose rage against the injustice of the system is comprehensible—is positively Black Bloc-like, though in a polity where there has been a breakdown in state and civil society institutions, and with massive cutbacks in public services (causing Fleck to lose his mental health benefits). If the unspeakable person in the White House is reelected this November and then succeeded by a member of his family in 2024—the system having been thoroughly rigged—then this Gotham City vision could await us a decade down the road. But I digress. On account of these “very good” features of the film, I thus scored it a 4.0 (very good) on Allociné, though won’t recommend it to everyone (and definitely not to my mother).

Little Women: I was not familiar with Louisa May Alcott’s novel (what it’s about) before seeing the movie, which I am not ashamed to admit, as boys did not read such books in my day (and it was not assigned in any of my English classes in middle or high school). I found the first half of the film a little slow-going but got into it in the second. It’s a good period piece (of 1860s New England) and with a fine ensemble cast. And it’s a nice, heartwarming story to boot. So good movie.

Marriage Story: This one has been praised to the high heavens across the board but I frankly thought it overrated. Adam Driver is first-rate and Laura Dern is good, that I will grant, but Scarlett Johansson underwhelms IMHO. Grosso modo, I just didn’t relate to the marriage crisis and the way husband and wife interacted, which just struck me as so American. Their scènes de ménage irritated. I couldn’t imagine French couples acting out in such a manner. But one French friend of my generation liked it (and his wife even more) and with Paris critics and Allociné spectateurs alike giving the pic top marks. So maybe I’m the one who is à côté de la plaque. Go figure.

1917: I’ll see any epic film on WWI—not that many come out—in part because I’ve been teaching the subject (to American undergraduates) for a number of years and have been making the rounds of WWI sites in France (and with some major ones still to go). This one (set in the Pas-de-Calais) is engaging and well-done, and effectively conveys the horrors of the war on the front line, though I felt that the depiction of the trenches was maybe just a little sanitized, that they were in reality more insalubrious. But just a detail. Peu importe.

Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood: I see everything by Quentin Tarantino, though not everything he does need necessarily be seen. This one was perfectly entertaining—and several notches above the execrable The Hateful Eight—the cast is great (Brad Pitt and Leonardo Di Caprio are fun), and it has its moments, but I gave the pic no thought after leaving the theater. It’s empty calories. So it’s said to be a tribute to the end of an era in Hollywood. Bon, d’accord. Personally I have nothing in particular to say about it. C’est tout.

Parasite: I’m a total outlier on this one, which absolutely everyone—critics, audiences, and friends (with a single exception), and on both sides of the pond—has been showering with gushing, dithyrambic praise. I mean, everyone thinks this a chef d’œuvre. Quite frankly, I’m mystified. I found the pic entertaining enough when I first saw it last spring, with the grifter family adorable in its own way and its con job on the rich family amusing. This part was fine, though nothing to knock one’s socks off IMHO. Pas de quoi en tarir d’éloges. What turned me off, though, was the violent, over-the-top denouement, which I didn’t like, thus causing me to downgrade my score of the pic on the Allociné scale to 2.5 (so-so). The film is, according to critics, a metaphor for class struggle, which is to say, it has a neo-Marxist message. I’ve never thought of South Korea as a class-ridden society—or more than others—mais qu’est-ce que j’en sais? So there are rich people and poor people in South Korea. Quoi de neuf sous le ciel? Class struggle is indeed a theme in some of Bong Joon-ho’s films, e.g. his 2013 ‘Snowpiercer’, which was praised across the board but that I hated. So in view of the gushing, dithyrambic praise of ‘Parasite’—and consequent slew of accolades (Golden Globes, Oscar nominations, etc)—I decided that I should see it again—give it a second chance—which I did last month, at a special screening at my local cinéma municipal. The verdict: I upped my appreciation a notch—to 3.0 (okay/not too bad) on the Allociné scale—but continue to deem it overrated. One thing: as a foreign language film, it does not belong in the Oscars’ Best Picture category to begin with.

And then there are these:

Judy: A biopic of a once-famous, now forgotten American actress and chanteuse, of her profoundly sad life, from cloistered, regimented childhood to alcohol and drug-fueled demise in middle age. One still listens to Frank Sinatra but does anyone Judy Garland? The pic is entertaining enough, though not essential. One may see it or decide not to see it. Renée Zellweger (Best Actress nominee) is very good. She carries the film. The sequences with the gay couple are touching. C’est tout.

