Much Ado’s Best Films of 2019 So Far

Believe it or not, we are halfway through 2019. We’ve seen Brie Larson kick ass as Captain Marvel, we’ve witnessed the end of an era with Avengers: End Game, Julia Hart gave us a new kind of superhero film in Fast Color, Ari Aster has scarred us all with Midsommar, and Olivia Wilde has given us the teen comedy we’ve been waiting for with Booksmart. It’s already been a wild year for film, and we still have five months left. With that in mind, here is Much Ado’s favorite films of 2019 so far and why we love them.

Booksmart, dir. Olivia Wilde

‘The night to end all nights’ is a tagline often found attached to tales of raucous frat bros, to the pursuit of the loss of their virginities, and to their final evening of partying, which comes just before the dawn of adulthood. Rarely, in teen comedies that revolve around sex and physical frankness, is said semi-mythical night centered on two rather awkward high school girls. More often than not, it has been the boys in Superbad and American Pie that have not only been permitted but openly encouraged to discuss their sexual desires, appetites, and experiences without so much as a hint of a blush on their cheeks. In Olivia Wilde’s Booksmart, this kind of agency is transferred from the obnoxious characters found in the aforementioned teen classics and awarded to Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) and Molly (Beanie Feldstein): two friends on the eve of high school graduation, for whom discussion of Malala Yousafzai and intersectional feminism sits as comfortably in conversation as the topic of masturbation. After realising that they have spent their entire adolescence burying their heads in their studies — in a fruitless attempt to gain the upper hand over their popular peers in search of places at prestigious universities — Molly and Amy decide that they must embark on the wildest evening of all if they are to truly ‘experience’ teenage-hood. And thus, absurdity, wild goose chases, and chaotic sexual encounters ensue. 

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Female Director Spotlight: Elaine May, Renegade Improv Comedienne

A natural performer from the start, director Elaine May allegedly began her career in 1935 at the tender age of three, performing in her father’s Yiddish theater company (although she conceded in 2010 that this origin story isn’t “strictly accurate”). At age 16, she married a toy inventor, with whom she had a daughter, then divorced him a few years later. After holding a series of odd jobs, including as a private detective and a roofing salesman, she decided she’d like to enroll in college—the problem was, she lacked the high school diploma that California colleges required by law. With just $7 in her pocket, she hitchhiked to Chicago, where this rule didn’t exist, to pursue an education.

Here, she met future legendary director Mike Nichols through mutual friends. The pair bubbled with comedic chemistry, and in 1955, they joined the off-campus improv group, The Compass Players. Two years later, Nichols was asked to leave the team for being “too talented,” and May quit with him. Soon, they developed their own act, forming stand-up comedy duo, “Nichols and May.” Their undeniable talent eventually landed them their own Broadway show, and “An Evening With Mike Nichols and Elaine May” became a bonafide hit, performing for full house shows and even winning a Grammy for Best Comedy Performance. Sadly, Nichols and May disbanded in 1964, citing difficulties with keeping their act consistently fresh. Over the next several years, Nichols would go on to begin a wildly successful film directing career with Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, and May would try her hand at playwriting. She also acted in various screen roles, including an uncredited cameo in Nichols’ The Graduate, until she gained the experience to direct her first feature.

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Isabelle Huppert Goes Cuckoo Bananas, But Not as Cuckoo Bananas as Usual, in the Flawed-But-Fun ‘Greta’

Let’s be honest. The main appeal of Greta is to see our girl Isabelle Huppert do what she does best: snap. Despite the film’s numerous issues, the ticket price is in fact well-worth the opportunity to bask in the unbridled power of one of the greatest working actresses viciously flipping a restaurant table over in response to getting ghosted (i.e. snap). And that’s just the beginning, baby!

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Criterion Reviews: ‘Mikey and Nicky’

The inaugural Criterion Channel pick for the first week of February was writer/director Elaine May’s 1976 Mikey and Nicky, a character-driven “Guys Bein’ Dudes” gangster drama. Taking place over the span of a single night, the film opens in classic 70s style with a shifty-eyed Nicky (auteur dreamboat John Cassavetes) alone in a hotel room, clinging to a gun and lighting a cigarette. He’s a small-time bookie who’s just stolen money from the mob, and he’s waiting for his childhood friend, Mikey (Peter Falk), to save him from a panic-induced ulcer attack.

When Mikey arrives, he holds Nicky while he sobs, then lies him down flat on his back to force-feed him an antacid. “Nick, I know you for 30 years. You call me up on that phone, you say ‘Come right away,’ in that voice, I bring Gelusil,” he says calmly before chewing one himself in solidarity. It’s a brilliant hook that establishes the best friends’ characterizations perfectly: Mikey is steady and paternal while Nicky is neurotic and vulnerable. And you just know their story is gonna end with a gut-shot.

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Oscar Predictions

The Oscars are trash this year but we’re still doing predictions because we’re trying to stay afloat of the twitter discourse. Free us from this cinematic prison and enjoy reading the winners our hearts desire, and those we think will snatch the award!

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Criterion Reviews: ‘Tom Jones’

This week’s Criterion Channel selection is Tony Richardson’s Tom Jones, a 1963 adventure-comedy set in 1700s England and executed in the style of early 1900s swashbuckler films. Whew! Born out of wedlock, the titular character (Albert Finney) grows into a charming young man and falls in love with the upper-class Sophie Western (Susannah York), whom he cannot marry because he is not of royal descent. Yup, it’s the standard formula for a period piece romance!

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10 Films to Watch During Women In Horror Month

February marks the beginning of Women In Horror Month, an event created to celebrate the amazing women working in the genre, from directors and producer to the iconic scream queens. Despite what certain horror producers may think, there are a plethora of talented and demented women creating diabolically poignant pieces of horror cinema. In a genre that is so often described as misogynistic and exploitative, it can seem easy to dismiss it and not address its long history of interrogating societal fears. But, women have been working against, and sometimes with, those conventions just as long as any man.

To help you celebrate all month long, we’ve compiled a list of 10 horror films directed by women to put on your watch list. But don’t confine your honoring of women in horror to just February; they deserve your attention and support all year long.

American Psycho, dir. Mary Harron

Everything superficial about American Psycho appeals to the kind of masculine, wide-eyed, dorm room energy of boys of a certain age—its sleek quotability, retro aesthetic, sardonic wit, and extreme violence are all, well, pure Bret Easton Ellis, literature’s resident teenage boy. And while Ellis may have crafted his tale of a absurd Wall Street serial killer with his own anger and transgressive style in mind, director Mary Harron grants her film adaptation of the novel with a entirely different, yet no less fascinating lens through which to view the world of Patrick Bateman. And who better to craft a killer of women than a woman herself?

American Psycho might be funny—scratch that, it’s hilarious—but the horror grows with each passing frame, building in Bateman’s victims on screen, building in us, and building in the character himself as reality starts to slip away. The film’s germane, eerie satire of American capitalism and wealth only deepen some truly terrifying sequences of murder and mutilation that speak to the horrors of misogyny and power. Yet so much of that depth owes itself to Harron’s camera, which doesn’t linger on these women’s bodies and ask us to revel in their destruction, but rather remains tight on Christian Bale’s face, clothes, hands—the apathetic instruments of a society that values nothing but money.

Okay, this is starting to sound like more dorm room analysis, but it only takes one good watch to enthralled by this movie for a lifetime. Come for the controversy, stay for the cultural commentary, and return time after time for “I have to return some video tapes.”

-Cassidy

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