BAMcinemaFest, which kicks off its tenth year tonight, has become a real money- and time-saver for New Yorkers – it saves you the expense of traveling to the spring film festivals, instead bringing the best of those fests to Brooklyn. This year’s slate includes the New York premieres of new films from the directors of Winter’s Bone and The Wolfpack, plus a dizzying array of four-star indies from Sundance, SXSW, Full Frame, and True/False. It all starts tonight with the bonkers opening night movie Sorry to Bother You (our Sundance review is here) and continues through July 1st; here are a few titles we heartily recommend.
Leave No Trace (Centerpiece)
Will (Ben Foster) and daughter Tom (Thomasin McKenzie) have been living off the grid for longer than we know, and the fascinating early sections of the new drama by Winter’s Bone director Debra Granik are mostly concerned with their rituals and routines: how they live in the woods, dependent only on each other, running occasional discovery “drills” that amount to games of hide and seek, but with much higher stakes. One day, inevitably, it’s not a drill – and after a period of separation, they find themselves living a life of something like normalcy. It punctures their bond, ever so slightly but irrevocably, and the push-pull of retreat vs. adaptation provides Granik with her juicy central conflict. Foster’s performance is a model of control (he spends much of the film totally...
This week’s must-stream is a tiny movie, but worth seeking out: one of last year’s best documentaries, a quiet portrait of an average family’s struggle. On the new release shelf, we’ve got spring movies from Steven Soderbergh and Armondo Iannucci. And this week’s robust catalog crop includes a blaxpoitation fave, an Oscar-winning doc, an inside-Hollywood drama, a Spanish marvel, and a deluxe box set from one of the finest comics of all time.
Quest: Director/cinematographer Jonathan Olshefski spent eight years, from 2008 to 2015 (the Obama years, in fact; Obama/Biden signs cover the neighborhood early on, and the elections provide useful guideposts to the chronology), with the Raineys, a fairly typical North Philadelphia family that, in that time and before it, face a number of everyday trials and tribulations. There are money troubles and addiction demons, there are tragedies in their pasts and quite nearly one in their present. But they don’t complain and they don’t despair; they carry on, pausing only to be thankful for what they have, and who they are. Epic in scope yet modest in execution, it’s a film with much to say (without ever explicitly saying it) about class and race in America, and about family, and its small miracles. (Available 6/19.)
ON BLU-RAY / DVD / VOD
Unsane: The latest from director Steven Soderbergh plays like a stealth act of film criticism – it’s fully aware of the tropes of this particular subset of thriller, and spends its running time toying with our expectations...
The aesthetic of urban life is, more often than not, based in simplicity and utility – which is good and well for keeping things humming, but not exactly inspiring from a visual perspective. Tom Bob (whom we first read about at Bored Panda) is trying to change that. The NYC-based street artist’s M.O. is simple: he notices the objects that have faded into the background for the rest of us – meters, drains, manholes, etc. – and turns them into charming works of art. He posts his before and after pictures on Instagram, so we picked out a few of our faves.
This week’s new release slate is absolutely miserable – Tomb Raider, Sherlock Gnomes, I Can Only Imagine, whatever that maybe – so we’re trying something new. You see, your film editor sees a lot of movies at festivals, and tries to keep an eye out for the good ones in theaters and on demand. But there are so many of them, and so many small movies hitting streaming services, that unless something gets a very loud release, I might just miss it. So this week, I’m recommending several festival faves that aren’t new to your streaming subscription services, but are worth watching nonetheless, along with a catalogue Blu-ray that similarly slipped between our fingers. And then, just for the sake of timeliness, one new disc release (from Criterion, no less).
