If Beale Street Could Talk
Written By Zach Green
When I think about If Beale Street Could Talk, I remember how I felt watching the film before I recall any of the film’s narrative elements. Barry Jenkins’ follow-up to Moonlight is a poetic and tragic love story based on a novel by James Baldwin. Set in 1970s Harlem, the film follows a young, pregnant black woman’s mission to get her wrongly-accused lover out of jail. Although I was frequently infuriated by the sense of helplessness that arose from watching its characters fight an unwinnable battle against racial injustice, the film carries a strong undercurrent of hope throughout. A heart-wrenching score, flawless colour palette and non-linear narrative are just a few elements of what make Jenkins’ style just as hypnotic as it was in Moonlight. Not to mention how he makes impeccable understanding of the close-up’s immeasurable power. Jenkins works unlike any other contemporary American director and, if anything, the film is more formally reminiscent of the cinema of Wong Kar-wai, one of his biggest influences. The Film Society was lucky enough to attend an advanced screening of If Beale Street Could Talk in December and I can’t wait for more folks to see it. The film is a more-than-worthy successor to Moonlight, showcasing that Barry Jenkins is truly a force to be reckoned with.
You We're Never Really Here
Written By Erin Shanks
Lynne Ramsay’s You Were Never Really Here follows Joe, a veteran haunted by PTSD who tries to find redemption by rescuing young girls from sex trafficking. Even though at a first glance the plot may be similar to many action films, You Were Never Really Here is in a league of its own. Joe—played by Joaquin Phoenix—is a broken man who can’t keep up the façade of a hero. Phoenix’s performance, like Ramsay’s direction, is restrained until it bursts with explosive, unrelenting brutality. Ramsay portrays violence as poetically as she does nature, as if the two were one. The film itself is less focused on plot and more focused on affect. Every image in the film is palpable and tactile. Ramsay wants the viewer to be seeped in the dark underbelly of this world that isn’t in seedy neighbourhood, but in brownstones and suburbs. She wants us to feel for ourselves the trauma that both Joe and Nina—the young girl Joe is trying to save—are haunted with each and every moment. I believe that this film is one of the best of the year not only because of its perfect direction, but because of how it deals with its subject matter. The film deals with mental health and trauma in such an honest and raw way, I have a hard time of thinking of a film that’s comparable. The film deconstructs masculinity in a way that doesn’t feel forced, it feels necessary. I believe that this is such an important film for our times, but will unfortunately be overlooked during award season for films much less restrained and much less poetic.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Written By Elias Stang
As prolific a hero as Spider-man is, it is difficult to imagine what else could be done with the character; with Spiderman's influence bleeding into almost every area of pop culture. Using this to its advantage, Spider-man: Into the Spider-verse both highlights the memorable moments and qualities of the reputable character while managing to present the hero from a new perspective. That being a new iteration of Spiderman called Miles Morales.
Spider-verse uses each of its animation styles to complement each of the film's interdimensional variations of the classic hero. Carefully crafted in a way that not only respects the world of the fictional heroes but complements the unique and dynamic properties of the heroes themselves. This film feels like you are watching a Spider-man comic playing out before you and succeeds in entertaining and enthralling the viewer. In short, it's entertaining as hell.
Written By Anton Charpentier
Bo Burnham’s debut film Eight Grade demonstrates not only a new generational thought behind filmmaking, but a competency of what it means to be young in North America. I won’t lie, I teared up several times in this movie and that’s because of the film’s uncanny representation of how tough it is to grow up. The film tackles issues of depression, anxiety, peer pressure, and societal pressure with sophistication and accuracy. But offers wise and sage advice about growing up and becoming who you are. Proving that the young comedian filmmaker can add life guru and astonishingly competent director to his list of talents. None of his vision would work however if it wasn’t for the great acting from Elsie Fisher, who grounds the film in her superb acting and on-screen dynamism. She pulls off a feat that James Dean wished he could accurately portray. While I consider award shows to be mere popularity contests, I honestly would love to see Elsie receive some acknowledgement for her fantastic performance that honestly surpasses so called best performances that will be discussed these next few months. Overall, I think this film is a really special type of film that we seldom get; perhaps even essential for young audiences (regardless of its R rating).
Sorry to Bother You
Written By Jocelyn Illing
Sorry to Bother follows Cassius Green, a black man living in his uncle’s basement in Oakland, California, as he works to make ends meet. He eventually gets hired by a telemarketing company, selling encyclopedias to disinterested, and racist, citizens. However, upon receiving the advice from a fellow black colleague to use his “white voice,” Cassius rises in the ranks of telemarketing. Somehow, Riley makes the mundane telemarketing profession seem exciting and covetable. From the pumping music and high fives, to the ridiculous glowing gold elevator, telemarketing is depicted as the solution to everyone’s economic problems. The shocking climax, revealing the true motives of the god-like CEO Steve Lift, will go down as one of the greatest twists in cinematic history.
Riley uses this narrative, as well as specific details within the mise-en-scene of the film, to tackle two important issues that our society is facing: racism and the grueling effects of capitalism. Cassius and his fellow black colleagues represent the continuing domination of “whiteness” as the superior race. In order to make a profit, they must alter their voices to sound whiter, and gain the trust of their customers. This concept is later problematized through the crumbling relationship between Cassius and his girlfriend Detroit. As Cassius begins to make more money, he abandons his regular voice in favour of his white voice, ultimately causing Detroit to question his morals, eventually leaving him. The film also constantly reminds us of the power of capitalism and its ability to break or make people. As Cassius drives to work, he sees the streets lined with tin houses inhabited by people who are struggling to get by. The promise of money and material goods causes Cassius to abandon his friends and morals, ultimately discovering the dark truth behind the corporation.
Written By Martin Sroka
Gaspar Noe returns with another roller coaster ride of a film featuring beautifully choreographed and complex shots and surprisingly his most accessible film to date. But the most amazing achievement is how he is able to demonstrate why he is the only type of creator who can tell this type of story.
Intensity is fused into every frame of this film. From the opening dance number to final sequence that does not let up. Following a dance trope practicing for an upcoming competition, the film introduces the entire trope within the opening; showing a diverse selection of characters that one can identify with, only to have them become toxic to one another as soon as the first drink is poured.
Gaspar Noe delivers an experience to remember. His comfort with exhibiting violence with extreme lucidity and his ambitious camera work creates a beautiful synthesis. With the film being almost a single take, the audience is not allowed to take a break. It becomes almost surreal of how long it is and what happens within its context. The reason this film is in the upper echelon of films in 2018 is because it combines stylistics with narrative perfectly. Usually, an auteurs style can drown out the narrative in favour of the films style. This is what makes Climax so special. It's use of the long take exemplifies the surreal and hallucinatory experience of the film. The film demonstrates Gaspar Noe at a new and refined artistic level and a unique cinematic experience that comes out of it.