REVIEW: Negative Space [2017]

“Perfect” We all hold onto a specific memory of someone close upon his/her death—a moment or moments special to us despite being uneventful to everyone else. Our relationship with the person defines what it is subconsciously. It could be a song, a movie, a vacation spent together, or perhaps even one spent apart. It can be a mutual hobby or sports team, exciting or mundane, but always unforgettable. To remember is to conjure a smile at its simplicity and its personal impact regardless of any overarching relevance to what came…

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REVIEW: Garden Party [2017]

Just when we think a large amphibian covered in caviar and salivating at a glass jar of cookies inside a deserted mansion will be the most memorable shot of Garden Party—a French short directed by committee (Florian Babikian, Vincent Bayoux, Victor Caire, Théophile Dufresne, Gabriel Grapperon, and Lucas Navarro)—the sextet leaves us with an image we’ll never forget. The clues are there considering conditions are anything but sanitary with rotten food and flies buzzing everywhere, but even a few glimpses at bullet holes in the windows can’t quite distract us…

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REVIEW: Knife Skills [2017]

“What I see is a tremendous amount of desire” One of the students at Edwins Leadership & Restaurant Institute explains how ex-convicts wear the stigma of that label as a badge. It tells potential employers that they are willing to work harder and prove their loyalty because anyone who gives them a chance at a second life is someone they’d do anything to repay. There’s a lot of truth to this sentiment even if it isn’t a guarantee. Those who do leave prison with a desire to better him/herself and…

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REVIEW: Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 [2017]

“We are creativity itself” It’s not easy to depict mental illness with honest clarity or art’s cathartic influence as therapy, but Frank Stiefel‘s look at Mindy Alper entitled Heaven is a Traffic Jam on the 405 does both. It helps that Mindy is an open, self-aware subject despite crippling anxieties. She leads his camera through her struggles as represented by surreal drawings created throughout her fifty-six years—a roadmap traversing her life’s extreme highs and lows. The work is reminiscent of Ralph Steadman and Gerald Scarfe, each imperfect line lending the…

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REVIEW: Edith+Eddie [2017]

“Treat everybody right” You hear horror stories of people who foster children in order to pocket the money they receive from the state meant for that child’s wellbeing and want to hope they’re the exceptions rather than rule. It’s easy to be cynical, however, and believe the opposite in this world. The same can be said about elder care and the often-tenuous relationships between children of aging parents with increasing struggles. Infighting is common because not every child is as well off as the next or as close. Suddenly a…

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REVIEW: Dear Basketball [2017]

“I did everything for you” “Money” is a word used to describe Kobe Bryant the athlete because he was the guy you gave the ball to with no time on the clock. Everyone could rely on him whether coach, teammate, or fan because we knew the chances were that a good look at the hoop would result in a basket. He was “money.” As a result of the career that proved this point, Kobe accrued a lot of money in the literal sense of the word too. And with that…

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REVIEW: My Nephew Emmett [2017]

“Take me instead” Everyone knows or should know who Emmett Till was. Many label his death as a major catalyst for what would become the Civil Rights movement—it occurring in August 1955 with the Montgomery bus boycott following in December. At only fourteen years of age this Chicago native was accused of whistling and flirting with a married white woman while visiting family in Money, Mississippi. Her husband and his half-brother tracked down where he was staying and abducted him at gunpoint during the night before leaving his lifeless body…

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REVIEW: DeKalb Elementary [2017]

“We’re all gonna die today” There’s a moment in Reed Van Dyk‘s DeKalb Elementary where the young, mentally unstable white male shooter (Bo Mitchell‘s Steven Hall) exits the school in search of a suicide-by-cop scenario. He opens fire on the police—receiving bullets in return—until the courageously calm black female receptionist (Tarra Riggs‘ Cassandra Rice) asks him to come back in so as not to hurt himself. It’s a surreal exchange because you place yourself in her situation and realize you would probably start silently praying that the cops do grant…

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REVIEW: Maze Runner: The Death Cure [2018]

“It’s about knowing when you’ve lost” Could you sacrifice a percentage of the population if it meant saving mankind in its entirety? What about if it merely gave you a chance at that salvation? These are the big questions we ask ourselves at the end of the world—ones that force us to face the reality of our inevitable demise. We can infer that we’ll reach this point because we made a wrong decision in the past. And if the whole reason we’re about to be lost forever is our fault,…

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REVIEW: The Strange Thing About the Johnsons [2011]

“I’m sorry if this is weird” How do you show someone that what he considers innocent or “normal” is anything but? You flip it. You turn the victim into perpetrator and vice versa so that they can begin to understand the position they so involuntarily place others in as though it’s their right. But even this isn’t enough when the insidious nature of abuse is so intrinsically linked to a warped and archaically outdated cultural bias. This is why you can’t ask a chauvinist how he’d feel being objectified because…

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REVIEW: Birdland [2018]

“Crime is nature” Some filmmakers keep their endings ambiguous so the art lingers with the viewer in order to interpret the piece rather than merely consume it. Writer/director Peter Lynch looks to go one step further with his noir Birdland (co-written by Lee Gowan) by rendering the whole a mystery wherein beginnings and ends are both fluid as far as linear coherency is concerned and meticulously structured to amplify the emotional machinations of his lead Sheila Hood (Kathleen Munroe). Lynch intentionally disorients so that mood overshadows action. He focuses on…

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