REVIEW: Les amours d’Anaïs [Anaïs in Love] [2021]

Everything is possible if you want it. There’s nothing discreet about thirty-year old Anaïs (Anaïs Demoustier). We meet her as she’s running to greet her landlady. Anaïs is two months late on rent and her live-in boyfriend has moved out, yet she’s unafraid to let the woman graciously allowing her to stay despite no real evidence that she won’t have to throw her out in a week know this agreed upon conversation is cutting into a party for which she’s also late attending. Candid to a fault, this graduate student…

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REVIEW: Les Olympiades, Paris 13e Paris, 13th District] [2021]

No need to shout. The lighter side of writer/director Jacques Audiard—known for some pretty heavy dramas—comes out courtesy of graphic novelist Adrian Tomine’s modern romances. Audiard and his co-writers Léa Mysius and Céline Sciamma adapt three-to-four (I’ve seen competing numbers) of Tomine’s stories into a poignant and satisfying look through the private windows of Les Olympiades, Paris 13e [Paris, 13th District]. First there’s Émilie Wong (Lucie Zhang) and her new roommate Camille (Makita Samba). Then there’s Camille and his new real estate colleague Nora Ligier (Noémie Merlant). And, finally, there’s…

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REVIEW: Cabaret [1972]

One of my whims. The place to be in 1930s Europe was apparently Weimer-era Berlin. That’s where Cambridge-educated Christopher Isherwood went to live his life as an openly gay man amongst kindred spirits populating its robust nightlife. He met numerous friends, embarking on numerous adventures ultimately inspiring his semi-autobiographical novel The Berlin Stories which in turn inspired John Van Druten‘s Broadway play I Am a Camera. From there, Joe Masteroff and songwriting duo Kander and Ebb (John Kander and Fred Ebb) created their musical Cabaret, largely influenced by Isherwood’s short…

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REVIEW: West Side Story [2021]

Life matters even more than love. It’s tough to know what to expect when a remake of a ten-time Oscar-winner (including Best Picture) like West Side Story is announced. Not even Steven Spielberg being at the helm can help in the grand scheme of things either because you almost wish a talent like his would spend that time on original work instead. The hope is therefore always that the powers that be found an avenue in to make the attempt worthwhile. We pray that purpose rather than profits was the…

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Review: Fabian oder Der Gang vor die Hunde [Fabian: Going to the Dogs] [2021]

People have no time for angels these days. Why do good people die while bad people live? It’s a rhetorical question that Jakob Fabian (Tom Schilling) asks himself in response to his idealistic friend Stephan Labude’s (Albrecht Schuch) optimistic belief that an intelligent and compassionate world could thrive if only our citizens would find the strength to become those things in the face of selfishness ego. Jakob scoffs at the idea not because he thinks his friend is wrong, but because he’s skeptical as to whether that utopian ideal is…

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REVIEW: БоксБалет [BoxBallet] [2021]

While a coup attempt against Russian President Boris Yeltsin unfolds at the parliament in 1993, a beautiful ballerina named Olga and a beaten-down boxer named Evgeny cross paths on the subway. The encounter lasts but a second with the former not even registering that it had before exiting the train car. If not for his television changing to static after news reports of the violence on the streets (147 people were killed with 437 others left wounded), that might have been the end of it. Instead, Evgeny leaves his apartment…

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REVIEW: Marry Me [2022]

We have to change the narrative. It’s not often that a web comic gets optioned into a film produced by a superstar singer for a Hollywood studio, but that’s what happened to Bobby Crosby‘s 2012 work Marry Me. Screenwriters John Rogers, Tami Sagher, and Harper Dill polish the “don’t all arranged marriages work” sentiment and pee-your-pants excitement comedic edges from the spontaneous and conflict-fueled meet-cute of twenty-somethings to the existential crises of two fifty-somethings lost in life who are willing to take a leap of faith. The switch does wonders…

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REVIEW: Deserto Particular [Private Desert] [2021]

I need this break. Writer/director Aly Muritiba said something very interesting about his new film Deserto Particular [Private Desert] in the lead up to its Venice debut last year. He spoke about a desire for its success to not simply be of the “preaching to the choir” variety. Rather than hope an artist, who already understands the breadth of love, could find something at the core of his love story, Muritiba wanted to open the heart of those trapped under the oppressive force of conservatism and traditionalism. This tale of…

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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: Licorice Pizza [2021]

Gritted teeth and fixed bayonettes. Let’s face it: there’s an elephant in the room (well, make that two with the casual racism) when even beginning to talk about Paul Thomas Anderson‘s latest San Fernando Valley in the 1970s vibe of a movie adorned by two words the writer/director says supply a Pavlovian response to his past, Licorice Pizza. It’s about the exploits of a fifteen-year-old hustler named Gary Valentine (Cooper Hoffman) and the twenty-five-year-old soon-to-be friend/business partner named Alana Kane (Alana Haim) that he tries to pick-up at his high…

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REVIEW: The Scarlet Empress [1934]

I’m taking lessons as fast as I can. Empress Elizabeth Petrovna (Louise Dresser) wanted to make sure Russia had a strong leader and in so doing ensured it wouldn’t be her bloodline taking up the mantle. Not the way Josef von Sternberg‘s The Scarlet Empress tells it, as adapted from Catherine II’s diaries by Eleanor McGeary and Manuel Komroff. It is she who chooses Princess Sophia Frederica of Prussia (Marlene Dietrich) to marry her nephew (Sam Jaffe‘s Grand Duke Peter) and provide a male heir she could then raise in…

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