revisiting pan's labyrinth (guillermo del toro, 2006)
geezer cinema/film fatales #181: bottoms (emma seligman, 2023)

african-american directors series/film fatales #180: nanny (nikyatu jusu, 2022)

This is the first film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2023-24", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 9th annual challenge, and my fifth time participating (previous years can be found at "2019-20", "2020-21", "2021-22", and "2022-23"). Week 1 is called "99 Minutes Week":

This year marks the Letterboxd Season Challenge's ninth yearβ€”it's the challenge with nine lives! And what better way to celebrate than abandoning last year's Long Time Running theme week (3+ hour films, if you've forgotten) and embracing the Goldilocks of movie lengths: 90 minutes. But to be clever, we've added an extra nine minutes for LSC9. 99! That's two nines! (What's that cricket sound?) Anyway, we've gone the whole nine yards and painstakingly compiled a prodigious list of movies, each of them exactly ninety-nine minutes long, and dressed them to the nines, all beautifully arranged just so.

This week's challenge is to join us on cloud nine and watch a film from π–˜π–Šπ–™π–π–Šπ–“π–˜π–™π–Šπ–Žπ–“'s 99 minutes ⏲️ No more, no less list.

The Letterboxd Season Challenge is supposed to be fun, and sometimes the category of the week emphasizes this. Previous first-week challenges have included topics like "watch the most popular film you haven't seen", "watch a previously unseen film about gambling", and "Central American Independence Week". This year's opener is a bit silly in its exactness: watch a movie that is 99 minutes long. The possibilities are far from limited ... the π–˜π–Šπ–™π–π–Šπ–“π–˜π–™π–Šπ–Žπ–“ list from which we choose has 578 films on it.  I chose Nanny because ... well, it becomes clear soon enough that I quickly forget why I picked a particular movie for the Challenge (I chose all 33 movies more than a week ago). Nanny has a lot going for it ... writer/director Nikyatu Jusu was only the second Black woman director to win the Sundance Grand Jury Prize, all the more impressive because Nanny is her first feature.

Jusu shows great promise, especially in the atmospherics she provides here. Nanny is often unsettling, but at the right times and for the right reasons. It also covers a lot of ground ... it's a story about the lives of immigrants to the U.S., it offers a picture of the clueless assumption of privilege by the white American upper-middle class, and it gives us a powerful performance by Anna Diop in the title role. It's nice to see Leslie Uggams turn up. It's easy to recommend Nanny.

Yet it falls short, I think. It isn't clear from the start, but Nanny is a horror movie. The idea that the life of an immigrant might seem like a horror movie is well taken, but the otherworldly components of the film don't fit smoothly, and the opening up of Nanny into the realm of horror is too gradual ... at first it's hard to even recognize, and then it feels like two movies. It's far from a failure, and when I said it's an unsettling movie, I meant that as a compliment. But it's more a fine welcome to Nikyatu Jusu to the world of movies than it is a welcome to a new classic.


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