Monday, November 20, 2017

No, you 'Get Out!' Horror film on racism is gravely comedic

Universal Pictures

Imagine being a young black man whisked away to a hyper rich, affluent country suburb where your girlfriend's well-off white family resides. Her parents fully embrace you and boast about their admiration of America's first black president, Barack Obama, as if they're conforming to the politically correct social register of appeasing any black guest that walks through their door with  such an obvious plea that they are accepting of a black man courting their white daughter. Unfortunately, the Stepford persona of the family and their house staff, friends and other family members wears off in a situation that is so grim and fantastical you could never believe it was true if it weren't being told on the silver screen.

That is "Get Out" in a nutshell.

It is the incredibly relevant and popular story for the directorial debut of comic Jordan Peele who also penned the extremely creepy and  funny film that tackles the current social climate of racism. It was recently announced that "Get Out" was classified into the comedy/musical genre field for the 75th Golden Globe Awards in 2018 and drew criticism for deeming a satirically serious - an oxymoron? - film about race relations as being anything but dramatic. Some viewed it as white privilege laughing at racism. Given that the persons who award the Golden Globes are foreign journalists, I doubt many are of the Aryan brethren.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Movie Review: 'Lady Bird' and 'Last Flag Flying' soar high

A24
"Last Flag Flying" and "Lady Bird" are two movies set in the few years proceeding 9/11 and how the social landscapes mold their varied and complicated characters. It's as much about these characters going through their own journeys as it is how we dealt with the greatest act of terrorism ever committed on our shores. Both films are pretty subtle about using that tragic event as a plot point instead opting to delve into the societal impact it had on our behaviors. These films are at times laugh out loud funny and equally heartbreaking. 

Lady Bird (2017, directed by Greta Gerwig. U.S.A., English, Color, 93 minutes) "Lady Bird" in its most basic form is a teenage coming-of-age film. It's a familiar subgenre, but some in the category are more interesting than others. This film, the directorial debut of Greta Gerwig, combines the whipper-snapper appeal of "Juno" and "Ghost World" with just the slightest dash of "Napoleon Dynamite" to round it out. Saoirse Ronan is the titular character who is smarter beyond her years and yet just basic enough for her posh Sacramento Catholic School upbringing in 2002. She clashes with her opinionated mother (Laurie Metcalf) and is adored by her father (Tracy Letts) as she navigates her young life with confidence, with friends, some lovers and a wicked sense of humor.

Monday, October 30, 2017

26th Philadelphia Film Festival, Day 11: Final films, final thoughts

The lines for the Ritz East move behind the theater to keep patrons out of the rain before catching their last flicks.

It almost saddens me to write about the last day of the festival because it is over so quickly. At the start I look at the schedule and think about all of the possible scheduling scenarios to make up and how to fit the the features all in. There never seems to be enough time in the 11 days to get to everything you want to. In the blink of an eye its over and you wonder how you did it.

Granted, I only managed a measly 21 movies - 22 if I didn't walk out of "Under the Tree" - while others can easily do over 40 of the approximately 110 features on the schedule. I usually see around that many every year anyway, so I'm happy.

Saturday, October 28, 2017

26th Philadelphia Film Festival, Day 9: Festival winners and good picks


(Read about days 6 and 7 here)

The "closing night" of the festival is supposed to be the ending shebang on the ninth day. The one thing that always baffles me is why closing night festivities occur with two days left in the festival. It's not the last day of the festival so why market it as such? Maybe it's more fun to make the most of a Friday night instead of a Sunday night? At least they get the opening night right by putting it on the first day.

Anyway, winners were announced by the "jury" — the composition of which is never made public so I don't know who is selecting these winners — on "closing night" with documentaries cleaning up nicely. "Bobbi Jene" picked up the documentary feature prize with "At the Drive-In" winning the Pinkenson Award for local features and "Jane" claiming the student choice award.

Thursday, October 26, 2017

26th Philadelphia Film Festival, Days 6 and 7: Nice surprises, some bumps


(See my coverage of days 3 and 4 here)

I opted out of seeing anything on Monday (day 5) because I was just too darn tired after the weekend. Ten movies in three days may not be as much as others have seen in such a short period of time, but for me that was more than enough. You would be surprised how tiring it can be to go back-to-back-to-back watching movies all day for a few days in a row.

Come Tuesday and it was a rainy, gloomy morning. I was a little deterred by the thought of standing in the rain waiting outside theaters for screenings to start. Luckily, the sun started to peek out around 11 o'clock and stayed out for the rest of the day, score! With good weather embracing me I set out to the festival. But first I had to stop at the AC Moore in Center City and pick up some yarn to get me through 15 movies through Sunday. I picked me up five balls of Sugar 'N' Cream yarn and head out to the Ritz Five for "At the Drive-In".

Monday, October 23, 2017

Movie Review: 'The Killing of a Sacred Deer' is unsettling, addicting

A24
The Killing of a Sacred Deer (2017, directed by Yorgos Lanthimos. Ireland/U.K., English, Color, 121 minutes) Leading "The Killing of a Sacred Deer" are Colin Farrell and Nicole Kidman as the well-off married doctors who live in a pristine house with two beautiful kids. The family's stringent aura is broken by a teenager named Martin (played by Barry Keoghan), a young man who wants revenge after his dad died on Farrell's watch a few years prior. Who's to blame for the death? It's not clear. No matter, Martin will start to manipulate and taunt the family until they're on the verge of killing each other.

In an about-face from his raucously dark "The Lobster", Yorgos Lanthimos delves deeply into our own ethical and moral standards with this unsettling psychodrama. It's a stray from the warped settings of "Dogtooth" and "The Lobster" with a more precise, normal sense of place... and that makes this movie that much scarier. Nothing is scarier than realizing evil lurks in a place that could be our own community.

26th Philadelphia Film Festival, Days 3 and 4: Animals and art.


The third day of the festival — my second since I didn't attend opening night — was only a hair better than day two. My screenings for both days were equally awful. That's not to say that everything shown that day was bad, I just didn't choose correctly.

My day started off with this year's Golden Bear winner "On Body and Soul," a Hungarian film about two slaughterhouse workers who find a connection because of the synchronous dreams they share. Both young, baby-faced Maria and the older Endre dream that they are deer in a snow-covered forest and have the exact same dream each night. The two socially-awkward individuals become simple acquaintances over their nighttime visuals and we delve slowly into their eccentricities and personalities in this delicate feature.