REVIEW: Midsommar [2019]

No higher and no hotter. It must have been one helluva break-up since no run-of-the-mill, mutual uncoupling could inspire someone to pull a complete reversal like writer/director Ari Aster did. He initially turned down an idea that some Swedish producers brought him to bring to life. He didn’t see the purpose in creating some random slasher set in their Scandinavian nation simply because they were offering the money to do so. Aster only circled back when the messiness of his relationship’s demise provided a reason to get some characters there…

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Online Film Critics Society Ballot 2018

Below is my December 27th ballot for the 22nd annual Online Film Critics Society Awards honoring movies released domestically in the United States during the 2018 calendar year. Group winners are highlighted in red. (No option to abstain was supplied this year.) Best Picture #1 If Beale Street Could Talk #2 You Were Never Really Here #3 Hereditary #4 Eighth Grade #5 BlacKkKlansman #6 The Favourite #7 Annihilation #8 Roma #9 A Star Is Born #10 First Reformed #11 Suspiria Best Animated Film #1 Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse #2 Mirai…

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REVIEW: C’est La Vie [2016]

“You don’t choose to be me” In the perfect complement to Basically, writer/director Ari Aster uses the same format of pitting his lead character against the camera for an incendiary diatribe about life, freedom, and oppression with C’est La Vie. Where the former centered upon a young, aspiring actress who proved a product of affluence and privilege, the latter focuses upon an irately aggressive homeless man named Chester Crummings (Bradley Fisher). What’s interesting is that he too had a life of excess before unforeseen circumstances (and a later revealed psychological…

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REVIEW: The Turtle’s Head [2014]

“She didn’t get the pun” What appeared an early misstep of juvenile comedic intent with TDF Really Works actually seems to be a glaring blind spot for writer/director Ari Aster after watching his short film The Turtle’s Head. There are few better than him today where using humor to augment the subversions of darker genres is concerned. But his attempts to go broad without any underlying message or social motivation have thus far proven lackluster. A few chuckles are earned here en route to a very repetitive exercise in gross-out…

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REVIEW: Basically [2014]

“That’s just the rejection talking” Even the most vain and vapid have moments of clarity. Whether they prove to be intentional or not is the question. So is it because Shandy (Rachel Brosnahan) has more to her than what appearances reveal that she’s able to turn colorfully vindictive soliloquies into philosophical quandaries worth contemplating beyond the laughter of her visual juxtapositions? Or is it merely because everyone has the agency to hit a home run if they simply talk in circles long enough to break free towards territory they never…

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REVIEW: Munchausen [2013]

You can almost hear the musical score when thinking about old silent films from the likes of Charlie Chaplin and Buster Keaton. They have that peppy melody to really shine a light on the optimism of what could be before some sort of hardship or tragedy arrives with a somber tone to lead our emotions along a roller coaster of hijinks and reflection. But we never mind that slow, deep transition of sound because it’s always followed by a miraculous recovery, joyous occasion, or happily ever after. We get through…

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REVIEW: Beau [2011]

“Well I’m horrified too” Just before he’s about to leave his apartment for a flight to visit his mother, Beau (Billy Mayo) realizes he’s forgotten his dental floss. What should be a quick jaunt upstairs to the bathroom becomes the biggest mistake of his life upon returning to see his keys—which he left in the lock—are gone. He has no choice but to cancel his plans and stay home. He can’t leave his possessions unguarded, but he can’t risk letting down his defenses in case whoever took his keys returns…

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REVIEW: TDF Really Works [2011]

“Roast duck? Good luck!” Sometimes there really isn’t anything below the surface of gross-out comedy like TDF Really Works. Just because it’s the brainchild of the writer/director behind the equally disturbing yet conversely thought-provoking short The Strange Thing About the Johnsons doesn’t mean you have to try harder to find one either. And whether Ari Aster had a reason to create what amounts to a NSFW infomercial gag besides the easy laugh it earns, that’s how it will be remembered. Credit his restraint in using initials for the title, though.…

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REVIEW: Hereditary [2018]

“Why are you afraid of me?” If anyone has the ability to dive into the deepest, darkest secrets of an otherwise normal looking suburban family, it’s the writer/director of The Strange Thing About the Johnsons. It’s been seven years since Ari Aster‘s viral short film about incest and sexual abuse came out and yet his first feature is just hitting theaters. Whether due to a lack of funding or need for time to hone his script, Aster spent the period in-between by crafting more shorts to cut his teeth and…

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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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