Dee Rees’ short film Pariah debuted at the Sundance Film Festival 10 years ago, followed shortly after by her stunning 2011 debut feature of the same name, and a slew of Emmy wins for her HBO film Bessie. She’s been a talent to keep an eye on, but with Mudbound, a powerful period drama pulsing with urgency, she’s on her way to becoming a household name.
Sundance Film Festival
Here’s the the best endorsement I can give 78/52, a new documentary about the making of Psycho’s famous shower scene and its enormous impact on popular culture. I’ve seen Psycho countless times, and I’ve watched the shower scene on its own countless more. I’ve read Stephen Rebello’s book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho, I took a class in college dedicated to Hitchcock’s career, and I once went through the shower scene a shot at a time with a scholar who had studied the film for decades. Despite all of that, I still learned new things about Hitchcock, Psycho, and the shower scene from 78/52. And I had a good time learning them.
“Sometimes,” says self-made musical impresario Jan Lewan (Jack Black) in The Polka King, “to make money you have to spend money.” The problem with Jan is he didn’t spend money sometimes, he did it every time. Every get-rich quick scheme he ever hatched up in his Pennsylvania gift shop required more investment than potential profit. He sold his polka fans on a “premium Pope package,” a lavish vacation to Rome that included a private audience with the Pope. But Jan had no way to deliver on his promise, so he just showed up at the Vatican with a briefcase full of cash. He got his audience, and delighted his tour group. But his “premium” vacation surely cost him more than he made.
If people were ever scared of the image of a ghost as a big white sheet with two black eyeholes those days are long gone. Today, the image is a total joke; the go-to costume for lazy children everywhere. One of the most amazing things about David Lowery’s A Ghost Story — and there are a few amazing things about this audacious movie — is the way it imbues that cliched ghost with renewed horror and even poignance. You will never look at that ghost emoji the same way again.
What happens when death, the thing people fear most, becomes the most desirable part of life? Charlie McDowell’s The Discovery imagines a world where the afterlife has scientifically been proven, and as a result millions of people are committing suicide “to get there,” as it’s often referred to in the film’s not-so-distant future. But the biggest and most disturbing quandary is, what exactly is “there?” If life after death does exist, what if it’s worse than the world we know, or perhaps an even scarier thought, what if it’s better and what does that mean for the value and meaning we place on the lives we’ve been living?
If you know Taylor Sheridan’s previous screenplays, the drug cartel thriller Sicario and the heist movie Hell or High Water, then watching Wind River will occasionally feel like déjà vu. Character types, motivations, social commentary, even a couple of scenes (like a law-breaking interrogation in the back of a police car) reappear in a way that goes beyond an auteur returning to themes and ideas he finds particularly interesting. For the work of a first-time director, Wind River feels oddly familiar.
When Olivia Cooke’s Amanda enters a lavish Connecticut home at the beginning of Thoroughbred, it’s immediately clear something is off. It’s not just the eerie pops and crackles of the film’s score, or the fact that the opening scene showed her taking a knife out of her bag after menacingly staring at a horse. It’s that her face is entirely drained of emotion. When scanning the smiley-faced family photos of her childhood best friend’s home, Amanda suddenly looks up, cocks her head, and shoots a freakishly phony smile into a mirror. She holds it for an uncomfortable beat, then, as if deciding that particular emotion didn’t fit her right, she reverts back to her blank expression. Amanda is a sociopathic bored suburban teen who tries on different emotions like clothes or a grand gesture of performance art. But little does she know, she’s not the only one with sinister tendencies.
Ah, the 1990s. That glorious decade of eyebrow rings, prepaid calling cards, and Blockbuster Video. Landline makes you nostalgic for that great time, when you could go to the movies without fear of a jerk in front of you checking their phone the entire time, like the jerk two rows in front of me during Landline. That lady really knew how to put the divide between then and now into stark relief.
I have a young daughter, and I love sharing pictures and videos of her antics on social media. Occasionally people who follow me online will tell me in person how much they love my baby or how happy I seem with her. And I am. But it’s not all sunshine and rainbows; I just don’t share the moments where she wakes the whole house up at 4AM or has diaper rash so bad that she screams for 10 minutes straight. The line bteween reality and fiction online can get very blurry — and sometimes the persona we create there is much more appealing than the real thing.
January is considered something of a dump month at the movies, when studios quietly release many of their clunkers. (With apologies to Monster Trucks, see: Monster Trucks.) At this time of year, true cinephiles basically have to hang their hats on the awards contenders from the previous year still making their way into theaters around the country, and, for those lucky enough to attend, the annual Sundance Film Festival in Park City, Utah.