Steve Erickson has written 261 reviews for films during 2019.

  • Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward

    Anthony Jeselnik: Fire in the Maternity Ward

    ★★★½

    Jeselnik has a trademark joke, which he keeps repeating for 65 minutes: taking a grim situation and twisting in a direction that's both darker and unexpected. But he's talented enough, especially in his deadpan delivery, to make this work. It's rare to find "edgy," "politically incorrect" standup from a straight male comedian these days that doesn't come off like an excuse to shit on trans people, millennials with progressive politics, etc., but without knowing anything much about Jeselnik as a person, he has enough acting talent to speak from a character who's a macho jerk while suggesting distance from that guy.

  • Dolemite Is My Name

    Dolemite Is My Name

    ★★★½

    Think of an alternate universe Tarantino, who kept his blaxploitation fetish after JACKIE BROWN but developed into a far warmer and more benign filmmaker. The script is a bit lazy in its recycling of ED WOOD, but Eddie Murphy succeeds in regaining his edge after 20 years of fat suits and animation voice-over.

  • One Sings, the Other Doesn't

    One Sings, the Other Doesn't

    ★★★½

    The feminism of LE BONHEUR is biting and ironic. It's also easy to miss - when I saw the film at a Varda retrospective at MOMA years ago, it was received with a mixture of boos and cheers. ONE SINGS, THE OTHER DOESN'T is designed to reach a wide audience to promote second wave feminism, with no ambiguity about its message. (The degree to which it comes across as a celebration of abortion would still be taboo in American cinema.)…

  • Cats

    Cats

    ★★

    I was suspicious of the critical pile-on and hoped this was a grand folly, a la SHOWGIRLS or HEAVEN'S GATE. But the plodding, talent-free Tom Hooper, rather than Paul Verhoeven, directed it. (The Baz Luhrmann of MOULIN ROUGE probably would've been the best chance.) The cats have a physicality, even a horniness, that conflicts with the degree to which this film is practically animation in unsettling ways. But that didn't sustain my interest for 110 minutes. More scenes like Taylor Swift's Studio 54 performance and the Busby Berkeley cockroach ballet were needed. With music this bad, how'd it become a classic musical?

  • Still Life

    Still Life

    ★★★★½

    How much did STILL LIFE circulate outside Iran back in the '70s? It pushes neo-realism away from melodrama towards the minimalism of slow cinema, long before that concept had been codified. But the use of long shots and repetition (with the same 45-degree angle used for a shot of the train tracks where the protagonist works) feels prescient. The film has a cumulative force, especially in its extremely bleak half hour, where everything the protagonist has gets stripped away from him. Haunting, to say the least. Now available to stream on rarefilmm.com.

  • Dark Waters

    Dark Waters

    ★★★½

    The prequel to SAFE, with DNA from '70s paranoid conspiracy thrillers (although the thrills are replaced with a somber, steady plod) and European "fiction of the left!"

  • 63 Up

    63 Up

    ★★★½

    By necessity, the __ UP series feels like scrawling on an old chalkboard by this point; 63 UP is a long film, but at least half of it consists of clips from earlier movies in the series. It documents two aspects of life: the physical changes that come with aging (one subject died before the film was made and another is struggling with cancer) and the decline of Brexit-era Britain into an abusive neoliberal economy. The editing never brings its…

  • Partners

    Partners

    ★★★

    Available on rarefilmm.com, this short directed by Peter Weller (who has a small role as a doctor) stars Griffin Dunne as a lawyer sidetracked by paranoia - he hears "asshole" and "he looks Jewish" whispered by his colleagues - and the fact that he used to date an important client's wife. PARTNERS plots out a path to success interrupted by violent slapstick a la Keaton/Chan, but Weller apparently didn't have the resources to really build a set in order to…

  • Daguerréotypes

    Daguerréotypes

    ★★★★

    Starts off feeling very plain and simple, a rough draft of some of the ideas in the docs Varda would much later make on video, but it's brilliantly edited. (Best cut: the butcher shop to the magician convincingly stabbing himself in the hand.) The film becomes more complex as it goes along, while retaining its handmade quality.

  • We

    We

    ★★★½

    O brave new world of plexiglass oppression!

  • I Lost My Body

    I Lost My Body

    ★★★½

    Very imaginative, starts off great, but doesn't entirely pull off a synthesis of surreal-verging-on-body-horror animation and consciously creepy rom-com.

  • Les Misérables

    Les Misérables

    ★★½

    This film signals its ambition in the title (it's not a Victor Hugo adaptation), but it plays like an "edgy" and "gritty" pilot for a cop show, even when it fully acknowledges the level and justification of Black French rage. Despite introducing themes like the potential for ordinary kids to use drones to watch over cops (and their city), it recycles ideas from TRAINING DAY, Spike Lee and '90s "banlieue films."

    Full review here: www.gaycitynews.nyc/stories/2020/1/les-miserables-lanj-ly-2020-01-05-gcn.html