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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Written by Gregory Burke
Directed by Yann Demange
In 1971, Northern Ireland was facing the height of the Troubles, a period where the people of that portion of the United Kingdom were in an all-out war with each other. These conflicts were based primarily on the divide between Catholic and Protestant but were based more on those who were loyal to the British throne and those who sought independence from the kingdom. The film ‘71 follows recruit Gary Hook who is thrown into the chaos of Northern Ireland with little understanding of the factions and nuance of relationships. He’s just there to do a job, supporting local police as they do residence searches for weapons caches. Things turn south quickly, and Gary finds himself trapped and wounded on the streets of Belfast. He’ll spend a night of terror, unsure of whom to trust and testing his mettle to survive.
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Written & Directed by Céline Sciamma
Marieme is a sixteen-year-old black teenager living on the outskirts of Paris. She learns that her school’s guidance counselor is pushing for her to follow a vocational track as her academics don’t appear to be high enough for an academic one. Marieme knows the expectations of her mother, who works as a custodian, are that she eventually go to university. In this moment of frustration, the young woman finds friendship with a trio of girls. These young women are known for getting into brawls with other women in their neighborhood, and through them, Marieme feels like she has power in an otherwise powerless position in the world. Over the course of this year, she will move from being a child into a young adult and have to face the obstacles and struggles that come along with that territory.
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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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The Revenant (2015)
Written by Mark L. Smith and Alejandro G. Iñárritu
Directed by Alejandro G. Iñárritu
If you could combine the pantheistic mysticism of Terence Malick with the primal brutality of Cormac McCarthy, you would have The Revenant. Set in the year pre-American Westward Expansion, The Revenant follows Hugh Glass, a white scout guiding a fur trapping crew into the dangerous Shawnee territory. Glass mostly keeps to himself and fraternizes only with his half-Native son Hawk. It doesn’t take long for the trapping operations to come under attack and those men who survive the assault head down river to find a route back to the safety of Fort Kiowa. The full brute force of nature is on display as the planned escape doesn’t go, and Glass finds himself coming to the borders of life and death.
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steve jobs (2015)
Written by Aaron Sorkin
Directed by Danny Boyle
Heroes can often be rotten people behind the scenes. Steve Jobs, while often canonized as a saint of American industry and technology, was not a very nice person, especially to the daughter he denied for decades. When making a film about the creator of the revolutionary Macintosh computer, it would be easy to go the usual biopic route that displays all sorts of corny and cliched foreshadowing that can make the audience think themselves clever. Instead, writer Aaron Sorkin structures this film like a three-act stage play with each act being the minutes before one of Jobs famous unveilings. 1984’s Macintosh reveal, 1988’s embarrassing NeXT launch, and 1998’s glorious return to glory iMac announcement. There are repetitious refrains, almost like a piece of music, characters as themes returning in variation. All of this adds up to a brutally honest portrayal of Steve Jobs that doesn’t seek to frame him as a “great man” but a flawed man with some great ideas.
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Written by Phyllis Nagy
Directed by Todd Haynes
As a gay person, Todd Haynes is always looking back to those times when his sexuality was not given a space to exist in the light much less even acknowledged as legitimate. He’s gone back to the turning point of the 1970s with the glam rock scene of Velvet Goldmine, explored the horrors across time of discovering one’s sexuality in Poison and with Carol he seems to have found a place where joy can be found yet still constrained by the mores of the period. Carol is an exploration of two women’s love affair yet should connect with all members of the audience who have found themselves caught up in their passions and were a complex mix of happiness and anxiety. This is a film about the effervescence of love, the frustrating intangibility of connecting with another.
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