In Review: Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Arresting the senses and stimulating the mind, Céline Sciamma has made one of the most breathtaking screen romances of the decade with Portrait of a Lady on Fire. After her powerful previous features, Girlhood and Tomboy, Sciamma pivots slightly into a new direction, one that expands upon her queer humanism into more formal approaches. The depth of feeling is still wondrous, but moreso than ever before, the auteur has crafted something quite intellectually rigorous and intuitive that further elevates her emotional naturalism. Here she makes something intellectual and expressionist, bent on removing the creative divides between person and object in matters of art and of love. By the end she leaves you dizzy, catching your breath in the passionate throws of the film’s formalist embrace.

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In Review: A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

“It’s good to talk.” So goes the old adage of Mr. Rogers and the new film that follows his teachings and unique impact on American society, Marielle Heller’s restorative A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood. The film uses the simplicity and unassuming depth of those words to examine how learn and hold on to pain, certain that there is nothing more dramatic than two people connecting. The two people on the film’s mind are a journalist named Lloyd Vogel (Matthew Rhys) and his subject, the incomparable Fred Rogers, played by Tom Hanks as no other performer could have. It’s largely, achingly, two men talking. Or sometimes, for one of them, struggling to talk.

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In Review: Frozen 2

Rather than stepping forward in usual fairy tale sequel fashion, Frozen 2 looks backward. Perhaps not in ways that are expected or all that desired, a strange pivot for one of the most clamored-for sequels in recent memory. Yes, audiences get to be reunited with the ice-spewing queen Elsa and her less emotionally guarded sister Anna, along with her boyfriend Kristoff, his reindeer Sven, and that snowman terrorist named Olaf. Packed with even more tunes than before, this film takes us back to the mythos of the sisters’ departed parents and their association to the lands that surround their kingdom of Arendelle.

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In Review: Ford v. Ferrari

Noise does not equate to excitement, but don’t tell that to James Mangold. With Ford v Ferrari, the director takes an extensively familiar and cliched approach to unexamined industrial history. Despite a somewhat interesting subject of Ford Motor Company’s entry into the Le Mans auto race and cross-continental grudge with the sexier Ferrari, Mangold reduces the narrative to entry-level machismo pathology. Its human story, led by Christian Bale in prickish rascal mode and Matt Damon as his straightlaced compatriot, is granted consideration seldom deeper than the traditional masculine types it reverts to. Even with all the technically impressive vroom vroom (or maybe somewhat because of it), it feels like we’ve seen it all before. And with Mangold unable to find any fresh territory to speak of, it hasn’t gotten any less boring.

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In Review: The Irishman

The Irishman is the kind of self-reflective film to come at what might be the beginning of the end of a master filmmaker’s career, made remarkably alive in its ideas and narrative weight through the context of time and experience. Here comes a re-examination of a genre that defined Martin Scorsese’s career, a crime saga in tune to generational divides and the consequences of committing oneself to dying regimes. Epic in its timeline and intellectual scope, Scorsese has made something funereal and absurdly funny, one that appears in surprising dialogue with his career and place in the modern cinematic landscape. The Irishman is a film of fatal mistakes of the soul and a world that eventually spins forward without you, and even against you.

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