I filed a 9.5/10 review of mid90s following its world premiere at TIFF earlier this fall, declaring “writer and director Jonah Hill has struck gold.” (I mention this only because perhaps you’ve seen this particular quote in ads if A24 has been targeting your Instagram feed as aggressively as they have mine.) A second viewing of the film this month confirmed that my rapturous response was not merely festival euphoria but an enduring endearment to a film populated by deeply human characters who radiate the raw joys and frustrations of coming of age.
When I got the chance to sit down with Jonah Hill and several members of the mid90s cast, it was clear just how much the movie means to him. This protectiveness made him a bit defensive about the project’s origins. For example, Hill was quick to swat away any notions of autobiography in the film, as if admitting he pulled from personal experience might undermine the credibility of his original creation.
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Filmmaker Paul Greengrass gets most of his credit for visual innovations behind the camera. It’s his work on the Bourne series that film scholar Jonathan Rosenbaum chose as an exemplar of a dominant style in contemporary Hollywood filmmaking, “intensified continuity,” an aesthetic that prioritizes visceral shocks over all story, logic or character matters. But that style’s association with his name masks Greengrass’ pattern of tackling sensitive political issues, a thematic connection that endures whether or not he wrote the script. All his post-9/11 work engages deeply with the world left in its wake – the very root of the War on Terror in United 93, the lingering effects of post colonialism in Captain Phillips – and the institutions calling the shots – the surveillance state in the Bourne series, the military-industrial complex in Green Zone.
22 July, the latest Greengrass project, moves away from an American-centered focus to examine a recent incident of far-right extremism in Norway. But if anyone believes the change of setting exculpates them from listening and heeding the warning, think again. Greengrass offers a thoughtful, terrifying portrait of how white nationalist hatred seeks to subvert the values of liberalism to validate its own existence.
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It can be tough to take the Coen Brothers at their word – after all, the duo claims (seemingly in jest) that they never read Homer’s The Odyssey despite basing O Brother, Where Art Thou? on it. But if they were forthright about the origins of their latest work, the anthology film The Ballad of Buster Scruggs, then it serves as a kind of career compendium. They wrote the film’s first segment, a comedic musical western, decades ago when their work had a more overtly comical bent. They wrote the final segment, on the other hand, just before starting production on the film in order to put an adequate bow on the project.
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs functions like a greatest hits album for the Coens, though somehow with songs we’ve never heard before. It spans and encompasses the many styles of filmmaking they mastered over decades behind the camera. Their expert wielding of tone and mood has rarely been so evident as it is within each yarn they tell, all from a book of stories complete with color plates. Read More »
There’s a sense among some liberal-minded thinkers than Steve Bannon and the alt-right should never be given any kind of platform. The theory holds that starving them of any media oxygen will serve to relegate them back to the fringe status they once occupied. A similar idea, though with significant complications, drove the public outcry that toppled Bannon as the headliner of The New Yorker Festival.
Documentarian Errol Morris, no stranger to confronting powerfully bellicose men, calls BS on this theory in his latest documentary, American Dharma. He recognizes the danger in ignoring or downplaying figures like Bannon, knowing that the disdain only feeds their theory of victimization and increases their power. Like he did with Donald Rumsfeld in The Unknown Known, Morris engages his subject in a dialogue about their controversial work and beliefs. As the saying goes, give a man enough rope, and he’ll hang himself.
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We see Elisabeth Moss’ punk musician Becky Something rock out on stage before we ever hear her talk or watch her terrorize her entourage. It’s a simple yet important introductory gesture from writer/director Alex Ross Perry to kick off Her Smell. The song establishes the character’s performative flair prior to launching headfirst into the maelstrom she unleashes, providing crucial understanding for why her “business family” stands by her. Addicts, particularly talented ones, can draw people in with the allure of the very same narcissism that will later repel them.
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A bumbling leader with little idea of the extent of duty and responsibility, surrounded by opportunistic aides looking to gain influence by obsequiously flattering the power broker and swaying the weight of an empire behind their pet cause, a coterie of enablers willing to treat geopolitical conflict like a game with winners and losers… but anyways, enough about the latest Maggie Haberman story about the White House in The New York Times, let’s talk about The Favourite! Read More »
Most of the big movies of the fall have now premiered (although a few obvious exceptions remain to be unveiled) after their bows at Venice, Telluride and Toronto. Now it’s time for smaller, regional festivals to help further sort the wheat from the chaff. The New York Film Festival (NYFF), which kicks off this week, provides a perfect bridge to this next stage of the season. The festival features no world premieres, just a tightly curated slate of what the Film Society of Lincoln Center’s programmers determine are among the year’s best.
/Film will be in attendance at the New York Film Festival catching up with some of 2018’s best festival bows. But for those who can’t make it up to the Big Apple, you can craft a miniature festival in your own living room based around the NYFF lineup. Here are 10 films you can stream to get you hyped up for some of the eventual release of the festival’s selections. (All streaming availability is accurate as of publication and subject to change.) Read More »
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 »