The mysteries in Lee Chang-dong’s Burning frustrate, but with purpose. Loosely based on the Haruki Murakami’s 1983 Japanese short Barn Burning, part of his The Elephant Vanishes collection — the English translation by Philip Gabriel appeared in The New Yorker in ’92 — South Korea’s Oscar hopeful is a winding trail about the stories that men tell themselves about women and other men, and how these tales are exacerbated by our inertia. The film is as intriguing as it is exciting, centering on a shackled author who — uniquely as far as this archetype is concerned — feels nothing like a self-insert of his adept creators. Hesitantly and perhaps unwittingly, he drags us along for a journey about what happens when a man no longer gets to define his own narrative, and the narratives around him.
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Few live-action superhero stories capture the Golden Age spirit of these characters as they were originally intended. Supergirl, which began on CBS before joining The Flash, Arrow and Legends of Tomorrow over at Y.A-hub The CW, kicks off its fourth season on October 14, and we figured now might be a good time for a recap. (You can read our rundown of the best Flash episodes here). Sent to Earth to look after her cousin Kal-El just as her planet was destroyed, Kara Zor-El, AKA Kara Danvers, arrived after a trip through a wormhole, by which time her cousin had already grown up and donned the Superman mantle. Like her comicbook counterpart, Supergirl has always existed in the Man of Steel’s shadow, but with DC’s film universe opting to take a darker approach to Clark Kent, it was up to Supergirl to pick up the slack and fill the void with a sense of hope.
While it meanders from time to time (just as any 20-plus episode network show with a quick turnaround would), Supergirl still manages to use its stellar cast of characters, led by Melissa Benoist (Glee) to tell some of the most thoughtful superhero stories of the modern era. With an ever-evolving supporting cast, including Kara’s sister Alex (Chyler Leigh), a government agent with a tender coming-out arc and David Harewood as DC staple J’onn J’onzz/Martian Manhunter, the show manages to keep both socially conscious subtext (and, occasionally, actual text) in its crosshairs. So, without further ado, here are ten episodes you should probably catch up on.
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Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity just isn’t the same on television. One might say this works to its detriment — “story is king,” I was reminded in film school as a professor lamented its bells & whistles — but if an artistic experience is designed for a specific environment, should it not be given the benefit of doubt? The enveloping sound of Cuarón’s 2013 space-thriller is dread-inducing, a precursor to the pulsating rebirth of hope within the heart of infinite darkness; in an age when even ostensibly “good” blockbusters feel produced by committee, Gravity was one of the last times a film simply had to be experienced in a cinema, in that it could not be experienced the same way outside it. It’s fitting, then, that Cuarón’s own Roma belongs in that sparsely populated category, albeit for different reasons.
Roma is a Netflix release, yes, but if the streaming giant’s theatrical rollout finds its way to your vicinity, you owe yourself the unique experience of sitting down in a seat in order to walk through someone else’s memory. It’s like nothing you’ve ever heard or seen.
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When KiKi Layne’s Tish and Stephan James’ Fonny make love for the first time, If Beale Street Could Talk cuts to a golden light shimmering off the surface of a jazz record. It spins, unevenly but with purpose, carrying with it the weight of history. Of American history. Of Black American history. The history that author James Baldwin spent a lifetime pulling into the present.
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The New York Film Festival’s Projections section is filled to the brim with the avant-garde, and this year’s lineup is no exception. Tsai Ming-liang’s Your Face is composed entirely of silent close-ups, while Albert Serra’s Roi Soleil is an hour of King Louis XIV moaning and writhing. The former feels like a museum exhibit; the latter is a filmed version of one. You almost always know what kind of film to expect walking into a Projections screening — experimental fare that rarely feels like it would do well in the mainstream — which is why Daniel Schmidt and Gabriel Abrantes’ Diamantino is such an unbelievable blast. It’s the kind of work that feels cobbled together from the most impulsive cinematic instincts, the ones where creators might ordinarily second-guess themselves on account of ideas being too silly, and it’s charming as hell. As wildly entertaining as any blockbuster, schlocky as any B-movie and as politically enraged as your Twitter feed, Diamantino is a start-to-finish joy.
