Though Searching is thrillingly innovative with the way it uses the computer screen as a storytelling device, it cannot claim to be the first. That title goes to the horror film Unfriended (and by association its sequel coming next month). Perhaps no movie gimmick has earned more scoffs than the one Unfriended started. Imagine the grumbles of retrograde purists everywhere: kids these days are addicted to their computers, and now it has infiltrated into our cinemas yadda yadda yadda. While the computer screen format grew thin for producing jump scares, it may have found its niche in Searching as a tool for investigation.
EIFF may not be the biggest event on everyone’s calendars but it’s the world’s longest continually-running film festival. For the next 2 weeks, Scotland’s capital will play host to British world premieres, festival circuit favourites, and plenty of smaller films looking to find distribution. Two of our writers, Iana and Hannah, are attending this year and highlight a few of the films they are excited to see from this year’s eclectic programme.
I will admit that I haven’t seen Jim Hosking’s previous Sundance venture The Greasy Strangler—a grotesque exercise in trying to annoy as many people as possible. After speaking with others at my screening who had seen The Greasy Strangler, it was evident that no one particularly liked it. So why were we here, seated for his sophomore feature? Morbid curiosity perhaps?
Credit should be given where it’s due, there are few directors with as a vision as singular as Hosking, a style that’s about as anti-Hollywood as it can get. Will he be able to retain his signature idiosyncratic style with top-tier comedic actors like Aubrey Plaza, Craig Robinson, and Jemaine Clement on board? To answer that question: yes he can, for better or for worse. Fans of The Greasy Strangler will revel in this offbeat trip. To everyone else, I recommend you don’t waste your time.
Crystal Moselle’s previous film, the documentary The Wolfpack, chronicled the lives of a group of cinephile brothers who were confined to their Manhattan apartment for 14 years. Skate Kitchen, Moselle’s narrative feature debut, brings another slice of New York’s bustling culture to the big screen: the eponymous all-girl skate group. Moselle met several members of Skate Kitchen by chance on the subway in 2015, and the film marks their second collaboration after a Venice-bound short film. The film is like a narrative-documentary hybrid as she enlists the group to play fictionalised versions of themselves; a modern cinéma vérité. It’s evident how much she admires the skaters, as Skate Kitchen blossoms into a feisty coming-of-age tale about the enduring power of female friendship in the search for identity.
It’s a common tradition in the all-girl sleepover to lie down, stare blankly at the ceiling, and talk about the future. It’s a utopian view of the future, of course, in which you have your dream job, a giant house, and you can go on those luxury vacations usually reserved for celebrities and millionaires. Texas BFFs Angela (Maia Mitchell) and Jessie (Cami Morrone) have dreams of their own: waste time away on the beach at Galveston. That all seems rather quaint, but for high school dropouts living paycheck-to-paycheck waiting tables at a diner—a little getaway means a lot.
Female directors may have been few and far between at Cannes, with only three films directed by women in competition, but the upcoming Sundance Film Festival: London promises a refreshing change. The British iteration of the famous festival brings a condensed lineup, but women are front and centre as 58% of the films showcased are directed by women. Films starring women will also be gracing the 4-day festival including Hereditary and Eighth Grade. The festival will also host panels and discussions on the state of the film industry and whether it is making steps towards inclusivity. For this Sundance preview, we highlight all of the female-directed films in the lineup.
THE TALE dir. Jennifer Fox
Jennifer Fox’s harrowing autobiographical look at sexual abuse will be opening the festival following its premiere on HBO last Saturday. Laura Dern stars as Jennifer, a woman who is forced to reconcile the sexual relationship she had as a 13-year-old. In the age of Time’s Up and #MeToo, films like these feel timely, but it’s necessary that women get to tell their own stories in their own words.
One would expect that a film should be critiqued on its own merits, but sometimes outward factors force the film to be observed in a new light. In the case of Solo: A Star Wars Story, its troubled production history is impossible to ignore. Original directors Phil Lord and Christopher Miller were reportedly fired by Kathleen Kennedy over their shooting style—their improv-heavy methodology not exactly sliding with the well-oiled machine of Lucasfilm. Rumours were also circulating that an acting coach was hired for Alden Ehrenreich—a painfully ironic mirror to the actor’s role in Hail, Caesar! as a young movie star struggling to give a good performance. Its reputation as an unrivaled disaster occluded the final product itself. Would that it were so simple.
Walking into the Grand Lumiere for a repeat gala screening—and feeling more glamorous than I ever will—what I was thinking (other than “DO NOT FALL OVER”) was: “Can they really salvage a good film out of this?” Replacing Lord and Miller with Ron Howard seemed like the safe option—and it really was. Ron Howard’s career as a director is dominated by films that are generally well-liked but are rather unremarkable. He’s prolific too, and so his films maintain a middling quality that means they leave the cultural conversation as quickly as they entered (does anyone actually remember In the Heart of the Sea?). My expectations with Ron Howard at the helm were met, but I was still disappointed. Star Wars films shouldn’t just be solid, they should be exhilarating, but emotionally resonant—and that is nowhere to be seen with Solo. What is revealed by this replacement is that the puppet masters over at Lucasfilm prefer a director who won’t step out of line over a director with a fresh, innovative perspective. Solo: A Star Wars Story is so concerned with playing it safe and appealing to the masses that the end result is wholly underwhelming. To put it bluntly, Solo is downright bland.