Annihilation

Annihilation. I dig it. Interesting to see scifi that leans so much on biology. One of those slower exploratory scifi movies that later gets crossed with some truly horrific gore (Stalker meets The Thing?). Great score, especially the climactic scenes. The music was so… three-dimensional. It felt novel somehow to have a discernible rhythm in there, not a long fermata.

Creed

Creed. Loved it. Loooooooooooved it. I’d put it up there with the original. Jordan and Thompson leads radiate young beautiful blackness. There’s nothing new in the plotting of their story, but I love how they grow together. They each have their own thing cooking, neither one gives it up, and they find a way to show up for each other. Stallone – and I love how these movies can’t help but be autobiographical – is solid, that ideal Balboa mix of tough and noble and vulnerable. Interesting naming of Jordan’s lead. I was thinking Adonis complex, but rather than driven by misperceived appearance, it’s a deeper shame from ancestry, or maybe even just existing in the first place. Also ties in with rebirth pattern you see in the myths: the son and the franchise. Love the camera tracking in the first big fight, and its willingness in calmer scenes to sit back and bit and not shove faces in your, uh, face. Also dig the fun details like the stat cards for rival boxers. Why not? Even the triumphantly corny moment with the biker kids taps into something so local and specific you can’t argue with it. I was ready to fight. One of my favorites this year.

Selma

Selma. Amazing stuff. Mad respect for movies that take inherently interesting subjects, and then actually measure up. Not just summarizing the events, but giving them dramatic weight. Not just telling what their goal is, but something of their emotional life. (cough) One particularly refreshing thing in this movie: seeing religion treated as a source of solace and comfort. Another thing that struck me about both is the “period” look. Selma a bit sepia and has this constant lens distortion at the edge of the frame (you can see it in the still above). I saw The Imitation Game the day before, and noticed its own “historic” palette is desaturated, but with some hues just exploding, like they were manually re-tinted black-and-whites. In both cases the movies resemble some extant photographs from those times. Which is a bit odd. Like, the world itself wasn’t sepia or desaturated back then. Just got me thinking of whether that “period look” that helps transport us back in the storytelling could also over-distance us from the events and the people. Hems them in, keeps them at arms length, makes it easier to see and forget when we need to remember.

Dear White People

Dear White People. Not what I expected, and in a good way. I was thinking it would be more of a gimmick comedy that would burn out. Lots of good stuff about identity and affiliation. But… it’s also insanely likeable. Like you’ve been watching some really charming people spit some talking points you already agree with. Part of me wonders if I should leave the theater feeling more uncomfortable than I did. The funny is never uncomfortably accusing, the drama feels like it pulls a few punches, too. It has a more distinctive cinematography than I expected. Also, gotta say that I’ve done a 100% about-face on Tessa Thompson. I hated her character in the Veronica Mars TV series soooooo much that it blinded me to her talent and how the camera can’t ignore her. Great turn here. I am reminded of my childhood crush on Denise Huxtable.