REVIEW: A Love Song for Latasha [2020]

I’ll be with you. When the subject of your documentary is the tragic death of a fifteen-year-old Black girl accused of stealing an orange juice while holding the two dollars she was about to use for the purchase, the decision to embrace poetic abstract over reenactment is an easy one to make. And that’s exactly what Sophia Nahli Allison does with her short A Love Song for Latasha. It might begin with the blue screen of a VCR complete with tracking lines as footage appears, but that footage isn’t actually…

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REVIEW: The United States vs. Billie Holiday [2021]

It’s about human rights. I think a lot of what’s proven to be a lukewarm response to Lee Daniels‘ The United States vs. Billie Holiday can be understood upon discovering that this biopic about one of our country’s greatest singers was based on an English journalist’s book about the historical context and lasting impact of America’s “War on Drugs.” That right there shows that this film isn’t going to really be about Billie Holiday. And while that’s not necessarily a bad thing considering how much damage Harry Anslinger and the…

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REVIEW: Judas and the Black Messiah [2021]

Anywhere there’s people, there’s power. Despite top billing and the majority of media focus, Daniel Kaluuya is not the star of Judas and the Black Messiah. As the title of Shaka King‘s film alludes, his Messiah in the form of Fred Hampton is secondary as the angel on Bill O’Neal’s (LaKeith Stanfield) shoulder. It’s his Judas that holds our attention, caught between preserving his people and preserving himself while participating in the civil rights movement after the assassinations of Martin Luther King, Jr. and Malcolm X. Ask him before he…

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REVIEW: kid 90 [2021]

What happens once I unlock it? My mindset entering Soleil Moon Frye‘s autobiographical documentary kid 90 anticipated a fun, nostalgic, low stakes look at kid celebrities. That’s what the slew of happy photos depicting teenaged Stephen Dorff, Brian Austin Green, and Balthazar Getty smiling sells: their childhood adventures as inseparable friends and peers removed from the otherwise tumultuous Hollywood machine. Frye only adds to that image when starting things off by saying, “this is an account of what it meant to be a child in the 1990s.” Expectations are therefore…

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REVIEW: Billie Eilish: The World’s a Little Blurry [2021]

They’re not my friends. They’re part of me. Whether you enjoy her music or not, it’s tough to deny that there’s a story that needs to be told around Grammy-winning artist Billie Eilish. She and her brother Finneas O’Connell uploaded “Ocean Eyes” to SoundCloud when she was thirteen. They recorded their first full-length album in his bedroom when she was sixteen. And they’ve become worldwide sensations performing at the Oscars and writing the latest James Bond theme song all in the matter of about five years—the last two being a…

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REVIEW: Escher: Het Oneindige Zoeken [M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity] [2018]

I’m a mathematician. Despite Graham Nash‘s words at the conclusion of Robin Lutz‘s documentary M.C. Escher: Journey to Infinity stating that the world is destined to reappreciate the artist’s work, the fact that it’s taken three years for the film to become available in the United States seemingly proves the opposite. As the pop culture footage during the end credits reveals, however, it might just be that Nash was underestimating how important Escher‘s art already was. From Labyrinth to Inception and tattoos to YouTube make-up tutorials, the Dutchman’s optical illusions…

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REVIEW: The Dig [2021]

I had my feeling. When Simon Stone‘s The Dig begins with Basil Brown (Ralph Fiennes) towing his bicycle across the water in a boat towards Sutton Hoo, it’s natural to align our expectations with an archeological adventure. Because he’s labeled “difficult” by the museum that more or less told Edith Pretty (Carey Mulligan) her desire to excavate the mounds present on her land isn’t worth their effort with war looming, the two prove themselves to be a perfect pair of underestimated and ignored figures on the cusp of finding something…

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REVIEW: Safety [2020]

I am a winner. Anyone who’s played organized sports is familiar with their clichés. Whether “fighting in the trenches” as though a game is akin to war or loyalty and love transforming your teammates and coaches into a second family (the same rhetoric employers use as a means to get you to willingly sacrifice more than your compensation contractually demands), these platitudes are used to confirm that “we” is stronger than “I.” The result is two-fold: we do make priceless relationships from those experiences, but also sometimes find ourselves stripped…

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REVIEW: Ammonite [2020]

Fashion moved on. Did it not? By all accounts a woman long disregarded for her invaluable role in the scientific field of paleontology, Mary Anning deserves substantial recognition. Her first major discovery occurred around age eleven after her brother found an ichthyosaur skull for which she then collected the entirety of its completed skeleton. Because their father died that same year and left the family in dire financial straits, they sold the piece to find its way into London’s British Museum eight years later. Mary then continued her winter expeditions…

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REVIEW: Mank [2020]

Sixty days and a noodle. Who wrote Citizen Kane? It’s a question that should have a definitive answer considering it’s hailed as the greatest film of all-time after winning a single Oscar out of nine nominations: for original screenplay. Yet the debate rages on. Or maybe it’s better to say that those who believe there is a debate continue declaring that one exists. Pauline Kael wrote a 1971 New Yorker article that posited how director/producer/star Orson Welles added nothing of value to Herman J. Mankiewicz’s original draft. Many others refuted…

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REVIEW: The Twentieth Century [2020]

Sure as a winter’s day in springtime. It would seem by most accounts that William Lyon Mackenzie King was a middle-of-the-road politician who neither rocked the boat nor steered it towards any particular acclaim. That’s not to say he wasn’t popular—three non-consecutive terms as Prime Minister of Canada aren’t won without appeal. He just wasn’t as internationally revered as his World War II counterparts Franklin Roosevelt and Winston Churchill. To read about his legacy is to therefore see a man firmly entrenched in a gray area our incendiary day and…

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