Blog Archives

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Columbus // Opens 9/15/17

Columbus will remind many of us of another time, before our collective headspaces were devoted to politics and finance, when we would willingly spend long afternoons smoking cigarettes and talking about the nature of art and existence.

Columbus (2017), Opens September 15th

While there is not much plot to Columbus, there is a story and it’s a lovely one. When his father, a famous architecture scholar, falls seriously ill in Columbus while on the lecture circuit, Jin (John Cho), a book translator living in Seoul, arrives to be with him, even though they are estranged. Jin, who has no interest in architecture himself, happens upon Casey (Haley Lu Richardson), a recent high school graduate who is in a blissful state of stasis, deeply under the thrall of her town’s architecture. She also cares for a parent, her mother, a recovering drug addict. They gradually tease out their fears and doubts, as Casey introduces Jin, and by extension the audience, to the buildings, speaking not of their architectural magnificence but about her emotional connection to each.

With his camera placed at a low, deferential angle, and from a respectful distance, director Kogonada presents the structures with a kind-of wide shot wonder reminiscent of the way John Ford captured Monument Valley.

As much as it is about architecture, the film is also a love letter to movies themselves: the sense of majesty they can capture and the strange little worlds they allow us to discover. As such, this modest, quiet-yet-talky little independent film really needs to be seen at the cinema, and away from the distractions and pressures of home. A movie theater is the best way to make an emotional connection to the film’s aesthetic ideas about symmetry and balance, weight and lightness.

~~ Oliver Jones,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Dave Made a Maze // Opens 8/18/17

Dave Made a Maze is the most jaw-droppingly original movie of 2017, a delirious and deliberate act of DIY whimsy in the Terry Gilliam style.

Dave Made a Maze (2017), Opens August 18th

Seriously, if this little indie pic’s production designer, Jeff White, isn’t nominated for an Oscar, the Art Director’s Guild doesn’t know genius when it sees it.

Dave, an artist who has yet to complete anything significant in his career, builds a fort in his living room out of pure frustration, only to wind up trapped by the fantastical pitfalls, booby traps, and critters of his own creation. Ignoring his warnings, Dave’s girlfriend Annie leads a band of oddball explorers on a rescue mission. Once inside, they find themselves trapped in an ever-changing supernatural world, threatened by booby traps and pursued by a bloodthirsty Minotaur.

The characters are dizzy, the film-making jokes (documentary fakery) zing and the stakes seem high even when we’re seeing characters ground up by cardboard gears, sliced by cardboard saws (“Paper cuts!”) in a cloud of paper-shredder plasma.

The whole merry affair walks a tightrope between ingenious and happy accident, skating along on a killer gimmick and the make-do/can-do DIY spirit of the production team.

Seriously, why bother making a sequel to Labyrinth now that “Dave Made a Maze?”

~~ Movie Nation,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Lady Macbeth // Opens 8/11/17

Florence Pugh is lethally charismatic in William Oldroyd’s daring journey into the darkest corners of the world of bonnets and bows

Lady Macbeth (2017), Opens August 11th

William Oldroyd’s fierce feature debut feels like Victorian noir, a twist on a genre probably invented by Shakespeare in the first place. It could well open up a dark new avenue in the bonnets-and-bows world of classic literary adaptation. His movie does an awful lot with a limited budget. It is smart, sexy, dour: qualities that are weaponised by a lethally charismatic lead performance from Florence Pugh as the eponymous, unrepentant killer. She is both sphinx and minx. “You have no idea of the damage you can cause,” her enraged father-in-law splutters at her. Actually, he’s the one with no idea.

Dramatist and screenwriter Alice Birch has adapted Nikolai Leskov’s 1865 novel Lady Macbeth of the Mtsensk District, itself of course inspired by Shakespeare’s Macbeth. Oldroyd’s new movie version, shot with clarity and verve by cinematographer Ari Wegner, retains all of this story’s subversive sexiness, making changes to the narrative, bringing in or rather drawing out themes of abuse, violence, race and class. Cleverly, it gives us enigmatic backstory hints that may or may not help explain the sudden direction change the film takes in its third act, leading to a denouement of toxic ingenuity. And of all it driven by the sensuality and rage of Pugh’s performance.

This Lady Macbeth is reminiscent of Pascale Ferran’s Lady Chatterley and Andrea Arnold’s Wuthering Heights, in which Paul Hilton played Mr Earnshaw. There are similar ways in which racial difference is rendered visible and turned into a new source of tension. The house itself is a potent character. We are not given a clear establishing shot of what it looks like from the outside, in the traditional style; we are just aware of its gloomy prison-like interior. You can almost feel the bone-chilling draught as you hear the incessant creak and squeak of floorboards, and doors opening and closing, like an empty church. It is a world without comfort, without upholstery, and a world in which movement is readily audible and easily monitored.

