SFF22: ‘Girl Picture’ Review

Alli Haapasalo’s coming of age film shines bright as it displays the complexities of sexuality, love, and growing up.

Courtesy of LevelK

As I reach the end of my Sundance screenings, I must continue with my coverage. Staying in the style of my last review of The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future, I will be reviewing yet another title from the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. Girl Picture caught my attention for a multitude of reasons. The film is a coming-of-age story that partly deals with exploring one’s sexuality which interests me especially given how this film decides to tackle that. This is also a Finnish film and I have yet to have the pleasure of exploring Finland’s cinema. Overall, I was excited to watch this film and it did not disappoint in the slightest.

Girl Picture is directed by Alli Haapasalo from script written by Ilona Ahti and Daniela Hakulinen. The picture stars Aamu Milonoff, Eleonoora Kauhanen, and Linnea Leino as three girls looking for a formative change in their life in the span of three separate Fridays. They embark on a journey of self-discovery, figuring out their sexuality, finding love, and confronting the imbalance of their family dynamics. A poignant story is crafted that is enriched by its visual component shot by Jarmo Kiuru. Thus, we end up with a fabulous film that tackles multiple themes coherently.

Dare I say, Girl Picture is the hidden gem of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. The film is compelling in every way imaginable. The characters are so interesting and it is hard to not root for them during this journey. Its visual language is one of an aesthetically pleasing nature. The lighting and camera movements craft a sense of wonder and almost a sort of nostalgic feel to this story of self-discovery. The story is an intimate well crafted journey that takes you through its ups and downs even though it can be off the pace a bit it always manages to pull you back in. I found myself invested and thoroughly impressed by the filmmaking and messages conveyed through this film. It had everything going for it and it does not leave anything on the table left to desire.

I am not sure when this film will be released because at the time of me writing this review it has not been bought at Sundance. Whenever this film is released, I highly recommend watching it or if it wins any awards it is well worth spending 20 USD on a single ticket to watch. I promise you, Girl Picture is one of the best films of this year’s Sundance Film Festival!

SFF22: ‘The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future’ Review

Francisca Alegría’s film is both a transformative experience and an impressive directorial debut.

Credit: Leonor Varela as Cecilia in Francisca Alegría’s The Cow Who Sang A Song Into The
Future. Photo by Inti Briones.

I have for the last week been covering this year’s Sundance Film Festival for The Nerd Corps for the very first time! I was so excited for this opportunity when first notified and did not think it was real. I swear I have been dreaming about this day since I started to interact in this space of online film criticism. Now, one whole week into the festival it has been a surreal experience being able to watch so much cinema. Even though the festival is held online this year because of the ongoing pandemic it has been a wonderful experience. There were a lot of films that caught my eye but of course, having to stay on course with what I reviewed on the site I had to watch all of the World Cinema Dramatic Competition. This part of the program includes films from so many parts of the world like Eastern Europe and Latin America to name a few. While looking through the program this Chilean directorial debut caught my eye, so let us commence my coverage of this year’s Sundance Film Festival by discussing, Francisca Alegría’s The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future.

The Cow Who Sang a Song Into the Future is the directorial debut of Chilean filmmaker, Francisca Alegría. Written by Alegría, Manuela Infante, and Fernanda Urrejola, the film’s cast consists of Mía Maestro, Enzo Ferrada Rosati, Benjamin Soto, Leonor Varela, and Frederique Gudelj. The film looks at a family that is in a distress after finding out that their patriarch has seen his wife again who has been long dead for some time now. The mother returns from the dead and sets on a journey of recollection and rediscovery. The film takes elements of magic realism and incorporates them into a narrative surrounding climate change, family dynamics, intersectional feminism, and grief.

Francisca Alegría constructs the most impressive directorial debut that I have seen at this festival. It is almost impossible to believe this is a debut when this feels like a third or fourth film. The control over the style and narrative of the film radiates through the screen as you watch this tender but heartbreaking story. It was hard to not cry over how every person approached their feelings to see their mother/grandmother again. What makes this film so impressive though? There are multiple layers at work here that if one pays attention they can realize they are all working with each other. The commentary on environmental issues through the cows, family dynamics through the arrival of the mom, and also about the repression brought by the oppressive Chilean government. It all tremendously works together to construct this magnificent film that has left such a long-lasting impression on me.

