The Exceptional Horror of “Hereditary”

Ari Aster’s Hereditary opens simply: the white letters of Ellen Graham’s obituary blazing on a inky background. The matriarch is survived by her daughter Annie, an artist who creates miniature dioramas of her everyday life. We see one of her miniatures now: a cut-out model of her home in the forest. As we zoom in, we focus on a bedroom belonging to her teenage son Peter. Slowly, the miniature room fills the screen until the facsimile becomes reality and Peter’s father walks in to wake him for his grandmother’s funeral. From this point forward the line between reality and fantasy, between the actual and the imagined, will remain blurred.

Would You Like To Know More?

Structural Perfection in “Avengers: Infinity War”

In Avengers: Infinity War, Joe and Anthony Russo accomplish many small miracles on the way towards crafting one of the most interesting films in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU). Though previous iterations of the Flagship Get-Together Movie have buckled under the weight of too many characters with too much to do (Avengers: Age of Ultron and Captain America: Civil War, especially), Infinity War deftly isolates characters into distinct groups, thereby localizing their stories, goals, and actions. Furthermore, though practically every film in the MCU brandishes a makeshift villain, Infinity War finally gives us Thanos, a three-dimensional and fascinating villain with a cabal of sadistic and distinct generals. The action set pieces are all up to the same high standard that we have come to expect from the MCU, and the new interactions between old characters add some nice spice to the film. Avengers: Infinity War shouldn’t work; it should be too big, too busy, and too safe, bursting for the seems with one too many formulaic superhero movie tropes. Instead, it is the perfect distillation of what the MCU should be: fun heroes, terrifying villains, and high stakes.

Would You Like To Know More

Hot Docs 2018: The Cleaners

Cinema Axis

In The Cleaners, Hans Block and Moritz Riesewieck launch an expose on a peculiar underbelly of social media. With a conspiratorial opening that casts whistleblowers in the total anonymity of darkness, we learn about the Content Moderators. These are men and women working for subcontractors hired by Facebook to click through photos, videos, and other content to decide whether or not a piece of content is appropriate for the site.

These mediators are expected to view 25,000 pieces of content per day and decide whether they should delete, allow, or report the content. They have strict guidelines, but that doesn’t protect them from seeing terrorist beheadings, child pornography, suicide videos, and all manner of terrible things.

This thankless job comes with an even darker side to it: the guidelines that these Content Moderators are using can function as censorship just as easily as they can function as protection. It’s…

View original post 170 more words

Hot Docs 2018: Mr Fish: Cartooning from the Deep End

Cinema Axis

Pablo Bryant begins his documentary with two clear defenses of free speech. This first is a title card that overtly warns the spectator that this is a free speech area, and the second is a story related to the camera by the subject of the film: cartoonist Mr. Fish. The story he tells involves himself, as a child, writing obscenities on paper airplanes and fantasizing about fighting the system when it was discovered that he was the author. Of course, he just got reprimanded by his mom.

Mr. Fish is a fascinating subject for a documentary. He’s an iconoclastic offender without care or remorse for where he points his cross hairs. His aim is deadly, and his artistic skill deft. He offends the Right and the Left indiscriminately, and almost seems proud of the fact that his notoriety makes earning a consistent paycheck a real difficulty.

Mr. Fish: Cartooning from…

View original post 141 more words

Hot Docs 2018: Golden Dawn Girls

Cinema Axis

In Golden Dawn Girls, director Håvard Bustnes offers up a no-nonsense approach to a growing phenomenon: the rise of nationalist politics. Bustnes’s focus is on the Greek party “The Golden Dawn”, which has grown to the third largest party in parliament over the past decade. When some of the most influential men in the party are imprisoned awaiting trial in response to their violence acts, the women behind the party – the “Golden Dawn Girls” – become the face of an ultra right-wing party that uses violence, intimidation, and acerbic rhetoric as its main forces for change.

Bustnes goes for a cinéma vérité presentation, mixing interviews with key members of The Golden Dawn with scenes where his camera is merely a fly-on-the-wall. His main subject is Ourania, daughter of the founder of The Golden Dawn and husband to one of its highest-ranking and most violence-prone members. He offers voice-over…

View original post 151 more words

Hot Docs 2018: 306 Hollywood

Cinema Axis

What does a person leave behind when they die? In 306 Hollywood, filmmakers answer that question in many different ways, all focused on their recently deceased grandmother Annette Ontell. The film is centered around home video footage and interviews with Grandma Annette over a ten-year period from the time she was 83. Coupled with re-enactments of audio recordings and a few flights of fancy, this documentary is a tender look at family, history, and legacy.

The film was created by Elan and Jonathan Bogarín, two of Annette’s grandkids. Elan got the bright idea to interview her grandma during film school, and the interviews provide most of the meat of the film. There’s a strong eye towards imagery, and Elan and Jonathan do a great job of mixing up their techniques, aspect ratios, and the overall appearance of the film.