~~ Peter Bradshaw,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Lemon // Opens 8/25/17

Janicza Bravo’s Lemon breathes new life into an ancient concept—a man who is dumb and also white.

Lemon (2017), Opens August 25th

Comedian Brett Gelman plays said man in what’s easily his best role in a promising career of excellent side characters from Tim & Erik projects to Amazon’s Fleabag. In this movie (which he co-wrote with Bravo) he plays Isaac, a ridiculously pompous acting coach whose life falls apart. His girlfriend (Judy Greer, hilarious and cruel) leaves him after being together for ten years, and his own career as an actor trying to get modeling work isn’t panning out. Isaac finds some type of comfort when he starts a relationship with a woman named Cleo (Nia Long).

This is one of those rare comedies that directly engages said dumb white male’s place in the world. It’s a constant part of his interactions, whether it’s with a woman in his acting class that he constantly undermines (which makes for a hilarious running gag) or Cleo, who provides a type of culture shock with her family (it is worth noting that Gelman and Bravo are an interracial couple in real life, here making an exceptional comedy in part about an interracial couple).

Lemon doesn’t play any of its irreverent humor cheaply, incorporating it into very specific filmmaking choices (abrupt edits, extended sequences); nor does it become heavy-handed. Gelman’s performance is sincere to the dark comedy of Isaac while playing the ultimate clown of privilege. The whole movie is an excellent balance of meaningful comedy and Lemon’s natural, invigorating impulse to be so, so strange.

~~ Nick Allen,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Menashe // Opens 9/1/17

A quiet, poignantly told tale of a man who’s not exactly an outcast, yet who struggles to fit into a very ordered society. Welcome to the world that Menashe inhabits.

Menashe (2017), Opens September 1st

The titular schlubby hero of Menashe might, with a few tweaks, be a perfect fit for the lead of a Judd Apatow comedy about a wayward man-child. He works a fairly menial job at a supermarket stocking shelves, but still manages to be bad at it; he’s well-liked by his co-workers, but irritating to his boss and his family, all of whom wish he’d stop cracking jokes and iron his shirts once in a while. Though Menashe (played by Menashe Lustig) is quite a relatable ne’er-do-well, his story is set in Hasidic Jewish Brooklyn, one of America’s most insular communities.

Joshua Z. Weinstein’s debut fiction film (he has directed several documentaries) is heavily indebted to the classic neorealism of the ’60s but is delivered entirely in Yiddish. At times sweet, but never patronizing, Menashe examines a world that might seem foreign or oppressive even to other Brooklynites who live alongside the Hasidim, without ever turning its inhabitants into either caricatures or figures of fun.

Menashe is wise not to be preachy, or to make sweeping judgments about Hasidic life. Weinstein’s workmanlike camera style allows him to act as a bystander who has gotten closer to a world that’s still sealed-off (the director struggled to convince Hasidic actors to participate in the project). In grounding the story in a particular personality, and the familiar connection between a father and son, Weinstein has created a subtly powerful work of human drama, driven by the charismatic, if frustrating, man at its center.

~~ David Sims,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Whose Streets? // Opens 9/1/17

For the black residents of Ferguson, MO, the killing of 18-year-old Michael Brown Jr. in 2014 was neither the first nor the last in a long line of police shootings, but it was the final straw.

Whose Streets? (2017), Opens September 1st

The directorial debut from activist Sabaah Folayan, with co-direction by visual artist Damon Davis, Whose Streets? is a vibrant firsthand portrait of the Ferguson uprising and the origins of the Black Lives Matter movement. The film weaves a compelling narrative, beginning with the community’s mournful protests in the days following Brown’s murder, to the militarized police tactics that needlessly escalated the situation, and ending with a united resurgence of the movement after the non-indictment of Brown’s killer, Officer Darren Wilson.

Folayan’s presence is hardly seen, but can be felt in the easy shorthand her subjects use on camera. They have much to say and do so urgently, without fear of being misinterpreted. For comparison, Folayan’s interviews stand in stark contrast to the ones conducted by mainstream media outlets (and their largely white interviewers) she chooses to show.

The effect is the feeling of witnessing discussions that only happen behind closed doors. The film affords non-black viewers the privilege of unmasking the black perspective, and how the ignorance of that perspective embodies privilege itself.

Raw and unadorned, Whose Streets? is a documentary in the truest sense of the word; an actual moving document of events fresh in the country’s memory, but never before laid as bare as they are here. It is a vital tribute to the activists who continue to fight every day in America’s unrelenting war on black folks, and it couldn’t have come soon enough.

~~ Jude Dry,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Landline // Opens 8/11/17

An honestly told story about the messiness of human relationships.
Set in the fall of 1995, a magical time when people kept all of their secrets on floppy discs.

