I had a surreal experience watching “The Irishman” (2019). There is a scene of a gangster assassinated while he is eating dinner with his family in a restaurant in New York City’s Little Italy. As I watched I slowly recognized the restaurant and remembered a dinner I had had with my brother and two cousins so many years ago I had forgotten all about it. My memories superimposed themselves on the murder taking place onscreen which I had never known before had happened there. As an Italian American raised in New York one must sometimes wonder, “Have I really been living in a Martin Scorsese film all my life?”
The greatest achievement of Netflix is giving creators a place to put their work. From Martin Scorsese to Ava DeVernay, Netflix has become a creative landing for directors and writers to display their work without the hassle of going through the tired Hollywood process. Dee Rees got to do just that with her second feature "Mudbound" as a Netflix original movie. After her debut "Pariah", which also earned a spot on our Top 50 List, Rees proved her worth and had a much larger market to sell her idea in. It premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in November of 2017, which put it squarely in the Oscars award season. Not that it needed help being premiered at the end of the year, but it helped to gain it four nominations, including two for Mary J. Blige who created an original song for the film.
We are just a couple of months away from the beginning of the end. The Canadian comedy, “Schitt’s Creek” became a hit thanks to the audience Netflix brought. If you have not watched the show yet, now is the time to get started. The show follows the Rose family. Johnny (Eugene Levy) is the patriarch of the family. He obtained his wealth through video stores. Moira (Catherine O’Hara) is the matriarch, who starred on notable soap operas and is a C-list actress. Their children David (Daniel Levy – and Eugene’s own son) and Alexis (Annie Murphy) have never worked a day in their lives. One day, it is learned that the Rose family has lost everything after being defrauded by their business manager. But they do have one asset (no, Moira, not the children) – a small town called Schitt’s Creek that Johnny bought.
“I Lost My Body” (2019) is the first feature film by director Jérémy Clapin. It was shown as part of the “Dare” stream at London Film Festival 2019 which was described as “In-your-face, up-front and arresting: films that take you out of your comfort zone”. That certainly is a good description of this film. The Cannes Critics’ Week Grand Prize winner engages all the senses to take you on a melancholic and emotional journey towards a gruesome end.
Netflix boasts its ability to release a number of comedy specials. If you have seen one special, you kind of get the gist of every other special. The material always differs but the presentation is the same. A comic stands alone, on stage, hoping their zingers land and their poignant messages get across. But when Jenny Slate’s “Stage Fright” landed on Netflix in October 2019, it redefined the comedy special. Slate’s comedy is a certain brand. Watch her in 2014’s “Obvious Child,” and you will understand what you are getting in for. In the film, Slate plays, Donna, an underemployed, struggling comedienne who learns that she is pregnant after a one night stand. The jokes, and delivery, are killer. Slate adds heart to her humor and humor to her heart. The moments read different but all of the same elements are in play.
The 31 days of horro continues with Netflix's Bird Box directed by Susanna Bier. Sandra Bullock leads as the film follows the events of an apocalyptic force making people commit suicide if they look at it.
Steven Soderbergh’s latest offering, “The Laundromat” (2019), is supposedly about the events and circumstances that surrounded the Panama Papers that were released in 2016, yet it manages to teach its audience very little. The movie, directed by Soderbergh, adapts a non-fiction book into a story that isn’t entirely narrative or even episodic. It’s a disjointed and wacky film that feels lacking in a central focus that attempts to illustrate the different types of corruption that the Panama Papers shed light upon. However, even a good performance by Meryl Streep can’t salvage this film.
“Wounds” is Babak Anvari’s latest film--he is a British-Iranian filmmaker best known for his directorial debut in 2017 with the brilliant “Under the Shadow”. Here, he takes the same cultural critique approach of that film and uses that framework to critique millennials. “Wounds” is based on Nathan Ballingrud’s novella, “The Visible Filth”--which I haven’t read, but if the conclusions this film draws are similar to those of the source material, then by god, I want it on my kindle NOW.
Based on a novel of the same name by Susanna Jones, “The Earthquake Bird” (2019) is a neo-noir slow-burn psychological thriller based in Tokyo in 1989. Lucy Fly (Alicia Vikander) is an ex-pat living and working in Tokyo creating the Japanese subtitles to English films. She falls in love with a local photographer Teiji (Naoki Kobayashi) but suspects her friend Lily (Riley Keough) of having an affair with him. Lily goes missing and Lucy is taken into questioning by the police, suspected of murder.