Visages, Villages (Faces/Places)

This Oscar-nominated documentary was a complex meditation on the people you meet, presented in a seemingly fun package. Everybody has a story and it is up to the individual to find it out. 

The concept of it was highly entertaining, pairing French New Wave auteur Agnes Varda with modern day artist/photograffeurJR, and essentially having them go on road trips. Interweaved between the main narrative, we learn a little bit more about the both of them. 

But at the same time. we also learnt about the immortal transience of art and memories, the role of art in the community and in the culture, and also the duality of both the artist and its subject. At times, the docu may seem meandering but each segment ultimately drove home the point that it is the people that maketh the art.

An entertaining, thoughtful and surprisingly touching exploration of humanity and friendship.

Lady Bird

Written and directed by Greta Gerwig, Lady Bird was a sure-handed, touching, and sincere coming-of-age story anchored by strong performances from a luminous and naturally charismatic Saoirse Ronan and an emotionally powerfully yet restrained Laurie Metcalf. The authentically complex mother-daughter (parent-child) relationship portrayed by Metcalf and Ronan was the glue that held the narrative together, and kudos to Gerwig for so aptly capturing that in all its angsty mess. Lady Bird deserved all its nominations and hype, and - with all due respect to Alison Janney - Metcalf has been robbed thus far.

This film was a tremendous success for an almost first time director and although unlike other competitors - Dunkirk or The Shape of Water - it lacked technical complexity, Gerwig was absolutely successful in effectively telling a story. And one with a heart, no less. Gerwig’s pacing of the story was fantastic and although the narrative went along at a breezy pace, it never felt rushed and …

Black Panther [IMAX/3D]

Black Panther was one of the most unique superhero film by Marvel. Was it the best? Not necessarily (that honour still belongs to The Avengers), but it definitely was unlike any other of the franchises in the MCU. Surprisingly, its closest cousin would be the first Thor film. Both films had a Shakespearan core amidst the political intrigue and a son learning how to lead. However, Ryan Coogler's Black Panther stood out - heads and shoulders above - from Kenneth Bragnah's Thor in that it was superhero feature that had decidedly minimum focus on the superhero power/features. Instead the strength of this film was its focus on truly well-defined characters anchored by strong performances of its actors, and its elegant dive into heavy themes of political and social responsibility, cultural identity and self vs country.

It definitely also helped that Black Panther did not look/feel/sound like a typical, cookie-cutter, MCU film. Coogler's directing filled the screen with a vibrant…

I, Tonya

This was a problematic film. If you did not know who Tonya Harding was before, this film does nothing to better understand who she was; if you did know about Harding and the incident, then this film also does nothing to better understand why and how it happened. Go listen to the New York Times' The Daily podcast that featured an interview with her, you will learn so much more about her as a person and her motivations, and that will definitely increase your appreciation of what the film may had been trying to say.

You know a film has issues when the best things about it were, in order: the editing (those figure skating moments were top-notched, minus some odd-looking face replacement CGIs), the 80s soundtrack (with the likes of ZZ Top, Siouxsie and the Banshees, and Fleetwood Mac), followed by Allison Janey and then Margot Robbie. The narration was haphazard, the tone and pacing were all over the place, characters, including Harding and her mum LaVona, were all broadly caricatured…

The Shape of Water

This was such a beautiful film. An elegantly directed love story/fairy tale by Guillermo del Toro that was bursting with extraordinary vision and sumptuous details, and lovingly buffeted with a gorgeous score by Alexandre Desplat. Sally Hawkins was simply divine and enchanting in a (mostly) silent role. And Michael Shannon was a truly terrifying villain. This film not only celebrated Love, but was also a beautiful (yes, that word again) homage to the golden age of cinema/films. Del Toro had a vision and he executed it beautifully without sacrificing his aesthetics or storytelling.

The Shape of Water was a culmination of many creative forces and it truly deserved all its 13 nominations at the 90th Academy Awards. The standouts definitely included production design, cinematography and original score, with Desplat having a strong chance of getting the gold. Desplat's score was so beautiful - romantic yet with a tinge of whimsiness that carried the theme of the film so well. And the l…

Black Lightning

Episode #1: The Resurrection and Episode #2: Lawanda: The Book of Hope
The CW's latest entry into its ever expanding DC superhero franchise is decidedly different from anything else that Greg Berlanti et al has done. And, no, it is not only about the pre-dominantly African-American cast, but also the whole tone and mood of the series. It definitely is not as light and breezy as The Flash or Supergirl, nor is it as irreverent as DC's Legends of Tomorrow; but yet not also not as dark and grim as Arrow. Black Lightning as a point. It is topical. It is gritty. It is violent (or as violent as can be on network TV). It does not shy away from making a socio-political statement reflective of the world we live in now. And for all that, it is an exciting series. The closest - and perhaps inevitable - comparison would be with Netflix's Luke Cage. Thematically they are both similar, but whereas Luke Cage benefited from cable network's PG-standards and a higher budget. Black Lightn…

Phantom Thread

This was a very Paul Thomas Anderson sort of film. PTA crafted an unique/atypical love story (and a somewhat cautionary tale regarding loving an artist) between two highly-complex sociopaths that was tremendously well-acted by Daniel Day-Lewis, in another highly committed performance, and newcomer Vicky Krieps, in a star-making turn; both of whom were supported by the ever-reliable and commanding Lesley Manville. As expected, the costumes by Mark Bridges were gorgeous; but more unexpectedly was the beautiful score by Jonny Greenwood, lead guitarist of Radiohead.

PTA wrote and directed Phantom Thread and it is hard to imagine that it was not in some way sort of semi-autobiographical. Nonetheless, this historic fashion drama is unlike Saint Laurentor YSL, but a highly nuanced character study of one very unlikeable man, and his equally unlikeable muse. However, the strength of PTA's work laid in layering these characters for they were never really outrightly detestable.

At the heart…