As someone who isn't the biggest fan of Romance movies, this film really surprised me. On its surface, this film is a classic opposites attract love story. However, the film's performances, comedy, and plot really sets it apart from other Romantic Comedies. Not only was the plot unique, but the characters were believable, enthralling, and likable. Though lighthearted, the film takes on important issues, such as immigration and racism, with intelligence and sympathy.
2018 Italy, USA
Guadagnino successfully directed a film that not only pays homage to the original 1977 film directed by David Argento, but moves the film in a fresh, new direction. Though Dakota Johnson is the lead, Tilda Swinton is the real star of this movie. She was perfectly cast for the role as the mysterious and talented Madame Blanc. The Scottish actress’ performance adds a sophistication which makes up for Dakota Johnson’s lackluster performance. Ironically, the horror and deaths were oddly beautiful and brilliantly terrifying. The film is beautifully scored by Radiohead’s Thom Yorke and features impressive and beautiful cinematography. That being said the film does lack character development and the movie’s holocaust subplot feels shoehorned in.
Nini and Jameelah just want to have fun, even with the possibility of Jameelah's deportation looming large. The girls' insistence on growing up and having fun, and their frustrating naivety, constantly leads them into potentially dangerous, life-changing situations. However, the film takes a sympathetic look on what being a teen is like, especially a teen facing deportation. Unlike a lot of its American coming-of-age counterparts, the teen actors look like actual teens, which lends to the film's great performances. An important look at issues, such as immigration, ethnic conflict, and teenage sexuality.
This film is brilliant! The score, the performances, the cinematography -- all masterfully done!. Not only is it a cinematic masterpiece, but the symbolism and themes makes its a purely enjoyable movie-watching experience. It's an important look at classism and wealth inequality, and truly one of the most unforgettable films of 2019.
Welcome to the Hartmanns
At it's core, Wilkommen bei den Hartmanns is a sympathetic, though imperfect, look at refugees and the issues they face. Unfortunately, the focus of this sympathy, Diallo, is somewhat surface-level, given that Diallo is not a fully, fleshed out character. Instead, his character feels like a representation of common stereotypes about refugees and immigrants. Despite its flaws, the film does take an intelligent approach to issues, such as racism and the refugee crisis in Germany.
Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark
2019 Canada, USA
As I grew up reading Scary Stories to Tell in the Dark, I was very disappointed with this film. However, my disappointment didn't stem from the monster designs and cinematography, but rather from the unimpressive protagonists and the plot. I felt like the monster designs were impressive, and exactly what I imagined the characters that kept me up at night as a child would look like on the big screen. Unfortunately, the same can't be said about the performances of the protagonists or the plot. The decision to combine the individual stories into one universe wasn't a bad one, but it was definitely poorly executed. The protagonists weren't well-developed and very forgettable. Indeed, I have to say the entire movie was rather forgettable; the day after I watched the movie, I struggled to remember what I had watched the day before.
Princess Tam Tam
Needless to say, this film doesn't age well. I first encountered this film in a Harlem Reniassance class, and it is definitely a product of its time. Josephine Baker is an icon in her own right, and her character and characterization deserves so much better. On its surface, this film seems like it would be a romance. However, Alwina is purely meant to be an object of Max's desire. The Africans in this film are not only objectified and sexualized, but portrayed as primitive and ignorant. Despite how problematic it is, I believe this film is important to examine/analyze from a critical gaze. "Uncanny Performances in Colonial Narratives: Josephine Baker in "Princess Tam Tam"", by Elizabeth Coffman, is a great examination of the white, colonial gaze, fetishization, and the impact of colonization in this film.
2019 Canada, USA
As someone who is not interested in superhero or comic book inspired movies, this movie really surprised me. I was enthralled from start to finish. The performances were stellar, and Joaquin Phoenix really made me feel for Arthur Fleck's character. By then end of the film, I was rooting for him wholeheartedly, which kind of scared me. It was easily one of my favorite movies of 2019. A sympathetic look at the effect of poverty on mental illness, and a demonstration of how a class-based society, not much unlike our own, can create violent conflict and uprisings.
