Moonbase 8 (Showtime)
Written by Fred Armisen, Tim Heidecker, Jonathan Krisel, & John C. Reilly
Directed by Jonathan Krisel
On the surface, I should love this show. I’ve been a big fan of Tim Heidecker’s whole career, John C. Reilly is terrific, and I have enjoyed all the Armisen/Krisle collabs (Portlandia, Documentary Now). Krisel has also directed episodes of Tim & Eric Awesome Show, Great Job!, Check It Out! with Dr. Steve Brule and Baskets. All of this is precisely in my comedy wheelhouse, mainly through the 2000s and 2010s. Ultimately, I enjoyed Moonbase 8 but didn’t necessarily love it.
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Last and First Men (2020)
Written by Jóhann Jóhannsson & José Enrique Macián
Directed by Jóhann Jóhannsson
In 2016, I went to the theater to see Denis Villeneuve’s Arrival. One of the things that stuck with me when the end credits rolled was the haunting score by Jóhann Jóhannsson. Since his first solo album in 2002, the Icelandic composer had already established himself blending traditional orchestra, electronic instruments, and choral elements. Last and First Men would be his only directorial effort. It premiered in early 2020 at the Berlin Film Festival, but Jóhannsson had died in 2018. Toxicology reports showed a lethal combination of cocaine and flu medication in his system. Jóhannsson was only 48 years old.
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Koko Di Koko Da (2020)
Written & Directed by Johannes Nyholm
I’ve recently tried to pin down what specific type of horror that resonates most with me. I know people who love over the top gore and what veers into comedy. Others enjoy the haunted house jumpscare ride experience. The horror I am drawn to is often based on human grief and is a slow burn. It doesn’t fall back onto cheap spooks and actually delivers horrifying moments that sink in and stick with the viewer.
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His House (2020)
Written by Felicity Evans, Toby Venables, and Remi Weekes
Directed by Remi Weekes
In the 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries, Africa’s history is a testament to colonialism’s evil. There are constant think pieces published in the papers and magazines of note in the United States & Europe attempting to figure out what went so wrong for the continent. Recently, I saw one blaming it all on the tsetse fly. Colonists will do everything in their power to not accept their role in creating the horror inflicted upon the African people through the rabid extraction of resources. Sudan is an oil-rich country, and therefore massive conflict exists. Many people from Sudan and refugees that settled there having fled conflicts in their own regions have taken the dangerous trek up the Atlantic with dreams of possibly reaching Europe and the United Kingdom. His House is the story of two of these refugees and the horrors they face in their new home and those they bring with them.
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The Dark and The Wicked (2020)
Written & Directed by Bryan Bertino
I don’t think I like Bryan Bertino’s films. This is the third movie by this director I’ve watched, with the others being The Strangers and The Monster. He simply has no depth to his work. It’s all surface level, atmospheric, yes but with no meaningful character development. The Dark and The Wicked may be his absolute worst film to date. I love horror, especially slow-burn horror; however, it must be building to something. I need to understand and sympathize with the characters to feel something for them when they are tormented. We learn almost nothing about these characters, and so we ultimately don’t care.
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The Kid Detective (2020)
Written & Directed by Evan Morgan
When I was a kid, I was a fairly regular reader of the Encyclopedia Brown book series. Brown was a middle school student who worked as his neighborhood’s local kid detective. Each book had around ten interlinked stories that end on a cliffhanger. The reader is expected to notice an inconsistency in a suspect’s dialogue that hints at their guilt. I can say only once do I remember solving the mystery before checking the back of the book for the answer. Brown has served as an inspiration for many other kid detectives and many satire pieces on the genre recently. I recall The Boy Detective Fails by Joe Meno and Donald Glover’s Mystery Team as pieces of media that touch on the concept of child detectives turned adults.
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Written & Directed by Lee Isaac Chung
I personally find the American Dream to be a complete fantasy, and it basically always was. This fantasy of bootstrap independence leading to wealth & success is a myth. People achieve wealth in the United States on the backs of workers who toil for very little. Now, this is what our culture labels as “success,” but I would that most of us know that the acquisition of money, while definitely alleviating stress tied to providing for our families, crosses a line at some point into exploitation. I would like to define success as creating a life collectively with family and friends. But for so many native-born people and immigrants, the allure of that capitalist myth is so strong they get lost in it and become consumed.
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Written & Directed by Chloe Zhao
It’s tempting to single out 2020 as an exceptionally rough year, but I argue that life for millions of people has been a generational cycle of struggle for as long as anyone can remember. The United States is caught in a cycle of economic recessions that batter people working in the industrial & service industries worse and worse. Writer Jessica Bruder detailed the American subculture of older workers who live in a perpetual state of migration, taking rough menial seasonal labor while living out of RVs and vans. This community first gained prominence in the wake of the 2008 recession, which saw swaths of homeowners losing their homes due to inhumane business practices. Her book details these people’s tragedies and triumphs breaking their backs to make ends meet and keep traveling up the road to the next spot. Most importantly, it highlights how American corporations have made this migrant labor a key component in their business model.
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She Dies Tomorrow (directed by Amy Seimetz)
From my review: She Dies Tomorrow is a profoundly impressionistic film, and writer-director Amy Seimetz is disinterested in conventional explanations or standard narrative structures. This is a mood piece that seeks to explore the ways people process a direct confrontation with their own mortality. Part of what Seimetz is doing is looking at how people choose to spend their time when they know they are going to die. Amy loses all sense of direction or priorities and just wastes away. She mentions being sober for a considerable amount of time but has given it all up now that she believes her life is over.
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