TIFF ’19: ‘Hustlers’ Knows What the F*ck Is Up

As Janet Jackson would say, Hustlers is a story about control. Jackson’s voice literally carries that message over the film’s first scene—her 1986 empowerment hit “Control” bumps through the elite Manhattan strip club where Constance Wu’s Destiny is trying to learn the ropes and take back her life. This pairing of song to scene is brass and unsubtle, but why shouldn’t it be? Hustlers knows it’s brass and unsubtle, and it knows exactly how to blend these elements, otherwise limiting in the wrong hands, into a dangerous concoction too delicious to resist. 

This cocktail of fun and energy and star power might trick you into thinking Lorene Scafaria’s latest film isn’t worth taking seriously, but you’d be dead wrong. Hustlers is big and uproarious, yes, but it’s also a for-fucking-real crime story with enough style, intrigue, and pinpoint emotional accuracy to compete with the films of Soderbergh and his ilk that have thus defined the ensemble heist genre. Thanks to the unique vision of women in control on both sides of the camera, Hustlers is a triumph—and one of the best films of the year.

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TIFF ’19: ‘Joker’ Tries and Fails to Hide Its Clownery With a Political Message

With superhero movies raking in the cash despite how much they’ve saturated the market, studios are looking for new and creative ways to tap into their passionate fanbase. One of these ideas includes standalone movies that address individual characters, both heroes and villains. Enter Todd Phillips’ Joker, an attempt to give depth and ethos to a psychopathic killer in a time where that kind of behavior is the last thing that needs to be glorified.

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TIFF ’19: ‘A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood’ Reminds Us That We Were All Kids Once

When we’re children, life seems incomprehensible and strange, an amalgamation of emotions that we aren’t sure how to navigate. But as it turns out, that doesn’t change much when we’re adults. We are a mess of traumas and confusion, trying to go through life like we’re fine when we’re very much not. This is where the incomparable Mr. Rogers comes in, a soothing wave of compassion and empathy who wants us all to know it is OK to be angry sometimes. In A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, Marielle Heller’s latest film after Can You Ever Forgive Me?, journalist Tom Junrod is a stand-in for all of us, a ball of resentment and fear that learns how to parse those feelings through red-cardigan-clad Fred Rogers. 

A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood Is based on Junrod’s 1998 profile of Rogers that appeared in Esquire magazine. Matthew Rhys plays Junrod, who at the time was a jaded journalist who was desperate to find out the worst things about humanity. He digs at people, writing exposes and long pieces of investigative journalism. So he is shocked when his editor assigns him to a puff piece about Mr. Rogers (Tom Hanks), famed children’s TV show host. What Junrod expects to just be a short interview about a joyous old man becomes a transformative process where he learns how to process his trauma and forgive his father.

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TIFF ’19: Family Epic ‘Waves’ Is a Visual Flood with Shallow Meaning

About halfway through the second spin of the merry-go-round camera that opens Waves, you start to get dizzy enough to look away. Some classic Tame Impala reverb bounces through the background, the blues and whites of the Florida sky glow unnaturally bright, and Euphoria sweetheart Alexa Demie hangs out her boyfriend’s car window, flashing a smile. It’s a 2019 film about teenagers, baby—if you didn’t know, now you know.

Waves writer-director Trey Edward Shultz isn’t afraid to dive headfirst into this bold style, accusations of parody and sameness be damned, and his commitment pays off. With Euphoria and Thunder Road cinematographer Drew Daniels by his side, Shultz delivers over two hours of consistently stunning visual narrative, each sequence challenging and creative, yet perfectly balanced and self-assured. These visuals mesh seamlessly with an electric score by Nine Inch Nails duo Trent Reznor and Atticus Ross, as well as an overloaded soundtrack of thumping Kanye and Frank Ocean tracks. It all leads you to believe Waves could be a great movie.

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TIFF ’19: ‘Portrait Of A Lady On Fire’ Is A Perfect Example of the Female Gaze

The male gaze is a term often used to address and critique how male directors use the camera to portray the female body as a site/sight of desire. The term, coined by Laura Mulvey, has grown and changed over the decades to address shifting genres, new mediums, and the growth of female directors. But, the question then emerges, what about the female gaze? Is there such a thing if hegemonic ideas of film are governed by patriarchy? Celine Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady On Fire answers that question with a loud, resounding yes.

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Fall 2018: Female Directors

Unlike this summer, female representation behind the camera is being overshadowed this fall by the Ruben Fleischers, Damien Chazelles, and Bryan Singers. While you can’t expect many women-helmed movies at your local theatre, they’ll be making lots of noise on the festival circuit. Along with a description of the theatrical releases to look out for, this piece compiles a list of the female-directed feature films screening at major film festivals. Listing every film at every fall festival would make for an article as long as Bergman’s Fanny and Alexander, so we trust our readers will be on the lookout for women filmmakers at their local festivals, as well as documentary and short films directed by women. All film descriptions are from press materials and all theatrical release dates are for the United States. 

Theatrical releases:

September 21 – NAPPILY EVER AFTER dir. Haifaa Al-Mansour

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Violet has it all: the perfect job, the perfect relationship and the perfect hair. Until an accident at her hair salon makes her realize she’s not living life to the fullest. This romantic comedy, starring Sanaa Lathan, is based on the novel of the same name by Trisha R. Thomas

September 28 – LITTLE WOMEN dir. Clare Niederpruem 

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A modern retelling of Louisa May Alcott’s classic novel follows the lives of the same sisters we know so well — Meg, Jo, Beth, and Amy March — and detailing their passage from childhood to womanhood. Despite harsh times, they cling to optimism, and as they mature, they face blossoming ambitions, relationships, and tragedy, while maintaining their unbreakable bond.

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