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.
From Marvel Studios stalwarts Anthony Russo and Joe Russo comes Avengers: Infinity War, the third installment in the Avengers franchise and 19th Marvel Studios film to date. The movie marks the 10-year anniversary of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, which began with the release of Jon Favreau's Iron Man in 2008. Starring Robert Downey Jr. as billionaire philanthropist playboy Tony Stark, the very first Iron Man movie was a worldwide phenomenon and would serve as the foundation from which Marvel Studios would build an empire. Ten years later, Marvel Studios has opened a record-breaking 18 consecutive movies at #1, with five grossing over $1 billion, and a combined total of over $13 billion at the worldwide box office. To say Avengers: Infinity War has been eagerly anticipated would be an understatement. But does this film, a decade in the making with unprecedented hype, live up to fan fervor and unrealistic expectations?
There's been something of a horror-sance (a horror renaissance) at work so far in 2018. Never mind the fact that a horror film (The Shape of Water) won Best Picture at the Oscars, and another horror film (Get Out) was a very strong candidate for the trophy. The genre output so far in 2018 has been stellar with filmmakers delivering effective chills and believable characters through quality storytelling. In a nutshell, it's a good time to be a fan of horror cinema, and the good time continues with A Quiet Place. It has everything fans of the genre would want: likeable and well-written characters; decent pacing throughout; and, most importantly, an absolutely terrifying premise with equally scary moments. A Quiet Place is a monster movie that plays the sub-genre to a T, and shows once again there is still some art to be had in the horror genre.
In a legendary career spanning more than four decades, Steven Spielberg changed the film industry with his influential science fiction and adventure movies. Timeless films, such as Jaws (1975), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977), Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981), E.T. the Extra-Terrestrial (1982), and Jurassic Park (1993), are revered as archetypes of contemporary Hollywood escapist cinema. Along with other pop culture touchstones of the era, like Star Wars (1977) and Superman: The Motion Picture (1978), Spielberg's movies paved the way for the massive blockbusters that now dominate the box office year-round. With his new film, the unabashedly entertaining Ready Player One, Spielberg adapts author Ernie Cline's NY Times bestseller, a love letter to the 1980s that would not exist without the director's unparalleled output.