CINEMA: Ordinary life goes awry in White Noise, plus an artist fights opioid dealers and a gay man joins the Navy

Reports indicate that movies took a dip, not a jump, this year on Thanksgiving. The World Cup may have helped. Most likely this: Families are not out yet, not in large numbers anyway. They’re watching streamers like Netflix. Today I review your top pick for Academy Award consideration. is a new version of Lady Chatterley’s lover it came too late for this week. Maybe next time.

Meanwhile, CRAVE has some strong additions to its current lineup: the four Hunger games movies, six Spiderman movies and an original with Jessica Chastain and Michael Shannon starring as that country music power couple Tammy Wynette and George Jones. That sounds promising.

It doesn’t seem any easier for theaters, but here’s what’s new:

White noise: 3 ½ stars

All the beauty and the bloodshed: 3

The Inspection: 2 ½

Hunting: 2 ½

WHITE NOISE: Netflix’s annual Oscar winner is already in theaters for a while. It also opened the current Whistler Film Festival. It deserves a place in your observation plans. It is absurd and serious, funny and terrible, and very involving at all times. Although it is not perfect. It sinks near the end and doesn’t have much to say on a topic that is increasingly focused on. But enjoy the rest.

Courtesy of Netflix

Adam Driver and Greta Gerwig lead a family living what Don DeLillo’s original novel satirises. People listen to the white noise around them, radio and television chatter, tabloid scare stories, conspiracy theories, consumerism, drugs, celebrity idolatry, to distract themselves from thinking about what they truly fear: their inevitable death. Here they have to face a real disaster plus a toxic cloud in the air. They have to evacuate their city, endure bumper-to-bumper traffic on the highway, and get to safety even though they know nothing about the threat. A lot of it is great fun and exactly how you imagine disorganized chaos to be. Driver is a professor of “Hitler studies” and a colleague (Don Cheadle) studies Elvis. There’s a great scene where they stage a duel throwing data about the two of them back and forth. Little by little, thoughts about death and how to face it take over and that is less interesting. Still, director Noah Baumbach’s film is memorable. And whether it was his insight or DeLillo’s, I really liked the explanation of why people flock to demagogues. They just want to be part of a crowd. (Select Theatres) 3 ½ of 5

ALL THE BEAUTY AND THE BLOODSHED: Nan Goldin made a name for herself in the 1980s with her photographs and short films about addicts, sex workers, homeless people, and bohemians. In this film by Laura Poitras she comes forward: she is an angry activist. She takes on the people who promoted the opioid oxycontin as a pain reliever and helped cause the overdose crisis that is wreaking havoc. The Sackler family, the owners of Purdue Pharma, made billions and earned respectability from gifts to museums and art galleries. Her name appeared on many buildings. Goldin started a campaign to remove that name.

Courtesy of Evolution Films

We see various demonstrations at and in places like the Guggenheim and The Met. Prescription bottles are thrown away by the dozens. There is a “death” at Harvard’s Arthur Sackler Museum. She gives an emotional presentation at a public consultation and throughout this movie. She herself is a survivor of the opioid crisis. Her description of her withdrawal is blunt: “darkness of soul… unbearable.” She lost a sister to suicide and had a troubled youth herself. All this makes the story compelling. You see a lot of downtown New York free spirit among artists and gays here and a lot of moral outrage from Goldin. It was chosen as best film at the Venice festival. (Toronto and Vancouver now, other cities next week) 3 out of 5

THE INSPECTION: The story is moving: a young black man with a mother who disapproves of his being gay joins the Navy. But I found the second part of that synopsis more interesting than the first. That’s because the gay part is much lower, subtle, sometimes it’s not discussed. Sure mom says she loves him but not for who she is. But at Marine boot camp, don’t ask, don’t tell protocol applies. Yes, there are scenes that hint or tease, but not a lot of gay and even anti-gay stuff happens.

Courtesy of A-24 and Level Films

These are the memories of Elegance Bratton, who wrote about her life and directed the film. Jeremy Pope plays him as Ellis French. Gabrielle Union plays his mother. The movie is much less direct about being gay than it is about life in the military in general. I haven’t seen so much screaming and screaming from the sergeant before in the movies. And his second is even worse. He yells at full volume right in Ellis’s ear. The point seems to be to put him down as much as possible. The sergeant says that his job is to make his students “invincible” and even “monsters”. Ellis says that he joined for status. “Even if I die, in this uniform I am a hero.” That’s probably a realistic motivation for many who enlist. Pope plays that role very well. For whom? Well, that’s another question. (In theaters) 2 ½ of 5

HUNT: You really don’t need to know much about South Korean history to understand this movie. Only after a coup in the 1980s, a new president turned out to be a tough, despot. The protesting students were beaten. “Trampled democracy” and “massacres” are the words of the film. That leads to a fictional story that gets so frenetic it’s enjoyable but so convoluted it’s also confusing.

It seems there is a plot to assassinate the president. He almost gets shot by a sniper while on a state visit to Washington, DC (Hard to believe, but it’s fiction. The motivation is believable.)

Courtesy of Mongrel Media

Back in Soeul, where the North Koreans are always suspected, the Korean CIA has a new leader and feels there is a mole in their agency. He has to find it before the president leaves for another trip, a tour of Asia. The director suspects that the mole may be the head of the international section of KCIA or the man who runs the national division. He orders them to race to find him and other agents to watch both for warning signs. Good plot possibility, in the style of John LeCarre. But it’s hard to keep track of both. Each seems to be protecting or trying to kill the president at various times. If you don’t care, you will let the energy draw you. Lee Jung-jae is the director and also plays the head of the foreign division. He rose to fame in the Netflix series Squid Game for which he won the Best Actor Emmy, the first Asian to win it. (In theaters in Toronto, Vancouver, Ottawa and London) 2 ½ of 5

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