Review: Faces Places

Full disclosure: this is a cross-post with Third Coast Review, where my review also appears.

If you’re a film nerd like me, you follow the various film festivals during the first half of the year (Sundance, Berlin, Tribeca, Cannes) with one ear to the cinematic ground, just waiting to hear what everyone’s going to be talking about come awards season.

If you’re a film nerd like me, you heard all kinds of buzz out of Cannes about something called Faces Places (Visages Villages), by someone named Agnès (said: Ahn-yes) Varda, an octogenarian filmmaker well known by everyone who knows anything about international cinema.

If you’re a (lacking) film nerd like me and you’d never heard of this Agnès Varda (!) but were immediately intrigued, you set off for your local library and spent the summer with this grande dame of French New Wave cinema, taking in Daguerréotypes from 1976, Mur Murs from 1981 and anything else you could get your hands on.

No? Just me?

No matter. Whether you’ve seen none of her 50+ directing efforts or all of them, get thee to the cinema to see Faces Places. Thank me later.

Agnès Varda and JR. Image courtesy of Cohen Media Group

Continue reading “Review: Faces Places”

Review: Patti Cake$

It could be said (it has been said, I’m sure) that Sundance Film Festival likes to play favorites. It’s a bit of a clique, and you’re not in until you’re in. Like the cool kids’ table at lunch or the VIP section at the club, you gotta know someone or be in the right place at the right time.

But I don’t think that’s entirely fair. Especially not while Sundance continues to identify and champion emerging talent like Geremy Jasper and his wonderful feature narrative debut, Patti Cake$. A project developed with the help of Sundance’s Screenwriting and Directing Labs, it premiered earlier this year at the 2017 film festival to generally positive reviews and was snapped up by Fox Searchlight for a cool $10.5 million.

Patricia Dombrowski is living paycheck-to-paycheck with her mother and grandmother in suburban New Jersey; the Manhattan skyline is just visible in the distance, but a world away. She dreams up raps between serving boozy regulars at the dive bar where she works, scraping together enough to pay her ailing Nana’s medical bills and cover some time at a recording studio with her best friend and rapping partner, Jheri. She’s got big dreams and talent to back them up, if only she could get a break.

Continue reading “Review: Patti Cake$”

John Cho at Miller House, Columbus

Review(s): Columbus and Menashe

Two quiet independent films slip into theaters soon, and each is worthy of your attention. Both premiered in Chicago earlier this year at the Chicago Critic's Film Festival, a week-long affair that's proving to be a local film staple previewing the year's best fare. It was there I saw A Ghost Story, The Little Hours, Patti Cake$ and more well before their theatrical release.

Columbus (Sept. 8) and Menashe (August 11) couldn't be more different in some ways, and yet they're strikingly similar. Each follows a male (minority) protagonist as he navigates a rocky time in his life. Each is built around a very specific setting, the architectural enclave of Columbus, Indiana (Columbus) and the Hassidic Jewish community of Brooklyn (Menashe). And each brings their respective world to life in crisp fashion, yet without much fanfare. It's the subtle but diligent care the filmmakers take that pays off for both films. Continue reading “Review(s): Columbus and Menashe”