Home is where the heart is. And as they say in this film: a house is not the same as a home. Being house-less is not the same as being homeless. That's a lesson we can all learn. Nomadland is the third feature film made by acclaimed filmmaker Chloe Zhao, following her massive success with the indie film The Rider in 2017/2018. This time she follows a lonely drifter named Fern as she travels around various places in the United States of America in a van she calls home. She lives and sleeps in the van, and finds cheap places to park and stay in order to live off-grid, inexpensively, and without any other baggage to carry around. But it's not an easy life, and Fern still must find some work to pay for food and other expenses. Nomadland is the most soulful film of the year. It's utterly gorgeous, a poetic journey into the van-life of modern nomads.
The internet is a fame machine. It can turn nobodies into world famous celebrities in the blink of an eye. We all know how it works, of course, but is internet fame really a good thing anymore?
Probably Definitely not. But everyone is still addicted to fame and fortune and money, even if it's just to watch someone else become famous. Especially the younger generations, so many teens need that attention and adoration to feel good about themselves. First Ingrid Goes West, then Spree, and now Mainstream - a subgenre is forming about how toxic and horrible social media is and how we're all a part of it. Mainstream is director Gia Coppola's second feature film (following Palo Alto) and it's a loud, wild, crazy film that does not shy away in literally straight up telling the viewers that they we are all involved in this delusion even if we don't want to admit it.
What do two idiots, one giant fly, and Adèle Exarchopoulos have in common? Absolutely nothing! Except for a desire to eat good food and enjoy themselves in the summer sun. Mandibules is the latest creation from wacky French filmmaker Quentin Dupieux (of Rubber, Wrong, Reality, Deerskin) and it's an amusing, lighthearted, unquestionably enjoyable film about uh, two idiots, one giant fly, and Adèle Exarchopoulos. It's super weird, super French, buddy comedy ridiculousness. But that's the magic of Quentin Dupieux - he makes entirely original and entirely entertaining films. And this one clocks in at only 77 minutes, which is both just long enough, and also not long enough. You'll see what I mean once you watch it, because just as it's getting real good, it's over. Then again, better to not ruin it when everything else is pretty much perfect.
Life is not only happiness and love and wonderful moments, as much we all wish it were. With all the good in life, there is also the bad, and every last one of us struggles greatly with the weight of emotions during these tough times when they find us. Each one of us responds and reacts differently, and it's not always easy to pull yourself back together after a tragedy. Pieces of a Woman is a film by Hungarian director Kornél Mundruczó, and writer Kata Wéber, and to be blunt: it's a film about grief. Not just grief itself, but about all five stages of grief: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and finally acceptance. It is an exceptionally emotional film, realistic in its depiction of people dealing with grief, and also vividly cinematic. It's the kind of film what will break you and then, through an honest depictions of good people, rebuild you by the end.
When I was in school growing up we studied a painting that particularly captured my heart and my mind. Its title, Where Do We Come From? What Are We? Where Are We Going?, is a perfect description of the events portrayed in the painting. The French Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin created this masterpiece in Tahiti, painting characters that are meditating on the questions about human existence listed in the title. We ought to study the painting from right to left, starting with a sleeping child's figure and ending with an old woman near her death. These same existential questions immediately came to mind while watching I'm Thinking of Ending Things, the latest feature film both written and directed by Charlie Kaufman (director of Synecdoche New York, Anomalisa). Based on the debut novel by Iain Reed, this metaphysical thriller-drama touches on captivating ideas such as dreading existence and merciless aging of human being.
"I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet, you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!" Yes - preach! We all know who she is, we've all seen her speeches. Greta Thunberg is an inspirational hero, a passionate activist and defender of this beautiful planet we all live on. I Am Greta is a new documentary profile of Swedish teenager Greta Thunberg, marking the feature directorial debut of filmmaker Nathan Grossman. It's an emotional, intimate, gratifying doc film following closely her rise to power the last few years. A stirring story of hope - hope in younger generations. The film doesn't necessarily bring anything new to the table, Greta has already been doing her best to make everyone aware of what's going on with our planet, but it is still a deeply satisfying watch. It really moved me to tears.
