We’ve seen plenty of films giving us stories from the South American drug trade from the colonial-style perspective of the white man. Now is the time for Birds of Passage, a filming providing a gripping look at how the burgeoning business of marijuana affected the indigenous tribes of Colombia.
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Olivier Assayas’ Non-Fiction shows one of the great contemporary filmmakers at his most perceptive and loquacious. His latest film strays away from the mysticism of recent entrancing efforts like Clouds of Silas Maria and Personal Shopper, instead portraying an hour and 45 minutes of exhaustive (and occasionally exhausting) conversations about the state of the arts and society at large. I couldn’t take notes fast enough to capture all his brilliant observations on everything from the discussion on the decline of the critic as tastemaker to a sly bit of visual humor ridiculing the multiplicity of electronic devices in our lives.
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Mike Leigh intentionally delayed the production and release of his film Peterloo to coincide with the 200th anniversary of the event it portrays, a massacre of peaceful protestors in Manchester by the British Army. Yet its historic status should not obscure that Peterloo is less a moment in time preserved in amber and more of an ongoing struggle. Though the period dress and dialogue are different, the conversations about forcing a democracy to respond to its neediest citizens are depressingly relevant.
Better yet, Leigh does not need to resort to rubbing our noses in the contemporary parallels. His methodical, delicate approach to depicting what led up to a watershed moment in British political history makes its own case. Leigh trusts his audience to understand the slow drip of social change and how a speech or a small act of defiance can ripple outwards. Peterloo might not be a particularly rousing political drama, but fans of other procedurals like BPM depicting the funneling of activism into progress will find the film’s patience a refreshingly honest change of pace.
Find out more in our Peterloo review below. Read More »
Italian director Matteo Garrone has risen to international stardom with lightning speed, especially since his 2008 film Gomorrah took the second-highest prize at the Cannes Film Festival. Yet, for all his acclaim, I have tended to find his work remote and slightly inaccessible. Garrone’s latest film, Dogman, is a film worthy of his stature and the first time his bite has been as strong as his bark. This morality tale wrings gripping drama from an imperfect man backed into an unenviable corner.
Find out more in out full Dogman review below. Read More »
If A Star is Born was the folk song of the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival, a familiar tune brilliantly rendered by cover artist Bradley Cooper, then Teen Spirit was its pop song. The film is derivative, calibrated to appeal to a lowest-common-denominator audience … and yet admittedly catchy, even if it’s immediately recognizable as an interchangeable work.
Find out more in our Teen Spirit review below. Read More »
“Who’s the master, the painter or the forger?” asked Christian Bale’s Irving Rosenfeld in American Hustle as he looked at a fake Rembrandt hanging on the walls of a major museum. Director Marielle Heller’s Can You Ever Forgive Me? asks the same question, albeit from a much less cynical perspective. The film tells the true-life tale of Lee Israel (Melissa McCarthy), a writer who began crafting forged letters from dead celebrities when her literary career plummeted. As Lee buries herself deeper into a pit of deception, Heller finds both entertainment and involving drama.
Find out more in our Can You Ever Forgive Me review below. Read More »
Writer/director Kim Nguyen’s The Hummingbird Project follows the exploits of two cousins, Jesse Eisenberg’s Vincent Zaleski and Alexander Skarsgård’s Anton Zaleski, determined to run a small fiber-optic cable from Kansas City to New York City. This project, which will require years of their lives and a steady flow of cash, will give them a one millisecond advantage in the dog-eat-dog world of high frequency trading. Why bother to undertake this? They want to own Wall Street to burn it down, they explain toward the end of the film.
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Mia Hansen-Løve has recently emerged as a major director on the international scene with a set of empathic dramas. In her films, characters process sea changes in their lives with a patience and even-handedness absent from other works about similarly momentous life events. Hansen-Løve understands that most people’s lives move in inches, not miles. She knows how to glean significant insights about human response under duress by analyzing these small yet meaningful moments.
With the possible exception of Eden, her decades-spanning tale of a Llewyn Davis-like also-ran in the French garage music scene, Hansen-Løve’s Maya represents her most sprawling and weighty canvas to date. The film follows France journalist Gabriel Dahan (Roman Kolinka) after his release from Syrian captivity and his gradual drift back towards some semblance of normalcy. While Hansen-Løve avoids homecoming or PTSD clichés in charting Gabriel’s convalescence, she does stumble into a few other tropes of (particularly Western male) recovery once he leaves Europe behind.
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Writer/director Joel Edgerton’s Boy Erased starts off resembling a prison drama. Lucas Hedges’ Jared Eamons shows up to Love in Action, a conversion therapy program designed to “cure” gay people, and must surrender his possessions. An orderly tells him they will call random numbers in his cell phone during the day. In addition, the original stories in his notebook might be subject to confiscation if they reflect any of the desires that the center attempts to purge.
Even as imposing as Love in Action is, the real prison in Boy Erased is Jared’s own thoughts. In a remarkably subdued performance, Hedges shows that his character’s mind, racked with guilt and shame his community has told him to feel, will be the site of the most important reckoning in the film. Jared is uncertain in how to navigate the cruelness of conversion therapy, either by giving in or resisting full stop. The hesitancy in responding externally plunges him deeper into his own mind and memory.
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Alzheimer’s, estranged family, life lessons, Hilary Swank – just add a free space and you’ve gotten a winning card in prestige drama card bingo! And yet, in that incalculably magic way that movies can achieve, What They Had manages to come out to something more than the sum of its imperfect parts. The film, written and directed by newcomer Elizabeth Chomko, often feels like the first feature that it is. But with some help from a crack team of actors as well as her own reservoir of compassion, she steers the film confidently through some turbulent waters.
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