Watching films not for overindulgence, but to develop my taste buds: bite-sized reviews to whet your appetite, bon appétit

Last year I edited a video (video also featured at bottom of this piece) with scenes from some of my favorite films I’d seen over that year correlated with my reviews I’d written on letterboxd. I watch a lot of films and write a review for every film I see on that site. They are almost like a log, rather than a review. I just try to write my initial reaction and feelings of what I’ve seen. I’d like to present some of the reviews I’ve logged this year to you like an amuse-bouche. An amuse-bouche, in the food world, is a single, bite-sized hors d’œuvre. Amuse-bouches are different from appetizers in that they are not ordered from a menu by patrons but are served free and according to the chef’s selection alone. In this instance, I’m the chef, and you are the patron, and here are my bite sized reviews.

I have a deep love for film. I watch every film with a desire to be filled with something, either an indescribable feeling, like I felt while watching “Portrait of a Lady on Fire”, being transported to an undiscovered world of weirdness, like “Knives and Skin”, or brought to a place of familiarity, with “The Farewell”. Each of the reviews reflect me being filled in some way, a lasting way that remains, not in an overindulgent way, but just enough. Bon Appétit.

Scarlett Johansson as Nicole in “Marriage Story”

Marriage Story

Scarlett Johansson’s character Nicole is pacing in her soon to be divorce attorney’s office, played by Laura Dern. Nicole walks to the bathroom, grabs a tissue, and starts to talk about why her soon to be ex, Charlie, played with a powerhouse performance by Adam Driver, are divorcing. This scene I’d compare to like a symphony. The notes, not quite fitting together, then slowly we get to the heart of why she can no longer be married to him, the climax, she wants to have a voice of her own, be heard, be seen, and with Charlie this cannot happen. Just that one scene is like a microcosm of the film, a symphony starting disjointed with flat against sharp notes, until the heart/climax is revealed in harmony and then a new life is reborn from the mess, fade out song. And my heart goes out to Nicole the most, even though Adam Driver’s performance was equally as powerful, but my heart felt most for Scarlett’s performance.

“Paradise Hills”

Paradise Hills

My kind of f**ked up stepford wives, except this time with a happier ending (sorry spoiler, but doesn’t ruin the movie to know that!). The film was so beautiful, and loved how the insanity of normalcy oozed out like a thorny rose. Well done director Alice Waddington.

Read feature with Hilda Somarriba that talks about her work with Alice Waddington.

“Fleabag” National Theatre Live

Fleabag – National Theatre Live

Phoebe Waller-Bridge I could watch her for hours taking pictures of her vagina fully clothed with an invisible camera phone, and swiping her pictures of her vagina on the invisible camera phone to choose which vagina picture is best. No need for props, Phoebe has it all in her performance in this one woman live show. This is the power Phoebe has, taking female experiences that are usually taboo topics of conversation, and talking about them and laughing at the same time. I’ve taken pics of my vagina before, okay I said it and I laugh because always when you send a dirty picture, the guy immediately asks for another one, it’s exhausting. Thank god for Phoebe for showing women you can be playful in your talk about sex, and own it, but also be honest about it too. I love her.

“Portrait of a Lady on Fire”

Portrait of a Lady on Fire

Chills. There is a scene where the women are around a campfire singing. I got these intense chills, and I felt warm like I was by a fire. It was such an unusual sensation that I never felt before.

The whole film was so impeccable in an epic piece of beauty. I was on the verge of tears through out the film because the beauty hurt so much in a good way.

I have to continue to process my emotions of this film, but it’s heartbreaking, life changing, and demands your attention. My heart flourishes because of this film.

“Once Upon A River”

Once Upon a River

Lakes, rivers, and oceans are so essential to my being, with the deepness and the ebb and flow. Watching Haroula Rose’s film “Once Upon A River” I felt these connections cinematically through the main character, Margo (Kenadi DelaCerna). Her journey is very different than my own, but with every touch of the water, the submergence through the waves, I felt exhilarated and felt one with the river, like Margo. The river paces the film, and the people she meets take part in her journey. We feel a familiarity of what it means to find your people, the people who get you. And like “Lost in Translation”, those people we meet in transit can be very special passengers to our lives. The river is always the home, and the people are the gardens we create, which nurtures us beyond.

