20 Second Reviews
I've been writing film reviews for a while, ever since my first film criticism column in my university's newspaper. Now, I write to share my opinions of movies that I've loved, or even hated, to spare you from losing precious hours of your life that you'll never get back. Grim perhaps, but hey, time is money.
Old man winter's arrived, and with it Netflix and Chill is simply 10 times more appealing than trekking to a cramped, flu-infested movie theatre. So if you find yourself looking for something new to binge-watch, may I present my shortlist for your consideration.
Equity, 2016. Directed by Meera Menon. Written by Amy Fox, Sarah Megan Thomas, Alysia Reiner and Amy Fox.
For any woman who’s climbed the corporate ladder, this film, led by an all-woman production team, provides an interesting study of the sexism that exists in male-dominated industries such as technology and finance, but also the competition among women themselves for the top spots they seldom hold. Anna Gunn’s character shines, and the film arc is steadily-paced with an interesting plot-line (and amusing subplots) that are just complex enough to keep us pleasantly entertained to the end.
Thumbs up 👍
Moonlight, 2016. Directed by Barry Jenkins. Written by Barry Jenkins (adapted from story by Tarrell Alvin McCraney)
This poignant film is a masterpiece in the “less is more” film school of thought. The colors, imagery, usage of sound (music vs. silence), and basic slow motion techniques all combine to beautifully and delicately tell the story of the main character, Chiron, at three transformative stages in his life. Despite coping with an unkind upbringing, and following the path of the only role model and father figure he’s ever known (played by Mahershala Ali) he confronts his ultimate challenge yet: self-discovery. Thumbs up 👍
La La Land, 2016. Directed and written by Damien Chazelle.
My “Best Picture” vote; not because it's the easy or obvious choice but because it was the most impressive in music, scale, and originality. Yes, it’s a musical, but don't be deterred—this is no fairytale but an "Everyman" story about going for your dreams and the struggle and sacrifices that come with that pursuit. Thumbs Up 👍
Lion, 2016. Directed by Garth Davis. Written by Saroo Brierley and Luke Davies, adapted from Saroo's book "A Long Way Home." Saroo (played by Dev Patel) is pretty frustrating in his hemming and hawing and in his alienation of others, but once he gets decisive about his journey the pace picks up and the movie becomes tolerable. Pure cinema gold for a solid 30 minutes in the latter part of the film; everything else is filler; keep tissues on hand. First half: Meh 😐 , Last half: Thumbs up 👍
Manchester by the Sea. 2016, Directed and written by Kenneth Lonergen.
The poster is misleading and doesn’t feature the characters at the heart of the film, who are the uncle (Casey Affleck) and nephew (Lucas Hedges). Despite the story’s tragedy, there is dry humor that sheds light on the tough fabric of the people in Manchester—the town itself being the third main character in the film. Thumbs up 👍
Hidden Figures, 2016. Directed by Theordore Melfi, Written by Alison Schroder, Theodore Melfi (adapted from the book by Margot Lee Shetterly).
A feel-good predictable yawn. The story is pleasant and uplifting, but the film isn’t anything spectacular, aside from exposing the details about the American space program that up until now, were largely omitted from history’s retelling. Meh
Arrival, 2016. Directed by Denis Villeneuve. Written by Eric Heisserer & Ted Chiang (adapted from Chiang’s book “The Story of Your Life”).
A gorgeous sci-fi movie that explores more the depths of humanity, and less the extra-terrestrial beings with which linguist Dr. Louise Banks (Amy Adams) seeks to communicate. And for the first time, aliens aren’t just beings with human features, but of an entirely different kind. Villenueve’s smartly-sequenced storytelling is full of twists and turns to the very end. Thumbs up 👍
The Light Between Oceans, 2016. Directed by Derek Cianfrance. Written by Derek Cianfrance, adapted from the novel by M.L. Stedman.
The best “worst” movie; yes it’s beautiful and yes Alicia Vikander and Michael Fassbender fell in love while shooting the film, but dammit if in every scene after the first 15 minutes there’s not something terribly awful happening that makes you just want to wince or start bawling. Bring tissues. Thumbs Up 👍
Sometimes a film buckles under the weight of the story, and as a Cary Fukunaga fan, I really wanted to like Beasts of No Nation, but it was slow, about 45 minutes too long, and lacked the “gripping” scenes it was touted to have. Amid the Terrence Malick-like auteurism, It's worth watching for awareness, as it tells of a rising rebel faction in an unnamed war-torn African country, so there’s that. Otherwise, Idris Elba saves the film as a lecherous and militaristic leader, but overall it just fails to absorb. Meh 😐
This docudrama debunks what we've been sold about Kurt Cobain’s suicide, suggesting instead that homicide was the cause of death, with fingers pointed at Courtney Love. For any Gen X’er, Cobain was a music icon and Nirvana the catalyst of mid ‘90s grunge rock. Interviews with friends, and private and crime scene investigators, assert that the Seattle Police Department bungled the entire case. We learn Cobain was of a happy disposition leading up to his death, and was planning on leaving Love and removing her from his will; their pre-nup would have left her with very little. Instead, Cobain died, and Love continues to benefit from his estate—to this day valued at up to a billion dollars in ongoing royalty payments. Thumbs Up 👍