EARLY WARNING: The Brattle’s (Some of) The Best of 2020

The Brattle Theatre reopens Friday, 7/2!

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On Friday, July 2, nearly a year and a half after they last closed their doors, the Brattle Theatre will reopen to the public, and I think I speak for both the staff and the readership of the Hassle when I say: thank god. The Brattle is, of course, one of the city’s preeminent temples of cinephilia, which can be counted on for a dazzling array of priceless repertory screenings, exciting new releases, and flat-out brilliant programming. I know I’m not alone in this, but in its absence I feel like I’ve been locked out of a second home.

There is another, more specific reason why I’ve been excited for the Brattle’s reopening. As regular readers should know by now, 2020 was a terrific year for films; with the big Hollywood blockbusters benched, the year’s slate was dominated by smaller films which were no less vital or exciting. The problem, of course, is that far fewer people saw them, jockeying as they had to against a veritable ocean of streaming options and comfort-viewing. There were films which I truly loved, and wished I could share with my friends, but could do nothing except impotently urge them to plunk down a rental fee. This was an entire generation of wonderful films which never got a chance to screen before more than a handful of people at a time.

Thankfully, the Brattle’s opening lineup is slated to rectify this injustice. This year, the Brattle has expanded their annual “(Some of) The Best of” program to last the entire summer. If you missed these films, this is the perfect opportunity to catch up with them; if you did see them, this is your chance to finally see them as they were intended to be seen. Below is the Hassle’s guide to the complete series, with quotes from our amazing staff of critics and links to their original reviews (where available– even we can’t see everything!). Read up, chart out your calendar, and make up for lost time. —Oscar Goff, Hassle film section editor.

[Note: At press time, the Brattle’s calendar includes several dates to be determined. This guide may be updated as additional screenings are announced.]

Thu 7/8 – Fri 7/9: Jazz on a Summer’s Day (1959) dir. Bert Sterns – “This concert film blends huge performances from some of the greatest jazz musicians of all time with low key sequences of people just partying and enjoying themselves on a hot Newport evening.” (Kyle Amato)

Fri 7/9 – Sat 7/10: Da 5 Bloods (2020) dir. Spike Lee – “If there is a very slim silver lining to our current political hellscape, it’s that it’s given Lee a new lease on life and brought him back, guns blazing, as one of our most vital directors… With Da 5 Bloods, Lee has cashed in the clout and goodwill generated by BlacKkKlansman to create possibly his most expansive story since Malcolm X.” (Oscar Goff)

Sun 7/11: Lucky Grandma (2019) dir. Sasie Sealy – “Perhaps the most endearing thing about Lucky Grandma is that, outside of her instigating transgression, Grandma Wong (who is universally addressed as such, even by career criminals) never exactly breaks bad, so much as extends her blunt, no-nonsense approach to life to increasingly extreme situations… Grandma Wong will live her life the way she wants, and everyone else will simply have to deal with that.” (OG)

Mon 7/12 / Wed 7/14: Bacurau (2019) dir. Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça Filho – “It’s fitting that Bacurau premiered (and won the Jury Prize) at the same Cannes festival where Parasite won the Palme d’Or; the two share a sense of righteous anger and comic anarchy, and leave you with a similar sense of wanting to fuck shit up in the best possible way. Combined, the two make a compelling argument for world cinema as the new punk rock.” (OG)

BACURAU (2019) dir. Juliano Dornelles & Kleber Mendonça

Fri 7/16 / Sat 7/17: Another Round (2020) dir. Thomas Vinterberg – “Waiting for Mads Mikkelsen to get drunk enough to dance is like waiting for Bruce Lee to get mad enough to do kung fu, and the payoff is just as spectacular.” (OG)

Fri 7/16 / Sat 7/17: Deerskin (2019) dir. Quentin Dupieux – “A breezy 77 minutes, Deerskin wastes no time getting the plot moving. The story is simple but outlandish… Deerskin, like the best BUFF offerings, is a film that immediately feels like a midnight viewing classic.” (KA)

Sun 7/18: Miss Juneteenth (2020) dir. Channing Godfrey Peoples – “Miss Juneteenth is an extremely confident first feature from director Channing Godfrey Peoples, relevant in ways she could not have realized when filming. The film is about more than Juneteenth, but it could still become a holiday staple.” (KA)

Mon 7/19 Flowers of Shanghai (1998) dir. Hou Hsiao-Hsien

Wed 7/21 / Thurs 7/22: Shirley (2020) dir. Josephine Decker – “Like its titular subject and her stories, Shirley is undefinable; a genre-melding, chaotic blur of images that leaves one feeling achingly titillated and hungry for more.” (Nick Perry)

Fri 7/23 / Sat 7/24: First Cow (2019) dir. Kelly Reichardt – “First Cow is a winner from start to finish, and much of the credit goes to Reichardt’s direction of these two men. The wilderness forges bonds, even between two men who might not be good for each other.” (KA – read Kyle’s interview with director Kelly Reichardt here!)

