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    ‘Skate Kitchen,’ ‘Night Moves’ and More Streaming Gems

    Enjoy these options that are off the beaten path.This month’s under-the-radar streaming picks include clever riffs on the police procedural and the crime thriller; a handful of relationship stories, in keys both comic and tragic; and a pair of memorable (and upsetting) documentaries.‘The Wailing’ (2016)Stream it on Amazon.What begins as a “Memories of Murder”-style police procedural veers into darker, wilder territory in this unnerving and occasionally stomach-churning horror thriller from the writer and director Na Hong-jin. Jong-goo (Kwak Do-won) is a policeman whose investigation of a string of grisly killings is influenced by the gossip around him: “All this happened,” he is told, “after that Japanese man arrived.” When his family is drawn into the investigation, Jong-goo discovers exactly what he’s capable of — and then, things get really horrifying. The expansive 156-minute running time allows leisurely detours into character drama and bleak humor, but the picture never goes slack; there is something sinister in the air of this village, and Na builds that sense of inescapable dread with patience and power.‘Night Moves’ (2014)Stream it on Amazon.Many of Kelly Reichardt’s acolytes consider this eco-thriller to be among the director’s lesser efforts, and when placed against “Wendy and Lucy” or “First Cow,” perhaps that’s true. But Reichardt on her worst day surpasses most of her contemporaries on their best, and there’s much to recommend in this morally thorny story of a trio of radical environmentalists (Jesse Eisenberg, Dakota Fanning and Peter Sarsgaard) as they meticulously plot and execute a dangerous act of protest. Reichardt hits the thriller beats, but casually and modestly; her emphasis, as ever, is on character, and she finds as much suspense in interactions as in the action itself.‘Skate Kitchen’ (2018)Stream it on Hulu.A preview of the film.The filmmaker Crystal Moselle’s roots are in documentary — she directed the 2015 Sundance sensation “The Wolfpack” — and that ear for the rhythms and routines of real life are apparent in this hybrid feature, in which a group of female New York City skateboarders play fictionalized versions of themselves. Rachelle Vinberg stars as the outsider looking in, a would-be skater who idolizes this all-girl crew from social media, and works her way into their midst. The details are contemporary (and keenly observed), but “Skate Kitchen” is a good old-fashioned coming-of-age story, in which norms are challenged, lessons are learned and young people must decide which version of their possible selves they want to be.‘Pink Wall’ (2019)Stream it on Hulu.The writer and director Tom Cullen lays out the methodology for his relationship drama clearly and early with a loose two-shot of the couple at its center, in the fourth year of their union, out with family and making little jokes about very real issues between them. This predictably escalates into a knock-down-drag-out fight when the two are alone together. Cullen’s wise and observant script is, in many ways, about that divergence: the difference between a couple’s actions in public and in private. And the narrative structure — skipping throughout the six years of their relationship, with signaling shifts in film stock and aspect ratio — allows Cullen to maximize that contrast. He’ll go from their first night together to their last, but not as a gimmick; he seems fascinated by the fact that two people who share such hope can eventually cause each other such pain. It’s a tough, perceptive movie, and also a funny, sexy one.‘Man Up’ (2015)Stream it on HBO Max.Countless contemporary romantic comedies have built their plots on deceptions, secret motives, false identities and so on, carried out long past the point of anything resembling plausibility. This London-set boy-meets-girl tale from the director Ben Palmer and the writer Tess Morris sets up that sort of duplicity. When Nancy (Lake Bell) is mistaken by Jack (Simon Pegg) for his blind date, she chooses to go along with his error. What’s ingenious is how the film unexpectedly implodes the chicanery early on, and then watches the fireworks. The result is both a winking critique of the genre and a fine example of it. Bell and Pegg puncture conventions while still generating genuine chemistry and comic byplay.‘The Boy Downstairs’ (2018)Stream it on Hulu.Zosia Mamet was the scene-stealer supreme of the HBO comedy “Girls,” her side plots often more compelling than the main narrative, so it’s no surprise that this starring vehicle is such a charmer. She is Diana, an intelligent but insecure young woman trying to piece her life together; the title character is her ex-boyfriend (Matthew Shear), who returns to her proximity when she unwittingly moves into his apartment building. Mamet plays Diana’s dilemma with the right mix of pathos and discomfort, while the writer and director Sophie Brooks crafts emotional stakes high enough to prevent the story from veering into sitcom territory.‘White Boy’ (2017)Stream it on Netflix.In 2018, Matthew McConaughey starred in “White Boy Rick,” a dramatization of the early life of the teenage drug dealer Richard Wershe Jr. But this documentary account was made first, and is the superior telling. The director Shawn Rech uses archival footage, contemporary interviews and re-enactments to tell the story of Wershe’s rise and fall, drawing heavily on the impressions of the rich cast of colorful (and, mostly, scary) characters around him. But it’s not just his story — it’s steeped in the history of Wershe’s home turf of Detroit, and how it fell on hard times in the late 1980s thanks not only to the drug trade but also to corruption in the police department and at City Hall. The filmmaking is mostly by the numbers, but this is such a compelling story, it hardly matters.‘The Last Cruise’ (2021)Stream it on HBO Max.On Jan. 20, 2020, the Diamond Princess cruise ship departed the Port of Yokohama, with 2,666 passengers and 1,045 crew members on board. By the time it returned after two weeks of stops throughout Southeast Asia, it had become a petri dish for Covid-19, with passengers quarantined in their staterooms as the number of positive cases ticked worrisomely upward every day. Hannah Olson’s mini-documentary augments the memories of a handful of passengers and crew with their own video recordings of the ordeal, from their early, carefree (and, in retrospect, infectious) group activities to the days of worry and fear. It becomes a story of the haves and have-nots; since someone has to feed the guests, the crew has to keep working, and watching them do so (in close quarters, with no support) is as upsetting as any horror movie. “The Last Cruise” is a tough watch, but a necessary reminder of how, from the very beginning, the pandemic brought ongoing issues of class inequality to the fore. More

