A 2021 Film Journey: Day 44

There’s so much snow outside; I woke up to a window of nothing but white. The perfect setting for some extended movie watching. While wanting to stay toasty under the covers for all of the morning ate into my movie watching time, I still managed to make today my first multi film day of the month.

Timbuktu (2014, Dir. Abderrahmane Sissako)

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I started the snow day out with a film set entirely in the desert. Timbuktu was a film which managed to blend graphic and depressing imagery with absurdity in a way that enhances the message rather than distract. In the film, the city of Timbuktu has been occupied by extremist jihadists. The film has little respect for the occupiers, much of the film is made of scenes of Timbuktu citizens resisting the archaic sharia law. A dozen young men pantomiming a football game without the forbidden ball stands out as a farcical gag at the jihadist’s expense. Unfortunately, as is reflective of reality, rule by religious extremists often ends in tragedy, and Timbuktu is no different as many lose their lives to the strict laws.

While everything that I had watched up to this point this month has been by a Black filmmaker, I made the decision that movies after the first for a day I’d allow a little more flexibility to. In particular, the next film was one that I have been waiting for since the end of last year but just became available recently.

Saint Maud (2021, Dir. Rose Glass)

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From one film about religious extremists to another, Saint Maud is another excellent offering in the A24 horror film collection. Were it not for the opening image of a blood covered Maud (Morfydd Clark) and one flashback near the hour mark, the film’s last second horror turn would have been completely unexpected. That’s not to say that director Rose Glass failed at making a horror film, far from it. The film is immaculately paced. Hints that not all is right with Maud are sprinkled routinely enough that when the film takes a graphic turn it’s not surprising, but rather a poignant payoff to subtle story telling. While I wouldn’t call it one of my favorites of the A24 horror offerings, it’s still an excellent viewing.

I mentioned early in the year that I make a goal of watching every film nominated for an Oscar each year. This year’s Oscar nominations are still a way out, but the short lists were announced recently, so I set out to get a head start on the animated shorts.

Burrow (2020, Dir. Madeline Sharafian)

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This short was really cute. A relative minimalist bunny sets out to dig their home only to be greeted by many other animals make their underground homes in the same area. The increasingly elaborate housing systems of the animals underground remind me of the visuals from Wes Anderson’s Fantastic Mr. Fox (2009), and the teamwork between the animals is just as sweet. Most importantly, I now also share the bunny’s want for a disco bathroom.

Kapaemahu (2020, Dir. Dean Hamer, Joe Wilson, and Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu)

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Kapaemahu is a beautifully animated story of Hawaiian folklore. While I mostly enjoyed it, I worry that the eight-minute short attempted to do a bit more than the very short runtime afforded. The short begins with it’s strength of telling the story of the legendary mahu who brought their healing arts to Hawaii. And while that story, told in the native Hawaiian language, was fascinating, with only a couple minutes remaining the film jumps to present time to lecture on lost heritage. While not necessarily a mistake to do so, the film ended up feeling rushed by attempting to staple that coda on the end.

Out (2020, Dir. Steven Clay Hunter)

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I know I should be happy that Disney finally made something so gay that it would be impossible for them to cut it in a way to get past the censors in China, but they relegated it to a short, and it falls into the same tired cliché of an adult afraid to come out to his parent. Just because Disney is only now accepting the existence of gay people doesn’t mean I’m ready to pretend it’s the 90s for them.

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