Friday, January 8, 2021

TWENTY BEST MOVIES OF 2020

José Alberto Hermosillo

http://www.festivalinla.com/2021/01/twenty-best-movies-of-2020.html

The year 2020 will be a memorable one. All movie theaters closed because of the Covid-19 pandemic, so audiences had no other choice but to watch movies at home.

Watching movies on the big screen was a fundamental part of the cinematic experience, but now, viewers must enjoy those magnificent films on their laptops, tablets, and cellphones – the lucky ones are getting the movie-watching experience in their home-theaters and big-screen TVs. Some of us, spoiled movie-watchers even struggled with technology, but still adapting to the "New Normal."

First Cow is the best movie of 2020 

A couple of years ago, Academy members and even film festivals despised the online streaming movies for attempting to take away the experience and business from the movie theaters. “Roma,” distributed by Netflix, was the most notorious case of discernment between studios and streaming services. Netflix withdrew the Mexican black-and-white epic from Cannes, and Academy members rejected it as the rightful Best Picture winner that year.

 

Lat year, the winning of "Parasite" opened the door for other independent and foreign films to have possibilities to seize a nomination in different categories including the Best Picture.

We are learning now that we don't need the Hollywood studios' “star system” to value good films. Everything becomes questionable because it is more challenging to put those films out there and grab the viewers’ and voting members’ attention. The “dance of the dollars” used during the award season has been reimagined. 

 

Unfortunately for us this season, studios postponed quality films that could raise the bar. We  have to wait for the next best thing, next year, and for those blockbuster movies to come out like “Dune,” “Elvis,” “The Matrix 4,” “West Side Story,” “In the Heights,” and “No Time to Die” to compete in 2022 campaign.

To select the best films, we must set aside our classic “Hollywood State of Mind,” which alters our objectivity. I measure a movie by its story, directing, script’s strength, acting, and meaning for future generations.

If you have not seen any of these terrific films, it is about time you start catching up, safe, at home.

 THE BEST FILMS OF 2020

1. FIRST COW

2. MANK

3. THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO 7

4. NOMADLAND

5. PIECES OF A WOMAN

6. ONE NIGHT IN MIAMI

7. MA RAINEY'S BLACK BOTTOM

8. SOUND OF METAL

9. I CARRY YOU WITH ME

10. THE GLORIAS

11. I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS

12. THERE IS NO EVIL

13. THE MOLE AGENT

14. PROMISING YOUNG WOMAN

15. THE VAST OF THE NIGHT

16. ON THE ROCKS

17. THE UNITED STATES VS. BILLIE HOLIDAY

18. NIGHT OF THE KINGS

19. BAD EDUCATION

20. FUNNY BOY

 

HONORABLE MENTION:

Hamilton, Wolfwalkers, Better Days, The Outpost, 

New Order/Nuevo Orden, Wet Season, The Night Clerk, Radioactive, 

Onward, News from the World, Peninsula, Minari, 

Uncle Frank, Let Him Go, Fatman, A Sun, Stage Mother, 

My Little Sister, Gunda, Boys State, The Platform,

The One and Only Ivan, La Llorona, Run, Judas and the Black Messiah,

Song Without a Name/Canción sin nombre, Broken Keys, 

Another Round, I’m No Longer Here, Apples, 

Small Axe, Nobody Knows I’m Here, Greyhound, 

The Life Ahead, The Grizzlies, Kajillionaire, 

Identifying Features/Sin señas particulares, Ammonite, The Father, Tenet. 

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Festival in LA ©2021

Tuesday, December 15, 2020

Gunda: An Emotional Journey of Pigs, Chickens, and Cows

By José Alberto Hermosillo

Gunda: An Emotional Journey of Pigs, Chickens, and Cows

“Gunda,” a fascinating and minimalist depiction of the tranquil life in a farmhouse where pigs, chickens, and cows take center stage. “Gunda” is one of the best documentaries of the year!

Gunda director Victor Kasakovsiy. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2020
Gunda director Victor Kosakovskiy. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2020
Victor Kosakovskiy (“Aquarela,” ¡Vivan las Antipodas!”) is an accomplished Russian documentarian. He takes us into an observational passage with stunning cinematography, perfect use of a non-intrusive camera, and crystal-clear sound. The film is captivating audiences and awards – at the Berlin and Stockholm film festivals – nominated for Best Documentary at the European Film Awards and an IDA Award. Many may find the pace gridlocked, yet compelling and thought-provoking.

