‘The Northman’ Review: Valhalla Arises in Robert Eggers’s New Epic

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The third feature film of writer-director Robert Eggers isn’t a horror film much like The Witch or The Lighthouse were, but the way in which Eggers brings you into his worlds whether it be through the usage of old age English or the elaborate sets – when considering the historical settings of his films, is nothing short of impressive. It was easy enough to see that from The Lighthouse onward, Eggers certainly would have found himself growing to become more ambitious as a filmmaker and it’s perhaps best reflected by what you’re seeing in The Northman, which may just as well be his most visually stunning film to date. Yet to Eggers, it’s not simply about mere aesthetic, it’s all about transporting the audience back through time, which I believe he succeeds at beautifully in here.

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Jaime’s Film Diary: February 28, 2020

In order to continue keeping this site as active as possible while I have not been able to write as many full-length film reviews as I had planned initially, I figured that another solution would have come by in placing my Letterboxd entries starting from the week before here as a placeholder for eventual full-length reviews that are set to come by, if I were able to find the time to write another one. But as is, these are quick thoughts that I figure would be nice to keep afloat so that the site will remain active on a regular basis.

First-time viewings are noted as such. You can follow me on Letterboxd right here.

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2019: The End of the Decade’s Year in Review

First, I think I ought to apologize for how long-delayed this year in review would have been, but I had become incredibly busy over the past few months – to that point I was unable to write many film reviews as of late. Yet I still managed to find enough time to myself to catch films over the year as it was coming to its end in time for awards season, though it also left me with more than enough time to think back upon how great a decade this has been for film in general.

While it still feels sad to have to come think about one journey being over, it only feels most fitting we come back to the thought that we must always make way for tomorrow – the past has run its course, and thus we can dwell upon everything great about such in order to move forward. But as much as the 2010’s may have also been taken over by franchise films eating away the public interest every chance it has, it also made searching for the hidden gems all the more fun too. Yet as the best films of 2019 had already shown us, great cinema is still alive and well, and what matters most is how much we can continually share those experiences with others.

As far as this decade’s years of great films have gone by, many of 2019’s highs have struck a chord with me that I can’t quite put my finger on – but to put it lightly it was also the sort where I knew these films were going to be among films that define the decade too. It feels great to have been able to revel in what these films stood for within their moments, so without further ado, these are my favourite films of 2019.

Honourable Mentions

Booksmart

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Knives Out

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A Hidden Life

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High Life

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A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood

Tom Hanks (Finalized)

And now comes the countdown.

10. An Elephant Sitting Still

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image via KimStim

What saddens me is the thought that this is to remain the only feature-length directorial effort of Hu Bo, a filmmaker who tragically had taken his own life prior to the film’s premiere at TIFF in 2018. Yet the film that Hu Bo had left behind in his wake is a four-hour long journey all about searching for hope. An Elephant Sitting Still may prove difficult, whether we speak regarding its bleakness or the context behind its making and the context behind the life of filmmaker who brought it to the screen, but it will prove a rewarding experience.

9. The Lighthouse

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image via A24

Robert Eggers’s follow-up to The Witch is still every bit as beguiling as one can expect, but that’s also what reaffirms how terrifying it is. It’s only fair to say that The Lighthouse is the sort of nightmare that only a filmmaker like Robert Eggers could make, but there’s a certain audacity you can feel in his vision for the horror genre that feels like only he could have pulled off. Boasting great performances from Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe, The Lighthouse is more than just terrifying, it’s also funny every now and then but also just gorgeous from start to finish.

8. Little Women

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image via Sony

Greta Gerwig already made her mark as one of the most exciting directors to look out for after having established her name through collaborations with Noah Baumbach, and it only remains further solidified by Little Women. Being another coming-of-age tale from her eyes, Little Women does far more than just bring back to the screen another story that has been adapted many times over the years: it still reaffirms the story’s own impact by sharing how it captures generation after generation, which I think becomes the film’s greatest asset.

