Land Of Ashes

Sofía Quirós Ubeda's feature debut is the kind of hyper-real magical tale that seems to exist in a parallel dimension to ours, fully ripe and present in its vivid majesty, but never tipping into saturation. A story of the cycle of life, of growing up motherless into womanhood, both your living and your dead intertwined as dancing branches of a serpent tree. Learning how to kohl your eyes seamlessly in the face of all this love and decay. [read more] ★★★★✩

Bad Education

Such a ruin can a love of luxury be. It turns otherwise endearing people astray. Makes pending sociopaths of ambitious folk with a bone to pick and a taste for the delicious. In other words, the path to self-betterment can lead to the largest public school embezzlement in American history. This is a true story. [read more] ★★★★✩

Planet Of The Humans

Controversial doc, veering towards eco fatalism, executive-produced by Micheal Moore, sees environmentalist Jeff Gibbs ponder the effects of climate change and perpetual growth, while taking on sainted big guns of the eco-movement. Bluntly unpacks the extent renewable energy giants seem to depend on fossil fuels, how corporations rebrand green to access government subsidies, downsides of renewable energy, and as Vandana Shiva puts it, the way we allow ourselves to be hypnotised. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Little Women

Episodically brilliant, it has too many stitches in the narrative quilt, its often rushed sentiment suffocating the genuine moments of resonant emotion. But it does have a thing or two to say about love. What an undoing it can be, what a triumph it is. Just watch a spirited Saoirse Ronan, as author’s wild alter ego, gaze upon her published work. Or a wise Florence Pugh, as the pragmatic younger sister, gaze at her man. [read more]
★★★✩✩

1917

Sam Mendes’s thespian 'single take' virtuoso stunt, a high-wire homage to his WWI veteran grandfather, highlights two things extremely well – film is a director’s medium, and its key ingredient is light. Only celluloid has that required esoteric quality, the materia to absorb and select. Filter reality. So, in a way, 1917 is also Roger Deakins's film. His digital Arri Alexa mimics the medium almost perfectly. Almost. But it has heart. Following one glorious golden thread. Fighting for the next breath. [read more]
★★★★✩

The Irishman

Deep down Frank Sheeran, mob hitman, was just one empty room after another in search of a person. As most sociopaths. That’s the gist of this magnificently made film about the boredom of thug life. Peggy, one of Sheeran’s daughters, and the highlight of the saga, does not speak a word until the very end. And although there has been some controversy about this, I can get it. What’s there to say? Really. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Parasite

A bonkers, beautiful, radical & drop-dead intelligent dark satirical tale of social inequality, mock egalitarian weirdness of late capitalism, class arrogance vs. monetary desperation, the perversity of the state of poverty, and all that without being up its own moralistic agenda. Amazing cinema, ending as epic daydream, twisting the social-commentary knife some more, like a pro. [read more]
★★★★★

What Did Jack Do?

David Lynch, as hard-boiled noir detective, interrogates a fugitive monkey suspected of murder in a crime of passion. As if fished from a hypnotic opium dream, yet fitting the P. Marlowe canon perfectly, it takes a Lynch to restore one’s faith in film as medium, and its capabilities as an art form to once again transform into something mysterious, illuminating, and worthy of awe. [read more]
★★★★★

Golden Globes 2020: Anarchy, Pomp & Circumstance

The human need for a pedestal is to look up to something that is desired, and ultimately, to be achieved. That particular social contract breaks when the chosen begin to look down at the rabble in complete disdain. If in doubt, read up on the French Revolution. And have some cake. The tyranny of being special purely for being wonderfully presentational. Suddenly, who makes that (free) speech begins to count again. [read more]

Bombshell

It took a grassroots revolution to demand a change in an entrenched way of dealing with sexual harassment and assault, especially on women, something that would always make victims feel exposed and grasping for shelter, as it diminishes their softest, and therefore most vulnerable space. Their intimate realms. The only way forward was to rebel furiously, collectively. Thus #MeToo was born. With all its contradictions. And what a curious gestation place it had, the very epicenter of bullish conservatism – Fox News. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Marriage Story

