Attention cinephiles! Here’s the lineup of Hollywood’s cinematic hits and misses:
The brilliant Academy Award winner Alfonso Cuarón (Gravity, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban, Children of Men) delivers yet another masterpiece shot in 4K black and white. A salute to his childhood, Cuarón presents the life of a wealthy Mexican family surrounded by political turmoil in the 1970s. The plot is driven by the mother and nanny who strive to keep the family together. A strong contender this Oscar season, Roma is a beautiful story of bravery and unconditional motherhood with no shortage of Cuarón’s classic breathtaking landscape shots.
The Favourite succeeds in reinventing the period genre, delivering a work that is both extremely entertaining and incredibly humorous. Director Yorgos Lanthimos (The Lobster) does an impressive job of illustrating his quirky style with use of unique camera angles and elaborate images. The epic combative lesbian love triangle between Emma Stone, Olivia Colman, and Rachel Weisz makes this film worth watching.
Legendary filmmaker Spike Lee’s adaption of the true story about Ron Stallworth (John David Washington), the courageous African-American detective who aided in exposing the maniacal behavior of the Ku Klux Klan, is impactful and consistently funny. BlacKkKlansman will leave you just as Do the Right Thing did — with goosebumps and a reflection on the still relevant oppressed Black experience in America.
It makes perfect sense that this film was the Grolsch People’s Choice Award winner at the 2018 Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF). Green Book is a charming feel-good movie done in the vein of Hidden Figures, communicating an important lesson on segregation and racism in the United States. Viggo Mortensen and Mahershala Ali make a fantastic duo for this road trip that tests the limits of the Jim Crow South. The Varsity loved it so much, we reviewed it for TIFF.
Japanese master Hirokazu Kore-eda presents an incredible narrative about a complex and mischievous family struggling to make ends meet. The only way the family succeeds is by the children shoplifting. The Palme d’Or winner grabs your attention from the opening scene and does not let go until the credits roll, leaving film-goers in a state of satisfied shock. When surveying this year’s Oscar contenders — both foreign and domestic — Shoplifters is the pièce de résistance.
This Polish film was shot in exquisite black and white 4:3 aspect ratio by Oscar-winning Pawel Pawlikowski. The passionate Shakespearean tale of two star-crossed lovers set during the spread of communism in Europe in the 1960s makes way for possibly the best film of the year. One knows you have seen a good movie when you don’t want it to end; Cold War portrays this phenomenon flawlessly. The Cannes Best Director Award winner leans heavily on its classical jazz score, contributing to the pace and brilliance of the script. The last act is so profound it left TIFF-goers ominously quiet. Cold War is a definite must-see from this year’s lineup.
IF BEALE STREET COULD TALK
Barry Jenkins’ (Moonlight) adaptation of the James Baldwin novel is the perfect example of cinematic excellence. He tells the story of a young Black couple struggling to survive in early 1970s Harlem. The magnificent auteur makes use of his whimsical mise en scène styled with unique editing and cinematic techniques. If Beale Street Could Talk is driven along by a euphoric soundtrack, peppered with artists forever linked to this period. When has a John Coltrane/Miles Davis-infused score ever disappointed?
The psychological thriller promised potential but ended with far too many plot holes. The audience is left with questions like “Why did Sandra Bullock’s character name ‘Girl’ Olympia and not Ella, the birth mother’s dream name for her child?” and “Why are the mentally ill unaffected by the monster?” Watch it for the meme, not for the movie.
THE DEATH OF STALIN
With a promising cast featuring Jeffrey Tambor and Steve Buscemi, this one unfortunately drops straight to the floor. From the creator of Veep, Armando Iannucci, one would expect timely one-liners and dark witty dialogue. Instead, the political satire was awkwardly delivered and lacked timing. This disappointment has potential to become a cult classic similar to Tommy Wiseau’s The Room; it was so bad, it was almost good.
Based on a true story about a never-ending game of tag, this movie couldn’t end fast enough. Void of any characters worth investing in, I suggest you file Tag for a Netflix-and-chill session. Acute attention is neither necessary nor required.
I FEEL PRETTY
Amy Schumer’s I Feel Pretty is a failed attempt at a self-deprecating work of cuteness. The subject matter seems like low hanging fruit, but Schumer let the citrus rot before they got around to filming. It lacks, well, almost everything that makes me want to part with 13 hard-earned dollars. Trainwreck was somewhat bearable thanks to the eye candy John Cena provided where you can most definitely see all of him.
Honourable mentions: for the good or the bad?
2. Crazy Rich Asians
3. Black Panther
4. Eighth Grade
6. Free Solo
7. Isle of Dogs
9. Beautiful Boy