Bombshell: A good movie for the grand public of the fetid swamp of Fox News—and the culture of the American right more generally—and, in particular, of powerful, malignant narcissistic men obsessed with their quéquettes (translation here), the despicable male here being Roger Ailes, though to be fair and balanced, this syndrome of course spans the political spectrum and knows no ideological boundaries. An open and shut case for #MeToo. The actresses are all good: Charlize Theron (Best Actress nominee) and Nicole Kidman as Megyn Kelly and Gretchen Carlson, respectively, and Margot Robbie (Best Supporting Actress nominee) as the fictitious Kayla Pospisil (your generic ditzy Fox News blond).

The Two Popes: A remarkable film about the relationship Benedict XVI (Anthony Hopkins, Best Supporting Actor nominee) forged in the latter years of his papacy with his future successor, the then Cardinal Bergoglio (Jonathan Pryce, Best Actor nominee). The two men are, as one knows, on opposite ends of the ideological spectrum—such as it is in the Catholic church—though the flashbacks to Argentina in the 1970s show the future Pope Francis to have been no leftist. I was thoroughly absorbed in the film. And the performances are first-rate.

My vote:

BEST PICTURE: ‘Joker’.
I hesitated on this in view of its downsides, but such is likewise with the n° 2 choice, ‘The Irishman’.

BEST DIRECTOR: Todd Phillips (‘Joker’).
I would have gone with Martin Scorsese had he not based his screenplay on an account recounted by a mythomaniac.

BEST ACTOR: Joaquin Phoenix (‘Joker’).
Hands down. Adam Driver (‘Marriage Story’) is also worthy. Antonio Banderas (‘Pain and Glory’), while excellent, does not speak English in his movie and which ain’t American to boot, so no to him.

BEST ACTRESS: Renée Zellweger (‘Judy’).
Saoirse Ronan (‘Little Women’) is second. As I haven’t seen ‘Harriet’ I can’t speak to Cynthia Erivo.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTOR: Joe Pesci (‘The Irishman’).
Brad Pitt (Once Upon a Time…in Hollywood’) is also good. Haven’t seen Tom Hanks in ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’.

BEST SUPPORTING ACTRESS: Laura Dern (‘Marriage Story’).
Sort of by default, as there’s no obvious choice (but definitely not Scarlett Johansson in ‘Jojo Rabbit’!). Don’t know about Kathy Bates in ‘Richard Jewell’.

BEST INTERNATIONAL FEATURE FILM: ‘Les Misérables’.
A no-brainer (I’m also rooting for the home team). ‘Pain and Glory’—perhaps the best I’ve seen by Pedro Almodóvar (I’m normally not a fan of his, so am not familiar with much of his œuvre)—would be worthy. As for ‘Parasite’, see above. I haven’t seen ‘Corpus Christi’ or ‘Honeyland’.

BEST DOCUMENTARY FEATURE: ‘For Sama’ and ‘American Factory’ ex æquo.
Both are terrific (and which will soon be posted on). ‘Edge of Democracy’ is good. ‘The Cave’ is superb documentary on Syria, so Robert F. Worth informs us in the NYR Daily, but I have yet to see it.

Read Full Post »

Best (and worst) movies of 2019

Voilà AWAV’s annual list (for last year’s, go here). The movies here opened in theaters this year in France. I see a lot of movies in the theater—two a week on average—but inevitably miss a few. As usual, several well-reviewed American movies that have come out over the past couple of months have yet to open in France. For the first time, the list includes Netflix exclusives. N.B. There was a higher-than-usual number of particularly good French movies this year.

TOP 10:
An Officer and a Spy (J’accuse)
Ash Is Purest White (江湖兒女 Les Éternels)
Balloon (Ballon)
Birds of Passage (Pájaros de verano)
Joker
Les Misérables
Never Look Away (Werk ohne Autor)
So Long, My Son (地久天长)
The Irishman
The Specials (Hors normes)

HONORABLE MENTION:
By the Grace of God (Grâce à Dieu)
Only the Animals (Seules les bêtes)
School Life (La Vie scolaire)
Someone, Somewhere (Deux moi)
The Dazzled (Les Éblouis)

BEST MOVIE FROM ALGERIA:
Papicha (بابيشة)

BEST MOVIE FROM TUNISIA:
Noura’s Dream (نورة تحلم)

BEST MOVIE FROM SENEGAL:
Atlantics (Atlantique)

BEST MOVIE FROM URUGUAY:
A Twelve-Year Night (La noche de 12 años)

BEST POLITICAL THRILLER FROM ARGENTINA:
Rojo

BEST POLITICAL THRILLER FROM SPAIN:
The Realm (El Reino)

BEST MOVIE FROM IRELAND ABOUT ECONOMIC PRECARIOUSNESS IN THE AGE OF NEOLIBERALISM:
Rosie

BEST MOVIE FROM SWITZERLAND ABOUT THE VALUE ATTACHED TO HUMAN LIFE IN THE AGE OF NEOLIBERALISM:
Those Who Work (Ceux qui travaillent)

