Love & Friendship (2016)
Written & Directed by Whit Stillman
Whit Stillman has made a career of writing and directing comedy of manners films, so it feels like an inevitable match to have him adapt one of Jane Austen’s novels. The book is Lady Susan, a lesser known tome, and Stillman strips away the romantic notions associated with Austen and focuses in on the social manipulation and interactions. In movies like Metropolitan and The Last Days of Disco, Stillman spends large chunks of times on characters in conversation, and these exchanges are packed with wit and suspense. You may find yourself unsteady in the opening scenes, but once you get your footing and see the flow of the dialogue, you cannot help but find yourself cracking up.
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Friday, June 14th marks the release date of Bill Murray’s newest film, The Dead Don’t Die, a deadpan zombie comedy directed by indie filmmaker Jim Jarmusch. That got me thinking about my favorite Bill Murray films and thus brings us to this list. As you’ll see I’m a bigger fan of the later Murray films, not so much his output in the 1980s. Without further discussion, here are my favorite Murray movies.
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Written by Jon Ronson & Peter Straughan
Directed by Lenny Abrahamson
When given an actor like Michael Fassbender, a man with a handsome leading actor face and square jaw, the last thing you would think to do is put him under a paper mache head for ¾ of your movie. In doing this though the filmmakers give Fassbender some freedoms he might not be afforded in more traditional roles in films that call on him to be a smoldering lover or a dashing hero. The character of Frank is a cipher, created by comedian and musician Chris Sievey. Sievey used Frank as a way to express the strangeness and absurdity he might have felt too nervous about showcasing with his face revealed. The film Frank, very different from the real world Frank, is a mentally ill man who is unable to see himself as a valuable person and hides in this mask, which he sees as the ideal form of a face.
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Pokemon Detective Pikachu (2019)
Written by Dan Hernandez & Benji Sami, Rob Letterman, and Derek Connolly
Directed by Rob Letterman
It was always a matter of time. It was 1996 when Pocket Monsters came to the United States in the form of Gameboy games and a collectible card game. I was in high school at the time and preferred to spend what little disposable income I had on comic books so I never really got caught up in the phenomenon. I think I played the card game once in college but wasn’t pulled in, I went and saw the first animated feature film in the theater due to a nearby dollar theater, and have played an hour or two of the Gameboy game. So I’m aware of the concept and can identify a few core Pokemon, but not a fan in any sense. That said, I was hoping that this live-action feature could maybe create a bridge between hardcore fans and the liminal audience that would make Pokemon appeal to the broadest audience possible.
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Mr. Turner (2014)
Written & Directed by Mike Leigh
I loved Mr. Turner! We’re in an age of the most cookie cutter formulaic biopic. Look at films like Bohemian Rhapsody, which follows a rigorous plot structure that doesn’t provide insight into its central figure. It’s not a new problem; it’s just so prevalent. Mr. Turner has no interest in exploring the early years of the English painter J.M.W. Turner, there’s no scene which shows him picking up a paintbrush for the first time as if guided by a divine hand. When we meet the main character, he’s in the last 25 years of his life, past a broken marriage where he doesn’t claim his two daughters, and whose only human connections are with his manager/father and an occasional tryst with his psoriasis riddled maid Hannah. This is not a pretty story but an honest one.
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Written by Sean Baker and Chris Bergoch
Directed by Sean Baker
From the opening moments, you know you are in for a nonstop burst of energy in Tangerine. Much like Sin-Dee who refuses to smoke a joint because she only does uppers, this film has a continual momentum. This dynamic is aided by the technique of filmmaking on display, an iPhone with some apps and at times a Steadicam rig. That sense of rolling energy is supported by this incredibly new mode of making movies and with our two trans main characters. Sean Baker is doing something very experimental yet familiar, made apparent with his use of the old standard “Babes in Toyland.” Baker wants to blend the modern with the classic and create a new kind of film.
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Written & Directed by Todd Solondz
I can’t say I’ve ever enjoyed a Todd Solondz film, but I have been continually fascinated by them. He is such a profoundly misanthropic filmmaker with an aesthetic that clashes with the darkness of his material. Wiener-Dog is his most recent film, and it won’t toss anything new at familiar audiences. The film hits on the same gripes Solondz has always ranted about: the soullessness of the middle class, the lack of art in cinema, the inevitability of our deaths. All of this is told in a bright, warm pastel palette complete with a soundtrack that creates a dissonance with the themes of the picture.
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