Why do I keep doing this? Why do I write reviews, why do I write about films? Why do I even watch films? What is the point of pursuing a creative life when you know that maybe there's nothing waiting for you at the end - no fame, no fortune, no glory. Why? My favorite films are those that challenge me and stimulate me intellectually, that ask big questions and stoke discussions about existence and society and humanity. The Wild Pear Tree, originally titled Ahlat Agaci in Turkish, is the latest film to do this. It's the very last film to premiere at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival, and they saved the best for last. Acclaimed Turkish filmmaker Nuri Bilge Ceylan is a master of words. His dialogue is incomparable, on a whole other level. And he continues to prove this with each and every film he makes. His latest film is one of his best yet, an existential examination of his own fears while taking us on a journey about life focusing on a father and son.
Show me a movie with dogs being treated with love and compassion, and it's already a favorite. I admit that I'm a bit biased and therefore I probably love this film more than I should, but then again, it's a great film. Dogman is the latest feature from acclaimed Italian filmmaker Matteo Garrone (of Gomorrah, Tale of Tales) and it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival this year. The film is not as profound as Garrone's past work, but it is as engaging and still satisfying in its own ways, making it a worthy and admirable cinematic story anyway. Dogman is inspired by a true story of a dog groomer from a small town in Italy who fought back against a thug in the Italian drug underworld, and still kept his dignity (for the most part) while at it.
After playing an ill-conceived faux-Deadpool in 2008’s X-Men Origins: Wolverine, Ryan Reynolds spent years petitioning 20th Century Fox to give the beloved Marvel character the raunchy, irreverent big-screen treatment he deserves. He succeeded. In February 2016, Tim Miller's Deadpool debuted with the biggest R-rated opening of all time. It would go on to become the highest-grossing R-rated film in history with a global box office of more than $750 million in total. A hit with both moviegoers and critics alike, Deadpool's massive success made a sequel inevitable, but does Deadpool 2 live up to the enormous expectations of its rabid fan base, or does it do to sequel cinema what Limp Bizkit did to music in the late '90s?
One of the biggest discoveries and best films of the 2018 Cannes Film Festival is a Belgian dramatic feature titled Girl, from first-time filmmaker Lukas Dhont. I am still stunned by this film, still thinking about it days later. It's always wonderful to see first feature films that have such assured, confident filmmaking, and this is one of those films that is impressive in every way. Girl is about a transgender teenager who dreams of a being a ballerina, and she struggles with the pressures of school and teenager life, along with the intense desire to be perceived and feel like a beautiful woman. It's such an achingly beautiful, emotionally resonant, intelligent, breathtaking film. Perhaps the best transgender film we've seen to date, on a whole other level of excellence above even the Academy Award-winning A Fantastic Woman. One of my favorites of the festival.
"To the ones forgotten by history by those who shape it." While there have been many powerful, important war films over the years, including a few directed by women, Girls of the Sun is a very unique and one-of-a-kind film. Made by French filmmaker Eva Husson, Girls of the Sun (or Les filles du soleil in French) tells the story of a band of Kurdish women fighters, warriors, you could even say, participating in the war in Iraq. This is one of the first and only times we've ever seen a war film about female fighters, focusing entirely on them and their experiences, and it's an engaging and intense experience. More than anything it proves that Eva Husson has the chops to direct even bigger, better action movies and/or features that aren't just simple dramas in a city. And there's a very honorable, empowering aspect to telling this story about these fighters.
"We are not born equal. We must be made equal by the fire, and then we're happy." There's a reason why they've made a new Fahrenheit 451 movie in 2018 - because the world it depicts is a perfectly accurate representation of the society we live in today. The very prescient concept of Ray Bradbury's dystopian novel "Fahrenheit 451" is: to prevent any unhappiness, we must rid the world of alternative opinions and artistic expression and free thinking. To make sure we are all happy, all we have to do is pretend like everyone is equal and not let anyone tell us the truth - and this is exactly what is happening all over the world. They don't want you to know the truth about racism and inequality and sexuality and greed, and we manufacture a fake world of happiness in turn. What happens when we finally learn the truth? We must burn it all down.
