DOCNYC20 REVIEW: The Letter [2020]

Funda mkota. The subject of married directing duo Maia Lekow and Chris King‘s The Letter isn’t just one piece of correspondence. It’s instead a type that’s been gaining traction more and more in Kenya as younger generations have sought to take land from elders by way of religiously motivated murder. The way they do it is simple: declare the landowner a witch. Create a laundry list of ills, place the blame around the neck of an unsuspecting senior citizen, and threaten them with a violent end by the blade of…

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DOCNYC20 REVIEW: The Viewing Booth [2020]

I think he’s lying. Modernism, insofar as the painting world is concerned, was created in large part out of the invention of the camera. Here was a new device that captured life-like images from the world with the press of a button. We no longer had to sit in chairs and pose for portraits. We no longer had to view canvases of landscapes and architecture in order to behold the beauty of what each provided without physically standing before them ourselves. So painters began to reinterpret reality instead. They moved…

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HEARTLAND20 REVIEW: Minari [2020]

Because of the dirt color? One of the first things Soonja (Yuh-Jung Youn) wants to do upon arriving in America to live on her daughter’s family’s new Arkansas farm and help with her grandkids is find a place to grow the minari she’s brought over from Korea. She mentions it out loud at dinner after picking a spot only to hear her son-in-law Jacob (Steven Yeun) say he’ll think about it. He’s too busy plowing the land he bought to grow Korean vegetables to worry about additions, but Soonja wasn’t…

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NYFF20 REVIEW: Undine [2020]

If you leave, you have to die. Johannes (Jacob Matschenz) laughs when Undine Wibeau (Paula Beer) tells him he can’t leave her lest she be forced to kill him. He laughs because he’s read the myth of sea nymphs sharing her name and the fate those who love them suffer if they ever betray it. That’s not how the real world works, though. Couples fall in and out of love all the time. Men don’t walk to forest lakes and scream her name to satisfy the holes in their heart…

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BIFF20 REVIEW: Freeland [2020]

I have my own system. Adapt or die: it’s the capitalist way. And for a time it actually worked. Those with the ingenuity to improve an industry found themselves rising to the top with technological advances that others would have to adopt in order to remain competitive. An even playing field would be found, someone new would take that next step forward, and the rest would once again adjust. At a certain point in the past half-century or so, however, those improvements began coming at an accelerated pace. They’ve become…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Black Bear [2020]

You don’t have to mean it. Does a bear standing in the road influence a bear by the boathouse? Or are both animals a manifestation of the same mind to punctuate the climactic conclusions of an ever-escalating series of anxiety-inducing emotional carnage as deus ex machinas? You could easily argue each option where it concerns Lawrence Michael Levine‘s intentionally solipsistic and presumably cathartic dramatic puzzle box of a film, Black Bear. Chapter One might be a reality that influences Chapter Two or both might be dueling incarnations of a creative…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Mandibules [Mandibles] [2020]

What’s in the suitcase? Look no further than the fact Manu (Grégoire Ludig) was given the job to know how simple it was. While he’s a guy who shouldn’t be trusted to operate heavy machinery, tasking him with the no-questions-asked delivery of a suitcase shouldn’t be far-fetched—especially not when he’ll be given a decent payday for his trouble. Manu needs that money too. He’s lost his home and sleeps wrapped up in a blanket on the beach way too close to the water. Any little bit therefore helps and procuring…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: The Obituary of Tunde Johnson [2020]

With unconditional love comes unconditional fear. While not in control of the response, Tunde Johnson (Steven Silver) does control the conversation when deciding to come out as gay to his wealthy, Nigerian-born parents the night of his secret boyfriend’s (Spencer Neville‘s Soren) birthday. He sits them down, diverts their attention from the busy intellectual discourse that runs through their heads, and says his peace. He fends off his mother’s desire to hold him (a source of physical affection he’s been trying to get her to stop) and implores his father…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Frank & Zed [2020]

It will end in the Orgy of Blood! Centuries ago in a small kingdom ravaged by evil wizard The Moroi, a king made a pact with the God of Death to usher in what he believed was his only chance at peace. By giving them cursed weapons with the power to vanquish their foe, Death also bestowed a prophecy that foretold an orgy of blood fated to take tenfold the blood spilled by the king’s hand the moment his royal line is ended. And it worked. The wizard was destroyed…

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BIFF20 REVIEW: Small Town Wisconsin [2020]

No big deal. Odds are that finding someone from Small Town Mid-West USA means finding someone with an unpleasant past. Economic strife leads to long hours. Long hours to drinking. Drinking to domestic abuse. And the cycle continues ad infinitum unless you’re lucky enough to extricate yourself from the black hole of familial history proving too heavy to bear. It’s why Alicia (Kristen Johnston) got out around the time her abusive, alcoholic father passed away. It’s why Deidra (Tanya Fischer) and her new husband Stu (David Sapiro) are looking to…

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NIGHTSTREAM20 REVIEW: Jumbo [2020]

What is it if it isn’t love? Jeanne Tantois (Noémie Merlant) has never been one for people. Besides her mother Margarette (Emmanuelle Bercot) and co-worker Fati (Tracy Dossou), she’d avoid talking to them all. You can’t blame her for this attitude considering what so many do the moment they witness her shyly eccentric demeanor. She closes her eyes in a wince when someone gets too close and they almost always come back with a chuckle or unoriginal playacting of being “scary.” They mock her, ridicule her, and laugh rather than…

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