‘Sorry to Bother You’ Apologizes for Nothing

Boots Riley has asked critics not to spoil his movie, so this is me telling you that I won’t. But if you want to experience Sorry to Bother You in all its glory, I would recommend coming back to this review (and others) after your first go-round.

In a quieter moment within the off-the-wall final act of Sorry to Bother You, artist Detroit (Tessa Thompson) stares up at a giant, vulgar statue, erected haphazardly in the night, that shows sarong-wearing CEO Steve Lift (Armie Hammer) fucking an animal. The statue is lovely in its awfulness, with comically inaccurate proportions and a flimsiness that suggests it might be made of papier-mache. As a crowd gathers to admire the monstrosity, one woman asks, “But what does it mean?” To which Detroit responds, “Maybe the artist is being literal.”

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Tessa Thompson in ‘Sorry to Bother You’ © Annapurna Pictures

While nothing more than a small, satisfying in-joke in the context of the onscreen action, this line is the closest Sorry to Bother You gets to a thesis statement. Like the protest statue, the film is loud, declarative and unsubtle, delightfully surreal yet demanding to be seen for what it is—and like Detroit suggests, that might just be the point. Continue reading “‘Sorry to Bother You’ Apologizes for Nothing”

‘Sharp Objects’ Recap: Dirt

TW: SELF-HARM, ALCOHOLISM

As episode one ended with Natalie Keene’s death, episode two begins with her funeral. Here, Camille must finally show her face to the whole town in quite a public way, all while trying to report this story. We begin to see Camille battling memories and anxieties, not just associated with her mother, but with returning home to a town full of secrets and whispers. Episode two explores the toxicity and gossip of Wind Gap, the anxieties that arise when coming home and the destructive ways we cope with those anxieties.

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As Camille sits at the funeral, Jackie mutters a stream of gossip right into Camille’s ear, pointing out who is who in the family, remarking about Natalie’s brother crying too much, and more. Not even funerals are sacred in this town — in fact, this just throws more fuel on the gossip fire. The gossip only continues at the funeral reception in the Keene home. The whispers are amplified when Camille arrives, making you painfully aware that people are talking about her. It echoes the experience of returning home so well: you enter a crowded house, pretend to smile, but have a heightened sense of awareness as people stare too long or whisper behind their glasses. How does Camille cope? The drink, of course.

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Continue reading “‘Sharp Objects’ Recap: Dirt”

The Dardenne Brothers: The Struggle for Dignity in a Capitalist System

Jean-Pierre and Luc Dardenne, often referred to as the Dardenne Brothers, are well known for their modern neorealist films of the working class, especially the lives of those who live on the margins of Belgium society. While many films depicting the working class often romanticise suffering as a means to squeeze out every ounce of our pity, the plots from the duo can be sharply defined by their refusal to patronise their characters. Instead, what their films do is give a sense of dignity to a section of society that is never given any, through focusing on the brutal circumstances that their protagonists are in. Often, these circumstances are a result of the exploitative mechanisms of capitalism, leaving their characters forced to make morally grey decisions, scrambling to do anything to survive. Yet, in these films, the camera never assigns blame to the people, but rather to the environment which made them this way.

In this piece, I aim to offer an analysis of how the Dardenne Brothers critique the capitalist society which thrives on the absence of human dignity and connection in two of their films: Rosetta (1999) and Two Days, One Night (2014). It can be argued that both films make two directly opposing points with their contrasting women protagonists; the former exposing the harrowing conditions one can be driven to inhabit as a result of an internalisation of capitalistic notions of human worth and value, and the latter revealing to us how sometimes solidarity amongst the working class can be our only saving grace.

