June 24, 2021

Movie critic, Curt

Ginnie and I have seen some great movies lately right in the comfort of our own home. Why risk catching or spreading something? I may never leave home again.

“News of the World” with Tom Hanks. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bad Hanks’ movie. We watched “News of the World” On Demand twice and it was just as entertaining the second time. Neither Ginnie nor I realized that, following the Civil War, there were actually people who traveled from town-to-town, like minstrels, reading newspapers to the news-starved public, either because the general public was illiterate or didn’t have access to newspapers. I give “News of the World” four stars.

“Nomadland” is Frances McDormand in, if not her finest role, at least as good as the role she played in “Fargo” for which she received an Academy Award as Best Actress. We watched “Nomadland” on Hulu. Watching it a second time, I must admit, in my opinion, it didn’t hold up as well. Ginnie was still hooked. A friend of mine watched it six times in two days (COVID isolation) and still couldn’t get enough. “Nomadland” received Golden Globe Awards for Best Picture and Best Director. Its appeal, I think, comes from our own trapped feelings of isolation, independence, wanderlust, regret and loss. Packaged in superb acting, a great storyline and mood-setting cinematography, “Nomadland” gets four stars.

“Queens Gambit” is a marvelously performed miniseries on Netflix that’s quite entertaining, even if you don’t know a thing about the game of chess, like Ginnie and me. Starring AnaTaylor-Joy (some critics say she’s too pretty for the role of a chess nerd), the movie is about more than chess. It’s about addiction, overcoming obstacles, finding true worth and looking life in the eye. I haven’t watched it a second time (but I want to), so I don’t know how well it holds up on a second viewing. It’s all subjective anyway. I understand “Queens Gambit” is a great book — I might read it. The miniseries is only seven episodes long, so it’s good for a straight day of binge-watching if you have the time, or spread over a couple of evenings if you have a busy schedule. I give “Queens Gambit” four stars.

“Unorthodox” on Netflix is my favorite miniseries. I’m watching it a second time right now as I write this, and it’s even better the second time though because I’m understanding the Hasidic Jewish Yiddish a little better. I have my hearing aids turned up and the closed captioning helps. I’m absolutely captivated by starring actress, Shira Haas, who looks more like an undernourished, small boy. (Movie stars can look like normal people, you know, although it’s an unusual Hollywood portrayal. McDormand in “Nomadland” does a good job of the normal-person look, too.) Four-stars-plus for “Unorthodox.”

The best “sleeper” might be “Our Friend” with Casey Affleck (Ben Affleck’s brother and better actor). I’ve been hooked on Casey Affleck ever since “Manchester by the Sea,” mainly because I identify with the underdog roles Casey Affleck plays. On Demand carries “Our Friend” and I’d watch it a second time if Ginnie would let me. She likes more of the action roles like brother Ben Affleck plays. Four stars for “Our Friend.”

Honorable Mentions (two stars) go to “The United States vs Billie Holiday” and “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” As far as Billie Holiday movies go, in my opinion, Diana Ross did a better job of portraying Billie Holiday in “Lady Sings the Blues” back in 1972. But that dates me. I didn’t much care for Viola Davis in “Ma Rainey’s Black Bottom.” I thought Davis did a better job in movies like “The Help” and “Fences.” Ginnie disagrees with me here on both movies, empathizing strongly with minority female singers. So be it. As long as Ginnie keeps cook’n, I’ll keep look’n.

Movie theaters can shut down. With big screens, add-on speakers and remotes with “pause” and “rewind,” why roam when you can stream at home?

Contact Curt Swarm at curtswarm@yahoo.com