Review: 1917 (2019)

Sam Mendes’ “1917” (2019) is more than just a technical marvel; it’s a captivating survival story of young men in wartime. While its one-take approach with all of its footage melded together to look as though the full two hour film was one continuous shot is great, this is not a film ruled by its gimmick. In fact, it’s easy to forget about the one-take editing by Lee Smith once you’re into the action of the movie until there’s a particularly impressive bit of camera movement. At its heart, “1917” tells a story about the destruction that war.

ITOL 2019 Round-up: Little Women

In the opening scene of “Little Women” (2019), when we see Saoirse Ronan’s character entering a publisher’s office to try to sell her work and get herself taken seriously as a writer, we’re not just seeing the character of Jo March. We’re also seeing Louisa May Alcott, who wrote the novel that the film is adapted from, and perhaps even the film’s writer and director Greta Gerwig herself.

Review: Queen of Hearts (Dronningen)

The filmmaking of May el-Toukhy teaches us quite a few things during the 2-hour runtime of her new Danish film "Queen of Hearts," Denmark's now non-shortlisted entry for the 2020 Academy Awards. A harrowing film that darkens with time, "Queen of Hearts" ranges from somewhat displeasurable family drama to sensual tale of power and manipulation.

ITOL 2019 Round-up: Little Woods

“Little Woods” isn’t a perfect film, but it certainly is an indication that Nia DaCosta is a director to keep our eye on. While it has much to say about the United States that is particularly relevant, it is also a movie about the lengths that sisters will go to for each other. If you’re looking to catch up on some films in 2019 that were overlooked, “Little Woods” is a great place to start.

Review: Little Women (2019)

It’s not an easy task to adapt one of the most famous American novels of all time for the screen. Not only has Louisa May Alcott’s “Little Women” been beloved since it was first published in 1868, it has also had several well-regarded film adaptations before, starring actresses like Katharine Hepburn and Winona Ryder. And yet, if anyone was going to take on this mammoth task, Greta Gerwig seems like the perfect person. Gerwig broke onto the directing scene in 2017 with her first film, “Lady Bird,” a coming-of-age story starring Saoirse Ronan. She returns this year with one of the most iconic female coming-of-age stories of all time, “Little Women,” refreshed and updated for a modern audience without losing any of the spirit of the book -- and once again starring Saoirse Ronan. 

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 5: The Babadook

Jennifer Kent’s 2014 debut feature film “The Babadook” is a hauntingly beautiful tale of a depressed mother and her young son. In a lot of ways, it’s a classic ghost story, but the deeper meaning Kent infuses takes the film to the next level. Essie Davis gives a stellar performance as Amelia, a widowed single mother facing a deep depression. Her son, Samuel (Noah Wiseman), is a point of grief for Amelia since her husband died on the way to the hospital while she was in labor. Not only is Amelia left without her partner, she is left with Samuel, a constant reminder of her husband that also looks like him. 

Review: Black Christmas (2019)

To say that "Black Christmas" is the movie society needs to take note of is a massive understatement. Directed by Sopia Takal and written by herself and April Wolfe, "Black Christmas" is a modern updating of the 1974 classic. Whereas most remakes and reboots take the safe and give us what we as an audience expect, this 2019 update is at once a loving tribute to the original but also pushes it into scary and very real directions. Lead by a standout performance by Imogen Poots as Riley Stone, "Black Christmas" has themes that are sure to resonate with young women. Riley, herself a victim of a sexual assault, is forced throughout to constantly face her abuser and the ramifications of her speaking out against him.

Review: “Queen & Slim”

Queen (Jodie Turner-Smith) and Slim (Daniel Kaluuya) open our story on what is clearly a first date. She an attorney and he a passive religious type, not seeming to even have one single thing in common down to even the tiniest of facts that she orders a salad while he orders steak and eggs. When the eggs aren’t scrambled the way he ordered, she expects him to make a fuss to the waitress and when he doesn’t, she seems to throw shade not just at this fact, but that the diner feels ‘cheap’ to her. But there is more to this that meets the initial eye as he slowly makes his point to her. Not only is the waitress someone he knows from his neighborhood and single mother supporting her kids on her own, but the business is Black-owned, making the reasoning behind his choice much more than ‘cheap’. This is just the first thing that will make you start to take notice of all the little things that happen throughout this film.

ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 22: Frozen

For Disney fans, it is hard to believe that “Frozen” (2013) was released just six years ago. The tale, inspired by Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen,” has permeated pop culture in a way that even Walt Disney Pictures couldn’t have predicted when it was released. Directed by Chris Buck and Jennifer Lee, “Frozen”’s themes of family, love, isolation, and finding yourself have resonated with people across the globe. And of course, “Let It Go” became such a hit that it was almost impossible to avoid hearing it for many months. In addition to the film making it onto In Their Own League’s Top 50 Female Directed of the Decade list, now is an appropriate time to look back at the first “Frozen” film as its sequel has just been released. 

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