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Indie Focus: Get attached to ‘Parasite’

Hello! I’m Mark Olsen. Welcome to another edition of your regular field guide to a world of Only Good Movies.

Whether you consider yourself a cinema person or a TV person, we’ve all had to reconcile ourselves to the rise of streaming services as part of our ongoing media diet. The Times has published a package of stories on how they have impacted the industry and viewers alike.

Meredith Blake and Yvonne Villarreal wrote about the binge-watching model for streaming shows and how it may be coming to an end.

Lorraine Ali took a look at the creative revolution and freedom to come from the streaming platforms that may now be in danger of dying out.

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Wendy Lee spoke to Ted Sarandos, chief content officer for Netflix. Its goal: “To make your favorite show. For some people, it’s that high-pedigree, Emmy-winning, well-reviewed show, and other people just want to relax and watch something.”

Mary McNamara wrote about the promise of cord-cutting and the thicket of new subscriptions. And Tracy Brown weighed the relative costs of all the emerging streaming platforms.

So yes, even though it is available to watch on Hulu, we’ll have a screening of the movie “Ask Dr. Ruth,” followed by a Q&A with director Ryan White, on Oct. 15. For more information, go to events.latimes.com.

Actor Song Kang Ho, left, director Bong Joon Ho and actor Choi Woo Shik, from the film “Parasite,” in the L.A. Times photo studio at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7.
Actor Song Kang Ho, left, director Bong Joon Ho and actor Choi Woo Shik, from the film “Parasite,” in the L.A. Times photo studio at the Toronto International Film Festival on Sept. 7.
(Jay L. Clendenin / Los Angeles Times)

‘Parasite’

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Bong Joon Ho’s “Parasite” won the Palme d’Or when it premiered at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival and has rolled along to become one of the most universally acclaimed films of the year. In the film — part social comedy, part riveting thriller — a poor family finds a way to integrate themselves into the lives of a much wealthier family, more or less taking over their house. Things only get more complicated from there.

In his review for The Times, Justin Chang called the movie “devilishly entertaining” and noted its discipline distinguishes it from Bong’s other work. “This is a tighter, more intimately scaled picture than ‘Snowpiercer’ and ‘Okja,’ and it proceeds like clockwork without ever feeling airless or mechanical. … But it’s also a tribute to a filmmaker whose understanding of the world is as persuasive in its cruelty as it is trenchant in its humanity. ‘Parasite’ begins in exhilaration and ends in devastation, but the triumph of the movie is that it fully lives and breathes at every moment, even when you might find yourself struggling to exhale.”

Jen Yamato spoke to Bong and actor Song Kang Ho for a story that will be publishing soon, in which Bong addressed the emphasis on sociopolitical content in his films.

“It’s not because I have some great obsession with politics, or want this to manifest in a political movement. It’s just something I go through and encounter every day. Every time we pass by someone on the streets or the subway, regardless of whether or not we want to we can smell their scents,” he said. “And when we smell them we can kind of think about, ‘Oh, this person went through this today. This person is probably not doing so well today.’ We can all kind of feel that. I think even the most mundane of daily aspects, of individuals, all carry a political-social context with them.”

Justin and Jen also joined me for a conversation about the movie on our podcast, “The Reel.”

For the New York Times, Manohla Dargis wrote, “Bong’s command of the medium is thrilling. He likes to move the camera, sometimes just to nudge your attention from where you think it should be, but always in concert with his restlessly inventive staging. ... Nothing if not a rigorous dialectician, Bong refuses to sentimentalize the Kims’ togetherness or their poverty. But he does pointedly set it against the relative isolation of the Parks, who don’t often share the same shot much less the same room.”

At Slate, Dana Stevens declared the movie the best of the year so far, saying, “What sets Bong apart from every other working director I can think of is his films’ perplexing ability to morph smoothly, within one film and sometimes one scene, from one recognizable cinematic style to another, shedding genres as they lose their usefulness like a snake shimmying out of its skin.”

Timothée Chalamet in “The King.”
Timothée Chalamet in “The King.”
(Peter Mountain / Netflix)

‘The King’

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Directed by David Michôd and written by Michôd and Joel Edgerton, “The King” draws inspiration from the plays of Shakespeare, casting Timothée Chalamet in the role of young Prince Hal with Edgerton playing his mentor, Falstaff. The cast also includes Ben Mendelsohn, Robert Pattinson, Thomasin McKenzie, Lily-Rose Depp and Sean Harris. The movie is in select theaters now and arrives on Netflix on Nov. 1.

In his review for The Times, Kenneth Turan said Michôd and his collaborators “have boldly struck off on their own. They’ve nervily reimagined and remixed both the epic and the intimate elements of this classic narrative and successfully given it a determinedly contemporary tone.”

For Time, Stephanie Zacharek wrote, “With ‘The King’, Michôd (the director behind ‘Animal Kingdom’ and ‘The Rover’) has made a fine big-screen entertainment that most people will probably watch at home, on a Netflix-sized rectangle. But that doesn’t diminish what he and Edgerton have pulled off. Their retelling honors a classic story and opens its grandeur to a new audience — even as it gives an elbow-poke to those who have seen it all before, or who only think they have.”

Gregory Hines in a scene from “The Cotton Club Encore.”
Gregory Hines in a scene from “The Cotton Club Encore.”
( Lionsgate )

‘The Cotton Club Encore’

Francis Ford Coppola’s 1984 film “The Cotton Club” has been “reawakened” by the director, adding back in scenes and story lines that were cut at the time from restored negatives to create the new film “The Cotton Club Encore.” Set around the 1930s Harlem nightclub from which it takes its title, it’s part musical, part gangster picture, with a cast that includes Richard Gere, Gregory Hines, Diane Lane, Lonette McKee, Tom Waits and Bob Hoskins.

In his review for The Times, Robert Abele wrote, “In the end, there’s a point about black struggle alongside white dominance in ‘The Cotton Club Encore’ that Coppola can’t get quite right because, ultimately, atmosphere won out over emotion. But in the movie’s own baked-in pitfalls, reception and reclamation effort there’s still a sweet takeaway: what it means to persevere with strong voices and spirited feet when there’s a camera to witness and footage as evidence.”

For a long and insightful piece for Vanity Fair, K. Austin Collins wrote, “In line with the director’s turn, in the 2000s, to funding his own projects, Coppola spent roughly half a million dollars of his own money on ‘Encore,’ which restores 24 minutes of material and cuts 13 minutes from the original theatrical release to balance out its parallel plots. Now, rather than feeling like a phantom limb, the black story line — with its unsubtle but useful parallels in the Gere plot — has a life of its own. … ‘Encore’ makes good — very good, in the case of Hines — on the talent, the richness, of its black actors. It still doesn’t quite know what to do with blackness itself — and I’m a little torn on what that means for the quality of the movie. ‘Encore’ is a nobler, fuller, and of course more righteous film than its marred predecessor. Is it actually, in the scheme of things, a better movie? Indisputably — but how much so is a question for history.”

“Encore” recently played at the New York Film Festival, where Coppola and performers Maurice Hines and James Remar appeared for a warm and insightful Q&A. You can listen to it as part of the Film at Lincoln Center podcast.

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Email me if you have questions, comments or suggestions, and follow me on Twitter: @IndieFocus.


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