Film Forum: Sorry We Missed You
The definition of “essential workers” is one that has, for many, changed in the wake of COVID-19. One occupation that has proven essential these days: delivery drivers. Groceries, paper products, other crucial items—all are brought to us by drivers, whose jobs can be challenging under the best of circumstances. Veteran British director Ken Loach’s new film, Sorry We Missed You, addresses the reality of so-called gig economy jobs (“be your own boss!”) and the human costs of our shopping and changing workforce. It follows Ricky, a father whose new freelance delivery job becomes a minefield of impossible deadlines, irate customers, and an unforgiving supervisor. It features outstanding performances by Kris Hitchen (as Ricky) and non-pro Debbie Honeywood (unforgettable as Ricky’s wife Abby, a visiting nurse whose compassion and patience is tested by their increasingly demanding work). Loach, a longtime labor-rights champion and widely acclaimed since his early features Poor Cow (1967) and KES (1969), has sometimes been accused of stridency; here, at age 83, he and screenwriting collaborator Paul Laverty are in pitch-perfect form and couldn’t be more relevant.—Mike Maggiore, Film Forum’s Premieres Programmer.
How to Support Film Forum:
Tune into Film Forum’s Virtual Cinema at filmforum.org, where you can watch Sorry We Missed You and other films. And make a tax-deductible donation at www.filmforum.org.
Belcourt Theatre: Happy Hour
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
It was a few Novembers ago that I received an email regarding the release of a “5+ hour cinematic tour de force drama” from a Japanese filmmaker I’d never heard of. Despondent over another not-unrelated national crisis that had unfolded the evening prior, something about that email hit me just right. I requested a link to view it and dug in almost immediately, not knowing the effect that Rysuke Hamaguchi’s Happy Hour would have on me—and right from the start. This beguiling epic, which chronicles a period of change among four 30-something women in a seaside city, swept me further away than any other film in 2016. Its runtime isn’t a challenge so much as a privilege, and its own reward.—Toby Leonard, the Belcourt Theatre’s Programming Director:
How to Support the Belcourt Theatre: Continue purchasing (and renewing) Belcourt memberships or simply make a donation. And we’ve got a slate of new releases, all listed on the Belcourt website, and virtual ticket purchases help support us as well.
Quad Cinema: Choose Me
Where to Watch: Amazon Prime
There is perhaps no better moment to discover (or rediscover) the films of Alan Rudolph, a decidedly fringe American director whose work luxuriates in the everyday intimacies and intersections we’re all aching for right now. 1984’s Choose Me finds majesty in the lonely and the lovelorn and transforms sentimentality into something utterly seductive, even heroic. Unfolding to the smooth tunes of Teddy Pendergrass, this noir-tinged roundelay glides between the amorous afflictions of a host of characters longing for connection—whether over the phone, in the rain-slicked L.A. streets, or at a gloriously smoky piano bar called Eve’s. Geneviève Bujold plays a radio host who offers romantic counseling to callers but manages to get in the middle of the love-at-first-sight courtship between drifter Keith Carradine and bar owner Lesley Ann Warren. Choose Me was popular at the Quad during its initial run and more recently screened as part of our Rudolph retrospective with the director and Keith Carradine in attendance. The genuine affection between these two collaborators and the audience cast such a glow of warmth and optimism on the theater that we wish we could repeat the evening as the perfect antidote to the quarantine blues.—Emma Myers, Director of Communications / Repertory Programmer & Tair Shachar, Programmer
Cinema Detroit: Slay the Dragon and Extra Ordinary
Slay the Dragon is a road map to the current state of democracy in the U.S. It retraces how, beginning in 2009, the right wing made a power grab through extreme gerrymandering, assisted by the elimination of campaign contribution limits and the unprecedented availability of personal information. That success enabled individuals to get and stay elected to office without being in the least obligated to represent the voters in their districts. It also ultimately led to Trump’s election in 2016. Simultaneously, the film depicts the handful of citizens battling the political establishment to fix this broken system. Slay the Dragon takes a complicated, wonky, and potentially depressing subject and transforms it into compelling viewing that is not without hope.