Read feature with Haroula Rose about her past films and her latest “Once Upon a River”

“Diane”

Diane

One of the rawest, most heart felt, personable films of a middle aged plus woman’s journey I’ve seen, played by Mary Kay Place. We see her going through the motions as a widower later in life, doing good for her community and her family and coping with her son’s drug addiction and new found radical religion. We also see a piece of pain from her past trickle in and out.  Life’s moments are cyclical and something as beautiful as tree branches and falling snow can give us pause with its breathtaking beauty.

“The Farewell”

The Farewell

I am not Chinese, my grandmother is in Fort Wayne, Indiana, and not half way across the world, but I so strongly identified with the relationship between Awkwafina’s character Billi and her grandmother. We do not have a Chinese tradition in my family where we don’t tell your loved ones if they have a terminal illness, but my Grandma is currently at the end of her life at 94, and I always thought she’d live forever, never a doubt in mind, until recently her health has been a real struggle for her. Like in the film, my grandmother’s mind and tongue is sharp, and heart is full, but she can no longer take care of herself as she used to do. She recently had to be put in a home, and for me it’s heartbreaking, but it’s the reality. And watching “The Farewell”, my acceptance of acceptance to my Grandma coming to the end of her life is similar to Billi’s transition. I immediately wanted to see if I could move to Fort Wayne to take care of my Grandma, but she would not want that, she wants me to live my life. But that doesn’t mean I’m going to stop calling and visiting. She is so precious to me. And this film encapsulates all of it. Thank you Lulu Wang!

“Saint Frances”

Saint Frances

Abortion … bloody periods … maxi pads … breast feeding.  We are living in a time that escapism is no longer what the movie-goer wants.We want to see the realness on the screen, especially when it comes to women and minorities. We want to see the humanity breaking through the falseness and the absurdity we find ourselves surrounded in. We are tired of the yelling voices, we are tired of the facades, we just want to see stories about human connection that shows the struggle and the hope. This film is what the movie-goer is hungry for. And as a movie lover I can attest to that.  Kelly O’Sullivan who wrote the script and starred in this film brought this humanity and representation to the screen, elevated by director Alex Thompson. Very excited to see how “Saint Frances” will make an impact in our culture, because this is the time for this kind of film.

Read feature with “Saint Frances” actor and writer of the film’s script, Kelly O’Sullivan

“High Life”

High Life

“High Life” to me is a horror film that has an ending like a SciFi sense of hope, kind of like “2001 Space Odyssey”. A piece of beauty and light after a demon (Binoche in my opinion) terrorizing the members of the spaceship. What I love about Denis (I’ve only seen two of her films), but comparing to “Let the Sunshine In”, she takes a genre and flips it to her own, which becomes a creature of it’s own. “Let the Sunshine In” on the surface is a romantic comedy, but there are deep levels of sadness below the surface. For “High Life” it could be seen as a horror film like “Alien” with Juliette Binoche’s character, the evil nurse, as the alien, which also plays around with the idea of birth. But in a weird way it’s a hopeful film with the relationship between Pattinson’s character and his daughter.

*** Local Caption *** Knives And Skin, Jennifer Reeder, USA 2019, V’19, Features

Knives and Skin

“Knives and Skin” seemed Lynchian in weirdness when it started, but then I realized Jennifer Reeder is an original and the weirdness reflected through her characters and style is done in a feminine raw way that I’ve never seen before. I loved it. The film grows on you. The neon pinks and purples reflected off the high school grounds and suburban homes brings together an odd beauty. Can’t wait for people to see this film.

Read feature with Jennifer Reeder about her film “Knives and Skin”

2018

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