Film Review: Casting JonBenét

Casting JonBenet

Casting JonBenét written and directed by Kitty Green (Netflix, Forensic Films, Symbolic Exchange, Meridian Entertainment) Starring lots of people. Life in the Shoes of Someone Else Empathy, I would argue, represents a key characteristic of the human condition. Outside of the rare sociopath in the bunch—stop being sociopaths people—we seek to understand the people around us. Granted, some have more empathy than others. But overall, I contend it isn’t too difficult to consider what life might be like in someone else’s shoes. In fact, this consideration represents a core element of acting. What is acting but the full embodiment of another human being? In Casting JonBenét, Kitty Green sets aside the normal narrative beats of a docudrama for something completely… Read More →

Film Review: The Lobster

The Lobster

The Lobster written and directed by Yorgos Lanthimos (A24, Film4, Irish Film Board, Eurimages, R, 119 min) Starring Colin Farrell, Rachel Weisz, Jessica Barden, Olivia Coleman, Ashley Jensen, Ariane Labed, Angeliki Papoulia, John C. Reilly, Léa Seydoux, Michael Smiley, and Ben Whishaw. Seeing the World through Black Mirror Having recently finished the utterly creepy anthologized series, Black Mirror, I’ve begun to see the world through its nihilistic lens. Facebook is not a platform by which people can remain connected worldwide, but rather a data collection agency hellbent on swaying opinion to the highest bidder. A smart phone does not provide ubiquitous access to every possible thing someone might need on any given day, but rather a slot machine engineered to… Read More →

Film Review: The Witch

The Witch

The Witch written and directed by Robert Eggers (Parts and Labor, RT Features, Rooks Nest Entertainment, R, 92 min) Starring Anya Taylor-Joy, Ralph Ineson, Kate Dickie, Harvey Scrimshaw, Ellie Grainger, and Lucas Dawson. Real-Life Horror: The Salem Witch Trails 1600s New England provides fertile ground for the horror genre. Ever since grade-school lessons of early American history, the perilous nature of settlement coupled with the puritanical views of the earliest European immigrants equal paranoia and poorly weighted justice. Mention witchcraft in conjunction with early Americana and the Salem witch trails come to mind. Ask the average person about this historical event and the likely response would link to innocent people (mostly women) paying the ultimate price when a paranoid community… Read More →

Film Review: Spotlight

Spotlight

Spotlight written and directed by Tom McCarthy (Participant Media, First Look Media, Anonymous Content, R, 128 min) Starring Mark Ruffalo, Michael Keaton, Rachel McAdams, Liev Schreiber, John Slatterly, Brian d’Arcy James, and Stanley Tucci. In Defense of Procedure When one hears the term “procedural,” the tendency is to associate it with the detective genre. The murders begin; the police follow a rigorous process to uncover clues about the killer. A procedural implies a process or procedure enacted toward a specific end. Procedures exist in various elements of our lives. The doctor operates a procedure on a patient. A parent follows a procedure before a child’s bedtime (e.g., pajamas, brush teeth, story time, eyes closed). A college student better follow a… Read More →

Film Review: Minimalism

Minimalism: A Documentary About Important Things directed by Matt D’Avella (Catalyst, NR, 79 min) Starring Dan Harris and Joshua Becker. The Pursuit of Happyness What makes you happy? This enigmatic pursuit devours everyone who tries to crack the code. In philosophical ethics, the hedonist’s paradox provides an odd truism for the fleeting pursuit of happiness. In essence, the hedonist’s paradox suggests that the hedonist, a person pursuing pleasure as his or her ultimate end, will never find it. Story after story narrates this fruitless endeavor. The more a person pursues happiness, the unhappier she gets. And yet, when she stops trying to discover happiness, it serendipitously arrives. Thus, the only path toward happiness is to not look for happiness. Yea… Read More →

Film Review: La La Land

La La Land

La La Land written and directed by Damien Chazelle (Black Label Media, Gilbert Films, Impostor Pictures, PG-13, 128 min) Starring Ryan Gosling and Emma Stone. Make Hollywood Great Again We live in an era of nostalgia. The largest television phenomenon of 2016 focused on 1980s synths, hairstyles, and sci-fi horror. Beyond cultural nostalgia, we saw an election where a clear motivation at the polls focused on policies pushing America toward the past, toward a time where the nation was considered “great,” at least for a certain kind of American. Trends ebb and flow. Beliefs move in and out of season as if they are fashion chic. While many rightly criticize much of the policies bringing fear to certain groups of… Read More →

Film Review: Green Room

Green Room

Green Room written and directed by Jeremy Saulnier (A24, Broad Green Pictures, Film Science, R, 95 min) Starring Anton Yelchin, Joe Cole, Alia Shawkat, Callum Turner, David W. Thompson, Eric Edelstein, Macon Blair, Imogen Poots, and Patrick Stewart. A Tough Genre to Master When it comes to uncomfortable viewing, the horror/suspense genre takes the cake. The viewer knows most of the characters aren’t going to make it; the question becomes the “why” and the “how” of the demise. The difficulty of the genre lies in replicating realism. Most days, killers aren’t stalking groups of friends a la I Know What You Did Last Summer. The writer and director must think carefully about the best possible way to conjure a scenario… Read More →

Film Review: Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea

Manchester by the Sea written and directed by Kenneth Lonergan (Affleck/Middleton Project, B Story, Big Indie Pictures, R, 137 min) Starring Casey Affleck, Kyle Chandler, Michelle Williams, Gretchen Mol, and Lucas Hedges. Armchair Psychology Putting on my armchair psychologist bow tie, I’ll make an unfounded proclamation: we link emotional resonance to physical location. For example, we develop deep, nostalgic feelings for locations around the campus of our alma mater. Personally, my wedding location conjures feelings of love and joy. The sights, sounds, and smells of an area lodge deep in our souls. While watching the acclaimed Manchester by the Sea, I kept thinking about this phenomenon. New England Meets the Atlantic Set in New England, Manchester by the Sea depicts… Read More →

Film Review: Arrival

Arrival

Arrival written by Eric Heisserer, directed by Denis Villeneuve (21 Laps Entertainment, FilmNation Entertainment, Lava Bear Films, PG-13, 116 min) Starring Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, Forest Whitaker, and Michael Stuhlbarg. On Love and Loss Better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. We speak this platitude in times of grief as a way of consolation for the saddest of these. In times long past (or auld lang syne given the holiday season), we may find some truth in these words. In retrospect, difficult times can help form us into the strong and bold individuals with a rich inner life. But surely, we never choose suffering. Nevertheless, it’s a product of our experience, the equal and… Read More →