See it in theaters: 'Language Lessons'
"The biggest lesson that I learned—and this is as much due to directing two movies in one year as it is to the actual pandemic itself—is that I just had to stop wasting time doubting myself or having imposter syndrome and just do it," reflects Natalie Morales, the director, co-star, co-writer and co-executive producer of Language Lessons, in a feature on A.frame this week. "I had to learn that my stories and my experiences and my thoughts and my opinions are just as valid as some guy who went to film school, and perhaps slightly more necessary because they haven't really been seen as often." Morales, who also directed the teen comedy Plan B this year, plays an online Spanish teacher who develops a friendship with one of her students, played by Mark Duplass, who also co-wrote and co-produced. Shot in four or five days during lockdown, the movie's getting rave reviews, and is a testament to the creativity that can blossom despite—or perhaps because of—working within a tight set of constraints.
First ep streams Sunday on HBO Max: 'Scenes from a Marriage'
Writer-director Hagai Levi grew up in a small, religious kibbutz in Israel. Televisions were forbidden in households, but there was one at the communal club. "I was running away from the yeshiva into this club," Levi recalls in an A.frame exclusive this week, "and suddenly one night—I was 18, I think—Israeli television aired Scenes from a Marriage. I didn't know what I was watching. I didn't know anything about Bergman. I didn't know anything about cinema or the arts in general, but it was shocking. I knew that I was seeing something big, and that this was art." Decades later, Levi's miniseries adaptation of Ingmar Bergman's seminal 1973 Scenes from a Marriage is here. Academy members Oscar Isaac and Jessica Chastain—stepping into the big shoes of original players Erland Josephson and Liv Ullmann—play an American couple navigating their emotional roller coaster of a marriage. Classmates at Juilliard years ago, Isaac and Chastain are winning praise for their intimate chemistry, and this remake looks like a worthy retelling of Bergman's tender, superbly drawn tale.
ALSO: Here's Levi's list of his 5 favorite Bergman works.
Catch it in theaters: 'The Card Counter'
Oscar nominee and Academy member Paul Schrader's newest stars the ubiquitous Oscar Isaac as a poker player and U.S. army vet who, haunted by his time at Abu Ghraib prison in Iraq, takes the troubled son (Tye Sheridan) of his former army cohort under his wing. Thematically similar in certain respects to both Taxi Driver—Schrader wrote the classic screenplay to Scorsese's masterpiece—and the recent First Reformed, which earned Schrader his first screenplay nod, The Card Counter finds Schrader still very much at the top of his game, after an incredible five-decade career in films and film criticism. Also stars Tiffany Haddish and Willem Dafoe.
Also in theaters: 'Fauci'
He's become a household name over the course of the pandemic, and now he's got his very own documentary to boot. Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, has been hard at work for decades—apparently toiling some 12 hours a day, 6 days a week, year after year after year. Despite this clear commitment to public health, his story is not without some controversy, and directors John Hoffman, a Doc Branch Academy member, and Janet Tobias are careful to give a nuanced account of the man in this intelligent and probing doc.
Pick it up on Criterion Blu-ray: 'Beasts of No Nation'
Academy member Cary Joji Fukunaga, who shot to prominence after directing the first season of the hit HBO series True Detective, earned accolades in 2015 for Beasts of No Nation, which he directed, wrote, produced and shot. Now available in a beautiful Criterion Blu-ray package, the film stars Abraham Attah (winner of the Marcello Mastroianni Award at Venice) as Agu, a boy who escapes his war-torn West African village and joins a guerrilla battalion led by the Commandant, played by Idris Elba. Featuring strikingly visceral cinematography by Fukunaga and a host of excellent performances, it's a vital addition to your home collection.