BEST MOVIE FROM GREECE ABOUT A SUBMISSIVE HOUSEWIFE WHO TAKES CHARGE OF HER LIFE:
Her Job (Η Δουλειά της)

BEST MOVIE FROM ISRAEL ABOUT THE CRAP WOMEN HAVE TO PUT UP WITH IN THE WORKPLACE:
Working Woman (אישה עובדת)

BEST MOVIE FROM ISRAEL ABOUT CONSERVING THE MEMORY OF A HOLOCAUST MASSACRE COMMITTED BY AUSTRIANS:
The Testament (העדות)

BEST MOVIE FROM ROMANIA ABOUT CONSERVING THE MEMORY OF A HOLOCAUST MASSACRE COMMITTED BY ROMANIANS:
“I Do Not Care if We Go Down in History as Barbarians” (“Îmi este indiferent dacă în istorie vom intra ca barbari”)

BEST MAFIA MOVIE FROM ITALY:
The Traitor (Il traditore)

BEST CINEMATIC ADAPTATION FROM ITALY OF AN EARLY TWENTIETH CENTURY AMERICAN NOVEL:
Martin Eden

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT AN OVER-THE-HILL POLITICIAN AND HIS SPRIGHTLY YOUTHFUL ADVISER:
Alice and the Mayor (Alice et le maire)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ON HOW REALLY HARD IT IS TO BE A SMALL FARMER:
In the Name of the Land (Au nom de la terre)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT AN INTREPID REPORTER DURING THE SIEGE OF SARAJEVO:
Sympathy for the Devil (Sympathie pour le diable)

BEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE ABOUT AN INTREPID REPORTER DURING THE CIVIL WAR IN THE CENTRAL AFRICAN REPUBLIC:
Camille

BEST FRANCO-BELGIAN MOVIE FROM RWANDA ABOUT RWANDAN SOLDIERS IN THE EASTERN CONGO:
The Mercy of the Jungle (La Miséricorde de la jungle)

BEST FRANCO-BELGIAN MOVIE ABOUT A PRISONER IN NEVADA AND HIS HORSE:
The Mustang

MOST MACABRE FEMINIST COMEDY FROM FRANCE:
Rebels (Rebelles)

MOST AMUSING NETFLIX COMEDY ABOUT A 1970s BLAXPLOITATION FILM DIRECTOR:
Dolemite Is My Name

MOST AMUSING ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN COMEDY MAKING SPORT OF THE ISRAELI-PALESTINIAN CONFLICT:
Tel Aviv on Fire (תל אביב על האש)

MOST LIGHTWEIGHT NETFLIX SATIRE ON HOW ORDINARY PEOPLE ARE SHAFTED BY THE GLOBAL FINANCIAL SYSTEM:
The Laundromat

MOST NOT BAD BY-THE-NUMBERS NETFLIX MOVIE SET IN A PARIS BANLIEUE:
Street Flow (Banlieuesards)

BLEAKEST FILM NOIR FROM CHINA SET IN WUHAN:
The Wild Goose Lake (南方车站的聚会)

MOST TEDIOUS MOVIE FROM RUSSIA SET IN POSTWAR LENINGRAD:
Beanpole (Дылда Une grande fille)

MOST OVER-THE-TOP MOVIE FROM BRAZIL SET IN THE SERTÃO OF THE NORDESTE:
Bacurau

MOST FATIGUING INDIE MOVIE SET IN MY HOMETOWN MILWAUKEE WISCONSIN:
Give Me Liberty

BEST HOLLYWOOD MOVIE ABOUT FORMULA ONE AUTO RACING SINCE ‘RUSH’:
Ford v Ferrari

MOST ENTERTAINING BIOPIC OF A GREAT ENGLISH POP MUSIC SINGER:
Rocketman

MOST ENTERTAINING CINEMATIC TRIBUTE FROM ENGLAND TO A GREAT AMERICAN ROCK MUSIC SINGER:
Blinded by the Light

MOST ENTERTAINING HOLLYWOOD WHODUNIT MOVIE THAT DOES NOT NEED TO BE SEEN UNLESS ONE LIKES ENTERTAINING HOLLYWOOD WHODUNIT MOVIES:
Knives Out

BEST HOLLYWOOD MOVIE WITH MELISSA MCCARTHY AND RICHARD E. GRANT IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Can You Ever Forgive Me?

