Wednesday, December 2, 2020     Volume: 21, Issue: 39
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Santa Maria Sun / Film

This weeks review
BEST WISHES, WARMEST REGARDS: A SCHITT’S CREEK FAREWELL
BINGABLE: ABANDONED (2016)
BINGEABLE: Barry
BINGEABLE: CASA DE LAS FLORES
BINGEABLE: FLEABAG
BINGEABLE: NATIONAL GEOGRAPHIC DOCUMENTARIES
BINGEABLE: OUTLANDER (2014-present)
BINGEABLE: STRANGER THINGS 3
BINGEABLE: THE SINNER (SEASON 2)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: COOL RUNNINGS (1993)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: FISH TANK (2009)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: HOUSE
BLAST FROM THE PAST: OLDBOY
BLAST FROM THE PAST: RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE MATRIX
BLAST FROM THE PAST: THE PRESTIGE (2006)
BLAST FROM THE PAST: WILD AT HEART (1990)
BLOW THE MAN DOWN
BORAT SUBSEQUENT MOVIEFILM
DA 5 BLOODS
DAVID ATTENBOROUGH: A LIFE ON OUR PLANET
FIRST COW
GREYHOUND
GUILTY PLEASURES: CHEER (2020)
HAPPIEST SEASON
HAVE A GOOD TRIP: ADVENTURES IN PSYCHEDELICS
HE LAST BLACK MAN IN SAN FRANCISCO
HEARST CASTLE: BUILDING THE DREAM
I’M THINKING OF ENDING THINGS
LYING AND STEALING
SHUT UP LITTLE MAN! AN AUDIO MISADVENTURE (2011)
THE BIGGEST LITTLE FARM
THE OPERATIVE
THE TRIAL OF THE CHICAGO SEVEN
THE VAST OF NIGHT
TREAD
TV REVIEW: BOSCH
TV REVIEW: COBRA KAI
TV REVIEW: DEFENDING JACOB
TV REVIEW: EVIL
TV REVIEW: FEAR CITY
TV REVIEW: GENERATION KILL (2008)
TV REVIEW: HANNIBAL (2013-2015)
TV REVIEW: HELL ON WHEELS (2011-2016)
TV REVIEW: HOMECOMING
TV REVIEW: I KNOW THIS MUCH IS TRUE
TV REVIEW: I MAY DESTROY YOU
TV REVIEW: I’LL BE GONE IN THE DARK
TV REVIEW: JULIE AND THE PHANTOMS
TV REVIEW: LENOX HILL
TV REVIEW: LITTLE AMERICA
TV REVIEW: LOVECRAFT COUNTRY
TV REVIEW: MRS. AMERICA
TV REVIEW: PANDEMIC: HOW TO PREVENT AN OUTBREAK (2020)
TV REVIEW: RAISED BY WOLVES
TV REVIEW: RAMY
TV REVIEW: RUN
TV REVIEW: SPACE FORCE
TV REVIEW: TABOO
TV REVIEW: THE BOYS
TV REVIEW: THE END OF THE F***ING WORLD
TV REVIEW: THE HAUNTING OF BLY MANOR
TV REVIEW: THE LAST KINGDOM
TV REVIEW: THE MIDNIGHT GOSPEL
TV REVIEW: THE MORNING SHOW
TV REVIEW: THE MOST DANGEROUS ANIMAL OF ALL
TV REVIEW: THE PLOT AGAINST AMERICA
TV REVIEW: THE QUEEN’S GAMBIT
TV REVIEW: THE THIRD DAY
TV REVIEW: THE VOW
TV REVIEW: TREADSTONE (2019)
TV REVIEW: TRIAL 4 (2020)
TV REVIEW: UNDONE
TV REVIEW: WHAT WE DO IN THE SHADOWS
TV REVIEW: ZEROZEROZERO
UNDERRATED: BATMAN BEGINS
UNDERRATED: THE BATTERED BASTARDS OF BASEBALL
VINYL NATION

First Cow depicts the power of friendship

FIRST COW

PHOTO BY , COURTESY OF A24

FIRST COW


Where is it playing?: Prime Video, Vudu, Fandango Now, iTunes

What's it rated?: PG-13

What's it worth?: $Full price (Glen Starkey)

What's it worth?: $Full price (Anna Starkey)

User Rating: 0.00 (0 Votes)

Director Kelly Reichart (Meek’s Cutoff, Wendy and Lucy) helms this story co-written for the screen with Jonathan Raymond based on his novel The Half-Life, about two men—skilled baker Otis “Cookie” Figowitz (John Magaro) and Chinese immigrant King-Lu (Orion Lee)—who form a friendship and successful business partnership in rough-and-tumble 1820 Oregon. However, their business of selling “oily cakes” is contingent on the clandestine milking of wealthy landowner Chief Factor’s (Toby Jones) cow—the only one in the region. (122-min.)

