After being underwhelmed by Kate Plays Christine (5.5/10), I really like how this presents Christine Chubbuck as a full individual, each fragment of her person -- work, social, milieu, medical, interest, and so on -- given equal weight, so there is no direct mapping for anything as cause-and-effect to that decision. She was this person who did what she did, and there will always exist the unknowable to a person, that can at best be vaguely intuited, but never certain for sure. Antonio Campos and especially Rebecca Hall give the portrayal of Christine a tricky combination of specificity, honesty, and respect that both gives us a reason to continue watching while (mostly) keeps the potential ghoulish voyeurism at bay. 7.5/10
Hidden Figures (2016)
Disappointingly generic execution that still can't quite overwhelm what's so good about it: the inherently fascinating story, the context of space race and Cold War intertwining with racial discrimination both personal and institutional, and the three leads. Not in love with the outburst scene with Henson, which both takes me out of the film (an anachronistic moment in its speech details and the actual aftereffect) and just strikes a wrong note out of the film's tone for me (not dissimilar to Ruffalo's Oscar-ready speech in Spotlight interrupting that film's low-key tone). Otherwise though, the three's charisma in of themselves and with each other are so strong that moments of triumphant joy throughout are still satisfying. 6.5/10
Sidenote: Janelle Monae's and Glen Powell's screen presences are off the chart. Too bad they share only one scene.
Nocturnal Animals (2016)
Great elements in isolation (Jake Gyllenhaal's performance, MVP Michael Shannon, Laura Linney's hair, the final shot, and so on) that never quite cohere to make its hollow core, even if by design, resonating enough, although that final shot helps rally up a bit. Must say the matching of the novel's more disturbing passages to the offense(s) in the framing story that initiated the creativity-as-revenge gives me major skeevy. It really would help if we have even a tiny bit of Gyllenhaal's perspective in the present timeframe too, because as is this feels like the film shifts its judgemental attitude, including some real bad implication along with it, onto Amy Adams too much. 6/10
Don't Think Twice (2016)
I know nothing about improv, barely (if ever) watch any improv (my exposure to SNL is only to political ones with Kate McKinnon), but I immensely enjoyed this, in which it doesn't matter how I feel about the art form because it is treated insightfully as a passionate job to these people. I expected the jokes and a warm look into an unfamiliar subject, but what I didn't expect is getting so involved in this circle of friends I got teared up a bit. This makes me realize that a film with an undercurrent of "life moves on" message is one of the easiest things to get to me emotionally (with Toy Story 3 as the epitome). And although it ends with more warm fuzzies than despair, that the message has an added layer of "life isn't fair" and comes after a whole film of dreams being deferred makes it a bit more stinging, and has just the right balance of bittersweet to the ending.
MVP: Gillian Jacobs. Her performance in the "well" scene destroys me. 7.5/10