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NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #3: Michelle Pfeiffer, Scene-Stealing Cats, and More Steve McQueen

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

The problem with doing festival dispatches more or less organized by your watch schedule is that you inevitably wind up feeling like you left something out. This year’s missed opportunity: When I caught up with The Woman Who Ran, it seemed like an obvious companion to The Calming. The latter, as covered here, is about a woman traveling around and retreating into solitude where she can find it. Hong Sang-soo’s The Woman Who Ran is about a woman (Kim Minhee) in a similar state, but with a more socially oriented structure: Spending time apart from her husband for the first time since they were married, she visits three different figures from her past. The scenes are long, chatty, sometimes awkward, and sometimes revealing; the best one only tangentially involves the lead character, as one of her friends has a polite but strained disagreement with a new neighbor about whether it’s reasonable for her to feed stray cats. (Great cat acting forms a punchline that somehow felt unexpected even though it’s the natural endpoint.) It’s less aesthetically pleasing than The Calming, as well as less, well calming, but it also generates some minor, compelling mysteries from these glimpses into the characters’ lives. (It’s also even shorter, at 80 minutes! Lots of below-90 runtimes in this year’s NYFF, as if the programmers knew viewers might be fitting in their viewings into an increasingly tricky jigsaw puzzle of at-home viewing.)
Continue reading NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #3: Michelle Pfeiffer, Scene-Stealing Cats, and More Steve McQueen

NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #2: Mangrove and Nomadland

Jesse is a cofounder of SportsAlcohol.com even though he doesn't care for sports or alcohol. His favorite movie is Ron Howard's The Paper. I think. This is what happens when you don't write your own bio. I know for sure likes pie.

Neither Nomadland nor Mangrove are set right now, or even just before right now, in 2019, which is where I’ve mentally sorted any otherwise-very-contemporary stories that, naturally, do not feature multiple characters wearing masks and keeping their distance. Nomadland is specifically set during an election year that now feels like the distant past, taking place mostly over the course of 2012. Mangrove is a real-life courtroom drama that takes place in 1970. Yet–big sigh, deep breath, and then maybe another sigh–both of these New York Film Festival entries are plenty appropriate for our current moment, in ways that alternately seem complementary and diametrically opposed. Chloé Zhao’s Nomadland is all about our old friend “economic anxiety,” albeit treated with unusual gentleness, while Steve McQueen’s Mangrove is about the kind of racist, violent police harassment that has inspired countless protests in 2020. Both of them have plenty of opportunities to come across as hamfisted in one way or another, and both of them succeed in ways that are somehow both straightforward and oddly miraculous.
Continue reading NYFF58 At-Home Dispatch #2: Mangrove and Nomadland