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drama

Daphne – Peter Mackie Burns (2017)

The story was written bij a second cousin of my girlfriend. That is another way to find a film.

Daphne (Emily Beecham) is a young adult living in London. She fills her life with a job at a restaurant, drinks, drugs, hook-ups and when she has the time, friends. Habits go over in boredom which goes over in apathy; especially when she finds herself in a situation in which she ‘should feel something’, but she does not.

And so the movie goes from showing a lively young woman, to a doubting woman drowning herself in misery. People around her notice the change, but she is not ready to accept help.

As you can see, a very ‘normal’ story, nicely portraid. The film is not too melodramatic.

Three Thousand Years Of Longing – George Miller (2022)

Alithea (Tilda Swinton) is a happy, single “narratologist”. When in Turkey for a conference, she buys a bottle which proves to contain a Djinn (Idris Elba).

The Djinn likes to tell stories, Alithea of course does so too, so the film is presented as a story in which stories are told. We hear how the Djinn found himself trapped in a bottle three times, all times ’caused’ women. As the Djinn tells his story, so does Alithea culminating into a shared life.

Miller’s film is slow and somewhat dreamy, romantic in the sense that the two spirits find their similarities.

After Yang – Kogonada (2021)

The second film I saw last weekend with Colin Farrell. This is more of his usual sad face, slow movies. “After Yang” is a pretty science fiction, a bit of an arthouse movie. Slow, minimalist, a bit of an odd story that is created to make you think.

Yang from the title is a robot who acts as a brother of a Chinese adoptive girl in the near future. Yang is ‘refurbished’ but when he stops, there is not really a guarantee plan. Mika is inconsolable for she lost her brother who she has known all her life (but knows well that he was a robot). Mother and father think that is time to spend more time with the family instead of having a robot raise their kid. Still, the father sets out to try to find a fix for Yang, only to find out that Yang was a serious privacy issue, which raises other dilemmas.

“After Yang” is a nicely shot film about a subject I think the viewer can relate to to a certain extend. It raises some questions and then just stops.

Indeed, “arthouse”. A nice one.

A Man Called Otto – Marc Forster (2022)

  • drama

Tom Hanks is Otto, a man who lost his wife and with her also his will to live. Otto was an unexciting youth who managed to win the heart of a beautiful woman. They lived a happy life, but with a big drama. As a widower Otto knows nothing to do but to go about his daily, grumpy, routine and planning to join his wife.

Otto lives in a closed street which is some sort of community. Then he gets new neighbors in the form of a young Mexican couple with two little daughters and a third child on the way. They soon get to know cranky Otto, but Marisol (either consciously or not) manages to break a hole in the wall that Otto built around him. It does take a while before she learns how Otto became the man that he is though.

I thought “A Man Named Otto” would be a tragi-comedy. Indeed, chagrin Otto is in some ways funny, but his is mostly tragic. What is perhaps the heaviest part of the film, is that Otto is just the guy down your street. There is no big story in the film. Otto, Marisol and her family, the neighbors from the street are the common man. A teacher, an immigrant, somebody’s son, nothing fancy there. The same goes for Otto. He is a mechanic, his wife was a teacher; together they tried to keep their neighborhood clean. Life was easy and good while it lasted, life was but life after. Otto’s story is painfully relatable and so are (some of) the other characters in the film, which makes the tragedy quite heart-felt.

Valley Of The Gods – Lech Majewski (2019)

A bit of a weird film (can I say “arthouse”?) apparently based on a Navajo story. A beautiful valley is inhabited by ‘Amerindians’. It is their valley of the Gods. Nearby is an encroaching city where industrialists have their eyes on some mineral that can be found in the valley. The main company with interest is headed by the wealthiest man on earth who lives on top of a nearby mountain.

John Ecas is a writer with not too much inspiration. Then the project of a biography of this wealthy man (Wes Tauros, played by John Malkovich) comes up, for which he is going to spend some time in Tauros’ castle.

Tauros is not the dogged materialist that you may expect and Ecas also wants to look at the Navajo’s side of the story. Thus a mix between Navajo mythology and utopian/dystopian future Western culture unfolds both in the story and in the way of filming.

An interesting watch.

The Queen’s Gambit – Scott Frank (series 2022)

The highly intelligent Beth Harmon has a troubled mother that first causes her to lose her father and later her mother as well. She ends up in an orphanage at the age of nine. In the basement she encounters the janitor playing chess. Reluctantly he teaches her the game. Beth proves to be a prodigy and her chess-star soon rises.

By the time Beth becomes a young woman, she is played by the beautiful Anya Taylor-Joy.

We follow Beth both as a growing chess player, but also as a young woman coming of age. Sensitive to the temptations of drugs and alcohol, perfectionist, single minded and a bad loser. In the series we see Beth in good and bad times, Taylor-Joy wonderfully portraying Beth’s ups and downs.

Of course the game of chess is central to the series, but I do not know if you will learn much of the game. The plays are extraordinary fast and theories are explained, but my own knowledge of the game are too limited to tell if all that is very educational. The series are set in the wonderful 1960s with colourful wallpaper and furniture, design dresses, odd haircuts, nice cars and new music.

