Friday, June 11, 2021

Tribeca with Abe: As of Yet

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

As of Yet
Directed by Chanel James and Taylor Garron
Viewpoints – Screening Information

The pandemic has been a time fraught with anxiety for most, unsure of whether they would remain safe and, more recently, tentative about returning to normal life. During the worst of it, however, an end was most definitely not in sight, and the notion of continuing protocols forever and never seeing anyone in person became almost too much to bear. Anyone who started a new relationship during the pandemic deserves particular credit since navigating a romance of any sort is difficult enough in a virus-free world, and beginning something with the barrier of social distancing presents a considerably increased challenge.

During the COVID-19 pandemic, Naomi (Taylor Garron) has been playing it safe. She hasn’t gone anywhere and has maintained relationships via FaceTime and Zoom. With her roommate (Eva Victor) in Florida with family, Naomi has starting chatting with a guy she met online and is considering arranging their very first in-person date. As she connects with friends and family for regularly-scheduled check-ins, Naomi ponders the safety of such a decision and the intersection of many societal factors that have affected how she operates and has changed her thinking over the course of quarantine.

This film is the latest in a series of projects filmed during the pandemic that is expressly about life in the pandemic, and it mimics the style of “Language Lessons” and “Coastal Elites,” among others, in that all of its scenes are seen through a camera or computer screen. That device might seem irritating or tiring for those who feel they have spent too long sitting on Zoom over the past year, but it’s actually a marvelous way to get to know Naomi and to see her at her most unguarded, freely conversing with everyone because their physical distance makes it easier to be open and honest, even if that leads to uncomfortable moments and realizations.

Garron, who serves as writer and co-director for the film, is phenomenal, making Naomi seem simultaneously relatable and highly specific, walking through the world with pointed opinions about race, romance, and relationships. Nothing is lost from her performance being directed at a screen rather than at others next to her, and that actually adds tremendously to the experience. Whether isolated filmmaking like this will continue after the pandemic is a mystery, but this film offers a snapshot of this moment in time with an entertaining, witty script and a compelling story woven together from selected scenes that add up to a formidable whole.

B+

Tribeca with Abe: Mark, Mary and Some Other People

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Mark, Mary and Some Other People
Directed by Hannah Marks
US Narrative Competition – Screening Information

Two people almost never want exactly the same thing. That’s one of the reasons that a relationship involves compromise and trying to achieve a shared vision of what happiness looks like. There may be times where those two ideals are closer to each other than they are far apart, and that won’t necessarily remain consistent or stable for the course of a relationship. If they are too incompatible, it may not be possible for continue, though the willingness of both parties to work through an impasse and try to find a solution, under some circumstances, can stave off a potential breakup.

Mark (Ben Rosenfield) and Mary (Hayley Law) reconnect in a drug store after meeting in college and get married within a year. Things are going smoothly, but Mary realizes that she may be interested in “ethical non-monogamy,” suggesting that she and Mark set up ground rules for an open relationship in which they both see each other people. Though Mark is initially resistant to the idea, he warms to it as he sees that Mary needs to explore this, and the two begin a series of confrontations designed to strengthen the bond they have but which will inevitably present obstacles to the stability of that connection.

The complexity of adding another member into a two-person dynamic has been explored many times in film and television in projects like “The Freebie” and “You Me Her.” As tends to be the case, it’s a suggestion that comes from only one half of the couple, which of course previews difficulty later when it takes an unexpected course from which there is no easy return. Fortunately, this foray into the subject is more than worthwhile, in part because Mark and Mary are established as an intensely interesting and entertaining couple long before Mary’s game changer is ever formulated.

The success of this film is due in large part to the vibrant, inviting nature of the performances from Rosenfield and Law, whose casual vibes work wonders opposite each other. The supporting cast of friends who comment on and judge their decisions is also great, and writer-director Hannah Marks, herself an actress from terrific projects such as “Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency,” knows how to utilize them all best. This film is funny, romantic, frustrating, and altogether immensely enjoyable, revisiting a topic that’s been showcased in the past, but rarely in such a fantastic and effective way.

B+

Tribeca with Abe: Poser

I’ve had the pleasure this year of screening a number of selections virtually from this year’s Tribeca Film Festival, which runs June 9th-20th.

Poser
Directed by Ori Segev and Noah Dixon
US Narrative Competition – Screening Information

Everyone wants to be famous, even if they don’t understand exactly what that means and what the implications of being widely recognized and in the public eye may be. People idolize celebrities and give them special treatment, assuming that their high-profile nature makes them better than their average, anonymous counterparts. The inverse also tends to be true, that those who haven’t amassed a substantial following or, in whatever way, proven themselves, aren’t in the same league or worthy of attention. Perception is everything, and relationships and opportunities can change drastically based on what people think, whether or not it has any basis in fact.

