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Wondering what to watch this weekend? This week sees multiple paranoid assessments of the American condition land on streaming — from two very different perspectives. The first of these is through the eyes of director Carey Williams with his feature directorial debut Emergency, following two young black college students as they try and solve a dire situation without getting the police involved for their very real fear of being attacked and killed by them.
The latter is… different, with Oliver Stone’s 1992 conspiracy thriller JFK, which throws just about every idea about the eponymous president’s assassination at the wall in its questioning of the official stories fed to the public by the government.
Read more: Everything new on Sky in May
As something of a comedown from these two moderately intense films, there’s also the recent romantic comedy Crazy Rich Asians, which is, as the very title itself suggests, a big budget extravaganza about big budget extravaganzas, a very watchable fish-out-of-water scenario.
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Emergency (2022) - Prime Video — Pick of the week
Released in amongst a chain of films and television shows exploring racism in the context of the American higher education system, Carey Williams’s feature debut Emergency is embedded in the subjective perspective of its black characters, reflecting the uncomfortable feeling of being examined and suspected.
Read more: New of Prime Video in May
From its beginning however it could quite easily be mistaken as a lighthearted riff on as Greg Mottla’s 2007 comedy Superbad: starting with the fraternal trio of contrasting personalities determined in their mission to party before heading down different paths in their lives, plus the “one wild night” timeframe of the movie itself.
The vital distinction between these films however, is that in Emergency, when the cops arrive on the scene, they’re not at all friendly. It’s a universal fact of life for black and brown Americans and Williams breaks down the consequences down to the most minute level, ranging from the immediate bodily harm and even government-licensed murder to the personal anxieties of the people who find themselves most at risk of harm from those supposed emergency services.
The straight A student Kunle and his slacker friends Sean and Carlos find themselves weighing up the consequences of calling the cops when they come back to their dorm to find a drunk white girl passed out in their living room.
The college comedy aspect seeps in through the weed and alcohol-addled decision-making and immature panic undoubtedly making things worse, insults flying as indecision hangs in the air. But Williams also presents this genuine, tangible fear empathetically (and even comedically) as Kunle and his friends simultaneously make the wisest and worst decisions for their circumstances, and expertly walks navigates the tension between frat humour and grim, real world consequence.
Also on Prime: Kick Like Tayla (2022)
JFK (1992) - Disney+
It’s strange that this acclaimed Oliver Stone drama so presciently depicts the fevered paranoia of the more digital modern day, but that’s what the 1992 drama JFK does, at admittedly epic length.
Read more: New on Disney+ in May
The film is about the investigation into the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, the investigation itself is lead by New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, here played by Kevin Costner, the head of a veritable who’s-who of middle-aged (now senior) cinema legends.
Garrison begins to doubt the consensus thinking on the murder, and finds himself facing resistance from the government as a result, and, after the killing of suspected assassin Lee Harvey Oswald (Gary Oldman), he reluctantly closes the case. But of course Garrison later reopens the investigation as he finds evidence of a conspiracy behind Kennedy’s death.
Read more: New on Netflix in May
Stone’s depiction of the investigation throws everything at the wall with frequently giddy, astounding editing work. It’s a genuine highlight, a frequently overwhelming overload of information but one so compellingly breathless in its feverish montage, one that truly leaves no stone unturned (so to speak).
Also on Disney+: Daredevil (2003), Jumper (2008)
Crazy Rich Asians (2018) - BBC iPlayer
Despite the incredibly alienating wealth on display in Jon M. Chu’s throwback rom-com — clue’s in the title — there’s some touches of specificity in Crazy Rich Asians that keeps it situated in an emotional reality that mainstream American films don’t often concern themselves with.
This isn’t to say that Chu’s film isn’t subject to its flaws; for all of the extravagance on display this is still a very by-the-numbers rom-com. But even with those in mind it’s pleasant and familiar comfort viewing even for those who don’t recognise the cultural details that the film relishes in.
What’s universal is its dealing with the volatile, tentative relationships between an outsider and a prospective new family, intense games of mahjong and some fun iciness from Michelle Yeoh. Not a barn burner, nor a particular priority, but not a bad way to spend a couple of hours.
Also on iPlayer: Coco (2017)