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. 

Continue reading “Much Ado’s Best Films of 2019 So Far”

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‘The Lavender Scare’ Criticises State-Sanctioned Homophobia, But Fails in its Glorification of Patriotism

“They just disappeared.”

While The Lavender Scare reminds us that the political systems which reproduce our oppression can never be trusted upon for our freedom, it fails in its glorification of American patriotism. Josh Howard’s documentary details the height of McCarthyism in the late 1940s to 50s, when gays and lesbians were purged from state offices for “fear” that they were more “morally susceptible” to Communist influences.  Continue reading “‘The Lavender Scare’ Criticises State-Sanctioned Homophobia, But Fails in its Glorification of Patriotism”

‘Gentleman Jack’ Celebrates Lesbian Existence, Bravery, and Love

Gentleman Jack (2019) makes me feel that my life is possible. As a long-time fan of Sally Wainwright, I trusted her to do justice to Anne Lister’s diaries. My expectations were high, but after having been let down time and time again by most lesbian-centered representations, they were still within reason. Before the series premiered, I expected a brilliant portrayal of Lister – one that is done with respect and empathy. However, on the topic of lesbian sexuality, I had far less hopes. Imagine my surprise when I found out that Gentleman Jack unabashedly delights in including its lesbian audience, and revels in speaking only to lesbians. The series goes beyond merely portraying lesbians on the screen. Rather, it takes lesbian representation a notch further by being unapologetic about its depiction of lesbian desire, lesbian sex, and lesbian mannerisms. Just as the real Anne Lister was proud of her ability to seduce women, Lister’s fourth-wall breaks in the series seduces the audience, charms them with her wit, and most importantly of all – remind lesbians that we have always existed. In-between 200 years ago and now where our lives have been violently annihilated by virtue of homophobic cruelty, we always have existed, and we continue to exist. Continue reading “‘Gentleman Jack’ Celebrates Lesbian Existence, Bravery, and Love”

Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘Long Time No Sea’ Fails to Capture the Heterogeneity of Indigenous Culture

Taiwanese director Heather Tsui’s debut film, Long Time No Sea (只有海知道, 2018), may have intended to bring awareness to the indigenous Tao people of Orchid Island, but it drastically falls short by focusing on their struggles through the perspective of the mainland. Continue reading “Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘Long Time No Sea’ Fails to Capture the Heterogeneity of Indigenous Culture”

Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘A Family Tour’ Mourns the Price of Political Dissidence

Chinese director Ying Liang is perhaps most well-known for the personal price he paid for producing When Night Falls (2012), a docudrama which sealed his permanent exile from his homeland. A scathing critique of China’s totalitarian regime, When Night Falls focused on the death of Yang Jia, a man who was arrested and horrifically beaten by the police for riding a bicycle without a license. After repeated harassment from the authorities, Jia eventually stabbed six policemen to death and was given the death sentence. When Night Falls, or its Mandarin translation I Still Have Something to Say (我还有话要说), is focalised from the perspective of Jia’s grieving mother. By directing this docudrama, Liang was viewed to be sympathetic towards political dissidents in China and hence, was forced to pay the price with exile. He now lives in Hong Kong.

Acting as a follow-up to When Night Falls, Liang’s A Family Tour (自由行, 2018) works as a semi-autobiographical film on the consequences his exile has had on his loved ones who still reside in China. If I Still Have Something to Say is a testament to his legacy of active political dissidence, A Family Tour is a quietly devastating rumination on whether this dissidence is actually worth the personal sacrifice. With Liang’s latest film, there is a very real sense that there is nothing left for art to say. If the artist has to lose their loved ones in the name of a futile activism, there comes a point when art becomes a purely selfish endeavour rather than a heroic one.  Continue reading “Seattle International ’19 Review: ‘A Family Tour’ Mourns the Price of Political Dissidence”

Why Lisa McGee’s ‘Derry Girls’ Should Be Our State of Mind Too

Lisa McGee’s Derry Girls does everything right by teenage girls. More importantly, it fills our screens with the sheer abundance of life itself – unbridled optimism, the courage to regret, all while cognisant of the violence which defined 1990s Ireland. Set in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, Derry Girls focalises its evocative, and starkly honest portrayal of this era through the lives of five working class Catholic school girls (including James). Continue reading “Why Lisa McGee’s ‘Derry Girls’ Should Be Our State of Mind Too”

MUBI Cannes Takeover: 12 Great Films You Can Catch on MUBI During the Festival

Cannes is just around the corner, and for those of us stuck at home wistfully thinking of the Croisette, there is no better place to turn than to the exceptional catalogue of past Cannes selections. MUBI have helpfully prepared a brilliant streaming lineup for their next twelve days of programming, presenting an iconic past Cannes film every day of the festival – surely enough to sate our cinematic appetites without even the need to even get up from the couch. Fantastique!

Read on to find out what our writers thought about the films included in this year’s Cannes MUBI lineup – from sadomasochistic horror, to the first movie to ever premiere in 3D at the festival, to a beloved Palme d’Or winner, there’s something here for everyone.

Continue reading “MUBI Cannes Takeover: 12 Great Films You Can Catch on MUBI During the Festival”