Lennon (Sylvie Mix) lives in Columbus, Ohio, and is eager to become a part of the indie music scene. In order to gain access to the most interesting talents and minds, she creates a podcast that allows her to record samples from many people in the area. As she speaks to and hears from a number of subjects, she begins to adopt a larger-than-life persona that she can’t quite back up, one she only seeks to bolster when she meets and becomes entranced by Bobbi Kitten (Bobbi Kitten), an alluring free spirit who pushes Lennon to discover more about herself.

This film features a number of captivating moments in which the audience is able to understand and emulate Lennon’s sense of wonder, acting as a fly on the wall and observing the way in which those who are successful and have worked hard have managed to find their voices and their musical inspirations. A series of conversations and recording sessions feed information to Lennon that she begins to absorb and, as the film’s title suggests, act as if she has considerably more influence and a much more sizable following than is actually the case.

There is a fantastic subtlety to Mix’s breakthrough performance. In her feature film debut, Mix presents Lennon as a sponge, merely taking in everything around her and soaking it in without offering a true sense of who she is. It makes it difficult to hold her completely accountable for what she does and fascinating to watch. Kitten, the frontwoman of the musical duo Damn the Witch Siren, plays an intoxicating version of herself, fully aware of the effect that she has on the impressionable Lennon. This film’s intriguing journey doesn’t possess as formidable a denouement, but accompanying Lennon along the way is still worthwhile and compelling.

B

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Asia, Sublet
New to Theaters and VOD: Holler
New to Theaters and Digital: Akilla’s Escape
New to VOD: Dream Horse
New to Virtual Cinemas: Upheaval
New to DVD: True Mothers, City of Lies
New to Netflix: Awake
New to Amazon Prime Video: Pinocchio
New to Hulu: The Croods: A New Age, Two of Us
New to Paramount Plus: Infinite

Thursday, June 10, 2021

Interview with Abe: Jessica Barden

I got to speak with actress Jessica Barden, who I interviewed a few months ago for “Pink Skies Ahead,” about her new film “Holler” for Cinema Daily US. Watch our conversation in full below:


Movie with Abe: Infinite

The action film “Infinite” premieres today on Paramount+, and, despite this cool poster, it wasn't one that I loved. I reviewed the film for The Film Experience - head over there to read my review.

Wednesday, June 9, 2021

Interview with Abe: Deepti Gupta

I got to speak with actress Deepti Gupta and her role in India Sweets and Spices, which premieres this weekend at the Tribeca Film Festival. My review will be up this weekend. For now, watch our conversation in full below:


Tuesday, June 8, 2021

Interview with Abe: Mark Rosa

I got to speak with director Mark Rosa for Cinema Daily US about his new film Awake, which premieres on Netflix tomorrow. Watch our conversation in full below:


Sunday, June 6, 2021

Movie with Abe: Upheaval

The documentary “Upheaval” is an engrossing and informative portrait of Israeli Prime Minister Menachem Begin. I reviewed the film for Awards Radar - head over there to read my review.

Saturday, June 5, 2021

Movie with Abe: Undine

The new film “Undine,” out this weekend in theaters and on demand, is an intriguing fantasy tale with a great central performance from Paula Beer. I reviewed the film for Cinema Daily US - head over there to read my review.

Friday, June 4, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters and VOD: Undine
New to Theaters: Gully
New to DVD: The Courier
New to DVD and Hulu: The World to Come
New to Netflix: Election, Chinatown
New to Amazon Prime Video: Take Shelter, Fight Club, The Wrestler
New to Hulu: Night of the Kings, Face/Off, The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance

Thursday, June 3, 2021

NewFest Pride: Boy Meets Boy

Boy Meets Boy
Directed by Daniel Sanchez Lopez
Ticket Information

There is something about traveling and being in a different place that helps people to lose their inhibitions. Actions don’t seem permanent and decisions aren’t consequential, and there may be a desire to do things that wouldn’t otherwise feel right or recommended since they won’t be remembered or impactful upon returning home. Intentions aren’t everything, however, and the strength of a connection formed under those circumstances may still be momentous and enduring. Not wanting to depart from that feeling is understandable, and, in moments of desperation, those who know they have little time away left may do everything possible to preserve it while they can.

Harry (Matthew James Morrison) is in Berlin and has been enjoying himself over the course of the past two days. Just as he is about to leave to head back home to England, he meets Johannes (Alexis Koutsoulis) at a club. The two begin speaking and quickly learn a good deal about one another, unpacking their experiences as gay men, citizens of the world, and strangers destined never to see each other again once Harry heads to the airport.

This is a revitalizing freshness to this film and its casual nature, one that introduces Harry and Johannes and allows the audience to accompany them on their whirlwind tour of Berlin and each other’s personalities. Their conversations are almost entirely one-on-one, though one early moment in which Harry chats up a missionary who also happens to be British reveals a good deal about their conflicting perspectives and how they perceive themselves. Neither is the clear protagonist, and instead this is equally about how energized they feel by the other’s presence, both for the curious visitor and the more grounded local.

