Just us, the cameras, and those wonderful people out there in the dark...

Tuesday, October 30, 2018

The Hate U Give (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: George Tillman Jr.
Starring: Amandla Stenberg, Russell Hornsby, Regina Hall

I don't know that there's an emptier platitude than when a white person states that they "don't see color." It's a statement that's intended to indicate to whomever is listening that the person making it isn't racist - is, in fact, so not racist that he or she doesn't even recognize that the concept of race exists - but which actually just announces that the person saying it is blind to the way that racism is so institutionalized that it's an inescapable part of day to day life. If you're going to say "I don't see color," you might as well just say "I can't be bothered to see what you're going through, even though it's happening all around me." White people and people of color experience the world in different ways, because the world experiences them in different ways. White parents don't need to talk to their kids about how to minimize the possibility that they will be shot by the police; black parents do. That's tragic and it's wrong and you can't solve a problem without acknowledging that it exists in the first place.

Monday, October 29, 2018

Review: First Man (2018)

* * * 1/2

Director: Damien Chazelle
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Claire Foy

With First Man Damien Chazelle tells the epic story of the moon landing on a deeply intimate scale. At times it feels more like a domestic drama about a family suffocating under the weight of grief both real and anticipated than a retelling of the dangerous work of figuring out how to send human beings off of earth and onto another astronomical body and then bring them back - though, make no mistake, the film is nevertheless invested in showing the painstaking process of trial and error that resulted in NASA's triumph. Anchored by a great performance from Ryan Gosling as Neil Armstrong, with the supporting ranks full of solid performances themselves, First Man is a thoughtful, sometimes even powerful, film about one of the defining events not only of the 20th century, but of human history itself.

Tuesday, October 16, 2018

A Star Is Born: An Evolution in Four Films

They say that there's a version of A Star Is Born for every generation - a statement which isn't technically true since the 1990s never produced a version, resulting in a 42 year break between the most recent two, but which seems true enough in spirit. While the knee-jerk reaction to movie remakes is generally something along the lines of, "Ugh, why?" (unless it's a reboot of Ghostbusters, in which case it will be met with hysterical wailing about childhoods retroactively ruined), there's something endlessly compelling about this love story of a star in decline and a star on the rise. When you strip these four films down to the absolute bare bones of their stories, there is no fundamental difference between them. It's the same story - and, indeed, the same story beats - each and every time, leaving no reason why it shouldn't become stale after multiple outings. And yet there still manages to be something unique and compelling about each version, something which makes it worthwhile to keep coming back to the story again and again. So let's take a look at the fundamental similarities, and the specific differences, between these four films.

Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Review: A Star is Born (2018)

* * *

Director: Bradley Cooper
Starring: Lady Gaga, Bradley Cooper

One of the most pleasant surprises so far this year is how good A Star is Born really is. I doubt many people would have expected that when the project was first announced, and when the studio released the trailer, which to my mind is one of the best trailers of the year, I don't know that most of us would have expected anything more than an okay movie with a really good trailer. So here it is and it's not only as good as its pre-release hype would suggest, it's as good as its tremendous post-release hype has been. I don't remember the last time that a non-Marvel, non-Star Wars movie prompted such a wealth of posts on pop culture sites, burning bright like a supernova of publicity. It's difficult to say that any movie could live up to this much chatter, but A Star is Born comes close enough. It's just a damn good movie; it really is.