REVIEW: Bisbee ’17 [2018]

Thank you for riding the deportation express. On the surface it appears to be an illegal deportation of anti-union Americans at the hands of newly deputized company loyalists in Bisbee, Arizona. Approximately 1,200 copper mining strikers and sympathizers were rounded up at gunpoint in 1917, ushered into cattle cars, and driven over the border to New Mexico with the declaration that returning home would end in their death. Maybe the illegality of the incident was enough to keep it all a closely guarded secret, but digging further reveals another truth…

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REVIEW: Jauja [2014]

The desert devours everything. Colonialism, Manifest Destiny, and any other act by a foreign nation to claim the land of an indigenous people as its own are performed with a desire for power and prosperity. It’s about ego and entitlement—the search to create a mythology that glosses over genocide for the “heroism” of a brute that stumbled upon something he didn’t like to think wasn’t automatically his to own. So while Jauja itself is a fabled city of riches and happiness, writer/director Lisandro Alonso uses the word to describe conquest…

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REVIEW: Little Woods [2019]

Your choices are only as good as your options. There’s a great documentary about what life is like in the fracking boomtowns of North Dakota entitled The Overnighters. In it we witness an example of humanity at its simultaneous best and worst. Desperate men seeking an escape from troubles back home arrive to find a different sort of struggle that they may never overcome despite promises sold. Angels prove themselves to be demons and vice versa as director Jesse Moss collects candid interviews that reveal just how bad things are…

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REVIEW: The Wind [2019]

How did she get my gun? A suicide. A stillborn baby. A woman holding the latter as she leaves the former to show her husband and the now widower father the results of the harrowing night thus far kept off-screen. We hear the wind blowing as the camera pushes in towards Lizzy Macklin’s (Caitlin Gerard) haunted face in silent shock. Only after she washes the blood from her body and sees Isaac (Ashley Zukerman) place her rifle against the table does she speak and only after mother and child are…

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REVIEW: The Kid [2019]

You gotta learn to trust inna fella. With so many different iterations of the same exact story flooding the cinematic market every year via reboots and sequels, it’s nice when someone decides to look at a common narrative through a new lens. This is what director Vincent D’Onofrio and screenwriter Andrew Lanham hope to accomplish with The Kid—a glimpse at the oft-mythologized game played by former friends turned enemies Billy the Kid (Dane DeHaan) and Pat Garrett (Ethan Hawke) from the eyes of a fourteen year old boy (Jake Shur‘s…

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REVIEW: The Ballad of Buster Scruggs [2018]

Well don’t let my white duds and pleasant demeanor fool ya. You know the whole enterprise will be a bit cheeky just by directors’ Joel and Ethan Coen‘s statement of intent. While explaining that their love for anthology movies stems from the format’s ability to unite multiple directors with a common theme, they admit their hopes of doing the same with a sextet of Western tales written and adapted over the years. Instead of lamenting the fact they couldn’t make it happen before deciding to direct everything themselves, the duo…

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REVIEW: The Rider [2018]

Don’t give up on your dreams. Whether you’ve ever rode a horse or not, you know what happens when they’re injured. It could be that you saw the black and white decision to put one down in a movie. Or maybe you heard about a bad break during one of the televised derbies people get all crazy about. This is generally what happens with all animals. If a pet is sick to the point of having its way of life decimated, euthanasia becomes the humane choice. And yet assisted suicide…

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REVIEW: Sweet Country [2018]

What chance have we got? Director Warwick Thornton immediately connected to childhood friend and co-writer David Tranter‘s (with Steven McGregor) script because it provided an authentic context for the historical treatment of their indigenous Central Australian tribes. Based on stories passed down by Tranter’s grandfather as well as Wilaberta Jack’s true life 1920s self-defense killing case, Sweet Country presents a complex look back at a time not quite so long ago filled with men who aren’t quite so different than those living today. Racism still abounds and the law remains…

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REVIEW: Hostiles [2017]

You’re no angel your own self. The fact that America’s past isn’t without its horrific nightmares of misguided violence and oppression shouldn’t be lost on anyone, especially not with everything that’s going on here today. Our history runs red with the blood of men, women, and children who fought to survive against a force that thought themselves superior because of the color of their skin. White Europeans staked claim upon their arrival, killing the Native Americans with gunfire, alcohol, and disease before chasing them off west. They brought slave ships…

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TIFF17 REVIEW: Menoana e Mehlano ea Marseilles [Five Fingers for Marseilles] [2017]

“The land is all the scripture we need” Director Michael Matthews and writer Sean Drummond were drawn to the landscapes of South Africa’s Eastern Cape while traveling their homeland, especially the echoes of classic cinematic western environments. Learning about how its current towns arose—from the ashes of Apartheid-era cities mimicking European capitals by name—only cemented the comparison, each a product of the locals taking control once their oppressors left after their government changed hands and the train lines shutdown. This new frontier became the pair’s setting, their story gelling after…

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REVIEW: Brimstone [2017]

“Retribution is coming” At a time when many supposedly God-fearing Christians in America blindly fear the idea of a Muslim insurgence implementing Sharia law (itself often warped by supposed Allah-fearing men to retain patriarchal control much like their Republican counterparts dictating what a woman can and can’t do with her body), it’s crucial to remember the Bible isn’t necessarily so different as far as fanatical readings go. When the word of God can be bent to the whims of man, anything is possible. Perverts can marry daughters to render covetous…

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