Cannes 2019 Review: ‘And Then We Danced’ is a Triumphant Leap Into Love and Desire

Tradition is everywhere in Georgia, perhaps because of a determination to retain the country’s national identity. But with tradition comes conservatism, as Levan Akin explores through the microcosm of a Georgian dance troupe in his gorgeous romance And Then We Danced.

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‘Tater Tot & Patton’ is a Beautiful Piece of Quiet Cinema About Healing and Connection

On-screen intergenerational clashes, especially those between millennials and the older generation, are a dime a dozen. In a play for laughs, the two groups clash over texting, social media, money, and avocados. But in Andrew Kightlinger’s new film, Tater Tot & Patton, both generations are portrayed with nuance and care, coming together in an attempt to understand, heal, and grieve. Sure, there is a little bit of cheesy millennial dialogue (“hardcore cringe”) but this is not a film that tries to poke fun at either group. Rather, it shows the individual struggles and strengths that go unnoticed due to assumptions about age and gender.

Tater Tot & Patton takes place on a ranch in South Dakota, run by Erwin (Bates Wilder). He spends his days keeping up the land, caring for cattle, and drinking beer after beer. But his quiet routine is interrupted when his niece, Andie (Jessica Rothe), comes to stay with him from L.A. in lieu of going to rehab. She is the image of a stereotypical spoiled millennial, demanding the wifi password, refusing to eat meat, and groaning at minor inconveniences. But as soon as these character traits are introduced, they are wiped away in the name of giving her more depth. Erwin gets a similar treatment, never seeming like a stereotypical redneck or country boy, but rather a sympathetic character in the throes of grief. As Andie spends more time with her uncle, they each learn more about each other and realize how much they need one another to heal their respective traumas.

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‘Where Hands Touch’ Doesn’t Quite Embrace the History of Black Germans

For decades, filmmakers have been endlessly fascinated with telling the stories behind World War II, one of the darkest and tumultuous periods in history. Since the war’s conclusion, many stories emerged beyond the remains. However, there are still many aspects of history that were lost over time. There’s still so much we don’t know, and may never know. Despite the hundreds of films, documentaries, and books, some important parts of history fall between the cracks. In her latest film, director/writer Amma Asante aims to showcase a different perspective of Nazi Germany in Where Hands Touch.

Inspired by the hidden history of the cruelly-named Rheinlandbastarde, Where Hands Touch centers the story around a mixed-race German girl by the name of Leyna (Amandla Stenberg). Born of a French-Senegalese father and German mother (Abbie Cornish), Leyna struggles to find her place in an increasingly hostile Nazi Germany. Leyna loves her country, yet her own country demonstrates it doesn’t love her back. Believing herself to be a true German, Leyna initially believes she is safe from the wrath of the Third Reich.

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‘Detective Pikachu’ is Lovably Bizarre, as a Pokémon Movie Should Be

Yes, it is time for my obligatory anecdote about my relationship with the Pokémon brand! It probably goes without saying that I’m a huge fan of Pokémon because I’m an Asian kid who was born in 1999. Of course I am. I grew up endlessly playing Pokémon Emerald on my Gameboy Advance until my eyes would strain (which probably explains my deteriorating vision) and then go to bed only to wake up at 9 to catch the new episode of the anime show. In 4th grade, everyone called me Ash Ketchum because I had long, thick, and unruly hair that went all over the place. My best friend was a Piplup. I lived and breathed Pokémon. Imagine my excitement when the news broke that Nintendo would finally be letting Pikachu run with his small, little feet on the big screen!