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    ‘Red Moon Tide’ Review: A Village Paralyzed in Grief

    Subjects stand frozen against majestic landscapes in Lois Patiño’s meditation on how Galician mythology intersects with a village’s search for souls lost at sea.“Red Moon Tide,” the enchanting second feature from the Spanish director Lois Patiño, is a portrait of a seaside village suspended in an extraordinary catatonia. Its transfixion is contagious. Indeed, I was hesitant to move during the experience for atavistic fear of disrupting the trance.As in his documentary “Coast of Death,” Patiño homes in on the Galician coast, where a community reels from the disappearance of Rubio (Rubio de Camelle), a diver known for recovering the bodies of dozens of shipwrecked sailors. Patiño captures the village’s inhabitants in utter stillness, perhaps deep in thought, bereavement or prayer. In poetic voice-over monologues, they ponder the passing of time and brood on Rubio’s fate. Allusions to a savage sea monster and a monumental dam (which may or may not be one and the same) build a sense of dread.Though thin on story, the film (streaming on Mubi) is a majestic vision. But most captivating are the settings. Even as the villagers stand motionless, their indoor and outdoor environments thrum with life: Insects swarm, wild animals roam, streams murmur and waves crash against a rocky shoreline. In one splendid shot, Patiño’s camera drifts through a forest, gazing at several field workers through the trees. The men remain frozen even as a herd of white horses gallops into frame, moving with the camera in exalted kinetic energy.A meditation on Galician mythology accompanies the lush landscapes. Partway into the film, three witches (Ana Marra, Carmen Martínez, Pilar Rodlos) materialize in the region, becoming the only individuals to move onscreen. Intertitles explain that the trio of women are searching for Rubio, though their primary mission seems to be placing white sheets over each of the villagers. Our subjects are veiled like ghosts, and suddenly — especially once the red moon rises and the screen is tinted scarlet — the souls of Rubio and his shipwrecked fishermen don’t feel so far away.Red Moon TideNot rated. In Spanish, with subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 24 minutes. Watch on Mubi. More

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    Fyre Festival Ticket Holders Win $7,220 Each in Class-Action Settlement

