Movies I absolutely loved. Love, of course, is a subjective term. For me, loving a film means being wholly drawn into it or being intrigued into watching the film again. If I left a movie with my mouth agape or nodding my head contently, chances are “Love It.” is my short-form review.
Somewhere in my preteen years, when I was taking in film so voraciously that I may have grown allergic to the sun, I stumbled upon Quentin Tarantino’s Reservoir Dogs. I was hooked. It was probably my favorite movie for years, until some other hyper-masculine auteur thing took its spot. And, while it makes me feel like a dorm-room film nerd to admit it, I still love Reservoir Dogs (I can at least say I never had a Pulp Fiction poster hung up in my dorm room).
Reservoir Dogs belongs to a specific type of modern crime film. These films have a sizable ensemble cast, flashy dialogue, a winding narrative chock full of backstabbing and secrets, and the outcome generally goes badly for every character involved. Stakes matter, because the script is not beholden to the safety of the principal cast of characters. Death is treated as superfluous, a mere hazard of the profession. Cynicism reigns as supreme as in the bleakest of film noir, yet the generic elements of the film hew closer to baseline exploitation cinema.
Harold (Adam Sandler) always thinks he is one step away from hitting big. A compulsive sports gambler who runs a dubious gem store, Harold is firmly placed within the seedy underbelly of New York City. And he likes it there. He thrives in the mire of it. He smiles as he schemes his way around town, placing bets with money he should be using to pay back his debts.
Harold’s Sisyphean journey of self-destruction centers on an Ethiopian stone embedded with black opals. It is a stone he claims is worth about $3,000 a carat, totaling to an approximately $1 million value. Through Harold’s partner Demany (LaKeith Stanfield), the stone winds up in the hands of Continue reading Uncut Gems (2019) Movie Review→
In the case of An Elephant Sitting Still, there is tragedy both on- and off-screen. The news of novelist and filmmaker Hu Bo’s suicide has been documented in many reviews for his first feature film, and it is hard not to equate the tragedy to the events unfolding on-screen in his four-hour-long tragi-epic, where the sadness and isolation of the world weighs heavy on every frame.
To mythologize An Elephant Sitting Still as a suicide note, however, would be a disservice, a superficial writing off of what is one of the most fully-realized cinematic visions of the last few years. The film is a swan song, sure, and the song it sings is a solemn symphony showcasing Continue reading An Elephant Sitting Still (2019) Movie Review→
Much has been made of Bong Joon-ho’s genre hybridity, or rather his “genre unto self” mythos—the director himself has referred to it as an ambiguity of genre. At the risk of belaboring this idea, Parasite is a perfect example of Bong’s ability to elude the walls of genre. The film has flashes of gritty horror and a pervading sense of Hithcockian suspense, as well as tropes of the family drama and social problem film (used in entirely unconventional ways). A premise hinging on gaslighting adds a psychological layer on top. And a somewhat bitter sense of humor provides a dark comedy element.
It may be cliched to refer to beautiful-looking films with the phrase “every frame is a painting,” but in the case of Robert Eggers’ latest, The Lighthouse, many of the shots are picturesque. The introduction of our two characters, lighthouse keepers Ephraim Winslow (Robert Pattinson) and Thomas Wake (Willem Dafoe), looks like a stoic portrait. The reverse shot that follows, depicting the lighthouse on the black ocean, looks like a Gothic landscape piece.
Jack Henry Robbins’ VHYes begins straightforward enough. On Christmas morning, 1987, young Ralph (Mason McNulty)—he can’t be older than 13—is gifted a VHS camcorder by his parents (Christian Drerup and Jake Head). With this gift, the film buzzes to life, as Ralph finishes scrambling to find a tape on which to record—his father asks if the tape is blank, and the footage promptly cuts to the answer: Ralph is recording over his parents’ wedding footage.
Ralph learns that he can use his new toy to directly record programs off of the television set, prompting him and his friend Josh (Rahm Braslaw) to spend holiday season late nights banking these various programs. As we are housed explicitly within the world of this tape, this television footage becomes an increasingly Continue reading Review: VHYes – Fantastic Fest 2019→
The opening scene to Joe Talbot’s directorial feature debut, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, based on a story by the film’s lead performer Jimmie Fails, packs in a lot. So much so that it can be off-putting. It starts on a child walking down the street, who finds blocking her path a sanitation worker in a hazmat suit. They are cleaning the heavily contaminated water of the San Francisco Bay. The camera keeps on her for a time, then pivots to a man on a soapbox decrying the poor current state of the city—“whole blocks half in the past, half in the future.”
We then settle on our protagonists, who sit at a bus stop watching the man preach. Jimmie Fails (played by Fails) and Montgomery “Mont” Allen (Jonathan Majors) get impatient of the bus (which never seems to come when they want it to) and decide to skateboard to their destination instead. The pair stand on one skateboard and coast across the city. Where they land is Continue reading The Last Black Man in San Francisco (2019) Movie Review→
Lulu Wang’s The Farewell could easily have drowned in its melodrama. It certainly hangs all of its narrative weight on its central conceit, in which a family hides their matriarch’s terminal cancer from her and use a staged wedding to give her a final family reunion. But there is something profound in the emotional power of Wang’s film.
Christian Petzold’s Transit explores fleeting moments of humanity within intensely oppressive fascism. Then, it explores the tragedy of hanging any semblance of hope on such moments of humanity, as the moments are infinitesimally small against a backdrop that is increasingly bleak.
Jordan Peele understands the horror movie industry. Given he came out of the Blumhouse label with his directorial debut, the massively successful Get Out, this is no controversial statement. But his adept understanding of what works and doesn’t work about a horror film does not end at Jason Blum’s low-risk, high-reward model.