BEST NETFLIX MOVIE WITH ADAM DRIVER AND SCARLETT JOHANSSON IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Marriage Story

BEST HOLLYWOOD REMAKE OF A GOOD MOVIE FROM CHILE WITH JULIANNE MOORE IN THE LEAD ROLE:
Gloria Bell

MOST FAR-FROM-PERFECT HOLLYWOOD MOVIE WITH CHRISTIAN BALE IN THE LEAD ROLE:
Vice

MOST FAR-FROM-PERFECT HOLLYWOOD MOVIE WITH VIGGO MORTENSEN AND MAHERSHALA ALI IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Green Book

MOST NOT-PERFECT MOVIE FROM FRANCE WITH JULIETTE BINOCHE IN THE LEAD ROLE:
Who You Think I Am (Celle que vous croyez)

MOST DEFINITELY NOT-PERFECT MOVIE FROM FRANCE WITH VIRGINIE EFIRA AND ADÈLE EXARCHOPOULOS IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Sibyl

MOST ABSOLUTELY NOT-PERFECT MOVIE FROM FRANCE WITH CHIARA MASTROIANNI IN THE LEAD ROLE:
On a Magical Night (Chambre 212)

MOST ONLY OKAY MOVIE FROM FRANCE WITH DANIEL AUTEUIL IN THE LEAD ROLE:
La Belle époque

CREEPIEST MOVIE FROM FRANCE WITH KARIN VIARD AND LEÏLA BEKHTI IN THE LEAD ROLES:
The Perfect Nanny (Chanson douce)

MOST RIDICULOUS MOVIE FROM FRANCE WITH JEAN DUJARDIN IN THE LEAD ROLE:
Deerskin (Le Daim)

MOST COMPLICATED COURTROOM DRAMA FROM FRANCE WITH MARINA FOÏS AND OLIVIER GOURMET IN THE LEAD ROLES:
Conviction (Une intime conviction)

BEST MUST-SEE DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE POLITICS OF MEMORY OF THE SPANISH CIVIL WAR:
The Silence of Others (El silencio de otros)

BEST DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE MEMORY OF A DEMOCRACY EMBRACING ASYLUM-SEEKERS FROM A DICTATORSHIP:
Santiago, Italia

BEST MOST MOVING DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE MEMORY OF SUDAN’S INCIPIENT FILM INDUSTRY AND THE POLITICAL SYSTEM THAT PROVOKED ITS DEMISE:
Talking About Trees (الحديث عن الأشجار)

BEST MOST POWERFUL DOCUMENTARY ABOUT THE WAR IN SYRIA:
For Sama (إلى سما)

BEST NETFLIX DOCUMENTARY FORESEEING THE FUTURE OF AMERICA’S DEMOCRATIC PARTY:
Knock Down the House

MOST FASCINATING DOCUMENTARY ABOUT AN INDUSTRIAL POTEMKIN VILLAGE DURING THE SOVIET ERA:
The Cacophony of Donbass (Какофонія Донбасу)

MOST UNSATISFYING DOCUMENTARY ABOUT A SMALL TOWN IN THE AMERICAN HEARTLAND:
Monrovia, Indiana

BEST MOVIE BY PEDRO ALMODÓVAR:
Pain and Glory (Dolor y gloria)

BEST MOVIE BY ARNAUD DESPLECHIN:
Oh Mercy! (Roubaix, une lumière)

BEST MOVIE BY JEAN-PIERRE & LUC DARDENNE:
Young Ahmed (Le jeune Ahmed)

BEST MOVIE BY KEN LOACH:
Sorry We Missed You

BEST MOVIE BY YORGOS LANTHIMOS:
The Favourite

BEST MOVIE BY BARRY JENKINS:
If Beale Street Could Talk

MOST ENTERTAININGLY TENDENTIOUS MOVIE BY COSTA-GAVRAS:
Adults In the Room

MOST ENTERTAININGLY OFFBEAT MOVIE BY ELIA SULEIMAN:
It Must Be Heaven

MOST NOT-ALL-THAT-BAD OF A MOVIE BY CLINT EASTWOOD:
The Mule

MOST MERELY OKAY MOVIE BY WOODY ALLEN:
A Rainy Day in New York

MOST MIND-NUMBING MOVIE BY JAMES GRAY:
Ad Astra

MOST FORGETTABLE MOVIE BY QUENTIN TARANTINO:
Once Upon a Time in Hollywood

MOST PROMISING DIRECTORIAL DEBUT BY HAFSIA HERZI:
You Deserve a Lover (Tu mérites un amour)

MOST UTTERLY FAILED DIRECTORIAL DEBUT BY CAROLINE FOUREST:
Sisters in Arms (Sœurs d’armes)

MOST SOMEWHAT OVERRATED MOVIE BY CÉLINE SCIAMMA:
Portrait of a Young Lady on Fire (Portrait de la jeune fille en feu)