    Nearly four years after the infamous festival stranded thousands of attendees in the Bahamas, 277 ticket holders learned they will receive payouts, pending approval.Nearly four years after an infamous festival that was billed as an ultraluxurious musical getaway in the Bahamas left attendees scrounging for makeshift shelter on a dark beach, a court has decided how much the nightmare was worth: approximately $7,220 apiece.The $2 million class-action settlement, reached Tuesday in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Southern District of New York between organizers and 277 ticket holders from the 2017 event, is still subject to final approval, and the amount could ultimately be lower depending on the outcome of Fyre’s bankruptcy case with other creditors.But Ben Meiselas, a partner at Geragos & Geragos and the lead lawyer representing the ticket holders, said on Thursday that he was happy a resolution had at last been reached.“Billy went to jail, ticket holders can get some money back, and some very entertaining documentaries were made,” Meiselas said in an email mentioning Billy McFarland, the event’s mastermind. “Now that’s justice.”Lawyers representing the trustee charged with Fyre’s assets did not immediately respond to a request for comment.McFarland and the festival’s co-founder, the rapper Ja Rule, have faced more than a dozen lawsuits against their company, Fyre Media, in the event’s aftermath. The plaintiffs have sought millions and alleged fraud, breach of contract and more.McFarland, 29, is serving a six-year prison sentence after pleading guilty to wire fraud charges. In 2018, a court ordered him to pay $5 million to two North Carolina residents who spent about $13,000 apiece on VIP packages for the Fyre Festival.“I cannot emphasize enough how sorry I am that we fell short of our goal,” McFarland said in a 2017 statement, though he declined to address specific allegations. “I’m committed to, and working actively to, find a way to make this right, not just for investors but for those who planned to attend.”The festival, billed as “the cultural experience of the decade,” had been scheduled for two weekends beginning in late April 2017. Ticket buyers, who paid between $1,000 and $12,000 to attend, were promised an exotic island adventure with luxury accommodations, gourmet food, the hottest musical acts and celebrity attendees. Influencers including the models Kendall Jenner and Bella Hadid promoted it.But when concertgoers arrived, they were met with what the court filing describes as “total disorganization and chaos.” The “luxury accommodations” were in fact FEMA disaster relief tents, the “gourmet food” a cheese sandwich served in a Styrofoam container and the “hottest musical acts” nonexistent.The festival, which sold a total of approximately 8,000 tickets for both weekends, was canceled on the morning it was scheduled to begin, after many attendees had arrived. (The debacle spawned two documentaries, on Hulu and Netflix.)Fyre has attributed its cancellation to a combination of factors, including the weather. But some Fyre employees later said that higher-ups had invented extravagant accommodations like a $400,000 Artist’s Palace ticket package, which included four beds, eight V.I.P. tickets and dinner with a festival performer, just to see if people would buy them. (There was no such palace.) Production crew members stopped being paid as the festival date neared.Mark Geragos, another lawyer at the firm that represented ticket buyers in Tuesday’s settlement, filed the initial $100 million class-action lawsuit days after the event, which stated that Ja Rule and McFarland had known for months that their festival “was dangerously underequipped and posed a serious danger to anyone in attendance.” McFarland faced a second class-action lawsuit two days later.A hearing to approve Tuesday’s settlement is set for May 13. More

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    ‘Bill Traylor: Chasing Ghosts’ Review: He Made a ‘Pill for the Pain’

