Category: Main Slate

February 6, 2018 / / Main Slate

Justin LaLiberty

The year of 1995 was esoteric for fans of genre cinema with a variety of sub-genres and trends brought to a boiling point: the buddy movie (Bad Boys, Money Train, Die Hard with a Vengeance, Tommy Boy, Friday, Top Dog), the revisionist western (The Quick and the Dead, Wild Bill, Dead Man), neo-noir (Se7en, Heat, Devil In a Blue Dress, Kiss of Death, Jade, Things to Do In Denver When You’re Dead) all got their due but the most singular, and eerily prescient, sub-genre trend was the cyber thriller.

February 5, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Greg Mucci

It is not a series of legible images or a black screen that opens A Clockwork Orange, Stanley Kubrick’s operatic adaptation of Anthony Burgess’ classic dystopian novel; but an overlay of colors. First a burning red fills the screen, a color often evoking associations with rage, danger and power. It raises one’s blood pressure, accelerates the heart rate and elicits erotic feelings. Then the image flips to a deep blue, generating the opposite effects of red: calm, truth, and sincerity. It cuts back to red before resting on Alex, (played by Malcolm McDowell), a delinquent who chooses a life of crime. His dangerous yet youthful beauty is as contradictory as the interplay of colors. Already this display of colors provokes emotional conflicts. But the music that plays against these emotions just might fuel them, as our film opens against English composer Henry Purcell’s 1695 Music for the Funeral of Queen Mary, reimagined for synthesizer by electronic music pioneer Wendy Carlos. In bringing her own specific flourish to classical composers such as Purcell, Beethoven, and Rozzini, Carlos works at distorting the films use of music in order to manipulate the way in which we engage and interact, ultimately controlling our free will through a marriage of sights and sounds.

January 29, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Selin Sevinc

Hopes and dreams are a significant part of who we are as human beings. Peter Bogdanovich’s Depression era comedy/road movie Paper Moon artfully reflects that human need for dreaming. Ryan O’Neil’s Moses Pray and Tatum O’Neil’s Addie make a pair that brightens the sullen backdrop with their determined expectation of good things to come. Addie’s cunning ideas and sharp attitude are just what Moses needs to survive the hopelessness that surrounds them. Despite the comedic buddy-movie sensibility of the film, Paper Moon focuses our attention time and again on the melancholy symbolism of a paper moon the duo delicately balances on as they go through their adventures.

January 15, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Tessa Brook Bahoosh

Beneath a frozen pond, fish swim slowly, their image distorted through the ice. In a seemingly infinite swimming pool, a young woman pounds against the floor tiles, seeking escape. A glass of milk goes mottled with red as blood drips into its center.

January 12, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Hannah Kinney-Kobre

The life of the writer does not particularly lend itself to being dramatized on film. The solitary act of writing is not a very cinematic event, and to incorporate the written works themselves is a difficult and fraught task. A limp voiceover or spontaneous reading can easily feel obligatory or out of place. But A Quiet Passion manages to avoid these traps. The film covers the life of poet Emily Dickinson, from her first rebellious spat with evangelism at school to her inevitable death. And as far as biopics go, it is an anomaly. The film is arranged into little vignettes that can be best described as movements of sort; this musical metaphor is also apt for the way the film uses Dickinson’s poetry: interspersed through the film, read aloud by Dickinson (Cynthia Nixon) and weaving in and out of the film like part of the soundtrack. Director Terence Davies in an interview rightfully noted, “The poems […] have to act as music.”

January 9, 2018 / / Main Slate

by Chase Sui Wonders

The Beguiled directed by Sofia Coppola opens in an enveloping fog as the camera crawls through the gnarled and mossed branches of what is meant to be a Civil War period Virginian landscape. Despite the haze of the fog, the colors and textures retain a rich fairytale-like quality. As we move through the dense wood, we hear the eerie high-pitched tune of a little girl singing as she gathers a basket of mushrooms. The camera trails behind her ominously. She knows she has strayed too far from home when suddenly a critically wounded enemy soldier John McBurney (Colin Farrell) emerges from behind a tree begging her for medical care. Following this reveal, it seems that one of the most conventionally frightful moments in the film has already passed. Indeed, Coppola builds the suspense of her film with a much slower burn than what is expected from a more traditional Hollywood Horror with over-the-top shocks. As soon as the opening sequence, she conjures fear in the audience through an unsettling atmosphere ripe with quiet suspense without relying on jump scares to do the emotional legwork.

January 9, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Tessa Brook Bahoosh

Long a fan of director Sean Baker, the existence of The Florida Project took me by surprise. I wasn’t surprised to love it, or to find it exquisitely intimate and compassionate, but it is a true mental shift to accept we live in a world in which Sean Baker films have a budget. Baker has spent most of his career making films on a shoestring, which he then manages to pull a mile. In terms of making the absolute most of what he has been given, The Florida Project is no exception. It’s a beautiful film that deals in contradictions: quiet and loud, brassy and sensitive, painful and lovely to watch. Baker is already well practiced in toeing the line between drama and comedy, as demonstrated through his previous films, particularly 2015’s Tangerine. Instead of erecting humor and melancholy as two separate poles which one may oscillate between, Baker finds the comedic within the dramatic, compromising neither. Thus, he provides a unique illustration of how films can engage with overlapping emotions that are conventionally considered contradictory, and ultimately produce deeply resonant and truthful stories.

January 5, 2018 / / Main Slate

By Benjamin Sunday

For a film that features kidnapping, impalement, and nonconsensual brain surgery, it’s striking that the most uncomfortable scene in Jordan Peele’s Get Out is that of a racially awkward garden party. As a special guest of the white host Dean Armitage (Bradley Whitford), black photographer Chris Washington (Daniel Kaluuya) is singled out and forced to tolerate Armitage’s peers while they openly fetishize his race. The one exception to this behavior is Jim Hudson (Stephen Root), a blind art dealer who ignores Washington’s ethnicity while praising the younger man’s pictures of urban life. Hudson’s compliments identify him as an ally who recognizes Washington for his creativity instead of his color, making it that much more surprising when Hudson pays Armitage to transplant his brain into Washington’s body and steal the artist’s “eye.” Instead of elevating him out of the second class, Washington’s gift only invites his victimization by a man who sees the black artist as a talent, but not as an equal.

December 22, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Leo Racicot

I never lose interest in the work of my favorite director, Alfred Hitchcock. His films hold up under repeated scrutiny. They feel as fresh on the fifteenth viewing as they do on the first. As I have written elsewhere, Hitchcock’s smaller efforts are superior to the greatest efforts of other directors. The might be said of Woody Allen’s work. Both directors became such masters of their craft that they could elevate even an apparently minor story to the realm of the sublime.

December 17, 2017 / / Main Slate

By Matt Hannigan

In many instances a film is like a con. It wants to hook you, it wants to make you personally invested in the outcome, and it wants you to walk away with a smile on your face and slightly less in your wallet. If the endeavor is a success, there will always be enough to suggest that the artist—the film artist or the con artist—knows a truth that you do not. If the endeavor is unsuccessful, the feeling of being cheated will linger and frustrate.