Elvis, The Makanai, and Sundance
Art, love, and ambition, plus goings-on at the annual film festival
On this week’s episode of Criticism Is Dead, we discuss Elvis and The Makanai, a film and a series about the people behind the performer.
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03:37 Elvis, streaming on HBO Max, is a gaudy, flawed, stirring love letter to the King of Rock and Roll.
Pelin and I are not really Elvis heads, nor big into biopics, nor even Baz Luhrmann-type maximalists — and yet, some part of Elvis still worked for both of us. Maybe it’s the tender love that Lurhmann clearly feels for his subject. Maybe it’s Austin Butler’s electrifying, all-encompassing possession of his character (to the point where he apparently can’t stop talking like that, even now). Maybe it’s the external context, one in which the world seems to be mourning the loss of Elvis’s daughter Lisa Marie Presley, adding to the glossy, fraught lore of the man, the myth, the legend. Regardless, we unexpectedly enjoyed a lot of the film, even if it was marred by some directing choices and, in particular, the character and portrayal of Col. Parker. Never let Tom Hanks near a fat suit and a pseudo-Dutch accent again, please!
17:43 The Makanai: Cooking for the Maiko House, streaming on Netflix, is a comforting series about friendship, life choices, and following one’s dreams.
Cozy watch alert! The Makanai is a bit of an anti-drama, eschewing manufactured conflict in favor of the warmth that can be found at the heart of this maiko house. Episodes pass by like vignettes, exploring the everyday lives and moments of central cast of characters. The show’s quiet exterior belies a thoughtfulness that occasionally raises interesting questions about what it takes to pursue ambition. But mostly, it’s just a pleasure to watch. If there is one main gripe, it’s that Kiyo, one of the protagonists, remains curiously blank throughout the nine episodes, a cipher of a character. Hopefully more to come in a second season, if there is one…?
35:01 Plus, a brief rundown of some allegedly buzzy films at Sundance.
And other shenanigans that we are only privy to from afar:
A beautiful little reflection by Pelin in her newsletter — subscribe for more of her writing, and please get in touch if you see any cool film/TV opportunities for our girl!
Anne Hathaway will always be famous:
Well I simply must agree with this:
The New Yorker on MILF Manor, which I will not be watching.
A proposed new paradigm for the Razzies, by Fran Hoepfner.
SNL union strike?? Hell yeah.
And, finally, thank you, Brandon Tsay.
That’s it for now. Thank you and see you next week!
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