Abraham Lincoln

Ken and Robin Consume Media: Severance, After Yang, and Chicago Film Fest Highlights

October 18th, 2022 | Robin

The Pinnacle

Severance (Television, US, Apple+, Dan Erickson, 2022) The unprepossessing new manager (Adam Scott) of an inexplicable department of a cult-like corporation that surgically walls off the memories of its workers begins to plumb its mysteries, in both of his separated incarnations. From its brilliant credit sequence to the work of a stacked cast including John Turturro, Patricia Arquette and Christopher Walken, this contemporary dystopian SF perfectly calibrates suspense, character drama, and dark workplace comedy.—RDL


After Yang (Film, US, Kogonada, 2021) A gentle father (Colin Farrell) tries to reactivate his daughter’s android brother after he suffers a fatal shutdown. Moody, hushed character SF posits that the real danger of AI is not that they will take our jobs or Skynet us, but that they will give us more people to lose and mourn.—RDL

The Beasts (Film, Spain/France, Rodrigo Sorogoyen, 2022) French organic farm couple (Denis Minochet and Marie Foïs) in Galicia find themselves in an escalating feud with the resentful locals. What begins as a Straw Dogs-like Western switches gears into a slower-simmering portrait of willpower and life, all against the hard Spanish hill country and Olivier Arson’s harsh score. –KH

Green For Danger (Fiction, 1944, Christianna Brand) During the Blitz, a patient dies under anesthetic in a Kent hospital, leaving Inspector Cockrill to find out whether murder has been done. Generally considered Brand’s first triumph, she joins her surgical character portraits to a  Carr-like ability with atmosphere, as the bombs and then the investigation ratchet up tension. I’m not sure whether my deducing a third of the puzzle a third of the way in was me being smart or Brand being clever. –KH

How To Blow Up A Pipeline (Film, US, Daniel Goldhaber, 2022) Orphaned by a heat wave, Long Beach leftist Xochitl (Ariel Barer, who co-wrote and co-produced) puts together a team with reasons and skills to blow up an oil pipeline in West Texas. Goldhaber brilliantly sets Andreas Malm’s agitprop text to pure Ocean’s 11 choreography, creating a top-line caper film in the process. Gavin Brivik’s needling score both drives this film and calls back to classic heists like Thief. –KH

Special Delivery (Film, South Korea, Dae-Min Park, 2022) Coolly ultra-skilled driver for a black market courier service (Park So-dam) finds her professional detachment challenged by her latest client, a young kid on the run from a murderous crooked cop (Sae-byeok Song.) Rattling car chase action thriller with a secondary plot device that would only work in Korea.—RDL


Louis Armstrong’s Black & Blues (Film, US, Sacha Jenkins, 2022) Bolstered by tapes of personal conversations and extensive excerpts from his letters, Jenkins paints a portrait of Armstrong as a musical phenomenon without peer and as a misunderstood figure in the civil rights era. (And as a fan of laxatives and Queens.) Neither of which I thought were particularly in question nowadays, meaning I’m not sure who this film was for. The lack of musical attention (we hear no song all the way through) would be enough to ding it a level even if it had a fresh argument, though. –KH

Man on the Edge (Film, Hong Kong, Ming-Sing Wong, 2022) Deep undercover cop (Richie Jen) experiences a crisis of loyalties when the triad boss (Simon Yam) who is his target and best friend decides to step down, triggering a succession crisis. In what must be seven or eight act structure, this incident-packed crime drama fuses together elements of Infernal Affairs, Election and A Better Tomorrow.—RDL

A Wounded Fawn (Film, US, Travis Stevens, 2022) Art broker Bruce (Josh Ruben) covets a statue of the Erinyes (aka the Furies), and also covets curator Meredith (Sarah Lind), setting up a truly unique supernatural slasher suffused with Greek myth and surrealist callbacks. From the grainy 16mm film to the bright karo blood, this movie loves the 70s horror beats and wants me to love it. Its flaws mostly come from Stevens taking big ambitious swings, except its core flaw: horror films flatten emotionally if you have no sympathy with the victim. –KH

The Year Between (Film, US, Alex Heller, 2022) Washed out of college, Clemence (Heller) moves back in with her suburban Chicago parents (a note-perfect Steve Buscemi and J. Smith-Cameron) and struggles with her new bipolar disorder diagnosis. It made me laugh and cry, which should be the bare minimum. But it wants to have the cake of “disruptive (wo)man-children are funny and right” and eat the Serious Mental Health Message too, and the result is perhaps aptly ambivalent. –KH


Amsterdam (Film, US, David O. Russell, 2022) One-eyed doctor Burt (Christian Bale), stoic Black lawyer Harold (John David Washington), and manic pixie artist Valerie (Margot Robbie) become best friends in a hospital during WWI and an idyll in Amsterdam; a decade later they become embroiled in a murderous plot. Russell channels his inner Terry Gilliam here in a film that almost seems like it lives up to American Hustle and I Heart Huckabees (and Jules et Jim) simultaneously, until the last act just deflates completely into a smug, syrupy mess. –KH

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Film Cannister
Cartoon Rocket
Flying Clock
Film Cannister