The exposure of the personal in public, when love becomes war, always carries within it a fundamental indecency, the prosaic dissecting the poetic. And the prosaic usually wins, as nobody outside a couple can really accurately assess the intimate space between them, least of all people hired to separate them, with benefits. But Baumbach, through Johansson and Driver, achieved the almost impossible. An intimate public display of regret that actually works both ways. [read more]
★★★★✩

The Two Popes

The fundamental premise of faith as a fortress of dogma to defend vs. a vast river emerging from one source, but open to all that need its waters, has been the key demarcation line in the two millennia of Christianity. Deferential, yet honest & investigative is a tough line to keep. But this is intelligent filmmaking, with two powerhouse performances, telling a difficult, highly sensitive tale in a low-key, old-fashioned way, through the prism of two excellent minds, in opposition, yet still talking.
[read more]
★★★✩✩

Knives Out

Although I mostly write spoiler analysis, due to the nature of these reviews, I won't here, for the sheer pleasure everyone should have while watching this most enjoyable of cinematic experiences. An antidote, if you will, to the nasty landscapes it depicts, with extreme wit and a big heart. Go see it. It's an all-star murder mystery about inheritance. And yes, I give it five stars, without explaining why. My blog, my rules... etc.
[read more]
★★★★★

Skin

Guy Nattiv's raw, yet subdued take on one man's redemptive arc is somehow more a love story than an examination of white supremacist groups in the US. What we do get is a precise headshot of a vile but limited menace, which we know is part of a much more widespread disease, with cult-like Viking-obsessed Vinlanders in the background, spread like a particularly repulsive smorgasbord of beer, puke & gloomy sexual encounters, every frame steeped in human misery and pointless rage. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Judy

This might be a gold standard Hollywood biopic, with the melodrama sentiments & fan mail, the pale devastation of the flesh smoothed over by flashbacks re-visioning studio corruption and blanket emotional abuse as a technicolor Oz nightmare. But, at its center, is a performance so raw, tender, and gut-wrenching that all the glitz only serves as a mere proverbial curtain.
[read more]
★★★★✩

Can You Ever Forgive Me?

Lee Israel wrote her forgeries perhaps better than the originals would write their own correspondences, her survival depending on the content being interesting enough for collectors to buy. Lee's downfall was her insurmountable bile, stemming from a deep-seated cowardice and envy - a cornucopia of foul blocking every living cell of her own creativity. Yet, this ends up somehow a breeze of a tale about hardship and friendship, a perfect couplet, made beautiful by actors that can tell a human from a forgery.
[read more]
★★★★✩

Mapplethorpe

Like many children of malignant narcissists, Robert spent his life redeeming beauty back from the devil. As collateral, he gave the horned one some of his best tunes – his astonishing, impeccable images, and his body, confirming that the only difference between the sacred and profane in art is perspective. Or, to quote Dylan on this – you gotta serve somebody. Not sure whom this film serves, but it does try to honour Mapplethorpe. It also provides a space to think about him.
[read more]
★★★✩✩

Joker

Joaquin Phoenix burns like an archangel on heroin, a contorted otherworldly presence that under a different constellation of stars would have ended up a saint, but turns to the demonic, discovering within it that creative spark he searched for all his life spent as a non-entity. Intellectually dangerous cinema, telling the truth, and lighting a match. Too potent as art to ignore or dismiss, and highly flammable politically to treat lightly.
[read more]
★★★★★

Ad Astra

It sets its sights high on its thorny way to Neptune, but it seems to lack soul material, an obscure alchemical element. Namely, generosity. Even with a core intent that is honourable, and a story that is conceptually beautiful in its severe simplicity – it’s a selfish story about selfishness. A love letter meant for a particular other, or group of others, but perhaps truly written only to oneself. Pushing aside all that does not belong in its elegant narrative. [read more]
★★✩✩✩

Hail Satan?

Penny Lane’s crafty, arch entertaining doc on a growing group of US Satanists almost got me thinking backwards, like a spell on a Black Sabbath vinyl. There’s no denying that separating church and state is always a good idea. Then, playing the devil’s advocate to the devil’s advocate, and why not – one must remember that Lucifer finally fell from grace due to hubris, not (just) because he was otherwise cool. [read more]
★★★★✩

The Kindergarten Teacher

Gutsy, bruising, viscerally disturbing take on a woman imploding in slow motion, developing an artistic obsession with a five-year-old poet prodigy. Gyllenhaal as Lisa possesses space like a ghost of a person she has once been, an ancient curse of the female condition, one that unresolved leads to a special kind of parasitism – a living through the creative world of another, with ferocious intensity of reclaiming one’s own. [read more]
★★★★★

Colette

A true gift gives you tenacity. It's a well that never dries. Colette was on fire until the very end of her days, and she lived long, blessing us with that rare example of an artist that did not allow the world to shut her down. It seems that a wild spirit is crucial when it comes to creative survival. Remaining untamed is ultimate protection. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Once Upon A Time In Hollywood

A showreel glorifying the industry of canned dreams, in a backhanded kind of way, it does that pimp thing where it tries to sell you the very stuff it mocks. Its one redeeming feature - Brad Pitt's actual acting chops. The crack in that eternal sunshine that let the light shine through. [read more]
★★✩✩✩

The Favourite

Taking on the irony of love lurking underneath the strangest arrangements, this double chocolate & cream cherry cake of a film, served on the finest cinematic lace, is chock full of arsenic. And, like all life's tragedies, it starts off as a joke. [read more]
★★★★✩

The Brink

In Alison Klayman's new gutsy fly-on-the-wall doc, Trump's ex-chief strategist comes across as a charismatic, amoral, but unfortunately pretty brainy Hollywood via Harvard player, who spotted a niche in the political market for disenfranchised white man rage, and grabbed it. Bannon knows he is the Pied Piper of Hamelin. [read more]
★★★★✩

Chernobyl HBO Aftermath: Seeing In The Dark

The only way to look at Chernobyl is through a rear-view mirror, the complex ocular shield of the camera. Otherwise, we'd be staring at Medusa's face, unprotected. An open nuclear reactor core burning our synapses through sheer magnitude of existential incomprehension. An apocalyptic serialised memento mori. [read more]

Ice On Fire

Leonardo DiCaprio opens his new climate change doc offering a view of the last 250 years of humankind as the longest science experiment in history. An apt take on the magnitude of human impact on the entirety of our planet - and the unhinged way we've been unleashing ourselves on our environment. [read more]
★★★✩✩

The Wife

Glenn Close as Joan is a magnificent melting iceberg, an environmental disaster long in the making, the wife of a soon-to-be Nobel laureate in literature, and a woman that signed a Faustian deal which has now reached its inevitable conclusion. [read more]
★★★★✩

International Queer Film Festival Merlinka – MSUV: Love Is All

Short and sweet weekend ride through a cinematic landscape that is very slowly moving from niche to broader in the Balkans, yet with quality that never drops a beat. Merlinka is a bold and bright festival of good humour and defiance, with a sophisticated programme, a growing audience, and enough maverick charm to face both friend and foe in society with the sage knowledge that, in the end, love conquers all.
[read more]

The Miseducation Of Cameron Post

It manages to nail the intricacies of emotional abuse in such terrible detail, while muted by pastel colours of Akhavan's narrative zaniness, that all the twisted soul demolitions of the young hearts being forced to 'pray the gay away' suddenly creep up on us - spinning into one heavy gasp of rage.
[read more]
★★★★✩

Third Eye Spies

Essential new mainstream doc on PSY research, a much denigrated fringe topic, one that, perhaps, should not have been left solely for the military to explore. Chock-full of top-tier scientists, high-grade spooks, plus a Nobel laureate and an Apollo astronaut thrown in, for good quantum measure.
[read more]
★★★★✩

Film, the Alchemical Medium: Archetypal Enchantment and the Transformative Potential of the Moving Image

Cursed ancient academic proposal I aimed at studying how we are enchanted by film, using early film theory, post-Jungian analysis & anthropology of ritual. One day I might write about the text's strange travels, good stuff I got out of it, publish a book, or reboot my bid for title of film doctor. For now, please feast on its faded glory, cite & link, yours might be the kiss that revives it. [read more]

The Front Runner

The 1987 campaign story of disgraced Colorado senator, and Democratic Party front-runner, Gary Hart, is as tough as aspirin compared to what we now digest daily. What it did make me do is rethink the Clinton presidency, four years later, and how the pragmatist philanderer made it to the White House, while the idealist one became a pariah. [read more]
★★★✩✩ 

The Aftermath

There is an element missing here, the key component to any story of conflict and passion - namely, the passion. It does not bode well for a story of a tumultuous affair if the only performance with conviction, in a love triangle, is given by the betrayed husband. So the entire construction falls apart as if dismantled by a sensible family therapist. [read more]
★★✩✩✩

Destroyer

A sun-scorched, store damaged, furious street rant on the ways we destroy others, but more on the ways we let ourselves be destroyed. Detective Bell's hollow glare serves as an extraordinarily well executed hook - each time we look at her face, we compare it to our mental image of Kidman. And the emotional mayhem done locks us in. [read more]
★★★★✩

The House That Jack Built

The devil mistakes aesthetics for art, has an innate disdain for the body, and in close-up - he's one dull mofo. Lars Von Trier grabs your head and shoves it into the vortex of any subject he chooses to examine. It's never a pleasant journey, but he delivers the goods. I gave it four stars, rather than five, although in its way, it is perfect. Because a film about evil should always be missing something. [read more]
★★★★✩

Disobedience

This could have been a film on forbidden love, but it was way smarter than that - it's a story of self-love, the love of life that is in our nature, the blessed disobedience of flesh. The wild card in a tapered deck.
[read more]
★★★★✩

Cold War

An experience of profound beauty and real heartache, one that maybe should have been left untouched. It has that defiant spirit of divine intervention hidden beneath a beautiful, silent, terrible mistake. Hope I did Zula and Wiktor justice, their story, it's a diamond and a dagger, in one. [read more]
★★★★★

Mary Queen Of Scots

Suddenly my eye aligned with the camera. The way Rourke framed it, and Ronan and Robbie fleshed it out, and flamed it, helped me understand what it must have felt like to have a female form and nature at the time, full of ripe wants and infinite prohibitions. Competing with men for a place of power, while at the same time being a place of power. By virtue of the royal womb. [read more]
★★★★✩

BlacKkKlansman (revisited)

If it had been more artistically rigorous with the slapstick, it could have arrived at Arendt's 'banality of evil', and taken that point home with guns blazing. It might have been brilliant. But it turned out to be merely a sledgehammer to the rusty nail, painting its point across like a shiny billboard. [read more]
★★✩✩✩

First Man

Elegantly cutting through the Cold War politics, slippery metaphors on masculinity, the now archaic technologies yet still very raw societal injustices, an actual insane audacity of the venture building up as monumental ego trip of a nation - this is a story that finds its heart in a silence, mystery of the inner cosmos. There are things we do because we must. The micro and the macro are aligned. [read more]
★★★★★

The Other Side Of Everything

It lands on a piece of me that is yet to accept loss – the devouring of a chunk of my life, of many lives, by the gods of lesser value. This is why I could not take it in any other way than lightly. Giving it my full attention meant giving in to a lack of meaning. A blank canvass of a memory of a home(land) that invites everyone to draw in their own conclusions. All of them true and entirely wrong. [read more]
★★★★✩

Film vs. Death: One More Time With Feeling (revisited)

A testament to the inexplicability of mourning, and the therapeutic nature of art. In this case, the art of the moving image, the most conjuring art of all. The camera becomes a dignified way to navigate the grieving process, to share it. There is a great generosity in One More Time With Feeling. This is film as communion, echo of a longing, an evocation of love in that eternal painfully human quest to transcend death. [read more]

Maria By Callas

It was the humanity of the delivery of divinity that was the key to Callas's impact - and the way she knew, by some uncanny ability, just how to channel an archetype. Seeing her in Pasolini's Medea, even just for a few screen seconds, shook my soul, if not my world. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Sharp Objects & The Initiation Of The Screen She-Shaman

Camille emerged fully formed, a she-shaman forged in the era of the return of the witch, expanding the liminal space between traumatic events, taking the silver bullet of all audience assumptions and projections in a tale of female rage - of women hurting other women - all those dark vagina dentata materials blooming a venemous crimson red in the patriarchal dollhouse. [read more]

My Cousin Rachel (revisited)

Now, and with a fresh set of goggles, the ill-fated relationship seems to be merely the departure not the destination, the anti-climatic tryst itself making way for a rather sombre study of cultural prejudice and misogyny, one that still could be taken as relevant a hundred years plus change fast-forward. [read more]
★★★✩✩

The Happy Prince

Everyone feels they know much of Oscar Wilde, the ultimate prophet laureate of pop culture, but no one can really come close to grasping a micron of that man's life until they understand Clapham Junction. [read more]
★★★★✩

The Tale

A sexual damage mentally packaged as a taboo love affair – an irreversible seduction interpreted as consensual in the imaginings of a 13-year-old girl determined to preserve the right of her passage to womanhood. [read more]
★★★★✩

First Reformed

It swept me like high tide, in the end, much as a windfall of good luck can disorient us when we are deep in mourning... this painful, beautiful, essential meditation on isolation, and how we get there, and what gets us out. [read more]
★★★★★

Revenge

If you've ever been pushed off a cliff, this is the film for you. Once you transcend the gore, the sheer originality of its dynamics, the ingenious transgression of its point of view, which happens to be a according to a woman's frame, makes it a thrill ride of mythic proportions.
[read more]
★★★★✩

Beast

A Colt 45 of a film, silver bullet of dark erotica, fertile pathology, a sunlit & soiled mystical union of shadows & light... Beauty and beast in one.
[read more]
★★★★✩

Funny Cow

This is no comedy - not that it isn't darkly funny, in a Bretonian 'gallows with lighting rod' kind of way, depicting humour not as a relief, but at the centre of the disease, a punctured ulcer reeking of that which it could not any longer contain. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Isle Of Dogs

The remedy to all life's ills lies in Wes Anderson films. I finally found it in the character of the Oracle dog, and you will find yours too. Keep watching. [read more]
★★★★✩

Custody

There is no horror quite like the murderous rage of someone you once loved. If you ever had anything similar in your life, then consider Xavier Legrand's explosive separation drama as homeopathic remedy. [read more]
★★★★★

Unsane

Soderbergh's new twist on his road to revolutionising craft, if not necessarily art - a looming premise of gold-standard corporate totalitarianism. [read more]
★★★✩✩

Loveless

Zvyagintsev’s eulogy to humanity lost, the severing of connections in the fetishisation of the material – an absence, rather than a presence, a dark jewel, which, when observed against the light, shows no reflection. [read more]
★★★★★

The Shape Of Water

It nourished me like a long-lost lover, a soul-mate found when all hope is lost, but it left me pining for a certain perfection in life that is impossible to conjure, a dark fairy-tale with a happy ending...  An illusion of the light. [read more]
★★★★★

Oscars 2018: Eating Cake

What I reckon the aftermath of Oscars 2018 will be is what I see every day - the sheer hypocrisy of an industry built on appearances will soak in all the good intentions, appropriate the sentiments, and pretty much do the same thing as always - profit, pander and exclude.  But it will have a dent in its side, a vulnerability in its veneer - a slightly less relaxed attitude about being called out for what it does every day. Precisely. [read more]

The Festival Of Fences

Social exclusion has many faces, the most obvious ones are the ones least discussed. For example, why is the audience cordoned off so that the performers and informers can pass by? Are they to serve the public, or to rule it? If they say they are inviting you in, walk in. See what happens. [read more]

Molly’s Game

Shifts the eternal war between sexes in one tiny scene - explaining, in what is essentially a high standard courtroom drama, something preciously true, if you know where to look.
[read more]
★★★✩✩

I, Tonya

There's great heart in Margot Robbie in taking on a national joke, a second-hand villain, and turning her into a quiet hero, in all her vulnerable garishness, her terrier posture, her awkward dignity. [read more]
★★★★✩

Lola says…

Lola On Film is designed to deconstruct the spectacle, measure empty calories, offer nutritional insights on films newly released, as well as archival treasures (and junk), assess the state of film culture, new formats & hopefully, illuminate cinema's place in society, as well as in our individual psychology. [read more]

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