In the latest edition of Quick Hits, I take a look at an acclaimed indie drama that missed its mark for me, a 1970s film that pushed the envelope for what content is acceptable in mainstream films, and a Yorgos Lanthimos thriller that is genuinely chilling.
Year: 2020 | Rating:
I must say, I am genuinely shocked by how much I didn’t enjoy this film. Given all of the praise that it received and the fact that it’s a family drama, I really expected Minari to be right up my alley. And honestly? I feel shallow for saying this, but I think that growing vegetables in Arkansas can only be so interesting, even for a transplant Korean family.
Add to that an ending that really doesn’t work for me, and a strange, glossy aesthetic that felt like it was constantly taking me out of the 1980s Bible Belt, and well…here we are.
I should add that I think it’s interesting how much praise Minari received in 2020 compared to the backlash that CODA received for winning Best Picture in 2021, considering that I think that there’s a lot of similarities between the two films. Personally, I had a deeper emotional connection with and was more invested in the story of the latter than the former, but they really are alike in a lot of ways. Just something interesting that I thought I’d point out.
Language: English, Korean
Runtime: 1 hr. 55 min.
Director: Lee Isaac Chung
Starring: Steven Yeun, Han Yeri, Youn Yuh-jung, Will Patton, Noel Kate Cho
Year: 1971 | Rating:
Riding the high after watching the masterpiece that is Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966), I decided to give another Mike Nichols film with a reputation of being provocative and envelope-pushing a shot, and…well, my experience was not so positive with Carnal Knowledge, I’m afraid.
Whereas Virginia Woolf? feels like a film that was way ahead of its time and a precursor to an entire era of American film that followed it, Carnal Knowledge very much feels like a product of 1971. Jonathan (Jack Nicholson) and Sandy (Art Garfunkel) are both obviously meant to symbolize how misogyny and chauvinism can manifest in all kinds of men (even the “nice” ones), but damn, watching these two pieces of shit wear down the women in their lives is an exhausting experience. It doesn’t help that Garfunkel is a terrible actor, especially when up against the tour de force that is Nicholson.
But beyond all of that, this is just a dull film, man. Nicholson and Ann-Margret’s big blow-out scene and the end of the film with Rita Moreno notwithstanding, there’s not much to latch onto here, especially in comparison to Nichols’ earlier films. The historical context of the Supreme Court case that resulted from the release of this film is more interesting than the film itself, which is never a good thing.
Genre: Romance, Drama
Runtime: 1 hr. 38 min.
Director: Mike Nichols
Starring: Jack Nicholson, Candice Bergen, Art Garfunkel, Ann-Margret, Rita Moreno
The Killing of a Sacred Deer
Year: 2017 | Rating:
Well, one thing that’s certain when watching a Yorgos Lanthimos film is that it’s going to be quite unlike anything you’ve ever seen before. It’s funny, because barely two weeks ago, I wrote in my review for The Lighthouse (2019) that films that rely heavily on thriller and horror elements often don’t work for me because rather than be creeped out or frightened, I tend to get bored. Here’s the exception to that rule, I guess, because parts of The Killing of a Sacred Deer had the hair on my arms standing up (Barry Keoghan’s performance, in particular, is spine-chilling).
I don’t think that this film works for me quite as well as The Lobster (2015) or, especially, The Favourite (2018) (which I consider a masterpiece), mostly because unlike those films, I don’t necessarily feel like there’s a lot for me to chew on after the fact. It’s creepy, sure, but I didn’t find the philosophical depth here that I so appreciated in the other films of Lanthimos that I’ve seen. And that’s okay. Not every movie needs to stick with me for days after seeing it. It’s just think that it’s an interesting point of comparison.
Still, this is absolutely one of the most effective psychological thrillers I’ve ever seen, and considering that it’s a genre that rarely appeals to me, that’s no small praise. Lanthimos is clearly one of the most unique filmmakers working today, and I can’t wait to see what he cooks up with Poor Things (2022…hopefully) and beyond.
Genre: Drama, Thriller, Mystery
Runtime: 2 hr. 1 min.
Director: Yorgos Lanthimos
Starring: Colin Farrell, Nicole Kidman, Barry Keoghan, Raffey Cassidy, Bill Camp