    Blues, silhouettes, two-dimensional figures at play. This artist created mystical experiences from whatever scraps he could find.Many of the works by the Alabama artist Bill Traylor, stark silhouette drawings with striking, significant blocks of color, are drawn on scraps of paper, or someone else’s stationery — things like that. This wasn’t Traylor’s way of making a postmodern statement; he was just using the art supplies he had.Traylor was born into slavery in 1853 and died in 1949. His work is an enigmatic and vital part of the American art canon. This documentary, directed by Jeffrey Wolf, is a plain, sincere, nourishing account of the artist. Wolf makes excellent use of photo and film archives, laying out the territory that fed Traylor’s vision: dirt roads, railroad tracks, backwoods. These places, the critic and musician Greg Tate notes in the film, lay the ground for the “mystical realm” of Traylor’s work: The deliberately two-dimensional figures and the limited but bold colors have the transfixing power of a waking dream.In this realm the color blue is particularly significant. Tate waxes eloquent on embracing “the blues” in order to “keep the blues off.” The visual artist Radcliffe Bailey says of his own work, “That’s Traylor’s blue, not Yves Klein. I picked up that blue from him.”The evocations of Montgomery’s Monroe Street in the 1930s and ’40s — that era’s “city that never sleeps,” according to one interviewee — are vivid. Traylor set up shop there, outside a pool hall, drawing with his blunt instruments and available paper and sleeping in the coffin storage room of a nearby funeral home. His health problems eventually led to the amputation of one of his legs. In his drawings he often looked back — to moments of respite from the traumatic world he grew up in, such as afternoons at a local swimming hole.“I see his work as a pill for the pain,” Bailey says in the film. It remains powerful medicine today.Bill Traylor: Chasing GhostsNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 15 minutes. In theaters and on virtual cinemas. Please consult the guidelines outlined by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention before watching movies inside theaters. More

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    ‘Downstream to Kinshasa’ Review: Sisyphean Persistence

    Dieudo Hamadi’s documentary follows survivors of war as they demand long-overdue government compensation.The bow of a barge cuts through rippling water, carrying a boatload of people down the Congo River. Crammed in with barely any space to move, the passengers banter, dance, cook, eat, sleep and cling desperately to sheets of tarpaulin when the rain pours.The camera stays with a small group of disabled men and women within this jostling mass. These are the survivors of a bloody six-day conflict fought between Uganda and Rwanda in Kisangani, a city in the Democratic Republic of Congo, in 2000. They are on their way to Kinshasa, the Congolese capital, to demand their long-overdue government compensation, which the survivors say amounts to $1 billion.
    A documentary about Sisyphean persistence in the face of institutional indifference, “Downstream to Kinshasa” is riveting in these boat scenes. The director Dieudo Hamadi enters the fray with his subjects, his gaze neither voyeuristic nor ethnographic. As he threads through the boat with his hand-held phone camera, his lens is lashed by the wind and raindrops; later, when the survivors demonstrate at Congo’s parliament, the police repeatedly swat the director’s camera away.Hamadi intersperses these electric scenes of protest with quieter moments of the survivors fiddling with their cheap and uncomfortable prosthetic limbs, debating strategy and staging plays about their experiences. The film sometimes flags in energy as it cuts between these different strands, but its pace feels faithful to just how halting the fight for justice can be when democracy becomes impenetrable to those it serves. Watching the subjects of “Downstream to Kinshasa” — whose tenacity the movie honors but never romanticizes — it’s hard not to wonder: What good is the right to protest if it falls on deaf ears?Downstream to KinshasaNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 30 minutes. In Lingala and Swahili, with subtitles. On virtual cinemas. More

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    ‘Why Did You Kill Me?’ Review: To Catfish a Killer

    In this Netflix true crime documentary, murder meets Myspace.“Why Did You Kill Me?” tells the story of a terrible and arbitrary killing: the death of a young woman named Crystal Theobald in Riverside, California, who was shot when a member of a neighborhood gang opened fire on her car. Theobald had no connection whatsoever to her killer, and indeed the murder seemed so random that investigators didn’t initially know how to proceed with the case.Theobald’s death was tragic. But the circumstances were not exactly sensational, or even particularly unique — a pretty meager basis, in other words, for a feature length true crime documentary, where the compelling details of a case are its entire appeal. “Why Did You Kill Me?” (streaming on Netflix) seizes on the one intriguing wrinkle to be found: the efforts of Belinda Lane, Crystal’s mother, to solve the murder herself, by creating a fake profile on the social media site Myspace and befriending possible suspects.The director, Fredrick Munk, dramatizes Belinda’s true-crime catfishing by showing us Myspace from the desktop-POV style of films like the thriller “Searching” and the horror movie “Unfriended.” But these virtual recreations, as well as Munk’s use of handcrafted miniatures and a pulsing electronic score that takes cues from Nicolas Winding Refn’s “Drive,” feel like vain attempts to invigorate limp material.Munk avoids grappling with anything serious or difficult — for instance, the socio-economic factors that produce these kinds of killings in the first place. Instead, the movie fixates on the case’s one novelty, its tangential connection to an outdated social media site. Just because a crime is true doesn’t mean it’s interesting. And as “Why Did You Kill Me?” makes clear, without substance, a dash of style won’t do.Why Did You Kill Me?Not rated. Running time: 1 hour 23 minutes. Watch on Netflix. More

