Making Waves Review

When I was going through film school, I grimaced when I was assigned the audio position. Whether I held the recorder or the boom mic, I remember feeling low. But soon, I learned that gathering sound was integral as I hovered the boom mic to an air vent or the whistling grass. I am proud to call myself “once an Audio Kid.”

If you ever hovered a boom mic before, you’ll know sound–and silence–is crucial to every film. Sound can be as grand as fiery explosions, as casual as footsteps, as minuscule as a puddle splash, or complex like a robot speaking in their own language. Think about the iconic robotic chitter of R2-D2 in Star Wars, the steaming of plane engines in Top Gun, the churning helicopter blades that externalize the madness within Vietnam soldier’s head in Apocalypse Now, and the War-Is-Hell cacophony of gunfire in Saving Private Ryan.  

As a Hollywood sound editor herself, director Midge Costin pieced together an appreciative documentary Making Waves: The Art of Cinematic Sound glancing into the history and the anatomy of film sound. Read More »

Luce Review

The title character in Luce (played by Kelvin Harrison Jr.) is functional and exceptional on the surface. He’s a star student, a valedictorian high schooler. He is the model of an inspirational American Dream story that many blind optimists love to eat up: a black teen who overcame his trauma as a child soldier in Eritrea and seized and earned every opportunity imaginable. His well-off adoptive Caucasian parents (Naomi Watts and Tim Roth) look proudly upon him. The school is investing its hopes in him.

All except for his teacher, Harriet Wilson (Octavia Spencer). Suspicious of an essay he wrote in the point-of-view of a reactionary, Miss Wilson takes it upon herself to search his locker and reveals a bag of firecrackers in a private conference with his mother. Citing Luce’s traumatic past, the teacher sees it as a red flag that Luce is planning violence. Or do the firecrackers really belong to Luce? Luce claims he shares lockers with his sports team, and few shots indicate he isn’t lying about that fact. Was Luce planning something sinister in the first place?

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Our Time Machine Review

The beginning of Our Time Machine arrests on birth imagery, a sonogram of wiggling mass within a womb. Directed by Yang Sun and S. Leo Chiang, this documentary is an ode to the mortality of the mind of an artist and his relationship with his artist father.

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crshd review

Emojis and Tinder are the order of the day in CRSHD, an ode to millennial romance that juggles silliness and sincerity, though it occasionally drops the ball. Written and directed by Emily Cohn, the romantic-comedy follows a familiar formula: a group of close girlfriends vow to find love, especially for the ditzy protagonist who wants to lose her virginity before summer break, and find themselves getting into a series of hijinks over the course of one wild, booze-filled night.

But first-time feature director Cohn displays an intimate understanding of the inner workings of the college girl’s mind, helping to elevate CRSHD from the stale trappings of the genre and preventing it from taking on the patronizing tone that so many millennial comedies have adopted. The result is a charming coming-of-age comedy that manages to communicate a sweet message about friendship despite sometimes being buried by a visual barrage of texts and predictable plot conceits.

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Come to Daddy Review

Come to Daddy is staged in a wicked universe, twisting and turning like a Coen Brothers film. The movie opens with an epigraph from Shakespeare about fathers: “The sins of the father are to be laid upon the children.” As usual with movie epigraphs, it’s a sober quote of a high-brow variety. Then the screen pops in a Beyoncé quote: “There is no one like my Daddy.” I chuckled. I knew the viewing experience was going to be equal parts nasty and goofy.

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The Wrong Man Review

Tribeca Review: The Wrong Man Animated Film Wavers in Its Vision Against Ross Golan’s Exalted Soundtrack

I came into The Wrong Man blind to the context, as this was my intro to the voice and sound of multi-platinum musician Ross Golan and the vision of co-director and animator John Hwang. Running 65 minutes, The Wrong Man is an experimental animated film with a unique display of visual ideas set to a stellar soundtrack.

The Wrong Man opens with Golan, in grainy rotoscope, singing a lament for a fictionalized man, Duran, convicted of a crime he didn’t commit. From there, the film spirals into animated sequences of the life of Duran, brooding in the cell, contemplating the events that led to his jailing, all animated to the track list of Golan’s album.

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White as Snow Review

The idea of White as Snow (Blanche Comme Neige) has such a charged adult fairy tale conceit. Too bad the lagging execution is disenchanting.

Once upon a time, there is young twentysomething Claire (Lou de Laâge) who lives a drab life in Geneva. She’s a servant of this wealthy hotel owner Maud (Isabelle Huppert, perfectly ice cold), and we learn later she is the latter’s stepdaughter. When Claire goes to bed, the camera lingers on her removing her clothing, insinuating she desires something, or someone, to come into contact with her bareness.

During her morning jog, Claire is abducted and taken toward the mountains to be left for dead. She doesn’t know this was orchestrated by her stepmother after the stepmother’s former lover attempted to flirt with Claire. Miraculously, a stranger (Damien Bonnard) saves her and she wakes up in the bedroom in a house dwelling near a mountain village. Now a lodger away from city life, she finds herself in no hurry to leave and starts to sexually pursue the male residents, first with her savior, then the other men.

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this is not berlin review

In This Is Not Berlin, a group of truant artists discuss what makes art. “Whether you like it or not, art is political, man!” one declares. But another responds, “Art is whatever means one thing to us today.”

This Is Not Berlin is a movie that lives in the moment, despite being set in a time and place that is rife with political unrest. Set in Mexico City in 1986, This Is Not Berlin is a vibrant, alive, and dirty snapshot of a Mexican counterculture that we know little of, and that the movie doesn’t much care to explain. Director Hari Sama is not here to give you a history lesson, but to recapture the era’s crumbling hedonism in a film that is about politics and not about politics at all.

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Leftover Women Review

34-year-old Qiu HuaMei wears a hopeful expression as she chats with a potential Mr. Right. She chats about the male chauvinism culture that lingers in her hometown. At first, he has an ear for her until he reveals that he is uncomfortable with the idea of a wife smarter than him. Her hopeful expression peels away to disappointment.

Directed by Shosh Shlam & Hilla Medalia, Leftover Women explores the lives of three Chinese women who live with being deemed shengnu, “Leftover Women,” a derogatory term reserved for unmarried women in or pass their late 20s: Qiu HuaMei the lawyer; 28-year-old Xu Min who works for a public radio station; and the 36-year-old Gai Qi, an assistant professor in Beijing. The three navigate marriage markets, matchmakers, government-sponsored dating festival, and parental tensions in their quest to find a potential spouse. With 30 million more men than women in China, gender imbalance prevails. Even the government sanctions comics that ridicule unmarried women as shameful outcasts.

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lucky grandma review

Too often in cinematic history, Chinatown has acted as some exotic backdrop or dangerous enemy territory through which our (usually white) protagonist must venture in order to reach their goal. But in Lucky Grandma, this New York City neighborhood feels like home. A grimy, at-times hostile home. But a living, breathing home that is the irreplaceable setting for director and co-writer Sasie Sealy‘s outrageously funny, unquestionably cool black comedy about a chain-smoking grandma who finds herself in the middle of a Chinatown gang war.

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