We often associate the “male gaze” in cinema to how female sexuality is portrayed, but I would argue that it exists when it comes to modern military movies, as well. This is one of the thoughts that found itself moving through my brain rewatching Kathryn Bigelow’s “Zero Dark Thirty.” There is a jingoistic, action-driven version of this or “The Hurt Locker,” Bigelow’s Oscar-winning drama about bomb diffusers in Iraq, that could be made by a Michael Bay or Peter Berg. It would have been empty thrills compared to the contemplative work Bigelow does in both films.
Documentaries present a formidable challenge. Even after meeting the significant demands of research, including excellent interview skills, the filmmaker faces a new test: how might they create a cohesive narrative that will captivate their audience? Ava DuVernay’s attention to detail and design makes “13th” sobering, enraging, and ultimately energizing documentary.
The fact that writer-director Ana Lily Armipour’s genre-hopping A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night (2014) ranks so highly in ITOL’s top 50 films by women of the decade list is a testament to its originality, cult appeal, and fang-sharp social commentary. Billed as an Iranian Vampire Western, and set in the fictional Bad City, it nods to a myriad of influences from classic horror and film noir, to Tarantino, comic books and David Lynch- clanking industrial images and sounds loom large and fever-dream music-sequences are woven throughout.
The greatest achievement of Netflix is giving creators a place to put their work. From Martin Scorsese to Ava DeVernay, Netflix has become a creative landing for directors and writers to display their work without the hassle of going through the tired Hollywood process. Dee Rees got to do just that with her second feature "Mudbound" as a Netflix original movie. After her debut "Pariah", which also earned a spot on our Top 50 List, Rees proved her worth and had a much larger market to sell her idea in. It premiered at the 2017 Sundance Film Festival and was released in November of 2017, which put it squarely in the Oscars award season. Not that it needed help being premiered at the end of the year, but it helped to gain it four nominations, including two for Mary J. Blige who created an original song for the film.
In 2000, we learned that my grandfather had cancer. He went through chemotherapy, and my mother and I went up to help him and get him to doctor’s appointments as he ended up in assisted living. I was there the day he received his terminal diagnosis, and 7 of the next 10 weeks were spent trying to comfort him, and get things prepared for after the inevitable happened. It finally did in late July. I was very close to him- he was like another parent to me. It was devastating. Those months come to the forefront of my mind in contemplating Lulu Wang’s beautiful dramatic comedy, “The Farewell.” Inspired by her own life, Wang tells the story of her family whom, when they find out the worst about their beloved Nai Nai, they do what is unthinkable to most of us- they don’t tell her.
Horror cinema has enjoyed a real purple patch in the last decade, and arguably the most exciting, inventive and disturbing release of the 2010s is “Raw”, the debut feature for French writer-director Julie Ducournau. The film plays out as an unholy marriage between a coming-of-age tale and a cannibal horror story, in which a young vegetarian named Justine (Garance Marillier) takes her first steps into adulthood as she begins her studies at veterinary college.
You may have not heard of cinematographer Kirsten Johnson but we are more than certain that you have heard of the films she's shot. Johnson has been the cinematographer for several important documentaries including the likes of Michael Moore’s "Fahrenheit 9/11" (2004), Kirby Dick’s "The Invisible War" (2012) and Laura Poitras’s "Citizenfour" (2014). In fact, Johnson's career has spanned over 25 years and her documentary "Camera Person" is made up of 'memories' all captured on film. Johnson has been to places that we only hear in fleeting news reports on the morning news, she has seen horrors that we can only imagine, but never does "Cameraperson" ever feel exploitative or invasive. Instead, what we have here is an absorbing initiate potratrit into humanity, and a passion for a career.
Despite arguably being the most powerful character in the Marvel Cinematic Universe (MCU) Captain Marvel still had a lot of heavy lifting to do in terms of expectations. It was the 21st film in the MCU, and the precursor to the event that was "Avengers: Endgame", which came out roughly 7 weeks after Captain Marvel’s debut. It was the first to be a solo outing for a female character in the MCU, being the titular Captain Marvel (Brie Larson). It also felt like an eleventh-hour decision to have our first introduction to the character, and it was heavily hinted that she was going to play a significant role in Endgame. Fortunately, for the better part of the movie, Larson manages to shoulder the expectations set on her and uses them to launch herself into the MCU. Her extensive acting talents are sublimely on display when she rotates effortlessly between her two distinct personas. The first being Vers, battling with memory loss and the echoes of who she once was, while desperately trying to fight her emotional nature and to try and appear stoic in a foreign environment. Secondly, as the stone-cold badass Air Force pilot Carol Danvers that we witness in flashbacks.
With “DETROIT” Oscar winning director Kathryn Bigelow’s new turn at making another hard-hitting film, just doesn’t connect completely. Though again, Bigelow takes on delicate subject matter with the expertise of a great filmmaker, and it is a very good film – for about 60 minutes of the 2 1/2 hour run time. ‘Detroit’ takes place in 1967 during the midst of the riots after a black owned Blind Pig bar where patrons were kicked out due to lack of liquor license and eventually leads to the towns people rioting and destroying the nearby businesses, even with tags of “Soul Brother” as a way to try to protect their black owned business.