Greener Grass (2019)
Written and Directed by Jocelyn DeBoer & Dawn Luebbe
In the 21st century, there has been an influx of a new kind of anti-comedy with the work of comedians like Tim & Eric being one of many beginning touchpoints. This is humor that blends social satire and grotesque imagery, not intending to demean some other figure but often as a way for the artist to examine their own anxieties and insecurities. Much like how David Lynch explores his fears of parenthood in Eraserhead, so too do these films and television programs feature creators wanting to jump headfirst into neuroses. Greener Grass is two women’s look at a particular type of femininity and way of life that they have intense fears about.
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Mister America (2019)
Written by Tim Heidecker, Gregg Turkington, & Eric Notarnicola
Directed by Eric Notarnicola
For seven years, writer/actor/comedian Tim Heidecker has been building a universe. It started with “On Cinema at the Cinema,” a film review show on YouTube. Heidecker and Turkington starred as versions of themselves, the former an arrogant prick and the latter a film buff obsessed with all that is mediocre. Worldbuilding occurred during the conversations the men had. This included Heidecker marrying a Japanese friend, having a child with the friend (Tom Cruise Junior), and the child dying because Heidecker became a strict anti-vaxxer. It was clear that Heidecker had a point of view to get across, the sort of profoundly twisted satire mainstream media doesn’t provide audiences with.
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Written by Bong Joon-ho & Jin Won Han
Directed by Bong Joon-ho
Bong Joon-ho is a filmmaker genuinely interested in issues of class and social structures. You can see that in his previous work, especially Snowpierce, Okja, and The Host, but there are elements of this in all his work. Parasite is the synthesis of all these ideas, a perfect summation of his thoughts on the class divide and human nature. This is a film made by a creator who is at the height of their confidence. Bong Joon-ho is clear-headed with a thorough understanding of the story they want to tell and the psychologies of the characters populating that narrative. It may sound grandiose to say this, but this is an example of about as close as we can get to having a perfect movie.
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Written & Directed by Lucrecia Martel
Don Diego de Zama was sent by the Spanish crown to a remote colony in South America to serve as a functionary under the governor. When we meet Zama, he is standing on the shore, staring off into the ocean anticipating a vessel to carry him back to his family, a ship that will never arrive. This is the living nightmare that Zama exists in, a place where the governors come and go but where he is trapped. He suffers the temptations of the flesh, has belongings stripped from him, and has to reside in a haunted shack. Finally, Zama volunteers to be part of a doomed expedition to capture the infamous Vicuña Porto.
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The Love Witch (2016)
Written & Directed by Anna Biller
We find Elaine speeding down a California coastal highway, running away from the death of her ex-husband Larry. She starts a new life in Arcata, taking an apartment her friend Barbara used to live in, still decked out in the witchy paraphernalia that links these two women. Elaine has one focus in life, the attainment of the love of a man. Using magic, she begins seducing local men who end up overwhelmed by the feelings that bubble up inside them. Unable to process all of this love they meet their ultimate fate and Elaine shrugs it off and move onto the next guy. However, the police are investigating, and it’s only a matter of time until this witch is caught for her crimes.
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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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Velvet Buzzsaw (2019)
Written & Directed by Dan Gilroy
Morf Vanderwalt is a dissatisfied art critic searching for something that will bring inspiration to him both personally and professionally. His relationships with other members of the art community are all transactional leaving him even more hollow. Josephina, a lover of Morf’s and an agent in the art world, discovers a neighbor has died, and his home is full of hypnotic, unsettling artwork. Ventril Dease is the deceased artist and no matter who glimpses his Goya-esque paintings they seem enthralled. Art gallery owner Rhodora Haze sees a long term market for Dease and decides to squirrel away most of the thousands of pictures to trickle them out slowly over time. This is when the strange deaths begin, and Morf starts to realize that there is an evil presence surrounding this artwork.
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Four Lions (2010)
Written by Chris Morris, Sam Bain, Jesse Armstrong, & Simon Blackwell
Directed by Chris Morris
Nine years after the events of 9/11, with the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq raging on, as ISIS was growing in power, four radicalized British Muslims want in on the jihad. They aspire to be suicide bombers but want to do it legit so that they end up as kick-ass martyrs. Two of the men, Omar and Waj, fly to Pakistan to train with al-Qaeda but end up using a rocket launcher the wrong way round and blow up part of the training camp. Meanwhile, Anglo convert to Islam Barry recruits Hassan, a young Arabic rapper who wants to create a “jihad of the mind.” When Omar returns the group devolves into arguments about what exactly to bomb: a mosque and pretend they were Jews, a pharmacy because they sell birth control or some as to be determined target.
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Sorry To Bother You (2018)
Written & Directed by Boots Riley
Cassius Green is elated when he gets a job as a telemarketer for RegalView. He has some trouble though while trying to sell leatherbound books of nonsense nobody needs. An older coworker explains that Cassius needs to use his “white voice,” that voice white people think they are supposed to sound like; that voice with an air of relaxation and no worries. Suddenly Cassius becomes a power caller rocketing to a major promotion. Meanwhile, his friends and fellow telemarketers fight to form a union and demand better pay. Cassius begins selling contracts for WorryFree, a program that offers struggling families help with “lifetime labor contracts,” essentially slavery. As Cassius climbs higher and higher, he comes in contact with dangerously influential figures and learns the dark secrets planned for humanity.
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Bob Roberts (1992)
Written & Directed by Tim Robbins
During the 1990 Pennsylvania Senate race the world was introduced to candidate Bob Roberts via a documentary being made by Terry Manchester, an English filmmaker. Roberts stuck out so starkly in the political landscape first as a Billboard charting folk singer, recontextualizing the word of Bob Dylan into Conservative screeds against the Left. As Manchester explored the meteoric rise of Roberts, he discovered a connection to former CIA agent Lukas Hart and his failed Central American gun-running efforts. There is also the constant figure of Bugs Raplin, a journalist who is out to uncover the truth about Bob Roberts and stop his ascension to the seat of power in Washington D.C.
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