Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.
Get the Indie Focus newsletter, Mark Olsen's weekly guide to the world of cinema.
Well, this has been quite a week. Things have been moving so quickly day to day that it can be difficult to remember where we all started.
It was last Sunday night when the mayor of Los Angeles ordered all movie theaters to close. I spoke to the owners of a number of local independent movie houses about how that would impact them both in the short term and moving forward. For now, people can support them by, among other things, buying gift cards for future tickets. But as Greg Laemmle, president of Laemmle Theatres, said, “I feel like where I’m really going to want our patron support is coming back to the theaters when the all-clear is given.”
Some distributors, such as Universal Pictures, have moved up the home video dates on some of their titles that would still be playing in theaters, such as “The Invisible Man,” “The Hunt” and “Emma” — a move widely seen as a potentially huge shift in how Hollywood does business. As Ryan Faughnder wrote: “Is Universal’s bold move a temporary fix to cope with the lack of out-of-home entertainment options as American social life comes to a virtual standstill? Or is it foreshadowing a future in which Hollywood studios bring certain movies to consumers digitally much sooner than they previously would have?”
Justin Chang responded to the closing of movie theaters with a stirring essay on the importance of this action. “Moviegoing has always been founded on a precarious but vital joint agreement, an unspoken contract with people whose faces we cannot see and whose voices we (hopefully) cannot hear,” he writes. ”There’s some consolation in that — in knowing that we can survive the theaters going temporarily dark, if they will once again go dark for the right reasons. All of which is to say, my fellow moviegoers, that while it may be many long weeks and months from now, I truly can’t wait to not see and not hear you all again.”
Now that people all across the country are staying in their homes, they are eager to find something to watch to pass the time. Justin curated a selection of 14 movies currently available on streaming, a list that includes Kelly Reichardt’s “Meek’s Cutoff,” Stanley Donen’s “Singin’ in the Rain,” Hayao Miyazaki’s “My Neighbor Totoro” and Bela Tarr’s “The Turin Horse.”
Christie D’Zurilla compiled a list of streaming services currently offering free trial offers, such as Acorn TV, Sundance Now, Shudder and more. And of course the Los Angeles County Library offers credits on the streaming service Kanopy.
For those looking to self-isolate in a way that is a little less isolating, Michael Ordoña, Chris Barton and I tried out the browser extension Netflix Party, which allows a group of people to watch something simultaneously on Netflix and hold a group chat.
For our entertainment podcast “The Reel” — newly focused on what to watch while you are at home — I spoke to Lorraine Ali about the third season of HBO’s “Westworld,” and Jen Yamato had a list of horror movies available on streaming to help compartmentalize your anxieties, including “Train to Busan.”
And this week the L.A. Times introduced a new podcast, “Asian Enough,” hosted by Jen Yamato and Frank Shyong, on the Asian American experience covering, in their words, “the joys, the complications and everything in between.” The first two episodes are already available, featuring interviews with John Cho and Lulu Wang, and there is a special bonus episode on how the coronavirus is affecting the Asian American community and the rise of COVID-19-related discrimination. It’s a new must-listen.
‘Blow the Man Down’
The debut feature for writers-directors Bridget Savage Cole and Danielle Krudy, “Blow the Man Down” is a low-key crime thriller set in a small Maine fishing town; it’s available now on Amazon Prime. Two sisters (Sophie Lowe and Morgan Saylor) are dealing with the details of their mother’s death when they find themselves also dealing with two dead bodies, a bag of cash and the proprietress of a local brothel, played by the mighty Margo Martindale.
Reviewing the movie for The Times, Robert Abele wrote, “Overall, ‘Blow the Man Down’ — like the crustier cousin to that other charming, lethal Cove of crime fiction (the one with Angela Lansbury) — is a diverting, scrappy good time and a solid calling card for a couple of new filmmakers with more on their mind than just giving us one more tale of bad things happening to decent people.”
Reviewing the film when it premiered at last year’s Tribeca Film Festival, where it won a screenplay prize, for the Hollywood Reporter, Caryn James wrote, “Krudy and Cole never lean too hard on the theme of women looking out for each other, but that idea forms the underpinning of the entire project, from its writing and directing team to the story’s superbly droll ending. ‘Blow the Man Down’ is both a shanty that recurs in the film and, it turns out, quite an apt title.”
For the Washington Post, Ann Hornaday wrote, “Cozier than ‘Blood Simple,’ more perverse than ‘Murder, She Wrote’ — with a dash of ‘Lysistrata’ thrown in for some sly sexual table-turning — ‘Blow the Man Down’ isn’t a whodunit as much as a will-they-get-away-with-it caper, given even more ironic humor by its quaintly innocent setting.”
‘Big Time Adolescence’
Written and directed by Jason Orley, “Big Time Adolescence” is already available on Hulu, having gone on the site last week. In the film, Pete Davidson — the “Saturday Night Live” star playing a similar role in Judd Apatow’s upcoming “The King of Staten Island” — appears as a 20-something who mostly hangs out and gets high. Into his orbit comes a 16-year-old (Griffin Gluck), and soon it is a question of who is mentoring whom.
Reviewing for The Times, Noel Murray said the movie is “funny and fast-paced,” before adding, “Mostly, the movie is memorable because of Davidson, who with his impish smirk, buggy eyes and short-sighted YOLO philosophy brings a rakish charm to the role of the sketchy high school friend so many people — if they’re lucky — eventually outgrow.”
For the New York Times, Kristen Yoonsoo Kim wrote, “Despite some moments of tenderness and easy chemistry between Zeke and Mo, ‘Big Time Adolescence’ doesn’t have enough heart or humor to save it from becoming just another movie about white dudes bro-ing out.”
At Time, Stephanie Zacharek called it “one of those small delights that’s designed mostly to make you laugh, though it ends in a place of inevitable wistfulness.”