Justin Chang

Although it's not as widely known in the U.S. as his adventure tales like White Fang and The Call of the Wild, Martin Eden is now regarded as one of Jack London's greatest achievements.

I doubt I'm alone when I say that this year has been a blur: Sometimes it feels like only yesterday that I was going to the office or heading outside without a mask, and sometimes it feels as though an eternity has passed. This past week I watched two absorbing new documentaries that both seem to bend and distort our sense of the passage of time.

One of them, which is actually called Time, spans more than two decades. The other one, titled Totally Under Control, focuses on the very moment we're living in.

While the American film industry still has a long way to go in nurturing movies made by women and people of color, the Sundance Film Festival has long provided an important platform for marginalized voices.

The Devil All the Time, now streaming on Netflix, has enough awful characters, festering secrets and dead bodies to furnish a whole TV series, though I'm not sure I'd want to see a longer version of this story. The movie is based on a densely plotted 2011 novel by the Ohio-born author Donald Ray Pollock, and it's grim in ways that can be both exciting and a little wearying: so many twists and betrayals, so many horrific acts of violence.

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DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

The writer and director Michael Almereyda is making some of the most thoughtful and inventive biographical dramas of any filmmaker working today.

Since they were founded in the 1930s by the American Legion, the Boys State and Girls State programs have been giving high schoolers a practical education in how government works. Students in every state are chosen to take part in a week-long summer experiment in which they must form their own representative democracy. As we learn from the opening credits of the terrific new documentary Boys State, Bill Clinton, Dick Cheney, Rush Limbaugh and Cory Booker are just a few of the program's famous alums.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVE DAVIES, HOST:

Given how much time some of us are spending at home these days, there might be something a little perverse about watching a movie that takes place in a haunted house. That's especially true of two terrific thrillers, Amulet and Relic, in which the characters' living spaces are infected with dark spirits and become inescapable prisons.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

TERRY GROSS, HOST:

Welcome to Chechnya is a grimly ironic title for a documentary that plays like a chilling undercover thriller. The camerawork is rough and ragged; the sense of menace is palpable.

The movie opens on a dark street in the southern Russian republic of Chechnya, where a man smokes a cigarette and arranges secret meetings and transports by phone. This is David Isteev, a crisis intervention coordinator for the Russian LGBT Network, and he spends his days helping gay and transgender Chechens flee a place where they are no longer safe.

Copyright 2020 Fresh Air. To see more, visit Fresh Air.

DAVID BIANCULLI, HOST:

Spike Lee's Da 5 Bloods was supposed to open in select theaters, until the COVID-19 pandemic hit and forced Netflix to change its plans. You could call that unfortunate timing, except that amid nationwide protests against racism and police violence, the movie could hardly be timelier.

I first saw Shirley months ago, back in January. It's strange to be revisiting it now. Like a lot of very good movies, it doesn't speak to this extraordinarily fraught moment, and it doesn't offer a mindless escape from it, either. What it does offer is a smart, fascinating glimpse into an artist's mind, and I hope you'll seek it out now or in the future.

At a time when many of us are staying home, with no plans to travel farther than the nearest grocery store, watching The Trip to Greece might seem like either a lovely escape or an exquisite form of torture.

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