• Cinephilia

    Review: All In – The Fight for Democracy

    For longer than I care to admit, before seeing All In: The Fight For Democracy, I referred to it in shorthand as “the Stacey Abrams documentary.” I meant no offense by this; rather, it was simply a quick way to reference a film about a rising political player who made a name for herself during her historic 2018 run for the office of Governor of Georgia. Reader, so that you don’t make the same mistake I do, please know that this important documentary about the history and value of voting rights in America is not so much “Stacey Abrams’s documentary” as it is an urgent call to action to every member…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Sibyl

    After winding its way through film festivals around the world since premiering at Cannes in 2019, Justine Triet’s Sibyl is now available to screen in the United State through limited-capacity theaters and at-home virtual cinemas. And the film, about a therapist trying to become a writer despite one last client who refuses to let her go (and vice-versa), is a serviceable option as a bit of an escape from the dreary, nearly-fall chill that’s recently set in over Chicago. But the script, which Triet co-wrote with Arthur Harari, is a bit too confused—despite the title—about whose film this is exactly, and it comes quite close to being stolen entirely by a supporting…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Rent-a-Pal

    While I don’t have much reason to interact with “incels” (involuntarily celibate (usually) men), like anyone who spends any time online, I’m familiar with the trope. Rent-a-Pal, written and directed by Jon Stevenson, is set some twenty years before that concept ever caught on, but it plays like an instruction manual for how to build a bitter, unfulfilled man who’s so entrenched in his own victim mentality that those around him become victims to his brutality. Stevenson’s directorial debut is a moody, retro exploration of toxic masculinity, both historic and contemporary, one that will disturb more than scare. Brian Landis Folkins is David, who lives in a dank, small house with…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: The Mole Agent

    Though it’s ostensibly a film about an elderly spy going undercover in a retirement home to catch the staff in their neglect and abuse of its residents red-handed, there is very little worrisome drama in The Mole Agent, a documentary by Maite Alberdi. With that almost comical set-up, Alberdi’s warm and moving film is instead a welcome reminder of the life left to be lived in our seventh, eighth decades and beyond. The film begins with an almost comical set-up, as Rómulo Aitken, a private investigator, interviews potential moles to place in the facility where his client believes their aging relative, Sonia, is being abused. Seeking a man in his 80s…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Nomad – In the Steps of Bruce Chatwin

    It’s possible that to the uninitiated, Werner Herzog may be a bit of an enigma. Is he a documentarian? An actor? A screenwriter? A historian? Something else entirely? The fact is, he’s all of the above; your kids have seen him as a brooding outsider in the Disney+ series “The Mandalorian” and your grandparents know him from his prolific filmmaking in the ’70s and 80s. Today, his recent work reflects that enviable point in one’s career when the art is as much what one wants to make as it is what one recognizes to be a story worth telling. The two sentiments are beautifully combined in Herzog’s deeply personal and…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Get Duked!

    At some point since its premiere at 2019’s SXSW Film Festival, Get Duked! got re-titled. Originally called Boyz in the Wood, one imagines there were some copyright issues with that nod to John Singleton’s classic, so the film was re-christened to reference the very real Duke of Edinburgh Award program in the UK around which it centers, one that is designed to teach life skills and build confidence in the nation’s youth through real-world and outdoor endeavors. The title is slightly unfortunate here in the states, as on its own it may be enough to cause an idle viewer sifting through endless streaming options to pass on it. Which would be too bad,…