• Cinephilia

    2021 [in film]

    As the world (sort of) opened back up again this year, my film viewing responded accordingly; in January, I “attended” a virtual Sundance Film Festival, and by September I was logging a negative PCR test to make my way to Canada for an in-person Toronto Film Festival. Vaccinated and masked, I returned to movie theaters quite a bit over the summer and fall, enjoying amazing (and less so amazing) films back on the big screen—finally. And as the year came to an end this week and another bad wave of the virus wreaked its havoc on us all, I hunkered down at home and knocked out a bunch of films…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Free Fire

    Free Fire cast photo

    For all the obscure festival releases and challenging documentaries I see, all the high-brow foreign dramas and such, you’d be forgiven for thinking that most of what I watch is, well, not that fun. Or at least, not the kind of fun one is usually looking for on a night out at the cinema. Friends, I’m here to tell you that not only do I see those other films, the ones made for the spectacle and popcorn, but you know what? I enjoy the hell out of them. I took myself to see Guardians of the Galaxy a couple years ago. I voluntarily made my way through seven Star Wars films, and now I…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Their Finest

    Their Finest - Gemma Arterton

    The first part of the year is traditionally a bit of a cinematic wasteland, a barren stretch of a release calendar filled with movies that would qualify for a Razzie long before an Oscar or Golden Globe. Sure, there’s Sundance in January, and some nominated films see wider U.S. releases in February. But generally speaking, it isn’t until May that things really improve, as early summer blockbusters make their way into the world. It’s that context that makes a gem like THEIR FINEST, opening barely halfway through April, all the more enjoyable. In a sea of mediocrity, it’s well worth the trip to the cinema this month before they’re overrun by superheroes and…

  • Cinephilia

    Watch This: Get Out

    Last month, Film Twitter went all a-twitter when it was revealed that this year’s Sundance Film Festival secret screening was comedian Jordan Peele’s directorial debut, Get Out (he also wrote the original screenplay). Early buzz was effusive, a promising reception after a work-in-progress Keanu, which he co-wrote, failed to blow audiences away at SXSW last year. The team at Universal was smart to launch the film, the story of a young black photographer whose weekend visit to meet his white girlfriend’s family goes terribly wrong, at the January festival in advance of a February theatrical release. In doing so, they’ve carved out a fairly rare slice of positive momentum in an otherwise barren release…

  • Cinephilia

    Maybe Watch This: A United Kingdom

    In 2014, director Amma Asante – former actress turned filmmaker – hit the scene in a big way with one of the most underrated films of that year, Belle. Actually her sophomore feature, she’d previously been named Most Promising Newcomer at the BAFTAs in 2005, a prescient prediction. This week, Asante returns with her latest film, A United Kingdom, the true story of a ground-breaking, continent-crossing interracial marriage built around a top-caliber cast that ultimately saves it from slipping into risky Hallmark-movie-schmaltz territory. It’s 1947 and David Oyelowo and Rosemund Pike are Seretse Khama and Ruth William Khama, the heir to the throne of Bechuanaland (later Botswana) and his white British…

  • Cinephilia

    Watch This: The Salesman

    For years promoting the U.S. releases of foreign films, again and again I heard them described as “quiet.” Quiet and compelling. Quiet and taut. Quiet and affecting. It’s no wonder so many worthy imports fail to reach a large audience. Who wants to spend two hours watching a lot of quietness – which is to say, a lot of nothing – on screen? Which is why, even though it is in many ways, I will not describe Asghar Farhadi’s arresting new drama The Salesman as quiet. Yes, it employs more than one long stretch of dialogue-free action, and yes, the power of the film is in its nuances, the reaction…