‘Tigers Are Not Afraid’ Review: A Magically Harrowing Journey Into Mexico’s Drug Wars

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It was definitely an exciting moment to be catching up with one of my favourite directors, Guillermo Del Toro, that was attending for last night’s screening of Tigers Are Not Afraid. As for his testimony before the ceiling lights faded into darkness, Issa López has shown herself to be a promising voice for emerging Latin American filmmakers; myself included. And it was very apparent from the first few minutes that she carried those magical realist roots that Guillermo had followed along with his recent film, The Shape of Water. Let it be known that magic cannot keep us safe from these hapless vicissitudes and we should embrace it for what it is.

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Juliette Binoche and the Search for a Sense of Connection in Claire Denis’s Let the Sunshine In

✯✯✯✯½

In getting a perfect grasp at what it feels like to live within the lifestyle of Juliette Binoche’s Isabelle in Let the Sunshine In, Claire Denis keeps the camera lingering at long gaps between conversations. In talking about what these moments evoke thematically, what you also are experiencing is something so clearly fragmented by the fact that life is made to feel a bit too extraordinary for oneself to control – but because of this it is so hard to find what is natural in a flourishing relationship anymore. But of course the concept of love is something so complex, because for some it may seem happy as an idea and the reality is something so cynical, even attempts at letting the “sunshine” in only manage to bring out the worst in oneself. It’s the way that Claire Denis understands this emotion that keeps Let the Sunshine In so thoroughly engaging, because not a single facet is ignored – in trying to get down to the bone of what this “sunshine” feels like. But to what extent do we know it is truly communicating to our senses, in this new Denis film we see a whole other level of this mood, and what comes forth is something so melancholy.

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Faces Places Review: The Wonders of Cherishing Memories of the Ordinary

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You’d be hard pressed to find another documentary filmmaker much like Agnès Varda out there today. But at 90 years old, she still manages to remain every bit as unstoppable as ever, now with Faces Places – her first film to be nominated for the Oscar for Best Documentary Feature. Collaborating with mural artist JR, Varda’s Faces Places is a film that is built upon seeing the beauty in the small facets of ordinary life, showing itself to be starting out from a friendship that takes the two of them moving from one place to another, seeing new faces along the way, and even musing about what to do with their life at the very moment. In watching a film like Faces Places you see that all of this is happening right in front of your eyes, as if you are together with Varda and JR – and within that very moment, it just feels so invigorating. But in looking back at Varda’s own life achievements in Faces Places as someone who’s far beyond seventy years younger than she is, I sit here wondering what I have left with my own life the way it is, remaining an introvert who plans without executing – perhaps this film may have provided a wake-up call I may have needed for so long already.

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Disobedience Review: Lelio’s First English Language Film is All For Freedom

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Sebastián Lelio’s Disobedience is a film that feels distant at the surface, but in that sense of distance you already find a greater connection between yourself and its characters is being made in how the two of them feel within this environment. In telling the story of a love triangle set within a world that leaves its characters feeling trapped, Lelio’s film feels disconnected from the world in which it is set in. But that’s only the least of what makes Lelio a filmmaker to look out for in recent memory, let alone for what would become the Chilean director’s first film in the English language. Yet for as much as I’m not exactly convinced that every aspect of Disobedience works, what I cannot deny is how taken in I was by this film’s empathy for the experience of living under a cover – a life of falsehood that one is forced to “obey” for their life.

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First Reformed Review: Finding Peace In a World of Chaos

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When I last watched Martin Scorsese’s The Last Temptation of Christ which was also penned by Paul Schrader, I thought to myself about what it was that Jesus Christ himself had intended with his own teachings that have only been twisted around to perform acts of evil across the globe. I open this review bringing that up, because there was one point of my life in which I was a devoted Roman Catholic, but my life has only been questioning what good has it truly done for me if I cannot ever find myself in a sense of solace. From watching Paul Schrader’s First Reformed, I was only wondering to myself what has it truly felt to devote your own life to something that you would only go on to question over time – it was the spiritual connection that I had not witnessed from a Schrader-penned film in a long while. And from watching this film, I felt that maybe there was still something important to my life that could have been defined by those moments in which I had ever felt myself as being more devoted than I know I really feel that I am. And I hadn’t been able to stop thinking about it the moment since I had stepped out from watching First Reformed; but for all I know this may be Paul Schrader’s best directorial effort in quite some time.