MOST OVERRATED MOVIE BY HIROKAZU KORE-EDA:
The Truth (La Vérité)

MOST FRANKLY OVERRATED MOVIE BY BONG JOON-HO:
Parasite (기생충)

MOST CRINGEWORTHY MOVIE BY FATIH AKIN:
The Golden Glove (Der Goldene Handschuh)

MOST NOT GOOD MOVIE BY RABAH AMEUR-ZAÏMECHE:
South Terminal (Terminal Sud)

MOST INSUFFERABLE MOVIE BY NADAV LAPID:
Synonyms

MOST PREPOSTEROUS MOVIE BY JORDAN PEELE:
Us

A NO DOUBT BEAUTIFUL MOVIE BY TERRENCE MALICK BUT THAT I COULDN’T BRING MYSELF TO GO AND SEE AS IT IS CERTAINLY VERY SLOW-PACED AND WAY TOO LONG:
A Hidden Life

Read Full Post »

The 1619 Project

[update below] [2nd update below] [3rd update below] [4th update below] [5th update below]

If one doesn’t know it:

The 1619 Project is a major initiative from The New York Times observing the 400th anniversary of the beginning of American slavery. It aims to reframe the country’s history, understanding 1619 as our true founding, and placing the consequences of slavery and the contributions of black Americans at the very center of the story we tell ourselves about who we are.

I read all the articles this past week—those so far published, 17 by my count (the series is ongoing)—some 100 pages printed out (PDF is here), authored by well-known academics (historians and social scientists) and journalists. It’s an incredible series. Historian, Holocaust specialist, and old friend Marc Masurovsky described it well on his Facebook page:

A must-read, you have to read this special issue of the New York Times magazine…

It’s a shattering assessment of the history of America—white America—built on the blood of African slaves since 1619. A searing indictment of how American economic growth, political machines, and judicial decisions were rooted in the enslavement of millions of men, women and children. Generations of white businessmen, politicians, scholars, scientists, lawyers and judges, breathed and ate and drank segregationist and racist views…up to this day… and shaped and molded Federal and State policies to satisfy the segregationist agenda.

It makes one rethink what being American really means. And it’s simply frightening and appalling.

Oh, I know! We know the story of slavery and racism. But we really don’t. Please read this! You owe it to yourselves, to our African-American brothers and sisters. I am frankly ashamed that we have to bear this legacy. It’s bad to have committed genocide against the first inhabitants of what came to be known as America. If that wasn’t enough, we had to build the foundations of American democracy on the blood, flesh and tears of slaves. It makes you really wonder who the Bill of Rights was really written for and what that Declaration of Independence really means and for whom.

And no, I wasn’t born yesterday.

As Marc indicates, you may think you know the history of slavery and its legacy but, after reading The 1619 Project series, you realize you really don’t, at least not fully. There’s so much you don’t know or haven’t realized. And to call slavery America’s “original sin,” which just about everyone does, is too easy. It’s a throwaway line. Slavery was America’s crime: it was constitutive of the founding of the United States of America and the legacy of which weighs heavily today—and which is incarnated in the world-view of one of America’s two major political parties. As one reads in the series, the nature of American capitalism, the ideological rejection of universal social insurance schemes (a.k.a. the welfare state) by one of the major parties and the on-going battle over voting rights—making the US an outlier among advanced democracies—et on en passe, is a legacy of slavery and the century of apartheid that followed its abolition.

Sure, lots of countries had chattel slavery—Brazil, the islands of the Caribbean, Arabia, large parts of Africa, Thailand, etc—and which profoundly marked their politics and social structure (Brazil today is a big case in point) but we’re talking about the United States of America here, and where slavery and its legacy had some unique features.

Conservatives have unsurprisingly been flipping out over the 1619 series (a few reactions have been measured, though it’s obvious that most of those who are trashing the series have hardly read any of it). In responding to the conservative attacks, the NYT’s excellent columnist Jamelle Bouie (who has an article in the series) argues that “slavery was not a secondary part of our history: in America, liberty and bondage have always been intertwined.” And The Nation’s Jeet Heer observes that “conservatives’ freakout over The 1619 Project reveals their fear of America’s actual past.” Or, we should say, fear of a changing narrative of America’s past. E.g. some of the series authors refer to plantations as “forced-labor camps,” or “slave-labor camps,” and with all calling slave-owners “enslavers.” I will wager that in a generation, say twenty years from now, this nomenclature will be the prevailing one. An old Southern plantation doesn’t look the same if it’s labeled a “slave-labor camp.” This is, needless to say, deeply threatening to the conservative narrative—and largely white Southern—of American history.

