n Olivia Wilde’s 2019 directorial debut “Booksmart”, two bright high school seniors learn that they mess up. Molly (Beanie Feldstein) and Amy (Kaitlyn Dever) are Ivy League school-bound and learn on their last day of school that the partiers and burnouts, also got into those same schools. That is because, as one character said, they are “incredible at handjobs but got a 1560 on the SATs.” They did both. Molly, more distraught than Amy, resolves that their last night of high school should have the two most studious girls go to a house party. The plot sounds simple. The early presented troupes seem familiar. But “Booksmart” is more than just your typical high school movie. It is a wild ride about self-discovery, learning that the cover doesn’t always match what’s inside, and love.
With awards season in full swing and director Marielle Heller’s newest film “A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood” being a big name in all the awards buzz, it’s the perfect time to look back to last year when she brought the story of author Lee Israel to life with “Can You Ever Forgive Me?”. There wasn’t a film that I backed as hard last year to win any and every award possible as much as this film because I truly think it’s perfect. It tells the fascinating and true story of Israel (Melissa McCarthy) falling out of touch with the modern world of literature and turning her talent for being factual into a forgery.
Director Ava DuVernay has, over this last decade, established herself as one of the most important filmmakers in the business, thanks to her incomparable body of work across mediums: from her shocking and vital documentary “13th” on the perpetuation of slavery in the US to the powerful, sensitively constructed series “When They See Us” about the wrongly convicted suspects in the 1989 Central Park Jogger case. Of all of her work over the last ten years, “Selma” is DuVernay’s very best. The film describes the events leading up to and including the 1965 marches from Selma, Alabama to the state’s capital, Montgomery, conducted by Martin Luther King (David Oyelowo) and others, as part of a movement to give African American citizens the opportunity to exercise their right to vote.
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.
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.
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.
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.
Kelly Fremon Craig's 2016 film, "The Edge of Seventeen" is an insightful and relatable look into the exhausting, confusing journey of growing up. Filled with authenticity, the film follows awkward high school junior Nadine (Hailee Steinfeld) as she struggles with the rollercoaster that is high school, an overwhelmed mother and the death of her loving father. As Nadine being sot reach the dreaded edge of seventeen, she is suddenly pushed out of her comfort zone as her only friend, Krista (Haley Lu Richardson), starts dating Nadine's all-star footballer older brother, Darian (Blake Jenner) and suddenly becomes more popular at school, leaving Nadine in a space of neglect and having to finally discover her sense of self.
Year: 2016 Runtime: 163 Minutes Director: Andrea Arnold Writer: Andrea Arnold Stars: Sasha Lane, Shia LaBeouf, Riley Keough By Mique WatsonFew films in the pantheon of cinema feature stories centered around teenage girls; even fewer films depict them in ways which are universally identifiable (ask anyone to name a flick about a teenage girl off... Continue Reading →