The word “acceptance” plays a prominent role in The Passing On, Nathan Clarke’s new documentary about an African-American funeral director mentoring his potential successor.
When James Bryant quizzes his mentee about the five stages of grief there is a pregnant and symbolic pause between “depression” and “acceptance.” Bryant’s mentee, Clarence Pierre, states that “I’m black, but I don’t feel like I am accepted” in the African-American community. Pierre is gay; whether the ostracism he feels
High School Musical goes to Bible camp.
If you think that sounds like the most awesome thing ever, read no further and head over to Netflix. A Week Away is a decently crafted genre piece that youth pastors can pop on at retreats and not have to worry about getting fired over. .
I mostly want to address this review, however, to those who hear that pitch and think it sounds like the worst possible combination imaginable. It’s not. Actually, it’s somewhat winsome, and the genres work toget
Once Upon a Sea comes touted as “an extended reality” created by Adi Lavy.
Virtual Reality videos are still new enough that we haven’t yet developed the critical language with which to describe them. As a newcomer to the VR experience — I bought my Oculus Quest 2 a few weeks ago — I’ve mostly learned that “immersive” is the adjective of choice to sell the VR experience, be it game, narrative film, or documentary.
I approached Once Upon a Sea with the expectation that the “immersive” qu
I judge art documentaries by one of two standards. Does the film tell me something I don’t know about the subject? Is it entertaining or engaging in its own right, regardless of its subject?
Gustav Stickley: American Craftsman gets an affirmative response for the first question but maybe not the second. Consequently, I recommend it, but your mileage may vary depending on how interesting a sixty-seven-minute documentary on a furniture maker sounds to you.
Even at sixty-seven minutes, th
I don’t think you need to know Sophocles’s twenty-four hundred-year-old play to understand Sophie Desraspe’s very loose adaptation of it. You certainly don’t need to know it in order to appreciate the film on its own terms.
What Desrape’s Antigone lifts from Sophocles’s play is not the plot details so much as the themes and the indelible character. The name Antigone is literally transcribed as “against–birth/offspring.” Not that Antigone is the adversary of her sibling — far from it. In Sop
Ask the average patron standing outside The Getty, The MoMa, or The Louvre to name the best artists of all time, and M.C. Escher probably wouldn’t be in the first dozen names ticked off.
But show the print reproduced above, or the dual hands drawing each other, or the endlessly ascending staircase to just about anyone, whether he or she is an art aficionado or not, and chances are that person will know the creator.
Robin Lutz’s affable documentary begins with Stephen Fry reading the art
Whether you are a critic, a fan, or something in-between, you have no doubt experienced the delicious pleasure of discovering a show or a band or a film before it breaks out.
You have also no doubt shared that the glum experience of watching that personal favorite lose something of its appeal as it seeks and finds a larger audience.
Cobra Kai on YouTube was a quirky, clever, nostalgic favorite that avoided the extremes of deconstruction and imitation. It wasn’t simply a repeat of the Ka
When someone he has befriended leaves the Ku Klux Klan, he often gives Daryl Davis the robe he wore as a member of that group. Over the years, Davis, by his own account, has amassed dozens of these retired jerseys of hate. Accidental Courtesy: Daryl Davis, Race & America, which premiered this week at SXSW, chronicles Davis’s attempts to impact America by changing the hearts and minds of one racist at a time.
Daryl goes to Klan rallies. He has invited Klansmen to his home and visited them
Love Sarah begins immediately after the death of the titular character, whom we are told was a world class chef. Sarah’s partner reluctantly agrees to sell the restaurant space, and her daughter meets Sarah’s estranged mother because she has nowhere to live.
I would like you to stop for a moment and predict three things you might expect to happen in a movie with the set up described above. Go ahead, I’ll wait…
If you actually did the above exercise and are still reading, you might make
The year that has just completed has been unlike any other, both in the imaginary worlds of film and the real world from which theaters so often provide relief. Yes, every year, every moment of time, is unique. But by the time one is half way through one’s sixth decade living, one has grown accustomed to those moments bearing at least a striking resemblance to memorable ones that have preceded it. The global pandemic and the turmoil surrounding the American political landscape were not unprecede
The Civil War has ended, but the country’s wounds are still fresh. This is obvious to Captain Jefferson Kyle Kidd (Tom Hanks). He sees the divide, firsthand, as he rides through Texas towns delivering current events at public hearings. The clink of dimes falling into his tin cup pays his humble lifestyle. He spends the night in the local inn then moves on to the next town.
One day, the Captain stumbles upon a ransacked wagon. The only thing remaining is Johanna (Helena Zengel) — a young orph
Jane Austen’s Pride & Prejudice had a working title of First Impressions. Although she did not ultimately use that title for any of her novels, it remained a running theme throughout much of her fiction. The dangers of forming judgments too quickly and based on too little evidence are displayed again and again in the Austenverse.
