zola review

In 2015,  A’Ziah “Zola” King launched a Twitter thread that began with a question: “Y’all wanna hear a story about why me & this bitch here fell out? It’s kind of long but full of suspense.” Thus began a 100+ Tweet thread journey that went viral and chronicled a wild and crazy 48 hours involving stripping, sex trafficking, kidnapping, violence, and attempted suicide. It was too good to be true – but it was true. Well…some of it. Zola embellished several details, but Rolling Stone reporter David Kushner caught up with her – and the other characters in her tale – and was able to confirm much of it. It was only a matter of time before Hollywood came calling.

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Streamer's Guide to Sundance 2020

It’s easy to look at a Sundance lineup with rose-colored glasses and think that there’s going to be some major breakout hits. We do it every year because, after all, hope springs eternal! 2020’s edition looks like the rare slate to premiere in Park City that will truly earn all of the pre-festival drooling.

A glance at the directors unveiling their new films at the first Sundance of the new decade looks like a veritable “who’s who” of filmmakers who were just on the cusp of breakthrough in the 2010s: Eliza Hittman, Josephine Decker, Janicza Bravo, and countless others. It’s also a welcome return for many directors who have been dormant for far too long: Miranda July, Julie Taymor, Benh Zeitlin. Many other names that, unfortunately, barely register upon scanning the lineup may leave Utah with a million-dollar distribution deal for their film and a star on the rise.

But none of them came from nowhere. Even if their feature directing debut nabbed a spot in the Sundance lineup, they all have some prior work that portends – or at least contextualizes – their ascendancy. If you’re not attending the festival, here’s how you can get in on the ground floor of some of these directors on the rise without even leaving the comfort of your home cinema.

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James Franco in Spring Breakers

For a few days last fall, the big watercooler pop culture event wasn’t yet another premium cable antihero drama or $200 million superhero blockbuster, but a 148-tweet epic of a stripper’s Florida road trip gone dramatically awry. The true-ish tale of Aziah “Zola” Wells followed two sex workers, a violent pimp, and a very sad boyfriend through a drug- and sex-fueled odyssey that eventually involved betrayal, kidnapping, a suicide attempt, and even a murder.

Naturally, the story immediately won over the internet and had fans clamoring for a movie adaptation, and now it’s actually getting one. From director James Franco, of course, because if a feature film based on a sordid Twitter rant doesn’t sound right up Franco’s alley, what does?  Read More »