Anchor and Hope (2018)
Eva (Oona Chaplin, a k a the first to die at the Red Wedding of “Game of Thrones”) is English; Kat (Natalia Tena, aka Tonks from the Harry Potters) is Spanish. They are a happy couple living on Kat’s canal boat in east London. We meet them at the funeral for their beloved cat, which takes place right before Kat’s old friend Roger (David Verdaguer) comes from Barcelona, Spain, for a long visit. And bam! Suddenly a pair of firmly committed lesbians decides to embark upon something as heteronormative as motherhood without having a single sober conversation about it. Before we examine what goes wrong with that choice, let’s discuss what goes right.
Continue reading "Come and Knock on Our Cabin Door" »
Lorey Sebastian/Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures
Did the makers of “Hostiles” realize they were creating something that nails the zeitgeist? One hopes so, because as an example of the current reckoning and all the ways in which it is problematic, “Hostiles” is a towering achievement. As a film, it’s fine, but its importance lies in the current moment.
Continue reading "Uneasy Rider" »
Susie Allnutt/Sony Pictures Classics
Film Stars Don't Die in Liverpool (2017)
This understated and affecting film signs off with its subject, golden-age screen star Gloria Grahame (played by Annette Bening), picking up a Best Supporting Actress Oscar for her part in “The Bad and the Beautiful.” Grahame makes just a brief visit to the stage – appropriate enough as she was only in the film for nine minutes – expresses thanks and slips off stage right. Given that this archive footage is the last thing we see before the credits roll, one could see it as a subliminal message drumming up support amongst Academy voters for Ms. Bening’s brilliant portrayal of the older Grahame. One can hardly begrudge her this shout out. Four nominations and not one golden boy on the shelf, not to mention being cruelly overlooked for her bravura turn in “20th Century Women.”
Continue reading "Big Heat in a Lonely Place" »
Sayombhu Mukdeeprom/Sony Pictures Classics
Call Me by Your Name (2017)
This is a very good movie designed for people who are helpless against the appeal of Armie Hammer — which, let’s face it, is most of us. Do we have another movie star handsome and suave enough to evoke the Hollywood stars of old? Most movies are built around men either dull to look at or dull to be around, who are not willing to grin and shrug and casually wander where their curiosity leads them so that you’re compelled to follow.
Continue reading "Gay to December" »
Nicola Dove/Festival du Film Britannique de Dinard
The Death of Stalin (2017)
I once asked a Russian colleague why all Russian movies were so depressing; he laughed at me and said, “Look at the history!” I said there must be some amusing Russian movies, and he laughed again and said they were so complicated and culture-specific they were impossible for a foreigner to understand. Five minutes’ rigorous research on Wikipedia informs me that the circumstances of “The Death of Stalin” are broadly historically accurate. It is as yet unclear as to whether that will make me feel better.
Continue reading "The Death of One Man Is a Comedy" »
Kris Dewitte/61st BFI London Film Festival
This is a movie about nets. Literal nets as the ones on the fishing boat that is the family’s livelihood, but also the nets of family obligations, community ties and general humanity. Does the movie hold up to the strength of its metaphor? Not quite.
Continue reading "Family Ties in Knots" »
61st BFI London Film Festival
You don’t often see movies named after a tattoo. It’s even more rare to see a movie about the power dynamics within a female friendship. “Gemini” is about a female friendship up against the truest test: who you call when you need to move a body.
Continue reading "L.A. Confidante" »
Lucia Faraig/61st BFI London Film Festival
Summer 1993 (2017)
They say never work with children or animals, which is great advice for the theater and terrible advice for film. Children’s natural affinity for pretending, their trusting nature and an unquestioning ability to accept their circumstances make them naturals in front of the camera. First-time director Carla Simón Pipó has made something amazing here, since her two main actresses are six and three and give heartbreaking, unaffected performances. The main question is why.
Continue reading "Fostering Care" »
On the Beach at Night Alone (2017)
What the world needs now is not another movie about a young actress upset over the end of her relationship with a much older movie director. It’s just not. It’s not “On the Beach at Night Alone’s” fault that it’s going to be tanked by the zeitgeist, but it’s possibly also for the best.
Continue reading "Mistress of Unceremonies" »
Anna Matveeva/Sony Pictures Classics
As a metaphor, “Loveless” is as subtle as an anvil. As an examination of a very ordinary way lives can be ruined, it’s spectacular and devastating. It’s somehow both extremely kind and extremely cruel, although often the kindness is given to the people who need it the least. And it all hangs on one moment in a restaurant – more on which later.
Continue reading "Child Nonsupport" »