2009 Germany, USA
This film is truly one of Tarantino's bests. Funny, violent, and entertaining. I find myself constantly going back to this film. Tarantino manages to both highlight the stupidity of the Nazi ideology and the dangers of fascism without being too heavy handed or minimizing its importance. Despite the film's long runtime, I felt pulled in from start to finish. Tarantino really knows how to create tense scenes that manage to make you super anxious. I was on the edge of my seat multiple times throughout the film. Great performances, thrilling action scenes, and an even better score.
Truly one of Netflix's hidden gems. A great look at the Weimar Republic and one of Germany's most interesting historical periods, both culturally and politically. I found myself sitting down to watch the first episode and looking up to see that several hours had passed. I really couldn't stop watching. It's no surprise to me that one of the show's creators, Tom Tykwer, created one of my favorite movies, Run Lola Run, because this show is just as great. The performances are great, especially the show's leads. A thrilling ride from start to finish.
I can't stop watching this show. Before watching this show, it might feel like there's no way to sympathize with a crime family. However, by the end of the first season I was hoping that all of the Hamadys would survive. The characters are real and believable. Which is no doubt a clear indicator of the great performances from the actors. Toni is a great representation of how sometimes impoverished people turn to crime in order to survive and provide for their families. It is also a great look into the culture of Berlin, particularly Neukölln. One of my favorite German TV shows!
I May Destroy You
2020 United Kingdom, United States
I can not rave about this show enough. This is the show I've been looking for. In the enormous array of tv shows aimed at young adults and millenials, there is something missing. And it's Black representation. This show checked all of the boxes. In my opinion, this show is the perfect show for Black girls growing up in the age of technology and social media. Michaela Coel is a GENIUS. The writing. The acting. The cinematography. Everything is amazing. The characters feel so real, and I felt myself crying along with them and laughing along with them, and few shows make me feel that way. I loved seeing how racism and sexism functioned in British society. As an American, I definitely loved how the show explored Black british culture, which is definitely not represented in American media that often. Even though, the show has only been running for a season, it has definitely turned into my favorite TV show of 2020, and dare I say, of all time.
This film is a great, sympathetic look at children who struggle with psychological issues and where these issues may have arisen from. I finished the movie feeling a lot more sympathetic for children with behavioral issues, who are often dismissed as "trouble children." The performances are great, especially from young Helena Zengel. It also is a great look at how Europe, particularly Germany, differs from American in psychiatric care. A great, informative, and powerful film!
For me, Wentworth is like "Orange is the New Black"'s grittier, darker, better sister. Unlike "Orange is the New Black" this show never stops its momentum, and I couldn't stop watching. Season after season, this show manages to keep me interested and pining for the next one when I inevitably binge watch an entire season in one sitting. The performances are great and believable; I rarely cry during a character's onscreen death, but this show changed that for me. I felt emotionally connected to the show's protagonists, and I felt myself burning with passionate hatred for the show's antagonists. Truly one of Netflix's underrated gems.
2006 Mexico, Spain
Just like an adult fairy tale. The juxtaposition between childlike fantasy and 1940s Fascist Spain makes this film unique, gripping, and hard to look away from. It's truly one of those films I keep coming back to. It's beautifully violent and brilliantly horrifying!
2001 France, Italy
This film is definitely not for everyone. Especially the film's conclusion is sure to anger many. However, this film's courage to tackle complicated and sensitive subjects is proof of Catherine Breillat's talent. At its core this film is an exploration of sexuality and how it is explored by teenage girls, and how often that desire is exploited. The film's conclusion begs us to ponder the nuances and development of female desire and sexuality, and it left me thinking about the film for the next few days. I still don't have all of the answers, and I think that is what Breillat intended. A raw and uncomfortable, but brilliant, film!
The Lives of Others
Though the setting of divided Germany is important, it's the film's characters that really made me enjoy this film. Not only were the characters complex and sympathetic, but they felt believable and real. Humanizing a Stasi officer seems like a tough task, but Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck does a great job. Though this film certainly has its dark and uncomfortable moments, this film is surprisingly human and compassionate. One of my favorite period dramas about East Berlin.
The Miracle of Bern
One of the first German-language films I have ever seen, and still one of my all-time favorites. I'm not even a sports fan, but I really enjoyed this film. A feel-good movie that deals with the impact of the reign of the Nazis in Germany, and how sports can bring a shattered and broken country together.