The Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film, Shoplifters, explores the nature of the family, and what the needs of its various members are from a unique perspective. This particular group of people are in Japan, and as we find them they are living in squalor, with an elderly woman as Grandma. There are also an older man, a couple women, and then a young boy. They early on in the film come upon a very young little girl who has been left outside on a bitter night by her parents. Each member contributes in their own way, with the older man showing the boy how to be able to shoplift effectively. Other members have stories which reveal themselves over time, and there are some surprising twists. The viewers collective experience will colour how we view these people from the beginning and then the assumptions will be challenged. For me, I was assuming a tight knit family but it is put into question early as the boy interacts with the older man. Something happens later in the film and puts all of the stories into question as you examine the individual histories more carefully. It pieces together effectively and once again that age old question of “nature vs nurture” is involved. Are you really a “Mother” because you have given birth to another human being? Or is it more than that? Of course it is – there are so many things that make it up, including being present, showing affection or as billboard says I past just today, “children need roots and wings”. I agree. People who should know better do things that they know that they shouldn’t. But maybe this is really what they feel they can offer, but the truth is that they offer a lot more than that without actually knowing what they are offering and doing. This was good and I enjoyed it. Certainly I liked this more than Roma, but that isn’t really a high bar for me.
On Netflix, I won’t ever get back the hours spent watching The Sinner with Jessica Biel. Bill Pullman as mentioned earlier is a detective who was nominated for a Golden Globe for his performance. Each of the characters have their own issues. Many are hidden, and the viewing shouldn’t even try to guess. Early on there is a horrific attack by the Beal character who has already shown that she has issues. Detective Pullman is trying to figure out the puzzle. May I state that the puzzle is contrived and ridiculous as it unravels. And from one silly turn to another until ultimately I had to throw up my hands and shake my head at where it all went. It is ridiculous and contrived, and may I say that I am hard pressed to say I can think of another story which revolves so much around wallpaper. And maybe a dedicated and concerned detective might actually spend the time to put this mess altogether, but really……not really. So I can say emphatically that this is something to pass on.
Also on Netflix there is the Two Killings of Sam Cooke. This documentary explores the bizarre and controversial killing of mega-star and singer Sam Cooke. The man who had the unique and melodic voice with such hits as “What A Wonderful World”, “Chain Gang”, “You Send Me” among others. He was an icon and a worldwide superstar at the same height as Elvis. He was also very cognizant of his people, and the inequality throughout the US, and especially in the South. This is not unlike the background from Green Book. This was a man who was killed at the age of 33, at the top of his game. He had embarked on owning his own label and supporting other black artists. He was threatening the current establishment in the record industry. He was also close friends with Jim Brown, Cassius Clay (and they actually performed a song together) and Malcolm X. Months after they met together in a hotel room, two of them were dead. There was no investigation by the LAPD. The small little hotel where Cooke lay crumpled on the floor shot, was concluded by the LAPD to be justifiable homicide because Cooke was forcefully trying to get into another room after money was taken from him. Turns out the woman he was with, was a known call girl for the mob. Now had this happened to Frank Sinatra or Elvis or another top music icon, then there would have been thorough investigations. In the end you can draw your own conclusions. But this is a worthwhile re-visit into a period of history where times were indeed changing. Authority was being questioned. A war was being protested. And the status quo was being challenged on all fronts.