June 10th, 2018


C and I had talked of going to see Solo, and it's still on our agenda. But some other films got ahead of it in our queue.

Yesterday, C didn't feel up to going out, being in some physical discomfort and not energetic. So I suggested that we might watch something at home. Our former TV now serves both as the display for our Blu-ray player and as a monitor for her desktop. She suggested that we might download Kedi, a documentary about street cats in Istanbul, which we had missed seeing when a local theater had it for one day. This took a quarter hour or so on the phone with Apple figuring out why iTunes wouldn't download the video after we rented it, and installing an updated version—but then it worked fine.

Kedi was directed by Ceyda Torun (I believe the given name is pronounced "jaydah"), who grew up in Istanbul and went back there to make the film. She picked out seven cats for follow with drones, small mobile cameras that moved at cat level, and standard cameras for filming the humans who interacted with them. The film actually was as much about the human attitudes toward cats as it was about the cats, and I was struck by how much good will the human subjects showed: for example, the woman who cooked 20 kilos a day of chicken or the man who was bottle feeding a small group of orphaned kittens and had acquired antibiotics for one with an eye infection. At the same time, Torun showed us some of the harsher aspects of cat life, such as the female who bullied other cats or the two males in a serious dispute over territory.

Today, C's headache was gone, so we went to the local theater to see the film that had displaced Solo in our interest: Hotel Artemis, directed by Drew Pearce (apparently his first film) and starring Jodie Foster; other actors whose names I recognized were Jeff Goldblum and Zachary Quinto. This is a near-future film that isn't really cyberpunk but has the same noir sensibility as cyberpunk. The setting is a defunct hotel in downtown Los Angeles that's been adapted to a different function: Providing health care to people injured while committing crimes, operating under strict rules to keep it from being found by law enforcement or destroyed by its own patients. Nearly all of the story takes place in that one building, but there's a background story about Los Angeles being wrecked by riots inspired by water shortage.

I liked this a lot, partly because it wasn't based on any previously released source material, and I couldn't predict where things were going. The plot involved the central character, the Nurse (Jodie Foster's character), dealing both with several different sets of patients and with issues from her own past that have left her with a lot of emotional damage—when the film starts she hasn't been outside the building in a long time. I thought all of the characters were well drawn and plausibly motivated, and the three different main agendas that various patients brought to the building will tied together really well; two secondary storylines also contributed interesting bits. I did find one scene near the end, where "Nice" (played by Sofia Boutella; all the patients are referred to by the names of their rooms) takes out half a dozen armed gangsters who have broken into the building, a bit too superheroic to fit the rest of the film, but I had enjoyed the character's earlier scenes enough to forgive both her and the director an over-the-top action sequence. The science fictional aspects were good, too, particularly the advanced medical equipment that still couldn't fix everything or save everyone.

And I really liked having a sense of who the characters were as people, and how their actions grew out of this. Establishing essential character for nine significant characters in a film with this much action is quite an accomplishment.

Somehow I'm afraid we won't be as impressed by Solo, but we still plan to see it. We had talked of seeing Upgrade also, but we watched the trailer after we got home and we both have our doubts about it now. . . .