According to the series, the ‘chess scene’ in the USA is of alright level. Beth can make a living playing chess, but the biggest US tournaments are played in universities using “cheap plastic pieces on cheap plastic boards”. Europe is better, bigger tournaments are in Paris. Russia is the top-notch chess country, so the series end in Moskou.

Taylor-Joy is indeed great (she won several prices for her role), other characters (such as Jolene) as well. The creators managed to make chess games actually look tense with a lot of ‘facial acting’. The story unfolds nicely. Indeed a good series that for some reason are listed as “Creating the Queen’s Gambit” on IMdB.com.

The Dig – Simon Stone (2021)

Before she lost her husband, the wealthy widow Edith Pretty bought a piece of land next to her house where a few tiny hills were located. She asks the local and fairly well-known amateur archaeologist Basil Brown to come to investigate.

After some digging, Brown stumbled upon what appears to be the remains of a boat which he suggests could be Anglo-Saxon. Soon colleagues get wind of the discovery and two musea try to take over the project. Pretty sees to it that Brown remains involved in the further excavation which proves to be the finding of the nowadays famous Sutton Hoo ship and treasure.

The time is 1938. Europe is tumbling into the Second World War. Time for the excavation is short the signs of the war become more and more obvious. Pretty suffers from bad health, but tries to use her influence as long as possible. In the end, she cannot prevent other people than Brown receiving the credits for the spectacular finding and the film is an hommage to the man and his work.

“The Dig” is an alright drama about an interesting historical event. As a viewer you do not really become much wiser about the finding and especially not of the ‘treasure’. No image of what was found and what the findings look like.

Russian Doll – Headland, Lyonne, Poehler (2 series) (2019, 2020)

Meet Nadia Vulvokov an American of Russian and Hungarian descent on the party for her 36th birthday. Nadia is a free-minded, big red hair and smoking cool lady. On her party she dies and returns to the party and then again, and again. She finds out how to prevent dying, but she keeps doing so in different situations. Sometimes a ’round’ takes an hour, sometimes a few days. Then she finds out she is not alone in her situation. Season one is amusing.

In season two, Nadia is transported back in time into her mother’s body when she takes a certain train. The creators used some interesting music choices for 1982. Did you ever hear Danzig in a series? The track “Mother” is from 1988 though, but I will not complain.
In any case, season two is somewhat amusing as well. Towards the end it gets vague and a lot better.

Not wildly original or great, but a descent twist to a fairly known story with an odd and lovable chain smoker.

The Young/New Pope (series) – Paolo Sorrentino (2016 2019)

Sorrentino created two short series about the Vatican, produced by Jude Law who also plays the leading part. I guess he really wanted to play the Pope.

The Vatican cannot decide on who will be the new Pope, so as a solution they pick a young (50 years old) cardinal who can be easily directed. Not so. Pope Pius XIII does everything the Vatican does not want. He is not overly progressive, but rather extremely conservative taking the Church back ages in history scaring away the believers in order to create a mystery that will in the end bring them back.

When Pius XIII is just about to become appreciated he is no longer able to lead the Church and he is replaced by two new Popes in the second series, played by John Malkovich.

The series make an amusing critical view on how the Vatican works. The powerful men behind the scenes, manipulation, politics, the way Italian politics try to interfere, how the outside world (women’s rights, homosexuality, Muslim terrorism, etc.) effects the Church.

All this is done with witty dialogues, uncommon choices of music, a thick layer of ‘artsy fartsy’ filming and themes, a touch of melancholy, humour, sensual women, you get it, this is really a Sorrentino production.

Lucifer (series) – Tom Kapinos (2016-2021)

The devil is on vacation in the city of angels (LA) and he intends to stay. As the playboy Lucifer Morningstar he owns a club called Lux and he has no lack of money. Filling his time with partying and women, Lucifer runs into the detective Chloe Decker who is somehow immune to his “mojo”. Fascinated as he is, Lucifer joins forces with “the detective” in the LAPD.

A long stretched storyline which is bound to lead to a Lucifer/Decker romance unfolds with plenty of sub-plots, laughter and drama. The series start off as a bit of ‘screwball’ with a fairly childish devil who thinks the world revolves around him and who -even though he never lies- nobody believes to be the devil anyway. That will change though.

Lucifers family also starts to visit earth. To mock him, to try to get him back, sometimes to stay. Lighter and darker storylines develop and the inspiration for all that does not seem all Christian, rather Jewish perhaps.

Anyway, some sub-plots are interesting, some less so. The red thread is sometimes interesting, sometimes less so. There are amusing characters, characters that undergo a big transformation during six seasons. Some come and go, some come to stay. The biggest transformation is for Lucifer himself.

There is the obligatory enlarged drama, that for some reason sometimes ‘works’. There are some interesting musical choices in the soundtrack too. Also there are a lot of scenes that made me say ‘fast forward please’. All in all the series are good enough to keep watching.

So drama, romance, thriller, action, it is all there. Highs and lows; making the final score the average: