Monday, October 19, 2020

THE TOP TEN FILMS OF 2018! As always with a ridiculous amount of perpetual lateness.

2018 must feel like a century ago to most of you. Imagine how it feels to me. Me, who at his normal pace is always a year behind and has fallen back even farther then ever before, and am basically in permanent catch-up mode, and since time seems slower then ever, I can't even really remember what 2018 was even like anymore. What was the number song that year? 

(Google search) 

"God's Plan"? Has anybody heard that song in the last six months? Eh, maybe, six months might as well be two years ago. 

Alright, I'm talking about movies anyway. Let's reflect back everyone, to a time that still sucked, but we could go outside and to a movie theater or anywhere for that matter and not feel like we may die from it. When a time that when someone entered a convention store wearing a mask meant that he was probably trying to rob the place. Was this a good year for films? Eh... Kinda. I mean I guess every year at the top is pretty good, but eh..., let's just say that this is a year that I'm looking much more forward to posting my Worst List then I am my best. But, I'll get to that another day. Let's start off well while we can, and quickly so that I don't end up putting off 2019 any longer then say, next June. 

One more time, as always, I get the last word. Let's go.


Number ten: 

Looking back, to me this was a breakthrough year for African-American cinema finally breaking into the populace. Not just films about African-Americans but by African-Americans. There had been others in recent year, "Get Out", "Moonlight", socially-conscious and aware films that critics probably enjoyed more then the public, but this felt different. This felt like the first time I could've easily filled up the Best Director Oscar nominees with all African-American filmmakers and nobody would bat an eye at how strange. Obviously the Oscars, didn't do that, in fact spoilers, unlike the last two years where my number one film happened to coincide with the Best Picture winner, um, "Green Book" is not gonna show up here. (Sidenote: Overall, this was a lousy Oscars year.) 

Anyway, there were great movies in nearly every genre from some of the biggest, newest and most important voices in America this year, and they came from all over the world, and this list is gonna have a lot of them, but the biggest and probably most statements were made by the African-American filmmakers. With Hollywood embracing a post-BLM world before the rest of the country, caught up, I suspect that some of these films are only now starting to reach the audiences they most need to reach. 

One of the biggest audiences they need to reach, is the YA market.

10. The Hate U Give

Maybe this is because I grew up in a pre-Harry Potter world, but it felt a little bit the books that are usually promoted to teens and preteens these days seem to overly dominated by fantasy and science-fiction and science-fantasy romances and whatnot, and while a lot of that is good probably, it's nice to see more contemporary novels like this reach an audience and also have an amazing movie adaptation made from them that make this story of a high school girl struggling with her personal identity and home and at school after witnessing a police officer kill her longtime friend. 

My original review:
I suspect, I'll have to ask for some forgiveness from many of you, as the exact meaning of the title of "The Hate U Give" eluded me before going into the film as I am quite the late-comer to Tupac. I'm still not entirely certain what to make of it, but for those like me who were unfamiliar, the title comes from Tupac Shakur's acronym for "THUG LIFE", "The Hate U Give Little Infants, Fucks Everybody". (Shrugs) Seems like he was stretching to take a fairly negative statement to turn it into a positive to me, but, what do I know; I can't say he's entirely inaccurate.

Based on the popular YA novel, and as much as I hate that term, this movie and story represents all the great qualities of what that genre should be. Complex stories about troubling young people as they struggle through growing up. Starr (Amandla Stenberg) lives in two different worlds, her home an African-American neighborhood called Garden Heights, but she attends a private middle class school across town with a majority white population. She even has an on-again/off-again white boyfriend, Chris (K.J. Apa) who she doesn't let enter her family world, although she doesn't let anybody from one world enter the other if possible, including all her close friends, including her friends on the basketball team Hailey (Sabrina Carpenter) and Maya (Megan Lawless). I always think about Dave Chappelle's routine about how all Black people are bilingual, in that there's a person they present to the white world and another language they speak amongst themselves, as a white male, even though I make attempts to keep attempts to make sure my home and worklife are separate, I'm not gonna pretend that I understand the need and fear involved in having separate ways of speaking and relating to people based on where one's at, or that one has to wear/hide different clothes or like and appreciate different things in order to fit into their surroundings.

At home, she's a middle child of Maverick (Russell Hornsby), two of three sibling, her two brothers being the older Seven (Lamar Johnson). Maverick's a former drug dealer who worked for the Kinglords, the local gang headed by King (Anthony Mackie) who basically runs the neighborhood and keeps them in fear. He's been out since, and him and his wife Lisa (Regina Hall) have managed to keep their head above water and Maverick now runs a little corner store that the neighborhood goes to. Then, she attends a party in the neighborhood where she runs into an old childhood friend Khalil (Algee Smith), who is driving her back home after the party gets out of hand. Then, he's pulled over by the police and is killed by the policeman. She's now a witness to a cop killing in the age of Black Lives Matter and she's getting pulled in every direction.

Her Uncle Carlos (Common) is a cop who tries to protect her at times, and tries to help her come forward. However, Khalil was dealing and now the Kinglords are threatening her and her family in order to make sure she doesn't testify. Ironically, she doesn't want to implicate them, and frankly she shouldn't have to. Khalil wasn't exactly behaving with the recommended proper behavior that Maverick explained to his kids on what to do when being pulled over. That scene opens the movie, and is powerful, foreboding and framed in such a way through Starr's narration that it's understood that this conversation takes place in every African-American home.

She's also pressured to make her story as high-profile as possible, this is represented by activist/media strategist April Ofrah (Issa Rae) who desperately tries to get her to come forward, 'cause of how-, well, basically everything is slanted to prevent the cop from being convicted. "Why are they even having a grand jury?" she exclains at one point; "I saw him! He killed Khalil!" I didn't think about it at the time, but yeah, why the hell is there a grand jury come to think of it? Anyway, she's talked into a television interview with her image darkened off, but that only intensifies the threats from the Kinglords, who actually, would probably do better off if they just stayed out of everything, and let her testify in peace. I mean, if knew how little she knew and she only wanted to make sure the cop was in in jail,... at least, logically that's what I would suspect.

At school, things start to go downhill as well as both Starr's lives start bleeding together and the news reports begin to reveal things about her classmates and friends that she probably suspected but tried to ignore and not confront until now.

I mentioned my disdain for the term, YA Novels in the past, mostly 'cause it's a really grotesque promotional catch-all for...-, well normally the way I describe it is that, the second you're old enough for young adult, is the same second you've outgrown it and should be moving on less childish things. Basically, I just think the term is backhandedly derorgatory, saying that a particular piece of literature is only for certain people because it's supposedly good enough for others, as though it's okay to promote the crap to kids...- Anyway,  "The Hate U Give" if the novel is half as good as the film, and I can't imagine a scenario where it isn't, then this a must-read for everybody, not just the demographic that it's promoted to. It's probably a must-watch film as well. It's not perfect, it's got a bunch of climaxes that end up colliding and crashing into each other. Some of them are more obviously symbolic than others, some of it just seems overly coincidental and climatic, but I don't care; it's too good. It does what this genre should do at it's best, get us to explore the pains of growing up, feel like what it is to be a kid in this case, under difficult and trying modern circumstances. I'm not even talking about being a witness to a murder, about being Black, about being a girl, about being a black girl in a white world, and in a Black one, and struggling to survive surroundings that aren't above losing close dear friends suddenly, about just trying to figure out who to trust and what to do in this world when you have to decide whether or not to step up and make your voice heard, and whether that has any real effect on anybody, and if not, what does?

Under the radar, there's been a great run lately of movies about teenagers in the last few years, Hollywood movies too, probably the best run of them since the height of John Hughes in the eighties. "The Hate U Give" is easily up there among them. Director George Tillman, Jr. has been making good movies since the '90s, most memorably for me, the Biggy Smalls biopic "Notorious", but I think he's finally found a critical niche here. This along with his overlooked "The Inevitable Defeat of Mister and Pete" tell me that he might be better than most at giving us these wonderful personal stories of African-American youth as they seek out ways to survive and grow up in this world. I hope he keeps seeking these kinds of stories out in the future. It might be hard for him to find another as "The Hate U Give", but I hope he tries either way.

Yeah, I want to add that on top of just of all the sociopolitical everything this movie does amazingly well, it's a great story about a teenager just trying to figure out who to trust in this world, and that's a universal condition that everybody has to figure out and that inner conflict is really the crux of almost all great stories about young people. And George Tillman, Jr., not a director I think about much admittedly, but he's has made some really good movies over the years and this is his best one yet. 

Number nine.

I seem to be averaging about three documentaries a year on these lists. That's not intentional, I've had years where I've had none, but what can I tell you? Some documentaries are great. And their were some great ones this year, and a lot of them were also politically charged, but honestly the ones that really effected me were generally not political this time around. Instead they were biodocumentaries. 

9. McQueen

We're starting off with the most cinematic of the biodoc, "McQueen" a documentary about the late fashion designer legend Alexander McQueen. 

My original review:
I’ve seen a few documentaries in recent years on some iconic fashion designers. None of them have stayed with me particularly long afterwards, even though I generally appreciate the films fine as well as appreciate the subjects they profile. That was basically my expectations going into “McQueen’ as well, this latest biodocumentary on an iconic designer, but it became clear pretty quickly that this was no ordinary legendary designer and that this was no ordinary biodoc about him.

I don’t have an encyclopedic knowledge of fastion, but from what I’ve curtailed over-the-years, the appropriate comparison that some might make to Alexander McQueen to someone in film would be, R.W. Fassbinder. It’s not a perfect comparison; they do share similar features, although Fassbinder is of course German while McQueen is British, purportedly by way of Scottish ancestory, but there’s some similarities in their backgrounds, both gay for instance, both came up very young and became prolific really quickly and pumped out work fairly regularly, but mostly I think the comparison is apt because of their form of passion for their art, as well as the ways they indulged in excess. McQueen seems to be the epitome of the excesses of the fashion industry meeting with the limits of the artistry of the medium back in the nineties. If you’ve ever seen Robert Altman’s underrated masterpiece, “Pret-a-Porter (aka Ready-to-Wear)” about the industry, you’ll suspect that many of the ideas for the clothes and the productions of the fashion shows they express were probably inspired by some of McQueen’s daring ideas and collections. Also, him and Fassbinder also used lots of drugs and through their work embraced both their most passionate and most viscerally embalming images in their work. They also both died incredibly young, arguably in the prime of their carers; in his case, it was suicide.  

Alexander McQueen came from an abusive poor home on the rougher sides of England. If you didn’t know that his passion was designing clothes and ran into him, you’d think he was the kind of gangster bloke that you’d find in some Guy Ritchie film. Instead, he got some tailor apprenticeship, first locally, and then all throughout Europe before he started scraping together enough of a ragtag crew to put together some shows of his own. And I mean mean-rag, and I mean artistic and daring shows for the fashion industry. Another good comparison to him might be Andy Warhol, at least based on the way he practiced, but his inspirations came from dark places. It wasn’t until he took a job at Givanchy that he started to slowly slip out from the utmost avant-garde areas and begin to produce clothes that were, for lack of a better word, wearable. That’s not an insult or even a criticism; they were among other things, not clothes that were capable of being mass produced; he was putting on a shows, shows that challenge our preconceptions of fashion and art. Sometimes there were barely fabric used in many of the outfits; sometimes there were barely clothes or even covering at all. Sometimes there were robots.

All of his work is just some of the most expressive displays of emotion I’ve ever seen in art, much less fashion. The movie cuts between these striking scenes and images of his fashion shows as well as with interviews and footage of McQueen and several of his friends and closest family, the movie continues to return to this startling image of a-, I’m not even sure how to describe it, it’s like a golden skull that’s periodically filled with flowers or eagles or other birds or spilled with blood or designed with incredibly detail all over…- it was a go-to motif and image of his and by the end of the movie, it’s just an empty skull that ridden himself out, like his mind has given everything it could’ve possibly done to the world of fashion. I don’t know why this is so powerful, but it makes sense, all his images are powerful. He designed clothes like a director somebody said, and yeah, he did, but I think it’s even more powerful than that even. Like the idea of pigeon-hole him into a medium is simply not enough.

The key to these artist biodocs to me is to not simply show the greatness of the art and dive into the artist but to give the audience a powerful appreciation of them, how they worked, how they thought, what their lives were like, etc. etc., basically the ability to sink the power of the artist into our skulls so vividly that they’re simply not capable of being forgotten, to not just document but to imprint on our mind and boy do I appreciate Alexander McQueen right now, in that way; it’s been a long while since I’ve seen a documentary do that. Credit to Director Ian Bonhote and Co-Director and Co-Writer of the film Peter Ettedgui, I don’t know if people are gonna fully comprehend or understand just how amazing this film is at this; you may have to, like me have seen several similar docs on other artists, in fashion and outside of them outside of the medium to really understand how good this film is. Almost anybody can make a good movie about a great artist like this, especially if the artist’s material is worth documenting, that alone, I usually give most of these sorts of films a pass, but this is a special one. Maybe it helps that my knowledge of “McQueen” was limited going in, but this movie made damn sure I wouldn’t forget him. This is a really special documentary. It combines the care and passion for the subject, with the craft to be able to tell his story this well. 

Yeah, there's a bunch of documentaries and regular films for that matter, about artists and they're mostly all trying to examine the artistic mind and they're not easy to do, and I was surprised how well it was done here, and deservedly so, because- look, I've noted that I've been a huge "Project Runway" for years, several times on this blog, but just because I love the show doesn't mean I love fashion or the art of fashion design; honestly it's not my thing personally. But, even if it's not my thing, you can appreciate great art and what the artists ideas and intentions were. "McQueen" finds an artistic and interesting way of doing that, with a documentary no less, and it manages to frame this in a way that, I think anybody could come in blind to this movie and all of Alexander McQueen's accomplishments and just be awed at his work and what it took for him to create it and why he created it the way he did. 

Number eight: 

8. Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Admittedly part of me is wondering if I'm only putting this film slightly higher then "McQueen", or on here at all, simply because it's Mr. Rogers. "McQueen" is probably a more ambition and cinematic film, but every time I think about any of the songs he use to sing to us on television, it just makes me feel so much calmer about the world, and these days I can use that kind of calm.

From my Original Review:
As much as I was looking forward to "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" part of me was thinking about how I pretty much knew everything about Fred Rogers. I have very fond and very powerful memories of watching "Mister Rogers' Neighborhood" as I've still occasionally watched the show even today, and I knew a lot about him and the show. I'd even seen other wonderful documentaries about him, and I'd seen them recently; there's a wonderful TV documentary called "Mister Rogers & Me" that was directed by, Mister Rogers's actual real-life neighbor, who he got to know after he had retired. I thought I was pretty set in my Mister Rogers knowledge and appreciation. And then, there's a part in "Won't You Be My Neighbor?" where the cast and crew of the series started talking about the first week of programs and the story that was going on in the Land of Make-Believe that week. Apparently King Friday the 13th, was adamently against change, and he decided that in order to prevent changes from happening, he built, a giant wall with barbed wire on top of it, around the castle.

(Hands imitate mind being blown)

I guess I shouldn't be totally surprised, although I doubt Fred thought for a second that such a simple idea would remotely be relevant fifty years later, and to his credit, it shouldn't be, but those were the kinds of stories and ideas that he would teach kids in very simple but direct terms. Mostly, I remember just loving how Mr. McFeely would always bring his tapes about how things were made, Speedy Delivery, and we'd watch on picture-picture. I could just keep going through writing about my memories of Mr. Rogers, if I don't stop myself. The most amazing things about him, especially these days when everybody wants to find out everybody else's dirtiest darkest secret is that Mr. Rogers, was really genuine. It seems people have to make up bad things about him, and that's touched upon slightly in the documentary. How he supposedly was a WWII sniper or whatever the chic internet rumors are now. 

So who was Fred Rogers? The story goes that he was an ordained Presbyterian minister who had gotten his degree in music composition when he decided to get into television, almost on a whim. He saw somebody get hit with a pie on a TV show and thought there had to be a better way to entertained or talk to kids. You can say that he used techniques that were common with some of the major childhood developing experts on the time; hell, Mr. Rogers was actually one of these experts; he was a student of Margaret McFarland at one point too, but generally I think the key to his greatest is that no matter what he was talking about, he was just talking to us. My mother, one of the few people I know who doesn't like Mister Rogers, always says that he was talking down to kids, but I don't know what she's talking about. He talked to us, like adults should talk to kids. Being honest, but thoughtful, and about being good and about understanding your emotions. Although, that was often just him. There's a wonderful interview segment with Yo-Yo Ma talking about how terrified he was of him when he would come talk to a young man at first, seeing somebody just come right up to your face and say hello.

The movie does sorta explain that, while "Mister Rogers Neighborhood", was never an outwardly religious show, that he focused on shaping the emotional growth of children. He, also just, talked to them, more than anything else. Mister Rogers definitely stayed true to the intent of the teachings he had learned in the church.  He was a registered Republican, although I doubt he'd be today, but he never approach anything through a political lens as far as I can tell, which is probably why the infamous Senate deposition he gave that led Senator Pastore to concede givin $20million to keep PBS going is so amazing today. I remember seeing it, long before it was a viral video on Facebook, and was amazed even then, but now the incident seems almost mythical.

Looking closer, the connections between Mr. Rogers youth and his show and life become more clear. Like how all his puppet characters are people from his life and often represented certain emotional feelings I found it interesting to learn that when Mr. Rogers was at home and wanted to say something coarse or off-color that he would do it in Lady Elaine's voice. I think I'm gonna start doing something like that.... Interestingly, Mister Rogers also learned to talk emotionally like that, originally through music as a kid before he did it with his words.He was a sickly child who also suffered a weight problem in his early youth, something that made him the subject of bullying and being made fun of. He wrote all those wonderful songs that he sung on the show, many of which often still permeate my mind periodically on those times I may have such a good feeling, to know I'm alive. It's amazing how strongly those feelings and emotions stuck with him though over all the years. That's the great key to Mr. Rogers and just how great and powerful his show was for so many.

The movie doesn't reveal Mister Rogers to be absolutely perfect. He knew Francois Clemmons was gay before he was out, and pressed for him to keep that a secret, even after Mr. Rogers had to have it grow on him, and the way Francois describes it, he still considers him a father figure, as many others that worked for him. They also discuss the curious "Old Friends..., New Friends" interview series he did after taking a prolonged break from making new "Mister Rogers Neighborhood''s that was a strange Primetime series of special attempt of his to capture an adult audience. I've seen some of those, they're interesting in their own right, but yeah, that's kind of a weird choice in hindsight. Also, one person conspicuous by her absense is Betty Aberlin, one of the few regulars there wasn't an interview of in the film. Reportedly director Morgan Neville said she was a bit shy to be interviewed, something that she hadn't done in years, which is a little bit curious since she's kept up acting since the series ended, most notably appearing in several Kevin Smith movies, (Yes, that Kevin Smith) and she seems quite active on Twitter... That said, there's enough footage of her through some of the archive scenes, partiucularly some powerful ones she has with Mister Rogers's favorite and oldest puppet creation, Daniel Striped Tiger, who lives in the clock with no hands on it. There's some wonderful scenes too where we see Rogers talking with kids through his Daniel puppet, especially when some of those kids have some difficult things to discuss. He even came back from retirement briefly for some PSAs after 9/11 that helped heal the country, something he did quite a few times over the years with his show and other major national tragedies that captured the media attention in the news, that helped to reassure the kids, who are so young and new to the world that everything is ultimately okay and that there are indeed good people, special people around.

I once talked to a FB friend of mine from Australia about him. It was a discussion about his influence over America's children television. I was mentioning how important "Sesame Street" was and still is here, but I think overseas, as much as "Sesame Street" has crossed over and there are now several versions of that show all over the world, I think foreigners therefore, have a greater fascination with Mister Rogers, and usually presume he's the big number one here. When I pondered about why they might've thought that, his answer surprised me, and yet made absolutely perfect sense. He said to the effect of, "Well, we'd see his show and how he taught kids by just to them rather politely and nicely, and we've never had anyone over here like that."

I guess I never thought of that, but yeah, there really isn't another Mr. Rogers is there. I sure hope parents show their kids "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" whenever they can, if the kids don't seek him out and find him themselves.

Morgan Neville's made some amazing documentaries over the years; I don't really know how to rank them, and it does seem a little trivial, why make a documentary about this kids show host, but I gotta admit, the more you dive into Fred Rogers, he is an amazingly fascinating person, and a beloved person, for so many people. And say what you want, on either side of the political climate, his brand of radical niceness, is something that's badly needed and necessary in today's world more so then I think we realize. And even in this film, that does show some of the his questionable choices and mistakes, you only find yourself seeing him as more human afterwards. 

Also, follow Betty Aberlin on Twitter, if you haven't. She's amazing, despite her noticeable absence from this film. And use this movie and "Mister Rogers Neighborhood" the same way you'd use a motivational tape; I bet it'll help out just as much as anything else.

Number seven.

It wasn't just the African-American films and filmmakers that left a lasting impression this year. America is a melting pot after all, and I give extra points when it's done incredibly well, with a rom-com. 

7. Crazy Rich Asians

My pick for the most fun movie of the year is "Crazy Rich Asians", a delightful and delectable culture clash romantic-comedy that gives us like half-a-dozen soap operas worth of narratives and characters, all introduced to us through a young American-born Chinese professor, finding out that her boyfriend's family, is eccentrically rich. 

My Original Review:
It’s fairly big news whenever a major Hollywood feature is made with a predominantly Asian cast. In fact, you could argue that of all of ostracized demographics that Hollywood tends to ignore that, in terms of films being made by them, about them and starring them, Asians are probably less-profiled than all others, except for probably Native Americans. I mean, just within the last few years, think of all the whitewashing claims we’ve heard about lately; even Asian characters are rarely cast by Asians, and that’s certainly not a new standard either, that’s been pretty par for the course since the earliest days of the silent era. Of course, there’s some wonderful independent cinema from Asian-American filmmakers but big budget, or even little-budget Hollywood-backed features are pretty rare. Rarer still, at least lately are romantic-comedies, that's unfortunately the most dying of dying genres it seems, which is really disappointing ‘cause frankly we can use a lot more than we’ve gotten, especially relatively good ones. When is the last time these two paths have crossed, Hollywood rom-com with a mainly Asian cast? Um, probably “Bride & Prejudice” I guess. That was a pretty good movie. That was an Indian-American movie and done in the style of Bollywood, and yes, was a loose remake of the one decent Jane Austen novel, so British story, but still, I’d have a hard time coming up with anything else that wasn’t a barely-heard-of indy, and I can’t imagine anything else falling under the rom-com label, and most of them usually have a white protagonist. So, yeah, “Crazy Rich Asians”, is certainly an anomaly; it shouldn’t be, but… anyway, the movie’s a delight.

It’s not a new narrative or anything, but it’s a fun one. It’s basically, My Big Fat Crazy Rich Asian Boyfriend's Family,- well, actually that’s not fair, this a far better movie that’ll hold up better than that one has. We meet Rachel Chu (Constance Wu) an NYU Economics Professor who’s specialty is Game Theory and teaches her kids skills of playing an opponent, by using,- um, 5 card draw, poker? (Huh. I mean, I guess that works, although I would’ve thought Texas Hold’em, or maybe 5 Card Stud, would be better games for that…-, but alright….) She’s currently dating Nick Young (Henry Golding) a young good-looking Chinese-via-Singapore guy,- (So, I guess, Singaporean? Or is he Chinese-Singaporean? I don’t know, Singapore is a weird mix of everything around Asia,- sorry, ignore me, my geography fascination’s getting ahold of me; I’ll stop.) who’s intentionally vague about certain details of his family, as he prepares to bring Rachel to Singapore to meet them, for his best friend Colin’s (Chris Pang) Araminta (Soyona Mizuno). Unbeknownst to Rachel, this wedding in Singapore is the equivalent to what would happen if a Windsor married somebody with a last name of Vanderbilt-Rockefeller-Kennedy-Sultan of Brunei.

It quickly becomes apparent though when she meets the majority of Nick’s family at their Tan Hua Blooming party, (It’s a flower that apparently only blooms for like a few minutes a year, they throw a party for it. They’re-, well, look at the title!) starting of course with his mother Eleanor (Michelle Yeoh), a take-no-bullshit matriarch who we first meet getting rejected for a room because she’s Asian at a London Hotel, and in response calls the owner and buys the hotel. Of course, she is not impressed with Rachel for her Nick, although his Grandmother Ah Ma (Lisa Lu) is slightly more endearing towards him. There’s several other characters in this ensemble and I’m not going to be able to go through them all, but regarding Nick’s family, along with all the wedding subplots including bachelor and bachelorette parties that are as excessive and insane as you’d expect, there’s one subplot that feels awkward involving Nick’s closest sibling Astrid (Gemma Chan) who’s the only member of the family that Rachel once previously met, and is the most empathetic and nurturing of the bunch, despite having just as excessive a shopping habit as nearly everybody else in this family and their n'er-do-wells does. (As one character observed, nobody likes getting free stuff more than the rich.) She’s married to a workaholic husband, Michael (Pierre Png) who she finds out is having an affair. This is an awkward subplot to be honest, not because it’s bad, but it just doesn’t fit in much with the main narrative, and it’s also, pretty much the only secondary plot that’s given a lot of time; it essentially has it’s own beginning, middle and end. I suspect, but don’t know for certain that, there’s probably more elaborate explanations, stories and subplots to all these characters in the novel that the movie’s based on, as oppose to just focusing on the main plot, although Kevin Kwan the author of the novel, while not listed as a screenwriter, is listed as a producer, so I suspect he had some imput.

I will say this, the movie’s entertaining and interesting enough that I’m definitely going to be seeking out the novel to find out in the future, but I do suspect that, this movie might’ve benefitted from going on another hour or so. I know, that’s a weird think to say for an episodic rom-com, but this movie presents us such a rich world and tapestry that even if poor Rachel is just going to get the cold shoulder from her boyfriend’s mother and a dead fish from the catty jealous single rich bitches who didn’t get Nick, I’d still like to see more of her matriculating through it. Plus, there’s a lot of good characters here that could easily be the main in their own movies. And Awkwafina playing Peik Lin, the eccentric new money best friend of Rachel’s from college, her one sole friend in this area of the world, and she is awesome! You always need a great best friend character in these kind of movies, and she’s easily one of my favorites.

I’ve leaving out a lot of other good performances too; there’s some strong work here from Ken Jeong, Jing Lusi, Fiona Xie has a really fun role. There’s some other narratives and subtexts in the movie, especially with Rachel being American and not from wealth casting her as an outsider, obviously the dichotomy of the lives between the middle-to-lower class, and the crazy rich, and also some subtle angular details eyeing the differences between the rich and the crazy rich, in particular old money, which the Chus are, and the new money that’s come about in recent decades in Singapore and several other parts of the Far East that’s exploded into wealth in recent years; those are curiously interesting details as well. The movie was directed by Jon M. Chu, a go-to Hollywood director who's mostly known as a director for a lot of-, teenage pop material. He's directed a couple Justin Bieber documentaries as well as some "Step Up" sequels and the much-maligned adaptation of "Jem and the Holograms". He's been kicking out of it lately with some bigger action franchise sequels to"G.I. Joe" and "Now You See Me" but this is really the first time I've seen him and I suspect the first time he's really dealt with something that's personal to him and his culture, and he does a really good job here. 

I want to especially note the costume design and in particular, the production design. Those are two areas where movies that take place in modern time, people often seem to want to overlook, but this movie just doesn’t work without them. And it’s also just funny and smart as a romantic-comedy, any time that genre’s done well these days, it’s gotta receive bonus points ‘cause it’s apparently hardly anybody can figure out how to do one properly anymore, and some people just do not get how much harder this kind of movie is to do well, then these like, powerful, emotional dramas or action movies or-, or nearly anything else. This story, could’ve been a straight drama, at one point, Rachel even says that, she came over here to meet your family and now she feels like a villain in a soap opera, and she’s not wrong, this could’ve been a melodramatic soap opera of a movie, and it could’ve been done well if they did that it, but telling a nice rom-com, is way more interesting, fun, and much more difficult to pull off well. I can’t wait to see more good rom-coms and I can’t wait to see more movies with predominantly Asian and Asian-American casts being made by Hollywood, and I hope those two things aren’t just connected for this single film too.

Also, I want more dumplings. Dumplings and noodles and those spicy crab things. Hmmm...

You know, I actually did read the book shortly after I watched the movie. It was the audiobook admittedly, but I preferred the movie, because it is more interesting visually to see all the excess and the Singapore Hawker Market,...- it's also described eloquently, but this is a story made for the screen, and yeah, it might seem a little out-of-time to be watching a movie something that's essentially just "Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous", Asia style, but you still need to see that extravagance to be so overwhelmed by all of it. And there's so much else here too. It's great world-building, it's great casting, it's great acting; there's not a bad performance in this film. It's so nice to see every aspect of filmmaking go into a classic Hollywood production like this, and to tell the classic story this well. 

And, it's a beautiful, funny, romantic-comedy. There's such a huge stigma, this century about rom-coms, and yes, when they're bad, they can be awful, but my god, when they're good, you get some of the best, and most emotionally powerful films out of them. It's a genre that still should be this good, way more often then they have been, and all it really takes, it a good story and good storytelling. Put in the effort, and we can make great rom-coms. And "Crazy Rich Asians" is proof of that. 

Number six. 

You probably noticed sporadically if you read enough of my reviews, or even talk to me for awhile, that I was a geography kid growing up. It's always been my favorite subject in school, I love studying maps and learning about the world. It's not something that I keep up with as much as I used to, but it's still occupies a fairly large knowledge base in my mind. That said, as much as I love geography, I wish I had the same mind and passion for, other subjects that perhaps would be useful to me. Despite the cultural expansion aspects of the subject, It really isn't that useful as you'd think it'd be to know all the world capitals off the top of your head. 

6. Science Fair

Science on the other hand, was never really my subject. Biology in particular I hated, but boy, I wish my mind had more of a scientific bent to it. Man, I hated "Science Fair" projects as a kid, you have no idea has surreal it is for me to name this as the best documentary of the year. If I could've done what these kids do though....

My original review:
So, um, I was never a big science fair guy, or even a science project guy. I'm fairly intelligent I believe; I do have a MENSA I.Q.; I was in G.A.T.E. for several years. (Do they still have G.A.T.E. in schools?; Gifted and Talented Education? Is that still a thing?) but my intelligence has certain limits and areas of expertise. Like, I'm really good at studying and acquiring knowledge and having really strong recall about subjects, and I do have a creative mind, I often take different angles and approaches to certain ideas and see things differently than others do, but I don't really have an inventive or an constructive mind. Science was almost always my weakest subject in school, especially biology. Like, I can memorize where bones are, or the Periodic table, and do some of the math required in chemistry, but yeah,the actual performing of science, as a means to an end.... I can appreciate it and those who do it are really special, but it was never for me. Mostly, I hated "Science Fair" which I was forced to participate in twice, and I hated doing science projects; which the class would always vote to do instead of just taking a test, and it always pissed me off!!!! Like,-, c'mon I know this isn't my subject, but I can study for a test; I can't pull a science project out of my ass! I don't even own a display board, I don't even know to do it on one! I'm not gonna sit down one day and invent something that makes it easier to diagnose pancreatic cancer; what teenager does that? What kind of teenager thinks of that!?but it was never for me. Mostly, I hated "Science Fair" which I was forced to participate in twice, and I hated doing science projects; which the class would always vote to do instead of just taking a test, and it always pissed me off!!!! Like,-, c'mon I know this isn't my subject, but I can study for a test; I can't pull a science project out of my ass! I don't even own a display board, I don't even know to do it on one! I'm not gonna sit down one day and invent something that makes it easier to diagnose pancreatic cancer; what teenager does that? What kind of teenager thinks of that!?but it was never for me. Mostly, I hated "Science Fair" which I was forced to participate in twice, and I hated doing science projects; which the class would always vote to do instead of just taking a test, and it always pissed me off!!!! Like,-, c'mon I know this isn't my subject, but I can study for a test; I can't pull a science project out of my ass! I don't even own a display board, I don't even know to do it on one! I'm not gonna sit down one day and invent something that makes it easier to diagnose pancreatic cancer; what teenager does that? What kind of teenager thinks of that!?!! Like,-, c'mon I know this isn't my subject, but I can study for a test; I can't pull a science project out of my ass! I don't even own a display board, I don't even know to do it on one! I'm not gonna sit down one day and invent something that makes it easier to diagnose pancreatic cancer; what teenager does that? What kind of teenager thinks of that!?!! Like,-, c'mon I know this isn't my subject, but I can study for a test; I can't pull a science project out of my ass! I don't even own a display board, I don't even know to do it on one! I'm not gonna sit down one day and invent something that makes it easier to diagnose pancreatic cancer; what teenager does that? What kind of teenager thinks of that!?

Actually, somebody did do that. One of the first people we meet in "Science Fair" is Jack Andraka, a then-15-year-old who invented a device that makes it easier to help detect certain cancers, including pancreatic and ovarian. He's just old enough to drink now-, well, he's from Maryland, so old enough to drink anywhere in the country now, but yeah, that's intimidating. In fact, a lot of these kids are intimidating, they are smarter than me and most of us, and more importantly from my perspective, they're smarter than me in a way that I know I'm inherently not smart in. So, yeah, while I was basically just figuring out why it's important to study the mass of the objects I was testing, or which dish detergent was better at taking out stains, these kids had way better and way more advanced ideas than me.

Also in most cases, the resources to be able to actually pull off some of these ideas and experiments. And I do say, "Most cases". The movie profiles participants from several parts of the country and the world in fact as they work and prepare to go to ISEF, the International Science and Engineering Fair, this year being held in Hollywood. There's one girl who's working on ways to help attack the Zika Virus which has ravaged her part of Brazil. There's a guy who's not a great student, but loves building and reconstructing computers and calculators, he's a fun guy. There's one school that has nine different participants/teams in ISEF this year 'cause of one science professor's motivation and work. One Muslim girl from Brookside,South Dakota who constantly wins for her study of brain condition to continuous negative stimuli however, is so overlooked that her school and schoolmate seem, at best unaware of her accomplishments and they certainly don't promote or advertise them when she wins. They are instead, infatuated with their football team, which is a losing football team I might add, but the team's coach is also her adult overseer for her participation because none of the science teachers in the school were interested in helping her out.s coach is also her adult overseer for her participation because none of the science teachers in the school were interested in helping her out.s coach is also her adult overseer for her participation because none of the science teachers in the school were interested in helping her out.

We get all sorts of characters and backgrounds and divides in this movie, and after they're introduced, they all arrive for the competition where they begin the strenuous and tense week with a dance/mixer for everyone. And it is,-, um...-, um...- (Sigh) Okay, I know the Press, especially the DC Press likes to tongue-in-cheekly call the annual White House Correspondents' Dinner, the "Nerd Prom", and I'm not big on using that term either, but, yeah, they really should stop using that phrase, this is the Nerd Prom.

Anyway, the movie as a documentary is familiar. Basically, it's trying to be Jeffrey Blitz's "Spellbound" the Oscar-nominated documentary that basically did the same thing with competitors in the Scipps National Spelling Bee. Now that's a great movie in of itself, but the structure of that film has been copied ever since for several different movies, most notably, movies like "Wordplay" about the championships at crossword puzzles. That said, this might be the best and most interesting of the bunch,- at least the best one since "Spellbound". Mainly because of the subjects; all this talk about millennials and how they're "lazy" or except thing to be given to them, or whatever stupid cliche that's not remotely true people want to shove onto them, is basically shredded in this movie.That's not to say that there aren't people in this world who fit the stereotype, but I mean, if even I knew and believed I could do some of the stuff these kids are putting out into the world, I'm not sure at their age I would even attempt them. I honestly don't know how much success in the science fair world lead's to success in real life, although I bet it's much more than success at a spelling bee. (I mean, honestly, that's not as important and vital as skill as it seems; trust me, I'm a pretty good speller and I'm telling you, it's not that important.) but yeah, I'm vastly more impressed by the student who figures how to a make a plane be more aerodynamic and mobile while using less fuel.if even I knew and believed I could do some of the stuff these kids are putting out into the world, I'm not sure at their age I would even attempt them. I honestly don't know how much success in the science fair world lead's to success in real life, although I bet it's much more than success at a spelling bee. (I mean, honestly, that's not as important and vital as skill as it seems; trust me, I'm a pretty good speller and I'm telling you, it's not that important.) but yeah, I'm vastly more impressed by the student who figures how to a make a plane be more aerodynamic and mobile while using less fuel.if even I knew and believed I could do some of the stuff these kids are putting out into the world, I'm not sure at their age I would even attempt them. I honestly don't know how much success in the science fair world lead's to success in real life, although I bet it's much more than success at a spelling bee. (I mean, honestly, that's not as important and vital as skill as it seems; trust me, I'm a pretty good speller and I'm telling you, it's not that important.) but yeah, I'm vastly more impressed by the student who figures how to a make a plane be more aerodynamic and mobile while using less fuel.s to success in real life, although I bet it's much more than success at a spelling bee. (I mean, honestly, that's not as important and vital as skill as it seems; trust me, I'm a pretty good speller and I'm telling you, it's not that important.) but yeah, I'm vastly more impressed by the student who figures how to a make a plane be more aerodynamic and mobile while using less fuel.s to success in real life, although I bet it's much more than success at a spelling bee. (I mean, honestly, that's not as important and vital as skill as it seems; trust me, I'm a pretty good speller and I'm telling you, it's not that important.) but yeah, I'm vastly more impressed by the student who figures how to a make a plane be more aerodynamic and mobile while using less fuel.

I think it was Einstein who once said that "Everyone is a genius, but if you judge a fish on its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing it is stupid," and science is one of those areas where I think there is this notion that only geniuses can do it. And look, I'm not gonna pretend that I can do it, but for those who can, thank god. And it can be, anybody and everybody, 'cause it does require a lot of versatile skills that other very smart people, just don't have. And that's probably why I was always frustrated with science, but its genuinely inspiring and jaw-dropping to see these kids, with the tools, the ability and just the thought processes to see a problem, a real problem, and be able to find real solutions to it, that can potentially really make life-altering, significant changes to the world,in ways that, many of us, might not even fully realize. I'm just aiming that somebody reads something of mine and has a positive reaction to my words, and these kids are curing cancer, literally, some of them. It's really amazing.  

Number five:

(Sigh of relief) Nice to finally get to a movie the Academy acknowledged existed. 

5. The Favourite

It's a bit odd for me to think that this is the first time the surrealistic Greek director Yorgos Lanthimos finally made a movie that broke my Top Ten List; the guy's made some amazing memorable films over the years but there's something about the natural absurdism in the eccentricities of royalty that actually accentuates this film. 

My Original Review:
There's a scene at the very end of "The Favourite" that caught me offguard. It's the final scene of the movie actually, and it involves Queen Anne (Oscar-winner Olivia Colman) getting her foot massaged by Abigail (Oscar-nominee Emma Stone). Queen Anne insists that Abigail massage her foot after she learns about Abigail's true nature and intent with her friendship. Neither actor speaks much after awhile. One girl rubbing the others foot, and they both look off until their faces are merged into a two-shot that Ingmar Bergman would be proud, and then, that image dissolves into rabbits, the way Yorgos Lanthimos should be proud of. What do they both realize during this moment of quiet thought? That basically, they are both stuck in their worlds and positions and neither can ever get out of them. Abigail,forever being at the command of Queen Anne, the Queen, forever stuck in a position where she's in a world where she'll never be able to know who she can and cannot trust. 

Yorgos Lanthimos has made a striking career really quickly making movies about characters who are trapped or stuck in their own worlds, cursed and damned by the societal pressures and norms that are thrusted upon them. I'm not sure why it never dawned on me that he's perfect to do a story about royalty until now, but naturally even his films about the royal family are different, stranger, and more surreal than most. 

"The Favourite" is a battle of lyrical wits and physical embarassments between Lady Sarah (Oscar-nominee Rachel Weisz) the Duchess of Marlborough and a new, young servant, Abigail Hill, both of whom are looking to become the Keeper of the Privy for Queen Anne (Oscar-nominee Olivia Colman). If you're obscure royal history is failing you at this moment, don't worry, you don't need to catch up. The only thing you really need to know is that, Weisz is Bette Davis, Stone is "All About Eve" and Colman's gout-infested feet is the Broadway stage, and they all want to be the one who gets to massage them eight times a week. Okay, I'm being simplistic, and this is royalty. Royalty in all it's acerbic wit and raunchiness. Oh, there's also a war with France going on and a long discussion of landowner taxes,but that could literally be anything in this film. I know, it's actually based on real events, but this movie exists in the Lanthimos world. One where the surreal is expected, the abnormal is a minor inconvenience, and everything and everyone's main objective is sex. In fact, it seems to be a downfall for those who may want something else like war or taxes or tax relief. 

He does remember to keep some truly biting wit. And yet, "The Favourite" is a strangely human story of absurdism. Sex that occasionally bumps into companionship, if for no other reason than because companionship is occasionally just as primal and necessary as sex is. Both Lady Sarah and Abigail fulfill both Queen Anne's personal needs and her-um, personal needs, and yet, that's the ultimate problem with royalty. Trying to determine genuine emotion and companionship is basically impossible, something that all three characters inherently know, but they must still strive to seek out something real in a world that's nothing but artifice. 

"The Favourite" is probably the first time I fully realize Lanthimos's ideal vision. I've enjoyed most of his previous films; I even enjoyed "Alps", one of his films that could almost seem plausible in our modern world. Watching "The Favourite" is a delight and joy, the same way I enjoyed watching Tim Burton's "Sweeney Todd...", knowing that this was the perfect combination of filmmaker and material that I could ever ask for. It's raunchy, it's kinky, it's weird, it's disturbing, it's got a bunch of rabbits, it's the kind of story that's so ridiculous you could only believe it if it take place in the world of the British monarchy, and it's pure Lanthimos.

Yeah, the fact that this is indeed a tale of the absurdism of the cliches of royalties is genuinely what fascinated me the most. I've had a trend where I just can't stand the behind-the-crown battle for power stuff; I notorious hate most films/TV shows that are about Henry VIII, for this reason; like I know it's reason, 'cause it's all so stupid. Like, yes, I know it's based on actual events and all, but that doesn't make it not stupid. He wants a male heir, he kills his wives who can't have them, blah, blah, blah,  things ended up without a male heir, shut up. And all the guys manipulating him,... ugh, and this movie gets how some irksomeness really is, so insanely stupid, and it almost justifies it. We have these two manipulative women, fighting for this, otherwise, gross position of being close to power; it's so twisted. It's almost Bunuelian-, Lanthimos might be the most Bunuel filmmaker around, even moreso then Lynch, I'd argue. 

Number four:

Oh boy, how do I describe this movie.... Um, this is politically progressive, socially anarchistic protest art done to the finest, smartest and funniest degree.

4. Sorry to Bother You

Boots Riley created one of the best and most ambitious debut features I've ever seen with "Sorry to Bother You" a modern societal parable that helps us examine the societal ills of the modern working class world, with some not-so-subtle science-fantasy allegory.

My Original Review:
I've spent a couple days trying to let "Sorry to Bother You", soak in a bit. Also, I think, everybody's just sunken in a bit these days. I had original plans to talk about telemarketing at first, 'cause that's the job that the main character Cassius "Cash" Green (LaKeith Stanfield) breaks in at and there's a lot to be said about telemarketing too; I've applied for a lot of telemarketing or surveying jobs over the years, and it's probably for the best that I never got hired 'cause I don't think I'd last a week doing that. It seems like Hell, calling people and getting hung up on over and over again, and then trying to coherse people into buying things that they probably don't want or even need. 

And what does it even mean to be good at it? I mean, there's all kinds of scuzzy salespeople in film and television, but I can't imagine being a good telemarketer; the levels of double talk and mind somersaults that must take to convince yourself to be genuinely good at ripping people rip, selling them stuff by cold-calling houses when everybody's having dinner or sex or watching over their kids or just wanting to be alone with their grief.... And that's before you even get into having to talk in a White Person's voice. Yeah, I know it's an old Dave Chappelle joke that I'm sure dates back even earlier, but in this case, the African-American telemarketers working at this firm, all have an white person's voice, when they make their calls. In Cash's case, his white voice is David Cross. Other characters have Patton Oswalt's white voice, Lily James's white voice, and-eh...- well, I swore Danny Glover's character's white voice was Steve Buscemi's, so-eh, I'm just gonna believe that Danny Glover can do an unbelievable Steve Buscemi on a moment's notice. 

To get back to telemarketing though, I'm gonna quote Melanie McFarland's review on, where she notes that the film's director, Boots Riley calls this film, "an absurdist dark comedy with magical realism and science fiction, inspired by the world of telemarketing.” She also notes that "Even the simplest description... doesn't adequatley sum up it's themes, and that's fine. The less virgin viewers know about the film, the better." 

Both of those are true statements. It also makes this makes surprisingly difficult to write a review on. Oh, I have thoughts, many thoughts on the film, but how much do I reveal about this film? How much can I reveal? Do I even, as a white guy with a-eh, (Long pause) well, according to the film's definition I'm not sure I have a quote-unquote, "white voice", but I definitely come at differing angles to this material then others I know. In fact, I wonder what somebody like Steven Lift (Armie Hammer) would think of this film? Would they see it's distressing observant and thoughtful anti-capitalist parable as a representative of the times, or would they see this as just one of those fucked up movies they play in the background of their cocaine-fueled orgies?

Lift is the head of a popular-, oh what's the coy word we can use here? Well, he's a "Job Creator", let's say. He's quite popular too; he's figured out a way to give his employees with many of their own expenses that they'd normally pay out-of-pockets, including giving them all a place to live and food to eat, while still being able to provide them with a regular salary..., sort of. His company, WorryFree, which provides these workers to other companies, uses the telemarketing company that Cash soon becomes a "Power Caller" at, and begins to quickly climb up the ranks of success. This is much to the chagrin of his performance artist girlfriend Detroit (Tessa Thompson) who is apart of a militant anti-capitalist movement called the Left-Eye Collective. She also a sign-spinner between graffiting the WorryFree signs and holding some pretty avant-garde expositions that, god bless Tessa Thompson, she's quickly becoming one of the best and most interesting young actresses around. 

There's actually a lot going on here that I'm skimming over, a co-worker played by Omari Hardwick that's not given a proper name who's mastered climbing the telemarketing ladder, there's a hilarious scene in the beginning where it's slowly revealed that Cash rents out a garage from his Uncle Sergio (Terry Crews), there's a Union organizer co-worker named Squeeze (Steven Yeun) who starts heading up a protest; there's also a huge running narrative on the television, which is a criticism of our modern media on several levels. I should mention that this movie is both horrifying and hilarious. For instance, there's a weird red herring character that's kind of an absurd caricature of the token girl motivational speaker for a company, played by Kate Berlant whose character's name is Diana DeBauchery, which-, I can't phonetically spell how she pronounces it, but it's a brilliant little sidejoke where a character is clearly pronouncing her name in a way in order to hide how it sounds; it's like a modern R-rated "Bouquet Residence" joke for those who've seen "Keeping Up Appearances" enough times will catch. 

Really though, to really dissect the movie, you gotta look into it's creator. Now, I'm gonna confess, other then seeing his name brought up with regards to this film, I never heard of Boots Riley until now. Of course, I immediately did research after seeing this, because, well, I had to figure what the hell insane mind came up with this, and he is one of the most fascinating artists and activists. His father was an attorney, the son of a Jewish mother who escaped Nazi Germany, his mother an African-American social justice organizer who was already a progressive Party radical by the time he was a teenager. I also find it interesting that he named an artistic character Detroit, and decided to have the film take place in Oakland, 'cause he's from Detroit originally and his family moved to Oakland when he was a teenager. Basically you could consider him the Ralph Nader of rap music. When he's not fronting his own legendary groups, he often tours with members of Rage Against the Machine, along with some other major names in the protest rock scene like Billy Bragg, Steve Earle and Jill Sobule among others. 

I'm a little surprised I didn't know about his work as a musician, that's probably my fault though since I am probably still the holdout that thinks this rap music trend is just a fad that'll go away soon, but I'm more ashamed I didn't know about his work as an activist. This guy teaches, literally as a high school teacher where he taught something called, Culture and Resistance: Persuavise Lyric Writing, and has been a major voice of the socialist left for decades now. 

So, I'm not surprised to have heard rumor that Jordan Peele apparently sold out a theater just to give people a free screening of "Sorry to Bother You", just like Peele with "Get Out" and "Us", and while there's a lot of commonalities between them and their interesting backgrounds, the most important thing is that, they're enriching the horror genre by simply bringing themselves to the genre. They are unique and distinctive voices that are currently making movies that I legitimately don't think anybody else in the world could make, and that's by far the best thing about them, and they happen to be doing this in really stagnant genres. I get the feeling that, especially something that's, horror or horror-related, which I will consider this a horror-dark comedy to a certain extent, I think people this is a young persons' genre. Most filmmakers out of film school, they don't have too many creative ideas on their own, and they decide to do a horror movie, 'cause they're cheap to make, they're relatively easy to sell, and horror fans will eat up the film, sometimes whether they like the film or not. Frankly, I disagree with that. Boots Riley is a first-time filmmaker, but this is not a first-time filmmakers' film. This film is singular, unique, creative story, that only this filmmaker could tell. 

I forgot how much this is a horror movie, and that's something else is noteworthy, and Jordan Peele work with "Get Out" and "Us" is probably a good starting point to have before jumping into this, but this is just an amazing expression of an artist. Basically Boots Riley said, "Look, I may not ever get a shot to direct another movie again, it's not my natural artistic field, but I'm gonna put everything about me that I can into this film, and I'm gonna make a statement about everything I wanna say about the world. And damn, this guy has a lot to say, he shoved a lot of it into this movie, but I hope he's got more films in him in the future, 'cause this is a voice that is needed in cinema, in music, in- in basically every artistic or performance medium that he can put himself in. 

Number three

3. Roma

(Shrugs) I don't have much to add here,  other then Alfonso Cuaron's one of the best filmmakers alive. 

My original review:
The first thing I should note about “Roma” is that, despite the movie being famously distributed by Netflix ‘causing a lot of disruption among the Oscar purists crowd, “Roma” is the quintessential example of a movie that should absolutely be seen on a big screen in a movie theater if possible. I do not fault Director Alfonso Cuaron for choosing the alternate primary method of streaming though, he claims that foreign language films aren’t often given proper distribution in America and he believed that the film would reach a greater audience streaming on Netflix after an appropriate Academy-eligible theatrical run. Frankly he’s right about that, the fact that the Academy recently decided to change its Foreign Language Feature category into an International Feature category, essentially is a concession to that fact, even though no other rules or distinctions regarding that category are being changed or altered, but whatever you think about streaming’s role or place, or whether it should have been eligible within the guidelines of the Academy, “Roma” is theatrical motion picture. It was not made to be enjoyed on either the literal small screen of television, or the potentially smallest of screen that we may watch streaming material on. (Or in my case, the corner of those screens as I’m usually doing ten other things at the same time…) It needs the big screen for he big emotions that it expresses.

Now, does that make it this great masterpiece of a film? Umm, well, I don’t really know to be honest. Not yet anyway. To be honest, I feel somewhat torn on this one. The movie is personal for Cuaron, it’s based on memories of his own childhood. The title “Roma”, refers to the area of Mexico City where he grew up and the movie is taking place, although I could see how Fellini might be considered an influence here. The movie, very thoughtfully is not through a children’s perspective though; it’s instead through the eyes of a familial maid. Clio (Oscar-nominee Yalitza Aparicio, in her first role.) is a young, Mixteco Mesoamerican, which is the indigenous peoples of Mexico, in her case her group is from Oaxaca and while she speaks Spanish fluently, she slips into her native Mixtec dialect as well.  She watches over a family of three kids, a constantly-shitting dog, and a matriarch, Sofia (Oscar-nominee Marina de Tavira). The film takes place during a tumultuous era in recent Mexican history, the early ‘70s. The movie at various off-kilter times does a good job of showing some of the tumultuousness during that time, most notably the student demonstrations that often became violent.  He could’ve made a movie being at the center of the action, but that’s never actually been his modus operandi anyway. His last Spanish-language Mexican film, “Y Tu Mama Tambien” often drifted into side stories and narratives about its characters. He does similar but different things here, where we mostly get this one main story about this family and these characters, but there’s a larger world going on, and the long takes, and often from a master view that often move and drift in and out in away, it helps us to consider the others people in the film, and what possibilities of there lives are. Only one story in “The Naked City” as they used to say.

I don’t think that movie's an influence of “Roma” though, but I can think of some that are. There’s a lot of Terrence Malick’s “Days of Heaven” here, especially how with Sofi’s struggle with her husband Antonio (Fernando Grediaga), who’s absent because of a supposed “business trip” to Quebec. We get pieces and snatches of info from the corner of the screen, through Clio’s fragmented view. While Sofi struggles with trying to keep a family together, Clio ends up pregnant after losing her virginity to Fermin (Jorge Antonio Guerrero) a young angry martial artist who has no interest in her or having a kid. We’re introduced to him swimming around a shower rod like it’s a weapon, naked. She ends up seeing him apart of the Corpus Christi attack on student demonstrators, he’s one of the ones, not just attacking the students, but running after a particular one and chasing him into a building along with other angry young men.

It’s after this incident that the family, including Clio heads off to the Beach for a weekend at Sofi’s insistent and there’s one of Cuaron’s just mind-bogglingly amazing long takes where everything comes crashing onto Clio and the family at once, emotionally and literally. I don’t know how he got this tracking shot but it is amazing that he did. (And I mean him, while Emmanuel Lubezki did prepare some shots, Cuaron served as the film’s cinematographer as well as director in this case, winning Oscars for both, the first to do that for the same movie.)  The movie begins with water crashing onto the land, as buckets are poured on the floor that Clio is mopping and he returns to that motif here. Cleansing, rebirth, life. Life being lived on the ground, as well as in the air; airplanes perpetuate the movie as well. There’s a mention at the end of the movie, after it’s finally announced to the family that the father is leaving them for his mistress that they can’t go to Disneyland, but that they might be able to go Clio’s home village for a vacation soon, and I couldn’t help but be reminded of another scene from “Y Tu Mama Tambien” where, on the road trip, they pass a village that one of the characters reflects is where an old beloved nanny of his said she was from. It’s kinda perverse when you think about it however, going to your Maid’s hometown for vacation like it’s just a destination, especially from a more upper class and lighter-skinner, probably European-blooded family, but the planes also could represent them trying to find a way out of their circumstances as well, as better as it may be comparatively. Cuaron is a Mexican man who found his way out to America.

Still though, the movie that I actually was reminded most by with “Roma” was actually Tarkovsky’s “The Mirror”, another autobiographical film about the memory of its director. I’m in the minority on that film, considering it one of Tarkovsky’s weaker films, but my criticism of that movie is that it’s so personal that only Tarkovsky himself, can actually relate to it. I don’t get that sense with “Roma”. It’s definitely personal, but it’s smart that it's not from his point of view. It could’ve been, he wouldn’t have been the first director to tell his story as a young man observing the adult world with confusion and wonder, and Cuaron’s made children’s films before, and good ones at that. Instead, he pays tribute to his beloved maid, one that’s still alive and he considers and is treated as being apart of his family. Perhaps it’s that he’s all-too consciously aware that his background isn’t one of struggle that allows him to empathize, or maybe he just wanted to tell her story. Her story, as it relates to his story, his family’s story, and all of Mexico’s story? Or perhaps just the neighborhood of Mexico City that he grew up in. Cuaron’s very best films always have a strong sense of his characters being small parts of a greater wider world out there. Look at “Children of Men”, a sci-fi film about a dying species struggling to save it’s maybe one last potential shot at survival, or “Gravity”, about an astronaut drifting in Outer Fucking Space, trying to just somehow survive, make it back to her home of Earth. 

