The weekends just make everything better. After days of feeling like I needed to sacrifice sleep to keep the project going uninterrupted, today was my first day to just sit and watch films with no other obligations. With a full day to dedicate to watching, it only made sense to start it out by watching the second half of a mini-series I had started before.
When They See Us (2019, Dir. Ava DuVernay)
Ava DuVernay’s 5-hour epic about the Central Park Five was among the best films (it’s a mini-series but I’m counting it as a movie) I watched this month. The story of the young men who were wrongfully convicted was well know by the time of the film’s release and was somewhat recently back on people’s mind as the president at the time was extremely outspoken about wanting the death penalty for the boys; this is actually a fact that the filmmakers were well aware of and couldn’t help including reference to (which also happens to be the only thing I could have really done without in the film). Regardless of how well known the case may have been, the film amplifies its message and shows brings the terror to life.
In the first of four episodes, I had a slight hesitation to the series. I was worried that DuVernay was turning the prosecutors into impossibly evil people. The almost cartoonish style could have been a hinderance to the film’s message, but in context it works. Even if the prosecutors weren’t attempting to act as supervillains, what they did was undeniably evil, and so the acting decision works as part of a whole. DuVernay captures the terror and torture that the five young boys were subjected to and how their lives were changed irrevocably because of it.
After finishing the mini-series, I turned my attention to my seemingly unending collection of films that I own but have not yet watched and started a new trilogy. Anticipate the other two features coming in quick succession.
Alice in the Cities (1974, Dir. Wim Wenders)
Alice in the Cities is the first film in Wim Wenders The Road Trilogy and is one of the best films I’ve ever seen. That may be slightly hyperbolic, but not by much. I just have a thing for movies about miserable people making their way through the world and maybe becoming a little less miserable. Philip (Rüdiger Vogler) is the miserable protagonist for this film, and it’s when he is saddled with Alice (Yella Rottländer) that he’s given an opportunity to improve.
Alice in the Cities succeeds as a meaningful depiction of this type by its ability to sulk in silence. Philip’s melancholy leaves him sullen in contrast to Alice’s bubblier persona. This means that frequently the film will linger with Philip with no dialogue spoken. Just a static shot of his face with the passing background speaks volumes about his mindset and the human condition. Alice’s young joy act not just as a catalyst for Philip’s change, but as a glimpse into the eye of a child attempting to live in a world that adults only make difficult for them. These contrasting viewpoints work as perfect foil for each other and lend the film depth and complexity. It’s just a perfect film.
Finally for the night, I once again ventured into the Oscar short lists and grabbed another short form documentary from the list to watch in prep of the eventual Oscar nominations
A Love Song for Latasha (2020, Dir. Sophia Nahil Allison)
The documentary shorts continue to be some of the most difficult films to talk about. There tends to not be much artistically unique about any of them, but A Love Song for Latasha does stand out in one way. Throughout the runtime, director and editor Sophia Nahil Allison plays with various camera distortions. This distortion comes to a climax with the documentary’s narrative. When the subject matter becomes to dark to imagine, the camera breaks and no longer attempts to recreate what is being discussed. It’s too painful to even comprehend.