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Columbus Review

17 Aug

The best scene of Columbus is serene, yet dripping with emotion. It’s deeply passionate, a small slice of life that speaks volumes even though it’s as quiet as can be. I won’t give too much away here, but what sparks it is a question from one character to another about a building they’re standing in front of. It has to do with meaning, with personal connection, with finding something amidst the complicated assembling of inanimate objects. It has to do with your engagement with the world around you, and the value within that process is something that Kogonada certainly understands and connects to. That’s one of the more profound ideas that the film expresses, and it’s done so in a visually lyrical manner. Kogonada makes his human characters living, breathing elements of the architecture in the background, utilizing symmetry from both visual and character-based standpoints as Jin and Casey (Cho and Richardson, the latter of which is particularly incredible) wander through their environment.

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Good Time Review

12 Aug

Give me the first twenty minutes of this film over and over again. Give me the frenetic pacing, the tight closeups and saturated colors from Sean Price Williams, the pounding, pulsating synths from Oneohtrix Point Never’s incredible score. Give me the palpable sense of desperation in the air, the mountains and valleys of hope and panic, the brief but powerful expressions of fraternal love that flow through the rapidly disintegrating situation. Give me Robert Pattinson’s brilliant performance, the way his character pushes on even as the weight of other lives fall onto his shoulders, the way he walks and holds himself throughout the film. All of the above work well in tandem. It’s an engrossing and memorable experience. It’s a well-oiled cacophony.

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Detroit Review

6 Aug

It’s easy to try to do too much with a historical film. As a filmmaker, you might feel the need to cast a wide net over the events in question, going down a laundry list of important events in an effort to do due diligence to history. I prefer the approach taken by Detroit, which zeroes in on the Algiers Motel and stays with it for over an hour. The film certainly provides context for the tensions that flare in that motel, opening the film with an excellent prologue that places you right in the heat of the Detroit riots. However, Bigelow’s concerns do not lie with the riots as a whole; rather, she and Boal are interested in how the backdrop of the riots feed into an event like the one at the Algiers Motel. The approach has some flaws, of course. Are there some meandering scenes with iffy dialogue? Yes. Are there moments a bit lacking in nuance? You bet. Does the character development sometimes fail to match up with the intense emotions we’re asked to feel for the characters? Sure. Are various perspectives omitted? Absolutely.

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Dunkirk Review

23 Jul

Let’s get this out of the way first: Christopher Nolan is a very talented filmmaker. He and his brother have crafted several masterpieces in my eyes, and I have nothing but the utmost respect for his commitment to high(er) concept crowd pleasers. He gets a lot of shit, but his type of filmmaking is desperately needed in an age of mindless entertainment; how many other directors will garner such universal support from the studio, critics, film buffs, and casual moviegoers alike? Yeah, not many.

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War for the Planet of the Apes Review

18 Jul

There’s a tendency these days to qualify any evaluation of a blockbuster film with the word “blockbuster”. “It’s great for a blockbuster.” “It’s a smart blockbuster.” “It’s just a fun summer blockbuster.” This trend does not occurs sans reason: the big, lumbering studios churning out remarkably low quality CGI fare at a record pace, and we the consumers facilitating that by constantly handing over our hard earned money. I don’t want to tell people what they should and shouldn’t enjoy, but people sure do get defensive about others affording their “blockbusters” the same level of respect that arthouse fare should receive, i.e. the critical evaluation of a film on its own merits without any sort of preconceived bias toward the style of film. By shielding certain filmmaking from criticism because it’s “just a blockbuster”, you are in fact denigrating it as a film and denigrating the blockbuster as a valuable art form. What I therefore want to make very clear is that this apes trilogy isn’t just a good blockbuster trilogy; it’s damn good filmmaking overall and one of the most impressive feats in recent film history.

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A Ghost Story Review

12 Jul

It’s easy to scoff at the central image of the film: an extremely rudimentary construction of a ghost via a white sheet and eyeholes. However, considering the weighty themes it stands in for–time, legacy, life, death, and love–it’s kind of appropriate how absurd of an image it is. There’s never going to be a perfect symbol that encapsulates all the messy beauty of life and the profound nothingness of death, the confusion and the fleeting joy and the sense that nothing matters and that everything matters. There’s never going to be a more fitting representation of complexity than this type of simplicity, and David Lowery shows us throughout the film that he understands that. There’s a humorous, self-aware bent to the whole situation. There are ghost subtitles. We actually watch paint dry. Rooney Mara eats a pie.

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Okja Review

7 Jul

This film has no business working as well as it does. It’s quite the mess on first appearance, lacking the kinetic, hard-hitting forward movement of Snowpiercer and veering between vastly different tones and frameworks. It’s a corporate satire that hits the meatpacking industry and its attendant political and definitional manipulations, a wacky action-adventure film that features bizarre characters doing bizarre things, and a heartwarming yet heartbreaking story about the bond shared between a young girl and her animal friend. Bong Joon-ho and d.p. Darius Khondji (responsible for one of the greatest shots in recent memory in The Immigrant) demonstrate a wonderful ability to transition between the lush nature shots of the first half to the clinical horrors of the second, and the tonal shift that accompanies it works surprisingly well.

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