Or to go to back to “Y Tu Mama Tambien”, those two teenage kids and one older adult, and while we follow their sexual and other escapades in the foreground, the movie sprinkles the images and stories of an everchanging Mexico all around them. This innate ability of Cuaron to paint a larger world, around his smaller detail is what makes him one of the best storytellers in Hollywood right now. In Hollywood, and in Mexico City.

This movie in particular with Cuaron, it's probably not be the most entertaining to the general audience, but the filmmaking is amazing, at every aspect, and the subtlety involved, especially in an autobiographical film, is really hard to pull off. The more you know about how movies are made, the more amazing "Roma" is. Admittedly, it's probably the one great movie of his, that I'd want to revisit the least, but that's only an aesthetic preference. 

Number two:

2. BlackkKlansman

I thought pretty hard about putting this film number one. I think I could probably argue that it might be the most important film of the year as well as the most-eh, politically aware and astute film as well. It's also one of Spike Lee's most fun and  Generally, when I do think about ranking the "Best", I don't just list the movies I "like", 'cause who cares what I like, I look for what's the most best/good for the art form, for humanity, for society, etc. etc., and even though I eventually put it number two, "BlackkKlansman" has a lot of good in it.  

My original review:
Nothing ever is simple with a Spike Lee movie. I know, he wishes it was; I can feel it. His smaller movies are often full of the strange, the surreal, the nostalgic, or sometimes are just plain old fun,...; this movie is full of humor, wit and absurdity. I know that he'd rather have fun and tell more personal stories about people and characters. I suspect "BlackkKlansman" started that way. Or, I suspect that more than most of his other mainstream films, Spike Lee wanted it to be that way. 

It's easy to see why Spike is the best and perhaps only director who could've or should've handled the material. The movie tells the true story about Ron Stallworth (John David Washington) who became the first African-American to join the Boulder, Colorado police force. His first rookie assignment is in the Evidence and Reports Room. He then gets an undercover job infiltrating a speaking engagement from Kwame Ture (Corey Hawkins) aka Stokely Carmichael. This was is back in the day when because African-American Civil Rights groups like the Black Panthers were investigated as they were thought to be terrorist organizations by the FBI, and other things that should seem like they happened way too longago only to feel like they're still happening now.  He befriends one of the major community organizers there, Patrice Dumas (Laura Ruth Harrier) one of the more anti-cop revolutionaries that strive to inspire change. After the meeting, Ture is pulled over and Patrice is harrassed by one of the local cops. Patrolman Weller (Frederick Landers). 

The thing that's fascinating about Stallworth, as well as by Washington's performance is how calm and stoic he always seems to be. He can be animated, and when he starts answering a recruitment advertisement in the paper for new Ku Klux Klan members, he starts to seem that way, somewhat, but there is a reserved, stoicism to him, nearly the whole movie. You never quite realize what he's thinking, even when you think you know what he's thinking. This is what makes him perfect enough to be mistaken for white over the phone when talking with members of the local chapter of the Klan, like Walter (Ryan Breachaway) or even the National Director David Duke (Topher Grace) who he forms a bond with over-the-phone as he discusses getting his membership sped up, but that's all good for over-the-phone. In person, he recruits his co-worker Ryan Zimmerman (Oscar-nominee Adam Driver) a Jewish cop who's perfect for going undercover personally into the organization.

At first, the organization, seems rather benign on it's surface, take off the white sheets and it's mostly just a bunch of guys in a living room, hanging out and shooting the shit, although sometimes they head out into the woods and shoot with rifles at some demogatory targets. Of course, it does turn out that they're planning on orchestrating a major terrorist attack, right when David Duke is coming to town, and as Stallworth gets assigned to be his protection detail. All slapstick absurdities aside, in the middle of one of the climaxes, Lee splits between footage of the Klan rally, which, to nobody's surprise if you know Spike Lee, he shows them watching "The Birth of a Nation", when he intercuts with scenes of Harry Belafonte playing, essentially himself, detailing the true story of the lynching of Jesse Washington, a death that's sometimes noted as being an inspiration for Griffith's movie.

"BlackkKlansman" is quite fascinating. The movie on paper plays like a classic absurd screwball comedy. It also plays with several inner conflicts. Stallworth and Zimmerman's friendship is key as both of them have struggles with their own personal identity throughout the assignment, Zimmerman getting the most personal and direct conflicts as being Jewish, he's just as hated to the Klan as African-Americans, but he can slip in and hide that fact, much the same way he can slip in and hide his denomition behind the thin blue line, whether other conflicts and disreputable behavior may in fact lie. Officer Weller may or may not be apart of the Klan, but like being apart of that organization gives those members a feeling of power and invisibility, being a member of the police seems to give him free reign as others are afraid to call him out for fear of being ostracized themselves. This conflict's perpetuated with Stallworth's relationship with Patrice who's vehemently anti-cops and considers them just another gang for white people who live to keep down African-Americans, and feels Stallworth's decision to try to change the system from the inside is foolhardy. 

And yet, at the end of the movie, there's a knock on the door. A cop and a revolutionary, two complete opposites, pick up their guns, and together, they drift on down the hallways and towards the front door. On the other side of Lee's signature double-trolley shot, reality and I'm not just talking about the burning crosses. A sober reminder that "BlackkKlansman", this movie should be a comedy, but it isn't. It should be an outdated period piece of another time and another place, of a time and condition that's well passed us by. A reminder that while we may laugh, and we will laugh, that we should be laughing at the ways we were, instead of being reminded that things truly just haven't changed as much as they should've.  

Who would've guessed that Spike Lee would finally win his Oscar, and it'd be for a comedy film, which gets lost in hindsight, and because of the times we live in, it feels profoundly less and less funny every day, but Spike Lee, he's also been confrontational, he's always been more timely and omniscient then most filmmakers, sometimes he's so timely it takes the rest of the world to catch up to him, like with "25th Hour" getting on more Best of Decade lists then it did Top Ten Lists when it originally came out, but this feels like the first time, everybody was really on page with Spike Lee, and you know, perhaps that says more about the world then the film, but this was the American movie we needed at the time and we arguably need it more right now, and hopefully in the future in the future, this film will be more looks at more as the comedy that it should be. 

(Drumroll starts)

Number one.

(Drumroll stops)

I'm not kidding when I said I did seriously think about "BlackkKlansman" being my number one. It was is truly timely, it's a masterpiece from one of the great and most important directors of all-time saying and telling a story that absolutely needs to be told. It's a great example of what the power of art and storytelling can be. 

My number one film is essentially all that as well. Well, maybe it's not literally timely; it's a period piece, but you could argue that it's still reflective of the times, but more then that it also examines art itself in this manner. What role it has in telling these stories, and exactly what role the artist themselves has in how they want to express it. And, it does it so well, that I couldn't get it out of my head... I gotta go back a bit though to explain myself, so bare with me....

If you scroll up and click on my "Top Tens List" tab you'll see every other year's Top Ten List I've done while I've been running this blog (The one's I've done so far, obviously I'm behind...), but also Top Ten Lists for every year for every year of the 2000s decade. I did that awhile ago, and they were well-liked pieces I did, and if you want some old movies to check out, those lists are probably a nice start. That said, obviously, not everyone agreed with my choices, where I put them, or in some cases, what I left off. One of the biggest criticisms I got doing that was for my 2006's list, when I didn't put Guillermo Del Toro's "Pan's Labyrinth" in my Top Ten.

Ehhh..., (Shrugs) it's a great movie; I like it a lot. I gave it 5 STARS and until "The Shape of Water", I probably would've said it was Del Toro's best movie. That said, I thought the film kinda left me a little cold at the end. It's a very good version of the kind of story where a child sees/escapes into this made up fantasy world in order to deal with the horrors of reality, and it's great and I get why some love it way more then I do, but it didn't effect me as viscerally as it did others. It didn't break my Top Ten List, and eh, I still stand by that. In fact, I kinda agreed with the Oscars that year when they didn't pick it for Best Foreign Language film and instead went with "The Lives of Others", an amazing debut feature from a young German filmmaker named, Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. 

I know, it's a long, weird, name, but even though "The Lives of Others" was a German film about living behind the East German wall and those who spied and were spied on by and for the Stasi, the movie made me cry and it still does. It's an amazing example of great classical filmmaking, Western filmmaking in particular to tell a very German story. I saw interviews with him at the time, and I was sure he was gonna become a major Hollywood filmmaker. He spoke really eloquent English, he listed people like Spielberg and David Lean as inspirations and you just knew he had some great ideas. 

Unfortunately, that didn't happen. He made a movie in English called "The Tourist" which is a fairly forgettable and boring action film that's mostly remembered as a Golden Globes punchline, 'cause the HFPA were apparently bribed with Cher tickets to nominate it. That was back in 2010, and nobody had heard from Florian since. After a while, I kinda wondered if I was wrong about him; perhaps "The Lives of Others" was just a fluke great first feature from a talented, but not an exceptional filmmaker; maybe it was the one story he had in him that he'd been building years to tell? He certainly didn't take over Hollywood and American film like I thought he would.

Instead, he apparently he went back home to Germany, and maybe it's the most cliche of cliches, but-eh, he made a Holocaust movie.

1. Never Look Away

Honestly, I'm a little surprised it's taken me this long to name a foreign language feature as my number one film of the year, and I don't think a lot of people are gonna completely agree with me on this; I didn't see too many others list this as their best film, but yeah, I'm doing it. The best film of 2018 is Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck's "Never Look Away", a sprawling three hour classic epic about the twists and turns of a young artist's journey as he grows up in Germany through WWII as well as crafting his own personal vision as an artist and how his life before, during and after the war and his art all collide with each other and with real life. If 2018 was the year great art was politically and socially conscious art, then "Never Look Away" is number one, because it shows how that kind of great art is made. 

