REVIEW: Ordinary Love [2019]

How do you say to someone, ‘Don’t die’? Cancer is so often equated with death that it’s no wonder most films work towards that result when dealing with the subject matter. Not everyone dies, though. Many discover it early enough to have it removed without the need for additional operations. Some are a bit further along and must therefore confront the prospect of chemotherapy as a deterrent from complications. It’s different for everyone and the pain endured will always be there, but cancer stories can also be about life and…

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REVIEW: Playdate with Destiny [2020]

If you didn’t know Disney bought Fox yet, you will after watching Playdate with Destiny—a new Simpsons short playing before Pixar’s latest, Onward. The bookends are overt brand management with a “Disney presents” at the start and a silhouette of Mickey sitting amongst Gracie Film’s usual patrons during its post-credits bumper. It’s an undeniably smart move to pair properties in such a visible fashion and I have to imagine it won’t be the last time it happens (just wait until Simpsons characters become Easter eggs alongside the usual stable of…

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REVIEW: Hope Gap [2020]

Nobody looked back. One person’s optimal drama isn’t universal. Just because you might like the explosiveness of Marriage Story and its emotional outrage doesn’t mean your friend won’t find its histrionics akin to an improv theater class. And just because they might like the more nuanced Hope Gap and its stiff British upper lip doesn’t mean you won’t be bored by what you believe to be generic characters rendered milquetoast to ensure neither comes off as a bigger villain. We all live different lives and we’re all affected by triggering…

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REVIEW: Olympic Dreams [2020]

I really want it to be that thing I want it to be. Director Jeremy Teicher and writer/actor Alexi Pappas already made a film about the latter’s Olympic ambitions entitled Tracktown. Shot two years before she placed 17th in the women’s 10,000 m event at the 2016 Rio Olympics, it dealt with a physically injured athlete forced into taking a break amidst the chaos of Olympic Trials preparation. It was therefore only natural that the pair would choose to tackle a story dealing with the psychological and emotional experience of…

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SUNDANCE20 REVIEW: And Then We Danced [2019]

It’s the spirit of our nation. To be a Georgian male is to be masculine—especially in dance. Merab’s (Levan Gelbakhiani) teacher Aleko (Kakha Gogidze) demands that he stand straighter and stronger, a monument that can withstand any blow. While his country’s aesthetic had allowed for a softer tone, conservative tradition prevailed a half century ago to move things back to the rigid separation of gendered movement and the complete erasure of sexuality. How Aleko’s dancers perform becomes a visual metaphor for their nation. It will not be defeated. It will…

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REVIEW: Portrait de la jeune fille en feu [Portrait of a Lady on Fire] [2019]

Don’t regret. Remember. An eighteenth century Italian countess (Valeria Golino) still residing at the French estate of her late husband has decided she’d like to return home. The best way to accomplish this is marrying off one of her daughters to an affluent Milanese suitor since doing so would secure both their futures while also providing an excuse to travel east along the Mediterranean. Rather than hear what the young woman has to say about this fate set before her, however, it’s discovered through her actions instead. One untimely death…

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REVIEW: Atlantique [Atlantics] [2019]

The spirits are scared of me. French writer/director Mati Diop made a documentary short ten years ago about a group of Senegalese friends who risk their lives to sail along the coast of Africa into Spain with the hope of better lives upon their arrival. It almost seems natural then that her first feature length fictional narrative would piggyback off that story in a bid to shine light on the dangers of illegal immigration, the rampant greed of the rich in Third World countries (a third of Senegal’s population lives…

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REVIEW: A Hidden Life [2019]

We lived above the clouds. With notoriously long post-production periods due to his uniquely poetic editing style, Terrence Malick‘s three-hour WWII romance A Hidden Life may have actually benefited from its three-year delay as far as thematic relevance to current events is concerned. As a rising tide of fascistic totalitarianism takes hold of world governments (including partisan blindness in the United States), a rarely told story like that of conscientious objector Franz Jägerstätter becomes more important than ever. While it might have been lost in 2016’s shuffle, seeing it now…

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REVIEW: Little Women [2019]

Fight to the end and be loud. Despite letting its sordid content embarrass her to the point of pretending to be a writer friend’s messenger, Jo March (Saoirse Ronan) can’t hide the excitement of earning twenty dollars her family desperately needs for a story she composed. With one sister married to a husband of modest means (Emma Watson‘s Meg), another off in Europe with a wealthy suitor yet to propose (Florence Pugh‘s Amy), and a third sick in bed with fever (Eliza Scanlen‘s Beth), her New York City efforts to…

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REVIEW: Marriage Story [2019]

The pie was just a pie. It’s crazy how love changes the way we see things. Ambition can look like genius when we’re there as a supportive cheerleader and narcissism when we begin to recognize our sacrifices in seeing it get fulfilled. Success can be construed as a mutually beneficial byproduct of a union when one is strong and fertile, but also evidence of what we personally brought to the equation despite the other when we’re picking through the past to dissect what went wrong and who’s to blame. We…

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REVIEW: Waves [2019]

All we have is now. Ronald Williams (Sterling K. Brown) tells his son Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) what so many parents do: “You don’t know how lucky you are.” What are those words besides a pat on the adult’s back for providing a decent life for their child, though? To me they’re often a source of resentment on behalf of the son or daughter receiving them because they’re very much a deflection wherein the parent places blame for whatever is wrong on the kid’s shoulders. Rather than have a conversation…

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