Movie Night! Wes Anderson, Rebecca Hall and Puppet Power

Movie still from the film Passing. Courtesy of Netflix.


By Glenn McDonald

Every other week, our Movie Night! column previews the best upcoming films showing in Chapel Hill theaters – for those who still like to go out to the movies. While Covid remains an issue, all local venues have taken measures to make their spaces safe. Also please remember that bookings and schedules change all the time, so always check online before heading out.

Passing: opens Nov. 3 at the Chelsea

Just on the strength of her acting chops, British actress Rebecca Hall must be considered one the great artists working in the film business today. She’s terribly good at what she does. That’s one of several reasons to go see Passing, Hall’s debut as director, which is earning wildly positive reviews coming off the film festival circuit.

Filmed in black-and-white – this is significant – Passing is based on the 1929 novel of the same name by Nella Larsen. The film concerns two childhood friends of mixed-race backgrounds (Tessa Thompson and Ruth Negga), and their different experiences navigating the treacherous waters of race in America. Hall has a mixed background herself and the project was intensely personal for her, according to recent interviews. I liked this one in particular.

The French Dispatch: opens Nov. 4 at Silverspot and the Chelsea

Wes Anderson films are an acquired taste, and for those of us who have acquired it, they’re always a good time at the movies. Anderson’s latest, The French Dispatch, is a kinda-sorta anthology featuring three short stories and a prelude, each stitched into a larger framing narrative based on The New Yorker magazine back in the day. The all-star cast is packed: Bill Murray, Benicio del Toro, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Timothée Chalamet, Léa Seydoux, Jeffrey Wright, Adrien Brody, Owen Wilson, Elisabeth Moss, Saoirse Ronan, Christoph Waltz … the list, believe it or not, goes on.

The French Dispatch is expertly conceived, beautifully crafted, and … complicated. For a full review, click on over to our friendly neighboring publication. But the upshot is that this is the kind of movie you want to see on the big screen, if you’re going to see it at all. Wes Anderson’s visual compositions are intricate and painstakingly designed, down to the atomic level. As responsible movie lovers, we really should see this one as intended.

We Are Here – special screening Nov. 5 at The Varsity

For more than 20 years now, the Triangle’s own Paperhand Puppet Intervention has been making spectacular multimedia performance art around running themes of connection and ecology. The documentary We Are Here, from Carrboro filmmaker Marc Levy, follows the company members as they struggled to mount a production in the midst of the pandemic.

This special screening at the Varsity will be followed by a Q&A session. From Paperhand’s mission statement: “We will use this puppetry, performance and creativity to undermine and eradicate greed, hate and fear and promote justice, equality and peace.” Can’t argue with that.

Quick Hits: The latest comic book movie from Marvel Studio’s assembly line, Eternals concerns a race of immortal aliens sworn to protect the Earth. So that’s good. More interesting is the weird fact that the director is Chloé Zhao, maker of last year’s best film, Nomadland. This one is playing all over the place, including the Caraway drive-in.

On Saturday, Nov. 13 at 6:30 pm, The Varsity will host the official North Carolina premiere of Fix, an original musical film produced by a team of 40-plus UNC students and their co-conspirators. Check out the details here and support your local musical theater nerds.

On Wednesday Nov. 10, the Chelsea will screen a special late-night showing of the classic 1975 documentary Grey Gardens, along with a parody short, Frayed Gardens: The Covid Cut, by Carrboro filmmaker (and Chelsea programmer) Diana Newton.

British director Edgar Wright (Shaun of the Dead, Baby Driver) is back with Last Night in Soho, an intriguing horror/mystery featuring apparitions, time travel, and London circa 1960. It’s playing now at Silverspot and plenty of other Triangle area theaters.

Glenn McDonald is a Chapel Hill freelance writer and contributing film critic with Indy Week.



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