And if Slay the Dragon is a little too real, or if you need some laughs (and who doesn’t?), may we suggest some cinematic comfort food: The supernatural comedy Extra Ordinary, in which Rose, a sweet, lonely driving instructor with, yes, extraordinary talents, reluctantly re-enters the ghost-busting field, mainly because the local washed-up rock star (Will Forte) has resorted to the dark arts to get famous again. Thus, the forces of good and evil are set on a hilarious, and occasionally poignant, collision course. Extra Ordinary is from Ireland, but just like St. Patrick’s Day, you don’t have to be Irish to have a good time.—Paula Guthat, Co-founder and Programmer
How to Support Cinema Detroit:
Austin Film Society Cinema: Computer Chess
Where to Watch: Rent on Amazon Prime
Sometimes comedy comes at you from unexpected directions. Computer Chess, set in the early ’80s and shot on period-appropriate low-def video tape, is the story of a bunch of university-affiliated computer programming teams gathered in a business class hotel for a weekend of proto-AI gaming who find themselves in a microcosmic culture clash with the touchy-feely new age group that has been double-booked at the same time. The computer nerds, seething to be the first to discover whether a computer program could ever beat a human in a chess tournament, are brought face to face with bigger questions about how technology functions (or doesn’t) in human society. Writer-director Andrew Bujalski, sometimes called the Godfather of Mumblecore for his earlier film experiments, finds a whole new tone here—funny, philosophical, and seductively rewatchable.—Holly Herrick, Head of Film & Creative Media & Lars Nilsen, Lead Programmer
How to Support AFS Cinema:
Jacob Burns Film Center: Becoming Nobody
Where to Watch: Vimeo
As we all now fear that we’re on an accelerated path to Becoming Nobody in the most literal sense—dying—it feels like the perfect moment to bring back this documentary about the deep and wonderful thinking of Ram Dass. He himself passed away just three months ago, not at the hands of COVID-19, but simply because—and this is the part we spend a lifetime forgetting—we all will someday. So as we sit here locked down in our homes—and minds, bodies, and spirits— suddenly confronting the notion that we’re all just passing through, an incredibly simple question emerges: What does it mean to embrace that truth, and does it present an opportunity to enhance the very way we live? Can there be positive purpose in this terrible and unwanted moment? Ram Dass says yes, and approached his own imminent death with a sense of profound and radiant peace that was infectious to many around him. Here, in the film, he’s nothing if not engaging—both wise and funny in the telling.—Brian Ackerman, Programming Director
How to Support Jacob Burns Film Center:
Cinesphere Theatre: Scott Pilgrim vs the World
Where to Watch: Netflix
Edgar Wright’s 2010 action-comedy is one of the most proudly proclaimed Toronto-centric experiences in film. It notes Lee’s Palace, one of the city’s many famous concert venues, as well as Canadian coffee retailer Second Cup, and the ongoing use of loonies and toonies. The cast features Michael Cera, Anna Kendrick, Chris Evans, Brie Larson, and Jason Schwartzman, and the soundtrack artists such as Beck, Plumtree, and Canadian rock band Metric. The visual effects excitedly highlight the comic book origins and make for a stylized romp through Toronto with video game themed fight scenes. It’s fast-paced where it needs to be and allows the story to unfold naturally in time, balancing the up tempo and down tempo of storytelling, with editing to match. For anyone who just wants a great time watching a wild movie, this is one of our favorites.—Tim Hennigar, Project Manager – Production
Museum of the Moving Image: The Muppets Take Manhattan
Where to Watch: Rent on Amazon Prime
For those of us missing the vitality that typifies life in New York City, The Muppets Take Manhattan—Frank Oz’s directorial debut—is a terrific salve. A charming ode to the backstage musical, the film features quintessential New York locations and characters: Central Park, cheerfully rat-infested diners, Mayor Ed Koch, Madison Avenue, Port Authority, Broadway theaters, Liza Minnelli… and, of course, the Muppets! The story follows Kermit and friends as they attempt to “make it” on the great white way. Hilarity ensues, as does a can-do commitment to overcoming adversity, both of which feel particularly precious at the moment. (Who would have imagined the rousing opening musical number “Together Again” would have such a wistful resonance?) Fans have deliberated for decades as to whether the film’s culminating scene, in which Kermit and Miss Piggy get married, is “real” or imagined. Either way, it’s a romantic valentine to the Muppets and to New York.—Barbara Miller, Director of Curatorial Affairs
How to Support MoMI:
Tune in on Saturday, April 18 at 7:00 p.m., when MoMI will host a conversation with Gonzo puppeteer Dave Goelz, about what it was like to bring the Muppets to the streets of NYC. And please consider a donation or becoming a member to help support the museum.
Athens Ciné: Le Bonheur / Happiness and Rear Window
Where to Watch: Le Bonheur / Happiness on Kanopy and rent Rear Window on Amazon Prime
For a truly engaging, summery art film melodrama, Le Bonheur / Happiness by Agnes Varda is stunning. But to simply escape everything, we’d recommend a classic Hitchcock, Rear Window.—Pamela Kohn, Executive Director
How to Support Athens Ciné:
BAM Cinema: Cane River
Where to Watch: BAM’s Virtual Theater
Written and directed by Horace B. Jenkins in 1982, Cane River—a moving and tender Black love story—was long considered lost until it was recently, miraculously rediscovered and restored. It was a hit, with multiple sold-out screenings when we opened it at Brooklyn Academy of Music in February, and we’re delighted to be working with its distributor Oscilloscope Films (which was co-founded by Beastie Boy Adam Yauch) to bring it back for this virtual theatrical engagement. Cane River is a beautiful film, and will be a calm balm in these tough, frantic times.—Ashley Clark, Director, Film Programming, BAM