In Review: Arctic

Joe Penna’s Arctic trades in one of our finest global cinematic exports: the expressive, beautifully-worn topography of Mads Mikkelsen’s face. In this survival story, the actor is distilled down to his essence, barely speaking and without even the most minuscule character background to build audience allegiance. But after wide-ranging material spanning all kinds of genres from The Hunt to the short lived series Hannibal, Arctic is the firmest proof that Mikkelsen is one of our most naturally compelling performers.


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In Review: Vice

Vice arrives on the screen in a haze of dorm room pot smoke and farts, the kind of conceptual satire brewed up and whiffed out by dudes confusing vacuous provocation for sociopolitical sharpness. But the film’s larger problem is the self-awareness it lacks to see how its own gauche glibness bends closer to the boys club point of view of its demonic subject than it intends. The film belches ill-conceived sketches at us, guffawing at its structural somersaults as it depicts the wheel-turners of the Bush administration creating irrevocable circumstances both immediate and reemerging. Skewering is not enough to excuse how Vice renders some of the most dangerous people of our era into cartoons, resulting in a film grossly stooped in privilege, a film that wants to have its dumb cake and eat it too. It’s torturous, audience-hating claptrap.


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2018 Film Year in Review!

2018 Film Year in Review from Chris Feil on Vimeo.

Presenting: my 2018 Year In Review video montage! In lieu of brief write-ups on a listicle, I opted to teach myself iMovie (be gentle!) to wrap up the movie year as it comes to an end. Featured in the video are my Top 20 films of the year, preceded by a quick love note thrown at the year overall and mentions for every film featured on my overall yearly ballot. Speaking of which, below is the rest of my year-end ballot!

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In Review: Ben Is Back

Consider Peter Hedges’ Ben is Back as a natural antecedent to his Pieces of April, with a few key improvements. The largely despised previous film was a Thanksgiving-set early-digital filmmaking effort with effortful emotional maneuverings in telling a story of a fractured family. This time he turns to Christmas to display deeper and wider reaching splinters within a broken home, this time coping with the addiction of the eldest titular son Ben Burns, played by Lucas Hedges. Though the writer/director delivers something less garishly composed than its quasi cinematic cousin, Ben is Back is largely aided by the vigor of Julia Roberts’ turn as the mother Holly.

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In Review: Shoplifters

Hirokazu Kore-eda returns to the family drama in his Palme D’or-winning Shoplifters, crafting a graceful melodrama about the human contradictions of survival in indifferent societies. Once again the modern master looks at a family dynamic, and one that strays a outside of both the nuclear unit and socioeconomic demands of traditional society. Living in a tucked away shack in Tokyo, the Shibata family’s volatile existence is challenged further when they take in an abused toddler locked out of her home in the cold. Though they originally intend to host the young Yuri for only an evening, they decide to keep her when overhearing the full extent of her parents’ disregard.

What follows is a series of expertly structured and unexpected emotional landmines that keep its questioning of social ethics planted in their inherent humanity. That Kore-eda can do this so gently is part of what makes Shoplifters a masterpiece, what makes it sink into your heart with unassuming ease. Where his contemporaries want punishment and moroseness, he reaches for us to leave the theatre a little more thoughtful about the world around us.


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