ITOL Top 50 Films of the Decade, Entry No. 17 : Winter’s Bone

Based on the book by Daniel Woodrell, "Winter's Bone" is a truly engrossing and remarkable film by Debra Granik who is such an underrated director and it's wonderful to see two of her films make our ITO Top 50 countdown. Adapted by Granik and Anne Rosellini, "Winter’s Bone" takes place in the Ozark Mountains of Missouri, where teenage Ree (Jennifer Lawrence) is trying to provide for her household: her mother has become catatonic with depression and her younger brother and sister (Ashlee Thompson and Isaiah Stone) need looking after.

Review: Knives and Skin

There is a strangeness to “Knives and Skin” (2019) that makes it difficult to put into words precisely what it’s about and how it made me feel. Jenifer Reeder’s film is eerie, bright but dark, funny but upsetting. It puts you on edge but also has you really feeling for the people on screen. If you like films by Peter Strickland or David Lynch you’ll love it. If not, I recommend pushing your cinematic comfort zone. Fifteen year old Carolyn Harper (Raven Whitley) has an encounter with sexually aggressive Andy (Ty Olwin) which ends badly. She goes missing and the town is shaken. Her mother Lisa (Marika Engelhardt) slowly loses her mind but others in the community have just as tenuous a grip on reality.

Retrospective Review- “Foxfire”: a Universal Coming-Of-Age Story

When "Foxfire" came out in 1996, I was only one-year-old. While watching it only a few months ago, it became clear that Annette Haywood-Carter's drama exists in the dimension of exceptional productions. Those productions have a crucial influence on young women's lives. Meet Legs Sadovsky (Angelina Jolie). Nobody knows where she came from. Tomboy-ish looking, young woman is a mystery, especially to Maddy Wirtz (Hedy Burress). Maddy, a high school teenager, doesn't even know that Legs will change her life forever. After hearing about the teacher's sexual harassment, the mystery girl teaches Maddy, Rita (Jenny Lewis), Goldie (Jenny Shimizu), and Violet (Sarah Rosenberg) to stand up against abuse and fight for their rights as women.

Review: Here Comes Hell

A weekend in the country can be a nightmare, if the right combination of people are thrown together. Writer-director Jack McHenry and co-writer Alice Sidgwick have taken this thought and run with it for their feature debut “Here Comes Hell”: a horror-comedy of the same gore-fest breed as Sam Raimi’s “Evil Dead” films, with the action instead taking place in an English country estate in the 1930s rather than in a cabin in the woods. The estate in question is Westwood Manor, recently acquired by the heir of a vast family fortune who has invited his friends to a dinner party at his new home. Naturally, post-dinner entertainment includes a seance - complete with an eccentric medium - which goes just as well as any cinematic encounter with the hereafter has done previously (with the exception of “Ghost”, of course).

Review: Last Christmas

I think we can all agree that Hallmark-adjacent Christmas movies like “Love, Actually,” “The Holiday,” and most recently, “Last Christmas” were made with female audiences in mind, right? The romantic scenarios that would never happen play on the ladies’ heartstrings during the most festive time of year, the holidays. But, branding a piece of media this way comes at a cost, and that cost is reducing its value as a film. “Last Christmas” (dir. Paul Feig, written by the illustrious Emma Thompson) draws inspiration from the George Michael song of the same name. It centres on Kate (Emilia Clarke), a hot mess of a woman surviving, not thriving, in modern London. She works as an elf employee in a Christmas shop, hoping to someday make it as a performer at West End.

Review: Love is Blind

“I really don’t know what’s real anymore,” Bess says in “Love is Blind” (2019). Much of this film revolves around the audience figuring out what is real rather than in Bess's head. Andy Delaney and Monty Whitebloom direct this quirky romantic dramedy about loneliness, grief, and healing. It has a solid cast and is an imaginative film, making it always engaging despite its wacky and sometimes hard-to-follow plot. “Love is Blind,” written by Jennifer Schuur, is about a girl named Bess (Shannon Tarbet) who cannot see her mother (Chloe Sevigny) and believes that she passed away a decade ago. Through the course of the film, the audience realizes that her mother is very much alive but that her ‘selective blindness’ is Bess’s way of coping with a traumatic event in the past.

Spotlight: Sally Potter- Writer, Director, Choreographer, Musician

A creative force to be reckoned with. This woman graduated as a dancer, choreographed dance shows, made music, directed plays and wrote and directed world-class movies. And all this output can be traced back to when she was the tender age of 14 and made her first 8mm films. Her name: Sally Potter. If you have seen one or two Potter films, you may think that she broke or rejected the conventions of mainstream film making, but that isn’t quite right. What Potter does with her films is let them speak. The ideas within them come out in ways that are free forming and she follows the flow of them until they are completed films. They are not without structure or form; they are parts of the human condition that have been given freedom of expression.

Review: Undone

No doubt, "Undone" will leave you with a lot of questions. Personally speaking, the burning question I had was, when has Kate Purdy been to my house? The main character, Alma, wears her hair like I used to. She dresses like me. She drinks too much and says the wrong thing and worries that she’s crazy like me. She zones out at work and she craves adventure like me. What she does, that I don’t, is travel through time but otherwise, she’s me. Also, she’s indigenous and I’m Indian diaspora but we’re both brown so other than that and the time travel it was like looking in a mirror.

31 Days of Horror, Day 8: A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night

One would think that vampires are a trope in horror that has been beaten to death with a clove of garlic. However, Ana Lily Amirpour's "A Girl Walks Home Alone at Night" not only breathes live into this overdone trope but also gives the classic monster a feminist twist that is both innovative and empowering. Style-wise, the film filled to the brim with moody, cinematography which contributes greatly to the dark, tense vibe that consumes the narrative in a "Sin-City" (2005) meets "Cat People" (1942) vibe. Described as the 'first Iranian Vampire Western', the film (written and directed by Amirpour) follows a lonely vampire that roams Bad City, a crime-filled ghost town whose residences are unaware that a bloodthirsty beast lives among them. However, the vampire known only as 'The Girl' (Sheila Vand) is certainly not the only monster that lurks in the shadows.

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