FIRST COW (2019) dir. Kelly Reichardt

Fri 7/23 / Sat 7/24: Shadow in the Cloud (2020) dir. Roseanne Liang

Sun 7/25: Dick Johnson Is Dead (2020) dir. Kirsten Johnson – “If the director of Cameraperson is able to subvert the technique of sharing personal experiences once again through this morbidly humorous heartbreak, then storytelling has no excuse to be boring again. Reinventing the death of a loved one over and over again– while using said loved one as an actor– is the perfect treatment for anxious, fiddling hands waiting for the near inevitable.” (Anna Hoang)

Mon 7/26: Black Bear (2020) dir. Lawrence Michael Levine

Fri 7/30 / Sat 7/31: Shadow of the White Mare (1981) dir. Marcell Jankovics – “An unmissable animated feast based on Hungarian myth, this psychedelic film deserves to be seen on the big screen.” (KA)

Fri 7/30 / Sat 7/31: Sound of Metal (2019) dir. Darius Marder – “Sound of Metal is a sweet, melancholy character study about a deeply flawed man learning to cope with personal tragedy. In many ways, however– certainly to anyone who’s spent much time around music, which I imagine is much of the Hassle’s readership– it is scarier than any horror movie.” (OG)

Sun 8/1: Ham on Rye (2019) dir. Tyler Taormina – “A hazy and surreal coming-of-age movie that feels one part Sofia Coppola and one part Twilight Zone. Tyler Taormina shoots and directs this movie impeccably; nothing feels real, but everything feels intimate. I genuinely never want to be a teenager again.” (NP)

Mon 8/2: Ghost Tropic (2019) dir. Bas Devos – “It’s the best kind of small film… one where the events are confined to a single night, but the film still showcases the beauty of a modern city in darkness.” (Noemi Arellano-Summer)

Wed 8/4: Vitalena Varela (2019) dir. Pedro Costa

Fri 8/6 / Sat 8/7: Promising Young Woman (2020) dir. Emerald Fennell – ”The scorching feature directorial debut from polymathic showrunner/actress/novelist Emerald Fennell, Promising Young Woman fully taps into the fury of the moment, by turns (and often simultaneously) harrowing, blisteringly funny, and utterly devastating. It’s unlike anything I’ve seen in a very long time, and it’s easily one of the year’s best movies.” (OG)

Sun 8/8 / Mon 8/9: Never Rarely Sometimes Always (2020) dir. Eliza Hittman – “Abortion is healthcare, and healthcare is a right. Sidney Flanagan gives one of the best performances of the year.” (NP)

Wed 8/11: The Assistant (2019) dir. Kitty Green – “A grueling portrait of the cruelties that a young woman endures and also learns to overlook. Human resources is not your friend.” (NP)

Thu 8/12: Nationtime (1973) dir. William Greaves – “The raw, riveting power harnessed by legacies in the makings — a 21-year-old Jesse Jackson, the newly widowed Coretta Scott King and Betty Shabazz, the magnetic freshness of Richard Roundtree stepping on the stage to the Shaft theme song  — makes this 1972 National Black Political Convention more than the birth of new Black power in the political realm, but the chance for modern history to check itself in the mirror.” (AH)

Fri 8/13 / Sat 8/14:  Kajillionaire (2020) dir. Miranda July – “In an interesting departure from July’s prior movies, Kajillionaire is told mostly straightforwardly… it is a realistic story that sometimes veers into cinematic wonder.” (NP)

KAJILLIONAIRE (2020) dir. Miranda July

Fri 8/13 / Sat 8/14: Possessor (2020) dir. Brandon Cronenberg – “It is such a bold and aggressively strange film that it forced me to stop thinking about anything else. It’s not a breath of fresh air, so much as a nostril full of horseradish.” (OG)

Sun 8/15: Martin Eden (2019) dir. Pietro Marcello – “An Italian twist on Jack London’s novel landing somewhere between Varda and My Brilliant Friend, Martin Eden is a beautifully shot film about the hottest man alive understanding his value in a cruel world. Luca Marinelli deserves everything.” (KA)

Thu 8/19: Minari (2020) dir. Lee Isaac Chung – “Simply put, Minari is a beautiful film, in every sense of the word. This is clearly a very personal story for Chung, and he lingers on his setting with the love of someone recreating a long-lost home.” (OG)

Fri 8/20 / Sat 8/21: Relic (2020) dir. Natalie Erika James – “Relic is inventive, idiosyncratic, and deeply personal. When the scares arrive, you feel them, both because the three central performances are nuanced enough to involve you in their story, and because you’re never quite sure how things are going to shape up.” (OG)

Fri 8/20 / Sat 8/21: Time (2020) dir. Garrett Bradley – “A part of the documentary’s drive is tracking Fox’s undertaking in Rob’s early prison release. If Fox is infuriated with the system, it doesn’t show, barring instance deserved of its moment… Her love for her sons, her ability to share a resulting wisdom, and the canniness of unwavering politeness toward unhelpful court associates demonstrate that Fox can, too, stand as an opposing symbol to a pervasive system that can run under legal protection.” (AH)

Wed 8/25 / Thu 8/26: Ikarie XB-1 (1963) dir. Jindřich Polák – Ikarie XB-1‘s greatest virtue is the visual translation of man’s confrontation with infinity… Polák redefines space through a tense division of the word: negative space as an absence of being and outer space as an ominous beast, crouched and ready to strike.” (AH)

Fri 8/27 / Sat 8/28: Tenet (2020) dir. Christopher Nolan – “Almost a parody of Christopher Nolan movies, Tenet is intentionally confusing but never boring, so serious it’s silly, and extremely loud. The characters tell you not to understand, just feel it. And you certainly do!” (KA)

Mon 8/30: Swallow (2019) dir. Carlo Mirabella-Davis

The Brattle Theatre reopens Friday, 7/2. The (Some of) The Best of 2020 series will run from 7/8 through 9/1 (at least). Tickets will go on sale for Brattle members Wednesday, 6/23, and to the general public on 6/24. Long live independent cinema.

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