My first impression on hearing that Alex Appel and Jonathan Lisecki had made a loose adaptation of Austen’s last (and in some ways most mature) novel was to gr
The beginning and ending of Another Round are very strong. Thomas Vinterberg’s portrait of an alcoholic culture is quite effective at varying its tone — demonstrating the highs as well as the lows of using drink as a mood enhancer.
The film’s opener is a depiction of a secondary school tradition — a team race around a lake with mandated drinking at each checkpoint. The friends who participate in it grow up to be teachers at the school and witness their own students acquire the habits of dr
James Erskine’s Billie is a little gem of a documentary, more oral history than biography.
That is arrives streaming this week with little fanfare is mildly surprising but entirely shocking. Even in non-pandemic years, the vagaries of awards campaigns are many. In the documentary field, it is hard for even a well-financed and distributed film to get much attention.
But that’s not the whole story. Billie had a festival run, as many documentaries do. Early responses that I read were muted
The Croods: A New Age unfolds like an American football game where a perennial 5-11 team (I’m looking at you, Washington) grabs a first quarter lead. For a short while, fans hold out hope that the familiar patterns will be avoided. By the end, things revert to normal, and one finds oneself thinking of what might have been rather than celebrating what one actually saw.
The sorta fresh twist is that the Croods meet the Bettermans, a more…evolved…family that sleep in separate rooms, practice pe
Alex Gibney is the rare documentarian who usually ends up convincing me regardless of whether or not I start on the same side of his arguments.
Taxi to the Dark Side and Going Clear are powerful indictments of the U.S. military presence in Iraq and the Church of Scientology, but one hardly needs to be a latter-day Clarence Darrow to earn my assent about such subjects. In Zero Days, he argues that the Obama administration and Israel were the ultimate authors of the Stuxnet virus — a form of
Like its protagonists, Han Van Meegeren and Joseph Piller, The Last Vermeer is unassuming. Its subject — the looting of European art by the Nazis — was covered more dramatically in Monuments Men and Woman in Gold. Add to that the fact that Van Meegeren was a historical figure, and the outcome of its mystery will be known to many of the viewers from the outset.
Was Van Meegeren (Guy Pearce) a collaborator who helped Nazis plunder Dutch cultural treasures, or was he a subversive forger who tr
Joan of Arc is titled Jeanne in its French release, and for the first thirty seconds or so, I thought I had popped in a screener for Dumont’s 2017 (I-don’t-know-what-else-to-call-it-except-maybe-a-cult-classic) Jeannette: The Childhood of Joan of Arc.
It has the same sandy patch of land serving as a location, the same dry cleaned and pressed banners and blue nun’s robes that look so very, very, 15th century, and, of course, the same jarringly anachronistic soundtrack. Joan is a couple years
Leap of Faith: William Friedkin on The Exorcist is an engaging and interesting film even if you are not a horror aficionado.
I’m not a horror fan, but The Exorcist is one of those rare films that transcends its genre. Participating in one distinct thread of the Gothic horror tradition, the film presents supernatural evil as a part of our real world. It doesn’t explain away the supernatural at the end, rather it argues that the world is full of unexplained phenomena. Only in recent centuri
In a video discussion provided to critics with the advanced screener of Hillbilly Elegy, director Ron Howard admitted to having trouble finding the through story in J. D. Vance’s popular memoir. Howard added that he was somewhat skittish about the book’s sociopolitical angle but wanted to film it because the people in it acted like his own extended family.
That stance is certainly understandable, but it’s unfortunate because it moves away from the primary reason most people were interested i
At several moments during Regina King’s One Night in Miami, I found myself thinking the film was working better than I expected. I kept waiting for its rickety structure of dramatic monologues stitched together to collapse, but it never did.
“Worked better than it should” is, of course, a critical cliché, and a pretentious one at that. What I mean by it is that I don’t typically appreciate movies where characters are mouthpieces for socio-political arguments and the plot is largely limited
Although 2020 has seen a limited number of theatrical film releases, it has nevertheless provided cinephiles with many options for DVD and streaming experiences. For fans of Tom Tykwer, Kino Lorber’s new box set of Babylon Berlin is one of the year’s highlights. Seasons 1 and 2 are available now, with a separate set of Season Three discs coming in November.
Tykwer’s filmography includes high-energy thrillers like Run Lola Run and The International as well as more somber, pensive fare such as
It is admittedly difficult these days to separate the pleasure of having any new movie to watch from the pleasures induced by a particular film.
That caveat aside, I could not have asked for a better choice than Chloe Zhao’s Nomadland as my first theatrical film experience in over six months. While theaters in North Carolina just reopened this month, spikes in COVID-19 have discouraged me from heading to them. It has only been with the opening of a new drive-in theater in connection with Cha
The singular thing about Harry Chapin is not that he promoted causes in and through his musical performances but that he managed to do so in a way that endeared rather than alienated him from most listeners.
Perhaps that is a consequence of the fact that the cause about which he was most outspoken – world hunger – is viewed as non-partisan. But Chapin still talked about wealth and class disparities with the sort of rhetoric that would most likely receive pushback from some segments of the co