Movie Diary 1/3/2021

Red, White and Blue and Alex Wheatle (Steve McQueen, 2020). Two more from McQueen’s “Small Axe” project, both somewhat conventional in subject matter but unusual in structure; each film leaves out the part where the beleaguered hero comes out of his difficult circumstances to triumph over adversity. Fair enough, and the final scene of Alex Wheatle is very moving in its own quiet way, as a hard-luck jailbird takes a step toward becoming a writer.

Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom (George C. Wolfe, 2020). I don’t think this one lives as a movie (the very look and texture of it is somehow shrill), but the words and actors are fascinating, and Chadwick Boseman is electric in his final performance. August Wilson seems to have been one of those playwrights who conceived so specifically for the stage that a certain amount of tension inevitably escapes when the cameras roll.

Da 5 Bloods (Spike Lee, 2020). The customary Lee process of throwing every damn thing he can think of at the screen, leading to a series of preposterous and sometimes powerful moments. Delroy Lindo elevates the material with a mighty, fully-realized performance; his character looks huger than everyone else, as though pumped up with a lifetime of trauma and resentment.

Borat Subsequent Moviefilm (Jason Woliner, 2020). Some of it is cringey and unpleasant, some very funny, and the more scripted parts are good (the film posits an excellent theory for how and why Covid-19 came to the world).

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