• Cinephilia

    Review: On the Record

    It’s been a daunting week. While the country limps through a grim Coronavirus milestone, there’s news of another incident of white police killing a black man and a racist confrontation in Central Park. In the midst of it all, and perhaps as a bit of a distraction from the heartbreaking headlines, HBO launches HBO Max, their latest streaming platform that expands on their existing proprietary content (finally, “Friends” is streaming again). Included in the launch is On the Record, a documentary that feels at once like recent history (remember when #MeToo was the worst thing happening in the world?) and as urgent and necessary as ever. Co-directed by Kirby Dick…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Lucky Grandma

    Back in the “before” times (before pandemics, before lockdowns, before movies were limited to what we can stream from home), a film like Lucky Grandma relied on the buzz generated around top-notch film festivals to build its audiences. After premiering at the 2019 Tribeca Film Festival (the 2020 edition, slated for last month, was canceled), Sasie Sealy’s debut feature film—about a Chinese grandmother in New York City who runs into trouble when a bag of money literally falls on her lap—found success at the likes of the London Film Festival, Cucalorus and more. But even with a strong festival run, it’s hard to find homes for subtitled independent films, and this…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: The Painter and The Thief

    As film premises go, the one for The Painter and the Thief is a doozy: an artist seeks out and befriends the man who stole her paintings. If it weren’t a documentary—at times a startlingly blunt, raw one—it wouldn’t be believable. But filmmaker Benjamin Ree (Magnus) all but disappears behind the camera, allowing audiences to get to know Barbora Kysilkova (the painter) and Karl Bertil-Nordland (the thief) as they get to know each other and forge a bond that’s as unexpected as it is oddly understandable. As the film begins, we see what Barbora has seen probably a thousand times: grainy security footage of two men leaving a gallery in Oslo…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Alice

    Writer/director Josephine Mackerras makes her feature film debut with Alice, the story of a woman who discovers her husband’s obsession with a high-end escort service only to be drawn into the elicit business when he leaves her with a debt that threatens to evict her from her home. Despite a tonal shift after the first third and a too-clean depiction of the realities of sex work, Mackerras delivers a promising, female-centric contemporary character study with a stunning performance by Emilie Piponnier at its center. All is relatively idyllic for Alice when we meet her on a normal weekday evening; she’s preparing dinner in her Paris apartment with her adorable toddler, Jules,…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Fourteen

    Something about Fourteen, a drama about the unique connection between close friends over time, feels downright retro. It’s not a period piece, but it’s as if it was made in another era, the filmmaking, acting and cinematography all sparse, bone dry and as if improvised. Back in the mid-to-late 2000s, we called that “mumblecore.” Seeing something like it again in a film ten years after that movement’s moment all but dried up is as jarring as it is intriguing. Whether this is what filmmaker Dan Sallitt was going for is uncertain, but the result is a sometimes interesting, minimalistic exploration of a relationship stretched thin over the passage of time and…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: How to Build a Girl

    For some reason, the world at large has yet to realize what a stunning talent Beanie Feldstein truly is; the 26 year old (and Jonah Hill’s younger sister) can sing, act and pretty much charm the wits off even the most cynical among us. Her scene stealing performance in Lady Bird (a difficult feat opposite the captivating Saoirse Ronan) put her on the map; she took a half-step towards center stage in Booksmart, sharing top billing with Kaitlyn Dever. Before she breaks out of high school roles once and for all (she has starring roles in both Stephen Sondheim’s Merrily We Roll Along and Ryan Murphy’s American Crime Story: Monica Lewinsky…