At times it seems a bit much, like during a…

View original post 126 more words

Hot Docs 2018: Laila at the Bridge

Cinema Axis

The horrors of addiction and drug dependence have categorically ravaged Afghanistan following the invasion by the United States army. Now, a bag of heroin costs $2, less than a meal. As a result, the country is flooded with addicts. Enter Laila, a former child bride who has dealt with addiction in her family before. She is determined to provide assistance for the addicts, to give them hope and a way back to a fulfilling life. Her main haunt is underneath a bridge where heroin users congregate in her home town of Kabul.

Laila at the Bridge details this woman’s attempts to make her community a better place through a narcotics anonymous program. Co-directed by Gulistan and Elizabeth Mirzaei, this is a raw, uncompromising film that doesn’t shy away from some absolutely brutal imagery. We see toddlers without parents and people with vacant eyes who have lost half of their lives…

View original post 136 more words

Hot Docs 2018: What Walaa Wants

Cinema Axis

In the West Bank refugee camp of Balata, a young Palestinian girl named Walaa dreams about joining the local police force. She’s only 13, her brother Mohammad is 11, and the two live with an aunt because their mother is in prison. Once Walaa is in the police force, she gets to have a gun and be in charge of her own life. She won’t have to answer to a man or ask permission to go her own direction. For the free-spirited teenager, it’s a dream come true.

Directed by Christy Garland, What Walaa Wants follows this young Palestinian girl as she lives in Balata, grows into adulthood, and attends basic training to become a member of the police. As a child, Walaa is at least a tad incorrigible, always sticking her nose around and causing problems. She’s also an obvious product of her surroundings – casually recounting an assassination…

View original post 185 more words

In “Darkest Hour”, Gary Oldman Again Inhabits his Character

In Darkest Hour, director Joe Wright and writer Anthony McCarten are both firmly in their wheelhouse. Both men are big on these kinds of historical period pieces, so they certainly know what they are doing here. While it is tempting to consider Darkest Hour a companion piece to Cristopher Nolan’s Dunkirk earlier this year on account of the similar subject matter, it is crucial to recognize that Darkest Hour approaches this story from a more singular perspective, focusing on a kind of character study of the great Winston Churchill instead of a more all-encompassing view of heroism. Fortunately, Gary Oldman turns in one of the greatest transformative performances of his career. Thus, though Darkest Hour is a fine film Gary Oldman is easily its centerpiece.

Would You Like To Know More?

Astonishing Performances Power Paul Thomas Andersen’s “Phantom Thread”

The films of Paul Thomas Anderson are anything but conventional, and Phantom Thread is not even close to an exception. Anderson writes and directs this story about Reynolds Woodcock, paragon of the 1950s haute couture scene. Daniel Day Lewis portrays this eccentric man to perfection, inhabiting the character as only he can. The acting talent extends to the two lead women in the film as well: Vicky Krieps plays Alma, Reynolds’s new flame and muse and Lesley Manfield plays Cyril, his sister and main confidant. These three are a tour de force.

Would You Like To Know More?

Fable, Allegory, and the Aesthetics of Del Toro Fuel “The Shape of Water”

Guillermo Del Toro is a master of the modern fairy tale. In The Shape of Water, he tells the story of a budding love between a mute woman named Elisa and a captive fish creature. Like the very best of Del Toro, the film blurs the line between reality and fantasy and succeeds as an allegorical tale about the transformative power of love. Set in the Cold War Era, most of the story takes place in a secret government facility replete with scientists, gung-ho military jerk-offs, and spies. This setting provides the canvass for Del Toro’s peculiar aesthetic, as well as the majority of the tension. The performances are outstanding, from the supporting characters to the leads to the man in the Fish Monster suit. Simply put, The Shape of Water is a gorgeous little tale and the reason why movies can be so magical.

Would You Like To Know More?

Autobiography and Family Drama in “Lady Bird”

Greta Gerwig’s Lady Bird is a stirring coming-of-age story focusing on the relationship between a high school senior and her mother. Saoirse Ronan plays Christine, but insists that everyone call her “Lady Bird”. Her relationship with her mother, played by the excellent Laurie Metcalf, is fraught with complications – just like any mother-daughter relationship. Gerwig’s story has obvious autobiographical aspects, lending the film a refreshing matter-of-fact feeling. Lady Bird is a flawed protagonist, and her mother isn’t perfect either. Still, Lady Bird grows up a lot in the last year of high school, despite all the awkward romances and familial tension. Though detractors may classify Lady Bird as a film that doesn’t take many risks, its themes are timeless, perfectly executed, and packed with realism. Lady Bird is a resounding success from a first-time director, a seemingly-effortless bit of cinematic mastery.

Would You Like To Know More?

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑

%d bloggers like this: