Frequently, all it takes is an extraordinary cast to convince me to give a film a chance. Having no knowledge of Sarah Polley's previous movies, one would expect actresses like Claire Foy, Rooney Mara, Jessie Buckley, and Frances McDormand to be the selling point, but the truth is the premise was the winning factor. Simple, straight to the point, and focused on a debate about what to do in the face of constant attacks by men upon a community of women. Stay and fight, leave, or do nothing - options more difficult & complex than they seem. Women Talking discusses each of the choices for 104 incredibly captivating minutes.
The mountains will call you. If you let them, maybe they will change you. There are two extraordinary films this year about mountains and how much they can change and shape and draw us in. As a mountain lover myself, I'm naturally drawn to these kind of films but rarely are two of them in one year this perfect. Both of these films premiered at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival - the first is The Eight Mountains, an Italian film telling the story of two boys and how mountains shape their lives. It was one of my favorite films in Cannes, and I reviewed it then. The second film is The Mountain, a French film starring and made by filmmaker Thomas Salvador. I caught this one at the 2022 Sitges Film Festival in Spain, which is usually where they play horror and sci-fi films. However, it's not so much a horror or sci-fi, more of a quiet, poetic drama with a touch of magic in it that makes all the difference. I am very glad I could watch it on the big screen anyway.
As someone who has recently decided to move abroad, Mexican filmmaker Alejandro G. Iñárritu's new film instantly needed to be added to my watchlist for the 2022 edition of the London Film Festival. Despite a filmmaker with only seven films in total in his portfolio, the writer-director has achieved a high status in Hollywood, and thus, any of his films usually get my attention. Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths got a pretty divisive response at its 2022 Venice Film Festival premiere last month, and while I understand the reasons behind the more negative takes, I'm relieved to be on the positive side with this one.
Even as a film critic, i. e., someone who encounters the big screen more often than the average moviegoer, it's rare to watch two distinguishable flicks consecutively and discover they have almost exactly the same pros and cons. Don't Worry Darling and Crimes of the Future may share similar horror elements, but hardly anyone would remember to directly compare the films of "newcomer" director Olivia Wilde and "legend" filmmaker David Cronenberg. However, seeing these two movies back-to-back within less than 24 hours and without any other content in between only emphasized the importance of all the filmmaking components being in sync, and how much they can influence the general opinion of those who watch them.
The magic of NASA has faded in recent years, no longer the awe-inspiring, astounding, dream-big place that it used to be during the iconic Apollo missions and the Space Shuttle era. But perhaps we're just not seeing inside the walls of NASA anymore, maybe we're just not hearing the stories like we used to? Good Night Oppy is an extraordinary documentary that sets this straight, and puts everything back on course, remind us once again that NASA is still the dream-big, make-it-happen, monumental place that it has always been. Going into this film, I had no idea what I was about to watch. It's about the clunky robot rovers they sent to Mars in 2003. Is that it? Is it just some abstract footage of them on that planet, driving around in Martian silence? Oh yes - it's that and SO much more. This documentary film left me in awe. I was so moved by it, so inspired & invigorated, that I watched it twice within a few days. No notes – this film is pretty much perfect.
I don't just like movies, I love them! If you also love movies as much as I do, then you're probably familiar with the "film bro" - a nerdy dude who is so entirely infatuated with cinema that's all he can talk about or think about. (Here's two good articles about them: on No Film School or Little White Lies.) Film bros can be found anywhere and everywhere, usually lurking in various dark corners of the internet, waiting to slide into some woman's DMs the moment she mentions David Fincher or Punch Drunk Love. Remarkably, there's a new film at the Toronto Film Festival this year called I Like Movies, and it's an awkward coming-of-age drama about a "film bro" from Canada. It's not denigrating film bros, or turning them into someone to laugh at in a movie, it's actually a remarkably empathetic and warm-hearted film about the challenges of growing up as a nerd and growing into yourself. It just so happens to be about a film bro, and it also just so happens to be one of the gems of this year's TIFF line-up. I loved watching this and I hope it finds a bigger audience.
There are plenty of documentaries being made all the time now about climate change and its devastating impact on this planet. Before all of these, there was one doc that changed the entire conversation early on – Davis Guggenheim & Al Gore's An Inconvenient Truth, which premiered in 2006 and went on to win two Academy Awards (and tons of other prizes). With climate change getting worse and worse, and not much hope on the horizon of slowing it down, the conversation among the powerful is now beginning to change instead to – what's going to happen next and how can we manage the inevitable natural disasters and social upheaval. One of the big questions on the horizon over the next few decades is: how will food sources and farms be affected as the world heats up. Which brings us to this documentary The Grab, made by Blackfish director Gabriela Cowperthwaite, premiering at the 2022 Toronto Film Festival. It's the next major doc that can change the entire conversation just like An Inconvenient Truth did. I was in shock after watching it.
The most important question of our times is: how do we solve climate change? It's a tough one to answer. How do we stop destroying our planet, how do we transition to better / safer energy without using fossil fuels anymore? Can society actually transition smoothly? What can we do as an individual to help? Everyone seems to be thinking about this and one person who has been thinking about it quite intently is filmmaker Oliver Stone. Stone has stepped back from making narrative features, but is still making documentaries as he gets older. His latest doc film is called Nuclear, and it just premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival as an important climate change feature at the end of the fest. Half of the film is about global warming and how we let this happen and what's going on with the world. The other half offers a viable answer: nuclear power. It's as persuasive as any film can be - nuclear power truly IS the best immediate solution for climate change mitigation and ending fossil fuel use. If you aren't yet convinced, just watch this film when it's out.
Everyone already knows the story of Marilyn Monroe – the 1950s sex icon, blonde bombshell goddess, beloved movie star. But do we really know the real story? Do we really understand all that she went through, all that she was and wasn't, all that she suffered? Of course, this is a taboo topic – don't you dare shame the magnificent beauty that is Marilyn Monroe, she owned that beauty and no one can take that away from her!! Though really, maybe it's something we should be talking about, maybe we should be looking more into her experiences. Monroe lived through a time in which women were objectified, treated as meat, and given little to no freedom to do what they wanted unless men approved of it. This is true regardless of how things look in retrospect all these years later. Blonde is New Zealand filmmaker Andrew Dominik's first feature film in 10 years (since Killing Them Softly), telling the life story of Norma Jeane. But let's make sure this is clear - this is a work of fiction and doesn't accurately represent her life or experiences. It's just a film, don't forget.
It was a bold move for director Darren Aronofsky to return to Venice after the cold reception to Mother! at the festival in 2017. Festival crowds can be brutal especially when you are trying to play games with them. Although Mother! is an ingenious, gracefully structured take down on obsessively religious patriarchy, it was widely misunderstood. The Whale brings Aronofsky justice and turns him in the eyes of viewers from angry cynic to a humanist. It seems like there is a lot of caution towards the project after the Mother! controversy but the good news is that The Whale finds Aronofsky at his best with a more reserved directing style which still delivers a profound emotional impact elevated by the spectacular performance by Fraser.
Having in mind the most recent years, Hollywood has been trying to amplify the "twin films" phenomenon whenever it happens - two (or sometimes more) movies about the same story produced and released within a short period of time by different studios. The examples are vast over the last few decades, and a quick search for the term will surprise anyone who believes such an event rarely occurs. In fact, with this concept, it's more unusual for two films about precisely the same narrative and featuring the exact same protagonist to be released in the very same year. This is the case with Pinocchio, which is also being adapted into an animated version by Guillermo del Toro - scheduled for the end of November - and a Disney live-action reinterpretation lead by director Robert Zemeckis. Unfortunately, the latter isn't very impressive… at all.
We need to talk about The Son. This film is definitely a conversation starter, even more so than The Father. After winning two Oscars for his dementia drama The Father, talented French director Florian Zeller has returned with his follow-up - a film titled The Son. It's part of Zeller's trilogy about family and fragility and our connections with each other when things go wrong & times get tough. The Son premiered at the 2022 Venice Film Festival as a highly anticipated competition film, and it's worthy of this debut. It may not be as masterful as The Father, but it is a compelling, devastating, seriously captivating drama. I believe Zeller's point is to make us discuss the film - the whole thing is "we need to talk about this" and for the characters, that's very hard to do unfortunately; but for viewers the emotions and twists in the story will make you talk. It's impossible to not have something to say after this - good or bad, sad or happy, as long as you're honest.