Welcome back to my Home Movies! This week, we have not just the best slate of the year so far, but the best crop of new releases in a very long time. The cream of the crop is Spencer, with Dune and especially Mass not far behind. Even beyond those films, we have Halloween Kills, MLK/FBI, and others today. Read on for more…
Kristen Stewart gives the performance of the year in Spencer. Pablo Larrain‘s account of Princess Diana is enthralling, with Stewart going above and beyond anything we’ve seen from her before. My second favorite movie of 2021, it blew me away at the Toronto International Film Festival. Seriously, if you haven’t seen her in this flick, correct that immediately. You can thank me later. Here is a bit from my TIFF review back in the fall:
Spencer is not your garden variety biopic. Instead, it’s a self-contained, somewhat fictionalized, and deeply impressionistic look at Diana, Princess of Wales. In some ways, it functions as a ghost story. Presented her as a fable about a real life tragedy, it very much plays that way. Those seeking traditional historical fiction will be disappointed (The Crown, this is not), but something unsettlingly perfect emerges instead.
Kristen Stewart deserves to win the Oscar for Best Actress, full stop. Disappearing into the role of Diana, there isn’t a moment in Spencer where you’re seeing Stewart. It’s only the Princess of Wales. It certainly doesn’t hurt that some of the paparazzi elements and external pressures laid at Diana’s feet resemble things the actress has gone through, but it’s still a performance for the ages. Tightly wound but full of personality, she shows you why this human being captured the imagination of so many. Especially in one particular sequence, she makes the woman truly come alive.
I can admit when I’m wrong. Initially, I had low expectations for Dune, given its tough source material. However, it surprised me in a big way. Large yet tactile, it’s as immersive as any bit of recent science fiction. We have a ton of interviews here on the site talking about this film, too. Our conversations with actor Oscar Issac is here, actress Rebecca Ferguson is here, cinematographer Greig Fraser is here, composer Hans Zimmer is here, and editor Joe Walker is here. My TIFF review has more on Denis Villeneuve‘s epic:
Dune is a spectacle, through and through. Bold, serious, and dedicated to launching a whole new franchise, it’s a gamble that’s paid off. While it’s no masterpiece of re-invention of science fiction, it manages to show that the right amount of care can make something unwieldy like this work. So easily could this have crashed and burned, it not being a disaster already was a success. That it’s a very good film, through and through, is almost a miracle.
Back at the Sundance Film Festival last year, Mass was the first movie of 2021 to blow my away. An incredibly hard flick to sit through, it’s still undoubtedly more than worth it. Just listen to my conversations with cast members Reed Birney (here), Ann Dowd (here), Jason Isaacs (here), and Martha Plimpton (here), as well as filmmaker Fran Kranz (here) for reasons why. Here is more from my Sundance rave:
Mass may have the bleakest premise imaginable, but it’s not a completely moribund experience. Don’t get me wrong, it’s a serious drama, but it’s handled realistically, not melodramatically. Nothing that happens is beyond what we might have seen in a documentary about the parents of a school shooting situation. Of course, what makes this unique is that one of the two couples had their son commit the acts. That turn of the screw ultimately pays major dividends, too.
Billions: Season Five (TV)
Heart of Champions
Juice (First Time in 4K)
From The Criterion Collection: “The Danish Dogme 95 movement that struck world cinema like a thunderbolt began with The Celebration, Thomas Vinterberg’s international breakthrough, a lacerating chamber drama that uses the economic and aesthetic freedoms of digital video to achieve annihilating emotional intensity. On a wealthy man’s sixtieth birthday, a sprawling group of family and friends convenes at his country estate for a celebration that soon spirals into bedlam, as bombshell revelations threaten to tear away the veneer of bourgeois respectability and expose the traumas roiling beneath. The dynamic handheld camera work, grainy natural lighting, cacophonous diegetic sound, and raw performance style that would become Dogme hallmarks enhance the shattering visceral impact of this caustic indictment of patriarchal failings, which swings between blackest comedy and bleakest tragedy as it turns the sick soul of a family inside out.”