(Welcome to The Quarantine Stream, a new series where the /Film team shares what they’ve been watching while social distancing during the COVID-19 pandemic.)
The Movie: Little Woods
Where You Can Stream It: Hulu
The Pitch: In a female-led neo-Western, Tessa Thompson plays Ollie, a reformed ex-con with dreams of escaping her dreary fracking hometown of Little Woods, North Dakota. But when her terminally ill mother dies and her sister (Lily James) arrives on her doorstep with an unplanned pregnancy she can’t afford, Ollie is forced to return to dealing opioids to scrounge up enough money to pay for her mother’s mortgage and for her sister’s abortion. Think of it as Hell or High Water with sisters.
Why It’s Essential Quarantine Viewing: I remember being surprised to learn that Little Woods was DaCosta’s directorial debut when I saw the movie at the Tribeca Film Festival back in 2018. The film is directed so confidently and assuredly — a bleak, powerful portrait of middle America that never veers on cloying, and handles difficult current-day issues like opioid abuse and abortion with grace. But I was less surprised when DaCosta was soon tapped to direct the Jordan Peele-produced Candyman, a buzzy project based on the cult horror film. This was a rising director to watch, and all eyes are going to be on DaCosta as the first-ever Black female director of a Marvel movie. So it’s never a better time to revisit (or visit for the first time) her powerful feature debut.
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The first half of 2019 is simultaneously the longest stretch of time I’ve experienced, and the shortest. The longest because the current political climate only worsens, and the shortest because I haven’t had the time to see nearly all the movies I wanted to see. Films like The Farewell, Parasite, Her Smell, The Last Black Man in San Francisco, An Elephant Sitting Still, and The Report evaded me before I sat down to write my best movies of 2019 list, but there are still plenty of great films to distract us — or perhaps remind us — of our most troubling real-life problems.
Here are my top 10 movies of 2019 so far.
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When rising filmmaker Nia DaCosta was announced as the director of the buzzy Jordan Peele-produced Candyman reboot, it might have been odd to some that she didn’t have one feature film under her belt. But she did, and it’s finally making its way to theaters. DaCosta’s dazzling directorial debut, Little Woods, a neo-Western starring Tessa Thompson and Lily James in powerful lead performances as two sisters in an economically depressed North Dakotan town who are on the verge of losing their mother’s home. See the first Little Woods trailer below.
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The Western has wholly transformed since the days when John Wayne first drew his pistols. No longer is it a glamorous validation of rugged individualism, or a sweeping ode to Americana. No, the times, they are a-changin’ — and with it, one of cinema’s oldest genres.
Nia DaCosta‘s haunting directorial debut, Little Woods, is the latest incarnation of the Western, a potent slow-burning thriller that taps into the economic devastation that has wracked middle America for the past few decades. And anchored by two incredible performances by stars Tessa Thompson and Lily James, Little Woods becomes an intimate and painfully now film that gives us a glimpse of the evolution of a genre primarily populated by hypermasculine men.
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