Jules and Delores: Caito Ortiz directs this Brazilian heist movie with a fast style and a sprung sense of humor, and it’s fun to watch (if not terribly memorable). The real find here is co-star Taís Araújo, who absolutely steals the show as Dolores, the impatient wife of protagonist Jules (Paulo Tiefenthaler). Exhaustingly sexy and whip-smart, she’s a real go-getter; the scene where she takes over the sale of the stolen world cup at the story’s center is pip, and by the time she struts out to the closing music, you’re wondering how long it’s going to take some smart studio director to bring her to America and make her a star. She’s better than the movie, but the...
I started thinking about American Pie Presents: Band Camp when the framed George Clooney photo appeared in Ocean’s 8, and I couldn’t stop. For those lucky enough not to know, American Pie Presents: Band Camp was a 2005 “spin-off” of the original American Pie trilogy (which had concluded with American Wedding two years earlier). But this one bypassed a theatrical release and went straight to DVD, and its only ties to the earlier films were in a shared narrative and tone, brief appearances by a pair of supporting characters (played by Eugene Levy and Chris Owen), and a plot that centered around the sibling of a character from the first trilogy.
Now look, I’m not suggesting that Ocean’s 8 is nearly as putrid as American Pie Presents: Band Camp– it’s an absolutely good-enough piece of summer fluff, and it’s probably some sort of blasphemy to invoke a title like that anywhere near the vicinity of a cast like this. But again, once it was in my head, it was hard to get it out. The similarities (tone, pair of shared supporting characters, sibling-driving plot) are the same here as in the original Ocean’s trilogy: Debbie Ocean (Sandra Bullock) is fresh out of the joint, where she’s concocted an elaborate and ingenious heist that will not only make her and her team of super-crooks rich, but will settle a personal score to boot. Yet it feels like a warmed-over retread, lacking the personal touches and bits of pizzazz that made that original trilogy so special.
It’s the first of the month (cue the Bone Thug), which means a whole bunch of new stuff has shown up on your streaming subscription services: four of our favorites from last fall, in fact, neatly spread across Netflix, Prime, and Hulu. And on the disc and on-demand front this week, we’ve got two gems from the spring theatrical circuit. Check ‘em out:
Thor: Rangarok: As the freshness of the Marvel movies gave way to tiresome conventions and convoluted stakes, the learning curve has swung the other direction; now, it seems, we’re always hearing about how the latest entry is better than average, or has less of the offending factor than usual, or what have you. So please believe me when I tell you that the third Thor movie – traditionally the weakest strand of the series – is a genuine delight, uproariously funny and winkingly subversive, its every beat stamped with the light comic touch of director Taika Waititi (What We Do in the Shadows). He turns the usual lumbering solemnity of the Thor pictures upside down, cleverly deflating the hero moments, playing against expectations, yet simultaneously introducing one of the Marvel movies’ most memorable characters (Tessa Thompson’s Valkyrie) and nastiest villains (Cate Blanchett’s Hela). An honest-to-goodness treat, with a breeziness that’s all too uncommon among blockbuster product.
Outside In: The latest from the insightful Lynn Shelton (Laggies, Touchy Feely) concerns an ex-con (Jay Duplass) and his relationship with the former teacher (Edie Falco) who helped get him out of a...
Anyone can go to a foreign land and find spots of obvious beauty, but few people can really capture the essence of a time and place like a native. That’s what makes Tokyo-based photographer Hiro Goto (whom we first read about at My Modern Met) such a find – he knows every nook and cranny of Japan, and boosts his striking images of both scenic locations and everyday life via his Instagram feed. “I can share photos with people all over the world,” he tells MMM, “and I want to share the beauty of Japan with many people.” Here are a few highlights.
Summer is here, and there’s so much to see at the multiplex! I mean, sure, Solo is on half the screens, and Infinity War is on most of the rest, but I’m sure they’ll move out of the way for (peers at IMDb) oh boy, another Jurassic World. So yes, once again, the art house comes to the rescue with a very crowded slate of summer counter-programming; here are a few of the indies and docs worth tracking down this month.
