Tag Archives: Border

I Don’t Want to Go Out—Week of February 25

The best animated film of 2018 swings into your living room this week, along with (if you’re smart) an instant cult classic. Other biggies of 2018 make their way home this week, so let us help you sort this out.

Click the title for the full review.

Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse

Border

Ralph Breaks the Internet

Mary Queen of Scots

The Possession of Hannah Grace

Study What You Missed

by Hope Madden and George Wolf

George had a best friend in high school whose dad used to ask about homework. If you answered that “we just had a test”, the dad wearing the shocking plaid pants would say, “Then study what you missed!”

In that spirit, here are ten films from 2018 you may have missed but are well worth tracking down in 2019:

All About Nina

Make time for a character study with a timely and tenacious bite, featuring a tremendous lead performance from Mary Elizabeth Winstead. The standup comic who uses laughter to mask pain is a well-worn path, but first time writer/director Eva Vives uses the very comfort in that cliche to point out, as we were so clearly reminded last year, how casually some trauma is dismissed.

On its surface a look at giving yourself without losing yourself, All About Nina isn’t just about Nina, and that’s what makes it truly resonant. It reminds us of the courage it takes for women to speak up, and the shame that comes with not listening.

 

Blaze

It seems cosmically right that a virtual unknown singer-songwriter, Ben Dickey, plays country outlaw Blaze Foley (and is terrific) in director/co-writer Ethan Hawke’s stirring tribute.

From dreaming of stardom while riding in a truck bed, to antagonizing barroom audiences, to a visit with Blaze’s once-abusive, now senile father (Kris Kristofferson), sequence after sequence rings more organic and true than most found in music biopics.

It’s clear this a passion project for Hawke, who is smart enough not to let that passion interfere with authenticity. Blaze gives Foley the re-birth he clearly earned – as a conflicted, damaged soul longing to be heard.

 

Blindspotting

The ambitious script is a promising debut for writers Daveed Diggs and Rafael Casal, who also star. Diggs (Tony and Grammy Award-winner for Broadway’s Hamilton) plays Colin and Casal (in his first feature) is Miles, two longtime buddies in Oakland whose lives are upended by a police shooting

First time director Carlos Lopez Estrada sometimes struggles with tone, moving from stoner comedy a la Jay and Silent Bob to heavy drama and back again, and his hand on a few of dramatic moments can get heavy.

But by the time Diggs unveils the film’s soul in a showstopping, rage-filled finale, Blindspotting reaches a memorable height, becoming both an urgent social comment and an exciting filmmaking debut.

 

Border

Border director/co-writer Ali Abbasi has more in mind than your typical Ugly Duckling tale. He mines this story of outsider love and Nordic folklore for ideas of radicalization, empowerment, gender fluidity and feminine rage. The result is both a sincere crime thriller and a magical fantasy.

 

First Reformed

Writer/director Paul Schrader delivers a nearly flawless meditation on faith and despair with First Reformed. In what may be his strongest performance, Ethan Hawke delivers a a slow slide from a pleasant façade to destructive rage, perfectly capturing every emotion, every nuance of internal crisis and its external manifestations. Schrader’s film is a masterful character study that asks thoughtful questions about how our choices will be viewed in the eyes of God.

 

Five Fingers for Marseilles (review by Rachel Willis)

How does one make a film that’s uniquely South African yet still feels like an American western? Director Michael Matthews and writer Sean Drummond answer that question with the stunning Five Fingers for Marseilles.

There are few villains as perfect as Sepoko, also known as The Ghost. Every moment Hamilton Dhlamini is on screen, the tension escalates. The masterful score only magnifies this malevolent figure.

With desolate landscapes, brutal violence and characters with questionable moral compasses, this is not only a magnificent Western, but an exquisite film.

 

Leave No Trace

In her first feature since 2010’s gripping Winter’s Bone, writer/director Debra Granik is again focused on souls living on the rural fringes and scraping out a hardscrabble, under-the-radar existence.