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Èmilie Dequenne in ‘Rosetta’ (1999)

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Criterion Throwback Review: George A. Romero’s Taboo-Breaking ‘Night of the Living Dead’

Shambling zombies, covered in blood and gore, hungering for human flesh, approaching a small group of hopeless survivors – we’ve seen it in The Walking Dead, iZombie, World War Z, Resident Evil and countless other pieces of horror media. The zombie has become an inescapable cultural figure that’s found, not just on TV or movies, but on shirts, hats, board games, phone cases, and more. But we wouldn’t have this cultural zeitgeist without George A. Romero’s 1968 horror classic, Night of the Living Dead. With almost no budget, Romero defined the horror genre and broke through societal taboos around race, class, and nihilism. Romero rejected conventional horror tropes and created something that reflected a nation in shambles during the Vietnam War, as well as the corrosive effects of capitalism on society as a whole.

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The film’s protagonist, Ben (Duane Jones), is a Black man. While Ben’s race is never explicitly addressed in the film, it is hard to ignore as the rest of the cast is white. Unlike the other white characters, Ben has the most control of the situation, immediately taking the role of the group’s leader. When he arrives at the farmhouse, he begins to board up the windows and doors by tearing apart the stereotypical home of the 1960s family. He pulls apart tables, chairs, and parts of the kitchen to keep the undead out of the home; to protect those in the house he must literally tear it apart.

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Criterion Throwback Review: Sergei Parajanov’s ‘The Color of Pomegranates’

If you’re looking to broaden your taste and try out something unconventional during this fine Criterion month, I’ve got you covered. This entry of the Criterion canon may be a newer addition, but it’s an older, influential work and a unique piece to the library of legacy. The Color of Pomegranates (directed by Sergei Parajanov) is a 1969 film dedicated to the life of the famous poet Sayat Nova, but it’s not your traditional biographical picture. Instead of an informative narrative following a cohesive journey recounting the events of Nova’s life, Parajanov prefers to capture the essence of his experiences through powerful, loosely connected audiovisuals. Influenced by the works of Tarkovsky, Parajanov seeks to use a surrealistic style to preserve the legacy of Nova and serve as a snapshot of Armenian culture.

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The first act of the film, the poet’s childhood.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians,’ Brilliantly Speaks Truth to Power

This review is by our guest writer, Redmond Bacon.

The Germans have a word for acknowledging their Nazi past. Known as “Vergangenheitsbewältigung,” it literally means “coming to terms with the past,” describing the process by which the country tries to learn from the mistakes it made during the 30s and 40s, most significantly the Holocaust. This process makes Germany quite a unique country, as no other major nation-state can claim to have gone through quite the same amount of personal soul-searching.

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This dream of awakening her home country of Romania is the mission of Mariana, an artist who wants to put on a reenactment of the Odessa Massacre of 1941 in which between 25,000 to 34,000 Jews were either shot or burned to death by Romanian troops. I Do Not Care If We Go Down in History as Barbarians, is named after a quote that was used to justify the process. According to her, its a part of history glossed over by Romanians, who prefer to remember the time they joined the Allies three years into War. A pertinent clip from the Romanian film The Mirror, released in 1994, shows just how deep the distortion of history goes, displaying Ion Antonescu — the Romanian leader — as a sympathetic character who only “deported” non-Romanian Jews, instead of killing them. This is a blatant lie and something that Mariana is determined to deconstruct.

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Karlovy Vary 2018: ‘Miriam Lies’ Is a Harsh yet Necessary Coming of Age Story

In Latin America, there is no event more important for young girls than the quinceañera. Families will save up every extra penny to make sure that the celebration is a lavish affair, welcoming the girl’s progression into adulthood with a whole lot of pomp and circumstance. For Miriam (Dulce Esther Rodríguez Castillo), however, her 15th birthday is loaded with dread, as she has a secret that she doesn’t want the rest of her family to know about.

She has a boyfriend named Jean-Louis, who she only knows from chatting online. One day, she goes to meet him at a natural history museum, but upon seeing his face, something holds her back. She doesn’t talk to him, and runs away, explaining to her mom that he didn’t turn up. At first, this seems like natural shyness, but it slowly becomes clear that it’s because he’s black. The resulting film is a piercing tale that functioned both as a well-worked character drama and a seething critique of a racist society.

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