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.
Plot: The Williams family has it pretty good, and father Ronald (Sterling K. Brown) is proud of their success. He works hard to maintain it and also pushes his son Tyler (Kelvin Harrison Jr.) to succeed. Tyler is a promising wrestler, but when a shoulder injury and a possible pregnancy from his girlfriend Alexis (Alexa Demie) threaten all his carefully made plans, his life starts to unravel before his eyes. Meanwhile his sister Emily (Taylor Russell) flies mostly under the radar, but sees her brother struggling, as does his stepmother Catherine (Renée Elise Goldsberry). But neither is sure how to reach him.
Waves tells an interesting story with good characters, but above all, it manges to use all cinema has to offer to create a sensory experience that should be seen, heard and felt on a big screen.
Plot: It’s Christmas and the Burns family is preparing for the holidays. Unexpectedly they are joined by their son Ben (Lucas Hedges). Mother Holly (Julia Roberts) is overjoyed to see him, while his stepfather Neal (Courtney B. Vance) and his sister Ivy (Kathryn Newton) are much more suspicious of his sudden appearance. It soon becomes clear that Ben’s return to the family does not mean that he has left the drugs behind. But Holly isn’t ready to give up on him.
Seeing Ben Is Back in such proximity of Beautiful Boy, one can’t help but compare the two, and it is painfully obvious that Ben Is Back fails where Beautiful Boy succeeds. But even without the comparison, Ben Is Back falls short of the mark.
Plot: Christine calls herself Lady Bird (Saoirse Ronan). She is a teenager, not particularly well-off, and doesn’t really fit in at her expensive Catholic high school, where her only and best friend is Julie (Beanie Feldstein) who is an outsider as well. She dreams of adventure and culture which both seem pretty unattainable where she is right now. But Lady Bird is in her senior year and that might be her chance to escape. Before that, though, she has stuff to figure out: which college she can go to, whether her mother (Laurie Metcalf) actually likes her, and also that entire thing with boys: what’s the deal?
Lady Bird is a really cute film with a great Saoirse Ronan. It might be a little too married to the conventions of a coming of age film, but I really did enjoy it.
Plot: Mildred (Frances McDormand) has had enough. Her daughter was murdered and the police don’t even seem to try to solve it. So she posts three huge billboards that call attention to the fact. The billboards don’t fan the investigation so much as the emotions of the locals. They do make the life of police chief Willoughby (Woody Harrelson) more difficult, especially since his hotheaded deputy Dixon (Sam Rockwell) takes it personally.
Three Billboards tells its story very well. Unfortunately it just tells the completely wrong story, managing to perpetuate the racism it tries to stand against by centering the white perspective.
Lee (Casey Affleck) hasn’t been in his hometown Manchester-by-the-Sea for a while and he doesn’t actually want to return. But when his brother Joe (Kyle Chandler) dies, leaving behind his teenage son Patrick (Lucas Hedges), Lee is called upon to return and take care of Patrick. Added to the grief over Joe’s passing is Lee’s confrontation with the past and the horrible events that are linked to Manchester-by-the-Sea and Lee’s ex-wife Randi (Michelle Williams).
I saw Manchester by the Sea before the news about Affleck’s history of abuse hit the media (or at least reached me) (this review is based on my notes from October). If I had known, I probably would have reconsidered watching this film. But having seen it , I have to admit that it’s a strong film, offering an unusual perspective on an old story.
Qohen Leth (Christoph Waltz) works as an entity cruncher for a huge corporation. The hours away from home are torture for Qohen as he is waiting for a call, so he has been trying to convince the corporation that he could work from home. When his supervisor Joby (David Thewlis) tells him that Management (Matt Damon) will be at his party, Qohen decides that he has to go there and talk to him. And he actually succeeds in that plan and a little while later, he starts working on the Zero Theorem from home.
Gilliam knows how to make a world look cool and a film look pretty. The cast is wonderful, too. Other than that though, the film is a boring, sexist mess.