Who We Are Now
RELEASE DATE: Out now
DIRECTOR: Matthew Newton
CAST: Julianne Nicholson, Emma Roberts, Jimmy Smits, Zachary Quinto, Jess Weixler, Lea Thompson
“Hey, one of us disappeared for ten years. It’s weird!” So says Beth (Julianne Nicholson) to her old friends in the midst of a night of wine-drinking and awkward conversational faux pas – one of many such scenes in writer/director Matthew Newton’s keenly observed and masterfully acted drama. It boasts a sturdy ensemble, but this is Nicholson’s show, and she’s dynamite; filled with resentment and rage, easily triggered and immediately apologetic, her Beth is a vehicle for the kind of tension and emotion that is, for the viewer, both uncomfortable and riveting. The entire ensemble shines, though Roberts, Smits, and Quinto are the stand-outs.
We do love a snazzy, vintage movie poster around these parts, and a whole bunch of beauts are going up for auction next month. Prop Store’s Cinema Poster Live Auction, set for London’s Odeon BFI IMAX on June 28th, will sell approximately 400 “rare and sought-after posters” (per the Prop Store), which the Odeon will display for a week before the big day. We were lucky enough to get our hands on a few of the potential big-dollar items; let’s take a look.
The Man Who Fell to Earth UK Quad Poster (1976)
Estimated sale price: £300 – £500 ($406 – $583)
The most buzzed-about movie of this year’s Sundance Film Festival made its debut last weekend… on HBO? It’s a brave new world, folks! Your streaming and disc-playing choices this week also include one of the year’s best studio movies, a full new set of a hit-and-miss franchise, a modest but marvelous Western drama on FilmStruck, two classics from Criterion, and new releases of three catalogue gems. Here we go:
ON HBO GO / HBO NOW
The Tale: “The story you are about to see is true… as far as I know.” So says Jennifer (Laura Dern), a documentarian who ends up investigating her own childhood, and the sexual abuse that she never thought of in those terms. That the director’s name is Jennifer (Fox, to be precise), and is a documentarian, gives you some idea of how intensely personal this work is. But Fox is a filmmaker first and foremost, and The Tale is formally astonishing, using tight edits, crisp cinematography, and inspired repetition to dramatize moments misremembered, traumas stifled, and inopportune interruptions of memory. It is a hard film to watch – at times, unbearably so. But it’s an important work, and even when it falters as drama (and it occasionally does), it holds strong as testimonial.
Meek’s Cutoff: Kelly Reichardt’s meditative, masterful Western is set in Oregon circa 1845, as three westward-traveling couples come to realize that their guide is not very good at his job. Reichardt’s a director telling a story, but she’s...
Well folks, it’s Memorial Day weekend, and you know what that means: time to slap on some sunscreen, hit the beach, and snap some Instagram pics for your homebound friends. So if nothing else, the “Swim Reaper” Instagram account (which came to our attention on Bored Panda) is a welcome send-up of the tropes of Beach Instagram, a feed full of images of the Grim Reaper hanging out in the sun, waiting for people to die.
This is not just some absurdist parody feed, though; it’s a PSA project from the New Zealand government to raise awareness of swimming safety. (Would that all government-backed education projects were this sly and funny.) Here are some highlights:
This is one of those jam-packed, slam-bang weeks on the home viewing front, with everything from this spring’s studio flicks to fifty-year-old foreign classics. It’s “a something for everyone” week, in other words, so let’s end the throat-clearing and find what’s here for you.
Small Town Crime: John Hawkes gets a welcome opportunity to flex his underrated and understated comic chops in this darkly comic pulp thriller as a drunken, disgraced cop who stumbles into a crime and sees an opportunity to prove himself. It’s a real mystery — and a good one — but directors Eshorn and Ian Nelms provide levity via winking asides of genre satire and little pauses in which their cast of gifted character actors (including Octavia Spencer, Anthony Anderson, Clifton Collins Jr., and Michael Vartan) can shine. The film’s a little too light to sustain the serious turn it subtly takes in the last half hour, but no matter; this is totally solid, mid-level pulp, and a rare modern movie that actually deserves the franchise treatment at which it slyly hints.