The film is aided by such exquisite cinematography from the use of natural light but also because of its poignant camera movements. There is also not a single bad performance but it was truly Mía Maestro and Enzo Ferrada Rosati’s performances that tugged at my heartstrings. First of all, Maestro does not speak a single word of dialogue but her facial mannerisms and body language express everything that could be said with words. Rosati on the other hand playing a trans woman who is forced to keep it a secret plays their heart out and you feel every second of it. By the end of the film, there is no room to say someone carried the film because every performer gave their all and it reflects in the final product. I am equally excited for everyone’s career to come after this film.

It is unknown at this time when this film will be released to the public, but get used to learning the name of Francisca Alegría. Alegría has built an explosive first feature that will lay the groundwork for one of the most impressive filmmakers to come out of Latin America. Whenever this film is released please do seek it out. I know my life is better because I watched this.

Spider-Man: No Way Home: A Detailed Review (Spoilers)

BEWARE OF SPOILERS AHEAD!!!

10/10

A brief introduction, I viewed this film on Dec 16 at the earliest IMAX screening. Spider-Man: No Way Home is going to be in my top 3 films of 2021, having seen the trailers near the end of Oct – mid-Nov, the anticipation for the film was to die for. In honor of keeping articles short, I will place all my thoughts into a couple of paragraphs.

Overview

Now, Spider-Man (2002) has been one of the oldest comic book movies that I’ve seen when it first came out [in 2002] with the first iteration played by Tobey Maguire. Through the years we received two other actors to play this character, Andrew Garfield and Tom Holland. The recent one is Tom Holland, and although he has received criticism for the way he has been made to portray this character in his two movies, excluding this one, it definitely had its different directions than the other ones, but Spider-Man: No Way Home really takes the cake!

This film does an incredible job at mixing the tones that the other franchises had to them, and as the trailer below holds no secrets the villains that returned also bring their respective film’s way of moving the story along. It’s a beautifully orchestrated MCU entry that doesn’t feel like an MCU film aside from its cheesy jokes which aren’t necessarily bad. Tom Holland really steps his game up during this film and we can see a sudden change from the boyish charm of the other two films [Homecoming and Far From Home] to this new more mature interpretation, which leaves an incredible want to see how his story continues. Not to mention, the return of Alfred Molina as Doc Oc and Willem Defoe as Green Goblin, who both absolutely killed their role once again putting on one last show before they say an official goodbye to reprising their roles.

Review

Now, as I mentioned this is a film that doesn’t hide its big bad. Having it is clear that it has both Tobey Maguire villains Doctor Octopus (Alfred Molina) and Green Goblin (Willem Dafoe) as well as Andrew Garfield’s Electro (Jamie Foxx) and Lizard (Rhys Ifans). It’s clear that the film will have the cross-over of the year, even updated to beating Avengers Endgame‘s crossover event.

As I mentioned, Tom Holland crushed his role in this film not just being a good Spider-Man and Peter Parker, but going above and beyond at performing his character’s development.

Tom’s rendition of the hero has always had its criticism with the fans as being only a good hero because of Tony Stark’s tech, but in this film, he shows he is more than that. Growing up from his kid-like attitude and wishful thinking, we see his maturity multiply by the end of the film. A major part that adds to this is because of his Aunt May dying, but before doing so receiving the speech of “With great power comes great responsibility.” Not to mention, meeting the two other legendary Spider-Men points of view and help of guidance. The sudden change needed to be molded to make the toughest choices, and with that Tom’s character needed to do the adult and difficult decisions. His performance in this film all throughout really leaves me teared up to the brim of emotions, and honestly leaves an insatiable desire to see more of him as Spider-Man on the big screen.

Now, we can’t forget to talk about the big reveal I mentioned before, yes, all three Spider-Men come together near the end to fight the big bad’s and although they aren’t on the screen for the entire film, their impact is astronomical. Hearing the crowd cheer for this one wasn’t as bad as other times, as I can genuinely agree with the reactions. It was a nice and warm feeling to have these two other Spider-Men be on screen one last time as the character really was a sight for sore eyes and an amazing way to have closure.

Now, we can’t forget about its villains, having five characters back but only three actually performing. Alfred Molina reprised his role as Doc Oc, Willem Dafoe returned as Green Goblin, and Jamie Foxx played Electro once again. These three come back with arms up ready to throw you out of the ring. Their performance took your breath away when they had screen time, and each in their own ways of outdoing their last acting chops from previous films.

Alfred Molina gives his all to give the best as Doc Oc even coming back to his pre-arm self as sort of an anti-hero or at the very least becoming a hero at the end, in a way making amends just like he did in Spider-Man 2. Jamie Fox even came back as a better version of Electro than in his time in The Amazing Spider-Man 2, although a little underwhelming to say the least as his character seemed not like the one he played in the original manner, which isn’t bad just takes out a sense of knowing who this guy was in his world. Going over to Willem Dafoe’s performance as Green Goblin, which I have to say was my favorite part of the film. His ability to switch between Norman Osborn and Green Goblin is uncanny and honestly makes me question if he does have another personality like the Goblin on screen. By far the one part that shocked me the most is when Peter’s sense was alerting him of the oncoming trouble and Green Goblin taking over and “coming out to play” only to change his facial expression in front of Peter.

Now to keep this article short, I will say that these villains made it a blast to watch the film and made Peter change with so many deaths and all the suffering they brought.

All in all, the film is a solid 10/10 for me and I imagine for you and others as well. I’ll definitely go and see it once again in IMAX before I am able to preorder my copy of the film. I hope we are all able to see more of Tom Holland as Spider-Man in the future as this film was an incredible stepping stone for his career. Nonetheless, let me know what you thought about the film in the comments as there is still much to talk about that I didn’t include on here. Check the film out now and let me know what you think, till next time peace.

Eternals: A Detailed Review

Eternals: A New Perspective outside of the Avengers

A New Direction with the Upcoming Phase

9/10

Although I am late to the media coverage party for Eternals it’s still a great piece of hero film to talk about. Although with time and a good amount of articles being out we can clearly see that most of the critics and audiences lean towards this film not being favorable, that isn’t the case for this article. Now, this isn’t biased writing on the contrary I like to speak on other qualities than the industry’s way of working. As you the reader know, I don’t like to talk about whether the film is a film in the likes of comparing it to a pre-aged sense of the field, I write with pure intentions of mentioning whether a film is good in its storytelling and whether it’s a film to be enjoyed by all.

With that being said, Eternals matches everything one can look for in a film, it’s entertaining, has its classic Marvel comedy bits, action, and does an outstanding job at telling a story!

Overview

With most MCU films we can see a repetitive structure that they use in their films and although it’s repetitive it’s still loved by many, which is why many still come back for more; not to mention how it’s world-building and connecting its films piece by piece. Now, Eternals takes a different approach, taking into account that its main cast is filled with diverse characters some being in the LGBTQ+ community, different ethnicities, including a hearing-impaired heroine, and having its lead be an Asian woman, one would be perceptive to say that some of the criticisms in articles are made from biased perspectives. The story told goes above and beyond and its pacing is well made having the film’s run time of 2 hrs and 37 mins feel nothing short of an hour and 30 mins at most. The incredible cast brings their characters to life and honestly one leaves not only having a favorite of the 10 but also wanting to see more. It’s a highly enjoyable watch and I would recommend it to anyone wanting to look for a Friday night watch.

REview

A Quick Word for “Eternals”

When the first trailer came out back near mid-September, we obtained only a handful of trailers, teasers, or articles on the MCU project. Although it wasn’t marketed as much as other major films, the pieces and glimpses we got were enough to amaze me as well as others who watched the trailers. And after viewing it on the first release, it didn’t disappoint!