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    ‘Our Towns’ Review: Across America, Signs of Life

    In this companion piece to the book of the same title, James and Deborah Fallows search for revitalization in American cities that had fallen on hard times.The documentary “Our Towns” serves as a companion piece to the 2018 book of the same title, in which the authors, James and Deborah Fallows, chronicled their travels across the country in a single-engine airplane as they spent time in places they felt the national news media narrative had missed. One ground rule, James says in the film, was to “never ask about national politics, because that conversation goes nowhere.”The movie, directed by Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan, confounds easy distinctions between urban and rural settings and red and blue states. Even what counts as progress isn’t straightforward. (In this telling, Sioux Falls, S.D., owes some of its revitalization to the state’s elimination of a ceiling on credit card interest rates.) The film trails the Fallowses as they return to some of the cities from their book, gauging civic health through libraries, local newspapers, growing art scenes and proliferating breweries.There are regional variations. Students in Columbus, Miss., grapple with the legacy of slavery all around them while adults look to a future there less marred by racism. Members of the Flandreau Santee Sioux tribe discuss their efforts to keep the Dakota language alive. A teenager in Eastport, Maine, who works in the summer as a lobsterman plans ahead for a time when climate change will move the lobster business away.Deborah says that of the pair, James (the former Jimmy Carter speechwriter and longtime journalist for The Atlantic) is the historian, and she is attuned to what’s happening in the moment. They complement each other well. Still, as enjoyable as their writing can be, the filmmaking around them — aerial shots, time lapse photography, cuts to the couple looking engrossed — is less inspired than their project.Our TownsNot rated. Running time: 1 hour 37 minutes. Watch on HBO platforms. More

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    Benita Raphan, Maker of Lyrical Short Films, Is Dead at 58