ON APPLE MUSIC
Horses: Patti Smith and Her Band: This thrilling concert documentary feature captures the immortal Ms. Smith and company two years back, at the Wiltern Theater in Los Angeles, concluding a 40th anniversary tour in which they played the seminal title album, in sequence, complete with side-change announcement (“Now you have to turn the record, place it on the turntable… bring the arm gently toward the vinyl to...
Though you’ll never get them to admit it, sports nerds and pop culture nerds have a lot in common. After all, sport fans quantify their obsessiveness by memorizing facts, stats, and dates – the same way movie geeks can rattle off credits and box office numbers, while often pledging undying allegiance to “teams” that are implied rather than explicit (Marvel vs DC, for example).
Cuyler Smith has taken this idea to its logical endpoint, creating a series of pop culture trading cards – highlighting the sporting achievements of film and television characters – for our friends at Gallery1988. His third installment of the series opened Friday; here are a few of our favorites.
New York City’s 1970s punk scene is one of our very favorite topics around here, so Julia Gorton’s Instagram feed (which first came to our attention via My Modern Met) is some serious catnip. Gordon was a Delaware native who arrived in NYC to study design in 1976 – right as the punk and “no wave” scene was beginning to happen – and she started bringing her Polariod camera along to shows and events. The pictures she captured are an invaluable history of the time (and they’re pretty great-looking to boot). Here are some highlights:
The highest-grossing movie of the year (for now, anyway) hits disc and demand this week, so anything else is going to feel comparatively tiny. But these are modest pleasures: two great documentaries, one of last year’s most acclaimed foreign films, a film noirclassic from 1950, and our fond goodbye to a great, via one of her best performances.
Faces Places: In the playful set-up sequence for this charming documentary from filmmaker Agnes Varda and photographer JR, they walk through all the places they didn’t meet, before, as the younger man puts it, “I made the first move.” He’s using the language of romance, deliberately – because collaboration is a kind of romance. “It’ll be fun making a film together,” she grins, and it seems to be; they roll through the French countryside in his combination of van and photo booth, where they take oversized pictures of everyday people, which JR then turns into genuinely cool side-of-building photo installations. He puts up the photos; she talks to people (from subjects to passerby) about them. But it’s not just about their project – it’s about seeing, sometimes literally (her eye troubles become a running subject), old men recalling their years in the mines, a woman tearing up at the portrait on her home, Varda herself saying, of an old friend, “I may remember my pictures of him better than a remember him.” It ends up speaking to the power of the still image, while working as a good-natured, freewheeling, and gentle late-period work from one...
Some of the most iconic works of visual art are finding themselves in decidedly contemporary surroundings via “Art Frame Design,”a clever new Instagram account that came to our attention on Bored Panda. The gimmick, cooked up by “Michael T.” of the webzine Milkshake, is the use of modern fashion photographs as “frames” for classical paintings – resulting in some ingenious juxtapositions.
“Initially, I was looking for a new visual to post on Mikeshake magazine because I could not find it,” explains the creator, “so I took the initiative to create a Van Gogh by mixing a fashion photo with one of his portraits, beautifully framed. It was an excellent reception, reposted several times by other galleries. I do not pretend to be a graphic designer, not an artist, but I admit that to share the whole day the works of others have finally given me the desire to propose mine, to have fun and taste the fabulous sensations of the creator.”
Here are a few of our favorites.
One of the great things about high-profile remakes and re-imaginings of old classics is how often they’ll send curious viewers back to the source material. HBO’s series adaptation of Westworld has reinvigorated interest in Michael Crichton’s original 1973 film; Big Little Lies became a bestseller again after HBO’s miniseries adaptation; Hulu’s acclaimed The Handmaid’s Tale has boosted sales of Margaret Atwood’s book (and even the original 1990 film version). So hopefully this month’s HBO movie adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451 will bring some new readers to that classic book – and if so, boy do we have a suggestion for how to read it.
Our friends at Folio Society have given the book their customary four-star treatment, with a handsome new edition supplemented by Sam Weber’s illustrations and cover design. It’s available exclusively on their website– and if you’re in the mood for more classic dystopian sci-fi while you’re there, they’ve just released a gorgeous new binding of Richard Matheson’s I Am Legend with art by Dave McKean. We’ve picked out a few of our favorite images from each, below.
Summer time has begun! Did you go see the Avengers movie like a good American? No? You’re not even interested in such a thing? What’re you, a commie? Well, comrade, maybe some of these hoity-toity indie movies and documentaries are more to your latte-sipping taste? The rest of us will be over here at the multiplex, changing, “USA! USA! USA!”
I kid the Avengers. But seriously, at least see some of these too.
The Rachel Divide
RELEASE DATE: Out now
DIRECTOR: Laura Brownson
“Yeah, it’s been a crappy summer.” So says young Franklin early in Laura Brownson’s documentary, and it’s hard not to feel for him – his mom is Rachel Dolezal, the notorious president of a Washington NAACP chapter who was outed, that summer of 2015, as white. Brownson walks through the complexities of that controversy (and the sticky quandaries it posed, many of which were never really answered), as well as Dolezal’s complicated history and subsequent troubles. But just when it seems to get sympathetic, Brownson will remind us of exactly what choices she made, and brings on the right voices to articulate the implications of those choices. It may seem an unnecessary examination of an overexposed figure, but The Rachel Divide asks tough questions, and does its level best to answer them.
As “Avengers: Infinity War” grossed something like 400 bajillion dollars over the weekend, it seems like there’s a pretty good chance you’ve seen it, and thus we can talk a bit about its ending. But if you haven’t, and still plan to, bookmark and click away and come back after you have. Seriously. This is a spoiler warning! You have been spoiler warned!
Last Thursday night, I watched Avengers: Infinity War with quite possibly its most receptive audience: a group of 250 or so super-fans who viewed it at the conclusion of a 31-hour marathon of Marvel movies. (Read all about that here.) So I guess it shouldn’t have come as a surprise that they greeted the climactic deaths of several important characters with much wailing and gnashing of teeth – and I mean that quite literally, as in people were audibly crying out, and crying, at what they saw. But it also seemed like the audience that should’ve been most aware that what they were seeing was altogether impermanent; if there’s any franchise where dead people don’t stay dead, it’s this one. I mean, the last person we see die, in the final post-credit scene, is a character who literally returned from the grave. There was a headstone and everything!
If you’re unaware of what happens at the end of Infinity War and aren’t planning on seeing it (and seriously, can’t reiterate this enough, this is your last warning, spoiler-phobes), here’s what we’re talking about: the series’ Big...
The narrative selections at the Tribeca Film Festival (which came to a close yesterday) don’t often match their reliably stellar non-fiction slate. But this year’s festival offered up a handful of genuinely exciting titles from talents old and new – and a couple to perhaps avoid in the months ahead.
Reading about film festivals can be a drag, because often you won’t get to see these movies for months (if at all). So hey, good news – here’s one that’s out, like, next month!
Director Michael Mayer’s take on Chekhov’s classic, gorgeously mounted and luminously photographed, with the help of an enviable cast. Annette Bening is just divine as Irina, the vainglorious actor at the story’s center (there is one cut to her that’s as funny as anything in any recent, conventional comedy), Saorise Ronan is a sweet and charming Nina, Corey Stoll is top-notch as the bemused observer Boris, and Elizabeth Moss is just a bit undone, just enough, as the grim Masha. Because they’re so good, Billy Howle’s Konstantin is a real drag – he just can’t hold his own against these heavyweights – and Mayer’s filmmaking is occasionally just too damn busy. But as a showcase for this otherwise ace cast, it can’t be beat.