Having such a range of actors was definitely a beauty to see having Gemma Chan, who played Sersi, be the main protagonist and she killed her performance, although having seen her in Crazy Rich Asians I’d expect nothing more than incredible acting. Not to mention her amazing co-stars, having a deaf actress on-screen was phenomenal and Lauren Ridloff, who played Makkari, was a star in her own hitting great comedy and romantic notes all while doing ASL and simple mannerisms. We also have Lia McHugh, who although only has a handful of films in her portfolio, plays Sprite amazingly well and held her own bringing the audience’s emotions to turnover, which I’d say is always a win when playing characters who are supposed to make the audience have a certain grudge for their actions. We also bring our attention to Don Lee, who plays Gilgamesh, who is also making his debut in American made films (i.e Hollywood). Not to say he isn’t a star on his own, as he’s been in many great films, his most recognizable for American audiences would be his role in Train to Busan. Now I’m not forgetting the amazing talent that is Angelina Jolie, Kumeil Nanjiani, Salma Hayek, Brian Tyree Henry, and Richard Madden.

They’re all doing wonderful and emotional performances and if I wasn’t against writing 10pg school papers, I would include my love for each character and how their talent brought them to life on the big screen in Eternals. But to save time and your attention I’ll move on to my last points.

I know for many people they were expecting a typical MCU film when sitting in their theater seats, but that wasn’t the case for how this film played out. Chloé Zhao, who directed this film, does an out-of-the-norm move for Marvel and makes this film have a little more depth, having every character have a deeper story than just their powers or coolness. Chloé does an amazing job at showcasing the characters of the film and overall story, going beyond the hero’s journey route. Having especially Gemma Chan’s character, Sersi, ask questions about our own values, self-worth, and capabilities while asking philosophical questions about “God” and free will. Now, I know this isn’t the take that everyone got when watching but it sure is something I picked up, as well as it amplified my experience.

There are controversies that floated around articles, even some having clear biased opinions on the film based on prejudices of their beliefs, but this isn’t the article for that.

Now to wrap it up, this film is a great piece to watch and keeps its viewers entertained even if it isn’t their first watch. Its action, story, and talent performance is all to die for and my respect for Chloé Zhao increased by going out of the box with how she chose to direct this film. Now, I’m not saying there aren’t negatives, at the very least the inclusion of the evolved Deviant not having much use to the overall story, that is unless they continue it in future works. Aside from that, I give this film a solid 9/10, but don’t just take my word for it watch it yourself as “Eternals” comes out on Dec 24th, 2021. Give it another watch and let me know what you think. Till next time, peace.

HCAF21: ‘Petite Maman’ Review

Céline Sciamma’s newest feature is a beautiful exploration of grief and childhood.

Courtesy of Houston Cinema Arts Society

4/5

Well, it is time to conclude my coverage of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival as I get to talk about my last screening. I was able to watch this film through their virtual cinema because I could not make it to the in-person screening at the Museum of Fine Arts in Houston, Texas. First of all, words cannot express how thankful I am for the wonderful people over at the Houston Cinema Arts Society, thank you for allowing The Nerd Corps to be able to cover your festival and consume some wonderful cinema in the city of Houston. Now, how was Céline Sciamma’s follow-up to her magnum opus, Portrait of a Lady on Fire?

Petite Maman is written and directed by Céline Sciamma (Portrait of a Lady on Fire, Water Lillies) as she once again tackles the complexities of childhood coated in the grieving process. The film looks at Nelly (Josephine Sanz), a young girl who visits her recently deceased grandmother’s home with her father (Stéphane Varupenne) and mother (Nina Meurisse) to empty it. After her mom abruptly leaves one night, Nelly meets a little girl in the woods named Marion (Gabrielle Sanz) who embarks on a journey of self-reflection and discovery. Sciamma reunites with cinematographer, Claire Mathon, to provide the beautiful and minimalist visual language of her movie.

Petite Maman is simply enigmatic, it is filled with tender introspection that transcends its message. The performances from our two child leads are fantastic and hold their weight along with the adults of the film. The film is quiet and patient as it traverses through an understanding of grief and loss. The film is a tad bit short but all that needs to be said is said throughout its runtime. I felt the first half was a bit too rushed whereas the second half worked a bit more. Even though the offhand pacing of the film, Petite Maman still manages to stay warm and bright. Céline Sciamma reminds us once again that there is beauty in simplicity like the rest of her filmography.

Even though this is my last review of the festival I am happy to say that this was a delightful festival. The Nerd Corps appreciates all the work done by the Houston Cinema Arts Society. We hope to see you all again next year for the next installment of the Houston Cinema Arts Festival.

Petite Maman is still on its festival run and is available on the NEON Blu Ray Box Set.