Hey everyone! Yesterday I finished up my last day at the NYFF and am now having a leisurely weekend in the city with my friends. After the movie I met up with Conrado and we had a nice lunch while recording a special episode of The Criterion Projecton the festival which will air on Monday. It was a lot of fun so don’t miss the episode.
The festival picked an interesting film to close things off: The Inspection by director Elegance Bratton.
I’m not sure why the movie is called The Inspection (something with boot camp or marines would make more sense but whatever) but in the film Bratton tells his own experience as a gay Black marine in boot camp in the mid-2000s. Going into the film I was expecting something more traumatic and negative but it actually was more inspirational and positive about his experiences.
Trauma is there but most of the time his trauma is the same as anyone going through boot camp. We get to see how grueling that experience is but he gets out of it and is a better man with a band of brothers who support him.
Gabrielle Union plays his Mother and her character is the most devastating aspect of the film for French. I definitely give her a lot of credit for taking on such an unlikable, cruel character.
Jeremey Pope is strong as French as are the other recruits with him in boot camp.
For some The Inspection will be too conventional and simple, but I appreciate Bratton sharing his experience with us. It’s an inspiring story that will make you cheer by the end. In a way that was quite refreshing especially for an indie festival.
6 out of 10
So I’ve seen 8 films at the festival. Thank you to NYFF for admitting me as press and for any of you reading these logs. I would love to hear what of the films I’ve written about stand out to you and that you might seek out.
Hey everyone! I had another great day at NYFF including getting to meet one of my online friends Alli. We went to this wildly overpriced seafood restaurant (they charged $9 for a little bowl of rice!) but had a good time (it was quite stressful trying to navigate New York in the rain! A kindly doorman helped me get a cab. Thank you!).
Anyway, I saw 2 movies at the festival and they were interesting watches. No panels today but I still had a good time. So here goes:
Return to Seoul
I’ve always been someone that believes adoption can be a beautiful and wonderful experience but there’s no question it carries with it an array of emotions and challenges. Return to Seoul dives into that with the lead character Frederique or Freddie coming back to Seoul to meet her birth parents (she was adopted by a French family).
The film makes some big time jumps so you get to see Freddie through different periods of her life each time trying to balance her French and Korean sides. It’s all beautifully filmed with good performances particularly from Park Ji-Min who plays Freddie.
The only challenge is Freddie is a young selfish character who can be frustrating to watch at times. I don’t mind an unlikable character but particularly in the last section where she’s a soulless business-woman it was a lot to take in. The pacing is also of the indie-variety that may be challenging for some viewers.
Overall Return to Seoul is a memorable look at one woman’s look into her complicated identity.
7 out of 10
As seems to be the case lately, I feel torn on the new movie from director Maria Schrader depicting the Harvey Weinstein investigation, She Said. It’s a perfectly well done journalism film in the spirit of All the President’s Men (which I admittedly don’t love) and Spotlight. The performances are good, the reporters Jodi Kantor and Megan Twohey are admirable people who are good at their jobs.
However, it all felt a little too tidy and safe for my liking. Only Hollywood could make a movie about the Harvey Weinstein scandal where basically only he and his bland board of directors are at fault. Despite the fact that actors like Jane Fonda have admitted they knew what was happening and didn’t do anything (the problem was more than just one man, it was systematic). When Ricky Gervais got upset at the Golden Globes he may have been uncouth, but he was right about the way so many knew what was happening and did nothing.
Hollywood loved Harvey and some of the actors who are portrayed as heroic in the film could have done more to help others avoid this and other horrible men. I understand that’s up to them in their journey as a victim but it just rubbed me the wrong way how the movie didn’t acknowledge the greater Hollywood problem.
That said, the investigation by the 2 journalists is done well. Carey Mulligan and Zoe Kazaan bring a lot of personality to the roles (although I wish they hadn’t acted like postpartum depression is solved by…working hard?) Anyway, Jennifer Ehle steals the show, as she usually does, playing a victim Laura Madden who was one of the few allowed to testify because she wasn’t under a NDA gag order from a settlement.
