• Cinephilia

    Review: Just Mercy

    It’s a busy time of year at the movies, as Oscar nominations are imminent and theaters are booked with that odd mix of year-end must-see movies still playing on the big screen and the kind of low-brow stuff weekends in January are made for. Into this fray comes Just Mercy, the latest from Destin Daniel Cretton (The Glass Castle, Short Term 12) and based on the true story of lawyer and advocate Bryan Stevenson (Michael B. Jordan) and his years-long battle to prove the innocence of death-row inmate Walter McMillian (Jamie Foxx). In a year with noteworthy films like Dark Waters and Clemency, both steeped in the inequities and bureaucracy of the American…

  • Cinephilia

    2019 [in films]

    For the last three years, I’ve managed to watch more films than I did the year before. In 2017, I saw 181 films. In 2018, it was 182. In 2019, I watched 184 films in all, not counting rewatches and works in progress. I know this because I’m a big old nerd and I keep track of what I see in not one but two places: a spreadsheet I keep for my own records, and my tracking online over at Letterboxd (go ahead and give me a follow!). I do it for the fun of it, because when you watch as many films as I do (which actually pales in…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Cunningham

    Merce Cunningham died in 2009 at the age of 90, and in his decades-long career as a dancer and choreographer, he redefined American modern dance as we know it. Fond of reminding his dancers, audiences and the media that he wasn’t designing the movements but rather allowing them to be revealed, Cunningham broke the mold of what the performing arts understood dance to be, from the way his work unfolded to the way he ran his eponymous dance company. Alla Kovgan’s captivating new documentary—fittingly titled Cunningham—explores the artist’s work, life and lasting legacy in a film that blends the past and the present in beautifully inventive ways. In order to…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: Give Me Liberty

    A sure sign of a film’s impact is finding oneself thinking back to scenes, moments or certain lines of dialogue long after seeing it. Such is the case with Kirill Mikhanovsky’s directorial debut Give Me Liberty, a chaotic, cluttered slice of life drama about the son of Russian immigrants who gets by as a transport driver for Milwaukee’s disabled community. In a film that quite literally could induce motion sickness, one of the quieter scenes lingers after the credits roll. It happens after Vic (Chris Galust) has joined one of his clients, Tracy (Lauren ‘Lolo’ Spencer), and her family for dinner; the two retreat to her room and Vic, who has…

  • Cinephilia

    Review: The Chambermaid

    Like last year’s triumphant Roma, a film by Alfonso Cuarón set in Mexico City, Lila Avilés’s debut feature film, The Chambermaid, follows the life of a servant. In Roma, it was a live-in caretaker whose life unfolded on screen; here, it’s hotel maid Eve (Gabriela Cartol), who cleans and resets guest rooms in a high-rise, high luxury property with internal machinations as bustling as the comings and goings of its guests. Avilés sets her focus on Eve from the beginning, and it’s a tight focus throughout. Though we get glimpses of Eve’s surroundings—the plush guest rooms, the staff cafeteria—the camera is largely concerned with Eve and her day-to-day experience. As such, there isn’t much…