On the question of historical narratives, the NYT published an op-ed on August 21st by writer and cultural critic Lewis Hyde, “How nationalism can destroy a nation,” in which he discusses Ernest Renan’s famous 1882 speech at the Sorbonne, “Qu’est-ce qu’une nation?” (What is a nation?)—which is the classic French republican statement on the question—and whose central idea is that of historical narrative and the will of the members of a nation—the nation being an abstraction—to live together (Renan’s “daily plebiscite”). And central to historical narratives, for Renan, is “forgetting,” of an implicit decision by the gatekeepers of the national narrative to gloss over parts of the past—or bury them altogether—that caused members of the nation to kill one another (Renan’s example for France was the 1572 St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, i.e. the 16th century religious wars of Catholics vs. Protestants). In America, this was slavery and the Civil War. As David Blight and other historians have written, the reconciliation of the North and South was predicated on black Americans—the former slaves—being written out of the American national narrative, and of the Southern view of slavery as a benign institution becoming the dominant one—of the North, in effect, being southernized.

This narrative was blown apart by the civil rights movement, the formal end of legal apartheid in the 1960s, and the according of full rights of citizenship—of belonging to the American nation—to Afro-Americans. And with that, America has once again become a deeply divided society—with a reactionary, southernized Republican Party leading the resistance to this change—such as it has not been since, well, the Civil War.

A few months ago, here in a Paris, I was browsing in a recently-opened far right-wing bookstore. One book I leafed through was a paean to the antebellum South, by the late neo-fascist writer-historian Dominique Venner, the title of which translates as ‘The white sun of the defeated: the epic history of the South and the Civil War, 1607-1865’. In the book he explicitly refers to the United States as being comprised of “two nations”: the North and the South. He was certainly not wrong in describing it that way for the period covered in his book and, I dare say, he would not be totally wrong in it today.

A historical reminder: the United States of America was founded as a nation of white people. The 1790 Naturalization Act, which limited American citizenship to “free white person[s],” was explicit on this. Excluded from American citizenship were, of course, persons of African descent but also the indigenous population (the latter were only granted American citizenship in 1924, with the Indian Citizenship Act). Grounding the race-based conception of American nationality in law was, among others, the 1882 Chinese Exclusion Act; the 1917 Asiatic Barred Zone Act, with the provisions reaffirmed in the 1924 Johnson-Reed Act; the 1922 SCOTUS ruling Takao Ozawa v. United States, which refused naturalization to Japanese immigrants on the grounds that they were not part of the “Caucasian race;” and the 1923 SCOTUS ruling United States v. Bhagat Singh Thind, which likewise prohibited South Asian Indians, decreed as non-white, from acquiring American citizenship. The raced-based exclusions of Asians from naturalization were only repealed in 1943 (for Chinese), 1946 (Filipinos and Indians), and 1952 (for all others).

Today is the 75th anniversary of the liberation of Paris in WWII by the Free French and United States. Le Monde has a five-minute video on its website entitled ‘Liberation of Paris: why was there not a single black soldier in the military parades?’, even though there were over 3000 African soldiers—principally Senegalese tirailleurs—in General Leclerc’s elite 2nd Armored Division, which spearheaded the liberation of the city. The answer: pressure on the French from the Americans to remove the black soldiers from General Leclerc’s forces.

One of the preoccupations of the US Army during WWII in regard to its black soldiers—as historian Raffael Scheck, interviewed in the above Le Monde video, reminds us—was fraternization with European women—there being no taboo on interracial intimacy in France, Britain, or anywhere on this side of the ocean—and the measures that were taken to prevent this (including court martials and execution of black soldiers for rape, even when more than a few of the accused rapes were, in fact, consensual relationships). The actual consequence of interracial affairs involving black American soldiers was cinematically depicted in the powerful 2017 Netflix film Mudbound, which is set in rural Mississippi in the aftermath of WWII. What happened to the black soldier returning from Europe when his love affair with a woman in Germany was discovered by the local white men was utterly real. Such happened countless times to black men in the South. The excruciating scene toward the end of the film—which is almost unbearable to watch—crystallizes America’s experience with slavery and its legacy. And, one may add, the evil of the white American South.

C’est tout ce que j’ai à dire, pour le moment au moins.

UPDATE: The (surprisingly good) Trotskyist World Socialist Web Site has published lengthy interviews with James McPherson, James Oakes, and Gordon Wood (here, here, and here), who are strongly critical of the 1619 Project. These three are, if one doesn’t know, major historians of the Civil War (McPherson, Oakes) and 18th century America (Wood), so their views on the question are to be read and pondered.

