Under the Radar: Black and white, Robert Forster and a dash of ‘Humor’
Our annual compilation of overlooked films. Each reviewer chose five films to highlight.
“Humor Me”: Sam Hoffman’s warm comedy about a struggling playwright (Jemaine Clement) forced to move in with his cheerful, widower dad (Elliott Gould) in a New Jersey retirement village may not break tons of new ground, but it’s such a smart, charming, authentic piece that it’s definitely terrain worth revisiting. Amazon Prime; VOD
“Pickings”: More than just a super calling card for writer-director-editor Usher Morgan, this stylish, inventive, neo-noirish crime thriller set in and around a small-town bar called Pickings is an exciting mash of violent mob drama, spaghetti western, Tarantino-esque revenge saga and graphic novel with a formidable anti-heroine (Elyse Price) at its core. Amazon Prime; VOD
“What They Had”: A blah title and seemingly downbeat topic undermined writer-director Elizabeth Chomko’s lovely, heartbreaking, superbly acted and scripted look at an aging woman (Blythe Danner) succumbing to Alzheimer’s disease and its impact on her devoted husband (Robert Forster, robbed of awards buzz) and fraught children (Hilary Swank, Michael Shannon). Vudu
“1985”: Yen Tan’s deeply sensitive story set early in the AIDS crisis followed the son (Cory Michael Smith) of working-class Texans (Michael Chiklis, Virginia Madsen) who returns home for Christmas and must reveal several painful truths. Affectingly shot in black and white, it’s a wise, profound and beautiful film that’s hopefully being discovered on streaming platforms. VOD
“Kill the Monsters”: This bold, singular work (also in black and white) finds three gay men in a polyamorous relationship on a road trip to Los Angeles that serves as a sharp, snappy and sexy allegory of American history. Writer-director and co-star Ryan Lonergan pulls out the creative stops, and the result, though not for everyone, is pretty dazzling.
More please: Black-and-white films such as “Roma,” “Cold War,” “1985,” “Kill the Monsters” and “The Divide” were a reminder of how, if used wisely, this evocative artistic choice can be a distinct plus.
Enough already: Let’s rethink those remakes and reboots because for every “Halloween” and “Tomb Raider,” there’s a “Robin Hood,” “Death Wish,” “The Predator,” “Billionaire Boys Club,” “SuperFly,” “Little Women,” “Benji” and, arguably, “Suspiria.”
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