Driven by two haunting performances from the always underrated Ben Foster and impressive newcomer Thomasin Harcourt McKenzie, Leave No Trace replaces any of Winter’s Bone’s sinister, menacing layers with a tender, sympathetic grace that feels achingly authentic, and often heartbreaking.

The film follows its own titular advice, broaching a variety of relevant social concerns without ever raising its voice, yet cutting so deeply you may not get out of the theater with dry eyes.

 

Thoroughbreds

Wicked, surprising, unapologetic, cynical and buoyed by flawless performances from Olivia Cooke and Anya Taylor-Joy, writer/director Cory Finley’s Thoroughbreds is a mean little treat. It’s a fascinating look— blackly comedic and biting—at how the other class comes of age.

 

Thunder Road

Writer/director/star Jim Cummings is responsible for the most criminally underseen film of 2018, Thunder Road.

Cummings explores grief, mental health, small town stagnation and the genius of Mr. Bruce Springsteen in a film that is breathtaking in its tonal shifts. Simultaneously heartbreaking, funny, nuts, unpredictable and alertly honest, Cummings’s film and his performance cement him as among the most exciting cinematic voices of 2018.

 

Tully

The character Tully doesn’t show up ’til nearly 40 minutes in, but by then the film Tully has its anchor: a sensational Charlize Theron.

After two winners together in Juno and the criminally ignored Young Adult, writer Diablo Cody  and director Jason Reitman make their third collaboration a wonderfully natural extension of the first two. This isn’t the heartwarming comedy the TV ads want you to think it is, nor is it the casual dismissal of postpartum depression that others have charged.

It is one woman’s story, with moments of humor, absurdity and truth, a bit of cliche and even some fairy tale optimism. And with all of that, there’s enough brash boundary pushing to make Tully feel like a film we haven’t seen before, and one we’re glad that’s here.

Screening Room: Wizards, Widows and Family Bonds

Join us in the Screening Room this week to hash out the good and the bad in theaters this week: Fantastic Beasts: The Crimes of  Grindewald, Widows, Instant Family, Boy Erased and Border. We’ll also go through the mostly-bad in new home entertainment.

 

Listen to the full podcast HERE.

Outlandos D’Amour

Border

by Hope Madden

Sometimes knowing yourself means embracing the beast within. Sometimes it means making peace with the beast without. For Tina—well, let’s just say Tina’s got a lot going on right now.

Eva Melander is Tina, a woman resigned to the solitary existence of an outsider. Her “chromosomal malady” has left her unbecoming to most of the people in her Danish border town, but it’s also gifted her with senses that allow her to notice criminals by the way they smell.

Those senses are thrown, though, by a stranger (Eero Milonoff) who makes her feel, for the first time in her life, that she’s not alone.

Border director/co-writer Ali Abbasi has more in mind than your typical Ugly Duckling tale, though. He mines John Ajvide Lindqvist’s (Let the Right One In) short story of outsider love and Nordic folklore for ideas of radicalization, empowerment, gender fluidity and feminine rage.

The result is both a sincere crime thriller and a magical fantasy. A perfect meshing of Michael Pearce’s 2017 indie Beast and Alex van Warmerdam’s dark 2013 folk tale Borgman, Border still manages to be entirely its own creature.

Melander is a force of nature under impressive prosthetics. Her fearless performance, one that requires an arc that feels simultaneously backward and progressive, guarantees that no matter the bracing images or ugly narrative, you will not look away. You won’t be able to.

Milonoff also impresses, as does a cast of support players blessed with an unusual and fittingly untidy storyline.

There are moments in Border that should have felt silly while others could easily have tipped into lurid territory, but they never do. Abbasi’s respect for his characters keeps even the most outlandish scenes on track. He boasts an impressive aptitude for blending a fantastical fairy tale nature with the realism of a thriller without ever losing one thread for the other.

The result is a film quite unlike anything else, one offering layer upon provocative, messy layer and Abbasi feels no compulsion to tidy up. Instead, he leaves you with a lot to think through thanks to one unyieldingly original film.