2nd UPDATE: On the controversy over the 1619 Project—with Sean Wilentz leading the attack—see Adam Serwer in The Atlantic (December 23), “The fight over the 1619 Project is not about the facts: A dispute between a small group of scholars and the authors of The New York Times Magazine’s issue on slavery represents a fundamental disagreement over the trajectory of American society.”

3rd UPDATE: Sean Wilentz, writing in The Atlantic (January 22, 2020), continues his attack: “A matter of facts: The New York Times’ 1619 Project launched with the best of intentions, but has been undermined by some of its claims.”

4th UPDATE: In the Boston Review (January 24, 2020), David Waldstreicher—Distinguished Professor of History at the Graduate Center of the City University of New York—weighs in on “The hidden stakes of the 1619 controversy.” The lede: “Seeking to discredit those who wish to explain the persistence of racism, critics of the New York Times’s 1619 Project insist the facts don’t support its proslavery reading of the American Revolution. But they obscure a longstanding debate within the field of U.S. history over that very issue—distorting the full case that can be made for it.”

5th UPDATE: Northwestern University history professor Leslie M. Harris, writing in Politico (March 6, 2020), says “I helped fact-check the 1619 Project. The Times ignored me.” The lede: “The paper’s series on slavery made avoidable mistakes. But the attacks from its critics are much more dangerous.”

Read Full Post »

The Apollo 11 moon landing

Those over a certain age are remembering where they were when Apollo 11 landed on the moon fifty years ago today. I was 13 and in London, where I had arrived the day before with my family (driving from Italy and France; we crossed the Channel from Calais to Ramsgate, in the hovercraft). We were staying with relatives, on Pennine Drive in NW2, all watching the telly. I remember the first live image of the spacecraft on the ground and, at 2:40 AM on the 21st, Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin emerging from the vessel. My mother and I went outside and pointed up at the moon, me excited and probably saying “there they are!”

I likewise remember—as a snapshot image—when the three astronauts came to Ankara, Turkey—where I was living at the time—in October (three months to the day after the landing; it was a sunny afternoon), on their world tour, of them waving to the multitudes from an open-top sedan in the procession down Atatürk Boulevard, the city’s main thoroughfare. A large part of the city turned out to see them.

On the subject, there’s the movie First Man, which opened last October and was nominated for four Oscars (in technical categories, winning one, for ‘best visual effects’). If one doesn’t know it, it’s the first feature-length non-documentary film on the Apollo 11 mission, with Neil Armstrong (played by Ryan Gosling) at the center. I thought it very good and unexpected in its approach, as director Damien Chazelle opted not to make a classic ‘The Right Stuff’ kind of movie about the heroic march to the moon landing but instead meditate on the extreme dangers faced by NASA astronauts—who were taking their lives into their hands with each mission—and the psychological toll this took on them, their wives, and children (entre autres, the colleagues and friends who had perished in training and test flight accidents, not to mention the Apollo 1 disaster—and whose families were their friends—weighed heavily on all, as NASA in Houston was a tight-knit community). The Apollo missions, including the big one in July 1969, were anticipated by the astronauts and their families not with excitement but stoicism (for the former) and dread (the latter). And exhilaration did not necessarily follow the mission’s success. The subtext: history may be heroic but it is just as often tragic.

Read Full Post »

Australia had a parliamentary election on Saturday, if one didn’t know, with the outcome a shocker, as the incumbent conservative coalition led by PM Scott Morrison won against all expectations, the polls having unanimously pointed to a decisive Labor Party victory. One does not have to care one way or another about Australian politics to regret this result, as the very conservative Morrison—who’s a Pentecostal (already one strike against him)—is not good on the climate change issue—which is particularly important there (Great Barrier Reef, etc)—and is downright execrable on immigration, which he was in charge of as a government minister in 2013-14, putting in place Australia’s cruel policy of sending asylum seekers (principally from Iran and Afghanistan) to Christmas Island, Nauru, and Papua New Guinea, where they are kept in what are in effect prison camps for years on end, their asylum applications rejected but with repatriation manifestly inadvisable (if one wishes to read about this—and be indignant—see the reportages by Roger Cohen here and here). Scott Morrison is not a good man.

One of the news articles I read about the Australian election referred to “the cut-throat world of politics in Canberra.” As it so happens, I just watched in the past month—on the recommendation of a political science friend—the full two seasons (six episodes each) of the riveting Australian Netflix series Secret City, which is entirely set in and around Canberra (with a few brief scenes in Adelaide in season 2). It’s all about espionage, geopolitics, and just Australian politics, and boy, it sure is cut-throat, both figuratively and [spoiler alert!] literally. Here’s a brief description from IMDb:

Beneath the placid facade of Canberra, amidst rising tension between China and America, senior political journalist Harriet Dunkley uncovers a secret city of interlocked conspiracies, putting innocent lives in danger including her own.

