Mid90s (2018)

Mid90s
Director: Jonah Hill
Writer: Jonah Hill
Cast: Sunny Suljic, Katherine Waterston, Lucas Hedges, Na-kel Smith, Olan Prenatt, Gio Galicia, Ryder McLaughlin
Seen on: 30.12.2021

Content Note: domestic violence, child abuse, homomisic and ableist slurs

Plot:
Stevie (Sunny Suljic) lives with his mother Dabney (Katherine Waterston) and his bigger brother Ian (Lucas Hedges). Things aren’t easy at home. Stevie gets beaten up regularly by Ian, and Dabney is rarely present, usually caught up with some man or another. When Stevie stumbles upon a group of skaters, he hopes to find the community there that he lacks at home. He takes up skating and gets to know the boys. But they are older and wilder than him.

For some reason, I thought that Mid90s would be a light-hearted film. It is not, and it disabused me of that notion within the first 30 seconds or so. Once I readjusted my expectations, I found it quite good in many ways.

The film poster showing Stevie (Sunny Suljic) photographed slightly from below against a blue sky with white clouds.
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Lazzaro felice [Happy as Lazzaro] (2018)

Lazzaro felice
Director: Alice Rohrwacher
Writer: Alice Rohrwacher
Cast: Adriano Tardiolo, Agnese Graziani, Alba Rohrwacher, Luca Chikovani, Tommaso Ragno, Sergi López, Natalino Balasso, Carlo Tarmati, Pasqualina Scuncia, Nicoletta Braschi
Seen on: 30.11.2021

Content Note: ableism

Plot:
Inviolata is a small, secluded village that is pretty much cut off from the rest of the world. The people there live poorly and work hard as tobacco farmers for the Marchesa Alfonsina De Luna (Nicoletta Braschi) who comes to her estate only rarely. Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) is one of the workers, a sweet and obedient young man who is always pleasant and does whatever he is told – and he is told to do a lot. On one of the Marchesa’s visits, Lazzaro meets her son Tancredi (Luca Chikovani). Tancredi sees an opportunity in using Lazzaro to pretend that he was kidnapped, but that ruse backfires and changes all of their lives forever.

Lazzaro felice is interesting in many ways, but it did lose me along the way at some point – around the same time that it seemed to lose track of what story it is trying to tell in the first place.

The film poster showing Lazzaro (Adriano Tardiolo) half hidden behind tobacco leaves.
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Destroyer (2018)

Destroyer
Director: Karyn Kusama
Writer: Phil Hay, Matt Manfredi
Cast: Nicole Kidman, Toby Kebbell, Tatiana Maslany, Sebastian Stan, Scoot McNairy, Bradley Whitford, Toby Huss
Seen on: 1.9.2021

Plot:
Erin (Nicole Kidman) is a police officer, only barely holding herself together. When a body turns up with markings that connect it to an undercover case from the very beginning of Erin’s career, she re-opens the investigation, she knows that her past has finally caught up with her – and that she may finally set things right.

Destroyer very cleverly cast Nicole Kidman against type, but I often felt that it relies to hard on that cleverness, on Kidman’s sallow looks. It is a decent crime movie, but it could have been a little more.

The film poster showing a close-up of half of Erin's (Nicole Kidman) face with deep shadows under her eyes in blue and red light.
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Une colonie [A Colony] (2018)

Une colonie
Director: Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
Writer: Valérie Beaugrand-Champagne, Geneviève Dulude-De Celles
Cast: Emilie Bierre, Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie, Irlande Côté, Cassandra Gosselin-Pelletier, Leia Scott
Seen on: 31.8.2021

Content Note: (critical treatment of) racism

Plot:
Mylia (Emilie Bierre) is a quiet teenager, spending most of her time with her sister Camille (Irlande Côté) and her chaotic family. Starting a new school means that Mylia has to figure out where she belongs – with popular Jacinthe (Cassandra Gosselin-Pelletier) or with Jimmy (Jacob Whiteduck-Lavoie) who is Abenaki, which makes him an outsider in his own community.

Une colonie is a nice coming-of-age film though I was hoping for a little more engagement with racism from the title and the fact that Jimmy is Indigenous. Still, I really liked it.

The film poster showing a close-up of Mylia (Emilie Bierre) looking into the distance.
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The Kindergarten Teacher (2018)

The Kindergarten Teacher
Director: Sara Colangelo
Writer: Sara Colangelo
Remake of: Haganenet
Cast: Maggie Gyllenhaal, Parker Sevak, Gael García Bernal, Ato Blankson-Wood, Libya Pugh, Michael Chernus, Carter Kojima, Jillian Panlilio, Anna Baryshnikov, Noah Rhodes, Rosa Salazar, Samrat Chakrabarti, Ajay Naidu
Seen on: 13.7.2021

Plot:
Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) is a kindergarten teacher. Her own kids are growing up fast, things with her husband (Michael Chernus) are comfortable, and Lisa takes a poetry classe with Simon (Gael García Bernal) to do something for herself. One day, she hears one of her kindergarteners, Jimmy (Parker Sevak), making up a poem – a poem that speaks of great talent. Lisa starts doing everything in her power to foster his talent.

The Kindergarten Teacher is a strong film with a fantastic Maggie Gyllenhaal, but I do have issues with the ending it gives us. Still, the way to that ending is really good.

The film poster showing Lisa (Maggie Gyllenhaal) and Jimmy (Parker Sevak) sitting dressed up on plastic chairs on a ferry.
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Birthmarked (2018)

Birthmarked
Director: Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Writer: Marc Tulin, Emanuel Hoss-Desmarais
Cast: Matthew Goode, Toni Collette, Andreas Apergis, Jordan Poole, Megan O’Kelly, Anton Gillis-Adelman, Michael Smiley, Fionnula Flanagan, Suzanne Clément
Seen on: 5.6.2021

Plot:
Catherine (Toni Collette) and Ben (Matthew Goode) are scientists. It seems to them that their careers were pretty much fated, which gave them an interest in studying where the line between nature and nurture might lie. To that end, they are planning an experiment with their own unborn child and two other children they mean to adopt to raise them against what their nature seems to be. Rich science aficionado Gertz (Michael Smiley) agrees to fund that experiment. But 12 years in, just when the kids Luke (Jordan Poole), Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and Maya (Megan O’Kelly) are getting really difficult, Gertz suddenly demands more conclusive results and fast. This tips the balance of their household and the entire experiment into dangerous directions.

Birthmarked is an incredibly weird film, but unforunately not in a particularly charming way, more in a disturbing way. I kept turining it over in my head, but ultimately I have to say that I didn’t like it.

The film poster showing Catherine (Toni Collette), Ben (Matthew Goode), Luke (Jordan Poole), Maurice (Anton Gillis-Adelman) and Maya (Megan O'Kelly) in winter gear, standing outside.
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Slaughterhouse Rulez (2018)

Slaughterhouse Rulez
Director: Crispian Mills
Writer: Crispian Mills, Henry Fitzherbert, Luke Passmore
Cast: Finn Cole, Asa Butterfield, Jamie Blackley, Tom Rhys Harries, Hermione Corfield, Isabella Laughland, Jo Hartley, Simon Pegg, Nick Frost, Margot Robbie, Michael Sheen
Seen on: 2.5.2021

Plot:
Don (Finn Cole) is from a working class family. His father died and ever since his mother (Jo Hartley) has tried to push Don to aim higher. When she finds a spot for him at the private Slaugher House school, she convinces him to go. But Slaugher House isn’t quite as fancy as they thought at first, not that it keeps most of Don’t classmates from snobbery. In fact, the school has money problems that the principal (Michael Sheen) tries to solve by allowing fracking on school grounds. But the drilling awakens something underground.

Slaughterhouse Rulez is quite a disappointment. It is supposed to be a horror comedy, but it is neither scary, nor funny. It’s just tired.

The film poster showing the main characters in a school crest-shape.
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Thunder Road (2018)

Thunder Road
Director: Jim Cummings
Writer: Jim Cummings
Cast: Jim Cummings, Kendal Farr, Nican Robinson, Jocelyn DeBoer, Macon Blair, Chelsea Edmundson, Ammie Masterson, Bill Wise
Seen on: 29.4.2021

Plot:
Jim Arnaud (Jim Cummings) is a police officer who always tries to do the right thing. After his mother dies, shortly after his divorce, he is completely thrown, though. Trying to pay hommage to her by dancing to one of their favorite songs (she was a dance teacher) at the funeral, leads to being ridiculed, though, and marks the start of Jim’s complete unravelment.

Thunder Road is an unusual film and not one that offers itself easily to its viewers. But regardless of what you make of it in the end, Jim Arnaud is a character to be seen and Jim Cummings a filmmaker to watch.

The film poster showing Jim Arnaud (Jim Cummings) in his police uniform stnading in the middle of a street, fingergunning up to the sky with both hands.
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Dead Pigs (2018)

Dead Pigs
Director: Cathy Yan
Writer: Cathy Yan
Cast: Vivian Wu, Haoyu Yang, Mason Lee, Meng Li, David Rysdahl, Zazie Beetz
Seen on: 4.4.2021

Plot:
Candy Wang (Vivian Wu) runs a hairsalon and owns the last house in the neighborhood she grew up in. Everything else was torn down to make way for a large building project helmed by architect Sean Landry (David Rysdahl). Candy’s brother Old Wang (Haoyu Yang) is a pig farmer in constant money trouble. Now more so than ever, because his pigs have mysteriously died, just like most of the pigs in the area. Those dead pigs start floating down Shanghai river because nobody knows what else to do with them. Meanwhile Wang’s son Wang Zhen (Mason Lee) works in the city as a busboy, hoping to make a better life for himself and maybe catch the attention of his rich customer Xia Xia (Meng Li).

Dead Pigs rolls a lot of criticism into a protective layer of jokes that make its critical stance look surprisingly light, but not necessarily soft. It’s a bittersweet, very engaging film.

The film poster showing two piggy banks, one shattered with very little money inside.
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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.
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