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Director Ying Liang has poured himself directly into A Family Tour, a quiet story of the toll government censorship takes on mind, body and soul. His last feature, When Night Falls (2013), tackled the Chinese legal system through the story of an ailing woman whose son was on death row for murder; the critique resulted in Ying being exiled to Hong Kong, rendering him a perpetual outsider. His 2018 follow-up focuses on director Yang Shu who, like Ying, is forced to live in Hong Kong after making a film with a similar premise. Yang is invited to a film festival in Taiwan where she travels with her husband and son and hopes to connect with her own ailing mother, whose trip from the mainland causes a string of complications in a film that’s both an incisive statement as well a silent meditation on the ways the personal and the political are entangled.
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“My name is Barry Allen, and I am the Fastest Man Alive.”
After a sincere pilot with occasional Sherlock-esque graphics that were swiftly abandoned, The Flash quickly morphed from a potential procedural into a superhero soap opera. And The CW’s second “Arrowverse” show was off to the races.
Central City forensics expert Barry Allen (Grant Gustin, Glee) first showed up on Arrow, and after spending several months in a lightning-induced coma, he awoke to super-speed and world of meta-humans using their powers for evil. The heart and soul of a show where every second character could be described as such, Gustin’s at times pissy, always well-meaning Barry is a wonderful addition to the modern superhero pantheon. Despite its ups and downs, The Flash manages to be one hell of a neat show about a found family trying to be better — towards each other, and themselves.
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The Other Side of the Wind is finally complete — or rather “complete.” Nominally. The final film by the great Orson Welles (assuming The Deep never sees the light of day) begins with a title card explaining that this version, restored by the folks at Netflix, exists as “an attempt to honor and complete” Welles’ original vision, the key word being “attempt.” With so much footage left un-shot and unedited during its original production, no version of the film today can feel truly whole. And yet, despite its haphazard meandering, The Other Side of the Wind, in the form it will now be known, is a fascinating meta-textual artifact on the very piecing together of art and intention. Read More »
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When Marvel was eyeing Chloé Zhao to direct Black Widow back in April (among others like Amma Asante and Deniz Gamze Ergüven; the job eventually went to Cate Shortland), the pairing seemed like a long-shot. A unique voice like Zhao’s doesn’t immediately seem like it would gel with the Hollywood studio system. We’ve seen Edgar Wrights and Lord & Millers a-plenty — Ant-Man and Solo would go on to be directed by Peyton Reed and Ron Howard respectively — but on the other hand, Disney’s own recent efforts like Black Panther (Ryan Coogler) and Star Wars: The Last Jedi (Rian Johnson), which both fit the mold of blockbuster filmmaking while allowing their creators a personal stamp, make speculating from this side of the studio gates a fool’s errand.
When it was announced on Friday that Zhao would not only be tasked with a Marvel movie, but with cosmic opera The Eternals of all things, reactions were understandably mixed. Some were enthusiastic, while others lamented a distinct eye being lost to the Marvel machine (this writer is optimistic, albeit cautiously) because alas, speculation is all we have in this 24×7 Disney-dominated news cycle. One can hardly begrudge anyone their extreme responses — for every Patty Jenkins leaving Thor: The Dark World due to creative differences, there’s Patty Jenkins knocking Wonder Woman out of the park and negotiation a seven-figure salary on the sequel — so the best we can do is look at the what’s what and the who’s who and hope for the best behind-the-scenes. Every creative partnership is different, after all. Read More »
Last week, we saw our first look at the Skrulls, the race of shape-shifting aliens set to make their cinematic debut in Captain Marvel. A long-running staple of Marvel comics, they’re best known for The Kree-Skrull War (1971-72), in which the Avengers are caught up in an intergalactic conflict, and the more recent Secret Invasion (2008-09) in which the Skrulls turn out to have been posing as several prominent superheroes for years on end. If you’re looking to read up on how the Skrulls might fit in to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, those stories are for you.
However, if you’re game for one of the most bonkers Marvel comics of the ’90s, in which a group of rogue killers hunt down covert Skrulls after being driven mad by Skrull Burgers (yes, you read that correctly), then allow me to tell you about Skrull Kill Krew.
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