Like I said, I feel torn on She Said. It’s fine but its weaknesses irritated me. It could have been a lot more daring and had something to say (Mulligan’s Promising Young Woman was divisive but far more evocative.) I think someone outside of the Hollywood system would have been a better choice to tell this story. Then it wouldn’t feel so sanitized and safe.
Hey everyone! Day 2 of NYFF has come and gone and I actually only saw one movie- of course it was a 4.5 hour movie so it counts for a lot!
Trenque Lauquen Pt 1 & 2
Evidently Laura Citarella is known for making lengthy epics focused on a personal quest or mystery but Trenque Lauquen is my introduction to her. Going into the screening was more than a little intimidating at 280 minutes including an intermission it was a lot to prepare for. Plus the summary by NYFF made the experience seem more than a little pretentious. Imagine then my surprise when the film, while definitely a long sit, is actually quite charming and accessible. I enjoyed it a lot more than I thought I would.
Trenque Lauquen begins with 2 men that are looking for a woman named Laura who they both claim to be in love with. When we meet this woman we start to understand her backstory and how she wandered away from her friends and family. Laura (Laura Paredes) works for a radio station with Ezekiel (Ezequiel Pierri) and in part 1 they begin to research a love story between 2 lovers in the past with clues hidden in library books around town. As they search their bond grows and they even share a kiss.
Part 2 was a little more dry with a pregnant woman and a magical lake that somehow connects to Laura and Ezekiel. However, If you are looking for traditional linear storytelling this isn’t the film for you but if you are open to hanging out with some characters as they ask questions and ponder the world around them you might just enjoy Trenque Lauquen.
Pierri and Paredes bring a subtle power to their roles as the lovelorn (or love-confused) Ezekiel and Laura respectively. They make for characters we want to spend time a leisurely morning with even if they give us more questions than answers in their quest for love.
Hi from NYC! I am here for the last week of the New York Film Festival and my first day got off to a fun start. I just have a few minutes this morning so let me quickly share my thoughts on what I watched in day 1
First up was the press screening for Sarah Polley’s new film Women Talking. This film is based on a novel by Miriam Toews about a group of Mennonite women (or Mennonite-like) that meet together after a series of beatings to decide whether they are going to “stay and fight” or “leave the colony.” The cast is star-stacked with Rooney Mara, Claire Foy, Jessie Buckley, Frances McDormand and more.
It’s a pretty simple premise and it is well told. I was particularly invested in Foy and Buckley’s characters but the acting was strong throughout. I also thought it was well filmed and used music (particularly one classic pop song) in an interesting way.
That said there is something about the film that felt a little clinical and predictable, which kept me from getting emotionally invested in the story or its outcomes. I’d still recommend it but not a favorite of the year or anything like that.
7 out of 10
The second film Unrest comes out of Switzerland in both Russian, French and Swiss German called Unrest by director Cyril Schäublin. It is about a watchmaking factory in Switzerland in 1870s where a man named Pyotr Kropotkin becomes involved in anarchist and socialist philosophical movements.
The scenes showing the watchmaking were pretty impressive, capturing the sounds and intricacies of that process. However, that can only take you so far and I’m afraid I found the characters and story in this one to be very dry and it struggled to keep my interest. I had to work not to nod off.
5 out of 10
So there is day 1! I’m excited to see what Day 2 has to offer.
So it’s that time again where I catch up on all the films I’ve been watching with a bunch of mini-reviews! Sorry I couldn’t do longer reviews but if you have any questions or would like more of my thoughts just ask in the comments section!
My Little Pony: A New Generation
I was actually a fan of the MLP: Friendship is Magic and enjoyed the MLP movie based on that series. Now we have a new series with an introductory movie, My Little Pony: A New Generation. This is technically a sequel to Friendship is Magic (and we get a little intro from the FIM characters) but it is new characters with a new style and it is thoroughly charming.
