SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Master [2022]

You can’t get away from it. There’s a great comical interlude about halfway through Mariama Diallo‘s feature debut Master wherein a practically all-white New England university puts together an advertisement for a newly formed “alliance for inclusion.” In it are the only two Black teachers at the school and two or three POC students that we’ve never seen until that moment. They talk about the initiative as if it’s some grand idea that will stop racism in its tracks despite a literal cross burning occurring mere days earlier. They talk…

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REVIEW: Donkeyhead [2022]

I just wanted you to ask for me. You see it often. The “successful” children leave to start families of their own and the so-called “donkeys” (or khotas in the case of this Punjabi household) are left caring for the parents that were hard enough on them to make the level of compassion necessary to do so tough to understand. Mona (Agam Darshi) was the black sheep in many ways growing up. She was the artistic type. The rebel. The “lesser” twin. Growing up in a Sikh home with a…

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REVIEW: Definition Please [2022]

Why did you come back? Monica Chowdry (Sujata Day) was everything her Indian immigrant parents could have hoped from a child. Not only did she win the national Scribbs Spelling Bee, but she also became somewhat of a young intellectual celebrity courtesy of the victory tour with photographic keepsakes alongside Oprah Winfrey and fellow Pittsburgh-area native M. Night Shyamalan as well as an episode of television with host LeVar Burton that her mother (Anna Khaja‘s Jaya) still watches to this day almost twenty years later. The sky was the limit…

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REVIEW: A Nuvem Rosa [The Pink Cloud] [2021]

It must be a joke. Despite bowing a year into the COVID pandemic, Iuli Gerbase‘s A Nuvem Rosa [The Pink Cloud] was shot two years prior and written two before that. It’s a point of clarification made at the start of the film due to how familiar its themes and events prove when placed in context with our current reality. It’s necessary too so audiences can’t pretend that what’s happening wasn’t a foregone conclusion. Whether a deadly virus or, in this case, a mysterious pink cloud that kills anyone who…

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REVIEW: Italian Studies [2022]

You’re ‘warm world.’ It makes sense when writer/director Adam Leon explains the origins of Italian Studies came about by circumstance rather than intent. His friend Vanessa Kirby said she’d be in New York City for a while and that they should do something together. She wanted to be challenged. She wanted to roam the streets. Leon wanted to oblige despite not feeling certain he was ready to create anything new. It was his financiers saying “Go for it” that made it seem the stars were aligned. He called a bunch…

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REVIEW: West Side Story [1961]

I’m frightened enough for the both of ya. What started as an idea to contemporize William Shakepeare‘s Romeo and Juliet on the East Side of Manhattan with star-crossed lovers of Irish Catholic and Jewish descent eventually found itself reworked to the opposite side of the island with religion removed so ethnicity could take its place. Jerome Robbins and Arthur Laurents altered things to hew closer towards the 1950s’ rise of street violence by embroiling rival gangs (descendants of Polish immigrants versus newly arrived Puerto Ricans) into a turf war. With…

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REVIEW: えんとつ町のプペル [Eiga Entotsumachi no Puperu] [Poupelle of Chimney Town] [2020]

You have to look before you know. It’s Halloween night and a bright light has penetrated through the dark smoky clouds above Chimney Town. The red crystal in the shape of a heart tears through everything in its path en route to the garbage dump, pausing just above the ground’s surface to pull the long-since discarded objects towards it like a magnet. When all is said and done, a figure emerges: pointed hat, umbrella handle nose, cage body, and spring arms. The children dancing and singing in the street for…

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REVIEW: The 355 [2022]

Just a little longer. Nobody is talking about the Colombian wunderkind who single-handedly coded a drive that can backdoor any encrypted electronic device in the world from a single terminal. I know there’s zero need to talk about him since being the only person who can create and/or replicate something as valuable as his little hard drive isn’t long for a world where scarcity on such black-market weapons increases price, but still. Dude was just a twenty-something son of a drug warlord (with infinite time and resources) who was raised…

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REVIEW: House of Gucci [2021]

Art, like beauty, has no price. The problem with dynasties—royal or otherwise—is that genius isn’t hereditary. At some point, someone had it. Either they led a country to victory or built a company from the ground up. Then ego ultimately takes over. Those founders and rulers believe their name and blood will be enough to see things through into the future. And they forget that everything they experienced to get to the top cannot be replicated in a vacuum. Not only will subsequent generations not have the same interests, but…

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REVIEW: Cryptozoo [2021]

Without dreams, there can be no future. Ever since childhood, Lauren Gray (Lake Bell) hoped to save cryptids. Her first encounter came while struggling to conquer a steady stream of nightmares in youth. Fate would have it that a Baku (an elephant/pig hybrid that steals dreams) happened to be nearby. It came to Lauren while she slept and sucked all the bad thoughts from her mind, ostensibly saving her life. In order to repay the favor, she dedicated her existence to helping animals and, by extension, cryptids like her savior.…

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Posterized Propaganda January 2022: The Top 10 Movie Posters of 2021

“Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover” is a proverb whose simple existence proves the fact impressionable souls will do so without fail. This monthly column (with a special year-end retrospective today) focuses on the film industry’s willingness to capitalize on this truth, releasing one-sheets to serve as not representations of what audiences are to expect, but as propaganda to fill seats. Oftentimes they fail miserably. If my shortlist for this piece is any indication, Hollywood adjusted to COVID just fine. I’ve put aside an average of 60-70 posters every…

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