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The best one-sentence description of The Art of Self-Defense I have managed to conjure up is “Fight Club, but directed by Yorgos Lanthimos.” It takes place in a completely generic 1990s-era town, where the dog food in the grocery store is literally labeled a brandless “Dog Food,” where the protagonist’s home answering machine informs him that he has “only” one new message, while a news anchor blithely recommends protecting oneself with a gun or large knife while out in public. The Art of Self-Defense pulls no punches. (There’s the...
  Lulu Wang’s second feature The Farewell is also the second version of the story that Wang deems as “based on a true lie.’ The plotline of The Farewell brings Wang’s real life to the silver screen where she is faced with keeping quiet about her grandmother Nai Nai’s terminal illness diagnosis. Wang initially told this story on NPR’s “This American Life” podcast, the episode was titled “What You Don’t Know” where Wang and her family members help narrate and share their feelings about the lie....
One Child Nation is a beautifully made, and at moments deeply disturbing, eye-opening documentary by Nanfu Wang about the one-child policy that lasted for over 30 years in China. In the film, Wang sets out to capture the hidden, more raw and personal side of the policy by listening to the stories of people that lived it. She travels to her hometown in Jiangxi Province where she speaks with family members, neighbors, and even a retired village official that was involved with enforcing the policy. She...
The Nightingale  Written and directed by Jennifer Kent  Out August 2      Jennifer Kent’s directorial debut, The Babadook, won countless accolades in 2014, and in her long-awaited follow-up, Kent’s protagonists face an even more terrifying monster. Set in 1825, The Nightingale opens on Clare (Aisling Franciosi), an Irish prisoner serving time in Tasmania. When her husband attempts to free her from her abusive captor, Clare is graphically gang-raped by British soldiers in front of him and her child, both of whom are brutally murdered immediately...
Toni Morrison: The Pieces I Am Directed by Timothy Greenfield-Sanders Out June 21  This documentary delivers an intimate look at the life of renowned writer Toni Morrison. It also sheds light on Chloe Wofford—the woman she was before taking on her pen name—definitively separating the artist from the woman, the mother, the editor, and the teacher. Accompanied by luminaries including Angela Davis, Sonia Sanchez, and Oprah Winfrey, Morrison recounts her experiences navigating the predominately white literary establishment and ultimately expanding it. Refusing to shrink, she challenged both writers and...
You may have heard that Disney has cast Melissa McCarthy as Ursula in the upcoming Little Mermaid live action movie. If your timeline is anything like mine (full of fat people who are especially protective of Ursula), you have probably also heard that a lot of people are not happy about this. I have absolutely nothing against Melissa McCarthy as a person, actor, or comedian: I actually like her. But this is not about her. This is about the fact that there are so few roles for fat women (or...
  Spoilers Ahead: The following reveals key plot details about the film Midsommar. With the highly-acclaimed Hereditary under his belt, Ari Aster is among a handful of writer/directors drawing attention to the horror genre. Historically, horror has been snubbed. It’s often deemed devoid of substance and talent. And despite its capacity for sharp cultural insight, it’s routinely denied rightly-deserved awards (read: Toni Collette should have won an Oscar for that eye-bulge scream scene alone). But Hereditary, The Witch, The Babadook, Get Out, and most recently, Us, prove...
Why haven’t you done it yet? You just have to do it. You’re just making it harder on yourself by pushing it off. If u don’t do it now you’re never gonna do it. These are all texts Michelle Carter, a then-teenage girl, sent her boyfriend, Conrad Roy, right before he killed himself. In 2015, she was charged with involuntary manslaughter; in 2019, she was found guilty. As someone who’s always been fascinated by both true crime and the importance of language, I closely followed the...
Sword of Trust Co-written and directed by Lynn Shelton Out July 12 In this improv-based comedy by celebrated writer/director Lynn Shelton (Outside In, Your Sister’s Sister, Humpday) a Civil War-era sword sets off a crazy chain of events made even crazier by the rampant spread of online conspiracy theories. When Cynthia (Jillian Bell) inherits the sword from her deceased grandpa, she and her partner Mary (Michaela Watkins) immediately try to pawn it. At first, the pawn broker Mel (Marc Maron) and his idiotic employee Nathaniel (Jon Bass) are...
Long before Orange is the New Black and even longer before her headlining role in Russian Doll, Natasha Lyonne starred in the campily ridiculous, But I’m a Cheerleader (directed by Jamie Babbit), which celebrates its 20th anniversary this July 7 having premiered at Toronto International Film Festival. The film also stars Cathy Moriarty (of Raging Bull fame), the incomparable and extraordinary RuPaul, and Clea DuVall, who currently plays the hilarious recurring character Marjorie on Veep. Both RuPaul and DuVall also appeared on recent seasons of the...