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“Hardy, I have known you since you were a boy, so I think I have the requisite experience and insight to aver that you are and always have been penis cancer in human form.”

Movie Night Extravaganza’s Oscar 2023 month continues with Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers. A warm, sharply written 1970s found family film about sad people helping each other that does not AT ALL unfold how you think.

Forrest MillerConan Neutron, and Kristina Oakes are joined by Jacobin film critic and Filmsuck host Eileen Jones.

What a treat! Richly humanistic and nuanced portrayal of isolated broken people helping each other. Not just set in the 1970s, but FEELS like the 1970s. This is a terrifically bittersweet, touching and frequently very funny character study made for adults. Director Alexander Payne and David Hemingson create a cute and interesting film about a teacher played by Paul Giamatti, a stodgy glass eyed grump of a history Professor. A grieving school cook played by the incredible Da’Vine Joy Randolph, and a student played by impressive acting newcomer Dominic Sessa stuck on campus at a boys boarding school over Christmas Break. Loathed by his students, who are stuck with him over the Christmas holiday at school. Paul Giamatti is definitely the stand out performance. He plays the History Teacher Paul Hunham who is being punished by a former student turned headmaster for not giving a C+ to a Senators Son who paid a bunch of money for the gym. And is most likely to announce unrequested facts to strangers about esoteric concepts.

Hunham is self-serious, disliked, and takes his job at Barton Academy more seriously than he needs to. He sees himself as a Traditionalist shaper of young men. However, he hasn’t really progressed himself past his tenure at Barton decades ago. Hunham is bad with people and has the emotional intelligence of one of the students he teaches.

Da’Vine Joy Randolph is also stunning here. As a cook who is grieving her son who was killed in Vietnam. A working class black boy sent off to fight a rich man’s war. Her supporting actress nomination is well earned.

There is a lot of compassion in this movie. The relationships that Paul Hunham makes with Mary and with Angus, push him towards real growth maybe for the first time in decades. It’s aesthetically, a well-worn territory… unlikely friendships and found family. Yet how it unfolds and develops is unique and interesting and not quite what you might expect. Unique and in a believable way. It’s a great trick without being too clever about it.

This isn’t just a “hey, weren’t the 70s great?” aesthetic. It is a well written movie about loneliness and engagement, encapsulating the complicated and messy nature of connection. You end up sympathizing with three characters, two of whom actually would kind of suck if they didn’t have these moments between them. You see them in their fullness, absent of treacle and Hallmark moments. Yet with absolutely hilarious and well written dialogue.

In some ways it is a “people who don’t have much in common actually learn from and grow through an unlikely friendship” movie. It is funny, quick and compassionate and doesn’t swell in the realm of nostalgia.

Cathartic without being cloying. This is a film about the work of regular kindness and the frequent minefield of understanding and connection. It’s a warm, perceptive comedy-drama that makes you feel connected to your fellow human beings. The overall tone of the film is beautifully modulated. And even the ending, which is both grim and hopeful at the same time, is handled just right. 


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Forrest, Conan Neutron, Kristina Oakes and  @JacobinMag  &  @filmsuckpodcast1517  Film Critic Eileen Jones talk about Alexander Payne’s The Holdovers

Over the next month and a half, we are going to be covering the #oscars movies leading up to our Oscar Night Livestream!!

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