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Entries by Chris Feil (631)

Thursday
May 23 2019

Review: Booksmart

byChris Feil

Booksmartfeels like a gift from the comedy gods - it's firmly built in the teen buddy comedy traditions yet with its own unique diversions,representationally rewarding without the condescension of pandering,and a gaspingly funny look at female friendship that is also authentically moving.An impressive first feature from actress Olivia Wilde,Booksmartis joyous and it is here to fucking own the summer movie season.

Kaitlyn Dever and Beanie Feldstein star as Amy and Molly,two best friends who prioritized their studies all throughout high school in the hopes of landing in the elite colleges of their dreams.On the eve of graduation,they shockingly discover that all the hard-partying kids also managed to nail their SATs and get accepted into top schools despite appearances.In a comically foiled and app-assisted evening,the two young women try to make up for lost time by finding a way into the most epic pre-graduation party.

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Wednesday
May 22 2019

Soundtracking: Bridesmaids

byChris Feil

"Hold On"by Wilson Phillips endsBridesmaidson a high note,both soaring the film to its crowd-pleasing crest and underlining the emotional depths of what we've just watched.Yes it's a film about women leaning on eachother for support in crucial moments,but it's also about the journey out of isolation.But even with all of the pathos,it's still an upbeat experience.You couldn't pin a more appropriate song on the feeling that the film conjures,or for its central journey.

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Thursday
May 16 2019

Review: Trial By Fire

byChris Feil

The first sign ofTrial By Fire's problems is that its title is a pun,and I welcome any and all puns.It's perhaps not the most sensitive way to approach a film that begins with a house fire that takes the lives of multiple children.Maybe don't do that.

But then again,sensitivity isn't the film's strong suit.As directed by Edward Zwick (yes that Edward Zwick,primarily known for epics your dad might love likeGloryandThe Last Samurai),the film is a not-quite-thoughtful look at a true story of Death Row Texas.Jack O'Connell stars as Cameron Todd Willingham,a man convicted of a home arson that took the lives of his three children despite his claims of innocence.His case is doomed by prejudice and a corrupt system until he meets the correspondence of Laura Dern's good samaritan Elizabeth Gilbert.

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Wednesday
May 15 2019

Soundtracking: Funny Games

byChris Feil

Joining the Criterion Collection this week is Michael Haneke's notoriousFunny Games,a confrontational allegory about western obsession and consumption of violence as entertainment.Here a family is psychologically tortured by two young male invaders,with the fourth wall broken and the audience taunted for their refusal to stop watching.The film plays with the gentle and the profane within our society,the contrasts between them drawing out what is toxically mundane about both.Haneke introduces his metaphor in the film's angelic opening scene,and music is his shocking first tool.

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Thursday
May 09 2019

Review: Tolkien

byChris Feil

Inert biopics line the multiplex like gravestones,but seldom are they as dead on arrival asTolkien.Depicting the author and philologist's young adulthood and experience in World War I before creatingThe Hobbit,Dome Karukoski's film isn't just another dull cookie cutter telling of a famous figure.It's perhaps a new gold standard of "Wikipedia entry as high school book report as prestige picture"malaise,the low bar to compare passable boring films."At least it's notTolkien."

Nicholas Hoult stars as the eponymoius J.R.R.Tolkien,struggling to overcome his social and fiscal limitations while at Oxford.He is part of a foursome of tightly knit male friends and artists,each with class stature above his own.Meanwhile he sacrifices his love for fellow orphan Edith Bratt (Lily Collins) in order to secure his future.The outbreak of the war casts all of this asunder,serving Tolkien blows to the body and spirit that ultimately serve his coming creative landmarks.

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Wednesday
May 08 2019

Soundtracking: Her Smell

byChris Feil

It's not incorrect to call Alex Ross Perry'sHer Smella musical,it just feels like a simple categorization doesn't contain all of the levels that the film operates on.It's also King Lear on downstairs cocaine,a Cassavettes character study,and an epic saga of female friendship.And of course it's also a subtle period piece,unfolding over the years when Spin magazine reigned supreme,bad behavior was a natural extension of star persona,and grunge and punk excesses converged into a million different stylistic offshoots.

But music remains the film's connective tissue,whether it is pushed to the background by the impossible behavior of Elisabeth Moss's demonic antihero Becky Something or returns because of her genius.What makes it all work is that the music feels authentic both to the period and the specific,fractious aesthetic Perry is going for.

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