Malcolm X in One Night in Miami

Regina King’s One Night In Miami has a fascinating approach to iconography. It anachronistically re-stages Muhammad Ali’s famous underwater photo by Flip Schulke three years after it actually happened, in order to move the photography session to the day of his historic fight with Sonny Liston. This is the day the film takes place, unfolding largely in real time in and around a single hotel room after the bout. The film, by creating a proximity between the photo and Ali’s poolside strategizing about the optics of Malcom X accompanying him to the fight, invites us on an imaginary journey through moments that unfolded in between historic photographs, conjuring questions about the lived realities behind the curtain of recorded history. It even places a camera in Malcolm’s hands throughout much of the film.

King and screenwriter Kemp Powers — upon whose play the film is based — fictionalize a real-life meeting between civil rights leader Malcolm X (Kingsley Ben-Adir), soul singer Sam Cooke (Leslie Odom Jr.), NFL player-turned actor Jim Brown (Aldis Hodge) and boxing champion Muhammad Ali (Eli Goree), who was still going by Cassius Clay at the time. The filmmaking is precise, shifting narrative point-of-view subtly and deftly between its four leads, but its biggest strength is the way it enhances each performance — especially that of Ben-Adir, who explores Malcolm X through body language and a series of gestures. Read More »

Spring Blossom Review

The most striking thing about Spring Blossom, in which a 16-year-old girl falls in love with a man in his mid-thirties, is that it stars 20-year-old director Suzanne Lindon in the leading role.

The 2020 Cannes and TIFF selection is a tender and amusing portrait of teen-hood, in which the character of Suzanne experiences a generational disconnect. Bored with her school-aged peers, she seeks out a magnetic stranger — Raphaël (Arnaud Valois), an actor rehearsing at a theatre en route to Suzanne’s school — as a means to escape her mind-numbing routine. Raphaël is similarly dissatisfied, as a performer stuck with older castmates and directors he struggles to understand. And so, their rendezvous feels like the passing of ships in the night, an affair that’s barely physical but always emotional, often expressed through surrealist moments of interpretive dance. 

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Irrfan Khan

Legendary actor Irrfan Khan had been battling cancer these last few years. He died in Mumbai earlier today, after being admitted to intensive care on Tuesday. He lost his mother on Saturday. He was 53. 

Khan’s most recent film, Angrezi Medium (sequel to the 2017 comedy Hindi Medium) hit streaming platforms in April, after being forced off its theatrical course by the recent pandemic. While a presence like his undoubtedly belongs on the big screen, the more people who have access to his films, the better. He was one of Hindi cinema’s most magnetic actors.

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little women types

Year after year, “award season” sees nominations for sound categories go to big, bombastic films filled with special effects. This isn’t inherently bad — the work that goes into creating and mixing these otherworldly sounds takes immense effort and skill — but in the process, more subtle artistry tends to be overlooked. Case in point: Little Women directed by Greta Gerwig, a film that uses impeccable sound design to weave a fabric of joy and loss all throughout its story.

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This post contains spoilers for The Mandalorian.

The third episode of The Mandalorian moves the plot in a definite direction, but the show remains frustratingly shackled. Upon turning in his target — the yet unnamed Baby Yoda — the Mandalorian (also unnamed) collects his reward, has a change of heart and eventually makes off with the infant, as one would expect. The episode ends on an interesting cliffhanger, wherein the Mandalorian and his young companion jet off without a home base or destination in mind. But en route to this conclusion, “Chapter 3: The Sin” offers little by way of internal conflict, or internal resolve. 

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This post contains spoilers for The Mandalorian.

Writing about The Mandalorian episode-to-episode feels like folly, since the show seems so clearly designed for the binge era of streaming. Granted, “Chapter 2: The Child” arrives just three days after “Chapter 1” (which looks discernibly Star Wars but zips past anything discernibly human), though were the gap a traditional seven days, the hook might not have been strong enough to linger in people’s memories and draw them back for more. Yes, there is a little green baby that resembles Master Yoda. No, this infant’s presence doesn’t immediately challenge the Mandalorian — perhaps it might in episode 2?

