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Five Cent Cine At Home: Free Solo

Streamer of the Week…

Available: Streaming on Disney and Hulu; for rent or purchase from many sources, including YouTube, Google Play  (see Just Watch listings for it here).

Sweaty Palms

Most films are best seen with minimal knowledge of the production’s content, and in ignorance of the narrative arc and ending. The documentary “Free Solo” is an exception. Even knowing he succeeds, it’s difficult to sit through Alex Honnold’s incredible (in the fullest sense of that word) ascent of El Capitan, the 3,000-foot vertical wall of rock that dominates California’s Yosemite National Park. Honnold accomplished the four-hour, 3,000-foot feat without ropes, pitons, a parachute, or anything else that would prevent him —should he make just one wrong move —from falling to his death from the sheer face of one of the world’s most challenging cliffs.

He carried only a small bag of chalk in the small of his back and wore shoes designed just for this mountain (to allow him to keep a toe on holds the width of the edge formed by two back-to-back quarters). Even knowing he had become the first person to succeed at this free climb, one of these reviewers repeatedly jumped in his seat, muttering “oh my God” while rubbing sweaty palms, then seeking brief respite in the bathroom (before running, as everyone else was, back to the theater).

‘Free Solo’ has pleasures beyond the thrills and chills —and sheer terror— of watching Honnold’s historic, monumental climb, captured over several years by a camera crew skilled in climbing as well as photography.

“Free Solo” has pleasures beyond the thrills and chills —and sheer terror— of watching Honnold’s historic, monumental climb, captured over several years by a camera crew skilled in climbing as well as photography. The crew itself is part of the narrative, its members expressing their concerns and anxieties as Honnold prepares, physically and psychologically, for the attempt. They worry not only that Honnold may die, and what it would mean to observe his fall, but also that they might unwittingly do something to contribute to his death.

An MRI scan reveals a remarkably inactive amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with emotions and is responsible for triggering anxiety and fear.

That said, the focus is appropriately on Honnold the person. He’s at once handsome and geeky, fit but slight in stature, alternately talky and reserved. Friendless except for fellow hikers and later a girlfriend, he lives happily in a trailer as a semi-hermit. He’s a classic introvert, but one that understands himself as a warrior of the old school, preparing for battle with a most deserving foe. An MRI scan reveals a remarkably inactive amygdala, the part of the brain that deals with emotions and is responsible for triggering anxiety and fear. That surely helped Honnold slay his dragon, but theater-goers whose brains are fully functional will cling to the edge of their seats.


Date: 2018

Directors: Jimmy Chin and Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi

Starring: Alex Honnold, Tommy Caldwell, Jimmy Chin, Sanni McCandless (as themselves).

Oscars: Best Documentary (Elizabeth Chai Vasarhelyi, Jimmy Chin, Evan Hayes, Shannon Dill)

Runtime: 100 minutes


With movie theaters closed, Five Cent Cine is shifting gears. “2 film critics” will continue our usual reviewing schedule of about 3 movies per month, now labeled Five Cent Cine At Home, with all of those films available streaming or for rent or purchase. Each review will list (at the top) the source(s) for you to access the film in your own living room or bedroom.

In addition, we’ll be posting a “Streamer of the Week,” a review from our catalogue (more than 110 reviews dating to mid-2016) of a film available for streaming—a way to revisit a film you’ve already seen or to decide you would enjoy.


Also see reviews on…

Never Rarely Sometimes Always

Sorry to Bother You

Midsommar

Hidden Figures

Ford v Ferrari

Captain Fantastic

First Cow

Seberg

Ordinary Love

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Uncut Gems

Les Misérables

The Last Black Man in San Francisco

Bombshell

1917

Little Women

Marriage Story

Queen & Slim

The Irishman

Roma

Cold Brook

Jojo Rabbit

Pain & Glory ( Dolor y Gloria)

Joker

Parasite

Downton Abbey

Ad Astra

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

The Goldfinch

Good Boys

Written by 2 Film Critics

2 Film Critics

William Graebner is Emeritus Professor of History, State University of New York, Fredonia, where he taught courses on film and American culture. He is the author or co-author of 11 books and more than 50 scholarly articles, including essays on “The Treasure of the Sierra Madre,” “McCabe and Mrs. Miller,” “The Poseidon Adventure,” and zombie films as they relate to the Holocaust. Dianne Bennett, the first woman to head a large U.S. law firm, is a retired U.S. tax lawyer.

Dianne and Bill were early and passionate attendees at the Toronto Film Festival, and today enjoy the film scenes of Los Angeles, Rome, London, and Buffalo, New York. They began reviewing films for the Rome-based website “TheAmerican/inItalia” in 2016, have maintained a blog on Rome for a decade, and published two alternative guidebooks to the Eternal City. They still can’t resist going to the movies, not to mention the ensuing discussions, sometimes heated, over a bottle of Arneis at the nearest wine bar.

​And that's just the beginning of our reviewing process. For one or two hours we discuss the film, as one of us takes notes. The notetaker transcribes the notes and prints two copies. Dianne or Bill (usually depending on who had the most compelling understanding of the film, or who was most taken with it) writes the first draft of the review--supposedly taking into account the views of the other--which is followed by 3, 4, or even 7 more drafts. At some point, sometimes days later, when we're both comfortable with the result (or accepting of it, anyway), it's done.

https://www.2filmcritics.com

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