Pachamama (2018)

Pachamama
Director: Juan Antin
Writer: Juan Antin, Patricia Valeix, Olivier de Bannes, Nathalie Hertzberg
Cast: Andrea Santamaria, India Coenen, Saïd Amadis, Marie-Christine Darah, Vincent Ropion, Jean-Marc Pannetier [I saw the film in English, these are the French voice actors]
Seen on: 23.3.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) colonialism

Plot:
Tepulpai (Andrea Santamaria) wants to become a shaman like Shaman (Saïd Amadis). When its time to prove that he is willing to sacrifice his most treasured possession to Pachamama and thus prove that he is becoming an adult, he can’t do it – unlike Naira (India Coenen) who is ready to sacrifice her small llama Lamita. When a tax collector shows up in their village and takes not only more than the village can afford, but also their Huaca, a sacred idol, Tepulpai hopes he can prove himself after all – by bringing back the Huaca.

Pachamama is a really beautiful film with a political core, but the story and the voice acting didn’t quite work for me.

The film poster showing Tepulpai and Naira flying on a big Condor bird. Lamita is watching them from the ground.
Continue reading

A Wrinkle in Time (2018)

A Wrinkle in Time
Director: Ava DuVernay
Writer: Jennifer Lee, Jeff Stockwell
Based on: Madeleine L’Engle’s novel
Cast: Storm Reid, Levi Miller, Deric McCabe, Oprah Winfrey, Reese Witherspoon, Mindy Kaling, Chris Pine, Gugu Mbatha-Raw, Zach Galifianakis, Michael Peña, André Holland, Rowan Blanchard, Bellamy Young, David Oyelowo
Seen on: 22.3.2021

Plot:
Meg Murry (Storm Reid) is an unusual child from an unusual family. Her mother (Gugu Mbatha-Raw) is a scientist, as is her father (Chris Pine) – who has been missing for a while. He was working on tesseracts when he just disappeared. Meg’s genius little brother Charles Wallace (Deric McCabe) seems to know more about it. And he has made some strange friends who know even more than that: Mrs Whatsit (Reese Witherspoon), Mrs Who (Mindy Kaling) and Mrs Which (Oprah Winfrey). The three women prompt Meg, Charles Wallace and Meg’s class mate Calvin (Levi Miller) to go looking for her father – all through the universe.

I was rather disappointed when A Wrinkle in Time never got a big cinema release here in Austria, and I still think I would have appreciated seeing it on the big screen – the film is at its best, after all, when it just creates visuals. Other than those, it is very fine, but not great.

The film poster showing the main characters arranged in a circle.
Continue reading

Sun Dogs (2017)


Sun Dogs
Director: Jennifer Morrison
Writer: Raoul McFarland
Cast: Michael Angarano, Melissa Benoist, Allison Janney, Ed O’Neill, Eric Christian Olsen, J.R. Ramirez, Alexander Wraith, Xzibit, Jennifer Morrison
Seen on: 21.3.2021

Content Note: ableism, suicide

Plot:
Ned (Michael Angarano) has one goal, and one goal only: he wants to join the Marines to fight against the terrorists who caused 9/11. He has been trying every year for three years since 2001, not realizing that he will never make it because of his disability. When he makes yet another attempt, the recruiter Master Sgt. Jenkins (Xzibit) tries to let him down easy by sending Ned on a mission at home, not anticipating that Ned takes this mission absolutely seriously. So seriously, in fact, that he even convices Tally (Melissa Benoist), a rather lost, young woman, that the mission is very real and that she can help.

Sun Dogs is sweet and warm, but I wasn’t entirely comfortable with it, I have to admit. Despite that, I’d say that the good outweighs the bad here.

The film poster showing the film's main characters. Front and center Ned (Michael Angarano), saluting while clutching a mascot head.
Continue reading

The Perfection (2018)

The Perfection
Director: Richard Shepard
Writer: Eric C. Charmelo, Richard Shepard, Nicole Snyder
Cast: Allison Williams, Logan Browning, Steven Weber, Alaina Huffman
Seen on: 20.3.2021

Content Note: rape, child abuse, pedophilia, racism, ableism

Plot:
Charlotte (Allison Williams) used to be a promising cellist at the Bachoff academy, the famous music school, until she had to quit as a teenager to take care of her ill mother. Quite a few years later now, her mother has finally passed and Charlotte flies to Shanghai where she meets Lizzie (Logan Browning), the school’s new star, and her old mentors Anton (Steven Weber) and Paloma (Alaina Huffman). There is an instant spark between Charlotte and Lizzie and Lizzie invites Charlotte to come with her on a trip through China the next day. That trip proves to be rather more fateful for them than expected.

The Perfection starts off well enough, but then it starts to fall over itself in attempts to be clever that ultimately derail the entire film.

The film poster showing Charlotte (Allison Williams) playing a cello. There is blood on her face and on the cello.
Continue reading

Queen of Nothing (T.A. Pratt)

Queen of Nothing is the ninth of the Marla Mason novels by T.A. Pratt.
Finished on: 20.3.2021
[Here are my reviews of the other books in the series.]

Plot:
Rondeau and Pelham are waiting for Marla to show up after her required month in the underworld is over. Except, she never shows and the longer she is late, the more worried they become that something is seriously amiss. After all she spent the last month as a god and something really bad must have happened for her to not stick to the bargain. Rondeau and Pelham go to B to see if he can find out more by conjuring up an oracle, when an unlikely maybe-ally-definitely-former-enemy shows up and appears to help.

Queen of Nothing is the penultimate of the Marla Mason novels and it already feels like things are starting to get wrapped up a little. That doesn’t mean that there is nothing interesting happening anymore, but it does feel a little bittersweet.

The book cover showing an empty, spiky throne in an icy landscape.
Continue reading

Gruber geht [Gruber Is Leaving] (2015)

Gruber geht
Director: Marie Kreutzer
Writer: Marie Kreutzer
Based on: Doris Knecht’s novel
Cast: Manuel Rubey, Bernadette Heerwagen, Doris Schretzmayer, Ulrike Beimpold, Fabian Krüger, Pia Hierzegger
Seen on: 16.3.2021

Content Note: homomisia

Plot:
John Gruber (Manuel Rubey) loves the expensive things in life, and little else. His sister Kathi (Doris Schretzmayer) who moved to the country with her family certainly doesn’t get much more from him than contempt. Just as Gruber has trouble with a big account in his firm and fears that he might have cancer, he meets DJ Sarah (Bernadette Heerwagen). Sarah happens to be there when Gruber gets the confirmation of his cancer diagnosis, turning their fling into something more. Both Sarah and his illness make him reconsider the priorities in his life – but that is not an easy process.

Writing this review feels a bit like saying goodbye after a lackluster first date. There just was no spark between the film and me. Sometimes these things just don’t work out. We had a nice time, but there won’t be a second date. In short, Gruber geht is a good film that I just didn’t find very interesting.

The film poster showing Gruber (Manuel Rubey) in bed with Sarah (Bernadette Heerwagen). She is handing him a cigarette.
Continue reading

Thoroughbreds (2017)

Thoroughbreds
Director: Cory Finley
Writer: Cory Finley
Cast: Olivia Cooke, Anya Taylor-Joy, Anton Yelchin, Paul Sparks, Francie Swift, Kaili Vernoff
Seen on: 14.3.2021

Content Note: ableism/saneism

Plot:
Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) used to be friends when they were children, but they haven’t seen each other in a long time. Now Amanda’s mother has asked Lily to hang out with her again since Amanda got quite a reputation after an incident with her horse. And Amanda is weird, no doubt about it. But despite initial awkwardness, they bond over their mutual dislike for Lily’s stepdad Mark (Paul Sparks) – which leads to a plan that could solve their problem.

Thoroughbreds has excellent performances and a good sense of style, but also an ending that ruined the film for me, unfortunately.

The film poster showing Lily (Anya Taylor-Joy) and Amanda (Olivia Cooke) sitting as far away from each other as possible on a white couch in a white room wearing white and gray.
Continue reading

Die Deutschmeister [A March for the Emperor] (1955)

Die Deutschmeister
Director: Ernst Marischka
Writer: Ernst Marischka
Remake of: Frühjahrsparade (to which Marischka also wrote the script)
Cast: Romy Schneider, Magda Schneider, Siegfried Breuer Jr., Josef Meinrad, Gretl Schörg, Susi Nicoletti, Adrienne Gessner, Hans Moser, Paul Hörbiger, Gunther Philipp, Wolfgang Lukschy, Fritz Imhoff
Seen on: 14.3.2021

Plot:
After having her fortune told by a parrot, Stanzi (Romy Schneider) knows that she has to come to Vienna to visit her aunt Therese (Magda Schneider) who runs a bakery there. Right when she arrives, Stanzi gets caught up in a ball where she utterly confuses Baron Zorndorf (Gunther Philipp) who thinks her a countess. But the Baron is quickly forgotten when Stanzi meets the young drummer Willy (Siegfried Breuer Jr.) whose head is filled with music. When Stanzi sees an opportunity to help Willy by contacting the Kaiser (Paul Hörbiger) on his behalf, she takes it, even if that spells embarrassment for her aunt and the court counselor Hofwirth (Josef Meinrad) who is trying to court Therese.

Die Deutschmeister is a film that basically consists entirely of kitsch and is seasoned with a couple of charming characters. If you’re looking for Monarchy nostalgia and an intense dose of sugar, this is the film to turn to.

The film poster showing Stanzi (Romy Schneider) in the Prater with her date Willy (Siegfried Breuer Jr.).
Continue reading

Butter on the Latch (2013)

Butter on the Latch
Director: Josephine Decker
Writer: Josephine Decker
Cast: Sarah Small, Isolde Chae-Lawrence, Charlie Hewson, Emily Decker, Stephan Goldbach, Yury Yakor
Seen on: 13.3.2021

Plot:
Sarah (Sarah Small) lives the hectic New York Life behind for a few days to spend it with her friend Isolde (Isolde Chae-Lawrence) at a Balkan song and dance camp that takes place in the middle of a forest. They spend their days talking and drumming and singing and talking some more – until they have a falling out over an apparent triviality and Sarah starts pursuing Steph (Charlie Hewson).

Butter on the Latch is Decker’s debut feature and having seen (almost all) her films now in (almost) reverse chronological order, it is clear how much she has grown as a filmmaker since her first film. But that doesn’t mean that Butter on the Latch doesn’t have good qualities. It is still a very strong debut.

The film poster showing a drawing of two women holding each other surrounded by swirls and swirls of hair.
Continue reading

Queenie (Candice Carty-Williams)

Queenie is the first novel by Candice Carty-Williams.
Finished on: 13.3.2021

Content Note: abuse, sexualized violence, self-harm, mental illness, (critical treatment of) racism and misogynoir

Plot:
Queenie works as a journalist and lives with her boyfriend Tom. Or rather, she lived with Tom – until Tom decided to stay with his parents for a while. When Tom finally asks Queenie to move out of their apartment while they are on a break, Queenie starts to unravel completely. She feels out of place at work and with her family, and generally feels out of sorts. While her friends try to support her, it is unclear whether Queenie can support herself.

Queenie is an unusual book in that it both handles really tough topics and has the tone of a RomCom most of the time. You have to brace yourself for many parts of the novel, and then you find yourself laughing again. It is a mix that is both uncomfortable and works extremely well. I was very impressed by it, especially considering that it’s a debut novel.

The book cover showing the drawing of a knot of rasta locks, and a pierced ear with three earrings. The face of the drawn person isn't visible.
Continue reading