The effectiveness of this film, which runs just seventy-five minutes, is enhanced considerably by the performances from Morrison and Koutsoulis. There’s something inherently natural and accessible about their approach to the characters, which invites those watching in to their worlds, showing both how they present themselves to strangers and how they reveal their inner thoughts through body language and speech patterns. This is in many ways a simple story that is conveyed by its direct title, but this film doesn’t stop at the surface level, allowing its protagonists to discover far more about each other than they expect in this rich and rewarding film that makes a sincere impact even with its brief running time.

B+

Wednesday, June 2, 2021

NewFest Pride Spotlight: See You Then

See You Then
Directed by Mari Walker
Ticket Information

The end of a relationship is usually very difficult for both parties, even if its dissolution isn’t a mutual decision. In order to readjust to life without a partner, time apart is often necessary. The tremendous closeness and intimacy that existed previously must be replaced by distance so that healing can begin. After a considerable amount of time has passed, it may be possible for two people who used to be together to see each other in a new way. It can be therapeutic or painful, especially if those who were once partners are now entirely different people.

Kris (Pooya Mohseni) has returned to her college town for the first time since transitioning. It has been more than a decade since her relationship with Naomi (Lynn Chen), who is now married with two children. They meet at a restaurant to talk about what they’ve done since they last saw each other and what now fills most of their days. Their conversations begin as pleasant and refreshing and slowly reach a more dramatic point as old wounds are once again opened up and the way their relationship ended threatens to derail any hope of a present-day friendship or even a sincere reconciliation.

This film is a marvelously intriguing two-hander, featuring a few faces that pop up over the course of Kris and Naomi’s night spent together but serve only to support the way in which they interact with each other. Who Kris used to be exists only in her memories and in Naomi’s, and in certain moments it feels like they are interacting as two new people, but it’s impossible for them to fully separate who they are now from who they were then. Naomi is a liberal, forward-thinking artist entirely open to who Kris has become, but that doesn’t mean she doesn’t hold her accountable for what she did and how she acted when she was someone else.

Mohseni and Chen convey years of history in the way that they talk to each other, initially guarded and unsure of what to say and then easily able to slip back into old dynamics. What they discuss is both general and highly specific, unpacking the problems that society faces and applying them to what did or didn’t work about their relationship. It’s a riveting and deeply compelling portrait of two people who share many similar values and hold plenty of opinions that complicate who and how they’re able to be with each other.

B+

Tuesday, June 1, 2021

Video Review: Army of the Dead

I was thrilled to be able to participate in a video review with fellow critic Matthew Schuchman for Cinema Daily US as part of the site's Above the Line vs Below the Line series. Check out our discussion of the film “Army of the Dead,” which is now streaming on Netflix, below:


Monday, May 31, 2021

Movie with Abe: Oslo

I wasn't completely sold on “Oslo,” which is now streaming on HBO Max, but I thought it presented interesting and worthwhile content. I reviewed the film for Cinema Daily US - head over there to read my review.

Sunday, May 30, 2021

Movie with Abe: Plan B

I really liked “Plan B,” which features fantastic performances from young actresses Kuhoo Verma and Victoria Moroles and is now available on Hulu. I reviewed the film for Cinema Daily US - head over there to read my review.

Saturday, May 29, 2021

Movie with Abe: Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog

Courtesy of JDOG FILMS

Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog
Directed by Lynn Roth
Released May 28, 2021

There is a bond that exists between humans and animals that can’t really be replicated by anything else. The comfort that comes from having someone by your side who doesn’t question your motives and wants – and gives – only affection is sincere and valuable. Their presence also brings back memories of formative moments that were shared and may no longer be represented in reality. The power of that connection shouldn’t be underestimated, and especially in cinema, can be even more transformative as a continued reminder of love in a dark world seemingly devoid of any hope.

Joshua (August Maturo) is ten years old and living in Germany in the 1930s. His parents (Ádám Porogi and Ayelet Zurer) have more puppies than they can handle in their small home, and try to find new owners for all but Kaleb, the beloved German Shepherd that Joshua and his sister Rachel (Viktória Stefanovszky) so adore. When the Nuremberg Laws make it illegal for Jews to own pets, Joshua and Kaleb are separated. After a disastrous stay with a local couple, Kaleb’s energy proves boundless, leading him to a Nazi concentration camp where he serves as a loyal dog for an SS officer (Ken Duken) and encounters his young former owner, now a prisoner, who is rejuvenated by the chance to be reunited with the dog that meant so much to him.

This film’s title conveys its focus, which is on a dog who identifies strongly with the family that raised him and, as can only be the case in movies, does everything possible to stay connected with them regardless of what’s going on in the world. The best comparison for this film might be “War Horse” since there is a very real and disturbing showcase of the horrors of the Holocaust, beginning with the stripping of privileges away from Jewish people before they are moved to concentration camps. Given that this is a film classified primarily as “family,” not much is actually shown, but, to be clear, this is not a lighthearted dog film that will merely make audiences melt with joy.