    Her dreamlike “genius” films about figures like Emily Dickinson and Buckminster Fuller hovered between documentary and experimental cinema.Benita Raphan made short experimental films about eccentric and unusual minds — like John Nash, the mathematician; Buckminster Fuller, the utopian architect; and Edwin Land, who invented Polaroid film. Her “genius” films, as they were known, are dreamlike, lyrical and suggestive. Not quite biography, they hover between documentary and experimental filmmaking. Ms. Raphan described herself as a cinematic diarist and an experimental biographer.“Up From Astonishment” (2020), her most recent film, is about Emily Dickinson. In it, ink blooms on a page; butterflies pinwheel; there are empty bird nests, an abacus and various inscrutable shapes. Susan Howe, a poet, and Marta Werner, a Dickinson scholar, are the film’s narrators, but not really. Ms. Raphan had sampled clips from her interviews with them and used their words strategically and evocatively.In one sound fragment, Ms. Howe says: “I can’t be called just a poet. I always have to be called an experimental poet, or difficult poet, or innovative poet. To me all good poetry is experimental in some way.”Ms. Raphan was a poet in her own right. She died at 58 on Jan. 10 in New York City. Her mother, Roslyn Raphan, confirmed her death, which had not been widely reported at the time, but did not specify a cause.Ms. Raphan’s films are in the permanent collection of the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis and have been shown at the Sundance and Tribeca festivals, as well as on the Sundance Channel, HBO, PBS and Channel Four in Britain. She was a Guggenheim fellow in 2019.“Benita had a wonderful way of flipping the way we think about a biographical film,” said Dean Otto, curator of film at the Speed Art Museum in Louisville, Ky. When he was a curator at the Walker Art Center, Mr. Otto acquired four of Ms. Raphan’s films, and she donated an additional two.“She conducted oral history interviews with people who knew the person or were moved by the work and then took that soundtrack and, using her background in graphic design, created these abstract images,” Mr. Otto said. “What she wanted to do was take you into the mind of these geniuses, imagine their thought processes and present that visually.”Ms. Raphan told an interviewer in 2011, “I am interested in revisiting a life or a career from the very start, from the beginning; the basic concept as initial thought, as an impulse, as an ineffable compulsion, an intuition; to reframe and reinvent an action as simple as one pair of hands touching pencil to paper.”Moments from “Absence Stronger Than Presence,” Ms. Raphan’s 1996 film about Edwin Land, the inventor of Polaroid film.via Raphan familyvia Raphan familyMs. Raphan was born on Nov. 5, 1962, in Manhattan. Her mother, Roslyn (Padlowe) Raphan, was an educator; her father, Bernard Raphan, was a lawyer.She grew up on the Upper West Side and graduated from City-as-School, an alternative public high school at which students design their own curriculums based on experiential learning, mostly through internships. (Jean-Michel Basquiat was an alumnus, as is Adam Horovitz of the Beastie Boys.) Ms. Raphan interned with Albert Watson, the fashion photographer.Her mother described Ms. Raphan as an “irregular verb.”“She saw things through a different lens,” she said. “Benita could take something ordinary and find beauty in it. She was the real deal. No artifice about her. The heart was right out there.”Ms. Raphan earned an undergraduate degree in media arts from the School of Visual Arts in Manhattan — where she also taught for the last 15 years — and an M.F.A. from the Royal College of Art in London. She spent 10 years in Paris, working as a graphic designer for fashion companies like Marithé & François Girbaud, before returning to New York in the mid-1990s.In addition to her mother, she is survived by her sister, Melissa Raphan.“While the rest of us were stealing from our instructors and other design luminaries,” said Gail Anderson, a creative director and former classmate of Ms. Raphan’s, “Benita was on her own journey, working with delicate typography and haunting images, creating collages and photo-illustrations that were uniquely Benita.”Ms. Raphan was, in her own estimation, more of a collage artist than a filmmaker. “Her films are really collages of ideas,” said Kane Platt, a film editor who worked on many of her projects. “Working with her you had a lot of freedom, and if you had ideas that were weird and wacky, she was like, ‘Go, go, go!’”She was also, Mr. Platt said, the consummate hustler. “I’ve never met anyone like her,” he said. “It was all on a shoestring. She would trade, she would barter, whatever was necessary.”He and others donated their work on her films, though she always offered to pay. (For “Absence Stronger Than Presence,” her film about Edwin Land, she persuaded the actor Harvey Keitel to provide the voice-over, and sent a chauffeur-driven limousine to pick him up for the recording session.) She found ways to be generous in return.Ms. Raphan in 2019, the year she was named a Guggenheim fellow. Declan Van Welie“She was able to bring together some very talented people,” said Marshall Grupp, one of her mentors, a sound designer and co-owner of Sound Lounge, an audio postproduction company. “Even though she had no money, she did whatever she needed to do to make it happen. I think people are attracted to that. I adored her.“She thanked me for everything,” he continued; “I don’t think people do that in this industry. Her thank-you notes came wrapped in beautiful envelopes, in a bag with colored paper. The idea of her showing appreciation in small and significant ways meant a lot. She had a lot of humanity, and that came through in her work.”At her death, Ms. Raphan was working on a film about animal behavior. Since adopting a behaviorally challenged dog from a shelter years ago, she had been fascinated by the workings of the canine mind.“Benita was a gleaner,” the filmmaker Alan Berliner said. “She was very much an urban anthropologist. She had a knack for finding things — or letting things find her. She walked her dog several times a day and knew her neighborhood very well; she knew who threw things out and where. Her films are filled with many of the strange and surprising objects she often found — the carved head of a dog; an old typewriter; a teapot; an old notebook. They lent her films a kind of unpredictability and surreal quality.”Mr. Berliner added: “Her films were not so much about their subject as they were about the issues they evoked. They’re filled with hints of things, synaptic touches that trigger thoughts. Sometimes I thought of her as a scientist in an artist’s body. She was always interested in the mystery of things.” More