From my original review:
I guess it was inevitable that Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck would make a World War II movie, and that it was also inevitable that his, would be a little bit different from others. Henckel von Donnersmarck is the great director behind “The Lives of Others”, the movie that won the Foreign Language Oscar about the horrors of living in East Germany during the ‘70s and ‘80s. It’s been twelve years between German films for the native of the country, with only a minor forgettable American film entry, “The Tourist” to his credit since. He’s actually quite a Western-style filmmaker in approach, and a classic one at that; I was actually surprised he didn’t pan out in America. He was educated in England and he easily could’ve fit in here if he wanted to. That said, I think the secret to his work might be not in what his influences are, but in what he studied at Oxford. While it’s easy to make jokes about philosophy majors, it’s the one major Liberal Arts people like me have a slight edge on, credibility-wise, but I do think he finds interesting stories to tell because of this slant. “The Lives of Others” was all about a man whose philosophy and morals were being challenged as he was listening in on conversations of people who he was told were subversives to the regime, but found much more inspiration in their lives than his.

Now, World War II, especially from a German perspective, is filled with several layers of philosophical and moral conundrums, but that’s too easy for him.

No, instead he concocts a peculiar sweeping epic narrative that includes several different philosophical and moral dilemmas, many of which are only, at first glance tertiarily-connected to the War. For one thing, the movie mostly takes place after the war, but the movie does begin in the middle of it.

It’s gonna be hard to talk about this movie’s plot entirely, for several reasons. It’s a pretty episodic and sprawling narrative epic; I can see this being a David Lean movie in another alternative universe, but let’s begin with Kurt (Tom Schilling), he’s a young ambitious painter, who's the son of reluctant Nazis, the kind who joined, basically because they were out-of-work if they didn’t and were betting on them winning the war. We don’t meet them first, instead, we meet his Aunt Elisabeth (Saskia Rosendahl) who takes her nephew to see a display of deviant art, basically any modern art that Hitler didn’t like, which was all modern art. The first thing to note is that Saskia Rosendahl gives the first of many great performances in the film, but she doesn’t survive the war and Kurt’s family, especially his professor father, Johann (Jorg Schuttauf) who after the war can only get a job painting steps at the sign-painting job that Kurt gets.

Kurt eventually gets into art school in the GDR where he is taught socialist realism painting, as the USSR’s influence has now superseded everything else in the aftermath. Kurt’s a good painter, so he’s constantly finding work even if it’s in art that he’s not particularly fond of. He then meets Ellie (Paula Beer), a fashion student and the two hit it off. It’s a whirlwind romance that comes with complications and angles from Ellie’s parents. Her mother Martha (Ina Seeband) is more knowing than she lets on, but it’s the father Carl (Sebastian Koch) that’s the big trouble.

How do I describe her father? Hmmm. Remember the Alec Baldwin character from “Malice”? He’s kinda like that, only a Nazi. And evil. I know that should go without saying, but he’s evil, even for a Nazi. If you’ve ever seen “Labyrinth of Lies”, or occasionally read a story or two about how they’re still catching and finding Nazis across the world, you’d know that not every one of them, even in Germany were sent away, but Carl is the best and most high-profile gynecologist in the country and through some maneuvering, he manages to keep himself protected for awhile and stay in a high position of power and authority. He’s against the relationship from the start, and takes some serious actions in order to prevent and halt it; he’s planning these actions even before Ellie and Kurt announce that they’re actually together.

Now, I’ve given a very brief outline of about half of the movie until now, and there’s already a lot here believe it or not. The second half of the movie, mostly takes place in the West, as both couples have managed to get out of the GDR, and Kurt, now married to Ellie, enrolls in an avant-garde art school program in Dusseldorf and studies under the tutelage of Antonius van Verten (Oliver Masucci). Masucci also gives an amazing supporting performance here as a eclectic and mysterious artist who sees in Kurt a vague “Truth” that he knows he needs to be able to pull out of him. Another one of Henckel von Donnersmarck’s themes in these films has been art and there’s artistic philosophy and debate in his movies as well. The Socialist Realists believe that art is for the public, the people and should represent that, and look at people who went into art to express their own personal inner thoughts as egotistical and selfish, while the avant-garde are of course, not concerned with receiving continuous monetary work, but are also feel that art itself is only the seeking out of one’s personal truth and expressing it as the only really powerful image; finding out what it is that makes you, the artist, unique and expressing it through their art.

Honestly, I kinda understand both sides of this argument; I’ve been on both sides. I’ll say this though, the one time I tried to write something that was specifically intended to be made to appeal to a great public, that was by far my worst piece of writing. I don’t know if anybody else would think that, but I know I would, and as Antonius says, only the artist knows for certain if the work is indeed any good.

Eventually, Kurt and Carl’s unknown shared past, their present and their futures collide in a stunning display of artistic greatness and expression. It admittedly takes a while to get there, but the same was true with “The Lives of Others” but it was worth it, and this time it’s more than just building up to final last freeze frame close-up, after the power of artistic expression has moved us to emotions we couldn’t imagine, although it ends that way too. “The Lives of Others” and “Never Look Away” are really two striking bookends to very complex yet similar tales about self-discovery of old secrets that transcend, the personal, the historic, time and place, life and death, and the world of art, and he could give us all this in a much simpler narrative and it would be still be powerful, but Henckel von Donnersmarck takes his time, gives us very slow and deliberate tales that aren’t simple. They’re complex choices made in everchanging complex worlds that mean life and death sometimes, but sometimes much more than both of them. The movie received two Oscar nominations, including a really shocking nomination for the movie’s cinematography, which the movie absolutely deserved. Frankly, I think it got short-changed, this is one of the best movies of the year. I can see why he took so long to get to this movie, ‘cause he’s trying to encapture seemingly everything that he wants to express in this movie, very much like Tom Schilling’s main character; this movie isn’t just about the struggles of a young man turning into a great artist, it’s by a young filmmaker and he’s doing an incredible job in exactly how to detail those struggles and he just pushes it all on the screen. And normally, when you see a movie like that, it’s a pretentious disaster, that at best only critics are gonna love and even then; he makes this way more palatable than this story ever should be. And this is a complex story, not just in the visual style of how it’s told, it’s a sprawling family epic essentially, filled with war and romance and melodrama; it’s goddamn “Gone With the Wind”, or-, well, it’s WWII, so “Doctor Zhivago”, if you just describe the events and the narrative, kinda nonchalantly, but there is so much else and more than that. More than just, no pun intended, the broad strokes of the paintbrush, it’s those details that take this movie and add give it so much more and even in the best writer/directors, you don’t see filmmakers who trust their audience this much to justify this kind of story and trust us that he knows what he’s doing and it’s going to turn out special.

I still feel bad for him about “The Tourist”,... I still think he could be an effective Hollywood director, but, you know, if Werner Herzog wasn’t still alive, he’d be Germany’s most compelling and fascinating filmmaker and that's a pretty good place to be.

Alright, glad to get this done. I'm still not completely finished with the year; I got a Worst Ten List to get through, and-eh, let's just say I've been bottling up some shit up for awhile, so be prepared for that in the coming weeks. In the meantime, here's some Honorable Mentions from the good side of 2018. 


American Animals-Bart Layton
Annihilation-Alex Garland
At Eternity's Gate-Julian Schnabel
The Ballad of Buster Scruggs-Ethan & Joel Coen
Black Panther-Ryan Coogler
Boy Erased-Joel Edgerton
A Bread Factory Part One: For the Sake of Gold-Patrick Wang
A Bread Factory Part Two: Walk With Me for Awhile-Patrick Wang
Can You Ever Forgive Me?-Marielle Heller
The Cakemaker-Offir Raul Grazier
Capernaum-Nadine Labeki
The Death of Stalin-Armando Iannucci
Eighth Grade-Bo Burnham
First Man-Damian Chazelle
First Reformed-Paul Schrader
The Guilty-Gustav Moller
I Am Not a Witch-Rungano Nyoni
If Beale Street Could Talk-Barry Jenkins
Instant Family-Sean Anders
Isle of Dogs-Wes Anderson
Jellyfish-James Gardner
Lean on Pete-Andrew Haigh
Life and Nothing More-Antonio Mendez Esparza
Madeline's Madeline-Josephine Decker
Mandy-Panos Cosmatos
Mary Poppins Returns-Rob Marshall
Mirai-Mamoru HOSODA
The Other Side of the Wind-Orson Welles
A Quiet Place-John Krasinski
Ralph Breaks the Internet-Phil Johnston & Rich Moore
Revenge-Coralie Fargeot
Shoplifters-Hirokazu KOREEDA
A Simple Favor-Paul Feig
A Star is Born-Bradley Cooper
Support the Girls-Andrew Bujalski
Vice-Adam McKay
The Wife-Bjorn L. Runge

Call Her Ganda-PJ Raval
Charm City-Marilyn Ness
Divide and Conquer: The Story of Roger Ailes-Alexis Bloom
Kusama: Infinity-Heather Lenz
Love, Gilda-Lisa D'Apolino
Minding the Gap-Bing Liu
Of Fathers and Sons-Talai Derki
On Her Shoulders-Alexandria Bombach
RBG-Julie Cohen and Betsy West
Say Her Name: The Life and Death of Sandra Bland-Kate Davis & David Heilbroner
Shirkers-Sandi TAN
They'll Love Me When I'm Dead-Morgan Neville
Three Identical Strangers-Tim Wardle
Whitney-Kevin MacDonald