Those who have personal connections to the Holocaust or merely an aversion to seeing such content portrayed in a somewhat frivolous way may find this experience off-putting since, however uplifting Kaleb’s desire to be with his owner may be, it can’t possibly succeed against the backdrop of a truly awful period of history. Finding moments of hope and wonder in tragedy, however, does have its value, and dog lovers will find plenty of opportunities to celebrate the buoyancy and elation that can be found in this entirely expected film specifically targeted to those with a true and sincere affinity for man’s best friend.

B-

Friday, May 28, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Shepherd: The Story of a Jewish Dog
New to DVD: The August Virgin, The Sound of Silence
New to Hulu: Plan B
New to HBO and HBO Max: Oslo


Thursday, May 27, 2021

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Spotlight: Daughter of a Lost Bird

Daughter of a Lost Bird
Directed by Brooke Pepion Swaney
Screening Information

Identity can be a complicated thing for any person, and for someone who belongs to multiple communities, it can be all the more challenging. There are often conflicting values and aspects of different cultures, and someone may find resonance in contradictory notions that speak to various parts of themselves. Adoption often involves transplanting someone from one type of existence to another, and, try as they may to ensure a preservation of a child’s birth heritage, those new parents cannot fully replicate the experience of growing up in a place that speaks to who they are. This documentary offers a mesmerizing and enlightening examination of how new relationships and people can inform the trajectory of a person’s whole life.

This film spotlights Kendra, who is only now as an adult connecting to her Native American background after being raised by loving white parents. Her self-exploration is compounded by meeting her birth mother April, who was also adopted. Kendra’s desire to belong and connect clashes with her lack of knowledge about a culture she doesn’t actually know much about, and watching her work through that with April is enormously rewarding. The focus on the 1958 Indian Adoption Project that sought to actively remove Native children from their families is particularly unsettling, and this film serves as compelling and irrefutable evidence that harm has been inflicted by such policies that, throughout this country’s history, have been all too common and enthusiastically endorsed.

B+

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Spotlight: A Once and Future Peace

A Once and Future Peace
Directed by Eric Daniel Metzgar
Screening Information

There are multiple functions of the prison system, and the primary aim is to keep those deemed dangerous or likely to commit crimes away from society. Yet the time spent behind bars can have long-lasting implications on a person’s psyche and behavior, and simply removing them from normal life may not actually create a more well-rounded and better-prepared person to reenter civilization upon release, if such a fate is even a possibility. Ensuring that steps are taken to teach those serving time about the values they should emphasize in order to enrich their lives and acknowledge the consequences of their actions are rarely the priority of prison programs, but this film highlights how a Seattle-based community utilizes the framework of Indigenous peace-making circles to do just that.

This documentary makes use of creative cinematic techniques to showcase its topic, including animation to shield its characters’ identities and imagine moments of conversation that may not have happened exactly as they do onscreen for audiences to better unpack them. It offers a compelling portrait of a teenager, given the name Andy, who is facing both felony changes and doubts from his family about his desire for any sort of rehabilitation, and a former gang leader, Saroeum, actively working to keep others from following his path and instead confront their own instincts and futures. It serves as a productive and affecting case study for the power of conversation and the weight of treating everyone as if they have untapped potential if given the right attention and proper approach.

B+

Tuesday, May 25, 2021

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Spotlight: 200 Meters

200 Meters
Directed by Ameen Nayfeh
Screening Information

Distance is an often subjective concept, dependent almost entirely on the ease of travel between points and the freedom of movement. If a person is able to get back and forth to see friends or relatives without any difficulty, the time it takes or the miles in between may not matter. But when people are not free to move as they wish and must take extraordinary measures to reach even an incredibly close destination, any type of separation can be unbearable. Such distance invariably affects relationships and shapes a person’s attitude towards the world and particularly towards the people or entity they blame for its existence.

This film is the only narrative selection among the ten films showing as part of this year’s festival, and surely one that has attracted more attention given the violence and unrest in Israel and Gaza in recent weeks. This story of a Palestinian man, Mustafa (Ali Suliman), who lives in a village only 200 meters from his wife Salwa (Lana Zreik) and their children on the other side of the West Bank barrier wall, is one that focuses primarily on one man and what he is willing to do for his family. While it clearly advocates for Palestinian self-determination and the rights of citizens who cannot move freely, it goes beyond casting the Israeli government and military as the only bad actors, showcasing how many seize on opportunity to take advantage of others in a miserable situation. Mustafa’s humanity is what shines through most in this thought-provoking and affecting drama.

B

Monday, May 24, 2021

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Spotlight: Forget Me Not

Forget Me Not
Directed by Olivier Bernier
Screening Information

The notion of equality in America is, unfortunately, becoming less and less defensible as even those who still cling to the idea of its existence have their eyes opened to how those who look different are not in fact given the same opportunities. Appearance is merely one aspect of discrimination, as expectations are often set for all to perform at the same level, failing to take into account disabilities or other conditions and setting up no realistic alternatives for accommodation. While some options do exist, there are far too many cases in which minimal effort is taken to reach an acceptable solution. In this documentary made by two parents, they chronicle their own journey through the process of finding a suitable path for their three-year-old son Emilio.

This film does an enormously effective job of translating a struggle many face for acceptance into a relatable story of advocacy and endurance. Using the power of the camera that they have, Olivier Bernier and his wife Hilda share every step of their story, recording conversations with education representatives and social workers to fully capture the arduous steps that even they must take to assure some basic level of opportunity for their son that isn’t merely determining that he must be separated from any experience of mainstream learning. While some filmmakers may caution against becoming part of your own film, their involvement and passion in it is what makes it unforgettable.

B+

Sunday, May 23, 2021

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Spotlight: Bajo Fuego

Bajo Fuego
Directed by Sjoerd van Grootheest and Irene Vélez-Torres
Screening Information

It is much simpler to identify problems that to actually conceive of solutions. The United States has seen this with the current state of systemic racism and how law enforcement has evolved in a way that disproportionately targets people of color. Outside of this country, other issues are prominent with equally unresolved complexities. In Colombia, widespread drug usage led to a proclamation by President Juan Manuel Santos that peace would be created by the eradication of the substances which had led to long-raging conflicts. Yet the missing piece is the large population of farmers for whom the coca crop represented their entire livelihoods.

This film’s title translates to “under siege,” and documents the continually tumultuous situations in which these families of farmers have found themselves through no fault of their own, threatened by war and now by other armed groups seeking to make sense of an uncertain new society, one that has found no place for those who have been told they can no longer do what they have done for generations. In addition to a searing and affecting portrait of individuals who have been affected by this, this film offers an indictment of sweeping promises that fail to take into account the shortcomings of future guarantees that will cause irreparable harm until a permanent solution can be conceived and fully implemented.

B+

Saturday, May 22, 2021

Human Rights Watch Film Festival Spotlight: Apart

Apart
Directed by Jennifer Redfearn
Screening Information

The idea of being separated from one’s children is a very difficult concept, one that can affect relationships tremendously and alter the trajectories of the lives of all involved. A proven inability to proper care for someone can result in the removal of that privilege, something many might argue should not be the role of government or law enforcement since no one can truly know or understand the bond between a parent and a child other than those two people. This heartfelt, poignant documentary focuses on three mothers, Tomika, Lydia, and Amanda, who have been incarcerated as a result of their opioid use and are preparing for release and the opportunity to be reunited with their families.

This film takes a distinctly personal approach to a nationwide issue, addressing both the prevalence of addictive drugs and the problematic nature of the system created to temper it that ends up punishing people in a far more lasting way than they perhaps deserve. It doesn’t pretend to offer easy, neat solutions, but instead shows the very real process of rehabilitation and the extraordinary work being done by Malika, an advocate who herself was once incarcerated, to help others cope and develop as they begin their re-entry into the world. It should be challenging for anyone to watch this film and not reexamine their own beliefs about what accountability and self-development are supposed to look like, and how the unintended consequences of criminal justice can be far-reaching and irreversible.

B+

Friday, May 21, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Dream Horse, New Order
New to Theaters and VOD: Blast Beat
New to DVD: Minari, The Father, S#!&house, Jumbo, The Nest
New to DVD and Hulu: Supernova

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Movie with Abe: Spring Blossom

Spring Blossom
Directed by Suzanne Lindon
Released May 21, 2021

There are many descriptors that, throughout history, have defined people and have more recently been categorized as social constructs. Chief among them are gender and race, two elements that tend to separate more than they do to unify, and though both do serve crucial functions in identifying who people are and how they behave, they often do more harm than good. There are other features that some define as equally irrelevant yet can seem more problematic when they are ignored, like the age difference between two romantic partners. Those who see a sixteen-year-old girl and a thirty-five-year-old man together and find it perfectly acceptable may not be calculating the vastly disparate life experiences they’ve both had and the potential for emotional damage that exists.

Suzanne (Suzanne Lindon), like many teenagers, is not satisfied with people her own age. She finds little pleasure in being at school and surrounded by those like her, and seeks out other distractions to keep herself interested and engaged. She meets Raphaël (Arnaud Valois) at a theater where he is starring in a play and is immediately entranced. As they begin to spend time in one another’s company, they realize that there is a shared beauty in the world that they see, something others might not understand and which enables time to move at a certain speed when they are alone and immersed in their own dynamic.

This film’s title is indicative of a change in Suzanne as she meets Raphaël, and its original French title actually translates to “sixteen spring.” For Suzanne, there is little else that matters in the world than discovering herself, which in this case happens through the art and introspection of this alluring older man. The acceptability of the romance speaks more to European culture where such an affair might not seem as stark or uncouth, but there is also a sophistication to the nature of their relationship that is far more emotional than it is physical.

This film, more than anything, is an astounding debut from writer-director-star Lindon, who in real life is twenty-one years old. The daughter of actor parents, Lindon brings a maturity to this film and her approach that is wildly impressive, creating a cinematic experience that is deeply captivating, allowing the audience to be just as involved and drawn in as Suzanne is. At just 73 minutes long and without a clear endpoint in mind, this film doesn’t manage to be positively emphatic or fully memorable, but it serves as a strong indicator of a very productive and worthwhile future for Lindon both behind and in front of the camera.

B+

Wednesday, May 19, 2021

Interview with Abe: David Cross

It was a lot to fun to interview actor David Cross for Cinema Daily US about his role in the film The Dark Divide. Watch our entertaining conversation in full below:


Friday, May 14, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: The Perfect Candidate, Georgetown
New to Theaters and VOD: The Killing of Two Lovers
New to VOD: Together Together
New to DVD: The Mauritanian, Senior Moment, The Marksman, Land
New to Netflix: Oxygen, Layer Cake
New to Hulu: MLK/FBI, Wander Darkly

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

Interview with Abe: The Killing of Two Lovers

It was great to be able to speak with actor Clayne Crawford and director Robert Machoian about one of the best films I saw at Sundance in 2020 and which is coming out this Friday in theaters and on demand, “The Killing of Two Lovers.” Check out my great conversation with them at Cinema Daily US. Read my review of the film here and watch my video review from Sundance here!

Tuesday, May 11, 2021

Movie with Abe: Oxygen

Coming to Netflix tomorrow is “Oxygen,” starring Mélanie Laurent as a woman who wakes up in a cryogenic pod with no memory of who she is. I reviewed the film for Cinema Daily US - head over there to read my review.

Sunday, May 9, 2021

Video Review: Wrath of Man

I was thrilled to be able to participate in a video review with fellow critic Matthew Schuchman for Cinema Daily US as part of the site's Above the Line vs Below the Line series. Check out our discussion of the new film “Wrath of Man” below:


Saturday, May 8, 2021

Interview with Abe: The Human Factor

I was very privileged to be able to speak with director Dror Moreh, who I interviewed back in 2013 for the Oscar-nominated documentary “The Gatekeepers,” about his new project, “The Human Factor.” Check out my great conversation with him at Cinema Daily US. Read my review of the film here!

Friday, May 7, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: The Human Factor, Wrath of Man
New to DVD: Judas and the Black Messiah, The Little Things, Rocks in My Pockets
New to Netflix: Monster
New to Amazon Prime Video: Alien3
New to Hulu: Burning, Cyrus, Little Fish, Once Upon a Time in the West, Shadow in the Cloud

Thursday, May 6, 2021

Interview with Abe: Pink Skies Ahead

I had the chance to speak with star Jessica Barden and writer-director Kelly Oxford about their new film “Pink Skies Ahead,” which premieres on Saturday, May 8th at 9pm on MTV. Check out the conversation below!


Wednesday, May 5, 2021

AFT Awards: Best Director

This is the twentieth and final category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
George C. Wolfe (Ma Rainey's Black Bottom), Chloé Zhao (Nomadland), Regina King (One Night in Miami), Darius Marder (Sound of Metal), Carlos López Estrada (Summertime), Radha Blank (The 40-Year-Old Version)

Runners-up:
Heidi Ewing (I Carry You with Me)
Aaron Sorkin (The Trial of the Chicago 7)
Lawrence Michael Levine (Black Bear)
Edson Oda (Nine Days)
Angel Manuel Soto (Charm City Kings)

The winner:
David Fincher (Mank) guided a marvelously invested and deeply compelling portrait of young Hollywood and all of its complex elements.

Other nominees:
Benh Zeitlin (Wendy)
Robert Machoian (The Killing of Two Lovers)
Emerald Fennell (Promising Young Woman)
Jan Komasa (Corpus Christi)

AFT Awards: Best Ensemble Cast


This is the nineteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions (in alphabetical order):
Ellie and Abbie (and Ellie’s Dead Aunt), Herself, Pink Skies Ahead

Runners-up:
The King of Staten Island
Summertime
Wendy
Nine Days
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

The winner:
The Trial of the Chicago 7 assembled a stunning array of talent to bring to life a stirring story of activism made even more electric by all of its contained performances.