7. Uncut Gems

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image via A24

The Safdie brothers always know how to rack up anxiety to the max but in Uncut Gems, what comes forth is everything you’d have wanted from the makers behind Good Time and much more. Boasting a career-best performance from Adam Sandler, who is at some of the best he has ever been since Punch-Drunk Love and The Meyerowitz Stories, seeing the sort of work he manages to pull off in Uncut Gems does more than prove he is a wonderful dramatic actor when working outside of his familiar circle. You’ll feel your heart racing as you watch Uncut Gems, but the ride will absolutely be worth it.

6. The Irishman

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image via Netflix

It’s hard to say no to a new Martin Scorsese film, because he may arguably be the greatest American filmmaker working today – but he always finds a new way to approach the familiar subject matter of his work. In The Irishman, he returns once again to making gangster films to tell the story of how Frank Sheeran climbed his way up the mafia and even got himself involved with the case of Jimmy Hoffa’s disappearance, but in typical Martin Scorsese fashion, there’s never a dull moment in this three-and-a-half-hour long odyssey. Yet it also shows Scorsese within a more introspective mode, which can be felt from having stuck around Frank’s life from his youth all the way to his old age. By the time you’re finished, you’ll feel like you lived his life, asking questions about how much of it was worth it.

5. Honey Boy

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image via Amazon Studios

Shia LaBeouf has already made a name for himself as one of the most fascinating figures working in the industry today but seeing how he enters a more sensitive side within Honey Boy only gives one all the more reason to love him. The narrative directorial debut of Alma Har’el, this semi-autobiographical film all about Shia LaBeouf’s own life experiences, as penned by him, and starring him as his own troubled father, Honey Boy is more than a tribute to the people whom he loved most, it’s a testament to what goes on in the life of a child star – and how those experiences have come to define the sort of person that he has become. I’m also looking forward to what Alma Har’el has got in store for the future, because this movie hasn’t left my head very easily.

4. The Farewell

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image via A24

For an Asian audience member, The Farewell will already strike chords for some – but there was something else that I had felt from watching it. Part of me saw my own life experiences feeling exactly like it had been for Awkwafina as shown in Lulu Wang’s film. It can be hard to say no to family matters, but what also makes The Farewell ring so perfectly comes out from how much it’s clear that Lulu Wang had written this as her own family’s love letter. Showcasing Awkwafina at some of her very best, The Farewell may be a slow burn but in that awkwardness it makes you feel from seeing family members you may have been estranged with for so long, it becomes a beautiful emotional rollercoaster.

3. Marriage Story

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image via Netflix

The ironically titled Marriage Story shows Noah Baumbach as he returns to familiar territory after The Squid and the Whale but tells of the adults’ perspective on the situation. But for Noah Baumbach it’s clear that this is a subject that nonetheless still hits him very hard, which is what makes it so easy to feel Marriage Story making its impact right from the film’s start, all the way until its end. To call Marriage Story the best that Noah Baumbach has ever been would already be easy enough, but when you’re also taking into account the many personal details sprinkled in, the title already feels fitting. It is less a film about the divorce and a film all about why they married to begin with, which best captures its impact.

2. Portrait of a Lady on Fire

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image via NEON

Céline Sciamma’s Portrait of a Lady on Fire won the Queer Palm and the Best Screenplay Award at the Cannes Film Festival, but what makes this lesbian love story so beautiful can already be felt in its testament to great art. Sciamma’s film is one that is all about looks: how they define the artist’s relationship with muse, but also how both those feelings define the art we make. Boasting some beautiful production design as well as amazing performances from Noémie Merlant and Adèle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire is a stunner.

1. Parasite

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image via NEON

People who have followed me closely would already know that there was no other movie that would take this spot. Aside from being more rewarding with multiple viewings, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is a film that approaches a subject that seems familiar to us, in the most outlandish yet most entertaining way possible, although not without its willingness to hit back with the harsher realities surrounding the circumstances we see onscreen. I feel like there’s already so much in my prior review that I haven’t been able to cover because ever since I had seen the film then, I could already feel as if it were only set to become even more rewarding as I kept coming back to revisit Parasite more over time. Equal parts funny, equal parts gripping, Bong Joon-ho’s Parasite is more than just the best film of 2019, it’s wholly thoughtful and encourages its viewers to look back at the class landscape that they live within.