Glen: Ostensibly a Western, Reichart’s newest film doesn’t romanticize the Wild West but instead paints it as a hardscrabble and dangerous life. And rather than being the heroic protagonists of the story, our two leads are quiet, meek, and gentle, trying to eke out a living in dangerous land built on the fur trade. When they meet, Cookie is traveling with a group of loutish trappers making their way to Fort Tillicum. He runs across a naked King-Lu in the forest, on the run for killing a Russian. Cookie helps King-Lu escape, and later they meet again in Fort Tillicum, where they form their partnership. It’s an unhurried story about friendship, set up by a William Blake quote that opens the film: “The bird a nest, the spider a web, man friendship.” Humans make a home in their friendship with others. Don’t expect a fast-paced action film; like most of Reichart’s films, First Cow takes its time. Its end is pure poetry, calling back to the film’s opening framing device set in present day, when a young woman and her dog, walking by a river, come across a human skull. Quiet and moving, First Cow is an unexpected gem.

Anna: I can see why critics have scored this film higher than audiences; the pace is slow and the storyline fairly quiet, but there’s a lot of meat on this bone. The two leads are much gentler and more introspective than their rough-and-tumble neighbors, both in search of life outside the fort and bigger and better things. Their means for getting there may be a bit dishonest, but it’s easy to justify a bit of stolen milk to make their dreams a reality. King-Lu is more of a risk taker, perhaps pushing the limits of their theft to an unmanageable level. Cookie is gentle and guarded. Watching his interaction with the cow as he milks her shows what a soft and caring person he is. It’s not your typical Western where bullets are whizzing through the air and fistfights abound. Action is there, just not a whole lot of it, and it certainly isn’t what this story is about.

Glen: Reichart paints her male characters in interesting ways. The trappers are brutes, while the more “highborn” characters are downright cruel. It’s clear that male ego drives those who are seen as “successful.” The side story about Chief Factor and Captain (Scott Shepherd), a visiting friend of Factor’s, marks a sharp contrast between men like them and a man like Cookie. Factor is desperate to prove to Captain how elevated his lifestyle is, so he hires Cookie to bake a special cake for Captain’s visit. As Cookie and King-Lu arrive with the cake, Factor and Captain are having a casual conversation about punishing men who work beneath them, discussing how the number of lashes must be carefully weighed between correcting bad behavior and rendering the culprit incapable of further service, and how sometimes putting a man to death is better motivation for the remaining workers than mere corrective punishment. It’s the ugly side of wealth and power laid bare, and in contrast, Cookie and King-Lu’s friendship is so much more authentic than Factor and Captain’s. The film keeps returning to its Blake quote about friendship, in this case male friendship that offers nonmonetary riches. It’s a sweet, albeit tragic, story and maybe an underdog contender for an Academy Award.

Anna: The two men have a goal of making it to San Francisco and opening a hotel and bakery, but without capital their dreams will never come to fruition. Between oily cakes sold to the townsfolk and special requests from Chief Factor, the two are well on their way to realizing their dream. There’s something immensely satisfying about watching Factor drool over the baked goods secretly made with his cow’s milk—a cow he thinks can barely produce milk at all. The relationship between him and Captain is pretty amusing—the two can’t help but try and one-up each other in every aspect. Both are pompous and gross, the opposite of our two main characters. When Cookie and King-Lu are finally found out, they have to flee, and while many men in that situation would fend only for themselves, these two have a bond that keeps them together, for better or worse. It’s a really lovely film, and if you have the patience for it, it’s well worth a watch. I’d love to see this one up for an Academy Award.

New Times Senior Staff Writer Glen Starkey and freelancer Anna Starkey write Sun Screen. Glen compiles streaming listings. Comment at gstarkey@newtimesslo.com.










Weekly Poll
Would a second stay-at-home order be effective at slowing the spread of COVID-19?

No, pandemic fatigue is too high to get people to follow a stay-at-home order.
Yes, we need it, otherwise our hospitals will be in rough shape.
Local governments should get a say—not all purple tier counties are the same.
It would be bad news for the economy.

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