That’s as much as one needs to know. The screenplay is sophisticated—it’s very well written—the pacing impeccable, and the acting first rate. It’s an Aussie answer to the brilliant French series The Bureau (and is, needless to say, on a far higher level than ‘Homeland’). It’s just all around excellent. In the first season the bad guys appear to be China but that’s somewhat of a ruse, as in season 2 [spoiler alert!], a Deep State theme is developed (yes, there is indeed one Down Under). The message, and which holds everywhere: if you want to know where the real threat to your homeland comes from—to your security and freedoms—look at your own state. The threat is at home.

A sub-theme in season 2 [spoiler alert!] is drone warfare, of Australian military drones in action over Afghanistan and Pakistan, as part of the international coalition in that conflict—and of the PTSD-suffering drone pilot having notched 448 kills, so we learn, not all of whom were Taliban and other bad guys. This reminded me of the 2015 Hollywood movie, Good Kill, by director Andrew Niccol, which, to my knowledge, was the first one of its sort to focus on the ethical dilemmas of military drones, here via the états d’âme of the protag drone pilot, played by Ethan Hawke, who kills people in Af-Pak daily—who may or may not be combattants—whom he sees on his console screen at a base in Nevada, after which he goes home to wife and children in his sub-division. The film deals ably with its subject, though is somewhat marred by a Hollywoodish sub-plot about the protag’s marital problems. Reviews were middling, including in France, but the pic may certainly be seen (and Allociné spectateurs liked it more than did the critics).

On drone warfare and the effects it has on the soldiers who wage it via remote control, see the excellent New York Times Magazine article (June 13, 2018) by Eyal Press, “The wounds of the drone warrior.” And going back a few years: “Confessions of a drone warrior,” by Matthew Power, in GQ; “Everything we know so far about drone strikes,” by Cora Currier, in ProPublica; and Jane Mayer’s “The predator war: What are the risks of the C.I.A.’s covert drone program?,” in The New Yorker.

Back to ‘Secret City’, as much as I liked it I hope it doesn’t go to a third season. It achieved closure at the end of season 2. Nothing is left hanging and it said what it needed to say.

Read Full Post »

[update below]

Everyone who follows American politics closely has probably heard about this terrific one-and-a-half-hour documentary, which is streaming on Netflix (the only place to see it; en France il est sous-titré). Its subject is the 2018 primary campaigns of four insurgent female candidates promoted by the progressive PACs Brand New Congress and, above all, Justice Democrats: Cori Bush in Missouri (against the incumbent Democrat, in the CD that includes Ferguson), Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez in New York, Paula Jean Swearengin in West Virginia (running against Joe Manchin), and Amy Vilela in Nevada (in a CD that includes part of Las Vegas, held by a Republican at the time). Voilà the story, as described on the film’s website:

When tragedy struck her family in the midst of the financial crisis, Bronx-born Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez had to work double shifts in a restaurant to save her home from foreclosure. After losing a loved one to a preventable medical condition, Amy Vilela didn’t know what to do with the anger she felt about America’s broken health care system. Cori Bush was drawn into the streets when the police shooting of an unarmed black man brought protests and tanks into her neighborhood. Paula Jean Swearengin was fed up with watching her friends and family suffer and die from the environmental effects of the coal industry.

At a moment of historic volatility in American politics, these four women decide to fight back, setting themselves on a journey that will change their lives and their country forever. Without political experience or corporate money, they build a movement of insurgent candidates challenging powerful incumbents in Congress. Their efforts result in a legendary upset.

The upset was, of course, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez’s stunning defeat of incumbent Joseph Crowley in the New York primary on June 26, 2018. As AOC was the only one of the four to win–and has since rocketed to star status–much of the documentary naturally focuses on her. She’s fantastic. I just love her (does any minimally progressive-minded person not?). And her story is moving, particularly at the end, on the night of the primary and then with her in front of the Capitol, talking about her father’s final words to her (he died when she was in college). Reviews of the pic are tops, as one would expect (et en France aussi, par ex., ici et ici). The trailer is here. And here is a 23-minute interview with director Rachel Lears—who, pour l’info, has a Ph.D. in cultural anthropology from NYU—by Cenk Uygur, on the making of the documentary. Do see it, even if you don’t subscribe to Netflix (which may be had for a free one-month trial). This is the future of the Democratic Party.

UPDATE: The Washington Post Magazine (July 10th) has a profile of AOC’s Chief-of-Staff, Saikat Chakrabarti, which is worth the read.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »

%d bloggers like this: