More Sing Street than Inside Llewyn Davis, Geremy Jasper’s Patti Cake$ frames the artistic struggles of an aspiring rapper as a series of saccharine inconveniences. The film’s heroine, the daydreaming Patti (Danielle Macdonald), aka Killer P, aka Patti Cake$, snaps back to reality (oh there goes gravity) as she works at a dive bar, struggling to help support her out-of-work mother (Bridget Everett) and ailing grandmother (Cathy Moriarty). Despite mounting hospital bills and enduring the ridicule of fat-shaming New Jerseyans, Patti’s momentum knows no patience, as she pours her pain into notebook after notebook in hopes of one day making it big.Read More
Let’s put it this way: the prominent local headlines in Chicago’s daily newspapers note that nearly a thousand Chicago Public School employees have been laid off, including 365 educators. A subsequent headline reminds readers that the Chicago Police Department has bolstered its ranks by a hundred. This ought to be cause for concern as it demonstrates the continued allegiance our city’s officials have for policing its citizens over educating them. Moreover, it coincides with a fundamentally illogical pattern of tracking deviance, where the source of a problem is frequently disregarded in favor of reacting to its consequences. As it was in Detroit and Ferguson, so it will be in Chicago.
Sabaah Folayan and Damon Davis’ Whose Streets? opens with two men driving through Ferguson, Missouri’s most destitute neighborhoods. They roam an enclave of the most disenfranchised, where a generation of children cannot read in part because the preceding one doesn’t know how to either. What Whose Streets? posits in a series of textured, unflinching, and captivating episodes is how a deprived community misrepresented by its servants and stripped of its agency attempted to take back their home on August, 9, 2013. What comes of this, regardless of the simplistic polemic of White v. Black, Have v. Have Nots, and Good v. Evil presented by various mainstream media outlets of the time, is a complicated look into what converted a small city in Missouri’s St. Louis District into a warzone.Read More
Nikolaj Arcel’s The Dark Tower is the sort of film that makes you involuntary cognizant of your face drooping lower on your skull. It’s a particularly unsavory albeit mercifully short 90 minutes to spend in the company of Stephen King’s Cinematic Universe™, with even its minor delights drenched in a sludge of inconsequence. It’s a painfully dull film, one that lacks any sense of urgency and intends to sell you on the idea of more Dark Tower films. In a film featuring demons, devils, death, and the end of the world, it’s this prospect of more that’s most horrifying.Read More
The illustrated mosaic that opens Kathryn Bigelow’s Detroit swiftly details the impossible situation that African-American men and women endured following the Civil War. The ensuing Great Migration that prompted the dispersal of a southern black population to largely urban northern enclaves would in itself spur a white suburban migration that generated a wealth of sociopolitical consequences, ranging from inadequate (read: terrible) housing and public education to growing hostilities between a predominately white police force and its black constituents. Despite narratives preceding the Detroit riots of 1967 that described the city as a beacon of racial harmony, it was fractured in faux-reform that failed its most vulnerable citizens time and again. This powder keg milieu served to describe a great deal of urban cities of the 1960s, and it’s in Detroit where this confluence of disenfranchising factors would come to a head.Read More
Gillian Robespierre’s Landline is about people who are afraid of their own emotions. Here’s a film where people will actively avoid experiencing sadness or contrition by ignoring the moving world around them, diluting their anxiety with rococo distractions. Who knows if there’s a bottom to this feeling, where whatever’s eating away at you may very well engulf you entirely. Sure, there are catalogues of films that deal with this reckoning of privileged ennui, particularly those set within NYC, but there’s a gentle wisdom to Landline that demands consideration.Read More
Tuxedoed journalists of the New York variety shuffle along the red carpet of the annual International Press Freedom Awards in the Grand Hyatt. The black tie event hardly seems like the appropriate venue to celebrate the accomplishments of the RBSS (Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently), a group of Syrian citizen-journalists whose concentrated efforts exposed the imminent threat that ISIS presented not only to Syria, but the world. And so Matthew Heineman begins City of Ghosts with a measure of sardonic humor as the RBSS’ guerrilla activism is recognized within the hushed confines of a posh dinner gala. Revolutions, as they were, are of a peculiar breed.Read More
Exhibit B to Ry Russo-Young’s Exhibit A, John R. Leonetti’s Wish Upon serves 2017 with its seasonal reminder on why teenagers are the absolute worse. Here’s a film littered with an endless parade of detestable young people, each more abusive, cynical, and vengeful than the last. And in Leonetti we have a formally impoverished filmmaker who shares our disinterest in these characters as he invites you to conjure hapless ways for them to be punished. For admirers of the Final Destination series, where quote unquote tension is strictly derived from experiencing an elaborate series of misfortunes before someone is given the greenlight to die, Wish Upon should suffice. For others, Wish Upon’s shoddy humanism just withers the soul and chips away at good taste.Read More
It is my assigned function to review the Marvel Studios and Sony Pictures’ motion picture Spider-Man: Homecoming. If subsidiary companies putting aside bureaucratic red tape in a joint effort to bring you committee-produced and screen-tested to oblivion adverts sounds compelling then Spider-Man: Homecoming ought to be right up your alley. That preceding sentence is unfortunately this review’s singular upshot, as what follows is Chapter XI, Section 2, Article 3 of my ongoing series on why the Marvel Cinematic Universe is the absolute worst.Read More
This swamp that is 2017 has produced its fair share of interesting films though I think we’re still a few months, years, before we can really grapple with the consequences of what it’s like to live in the here and now. While some will shoot from the hip and proclaim Jordan Peele’s debut film Get Out, one of the year’s most delightfully unexpected box office hits, to be the first film of the Trump Era, its polemic registers as more of an elegy to Obama’s legacy than a statement on the us v. them that echoes through our living room every time we turn on the television.
Many of 2017’s most interesting films have, covertly, dealt with this ephemeral quality of loss. The concept of a lingering specter overseeing our every movement is explicitly examined in David Lowery’s much-buzzed film A Ghost Story, though that quality of contending with death, coping with grief, and reckoning with an uncertain future are features of films from the arthouse friendly (Oliver Assayas’ Personal Shopper) to mainstream fare (James Mangold’s Logan). While giving up the ghost may seem like a desirable alternative when confronted with, well, everything in our modern political landscape, the films outlined here actively combat that kind of defeatist attitude. As I suggested in my review of Personal Shopper and remind myself on a daily basis: despair may be in vogue, but hopelessness is not in fashion.Read More
It’s been a decade since Judd Apatow’s Knocked Up was released. And in that decade, the template of Apatow’s romantic-comedy formula has seeped into every imaginable cultural sphere. If it’s raunchy yet observed from a squeaky-clean white, heteronormative, and culturally unspecific place then it’s likely a product of Apatow’s frequently replicated, though rarely (convincingly) reproduced worldview. The Big Sick, which is produced by Judd Apatow, is an intriguing true story from Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani. It’s a story filled with specific cultural and personal details that resists the narrow and jejune blueprint proliferated by Apatow and Co. Or one would have hoped.Read More