SLAM22 REVIEW: کشتن خواجه [Killing the Eunuch Khan] [2022]

Where is the escape? It would be a mistake to take the synopsis for Abed Abest‘s Killing the Eunuch Khan at face value because this is not a film about a serial killer in the generic sense of the word. Khan (Ebrahim Azizi) isn’t some cult leader a la Charles Manson sending his disciples out into the world to murder people in his name. He’s not a monster in the vein of Jigsaw either, entrapping victims to do his dirty work in the hope that doing so will earn them…

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SLAM22 REVIEW: Paris is in Harlem [2022]

I think she told them what they wanted to hear. Enacted during Prohibition—and the Harlem Renaissance—the New York City Cabaret Law made it so any public establishment that served food and/or drink needed a license to allow musical entertainment and dancing. Like so many similar laws (see pushes for voter ID), proponents championed the initiative as a means of “keeping the peace.” Critics conversely saw how the extra cost and sheer absurdity of its enforcement targeted businesses that were owned and frequented by marginalized groups (whether race, sexuality, etc.). And…

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SLAM22 REVIEW: Yelling Fire in an Empty Theater [2022]

Double samesies. A long-time coming fit of exasperation gets Lisa (Isadora Leiva) to ask herself the question she should have asked before leaving Florida behind: is New York City a place or just an idea? A stranger at the airport tried to prepare her for this inevitable reckoning by handing over an unsolicited fifty-dollar bill along with advice to temper expectations, but dreams aren’t so easily thrown away. This move is about hope and excitement. It’s about leaving behind the only life she’s ever known to adventure forward into a…

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SLAM22 REVIEW: Honeycomb [2022]

Do not come looking. Tired of always waiting to see what the boys want to do, five teenage girls during the summer between high school and college decide to take matters into their own hands. Why should they waste so much time playing second fiddle to Emmett (Emmett Roiko) and company’s immaturity? Why blindly accept the demands bestowed upon them by their parents through part-time jobs and curfews? Maybe they only did those things to begin with because they had no other choice. So, when Willow (Sophie Bawks-Smith) invites the…

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SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Palm Trees and Power Lines [2022]

Don’t murder me, okay? It starts with a quick glance and a wink. Tom (Jonathan Tucker) sees that it’s a teenager looking his way when he does it. He knows he might have even made seventeen-year-old Lea’s (Lily McInerny) day by acknowledging her lusting over him with reciprocated approval. What happens next, however, is pure luck. Yes, he was surely waiting outside the diner in his truck to stalk her on the off chance she became isolated from her friends, but an opportunity to save the day couldn’t have happened…

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SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Something in the Dirt [2022]

You can only fall so fast. Directors Justin Benson (who also writes) and Aaron Moorhead go back to their roots with a lo-fi, (mostly) single locale sci-fi similar to their debut feature Resolution. Rather than a cabin in the woods, however, Something in the Dirt takes place within a cheap, lease-free, sight-unseen Los Angeles apartment. The tenant is a long-time area bartender named Levi (Benson) who’s hoping to jump ship and leave the city after his pursuit of something meaningful left him with only frustration. It’s within walking distance to…

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SUNDANCE22 REVIEW: Alice [2022]

Don’t you see it? I wonder what the marketing push for Krystin Ver Linden‘s Alice would have looked like if Antebellum hadn’t already arrived on the scene first. Both films deal with the juxtaposition of slavery and our modern world in a similar way and yet the latter intentionally shielded its truth as a twist while the former exposes it as the point. Rather than deflect and/or deceive, this film’s campaign and synopsis have very clearly revealed that it does not take place during the 1800s. They do so by…

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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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DOCNYC21 REVIEW: Adrienne [2021]

I wasn’t supposed to find her dead. I hadn’t seen any of Adrienne Shelly‘s work at the time of her death, but you couldn’t follow the film world in 2006 without hearing about what happened. The news sites latched onto the assumption of suicide early on only to discover what happened was murder—the culprit found, arrested, and confessed shortly afterwards. And amidst that tragic whirlwind during the final two months of that year, Shelly’s latest film as writer/director/star, Waitress, was in submission at Sundance. It would eventually bow at the…

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DOCNYC21 REVIEW: Messwood [2021]

Kids win. Coaches lose. You can’t avoid questions about race when you’re talking about a situation such as that at the center of Emily Kuester and Brad Lichtenstein‘s documentary Messwood. The title is the name that was coined when two high schools a mile apart on the same street separated by a stream joined forces to field a competitive football team. Shorewood High is predominately white and bolstered by the highest median income level in Milwaukee. Messmer High is predominately Black and saddled with a student body that can barely…

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BIFF21 REVIEW: Catch the Fair One [2021]

You wish it was me on that wall. Kaylee (Kali Reis) hasn’t fought much since her sister Weeta disappeared two years ago. She’s waiting tables at a diner and sleeping in a shelter now, estranged from her mother (Kimberly Guerrero‘s Jaya) and really only in touch with her trainer/friend Brick (Shelly Vincent). The latter is with her at the beginning, taping her hands up to ready for a boxing match. We don’t see it, though, and don’t know who it is against. This is intentional because it may not have…

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