If life is a comedy, then for Arthur Fleck, no one is laughing. Though I’ve thrown out words to describe this movie previously, such as “unnecessary” or even to go as far as saying “a money grab” I must now eat them with a side of humble pie. Though there is no absolute Joker origin story, Todd Phillips and Joaquin Phoenix have crafted an unsettling look into madness and what could have easily caused the Clown Prince of Gotham to put on the face paint. No, it wasn’t falling into a vat of chemicals or facial scars that created this Joker, but rather governmental budget cuts and an uncaring society who looked the other way time and again. Joker is eerily realistic in its portrayal of violence which can cause an anxiousness few films could ever attain (Bo Burnham’s Eighth Grade being one of those…minus the violence of course). This movie does not shy away on its social commentary either, putting modern society’s gun violence, lack of attention and facilities for those with mental illnesses, and the widening wage gap right in our faces. For a movie about a clown there are no gags, few puns, but just raw manic emotion which will make all audiences wonder, “Where does Joaquin Phoenix go from here?” as he leaves it all on the screen. So, let’s all put on a happy face and be glad DC finally decided to take a risk and birthed a classic. YoungYoda out.
Ad Astra is a riveting melancholic experience through the void of space as Brad Pitt maneuvers the void not just outside of his ship but in his mind too.
In his newest directorial effort since 2016, James Gray ventures into the corners of a man’s psyche as he deals with his mission to rescue his absent father portrayed by Tommy Lee Jones. Brad Pitt plays the main character, Major Roy McBride who is contacted to go and rescue his father who is in the remnants of the “Lima Project.” Now why is this so important? Well, as it seems these surges threatening the Solar System seem to be coming from around that area. After learning about the truth of the history of the project, Major McBride decides that he is the only one who can go for his father.
If you are walking into this film expecting a spectacle like Gravity, Interstellar, or 2001: A Space Odyssey then you are walking into a completely different film from those three. James Gray constructs a film where the characters are at the forefront and the void of space is the backdrop. This distant void is what allows for Major McBride to explore the various feelings that are going through his head as he reaches closer and closer to his father. I am a huge fan of Brad Pitt’s performance in this film that with every word spoken there is an underlying sense of melancholy to Major McBride, and once he does get to his father the both of them work so well off each other.
An aspect of this film that is so interesting is the commercialization of space travel which is an aspect about space colonization that has not been explored. It really gets the mind thinking that maybe this is the most accurate possibility of how space travel will work. Maybe once we colonize the Moon we will throw a McDonald’s up there, and at least the zero gravity will cut construction costs for a play area. Other than the incredible performance, writing, and direction the cinematography by Hoyte Van Hoytema is incredible and I feel like that statement inside of itself is an understatement. I was so blown away by this aspect that I am throwing a lock in for Oscar nominations and Hoyte Van Hoytema will one hundred and ten percent will be nominated for this picture.
Ad Astra is my favorite movie of this year so far and have not been this surprised by a film since 2018’s Hereditary. If you are looking for an incredible psychological space venture then this is the film to see this weekend.
This may be the most difficult review I will ever have to
write for a movie. Lulu Wang has created
art which crosses all thresholds and is relatable to any audience. The
Farewell is masterful in dredging up familiar moments. Moments which include the happiness of family
gatherings to the horrible, gut-churning acceptance of a reality where cancer
may soon take your patriarch.
Its portrayals of the ridiculousness of how families deal
with both marriage and death are both different yet recognizable. Even though this family is predominately of
Chinese origins, any race or culture can understand and appreciate the events
happening on the screen in their own lives.
Even the dinner scenes have those similar bickering moments between
relatives we’ve all had to be witness to.
This is a film whose emotional connection to its audience may be
unmatched by any film which has ever come before it (and I do not say this
The superb casting works hand in hand with the script to create a family unit that comes across as being real and not one haphazardly thrown together to be portrayed on the big screen. I would be very surprised and disappointed if Awkwafina does not garner a Best Actress Oscar Nomination for her portrayal of Billi, the somewhat somber and cynical grandchild of the bubbly and full of life (and also unfortunately cancer) Nai Nai, played by Zhao Shuzhen. The supporting cast also help to carry the burden of Nai Nai’s cancer (as they refuse to tell her as to not scare her to an earlier grave) throughout the film. Their interactions help show every side of a family trying to deal with the ever-looming presence of death including humor, guilt, and heartbreak.
The vulnerability presented in The Farewell is as unnerving as it is beautiful. This along with the ending scene, which is almost a guarantee to elicit the waterworks, is why I am calling this the best film of the year and it is only September. 10/10 long cries. YoungYoda out.
(P.S. This review is purposely short as words are difficult when it comes to the emotional intensity of this film. My suggestion is to go watch it and understand where I’m coming from. Much love.)
When my younger brother Raul invited me to join “The Nerd Corps” as a writer for their website, I was delighted to do so. Hell, I love to write. I might not be great at it, but I really do enjoy it. However, when he asked me to review a foreign film from Netflix, I was a bit disappointed because I really wanted to write about “BoJack Horseman”. Once again, life has denied me yet another chance happiness, or so it seems. Oh well, perhaps one day I’ll get to write a review of “BoJack”. Perhaps, one day.
Anyway, I ended up deciding to watch “Elisa & Marcela” (2019), a black-and-white film about the romance of two young women. Set in turn of the twentieth-century northwest Spain, the movie’s plot intrigued me a lot. Having been raised by the public education system in Texas, I was taught that lesbians didn’t come into existence until the 1990s when Ellen DeGeneres invented them. Seeing as the film is based on “true events”, you can only imagine how confused I was. As the film started, I wondered if Isabel Coixet’s movie would be a master class in historical revisionism.
The film begins in Argentina in 1925. Initially, we follow a young woman who seeks out an older woman outside of Buenos Aires. The older woman begins to recount her life in turn of the century Galicia.
Our titular characters Marcela (Greta Fernández) and Elisa (Natalia de Molina) meet when the former starts attending the latter’s school. They immediately fall in love with one another, but can’t find a way to express it because they’re growing up in a time period in Spain’s history when everything is in black and white. Did I already mention that this film was shot in black-and-white? Ooops! Moreover, just in case you didn’t get the hint that this a historical film, Coixet reminds you how conservative Spain was in the past when Marcela’s father sends her off to a school in Madrid after he starts sensing that his daughter is becoming a feminist and that she also might be a lesbian.
A couple of years later, Elisa reunites with Marcela, who’s now a teacher in Galicia. Elisa moves in with Marcela, permitting themselves to be intimate with one another, both emotionally and physically. Unfortunately, their happiness doesn’t last long because the town’s people aren’t ready to be woke. Their anger and disgust towards the couple eventually causes Elisa to migrate supposedly to Cuba. Fortunately, before leaving, Marcela learned that her English cousin Mario has recently drowned. In what has to be the most unbelievable attempt at tackling the subject of “passing” ever filmed, Elisa returns to town, pretending to be Mario.
Mario convinces a local priest that he really, really wants to marry his cousin. The priest, who’s clearly blinder than I am (and I’m legally blind), happily agrees to wed Mario and Marclea. Unlike the priest, the villagers are not gullible enough to fall for the trick. Fearing for their safety, Elisa and Marcela flee to Porto, Spain Lite–“Portugal” as it’s officially known–where they try to raise money to immigrate to Argentina. Oh, I almost forgot to mention that Marcela is pregnant during all of this. My bad! Honestly, I forgot to mention that because the way that this film deals with Marcela getting pregnant is the best example of lazy plot development that I’ve seen in a while. In fact, for a couple of minutes I thought that Marcela and Elisa were faking the pregnancy as badly as Elisa is trying to pass as Mario.
The authorities in Porto eventually discover that Mario is actually a woman and that they’re dealing with the same-sex couple that the police in Spain are trying to apprehend. While in prison, Marcela gives birth to a baby girl. Things aren’t looking good, but fortunately the mayor of Porto and his wife become friends with our protagonist. Unlike almost everyone else whom Elisa and Marcela interact with, the mayor and his wife are really kind people. In fact, the mayor is so unwilling to hand Elisa and Marcela over to the Spanish that he makes it possible for them to escape to Argentina. But before they can make their escape, Marcela decides to leave her daughter behind with the mayor and his wife. Spoiler alert warning! It turns out that Marcela’s daughter is the young woman whom we meet at the film’s beginning.
At the risk of sounding like “a hater”–as the youth nowadays call a critic–”Elisa & Marcela” could’ve used another round of revisions. It has a powerful story to tell. For crying out loud, Elisa and Marcela’s marriage is the first recorded same-sex marriage in Spanish history! But in Coixet’s hands, the importance of this historical moment is lost in the film’s lackluster plot and scenery. And while I certainly would recommend watching this film, especially for those of you who like to discuss foreign films with your Tinder dates, I can’t help but give it a B-. In other words, it’s watchable.
In Hustlers, Lorene Scafaria provides us with a groundbreaking film about sex work and how it maneuvers the 2008 Recession while including an Oscar worthy performance by Jennifer Lopez.
The newest directorial effort from Lorene Scafaria is born from an article in 2015 from New York Magazine, “The Hustlers at Scores” by Jennifer Pressler. The film follows the cast of Constance Wu, Jennifer Lopez, Keke Palmer, Lili Reinhart, Lizzo, and Cardi B as dancers that try to maneuver their work during the recession in 2008 until the team of Lopez, Wu, Reinhart, and Palmer decide to drug powerful men from Wall Street then use their money to pay themselves and the club they want to support.
Obviously the film is directed by Scafaria, a woman, so the female gaze is at work in this film which makes it a much more interesting take. Let’s be real, if this film was directed by a man I cannot imagine it being this grounded and nuanced while not being entirely “graphic.” Even though they do play dancers at a strip club these women never really feel like objects because they are not only seen as dancers. We carefully examine and explore the life outside of the club of each one of these women. The film is seen through the lens of Constance Wu’s character who talks to a journalist portrayed by Julia Stiles as she recaps her life and the events that went down in the club they worked at during the recession.
Constance Wu and Jennifer Lopez’s dynamic throughOut the film makes it a delightful and enticing moviegoing experience. Another aspect that I seem to have enjoyed so much was the music and attention to detail to create the time period this story takes place in. Usher comes into the club at one point and you cannot imagine the smile on my face as “Love In This Club” played during the scene. Todd Banhazl’s superlative cinematography creates the atmosphere of the film with some interesting writing choices by Scafaria.
Even though the script feels a little uneasy at times with to me feeling like it is balancing two tones at the same time. Lorene Scafaria still directs a hit, and there is something under the surface in this story about betrayal, sisterhood, and the paranoia surrounding the recession that makes it a surprising hit after those credits roll.
Other than what is stated, there seems to be an aspect of this film that stands out from the rest, and that is in the performance by one Nuyorican icon, Jennifer Lopez. Believe me when I say that Jennifer Lopez’s performance in this film is Oscar worthy. She is powerful, vulnerable, and an incredible mentor to these dancers throughout the film that is enticing and eye opening to watch on screen. J Lo is able to wrap herself around this character while truly becoming a “hustler.” The versatility shown by her will definitely push her for a campaign once Oscar season starts to ramp up.
Even though Ramona is in control, the film controls itself as it provides a bonafide hit that will grow with its audience throughout the year. Hustlers is an entertaining but heartbreaking film that you should definitely plan on watching.