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In the first episode of their 1991 throwback miniseries Smells Like Twin Critics, Alex and Nick take a trip down memory lane as they revisit Walt Disney Pictures’ hugely successful adaptation of Beauty and the Beast. Plus, Alex talks about the iconoclastic documentary filmmaker Marlon Riggs and Nick pays tribute to one of France’s greatest screenwriters.

I’ve written before about how cinephiles were turning to the past for their film-viewing experiences in 2020. But that isn’t to say there wasn’t new content worth seeing. The usual glut of tentpole titles was considerably lessened as major blockbusters were either continuously delayed or exclusively launched online.  Independent films, particularly in the United States, provided a stark contrast to the big-budget spectacles whose underwhelming results ultimately made them look culturally irrelevant in a year where cries for change were voiced throughout the world with a ferocious immediacy not seen in a generation.

Majid Majidi’s Sun Children (Khoršhid) draws inescapable comparisons to his third fiction feature, Children of Heaven (Bačče-hâ-ye âsemân). The breakout success of that film, the first from Iran to be nominated for the International Feature Oscar, was itself part of a longstanding tradition in Iranian cinema where children serve as allegorical figures. Majidi’s latest utilizes its cast of mostly young, non-professional actors for pointed social critique, made apparent in the opening crawl’s reference toward the 152 million children inured to forced labor all over the world. The film’s attempted melding of universality with social specificity yields mixed, if well-intentioned, results.

For its first virtual edition, Alex is publishing an ongoing series of his high (and low) lights at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

It is impossible to imagine a world without Sesame Street. Having been the #1 children’s program for over half a century since it first aired in 1969, generations of kids have learned their ABC’s from such iconic figures as Big Bird, Bert, Ernie and Cookie Monster. You’d be hard-pressed to find a single American who does not know these characters, or their idiosyncratic personalities. Although its influence may have waned somewhat after 52 years, along with the transition from public television to cable with its new home on HBO, documentary filmmaker Marilyn Argelo (Mad Hot Ballroom) figures it is time to look back at the beginnings of a cultural institution.

Other reviews you may want to check out!

  • That’s the Thing (Smells Like Twin Critics) – A Brighter Summer Day
  • That’s the Thing (Smells like Twin Critics) – Beauty and the Beast (1991)
  • Sun Children (2020) review
  • Dispatches from Sundance – Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street
  • Dispatches from Sundance – I Was a Simple Man
  • Dispatches from Sundance – On the Count of Three