In this story, Equestria has been divided into 3 lands with 3 different pony kinds- earth, pegasi and unicorns. One day a new unicorn named Izzy comes into town and they have to work to overcome prejudice and restore the unicorn magic. I love the bright and cheerful animation and the message is important and perfect for the whole family. It’s a great start to the new series
8 out of 10
Whenever I see a movie from A24 I know I’m in for something different. The distributor prides itself on procuring strange eclectic films. Most of their films I enjoy like The Farewell, Minari and more. Others like The Souvenir or The Last Black Man in Francisco I did not care for. (or C’mon C’mon reviewed below is A24)
Now there is the movie Lamb, and I was actually looking forward to the film because the trailer looked like a fun horror movie. Unfortunately it didn’t deliver and was instead a pretentious dull marriage in crisis drama.
The trailer is one of the most deceptive I’ve seen in a long time because Lamb is not scary in the slightest. In fact, every time they showed the human lamb baby it looked so ridiculous it took me out of the movie. It was too goofy, and I honestly thought it was plain stupid.
4 out of 10
Diana: The Musical
You all know I am a sucker when it comes to musicals. I famously went fresh on much maligned recent film adaptations of Cats and Dear Evan Hansen. So when I say a musical is terrible it’s really bad. Such is the case with the recent Diana: the Musical.
Everything about this filming of the new Broadway show about Princess Diana’s life is a complete mess. Maybe the costumes can be praised but the lyrics, music, book, casting, staging is all laughably bad. It’s almost worth recommending for the ‘so bad it’s good’ elements, but I can’t do that to you. I feel bad for whomever invested in the Broadway show starting in December because this thing is going to tank badly. I can’t imagine it lasting outside the previews…It’s so bad.
1 out of 10
I saw C’mon C’mon as part of this year’s NYFF59 and director Mike Mills was there to present it to the crowd. The film is thin on plot but its characters are endearing enough to make it all work.
It tells the story of a man named Johnny who is asked to take care of his nephew Jesse while the child’s parents are dealing with medical care. At first he doesn’t know how to parent but over time he and Jesse become very close. As an aunt I can relate to the bond between Johnny and Jesse and the beautiful black and white photography gives the film a grounded, authentic feel.
It is slow moving and the interruptions with documentary subjects waxing philosophical didn’t always work but still a sweet movie worth a few hours of your time.
7 out of 10
Returning to Reims
My second movie at NYFF59 is a very unusual documentary called Returning to Reims. This film takes clips from movies, interviews, and selections from director Didier Eribon’s memoir to tell a history of labor struggles in France. Normally such a subject would be dry but the approach was unique enough to keep me engaged. I think it would have worked better as a documentary short but still I’m glad I saw it.
6 out of 10
Muppets Haunted Mansion
I don’t know if I mention it enough on this blog but I love The Muppets. I even have Muppet May every year over on my youtube channel. That said, the franchise has had a rocky road the last few years. I did not enjoy Muppets Most Wanted and the various TV series have not been good.
Now we have a new film for Disney Plus with Muppets Haunted Mansion. Fortunately it is the best project the franchise has made in a long time. I really enjoyed all the homages to the attraction (which is my favorite at Disneyland). Will Arnett is a lot of fun as the host to a great party Gonzo and Pepe are attending. We also get the adorable image of Piggy and Kermit dressed up as each other.
The only thing I didn’t like was a plot-line with Taraji P. Henson and Pepe getting married. It’s not that funny and took up a lot of the runtime I wish had been given to the rest of the Muppets.
Still, it’s definitely worth a watch especially for Disney parks and Muppets fans. It’s a gift from the Muppets for this Halloween season.
6 out of 10
The Baby-Sitters Club Season 2
I loved the first season of The Baby-Sitters Club on Netflix. It was so well written and cast and felt like an authentic portrayal of teens today.
