STAR WARS: EPISODE IX-THE RISE OF SKYWALKER (2019) Director: J.J. Abrams
"Hale County This Morning, This Evening" earned an Oscar nomination for Best Documentary Feature in 2018, making it the last film from that year of the nominees that I've seen, which means I can finally get around to doing my Top Ten Lists, finally, ([Sigh of relief] So glad that's finally finished for me.) and it's also one of those movie that ends right around the time that I think it was starting to get interesting. It's the debut feature by photographer RaMell Ross; I thought the name sounded familiar, which it was for me, but that's because I remembered him from when he played college basketball at Georgetown a couple decades. Since then, he became a Visual Arts professor who also teaches high school basketball. This movie, basically is a kaleidoscopic mosaic of, well, Hale County, as he moved down there in 2009, and lived for several years filming, most anything and everything it seems like. Whatever caught his eye and he creates a lyrical mosaic of life there.
In fact, the strange thing for me, is that this was directed by Todd Haynes of all people. Haynes to me, is the period drama guy who tells beautiful female-led period pieces like "Far From Heaven" and "Carol", telling melodramatic stories of women having their sexuality challenged and the struggles of them exploring their desires and urges in a world that rejects them. He's definitely made other films too, like the experimental biopic "I'm Not There" where several different actors played variations of Bob Dylan; my point is still that he's one of the last people I would've expected for such a unusual straight-forward based on a true story modern narrative feature. That's probably why it's strikes such a different tone. The movie does tend to stray from some of the conventions, a bit, but more then that, it usually finds some ways to refocus the beats enough to feel different, like how this movie isn't based around courtroom scenes. There's a couple, but there's not a grand trial, there's several, and the focus is often on much of the stuff that goes on before and after the trials, like how in order for DuPont to fulfill their promise after one deal is struck, there's a requirement of waiting for an independent science panel to prove DuPont's negligence caused the illnesses of the townsfolks, and how he found they so many samples that it took seven years for the scientists to actually finish it, and that left the tonwsfolks waiting, often while they were dying off. That's an interesting kind of drama that a hack storyteller in Hollywood might've skipped over to get to the more traditional narrative conflicts, but Haynes along with the wonderful screenplay Mario Carrera and Matthew Michael Carnahan decides to focus on that instead, and other more obtuse angles to the story.
It's the first feature directed by Shelley Love, and she herself had a later pregnancy, so I guess I'll recommend the movie for being compelling on that level, but I do wonder if more could've been done here narratively. I like the first half better then the second, but it's a nice little movie with a good slice-of-life premise.