What if I told you that one of the most absorbing protagonists of the year is a motorized vehicle? 2022 has been an exceptional year for the complex and captivating film protagonist: We got to revisit Tom Cruise’s beloved Navy aviator; Michelle Yeoh stole our hearts as an ass-kicking laundromat owner; anyone who claims that Marcel the Shell with Shoes On didn’t make them cry is clearly lying. But I’m not talking about them. I’m talking, of course, about Opportunity, or “Oppy,” the rover that NASA shot to Mars in July of 2003 to search for proof that the planet once retained water and, perhaps, hosted life.
Directed by Ryan White, Good Night Oppy follows Oppy and her twin sister Spirit, the machines that became beloved public spectacles when they exceeded their projected expiration dates by years. Good Night Oppy tells their stories in a neat blend of archival footage of rocket launches and NASA situation rooms, interviews with the masterminds behind the dynamic duo, and sublime CGI reimaginings of the rovers’ adventures on Mars, courtesy of the VFX magicians at Industrial Light & Magic.
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When considering the place of virtual reality in the 21st century, it’s hard to picture anything short of an aggressively dystopian Black Mirror episode crowded with loneliness, crime, irreversible emotional damage or all of the above. Our relationship to technology these days is necessarily cynical—it’s fun, but it’s disastrously isolating, dangerously addicting, possibly carcinogenic and definitely mining our personal data. That is, unless you ask Joe Hunting, a documentarian who focuses entirely on virtual reality with a refreshingly optimistic outlook on technology. His first feature-length documentary, We Met in Virtual Reality, follows a number of different communities in a popular VR platform called VRChat as they weather the 2020 COVID-19 lockdown.
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It’s hard to hear the term “range rider” and not immediately think of gruff, macho characters like Heath Ledger and Jake Gyllenhaal in Brokeback Mountain, or John Wayne and Montgomery Clift in Red River. But documentarian Emelie Mahdavian challenges those outdated preconceptions in Bitterbrush.
Cattle-hands Colie Moline and Hollyn Patterson embark on a two-month job on a secluded mountain range in Idaho. Over the course of 90 minutes, we see the women navigate their dilapidated living quarters, herd hundreds of cows, attempt to tame a wild horse, live off meager meals of bread and tuna spread, and reflect on their arduous, unorthodox lifestyle.
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