Each week new movies open in New York (and online) by the dozen.
The Voice reviews all of ’em. Here’s some you might not have heard about that got our critics excited.
Critic Diana Clarke relishes — and highly recommends — Joanna Lipper’s documentary The Supreme Price, opening at the Quad Cinema. The film concerns the lives and activism of the children of Nigeria’s deposed president-elect M.K.O. Abiola, who got chucked into prison after appearing to win the 1993 election. Clarke offers praise for the film’s treatment of urgent social issues but also its lyricism:
No hashtag activist, Lipper does an excellent job of using her film as a vehicle for the voices and concerns of Nigerians, and especially of Nigerian women, who are traditionally expected to stay at home while men operate in the public sphere. But Lipper does not limit her camera to political struggles. In one of the loveliest moments in this lean, lucid film, car headlights slice through crowds at night, illuminating a long arm, a length of cloth. In another, Hafsat’s brother reflects on the mosque where four generations of his family have prayed, and Lipper captures the shadows of the men’s bowed bodies.
Not all the critics found films to their liking, of course. This week found critic Simon Abrams in the highest of high dudgeon. His target: Himmler, star of the new Kino Lorber doc The Decent One, which examines Himmler’s correspondence with his wife Margarete – and, as Abrams has it, proves the banality of the banality of evil:
Most of the documents that Lapa quotes from are, as presented, unrevealing – even offensive. In a characteristically obnoxious exchange, Heinrich reminds Margarete to pay their Jewish contractors to expand their home. After Margarete protests that she “[understands] so little of politics. I prefer revenge! Harsh revenge,” she pouts “A Jew remains a Jew! Sometimes I worry about how crass those people are.” Heinrich tries to placate his “charming, cute little wife,” but soon switches gears, and panics about gay Germans: “our ancestors [only had to deal with] a few cases of this perversion and homosexuals were drowned in the swamp.” There’s no greater truth to be gleaned from this upsetting exchange, just a lot of unexamined hatred.
Inkoo Kang is no happier with Nicholas Mross’s doc The Rise and Rise of Bitcoin, a film she calls
…a circle jerk for bitcoin zealots who speak primarily in self-deluded Silicon Valley PR drivel. [Director Nicholas] Mross’ brother Dan is described by his wife as “chang[ing] the world and mak[ing] it better” because he hosts a bitcoin server in his basement. “It’s the smartest people in the room that are the most excited about this,” declare the Winklevoss twins, who just happen to own 1% of all bitcoins. The doc divides the world into two kinds of people: the prophets and the rubes. At a New Hampshire convention, Dan sips from his coffee, smacks his lips, and sighs, “Tastes much better when bought with bitcoins.”
More promisingly, Chris Packham finds Brett Harvey’s pro-legalization pot documentary The Culture High (starring, as Packham puts it, “Snoop Dogg and Ronald Reagan”) uncommonly thoughtful:
It’s strongly anti-prohibition, and the film’s structure favors that bias: Talking-head interview segments with former cops, marijuana smugglers, culture icons, comedians, and legislators address the counterintuitive benefits of marijuana prohibition to criminal enterprise. These are contrasted with video montages of completely ridiculous anti-drug propaganda that include clips of Fox News personalities, Nancys Reagan and Grace, stupid after-school specials and public service announcements intended to terrify children.
Kang finds good intentions but not much else in The Liberator, the Simon Bolivar biopic that is Venezuela’s nominee for the Oscar for best foreign language film:
Played by Edgar Ramirez, this Bolivar isn’t any deeper than the elementary-school version of the hero: He came, he saw, he liberated. Timothy J. Sexton’s bilingual script merely lists the military leader’s triumphs and setbacks, with scant attention paid to dramatic structure or character development.
There’s no dudgeon for Serena Donadoni, who relished Copenhagen, a Mark Raso’s “tender romance about the sliding scale of maturity.” Donadoni writes,
Copenhagen is the exquisitely beautiful feature debut of both writer, director, and editor Mark Raso and cinematographer Alan Poon. They invest familiar tourist attractions (Tivoli Gardens, The Little Mermaid statue) with a personal meaning for [[the film’s lovers]], whose time together allows them to see the city — and themselves — in a new light.
Abrams, meanwhile, isn’t even sure he finds good intentions in The Little Tin Man, writer/director Matthew Perkins’ romantic comedy about a little person actor who decides that he’s going to fight for a part bigger than a Mucnhkin’s in a Scorsese-directed (!) Wizard of Oz:
Herman fights to audition for a much bigger role: the Tin Man. But neither he nor the film give anyone else the respect that he demands. Herman rolls his eyes when flamboyantly gay brother Gregg (Jeff Hiller) comes out of the closet. And to his love interest Miller (Kay Cannon) he mocks heavily-accented Latino friend Juan (Emmanuel Maldonado), warning her not to make fun of Juan’s mispronunciation of “Jewtube.”
Abrams does find one mad quotable — and one ace performance — in the Chinese sex comedy Breakup Buddies:
Just by averting his eyes while muttering “Mr. Cock Boom,” Chinese comedian Huang Bo justifies his status as a record-breaking mega-star in Breakup Buddies, a tone-deaf buddy comedy that’s like 10 by way of Due Date.
(“Mr. Cock Bottom” is the online dating screen name he’s inherited, by which I mean it’s Bo’s, not Abrams’.)
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