Other nominees:
The Best Years
Mank
One Night in Miami
Blast Beat

AFT Awards: Best Foreign Film

This is the eighteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. For this category, I consider eligible only films that were released or played at film festivals in the United States within the past year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Collective (Romania), Les Miserables (France), And Then We Danced (Sweden), Ema (Chile), Honeymood (Israel), Sky Raiders (Israel), Welcome to the USA (Kazakhstan), The Art of Waiting (Israel), Asia (Israel)

The winner:
Corpus Christi (Poland) conveyed the story of a man so enraptured by

Other nominees:
Alice Junior (Brazil)
A Thousand Cuts (Philippines)
Once Upon a Time in Venezuela (Venezuela)
The Best Years (Italy)

AFT Awards: Best Documentary

This is the seventeenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
The Prophet, A Common Goal, A Crime on the Bayou, Beautiful Something Left Behind, Blue Code of Silence, Boys State, Calendar Girl, Coded Bias, Dick Johnson Is Dead

Finalists:
Welcome to Chechnya
Time
Collective
The Dilemma of Desire
Crip Camp

The winner:
A Thousand Cuts told a vital story of intellectual resistance to a totalitarian regime and the continued defense of the freedom of the press.

Other nominees:
Francesco
Once Upon a Time in Venezuela
Whirlybird
#Unfit: The Psychology of Donald Trump

Tuesday, May 4, 2021

AFT Awards: Best Animated Feature

This is the sixteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order in which I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
A Shaun the Sheep Movie: Farmageddon, Onward

The winner: 
Weathering with You told a wonderful and magical story of the power of friendship and belief in the extraordinary.

Other nominees: 

AFT Awards: Best Visual Effects

This is the fifteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

The winner:
Greyhound fascinatingly constructed a treacherous adventure at sea without the use of any water and made it feel frighteningly real.

Other nominees:
Tenet
The Midnight Sky (read my interview)

AFT Awards: Best Makeup and Hairstyling

This is the fourteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
The Prom, The Glorias, The Personal History of David Copperfield, Ammonite

The winner:
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom matched its time period and carefully made each of its characters look and feel exactly as they should. Read my interview with the Oscar-winning team!

Other nominees:
Pinocchio (read my interview)
Mank
Promising Young Woman
The Trial of the Chicago 7

AFT Awards: Best Sound

This is the thirteenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Like the Oscars, I’m combining the sound and sound editing races this year. Click to see previous years of these two categories.

Honorable mentions:
Mank, News of the World, The Midnight Sky, Sky Raiders, Run

The winner:
Greyhound calibrated a captivating audial experience that amplified its isolated setting.

Other nominees:
Sound of Metal
Tenet
Ema
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom

Monday, May 3, 2021

AFT Awards: Best Original Song

This is the twelfth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’ve embedded the nominated songs below. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runner-up:
Wuhan Flu (Borat Subsequent Moviefilm)

The winner:



Other nominees:





AFT Awards: Best Original Score

This is the eleventh category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’ve embedded a sample track from each finalist and nominee for your listening pleasure. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Finalists:
Weathering with You
Soul
News of the World
Mank
Minari


The winner:
Nomadland (Ludovico Einaudi) may not have had original music composed specifically for the film, but it was beautiful, haunting, and perfectly suited.

Other nominees:
Wendy (Dan Romer and Benh Zeitlin)
Tenet (Ludwig Göransson)
Ammonite (Dustin O'Halloran and Volker Bertelmann) 
Summerland (Volker Bertelmann)

AFT Awards: Best Film Editing

This is the tenth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Honorable mentions:
Black Bear, Corpus Christi

Runners-up:
Charm City Kings
Alice Junior
Greyhound
I Carry You with Me
Mank

The winner:
Promising Young Woman (Frédéric Thoraval) tied together a series of memorable moments into an outrageously effective and wildly thrilling rollercoaster ride.

Other nominees:
Ema (Sebastián Sepúlveda)
Time (Gabriel Rhodes)
The Killing of Two Lovers (Robert Machoian)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Alan Baumgarten)

AFT Awards: Best Costume Design

This is the ninth category of the 14th Annual AFT Film Awards to be announced. The AFT Awards are my own personal choices for the best in film of each year and the best in television of each season. The AFT Film Awards include the traditional Oscar categories and a number of additional specific honors. I’m drawing only from films that were either released or playing at a film festival in the 2020 calendar year. Nominees are pictured in the order I’ve ranked them. Click here to see previous years of this category.

Runners-up:
Mank
One Night in Miami
The Personal History of David Copperfield
Ema
Kajillioinaire

The winner:
Sylvie's Love (Phoenix Mellow) clothed its lovers and those in their orbit with vivid, colorful outfits that added layers to their personalities and dynamics.

Other nominees:
I'm Your Woman (Natalie O'Brien) – my interview with Natalie
Ma Rainey's Black Bottom (Ann Roth)
Promising Young Woman (Nancy Steiner)
The Trial of the Chicago 7 (Susan Lyall)

Sunday, May 2, 2021

Movie with Abe: Cliff Walkers

Out in theaters this week is “Cliff Walkers,” from acclaimed director Zhang Yimou. It's a stylized spy thriller that I had the privilege to cover for Cinema Daily US. Head over there to read my review.

Saturday, May 1, 2021

Movie with Abe: Mortal Kombat

It's been out for over a week already, but I neglected to share my review of “Mortal Kombat” earlier. There's a whole lot of action, which is mainly what it needs, as I covered in my write-up for Cinema Daily US. Head over there to read my review.