The Best Performances of 2019

Actor, Leading Role:

  1. Adam Sandler, Uncut Gems
  2. Song Kang-ho, Parasite
  3. Adam Driver, Marriage Story
  4. Robert De Niro, The Irishman
  5. Robert Pattinson, The Lighthouse
  6. Leonardo DiCaprio, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  7. Noah Jupe, Honey Boy
  8. Daniel Craig, Knives Out
  9. August Diehl, A Hidden Life
  10. Antonio Banderas, Pain and Glory

Actress, Leading Role:

  1. Saoirse Ronan, Little Women
  2. Cho Yeo-jeong, Parasite
  3. Noèmie Merlant, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  4. Awkwafina, The Farewell
  5. Scarlett Johansson, Marriage Story
  6. Lupita Nyong’o, Us
  7. Zhao Tao, Ash is Purest White
  8. Ana de Armas, Knives Out
  9. Kaitlyn Dever, Booksmart
  10. Julianne Moore, Gloria Bell

Actor, Supporting Role:

  1. Joe Pesci, The Irishman
  2. Choi Woo-shik, Parasite
  3. Al Pacino, The Irishman
  4. Lee Sun-kyun, Parasite
  5. Brad Pitt, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood
  6. Tom Hanks, A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood
  7. Timothée Chalamet, Little Women
  8. Shia LaBeouf, Honey Boy
  9. LaKeith Stanfield, Uncut Gems
  10. Asier Exteandia, Pain and Glory

Actress, Supporting Role:

  1. Park So-dam, Parasite
  2. Laura Dern, Marriage Story
  3. Florence Pugh, Little Women
  4. Adéle Haenel, Portrait of a Lady on Fire
  5. Chang Hyae-jin, Parasite
  6. Zhao Shuzhen, The Farewell
  7. Julia Fox, Uncut Gems
  8. Jennifer Lopez, Hustlers
  9. Penelope Cruz, Pain and Glory
  10. Jamie Lee Curtis, Knives Out

The Worst Films of 2019

  1. Loqueesha
  2. Katie Says Goodbye
  3. The Lion King
  4. Hellboy
  5. The Dirt
  6. The Haunting of Sharon Tate
  7. Cats
  8. Polar
  9. Girl
  10. It: Chapter Two

And so, this concludes what’s already been a wonderful decade of truly astonishing films – stick around, we’ve also got more to come as I talk about the best films of the decade.

‘Wild at Heart’ Review: A Tender, Twisted, Dark Love Story from David Lynch

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David Lynch’s Wild at Heart received the Palme d’Or from the Cannes Film Festival in 1990, yet it still seems to have remained heavily underrated in his filmography. Among many things that one could ever find themselves loving about Wild at Heart, it’s also like looking at a new side of the David Lynch that one would be familiar with and even if the sudden shift in tone may not work for the most dedicated of his fans, it still results in what I see to be one of his most beautiful films by far. If there’s any other way to describe Wild at Heart, it would only be fitting to describe it as the happiest film that David Lynch might ever leave us behind with, but it still perfectly blends together all the distinctive elements of surrealism in order to create one of the most romantic movies that could ever have been made too.

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‘The Lighthouse’ TIFF Review: Robert Eggers’s Second Feature is Terrifying and Wholly Gorgeous

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The second feature film of director Robert Eggers, The Lighthouse isn’t the same sort of horror movie that one would expect following The Witch but it’s also every bit as terrifying for different reasons. Robert Eggers is quite a special talent for the horror genre to see today, not because he’s made horror films outside of the recognizable system but because of the measures he takes with making sure that you’re believing yourself to be in a different world entirely when watching his films. With his second feature film, Robert Eggers doesn’t simply make a perfect tribute to the classic era of horror films but it’s also every bit as beautiful too. Far more than just simply the talents of Willem Dafoe and Robert Pattinson going up against one another, The Lighthouse is a chilling watch from start to finish – prepared to get under your skin and creep right out.

