Sunday, January 09, 2022

Seen in November (of 2021)

It's a mother and son reunion in Dune. Image via The Movie Db.

This just isn't my first post of 2022 but also my first post in almost two months. When I started this blog nineteen years ago, it was the only place I shared or wrote anything. Now, I keep a cartoon diary on Instagram, post on Twitter, write a newsletter once a month and sometimes post here. Additionally, in late November and early December I spend most of my time putting together the curiously verbose and Absurdly Quotidian Omnibus. Something has to give. This watch list is short but hopefully sweet.

What to say of Denis Villeneuve's adaptation of the, up until now, unfilmable Frank Herbert Sci-fi classic? I guess that he found a way to film it. Undoubtedly, some will find this film slow, uninteresting, and bloated. There are also some who would claim the film is unfaithful to the source material. Who am I to say? I never read the books. I can only judge what I saw with my own eyes. Dune is one of the few films I've seen in a theatre since March 2019 and one I've been waiting to see. The scale of the film demands to be seen on the big screen. Visually, it is utterly compelling. As to the story, this is perhaps the clearest the plot of Dune has ever been to me and the stellar cast is well employed.

For Anothy Bourdain, it was more about the people and the place than the food. Image via The Movie Db.

This is the documentary about the life and times of one of the most respected and loved restaurant and travel writers, Anthony Bourdain. The film covers his life from a line cook to head chef at a popular New York eatery to celebrity. His life of sweat, knife work and heroin addiction was left behind when one of his long and winding e-mails was forwarded to a publisher. His book, Kitchen Confidential, took him to the world of food and travel writing that began a career that saw him on the road for 250 days of the year and took him to places such as the Congo, Libya, Paris, and yes, even Newfoundland. The film tries to understand why such a successful man would take his own life, but as one friend put it, "We don't get to know."

Simu Liu showing how it's done. Image via The Movie Db

Shang-Chi and the Legend of the Ten Rings
Another Marvel marvel. The studio has taken another lesser known comic book character, with less than ideal treatment of Asian American characters, and has made an inclusive and action-packed film. One of their successes with this film is that it doesn't feel like the first Asian American super-hero flick and neither does it feel like some cheap copy of epic Chinese martial arts films. The action starts on a runaway bus but never lets up on the gas. Now, it should be said, if these Marvel super-hero films don't appeal to you, then count this as one of those films. On the other hand, if you do enjoy these films, then there is a lot to like here. Chiefly, the stunt and fight scenes are really so much better than than other Marvel films, and there is barely a pause between one stunt sequence and the next.

Man with best friend. Image via The Movie Db

The Truffle Hunters
An atmospheric documentary that introduces us to several aging men and their faithful truffle hunting companion dogs. I've heard people say they don't want to simply be in a forest, but feel "of" the forest. These men and their dogs are creatures of the forest. It seems without any exaggeration that these men (why all men?) are really only using the business of truffle gathering as an excuse to spend all day walking in the woods with their dogs.

Paris 1919
This documentary film is based on the book of the same name by renowned Canadian historian Margaret MacMillan about The Paris Peace Conference of 1919. Following the Great War that ravished Europe the major powers of Great Britain, France, the United States and Italy sought reparations from Germany and an accord that they hoped would keep the peace and redraw the maps of the world for decades. The complexity of this event has been distilled down to the signing of the treaty at Versailles but it is far more than that. Unfortunately this is two movies in one. One film, a traditional documentary with exceptionally sourced and edited archival footage with a dour and serious voiceover and the other, with poorly acted, staged, and directed live action re-enactments. Take a pass on this doc, but if you want to know more about this history, check out either MacMillan's lectures or her book.

Two of the many fine performances in Fargo, Season 3. Image via The Movie Db

Fargo S03
This anthology crime series based on the Coen brothers film, where one season has only the weakest connection with the next, continues to entertain. Season 03 sees Ewan McGregor playing two brothers; one successful and the other, not so much. The ambitions of both brothers lead them on a collision course with fate, coincidence and violence. The show maintains its quality, trademark dark humour, drama and compelling characters.

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