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  • Widows

    Widows

    ★★★

    "A certain ideological incoherence is probably unavoidably imbricated in any major production, and I was amused to see in the end credits that Widows (a film, in part, unabashedly about systemic racism) credits as a consultant Bernard Kerik, the disgraced former NYPD police commissioner sentenced to four years in federal prison for tax fraud. Kerik was also a regular on Fox News at one point, which means ideologically he’s the opposite of everything this movie is for; this is a Fox film, so it’s also an example of synergy in action."

    More trivia/weighted ambivalence here.

  • Ash Is Purest White

    Ash Is Purest White

    ★★★½

    "For otherwise underinformed viewers like myself, one of the functions of watching Jia Zhangke’s movies in real time as they came out was pedagogical: because I don’t read the news enough, I’m not sure I would have known about the construction of the Three Gorges Dam otherwise, let alone developed a visceral understanding of its impact. It was Jia’s extended project, in narrative and nonfiction films made during its construction, to continually integrate footage documenting the destruction of houses where…

  • American Dharma

    American Dharma

    ★★½

    "In some (highly regrettable) ways, American Dharma is a movie I’ve been unconsciously preparing to review for the last ten years or so. I was reading Breitbart before there was Breitbart, via the aforementioned Nolte’s blog, Dirty Harry’s Place. Now apparently scrubbed from the net (alas!), this was where Nolte talked about how much he loved the Death Wish series and hated Communism; when the late Andrew Breitbart launched his web presence, Nolte was a super-logical choice to head its…

  • Nadja

    Nadja

    ★★★½

    "Brooklyn. I've never been there. Have you?" "Once. No. Actually twice. A long time ago."

    There are movies that get less weird when I rewatch them, having seen more stuff since last viewing and acquired a wider frame of reference. I think this is the third time I've seen this over 16 years or so and it's still a very strange movie. Peter Fonda's haircut in The Limey was a better call but he's still funny here.

    "After that he didn't care about anything. It was back to basics."

  • La respuesta

    La respuesta

    ★★½

    Inevitably time capsule-fascinating to compare/contrast this with fellow traveler-movies from other countries; as its own object, pretty flat. Initially presents as a film about a couple (successfully!) negotiating an open relationship while also strategizing student dissent, which frankly seems like a lot to handle all at once, but the dynamics are less complex than that. He’s a frowning, bearded, Very Serious type ready to make the Raskolnikov leap into killing the rich rather than just protesting them; she’s a server…

  • Monrovia, Indiana

    Monrovia, Indiana

    ★★★½

    "Monrovia is a pure case study in 'fly-over country,' a tiny town whose demographics shifted from 99.2% white in the 2000 census to 97.3% in the 2010 census. In the culture wars we will all be pleased to engage in until our deaths (the way things are going), there are, broadly speaking, two stances on this type of community. There’s the anti-, 'What’s the Matter with Kansas?' case, which isn’t all that new and doesn’t really require much explicating (hotbeds…

  • Maya

    Maya

    ★★★½

    "Because Hansen-Løve does not neatly alternate between a fixed number of narrative strands, there is no sense of what the film’s agenda(s) might be, or even if it has one. As such, I sat right up in my seat in sheer surprise a number of times; there was the feeling that anything might happen with no notice, which I find exhilarating. Still, it’s impossible not to note that this film is Problematic in at least three different ways:"

    From TIFF.

  • A Million Little Pieces

    A Million Little Pieces

    ★★½

    "Gear-switch: I am not, by and large, much for schadenfreude-fueled viewing. I have seen, and continue to be assigned on a freelance basis, more than enough garbage for review purposes that I do not actively seek out low-quality work for kicks; still, when I learned a few weeks ago that a film version of James Frey’s infamous “memoir” A Million Little Pieces was somehow a movie in the year of our lord 2018, I knew I had to set aside…

  • Death of a Nation

    Death of a Nation

    "To thoroughly unpack the falsehoods, rhetorical sleights of hand, goalpost shifting, and general bad-faith arguments would require a monograph. One example will suffice: To prove that Hitler wasn’t a 'right-winger' but truly belongs to the left, D’Souza notes that the dictator is often deemed right-wing because he’s perceived as homophobic. (Well, yes.) But in fact, that’s incorrect, because Hitler tolerated homosexuals in the brownshirts as long as they were good fighters; ergo, he wasn’t homophobic, and by extension he’s not…

  • Eighth Grade

    Eighth Grade

    ★★★

    "It’s certainly not Burnham’s fault that what’s actually a fairly accomplished film is already ridiculously overhyped, but here are my two significant problems. One is the rather standard coming-of-age arc: I don’t necessarily mind the YouTube monologues Kayla makes in an awkward stab at attaining popularity through vlogging, choked with so many 'likes' and 'ups' that making a legal transcript of them would be particularly torturous. I do, however, mind the way each one articulates sets up the theme and…

  • Last Days

    Last Days

    ★★★★

    Both this and Gerry are pretty crucial movies as far as Developing My Aesthetic go. The Straight Story was my intro to slow cinema, Yi Yi blew the gates open and Gerry conclusively demonstrated to me that I was totally up for Hard Art. I was worried before it came to town that it might be Too Much Movie for me; J. Hoberman’s closing diss was especially intimidating: “In a recent issue of Artforum, John Waters declared his allegiance in…

  • Won't You Be My Neighbor?

    Won't You Be My Neighbor?

    ★★

    (Excerpted/slightly modified from an email I sent a friend, best I can do.)

    With the caveat that we all have things as viewers that we get disproportionately mad about and dilate on, I'm being unfair etc.: this is totally not the kind of movie I normally watch. I'm on a jury, so it came up, so it's almost unfair to the movie to watch it. [IT WAS PULLED FROM THE SLATE, I WATCHED IT FOR NAUGHT.] I was annoyed by…