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‘Aquaman’ Review: Working with Too Much Within Too Little

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There’s a lot about Aquaman that easily should have placed it above most other films from the DC Extended Universe, but even if that were the case it also shows how much they still have yet to overcome after starting off with a rather rocky note. In bringing the underwater superhero to the big screen, James Wan does the very best that he can in order to try and improve upon the rather rough introduction that we got from him through the halfway-completed Justice League but even the roughest patches of Aquaman still ended up reminding me of what held back Justice League from being as great as it could have been. Yet despite that, it’s also a case where the film’s weirdest moments also churn out some of the more fascinating aspects to come out from the film because it’s hard enough having any clear idea what’s going on, the least of what can be said when you have so much going on underwater with so much dramatic heft. You’re left wondering how much of this really is necessary, and how much actually means anything.

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The Fragmented Beauty of At Eternity’s Gate: A Review

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I thought for a minute that after Loving Vincent I would be put off from watching more films about the life of Vincent Van Gogh, yet Julian Schnabel comes out with a new take on the life of the troubled painter with At Eternity’s Gate. But there’s something about a mix like this that would only make a blend seem so incredibly tempting, and it’s made clear through the fact that Schnabel’s work had also been influenced by his own artistry as a painter, therefore his view of the very artistic process that would have allowed Vincent Van Gogh to become so distinctive would have that added touch of being told by another artist in that same regard. Schnabel’s mindset as a painter also adds yet another dimension to exploring the troubled psychology of an artist like Vincent Van Gogh, because it’s be difficult enough to describe what went on in his mind. But perhaps it would only be fitting enough that the film about his own artistic vision would be equally baffling in that same measure and if there were anything else that allowed At Eternity’s Gate to become so mesmerizing, it would already come forward in Willem Dafoe’s portrayal of the artist.

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2018: Another Year of Cinema Come and Gone

This year was a real game changer for a person like myself. To kick things off, it was the first year in which I was able to attend TIFF as a press member rather than as any other audience member. It was a defining moment for myself, though I don’t want to brag a little too much about what happened there. It was just a good year for cinema in general. That’s all I can really say, and I want to bring more attention to the many films that I absolutely loved this year – and so many of them came around this year and so forth. We’re already nearing the end of a decade, and through the good and the bad, the cinema has always been able to provide nothing but the greatest pleasures through and through. Although as we look through the films that have come to define 2018 as a whole, there were many surprises that came along the way just as there were disappointments – all of which came in between the very best and the worst in cinema through the year. So without further ado, let us begin. Continue reading →

The 91st Academy Awards: Comments and Concerns

It has been an absolutely astonishing year for the cinema. But for as amazing a year as 2018 had been, we’re also left with facing one of the most insulting awards seasons to have come by in recent memory. You’d think that given last year’s set of nominees they actually would have been growing progressively better, especially having given a film like Moonlight the top honour for the 2016 ceremony (and a well-deserved one at that), but after the Golden Globes came by, I was already worried that we’d already be in store for one of the absolute worst in recent memory. To think that the Oscars would already have gone far beyond that “popular film” award in order to try and raise their viewership, as if the ceremonies themselves haven’t already been stale enough (i.e. overlong montages praising the industry and shallow activism that amounts to nothing), who knew that we’d be in store for one that was so out of touch – particularly in last year’s amazingly bad timing (with it being only barely ahead of the Olympics rather than in February like they usually were)? As a supposed celebration for the cinema comes by within the year, there are many things here to be concerned about.

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The Last Temptation of Christ Review: A Thought-Provoking Meditation Upon Faith and One of Scorsese’s Best Films

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I was at one point a devoted Roman Catholic, but now I find it so difficult to bring myself to commit to religion whether it be to believe in it or to reject it outright. When one would initially think of a title like “The Last Temptation of Christ,” an ardent Catholic may respond to say that the content is blasphemous because Christ is an image of perfection, one who stands for everything good within the world on behalf of another authority. But among the most important factors to consider when watching The Last Temptation of Christ is that it is not a film based on the Gospels but rather a controversial novel by Nikos Kazantzakis and it also happens to be directed by a Roman Catholic – and that man is none other than Martin Scorsese. But when you watch a film like The Last Temptation of Christ being told from those eyes, what makes it such an accomplished effort is how it feels most in touch with Scorsese’s own spirituality.

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