Landline (2017), Opens August 11th

Among its other virtues, Gillian Robespierre’s Landline is the rare movie that appreciates the difference between the pleasure of standing in the water and the satisfaction of soaking in it. The difference between trying someone on for size and swishing around in their dirt until your skin prunes and the water runs cold. Almost everything that a second feature should be, the film is bigger, richer, shaggier, and more satisfying than Robespierre’s Obvious Child, though obviously a product of the same irreverent imagination.

The Jacobs family, a foursome of upper-middle-class Manhattanites (remember when such a thing existed?), is beginning to suffer from stress fractures that are more immediately felt than seen. Landline refuses to be tethered to any particular character. On the contrary, Robespierre uses her most accessible conflict as a Trojan horse into the bigger shitstorm that’s brewing in plain sight.

Of course, the ’90s seem like a simpler time, and maybe they were, but life is never simple when you’re living through it. Landline may not be quite as funny as Obvious Child (it’s not really trying to be), but it feels every bit as authentic, and that’s doubly true when everything goes wrong and the characters are forced to deal with their consequences. There isn’t a single moment that doesn’t feel true.

~~ David Ehrlich,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Maudie // Opens 8/4/17

This is a remarkably assured movie, through and through.

Maudie (2017), Opens August 4th

Maudie,”from Irish-born director Aisling Walsh, is a film biography of Maud Lewis, one of the most beloved folk artists of 20th century Canada. The movie, which is made with an artfulness that at times is almost overwhelming, does not play as a standard biopic in any way, however. The viewer never really learns just what Maud’s affliction is until over two-thirds of the way into the film. (Maud Lewis suffered from painful arthritis all her life, stemming from childhood rheumatic fever.) The town in which she lived, married, and made her simple, colorful paintings is not named in an opening title or any such thing. (The setting is Nova Scotia, and the scenery of the film, which was actually partially shot in Ireland and other parts of Canada, is ever-breathtaking.) This film shows instead of tells, and what it shows is sad, disturbing, beautiful, and moving, sometimes all at once.

Walsh and cinematographer Guy Godfree have taken care to make every individual shot a thing of beauty. But the artfulness always acts in service of the emotions, which in the end become both inspiring and heartbreaking.

~~ Glenn Kenny,

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // The Little Hours // Opens 7/21/17

A riotous medieval-era sex romp played with lunatic conviction by a great cast, welcome to The Little Hours.

The Little Hours (2017), Opens July 21st

The opening sequence is like Mean Girls: the Dark Ages years, with three bitchy nuns ,Alessandra (Alison Brie), Genevra (Kate Micucci), and Fernanda (Aubrey Plaza, who also produced the film), eye-rolling over laundry duties, snarking at one another, screaming obscenities at a leering handyman. Sister Marea (Molly Shannon) and Father Tommasso (John C. Reilly) run the convent, just barely. Then, into this hothouse cloister comes Massetto (Dave Franco), a young guy on the run. Before he can even settle in, he is besieged by voracious nuns.

What could have been in less confident hands, a one-joke sketch becomes, instead, a consistently wacko screwball comedy. Everyone in The Little Hours is dealing with enormous and urgent needs. No one is having enough sex. And even when a character has some sex, it’s still not nearly enough. Who on earth would ever say, “Okay, I’ve had enough sex for one lifetime, thanks, I’m done”? The fact that all of this takes place in a convent just drives the point home further. It’s riotous to the point of lunacy.

~~ Sheila O’Malley

Just Booked @ The Nightlight // Paris Can Wait // Opens 7/21/17

An uplifting road trip that embraces France, food and matters of the heart, Paris Can Wait is a delight!

Paris Can Wait (2017), Opens July 21st>

A scrumptious degustation crammed with tantalizing textures and flavours and lightly glazed with romance. Based on real events, in her directing debut, Eleanor Coppola (wife of Francis Ford Coppola) has crafted a film that brushes away life’s cobwebs as it let us look at life from a fresh perspective. If you need a dose of joie de vivre, this may be just the ticket.

The film is disarmingly simple and Diane Lane elevates the proceedings with her beautifully nuanced performance and luminous presence. She plays Anne, the elegant, ever-patient Hollywood wife, who blossoms under the gaze and attention of her husband’s business associate Jacques, a charming Frenchman, played excellently by Arnaud Viard. While Alec Baldwin’s pre-occupied film producer husband ratchets up another movie deal in Budapest, Jacques takes Anne on the scenic route to Paris in a sexy, sky blue vintage Peugeot convertible.

While the film’s essence is as light as a soufflé, Coppola never lets it become trite and predictable. The story is clearly based in reality, after all who could come up with the idea of pretending to dance in a Renoir painting?

Like a splendid meal, Paris Can Wait allows us to enjoy it all, from the anticipation to the recollection of the priceless moments along the way. The ending is delicious. So what are you waiting for?

~~ Louise Keller