My Best Friend's Meddling

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Tamara Hardman/2019 Sundance Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
Animals (2019)

The process of how someone puts their career together is endlessly fascinating. How someone chooses their work and builds the life they want will never not be interesting in a film. And if the hero/ine of that story has a best friend? Jackpot. When lives entwine in crowded homes and clothes are shared along with every thought, things can get very interesting: whether in making art (“Frances Ha”), murdering an inconvenient parent (“Heavenly Creatures”) or getting overinvested in each other’s love lives (“Me Without You”). “Animals” does all of those things except for the murder. What it doesn’t do is give the friendship equal weight on both sides, which is its second-biggest weakness.

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Fake It Till You Make It

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Allen Fraser/BFI Flare 2019

MOVIE REVIEW
J. T. LeRoy (2019)

Finally, Kristen Stewart gets a part that makes her happy. Ms. Stewart is notorious for her discomfort with the fame that has been the result of her acting talent – look at the photos of her barely hiding her misery on any red carpet. This feeling is the entire point of her character, Savannah, in “J. T. Leroy,” an inspired-by-true-events story of a famous literary hoax that captivated America last decade. The hoax is revealed right at the start. What the movie explores is why the characters needed to do it.

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Out, of Africa

Rafiki-movie-review-samantha-mugatsia-sheila-munyiva
Film Movement

MOVIE REVIEW
Rafiki (2019)

In the apocryphal past, movies were made locally and shown locally, so the makers could make assumptions about what the audience would understand – or not. Cultural relevance was a given and issues of representation were not as fraught as they are currently becoming, so characters onscreen were designed to be coathangers for the audience to hang their own personalities onto. Smaller movies can be much more widely seen these days but now the marketplace is global, there are so many options it’s almost impossible to decide. Even as the market widens – and it’s possible to make a movie on your phone and upload it to the Internet for the world to enjoy – the stories which tend to achieve the greatest success tend to center the same pale, male and stale characters as ever. There’s backlash, of course. Marvel is finally being called out for making blockbusters for over a decade without yet acknowledging that gay people exist, for example. Luckily, in other parts of the cinematic galaxy, we still have movies about regular heroes, just about. “Rafiki” is about two of them. The incredible story of two Kenyan girls in love as a superhero film, I hear you say? That’s right. Being gay is illegal in Kenya, and therefore the mere idea of making a movie about a lesbian relationship is an impossible act. But director Wanuri Kahiu did it, and so we have to ask ourselves, was all this courage worth it?

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Hoot Dreams

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Magnolia Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Support the Girls (2018)

Women’s work is never done, they say. Lisa (Regina Hall), the lead character in Andrew Bujalski’s charming “Support the Girls,” knows that better than most. The movie opens with her crying in her car, before another day in the restaurant off a Texas highway that she manages begins.

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Lifting the Iron Curtain

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Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
The White Crow (2019)

I blame John C. Reilly. “Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story” had such fun with the clichéd template of the artistic biopic that the genre still hasn’t recovered. Now biopics have to have an angle. For example, the Alberto Giacometti biopic, “Final Portrait,” focused on one specific sculpture of his. “The White Crow” similarly tries to have its cake and eat it: to focus both on the month Rudolf Nureyev spent in Paris before his famous defection in 1961, but also on the development of his talent as a child and as a young man. It doesn't quite succeed, but it’s such a Murderers’ Row of little known international dancing and acting talent that it's well worth seeing regardless.

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Little Trouble in Big China

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Berlin International Film Festival

MOVIE REVIEW
The Crossing (2019)

Peipei (Huang Yao) turns 16 the day “The Crossing” starts. She lives in Shenzhen, a port city in southern China, but goes to school in Hong Kong. This means morning and night she must cross – by herself - the international border. Her father (Liu Kai Chi) lives in the shipyard where he works, and her mother (Ni Hongjie) is a party girl who only pays attention to her hangovers and her friends. But, in spite of all that, Peipei is a good kid. Since this is the instant she’s old enough, after school she gets a job as a waitress; but when a customer complains that’s the end of that. She’s desperate for independence, not least because her wealthy best friend Jo (Carmen Soup) has been planning for them to take a trip to some hot springs in Japan for some time.

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Getting His Irish Up

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IFC Films

MOVIE REVIEW
Black ’47 (2018)

“Revenge is a dish best served cold” should have been the tagline for this movie. Instead, we got “In Ireland’s darkest hour, vengeance shines a light.” That doesn’t make much sense, and is pretentious to boot. But it does rather sum up precisely where “Black ’47” doesn’t quite succeed as much as it wanted to, or should have. Of course, the political moment being what it is, that doesn’t much matter.

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Come and Knock on Our Cabin Door

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Wolfe Video

MOVIE REVIEW
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.

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Uneasy Rider

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Lorey Sebastian/Entertainment Studios Motion Pictures

MOVIE REVIEW
Hostiles (2018)

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.

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Gay to December

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Sayombhu Mukdeeprom/Sony Pictures Classics

MOVIE REVIEW
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.

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