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Loveless Review: A Most Fitting Title

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Andrey Zvyagintsev’s Loveless is every bit as miserable as the title would already imply that it is, as a matter of fact because of that misery it also makes for a watch that just feels so unpleasant all throughout. While it’s also undeniably a very beautiful film to look at, it also reminded me far too much of the films of Alejandro G. Iñárritu, because of his own habit to dwell within misery as a means of eliciting a certain mood from the viewer. And quite like the films of Iñárritu, this wasn’t a feeling of misery that I had ever felt myself growing attached to, it was just a feeling of misery that only kept me waiting for the film to end because it only dwells so much in that very bleakness without ever having a touch of humanity present – which felt so unlike the other two films I had seen of Zvyagintsev’s.

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You Were Never Really Here – Review

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I’ve always had a bit of an odd relationship with writer-director Lynne Ramsay. I remember disliking We Need to Talk About Kevin when I last watched it years ago but only recently have I found myself being grabbed by her own work, first with Morvern Callar and now this. This is a work that feels caught within the very feeling of trauma, much like the state of its main character – and builds itself slowly within that pain. To simply say that You Were Never Really Here had defied what I was expecting out of it would undersell the very experience of sitting through it, but from the very outline of such a work I don’t think that I can simply say that I would have expected anything close to what I had received on the spot. You Were Never Really Here is a film that evokes a feeling that is difficult to describe on the spot, but when you think of it – you can’t ever let it go, because we like to tell ourselves that “we were never really there.”

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Roman J. Israel, Esq. – Review

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Dan Gilroy’s follow-up to Nightcrawler is a film that seems to exist, but you only ask yourself what would have happened to the same skill you will have recognized prior because in the case of Roman J. Israel, Esq., it all seems to have gone away. It all seems to have gone away because compared to the cleverness and the overall visceral nature of that past effort, it seems to have gone away in the favour of what I would only assume is Denzel Washington speaking in the veins of an imitator of Aaron Sorkin. Granted, it may be entertaining to see Denzel Washington just merely being Denzel Washington like we always have seen him as, but at its worst, Roman J. Israel, Esq. is just absolutely boring.

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A Fantastic Woman – Review

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I’m a cisgender person, so clearly, I am not in a position to speak for how well does this film get to the bone about the experience of being a trans woman, but I can’t shake off a very specific feeling off from watching A Fantastic Woman. That very feeling that I can’t shake off is just merely knowing that this film would not be nearly as good as I knew Daniela Vega was, because I know that there was potential for something more intimate yet as is, I still found myself engrossed. I found myself engrossed because what I was watching, as is, I felt I was witnessing a gripping drama about that experience but it can only get me so far before the film feels more miserable than I suspect it really should. To which, I suppose I get the idea that trans people still face vicious discrimination today, but is that everything cisgender audiences should be made to watch? Nevertheless, I am open to hearing from the perspectives of transgender individuals about what watching A Fantastic Woman had felt like.

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Why The Shape of Water Deserves Best Picture

UPDATE: The film ended up winning and I couldn’t have been any happier that it did.

You know that old saying where we don’t care about the Oscars in regards to their effect on our opinions of the films that were either nominated or have won? It’s easy enough to say that, but we still make ourselves watch the ceremonies at least because of the hope we retain in ourselves that maybe something we love so dearly has indeed been nominated and has a chance at winning. But considering just how strong a year this has been looking at the Oscar contenders this year, with Lady BirdGet Out, and Phantom Thread up in the running for Best Picture, it’s easy to be satisfied with any of them. But if I had to pick one film from all of these, I think that The Shape of Water would be my go-to. And without further ado, here are among the many reasons that not only do I think it would be a suitable winner, but why it is also my favourite film of 2017 while we’re at it.

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