What’s Screening: January 1 – 7

Aren’t you glad that 2020 is over? We can start the year with Wonder Woman and a real wonder woman. You can also discover that computers can be racist, how the pandemic started, and how Alzheimer effects the family. Well, let’s hope we’ll have a better 2021.

Festivals

Drive-in movies

B Wonder Woman 1984 (2020), Alameda Theater Pop Up Drive In, Saturday and Sunday, 6:20; Solano Drive-in, all through the week;

Yes, it’s fun, but not as much as the first one. This time, our heroine has been living with mortals for 66 years and yet, the three screenwriters still found a way to add in some fish-out-of-water comedy. The plot…well, let’s just say that Wonder Woman must save the world again. Kristen Wiig’s character starts as comic relief, but she becomes something very different. But I wish these movies didn’t always have to climax with a long, loud, boring fight with no suspense because you know who’s going to win.

New to me

B+ Coded Bias (2020), BAMPFA, Lark, Rafael,

You’re won’t come out of this documentary happy, but you’ll learn just how horrible much of our society has become. It starts with the overuse of facial recognition, and how today’s algorithms have trouble seeing Black and brown people – one of whom discovers that a computer can only see her face when wearing a white mask. Director Shalini Kantayya follows several hacktivists, showing how much bureaucrats, governments, and tech companies know about you – and how assumptions created by AI control your life. And it’s not just here; the film uses China as a worst-case scenario. Only near the end do you get a small glimmer of hope.

Another chance to see

A The Artist’s Wife (2020), New Mission

Alzheimer’s hurts not only the initial victim, but perhaps even more the friends and family members who must watch a loved one’s mind slowly recede. As the film’s title tells you, the film is not about a famous painter with serious dementia, but about the woman who loves him. It’s her story; not his. Lena Olin and Bruce Dern both give excellent performances. If you’re lucky enough to grow old with someone, something like this may be in your future. Read my full review.

A- Coronation (2020), New Mission

Ai Weiwei created (to my knowledge) the first feature-length documentary about the current pandemic. With no narration, it follows people in the town of Wuhan (where Corona first appeared) in the first months of the disaster. Among the more powerful scenes are medical personnel suiting up and an old woman who still believes in Communism. The film is very slow, but that deliberate pace forces us to experience what these people, and all of us, are going through.

B+ Lucky Grandma (2019), New Mission

It’s rare for a comedy to turn into a thriller – especially a thriller that forces you to feel the horror of violence. And yet, writer/director Sasie Sealy manages that task with surprising flair. Veteran actress Tsai Chin, with a stone face almost like Buster Keaton’s, plays the chain-smoking Grandma of the title to perfection. When a stash of gang money drops into her lap, she hires a large but kindly bodyguard (Hsiao-Yuan Ha) who becomes her best friend. Read my full review.

B Through the Night (2020), Roxie

Some 20 years ago, Deloris “Nunu” Hogan and her husband Patrick set up Dee Tots, a 24-hour childcare center, and unfortunately, we must have such businesses in the USA. Loira Limbal’s documentary has two important points to make – that we need better ways to deal with childcare, and that Hogan is a very special person. But much of the film’s message is overpowered by the sheer joy of watching young, adorable children. My big problem: I wish Limbal had included interviews with former Dee Tots children. Read my full review

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