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The Mandalorian Spoiler Review

It feels strange to review The Mandalorian at this point in time. The next big chapter of Star Wars — an in-between-quel bridging Return of the Jedi (1983) and The Force Awakens (2015) — has technically begun, but it’s unavailable to 95% of the world. Then again, I’m sure fans outside the U.S. won’t have trouble dusting off their digital eye-patches; the other option is waiting until Disney+ arrives locally, anywhere between next week and 2021 depending on where you live. 

The Mandalorian, like all Star Wars under Disney, trades on nostalgia. I imagine anyone allured by a helmet evoking Boba Fett already knows he isn’t part of the series, so the imagery alone appears to be a selling-point. In its brief forty-minute premiere (directed by Dave Fliloni of The Clone Wars fame), the show introduces us to a “Mandalorian,” a phrase that holds little meaning to those not already immersed in Star Wars books and comics. This nameless, faceless bounty hunter is meant to be the story’s emotional core. Pedro Pascal plays him with reserve (as he ought to; this Mandalorian keeps to himself), but what we learn about him comes from what little body language he’s allowed to express. A Mandalorian, as the show goes on to reveal, never removes his mask. 

Spoilers for the first episode begin here.

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gemini man soundtrack

Gemini Man, in which Will Smith comes face to face with a de-aged clone of himself, was made from a ’90s script originally meant for Tony Scott. At some point, it was saddled with mid-2000s military politics and anxieties — a la the Bourne films — until eventually, Ang Lee got his hands on it, turning it into a futuristic visual experiment. Like Lee’s previous film, the contained war drama Billy Lynn’s Long Halftime Walk (2016), Gemini Man was shot at 120 frames per second, and was projected as such on the handful of screens that could accommodate it.

Unfortunately, not a single screen could show the film exactly as Lee had intended — at 120fps, in 3D, and at a 4K resolution — which is a shame, given that Lee is one of the most visually interesting filmmakers working in Hollywood. But does his use of “HFR” (High Frame Rate) actually work? Well, not exactly. I’m not sure a narrative film shot at 120fps can work, barring very specific circumstances. However, the conversation about Lee’s use of technology, and the kinds of stories he applies them to, is worth having. 

First, a brief primer: What does 120fps mean?

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5 Great Films From The New York Film Festival 2019

Best of NYFF 2019

The New York Film Festival has always played host to a multitude of perspectives, from its globe-spanning Main Slate, to its experimental Projections programme, to the more recent, virtual reality-centric Convergence. The 57th iteration of city’s premiere film event unfolded across two weeks at Lincoln Center, with this year’s proceedings dedicated to the late Agnès Varda, an NYFF mainstay (her final film, Varda by Agnès, was also featured). 

The crown jewel of the fest was undoubtedly its Opening Night selection, Martin Scorsese’s The Irishman. The ludicrously expensive Netflix production was so in-demand that even its press screening had to be moved from the usual location — the 268-seat Walter Reade Theatre — to Lincoln Center’s prestigious, 1086-capacity Alice Tully Hall. Netflix also held the New York premiere for Noah Baumbach’s Marriage Story (this year’s Centerpiece film) and Warner Bros.’ Joker even made its final festival stop after Venice and TIFF. However, lesser-known, unconventional works also found their way into the spotlight, like Catalan filmmaker Albert Serra’s sexually-charged Liberté and Minh Quý Truong’s experimental Vietnamese sci-fi doc The Treehouse.

As usual, the programmers — among them, retiring festival director Kent Jones — scoured every corner of the globe for unique points of view, and the results were astounding. Here are five films from around the world that exemplify the best of NYFF 2019. Read More »

Cool Posts From Around the Web:

Science fiction elucidates, though it rarely does so with such precision. Minh Quý Truong’s Nhà Cây (The Treehouse) began as a documentary on indigenous tribes, but it morphed toward abstraction during its lengthy edit. What Truong wanted to say with his film — about the ways in which we remember, and about the ethics and brutality of the moving image — could not be contained within the literal, or within the traditionally cinematic. So, he chose a new narrative framework: human colonies on Mars in the year 2045. 

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