Movie Diary 1/18/2021

MLK/FBI (Sam Pollard, 2020). Terrific selection of footage here (the talking heads remain unseen until the very end), as Pollard takes you through the harassment of Martin Luther King Jr. at the hands of J. Edgar Hoover’s FBI. I wanted to know more about how the FBI actually did what it did, as the fascinating facts of King’s life keep tugging us away from the surveillance part of it. A strong summary, nonetheless.

Mangrove (Steve McQueen, 2020). Part of McQueen’s “Small Axe” series, and the longest (over two hours) title. It’s based on a true story of ludicrously biased police and state behavior toward West Indian immigrants, culminating in a 1971 trial. An absolutely splendid cast is led by Letitia Wright and Shaun Parkes; even the non-speaking members of the jury are memorable. McQueen’s approach is straightforward and without any special surprises, rooted in well-chosen details of props and costumes and the infuriating entrenchment of an unfair system.

Education (Steve McQueen, 2020). An hour-long “Small Axe” installment, just as long as it needs to be, its swiftness and brevity part of the charm. The focal point is a 12-year-old boy, obviously bright, who gets dumped into a going-nowhere “special ed” school because of a learning disability (presumably dyslexia). A notable element here is the richness of humor, sometimes erupting in the midst of otherwise serious scenes.

Scruggs, Widows, Beasts (This Week’s Movies)


Tim Blake Nelson: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (courtesy Netflix)

Links to my reviews published this week in the Herald and Seattle Weekly, and etc.

The Ballad of Buster Scruggs. “It’s like a beautifully embroidered needlework laid across a gravesite.” (Herald link here.)

Widows. “tries to be a lot of different things: heist thriller, feminist statement, social-issue diagnosis. That’s a lot to bite off, and 129 minutes isn’t enough time for proper chewing.” (Weekly link here.)

Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of Grindelwald. “Part Two of J.K. Rowling’s latest franchise is a bewildering bummer, a real misstep by this generally sure-footed storyteller.”

Parallax View continues looking at films and reviews from 1998, including my piece on Richard Kiwetnioski’s Love and Death on Long Island. Not a great review on my part, but a somewhat forgotten movie worth remembering.

A Seasoned Ticket offering for Scarecrow Video’s blog, this time a couple of reviews of two smallish Frederick Wiseman films, La danse and Boxing Gym. Read it here.