Friday, April 30, 2021

Weekend Movie Recommendations with Abe

Every Friday, I'll be uploading a Minute with Abe: Weekend Movie Recommendations Edition, surveying new releases on DVD, and on streaming services. Check it out, and subscribe to the movieswithabe channel!


New to Theaters: Limbo, Cliff Walkers, Four Good Days
New to Virtual Cinemas: In Silico
New to Digital and VOD: The Outside Story
New to DVD: Cowboys, Beast Beast
New to Netflix: The Mitchells vs. the Machines
New to Amazon Prime Video: Without Remorse
New to Amazon and Hulu: Arrival
New to Hulu: Breaking Fast, Wild Mountain Thyme

Movie with Abe: Limbo

Limbo
Directed by Ben Sharrock
Released April 30, 2021

Leaving a person’s home comes with many emotions. Even if the experience of living there was plagued by negativity and malicious forces, there can still be a melancholy when that lifelong tie is severed. The opportunity to relocate to somewhere with a promise of a better future is rarely a simple process, and the time spent waiting to achieve success or some semblance of permanence may hinder a recognition that optimism and fortune still lie ahead. There’s no better word to describe that state of being than the title of this film, one which paints such a portrait of the in-between time and state of mind.

Omar (Amir El-Masry) is a musician from Syria seeking asylum. While he awaits a decision on his request, he lives on a Scottish island far from any other civilization. He befriends Farhad (Vikash Bhai) and other fellow asylum seekers as he struggles to cope with the slow-moving monotony that has replaced the danger he used to feel back home. Frequent phone conversations with his mother, who is never positive about his future, and a complicated relationship with his brother haunt him as he learns about European culture and what to expect from an existence that for him may never come.

This film, in the same way that Omar is made to feel by the lack of any news about the progress of his application, is in no rush to get anywhere. Scenes move particularly slowly as Omar takes in the silence and blandness around him. The classes he takes simulate scenarios that feel all too distant and unlikely, and Omar’s trip to a grocery store that sells only ketchup and mustard, not any of the familiar spices he seeks, remind him of his isolation. But he does also forge productive connections, like with the initially cold but gradually inviting kindred spirit in the Pakistani man who runs that same grocery store.

This film works best because of El-Masry’s muted performance, one that allows him to observe events around him just as the audience does, inviting them to appreciate them from his perspective. He blends in well with the scenery that has a particular beauty to it, but only if time is truly spent to stop and appreciate it, something that can rarely be done when hope is grim. This film manages to be particularly poignant in its depiction of Omar’s ties to his family and his home, enriching a decent narrative with a powerful and resonant finish.

B+

Thursday, April 29, 2021

Movie with Abe: The Mitchells vs. the Machines

Newly available tomorrow on Netflix is “The Mitchells vs. the Machines.” I really enjoyed this animated film and had the chance to review it for Cinema Daily US. Head over there to read my review.

Movie with Abe: Without Remorse

Without Remorse
Directed by Stefano Sollima
Released April 30, 2021 (Amazon Prime Video)

A title like “Without Remorse” doesn’t leave too much to the imagination. Any character who is introduced at the start of such a film isn’t likely to be happy for long, and it’s reasonable to expect a chain of devastating events that leave a protagonist with no option other than to get even with those who have destroyed their lives. Without remorse can also imply without limits, as someone who believes they have nothing left to lose will do anything they can to settle a score and try to fill a void. That doesn’t always lead to an invigorating or triumphant cinematic experience, and this film fails to distinguish itself from similar action or revenge projects.

Michael B. Jordan is John Kelly, a Navy SEAL who returns home from a tour in Syria and manages to survive an assassination attempt that kills a number of his fellow team members and his pregnant wife. Determined to get answers, Kelly heads back into the field with a loyal SEAL ally (Jodie Turner-Smith) to uncover the truth, crossing paths with an uncooperative CIA player (Jamie Bell) and the Secretary of Defense (Guy Pearce) along the way.

This film’s full title includes the name Tom Clancy, likely so audiences will associate it with the universe in which it is set, that of Jack Ryan, a successful property who anchored several films and is currently the star of his own show with John Krasinski on Amazon Prime Video. Ryan doesn’t appear in this film but the source material with Clark associates them. There is plentiful action to be found here, but the pacing is rather expected and unengaging, presenting fight scenes and hand-to-hand combat without much real interest in their outcome given Clark’s apparent physical prowess.

Jordan is no stranger to taking over spinoff franchises, like the very popular “Creed” series whose next installment he is set to direct. Here, his acting talents are wasted in a thinly-conceived role that gives him little to do other than look angry and walk around with a gun. Turner-Smith, Bell, and Pearce are similarly strong performers without much purpose in this film, one that is clearly a setup for a sequel and other future endeavors whose contents will likely be much more interesting and worthwhile than this unextraordinary introductory effort that doesn’t aim very high and leaves much to be desired.

C