• Occult

    Occult

    ★★★★

    A found footage mockumentary in which both director Koji Shiraishi and Kiyoshi Kurosawa play themselves, OCCULT makes the best of its cheap, frankly ugly videography (with sparing special effects.) The world it shows has been bleached of hope, and more than a horror film it plays like a character study of a man who finds life so empty that he yearns desperately for something better in the afterlife. But be careful which gods you follow! As the troubled Eno, Mika Azuna gives a chilling performance. The coda is gutsy, but it doesn't really make the landing. {SPOILER} is more silly than terrifying.

  • Małni – Towards The Ocean, Towards The Shore

    Małni – Towards The Ocean, Towards The Shore

    ★★★½

    Insisting on sensual pleasure and the joy of luxuriating in nature and community while still addressing indigenous Americans' history of trauma and forced separation from their culture might be the most radical aspect of MALNI - TOWARDS THE OCEAN, TOWARDS THE SHORE. The score and sound design are as lovely as the images. But I occasionally got the impression Hopinka thought his first feature needed to move closer to conventional documentary form and explain itself more than his shorts.

  • Sisters With Transistors

    Sisters With Transistors

    ★★★½

    Lisa Rovner’s documentary “Sisters with Transistors” argues that technological innovation stemmed from women’s exclusion from conventional musical fields. If electronic music wasn’t considered “real music” (and, often, still isn’t), why not compose and produce music from pitch-shifted tape loops of field recordings rather than competing in a game whose rules would never allow a female pianist to be recognized as a virtuoso, no matter how talented she was?

    At only 84 minutes, “Sisters with Transistors” is a brief introduction to…

  • A Special Day

    A Special Day

    ★★★★

    Fascism viewed as noise pollution. The blocked desire of a heterosexual woman for a gay man, even though they do have sex, as a sign of the alienation and misery caused by traditional gender roles. Sepia not as the image of nostalgia, but a kind of dreary fascist realism akin to the grayness with which the USSR has been depicted.

  • The Father

    The Father

    ★★½

    It'd be foolish to say Anthony Hopkins gives a bad performance here, because he does brings out his character's terror of existing in a shifting reality on a moment-to-moment basis. Still, it's extroverted and mannered in a way that screams "Look at me, I am acting! I am playing someone totally different from myself!" I reduced my star rating after a day's thought because while I found the section after {SPOILER} moving, it now seems grossly manipulative and gimmicky. For…

  • Loose Corner

    Loose Corner

    ★★★★

    Standing in for the entire Anita Thatcher shorts program presented tonight by Screen Slate and Prismatic Ground, LOOSE CORNER is a delightful trompe d'oeil. Director Anita Thatcher playfully created an illusory space, apparently cutting together sets and miniatures. While the effect is convincing, the seams special effects tries to hide are left open.

  • Misery

    Misery

    ★★½

    Eminem's "Stan" 10 years earlier, but with a woman who reads romance novels, mispronounces Dom Perignon and listens to Liberace rather than a closeted bro as the villain. MISERY was prescient about parasocial relationships and the toxic potential of fandom, but its sexist condescension has aged much worse. However, at least Kathy Bates has a character to play, and she tears into her role of the bad caregiver with real delight. (For an analysis of this trope, I recommend Miranda…

  • Shiva Baby

    Shiva Baby

    ★★★½

    Ari Aster's prequel to HEREDITARY, done as cringe comedy. I am only half kidding. SHIVA BABY dives deep into the Jewish-American tradition of mining humor from our anxieties, finding far more pain than laughter. Given the setup, in which all but the very beginning and end takes place in one house during the shiva, it could be staged as a play. But director Emma Seligman has precise ideas about when to show Danielle (Rachel Sennott) looking and being looked at,…

  • Accumulator 1

    Accumulator 1

    ★★★

    Jan Sverak's direction triumphs over the simplistic "TV is bad" message and elements of leering sex farce. The concept, in which TV programs suck the life out of people and leave them with doubles in a hazy world of sets on the other side of the TV, is a bit confusing, but played out imaginatively. The colors of yellow and blue are deployed symbolically throughout, with blue representing the malign power of TV and yellow a more natural balancing force.…

  • Godzilla vs. Kong

    Godzilla vs. Kong

    ★★★

    On my first attempt at watching GODZILLA VS. KONG, I got bored quickly and shut it off after half an hour. But the facts that I began at 1 AM likely contributed to it. Another factor is that the story is loaded with exposition, following small groups of people in subplots around the world, but nothing except spectacle hits home. Kyle Chandler, Demian Bichir - excellent actors with no real characters to play. But half an hour of Kong and…

  • Night Shot

    Night Shot

    ★★★★

    With NIGHT SHOT, Carolina Mososco dives head-first into a number of taboos, especially the idea that a rape survivor should treat their experience as a shameful, private event. But her personal documentary is also equally concerned with finding a language adequate to living with sexual assault. At first, the aesthetic of NIGHT SHOT is bare-bones. Until about an hour in, none of the images she shot allude to rape, but her experience of the violation itself and her dreadful attempts…

  • Smooth Talk

    Smooth Talk

    ★★★★

    An intervention in the '80s teen movie, with the predatory male behavior foregrounded instead of being made to look funny. (Seriously, NIGHTMARE ON ELM ST., made the same year, exists in the same world of useless adults who can't help teenagers' overpowering and justified fear.) Connie (Laura Dern) doesn't get along with her mom, and even when she takes refuge at her beloved mall, she's surrounded by creepy boys. At the time of SMOOTH TALK's original release, B. Ruby Rich…