Now we have season 2 and I loved it all over again. I loved the books growing up and even had my own babysitting club as a tween with my friends. This show so captures the experience of being a teen girl with the insecurities, joys and struggles. But you don’t need to be a teen girl to enjoy the series. If you like good writing and authentic storytelling you will like this show. It’s fantastic.
Particularly great this season is the story for Claudia who faces a great loss. It honestly made me quite emotional. Trust me on this one- you should watch it!
10 out of 10
Have you seen any of these films/shows? What have you been watching? Share in the comment sections.
Hey everyone! I hope you are doing well (or at least as well as can be expected during this crazy time). I have certainly been hard at work both watching and creating content. I am so blessed to be able to do what I do.
While I would love to be a full time critic I am extremely blessed to be able to write/create my reviews and be a part-time corporate blogger for the rest of my job. However I don’t only post to this site. Recently I have reviewed:
With that out of the way let’s share some mini reviews!
Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles
Fans of the Food Network and Top Chef will enjoy this documentary that follows famed chef Yotam Ottolenghi as he puts on an event for the Metropolitan Museum of Art in honor of Versailles. Ottolenghi assembles his crackpot team of eccentric bakers and jello-makers (yes you read right) and their artistic process is fascinating and a lot of fun to watch. I particularly liked chef Dinara Kasko as she fights for her pastry vision from a pushy man who wants her to take the easy way out.
Where Ottolenghi and the Cakes of Versailles doesn’t work as well is in the final act change in messaging. It feels tagged on after so much excess and opulence the entire movie to all the sudden have a social conscience. Not everything has to have a message or speak to the injustices of our time. It’s fine to have one documentary that is just about escapist cakes. No more.
Still it’s a fun movie and available in theaters and on demand.
6 out of 10
Give or Take
One trend I’ve noticed over the last few years is lots of movies about the male experience and in particular unlikely male friendships. Whether it be an Oscar winner like Green Bookor smaller films like To Dust or Papi Chulo we seem to be fascinated as a culture with men and their friendships. Now we have the latest in this trend with the indie film Give or Take and for the most part it works quite well.
Give or Take tells the story of an estranged son (Jamie Effros) who comes home to bury his father and struggles to get along with his father’s spouse Ted (Norbert Leo Butz- who I’ve enjoyed since his Broadway days and they almost let him sing in this!). The film explores themes of forgiveness, loss and what moving on means. The comic relief from people like Cheri Oteri is less effective and the relationship between Martin and his former flame Emma (Joanne Tucker) didn’t really work for me. Still, if you are up for a small, low budget drama it’s worth a watch.
6.5 out of 10
Stars and Strife
With the current political climate being a continual cess pool of despair and depravity I was honestly quite hesitant to watch the new documentary Stars and Strife. Political documentaries very easily veer into the propaganda camp and are more for building up the ideology of the ardent believers than for making persuasive arguments.
Well, color me shocked when Stars and Strife actually turned out to be a hopeful film examining our current condition and how we might be able to dig our way out. It might be too optimistic for some people but in this day and age I will take a little hope where I can get it. It’s also very even-handed with people who worked in Bush and Obama administrations weighing in. This film is available on STARZ and to rent VOD.
7 out of 10
The Human Voice
Right now as part of the New York Film Festival you can have a special film festival type experience right from your own laptop. The great Spanish filmmaker Pedro Almodóvar has made a one-woman short with Tilda Swinton during quarantine and it’s a delight to watch. In addition, with your purchase you get an interview with Swinton and Almodóvar, which includes a passionate speech from the director about getting back to the big screen experience as soon as we possibly can.
The short The Human Voice is ”freely based” on the Jean Cocteau play La voix humaine and is about a woman waiting for her ex to pick up his things and dog in their apartment but he never comes. Both the dog and woman are abandoned and angry yet it is very fun to watch. I love the way Almodóvar uses color and Swinton is fantastic. It captures the sense of isolation we’ve all been feeling lately and is definitely cathartic to watch.
8 out of 10
4 movies today all smile worthy! I love when that happens. What have you been watching? Any recommendations?