Happy New Year one and all.  As I write this, I am consumed by so much raw emotion–outrage, disgust, sadness, cautious optimism, disbelief, frustration–that I have hardly been able to focus on writing movie reviews. It’s difficult to pull myself away from the nightmare still unfolding. I am holding my breath in the days leading up to the inauguration and hoping everyone rises to the occasion, meets the moment, and– to paraphrase Spike Lee–does the right thing: accountability and unity.

In the meantime, here are a few films released earlier in the year that you might have overlooked, and might choose to see if you need a break from the next turn of events erupting on the political landscape.

BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIE FILM: Admittedly, it’s getting harder for Sacha Baron Cohen to skewer the absurd & dangerous reality conjured by our current crop of craven elected officials.  Cohen once again leaves us cringing and gasping, jaws on the floor in this follow up to his 2006 comedy about Borat, a fictional investigative journalist from Kazakhstan who nakedly reveals the corruption and various hypocrisies that grip the American political and cultural landscape. The most sublime moment for me? Watching Rudy Giuliani lying on his back on a hotel room bed, unbuckling his belt in the presence of the young actress posing as the reporter who just interviewed him (Maria Bakalova in one of the best performances of the year) and claiming he was “tucking in his shirt.”  Witness Giuliani’s press conference at Four Seasons Landscaping, or that wild-eyed rant as rivulets of black hair dye leaked from his scalp. But after the events of the first week of 2021, satire may now be officially dead; truth is stranger than fiction. I am praying truth is also stronger than fiction.

THE PERSONAL HISTORY OF DAVID COPPERFIELD: This is a dazzling, funny, and winning adaptation of Dickens’ novel starring Dev Patel as the title character who weathers the abuses of a cruel stepfather who banishes him from his comfortable home to a grueling job in his factory.  Copperfield’s subsequent colorful adventures take him out of working class poverty and ultimately into a more genteel life as a writer. Writer/director Armando Ianucci’s brilliant vision wraps the narrative around Copperfield’s imagination as he’s writing. A first rate cast including Tilda Swinton, Hugh Laurie, and Ben Whishaw create characters so eccentrically and vividly realized they just about leap off the screen.  MUST SEE.

THE CLIMB: This is a wild ride about a friendship between two guys who grew up together, one a narcissist, the other a pushover. Michael Angelo Covino and Kyle Marvin co-wrote and co-star as Mike and Kyle, with “Michael Angelo” also directing this inspired reinvention of the buddy flick, pushing the boundaries of loyalty, sex, betrayal, and family into crazy, uncharted emotional territory. Together they are cinematic dynamite. Their hilariously toxic relationship careens full throttle from its opening scene (racing each other up a steep and winding road on bicycles on the eve of Kyle’s wedding) and confounds every expectation from the get go. I could barely look, but I couldn’t look away either.

More reviews to come….Here’s holding out hope for the New Year.