“Once you overcome the one-inch tall barrier of subtitles, you will be introduced to so many more amazing films.” Bong Joon Ho’s incredible Golden Globes speech caused a stir in 2020, and yet for many, his words fell on deaf ears. Despite director Bong’s Parasite going on to win Best Picture at the Oscars shortly thereafter – the first time a foreign film has received that award in the Academy’s 92 years of existence – polls still revealed a resistance among Americans to enrich themselves with the task of watching a movie with subtitles. According to an online survey conducted in 2020, 59% of adults in the United States prefer to view a foreign film that is dubbed into English. Dilapidated thinking reigns supreme.

Enter Natalie Morales’ Language Lessons, a charming and engrossing dark comedy about two strangers connecting over a series of online tutorials.

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SXSW 2021 Short Films

The virtual SXSW is over, but that doesn’t mean you can’t get in on some of the movie action. The folks at Oscilloscope Laboratories and Mailchimp have once again put together a program to #SupportTheShorts, allowing viewers to watch a bunch of SXSW 2021 short films online for free. The shorts include titles like Chuj Boys of Summer (directed by Max Walker-Silverman) and Malignant (directed by Morgan Bond), just to name a few. There are local films from Texas, creepy Midnight titles, documentary shorts, and more.

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Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched Review

Folk horror conjures up many images, both old and new. Pagan rituals, witches, and sprawling landscapes all set the stage for stories that tend to get passed down from generation to generation whether through word of mouth, literature, or film. Director Kier-La Janisse crafts a comprehensive collection and thorough analysis of folk horror films that span back to the early 20th century in her impressive SXSW documentary, Woodlands Dark and Days Bewitched: A History of Folk Horror.

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Here Before Review

Grief is fickle. Over time, it fluctuates in severity and painful memories can be summoned by anything from a song to revisiting a certain location. An omnipresent shadow of pain, grief is always lingering close by in one form or another. Writer/director Stacey Gregg explores mourning through a mothers perspective in her debut film, Here Before. A psychological thriller of longing and loss, Gregg mixes in supernatural elements that tease the idea of whether or not our loved ones truly ever leave us.

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The Feast Review

Why do international filmmakers seem to more frequently turn horror lenses on environmental subjects while domestic creators care more about boogeymen and slashers? If Jaco Bouwer‘s Gaia wasn’t proof enough, what about its SXSW Midnighter counterpart, Lee Haven JonesThe Feast? The Welsh thriller penned by Roger Williams merges woodland folklore and bloodthirsty revenge with Mother Earth as its reaper. It’s vastly more ruminative than Gaia since fairytale lyrics separate chapters throughout an elitist supper soiree. However, structure remains an issue that boasts gnarlier killing sprees upon a third act that sees and seethes the reddest of reds. Slow, still slow, slower, CARNAGE-CRAZY-RETRIBUTION, finito.

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Women is Losers Review

In the 2013 horror film The Green Inferno, Lorenza Izzo’s portrayal of a naive activist trapped on an island with a group of deviants is largely forgotten amidst the gratuitous depravity stealing each scene. However, I always found her depiction of a well-intentioned deer caught in the headlights to be the most audacious, captivating, and haunting performance in the film. She gave the college student Justine the vulnerability of a young woman struggling to come to terms with her place in the world, and the prideful innocence that led to her eventual entrapment. And she does it with the bashful grace that keeps the viewer on her side throughout the entire feature, even after she so adamantly refuses to stay in her own lane.

That grace is on full display in Women is Losers, Lissette Feliciano’s boldly original and beautifully bittersweet film, based on true events, which just premiered at SXSW. As Celina Guerrera, a bright and talented Catholic school girl in 1960s San Francisco who finds herself in hot water after an indiscretion creates a series of devastating consequences, Izzo turns her character’s inner monologue into movements and gestures. She moves with the poise of a dancer, her footsteps like explosions on slanted sidewalks, her shoulders swaying like the tallest treetops in the afternoon breeze. This is a star in the making, and the world would do well to take notice.

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Lily Topples the World Review

It’s hard to think of an image from this year’s SXSW film festival more aggressively satisfying than that of 20-year-old Lily Hevesh toppling a towering tier of stacked dominos, the lovely crash echoing throughout every quiet pocket of the room. Jeremy Workman’s wholly endearing documentary about the world famous domino artist, Lily Topples the World, is both an undeniable crowdpleaser and an important spotlight cast on an underrepresented and entirely deserving protagonist. It’s just the kind of unbridled optimism one might seek out after a year marred by despair, delivered by a startling bright ball of sunshine. 

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Jakob's Wife Review

Does your modern indie horror movie really exist if it doesn’t feature Barbara Crampton or Larry Fessenden? The two horror icons, who have been so good in so many genre movies for so long, are busier than ever, popping up in (and often propping up) countless films made by filmmakers who clearly grew up watching them on well-worn VHS tapes.

But Jakob’s Wife, a gory new horror comedy about a marriage on the rocks before vampirism rears its ugly fangs, understands their appeal more than most. In fact, it knows what horror fans really want: to see them placed front-and-center as leading man and leading lady rather than relegated to supporting role or amusing cameo. And while there are other pleasures to be found in Jakob’s Wife (especially the geysers of blood that erupt with some regularity), these two, together in the spotlight, are the main draw.

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Introducing Selma Blair Review

Standing over the kitchen sink, slowly cutting the inside out of a fresh strawberry, actress Selma Blair marvels at the control of her steady hands as she claims a small victory over her handling of the sharp blade. Filled with joy and accomplishment, it is clear this act means the world to her in the moment. And it should. This is just one of many intimate scenes captured in director Rachel Fleits documentary Introducing, Selma Blair as she chronicles Blairs medical journey.

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Offseason Review

Where Mickey Keating’s filmography has often lent itself to easily identifiable cinematic inspirations, Offseason carries more of a literary mood while fitting into a persistent coastal horror trend of late. Somewhere between the McManus’ The Block Island Sound, Andy Collier and Tor Mian’s Sacrifice, and an even quieter Silent Hill is this Florida-shot call to the sea’s mysteries. While it still fits Keating’s enthusiastic jumping about genre history with every project, this particular delusion feeling akin to radio drama spookiness. Something you’d hear read through adjustable static, as your imagination might conjure the same inescapable mistiness that chokes Keating’s abandoned township shuttered until spring.

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