There's nothing like watch a good film that leaves you with that warm embrace of cinema. Apples was my first screening of the 2020 Venice Film Festival, an interesting experience considering we're all wearing masks and sitting at least 1 meter (or ~3.3 feet) away from everyone else in the theater. But I'm happy to report it's an absolute delight. Apples is the feature directorial debut of a Greek filmmaker named Christos Nikou, who also co-wrote the screenplay with Stavros Raptis. Nikou is a bit of protégé of famed Greek filmmaker Yorgos Lanthimos; he worked as the second assistant director on Dogtooth years ago. Now he's ready to make his mark as a filmmaker in his own and his feature debut is worthy of our admiration. It's a very tender, understanding film that reminds us to live in our own way, no matter how hard that might be.
Screened as a selection of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. Many stories begin with, "a man walks into a bar." They are often light jokes, but some involve bone-chilling circumstances and plot twists that we would never expect to follow. The latter transpires in The Oak Room, a suspenseful thriller from Canadian filmmaker Cody Calahan (Let Her Out) and written by Peter Genoway (Masks). The creators set the story during a frosty storm in a small, dim-lit bar. What captures our attention right away is the filmmakers' ability to generate anxiety around a variety of storylines and surprise us with sudden twists and turns in the film. Calahan also highlights the tremendous value and significance of well-crafted, enigmatic storytelling.
Screened as a selection of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. Working is generally exhausting. Even if you love your job, it can still be draining. Every one of us has had a bad day at work, and it can be because of many different factors. However, I guarantee that you haven't had as horrible of a day at work as Mandy (Angela Bettis) in the film 12 Hour Shift. The second feature written & directed by actress Brea Grant (Best Friends Forever), is deeply entertaining and bloody. While engaging audiences with its sick sense of humor, 12 Hour Shift explores the world of a nurse going through the worst night of her life. With extreme edginess and wicked characters, this is my second favorite watch so far of this year’s Fantasia Film Festival.
How far would you go to save someone in the face of danger? Or would you only care about yourself? Those questions and many survival quandaries are present in the original Train to Busan. Writer / director Yeon Sang-ho focuses the story on humanity, self-preservation, and greed. Coincidentally, I watched the original movie just a few weeks ago, and it completely changed my perspective on zombie films. Returning for the sequel, Yeon Sang-ho touches on similar themes in Train to Busan 2: Peninsula, and further explores these questions through the characters' actions. Although the second film stumbles and does not reinvent zombie genre nor is it anything unique, the storyline, special effects, and the message behind the film may still be worthwhile for viewers. It also touches on topics of community, population, and mutual respect.
Screened as a selection of the virtual 2020 Fantasia Film Festival. Shortly after watching The Columnist, I noticed that Twitter enabled a very interesting feature – you can now control who can reply to your tweets. It would be a highly valuable benefit for Femke Boot (played by Dutch actress Katja Herbers), the titular columnist of a local newspaper, and author of an upcoming book. The film, directed by Ivo van Aart (of Quantum Zeno) and written by Daan Windhorst, is a powerful revenge comedy horror and a cautionary tale that perfectly connects to contemporary culture, teaching us an important lesson. Plus, it's bloody good fun.
"We're all going to die at some point," says Jason (played by Chris Messina) at some point in She Dies Tomorrow, written and directed by Amy Seimetz (Sun Don't Shine). Those words brought me back to one particular moment of my childhood. It was late evening, and I was already lying down in my bed. The light was on because I refused to sleep in darkness. Suddenly, a horrible feeling came over me, and the few-year-old me started wailing. I ran to my parents, crying my eyes out. They hugged me and looked at me with concern in their eyes. "I'm very afraid of dying," I choked out. I don't remember the rest, or what my parents told me. But Neon's latest release made me think of that moment and every other one when I had a feeling of death creeping behind me. Seimetz makes sure that the audience will think about the film long after and crafts a narrative based around visualizing an eerie sense of anxiety and its contagious impact on others.