Kareem Baholzer’s Favorite Films of 2019

Staff writer Kareem Baholzer lists his ten favorite films of 2019!

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Greta Gerwig's Vibrant, Ambitious 'Little Women' Reinvents Itself

“I want to be great, or nothing.” This defining line from Louisa May Alcott’s 1868 novel Little Women has become a catchphrase of American literary feminism, repeated out of context, embroidered onto pillows, and championed nearly to the point of losing all meaning. 

The sentiment, first delivered by Alcott’s Amy March in regards to her skills at a painter, rings particularly hollow when you consider its place in the countless film, television, and stage adaptations of Little Women that have come since its first publication. These retellings, like so many adaptations of classic novels, have rarely striven for that artistic greatness Amy speaks of—they’ve by and large been pale, sentimental imitations of what a great story looks like, designed to print cash and appease the period piece crowd, i.e. women. Aside from Gillian Armstrong’s hit 1994 film, you’d be hard-pressed to find a Little Women as vital as the original.

That is, until Greta Gerwig came along. The writer-director behind Lady Bird and Frances Ha has been emphasizing the value in quotidian stories about young women throughout her short filmmaking career, and her talents and interests have found a perfect home in Little Women. Lively, ambitious, and deftly directed, Gerwig’s adaptation takes both its subjects and audience seriously, building its own kind of greatness that extends far beyond the power of the original text. It doesn’t attempt to overwrite Alcott’s story with modern feminism, but rather highlight how the joys and struggles of her characters have persisted across time. Filled out by an exhilarating ensemble cast, Gerwig’s Little Women is the best we’ve ever seen this story—and it’s one of the best films of the year.

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‘In Fabric’ is a Mystifying Send-up of Holiday Shopping

This is my sixth year working the holiday season in retail, and though each year doesn’t get much harder than that first one, it doesn’t get any easier, either. The coupons, the difficult customers, the long hours, and the ravenous crowds. The longer you’re exposed to it, the more jaded you become, the more hardened you are to the shouting, the impatience, the complicated transactions, and unending gift receipts. To bemoan or fear Black Friday becomes an afterthought to simply enduring it. The maligned day will come, and it will soon be over – then the holidays will ensue, and soon they will see their end, as well. But their finality comes with the price of knowing that they will come back. As long as I work in retail, I am a slave to the whims of customers and of corporations. And once I finally escape, the only thing that will change is that I no longer have to deal with the customers.

Peter Strickland’s In Fabric sews itself as a film about the horrors of beauty standards and materialism, but blossoms into near-farce about the ludicrousness of the holiday season under capitalism. A department store is a cover for witchcraft; television commercials for sales are hypnotic spells; an enchanted dress brings pain and suffering to all who wear it; no one in the entire town can stop talking about the one fucking sale going on from one, single store. What starts off as horrifying and baffling becomes almost comical, as the absurdity of our shopping habits and of retail work during the most wonderful time of the year are put on the bloodthirsty spotlight that they deserve.

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‘Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker’ Wants So Desperately To Be Liked

Every Star Wars film, even the less than stellar ones, has left me with a sense of wonder when I watch the credits roll. Leaving the cinema for The Rise of Skywalker, I could only feel numb. Now, I’m not going to pretend Star Wars was never a corporate juggernaut (there’s probably a one to one ratio of R2D2 merchandise to human beings on planet Earth that exist to prove me otherwise), but for the first time in my Star Wars fandom-fueled life, I felt I was watching a product. In every passing moment of this movie, I could imagine a meeting between our corporate overlords at Disney, puppeteering every piece of this film’s mass-market machine. Is this a film for the sequel trilogy fans? Is this a film for winning back The Last Jedi haters? Is this a film for internet fandom? Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker wants so desperately to be liked by everyone that it ends up satisfying almost no one.

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‘Black Christmas’ Is A Loud, Rage-Filled War Cry That Begs To Be Answered

Content warning: Mentions of rape, sexual assault and violence.

It’s the most wonderful time of the year. Colorful lights sparkle and flash. Christmas trees are covered in tinsel. And underneath that tree is a messily-wrapped gift bursting with rage. That gift is Sophia Takal’s Black Christmas, a modern revision of Bob Clark’s 1974 slasher of the same name. Takal and co-writer April Wolfe take the story and bring it into the tumultuous 21st century, where women are no longer content with staying silent.

Black Christmas is centered on Hawthorne College campus and the sorority sisters of MKE. Riley (Imogen Poots) is a sexual assault survivor who, after three years, still feels the repercussions of her rape, both emotionally and socially. She tries to cover up her body as much as possible and wants to make herself small, unnoticeable. Luckily, she has her sorority sisters who support her every step of the way, never for a second doubting her.

Kris (Aleyse Shannon) is her outspoken, politically-oriented best friend who petitions against racist and misogynistic professors (Cary Elwes) and wants to fight for what’s right. She convinces Riley to perform in a fraternity’s talent show in front of Riley’s rapist in an act that blatantly calls out the disgusting attitude the brothers have around sex. But of course, these boys don’t take it well.

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Best Films of the Decade

It is what it is.

You’ve probably seen at least ten best of the decade lists by now and you think, Really? Another one?. Well we knew you’d say that so we thought we’d spice it up a bit. Instead of doing our usual “Best of …” format which usually includes ten to fifteen films ranked based on our individual lists, we are doing individual lists only. We felt that this way, we could present you with a more diverse list of films. We asked fourteen critics, academics and programmers to list their top twenty-films of the decade and write about their #1.But we still wondered if we made a big list, what would be our #1? What film was it that showed up on the list again and again? What film, to us, really captured the essence of this decade? The last ten years have been defined by loss, financial ruin, and anxiety about what world the next generation is going to inherit. But it’s also been a decade where seeds of revolution were planted, and the rise of social movements by people not afraid to fight the powers and systems that have become goliaths. Darkness rises, and light to meet it.

Much Ado About Cinema’s favourite film of the decade is Mad Max: Fury Road. Enjoy and happy new decade! Continue reading “Best Films of the Decade”