I love a good survival film. I don't really know what it is about them, even though they're all quite similar, I still enjoy every last one - The Grey, All is Lost, Gravity, Styx, Buried, The Martian, Life of Pi, 127 Hours, The Revenant, Tracks, Cast Away, The Way Back, Kon-Tiki. The latest survival thriller offering which just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival is a film titled Arctic, about a man trying to survive all by himself in the freezing, cold, snowy arctic. Produced in Iceland and filmed in Iceland, the film is the feature directorial debut of Brazilian filmmaker Joe Penna, and features some very real survival tactics. It also has all of the usual survival film tropes: just when you think everything is fine, something else goes wrong. There's always some animal that makes things worse (in this one, it's a polar bear). Rescuers never see them when nearby.
It's fairly easy to throw around the phrase that a film is an "instant cult classic", but this time I really mean it. Border, which is the translation of the title Gräns in Swedish, is a new film from filmmaker Ali Abbasi (Shelley) and it just premiered at the Cannes Film Festival in the Un Certain Regard section. File this one under "what the fuck did I just watch?!?" It's one of those kind of "WTF" films, but it's actually damn good. The more I think about it, the more I love it, so quirky and ridiculous and weird and wild and disgusting yet surprisingly amusing and tender. The only problem - I don't want to give away the big reveal, and it's hard to talk about this film without discussing that aspect of it. For this early festival review, I'll be as vague as I can, and I won't spoil it - because this is best experienced without knowing the big reveal before watching it.
There's always a few good Russian films at the Cannes Film Festival every year, but this is one of the best Russian films I've ever seen in the nine years I've been coming here. Leto, which translates to Summer, is the latest feature from Russian filmmaker Kirill Serebrennikov (who is currently under house arrest and unable to attend the festival). The B&W film is a tribute to 80s punk rock and musicians who break the rules and sing songs and make music despite the government saying they can't. I could describe Serebrennikov's Leto as a Soviet, 80s rock version of Inside Llewyn Davis meets Trainspotting, directed by a Russian Edgar Wright. It's awesome. And easily my favorite film at Cannes so far (it's only Day 3). The songs throughout, composed by a Russian band called Zveri, are excellent and I need a copy of this film's soundtrack already.
One of the most anticipated premieres at the 2018 Cannes Film Festival is the first-ever film from Kenya to play in Cannes, titled Rafiki (which translates just to Friend in Swahili). Rafiki is the directorial debut of a Kenyan filmmaker named Wanuri Kahiu, and it tells a simple but sweet story of two young women who fall in love on the streets. The film is already banned in Kenya, because of deep-rooted cynicism about about same sex relationships, but that's why it's an important film. As much as I really wanted to love it, the story is nothing new and alas ultra cliche, but it's still a sweet story about falling in love and remaining in love even when everyone else rejects it, and the two leads are wonderful to watch. There is a genuine attraction.
I can't stop thinking about this documentary series. I can't stop thinking about the stories in it. I can't stop thinking about all the people in it. Wild Wild Country, directed by Maclain Way and Chapman Way, produced by filmmakers Mark Duplass and Jay Duplass, is an incredible documentary series from Netflix. I am floored, totally blown away, by everything in it. It's not just the crazy story it tells, it's everything else that goes with it - the questions, the implications, the discussions. I don't want to say my life is changed, but there are definitely things I will never forget. There are big ideas, major philosophical / moral implications, so much to talk about. And I can't help but start writing about it, I have to talk about it, I have to get all of these thoughts out of my mind. I have to rave about how phenomenal this series is and how much I loved it.
18 movies, 10 years, 10 Academy Award nominations, 6 Infinity Stones, and one mad Titan. Those are just some of the numbers the Marvel Cinematic Universe (aka the "MCU") is working with going into its 19th and latest film, Avengers: Infinity War, directed by Anthony & Joe Russo. All roads have certainly been leading to this, the culmination of the ever-expanding MCU and the adventures of the countless superheroes found therein. But Infinity War is unlike any of those adventures in which all of our favorite comic book characters have found themselves involved before. With Marvel Studios seemingly having perfected the superhero formula, it seems now is the perfect time to shake things up, and the MCU doesn't disappoint. Infinity War not only leaves the entire MCU shaken, it works to leave fans of this universe shaken, as well.