Gunda, executive producer Joaquin Phoenix. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2020
Gunda, executive producer Joaquin Phoenix. Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2020

Joaquin Phoenix, an animal-rights outspoken person, serves as an executive producer of the film. As he did in his acceptance speech at the Oscars 2020 when he won Best Actor for “Joker,” his advocacy pleads for love and compassion to other species and how we can balance the food chain intelligently and humanely.

The documentary creates awareness about how domestic animals show emotions through behavior – as we see mamma pig caring for her piglets, or how caged chickens experience freedom for the first time, and how cows run without restrictions on the fields. 

Gunda: The Pig, The Chickens, and The Cows' Emotional Journey
"Gunda." Photo courtesy of NEON.

The film opens with a steady shot of the exterior of a barn. Inside, a mother pig is giving birth to about a dozen piglets. It is the miracle of life. As every little pig comes to the exterior, we fall in love with them. They are adorable! – it is also what the protective mother pig thinks. The day passes by, and the entire pack goes out for a stroll. They discover the delights of the dirt in their vast universe.

When a flock of caged chickens, slowly and cautiously move out, it is noticeable the physical damage suffered for an entire life in captivity. One chicken is without a leg, and others miss a substantial number of feathers, all disoriented.

The fascinating trend continues with a gorgeous display of big and healthy cows interacting and running freely in the open. Those images make us think about all sorts of things, such as how valuable life is for everybody in the field, even for those domestic creatures we caged, killed, and consume in our daily diet.

When Kosakovskiy decided to make a black & white silent film, he wanted the audience to experience, in first-person, a glimpse of life on a farm. He knew he needed to spend months with the best equipment possible – best camera and sound, and no music sugar-coating, but plenty of inspiring images of nature.

For twenty years, Kosakovskiy couldn't raise the budget to make this film. It was hard to pitch a black & white trinity movie with pigs, chickens, and cows as the main stars. To convince producers to invest in his project, he referred to other similar successful films like “Ida,” “Cold War,” and “Roma.” Now, he is glad the producers could see his vision and the intention to shoot a naturalistic film.

Gunda: The Pig, The Chickens, and The Cows' Emotional Journey
"Gunda." Photo courtesy of NEON.

To captivate the animals' actions and reactions, the small camera crew worked tirelessly form four o'clock in the morning until sunset. Those long working hours meant nothing compared with the precious moments, enriching the story dramatically.

Kosakovskiy's experience working in cinema made him make the right decisions, using long lenses, not to distract the animals. For that, he needed the best steady cam operator to keep the proper distance between the camera and the subject, not be invasive with the animals, or to alter the natural outcome. To photograph the living beings from far was not an esthetic choice but a moral one. 

In a movie set, the director is always in control of every given situation. In this documentary, the director had to be patient not to dictate something he can't control, such as animal behavior, weather, and human challenges. To make “Gunda,” the filmmakers travel to animal sanctuaries of Norway, Spain, and the United Kingdom. 

Hollywood Legion Theater Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2020
Hollywood Legion Theater Photo: José Alberto Hermosillo, Festival in LA ©2020

Kosakovskiy said after a drive-in screening at the Hollywood Legion Theater, Making this movie changed the way I see life. The whole intention was to show how is the life on a farm without saying anything, and understanding what a mother pig feels; seriousness, sadness, and hopelessness. 

Gunda: The Pig, The Chickens, and The Cows' Emotional Journey
"Gunda." Photo courtesy of NEON.

He continued the conversation. “All those creatures have a soul, and to discover those emotions is moving. The pig talked to us in a very powerful way. In the very last scene, the pig's behavior looks scripted. It was a miracle; the team cried.”

The film helps us determine the similarities between animal and human behavior.  

After admiring such a marvelous work of art, I decided to take “Lechón Asado” out of my Cuban diet, and I am not Cuban. I am just a simple lover of the world's cuisine. I am also becoming more appreciative of my Mesoamerican culture based on vegetables and insects.

As an agent of change, I will continue loving eating my greens, as much as this documentary made me care for the voiceless creatures of every single farm in the world because sustainable farming is possible. 

 
Festival in LA ©2020