• Cinephilia

    Review: The Assistant

    Though it grapples with a distinctly American scandal—that of the #MeToo movement in the movie industry—Kitty Green’s The Assistant comes off as surprisingly European in its observational, detail-oriented approach. As it follows a day in the life of the assistant of the title, played by Julia Garner, the devil is quite literally in the details: the wording of an email, the nudge of a box of tissues, the dishes left behind after a meeting she’s not invited to. A film quite light on dialogue, we follow Jane (as she’s identified in the credits, though never in the film) through moments that seem unremarkable, doing the entry level work of an office assistant…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Oscar Documentary Shorts

    If you plan to see the Oscar Nominated Documentary Shorts Program, now playing at the Music Box Theatre, keep in mind that all five films are presented as a single program that, this year, runs to a whopping two hours and forty minutes. It’s a marathon, to be sure. But seeing how each of the five films is a captivating snapshot of the lives of others, sometimes in their darkest, hardest, most challenging moments, it’s a compilation of films that’s more than worth the investment of your time. Featured at the 2019 Chicago Critics Film Festival, Life Overtakes Me is the painfully sad story of children who’ve faced such devastating traumas that…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Oscar Live Action Shorts

    The five 2020 Live-Action Short Film Oscar Nominees hail from four different countries—Belgium, Tunisia, France and the USA—and average about twenty minutes each. Aside from their runtimes, the films don’t have all that much in common, as they explore everything from a fatal fire at a Mexican orphanage to a Brooklyn family’s odd connection with the neighbors they can see through their living room window. Directed by Marshall Curry, The Neighbors’ Window stars Maria Dizzia and Greg Keller as a Brooklyn couple juggling their work, raising three small kids and their own relationship when a younger, hotter couple moves in next door and they get a front row seat to their lives.…

  • City Stories

    Review: The Mousetrap

    Perhaps best known as the longest-running play ever (notching north of 28,000 performances and counting), Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap has been continuously on stage in London’s West End since 1952. Now, the reliably entertaining murder mystery set over a few snowed-in days at the remote (and fictional) Monkswell Manor finds its way to a stage much closer to home. Hyde Park’s Court Theatre presents a vibrant, comical take on this evergreen whodunnit through February 16. Directed by Sean Graney, the ensemble piece set in the “present day” (really, the post-war era of its original premiere) is here infused with bold color choices, whimsical set design and a self-aware sense of humor throughout…

  • City Stories

    Review: Once On This Island

    Just a few blocks north of the heart of Times Square and next door to the massive Gershwin Theatre (capacity: 1,900) is a more intimate space, an 800-seat theater built for unique productions that immerse their audiences into the world created on stage eight times a week. The aptly named Circle in the Square Theatre presents shows that make the most of the space’s thrust stage, with seating surrounding three of the four sides. I’ve seen a couple shows there, including the magnificent (and Tony Award-winning) revival of Oklahoma! headed on tour this fall, where they serve homemade chili on stage during intermission. Before Oklahoma!, Circle on the Square was host to another…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: The Song of Names

    The biggest problem with The Song of Names, in a film with many of them, is that it lacks a driving why behind any of the proceedings, anything to signal to an audience why on earth we should care about what’s unfolding on screen. Based on a novel by Norman Lebrecht, François Girard directs this overly wrought, listless drama (adapted by Jeffrey Caine) about a grown man seeking the Polish Jewish violinist who lived with his family in London during World War II only to disappear on the night of a post-war concert to showcase his talent. Though the film is told mostly in flashbacks, Tim Roth and Clive Owen—two actors who deliver…