The big title this week is Criterion’s rescue of Spike Lee’s angriest film, Bamboozled. The usual Spike Lee caveats apply of it being messy or outright inexplicable at times (mostly with Damon Wayans’ bizarrely accented performance as the lead), but it hits more than it misses and its hits make devastating impact. Its portrayal of ostensibly progressive white society being one step away from greenlighting actual minstrel shows has proven pretty on-the-money in the two decades since its release (its casting of The Roots as the minstrel show house band feels so pointed at Jimmy Fallon that it’s hard to believe it was a decade before that), and Jordan Peele would continue its most pointed critiques of white obsession with blackness in slightly more palatable form in Get Out. Maybe not the most comforting movie to watch during a national crisis, but it’s worth the sting.
Also not particularly comforting at this moment in time is Terrence Malick’s A Hidden Life, though what sticks in the mind is mostly the astonishing beauty, even by Malick’s standards, of the Austrian landscapes in front of which the tale of refusal of Nazism occurs. An attempt to get back to something resembling narrative after the wild experimentation of Malick’s post-Tree of Life work, it’s not quite the perfect objects that The Thin Red Line or The New World are, with its three hours starting to feel a little baggy by the time of the midsection that’s mostly just the main character getting repeatedly punished. But this being Malick, there is still no shortage of moments that take your breath away, most obviously the nature shots but also a priest bemoaning having to paint murals of smiling Jesus while fascism rages outside, or Franz Rogowski wondering what happens to a head after it’s been severed from its body.
Black Christmas (Universal)
Cannibal Apocalypse (Kino)
Crashing: The Complete Third Season (Warner)
A Hidden Life (Fox)
Jumanji: The Next Level (Sony)
Richard Jewell (Warner)