Detective-Pikachu-Movie-Still

Honestly, I’ve been rooting for Detective Pikachu ever since the first trailer dropped. Nintendo has had a lot of—  well, issues adapting their material to new forms of media in the past, and ever since then, they’ve been notoriously protective of their gaming IPs and brands. If they were going to open up and take a risk on this project, in my mind I knew it had to be for a good reason. This makes Detective Pikachu a film of multiple firsts: it’s the first generally well-received mainstream video-game-based-blockbuster, it’s the first film in a very long time to break open the Nintendo IP floodgates, and it’s the first film you’ll see with an emotionally detached, caffeine-addicted Pikachu voiced by Ryan Reynolds. And you’d really think, with all that this movie has to prove, that the cards would be played safe. Well, you really couldn’t be any farther from the truth. Detective Pikachu is surreal, ridiculous, but a heartfelt and warm, piece of popcorn entertainment. It’s also one that assumes you know what the significance of Mewtwo is, so if you have no investment in Pokémon, you really aren’t going to get much out of this.

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Tribeca 2019 Review: On Longing, Reconciliation, and Hope in ‘This Perfect Day’

In her short film This Perfect Day (2019), Australian-Chinese Director Lydia Rui paints an intimate, and quietly moving portrait of isolation, longing and reconciliation. We begin with a young adult, Jules, (Michelle Keating) who nervously braces themselves in a car before entering a music store, while their girlfriend (Hannah Koch) assures them that there is a reason why they are here today. They enter the music store and look around anxiously, as if suggesting to the audience that a robbery is about to happen. However, what happens next is a profoundly empathetic study on the desire to reunite with the ones we love, even when there is so much that can no longer be salvaged. Continue reading “Tribeca 2019 Review: On Longing, Reconciliation, and Hope in ‘This Perfect Day’”

Jenn Wexler Beautifully Blends Punk Rock and 80s Slashers in ‘The Ranger’

The woods are no place for punks—at least, that seems to be the case in Jenn Wexler’s feature film debut, The Ranger. Despite their studded jackets and tough attitudes, Wexler’s punks are no match for a deranged park ranger who knows these woods like the back of his hand. Set to a screaming soundtrack and chock full of gnarly kills, The Ranger is a creative reimagining of 1980s slasher films that rewrites its more harmful tropes into something perfect for our current cultural moment, a brilliant mashing of nostalgia and progressive filmmaking.

Chelsea (Chloë Levine) is an angsty punk who is haunted by a trauma in her past. She snorts coke, thrashes around at shows, and surrounds herself with insufferable people who help her keep the demons at bay. All that is initially shown about this trauma is a younger version of herself (Jeté Laurence, fresh off a wild performance in Pet Sematary) sitting on a cliff with The Ranger (Jeremy Holm), who tells her she is a wolf. But her coke-fueled haze is interrupted when cops bust into the bar where she’s partying with her boyfriend and friends. As she tries to escape the law, her intolerable boyfriend, Garth (Granit Lahu), stabs a cop to help her get away.

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Review and Interview: Dasheng Zheng’s ‘Bangzi Melody’

During an Q&A for Dasheng Zheng’s funny and deeply concerned film about a rural community during the early 1980’s, an audience member asks if the film did well in China. The director sorrily negates the question. There is a palpable sense of urgency when he talks about his project, which has went under the festival radar of many critics and thus lost any chance to be put into a bigger circles of discussion. Later I speak to him outside, he draws on a cigarette and blows the smoke into the starry sky above. I ask him, who he’d like to see the film.

“For a young generation in China…they don’t know what happened before. They don’t know enough. And they are too detached from these topics, there are too many distractions. If we don’t know enough, we don’t have the opportunity to think. First we need to know, then we might have an opportunity to think it over. For the future.”

In the tradition of many filmmakers, Zheng is raging against the cold threat of history falling into oblivion.

“I’m from the city […] I didn’t really know what happened to ordinary Chinese people then. This is why I wanted to make this movie. I tried my best to understand.”

Drawn from the material of three short stories by Jia Dashan, Bangzi Melody tells the story of a pending challenge to the peanut farmers of a small village in the North-East of China. They coincidentally find out that a land reform will take place and that they are to receive political guests very soon. Until then, their task is to rehearse and perform a classic, pre-revolutionary opera for the cadres, supposedly a sign for reinvigoration after decades of systematic oppression during the cultural revolution.

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